Why I Am Not a Communist

Last summer, I wrote a three-part post series, “Why I Am Not a Libertarian“, which explained my disagreement with this political philosophy. However, I’ve realized that despite writing an essay addressing the crimes of communist regimes as they reflect on atheists, I’ve never written a post on my differences with communism per se. This one will do that.

I have many objections to communism, not least of which is last year’s news that, in Russia, the Communist party is now teaming up with the Russian Orthodox Church to outlaw homosexuality – a fitting illustration of the similar dogmatic, irrational attitudes that prevail in both ideologies. But my differences go deeper than that, and this post will outline three of the most serious.

Communism lacks a good mechanism to allocate resources to where they are most needed, resulting in waste, shortages and inefficiency. In a capitalist economy, price serves as both a vital signal of demand and also the means of meeting that demand. When a product or service is demanded in excess of current supply, the price rises, attracting people to produce that product or service in order to make a greater profit. Conversely, when supply outstrips demand, the price drops and people are naturally discouraged from producing more of the excess commodity until the imbalance resolves itself. This “invisible hand” of the market, an organizational force at the macro-level emerging from thousands of independent decisions, is often an extremely efficient way of balancing supply with demand and resulting in a society where there is neither wasteful excess nor shortage.

Communism, however, has no such balancing mechanism. In a communist society, the state sets the price of all commodities, and this decision can be completely arbitrary. In theory, if a shortage occurs, the state simply orders the appropriate entities to produce more, but this decision is insufficiently sensitive to price signals and has no necessary link to supply or demand. No group of centralized bureaucrats has the information or the intelligence to make such perfect decisions affecting the price of every transaction in society. This “top-down” approach will inevitably result in inefficiency and misallocation of resources, wasting commodities that are produced in excess of demand and causing shortages of commodities that are not produced in sufficient quantity to meet demand. The “bottom-up” approach of capitalism is a far superior means of dealing with this problem.

Communism discourages productive effort and innovation. In a communist society, no one is richer than anyone else; the state allocates goods to all people based only on need. This means that there are no material rewards for invention, innovation, or greater productivity. It also means that those who are less productive than the average have no incentive to work harder or increase their output.

What this inevitably leads to, in the real world, is a vicious spiral of decreased effort and decreased production, as people slacken their efforts so as to work no harder than the least hardworking member of society (whom they’ll be paid the same as anyway, so why work any harder than them?). This is the classic Prisoner’s Dilemma in action, and means that such a system cannot compete against a capitalist economy that tangibly rewards good ideas and hard work.

Communism necessarily denies the freedom of the individual. Of all the shortcomings of communism, I consider this one to be the most serious. A communist economy necessarily denies people the freedom to seek happiness in whatever career they choose. In such a system, decisions regarding what job a person will take must be made by the state. When the bureaucracy perceives a shortage, their only response is to order more people to join the effort of producing the desired commodity. Thus, a communist society is intrinsically a tyranny where people’s lives must be controlled in minute and exacting detail by a faceless and distant central committee. This alone should make communism repugnant to all lovers of freedom and liberty, and bring us to the realization that no such system could ever succeed in reality without massive and widespread violations of the human right to choose our own destiny and pursue happiness as we see fit.

About Adam Lee

Adam Lee is an atheist writer and speaker living in New York City. His new novel, Broken Ring, is available in paperback and e-book. Read his full bio, or follow him on Twitter.

  • NoAstronomer

    “Communism necessarily denies the freedom of the individual”

    I usually start with that, and stop right there. Even if communism *were* the most efficient way to allocate resources it would still fail because at it’s core communism actively prevents people from being happy.

  • http://mcv.planc.ee mcv

    Well to be honest then the liberty that communism denies the people is the negative conception of freedom – the absence of restricions. This negative liberty tradtision (rooted in Newton, founded by Hobbes, Locke etc. reaffirmed by Mill, Humboldt etc.) sees freeom defined by the lack of limits.

    But on the other hand communism does an excellent job in making the people free when we look at the positive conception of freedom – the actualization or realization of the self. According to this tradition one is free when one is able to actualize some perfect form of oneself, meaning that if someone is unable to realize what would be the best thing to do, then it is obligatory for others (for example the state) to tell them what to do and how to live. This tradition is represented in the republican way of thinking (the Medeval city-states of Italy) and also in Rousseau, Hegel and others.

    This distinction was famously explicated by Isaiah Berlin and he also critizised the positive conception for the reason that it would make way for dictatorship. But later, when the Cold War was over and the political situation had changed, he revised his position and said that positive conception of liberty is not all bad.

    In sum: people are not free in a communist regime in the negative sense, but the most certainly are in the positive sense

    ps. I, myself, prefer McCallum’s view that liberty is always a triadic relation “x is/is not free from y to do/not to do or become/not become z” which incorporated both aspects of the two conceptions.

  • D

    I wholeheartedly agree that the maxim, “from each according to his ability, to each according to his need,” serves only to discourage ability and encourage need.

    As for the “positive sense” of liberty, MCV, I’m going to have to disagree with you on that one. The positive sense of liberty, as you’ve described it, could only be actualized in the event that we had a benevolent and all-knowing authority with the power to enforce these decisions – God, in other words. Failing that, the only thing it will ever amount to is some holier-than-thou mothering laws being passed because the guys in charge say that they know better. And hey, what do you know, there’s no god and so it makes sense this is exactly what we see.

    You say, “if someone is unable to realize what would be the best thing to do, then it is obligatory for others … to tell them what to do and how to live.” The path of goodness is not something you can force upon people, though you can guide them to an extent. This is why every internally consistent system of government works fine on paper: with perfect citizenry, of course there will be no problems, because everyone is perfect (the root of all societal problems has been stipulated out of existence). But imperfect citizenry will cause whatever society they’re in to have problems. The drives that cause problems when we get together in groups are the same drives that make us human and give us the motivation to survive as individuals, and no system of governance is capable of resolving this conflict Once And For All: it’s something that each person has to struggle with every day. Capitalism makes the most of these drives, though, and rewards those who put their drives to good use. It doesn’t work perfectly, just like instituting democratic rule doesn’t guarantee that competent leaders will be elected – but it’s the best we can manage as fallible, imperfect individuals trying to work together.

  • Stephen

    In a communist society, no one is richer than anyone else

    Oh, which communist society would that be then? I believe there were one or two communist leaders who took that principle somewhat seriously (Erich Honecker perhaps). But most treated it with the same disdain as televangelists treat Jesus’ statement about rich men, camels and needles.

    Once one gets away from the small privileged elite at the centre of power, then the statement is more or less true, and in that context the rest of your argument is valid. I have heard of some egalitarian organisations that worked well, but they were all either very small or very selective about who they admitted – and usually both. In the context of society as a whole, egalitarianism is a non-starter.

  • Steve Bowen

    This “invisible hand” of the market, an organizational force at the macro-level emerging from thousands of independent decisions, is often an extremely efficient way of balancing supply with demand and resulting in a society where there is neither wasteful excess nor shortage.

    True of course, but one of the most ironic examples of what happens when the market is circumvented comes from the capitalist U.S and E.U subsidising their own industries, or more specifically agriculture, thus denying fair competition from the third world and creating global imbalance in supply and demand.

  • http://superhappyjen.blogspot.com superhappyjen

    I’ve heard communism talked about as if it were synonymous with atheism, perhaps a post on that? Obviously we need to set the record straight.

  • http://notidentical.blogspot.com BH

    I don’t like pure communism either, but I don’t think its distribution issues can be compared with capitalism’s distribution issues. One is about efficiency and civil engineering, the other is about coverage and ethics. There’s nothing within a pure capitalist economy that guarantees fresh water will reach the places where it is most needed because nothing guarantees that the people will be able to pay for the transportation costs. Personally, I’d rather have a system designed to be ethical first, efficient second. But there isn’t an objective way to decide which is better.

    And so far as the invisible hand preventing “wasteful excess”, sure, market dynamics may slow the manufacturing of product that sits on the back shelf unsold, but have you been to a mall lately? There’s a different sort of excess that’s environmentally costly, and most consumers don’t seem to be concerned about it, even if there was a way for that information to travel back in time and be reflected in the price.

  • Steve Bowen

    Superhappyjen

    Communist regimes supress religion because they don’t like the competition. Churches etc offer a reference point for group action outside state control and the illusion of a higher authority. Communism isn’t an atheist philosophy per se.

  • Martin

    My parents are from a Communist country and I’ve heard plenty about it. While these are all good criticisms of Communism, I would have to say that the worst thing about it is that it fosters corruption. What Communism became in the real world was one giant, corrupt enterprise. Everything got done through bribes and affiliation with the Party. In fact, the reason why Russia and the Eastern European countries haven’t bounced back — the reason why capitalism hasn’t saved them by increasing quality of life or human development — is because the corruption is so endemic. It can arise anywhere, even in capitalist countries, but it arises easier where monetary decisions are made by fewer people. Capitalism spreads out those decisions.

  • prase

    In such a system, decisions regarding what job a person will take must be made by the state. When the bureaucracy perceives a shortage, their only response is to order more people to join the effort of producing the desired commodity.

    To be fair, to force the citizens to do a job chosen by the bureaucrats is neither in theory nor in practice a necessary aspect of a communist society. The bureaucrats can regulate the overall number of workers in particular field and let the applicants compete for the jobs (for example by testing their abilities to do it), which is in effect hardly distinguishable from what we encounter in capitalism. In communist regimes one had the choice of the job (I am not sure about extreme instances of communism such as North Korea), even if some jobs required sort of proof of loyalty to the communist party.

    Otherwise, I agree with all the rest of the post.

  • Josh Spinks

    I would agree that communism is not a practical political and economic system, but this post fails to address why. In communist theory the state isn’t supposed to control everything, this should be done through worker’s councils or direct democracy or something along those lines. Like I said, I don’t personally think these could be put into practice effectively, but without explaining why you leave open the objection that communist countries have not implemented the system correctly. You have to explain why it couldn’t be done and attempts will always turn out poorly.

  • Samuel Skinner

    Why you aren’t a communist? Simple- it odesn’t work because its assumptions about reality and human nature are false. Much like religion.

  • http://dbzer0.com dbo

    One point: You’re not talking about communism. You’re talking about socialism.

    In communism, there is no state.

    Make no mistake, the communist regimes that formed in the 20th century practices communism only by name.

    Communism lacks a good mechanism to allocate resources to where they are most needed, resulting in waste, shortages and inefficiency

    In a communist society, the same rules apply. People see where there are shortages and produce. See where there is waste and they stop. The only difference is that they do not do it out of greed but out of altruism.

    Communism discourages productive effort and innovation

    In a communist society, creativity and innovation is promoted because people who are creative do not have to worry if their art/creation is marketable.

    Communism necessarily denies the freedom of the individual

    Communism promotes positive freedom (I am able to do anything I want) while Capitalism promotes negative freedom (I am allowed to do anything I want). The first is clearly superior to the second.
    Since in a communist society the state does not exist, people absolute freedom.

  • http://wilybadger.wordpress.com Chris Swanson

    I entirely agree with this post. I consider myself a libertarian-socialist (in as much as that’s possible), and think that the best scocio-economic system is capitalism levened with enough socialism to make a good safety net to help people who fall between the craks, as well as to prevent some of the abuses laisez-faire capitalism is prone to.

  • Alex Weaver

    Building on what Chris Swanson says, we should make it clear that by “capitalism” we mean “free market,” not the abject welfare-for-the-rich pandering the term is often used to describe today.

  • Jim Baerg

    Re: Martin’s comment about Communism fostering corruption

    Year ago I read Jane Jacob’s book _Systems of Survival_ ( http://www.amazon.com/Systems-Survival-Dialogue-Foundations-Commerce/dp/0679748164 )

    It’s written as a sort of Socratic Dialog in which the speakers find that there are two systems of morality used in human societies, the ‘commercial system’ & the ‘guardian system’. The argument is further developed that a well functioning society needs separate guardian & commercial organizations for different sorts of function with people working in each using the appropriate moral system.

    If one has a organization that tries to do both guardian & commercial activities it turns into a Mafia style of organization. Communist states are an obvious example.

    This implies that if an anarcho-capitalist society was set up, the private police & court systems would fall into this trap. (The minimal state variants of libertarianism might have other problems but not this one.)

  • Helie L

    I agree with the previous two posters, and am happy you have written this post. My AP World History teacher claims that socialism and communism are the same thing and that countries that are not capitalist are “backward”. It annoys me to no end, especially when other students take his word for it.

    By the way, I don’t really comment, but this is a great blog that I love to read. Keep it up. :)

  • Thumpalumpacus

    mcv –

    An unspoken premise of your argument is that “self-realization” or “-actualization” is only available in a Communist system. This is a double assumption, in that it may not be available at all in a Communist system, and it may well be available in a capitalist system. Being the most perfect form one can be would appear to be an internalized drive, to me, and would appear to be available in either system — so long as one is undaunted by risk or change.

    And though I realize that the human rights abuses history has witnessed in Communist states aren’t a result of the application of Communist theory per se, the fact that those abuses have arisen in virtually every Communist state that has existed is a troubling fact crying out for explanation. It is my belief that it occurs because the state takes no notice of sweat equity, and in denying private ownership — stealing from its citizens, some would say — it immediately sets into play a criminal mindset when citizens hide or withhold what they feel to be their own.

    In short, selfishness wins out, every time. If you doubt that, look at the dachas and special stores the Russian heirarchy maintained for themselves.

    This, then, is the beauty of capitalism: it harnesses selfishness and greed to work for the good of society.

  • Chris

    Building on what Chris Swanson says, we should make it clear that by “capitalism” we mean “free market,” not the abject welfare-for-the-rich pandering the term is often used to describe today.

    I think the invisible hand stuff covered that already. Oligopoly and oligopsony (often aided by government regulation and/or subsidy) are the two most common ways to cripple the invisible hand. When the phenomena of the macro level don’t emerge from thousands of independent decisions but from half a dozen corporate execs in a villa somewhere, the resource allocating benefits of the market are lost.

    The butcher’s, the brewer’s and the baker’s regard for their own interest only benefits my supper if I am *actually* free to get another supper if I don’t like what the first 3 are offering. Food is a good example for the invisible hand because it’s tangible, its quality is usually quickly apparent, and it is distributed among a large number of producers. Even a food giant like, well, Giant, would wither and die if its customers didn’t like its wares and all started going across town to the Harris Teeter.

     
    The invisible hand does seem to break down with less tangible industries, though. I don’t see how the investment broker’s regard for his own interest will lead to anything more than trading too often and reserving too little to cover your bets – and the insurance adjuster’s regard for his own interest actively encourages him to screw me if I have a claim. Realtors’ regard for their own interest contributed to the real estate bubble, too. People who make a percentage have a stronger interest in bargaining prices up than down, not to mention how much they benefit from fast turnover. The only person guaranteed to make a profit on “flipping” a house is the realtor who collects two commissions.

    Oh, and if the doctor doesn’t do a good job I’m dead and can’t go elsewhere for my next open-heart surgery. So there may be some niches where government regulation is needed, despite the dangers. Poor quality “product” can do lots of damage in less time than it takes the consumer to recognize the low quality and find another provider.

  • Josh Spinks

    Incidentally, I think the notion that capitalism triumphed over communism is harmful. It seems clear to me that social democracy, as in, say, Norway, has proven to be the best system put into practice yet. Saying that capitalism is better is often a rhetorical trick. Capitalism is defined as any system that allows the market to operate, so that everyone will agree that it is better. Then, the definition is shifted to laissez-faire capitalism once you have agreed it is the better system.

  • malpollyon

    I have to say that this post would be better titled “Why I hate what people who haven’t got a clue call “communism”"

    Certainly you seem to have a touching faith in the infallible laws of supply and demand given that the incentive to lie about what you are supplying is built in to the capitalist system. I suggest you read Marx and see what communism actually means rather than listen third-hand prejudiced accounts.

  • Mrnaglfar

    Here’s one, of many, of a simple situation under which communism fails:

    -There’s a market with an overproduction, so some people have to leave; let’s say those who decide to leave don’t quite cover it and there’s still waste, so now no one left in the market wants to leave it, yet someone has to.

    Who leaves and who decides?
    More to the point, what if the decision makes some people leave who decide “to hell with what they think, I’m staying”; what happens to those people? Forcefully removed from their position? Jailed?

    It’s getting back to the point that communism doesn’t work because it grinds against human nature. Any system that bets against greed and self-interest is simply bound to fail. A system like communism could work, hypothetically, in same groups of people who all know each other and want to help out, but then again, so could anything.

    Imagine a group of people trying to organize and meet around the entire U.S. Let’s just say 1,000,000 workers need to come together and reach a conclusion as to who has to go and who has to stay, as well as what to make, who makes it, how they make it, and how much to make. Now coordinate their requests for materials and space with another 1,000,000 workers facing similar problems who’s business just happens to brush up against the first group. Eventually, groups may naturally form to prevent all this waste and impossible tangle and they may elect a representative (staying peaceful of course).

    Kind of like the thread on anarchy; ideal communism is, as far as I can tell, no different from anarchy where everyone gets along with everyone and there are no problems. If anyone would like to point out the difference to me, I’d be happy to hear it.

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org Ebonmuse

    mcv:

    According to this tradition one is free when one is able to actualize some perfect form of oneself, meaning that if someone is unable to realize what would be the best thing to do, then it is obligatory for others (for example the state) to tell them what to do and how to live.

    Brrr! I feel a chill down my spine every time I read that paragraph. Do you have any notion at all of what you’re suggesting? You’re saying that if I am “unable to realize” what would be best for me (who makes that judgment?), then some other group of people can step in and direct my life, against my will if necessary, because they know better than I do (says who?).

    In a free society, do people make bad decisions that in retrospect they regret? Absolutely. Does that mean it’s better for other people to make those decisions for them? Absolutely not! Who are you going to entrust with that awesome power?

    Humans are all fallible. There is no perfect authority you can count on to always make the right decisions. Anyone you choose for this job has the potential to make mistakes – and since these hypothetical state bureaucrats by definition know less about me than I do, are less well informed than me about what matters to me, they are even more likely to make bad choices than I am. And since they, unlike me, have no direct interest in how my life goes, they have far less incentive to study all my options carefully. There is simply no plausible way that anyone could ever be a better guardian of my destiny than I myself.

    Allowing any person or group of people to control another’s destiny is a terrible idea. The only exceptions I would make to such a core principle are in cases where the person’s judgment and reason are clearly impaired, such as in the case of the mentally ill. But to allow the state to make decisions for a healthy, rational adult in sound mind, because they claim to know better? That is abhorrent tyranny, sir, and I will always stand against it.

    To be fair, to force the citizens to do a job chosen by the bureaucrats is neither in theory nor in practice a necessary aspect of a communist society. The bureaucrats can regulate the overall number of workers in particular field…

    Prase, I don’t see how this is not a contradiction. What does it entail to “regulate the overall number of workers” in a particular industry if it does not involve mandating people to perform that job?

    You mentioned competition to determine who’s best suited for a job, but you’ve only dealt with the easy problem. The hard problem is, what do you do if there are fewer people interested in a job than there are slots to be filled?

    Capitalism, imperfect as it is, has a solution to this. When a job is in demand but not enough people are willing to do it, the increased demand for that job leads to an increase in offered pay, making the job more attractive and encouraging more people to apply. This is not a solution available to communism. So what is the alternative, other than forcing people to perform that job regardless of whether they’re willing? I really don’t see how you’ve addressed this point at all.

    dbo:

    In a communist society, the same rules apply. People see where there are shortages and produce. See where there is waste and they stop. The only difference is that they do not do it out of greed but out of altruism.

    That solution works well if everyone is altruistic. Now, how do you propose to apply it in the real world?

  • Alex Weaver

    Make no mistake, the communist regimes that formed in the 20th century practices communism only by name.

    I have to say that this post would be better titled “Why I hate what people who haven’t got a clue call “communism”"

    Certainly you seem to have a touching faith in the infallible laws of supply and demand given that the incentive to lie about what you are supplying is built in to the capitalist system. I suggest you read Marx and see what communism actually means rather than listen third-hand prejudiced accounts.

    I find it telling that neither of you seems to have even considered that there might be conclusions to be drawn from the fact that this has been what resulted every single time people attempted to set up a state according to Marxist principles. How do you account for this, and how do you propose it be avoided in the future?

  • http://dbzer0.com dbo

    That solution works well if everyone is altruistic. Now, how do you propose to apply it in the real world?

    There is a word in greek that can roughly be translated as Education, but in the sense of what education was supposed to be: Critical Thinking, Knowledge and Scepticism.

    Παιδεία

    I truly believe that it leads to altruistic tendencies as is what I’ve experienced with people who have taken care to nurture these three aspects for themselves.
    A form of altruism is what you will reach when you take an active interest in ethics.

    I find it telling that neither of you seems to have even considered that there might be conclusions to be drawn from the fact that this has been what resulted every single time people attempted to set up a state according to Marxist principles. How do you account for this, and how do you propose it be avoided in the future?

    1. Like most people who believe in capitalism, you seem to forget the situation in these countries before they became communistic.
    Russia was led by God-kings, was mostly agrarian and the people liven in abject poverty and no political rights.
    China was ruled by dynasties, engaged in civil wars which resulted mainly in the people suffering. Similar situation as above.
    Cuba was a colony of US in everything except name. Rich plantation owners abused the population to their own ends. Abject poverty etc

    You seem to expect that dirt-poor countries should suddenly morph into western country clones after starting on the trip to communism (and I repeat, none of them had or has communism at the moment. Only totalitarian socialism). Well that is not how it works but the result is much better then what would happen with a capitalist society. USSR became a superpower in 40 years. China Became a superpower within 50 years. Cuba’s situation has improved dramatically even with an immoral and needless embargo by a Superpower.
    The same thing has happened in almost every other country that attempted it.
    The fact that many of them turned to totalitarianism is a result of the small education of it’s citizens which allowed tyrants and dictators to assume power and form a personality cult.

    On the other hand, take a similary poor country as Cuba and see how well they have managed under capitalism. You don’t even have to look hard, just close your eyes and point somewhere in middle-Africa…

    2. I also believe that if a sufficient critical mass of people became educated in the way I mentioned before, communism or anarchism is what will happen. It is already obvious from countries who have a high level of education, like the nordic ones, that are moving towards socialism and still retain a higher level of living that laisez-faire capilistic ones.
    If socialism arrives without violent revolution, it will not be totalitarian.
    Communism can only truly arrive once the vast majority of nations are already socialistic.

    One last thing. Everyone seems to hold on to the belief that the human nature is unchangable and inherently greedy and self-interested. However that is not the case as far as I’ve seen. If anything, human nature is as molded by education and experiences as religion. The claim that people who are not greedy and/or self-interested (in a materialistic way) go against their nature is like claiming that people who are not religious go against their nature. Frankly, for people like me who are not greedy or self-interested, it’s insulting.

  • http://dbzer0.com dbo

    -There’s a market with an overproduction, so some people have to leave; let’s say those who decide to leave don’t quite cover it and there’s still waste, so now no one left in the market wants to leave it, yet someone has to.

    Who leaves and who decides?

    People decide for themselves to leave for the good of everyone else.

  • Brit-nontheist

    Weaver:

    I find it telling that neither of you seems to have even considered that there might be conclusions to be drawn from the fact that this has been what resulted every single time people attempted to set up a state according to Marxist principles. How do you account for this, and how do you propose it be avoided in the future?

    This is what has happened single time people attempted to set up a state according to Russian Populist principles: anything more than a passing, preconceived, glance at ‘communist’ states will show the overwhelming influence of Lenin’s background of Russian Populism, simply sprinkled with Marxist rhetoric. Rhetoric doesn’t make reality, however, and while Americans have been culturally conditioned into seeing communism as the evil Other, Europeans can see its benefits as well as its faults.

  • LindaJoy

    Superhappyjen- I agree with you. I would love to see a thread with ideas for combating the atheism caused communism accusation. One thing I have used to counter some of those arguments is Acts 4:32-36. If that is not a description of communism, I don’t know what is. It is followed by the lovely story of what happens to members of Peter’s disciple group when they try to keep any of their own property for themselves. I would like to hear other argument ideas, anyone?

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org Ebonmuse

    The fact that many of them turned to totalitarianism is a result of the small education of it’s citizens which allowed tyrants and dictators to assume power and form a personality cult.

    There’s always an excuse, isn’t there? It’s not communism’s fault, it’s the fault of the people who lived under communism? If only they hadn’t been so willing to accede to totalitarianism, the whole thing would have worked out – something like that? How frustrating it must be for a great reformer to repeatedly be stymied by the incompetence of everyone other than him.

    And here I was thinking that communism was an idea that was meant to appeal to the working class, to the poor, struggling laborers who’d immediately be able to grasp how it would improve their situation. Now you’re saying that communism is a doctrine whose merits can only be appreciated by the educated elite? By the bourgeoisie? Truth, Marx must be generating high torque in his grave to hear you say that.

    Everyone seems to hold on to the belief that the human nature is unchangable and inherently greedy and self-interested.

    I’m not saying that human nature is unchangeable, but anyone who intends to change it had better have a damn good plan. So far I haven’t seen any communism advocate propose a way to do that, other than a vague hope that it will all work out for the best somehow. This sort of willful refusal to deal with reality is a good example of why actual communist states, in every case, have become miserable failures and violent despotisms. China is the example that proves the rule: its prosperity has grown as a direct function of the degree to which it’s become a participant in the capitalist world economy.

  • Ingersoll’s Revenge

    I’m not saying that human nature is unchangeable, but anyone who intends to change it had better have a damn good plan.

    Simple: Mind control. That’s what religion’s for. ;)

    But seriously, back to communism. In a sense, one could consider communism to be the purest form of democracy; in theory, the people are supposed to make all the decisions. However, many of the great enlightened minds of the 17th and 18th centuries are on record as saying, “Democracy is tyranny waiting to happen.” In my opinion, the same is true of communism. No political system can survive without some kind of figurehead or leader that fulfills certain duties and functions. In such a case, there is always the possibility of a demagogue arising to seize power (*cough* LENIN *cough*).

    People can make arguments all they wish about what it would take to “make communism work” : greater education, altruism, etc. ad nauseam. None of that changes the fact that the system they create by such criteria only exists in their minds; communism sounds appealing to lots of people, but it has a stunningly poor track record in the real world. I think Ebon did a fine job highlighting that communism, in practice, actually suffocates freedom and ingenuity.

    I had a literature professor who was an ardent communist back in the 60′s, but had become so jaded with the movement – realizing that much of it was wishful thinking – that he verbally assaulted anyone who espoused communist ideals. Since we had several students in the class who had grown up under communist regimes, he had a field day. One of them made the argument that, while Stalin was in power in Russia, there was no crime in the streets. I’ll never forget his response:

    “That’s the same argument as, ‘When Hitler ran Germany, the trains were always on time’.”

  • Mrnaglfar

    dbo,

    People decide for themselves to leave for the good of everyone else.

    It sure is easy to answer tough questions when you don’t answer anything that comes before or after it. That answer is almost as good as “wishing it were so”.

    If everyone was alturistic as communism would require, then we wouldn’t even be having this debate; turns out people are self-interested and greedy, who’d of thought? I know it’s only been reflected in all of human history for all of human existence, but let’s not get bogged down in details.

    1. Like most people who believe in capitalism, you seem to forget the situation in these countries before they became communistic.
    Russia was led by God-kings, was mostly agrarian and the people liven in abject poverty and no political rights.
    China was ruled by dynasties, engaged in civil wars which resulted mainly in the people suffering. Similar situation as above.
    Cuba was a colony of US in everything except name. Rich plantation owners abused the population to their own ends. Abject poverty etc

    And once communism took over all the people changed and all those problems went away, right? I’m sure the people were happy and no one got killed.
    And surely, the change only came from communism, and not from other technology and industrialization, right?

    The fact that many of them turned to totalitarianism is a result of the small education of it’s citizens which allowed tyrants and dictators to assume power and form a personality cult.

    So your solution to this problem is…. what? Educate everyone? Now I’m all for education, but do you have any evidence that it would even work? Or that education might be able to stop say…. the dictor’s military?

    I also believe that if a sufficient critical mass of people became educated in the way I mentioned before, communism or anarchism is what will happen. It is already obvious from countries who have a high level of education, like the nordic ones, that are moving towards socialism and still retain a higher level of living that laisez-faire capilistic ones.
    If socialism arrives without violent revolution, it will not be totalitarian.
    Communism can only truly arrive once the vast majority of nations are already socialistic.

    Mixtures of appropriate socialism and captialism are certainly benefically, but I would hardly say that such things naturally progress towards no government (in which cases all those socialist benefits would dry up because with no government to tax and use that tax money to implement those programs the benefits become those of relying on the generosity of others, which gets back to the point of how education overcomes self-interest)

    Frankly, for people like me who are not greedy or self-interested, it’s insulting.

    That made me chuckle. Ok, if you’re not greedy or self-interested, prove it; mail me all your money, or at least all the money you don’t need to use to eat and live in the most basic of apartments. If you’re not greedy and have no self-interest, that shouldn’t be an unreasonable demand.

  • http://dbzer0.com dbo

    Oh so we’re being sarcastic now? Fine, I can play this game but it becomes tiresome quickly. The fact that you decided to go that way shows just how prepared you are to discuss any positive aspect of communism.

    @Ebonmuse

    There’s always an excuse, isn’t there? It’s not communism’s fault, it’s the fault of the people who lived under communism? If only they hadn’t been so willing to accede to totalitarianism, the whole thing would have worked out – something like that? How frustrating it must be for a great reformer to repeatedly be stymied by the incompetence of everyone other than him.

    Of course there is an “excuse”. Fortunately, unlike a typical ‘murican I can actually look at the complex situations that led to the USSR forming, becoming a superpower and it’s eventual demise. I can also see Marx’ theory and see where it differs from what was actually pracised.
    I cannot simply go “Hurr, communism bad, capitalism good, hurr.”

    What USSR practiced was not communism as Marx described it. Many people have already said that in this thread but in true American fashion it seems to pass right through your ears.

    And here I was thinking that communism was an idea that was meant to appeal to the working class, to the poor, struggling laborers who’d immediately be able to grasp how it would improve their situation. Now you’re saying that communism is a doctrine whose merits can only be appreciated by the educated elite? By the bourgeoisie? Truth, Marx must be generating high torque in his grave to hear you say that.

    If only bourgeoise meant educated elite, you might have made a point. Being part of the proletariat does not mean that you are an uneducated dunce. On the contrary, history has proven that an evolution not backed by the appropriate philosophy on the part of everyone who takes part is prone to corruption.

    I don’t care what Marx is doing in his grave. The man thought of a brilliant theory which is unfortunately not complete and also utopic. That does not mean it should be discarded but rather that the correct parts should be taken and the whole thing molded into something workable.

    By discarding the whole thing outright because previous attempts failed is well…like judging all atheists because Stalin was an atheist.

    I’m not saying that human nature is unchangeable, but anyone who intends to change it had better have a damn good plan. So far I haven’t seen any communism advocate propose a way to do that, other than a vague hope that it will all work out for the best somehow

    Communism is a socioeconomic theory not a philosophy of life. Marx thought of a system that he assumed would work. Unfortunately the world is not yet prepared for Communism and the change will happen whether people realize it is communism or not.

    Capitalism went through similar failed attempts until it managed to take root and it mainly happened because the world was ready for it.

    in every case, have become miserable failures and violent despotisms. China is the example that proves the rule: its prosperity has grown as a direct function of the degree to which it’s become a participant in the capitalist world economy.

    Ah I get it. When Communism fails, it’s because of core communist ideas. When it succeeds it’s because of capitalism. How simplistic of you…

    @Mrnaglfar

    It sure is easy to answer tough questions when you don’t answer anything that comes before or after it. That answer is almost as good as “wishing it were so”.

    The article is a critique of communism not an essay on why communism can never come to be.

    If everyone was alturistic as communism would require, then we wouldn’t even be having this debate; turns out people are self-interested and greedy, who’d of thought? I know it’s only been reflected in all of human history for all of human existence, but let’s not get bogged down in details.

    If everyone becomes as altruistic as communism requires then we would already have communism.
    It seems that our disagreement then is not if communism is bad of good but rather if it’s feasible.

    And once communism took over all the people changed and all those problems went away, right? I’m sure the people were happy and no one got killed.

    So your critique of communism (socialism actually) is that it’s not somehow a magic situation that immediately makes a society a utopia once it arrives through violent revolution?
    USSR was poor, agragarian and weak politically. Under socialism it was still poor (albeit that did not matter so much since money is not so important), industrial and a superpower. Yet you criticise communism because it did not help USSR become a US clone overnight.

    And surely, the change only came from communism, and not from other technology and industrialization, right?

    There we go again with blaming all the bad on communism and all the good on anything else. Can you people grasp complex situations?

    So your solution to this problem is…. what? Educate everyone? Now I’m all for education, but do you have any evidence that it would even work? Or that education might be able to stop say…. the dictor’s military?

    Education has, is and always will be the enemy of totalitarianism. So to answer your question: Yes, it would stop a dictator’s military as it has done many times now.
    Just remember what is the first thing to go under a totalitarian regime.

    in which cases all those socialist benefits would dry up because with no government to tax and use that tax money to implement those programs the benefits become those of relying on the generosity of others, which gets back to the point of how education overcomes self-interest)

    Exactly.

    That made me chuckle. Ok, if you’re not greedy or self-interested, prove it; mail me all your money, or at least all the money you don’t need to use to eat and live in the most basic of apartments. If you’re not greedy and have no self-interest, that shouldn’t be an unreasonable demand.

    Not being greedy does not mean being stupid.

  • Mrnaglfar

    dbo,

    Not being greedy does not mean being stupid.

    But I thought you weren’t greedy or self-interested; if you’re neither of those things, please, explain how my request is unreasonable.

    The article is a critique of communism not an essay on why communism can never come to be.

    What it is and why it can’t be are in essence, both based on same assumption. What pure communism is just happens to be anarchy with a pretty new dress on; a perfect anarchy where everyone gets along and supports everyone else and there is no need for government. Of course, if those assumptions held, then any system would work just as well.

    If everyone becomes as altruistic as communism requires then we would already have communism.
    It seems that our disagreement then is not if communism is bad of good but rather if it’s feasible.

    I think it would be wonderful if everyone could get along for the betterment of everyone else, and everyone was perfectly informed and willing to make the choice that works out best for everyone.

    But I’m not going to place that on any scale in the world outside of “dream” because, shocker, people aren’t all well informed (many aren’t even kind of informed), and people are self-interested (it’s simply built into us, all of us). The mess and waste that a true communism produced would be better dealt with in just about any other form of government, provided all your idealized hopes about people were true.

    So, on those grounds, not only do I feel it’s not feasible, but I feel it doesn’t work as well as other systems could and creates more waste than other systems, whether or not the people in the culture are perfect or not.

    There we go again with blaming all the bad on communism and all the good on anything else. Can you people grasp complex situations?

    So, pointing out other things that are against to your point (where you did the exact opposite, essentially claiming they become powerful because of the rise of totalitarian socialism, not true communism, as you so rightly pointed out) turns into me not being able to grasp a complex situation?

    I understand there were many factors at play; I merely pointed out several of them, several large ones, you failed to mention. So who’s misunderstanding the situation here?

    Education has, is and always will be the enemy of totalitarianism. So to answer your question: Yes, it would stop a dictator’s military as it has done many times now.
    Just remember what is the first thing to go under a totalitarian regime.

    Dissent is normally the first thing to go.

    Of course, if everyone was wonderfully educated, which again, I feel would be a fine thing, then any system would work just as well, if not better, than communism. You’ve failed to convince me that from your starting premise communism is better than any other system, or even how your starting premise is true.

    Exactly.

    And if everyone gave everyone everything they needed to survive then we wouldn’t need government – yet people don’t. For all the flaws that capitalism with mixtures of socialism has, communism has and more.

  • http://dbzer0.com dbo

    But I thought you weren’t greedy or self-interested; if you’re neither of those things, please, explain how my request is unreasonable.

    As greed denotes selfish desire of money, power etc, usually to the detriment of others, as I do not have this characteristic I am not greedy.
    Materialistic self-interest is similar but usually does not include the “detriment to others” part.

    To answer your question, I would not give my money to you for there is no reason. I do not have much excess money and the few I have I need in case of emergency. If I get money in excess of that I usually push them in areas where they might do some good, like donating to causes I wish to promote.

    What it is and why it can’t be are in essence, both based on same assumption. What pure communism is just happens to be anarchy with a pretty new dress on; a perfect anarchy where everyone gets along and supports everyone else and there is no need for government. Of course, if those assumptions held, then any system would work just as well.

    I agree. I too believe that essentially communism and anarchy are talking about the same thing. I also agree that once we reach that level of altruism in society, communism/anarchy will have arrived, even without violent revolution.

    But I’m not going to place that on any scale in the world outside of “dream” because, shocker, people aren’t all well informed (many aren’t even kind of informed), and people are self-interested (it’s simply built into us, all of us)

    Nonsense. It’s been proven time and time again that people can be well informed and/or selfless. If you want a modern example just look at the Free Software movement.

    The mess and waste that a true communism produced would be better dealt with in just about any other form of government, provided all your idealized hopes about people were true.

    The wonderfully capitalistic third world countries would disagree with you.
    The wonderfully capitalistic eastern european block would disagree with you.
    Pre-Socialism Capitalistic Cuba would disagree with you.

    So, pointing out other things that are against to your point (where you did the exact opposite, essentially claiming they become powerful because of the rise of totalitarian socialism, not true communism, as you so rightly pointed out) turns into me not being able to grasp a complex situation?

    What I did is mention that countries of very low level which went into socialism (along with Industrialism and the like) have seemed to reach a better quality of life compared to similar countries that became capitalistic.
    The problem is that a capitalistic third world country ends up horribly exploited by the first world until the point where they manage to progress to “developing nation” status (as is what is happening with India currently)
    The problem is that a socialistic third world country is exploited by its own rulers until it manages to reach developing nation status.
    The difference is that a third world country under a capitalistc dictatorship never seems to develop while a socialist dictatorship does.
    Of course I agree that things are not black and white. There are many factors at play and it does indeed seem that attempts at communism have led to dictatorship. However I believe it is hard to avoid that when “Communism” is achieved through a military coup.

    You’ve failed to convince me that from your starting premise communism is better than any other system, or even how your starting premise is true.

    My premise is not that. My premise is that once this level of world-wide education and altruism is reached, the world will by default be communism or anarchism.

    And if everyone gave everyone everything they needed to survive then we wouldn’t need government – yet people don’t.

    People do. Just because you are not aware of it, does not mean it does not happen.

    For all the flaws that capitalism with mixtures of socialism has, communism has and more.

    Show them to me then. Do not start how it’s not in the human nature and all that bollocks. Just assume that humanity has achieved the nature required for Communism. How is it then more problematic than capitalism?

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org Ebonmuse

    What USSR practiced was not communism as Marx described it.

    dbo, you need to make up your mind about which argument you’re trying to make here. First you say it’s not fair to expect communism to immediately make the USSR into a superpower, although it did eventually become one. Then you say that the USSR’s government wasn’t really communist anyway. These are incompatible claims. Are you defending the USSR or are you not?

    By discarding the whole thing outright because previous attempts failed is well…like judging all atheists because Stalin was an atheist.

    Let’s say, for the sake of argument, I grant your point that real communism has never yet been tried. If that’s true, then how do you know communism is a good idea? After all, real communism has never been tried! It’s an untested idea. How could you possibly know how, or whether, it would work out in practice? Or do you, like Marx, just speculate from your armchair and “assume” (your word) that it would work?

    It seems that our disagreement then is not if communism is bad of good but rather if it’s feasible.

    No, it’s not. I argued in this post that communism is bad because it’s infeasible. Those are not separate contentions. However neat and simple it may look on paper, communism simply doesn’t acknowledge the basic facts of human nature that would prevent it from ever working in the real world.

    If human beings were perfectly altruistic and omniscient, then yes, communism would be a fantastic idea. If people were willing to work their hardest for no extra compensation, communism would work wonderfully. If people were always willing to subordinate their own interests for the good of society, communism would work wonderfully. If people had the infallible wisdom and insight needed to direct the course of others’ lives, communism would work wonderfully. In reality, people are not like this. People are lazy, greedy, ignorant, and self-interested, and they will remain so for the foreseeable future. I’m open to hearing plans about how we can change this, but so far no one has proposed one (and your vague assertions about how someday, somehow, we’ll just be “ready”, are a case in point).

    The genius of capitalism is that it can build a superior machine out of imperfect parts. Rather than trying to make people into unrealistically perfect automatons, it provides incentives that harness greed and self-interest for the collective good. It channels these negative impulses into productive avenues, rather than trying to suppress them altogether, which is your plan. To borrow a famous saying, capitalism is the worst economic system, except for all the others.

    Your consistent dismissal of human nature itself as an irrelevant detail, combined with your near-religious faith that someday humanity will just be good enough to accommodate your grand, impractical dream, leads me to conclude that you really haven’t devoted much thought to the practical side of the communist idea at all. Personally, I prefer utopias that can be implemented in the real world.

  • Mrnaglfar

    dbo,

    To answer your question, I would not give my money to you for there is no reason. I do not have much excess money and the few I have I need in case of emergency. If I get money in excess of that I usually push them in areas where they might do some good, like donating to causes I wish to promote.

    So you’re not self-interested, yet have money saved up that YOU might need in case something happens to YOU. You’re also ok with giving money to causes YOU want to promote.

    That does not equal alturism, or freedom from self-interest. After all, there are plenty of people in the world who need the money for immediate things now; some people are starving and could use that money to not die, some people need medicine they can’t afford, many are homeless in our own country. Are you saying your future needs and considerations of yourself have outweighed their needs?

    That’s blatant self-interest, and there’s nothing wrong with it.

    I also agree that once we reach that level of altruism in society, communism/anarchy will have arrived, even without violent revolution.

    So let’s say, just for the sake of argument, that all people all well-informed, intelligent, hard-working, etc etc. Instead of anarchy or communism, these people might realize it’s important to place small groups of representatives in charge of them who have their best interests in mind; of course, all these people are also well informed and well meaning, so there’s no corruption and everything works perfectly. Just one of the ways that a capitalist/socialist democracy would be more efficient, given your starting assumptions (you no longer need millions of people to directly interact with every other person, now only a handful have to discuss the matter – saves a lot of waste).

    Nonsense. It’s been proven time and time again that people can be well informed and/or selfless. If you want a modern example just look at the Free Software movement.

    Some people can be well informed and generous, but there are plenty of things that stop it from being selfless (reputation can certainly be a factor there). But even if there were, for the sake of argument, truly selfless, just because a handful of them can be (at least temporarily), doesn’t mean everyone can be all the time.

    The wonderfully capitalistic third world countries would disagree with you.
    The wonderfully capitalistic eastern european block would disagree with you.
    Pre-Socialism Capitalistic Cuba would disagree with you.

    *in your words* There you go, blaming capitalism for all the bad and none of the good; Besides, those aren’t REAL capitalists countries, those people aren’t well informed enough to be capitalists.

    I agree though, that capitalism is not the “cure-all” to make everything better immediately or forever, but it does work in many, many areas and communism does not. Of course, many dead people in soviet russia would probably agree that they were better off before communism/totalitarian socialism or whatever you’re defending came to power there. As was mentioned, there never has been an *actual* communist country, same where there has never been an *actual* anarchist state. If they can work, why haven’t they, and if they require people to be more alturistic as a function of who they are as people then you’ll be in for a long, long wait; possibly an indefinite one.

    My premise is not that. My premise is that once this level of world-wide education and altruism is reached, the world will by default be communism or anarchism.

    I don’t think you’ve shown that; you haven’t named anyway that, provided all people are good and well meaning and well informed, that communism is more efficient than other forms of an economic/lifestyle system that exist, ala my example above.

    People do. Just because you are not aware of it, does not mean it does not happen.

    It does happen, just not consistently and not in a vast majority of people.

    Just assume that humanity has achieved the nature required for Communism. How is it then more problematic than capitalism?

    See my example above and my initial post on the subject. If governments all mean well and are all well-informed then a handful of people are far more capable of achieving a lot more than all 300,000,000 or so of Americans trying to communicate with all of the others in order to determine who needs what and how much and how to make it and what materials to use and how to decide who gets what when more than one area needs scarce resources etc etc.

    And another one of your flaws is your assumption that humankind reaches some alturistic enlightenment. If everyone is at that level, why communism instead of capitalism? After all, just about any system of economics or government is perfect when you assume a perfect population; in the absence of that perfect population, how have attempts at anarchy and communism worked out?

  • Alex Weaver

    This is what has happened single time people attempted to set up a state according to Russian Populist principles: anything more than a passing, preconceived, glance at ‘communist’ states will show the overwhelming influence of Lenin’s background of Russian Populism, simply sprinkled with Marxist rhetoric.

    You do realize that you can only move the goalposts so far before you run out of field.

    Rhetoric doesn’t make reality, however, and while Americans have been culturally conditioned into seeing communism as the evil Other, Europeans can see its benefits as well as its faults.

    And I’m sure that’s why every state in Europe that formerly embraced Communism has now rejected it.

  • http://dbzer0.com dbo

    First you say it’s not fair to expect communism to immediately make the USSR into a superpower, although it did eventually become one. Then you say that the USSR’s government wasn’t really communist anyway. These are incompatible claims. Are you defending the USSR or are you not?

    USSR attempted communism. They had socialism. I am not defending USSR.

    Let’s say, for the sake of argument, I grant your point that real communism has never yet been tried. If that’s true, then how do you know communism is a good idea? After all, real communism has never been tried! It’s an untested idea. How could you possibly know how, or whether, it would work out in practice? Or do you, like Marx, just speculate from your armchair and “assume” (your word) that it would work?

    Indeed.

    No, it’s not. I argued in this post that communism is bad because it’s infeasible. Those are not separate contentions. However neat and simple it may look on paper, communism simply doesn’t acknowledge the basic facts of human nature that would prevent it from ever working in the real world.

    Nonsense. Your arguments were against strawmen of Communism. You point was not that it was unfeasible.
    I also disagree that human nature is unchangeable.

    People are lazy, greedy, ignorant, and self-interested, and they will remain so for the foreseeable future. I’m open to hearing plans about how we can change this, but so far no one has proposed one (and your vague assertions about how someday, somehow, we’ll just be “ready”, are a case in point).

    This post was not about how we can make people not be lazy, greedy and ignorant (glad to see you have such a bright idea about the world) but rather the faults of communism.

    Your consistent dismissal of human nature itself as an irrelevant detail, combined with your near-religious faith that someday humanity will just be good enough to accommodate your grand, impractical dream, leads me to conclude that you really haven’t devoted much thought to the practical side of the communist idea at all. Personally, I prefer utopias that can be implemented in the real world.

    Ad hominem much?

    I do not dismiss the human nature. I just see the evidence that it is not necessarily “lazy, greedy, ignorant, and self-interested”. You are otoh all too willing to accept that and deny evidence to the contrary so that you might praise capitalism.
    My “near-religious” faith that humanity will eventually improve itself is called optimism in the non-insulting societies.

    Whatever you might say, it appears that your argument is about the feasibility of communism and not if what it proposes is wrong. If not, stop attacking strawmen and argue your point.

  • http://dbzer0.com db0

    That does not equal alturism, or freedom from self-interest. After all, there are plenty of people in the world who need the money for immediate things now; some people are starving and could use that money to not die, some people need medicine they can’t afford, many are homeless in our own country. Are you saying your future needs and considerations of yourself have outweighed their needs?

    I am not willing to make this discussion into a defense of my personality. You are asserting that I am greedy and or materialistic self-interested because I will not send all my money to you. That is absurd. You do not know what or how I might be using my funds but yet you are certain that if I cannot prove it by sending all my money to you then must be lying.
    I can only shake my head at this logic.

    So let’s say, just for the sake of argument, that all people all well-informed, intelligent, hard-working,[sic]

    You simply cannot have a perfect society based on a vice (greed).

    *in your words* There you go, blaming capitalism for all the bad and none of the good; Besides, those aren’t REAL capitalists countries, those people aren’t well informed enough to be capitalists.

    I’m sorry, are you quote mining me?
    You said that countries similar to communistic regimes can always be served best by capitalism. I give you examples where this is not true. What does your quote mine have to do with anything?

    I agree though, that capitalism is not the “cure-all” to make everything better immediately or forever, but it does work in many, many areas and communism does not. Of course, many dead people in soviet russia would probably agree that they were better off before communism/totalitarian socialism or whatever you’re defending came to power there

    I’m not defending USSR or China. I’m simply pointing out that things are not black and white.

    It does happen, just not consistently and not in a vast majority of people.

    So you agree then that “human nature” is not absolute?

    And another one of your flaws is your assumption that humankind reaches some alturistic enlightenment. If everyone is at that level, why communism instead of capitalism? After all, just about any system of economics or government is perfect when you assume a perfect population; in the absence of that perfect population, how have attempts at anarchy and communism worked out?

    Once again. I did not come here to convince everyone that you should embrace communism or whatever you think I am defending. I came only to burn some strawmen.

  • Mrnaglfar

    dbo

    I am not willing to make this discussion into a defense of my personality. You are asserting that I am greedy and or materialistic self-interested because I will not send all my money to you. That is absurd. You do not know what or how I might be using my funds but yet you are certain that if I cannot prove it by sending all my money to you then must be lying.
    I can only shake my head at this logic.

    While I’m asserting that you are self-interested, you claimed to be free of self-interest; just because you can’t back up what you said doesn’t mean retreating into indignation will help your case somehow, as if feeling insulted made you right.

    You simply cannot have a perfect society based on a vice (greed).

    You can’t have a perfect society, period. Such a thing does not exist.
    Oh sure, communism sounds perfect when you assume perfection from the beginning, but then again, so does everything else.

    There’s only one way I can see to even define a ‘perfect society’ and that’s if everyone in it agrees it’s perfect, and everyone outside of it agrees it’s perfect.

    More to the point, where do you get off even calling greed a ‘vice’, as if greed was inherently morally wrong? It’s like calling a hammer wrong; greed is merely a tool that can be used for many things. In the proper context, greed can be good – it can inspire innovation, make people strive for lofty goals, and without greed, very little would have ever been accomplished. However, greed can also throw people in poverty and lead to acts of violence, among other things. To merely paint greed a wrong with one broad brush stroke is similar to denying human nature entails greed and that in a perfect society it would vanish, and that through merely teaching children we can somehow undo over a billion years of evolution.

    Call my a cynic, but that’s too ridiculous to ever consider basing a system of human behavior around.

    You said that countries similar to communistic regimes can always be served best by capitalism. I give you examples where this is not true. What does your quote mine have to do with anything?

    I guess you missed the rest of the sentence where I said there’s nothing about capitalism that suddenly makes everything better immediately and forever. Like your original response, you’re again only answering part of the question and forgetting about the rest.

    Capitalism literally requires that some people be losers and others be winners, in the economic sense of the word, which alone excludes it from being perfect (unless the losers were perfectly happy with their lose and understood it, and if I assume that then capitalism is perfect. Let’s see you argue with that iron-clad logic). However, with mixtures of socialism to curb the excesses of capitalism, in the world we ACTUALLY live in, which system do you propose would be better of the alternatives?

    I’m not defending USSR or China. I’m simply pointing out that things are not black and white.

    So then you’re defending an ideal state of communism that has never existed, with people who’s nature differs from ours, and saying that, without any evidence or reason to think so, it would be better than any other system, and in fact the default position, and because of that, capitalism isn’t good?

    Or are you defending anything at all? I can’t tell anymore; why even raise the examples of china and the USSR rising to power if you’re not defending them and if they weren’t actually communist countries? What does either that, or your example of third world countries have to do with these points?

    So you agree then that “human nature” is not absolute?

    Human nature fluctuates within the bounds of what it can do in some sort of distribution with many people around the mid point and fewer and fewer out towards the endpoints (merely a statistical inevitability), so yes, it’s capable of change. However, it being capable of change does not make it suddenly infinitely changable; human nature will never be “ant nature” or “bee nature” that communism would require.

    Those bounds themselves are capable of change in small steps, and even redefinable given evolutionary time and selection for one behavior over another. This is why I told you that, while technically not impossible (as nothing really is), you’re in for a long wait if you want those bounds to be redefined to your liking.

    Once again. I did not come here to convince everyone that you should embrace communism or whatever you think I am defending. I came only to burn some strawmen.

    Burning them by assuming every point raised against communism wouldn’t exist if everyone is perfect? Well, you certainly got me there.

  • Mrnaglfar

    Just to clear up my first point about you not being altruistic, in the sense of being free from self-interest:

    Altruism is supporting causes you don’t agree with.
    Altruism is always helping, despite the results, be them positive or negative, for you, provided it helps someone else, even a little.
    Altruism is doing all that anonymously
    Altruism is devoting your entire life to others at expense to yourself, and only taking in resources so far as your means is to help others more by extending the time you can serve them.

    You know, those things you said would make you “stupid” to do.

    By saving money for yourself, and only helping causes you happen to agree with, that places your motives in self-interest and reciprocal altruism, both of which are greedy things.

  • http://dbzer0.com db0

    While I’m asserting that you are self-interested, you claimed to be free of self-interest; just because you can’t back up what you said doesn’t mean retreating into indignation will help your case somehow, as if feeling insulted made you right.

    I am self-interested. I am not materialistic self-interested. Arguing for it (AKA defending myself) is beyond the scope of this article and my time constraints.

    Oh sure, communism sounds perfect when you assume perfection from the beginning, but then again, so does everything else.

    Well, this is part of the argument. I just said that you cannot have a vice in perfection.

    More to the point, where do you get off even calling greed a ‘vice’, as if greed was inherently morally wrong?

    I’d love to see the reasoning where greed could be considered a good value to have.

    You said it yourself that capitalism is using flawed parts of human nature (i.e. greed) to build a better system. That does not mean that the flawed parts somehow become good.

    Or do you want to argue that if everyone was more greedy we would be better off? Or do perhaps the end justify the means?

    I guess you missed the rest of the sentence where I said there’s nothing about capitalism that suddenly makes everything better immediately and forever. Like your original response, you’re again only answering part of the question and forgetting about the rest.

    Fine, you claim that capitalism on a flawed populace does a better job than socialism on a flawed populace when both societies start from an equal footing (say, as third world/undeveloped countries)

    What is your evidence of this?

    However, with mixtures of socialism to curb the excesses of capitalism, in the world we ACTUALLY live in, which system do you propose would be better of the alternatives?

    Since you asked, I think a capitalist socialism if very fitting for the world we live in. The more socialistic the better.
    For the current world we live in, I do not propose any alternatives.
    What I do propose is to work in making the world better (raising education levels etc) and come what may.

    So then you’re defending an ideal state of communism that has never existed, with people who’s nature differs from ours, and saying that, without any evidence or reason to think so, it would be better than any other system, and in fact the default position, and because of that, capitalism isn’t good?

    No. I am not arguing that capitalism is not good. I could argue that capitalism is not perfect but you already agree with that.
    Like it or not, communism has never existed in practice and is still an ideology. Utopian? quite possibly. Unfeasible? Arguable.
    However if you want to argue that this socioeconomic is inherently flawed, at least argue against what the system says. Not strawmen.

    Or are you defending anything at all? I can’t tell anymore; why even raise the examples of china and the USSR rising to power if you’re not defending them and if they weren’t actually communist countries? What does either that, or your example of third world countries have to do with these points?

    I did not raise the examples of China and USSR as a defense of communism. Indeed, I did not raise them at all as they were implied by the article and a subsequent question to me.
    In the end, I’ve already said what I am doing here. Pointing out strawmen.

    Those bounds themselves are capable of change in small steps, and even redefinable given evolutionary time and selection for one behavior over another. This is why I told you that, while technically not impossible (as nothing really is), you’re in for a long wait if you want those bounds to be redefined to your liking.

    As unbelievable as it may sound. I am not in dissagreement with you. I will probably will not live to see communism.

    Burning them by assuming every point raised against communism wouldn’t exist if everyone is perfect? Well, you certainly got me there.

    * By pointing out that communism has not yet appeared in any society (indeed it cannot unless everyone or the vast majority does it)
    * By pointing out that some arguments are blatantly false (like being inherently against freedom)
    * And finally yes, although many communists would disagree with me, I do believe that communism is unfeasible in the current world.

    However either we argue against what communism proposes or not.

  • Jim Baerg

    Since db0 brought up the excuse that ‘communism’ was first tried in relatively backward countries, it would be unfair to just compare the US & USSR, I’m a bit surprised no one has mentioned the contrast between East & West Germany or North & South Korea.

    Those look like excellent experimental cases in which one society is split into two with near equivalent starting points & different socioeconomic systems are tried. The results speak for themselves.

  • Alex Weaver

    I need to bookmark this thread for the next time someone tries to argue that Communism isn’t a religion…

  • Valhar2000

    You absolutely do, Alex. In fact, I would tell that to Britnontheist: in my experience (I live in Europe, and known people form several european countries) Europeans’ understanding of the advanatges and disadvantages of communism is drawn mostly from socialist propaganda.

  • Mrnaglfar

    dbo,

    I am self-interested. I am not materialistic self-interested.

    Everyone is to some degree interested in both, we’d just be haggling over the exact price; the fact that you own a computer speaks to that.

    I’d love to see the reasoning where greed could be considered a good value to have.

    You said it yourself that capitalism is using flawed parts of human nature (i.e. greed) to build a better system. That does not mean that the flawed parts somehow become good.

    Or do you want to argue that if everyone was more greedy we would be better off? Or do perhaps the end justify the means?

    For an example, you could read the part of my point that came directly after that one you posted where I said:

    It’s like calling a hammer wrong; greed is merely a tool that can be used for many things. In the proper context, greed can be good – it can inspire innovation, make people strive for lofty goals, and without greed, very little would have ever been accomplished.

    People being greedy on it’s own does not accomplish anything; same way giving everyone a better hammer doesn’t accomplish anything on it’s own – it’s what one chooses to do with that hammer. Sure, better tools and houses might be made with those hammers and lots of good would get done, but some people may use them as better clubs to kill other people. Before you label greed as ‘vice’, consider how many things in our lives would not exist if not for the greed of people who created in order to benefit themselves; the computer you’re on, again, is a fine example.

    Fine, you claim that capitalism on a flawed populace does a better job than socialism on a flawed populace when both societies start from an equal footing (say, as third world/undeveloped countries)

    What is your evidence of this?

    The death toll. I like the examples given above by Jim Baerg. Props to him for thinking them up, as I probably would have missed them.

    What I do propose is to work in making the world better (raising education levels etc) and come what may.

    I’m with you on that one.

    However if you want to argue that this socioeconomic is inherently flawed, at least argue against what the system says. Not strawmen.

    However either we argue against what communism proposes or not.

    I’m arguing the assumptions of the system; any system currently imagined would work perfectly with perfect citizenry. It’s impossible to argue with any system given that “perfect” assumption, because by definition, it’s already perfect; it’s similar to saying “argue about what hell and heaven are like, but don’t address the question of whether god or those places exist in the first place”

    So when I get responses that don’t entirely differ from:
    Q. how would communism deal with inefficiency?
    A. People would leave out of the goodness of their heart to where they’re needed

    Q. how would communism deal with creating innovation?
    A. People would innovate out of the goodness of their heart what’s needed.

    When every answer simply rephrases the question in the form of “people would just do it” doesn’t really lead to any answers. It’s the communist version of “goddidit”; why address the idea that millions of individual people need to keep in constant contact with each other with no middlemen (which is simply impossible given that we simply do not have that kind of time and the massive waste it would cause) when you can just say it will happen?

  • kaltrosomos

    As other people have said, the reasons Ebon gives for not being a communist are not examples of actual communism. The USSR, China, etc. are totalitarian command economies, not communist ones.

    Communism says that the economy should be run democratically, with all the workers having a share of the ownership of the factories, workshops, etc. as well as a say in what gets produced and how much, as well as deciding on other management matters. It is merely an extension of the democratic principle from political matters into economic ones. That’s why the USSR and China and the rest that claim to be ‘communist’ are not really communist. They go against the democratic principles of true communism. There can’t be communism without democracy.

    This in contrast to the capitalist system which most of the time boils down to exploitation of the disadvantaged by the advantaged. Business tycoons make millions or billions while most of their workers don’t get paid a hundredth as much. If not for proto-communist organizations like workers’ unions, workers would probably still be getting paid just enough to struggle on, while the owners raked in millions and took dumps in solid gold toilets. Hell, I bet a few of the rich still do buy outrageous things like golden toilets and sinks. And it’s still difficult for workers to survive on a single minimum wage, and that’s assuming employers give them a typical forty hour week. If, like is common, employers only give part-time hours to their grunt workers, those workers must get multiple jobs to survive. Most of the time all they ever do is work, and that’s bound to wear on them.

    This isn’t due to a failing of the workers themselves. It’s because of the economic system they are in, which is, quite clearly, based on exploitation. The highest goal of capitalism is profit, at whatever expense. But how long can such reckless economic growth be sustained? We live on a limited planet, and we are bound, sooner or later, to run into a limit of our resources. Capitalism, like a cancer, will continue sucking out resources until we run out of stuff to consume and things start tumbling down. There cannot be unlimited growth with only limited resources. And yet unlimited growth, continual growth, is what capitalism thrives on.

    It seems to me that capitalism is more prone to waste, overproduction or underproduction, and inefficiency than communism. How many cars do we really need? How many cellphones? How many new MP3 players? Why do our companies have to outsource labor overseas and thereby promote chinese sweatshops? Clearly they want to further inflate their profit margins, rather than give more work to americans. This is exploitation. Use the workers as long as they make a profit, cut them loose at the first sign otherwise. For that matter, use the consumers just to make a profit.

    Instead of producing according to needs, the gospel of consumption demands the production of NEW needs in order to sell the massive amount of production we are capable of. Why not instead actually produce according to useful needs beyond profit? Why not produce with the welfare of people as the most important goal, rather than enlarging the profit margin?

    Ebon, if you haven’t already perhaps you should write a post on why you ARE a capitalist. Why are you, despite it’s massive flaws?

  • http://dbzer0.com db0

    @ Jim Baerg

    I’m a bit surprised no one has mentioned the contrast between East &
    West Germany or North & South Korea.

    Can I mention ridiculously high western backing? The examples of how the west attempted to discredit and defeat socialism with propaganda are numerous. Off the top of my head, I remember how when the berlin wall fell people were being paid to cross to the west so that a mass exodus would appear to happen.

    I won’t argue that these two situations did not start the same or end different only that the factors at play were different

    @Alex Weaver

    I need to bookmark this thread for the next time someone tries to argue that Communism isn’t a religion…

    Unfortunately that is correct for a number of people I know, but then so is belief in laisez-faire capitalism and the free market…

    Valhar2000

    You absolutely do, Alex. In fact, I would tell that to Britnontheist: in my experience (I live in Europe, and known people form several european countries) Europeans’ understanding of the advanatges and disadvantages of communism is drawn mostly from socialist propaganda.

    Pot, meet kettle…

    @Mrnaglfar

    Everyone is to some degree interested in both, we’d just be haggling over the exact price; the fact that you own a computer speaks to that.

    If you’re trying to argue that I am greedy because I own a computer then you’ve expanded the definition of self-interest so much so as to encompass anyone not suicidally altruistic. Inconsequential.

    People being greedy on it’s own does not accomplish anything; same way giving everyone a better hammer doesn’t accomplish anything on it’s own – it’s what one chooses to do with that hammer.

    I see. People being greedy by itself does not accomplish anything. I guess it does not affect their beliefs and values at all, not shape their personality and desires.
    I guess, in a similar fashion, being envious is just a tool (another flaw capitalism exploits I might add)
    One could easily be lazy and it’s really a tool. It just depends how you use it… If I’m a lazy night security guard, it’s just a virtue.

    Unfortunately greed is a vice and has been recognised as a vice throughout the ages for good reasons. Greed leads to more greed. Greed+power is corrupting.
    While greed might be harmless when someone is poor and powerless (although they still might turn to crime to satisfy it), when it is had by someone with power is always becomes damaging.I can accept that Capitalism exploits this vice for the better good but it does not mean it’s not a vice anymore.

    The death toll. I like the examples given above by Jim Baerg

    So it’s biggern than say, Congo (percentally)? Say, how many people are starving each day in Africa? Ah yes, the rate just increased when capitalism’s invisible hand decided that food is better served as fuel to the rich instead as food to the starving.

    So when I get responses that don’t entirely differ from:
    Q. how would communism deal with inefficiency?
    A. People would leave out of the goodness of their heart to where they’re needed

    Q. how would communism deal with creating innovation?
    A. People would innovate out of the goodness of their heart what’s needed.

    How the hell else do you want me to answer when this is what communism says?

    It’s the communist version of “goddidit”; why address the idea that millions of individual people need to keep in constant contact with each other with no middlemen (which is simply impossible given that we simply do not have that kind of time and the massive waste it would cause) when you can just say it will happen?

    Supply and demand would still exist. The only difference is that money would not change hands. Why is that so difficult to grasp?

  • http://dbzer0.com db0

    How the hell else do you want me to answer when this is what communism says?

    PS: If you really want to see how communism deals with these issues go and read about the damn thing yourself instead of asking in a blog comments.

  • Jim Baerg

    @ kaltrosomos

    Communism says that the economy should be run democratically, with all the workers having a share of the ownership of the factories, workshops, etc. as well as a say in what gets produced and how much, as well as deciding on other management matters. It is merely an extension of the democratic principle from political matters into economic ones.

    There ia a problem with scaling things up.

    Most people have spent at least part of their lives in a commune consisting of an adult male an adult female & their minor children. Communes work tolerably well as long as they are not too large for everyone to know everyone else cf: Kibbutz & Hutterite colony. One problem when that size is exceeded is that it becomes hard for the members to know if another member who is doing less work is a slacker or just less able.

    A similar problem arose with political democracy. It had to be reinvented at least twice to make it work on larger scales. Informal village democracy didn’t work when societies grew larger than village scale & we got chiefs & god-kings until some Greeks figured out formal ways to make democracy work on the city-state scale. That in turn failed on the scale of a nation-state scale & we got emperors etc. until representative democracy was cobbled together in England. That has worked better than absolute monarchy, but still leaves room for improvement.

    Maybe someone will come up with a way to make ‘economic democracy’ work, but the Marxist attempt has been an abject failure.

    @ db0

    Can I mention ridiculously high western backing? The examples of how the west attempted to discredit and defeat socialism with propaganda are numerous.

    I suppose one can point to Stalin refusing Marshall plan aid to Soviet occupied Europe as part of the reason for the contrast. But to my mind only part.

    Off the top of my head, I remember how when the berlin wall fell people were being paid to cross to the west so that a mass exodus would appear to happen.

    Got a reference for that? It didn’t come to my attention at the time.

    It seems rather redundant. Curiosity alone would lead to hoards crossing the border to see what they had been forbidden to see for decades, without any financial incentive.

  • Mrnaglfar

    dbo,

    If you’re trying to argue that I am greedy because I own a computer then you’ve expanded the definition of self-interest so much so as to encompass anyone not suicidally altruistic. Inconsequential.

    Like I said, we’re just haggling over price. Everyone has lots of stuff they don’t truly need, and the money and effort spent on creating and obtaining those things could have better supported those starving people in Africa. So no, it’s not inconsequential, certainly not to the most needy of people in the world at least.

    I see. People being greedy by itself does not accomplish anything. I guess it does not affect their beliefs and values at all, not shape their personality and desires.
    I guess, in a similar fashion, being envious is just a tool (another flaw capitalism exploits I might add)

    Envy, wanting what someone else has. Envy and greed are the driving forces in the economy, take those away all the sudden you’re going to find almost everyone out of a job.
    Of course these things shape people’s personalities and desires, but you’re still stuck in your little hole of calling these things always bad in every situation. Some people will use greed and envy to drive their creativity, to always strive to better themselves, to maintain their body figure, to provide us with all the wonderful medicines and technology we have today (I’m sure medicine was all developed out of the goodness of people’s heart and greed had no place in funding or making the research possible). However, other people will use greed in an end that results in people being exploited or harmed; there’s no getting around that. A knife can be a surgical scalpel, a meat cleaver, or a murder weapon; doesn’t make the knife inherently evil.

    One could easily be lazy and it’s really a tool. It just depends how you use it… If I’m a lazy night security guard, it’s just a virtue.

    Capitalism does not leave much room for use by lazy behavior, unlike communism. In communism, without greed or envy, what incentive is there for me to work long hours of endless studying in a high stress job to be a doctor when I could just be a janitor instead; either way, I end up with just as much as anyone else. That’s the kind of system that fosters people to strive for as little as possible. You can imagine up fake people all you want who would work long hours for no extra pay, but you can imagine up anything.

    So it’s biggern than say, Congo (percentally)? Say, how many people are starving each day in Africa? Ah yes, the rate just increased when capitalism’s invisible hand decided that food is better served as fuel to the rich instead as food to the starving.

    People aren’t starving because there simply isn’t enough food in the world; people are starving because they can’t afford or find food. It’s a downside of pure capitalism, which is also why I’m not a pure capitalist. Certain socialist policies like food stamps create a safety net that at least stops people from starving, but for now, let’s go with the pure capitalism model.

    So yes, some people are starving, which I’m sure never, ever happened in one of those fake communist countries; of course, the government was ordering mass killings of all it’s opposition, so not only were the people dying, but there was specific intent for them to die. Sounds to me that one is the greater moral evil of the two.

    How the hell else do you want me to answer when this is what communism says?

    I know that’s what it says; it doesn’t actually say anything at all. All it does is assume that every problem would naturally be solved by everyone being perfect; that is communism in a nutshell. I might as well say “in a true capitalist system, even the most poor people would accept why they are poor and live happily with it; we just haven’t found the perfect people yet”. Your answers are circular.

    Supply and demand would still exist. The only difference is that money would not change hands. Why is that so difficult to grasp?

    How would there be demand without envy and greed (those terrible moral vices you mentioned)? What else, outside of them, drive people to want something enough to create it?

    Or will people simply be so good they produce things they don’t really want because they’re perfect? Do they want it out of the goodness of their heart?

    If you really want to see how communism deals with these issues go and read about the damn thing yourself instead of asking in a blog comments.

    From the sound of things it doesn’t seem communism offers a whole lot more than I already understand it to.

    Kaltrosomos,

    Capitalism, like a cancer, will continue sucking out resources until we run out of stuff to consume and things start tumbling down.

    Not capitalism; people will do that.

    It seems to me that capitalism is more prone to waste, overproduction or underproduction, and inefficiency than communism. How many cars do we really need? How many cellphones? How many new MP3 players? Why do our companies have to outsource labor overseas and thereby promote chinese sweatshops? Clearly they want to further inflate their profit margins, rather than give more work to americans. This is exploitation. Use the workers as long as they make a profit, cut them loose at the first sign otherwise. For that matter, use the consumers just to make a profit.

    The simple way to stop this is to stop buying stuff. Do you really need the computer you’re on? Couldn’t you live in a smaller place then you currently do? Maybe eat a little less? Couldn’t you live locally and not need transportation outside of a bike? Couldn’t you go without heat in the winter?

    Yes, there are excessive amounts of goods in the market, but only because people are demanding them; if people stopped buying them the supply would stop overnight. Of course, that would also put a lot of people out of work and everyone would slip further into poverty. Consumers are an active a part of capitalism as the producers; the two require the other to exist. Sweatshops are terrible, there’s no doubt, but compared to what? If the jobs didn’t pay enough and the conditions were so terrible, then no one would work there, yet they do. Most people are working there so they can afford to live, and you suggest taking those jobs away from them and giving them to americans so we don’t exploit other countries and just let them die instead?

    Instead of producing according to needs, the gospel of consumption demands the production of NEW needs in order to sell the massive amount of production we are capable of. Why not instead actually produce according to useful needs beyond profit? Why not produce with the welfare of people as the most important goal, rather than enlarging the profit margin?

    On a basic level, most ‘needs’ can be broken down into: Housing, food, transportation, entertainment, comfort, and tools/weaponry. All that’s created are new products that do one of those things in a different way.
    However, the reason people produce to enlarge their profit margin is because if they do, they all the sudden they go out of business or are incapable of expanding and growing.
    It’s a nice idea that everyone could work together to help everyone else, and such things are certainly possible, but not on the level of population we currently live. There are simply too many people for such a system to work in.

  • http://dbzer0.com db0

    Envy, wanting what someone else has. Envy and greed are the driving forces in the economy, take those away all the sudden you’re going to find almost everyone out of a job.

    Or they might be replaced with something better.

    Of course these things shape people’s personalities and desires, but you’re still stuck in your little hole of calling these things always bad in every situation. Some people will use greed and envy to drive their creativity, to always strive to better themselves, to maintain their body figure, to provide us with all the wonderful medicines and technology we have today (I’m sure medicine was all developed out of the goodness of people’s heart and greed had no place in funding or making the research possible). However, other people will use greed in an end that results in people being exploited or harmed; there’s no getting around that. A knife can be a surgical scalpel, a meat cleaver, or a murder weapon; doesn’t make the knife inherently evil.

    Still others will use their innate will to create or help people to do the same thing. If only they didn’t need to be marketable as well the world might have been so much better.
    Greed is like a gun, not a surgical knife. Still a tool but a tool specifically designed for harm.

    Capitalism does not leave much room for use by lazy behavior, unlike communism

    So you’re arguing that laziness is not inherently bad but it just not useful in capitalism?

    In communism, without greed or envy, what incentive is there for me to work long hours of endless studying in a high stress job to be a doctor when I could just be a janitor instead; either way, I end up with just as much as anyone else. That’s the kind of system that fosters people to strive for as little as possible.

    The recognition of your peer and the will to do what you love most. Not eveyone wants to be a doctor and not everyone wants to be a janitor.

    Tell me, since greed and envy are apparently neutral. Should the world become as greedy and envious as possible?

    You can imagine up fake people all you want who would work long hours for no extra pay, but you can imagine up anything.

    So tell me, I hear Honour was very big as far as incentives went in the not so far past (and also exists in various places in the world).
    Were these fake people too?

    People aren’t starving because there simply isn’t enough food in the world; people are starving because they can’t afford or find food. It’s a downside of pure capitalism, which is also why I’m not a pure capitalist. Certain socialist policies like food stamps create a safety net that at least stops people from starving, but for now, let’s go with the pure capitalism model.

    What a crock of shit. There is not enough food in the world. Period. Soon there will be not enough water as well. It is classic capitalistic wishful thinking to assume that the earth can handle any amount of humans.
    People are starving because their food is taken away from them to feed (and lately to power the cars of) the rich. It’s the supply and demand of the market that makes meat so wanted. Unfortunately, meat need a lot more food to be produced for the same nutritious value. This extra food could have saved the starving people who cannot afford it.
    Here’s something relevant

    So yes, some people are starving, which I’m sure never, ever happened in one of those fake communist countries; of course, the government was ordering mass killings of all it’s opposition, so not only were the people dying, but there was specific intent for them to die. Sounds to me that one is the greater moral evil of the two.

    This is a red herring and also, once again, Communism does not necessarily equal dictatorship.
    Or do you believe that dictatorships do not form under capitalism? Hitler would dissagree with that statement. If anything with the rampart croynism of capitalist dictatorships thing get even worse.

    I know that’s what it says; it doesn’t actually say anything at all. All it does is assume that every problem would naturally be solved by everyone being perfect; that is communism in a nutshell.

    How simplistic of you.

    How would there be demand without envy and greed (those terrible moral vices you mentioned)? What else, outside of them, drive people to want something enough to create it?

    People demand food. Places that distribute more food require raw materials etc.
    Also
    Creatity itself drives people to create (See creative commons and copylefts)
    Forms of altruism drive people to help (see Missionaries, doctors without borders etc)

    Or will people simply be so good they produce things they don’t really want because they’re perfect? Do they want it out of the goodness of their heart

    Yes, people can be good enough to produce things that others might use, they in turn get something that they need back. They can want it out of “the goodness of their heart” because everyone will be doing the same.
    You’re so convinced that Greed and Envy are apparently unchangeable so there’s no need to try to change them on your part.
    I’ve shown you examples of the contrary and you’ve waved them away. Not certain what else to say about this.

  • Mrnaglfar

    dbo,

    Or they might be replaced with something better.

    And pigs may evolve wings and fly; doesn’t mean it’s likely. At least the pig scenario is plausible as we know wings exist. What is this new thing you’re suggesting?

    Greed is like a gun, not a surgical knife. Still a tool but a tool specifically designed for harm.

    Except for all the good that comes from greed; greed for money, greed for status, greed for anything can bring both good and evil. A knife is specially designed for harm as well, just a question of how that harm is done; is that harm done in violence or self-defense? Is it done to kill something and butcher it so people can eat, or was it used to kill a person? Is the cutting done with precision and care in surgery?

    And when everyone has a series of knives for different situations, your solution is pretend they don’t exist and get rid of them, despite losing the ability to do surgery, prepare and eat food, and create other tools and goods?

    So you’re arguing that laziness is not inherently bad but it just not useful in capitalism?

    Something along those lines, yes. Capitalism punishes lazy behavior and encourages people to keep trying to do the best they can, provided of course they are greedy enough to do so. Calling anything good or bad is useless without further context.

    The recognition of your peer and the will to do what you love most. Not eveyone wants to be a doctor and not everyone wants to be a janitor.

    Tell me, since greed and envy are apparently neutral. Should the world become as greedy and envious as possible?

    And I’m sure too many people want to be rockstars and actors. Many people would probably rather just sit around and read or draw all day; I know I certainly would.

    As for if the people should become as greedy as possible, greed, as all things, needs to come in the proper amounts and contexts to be either a force for good or harm. I would say people are already as naturally greedy as it has paid to be greedy in our past, which is normally pretty greedy; Most every species is. As you said, you feel it’s stupid (not in your interests) to give away resources you have to causes you don’t support or people you don’t know just for the hell of it. Altruism can certainly be good, but only when combine with the correct situation and correct amounts of greed and self-interest.

    So tell me, I hear Honour was very big as far as incentives went in the not so far past (and also exists in various places in the world).
    Were these fake people too?

    Greed for social status, self-interest in how they appear to other people, and certainly anything but true altruists. The rules for what behavior became socially acceptable and rewarded have changed, but the fact that it is rewarded in one way or another and still driven by greed have not changed.

    What a crock of shit. There is not enough food in the world. Period. Soon there will be not enough water as well. It is classic capitalistic wishful thinking to assume that the earth can handle any amount of humans.

    Quite the contrary; I’m all for population caps and believe the world has far, far too many people; for me, quality of life is more important than quantity of it. A simple solution to fix that could work on greed; massive tax penalties for people who have more than one or two children. However, merely telling people the world has too many people and relying on their altruism and being informed to decide who gets to have children or not and how many simply will never work.

    People are starving because their food is taken away from them to feed (and lately to power the cars of) the rich. It’s the supply and demand of the market that makes meat so wanted. Unfortunately, meat need a lot more food to be produced for the same nutritious value. This extra food could have saved the starving people who cannot afford it.

    And governments of the world also give money to farmers to either grow crops that don’t sell well or to not grow crops to keep prices high. Meat takes more resources to create, so the price of meat is higher than the price of fruits and vegetables. And forgive my ignorance, but since when do rich people require more food than poor people, so much more, apparently, that a rich 1 to 5% of the world can starve the rest?
    This is one of those complex situations you’re so big on, yet seem to skim over in your quest to blame all the problems on capitalism. For instance, if food is in such a demand in Africa then surely it must pay for more food to be grown. Last I checked, Africa was not a huge exporter of ethanol or other biofuels for automotive consumption in the US, so there must be some other factors at play here. Perhaps lack of fertile soils? Technology? Poor rainfall? Any number of things can and are playing factors in this.

    Neat article by the way. Between all the assertions thrown out there I almost didn’t realize that they didn’t back any of it up with links or data or really evidence of any kind. Did you consider that food prices simply aren’t brining in enough revenue to make farming profitable? Or maybe unemployment is playing a role here, huh?

    http://www.irinnews.org/report.aspx?reportid=61085

    http://www.distill.com/world_ethanol_production.html
    (wow, look at how much ethanol Africa is producing compared to other nations – sure must be a lot of starving people in the nations where the most fuel is produced, right?)

    This is a red herring and also, once again, Communism does not necessarily equal dictatorship.
    Or do you believe that dictatorships do not form under capitalism? Hitler would dissagree with that statement. If anything with the rampart croynism of capitalist dictatorships thing get even worse.

    There have been plenty of capitalist (and currently are) countries that are also not dictatorships. How many communist countries can boast they have had communism and not a dictatorship?

    How simplistic of you.

    So because every answer is a rephrasing of the question that perfect people solve every problem (which you yourself admitted is how communism answers the questions) I’m being simplistic? When do you pop out and say “surprise! I was just kidding”?

    People demand food. Places that distribute more food require raw materials etc.

    So people demand, and other’s supply; it seems the two are based on each other somehow. Places with more demand on either end require more supply. Sounds easy enough, and also like capitalism.
    So what happens when 4 different industries with over 100,000 people in each all demand the same resource, for which the supply is limited? Is this the part were all of those perfect well-informed people get together and decide based on every single person’s interests?

    Creatity itself drives people to create (See creative commons and copylefts)
    Forms of altruism drive people to help (see Missionaries, doctors without borders etc)

    And are far, far from being enough on their own. Not to mention missionaries certainly come with strings attached (people wanting to earn brownie points for god, people giving money and allying themselves with the church politically).

    They can want it out of “the goodness of their heart” because everyone will be doing the same.

    You’re so convinced that Greed and Envy are apparently unchangeable so there’s no need to try to change them on your part.
    I’ve shown you examples of the contrary and you’ve waved them away. Not certain what else to say about this.

    Wow, that totally skipped that part where I said they vary within human nature.
    And no, you have come up quite lacking if you’re trying to convince me people will want things out of the goodness of their heart on a scale large enough to create a communist system, or how any of it works in larger groups, or how people aren’t as perfect as you’re painting them to be, or how communism works better than any other system given a perfect assumption at the outset for all of them, or what force other than greed for more than you currently have or envy of wanting something someone else has is capable of making people want anything.

    Q: Why will people want to create new innovations and have new things without greed?
    A: Because people are so good they will want without wanting greedily somehow? Even though by one person possessing something it necessarily means they have excluded someone else from possessing it simply by definition?

    Outside of everything like that, you’re doing a bang-up job of convincing me communism is a good idea.

  • kaltrosomos

    Mrnaglfar:

    “On a basic level, most ‘needs’ can be broken down into: Housing, food, transportation, entertainment, comfort, and tools/weaponry. All that’s created are new products that do one of those things in a different way.
    However, the reason people produce to enlarge their profit margin is because if they do, they all the sudden they go out of business or are incapable of expanding and growing.”

    If new products are created to satisfy those needs, how come they never really get satisfied? If they were satisfied, people wouldn’t need to buy new products. In the same way a man who’d just eaten a whole pizza would feel no need to buy a different kind of pizza. His stomach is already stuffed with the first one, and thus, he’s probably not hungry anymore.

    If all these new products you talk about satisfy needs, why is there a constant stream of new products? Why hasn’t what’s been produced already satisfied the needs? It almost seems as though companies are also producing the need itself, in order to sell their products. When they come up with a new product, they market it until consumers feel like they just have to have it. Even if they really don’t. And after that they’re snookered into wanting yet another new product, and another, and another, and they never really get satisfied… If this constant consumption actually made people happy, actually satisfied them, that would be one thing. But I don’t think it does. Judging by my own experience, it turns into a sort of demonic treadmill where you’re always trying to go a bit faster, and finding that you aren’t going anywhere. Consumption for consumption’s sake is a race with no finish line, since people can always offer you something newer, trendier, or whatever to consume. up until we run out of resources, anyway.

    One last thing: why is a business required to grow and expand? Why is that apparently a virtue in business?

    “Most people are working there so they can afford to live, and you suggest taking those jobs away from them and giving them to americans so we don’t exploit other countries and just let them die instead?”

    I suggest trying to change our priorities. the existence of sweatshops is a sign that capitalists value profit more than people. If we instead valued people over profit, and ensured that everyone could have work that was safe, fulfilling, and supported them, then i think, paradoxically enough, that the economy and the world would thrive more than under any capitalist system. People are worth far more than money, and yet I’m hard-pressed to think capitalists share that view. It’s people who invent, people who start creative pursuits, people who innovate, people who do all the most important and amazing things. Why don’t we cultivate people instead of profit? Because I’d be willing to bet that people would be, culturally, economically, socially, and in every other way, more profitable than mere profit.

    ” Q: Why will people want to create new innovations and have new things without greed?”

    How about because they love what they are working on, and view it more as a creative endeavor than a mere ‘job’? Curiosity is another possible motive. “Gee, people before have made this in a certain way, but what if i changed this and this? Wouldn’t that make it better? Why don’t I try that?”

    I also think your saying that one person possessing something means they exclude someone else isn’t true by definition. Take, for example, knowledge. One person possesses the knowledge that, say, Pi starts as 3.14. That person tells someone else. Now two people possess the knowledge. The two each tell somebody, and now four possess it. And so on. For material things, even if one person possesses a hammer, that doesn’t stop him from sharing the hammer with other people. Just because people are not as likely to do that today doesn’t mean they never would.

  • kaltrosomos

    Jim Baerg:

    “Maybe someone will come up with a way to make ‘economic democracy’ work, but the Marxist attempt has been an abject failure.”

    If we can make progress in the political realm, the economic realm should be just as open to improvement and evolution. I see that as something hopeful.

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org Ebonmuse

    Some people in this thread seem to be under the misapprehension that criticizing capitalism is equivalent to an argument for communism. Even if capitalism has all the flaws that have been described, which I don’t see anyone denying, that does not in any way demonstrate that communism is better or even that it’s feasible.

    Also, there’s another point which defenders of communism haven’t addressed. It’s a common refrain that “true communism has never been tried”, and that all the states which called themselves communist were totalitarian dictatorships twisting the real philosophy of communism.

    If that’s the case, then there’s a natural follow-up question: Why has true communism never been tried? Why hasn’t there ever been a country that got it right? Why did it transpire that all the states which called themselves communist ended up becoming dictatorships?

    It’s far too simplistic to assert that totalitarian regimes like the USSR weren’t “really” communist and don’t need any further consideration. The possibility that communism inevitably leads to violent totalitarianism, no matter how well-intentioned its advocates are, needs to be considered. I think that’s a very plausible possibility, considering what I wrote in my post about communism necessarily denying the freedom of the individual to choose their own course in life.

  • Samuel Skinner

    A good example of how communism is flawed would be the Federation in Star Trek, from TNG onward. They have no money, deal with other nations using precious medals, have a party line they stick to (even when it contradicts reality) and hold arbitrary ideals above people’s lives.
    http://www.stardestroyer.net/Empire/Essays/Trek-Marxism.html
    I know- it is slightly off topic. Still, it is a good example of where communists are portrayed as the good guys AND people are supposed to be “evolved” and you still have a host of problems caused by communism.

  • Alex Weaver

    Some people in this thread seem to be under the misapprehension that criticizing capitalism is equivalent to an argument for communism. Even if capitalism has all the flaws that have been described, which I don’t see anyone denying, that does not in any way demonstrate that communism is better or even that it’s feasible.

    Or as I’ve said before, Capitalism is kind of like sex with a condom: the most compelling argument for it is comparison with the alternatives.

    By the way, am I the only one who finds it obnoxious that many of the pro-Communist advocates here are just blithely assuming that we’re mindlessly defending capitalism or unfamiliar with actual Communist theory? That sort of spiteful intellectual dishonesty is a hallmark of Creationists and other right-leaning nutjobs. It’s a bit disappointing to see it among people who fancy themselves progressive.

  • Alex Weaver
    So when I get responses that don’t entirely differ from:
    Q. how would communism deal with inefficiency?
    A. People would leave out of the goodness of their heart to where they’re needed

    Q. how would communism deal with creating innovation?
    A. People would innovate out of the goodness of their heart what’s needed.

    How the hell else do you want me to answer when this is what communism says?

    Perhaps if you were to seriously consider and intelligently engage the possibility that Communism might be mistaken…

  • kaltrosomos

    Ebon:
    “Why has true communism never been tried? Why hasn’t there ever been a country that got it right? Why did it transpire that all the states which called themselves communist ended up becoming dictatorships?”

    I think it’s because the conditions in which communism was tried were not conducive to actual communism. Communism is supposed to be a step up from industrial capitalism, and supposed to grow out of industrial capitalism. But in Russia when the revolution started there was hardly any heavy industry at all. It was more agrarian. So the communists had to first develop Russia to a similar level as industrial capitalist countries, before moving on to actual communism. Unfortunately, this accelerated development required a large amount of bureaucracy and centralized command. What was more, leaders like Stalin valued their power more than staying true to the communist ideal. Add in to the mix the fact that Russia also suffered devastation from World Wars one and two which made the general populace pretty weary. All the turmoil and destruction deadened people, contributing to Stalin’s rise to power. This was seen as a betrayal by some communists, like Leon Trotsky. Trotsky wrote a book called The Revolution Betrayed following Stalin’s rise.

    I think what it boils down to is that the attempts so far have been too sudden, too fast. The conditions were all wrong. Communism will probably have to develop more gradually and organically through grassroots change rather than imposition from above.

  • http://dbzer0.com Db0

    @Ebonmuse:

    Some people in this thread seem to be under the misapprehension that criticizing capitalism is equivalent to an argument for communism.

    Exactly. Under no reason is capitalism criticism an argument for communism. I wholeheartedly agree.
    It is however a point that we need to work on something better than capitalism.

    @Alex Weaver

    By the way, am I the only one who finds it obnoxious that many of the pro-Communist advocates here are just blithely assuming that we’re mindlessly defending capitalism or unfamiliar with actual Communist theory?

    If you are attacking stawmen and insist on doing so, then there is nothing else to assume.
    Also, do not assume that everyone who is arguing against you is pro-communism. For example, I am not but I do not like to see a theory with many correct ideas that we can use, mirepresented.

    Perhaps if you were to seriously consider and intelligently engage the possibility that Communism might be mistaken…

    Perhaps if you were to start on neutral ground instead of starting from the premise that Communism is totally wrong and unfeasible we might have that intelligent discussion you are talking about.

    Make no mistake, I do not believe that the theory of communism is perfect, however do see it has many correct ideas and can solve problems that capitalism cannot.
    I am not willing to throw the baby out with the bathwater, so to speak.

    And finally, my friend Mrnaglfar.
    I’d first like to say that I am tired of chasing after your red herrings so I’m going to start shooting them from now on.

    And pigs may evolve wings and fly; doesn’t mean it’s likely. At least the pig scenario is plausible as we know wings exist. What is this new thing you’re suggesting?

    BLAM! To introduce my potential theories is would lead this thread too far astray. I propose we stick to valid criticisms of communism.

    Except for all the good that comes from greed; greed for money, greed for status, greed for anything can bring both good and evil. A knife is specially designed for harm as well, just a question of how that harm is done; is that harm done in violence or self-defense? Is it done to kill something and butcher it so people can eat, or was it used to kill a person? Is the cutting done with precision and care in surgery?

    And when everyone has a series of knives for different situations, your solution is pretend they don’t exist and get rid of them, despite losing the ability to do surgery, prepare and eat food, and create other tools and goods?

    Your insistence on the “greed as a tool” theory has finally prompted me to respond in depth. You can find my refutation here as it would be too long (and a waste) for a comment.

    Quite the contrary; I’m all for population caps and believe the world has far, far too many people; for me, quality of life is more important than quantity of it. A simple solution to fix that could work on greed; massive tax penalties for people who have more than one or two children. However, merely telling people the world has too many people and relying on their altruism and being informed to decide who gets to have children or not and how many simply will never work.

    Population caps would not be enough. We are already past the point where we can feed our current population. We would actually need population caps low enough to start reducing the population and quickly
    Don’t your population caps go against the individual freedom? Won’t you stop one’s “greed for children“?
    In any case, simple population caps will not do, people need to actually curve their consumption in order to stop the rollercoast to hell we are in. This would necessariyl go contrary to their greed and will either cause them emotional pain when they cannot have the stuff they desire or they will end up following their greed to the detriment of all.
    Since greed is promoted under capitalism, it is impossible to escape these two outcomes under it.

    And governments of the world also give money to farmers to either grow crops that don’t sell well or to not grow crops to keep prices high. Meat takes more resources to create, so the price of meat is higher than the price of fruits and vegetables. And forgive my ignorance, but since when do rich people require more food than poor people, so much more, apparently, that a rich 1 to 5% of the world can starve the rest?

    You have obviously not been paying attention. It is not just the demand for food, it is the demand for cheap food. This leads to huge excesses in production to cut down costs by producing en masse. Just see how many products are wasted because they reach their end-of-life without being consumed.
    The current world is proof that goverment intervention (which goes against the spirit of capitalism I might add) is not helping. Mainly because of corruption.

    This is one of those complex situations you’re so big on, yet seem to skim over in your quest to blame all the problems on capitalism.

    I have no desire to blame all the world’s problems on capitalism but you’d rather paint me that way so that I’m an easier target. I’ve defended capitalism against communist friends with the same passion I’ve defended communism here.
    Stop the ad homined and get to the issue

    For instance, if food is in such a demand in Africa then surely it must pay for more food to be grown. Last I checked, Africa was not a huge exporter of ethanol or other biofuels for automotive consumption in the US, so there must be some other factors at play here. Perhaps lack of fertile soils? Technology? Poor rainfall? Any number of things can and are playing factors in this.

    Africa is importing it’s food because the environment is not suitable for farming. With the rising food prices because of ethanol more people are starving. Your trust that it must be anything other than capitalism fault is telling. Sure it is fertile soils, technology and rainfalls as well as capitalism. We can then go back and forth on which of them is more to blame.

    Neat article by the way. Between all the assertions thrown out there I almost didn’t realize that they didn’t back any of it up with links or data or really evidence of any kind. Did you consider that food prices simply aren’t brining in enough revenue to make farming profitable? Or maybe unemployment is playing a role here, huh?

    The article is about ethics, not world news. The things it explains are correct even if we replace the current facts with similar ones.
    The fact that you agree that food prices are not profitable enough and as a result people are starving should have pointed to you a major flaw in capitalism.

    (wow, look at how much ethanol Africa is producing compared to other nations – sure must be a lot of starving people in the nations where the most fuel is produced, right?)

    No, there are starving people because the food that is being turned into ethanol is not available/is too expensive for the starving african countries to import.

    There have been plenty of capitalist (and currently are) countries that are also not dictatorships. How many communist countries can boast they have had communism and not a dictatorship?

    Enough about this herring. BLAM!

    So because every answer is a rephrasing of the question that perfect people solve every problem (which you yourself admitted is how communism answers the questions) I’m being simplistic? When do you pop out and say “surprise! I was just kidding”?

    Communism does not need perfect people. Only people with the correct values.

    So people demand, and other’s supply; it seems the two are based on each other somehow. Places with more demand on either end require more supply. Sounds easy enough, and also like capitalism.

    So what happens when 4 different industries with over 100,000 people in each all demand the same resource, for which the supply is limited? Is this the part were all of those perfect well-informed people get together and decide based on every single person’s interests?

    I’m certain someone who is really into the logistics of communism might give you a better answer but off the top of my head I can think of democratic voting.

    And are far, far from being enough on their own. Not to mention missionaries certainly come with strings attached (people wanting to earn brownie points for god, people giving money and allying themselves with the church politically).

    So you agree that creativity can come without monetary gains?

    Wow, that totally skipped that part where I said they vary within human nature.

    And they eventually shift towards another value system.
    As I mentioned, Honour was once big in the world, it is not anymore. This is an empirical example that values can become deprecated and others take their place. Your belief that greed and envy will always be here is unrealistic

    And no, you have come up quite lacking if you’re trying to convince me people will want things out of the goodness of their heart on a scale large enough to create a communist system,

    As long as they do it in a small scale, they can do it in a larger scale.

    or how people aren’t as perfect as you’re painting them to be

    I’ve only seen assertions to the contrary. If you take the nihilistic approach and decide that people are bad and we can’t do anything about it, then the fault lies in you.
    I prefer to strive and explain to people how it is in their best interest not to be greedy or envious or whatever other vice they have. Hopefully, eventually there will be enough people like me that the paradigm will shift.

    or what force other than greed for more than you currently have or envy of wanting something someone else has is capable of making people want anything.

    Don’t get upset.
    Here’s one: Desire to be free of physical and emotional pain.

    Q: Why will people want to create new innovations and have new things without greed?
    A: Because people are so good they will want without wanting greedily somehow? Even though by one person possessing something it necessarily means they have excluded someone else from possessing it simply by definition?

    Don’t be silly. The answer is that they will want to create something because
    A. They like to create and innovate
    B. They want to help the person that needs it.

    Outside of everything like that, you’re doing a bang-up job of convincing me communism is a good idea

    As it is, even I don’t know if communism is the best good idea. It seems better than capitalism and it has some fine ideas in general.
    As for convincing you, I couldn’t care less.

  • prase

    Prase, I don’t see how this is not a contradiction. What does it entail to “regulate the overall number of workers” in a particular industry if it does not involve mandating people to perform that job?

    You mentioned competition to determine who’s best suited for a job, but you’ve only dealt with the easy problem. The hard problem is, what do you do if there are fewer people interested in a job than there are slots to be filled?

    You are right, this may be a problem for an ideal communist society where the wages are determined by the “need” of the worker (greater problem here is maybe to determine what actually one needs). I was rather speaking about real communism (as I live in a former communist country I think I have an idea what the situation looked like) – the state simply adjusted number of jobs in each particular specialisation, and in addition to this there was an obligation to work. Who did not work was labeled a parasite and that was punishable by imprisonment. So if the overall number of jobs did not by far exceed the country’s population, all jobs had to be occupied. Some jobs were better paid if they were not enough attractive (e.g. the miners’ wages were roughly equal to the company director’s salary and more than twice as high as the national average); I am not sure whether this could be put into accordance with rigid communist ideology, but if you try a bit you can invent arguments about how the miners (and company directors) need more than the others.

    Clearly there were people who have very few possible choices when making decision about their career, but there are such people in capitalism too. Regretfully, in every yet invented type of human society there are “loosers” who have very limited chances to be successful in their lifes, whatever “successful” means. I am even ready to admit that the freedom of choosing a job is greater in socialism or social democratism or regulated capitalism (depends on how do you call that) than in communism – but I wanted to point out that this is rather a quantitative than a qualitative difference.

    Interestingly enough, some aspects of communism have similar counterparts in objectivism/libertarianism. E.g. dividing the society into the “productive” and “parasites” – switch the roles of capitalists and proletariat in a communist ideology and you’ll almost get classical Randian view of the human race. This is maybe the reason why libertarianism and extreme right wing policy is so popular is post-communist countries.

  • http://deconbible.blogspot.com bbk

    Communism and Capitalism will both reach the same equilibrium. One of the mistakes that laymen make is to think one system or the other somehow escapes the cause and effect of economic activity that underly both approaches. Both systems have markets that are subject to supply and demand. In theory, the only difference is the chosen approach to economic policy. The truth is that both systems are capable of producing the same exact kind of conservative thinking and corruption. Dust off some old issues of Pravda and you’ll find many of the same talking points that can be heard today on Fox News. The Republicans are doing much the same thing with Capitalism as the Bolsheviks did with Communism. Both Karl Rove and Stalin came from the same school of thought where the ends justified the means. Both of them were greatly influenced by Machiavelli. Both adopted superficial ideologies – whether the Christian “compassionate conservatism” or the crypto-Christianity we call Marxism. And the conservatives stand to have just as good of a shot tanking our Capitalist society as the Communists did to their own. The only thing we really have on Communism is a rather unrefined democratic process that kicks conservatives out of power every couple of decades after people get sick enough of their crap. That’s all that stands in the way between our society and the type of economic collapse seen in the USSR.

  • Valhar2000

    I agree with Bbk: the Left and the Right, rather than being on a line, are on a circle, and they meet at the other side.

  • http://dbzer0.com db0

    I agree with Bbk: the Left and the Right, rather than being on a line, are on a circle, and they meet at the other side.

    The only problem I have with this statement is that is ignores the vertical axis of authoritarianism vs libertatianism
    Stalin’s regime was very close to Hitlers regime who was very close to what the neo-con Republicans are now. Not because left and right are close but because they were/are all authoritarian.

  • http://deconbible.blogspot.com bbk

    Prase, I too grew up in a Communist country. I bet I can guess which one you’re from based on the reference to coal mining. The amazing thing about your comment is that Rand did in fact come from a Communist country. I’ve always thought of her as just another damn Commie.

    One of the remarkable things about those Communist company directors is that they were just as grossly incompetent as managers in capitalist societies. If I listen to my father’s complaints about his employer in the USA and his complaints about his employer under Communism, they sound the same. If there was a Communist version of Dilbert, we wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. The only difference is that in one place you had to be part of a privileged group called the Communist Party and in the other place you have to be part of a privileged group called the Country Club.

    The arguments that Communism fails because it encourages laziness falls flat on its face. Human nature doesn’t change just because the social currency takes on a different form.

  • prase

    bbk, which country did you guess? There was strong mining industry in several communist countries, Romania, East Germany, Poland, USSR all had important coal deposits. (The correct answer was Czechoslovakia).

    Otherwise, I am likely to agree that the difference between communism and capitalism (in practice, not speaking about the ideal) is mainly formal. I am convinced that a substantial part of underdevelopement of our country during the communist era was due to tight bond of our economy with the relatively poor Soviet Union while the connection with the West was artificially hampered; thus up-to-date technology was only scarcely available. The problem with the Soviet Union was also their govenment’s obsession with military production, ignoring the poor living conditions in the country. I am not sure to what extent was that a result of communist economy and/or the lack of democracy. A related question obviously is whether a symbiosis of democracy and communism is even possible. I don’t see a theoretical reason against, but it is a fact that all historical examples of communism were tyrannies.

    I think that the capitalism is superior to communism in the sector of small businesses, whereas large companies are comparably effective in both systems. As globalisation proceeds the differences may almost disappear – it’s indeed difficult to tell what is precisely the system we see in today’s China.

  • prase

    During my writing of the previous comment I forgot that I intended to mention Rand once more. Sometimes I think there are even more similarities between Objectivism and Marxism than there are differences. It was quite amusing to see for me how often the Randians tell that their ideology is the only rational philosophy in the world. It’s even more inspirational if you know the communists always said that Marxism is the only scientific opinion. Another similarity was the worship of work – “If you don’t work, don’t eat!” was traditional communist motto and it’s almost the same thing one hears from the Objectivists. They only slightly differ in what is considered to be the proper meaning of “work”.

  • http://deconbible.blogspot.com bbk

    I was going to say Poland. I didn’t know that coal miners were paid higher wages in other countries as well. Poland’s coal deposits were dwindling and required digging down to very dangerous levels.

    Military spending and prolonged war against an insurgency in Afghanistan is indeed what did the USSR in. But military spending and war are not subject to self adjustment from free market economies whether in Capitalist countries or Communist ones, as evidenced in some of the current wars. So I worry that the US will lose its superpower status the same way that Great Britain did, or worse, the same way that the USSR did. I don’t see anything that will prevent it from happening in the USA.

    Incidentally, the centrally planned economy put their military industrial complex close to the core of the country, while strategically unimportant civilian industries lay out in the peripheries. This was instrumental in the break-up of the former Soviet states and it’s why places like Latvia have thrived while Russia has languished. I would expect a similar phenomenon if the United States government failed – places like Texas and the Washington DC Beltway would languish while cities like Boston would flourish. There would also be a lot of pressure for the US to break up.

    The USSR was also pretty good about subsidizing farmers to grow crops on land that was not suited to agriculture. The initial hit to their economy was when much of their farm land gave out. This is another area where there doesn’t seem to be a difference in how these matters are handled by either the Communist system or the Capitalist system. The current government subsidies to ethanol production in the USA and the resulting food shortages around the world are a testament to that.

  • prase

    Well, methinks the success of Latvia is primarily the result of their better initial condition. The USSR wasn’t a homogeneous country, even in golden times of their empire there was a dramatic difference in overall developement between, say, Latvia or Moscow and on the other hand places like Tadjikistan or rural Russian regions. Next thing is the policy of the Latvian government in the early nineties. While Latvia received subsidies from the European Communities and reformed its economy rapidly in order to conform the new situation, Russians privatised the state-owned industries in a way resembling an organised robbery. The fall of eastern trade block also didn’t help. It was easier for small countries to find new partners in the West than it was for Russia. Taking into account the Soviet strategy of concetrating production of each particular commodity in one specific country (railway cars were one of the typically Latvian products I think) the graveness of consequences of the COMECON’s fall is manifest. Note also that not all peripheries thrived – Moldova is still the Europe’s poorest country, and among former Soviet member states Russia is probably the best economically with the exception of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia.

  • http://mcv.planc.ee mcv

    Just as a side note about the distinction of negative and positive notions of liberty.

    1) I’ll restate that I’m not endorsing the positive conception

    2) I don’t think that liberty in the positive sense is possible only in communist regime. But according to Berlin for example endorsing such a conception will eventually lead to a regime that is totalitarian and communist regime is one possible outcome. On the other hand I think that there are republicans who would argue that positive liberty is also possible in a non-totalitarian regime.

    3) And it’s not so much about the possibility of self-relization but what you consider liberty to be. For example in a Western democracy where the negative conception of liberty is dominant one would not be considered to be free if one would be chained to a wall, even if (for some strange reason) that would be the only thing one would ever desire to do in their life.

    So in the end the when someone from one camp says “liberty” then that person has a totaly different thing in mind when someone from the other camp says “liberty” and the possibility of the existence of what they each mean by it are not necessarily mutually exclusive.

  • Mrnaglfar

    dbo,

    BLAM! To introduce my potential theories is would lead this thread too far astray. I propose we stick to valid criticisms of communism.

    It’s a criticism, or rather an observation, of human nature, which in turn is a criticism of communism. If a communist system can be destroyed by a handful of greedy people or cannot incorporate greed as a part of human nature then I feel that’s a fine valid criticism.

    Your insistence on the “greed as a tool” theory has finally prompted me to respond in depth. You can find my refutation here as it would be too long (and a waste) for a comment.

    Your response is quite good. Indeed, your observation that greed is a desire, not a tool, is something I did overlook. However, I still hold that greed is not only a useful desire, but also that greedy intentions can, and very often do, lead to positive benefits to others (most of these examples come from medicine). Even if greed has the potential to hurt others, which it most certainly does, it is also a desire that continues to make people strive for more, and better.

    As for the morality of it, the desire itself is not immoral, but merely the actions that result from it can be judged as morally right or wrong. For instance, I’m sure you’re familiar with the saying “the path to hell is paved with good intentions”; while altruism certainly has the potential to do a lot of good, but people who think they’re acting in other’s best interests can often do more harm than good.

    Population caps would not be enough. We are already past the point where we can feed our current population. We would actually need population caps low enough to start reducing the population and quickly
    Don’t your population caps go against the individual freedom? Won’t you stop one’s “greed for children”?
    In any case, simple population caps will not do, people need to actually curve their consumption in order to stop the rollercoast to hell we are in. This would necessariyl go contrary to their greed and will either cause them emotional pain when they cannot have the stuff they desire or they will end up following their greed to the detriment of all.
    Since greed is promoted under capitalism, it is impossible to escape these two outcomes under it.

    Population caps not in the sense that people cannot have more children, but for each successive child massive increases in taxes occur; that way, the more children people have, the more money they contribute towards maintaining the damage they will do to the environment.

    Instead of denying greed, we can just use competing forms of greed to make acting on one impulse more costly than it would otherwise be.

    You have obviously not been paying attention. It is not just the demand for food, it is the demand for cheap food. This leads to huge excesses in production to cut down costs by producing en masse. Just see how many products are wasted because they reach their end-of-life without being consumed.
    The current world is proof that goverment intervention (which goes against the spirit of capitalism I might add) is not helping. Mainly because of corruption.

    And the rich people have what to do with cheap food being overproduced? How does, rich people supposedly, producing excess amounts of cheap food somehow starve people?

    As for government intervention, which I believe certain helps when implemented properly, works just fine. I also think you’re stuck in the delusion I believe in a purely capitalist system, which I don’t.

    The article is about ethics, not world news. The things it explains are correct even if we replace the current facts with similar ones.
    The fact that you agree that food prices are not profitable enough and as a result people are starving should have pointed to you a major flaw in capitalism.

    I know the article is about ethics, but just because it’s about ethics does not mean it gets to skip on supporting itself with facts. Some people think homosexuality is immoral, even if it’s pointed out to them it’s not doing any harm.

    Here’s a fact though; we will run out of fossil fuels and they do damage the environment and the population that exists today is not a stable one and it’s growing. If we don’t find alternatives, lots more people are going to start dying then are currently.

    Africa is importing it’s food because the environment is not suitable for farming. With the rising food prices because of ethanol more people are starving. Your trust that it must be anything other than capitalism fault is telling. Sure it is fertile soils, technology and rainfalls as well as capitalism. We can then go back and forth on which of them is more to blame.

    So Africa is starving because we’re under-producing food for them, which they cannot produce themselves, and this underproduction is occurring because of biofuels, even though you just mentioned above there’s an overproduction of food? What happened to your line about the world not being able to support unlimited amounts of people (which I agree with)? It sounds like you’re suggesting we’re both under-producing food and over-producing it, and because there are too many people it’s our job to support them because they can’t support themselves.

    Something just doesn’t add up in all that.

    Enough about this herring. BLAM!

    Ebon raised that point above; every supposedly communist state has always under a dictatorship. If communism is a better alternative, why hasn’t it ever been tried on a large scale?

    Communism does not need perfect people. Only people with the correct values

    Yes, if everyone agreed with you and each other the world would be a perfect place. But they don’t, so what do you do now?

    I’m certain someone who is really into the logistics of communism might give you a better answer but off the top of my head I can think of democratic voting.

    So you suggest that 400,000 people, with no one leading or organizing, can all coordinate and talk with each other, all cast their votes, and have everything work out not only smoothly, but more efficiently then a with a form of government? The reason governments formed in the first place is because that sort of thing simply does not work. (in regards to communism being essentially anarchy)

    So you agree that creativity can come without monetary gains?

    Sure can. People can want to be creative without directly thinking about money or power or sex or anything outside the desire to be creative, but without gains of some form the likelyhood that the creativity will be able to be maintained and supported is far past not probable.

    As long as they do it in a small scale, they can do it in a larger scale.

    Small scales require less time and information and resources than large scales. It’s not that simple.

    I’ve only seen assertions to the contrary. If you take the nihilistic approach and decide that people are bad and we can’t do anything about it, then the fault lies in you.
    I prefer to strive and explain to people how it is in their best interest not to be greedy or envious or whatever other vice they have. Hopefully, eventually there will be enough people like me that the paradigm will shift.

    So what you’re saying is I either think that people are inherently capable of being all wonderful and making the best choice for everyone and not just themselves, or I’m a hateful nihilist who thinks people are scum and deserve everything they get?

    I’d love to see people care for each other more, and make the world a happier place for everyone and everything, but I also haven’t been living under a rock my whole life. If you want to see more altruistic behavior, you need to motive it to happen, and without people’s greed to push them towards those rewards, motivation will just not happen. You need one for the other.

    Don’t get upset.
    Here’s one: Desire to be free of physical and emotional pain.

    Would you have sex with a man and/or woman you didn’t want to in order to spare them emotional pain of being rejected?

    The desire to be free from pain is pretty natural in all things, but they often butt up against each other.

  • Mookie

    Ebon,

    I would recommend you check out some of Marx’s writing. Start with alienation. A precursory look will tell you almost immediately that what occurred in the USSR was hardly based on his ideas at all. I can certainly understand why you would dislike what happened in “communist” countries, and you could find even more reasons after reading a bit of Marx.

    I make this suggestion because I believe your mental prowess and open-mindedness are such that you can put aside bias and apprehension long enough to make a more informed appraisal. Take what you want out of it, leave what you dislike behind – please, read it fairly.

  • Christopher

    I should just state for the record right now that I personally see a Communist utopia as being just a pipe dream – it’s not going to happen so long as people are self-interested, and I don’t have any reason (or desire, for that matter) to see that changing.

    That said, I don’t find what we call “Capitalism” to be the best economic system either: by givning big business the incentive to improve profit margins at any cost, it ultimately undermines long-term economic stability for short-term prosperity – thus we see things like once-American jobs being outsourced to other nations, insider trading scams (remember Enron?) and extentions of NAFTA and other foreign trade agreements (basically, we’re forfieting our economic sovreignty for short-term gains).

    Personally, I suggest supporting what our government calls the “black market” – goods purchased through it are often cheaper than what you’d get through “legal” channels (taxes really jack up prices), you can barter for goods and services and you might even get access to goods and services that the government doesn’t want you to have. Where what our society calls “Capitalism” fails to empower the people, the “black market” succeeds – as you buy what you what through whatever means you and he seller agree to, often with no questions asked.

  • Mrnaglfar

    Christopher,

    Pure capitalism and black markets face similiar issues, namely those of common pool resources being over-exploited, no control over the safety of products, and black markets especially have no real way of settling disputes outside of violence. Proper governmental involvement is vital in order to curb overpollution (which currently most governments are severely failing to do), overfishing (which has been done to a more reseasonable level of success, though still needs more work), enforce worker’s rights (which pure capitalist systems and black markets certainly fail to do) and to internalize externalities in order to avoid overconsumption of good who’s cost gets spread to all or underconsumption of a good that provides excess benefits realitive to it’s cost, leading to underconsumption.

    However, all government involvement should be aimed at effectively reducing these problems, and many programs so far have failed to do it, normally because of bad data, bad opinions, or general industry involvement in government (what many, including myself, would call corruption).

    That being said:

    I don’t find what we call “Capitalism” to be the best economic system either: by givning big business the incentive to improve profit margins at any cost, it ultimately undermines long-term economic stability for short-term prosperity – thus we see things like once-American jobs being outsourced to other nations, insider trading scams (remember Enron?) and extentions of NAFTA and other foreign trade agreements (basically, we’re forfieting our economic sovreignty for short-term gains).

    How does the black market solve, or even make better, any of those problems?

    goods purchased through it are often cheaper than what you’d get through “legal” channels (taxes really jack up prices), you can barter for goods and services and you might even get access to goods and services that the government doesn’t want you to have.

    If you want to argue against sales tax on items, that’s one thing, but to suggest that all products “the government doesn’t want you have” should be available is really out there. In some cases, like let’s say drugs, should be legally available because making them illegal only imprisons non-violent offenders. When things like chemical weapons go up for sale to the highest bidder you put all the power solely in the hands of rich, leading to even furthering the problems you see with captialism as it already exists, the only difference being that the people with the power would be accountable to no one and don’t have to get elected. I know you may complain that something similiar to that is already happening, but the situation is far different in that the government needs to answer to the people. If you let power like that be directly bought and sold, you’ll experience corruption far worse than what we have now and it won’t even need to be hidden; governments will move even a step further into merely our owners, with more money and power than they currently have.

  • http://dbzer0.com db0

    Even if greed has the potential to hurt others, which it most certainly does, it is also a desire that continues to make people strive for more, and better.

    I do not dispute that. I dispute that greed is the onle desire that does it and that it cannot be replaced.

    As for the morality of it, the desire itself is not immoral, but merely the actions that result from it can be judged as morally right or wrong. For instance, I’m sure you’re familiar with the saying “the path to hell is paved with good intentions”; while altruism certainly has the potential to do a lot of good, but people who think they’re acting in other’s best interests can often do more harm than good.

    You can only judge the actions by the desires that led to them. Otherwise you just judge them on-the-fly and subjectively.

    In any case, this is getting too off topic. If you really want to argue that greed is not a vice or immoral, then I invite you to discuss it on the post I made for specifically that reason.

    As for communism, it is my understanding that communism requires people to not be greedy. I do not think that this is a criticism of communism but only a criticism of the feasibility of communism.

    If the idea of communism has merit however (regardless of the feasibility), we can, and should discuss the feasibility to see how it can be achieved. This is what I am talking about when asserting that “greed can be replaced”.

    Population caps not in the sense that people cannot have more children, but for each successive child massive increases in taxes occur; that way, the more children people have, the more money they contribute towards maintaining the damage they will do to the environment.

    Instead of denying greed, we can just use competing forms of greed to make acting on one impulse more costly than it would otherwise be.

    Have you considered that this idea leads to social darwinism where only the rich can make as many children as they want?

    So Africa is starving because we’re under-producing food for them, which they cannot produce themselves, and this underproduction is occurring because of biofuels, even though you just mentioned above there’s an overproduction of food? What happened to your line about the world not being able to support unlimited amounts of people (which I agree with)? It sounds like you’re suggesting we’re both under-producing food and over-producing it, and because there are too many people it’s our job to support them because they can’t support themselves.

    Something just doesn’t add up in all that.

    Once again, we’re getting too off topic. We can and should discuss the problems of capitalism but not in random threads. I will, hopefully in the future, tackle this issue like I did greed.

    In short: Africa is not starving because we are under producing food. Africa is starving because the richer nations are buying excess food in large quantities in order to drop overall costs for their people. This excessive demand while helping the bulk buyes, raises the overall cost of food for everyone in the world which leads to more starvation for the Africans (and other poor nations). Ethanol just compounds the problem (albeit to a large degree).
    The fact that the excess food is wasted when not consumed is just icing on the cake.

    I’m not saying that we should support people (although your socialist capitalism ideas should really extend beyond your national borders) but rather that we should be aware of the harm we are doing because of the way capitalism works.

    Ebon raised that point above; every supposedly communist state has always under a dictatorship. If communism is a better alternative, why hasn’t it ever been tried on a large scale?

    Imho, the world is just not ready for it.

    Yes, if everyone agreed with you and each other the world would be a perfect place. But they don’t, so what do you do now?

    Strive to change that ;)

    So you suggest that 400,000 people, with no one leading or organizing, can all coordinate and talk with each other, all cast their votes, and have everything work out not only smoothly, but more efficiently then a with a form of government? The reason governments formed in the first place is because that sort of thing simply does not work. (in regards to communism being essentially anarchy)

    It does not need to be totally unorganised. Only as organised as required to handle this and with enough control to avoid corruption. Once again, the Free Software movement can be seen as an example.

    Sure can. People can want to be creative without directly thinking about money or power or sex or anything outside the desire to be creative, but without gains of some form the likelyhood that the creativity will be able to be maintained and supported is far past not probable.

    This is a philosophical issue. I claim that people can train themselves to require (note: “require” is the key word) only the bare necessities for their life. Once they reach this level, they can use their spare time to do what they love (art, science whatever) and not concern themselves about “gain”.

    If I had the choice to be able to achieve my bare necessities (food & shelter) with minimal cost (2 hours of work a day for example) I would take it in an instant. This would allow me to have every day 14 hours free for personal projects that I love, instead of 8.

    Would you have sex with a man and/or woman you didn’t want to in order to spare them emotional pain of being rejected?

    I was talking about my personal pain, not others.

    In your example above, I would do so only if it would save me from a greater pain.

  • Christopher

    Mrnaglfar,

    “Pure capitalism and black markets face similiar issues, namely those of common pool resources being over-exploited, no control over the safety of products, and black markets especially have no real way of settling disputes outside of violence.”

    Or you can simply stop doing business with the guy who cheats you and smear his reputation – I’ve done this before and sent the fucker out of town due to the lack of clientel.

    “However, all government involvement should be aimed at effectively reducing these problems, and many programs so far have failed to do it, normally because of bad data, bad opinions, or general industry involvement in government (what many, including myself, would call corruption).”

    Or maybe the government just has no real interest in solving those problems to begin with – just the desire to plausibly claim that they’re being “responsible leaders” (an oxymoron) whilst putting forth the minimun effort towards actually doing something about those problems. It’s a great vote-buying scam.

    “How does the black market solve, or even make better, any of those problems?”

    It doesn’t actually “solve” those problems (it is neither capable nor interested in doing so), but it does provide the saavy consumer with an alternative source of goods and services – as well as work for those who are left unemployed by outsourcing and so-called “free trade” agreements. Unlike our present economic system, there is significant opportunity for what we once knew as “The American Dream” in alternative economies – provided you can keep the tax man away…

    “In some cases, like let’s say drugs, should be legally available because making them illegal only imprisons non-violent offenders. When things like chemical weapons go up for sale to the highest bidder you put all the power solely in the hands of rich, leading to even furthering the problems you see with captialism as it already exists, the only difference being that the people with the power would be accountable to no one and don’t have to get elected.”

    1. One doesn’t need to go to a “black market” to get chemical weapons: one with the proper knowledge could mix them in his basement using common household items – the rich would have no monopoly on the stuff if this knowledge was distributed openly.

    Note: I myself don’t mix chemical weapons in my basement, but if I was in a situation where the knowledge was called for (ex. a massive incursion of Mexican troops over the U.S. border – not unthinkable as they’ve already made several smaller ones) I could produce a batch and teach others to do the same.

    2. The powerful are already unaccountable to anyone other than their wealthy puppetmasters – I don’t see how a “black market” will change that.

    “I know you may complain that something similiar to that is already happening, but the situation is far different in that the government needs to answer to the people.”

    No they don’t, they have to answer to their puppeteers – “the people” lost their voice in mainstream politics a long time ago…

  • Mrnaglfar

    dbo,

    I dispute that greed is the onle desire that does it and that it cannot be replaced.

    But cannot suggest any viable alternatives in terms of the world we live in, or how they would come about from the world we live in.

    You can only judge the actions by the desires that led to them. Otherwise you just judge them on-the-fly and subjectively.

    In any case, this is getting too off topic. If you really want to argue that greed is not a vice or immoral, then I invite you to discuss it on the post I made for specifically that reason.

    As for communism, it is my understanding that communism requires people to not be greedy. I do not think that this is a criticism of communism but only a criticism of the feasibility of communism.

    If the idea of communism has merit however (regardless of the feasibility), we can, and should discuss the feasibility to see how it can be achieved. This is what I am talking about when asserting that “greed can be replaced”.

    Intentions do not equal desires. There is nothing inherently wrong with desires, greed in this case; intetions to cause harm or help can be judged, and the results of those actions in actually causing harm and good can also be judged. You’re trying to paint greed as bad by maligning the intentions of people, even though greed can and does create the vast majority of intentions and actions, good and bad.

    As for communism, the fesiability of it is certainly something to debate; As I’ve mentioned before, once you assume one or two things, Capitalism essentially becomes communism, as both in a perfect world settle on the same end results. But if you assume perfection in the system from the get go, then yes, communism would indeed be a wonderful idea if the world worked in whatever way it would need to. However, it doesn’t, so the fesiability argument is a fine one against communism. Same way if you want to argue against the idea of god you don’t need to start by assuming god exists; you can make arguments against the probabilty of such a being’s existance as well.

    Have you considered that this idea leads to social darwinism where only the rich can make as many children as they want?

    Social Darwinism, hardly; more that people need to be able to fully support the costs of bringing more children into the world that’s already overpopulated. There’s nothing special about ‘rich’ people or ‘poor’ people – they’re just people, and thus it’s not social darwinism. It’s unfortunate that some people wouldn’t be able to reproduce to the level they want to, but at some point we would need to decide who gets to and who doesn’t beyond a child (so as to reduce the population below dangerously high levels); it just so happens rich people can better shoulder the cost of having another child. Not that excludes anyone from having kids, it just means they would need to make more cutbacks in their lifestyle.

    In short: Africa is not starving because we are under producing food. Africa is starving because the richer nations are buying excess food in large quantities in order to drop overall costs for their people. This excessive demand while helping the bulk buyes, raises the overall cost of food for everyone in the world which leads to more starvation for the Africans (and other poor nations). Ethanol just compounds the problem (albeit to a large degree).
    The fact that the excess food is wasted when not consumed is just icing on the cake.

    I’m not saying that we should support people (although your socialist capitalism ideas should really extend beyond your national borders) but rather that we should be aware of the harm we are doing because of the way capitalism works.

    If there isn’t enough food for the population there, the simple thing to do is stop reproducing (which of course isn’t the easiest thing to do without access to birth control and such, so perhaps distributing birth control is more humane and useful than distributing food to a certain degree).
    As for the fuel part, oil for transportation is going away piece by piece, and many lives are very dependant on it. The biofuels burn cleaner, invigorate economies, and while they are far from the full solution, are a large piece of it.
    The long and short of it is that the world cannot maintain it’s current population of people that is growing without the use of other fuel sources. Instead of focusing on maintaining and supporting that growing population, it may well be the case that working to control that population and it’s consumption could end up being the key to really helping people in the long term.

    Imho, the world is just not ready for it.

    And short of reforming the entire human race, what would make the world ‘ready’ for it?

    Strive to change that ;)

    As for convincing you, I couldn’t care less.

    Sounds kind of silly when you say things like

    It does not need to be totally unorganised. Only as organised as required to handle this and with enough control to avoid corruption. Once again, the Free Software movement can be seen as an example.

    Free software is not a good example of national organization of millions of autonomous people all of which are in charge of being informed about all issues and communicating with the reast of the population with no centralized source of power or organization. If it could have happened without organization, it would have somewhere on a large scale, or even a medium sized scale, but that hasn’t happened.

    This is a philosophical issue. I claim that people can train themselves to require (note: “require” is the key word) only the bare necessities for their life. Once they reach this level, they can use their spare time to do what they love (art, science whatever) and not concern themselves about “gain”.

    If I had the choice to be able to achieve my bare necessities (food & shelter) with minimal cost (2 hours of work a day for example) I would take it in an instant. This would allow me to have every day 14 hours free for personal projects that I love, instead of 8.

    Your two thoughts are out of synch with each other. You claim to not be concerned with greed and gain, yet then state you’d rather work less so you could have more personal time that you wanted. How about you’d rather work less on personal things so you could work more supporting other people? I’m sure you could move to a smaller apartment, eat less/cheaper food, and spend your extra time working to help other people. Of course, that would reduce your standard of living substainally and vastly lower your amount of free time, and I can tell from you not having already done it that the idea doesn’t tickle your fancy.

    A fine example of the world not being ready for communism.

    I was talking about my personal pain, not others.

    In your example above, I would do so only if it would save me from a greater pain.

    So you’d do something you didn’t want to do, not because it would help someone else, but if you could avoid something else you didn’t want. That sounds like greed to me, plain and simple.

  • Mrnaglfar

    Christopher,

    Or you can simply stop doing business with the guy who cheats you and smear his reputation – I’ve done this before and sent the fucker out of town due to the lack of clientel.

    And when that guy becomes the owner of a monopoly and you don’t have any choice I’m sure that’ll work. If the history of unconstrained capitalism has shown us anything, it’s that things like that will happen.

    Or maybe the government just has no real interest in solving those problems to begin with – just the desire to plausibly claim that they’re being “responsible leaders” (an oxymoron) whilst putting forth the minimun effort towards actually doing something about those problems. It’s a great vote-buying scam.

    If the public doesn’t see results, they’ll elect someone else.

    It doesn’t actually “solve” those problems (it is neither capable nor interested in doing so), but it does provide the saavy consumer with an alternative source of goods and services – as well as work for those who are left unemployed by outsourcing and so-called “free trade” agreements. Unlike our present economic system, there is significant opportunity for what we once knew as “The American Dream” in alternative economies – provided you can keep the tax man away…

    Right, so externaties can be accumlated, common-pool resources will be oeverrun and over-exploited until they’re gone (fisheries are a fine example, as well as pollution on the global scale, or lead in the gas, or acid rain, or toxic materials in products or food). Again, black markets do nothing about outsourcing either; if anything they fully encourage it so long as it gets profits up; you’re peeing on your feet with that argument.

    1. One doesn’t need to go to a “black market” to get chemical weapons: one with the proper knowledge could mix them in his basement using common household items – the rich would have no monopoly on the stuff if this knowledge was distributed openly.

    Note: I myself don’t mix chemical weapons in my basement, but if I was in a situation where the knowledge was called for (ex. a massive incursion of Mexican troops over the U.S. border – not unthinkable as they’ve already made several smaller ones) I could produce a batch and teach others to do the same.

    2. The powerful are already unaccountable to anyone other than their wealthy puppetmasters – I don’t see how a “black market” will change that.

    Yeah, I’m sure people can cook up small-pox in their basement or assemble a nuke no problem. I think the world would be a better place with those on the open market to protect us from the hordes of mexican invaders.

    As for this idea that government is some evil organization trying to rule us and managing to do so effectively, it’s a nice conspiracy theory, but it doesn’t hold any water (much like our public water system wouldn’t without them). All a blackmarket will do is encourage and make worse the very problems you want to blame our government for, as well as others problems our government have actually managed to get under control, while at the same time making everyone worse off.

    No they don’t, they have to answer to their puppeteers – “the people” lost their voice in mainstream politics a long time ago…

    The people didn’t lose anything; they gave it up themselves. The moment they feel like getting it back it’ll be waiting there for them.

  • http://dbzer0.com db0

    But cannot suggest any viable alternatives in terms of the world we live in, or how they would come about from the world we live in.

    I can but I won’t do so in the comment section of a random article. I may do so on my own site once I get my thoughts organised.

    Intentions do not equal desires. There is nothing inherently wrong with desires, greed in this case; intetions to cause harm or help can be judged, and the results of those actions in actually causing harm and good can also be judged. You’re trying to paint greed as bad by maligning the intentions of people, even though greed can and does create the vast majority of intentions and actions, good and bad.

    You cannot separate desires from intentions that easily.

    As for communism, the fesiability of it is certainly something to debate; As I’ve mentioned before, once you assume one or two things, Capitalism essentially becomes communism, as both in a perfect world settle on the same end results. But if you assume perfection in the system from the get go, then yes, communism would indeed be a wonderful idea if the world worked in whatever way it would need to. However, it doesn’t, so the fesiability argument is a fine one against communism. Same way if you want to argue against the idea of god you don’t need to start by assuming god exists; you can make arguments against the probabilty of such a being’s existance as well.

    I do not assume perfection.

    Social Darwinism, hardly; [...] it just so happens rich people can better shoulder the cost of having another child. Not that excludes anyone from having kids, it just means they would need to make more cutbacks in their lifestyle.

    That’s pretty much social darwinism. It does not need to be violent.
    Rich people can afford to have (more) children while poor cannot. Thus the rich people’s genes/family replaces the poor.

    Sounds kind of silly when you say things like

    I don’t presume to convince people on online arguments. I do it for my own benefit usually and hopefully to plant some seeds of doubt.

    Free software is not a good example

    Free software is a great example of decentralised organisation. Just because it’s not an exact example does not mean we cannot learn from it.

    Your two thoughts are out of synch with each other. You claim to not be concerned with greed and gain, yet then state you’d rather work less so you could have more personal time that you wanted.
    [...]
    That sounds like greed to me, plain and simple.

    Sorry but I can only surmise that you have no idea what “greed” means even though I went into great lengths to explain it.
    You’re equivocating horribly.

  • http://dbzer0.com db0

    I forgot one thing I wanted to comment on

    If it could have happened without organization, it would have somewhere on a large scale, or even a medium sized scale, but that hasn’t happened.

    This argument is, basicaly, inane.

    200 years ago: If women suffrage could have happened, it would have somewhere on a large scale. But it hasn’t happened for thousands of years.
    400 years ago: If abolition of slavery could have happened, it would have somewhere on a large scale.
    500 years ago: If Democracy could have happened, it would have on a large scale but it happened only on one city aeons ago and it failed.

    etc.

  • Mrnaglfar

    dbo,

    200 years ago: If women suffrage could have happened, it would have somewhere on a large scale. But it hasn’t happened for thousands of years.
    400 years ago: If abolition of slavery could have happened, it would have somewhere on a large scale.
    500 years ago: If Democracy could have happened, it would have on a large scale but it happened only on one city aeons ago and it failed.

    Those are all questions of equal rights; people can have equal rights of course, it’s what I would expect to happen because they don’t require anything out of people that people cannot provide on the scale of the individual. However, communism involves reforming the way just about every member of society thinks and acts and involves removing some basic aspects of humanity from people on top of requring them to keep track of incredible amounts of information that we simply cannot do and keep up too many responsibilities that no living person has time for.

    Communism, pure communism, requires every citizen be a part of and be informed about every single matter nationally; It’s simply impossible.

    That’s pretty much social darwinism. It does not need to be violent.
    Rich people can afford to have (more) children while poor cannot. Thus the rich people’s genes/family replaces the poor.

    Rich people tend to have fewer kids; if you want to curb population you should start where it grows the quickest, likely due to factors like lack of access to affordable birth control and good information on how to use it, on top of social pressure to have kids (ala religion).
    Also, as I mentioned before, this hardly stops poor people from having kids, just requires they pay more money if they want to; more kids equal more cutbacks in their life, which is what I would consider taking the full responsibilty of bringing more children into an overpopulated world facing a realization about it’s limits.

    I do not assume perfection.

    No, but you insist that I argue about how communism WOULD work if it was working as envisioned for the best of everyone; that’s essentially the same thing.

    You cannot separate desires from intentions that easily.

    I just did. Desires are the basic drives; greed, love, hate, envy, jealously, etc that motivate human behavior (one could be motivated to do any number of things from those). Intentions are the desired effects one wishes their actions to have; whether to help or harm. Actions are the results of intentions, and may or may not live up to their intentions. You can judge actions and intentions all you want, but desires encompass all human behavior.

    Sorry but I can only surmise that you have no idea what “greed” means even though I went into great lengths to explain it.

    I saw your definition, I looked it up myself. By you possessing something, simply as a logical step, you prevent everyone else from possessing that same thing. There are varying levels of greed (self-interest), but surely we almost all live with more than we need to stay alive, more than what’s needed and what other people would want for themselves. We value having more for ourselves of any number of things; free time to do what you want, nice clothes, good food, comfortable living situations, transportation beyond what’s actually required, fun little entertainment devices, the esteem of our peers, sexual oppertunties, just plain money, you name it. My understanding of greed is a bit deeper than you realize; I’m a student of evolution and economics, both of which focus around self-interest.

  • http://dbzer0.com db0

    Those are all questions of equal rights

    You say this now and of course in our current age, it seems obvious and natural. But it was not always that way.
    In the same way that you rationalise the concept of various human rights, one person from a possible future might consider non-greed as natural.

    Communism, pure communism, requires every citizen be a part of and be informed about every single matter nationally; It’s simply impossible.

    It requires them to be informed yes, but not every single matter.

    Also, as I mentioned before, this hardly stops poor people from having kids, just requires they pay more money if they want to; more kids equal more cutbacks in their life, which is what I would consider taking the full responsibilty of bringing more children into an overpopulated world facing a realization about it’s limits.

    When the choice is to have kids or starve, then it is obvious what will happen.
    The problem remains ethically. Poor people would not have as much freedom to have children as others.
    And no, the fact that currently Rich people tend to have less children is not an argument.

    No, but you insist that I argue about how communism WOULD work if it was working as envisioned for the best of everyone; that’s essentially the same thing.

    Insisting that we should argue if communism has errors in it’s mechanics or conception is not the same as arguing that everyone should be perfect. Your question about how problem in supply and demand might work out for example is valid in this context. Ebonmuse’s question on why all attempts at communism ended up as dictatorships is not.

    Desires are the basic drives; greed, love, hate, envy, jealously

    My response is here if you wish to discuss this concept.

    Other than this, this is totally beyond the scope of this article so I won’t be responding any more to it here.

    There are varying levels of greed (self-interest),

    And this is your error. Greed does not equal self-interest. To attempt to argue as if it does is a form of equivocation and what is why you keep considering greed as neutral. In short, you are basing your argument on a logical fallacy.

    My understanding of greed is a bit deeper than you realize; I’m a student of evolution and economics, both of which focus around self-interest.

    And if greed meant self-interest I would give more wight to your credentials. However it doesn’t.
    Nevertheless, you being a student of economics gives me an insight on why you are so steadfast in your defense of capitalism. Take care not to be dogmatic about it.

  • Mrnaglfar

    It requires them to be informed yes, but not every single matter.

    It every citizen is working towards the betterment of other citizens, it requires they be informed about the realitive workings of other industries demands and supplies. Under the capitalist system, this is reflected clearly as the price, and people don’t need to go much farther than that (exceptions here being positive and negative externalities). With the lack of price, determining supply and demand relies on vast bodies of knowledge of many, many different industries that all citizens would need to know in order to be informed.

    When the choice is to have kids or starve, then it is obvious what will happen.
    The problem remains ethically. Poor people would not have as much freedom to have children as others.
    And no, the fact that currently Rich people tend to have less children is not an argument.

    And rights and freedoms are not fixed; we like to think they are but the course of history shows us otherwise. Rights need to be reevaluated from time to time (as the founding father’s understood), and rights of one person inevitably bump up against the rights of another. It’s unfortunate that we have this problem to deal with and that it means some people will not be having more than one child, or any children for that matter, but I feel it’s perfectly rational to allow those who can shoulder the cost of raising more children to do so, and to not allow those who cannot to do so; far more rational than doing so at random anyway, and far more rational than allowing unconstrained growth which will only worsen the problem.

    Insisting that we should argue if communism has errors in it’s mechanics or conception is not the same as arguing that everyone should be perfect. Your question about how problem in supply and demand might work out for example is valid in this context. Ebonmuse’s question on why all attempts at communism ended up as dictatorships is not.

    As was mentioned before, pure capitalism and pure communism end with the same result; a perfect supply and demand. However, both rest on assumptions that do not match up to reality, keeping them from being perfect. The question of why every attempt at a communist country has ended in a dictatorship is certainly an interesting one, especially because not every capitalist ones has. People level the same claim at atheists that some atheist leaders have been Stalin, Mao, etc. Of course, we know this misses the point in that worst leaders have all been totaliarian dictators, religious or not, so to conflate the two is not a good argument. However, when every communist country has ended up a dictatorship, I don’t see why it’s unreasonable to ask why?

    And this is your error. Greed does not equal self-interest. To attempt to argue as if it does is a form of equivocation and what is why you keep considering greed as neutral. In short, you are basing your argument on a logical fallacy.

    Dictionary.com begs to differ:

    Greed: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/greed

    Self-interest: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/self-interest

    regard for one’s own interest or advantage, esp. with disregard for others

    Selfish or excessive regard for one’s personal advantage or interest.

    taking advantage of opportunities without regard for the consequences for others

    If you want to split hairs, we can talk about the definition of greed and how it differs from self-interest, which it hardly seems to unless you want to make greed merely an exaggerated form of self-interest, but it’s just semantics.

    Nevertheless, you being a student of economics gives me an insight on why you are so steadfast in your defense of capitalism. Take care not to be dogmatic about it.

    Oh, I’m hardly in favor of pure capitalism; I perfer a mixture of free-market with certain socialist policies to regulate the failures of pure capitalism (like tradgies of the commons, natural monopolies, or externalities for instance) and to work as a social safety net for the lower class of society upon which we all depend. Of course, I’m also not warning about failures to heed my advice, I just feel we can do better than we are doing now, given what we have to work with, and I don’t see any benefits to communism in either the ideal world or the real one.

  • http://dbzer0.com db0

    It every citizen is working towards the betterment of other citizens, it requires they be informed about the realitive workings of other industries demands and supplies

    No. They only have to have a lifestyle that we have found creates the least problems. What this lifestyle might be is a matter of debate of course.
    Supply and demand could just as well work in another way that does not facilitate greed.

    As I said, my knowledge of Communism is not that great so I cannot really give you a solid argument on this point.

    but I feel it’s perfectly rational to allow those who can shoulder the cost of raising more children to do so, and to not allow those who cannot to do so; far more rational than doing so at random anyway, and far more rational than allowing unconstrained growth which will only worsen the problem.

    Well, if we’re going to talk about “perfectly rational” options I might as well give you another rational option that it more fair for everyone.
    Random allowance of children. All cost of raising them burden the state. No allowance for parental gifts (so as not to give them an unfair advantage in life) and no inheritance.
    Perfectly rational and more fair.

    Dictionary.com begs to differ:

    One can make equivocations and be perfectly accurate by the dictionary. It does not make them any less fallacious.
    It is the definition exactly that is causing us problems and we must get our semantics synchronised before we can have an actual discussion that will get us anywhere.

  • Mrnaglfar

    Perfectly rational and more fair.

    More fair, of course, meaning not allowing those who are willing and able to pay the costs, and shouldering other people who cannot pay those costs with their burden; I like it, it’s just like that right to have an attourney except only random people are allowed to have attournies.

    It is the definition exactly that is causing us problems and we must get our semantics synchronised before we can have an actual discussion that will get us anywhere.

    Ok, give me one good way you can seperate self-interest from greed.

  • http://dbzer0.com db0

    meaning not allowing those who are willing and able to pay the costs, and shouldering other people who cannot pay those costs with their burden;

    Those willing an able more often than not started on a higher ground. This idea will at least make everyone start on an equal level.
    Taxes happen now anyway.

    It’s better than just creating a pathway to start having dynasties again.

    I like it, it’s just like that right to have an attourney except only random people are allowed to have attournies.

    Funny you should mention that. I thought that everyone in the US has a right to an attorney but only the rich can get a capable one.

  • Mrnaglfar

    Funny you should mention that. I thought that everyone in the US has a right to an attorney but only the rich can get a capable one.

    The law says everyone has a right to have one, but the law doesn’t say that everyone has the right to a team of top lawyers. Under the law people who want to hire their own lawyers are perfectly capable of doing so. The law I proposed allows everyone to have 1 child, but if they want to have children beyond the first, regardless of why, they need to pay more tax money that would go towards supporting the damage to the world that extra person in the population would cause. Does it privilage the rich if they want more kids? sure, so long as they’re willing to pay. But the rich are a very small percentage of the population, meaning that it would work to decrease population without telling anyone they cannot reproduce. It’s not random and works well with the principle of freedom, as more children begin in impose a cost on the rest of society which needs to be repaid.


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