consumerism and exploitation

Here are 2 important questions from (and for) the Left, broadly defined:

  1. What is consumerism?

    1. What furious has to say over at furyblog:

      As long as you’re comfortable it feels like freedom.

      All of which to say, my question a while back about marketing was motivated by a profound sense that marketing generates a great deal of what is wrong (my humble) with our consumer-based culture.

    2. What I had to say over at the Austrian Forum:

      [D]oes consumerism — the general culture that the Left decries — find its roots in government interventionism? I think the answer is yes and no, because we’re talking about two different things: (1) the culture of mass markets and mass consumption, which is genuinely a product of capitalism; (2) the culture of the credit card — the culture of artificially inflated time preference. Number 1 is what advocates of laissez faire should be ready to celebrate. Number 2 is what we should recognize as wealth-reducing, destructive, degenerative, and truly decadent in the old-fashioned use of the word.

  2. What is exploitation?

    1. What MDM has to say over at Upaya:

      So while leftists are right to insist that even voluntary transactions can be exploitative, libertarians are right to insist that even exploitative voluntary transactions should not be subject to state interference. (Though the child labor example is more complicated because of issues of child consent.) Moreover, as Carson demonstrates, the State engages in extensive direct, harmful, nonconsensual exploitation and it is also what makes possible much of the consensual, mutually advantageous exploitation in society.

    2. What I had to say over at BlackCrayon:


      Can leftists and libertarians find common ground in opposition to exploitation?

      This essay proposes that a model for such common ground is the 19th-century Individualist Anarchism of Benjamin Tucker.

      Individualist Anarchism sees the exploitation of certain groups or classes as the visible symptom of a deeper problem whose root cause is coercive monopoly. The individualist does not sanction the use of force to fight the symptom, but only to fight the coercive root cause itself. Non-coercive monopolies are to be opposed only through peaceful and cooperative means, such as innovation and education.

(Click to Enlarge)

And perhaps a little more from my exploitation essay:

Is the prostitute’s situation “tainted with injustice”?

Only if, as Tucker would say, “the terms of contract are dictated to [her] disadvantage”. The question becomes, Does a coercive context force her to negotiate on unequal footing?

A woman in the 19th century may have had few alternatives for decent income. The woman of the 21st century, we hope, has fewer obstacles and more options. And if she doesn’t, then the question must be how to maximize her options — not how to limit her yet further. If anyone is reducing the prostitute’s options, it’s the coercive cops, not her contractual clients.

(For more on this particular issue, see McElroy’s excellent talk on “Selling Sexuality”.)


5 Responses to consumerism and exploitation

  1. Tim Swanson says:

    I think you should blog more about empowering erstwhile exploited dancers.

  2. Vache Folle says:

    The verb “to exploit” often has a pejorative connotation, but this is certainly not always the case. For example, one may exploit an opportunity without any sense of pejoration. It appears that exploitation becomes morally problematic somewhere along a continuum between the voluntary and mutually advantageous variety and the involuntary and coercive variety, and the problems are to identify where exploitation crosses the line and what to do about it.It seems to me that the problem is tied up with power relations in general. Certainly, I agree that having the state limit individual options even further is not the answer. But we may have to recognize that individuals or cartels may become so economically powerful that they be able to dictate the terms of exchange in an unjust manner. (The coal mining industry of southern West Virginia in the 1920s comes to mind.) In a free society, there may be some need for an apparatus for mitigating the impact of the exercise of dominance, even where it is not technically coercive.

  3. - caj says:

    God! Why does so much libertarian stuff read like stereo instructions? “So if we recognize Condition A to be effected by Factor G, then it follows that Condition A is really Modified Condition A and Condition A due, of course, to Rothbard’s Transreversal Telekenesis Option … and everyone who doesn’t realize it is an idiot.” Sheesh! You guys are like intellectual Bee-Boppers.

  4. Adem D. Kupi says:

    Caj, it’s because they try to be accurate.And that’s because there are so many people with an axe to grind that will nitpick the hell out of anything they say.So it’s damned if you do, damned if you don’t, I guess.

  5. Anonymous says:

    <>Is the prostitute’s situation “tainted with injustice”?<>I demand free government handout bootycalls for all us ugly and poor sigle guys so that we aren’t so easy to exploit by these evil capitalist pig hookers.

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