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[P]
Myths of Capitalism

By Signal 11 in Op-Ed
Mon Aug 20, 2001 at 02:51:41 PM EST
Tags: Culture (all tags)
Culture

This paper was assembled to encourage people to start thinking in new ways about how the economy in the United States, and really by extension - most industrialized nations, works. Or more specifically, how it works (or doesn't) for them. This is not a research paper, and I am not an economist; I am only a consumer. There are a fair number of diverse topics presented here, none of which I felt seperately would be worthy of an article but which together form a powerful statement about the state of affairs today. As a result, I expect many to disagree with what I have to say - please disagree with me, but please keep things factual, and please don't attack me or other posters for having different opinions.


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I have broken up what I believe to be the top five problems (myths) of capitalism up - feedback, compensation, externalities, competition and "Consumer Expectations & Government Protection". I feel all of these have direct relevance to you, as a consumer. Now, without further ado, let's jump in.

Feedback

Many companies reason that if there is no negative feedback on a given product, the product is good. Take the music industry, for example - they are continuing to produce more hinderances to copying music. This has made consumer-grade equipment more difficult to use (even for legitimate use), incurred a higher cost, etc. This is used as justification for more stringent measures - afterall, nobody has complained, and they are still selling. The reality may be dramatically different than what the supply and demand curves would say. The reason for this is that the only direct method of signaling dis-satisfaction in the marketplace is via the price of a good. There is no way to say, for example, that you would pay $X more for a CD player that had equalizer controls on it, directly, in the marketplace. You can send them a letter, but unless they get a significant number of letters, nobody will think twice about it. Feedback is obviously a problem in a market economy.

Compensation

Under capitalism, there are four major resources - land, labor, capital, and entrepreneurship. The theory is that these resources are owned by individuals, who then `sell' them to corporations in the input market(s). The individuals owning said goods are paid back in the form of rent, wages, interest, and profit, respectively. The goods are then converted to final goods and services and placed into the output market(s), where individuals consume them. They are then purchased using the money previously paid to them for their contribution to the input market. Thus the cycle repeats. This is an oversimplification, but the core of the concept is there. The problem is that this theoretical model does not accurately reflect the realworld circumstances.

    Land

    In the United States, approximately 21% of the total land in the United States (excluding Alaska) is owned by the federal government, as of 1997 [source]. Almost all of the remaining land in the United States is for agricultural use. 86% of farms in the United States are individually owned (source: US census bureau). The majority of land in the United States is owned by private individuals (not businesses), and that it is being used for agricultural purposes. Suprisingly, however, only 2% of the GDP is agricultural (source: CIA world factbook). 5% of the land area in the United States is `developed' (urbanized). (source: US Geological Survey, 1990). However, both the industrial and especially the service sector (which makes up 80% of the GDP) are in urban areas. That 5% of land is what drives the economy. My own experience is that the state of affairs is that most land in urban and suburban areas is owned, either directly or indirectly, by corporate interests. Mortgages are pervasive in suburban areas - few own their own homes. The rest of us live in apartments, duplexes, or other corporate-owned residential property. Almost exclusively, commercial land use is under lease - only large businesses can afford to buy their buildings and land outright. Sole proprietorships, or `family-owned' businesses make up a minority of land ownership in the commercial sector. And the trend to me seems to be towards `chain' stores, and increased automation and standardization of the entire service sector - `mom and pop' stores are disappearing faster than new ones come to take their place. If anyone has hard facts on this, however, please post!

    The conclusion I draw is that the majority of the rent that comes from these properties goes right towards corporations, if it didn't start that way to begin with!

    Labor

    Labor is one of the few things, IMO, that we still have the right to choose over. But with the destruction of unions in the early 1900's, and the subsequent "right to work" laws, as well as other anti-union legislation, the power of the working class seems to have mostly evaporated. We are a nation of wage slaves. The total average debt for most families is about $8,800, only about 25% of families have no debt, and 20% have atleast $12,500 in debt. The personal savings rate is now negative - people are spending more than they are saving, in aggregate. We're sinking faster and faster into debt. At the same time, tough new laws are being passed to keep people from declaring bankrupcy, [source], or at least preventing them from getting away from their debt. Why is this important? Someone who is in debt is more likely to work overtime, skip vacations, take an additional job, etc. It means that you, as a worker, have less choice in how you spend your time. And increasingly, there's also been less choice in where you spend your money - rising debt means more of your income goes towards paying interest than buying new goods and services.

    And employers are constantly trying to enlarge the pool of available labor to drive wages down. Witness the H1-B visas in our own community - the tech labor shortage was a myth, but there are now tens of thousands of new workers in the country in our industry, and wages have (predictably) fallen. With the recession, unemployment rates in our industry are phenomenal. But to an employer, this is an excellent economic situation to be in. Rather than invest in training our existing workforce, or re-tooling and making more effective use of technology to improve things, the best economic solution appears to be to simply throw more people into the pool. For the people already there, this is not an ideal situation.

    Capital & Entrepreneurship

    The last two goods that we, as individuals, produce is capital and entrepreneurship. We produce capital by investing in the stock market or with savings accounts and the like. This number has gone negative in the last few years, meaning that most consumers are not investing. Entrepreneurship is hard to measure - but I think it's safe to say there are only a limited number of chairs for CEOs.

Combined, the conclusion one can reach is that corporations have a stronghold in the `input' markets. The only control that we as consumers have in the output markets is in the form of a boycott, or the purchasing of alternative goods and services - there is no other substantial influence we can have on that market. This means to me that corporations, not individuals, control the vast majority of the economic landscape. Capitalism coupled with democracy promised that anyone who worked hard would reap the material rewards of our society. It seems, however, that the theoretical has completely failed when faced with reality. The reality is that we control very little of our economy, and that our legal infrastructure is being redesigned to keep it that way.

Externalities

The third myth, or problem rather, I see with capitalism is that of externalities. Case in point - the disposal of toxic waste. Many companies will send barges out into international waters and then dump the waste overboard. Although there is a fine for this - that number is capped by law, and it also costs less to pay the fine than for proper disposal! Thus, many of these operations will videotape themselves dumping toxic waste, and then send the evidence to the EPA along with a check.

This is a well-known problem with capitalism - one that international trade and `globalization' has been quick to take advantage of. Third world countries are being exploited by more developed countries - cheap labor, toxic waste disposal, oil and other natural resources, etc. To capitalism, the only number that really matters is the growth rate of the economy. The main reason for globalism isn't that - it's the simple principle that trade creates wealth, and by creating a global marketplace and having (or forcing) all countries into it, we create more opportunities for trade. Inevitably, however, artificial barriers like national sovereignty and international law, the UN, the WIPO, the WTO, etc., all act to keep those externalities open - to the benefit of its members, and to the detriment of the world. Globalization is little more than a systematic attempt to take advantage of the problem of externalities, by turning it into an apparent `benefit'. The problem hasn't gone away, however, we've just shifted the blame around.

Competition

Capitalism thrives on competition. This is often stated to positive effect - competition is good! We have anti-trust laws to keep competition thriving. But it is a flawed idea - and again, not representative of reality. At the most basic level, humans are social creatures. We need each other to survive, we cannot survive alone. With labor specialization and our increasingly technological society, we need each other more than ever. But we are competing amongst ourselves as well. The competition, however, is only occuring between us. We compete for jobs, for money. We call it the "rat race". And so busy are we in competing with one another that we have totally failed to realize that businesses are not competing with each other. Every day is an article in the newspaper about mergers. Our urban landscape is dotted with retail chains and massive businesses. The trend is towards internationalization as well - more and more businesses are expanding worldwide. They are also expanding vertically, as well as horizontally. End-to-end production - like AOL-TimeWarner, who now have the production side of entertainment, and the distribution side - the studios make the movies, and AOL uses its marketing department and massive userbase to distribute it. Industry coalitions, partnerships, etc., are all commonplace - many businesses belong to dozens, if not hundreds, of trade groups.

The latest threat to competition comes in the form of patents and copyright law. The Open Source / Free Software movement, a cooperative initiative by programmers worldwide is being attacked by new legislation like the DMCA, and its major supporter - the WIPO, which is spreading similar legislation worldwide, but primarily targetting first-world countries the United States, Canada, and most of Europe. Competition, it seems, has to stay strictly between the worker class in modern capitalism.

Consumer Expectations & Government Protection

I don't know quite how to classify or clearly define this problem, but I do perceive one. You, as a consumer, have a certain expectation of corporations that you do business with. You expect a quality product - and that the government will protect you against fraudulent businesses who sell poor products. You expect that the price will be approximately what it is worth, plus a modest profit. But all too often, the price has little relation to the value of the good. I have seen audio equipment which retails at several thousands of dollars... that have what amounts to painted cardboard for circuit boards inside and are prone to starting on fire, SUVs that roll-over in 90% of accidents, VCRs with hundreds of features that I'll never use (but I'll pay for them), and brand-name clothing that falls apart after only twenty washes. I have no way to protest this - my protections are limited, if present at all. "Caveat Emptor" is the rule for capitalism.

This in itself is not so bad, but capitalism today is not a seamless match for the complex technological society we live in. We live in a world of information, massive amounts of it. If I decide to purchase a new car, chances are I am going to do some research on it, to make sure it meets my needs. I'll look at the Consumer Reports, contact my insurance company to find out about accident fatality rates, etc. But for most of my purchases, I'll be in a store, with only a couple boxes, the price, and the occasional salesman to answer my questions. I will make hundreds of such purchases in a year - I don't have the time to research every purchase I make. Businesses know this, and they cut corners - my MP3/CD player, which cost me $100, has a defective hinge in it - poor engineering. For an additional $0.02, they could have made the hinge out of metal instead of molded plastic. But, I purchased it several months ago, unaware of the problem. Today, I have no recourse against the manufacturer for making a defective product. Our homes are filled with products that have had corners cut. How many of us are aware of the tragedy of users purchasing computers from Best Buy, or Hewlett-Packard? We know the quality of what they get, and yet they spend many times more on their computers.

Capitalism needs consumer power to balance this, but in this country, we completely lack it. Consumer advocacy groups have only a minority of the population who participate. The idea of `bloc purchasing' - consumers organizing into groups and purchasing the same good at a discount, or in exchange for additional services, is unheard of. And we have been raised to believe that government intervention to assist consumers in these decisions would be bad - it would interfere with the markets and cause economic inefficiency.

Conclusion

Much of what we are are taught about how capitalism works is a myth. Corporations are gaining power at a horrifyingly fast rate in our government, and directly over our private lives. Exploitation is the norm, not the exception. Conventional forms of protest and feedback into our government has been rendered impotent by globalization efforts, or due to the shortcomings of the market-based economy. Participation in consumer advocacy groups, defective product alerts, and other pro-consumer actions are desperately needed, but popular media steers clear of it unless they can add it to their revenue stream. Our macroeconomic interests have taken top priority in this country, and the power and quality of life of the average american is dropping. It has been said that "the business of america is business". I think that it is time to re-examine the economic goals of this country, and to take a more critical view of capitalist ideals.

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Myths of Capitalism | 113 comments (86 topical, 27 editorial, 0 hidden)
Capitalism as ideology (4.14 / 7) (#4)
by Three Pi Mesons on Sun Aug 19, 2001 at 05:28:13 PM EST

Where did this idea come from originally, anyway, that capitalism is the Wonderful System that Solves Every Problem? Certainly it makes no implicit guarantee to solve every "social" problem - only those that are financially worth solving, which isn't the same thing at all, as you say.

The article says that "it is time to re-examine the economic goals of this country", and I agree. If the prevailing economic order is bad, it should be changed, regardless of any ideology that insists "capitalism is best". (By "bad" I mean that more people are worse off than they would be under some other system.) The capitalism that worked in the past may not be the same system that will work in the future.

:: "Every problem in the world can be fixed with either flowers, or duct tape, or both." - illuzion

RE: Capitalism as ideology (5.00 / 1) (#7)
by Signal 11 on Sun Aug 19, 2001 at 05:31:57 PM EST

Where did this idea come from originally, anyway, that capitalism is the Wonderful System that Solves Every Problem?

Good question. I just run into that a lot.

The capitalism that worked in the past may not be the same system that will work in the future.

I agree. Capitalism, IMO, is one of the best systems... I just think that it's not been properly implimented in this country.


--
Society needs therapy. It's having
trouble accepting itself.
[ Parent ]

Isms (4.00 / 1) (#11)
by finial on Sun Aug 19, 2001 at 05:53:38 PM EST

You say:
Where did this idea come from originally, anyway, that capitalism is the Wonderful System that Solves Every Problem

Because that is what the proponents of any system say. If you have someone who is a died-in-the-wool capitalist, to him, capitalism is the be-all and end-all. If you have someone who is an ardent socialist, socialism is the best there is. Same for communism, marxism, fascism, and any other ism you can think of. The system that is "The Wonderful System that Solves Every Problem," by definition, is the one you are the proponent of.



[ Parent ]
ObNitPick (none / 0) (#35)
by waif on Mon Aug 20, 2001 at 04:58:39 AM EST

The system that is "The Wonderful System that Solves Every Problem," by definition, is the one you are the proponent of.

Just wanted to point out that it doesn't necessarily cut both ways. One can be a proponent of some system for a given problem (economical, social, technical, or otherwise) and not believe that it's "The Wonderful System that Solves Every Problem". It may just be the best solution available - or, unfortunately often, the least horrible.

--
Isolate.
I'm so late.
It's too late.
-- Poem (title unknown) by Denise Monahan

[ Parent ]

GyAHaHaHAaHaHAHAaaA! (5.00 / 2) (#39)
by snowlion on Mon Aug 20, 2001 at 05:44:26 AM EST

"Where did this idea come from... that capitalism is the Wonderful System that Solves Every Problem?"

I Love it. {;D}=

I don't know. It's just like in programming: People think that language XYZ is the perfect tool for all things. "Which language is best?" is a common question from new programming students. "The Hammer. - Oh, wait, no- the Screwdriver."

Did you see that laughable K5 article someone posted about how we should repeal ALL LAWS because they obstruct people's wills? HA! Libertarian reductionism to the extreme.

Who knows how people get that delusion. I agree with Neal Stephenson: In all things, appreciate complexity and subtlety.

Here's what I think happens: Someone learns something. Someone learns something beautiful, valuable, and interesting. And then they take this idea, and see how it can solve so many things. Like someone who just learned to use a hammer, and what construction is about. They love construction, and By God, they've received their hammer. And now they want to hammer everything.

Some guy does the same thing, but gets a screwdriver. He screwdrives all over the place. He meets Hammer-Man, and they have an argument. They try to hide the problems with their tools, while stressing their benefits.

What's sad is that so few people see that you can apply free market ideas in some places, socialist ideas in other places, dictatorial ideas in some places, democratic ideas in some places, and some times, you just have to cross your fingers and hope things work out okay, and that there is such a thing as becomming skilled in figuring out what needs to be applied when and where, as surely as a skilled programmer learnedhow to balance the different languages and development approaches, and as the carpenter learns the tricks of his trade.

I want to write a K5 story on this at some point, calling on people to recognize the limits and benefits of their various approaches, and recognizing that there are places where different strategies will succeed and fail. THEN people will argue over where it is appropriate to use what, but at least we'll be beyond saying that Capitalism is appropraite for all things, or that Socialism is appropriate for all things.


--
Map Your Thoughts
[ Parent ]
Analogies are bad, analogies suck (4.00 / 1) (#59)
by kaatunut on Mon Aug 20, 2001 at 02:18:26 PM EST

What's sad is that so few people see that you can apply free market ideas in some places, socialist ideas in other places,

What's really sad is how so few people see you can apply creationist ideals in some places, evolutionist in others, flogiston occasionally, QM here and relativity there, and don't forget that slavery and imperialism have places in world too. Let all flowers bloom and don't forget, you must tolerate intolerancy and single-minded unitruthism is an option too.


--
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 ]

Politics != Science. (none / 0) (#60)
by physicsgod on Mon Aug 20, 2001 at 03:36:21 PM EST

Neither does Sociology, Economics, or Philosophy.

Your own "counterexamples" support the point, if you discard the disproved "theories". Only an idiot would apply QM to a biology problem, and the Theory of Evolution help us figure out what's going on near a black hole. Even if you limit yourself to the realm of physics there are situations where QM works better than Relativity, and vice-versa.

--- "Those not wearing body armor are hereby advised to keep their arguments on-topic" Schlock Mercenary
[ Parent ]

Politics <=> Science (none / 0) (#67)
by kaatunut on Mon Aug 20, 2001 at 05:39:15 PM EST

And yet, aren't they all reflections of the same larger thing? You use QM here and Relativity there because either is a more accurate approximation, don't you, but that there still is some higher theory which would be better than either, alone? And likewise, you don't use QM on biology only due to practical limitations, not theoretical.


--
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 ]

Depends... (none / 0) (#89)
by physicsgod on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 12:15:26 AM EST

On if you belive in Free Will or not. Just like QM and relativity the "ideal" policial and economic system will probably contain elements from capitalism, socialism, communism, etc.

--- "Those not wearing body armor are hereby advised to keep their arguments on-topic" Schlock Mercenary
[ Parent ]
Grausaumkeit (none / 0) (#95)
by kaatunut on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 08:03:24 AM EST

Ideal systems will likely be a mix, but won't there be an "ideal" mix for each applicable situation then?


--
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 ]

maybe (none / 0) (#101)
by physicsgod on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 02:52:14 PM EST

But if you have the Complete Economic Theory of Everything it will tell you what mix to use in every situation, i.e. it will say use welfare ubercapitalism when you have scarcity, communism when you have abundance, etc.

--- "Those not wearing body armor are hereby advised to keep their arguments on-topic" Schlock Mercenary
[ Parent ]
Get Rich Quick!!! (none / 0) (#102)
by kaatunut on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 05:37:58 PM EST

Aye, but those all things will be but parts of the one and only Grand Economic Truth. Then there won't be physicsgods laughing at socialist/capitalis debates, because there will be only one truth. No, I don't feel any specific need to become a cult leader.


--
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 ]

This article (4.00 / 2) (#43)
by Simon Kinahan on Mon Aug 20, 2001 at 09:16:14 AM EST

The article says that "it is time to re-examine the economic goals of this country", and I agree.

No it does not. Its a rambling, incoherent collection of apparent (to the author) problems, many of them utterly unsupported by facts, assembled into the usual back of a cereal packet "case" against "globalisation" and "corporate interests", whatever they may be. There's no argument to bind all this together, no insight into any of the "problems", no suggested solutions, and nothing to give an idea of relative importance. Its about as useful to economic thought as a photograph of a plate hovering against the sky is to SETI, and about as interesting and thought provoking as the Nicene Creed.

Simon

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

My throwaway theory: (none / 0) (#62)
by Rand Race on Mon Aug 20, 2001 at 04:13:19 PM EST

Where did this idea come from originally, anyway, that capitalism is the Wonderful System that Solves Every Problem?

Because that when formulating one's Wonderful System that Solves Every Problem (WSTSEP) one generally assumes that all participants are rational. Unfortunately not everyone is rational or informed enough to make rational choices even if they are rational people. The plain fact is that given a completely rational population nearly any WSTSEP will work. The secret to making a truly succesfull WSTSEP is to apply various ideologies to the areas in which they are least succeptible to irrationality. Capitolism should not be applied to human life, communism should not be applied to scientific research, anarchy should not be applied to limited resources, etc. (Those are all examples off the top of my head and will most likely NOT stand up to any criticism... just examples).

The one WSTSEP I can think of that doesn't fit is Theocracy since it is rooted in irrationalism.


"Question with boldness even the existence of God; because if there be one, He must approve the homage of Reason rather than that of blindfolded Fear." - Thomas Jefferson
[ Parent ]

Flawed feedback example (3.75 / 8) (#10)
by K5er 16877 on Sun Aug 19, 2001 at 05:40:57 PM EST

One quick quibble. The feedback example used the music industry. The music industry exists because of copyright laws. Copyright laws and IP fly in the face of capitalism. Copyright gives a monopoly on a work. Monopolies, by defination, destroy competition. IP, especially digital IP, has no cost of manufacturing. If IP wasn't protected by copyright, the supply and demand curve would quickly drive the price of IP products to near nothing. The monopoly allows the company owning the IP product to artifically determine supply and, thus, price.

The point is that the IP market is not a capitalistic one. If you are attacking capitalism, don't mix apples and oranges.

Not just a quibble (none / 0) (#56)
by Ken Arromdee on Mon Aug 20, 2001 at 12:52:25 PM EST

Even a lot of pro-capitalist people make the same mistake. I can't count the number of times I've seen libertarians object to the Microsoft trial because Microsoft is acting as part of a free market. But Microsoft is based around IP. The government essentially has already propped up Microsoft.

[ Parent ]
Randites disagree with you (none / 0) (#78)
by Pseudonym on Mon Aug 20, 2001 at 09:04:28 PM EST

Ayn Rand worshippers believe that IP is important, because it means you own the products produced by your mind. So they, at least, believe that the IP market is capitalistic.

I don't know who is right. Nobody seems to agree on what "capitalism" means.



sub f{($f)=@_;print"$f(q{$f});";}f(q{sub f{($f)=@_;print"$f(q{$f});";}f});
[ Parent ]
Don't forget... (3.33 / 6) (#14)
by DeadBaby on Sun Aug 19, 2001 at 06:22:54 PM EST

Anyone who's read 1984 also knows real Capitalists wear top hats.
"Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity -- in all this vastness -- there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves. It is up to us." - Carl Sagan
Yes (4.00 / 1) (#31)
by Jin Wicked on Mon Aug 20, 2001 at 02:00:16 AM EST

but not everyone in a top hat is always a capitalist. :)


This post was probably not written by the real Jin Wicked. Please see user "butter pie" for Jin's actual posts.


[ Parent ]
Yet another lenghty response (must learn brevity) (4.30 / 26) (#16)
by sigwinch on Sun Aug 19, 2001 at 06:43:24 PM EST

In the United States, approximately 21% of the total land in the United States (excluding Alaska) is owned by the federal government, as of 1997 [source]. Almost all of the remaining land in the United States is for agricultural use.
So ~80% of land is agricultural use? Bullshit. The western U.S. has vast areas of totally unused land. (Running a few cattle that do not play a critical part of the food supply does not count as agriculture in my book.)
My own experience is that the state of affairs is that most land in urban and suburban areas is owned, either directly or indirectly, by corporate interests.
Now to villanize the landlords, ignoring the fact that many of them are not giant corporations, and that the ability to rent on short terms gives people tremendous mobility.
We are a nation of wage slaves. ... The personal savings rate is now negative - people are spending more than they are saving, in aggregate. We're sinking faster and faster into debt. ... Someone who is in debt is more likely to work overtime, skip vacations, take an additional job, etc. It means that you, as a worker, have less choice in how you spend your time. And increasingly, there's also been less choice in where you spend your money - rising debt means more of your income goes towards paying interest than buying new goods and services.
More horseshit. Nobody forced these idiots to try living on a negative income. All the food and shelter you need to live can be had for a few thousand dollars a year; if someone chooses to spend $10,000+ per year on shiny toys, that's their problem. If they really can't be responsible for themselves, and need protection, then they should be declared wards of the state and put their lives in the hands of social workers.
Witness the H1-B visas in our own community - the tech labor shortage was a myth, but there are now tens of thousands of new workers in the country in our industry, and wages have (predictably) fallen.
As soon as all our power comes from clean sources, there are no more landmines, and a cure for arthritis, you can complain there are too many engineers and scientists. Until then, STFU.
Capitalism coupled with democracy promised that anyone who worked hard would reap the material rewards of our society. It seems, however, that the theoretical has completely failed when faced with reality. The reality is that we control very little of our economy, and that our legal infrastructure is being redesigned to keep it that way.
The basic cost of living (cheap housing, cheap cereal foods, basic medicine) is low. But people keep working, and spending the rest of their lives making and consuming non-essential products. Face it: when the lion's share of the economy is organized around shiny toys, the markets are bound to be weird.
The third myth, or problem rather, I see with capitalism is that of externalities. Case in point - the disposal of toxic waste. Many companies will send barges out into international waters and then dump the waste overboard.
So sink 'em in the harbor where the poison is illegal. Repeat until the companies either reform themselves, or they get sued out of business.
Globalization is little more than a systematic attempt to take advantage of the problem of externalities, by turning it into an apparent `benefit'.
What's the difference between an externality and an internality? People have taken responsibility for protecting themselves from the latter, but have abdicated that responsibility for the former. 'Externality' is just a mouth noise used by people who refuse to take personal responsibility for the world around them.
You expect that the price will be approximately what it is worth, plus a modest profit. But all too often, the price has little relation to the value of the good. I have seen audio equipment which retails at several thousands of dollars...
When >> 50% of income is spent on irrelevant shiny toys, the markets will get weird.
I have no way to protest this - my protections are limited, if present at all.
Horseshit. The only way to make a $69 VCR is to make it very cheaply, with a design optimized for lowest possible cost, and a manufacturing process with little quality control. If you want a good VCR with a contractually-guaranteed level of quality (which are, in fact, available off the shelf), prepare to pay thousands of dollars.

The amazing thing is not that cheap mass-produced items are low-quality, but that they are as high-quality as they are.

Businesses know this, and they cut corners - my MP3/CD player, which cost me $100, has a defective hinge in it - poor engineering. For an additional $0.02, they could have made the hinge out of metal instead of molded plastic. But, I purchased it several months ago, unaware of the problem. Today, I have no recourse against the manufacturer for making a defective product.
Bullshit. You could sue them and win. The problem is that -- even in an ideal legal system -- it would take dozens of hours of your time. It would take less time to get a second job, and buy a new player with the extra income.

Besides which, the manufacturer almost certainly didn't cut corners to save $0.02. Rather, the product was rushed to market because not rushing would mean bankruptcy, and the problem was either not noticed in the rush or there wasn't time to correct it.

As far as I can see, the 'It works! Ship it!' approach is as common for hardware as for software. No need to invoke vast conspiracies or planned obsolescence.

The idea of `bloc purchasing' - consumers organizing into groups and purchasing the same good at a discount, or in exchange for additional services, is unheard of.
Because it would take a lot of effort on the part of the participants. It takes less effort to pay a few bucks extra and people are lazy.
Corporations are gaining power at a horrifyingly fast rate in our government, and directly over our private lives.
Horseshit. When's the last time you tried to buy a used Geo Metro out of the classified ads, but a dealer *forced* you to buy a new Ford Expedition on credit instead? When's the last time you tried to rent a cheap apartment, but the builder's association *forced* you to get a 30 year mortgage on a new house in the suburbs? When's the last time you tried to leave a soul-destroying Fight Club type job, and the boss *forced* you not to resign? When's the last time you tried to buy food from a small farmer, but somebody *forced* you to spend 10X as much for the same amount of calories at McDonalds?

Mega-corporations have little direct power. If you are under their thumb, it can only be because you put shackles on your own mind. Look at the Amish: no corporation even pushes them around, let alone owns their souls: they are free, because they choose to be free. Cast off the world that has been pulled over your eyes and you will be free too. Or if you choose, suck up the seductive pictures on the glass teat and go spend half your life buying glittering chromium-plated toys. The choice is *yours*.

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

a level of sanity? oh-oh (none / 0) (#50)
by topham on Mon Aug 20, 2001 at 12:09:09 PM EST

Shh, don't aply sane arguments to this.

Actually, I laughed at the first asumption... That inherently the United States is the world. It isn't. It influences the world. Oh wait, so does Canada, Australia, U.K., etc.



[ Parent ]

Forgot a crucial element of the equation (3.75 / 8) (#17)
by bc on Sun Aug 19, 2001 at 07:09:20 PM EST

You analyse ownership of agricultural land, industrial land, living space, etc etc and claim that these are all owned by corporations, and that this is bad.

However you forgot a prudent question. Who owns corporations? Answer: The people of the United States of America, through pension funds, directly held shares, and so forth, own the corporations. Normal white middle class Americans like you and I own some 70% of multinational corporations.

This is a massive force for the democratisation of ownership. Capitalism has seen to it that the means of production is back in the hands of the common man. Where failed idealogies such as socialism and communism have forced the means of production into the hands of a few beaurocrats (compare corporate ownership in Europe to America), here in the USA we have kept the goal of socialism alive, through the mechanism of a free market and small, liberal government.

Signal 11 provides no alternative to capitalism, but then these people never do. Instead they carp and whine, whilst the rest of us work hard for a more equal and prosperous future under the aegis of pure unadulterated American capitalism and the protestant work ethic.

♥, bc.

do shareholders really have any power? (3.66 / 3) (#19)
by sayke on Sun Aug 19, 2001 at 07:48:51 PM EST

sure, they can sue in the case of blatant things like rambus' fraud, but other then that...? shareholders have very little power over the operation and guidence of the companies they help "own". if a company i own shares in does something i consider dangerous, i can nicely ask the company executives to knock it off, and if that doesn't work i have little recourse but to attempt a class-action lawsuit... and i don't need to be a shareholder to nicely ask executives to knock it off, or to attempt a class-action lawsuit.

now, IANAL (don't you just love having to put that everywhere), but to the best of my knowledge shareholders can't do anything to unethical companies that the general public can't do too. if that's the case, then "corporate accountability to their shareholders" is a myth, no?


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

You have the same amount of power.. (none / 0) (#25)
by physicsgod on Sun Aug 19, 2001 at 10:07:24 PM EST

That you do in the US government, namely you can vote the leaders out of office. Every year or so you should get a mailing from the company with a ballot for company officers. If you really didn't like what they previous people did you can vote for somebody else. If they aren't replace that means the majority of the owners likes the current group (or they just don't care).

--- "Those not wearing body armor are hereby advised to keep their arguments on-topic" Schlock Mercenary
[ Parent ]
how often do corporate officers get voted out? (none / 0) (#73)
by sayke on Mon Aug 20, 2001 at 07:05:51 PM EST

i forgot about that. there's generally some token nod to democracy with respect to shareholders, but how's it set up? if it requires a 90% majority of shareholders to get anything done, well, nothing will get done. who determines the voting system? the founders of the company at the time of writing the corporate charter? how often does anything come of attempts to outvote corporate officers? where would i find stats on that? is that information publicly avalible? hmmm...


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

how often? (none / 0) (#87)
by Frosty on Mon Aug 20, 2001 at 11:14:36 PM EST

I'm not sure how often votes to oust officers succeed, but they are held every year at the annual shareholders meeting, and a majority of votes either retains or rejects the slate of officers. Very democratic really (or republican if you want to be that nit-picky) but it only works when people care

[ Parent ]
Ownership by "the people" (4.00 / 4) (#21)
by Eric Henry on Sun Aug 19, 2001 at 08:14:25 PM EST

However you forgot a prudent question. Who owns corporations? Answer: The people of the United States of America, through pension funds, directly held shares, and so forth, own the corporations. Normal white middle class Americans like you and I own some 70% of multinational corporations.

And you forgot an equally prudent question: How representative of the world's population are "normal white middle class Americans?" Answer: not very. You refer to the people who have nominal ownership of these corporations as normal, and middle class. And I suppose that is true, at least if you're a normal white middle class American. Cause in my experience, most of you have a hard time grasping that there is anything beyond their little suburban island. Put quite simply, the American middle class is hardly the world's middle class. They are a tiny fraction of the world's population.

So while the Glorious God Given Ideology that is Capitalism may have resulted in a half a percent or less of the people in this world "owning" part of some corporations, I'd hardly call that a triumph for the common man. Cause the common man isn't American, and he isn't middle classed, he isn't white, and he doesn't own jack, much less stock in multinationals.

This is a massive force for the democratisation of ownership. Capitalism has seen to it that the means of production is back in the hands of the common man. Where failed idealogies such as socialism and communism have forced the means of production into the hands of a few beaurocrats (compare corporate ownership in Europe to America), here in the USA we have kept the goal of socialism alive, through the mechanism of a free market and small, liberal government.

America's market is hardly free, and it's Government is hardly small nor liberal. And contrary to Signal 11's rantings, those are the perhaps the two greatest myths we must contend with.

Signal 11 provides no alternative to capitalism, but then these people never do. Instead they carp and whine, whilst the rest of us work hard for a more equal and prosperous future under the aegis of pure unadulterated American capitalism and the protestant work ethic.

My god, do people actually say things like that? Please tell me you're being sarcastic.

Eric Henry

[ Parent ]

You are considering things from too global... (4.00 / 1) (#24)
by bc on Sun Aug 19, 2001 at 09:01:01 PM EST

...a perspective. I was talking about our experience here within America. Given that the majority of countries that are poor have extreme difficulties implementing free markets and capitalism, where they are implementing them at all, your point is moot. In countries which implement capitalism, the ownership of the means of production is driven towards the common man. In countries which aren't especially capitalistic, like many African countries which are more feudal than anything else, this of course does not happen but it is hardly the fault of capitalism, now, is it?

The reason white middle class Americans are most successful is because they have managed to embrace capitalism, unlike those of other creeds who still lag behind. Capitalism is fundamentally open, so we can see that Japan, Singapore, China, and many other countries have successfully managed to redistribute the ownership of the means of production via the device of capitalism. Material wealth of a country does not matter, just implement simple fair laws and a free market, sit back and watch your economy explode. It really is that simple.

In what sense is the American market not free? Of course it is. It may be subject to limits on the freedom of action of corporations to some extent, but for core economic activities which are the bread and butter of the economy it is very free.

♥, bc.
[ Parent ]

Too global? Corporations *are* global. (4.00 / 3) (#28)
by Eric Henry on Sun Aug 19, 2001 at 11:37:25 PM EST

...a perspective. I was talking about our experience here within America.

That's the problem. If capital had remained here, and only here, and we all still became more affluent, your point would be made. That's not what has happened though.

Given that the majority of countries that are poor have extreme difficulties implementing free markets and capitalism, where they are implementing them at all, your point is moot. In countries which implement capitalism, the ownership of the means of production is driven towards the common man.

No it hasn't. We no longer have masses of poor toiling sweatshop workers in Chicago because we have masses of poor toiling sweatshop workers in Pakistan. No real change, except it makes it easier for Americans to sing high praises toward capitalism as we can look around and say, "Hey, lots of middle class people around, must be that whole capitalism thing kicking in."

In countries which aren't especially capitalistic, like many African countries which are more feudal than anything else, this of course does not happen but it is hardly the fault of capitalism, now, is it?

Perhaps you need a little history lesson. So here it is, quick and dirty: Most of those countries were created as colonies to serve the needs of various governments, and the corprations they supported. Their people were held in virtual (and sometimes no so virtual) slavery to help create profits for corporations and states. Since the end of colonial rule they've been saddled with one corrupt government after another, most propped up by our wonderfull free market driven country.

The reason white middle class Americans are most successful is because they have managed to embrace capitalism, unlike those of other creeds who still lag behind. Capitalism is fundamentally open, so we can see that Japan, Singapore, China, and many other countries have successfully managed to redistribute the ownership of the means of production via the device of capitalism.

I don't suppose you noticed that at least two of those are authoritarian police states, with a majority of businesses being government owned, and all major industries dominated by state supported monopolys?

Material wealth of a country does not matter, just implement simple fair laws and a free market, sit back and watch your economy explode. It really is that simple.

Why does it not surprise me that you sound like an infomercial? :) Guy comes on, says "You don't have to be rich or have good credit, just follow my simple step-by-step rules, and overnight you'll become rich like me. All while working part time!" Reality: send me your money and do my work you poor SOB, and when you wise up, get rich screwing the next guy like I just did to you.

Eric Henry

[ Parent ]

"normal white middle class" (none / 0) (#111)
by anonymous cowerd on Mon Sep 03, 2001 at 10:45:56 PM EST

...Normal white middle class Americans like you and I own some 70% of multinational corporations.

Pretty cute, bc, especially the "normal white" part, but I would like to know how broad do you think the "middle" class is?

Well, I suspect it's just an understandable misapprehension of USian idiom. Perhaps when you say "middle class" you mean the phrase's classic usage as the class "in the middle" betwixt the aristocracy and the peasantry; the original "bourgeois," literally, dweller in the "little city" of commerce appended to but outside the main castle wall. With the nearly complete withering-away of the ancient aristocracy, then, this class comprises everyone from the smallest self-employing entrepreneur all the way to the mightiest of financial titans. If you can imagine its membership overlaid on a map of incomes, "middle-classers" would appear here and there even below the median national income; as you ascended the income percentiles the concentration of this "middle class" would get higher and higher; and once you arrived at the richest hundredth of Americans its concentration would reach perfect one hundred percent purity, for unlike, say, citizens of the U.K. we have essentially zero hereditary rich, nearly all our very wealthy are active business people. Even so, you're saying all the Europeans put together plus the Japanese own less than half what USians do stocks-wise; this I find hard to believe.

Anyway, you'll be interested to learn the decades have changed the usage of the phrase "middle class" here in the U.S.A., where, in the absence of stabilising guideposts such as your Oxford English Dictionary, the meanings of words generally tremble, blur and waver like images reflected off the surface of windswept water. It's more customary U.S. idiom these days to refer to the "middle class" as being the segment of U.S. society whose incomes lie more or less near the median, slightly above actually. (We are incurable optimists plus we watch an awful lot of television.) A fellow with an income of a third of a million dollars a year is not "middle class" for us! Warren Buffett is definitely not in our cozy group, nor Larry Ellison, nor anyone who makes it at all into the news media (all our publicly celebrated luminaries are upper-class, all our notorious criminals lower.) We exclude the bottom forty-five percent and the top five percent of incomes from our so-called "middle class"; now statistics inform us that the top one percentile of incomes alone owns approximately eighty percent of the aggregate wealth in securities in this country. That leaves quite a bit less than twenty percent of the U.S. wealth in the hands of the U.S. "middle class," which is a far cry from your "seventy percent" of the global sum.

Yours WDK - WKiernan@concentric.net

The one thing that really disturbs me about America is that people don't like to read. - Keith Richards
[ Parent ]

uh oh (3.00 / 6) (#26)
by raaymoose on Sun Aug 19, 2001 at 11:02:05 PM EST

This is a good topic to stir the hornet's nest. For all you know, Signal 11 might be a supporter of the capitalist system (I don't know one way or another, but I'll assume so), just because he writes about flaws that are there, doesn't mean he's against it. In fact, it takes a far more intelligent person to admit to the flaws of something they support than just showing up and dismissing it as 'socialist' or 'communist' whenever someone points it them out. Use your heads people.


Pro-capitalist? (4.00 / 3) (#52)
by Signal 11 on Mon Aug 20, 2001 at 12:21:14 PM EST

As a matter of fact, I am. My ideas on the economy is that it should be primarily a market economy, with the government staying as far away as possible but that the government effectively educate people on how to participate in a capitalistic economy, and ensure that private business never becomes so powerful that it becomes immune to protest and public disapproval, and most especially cannot co-opt the government.

In short, I advocate that corporations return to their proper role - as servants to the citizens of the countries they reside within, and that basic (and only basic) precautions be taken to prevent the customer from being defrauded. If the system needs to be adapted, as I believe it does, so be it... if we need a new system (socialism?) then so be it - although I feel that solution will not work in the United States, ever.


--
Society needs therapy. It's having
trouble accepting itself.
[ Parent ]

Capitalism as a religion (3.07 / 13) (#29)
by WulfiusKhan on Mon Aug 20, 2001 at 12:06:46 AM EST

Its tragic to see so many (of what I assume to be) intelligent people
slag anything that does not fit their world view.

Capitalism has assumed the place of a religion and the comments
of the 'critics' of this article are a damning testimony of how far
the public has been brainwashed in the US.

Capitalism has become a religion anyone blaspheming against
it is castigated as a 'communist', 'socialist' or 'anarchist'.
It has serious flaws and if human race adventually leaves this dark
age will be refered to in the same chapter as "Nazi Holocaust", "Human Sacrafices" and "European colonisation".

Even as the wild fires are raging across the US the same people
follow like sheep the megacorporation line "Climate change, what climate change?".

Shame on you.
--- Remember, you are unique. Just like everybody else.
(OT) Just Who Are the Sheep? (none / 0) (#32)
by Anatta on Mon Aug 20, 2001 at 02:30:45 AM EST

Even as the wild fires are raging across the US the same people follow like sheep the megacorporation line "Climate change, what climate change?".

I dunno, if you could give me a nice rebuttal to this examination (with links to A-list peer reviewed science journals), I'd love to see one.

But then again, I always thought sheep were cute... must be too much Wallace and Grommet...
My Music
[ Parent ]

just where are mirrors when you need them? (3.75 / 4) (#41)
by eLuddite on Mon Aug 20, 2001 at 07:06:52 AM EST

The Marshall Institute is a conservative think tank which does three things: (1) it advocates missile defense and assorted military welfare policies; (2) it criticizes environmental education:
The 1997 report of the Independent Commission on Environmental Education, "Are We Building Environmental Literacy?", uses methods similar to those of Sanera and Shaw and comes to similar conclusions. The commission was established not by any government agency but rather under the leadership of the George C. Marshall Foundation. The foundation, established and financed by corporate donors, took the lead in denying widely accepted scientific data on global climate changes, and in promoting benign interpretations of that data.

[...]

The Center for Commercial-Free Public Education, a San Francisco educators' and prents' group critiquing the use of commercial advertising materials in daily school interaction with children, has provided a systematic review of the organizations responsible for this campaign to challenge and reform environmental education. Its leaders include the previously mentioned Claremont Institute, Competitive Enterprise Institute, and George C. Marshall Institute; and the Political Economy Research Center in Bozeman, Mont. Each of the preceding organizations sends representatives to the Environmental Education Working Group (EEWG), where they are joined by individuals from the Alabama Family Alliance, in Birmingham; the Alaska Council on Economic Education, in Anchorage; the Arizona Institute for Public Policy Research, the Atlas Economic Research Foundation, and the Heartland Institute, of Palatine, Ill. The Claremont Institute, under whose auspices Sanera initially wrote Facts, Not Fear, is a network member of the Heritage Foundation, as is the Competitive Enterprise Institute, the organization that now supports Sanera?s research efforts. The CEI also is a member of Alliance for America and Get Government Off Our Backs. The CEI was responsible for publishing The True State of the Planet, a volume that seeks to discredit many environmentalist claims, presenting itself as a counter-balance to the Worldwatch Institute?s influential annual reports, The State of the World. In addition, a wide range of other conservative organizations have been involved in anti-environmental education campaigns. These include the American Enterprise Institute, the Cato Institute, both in Washington, D.C.; Citizens for Excellence in Education, in Costa Mesa, Calif.; the Hoover Institution at Sanford University; the Hudson Institute, Indianapolis; the Pacific Research Institute for Public Policy, San Francisco; the Reason Foundation, Los Angeles; Resources for the Future, in Washington, D.C.; and the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute, Thiensville, Wis.

Financial support for the attack on environmental education can be linked to a number of the largest funders of politically conservative causes in the U.S. The Claremont Institute and the Competitive Enterprise Institute receive funding from such organizations as the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, the Jacquelin Hume Foundation, the Koch Family Foundations, the Scaife Family Foundations, and the Smith Richardson Foundation. The Earhart Foundation and the Jacquelin Hume Foundation provided initial financial support for the publishing of Facts, Not Fear. The AMOCO Foundation, the Bechtel Foundation, the Adolph Coors Foundation, the John M. Olin Foundation, and the Weyerhaeuser Foundation provide funds for other central players in this campaign, including the the Heritage Foundation, the Political Economy Research Center, and Resources for the Future. Also among the supporters of a number of the preceding organizations are the ARCO Foundation, the Eli Lilly and Company Foundation, and the Lilly Endowment, groups whose funding practices are more eclectic.

and, finally, (3) it never gets cited by environmental scientists in scientific literature.

You may ask yourself why the case for (3), above. Well, I would have thought it obvious that economists (and I use that term loosely) are not particularly well qualified to make sense of environmental science. The publication of environmental "studies" built on a selective interpretation of secondary and tertiary sources as a means of manipulating social discourse so that it conforms to a certain predetermined political course of action which is always strangely helpful to corporate interests is, er, unidimensional. The production of materials poorly disguised as propaganda pieces is of absolutely no use to anyone actually interested in pursuing interesting scientific, economic, political, and social themes that spring from a serious look at the environment.

More importantly, citing, as you do, a link to a politically biased *policy* site instead of to a dense, incomprehensibly specialized environmental science site while asking us why we cannot refute claims against climate change does not mean there isnt any scientific challenge to Marshall, it simply means that kurobots lack the training to funadmentally understand much less split hairs with what the Marshall Institute is saying.

Please stop pretending that any of us, yourself most particularly, are environmental scientists, and stop beating us over the head with references to the tendentious Marshall Institute. The debate on global warming is too technical and specialized for kurobots to discuss critically and no amount of references to patriotic policy instutites will change that in your favor.

---
God hates human rights.
[ Parent ]

Science? What's that? (5.00 / 1) (#44)
by Anatta on Mon Aug 20, 2001 at 10:29:44 AM EST

Yes, they are Corporate Polluters. They get their money from corporations... oooh! For years, they refused to get their money from corporations, but they were still accused of being Corporate Whores. They passed up tons of money because they wanted to be free from accusations... yet they were accused of being Corporate Whores, again and again. What logic did the accusers use?

The accusers said that the donor money came indirectly from companies, and money donated through through individual/organizational vehicles could be traced to corporations. Ridiculous. By that logic, Greenpeace is a Corporate Whore because it takes money from people who work for corporations. Of course, when the Marshall Institute challenged journalists on their clam, the journalists either didn't print apologies at all, or printed them in the small text, later on. Sounds an awful lot like FUD to me.

You could read all about their funding on their own website, here...

As for the science... you're right, I'm not a scientist. However, The Marshall organization is full of them. A brief look at the Board of Directors shows that this group isn't a bunch of idiots. Relavent Info:

Frederick Seitz, Chairman of the Board of Directors, is Past President of the National Academy of Sciences, Past President of the American Physical Society, former Chairman of the Defense Science Board and recipient of the National Medal of Science. Dr. Seitz is President Emeritus of Rockefeller University.
Bruce N. Ames is Professor of Biochemistry at the University of California at Berkeley and developer of the "Ames test," a simple and inexpensive system for the detection of mutagens. Professor Ames is a member of the National Academy of Sciences. His awards include the National Medal of Science (1998) and the Japan Prize (1997). Dr. Ames's work with the Carcinogenic Potency Project is available at the UC-Berkeley web site as well.
Willis M. Hawkins is Senior Advisor to the Lockheed Corporation, and former Senior Vice President of Lockheed Aircraft Corporation, Past Chairman of the Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel, and former member of the NASA Advisory Council.
Robert Jastrow was founder and Director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies. Dr. Jastrow served as the first Chairman of the NASA Lunar Exploration Committee. He is Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Mount Wilson Institute.
John H. Moore is President of Grove City College. He has served as Deputy Director of the National Science Foundation and as Professor of Economics at George Mason University, former Associate Director of the Hoover Institution. Dr. Moore holds degrees in both chemical engineering and economics.
Chauncey Starr is President Emeritus of the Electric Power Research Institute. He was Dean of UCLA's School of Engineering and is a past director of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. His awards include the National Medal of Technology and the Atomic Energy Award.
Sallie Baliunas, Chair of the Science Advisory Board, is Staff Astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory and Deputy Director of the Mount Wilson Institute. She was awarded the Newton Lacey Pierce Prize by the American Astronomical Society.

So we have one industry guy who works at Lockheed, who used to work with NASA. The rest are pretty serious scientists who worked for NASA and/or academia. Looks like some pretty credible credentials to me... but again, I'm just a sheep, so what do I know?

Now let's take a look at some of the journals they reference in the guide, shall we?

I see Science, the best peer-reviewed science journal in America. I see the NSA Study, which is pretty hefty on the science. I see Lancet, the best peer-reviewed medical journal in Britain. I see Nature, one of the best. I see many many quotes from the IPCC report itself -- the Holy Grail of the Global Warmers.

Looks to me like those are pretty credible sources. Basically, as far as I can tell, other than the fact that they're funded in part by corporations (so?), the Marshall Group's work is quite solid.

Now, if you could go about refuting it... I will attempt to wrap my very very small non-scientific mind around your wonderful refutations. Please quote the appropriate peer-reviewed journals.
My Music
[ Parent ]

Picking up my glove (none / 0) (#48)
by Anatta on Mon Aug 20, 2001 at 11:12:17 AM EST

Nevermind, don't bother to refute the guide unless you have a burning desire to. You're right; I, too, am bored of the subject and don't really want to spent my K5 time going through it again.

Tis why I voted the story -1. Better to focus our time exploring some less-covered topics...
My Music
[ Parent ]

The Genetic Fallacy (none / 0) (#49)
by Simon Kinahan on Mon Aug 20, 2001 at 11:24:42 AM EST

Accusing this that or the other thing of being "propoganda" seems to be the most fashionable variant of the genetic fallacy - that is, the fallacy that the origins of a general claim have some bearing on its truth or falsehood. Unfortunately, we live in a world where liars sometimes tell the truth, and good men sometimes unwittingly lie. Sometimes, even people persuing their own interests have been known to tell the truth (I know, shocking isn't it ?).

The *only* legitimate way to deal with scientific disputes is on the basis of the evidence. The sources of funding for the participants are an irrelevance. It is perfectly possible for non-specialists to make an asessment of the available evidence presented the specialists and draw their own conclusions.

Simon

If you disagree, post, don't moderate
[ Parent ]
rhetorical fallacies and global warming (3.00 / 2) (#63)
by eLuddite on Mon Aug 20, 2001 at 04:47:49 PM EST

The *only* legitimate way to deal with scientific disputes is on the basis of the evidence.

The Marshall Institute does not contribute to scientific evidence. There are no Marshall climatoligists out in the field, nor are there any Marshall essays between the covers of peer reviewed scientific journals. If Marshall held the status quo in *science*, any number of *scientists* currently in support of a counter claim would enter history by demonstrating the counter hypothesis. Since there are no shortage of scientists who subscribe to the global warming hypothesis, why hasnt this happened?

Because scientists dont make their scientific reputation in political debates.

Furthermore, I am unimpressed with Boards of Directors; creation science groups can also boast Boards of Directors consisting of scientists who have since passed the torched and are content with salaried administrative positions.

The sources of funding for the participants are an irrelevance.

I concede your point about the "Genetic Fallacy" without also budging an inch for the obvious reasons that (1) it is merely a rhetorical fallacy; (2) rhetorical fallacies also happen to be the usual suspects behind such strange scientific traditions as the Marshall's initiative against environmental education; (3) since the genetic fallacy does not disprove the existence of propaganda, my original point remains: a ghostwritten FAQ put up by policy wonks with a clear conservative political bias doesnt amount to tall hill of beans in the end.

---
God hates human rights.
[ Parent ]

Two Small Niggles (2.50 / 2) (#68)
by Simon Kinahan on Mon Aug 20, 2001 at 05:43:50 PM EST

(1) it is merely a rhetorical fallacy

Well, I'm not sure what you mean by that. Its a logical fallacy as far as I'm concerned. That is, the syllogy: X is conservative and X says Y => Y is false, is not true. The fact that X is conservative has no bearing. I think we agree on this. I just wanted to check.

(3) since the genetic fallacy does not disprove the existence of propaganda, my original point remains: a ghostwritten FAQ put up by policy wonks with a clear conservative political bias doesnt amount to tall hill of beans in the end.

Obviously a FAQ like that is not a contribution to scientific debate. Its what gets called "grey literature" (as are the IPCC's summaries for policy makers and technical summaries). That is, it is a description of the issues intended to be introductory, and in this case is combined with some opinions on policy options.

At the level of a non-specialist (which I guess we both are) grey literature is helpful, regardless of whether it is biased on way or the other, providing you read the stuff from both sides. As far as I can tell there's no serious disagreement about facts wrt global warming. The disagreement is all about models and theories. Given that, comparing what the two sides say is useful.

Simon

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

informal logic is the rules of rhetoric [N/T] (1.00 / 1) (#71)
by eLuddite on Mon Aug 20, 2001 at 06:21:32 PM EST

Apparently "[N/T]" has no effect and something is required here. Anyway, rhetoric seems to have lost its original meaning.

---
God hates human rights.
[ Parent ]

it seems I'm my own best company (1.00 / 1) (#91)
by eLuddite on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 04:07:33 AM EST

and therefore in the best position to further this dialogue about rhetorical or informal logic fallacies...

I'm sure I'm not the only one frustrated by the constant evocation of rhetorical fallacies in debate, usually as a means to end discussion. It is a mistake to think that simply because one cannot prove something formidably correct using informal logic, one's position is unsound. If the only way we had of arriving at knowledge was the first order predicate calculus or the logic of rhetoric, we would be no wiser than Pentiums.

People pursue various epistemic paths in arriving at something resembling "truth". For example, if your lawyer gets you acquitted by informing the jury that the state's only witness is a convict and a jail snitch with ulterior motives, the judge will not overturn your acquittal because of the "genetic fallacy".

Furthermore, it is ludicrous to demand rigorous proof in scientific questions for the simple reason that science itself can only establish a correlation between the real world (truth) and predictions made by a model. The very same people who dismiss global warming for lack of evidence then cite "evidence" of a hypothetical, future economic failure by way of a rationale.

The irony, of course, is that economics is an extrordinarily complex normative science, and that climate theories have a lot more empirical standing than any theory of economics. Strangely, the cost of reducing emissions will be paid out in the market, not burned into the atmosphere; to posit economic failure is to deny the market works, a strange position for economic think tanks to argue.

---
God hates human rights.
[ Parent ]

Fallacies and Science (1.00 / 1) (#94)
by Simon Kinahan on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 06:27:02 AM EST

Sorry I don't have the willpower to stay up all night and argue with you ...

I'm sure I'm not the only one frustrated by the constant evocation of rhetorical fallacies in debate, usually as a means to end discussion. It is a mistake to think that simply because one cannot prove something formidably correct using informal logic, one's position is unsound.

Obviously. Invoking fallacious logic - such as trying to show a scientific position incorrect by pointing out the source - doesn't contribute anything to show your position sound or unsound. So we're left pretty much were you started. If you have some other line of reasoning you'd like to invoke, please feel free. You may find it frustrating, but the fact your position could be sound is of no interest to me. I want to know why its sound.

People pursue various epistemic paths in arriving at something resembling "truth". For example, if your lawyer gets you acquitted by informing the jury that the state's only witness is a convict and a jail snitch with ulterior motives, the judge will not overturn your acquittal because of the "genetic fallacy".

Similarly, obviously. Witness are in court to attest to questions of fact. Given that we don't have direct access to the past, one, very useful approach, is to ask other people what happened. Their character is obviously relevant as it tells us whether they're likely to be lying.

This is not a question of fact. Noone seriously disagrees about the facts. Everyone, from the Marshall Institute to World Watch, is using the same measurements of the past state of the climate. The differences are at the level of theory. Character is not relevant with such questions. We don't dismiss the work of a physicist because he was a violent husband. This is what makes the genetic fallacy fallacious - that we're dealing with the truth or falsehood of a claim that is open to scientific assessment.

Obviously, if you really want to, you can treat this as a question of fact, along the lines of "do scientists say there is global warming ?" You can then use the character and sources of funding of the various witnesses to your heart's content, but in the end this has nothing to do with the question "is there global warming ?". To suppose that it is, is to surrender to the crisis of public reason so eloquently described by Phil Agre in the essay you posted. You're giving up on your own ability to assess the truth of questions that are highly relevant to public policy.

Furthermore, it is ludicrous to demand rigorous proof in scientific questions for the simple reason that science itself can only establish a correlation between the real world (truth) and predictions made by a model. The very same people who dismiss global warming for lack of evidence then cite "evidence" of a hypothetical, future economic failure by way of a rationale.

Well, "they" may do, but I haven't seen it, and probably wouldn't agree. Legally mandated and enforced reductions in CO2 emissions would be enormously costly, but I don't see any reason to suppose the economy would collapse.

Science does admit of degrees of proof - at least informally, by the degree of correlation between models and reality. Both climatology and economics deal with very complicated systems, so predictive models in both fields have poor track records (remember global cooling ? the "new economy" ?)

I don't see any good basis for saying one is a better science than the other, and in this case I'd definitely prefer the economic forecast of great cost over the climatological one. The economic theory required is old and almost trivial, and supported by well known test cases - that if you ban something, you incur both costs for those who'd like to do it, and enforcement costs. The climatological one - that small increases in CO2 will cause large rises in temperature through a positive feedback mechanism - is recent and speculative, and doesn't seem to correlate well with the climate record.

Regulatory costs aren't, typically, allocated through the market but through the "regulatory burden" and taxation. Look at drug prohibition for example - the costs of the policy are taxes to pay for policing, and costs to consumers in the form of fines and sentences, deprivation, poor medical care, uncertain quality and so on. Brute force CO2 controls would have a similar effect. You can deal with some of this through emmisions trading, which will locate the cost with the people best able to deal with it, but even that is going to impose some external costs.

Mainstream economics tries to be positive, incidentally. Do you have any reason for calling it normative ?

Simon

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

fallacies and economics (1.00 / 1) (#97)
by eLuddite on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 08:48:09 AM EST

You may find it frustrating,

I do not. I've made my point. You're replying to something that wasnt directed at yourself, and that was posted out of the boredom to explain why rhetorical fallacies are not, cannot be, a cardinal sin in discussion.

but the fact your position could be sound is of no interest to me. I want to know why its sound.

My position is that the Marshal Foundation is not a trustworthy source of science...

Their character is obviously relevant as it tells us whether they're likely to be lying.

... because in the absence of a high "degree of correlation between models and reality", and in the presence of a strong contrary hypothesis, their pattern of affiliation is suspect, just as "character is obviously relevant" because it tells us "whether [one is] likely to be lying."

You can then use the character and sources of funding of the various witnesses to your heart's content, but in the end this has nothing to do with the question "is there global warming ?"

I'm was not trying to prove global warming, I was disqualifying Anatta's putative claim for authoritative evidence. I assumed he felt it was authoritative because he had never seen anyone go to the trouble of rebutting it. I think you should reread the thread from the begining.

To suppose that it is, is to surrender to the crisis of public reason so eloquently described by Phil Agre in the essay you posted.

Well, since I suppose no such thing, I did not surrender to a crisis of public reason, I exposed one.

I don't see any good basis for saying one is a better science than the other,

I didnt say 'better', I said superior empirical standing. The physical sciences have a better empirical grounding than economics for the simple reason that they always go to the trouble of substantiating their theoretical claims with empirical evidence, whereas as I've quoted elsewhere on this page, economics does not. Moreover, if we all suddenly stopped believing in climate, its physics would not cease to apply, being completely indifferent to the relations and institutions involving man's existence and well being as a member of an organized community sharing a common set of *beliefs*. Not only is it difficult to escape society and examine it from the outside looking in, and it is a defect of economics that it doesnt even try.

Regulatory costs aren't, typically, allocated through the market but through the "regulatory burden" and taxation.

Look, economic challenges confronting the West wont make a myth out of man-made global warming. As a matter of principle, I will not lose any sleep over the short term cost of reducing CO2 emissions, so the economic debate raging in the US while the rest of the world has decided doesnt hold the greatest interest for me. However, I would like to point that this wouldnt be the first time markets had to weather measures aimed at regulating environmental emissions.

None of the following are bad for the economy and all of them represent both heightened research initiatives (capitalism thrives on innovation) as well as markets in their own right: energy conservation and efficiency; more efficient conversion of energy; intensified use of renewable sources of energy; superior traffic control and prevention lessening "regulatory burdens" and taxation; shifting the modal split from cars to public transport, cycling and walking, lessening costs to consumers in the form of lower medical care, lower taxation, and more certain quality of services.

Mainstream economics tries to be positive, incidentally.

Well, it's not trying hard enough since the set of concepts and analytical tools it uses to predict patterns of resource use with market and decision rules almost always fails in the general case.

Do you have any reason for calling it normative ?

Because it is commonly and typically used to reveal how resources should be used.

---
God hates human rights.
[ Parent ]

politics and science (2.66 / 3) (#64)
by eLuddite on Mon Aug 20, 2001 at 05:20:10 PM EST

It is perfectly possible for non-specialists to make an asessment of the available evidence presented the specialists and draw their own conclusions.

The species of "non-specialists" known as policy wonks make all sorts of unspecialized assessments, and those of us who have read Manufacturing Consent *should* be extremely critical of their penetration in the media.

The following piece by Phil Agre originally appeared on Indymedia I'm reproducing it here because IndyMedia often times out and because they've made the article difficult to read by reproducing it with escaped html entities.

The Crisis of Public Reason
by Phil Agre 3:44pm Tue Aug 15 '00

Who's Crazy? Almost universally, demonstrators against corporate rule are portrayed as purely emotional, irrationally opposed to ideas and institutions that are "embodiments of reason." But the appearance of rationality is just that--appearance. This penetrating article by James Agre, UCLA professor of information studies, reproduced from his renowned online newsletter, the Red Rock Eater News Service, helps us think more clearly and critically about the substance of reason, as opposed to the appearance.
Public Reason: Holding Power-Holders Responsible

American political culture faces a crisis of public reason. Public reason concerns the norms of public argument, and the health of a modern society can almost be measured by the extent to which norms of public reason are upheld. The theory behind public reason, which dates to the Enlightenment, is that power-holders can be constrained by compelling them to give reasons for their actions. If the reasons don't make sense then citizens can point that out, and the disjunction between reason and action will eventually cause the powerholders to lose their legitimacy and thus their power.

The idea originates as a generalization of scientists' understandings of their own norms of debate, and it is often scientists who insist most strongly on the connection between reason and the health of political institutions. If people believe in UFOs, the argument goes, then politicians can say any old crazy thing they want, and society will lose its last fragile protection against authoritarianism and anarchy (these opposites often being fused by people who make this argument).

Challenges to Public Reason: Simulated Rationality

Public reason faces a long series of challenges, which taken together are formidable. One major challenge is the professionally cultivated practice of simulated rationality: if you're a powerholder, or more likely a loose network or segmentary coalition of powerholders, and you want to take certain actions, and if norms of public reason are in effect, then you will naturally search for rational-sounding arguments for your plans. This procedure -- decision first, then arguments -- is utterly routinized throughout the public and private bureaucracies of the world, and a whole industry of public relations (and other communications professions that operate on the same conceptual basis as public relations) exists to support it.

The core concept of public relations is the "perception": what matters in practical terms is not whether one's arguments are rational, but whether they are perceived as rational. One must adopt the surface forms of rational argument -- arranging words in logical-seeming ways, using scientific vocabulary, adducing (carefully selected) facts, providing impressive-sounding statistics, citing the opinions of authorities (that is, people who will be perceived as authorities), and so forth. When norms of public reason have been institutionalized, producing this reason-effect is half the battle, and one can purchase reason-effects by the yard.

Challenges to Public Reason: Technical Rationalization

A second challenge to public reason is technical rationalization, by which I mean the application of math-based analytical frameworks to practical problems. Examples include the mathematical models of operations research, a tremendous variety of simulation methods, and too many others to enumerate. These models reached their peak of cultural legitimacy during the Cold War, but they date back centuries and persist robustly today.

Rationalization produces reason-effects in the sense just described, but its use of mathematics and its apparatus of deductive logic also give it a special claim to reason. Deductive logic is airtight in a precise sense: given the premises, the conclusions follow. Proponents of technical rationalization often feel very strongly, and it is easy to see where they get their fervor. The matters that they model are often controversial, and answers that can be publicly defended through airtight deductive logic are greatly to be preferred to the hidden agendas of politicians and entrepreneurs. To question rationalization, on this view, is to question rationality, with all of the dire consequences that I mentioned before.

The serious problem with rationalization concerns the premises and presuppositions of the model: "given the premises, the conclusions follow", but the premises are rarely as "given" as all that, and the conclusions only follow if the world corresponds to the assumptions that have been built into the model. Most of these models depend on quantitative "inputs" that are subject to measurement error, assuming that they can even be measured. Sensitivity analysis (computing the partial derivative of the output with respect to a particular input) often reveals that the answers that formal models provide depend so radically on unmeasurable inputs that they are worthless. Worthless estimates of ten-year budget surpluses in the United States and the State of Texas are current examples.

The point is not that formal models are incompatible with public reason; reasonable people can argue about the models themselves. Where rationalization becomes pathological is where this meta-level debate about the premises and presuppositions of models is suppressed.

This can (and routinely does) happen in several ways. The models themselves can be obscure, whether by design or not, and this can suppress participation in the necessary debate. The people who apply the models can be trained to apply them in a mechanical and superficial way, and may lack the skill to question and evaluate them. This happens every single day. Or the dynamics of public debate, as in the compression of sound-bite journalism, can give an unfair advantage to those who can offer a neat answer over those who can offer a ten-page explanation of what's wrong with it. An extensive literature documents these problems; see for example William H. Dutton and Kenneth L. Kraemer, Modeling as Negotiating: The Political Dynamics of Computer Models in the Policy Process (Ablex, 1985).

Rationalization and the Problem of Hubris

The most basic problem with rationalization is hubris. The world is complicated, and the people who have expertise with rational models usually do not have enough knowledge of the specifics of particular cases to apply their models realistically. Quite the contrary, the model creates a set of cognitive filters that tend to exclude from consideration any factors that do not fit it. If one's professional standing depends on the applicability of a certain repertoire of formal models, then it is in one's interests to perceive the world as fitting those models, and to stop inquiring into the particulars as soon as the model has been fitted to them.

This is bad enough when the model-expert suffers the full consequences of inappropriate modeling, but it is much worse when innocent parties suffer. This is the story of "urban renewal" programs in the 1970s, in which anyone who actually lived in the neighborhoods in question could have told the modelers what their models were leaving out. Formal models have often proven to be quite idiotic once somebody, in many cases an anthropologist with an equally strong disciplinary predisposition to seeing the social world as an interconnected whole, takes the trouble to discover the fullness of what's happening on the ground.

The Fallacy of "The Scientific Method" As Sole Basis For Public Reason

A variant of the problem of rationalization arises when scientists and scientific enthusiasts (not all of them, but many) insist that the scientific method become the sole basis for public reason. The problem with this position is that many questions of public concern are simply not susceptible to scientific analysis, being for example complex moral questions. Another problem is that science does not function in the way that scientific enthusiasts understand as "the scientific method". The literature on social studies of science has documented this at length, and has accordingly been excoriated by those pseudo-scientific dogmatists who believe that the question of how science actually works is not a fit matter for scientific inquiry.

The Struggle Over Divergent Visions

A final threat to public reason is, to put it in plain language, the struggle over different ways of seeing things. Different professions and cultures have different concepts, methods, and assumptions, and people with different social positions and life experiences go about public reason in different ways. Many people cannot tolerate these sorts of epistemological diversity. They insist that their own ways be regarded as objectively true, and they insist that any appreciation of others' ways be regarded as a relativistic abdication of reason.

Wrong though it is, this fear of incommensurability is understandable. Because public reason only functions if everyone agrees to uphold it, surely the norms of public reason themselves must be framed in a common vocabulary, which vocabulary ought surely to provide a broader basis for commensuration of substantive arguments. Put more simply, if everyone has their own idea about what public reason is, where are the unanimously legitimated rules that are going to keep powerholders accountable? Why can't somebody from your culture, having ascended to office, simply declare that their own cultural understanding of public reason allows them to cite the authority of their familiar spirits as an adequate justification for their actions?

But the fact remains that people do have diverse understandings of the world and of public reason itself, and that many of these understandings are consistent with the spirit of public reason, and that the attempt to enforce a single such understanding as the gold standard of all public discourse is precisely the sort of arbitrariness that the norms of public reason exist to rule out. This problem has serious solutions, but they are not solutions that can be explained briefly or written neatly into a constitution.

These difficulties tend to discredit public reason. One encounters foolish books such as Bent Flyvbjerg, Rationality and Power: Democracy in Practice (translated by Steven Sampson, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998) that discover the shenanigans that go on behind the scenes of putatively rational public debates (in his case, over urban planning) and concludes that rationality itself is nothing but an effect of power. In environmental controversies one observes a struggle over ground rules, with business and government (usually operating in concert) pushing the debate onto the terrain of technical and scientific methods that cannot be employed without large amounts of capital and community organizations pushing the debate onto the terrain of experience, memory, and narrative.

Simulated rationality confronts an insistence that the surfaces forms of rationality have become irretrievably corrupt. Of course many cases are more complex, and the average timber war does include substantial amounts of math and science on all sides. Academics and activists have worked to make the means of scientific rationality available to those without concentrated capital, but it's an uphill fight at best.

Two Ideological Rejections of Public Reason

Yet even those disputes over technical rationalization do not present the greatest danger to public reason. The greatest danger comes from an even deeper interaction between two rejections of reason, the ones that in the United States have come to be known as conservative and liberal. The new jargon that is increasingly spoken by conservative pundits and activists in the United States, and is rarely denounced by conservatives of any stripe, constitutes a vast assault on reason.

The Longstanding Conservative Rejection

The conflict between conservatism and reason, in fact, is longstanding and overt. Conservatives in Burke's day were explicit about the evils of permitting the common people to engage in rational thought, lest they decide to replicate the French revolution, and the thoroughgoing arbitrariness of the new jargon serves to undermine the possibility of popular exercises of reason in the present day. (Whether it succeeds in this is another question.) Even those who identify themselves as libertarians follow an overtly anti-rationalist philosophy, as even a brief acquaintance with the work of Friedrich Hayek should make clear.

The argument against reason in this literature is straightforward: it is impossible for any individual to acquire enough reliable information to make a rational decision, any actions founded on rational thought will therefore be delusional, any attempts at reason should therefore regarded as dangerous, and all action should instead be guided by tradition. This is what Burke had in mind by commending prejudice, even though contemporary conservatives are careful not to use that word. Conservatism is constitutionally opposed to public reason, and this explains the abandon with which so many conservative pundits embrace flagrant simulations of reason, constructed through the methods of public relations, and exhibit so little regard for the real thing.

Identity Politics: Public Reason Rejected in Response to Trauma

But conservatives are not alone in rejecting public reason. The rejection of public reason is central to identity politics, whose starting-point is not the rational overthrow of prejudice in the public sphere but rather the creation of alternative spheres in which silenced "voices" can be revived.

Central to this project is the experience of a particular kind of oppression: the infliction of irrationalist nonsense. Let us say that a long series of jerks indignantly sneer at you that you should stop being a "victim", or that the Native Americans weren't really oppressed given that there are more of them now than there were when the white men showed up. If you are in complete possession of your rational faculties then you will think long and hard until you understand what is twisted about this. But being assaulted by the indignant sneering of nonsense is a bona fide variety of emotional trauma, and only the strongest individual can retain the capacity for rational thought after enough trauma of that sort.

The first step in overcoming the emotional violence of the jargon is not the hard labor of fashioning brief rational comebacks to the immense repertoire of nonsense lines of the jerks. No, the first step is to make common cause with others who have been abused similarly, reestablish the capacity for trust, compare notes on one's experiences, and recover the ability to speak in a semipublic way without an internalized jerk sneering at you to stop being such a victim. The finer dictates of logic have to wait, for the simple reason that an emotionally brutalized person cannot yet distinguish between rebuttals that arise from reason and rebuttals that arise from nonreason.

The problem arises when the communities created through identity politics fail to move past this condition by recommitting themselves to public reason. At its worst, this kind of interrupted recovery can lead to the worst sorts of irrationalism, as in the elaboration of pseudo-historical scholarship. Even at its best, it prevents traumatized people from acquiring the repertoire of rational arguments that they need to build a mainstream political movement.

A vicious circle gets going, with pundits employing the most convenient examples of identity-politics irrationalism as a means of disguising their own irrationalism. The new jargon is filled with projections of this sort, all of which are easy to sustain if one uses facts selectively and otherwise applies the methods of public relations. Notwithstanding their excesses, which hardly compare to the positive contributions that they have made, the principal threat to public reason has never derived from the movements of identity politics. The more basic phenomenon is the vicious cycle set in motion by the irrationalists who, whether consciously or by parroting a jargon whose logic they fail to understand, promote a hierarchical culture of deference.

Public Reason: Precondition for Democracy and Sanity

Public reason is not only a precondition for a functioning democracy; it is also required for individuals to become and remain sane. As human beings we develop our voices by internalizing the responses of others, and in the long run we only remain rational if we internalize a rational interlocutor. Only if reason is both legitimized in theory and actually employed in practice can we be kept honest enough to make rational sense.

Rationality is ultimately not about the procedures of logic, which can easily be reified in an irrational way. Rationality is ultimately about mental health: the kind of contact with reality that we can only maintain if we have good boundaries and a supportive community of similarly healthy people. To oppress people one must wound them, so that wounded patterns of thought are reproduced from one generation to the next.

Conservatism focuses attention on the transient pathologies that inevitably arise as people try to regain their sanity. It does not focus on that sanity itself, or the considerable progress that people have in fact achieved in recovering it. If we neglect the tidal wave of insanity that pours forth daily from the punditry then that progress will be lost.

See also http://dlis.gseis.ucla.edu/people/pagre/index.html

---
God hates human rights.
[ Parent ]

An excellent essay (none / 0) (#70)
by Simon Kinahan on Mon Aug 20, 2001 at 06:11:10 PM EST

I first read it some time ago when Phil posted it to his RRE list. I've seen it in loads of places since, so it seems to have made quite an impact. Phil is rather hard on conservatives and rather softer on "liberals" than he might be, and I don't like the pot-shot at Hayek, who said some things that make a lot of sense, as well as a certain amount of nonsense, but thats just Phil's style I think.

There are three bits that are particularly interesting with regard to global warming. First is the tendency of certain elements to follow the outer forms of public reason while not in fact having the commitment to truth that it demands. Secondly, there is the obscurity of much modern science to the non-specialist, which enables pundits on all sides to insist that they have "scientific" support by making it hard for non-specialists to check. Thirdly, there is the matter of divergent visions: the science on this matter is sufficiently uncertain that its given rise to a wide range of views at the level of policy.

I'm not a big fan of Chomsky. While I admire his thoroughness at dismantling the oddly divergent way in which the media's representations, his view that there's an "elite" driving this, separate from the populace as a whole strikes me as naive. While there are certainly groups who'd like to think they're running the world, I have considerable faith in the cock-up theory of history :)


Simon

If you disagree, post, don't moderate
[ Parent ]
Say what now? (3.50 / 2) (#33)
by Wondertoad on Mon Aug 20, 2001 at 02:31:17 AM EST

I'm pretty sure that future historians will look on the 100 million people killed by their own governments in the 20th century as the "dark ages" bit, and the incredible expansion of economic freedom leading to heretofore unseen increases in productivity, prosperity, and innovation will be seen as the "shining beacon OUT of the dark ages" bit.

But I guess that my 20 years studying politics, philosophy, and economics show that I have a tragically inferior "world view", question my intelligence and rate me a brainwashed sheep. While your little turd of a mini-rant, adding nothing to the discussion but vitriol and complaint, gets a "5" ranking (as of this writing). 5 my ass; I'm sure THOSE moderating stooges aren't "brainwashed" by your definition.


[ Parent ]
economic freedom for whom? (3.50 / 6) (#36)
by eLuddite on Mon Aug 20, 2001 at 05:07:43 AM EST

Your exquisite concern for the freedom of the world is noted.

However, empty, meaningless rhetoric inspired by vaguer, value-laden abstractions invested in such words as "freedom" has been the traditional method for heralding all forms of tyranny, and that same rhetoric hasnt suddenly become enlightening to anyone who might wish to understand capitalism from a point of view that is a little more critical than platitudes offered by capitalism's theologians.

Is economic freedom the freedom to act irresponsibly? The freedom for Hollywood to sedate our social conscience and personal development? The freedom to have our ears jammed with the din of corporate advertising? The freedom for wholly corporate owned media to impose identity politics in order to more efficiently mandate consumption? The freedom to pretend we are automatons whose choices are rationally calculated instead of subconsciously influenced by inescapable social forces?

Or is economic freedom the freedom to systematically ignore the monumentally unfair exploitation of 3rd world labor and resources in order to pretend that Capitalism is the sum total of American white collar labor and extravagant consumption? That would be a neat trick, but it wouldnt explain why Americans dont walk around naked. For some reason, clothes are less expensive to produce than web pages.

Freedom is a funny word.

IMO, Capitalism has surpassed religion, in the USA particularly, where markets and (secular!) Invisible Hands are worshipped like no other invisible Gods before them. For example, here you are equating Capitalism with, presumably, some immutable, absolute verdict upon the meaning of "Freedom".

What shall you tell us next? That your

20 years studying politics, philosophy, and economics show that
education is wasted on idiots?

While your little turd of a mini-rant, adding nothing to the discussion but vitriol and complaint, gets a "5" ranking (as of this writing). 5 my ass;

You cannot buy finer irony :-) Commenting beyond mere quotatation of this excellent example of introspection would be gratuitous at this point.

For all the the rest of us without the benefit of 20 years of education, here's a nice set of links to sites which track the march of freedom and prosperity.

http://www.corpwatch.org/
http://www.thirdworldtraveler.com/
http://www.cepr.net/
http://epinet.org/
http://www.transnationale.org/anglais/default.htm

This seems like a fine opportunity to quote a message I found in my mailbox: ---

AN INTERNATIONAL OPEN LETTER TO ALL ECONOMICS DEPARTMENTS:

AN INVITATION FOR RECONSIDERATION.

Economics needs fundamental reform - and now is the time for change.

This document comes out a meeting of 75 students, researchers and professors from twenty-two nations who gathered for week of discussion on the state of economics and the economy at the University of Missouri - Kansas City (UMKC) this June 2001. The discussion took place at the Second Biennial Summer School of the Association for Evolutionary Economics (AFEE), jointly sponsored by UMKC, AFEE and the Center for Full Employment and Price Stability.

The undersigned participants, all committed to the reform of our discipline, have developed the following open letter. This letter follows statements from other groups who have similar concerns. Both in agreement with and in support of the Post-Autistic Economics Movement and the Cambridge Proposal, we believe that economic theory, inhibited by its ahistorical approach and abstract formalist methodology, has provided only a limited understanding of the challenging complexity of economic behavior. The narrow methodological approach of economics hinders its ability to generate truly pragmatic and realistic policy prescriptions or to engage in productive dialogue with other social sciences.

All economics departments should reform economics education to include reflection on the methodological assumptions that underpin our discipline. A responsible and effective economics is one that sees economic behavior in its wider contexts, and that encourages philosophical challenge and debate. Most immediately, the field of economic analysis must be expanded to encompass the following:

  1. A broader conception of human behavior. The definition of economic man as an autonomous rational optimizer is too narrow and does not allow for the roles of other determinants such as instinct, habit formation and gender, class and other social factors in shaping the economic psychology of social agents.

  2. Recognition of culture. Economic activities, like all social phenomena, are necessarily embedded in culture, which includes all kinds of social, political and moral value-systems and institutions. These profoundly shape and guide human behavior by imposing obligations, enabling and disabling particular choices, and creating social or communal identities, all of which may impact on economic behavior.

  3. Consideration of history. Economic reality is dynamic rather than static - and as economists we must investigate how and why things change over time and space. Realistic economic inquiry should focus on process rather than simply on ends.
  4. A new theory of knowledge. The positive-vs.-normative dichotomy which has traditionally been used in the social sciences is problematic. The fact-value distinction can be transcended by the recognition that the investigator's values are inescapably involved in scientific inquiry and in making scientific statements, whether consciously or not. This acknowledgement enables a more sophisticated assessment of knowledge claims.
  5. Empirical grounding. More effort must be made to substantiate theoretical claims with empirical evidence. The tendency to privilege theoretical tenets in the teaching of economics without reference to empirical observation cultivates doubt about the realism of such explanations.
  6. Expanded methods. Procedures such as participant observation, case studies and discourse analysis should be recognized as legitimate means of acquiring and analyzing data alongside econometrics and formal modeling. Observation of phenomena from different vantage points using various data-gathering techniques may offer new insights into phenomena and enhance our understanding of them.
  7. Interdisciplinary dialogue. Economists should be aware of diverse schools of thought within economics, and should be aware of developments in other disciplines, particularly the social sciences.

Although strong in developing analytic thinking skills, the professional training of economists has tended to discourage economists from even debating - let alone accepting - the validity of these wider dimensions. Unlike other social sciences and humanities, there is little space for philosophical and methodological debate in the contemporary profession. Critically-minded students of economics seem to face an unhappy choice between abandoning their speculative interests in order to make professional progress, or abandoning economics altogether for disciplines more hospitable to reflection and innovation.

Ours is a world of global economic change, of inequality between and within societies, of threats to environmental integrity, of new concepts of property and entitlement, of evolving international legal frameworks and of risks of instability in international finance. In such a world we need an economics that is open-minded, analytically effective and morally responsible. It is only by engaging in sustained critical reflection, revising and expanding our sense of what we do and what we believe as economists that such an economics can emerge.

Signed by:

[Dr. This and Mrs and Mrs That] <== "Appeal to Authority", not religion.

---
God hates human rights.
[ Parent ]

Kelkemesh and wondertoad (2.00 / 4) (#66)
by eLuddite on Mon Aug 20, 2001 at 05:32:26 PM EST

As much as I love the pitter patter of rating ninjas stepping lightly about my posts, I should like to inform both of you that should either of you have the further temerity to post authoritatively on a subject, I shall be all over you like cheap perfume on a 50 year old Parisian hooker.

---
God hates human rights.
[ Parent ]

I look forward to ignoring that one too (none / 0) (#79)
by Wondertoad on Mon Aug 20, 2001 at 09:12:00 PM EST

It must be so nice to be a dick and think you're changing the world. Much easier than actually accomplishing things.

[ Parent ]
you're a presumptious dickhead (1.00 / 1) (#80)
by eLuddite on Mon Aug 20, 2001 at 09:31:11 PM EST

It must be so nice to be a dick and think you're changing the world.

I dont think I am changing the world, I know it.

Much easier than actually accomplishing things.

I also happen to be the accomplished capitalist of your wildest dreams.

---
God hates human rights.
[ Parent ]

Possible Alternatives (3.00 / 6) (#30)
by Jin Wicked on Mon Aug 20, 2001 at 01:56:38 AM EST

You have some very valid complaints and observations, and even if people are not ready for a complete change it is my opinion that it's high time we started opening our minds up to some alternatives before we reach the point of no return (if we have not already). Here's my favourite link for the curious. (Anarchist, socialist, and proud of it!)

Really guys...socialism is no different than Linux or Open Source. Everyone contributes, everything is out in the open, and everyone reaps the benefits. Think "World Forge" instead of "Source Forge." ;)


This post was probably not written by the real Jin Wicked. Please see user "butter pie" for Jin's actual posts.


One difference (4.00 / 1) (#45)
by ucblockhead on Mon Aug 20, 2001 at 10:53:33 AM EST

There is one critical difference. When a producer of a good (like a potato or a cabinet) gives that good away, the producer loses all benefit of the good.

When the producer of a piece of software gives it away, not only does the producer retain all benefit of the good, but because of the synergistic effects of software distribution, the benefit to the producer actually goes up.

This is not particularly a reason that socialism is bad, merely a reason why it is a mistake to equate open source with strict socialism.
-----------------------
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]

One other difference (none / 0) (#69)
by docvin on Mon Aug 20, 2001 at 05:51:55 PM EST

If you don't contribute to Open Source, you don't get locked up, tortured, or killed.

[ Parent ]
Read what your replying to (none / 0) (#108)
by WhizzKidd on Fri Aug 24, 2001 at 01:56:43 PM EST

He said he was Anarchist, now, how do you expect people to get locked up, tortured or killed in a stateless society such as the one advocated by anarchism? How can you be locked up, tortured or killed when socialist anarchists advocate a complete end to cooercian?

In short, most of the problems of todays world arent so much capitolism, socialism, communism, they are whate happens when you tie stateism into it all. Without the state capitolism cant exist but socialism can. A free union of people working together for a better society out of choice and not out of some state forcing them to do it, thinking freely without being cooerced by some state.

Search on Google, here is also a good place to start.

--
Nick
So I forgot my password and my email address has changed, hello to all on my new UID. I'll probably have my old account when I reboot back to linux because Mozilla will have remembered it for me, ahwell.....

[ Parent ]

Power (3.77 / 9) (#34)
by Weezul on Mon Aug 20, 2001 at 04:56:58 AM EST

A nice way to look at the problems with capitalism without falling into the trap of socialism is to look at these things the way Thomas Jefforson would: Do not let a few people have a lot of power. This means you do not want a centralized government to have much power *and* you do not want hte heads of large corperation to have much power.

A simplistic solution would be the following: First, construct a measure of the impact a company is having on the pupulation. You could give them a point for each customers, 100 points for each employie or stock holder, and 50% of the score of any company they financially interacted with (simplified). If the company's score exceads 10,000,000 then that company is subject to public represnetation on it's board of directors, i.e. 50% public control.

Now, public control dose not mean congress tells them what to do. Congress would mearly "classify" companies for public representation. The people who repreosented the public on the boards of a specific types of company would be directly proportionaly ellected.

it's importent that these people are proportionally ellected. That way they will only agree and be able to tell the company what to do rarely, but they will have a strong influence most of the time.

Anywho, this proposal is clearly too simplistic, but you get the idea. Split up the power ammong many people. You could also try very strict anti-monopoly and anti-conflict of intrest rules, i.e. prevent a few people from owning more then 10% of a given industry (even via holding companies).

"Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power." - Benito Mussolini
Tsk Tsk (3.57 / 7) (#46)
by maarken on Mon Aug 20, 2001 at 11:07:18 AM EST

The idea of `bloc purchasing' - consumers organizing into groups and purchasing the same good at a discount, or in exchange for additional services, is unheard of.

How quickly you forget things like Mercata...



--Maarken
Flip the symbols in my email.
Mercata? (none / 0) (#77)
by Pseudonym on Mon Aug 20, 2001 at 09:01:00 PM EST

Could you possibly give a quick summary of what you mean by "Mercata" for those who were either born yesterday or born in the wrong country?

Yes, I know there's Google. I don't want to know what others think of it. I want to know what point you're trying to make.



sub f{($f)=@_;print"$f(q{$f});";}f(q{sub f{($f)=@_;print"$f(q{$f});";}f});
[ Parent ]
His quote should make that clear... (none / 0) (#90)
by reeses on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 12:57:06 AM EST

Don't ask someone else to do your homework for you. Go ahead, use google; it won't hurt. :-)

[ Parent ]
15,000 words typed in vain. (4.87 / 8) (#61)
by watchmaker on Mon Aug 20, 2001 at 04:08:09 PM EST

First, let's get one thing straight...

Libertarianism doesn't work. Capitalism doesn't work. Communism, Fascism, and Socialism don't work. It's rare that I get to quote John Lennon, and rarer still that I get to quote Ferris Bueller quoting John Lennon, but "I don't belive in ism's, I only believe in me."

Capitalism looks great on paper. Karl Marx doesnt sound too wacky, in a theoretical sense. Even Galt's Gulch sounds like a veritable Utopia on paper.

What's amazing is that all of the zealots in each of those camps use the exact same argument against each other. Though the message may be buried, every argument I've read tends to boil down to one thing...

"Your way doesnt work when you introduce human nature."

The Human Animal is rash, irrational, unpredictable and dangerous. Like a big red correction pen rewriting the tenets of any of those "isms" man is an unpredictable factor who will not be pigeonholed into a trite definition.

Boths sides of the Capitalism/Socialism debate say the same thing. It is wrong to call their side of the argument flawed because no country has ever implemented a pure version of their system. The soviet system was hardly pure Marxist Communism. The U.S. is hardly a free market society.

Both sides become so entrenched in their dogmatic gainsay of the other side, that they lose sight of the big picture. And in mentioning the term dogma, I'm reminded of an exchange from Kevin Smith's movie of the same name.

Bethany: You're saying that having beliefs is a bad thing?
Rufus: I think it's better to have ideas. You can change an idea. Changing a belief is trickier.

And THAT, my friends, is the crux of the problem. I came to K5 after swearing off that other site because I wanted a place to actually discuss issues. Discourse, they call it.

Thomas Jefferson and John Adams were very close friends, and then not. And then they were again. They disagreed on many things. But they disagreed in a way you dont see anymore. The years of letters between Jefferson and Adams should be regarded as a pinnacle of American writing. They had discourse. A mutual respect for the other's opinions.

I jumped in here on a few stories, mostly about the G8 summit protests. The responses I got discouraged me. It wasn't Discourse. It was closed minded ignorance.

I actually wrote, offline, about half of a story for K5. Titled "The Last Days of Discourse" it bemoaned the loss of the art of discussion. About halfway through I became stuck for a particular way to make a point, and went to lunch to mull it over. The more I thought about it, the more dejected I became. One thing became perfectly clear, what I wanted to write would impact nobody.

Tired, dejected, thoroughly disgusted, I stopped reading K5, for a while. I came back to see this article, and it's comments. I havent seen very much that isnt "Are too!"/"Am Not!" arguing, although some are very articulate about saying "Am Not"/"Are too!".

I voted this story -1 in the queue without comment. Mostly because these arguments have passed boring and run into tedious, and are flirting heavily with annoying.

Arguing about these subjects without having anything relevant to say is pointless. You're both right. You're both wrong. Now shut the hell up.



Are not! (none / 0) (#76)
by enry on Mon Aug 20, 2001 at 08:28:53 PM EST

Sorry, had to do it. I agree with you, actually. Discourse is dead. It's sad. It's frustrating as well. Many times I deal with people where opinions matter and someone doesn't agree with me, it turns into "<blank> sucks!" and that's supposed to be the reason. I got into a rather lengthy non-discourse with someone who said Linux sucks. It turned out that it wasn't Linux that sucked, it was the fact that Linux runs on x86 hardware, which apparently sucks (I didn't bother fighting that battle). It gets even more frustrating in a corporate environment, where people should be helping each other out for a common goal (get customers, make money, etc) where discourse really needs to happen. But no, "I'm right, you're wrong" is the phrase of the day. Finish your article and submit it. Let me know when you do. I'd like to read it.

[ Parent ]
Am too! (none / 0) (#107)
by flimflam on Thu Aug 23, 2001 at 05:48:01 PM EST

Discourse may be dead, but it's particularly lacking in online discussions. I think that the anonimity and/or facelessness of the medium tends to bring out the worst in people. Most people don't insult people to their faces during face-to-face discussions, but sadly this is common in online forums (fora?).

Or maybe the world has just changed. Maybe we define ourselves so completely by what we consume, and place so little value on intellectual pursuits, that we've lost the ability to participate in meaningful debates.

I don't know, I guess I'll just have another drink... (and I really shouldn't be drinking at work...


-- I am always optimistic, but frankly there is no hope. --Hosni Mubarek
[ Parent ]
The Myths of Corporate Hegemony (4.40 / 5) (#65)
by WombatControl on Mon Aug 20, 2001 at 05:25:35 PM EST

This notion of the world becoming controlled by a sinister cabal of malicious corporations is becoming more and more widespread. One would think that any moment everyone would be rounded up and forced into AOL-TW-Disney-Microsoft-Starbucks reeducation camps for manditory brainwashing. If you were to resist, then the FBI would lock you in a cell with Dmitry Skylarov.

Now let's look at things for a different perspective.

Let's propose a little experiment shall we? I will not use Microsoft software, eat McDonalds food, use AOL, or watch anything from Time Warner for one year. You don't pay taxes, don't register anything with the government, don't use government services or have anything to do with government for one year.

At the end of the year let's see which of us is hungry for a Big Mac washed down with a Frappucino and which of us is trading cigarettes in order to keep themselves from looking like the goatse.cx guy.

The moral of the story? Capitalism may suck at times, but government can kill you. Government is a corporation who can make decisions without including its shareholders, can force you to buy their products through physical violence and intimidation, and is often exempt from the laws that it creates. Compared to that, corporations are small fry. You can boycott a corporation, but you can't boycott Uncle Sam.

All of the issues mentioned by Signal11 in this piece have little to do with capitalism as an economic system. Capitalism can't keep you from getting screwed. Capitalism won't clean your toilet, wax your car, or make you irresistably sexually attractive to 18-year-old models. All capitalism allows for is letting you put your money where you like. It won't make everyone equal. And guess what, communism, socialism, or any other economic system won't do those things either. It's up to you.

The reason why all this is nothing more than a grand intellectual cop-out is pretty simple. It's all designed to take responsibility away from the individual. It's using the government as a crutch for our own bad mistakes. Government isn't there to make sure that Linux can play DVDs. Government was created to ensure that everything you buy works perfectly. The Founding Fathers did not write that you have the right to trade Metallica MP3s over Napster. Government exists solely for the purpose of keeping people from killing you and taking your stuff. In fact, the Constitution was designed specifically so that the government could do as little else as possible while still giving it the ability to meet future needs.

The solutions to all the problems that Signal11 mentioned can be found at the individual level. In fact, they're pretty damn simple.

  • Americans are in debt - don't buy crap you don't need.
  • Mom-and-Pop stores are dying - don't shop at Wal-Mart then.
  • Corporations are behaving in ways you don't like - don't purchase their products.

It's really that simple. It does, however, take a degree of self-sufficiency and awareness. The fact is, the people who are supposedly being exploited by these evil corporations appear to be a lot wiser than many of those in the developed world. Looking at immigration patterns, they're moving from places with closed trade policies to those who are being "exploited" by globalization. These people realize that the ticket out of poverty is through hard work and investment. Many of them are starved for the chance to start their own business, but can't find the capital or navigate through the maze of government bureaucracies. True globalization will come when these people can have access to the markets and capital they need.

The truth is, capitalism is far from perfect, In fact, it doesn't claim to be. Neither are we, and that's why capitalism works. It assumes that people will act in their self-interests, and creates a system where that self-interest leads in a positive direction. Combine that with a system of government that gets out of the way and you have a recipe that produces a free, stable, and prosperous state in almost every situation it's been applied to. The fact is free trade isn't made by treaty or NGO - it's always been a fact of life ever since the first Europeans arrived in the steppes of China thousands of years ago to start the Silk Road. And while there are some issues with globalization and capitalism, solving them with more and more government intervention is not a step in the right direction.



imaginary distinctions (3.66 / 6) (#72)
by eLuddite on Mon Aug 20, 2001 at 06:25:32 PM EST

The moral of the story?

Dont invent, incoherent thought experiments and dont further assert their hypothetical outcome as a matter of fact?

Capitalism may suck at times, but government can kill you.

The distinction between capitalism and government is false for the obvious reason that neither exists without the mutual support of the other. Only states practice capitalism, and capitalism very definitely kills people dead. Greenspan literally holds lives in the balance of his every decision on interest rates, and picking nits about his allegiance to state or capital is going to leave a scab, not illuminate a discussion on capitalism. It is a fact that in the year 2000, upwards of 10 million children under five died because of a lack of food, clean water, or medicine while supermarkets were filled with aisle after aisle of fizzy coca cola, sugar laden puffed cereal, and racks upon racks of dog food. While children starve, pets grow fat.

Amartya Sen won the Nobel Economics Prize for his contributions to welfare economics and his explanation of the economic mechanisms underlying famines and poverty. His best-known work is detailed in his 1981 book Poverty and Famines: An Essay on Entitlement and Deprivation where he challenges the common view that the shortage of food is the most important explanation of famine. There has never a shortage of food in all of capitalism's history.

corporations are small fry

Absolute nonsense. For good or bad, corporations affect your daily life to a greater extent than your government. This applies whether you are self employed or not. Many people cannot even name the politicians who represent them, that is how important politics has become in capitalist states.

The reason why all this is nothing more than a grand intellectual cop-out is pretty simple. It's all designed to take responsibility away from the individual. It's using the government as a crutch for our own bad mistakes.

We are not financial calculators, we are human beings. Stop telling us that we arent affected by the social forces which define our very being.

---
God hates human rights.
[ Parent ]

Political Problems (none / 0) (#81)
by AArthur on Mon Aug 20, 2001 at 09:42:14 PM EST

"... It is a fact that in the year 2000, upwards of 10 million children under five died because of a lack of food, clean water, or medicine...."

All of those things you list are political problems. George McGovern in his latest book about world hunger and agriculuture (I forget the title), talks about how we have the ability to grow much more food then we do currently -- and as misc.rural newsgroup notes, we farm 1/2 less land then we did 80 years ago -- and 9/10 of that land became forest, not urban sprawl. We have a hell of capcitity to grow more then enough food to end world hunger, especially with advancements in agri-technology, genetic engineering, and the a like.

Due to the way capitalism works, it makes little sense to produce food to feed the needy in South Africa (for example), because their is not enough incentive.

I believe the US should use it's position as a world leader to help the poor, to work towards a modern society, without hunger, by working with foriegn nations to provide inexpensive meals (based on US agricultural surplus), along with the technology to help them grow food.

A nation that's hungry (and improvished) is much likely to have an unstable goverment. When people are roaming the streets for food, they don't have time to think about Democratic principals such as liberty.

A stable goverment means a strong trading partner, which means cleaner air, more freedom, and more time to think about things above the basics.

Andrew B. Arthur | aarthur@imaclinux.net | http://hvcc.edu/~aa310264
[ Parent ]

you cannot detach capitalism from state policy (3.00 / 2) (#84)
by eLuddite on Mon Aug 20, 2001 at 10:33:55 PM EST

All of those things you list are political problems.

Again, the distinction between state and capitalism is false, moreso now than ever. I fairly insist on reality and dont particular wish to pretend there is an Anti-Invisible Hand holding back development. The only thing holding back development is capitalism. Capitalism is not a homeostatic system, it is a dynamic system of positive feedback loops which transitions to various states. Since capitalism (*state* capitalism) does not exist independent of our economic, political and social feedback, it is safe to conclude that we can expect to influence the states it transitions to. If you doubt this, the only conclusion you can infer from the example I gave of Greenspan is that Greenspan is *personally* responsible for people's shattered lives whenever he plays with interest rates.

Due to the way capitalism works, it makes little sense to produce food to feed the needy in South Africa (for example), because their is not enough incentive.

You misunderstand. The food is either already produced in African state X, or it is rotting in nearby African state Y. People simply dont have the capital to buy it; despite the fact that they work year round, on land which has a real estate value at least one order of magnitude greater than the sum of all the foreign aid they've in a decade, someone else's Capitalism prevents them from eating. Hunger certainly is an incentive and there is a surplus of food.

It doesnt make much sense for Americans to cultivate Volga sturgeons, yet Americans are not suffering from a shortage of caviar.

A nation that's hungry (and improvished) is much likely to have an unstable goverment.

Instability doesnt just happen and it would be inaccurate or presume that its cause or sustenance is local.

A stable goverment means a strong trading partner, which means cleaner air, more freedom, and more time to think about things above the basics.

That's a platitude. A puppet regime in South America is the superior, most capital expedient way of supplying the US with nickel, copper, sugar, bananas, gambling resorts, cheaply produced clothes, etc.

---
God hates human rights.
[ Parent ]

and the solution to famine is? (2.00 / 2) (#83)
by Frosty on Mon Aug 20, 2001 at 10:33:14 PM EST

yes, there is no food shortage, but there is a distribution inequality. There are (basically) two approaches to solve the problem: the Socialist solution and the philanthropic solution.

The socialist solution is to nationalize the food production capabilities of the US and refocus their energies on producing low cost/highly nutritious food-stuffs (mush mostly) which can then be equitably distributed among all the peoples of both the US and whichever countries are deemed most in need. What is that? you don't like eating soy meal and soy meat three meals a day? too bad.

The philantrhopic approach relies on people with money and dispoable income will donate it in order to buy the needed food, and transport it to where it is needed most. this is actually a very workable and sensible solution. If everyone that believes that corporations are the ones starving children in (insert favorite impoverished nation here) would skip their vacation/buy a used car/buy clothes second-hand/eat out less/eat less/ etc. and donate their money to relief agencies which ship boatloads of grain to impoverished countries, the problem will be solved.

The problem with the second approach is that it requires personal sacrifice, and Americans hate that. They would rather blame the corporations and Alan Greenspan for the problem, insisting they should be the ones to fix it, when they have the means to fix it themselves.

Anything worth doing is rarely easy, and it is rarely cheap. People need to decide what their convictions are worth.


[ Parent ]
Not So Easy (none / 0) (#82)
by AArthur on Mon Aug 20, 2001 at 10:03:27 PM EST

"Americans are in debt - don't buy crap you don't need."

That doesn't work well if your addicted to it. Or those who get fooled by the flashy artwork, sneaky disclamers and fraud.

It's very difficult to say "no" at times. Don't act like it's a piece of cake to do that.

"Mom-and-Pop stores are dying - don't shop at Wal-Mart then."

I avoid Walmart at as much as possible. But, Walmart is cheap. I don't like what Walmart does to communties -- it should act fairly, and not anything else. It's a company, and it's stockholders care about one thing, and that's money. So to protect our communties from rotting away, due to Walmart doing anything it needs to do to get money, we need laws.

"Corporations are behaving in ways you don't like - don't purchase their products."

Yes, we should all become subsidence farmers, and do everything ourselfs. Make our own clothes, grow our own food, grow our own drugs, create our own music. Kind of the hippie commune kind of idea. Hippie communes where certainly a good idea at first (escape the cities, and the evil of capitalism and goverment), but most of them failed over the long run.

You can't always avoid buying from a corporation. You want a car. The big 3 are all making very unsafe cars. Foriegn cars are very expensive. What do you do? You end up buying a dangerous car -- luckly, thanks to the lobbying of Ralph Nader (and the legislating of Lyndon Johnson, and many people after him), even cheap US cars are pretty safe. Did safety features raise the price of cars up slightly? At first yes, but over time probably not, because safety became standard.

I don't like everything my employeer does or makes me do. Should I quit my job? The anwser, is probably yes. But can I? No. I need the money to keep my car on the road, pay for college, and the a like. I would like to quit or a least make changes, but I can't. But my legislators can help the people in common make those changes to make my workplace safer, more enviromentally friendly, and the alike.

In Conclusion

We need goverment for the people, not special interests. A goverment that cares about the people, not profit margins.

I believe if something is neccessary to save our nation, it's okay to put us hard in the red for a few years. While fiscal responsibility is important for the goverment, the most important priority is the people. Pulling 30 million people out of poverty (like Lyndon Johnson did) is a far more important goal, then having a balenced budget. Ending world hunger, and peace is the same way.

Andrew B. Arthur | aarthur@imaclinux.net | http://hvcc.edu/~aa310264
[ Parent ]

No pain no gain (none / 0) (#86)
by Frosty on Mon Aug 20, 2001 at 10:53:26 PM EST

If Satan himself was selling cheaper toilet paper than the mom and pop store (or Wal-Mart for that matter) would you buy from him? I know I wouldn't. If Wal-mart and everything it stands for is so repugnant, why do you spend your money there? If you don't like what Wal-Mart does to communities, then don't help fund their efforts, it's a simple as that. Sure yiou may not be able to find things as cheap elsewhere, but it's the price you have to pay.

I'm not sure I understand what you mean by making Wal-Mart "play fair". there are already laws against slashing prices to simply drive the competition out of business, but that doesn't apply here. Wal-Mart will always be able to sell goods more cheaply than any mom-and pop store because Wal-Mart deals in volume, and that is always cheaper.


[ Parent ]
whose pain, whose gain? (2.50 / 2) (#88)
by eLuddite on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 12:03:43 AM EST

I'm not sure I understand what you mean by making Wal-Mart "play fair".

[...]

Wal-Mart will always be able to sell goods more cheaply than any mom-and pop store because Wal-Mart deals in volume, and that is always cheaper.

Go here, click on the 'W', scroll till you find the Wall-Mart Stores link:
  • National Labor Committee USA 01/07/00 Wal-Mart Sweatshops in Honduras. "Unions are not tolerated in Burma and no collective bargaining exists. Women as young as 14 work in Wal-Mart's Burmese factories."

  • US Newswire 24/11/99 -- Wal-Mart and WTO tagged for globalizing poverty. "Young women making shirts for Wal-Mart are forced to work 87 hours a week and paid 9 to 20 cents an hour for 80 hours, in a Beximco (Bangladesh) garment factory."

  • National Labor Committee, USA, 01/07/00. Wal-Mart Sweatshops in Honduras. "The right to organize is totally denied. Anyone even suspected of organizing a union is immediately, and illegally, fired. The workers do not even have the right to meet so they can learn their rights, let alone raise a grievance. [...] Up to 14-hour daily shifts, occasional mandatory 24-hour shifts, working right through the night, seven-day work weeks if a worker cannot stay for the overtime, they are suspended without pay or fired."
I think you will agree that your neighborhood "Mom & Pop Haberdasher" has not got a prayer of competing with the expansionary likes of Wal-Mart. And it isnt just Wal-Mart; if you were forced to wear clothing not fabricated by wage slavery and/or without the use of materials produced by 3rd World agriculture who, given realistic options might prefer to grow food instead of flax, you would have to go naked. This is true in at least some sense for almost everything you consume.

Something transnationals know that doesnt seem to register on the collective kuro5hin conscience is that the West's current form of consumer capitalism comes at the expense of global exploitation of labor and resources, a form of capitalism referred to as "high capitalism" which exploited us in the 19th century. Transnationals sell locally and produce globally . This should be good for the world, right? Well, the world median income is $1,044. A poverty level income in the US is at the 95th percentile of world income. If you are born in the West, you have won the birth lottery and Western capitalism will do all it can to ensure it stays that way for you.

---
God hates human rights.
[ Parent ]

Not So Easy? (none / 0) (#98)
by roboticlod on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 10:14:40 AM EST

"Americans are in debt - don't buy crap you don't need."

That doesn't work well if your addicted to it. Or those who get fooled by the flashy artwork, sneaky disclamers and fraud.

It's very difficult to say "no" at times. Don't act like it's a piece of cake to do that.

WAH! I feel so sorry for you. Your are addicted to your CD players, and your TV's, and your Palm Pilot. You can't survive without them! If you didn't have them, you would just DIE! Oh my GOD!

Excuse the sarcasm, but give me a break, really. If anything, this comment demonstrates the success of capitalism. People in debt don't need most of the crap that they buy, but they claim that they have a need or a right to it as if those items were life saving devices. How many of the people in debt ran up their credit card bills buying food or shelter? Not many, I would bet. People scraping for food can't get credit. If you can't control your spending and resist the call of shiny baubles, then you deserve to be a slave to the big nasty corporations.

You can't always avoid buying from a corporation. You want a car. The big 3 are all making very unsafe cars. Foriegn cars are very expensive.

What country are you living in? From your reference to the big three auto makers, I assume that you are in the US. Where I live (just outside of DC) foriegn cars aren't expensive, at least not compared to domestic cars. You can get a Honda Civic (very safe car. I would bet that mine has saved my life at least once) for under $14k (MSRP); a freaking Ford Focus(is there much cheaper than a Focus?) is only one or two grand cheaper. It's hard to buy a new car for less than that, but then you could always buy used. Used cars can be just as safe as a new car, and are considerably cheaper.

I don't like everything my employeer does or makes me do. Should I quit my job? The anwser, is probably yes. But can I? No. I need the money to keep my car on the road, pay for college, and the a like.

How about find a different job?

We need goverment for the people, not special interests. A goverment that cares about the people, not profit margins.

If only the government cared about people. The government cares about power, the more the better. Just as everything a corporation does is to achieve greater profit, everything the government does is to gain more power. How do you think that the special interest were able to corrupt our government? By giving them money, not to make them rich, but to get them re-elected.


------------ Hell, I might not even agree with what I say. Sometimes I just like to get ideas out there; to explore them, and to help me figure out what I believe.
[ Parent ]
intelligence required (none / 0) (#113)
by Josh A on Thu Nov 21, 2002 at 08:38:23 AM EST

WAH! I feel so sorry for you. Your are addicted to your CD players, and your TV's, and your Palm Pilot.

Funny how the person you replied to didn't mention any specific kind of product, but you were so quick to judge that it didn't matter.

The addiction isn't to any particular products, but to consumerism itself. And it isn't something people are usually given a choice about. Would you blame a heroin addict for his addiction if you knew his parents started giving it to him as a child? And could you blame them, if they were in the same position as him?

At some point blame becomes counter-productive because someone has to say "I'm not going to be this person anymore and I'm not going to teach my children to be this way either." But this situation isn't really helped by denial and judgement such as yours.

If you can't control your spending and resist the call of shiny baubles, then you deserve to be a slave to the big nasty corporations.

Do you really believe that anyone deserves to be a slave? Does a drug addict deserve to be a slave, too? Does your condemnation and elitist attitude help to heal the situation or does it merely further it?


---
Thank God for Canada, if only because they annoy the Republicans so much. – Blarney


[ Parent ]
People Over Paperwork (1.00 / 1) (#99)
by WombatControl on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 10:17:44 AM EST

We need goverment for the people, not special interests. A goverment that cares about the people, not profit margins.

This "people before profits" mantra is getting very tiring. This recession is happening because corporate profits are tanking. People are losing their jobs, and the quality of life for everyone is going down. Saying you want to put people before profits is like saying you want to put the oxygen above the air. It's a completely false dichotomy, and those who think that economic activity is isolated from their lives need to revisit Economics 101. (Which they probably never took in the first place due to the fact that our American school system provides almost no basic education in economics anymore.)

I believe if something is neccessary to save our nation, it's okay to put us hard in the red for a few years. While fiscal responsibility is important for the goverment, the most important priority is the people. Pulling 30 million people out of poverty (like Lyndon Johnson did) is a far more important goal, then having a balenced budget. Ending world hunger, and peace is the same way.

Here's a word on Johnson's War on Poverty. Poverty won.

Government action will not pull people out of poverty. Private enterprise will. Government action won't end world hunger. Free trade will. Government can create world peace, but only through a strong military and the knowledge that those who perpetuate terror will be found and brought to justice.

I think you've just proven my point quite admirably - people are relying on government to do things it cannot or should not do. The idea that the people are so stupid that Big Government must step in before the Madison Avenue admen brainwash them is one I don't share. My point stands, individual liberties and responsibilities over government bureaucracy and intervention truly "puts people first".

[ Parent ]

People before profits (none / 0) (#105)
by geigertube on Thu Aug 23, 2001 at 12:14:54 PM EST

"This "people before profits" mantra is getting very tiring. This recession is
happening because corporate profits are tanking. People are losing their jobs, and the quality of life for everyone is going down. Saying you want to put people
before profits is like saying you want to put the oxygen above the air. It's a
completely false dichotomy, and those who think that economic activity is
isolated from their lives need to revisit Economics 101. (Which they probably
never took in the first place due to the fact that our American school system
provides almost no basic education in economics anymore.) "

Its been my experience that the "People before Profits" mantra is a reaction to the amoral nature of the corporation. Its a call to introduce a consideration of social impact into the corporate decision making process, not to make profit unimportant.

That said, high profits does not necessarly equate with low unemployment. Massive layoffs have been enacted during times of record profits for various corporations.

"My point stands, individual liberties and responsibilities over government bureaucracy and intervention truly "puts people first"."

Lets set the Way Back machine to the early industral revolution, and lets see how great individual liberty and responsibility did..

Effectively, every factory job was a 6-7 day a week sweatshop. Railroad tycoons, robber barons, etc. It took organized labor and govt regulation to put an end to that. Im not saying that capitalism is a horrible thing here, but rather that people can be assholes, and given half a chance and some power to do it with, they will screw you over and take advantage of you.

It seems to me that both govt and businesses can be used to exploit/harm people, and both can be used to improve quality of life. Looks like people who take sides on this issue are being selective with their data gathering.



[ Parent ]
bah (none / 0) (#110)
by rinikusu on Sun Aug 26, 2001 at 06:20:07 AM EST

I agree with most of it (hell, I'm an Objectivist (*not* a libertarian), or so I think I am, anyway). here's an interesting thought, though, that pertains to laissez-faire capitalism: The corporation is *not* a legal entity. It requires a GOVERNMENT to define what it can and cannot do. In fact, early corporations (found in Britain, maybe you've heard of a few (think "boston tea party")) were given limited charters by governments to pursue a goal for a limited time, and then the charter was up. Now, in a laissez-faire economy, can a CORPORATION truly exist? If the government does NOT interfere with business, as is the case with "theoretical" laissez-faire capitalism, would we have the same "mega-corporation" problems that we have today? Would our standard of living be worse or better? Would we be bitching about it online? Just something to ponder for awhile.. Maybe I ought to send this to ARI.. :)

[ Parent ]
I think not (4.57 / 7) (#74)
by trhurler on Mon Aug 20, 2001 at 07:15:32 PM EST

Feedback is a problem in any system of significant size. Well, quality feedback is, anyway.

A home mortgage, provided you can pay it, is a great investment, unless you're in a bad neighborhood. Homes, over time, tend to appreciate quite nicely. My parents' place, which they paid off over a couple of decades, is worth at least three times what they paid for it, and a lot of that payment would have gone into useless rent had they not purchased.

The notion that anywhere near half the US land area is being farmed is pretty interesting, seeing as very nearly that much of it is not in fact even cleared of trees. Perhaps you should rethink this claim...

86% of farms may be privately owned, but they account for a tiny percentage of the farmed acreage. As usual, liars can figure.

Employers are not trying to drive down wages using H1-B. They're trying to find qualified employees. It is harder than you think, if you need them in any kind of hurry, and if you don't, then you probably aren't actually in "business." Want to see this problem alleviated? Get kids to pay attention in math and science classes; we're lagging behind most of the developed world!

Unions were not "destroyed" in the early 1900s. In fact, unions as we know them today didn't even exist in 1900; their legal protections, which give them the courage to strike, are more recent. The Teamsters and UAW reached the height of their power in the 60s and 70s.

Almost all businesses at any given point in time in the US are run by entrepreneurs. The failure rate, as it has always been, is spectacular. This hardly means entrepreneurship is dead. As for capital, small investors have most of it in the US.

More in another post; my machine has to go down right now.

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

Continued... (4.60 / 5) (#75)
by trhurler on Mon Aug 20, 2001 at 07:43:12 PM EST

Sorry about the second post; we had a power test.

Now, as for reaping rewards, viewed as a proportion of the total, almost all rich people in the US are first generation rich. Interestingly, it is very hard to go from poor to middle class(probably partly due to the welfare state's incentives not to work and the tax code's tendency to screw over the same poor people it is supposedly helping,) but it is not hard to go from middle class to filthy rich, if you're dedicated.

Your externalities argument is amusing. The reason toxic waste is dumped is not because storing it properly need be expensive - it is because government regulation has made it expensive. Massively expensive and redundant studies, for instance, are required in order to set up a containment facility for moderate amounts of low level nuclear material - despite the fact that this problem is well understood and requires no more care than any other commercial engineering project! (An accidental release of such materials is typically less of a concern than, say, a bridge collapsing - and yet bridges do not take 20 years and billions of dollars to construct!)

Globalism is a meaningless term. Everyone uses it to mean whatever he considers to be bad about present trade agreements, and nobody agrees on what it means. If you mean the "free trade" trend, then "free trade" is good, but the present agreements are probably not. You elected the statist assholes in charge; why are you whining when they do what statist assholes DO? Did you really think they'd uphold real "free trade"? :)

The fact that we are social doesn't make us naturally totally cooperative; this assumption of yours is simply false. Therefore, your entire analysis of competition is flawed.

The attempt to classify DMCA and WIPO as deliberate assaults on free software is simply pathetic. Anyone who doesn't see through this transparent appeal to his emotions(I'm tempted to use the t-word,) clearly isn't thinking. Granted, they're bad law, but they've got bigger fish to fry; "we" are not the intended target, but rather just collateral damage.

I would love to see you name a piece of stereo gear that is prone to fire which has been sold in the US in recent memory. I'm pretty sure you're "talking out your ass" this time.

There are no SUVs that roll over in 90% of accidents. You're "making shit up." Go look up the actual NHTSB and related agencies' figures, if you like.

VCRs are so cheap these days that you're obviously just being silly.

I've never had any clothing fall apart after 20 washes, let alone any brand name items.

Bloc purchasing is quite common - in areas where it actually yields benefits. The problem is, this usually requires a commodity, and often the overhead is greater than the price improvement.

You are daydreaming about corporate power in government; most corporations donate to every politician who has a chance of winning that might influence their business - as do other lobbies. You should look into how this all actually works, instead of just listening to scare speeches from anticorp fanatics and congressmen from Arizona.

Quality of life in the US is rising. Even for really poor people. Once again, you're just bullshitting.

This was either an amazingly ignorant piece of trashtalk you wrote, or else a troll. Care to explain which?:)

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

[ Parent ]
Refreshing To See an Alternative Look (4.00 / 5) (#85)
by AArthur on Mon Aug 20, 2001 at 10:39:16 PM EST

I am getting really tired of libertarian/pro-bussiness/conservative views that seem to dominate these forums as of late. Kuro5hin has a strong right bias, you rarely see an article advocating liberal policies.

Having a clean enviroment, having freedom, ending world hunger, ending wars, are priceless. You can't put a price tag on life.

The goverment can do many good things for us. It's shear power can blind us, and legislators.

You don't have to look far what the goverment has provided you, that would be impratical, and more expensive on the free-market. Roads. Internet. Mininum wage. Social Security. Welfare. Safe Cars & Housing. Clean air.

The word Liberal is often abused. Liberals are ones who believe the power of the people and goverment can be harnassed in non-traditional ways, to work towards creating a better tommorow.

Andrew B. Arthur | aarthur@imaclinux.net | http://hvcc.edu/~aa310264

Mass Media (4.00 / 4) (#92)
by Kasreyn on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 04:28:15 AM EST

Capitalism was a working system, before the mass media came along. I'm a bit tired and it's late, so I won't go into it in depth (which, knowing me, would add about 5 pages to this "comment" ;-). This is my short glance at the topic (shudder).

Basically, "feedback" no longer has any effect on the capitalist model, because the relationship between the business and the customer has changed with mass media and its ability to permeate our entire culture with advertising programming. What good is it for a few philosophers to say to each other, "well, if they don't like the product, they'll buy another"? That's not the way it works anymore. The advertising determines FOR them what they will buy.

The quality of the product is no longer the chief factor in people's decisions. Now, it's the quality of the advertising. The company with glitzier, sexier advertising will sell more of a product almost irregardless of its quality, as long as they avoid Firestone-esque scandals, that is. And even scandals can be covered up, if one has sufficient wealth. As long as they do nothing to wake the customer from his sweet dreams, with visions of brightly colored plastic packaging dancing in his head, the love affair of the consumer and the product will not have to end!

All the other market forces are skewed out of order by this amazing change in civilization. Corporations, AOL-Time Warner being a prime example, have the ability to instill whatever ideals, goals, dreams, wants, that they desire, into the laborers/consumers. The whole point of marketing is to make someone want, and thus buy, something they don't need. I mean, come on. How many advertisements do you see on TV for bread, or milk? How many ads do you see for single-color bland Hanes cotton T-shirts and plain old Levi's jeans? Not a lot. What you DO see advertisements for are Yoo-hoo. You DO see advertisements for Gap clothes, which are much more expensive. You DO see advertisements for fashion clothes and Tommy Hilfiger everything.

What I'm saying is you don't see ads for the very basics of life because everyone needs them already. Those markets have a supply and demand curve based in the REAL WORLD, determined largely by population figures. The more people, the more demand for bread. End of story. Other products have a supply and demand curve that is based only vaguely in reality, and mostly on the ability of mass marketing to instill in people a desire to own the product. The desire must be instilled, like a kind of planned hallucination, because on their own, people would never think to spend their limited resources (money) on useless junk.

Mass media makes it all possible, and in particular, mass marketing. Before mass marketing, capitalism worked a lot more closely to how it is theorized. If you made a shoddy product, people would find out, and switch to another company. Word would spread by mouth, and you'd go out of business. Thus, to prevent this, you would compete to provide a great product at a low price, and keep your customers. The theory of capitalism was that this would happen, and everyone would benefit.

Nowadays, many things prevent this. Advertising in the media prevents people from basing their buying decisions in the REAL WORLD, instead they stare at a million and one "New and Improved!!!" stickers. It's a game of who can lie most convincingly. Now you do not need to make a great product, or even have a low price, to keep your customers. All you have to do is make them think they're getting a great deal, or getting something they desperately need. In today's world, a person who knows how to put off their desires of the moment is a marketing man's worst enemy.

Secondly, word of mouth is no longer an effective way of spreading knowledge of a faulty product. People get their news from - you guessed it ;) - corporate-controlled news media. There are a lot MORE of us, too, making it harder to find someone else who has used this product, and ask them their opinion of it. It is also harder to speak out about faulty products, as various "greedy-corporation-vs-John-Doe-internet-forum-poster" so-called libel cases have shown. If you attempt to point out a company's poor product, you can be accused (and convicted!) of anything from libel to stock market manipulation (!!). (that's the one that really gets me. If that can be called stock market manipulation, then ANYTHING can be called stock market manipulation - and will be.) Finally, we are as a people more isolated than ever, and are brought up to have our TV be our only link to the world around us - a link which can distort reality in any glib way its controllers want.

Finally, the way corporations are gobbling each other up and monopolizing, there is a third problem for consumers. Even IF you somehow find out before you buy it, that a product is of poor quality, you may find you have no other alternative products. Companies like Microsoft are trying very hard to bring about a world in which they will not have to worry about a competitor taking "their" profits. A world, in MS's case, in which there is only one OS to choose from. They're trying to go into the bread business - they want a stable market where everyone thinks they "need" their product and can't do without. A world in which they no longer have ANY fear of losing their customers, and thus will not have to put out any effort. As things are rapidly moving towards this point, even if you learn a product is of low quality, you will be trapped into either buying it anyway, or doing without. The end result of this world will be a world of few corporations, doing a lazy and slipshod job at a high price, with a very few rich people gathering in the majority of the profits. Congratulations, Western Society; it's only taken you a few centuries to go from Feudalism to Capitalism, and back again...

Like I said before, it's late and I'm tired. I can't think of any decent finish-up to this comment, so please reply and tell me what you think. Let me just say that, even before the advent of the mass media, not all was well in capitalism, and it was always an imbalanced and unfair system. However, the imbalance and unfairness have made a marked increase, and I think the media is to blame. How to combat this, I have no friggin' idea.

Ok, to bed with me!


-Kasreyn


"Extenuating circumstance to be mentioned on Judgement Day:
We never asked to be born in the first place."

R.I.P. Kurt. You will be missed.
Got Milk? (none / 0) (#96)
by MicroBerto on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 08:08:16 AM EST

I mean, come on. How many advertisements do you see on TV for bread, or milk?
While your overall argument is dead-on, I'd have to beg to differ on this minute detail. The dairy farmers have somewhat recently launched quite a new (and seemingly successful) advertising campaign. I'm sure you've heard the phrase "Got Milk?", and the billion of spoofs around it!

Everyone's got their hands in the advertising, even the people who already have your business. They're just hanging on for the future generations.

Berto
- GAIM: MicroBerto
Bertoline - My comic strip
[ Parent ]

Reply for Microberto and Klanza... (5.00 / 1) (#103)
by Kasreyn on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 05:42:43 PM EST

...since I'm feeling lazy. =P

Yes, I've heard of the "Got Milk?" advertising blitz. In fact, I've even seen some humorous pr0n online based on that... But this is a coalition of dairies, advertising for a common goal. You still don't see advertisements saying things like, "Prairie Farms milk tastes better than Dean's milk, listen to these testimonials..." This is because milk is... is... (sigh) Look, I know there's an economist's term for a product like this. It is neccessary for life, and there's not much difference in quality between brands. Thus, you just don't see any competetive advertising. All the companies have to do is put their product in supermarket aisles, and they KNOW it will get bought. No consumer surveys needed. No advertising for their brand. What the "Got Milk?" campaign is for, is an attempt to make people buy MORE milk than they need (because, once again, people will buy what they *need* on their own - you have to make them *want* other things).

And for Klanza, I already live the way you suggested. Partially because I'm dirt poor ;-P, but also I maintain a running list of companies I refuse to buy from due to their predatory practises. Also, whenever I see advertising that insults my intelligence, I make a resolution to NOT buy from that company. So I do my part, in my small way. =P


-Kasreyn


"Extenuating circumstance to be mentioned on Judgement Day:
We never asked to be born in the first place."

R.I.P. Kurt. You will be missed.
[ Parent ]
Not... (none / 0) (#112)
by IriseLenoir on Wed Sep 26, 2001 at 04:29:07 PM EST

Milk is in no way neccessary for life. I don't drink any milk. Mankind is the only speacie that drink milk all it's life (and the only one to drink another speacies' milk) and it has only been like this for a few thousand years. The Diary industry is very monopolised in north america (especially the US). So it is trying to create a need to sell their product. Buisness as usual.
"liberty is the mother of order, not its daughter" - Pierre-Joseph Proudhon
[ Parent ]
What you can do about it (none / 0) (#100)
by klanza on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 12:00:17 PM EST

So just don't buy stuff you don't need. Then those big ol' nasty corporations will just be wasting their money. If you insist on being nothing but a "consumer" who just must buy something, you can count on being shafted.

[ Parent ]
Agree wholeheartedly (none / 0) (#109)
by sab39 on Fri Aug 24, 2001 at 05:20:14 PM EST

I agree with almost all of this comment. The biggest problems with capitalism in practice boil down to "advertising" and "monopolies". Unfortunately:

Regulating monopolies doesn't seem to work so well in practice. Okay, so they're going after Microsoft, what about the music industry, the telephone industry, the television industry, the broadband industry...? In all of these areas, either one company has a geographically-bounded monopoly, or a bunch of companies have essentially agreed to split the market and block out all other competition. Where are the regulators? Or, if you oppose government regulation, just how exactly do you propose that "the market will sort it out"?

And how on *earth* do you regulate advertising? Most countries (as far as I know) require that the content of any given commercial be truthful in terms of any factual claims it makes, but advertising has very little to do with factual claims and a lot to do with glitz and glamor. Since (as far as I can make out) advertising *always* works to the detriment of the free market, a "true capitalistic" society should not allow any advertising. But how do you do that, in a free market, when there's obviously a market for it? How do you even define advertising? And if you *do* successfully ban advertising, what happens to all the ad-supported services out there? How do they then pay their expenses? What happens to k5 and /.?

If anybody can provide answers to *either* of these issues, please run for government office as soon as possible ;)

Stuart.
--
"Forty-two" -- Deep Thought
"Quinze" -- Amélie

[ Parent ]
Feedback: consumer surveys (3.00 / 2) (#93)
by Paul Johnson on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 05:01:28 AM EST

the only direct method of signaling dis-satisfaction in the marketplace is via the price of a good

Actually this is not true. I, like most other people I assume, occasionally get spragged in the high street by people doing consumer surveys. I always take part in them if I have time because its my chance to send a signal to a manufacturer about what I would like their product to be and what price I am prepared to pay for it. Also in many industries, particularly service industries, I find I have to beat off people begging me for feedback on how well they are doing.

The example given here (the music industry) is a poor one. The real problem with the music industry is that it is a cartel. Monopolies are a vice of capitalist economies, and one of the main reasons why they need government regulation. Presumably Sig11 didn't mention them because there is nothing mythical about them.

BTW, good article Siggy. Should have been Front Page.

Paul.
You are lost in a twisty maze of little standards, all different.

The Myths of the "Myths of Capitalism" (5.00 / 2) (#106)
by Just Swing It on Thu Aug 23, 2001 at 01:02:28 PM EST

I disagree with this post primarily because it makes assumptions which do not prove true, it omits important points, and I fundamentally disagree with the poster's opinion. However, I'll try to just focus on the first two. I'll also try to keep it short.

Feedback

The free market is the tool of feedback in a capitalist society. Believe me, large corporations notice if a product doesn't sell as they projected. They can't afford to ignore sub-standard sales, as their profit per-unit must exceed their fixed research and development costs.

Compensation

The poster seems to be paranoid about corporations. "Large corporations own this ... Large corporations own that..." The fact is, that once you get down to the base of the corporation, it is owned by people. That's right, individuals own all "corporate" property (land, labor, capital, and entrepreneurship). If you own stock, whether it's 5 shares of NASDAQ: MSFT or 51% of it, you own a part of all the property it owns. In reality, Bill Gates owns more of it than you do, but he has had the riskier position starting the business.

Externalities

Here, I don't know whether you haven't thought this out, or just left it out purposefully because it hurts your argument here, but there are positive externalities, too. Positive externalities are unintended consequences of economic activity that have a "warm and fuzzy" effect. When a company releases a vaccine for some disease, and it sells the vaccine such that it eventually gets administered to a population, not only the people immunized benefit from their innoculation, but others also benefit. The immunized population cannot catch the disease, and therefore they cannot spread it.

Not only people benefit from positive externalities. The Trans-Alaskan Pipeline, besides transporting oil across Alaska, has benefited the caribou. Yes, it was argued before and during the construction of the pipeline that it would harm the caribou, limiting their natural environment, etc, etc. However, the fact that the pipeline is warm has encouraged the caribou to mate, leading to an explosion in the caribou population.

Competition

The fact is, though that capitalism is good! The reason competition works is that things that are in one person's best interest, are 99% of the time in the next person's best interest. The company that makes computers wants to sell computers for money, and the person who wants a computer wants to buy a computer for money. Company A wants to sell a computer as does Company B. They WILL compete. This leads to a lower price or a better quality product for the consumer.

Consumer Protection & Government Protection

I somehow expect that company X that makes the "defective" MP3 player makes more than just MP3/CD players. I bet next time you will think twice about purchasing a product of theirs. I bet that you will think twice about purchasing products that have molded plastic hinges from now on, too.

Conclusion

Another trend that has been negatively portrayed by the author of the article is globalization. This allows companies to consolidate fixed costs, which decreases average costs, as marginal costs stay the same. They can provide a cheaper, better product to more people. The argument about cheap labor is rendered to nothing but shreds once one understands the Law of Comparative Advantage.


1/((sin x)^2*cos x) - (cos x) / (sin x)^2
Myths of Capitalism | 113 comments (86 topical, 27 editorial, 0 hidden)
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