quinta-feira, novembro 20, 2014

Lack of liberty in a Libertarian Political Economy

The current state of affairs in the International order can be seen in two very distinct ways. First as the desired outcome in which a human rights law exist and individual liberty is taken into consideration and respected independent of social status or nationality. Freedom is not only a interest of all individuals, but it is a moral right since all humans have the basic needs of being the ruler of their own body in order to act consciously and flourish in this reality, and it have become a legal right for all since the abolishment of slavery. Second as a international order driven by capital, in which individual freedom is the most desired right and the market is what guide self-interested human beings in the competitive collective life. Although liberal theories of the nineteenth century represent an advance toward the ideas of equality and justice, numerous contradictions arise. Not always the implementation of liberal ideas can reconcile the economic interests and the ethical aspects. Moral life is only actually achievable based in cooperation, reciprocity and the development of responsibility and commitment, since without this basic virtues life become a life of vices and competition which are characteristics that don't make society evolve justly. Nowadays the market economy is developing and taking control over the sovereignty of states, since now policies and national decisions aren’t based on the needs of the majority of the people, instead they are usually resolved with the interests of the ruling elite which owns land and multinational companies, due to this fact individuals are being divided into categories of people in which capital is what drive these self-interested assets of the government. Viable and effective individual liberty can only be achievable when the Law acknowledges the equality of human rights among all. In the current period, where there is a huge social injustice and lack of human rights, a new conception of what is a right need to be drawn, and it can only be achieved based in a just ethical theory that respects the dignity of human beings as individuals independent of economic or national status. In this sense the other isn't the limit of our liberty, or a competitive being that only acts based on its own utility and freedom of choice, but instead a condition to achieve collective liberty. The Utilitarian moral theory holds liberty as an essential virtue but changes its indispensable characteristics, since liberty have no meaning where there is no individual liberty of action, and where accomplishments in life are based on monetary purchasing power.
The first option is largely argued in Rights discourse; in this case the state would be like a Republic, in which above all economics incentives it is the Law that guides and endeavors individuals. Multiculturalism would be protected and granted under this law of rights of man, without racial/national divisions or privileges, and people would be seen as equal socially and under the law, not only as self interested individualist labor power sellers in the market. Since it seems to be a situation in which nations have decided what is best for individuals, and proclaimed some essential Human rights that are seen as the basis for a social animal that have needs and desires and lives collectively, it is a rights based morality aimed to the collective good independent of nationality or monetary power. John Locke have claimed that law creates a condition, a sociable atmosphere for the enjoyment of liberty, and therefore where law ends, tyranny begins and without a disciplined life liberty has no meaning, society wants liberty since it is a genuine virtue, and only through law it can be achieved (1). The second option is largely argued in modern Economics discourse as well as on current interpretations of utilitarian moral theory, it seems to be a situation in which above the state there are the giants of the ruling market, corporations. In this case the state isn't sovereign, it is Imperialist since company owners are the ones with power, and are the ones that make decisions based on a goal that most of the time is beneficial only to themselves, not to the majority of the population. This society is largely dependent on capital generated by monopolist firms and freedom is what is preached to be the most desirable right held by citizens in which independent of their culture, religion, social status and ethnicity they are seen as equal in the sense they are all self-interested individuals that strive for a never ending goal of attaining more and more capital; The right to freedom is seen as fulfilled, since the interpretation of it is one of people being self-determined in the sense that the state don’t interfere in individuals choices and capabilities, these individuals want to be left alone by the state, and government intervention isn't desirable, since individual liberty is society's main goal. Which makes people see their individual achievements and misfortunes as belonging only to themselves, they think they achieve a high social status due to their own potentials, and that they are in poverty due to their laziness, but the fact is that differently from that, liberty shouldn’t be a barrier and a separation of men due to the possession of material wealth and individual potential, since social injustice is everywhere and people don’t have the same abilities to act due to lack of resources. Many other problems arise with the Libertarian moral theory, since it doesn't account for human rights, neither for other essential virtues other than individualistic liberty.
A human rights perspective can be seen in the article by Wiredu analysing the Akan society (2). He describes that the definition of a person influences a lot the Akan analysis of politics and law, according to their culture people are very interdependent one another from when we are born until we become elder. The degrees of an individual becoming a person is what makes available social status in the community and rights, which according to Wiredu involved duties and obligations to self, household and community; the more obligations more of a person an individual was considered. I agree with Wiredu that the Akan notions of human dignity and justice can be similar to those expressed in International human rights standards, since they are all related in the sense that these virtues are essential for any individual to flourish and to achieve their potentials and accomplishments, they are also both grounded in moral rights, which are ethical principles held and desired by all human beings. The Akan concept of what constitutes an individual gives room to many other virtues that together construct an ideology of reciprocity and of equal rights, since it is a communal/tribal way of seeing society instead of a individualistic capitalist ideology which it is the one that we share in the twenty first century. So even though the foundation is the same, their concept of equality among all people is very divergent from the one we hold, the libertarian view of things made people think as if they were independent and different from each other, and Wiredu clearly show the dependency that all humans have to each other; the Western ideology is one of independence from each other since we are very competitive and individualistic. Reciprocity and communal society is also clear when Wiredu presents that the tribal rights don't have to be enforced in order to be a right, instead they are principles that everybody agree to and everybody participate inn for the simple fact of being a person, if an International order was to be implanted this would be a good way of seeing it, as rational principles that individuals hold by their factual status of a person that participate in and exist with the world, independent of their national status or monetary power. Since by having this principles in mind a more interdependent way of seeing the other could be achieved and the virtue of reciprocity could start to affect individuals and their private interests.
The shift in ideology is very clear, going from the Akan to the Western taught, while the Akan held a mutually beneficial community with rights, the Western holds autonomous individuals that have rights but don't necessarily enjoy them due to lack of capital or citizenship. According to socialist economist Karl Marx the ideology of dialectical materialism, considers that "social being determines consciousness", ie, "the mode of production of material life conditions the development of social life, intellectual, and political as a whole." (3) This means that expressions of human consciousness - including moral - are a reflection of the relationships men establish in society to produce its existence, and therefore change as the modes of production change, we can see in the Akan analysis by Wiredu that their ideology was a much more egalitarian than the liberal moral theory due to both a small scale/tribal production process, and essentially to their definitions of what constitute a person and how interdependence is the essence of everyone. A world economy based on trade, foreign commodities and specialization have shifted the way individuals see themselves and the things we deal with in our everyday life. The over appreciation of the material world and the market economy created both a inconsideration of the individual, or the other, as well as a division of people based precisely on their material possessions. Marx seeks to recover man in productive activity which determines the relations of production that are very specific according to time and place. This type of analysis allows one to observe that where there is society divided into classes with antagonistic interests, the moral of the ruling class dominates, imposes itself on the dominant class and becomes an ideological tool to maintain their domination. One example is that people that are considered of a lower class want to buy goods that are unachievable to them in order to be similar to the higher class, in Economics we call this activity conspicuous consumption, in which the lower class isn't aware of themselves and of their limitations, but instead want to show off that their purchasing power is high, illusively, as if that would make them a higher category of a person. Therefore they strive to work even more in order to buy the goods that the more privileged people own, but this purchasing power isn't the nature of the problem of their disregard as individuals, rather it becomes a stronger control from the ruling class over them, since they work even more and continue to suffer negligence even when owning the more expensive commodities. This clearly show that individuals of the lower class don’t have freedom of choice when buying commodities, since they are heavily influenced by the higher class in their choices and desires.
For Marx moral concerns the personal sphere, there is no way to live morally in a world that has not yet established the order of social justice. A Social justice can still be libertarian and democratic like the one that rules International order nowadays, but it would have to insure the protection of the less privileged or the class that don't achieve their potentials due to inequality of land and capital distribution. These could be done if a principle that generated a general happiness based on human rights took place, but this principle can't depend on capital, instead it must hold capital as an opportunity of action that was created in order to make our lives easier instead of dividing us. The author Wiredu (2) describes a society that was libertarian and democratic, since individuals could act based on their own will and potential, their actions weren’t controlled by an authoritative government, instead a person could achieve more influence over the collective life depending on how much of a person it become. But the Akan society is a modern libertarian, since state intervention is supported to help the ones that lack resources. The government could interfere in the lives of the Akan individuals that couldn't reach their potential through redistribution, this aspect is very important since land was of a very high value to the Akan society, more than education, since land was what made labor possible and consequently subsistence. Nowadays scholars argue that there is a difference between having a right from enjoying that right, in other words, if it is acknowledged by the government a right to freedom it doesn’t necessarily follow that people are going to be free, or that freedom will be the same to all individuals in that society. This is a individualistic and unjust way of claiming a right, since if there is no enjoyment then there is no right, there is privilege. Liberal democracy is a democracy of rights and not of factual liberty, formal and not substantial freedom, because it allows the elitism of power: only those that own land/capital have political power, only the ones that are from the right nation with the right amount of money are able to fully enjoy rights. Another Rights scholar, Joel Feinberg (4) argues that rights aren't the same as deserving the substance of the right, in this sense to deserve something or to work for something does not follow that it will be factually enjoyed. Since Rights entail other peoples duties, and if the duty holder have more economic power then the right holder, it doesn't follow that the persons right will be provided. Even though the second class citizen have the legal right and deserve the substance of their right, if the powerful other (government, higher class) don't recognize this right then it doesn't follow that they must supply the substance of that right. The result is that men are not as equal as it seems, and therefore the freedom of choice isn't a individual liberty but instead a equivalence of each other in terms of laws and the status quo. This is related to rights since lawmaking need to adjust to this economical divisions, rights must become the assurance of the enjoyment of substances rather than just right claims that can be without substance, therefore only formal. Such as the right to Education, someone that owns capital is able to pick and choose from a vast number of schools while someone that lack monetary power have to subject themselves to the schools that the government ascribes. The ones with less capital have less freedom of choice even though the right of education per se is being fulfilled is it clear that the ones with more money have more ability to enjoy it. The way it is nowadays only the capital holders are able to enjoy factual rights, and that is unfair, therefore a Law must be created in order to assure that the ones with less potential and resources, or the second class of citizens, are protected, respected, and granted with actual rights.
According to the Libertarian theory, to be free is to decide and act like you want, without any causal determination, neither coming from outside (environment in which we live), nor inside (desires, character). Even assuming that such forces exist; the free act belongs to an independent scheme which makes up individual human freedom. Being free is therefore to be uncaused, or only caused by oneself. Transcendence is the act by which man performs the movement to overcome himself, or negate the influences that come from outside and inside acting egocentrically; while also overcoming his dimensions of liberty (5). Freedom is not a gift, something that is given, nor is it a starting point, but it is the result of a labor intensive task, something that man must conquer in order to hold a just International order that respects differences rather then equate them in a capital driven Imperialist society. Therefore it only depend on us being aware of what freedom is becoming and adjust it to the majority will, a right to freedom must follow from a enjoyment of freedom, there are many obstacles to achieve it but in order to evolve and progress society must acknowledge what it have become (purchasing power) and alter it in a way to benefit the whole. Freedom is not the absence of obstacles, but the development of the ability to master them and overcome them, and one obstacle to the achievement of a Fundamental Rights agreement is corporations that have conquered competition and are monopolists of the modern world. America is preached to be a 'free country' for the fact that when one is looking for a job, aka willing to sell their labor power on the market, the company in which the person applies to can't ask about their age, nationality or religion. The question that arise is whether this is a assurance of individual freedom, or if this is simply the disregard of individual identity. The fact that the employer isn't concerned with your differences means that everyone can enjoy rights equally or rather that what the employer wants from you is precisely what you have in common with everyone else? That is your willing to earn capital and to labor for it. It is a fine line that divides respecting and disconsidering, and this line must be drawn by rights as well as by the values held by this society.
When the ultimate value is Liberty, it becomes very blurry what must be provided and what must be attained egocentrically. Rights discourse scholar MacDonald (5) makes a distinction on how things are vs. how things should be, she claims that the conditions of a good society are determined by human decisions, and human decisions according to her are expressions of values. In contrast Utilitarian theorist John Stuart Mill (6) have claimed that one conduct is legitimate as soon as there is no harm to others, as well as claiming that evil means justify good ends, and that the goal is to have more happiness in society as a overall addition of individual units of pleasure. Both scholars argue for liberty, the fact that MacDonald claims that what drives a good society are precisely expressions of value is very contrary to Mill's 'unit of happiness' since the fact that no one was harmed doesn't follow from a general expression of value or justice. The utilitarian moral theory try to simplify actions based on what is good and what is bad, but not everything can be reduced to that, and this additions of units can be very broad, for example, according to 21st century Utilitarian economists, pleasure is gathered through consumption, so the more a society consumes the happier the society is, I think this isn't a legitimate claim, since other expressions of value must play a role when happiness is to be achieved other than purchasing power. Like we saw when mentioning Marx, the happiness that is derived from purchasing power only creates a greater control from the ones in power over the workers, since the workers believe that they would be treated better if they own the same type of commodities as the higher class, but that doesn't follow precisely because of what they intrinsically are: unprivileged due to socioeconomic situation.
According to Moral theorist Arendt (7) a new emancipated society, which I call market economy, have taken away the security of human and social rights from individuals that are considered of a lower status. The individuals that are considered as a second class citizenship, which is a concept that can be seen in terms of national identity or economic class aren't “persecuted for what they have done or taught” but instead because of what they unchangeably were – born into the wrong kind.” In a just International agreement on human rights there should be no division on kinds of people like the one claimed by Arendt, people should be seen as equal, by the simple fact that they are embodied rational individuals that share the same space and time and that are intrinsically interdependent from when they are born until they become of age. In the current interests of our time individuals are claimed free but don't have the same capabilities of actions as the ones that own capital and property, therefore their claims are invalid due to lack of rights enjoyment and freedom of choice. In one family, two brothers can be of different classes and with no sense of love or socialism, the one brother can be of a monetary disadvantage, which makes him a second class citizen more subjected to punishment and suffering, while the second brother can be of a high economic status and enjoy a life more safe and free. This illustrates how this capitalist notion of individual independence as well as this distinction of kinds of human beings, as if people weren't all the same, can be caused due to Economic disparities which consequently promotes much more rights to the ones that are considered a better type of person, and generate more misery to the less privileged class.
Another point according to Arendt that is related to a Human rights perspective is when she asserts the “fundamental deprivation of human rights is manifested first and above all in the deprivation of a place in the world which makes opinions significant and actions effective. This second class citizens are “deprived not of the right to freedom, but of the right to action, not to the right to think whatever they please, but of the right to opinion” (7) The equivalence of all individuals under a market economy is taken as a given way of living, in other words as a determination of this reality, and people subject themselves to it without being able to have awareness of what it is or how it works, and more importantly, without factually enjoying their individual rights. The individuals in this society don't have opinions towards what civil and economical principles should be enforced or implemented, they can neither act effectively since the whole system is bureaucratic and alienated from the individual in the form of institutions and corporations that together form a scheme that confounds and leaves them with Laws that punish but don't provide. Individuals are seen as means to ends, since what the economy and the government want from you is your labor power so that you contribute to the production and distribution of goods in the claimed free society, in which people believe that everything depends on themselves, and their responsibility to community and nation are acknowledged by the Laws that exist, but reality instead can be seen as very different from that, since the economy and the government are million multinational owners that want to take advantage of each one of us in order to benefit no one other than themselves and their interests. On one hand money is the major symbol of power, on the other hand it is a piece of paper printed by the Federal Bank (which is privately owned). On one hand celebrities and politicians show conspicuously their social status and purchasing power, while on the other hand there is poverty, famine and people that don't even have conditions to subsist.
When trying to exert their freedom, the second class of citizens finds that the free choice of the privileged individuals increasingly delimits their own space of action. In the jungle of competition, where each fights for himself and don't own obligations to none, the substance of the right is an illusion. Beyond, when the poor want to express their wishes and desires, the scene immediately assumes the character of a disorder or unjustified struggle. Therefore the less privileged not only suffer from a life without factual rights, but when they become conscious of the class conflict they can't even try to fight democratically without getting pepper sprayed. In the Libertarian moral theory as well as in the Utilitarian, the concept of freedom don't have its starting point in the individual freedom, but rather in the collective interest, since it is from the collective that the individual behavior is regulated. So the Libertarian theory have been essentially misidentified since it claims to be the establishment of individual liberty while on the big picture it is collectively based. And moreover, in the current state the collective interest isn't the interest that benefits the 'minorities' as some like to call, but instead the interest of the owners of corporations that are dominating the states and the law without any restraints, holding money as decoy, and holding people as means to the achievement of a global domination without human rights.
Only Laws can prevent the abuse of power, I argue that the only check to power from the dominants of today's reality is a Human Rights declaration. In which independent of an individual social status or national identity they are respected and considered as self-worth human beings that come from a communal way of subsistence, which are social animals, and therefore must act according to their reality. The ultimate goal in this case is to have behaviors that are governed by universal principles, which are principles of justice: the equality of human rights, respect for the dignity of human beings as individuals, recognizing Kant's ethical standards (8), that people are ends in themselves and need to be treated as such. In an International order driven by capital the people are means for the generation of national wealth, since individuals that are considered as the second class citizenship are commodities in the labor market, which are exchangeable and perishable. The concept of freedom suffer a dialectical change since it became a disregard of who you are; freedom become a value very similar to equality in which everyone is seen as competitive individuals striving for capital and their identity, nationality, sex and ethnicity stop concerning the state since all what they need is your willingness to labor in order to generate capital to the Economy. Through Rights discourse and philosophical reasoning individuals are able to see that some essential aspects of reality vanish in this environment, such as virtues other than Liberty.

  1. "John Locke: Natural Rights to Life, Liberty, and Property.": The Freeman : Foundation for Economic Education. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 May 2014.
  2. Wiredu, Kwasi: “Human rights in Africa : cross-cultural perspectives” pages 243-260
  3. Marxists Internet Archive."Dialectical Materialism”. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 May 2014.
  4. Feinberg, “The nature and value of rights” pages 243-258
  5. Sartre, Jean-Paul. "The Body." Being and Nothingness: An Essay on Phenomenological Ontology. New York: Philosophical Library, 1956. Print.
  6. "Theories of Rights."Rights and Duties. MacDonald, n.d. Web. 09 May 2014.
  7. "John Stuart Mill: On Liberty."Utilitarian Moral Theory. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 May 2014.
  8. Arendt, Hannah. "The Perplexities of the Rights of Man.” The Origins of Totalitarianism. San Diego: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1973. N. pag. Print.
  9. Kant – Class notes on March, 2014

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