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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/13725/venus-needs-some-austrians/

Venus Needs Some Austrians

August 30, 2010 by

The socialist dreamers of the Venus Project imagine a future society of incredible abundance. Robert Murphy explains that our world could become as wealthy as they say, but only through the defense of private property. FULL ARTICLE by Robert P. Murphy

{ 387 comments }

TokyoTom September 7, 2010 at 8:20 am

“Rather, the way to raise the material standard of living around the world is to foster a universal respect for property rights, especially an end to FIAT money.”

There; fixed that for you, Bob (not that you’d disagree).

TT

Dario Vojvodic September 8, 2010 at 8:50 am

Idea behind abolishing monetary system had be taken from different angle than we are pereceiving todays economy and even technology implementation. Economy by one of definitions is “Discipline that deals with means of redistributing goods and service (that are usually limited)”, if you look through definitions, you won’t find money as foundation to economy in general because money is just means of exchange for any value, it is not even resource. To be short, we use money to “evaluate value” of goods that are limited with money of what we have limited possesion. Exchange of limited goods and service (redistribution) can be practical using money instead of planned redistribution because demand can be measured by prices or bids and in response quality and quantity of production can be adjusted to that demand.

RBE is huge step forward for economy effectiveness where monetary trade proves ineffective due to artifical scarcity and automated labor where labor force becomes redundant and no services can provide income through labor (you cannot make up so many new services to replace production jobs). Currently, production of goods can be planned because demand can be measured by internet orders, basic goods can be produced in huge amounts (bread, meat, milk, clothes… even computers and high tech household equipment) and no intrinsic poverty would exist with current technology that we have. I saw news reports where peasants spill milk into river or throw away good meat because they are pushed out of market from competition and cannot sell their stuff (due to cost to put items on shelves). Economy calculation problem or debate is just outdated where economists at 1920′s didn’t have tools to measure demand or to calculate most efficient distribution method. RBE just proposes efficient distribution system without having flawed spammed products or marketing costs. I am engineer and I know for that system you don’t even need supercomputers, you need current internet network and input from manufacturer and consumer. RBE wouldn’t provide life of fortune and luxury where you could order gold plated dinner sets, 150 inch 3D TV, Armani clothes, caviar every second breakfast or your personal 20m Yaht for boat trips, but it would provide decent life with quality food and drink, warm clothes, 50 inch TV, laptop, broadband internet, free transportation, warm and dry accommodation etc..

Still, main problem is not technology per se, it is people mentality with incentive to receive wage for work, jelousy towards other people that work less alot less and receive equaly more wages. With current mentality, we cannot have RBE because we couldn’t find enough volunteers for all the dirty work building up automated factories and farms. Mentality can be changed in time with education that can increase awareness that people should volunterr to improve their society instead of waiting for somone to give them money out of thin air to do something in their life. Money is not true incentive and I am vitnessed tha, I was part of team that implemented automated control in machine for cable manufacture and guys doing it don’t have good salaries, still they enjoyed their work and we were having laughs doing it. I am also organizing my own NGO in my town, so I see people asking us to give them somethnig to work for free.

Society in RBE would look quite different, with different values in so huge extent that is almost unimaginable now. Job descriptions would change and most of hard labor would dissapear due to automatization. Manually jobs like masoning, plumming, interior making would dissapear due to modulated design. If you want 100% custom appartment, do it your self (order materials for free, you have time), gather up some friends or wait for enthusiast volunteer that likes to make appartments. This is reason why TVP guys tell you to have open minds and stop thinking in terms of current monetary system with current job description and techology implementation.

J. Murray September 8, 2010 at 9:21 am

TVP hasn’t bothered to replace the information mechanic to determine if what we’re doing is a good use of resources. TVP assumes unlimited time and unlimited resources. Money and pricing is what people in the real world use to determine if what they just did was useful or a waste of time. More money = useful. Less money = waste of time. What does the TVP have to replace this? Nothing. It’s the same central planning trap, the assumption that resources and labor can be distributed using egalitarian methods. It just doesn’t exist. This system has failed for thousands of years and will continue to fail into the indefinite future.

Here’s the true challenge: if the TVP people are serious, just start doing it already. Stop talking, start doing.

imasillypiggy September 11, 2010 at 8:15 pm

thats why we have machines so we can they can do the bad jobs and the only jobs we will have left to do is jobs that are not boring or repetitive and the we dont just start the venus project because first we dont have millions of dollars to make a city and also tvp works best if it was a global system not just a small city.

TeeZedem November 2, 2010 at 9:58 am

I have an observation:

We spent 458 million dollars on a new roof for our local sports stadium that cannot retract when it is raining or windy (it can do so only before or after such weather). Austrians talk a lot about measuring utility using an ordinal scale which suggests a tier. So in essence our society thinks it is more useful to spend 458 million on a roof that cannot retract during bad weather than say, building social housing for our homeless, or providing cheaper education. You could argue that a new roof is useful only to the owners of and customers of the sports stadium and it is only their metric, their ordinal ranking that matters, as austrians are concerned with the individual. Do you see where that could be a problem? Depending on an individuals ordinal ranking of utility they could spend and squander an outrageous amount of resources on projects that better the plight of a select few and only marginally at best.

Maybe Austrian economics isn’t wrong, maybe the problem lies with the values we use to rank our utility.

But I agree, If TVP is serious we got to live it. Not talk about it.

augusto February 2, 2011 at 6:58 am

The error in your argument is to assume “society” thinks. Only individuals think. It wasn’t “society” that decided a roof was more important than houses, it was individuals, likely the managers of the corporation that owns the stadium in “partnership” with local politicians…

AIM January 27, 2011 at 12:37 am

That is not true. TVP, and TZM and its members have addressed that very same question numerous times. Are you ready for the answer? Consumption. There you have it — Plain and simple. We would track consumption. RBE doesn’t come without a price tag; ofcourse there’s a price tag. Currency is currency and money isn’t the only form of currency that we use in our daily lives. It just happens to be a very insidious one. Are you ready for me to tell you what that currency will be? Effort. Effort we can be proud of rather than being slaves for the very few that wish to amass all the power rendering the rest of society powerless. Yes, my friend, that is what we need. Fortunately, humans are born with different forms of currencies like everything else on this planet. It’s ok to let go of money, we were not born with it.

JoeAverage March 1, 2011 at 11:59 am

Complete and utter crapola. It has been proven in several studies that giving people more money as an incentive will only improve their performance in basic repetitive tasks like fetching coffee, but for creative tasks it has no measurable effect because money is not the motivation for creativity or ingenuity; it is it’s own reward. I can vouch for this myself as a photographer, videoeditor and entrepreneur. Most of the stuff I do, I’d do for free. And in fact I have done a lot of work for no pay, not for charity but just for the pleasure of doing it.

Just look at the misallocation of resources in our current economic paradigm. Marketing distorts our view of what is really important through manipulation and social conditioning. People in modern society have their value system upside down, they care more about nice clothes, video games and iPods than they do about healthy food, clean water, fresh air and our environment. This is a recipe for disaster, and has huge implications for our long-term survival as a species.

I think we have to ask ourselves why we really have jobs. Personally it’s to aquire money for food, water, shelter, clothes, heat and comfort. Most of those things could be automated today. I’m a minimalist by nature and if I can have that without money or a job, I’ll take it. And no I won’t become a slob who just watches television, there are tons of things I like to do for no pay, just for the heck of it and to help others, and society.

Scott D September 10, 2010 at 12:55 am

Another excellent article by Robert P. Murphy. There is a thread over on the Venus Project site where they praise Douglas’ comments here. I find Douglas’ comments to be extremely shallow, protesting much while saying little.

“Welcome to the 21st century, where we can automate pretty much 90% of all human labor and achieve greater productivity and efficiency.”

I’m sure that Douglas really believes this statement is both true and significant. This very bald assertion and many others built off of it underlie much of the rhetoric from the Venus Project site. I could as easily say, “We have the scientific and natural resources right now to design and build a space elevator,” or “there is enough arable land in the world that we can ensure that no one goes hungry”. While such statements might technically be true, they imply that the only barrier to making them reality is that people haven’t yet believed hard enough in them, or, in the case of Venusians, that we rely on money. This is literally wishful thinking at its finest.

“If you actually studied every page of the Venus Project website, every question you just asked would be answered.”

I spent an hour or so over at the Venus Project website. If I were to sum up the bulk of the arguments that Douglas here is so proud of, they would come down to “yes, we know that argument, but surprisingly the truth is actually the opposite of what you believe.” Occasionally, such statements are bolstered by factual evidence that is only tangentially related to the assertion being made, just like Douglas did above with his video about environmental influences on behavior.

Incidentally, I got a very creepy, cultish vibe from their FAQ. It actually reminded me a bit of Scientology, like they are trying to program belief into people by repition, careful and deceptive discrediting of alternate viewpoints and rosy promises. Unfortunately, it is very time-consuming to come up with reasoned arguments to counter their points because of the many layers of assertion and circular reasoning that you have to dig through. Maybe as a project on the forums, we can pull in all of their arguments, locate the unfounded assertions and eviscerate them.

VTV September 15, 2010 at 8:50 am

“Incidentally, I got a very creepy, cultish vibe from their FAQ. It actually reminded me a bit of Scientology, like they are trying to program belief into people by repition, careful and deceptive discrediting of alternate viewpoints and rosy promises. Unfortunately, it is very time-consuming to come up with reasoned arguments to counter their points because of the many layers of assertion and circular reasoning that you have to dig through. Maybe as a project on the forums, we can pull in all of their arguments, locate the unfounded assertions and eviscerate them.”

Not much substance in your reply. It is basically a well disguised ad hominem. I have several radio shows that handle all of the stuff you have talked about here.

I don’t think you will be “eviscerating” anything.

Scott D September 16, 2010 at 12:42 pm

“It is basically a well disguised ad hominem.”

No, an ad hominem would be if I were to reject your arguments based upon some unrelated characteristics of the people who support it. What I am talking about here is your methodology, which disturbs me. It was the feeling I got after being bombarded with misdirections and profound statements made without context or logical foundation.

“I have several radio shows that handle all of the stuff you have talked about here.”

I’ll have a listen to your podcast and come back to tell you what I think. I expect tons more misdirection and outright misunderstanding of such crucial ideas as the Socialist Calculation Problem. We’ll see if I’m wrong.

“I don’t think you will be “eviscerating” anything.”

The feeling is mutual.

VTV September 15, 2010 at 8:37 am
Scott D September 16, 2010 at 5:23 pm

I’ll start at the top, then.

A few minutes in, VTV notes that most economists do not agree with the Austrian School (and admits to having committed an Appeal to Authority). That’s a bit like saying that most physicists don’t agree with Superstring Theory. Economics is divided into multiple schools, including neo-Classical, Keynsian, Monetarist, Austrian and smaller schools such as Marxist. It also ignores the fact that many (but not all) of the central tenets of Austrian economics, such as the marginal theory of value and diminishing utility, are shared by nearly all of the schools. Where Austrians part ways most vehemently with the Keynsians, neo-Classicals and Monetarists is in market equilibrium, business cycle theory, the use and efficacy of mathematical models, aggregate demand and theories about externalities and public goods. None of these differences are particular important to Robert Murphy’s arguments, so trying to marginalize him before he even starts is rather disingenuous.

VTV then scans through the article a bit until he comes to the point where Murphy claims that if everyone respected property rights, everyone’s wealth could increase dramatically. You first address this point by saying that it simply doesn’t follow. I think what this means is that VTV doesn’t understand what the concept of property rights means to Austrians. The non-aggression principle, which prohibits the use of force or violence except in retaliation in the face of aggression, is a nice summation of what we think is wrong with government. If criminals and government lack the ability to profit by killing and stealing, the productive sector of the economy can retain those resources and they can be put to use generating more wealth. Just how much wealth is debatable, but many think that it would be quite substantial, given the utter poverty of kleptocracies in comparison to the wealth of less hampered markets where property rights are respected.

Crime, VTV blames on scarcity. This is the most absurd thing that he’s said yet (and we’re just getting started). Does the junkie knock over the convenience store because of “scarcity”? Is spousal abuse the result of “scarcity”? Credit card fraud and identity theft? Scarcity. Vandalism? Scarcity. Rape? Scarcity. You really need to spend some time around actual criminals. They aren’t the poor unfortunate wretches with hearts of gold that VTV thinks they are. Criminals commit crimes not because they have to, but because they are willing to take the risk of getting caught–either out of stupidity or ruthlessness, they lack empathy, or they are driven by strong emotion. Hunger can drive people to do socially unacceptable things such as theft, but in the developed world at least, this is the exception, not the rule.

VTV and Brandy Hume then go into one of their movement’s common tropes, that money is obsolete in a postscarcity world, citing this as one of the profound truths that critical outsiders just don’t understand. The reality is that we do understand, but we don’t agree with them. This is one of Robert Murphy’s points that VTV completely missed. What is considered to be superabundance in one context is quite ordinary in another. The boy from Calcutta perceives superabundance in the trip to the Costco store because the society that he came from does not possess the capital necessary to build such huge stores and give away free samples. He may think that scarcity no longer exists, but that is only because he has not yet updated his reference point. The post-scarcity world VTV describes would actually just be a world in which we take for granted goods that used to require more careful fiscal management to acquire.

Next, he criticizes money, blaming it for the unequal distribution of wealth. For once I agree with him, while disagreeing with what he then says about money being corrupted and abused. He would too if he understood the marginal theory of value and how it applies to labor and productivity. In a capitalist system a person with skills that are rare and in demand will be able to earn more than someone with very common skills. People are paid in proportion to their productivity and the use of money as a medium of exchange allows a wide range of amounts and a fine degree of accuracy. In a barter economy, it is much more difficult to trade wealth for productivity in proportion, and RBE doesn’t seem much more promising in that regard.

We then get into socialist (yes, it is socialist, no matter what they say) nonsense about needing public property rather than private property because capitalism is supposedly a “rat race” where everyone fights everyone else for resources and a few undeserving bastards grab bigger slices of pie and then bully everyone else for more. Believe it or not, this is the essence of the ideas put forth in the 1800s by Karl Marx, debunked by the work of economists of the last century and a half. And he claims that OUR ideas our outdated.

He briefly mentions that most new businesses fail, which is true, and is a consequence of the fact that our economy is already very efficient within the constraints that it has upon it. He mentions some of the worst of those constraints, politically-created barriers to entry, which tend to favor large businesses over small. He then does a very pretty dance around this whole issue, claiming that Austrians are foolish for advocating a repeal of regulations and a return to sound money, irrelevantly criticize anarchism for advocating abolition of the state and never really explain how he expects the Venus Project to gain traction against the forces that he says miniarchists/anarchists will be defeated by.

I have no idea why VTV mentions, twice even, “if the kid is lucky to be adopted” when discussing Murphy’s adopted kid from Calcutta example. That is completely irrelevant and makes him sound pretty silly, actually. And then he immediately moves into another awesome socialist fallacy, claiming that America “steals” resources from the rest of the world. Comparative advantage, division of labor, higher productivity and very high capital accumulation surely can’t be the reason we’re so wealthy. It has to be that we’re “stealing” from the rest of the world. He brings up sweatshops, which offer better opportunities to unskilled third-world populations than they would ever have otherwise. Child labor goes away when people become productive enough that their children won’t starve if they aren’t working. Economic illiteracy at…it’s..FINEST and he’s still totally distracted from the point!

Next, more irrelevance as he discusses de-regulation of various industries, attacking anarcho-capitalism rather than defending RBE, claiming that Rupert Murdoch’s accumulation of media outlets essentially fixed elections (while ignoring the incredible outburst of independent, online media sources that have appeared in about the same time period).

VTV then goes on a rant about Ayn Rand, apparently mistaking her for an anarcho-capitalist. I would say that see he’s really trying hard here, but that would require that he actually engage his brain beyond mud-flinging and actually research the matter in some minimal fashion. And yes, since you proclaim it, VTV, I guess we all must believe that Ayn Rand is right to say that it’s okay to steal land if we can put it to more productive use, being allegedly “at the top” of our ideology. VTV is really starting to piss me the hell off at this point with his propoganda. My poor impression of him and the unsound ideas he supports are being confirmed moment by moment as I listen, and we still have over half an hour to go.

(to be continued)

Scott D September 16, 2010 at 7:24 pm

My apologies for the couple of “you’s” that went into the above. I started out addressing the comment to VTV, then changed it to speaking of him in the third person.

Scott D September 16, 2010 at 8:24 pm

“And what do all of these systems have in common?” VTV asks. “Money.” Ah, it’s so clear now. We who like to practice logic call this fallacy “Ignoring a Common Cause.” I could just as easily argue that the problem is human beings, since all of these systems were developed and used by humans. Brandy then weighs in on the Calcutta kid, expertly dodging any recognition of Robert Murphy’s point and, with a wave of her magic wand, actually claims that the example supports her claim, since, under RBE, the whole world could be a superabundant Costco!

VTV next whips out the “U” word, “Utopian” in referring to Murphy’s claim that a high enough standard of living could make the cost of a heart surgery seem trivial. Why he should suddenly turn so conservative and cynical when he’s the one claiming that “90% of the world’s labor could be automated” essentially for free is beyond me.

VTV claims that capitalism “exploits” and “encourages” greed. I like how he uses subtle twists of language here to add emotional support his point while not quite lying. Greed exists separately from and outside of capitalism. The way in which capitalism “exploits” greed is that it puts a person’s desire for material wealth to good use, by encouraging that person to participate in the market and in the production of goods and services that are valued by their buyers higher than the money that they give up to attain them, which in turn is valued by him higher than the labor and materials that he used to make them. Greed encourages people to collectively raise each other’s wealth.

Next we talk about the comment concerning production of aircraft for World War II. Our pair go through Murphy’s argument and then (with a little giggle from Brandy) declare that he misses Jacque’s point entirely. What I find hilarious is that he didn’t miss the point at all. Rather, he took the next step, looking past the obvious, seen benefits of the US government seizing and funneling production into war to the costs of gutting the production of everything else. This is opportunity cost on a massive scale. But no, we’re to believe that because this production is going into “creating abundance”, that there will be no opportunity cost, and that the mechanism to make this happen is the abolition of money. Renewable energy means no electric bill…right. And this is all made possible by building a command economy.

(More to come)

B00klegger October 4, 2010 at 7:00 pm

@Scott D

Thank you for taking time out of your day to sit and listen this podcast AND for taking the time to put your thoughts about it into a post(s). When I first read this story a month ago, I was struck by how similar the Venus Project’s plan is to another sci-fi/quasi-utopian project I became enamored with in the mid-90′s — the First Millennial Foundation. But I didn’t have the time to sit and analyze their arguments.

Again, thanks for a colorful and entertaining summary.
Regards ….

Scott D October 7, 2010 at 8:03 am

Thanks, I ended up not finishing the podcast, since it seemed like this thread was well and truly buried.

John James January 3, 2011 at 11:41 am

Yes, the way these threads seem to die out is quite a shame, but I assure you your efforts don’t go unnoticed after such time as people stop conversing. I only wish there was a way to be notified when a reply is made to something you posted…as you will probably not see this…but if you do, you’ll notice I’m writing this more than three months after your original analysis.

Like B00klegger, I just wanted to thank you for taking the time to sit through such nonsense and offer your summary and assessment of it. I enjoyed reading it and am thankful that I was saved from having to subject myself to listening to such painful drivel.

mpolzkill September 15, 2010 at 8:57 am

Anyone else notice how nice, friendly, and happy most of the Venusians who visited seemed to be? I thought of them when I saw this yesterday:

http://www.southparkstudios.com/episodes/103933

VTV September 15, 2010 at 9:41 am

Some more stuff to review:

Awakening: This brief film made by Douglas Mallette, System’s engineer for the Space Shuttle program covers a lot of the hard data about what is wrong with the monetary system and why it is doomed.
Part 1:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cAjFBsp__aE
Part 2:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yCJqP18gBlc&feature=related
Part 3:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tdhklzlF3Dw&feature=related
Part 4:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q1a5MlHFJu4&feature=related

Capitalism: Epic Fail
This film breaks down some of the cyclical consumption problems:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f8RsO1iKNAE

Branden September 16, 2010 at 5:39 am

I found it somewhat ironic that he mentions a kid in Calcutta when a few students from Calcutta were discussing The Zeitgeist Movement at their local university in India. Here’s the link.Zietgiest members discussed socio-economic policies at IIM-C

Forest December 13, 2010 at 3:02 am

I’m not schooled extremely well on either side of the debate so you may see my comment as redundant but it strikes me that for resource or competition based economies to work the honestly and integrity of people has to be at a very high standard. People who lack that standard could easily game either system.

Sure we have high quality utensils available at lower prices somewhat due to competition but the same seeking for lower prices causes quality cuts that affect things like the quality of food and such things. Even with Gov regulation dangerous stuff reaches us such as the recent salmonella scare. In a money based economy what would stop companies cutting corners and causing issues like this with no recourse? I guess you may say that people would stop buying from them but the fact is that on mass people will listen to the company when they say the problem is fixed and go back to buying the cheap product because it is still the cheapest.

I’m leaning in the direction of some kind of socialism but certainly don’t believe the socialist utopia could ever happen. It would be damn boring too!!!!

vaguelyhumanoid January 17, 2011 at 8:01 pm

I agree that free markets would create profound wealth and equality, probably more staunchly then Murphy even, seeing as I think the free market would render a wage-labor based, that is capitalist, economy unnecessary. However, I don’t think property rights in the sense promoted by ancaps are necessary. I think mutualist occupancy and use would work just fine, thank you very much.

nate-m January 17, 2011 at 8:31 pm

Property rights is how you delegate resources down to a individualist level. Without that there can be no economy and no way to track resource usage and efficiency (profits is the measure of this).

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