Monday, October 7, 2013

Nihilism and Socialism

Continuing from the last post, I do not think it is possible to have anything that could be described as meaningful self determination without a political/economic system like socialism, and that in a fully capitalist system it is impossible.

What does it mean to be able to determine one's own course in life? I would imagine that under any definition, the ability to decide what to do with your life would be fundamental; to be able to choose your own educational path, and to choose a career path. However I would argue it can not involve anything akin to laissez-faire capitalist (or anarcho-capitalist) notions of liberty, which I shall call economic nihilism (more on this in a later post). This is because in order to be able to choose educational and career paths you first have to have options available to you. Under a system of economic nihilism however, having options available to you is not universal, or inherent in the system, in fact such a system rejects from the outset any patterned distribution.

Even the most one-eyed capitalist enthusiast will likely acknowledge that under such a system, the distribution of liberties and freedoms mirrors the distribution of wealth. Those with the greatest amount of wealth would have almost unhindered levels of self-determination while those, who by no fault of their own are born into poverty on the other hand have nothing of the sort. Wealth and income inequality as you are probably aware are at a staggering level which compounds this objection to the system; this means that there are very few people with a lot of freedom and a large capacity for self-determination and a lot of people with very little of either. However, even in a mixed economy, with lower entry levels into education through subsidies, government funding for arts, and a strong safety net for unemployment even those from the lower ends of the socio-economic distribution hypothetically have a chance to 'make it'.

This concept of 'making it' from conditions of relative poverty I find problematic too. This is because the concept itself is rooted in competition. It is all about rising to the upper echelons of the socio-economic distribution and the increase in quality of life and self-determination that goes with it. What would a system look like that is built around the ideal of maximising self-determination across the board? I envisage a society where all are provided for and losing your job doesn't mean destitution. Every individual would have equal access to a quality education throughout their lives, meaning that education is free. If it is a wage-based economy, the minimum wage would be tied to a maximum wage, to ensure that whatever path one takes in life they and their potential children will not be disadvantaged. The point of this is that such a system would at the very least resemble something that would be described by most as socialism.

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