A Libertarian Debates A Marxist On What Makes A Free Society

A Libertarian Debates A Marxist On What Makes A Free Society by Per Bylund, Mises Institute

In a live and streamed debate on 9/14 in Stockholm, Sweden, Per Bylund of Mises Institute debated Andrew Kliman from the Marxist-Humanist Initiative (MHI). The topic for the debate was “What makes a free society?” and the purpose was to raise two often overlooked perspectives on society and the economy: libertarianism and marxism. Co-organized and sponsored by libertarian organizations Cor.ax / bubb.la and MHI, the debate was held in central Stockholm and sold out. After increasing the number of tickets offered, the event sold out again.

Free Society

With the debaters being economists, the debate focused on economic issues. The primary discrepancy is the one between views on property, where the marxist Kliman proposed “individual property,” or ownership only of what one uses for personal needs but with communal ownership of the means of production, whereas I, as libertarian, argued for private property and free markets of the means of production. It is interesting to note that the Kliman relies on a division of property that is divided along economic categories: consumer and production goods (or goods of lowest and higher orders).

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While this distinction makes sense theoretically, and for the purpose of economic analysis, it is confusing and unintuitive in practice. You can use your house as both dwelling and office, your car for both personal transportation and business, and so on. The error by the marxists is here of the same type (though opposite) as that of environmentalists, who do not recognize the difference between natural/physical resources and economic resources. Kliman, in distinguishing between practical ownership of individual and private property (where only the latter may include the means of production), makes a theoretical distinction between consumption and production that he claims must be upheld exclusively also in practice. Kliman’s argument, it follows, requires clear-cut differences where those differences may sometimes only be existing in theory. In practice, as we know, a physical resource may be used interchangeably as production and consumption goods – or both at the same time.

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Listen to the recorded debate linked below, which includes the debate with Q&A as well as a one-on-one discussion with the two debaters recorded the following day.

Per Bylund is assistant professor of entrepreneurship & Records-Johnston Professor of Free Enterprise, Oklahoma State University. Wwebsite: PerBylund.com. Contact: email, twitter.

Note: The views expressed on Mises.org are not necessarily those of the Mises Institute.

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