Refuting The Irrifutable: A Note On mr1001nights
I’ve been a long time follower of mr1001nights’ youtube channel, however I never considered discussing his videos at length before. However, his latest piece “Can I wash your car for $10” warrents a decent response, as it claims to refute several capitalist defences of the market system. For me, mr1001nights’ videos often present more questions than answers and this piece is no exception.
Here, even if I fall short of a complete refutation, I will at least attempt to ask those questions.
Obviously a capitalist at the top of a corporate hierarchy – a corporate empire – with thousands of wage slaves does not compare with John paying Peter to wash his car.
As mr1001nights recognises, individual examples do serve a larger purpose. Robinson Crusoe narratives are particularly useful in stripping down economic ideas into their bare essentials. However it is important to ask: in what sense do corporate hierarchies not compare with John paying Peter to wash his car? Both John and the “wage slave” are being paid a sum of money to perform a particular function on someone elses property using only their labour. Are these both exploitative acts? Is one exploitative and the other non-exploitative? Is one more coercive than the other?
As I have said many times, the objection has to do with subordination to a boss under threat of starvation, poverty and social stigma, which arises out of a class situation.
The above quotation is the crux of most of mr1001nights’ videos. However it is fundamentally flawed as a criticism of market economics. But before I get to this, a short note on coercion.
I contend that the manner in which non-capitalists use the words “force” and “coercion” are fundamentally flawed. As such it is important to challenge them. Force simply pertains to violence against person or property. Nothing more, nothing less. Although many other definitions of “coercion” have been put forward (see F.A. Hayek’s dubious definition), it is the only one that does not devolve into absurdities. Try this on for size: “Women who are single are faced with the fear of being alone, as well as social stigma. Therefore, although entered into “voluntarily” by participants, marriage is actually a coercive institution.”
Secondly, even if we were to acknowledge that “the threat of starvation, poverty and social stigma” do indeed constitute “coercion”, this criticism still fails as a challenge of market economies. Starvation and poverty are not a threat specific to capitalist economies. Humans still have to produce to consume. And despite mr1001nights’ insistence on separating “subjugation of man by man” and “subjugation of man to nature”, he constantly insists that economic scarcity is a strike against market economies. Similarly, in a non-capitalist society – presumably one where consumer goods are available to all who want them – the threat of social stigma still remains as well. In fact, it may well be one of the driving factors in ensuring compliance with social goals.
In short, “starvation, poverty and social stigma” do not disappear in a the non-capitalist society, and mr1001nights, through slight of hand, makes it seem that they are created through class conflict to boot.