This page of my site contains the majority of an online debate I had with two pro-capitalist friends of mine in early August of 2010, cut and pasted with a minor amount of editing for grammar and point clarification. I included it on my site since many important points regarding the issue of Marxian socialism vs. capitalism were expressed, and I thought my readers would benefit from seeing this debate, as well as enjoy seeing two pro-capitalist buds of mine get totally pwned by yours truly ;-) Please note: My words in the debate below appear in standard type face, while the comments by Alex and Bob are in bold face.
The Great Debate begins in the next paragraph, with opening words from yours truly:
If people in this country truly owned everything they created, then there wouldn't be a tiny class of owners since the infrastructure is created via collective labor; it doesn't matter who fronts the money. I agree with Ron Paul in regards to his stance on social ethics, but his economic ethics have less compassion than Hitler.
Bob: You seem to view money in a magical way. You say "it doesn't matter who fronts the money", even though that money represents their labor and productivity in the past. It isn't quite as evil as slavery, to steal a person's past rather than their present, but it is hardly ethical.
Money isn't inherently evil in a metaphysical sense, of course; it's an abstraction that represents value in a system where all goods are commodities to be sold at a profit. Nevertheless, the existence of money, production for private profit rather than simply to meet the needs of everyone in society, and a system that relies on money for absolutely everything leads to very negative behavior and priorities on the part of the people living under that system. This can be seen not only in the capitalists themselves, but also in the members of the labor class who defend capitalism. I wouldn't be able to sleep at night if I espoused such a huge lack of compassion for my fellow workers and took pride in the negative aspects of human behavior, which is why I refuse to support the present system any longer.
And yes, it doesn't matter who fronts the money, because by saying it represents the labor and productivity of just a few people in the past, you are suggesting the common but totally bogus implication that fortunes were made by a small number of elites working hard, saving money, earning it through honest labor, taking risks to build the fortune further, etc. The vast majority of wealthy people in the modern age inherited their money and grew up as trust fund babies and never had a need to work in their lives. Many of the big fortunes controlled by the wealthy few today, including the Bush family, were made as far back as the 19th century.
Further, operating a big business requires the labor of a multitude of people, not just a few. Capitalists hire all of these people to do the labor for them. Throwing around huge amounts of money is not the same thing as doing a huge amount of labor. Even if one person came up with a certain idea that led to a fortune being made, the fact remains that this one person will not and cannot do all the work required to build a multi-million dollar business entirely on his or her own. Labor in an industrialized society is a collective effort, and almost nothing is created entirely by the labor of just a few people. Back in the early days of America, when we were still largely an agrarian society, and no multi-million dollar corporations as we know them today existed, but instead consisted of numerous small private businesses and farms, then it could be argued that the family-owned enterprises, who had few if any employees, deserved the full amount of wealth produced by that business. But currently, big businesses are run by a large number of people, and as such, the fruit of this collective labor rightfully belongs to the entirety of society, not just to a few individuals.
Alex: So they must be protected from the exploitation they consented to (by taking the post)? Hmmm…
It's still a form of coercion and exploitation despite the fact that they willingly took the post because they had no choice if they wanted a job to help them make a living. Most workers have no choice but to work under the conditions that their capitalist masters dictate to them, and when one is desperate for a job, as many workers often are, this necessitates them agreeing to take specific jobs and agree to work under certain conditions that they would not do if more options were available to them. Also, do you think workers agree to take pay cuts, downsizing, outsourcing, the decrease of benefits, the playing of their pensions on the stock market, or other things of this nature that their employers routinely do? They have no choice but to deal with this, because they own nothing but their ability to work and hence have no choice but to work under such conditions, and have no choice but to agree to accept a paycheck that represents a mere fraction of the wealth they and their fellow workers helped produce as opposed to receiving the full fruit of their labor.
I remember many years ago when I was working for this one particular company, a sheet was passed around to all the workers requiring them to sign it. The memo basically said that we were to agree to allow the company to let us go anytime they chose, for any reason. When we protested, we were told that we had to sign it, otherwise we would be let go right then and there. Most of us were desperate for work at the time (I certainly was!) because we lived in a highly economically depressed area, and couldn't afford to lose this job. Hence, we had no choice but to sign the paper and keep our fingers crossed (btw, I did check into the legality of the situation according to the labor laws of my state, and found that what the company did was perfectly within the law, and this was to be expected since the workers at my company weren't unionized). Hence, it's no surprise that people agree to bad deals and exploitive working conditions when they have no other choice and desperately need a job to pay the bills that our wonderful capitalist system places at our doorstep every month.
Bob: I get where you're coming from, but you make some false presumptions.
First, you suggest that in early America there were no large corporations, whereas in fact European colonialism - in the Americas and elsewhere - were driven by large corporations.
Large corporations as we know them today were quite non-existent during the era when America was founded. Colonialism was indeed the equivalent of "big business" at the time, but it wasn't characterized by huge and extremely expensive factories where the average person had no hope of saving up enough money to afford, and where labor was done by numerous employees instead of just the owner and his family. The tools of production at the time were simple and affordable enough that the average person had a good chance of being able to save up enough money to purchase them and thus starting his own business, and having his own family do most of the labor, without having huge amounts of employees doing most or all of the work. The rich of that time period were mostly the royalty, with private merchants slowly but surely gaining more wealth and power so that they were eventually able to initiate a revolution to a new economic system (capitalism).
Second, you presume that large corporations produce most of the wealth that you wish to transfer to others, whereas in fact it is small business that still provides the great majority of jobs and production, even in the United States.
That depends on how you define the term "small business." I have a friend who has a very successful small business, but she alone does all the work. She doesn't have any employees, and doesn't see herself needing to hire anyone other than perhaps one secretary as her business continues to grow. She doesn't need huge amounts of expensive equipment in order to conduct her business, but simply a computer with Internet access and a telephone. Thus, she is capable of operating the entire business alone. Larger businesses have employees, who do a large portion of the work, and if that is the case, then the owners do not create the bulk of the wealth. And the largest businesses, what we today consider "big business," has as many as thousands of employees, with little or no useful work done by the owners. Small businesses do not have nearly as much financial clout as the large businesses, and are often driven out of business by the superior competitive edge possessed by large corporations, as evidenced by what happens to many of the "mom and pop" stores in any given area when a corporate juggernaut like a Wal-Mart opens in the near vicinity. Big businesses are inexorably taking over everything, with smaller chains providing the same services being gradually forced out of business. That is a prime example of what Marx called "concentration of capital," and it's inevitable in a capitalist system.
Third, you presume that the large corporations are owned by a few very rich people, whereas in fact they are usually owned by a multitude of small investors, whether directly or via large pension funds and the like.
These small investors do not get enough back from the companies in order to make a living. I was given profit sharing in the company I worked for back in the '90s, and I was lucky to get back $1,000 per year. It was a small handful of big wigs who actually had millions of dollars to invest that got the vast returns which made their families entirely supported by trust funds. Profit sharing and the stock market are a joke to anyone who does not have millions of dollars to invest. Further, it should be noted that investing is not contributing any useful work. It is simply throwing around and manipulating money.
Fourth, you presume that most people with large fortunes have inherited it from long ago, whereas the most prominent rich people I can think of - Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, Carlos Slim, etc. - made most of their fortunes for themselves.
The vast majority of people with large fortunes who claim to be "self-made" and started with almost nothing turn out to have had families who were extremely well off to begin with or who were largely funded by the government and thus conducted their research with no financial risk to themselves whatsoever. The biggest fortunes in America were indeed made over a century ago. Further, regardless of whether or not a large corporation was founded by one person Horatio Alger-style, it doesn't change the fact that in order for a tiny business venture to become a large corporation, it rapidly requires the work of hundreds or thousands of laborers, and is never the work of just one or a few people. Though the business structure of America (and the world too) is owned by a handful of people who collect the lion's share of the wealth produced, all of the products, infrastructure, and ideas are created by millions of laborers working collectively with each other.
Fifth, you presume that those who have created wealth do not have a right to give it away without interference, for otherwise they would have the right to pass their wealth on to their children, to pass on to their children in turn.
Trust fund babies do no useful work and contribute effectively nothing to society throughout their entire lives, but live in opulant privilege via an accident of birth. On the other hand, millions of children in the U.S. alone live in impoverished conditions without a fraction of what the trust fund babies have despite the fact that their parents, members of the common labor class, often work as many as three jobs to feed, clothe, and shelter the family. These menial jobs are often quite difficult and put a lot of added stress on these families, who are not guaranteed jobs and therefore live with an extreme fear of want and what the following week may bring. This is why a growing number of people believe that a decent lifestyle should be a right that all working people have, without a tiny handful of individuals who usually contribute nothing useful living in fantastic privilege in comparison. Now that technology can produce an abundance for everyone in the world, there is no longer any moral or material justification for this extreme disparity.
There are plenty of places where criticism is appropriate: while most wealthy people create wealth, there is a large group that has made their money by playing politics, using the law to restrict competition, or providing questionable services to the government. Our elected "representatives", in turn, bear a great deal of responsibility for this, as do the people who vote in favor of more government interference in every aspect of life, which inevitably leads to greater corruption and more tax monies being diverted to the rich.
Very true, but this is the inevitable result of a system based on class divisions. It should be no surprise to anyone that those with the most amount of money have the power and influence to twist the workings of the government to their benefit. Who do you think pours the largest amount of contributions into the coffers of politicians during election time? Why do you think the tax laws invariably end up favoring the tiny handful with the highest income? The only wealthy people who "create" wealth are those who actually work, and those who are actually required to work in order to earn their sizable income are not truly members of the capitalist class (this would include physicians, lawyers, professional athletes in the big leagues, successful actors and musicians, etc.).
You are correct that hiring people to do work for you is not the same as doing the labor for yourself, but you neglect to note that it is more appropriately seen as an exchange of labor: the exchange of the fruits of the investor's labor for the labor of the employee. You seem to think that once a person has scrimped and saved to build up capital, it is their duty to give it away to those who - for whatever reason, whether bad luck or wastefulness - do not have capital of their own. In other words, though I know you don't intend this, you condone theft and slavery, on the grounds that the investor might be a criminal. Just as some people prevent teens from exercising their rights because they might make an error.
As I have noted many times during these charming debates of ours, it's pretty much impossible in the present post-industrial era for the average joe to "scrimp and save" enough money to buy what is required to make millions of dollars these days, which is greatly expensive equipment and technology, large factories, an enormous labor force, etc. This is why it's a myth that the vast majority of rich people once had the same type of menial service oriented jobs as the average member of the working class and saved up vast amounts of money simply by working three jobs and being incredibly frugal. Most average people who have three jobs can barely scrimp and save enough money to pay next month's rent, the phone bill, the food bill, the utilities (if not included in the rent, though if they are, the rent will usually be higher), etc. This is not to mention the fact that these workers have no idea whatsoever if they will be laid off or have their work "outsourced" to India the following week, thus causing them to endure an unknown period of time where they will be unemployed and thus hurting severely. That is everyday reality for the working class.
The early, pre-industrial days of life in this country, where the tools of production were relatively simple and affordable enough so that many average workers could conceivably save up enough money and purchase them to start their own businesses, have long slipped back into the mists of time. All corporations today can only operate with a multitude of laborers working in tandem, meaning that all the wealth of society is the collective work of the aptly named working class, not those who receive the lion's share of the wealth not by working but by "owning." Hence, the aforementioned lion's share that is extracted from the collective labor of millions of workers as profit is a form of legalized theft, which workers have no choice but to go along with since they own nothing accept their imperishable labor power. This situation also constitutes a form of blatant exploitation.
There are no valid material or moral reasons for poverty, urban decay, homelessness, or involuntary unemployment or idleness to exist anymore in this post-industrial era. Thus, I will not support a system that is based on the continuation of such conditions via the exploitation of one large class of people by another, far smaller class, especially when you consider the many other social consequences of this type of system, such as crime, war, and environmental degredation, none of which usually affect the tiny number of wealthy people (unlike the members of the working class).
I know you're better than that, [Insurrectionist], but I wish you could see what you are proposing.
I know you're better than that too, Bob, and a very decent person, which is why I wish you could see what you are defending.
Bob: "Big businesses are inexorably taking over everything, with smaller chains providing the same services being gradually forced out of business. That is called "concentration of capital," and it's inevitable in a capitalist system."
Perhaps not inevitable, but certainly a tendency. As a countering trend there are niche markets and innovations which lead new businesses to replace the old. However, there is another huge problem, which generally makes use of government interference in the markets - usually in the name of making things better (for the thieves, that is).
I am not sure what aspect of government intervention in businesses you are getting at here (some I agree with, and some I do not), but I will say one thing when it comes to one of the biggest 'sore spots' of this tendency: capitalists and conservative politicians always call for deregulation, claiming private enterprise can do anything government-offered services do much better and without any government oversight, only to jump at the chance of a government bail-out whenever they routinely screw up--largely due to the lack of any oversight (note the recent situation with the banks). Franklin Delano Roosevelt largely introduced oversight to save capitalism from its own excesses, something the deregulation zealots seem to forget, or willfully overlook.
So, you're saying that if I am a teacher or a doctor or the like, and I invest my wages as capital for a company which produces useful products, I have not done any useful work? Are you not aware that money acts as a proxy for labor? You say that profit sharing only got you - at best - $1000 in one year, but that's three times the annual income in many African nations, which, incidentally, suffer from a lack of capital. It is also $1000 more than you would have had otherwise.
You are totally missing the point here, not to mention looking silly by arguing that $1000 in revenue from stock investments in the course of a single year is something to be happy about for a person living in America. The fact remains, regardless of how much $1000 in American currency is worth in other countries, it's less than peanuts here if you only get that amount annually. Secondly, it may be $1000 more than I would have had otherwise, but it's far, far from anything I could live off of and no longer have to work. What may be a small fortune in Third World nations is often less than a pittance in a wealthy First World nation like America, and that speaks volumes about how low our quality of living is in comparison to what it could and should be. Rich people invest millions of dollars in the stock market without contributing any substantial work, and end up getting huge returns that they can live off of without ever having to lift a finger. This is not a proxy for labor, it's no labor at all. Money is never a replacement for labor, because if you have vast amounts of the former, you can hire vast amounts of the latter to do all the work for you, while taking the lion's share for yourself because you put forth the money. Putting forth the actual work should count far more than it does.
Incidentally, as an example of how capital contributes to the success of a business, consider two small retail stores. Both have similar stocks of goods and similarly qualified staff, but one has the capital required to invest in an automated system to handle sales - cash registers, UPC codes, scanners, the lot. Because one store has the system and the other does not, the time required to make a purchase drops from an average of 15 minutes to 1 minute; better inventory control means less lossage; and customers migrate to the store which saves their valuable time. Lower operating costs also mean lower prices that make the one store more competitive while benefiting customers. That "useless" capital, a proxy for the work done (originally, perhaps in the distant past) by the investor or their forebears, has made one business more efficient than the other and has benefited investors, employees, and customers.
The problem is, money is an abstraction that does not actually need to exist in order for labor to create useful products. Labor power actually exists objectively, and is the only truly necessary component in producing anything of value to benefit society. Money only has value, and only confers power and influence, because the current system says it does.
And I think I can use the example of Wal-Mart to refute your above point quite easily. Wal-Marts open everywhere and routinely knocks "mom and pop" stores out of business. The greatly wealthy owners of Wal-Mart stores can afford to offer lower prices than these struggling small businesses--and does so temporarily, until these smaller family-owned businesses are gone and the level of competition in any given area wiped clean. Then, the prices steadily go up, with customers having little choice but to continue shopping there, because now Wal-Mart is virtually the only game in town, in addition to being the only store that can afford to have such a large array of inventory. Small businesses cannot hope to compete with these few large juggernauts, which is one of the major reasons for the inexorable concentration of capital in fewer and fewer hands as time marches on. If we lived in a moneyless system where production was done simply to meet the needs and wants of everybody in society, there would be no need for the type of harsh and ruthless competition that you mentioned, no need for some to suffer in order for others to benefit, and every distribution outlet could have a large degree of inventory without forcing consumers to "shop around" or "compare prices." All of that unethical and unnecessary nonsense that is the business world would end.
You are stereotyping here. Certainly some are like this, but many contribute quite a bit to society. You don't notice the ones who aren't making asses of themselves, but they are there.
The point is, trust fund babies do not have to work, even if they choose to do so. Many who do get involved with "causes" often do so out of boredom or because of the good P.R. they get in return for it. And if they do choose to work, their livelihood isn't dependent upon it, and they never have to work at something that isn't in harmony with their personal talents or interests. The vast majority of people, in contrast to them, are required to work, and very hard at that. Further, they do not have the luxury of choosing work that is meaningful to their personal talents and interests, but are usually forced to take "anything they can get." It's not a matter of choice at all for these workers.
You talk about an "accident of birth", and looking back it appears to be so. After all, you did not have any input into the decision for you to be born, and raised, and cared for. But looking forward it appears quite different: did your parents wake up one morning and find that - without any involvement on their part - they had a bouncing baby boy? If you some day have children and manage to set aside a little money for them, how will you feel when someone shows up one day to take it away to give to someone else's child, because after all the fact that you did not spend it immediately demonstrates that your children won't really benefit from it?
I would like my children to be useful and productive members of society, and to contribute something important to the world, in concert with whatever their individual talents and interests turn out to be, rather than living an idle existence where they do not have to be responsible about anything at all and are guaranteed to be easy winners for all of their lives (read: George W. Bush). I wouldn't expect my children to have everything in the world if it meant that millions of other people had to live in starvation and poverty when the latter could be avoided. That is not responsibility in any way, shape, or form. I definitely would like to leave something to my children, but not if it came at the abject expense of others. I believe it's much more fruitful to fight for a better world for my kids to live in than to try to leave them with a fortune so as to shelter them from a world where 98% of everyone is not living well. If I ever became a millionaire, I would certainly keep enough money to live comfortably (no Marxist in existence has ever or would ever ask anyone to take a voluntary vow of poverty, nor do we believe that poverty is a "good" or noble thing), but I wouldn't whine incessantly because a relatively small portion of it was taxed for the public good. That would be the least I could do for a society whose working class labored their asses off every day to make me wealthy in the first place.
I know someone who wanted to help a poor family. They had so little, you see, and her family had so much. That poor family had trouble putting food on the table, and had difficulty finding gas money for their car.
So, she visited that family shortly after Christmas, and found that the father had been able to use his Christmas bonus to buy some toys for his children - including a go-cart that by itself cost four times as much as everything she had received for Christmas - and the child that had received it was reckless and had already destroyed it, and once again had . . . so little.
Surely, she should have given away all her worldly possessions to make up for her "accident of birth"?
You totally misunderstand the Marxian principles, as well as the principles of progressivism. None of us have suggested that rich people should give up absolutely everything they have; rather, we believe that they shouldn't hoard far more than they will ever possibly need to live comfortably when millions of their fellow citizens are struggling just to make ends meet, including the many laborers who worked their asses of to make those people rich in the first place.
Also, if we switched over to a true Marxian system, no person who is currently rich under capitalism would lose a very comfortable lifestyle and total security; rather, they would simply lose their power and privilege over others, and if they were able-bodied they would be expected to work a modest number of hours per week to contribute to the public welfare and for their access to the social store rather than having the option of sitting around and living a totally idle existence (though they would have plenty of leisure time to enjoy the fruits of their labor). There is nothing wrong with wanting to live very comfortably and having economic security. The problem, as we see it, is wanting to have all of this but explicitely not wanting anyone else to have it too.
It has always been nearly impossible for the average joe to become a millionaire (or the equivalent). However, the average joe today is materially better off in most ways than the crowned heads of Europe of the 18th century, and this is because of capitalism. Furthermore, there are now more millionaires than ever before, and mutual funds and other novel ways of investing have allowed most people to participate in the markets. Most of us are part of the investor class these days. It is ordinary, working people who collectively own most big corporations.
Capitalism was a progressive system when it was established, and for a long time afterwards, because it made the Industrial Revolution possible, and therefore contributed to the great technological advances that have enabled a much more comfortable life for everyone in the present era. No Marxist has ever denied this. However, that doesn't change the fact that the vast majority of people living today, however much they may have that 18th century royalty didn't have, doesn't change the fact that many cannot enjoy anywhere near the full fruit of their labor because of the fact that they only receive a tiny fraction of the total value of what they produce in the form of wages, and have to pay for highly expensive rent, food, and utilities, not to mention the massive amount of debt that so many people are in. Further, that above comment of yours--a common defense of capitalism--doesn't hold water when you consider that in a classless and moneyless resource-based economy, everyone would enjoy a standard of living that the wealthiest people under capitalism do not possess, so it's ridiculous to expect workers to cling to a system that denies them anything remotely close to the level of comfort and security they would have in a true Marxist system.
Capitalism served its purpose for the world, but now that the Industrial Revolution has occurred and progressed, it's time to move onto a new system that will allow everyone to enjoy the full fruit of their labor. Capitalism was never intended to exist for eternity. There are still far too many people starving in the world to claim that the current system remains laudable and progressive and actually keep a straight face while saying it. The fact also remains that however much you argue that the working class of today has compared to people living in past eras, they collectively have less wealth than the top 1% of capitalist families in America alone, and this is outrageous, especially since these wealthy people do not contribute any useful work to society, whereas the labor class does.
Finally, proclaiming that the majority of the working class has collective ownership of the big corporations via the stock market, and that we are all members of an exalted investor class, is beyond silly if you look past the hype and see the reality of the situation. Those of us with low incomes can only invest a tiny amount of money in the stock market, including the stock of the companies we work for, and we will get peanuts in return, certainly not nearly enough to live on so that we no longer have to work. These little "investors" will still have to work long hours in exchange for a tiny fraction of what they earn, so they are much better off saving their money and not investing at all. The wealthy investors, however, are able to invest so much money that their returns are huge and they do not have to work as a result of these enormous returns. If your investment is huge enough that you get a $30,000 a month return, then you certainly do not have to work, unlike those who can only invest so little that their monthly return is barely $30. Also, how much you are able to invest has a lot to do with how much say or control you have over the company in question. How many common laborers who can't invest more than $200 (if that) in stocks actually sit on the executive board? How many of them have anything to do with the day-to-day decisions of the company, such as how much to pay the workers, who to hire or fire, whether or not to downsize or outsource the company, who the managers will be, what type of pension plan to offer, what kind of employee health care benefits they will offer their laborers, or any other decisions that invariably have a major impact on the lives of the workers? Obviously, calling workers with only a miniscule amount of money to invest in these companies an "investor class" and to claim that they reap major rewards or have anything whatsoever to say about how the company is run, or that they have anything remotely resembling an equal standing with the truly wealthy investors, is a major case of grasping at straws to make capitalism seem like it works for everyone despite blatantly empirical evidence to the contrary.
Of course, some people work three jobs to pay the bills, and too many people work paycheck to paycheck, but this is frequently due to poor choices on their part rather than a lack of income. It is a bit irritating to be forced to financially support the poor choices of others.
So it's better to let these people starve or become homeless when there are more than enough resources to give everyone in society a comfortable existence? And it's frequently due to poor choices and not anything to do with the level of income? Granted, many people who should learn the art of frugality due to their financial situation are simply poor at managing money and foolishly live beyond their means. I have met the type, trust me, and they can indeed be very irritating. However, when you have a very small income to begin with, it's often very difficult to save enough to last you a month once your necessities are taken care of (assuming that is possible), at least not without sacrificing immensely. I have had to choose between paying my rent and eating on more than one occasion, and it's not a situation that I believe anyone deserves to be in. I am fairly good at managing my money, but I still end up in dire straights at times due to unexpected expenses coming up, a sudden bout of illness, or some other unforseen event. If, on the other hand, you receive a vast amount of money per year due to multitudes of people working for you, you don't have to worry too much about being responsible, or frugal, or anything like that. In other words, there are far less consequences for you for making poor choices than there are for those who have a very fixed income (look at all of George W. Bush's screw-ups throughout his life, including his many failed business ventures, with zero consequences due to his wealthy family always bailing him out). I know how easy it is to end up in the hole no matter how good your choices are or how frugal you are with your money when your income level is very low, and I certainly wouldn't want anyone to starve, become homeless, or get their electricity or heat turned off as a result. I think, in lieu of all of this, defending capitalism is the ultimate poor choice for me.
There can certainly be stress about the future, but this is nothing new. Every subsistence farmer understood stress. What will happen if there is a drought? if wolves attack the sheep? if locusts devour the crop?
What would happen? Frequently, death.
So stress isn't a bad thing, even if it's preventable, simply because so many people in past eras, before the modern level of technological development following the Industrial Revolution, experienced it regularly?
As for profiting from owning capital, it seems to me the only relevant moral question is whether that capital was obtained honestly.
Is living off the labor of others while contributing nothing yourself an honest way to acquire money? Is exploitation of others honest? Is laying off thousands of workers who, unlike you, desperately need the work to increase your already sizable profit margins honest? Is outsourcing your business to a Third World country so you can get the same amount of labor at a far cheaper price while laying off all of the workers of your native country that worked so hard to make you rich honest? Is denying a good amount of benefits to the workers who work 40+ hours a week so you can spend every weekend relaxing in the Bahamas in order to increase your already sizable profit margins honest? These things are all certainly legal, but that is not the same thing as being honest or morally right. I suppose this depends on whether or not you consider simply following the letter of the law automatically makes you morally right.
Incidentally, do you realize that anger at the bailout was the chief impetus in the formation of the Tea Party?
Indeed, and guess what the Tea Party represents? Yet another guise of near-extremist conservatives. The fact remains, the capitalist system couldn't survive without the constant bail-outs from the state that save the system every single time the capitalists routinely bring it to the brink of collapse.
So, their ancestors never contributed anything to society, either? They just woke up one morning and had money, which they gave to their kids?
The great fortunes of the 19th century were made by often duplicitous means, and this included many "gifts" from the state--which conservatives today claim to hate--and this included an easy gift of $64 million to the developing railroad companies in the mid-19th century, which was truly an amazing sum of money in those days. No risk was taken by these businessmen, contrary to popular pro-capitalist mythology. These fortunes were made as soon as the businesses became big enough so that they could hire the large amount of laborers who were required to operate them. And it also doesn't change the fact that in today's world, all big business is operated by countless numbers of workers, in a collective effort, which means the full product is rightfully theirs.
It sounds good, but you are essentially advocating feeding a man for a day instead of teaching him how to fish. That money they have invested is doing something useful. It is producing useful products and funding research and paying employee's salaries. Should they dismantle the company, fire their employees, and give all their assets to the poor? Naturally they cannot all sell their assets off, because they need other investors to sell those assets to - that will only change the ownership, leaving the system intact.
You seem to misunderstand my intentions, Bobby-boy. And dramatically so.
First of all, useful products are created by the collective effort of many workers. The money that results from the sale of those products wouldn't have been created if not for the labor of the workers being applied towards making those products in the first place. Money would be totally useless to a capitalist if there weren't laborers to do all the work. As for paying employees' salaries, that is in many ways the crux of my argument here, because the paychecks these workers receive for doing all the useful work and creating all of these useful products represent but a tiny fraction of the wealth they collectively produced, while the lion's share goes to their capitalist masters as their profit simply for "owning."
My point is that the workers deserve the full fruit of their labor in exchange for their work, as well as the right to operate the means of production and distribution democratically and for the benefit of all workers, not for the personal enrichment of a useless boss class who do not do any useful work but simply "own." The working class deserves far better than the type of environment many of them are forced to live in today, when modern technology makes us entirely capable of eliminating poverty, insecurity, homelessness, a "paycheck to paycheck" existence, involuntary unemployment, starvation, urban decay, and environmental degredation.
I have never advocated for capitalists to close all their factories and fire all the workers and simply giving all of their money to the poor while leaving the current system entirely intact. I thought you would have more faith in me than to suggest something so foolish and counterproductive. I advocate for the change to a new system of social ownership of the industries and services without class divisons, without money, and without a dominating state apparatus. But as long as capitalism continues to exist, I believe that the capitalist class should pay an equitable amount of taxes to finance social services for the poorest members of the working class to offset starvation and homelessness, universal health care for all workers, and provide better wages for their employees.
Um, you missed the point. The point is that without a capitalist system creating wealth, stress is even worse.
Um, no I didn't miss the point. The capitalist system isn't needed to create wealth, and the highly unequal distribution of the wealth under the capitalist system leads to myriad problems for the majority working class who do virtually all the work is what causes a lot of stress. When you are routinely worried about whether or not you can pay the rent this month, or if you will be able to have enough food in the house to last you for a month (even with food stamps assisting you), or if your phone will get shut off for a bit, or if your electricity and/or heat will get shut off if you are unable to pay an expensive bill during a particularly bad month (which is particularly fun during the winter months), or facing the prospect of homelessness if you cannot pay your rent or mortage, or what will happen if you get sick considering your lack of medical insurance, this leads to a lot of stress. Trust me, I have been there often. This is not to mention the added stress of having to work at a job you likely hate for over 40 hours a week, while you constantly worry about being laid off or fired. These things are not something that the tiny number of people who make up the privileged owning class have to worry about, but it's something that all too many members of the labor class who do all the useful work have to face on a daily basis. If we had a system based on social ownership with everyone receiving the full fruit of their labor in exchange for a modest share of the useful work, then none of the above concerns would exist for anyone, and stress would be considerably less for everyone concerned.
If I risk a year's wages to provide the capital that allows a company to acquire the workers and equipment necessary to compete in the marketplace, how is that contributing nothing? That's a year of my labor!
Assuming you could possibly save up enough money to afford all of that--and that's a big if--the point remains, you could not have a big multi-million dollar business without hiring numerous laborers to do the work for you, and no products would be produced or any professional services rendered without the collective efforts of these workers. Money is only necessary because we live under a system that requires a form of symbolic currency for almost any endeavor to get off the ground, but this is an artificial abstraction that doesn't change the fact that it's the collective effort of labor that creates all wealth in society, and money could not accomplish this without labor.
"it doesn't change the fact that in order for a tiny business venture to become a large corporation, it rapidly requires the work of hundreds or thousands of laborers, and is never the work of just one or a few people."
Yahoo, Google, Facebook.
As those online businesses started growing, they have since picked up quite a large number of employees who respond to matters concerning customer support, developing apps and games for these sites, constructing the chat features and updating them frequently, monitoring the sites for dirty old men "preying" upon "naive" young people, developing advertising for the sites, dealing with the many companies that advertise on them, etc. Once a business becomes big, it ceases to be a small, one or two person operation, and is run by numerous people collectively. Further, do you know how difficult it is to strike gold with a business like that? True story: a friend of mine with good entrepeneurial skills called me and asked me some advice about how to start his own version of Facebook. After all, he said, if fools like those people who created MySpace and Facebook could become millionaires, he could come up with an improved version of the idea. I wished him well in his efforts, but I also had to inform him, based on many past business ventures of my own, that succeeding at such a business is largely a matter of good timing (which can't be entirely predicted), getting in on a new technology when it's still new and "hot"--the latter of which necessitates being born in just the right decade that you will be able to take advantage of one of these new popular technologies as an adult, the ability to acquire start-up capital (which varies greatly from person to person, and has a lot to do with personal circumstances, such as whether or not you happen to have a well-off relative or friend who is willing to co-sign for you), and has much less to do with intelligence and business savvy (which my friend has in spades, and has proven this working for others in the past) and much more to do with the luck of the draw.
Wrong. Their time and every performance are labor, but the skill, which is what makes their jobs well paid is kapital too.
It is kapital because it can be used constantly, is infinitely transmissible and replicable without loss of value. Labor only exists discreetly, cannot be transmitted to others and is not replicable except by adding labor again.
When sports stars make more money than the team owners (and yes, it happens!), it isn't a reversion of the class conflict. It is that the athlete has more, or better, kapital than the team owners.
Nothing you said here in any way refuted anything I said previously. Saying that labor power constitutes a form of "kapital" (you're going to have to explain to me again why you spell that with the "k") is playing a game of semantics, because capital as defined by capitalism constitutes an abstraction, whereas labor power is actually an objective aspect of nature. And I have said many times that labor power is imperishable, though the quality of it varies from person to person, and also depends on what their individual talents are, and this is not something that disagrees with anything you said above. It should be noted that star athletes use their labor power to make their money, whereas team owners contribute nothing but make large amounts of money simply by "owning." The owner of the team, unlike the athletes, doesn't worry about growing older and having his physical acumen gradually diminish with time, because as I said, the "type" of capital he possesses is purely an abstraction and isn't dependent on his ability to perform any labor; a capitalist can be of any age. If only this type of deal could exist for the athletes themselves.
Irrelevant. Ask Monsanto if big corporations and the agrarian sector are mutually incompatible.
I beg to differ. The level of production that existed at the time America, or any other nation, was founded matters quite a bit. Large multi-million dollar corporations as we know them today did not co-exist with family farms and family-owned businesses in the early decades of America. I never said big corporations and an agrarian sector are incompatible in today's world, but it's a well known fact that the small family farms that mirror in many respects the type of businesses that prominantly dotted the landscape in early America are now being taken over by big agribusiness. Hence, family farms have largely given way to factory farms over the course of the 20th century. This is yet another consequence of the concentration of capital, and it's inevitable under a capitalist system.
I don't think [the number of employees for Google, Facebook, etc.] has even reached the 10 thousand number. Seriously. Neither do they do everything you mentioned in house.
My point: a big multi-million dollar business is not built or run by a mere one or two people. It's a hugely collaborative effort, and thus all workers deserve the full fruit of their labor.
I was refuting that [starting and/or running a big business] was never the work of one or a few people; not that it was difficult to do.
Thank you, considering how so many capitalist supporters seem to think that it's a relative cinch to start a multi-million dollar business from almost nothing: hard work, combined with saving up a lot of money and the willingness to take risks, etc. If only it were truly that simple...
Then you do mean capital; labor exists by being done, in every single act in which it is done, not at any other time. Capital exists independently, which is why skills are capital, and some skills, like the type of performance skills here, are so valuable that this form of capital matters as much or more than the money that the team owner has.
Though I fully believe, as I mentioned previously, that labor and capital are not comparable, I do agree that labor should be considered every bit as important as the investment of capital. But it isn't
Then the point is the property concentration and distribution, NOT whether the economy was based on agriculture.
Property concentration--a corollary of the concentration of capital--is an inevitability of a system based on private ownership of the industries and production for sale and profit, regardless of what a system's economic foundation was largely based on in the beginning. This is why the once predominant family farms have since been largely replaced by agribusiness.
"Property concentration ... is an inevitability.... This is why the once predominant family farms have since been largely replaced by agribusiness."
I think the chief cause of the decline of family farms has to do with, ahem, the importance of capital to modern agriculture.
Which would not be a factor if we lived under a system that didn't require money for everything. The fact that it requires capital to run a farm makes it quite clear that those with the most money can push out the family farms who cannot make enough money to compete, and this creates a "might makes right" scenario typical of capitalism.
Specifically, technological changes have made most farm labor obsolete, and what required 80% of the labor 200 years ago requires less than 1% of the labor today. However, to get those results a farmer requires a great of capital - to pay for the tractors, combines, silos, fences, and all the sundry materiel required for modern farming. Only the most business-minded farmers have survived, and combined with economies of scale and many former farmers seeking better jobs in the cities, consolidation has been the natural result.
This details several of the points I have been trying to make, including the concentration of capital that is inevitable under capitalism, as well as the fact that modern production, unlike in past eras, requires huge amounts of capital in order to afford all the equipment, which is precisely why it's exceedingly difficult for a member of the working class in the modern post-industrial era to emigrate to the capitalist class, therefore cancelling out one of the most oft-heard--and inaccurate--myths of pro-capitalist ideology, i.e., that becoming a wealthy capitalist requires nothing more than the saving up money, a good "business mind," and taking risks. Your above example illustrated my points perfectly: unless you have a lot of money to begin with, you are not likely to make a lot of money, and those few who can afford the massively expensive equipment for modern production will inevitably and inexorably outcompete the "little guy" who cannot afford the same, which is why the concept of small family-owned businesses is largely diminishing, and capital is increasingly being concentrated into a smaller number of hands as time progresses. Not a pretty picture, hence my opposition to this system now that it has ceased to be progressive any longer.
As much fun it is to romanticize about family farms, pretty much everyone is better off. Former farm laborers have found more productive and safer jobs in other sectors, the availability of labor has in turn led to the development of many industries, and consumers get food that is healthier and cheaper than ever.
Consumers get healthier and cheaper food? I think you need to shop more often, my friend. I hate to rain on your parade, but food is extremely expensive, much more so than ever before, and I easily paid over $100 for three bags of groceries last week. And my grandparents talk about the time when they could get a comparable amount of groceries for less than $10. As for healthier food, I am sure you have read the many articles complaining about the huge amount of fat and cholesterol in many popular foods, the effects of genetic engineering on modern food, etc.
As for farmers finding safer jobs in other industries, you would be astounded at how many people prefer to run their own businesses, which family farms constituted, rather than being employees of some capitalist and thus having the bulk of the profits earned go to someone else rather than those who do the work. Pro-capitalist pundits love to laud the idea of small businesses, but when confronted with the evidence that small businesses as a concept are slowly being eliminated by big business and less and less workers are able to control their own destiny, they do an about face and talk about how much "better off" those workers are now that they are employees of someone else rather than owners of their own businesses and thus more or less the architects of their own destiny.
And what manufactured products or capital intensive services that you can now get for 100, could [your grandparents and others who grew up during the 1930s] get for 10?
This just goes to show that one of the worst features of capitalism is the constant increase in the cost of living, for which increases in wages cannot keep pace with. The Great Depression was an awful era to live in, but at least if you happened to have one dollar on you, it went much further than your dollar goes today.
[In regards my contention that a large portion of the good on today's market is not healthier than in past decades]:
That people make bad food choices is not the potatoes' fault.
But it is the fault of food manufacturers for pricing most healthy foods higher than your typical unhealthy, cholesterol-filled dish. I suspect one of the reasons many people eat so unhealthy these days is because it's much more expensive to eat healthier.
Such as? [i.e., how much food on the market today is actually genetically engineered?]
Here you go.
You (not just you, also the bad pundits you speak of) forget that the employee has a contractually guaranteed paycheck every month, while the capitalist never really does - unless of course he is "too big to fail."
Workers constantly fear getting laid off, not getting raises, having their wages garnished, not getting needed overtime due to the company's uwillingness to pay for it, and worst of all, the paycheck they do receive is worth only a tiny fraction of the value of what they produce. Capitalists, on the other hand, receive the lion's share of the wealth their laborers produce as their profit.
Yet, every large world economy, even China, relies on the back of small businesses. You might only hear of each country's giants, but they are far from alone and far from being the largest employers when compared to the millions of small businesses in their countries.
Unfortunately, it's very difficult to start a small business, and even more difficult keeping it profitable for more than two years. Trust me, I have tried, and I know many people with much greater "business sense" than me who have tried, also. Further, big businesses are slowly encroaching upon small businesses, with big corporate juggernauts like Wal-Mart and Home Depot knocking most "mom and pop" stores out of business, and agribusiness rapidly signing the death knell for small family farms. I have a friend who has a successful small business, and she earns about $60,000 per year following expenses, but even though one can argue that is good for a worker, it's not even a drop in the bucket compared to what capitalists and their executive boards take in every year, as the latter fat cats have the benefit of the combined labor of thousands of employees at their beck and call, which is an advantage of brobdingnagian proportions over those who run small businesses.
[Regarding the difference between the cost of living in the past and the cost of living today]:
It's not in cost of living, it's on living standards. Of course a car costs a lot more [today] than it did to your grandparents. Yeah, the cost of the safety measures and fuel efficiency that have been introduced, for instance. That's not even to mention than prior to the 19th century, cars were so expensive that not even the richest person in the world had one.
I guess that explains why nobody, not even the rich people, had automobiles prior to the 19th century. So what was the purpose of producing them in the 18th century if no one could afford them? Why didn't the automobile manufacturers of the 18th century simply lower the prices so at least the rich could afford them? [I hope it's obvious that I'm being sarcastic here!]
Unless you mean inflation, in which case, I insist, get rid [of] fiat currency, partial reserve banking and the currency monopoly, and problem solved.
Regardless of what form currency exists, as long as more of it is continuously and artificially produced to deal with the mounting deficits, and as long as monopoly corporations continue to exist to keep prices of certain products high even when demand for them is relatively low, the cost of living is going to continuously go up. The system wouldn't be able to survive for as long as it has if new money wasn't continuously printed up.
It's not that [the value of the dollar in past decades] went further, it's that everyone had less than they do now.
You could buy a dozen eggs in the 1930s for a dime. Hence, you could buy a few packages of groceries for a far smaller price then than you can now. As a result, despite people having much less money then in comparison to what they usually do now, a lot more could be purchased with $10 back then than what you can purchase for $50 today.
No, [the high cost of foods marketed as "healthier"] is the fault of the urban liberal elites who a) are willing to pay outrageous prices to believe themselves healthy and b) push one upon another "certificate" and "license" for products that claim to be healthier, and I don't mean government standards for safety: I mean fancy ribbons and logos that cost money to implement and inspect for, and whose cost trickles to the consumer. The urban liberal elite doesn't care because they like to pay those prices. Everyone else are the ones priced out. Of course, you can choose not to buy those fancy ribbons, but then you are not going to be regarded as health food and the fancy stores won't carry you.
It sounds to me like these fancy health food stores are another marketing gimmick under capitalism, so one would be hard-pressed to claim that the system is not to blame for things like this. Gimmicks designed to part people from their money by making often spurious claims are part and parcel of the capitalist system.
"Capitalists, on the other hand, receive the lion's share of the wealth their laborers produce as their profit.
"Unfortunately, it's very difficult to start a small business, and even more difficult keeping it profitable for more than two years. Trust me, I have tried, and I know many people with much greater "business sense" than me who have tried, also." Do you not see the contradiction?
The second sentence is precisely why I made the statement you reply to in the first sentence.
I see no contradiction. Rather, I see an explanation as to why it's not nearly as easy to start a small business and thus become self-sufficient and not have to seek employment from a capitalist master as the pro-capitalist pundits always claim.
[Regarding the constant printing up of new money by the government to deal with mounting deficits]:
My three continuous peeves are making that. Get rid of them and currency will not be artificially produced and will not finance a deficit through fiction.
And yes I agree the current system wouldn't survive. It would evolve to something better and freer without forfeiting what makes kapitalism good.
There is nothing "good" about a system that runs on money in a world where technology has advanced to the point where an abundance can be produced for everyone and thus the concept of barter is totally obsolete and unnecessary.
[Regarding the differences in the cost of living in past decades compared to today]:
Yes, and what were the wages back then? Things were as cheap partly because the wages anyone received for production also were.
And I insist: that is partly true for agriculture. It isn't for manufacture and it is for services only if you forget about wages.
Um, the reason the wages were so much smaller back then is because the cost of living was so much cheaper than it is today. Wages increased in time because they had to do so in an attempt to keep up with the cost of living. Nevertheless, the increase in wages has continuously lagged behind the growing cost of living. This is reflected in the fact that a nuclear family during the 1950s where only one of the two parents were working could live comfortably on that single source of income, but today, it's often very difficult for such a family to eke out a comfortable living even when both parents are working, and sometimes even when one or more of the two parents are working more than one job each. Hence, despite wages being greater today than decades ago, they have still not increased on a level that is commensurate with the cost of living.
[Regarding the gimmicky products frequently produced under capitalist production, e.g., foods labeled as "healthier"]:
But for some reason, when it's the poor and the rurals who fall for gimmicks, it's always the evil corporations; but when it's the urban liberals, it's always for a good purpose.
Urban liberals are often quite poor, and I can assure you that most of them are not the ones who are purchasing these gimmicky "healthy" foods. Those who can afford to do so do often jump on these bandwagons, but only because they fail to see the bigger picture. Even then, they do not agree that the prices should be so high on these items and they wish that everyone in the working class could afford them.
[Regarding the frequent failure of new small businesses]:
So again, you are admitting that capitalists can fail too, and therefore not have their own profits guaranteed.
Small business owners who do not earn vast amounts of money are not true capitalists, because they actually have to work for that money themselves and cannot afford more than a few employees at most, none of which do all the work but are usually hired to save the owner of the small business some of the petty tasks that would otherwise take time away from the main tasks that needed to be done. George W. Bush, a true capitalist, failed at every business venture he ever tried, but never had to worry about the consequences because he and the rest of his family remained filthy rich. Only non-capitalists who try to start their own small business actually have to suffer consequences if their business fails, because they most often do not have a rich mommy and daddy to bail them out and enable them to start anew countless times. They remain secure no matter what, especially with all the big government hand-outs and bailouts they have to look forward to if they really screw up.
The fact that some have been (unfairly, corruptly and inefficiently) deemed "too big to fail" shouldn't distract from the fact that the rest of them (a majority over 99%) have no such thing as profits guaranteed.
Comparing big businesses with owners who have thousands of employees that perform all the useful work and small businesses with a single person or family as the owners who have at most a few employees and who still have to do much of the major work themselves are like comparing apples and oranges, and should not be conflated. The latter hardly have anything near the security of the former.
Which is, precisely, why it's hard to start a business, and why being rich enough that failing won't put you in the streets if you fail is often a good cushion for success.
And even that said, it is likely that technology is lowering the threshold of that cushion.
Technology does progress under capitalism at a rapid pace, and new technologies do allow for new business opportunities when they are still new, but after a few years of the "boom" cycle the number of opportunities slacken off and the class divisions of capitalism remain as obvious and pronounced as ever. The bottom line: advancing technology alone will not make too huge of a difference in society as long as the present class structure and purpose for production remains the same. The more new technologies that are developed under capitalism (e.g., cell phones, iPods, rapid advancements in computers) do make our lives more convenient but it also puts a financial strain on many members of the working class who are forced to live beyond their means in order to afford these things.
Even though there is abundance, [the capitalist method of production] is still the best method of assigning resources known.
And if nobody rigs it, also the fairest. Yes, it's a very big if.
In a pre-industrial era when production is difficult and products are truly scarce, then yes, it would be the best method available to that time period. But in a post-industrial era where it's technologically possible to produce an abundance for all, the only thing the continued reliance on money does is artificially limit what many people can have based on individual ability to pay regardless of their needs, and that leads to all the problems endemic to such a system, e.g., poverty, rampant crime, war, corruption, etc. Nothing "good" about that.
OK so we disagree on the causal direction but we agree on the phenomenon, I take.
I am thankful to find common agreement with you on any little thing as far as this particular topic is concerned, so cool.
[Regarding the fact that so many products under capitalism are too expensive for many workers to afford]:
If you don't like the price, don't buy it.
What if you truly need the item in question yet cannot afford it?
If you realistically attempted to live at the level of consumption and energy use that the families of 1950 lived, you would be able to do so on one middle class salary. Now convince your family to live like that. Especially your [hypothetical] wife, who today has delegated her work to devices that, surprise, are expensive to buy and maintain and are addicted to electricity.
You miss one very important point with the above statement: people in the present era shouldn't have to suffer deprivation or be unable to take advantage of the comforts of products and energy systems that are available now but weren't available in past eras. That is just one of many major ways that the capitalist system doesn't benefit the working class like true Marxian socialism would. In a socialist system, there would be no such thing as "living beyond your means." Trying to get workers to stop complaining about capitalism by saying, "People in the modern day working class--even most of the poorest members--have a standard of living that the wealthy royalty of centuries past didn't enjoy" (Bob loves to say this, btw) is totally irrelevant because it overlooks the fact that in a socialist system, the standard of living for everyone would be, in many ways, far better than that which even the wealthiest members of the capitalist class in today's world enjoy.
Yes, they are the ones who wish they could afford to live like that, and probably sincerely believe that if the government intervened enough they could live like that.
Indeed. Having to pay a huge amount of money out of pocket for necessities like food rather than receiving modest government rations such as food stamps is always the better choice! The free market always does a better job at meeting the needs of the poor than the government! [Yes, more sarcasm...]
Oh come on! I invest in buying equipment to produce or sell something, then I am a capitalist. Whether I do so on a corner hot dog vending scale or on a Wal-Mart scale is a different matter.
You use capitalist as substitute for rich. Not as defining the guys who put capital into a company, big or small.
I guess that way you can claim I am not in favor of capitalists.
Come on nothing! I am using the standard Marxist definition of the term "capitalist," which has nothing to do with a person's income per se, or whether or not they own a business, but specifically that they receive such a significant amount of money by owning (as opposed to working) that they themselves do not have to work. Just to make this clear: if you have to do the work yourself, or at least the bulk of it, rather than hiring a multitude of employees to do it for you, then you are not truly a capitalist vis a vis the Marxist definition.
You know you sound like a conservative there? It's true, I could produce countless links about this. Just so you see that you have interesting and important agreements with, how shall I call it… the anti-government Right? Pretty much where I am…
If I sounded like a typical conservative, I would have zero compassion or concern for anyone or anything other than the bottom line. If you have a system that runs on money, and ration out products and services solely on the basis of individual ability to pay, then you need to have government intervention on some level to ameliorate the extremely negative effects this will have on society when you consider the level of poverty, hunger, homelessness, and urban decay that ensues as a result of such a system. Now imagine no government intervention at all, and see how well the free market would meet the needs of the poorest members of the working class then.
They could also live like in 1950, and they wouldn't be so strained.
But again, in a world of plenty like we live in today, and ethically speaking, no one should have to.
I will add that I appreciate you too, enormously, as you know. I still reply because I still think you are misguided, if well intentioned.
Advocating for the institution of a system that is in your best interests as well as that of all your fellow workers is hardly misguided. It's my opinion that those who actively support a system that goes against their own interests, as well as the interests of their fellow workers, provide a good definition of "misguided." But of course, you know I appreciate you enormously as well (just as I do Bob, Dan, and many of the other pro-capitalists in this community), and I simply think you are misguided much as you do me.
Your [sic] tempting me yesterday [into entering this debate] also was too much.
Then prepare for the bruises, my good friend ;-)
[Regarding the nature of welfare in a capitalist system and how it relates to the idea of equitable distribution of the wealth]:
If there are qualifying criteria other than residence (and at most citizenship), how can that be equal?
The dispersal of welfare money to the poor may not be equal among those workers who receive it, but no matter how much they get, it's still a sad pittance compared to almost any worker who has a job, let alone the vast amounts of hand-outs that the already wealthy routinely receive from the government (e.g., corporate welfare and bail-outs).
[Regarding my contention that if pro-capitalist right-wingers are against the concept of the dole then they should support the idea that the government should guarantee everyone a job]:
Again, impossible unless both working population and technology are constant.
The government has been fully capable of offering jobs to all able-bodied workers who are unemployed for a long, long time. There is no good excuse not to do it, except for how a certain degree of unemployment benefits the capitalist class by enabling them to keep wages down ("If you don't want to work for me for these shit wages and lousy conditions, I can easily hire one of those desperate unemployed people who will agree to do your job for even less than what I give you and under even worse conditions"). This is called a "reserve labor force," and it works to the advantage of the capitalists. The bottom line is this: if you do not agree that jobs should be guaranteed, it's asking for a lot of trouble--not to mention extremely inhumane--to insist that the government doesn't give some sort of relief to the workers that the capitalists do not want to hire. Further, the money distributed to the poor via the dole still goes back into the system when they spend it.
Wasn't that what you proposed in the other subthread?
Then how come charities make do with "one dollar a day, ten dollars a week" and such per person?
Because they have no other choice much of the time. However, capitalists often give large amounts to charities because of the huge tax breaks.
A major aspect of social and economic justice is compassion, and allowing people to starve or become homeless in a system that won't even guarantee everyone a job and actually benefits off of a certain amount of involuntary unemployment (to keep wages down, among other things) is not social justice, nor is it fair or equitable in any sense of the word.
Um, were you asleep when you wrote this? You are implying that in a system that guarantees everyone a job allowing people to starve or become homeless would be socially just, fair or equitable. And you do know how that makes you sound.
Were you by any chance very tired--or perhaps even asleep--when you read the above, because your interpretive skills seemed to be off by quite a huge margin. I said no such thing. To the contrary, I said many times throughout this thread, and in past threads, that if the government doesn't want to guarantee people a job, then it's utterly cruel not to offer them relief when no employer wants to hire them. I also mentioned quite explicitely that they be given a "livable" wage so they have a good chance to break out of impoverished conditions. Nothing about that suggests that I think a capitalist system where the government guarantees everyone a job should actually allow people to starve or become homeless.
Why would anyone take a job that doesn't give a liveable wage?
Considering your knowledge of capitalism, I would think you would be familiar with the rampant "take anything you can get" mentality that pervades the culture surrounding the system. Many workers have no choice but to take jobs that offer dismal wages which make it extremely difficult for them to get out of poverty because they may live in areas where such bad jobs greatly outnumber the good jobs. That is a common feature of the capitalist system.
But yet, why would anyone prevent anyone from doing such self-destructive act?
Such acts can be greatly reduced if all jobs were required to pay a livable wage.
Then why do Bhutan and Singapore have about the same crime rates? Or Russia far more than anyone else with its income? Or, (gasp!), Britain more than the USA in everything but murder?
Organized crime seems to correlate with poverty, and even then it might be more due to government ineffectiveness or corruption than poverty itself. Overall crime, and especially if organized crime is specifically excluded has a way more even distribution.
Poverty, government corruption, the ineffectiveness of the state--all features of the capitalist system, and all combine to make crime a constant. I rest my case.
[Regarding whether or not I was taught about capitalism sufficiently while in high school, where I responded that I was given a heavy dose of pro-capitalism propaganda]:
That is still not teaching economics. Did you learn about opportunity cost? Did you learn about marginal productivity and marginal cost? Did you learn about relative cost and substitution rates for production factors? Did you learn models of international trade? Did you learn about monetary policy, banking reserves, interest rates, and the differences between fiat and asset-backed currencies?
The above is entirely irrelvant to this discussion, because the above highly technical aspects of capitalist economics is not required for someone to cogently conclude that the system is bad. All one need to know to come to that conclusion is a basic understanding of why production is carried out under capitalism, the nature of the wage system, and how this exploitive relationship between owner and laborer works. Everything you mentioned up above, if well known, in no way negates the main point of this thread. You are being overly technical in suggesting that it does. For the record, I learned about much of what you described above in college (yes, I did take several courses on business) and it was in no way required in order to make the conclusions I have made about the system.
…you underwent the economics equivalent of Abstinence Only.
Memorizing that it's better to wait is far from knowing why waiting could be desirable; same as memorizing that Marxism is eeeevel is far from knowing why kapitalism is superior.
There is a good reason why high schools do not teach Marxism in depth or objectively. If the ruling class of this system was truly secure in their belief that workers will predominantly consider capitalism (or kapitalism, if you prefer) to be superior to Marxism, they wouldn't have the "Abstinence Only" policy with economics, as you called it above. This says volumes about our ruling class.
[Regarding the issue of taxation in a capitlist system, specifically the matter of equitable taxation]:
Then you would have to dismantle lotteries and abolish tobacco and alcohol taxes.
There are indeed some taxes I would like to see abolished, but that is a whole other sub-topic. As for dismantling lotteries, I do not see how that would be necessary, because if you instantly win $30 million, I can understand the government taking a few million from you for tax purposes.
[Regarding the topic of government expenditures on education in comparison to the far greater amount spent on the Pentagon to bolster the war machine compared to other First World capitalist nations]:
Go to where it says Education - Expenditure, and click there (or save yourself the step and copy this addy to the Excel table).
The story is not what the librul media have been telling you, is it?
I am not sure what this was supposed to prove, when you consider that the annual expenditure per student is still often much less than what the government spends on one Humvee for the military.
As long as lawmakers continue providing the occasional carrot to different groups at the next time and getting their vote, they will be reelected to continue making life worse for everyone else. Which is why you have to analyze more than just your pet program, idea or policy (as useful as that is).
The policies I support are specifically designed to address the above, among many other things.
[Regarding the issue of limited jobs under capitalism]:
Yeah, that might be why there isn't any illegal immigration at all.
That doesn't negate my point in any way, shape, or form. Illegal immigrants are often hired at dirt cheap rates with no benefits so that employers won't have to hire legal labor at greater cost. That is part and parcel of the capitalist system--workers competing with each other for jobs rather than cooperating with each other and equitably sharing the work--as well as access to the output--amongst all of them.
[Regarding my contention that CEOs and other executives do not useful work under capitalism, and spend a large amount of time rleaxing in locales like the Bahamas]:
That is an idealization. The best CEOs do work more than 9 to 5, maybe from their own homes or from hotel rooms, but chances are their phone rings with job affairs any given hour of the 24 any given day of the 365 - all the more so now business is global. The CEOs who don't have that work ethic are devoured by those who do.
Talking on the phone throughout the day is considered hard and useful work? Especially when any of the workers could do this just as easily, or disperse the work amongst each of them? Many CEOs simply hire a staff or answering service to take their calls for them. And this doesn't change the fact that most workers have far harder or more demanding jobs than this, yet unlike the CEOs, they cannot conduct their business from a luxury hotel room in the Bahamas. Regular trips to exotic locales abroad, something the majority of workers are lucky if they get to do more than once in their lives, is not an idealization but something that wealthy executives do on a regular basis. While it can be argued that CEOs do earn a degree of pay, it cannot be argued that they deserve to make hundreds of times as much as any other laborer in the company. Making the types of decisions they do could easily be done by managers elected to their positions by the workers democratically, the latter of whom would know the nature of the work much better than any CEO who doesn't regularly interact with the workers or the workplace (I do not count the boardrooms as the workplace).
[Regarding my observations that high-ranking executives often cannot handle the hard labor that the workers regularly have to do when I have witnessed them attempting to lend a hand on particularly busy days on rare occasions when we were unusually short-handed]:
And whites cannot possibly work in the plantation.
Whites could easily work in the plantation if they were used to that type of hard labor as opposed to simply standing around and giving orders while collecting the lion's share of the wealth produced by their slaves simply because they owned all the tools needed to conduct the work. The reason these executives couldn't handle the daily grind of a real job is not due to any inherent flaw of theirs, but simply because they never had to do any type of work that actually required them to sweat before. They are used to making decisions, not actually doing any work. That was my point, and I'm sorry that you missed it.
Then why didn't that happen before the large state rose in the 20th century to provide all kinds of services? Adam and Eve didn't live during the Wilson administration.
Because at that time, the system did not yet progress to the point that it stands at now, and the level of degradation didn't reach critical levels until the early part of the 20th century, when the system officially entered its twilight years. There were still a large number of people who had their own businesses during prior eras, which largely contrasts with the corporation-dominated version of the system we live under now. The system almost did collapse at the end of the 1920s, and this is why President Franklin Delano Roosevelt instituted the infamous (to capitalists) New Deal, which started the type of regulation and social programs designed to save capitalism from its own excesses. It's a sign of both great stupidity and enormous greed without concern for the consequences that the capitalists and neo-cons of today want to reverse the provisions of the New Deal.
Um, you do realize that the European welfare states bloated right after WW2, right? Do you really believe it has nothing to do with entrancing the citizenry with cozy lifestyles so they didn't even think of a new war? And that it would have been possible without a NATO (read, USA) to uphold the security without having to maintain or rebuild large armies?
The elite might have got a good deal, but the real idea was to make Europeans into soft, tranquil peoples. And it did work. Now we have a EU!
Yes, that deal did indeed make the Europeans into largely tranquil people, which is precisely why the capitalists of those nations were more generous than their counterparts in America, who use ideology in place of decent and humane social services to keep the American working class apathetic and in line. The point is, if capitalists want workers to continuously tolerate the great inequalities of the system and all the problems it produces (war, crime, starvation, homelessness, involuntary unemployment, incessant want, environmental destruction, etc.) it had best throw a few bones to the workers. The fact that American capitalists refuse to do that, and whine and raise hell about the slightest little relief programs given to the poor, speaks volumes about the common sense of the American capitalist class and the American citizens who support this particular iteration of the system.
I have been on enough job sites to know that managers have more demands placed on them than anyone else, and the difference between a good manager and a bad manager can be the difference between a job being completed correctly in an hour or being screwed up completely over a course of several weeks.
Just because they don't pick up any tools doesn't mean that their work isn't more difficult, more demanding, and more deserving of compensation than the work of those doing physical labor.
Managers are a legitimate aspect of the work force that would continue to exist in a socialist system. However, under that system, managers would be democratically elected to that position by their fellow workers rather than appointed to that position from a member of a boss class, and their job would be considered no more or no less important than that of the other workers in different positions. The compensation for both would be the same, which would be free access to the social store, i.e., the full fruit of their labor. All useful work would be considered worthy of compensation. On the other hand, I have worked with many supervisors and managers who sat around giving orders and doing not much else while the regular workers busted their asses on busy days, and as such I would argue that they don't necessarily deserve greater compensation than regular workers.
That being said, managers are generally on the site of the job at all times, and hence they know the work and know the workers personally. That is a far cry from CEOs and other executives of the board, who would not be needed in a system where products were produced to meet the needs and wants of everyone rather than for the personal profit of an owning few.
[Regarding my contention that the government should guarantee all workers a job for as long as capitalism continues to exist]:
Yes, but the government does not produce anything. More government jobs automatically imply less production jobs.
(Here I could even grant the point that capitalists produce nothing, with which I disagree, because it wouldn't change the fact that the government produces nothing.)
I am sure there are many necessary tasks for society that the government could put people to work for. The government provides many important services (e.g., sanitation, public works), and it's these vocations that they could hire people for.
It's not a matter of what I think. It's a matter of ought implies can. And jobs cannot be guaranteed under non-constant working population and technology.
I don't agree with this, but if it was true it would lead to many good arguments that the dole is absolutely necessary in a capitalist system to stave off starvation, homelessness, and access to medical care for many who would not be able to afford enough food, rent, or doctor's fees.
That's a broken windows fallacy. That said, increasing the real amount received and the population of recievers, Alaska-style, probably undermines the broken windows effects.
The fact remains, the less money in the hands of the workers, the less spending they do on the products that capitalists need to sell in order to keep the system running and their privilege intact, and this leads to more layoffs, more outsourcing, and more squeezes on the wages of those workers who are still employed, not to mention less overtime. Low wages and large amounts of unemployment actually hurt the capitalists in the long run, regardless of short run benefits, and this is ameloriated somewhat by government spending, including on the dole.
So it doesn't matter that the government does for a lot more money what charities do for a lot less? Why so?
Charities do not do nearly as much for society as you seem to think they do, largely because many of them are actually rackets that fill the coffers of those operating them moreso than being allocated towards the stated purpose of the charity. Further, there aren't nearly enough charities in the United States to help absolutely everyone in need, nor even a significant proportion.
So the point is that it's utterly cruel, not whether or not they have a job.
It's utterly cruel to both deny people a job in a capitalist system and then not offer them relief and to pay them low wages while keeping everyday cost of living for various products and services (including food, rent, and utilities) high. Capish?
I think too many people are too happy to say "no choice" too often.
There sometimes is no choice, but never as often as people pronounce it.
So many people have opportunities for good jobs but choose not to take them? When the only choices available are bad choices, then I think that qualifies as no choice at all when one has to take one of them in order to eke out a bare living.
Are you seriously saying that there were no such [social problems, such as poverty] in non-kapitalistic systems, such as feudalism and slavery?
I think this is no longer about poverty, but about your opposition to kapitalism.
I think you are totally missing my point here, and badly at that. I never suggested that there were no such problems in slave economies and feudalism, and in fact I have often said that the latter two types of class-divided systems were less advanced socially than capitalism. Capitalism was an improvement over these latter two systems in many ways. But because it's still a class-divided society, it continues to inflict many problems upon society that are totally unnecessary now that technology has advanced to the point where we can move away from a class-divided and money-based system entirely, which would be a step above capitalism much as capitalism was a step above feudalism, and feudalism was a step above the slave economies of the Roman Empire and before. If I lived during the Revolutionary War that resulted in the founding of America, I would have been fighting in support of capitalism and the end of feudalism, because at that time a socialist system was not technologically possible, and capitalism was the most progressive type of system possible with the level of production in that time period. But since I was born in the 20th century, I am supporting and advocating for a change to the next highest economic system, which is now possible due to the advances in technology made since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. Now do you get my drift, Kemo Sabe?
[Regarding my contention that knowing all the technical aspects of capitalism that Alex previously mentioned wasn't relevant to someone coming to the conclusions I have about the system with just a basic knowledge of how and why a money-based system operates]:
It is entirely relevant and it is not highly technical. It is knowledge that every person should have. I am certain that people who are unfamiliar with these concepts have a myopic view of the larger economy and often bad decisions with their own economy. And yes, you learned it in college, when you should have been learning it from high school, at the latest simultaneously to the mathematics necessary to understand them in algebraic and graphic form (which itself is not really compulsory to learn the basics).
My point is and remains this: how would knowing all of that convince a worker that the capitalist system is actually good? Or that knowing all of that would help them rise above their situation? Most "good" decisions within the system for poor people is learning simple frugality and management of what little funds you have, and that in no way improves someone's attitude towards the system, nor convinces me that the system is actually wonderful and easy to live within simply for knowing all that technical info. It just makes it clear, if anything, that capitalism is a horridly complex system that stands in marked contrast to the elegant simplicity of a socialist system.
"capitalism is a horridly complex system that stands in marked contrast to the elegant simplicity of a socialist system."
[quote left by Bob in response to the above excerpt of mine]:
"For every problem, there is a solution that is simple, elegant, and wrong." - American proverb (probably an adaptation of a quote by H. L. Mencken - sorry, could ... not ... resist)
I guess you never heard--or ignored--the other famous proverb that proclaimed the opposite. For an example of how widespread the counter proverb's use is, just take a look at these Google search results. Sorry, Bobby-boy, but a popular and viable counter observation exists to the one you provided (too bad you couldn't resist leaving that quote, because it would have saved you much embarrassment if you did).
"Charities do not do nearly as much for society as you seem to think they do, largely because many of them are actually rackets that fill the coffers of those operating them moreso than being allocated towards the stated purpose of the charity."
And how is this different from government?
Only in terms of sheer size and degree of responsibilities. I do not disagree that governments are rackets of the same nature, but it nevertheless exists to serve the capitalists, not work against them. Charities are often used as tax dodges by capitalists.
The government slyly makes its money through the lottery by waving the very remote possibility in front of the working class to spend large amounts of their income to take a chance of becoming instantly wealthy. Capitalist ethics at its finest.
Looks like government ethics to me.
And the capitalist class has markedly different ethics than this, right? The government simply parrots the same ideology that capitalists frequently spew to justify their private ownership over the collective product of society.
[Regarding taxation again]:
Because the poor spend a disproportionate amount of their money in lotteries for a meager chance of hitting it. It is, de facto, a very regressive tax.
Perhaps, but the government slyly makes its money through the lottery by waving the very remote possibility in front of the working class to become instantly wealthy by spending large amounts of their income to facilate that remote chance. This is the American Dream, and it's a splendid idea by the government to exploit the ultimate desire of many workers in this fashion. Capitalist ethics at its finest.
[Regarding the government expenditures on education in other First WOrld nations in the West compared to America]:
That the expenditure both per student and as a proportion of GDP is higher in the USA than in most European countries. If you want to match the European averages you need to reduce education expenditure, not increase it.
Which, although not the point, also goes to prove that more expenditure [does not necessarily lead to] better results.
(Yes, I am aware that the USA spends far more than any European country on its military; it is compensated not through education, but through the original welfare-state fields, such as pensions).
More doesn't necessarily equal better results, I agree, because it's also a matter of what the money is used for, and what the bulk of it is spent upon. It should be noted, for instance, that the European schools have a somewhat different methodology of teaching, which also garners better results for students. Money isn't the sole answer to the problem, but it's a fact that the reason so many public schools in America have limited curriculas and programs is because they are starved for funds, and teachers are paid quite poorly. More money may not be the answer to everything, because you need good ideas along with this money, but less amounts of currency do greatly limit the number of programs and courses that can be offered, including (in a possible youth liberated future) paid apprenticeships. This is why private schools often produce better results despite often having a very similar teaching methodology to the public schools.
So there were [good paying] jobs, after all?
But still ultimately not enough of them. In a socialist system, everyone would be given meaningful work, with the result being that the more workers there were, the less work would be required for each individual worker. There would be none of this insane competition for a limited number of jobs that is a hallmark of capitalism.
If you really believe a monkey can take decisions, you learned nothing from the Bush years.
Many workers who are experienced in a certain field know the work well, and are perfectly capable of making competent decisions. The Bush years simply made it clear--yet again--that as long as you were born into a rich family, you can be as dumb as an ox and still be "successful" and become president.
I agreed. I just pointed out that it's not entirely relevant that each person naturally adapts to what they do regularly.
Understood, since that doesn't negate any of my points.
Exactly. Pre-Roosevelt. You said it.
My point being that in the 19th century, the system hadn't yet reached the level of degradation that it did by Roosevelt's era, because prior to the Industrial Revolution (the crowning achievement of the present system), capitalism was still a progressive system that had not yet reached it's twilight years. By the time of FDR, it was a bit past its winter years, and thus could no longer sustain itself without the New Deal reforms that FDR instituted to save the system from its own excesses, as the great stock market crash of '29 and the Great Depression made quite clear.
[Regarding the reasons behind the institution of large-scale social welfare programs by the state via progressive taxation in many European nations]:
Still, it was done to prevent another great European war, not to prevent massive worker rebellion.
I disagree. It was certainly done, at least in part, to stave off worker unrest. The working class in these European nations have frequently demonstrated that they are not as reverential of the wealthy as the American workers are, and are usually not as tolerant of their needed social programs being demolished as are the American workers.
You could say that the American workers paid the taxes by which American soldiers could protect European governments so they could spend on European workers.
All the more reason why American workers deserve the same benefits as their European counterparts.
[Regarding the state providing certain needed services to the working class for as long as capitalism continues to exist via taxation]:
No service that cannot be provided by the private enterprise and private employees - even if paid for by the government (as you know I think food should be, e.g.)
Some services should not be part of the profit system, health care and food foremost among them. Nevertheless, if the government paid the private services for a certain amount of these products and services going to those workers in great need, then I would have no problem with private services providing them. But I do not believe the strong neo-con belief that private enterprise does everything better than the government, as the results of the rampant deregulation of many industries has proven over the past three decades.
[Regarding my criticism of corporate welfare]:
You don't know that that money wasn't going to be invested in creating more jobs, better infrastructure or technological improvements.
Sorry, but the above assumptions are often made by pro-capitalist pundits and frequently fall flat. Capitalists do not invest money to create new jobs simply out of the kindness of their hearts to the working class whose backs they live off of; the greater amount of money they receive from the government and other sources go into advertising of their products, to pay off debts the company may have with a bank, and right into the hands of the executives as bonuses.
As for technological improvements, this often leads to labor-displacing technology that results in more workers being laid off, which in turn results in (ironically enough) less workers being able to purchase the products or services offered by the company in question, which in turn leads to a recession...and so on and on. Capitalism is rife with these contradictions. Also, what you said above can be said to be a variation of Reagan's disproven "trickle down" theory, which was yet another silly attempt to claim that the more profit that capitalists make, the better off the working class is. You can clearly see how this myth works in favor of the capitalist class.
[Regarding my previous statements about charities]:
1) I could say just the same for government programs;
2) Yet, even if there are charities that [aren't legitimate but merely money-making rackets for the owners], many other ones [are legitimate and do help people as they claim]: the point being made wasn't that all are exemplary (you should know better, as you have heard me criticize many of them), but that the good ones prove work can be done at a fraction of the cost it takes for government.
If you suggest that the government use the legitimate charities as a model for cost effectiveness, then I have no problem with that. But the thing is, no charities, legit or otherwise, are big enough to handle all the problems for workers that capitalism creates. The government is far larger and better equipped for that reason to handle the problems. I have yet to see a single charity pay out allotments to poor people who are unemployed and in desperate need for food, shelter, and medical care to a degree anywhere near comparable to that of government social services. Not only that, but I have seen a few soup kitchens in my local area, which are funded by charities that are financed entirely by donations, close shop because of a lack of money. So much for greater efficiency on a shoestring budget.
The more I read your paragraph, the more it sounds as against statism, not against a class system by itself. All of the above are consequences of the state and its inevitable predation. Some members of already rich classes simply can get immunities from state predation - that too is the same in every system.
Let me make this clear: I am against the very concept of a class-divided economic system in this modern era of advanced productive capacity. The state is a creature of capitalism, not some entity that exists entirely apart from it. I support the establishment of a system that has no class divisions and therefore no need for a predatory state. I think that for as long as capitalism exists, the state can be pressured into providing certain services for the working class, even if this situation is not ideal and even if for no other reason than to prevent complete social breakdown and chaos. Yes, the state can be predatory, but that is because it's part of a predatory economic system that is based on top to bottom control by a small privileged oiligarchy. I think it's outrageous to suggest that capitalism would become friendlier without the state to moderate its excesses, because capitalists are at least as big a predator as any bureaucrat, which is why the latter two entities have become interchangable in many cases (such as in Leninist or Maoist systems that feature state ownership rather than private ownership, which are variants of capitalism). To say that the state is predatory but capitalists are not is to ignore the very function and purpose of capitalism: ownership of all productive property by the few and production solely for the private enrichment of these few.
[Regarding Alex's response to my query as to how knowing all the technical aspects of capitalist economics that he mentioned would have any influence on someone's conclusions as to whether or not the system is benign]:
By showing them that we cannot fix it by the Will of God the lawmaker, and that when we try, we simply make someone else pay the bill.
I repeat: how does having all of this information about the intricacies of capitalism make it more likely to convince a dissatisfired worker that the system is good? None of that info in any way refutes the inherently parasitic nature of the system, but simply illustrates how ridiculously complicated it is.
If people knows how the system works, they would know that more often than not the banks are screwing them no matter what they do. In turn, they would either minimize their debts from the beginning, or demand for banking that works under fairer principles, such as SoCred or sharia. Such an economy would also be much more resilient to crisis. As a matter of fact, people would learn why crisis are inevitable with the toxic combination of fiat money, partial reserve banking and monetary monopoly, and would demand and create otherwise.
Capitalism by its very nature, especially in the present day, encourages people to borrow money or spend money they don't have via credit, and therefore going into debt. That is a major way that many companies make their money, particularly banks. Banks are the lifeblood of a capitalist system, and I highly doubt that any high school teacher will provide a scathing critique of the banking system in a government controlled school for "impressionable" youngsters, let alone a private school where many of the children have bankers as parents. And your suggestions, if taken into account on a mass scale, may put less people into debt, but because the class divisions would be left intact, the many problems that the system causes would remain.
[Regarding my comments about the ridiculous complexity of capitalism]:
Global warming is also horridly complex compared to the Johannine Apocalypse.
The problem is that the government is not supposed to be run for the same motives or with the same goals as a private company.
That is true in theory, but the government officials are largely beholden to the capitalist class, who pour millions of dollars per year into powerful and influential lobbyist groups, not to mention contributions to campaigns. Furthermore, government programs, such as those connected to domestic survellience and collecting of personal data, are increasingly being mined out to private companies, and private companies that hire and train mercenaries with a pretense to nationalist loyalties like Blackwater are providing a lot of the manpower for America's military operations. Little by little, the government and private companies are getting in bed with each other, another indication being that many high-ranking politicians in the legislative branch go on to receive lucrative jobs by the same companies they helped while in office when their terms run their course. It's also gotten to the point that lobbyist groups are actually writing the legislation they want Congress to pass.
[Regarding teachers' wages under capitalism]:
You are aware that unions and their Progressive allies in legislature are the single largest group opposing hiring people on a less than 8h/40h basis, right?
Unions have long been in bed with both the government and the corporations, and careerists in the upper hierarchy of the unions have caused them to become a lucrative enterprise in and of themselves. That is why I support the DeLeonist conception of unionism over and above the capitalist-supporting unions of today, which were bound to "sell out" the workers eventually due to their acceptance of capitalism as a system and their preposterous position that capital and labor are "brothers" with common interests.
[Regarding the argument of how much someone whose job is mostly confined to decision-making should be compensated compared to those whose job consists of hard physical labor]:
Many, but not all. Decision making is a talent too. It can be a valid debate whether it is a talent deserving of such a high and disproportionate compensation, but it is not debatable that it too is a talent and that it too deserves something.
My argument is that workers with good decision-making capabilities should be democratically elected to a managerial position by their fellow workers, not by appointment via owners. Further, the CEOs generally have quite a distance from the job itself, and make decisions not based on what is best for the workers, but what is best for the owners, which is why CEOs often make decisions to downsize, outsource, and cut benefits or hours. This hardly places their decision-making in harmony with the interests of the workers, and strenghtens my contention that such decisions should be made by workers with the requisite talents, with input from the entire labor force. This situation also illustrates the inherent conflict of interest between the capitalist and working class, and why I and other Marxists argue that CEOs do no useful work for society itself but only for the ruling class, and thus would not be needed in a socialist system (the same can be said for pretty much anyone working for the banking system, accounting field, insurance companies, or corporate lawyers).
We clearly differ on our reading of history ;)
Everything I said [about the history of capitalist production] was historically accurate. We differ not so much in our readings of history but in our interpretation of what those events meant.
[Regarding our argument as to why European nations created their social welfare programs for the indigenous working class]:
Funny, but despite the fiery rhetoric of the Left in that era, with the sole exception of Russia, European workers 1870-1945 were much more happy to be violent against another country than against their own country's capitalist class. False consciousness? Maybe so. But what the capitalists feared wasn't their own demise as much as other decade lost to war.
War is a highly profitable racket under capitalism for many reasons, which I will gladly go into in detail if you so request. Workers are routinely cajoled via the propaganda of their govenment to blame the ills that afflict them on someone else, often a foreign country, and are instilled with a patriotic loyalty to the "fatherland." The governmental manipulations of racism, sexism, differing religious sects, and various other prejudices have often been used to create scapegoats and keep workers away from addressing issues of class as opposed to race, gender, religion, etc., thus causing most of them to lose sight of the fact that class is the crux of all of these prejudices and should be looked at first. You see a very good illustration of this in the world today with the civil war going on between different ethnic groups in the Middle East (e.g., the Sunnis, Shiites, and Kurds in Iraq), and the contention between Israelis and Pakistanis; hardly an analysis of the class nature of society enters the picture in any of these cases, and this glaring omission is actively encouraged by the government and the capitalists of each nation concerned. This, along with strong notions of tribalism and the idea of national exceptionalism, is largely why workers have traditionally been more interested in attacking foreign nations that are rivals to their respective ruling classes rather than their own ruling classes. However, on the rare occasions when this does happen, we get exceedingly important events like the Revolutionary War that founded America.
[Regarding my refutation of the "trickle down" theories in support of Reaganomics and corporate welfare]:
But you still don't know it. That is the qualm.
I know that such claims continuously prove false, and I provided one classic example of this (Reagan's infamous "trickle down" theory).
[Regarding the issue of charities vs. the government providing relief for the poor]:
Which is why…
1) Most of the best charities specialize in one issue and in specific areas, unlike the government that tries to do everything everywhere.
2) Charities shouldn't be priced out by governments. It is proven both that people increase charity contributions when their income increases and that people with poorer origins contribute more than people with richer origins. That should be good enough for reducing all taxation upon the lower and middle classes.
I agree with much of what you said above, but the thing is, single issue charities cannot help more than one specific problem, whereas the government is by its very nature designed to tackle a variety of problems with its myriad number of departments.
"The state is a creature of capitalism, not some entity that exists entirely apart from it."
I disagree, and therein lie many of our differences.
Blaming the state for most of the problems that capitalism creates is a popular trope for conservatives these days, but what they fail to consider is that the state doesn't "force" predatory behavior on capitalists; the exploitive, predatory nature of the system is an inherent part of its purpose for production and emphasis on competition. The state was established by the capitalist class to manage society on its behalf and to protect the class structure of society, as well as mediate disputes between various capitalists. Socialism, by contrast, would require no state. If capitalism greatly minimized or totally eliminated the state, the capitalists would have to find a way to directly impose order and enforce its class rule, and it would have no way to rein in its excesses. The capitalists would also have to find an alternative to mediating any disputes between them that arose. This may well mean private armies, privatized police forces, etc. The conservatives who boast the "state is evil" rhetoric do so largely as a means to distract people from the problems that are endemic to the system itself, and would still be there even without the state, and probably even worse with no regulation and oversight of its excesses. The state has saved capitalism and bailed out capitalists who came close to ruining the entire economy on more than one occasion in the past, including the recent fiasco with the banks. I am not arguing that the state is inherently "good," just that it's necessary in a capitalist system.
[Regarding whether knowing the highly technical aspects of capitalist economics would have any effect on the conclusions a researcher may draw about the ethical nature of the system, such as whether or not they would be convincved it was a good system or not]:
Maybe not convince them that the system is good, but at least making them immune to the simplistic solutions routinely proposed by many pundits and politicians to solve its issues. That is good enough, I think.
Good enough, perhaps, but hardly something that in any way suggests that the system has any merits. As I said, it's just an indicator of how complicated the system is.
"And your suggestions, if taken into account on a mass scale, may put less people into debt, but because the class divisions would be left intact, the many problems that the system causes would remain."
And many would be ameliorated, too.
Quite possibly, but as a socialist, my preference is to eliminate these problems entirely rather than simply ameliorate them.
[Regarding whether or not war is a profitable venture for a nation under a capitalist world order]:
Yes, unless it is fought in your own home. That's what Europeans realized.
This I agree with. That is why America has been pushing the "we have to fight them over there so we don't have to fight them over here" slogan to justify its foreign wars that conveniently leave the homeland entirely unscathed while cheerfully destroying civilian lives and infrastructure in these far distant nations.
Bob [to Alex]:
"If you really believe a monkey can take decisions, you learned nothing from the Bush years."
"If you truly believe a monkey can't become president, simply let him inherit a fortune."--yours truly
Now that time, it was me who couldn't resist ;-)