At the Volokh Conspiracy, Ilya Somin writes:
May Day began as a holiday for socialists and labor union activists, not just communists. But over time, the date was taken over by the Soviet Union and other communist regimes and used as a propaganda tool to prop up their regimes. I suggest that we instead use it as a day to commemorate those regimes’ millions of victims. The authoritative Black Book of Communism estimates the total at 80 to 100 million dead, greater than that caused by all other twentieth century tyrannies combined. We appropriately have a Holocaust Memorial Day. It is equally appropriate to commemorate the victims of the twentieth century’s other great totalitarian tyranny. And May Day is the most fitting day to do so. I suggest that May Day be turned into Victims of Communism Day…
I’m certainly not in favor of having the state murder and oppress anarchists. (That would be suicidal on my part.) But given how communists have co-opted May Day, it’s hard for me to want to celebrate it.
An excerpt from Libertarianism: What Everyone Needs to Know:
Marxists say that if we want to realize social justice, we cannot have open markets and strong economic rights. Neoclassical liberals respond that if we care about the poor, the last thing we’d want to do is inflict Marxism upon them.
An excerpt from my paper, “Is Market Society Intrinsically Repugnant?”
Cohen claims that actors in market societies are motivated by greed and fear. He is right; many of them are. What are people motivated by in socialist societies? In the USSR, Cuba, or Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge, were people motivated by love and community? No, they were motivated even more strongly by base emotions, such as fear and the lust for power.
Cohen of course would say he is not defending the USSR or the Khmer Rouge. When he says agents in a socialist society are motivated by community spirit, he is discussing an imaginary and fictional socialist society. Because Cohen’s camping story is fictional, Cohen can simply stipulate that the characters in his story have whatever motivations he likes.
However, notice how badly this weakens Cohen’s argument against capitalism. Cohen says that an advantage of socialism over capitalism is the kind of motivations it engenders and relies upon. When Cohen says that agents in capitalist economies are motivated by greed and fear, he is articulating what he takes to be an empirical generalization about real-life, non-ideal capitalism. When Cohen says that agents in socialist economies are motivated by altruism and community spirit, Cohen is not making an empirical claim at all. Instead, he is simply stipulating that the people in his camping trip have good motivations.
Thus, Cohen is not doing social science. He is not helping us discover what motivates people in different regimes. He is not showing us how different regimes change people’s motivations. He is not doing empirical comparative politics. He has not given us any reason at all to believe that socialism engenders or relies upon better motivations than capitalism.
If one really wanted to know what motivates people in market society, one would have to leave one’s armchair in All Souls College and do genuine social scientific research.