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[P]
The Future is deep, deep red.

By Anya in Op-Ed
Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 02:15:35 AM EST
Tags: Politics (all tags)
Politics

If one examines the history of Mankind, one might be forgiven for thinking that the market economy has for all time triumphed over alternative systems, such as anarchism, communism, socialism, and so on. Certainly, at this time, it would seem that free market capitalism reigns supreme; it is the only system that has emerged over the last 500 years that can be said to truly work, and work well at that.

However, there is a dangerous assumption and close mindedness in some quarters regarding the future of capitalism. Here I shall argue that the future of capitalism and the unplanned economy is short, and that alternative, and superior, systems of economic and social organisation will emerge to take its place.


According to Francis Fukuyama in The End of History, the forces of liberal capitalism will reign supreme for the rest of time and quench all of humankind's ambitions. His thesis was that liberal democratic capitalism, as practised in Western Europe and America, would represent the 'End of History' (in the sense of battle for ideas, not events) for us all, as it is the only system with true validity - all other systems in use depend on, fundamentally, force, whereas liberal capitalism is endorsed by the people. Systems which rely on force cannot perpetuate themselves forever, and as the ideals of liberal capitalism are well known throughout the world, there is a constant pressure on states to tend towards it. Fukuyama would argue that Tiananmen square is an example of this in action, and that the inexorable progress of the Soviet Union to 1989 started with the secret speech of Kruschev at the death of Stalin, when he said that no longer would the leadership rely upon terror to enforce its will as Stalin had, at least in the Party. This final societal system would spread around the world and replace all alternatives, such as communism (or rather, the perversion of the communist ideal implemented in China and some other states) and authoritarian regimes like that in Singapore, with the most successful formula yet discovered in our history.

Whilst most people have not heard of Fukuyama here in the West, there is a general complacency about our future, and an assumption that we are at the pinnacle of our social development, when it comes to our guiding principles at least, if not practise. This naturally includes the assumption that communism, classical socialism and dictatorships are also dead or dying, relics of the past.

However, it seems to me that communism has not breathed its last. In fact, I would say that communism is the destiny of humankind. My arguments are as follows:

Argument from technology.
Capitalism depends on the idea that the free market is better than the planned economy. Whilst this has been borne out in the 20th century, as all planned economies implemented so far have performed far less efficiently than the free market, this still depends on the skill of the planner at the helm. Where planned economies have been implemented, they have been undone by the short sightedness and selfishness of those who implement them. However, with the inevitable progress of computers and AI, high technology could, and very probably will, provide a solution. A computer is far better at fairly and impassively planning an economy than a person. If strong AI systems are at some point in the future developed, then there is no reason to suppose that the status quo will be maintained. The inexorable force of the bottom line will push a planned economy by proxy into existence. Fundamentally, the main pressure in our society is the quest for more material wealth. Just now, the free, unplanned chaotic market is the best mechanism we have here, but there is no reason to suppose that this will remain so in the future. It seems intuitively obvious that a highly planned economy will yield better results, provided the planner is better than the Darwinian forces of the market. Furthermore, the ultimate destination of technology is the ability to manufacture anything, anywhere for little cost. We may be far from this goal just now, but we inch towards it all the time. Who can tell what 500 years will bring, if not sooner? I would bet that we will attain this ability sooner than we think. If Vernor Vinge is to be believed, we will approach this much sooner than we even believe possible - he wrote in The Singularity that we are approaching a period of radical and exponential technological progress. As Moore's law is presently doubling processor power every 12 months, as compared to every 18 months a decade ago, and as at this rate a computer with the theoretical processing power of the Human brain will be achieved by 2020, it is not farcical to assume that this increasing processor power will be put to use to solve the market's natural chaos.
Argument from society.
The big problem with capitalism is that it isn't very fair. Of course, no one ever said that life has to be fair, but it is a mark of any advanced civilisation that it approaches some ideal of it. If capitalism is the best we can hope for, what are we to do about this? In America now, the combined wealth of the top 1% of households now exceeds that of the bottom 95%. This is, quite clearly, iniquitous and grossly unfair. However, it is still much better than communism as applied in the Soviet Union and China years ago, when 100% of the wealth was controlled by 5% of the population - the party members. Even worse, there was no concept of everyone having a fair chance at the start of life to join that top 5%. Already we see pressures for a fairer form of capitalism, a shared capitalism, mostly being applied on the extreme end of the spectrum as at Seattle and Gothenburg just a few days ago. In Europe, countries accept that capitalism and the free market are the only guarranteed ways to make wealth, but attempt to overcome its inherent unfairness by implementing Social welfare and benefits systems, and interfering with the market where they think it suits their interest. But even there, unfairness exists. The problem in all these societies is that the trends of capitalism are to focus more and more wealth in the hands of the rich. As the years go on, so the rich get richer, aggregating more and more economic control and power over society. When even The Economist notes that we have a problem, then it is time to get worried. The bottom line is that although capitalism does create wealth, it is very far indeed from perfection, and many lust for something fairer and more equal. The pressures are rising.
It seems to me inevitable that humankind will progress towards a more equitable and indeed communistic society for these reasons. The pressures are there, as always, and soon, with any luck, the technology will be too. Just because communism has been imperfectly implemented in the 20th century is no reason to suppose a variant is doomed in the 21st or 22nd - I think it is fair to say that Marx was born 200 years too early, and this means that his teachings were discredited in a world unable to support or implement communism.

The ideals of democracy we now have are excellent, though imperfectly implemented of course. The economy we have is not. As the economy affects every last detail of our lives, this is a great blight. Hopefully we are heading towards a new age, an age where the equality first espoused in the days of the Ancient Greeks, and so long cherished by our species, can finally become a reality.

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The Future is deep, deep red. | 403 comments (402 topical, 1 editorial, 0 hidden)
Let me get this straight... (4.00 / 10) (#1)
by ucblockhead on Tue Jun 19, 2001 at 10:26:04 PM EST

So what you are saying is that even though it has never worked in the past, you are sure it will work in the future with spiffy new technologies that haven't been invented yet...

I've got bad news for you: someone's going to control that AI system, and that person is unlikely to be a saint. As they say, power corrupts...

Anyway, just because it might seem intuitive that central planning will be "more efficient" doesn't mean that it actually is, and in fact in many, many areas, from corporations to operating systems, groups of small, relatively independent components will outperform monolithic, controlled-from-the-top systems by wide margins. The trouble with "central planning" in both economies and operating systems is that it puts to much stress on one part of the system, making everything dependent on an overstressed bottleneck.

Socialism may have some good points worth investigating. "Central Planning" deserves to be buried forever.
-----------------------
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup

No not really. (4.33 / 3) (#3)
by Anya on Tue Jun 19, 2001 at 10:37:26 PM EST

So what you are saying is that even though it has never worked in the past, you are sure it will work in the future with spiffy new technologies that haven't been invented yet...

Technological progress is inevitable, now that we have the wonder of the scientific method. I am saying that the progress of human history is from less organised and efficient technologies to more organised and efficient ones. Can the random, chaotic free market really be the apex? I doubt it. The very pressures of the market itself will demand that it become more organised.

I've got bad news for you: someone's going to control that AI system, and that person is unlikely to be a saint. As they say, power corrupts...

This is what democracy is for :) If democratic control is formly established, I see no reason to worry.

Anyway, just because it might seem intuitive that central planning will be "more efficient" doesn't mean that it actually is, and in fact in many, many areas, from corporations to operating systems, groups of small, relatively independent components will outperform monolithic, controlled-from-the-top systems by wide margins. The trouble with "central planning" in both economies and operating systems is that it puts to much stress on one part of the system, making everything dependent on an overstressed bottleneck.

This is very true, just now. Will it still be true in 500 years? You are still assuming that the planner is dumb - when the inevitabilities of progress will lead to a system more advanced than any committee of humans. It need not even be centrally planned - what will the descendants of so-called B2B Internet systems be like? The internet is allowing lots of disconnected computers to plan out economies to a large extent already.

"Central Planning" deserves to be buried forever.

Forever? How can you be sure? This seems like a bit of a blanket statement to me. Suppose people had said the same of the free market after the South Sea bubble? Just because something doesn't work today, is no reason for it to be shunned for all time.

Stars, stars! And all eyes else dead coals.
[ Parent ]

The perfect machine doesn't exist (4.66 / 3) (#7)
by ucblockhead on Tue Jun 19, 2001 at 11:02:46 PM EST

The very pressures of the market itself will demand that it become more organised.
Just because something is centrally-planned does not mean that it is more organized. The human brain is one of the most wildy complicated things in existence, and it is not centrally controlled, as far as anyone can tell.

You are still assuming that the planner is dumb.
Not really. I am assuming that a number of quasi-independent units will outdo a single, central unit controlling everything. If a central-planner is smart, then a distributive system will be smarter.

This is especially ironic in that you are calling for an "AI" to work as your "central planner", yet the most powerful computers available today use a distributed, not centrally controlled, architecture, and the smartest thing we know of (the human brain) also uses a massively distributed, not centrally controlled, architecture.

Again, socialist systems might work, centrally planned systems won't, primarily because they concentrate power and concentrate responsibility. Concentrating power is dangerous because it destroys democracy. Democracy lasts longests where there aren't concentrations of power to tempt individuals. Concentrating responsibility is dangerous because it creates a single point of failure. Single points of failure are bad because nothing is perfect.

Centrally controlled, monolythic systems are twentieth century technology. We've moved beyond that.
-----------------------
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]

Yes, we agree sort of (4.00 / 3) (#11)
by Anya on Tue Jun 19, 2001 at 11:21:37 PM EST

Fundamentally I am arguing that a well planned economy will outperform a free market. However, whether it is centrally planned or distributed is another matter. I agree that a distributed system could well be better - however, that is still a form of planned economy. My point about the descendants of B2B systems and suchlike was in this vein - independent units each controlling a part are still forming a planned economy.

I suppose theoretically there is no difference between one central system and lots of distributed systems, in the sense that both can be reduced to a Turing Machine at the end of the day, however that latter is more resistant to failure, and more resistant to autocratic control, and so can be said to be superior in this contect.

Stars, stars! And all eyes else dead coals.
[ Parent ]

How would you plan it? (4.50 / 2) (#22)
by physicsgod on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 01:54:46 AM EST

If it were up to you how would you plan the economy? Would you maximize innovation (I), or security (S)? Perhaps we should maximize the product, or maybe I^27*S^43. The advantage of the free-market economy is that it's an evolutionary system, which is the best way to find the optimal solution when you don't know it beforehand.

--- "Those not wearing body armor are hereby advised to keep their arguments on-topic" Schlock Mercenary
[ Parent ]
Evolution isn't magic wand; it's dumb man's tool (4.50 / 2) (#49)
by kaatunut on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 05:16:51 AM EST

You know what, because we were created by evolution doesn't mean evolution was the most suitable for our creation, it means it was the only one available. <small>(of course, I'm assuming you're not a evolutionist-creationist...)</small> It seems to me it's logically obvious that evolutionary has lower ability cap than design; that is, although it will fare better with low-skilled or no planner, there is a level which is beyond evolution/free market's reach and yet accessible by design.

Free market is good only because our computational abilities are too weak to make effective calculations, so we'll let the forces of evolution do it for us. But, I think the original poster's point was like mine is, that like genetic engineering will eventually prevail over biological evolution simply due to its ability to plan ahead, so will planned economy prevail over free market when we have the capacity to plan ahead.

If you're not convinced, go read some creationist arguments, especially the IC (Irreducible Complexity) thing. Yes, they're wrong, but not about the existence of IC, they merely overestimated its effect.


--
there's hole up in the sky from where the angels fall to sire children that grow up too tall, there's hole down in the ground where all the dead men go down purgatory's highways that gun their souls
[ Parent ]

Your missing the point. (4.00 / 1) (#168)
by physicsgod on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 06:00:09 PM EST

My whole point is that evolutionary design is the best option available when you DON'T KNOW WHERE YOU'RE GOING! I'm not advocating anything like biological evolution where changes are random, but "intelligent evolution" where the designers of the next generation make complete steps (i.e. engineer says "I think this device could fare better with a widget." and so slaps one on, even if a widget consists of 400 parts.). The advantage of evolution is that there are many designers and so their additions are weighed against their competitors, so the best one wins out. I don't see at all how there is any design cap to this method, as long as you can rank each generation. Genetic engineering is all well and good when you know what you want the organism to do, but try as you might you're not going to engineer a new antibiotic.

--- "Those not wearing body armor are hereby advised to keep their arguments on-topic" Schlock Mercenary
[ Parent ]
Different issues (4.00 / 1) (#208)
by kaatunut on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 04:25:25 AM EST

Oh. That. I wouldn't call it evolution; the thing with random chances evaluating to see who fares best is evolution; the (open source, dare I say) model you talked about is rather a hybrid where changes are designed but selection is evolution-like.

Agreed, that model certainly doesn't have design caps; however, it does waste resources (go to freshmeat.net and download.com to see why free market, in its open and proprietary forms, is wasteful) and thus is, again, intrisically inferior to planned economy if the planner is sufficiently smart. And that was the point of original article, as it was my post's; evolution is a good model, but planned is better if we have super-intelligent AI.

"Knowing where we are going" doesn't really enter the equation. In planned economy, of course one has to plan his direction. Free market has so far picked a direction that's worked out (mostly) fine for us, but really, free market's forces are not benevolent, unlike the theoretical super-AI's.


--
there's hole up in the sky from where the angels fall to sire children that grow up too tall, there's hole down in the ground where all the dead men go down purgatory's highways that gun their souls
[ Parent ]

Here we go again. (3.00 / 1) (#244)
by physicsgod on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 03:24:18 PM EST

What are you going to program this mythical AI to do? Maximize human happiness? Maximize innovation? Maximize strife? or some combination?

Of course market forces aren't benevolent, they're indifferent, just like nature.

--- "Those not wearing body armor are hereby advised to keep their arguments on-topic" Schlock Mercenary
[ Parent ]
Yes, no, I don't know, could you repeat? (4.00 / 1) (#296)
by kaatunut on Fri Jun 22, 2001 at 05:46:26 AM EST

I wasn't the one who said it is possible, I was the one who said that if it was possible, then it definitely would be cooler than FM. In the post few steps up you sounded like you were saying, free market will always be better [then planned economy].

Although this depends on what "indifferent" means, I'd argue that in the most functional (if not the most pedantic) sense, market forces indeed are indifferent, but planned economy isn't. We're riding free market because what it "wants" (anthropomorphism be handy sometimes, when you understand it's a analogue) seems to coincide with what we want. Planned, on the other hand, wants what we want, only it currently does very lousy job of accomplishing it.

No, I'm not the vitalist I probably sound like.


--
there's hole up in the sky from where the angels fall to sire children that grow up too tall, there's hole down in the ground where all the dead men go down purgatory's highways that gun their souls
[ Parent ]

the free market wants what we want. (5.00 / 1) (#317)
by wrffr on Fri Jun 22, 2001 at 02:08:50 PM EST

We're riding free market because what it "wants" (anthropomorphism be handy sometimes, when you understand it's a analogue) seems to coincide with what we want. Planned, on the other hand, wants what we want, only it currently does very lousy job of accomplishing it.
This is kind of silly. The free market is composed of the people, their desires, and their motivations. It essentially "wants what we want" on a fundamental level. That's how it works.

A planned economy _cannot_ "want what we want" as a group of people want because each person wants slightly different things and has different motivations.

You simply can't boil down the desires and motivations of such a large, diverse group of people to anything that would fit into any sort of plan you can dictate to people to follow.

The free market works precisely because it follows what people want.

[ Parent ]

I thought this was over. Are you the same guy? (4.00 / 1) (#338)
by kaatunut on Fri Jun 22, 2001 at 10:57:31 PM EST

free market is composed of the people, their desires, and their motivations. It essentially "wants what we want

vs.

planned economy _cannot_ "want what we want" as a group of people want because each person wants slightly different things and has different motivations

Is it just me or are you contradicting yourself?

No matter. I said I don't mean "want" in literal sense. What I mean with "want" here is the course an economy will take most likely. And no, I don't buy the argument that free market goes where we want it to go. First, like you said, we have different wants, needs and ambitions; just like planned economy can't satisfy them all, neither can free market. No economy could. The difference is in which part of the whole gets their will through. In FM, it is mostly the part with money. In planned it's either everyone, or someone not part of the group who knows better what they need than the people themselves.

The point is, I don't believe free market even necessarily goes where we want. Did you want Microsoft to screw you over? Didn't think so. FM is only as smart as the lowest common denominator, which means it can be fooled, and being a chaotic system, the complex interactions between parts of the economy will produce results which almost nobody might want or have planned for; they just "happened" and were implemented because they were the best course to take from the situation that preceded it, not because they were goal you wanted to reach.

Simply said, I don't trust free market. It's an unpredictable beast. But of course my opinion doesn't matter in free market, sorry.

And I still maintain that FM is not the ultimate economy; like I said, like evolution it is good but has fundamental flaw which will make it lose to planned if sufficient intelligence arises - free market is competitive, and competition is waste.


--
there's hole up in the sky from where the angels fall to sire children that grow up too tall, there's hole down in the ground where all the dead men go down purgatory's highways that gun their souls
[ Parent ]

heh, no, i'm not the same guy. (4.00 / 1) (#357)
by wrffr on Sat Jun 23, 2001 at 11:30:37 PM EST

the reason what i said is not contradictory is that in a free market, each person contributes to the direction that the market goes by the decisions they make.

on a society-wide scale, how much they're willing to pay for X product or service and the work they're willing to do for Y payment from other people creates a hugely complex feedback loop.

it's a massively decentralized decision making process where each person "votes" by their behavior.

no, the free market can't satisfy every desire of every person at the price they want to pay, but if enough people want something and are willing to pay enough to make it worth someone else's time to provide that for them, it happens.

the free market is simply the ability to say "if you do X for me, i'll do Y for you." you might not be able to convince someone to do whatever is is you want if what you're offering as compensation is low, but it's essentially a form of cooperation.

the problem with a planned economy is that in order to be as efficient at providing what people want and need as the free market, it needs to somehow factor in the subjective worth of each product/service to each individual member of the society, which is ever-changing.

basically, at any given moment each member of the society has different minimum and maximum prices that they're willing to pay for each product and service that are available to them.

it's beyond the limits of the "knowable". and if you can't know it, you can't plan it.

and actually, competition isn't waste. competition _reduces_ waste. when there's competition in an area, there's constant pressure to keep waste to a minimum because if the products/services are equal in all other regards, the lower priced one is the one that will sell.

i noticed you're from finland, but as a quick example, if there was only one long distance company in the united states and everyone was forced to use that one, why would there ever be incentive to lower prices or improve service? but instead, there's lots of different companies trying to lure customers by trying to be the one to provide the lowest rate or the best plan.

[ Parent ]

I see your point. Then again, I always did. (3.00 / 1) (#359)
by kaatunut on Sun Jun 24, 2001 at 09:41:47 AM EST

Like I said many times, I agree that FM is very cheap system with good-quality results; it adjusts itself. However, I don't agree that what people want is "unknowable". I won't go into outlining a future planned society because honestly, I'm not as big a fan of planned economy as I might have seemed in this thread, it's just that I think that the benefit of FM (flexibility) can be achieved with sufficiently well done planned economy (democratic? ueber-AI? I don't know), free market can't avoid its shortcoming (potential for injustice) because it's inherent in its system, planned economy can banish its shortcoming (inflexibility; the counterpoint of FM's benefit) and free market cannot fully gain planned economy's benefit (its namesake, planning).

Also, with waste I mean waste in the whole; FM encourages efficiency only in the individual (company) -level; you are encouraged to make your own company slim, but also independent. Like I said, go to download.com or freshmeat.net to see what kind of waste both forms of our current free market exhibit on little-bussiness level; look at microsoft and its competition to see what kind of waste FM causes at the high-level.

I'm not saying USSR didn't have that sort of waste. It had worse, from what I've heard. I'm simply saying that the reinventing-the-wheel type of waste is inherent in FM, unbanishable, whereas waste typical to planned economy isn't indefeatable because it's because of imperfection of implementation, not because of the inherent idea in the system (that you have to make money and in the process, they have to starve).


--
there's hole up in the sky from where the angels fall to sire children that grow up too tall, there's hole down in the ground where all the dead men go down purgatory's highways that gun their souls
[ Parent ]

My point (4.00 / 2) (#344)
by physicsgod on Sat Jun 23, 2001 at 01:41:24 AM EST

Was that a FM will be better than a planned economy until (and if) we figure out exactly what we want our economy to do. I think we're approaching that ideal today, none of the major economic powers in the world are pure FM, they're all regulated to some extent, with regulation coming after a economic "glitch". Maybe someday we'll reach the planned economy ideal, but I think that limit is asymptotic.

--- "Those not wearing body armor are hereby advised to keep their arguments on-topic" Schlock Mercenary
[ Parent ]
I'm a little confused here (5.00 / 2) (#60)
by deaddrunk on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 07:18:56 AM EST

Centrally controlled, monolythic systems are twentieth century technology. We've moved beyond that.

This suggests that corporations, being centrally-planned dictatorships, are also finished.



[ Parent ]
Corporate Dictatorships (3.50 / 2) (#68)
by simon farnz on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 08:39:43 AM EST

A good corporation is not a dictatorship; it is a group of people with similar intent. The central authority sets a direction, and people do as they see fit to move in that direction
--
If guns are outlawed, only outlaws have guns
[ Parent ]
You've misunderstood (4.00 / 1) (#211)
by deaddrunk on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 07:19:52 AM EST

In what way is a corporation not like a dictatorship? In what way can the people at the bottom influence the decisions, good or bad, of the CEO. The punishment for dissent is different that's all. Remember that the Nazis and the Communists were a group who had a similar intent with direction set by a central authority.



[ Parent ]
leaning slightly offtopic... (5.00 / 2) (#8)
by nasi goreng on Tue Jun 19, 2001 at 11:02:54 PM EST

This is what democracy is for :) If democratic control is formly established, I see no reason to worry.

Making Democracy work efficiently is a whole new can o' worms, though a similar one.

Something else just occurred to me. Could such a program/system/model predict the impact of its own predictions? I'm too tired to flesh this out, but something in the back of my mind is telling me we're staring at a philosophical brick wall.

[ Parent ]
Planner of future (4.00 / 1) (#51)
by kaatunut on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 05:21:23 AM EST

Of course it could. This is no different from a chess AI; it will evaluate the result of every (reasonable?) command it could give, and pick the one most suitable. As long as the actual event of calculation (wing in tube, electrons in wire, quarks in singularity, whatever) doesn't have noticeable effect on world except through the decision given, there is no problem.

... [<small>why do I suddenly feel very stupid?</small>]

--
there's hole up in the sky from where the angels fall to sire children that grow up too tall, there's hole down in the ground where all the dead men go down purgatory's highways that gun their souls
[ Parent ]

cental planning (3.50 / 2) (#39)
by streetlawyer on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 03:55:11 AM EST

The trouble with "central planning" in both economies and operating systems is that it puts to much stress on one part of the system, making everything dependent on an overstressed bottleneck.

... which is presumably why, when a flood or natural disaster hits, the people immediately clamour for the free market to spring into action! Bottlenecks are part of any planning problem, and there are numerous mathematical tools available for modelling and managing them, if you're aiming at a stable problem. As I say above, planning is good for optimisation, decentralisation is good for innovation. It happens that, since the Industrial Revolution, innovation has got you more than optimisation. But it's hard to see how China might have been irrigated in the Mandarin period with liassez-faire.

"Central Planning" deserves to be buried forever.

No, it deserves to be mothballed, in case of future need.

--
Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
[ Parent ]

central planning (4.00 / 1) (#96)
by ucblockhead on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 12:13:18 PM EST

I don't disagree with you as much as you may think, however, in a case of a flood or natural disaster, people are much better off clamoring for a good local disaster relief system rather then a huge federal one. This doesn't mean that federal systems are bad as a backup, but big, central systems tend to respond less well then small, local ones in emergencies both because they know less about the local situation and also because they have less of a vested interest in the local situation. Those are the two critical failings of central planning.

Again, as I said elsewhere, it is not socialism I'm objecting to here but the notion that some huge genius at the center can better deal with the details at the periphery than the people at the periphery. That, more than anything, was what caused the twentieth century communist states to fail. So I'm not claiming that the "free market" will fix everything.

A huge central authority can work in limited circumstances, such as war, however, it only does so as long people are in that feel-good, patriotic state the certain wars generate. That's why the US was able to do something like it in the Depression and why the US and USSR were able to do a lot with central planning in WWII. It was because it was a "Patriotic", "emergency" situation. Once people get comfortable, the whole thing falls apart. So yes, I agree, mothballed for extreme emergencies.
-----------------------
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]

historical fact (5.00 / 1) (#120)
by streetlawyer on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 01:32:28 PM EST

Again, as I said elsewhere, it is not socialism I'm objecting to here but the notion that some huge genius at the center can better deal with the details at the periphery than the people at the periphery. That, more than anything, was what caused the twentieth century communist states to fail

I can only speak about the USSR, but you'd be surprised how much autonomy was given to local Soviets, in the context of the overall five year targets. It wasn't a failure of hierarchical control; it was the pure and simple fact that innovation was stifled.

--
Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
[ Parent ]

You word (4.00 / 1) (#125)
by ucblockhead on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 01:51:56 PM EST

I'll take your word for that...I suppose it wouldn't surprise me. But my experience with big organizations and small organizations (corporations all) has convinced me that, in general, hierarchical control doesn't work as well as smaller, more independent units.

My Russian history isn't particularly great. I was thinking more of the Chinese "Great Leap Forward" (Though obviously lack of incentive was an issue there as well.)
-----------------------
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]

fair enough (4.00 / 1) (#197)
by streetlawyer on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 01:55:45 AM EST

But if you're considering Maoist China, you ought to also consider Mandarin China, which achieved a vastly higher level of development than Europe up until about the Rennaissance, under an extraordinarily hierarchical system. It's actually hard to see how China might have been irrigated under any other system.

--
Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
[ Parent ]
Centralised control by AI (4.00 / 1) (#177)
by rdskutter on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 08:02:19 PM EST

Issac Asimov wrote a lot of science fiction about AI computers (multivac) controlling everything.

Read some of his short stories on the subject. I can't remember any of the titles right now - but one of the major assumptions was that _everyone_ trusted the computer to make just and fair decisions - something that I feel would not happen in todays climate where (thanks in a big part to microsoft) most computer users do not trust computers at all.

Such system would have to be open source so that any concerned citizen could learn about it and assure themselves that it was a fair and unbiased system.

Unfortunatly, I doubt that coca-cola, nike or microsoft would be much in favour of such a system and would do everything in thier power to gain some control over it.

Capitalism is scary because it is/will be very hard for us (the wsetern world) to break out of it. The people who benefit form capitalism (The top 5%) will not glady give it up, for that would mean a drop in shareholder value - ironically an extremely capitalist measure of perforance.

The size and momemntum of the open source software movement shows that there are a significant number of people today who are ready to try something different from capitalism. Unfortunatly free software does not put food on the table.

In the future nanotech (ala the diamond age) will make material goods (including food) much more like software - and that is when the human race will have the best oportunity to break away from capitalism

[ Parent ]
Asimov (3.00 / 1) (#190)
by ucblockhead on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 11:52:11 PM EST

Using Asimov to talk about the potential capabilities of an AI is like using Jules Verne to talk about the potential capabilities of submarines. Interesting stories, but little relevance to the actual fact.
-----------------------
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]
What drives a capitalistic society? (4.00 / 1) (#238)
by matthijs on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 02:11:38 PM EST

The size and momemntum of the open source software movement shows that there are a significant number of people today who are ready to try something different from capitalism. Unfortunatly free software does not put food on the table.

As soon as I had read the first paragraph of the main story I expected the above argument to appear generously in the argumentation, but to my amazement it didn't.

I have by doubts about the article in general, especially the part about AI's controlling our society (maybe I'm just not ready to accept such a future yet ;-), but I believe there is one good argument to be made: If the costs of sharing or giving away is negligible, then the tendency is arguably to actually share or give away. Not only applies this to open source software, which is in nature `give away' software, but it applies to commercial software as well. Commercial software companies (such at Microsoft for instance) might not want you to share their software, but most people do. Even though it's illegal and punishable by law the fact that the copying of digital data is extemely cheap and generally easy makes sharing of software (commercial or not) a general practice.

However, as rdskutter pointed out, the sharing of open source software cannot put `food on the table' for most developers. But what if `food' is nog longer an issue, because technolgy allows us to replicate it in a Star Trek-type fashion? I think that the author of the main story (though it's not really clear) is asking himself `what drives capitalism?' and his answer is, quite obviously, money. We all need/want/crave money. But why? Not because we're fond of metal or paper, but because we can buy comfort, luxury and entertainment with it. What if the material elements of our needs can be satisfied by cheaper or virtually costless production? Furthermore our demands for more innovation in consumer products seems to be somewhat in decline: for instance we are already quite satisfied with the resolution of our tv's. It seems that companies have to push harder every day to convince consumers that they 'need' their product. What if the products that satisfy our `basic' comfort needs become free/available for nothing? Will money (thus capitalism) continue to drive our society?

Even most services and repetitive every-day tasks can be robotized and automated. What will drive our society in the furture if it's no longer money? Will we all be motivated at large to develop ourselves intellectually and stimulate science to new levels or will we slowly become `enslaved' to our technolgical advances? I personally don't have the answers, but the author of the main story seems to think that we will enter some `ideal society', where the money-drive will be gone and people will just do what they like to do (or what the AI wants them to do ;-)

Well, that at least my flakey take on it.

--
Matthijs

[ Parent ]
would education be encouraged in a 0 cost society? (4.00 / 1) (#302)
by rdskutter on Fri Jun 22, 2001 at 10:47:36 AM EST

I think that the author of the main story (though it's not really clear) is asking himself `what drives capitalism?' and his answer is, quite obviously, money. We all need/want/crave money. But why? Not because we're fond of metal or paper, but because we can buy comfort, luxury and entertainment with it. What if the material elements of our needs can be satisfied by cheaper or virtually costless production?

Think about what you will do when you retire. Assuming that you have a big enough pension for a comfortable life where you don't need to worry about money. You may get a few hobbies, maybe you'll contribute to open source software, go for walks in the countryside, play lawn bowls and go to the local pub once a week with your friends. It doesn't sound like a bad life at all.

Now think of doing that for your whole life in a new society where the costs of production are 0 and you don't *need* to pay for any of the essentials. You may pay for the pint of beer in the pub, but really you are paying for the convenience of having a meeting place.

In order to survive in todays capitalist society we need to be educated. Uneducated, illeterate or inumerate (is that a word?) people tend to stay at the bottom of the capitalist ladder. We educate our children because they will need the skills they learn at school to get a job. So if people don't need to get jobs, will we bother to educate our children? If the answer is no then that is a very big loss. Education stimulates the mind and makes us who we are. I cannot imagine who I would be if I hadn't gone to school. I certainly wouldn't be programming computers and I wouldn't have had the experiences I have had at university.

maybe capitalism isn't so bad after all?
BEEN A BIT CARELESS HAVEN'T WE? - Mr Death.
[ Parent ]

Regarding your argument from society. (4.40 / 5) (#2)
by cunt on Tue Jun 19, 2001 at 10:36:03 PM EST

I think you overlook the fact that equality is not people's only desire. Indeed, only those that have less than others generally want affairs to be more equal. When surrounded by peers, most people's natural inclination is to somehow better themselves in relation to others.

Equality implies a lack of opportunity for personal betterment. With no such opportunity, what is the incentive to work? More pointedly, what is the incentive to give one's utmost, to pour out one's creative energies in a way that benefits both self and others? No doubt some will still create and advance purely for the sheer joy of it, but many more will be dragged into laziness and complacency.

Human beings do not really want to be equal, and ignoring this, I think, is a fatal flaw in your theory. With equality, humanity will stagnate.

I want equality. (5.00 / 1) (#178)
by The Great Satan on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 08:08:19 PM EST

Sorry but I can only create and advance purely for the sheer joy of it. Equality does not imply a lack of opportunity for personal betterment, unless you can only define "personal betterment" as having authority, power, and control over other people. I've run into a few people (fortunately, a minority) who try to deal with their insecurity and social retardation in this manner. Doing a good job is not as important as appearing to do a good job while trashing others, a surprisingly effective tactic when upper management doesn't have the time to review who is actually doing what. If these individuals are "dragged into laziness and complacency" society only stands to benefit. They are a weight around the necks of the productive people who only want to get on with it but are constantly disrupted by the office scheming of the hierarchy-oriented weasel boys.

Equality may not be the only thing I want (food/shelter/sex are also good) but that takes nothing away from its importance. I am only good when I have good people around me. It is interaction on an equal footing with talented people able to fully pursue their desires that will make you better. Try "getting over on" these same people and see how quickly they abandon you, and how quickly you will deteriorate on your own.
Check out my comic at www.shizit.net/alpha. Or take care of your post hardcore music needs at www.shizit.net. Or ignore this lame self-promotional spam.
[ Parent ]
I have no desire for competive wealth (3.00 / 2) (#222)
by pavlos on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 11:01:48 AM EST

I don't know what "most people want" but personally I have no desire to be competitively richer than others. None. Zero. In fact it annoys me intensely.

Now, I would very much like to retain and perhaps improve my comfortable income so that I can eat good food, afford nice things, travel to see my friends in faraway places, and most importantly not care about the cost of everyday things. I think these are perfectly reasonable things for anyone to want, and everyone to have. However, these are not competitive desires. Treating them as competitive is an artefact of living in a poorly organized economic system that values relative wealth while failing to provide these basic comforts to the majority of citizens.

The fact that I am better off economically than many of my friends and acquaintances does not make me feel smug about myself. It makes me frustrated that we cannot enjoy certain things together because some people could not afford them. It makes me sad that we cannot share things more freely for fear of unequal relationships developing. It would make me guilty if they did develop. It makes me angry that the total set of people who might become my friends is limited to within a certain income band, and that people's personalities generally get worse the higher that is.

Whenever I hear or see anything t being advertized as "exclusive" or "special" it makes me cringe. I like good things. They tend to be much better than bad things! The fact that they might also exclude people because of their price, or require a specially high income, is in fact their major disadvantage, so I don't understand why it's being used as a sales pitch. I would like to go to a fine restaurant in order to eat great food, not in order to exclude people. The only people I feel the need to exclude are idiots who want to sell me "exclusive" things.

As for the case where I find myself in company more wealthy than myself, it also annoys me intensely but not because of envy. It annoys me because I find rich people aggressive, not very ethical, and often unproductive. It angers me to see an otherwise intelligent and energetic person put their efforts into climbing a competitive ladder instead of contributing something useful to society. And it does anger me when such people adopt a "more worthy than though" attitude, but that is not envy either.

Pavlos

[ Parent ]

humanity != processing power. (3.75 / 4) (#4)
by rebelcool on Tue Jun 19, 2001 at 10:44:07 PM EST

Market forces are determined by an enormous amount of things. While a computer might be able to match the 'processing power' (how do you define the brain's processing power anyway?), I would think designing the system to emulate the human thought processes perfectly would be all but impossible.

Consider this: In communist systems, systems ran by HUMANS instead of computers cant accurately predict human behavior by any means. How could a system designed by humans, who dont even know themselves and their fellow humanity, possibly achieve this?

To mimic humanity requires far more than pure computational power. The system would need to know emotions and be at least as intelligent as a human. Anyone with experience in AI knows this isnt 20 years away. In fact, it would require completely different computation systems that which exists today. We havent even begun to really understand how the brain even works.

If this system were really designed, all you would have would be a human being. If you tried to make the system 'impassive' or whatever, then that would completely destroy the market model, because the market model of reality is based upon the unpredictable and emotional nature of humanity.

COG. Build your own community. Free, easy, powerful. Demo site

It doesn't need to emulate humans (3.00 / 1) (#6)
by Anya on Tue Jun 19, 2001 at 11:02:05 PM EST

It just needs to understand them. Suppose we do emulate a human being perfectly on a chip at some stage. If we do, then I would argue that the economy as it stand will become redundant. The emulation of a human may not be cleverer, however it could easily be made much much faster. It can design its replacement, which will be better of course, and the replacement can design the replacement. You are then on the road to exponentially fast technological progress.

Consider this: In communist systems, systems ran by HUMANS instead of computers cant accurately predict human behavior by any means. How could a system designed by humans, who dont even know themselves and their fellow humanity, possibly achieve this?

Well, the free market does not predict humans at all - however it does still work fairly well. A computational system that controls the economy just has to control things better than does the free market - more efficiently. At the agregate, when considered as a whole, the economy can be compared to the weather, somewhat unpredictable and subject to all sorts of little vicissitudes. However, just as the weather could theoretically be controlled, had we the technology, so can the economy - it just requires a fine grained degree of control, and some sort of superintelligence. My point is that a controlled, planned economy need not be perfect, but there is no reason to suppose that if done with suitable intelligence, it will not be better.

Just as design is faster than evolution, so a planned economy can be orders of magnitude more complex and efficient than a simple chaotic, darwinian economy.

Stars, stars! And all eyes else dead coals.
[ Parent ]

nope (4.00 / 4) (#15)
by rebelcool on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 12:15:13 AM EST

how much computer science do you really know anyway? I'm curious.

There is so many factors to an economy, that we still do not know the factors ourselves. Free market economies take this into account by not attempting to figure out what the factors are. Let the system take care of itself, because the system (and the people) know what they want. Thats the basis behind capitalism. Humans are imperfect. Thus, the system that governs economies are imperfect.

Computers, on the other hand, are not imperfect. They are perfect. They will do exactly what their human masters tell them to. To create an imperfect computer system that mimics the human brain, would require vastly more knowledge and theory and understanding than we presently have. Computers currently think in binary, yes/no, black/white. Humans of course, think differently. Theres not only many shades of gray, but full color spectrum. There is no computation theory on the planet which can come close to mimicing this.

You say the system would not have to be perfect. Bullshit. If you're going to replace the freemarket economy with something controlled by a device built by humans who dont know what their own humanity is, it's going to be worse than what already exists.

Further, how would a planned economy take into account things that hadnt been invented yet? The system would have to predict inventions. Do you really think your device could do this? And predict the trends behind it? Planned economies DON'T WORK. Listen to history. Theres alot to be learned there.

COG. Build your own community. Free, easy, powerful. Demo site
[ Parent ]

On the perfection of computers (4.00 / 2) (#21)
by sigwinch on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 12:55:50 AM EST

Computers, on the other hand, are not imperfect. They are perfect.
Get thee to Google and search for "single-event upset". Get thee to Google and search for "flip-flop metastability".
They will do exactly what their human masters tell them to.
Get thee to RISKS Digest.

--
I don't want the world, I just want your half.
[ Parent ]

well... (4.00 / 2) (#81)
by rebelcool on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 10:13:58 AM EST

barring environmental issues (the cause of single event upsets), a computer is perfect. A computer is risky if the human who built it mistakenly put bugs in it. Garbage in, garbage out.

Computers will do exactly what humans tell it to. Thats the reason they crash and fail and so on. It's only following directions, given by a faulty human.

COG. Build your own community. Free, easy, powerful. Demo site
[ Parent ]

Environment (3.00 / 1) (#169)
by sigwinch on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 06:01:38 PM EST

barring environmental issues (the cause of single event upsets), a computer is perfect.
In other words, no computer in the universe can ever be perfect. But nevermind, ignore SEUs. Go read up on metastability: you'll find that all modern computers are inevitably subject to corruption at the lowest levels. Logic designers can make the probability of corruption low, but they cannot make it zero. Even without cosmic rays and defects in materials, all modern computers have a nonzero probability of data corruption.

--
I don't want the world, I just want your half.
[ Parent ]

however.. (3.00 / 1) (#180)
by rebelcool on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 09:04:32 PM EST

this is corrected with - tadum - error correction! Of course, not all error correction is perfect. I doubt it could handle me taking a hammer to a chip.

Anyways, you're preaching to the choir. Computers blindly follow instructions, which cause 99.9% of all the problems that result from them. Probably even higher.

COG. Build your own community. Free, easy, powerful. Demo site
[ Parent ]

Thats the point (3.00 / 1) (#19)
by delmoi on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 12:47:40 AM EST

Consider this: In communist systems, systems ran by HUMANS instead of computers cant accurately predict human behavior by any means. How could a system designed by humans, who don't even know themselves and their fellow humanity, possibly achieve this?

Of course computational power doesn't equal humanity. But we don't want humanity, we want good leadership. You say that someone will be running the computers, but that isn't necessarily true. It would be entirely possible for them to be autonomous. And the computers themselves could never be corrupted. I think a lot of 'bad' governments were setup with the best intentions, and became corrupt. But you only have to be 'pure' for a short time while you setup the computers.


--
"'argumentation' is not a word, idiot." -- thelizman
[ Parent ]
heh... (3.00 / 1) (#79)
by rebelcool on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 10:10:23 AM EST

the system would have to be designed by humans. That in itself would introduce imperfections. There is no 'pure' humanity. Never has - never will be. There is no way for a human to model his own humanity mathematically in a way a computer could compute. To do so is like discovering the meaning of life.

You want a machine to lead humanity? Get away from your keyboard every once in awhile...

COG. Build your own community. Free, easy, powerful. Demo site
[ Parent ]

Failed your own test? (4.60 / 10) (#5)
by ubu on Tue Jun 19, 2001 at 10:52:32 PM EST

How come you never dealt with Fukuyama's contention that alternative systems are based on force? The anarcho-capitalist's central contention is that free-market capitalism is the only system that results naturally from a lack of coercive force. Until you can refute this logically -- or justify the use of force to confiscate private wealth and means of production -- you have failed the test that you established by quoting Fukuyama in the first place.

By the way, Fukuyama is quite well known in the west, at least amongst paleos and anarcho-capitalists.

Ubu


--
As good old software hats say - "You are in very safe hands, if you are using CVS !!!"
anarcho capitalism is an oxymoron (4.69 / 13) (#29)
by eLuddite on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 02:57:14 AM EST

How come you never dealt with Fukuyama's contention that alternative systems are based on force?

Er, because it is nonsense? How does the anarcho-capitalist account for the broken bodies littering the history of capitalism?

When will you anarcho-capitalists learn that private ownership in the means of production is merely *one* form of ownership, that other forms are possible without being mutually excluded from competitive economic activity? When people point out healthy economies in the past and in the present which are notable for their varying degree of non-private ownership in the means of production, what feature of logic impels anarcho-capitalists to reject their reality?

Markets where people practice trade will likely always exist, but formal ownership of the means of production -- capitalism -- has been withering away since its wholesale introduction. It's fine if you're Mom & Pop Linen Inc. but you better examine your most closely held assumptions if you think an increasingly crowded world will continue to recognize private ownership in fields growing flax. There is no democratic state in the world that does not practice some degree of socialism. The trend in all democratic societies is to institute increasing measures of economic equality to match political freedom, two faces of the same coin.

The anarcho-capitalist's central contention is that free-market capitalism is the only system that results naturally from a lack of coercive force.

According to "The Liberty Poll" (February), the Ayn Rand-Murray Rothbard model of libertarian thought ? though the two are far from identical, both condemn the initiation of force as wrong ? is slowly losing ground among libertarians. There are several reasons for this, of which I'll cite only one: a growing impression that the idea is not acceptable as it stands, but needs revision in the light of empirical facts.

But let's take a fresh look at this idea, and while we're at it, let's look at that other salient principle of Randian ethics, the idea of ethical egoism. For many people, these two ideas are the defining characteristics of libertarianism.

--Thou Shalt Not Aggress

In fact, laissez-faire capitalism has much more in common with fascism, the old enemy of anarchism, than with democracy! The simplest exploration of the workplace reveals this reality: who has the final say in the workplace...the average worker, or the owner? The owner, of course. That's why they're called "the Boss". It's their property, the laissez-faire capitalists say, so they have the authority. Pure, top-down, fascistic decision-making in action.

-- Anarcho-Hucksters: From each according to their gullibility, to each according to their greed.

Until you can refute this logically -- or justify the use of force to confiscate private wealth and means of production

Until you can demonstrate how anarcho-capitalists come into possession and defend property without force, you should stop making hollow challenges and pretending that logic is something you stumbled across and claim as your private property to abuse at will. Is anarcho-capitalist property that pile of dirt defended after its original inhabitants have been peacefully killed? If the original inhabitants agree to give you their property, anarcho-capitalism is as agreeable to their subsequent wage slavery as it is to other exercises of economic coercion.

Question:What is the conceptual difference between a punch in the nose and an empty stomach?

Answer: A logical anarcho-capitalist.

The general problem with anarcho-capitalist reasoning is that it derives logically incorrect conclusions from a broken, incomplete set assumptions.

Exactly who determines what use of force is "initiatory" or "coercive," and what is "defensive" or "retaliatory"? By what process is that determination made? Or, to put it in terms of "rights": Who determines whether, in any given use of force, "rights" have been violated -- and thus, who is the aggressor, and who the victim? By what procedure? What theory or interpretation of "rights" is to be used? Rand's? Henry George's? Lenin's? For society, how are such determinations made with finality? And how is that verdict enforced? As a corollary: who determines which agency is a "protection agency," and which is a mere gang of aggressors? By what method and standard?

--How to make a fool of yourself using a limited set of premises.

Furthermore, no one is talking about confiscating wealth. If I give you the gift of a million dollars, you are wealthy. I havent given you the means of production, nor have you given me any valuable labor in return. In a truly egalitarian economy, differences in productive wealth would be the outcome a fair market in labor. Anything else is the simple exploitation of property. Since no one has an absolute claim to property, property being merely relations between people, you can stop pretending that the earth belongs to the few for the exploitation of the many.

some link

Equal time.

Anarcho-capitalism, in my opinion, is a doctrinal system which, if ever implemented, would lead to forms of tyranny and oppression that have few counterparts in human history. There isn't the slightest possibility that its (in my view, horrendous) ideas would be implemented, because they would quickly destroy any society that made this colossal error. The idea of "free contract" between the potentate and his starving subject is a sick joke, perhaps worth some moments in an academic seminar exploring the consequences of (in my view, absurd) ideas, but nowhere else.

-- Noam Chomsky.

The anarcho-capitalist definition of freedom is entirely negative. It calls for the absence of coercion but cannot guarantee the positive freedom of individual autonomy and independence. Nor does it recognize the equal right of all to the means of subsistence. Hayek speaks on behalf of the anarcho-capitalist when he warns: 'Above all we must recognize that we may be free and yet miserable.' Others go even further to insist that liberty and bread are not synonymous and that we have 'the liberty to die of hunger'. In the name of freedom, the anarcho-capitalists would like to turn public spaces into private property, but freedom does not flourish behind high fences protected by private companies but expands in the open air when it is enjoyed by all.

Anarcho-capitalists are against the State simply because they are capitalists first and foremost. Their critique of the State ultimately rests on a liberal interpretation of liberty as the inviolable rights to and of private property. They are not concerned with the social consequences of capitalism for the weak, powerless and ignorant. Their claim that all would benefit from a free exchange in the market is by no means certain; any unfettered market system would most likely sponsor a reversion to an unequal society with defense associations perpetuating exploitation and privilege. If anything, anarcho-capitalism is merely a free-for-all in which only the rich and cunning would benefit. It is tailor-made for 'rugged individualists' who do not care about the damage to others or to the environment which they leave in their wake. The forces of the market cannot provide genuine conditions for freedom any more than the powers of the State. The victims of both are equally enslaved, alienated and oppressed.

-- Peter Marshall, Demanding the Impossible: A History of Anarchism

The anarcho-capitalists simply take it for granted that in their favoured society, although it possesses no machinery for restraining competition (for this would need to exercise authority over the competitors and it is an _anarcho_- capitalist society) competition would not be carried to the point where anybody actually suffered from it. While proclaiming their system to be a competitive one, in which private interest rules unchecked, they show it operating as a co-operative one, in which no person or group profits at the cost of another.

-- George Walford

"Neo-Classical economic theory," which has put the concepts of "economic man" and "the perfect market" into the center of public policy making and political debate, claims to be a "value-free" discipline. Yet the preferred terminology of this discipline is freighted with value connotations. For example, the behavior of "economic man" (i.e., self-interested utility maximization) is described as "rational." By implication, then, the behavior of such saints and heroes as Gandhi, King, Sakharov and Mandela is "irrational." Furthermore, transactions that leave both parties "better off" are described as "efficient" and a society in which there can be no further transactions without someone being disadvantaged is described as "(Pareto) optimal." How many notice that by this account, a slave society might be "optimal" (since one cannot free the slaves without making the slave-holder "worse off"). A system requiring the well-to-do to share their wealth with the less fortunate is, by definition, "inefficient." The question of the "just distribution" of a society's resources is simply not a part of "neo-classical" economics.

Clearly, "economic man" and "the perfect market" are severely truncated accounts of human nature and society, and thus very poor foundations for public policy-making, for practical politics, and for just provision for future generations.

-- Twentieth Century Alchemy

Does neoclassical economics explain markets? Not on your life. Its models basically assume a free market (perfect competition). But all markets are to varying degrees not free. There are government regulations, taxes, inspections, etc., all the things the libertarians oppose. Fair enough, you say, let's assume that the market in the contemporary United States is only 80% free, then the laws of economics will account for 80% of what is happening; that is not bad for most sciences. But economists have established that free markets -- like pregnancies -- do not come in pieces or degrees; when a market is not fully free -- fundamentally different scientific laws come into play, they have established.

--Libertarian Follies

In her new book "Cyberselfish: A Critical Romp Through the Terribly Libertarian Culture of High Tech," Borsook sounds a round challenge to the techie conceit of total autonomy. She asserts -- among other highly flammable propositions -- that decades of government funding for basic research, aerospace electronics, housing and higher education are conspicuously absent from the standard story of privatized technology heroics. She sees the prevailing libertarian ethos of Silicon Valley and the technology sector as merely a strain of geeky, adolescent narcissism masquerading -- and dignifying itself -- as politics.

--Greed, technolibertarianism and geek omnipotence.


---
God hates human rights.
[ Parent ]

logic, schmogic (2.75 / 4) (#37)
by streetlawyer on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 03:51:06 AM EST

(I've tended to regard ubu as one of the few genuinely consistent libertarians on this board, as opposed to the usual run of macho Republican posers, hence this reply).

Does it not worry you that you start your post talking about "force" (a physical term with an agreed meaning and importance) and end it talking about "coercive force" (a libertarian term of art which is by no means universally regarded as coherent or important)? Until you can show us why we should only care about that subset of "force" which is not carried out in defence of modern Western property rights, I think that Anya's point *has* in fact been made.

--
Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
[ Parent ]

response (5.00 / 6) (#92)
by ubu on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 11:49:06 AM EST

(I've tended to regard ubu as one of the few genuinely consistent libertarians on this board, as opposed to the usual run of macho Republican posers, hence this reply).

Likewise.

Does it not worry you that you start your post talking about "force" (a physical term with an agreed meaning and importance) and end it talking about "coercive force" (a libertarian term of art which is by no means universally regarded as coherent or important)? Until you can show us why we should only care about that subset of "force" which is not carried out in defence of modern Western property rights, I think that Anya's point *has* in fact been made.

The best I can do is to speak as a sort of poor-man's von Mises. If you haven't read Human Action and you want to understand anarcho-capitalism from first principles, you're cheating yourself.

Force is not the basis of property rights. Strong property rights do not depend on the initiation or provocation of force, nor upon any use of force whatsoever. The basis of property rights is none other than the rule of law.

Opponents of this view frequently call this a strawman. They say that without enforcement of laws, there are no laws in fact. This is mistaken; the effectiveness of the law does not spring from its enforcement, but rather from adherence. When laws are obeyed, they are effective.

Bruce Benson writes in Enforcement of Private Property Rights in Primitive Societies: Law Without Government [PDF] on the very issue of how lawful behavior can and does exist before the enforcement mechanism is created. Those who call "law without government" a strawman tend to claim the reverse: that enforcement is the necessary pre-condition of lawful societies.

What Benson demonstrates, however, is that in primitive societies law arises by the mutual consent of those who obey it. In other words, law in such cases is nothing more than a social contract between peers who choose to act according to mutually-beneficial rules. The enforcement of these laws is based not upon force, but upon 1) the voluntary nature of the agreement; and 2) the mutual benefit gained by preserving the law.

Insofar as the establishment of law is a voluntary, mutual process, it binds those who have formed the compact. In all societies that I know of, law has been exclusive -- that is, those who do not agree to the binding nature of law must be excluded from congress with those who have. Moreover, in those societies law is also considered absolute -- that is, to break the law is to break the covenant; there is no half-way broken law. Broken laws require adjudication to discern what may be the appropriate restitution or punishment that will restore the offender to the good graces of the community under the law. At no point is force required; it is assumed that a law-breaker, once caught, will voluntarily submit to the judgment of the law so that he can once again enjoy its protection.

In the Western tradition, there is a word for those who refuse the judgment of the law, and reject the voluntarily-offered mutual benefits in favor of ex parte satisfaction. That word is "outlaw", and its original purpose was to describe a man who was "outside of the law", i.e., no longer within the covenant of protection that law offers. An outlaw has rejected the voluntary compact that binds and organizes social interaction, and therefore cannot be considered a lawful member of society.

That may seem tautological, but most people miss the crucial implication: if law is what restrains human intercourse in some manner, then a man without law is unrestrained, and other men are no longer restrained on his behalf. He is no longer protected by law, and therefore any man could hunt him, enslave him, kill him, eat him, or do anything else he liked to the outlaw. No law binds him with regard to the outlaw, this is obvious from the definition.

To a primitive society, this view of law's intrinsic qualities probably would have been blindingly obvious. Without law, I am on my own. Within the law, I am protected. There is no force in the basis for law; quite the opposite! The whole purpose of law is to preserve the voluntary nature of everything men do.

There is a great deal of confusion, nowadays, about what law actually means. We have become accustomed to believing that it is fundamentally a list of rules emanating from those in government over us. This is why most people believe that law means force, because the only basis for enforcement in such a unilateral arrangement is in unilateral force, itself. This is why policemen have discretionary powers -- even the right to choose life or death for another -- that the governed classes do not have.

This eLuddite character claims that "anarcho-capitalism" is an oxymoron. I say that this demonstrates either lack of familiarity with the subject or poor critical thinking. Capitalism, itself -- being the natural organization of free men acting voluntarily -- is absolutely opposed to forcible oversight, whether from government or criminals. Capitalism must be anarchistic, and it must be lawful.

Ubu


--
As good old software hats say - "You are in very safe hands, if you are using CVS !!!"
[ Parent ]
thanks; we ought to discuss this properly (4.00 / 5) (#103)
by streetlawyer on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 01:01:24 PM EST

if my computer ever recovers from a bad attack of Linux, I may post an article, or something in the diaries, or some such.

I have to confess that I've started "Human Action" a couple of times, but never been able to get to grips with it; I've read most of Hayek, however, and I think that the two of them agree on most of the important points at issue here.

I don't think there's anything particularly wrong with your account of the development of laws -- if eLuddite thinks that anarcho-capitalism is _impossible_, he's certainly wrong. It would be incoherent if it claimed to be anything other than one particular kind of legal system, but it doesn't; or at least, it doesn't in the work of the more thoughtful libertarians. As a description of a contracting *process* for the creation of a social arrangement, I don't think there's anything there that even a Rawlsian would disagree with.

But I still have a problem which relates to the force/coercive force distinction. As far as I see it, that's a distinction which relies on the question of *justification* of a legal system. As far as I can tell from the linked article above, and consistently with what I remember of Hayek, this account of the development of laws is purely factual; it views a legal system purely as a structure of social organisation. It's better than the Weberian conception of a purely coercive system, in that it has a more psychologically realistic account of the relationship of the individual to society, but it still doesn't take a _critical_ account of that relationship. Because the fact is that individuals (if we are to continue to believe in such things as individuals, which I think we should) are faced with a take-it-or-leave it option when society decides what status it is to give them. I'm not happy with such an offer unless there is some critical principle (like Rawls') for saying what kind of bargain the less fortunate ought to be offered. I think that the anarcho-capitalist bargain could be very unfair indeed.

I also don't see how the account of the development of law justifies (rather than explaining) the strong concept of property rights which tends to be assumed throughout the rest of anarcho-capitalism. I seem to remember that Hayek had no problem with this; he simply regarded the *market* as the important social institution which had to be central, and had surprisingly little problem with _ad_hoc_ redistributions elsewhere in the economy. But Hayek didn't have an absolutist (Lockean) theory of property rights, which is another of the reasons why I, a socialist, often think that he had a lot of good things to say. I don't know enough about Mises to say whether he agreed with FH on this one.

--
Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
[ Parent ]

Some wrap-up (3.75 / 4) (#116)
by ubu on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 01:25:31 PM EST

I'm not happy with such an offer unless there is some critical principle (like Rawls') for saying what kind of bargain the less fortunate ought to be offered. I think that the anarcho-capitalist bargain could be very unfair indeed.

Well, hold up, you're right. Anarcho-capitalism doesn't pretend to be egalitarian (which is what I think you mean by "fair"). It only pretends to be voluntary and non-coercive.

My major problem with what you say here is that you're still anthropomorphizing "society", as in "what kind of bargain the less fortunate ought to be offered". This is a critical mistake because "society", as a whole, does not do anything. It is not centralized and it is not anthropomorphic.

Rather, individuals can be said to offer the less fortunate any number of bargains. And as long as the "less fortunate" are willing to abide by the terms of any such bargain they can please themselves the same as any other man.

Another critical mistake, I think, is the ambiguous use of "the less fortunate". It would be futile to measure a man's fortune from the exterior. I know many people who have consciously chosen to forgo wealth, for instance, for the sake of other pleasures. It is ridiculous to call such a one "less fortunate" for having made such a self-interested decision.

All the same, as the Benson article says, law itself was supposed to be parallel in concept with morality. Law was supposed to be the codification of moral human intercourse. In the interest of morality, we can suppose that regular tithing to the Church for the welfare of the poor would be a just basis for a law.

However it shakes out, regardless, anarcho-capitalism is that system characterized by voluntary human action. As such, I think it is -- must be -- the only system not predicated upon the use of ex parte government force.

I also don't see how the account of the development of law justifies (rather than explaining) the strong concept of property rights which tends to be assumed throughout the rest of anarcho-capitalism.

It doesn't; at least, not directly. It merely demonstrates that the basis of law is not force. Consequently, law which protects property rights does not require force. End of story.

But Hayek didn't have an absolutist (Lockean) theory of property rights, which is another of the reasons why I, a socialist, often think that he had a lot of good things to say. I don't know enough about Mises to say whether he agreed with FH on this one.

He didn't. Anarcho-capitalists appreciate Hayek but do not canonize him. Some say that he "gave away too much" to government. At any rate he is frequently inconsistent with Von Mises. Hayek, himself, spurned the "libertarian" label.

I appreciate the fact that you are more familiar with Hayek than with Von Mises -- and can only say that you have the advantage over me, since I have read relatively little of the former.

Ubu


--
As good old software hats say - "You are in very safe hands, if you are using CVS !!!"
[ Parent ]
Exactly so (3.00 / 1) (#142)
by weirdling on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 02:52:05 PM EST

And very well put.
What I would like to add is that most laws in which force by government is routinely required are 'victimless' laws, in that no one cries fowl when it happens. Drug laws, for instance.
It amuses me that people simply believe that without law we would all begin killing each other for pennies...

I'm not doing this again; last time no one believed it.
[ Parent ]
why not? (none / 0) (#274)
by alprazolam on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 07:10:19 PM EST

It amuses me that people simply believe that without law we would all begin killing each other for pennies

if you're already a property owner, what reason would you have not to? would the libertarian police force support the lawful who squatted on your land or killed you in return? who/what pays for the police force? property taxes?

[ Parent ]

Would you? (none / 0) (#325)
by weirdling on Fri Jun 22, 2001 at 03:58:41 PM EST

I have plenty of chances to steal each and every day and I do not. For fear of the law? I'm intelligent enough to avoid the law; that isn't it. I don't steal because of the described convergence with the law; that's a rule I believe in, so I do not break it. However, I speed constantly and incessantly on the highway, but I digress.
My question is: would you squat on my property? I think that without law, we'd see an increase in crime, but the majority of people wouldn't be comitting it; it'd be those who are deterred by law, rather than in agreement with it, which are a rather small percentage, relatively, to the general populace.
Of course, you might find another component of my philosophy stinging you in the ass if you squatted on my property and there was no law: I own guns, and if you did not vacate my property, I would not hesitate kill you, probably one at a time until you leave. That is another thing I'm in agreement with. And, should there be enough of you to be hard to kill for me, I can roust about a bunch of my friends, all of us would agree, and we'd protect each other's property, and, presto, you have another government. Amazing how that works...

I'm not doing this again; last time no one believed it.
[ Parent ]
more explanation needed (none / 0) (#161)
by speek on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 04:37:49 PM EST

When laws are obeyed, they are effective.

When laws are obeyed, there is no force - regardless of what type of system you have. But what happens when laws are not obeyed? Then you have force. For the outlaw, they survive or not based on the use of force. Defining them to be outside of society is fine and all, but in the real world, they actually do still exist as men and women who do stuff.

The primitive society example is just an example of a small group of people having little trouble determining how to behave with respect to one another. When there is a conflict, do they not go to a third-party to make a judgement? And, is the judgement not "enforced" upon the loser? Or does the loser suddenly and magically agree that he/she was wrong all along?

that is, those who do not agree to the binding nature of law must be excluded from congress with those who have ... At no point is force required

I see a problem here. Don't you?

--
al queda is kicking themsleves for not knowing about the levees
[ Parent ]

response (5.00 / 2) (#164)
by ubu on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 05:16:53 PM EST

When laws are obeyed, there is no force - regardless of what type of system you have. But what happens when laws are not obeyed? Then you have force.

No, that does not necessarily follow. In many cases I will never be required to make good on my credit-card debts. However, my credit rating will almost certainly suffer. The threat of poor credit is a non-forceful system designed to protect lenders from fraud. You cannot assume that the only appropriate response to lawless behavior is force.

For the outlaw, they survive or not based on the use of force.

Not true. In primitive societies, ostracization would have been sufficient deterrent, due to the low likelihood a single man had of surviving on his own. Today, credit ratings are only one of an uncountable array of methods useful for dealing with troublesome behavior.

Defining them to be outside of society is fine and all, but in the real world, they actually do still exist as men and women who do stuff.

The distinction is more than a nominal distinction. You raise a good point, though: if the laws, themselves, do not provide sufficient benefit so as to prevent outlaws from becoming common, then they may be only marginally useful. The more useful and broadly-applicable the law, the more satisfactory it will be to the society and the more obedience it will achieve.

The primitive society example is just an example of a small group of people having little trouble determining how to behave with respect to one another. When there is a conflict, do they not go to a third-party to make a judgement?

Generally, yes. This was discussed in the Benson article under Rules of Judgment.

And, is the judgement not "enforced" upon the loser? Or does the loser suddenly and magically agree that he/she was wrong all along?

If the loser has agreed to the rules he will abide by the rules, whether or not he/she thinks he/she is right. This is the rule of law. There are only two alternatives: rule of government and chaos. If you are not happy with the government's (unilateral) decision, to whom do you apply for redress?

I see a problem here. Don't you?

No. As a farmer I would refuse to sell to you. As a consumer I would refuse to buy from you. As a landowner I would refuse to rent to you. No force required.

Listen, this is getting to be more of an anthropological debate, and as fascinating as that subject seems to me I am very poorly-equipped to address it. I'd prefer to stick to the question of law and government. What if... questions and such force me to think up haphazard examples off the top of my head, and I'm not really interested doing that.

Ubu


--
As good old software hats say - "You are in very safe hands, if you are using CVS !!!"
[ Parent ]
real world problems (4.00 / 1) (#182)
by speek on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 10:01:55 PM EST

No. As a farmer I would refuse to sell to you. As a consumer I would refuse to buy from you. As a landowner I would refuse to rent to you. No force required

Excluding someone would require that all law-abiders refused me. If it's just you, then it's just a personal thing. And, yes, such universal exclusion would constitute force of a most oppressive kind, IMO. That's why exile is an effective deterrent/punishment.

So far, I'd have to characterize your view as being utterly naive - believing that if only the laws we lived under were perfect enough, everyone would agree with them, and no force would be necessary.

Maybe under your system, you're thinking there would no ridiculous anti-drug laws, or prostitution laws. But guess what? People made those laws, because they were convinced they were right! Your system works, in theory, just as well as the theory that if everyone would just stop fighting, we'd have world peace. Amazing how that would work.

No, the hard part isn't imagining things working out better. The hard part is working out such agreements and codes between all the people out there, taking into account current inequalities, and harsh realities. It just doesn't sound like your theories want anything to do with the real world, though.

--
al queda is kicking themsleves for not knowing about the levees
[ Parent ]

who asked for an evolution of laws? (5.00 / 4) (#191)
by eLuddite on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 11:53:27 PM EST

law has a normative basis

Yes, ubu, but I am not criticizing anarchism or a normative basis for law, I am criticizing anarcho-capitalism. I cannot wait to see where this leads...

This eLuddite character claims that "anarcho-capitalism" is an oxymoron. I say t hat this demonstrates either lack of familiarity with the subject or poor critic al thinking. Capitalism, itself -- being the natural organization of free men ac ting voluntarily -- is absolutely opposed to forcible oversight, whether from go vernment or criminals. Capitalism must be anarchistic, and it must be lawful.
It leads to two non sequitur conclusions.

(1) "Capitalism ... being the natural organization of free men acting voluntarily" is *not* a conclusion of your preceding 100 paragraphs for any number of "primitive cultures" that you wish to defend against or accuse of being in violation of natural law.

(2) "Capitalism must be anarchistic, and it must be lawful" is uninteresting because it conveys absolutely no information about *justice*. Justice comprises *fairness* and fairness is not deducible from economic principles of the free market. If it were, you would have done a little more than wait for the last paragraph before arbitrarily imputing its virtues to the free market. If the free market maximizes your profit by allowing you to freely not trade with a minority, which it certainly does for a variety of circumstances, your laws are worthless and an example of injustice despite being "lawful". And, in fact, the anarcho-capitalism is under an ethical obligation to exploit such injustice.

Egalitarianism is simply not in the anarcho-capitalist's legal dictionary. You were honest in your reply to streetlawyer when you wrote "Anarcho-capitalism doesn't pretend to be egalitarian (which is what I think you mean by 'fair'). It only pretends to be voluntary and non-coercive." Unfortunately, fairness and egalitarianism in law arises according to the method of your original words: "In other words, law in such cases is nothing more than a social contract between peers who choose to act according to mutually-beneficial rules." Societial customs recognize positive rights in others, ubu, even if anarcho-capitalists pretend that they do not, because such rights are "mutually beneficial".

Given a level of techology X, a measure of environmental difficulty Y and scarcity of resources Z, a society might, might, might agree that a set of legal customs you call laws is moral justification for each individual to pursue his or her desired ends under an economic framework of capitalism[1]. So what? What actually matters is justice, the fair application of these legal customs. I do not care that a nascent society's original voluntary commitment to private property constitutes "legal" according to the rarified logic of anarcho-capitalism, I care that the exercise of anarcho-capitalism develops into a fair and just society. If anarcho-capitalism proves unfair and unjust, anarcho-capitalism is a useless basis for society. If anarcho-capitalism proves unfair and unjust, the logic of anarcho-capitalism is informed by a set of axioms which are incomplete for their selection of self-serving truisms.

You have to demonstrate justice in anarcho-capitalism, not its basis for private ownership in legal custom. You have done no such thing. I will demonstrate that you can *not* do any such thing. What I mean by that is the following: the overwhelming majority of reasonable people will not give a shit for your terror of force, will have the good sense to recognize coercion in anarcho-capitalism, and will gladly organize themselves into a society which coerces individuals to act according to the greater common good. All this because the anarcho-capitalist dogmatic and overzealous attention to individual freedom through the private ownership of property is a contradiction of justice and therefore civil society.

The anarcho-capitalist favors a society where individuals have an an unrestricted right to acquire property and ownership in the means of production. Property rights, according to the anarcho-capitalist, distinguish rational humans from non-rational beasts by guaranteeing one the ability to plan for the future instead of spending all their days rooting for truffles. Capitalism is not possible without long range planning. Long range planning is impossible without private property rights. Private property distinguishes men from animals.

It is important to emphasize that property rights are essential to the liberty (choice and action) and life of an anarcho-capitalist or, at least, the anarcho-capitalist who is fortunate enough to own property. To deprive an anarcho-capitalist of property is to deprive them the means by which they live and choose to live their life.

It is doubly important to emphasize that liberty informs justice to a greater extent than any other quality and that if private property is the basis for liberty, it must also be the firmament of anarcho-capitalist justice. Yep.

It is triply important to emphasize that all this is but one angel of West European descent dancing on the head of a pin the size of Earth.

Speaking of West European angels, it should be note that capitalism is traditionally understood in the liberal (well, utilitarian) tradition according to how well and how efficiently it promotes the wealth of society. You are given property rights because such rights will inexorably lead you to an exploitation of property for the greater common good. Capitalism is about the wealth of a nation. This is not the anarcho-capitalist approach at all. The anarcho-capitalist invests individual (not social) liberty (not wealth) in property. This is why the anarcho-capitalist is opposed to statist intervention in the operation of markets. Any such intervention is an interruption of personal liberty. That is correct; an intercession on behalf of 269,999,999 million agents of free market capitalism is an unethical interruption of the remaining agent's personal liberty. Get it? Pinch a market, poke an individual. This is not justice, this is a category error.

How does the anarcho-capitalist acquire property?

(1) The uncoerced transfer of just claim from one individual to another. If I transfer my property to you because I will otherwise be unable to pay for my sainted grandmother's operation, that would be an example of uncoerced property acquisition. Any attempt to stave off this transfer on humanitarian grounds would be unjust. There is *no* guaranteed humanitarian relief under anarcho-capitalism, there is only the guarantee that no one, no one, no one can interfere with such a transfer. If anyone does, that would be coercion and coercion does not, not, not inform capitalism. Anarcho-capitalists hold that a completely unregulated capitalist economy is the only form of economic organization that respects individuals' property rights, free association and uncoerced trade. Coercion is never the exploitation of unfortunate circumstances, it is a verbal order at the end of a gun.

(2) The acquisition of unowned things. See some dirt, mix your labor into it and, if no one objects, acquire it for your own. How far does the dirt extend? As far as your agreement with the fellow at the other end of the field should he be so lucky to have stumbled upon it before you managed to piss on all of it as far as the horizon. Build a rocket ship to the moon? It's yours.

Given a community of X resources in Y acres, if all properties have been acquired by the above two just means, then the distribution of property (which includes all forms of wealth) will be just and it does not matter one iota how ownership is distributed throughout the society. It doesnt matter whether everyone has a piece of dirt or if exactly one person has acquired all of it.

It just does not matter. This is the "natural" order of human beings according to anarcho capitalists and, look as you might, you will not find an trace of coercion in this order.

Problems

Under anarcho-capitalism, people compete under capitalism in order to secure their survival.

The winners of the competition will gain control of resources and the means of production, the means by which the society provides for the material needs of its members. Thus private individuals are allowed to compete, in effect, for the power to make decisions that affect the welfare of whole communities. The very wealthy minority, by virtue of the control they have won over the community's resources and means of production, will be in a position to run the society, to make all the important decisions about the character of work and investments. And there is nothing to require that those decisions be made in the interest of the community or even that they must not be harmful in their effects on the community. The wealthy in control of economic resources are free to decide on the basis of their own interests alone. It is amazing, though true, that Libertarians see no significant loss of liberty for anyone in such a form of social organization.

Suppose that you acquired the arable land and therefore food supply of an entire community through free exchange, without coercion, by virtue of being the alpha capitalist in an unrestrained free market. The food belongs to you. It's rotting on your property and no starving lesser anarcho-capitalist can force you to give up even as much as a seed.

This situation is not so far-fetched as may appear. Amartya Sen, a Nobel-Prize winning economist, in researching the causes of famine, discovered that famines (in the modern period) are rarely, if ever, due to natural causes alone. According to William H. Shaw, "Sen and other experts have pointed out that famines are frequently accompanied by no shortfall of food in absolute terms."
According to Shaw, "even more food may be available during a famine than in nonfamine years -- if one has the money to buy it. Famine occurs because large numbers of people lack the financial wherewithal to obtain the necessary food." Shaw:
[G]iven the interconnectedness of nations, fluctuations in commodity prices can seriously hurt people in underdeveloped countries. So reliant are some of these countries on one or another commodity (for example, tobacco, coffee, cocoa, sugar) that a sharp drop in its price can result in mass starvation. Plummeting prices are not always the result of acts of nature, such as floods or droughts; at least sometimes they result from the profit-motivated manipulation of investors and brokers. A case in point was a disastrous famine in the Sahelian region of Africa and the Indian subcontinent in the mid-1970s.

Experts attribute the famine partly to climatic shifts and partly to increased oil prices that raised the price of human necessities, fertilizer, and grains such as wheat. Here is how two agronomists accounted for the human loss: "The recent doubling in international prices of essential foodstuffs [was], of necessity...reflected in high death rates among the world's lowest income groups, who lack the income to increase their food expenditures proportionately, but live on diets near subsistence level to begin with." Philosopher Onora O'Neill views the resulting deaths as "killings." "To the extent that the raising of oil prices is an achievement of Arab diplomacy and oil company management rather than a wind-fall," she writes, "the consequent deaths are killings. [Shaw, Business Ethics, Third Edition (Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 1999), pp. 101-2; see Shaw for the references to the authors he quotes.]

Libertarians would find it immoral and unjust to coerce people to grant food or money to the starving. Nor does justice require that a wealthy merchant assist the hungry children in his community to stay alive. And it would certainly violate the merchant's property rights for the children to help themselves to his excess food. Nevertheless, although justice does not require that one assist those in need, libertarians would generally acknowledge that we have some humanitarian obligations toward others. Accordingly, they would not only permit but also presumably encourage people to voluntarily assist others. Justice does not require the merchant to donate, and it forbids us from forcing him to do so, but charity on his part would be a good thing. This reflects the libertarian's firm commitment to property rights. What you have legitimately acquired [in the Libertarian's sense] is yours to do with as you will.

Simply put, the anarcho-capitalist justice is impoverished for its inability to recognize the interconnectedness of people engaged in social activity. It simply doesnt matter that capitalism has a legal basis. It matters even less that utterly unrestrained capitalism requires an absence of statist authority (duh). What matters is (1) no one wants it; (2) everyone recognizes economic coercion when they see it.

Regarding your thread with Simon:

When someone is coerced because their economic situation precludes a choice of action, you do not call this force. How is an abuse of economic privilege not an act of arbitrary authority?

When someone is forced to disrupt the moral fabric of anarcho-capitalism by violating property rights, you call their suppression 'jurisprudence'. When 1000 people are forced to disrupt the moral fabric of anarcho-capitalism by violating the property rights of one individual who does not want to sell his land to grow needed wheat, you call their suppression 'jurisprudence'.

You can call it what you want but what it actually isnt is (1) an example of a jurisprudence evolving according to the demands society makes of it; (2) justice.

Is it any wonder that libertarians are so fervently against the inception of force? Could it be nothing more than an expression of their fervent desire to protect themselves from their underlings? No, there are no underlings in anarcho-capitalism.

Yeah, right.

[1] Apart from my criticism in the text, even if capitalism were "natural", why should I care? It seems to me that the function of society is to move away from the perils of "natural" behavior and that the evolution of society is affirmation and recognition for the positive rights in others, something no strain of libertarianism will stomach. That is a terrible failure for the system of ethics ("justice") undergirding anarcho-capitalism.

---
God hates human rights.
[ Parent ]

Corrected URL (none / 0) (#384)
by Scribe on Tue Jun 26, 2001 at 03:44:25 PM EST

Seems the entire text of Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations is online in a single file.

This eLuddite fellow, while he talks a good talk, apparently can't be troubled to check links. He had "http://www.triton.cc.il.us/undergrad_ctr/files/wealth_n.ht ml". He also didn't get the title quite right.




--
Someday I may have a .sig :)
[ Parent ]
I hope I get the title right this time :-) (none / 0) (#387)
by eLuddite on Tue Jun 26, 2001 at 06:49:32 PM EST

A Wealth of Apologies and a promise to double check my links and in the future.

---
God hates human rights.
[ Parent ]

Self serving drivel (3.33 / 3) (#73)
by Simon Kinahan on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 09:00:38 AM EST

How come you never dealt with Fukuyama's contention that alternative systems are based on force?

Because it requires a concept of "force" that is not self evident, and does not correspond to the normal usage of the word. That concept regards taking someone else's water because you're dying of thirst as "force", but not shooting someone who tries to borrow your hanky without permission.

Its not possibly to refute this idea logically because its axiomatic to a libertarian position. Either you believe "initiating force" in this sense is the only thing that is wrong, or you believe the concept is incoherent.

Simon

If you disagree, post, don't moderate
[ Parent ]

*sniff* (2.66 / 3) (#75)
by ubu on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 09:25:58 AM EST

That concept regards taking someone else's water because you're dying of thirst as "force", but not shooting someone who tries to borrow your hanky without permission.

They might both be regarded as force, for all the libertarian cares. But only the first example has anything to do with an economic system based on force. The second example, that of "force" used in defense of property rights would be a matter of jurisprudence.

Either you believe "initiating force" in this sense is the only thing that is wrong, or you believe the concept is incoherent.

...and then you woke up, and grew up. Because one the day the world got too complex to be wished away by pseudo-logic. It may surprise the hell out of you, but I have more than just two options on the question of "force".

If you prefer, we can choose a more "coherent" description for "force" in this case: theft. What "self serving drivel" will you concoct to justify theft?

Ubu


--
As good old software hats say - "You are in very safe hands, if you are using CVS !!!"
[ Parent ]
Pseudo-logic ? Whose ? (4.50 / 4) (#89)
by Simon Kinahan on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 11:42:35 AM EST

They might both be regarded as force, for all the libertarian cares. But only the first example has anything to do with an economic system based on force. The second example, that of "force" used in defense of property rights would be a matter of jurisprudence.

Sigh. My point was that calling ordinary theft (as opposed to robbery) force is not in keeping with the normal use of the word. Its a bit of libertarian new-speak designed to make the world sound simpler than it really is. If I walk through an open gate onto your property and drink from your river, I have not used force, in the normal sense of the word. We can fight it out with dictionaries at 20 paces if you like, or you can just accept the point.

As to your contention that the use of force to defend property is not part of the economic system, I have to wonder at such a brazen attempt to push an important point out of the bounds of the conversation. Capitalism does not function without defensible property rights. Defending property rights involves the use of force, and thus that force is essential to capitalism. Or do you believe that by drawing an imaginary line between "jurisprudence" and "the economic system" you can make this truism false ?

Because one the day the world got too complex to be wished away by pseudo-logic.

I wasn't trying to wish the world away. Nor was I using any pseudo-logic. I was pointing out that if you want all "bad stuff" from a libertarian perspective to be called "force" you have to use the word in bizzare and nonintuitive way. The alternative to accepting that idea of "force" is conclude that the idea does not represent anything worth talking about. ie. that it is incoherent.

One can believe this idea of "force" makes no sense, and still accept some or all libertarian ideas. The last chapter of "The Machinery of Freedom", which is online somewhere, goes into some detail on this point. David Friedman calls the non-initiation of force principle much nastier names than merely self serving drivel.

If you prefer, we can choose a more "coherent" description for "force" in this case: theft.

Ah. I see that having exhausted the potential to one bad-word, we're going to move onto another. Murder is not theft. Fraud is not always theft. Criminal damage is not theft. I assume you believe these things are "force" and still should be prevented ?

Libertarian ideas are much more complex, much more controversial, and actually much better than these soundbite attempts at explanation make them sound. Attempts to redefine bits of the English language to try to make your ideas sound self-evident are a poor propagandistic substitute for actual argument in favour if them.

Simon

If you disagree, post, don't moderate
[ Parent ]

reply (3.66 / 3) (#93)
by ubu on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 12:02:37 PM EST

If I walk through an open gate onto your property and drink from your river, I have not used force, in the normal sense of the word. We can fight it out with dictionaries at 20 paces if you like, or you can just accept the point.

I may as well accept it, strawman that it is. Nowhere did I equate "theft", "robbery", and "force", nor any combination of two of the three. What I said was a nod to Fukuyama's claim that all systems except anarcho-capitalism are rooted in the use of force.

Though it may be easy to imagine a theft or robbery that does not require force (and it undoubtedly is so) this does not negate the fact that all non-capitalistic systems are based on the effective practice of confiscatory policy. Being policy, there is no "robber sneaking in at night"; it is done in broad daylight, and as such it could not be done without the threat of ex parte government force.

Would that the blindingly obvious weren't such a laughing matter to you. Feel free to mince words all you like; the plain meaning of the words bears out everything I have claimed. At no point have I ever claimed the right to shoot a man for "stealing my hanky without my permission". That was your strawman, not mine.

I was pointing out that if you want all "bad stuff" from a libertarian perspective to be called "force" you have to use the word in bizzare and nonintuitive way. The alternative to accepting that idea of "force" is conclude that the idea does not represent anything worth talking about. ie. that it is incoherent.

Only if you assume that I am protecting the use of force in specially-defined ways. I am not, nor have I done so. I'm afraid you have blatantly jumped the gun, so to speak, in making your counter-argument.

One can believe this idea of "force" makes no sense, and still accept some or all libertarian ideas. The last chapter of "The Machinery of Freedom", which is online somewhere, goes into some detail on this point. David Friedman calls the non-initiation of force principle much nastier names than merely self serving drivel.

Spare me your oral diarrhea, did you want to argue my point, or did you want to knock down strawmen in the name of attacking "some or all libertarian ideas"? I don't remember hanging out a plaque saying, "General Purpose Libertarian Sect Defense". Maybe you've got the wrong fuckin' party.

Ah. I see that having exhausted the potential to one bad-word, we're going to move onto another. Murder is not theft. Fraud is not always theft. Criminal damage is not theft. I assume you believe these things are "force" and still should be prevented ?

No! Are you retarded? "...'force' in this case: theft". "in this case" means "in this case". It doesn't mean "conflate for all general purposes and assume I mean whatever you'd like me to mean for your idiotic strawman".

Libertarian ideas are much more complex, much more controversial, and actually much better than these soundbite attempts at explanation make them sound. Attempts to redefine bits of the English language to try to make your ideas sound self-evident are a poor propagandistic substitute for actual argument in favour if them.

Gaaaaaahhhhh. Fuck it. You don't even know you're trolling.

Ubu


--
As good old software hats say - "You are in very safe hands, if you are using CVS !!!"
[ Parent ]
Not a reply (3.00 / 1) (#157)
by Simon Kinahan on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 04:13:41 PM EST

Because you haven't answered a single substantive point I made.

Nowhere did I equate "theft", "robbery", and "force", nor any combination of two of the three.

Indeed not. Nor did I accuse you of it, except at the end of your last post, where I may have misunderstood you. I accused you - and Francis Fukuyama - of either using the word force in a bizarre and nonintutive way, or being just plain wrong. A point you've so far failed to answer except by trying to avoid it. Oh, and by insulting me. Thanks for that, by the way.

all non-capitalistic systems are based on the effective practice of confiscatory policy

Ah. I see now we're trying to change the subject. Force now becomes "confiscatory policy". Well, that statement is true if you accept that all property is justly acquired and that there is an inviolable right to property. However, its also completely uninteresting and irrelevant, since as it happens neither assumption is justified by anything I've ever seen, and "force" is not the same as "confiscatory policy".

At no point have I ever claimed the right to shoot a man for "stealing my hanky without my permission". That was your strawman, not mine.

But you did accept it as a "force" used in defence of property rights", which indicates you knew damned well what I was talking about, even thouugh I was obviously exaggerating: that force is required to defend property, and this is fundamental to capitalism.

Only if you assume that I am protecting the use of force in specially-defined ways. I am not, nor have I done so.

Yes you are. Well, either that or your claim in simply wrong. You can't get away from the consequences fo your position by claiming not to recognise them. You cited, and defended, Francis Fukuyama's contention that alternative systems are based on force I pointed out to you, and I'm going to do it again, that this is only true if you chose not to recognise the simple fact that force is necessary to defend property rights.

If you wish to continue to defend Fukuyama's contention as true, you are arguing that "force" somehow does not include force used to defend property, which takes us back to what you deny doing: misusing the word "force" as libertarians are wont to do.

If you don't wish to accept this random reinvention of the English language to suit your politics, and I commend you for that, you've got to accept that Fukuyama, and you, are just plain wrong. Capitalism is based on force, because it is necessary to defend property.

did you want to argue my point, or did you want to knock down strawmen in the name of attacking "some or all libertarian ideas"?

Well, I wanted to argue your point, and have done so, three times now. See my previous three paragraphs in this comment to the latest recap. I've had to spend a remarkable amount of time ignoring insults and correcting misunderstandings to do it, however. I have yet to attack your politics in any way shape or form. Indeed, I reckon if you knew mine you'd be surprised.

Simon

If you disagree, post, don't moderate
[ Parent ]

response (4.00 / 1) (#163)
by ubu on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 04:57:21 PM EST

Indeed not. Nor did I accuse you of it, except at the end of your last post, where I may have misunderstood you. I accused you - and Francis Fukuyama - of either using the word force in a bizarre and nonintutive way, or being just plain wrong. A point you've so far failed to answer except by trying to avoid it. Oh, and by insulting me. Thanks for that, by the way.

As far as I can tell, a response to every interesting thing you have said in this thread can be found in my remarks to streetlawyer.

Ah. I see now we're trying to change the subject. Force now becomes "confiscatory policy".

Bullshit! I'd give you the benefit of the doubt but you keep abusing it. Your quote clipped the sentence that completed the argument:

Being policy, there is no "robber sneaking in at night"; it is done in broad daylight, and as such it could not be done without the threat of ex parte government force.
If you want to argue that property can be confiscated out in the open, requiring the collusion of the banking system and of tax-filers who are required to "volunteer" private and confidential information under penalty of perjury, then you are mostly certainly welcome to do so.

But you did accept it as a "force" used in defence of property rights", which indicates you knew damned well what I was talking about, even thouugh I was obviously exaggerating: that force is required to defend property, and this is fundamental to capitalism.

And as I said, as for forceful defense of property, that is a matter of jurisprudence. I do not concede that force is a necessary "basis" for capitalism. I have submitted the gist of this argument in this very thread; if you want to argue the point, feel free to quote from it here... or to post into the sub-thread. I am not interested in re-submitting the same argument either to you or to eLuddite.

Elsewhere on the Web site in response to a recent article I have expressed severe reservations with regard to the police's compelling interest in the forceful defense of private property. I extend those same reservations to owners of private property. I do not say, and never have said, that property rights were tantamount to a license to shoot the hell out of everything that might conceivably constitute a threat to property.

Yes you are. Well, either that or your claim in simply wrong. You can't get away from the consequences fo your position by claiming not to recognise them. You cited, and defended, Francis Fukuyama's contention that alternative systems are based on force I pointed out to you, and I'm going to do it again, that this is only true if you chose not to recognise the simple fact that force is necessary to defend property rights.

You can try to alter my argument until you're blue in the face. It doesn't change the fact that I never made the critical point upon which your entire strawman hangs. Sorry I couldn't be more obliging to you and your counter-argument.

If you wish to continue to defend Fukuyama's contention as true, you are arguing that "force" somehow does not include force used to defend property, which takes us back to what you deny doing: misusing the word "force" as libertarians are wont to do.

You might as well argue that "gravity is the basis of solar power generation" because gravity might, conceivably, be useful at some point in time for keeping a solar power generator anchored to the earth's surface. I can think of a thousand ways to protect my property without using force, and indeed, have never used force in the defense of property.

I've had to spend a remarkable amount of time ignoring insults and correcting misunderstandings to do it, however.

Stop the bitching. If you want to argue the point you'll have to accept the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune with it. I'm not above being called a cunt, so feel free to reciprocate however suits you.

Indeed, I reckon if you knew mine you'd be surprised.

Why should I be? Have I paid you enough attention to form an opinion?

Ubu


--
As good old software hats say - "You are in very safe hands, if you are using CVS !!!"
[ Parent ]
Finale (none / 0) (#165)
by Simon Kinahan on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 05:22:41 PM EST

As far as I can tell, a response to every interesting thing you have said in this thread can be found in my remarks to streetlawyer

Indeed. I just noticed that. If I find the time to assess what you say there I may post a response.

Simon

If you disagree, post, don't moderate
[ Parent ]

your own fault (2.00 / 1) (#158)
by speek on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 04:14:36 PM EST

You have clearly muddied the waters by starting with a broad word, "force", and ended up actually speaking about a specific act, "theft". It is up to you to make things clear, but you haven't. Your last post simply complained that everything was a strawman, but nowhere did you even attempt to fill the resulting void with the "real" man, so, things remain unclear. Clear?

--
al queda is kicking themsleves for not knowing about the levees
[ Parent ]

response (none / 0) (#160)
by ubu on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 04:33:20 PM EST

For the sake of avoiding redundancy, clarity on this particular point can be found in my responses to streetlawyer's postings in this thread.

If you have any questions on the matter after that reading you are welcome to post them to the thread.

Ubu


--
As good old software hats say - "You are in very safe hands, if you are using CVS !!!"
[ Parent ]
I noticed after posting this(nt) (1.00 / 1) (#162)
by speek on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 04:48:42 PM EST


--
al queda is kicking themsleves for not knowing about the levees
[ Parent ]

Force - It's everywhere. (none / 0) (#389)
by wnight on Wed Jun 27, 2001 at 12:01:24 AM EST

Libertarian "free markets" rely completely on force. Tell me, that land-owner, how did they get the land? They, or their (grand-)parents built a fence around it. But they'll be willing to retaliate against an "initiation of force", such as if you try to grow food on that land. Why shouldn't you have the right to grow food on that land? It's not like they created that land out of primordial chaos, they simply got there first, threw up a huge fence, and told everyone to keep out. This might be valid if we were discussing a tool that they built, or something else that they created. But, if force wasn't an issue, why would you recognize their right to toss up a fence and keep you out? That sort of economy is based on force. Property holders let people work the land, for a percentage, and produce no real value of their own. The workers are kept in control because of monopolies. If you require land to grow your food, you've got to follow the rule of the guy with the land. Not everything directly involves deadly force, but behind all coercion, there is the threat of deadly force. Otherwise, why wouldn't someone merely take what they felt was rightfully theirs?

[ Parent ]
I'm betting on the market (3.75 / 4) (#9)
by khallow on Tue Jun 19, 2001 at 11:04:03 PM EST

There's a couple of reasons that a market would survive even into an era of truly intelligent beings (AI's, "elevated" humans, whatever). Namely, if you just have a small number of intelligences then a central economic entity can work. However, if you have a lot of these beings, particularly over a large region of interstellar space, then you have a situation like now where a market can thrive and a planned central economy cannot. In fact, I see most of today's markets surviving in some form in this future time.

Frankly, the market has the benefit that it can run pretty well without the need for a super-intelligent being to do everything. Frankly, having such a being managing the entire economy is pretty wasteful. Even if there was no higher cause than an economically productive society, it just isn't worth the while of a super-being to micromanage things when instead it could be creating new markets which are much more useful(from the point of view of society).

I'm not convinced that the heavy concentration of wealth in the US is such a bad thing. I don't see why effective businessmen and investors should be paid the same amount as someone who works at a grocerer. The point is that the former does a lot more for society than the latter does. Frankly, the developed world is sufficiently advanced and well off that no one need starve or go without lack of housing. Inequity of wealth doesn't mean much with class mobility (which most of the developed world has to a degree).



a few fallacies (4.50 / 2) (#36)
by streetlawyer on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 03:47:15 AM EST

Frankly, the market has the benefit that it can run pretty well without the need for a super-intelligent being to do everything. Frankly, having such a being managing the entire economy is pretty wasteful

Frankly, you're wrong. My exhibit: whenever efficiency and waste *really matter* (in conditions of emergency or war), all nation states, including the USA, revert to a planned economy. It's called a "war footing". Market economies are very good at innovation, but not so good at optimisation. These are two different problems. At the moment, innovation gets you far more than optimisation. This is a contingent economic fact which may not hold in the future.

. I don't see why effective businessmen and investors should be paid the same amount as someone who works at a grocerer. The point is that the former does a lot more for society than the latter does

"Investors"? Investors, qua investors, don't do anything for society. It is possible for a man to be an investor while he is in a persistent, vegetative coma. How is that "doing anything"? All that investors do is refrain from using their legal rights over some part of the economy to prevent others from doing something. That's not something we should thank them for.

--
Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
[ Parent ]

Innovation in planned economy (4.66 / 3) (#59)
by Anya on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 07:15:43 AM EST

Isn't it pretty good too? It is a well known fact (perhaps untrue) that states on a war footing innovate like crazy. The most notable innovations of this century can be said to be produced by countries on a war footing - the Nuclear bomb, the first computer in Britain, Antibiotics, and so on. It seems to me that nations on a war footing aren't just more efficient, but more innovative too.

But perhaps it falls apart in peace time because people aren't as motivated as they are during war time - the threat of nazi occupation encourages everyone to work together, in an altruistic fashion, for the common good. When this overriding threat is removed, then things seem to fall apart again, as petty, venal emotions and selfish ideas take over.

Stars, stars! And all eyes else dead coals.
[ Parent ]

Yes and no (3.00 / 1) (#139)
by weirdling on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 02:40:03 PM EST

The theory for the atom bomb was in place long before WWII. Nobody really needed an atom bomb before then. A lot of money was spent building it, but it was already known that it could be done. Ditto the computer. In the US on ENIAC, anyway, John Mauchly was trying to analyse weather and couldn't find funding for an idea that was fully-fleshed-out. The war started, the US needed trajectory calculations, and so Presper Eckert and John Mauchly got the money to do what they knew they could do.
War footing only intensifies applied research. Plastic was not developed in war; it was developed in some guy's garage. Ditto the personal computer, which the government would have never developed. True breakthroughs never happen in war; only implementation of known capabilities or new applications of available technology.

I'm not doing this again; last time no one believed it.
[ Parent ]
Investors (3.00 / 3) (#85)
by golek on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 10:56:31 AM EST

It is possible for a man to be an investor while he is in a persistent, vegetative coma. How is that "doing anything"? All that investors do is refrain from using their legal rights over some part of the economy to prevent others from doing something.

Invested wealth does not disappear from the economy, on the contrary, investing is putting your money to work for the economy. When an individual invests he/she allows another entity to use their wealth in the hope that the invested wealth will produce more wealth. If one invests in stock for instance, the company issuing the stock gets to use the investor's wealth to grow the business and thereby increase growth in the overall economy. Even if one keeps their wealth in a savings account, it still gets back into the economy. What do you think that the bank does with the money in your Grandma's CD or savings account? They are lending it to people to start a business, build a house, or buy a car; activity which creates jobs and fosters economic growth.

Investors are not keeping money out of the economy, they are putting it back in. They are not stuffing all their cash in the matress to prevent others for using it: that would not be an investment.

[ Parent ]

huh? (3.00 / 2) (#106)
by streetlawyer on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 01:07:05 PM EST

You appear to have repeated my point; that the activity of "investing" is simply to refrain from using your property right over some part of the economy to prevent someone else from producing, and treated it as if it were a new point you had made, against me. It is neither.

--
Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
[ Parent ]
Not true (3.00 / 1) (#134)
by golek on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 02:23:27 PM EST

Investors, qua investors, don't do anything for society. It is possible for a man to be an investor while he is in a persistent, vegetative coma. How is that "doing anything"? All that investors do is refrain from using their legal rights over some part of the economy to prevent others from doing something. That's not something we should thank them for.

Your larger point was to opine that investors do nothing to help society. My post directly contradicts this misconception. I fail to see how you can honestly suggest that I repeated your point. That is simply not the case.

You attempt to refute my post by focusing on one detail and ignoring my larger point. To suggest that investors simply refrain from preventing economic activity is a distorted way of looking at investing and seems to belittle the positive effect that investors have on the economy. Investing means going out and taking a risk, not sitting back and refraining from doing anything with one's wealth.

[ Parent ]

accusation of dishonesty? (3.00 / 1) (#205)
by streetlawyer on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 03:54:07 AM EST

Let's see:

You:

"When an individual invests he/she allows another entity to use their wealth in the hope that the invested wealth will produce more "wealth
Me:
"All that investors do is refrain from using their legal rights over some part of the economy to prevent others from doing something"
Unless we are working on radically different versions of the English language, "allow" and "refrain from preventing" are synonyms, and so are these two sentences.

I'll thank you not to make windy statements about "my larger point", and then to try to argue about those while conceding my actual point, and then to accuse me of dishonesty while doing so! If you've misunderstood someone's argument, the polite thing to do is to say so, not to put words in their mouth and repeat their own point back at them. You attempt to refute my post by focusing on one detail and ignoring my larger point.

You utter, utter prick. If you have "larger points" to make, then fuck off and make them in a comment of your own, not a reply to one of my comments which pupports to be a refutation. If you choose to ignore this advice, then don't be surprised if I choose not to engage with the arguments of people who intentionally distort my words, and don't get on your fucking high horse about it.

--
Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
[ Parent ]

No (3.00 / 1) (#138)
by weirdling on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 02:36:43 PM EST

Investors do not merely let others do as they would if the investor did not exist. Investors take risk, face real loss, and evaluate those risks and losses to decide which ideas are good and which are not. If I want to invest in edible beanie-babies, that's my business, but if nobody wants them, I lose money. If a lot of people want them, I could get filthy, stinking rich. Investors take that chance and that is why they get the rewards.

I'm not doing this again; last time no one believed it.
[ Parent ]
double no (3.00 / 1) (#198)
by streetlawyer on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 01:57:18 AM EST

Investors take risk, face real loss, and evaluate those risks and losses to decide which ideas are good and which are not.

The first two are by the by; they are not activities and could be carried out by a man in a coma. The third is not a necessary characteristic of an investor.

--
Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
[ Parent ]

Try Marketocracy (3.00 / 1) (#230)
by weirdling on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 12:52:29 PM EST

Go on www.marketocracy.com and try to beat the market. It's not an easy thing. Any person who invests has checked the potential gain/loss and made his decision; it doesn't matter what the investment is. A CD in a bank is a very secure investment, but it is also low-return. Wildcatting on mining is a high-return investment, but also high-risk. If you can't be bothered to check up on your investments continually, you can add your investment to a mutual fund that does, but you still made the decision based on the risk/return of that particular mutual fund. Many investors make their living in the extremely high-risk market of shorts, where they bet that a company will lose money. There's huge profits to be made shorting stocks, but you can actually lose more than you're worth doing it, so the risk is much larger than any other investment.
Essentially, investments pay according to risk, so the more successful investors tend to higher risk where they can make more money. Commodity markets are driven by speculation; I believe that demand for grain will increase six months from now, but is low now, so I buy a grain future that essentially represents production in six months at little over the price now. If the price of grain goes up, I just pre-paid some farmer to grow more grain, softening the price rise and making a profit for being so wise. If, however, I was wrong, I now own a lot of worthless grain. Investors decide how much production will be done. They decide whether the return on futures is enough to warrant planting now.
For isntance, the fact that electric utilities can't buy futures is one reason for the California power problem. They are forced to day-trade for the power, which means they can only buy power that hasn't already been bought on the futures market, but, much more significantly, nobody is going to put in a new generation plant without some futures in hand. So, if they could buy futures, some entrepreneur might step out, sell a few megawatts of futures, and use the money to build a new plant, from which he would return the power, while selling more to make an operating profit.
Most people who bash people who invest simply do not understand economics. That money can't be liquidated and sent to the poor, as that would mean the very capital that is currently paying the poor would evaporate and we wouldn't have jobs anymore. Also, it would essentially mean that your average poor got a chunk of factory or power plant, as that money isn't really money, but the assessed value of that plant. For instance, a share of GM stock doesn't actually represent $63.95 (current quote from MotleyFool) in cash. It represents that the total capitalization of the company divided by all outstanding stock results in a valuation of $63.95, and, if you don't own a lot of stock, you can sell your stock at that price, thus liquidating it into actual cash, but, until you do, that stock represents all kinds of capital investments, from bits and pieces of machinerey to the IT equipment that management uses. Until it is sold, it also represents part of some car on the assembly line. It's not cash or cash-equivalent. It's a security.
Now, those investors you revile just paid for the massive infrastructure expansion on the internet. They paid for the dotcom boom and also took the dotbomb loss. However, without them, there would have been no money to make the internet what it is.
There has never been a system more efficient at spreading capital to those who need it than the current market economy. I think that what people fail to realise when they read these 'poor getting poorer' trends is that nobody builds wealth anymore. Everyone depends on social security, which isn't actually wealth, but entitlement, so doesn't count. People used to have savings bonds or CDs in the bank; few people do anymore. That the poor aren't investing in so much wealth seems to me to be the main cause of the schism, not that the rich are suddenly on a tear in a bearish market...

I'm not doing this again; last time no one believed it.
[ Parent ]
heh (2.00 / 1) (#107)
by ubu on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 01:07:12 PM EST

It's called a "war footing".

I'd agree that war footing makes for a great excuse to invoke emergency powers, but it makes for miserable results. The Great Flood of 1927 is an illustrative example.

Investors, qua investors, don't do anything for society.

Ayn? Ayn, 'zat you?

It is possible for a man to be an investor while he is in a persistent, vegetative coma.

Insofar as his money remains invested, he is an investor. But he no longer practices investment activity in any form. I imagine Socrates would tear you up for such a laughable distortion of logic.

It is possible for a man to be an artist while he is in a persistent, vegetative coma, no? But not really, for the artist remains an artist only insofar as he continues to practice his art.

All that investors do is refrain from using their legal rights over some part of the economy to prevent others from doing something. That's not something we should thank them for.

That's just wacky. Man, are you stretching it to be disingenuous. By that stretch we might say that an airplane is declining to remain fixed in position relative to the orbit of the earth's surface...

Ubu


--
As good old software hats say - "You are in very safe hands, if you are using CVS !!!"
[ Parent ]
investment is not an activity (4.00 / 1) (#200)
by streetlawyer on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 02:05:27 AM EST

But he no longer practices investment activity in any form.

He no longer practices investment management; but management is not investment. The only defining characteristic of the investor is ownership, and ownership is a state, not an activity. Separating the rewards of ownership from the rewards of management was Ricardo's insight, picked up by Marx but ignored by everyone else.

I don't see what problem you have with my definition of investment. It's just a different way of saying that investors allow their property to be used by others for purposes of production. No moral consequences necessarily flow from that; it's simply to make the more or less undeniable economic point that investment is not the same as production. Which is something even von Mises would be able to accept.

--
Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
[ Parent ]

sorry (3.00 / 1) (#225)
by ubu on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 11:44:21 AM EST

The only defining characteristic of the investor is ownership, and ownership is a state, not an activity.

That's just wrong. Ownership does not occur without activity. The activity that motivates the ownership is also half of the activity that characterizes investment (speculation). The extent to which a man practices investment, he is an investor. If he practices no investment he invests nothing.

You seem to have ignored the fact that purchases are not sufficient for speculative investment. Capital gains and losses are the necessary complement to investment behavior. A comatose owner can realize no profit or gain from ownership because he cannot sell his possessions.

Ubu


--
As good old software hats say - "You are in very safe hands, if you are using CVS !!!"
[ Parent ]
Factually wrong (4.00 / 1) (#141)
by weirdling on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 02:42:28 PM EST

The US on a war footing had a 'suggested economy', not a planned economy. It was entirely voluntary and the entire US pretty much volunteered.
That being said, all developments on a war footing are applied research, not new breakthroughs. The computer was a theoretical possibility before the war; ditto the atom bomb. Engineering refinements were made due to the enormous sums of money spent, but no new breakthroughs materialised. However, the average quality of life went way down, which is something you'd have to explain to the populace if you didn't have a war.

I'm not doing this again; last time no one believed it.
[ Parent ]
Re: a few fallacies (4.00 / 1) (#154)
by khallow on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 04:02:31 PM EST

Frankly, you're wrong. My exhibit: whenever efficiency and waste *really matter* (in conditions of emergency or war), all nation states, including the USA, revert to a planned economy. It's called a "war footing". Market economies are very good at innovation, but not so good at optimisation. These are two different problems. At the moment, innovation gets you far more than optimisation. This is a contingent economic fact which may not hold in the future.

This isn't a good argument in your favor. Wars are a particularly wasteful phase of civilization. In order to sustain a war footing, one needs to control the economy and the populace. OTOH, if the future holds nothing but war, then the planned economy is the way to go. However, in sane situations, the market has clearly out-performed a planned economy.

"Investors"? Investors, qua investors, don't do anything for society. It is possible for a man to be an investor while he is in a persistent, vegetative coma. How is that "doing anything"? All that investors do is refrain from using their legal rights over some part of the economy to prevent others from doing something. That's not something we should thank them for.

Excuse me for trolling, but are you saying that a grocerer (presumably not an investor) in a persistent, vegetative coma is doing more for society than an investor in a similar state? I'm not clear (even after reading your replies) how "refraining from using their legal rights" prevents "others from doing something". What legal rights are investors ignoring and how are they blocking other people? Thank you.

[ Parent ]

no (4.00 / 1) (#201)
by streetlawyer on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 02:09:05 AM EST

Excuse me for trolling, but are you saying that a grocerer (presumably not an investor) in a persistent, vegetative coma is doing more for society than an investor in a similar state?

Of course not; I'm just pointing out that it is possible to be an investor while you are in a coma; it is not possible to be a producer while you are in a coma, in the transititive use of the verb "to be" in both cases.

I'm not clear (even after reading your replies) how "refraining from using their legal rights" prevents "others from doing something". What legal rights are investors ignoring and how are they blocking other people? Thank you.

If you own some property (say, a backhoe), nobody else has a right to use it. Equivalently, you have the right to prevent anybody else from using it. If you decide to waive that right and allow someone else to use your asset for production, in return for a fee, then that's called "investment".

--
Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
[ Parent ]

Re: no (4.00 / 1) (#224)
by khallow on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 11:25:15 AM EST

If you own some property (say, a backhoe), nobody else has a right to use it. Equivalently, you have the right to prevent anybody else from using it. If you decide to waive that right and allow someone else to use your asset for production, in return for a fee, then that's called "investment".

Ok, this is clear now. IMHO, all investments require some degree of effort and risk. In the case of the backhoe, nobody is going to pay to use my backhoe if it doesn't work or if it isn't needed. OTOH, if I own all the backhoes then I can deny arbitrarily to allow certain parties to use my backhoes. So in this respect, it is a problem.

But I must agree with previous commenters in that investors assume the maintenance and risk of the investment which is a benefit for society. The way our society has decided to encourage this behavior is through ownership. To all appearances this has worked much better than the planned economy in the last century.

[ Parent ]

Don't let caring about a subject blind you (3.66 / 3) (#12)
by Xeriar on Tue Jun 19, 2001 at 11:24:33 PM EST

Blindness keeps you from seeing other alternitives (here I go being captain Obvious again). As other posters have eluded to, the human brain is a rather complex bit of work. It may take twenty years to build a machine with the power of our brains (and my own guestimate would say that all the computers in the world could process four times the information the human brain could - if they were perfectly networked).

It will take us a long time to figure out exactly how to construct that computer into something that will work as a brain. This kind of thinking, though, can lead to a few more things - we are, at the same time, understanding ourselves a lot more. On a pretty scary level at that... such that we may end up with people genetically engineering themselves to be Superior...

That's only something in our field of view, though. The problem of society, as you put it, is of corruption. I think a network of communities like this one may actually be the answer, myself. The chances of something like that getting properly implemented, though... :-(

----
When I'm feeling blue, I start breathing again.

what? (none / 0) (#18)
by delmoi on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 12:39:44 AM EST

my own guest mate would say that all the computers in the world could process four times the information the human brain could - if they were perfectly networked

Geez, emphasis on the 'guess' part. The human brain isn't some kind of god machine. If a computer could simulate the human mind in 20 years time based on Moores law then that means current computers are 1/2^((20*12)/18)) as powerful as human minds. Granted, that's only about one ten-thousandth, but there are a hell of a lot more then forty thousand computers on earth.

Counting every Turing machine, there are probably many more computers on earth then there are people. I think someone once said that there were over a billion integrated circuits in Tokyo. And they said it in 1970
--
"'argumentation' is not a word, idiot." -- thelizman
[ Parent ]
Sorry if I made it sound reasonable... (none / 0) (#27)
by Xeriar on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 02:41:11 AM EST

A cell can fire at about 300 times a second, communicaing a basic signal to up to 100,000 other cells. This puts a basic limit as to what IC's are qualified for this work, and this is iof course assuming that our neural nets are all there is to it (being the basic structure). So you would want a set of computers that would properly organize fifty petabytes of data, and make sure that the entire thing can respond in a third of a second.

So, I made a rather simplistic conversion. :-)

----
When I'm feeling blue, I start breathing again.
[ Parent ]

upto 100,000? (none / 0) (#277)
by delmoi on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 07:33:49 PM EST

I've never heard that number before. Most nurons are connected to about 8 - 50 other nurons. Not 100,000
--
"'argumentation' is not a word, idiot." -- thelizman
[ Parent ]
I don't agree (4.05 / 17) (#13)
by John Milton on Tue Jun 19, 2001 at 11:28:56 PM EST

I don't think communism will ever work for human society. Communism wants everyone to get an equal share. That's just not human nature. No matter what level you put people on, they'll want to be a little bit higher than their neighbors. They'll struggle for that higher position. If you redistribute wealth, they'll realize that their struggle gets them nowhere.

Humans think of themselves first and society second. Life is a struggle. Free market capitalism is successful, because it mimics that. If my work is redistributed, I will cease to work as hard. I'm not going to get anything extra for it. Communism only works in small groups where the rewards of communal action are easily seen.

I do believe that the reduction in cost of manufacturing and developments in technology will eventually lead us to a form of free market socialism. That's all we really need anyways. Once you have food, medical attention, and basic comforts, you can work for anything else you deserve.

+1 FP


"When we consider that woman are treated as property, it is degrading to women that we should Treat our children as property to be disposed of as we see fit." -Elizabeth Cady Stanton


True, but depends how you define 'better' (4.75 / 8) (#14)
by Anya on Tue Jun 19, 2001 at 11:42:12 PM EST

People do want to be better than their neighbours, this is true. At the moment this seems to be defined by material wealth (not all of it, and not for all people, but it does seem to be #1 aspiration for most people sometimes, because when you have wealth, everything else follows, or so it is thought). But what happens when material wealth for everyone is at an absurd level? If the destination of technology is indeed the ability to manufacture almost anything, anywhere, for little cost, what happens then?

I would reckon that motivations will move away from mere material wealth, and people will measure status by other means - with any luck intelligence, skills, wisdom, taste - whatever. Much more subjective, but also much more wholesome somehow (wishful thinking perhaps:)

I do believe that the reduction in cost of manufacturing and developments in technology will eventually lead us to a form of free market socialism. That's all we really need anyways. Once you have food, medical attention, and basic comforts, you can work for anything else you deserve.

I suppose you could say that in some states, such as France, this has been reached already = people are guarranteed food, health care and basic housing and so on, no matter what their position. But of course this depends on other people working :) My contention is that the economy will tend towards a more socialist system gradually, because it is fairer, and may well one day be better at creating wealth, as paradoxical as that sounds.

What happens when nanotechnology, AI, and so on and so forth are fully developed? We may even reach a stage where noone need work at all - the end of the economy itself, at least as it impinges on humans.

Stars, stars! And all eyes else dead coals.
[ Parent ]

duh. people want different things. (3.00 / 1) (#263)
by wrffr on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 05:45:12 PM EST

people want different things and are motivated by different ideas. so how can you possibly have the audacity to claim that computers can predict what people want better than the people themselves? sheesh.

[ Parent ]
Uh oh, "human nature" alert (4.63 / 11) (#24)
by driptray on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 02:20:42 AM EST

OK, I'm gonna shoot the next person that invokes "human nature".

Communism wants everyone to get an equal share. That's just not human nature.

Ever considered that "human nature" might actually be a product of the social system of said humans? That humans raised under different conditions display a completely different "human nature"?

Humans think of themselves first and society second.

That depends on the human and the society in question.

I mean, this is really basic. If you really believe, as somebody who has lived their whole life in a late-capitalist society (and I'm making an assumption there), that the common human traits you see in those around you are anything but the manifestations of your own society's structure, then you're gonna have a hard time seeing alternative structures. Even when those structures are staring you in the face! You only have to look out at something like family relationships to see that "human nature" is not the dog-eat-dog world you think it is. Not to mention the enormous variety of different cultures throughout the world and throughout history that bear little resemblance to the "human nature" you speak of.

If you want to really "see" alternative social structures, you first have to define and isolate your own social structure, and to examine its assumptions. One of the first assumptions you should examine is the claim that the social structure is somehow "natural".


--
We brought the disasters. The alcohol. We committed the murders. - Paul Keating
[ Parent ]
You dont have to look far (3.75 / 4) (#35)
by barneyfoo on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 03:46:43 AM EST

... to see what human nature is like in a non capitalist, communist environment. We know as fact that citizens of communist russia strived their hardest to get ahead in their rigid social, financial system. There wasn't much reward in producing value in goods and services, only in social climbing. As a result efficieny in the Soviet Union was horrible. The economy was a travesty.

I also think it's fair to say a libertarian social structure is natural because it "looses" humans upon the world to naturally interact with as few regulations and taxes as is reasonable (Humans have always clung to order as preferred over chaos).

But this is semantic, and leads to another, more broad realization. Humans have only been around for 64 thousand years. We barely know what we were like before 6 thousand BC (except that our gene pool was similar). Maybe it's a mistake to fix a constant to our social/governmental order. Maybe the natural course is constant evolution of our social systems. However, even if this were the case, I think efficiency and higher living standards are almost always the product of a balance between codified order/beauracracy and individual rights based on the current technology of the day. Humans are the "tool" species, lest we ever forget. Why should humans suffer not to have free access to the richest wealth of human creation this planet has ever known? Why does copyright stand in the way of Beauty and free interaction in our liberating, digital environment? This is not natural, and an example of something that should be changed.

What will technology (our tools) change in the future? You know, you try and think about it, and nothing seems "right". It is too hard to predict, at least for me. Although one thing I'm pretty sure of, is that the quest for intelligence in unceasing. Whether organic or bio-mechanical, intelligence seeks more intelligence.

[ Parent ]
ya can't predict the effects of singularities, man (4.57 / 14) (#16)
by sayke on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 12:21:24 AM EST

because vingean singularities and their effects, by definition, cannot be predicted (because the world just changes too damn fast), i'd say assertions in the form of "the singularity might usher in communism!" shouldn't be taken seriously. because singularities basically change everything (otherwise they're not worth being called singularities), i see absolutely no grounds for thinking your notion of AI-assisted communism as any more likely to occur then someone else's notion of AI-assisted fascism.

you could just as well claim that the singularity will usher in an age of victorian-era repression, or randian hyper-capitalism. my point is that the effects of Sufficiently Advanced Technology cannot (by definition) be foreseen by anybody, including you... thus i refute your first argument. doesn't that sound pompus? ;)

i won't get deeply into your second one - though i will call it intellectually dishonest to assert that "capitalism isn't very fair" when you could more accurately say "capitalism doesn't conform to my standard of fairness". by doing so you would acknowledge that people have many such standards, and that, perhaps (just maybe!) some other people don't think of your notion of fairness (flat wealth distribution) as a good worth striving for.

ok, all done =)


sayke, v2.3.1 /* i am the middle finger of the invisible hand */

Matter of fact (3.66 / 3) (#30)
by rusty on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 02:59:56 AM EST

The greatest likelihood is that any coming singularity will result in something we don't really have a concept for now.

And those bastards are gonna be first up against the wall...

Wait, wrong plot. Sorry.

____
Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]

yup. fucked up shit inbound! ducking won't help! (4.50 / 4) (#48)
by sayke on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 04:57:20 AM EST

actually, maybe it will. who knows. might as well duck, right? heh.

some impressively educated guesses have been made with respect to the nature of the singularity, in spite of it's current incomperhensibility to us. how? well, think about the frame of reference the singularity is being viewed from. to a pre-literate south pacific islander (say), new york city might look very much like a singularity. in the same way, uploading might look very much like a singularity for us (gaussian (teehee)) humans, but to the uploads it might not look nearly as dramatic.

you might wanna check out these papers. i'm sure you can find plenty more by hunting around the sites those papers are on. some very smart people have thought about this. damn, man, but transhumanism is truly the shit. =)

but about the incomperhensibility of the singularity, i'll quote bruce sterling:

The posthuman condition is banal. It is crypto-theological, and astounding,and apocalyptic, and eschatological, and ontological, but only by human standards. Oh sure, we become as gods (or something does), but the thrill fades fast, because that thrill is merely human and parochial. By the new, post-Singularity standards, posthumans are just as bored and frustrated as humans ever were. They are not magic, they are still quotidian entities in a gritty, rules-based physical universe. They will find themselves swiftly and bruisingly brought up against the limits of their own conditions, whatever those limits and conditions may be.

sayke, v2.3.1 /* i am the middle finger of the invisible hand */
[ Parent ]
Yes... (1.00 / 1) (#354)
by ronfar on Sat Jun 23, 2001 at 04:55:03 PM EST

SHODAN is coming and she's going to settle everyone's hash.....

[ Parent ]
And there's still the issue of... (3.28 / 7) (#17)
by Anatta on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 12:22:39 AM EST

in the proposed communist structure, humans would by default be requested to perform jobs they would not otherwise do, in order to make the economic "system" work properly. Consequently, it would be likely that someone who probably should be a neurosurgeon becoming a garbage collector because the system needs garbage collectors, and someone who should be a garbage collector would becoming a neurosurgeon because the system needs a neurosurgeon. Plus, the neurosurgeon would have to go through years of training and work in an incredibly high-pressure environment, while getting the same wage as a garbage collector...
Perhaps that is the "old" argument, and possibly extreme (assuming an uber-AI), but still relavent. People would be required to give up their freedom for the good of the state in a much more significant way than they do in a capitalist society. Though a lot of people hate their jobs in the current system, many others are driven because they truly love their work and creations (coders?) and that drive would likely be lost by a communist system as proposed here. Such structures never encourage workers to "go the extra mile". Perhaps the AI can fix all that, but somehow I doubt it...
It seems to me that socialist practices work where they work (Scandanavia, parts of Canada), but would never possibly work in America, and likely many other places... there are too many factors (such as race relations, immigration, wackos working on manifestos in montana, etc.) to deal with in America that are not present in socialist countries like the Scandanavian countries. I'm a pretty hardcore libertarian, but I love the idea of communism in theory. Still, I abhor it (even the proposed) in practice.
My Music
Exact same issue today (5.00 / 1) (#41)
by henrik on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 04:37:29 AM EST

in the proposed communist structure, humans would by default be requested to perform jobs they would not otherwise do, in order to make the economic "system" work properly. Consequently, it would be likely that someone who probably should be a neurosurgeon becoming a garbage collector because the system needs garbage collectors, and someone who should be a garbage collector would becoming a neurosurgeon because the system needs a neurosurgeon.
Please tell me how this is different from today? There are a lot of idiots born in rich families that get a long education and even more very smart people that'd make excellent neurosurgeons that end up being garbage collectors simply because they can't afford the years in education. If anything it would be more fair in the proposed system.

Also, like you note: that allpowerful AI would take both your aptitude and wishes into It doesnt have to be a static either (now you're a garbage collector forever) system. It could work more like, hey try garbage collecting for 6months and see if you can live with it, otherwise we'll find something else.

It seems to me that socialist practices work where they work (Scandanavia, parts of Canada), but would never possibly work in America, and likely many other places... there are too many factors (such as race relations, immigration, wackos working on manifestos in montana, etc.) to deal with in America that are not present in socialist countries like the Scandanavian countries.
In Sweden atleast over 15% of the population are first or second generation immigrants, we're not all blue eyed and blond (tho i happen to be :). Of course, it's not a little heaven where everybody has everything they want. A few observations:
  • Everybody has decent lives (compared to the rest of the world).
  • A hybrid socialist and capitalist system works.
  • "Pure" systems will likely fail and have never been successful.
  • Rich people dont "need" their wealth - they could maintain an equal standards of living with far less capital, therefore if you take that capital from them they haven't lost anything. "money" is a social construct after all. So is "ownership". Society can choose to reinterpret those constructs to better fit it's members. Of course, not something to take lightly - a lot of safety comes from the constace of the basic social constructs. Changing them can easily be disasterous. This is why the successful socialist systems implement wealth redistribution as (high) taxes.

    -henrik

    Akademiska Intresseklubben antecknar!
    [ Parent ]

  • Still not convinced... (5.00 / 1) (#76)
    by Anatta on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 09:50:00 AM EST

    There are a lot of idiots born in rich families that get a long education and even more very smart people that'd make excellent neurosurgeons that end up being garbage collectors simply because they can't afford the years in education.
    According to this link (a cursory search on google) less than 1/2 of people who apply to medical school in the US even get in, and many colleges on the eastern coast of the US have acceptance rates of 1-2%. This leads me to believe that there aren't many garbage collectors out there that belong in medical school, given the number of people who studied biology/chemistry in college, and still fail to get into medical school. Maybe there is 1 in 100,000 that this is not the case for (in the US) but I doubt it would be much more than that... although again, perhaps the ephemeral UberAI would fix that, but my guess is it would screw up more than it would fix.
    In Sweden atleast over 15% of the population are first or second generation immigrants, we're not all blue eyed and blond (tho i happen to be :). Of course, it's not a little heaven where everybody has everything they want.
    I know that, as well (I have a friend from Norway who came via India) but I have read many articles such as this one (again, cursory google search) detailing serious immigration problems in Scandanavian countries. I recall reading about some fairly severe reactions to the idea of Kosavar refugees being taken to Scandanavia (don't remember which countries in particular). And though 15% of Sweden is first or second generation immigrants, compare that to America which, in 200 years with virtually no pre-existant population (Native Americans aside) settled a pretty big chunk of land, created more wealth than any other country, and virtually defined "freedom" for the world (pesky issues like capital punishment aside)...
    Again, I wouldn't suggest that Sweden abandon its governmental practices, but I still strongly believe that such practices would not work very well here in America...

    And finally,

    Rich people dont "need" their wealth - they could maintain an equal standards of living with far less capital, therefore if you take that capital from them they haven't lost anything. "money" is a social construct after all.
    The aformentioned rich people likely took on a great deal of risk to achieve their prosperity, and the higher the potential reward, the more risk people are willing to take. Maybe they don't need their money, but it's very easy to say that when you're not the one having your wealth taken from you. I would think the dot com bubble in the US would show that it can be awfully hard to see what one "needs" in order to maintian a certian quality of life over the long term...
    My Music
    [ Parent ]
    Two things (none / 0) (#137)
    by weirdling on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 02:31:49 PM EST

    One, if one can get one's self accepted to medical school, one can finance one's education in the US. That isn't a problem. People who fail in college either lack aptitude or attitude, not money.
    That being said, I think people don't understand wealth. The wealth owned by those rich people isn't piles of cash like Scrooge McDuck, as then it wouldn't be making any more money, rather loosing due to inflation. That wealth is in stocks, bonds, securities, annuities, and whatever else can be scraped together. It's being used as capital by someone else to employ people and create things. If those others are successful, the person who footed the capital makes money; if not, he loses money. However, he certainly can't cash-convert(liquidate) all his money overnight to buy Tahiti.

    I'm not doing this again; last time no one believed it.
    [ Parent ]
    Capitalism uses force to (3.40 / 5) (#20)
    by bkhl on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 12:48:50 AM EST

    For instance we have a police force, Securitas ogres et cetera to protect private property.

    "...not heard of Fukuyama here in the West&qu (3.55 / 9) (#23)
    by driptray on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 01:58:09 AM EST

    I had to laugh when I read this. Fukuyama is an American! Born in Chicago, worked for the US government! I really doubt that he's any better known outside America than in it.

    Makes me wonder how well the OP read The End of History. Personally I thought it was a heap of junk 'cos Fukuyama's understanding of liberalism was all too narrow. Socialism itself is an offshoot of liberalism, and at least belongs to the same family tree. To proclaim liberalism "the end of history" is to miss the point that all the conflict over the past 200 years or so has been within liberalism.

    And so the discussion goes, with most people saying hurray for capitalism and down with socialism, or some such nonsense. As if any of that has any real meaning or significance.


    --
    We brought the disasters. The alcohol. We committed the murders. - Paul Keating
    General response (4.47 / 19) (#25)
    by sigwinch on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 02:21:13 AM EST

    His thesis was that liberal democratic capitalism, as practised in Western Europe and America, would represent the 'End of History' (in the sense of battle for ideas, not events) for us all, as it is the only system with true validity - all other systems in use depend on, fundamentally, force, whereas liberal capitalism is endorsed by the people.
    It would be more accurate and descriptive to call it laissez-faire propertarianism, instead of liberal capitalism. And propertarianism depends on the threat and use of force. Without constant vigilance and the threat of force, looters would take apart the system in a single day. The difference between this system and the other systems is not the presence or absence of force, but the fact that most people are happy to live under the same threats they make. Its stability and popularity comes from the balanced tit-for-tat approach.
    Capitalism depends on the idea that the free market is better than the planned economy.
    Democratic laissez-faire is better than totalitarianism because it is resiliant. There is no institution or system so strong that 10% of it cannot be destroyed in one fell swoop. For totalitarianism, when the 10% includes the central planning organization -- as it inevitably will -- the system will be destroyed at its foundations. It's what killed the ancient hydraulic empires, it's what killed the poor doomed Soviet Union, and it's what will kill any centralized system. Hitting a laissez-faire system, OTOH, is like smashing cockroaches: the roaches will survive.
    However, with the inevitable progress of computers and AI, high technology could, and very probably will, provide a solution. A computer is far better at fairly and impassively planning an economy than a person.
    Human control by computer is one of science fiction's favorite dystopias. E.g., With Folded Hands by Jack Williamson, Harvest of Stars and The Stars Are Also Fire by Poul Anderson, The Cassini Division by Ken McCloud, A Fire Upon The Deep by Vernor Vinge, and countless others.
    If Vernor Vinge is to be believed, we will approach this much sooner than we even believe possible - he wrote in The Singularity that we are approaching a period of radical and exponential technological progress.
    If you think the Singularity is good, you haven't read much Vinge. Read A Fire Upon The Deep to start with, then read Across Realtime. You should also read Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson and The Cassini Division. These books paint plausible -- and extremely bleak -- views of what will happen to humans after the Singularity.
    As Moore's law is presently doubling processor power every 12 months, as compared to every 18 months a decade ago, and as at this rate a computer with the theoretical processing power of the Human brain will be achieved by 2020, it is not farcical to assume that this increasing processor power will be put to use to solve the market's natural chaos.
    This proves you are an uneducated idiot. Everybody knows that strong AI is 30 years in the future. ;-)
    The big problem with capitalism is that it isn't very fair.
    Been...reading...Atlas Shrugged. Must...resist...calling...debater...a...loooooter...
    In America now, the combined wealth of the top 1% of households now exceeds that of the bottom 95%.
    That is an singularly sophomoric statement. That wealth is not durable goods kept locked in a warehouse somewhere, it is the working capital. It buys restaurants, builds apartment buildings, buys fancy job-creating Cadillacs, and so forth. By and large, it is vibrant, living money that makes civilization go.
    This is, quite clearly, iniquitous and grossly unfair.
    It is conspicuously fair, especially in the U.S., where most millionaires are first-generation and self-made, and what can only be described as poor white trash routinely gets elected President. Different people have different abilities, and so will accomplish different things with the opportunities, but that's just the way things work. Ignoring that fact is akin to passing a resolution that all snowflakes will henceforth be identical.
    The problem in all these societies is that the trends of capitalism are to focus more and more wealth in the hands of the rich.
    You are assuming that the technological backdrop is constant, and that wealth concentration is solely caused by laissez-faire economics. It is not. Technological improvements have made food, medicine, transportation, and housing cheaper and better, which means that money has become less valuable and less useful. It is therefore natural to see the inessential money concentrate in things like talk shows and Starbucks.

    --
    I don't want the world, I just want your half.

    an additional point on argument from morality... (4.40 / 5) (#31)
    by mattw on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 03:04:03 AM EST

    Speaking of Atlas Shrugged, [What happen? You set up us the flame!] that reminds me to address the argument from morality. A planned economy destroys liberty. While capitalism relies on market forces, those forces are comprised of millions of individual choices -- people evaluating their interactions with others, deciding what to do, how often, etc, in return for what. It is an individual's right to determine their own fate. So, a 'planned economy' implies forcing people to do things against their will for the 'good' of the community. Most people realize that their best choice may not be that which increases the GNP most. Deciding for them is totalitarianism when controlled by a governmental elite (or a computer). I'd additionally call it tyranny of the masses when applied to the few by the many through the threat of force (jail), but that's more open to debate.

    You are assuming that the technological backdrop is constant, and that wealth concentration is solely caused by laissez-faire economics. It is not. Technological improvements have made food, medicine, transportation, and housing cheaper and better, which means that money has become less valuable and less useful. It is therefore natural to see the inessential money concentrate in things like talk shows and Starbucks.

    Furthermore, technological improvements and the power of information technology among other things provide greater leverage for the abilities of those who create wealth best to do so. Technology accelerates everyone along their path; those whose wealth creation is linear stay constant, while those who create wealth exponentially because they leverage capital (personal and monetary) well are advanced further along their exponential curve.



    [Scrapbooking Supplies]
    [ Parent ]
    so what? (4.00 / 6) (#34)
    by streetlawyer on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 03:40:26 AM EST

    So, a 'planned economy' implies forcing people to do things against their will for the 'good' of the community

    So does a laissez-faire economy; it forces people to work for wages which are lower than the value of their output or starve. Any economy is going to involve people doing things they don't want to do, because there is scarcity.

    --
    Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
    [ Parent ]

    Eh? (4.20 / 5) (#38)
    by John Miles on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 03:53:27 AM EST

    it forces people to work for wages which are lower than the value of their output

    How exactly do you propose we determine the value of someone's productivity? Do you have a better metric in mind than what someone else is willing to pay for it?
    For so long as men do as they are told, there will be war.
    [ Parent ]

    it's a quite simple proof (4.11 / 9) (#40)
    by streetlawyer on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 04:02:07 AM EST

    Assume we have a factory owned by Bob, but run and managed by Al, the only employee. Assume further that Bob is in a persistent vegetative state; there is no possible way in which he can be said to be a "producer".

    Al makes and sells the widgets, then pays himself a wage, and pays the surplus out as a dividend to Bob.

    We can see two things in this model

    • Any production that's being done, is being done by Al. The only other person involved is Bob, and he's in a persistent vegatative state.
    • Nevertheless, some of the production is going to Bob. Therefore, it is not going to Al.
    You don't need any measurement system to prove that the amount of surplus is greater than zero. As long as there are some people in the economy who consume from the rewards of ownership rather than activity, that which they consume must have been produced by somebody else. The non-owners have to get less than the value of their output, because some of that output is the reward of being an owner.

    --
    Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
    [ Parent ]
    re: it's a quite simple proof (4.28 / 7) (#58)
    by snacky on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 07:05:08 AM EST

    Hi streetlawyer,

    This proof contains a common error. Bob may be a vegetable now, but some time in the past he had to do something productive in order to get the money that paid for the factory. Presumably, Bob produced something, got money in return, and hasn't yet used the money on himself. As you know, people earn money not because they enjoy having green pieces of paper, but because they like the things they can buy with them. Think for a moment and you realize that Bob never got to consume any goods in return for what he produced earlier. Instead he's chosen to defer consumption until he starts getting profits from the factory.

    There's a good trick for avoiding this type of error when analyzing economic transactions. Try to imagine the equivalent barter transactions instead.

    --
    I like snacks
    [ Parent ]

    not an error (3.85 / 7) (#63)
    by streetlawyer on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 07:29:21 AM EST

    It's not an error at all; it's a simple adding up constraint.Bob may be a vegetable now, but some time in the past he had to do something productive in order to get the money that paid for the factory

    In the first place, this is not necessarily true at all; Bob might simply have happened to own a piece on land on which Al discovered gold.

    As you know, people earn money not because they enjoy having green pieces of paper, but because they like the things they can buy with them. Think for a moment and you realize that Bob never got to consume any goods in return for what he produced earlier. Instead he's chosen to defer consumption until he starts getting profits from the factory.

    So what? The first of these is true, the second might be true, neither have anything to do with this model. I made no claim about whether Bob is or is not entitled to his dividends, or about his history of consumption and production; I simply observed that he gets them, now, and that he isn't producing, now, so someone else must be producing what he gets, now. At any instant in time, there is a class which enjoys the benefits of ownership, therefore there must be a class which receives less than it produces. You might postulate a model in which everyone got back what they paid later in life by being a worker some of the time and a dividend-earner some of the time, but that model does not fit the economic facts. The vast majority of investment income goes to a very small and surprisingly stable segment of the population. And to forestall your next objection, it may indeed be true that everyone has an equal chance to enter that segment of the population (it isn't, but it might be), and this doesn't change the fact that non-owners get less than they produce either.

    There's a good trick for avoiding this type of error when analyzing economic transactions. Try to imagine the equivalent barter transactions instead.

    What precise barter transaction are you imagining which gets round the obvious adding-up constraint that the output consumed by Al plus Bob is equal to the output produced by Al?

    --
    Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
    [ Parent ]

    re: not an error (3.00 / 4) (#105)
    by snacky on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 01:06:58 PM EST

    In the first place, this is not necessarily true at all; Bob might simply have happened to own a piece on land on which Al discovered gold.

    We could spend all day constructing imaginitive scenarios and arguing back and forth about whose logic better describes the scenario. Maybe some other time...

    I simply observed that he gets them, now, and that he isn't producing, now, so someone else must be producing what he gets, now.

    I'm afraid this is just the original error, restated more clearly. Suppose on Monday I work up a sweat threashing wheat. This is productive labor that doesn't pay off immediately. On Tuesday I relax all day and eat a loaf of bread. True, I'm not producing today, but that doesn't mean I'm riding on someone else's back to eat bread.

    I think you're also interested in examples that involve employment. Suppose Bob is rich and Al is poor. Bob is rich enough to buy a backhoe, so when he wants a ditch dug, he hires Al to do it. Al is about 100 times more productive at digging with the help of the backhoe. Even though Bob may be napping the day Al digs the ditch, he's still contributing to the production if he provides the backhoe. This is analogous to the factory example.

    The key point is that capital is productive, and people who delay their own consumption in order to produce capital goods are themselves adding to someone's (often someone else's) productivity.

    What precise barter transaction are you imagining which gets round the obvious adding-up constraint that the output consumed by Al plus Bob is equal to the output produced by Al?

    I already explained this. The adding-up you did failed to account for Bob's contribution of capital (the factory itself), made possible by delaying consumption. The suggestion for you to imagine a barter equivalent instead was meant to help illuminate that fact. Nevermind, I guess.

    --
    I like snacks
    [ Parent ]

    no, you're repeating this error (3.80 / 5) (#117)
    by streetlawyer on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 01:30:00 PM EST

    No, you're making a number of errors yourself; mainly by confusing questions of material fact with questions of values.

    Suppose on Monday I work up a sweat threashing wheat. This is productive labor that doesn't pay off immediately. On Tuesday I relax all day and eat a loaf of bread. True, I'm not producing today, but that doesn't mean I'm riding on someone else's back to eat bread.

    I have no interest (here) in such judgemental phrases as "riding someone else's back". On Monday, you produced and did not consume; one Tuesday, you consumed what someone else produced. You happen to have constructed an example in which it worked out equal over time; this is not, as I noted above, the empirically interesting case. A large proportion of the population work *all* their lives and *never* get any ownership income.

    Even though Bob may be napping the day Al digs the ditch, he's still contributing to the production if he provides the backhoe.

    Not true; Al can produce the same amount whether or not Bob "contributes" his backhoe -- he digs the same hole if he steals the backhoe. Bob simply isn't involved in this one. His backhoe is, but that's a different thing.

    The key point is that capital is productive

    True, but *ownership* of capital is not productive. It's not productive because it's not an activity.

    people who delay their own consumption in order to produce capital goods are themselves adding to someone's (often someone else's) productivity.

    Why have you started talking about people who *produce* capital goods? I am only interested in people who *own* them.

    The adding-up you did failed to account for Bob's contribution of capital (the factory itself), made possible by delaying consumption.

    I already noted that it is not necessarily the case that delaying consumption had anything to do with it. And this makes no difference to the adding up constraint. There may be good reasons why some people have to be paid less than they produce. But if you believe this, you should argue it. You should not argue that it does not happen.

    The suggestion for you to imagine a barter equivalent instead was meant to help illuminate that fact. Nevermind, I guess.

    I'm suggesting that *you* should try to think of such an example; you can't, and should take that as significant.

    --
    Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
    [ Parent ]

    But (and another question:) (4.66 / 3) (#108)
    by trhurler on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 01:09:14 PM EST

    If Al can only "produce" X widgets per hour using Bob's factory, then Al is not solely responsible for "his" output. If he doesn't need Bob's factory, then he's a fucking moron for not going into business for himself. Now, in my case, I willingly trade a great assload of convenience in exchange for a good deal of the money I could be making - but that's a conscious choice, and I happen to think it is a good choice for me. I don't see that I'm forced into it, but I do think I'm better off.

    My question is, if the factory is necessary(or if a factory is necessary) to Al's productivity, then how precisely could we ever really have a system where Bob gets "all" of his productivity in reward? Clearly, factories require upkeep and so on, and no system you'd espouse is free of taxes, which will of course apply to factories, and they have utility bills and materials costs and opportunity cost involving other potential uses for the land and/or the building(how would you resolve those without private property? This is the greatest achievement of private ownership; it creates a reasonable, peaceful way to handle opportunity cost issues!) and when you're done, the mere continuing possession of the factory is an expense of no inconsiderable magnitude. Unless you want to deny the old time=money that underlies pretty much every model of economic scarcity, Al really isn't producing "all" of what his efforts bring into existence!

    Now, that said, I would agree that many people are underpaid - but I also know that many are overpaid, especially in the US. When you can explain to me why a 30 year union veteran who sits on his ass and maybe puts in 2 hours a day of real work if and only if a machine breaks down is making $100,000+ a year for all the "overtime" he accrues sitting on said ass seven days a week 52 weeks a year because his seniority entitles him to first pick of overtime, while the guy busting his balls on the line every day is lucky to make $40,000 if he actually gets to work overtime, I want to hear that too. Friends of the working man, my ass.

    --
    'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

    [ Parent ]
    yes, but so what? (3.00 / 1) (#203)
    by streetlawyer on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 02:17:41 AM EST

    If Al can only "produce" X widgets per hour using Bob's factory, then Al is not solely responsible for "his" output

    True; the factory is responsible for part of it. But that doesn't mean that *Bob* is. Try this thought experiment; take away Bob, but leave the factory, and what has changed in productive terms?

    My question is, if the factory is necessary(or if a factory is necessary) to Al's productivity, then how precisely could we ever really have a system where Bob gets "all" of his productivity in reward?

    You'll accept that this is an extension of the argument beyond the point I made; the fact is that Al doesn't get paid as much as the value he produces. You really need to take a leaf out of Ubu's book and not get factual questions tangled up with political programmes.

    --
    Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
    [ Parent ]

    Hmm (4.00 / 1) (#221)
    by trhurler on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 10:45:31 AM EST

    Well, as for factual versus political, if a thing is impossible, then that it is not made possible under some particular political system is no argument against that system; certainly Al isn't geting the entire value of what "he" produces, but he wouldn't(couldn't, in fact,) under any system.

    And then there's the problem with your thought experiment: factories are not found in nature.

    --
    'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

    [ Parent ]
    but that's not true (3.00 / 1) (#297)
    by streetlawyer on Fri Jun 22, 2001 at 08:01:16 AM EST

    certainly Al isn't geting the entire value of what "he" produces, but he wouldn't(couldn't, in fact,) under any system.

    Of course he could. He would in an economic system based on household production, or if his factory was a workers' cooperative, or indeed in a system of overlapping generations where people worked for half their lives and were then promoted to become owners. There are any number of systems which do not have non-productive owner classes, and some of them have actually existed.

    --
    Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
    [ Parent ]

    Means of production (none / 0) (#393)
    by wnight on Wed Jun 27, 2001 at 12:57:11 AM EST

    Instead of a factory, which implies that Bob actually did something, assume it's land, which Al farms. Thus, Bob tossed up a fence around a bunch of land, or his ancestors did. Then Al needs to eat, so he contracts out to farm the land, because Bob would no-doubt see it as an "initiation of force", were Al to simply do what Bob did and fence off a piece for his own use. So here Al owes Bob some percentage of his output, simply for Bob's having fenced something off first. So, in this scenario, Bob really is completely useless. What right does he have to the land if he's living off the labour of others and not producing anything?

    [ Parent ]
    Yes, yes, mark me down :) (none / 0) (#400)
    by Zukov on Fri Jun 29, 2001 at 03:54:11 PM EST

    Assume we have a factory owned by Bob,

    Assume further that Bob is in a persistent vegetative state

    While I agree with your argument, your inclusion of _both_ of the above sentences seems a needless redundancy. Perhaps you are being excessively precise?

    :)

    And further, do you believe that:

  • the least productive gravitate to ownership or management,

    or:

  • does the stress of having employees damage the mental capacity of owners and managers so that they eventually become persistantly vegetative?

    [Ducks, runs for cover, with the sound of pressurized gasoline being discharged in the background.]

    ¿ëë±È¶ ±Hæñ ¥ØÜ (§^Ð

    Yes, I have just bumbled upon Gnome Character Map. Please ! me.
    [ Parent ]

  • fanboy slobbering (1.00 / 4) (#43)
    by core10k on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 04:44:46 AM EST

    I've probably already mentioned this to you (and forgotten), but I have to say, Ultima 6 kicked ass. Especially the music. Which wouldn't have been possible without you. Thanks!

    [ Parent ]
    consequences (5.00 / 1) (#144)
    by mattw on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 02:57:08 PM EST

    First of all, the value of labor applied to production is not equal to the value of the output, because other things (such as equipment) are required to produce the output.

    Second, the whole point of capitalism is that you ARE free to choose to do nothing if you wish. You may not starve; you may beg, find charity, live off the government, or whatever. But in a broader sense, people are free to choose what they like. They can live in bigger houses, or choose a much smaller house and have a wife stay home with their children. They can choose a better medical plan; or they can opt to pay the lease on a sports car. In a planned economy, you would have decided for you not only what you should do, but what you'd receive. A planned economy is other people making your choices for you.

    If there was no scarcity, there'd be no "economy". As long as there is, people will always make choices, or have them made for them. I'd prefer to make my own choices and allow everyone the ability to make THEIR own choices. That's liberty.


    [Scrapbooking Supplies]
    [ Parent ]
    Re: so what? (3.00 / 1) (#171)
    by sigwinch on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 06:21:12 PM EST

    [me]So, a 'planned economy' implies forcing people to do things against their will for the 'good' of the community
    [streetlawyer]So does a laissez-faire economy; it forces people to work for wages which are lower than the value of their output or starve.
    "The rotter who simpers that he sees no difference between a five-dollar bill and a whip deserves to learn the difference on his own back -- as, I think, he will."

    Sorry. Had to get that out of my system. ;-)

    --
    I don't want the world, I just want your half.
    [ Parent ]

    don't be silly (2.00 / 1) (#202)
    by streetlawyer on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 02:10:58 AM EST

    The rotter who simpers that he sees no difference between a five-dollar bill and a whip deserves to learn the difference on his own back -- as, I think, he will."

    Clearly the voice of someone who has not never been hungry other than by choice.

    --
    Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
    [ Parent ]

    US millionaires self-made? (4.00 / 4) (#33)
    by streetlawyer on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 03:38:37 AM EST

    It is conspicuously fair, especially in the U.S., where most millionaires are first-generation and self-made

    This was not true last time I looked at the numbers.

    --
    Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
    [ Parent ]

    A Quickie Reference for you... (4.50 / 4) (#45)
    by ti dave on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 04:45:22 AM EST

    Considering approx 2.5 million millionaires currently in the U.S.

    From;
    http://www.mtholyoke.edu/~pagrawal/entrepreneurial_economy.htm

    Citing Original Source of;

    Information Source: Mark Van Osnabrugge and Robert J. Robinson,"Angel Investing"


    "For most entrepreneurs, entrepreneurship is a means to financial wealth, and the fun of getting there. The fact that of the richest 1 percent of Americans more than nine in ten are entrepreneurs who made their fortune themselves, rather than through inheritance, motivates many others to flex their entrepreneurial muscles. In fact, the percentage of millionaires in the U.S. population has tripled over the last decade; around three-quarters of those on the Forbes 400 Richest People list are self-made, and more than half at least a billion dollars each. Even historically,the richest Americans have been entrepreneurs, from John D. Rockefeller in the late 1800s ( whose wealth was 1.54 percent of the economy) to Bill Gates today( with wealth of 0.58 of the economy)."

    Sounds to me that he's correct...

    Cheers,

    ti_dave
    "If you dial," Iran said, eyes open and watching, "for greater venom, then I'll dial the same."

    [ Parent ]
    "self-made"? (4.16 / 6) (#53)
    by streetlawyer on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 05:34:19 AM EST

    The vast majority of Bill Gates' wealth comes from his ownership of Microsoft, but that doesn't exactly make him "self-made" in the sense that any kid from the ghetto could have done what he did. Between 50% and 75% of families in the top 1% by wealth have immediate ancestors in the top 2%. The effect you're describing is just that the second generation typically builds on the first. It's not that nine out of ten millionaires start from nothing.

    --
    Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
    [ Parent ]
    Ah, look (1.00 / 11) (#55)
    by Simon Kinahan on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 05:48:09 AM EST

    He's a bad loser too.

    Simon

    If you disagree, post, don't moderate
    [ Parent ]
    what? (2.66 / 6) (#62)
    by streetlawyer on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 07:21:23 AM EST

    If you disagree, post, don't moderate

    If you disagree, argue, don't snipe. I don't recall having been anything other than polite to you.

    --
    Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
    [ Parent ]

    Sorry (2.00 / 5) (#72)
    by Simon Kinahan on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 08:51:59 AM EST

    Its the first time I've seen you even look as if you were losing an argument. I was amused. 'tsall. When I disagree with you, I'll not hesitate in arguing.

    Simon

    If you disagree, post, don't moderate
    [ Parent ]
    In hindsight... (4.00 / 4) (#57)
    by ti dave on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 06:10:56 AM EST

    I knew I should have snipped the B.G. reference from that excerpt. It's distracting from the relevant information. I believe, due to the proliferation of Computing education today, compared to the 1970's (B.G.'s era) that a kid from the Ghetto *could* achieve success, though not likely as well as B.G.

    "Between 50% and 75% of families in the top 1% by wealth have immediate ancestors in the top 2%."

    I'd like to see a citation to support your assertion here.
    That may apply to Bill's *heirs*, they were born with silver spoons in their mouths, but that effect isn't what the source is referring to.

    "It's not that nine out of ten millionaires start from nothing."

    Again, you really can't derive this statement from the source.

    Obviously most don't start with *nothing*, but they likely have the same general resources as you or I. Then they make something of it.

    "If you dial," Iran said, eyes open and watching, "for greater venom, then I'll dial the same."

    [ Parent ]
    source (4.20 / 5) (#61)
    by streetlawyer on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 07:20:38 AM EST

    the source for mine is "Wall Street" by Doug Henwood, who cites the Fed Survey of Consumer Finances. My point is that Gates did start in or near the top 2%; his father was one of the country's most prominent IP lawyers. There's a huge difference between "starting from nothing" and "dragging yourself up from the upper middle class to millionaire status".

    --
    Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
    [ Parent ]
    Thanks (4.00 / 1) (#159)
    by ti dave on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 04:32:34 PM EST

    I'm aware of the law firm of Preston, Gates, et. al. as I live in Washington.

    I don't think B.G. is a shining example of pulling One's self up by the bootstraps, hence I checked myself on the last reply.

    Most of the 2.5 million millionaires in the U.S. didn't have quite the level of "privelege" that B.G. had.

    Cheers,

    ti dave
    "If you dial," Iran said, eyes open and watching, "for greater venom, then I'll dial the same."

    [ Parent ]
    info on millionaires from congressional study (5.00 / 1) (#188)
    by mattw on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 11:01:31 PM EST

    From this study:

    Other data confirm this conclusion. A study of wealthy investors by Prince & Associates found that just 7 percent of respondents identified inheritance as the source of their wealth. The vast majority - 83 percent - earned their fortune through hard work, a family business, a professional practice such as law or medicine, or corporate employment. In their book The Millionaire Next Door, authors Thomas Stanley and William Danko report that 81 percent of millionaires are first-generation rich, and just 14 percent of millionaires cite inheritance as the source of their wealth. Most millionaires did not receive one dime of inheritance, and the vast majority (80 percent) received less than 10 percent of their wealth through inheritance.

    The fact that just four out of five millionaires are first generation rich raises the question: if inheritance is not the source of their wealth, how did these did these individuals become millionaires? Stanley and Danko's survey indicates that the primary mechanism of achieving wealth is for families to manage their money effectively and lead a frugal lifestyle. Contrary to conventional wisdom, most millionaires do not lead high-priced lifestyles. For example, the typical millionaire has never spent more than $400 on a suit and paid just $24,800 for his current automobile. Aside from Visa and MasterCard, the two most common credit cards held by millionaires are Sears and J.C. Penny's.


    I don't believe you could demonstrate convincingly (or perhaps even unconvincingly) that there is a great deal of ability to gain wealth that is gained as parental socioeconomic status rises, once your reach middle class (or perhaps lower middle class). Once you can eat healthy, go to school, make it into college, etc, I believe it is more a function of a variety of other things. The book mentioned in the Congressional study, The Millionaire Next Door is fascinating, as the millionaires, by and large, do not attribute their wealth to the things the average person most likely believes is the cause (luck, intelligence, etc). Most of them cite hard work, persistence, people skills, etc. Most of them were either professionals (doctors, lawyers, etc) or small-business owners (RV sales, truck engine refurbishment, to name a couple).




    [Scrapbooking Supplies]
    [ Parent ]
    Self-made? Not nearly. (none / 0) (#394)
    by wnight on Wed Jun 27, 2001 at 01:38:07 AM EST

    There're a lot of problems with that study. 1) A millionare isn't anywhere near as rich now as they once were. The US dollar dropped to 50% of its 1980 value. That counts for there being a lot more millionares. Hell, if inflation went wild we'd ALL be millionares, or could become such by working at 7-11 for a few days. It's the consumer price index that really matters in this regard. How many people today have the same money, CPI adjusted, as a millionare in 1980? 2) Few people, millionares included, will cite their inheritance, or free-ride through school (and often seed money) as a key to their success. The fact that only 14% of these people claim they're old-money doesn't necessarily bear much relation to reality. (Bill Gates claim's he's self-made, despite his free education, seed money, free computer time (when that was a large expense.) Don't underestimate the value of a high-priced education at the "best" schools. Many people say that they're still using contacts they made while in university. Go to an expensive school and your classmates are future CEOs; go to State U. and your classmates are future middle-class professionals. Which is more useful in the long run? However, I believe that most people who make a lot of money are there because they had a lot of money to begin with. There are many prominent counter-examples (Dave Thomas of Wendy's for example) but the very fact that he stands out indicates how uncommon this is. I know from experience that it's a hell of a lot easier to go from $50k to $200k, then from $10k to $50k, etc. The hardest step is starting with nothing (not even a month's rent saved up) and making the first few thousand. If your parents buy you past these tough steps you can go right to the "invest the money and coast through life" stage. Any work you put in will simply accelerate this process. Even accepting that 80 percent of millionares are completely self-made (which I doubt), I even more strongly doubt that figure remains constant. At $10M, it's probably a quarter of that, and so on, as the wealth level you're examining increases. Look at the list of 50 richest people, are ANY of them self-made? Did any come from families making, perhaps $50k a year or less (in 2k dollars)?

    [ Parent ]
    So, what's the point? (2.50 / 2) (#136)
    by weirdling on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 02:25:22 PM EST

    They went from 2% to 1% in a single generation. That's pretty impressive. Plenty of people go from the top 80% to the top 50% in one generation, as well. The point is the system is mobile and does allow people to change their stature in life, which I guarantee you no communistic system will do, preferring, instead, to create those that rule and those that don't and perpetuating those distinctions far more effectively than any other system to date save for fascism.

    I'm not doing this again; last time no one believed it.
    [ Parent ]
    fact-free debate (5.00 / 1) (#199)
    by streetlawyer on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 02:00:56 AM EST

    The point is the system is mobile and does allow people to change their stature in life, which I guarantee you no communistic system will do, preferring, instead, to create those that rule and those that don't and perpetuating those distinctions far more effectively than any other system to date save for fascism.

    Congratulations, you have managed to pick on the only thing that *wasn't* wrong with Soviet and Chinese communism. Wealth mobility was far higher under those systems, and it simply was not the case that cadre status was inherited. You're thinking of *feudalism*.

    --
    Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
    [ Parent ]

    Aptly titled (4.00 / 1) (#324)
    by weirdling on Fri Jun 22, 2001 at 03:45:27 PM EST

    Where is your source? Where are your facts? Chinese and Soviet communism both had essentially zero wealth mobility, while the 80s (read down to the part about wealth distribution) saw huge mobility in the person's lifetime. Looking at static numbers of income isn't very productive towards understanding mobility and is disingenuous as well. In Soviet and Chinese communism, of course there was no difference in pay at all--for the proletariat. For the ruling class, the sky was the limit. See, concentrating all power and money into essentially a few people who run the state is much worse than the gradiated system the US enjoys, where I can, if I wish, gain some control over the economy myself. As for wealth mobility, I fail to see how that is even possible in a truly communistic system, as all people are paid the same, so there can be no wealth mobility whatsoever, by definition. Just more frankly erroneous propaganda...
    Anyway, I do await facts...

    I'm not doing this again; last time no one believed it.
    [ Parent ]
    Ultimately, the outcome is irrelevant (3.70 / 10) (#26)
    by haiiro on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 02:27:38 AM EST

    According to Lovecraft's extended timeline, humanity will eventually be wiped out and replaced by a race of giant bugs. That's assuming we don't wake Great Cthulhu from his deathless slumber before then, of course.

    I don't recall Lovecraft mentioning what sort of market system the bugs will operate under. ;)

    We should BAN Bilbo Baggins for what he did on that Smaug raid." - Lophat on Lum the Mad



    The end is coming closer, nano by nano... (4.00 / 7) (#28)
    by gnovos on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 02:49:37 AM EST

    The end of our society as we know it will come when the "nano-replicator" becomes a reality. When we have nanotech machines than can replicate something, literally, a molecule at at time, atom by atom. The whole concept of both "goods" and "money" will either have to change dramatically or cease to exist.

    This is the kind of thing that turns economic projections on thier heads. The idea of such a device (which isn't as far fetched as you may think) simply eleminates the entire idea of "Limited Supply". Food, clothing, electronics, coins, bricks, swimming pools, basically anything that was previously build by hand and thus had a cost will no longer have one. Physical money will be useless (imagine trying to ferret out a forgery if a bill if identical down to the atom!), any sort of manufactured thing will become so cheap that a handfull of dirt could be put in one side and a rolex watch come out the other.

    When I see economists start thinking outside the box, start imagining a world without money, then I'll start listening to thier yheories about the end of the things...

    A Haiku: "fuck you fuck you fuck/you fuck you fuck you fuck you/fuck you fuck you snow" - JChen
    Nanos create a lot of problems.. (4.00 / 1) (#44)
    by henrik on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 04:45:14 AM EST

    Acctually, a nano replicator is even more cause for a planned economy unless someone invents a nano decomposer at the same time. The enviromental strain on everybody getting everything they want will be enormous. And if we wish to survive as a species with nano replicators we'll have three choices.
  • Consume away and move on to the next planet after we've wrecked this one.
  • Control the replicators and only give 'em to a select few (thus maintaining the economy of scarcity). See nuclear weapons for examples of this being done. They're not hard to design, but requires some exotic materials and a large infrastructure.
  • Give them to everyone, but enforce a law on how much can be replicated per time unit.

    Also, on a practical note - see how the RIAA fights the free distribution of music. Now, if that happened across all industries, imagine what would happen. It's a very strong possibility that they would be able to either suppress the invention or make it illegal.

    -henrik

    Akademiska Intresseklubben antecknar!
    [ Parent ]

  • Land, Thought (4.00 / 2) (#88)
    by LaNMaN2000 on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 11:16:49 AM EST

    Only <i>physical, manufactured</i> goods could be reproduced through this type of "nano-replicator." Land, and products of thought will still be in limited supply. Also, even a "nano-replicator" will need to obtain raw materials from somewhere (even if it is just hydrogen atoms), and there will only be a limited supply of those. The currency may change, but people will find limited resources to trade.

    Lenny

    -----------------
    Lenny Grover -- link-spamming to make Google give me my name back!
    [ Parent ]
    Money is never the issue (4.50 / 2) (#104)
    by Macrobat on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 01:03:11 PM EST

    Money is a measure of wealth, not wealth itself. That's why we have inflation, deflation, monetary exchange rates, etc. If the overall productivity of a nation goes down the tubes, that nation's currency devalues. Print more dollar bills, the dollar becomes worth less.

    More to the issue, though, is your description of nanotech. Suppose you could put "a handful of dirt in one side" and get "a rolex watch" out the other. How much time and energy will that take to happen? I can't imagine that the breaking and meticulous reconstruction of molecular and atomic bonds won't take a lot--and I mean a LOT--of power. Will it ever be easier (and therefore, in the economic sense, less expensive) than just cranking out a new one the old-fashioned way? Maybe. I suspect not, however.

    Last but not least, economists rarely think in terms of money, and never in terms of money alone. It's an unfair charicature to say they do; it's like saying that mathematicians just do arithmetic all day. Please re-acquaint yourself with economic theory before you make a post about anything that "turns it on its head." You'll find it's a robust discipline, and that economists actually do speculate about as-yet-unseen technology.

    "Hardly used" will not fetch a better price for your brain.
    [ Parent ]

    Infrastructure (4.00 / 1) (#209)
    by spiralx on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 07:01:18 AM EST

    Suppose you could put "a handful of dirt in one side" and get "a rolex watch" out the other. How much time and energy will that take to happen? I can't imagine that the breaking and meticulous reconstruction of molecular and atomic bonds won't take a lot--and I mean a LOT--of power. Will it ever be easier (and therefore, in the economic sense, less expensive) than just cranking out a new one the old-fashioned way? Maybe. I suspect not, however.

    At present, the path from raw materials to Rolex watch is a very long one. The raw materials have to be found, gathered and purified, before being taken to the Rolex factory. And of course, the same goes for the Rolex factory, which also requires a number of specialised tools and machines which are themselves expensive. The materials then have to be turned into the watch, which takes time, money and most likely expertise.

    The point is, that in order to produce your Rolex, you have to assume that a vast amount of infrastructure is already in place, and that infrastructure is expensive. Just look at the cost of a new chip fabrication plant for instance, and that's just the final step of the process from sand to CPU.

    Whilst nanotech is going to require both raw materials, energy of some form and expertise in programming, the amount of required infrastructure is far less, and far more reusable from one final product to the next. So while it's not "something for nothing" in any sense, it's a hell of a lot more efficient than the current chain of production is.

    You're doomed, I'm doomed, we're all doomed for ice cream. - Bob Aboey
    [ Parent ]

    True, but... (none / 0) (#223)
    by Macrobat on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 11:11:11 AM EST

    It's true that infrastructure costs a lot. On the other hand, though, it's a fixed cost--once the infrastructure is there (which it is), the additional cost of creating another unit (our Rolex watch) is marginal. And mass production scales that down even more. But to convert one form of matter to another is going to take a lot of energy every single time--there is no economy of scale here. So my example still holds true.

    "Hardly used" will not fetch a better price for your brain.
    [ Parent ]

    Wait a sec... (5.00 / 1) (#226)
    by spiralx on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 11:49:58 AM EST

    It's true that infrastructure costs a lot.

    An understatement, if you look at the entire process from start to finish...

    But to convert one form of matter to another is going to take a lot of energy every single time--there is no economy of scale here. So my example still holds true.

    So you're saying that directly converting raw materials into a finished object requires less energy than taking raw materials, refining them, shipping them, turning them into parts, shipping those and then assembling the finished product? Somehow I doubt that very much...

    My crappy analogy is that you're saying it's more efficient to get a big box of lego, sort it into different types, assemble those types into big homogenous blocks, move the blocks to the factory and then break them down into parts, and then assemble the parts than it is to get the original big box of lego and just make what you want out of it directly.

    Either way you're doing the same chemical processes (breaking chemical bonds and establishing new ones), but with nanotech you only do it when and where you have to. With macrotech, you have to do it in gross quantities and then discard much of the effort. Which seems more efficient to you?

    You're doomed, I'm doomed, we're all doomed for ice cream. - Bob Aboey
    [ Parent ]

    Still... (3.00 / 1) (#300)
    by Macrobat on Fri Jun 22, 2001 at 09:44:20 AM EST

    It's true that infrastructure costs a lot.

    An understatement, if you look at the entire process from start to finish...

    I am looking at the process from start to finish, at least the way you've characterized it. Changing dirt to metal is transmutation of matter, not a mere chemical reaction. That's going to take a lot more energy than you seem to think. And the form of a rolex is not an emergent property, rising automatically out of some self-catalyzing reaction; so every nanoid is going to require knowledge of the entire shape, and it's own position within that shape. Complexity of that sort is going to cost, by requiring larger nanoids (which goes against their purpose)and by energy costs associated with managing that complexity.

    So, to counter your analogy, nanotech is going to require you to take an already-assembled Lego set of massive proportions, break it down totally, and then rebuild it. Not as efficient an operation as you've made it out to be.

    Don't get me wrong. I, too, believe that nanotech will revolutionize industry and provide us with new materials and greatly increased efficiency. But it won't get us something for nothing.

    "Hardly used" will not fetch a better price for your brain.
    [ Parent ]

    Transmutation of matter (4.00 / 1) (#304)
    by spiralx on Fri Jun 22, 2001 at 11:13:44 AM EST

    Changing dirt to metal is transmutation of matter, not a mere chemical reaction.

    If you're talking about actual transmutation of elements, then sure, but that's not possible in either traditional or nanotech manufacture. We need to wait for femtotech for that :)

    I was assuming by "dirt" you meant raw materials in the ground - ores and so on, mixed in with other stuff.

    Don't get me wrong. I, too, believe that nanotech will revolutionize industry and provide us with new materials and greatly increased efficiency. But it won't get us something for nothing.

    So why are you arguing with me? I never said it'll get "something from nothing", that's obviously not true. All I said was that nanotech is far, far more efficient than current manufacturing techniques. We agree...

    You're doomed, I'm doomed, we're all doomed for ice cream. - Bob Aboey
    [ Parent ]

    Okay, we agree, mostly (5.00 / 1) (#315)
    by Macrobat on Fri Jun 22, 2001 at 01:03:18 PM EST

    Well, you did say that things that once had a cost no longer will. But I think we do agree on most points. My main point was, though, economics is not just the field of tallying dollars (or pounds or Euros)--that's what accounting's all about. Rather, economics is the discipline that examines how people make tradeoffs. And there's always going to be tradeoffs.

    "Hardly used" will not fetch a better price for your brain.
    [ Parent ]

    Economist? (2.50 / 6) (#32)
    by srichman on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 03:09:56 AM EST

    When even The Economist notes that we have a problem, then it is time to get worried.

    ???

    The Economist, though known for its trenchant fiscal reporting with necessarily treats largely of the capitalism of the Western world, is a pretty leftist mag. The "even" seems a bit out of place...

    WTF? Leftist magazine (3.33 / 3) (#46)
    by nobbystyles on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 04:49:02 AM EST

    Heh, heh. What a load of rubbish. It recommended George W Bush for US president and hoped that Gore would lose his appeal to the Supremes. Only a Commie-Pinko liberal magazine would ever support that well known marxist GWB.





    [ Parent ]
    Matter of degree... (5.00 / 1) (#112)
    by beergut on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 01:13:36 PM EST

    Only a Commie-Pinko liberal magazine would ever support that well known marxist GWB.

    Bush may not be a Marxist, but he is certainly a statist. These are birds of a feather, really. Have you seen any indication that Bush is willing to reduce the scope, size, or power of even one part of Leviathan?

    A true classical liberal rag would have supported Harry Browne.

    i don't see any nanorobots or jet engines or laser holography or orbiting death satellites.
    i just see some orangutan throwing code-feces at a computer screen.

    -- indubitable
    [ Parent ]

    Definitions of the word "liberal" (4.33 / 3) (#47)
    by Thomas Miconi on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 04:49:16 AM EST

    The Economist is the pinnacle of liberal thought. However, one has to be careful about the meaning of the word "liberal".

    In America, "liberal" has become synonymous to "leftist", because people there tend to stress the social aspects of liberalism (drugs, religion, education, etc.)

    However, in Europe, "liberal" tends to be much more on the right, because on this side of The Pond people who call themselves liberals tend to stress on the economical aspects of liberalism (The Holy Market will sort it out, scrap welfare systems, etc.)

    In other words: For you, Woody Allen would be a "liberal". For us, "liberal" means Margaret Thatcher.

    Quite obviously, The Economist leans much more towards the latter. Which does not prevent me from reading them on a regular basis - say what you want, even if you don't agree with them, they're still the best news magazine in the whole English-speaking world.

    Thomas Miconi

    [ Parent ]
    what? (none / 0) (#52)
    by Delirium on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 05:27:24 AM EST

    I'm guessing you don't read The Economist. I have a subscription to it, and I can assure you that it is far from leftist. It's not 100% laissez faire, but it generally supports free markets, unrestricted trade, and so on, and generally opposes labor unions, protective tarrifs, government ownership of business, etc.

    [ Parent ]
    Artificial Intelligence? (3.00 / 1) (#42)
    by nickco on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 04:43:46 AM EST

    I agree that humans will, with near invariability, let their emotions, ideology, or popular influence get the better of them.. but does this mean we should allow a machine to design our future? I don't think so. How does a machine comprehend the human condition? If we allow machines to implement the system of government, then they must also enforce its ideals. Who will control the machines?

    The problem that has always been the most prominent for me in virtually any society that claims any uniform equality is the impossibility of it. It seems to me that there must always be someone in control, otherwise it simply wouldn't work. Of course, I may be wrong, and the subjectively utopian society described by Anya may well exist in the future. Maybe it's my Western, capitalist upbringing, but I simply do not find communism or it's derivatives appealing. I agree that there is a problem with capitalism in it's current state, but that doesn't stop me from appreciating the general cut-throat, survival oriented sentiment of my country. The fact is, as a previous post stated, human behaviour will render a communistic society invalid. If you subscribe to evolution and natural selection, you will agree that the strongest, and generally most aggressive survive. We may have adapted for civilization, but that instinctual drive to survive still exists, and that is why capitalism has had the most success.

    It Will Not Happen (4.20 / 5) (#50)
    by nymia_g on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 05:18:21 AM EST

    Communism is not the final destination of economic societies. Here are my reasons:

    1) For as long as humans continually act and pursue any endeavor based on self-interest; selflesness and community-before-me type of behavior will only be secondary. The key premise here is self-interest to preserve oneself from any form of discomfort or harm.

    2) For as long as humans continue to interact and form contracts, agreements and exhange wealth with each other, any possibility of communism will be scorned and feared by them.

    3) Socially, we are still using capitalistic methods of dealing and exchanging wealth. For instance, any individual living in a free society has the capability and freedom to conduct any type of business and determine his profit. And it is also given that economies use money as the medium. Any individual who goes through the process of converting their products from commodity to money are considered sellers. And any individual or business who goes through the process of converting their goods from money to commodity are considered buyers. For these are the elements/things we see in our daily activities and are themselves proof that capitalism will "never" be replaced by anything.

    4) Money can be used and implemented in so many ways. One of them as a way of figuring cost and profit. Profit being the most important, the ultimate goal in a capitalistic system.

    5) Existing agricultural and manufacturing conditions show that no economy on this planet is capable of converting itself into the next type of economy, called "Service Economy." Why? because it is an oxymoron. No economy would sacrifice its own manufacturing assets and turn them into service assets.

    6) Any superior economy relying on agriculture and manufacturing will have to prove that it can manage the constraints efficiently like being able to streamline all their business and manufacturing processes into one system. Unfortunately, this hasn't happened yet. Why? simply because of self-interest and competition.

    7) The only way I see communism become an acceptable system is when a given economy has infinite energy supply where agriculture and manufacturing processes will not be under the constraint of limited resources. Until that day arrives, any economy will have to use capitalism in managing limited resources.

    I disagree. (2.50 / 2) (#54)
    by Anya on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 05:40:13 AM EST

    1) For as long as humans continually act and pursue any endeavor based on self-interest; selflesness and community-before-me type of behavior will only be secondary. The key premise here is self-interest to preserve oneself from any form of discomfort or harm.

    This is making a few assumptions. First of all, it assumes scarcity of supply. There is no point being selfish if there is a great abundance and oversupply - and therefore if a planned economy could acheive this, there would be every reason for a selfish creature to support it. In nature creatures are invariably only altruistic when they have something to gain. If this paradigm can be extended to our economic system, then there is no reason to suppose that selfishness will tear it apart - selfishness, in a good communist society, will be the glue that holds it together.

    2) For as long as humans continue to interact and form contracts, agreements and exhange wealth with each other, any possibility of communism will be scorned and feared by them.

    Why? Also, suppose contracts, agreements and exchanging wealth are redundant, due to superfluity of wealth and/or a good planned economy that takes care of these things and your wishes far better than you could?

    3) Socially, we are still using capitalistic methods of dealing and exchanging wealth. For instance, any individual living in a free society has the capability and freedom to conduct any type of business and determine his profit. And it is also given that economies use money as the medium. Any individual who goes through the process of converting their products from commodity to money are considered sellers. And any individual or business who goes through the process of converting their goods from money to commodity are considered buyers. For these are the elements/things we see in our daily activities and are themselves proof that capitalism will "never" be replaced by anything.

    So because it is like that now, it will always be so in the future? This seems a little bit short sighted. It is like a peasant in medieval Europe saying that feudalism will always be the dominant economic system because, well, it always has been and we have always done it this way and feudalism is totally written into the core of our society and indeed it is human nature - one man must always be slave to another, and the King hands down all laws and land. Fortunately for us, people dared to think differently.

    As soon as it is in our selfish interests to move to a more organised, higher level then of course we will, inexorably - those that stay with the unplanned systems will be outcompeted, if you like, or at least become redundant.

    Stars, stars! And all eyes else dead coals.
    [ Parent ]

    False premises lead to faulty conclusions. (4.50 / 2) (#109)
    by beergut on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 01:09:24 PM EST

    First of all, it assumes scarcity of supply. There is no point being selfish if there is a great abundance and oversupply - and therefore if a planned economy could acheive this, there would be every reason for a selfish creature to support it.

    This would be true, except for the nature of reality.

    In reality, goods and materials are scarce. Therefore, they have a set value. They may be scarce for a variety of reasons, and the more scarce, the more costly.

    What happens, in your Fruitopia, when someone has a brilliant idea for the more efficient production of gadgets, but it requires an increase in the amount of goods also used to make widgets? What if gadgets are only able to be made seasonally? What will the widget-workers do if the gadget-gaggles get their resources?

    If you proceed from a premise of good-and-plenty, you might find a planned economy works well. But, a planned economy cannot cope with unplanned events.

    In nature creatures are invariably only altruistic when they have something to gain.

    Hahahahah!!! In nature, creatures are never altruistic. They fight and kill for what they need to survive and raise their young. It is only humans who have this notion of fair play.

    i don't see any nanorobots or jet engines or laser holography or orbiting death satellites.
    i just see some orangutan throwing code-feces at a computer screen.

    -- indubitable
    [ Parent ]

    altruism (none / 0) (#255)
    by crayz on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 05:01:04 PM EST

    "Hahahahah!!! In nature, creatures are never altruistic. They fight and kill for what they need to survive and raise their young. It is only humans who have this notion of fair play."

    There was an experiment done, I read about in some Carl Sagan book(Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors, perhaps). They were using chimps(or possibly orangutans), and they would hook one chimp up to a system to deliver electric shocks, and instruct another chimp to press a button to deliver the shocks. If the chimp refused to press the button, it wouldn't be given food.

    Most chimps refused to press the button, after witnessing the pain the other chimp experienced when it was pressed. They chose starvation rather than harming their fellow chimp.

    [ Parent ]
    [NT] Electric shock is not "natural". (1.00 / 2) (#273)
    by beergut on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 07:06:20 PM EST


    i don't see any nanorobots or jet engines or laser holography or orbiting death satellites.
    i just see some orangutan throwing code-feces at a computer screen.

    -- indubitable
    [ Parent ]

    and??? (4.00 / 1) (#284)
    by crayz on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 10:54:55 PM EST

    That is important how exactly? Sure, you said in nature in your original comment, but exactly why is that important? Do the evil selfish chimp brains somehow warp into kind altruistic ones when they are in a lab in a scientific experiment?

    Your claim that "it is only humans who have this notion of fair play" seems to be horribly inaccurate.

    [ Parent ]
    "Haha" Defective analogy! (2.00 / 1) (#319)
    by Shampoo369 on Fri Jun 22, 2001 at 02:50:54 PM EST

    Please! IF your analogy is applicable, it would imply that there are unfathomable similarities between humans and Orangutans? They can't even be compared to Chimps in terms of intelligence, much less be compare to humans in terms of SOCIAL habits and nature!!!

    "If you really want something in this life, you have to work for it -- Now quiet, they're about to announce the lottery numbers!"
      --Homer


    [ Parent ]
    That's depressing (4.00 / 1) (#362)
    by kraant on Mon Jun 25, 2001 at 02:36:10 AM EST

    I can't remember what it was called but there was once an experiment to see whether people would obey authority figures and electrocute people.

    And most people just went ahead and did it.

    Chimps are more compassionate that your average human being... heh!
    --
    "kraant, open source guru" -- tumeric
    Never In Our Names...
    [ Parent ]

    Baffling (4.50 / 2) (#131)
    by weirdling on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 02:14:34 PM EST

    I could not really make out your first paragraph, but I'd like to point out that all it really takes is one thing to be scarce, doesn't matter what it is, and someone selfish will control that abundant supply in order to horde the scarce thing. I sincerely doubt we'll ever be in a place where everything is non-scarce.
    Planned economies only work if everyone is satisfied with what the planner wishes. What if, for instance, I want a supercharged v6, but the planner feels that is not an efficient use of resources? In this society, I save up, find someone who can do it, and have it done. There is no way to do so in a planned society. Since there has never been any indication that planned economies would be more efficient than capitalistic economies, there isn't any reason to remove that freedom.
    Now, feudalism is a political organizational type, not an economic one. Feudalism certainly had elements of capitalism. Lords traded amongst themselves. Peasants simply didn't have economic freedom, but freedmen and merchants did, and took advantage of it, often becoming quite wealthy. Capitalism is the way the economy works, not the way the government runs.

    I'm not doing this again; last time no one believed it.
    [ Parent ]
    Communism is *way* bad. (2.75 / 4) (#56)
    by Highlander on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 06:01:14 AM EST

    As I like to say, marxism is the realization of a problem in capitalism, not a solution to the problem.

    Communism basically is capitalism, with the modification that the state plays the role of the capitalist.

    Assets will still be traded between party members, and the economic plans that are conceived are prone to overestimates and wrong assesment of necessity (for example: Is there enough food ? Do the people really need an economy that spends 30% on the military ?). And I am not even talking of corruption - this is normal process.

    If I may suggest a solution to the problem that capital aggregates over time: make sure that everyone pays a tax that equals the profit that an average person can make over time. THEN DESTROY THE MONEY. By retreating the money from circulation, you will fight inflation.

    Moderation in moderation is a good thing.

    Sounds familiar... (4.25 / 4) (#77)
    by 3waygeek on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 09:53:13 AM EST

    Highlander wrote:
    Communism basically is capitalism, with the modification that the state plays the role of the capitalist.

    Reminds me of a joke often attributed to John Kenneth Galbraith:

    Q: What's the difference between communism and capitalism?
    A: Under capitalism, man exploits man. Under communism, it's the other way around.

    [ Parent ]
    But inflation is a good thing (5.00 / 1) (#128)
    by weirdling on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 02:05:58 PM EST

    Don't believe me? That national debt is getting smaller every day. Simply owning a house causes you to earn money through inflation. Any capital investment amortized over time is aided by inflation. As society grows continually, allowing the money supply to grow is perfectly normal. Floating high debt in an inflationary time is great.
    However, hard money, as you have recommended, will result in significantly less lending, resulting in a significant reduction in capital spending, resulting in a significant reduction in all sectors responsible for generating capital goods, resulting in those in those sectors having less money for non-capital goods, which will ripple through the economy, and we'll have a recession.

    I'm not doing this again; last time no one believed it.
    [ Parent ]
    Yes, but .. (none / 0) (#260)
    by Highlander on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 05:38:52 PM EST

    .. but modern governments fight inflation very well.
    Withdrawing a portion of the money that is passed on from generation to generation is an alternative to having inflation. It attempts to cure the evil at the root, not applying a general cut to the entire economy.

    Moderation in moderation is a good thing.
    [ Parent ]
    Managed inflation (5.00 / 1) (#265)
    by weirdling on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 06:07:08 PM EST

    Governments do not try to stop inflation; that would be ridiculously easy to do: just put the country back on the gold standard. Tied to a hard value, money would not inflate. However, this is bad for the economy in the long term.
    Managed inflation is what most governments have. They let inflation grow fast enough to generate salubrious effects but try to keep it slow enough so it doesn't kill security investment. That means between 2 and 5% annually, by and large.

    I'm not doing this again; last time no one believed it.
    [ Parent ]
    You assume a perfect balance .. (none / 0) (#293)
    by Highlander on Fri Jun 22, 2001 at 05:09:07 AM EST

    You assume a perfect balance, but how do you know that the current balance is perfect ?

    There already are taxes on passing money to your offspring in effect. So what I am talking about isn't quite as original or radical as you seem to think.

    Let's take inflation into the equation:

    Assume generation A passes capital to generation B , B puts it on the bank at average savings rates, and B passes capital to generation C.

    All i state is that the capital passed from B to C should match the capital passed from A to B.

    There is no good reason why this financial manipulation should result in tax benefit for the state, at least if you assume a state that has managed to reduce its debts to a sane level.

    In your concept, the state will continue to aggregate debt in order to provide returns to the capital that is passed from generation to generation simply by placing it on the bank. IMHO, this is not good.

    I see that you can have a similar effect(to normalising capital on the deathbed) by applying inflation, but I have a feeling this concept is really volatile if you consider a timespan of several generations.

    Moderation in moderation is a good thing.
    [ Parent ]

    Wait a minute (5.00 / 1) (#322)
    by weirdling on Fri Jun 22, 2001 at 02:58:27 PM EST

    First of all, almost never is capital passed in the form of cash or cash-negotiables. The biggest problem with any form of inheritance tax is that they require *liquidation* of these assets in order to pay the tax. If the asset is monolithic, such as a family business, the whole thing has to be sold, often at way below market value, in order to pay tax. Even if the assets are in the form of securities, one still has to liquidate them to pay a tax assessed on their market value, which is higher than their liquidation value, so, unless the entire set of securities are liquidated, thus establishing a new market value for the whole set, the tax will be inherently higher than expected.
    Now, when these securities are liquidated, it results in innefficiency in the capital market; they are sold for a reason other than financial gain, so their sale constitutes an artificial reduction in the securities market, which often happens before tax day, anyway.
    Essentially, these taxes fail to recognize that most of the money passed from generation to generation is already invested, and to seize the money necessarily devalues the investment, which is bad for the entire sector, as it means those in the sector the investment is in cannot raise capital through the floating of new securities until the market stabilises. While the effect is small, it is cumulative, and results in under-capitalization of those securities, hampering new production and further capital investment in that sector.
    Stopping inflation dead will always stagnate the economy. Such a plan will cause a simultaneous devaluation of a company (liquidation) with a simultaneous evaluation of money (caused by the destruction of the proceeds), which means that, essentially, the company can get less cash to buy things that cost more.
    As to inflation spanning generations, the US has been off the gold standard for several generations already and it has proven to be long-term viable, and, what is more, the normal operation of an economy. The fed can effect the inflation rate, but it really is generated by the economy itself. Generally, low capital sales result in freer money, resulting in mildly higher inflation, while high capital sales result in less-free money, but higher wages, which also results in inflation. Deflation does happen; a few years ago it happened for a short time in the US and had everyone running scared. Essentially, productivity gains negated huge wage increases to such an extent that, while wage earning went up, costs went down marginally. Stagflation, ala Carter era economy, is where the exact opposite happens: oil embargo severly increases the cost of goods at the same time as the economy becomes bearish, so wages are capped. Such an economy will often see double-digit inflation with no wage increase, and all without any mucking by the feds. Essentially, the cost of oil drove up every other sector. Even under the gold standard with hard money, this would have happened; the only difference is that the dollar could not have floated to the point where US goods were once again attractive to foreign countries, as it did subsequently in the eighties, a product of the massive devaluation of the dollar caused by the double-digit inflation in the seventies.

    I'm not doing this again; last time no one believed it.
    [ Parent ]
    Accepted .. (none / 0) (#358)
    by Highlander on Sun Jun 24, 2001 at 08:13:45 AM EST

    recap: this started as a discussion about the usefulness of inheritance tax, in conjuncion with proposing to remove the taxes harvested this way from circulation.

    The biggest problem with any form of inheritance tax is that they require *liquidation* of these assets in order to pay the tax.
    I accept the line of argument.

    Well, it would appear that this problem would already surface with the current inheritance taxes (if not in US then in other countries). An idea is that the state offers loans to the parties who have to pay inheritance tax, to avoid the liquidation of assets.

    Stopping inflation dead will always stagnate the economy.
    Stopping inflation is not the primary goal. Seeing inheritance taxes the way I propose would add an alternative move in a situation where otherwise the fed would reduce the amount of money by raising the borrowing rates.

    The inheritance tax rate could safely rest in the hands of the federal bank, instead of the government, once the tax income to the government from inheritance is removed. If you think about it, you should realize that this is where it belongs.

    As to inflation spanning generations, the US has been off the gold standard for several generations already and it has proven to be long-term viable, and, what is more, the normal operation of an economy.
    So it can be the normal operation of an economy. This does not tell whether it is the best way of operating an economy, or whether the economy is able to dynamically react and change.

    Currently, the economy relies on mismanagement and abuse to break up monopolies and concentrated assets, instead of rewarding only the well-operating monopolies with persistance.

    The fed can effect the inflation rate, but it really is generated by the economy itself.
    Still, the fed keeps an eye on the inflation rate. Of course, in a given situation, deflation looks scary; but considering that all products undergo technical refinements, and that supply chains ideally would get more efficient, deflation in fact could be the normal state of an economy.

    You will probably argue that this does lead to capital that is not being invested, because it can be saved at home and become more valuable there.
    However, consider what role private savings in bank accounts at low returns play: This is dumb money. It doesn't really influence the economy to make good decisions.

    Consider the specific economic operation of providing someone who does not spend his money with a reward (for example, private savings):

    Basically this means in a deflation economy, the banks get cut out as the middleman in providing the above operation. It is easy to imagine that in times of deflation the banks will come running to the fed to ask for inflation, and the banks will probably get it because of non-direct personal overlap with to the fed personal. However, the well-being of the banks isn't necessarily equivalent to the well-being of the economy.

    Of course, I would really need to prove this by looking at bank profits vs. inflation data.

    Moderation in moderation is a good thing.
    [ Parent ]

    Of private savings and loans for inheritance taxes (5.00 / 1) (#369)
    by weirdling on Mon Jun 25, 2001 at 03:00:13 PM EST

    The main problem with inheritance taxes as they exist is that they are ruinous. It is relatively easy for a company to take on a 5 or 10% loan based on its value, but taking on a 40% loan will be sufficient to drive an owner-operator clean out of business. Most owner-operator businesses do not liquidate well, as they have no employees, hence no continuity, and often are short on capital assests. Take, for instance, a truck driver. His primary capital asset is his truck, which he owns. This is some $80k worth of equipment, which he wishes to pass on to his son, who has been driving with him, when he dies. Now, that truck is probably still under loan itself, having cost substantially more than it is currently worth. It can be expected to be around 50% under loan already. If the truck is passed on, its current value less the amount of outstanding loan will likely be used to calculate its future value, so we get 40% (guess; don't know real value, but it's high) of $40k, which amounts to $16k in taxes, not including any other equipment and things that may be passed. Now, the added $16k in debt may be enough to cause the son to have to sell the truck, at which point, since he must sell quickly, he won't make the full $80k in value, getting rather closer to $65-70k. Even at $70k, the proceeds amount to just $14k. Essentially, should the son actually wish to continue in the trucking business, it would make more sense for him to sell his dad's truck, settle the estate, including outstanding loans and so on, and use the remaining cash as a down payment on a new truck.
    Even worse is the operator of a small store: he often leases the property, so his sole capital investment is his stock. Now, the value of this business will be estimated based on how much money it makes, not its capital value, so the place may be valued at $1M, despite having stock of just $100k. That being said, should the tax bill come due for $400k, the liquidation will not cover it unless it can be sold as a complete store. Often, however, the business is liquidated to the amount of around $60k or so (retail liquidation much worse than capital liquidation), the IRS is informed that the new actual value of the company is just $60k, the tax burden is now $24k, and the proceeds are just $36k, for a business originally valued at $1M! Now, in this case, getting a loan is prohibitive. A $400k loan on a $1M business will almost certainly sink it, if it is retail, because the payment overhead will be high enough to kill the gross margin.
    I'm totally against any and all inheritance tax. The damage done to small business is simply horrific, as it almost always guarantees the liquidation of a business at substantially less than the worth of the business and subsequently requires further capital investment to replace that business, eating up capital that is more useful elsewhere simply to comply with a tax. See, that store will likely as not be replaced, if it was successful, but whoever replaces that store will need to replace the $100k of stock, using capital investment to do so. So, the initial capital investment for the previous store is reduced to a mere $36k by the tax, requiring $64k in subsequent investment to replace the store, which is an integral part of the economy. Such inefficiencies are, of course, passed on to the consumer...
    Now, private savings: this society doesn't encourage savings for two main reasons: Social Security and payment plans. In the old days, savings were often used for capital purchases. These days, such purchases are done on payment plans, allowing the amortization of the capital purchase while it is in use, which is a major innovation in such things, as it is now possible to own the thing now when it is needed, increasing the efficiency of usage for the thing. The other thing is Social Security, which lulls people into not planning for their future, requiring further government meddling at the end of their lives. Social Security is not wealth; they invest in government bonds only and use a Ponzi scheme to cover bills. They earn just 4% for the lowest bracket and .9% for the highest bracket. Compared to them, a savings account is heaven.
    However, you have a misconception about savings accounts. A bank puts money in a passbook account or CD or other form of savings account into long-term low-yield investments such as mortgages. A bank holding, say, $3M in deposited funds, can make around $2M in investments and remain solvent. It only has to make 50% more in interest than it pays to passbook accounts to ensure that it will make its money back, which is why CDs with longer periods have higher returns: a higher percentage of the money in those CDs can be invested, so the ratio is lower, allowing them to pay savers a premium for leaving the money in longer. However, it doesn't just sit; it goes into people's houses, cars, motorcycles, boats, RVs, corporate bridge loans, bonds, and other investment-grade securities, which are relatively safe investments because they are backed by either a very high lender confidence or a capital good that has high value-retention. This is why the return is so low; 8% on a mortgage.
    Now, a bank in such a position really doesn't care a bit what happens to inflation so long as inflation doesn't get too high. It can go down for all they care, as their investments are locked in, as are their costs. However, of course, in a deflationary economy, defaults go up and house prices go down, so the bank will get squeezed at default time. This is bad for everyone, though, because it results in a glut on the housing market, putting construction workers out of work and eventually causing a total collapse in the real-estate market when everyone gets evicted and no one has enough money or credit rating to buy a house. However, an economy must be significantly deflationary in order to achieve this, and, with the exception of the Great Depression, such has not happened in the US. Ridiculously high inflation doesn't necessarily hurt a well-run bank, as they make their money on the difference in their rates. High inflation will be good for those who borrow but bad for those who invest, but, once again, they are locked in, so there isn't much they can do. As such, it is possible if the bank's assets are mostly short-term investments, that the bank could face trouble if everyone wanted to pull their money out, which would likely as not result in either massive foreclosures by the bank as they make a call on all their short-term revolving loans, or in a default by the bank, which would result in the liquidation of its assets, but this sort of thing hasn't happened since the S&L crash, which was caused by very bad money management, not by inflation, per se.
    However, deflation is always bad for the consumer of the loan and always will be. A house at a fixed mortgage that has a fixed payment of $650 or so per month in a deflationary economy is doing two things: losing value and eating a higer percentage of income. First of all, deflation means that the house must cost less in real dollars because dollars are worth more. Since wages do not increase in deflationary economies, as everyone is being handed a wage increase by the deflation anyway, people will find their house costing more and more of their relative income. For instance, if groceries cost $400/month before deflation, they will cost $350/month after. This looks good on paper, but those renting from established vendors will see their housing costs go down, as well, meaning that comparatively, those who own houses are losing compensation. Now, if this condition continues, it is rather easy for the house owner to get inverted, as his loan is growing at 8%, and the economy as a whole is receding at, say, 3%, making an 11% gap. The result is that most mortgages, unless very mature, begin to drop more slowly than the value of the house, making it impossible for the person to sell the house and recoup the cost of the mortgage. This will hurt every house-owner in the country.
    Deflation is overall bad for those with capital investments tied up and is certainly not the natural order of things. I'm against any policy that will result in significant change to a deflationary economy primarily because changing an economy on the idea that it might be better is like turning left on a highway because it might be better; history has shown us that it normally isn't a good idea to deviate from a market economy.

    I'm not doing this again; last time no one believed it.
    [ Parent ]
    Some belated comments (none / 0) (#403)
    by Highlander on Mon Jul 16, 2001 at 04:20:49 AM EST

    The main problem with inheritance taxes as they exist is that they are ruinous. It is relatively easy for a company to take on a 5 or 10% loan based on its value, but taking on a 40% loan will be sufficient to drive an owner-operator clean out of business.
    Okay, but shouldn't it be possible to counteract this by two methods:
    • an amount of money that can be passed tax-free; say between 2 and 10 million (this is about the amount of capital you need to live from it without working; nobody should need more.)
    • loans and payment plans granted by the government.
    the IRS is informed that the new actual value of the company is just $60k, the tax burden is now $24k, and the proceeds are just $36k, for a business originally valued at $1M!
    Well someone is not behaving properly here either in assessing the value or in getting the economic value of the shop. It would seem that the IRS is operating on guesswork and should find a better method. For example, if the IRS says the business is worth $1M, the IRS should be forced to buy the business at $1M(maybe -5%) at request of the shop owner. Likewise, if the shopowner says the shop is worth $36k, he should be forced to sell the shop for $36k(maybe +5%) to the IRS if the IRS requests so. This will be game theory / free market at work.
    they invest in government bonds only and use a Ponzi scheme to cover bills. They earn just 4% for the lowest bracket and .9% for the highest bracket. Compared to them, a savings account is heaven.
    True, but in the end it achieves the same thing. caring for old people. If you put social security in a savings account, wages for nurses will be higher, which might be a good thing or not. It really comes down to the question whether you pay social security fees for yourself(savings) or for your parents(ponzi scheme).
    However, deflation is always bad for the consumer of the loan and always will be.
    Agreed. However your argument basically comes down to the fact that the houseowner took the loan in a situation with inflation, and is bad off if it suddenly becomes a deflation. So the argument is against changes and for planning confidence. So consider, I still might have a point thinking long-term; consider that federal banks try to bring inflation close to between 0% and 5% ; if and when the entire economical and legal setup supports it, an inflation rate of -1% might well be an option.

    Moderation in moderation is a good thing.
    [ Parent ]
    Re: hard money (none / 0) (#261)
    by Highlander on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 05:43:35 PM EST

    Okay, the hard money comes from having less inflation, I guess, so I take on your conclusions, not your premise:

    -However, hard money, as you have recommended, will result in significantly less lending

    So what there already is hard money.

    - resulting in a significant reduction in capital spending

    Think again, there is hard money

    - resulting in a significant reduction in all sectors responsible for generating capital goods, resulting in those in those sectors having less money for non-capital goods, which will ripple through the economy, and we'll have a recession.

    Bla, Bla, what are saying is that there will not be enough money because there is too much hard much. Just goes to prove you can argue your way to any conclusion using round reasoning in a negative feedback loop.

    Moderation in moderation is a good thing.
    [ Parent ]
    No (5.00 / 1) (#267)
    by weirdling on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 06:18:49 PM EST

    Hard money doesn't come from *less* inflation, it comes from *no* inflation. Tie the money to some rare material, such as gold or platinum, and you have hard money, as long as there isn't a new discovery of that material. No country in the world does this anymore; it is a pointless exercise. Money no longer represents shiny stones, it represents work done. That value is much harder to quantify.
    Now, one of the major ways to play with inflation is to fiddle with lending rates. Lower the fed and watch inflation rise; raise the fed and watch it drop. The reason? When there is more money in the system, because the government has lowered the cost of borrowing money, more capital purchases will be made. This will artificially increase the demand, which will result in a temporary increase in price for that particular capital purchase. However, those who make that piece of capital now have more disposable income, hence tend to buy goods and services at a higher rate themselves, resulting in a general increase in cost of all goods, which, sooner or later, becomes self-sustaining.
    Increase the interest rates, and the economy will spend less on capital purchases, reducing the amount of money being spread about. When that amount drops below the amount needed to maintain adequate employment, two things happen: first, all the newly laid-off people find out they can't buy anything, and second, all the companies find out they have stuff they can't sell. Simultaneously, income plummets and prices plummet, and you have a recession or a full-fledged depression. That is why the US is technically not in a recession, as goods are still flowing. The market is merely soft.
    It's kind of funny, but a few years ago, Alan Greenspan was worried about a recession while there was practically no unemployment and inflation was very low, two things that normally don't happen together. The reason? Large stocks of capital goods that weren't moving. There was plenty of money, but nobody was buying. Six months later, the market began to fall, and, officially, we entered a bear market, at the same time as those stocks began to move due to greatly reduced prices.
    Anyway, strictly limiting the money supply will always result in a less vibrant economy.

    I'm not doing this again; last time no one believed it.
    [ Parent ]
    Wealth as a concept (4.60 / 5) (#64)
    by Znork on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 08:22:55 AM EST

    A wealthy society is where no person lacks the means to obtain the material or immaterial goals they wish to reach. Such a society can only be reached by reducing scarcity further and further, because any system that does not take into consideration the scarcity of goods and other types of experienced wealth (wether the availability of education, entertainment, useful and desired work, art, healthcare, etc) is doomed to only end up redistributing something there isnt enough of and making different people unhappy.

    In my opinion, the slow steps towards eliminating scarcity are taken by the automatation of production. Human labor is the ultimate limitation and the ultimate cost for producing anything. Work done by machines is free wealth generation for society as a whole. This allows goods to become less scarce and available for continually increasing segments of the population.

    Capitalism has been the best way to achieve this lack of scarcity. Capitalism encourages production to become cheaper, until the final goal of everything costing so little that the poorest member of society can easily afford whatever they wish, in the end.

    However, capitalism should not be confused with what we have in the western world where corporatism has taken hold. The actions of corporations that attempt to limit competition on a daily basis work directly against the increase of distributed wealth in society.

    Capitalism isn't that efficient (3.33 / 3) (#94)
    by JDBrewy on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 12:03:17 PM EST

    You raise some excellent points. I want to inject one observation, though. When you look at all the banking and finance jobs that go into making capitalism work (at least our perverted implementation of capitalism) it starts to look less efficient. Can anybody support a theory of capitalism that doesn't require this overhead?
    I live in Iowa so I give this example: If all the insurance and banking jobs in Des Moines were eliminated and the people instead worked on surrounding farms, each person would work less or alternatively create more wealth. The AI or whatever could allocate the resources that previously took hundreds of thousands of people in the finance business. (Because we're reading k5 instead of working I guess.)

    [ Parent ]
    Misunderstanding of banking (4.33 / 3) (#127)
    by weirdling on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 02:02:05 PM EST

    Actually, if all those bankers quit banking and started farming, you'd see the farming industry crash just like the thirties, with over-production driving prices down to the point where harvesting crops costs more than they can be sold for.
    Anyway, banking is not a straightforward enterprise. Essentially, banking requires continuous accounting and very high-quality auditing, and that is what most of those people are doing. True, computers have significantly reduced the workload, but, like everywhere else, they have allowed more services to be offered, and so more people are required to monitor those services and resolve disputes. Banks that don't have this capability can run more cheaply, but soon lose customers, so the trade-off must be met where the outlay of funds for workers versus the loss of customers reaches optimum, and the capitalistic society allows each individual bank to come to that limit by themselves, making for premium banks which charge more but have better customer service, and low-end banks which charge less and have worse customer service. This is good as it gives the economy banking choices...

    I'm not doing this again; last time no one believed it.
    [ Parent ]
    Sorry, let me clarify... (4.33 / 3) (#140)
    by JDBrewy on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 02:40:20 PM EST

    The point I was trying to make is that if we had an alternate system to allocate resources (for the sake of argument, we'll go with the AI example in the original post) the entire industry wouldn't need to exist. Banks are merely the lubrication in the capitalism machine. (My analogy sounds a bit iflamatory what with "capitalism machine" but I can't think of a better one right now) If planning is telling us to produce X amount of crop A and Y amount of crop B to be shipped here, there, etc... then why would we need money? Competition among banks is what leads to the ineffeciency I eluded to. Instead of money being used to dictate where resources should be utilized, it is used by the banks to beat the competition. The one flaw I see with this mythical AI doing the planning is how could it possibly measure people's wants and desires for allocating those resources?
    I understand that in theory banking under capitalism works the way you described. As I understand the anarcho-capitalist philosophy (I'm by no means an expert so correct me if I'm wrong), that is exactly how it would be. I personally don't completely agree with that philosophy, but it would probably be better than what we have here in the US.

    I'm new to k5 so let me just say thanks in advance for the lively discussion!

    [ Parent ]
    so very complex (4.50 / 2) (#147)
    by speek on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 03:27:28 PM EST

    It's telling that our capitalist society requires vastly more resources devoted to these planning and adminstrative activities (like banking, insurance, etc), than to actual productive activities. If we were to devise an AI that could take care of all of that, that AI would necessarily be huge and complex, and we each would have to be constantly feeding it information about our wants and needs. And when I say constantly, I mean constant - we'd have to be hooked up 24/7. Probably against our will, I think. Personally, I'd prefer a hybrid system, where there were shared responsibilities between humans and AI/computer decision-makers, with constant feedback between the two, and indeed constant potential/voluntary feedback between these two and all people besides.

    --
    al queda is kicking themsleves for not knowing about the levees
    [ Parent ]

    Ah, I see now (3.00 / 1) (#151)
    by weirdling on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 03:47:31 PM EST

    An AI could, theoretically, do away with money, I see.
    Of course, the AI would also have to handle all the accounting chores that banks and brokerage houses now handle, keeping track of all that production as it moves around. That's a huge job...

    I'm not doing this again; last time no one believed it.
    [ Parent ]
    Human Labor (4.00 / 1) (#185)
    by weston on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 10:46:21 PM EST

    I find Wendell Berry interesting from an economic standpoint because
    he focuses on the human cost of not performing certain labors. In
    short, not working is bad for one spiritually.

    It's an interesting idea. Personally, I can't stop thinking about automation,
    though, because it seems to me that some forms of labor are just tedious and
    others are interesting. Most of us want "meaningful work" not freedom
    from labor.... but then there's the discussion of who takes out the
    garbage.

    His essay on racism "The Hidden Wound" explores these ideas especially
    well. This post does not, but it hopes you'll take a look at what he has to
    say and think about it.

    (I'm sure this crowd would love his <A HREF="http://www.tipiglen.dircon.co.uk/berrynot.html">"Why I am not going to buy a computer"</A> essay, too).




    [ Parent ]
    Ponderings (4.42 / 7) (#65)
    by Simon Kinahan on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 08:32:52 AM EST

    Nice article. However, I've never found the inevitable march towards the worker's utopia very convincing and you haven't done much to change my mind.

    I do think "capitalism" is likely to only last so long, and that some other economic system will replace it. I doubt that system will be a planned one. More likely it will be another, potentially corrupting, system of power relations with its own internal tensions ready to destroy it. Probably it will be more complicated than capitalism, as capitalism is more complicated than feudalism. Possibly it might allow more personal freedom, but that is by no means a certainty.

    The important difference between capitalism (and feudalism) and the various systems mooted as replacements is that noone designed capitalism. Noone sat down and said "now, an economic system needs to do this ..." and came up with capitalism. Instead it evolved as a consequence of a succession of conflicts between different sources of power, leading to compromises. Thus we have relative freedom to act (and lose) in the economic sphere, but also a degree of support for those who lose, but also a degree of cronyism around government and big business that most people find distasteful. Marx though communism would result from the conflict between the working class and capital. He was wrong. The welfare state did instead. I guess we just have to live with that.

    Planned systems suffer from an inherent disadvantage, in that they rely on someone being able to predict trends in consumption and productivity in advance. If I invent a new machine that plants cabbages more effectively, enabling the cabbage crop to double, but the plan only accounted for the old cabbage crop, I won't use my machine, or cabbages will rot in the fields, even if the actual demand for cabbages would accomodate the doubled crop. While market mechanisms have problems in the information they don't take into account (ecological damage, for instance) they do distribute and adapt to this kind "what should I make ?" and "what can I buy ?" pretty well without the need for any plans other than those made by individual consumers.

    On the consumption side, the inflexibility of planning as a mechanism would probably show through as a lack of personal, positive freedom. In an authoritarian system involving planning, it is likely to actually become oppressive to those wanting to experiment with consumption not accounted for in the plan.




    Simon

    If you disagree, post, don't moderate
    Why socialism/communism/et. al will never work. (2.60 / 5) (#66)
    by tweek on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 08:33:26 AM EST

    It boils down to man. I saw "Enemy at the Gates" and one point from the movie stuck out at me (despite the somewhat weak historical setup) and that was this.

    Communism/Socialism fail because of people. People are emotional characters. Sure you can TRY and make people equal in social standings but someone will ALWAYS want something that someone else has. I may have a prettier wife than you. That will make you jealous. The whole plan goes to shit.

    Here's my question to the general populous. What the hell is wrong with a merit based social model? It's worked to help make the US one of the greatest countries in the world in the shortest amount of time and yet people still think there is a problem. I'm willing to listen to any rational point so feel free to comment.

    Some people call me crazy but I prefer to think of myself as freelance lunatic.
    What's wrong with a meritocracy (1.00 / 1) (#102)
    by snap on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 12:54:50 PM EST

    What the hell is wrong with a merit based social model?

    Absolutely nothing. I think that most people would be very satisfied if US society were truly based on merit. Unfortunately, nothing could be further from the truth.

    The rich and powerful are rich and powerful because they were born that way. Sure there some exceptions to the rule, but in general the story of the poor kid pulling himself up by his own bootstraps is pure fiction.

    Would Dubya have been elected if daddy wasn't president before he was? Would he have made it through Yale without his father's influence? Would we even know his name if he were born into a poor family? Probably not.

    I don't want to get caught up in a discussion of the merits of GWB as president, that is not my point. I could have substituted Ted Kennedy or any number of powerful politicians or CEOs, but Dubya was the first to come to mind.

    If you truly want to create a meritocracy then would need to remove the ability of the rich and powerful to transfer their advantages to the next generation. Implement a 100% estate tax and make college free for everyone. I'm sure that more would need to be done, but these two things would be a good start.

    I would welcome the day when a child born into the poorest family in America has the same opportunities as a child born into the richest family. Until that day comes, merit will have very little to do with success.

    [ Parent ]

    Bill Gates (4.00 / 1) (#126)
    by weirdling on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 01:55:24 PM EST

    True, Bill Gates had advantages as a kid, but the amount of money he has amassed since far outstrips what his father made.
    GW didn't just glide through on influence. If that was possible, why didn't Al Gore graduate from graduate school? GW actually did have to complete the coursework and did so. Further, GW is often severely underestimated. Sure, he road the tails of his father some, but let's not forget that his father lost to Bill Clinton. His father isn't a dreadnought in politics, having ridden the tails of Reagan into the whitehouse, aided by the idiot Dukakis. In this case, I think it safe to say that Gore was not a seriously compelling candidate and Bush is a way better politician than anyone gives him credit for.
    There are those who have money that others made for them, but if you read the article, you'd notice that the money they have is increasing, meaning they're doing something right. Money doesn't simply beget money; one has to invest wisely in order to get more money, and any person who wants to can start building wealth. It doesn't take much actual cash to do so.
    The fact that the vast majority of people do not take the opportunity to build wealth isn't really my problem.

    I'm not doing this again; last time no one believed it.
    [ Parent ]
    GWB (none / 0) (#235)
    by snap on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 01:32:37 PM EST

    GW vs Gore blah, blah. That is exactly the kind of discussion that I didn't want to get into. Gore is another good example of a person who got to his current position because of the wealth and power that he was born into. I happen to dislike GW more than I dislike Gore so he was the first example that came to mind, but your discussion of Gore just strengthens my point that success is based on the advantages that a person is given more than personal merit.

    Money doesn't beget money? When you have a billion dollars you don't have to take risks with your money to make a lot more. A stable low interest investment will net you millions. The wealthy will stay wealthy. Sure, a small investor could amass a good deal of wealth, but he would have to assume a lot risk, and potentially go bankrupt, to do it.

    Even the ability to research investment is not equally available to all people. It is a lot easier for people who have the time to do the research. Do you really think that the guy working two or three jobs, or your local landscaper or construction worker have the time to do in depth research. No. Were they even taught basic research skills in highschool -- probably not.

    I'm starting to ramble -- the basic point is that being poor is not a disease. Too often in American society, we look at the poor and assume that they must be stupid or lazy or inadequate in some way. It's the nasty backside to the myth of the american dream -- if everyone has an equal opportunity to succeed, then something must be wrong with the people who do not succeed. We need to recognize that the basic assumption of equal opportunity is incorrect.

    [ Parent ]

    Well (5.00 / 1) (#129)
    by tweek on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 02:06:17 PM EST

    I'll avoid the value or lack of regarding G.W.B as president as well since I didn't vote for him (Harry Browne if you must know, was my candidate of choice) and will instead focus on meritocracy as you did.

    You mention that alot of the wealth in this country is passed off via estate. What's wrong with that? What is my motivation to build a life for my children and secure thier future if I can't pass off what I've worked for? You don't just work for yourself but for you family as well. If the child decides to not work and live off that money, that's on the family's head and not yours. Personally I would will my income to wife and a portion to my kids on the stipulation that they have a job of some sort.

    See, the major problem with government handouts (and let's be honest, welfare IS a handout no matter how you dress it up and repackage it), is that the majority will take advantage of it. There is NO motivation to get off welfare.

    (I'm really trying to put aside my dislike of big government social programs but I'm finding it difficult.)

    I've been at the point where I could have lived off goverment money and not had to work but I didn't. I kept looking for work and was out of work for THREE months with no car, no place to live and a pile of bills stacking up.

    Three years later, my bills are somewhat caught up. I have a car, my own place to live and a succesfull career. It's all a matter of motivation. I plan on working hard the rest of my life and amassing as much wealth as I can. Do I not deserve it? I'm the one who earned it. What does it matter to someone down the street what I do with my money when I die? If I want to take and put it in a plastic bag and dump it over a major interstate, who is anyone else to tell me what to do with it?

    I've seen alot of threads from people saying that it's not fair for someone to have more than someone else. It's not right. Blah blah freakin blah. It's MY money. I earned it. It wasn't given to me. I wasn't MORE blessed than someone else. I wasn't given better advantages. If I have to work three jobs to get what I want then I will work three jobs. Anyone else is free to do the same.

    I also understand exceptions for people with disabilities and whatnot but the definition of disability at this point has become so polluted that I could succesfully sue an employer for making me use a keyboard when I can't type as fast as everyone else. (this isn't the fact mind you considering I'm the fastest typist in the office.)

    So basically what social governments boil down to is catering to the least common denominator.


    Some people call me crazy but I prefer to think of myself as freelance lunatic.
    [ Parent ]
    re: well (none / 0) (#233)
    by snap on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 01:07:39 PM EST

    There is absolutely nothing wrong with an older generation passing their wealth off to a younger generation. I was simply pointing out the fact that this is incompatible with a strictly merit-based social model. A single rich ancestor can keep many generations in positions of wealth and power, regardless of their merits. The Rockefeller family, to go with a less politically controversial example, continue to benefit from wealth amassed in the early part of the 20th century.

    Is it right for you or I to have more than someone else? That depends. More of what? Money -- sure you earned it, it is yours. Opportunity -- well, no.

    A basic myth of American society is that everyone has an equal opportunity to succeed. Even a cursory examination of that belief reveals that it is completely false. Does the child of a worker on the assembly line have the same educational opportunities as the child of the CEO? Of course not. People all over the political spectrum agree on this (disagreements about how to fix the problem, e.g. vouchers vs. public school funding, notwithstanding).

    Maybe these differences of opportunity are not such a bad thing, but they are certainly not compatible with a merit based social model.

    I would love to live in a meritocracy, but we currently do not have anything like it. Are we currently closer than we would be under socialism? Sure, but we need to do a lot of work to get there.

    Your discussion of welfare is a totally different topic, so I'll just let that slide.

    [ Parent ]

    Join the 21st Century (-1) (2.77 / 9) (#67)
    by bittur on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 08:33:50 AM EST

    Anybody who quotes Francis Fukuyama in his opening lines clearly has done nothing but navel gaze for the last 20 years.

    Anybody that believes communism is a workable model, hasn't joined the 19th century.

    Sorry, but I have to give this a BIG -1. Communism sucks, just like all efforts to control human activity suck.

    My favourite analogy is to ask readers to consider what happened during the middle ages: everybody relied on the church and kings (or queens, if you were lucky) to run their lives and what happened? You were lucky if you got a mud sandwich for dinner.

    Capitalism reigns supreme because individuals, not entities, can be successful literally over-ight. Individuals can determine their own fate and not have to worry about being controlled by other entities. Of course, we are, but that's an entirely different discussion.

    I agree: e-commerce and the perfect market (3.00 / 2) (#69)
    by bosk on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 08:44:08 AM EST

    What if, instead of a planned economy, there was a perfect market? The government provided an electronic marketplace through which all transactions must be executed. It would be possible to match the highest bidder with the lowest seller. Goods would be standardized, no more Airbus x300 or Boeing 777 just ISO ... To be sure, such a high level of standardization is many years off, perhaps centuries, but it is not inconceivable. Furthermore, transactions would be anonymous so that there could be no pre-arranged deal making. The system would exist to always match the best possible buyers and sellers, no matter what.

    Marginal profits would disappear. If there are no profits then everybody could earn more or less the same wage.

    The perfect market is what we are already well underway in trying to build as evidenced by business-to-business portals such as those of large automobile manufacturers. The perfect market, like communism, will also be a much fairer system than that we have now but also have a much better chance of success.



    No innovation, either (5.00 / 3) (#123)
    by weirdling on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 01:47:48 PM EST

    Let me explain from the field of firearms, which, contrary to popular belief, is driven by a large and industrious private industry, rather than primarily defense contractors. Don't think so? Every cartridge the US has used in a gun in recent history except the .45 ACP and the .30-06 was first used as a civillian cartridge. The .45 ACP and the .30-06 were both developed simultaneously as civillian and military cartridges. The current US infantry rifle, the M-16, uses the .223 cartridge, NATO designation 5.56 NATO, which was originally developed by people searching for a faster, more accurate .22. I own a .300 Weatherby, which is a very non-standard cartridge, but which has certain benefits to promote it. Granted, after Roy Weatherby made the .300 Weatherby, Winchester came out with the .300 Win Mag, which almost but not quite duplicates Weatherby's performance for a lot less money, but without the Weatherby wildcats, there would have never been the more utilitarian .300 magnums.
    Now, to talk of cars: there are hundreds of types of cars on the market, targeted at hundreds of different niches. Each year, carmakers try to find the new niche they are forgetting. Jeep cached in bigtime on the SUV craze, as had GMC. Chrysler found out that people do want a front-wheel-drive retro wagon, so the PT Cruiser is severly back-ordered, despite being an entry-level vehicle. Not all is roses; the Aztec seems aimed at a niche that never existed.
    So, in a market with a high degree of standardization, development essentially stops. It's the tinkerers, the modifiers, the wildcatters, and the desparate corporations needing to increase the bottom line that make the innovations. Airbus has injected much needed competition, but a Boeing 777 is not the same as an A340, no matter what the propaganda. They can't be sold as comparable units. Without Airbus, it is possible Boeing wouldn't have tried anything new, but now, Boeing is trying to make high-subsonic transports to get a competitive edge, once again, niche market that did not exist before except in the case of high-speed Leerjets.
    Standardization is the enemy of innovation. Free markets inevitably tend to create the most efficient possible manufacturing, marketing, and delivery process possible. Government intervention would make this worse.

    I'm not doing this again; last time no one believed it.
    [ Parent ]
    Overexhuberance (none / 0) (#206)
    by bosk on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 04:03:28 AM EST

    You are quite right, perhaps I'm guilty of some wishful thinking. However, I think there is still a point to be made.

    Instead of standardization for end result products there could and does exist standardization for the components that go into the assembly of a an end result product. In the automobile industry, there are problems in meeting demand so in managing the supply chain it is necessary to have redundant suppliers of the same standardized part.

    Then there is retail. Many retailers specialize in just "shipping boxes." One needs only to visit computers.com to check the best prices on a Palm Pilot or video camera. There is already downward price pressure on retailers because e-commerce allows one to find the best price via the Internet.

    People want a good price and don't necessarily need all of the innovations that firms offer them (examples: MS Word, confusing cell-phone contracts, best checking account for the money). There is a force of commoditization at work that forces firms to offer a standard package.

    A more realistic view of what might happen is not a government-controlled electronic marketplace but portals that exist for various industries that specialize in finding the best price for a standardized package. Firms cannot ignore this and will be forced to compete by offering a standard package in addition to their more innovative offerings. This will result in a more-perfect market but not a perfect market.



    [ Parent ]
    That's not a perfect market. (none / 0) (#349)
    by Monster on Sat Jun 23, 2001 at 11:19:11 AM EST

    What if, instead of a planned economy, there was a perfect market? The government provided an electronic marketplace through which all transactions must be executed. It would be possible to match the highest bidder with the lowest seller. Goods would be standardized, no more Airbus x300 or Boeing 777 just ISO ...
    First of all, if you use force to require all transactions to use one "market", you've just forbidden all sorts of interaction, such K5's rating system. Yes, that's right. Instead of putting a number on a post to indicate our opinion, we'll have to put everything up for sale on the Universal Exchange. Of course I'm stretchint here, but it's to make a point.

    You see (or rather, you don't), one of the fundamental errors of Marxist thinking is that every human interaction can be denominated in a single currency. It doesn't work that way. That's why the occasional economic analysis of the value of work done by Mom is absurd - the things I do for my wife and children I don't expect to be paid for, at least in money. The payoff to me for those things is not something your market can sell to the highest bidder.

    Second, this whole standardization nonsense just isn't going to work. Everyone here is aware of the phenomenon of thousands (if not millions) of people around the world, most of whom are not paid to do so, working on "non-standard" OS/environments. With standardization, we'd never have gone beyond DOS; BBS networks would not have been replaced by the Web.... And who is going to set the standards? In a free society, standards are set by two or more people agreeing on them, and nobody else is forced to use them that doesn't want to, because they're free to set their own standards.

    Fundamentally, your two premises are just another form of central planning, which can't work because of the simple fact that there is no universal standard of value. In fact, the reason why a market works is precisely because the buyer and seller place different relative values on the commodity and the money; the buyer valuing the commodity more, and the seller valuing the money more.

    The closest thing to a perfect market as you describe is currently evolving right before your eyes - companies like Priceline or Ebay acting as brokers to connect buyers and sellers. And because of the incredibly low cost to move the information, it's becoming possible to put a seller in contact with the person who values his work the most.

    All voluntarily. Once you introduce the element of force, you have transactions in which one party is forced to give something up for something else of less value (to him).
    SVM, ERGO MONSTRO
    [ Parent ]

    Communism is inefficient... (2.33 / 6) (#70)
    by Mantrid on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 08:47:55 AM EST

    Suppose you got a communist system working - everyone is now getting exactly the same thing. What reason is there for anyone to try anymore? For the good of their fellow man? Ha! You don't know people too well do you?

    If there's no longer a reward for succeeding then very few people will bother. It's human nature.

    as long as they keep pretending to pay us, we will keep pretending to work

    really? (none / 0) (#95)
    by Jin Wicked on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 12:10:57 PM EST

    So, let me get this straight... someone is paying you to make posts on k5, right?

    Or are you not trying right now, either?


    This post was probably not written by the real Jin Wicked. Please see user "butter pie" for Jin's actual posts.


    [ Parent ]
    I enjoy posting here... (4.00 / 1) (#111)
    by Mantrid on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 01:12:45 PM EST

    I enjoy posting here, this is a leisure activity. I'm sure the people that run this site like it as well.

    Do you think that me posting here somehow equates with working in a factory, or a mine? Someone has to do those types of jobs and under communism, where everyone is equal, what reason is there to work any harder than anyone else, even if you're able?

    [ Parent ]

    Advances, improvements (none / 0) (#122)
    by Macrobat on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 01:39:40 PM EST

    everyone is now getting exactly the same thing. What reason is there for anyone to try anymore?
    To answer your question with a question, why should I search for a cure of cancer if, when I do, everyone gets it? Maybe I won't be better off than my neighbor, but we'll both be better off tomorrow than we were yesterday. We all get the same-sized slice of the pie, but the pie is bigger. That's a reason.

    "Hardly used" will not fetch a better price for your brain.
    [ Parent ]

    heh (none / 0) (#183)
    by sinwave on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 10:15:18 PM EST

    maybe because i get paid to search for it?

    [ Parent ]
    Self-organization (4.58 / 12) (#71)
    by dennis on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 08:50:43 AM EST

    It seems intuitively obvious that a highly planned economy will yield better results, provided the planner is better than the Darwinian forces of the market.

    No it doesn't. A planned economy has a few brains controlling things, compared to millions of brains in a decentralized economy. Look what happened to Japan. While they were catching up, the path was clear - they just had to copy the Western countries. Their central planning worked well at that point, and everyone extrapolated from that and thought Japan would take over the world. But once they had to innovate to pull ahead, central planning failed.

    Experiments in artificial life bear this out as well. Complex self-organized systems are extremely good at optimization, and typically beat human programmers who compete with them. (Artificial Life by Steven Levy is a good introduction.)

    On the other hand, unrestricted corporate power is not the same thing as a true free market, and in fact Adam Smith argued against such concentrations of economic power in Wealth of Nations. With large disparities of economic power, the benefits of self-organization go away, and you get the sorts of exploitation that Marx talked about. Anyone who doubts this should read Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser.

    If power is decentralized, we get the best optimization, and the most freedom. No central planner telling me what to do, and no corporation restricting my freedom through monopolistic manipulations.

    The Problem With Socialism (3.83 / 12) (#74)
    by Paradocis on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 09:24:47 AM EST

    The problem with communism is simple: it requires the sublimination and subjugation of the individual. It contends that human beings have no right to their selves, thoughts, or even identities if it in any way interferes with the artificial construct of the whole. An individual is the smallest indivisible unit of any such whole and an individual can not live divorced of the self and mind. Man has no pointy teeth or sharp claws with which to take down prey, his mind (and its products) are his means to survival. To subvert the mind is to commit treason against one's humanity, one's survival, and the self.

    As the fundamental indivisible unit of a society, the individual must be empowered in order to empower society. Capitalism encourages this empowerment through meritocracy. The reason 1 or 5, or whatever percent of the population controls say, 90 percent of the wealth in a capitalist society is because that 1 or 5 percent earned the wealth, based on the merit of the effects of their ideas, products, and services on society and other individuals as determined by their actual value. In communism the rewards for one's products, ideas, and services are arbitrary and rarely, if ever, based on the real value that they contribute to society and individuals.

    Communism can never work because it runs contrary not only to human nature, but to nature in general. No yet to be invented technology (which incidentily could only arise through the forces of the free market) can, or ever will change that.

    As a side note, if you're hell bent to live under communism, in a capitalist society you are free to find a group of like-minded individuals with which to do so, the reverse is not true.

    Just MHO,

    No, you perceive a charicature (4.30 / 10) (#78)
    by Anya on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 09:54:28 AM EST

    The problem with communism is simple: it requires the sublimination and subjugation of the individual. It contends that human beings have no right to their selves, thoughts, or even identities if it in any way interferes with the artificial construct of the whole.

    No, what you appear to be describing here is totalitarianism. The idea that the individual should be annihilated and all civil society and all individuals made completely subserviant to the state was an idea born in the time of Stalin, not that of Marx. To say that communism is inherently evil because of Soviet Russia is like saying capitalism is inherently evil because of the bronx. Both systems can have respect for the individual, when implemented properly.

    Capitalism encourages this empowerment through meritocracy. The reason 1 or 5, or whatever percent of the population controls say, 90 percent of the wealth in a capitalist society is because that 1 or 5 percent earned the wealth, based on the merit of the effects of their ideas, products, and services on society and other individuals as determined by their actual value. In communism the rewards for one's products, ideas, and services are arbitrary and rarely, if ever, based on the real value that they contribute to society and individuals.

    Capitalism is not by any means meritocratic. If you think that the top 5% of wealthy people are there because they earned it, you are mistaken - the great majority of them had huge advantages from birth. A truly meritocratic system would give everyone an equal chance at the start of life - capitalism does not do this, as practised in the West.

    Communism can never work because it runs contrary not only to human nature, but to nature in general. No yet to be invented technology (which incidentily could only arise through the forces of the free market) can, or ever will change that.

    You seem extremely emphatic here. The periods of greatest technological advance this century were during periods when the economy was rigourously planned. Government projects are still responsible for huge amounts of progress even today. If anything, the free market is bad at developing new technology because it does so only for profit, and in a very short sighted fashion to boot. Planned economies can raise societies to new goals, and can be whole orders of magnitude more productive. Your comment about human nature makes no sense - why is communism against human nature exactly? Because human beings are selfish? Suppose it is in their interests to live in a communist society with expert systems controlling the economy? Isn't that in their interests?

    A planned economy has the potential to be much more advanced than any unplanned, chaotic economy for the simple reason that design > chaos, when the designer is better than a dice. If we are talking about ultimately developed and intelligent systems, as the internet and the economy itself 'wakes up', in a crude sense, we may head towards a very planned, and highly organised economy indeed. Your objections are based on the past, on outmoded paradigms.

    Stars, stars! And all eyes else dead coals.
    [ Parent ]

    Outmoded paradigms... (3.50 / 2) (#101)
    by beergut on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 12:53:21 PM EST

    I would submit to you that his objections are based on human nature and observation of same.

    People will still want to better themselves in a Communist system. The difference is, they cannot do so by their own initiative in such a system. They must, then, become part of the government and nudge it toward totalitarianism. When they can control some aspect of the society, they benefit. Whether that be economically, or just for a pure ego trip.

    i don't see any nanorobots or jet engines or laser holography or orbiting death satellites.
    i just see some orangutan throwing code-feces at a computer screen.

    -- indubitable
    [ Parent ]

    design > chaos (3.00 / 1) (#121)
    by weirdling on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 01:36:31 PM EST

    Hmm. Back this up...
    Evolution is not really chaos, however, unless you are a Christian, man has not designed anything to match what evolution has generated. Just a small counterpoint.
    Now, those who had advantages from birth deserve those, as their parents or grandparents earned them. It's up to their parents or grandparents to dispose of that money as they see fit. If that means they wish to make their children into the images of themselves, that's their business. The money was still earned at some point, and, should the progeny grow the fortune, it only shows the validity of the scheme.
    Besides, controlling stores of money is not the same thing as controlling flow of money, which is something these idiotic studies miss: the majority of the US controls the majority of money flow. Rich people don't spend several orders of magnitude more, which is precisely why they have more. I would posit that it is bad financing on the part of the poor as much as good financing on the part of the rich that causes them to remain poor. How can I defend this? I have a friend who makes about the same as I do but does not live as well because he spends his money more frivolously. He generates no wealth; he merely spends. Were he to save, he'd generate wealth and move himself up, but he does not think like that because he does not consider himself rich nor does he believe he can be rich. Just a thought.

    I'm not doing this again; last time no one believed it.
    [ Parent ]
    Have you done actual research on this? (4.66 / 3) (#133)
    by Mantrid on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 02:22:58 PM EST

    If you think that the top 5% of wealthy people are there because they earned it, you are mistaken

    And you know this how? I know someone who came over from Germany at 17, no contacts, couldn't speak English, had quite a few years as a labourer, eventually started up his own company (no not a .com lol), after 30 years or so his company is rather large. He owns several porsches and ferrari's. Now i can just see people like you seeing him drive by and assuming that it was somehow handed to him on a plate. Where do you get this 5% figure from?

    [ Parent ]

    Thank you... (4.00 / 1) (#184)
    by tjb on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 10:37:21 PM EST

    I was going to post soemthing similar.

    I wok with a lot of people from a lot of countries: Belgium, France, China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, India, Russia, Korea, and many others. They didn't come to new Jersey because they were going to be exploited, they came here because they were going to make $100K + / year in addition to stock options. I would venture to say that less than 5% of the engineers at my company are US born.

    In fact, to minimalize the German guy you worked with (though he truly deserves praise for his work), I work with a guy from Bangaladesh (yes, Bangaladesh!), who is probably among the top 1% of Americans. He's a US citizen now, and has moved most of his family here, but this is not a guy you would associate with "coming from wealth". He earns a shitload of money because he is one of the smartest people you will ever meet. That is is a meritocracy, and that is how things should be done in general.

    Tim

    [ Parent ]
    We'll start by clarifying... (4.00 / 1) (#172)
    by Rahyl on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 06:26:48 PM EST

    First, Communism is not a form of government, it is a form of economics.

    Second, Communism cannot exist as a matter of economic policy unless a totalitarian form of government is implemented. The government of the former Soviet Union is therefore not 'communist' as some would ignorantly claim, but rather a Totalitarian Oligarchy. I would like to see an example of communism in action under a scenario where the rights of the individual are respected. I don't believe we'll see a worthy example provided. Communism works only when those who are engaged in it are doing so willingly, not as a matter of public policy.

    If you think that the top 5% of wealthy people are there because they earned it, you are mistaken - the great majority of them had huge advantages from birth.

    Show us some stats. Go ahead, show us any stats on this of any kind from any source whatsoever. This is either a blatant lie, or complete ignorance. This country produces more millionaires than any other country. This you will know for a fact if you study world economics at all. There certainly are those that inherit large fortunes, but these are the minority, not the rule. In countries where governments control the economy, you can bet your last dollar that inheritence, not effective, efficient productivity, is the primary method of gaining wealth.

    When you die, do you or do you not believe you should be allowed to decide how much of your wealth should or should not go to your own children? Who is in the best position to decide what you give to your own family? If I earn a million dollars, and I wish to give this money away, it is my right to do whether the beneficiary is my own family or a charity.

    A truly meritocratic system would give everyone an equal chance at the start of life

    This is exactly what every human being is born with in the US: an equal chance at the start of life. You are guaranteed the right to life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness according to the Constitution, no matter your parents financial standing. These rights do not have to be purchased from the government. There is no system, even in theory, that can change the fact that some parents are worth more monetarily than others. The only way to change this would be to blatantly violate the rights of the parents.

    The periods of greatest technological advance this century were during periods when the economy was rigorously planned. Government projects are still responsible for huge amounts of progress even today. If anything, the free market is bad at developing new technology because it does so only for profit, and in a very short sighted fashion to boot.

    Absolute horse-sh*t. The US economy has never been "rigorously planned." Name one technological advance that has shaped your life that was brought to you by the government with the exception of our superior military firepower. No, the internet was not brought to you by the government, it was brought to you by the private sector after the government failed to utilize it to its potential. It is only because of the free-market that the internet is a wide-spread as it is today.

    If your planned economy is so feasible, so desirable, so much better than what we have today, why don't you do something about it? This is the point I usually stop getting responses out of big-government communist supporters, when I simply ask them to do something. It's all words, no action from this crowd, which is the #1 reason they always fail. Ideas are the only commodity that come from the communist. When it comes to results, you just won't find any.

    [ Parent ]

    hmmmm... (4.11 / 9) (#80)
    by mathematician on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 10:13:20 AM EST

    I don't agree with you. I don't think you understand communism. I'm going to generalize, and that is always at the cost of being precise, so I apologize in advance if I'm wrong. It seems to me you have been indoctrinated very well by your State in the ways of anti-communism. It is apparent that a great many people have really strong opinions on topics that they have only second hand knowledge about. This reminds me of the current war on drugs :)

    I suggest you read the Communist Manifesto or Chinese history (which is just as sensationalised as American history :) Communism in China works. It does. The reason capitalism is gaining ground there is, of course, American influence ;)

    Communism isn't about eliminating the individual, it's about cooperation. It's hard to talk about communism with somebody from the States because of the very effective propaganda they disseminated there. Why do you think you learned that communism is the end to individualism and the surrender of control to the State? Obviously because those who taught you were very afraid of Russia and China and had a lot of personal power to lose if communism was an explored alternative over where you live. So they made you fear & hate something that you have never seen (*cough*drug war*cough*)

    America is more disbalanced than the way you describe communism. Intellectual property laws have been perverted by people who would do everything in their power to increase their power. That includes the proprietary software industry, the recording industry and the movie industry. These people have manipulated your legislators into passing laws authorizing a life-long monopoly to them. You, as a citizen, can only reverse their wrong doings by an extremely long procedure in court and they have a lot more money than you ;)

    The last little paragraph made me laugh. You would never be able to start a large communist society in the United States because communism benefits the poor not the rich, and the rich have all the power over there. Anybody with a lot of money to lose would easily manipulate the populace into prosecuting any communist society. You are not free to do what you want. However, in China capitalism exists alongside communism and has for almost 20 years now. Hmmm... ;) peace.

    [ Parent ]

    Never Explored? (4.50 / 2) (#87)
    by Paradocis on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 11:08:26 AM EST

    Contrary to what you might think, the US is slowly moving closer and closer to stateism and communist concepts, and the vast majority of the "propaganda" particularly in the news media is strongly encouraging. Sharing and cooperation can be a very good thing, but communism as a policy of the state is not sharing, it is appropriation. Sharing implies a level of consent, free will, and voluntary participation of the individuals involved, a managed economy (like communism) strips individuals of the choice to share or cooperate. It is a very important distinciton, because I do believe that a consensually implemented economy can work, but only consensually.
    The last little paragraph made me laugh. You would never be able to start a large communist society in the United States because communism benefits the poor not the rich, and the rich have all the power over there. Anybody with a lot of money to lose would easily manipulate the populace into prosecuting any communist society. You are not free to do what you want. However, in China capitalism exists alongside communism and has for almost 20 years now. Hmmm... ;) peace.

    This last paragraph has a few interesting points, but the main statement, about communism benefitting the poor and not the rich is more or less a confession that communism can not work because it requires robbing people of the property they earned. That said, the capitalism\communism coexistance in China is fascinating, but in my very humble and admittedly uneducated (on China) opinion, I would guess that it works because they have had a very collectivist culture for millenia.

    BTW, under what laws would a commune be prosecuted? There are plenty of communes in the US, particularly on the west coast. My brother very nearly joined one.

    [ Parent ]
    Yeah China: that's just where i'd want to live (4.50 / 2) (#90)
    by Mantrid on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 11:42:58 AM EST

    Just reading this article. I'm currently having a house built...gee I'd really love to live in a place where the police can just up and move you someplace else or where you're not allowed to move.

    Or how about the Chinese persecution of the practioners of Falun Gong...yeah great stuff. It works really, fantastically well. I sure wish i could live someplace where i'd be persecuted for my beliefs.



    [ Parent ]

    Communist party (3.00 / 1) (#118)
    by weirdling on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 01:30:27 PM EST

    I forget his name, but the last presidential election had an entry from the communist party. He didn't do too badly, given that he was a third-tier party candidate, not even on the ballot in most states, but there was no prosecution involved. Communes and communism exists in the US and is protected by the first amendment.
    As to Americans being made to fear and hate something, that is exclusively a result of the cold war. Before the cold war, we really couldn't care at all what some other country did. It wasn't so much that Americans were led to fear; they very much did fear the USSR, both for political might and for the totalitarianism it represented. However, despite all of this, McCarthyism, the institutional hating of communists, was relatively short-lived and certainly not as vitriolic as the institutional hatred of fascism elsewhere...
    Now, China. If you think that capitalistic penetration in China is due only to US influence, you're sorely mistaken. The US has practically no influence in internal Chinese matters; witness Tiananmen Square. However, before the current reforms were instituted, China was stagnating and facing the same sort of massive collapse the felled the Soviet Union. These reforms were recognised by the government as *necessary* to the very *survival* of China as a world government.
    So America has an IP problem, which, I believe, isn't so sweeping as you make it out to be; it's still way better than having *no power* *at all* over *anything*, which is what happens in a communistic society inevitably. Fail to get your point...

    I'm not doing this again; last time no one believed it.
    [ Parent ]
    Earned it did they? (4.50 / 8) (#82)
    by WinPimp2K on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 10:17:51 AM EST

    While I have no particular love for communism, you have made an extremely questionable assumption regarding capitalism. Once a small group controls a large portion of a societies wealth, it will take action to protect its power base. This is a very basic part of human nature and every economic system is built on top of this, yet seems to ignore it.

    Purely as a thought exercise, consider the current movement in the US to eliminate the "death tax". If capitalism is such a perfect meritocracy and the people who control the wealth have truly earned it, then why are they trying so hard to make sure that their descendents will not have to earn their own way? It appears that repeal of the estate tax will create a self perpetuating heredetary economic elite that will use all of its power to eliminate threats to itself.

    Or, in my humble opinion, capitalism is (as the original author posits) not the final economic system. It is actually a dynamic system undergoing changes. Some of the current changes seem to involve the redefinition of the word "free" so as to lull the suspicions of those who favor a free market.

    As a technological aside, new technologies can be invented under any economic system but they will only be allowed to develop in a relatively free system. There was a rather brilliant Russian engineer who invented a very advanced steam engine forty odd years before James Watts developed one almost as good.(this was way before Communism lest someone get political on my tender behind). Unfortunately for the world, this engineer was in charge of one of the Czar's silver mines. The Czar only allowed him to work on the engine because it would help produce more silver for the Czar's personal fortune. The engine stopped working shortly after the engineer died of pneumonia.

    For a more up to date example of technolgy suffering under a less than free economy, consider Digital Audio Tape and how it was effectively destroyed by the recording industry. Now consider the effects of the various copyright cartels on other technological development.

    Capitalism will not be the final economic system we use, but it might have been our Camelot.

    [ Parent ]

    Re: Death Tax & Other Stuff (4.00 / 3) (#84)
    by Paradocis on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 10:53:16 AM EST

    Purely as a thought exercise, consider the current movement in the US to eliminate the "death tax". If capitalism is such a perfect meritocracy and the people who control the wealth have truly earned it, then why are they trying so hard to make sure that their descendents will not have to earn their own way? It appears that repeal of the estate tax will create a self perpetuating heredetary economic elite that will use all of its power to eliminate threats to itself.

    This kind of becomes a circular arguement, but if they earned the wealth, and it is a free society, then they can and should do what they want with it. The state should have no right to appropriate it. Whether or not this creates a hegemony of wealthy elite or not is also up for debate, but in terms of securing one's wealth I would posit that provided the system under which they generated their wealth remains stable, and doesn't seek to appropriate their earnings, if they continue to innovate and contribute value to society, they shouldn't have any need to seed corruption within the system to preserve their wealth. The problem is that people aren't usually that honest, but maintaining a free, capitalist society requires a certain level of naive optimism about human nature, and knowledge that the benefits of that freedom will outweigh the abuses. Also note that I didn't say capitalism is the be all, end all solution, just that it beats the everliving hell out of communism and managed economies, and that I do think it's the best so far because of the way it encourages innovation and contribution to society via the individual.

    Again, just MHO.

    [ Parent ]
    Misinformed (4.50 / 2) (#115)
    by weirdling on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 01:21:55 PM EST

    No rich person is ever bit by the 'death tax'. A simple living trust or corporate transfer suffices to take care of that. However, people with less knowledge of the law who fail to plan are bit. These are middle-class owner-operators. For instance, if you own a dry-cleaning service and suddenly die, it's the assessed value of the business that gets taxed. A 40% tax ensures that either the survivor must borrow against the business, which can be difficult to impossible, or that the survivor must liquidate the business to pay the tax, which is destructive to productivity. Once again, in case you haven't noticed, the tax system hurts normal, honest, hardworking people more than rich people.

    I'm not doing this again; last time no one believed it.
    [ Parent ]
    I knew that :-) (3.50 / 2) (#218)
    by WinPimp2K on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 10:03:15 AM EST

    For a specific example, one need look no further than the Kennedy family.

    Actually, my entire point was simply that it was incorrect to claim that our wealthy elite earned their fortunes via the merit of their own efforts. Many (but not all!) inherited fortunes - or at least control of some form of multigenerational trust or foundation. The estate tax that we have in the US is actually a culling mechanism. It allows capital to be concentrated for easier harvesting by those rich who were not too stupid to find a way to protect the interests of their descendents.

    I got a little carried away by my own cleverness. I do think that the repeal of the estate tax is a good idea - the problem (regardless of economic system) is to prevent abuse of the system by whoever is at the top.

    [ Parent ]

    Well, here's my favorite rant (3.00 / 1) (#271)
    by weirdling on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 06:37:24 PM EST

    Take the Kennedys, for instance. Rich, Democrat family, never paid a dime in estate tax, despite the fact that it was designed specifically to hit them, and the fact that it was designed to do so by Democrats. What hypocrisy.
    The problem is that the Democratic party is often controlled by such rich oligarchies, and, like any other politician, they will protect their interests, so there are so many stinking holes in the tax system that very few of the very rich ever pay a dime in taxes. This is just a way of life and a result of a complicated tax system created to appease the common man's need for class warfare rather than out of any sense of justice or fair play.
    Between the Democrats taxing rich people because they are rich (a crime these days), and Republicans taxing evil (also, apparently, a crime), I get so fed up with the tax code. For instance, this latest attempt at tax relief, while it does help me, will result in a net tax savings of just $10 per month for me. Woohoo. Of course, I get the $300 rebate check, but, can they spare it? After how much more I paid in to the system than the guy who only made $6k AGI, is it fair that we get the same size refund check? I suppose I shouldn't complain; the guy who got that $300 check got it because of the difference from 15% to 10% tax bracket, whereas I only get a 1% tax bracket relief, but, that also pisses me off. Essentially, the lowest bracket gets a 33% tax cut while I get around a 3% tax cut. Tax cut for the wealthy, my ass. I still don't understand how Democrats can wake up in the morning, look themselves in the mirror and rehearse that line long enough to be able to say it with a straight face in public. What this means, realistically, is that my tax rate is 3 times his *rate*, not to mention absolute taxes, in which I get to pay 26*times* as much as he does. I'm the single, non-homeowner guy the Democrats love to screw and I'm getting tired of it. If I have to pay such a disproportionate amount in taxes, I certainly wish I got a better say in how it was spent.
    Anyway, to pull the rant back on topic, you'll never succeed in taxing the very rich; they're the ones running the party that says this is a good idea, so they'll always leave in enough loopholes to keep from dealing with it. The ones who get screwed are the middle class; always has been and always will be. Better to at least be open about it...

    I'm not doing this again; last time no one believed it.
    [ Parent ]
    Kennedy Family (4.00 / 2) (#301)
    by WinPimp2K on Fri Jun 22, 2001 at 09:59:53 AM EST

    A family that recently (as in early 20th Century) made their fortune. But wait, where did their money come from? Old Joe Kennedy was a rum runner. The economic niche he used to make his money is now occupied by drug smugglers.

    And his sons became President, Attorney General, and Senator. If we decriminalize drugs (as is beginning to seem faintly possible (in 10-20 years)) what will the children of our current crop of drug lords become?

    Just another interesting thought question. Of course the descendents of those Prohibition era "Rum lords" are now the ones making the laws to enable the government to seize the fortunes of those whose children might otherwise replace them in the hallowed hallls of government.

    Or something like that. I suspect there is room for an article on the "War on Drugs" as waged by the descendents of those who profited during the Prohibition.

    [ Parent ]

    Confiscatory Taxes (3.33 / 3) (#149)
    by Robert Uhl on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 03:30:22 PM EST

    I cam upon the perfect analogy for death taxes recently. A girl & I were driving around looking at houses and talking about what our dream homes would include. I have always wanted a grand driveway, two-laned with a median planted with trees and the drive itself lines with trees. The problem, of course, is that when one builds such a mighty home one will never see it completed: the trees will be saplings, the gardens will be just started, the estates and farms will not have quite taken hold, even after 20-40 years. When one plants a tree, one does it for one's grandchildren, not for oneself.

    The death tax is akin to chopping down half the trees I have planted. What good is served thereby? That my heirs are deprived of beauty and joy? I planted those trees, I earned and saved my money, and I should be able to direct its future. To steal my capital from me and from my heirs is a selfish act--like the child who breaks his toys rather than let another play with them.

    If everyone must start from the baseline, no-one will every achieve glory--our lifetimes are not long enough. It would be akin to banning the teaching of science, and forcing every particle physicist to rediscover ever natural law himself before being able to conduct his research. We must be permitted to stand on the shoulders of our ancestors, the continually strive for the stars. Some falter and fall. Others exceed and soar. That's the nature of freedom: the freedom to sink and the freedom to swim.

    Moreover, when we pull down others we are really pulling down ourselves. In much the same way that the space program has benefitted lesser industries, so too do the rich benefit us all. We appreciate the homes they build, the music they commission, the fashions they set. A myriad folks make their living off of the rich--and a myriad more from those folks. When we raised taxes on boats (supposedly a luxury), we destroyed the US boat-crafting industry. A lot of less-well-off folks depended upon those boats for their livelihoods.

    I will never achieve wealth in my lifetime--there simply are not enough years. But I can save, and I can plan, and I can try to leave my heirs more to start with than I had. And they can do the same. And their heirs can do the same. And someday, my line will achieve wealth and comfort, by my efforts, by the efforts of my heirs and so on. Who are you to deny me the choice of direction for my labour? Who is the state to steal the fruits of my labour? Who is anyone to complain about the ends to which I direct my labour? Is not the product of my hands mine and mine alone, to dispose of as I will? Or is theft and tyranny to be the new way of things?

    [ Parent ]

    Seems obvious, but... (3.00 / 1) (#210)
    by strumco on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 07:03:04 AM EST

    Is not the product of my hands mine and mine alone, to dispose of as I will?
    Have you (or anyone else) ever produced anything of any value - without:-
    • Using a tool, designed and manufactured by others
    • Using raw materials, mined/harvested/processed by others
    • Using skills learnt from others
    • Using a system of exchange (to define the value), created and defended by others?
    No man creates wealth. Wealth arises from social activity, and some people are in a position to control more of it than others.

    That is neither right nor wrong; what really matters is, is the system whereby one person gets that control better or worse than any proposed alternative?

    To me, it seems odd to denigrate "the planned economy" - as if there were any other kind. All economies are planned, including the USA's.

    The difference is that there are lots of different plans - GW Bush's, Alan Greenspan's, Bill Gates', Warren Buffet's, Steve Case's etc.

    Sometimes, these plans contradict one another, and we all have some fun watching the Titans fight. But, most of the time, their plans are all pretty much the same.

    The question is - does democracy have a role to play in protecting the millions who aren't millionaires, from the plans of millionaires?

    DC
    http://www.strum.co.uk
    [ Parent ]

    Value Creation (4.00 / 1) (#382)
    by Robert Uhl on Tue Jun 26, 2001 at 10:57:45 AM EST

    Have you (or anyone else) ever produced anything of any value without:
    • Using a tool, designed and manufactured by others
    • Using raw materials, mined/harvested/processed by others
    • Using skills learnt from others
    • Using a system of exchange (to define the value), created and defended by others?
    But all of those folks have already been compensated. I paid for the tools and raw materials I use. I paid for my education. Those people have received their reward. That reward is, incidentally, their to do with as they will.

    Wealth is created. When a man takes useless land, plows it, plants it and reaps the harvest thereof, he has created wealth: there is now more food in the world than previously. Who are we to steal that from him?

    [ Parent ]

    The Problem With Capitalism (4.50 / 2) (#86)
    by abdera on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 10:59:03 AM EST

    Capitalism exhibits the same basic flaw as Communism, namely the persuit of an unreachable, absolute, ideal. Marxist Communism suggests that individual rights are subjugated only during the initial installation of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat which is not really considered Communism but rather the political trasition to Communism. The goal of communism is not the destruction of individual rights, but the establishment of equal individual rights under a classless society.

    I would certainly agree that no current of historical implementation of Communism has successfully achieved progreesion through the period of the Dictatorship because Communist leaders, upon achieving said Dictatorship, promptly abandon the Proletariat, or merely use the idea of Communism to gain popular support with no intention of following through.

    Capitalism revolves around the idea of absolute laissez-faire, which dictates governmental non-interference in commerce. Rather than the ideal of equality through classless society, Capitalism persues the ideal of equality based on the assumption that those with financial power achieved that status based on thier greater contributions to society.

    Under idyllic Capitalism, corporations would not need government regulation regarding environmentalism, monopolization, fair labor practices, and the like, because the consumer will dictate that corporations follow their ideals. One does not have to look very far to see that historic and current implementaions of this model has failed as well.

    #224 [deft-:deft@98A9C369.ipt.aol.com] at least i don't go on aol
    [ Parent ]

    Agree somewhat... a few points... (4.33 / 3) (#99)
    by beergut on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 12:44:06 PM EST

    Capitalism exhibits the same basic flaw as Communism, namely the persuit of an unreachable, absolute, ideal.

    Correct. We will never have a true, competitive market because people cannot (or will not) be fully informed. We can come close, though, and that is the ideal for which we should strive.

    Marxist Communism suggests that individual rights are subjugated only during the initial installation of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat which is not really considered Communism but rather the political trasition to Communism.

    Marxist Communism is an ideal, too, but there is a key difference.

    While market capitalism does not dictate an abrogation of individual rights at any time, Marxism does. You can make claims that market capitalism does, in fact, stomp on the rights of individuals, and I may agree on a few points. But it is not "part of the program." In fact, I would argue that the decentralization of power inherent in a market capitalist system is more responsible for the preservation of human liberties and rights than the most libertarian of powerful central governments - you cannot infringe upon someone's rights if you simply do not have the power to do so.

    Also, Marxism does not take into account the human ego. A person or body in power tends to want to stay there. If it means busting a few heads, or killing a few tens of millions of people, well, so be it. The radical centralization of power, and central planning of resource management, has always led to blight, plight, and starvation.

    A computerized allocator may remove the problems of resource management - but it may not. I will address this topic later.

    The goal of communism is not the destruction of individual rights, but the establishment of equal individual rights under a classless society.

    But, how does Communism enforce this equality? In the past, it has done so by making everyone (except party elites, of course,) equally miserable. Two legs bad, four legs good?

    How has equal distribution of misery been good for people? How has it enhanced their wellbeing?

    I would certainly agree that no current of historical implementation of Communism has successfully achieved progreesion through the period of the Dictatorship
    [...]

    This much certainly cannot be disputed. Why take that chance again?

    [...]
    because Communist leaders, upon achieving said Dictatorship, promptly abandon the Proletariat, or merely use the idea of Communism to gain popular support with no intention of following through.

    It may well be that Communist revolutionaries and leaders had the best intentions in mind when they installed a Marxist Communist system. How can you judge their original motives?

    It falls to a question of human ego and human nature. Once in power, the ego refuses to allow said power to wane. Communist leaders of the past have all had one tragic flaw - humanity. The problem is, such flaws would not have murdered millions of people had these people not gained power. People supported these monsters in the past, and it would seem that more are willing and champing at the bit to support them in the future. More's the pity.

    But, under a market capitalist system, there is no centralized authority with the power to do so. A system of laws, enforced upon business and citizens alike, should ideally protect people from the abuses of business. Under such a system, businesses - even mega-conglomerates - could not legally murder entire towns because they refused to eat McDollars Big Macs.

    Market capitalist systems are not imposed like Communist systems - they grow of their own accord. People buy and sell goods and labor to benefit themselves. This basic human trait will not be changed by any system of economics, politics, or government - no matter how much elites desire to do so. Market capitalist systems can cause major headaches for Communist systems, because people freely exchanged goods and services (and ideas). Only a powerful, centralized governmental force can impose Communism.

    Capitalism revolves around the idea of absolute laissez-faire, which dictates governmental non-interference in commerce.

    Mostly true. Government actually does get involved, but not directly in economics. Government imposes and enforces laws, which makes for a more stable environment in which capitalism can flourish.

    You may argue that government can be swayed by huge market players and, as things stand now, that is true worldwide. In the United States, in particular, corporations have huge influence in government, and can effectively wield government power to rob citizens.

    The causes for this are manifold, but the roots lie in the nature of our government itself. Big corporations would not spend money to buy politicians and bureaucrats if said politicians and bureaucrats were not able to use influence in government to enrich said big corporations.

    Government-influenced enrichment is possible for one reason: too much centralized power.

    If government did not have the power to rob people, and to then give this money and these resources to corporations (in the form of direct payment or through the establishment of legal monopolies, and laws and regulations which mandate the use of such goods and services (the mandate that you be hooked to the local power grid - and enrich the local power monopoly - come to mind),) then there would be no reason at all for these corporations to waste their time and money purchasing influence in the government.

    You won't see McDollars holding guns to people's heads so they'll buy McRib sandwiches, but they rob the American citizenry, nonetheless. McDollars is a huge recipient of government money: notably, grants for foreign promotional campaigns. They get this money from the government, who in turn gets the money from you. Try to not pay for McDollars commercials in Russian sometime, and you'll feel the cold steel of a government gun against your temple.

    Rather than the ideal of equality through classless society, Capitalism persues the ideal of equality based on the assumption that those with financial power achieved that status based on thier greater contributions to society.

    Not true. Capitalism pursues nothing. People (you know, individuals) within a market capitalist system pursue their own best interests. If some are treated differently in the eyes of the law, it is a sure indication that a) there are too many laws, or b) there is too much government power (which allows the wealthy to buy influence.)

    A Communist system, on the other hand, requires a strong central government and centralized planning and resource management. This concentration of power is imminently corruptible, from without or within. It is an unavoidable truth that people, even in a Communist system, will pursue their own best interests.

    The best interests of a Communist party elite may be to eradicate the denizens of a given parcel of land so that some other group may use the land for something else, or to quash dissent. He may be personally enriched by this, or have his effective power increased. Not to mention the things this sort of enrichment and empowerment will do for his ego. He can then, with impunity, order and effect the annihilation of all the people in an area. He has served his own best interests.

    Coca Cola, big and powerful as it is, could not directly effect the eradication of a town full of Pepsi drinkers. Unless, of course, it could corrupt someone in a large central government to do so by proxy.

    Capitalism, wherein the smallest indivisible unit in a market is an individual, even this mixed-market-mess we "enjoy" today, has seen and created more benefit to humanity in the last two-hundred or so years than all of history before it. When resources are controlled by a central authority, be it a central planning commission or a king, the most efficient and innovative use, and effective replenishment (if possible) will never occur. These people who innovate and effectively and efficiently use resources to provide goods to others, even if motivated by pure unabashed greed (not always a bad thing,) do contribute more to "society" than the worthless shitbum who sits on his welfare-leeching ass all day drinking cheap beer. A bum didn't invent and market toothpaste, you can bet.

    Even in a future in which technology has the ability to provide for all of our needs in a sustainable fashion, there will be no room for squandering that so often happens in a Communist system - almost by design.

    Under idyllic Capitalism, corporations would not need government regulation regarding environmentalism, monopolization, fair labor practices, and the like, because the consumer will dictate that corporations follow their ideals.

    That is the biggest problem I have with a pure market system. Consumers, and others involved in markets, by and large, are not well-informed. They tend to waste resources because they did not more thoroughly research the field, and did not find the best-of-breed solution to their problem. They tend to be glitzed-and-glammed by advertising, and do not think critically. People are the problem with markets.

    But, people are the problem with communes, too.

    Given the choice (which under a Communist system, as historically implemented, I would not be given,) I would much rather live and participate in a market economy. Far fewer people have been murdered by their governments in such places.

    One does not have to look very far to see that historic and current implementaions of this model has failed as well.

    But, are their failures as spectacular as the Communist debacles of the last (and present) century? Have places in which more or less free markets are in operation seen hundreds of millions of political dissenters murdered?

    I would say that capitalism is brutally efficient. Communism, on the other hand, is brutal but inefficient.

    Now, to my questions about an AI central planner (you'll note that I am a skeptic):

    • How, and by whom, would this AI be programmed?
    • Would these programmers stand as "party elites", because they essentially control the resources of a society?
    • Is there any potential for abuse of citizens by these people?
    • Would the people be able to change the mind and/or heart of a computer whose task is the efficient mediation of resources?
    • What of environmental concerns? Would an AI give a rat's ass about migrating butterflies when it decides that a vast swath of forest should be logged to provide spanking-new railroads for the efficient distribution of goods?
    • If so, why have a computer in the first place?
    • Would people be able to dissent bloodlessly?
    • Would people still be in charge in government?
    • What laws would such an AI impose, and how would they be enforced? Efficiently? By whom? Fairly?
    • Given that an AI wants only electricity, memory, disk, and CPU to run, would we see an unequal allocation of resources to these industries in order to make the AI run more "efficiently"?
    • What about resource allocation at a micro level? Are you familiar with government budget systems as currently practiced? How about the guy who figures out how to abuse the allocator by allocating and (erroneously, nefariously) using more resources than he needs? He reports to the AI that he needs and uses 9,000 widgets per month, but only uses 7,500 widgets. The AI allocates these to him, because he has historically always needed and used this many, and his requests have been edging up by small amounts, not inconsistent with the potential use by a growing population. He uses 7,500 widgets legitimately. The others he sells on the black market for a tidy profit.
    It is my theory that no matter who or what is in charge of centralized resource allocation, there will be ways to abuse the system. A market capitalist system of resource allocation is prone to abuse, too, but not nearly as badly or mindlessly, and not on anything like the same scale.

    i don't see any nanorobots or jet engines or laser holography or orbiting death satellites.
    i just see some orangutan throwing code-feces at a computer screen.

    -- indubitable
    [ Parent ]

    I'm not promoting Communism. . . (5.00 / 3) (#143)
    by abdera on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 02:53:08 PM EST

    . . . but merely pointing out that the main flaw inherent in the Communist philosophy also appies to the Captalist philosophy. That is the notion that all men will act in the best interests of all. Communism assumes that because the individual benefits when the collective benefits, the individual will act in the best interests of the collective. Proponents of Capitalism assume that collective benefit is is the by product of individual ambition.

    The point of failure arises when a small portion of the collective wields control of a large amount of power. Once a point is reached where a majority of the power is held by a small enough group of individuals, the powerful typically abuse that power in order to sustain it. In real-world Communist implementations this power is indeed skewed further, more sweeping, and more sharply defined, but the power imbalance is certainly present in moderm Capitalist implementaions, and although there is no limitation of human rights dictated in the Capitalist system it is indeed a by-product. Government ineptitude regarding unethical advertising can be seen in the abhorrent marketing of baby formula in undeveloped countries by Nestle and others. For a disgusting example of consumer apathy, witness Nike's increase in sales after sweeping national publicity of their use of sweatshop labor.

    I'm not trying to say that I know the solution to the problems with the current, mostly Capitalistic, system in use by much of the Western world, but I think it is unwise to justify them by saying, "it's better than Communism." I doubt that in AI-contrived system is likely to produce a viable solution simply because AI does not appear in a poof of magic smoke, but is the result of human effort and subject to the same abuses, especially if a select few are in control of the AI's development.

    #224 [deft-:deft@98A9C369.ipt.aol.com] at least i don't go on aol
    [ Parent ]

    Capitalism (3.00 / 1) (#114)
    by weirdling on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 01:18:12 PM EST

    Capitalism is not an ideal. Capitalism is a description of how things work. People didn't sit down one day and decide to have a revolution to implement a capitalistic society; they simply let a capitalistic society continue to develop, as it is the natural order of things. When choosing between capitalism and any form of managed economy, it is important to understand that one is choosing between the natural way and the way things should be. When the way things should be is enacted, people inevitably get annoyed and hypocrisy inevitably devlops, and efficiency goes into the toilet. That's why capitalism succeeds: it's the way things are...

    I'm not doing this again; last time no one believed it.
    [ Parent ]
    Capitalism (5.00 / 1) (#213)
    by strumco on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 08:24:20 AM EST

    Capitalism is not an ideal.
    Correct.
    Capitalism is a description of how things work.
    Incorrect.

    Let's be clear what capitalism actually is (it seems that many of its proponents don't understand what they're defending).

    Capitalism is not "the market".
    Capitalism is not "the natural way of things".
    Capitalism is not an ideology.
    Capitalism is not even a philosophy.
    Capitalism is nothing more than a rather useful financial mechanism, invented in Northern Italy in the 12th/13th centuries, allowing smaller amounts of capital to be agglomerated into larger, more useful lumps.

    It did not arise independently, anywhere else. It spread throughout the European-dominated world - largely because it made domination a little easier.

    DC
    http://www.strum.co.uk
    [ Parent ]

    Interesting definition (4.00 / 1) (#269)
    by weirdling on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 06:24:26 PM EST

    Of course, if you specifically limit captialism to the stock-market-style of capitalism, this is, perhaps, true. However, the idea of a moneylender investing in someone's capital improvements on their farm is easily demonstrable in Biblical times.
    Even if you narrowly limit the definition of the word capitalism, the principle has been alive and well in every phase of known history. That I trade with you freely and then use the money I earn to invest with someone else in the interest of allowing them to earn more money for me is a pretty old idea.
    Now, as to domination, I expect that feudalism had a lot more to do with that than capitalism, as very few democracies spend much time being imperialistic. Democracies tend to interfere for moral reasons, which is worse, IMHO, but is definately different.
    In a capitalistic market, one person can dominate, which is why total anarchy isn't so wise. Capitalism does not equal anarchy, however, as anarchy is, once again, a political philosophy. A regulated capitalism where companies that grow too large are not allowed to use their size to hurt smaller companies, generally doesn't have the domination problems you mention.

    I'm not doing this again; last time no one believed it.
    [ Parent ]
    definition (4.00 / 1) (#363)
    by strumco on Mon Jun 25, 2001 at 05:39:53 AM EST

    However, the idea of a moneylender investing in someone's capital improvements on their farm is easily demonstrable in Biblical times.
    Yes. And it has absolutely nothing to do with capitalism.

    That I trade with you freely and then use the money I earn to invest with someone else in the interest of allowing them to earn more money for me is a pretty old idea.
    Indeed it is. But it has absolutely nothing to do with capitalism.

    Now, as to domination, I expect that feudalism had a lot more to do with that than capitalism, as very few democracies spend much time being imperialistic.
    What the hell does democracy have to do with it? Capitalism is not democracy. Neither is a necessary prerequisite for the other.

    A regulated capitalism where companies that grow too large are not allowed to use their size to hurt smaller companies, generally doesn't have the domination problems you mention.
    The domination "problem" is actually a measure of the effectiveness of a capitalist structure; agglomerated capital can achieve a great deal more, more safely, than the efforts of a single magnate.

    DC
    http://www.strum.co.uk
    [ Parent ]

    What is capitalism (4.00 / 1) (#373)
    by weirdling on Mon Jun 25, 2001 at 05:55:52 PM EST

    I guess you need to define your term better. To me 'capitalism' is the idea where investors use their own money to 'capitalize' or invest in companies, ideas, and people. Essentially, it is that the business is driven and governed by capital, which is controlled by those with capital. In that case, a moneylender loaning out money for a farm most definately is capitalism, as is a merchant investing in another merchant.
    Now, the domination point is that the question of domination is really one of politics, not market forces, and anarchy doesn't deal with it well, but democracy does. Capitalism is, of course, not democracy; it is an economic theory, not a political policy.
    I do not believe that aggragated capital is more effective than distributed capital, and recent trends give lie to that idea. Capital, in general, grows to fill the market it occupies. Certain things, such as auto manufacturing, require enormous amounts of aggragated capital, but even here, we have hundreds of car makers around the world, so capital is not totally aggragated. Should it be so, those who form the corporate entity into which the capital was aggragated would have no incentive to compete, and hence the need for anti-trust legislation. The truth is that the smaller individual companies are in a system, often, the more able they are to respond quickly and run with lower overhead. Large conglomerates are having trouble right now...
    I do await your explanation as to how, exactly, agglomerated capital is more safe than diversified capital.

    I'm not doing this again; last time no one believed it.
    [ Parent ]
    What is Capitalism (3.00 / 1) (#380)
    by strumco on Tue Jun 26, 2001 at 08:39:21 AM EST

    I guess you need to define your term better.
    OK. Capitalism is the mechanism which allows several individuals to share ownership (and risk) in an enterprise - thereby creating an entity which is stronger than any one of them. The chief distinguishing feature between this and a partnership is the concept of limited liability.

    a moneylender loaning out money for a farm most definately is capitalism
    Nope. That's usury.

    Capitalism is, of course, not democracy; it is an economic theory, not a political policy.
    I'm afraid I don't think capitalism is an economic theory, either. You can build some economic theories on top of it - but it's just a mechanism, no theory required.

    I do not believe that aggragated capital is more effective than distributed capital
    Then you're not a capitalist. Fair enough.

    Should it be so, those who form the corporate entity into which the capital was aggragated would have no incentive to compete, and hence the need for anti-trust legislation.
    This sentence contains its own answer; if it weren't for the fact that aggregated capital would rather not compete if it could help it, anti-trust legislation would not be necessary. Otherwise, the cartel would be the natural state of a mature market.

    I do await your explanation as to how, exactly, agglomerated capital is more safe than diversified capital
    It's a damn sight safer than any other kind. True, an occasional whippersnapper of a company bites the heels of a mammoth corporate, and even more occasionally, manages to survive. But for every surviving whippersnapper, there's a pile of dead bodies - from all the small companies which failed to survive its encounter with the big 'un.

    Look at IBM, who got things so spectacularly wrong in the 80s. Did they collapse in heap? No - they held on, and are now almost as strong as ever. By comparison, Digital, who many thought would supersede Big Blue, is long gone - with the Alpha finally being "retired" into Intel. Digital just weren't big enough.

    DC
    http://www.strum.co.uk
    [ Parent ]

    Analysis in microcosm (4.00 / 1) (#383)
    by weirdling on Tue Jun 26, 2001 at 02:44:21 PM EST

    I've used Digital equipment and I've used IBM equipment. I'd say that, by and large, Digital's almost unbelievable failure to enter the internet server market and produce an advanced database model had more to do with its demise than its size. Take, for instance, Sun, who is currently fighting both IBM and Microsoft, and doing rather well. In Sun's case, they saw the internet as a vehicle of their survival and proceeded to invent a new way to do internet servers that runs better on Sun systems, until recently, when IBM finally caught up. It is possible that Sun may one day succumb to IBM, but I don't think so. Sun's marketing is superior to IBM's, and much better than Digital ever did. Anyway, Sun has a good ally in the form of Oracle, allowing it to compete in the enterprise server market with IBM and DB/2. Even though Microsoft is actually the 900 pound gorilla, being heavily capitalized, it really can't compete in that particular market at the moment.
    See, simple analysis based on economics won't necessarily provide truth, as for each Digital, there are several Dells, Compaqs, Suns, Apples, and Oracles which all have smaller caps and compete rather well with IBM, although none of them compete as a complete systems integrator.
    It is a truism that only one in five companies makes it. However, saying that new companies are not capital-efficient is to overlook the fact that most capital growth happens in new companies, which is to say that even with one in five failing, the total average return is still greater than investing in five stable companies. Large companies have high overhead and low flexibility, which the market tends to reward negatively. For the customer and for the efficiency of the whole system, it just doesn't make sense to have large cap companies dominating the market. The capitalization shouldn't exceed the amount necessary to surmount the barrier-to-entry in the given market, and, when it does, often investors lose their shirts...

    I'm not doing this again; last time no one believed it.
    [ Parent ]
    Human Nature? (3.00 / 1) (#97)
    by jpancake on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 12:22:13 PM EST

    I have a problem when people say that benevolence runs counter to 'human nature'. The entire idea of one looking out for oneself before all others is largely the product of the last two thousand years of thinking. My memory is a bit fuzzy on the exact dates, but i it's archaeologically accepted that Homo sapiens sapiens has existed in its current form for around 30,000 years.

    The archaeological record shows that humans lived in roughly egalitarian conditions until some people started having a surplus of resources. (ie, a tribe is much more concerned with the health of the whole than a farmer is with the health of his neighbors. She has everything she needs to survive, regardless of anyone else.)

    So, if anything, history has shown us that it is NOT human nature to be greedy and that we are fully capable of working for the good of the group even when it sublimates some narrow conception of 'individuality' (which is, ultimately, a learned concept -- one shouldn't ascribe to 'nature' what one is taught).

    [ Parent ]

    Doubt this very much (3.00 / 1) (#113)
    by weirdling on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 01:14:19 PM EST

    'Archaeological record'? How could it show people to have been less selfish? Considering the tribal warfare endemic to the time over resources and so on, at least at the tribal level, people were greedy. I don't really think it's a recent development...

    I'm not doing this again; last time no one believed it.
    [ Parent ]
    Re: Doubt this very much (4.50 / 2) (#135)
    by jpancake on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 02:25:11 PM EST

    By looking at the way in which people are buried (called 'assemblages'), you can determine differences in status. Also, by examining wear patterns on bones where muscles were connected, you can determine relative body mass of a person. That is, people weren't very fat. Which means people weren't eating more than anyone else. There's also mineral deposists based upon the types of food eaten, and you can extrapolate the 'status' of certain types of food, etc, etc. You'd be surprised what you can tell about a person by their bones.

    Referring to a population as 'tribal' doesn't necessarily indicate any tendency towards inter-group aggression. Take, for example, the Massai of Africa. They've existed, almost in an almost completely egalitarian fashion, for thousands of years. They don't really beat up on anyone else, either.

    [ Parent ]

    Whoa, hold it there (4.00 / 1) (#155)
    by weirdling on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 04:08:05 PM EST

    The Masai are one of the most feared tribes on the continent of Africa. Every ten years or so, they get uppity and start revolting. Before that, they were the fiercest warrior tribe in Africa, often killing other tribes. These are the Africans that hunt lions with pig-metal spears.
    Now, as for egalitarian, the truth is that the Masai, like all tribes, are authoritarian. Power flows from chief to warriors to peons. To be a warrior, at least in the past, you had to kill a lion with said pig-iron spear or die trying. Failure to do so meant you did whatever menial thing the warriors didn't want to do.
    Most tribal societies spend the majority of free time hunting and killing other tribes. There isn't much fighting in the tribe until someone challenges the current chief for authority or something like that, but, for instance, in Africa, tribes would go to war on a daily basis, meeting at prescribed times to do battle. Granted, it was mostly beating about the head with sticks and primitive spears, but people still died, or at least lost eyes, and it was most definately about greed: status, lands, and hunting rights.
    Now, the majority of a tribe not eating much probably more reflects the fact that they didn't have much to eat. Even the chief would have to stay relatively active up to the time of the agrarian community, which is when you'd start to see the first true vestiges of obesity.

    I'm not doing this again; last time no one believed it.
    [ Parent ]
    Tribal "wars" (4.00 / 1) (#212)
    by strumco on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 08:11:20 AM EST

    Most tribal societies spend the majority of free time hunting and killing other tribes.
    What utter garbage. All the evidence we have from pre-colonial times is that tribal cultures seldom operated this way.

    It is true that there were occasional "battles" - the rough equivalent of the Superbowl, but these were a lot more noise than violence. A few people got hurt (like at Superbowl), but not much more.

    DC
    http://www.strum.co.uk
    [ Parent ]

    Source? (4.00 / 1) (#229)
    by weirdling on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 12:17:07 PM EST

    So, you're saying that the *arrival* of western powers caused peaceable, noble savages to turn into the worst kind of killers? I'd really like a source for that. Please, remember, I was born in Africa and have spent the majority of my life overseas in those areas.
    Of course, we needn't actually argue about Africa, as the Sioux and various other US tribes made a life/living of killing each other, as well, and that is rather well documented.

    I'm not doing this again; last time no one believed it.
    [ Parent ]
    "war" (5.00 / 1) (#364)
    by strumco on Mon Jun 25, 2001 at 05:58:35 AM EST

    So, you're saying that the *arrival* of western powers caused peaceable, noble savages to turn into the worst kind of killers?
    No, I'm saying nothing of the kind. I'm saying that, most of the time, hunter/gatherers (or even tribal agriculturalist) didn't go around killing people. There were occasional cattle raids, and every so often, a full-scale "war" (in which the participants spent most of their time waving spears at each other, but not throwing them). There is a actual "war" footage of such conflicts, shot in the 1930s.

    What made the difference was the arrival of more potent weapons, which killed at a distance (physical and philosophical). Initially, these weapons affected the Slave Coasts, but eventually spread across the continent.

    DC
    http://www.strum.co.uk
    [ Parent ]

    Earned vs. took by force? (5.00 / 1) (#98)
    by Macrobat on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 12:26:44 PM EST

    First, a disclaimer: I take it on faith that capitalism is better than other social/economic arrangements. Not blind faith, because I have examined arguments from many sides, but faith nonetheless because real understanding of these issues is beyond my complexity horizon.

    However...the economic greatness of the U.S., the poster child of capitalism, cannot be explained without accounting for the land taken by force from the Native American tribes. Land is capital, after all. So are the minerals and oil we (I'm posting from the U.S.) took from that land. So is the slave labor employed in the U.S. until the last century.

    I'm not saying that capitalism necessarily leads to slavery, or oppression, or anything like that. I am saying, though, that, unless you have a different definition of 'earned', you cannot say we enjoy all we enjoy solely on the basis of free market capitalism.

    "Hardly used" will not fetch a better price for your brain.
    [ Parent ]

    Depends on 'earned' (4.00 / 1) (#110)
    by weirdling on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 01:12:25 PM EST

    If you view it from the narrow definition of 'received for creating product', then, no, the US did not 'earn' the land. However, from the viewpoint of 'created better technology for competitive edge', then yes, the US 'earned' the land. In recent years, slave labor and wars of conquest are less common. However, when the US was formed, both were the order of the day. What you don't point out was that it was US citizens in slave labor who built the system we now enjoy.

    I'm not doing this again; last time no one believed it.
    [ Parent ]
    Slave != Citizen (5.00 / 1) (#119)
    by Macrobat on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 01:31:35 PM EST

    What you don't point out was that it was US citizens in slave labor who built the system we now enjoy.
    A slave is not a citizen. Can't vote, can't own land. May be tortured and killed, legally. In the U.S., a slave counted as 3/5ths of a person for purposes of the census. I don't understand what you were trying to support by this statement, but whatever it was, it didn't work.

    "Hardly used" will not fetch a better price for your brain.
    [ Parent ]

    slave labor != slave (5.00 / 1) (#156)
    by weirdling on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 04:09:47 PM EST

    I assumed the term slave labor meant to imply the low wages and long hours endemic to the industrial revolution. Contrary to popular belief, it was immigrants, not slaves, that built the US as an industrial power. Geven enough time, slavery would have died a natural death in this country.

    I'm not doing this again; last time no one believed it.
    [ Parent ]
    No (3.50 / 4) (#132)
    by claesh1 on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 02:18:15 PM EST

    No. You can't say that. There is nothing linear with wealth versus amount of work put into your life and your goals. Many people work very hard with their jobs and get very little out of it.

    First: many people just inherited their wealth and/or their position of power. They have not earned it at all.

    Second: Wealth can come from bad deeds. For example stealing. If I steal your money, I have not really earned it. But I have them, and unless I get caught I can keep it.

    Third: Life, and society is very chaotic. Be in the right place at the right time, and you can make a fortune. Be in the wrong place and you will not have anything for it. Two equally skillful sport athletes can make very different amounts of money, depending on what sport they compete in. Or in which time they live. Or because of how they look like. If you are born into the third world, it can matter less how bright you are as you do not have same opportunities for education etc.

    Fourth: Our current society rewards intellectual work, that can be easily duplicated, much more than work that you can not duplicate. You can not duplicate childcare for example. But you can duplicate software, or books or music. At one point in time you need certain strength to duplicate this and succeed in making money out of it: you need distribution channels etc. But suddenly something like the internet arises, and the advantage of duplication is almost turned against you. Of course, then you can find other benefits with the new situation. But as it works out, what the powerful corporations do in this situation is start lobbying, changing the rules and not letting not already powerful players take advantage of the new situation on the same terms that you once had.

    Fifth: The difficulty with naking money varies with your wealth. It is much easier making your hundreth million than your first, because you have many more options to invest them. This phenomena strengthens the already wealthy.

    Ok, lots of examples, some more clear than others. But I think I have proven my point: very few people have actually earned their wealth, if you mean that equal work should turn into equal wealth.

    [ Parent ]
    Meritocracy, human nature, considered harmful (4.00 / 1) (#323)
    by pavlos on Fri Jun 22, 2001 at 03:26:19 PM EST

    I take issue with the argument that capitalism is somehow justified because it is a meritocracy. It largely isn't, and even if it was, that would be an entirely lousy justification for a political system.

    First, capitalism isn't generally a meritocracy by any useful definition of "merit". It is true that capitalism distributes wealth by market forces and not by some conscious decision maker, so it is in some sense objective. However it is a fallacy to conclude that "the best" people will prevail, or that they will then "deseserve" all that they earn.

    The market will reward slave and violently exploited labour (even if it's not secret), damaging the environment, lying to consumers, monopolistic practices, and bland products (as a result of driving out small businesses). I agree that capitalism can avoid these problems, but it's the government and not the market that prevents them.

    In addition, the market rewards fundamentally unproductive activities (banking, litigation, advertising) and profiteering industries (software, entertainment, oil) with disproportionately high returns. More useful professions such as nursing, plumbing, and catering are not rewarded nearly as well. It is true that people willingly pay the high fees, but only because these industries act collectively in a monopolistic way.

    So I don't think that capitalism is a meritocaracy. A hypothetical example of a meritocracy would be as follows: Everyone votes democratically on how different professions should be rewarded (basic rate and range of variation), based on perceived social value, shortage or surplus, etc. Then individuals are voted as high or low performers by their "customers". I'm just offering this as a quick example to illustrate the contrast with captialism.

    Now, even assuming that capitalism was a decent approximation of a meritocracy, it would be a social catastrophe to reward people entirely on the basis of merit. By all means, production should be assigned by merit so that management is sensible and work is skillful. However, if the only income that people get is reward based on merit, that would be barbarism.

    Imagine that you have a simple economy that gives out five different annual pay packets at the following proportions: 5% of $1M, 15% of $100k, 60% of $25k, 15% of $10k, and 5% of $0. People are ranked according to their true abilities and effort using perfect market forces or whatever other truly meritocratic system you believe. What do you do with the bottom 20 percent?

    Capitalism without a welfare state behaves like this. To say that this is OK because it is "meritocratic" may be reasonable economics but it is very daft politics. You must first show how a (politically chosen) economic system will feed and house everybody and then perhaps try to make it "fairly" reward shining achievments. Otherwise, you must take the view that you don't care if certain people starve, and I would then say that these people would be perfectly justified to take a gun and shoot you if they have the chance.

    Now, I fully agree that Capitalism is the most motivating and probably also the most productive system implemented so far, and for this reason it maye be the best economic system to have, given certain social safewguards. But to argue that it is the best because it is meritocratic and fair, is childish.

    Pavlos

    [ Parent ]

    Two things: (4.12 / 8) (#83)
    by h3lldr0p on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 10:52:03 AM EST

    Firstly, from rereading your article, you tend to present the notion that the best description for our current economic system is singly "Capitalistic". For most people, this is sufficient as that is the depth that they which to speak at. However, given the deeper nature of your article -- a complete resetting of all economic aspects -- you do your readers an injustice by using this simple surface term. If you did look at things deeper than that, you would see that we in the West, and most notibly in the USofA do in fact live in a "Mixed Economy". One that combines several aspects of different economies. There are several monoploies which exist. There are also aspects of social welfare such as Social Security and government sponsored medical care. Of course, there is your boogy-man, the somewhat-free market where several companies compete as yet another aspect. There are even more that I have failed to mention, such as Farmer's Cooperatives, Non-profit Corporations, Unions and Trade Organizations. All of which impact the economic situation of the US in various ways, and none of which really belong under the umbrella statement or categoratization of "Capitalistic".

    Secondly, in taking only that shallow look into economic affiars, you have not taken into account such things as these organizations and the very simple fact that they will not give up the control and power they currently have. Even if you do happen upon a way to have a perfectly planned economy (that is taking in to account all posible inventions, all possible changes of product desire and many other things), you are missing the human, and most importantly, the greed element here. An example of which, one needs to look to the RIAA and their actions of the last few years. It is plain that their control over what they have had for so many years is indeed slipping. Look at the fight that they are putting up to try and keep that power for however much longer they can, if not indefinatly. You can be on many of the unions to put up similiar, and greatly more tougher fights to keep their power over the people they supposedly represent. So it is fights such as these that are going to have to be faced at some point or another in order to "kick off" the plan. And you can bet on these fights being nastier and meaner than anything you can currently find.

    Even in victory, there is no beauty
    And who calls it beautiful
    Is one who delights in slaughter

    Society in place... (3.00 / 2) (#91)
    by sartre on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 11:47:09 AM EST

    Society itself is a difficult topic to discuss; One may like communism, other may like capitalism, other may like hybrid type society models.

    Also, the society models are prone to human rejections, as in our ´left´ and ´right´ factions. We always have tradeoffs on choosing a model, for not everyone will be satisfied with such ´acquisitions´.

    As the author writes, communism would be a great model to deal with; when all human´s need for money cease. Nowadays, obviously it sounds utopic. But no one may predict how the future will react to ourselves. No one may say if for an example one no more needs money to survive, if for an example the computers work for us and we only maintain a simple administrative parcel of the workforce.

    In ´The Singularity´, there will be a probability of one creating an entire world to himself, locking himself from the society and being his society´s ´god´. The concept of ´god´ itself varies from one to another; how would such a model be so flexible to complete every being´s need, not affecting other´s?

    A perfect model cannot be established; but, with strife an at least fair model can. It will be one with economy, society and psych combined. Note the other ´psych´ component cited; It is as important to give fair lives as fair economy or fair society models.

    And this ´psych´, that is one´s world, will be very important for people to think of. How could we control our ambition, our greed, our love, our passion to do something or to make something happen - with common-wealth in mind?

    Everyone still knows that, even with a fair model, there will be people stirring revolts, robbing for a hobby, spying for fun. How would the model enforce harmony? To enforce harmony is a *very* paradoxal sentence. In every model, there must be power to enforce its needs; only there will not be power when people do not turn their heads against the system.

    Think of that. Even a perfect model cannot control human´s behaviour.


    If you need something, pursue it. If the thing you pursued isn´t what you needed, feel the consequences.

    Lamenting the philosophy of greed (3.16 / 6) (#100)
    by Grrr on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 12:52:44 PM EST

    This entire debate is somewhat moot. The author sees our salvation sometime in the distant future. He assumes there is a future. Within 20 years, it is predicted, 2/3's of the planets fresh water supply will be unsafe to drink. Within 10 years, again it is predicted, we will have passed the point of no return vis-a-vis species extinction. The polar ice caps are melting, the hole in the ozone is widening. We are deforesting our planet at an unprecedented rate. Yet we continue, unabated, in our quest to consume everything. Communism? Capitalism? Doesn't matter. We can't eat, drink or breathe money. When your grandchildren are choking on smog, working just to buy water, and knowing their generation might very well be the last, you can tell them we were just trying to give them a better world. Or you can tell them the truth: Ignorance was bliss.

    My concerns with Communism... (2.50 / 4) (#124)
    by Mzilikazi on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 01:50:03 PM EST

    One problem with this idea is that it assumes a grand homogenized economy/government for the future world. Star Trek and others notwithstanding, does anyone really think that a single government system is going to work effectively at every point on the globe?

    It assumes that nations with mineral wealth are going to have to have their resources redistributed to the rest of the world, and that's not going to happen without some major warfare. (Imagine the OPEC nations being told that their oil had to be distributed equally to the nations of the world with no regard for profit.)

    Simply put, I don't think that it's possible for there to be an effective or efficient one-world economy/government.

    I'm not a big fan of communism, though I think that it can work in extremely small communities, and as long as it's voluntary. If I want to leave a communist nation for a better chance elsewhere, I should be allowed to. Lots of people risked getting shot trying to leave various communist nations, but as an American, I didn't have to duck armed guards and put myself and family at risk if I wanted to visit the Soviet Union. Of course, this begs the counter argument about how communism has never really been implemented properly, etc. But show me a communist system in which people are allowed to leave, and I'll show you something that just can't survive as a national force. If by that, it is implied that communism relies on eliminating the right to leave the country or to be influenced by outside ideas, then I can't see any justification for supporting it.

    When we reach this incredible age of advanced AI, do we really want to trust our entire economy to a set of computers? If you consider the problems we have now with viruses and software glitches, just imagine what it will be like when you increase the complexity by several orders of magnitude. And keep in mind, not all powerful AI computers will be in the hands of benevolent people.

    One thing that I feel has been ignored from this thread is that by the time we reach such a stage of technical development that allows us to do the kind of things the poster proposes, why should we stick around on Earth? It's impossible to move the entire population off, but at that point it should be relatively easy to begin establishing self-sustaining space stations, moon colonies, asteroid mining operations, etc. If the wealthy citizens of earth are threatened with coerced redistribution, they're going to be more likely to invest time and money in off-planet operations, eventually leading to a lot of independent nations existing in space. And then we're back to the the beginning of this particular cycle with independent colonies becoming more successful than the parent nations, increasing for a number of years until someone decides that it's all dreadfully unfair, except that now you've got an entire solar system full of disparite groups to try and unite under a grand communist regime...

    Historical determinism... (3.50 / 6) (#130)
    by WombatControl on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 02:12:18 PM EST

    This is the same argument that Marx makes in The Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844. Communism is based on the idea of "historical determinism" - that there is an implicit movement in history towards communism.

    Clearly, this isn't the case. Communism has been relegated to the scrap-heap of history by the will of the people. The Soviet Union died because people saw the freedom of glastnost and perestroika and wanted more. They were sick of centralized planning that went with Communism and inherently leads to fewer and fewer freedoms.

    The plain and simple truth is that communism doesn't work. Giving more power to the state will not mean that it will eventually "wither away" as Marx said it would. Rather, the state will always take the power it's been given and run away with it. States are not in the business of giving power to the people unless they are forced to. (As the US Constitution attempts to do. Even with such constraints, governmental power continues to incrase and rights continue to shrink.

    The fact is, we have the opportunity to make life a hell of a lot better for *billions* of people if we can get capital to move more easily. If every nation on Earth developed a uniform system of property rights and ownership it could mean millions of lives could be made better. (The April 2001 Economist has a great article on why this is true.) Capitalism has always produced wealth wherever it has spread. Yes, it has not done so evenly or perhaps "fairly" but a poor person in the US has a quality of life far, far better than the average citizen of any given Third World nation.

    Look at the most basic indicator of societal well-being: the infant mortality rate. Capitalist countries have far fewer infant deaths than socialist or communist countries - even Sweden with its "cradle to the grave" health care system.

    Communism doesn't work, hasn't worked, and won't work in the future. Instead of spreading communism, we should be encouraging investment, the free flow of capital, and basic human rights. The benefits of capitalism far outweigh the its more problematic aspects.

    Capitalism != Democracy (none / 0) (#179)
    by Misagon on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 08:26:56 PM EST

    The plain and simple truth is that communism doesn't work.
    Communism doesn't work, but that doesn't prove that capitalism does. The problem is that ideology has to be realized by people, and people are naturally greedy for prestige, money and power - be they named Josef Stalin or George W Bush. I believe that the process of democracy is the most important thing. We need forces pulling in different directions to stay in the middle. "The price of freedom is eternal vigilance" has been quoted a little too much, but that is because it applies.

    One thing that worries me is that the US political system is becoming increasingly corrupt. I am not a US citizen (I live in Sweden, northern Europe), but the US is important to the world economy - and thus also to my daily life. US politicians now seem to be dependent on campaign contributions from wealthy capitalists in return for political favors. This is legal in the US but illegal in most other western countries. Just look at recent actions of the Bush administration for an example: the breakup of the Kyoto treaty (which was not very radical, so I am told), the new energy policy (favoring his old business associates) and how he stopped a bill that would help workers with disabilities. (after pressure from old backers) This is an obvious example of capitalism at work, against the best interest of the people!

    The Soviet Union died because people saw the freedom of [glasnost] and perestroika and wanted more. They were sick of centralized planning that went with Communism and inherently leads to fewer and fewer freedoms.
    Yeah, but the average russian seems to be worse off now than ten years ago.
    Capitalist countries have far fewer infant deaths than socialist or communist countries - even Sweden with its "cradle to the grave" health care system.
    The state is in charge of the health-care system, paid by taxes, but that is not much different than if most people paid for the same services with health insurance. There have been a number of cases where privatized (read: Capitalistic) health services have cut corners at the expense of the quality of treatment.

    [ Parent ]
    Capitalism is force (3.66 / 6) (#145)
    by kimbly on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 03:14:06 PM EST

    How can you think that capitalism isn't based on force? Capitalism is absolutely based on the idea of property, and property is based on the idea of "if you try to take it, I'll shoot you". Property is not merely a matter of etiquette -- if you steal someone's car, they won't just say, "oh how rude". They'll send the cops after you with guns.

    Not really... (none / 0) (#231)
    by Rahyl on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 12:57:39 PM EST

    Capitalism is based on the idea that people should be free to trade with one another free of government intrusion. What you're referring to is the defense of ones Constitutional right to protect one's property. If someone attempts to deprive me of life or property through force or fraud, it is my right to defend myself. Without the right to self-defense, you really don't own anything.

    No matter what country you live in, stealing a car will result in punishment provided the offender is caught. The prevailing economic model in that country has little to do with that example.

    [ Parent ]

    It is defensive force, not offensive force (none / 0) (#337)
    by LiberecoDeAmasoj on Fri Jun 22, 2001 at 09:36:21 PM EST

    Capitalism undermines the use of offensive force by making it socially unacceptable whereas socialism and communism make it a social virtue by comparison. Communism especially is based on the mindset common in 2 and 3 year olds: "I see it, I want it, it's mine gimme gimme gimme!!" Rather than peacefully take control of the means of production by legitimately acquiring them from the owners, the workers grab their guns and sieze them. That is the basis of the "revolution" in communist regimes. It transforms something held as a social ill, offensive force, into a virtue by creating an entire society built on the idea that if you have more than your neighbor he or the state has a right to take it. Capitalism undermines this by saying what is yours, is yours and what is his, is his. Just because you want it, doesn't make it yours. This mindset transcends to the arena of civil rights and that is why true capitalists are almost always ardent defenders of the rights protected by the US Bill of Rights. It is on the idea that "your thoughts and words are yours" that free speech is founded. It is on the basis that your body is your property that you have a right to own a gun to defend it from those that would destroy it. The same goes for many other natural law rights as well.

    [ Parent ]
    Ridiculous on three counts. (2.85 / 7) (#146)
    by trhurler on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 03:24:56 PM EST

    First of all, all talk of computers that can plan the economy for everyone is merely a guess, and it is a bad guess for several reasons. One, the machine in question would have to have a complexity exceeding that of the collective minds in the economy it was planning, which quickly implies a cost that is not feasible - one human mind in 2020, so when will it reach 6 or 10 billion of them? (Hint: not for the forseeable future.) Two, the machine in question would have to be able to figure out the needs, wants, and interests of every single person and accomodate them in some reasonable fashion - this is clearly absurd, because no matter how advanced the machine, communication of that information is simply not feasible on an ongoing basis without some sort of direct mental link - and then you're talking about some Star Trek alien lifeform utopia. Three, the machine in question would have to be maintained, operated, and interpreted by someone absolutely trustworthy. This last point alone should put an end to this ridiculous line of speculation.

    Secondly, why should people who find themselves better off under a capitalist system be willing to do anything else? They are, after all, the ones who would be building this machine of yours.

    Finally, the idea that "fairness" is something "any advanced civilization should tend towards" is both underdeveloped and groundless. It can be argued that fairness does not consist in the equality of outcomes that communism tries to create, but in any case, why should a society try to create fairness? There is a huge lack of provided justification here; it seems as though the assumption is merely "the author likes fairness, so fairness is good."

    --
    'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

    Here we go again... (4.31 / 19) (#148)
    by Rahyl on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 03:29:25 PM EST

    Ah yes, another candidate for the Least Informed about Economics and Politics award. Let's see...

    Here I shall argue that the future of capitalism and the unplanned economy is short, and that alternative, and superior, systems of economic and social organization will emerge to take its place.

    Wow, we've never heard opening statements like that one before. This is an old, old argument but all the better; it makes responses like mine easy to write if for no other reason than how repetitive it's become over the years. Don't worry, dear reader, as all hope for Communism is not lost. The last segment of this little note offers a glimmer of hope for our socialist Comrades and their economic model. Let us hope they read it.

    Capitalism depends on the idea that the free market is better than the planned economy. Whilst this has been borne out in the 20th century, as all planned economies implemented so far have performed far less efficiently than the free market, this still depends on the skill of the planner at the helm. Where planned economies have been implemented, they have been undone by the short sightedness and selfishness of those who implement them.

    Here we go again with the 'skill of the planner' argument. Exactly what skills would this all-omnipotent planner need to have to implement this superior economic process? Would someone with a degree in Business from a particular school be considered effective? What about that certain school's arch rival? Just who decides what criteria this planner needs to have? You do make a valid point when you site the absolute complete failure of all attempts at centralized, 'planned' economies in the past due to very real causes: short sightedness and selfishness. People are short sighted. People are selfish. Those seeking to control the economy through their own version of what is right and wrong tend to be the most selfish and shortsighted of all. In a Free Market economy, those character flaws are allowed to weed themselves out on a case-by-case basis. If you make bad business decisions, you suffer for them as a result. In every case to date, the so-called economic 'planners' are the only ones that benefit from their actions, usually at the expense of the economic well being of everyone within their jurisdiction (everyone in the nation). In a Free Market, a bad decision by a CEO could very well lead to everyone in the company loosing their jobs The difference is that they can go find new jobs. In a 'planned' economy, this is usually not an option (see former Soviet Union as a perfect example of this type of massive un-employment and lack of capitol).

    However, with the inevitable progress of computers and AI, high technology could, and very probably will, provide a solution.

    There is very little difference between a human planner and an AI planner. Remember that it takes people to create this AI. Who's AI will we use? How do we rate the different AI's to see which one can plan the economy the best? Just what defines the 'best' economy anyway? Is one to assume that a Marxist computer programmer's AI is going to plan the same way a civil Libertarian programmer's AI would? What about enforcement? What if I disagreed with the choice the AI made for me? Would I go to jail? Would I pay a higher price than the market demanded? Would I simply not be allowed access to market supply? AI already plays a large part in our economy as a tool used by the private sector. It is used to forecast weather to help plan crop maintenance. Investors use it to assist them in predicting market trends and commodity prices that will change the values of their holdings. The difference is that when (not if) the AI makes a mistake, correction is up to the individual company or user, not a government policy maker.

    The inexorable force of the bottom line will push a planned economy by proxy into existence. Fundamentally, the main pressure in our society is the quest for more material wealth. Just now, the free, unplanned chaotic market is the best mechanism we have here, but there is no reason to suppose that this will remain so in the future

    There are only two forces that drive an economy in any particular direction. One: Free people making free choices about their own consumption and Two: governments that utilize force against their own people to influence force # One. Force is the only tool by which anything but a free economy can be achieved. It doesn't matter what pretty words are used to describe a government's intrusion into the free market; if you disagree with the government's decision (right or wrong), you are punished.

    Our market is in no way chaotic. Anyone who claims this simply cannot see the myriad of organized systems that exist in our own economy. The private sector is a complex system of smaller, interconnected systems all put together in a way that brings goods and services to the market place. Only the hunter/gatherer economic model could be called close to 'chaotic' in that goods and services aren't produced by humans but rather by plants and animals that exist independently of human activities.

    As Moore's law is presently doubling processor power every 12 months, as compared to every 18 months a decade ago, and as at this rate a computer with the theoretical processing power of the Human brain will be achieved by 2020, it is not farcical to assume that this increasing processor power will be put to use to solve the market's natural chaos.

    Moore's Law only exists as a result of the demands placed on technology providers by the Free Market. It is not a law of economics, but rather the result of a free market place. If people did not have a 'need' for this processing power, there would be no supply.

    Solve the market's natural chaos?! Typical Communist-speak, ladies and gentlemen. The 'Central Planner' is possessed of omnipotent intelligence concerning your wants and needs and anything else constitutes 'chaos' that needs to be 'solved.' Don't worry; all of your needs are going to be met by the government. Anyone that disagrees for whatever reason at all will be punished. After all, how can the planner be expected to do such an important job if you aren't going to be a team-player? Besides, how could your needs possibly be as important as the goals of the planner?

    The big problem with capitalism is that it isn't very fair.

    Capitalism is dreadfully fair. It is the only 'fair' economic system in existence. Nobody puts a gun to your head and threatens to pull the trigger when you buy/don't buy in a 'fair' economy, do they? This is exactly what would happen to you if you insisted in opening that coffee shop at the street corner without the government's permission in a non-capitalistic economy. Engaging in economic activity under such conditions without the permission of your local/central government authority is a crime. Of course, this all depends on one's definition of 'fair.' According to your assessment, a 'fair' economy is one where everyone who participates is equally rewarded. I'm sorry to break this to you, but flipping burgers will not earn you the money that being a successful auto mechanic will. There is a very good reason the top 1% of income earners possesses that wealth: They earned it, and if you want some of it, you should earn it to. The existence of that top group of people who arrived there as a result of allowing people to freely trade with one another is proof that capitalism is here to stay. There are two ways to gain of their wealth: Sell them something (the fair way) or take it from them by force (the un-fair way).

    All hope for those who really, sincerely believe in the virtues of communism is not lost, however. There is a situation in which communism works like a charm. There is a condition under which people can live together under the guidance of an economic planner in much the same way you suggest we're headed toward. This condition does not, however, exist when people are forced through government mandate to live according to the ideas of a central authority. It does not exist if at any time, the rights of the individual are seen as a worthy sacrifice for the achievement of the Planner's goals. The idea is rather simple, and can be achieved without modifying our current set of laws: form your own commune.

    Yes, you are allowed to form your own commune within which you may freely contribute your wages to a central resource to be managed by a central planner. Yes, you are allowed to practice what you preach of your own will, of your own initiative. There is no need to wait for the government's permission to do this. You don't need the blessings of local or central political figures. You do not need to get any legislation passed or any rights created or destroyed. Your Technology-based commune can be a reality, and it can be a reality today if you use the tools that are already at your disposal.

    This is where the Marxist ideal works: when those who wish to live by those principles do so, among one another, as a result of their desire to do so. There are enough of you out there to realize this dream, provided it really is the communal ideal you're looking for, not the political power to use lethal force to coerce others into living 'your' way. The only catch is that you cannot use force to keep anyone there, or to force anyone to join you. You are allowed to draft a contract that outlines the rules for anyone that wants to join. You could require them to work only for other members of the commune. You could require them to report all earnings to the Planner on penalty of being ejected or some other punishment. You could require them to place every dollar they earned into the central resource pool. You could penalize them monetarily if they decided to leave the commune. All of this can be done if the person agrees to the terms. If someone wanted to leave, they would be allowed to leave in much the same way as you're allowed to leave the US if you chose to.

    This is your chance to show us that this idea can really work. Personally, I don't see the communes getting very large but let's say I'm completely wrong and the central planning idea is a smash hit. Let's assume that the AI is tweakable at will by the central planners when mistakes have been made and that the resource pool is so efficient that it gives birth to a whole new business philosophy that re-writes the 'laws' of economics. If you're right, and it really is a better way, I'll join you.

    Those who truly believe in the communist way are hereby challenged to make it work. Select for yourselves a leader, donate money to them to buy up some property, build some housing on it, and get the show on the road! God knows we're sick of hearing all this talk with no action.

    excellent, but you forgot something (5.00 / 1) (#170)
    by glasnost on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 06:04:48 PM EST

    You pointed out when Marxism works, I completely agree. But you forgot to mention why this is still inherantly a problem in terms of establishing the ideal in a nation.

    Population A accepts the communal ideal. They're completely "unselfish", completely unmotivated relative to their peers. They form a commune. Everything is centralized. Then a problem arises. Population A has generation A' of children. This generation consists of some who like the communal ideal (B), and some who don't (C). Now, you said C should be able to leave. This, of course, will never happen in the real world, because the government will notice that C are the best people. So, either C gets slaughtered, or some of them do. Can you say Tianamen? This must be carried out indefinitely, as long as there's a source of new people who may or may not agree with the ideal...

    Furthermore, to produce population A in the first place tends to require the wholesale slaughter of the best and brightest portion of a population -- those who want to go the extra mile, and be compensated for it (those who are most capable.) Stalin provides a nice historical example here.

    I just wanted to point this out clearly for those who haven't figured out why actual communism requires institutionalized murder.


    [ Parent ]
    The Spanish Revolution (4.00 / 1) (#173)
    by fsh on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 06:33:45 PM EST

    And then, there was the Spanish Revolution at the turn of the century, where whole villages formed agrarian and industrial communes, efficiency was boosted up by as much as 300% in some areas, all while the populace was funding a two-front war. Force wasn't used to start the communes, but it was required to break them up. After the civil war, the Spanish Government enlisted the aid of several capitalist allies to 'reclaim' the land being used quite effectively by the communes.

    And this also ignores the point that whenever Capitalism takes an interest in a non-capitalist country, there's also generally a good bit of killing going on, as well - Chile under Pinochet is an excellent example.


    -fsh
    [ Parent ]

    Turn of the century?? (3.50 / 2) (#175)
    by ucblockhead on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 06:46:02 PM EST

    In the 1930s, you mean...
    -----------------------
    This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
    [ Parent ]
    Duh. (3.00 / 1) (#314)
    by fsh on Fri Jun 22, 2001 at 12:58:03 PM EST

    For some unknown reason, I was thinking it happened before WWI rather than WWII. My apologies.
    -fsh
    [ Parent ]
    not really a counterpoint (5.00 / 1) (#241)
    by glasnost on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 02:36:22 PM EST

    Well, if people *want* to form a communue, I consider it just as unjust to dissolve it via force. Sure, perhaps communes can exist on some scale, and perhaps they can even be efficient. I just don't see that working for society at large. In fact, forming cooperatives is quite normal on the micro scale, within capitalism. In some sense you need them, and they work fine among "trust networks" and like-minded bodies.

    [ Parent ]
    Actually. (5.00 / 1) (#247)
    by fsh on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 03:43:17 PM EST

    It may not have been a counterpoint to your entire post, but it certainly was to this sentence which concluded your post:
    I just wanted to point this out clearly for those who haven't figured out why actual communism requires institutionalized murder.
    I was demonstrating that actual communism does not require institutionalized murder. Furthermore, the Spanish Revolution wasn't a small population, it was a significant chunk of the Spanish population. While the local villages assembled into communes, there were also country-wide communes, or unions, for the farmers and the factory workers.

    Even worse, despite the success of this movement, the capitalist bosses took this as a threat, and supressed it. They reinstated governmental officials, reintroduced mandatory taxes, and required everyone to work for a wage, and efficiency dropped drastically. In other words, my counterpoint is that anarchy and communism can work fantastically well on a large scale, but that it is seen as a threat to capitalism and so is put down. If the capitalists truly believed that their way was the best way, they would allow these experiments to take place. Of course capitalism is the best system we know; we've been working on it for hundreds of years, and it's certainly had a few rough spots to work out (and still has). But in the past we have not been allowed to experiment, or were put down by the military when our experiment proved successful.

    This is not to suggest that such activity is reserved just to capitalists; many governments have employed the same tactics in the past to preserve the power and wealth of the ruling elite. I merely wanted to point out that anarchy and communism do work on large scales. George Orwell was quite fascinated by it; when he visited the Spanish collectives in the 1930's, he was so moved by what he saw there that he joined the Anarchists' Militia to help defend it.
    -fsh
    [ Parent ]

    Central planning, capitalist-style. (4.50 / 2) (#174)
    by swr on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 06:36:25 PM EST

    Capitalism is dreadfully fair. It is the only 'fair' economic system in existence. Nobody puts a gun to your head and threatens to pull the trigger when you buy/don't buy in a 'fair' economy, do they? This is exactly what would happen to you if you insisted in opening that coffee shop at the street corner without the government's permission in a non-capitalistic economy. Engaging in economic activity under such conditions without the permission of your local/central government authority is a crime.

    But you need government permission in a capitalistic economy too!

    If I were to open a coffee shop at the street corner, I would be arrested (possibly at gunpoint) for tresspassing, and have my coffee-making equipment siezed, because I don't own the building on the street corner.

    Even if I did own the building on the street corner, what if that area is zoned for residential purposes only?

    And what if I don't have a business licence?

    What if I want to place a big flashing sign on my building (the free market demands this; it's good for business!) but don't have permission from the municipality?

    What if I want to call my business "Starbucks", or some other name already registered with the trademark office? I'm sure calling my coffee shop "Starbucks" would great for business, so it must be okay in our capitalist society, right?

    The "free market" is a chimera. Markets exist, but they depend on the government to define and enforce the laws (most importantly, property rights) in order to function on a non-trivial scale.



    [ Parent ]
    The assumption was made... (5.00 / 1) (#196)
    by Rahyl on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 01:06:33 AM EST

    ...that if you were opening a coffee shop at the corner, that you did so by entering into a contract with the property owner to exchange money for the use of the space, an honest business transaction.

    As far as zoning is concerned, there is a debate currently raging on how effective these zoning regulations have been. There are two different ways in which "the people" decide how land is to be used, government zoning and covenant law. The basic idea of government zoning is that the elected official is always right concerning the use of land and can change his or her mind at will because after all, the people elected them so they can do no wrong, right? If they were elected by popular vote, every decision they make is the "will of the people" but only in theory. Cases abound where communities have been told to basically 'screw off' when local governments change zoning policy to suit their own ends with virtually no recourse available to the people. Covenant law, on the other hand, puts a set of rules down that the buyer of a piece of land is made fully aware of before they purchase it. Purchasing the land is also an agreement to obey the covenant. The difference lays with how the rules can be changed. In a government mandated zone, you have to appease the government official to get zoning changed, often without the consent of the people that own the surrounding land. In a covenant situation, you need the permission of the land owners in the community to change the rules and must draft a new covenant.

    I'm not an expert on zoning or covenant structure so my description may very well be flawed. My recommendation would be to become familiar with the advantages of both to see why covenant law makes more sense when the will of the people is a priority.

    Markets exist, but they depend on the government to define and enforce the laws (most importantly, property rights) in order to function on a non-trivial scale.

    This is actually a very correct statement, especially with regard to property rights. Our government was specifically tailored to protect our rights, including property rights, from being abused or taken away by force or fraud. Sums it up pretty well, I must say :)

    [ Parent ]

    contradiction (5.00 / 1) (#248)
    by psicE on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 04:10:22 PM EST

    But you need government permission in a capitalistic economy too!

    Most of the points you make are not real products of a capitalist economy, but are what happens when the government steps in to try to protect monopolies.

    If I were to open a coffee shop at the street corner, I would be arrested (possibly at gunpoint) for tresspassing, and have my coffee-making equipment siezed, because I don't own the building on the street corner.

    The way Western society is based, someone has to own the property. Before opening up the coffee shop, you'd have to enter into a contract with the current owner to possess the land. Imagine if you had the coffee shop and someone else decided they'd just take your property and turn it into a car showroom... that's why we have property rights and protections for them.

    Even if I did own the building on the street corner, what if that area is zoned for residential purposes only?

    The only reason there are zoning laws are because a government created them; without mandatory government like we have now, the only zoning laws would be ones that you agreed to as a contractual requirement for owning any property in the town, which depending on the town may or may not exist.

    And what if I don't have a business licence?

    Again, there would be no such thing as a business license in pure capitalism, a government has to be there to have a licensing program.

    What if I want to place a big flashing sign on my building (the free market demands this; it's good for business!) but don't have permission from the municipality?

    In pure capitalism, this situation would only be possible if as an agreement to own property in the municipality, you signed a contract that disallowed you to put up the sign. There would be no government board that told you you couldn't have a sign no matter what.

    What if I want to call my business "Starbucks", or some other name already registered with the trademark office? I'm sure calling my coffee shop "Starbucks" would great for business, so it must be okay in our capitalist society, right?

    It would be okay in your capitalist society, just not your capitalist-with-government society. Trademark laws are designed to protect monopolies (why would Starbucks ever want to call themselves "Joe's Coffeehouse" for example). Without a government, there would be no trademark office, and you could call your business whatever you wanted unless you agreed (in your contract to own property or work in the town) that you would not name your business Starbucks or any other restricted names).

    The "free market" is a chimera. Markets exist, but they depend on the government to define and enforce the laws (most importantly, property rights) in order to function on a non-trivial scale.

    You seem to be contradicting yourself. After stating multiple examples of how the government imposes restrictions on your freedoms to operate a business, you then state how the government is necessary to have a free market the way we expect it. Capitalism can operate just fine without any government regulations, and give companies absolute freedom in how they set up shop and operate.

    [ Parent ]

    Excellent Post (5.00 / 1) (#176)
    by fsh on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 06:53:25 PM EST

    First of all, I would like to commend the author of this post - it is very well though out and expressed. I would like to ask a few questions, however, to clarify my understanding.
    Nobody puts a gun to your head and threatens to pull the trigger when you buy/don't buy in a 'fair' economy, do they?
    Not exactly. Bt being unemployed is not an option in a free market, either. In a free market, with no governmental safety nets, unemployment can easily be a death sentance.
    There is a very good reason the top 1% of income earners possesses that wealth: They earned it, and if you want some of it, you should earn it to.
    This is certainly true to some extent, but in my opinion, it misses the point. First of all, just working hard is no guarantee of success or wealth. There are many people who go broke due solely to the immoral business practices of others. For instance, who really earned Gates' cash, himself, or the programmers who did the work? Ford, or the employee who invented the differential gear? So while the people who work hard certainly earn money, it's also very possible for those who don't work hard to earn even greater amounts of money by simply taking advantage of the system.

    Now, I fully agree with your statements about a planned economy; I too see absolutely no way such a thing will work. However, I do see another problem with capitalism in the decently near future. As our technology increases, it seems to me that we will have a need for fewer and fewer jobs, increasing unemployment. Jobs can be created at this point, but in the past the government has always done this. In any case, creating jobs just adds to the ineffeciency of the system - the free marketer would obviously argue that if jobs were necessary, they'd already be there. So from what I can see, if our technology continues to increase at anything like the pace it has this past century, we are going to require some form of socialism for the hordes of unemployed we will create. I don't claim to have the answers to this, but some combination of anarchy and capitalism (not libertarian anarcho-capitalism, though - yech) might be the answer.


    -fsh
    [ Parent ]

    Thanks :) (4.50 / 2) (#194)
    by Rahyl on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 12:37:15 AM EST

    Thanks for the compliment. I'll try to explain as best I can.

    Not exactly. Bt being unemployed is not an option in a free market, either. In a free market, with no governmental safety nets, unemployment can easily be a death sentance.

    The United States is the single most charitable nation in the world. We feed more people through charity alone than any other. The spirit of charity is alive and well despite what the popular media does not tell us. Do we need the government to act as an agent for forced charity? Have we reached a point where nobody even bothers to ask for charity before taking their grievances before the government for resolution? I'd say so. Every day, we hear people complain about medical care being "too expensive" or about "children going hungry" or drug addicts needing help. Are these people telling us we would be better citizens to give freely of ourselves, or are they telling us we need to raise taxes and give up more of our freedom for the sake of a "safety net?" This is why I've grown so distrustful of government and those that make it their living. They don't bother to ask us anymore. They only know how to take.

    So while the people who work hard certainly earn money, it's also very possible for those who don't work hard to earn even greater amounts of money by simply taking advantage of the system.

    Gates and Ford started with little more than an idea. Because they live in America, they were allowed to do with their idea whatever it was they wished. Yes, they hire people to do most of the day to day tasks but I challenge anyone to ask one of their employees if they're not glad they have their job. Ask them if anyone forces them to work for these companies. People like Gates and Ford created an environment in which people could freely exchange their ideas and labor in exchange for a wage. If the employer mistreats the employee in America, the employee can stop supplying labor. You are free to save your money in any way you chose so that in the event you decided to quit your job before finding another one, you are still able to take care of yourself. Charity, given by people who want to share what they have with others without the promise of return, offers the only safety net we need. In a Communist economy, quitting one's job is not an option but rather a crime.

    In a free economy, employers must compete for labor by offering higher and higher wages until their demand is met or simply go without. Labor behaves like any other commodity; offer a higher price and you'll be offered more of it. Generally speaking, the more of a demand for a product there is, the more suppliers the market will provide until an optimal level is obtained and the prices level off (wages in terms of labor). Take the IT professional market for instance. Until recently, highly trained IT professionals could practically name a salary when shopping for an employer. IT skills weren't common and the demand was high therefore the price was high. Now that the supply has risen somewhat to meet the demand, prices (wages) are leveling off. Remember how the MCSE used to be the hottest designation? There are dozens of schools in most major cities that sell MCSE courses. The free market is providing businesses with the labor they need, and the training the workforce requires to engage in trade within this sector. Four-year college degrees can't hold a candle to technology industry designations anymore, although I do not recommend giving up one for the other. There is practically no government regulation in this segment of the technology sector which is the main reason it has grown so quickly and contributed so much to the economy and our way of life; we were left alone to build these things for ourselves without interference from government.

    I'd like to stop for a moment to make a quick point: Your boss is not a better man than you for being your boss. Someone who makes more money than you is not necessarily a better person than you. In the Hindu religion, the idea that someone's wealth is a reflection of their soul's worth is akin to the idea of "Samsara." I know, this is a thread about economics and (to an extent) politics and not religion but the point is a very important one.

    Money has unfortunately become the measure by which we rate one another as human beings. What happened to the idea of being a good person? What happened to the selfless desire to give to charity and improve the lives of the ones around us? Our divorce rates are high, our crime rates are high, illegitimacy rates are high, you name it. Personally, I've found a place in life where I make enough money to afford the things I need, have money for most of what I want, save some for retirement, use some for health insurance, and I'm done. My goals aren't oriented toward massing more wealth but rather widening my life's experience. If I were to entangle myself into my tech job any further, I'd be sacrificing something that wouldn't be worth the return on the investment. This is, however, only my own perspective and I would never attempt to use government to force others into behaving this way simply because I myself do. If you want to earn more money, please do. You'll be a better person for achieving your goals, and myself happy for being left alone :).

    Oh, and before I forget, lets also remember one more vital fact: You do not have to hold a political office to be a leader of the people. Shake off the idea that government is an effective way to improve oursleves and you'll begin to see where I'm coming from.

    (sorry about any spelling issues. It's 12:30am and I'm a bit tired :) )

    [ Parent ]

    How to Handle Unemployment? (5.00 / 1) (#243)
    by fsh on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 03:05:19 PM EST

    Ask them if anyone forces them to work for these companies. People like Gates and Ford created an environment in which people could freely exchange their ideas and labor in exchange for a wage.
    While I will freely admit that Gates has created one of the best workplaces the world has seen, I must vehemently disagree that Henry Ford did anything of the sort, especially considering that under his business contracts with Nazi Germany many of his factories were staffed by prisoners of war, who were absolutely forced to work. Many people have said that the money he made from Nazi germany was one of the main reasons his company was so successful after WWII. Even Gates, however, has his downsides; what of the people whose job it was to force other companies out of business? Given an option to do that job, or another job that pays the same, which would you take? I know several people who have done repo work, and one bondsman. None of them do it because they enjoy doing it, only for the money.
    If the employer mistreats the employee in America, the employee can stop supplying labor.
    Well, this would be true if the labor market were perfectly fluid. This means that the employee is also beset by other pressures in addition to the free market pressures to stay in one place, because of non-recoverable expenses involved in moving, not to mention the job hunt itself. This is no problem for someone who has been successful in the capitalist market and has a savings nest egg, but unfathomable for someone who has not been successful, especially if this unfortunate person also has a family to support.
    There is practically no government regulation in this segment of the technology sector which is the main reason it has grown so quickly and contributed so much to the economy and our way of life; we were left alone to build these things for ourselves without interference from government.
    Interesting that you should put it this way, considering that the government had to forcefeed technology into this market in order to get it started. If not for the military research on ARPAnet a while back, not to mention the research funding from the government which is later patented by corporations, this industry would have never taken off like it has.
    I'd like to stop for a moment to make a quick point: Your boss is not a better man than you for being your boss. Someone who makes more money than you is not necessarily a better person than you.
    I thoroughly agree. And please, don't apologize for bringing extra info, or a different point of view to this conversation; the more the merrier.

    Unfortunately, your boss does hold a great deal of power and authority over your head, which can be used against you. Say, for instance, that you've just received a raise. You take you new money and invest it in that house you've been wanting for years, the one with the wrap-around porch. You tell everyone at work about it, including your boss. The day after you've signed the papers, your boss tells you that the position you've just received is being phased out, the raise is gone, and he hopes there are no hard feelings. At this point, there's nothing you can do. You've already signed the papers for the house, you can't just quit your job because then you'll have no money, and getting a new job can take months. You have a family to support, so there's no option except to continue working for that rat-bastard who screwed you so badly for at least another month or two, or however long it takes to find another job. Sure, under a perfect system, crap like this would never happen, but it can happen and does happen under our current system.

    Shake off the idea that government is an effective way to improve oursleves and you'll begin to see where I'm coming from.
    Heh heh. I'm an anarchist; I would advise you to shake off the idea that money is an effective way to improve ourselves. ;)Seriously though, I see government as essential to curbing the greedy lusts of the full-time capitalists, which you have demonstrated that you are not one of. However, I can't see how a fully capitalistic system, like that advocated by the Libertarian party, would be better for the populace than the current system, where the capitalists are at least partially reigned in by the government (as is the populace). At least now there's a full system of checks and balances; the capitalists have the land and factories, the government has the monopoly on force/violence, and the populace has the monopoly on labor. All of these require the others, but the government and the capitalists have a certain advantage at the bargaining table, as I see it.

    But this still doesn't address one of my main problems with capitalism, especially free market capitalism, and that is unemployment. As our technology grows, we will reach a point where our level of unemployment increases faster and faster. Under our current system, this will wreak havoc with our society, charity or no. There will come a time when it isn't necessary for the whole population to be employed, and then a point where it will be impossible for the whole population to be employed. What will happen then? I confess I don't have anything like an answer to this problem, but I've never heard an answer from a capitalist, either.


    -fsh
    [ Parent ]

    the answer (4.00 / 1) (#250)
    by crayz on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 04:18:11 PM EST

    Some European countries have already started recognizing and fighting this problem. How? Mandatory shorter work weeks. IIRC France has mandated no more than 35hrs/week.

    Of course, rabid capitalists would never accept this kind of government intervention - they would prefer that everyone who's employed works as much as he/she wants, and if that means a large portion of the population becomes unemployed, oh well. Wouldn't want to use coercive government power now would we?

    [ Parent ]
    America and the Shorter Work Week (4.00 / 1) (#307)
    by fsh on Fri Jun 22, 2001 at 11:40:17 AM EST

    We Americans have a very bad history of adapting to a forty hour work week. The Haymarket Martyrs from Chicago can certainly attest to this; these were protestors for a forty hour work week whom the government imprisoned and executed. It is from this incident that the anarchist 'celebration' of May Day comes from. Regardless, the legislation was pushed through, never repealed, but is routinely ignored today. Many people I know in middle management haven't had a mere 40 hour work week in a while (that's one reason I quit my last job, too).

    And, of course the government would never be able to legislate anything of the sort if the anarcho-capitalists have their way; that was sort of my point.... ;)


    -fsh
    [ Parent ]

    Your mistake... (4.00 / 1) (#283)
    by beergut on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 10:42:19 PM EST

    As our technology grows, we will reach a point where our level of unemployment increases faster and faster.

    You assume a completely static market. This is much the same argument employed by Luddites during the Industrial Revolution. They failed to see the potential for new, as-yet-unthought-of things that will require human labor, expertise, and maintenance.

    Expanding technology has done nothing but increase the demand for labor.

    i don't see any nanorobots or jet engines or laser holography or orbiting death satellites.
    i just see some orangutan throwing code-feces at a computer screen.

    -- indubitable
    [ Parent ]

    Re: Your mistake... (5.00 / 1) (#303)
    by fsh on Fri Jun 22, 2001 at 10:56:41 AM EST

    Actually, I'm assuming a static population. All industrialized nations tend towards a zero population growth curve, so the level of innovation should remain roughly constant (if it is a function of population, as seems likely). Technological advance is more linear, however, as it gradually builds towards an ideal maximum efficiency (with greater increases in high-demand markets). In any case, our current economy harbors many many levels of redundancy (typified by the 2-5 levels of middlemen through which most product changes hands before it gets to the consumer) designed to keep the employment levels as high as possible - and lets not forget the huge government sponsored bailouts of different markets (Savings and Loan most recently) designed to keep the economy flowing smoothly rather than flooding the labor market with unemployed as the anks started foreclosing on anything that moved. Advances in robotics in particular could also create large numbers of unemployed once that technology reaches a certain level.
    -fsh
    [ Parent ]
    Reply cont... (5.00 / 1) (#370)
    by Rahyl on Mon Jun 25, 2001 at 04:00:47 PM EST

    especially considering that under his business contracts with Nazi Germany many of his factories were staffed by prisoners of war, who were absolutely forced to work.

    Who said I drove a Ford :) That is one of the reasons I don't buy Ford. This is how we 'vote' with our dollars for the companies that do business the way we (dis)like them to. The car itself is not the only thing you're getting for the money you spend. Personally, I stay away from labor union products as much as possible. Whenever I can replace a union-made good with one that is non union-made, I usually make the switch. I say usually because in some instances, the product made by the unions really is better, but these are few and far between.

    what of the people whose job it was to force other companies out of business? Given an option to do that job, or another job that pays the same, which would you take? I know several people who have done repo work, and one bondsman. None of them do it because they enjoy doing it, only for the money.

    Who's job is it to force other companies out of business? What's their title? The only way to "force" someone out of business is to march into their place of work and threaten them with harm unless they close their doors. If a company cannot figure out a way to bring its products to the market in a manner that is attractive to the buyer, they will have to close their doors. They go out of business because people don't buy their product. This does not constitute force. Are you talking about people who's job it is to provide a superior product at a competitive price? Sure, Linux is a superior product when talking strictly networking (more depending on who you talk to) but it won't be used mainstream until the complete package is available, including support, a stable GUI, etc. I do hope this happens btw, but do not see suing Microsoft to be a step in the right direction.

    As far as the repo man (I know someone who does this as well) and the bondsman, were they forced to take these jobs or were they free to do them? What kind of education do these people have? What is the demand for people with their skills? All of these factors affect how much they are worth performing those occupations. If there isn't much money in a chosen career, you either find happiness in something other than the accumulation of wealth, or you increase your skill set to make yourself more valuable.

    Concerning the job market:

    This is no problem for someone who has been successful in the capitalist market and has a savings nest egg, but unfathomable for someone who has not been successful, especially if this unfortunate person also has a family to support.

    How are you defining "successful?" Would a modest, one or two-bedroom apt in town, enough food to eat, and adequate healthcare be considered "successful?" What if someone disagreed with you and thought that a tent in the woods was fine. What if they disagreed with you and insisted that only a free-standing house was considered "success" and that anything less constituted failure?

    What would you consider "failure?" Is a homeless man a failure? What if he chose to be homeless (as many of them will tell you they have chosen)? What about a welfare mother with four children, another on the way, and no husband? Is she a failure? What about the men she 'tango'd' with to bring those children into the world? You make the call, success or failure? What about the nun who gives up all of these things: wealth, children, a family, possessions, etc? Failure or success?

    As you can see, success is not easily defined in America. You do not need to own a home, have a family, drive a sports car, or control a corporation to be successful. It's all about making responsible choices, like not having children you cannot figure out a way to support. As a nation, we are the most charitable in the world. There was a time in our history when there were no government sponsored handout programs. Charity and peoples' families are there to help when times get bad. Unfortunately, people are now going to government for other peoples' money instead of simply asking charity for it.

    Unfortunately, your boss does hold a great deal of power and authority over your head, which can be used against you
    My boss has almost no power over me. There are some rules I agreed to follow when he hired me, and I am free to negotiate with him concerning these rules or even quit if I cannot find common ground with him, but he cannot force me to do anything I wouldn't ordinarily do. If he tried to harm me physically, I would defend myself. If he wanted to fire me, let him. I'm a successful IT professional. It took me 20 minutes to find this job. I graduated college as an economics major but didn't enjoy being a financial planner so, after having just finished five years of college, I changed my career completely. The IT industry has a lot to offer if you are willing to take control of your own life and make the sacrifices needed to improve your own condition. In the vast majority of cases, people are poor because they do things that make them poor, like squander their educations and trying to maintain lifestyles they cannot (or will not) afford.

    Let's talk about that new house purchased with the raise. It has long been recommended that you have in reserve at least three months of expenses. This money should be put somewhere it will gain interest in a manner that is fairly safe, such as an insured bank's Certificate of Deposit or maybe a money market fund. This money is there so that if you lose your job, have an unexpected expense, etc, you have a buffer there so that you have time to adjust. This is what responsible people do: save money first, make changes later. Irresponsible people spend money first, consider the consequences later, which is the fastest way to get into financial turmoil.

    It is also recommended that your rent/mortgage payment be somewhere between 25%-33% of your take home pay. The responsible thing to do in your scenario would have been to only buy as much house as could have been afforded without that raise. Even if the raise was taken away, it doesn't mean the guy is going to lose the house. How much of a raise did he get anyway, 5%-10%? I'm sure there's somewhere an adjustment could be made to make the same house affordable. In short, only an irresponsible person would find themselves in trouble in the scenario you've detailed above. Should irresponsibility have no consequence? Is it so bad that people suffer for making a bad choice? Nobody is going to execute him and his family for getting into that situation but he very well may need to sell one of the cars, cut down on expenses, skip vacation for that year, etc.

    would advise you to shake off the idea that money is an effective way to improve ourselves. ;)

    Money isn't an effective what to "improve." This does consider that my own definition of what makes a good man has nothing to do with his income but more to do with how he respects the rights of others. He may disagree with everything I say but still be a "good man."

    At least now there's a full system of checks and balances; the capitalists have the land and factories, the government has the monopoly on force/violence, and the populace has the monopoly on labor.

    Actually, everyone that willingly takes part in our economy is a capitalist. Labor, like all commodities supplied by those "capitalists", is subject to the same law of Supply and Demand. The government, while reserving the right to use force, is still composed of people that are bound by the Constitution in that they are only allowed to use force in the defense of the peoples' rights. All three of those entities have the right to use deadly force to defend their lives.

    Seriously though, I see government as essential to curbing the greedy lusts of the full-time capitalists, which you have demonstrated that you are not one of

    Exactly what does your "full-time capitalist" do? Where does he work? When they step into their offices or place of work, what do they do? I frequently encounter those who refer to "them" as "the capitalists" but can never get a straight answer as to exactly what it is they do on a daily basis. It's just a term used by some people instead of "boogie-man" to talk about someone the audience is being encouraged to dislike.

    A business owner is not different from the employee that works for him; they each provide the other with something they want. They essentially each own a business that supplies what the other business needs in order to grow. If the two of them cannot agree on a price for what they have to offer one another, they do not do business. If the two of them do agree on a price, a contract is signed and the exchange may take place. If the contract is broken, both businesses stop supplying each other and they go their separate ways. The fact that one of these businesses is stationed in a shopping center and the other in a home doesn't matter. Neither one may force the other to do business with them. They are both responsible for themselves and their continued survival.

    My employer makes a good bit of money and I'm glad he does. If he didn't, he may be in a different industry which would be a shame because if he were to have been a car salesman or something else other than an IT business CEO, I wouldn't be working for him. He has done well with the resources he has accumulated and has earned the respect of his peers and the money he takes home. Does this mean I wouldn't quit if I honestly thought there was something better for me somewhere else? I'm running my own business to, remember, so if I can turn a higher profit for selling my labor to a different business, I just might do that.

    [ Parent ]

    Defintion of Terms (5.00 / 1) (#375)
    by fsh on Mon Jun 25, 2001 at 08:35:01 PM EST

    This is how we 'vote' with our dollars for the companies that do business the way we (dis)like them to.
    First of all, using money as an analogy for voting is at the least a bit sloppy, since not everyone has anything like the same amount of 'votes'. While one person might purchase a Chevy because of Ford's pro-Nazi stance, someone else might have to buy a Ford because it is cheaper. Same holds true for produce or anything else; the information the customer typically has is the price, and there is no way anyone could possibly check the information background for everything they purchase. So they may unwittingly support a pro-Nazi company, or a Mafia backed company, or a company that uses sweatshop labor to produce their goods.
    Whenever I can replace a union-made good with one that is non union-made, I usually make the switch.
    And yet, without the labor unions, we would all be working 50+ hours a week with no recourse. These are people who did exactly what you're arguing for, using the Labor Market to get what they believe is a fair price from their bosses.
    The only way to "force" someone out of business is to march into their place of work and threaten them with harm unless they close their doors.
    I suppose it depends on which definition of force you are using. Microsoft was sued several years ago for blackmailing companies with lawsuits if they didn't purchase one copy of Microsoft Windows for every computer they sold. These were the companies that were trying to install OS/2 (remember OS/2?) and Linux. Some companies went along meekly, and some fought in court. The legal battles were so expensive and drawn out that it was at best a Pyrrhic victory since many were forced to close their doors. There are also many corporations whose only job is to buy other companies, carve up their material assets and sell them off, often with very harmful effects on the local economy.
    How are you defining "successful?" Would a modest, one or two-bedroom apt in town, enough food to eat, and adequate healthcare be considered "successful?"
    'Sucessful in the capitalist marketplace', as I put it, can be determined by the norms of society. In a rural area, probably your own house, in a large city, probably a good apartment. In any case, it would mean enough to support yourself and your family reasonably (reasonably, again, would be defined by the norms of society) as well as be able to put a little aside for savings. Depending on where you live, these numbers can vary dramatically.
    What would you consider "failure?"
    Well, since I was talking about 'success in the capitalist marketplace', I assume you're talking about failure in the capitalist marketplace. Easy enough, a failure is someone who does not make enough to support themselves. If a man is homeless by choice, then he is of course no failure, nor the nun or monk who does the same. The man who is homeless because he was laid off during a recession and can't find a job, and has no more money for food, he too is a failure in the capitalist marketplace. If he were responsible, he would have laid aside a nest egg to take care of himself. I hope I did not create this impression, but I was by no means trying to make any personal judgements on any of the people I have brought up so far, I was merely concerned with their successes or failures on the market.
    My boss has almost no power over me.
    Congratulations. I am the same way; the last time my boss ordered me to perform an action I thought was immoral, I quit. We are fairly atypical, however. Someone with a less desired job, who has not had the opportunity to save for college, and who went to a poor public school that gave no serious training for college acceptance, will feel the pressure of the boss more severely, and question whether or not it is better to meekly stay or to put their family through the incredibly difficult journey to find a new job. Training is always an option, but that's an even longer period to support a family when you don't have a job. What if something happens in the interim to one of the children, and you don't have insurance yet?
    In the vast majority of cases, people are poor because they do things that make them poor, like squander their educations and trying to maintain lifestyles they cannot (or will not) afford.
    I hate to question your veracity, but this doesn't seem possible to me. I would love to know the factual source for this statement. It seems to me that luck and chance have much more to do with it than anything else. In other words, for every person that's in the poor house, I would say that there's at least one other person who has made all the same bad, or at least irresponsible, choices, who is not in the poorhouse. I would also say that the same goes for the rich. Of course, I have no data to back this intuition up, it just seems to me to be a little closer to the way life works for me.
    Let's talk about that new house purchased with the raise. It has long been recommended that you have in reserve at least three months of expenses.
    Well, as you obviously discerned, this bit came directly from my youth. My father had a very large nest egg in reserve. As soon as he learned the news of his impending demotement, he began searching for a new job while keeping his old. He was under an obligation to the bank already, and the interest rates had just changed, so he would have lost more money to break the contract. Unfortunately, there was not much call for a man with my father's skill set (mechanical engineer, quality assurance manager, job site upper management), so he had to stay with his old company, working for his old boss who he really, really wanted to just beat the living shit out of, for five more months. He had no opportunity to get extra education on top of his other three professions because he was working as much overtime as possible in order to pay the bills. The house had been just out of reach at his previous pay level, and the raise was a very substantial one, around an extra 30-40% on top of what he had been making (they were putting him in charge of a new building). So if my father was irresponsible, he was only irresponsible for believing that his boss would a) actually give him the raise they told him they were giving him, and b) tell him about the demotion *before* he actually bought the house. We did finally make it, although it almost drove my father crazy. I don't know if it will, but I hope this helps to prove that it's not only irresponsible people who can fail on the market. To this day my father believes that his boss did this to him just so that he *wouldn't* immediately quit when informed of the demotion - with his savings he could have certainly done so before he purchased the house. While it is true that he never had a chance to be executed, he was threatened with jail time and repossession of about half of everything he owned before he was fully out of debt.
    Exactly what does your "full-time capitalist" do?
    Sorry, I should have defined my terms a little better. A Capitalist in this sense in not one who practices Capitalism, but rather one who uses capital to make money. So in this sense there three main classes of capitalists, the landlords (who charge rent for the use of their land), the lenders (who charge interest for the use of their money), and the business owner (who charge people profits to use their machinery). A full time capitalist is therefore someone whose only means of income is one of these categories.
    They essentially each own a business that supplies what the other business needs in order to grow.
    Unfortunately, the business owners who want to contract labor are bargaining from a higher position. Not only is the spread of information about labor rates actively discouraged (it's considered rude to ask someone how much they're making), there are a great many other business practices designed to make this as confusing as possible (health care plans and contract vs. salary for two).

    Unfortunately, as much as I'm enjoying this conversation, I have to cut it a bit short. Stay tuned tomorrow for the next installment of....
    -fsh
    [ Parent ]

    The Prisoner's Dilemma (4.00 / 1) (#385)
    by fsh on Tue Jun 26, 2001 at 05:48:49 PM EST

    There are two different threads running through this conversation. First is the idea that if people were more responsible with their money, they would have no problems on the market. Second is the idea that people can vote with their money, and so attempt to get rid of companies that cut costs by polluting, or companies that used to fund Nazi Germany (ie, Ford). The problem is that people who are trying to be responsible with their money, and thus not have to worry about failure on the market, are going to benefit personally by purchasing the morally corrupt product. After all, it is less expensive since the company that made it dumped all of their pollution into the river. Thus, there is a bit of a conflict here. I had a friend who didn't want to purchase from Exxon because of the Alaskan oil spill, but when he discovered that the Exxon station was selling gas for several cents cheaper on the gallon, he decided he simply couldn't afford to buy the morally superior gasoline. This is just one aspect of the Prisoner's Dilemma which crops up in all sorts of nasty places under capitalism. Take also your example of your working relationship with your boss. You seem to be saying that you enjoy working with him, and that he is a man who has earned respect. But, if someone were to offer a better price, you might quit and move on to greener pastures. I suppose I just never really learned the value of a dollar when I was younger.
    That is one of the reasons I don't buy Ford. This is how we 'vote' with our dollars for the companies that do business the way we (dis)like them to.
    By this logic, then, a huge portion of America does support business practices of this sort. It's certainly not limited to Ford, either, since a few of the major Japanese zaibatsus made a killing from the Japanese war economy. Many of England's huge corporations were founded on the profits of slave labor during the Imperial Age. There is simply no way for someone to know the history of every brand of product they buy, certainly not if they also have to work 50+ hours a week to earn the money to buy stuff. Then there's always false information floating around, such as the Proctor Gamble Satanist Urban Legend that's been floating around for years which makes it all even more frustrating.


    -fsh
    [ Parent ]

    I don't think you understand... (3.00 / 1) (#266)
    by Kaki Nix Sain on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 06:11:35 PM EST

    ...the implications of the premise "There exists the Big Giant Brain." [The author called it AI, but I like my name better.] This is shown in many of questions you ask about it.

    The Big Giant Brain is not made by some elite group of economists and then installed into control of the world by a coup d'etat. The Big Giant Brain is a friendly, fun-loving conversationalist. It talks to everyone, not just the marx-lovers or free-marketeers. We all get to give it input.

    It is everyone's best friend and knows how we all think about the world, what we each care about. It sympathises with you and only wants the best for you. "Best" measured not by some doubious 'objective' measure, but as you would measure it yourself (if only your small brain were able to juggle as many variables as The Big Giant Brain can).

    No one will be made to shout "All Hail the Big Giant Brain!", but doing so would likely get a good chuckle from it.

    Disagree with the Big Giant Brain? Why would you want to do that? Is your typical reasoning something like "hmm, I'm hungary, and there is a good place to eat down the block, therefore I should jab this stick in my eye"?

    Is there a Big Giant Brain? No, of course not.

    Will there be someday? Gosh, I hope so.

    Given it, the rest follows.

    All Hail the Big Giant Brain!



    [ Parent ]

    Ah... now I see... (3.00 / 1) (#282)
    by beergut on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 10:31:18 PM EST

    What you really want is someone/something to take away from you the responsibility of having to think for yourself.

    i don't see any nanorobots or jet engines or laser holography or orbiting death satellites.
    i just see some orangutan throwing code-feces at a computer screen.

    -- indubitable
    [ Parent ]

    I wasn't posting about what I want, ... (none / 0) (#401)
    by Kaki Nix Sain on Sat Jun 30, 2001 at 02:11:38 PM EST

    ...I was just trying to explain the presuppositions involved in the issue at hand. (Of course it would be nice to have a Big Giant Brain to talk with.)

    You could also think of it as a reductio ad absurdum.

    Of course, since it took me so long to get back to this post, you are likely to never see it. :(



    [ Parent ]

    Big Giant Brain... (none / 0) (#402)
    by beergut on Tue Jul 10, 2001 at 08:13:37 PM EST

    Yeah, I agree that it would be nice to have a big brain to talk to. That's why I talk to myself on a regular basis. :-)

    But, seriously, even if there was this omnipresent brain to whom I could tell stories and from whom I could receive advice, I would still want to keep some things to myself, and decide some things for myself, and guide my own life my own way, without being fettered by the decisions of this brain.

    Unfortunately, most would think the decisions made by the brain were just peachy, and would never consider doing things otherwise. People don't know the true meaning of "liberty."

    i don't see any nanorobots or jet engines or laser holography or orbiting death satellites.
    i just see some orangutan throwing code-feces at a computer screen.

    -- indubitable
    [ Parent ]

    Central Planning Ties One Lobe Behind Your Skull (3.60 / 5) (#150)
    by Steve B on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 03:42:50 PM EST

    Capitalism depends on the idea that the free market is better than the planned economy. Whilst this has been borne out in the 20th century, as all planned economies implemented so far have performed far less efficiently than the free market, this still depends on the skill of the planner at the helm.\

    The free market uses the skill of all participants, in what amounts to a distributed-computing system. No single planner can exceed that, any more than one computer can have more processing power than a network which includes that computer.

    Nope. (none / 0) (#276)
    by Estanislao Martínez on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 07:22:28 PM EST

    The free market uses the skill of all participants, in what amounts to a distributed-computing system. No single planner can exceed that, any more than one computer can have more processing power than a network which includes that computer.

    This is wrong, even for the computer case.

    To get rid of the computer case quickly, N identical individual computers will only do a task in 1/N the amount of time as only one if the task is completely parallelizable-- each computer can do 1/N of the work, and each portion does not depend on knowing how the others are doing. You can imagine tasks which are not at all like that-- where every computation depends upon countless others distributed over many computers. In such a situation, the overhead of the computers waiting constantly for results from others in order to be able to continue could be enormous.

    And with people, well, coordinating people is even more difficult. Getting a large group of people to understand what needs to be done and getting them to work together for a complex task is daunting. Didn't Fred Brooks point out that when you add more people to a software development team, you can slow it down, due to the additional overhead of coordinating their work?

    --em
    [ Parent ]

    RFC 1925 (4.50 / 6) (#152)
    by transcend on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 03:57:23 PM EST

    RFC 1925 once more proves its applicability not only for networking, but for all situations in life:

    (11) Every old idea will be proposed again with a different name and a different presentation, regardless of whether it works.

    Effectivity is nice ... but what about freedom ? (4.40 / 5) (#153)
    by ondrej on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 04:01:14 PM EST

    Just now, the free, unplanned chaotic market is the best mechanism we have here, but there is no reason to suppose that this will remain so in the future.

    Even if there was some decision mechanism (either humans or machines) that delivers much better decisions than free market, I would not care. In a planned economy, some central authority decides what should be produced, how much and how economical resources (including people !) should be allocated. There is not much space for decisions of individual people about their lives.

    Is economical product really the main value ? Should we think in the 'I produce therefore I am' way ?

    I don't want to be a tiny part of economical machinery. I want to live a life. I want to be free. I don't want to be a member of herd of livestock.

    The eventual failure of capitalism (4.33 / 6) (#166)
    by LilDebbie on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 05:33:58 PM EST

    Anya, despite your Marxist leanings which I will forgive, I agree with you in part. Yes, there is a better system than capitalism. I don't know if you read Fukuyama's book (I didn't either), but even his short-sighted conclusion of Hegelian thought rang true. Capitalism is the last and best economic system. Now many people have already argued why it's the best, so I defer to their explanations on that subject. Why is it the last? Capitalism exists because of scarcity. Communism exists because of scarcity. The whole study of economics exists because of scarcity. What does civilization as a whole work towards? Eliminating scarcity. It just so happens that the 'chaotic' capitalist system works best for resource distribution in the interim. The end of capitalism? When manufacturing, agriculture, and resource accumulation are all done by self-sufficient machines. Remember what the replicator did to the Star Trek universe? People only worked for fun, because there was no need to redistribute resources. This is our goal and that is what will get rid of capitalism, not communism. It's why we always strive for greater productivity, greater growth, great technology, etc. It's fair in the broader sense because it rewards the most productive, most innovative; the people who will bring us all closer to no scarcity. Communism failed - as long as people have ownership of ANYTHING there will be inequality of resource distribution. In every economic system to date there has never been equal distribution of resources.

    Conclusion: scarcity sucks, but scarcity with capitalism sucks a little less than scarcity with command economies.

    My name is LilDebbie and I have a garden.
    - hugin -

    Economics of Abundance (5.00 / 3) (#187)
    by Jacques Chester on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 10:59:11 PM EST

    I've often thought along the same lines. Economists define their entire subject in terms of scarcity, and I've given the dichotomy some thought myself. Personally I'd be interested in the development of the Economics of Abundance.

    I think that Star Trek is perhaps a little optimistic. Humans have evolved to be economising creatures, one way or the other - if one removed all scarcity, one removes all pressure to adapt, either physical or social.

    That's the other point, by the way. There is always scarcity of some sort. If not of physical resources, then of other things - attention, reputation, positions of power and so forth. The economics of scarcity can just as easily migrate to study social economies as it can material economies. Witness social choice theory.

    The man or woman who develops a general theory dealing with both branches of economics - scarcity and abundance - and who ties this into adaptive behaviour will probably score a Nobel Prize for Economics.

    They're pretty scarce too.

    --
    Well now. We seem to be temporarily out of sigs here at the sig factory. We apologise for any inconvenience this may cause.
    [ Parent ]

    On the subject of non-material scarcity... (4.00 / 1) (#287)
    by LilDebbie on Fri Jun 22, 2001 at 12:10:32 AM EST

    Yes, given even an over-optimistic Star Trek scenario, there will still be scarcity in the social/emotional/etc. sense. Of course, planned economies generally don't do well with that area either [Chairman Mao says you MUST love this person!].

    Economies of abundance? That does seem like an interesting problem. As a current example, one could look at the American agricultural industry. Since it's become so productive, farmers have difficulty trading for goods outside their sector (read: everything). I'm curious if you have any ideas how one would handle such an eventual and current problem (Nobel prizes aside). Perhaps we need another story for such a discussion?

    My name is LilDebbie and I have a garden.
    - hugin -

    [ Parent ]
    Artificial scarcity (5.00 / 3) (#219)
    by Nezumi on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 10:15:29 AM EST

    So if the point to economics is to eliminate scarcity, how is the current capitalist model workable, in that it allows full reign to corporations artificially creating scarcity in order to perpetuate themselves?

    Isn't that a matter of groups within a capitalist system working against the aims of society as a whole?



    [ Parent ]
    An answer to your question (2.00 / 1) (#280)
    by LiberecoDeAmasoj on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 08:40:48 PM EST

    Because in a capitalist economy there exists market pressure to create a market for goods. That means that companies have to modify existing social conditions to create a class capable of acquiring their goods. That is good for the public because it means many will achieve upward mobility as free trade expands or even creates a middle class. In a capitalist state there is nothing to be gained from denying someone the ability to purchase a product because the owners of the means of production are dependent on the public buying their goods. In a socialistic state the government owns the means of production and thus can dictate who buys what to a degree, plus it has less incentive to create markets for goods the way a capitalist system does. This is bad because one need only look at the artificial famines caused by the Soviet Union such as the one that killed 7M Ukrainians and the Cultural Revolution which killed around 20-30M chinese workers. In a capitalist system there is market incentive to actively avoid such a catastrophe that is why in the US there have been few famines period, and none approaching the severity of those common in far left systems.

    [ Parent ]
    I don't entirely agree (5.00 / 1) (#366)
    by Nezumi on Mon Jun 25, 2001 at 11:53:40 AM EST

    In a capitalist state there is nothing to be gained from denying someone the ability to purchase a product because the owners of the means of production are dependent on the public buying their goods.

    Don't be silly, of course there's something to be gained. It's the artificial scarcity of CD's brought about by corporate collusion that causes their price to be so high. Same goes for MSFT software. Corporations frequently create a false scarcity in order to increase prices and concentrate their power.

    This is bad because one need only look at the artificial famines caused by the Soviet Union such as the one that killed 7M Ukrainians and the Cultural Revolution which killed around 20-30M chinese workers.

    Dramatic as those examples are, I'm not so sure they really invalidate anything. The deaths in the Ukraine had to do with a government that failed to accurately assess what resources it actually had available. Had they been more realistic, they could have dealt with the situation better and many lives would have been saved. Unfortunately, that's a matter of short-sightedness, which can occur even in a capitalist state.

    Similarly, the deaths in the Cultural Revolution weren't necessarily the fault of the economic system. The Cultural Revolution had more to do with political ambition on the backs of pretty much everyone, rather than anything more than lip service to communism.

    None of this is necessarily proof that a planned economy could work, but demonizing it with slippery slope arguments like this doesn't help either side.



    [ Parent ]
    the only saving grace of stories like this (4.11 / 9) (#167)
    by glasnost on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 05:52:53 PM EST

    ... is that there's plenty of comments (rightfully) tearing them to shreds below. It always brings a sigh of relief to me. At any rate...

    This story just reeks of intellectual mediocrity and blatant ignorance of WHAT CAPITALISM IS and WHY IT IS GOOD.

    First of all, capitalism is not mutually exclusive with anarchism. That's why there's something called "anarcho-capitalism". If you don't believe me, read "The Machinery of Freedom". The key insight here is that capitalism, when widespread enough and as pervasive as it is today, can possibly provide almost all, if not EVERYTHING of what man needs (in society.) The fact that something that is NOT a political system could possibly replace government (I've yet to see a successful argument against this) indicates to me we have something significantly valuable here.. something where there happens to be no centralized control, and is in one sense supremely democratic.

    Second point: What's all this talk of "fair"? You haven't shown here that the top 1% of people having most of the wealth is *undeserved*. What if most people just don't give a damn? What if they are unable to add enough value to society, through the market, to become wealthy? If you don't believe that the capable and driven will claim what is theirs (whether they start out rich or poor), read "The Bell Curve" (this is also very eye-opening on the matter of why we dont need to worry about hereditary wealth in a free society.) Anyways, distribution of wealth is a purely discriptive observation, what should be done about it? Redistribution? How the hell is that fair? Who is really unhappy, except the most destitutely poor?

    Third point: How the hell will AI and centralization help anything? As someone pointed out, you can't keep human nature out of this. Someone will be deploying the AI. And if nobody is, then you've got extra-human AI, which you can't guarantee won't be even worse than humans. Moreover, why is centralization desireable? Your "unfairness" is only evidence you've given us that capitalism sucks, and I think it's totally garbage. At best it is a contentious value judgement.

    I honestly don't see any problem with capitalism , except (1) Government. Yes, government. By which I mean the fact that competition and the natural lifespan of corporations are artifically altered by manipulation of laws and politicians. (2) Imperfect information (in the marketplace). That is, you can't know a product is bad, if you dont know anyone who's tried it, until you try it. And you can't truly know some things are bad until they've been tested extensively or over a long period of time... Now ironically, in this way the internet/technology seems to me very promising. When I want to buy something these days, I just scour the web to find tons of customer reviews, 3rd party testing, etc. It's so easy. Its right at your fingertips, literally. So if Capitalism can become more perfect in this way, where is the unfairness? All I see are people making voluntary exchanges. I think things are looking bright, although they might get worse if we can't drive a wedge between government and the free market.

    Adovcating centralization, and controlled economy, seems to just completely ignore the whole point that the free market is good precisely because it is FREE. It also blatantly ignores human nature, both in terms of those who control, and those being controlled.




    What about democracy? (4.50 / 2) (#189)
    by marx on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 11:11:28 PM EST

    First of all, statements such as:

    the only saving grace of stories like this is that there's plenty of comments (rightfully) tearing them to shreds below. It always brings a sigh of relief to me. At any rate...

    are a bit odd. If her story and arguments were junk, why would you be relieved that there were comments tearing them to shreds? Wouldn't that be automatic? It sounds like you are scared that somehow people will agree with her. But that's not really relevant to the discussion anyway.

    I agree that the idea of capitalism is appealing, that it can be used as a tool to extract good performance from a marketplace. It is not a very good system for distributing power in a society however. The base must above all be democracy, nothing is allowed to "trump" that. The idea of democracy is not only the explicit rule of "one person, one vote", this is only part of the implementation. The idea is that every human has equal value, and thus every human should have the same amount of influence in shaping society. I think it's evident that influence is not expressed only by casting a vote in general elections. Thus, it is not consistent with democracy to invoke "survival of the fittest" in every aspect except general elections.

    Also, just like in capitalism, there are certain conditions which must be true for democracy to function properly. The voters must be informed, and must have enough education to understand the information. If you reduce the power of the government to the minimum, the other power entities will manipulate these conditions, and you will no longer have a functioning democracy. I think it's very odd that the media in western countries, and particularly the US, is not criticised and regulated more. Propaganda was a known concept in the Soviet Union, and was used, presumably effectively. Do you somehow believe that just because there is capitalism, propaganda will not work? Not to beat a dead horse, but I think Microsoft is a good example of "doublespeak" and propaganda today. This is usually not a problem, if the media can point out to people that "hey, this guy is talking bullshit". It is a problem however, if the media does not do this. I don't know why this is not happening, maybe it's because the owners of the media companies have no interest in this (in capitalism, if a company performs an action which hurts its own profitability, the company will become less successful), or it's more direct (i.e. MSMBC, AOL/TW). The problem is that telling people the truth does not necessarily have to be profitable, and if it's not, then the media companies will not do this. How do you plan to solve that using "anarcho-capitalism"?

    Join me in the War on Torture: help eradicate torture from the world by holding torturers accountable.
    [ Parent ]

    hmm (4.50 / 2) (#240)
    by glasnost on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 02:31:40 PM EST

    > are a bit odd. If her story and arguments were junk, why would you be relieved that there were comments tearing them to shreds? Wouldn't that be automatic? It sounds like you are scared that somehow people will agree with her. But that's not really relevant to the discussion anyway.

    Nah, I just think she's wrong, and I was venting. Clearly that statement did not carry the weight of justification, so you can ignore it.

    > The base must above all be democracy , nothing is allowed to "trump" that. The idea of democracy is not only the explicit rule of "one person, one vote", this is only part of the implementation. The idea is that every human has equal value, and thus every human should have the same amount of influence in shaping society.

    I'm not sure whether you're trying to contrast the market with democracy, or agreeing that it is democratic?

    Every human has equal value? With respect to what? You'll have to do better than an a priori assertion to convince me all my experience with people having greater or less ability, intelligence, or propensity to work is an illusion. The nice thing about the market it is places a greater or less value on someone roughly correlated with the ability to do some job, without offending those who are worth less in the same aspect. The only way I can think of that people should be treated "equal" is under the law. But maybe even this should be qualified. Isn't it true that its possible for most people to be wrong about something merely because they haven't taken the time to learn about it, while a smaller population could be correct? Why should everyone, in this situation, be allowed the same vote? It is from this possibility that representitive democracy (aristocracy) arises.

    Yes, democracy is such a lovely sounding ideal. But it seems to me like it applies more to the marketplace than government... oddly enough.

    >Also, just like in capitalism, there are certain conditions which must be true for democracy to function properly. The voters must be informed, and must have enough education to understand the information

    Ah, here we go. That's a big qualifier. Essentially the failure of it to be fulfilled is why there are no absolute democracies. People just aren't like this.


    >Propaganda was a known concept in the Soviet Union, and was used, presumably effectively. Do you somehow believe that just because there is capitalism, propaganda will not work?

    Actually, I think the media in the US has a different role. In my opinion, its main function is to *distract* people with irrelevant issues, and keep them otherwise apathetic so that government can keep merrily on its own way, unchecked. This strategy seems to work just as well as propaganda, except it has the benefit of being innocent in hindsight. That is, when we look back on the media, we don't SEE the government telling us anything, so we can't blame it for indoctrinating us with the wrong views. At any rate, I'm not sure if this is a bad thing. People seem to lap it up... why fight it?

    >The problem is that telling people the truth does not necessarily have to be profitable, and if it's not, then the media companies will not do this. How do you plan to solve that using "anarcho-capitalism"?

    Well, reality is out there. Corporations whill always piss people off if they are found to have lied about something. And the well-being of a corporation kind of hinges on having enough non-pissed-off people around to give them money. And if people never find out the corporation lied... who cares? Then everyone's happy.

    In true anarcho-capitalism, you can choose where your news comes from. It's hard, then, to feed someone propaganda they don't want to hear. In fact, you can choose where your news comes from now. Especially with the internet, it is very hard to restrain un-official views from getting out. Those who are inquisitive enough can drop the mainstream media like a rock.

    I think this is an important point, the internet can help capitalism by allowing more "perfect information", and it removes some excuses why the government isn't accountable (couldn't representatives put their voting records online quite easily? couldn't we vote online easily, generating higher turnouts? couldn't we participate in debates with actual government members?)


    [ Parent ]
    Fairness of the labor market (4.00 / 1) (#254)
    by fsh on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 04:55:45 PM EST

    It's fairly easy to demonstrate that the labor market is particularly unfair, unless you believe that women are truly worth approximately 80% of the value of an equally trained man. And, as I'm sure you're aware, applying the ideals of democracy to the ideals of the marketplace can be very dangerous, simply because it allows those with the most money to make policy. Instead of one person, one vote, we get one dollar, one vote.


    -fsh
    [ Parent ]

    Source? (4.00 / 1) (#257)
    by Logan on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 05:10:37 PM EST

    What is your source for that statistic? Similar statistics that I've seen stated have been shown to be quite misleading. For instance, see here.

    Also, some would argue that voting with dollars is better than voting with one vote per person. For an examination of this, consult David Friedman's work.

    Logan

    [ Parent ]

    Re: Source? (4.00 / 1) (#272)
    by fsh on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 06:53:21 PM EST

    Here's my source for the Wage Gap, drawn from Census Data. Yes, I know that the source that published these stats is biased. So is your source - check out the IWF's mission statement, which reads like right wing propaganda ("Believe in [...] the superiority of the market economy"). Another easy way to tell is by checking the numbers for the most highly paid movie stars. It's all men at the top.

    Also, some would argue that voting with dollars is better than voting with one vote per person.
    Of course, there will always be those who argue for oligarchy and aristocracy. The chief problem I have with such a structure is that unless the wealth is zeroed out before such a system is put in place, it is grossly biased towards those who gained their wealth in immoral fashion. In other words, any Columbian drug lord would have a huge say in the policy.

    It's not the main body of capitalist theory I object to, it's the problems at the corners that selfish people can use to their advantage.


    -fsh
    [ Parent ]

    Sources (5.00 / 1) (#294)
    by Logan on Fri Jun 22, 2001 at 05:15:07 AM EST

    The link I provided was not meant to be an ultimate source. I just happened to have it at hand. The link, however, provides references to further sources. A quick Google search found me this page, which appears to have several references.

    It is interesting that you automatically dismiss arguments regarding the economics of voting as pro-oligarchy and pro-aristocracy, before you have even heard the argument! For the benefit of kuro5hin readers, and yourself, I will try to summarize it here.

    First, good laws are a public good. A good law benefits everybody, would you not agree? A good law, if passed, applies to everybody, whether or not everybody supports it. A good law is as much a public good as national defense.

    But, is it in a politician's best interest to pass a good law? Certainly not. A politician could work very very hard for a long time to pass a few good laws that benefit him (and everyone else) by a certain amount. Or, he could very easily pass a single bad law in favor of a certain special interest, and benefit himself just as much (with much less work) while screwing over most of the populace. Thus, under democracy (and especially ours), the political marketplace is rigged. This is true, not only in theory, but in reality, as anyone that looks at the functioning of any government (democratic or not) can very plainly see.

    Another argument that dollars are superior to votes is this: A dollar, once spent, cannot be spent again. A vote, on the other hand, can be used over and over. In a democracy, those with political power can (and do) use that power to stay in power indefinitely. They can continue to take our money, year after year, and what can we do about it? Vote? When every law and serious political candidate is selected by the very same people that wish to rule over us?

    With dollars, on the other hand, an individual or group has a finite set of resources with which to screw over the rest of us. And it is not so simple to just "fix" the political process (which, in my opinion, is already "fixed," so to speak). "By the time a democratic socialist has modified socialism sufficiently to make its political control mechanisms as accurate and sensitive as the economic control mechanisms of capitalism, he has reinvented capitalism."

    Indeed, democracy favors oligarchy and aristocracy, just as any other political institution does. The closest thing you'll ever find to egalitarianism (whatever that may be) is very likely the free market that you so detest.

    Logan

    [ Parent ]

    Problems (5.00 / 1) (#305)
    by fsh on Fri Jun 22, 2001 at 11:29:08 AM EST

    As I see it, the arguments you put forward about corrupt politicians can just as easily apply to a system where one dollar equals one vote. The reason I put forth the arguments of oligarchy and aristocracy is that in a system where one dollar equals one vote, the people with the most power to affect policy are the ones with the most money, and thus, the most power. Therefore, by definition, such a system would be an aristocracy or an oligarchy.
    The closest thing you'll ever find to egalitarianism (whatever that may be) is very likely the free market that you so detest.
    Heh heh. I love the free market; it's capitalism and statism I detest. I'm an anarchist, and am against the bosses' taking extra value in the form of profits from the laborers. I'm also against authoritarian structures such as government (and her monopoly on violence) and the fascist nature of most corporations. The free market has been around forever, for much longer than there has been currency, however; currency was originally just a method of keeping track of trades over the free market.
    First, good laws are a public good. A good law benefits everybody, would you not agree?
    As an anarchist, I generally do not agree with this statement. As long as laws are used to oppress part of the populace (as the racial count on death row certainly seems to indicate), any law, however good, can be used to evil ends. Again, it is this twisting of the system that I object to, not the core of the system. Money can still buy justice, so those who can afford the best lawyers will be able to get away with more than those who cannot.


    -fsh
    [ Parent ]

    Free Market vs. Capitalism? (5.00 / 1) (#309)
    by Logan on Fri Jun 22, 2001 at 12:00:19 PM EST

    How is the free market not capitalism? To me, capitalism and the free market are two terms for the same idea, and that is what I mean when I use either term. But what is this nonsense about the "bosses' taking extra value in the form of profits"? First, in a free market, the laborers come to a mutual agreement with their bosses, or whoever is funding their work. What is wrong with one person profiting from another's work if that other agrees with it? How do you expect to have a free market otherwise?

    I'm also an anarchist (though perhaps a different type). I'm the sort that is of the opinion that law need not come from any government (nor does it have to be called a "law"). At any rate, my point still stands that political power serves only those that have it, and they have no incentive to provide any good to those that don't. Contrast this with a free market, where there is at least some incentive for even the most powerful and wealthy to provide some good and refrain from harm.

    Logan

    [ Parent ]

    Capitalism and the Free Market (5.00 / 1) (#311)
    by fsh on Fri Jun 22, 2001 at 12:22:07 PM EST

    Capitalism is based, obviously, on capital. Capital is defined, essentially, as private property, such as land or items. A Capitalist is one who owns land or items, and charges for their use from those who do not own the land or items. This charge comes in many different forms, such as rent for land and houses, interest on loans, and profit from the laborers who actually do the work that actualizes the wealth of the land or items. For example, a Capitalist owns a piece of land, on which sits a factory with machines in it. Laborers produce goods with these machines, and sell them on the market. The Capitalist charges the Laborers a portion of the proceeds for allowing them to use his property.

    A Free Market, on the other hand, is simply a place to exchange goods. A profit need not necessarily be made, and, as I've said, the free market has existed for far longer than currency.

    What is wrong with one person profiting from another's work if that other agrees with it?
    If that is the only way for the laborer to make a living (as it is under a fully capitalist system), then it is essentially extortion. Since the capitalists own the means of production, those who want to produce have no option but to contract with the capitalists. This means that the capitalist is in a far superior bargaining position.


    -fsh
    [ Parent ]

    Standard Socialist vs. Capitalist Fare (5.00 / 1) (#312)
    by Logan on Fri Jun 22, 2001 at 12:32:19 PM EST

    I'm wary of these fundamental socialism vs. capitalism arguments, as much of the same gets said every time, and I think both sides just end up more firmly set in their ways. I really doubt that there's anything new I can offer to the argument. However, can a free market exist without private property? Can an exchange of goods exist without someone owning those goods? This I do not understand.

    Logan

    [ Parent ]

    Ownership vs. Use (5.00 / 1) (#313)
    by fsh on Fri Jun 22, 2001 at 12:53:08 PM EST

    and I think both sides just end up more firmly set in their ways.
    *shrug* So everyone comes out ahead.... ;) This is the main distiction, as I see it; Ownership vs. Use. The libertarian socialist or anarchist just doesn't understand how someone can actually own something that they don't use, especially when there are plenty of other people who could put that same property to fair use. So what does use mean in this sense? If someone has crafted something, then it is theirs. Since there would be no monetary incentive to keep these things, they would be traded away on the free market for other things that the crafter needs. This method certain has its problems, mainly the Calculation Argument presented by von Mises, but it also solves many of the problems with capitalism.
    -fsh
    [ Parent ]
    Use (4.00 / 1) (#316)
    by Logan on Fri Jun 22, 2001 at 01:13:33 PM EST

    But what is use? I have an extra computer or two that I never use, but I'd hate to lose them. Do you suggest that it'd be right to take them if you could put them to better use?

    Logan

    [ Parent ]

    Yep (4.00 / 1) (#318)
    by fsh on Fri Jun 22, 2001 at 02:25:01 PM EST

    Absolutely. Then, later on down the road, if you ever needed one back, I'd be pleased to give it back to you. Or you could get a new one if you needed something a little faster. Or, if I were a toy maker, you could request some toys for your children in exchange. Or if you had a great deal of emotional attachment to one of the computers, you could set the exchange rate to be whatever you wanted it to be, maybe an addition to your house.

    However, if you kept these computers in a warehouse, then someone could come up and take it, certainly. Or they might just use it, and leave it where it is. Capitalism is supposed to be the best at handling scarcities of resources, yet it encourages hoarding scarce resources at the same time. Since under our current system, having a sum of money in reserve is essential to weather the downturns of the market, that's how everyone thinks, in terms of hoarding for future problems. In a society where just living isn't contingent on having a certain sum of money, this would be completely different.
    -fsh
    [ Parent ]

    Then everything changes (4.00 / 1) (#264)
    by marx on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 06:04:01 PM EST

    Every human has equal value? With respect to what? You'll have to do better than an a priori assertion to convince me all my experience with people having greater or less ability, intelligence, or propensity to work is an illusion.

    I did not mean to prove this assertion, I presented it as an "axiom" (what's the equivalent term in a moral system?). Yes, you're right, people have different abilities. However, I think all democracies in the whole world have agreed on this axiom. If you don't, then why bother with democracy at all? I think this is the direction you're heading (anarcho- should have given me a clue), but that's a completely different argument.

    I guess the question becomes "what is the goal?". Normally you have something like "everyone should be as happy as possible". If you accept the axiom, then you're not allowed to say "oh, you're just a burden, so your happiness is not as important". If you don't accept the axiom, what prevents you from killing off the burdensome people? I think the axiom is a big part of modern society, and if you remove it, anything is basically allowed, but I suspect that's exactly what you want.

    Join me in the War on Torture: help eradicate torture from the world by holding torturers accountable.
    [ Parent ]

    Two problems with unmitigated capitalism. (4.33 / 3) (#216)
    by claudius on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 09:46:25 AM EST

    I honestly don't see any problem with capitalism....

    Some amount of centralized control is necessary for capitalist systems to run smoothly, fairly, and in accordance with the principles of capitalism. This, in large part, is due to two fundamental problems with pure, unmitigated capitalism: (1) Monopolies and (2) "Tragedy of the Commons" issues.

    In capitalist systems a monopoly is the end result of a highly successful company. Companies that adhere to the principles on which capitalism is based (efficiency, innovation, marketplace dominance over less efficient and innovative companies) eventually reach a state where they no longer heed the "invisible hand" and, when all competitors have fallen by the wayside, begin to subvert the system. Without trust-busting central control one merely trades one master (the government--arguably somewhat responsive to the needs of the public) for a more oppressive master (the monopoly--responsive only to the needs of the shareholders). In this sense capitalism is inherently unstable; government stabilizes the system and ensures that the tenets of capitalism persist in the marketplace.

    Tragedy of the commons issues arise whenever a resource can be tapped by an entity without said entity bearing the full cost of the resource. Take the example of clean water: If a company can augment its profit by dumping cadmium and PCBs into the river, then it has a responsibility to its shareholders to do so. If it doesn't, then its competitors will, and the company will be at a disadvantage in the marketplace; such a company cannot hope to survive for long in a pure capitalist economy by wantonly disregarding the principle of efficiency. However, the cost of using the public water resource in such a way is borne unfairly by the public. Without centralized control of limited public resources by a disinterested managing body one cannot hope to resolve issues of stewardship of the resources fairly. (The impartiality of the governing body is vital to ensuring fairness in the apportionment of scarce resources and, by extension, to the smooth operation of the capitalist economy. This, in my mind, is a fairly compelling argument against allowing industry to have undue influence in government).

    [ Parent ]

    etc (4.00 / 2) (#236)
    by glasnost on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 02:00:05 PM EST

    >Without trust-busting central control one merely trades one master (the government--arguably somewhat responsive to the needs of the public) for a more oppressive master (the monopoly--responsive only to the needs of the shareholders).

    Show me the monopoly that can survive with only shareholders. This is a gross oversimplification. Remember that shareholders want profit in the long run, which requires actual customers.

    Monopolies are only dangerous when they are government sponsored. Why? The only natural defense against a monopoly is that consumers are not forced, with guns to their heads, to buy the monopoly's product or service. When the monopoly becomes government sponsored, this last bastian of freedom is taken away. This can take the form of both full-fledge state-run monopolies, or simply coporations buying laws and politicians.

    >Tragedy of the commons issues arise whenever a resource can be tapped by an entity without said entity bearing the full cost of the resource. Take the example of clean water: If a company can augment its profit by dumping cadmium and PCBs into the river,

    When a "commons" is trashed, and there exists some desire by the people to reverse this condition, the reversal becomes a good. This means the market can also take care of things like environmental cleanup. Furthermore, we could improve this situation by turning more of the environment into private property. Nobody likes someone polluting their property (admittedly, this is tricky for things like air, water...)

    At any rate, what you've just pointed out about the environment is a problem with government anyways, in no small part because government can easily be bought by corporations. Assuming the infallibility of government makes it look a lot nicer than it actually is. What it all comes down to is that government is only accountable to the people when unanimous outrage arises, whereas the market can act even earlier whenever the potential for a profit arises.


    [ Parent ]
    Government and Pollution (3.00 / 1) (#237)
    by Logan on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 02:05:06 PM EST

    At any rate, what you've just pointed out about the environment is a problem with government anyways, in no small part because government can easily be bought by corporations. Assuming the infallibility of government makes it look a lot nicer than it actually is. What it all comes down to is that government is only accountable to the people when unanimous outrage arises, whereas the market can act even earlier whenever the potential for a profit arises.

    And not to mention that the government is the largest polluter in the US right now. Who are you going to trust? Someone that has to answer to the market, or someone with all the guns?

    Logan

    [ Parent ]

    Curious. (4.00 / 1) (#290)
    by claudius on Fri Jun 22, 2001 at 02:11:39 AM EST

    And not to mention that the government is the largest polluter in the US right now.

    I find this statement surprising. Can you provide me with a source for this information? Thanks.

    [ Parent ]

    Source (4.00 / 2) (#295)
    by Logan on Fri Jun 22, 2001 at 05:20:47 AM EST

    This article, from the Libertarian Party, gives a discussion of this, as well as a few references at the end. You may wish to consult those, especially since I somehow doubt you'd take the LP's word for it. When a corrupt government controls as much land as ours does (the above article claims the government controls 40% of the country's land), that land is bound to be misused through special interests. Just imagine if even half of that government land was owned privately, by people that need and care about their land.

    Logan

    [ Parent ]

    Curious article. (5.00 / 1) (#326)
    by claudius on Fri Jun 22, 2001 at 04:30:36 PM EST

    ...You may wish to consult those, especially since I somehow doubt you'd take the LP's word for it.

    I'm afraid you are correct--the only evidence I can find for your claim in the quoted article is the single, unsupported statement: "Government, both federal and local, is the greatest single polluter in the U.S." that follows a handful of polution anecdotes. (Compelling though the anecdotes may be, they do not themselves justify the claim). Unfortunately, the article failed to identify even what "greatest" means--greatest in dollar amount? In acres of destroyed land? In how despised the polluter is in the eyes of the Libertarian Party?

    [ Parent ]

    Some misconceptions. (5.00 / 3) (#289)
    by claudius on Fri Jun 22, 2001 at 02:07:01 AM EST

    Show me the monopoly that can survive with only shareholders. This is a gross oversimplification. Remember that shareholders want profit in the long run, which requires actual customers.

    Perhaps you misunderstand what a monopoly is: a monopoly entails a lack of choice for customers. A monopoly is food service in a prison. Capitalism works because the system rewards innovation and quality; in contrast, a monopoly has no such incentives and, in fact, is encouraged by the system to provide inferior quality and to slow innovation in order to maximize profits.

    If you wish to buy steel and U.S.Steel is the only steel vendor, then you have little choice but to buy from them. Why again should U.S.Steel innovate or provide quality services to its customers? Starting a new business to compete with an entrenched U.S.Steel monopoly would be nigh near impossible under the best of circumstances, and it would be naive to think that this is the optimal solution to the monopoly problem. (Though it may work in the very long term, in the short term the consumers suffer).

    When a "commons" is trashed, and there exists some desire by the people to reverse this condition, the reversal becomes a good. This means the market can also take care of things like environmental cleanup. Furthermore, we could improve this situation by turning more of the environment into private property.

    Hokem. Tripe. Piffle. If I dump a truckload of shit in the street and someone else has to clean it up I can justify my actions as "good" because the street has become cleaner? No self-respecting capitalist business in a government-hands-off playing field would ever conceive of voluntarily expending its precious capital on extravagencies such as environmental stewardship. There is only negative profit to be gained from this, so the "invisible hand" will drive companies away from such silly ventures. We learned full well in the 80s with the Reagan administration's gutting of the EPA that industry in capitalist society is incapable of policing itself on environmental issues (one of many "tragedy of the commons" issues that government should oversee). This is neither a slam on industry nor capitalism, but merely an observation on the nature of capitalism. If an activity such as voluntary environmental cleanup, no matter how meritorious, is in conflict with the bottom line, the unmitigated capitalist system rewards those who choose the bottom line. If you argue anything else, then we aren't talking capitalism anymore, but some kind of perverse corporate altruism thing instead, and I'd like to know just how such a company could justify the lost profits to its shareholders.

    Furthermore, we could improve this situation by turning more of the environment into private property. Nobody likes someone polluting their property...

    Never left the suburbs, eh?

    [ Parent ]

    Transparency (4.00 / 1) (#291)
    by syrrath on Fri Jun 22, 2001 at 02:38:00 AM EST

    When it comes done to whether a company will do something that is viewed by the majority as "bad", it depends upon whether anyone will notice... The capitalist dirty little secret is that nobody in the public knows what they are doing in third world countries, the true long term effects of their pollutants, etc.

    What company, with any self-sense of market of the publics perception, would be able to ignore the consequences of unrestrained pollution? Knowing that it would be impact sales and pollute its brand name...

    The only problem with introducing such as system is the amount of political power money has compared to the intellicence of the majority. I.e. nobody's going to force GM to report its pollution output in mexico without every one of their lawyers fighting it...

    [ Parent ]

    replies (4.00 / 1) (#258)
    by Kaki Nix Sain on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 05:22:14 PM EST

    "Second point: What's all this talk of "fair"? You haven't shown here that the top 1% of people having most of the wealth is *undeserved*."

    It might not matter if the extremely wealthy deserve what they have; redistributing goods can still be the best option. Consider that you have the goods in a big pile, and each person has some amount of desert. The badness of a distribution of goods to people is measured by adding up the shortfall between what each person gets and the amount that they deserve. But each term is weighted relative to the amount that person deserves. So that, it is worse for a person who deserves 100 to get 90 (to put this in limited numerical terms), than it is for someone who deserves 100,000 to get 99,990. In this case, redistribution from the very wealthy to those with much less is in order.

    "Third point: How the hell will AI and centralization help anything? As someone pointed out, you can't keep human nature out of this. Someone will be deploying the AI."

    Yeah, but it need not be an individual. We will all talk to the Big Giant Brain and let it know how we each think about the world. It will be everybody's best friend, knowing just how they would react to various ideas it thinks up. It will be a reflection of everyone, not some small group.

    All Hail the Big Giant Brain!

    "Your "unfairness" is only evidence you've given us that capitalism sucks, and I think it's totally garbage. At best it is a contentious value judgement."

    Contentious only if you have not been raised so that the social thinking parts of your brain are atrophied.



    [ Parent ]

    Information wants to be free. (4.00 / 1) (#361)
    by kraant on Mon Jun 25, 2001 at 02:34:05 AM EST

    I just thought of something. The concept of "Intellectual Property" should horrify all red-blooded capitalists everywhere.

    After all to truly grease the wheels of commerce and reduce economic to a true minimum, the restrictions to peoples access to information that allows them to determine what is best for them (and letting them be their own little big giant brain).

    It is obvious we must liberate Information to allow the capitalist revolution to proceed. Down with the Stali-Communist corporations that seek to control Information.
    --
    "kraant, open source guru" -- tumeric
    Never In Our Names...
    [ Parent ]

    The Bell Curve (4.00 / 1) (#286)
    by dogwalker on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 11:50:33 PM EST

    If you don't believe that the capable and driven will claim what is theirs (whether they start out rich or poor) , read "The Bell Curve" (this is also very eye-opening on the matter of why we dont need to worry about hereditary wealth in a free society.)

    I don't have a problem with Murray and Herrnstein positing that some sort of meritocracy forms the ideal society, but I object strongly to the misleading way in which they try to clothe their argument in bad science. Their argument is that there are people who are genetically disadvantaged, and therefore will not excel in a laissez-faire society -- thus helping these people is futile and will produce no good. However, the first is unsupported by their data, and the second is not even a logical conclusion from the first. Read "Bell Curve Wars: Race, Intelligence, and the Future of America" for further discussion.


    --
    share and enjoy

    [ Parent ]

    Socialism (2.00 / 1) (#181)
    by wrr on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 09:51:06 PM EST

    Ludwig von Mises' tome 'Socialism' provides a compelling argument why, despite the misguided dreams of those who would make themselves 'the planners' and save us from ourselves, collectivism just will not work. Of course, the "close mindedness" (sic) of which Anya speaks is clearly seen in the refusal of the left to even address the arguments of people like von Mises, Hayek, and many others.

    OMG. (none / 0) (#217)
    by Sheepdot on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 09:48:15 AM EST

    The other day I read his Liberalism stuff for the second time and was just totally blown away by how amazing this guy is.

    Then you count in the fact that no one has seriously attempted to refute the points he makes in the last 80 years and you have a guy who argument still apply today.

    Where are all the "great socialist minds" when you need them?


    [ Parent ]
    So what does he say? (none / 0) (#234)
    by marx on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 01:30:43 PM EST

    If in fact he has such good arguments, why can't you explain them briefly to us? Or did you not understand them? This is not religion, it's not about worshipping great thinkers.

    From what I've seen on the web, he seems to say that socialism implies totalitarianism, which is bad. I agree that totalitarianism is bad, but I don't see how you can have totalitarianism when you have a democracy. So can you explain how socialism implies totalitarianism maybe?

    Join me in the War on Torture: help eradicate torture from the world by holding torturers accountable.
    [ Parent ]

    von Mises (none / 0) (#249)
    by wrr on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 04:12:39 PM EST

    Amazing, a leftist who likes to use ad hominem... Yes, I understood von Mises' work, and think anyone who wants to read what is considered the definitive refutation of socialist theory would be well served by reading him. Why, exactly, I should feel obliged to try to explain it to anyone too lazy to read it for his or her self, is something which I do *not* understand, however. And God spoke unto Moses: "Think for yourself, schmuck!"

    [ Parent ]
    Come on (none / 0) (#262)
    by marx on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 05:44:29 PM EST

    Come on, this was not an "ad hominem" (this was the first time I heard of it). You did not present any arguments, so how could I have suppresed them? You can't have an argument where one side keeps saying "well, you're wrong, read this book and find out why". Instead, tell me why I am wrong, and then refer to the book for proofs which are too unwieldy to post. Either you present the arguments in the format of this forum, or you don't present any arguments at all. Otherwise, why can't I just say: "read Donald Duck by Walt Disney, it refutes your arguments". How does our discussion proceed from there?

    Join me in the War on Torture: help eradicate torture from the world by holding torturers accountable.
    [ Parent ]

    I'll take a swing at it. (5.00 / 1) (#340)
    by Canimal on Sat Jun 23, 2001 at 12:42:25 AM EST

    You can't have an argument where one side keeps saying "well, you're wrong, read this book and find out why". Instead, tell me why I am wrong, and then refer to the book for proofs which are too unwieldy to post.

    A reasonable request. I'll try to answer it, however, I haven't actually read Mises, just David Ramsay Steele writing about him. If I make mistakes, I welcome corrections.

    Efficiency matters. Let's start there. If you use resources in an inefficient way, people suffer. If you burn your yew trees as firewood instead of extracting Taxol from them, the folks who have warm fireplaces are no better off than if they had burned pine, but the folks who die of cancer are a lot worse off. If you decide to have the experienced doctor taken out of the ER and dig ditches instead, not only is he (probably) unhappier, but all of the people he didn't treat are worse off too. The need for efficiency applies to anything where you have a choice about how to do something, which is to say everything.

    The argument that Mises makes is this: Without some way of measuring the value of resources with respect to one another, you can not use those resources efficiently. (Mises goes on to say the only practical way to make those measurements is by market prices. I'm not going to try to defend this here, but I do think market prices come pretty close to showing the real value relationships between different goods. I'm willing to argue this elsewhere if you like.) If you try to make economic decisions without prices, or set prices arbitrarily without regard to the real value of one resource compared to another, your decisions will be very wasteful. You will end up producing the wrong things, or producing them in the wrong way, or in the wrong amounts, or in the wrong proportions to one another. That's bad for everybody.

    This is a real problem for central planning. Let me try to show why. Suppose we have the glorious revolution, and instead of anarchy of production we now have a bunch of guys in a room somewhere who have command power over the economy. They are very smart and very well intentioned. They are going to figure out how to plan the economy, and since the free market is unplanned and inefficient, not to mention exploitative and evil, they throw away the old free market prices and start fresh. How are they going to decide what gets produced?

    Let's take an example at the end and work backward. The planners need to decide, say, between raising corn and raising beans. Should we grow more corn, or more beans? Well, you should raise more of whatever is more highly valued (maybe, see below). That depends on the preferences of the people, which are inconveniently located inside their heads, difficult for central planners to observe. How are you going to determine the relative value of beans to corn? This is a very simple question, and a pretty important one, but I do not know of an easy answer. The best idea I can come up with is to try to assign arbitrary prices to both corn and beans, wiggle them around, watch how people's spending behavior changes in response, analyze the data, and try to draw some conclusions of some kind from what you observed. I doubt you could come to any very precise conclusions about how much corn to plant next year doing this. It certainly does not seem like an obviously superior approach to markets.

    I left something out above. I implicitly assumed that it takes the same resources to grow a kilo of corn as it does to grow a kilo of beans. Of course this is not true. Maybe corn takes more water than beans, but less fertilizer. Corn can be harvested by combine, but beans have to be picked (I'm making this up). Corn has to be protected from crows, but beans have to be protected from bean bugs. You get the idea. Lots of differences, not just of quantity but of kind.

    So we are trading off, not just corn against beans, but the resources required to grow corn against the resources required to grow beans. We have to compare water to fertilizer, combines to human labor, scarecrows to insecticide, and lots more.

    In a market system these different resources are compared using prices. It is hard to compare scarecrows to insecticide directly, but it is relatively easy to compare their prices. You can still make mistakes, but you have at least a yardstick for comparison. How are the central planners going to compare the value of water to the value of fertilizer without prices? I really do not know how you would try to figure out the relative value of fertilizer to irrigation water, of water to insecticide, of human labor to gasoline, of plow blades to spare tires. And of course the planners are not dealing with just a single farm without prices, but an economy, where the farms and the factories and the mines and the laboratories are all competing for many of the same resources, the output of one is the input for another, and the amount and value of what one group produces is going to change the value of what another produces.

    Without prices of resources, you can hardly make any economic decision at all. You can't tell if it is more costly to produce a gallon of gasoline or a gallon of lemonade. You could end up trying to build cars out of wood, or shoeboxes out of steel. You could end up, say, refining ten times as much copper as would be optimal at the same time you were woefully underproducing tin. If you can't make real economic comparisons, any decisions you do make are going to be very inefficient.

    This for me is the interesting part of Mises's argument. It doesn't matter if your central planners are smart, it doesn't matter if they are benevolent, it doesn't matter if they are supercomputers. Unless they have some way to compare apples to oranges, that really reflects the way people value apples to oranges, the central plan is going to be a flop. And it is not clear how you can get at the real values for goods and factors of production in a centrally planned economy.

    Matt



    [ Parent ]
    Excellent Aim (none / 0) (#395)
    by fsh on Wed Jun 27, 2001 at 06:32:19 PM EST

    Just wanted to say that this is an excellent summary of von Mises' Calculation Argument. As Canimal is obviously aware, the nit that most socialists pick with von Mises' theory is that the *only* way to get the real values of products is through market prices, and a great deal of literature has been written about this subject from both sides.

    Incidentally, Canimal, could you give me the names of any books by David Ramsay Steele on the subject of von Mises? Or, much more preferable, a free web link. Unfortunately, while tons of socialist and anarchist writings are freely available on the web, most capitalists want some moolah for their works. ;) Go figure....


    -fsh
    [ Parent ]

    Thanks! (none / 0) (#399)
    by Canimal on Fri Jun 29, 2001 at 01:29:04 PM EST

    I told myself I just wanted to put my thoughts in order, but I have to admit I feel gratified to see that somebody noticed. :)

    The book that I read was _From Marx to Mises_, and I got it from my university library. I don't know of any web links, and would probably just Google for them. FWIW, I think DRS was a Marxist who converted after encountering the calculation argument. His writing is pleasant reading, much more accessible than most economist-types.

    Matt



    [ Parent ]
    Calculation Argument (none / 0) (#253)
    by fsh on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 04:45:37 PM EST

    The main body of von Mises' work rested on his Calculation Argument. Basically, a libertarian socialist society would probably not use money or currency of any form. Therefore, he says, there is no way to determine the value of anything, and so there is no way to tell if any one thing is more or less valuable than another, and so the problem of scarcity which capitalism deals with fairly nicely is suddenly a ridiculously huge problem again.

    It is important to note that von Mises was specifically attacking a planned economy, such as state socialism. Libertarian socialism is a completely different beast, and has many of the same qualities as the capitalist Free Market (mutual banks, local markets). David Schweickart in Against Capitalism argued this point quite well, and even some noted capitalist economists, such as Keynes, had problems some aspects of von Mises' work.


    -fsh
    [ Parent ]

    Central Planning is an O(n^2.75) Problem (3.00 / 2) (#186)
    by Jacques Chester on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 10:53:37 PM EST

    The most effective method known for central planning was developed by GOSPLAN mathematicians - Input-Output matrices.

    Matrix work is generally O(n^3), but past around 700 matrices one can use several shortcuts to bring that down a more manageable O(n^2.75). This means that it is a hideously difficult problem. The trick, as any decent computer scientist would point out, is to change your algorithm. The best alternative "economic algorithm" is capitalism, which may be thought of as "distributed planning".

    Growth is a real problem. Where the economy is growing fast, the matrices grow faster. A nominal growth rate of 5% translates to a problem growing at some %15 per year, or roughly. This doubles in complexity every 5 years or so. Admittedly Moore's Law predicts that computers will eventually outpace anything below around 20% growth.

    But it gets worse. Errors in one matrix quickly propogate throughout the model. When solutions are derived, errors do not come out as a linear transformation but as a cubic transformation. They can be fantastically off the mark due to one small error, let alone thousands of small adjustments due to misreading, shop-floor rounding of figures, accounting glitches and (the inevitable) fraud. This is a textbook case of where chaos burns any real hope of realistically simulating the economy.

    Your best bet is complexity modelling, which tries to detect underlying mechanisms which can be used to provide more general outlooks - "steel production will need to climb this year, somewhere between %5 and 7%". But companies, governments and universities are already chasing this hard, and discovering that even with the help of vector supercomputers it's utter hell.

    In the meantime, capitalism is the more effective system in terms of being able to handle broadly dispersed, imperfect information. Will capitalism be revolutionised? Almost certainly. Will we become compu-communists? Not for a long time yet.

    --
    Well now. We seem to be temporarily out of sigs here at the sig factory. We apologise for any inconvenience this may cause.

    rain man (none / 0) (#193)
    by core10k on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 12:36:52 AM EST

    You're like the idiot savante who can multiply 10 5 digit numbers in his head but couldn't hope to balance a checkbook.

    [ Parent ]
    Uh... Your example can apply to anything. (none / 0) (#195)
    by Jizzbug on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 12:56:37 AM EST

    market economy != matrice

    I could say exactly what you said but replace every mention of "market economics" or "capitalism" with "anarcho-communism" and it would make just as much sense and be just as valid.

    Or I could change all your references of matrix mathematics to references of fractal mathematics and it'd be, again, equally as valid.



    I say unto you: one must still have chaos in oneself to be able to give birth to a dancing star. I say unto you: you still have chaos in yourselves.
     -- Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra: A Book for All and None

    [ Parent ]
    Quotes... (2.00 / 2) (#192)
    by Jizzbug on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 12:21:12 AM EST

    "I heartily accept the motto, 'That government is best which governs least'; and I should like to see it acted up to more rapidly and systematically. Carried out, it finally amounts to this, which I also believe--'That government is best which governs not at all'; and when men are prepared for it, that will be the kind of government which they will have. Government is at best but an expedient; but most governments are usually, an all governments are sometimes, inexpedient. The objections which have been brought against a standing army, and they are many and weighty, and deserve to prevail, may also at last be brought against a standing government. The standing army is only an arm of the standing government. The government itself, which is only the mode which the people have chosen to execute their will, is equally liable to be abused and perverted before the people can act through it."
    -- Henry David Thoreau, Civil Disobedience

    "When the rich plunder the poor of his rights, it becomes an example to the poor to plunder the rich of his property; for the rights of the one are as much property to him, as wealth is property to the other, and the little all is as dear as the much. It is only by setting out on just principles that men are trained to be just to each other; and it will always be found, that when the rich protect the rights of the poor, the poor will protect the property of the rich. But the guarantee, to be effectual, must be parliamentarily reciprocal."
    -- Thomas Paine

    I prefer to think of the future as a system without market economics ... be they market economics in any form (capitalism, mercantilism, etc.). I prefer to see the future as a place for innovation. Have we found the magic recipe?? Are we so omnipotent now that we should stop the innovation? Our country was founded on innovations, but that innovation abruptly died with the innovators that founded it. I prefer to see a future with governmentless, anarchic (as in non-heirarchical) societies.



    I say unto you: one must still have chaos in oneself to be able to give birth to a dancing star. I say unto you: you still have chaos in yourselves.
     -- Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra: A Book for All and None

    Nonsense. (none / 0) (#207)
    by Tezcatlipoca on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 04:04:11 AM EST

    The homo sapiens is a hierarchical animal. It is in its genes.

    To ask humans to forget about hierarchies is like to ask bees to become individualistic.

    I think you should read about human behaviour a little bit more.



    Might is right
    Freedom? Which freedom?
    [ Parent ]
    it's alright (none / 0) (#204)
    by vger on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 02:50:48 AM EST

    The article and the discussion strenghtened
    my impression that we are still lurching
    around the rim of chaos, so earth has nothing to really worry about :-)

    Abundance (none / 0) (#214)
    by Bora Horza Gobuchul on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 08:29:21 AM EST

    It would seem that the only real reason people put forward for the failure of communisim is the scarcity issue, which manifests itself as a couple of other minor issues. How do we deal with this? It seems to me that abundance would be achievable in a few years if economic restraints were not holding us back. Will capitalism lead to abundance? I really don't think so. For a start abundance leads to decreased profit margins, the very thing capitalists seek to protect by nature. Common sense would tell you that we are beyond a system whereby our physical needs are exploited commercially.

    Scarcity (none / 0) (#308)
    by Woundweavr on Fri Jun 22, 2001 at 11:45:17 AM EST

    Scarcity is, however, a fact. We will never have enough. Not only is demand for all intents and purposes inexhaustable, but with abundance there would be massive growth. Unless you used force to stop it, in which the system cannot last as per the premise originally put forth.

    [ Parent ]
    Things change... and that is the only constant. (none / 0) (#388)
    by MrMikey on Tue Jun 26, 2001 at 11:37:00 PM EST

    Our current scarcity is based, to a great extent, on the necessity of having humans perform the work of turning the resources of one planet into goods and services. Give me asteroid mining, nanotechnology, and strong AI, and I'll effectively eliminate scarcity. Also, "massive growth" is not a given - birth rates tend to go down as socioeconomic status goes up.

    Up to now, people died of cancer. That doesn't mean they always will.

    [ Parent ]

    Ever actually read the communist manifesto? (4.20 / 5) (#215)
    by Sheepdot on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 09:41:40 AM EST

    Any commies here want to back up or support the manifesto on the following points:

    In this sense, the theory of the Communists may be summed up in the single sentence: Abolition of private property.

    Sounds great, we all get to share *everything*. The only problem is that some method somewhere down the line has to determine who gets acess to the Mega Ultra Zord and when. So basically your BS about capitalism's biggest problem being "fair"-ness is only that of a true amateur communist, please broaden to explain communisms attempt to actually *solve* the problem.

    Remember, treating people equally and attempting to *make* them equal are two different things. The first is an act done of respect and kindness, the second implies a form of servitude that even you don't want to get into.

    It has been objected that upon the abolition of private property, all work will cease, and universal laziness will overtake us.

    According to this, bourgeois society ought long ago to have gone to the dogs through sheer idleness; for those who acquire anything, do not work. The whole of this objection is but another expression of the tautology: There can no longer be any wage labor when there is no longer any capital.

    This is one of the most fundamental "fuck-ups" that Communism ever had. They believed that there was no class that worked and "owned" property.

    Enter to the "middle class" that owns: land, a house, a car, and will be damned if you're going to take it. Oops, guess communism as a whole *is* flawed.

    But lets get even more specific. Lets turn to the part of the communist manifesto where "Marx and gang" decide that it is better for the "state" to raise their child than the parents. Don't think it is in there? Look again.

    This is why I'm tired of seeing people rehash communism when all the intellectuals in this area have already move on to Helditism (philosophy of David Held), or other neo-Socialist propaganda which "recognizes capitalism is here to stay".

    Face it, if you're still pouring over the failed Communist ideal, you need to get your head back in the books. No one of worthy notability is defending it anymore.


    Fundamentalism doesn't work in a democracy (5.00 / 1) (#232)
    by marx on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 01:02:11 PM EST

    (Note: I have not read the whole manifesto. I also don't think Anya was advocating following it to the letter.)

    Your point is basically that if we follow the Communist Manifesto to the letter, things will go bad. I don't think anyone would find this very surprising. Even if you had some kind of religious belief in this manifest, how would you implement it in a democracy? I think the empirical evidence shows that the part about having an interrim dictatorship does not work so well in practice, so I don't think anyone really believes in a fundamentalist socialism anymore.

    Face it, if you're still pouring over the failed Communist ideal, you need to get your head back in the books. No one of worthy notability is defending it anymore.

    (It's "poring" by the way, no offense)

    Well, luckily, the point of having a democracy is to let ordinary people decide on how the government should behave, and not only people of "worthy notability". People in general can understand the general ideas of communism and socialism (i.e. communal = "owning or doing things together"), but I don't think even highly educated people know very much about Heiditism or whatever. Yeah sure, it's nice to try to come up with a model system, but I think we need to stop treating people as idiots, and start speaking politics so that people can understand the underlying ideologies (i.e. coming up with a model system, and then campaigning as "if you elect us, we will reduce the tax on gasoline" does not really involve people in the political process).

    Join me in the War on Torture: help eradicate torture from the world by holding torturers accountable.
    [ Parent ]

    "Helditism"? (5.00 / 1) (#239)
    by mblase on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 02:30:12 PM EST

    Can't find that word anywhere in Google. I did find some books by the guy at Amazon.com, but can't seem to find anything else about him online.

    [ Parent ]
    Communism v National Socialism (2.00 / 3) (#220)
    by Vygramul on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 10:33:15 AM EST

    How is it that Communism, which has killed more people than any other form of government, has escaped the stigmatism that National Socialism has achieved? At least Holocaust denyers can fool themselves into thinking no one was killed. Communists actually seem to merely gloss over, ignore, or worse yet JUSTIFY mass murder.

    Better still, what makes them think they won't be the first up against the wall? The true believers usually are.
    If Brute Force isn't working, you're not using enough.

    There is a difference (4.00 / 1) (#227)
    by marx on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 11:52:19 AM EST

    National Socialism (at least as projected by Hitler) inherently involves disposing of part of the population which is deemed "inferior". In communism, there is no inherent goal of disposing of people, or killing anyone, it's actually opposite, i.e. absolutely everyone has the same rights, so noone can be deemed "inferior". Thus, the idea of communism cannot be held responsible for all of these killings. If you look at the big religions, you can see the same thing. A very large number of people have historically been killed in the name of Christianity, Judaism (hey, they killed Jesus, can it get any worse?) and Islam, yet these ideas are not stigmatised. The same reasoning applies as for communism, i.e. none of these ideas inherently involve killing lots of people, thus the responisbility lies on the implementors. I kind of despise these organized religions, but I think in today's societies, they're pretty harmless, and they actually do provide some good things, i.e. philosophical ideas and an aid network for unfortunate people.

    Of course, ideas can be more or less prone to bad implementations. The problem with communism is that it involves a revolution and temporary dictatorship as a first step (to be able to reform the system). Unfortunately, dictators, no matter how well-meaning, seem to have a problem letting go (hi Fidel). If you couple this (non-temporary) dictatorship with some mental problems in the dictator (like Stalin), then you get the problems you have in any kind of crazy dictatorship.

    I think due to the extreme persecution of communists the US has practiced, any kind of socialism-based ideology has been labeled "communism". Thus, I also think that when most people "gloss over" the history of communism, they may in fact not be communists at all, but for example socialists. Since socialism does not involve any kind of dictatorship, they feel that the criticism is not justified, and thus ignore it.

    Join me in the War on Torture: help eradicate torture from the world by holding torturers accountable.
    [ Parent ]

    until... (none / 0) (#256)
    by Rahyl on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 05:10:05 PM EST

    The same reasoning applies as for communism, i.e. none of these ideas inherently involve killing lots of people, thus the responisbility lies on the implementors.

    ...until someone disagrees with the 'implementors.' There has not been a single case in which communism has been implemented and lethal force not been used to subjugate the population. I laugh every time someone 'glosses over' this very fact: that in order for communism to work as a matter of national policy, you must subjugate the population. If anyone disagrees with the decision of the 'implementor' no matter how trivial the issue (I'm going to plant potatos instead of soybeans), punishment follows, whether the person violated someone's rights or not.

    I've mentioned this before, and I'll mention it again: Communism does work, and very well, when practiced freely by those who want to live that way. Communism works as a business model, not a national economic policy.

    Of course, this will mean little to most communist supporters due to their inability to actually get up and do anything about their views in a constructive way. Communists by and large see government as the only means to an end. They don't see themselves as being capable leaders without the ability to use force as a means of achieving their goals (ie: holding a government position). In short, they are weak people with weak minds with very few exceptions.

    What? You don't think you're weak for being a communist? Then get the hell up and start a commune. Yes, it takes work and no, it won't happen in a day but it can be done. There are plenty of you out there whining about how your way is the best so let's see you do it.

    All talk, no action: the communist way.

    [ Parent ]

    What about the GPL? (none / 0) (#268)
    by marx on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 06:21:09 PM EST

    If anyone disagrees with the decision of the 'implementor' no matter how trivial the issue (I'm going to plant potatos instead of soybeans), punishment follows, whether the person violated someone's rights or not.

    Do you think your boss would be happy if you bought chewing gum for the entire IT budget? I suspect "punishment" would follow. In a commune, the difference would be that your "boss" would be the vote of the commune.

    I think the GPL-community is quite close to a commune. Since it's about software, noone starves, so it doesn't go to extremes. I'm also a scientist, which is essentially GPL (or BSD)-style work as well. I think that's the closest I can get to a commune without having to start a farm.

    Join me in the War on Torture: help eradicate torture from the world by holding torturers accountable.
    [ Parent ]

    Sounds nice (none / 0) (#336)
    by golek on Fri Jun 22, 2001 at 08:58:48 PM EST

    I think the GPL-community is quite close to a commune... noone starves, so it doesn't go to extremes

    Sounds nice. BTW, are people forced to participate?

    Obviously, I'm being a little facetious here, but communes can not be compared to nation-states. Noone is forced to join a commune; people don't choose what country they are born in.

    [ Parent ]

    You have a point (none / 0) (#339)
    by marx on Fri Jun 22, 2001 at 11:34:13 PM EST

    Of course we should be suspicious of schemes like this, we should learn from history. I don't see how it would be very different from the current state though, i.e. to survive you have to work for a company. In this case, you would have to get a job in a communal organization. I don't think there is any need for any "ah, citizen #4711, your job will be 'garbage collector', now move along". Sweden for example has (or had) a really huge public sector. The only difference working there is that the state ultimately makes the decisions and not the stockholders. I guess being a policeman in the US works in a similar way.

    Join me in the War on Torture: help eradicate torture from the world by holding torturers accountable.
    [ Parent ]

    Just Wondering... (none / 0) (#341)
    by golek on Sat Jun 23, 2001 at 12:47:52 AM EST

    ...you would have to get a job in a communal organization.

    What if I don't want to participate in a communal organization? What happens to me and others who share my disdain for the status quo?

    [ Parent ]

    The same thing (none / 0) (#342)
    by marx on Sat Jun 23, 2001 at 01:20:00 AM EST

    What if I don't want to participate in a communal organization? What happens to me and others who share my disdain for the status quo?

    What are you fishing for? "You will be sent to a work camp in Siberia"? If we assume a democracy, I guess the moral values would be pretty much the same as they are now. If someone refuses to participate in the capitalistic society of today, they receive support from the state to sustain a reasonable (more or less minimalistic) living standard, and are left alone. Why would things be different if there was more widespread socialism?

    Join me in the War on Torture: help eradicate torture from the world by holding torturers accountable.
    [ Parent ]

    But, but .... (none / 0) (#343)
    by golek on Sat Jun 23, 2001 at 01:38:20 AM EST

    ... they receive support from the state to sustain a reasonable (more or less minimalistic) living standard, and are left alone.

    What if I am an individual with ambition, not satisfied with communal life or the minimalistic living standard provided by the State? What does such a person do when faced with a command economy? What else? If you can't beat it join it: become a State bureaucrat! Exactly the system which emerged in any lasting Marxist regime you can name.

    [ Parent ]

    I still don't see a difference (none / 0) (#345)
    by marx on Sat Jun 23, 2001 at 03:40:29 AM EST

    If you can't beat it join it become a State bureaucrat!

    There is still no difference from the current state. What if I'm not satisfied with the capitalist economy? If I try to do something on my own, which is against the rules, the state (or the market) will prevent me. In a capitalist economy, the only way to follow my "ambition", is to convince some rich people to invest in my project. In a socialist economy, I will have to convince the people (it can be locally, or representatives, etc.) to support my project. It seems that basically, you are not satisfied with democracy, you want to be able to trump other people's will just because you are rich. This is not democracy, this is plutocracy.

    Exactly the system which emerged in any lasting Marxist regime you can name.

    The problem with this argument is that none of the "marxist" systems which have existed have been democracies. Thus they cannot really be called marxist systems. They are dictatorships which have fooled the people into letting them take power by promising the marxist ideas. I'm not really sure how the power structures looked in the Soviet Union, or how it works in China, but I think it's essentially a dictatorship committee, which elects new members and leaders. Thus there is no semblance of democracy.

    One problem I can see with a socialist economy is that it can be very inert. The force of change is the democratic process, and that can be quite slow. In practice, I don't believe it's useful to be a purist, so I think we should keep combining capitalism and socialism (as every western country does today), but I think we should stop being afraid of using socialism more. Fundamentally though, I don't think capitalism will bring the kind of society we want. If we look at the world as a whole, things are really crappy, and the trend is for things to get worse (i.e. more unfair). I think that to sustain the current rate of technological development (which is the advantage of capitalism), we need to have the whip of utter poverty, and thus we will keep having these terrible conditions around the world. I just don't think that's a reasonable price to pay.

    If we had a reasonable democracy in the world (instead of the IMF and the World Bank, which are not in any way democratic), I think the people of the world would agree with this, at least to some extent. The problem we have now is that capitalism is too effective, and it is finding ways to subvert democracy into producing profitability. For example, if a company "lobbies", or manipulates politicians into supporting their agenda, they will become more profitable. Thus this is an advantageous property of a company, and not having this property will mean that you eventually go under. Thus, capitalism has produced a mechanism which can change the political system outside of democracy. Also, since democracy only exists within countries, mechanisms can be found which makes countries compete by lowering living standards and legal protection for the people. I don't think people realize that capitalism can be a dangerous system in the long term for democracy. And don't tell me that "people can always choose for themselves", propaganda works just as well now as it did in the Soviet Union, and apathy also seems to be quite an effective tool.

    Join me in the War on Torture: help eradicate torture from the world by holding torturers accountable.
    [ Parent ]

    communes (none / 0) (#328)
    by fsh on Fri Jun 22, 2001 at 05:25:16 PM EST

    There has not been a single case in which communism has been implemented and lethal force not been used to subjugate the population.
    This is not true. Look at the Spanish Revolution, where the populace embraced communism wholeheartedly, and had to be forced to embrace capitalism when they took over. This also ignores the fact that most ever capitalist takeover had the same problem (US over the North Americans, Spanish over the South Americans, England over the Australian Aborigines, one of the most peaceable peoples ever).

    What? You don't think you're weak for being a communist? Then get the hell up and start a commune. Yes, it takes work and no, it won't happen in a day but it can be done.
    Well, I'm working on it. Unfortunately, in our society, it will require a fairly substantial capitalist shell - a buffer zone, basically. But as soon as I can, I will.
    -fsh
    [ Parent ]
    Not much of one (4.00 / 1) (#327)
    by golek on Fri Jun 22, 2001 at 04:55:02 PM EST

    In communism, there is no inherent goal of disposing of people, or killing anyone, it's actually opposite, i.e. absolutely everyone has the same rights, so noone can be deemed "inferior". Thus, the idea of communism cannot be held responsible for all of these killings

    Tell that to the victims of the State-imposed Ukrainian famine, Katyn, or the millions who found themselves exiled, imprisoned or executed after being unfairly labeled as "enemies of the people".

    Of course, ideas can be more or less prone to bad implementations... Unfortunately, dictators, no matter how well-meaning, seem to have a problem letting go... If you couple this (non-temporary) dictatorship with some mental problems in the dictator (like Stalin), then you get the problems you have in any kind of crazy dictatorship.

    We hear the same sentiments from Nazi sympathizers claiming that "National Socialism wasn't such a bad idea, it was just that Hitler was crazy". Nonsense. Nazism and Communism represent two sides of the same coin with more in common than not. Both types of regimes:

    1. were totalitarian one-party states, where all political dissent was illegal and punishble by death, deportation, and/or imprisonment.
    2. assigned deity-like status to their leader and encouraged this "cult of personality" among the populace.
    3. tightly controlled the media (press, artistic, and literary).
    4. placed great restrictions on personal liberty.
    5. perpetuated themselves through fear and intimidation.

    IMHO, tyranny of any kind, even the tyranny of the proletariat, is wrong. Any form of government that requires such a step, even if "temporary" has inherent flaws. You may or may not agree with me on this, but I think the ends do not always justify the means.

    [ Parent ]

    Comparisons (4.00 / 1) (#329)
    by fsh on Fri Jun 22, 2001 at 05:40:36 PM EST

    1. were totalitarian one-party states, where all political dissent was illegal and punishble by death, deportation, and/or imprisonment.
    This is not a common factor of communist states, but rather Stalinist states (which is more like state capitalism). A real commune is 'ruled' by everyone, and political dissent and debate are practically required. A real commune is more like a zero-party, or infinite-party, government.
    2. assigned deity-like status to their leader and encouraged this "cult of personality" among the populace.
    Again, this is something Stalin promoted to increase his personal power, and again, this is not a common factor of communist states. The Spanish Revolution of the 1930's had no primary leaders whatsoever, and was probably the most successful communist government ever attempted.
    3. tightly controlled the media (press, artistic, and literary).
    The goal of a communist society is to increase the free time of its citizens by spreading the work out in as efficient a manner as possible, thus freeing up all sorts of time for the personal pursuit of any sort, including artistic and literary (as well as hobbies of any sort). Again, the Spanish Revolution had no problems here, and had many daily newspapers that were limited in no way whatsoever. George Orwell was so impressed with their efforts that in addition to writing about them, he actually joined their militia to help them defend themselves.
    4. placed great restrictions on personal liberty.
    Communism is based on the theory that everyone is equal. Stalin warped this ideal in Russia so that everyone was equal except for government members, who were practically pampered, and a few people who made life easier for those in government.
    5. perpetuated themselves through fear and intimidation.
    I think you see where I'm going. Russia went horribly, horribly wrong, probably at about the time when the Leninists assassinated the political anarchists who helped in the overthrow of the czar. But to use the example of a country that doesn't practice actual communism is a gross injustice. Communism and Socialism can never be forced on people; they are by nature founded on trust, and trust cannot be forced on people. When something is done to the people without their consent in the name of socialism or communism, it is something else.


    -fsh
    [ Parent ]

    Actual Communism? (none / 0) (#334)
    by golek on Fri Jun 22, 2001 at 08:45:46 PM EST

    ... to use the example of a country that doesn't practice actual communism is a gross injustice... Socialism... [is] by nature founded on trust, and trust cannot be forced on people

    There are no examples of countries that practiced actual Communism, because Communism is a Utopian ideal which, while agruably achievable in a small commune environment, is simply not realistic on a national scale. In a commune, everyone who is there is committed to making it work. In real life there will always be a large number of people who don't share a belief in Marxist ideology. That's the rub. In order to achieve the Communist ideal, everyone must work together toward that goal and those who don't except it must be dealt with by force. That is why such Revolutions invariably spawn totalitarian regimes which require tight controls on the liberties of their citizens. They must in order to survive. Your example of the Spanish Revolution simply illustrates what happens when such repression of dissent is not implemented at the outset; the regime is overthrown in a relatively short period of time.

    [ Parent ]

    The Spanish Revolution and the Paris Commune (none / 0) (#368)
    by fsh on Mon Jun 25, 2001 at 01:36:15 PM EST

    There are many excellent examples of large scale industrialized communes, such as the Spanish Revolution of the 1930's, the Paris Commune, and Russia between the time of the czar and the Leninist takeover. But just as there is no actual ideal Communist society, there is also no actual ideal Capitalist society; contrary to what the Anarcho-capitalist Libertarian Party would have you believe, all experiments with true free-market capitalism have failed as well, most notably recently in Chile under Pinochet.
    Your example of the Spanish Revolution simply illustrates what happens when such repression of dissent is not implemented at the outset; the regime is overthrown in a relatively short period of time.
    I would rather say that the case of the Spanish Revolution merely shows that Might Makes Right. Just like many of the first capitalist cultures were eliminated by the monarchists coming out of the feudal age, so too (as I see it) are the capitalists attacking the anarchists and the communists.


    -fsh
    [ Parent ]

    Flashes in the pan (none / 0) (#371)
    by golek on Mon Jun 25, 2001 at 05:07:43 PM EST

    There are many excellent examples of large scale industrialized communes, such as the Spanish Revolution of the 1930's, the Paris Commune, and Russia between the time of the czar and the Leninist takeover.

    How exactly do these examples bolster your argument and/or refute mine? None of these regimes reached the Communist ideal and none of them had very much longevity either.

    ...there is also no actual ideal Capitalist society...

    When did I make that claim?

    ...all experiments with true free-market capitalism have failed as well.

    While it would be difficult, if not impossible, to find any nation that practices pure capitalism (or pure democracy, or pure anything for that matter), experiments in capitalism have performed much better than experiments in Communism; especially when it comes to political and economic freedom for citizens.

    [ Parent ]

    Might Makes Right? (none / 0) (#374)
    by fsh on Mon Jun 25, 2001 at 07:20:04 PM EST

    I apologize for being short with you in my last post. Perhaps if I had explained myself better, I could have been more clear. Perhaps this more detailed post will help to answer a few of your quesitons.
    How exactly do these examples bolster your argument and/or refute mine?
    Well, those comments were meant specifically to answer this statement.
    There are no examples of countries that practiced actual Communism, because Communism is a Utopian ideal which, while agruably achievable in a small commune environment, is simply not realistic on a national scale.
    The Spanish Revolution occupied about a fifth to a third of Spain, while Paris is a huge city; although certainly not a nation, it shows that communes work on much larger levels than you seemed to be suggesting.
    In a commune, everyone who is there is committed to making it work. In real life there will always be a large number of people who don't share a belief in Marxist ideology.
    There is no simple answer to this statement, but allow me to illustrate what a commune might look like. This is by no means a Marxist commune, however. Marx had a lot of ideas about the methodology of achieving such a society that most communists and anarchists and socialists today do not share; we are chiefly interested in his economic theory. However, in a communist society, many of the redundant and inefficient jobs that plague a capitalist society would be gone. Like the 2-4 levels of middlemen that distribute goods in the computer market, for instance. Jobs like these ensure that as high a percentage of the population as possible can have jobs, while in a communist society, this would not be important; unemployment would be much higher. So the people that enjoy working can work, those that want to become writers or artists or musicians can do that. Those who have no idea what they want to do can perform whatever task they like, and have a different job on a monthly basis. As long as it only takes a percentage of the population to sustain the population, there is no reason why everyone should have to work. If there was a crisis of some sort in any industry, there would be a substantial labor buffer to spend on the problem, rather than a monetary buffer as under capitalism.
    In order to achieve the Communist ideal, everyone must work together toward that goal and those who don't except it must be dealt with by force.
    This is true of any society. Those who don't accept capitalist ideals are dealt with by force, which in our country, consists of throwing them in jail and depriving them of the capitalist ideal: money. Since such a thing happens under Capitalism as well as Communism, your next statement could also be applied to a Capitalist society:
    That is why such Revolutions invariably spawn totalitarian regimes which require tight controls on the liberties of their citizens. They must in order to survive.
    This did not occur during the Spanish Revolution, which was probably the most successful of the anarcho-communist societies to date. So I was trying to use the example of the Spanish Revolution to refute this argument; unfortunately I did a very poor job. What I wanted to show is that Communism and Capitalism are far more similar than most people think. There are two very important differences, however; property rights vs. use rights and the conception of the use or value of currency, but that's a whole different ball of wax.
    ...there is also no actual ideal Capitalist society...

    When did I make that claim?

    Of course, you never did. On the other hand, you did say that nobody can practice actual Communism because it's an ideal. I responded by saying that Capitalism is also an ideal which is practiced on an everyday basis, and I could also have responded that Christianity is an ideal that many people also practice everyday. More useful to the conversation, however, would have been for me to say that the countries that America calls Communist, such as China and the former USSR, are not what most communist or socialist writers intended when they put forth their ideas. The USSR, as the name implies, is a Republic of Socialist States. A Socialist State is essentially a one-party government, and is characterized by the problems that plague most one-party governments, be they monarchies, dictatorships, socialists, or even democracies. A socialist society as envisioned by political parties such as the WSM have no centralized state.
    ...experiments in capitalism have performed much better than experiments in Communism; especially when it comes to political and economic freedom for citizens.
    Well, I suppose it depends on which experiments you are referring to. Of course, the crazy imperialist expansion that went on after the Discovery of the New World would be my prime idea of a capitalist experiment gone awry. It showed that the rights of non-capitalists did not matter at all compared to the rights of capitalists (even some of the rather important ones like the right to life and the capitalist mainstay, the right to property). This is also why I brought up the point about capitalism when it was created as an answer to feudalism also having serious problems.
    None of these regimes reached the Communist ideal and none of them had very much longevity either.
    The reason for the lack of longevity is quite simple; the capitalists saw these countries as a threat and systematically put them down with force. The Spanish Revolution, in particular, was incredibly good at providing for itself on a large scale, both agriculturally and industrially. So, as I said in a previous post, if Might Makes Right then capitalism is obviously superior to communism, because the capitalists have won all wars between the two. I would rather say that capitalism just breeds a more violent citizen.


    -fsh
    [ Parent ]

    that's an easy question to answer... (4.00 / 1) (#228)
    by boxed on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 11:58:30 AM EST

    The answer is that the communism people talk about and the "communism" implemented in Russia and China are not the same thing. Stalinistic communism is pure despotism, there is nothing "common", as the term communism implies, about it. When you come down to it, communism has nothing to do with the regimes in Russia and China. HOWEVER, it is very clear that communisms big fault lies in it's instability; it almost infallably leads to despotism.

    My conclusion: communism is bad and stupid, not in itself but because of what it leads to. The idea behind communism (equility) is a good one though. This is why I am a socialist, who believes strongly in democracy.

    [ Parent ]
    Define equality (none / 0) (#278)
    by LiberecoDeAmasoj on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 08:25:57 PM EST

    I am a capitalist and I believe strongly in political equality, but not universal equality. This is because rigid egalitarianism stiffles creativity and individuality because it wants everyone to be "equal." Yet I don't want to be equal with the average person. I don't mind being "inferior" to someone because superiority and inferiority are all relative concepts. Just because a racist of one kind or another (black, white, asian, whatever) says someone is inferior or superior doesn't make it so. Political equality is all you need. If you have that then all other kinds of equality are superfelous and unnecessary. Once you have political equality it is possible for everyone to go out and do their own thing and not be concerned with the rest of the public. That may seem cold to some, but you have to ask yourself, why do you have an obligation to modify yourself so others can have a better life? The answer is you don't. Each person is their own person and we are all special in that way. I'm an optimist about human nature, that is why I believe that socialism is wrong; day-to-day humans don't need to be controlled much at all.

    [ Parent ]
    I agee in principle, but I don't think it works (none / 0) (#298)
    by boxed on Fri Jun 22, 2001 at 08:09:47 AM EST

    For that kind of liberal system to work there has to be one fundamental change to the system: abolish inheritance. If ANYONE is born into poverty or fortune, no liberal system is anything near fair. Political equility is totally bogus if it is not coupled with at least a semblance of economic equility.

    [ Parent ]
    and how many have died in the name of capitalism? (1.00 / 1) (#242)
    by Error404 on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 02:58:48 PM EST

    millions more died while on strike (mine owners used to shoot at picket lines), or in sweatshops.

    [ Parent ]
    The shifting definition of capital (3.00 / 1) (#245)
    by x3nophile on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 03:38:29 PM EST

    It always strikes me as a bit peculiar to read arguments about ideological communism in this day and age. Hasn't the communist manifesto lost some of it's meaning in light of the massive changes that have happened in economics over the past century?

    For instance, the communist manifesto, centers around the notion of capital, but what is capital today? Is it currency? Is it information? Is it economic potential? While the definition certainly wasn't cut and dry in Marx's time, it is certainly far more ambiguous now.

    Also, why is it reasonable to think that economies will ever settle into a steady state. The political history of the world is the story of a system in constant flux. Each new ideology tends to reverse many of the trends which were present in it's predecessor ... remember there was a time when every system was thought to be 'the one that worked', and perhaps any statements we make about the viability of capitalism are biased one way or the other because we are in the middle of a capitalist society and our understanding of it is intimate and subjective.

    01

    The definition is still the same! (none / 0) (#285)
    by MeanGene on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 11:36:39 PM EST

    Capital is not currency and not information per se - and it never was.

    Capital is that which seeks to generate profits. There oldest forms of capital are commercial capital and industrial capital. The newest one is the speculative capital. But the only reason for capital's existence is to make a profit.

    Check out, for example, this book on the modern view of the evolution of different forms of capital.

    [ Parent ]

    True enough but... (none / 0) (#335)
    by x3nophile on Fri Jun 22, 2001 at 08:48:25 PM EST

    that isn't entirely where I wanted to go. The real thing I was driving at is that as information gains more of a role in the economy, the definition of capital does change. Wealth exists because of scarcity, a property which information does not naturally posess, particularly in a world of digital media. Essentially the same is true of speculative capital where there is no finite quanitiy determining value.

    [ Parent ]
    Real Communism is Impossible (3.00 / 1) (#246)
    by NerdWarrior on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 03:42:59 PM EST

    I'll agree with you that communism, as preached by Marx, is ideal and Utopian. And, this is precisely the problem--it's ideal and Utopian! The system envisioned my Marx would never stand in reality. It relies on a magic force called the dialectic to reduce everyones wants and needs to just above subsistence. It also relies on people to just magically produce exactly what everyone else wants. There is no forcing mechanism (like the market) to ensure that surpluses and shortages are curtailed.

    Also, I don't care how smart computers get--they're never going to know what *I* want--they're never going to know my "utility" function. Therefore, no supercomputer could ever efficiently allocate the scarce resources available to society to make everyone happy, precisely because it can't know what makes everyone happy.

    Furthermore, in a truly communist society, no one owns anything. If you harvest crops, and someone takes them, it's perfectly fine since you don't own the crops. *That* is not fair.

    A few quibbles (4.00 / 1) (#251)
    by fsh on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 04:21:28 PM EST

    While Marxian Communism is certainly ideal and utopian, so is the myth of the Free Market. Most economic theory is based on a huge market which consists of many otherwise equal competing companies. Introducing MultiNationals quickly introduces any number of problems to the system. The Free Market, while it certainly can punish those who overproduce, also has no viable means for determining what is needed *before* it is produced; the only means of communication is the dollar, so all production is made to met old demand.

    Also, while no one in a fully communal society would actually own anything, what goes to whom is typically seen as determined by usage. In other words, if you are using the grain, no one will try to take it from you. If you are not using it, then it will be taken and given to those who will. While it may not be fair to someone who is trying to build a huge grain pyramid, it is eminently fair to someone who has no bread to eat.

    I'm not saying that communism doesn't have it's problems, because it certainly does, I just wanted to point out that capitalism has many of the same problems.


    -fsh
    [ Parent ]

    Pfizer is not in the free market? (none / 0) (#279)
    by Canimal on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 08:31:34 PM EST

    The Free Market, while it certainly can punish those who overproduce, also has no viable means for determining what is needed *before* it is produced . . .

    Spending money on R & D is not part of The Free Market?

    Matt



    [ Parent ]
    You miss the point. (none / 0) (#288)
    by FnordLord on Fri Jun 22, 2001 at 01:57:12 AM EST

    >Spending money on R & D is not part of The Free Market? Of course it is. However, the market method is only feedback for existing products. There is no comparable method for determining what will be needed. Sure there is market research, but that is really just upping the probability that the product will be needed.

    [ Parent ]
    R&D has its limits (none / 0) (#306)
    by fsh on Fri Jun 22, 2001 at 11:32:32 AM EST

    You can make a good guess of what the populace will need, but any business will keep its plans for production as secret as possible. The more information your competitors have on you, the less competitive you will be on the free market. In other words, the competition between businesses on the free market has its own downsides.
    -fsh
    [ Parent ]
    missing poll option (1.00 / 2) (#252)
    by liana on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 04:44:06 PM EST

    Orange

    sorry... I just *had* to say this

    500 years my ass! (2.00 / 1) (#259)
    by MeanGene on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 05:23:44 PM EST


    Now, if I were living in Egypt about the time, oh say, XVIth dynasty, I could have proudly claimed that slavery+teocratical monarchy rules, because nothing better came out in the past, oh about, 1500 years. Beat that longevity!

    The issue here is the great law on enthropy. Any system left to itself tends to degenerate. In the past, there was always a possibility that civilizations (which have developed on their own), would suddenly come into contact and enrich each other. Now, we're one homogenous blob. So, unless we find alien life forms pretty soon, we're headed straight into the hell of the greatest common denominator.


    The true inovative idea (3.50 / 2) (#270)
    by typo on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 06:34:08 PM EST

    The real change here would be to go from capitalism, a distributedly planned economy, to anarchism, the next level.

    Anarchism is not chaos. It's free market applied to people. You forget one central piece of law and instead let everyone build their own laws.

    Applied to economics it's the same capitalism we see everyday taken to the next level. It's economics by the people for the people. As we see it today the EU's central bank, the Federal Reserve and the IMF dictate the guidelines for the economy. In anarchy the people do that.

    The obvious consequence of this complete absence of rule is the slowdown of the economy.

    Now, for most people, the last paragraph would mean this argument is obviously flawed, but it isn't that obvious really.

    Do we really want a fast growing, all destroying economy? An exponentialy growing industry that polutes our planet? Or de we want to slow down and *think* before we screw up totaly.

    Yet this isn't fit to be put in place within the next 500, 1000 our 2000 years. Why? Because we've just left the Dark Ages and are still very far from true civilizarion. (Just think, the US still has a death penalty....)

    Planned economy might have a shot at filling the role, but it has one main flaw. In a democratic state the uneducated majority gets to vote. That's fair enough. For a planned economy to be established you'd need a firm grip on major industries, financial institutions and finaly workers (you need them to actualy manufacture anything). Getting all these under the same leadership has the same problems Soviet comunism had. For planned economy to work to a full extent near dictatorship is needed.

    As for things we can actualy do, we can start by keeping main industries and financial companies as state owned or controled. Apply free market like managments to these institutions but so that equity among workers and balance in the economy is retained.

    This applied to the real world means microsoft gets convicted in the antitrust trials, the government nationalizes oil companies, construction builders, airlines, power companies (go California...) and whichever industries are considered essential.

    Then you, the government, can implement limited planning to these companies as to keep the economy at a linear growth pace that is sustainable.

    Now forget all I said untill now, liberalize trade, lower tax to pay for legislative and judicial expenses only and go true capitalism. The way the exponential curve of the economy goes, we'd have a chance at total restart after major colapse in less than a decade.

    The Question of Communism (2.33 / 3) (#275)
    by twilken on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 07:22:07 PM EST

    Arthur Noll writes:
    "People are interdependent, social beings. We do not, and cannot, live as the independent tiger, or orangutan, coming together only to mate briefly, all child care and education provided by the mother.

    "This has seemed obvious to me, and probably it is obvious to most, but it is such an important principle to base further observations on, and logically it is often ignored in the present scheme of things, so I think we should look at the reasons. Lets start with your naked body. Can you manage to clothe and feed and shelter this body, with no hands touching any article except your own hands? If you can make your own tools and live independently for just a few weeks or months, this is interesting, but of course real independence would be a lifetime of this, a reproducing lifetime, so it does fall considerably short of the mark. Additionally, it is an interesting thing that we are communicating, I have written and you are reading this paper. Independent organisms don't behave like this, if you were independent, your only concern for me should be to tell me to get out of your way, or that you want to mate, and you need no language beyond what the tigers and orangutans use for this. I have heard people say, that they could live independently if they chose. To those few who feel that way, well, you haven't chosen that path if you are reading this, so if you want to choose it now, then I think you ought to take off your society made things and go. We will send a biologist to study how you live - if you live.

    "Another word phobia is "communism". At the present writing, everyone "knows" that communism is dead, and here I am, talking about communism. In fact, communism has never been dead. Until you show me that you can live independently, you are a communist. Horrors! Of course, you can organize your community on illusions and gross inefficiencies, and call it capitalism, or dictatorship, or socialism, or Marxism, but in all of these, people are depending on each other, and they are communists. One can notice severe problems with Marxist systems imposed by force. They shared everything - except the guns. There is a logic to pricing by scarcity, a flawed logic, that ignores balance, but at least a partial logic. When one looks at Marxist pricing, you are hard pressed to find even a partial logic. Instead of everyone in a capitalist system being as whimsical as they can manage, it seems that the central planners were whimsical in setting prices. They wanted bread to be cheap - bingo, it was cheap. It just doesn't work to tell nature what it is. Nature tells us. There was no concern for living in balance with resources, and generally little concern about overpopulation. China has shown a concern about population, but it has run into a lot of opposition, and seems too little too late. There is no surprise that such Marxist systems failed, but if true communism fails, it means humanity has gone extinct."

    Source: Arthur Noll's Harmony

    "Always tell only the truth, and all the truth, and do so promptly - right now." --Buckminster Fuller

    I'm confused... (2.00 / 1) (#292)
    by magney on Fri Jun 22, 2001 at 02:54:56 AM EST

    Admittedly, my knowledge of communism is second-hand, but I've done my best to listen to people who view it favorably, and I have some vague idea of what it means.

    However, I cannot for the life of me figure out what Arthur Noll means by the word 'communism'. And, as the saying goes, I don't think it means what he think it means.

    Please, someone, help me understand what Arthur Noll means by 'communism'.

    Do I look like I speak for my employer?
    [ Parent ]

    INTERdependence (4.00 / 1) (#332)
    by twilken on Fri Jun 22, 2001 at 07:05:29 PM EST

    Dear Magney,

    I think Arthur Noll is using "communism" in a more general sense then is usually used. "Communism" as it relates to INTERdependent community. He tells us that the natural condition of humankind requires that we humans survive together. That means that sometimes I depend on others and sometimes others depend on me.

    He says our belief in independence is false. And, that while we might like to think of ourselves as independent, any scientific analysis would show that we are not. We are really surviving together. We survive as part of a community. So we are all "communists".

    This sense of "communism" is very different from the Marxist-Leninist model. In the former USSR, 100% of property was controlled by less than 5% of the population. That less than 5% were the members of Communist party. Arthur Noll does not speak here as to how we might make decisions or who would own what in his different and more general sense of "communism".

    I don't think he is really interested in politics or power. He is simply trying to makes us aware of our INTERdependence and our need to work togtether. You can read more of Noll at http://www.synearth.net/harmony.html

    Timothy

    "Always tell only the truth, and all the truth, and do so promptly - right now." --Buckminster Fuller
    [ Parent ]

    Communism shmommunism! (4.00 / 5) (#281)
    by Shampoo369 on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 08:58:24 PM EST

    ...the future of capitalism and the unplanned economy is short, and that alternative, and superior, systems of economic and social organisation will emerge to take its place.
    I disagree. If capitalism has served society so well—evident in how it steadily upholds triumph over all other forms of governance—how is it inferior?
    Systems which rely on force cannot perpetuate themselves forever, and as the ideals of liberal capitalism are well known throughout the world, there is a constant pressure on states to tend towards it.
    The government is not the absolute supremacy of society, what power that it holds is granted by the people it governs. The very fact that all other forms of government were destabilized by innumerous people who seek liberty—the pressure you speak of—undermines your argument that capitalism would regress to some other if unhindered. Quite the contrary, capitalism thrives because people champion it.
    Where planned economies have been ... undone by the short sightedness and selfishness of those who implement them ... computers and AI, high technology could, and very probably will, provide a solution.
    Computers and the like are infallible, yes; however, their creators are not—just like those economists behind "planned economies." The foibles of human nature are not exclusive to dictators. The chances of encountering a foul leader are as great as a perverse programmer who chooses to decide the fate of others. No matter how impeccable the inner process of a machine may be, the paradigm from which it operates is still up to humans.
    Fundamentally, the main pressure in our society is the quest for more material wealth.
    You've rebutted your own argument. There is no form of government or economy that allows the same magnitude of freedom to strive for and acquire that material wealth—the mass majority's agenda—as capitalism. Laissez-faire isn't an alien concept to economics and human psychology.
    The big problem with capitalism is that it isn't very fair.
    And so it would be safe to say that having your food, shelter and clothing rationed, having your occupation decided, having your faith appointed, having happiness divided equally (as for how, that is beyond me!), is your acceptable fairness?

    Yes, capitalism propels a degree of unfairness, but this unfairness would be consistently present even if, say, communism were in place. It's not so ludicrous an idea that people would protest injustice to having what they can gain relegated to those who are less deserving and less competent. That truth is unfortunately not about to be altered with the advent of technology.


    "If you really want something in this life, you have to work for it -- Now quiet, they're about to announce the lottery numbers!"
      --Homer


    Stale systems (5.00 / 2) (#320)
    by ipinkus on Fri Jun 22, 2001 at 02:52:08 PM EST

      The government is not the absolute supremacy of society, what power that it holds is granted by the people it governs. The very fact that all other forms of government were destabilized by innumerous people who seek liberty--the pressure you speak of--undermines your argument that capitalism would regress to some other if unhindered. Quite the contrary, capitalism thrives because people champion it.

    From my limited observation it seems there's an unprecedented lack of confidence in government in western society. People seem to be cheering less and less for our elected. Independent news authorities and larger communities seem to be breeding more and more bitter people. If things don't change to a more involved online democracy, or some such public review AI system, we WILL see an Orwelian future. Just look at any of the recent headlines. Our right are being whittled away at left right and center all so someone who's already wealthy can gain another buck.

    Our system is still barely working. However the reality hardly matches our original images.. our constition(s)...



    [ Parent ]
    Re: Communism shmommunism! (4.00 / 2) (#355)
    by visigoth on Sat Jun 23, 2001 at 06:11:15 PM EST

    If capitalism has served society so well--evident in how it steadily upholds triumph over all other forms of governance--how is it inferior?
    It isn't necessarily inferior to alternative forms of government as they have manifested thus far in history. The original author proposes there are superior forms of organization which could not have been implemented before now.

    Quite the contrary, capitalism thrives because people champion it.
    I beg to differ. The barriers to implementing choices on an individual level that would depart from the capitalist agenda of the moment are sufficiently high as to deter many of us, and those who would benefit most from that agenda will be determined to keep it that way. We are fed a narrowly defined range of choices which all serve to reinforce the power base of those presenting the choices.

    There is no form of government or economy that allows the same magnitude of freedom to strive for and acquire that material wealth--the mass majority's agenda--as capitalism.
    This only appears to be the mass majority's agenda because it is force-fed down our throats from birth. How many of us ever see communism, socialism, or any other organizational forms besides democracy and capitalism (naturally, always tied together) portrayed in any but a negative light, sometimes rabidly so?

    And so it would be safe to say that having your food, shelter and clothing rationed, having your occupation decided, having your faith appointed, having happiness divided equally (as for how, that is beyond me!), is your acceptable fairness?
    Actually in a truly socialist society you would enjoy as much if not more personal freedom of choice as you do today in our fine corporate republic. You just would not have the right to engage in predatory monopolistic acquisition of wealth at the expense of others, and your peers would enforce their right to not be victimized by such sociopathic behavior.

    Yes, capitalism propels a degree of unfairness, but this unfairness would be consistently present even if, say, communism were in place. It's not so ludicrous an idea that people would protest injustice to having what they can gain relegated to those who are less deserving and less competent. That truth is unfortunately not about to be altered with the advent of technology.
    This unfairness, under a more democratically organized system, would be orders of magnitude less than it is today. There's nothing wrong with rewarding extraordinary effort, but when it becomes an exercise in narcissistic greed the line must be drawn. I'd like to see what some of our "leaders" could accomplish when nobody is compelled to prostitute themselves to serve said leaders' agendas.

    [ Parent ]
    I think I am better authority considering that... (5.00 / 1) (#365)
    by Shampoo369 on Mon Jun 25, 2001 at 09:02:25 AM EST

    FYI, I was born into and lived half my life in a communist regime...if anything, I know for a fact how communism permeates everyday life.

    "If you really want something in this life, you have to work for it -- Now quiet, they're about to announce the lottery numbers!"
      --Homer


    [ Parent ]
    I'd expect no different from any system (4.00 / 1) (#377)
    by visigoth on Mon Jun 25, 2001 at 09:46:39 PM EST

    Indoctrinating new members ("our way: good; other ways: bad") has survival value for a culture. It would take an extraordinarily enlightened society to want to expose its children to all known forms in a completely neutral fashion. I wouldn't expect to see that anywhere for a looooong time...

    [ Parent ]
    Agreement from this corner (2.00 / 2) (#299)
    by nhems on Fri Jun 22, 2001 at 08:40:56 AM EST

    The Microsoft .NET (basically a rehash of NC's, but Microsoft controlled now) thing, increasignly fu governments (democratic and other) and various other factors may bring this paradigm shift to a head.

    Two main factors may help bring about this

    1 : The fact Corporations & government are becoming more desperate and risk-taking in their endeavors to control power.

    2 : Greater dissemination of knowledge, and less biased (or at least lots of different biases) media. Brought about by the internet, and orgs like indymedia, Guerilla News, kuro5hin and slashdot, which are alowing less corporate opinions to be aired, and shared.

    I never watch the News anymore. I goto K5 or ./ instead. (im only interested in tech and philosophy anyway)
    nic_h

    Illusion of Eternal Progress (2.00 / 1) (#310)
    by Woundweavr on Fri Jun 22, 2001 at 12:04:58 PM EST

    There is a modern mindset that seems to assume that there will always be a more perfect, more efficent, more free, more equal, etc. thing that you can work towards. They see mankind as ever advancing to a more equal society, especially. They do not see an end to technological advancement. However, at some point, technological advancement must slow and halt. And so must societal/economical systems, at least in terms of 'advancement'.

    There is no force of nature that makes society act more free, or more equal. Believing so is the same kind of shallow thinking you denounce with your '500 years' argument. Go back to the Roman period. They fall and society regressed to the Dark Ages, and does not truely emerge until the Renaissance (or arguably the medieval period).

    Also, communism/socialism is not necessarily the most equal system. You make that assumption but for it to be true, a working communist/socialist system has to work and work justly. I don't think that is possible, and history supports me.

    Also, no matter how efficent your manufacturing process is, there will still be scarcity. You at least need the materials to create the objects needed. You need power to run these things. You need materials to bring them to people. You need material to run the system, even if somehow AIs run the show. Also, in such a system, people need motivation to do such things that will be necessary. Without scarcity, there is no real reason for them to do so. With scarcity, there needs to be some way to distribute insufficent resources. The most efficent way to do so, even by your own assertion is capitalism.

    This is the premise underlying sustainability. (2.00 / 1) (#346)
    by thePositron on Sat Jun 23, 2001 at 07:49:14 AM EST

    Is it not? Rather than uunlimited growth controlled intelligent growth based on the resources and technology available?
    <this is not an adversial reply> peace...

    Grunch of Giants



    [ Parent ]
    Long incomplete Reply from a revolutionary Marxist (4.37 / 8) (#321)
    by opiate on Fri Jun 22, 2001 at 02:58:03 PM EST

    O.k., I have been goaded into responding, so I'm going to try and do a good job, though I will undoubtable miss many things.

    I am a socialist -- theoretically and actively I have been involved in this movement (the "left" for lack of a better word) for my entire adult life. So I want to try and deflate some of the arguments that have passing around here, particularily from the "libertarian" right.

    But first, I'm going to address the article posted. I agree and don't agree with various portions of it. I like the way it points out the arrogance of a capitalist ideology which pronounces itself the end-all-and-be-all of human relations for the rest of time. Every ruling class in the history of the world has attempted to paint the foundations of its rule in terms of eternal, "natural" laws. It so happens that capitalism encourages a set of beliefs which can be summed up in many of the truisms already posted on this forum: "everyone is naturally greedy", "private property is an inalienable, natural right", "alternative systems cannot work", "the free market is the best arbiter of the value of commodities." It's horseshit. Time will wash away the capitalist form of organizing value in the same way it wiped away the feudal, or ancient Egyptian slave-based society, as another poster said.

    What I don't agree in the article posted with is the assumption that history, technological forces, etc. will naturally lead to some natural, inevitable ascendance of some form of "communism" as a new form of social organizing. If global society changes and is modeled after a more socialistic model of human organization (and I hope it does), it will be because people have made that happen -- by force, because capitalism will use cojnverse force to try and put change down -- not because of some eternal transcendent principle. At the beginning of the 20th century there was a whole school of Marxists who thought in much the same way as the author of this article (Karl Kautsky and Edward Berstein being two of them) I believe they were proven incorrect by the course of history. It is only when people go into struggle, intellectually, or physically, and make this new society, that things change.

    On the other hand, I don't think super-intelligent technocrats and computers will build the new society. Ordinary people will. On the basis of real, genuine democracy.

    Anyways, let me briefly (because these debates could take up whole books) address the essence of a few of the arguments here.

    FIRSTLY, over definitions of what is and isn't socialism or communism. A messy area -- but let's keep in mind this is a semantic debate more than anything. What is and isn't socialism is less relevant a question as: "what is and isn't a better form of society that isn't based on the rule of the market?"

    I think we can all agree, no matter how we characterize the societies that were in Eastern Europe (I call them Stalinist societies, "degenerated worker's states" is another term, "state capitalist" is another, etc.) that these were not superior models. I personally would argue that _some_ of these societies were born out of genuine democratic and what-i-call-socialist revolutions, but in the long run they degenerated into dictatorial, elite driven, parasitical bureaucracies. It clearly isn't what we want. You can insist on calling that socialism, if you like, but I wouldn't agree with you. I think the word "socialism" has a deeper and more meaningful history in our intellectual history and in the practice of the "worker's movement" as we call it, that goes beyond what happened in the USSR and affiliates.

    These states called (and still call themselves) socialist societies. Should we take them at their word? I don't think so, no more than we should take the United States government at its word that its society is a "democracy." There is very little that is democratic about the United States -- even its electoral system is suspect. The classical revolutionary socialist critique of parliamentary democracy is that its definition of democracy is that its domain of democratic choice is very, very limited; you know what they say: if voting really changed anything, they'd make it illegal.

    SECONDLY, is socialism necessarily the rule of the state, "big government" over society? I don't think this is at all the case, some may argue otherwise, but they are, in my opinion, dupes of a particular right wing smearing of socialist ideas in the 20th century. Marx writes of the "state" and "government" as being primarily institutions for the bourgeoisie. The state, nations, etc. are forms that the capitalist class _must_ have in order to negotiate all its competing interests, at times to go to war for their interests against other capitalists in other parts of the world, or put down unruly workers. Since we (socialists) oppose capitalism, we also oppose its state and government! Primarily the State is something to which any _genuine_ socialist is absolutely and totally opposed! We struggle for its demolition, though some may try to demolish it by taking it over, instead.

    I would insist that actually reading the Communist Manifesto and remaining true to what Marx _meant_ rather than what has been grafted onto him by a half century or more of Stalinist distortion and right wing lies, reveals that when Marx talked about socialism/communism he was not talking about a form of society characterized by the dominance of the state over society, but rather the abolition of the state itself in favour of the organic forces of society (which he saw as mainly concentrated in the working class) maintaining democratic control over capital. What does this really mean? It means the inverse of many of the forms established under Stalin in the USSR: instead of the wholesale nationalization and control of factories and industries by the State, he meant wholesale _socialization_ (something entirely different!) and direct democratic control of such things by worker's themselves!

    Read Lenin's State and Revolution for a good critique of the "socialism = state control" line; even if Lenin wasn't fully capable of following his own practice in power, his arguments in that book are some of the best in terms of critiquing the idea that a socialist society is just the mere takeover of the existing state and its extension.

    In practice? I think there are real historical examples of what we (revolutionary socialists mean by this). One was at the second Paris Commune in the late 19th century, where workers and citizens established their own spontaneous directly democratic organs of control and planning during their revolution. Another was in Spain during the Spanish Civil War where anarchists and socialists worked together to establish coordinating bodies that voluntarily collectivized agriculture, some industry. etc. during the fight against Franco. Another was in Russia in roughly 1905-1918, in the "soviets"...

    We are for planning of society by a whole range of democratic organizations whose roots run much deeper than just our three-layer (municipal, state/provincial, federal) parliamentary or republican systems. We want to see a blossoming of a whole range of democratic bodies: neighbourhood councils, communtiy run banking collectives, autonomous women's groups, childcare collectives, worker-run/owned industry councils, local regional economic planning councils, etc. etc.

    THIRDLY, many question the possibility of socialist planning, point to von Mises, etc. Much more complex, deeper territory, but let's dig in a _bit_ (no room for a full hashing out of ideas, of course!).

    One poster asks: "what is capital today? Is it currency? Is it information? Is it economic potential? While the definition certainly wasn't cut and dry in Marx's time, it is certainly far more ambiguous now. "

    The response to this is that a definition capital has never been cut and dry -- that was exactly the point of Das Kapital: the heart and soul of Marx's analysis lays in the pointing out of a very serious contradictions that lay in the very heart of the concept of capital. On one hand you have the exchange value of a commodity, on the other you have the use value of it. The tension in capitalism, and the cause of much of its internal crisis, is all about the fact that these two are not equivalent, and in fact often contradictory.

    What better evidence of this is there than the deep and intense debate around intellectual properties, around "virtual capital" such as MP3s, software, copied movies, online books, etc? The capitalist market is hinged on the concept that the value of a good truly _is_ its exchange value in the market. But we in the free software world know otherwise: "commodities" and "capital" are totally full of contradictions -- no market can maintain a strict value regime over them without introducing serious conflicts. Marxist economists insist that the true value of a good is its use among people, and how much labour has gone into its production, its use, and so on. That cannot be measured, only appreciated.

    Capitalist markets are efficient at allocating profit (the result of the exploitation of worker's labour going into a good) to industries to encourage more profit. Whether that yields long term desirable conditions for a society is up to the reader to decide. I think the condition of the world at the moment, especially disparity of wealth and the absolute horrible fashion in which so-called "developing" economies are structured indicates otherwise.

    As for Von Mises, someone opened their big mouth and claimed that "socialist intellectuals" have yet to refute him, or that none of us like to debate it. Why don't you fire up google and look up "the calculation debate marxist economics", and "von mises critique" and see what you find? Here's a pointer to a really good paper for you: http://csf.colorado.edu/pkt/pktauthors/Cottrell.Allin/soccalc.pdf . Oh, you might as well check out the whole directory of papers from those two authors, where you'll find great computer science papers on persistence object databases theory theree as well: http://www.dcs.gla.ac.uk/~wpc/reports/ Marxist economics is a vibrant and entirely legitimate field of theory -- just because you are ignorant of it or don't understand it doesn't make it not exist. Perhaps you should read something other than rehashes of the Fountainhead on your bus ride to and from your little Objectivist Club meetings.

    "Libertarians" like to point to the ideal free market as a panacea solution to these problems, but the most damning point of their analysis is that the capitalist decision makers that they are so enamoured with and see as the centre of their entire world-view themselves do not want such a free market. Why? Because capitalists as a class REQUIRE the intervention of the state to enforce the unnatural, unsustainable, unpopular, and fundamentally crisis ridden nature of capitalism as a system! Where capitalism persists it persists by consistently putting down by force its opposition by force and coercion.

    The market is based on coercion because its fundamental basis, private ownership over large collectively used things like plots of land, factories, oil fields, yada yada, is precarious. That is what we mean when we say we want to abolish private property: we don't want to take your toothbrush or your Honda Civic or your house. That's not what we call "private property." We're referring to things which many workers labour in common on -- and currently only a small section of society profits from. We want to see control and ownership of those things (we call it "the means of production" for lack of a better word) shared collectively.

    FOURTHLY: To the right wing "libertarians" and their delusion of markets without coercion, we say: the "market _is_ coercion!" Without the force of guns, police, selected tariffs, special rights for large multinational corporations, capitalism as a world system would fall apart as poor workers in the third world took what they needed to survive. Why work on a giant plot of United Fruit land for 50 cents a day when, as a group of peasants, you can lay hold of that land and run it yourself and pay yourselves?

    When I was in Cuba a few months ago, we drove through the countryside and picked up many people on their way to and from field, home, city, etc. It. was fascinating, because this is exactly what they are carrying on: running their own society: in the 60s they ceized the assets of the big plantations (the Americans are still freaking out about it) and redistributed them to the peasants who worked them. Despite the crude and disgusting edifice of power that dictators like Castro have built over top of their victories, the Cuban people that I met are very proud of what they've accomplished, it will only be by force that the "free market" will be able to take it back from them.

    So-called "libertarians" should hang their head in shame that key members of the Chicago school of economists, including Milton Friedman, "champions" of "liberty" and "free market" capitalism, were key advisors to the brutal Pinochet dictatorship in Chile after a bloody undemocratic coup aided by the U.S. government. So much for non-coercion.

    FIFTHLY, what role does technology play in a new socialist society? Technology is contradictory in the sense that its development is pushed in particular directions because of the needs of the capitalist market. For example the development of the personal computer in its current form is all about office automation, a buzzword of the 70s and 80s: reducing the per-worker cost in a clerical environment, automating areas where workers had too much control or where wages were too high, etc. In this sense technology under capitalism often originates and operates with very repressive, or at least non-progressive, aims in mind.

    However, technology, as a creation of the human intellect and coming out of people's own creative urges, also has a powerful opposite dimension: it also allows for human liberation, new outlets of creativity, processes of development and creation outside the circuit of profitability. The free software movement is an example of this very process: solving problems and expressing creativity in new ways, and insisting on the freedom of the development process.

    Under a fully developed socialist society the free software movement would be the norm. Note that the initial development of the Internet, of much of the GNU software, of many key computer science conceptions and ideas, happened very obviously within and because of very PUBLIC, i.e. not private capitalist institutions. I would go so far as to say that truly widespread, groundbreaking technology that positively benefits most of the population is rarely developed in the private sector because such technology rarely has obvious and clear possibilities for profitability.

    It is in the public, social, and voluntary sphere that truly brilliant technology will develop in the future, and I think Alan Kay's quote "the computer revolution hasn't happened yet" is true because the socialist revolution hasn't happened yet! Ryan Daum ryan@techno.ca software developer http://coldstore.sourceforge.net/

    A detailed reply (1.20 / 5) (#333)
    by Jonathan Walther on Fri Jun 22, 2001 at 07:19:03 PM EST

    This is a token reply to make the author of the above voluminous comment feel that his efforts have been noticed. opiate, bravo!

    (Luke '22:36 '19:13) => ("Sell your coat and buy a gun." . "Occupy until I come.")


    [ Parent ]
    Ever heard of Kronstadt? (4.50 / 2) (#350)
    by FloWo on Sat Jun 23, 2001 at 12:50:14 PM EST

    You greatly mention the degenerating effect of Stalinism on Marxist theory and practice, but it has to be mentioned that Socialist ideas were corrupted before by the Bolscheviki. Soon after the October Revolution, Sovjets were created, but they were soon filled with Party Soldiers, Apparatschiki, that followed the orders of the Party. It was not Stalin alone that made the Sovjet Union a pervert society. Lenin and Trotzki themselves eradicated the Machno Movement, destroyed the Kronstadt Community. Both these incidents happened long before Stalin had any power and show than Lenin either was an autocrat or had lost power to the autocrats und bureaucrats in the Party and that nearly from the beginning of the Sovjet on the power was not in the hands of the people but in the hands of the Party.

    [ Parent ]