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[P]
What's after capitalism?

By eann in News
Fri Apr 21, 2000 at 06:57:13 PM EST
Tags: Culture (all tags)
Culture

According to this article, noted economist Jeremy Rifkin has extrapolated some current trends in the way the Net, the business world, and modern culture are all interacting, and he paints a disturbing picture reminiscent of the possible near-futures described by Bruce Sterling.


What Rifkin describes in his new book, The Age of Access, is a future where most citizens own very few items; instead, we will all pay corporations for access to material goods. Traditional markets, he says, are giving way to networks. It's a fairly dense article to cover such a broad work, so it's difficult to summarize the summary without simply quoting it. Go read it.

I'm reminded of something I saw a few months ago about the so-called "information economy", where a person's attention is what companies will be competing for. Which web portal will you use? What TV station will you watch? I can think of all sorts of interesting ways to relate these theories. Micro-transactions for cable/satellite TV service--you can get any channel regardless of where you are physically, then part of your fee goes to whomever you lease your TV-like appliance from, part to the infrastructure provider and the remainder to the content provider (which is probably a licensing or syndication agent for someone else...), with your cost reduced by which adverts you allow through your filters.

Is he really just a neo-luddite postmodernist that's been spending too much time sniffing dry-erase marker fumes to think clearly? Or do you agree that there is some merit to his ideas, and that we should be significantly more careful what parts of our lives we allow corporations to influence?

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What's after capitalism? | 67 comments (67 topical, editorial, 0 hidden)
However, it's not as if we can do a... (2.67 / 3) (#6)
by Paradox on Fri Apr 21, 2000 at 04:33:51 PM EST

Paradox voted 1 on this story.

However, it's not as if we can do anything about it. There are simply too many unaware people in this world... and to these people this kind of situation looks mighty attractive. Add that to the fact the world is moving towards socialism as a standard form of government and things are going to be less than satisfactory...
Dave "Paradox" Fayram

print print join q( ), split(q,q,,reverse qq;#qsti
qq)\;qlre;.q.pqevolqiqdog.);#1 reason to grin at Perl
print "\n";

More technobabble fodder...... (3.00 / 2) (#4)
by four12 on Fri Apr 21, 2000 at 04:55:29 PM EST

four12 voted -1 on this story.

More technobabble fodder...

I totally agree capitalism is an ba... (2.00 / 2) (#5)
by Commienst on Fri Apr 21, 2000 at 04:59:02 PM EST

Commienst voted 1 on this story.

I totally agree capitalism is an bad system. I admittedly can not think of a better one though.

A doctor's goal in a capitalist county is to get as much money out of you as possible, healing you is only his secondary goal.

Re: I totally agree capitalism is an ba... (2.00 / 1) (#24)
by FlinkDelDinky on Sat Apr 22, 2000 at 02:21:01 AM EST

That seems to be the way with all good social ideas and systems. It's especially obvious with capitalism and democracy, they suck, but they're the best we got.

Other ideas are softer, in theory more efficient, and just nicer. Except they don't work for humans. The problem is that life is pretty brutal, natural selection is pretty picky, and resources aren't unlimited.

The Western Empire - We suck less...

[ Parent ]

Re: I totally agree capitalism is an ba... (3.00 / 2) (#25)
by rusty on Sat Apr 22, 2000 at 02:34:44 AM EST

Linux: It sucks less than most other Operating Systems. How true that is... :-)

____
Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]
Well, whether you agree with Rifkin... (4.30 / 3) (#1)
by analog on Fri Apr 21, 2000 at 05:22:44 PM EST

analog voted 1 on this story.

Well, whether you agree with Rifkin or not (I frequently do not), I don't think you can ignore that his ideas are usually well thought out, and he does back them up. I don't like this article's slant though; 'Rifkin's a postmodernist, postmodernists frequently display muddled thinking, so if his ideas agree with the postmodernist viewpoint his thinking must be muddled'. The example the article uses to illustrate this is ironic; where I live, there is talk of charging access fees to some public parks.

If you take a good look around, I think what he says has merit. 'The Road Ahead' is full of talk about micropayments for all access to information on the Internet (and taking it off the net as well, with the local library being an example Gates used). As well, Microsoft has been trying to find a way to move to a subscription model for their software for years.

Do some reading about the current state of the patent system in the U.S., and you'll find an attitude that all information, ideas, etc. must be owned by somebody. There is an increasingly common (and disturbing) trend among politicians wherein they are seeing information as an 'unconquered country'; if nobody owns it, then the first person to establish some sort of claim can make it his.

You may think this type of thing can't move into the material world, but don't bet on it. One of the things that has led to this is the desire for traditional industries to make the kind of money and profit the software industry has. That the software industry has done it with artificial restrictions isn't stopping them; they're just trying to get the right to place similar restrictions on the use of their products (which they will then charge to lift).

Will the world Rifkin envisions happen? Maybe, maybe not. I have no question that in the U.S. at least, corporations are pushing hard to make it happen. The ongoing flaps with the movie industry vis-a-vis DVD may be the canary in the coal mine. You buy the movie, but they still control your ability to access it. If this sort of thing is allowed to continue, you can bet your bottom dollar that every industry that can find a way to do it will.

One constant throughout history is that those who control the wealth and power will do everything they can to keep and enhance that control. This is just a modern example of that same process.

Re: Well, whether you agree with Rifkin... (4.00 / 2) (#11)
by aor on Fri Apr 21, 2000 at 08:06:23 PM EST

As for the article, well, I think there are some serious flaws in believing that we will enter an age where we relinquish ownership of most things; leave it at that for the moment.

What I'd really like to comment on is one line of your post, "micropayments for all access to information on the Internet".

This got me thinking more about something I've been thinking about for a couple of weeks: information. Any information. Including both uncopyrightable things like "facts", and copyrightable stuff like books and movies, and patentable stuff like how to build a foozle that doesn't burn your eyebrows off.

And I've been thinking - this is what that line made me think of - that information is at once both very valueable, and very worthless. It is very valuable, in that many people want it, and can make a great use of it. It is very worthless, though, in a traditional economic sense (this is in the absence of IP law); there is no scarcity.

It was at this point that I came to a realization, that those talking heads that like to report on the "information economy" have unintentionally come up with a good and true phrase. The Information Economy.

I realized this, because when you turn your head the right way, it becomes apparent that there are in fact two actual economies at work today. The physical economy, and the information economy. However, these two economies have been shoehorned together to fit within the confines of the physical economy.

It is a bad fit. And an idea like charging for access to information just underlines the problem. The problem is that information has been shoved into an economic system in which it does not fit. Now don't get me wrong, I'm a devout capitalist, and I believe that capitalism deals better than any other system with scarcity. If you've only got some of something, go with capitalism; you'll get the best results.

But information is unlimited, once it has been created. The big hurdle is that it has to be artificially shoved into the physical economy, because the producers of information must survive in that physical economy.

This means that we must, by artifical legal means, prevent people from having access to information that might greatly enhance their lives. I see this as a great problem, because it means that we, as a people, are artificially limiting the knowledge and happiness of the people.

I do not see an easy solution to this problem, but I believe that is a much more basic and distressing issue than the more vague and less alarming conerns of the article about Rifkin.

(Most of that was probably incoherent, but I'm pretty sure I left a point or two laying around)

--
Mike Bruce
web@jhereg.net


-- Michael Bruce web@jhereg.net
[ Parent ]
Re: Well, whether you agree with Rifkin... (none / 0) (#15)
by xah on Fri Apr 21, 2000 at 09:14:36 PM EST

Good points! I especially agree that once scarcity in information is reduced or eliminated, capitalist-style regulation of information makes less and less sense.

[ Parent ]
Info: sale value vs. use value (none / 0) (#44)
by zotz on Sun Apr 23, 2000 at 01:03:59 PM EST

Just as ESR speaks of the use value of software vs. the sale value of software, I think we need to realise that there is a use value of information as well as a sale value of information.

There is also the fact, that in some instances, it is valuable to ME if YOU have information that I also have, even if it is valuable to you apart from me. Therefore, if I have it and you don't, I can choose not to give it to you unless you pay for it. If you choose not to pay, I loose the value to me of you having it.
zotz forever! ~~~the raggeded~~~

bslug.org
[ Parent ]

*extremely* cogent article. Yes, IM... (2.50 / 2) (#7)
by ishbak on Fri Apr 21, 2000 at 05:26:36 PM EST

ishbak voted 1 on this story.

*extremely* cogent article. Yes, IMO His opinion is well founded. Just look at the model of DVD and the new CD's with a limited life span. I think he's aware of a trend that's been going on for some time now. People tend to think of technology as empowering, in fact it's a way of disenfranchising people. Modern technology, from factory automation to the creation of new restrictive media is built as a method of making money, not providing service. Look at things like napster... from it's popularity it's obviously what the consumer wants but since it's unprofitable it's considered horrible. I'm not sure what will or should come of all of this.

Here's what I predict: an economy w... (3.00 / 3) (#2)
by End on Fri Apr 21, 2000 at 06:22:34 PM EST

End voted 1 on this story.

Here's what I predict: an economy where physical products are all free, paid for by advertisements. The free world will move to an economy based entirely on services. So it will actually be more capitalist than ever before, not less. Capitalism will never go away, or if it does we will have made a huge mistake.

However, part of me still thinks this is all stuff that is thought of by people who have only lived in the city, who think that the whole country is full of four-lane freeways. You know, as much as things change and trends are hyped downtown, things are pretty much the same in the rural areas :-)

-JD

capitalism CAN go away (none / 0) (#10)
by xah on Fri Apr 21, 2000 at 08:00:07 PM EST

I am not taking a position of advocacy here. I am simply saying that capitalism can cease to exist. It ceased to exist in Russia, China, N Korea, and Cuba for certain periods of time. Cold Warriors knew that if they didn't fight hard, capitalism would be wiped out. Capitalism is not the same as the marketplace and is a different animal than the barter system.

Furthermore, all systems, from feudalism to hunting and gathering eventually cease to exist. The questions then become, (1) When will capitalism cease to exist; (2) How will capitalism cease to exist (by peace or by force); and (3) What will the world be like after capitalism?

[ Parent ]

Are we really out of feudalism? (none / 0) (#17)
by Commienst on Fri Apr 21, 2000 at 09:19:29 PM EST

Just because we do not go around formally classing each other like in Fuedal Europe does not mean classes are not present. In capitalism money by defintion is power.

The Richest 1% of this world own %50 of the world's wealth. You could argue this 1% is our modern day royalty.

People born in third world nations really have no chance to improve their quality of life. There is just no opportunity in those countries; no opportunity to get an education, a good job, etc. You could consider them modern day serfs.

One could venture to argue we still live in a feudalistic society. I will admit we have progressed since medieval times but not by as much as many would care to believe.

[ Parent ]

Re: Are we really out of feudalism? (none / 0) (#22)
by Pike on Sat Apr 22, 2000 at 01:20:45 AM EST

We have progressed a lot farther than you will give us credit for. Yes, a lot of wealth is owned by a relatively small amount of people, but what you people always fail to account for is the income mobility in a capitalistic, democratic republic such as ours. People are both making and losing fortunes left and right. This is because America's government is, economically speaking, based on the idea of the free market. There are various caveats to that in practice, but that is the theory. People are less likely to become permanently stuck in poverty in a free capitalistic country.

You seem to base your comments on a global perspective, and thus you conclude that we are living in some kind of global chain of feudalism. The fact is that, in most cases, the government of each country decides how wealthy its own people will be. If there is undue poverty in countries as a result of corrupt officials or unwise polices, it is not the fault of the capitalists. Canada is trying a kind of socialism and it really isn't working. Another example: Cuba. Another example: India. Their problem is not lack of education; it is not lack of resources; it is unwise polices and superstition that prevent them from improving their standard of living.

[ Parent ]

Re: Are we really out of feudalism? (none / 0) (#29)
by Commienst on Sat Apr 22, 2000 at 12:59:51 PM EST

"The fact is that, in most cases, the government of each country decides how wealthy its own people will be. "

That is not the case. I do not think the government of any country would choose its people to be poor.

Cuba for example is bullied by the richer countries (especially the United States). They assume that all Communist countries are bad and try whatever the cost to halt the spread of communism. If it were not for the harsh trade sanctions imposed by the US on Cuba it would not be so impoverished. It's funny that the US has trade sanctions on Cuba while its major trading partner is China which has much worse civil and human rights violations than most countries in the world.

[ Parent ]

Re: Are we really out of feudalism? (none / 0) (#34)
by End on Sat Apr 22, 2000 at 10:56:40 PM EST

In the case of Cuba, that is exactly what the government has done: Castro chose that his people would be poor for the sake of his socialist dream. Cuba is not wanting for trading partners; many other countries trade with Cuba. Normalizing trade relations with Cuba would not improve the living situations of its citizens. It is Castro that has sacrificed the Cubans' quality of life in the name of political ideals, not the United States. Why? No private propery. No citizens' rights. No representation in government. Only Castro telling them he knows what's good for them and taking their businesses and children away from them.

Perhaps you do not think that a government would choose for its people to be poor; but nevertheless they do, whether they are conscious of it or no.

-JD
[ Parent ]

Re: Are we really out of feudalism? (none / 0) (#59)
by Paul Dunne on Tue Apr 25, 2000 at 08:29:14 AM EST

This is appalling drivel. I am no apologist for the regime in Cuba, but you must know that US foreign policy since Castro took power has consistenty been to bring about the downfall of the Cuban government, using all means short of air strikes and all-out invasion. Of course the trade embargo has been enormously-harmful to Cuba. Blaming the Cuban regime for it's effects is a bit like blaming the Emperor Hirohito or Tojo for Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It's true, in the sense that both could have been avoided if the "evil empire" in each case had rolled over and played "good doggie". And it's not true that plenty of other countries can trade with Cuba. Well, yes they can, if they can afford to shrug off US retaliation. Of course, in a real capitalist free-market economy, "countries" don't trade, people and companies do, but that's another story.
http://dunne.home.dhs.org/
[ Parent ]
Re: Are we really out of feudalism? (3.00 / 1) (#45)
by zotz on Sun Apr 23, 2000 at 01:31:29 PM EST

That is not the case. I do not think the government of any country would choose its people to be poor.

This is interesting in light of the larger area of discussion.

Would a government choose for its people to be poor? Would a person choose for his neighbours to be poor? If so, why?

A similar question: would a person having information want others to not have that information? Think IP...

People often want relative riches to others' relative poverty. This can play out as richer and rich as well as poor and poorer. In the past, some have lived lives of great luxury on the backs of slave labour.

If John knows how to make gold, cheaply from air or water (suspend that disbelief for a second please), he can keep his knowlege a secret and use the gold he makes to his advantage, if he shares this knowlege with everyone, they too can make gold and he will no longer be able to benefit by selling the gold he makes to others.

This is one reason why people choose not to share their knowledge.

People want others to be poor so that they can have some form of power over them.

This may be foolish and shortsighted, but it goes on anyway.


zotz forever! ~~~the raggeded~~~

bslug.org
[ Parent ]

Re: Are we really out of feudalism? (none / 0) (#51)
by xah on Sun Apr 23, 2000 at 05:27:54 PM EST

Quickly, feudalism was a system of vassals and lords. If you were a vassal, you had a lord and owed something to your lord. Maybe it was military service, or maybe it was one-third of your harvest. Your lord, respectively, owed military protection and access to a plot of land to you. While this simplifies things, I think you can see now that feudalism is different from capitalism.

In capitalism, one's power does not spring from the loyalty of one's vassals. There is no need for a vassal-lord relationship because everyone has commodity relationships to each other. The farmer might owe the bank the mortgage payment, while the bank has the right to collect interest and eventually the principal from the farmer. But if the farmer wants to, the farmer can sell his land and use the money to buy other land. Or start a new business. Or retire.

If you're interested, the entries under "fedualism" and "capitalism" in a good encyclopedia are a good start.

[ Parent ]

Who ever thinks I'm going to pay so... (3.50 / 2) (#3)
by kovacsp on Fri Apr 21, 2000 at 06:25:55 PM EST

kovacsp voted 1 on this story.

Who ever thinks I'm going to pay somebody every time I want to listen to a song, watch TV, read a book, etc is a damned fool. While it might be going in that direction right now, I have a feeling there's going to be a revolt against corporatism in the near future.

Revolt no way (none / 0) (#8)
by Commienst on Fri Apr 21, 2000 at 07:22:33 PM EST

I think that in many places, especially the US, the people are too complacent and obedient to revolt against the government.

[ Parent ]
Re: Revolt no way (none / 0) (#9)
by Velian on Fri Apr 21, 2000 at 07:28:53 PM EST

21

[ Parent ]
Re: Revolt no way (none / 0) (#16)
by xah on Fri Apr 21, 2000 at 09:17:46 PM EST

This is clearly true today. Despite the successes in Seattle and Washington for the Mobilization for Global Justice, the majority of the populace is not yet comfortable with a confrontation on these issues. That could change rapidly, however. It also could change slowly. Or not change at all.

My point is that a revolt is always possible. Any good Machiavellian would tell you that.

[ Parent ]

Re: Revolt no way (4.00 / 1) (#23)
by rusty on Sat Apr 22, 2000 at 01:24:50 AM EST

DC wasn't a success. I have to tell you, on the street here, those kids are being publically laughed at, pretty much. The Post lampooned them, and even The City Paper couldn't manage to take them seriously. None of this means I disagree with you, or them, or anyone, but if they had a cause, I'm pretty sure the DC protests pushed it back a few years.

____
Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]
Rifkin: a neo-luddite of the worst kind. (3.00 / 2) (#12)
by SwellJoe on Fri Apr 21, 2000 at 08:31:53 PM EST

Jeremy Rifkin has been spouting this hogwash for over 25 years. He might as well grow a beard and drive back to Pennsylvania in his horse drawn carriage.

His ramblings are very well thought out, but the mans thinking is thoroughly twisted. I would have thought he would have mellowed his opinions over the years, since he was so very wrong in all of his 70's and 80's writings, but obviously being wrong just convinces him more thoroughly that when the trouble does finally come it will be even worse.

For a good example of what I'm talking about, take a look at, "Entropy", one of his more popular books from his halcyon days (when people--government people, media people, and even a few intelligent people--actually listened to him). It's laughable in hindsight.

He predicts massive shortages of natural resources, and skyrocketing prices--taking them out of the price range of poor and middle class people. In fact real prices of all major indicator resources have gone down and more people are able to afford them.

He predicts increasing world tensions due to the class splits caused by technology. In fact tensions have declined. There are less people dying in wars in our time than at any other time in history. Oppressive regimes are falling like dominoes--peacefully--and things are all around much sunnier than they've ever been. Because of technology and capitalism, not in spite of them as Rifkin would have us believe.

Rifkin is a statist and a neo-luddite of the worst kind. Add to that his sour grapes attitude that he's gotten from years of being proven wrong, you've got one bitter old man with no sense of perspective and no respect for the beauty of life in this age.

This article is just like everything else he has ever written. It's another dire warning of impending social unrest and economic turmoil brought on by unfettered capitalism and technology. He's blind to the fact that there are more and more things being freed today than ever before. He inevitably sees things backward. I've gotten to the point now where I'd stake money on things happening the opposite of the way he predicts they will. That's just the way history has panned for every other prediction the man has made.

I think he speaks for himself here:

"What people don't understand is that we are entering a totally different form of capitalism."

For a man who hates capitalism, this is a very scary notion, it's another kind of capitalism, maybe even worse than the original kind. I don't buy it, and if his past predictions are any indicator, I'd be a fool for paying him any attention anymore.

Just my opinion from having spent quite a bit of time reading him in my youth. His books helped form many of my views on the world. But not in the way he intended...I read them and they were just so blatantly wrong and often dishonest that I couldn't imagine supporting his causes or his ideas.



Re: Rifkin: a neo-luddite of the worst kind. (none / 0) (#14)
by xah on Fri Apr 21, 2000 at 09:08:43 PM EST

Oppressive regimes are falling like dominoes--peacefully--and things are all around much sunnier than they've ever been. Because of technology and capitalism, not in spite of them as Rifkin would have us believe.

So Cuba, N Korea, China, Russia (Chechnya), Sierra Leone, Congo, Sudan, and Iraq are not oppressive regimes. . . ? Excellent. And further, the US is the exemplar of these non-oppressive societies. Great. It's nice to know that we have attained Utopia, Doctor Pangloss!

BTW, I agree with you for the most part on the unreliability of Rifkin's books.

[ Parent ]

Re: Rifkin: a neo-luddite of the worst kind. (none / 0) (#27)
by SwellJoe on Sat Apr 22, 2000 at 05:44:23 AM EST

Oh, don't get me wrong!

You're absolutely right. I'm mad as hell about those regimes that still stand, and yes the United States is well on it's way to becoming a slavestate, as well. But that doesn't change the fact that Rifkin is wrong. Rifkin is wrong about what is causing the problems in the US and around the world.

I probably should have been more explanatory about my views on the world as a whole. It aint utopia. But it's better than it's ever been...and getting better everyday. All because people have the liberty to make it better--not as much liberty as I'd like for everyone to have...even here in the states we have a frightfully omnipotent state--but enough so that good things are happening in this world everyday.

I merely mean that Rifkin's 'cure' is much worse than the disease and doesn't really address any of the real problems we face as a modern society.

[ Parent ]

in part prescient; in part poppycock (4.00 / 1) (#13)
by xah on Fri Apr 21, 2000 at 08:59:50 PM EST

First, the article states by implication that the current human species is Homo erectus. It is, of course, Homo sapiens.

Second, Rifkin correctly I believe states that capitalism is either coming to an end or entering a new era. His approach is to extrapolate from the triumph of the service economy into the information economy. Unfortunately, Rifkin fails to understand that the information economy is not the next "phase" or "stage" of capitalism. Such language assumes a pre-destined plan. Such an assumption is illogical and begs the question.

Instead the information economy is a changing of the guard. When capitalism first grew from its youthful days of maligned mercantilism into its later days of maturity, glory, and profits, the bourgeoisie, or "trouser wearers," slowly ascended from the level of much-insulted "usurers" to the pre-eminent citizens of the day. Eventually, the hose-wearing aristocracy fell, in France under the Revolution, and elsewhere under either military or commercial revolution. Soon the bourgeoisie had attained dominance over their respective societies, and then over the entire world.

In like manner, the informatics, maligned as "geeks" or "nerds," are slowly coming into positions of pre-eminence in societies around the world, and may come to dominate them. But to dominate a society requires as a logical matter the displacement of the existing rulers of the day. In today's modern capitalist societies, these are the bourgeoisie, the capitalist class, or perhaps the Pointy-Haired Bosses, as they are frequently termed by the informatics. As the early bourgeoisie did not, the informatics have not early on developed a political voice. But as the ruling order of their day inevitably sees fit to interfere with the necessary practices of the new culture in trade or networking in various noxious ways, the new class sees fit in due course to seize the reins of political control and act not simply as businessmen or hackers, but as citizens.

And so the question becomes whether the human race will be subjected to hypercapitalism, including the indignity of paying fees, however small, to enter what was formerly a free park, truly owned by none but the birds who warbled above and the rodents who burrowed beneath. Will fees, omnipresent in this future, be extended to bandwidth? Will payment be made on the basis of megabytes downloaded? Will all ISP connections be monitored for suspicious (or interesting) behavior? Only if the informatics do not eventually join together to become the first citizens of society, and of the world, for the capitalist class is on an inevitable collision course with informatic culture.

But enough. Suffice to say that Rifkin ignores the class structure in capitalism. And this failure, however small in its beginning, inevitably mushrooms into a colossal bourgeon on his central thesis. (Bourgeon is the French word for "pimple.")

Finally, the use of "50,000 index cards" to write about the information economy would appear to miss the point. I reserve comment on Baudrillard and the rest of the postmodern anti-theorists.

Access economies and the Environment. (3.30 / 3) (#18)
by mahlen on Fri Apr 21, 2000 at 09:49:24 PM EST

It's interesting that this is being posed as a dystopia. There are many in the
environmental movement (Amory Lovins comes to mind) who think that temporary
possesion of material goods would be a boon for the environment. Take that
ubiquitous material good, the automobile. If the car company is going to have
to take possesion of the vehicle at some point in the future, then they are
incented to make sure that what remains of the car when the lease ends is of
use to them. This motivates them to make the parts recyclable or reusable to a
far greater degree than they are now; similar to laws in Germany I've read
about that require manufacturers to take back items they make when the user of
the item no longer wants it.

I think that the greatest problem with capitalism is that it makes every
relationship one has with others adversarial. I'm always trying to get the most
i possibly can for the least money, and conversely, I'm trying to get the most
money for anything that i sell. I think this bleeds over into our personal
lives to a great degree, not in any kind of good way.

Man is the lowest-cost, 150-pound, nonlinear, all-purpose computer system
which can be mass produced by unskilled labor.
	--NASA man-in-space report, 1965


Re: Access economies and the Environment. (1.00 / 2) (#19)
by aor on Fri Apr 21, 2000 at 11:45:06 PM EST

The "environmental movement" is a motley collection of naive college students, questionable academics, and out-and-out loons. Most of them are a little confused on the notion that people are more important than the muddy rock on which they live. Now don't get me wrong; a reasonable effort should be made to keep the homestead in working order. But screwing with the happiness of people is not a good way to do it.

Private ownership of property is an important concept. It keeps people motivated. It also has immense psychological benefit.

Capitalism, which you describe in rather dark terms, is simply a very efficient means of distributing scarce resources. I do think that it has bled over into many people's personal lives in a variety of ways, and that is probably bad. However, that is no fault of the economic system of capitalism, it is a by-product of a people who have become obsessed with identifying their whole selves by their economic production, and their monetary worth. To be sure, your success and your wealth are things to be proud of (assuming you achieved them in a non-despicable manner), but they seem to have taken on a gravity disproportionate to their real import.

--
Mike Bruce
web@jhereg.net
-- Michael Bruce web@jhereg.net
[ Parent ]

Re: Access economies and the Environment. (none / 0) (#62)
by CodeWright on Wed Apr 26, 2000 at 10:34:22 AM EST

Hear hear!

Three cheers for Mike Bruce, a man brave enough to stand up and not be shouted down by the small-minded!!

Huzzah! Huzzah! Huzzah!


--
A: Because it destroys the flow of conversation.
Q: Why is top posting dumb? --clover_kicker

[ Parent ]
a GPL economy? (3.00 / 2) (#20)
by Pinball Wizard on Sat Apr 22, 2000 at 12:36:31 AM EST

I stated in a previous article that capitalism had some deep flaws that would be exposed by the internet.

Something I didn't mention was that the more mechanized/computerized we become, the less need there is for actual labor, other than designing new machines and software. I think the gulf between your average engineer or programmer and say a waitress or construction worker in income is probably greater now than its ever been. Companies reward technical people with large salaries while marginalizing those in unskilled positions. So there is a growing need for engineers, scientists, and programmers, and a decreasing need for manual labor or other unskilled jobs. So, those without the skills are screwed in this society, and it is too difficult for many people to go to school to acquire them. There is a growing homeless population. Then, when you realize that we in the US represent the richest 20% of the worlds population while 60% barely scrapes by and the other 20% live in utter poverty and squalor, you see that capitalism has some pretty serious failings. It is not supporting our society in the way it could, if we put our technology to work at eliminating poverty.

Currently, higher education is still largely limited to a privileged few. One thing that needs to happen is a way of providing free, unlimited education for all(and a way to certify it) I believe if we managed things right, there would never be too many people designing machines and software, because you'd always want to be improving things and inventing new things. If the same enlightened thinking that comprises the GPL ran the economy, you would have enough wealth to support more artists, musicians, and other craftsman. Sort of like Star Trek, a society that promotes the creative development of the individual, because it has eliminated poverty or the need for money. And the only thing thats stopping such a society is the lack of education available. The bottom line in my opinion is that through technology we could create vast amounts of wealth, more than enough for everyone. We can also create virtually unlimited educational opportunities through the internet, assuming we could drop the exclusive academic trappings.

Re: a GPL economy? (3.50 / 2) (#21)
by aor on Sat Apr 22, 2000 at 01:05:09 AM EST

The essential problem with this is that we still live in a material world, with scarce resources. Our technology and our economy, and everything else, is built on an extraordinarily complex web of human action, that gets raw stuff from somewhere, and turns it into a toaster. Or whatever.

Capitalism is quite simply the most efficient way to handle this. We will need people involved in every level of this process, working side-by-side with technology, for a good long time. The only thing that will obviate this whole process is some breakthrough technology that makes resources practically unlimited. Like "Diamond Age"-level nanotech. Because you have to remember that capitalism isn't just going to the store and buying stuff, and it isn't just that store buying stuff from somewhere else, either. It goes from the ground (literally) up.

At this point it is utterly impossible for every person on the planet to be in an educated, non-labor position.

I do think that an unspecified something must be done to separate information from the normal flow of the economy. It simply doesn't fit. I feel strongly enough about this that I'm thinking about writing an article about it...but I can't seem to think of a good solution to propose. Perhaps I'll just be a prophet of doom, rather than a hopeful visionary.

--
Mike Bruce
web@jhereg.net


-- Michael Bruce web@jhereg.net
[ Parent ]
Re: a GPL economy? (4.00 / 1) (#28)
by pretzelgod on Sat Apr 22, 2000 at 06:28:05 AM EST

Capitalism is quite simply the most efficient way to handle this.

This blanket statement cannot be true until we've tried other systems and found them to be less efficient. There are many systems which have not been tried, for example, participatory economics. For more info on this, check out Looking Forward by Michael Albert.

At this point it is utterly impossible for every person on the planet to be in an educated, non-labor position.

Not true. X number of people are capable of working Y number of hours total, and Y number of hours is enough to keep the system running. Therefore, it should be possible to more fairly distribute the Y hours among the X people. There's no reason one person should make all the decisions, while another mines all the coal.


-- 
Ever heard of the School of the Americas?


[ Parent ]
Re: a GPL economy? (none / 0) (#30)
by aor on Sat Apr 22, 2000 at 03:05:52 PM EST

Capitalism is quite simply the most efficient way to handle this.

This blanket statement cannot be true until we've tried other systems and found them to be less efficient. There are many systems which have not been tried, for example, participatory economics. For more info on this, check out Looking Forward by Michael Albert.

It will still not work as well as capitalism. Really. And let us also remember that nothing is more fair than capitalism.

At this point it is utterly impossible for every person on the planet to be in an educated, non-labor position.

Not true. X number of people are capable of working Y number of hours total, and Y number of hours is enough to keep the system running. Therefore, it should be possible to more fairly distribute the Y hours among the X people. There's no reason one person should make all the decisions, while another mines all the coal.

This is a nonsensical idea. Plus, I think you're mixed up about what "fair" means. I think you're forgetting a very important point: People Are Not Equal. People are not interchangeable. There are smart people, and there are stupid people. There are innumerable gradiations in between that. I don't want stupid people doing the thinking, and I don't want smart people in a coal mine. This is not kindergarten. This is not little league. The object is not to give everyone equal time. The object is to get people in positions of optimal economic production.

And, like most utopian visions, your idea has a large number of subtle implementational flaws. Like, oh, the massively oppressive government it would take to implement such a system.

--
Mike Bruce
web@jhereg.net


-- Michael Bruce web@jhereg.net
[ Parent ]
Re: a GPL economy? (none / 0) (#31)
by henrik on Sat Apr 22, 2000 at 06:33:28 PM EST

Oh? In what way is capitalism more fair, than for example socialism? (and why am i always the one that end up advocating socialism? :-). The capitalistic idea of equal opportunity is as distant as the equality of socialism. However, i think you confuse democracy with capitalism. Those are two separate entities. Capitalism is grossly unfair. Ask any poor person.

> This is a nonsensical idea. Plus, I think you're mixed up about what
> "fair" means. I think you're forgetting a very important point: People
> Are Not Equal. People are not interchangeable. There are smart
> people, and there are stupid people. There are innumerable
> gradiations in between that. I don't want stupid people doing the
> thinking, and I don't want smart people in a coal mine. This is not
> kindergarten. This is not little league. The object is not to give
> everyone equal time. The object is to get people in positions of
> optimal economic production.

That too would require a massive oppressive government. Economic development isn't everything. I would think the goal must be to archive the maximum amount of happiness for the maximum amount of people. Capitalism is probably one of the worst ways of archiving happiness for everybody and that's probably why it's failing. Pure capitalism creates a ruthless society ruled by an elite and with no opportunities for the masses to share the wealth (much like the preindustrial feudalistic societies). Most of the world has realised this, and what's why US style capitalism isn't widely implemented. For example, socialistic governments rule most of Europe.

No one in his right mind could call capitalism fair. The "equal opportunity" everybody keeps bragging about is a nothing but a dream. Rich people, powerful people will always have better chances and an easier life than poor.

It's my opinon that there are a lot more benefits to a sociery where everybody has a place to live, food, education and a decent life than in a society where a few have it very well and there are lots of poor people without a place to live nor the hope to ever get it better.

There's one exception to this rule: Capitalism works fairly well in a developing society without preexisting power structures that make the entry to market hard. It's a good solution on "virgin soil" because then the idea that everybody starts from the same point is more or less true. (Competition also works as it was thought).

-henrik

Akademiska Intresseklubben antecknar!
[ Parent ]

Re: a GPL economy? (none / 0) (#32)
by aor on Sat Apr 22, 2000 at 07:05:31 PM EST

First, I am not confused, and am not at all speaking about democracy. Democracy is massively unfair, and is merely the best of a whole lot of crappy options.

No, I am talking about capitalism. In capitalism, you are rewarded for efficient economic production. So the people who provide the most economic benefit have the most money. Those who provide the least, get the least.

This is fair. Not to be confused with nice, or charitable, or any other fuzzy concept like that. It also does a really great job of producing the most of what people want, at the least cost.

It is also the most free system. You do not have to do anything, but you are not rewarded for not doing anything, either. Unlike socialism, you do not have a massively annoying government dictating your every move.

Speaking of socialism...remember that a good economy is good because it is efficient in its production. Socialism is not. Therefore, it is not a good economic system.

Now a quote that I have a dispute with:

The object is to get people in positions of optimal economic production.
That too would require a massive oppressive government.

Ah, but I was speaking of capitalism, the very system we have today. That is what it is designed to do, and it does it. You will note that the erstwhile Soviet Union rots and rusts, while we prosper.

You also bring up Europe. I would not live in Europe. Europe only has economic success where they implement freedom and capitalism. They have problems when they throw in socialism. And if they implemented a true socilialist government, I would stay far, far away. Socialism is far too oppressive for me. Just think - under a real socialist government, you cannot start a big business, and sell things to people. Even if you want to. Even if people want to buy things from you. I find that to be wrong.

You paint a much darker picture of capitalism than is the truth. I am from a middle-middle-class family, and I like my life. I am not a member of any "elite", and I am certainly not poor. You say that capitalism is failing, but I see no evidence. Capitalism is spreading, and it brings with it prosperity and advancement.

And after all that, you might think that I have contempt for the poor. You might think that I want nothing but the pure form of this efficient and fair, but not very nice, system. You would be wrong. I support modifications to make the poor less so, and to make everyone happier. But I believe those modifications can be made within the sytem itself, not by throwing it out entirely in favor of a vastly inferior system.

Lastly, you write that "the goal must be to archive the maximum amount of happiness for the maximum amount of people". Well, I ask, the goal of what? Is it the job, the purpose, of your economic system to promote happiness? Or should the promotion of happiness lie elsewhere? I believe it should lie elsewhere.

--
Mike Bruce
web@jhereg.net


-- Michael Bruce web@jhereg.net
[ Parent ]
Re: a GPL economy? (none / 0) (#35)
by pretzelgod on Sun Apr 23, 2000 at 02:20:36 AM EST

Looks like i missed a whole day's discussion, so i'm going to reply to a few messages at once (all from aor).

It will still not work as well as capitalism. Really.

Yet another unsupported assertion. You do not even try to present evidence of this, you simply state it. Of course, since these systems have not yet been tried, there is no such evidence, so you are simply wrong.

And let us also remember that nothing is more fair than capitalism.

I can only assume this is a joke. Under capitalism (and regardless of the states of individual economies, the world operates under capitalism) 20% of the population controls 80% of the resources. Elton John spends thousands a month on clothing, while people go unfed and unclothed in poor countries. Calling such a system "fair" is a sick joke.

There are smart people, and there are stupid people.

Quite a large body of evidence suggests that this is largely due to environmental rather than genetic factors. Of course, there will always be small differences in intellectual ability from person to person, and the few geinuses and mentally handicapped people. But, for the most part, most people can do pretty much the same tasks.

Let's say, for the sake of argument, that you are correct, and people are inherently dumb and smart. Intelligence (or the lack thereof) is determined by the genetic lottery. Yet, we should reward those who are lucky enough to be smart, and if you happen to be dumb, it's off to the coal mines with you? Didn't you say this system was fair? I don't see how rewarding luck is fair.

And do you really think a person becomes a coal miner because he is dumb? While there is quite a lot of mobility between the upper and middle classes, there is very little mobility between these classes and the lower class. If you're born lower class, you will amost certainly die lower class.

The object is not to give everyone equal time. The object is to get people in positions of optimal economic production.

I find it hard to believe that anyone thinks anything is more important than people. Yet you believe that optimal economic production is more important? Important to whom? It certainly isn't important to the universe. It is only important to people. But most people do not benefit from this "optimal economic production". So, if it isn't valuable to the only people that it can matter to, how valuable is it?

And, like most utopian visions, your idea has a large number of subtle implementational flaws. Like, oh, the massively oppressive government it would take to implement such a system.

Here you go again, talking about things you don't know. I don't believe that you have tracked down Looking Forward and read it all in one day. Not understanding the system, you are not qualified to dismiss it.

There probably are flaws in the system. No system is complete. Only upon implementing it can we see what's wrong with it, and fix it. You, however, have not studied the system, so you cannot claim it has flaws.

As for the oppressive government required to implement it, you're wrong. Mondragon (a parecon-like collective in Spain) is doing just fine. For years, the kibbutzim in Israel did just fine. Many primitive cultures worked under a parecon-like model. Many of the Native Americans encountered by Columbus lived in communal societies, and had no concept of property. Hence, they were tortured and executed when they walked off with Columbus's property. They died never understanding their crime. Until these peoples encountered oppressive regimes, they did just fine.

There are many cooperatives across the US that are operating under a parecon-like system. No oppressive government forces them to work together. They choose to.

First, I am not confused, and am not at all speaking about democracy. Democracy is massively unfair, and is merely the best of a whole lot of crappy options.

I feel that i should point out that the US is not a democracy. Officially, it's a republic, but in reality it is a plutocracy.

If you really think self-government is a "crappy option", then i'm going to bail out of this discussion now. There really wouldn't be any point in continuing.

In capitalism, you are rewarded for efficient economic production.

...

This is fair. Not to be confused with nice, or charitable, or any other fuzzy concept like that.

I would think that being rewarded according to sacrifice (which is what parecon does) is more fair. By dismissing the concepts of "nice" and "charitable" as fuzzy (even though they are no less fuzzy than "fair", which you seem to have no problem with), it seems that you are assuming that parecon is socialism as advocated by previous socialists ("From each according to ability, to each according to need"). It is not. I suggest you investigate the subject more before spouting off nonsense.

Unlike socialism, you do not have a massively annoying government dictating your every move.

Socialism is an economic system, not a political system. It says nothing about a government, oppressive or not. You are confusing the regimes of the USSR and Red China (which are not socialist by any stretch of the imagination) with socialism. Socialism simply means that the people own the means of production.

Speaking of socialism...remember that a good economy is good because it is efficient in its production. Socialism is not.

To my knowledge, socialism has never been tried on a meaningful scale. Certainly, it has succeeded on small scales, but unless it succees on a global scale it will never succeed at all.

Just think - under a real socialist government, you cannot start a big business, and sell things to people.

Wrong. This is exactly what would happen under socialism. The difference is that you wouldn't be some guy profiting off someone else's labor, instead, a group of people would get together, see that a product is needed, make this product, and sell it.

I am from a middle-middle-class family, and I like my life. I am not a member of any "elite", and I am certainly not poor.

I have the same socio-economic background, but i see it for what it is. In order to protect the system, enough people have to be given enough share of the pie to act as a buffer between the oppressed and the oppressors. Thus, the middle class.

Capitalism is spreading, and it brings with it prosperity and advancement.

For a few.

Okay, if any of this was less than coherent, i apologize. I haven't been to sleep since Friday. I'll check over this again tomorrow and make sure it makes sense.

-- 
Ever heard of the School of the Americas?


[ Parent ]
Re: a GPL economy? (none / 0) (#37)
by henrik on Sun Apr 23, 2000 at 03:31:28 AM EST

To my knowledge, socialism has never been tried on a meaningful scale. Certainly, it has succeeded on small scales, but unless it succees on a global scale it will never succeed at all.

Socialism is the form of government for hundreds of millions of people - it works fairly well. It's not without problems (what system is?) but there isn't any major flaws that prevent a government from working decently. Communism (which is a more extreme form of socialism) doesn't scale very well though. It works fine as long as there's a close personal commitment between the participants (like in a family) or when the resources are infinite (as in the free software community)

So i would say socialism works on a large scale.

-henrik

Akademiska Intresseklubben antecknar!
[ Parent ]

Re: a GPL economy? (none / 0) (#38)
by aor on Sun Apr 23, 2000 at 03:58:37 AM EST

I'm going to quote minimally, because I'm tired.

First, it is not necessary to provide evidence that capitalism is an amazingly good economic system; there is a huge body of written work out there that does a much better job than I could. Also, it is not necessary in most cases to test an economic system to determine whether it is good or bad. Only in cases where consideration finds no obvious flaws is that necessary.

To the fairness of capitalism, it needs no defense. Your arguments have no bearing on the issue. But, maybe I should make it clear that I am talking about economic fairness, not some sort of moral or cosmic fairness. We are, after all, talking about economics.

To the matter of intelligence...I perhaps oversimplified, which provided you with a convenient way to not address the key issue. The issue is not purely intelligence, it is a whole host of personal qualities. What it boils down to is that people are not interchangeable parts. You can have two people performing a task, and in many cases, one person will be markedly better at it. This happens more frequently the more difficult the task becomes. This is not just intelligence, this is motivation, interest, etc. Some of these things are inborn, and some are environmental. I would guess that most are a combination of both.

You go on to deride me for wanting to reward people based on the genetic lottery. This is beside the point. I don't care how someone got competent at what they do, as long as they are. They could have gotten their competancy from their fairy godmother, for all care, but I want them doing what they're good at, and be well rewarded for it.

And then you move to the ever-present issue of class mobility, or lack thereof. With sufficient motivation, it is possible to go from being very poor, to very rich. Anyone who makes themselves economically valuable will rise. Therefore, this has little effect on the economic fairness of capitalism. I will agree that it is unfortunate, though, and this is an area where I support a certain amount of governmental interference.

I'll quote this next part for clarity:

The object is not to give everyone equal time. The object is to get people in positions of optimal economic production.
I find it hard to believe that anyone thinks anything is more important than people. Yet you believe that optimal economic production is more important? Important to whom? It certainly isn't important to the universe. It is only important to people. But most people do not benefit from this "optimal economic production". So, if it isn't valuable to the only people that it can matter to, how valuable is it?

This is a little bit tautological, but optimal economic production is important to a good economic system. That's what they do. They allow people to have the stuff they want.

And I never said that optimal economic production was the most important thing to me. I certainly believe there are many things that are more important when considered directly. However, I believe that optimal economic production provides a wide range of those things. Everyone benefits from it.

And now on to the issue of Oppressive Government. I have just spent five minutes of my Valueable Time doing a little reading on your utopian vision. No, I'm not going to read the whole book, because I don't really feel like wasting my time. Because this proposed thing would require a massively oppressive government to work on any appreciable scale. Your supposed successes are based on small and/or primitive groups. Some of those groups you mentioned are (this is important) voluntary. Anything that is voluntary is not oppressive. Sortof by definition, there. But, let's get down the the meat of the issue. I want to start my own business. I want to run my own business. I want to have sole ownership of the business, and have lots of people working for me. If your system does not allow that, it is far too oppressive. Now, if you can get collectives together that want to live that way, I'm all for it. But I don't want to be forced into that. That's what I've got a problem with.

On to democracy. Yes, the US is technically a republic, and not a true democracy. This is almost certainly a good thing. But no, it is not a plutocracy. The People can vote for whomever they would like. If they happen to pick bad people, that is not the fault of the system; it is the fault of the people.

I say that democracy is a crappy option, because there are no good options. You use the phrase "self-government". Yes! I'm all for governing myself. It's when the several hundred million people I share a major landmass with govern me that I feel democracy has got itself a flaw, somewhere. But it's certainly better to have a great lot of my neighbors telling me what to do than an inbred fool with a throne. Or the guy that runs the army. Or a major religious leader. Or any other one man (or woman). But the fact that it's better than those doesn't make it any less distasteful.

(Incidentally, I just read a few more pages about "participatory economics". It's certainly more well thought out than conventional socialism, but still has the annoying government problem. And I'm extraordinarily sceptical that it could operate in an economically effective way. However, it's got some intersting ideas that could probably be usefully applied elsewhere)

Next, you mention that parecon is not about the standard "from...to" line. That's fine, but the dogma I've skimmed strongly implies that the idea is to reward people for effort and sacrifice. That is probably not an optimal thing to reward people for, in an economic sense.

Moving onward...I am well aware that socialism is not a political system. However, it implies an oppresive government apparatus, to enforce the lack of private ownership.

And to finish, a final quote:

Just think - under a real socialist government, you cannot start a big business, and sell things to people.
Wrong. This is exactly what would happen under socialism. The difference is that you wouldn't be some guy profiting off someone else's labor, instead, a group of people would get together, see that a product is needed, make this product, and sell it.

That sounds an awful lot like capitalism. Except I'm assuming that as the business grows, the profits are divided among everyone more-or-less equally? If the person who started it doesn't get a disproportionate amount of the profit, he doesn't have a lot of incentive to start it, does he? And if he does get more money, then it isn't really "fair", is it?

I'm going to stop now because it is very late, and because this is not the best place to go into a detailed criticism of parecon (which I could gear up to do, now having sufficient informational resources at hand). If you'd like to hear one, write up an article about it relevant to this site, and get it posted. Position it maybe as the system that will solve the Intellectual Property problem (which it would). I'll write a nice criticism, I promise.

--
Mike Bruce
web@jhereg.net


-- Michael Bruce web@jhereg.net
[ Parent ]
Re: a GPL economy? (none / 0) (#43)
by henrik on Sun Apr 23, 2000 at 08:36:08 AM EST

Moving onward...I am well aware that socialism is not a political system. However, it implies an oppresive government apparatus, to enforce the lack of private ownership.
What?
That isn't socialism at all - you seem to have a very strange idea of how a socialistic society works. Sorry, go back and read up a bit before you start making assumptions. I'm living in a socialistic society and i'm not feeling oppressed at all. *grin*.

No private ownership in a socialism? Please - where did you hear that? Pardon me for saying this: but the typical uneducated american seems so convinced that apple pie is the only way to go, and thus they've never even bothered to learn anything about the alternatives. It's a sad thing.

-henrik

Akademiska Intresseklubben antecknar!
[ Parent ]

Re: a GPL economy? (none / 0) (#46)
by aor on Sun Apr 23, 2000 at 01:32:15 PM EST

I will limit my show of annoyance at your lack of understanding to a simple note that considering the full range of things I am saying, and the full implications of any given form of government, would clear all this up without my having to respond.

And that was probably a run on sentance, but that doesn't matter.

I do not have a strange idea of how socialism works. I have a very clear and unbiased view of how socialism works, unlike yourself. My view of socialism was not quickly developed, nor is it based in ignorance. It is based on careful and complete consideration of the system, and the things it requires to function properly. Your personal satisfaction has nothing to do with the issue.

Socialism limits private ownership. Specifically, it limits private ownership of the means of production. True socialism advocates collective ownership of the means of production. This implies, but does not directly state, that socialism advocates collective ownership of all means of production (otherwise, it is fairly meaningless). In a democratic environment, this is the functional equivalent of state ownership (the state being the people, in a democracy). Many people do not want the businesses they start to be owned by the state (or "the people", if you prefer). To ensure that businesses are state owned requires laws. This is the oppressive part. People cannot engage in voluntary economic activity without the consent of the government ("the people"). This is why true socialism is oppressive.

This is not hard to understand.

I find it vastly amusing that you call me uneducated, when you do not even really understand the system you advocate.

--
Mike Bruce
web@jhereg.net


-- Michael Bruce web@jhereg.net
[ Parent ]
Re: a GPL economy? (none / 0) (#49)
by henrik on Sun Apr 23, 2000 at 02:29:11 PM EST

Well - there probably ins't much point in continuing this discussion. Neither of us will convince the other about the advantages of their preference.

Thank you for a good discussion though.

Just as a side note - here capitalism is viewed with the same suspicion and fear as you show for socialism. Figure that.

-henrik

Akademiska Intresseklubben antecknar!
[ Parent ]

Re: a GPL economy? (none / 0) (#52)
by aor on Sun Apr 23, 2000 at 09:56:22 PM EST

I do not fear foolish systems, only the fools that believe in them.

And I can almost guarantee that you do not live in a truly socialist state.

--
Mike Bruce
web@jhereg.net


-- Michael Bruce web@jhereg.net
[ Parent ]
Re: a GPL economy? (none / 0) (#58)
by Paul Dunne on Tue Apr 25, 2000 at 08:22:33 AM EST

As a side point, you really should do a s/socialism/social democracy/g to your argument. What we have here in Europe is capitalism, and an integral part of the world market at that; it's just not capitalism "red in tooth and claw" the way the people have it inflicted on them in the States. But the last time they tried a really unrestricted free market in Germany they ended up with Hitler. Not an experiment anyone is anxious to repeat, perhaps.
http://dunne.home.dhs.org/
[ Parent ]
Re: a GPL economy? (none / 0) (#63)
by CodeWright on Wed Apr 26, 2000 at 10:40:32 AM EST

But the last time they tried a really unrestricted free market in Germany they ended up with Hitler.

Unfounded assertion

You haven't established any cause-and-effect to make that statement true.



--
A: Because it destroys the flow of conversation.
Q: Why is top posting dumb? --clover_kicker

[ Parent ]
Re: a GPL economy? (none / 0) (#36)
by Chris Andreasen on Sun Apr 23, 2000 at 02:37:35 AM EST

In capitalism, you are rewarded for efficient economic production. So the people who provide the most economic benefit have the most money. Those who provide the least, get the least.

In capitalism you are rewarded based on how much the population wants/needs your product and how well you can sell it to them. Example: I can create a better product than the product Big Company X sells, and I can manufacture it more efficiently. If I lack pretty, nationwide advertisements and support of major retailers, that product isn't going to be sold very well. I can also charge as much as I want for my product if it does sell, regardless of how well my product works and how much it benefits the consumer. If I manage to get a monopoly on that product, I can charge anything I want because the public needs it and they can only get it from me.

It also does a really great job of producing the most of what people want, at the least cost.

That large cup of Coke that Burger King or McDonalds or any other fast-food restaurant (and non-fast-food restaurants, too) sell for a dollar-something cost them about 2 cents (that's why they don't care if you get refills). That's certainly not the least cost they could have sold that cup of sugar-water to consumers for. Average price of a music CD is about $15. The cost to manufacture them is about 20 cents. Going back to the being rewarded for economic benefit, you could argue that the increased cost is to compensate the artists, but most of the extra cost is going to the record companies instead. The record companies aren't creating the quality product of benefit to consumers, they're just printing copies of it at 20 cents a piece and transporting them.

You can apply the over-pricing argument to about anything on the market: cars, tvs, etc. It isn't too much of a problem that these are over-priced because they're only "wants." What about "needs?" There are quite a few people in the U.S. that don't have health insurance.

I am from a middle-middle-class family, and I like my life. I am not a member of any "elite", and I am certainly not poor. You say that capitalism is failing, but I see no evidence.Capitalism is spreading, and it brings with it prosperity and advancement.

Of course you wouldn't have seen any evidence of capitalism's failures if you've lived in a middle-class environment for your entire life. Why don't you tell the guys eating at the soup kitchen about the prosperity and advancement capitalism has brought them. Or the South American plantation workers, or the Indonesian sweatshop workers...
--------
Is public worship then, a sin,
That for devotions paid to Bacchus
The lictors dare to run us in,
and resolutely thump and whack us?

[ Parent ]
Re: a GPL economy? (none / 0) (#39)
by henrik on Sun Apr 23, 2000 at 04:02:21 AM EST

First, I am not confused, and am not at all speaking about democracy. Democracy is massively unfair, and is merely the best of a whole lot of crappy options. No, I am talking about capitalism. In capitalism, you are rewarded for efficient economic production. So the people who provide the most economic benefit have the most money. Those who provide the least, get the least.
That's as far from reality as the workers paradise in former sovjet. Suppose we had a rich industrialists son and the son of a homeless. Would you say they got equal opportunities? The homeless son may work hard all his life and never archive a fraction of what the rich kid spends on clothes. This is fair?
This is fair. Not to be confused with nice, or charitable, or any other fuzzy concept like that. It also does a really great job of producing the most of what people want, at the least cost.
If you want maximum production capability, you should really look into stalinism. After WW2 Russia was largely in ruins (remember, the germans had run over almost half the country) and the US unharmed. Russia rebuilt herself and took up the fight with the US in a gigant arms race.
You paint a much darker picture of capitalism than is the truth. I am from a middle-middle-class family, and I like my life. I am not a member of any "elite", and I am certainly not poor. You say that capitalism is failing, but I see no evidence. Capitalism is spreading, and it brings with it prosperity and advancement.
Of course you dont see the effects of capitalisms failure. As you said, you're a middle class person. There are millions of poor and hundreds of thousands of homeless people that experience it every day.
Lastly, you write that "the goal must be to archive the maximum amount of happiness for the maximum amount of people". Well, I ask, the goal of what? Is it the job, the purpose, of your economic system to promote happiness? Or should the promotion of happiness lie elsewhere? I believe it should lie elsewhere.
Sorry, i meant the goal of any society. There is little else that matters (if you think in a global perspective)

I've lived in both the US and Europe, and i've directly seen the effects of both systems. Socialism doesn't mean an oppressive government - the only thing socialism does differently than capitalism is that it aims to redestribute the wealth (like robin hood - take from the rich, give to the poor). The middle-class in a socialistic society is big, and there are fewer poor people and the rich people aren't quite as rich. I think that's a worthy tradeoff.

-henrik

Akademiska Intresseklubben antecknar!
[ Parent ]

Re: a GPL economy? (none / 0) (#40)
by Pinball Wizard on Sun Apr 23, 2000 at 06:24:43 AM EST

Well, thats definitely the best discussion I've ever sparked on an online forum. I was very impressed by the number and quality of posts in this thread.

First, I'd like to state that I disagree with aor's contention that capitalism is the most efficient means of production. In most cases, production is actually stifled by a limit of what the company thinks it can sell. Its not that I couldn't produce 10,000 widgets this month, but that I can sell only 2,500 of them. I agree that capitalism is designed to maximize profit but that isnt the same as maximizing production. Under a GPL economy, if the world needed 10,000 widgets, the brains behind production would try to produce them.

I'm also replying to henrik since he stated my position basically was restating socialism. I think my proposal, which was a "GPL economy" is perhaps an evolutionary step higher than socialism. He also stated that "if you create an infinite pot, communism works very well". That is precisely my point. A GPL economy would differ from socialism primarily because of extra incentive to meet the worlds needs, and exceed them. In much the same fashion as credit is given in an open source project or "karma" is given in slashdot, people will jockey to be the most valuable contributors, because of the fame and prestige it entails. If a person wanted to be an "Anonymous Coward" or just to be a "user" of the projects product, they would be just fine as well. The idea would be to have the same flow of goods and the same access to production in our society as you do in an open source project.

I've thought about it some more, and I had a few ideas about how this could work. I know this is a very rough model, but bear with me.

Obviously the first step would be to get enough people to agree on such a plan. I'm talking about a better economic model, not overthrowing the government. So the first step would be a well thought out proposal, on a website designed to gain enough members to see such a plan implemented by our government. In order to pull such a feat off, the plan had damn well better be good. It would have to be intrinsically democratic.(just like an open source project) And the plan would have to prove beyond a doubt that it would work better than the current capitalistic system.

Here's what the plan could entail -

Eliminate money, class structure, and limits on education. Provide via the internet the means for anyone to obtain a world-class education. Inherent in the educational system must be the belief that in most cases, differences in intelligence is environmental rather than genetic. Education must be structured therefore to give everyone the chance to develop themselves fully. Also, rather than punishing failure, our attitude must change so to encourage a person to try again and improve themselves. Think about our situation now - supposedly there are not enough qualified applicants for software and IT jobs. Yet our educational system makes it financially difficult and inconvenient to get an education, and you see more frequently a "weed-out" attitude rather than a desire to educate, at least in universities.

Create a massive internet database designed to foster an understanding of the worlds needs. Each person could have a listing of their career and educational goals, their current and desired possesions, etc. It could be as detailed or as anonymous as they chose to make it. The idea would be to find out what needed to be produced.

Then the government, authorized by the people, would divide areas of production into different open source-like projects. Each project would be responsible for all phases of producing their goods and making them available to other projects or the public at large. For instance if you are in the open automobile project your job would be to produce as many (environmentally sound) cars as the world needed. If you are in the open steel project your job is to make sure the open auto project has enough steel to do its job. And so on. The reward, as I said before would primarily be in the form of fame and prestige in a given community. We've all seen that that is an effective incentive, as we already have a lot of high quality software produced freely by open source projects. Obviously a lot of volunteers would have to do some manual labor to participate in a project. But they also would have the opportunity to learn everything about it and become valuable contributors themselves. You would have a lot of incentive to automate manual labor as well, since that would make your project more attractive to volunteers.

Another advantage to this is that it is perhaps the only way we'll be able to preserve our environment in the long run. With the current captitalist free-for-all, its all too easy to forget about the environment in the quest for profits. An open source project would have to produce things in the most environmentally sound way possible because of the scrutiny any such project would have.

Whew!

[ Parent ]

Re: a GPL economy? (none / 0) (#47)
by aor on Sun Apr 23, 2000 at 01:40:35 PM EST

Quick comment:

First, I'd like to state that I disagree with aor's contention that capitalism is the most efficient means of production. In most cases, production is actually stifled by a limit of what the company thinks it can sell. Its not that I couldn't produce 10,000 widgets this month, but that I can sell only 2,500 of them. I agree that capitalism is designed to maximize profit but that isnt the same as maximizing production. Under a GPL economy, if the world needed 10,000 widgets, the brains behind production would try to produce them.

This does not follow. If the world needed 10K widgets, then presumably 10K widgets could be sold.

The best feature of capitalism is that it does not encourage useless production. It encourage production that will be consumed. This is efficiency. If I implied that capitalism will produce the most of any given produceable item, then I retract that.

Onto your greater idea...it's on the bad side of unworkable. Planned economies are Bad. State owned businesses are Bad. Never, for any reason, put your trust in your government. Even if your government is elected by you.

--
Mike Bruce
web@jhereg.net


-- Michael Bruce web@jhereg.net
[ Parent ]
Re: a GPL economy? (none / 0) (#50)
by Pinball Wizard on Sun Apr 23, 2000 at 04:58:54 PM EST

>>This does not follow. If the world needed 10K widgets, then presumably 10K widgets could be sold.

You don't really believe this, do you? There is much need in the world that goes unfilled. I don't see anyone producing medicine, food, clothing, or shelter for the victims of capitalism, the impoverished members of third world countries. No, capitalism relies on the "generosity" of those with money to take care of the poor. Unfortunately, generosity is often not a characteristic of those with a lot of economic power.

I'm not proposing communism or even socialism. I'm just proposing we look for a better way. In The Age of Spiritual Machines, Ray Kurzweil postulates that in a few short years we will have built machines and computers capable of making intelligent decisions. One of the benefits of our not too distant technology will be the elimination of poverty. He does not go into a different type of government or economic system.

Thats really where my idea starts, its based on the assumption that enough material goods and wealth can be produced to fulfill everyone's needs. Thats where captialism would start to fail - capitalism relies on unemployment for its labor, it relies on competition to improve products, and it relies on human suffering to create the need for its product. Remove poverty and human suffering from the equation and capitalism doesn't have a leg to stand on.

One thing I haven't mentioned is that competition itself leads to inefficiencies. Consider: Company X and Company Y make a competing product that is designed to fill a particular demand. They will both try to come up with the best product for the money. In doing so, they may very well underprice their product in order to gain market share from their competitor. They may rely on "slave labor" to produce their product. They may trash the environment in order to make a buck. What if they both just cooperated? Seems to me that would be a lot more "efficient".

I think its high time we started thinking about this seriously, because I already see it happening. Our highest valuated corporation, Microsoft, now has to face competition for its products from the open source world. There is ample proof there that the GPL works to create great products without the promise of financial reward. Its been said that software is the hardest endeavor ever attempted by humans - operating systems are more complex than bridges, skyscrapers, or other engineering marvels. We already have many great products that are being produced under this model, and sorry Mike, but I think most of kuro5shins readers already agree that the GPL is a better model for producing software than proprietary closed source. My idea is simply taking this enlightened idea and using it to run the rest of our economy.

[ Parent ]

Re: a GPL economy? (none / 0) (#53)
by aor on Sun Apr 23, 2000 at 10:15:26 PM EST

You don't really believe this, do you? There is much need in the world that goes unfilled

If the need is not filled, that means that those that have need are not willing/able to pay for what they need.

This is a sticky issue. The one side is, this is perfect capitalist operation. Those with no money are obviously not economic producers, and are therefore economically useless, and not entitled to many resources. The other side is, there are other issues involved than economics, when you get down to bare need. So, insert a little bit of government involvement in the thing. Remember, I'm not selling a slick utopian system. I'm selling an ugly and scary system that works very well.

Cooperation between competing businesses is a bad thing. It leads to (duh) higher prices, unless you exert government control. It also introduces a whole lot of other problems.

Competition is a good thing. More specifically, good competition is a good thing. Competition that involves underhanded tricks, sabotage, and dirty tactics is a bad thing, for reasons that should be obvious on a moment's reflection (and not just the moral aspects).

Basing our future prosperity on the advent of intelligent machines is a dubious prospect. For one, I fail to see how making - essentially - more people is going to improve our economic situation in any way.

A valid point is that capitalism breaks down at a point of functionally unlimited resources. Well, of course it does. It makes no sense in the context of unlimited resources.

I do believe, however, that a capitalist system can produce enough to meet everyone's needs. This is how it works on paper, and I am of the belief that it can be made to work in practice.

--
Mike Bruce
web@jhereg.net


-- Michael Bruce web@jhereg.net
[ Parent ]
Re: a GPL economy? (none / 0) (#56)
by Paul Dunne on Tue Apr 25, 2000 at 08:15:03 AM EST

"The best feature of capitalism is that it does not encourage useless production". On the contrary. Presuming that we are speaking about actually-existing capitalism rather than some abstract Ideal Capitalism, capitalism in this century has been the greatest engine of useless production in history. Though I guess it depends on how you define "useless". All war production, for example, is "useless" from the viewpoint of the cycle of captial reproduction, since it is production of use values that will be destroyed. Production of Furbies, however ludicrous the time and effort spent on them may seem, is not "waste production" in this sense. The military budget of the USA, now just as high as the average during the cold war, is a prime example of waste under capitalism today.
http://dunne.home.dhs.org/
[ Parent ]
Re: a GPL economy? (none / 0) (#57)
by Paul Dunne on Tue Apr 25, 2000 at 08:17:36 AM EST

"I'm talking about a better economic model, not overthrowing the government."

Well, I'm sure you know your own mind best, but I must beg to differ. Because, you go on to say:

"Here's what the plan could entail - Eliminate money, class structure, and limits on education."

How do you propose to eliminate money and the class system without overthrowing the government that exists to protect them?
http://dunne.home.dhs.org/
[ Parent ]

Re: a GPL economy? (none / 0) (#41)
by Pinball Wizard on Sun Apr 23, 2000 at 07:21:25 AM EST

Well, thats definitely the best discussion I've ever sparked on an online forum. I was very impressed by the number and quality of posts in this thread.

First, I'd like to state that I disagree with aor's contention that capitalism is the most efficient means of production. In most cases, production is actually stifled by a limit of what the company thinks it can sell. Its not that I couldn't produce 10,000 widgets this month, but that I can sell only 2,500 of them. I agree that capitalism is designed to maximize profit but that isnt the same as maximizing production. Under a GPL economy, if the world needed 10,000 widgets, the brains behind production would try to produce them.

I'm also replying to henrik since he stated my position basically was restating socialism. I think my proposal, which was a "GPL economy" is perhaps an evolutionary step higher than socialism. He also stated that "if you create an infinite pot, communism works very well". That is precisely my point. A GPL economy would differ from socialism primarily because of extra incentive to meet the worlds needs, and exceed them. In much the same fashion as credit is given in an open source project or "karma" is given in slashdot, people will jockey to be the most valuable contributors, because of the fame and prestige it entails. If a person wanted to be an "Anonymous Coward" or just to be a "user" of the projects product, they would be just fine as well. The idea would be to have the same flow of goods and the same access to production in our society as you do in an open source project.

I've thought about it some more, and I had a few ideas about how this could work. I know this is a very rough model, but bear with me.

Obviously the first step would be to get enough people to agree on such a plan. I'm talking about a better economic model, not overthrowing the government. So the first step would be a well thought out proposal, on a website designed to gain enough members to see such a plan implemented by our government. In order to pull such a feat off, the plan had damn well better be good. It would have to be intrinsically democratic.(just like an open source project) And the plan would have to prove beyond a doubt that it would work better than the current capitalistic system.

Here's what the plan could entail -

Eliminate money, class structure, and limits on education. Provide via the internet the means for anyone to obtain a world-class education. Inherent in the educational system must be the belief that in most cases, differences in intelligence is environmental rather than genetic. Education must be structured therefore to give everyone the chance to develop themselves fully. Also, rather than punishing failure, our attitude must change so to encourage a person to try again and improve themselves. Think about our situation now - supposedly there are not enough qualified applicants for software and IT jobs. Yet our educational system makes it financially difficult and inconvenient to get an education, and you see more frequently a "weed-out" attitude rather than a desire to educate, at least in universities.

Create a massive internet database designed to foster an understanding of the worlds needs. Each person could have a listing of their career and educational goals, their current and desired possesions, etc. It could be as detailed or as anonymous as they chose to make it. The idea would be to find out what needed to be produced.

Then the government, authorized by the people, would divide areas of production into different open source-like projects. Each project would be responsible for all phases of producing their goods and making them available to other projects or the public at large. For instance if you are in the open automobile project your job would be to produce as many (environmentally sound) cars as the world needed. If you are in the open steel project your job is to make sure the open auto project has enough steel to do its job. And so on. The reward, as I said before would primarily be in the form of fame and prestige in a given community. We've all seen that that is an effective incentive, as we already have a lot of high quality software produced freely by open source projects. Obviously a lot of volunteers would have to do some manual labor to participate in a project. But they also would have the opportunity to learn everything about it and become valuable contributors themselves. You would have a lot of incentive to automate manual labor as well, since that would make your project more attractive to volunteers.

Another advantage to this is that it is perhaps the only way we'll be able to preserve our environment in the long run. With the current captitalist free-for-all, its all too easy to forget about the environment in the quest for profits. An open source project would have to produce things in the most environmentally sound way possible because of the scrutiny any such project would have.

Whew!

[ Parent ]

Re: a GPL economy? (none / 0) (#42)
by Pinball Wizard on Sun Apr 23, 2000 at 07:26:30 AM EST

whoops, that last one was an accident, my browser hiccupped. So if someone up there wants to delete that last post(and this one) thats just fine with me.

[ Parent ]
Re: a GPL economy? (none / 0) (#48)
by aor on Sun Apr 23, 2000 at 01:49:05 PM EST

First, I am not confused, and am not at all speaking about democracy. Democracy is massively unfair, and is merely the best of a whole lot of crappy options. No, I am talking about capitalism. In capitalism, you are rewarded for efficient economic production. So the people who provide the most economic benefit have the most money. Those who provide the least, get the least.
That's as far from reality as the workers paradise in former sovjet. Suppose we had a rich industrialists son and the son of a homeless. Would you say they got equal opportunities? The homeless son may work hard all his life and never archive a fraction of what the rich kid spends on clothes. This is fair?

My first level response to this is that they do not get equal opportunity, but both do get opportunity, to both succeed and fail.

My second level response to this is that equal opportunity has nothing to do with anything. Capitalism rewards those who contribute most to the economy. The opportunity they had to do so is irrelevant to this fact. This is economically fair. This is perhaps not morally fair.

I will not here respond to the supposed "failure of capitalism", because the issues your raise are very complex, and outside the scope of a quick response. If you're really interested, post a story about it and I'll respond, but it isn't worth doing in a post that only a few people will ever see.

--
Mike Bruce
web@jhereg.net


-- Michael Bruce web@jhereg.net
[ Parent ]
Re: a GPL economy? (none / 0) (#55)
by Paul Dunne on Tue Apr 25, 2000 at 08:08:31 AM EST

I'm a bit late, I know, but: the problem with statements such as "Capitalism rewards those who contribute most to the economy." is that it is so vague as to be almost meaningless. How do you measure "contribution"? What is "the economy"? And Is the system that Rifkind is discussing Capitalism in the sense you mean?

You see, I note that of 50-odd comments to this story, mostly by Americans, not one has quoted the views of their fellow-American Noam Chomsky. His view of a capitalism of large corporations massivly-subsidised from the public purse seems rather at odds with a system which automatically rewards [most?] those who contribute most to the economy. He also claims that living standards for about 80% of Americans have declined these past twenty years. Is that a good thing? Are these slackers simply not contributing enough to the economy?

I'm not saying that Chomsky is necessarily correct. But his views are grounded in reality to the extent that he makes verifiable claims. I should say that "Capitalism rewards those who contribute most to the economy" as a value judgement masquerading as a factual statement.
http://dunne.home.dhs.org/
[ Parent ]

Re: a GPL economy? (none / 0) (#60)
by aor on Tue Apr 25, 2000 at 10:03:40 AM EST

It is not a vague statement.

It is such a simple concept, that I'm having immense difficulty formulating a good way to explain it (why does 2 + 2 = 4?). Okay, how about this. You acquire money (capital) by others giving it to you. Excepting charity and gambling, people give other people money because they want something from them. They give them this money is proportion to how much they want the goods / services of the other party. Thus, if someone provides a good / service that everyone wants, everyone will pay him a lot of money. If he does not, they will not. In this way, capitalism self-organizes to determine what is important, and rewards those who provide it.

That's more or less the tip of the iceberg, but it's an OK start. And by economy, I mean, well, an economy. The Economy. Whatever. The whole system of production and consumption.

Ultimately, I don't much care if Rifkin is discussing the same capitalism I am. I am discussing capitalism, and if he's discussing something else, it isn't.

The statement that capitalism rewards those who contribute most to the economy is not a value judgement. It is built into the system. Those that consumers give the most money are obviously providing the goods and services that consumers want most. Therefore, they contribute the most, as determined by the consumer.

It's all very democratic.

--
Mike Bruce
web@jhereg.net


-- Michael Bruce web@jhereg.net
[ Parent ]
Re: a GPL economy? (none / 0) (#61)
by Paul Dunne on Tue Apr 25, 2000 at 12:47:56 PM EST

>	It is such a simple concept, that I'm having immense difficulty
>	formulating a good way to explain it (why does 2 + 2 = 4?).

With respect, Mike, this stuff is not simple.

>	You acquire money (capital) by others giving it to you.

No.  Money != Capital.	Capital is not accumulated by people "giving it
to you".  A Marxist would say it is accumulated by the appropriation
of surplus value.  Other economists would give different definitions;
but all would agree that money != capital.  A printing press, for
example, is capital, fixed capital.  Capital may take on a money form;
but they are not one and the same.

>	Excepting charity and gambling, people give other people money because
>	they want something from them. They give them this money is proportion
>	to how much they want the goods / services of the other party. Thus,
>	if someone provides a good / service that everyone wants, everyone
>	will pay him a lot of money. If he does not, they will not. In this
>	way, capitalism self-organizes to determine what is important, and
>	rewards those who provide it.

You're describing any market economy, not just capitalism.  The way
a market economy works in theory is as you describe, by using supply
and demand to regulate social production.  However, supply and demand
operating in classic free market capitalism has historically led to
massive slumps and objective impoverishment of large sections of the
community.  Hardly what one would describe as a desirable outcome.
In a modern capitalism economy, therefore, supply and demand is
heavily-distorted by massive government intervention: subsidies both
overt and hidden, "defence" spending, food mountains, etc.  "Supply and
demand" simply no longer describes how the system really operates.

>	The statement that capitalism rewards those who contribute most to the
>	economy is not a value judgement. It is built into the system.

Don't state what you have to prove.  How is it "built into the system"?

> Those
>	that consumers give the most money are obviously providing the goods
>	and services that consumers want most.

Oh, obviously.	Haven't you ever read "The Hidden Persuaders",
by Vance Packard?  There is an awful lot of time and money spent
persuading people to buy what companies produce; and a lot more spent
produced goods that nobody wants -- F22s, for example.	Your model
of capitalism is radically flawed if it just ignores this.

> Therefore, they contribute the
>	most, as determined by the consumer.

"As determined by the consumer"?  But that doesn't make any sense,
does it?  Do "they" objectively contribute the most, or not?  For all
I know, most "consumers" think the sun goes round the earth; that
don't make it so.

>	It's all very democratic.

Not by any definition of "democratic" I'm aware of.

http://dunne.home.dhs.org/
[ Parent ]
Re: a GPL economy? (none / 0) (#64)
by CodeWright on Wed Apr 26, 2000 at 10:56:55 AM EST

Capital may take on a money form; but they are not one and the same.

That's true -- money is just a commonly agreed upon medium through which people agree to exchange their respective capital (fixed capital, fluid capital, reputation capital, etc).

You're describing any market economy, not just capitalism.

Also true.

The way a market economy works in theory is as you describe, by using supply and demand to regulate social production.

This is where the cogs begin to slip.... the market economy does not exist to "regulate social production" -- it exists solely as a mechanism for the exchange of capital. Some social theories (such as social democracy, or communism) use limited market economies as a tool for social regulation.

However, supply and demand operating in classic free market capitalism has historically led to massive slumps and objective impoverishment of large sections of the community. Hardly what one would describe as a desirable outcome.

Having lived in the former Soviet Union, right on the border with China, I have first hand knowledge of the "massive slumps and objective impoverishment of large sections of the community" which take place under socialist / communist regimes.

In a modern capitalism economy, therefore, supply and demand is heavily-distorted by massive government intervention: subsidies both overt and hidden, "defence" spending, food mountains, etc. "Supply and demand" simply no longer describes how the system really operates.

Propaganda to the contrary, there is no large scale capitalist economy today. What you describe is a social democracy using the market as one of its tools to regulate society. In a capitalist economy, there is no government control of the productive mechanism or of the consumer demand.

Not by any definition of "democratic" I'm aware of.

Also true -- a capitalist economy, by definition, isn't democratic.



--
A: Because it destroys the flow of conversation.
Q: Why is top posting dumb? --clover_kicker

[ Parent ]
Re: a GPL economy? (none / 0) (#65)
by Paul Dunne on Wed Apr 26, 2000 at 12:39:32 PM EST

>	That's true -- money is just a commonly agreed upon medium through
>	which people agree to exchange their respective capital (fixed
>	capital, fluid capital, reputation capital, etc).

Well, I won't get hung up over this, though I'd prefer to say that
money is a medium of exchange per se, the "universal commodity",
not just for exchanging capital.

>	This is where the cogs begin to slip.... the market economy does not
>	exist to "regulate social production" -- it exists solely as a
>	mechanism for the exchange of capital. Some social theories (such as
>	social democracy, or communism) use limited market economies as a tool
>	for social regulation.

Markets predate capitalism.  The market economy per se is a regulator
of social production: what can't find a buyer on the market will
no longer be produced, and vice versa.	This remains true under
capitalism.  There is a also a market *for capital* under capitalism,
it's true, but that's a seperate question.  What we generally mean
by "market" in a capitalist society is the "classic" market, where
commodoties are exchanged; and the exchange of commodities is still
what regulates social production.  It does so imperfectly, true,
but it still does so.

>	Having lived in the former Soviet Union, right on the border with
>	China, I have first hand knowledge of the "massive slumps and
>	objective impoverishment of large sections of the community" which
>	take place under socialist / communist regimes.

I don't disagree, but this is a straw man.  I was talking about
"massive slumps and objective impoverishment of large sections of the
community" which happen under capitalism.  That living conditions may
be even worse under Bolshevism (or Communism, call it what you will)
may be true or false (though I'd be inclined to agree with you);
but it's irrelevant to the point at issue.

>	Propaganda to the contrary, there is no large scale capitalist economy
>	today. What you describe is a social democracy using the market as one
>	of its tools to regulate society.

Now this is just.... I mean, if you don't accept that modern society
is capitalist, we're talking at cross-purposes.  Social democracy is
a form of modern capitalism, period.

> In a capitalist economy, there is no
>	government control of the productive mechanism or of the consumer
>	demand.

This is not true, unless you define it to be so.  But then, I could
define "the Moon" as being Achill Island, and then proudly announce
that the Irish were the first men on the moon.	I mean, it's true
under my definition, but it's not helpful, is it?  If we look at
modern capitalist economies, we see that we can call them capitalist
because while they have changed a lot from the classical model fo the
19th C. (itself atypical, by the way), they have lost no essential
feature of the capitalist mode of production.  Massive government
intervention and control is a heavily-distorting feature of modern
capitalism, but it doesn't and can't change its basic nature.

>	Not by any definition of "democratic" I'm aware of.
>
>	Also true -- a capitalist economy, by definition, isn't democratic.

Well, no economic is democratic or not democratic.  Democratic is a
term we apply to polities, or to whole societies.  But it was you who
said the the operations of supply and demand under capitalism were
"democratic".

http://dunne.home.dhs.org/
[ Parent ]
Re: a GPL economy? (none / 0) (#67)
by aor on Wed Apr 26, 2000 at 02:17:20 PM EST

Well, no economic is democratic or not democratic. Democratic is a term we apply to polities, or to whole societies. But it was you who said the the operations of supply and demand under capitalism were "democratic".

Actually, I think that was me.

And there seems to be some confusion there, so let me explain further.

Democracy, removed of rhetorical and historical baggage, means rule by the people (more or less). In a market/capitalist economy, the people determine what is produced, and what isn't (because their consumption drives production). Therefore, in that sense, capitalism is democratic - it is ruled by the people.

You can deal with the concept that democracy doesn't just involve voting, right?

--
Mike Bruce
web@jhereg.net


-- Michael Bruce web@jhereg.net
[ Parent ]
Re: a GPL economy? (none / 0) (#66)
by aor on Wed Apr 26, 2000 at 02:06:17 PM EST

Let me repeat this again. I can assure you that I am telling the truth.

This is all very simple. Small children could comprehend it. It takes confused adults to make it complex. (Of course, it also takes rather bright adults to explain it).

As to money and capital...big deal. In the situation we're dealing with, they are functionally identical. We're taking money to be a specific representation of capital. And it _is_ acquired by people giving it to you. The act of payment is an exchange of capital in return for a good (more capital) or a service.

Moving onward, you have not proved that a market economy has the results you describe. Why? Because we're never had one. However, we've had plenty of slumps in the midst of more government programs.

Some quoting:

Those that consumers give the most money are obviously providing the goods and services that consumers want most.
Oh, obviously. Haven't you ever read "The Hidden Persuaders", by Vance Packard? There is an awful lot of time and money spent persuading people to buy what companies produce; and a lot more spent produced goods that nobody wants -- F22s, for example. Your model of capitalism is radically flawed if it just ignores this.

What, it fails to account for gullible people? That's a feature, not a bug. I also don't like warning labels, so take it from there.

More seriously, people do not buy things they do not want. Sure, there might be a lot of muscle put into trying to convince people what they want, but that is really irrelevant. In the end, the consumer has the choice (excepting a monopoly case, obviously).

More quoting:

Therefore, they contribute the most, as determined by the consumer.
"As determined by the consumer"? But that doesn't make any sense, does it? Do "they" objectively contribute the most, or not? For all I know, most "consumers" think the sun goes round the earth; that don't make it so.

This is where you lose track of the argument. The only objective truth in the economy is the desire of the consumer. To put it another way, I could make concrete lawn gnomes at a fantasic rate, and produce enough of them in a year to cover Rhode Island, but that does not make it a good contribution to the economy. I can produce enough lime-flavored jello mix to turn Lake Superior into a big dessert, but that does not make it a good contribution to the economy. Something is only valuable if people want it. If they want it, it has value. If they do not want it, it does not. The amount of value is determined by the price the consumer is willing to pay. That which is most valueable to the consumer is most valueable to the economy, because they are it (or, it is they, depending on how you want to say it).

Contrary to the wishes of most socialist or pseudo-socialist weenies, there is no parental body to decide what is valueable and not. We decide ourselves. This is why capitalism is inherently democratic.

On a side note, I greatly prefer the usenet style posting, but the text looks too different from everything else.

--
Mike Bruce
web@jhereg.net


-- Michael Bruce web@jhereg.net
[ Parent ]
Re: a GPL economy? (5.00 / 1) (#26)
by henrik on Sat Apr 22, 2000 at 05:32:23 AM EST

You just described socialism. In a socialistic society the rich help out the poor, education is free, health care is free, and you pay a lot of taxes. Most of europe is like this. In fact, the US idea of capitalism (screw everybody else) is a lot less implemented than socialism (the government takes all your money).

And acctually, the Star Trek society is communistic out in its fingertips. From each one according to ability to each one according to need. One important thing to remember is that communism isn't bad. period. Despite that the collective american conciouness sees communism as the greatest evil since the devil himself it's acctually not.(If you know what communism is, as opposed to thinking it's evil, raise your hand) . The element of oppression and government force that most people seem to associate with communism was only an unfortunate side effect of the implementation in this century. Communism, as described by Marx is that everybody contributes everything into a central pot, which then people go and take stuff they need from. Of course, the problem is that most people like to take more than they contribute, and that makes the whole system fall apart. But if you create an infinite pot, communism works very well. (think of the free software community as such a place - in fact, i'd go as far as saying that the free software community is communistic society). The star trek replicators also create an infinite pot of goods and then communism works.

As for communism creating a police state: Do you know where the per capita prison population is the highest in the world? No, not china. Nope, not russia. No, not some obscure african country. It's the US.

In order to discuss thist, you'll need to stand over the "eww - communism. that's bad, evil, unamerican and against god kneejerk reaktion most americans seem to have" If you can't flame away, i'm wearing my asbestos underwear :)

-henrik "no, i'm not a communist myself" abelsson

Akademiska Intresseklubben antecknar!
[ Parent ]

*not* a noted economist! (4.00 / 2) (#33)
by Anonymous Hero on Sat Apr 22, 2000 at 08:18:49 PM EST

I don't know about postmodern, but Jeremy Rifkin is a neo-Luddite, and a pseudoscientific quack. (he's noted, all right, but not for being an economist.) Even in cases where I think he's right (it's hard to be wrong 100% of the time), I wish he wasn't, because the way he goes about promoting it and the actions he takes are thuggish and destructive. I'm not a big fan of Monsanto, but Rifkin's idea of fighting genetic engineering is to sue, obstruct, and interfere any way he can. He doesn't discriminate; academia and industry are all one to him. He's got the truth, so results are all that matter.

The first sign of quackery is his book Entropy: A New World View, which has about as much to do with actual physical entropy as Creationist works on how the second law precludes evolution. Most of his crusades are derived from this basic idea -- his concerns about "exhausting diversity", whether genetic or cultural, are consistent in this respect. No matter how internally consistent he makes his arguments, at the root they spring from his most quackish works.

In the long run, down at the bottom, it's all about Rifkin. Rifkin comes up with his theories, he determines what's to be done, he makes the rules, and he enforces them. It was bad enough when he was just against genetic engineering, but since the digital age is getting so much hype, he decided he had to find something to say about it.

And, say what you like about him, Rifkin does know how to make a stir. He's an expert in legal and political sabotage; you can expect him to use the same tactics against digital players as he did against genetic research. And if I won't weep to see the likes of Disney targeted, the same rabble-rousing can be used against ISPs, cypherpunks, micropayment researchers, or anyone else. If by "postmodernist" you mean the new barbarians howling at the gates, Rifkin is it.

Re: *not* a noted economist! (none / 0) (#54)
by CodeWright on Mon Apr 24, 2000 at 07:55:00 PM EST

If by "postmodernist" you mean the new barbarians howling at the gates, Rifkin is it.

I'm pretty sure that is the definition of postmodernism. :P :)

YMMV



--
A: Because it destroys the flow of conversation.
Q: Why is top posting dumb? --clover_kicker

[ Parent ]
What's after capitalism? | 67 comments (67 topical, 0 editorial, 0 hidden)
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