Social Question

ETpro's avatar

Is capitalism the best long-term economic model? [Please read details].

Asked by ETpro (34145 points ) January 27th, 2012

First, do not go balistic on me. I am not entertaining dreams of Soviet style communism here. I own a small business and am hard at work as a capitalist trying to join those at the top. I’ve made a few missteps along the way. I’ve had two promising careers in a row yanked out from under my feet by sea changes in what’s hot and what’s not in the US economy, and nearly went under in Bush’s Great Recession. I am still digging out of the debt that disaster left me. But missing those boats is on me alone, and I wouldn’t want it any other way.

What I am wondering is how we reconcile the drive for eternal, ever accelerating growth that laissez-faire capitalism inevitably leads to with the realities of a finite planet with exploding population, limited resources, and an environment increasingly threatened by human activity.

Let me first establish those three related threats to the future of mankind.

1—When I was born during WWII, there were roughly 2.3 billion people on Earth. Today there are 7 billion. Baring plague or nuclear holocaust, there will be 8 billion in 2025. So far, increasing technology has let us achieve this growth without Malthusian meltdown, but can that work forever? Unless we are able to soon colonize space, Malthus may prove to have been prescient in predictions of a dire outcome even though he was not accurate in the timing of it.

2—It is obvious that the Earth contains a finite supply of natural resources, and that some of them which are currently critical to sustaining population levels and standards of living are non-renewable and will run out. To make matters worse, 1.3 billion humans live with constant hunger and poverty on an average income of $1.25 per day. A full 88% of the world’s population currently lives in third-world conditions. These people all yearn to join their more fortunate brothers in the first world. As they do that, pressure on resources will escalate exponentially.

Again, technology could come to the rescue to some degree. But there are limits technology probably can’t reach beyond. Technology may provide something like cold fusion or some yet unseen source of unlimited, clean, renewable energy. But there are finite amounts of the metals, precious metals and minerals needed to keep building. We will hit an upper limit, even if we manage to maintain the environment in suitable fashion to let us build till we reach it.

3—That brings us to the third leg of the capitalist stool, the environment. The science is clear. Global warming is happening, it is being at least partially driven by human activity, and it will continue to get worse on an upward sloping asymptotic curve till it renders the planet unfit for human life and prehaps all advanced life forms here today. We discussed that here. Feel free to refer to that thread and its references if you doubt this fact. As the 88% of the Earth’s population now in third world conditions joins the first world, pressure on resources and the environment will only increase. Currently, the 12% that live in the first world use 85% of the world supply of fresh water.

Unless restraints are placed on capitalism, the drive for ever greater profits and yields for investors will “always inherently drive it to increase the threats”: of overpopulation (more consumers), resource depletion and environmental destruction.

Finally, our technology gives, but it also takes away. The fossil fuel industry, now approaching $40 trillion per year, is a perfect example. Thanks to it, we have built machines and transportation systems that let us produce more than enough food for 7 billion humans. Hunger and starvation currently occur because of failures and deliberate inequity in food distribution, not because of shortages in productivity. But that same fossil-fuel technology is behind global warming, oil spills, landfills and oceans filling with plastics that have a half life of multiple millennia, and pollution on a massive scale.

I also see a coming threat from automating and robotics. Under the capitalist model, how do we support 7 billion people when robots take over virtually all of the work? We aren’t going to need 7 billion robot supervisors because computers will handle that task.

Are we well advised to push the idea of laissez-faire capitalism for the whole world, or should we be busy developing a superior model that considers the tripple threats to the future inherent in the capitalist model?

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42 Answers

ragingloli's avatar

Capitalism depends on constant growth. A country’s economy is rated based on how much it grows. (Rule of Acquisition number 45: Expand or die) This growth requires a constant increase in production and therefore resource consumption. Resources are finite. That right there, at the core of the system, disqualifies it from being a long term solution. Then you must not forget that laissez faire capitalism inevitably leads to a cycle of growth and total economic collapse. It happened once already and without government intervention it almost happened again just recently (coincidentally, from the same country). The system puts short term profits over long term stability, the other factor disqualifying it from being a long term solution.

saint's avatar

Laissez-faire is pretty much the absence of a designed system. I am not aware of a true laissez faire economy in recorded history. That being said, laissez faire is a concession to the nature of Man. Rational, selfish, isolated within their own skin, and possessing free will along with the need to choose voluntary actions. Since human beings must exercise volition and reason in order to live, they pretty much have to be free to do so, since applying force disrupts the process, is contrary to nature,and thus corrupting and potentially fatal.
Most shortages are not shortages of natural resources, but shortages of money or skills to trade for them. That is usually a result of oppressive controls and looting of the civilization by government.
It is possible that some day in the distance, regardless of whatever “system” that some elitist group forces on their subjects, the Earth’s well will run dry. If it does, then human beings will suffer the same fate that all preceding species have when their niche disappeared. Whether that is in 100 years, or 10,000, the outcome is the same. So why not live as free people to whatever end is waiting, instead of buying a little bit of time at the cost of social and economic slavery.

BTW, Just who and where are these kind hearted angels that will run your respective economic systems if people give up or lose their freedom of choice in the market place? When given the opportunity to do it in the past, they merely made slaves of their people, in the name of the commen good, whatever that is, but really for the aggrandizement of their masters.

ragingloli's avatar

How absurd. Your logic suggests that we should also abolish all laws and just live with rampant murder and theft, just to avoid your “social slavery”. Your absolute freedom is synonymous with chaos and anarchy. You can not have a functioning society without rules and inevitable curtailing of someone’s “freedom”.

saint's avatar

Nobody said anything about abolishing laws. The market place is only one small segment of the entire social framework. Murder, theft and fraud are not tolerated in even the most primitive or the most controlled social organizations. What do you think you are talking about.
Not sure why you use words like absurd so much. Is that the way your family talked around the dinner table?

ragingloli's avatar

Laws are part of the “social slavery” you seem to abhor. There is no reason why laws against murder and theft , that affect only individuals are ok, while measures against economic corruption, abuse, exploitation and oppression, which affect large groups of people and even society as a whole are somehow synonymous with the lowest forms of deviltry.

saint's avatar

Thanks for clarifying. I’m always a little slow on the uptake.

mazingerz88's avatar

Based on what I have read so far on this board, and such astute observation too, imo, the answer so far is, NO.

flutherother's avatar

Capitalism worked well as a model for applying technology to a world of seemingly infinite resources and endless economic growth. Those days are almost over and we can see the mess that the capitalist financial system got into as soon as growth stalled. I think that to avoid enormous social inequalities and unrest in the future we have to examine alternatives to unbridled capitalism. We have to be adaptable. One model doesn’t suit all circumstances.

mazingerz88's avatar

@flutherother Well said. I feel a new model has to be adapted, if it’s ever possible at all.

6rant6's avatar

The linking of capitalism with ecological chaos is nonsense. Please take a look at China.

DaphneT's avatar

Fluther Capitalism, noun:
an economic and political system in which a country’s trade and industry are controlled by private owners for profit, rather than by the state. According to the essay referenced below, capitalism is a disparaging term for economic individualism.

according to this ”...individualism’s leading tenets: that individuals possess inalienable rights, that government should not restrain individuals from pursuing their own happiness, and that economic activity should not be regulated by government…” should be replaced by ”...brotherhood, community, and social solidarity…”

The U.S. has never had a pure individualism structure. Our individualistic core prevents a pure socialistic structure from taking root. Pure individualism only exists successfully in the frontiers. Once frontiers are settled society takes over, once society controls as much as it can, empires arise. Roman Empire, Chinese Empire, Aztec Empire, Egyptian Empire, etc. All of these utilized and leveraged the technology of the day, and they eventually morphed into something else.

For those people needing a new frontier there are two options: to destroy portions of our planet to create a wild and unsettled place, or leave the planet. Luckily, the actual number of people who need a new frontier is actually very small. I personally would choose to help you leave the planet; that does require that we work together.

Every person is born into a community, a social solidarity, a brotherhood sisterhood, no matter what you might prefer to think, you and your mama, being two individuals, created a community. The number of people alienated by their community or their b/s-hood is of course quite high. That does not mean that these people have no sense of community or b/s-hood-ness, just that they are dissatisfied with what their community/hood has offered them.

Another point offered in the essay I referenced is this: “Its major corollary is that the state exists to protect individual rights.” And it is on this point we are struggling. Whose individual rights should be protected? If we are abusing our resources and air is polluted, then I say the polluters are infringing on my rights: breathing is a major necessity in my pursuit of happiness. If the issue is water, then I say my rights are infringed when I don’t have clean drinking water. I could go on, but those two usually make the case for state intervention. I expect the ‘state’ to intervene; their sole purpose is to protect my rights as an individual. So any regulations issued by the state I perceive as good if it protects the air I breathe, the water I drink, my food sources, etc. The arguments come to ‘Do these regulations do it?’ Capitalistic societies ask, ‘What is the opportunity cost of regulating/not-regulating air pollution?’ What is the opportunity cost of regulating/not-regulating water pollution? What is the opportunity cost of regulating/not-regulating XYZ?

If capitalism is thought of as pure individualism, it is not a long-term economic solution. As a component of a mixed economy it has the potential to last indefinitely, for it was capitalism a.k.a. individualism that toppled the empires, but those empires simply redefined themselves within a different set of rules to re-establish social solidarity, community and hood-ness. Capitalism asks what the opportunity costs are, social thinking stresses that all the factors have to be accounted for, including intangibles.

whitenoise's avatar

I have a couple of issues with capitalism in its pure form.

* One: future scarcity of limited resources does not get evaluated into the pricing mechanism of markets, until they get truly scarce at the market place. For instance: the oil price will remain relatively low until it is almost gone. This negates the impulse for society as a whole to develop alternatives for consuming these limited resources and sets us all up for a lot of misery.

* Two: negative external effects of production and consumption on common resources (such as the environment) that are not owned by an individual are not evaluated in the pricing mechanism. This makes capitalist societies waste these resources without restraint. Worse: free competition does not even allow companies to not waste these resources, since doing so would increase their cost base and hurt their market position.

* Three: I believe in meritocracy. Accumulated wealth from the past will put world power with parties that were successful in capitalizing on markets in the past.
If I keep in mind that people’s needs and demands are not the same and that needs shift over time, I have to conclude that capitalism is not a meritocratic system.

* Four: game theory clearly explains that in situations where people all make simultaneous decisions that affect the (expected) outcome of these individual decisions, sub-optimization is inevitable. That is why we have a government.
(Social contract theory – we are all better off with a leading body that looks after the common interest.)

Now… soviet style socialism is not the only alternative to capitalism. Personally I feel that our current system in Europe with social-democratic governments guiding free market through regulations and regulatory authorities, is the best we can hope for, for now. There is a lot left to improve on that system, indeed, but pure capitalism is a sure path to misery.

MollyMcGuire's avatar

@saint Thanks. I didn’t have to say a word on this one. I think you are a kindred spirit

whitenoise's avatar

Re: ’that being said, laissez faire is a concession to the nature of Man. Rational, selfish, isolated within their own skin, and possessing free will along with the need to choose voluntary actions.

Are you inserting your personal opinion on the nature of man as a fact, there? Or do you have some valid external reason to conclude that what you wrote is truly an accurate and full description of human nature?

Are humans not social animals that for their well being depend on their group(s), with a ‘human nature’ to match this need to benefit the group?

Re: ’Most shortages are not shortages of natural resources, but shortages of money or skills to trade for them. That is usually a result of oppressive controls and looting of the civilization by government.

Is that true? is not the base of capitalism a free market setting the price for products through evaluation of scarcity? Then a shortage of money in a capitalist system means their is scarcity. (Another word for shortage of money is ‘too high a price’) I think you are referring to transaction costs that come in any free market situation.

These are often a consequence of an unlevel playing field, poor information dispersion or abuse of market power. Normally these would be combatted through the creation of laws and institutions. A typical role for the government.

Re: ’If it does, then human beings will suffer the same fate that all preceding species have when their niche disappeared. Whether that is in 100 years, or 10,000, the outcome is the same. So why not live as free people to whatever end is waiting, instead of buying a little bit of time at the cost of social and economic slavery.

That is egotistical and denying one of the true characteristics of our species. We can plan ahead and we can change our environment. As a species we have never won because we ‘just went with the flow and accepted our end if it would come’.

We didn’t beat the lions, the bears, the mammoths and the bisons that way. We beat them because we prepared and adapted. We created the conditions to survive.

Even those that believe in the bible / Qur’an / Torah and see the faith of our people as something that is bestowed on us, should know better. Noah survived because he saw the signs and he prepared. Not because he bought another bottle of wine and gave up.

ETpro's avatar

@”: It certainly seems so to me. Free-market capitalism is a linear system trying to operate in a space with finite resources. That cannot carry on for very long. It is mathematically impossible.

@saint I have sympathy for the individualism argument, even if I see multiple holes in it. As near as possible without infringing on the rights of others, I do want to be free to pursue happiness and my own self interests. I also enjoy contributing to others. That’s part of my happiness. If it were not so, I certainly wouldn’t bother to spend time writing here for no pay. I suspect the same is true for you.

Where I take issue with your analysis is in its monochromatic view. This seems to be a characteristic of the new right. Things must be either pure black or pure white. All too often in right-wing thinking, there is no bell curve. There is no continuum with points all along its path, no shades of grey, no colors. If you aren’t for free-market capitalism, then you must be for Communism/Socialism/Fascism or government hegemony of some odious sort. That worldview is quite distorted. In reality., there are a near infinite number of other possibilities outside of those two dipoles. Many have been tried, some with great success and others with less. The vast majority remain to be explored, and most of those have yet to even be invented.

The early Christians in Thessalonica lived in a communist manner. It worked. It was far different from Stalinist Russian communism, where there were party overlords spinning things to make the economic system seem egalitarian when it was, in truth, set up almost solely to allow the party bosses to live in opulence by profiting from what labor they could exhort the working class to provide for their benefit. Even so, communism actually worked in Soviet Russia to lift third world Russia into first world status in a record short time span. That fact, and not some Western egalitarian drive for the rights of man was the chief reason why the capitalist leaders of the West viewed Communism as so mortal an enemy. That was the divide that created the Cold War. It is why we must be so antagonistic to Castro and Hugo Chavez today, using economic sanctions to try to prove their way cannot work. Maybe Castro’s plan is flawed, but wasn’t Batista’s crony capitalism flawed just as deeply? All that changed was the winners and the loosers.

Germany and the Scandinavian countries have an interesting mix of social support networks, individualism and capitalism. They are among the most economically successful nations on earth and have a personal happiness index that should make Americans envious. Free market capitalist America is the world’s largest debtor nation. Germany is the largest lender nation.

American Indians had a social order that preserved some individual liberty while stressing tribal loyalty. It served them well for the 13,000 years they spent in the Americas and was sustainable to a degree our model falls far short of. These are just a few of hundreds of examples. We do face a long term problem. Our present system is unsustainable and nearing the end of its rope. It’s time to look past the ends of our own noses and see what else might be out there.

@flutherother I have to agree with @mazingerz88. Great answer.

@6rant6 Did you fail to read the question details and follow its links, or do you just live in that delightful right-wing zone where facts only count if they prop up your confirmation biases? It was not so long ago that acid rain was killing the nation’s forests. Trees could not survive the level of air pollution. In 1970, Congress passed the Clean Air Act to deal with acid rain and air pollution problems causing health threats and even deaths in major industrial cities. It worked. Out air isn’t perfect by a long shot, but it’s much cleaner today. But what happens when the 88% of people in the Third World join the First World?

We face global warming. Within 30 to 50 years, it will pose major threats to human rxistence. The notion that millionaire Al Gore is behind the melting of glaciers all around the world, and a 120 year history of rising temperatures is pretty preposterous. Does he own a time machine allowing him to do that? Is the $40 trillion per year fossil fuel industry so pusillanimous they will let a lone millionaire destroy their entire industry? When millionaires try to fight trillionaires with money, who do you think is likely to win?

There are five massive Garbage Patches now in the Pacific Much of the flotsam in them is plastic having an oceanic half life of thousands or tens of thousands off years. That means that if we suddenly stopped dumping garbage into the Earth’s oceans today, these huge floating garbage patches would be half gone in the year 12,012. But we aren’t stopping the dumping. We are accelerating it. Free market capitalism demands that we always accelerate the cycle of stuff.

To use your own word, the denial of those obvious facts is “nonsense”.

@DaphneT Thanks for the great answer and the great link. That looks like a site I need to explore in more depth. I think that, when questions like this are raised, the argument about where real laissez-faire capitalism exists and how pure our economic form is are just raised as deflector shields to avoid contact with inconvenient truths. We are on a path that leads to our own destruction. We do not know exactly where the road abruptly ends and we drive over a cliff into the abyss of oblivion. But the knowledge that our current road leads there should tell us to back off on the accelerator and carefully watch the road ahead of us while our Tom Toms and Garmins recalculate.

@whitenoise Wow! Great answer. Had I known what you were typing while I was crafting my responses above, I could have saved a significant number of keystrokes. :-)

ratboy's avatar

The “protestant work ethic” must be scuttled along with notion that the ability to buy and own things constitutes the basis of happiness. The idea that one doesn’t deserve a decent life unless he is “productive” is a relic of a time where the welfare of a community depended on the contributions of all its members.

6rant6's avatar

In my mind, asking whether capitalism or socialism is the better system, is like saying it better to be hot or cold. All societies have collective assets and individual assets. The question is, what is the right place to the set the thermostat.

Those who wish to move more toward capitalism do so because they believe that either it is more economically efficient or more moral (to reward the successful).

Those who wish to move more toward socialism do so because they believe that it is more economically efficient or more just.

Linda_Owl's avatar

I have known for a long time that Capitalism is not sustainable in the long run for the very reasons that have been stated….. Capitalism demands growth & we are rapidly reaching the point where continued growth is not possible. One of the facets of Capitalism is that it promotes materialistic tendencies, which in turn produces anger in those who cannot acquire the material things that they have been convinced by advertising that they should have (the 1% vs the 99%). Right now the wealthy are dictating to the rest of us how we should live & what we can expect to have in the way of material possessions. Unfortunately the wealthy give every evidence of being perfectly willing that everyone will have to suffer except the wealthy. Capitalism had a good long run, but over 30 years ago when Reagan became President he created the mind-set that it was perfectly ok to be greedy & the mind-set became “if you have it, flaunt it” & he began the dismantling of the regulations that were keeping many businesses in check & the middle class began their downhill slide. Now most of us are all in the same boat & it is a toss-up whether or not the boat is going to sink or it is going to blow away. It is going to take a major attitude change on the part of society to realize that our world is very interconnected & realize that the more help that we can give to each other, the better off we will all be. As previously stated, our natural resources are finite & the limits of our environment are also finite. Science can advance technology, but short of science actually finding a way to implement space travel, technology will only take us so far. Science should be focusing on renewable energy sources instead of weaponry to kill people. But with the military being in the top most position (at least in the United States), weapons are going to continue to be what they want from science & with our politics being structured as they are (controlled by religious conservatives that say if you do not support the military, then you are unpatriotic), I cannot envision how we can escape destruction. I sincerely hope that we can, but I cannot envision what path we need to take to get there.

ETpro's avatar

@ratboy The idea is indeed quaint, but it has its legion of current subscribers, as @6rant6 demonstrates.

@6rant6 There is nothing in the question that suggests the only alternative to free-market capitalism is socialism. In fact, both the OP and discussions above discredit that false dichotomy. Please answer the question that was actually asked, not the one you wanted to be asked.

@Linda_Owl I share every concern you mentioned. I hold out some hope we will yet be fmnart enough not to follow the lemmings over the cliff. Let’s sit back, and let them run as the wish.

6rant6's avatar

@ETpro Don’t be a jerk. If you only want answers to the question as written, don’t put it in Social next time.

No, I’m not going to follow your links when there is so much in the Question that’s unrelated to economic systems. You obviously are confused about what capitalism is.

Speaking of confirmation biases, I am not right wing. I’m just trying to help people who can read to untangle these two issues. Obviously some people can’t be helped.

gondwanalon's avatar

I think that capitalism is doomed. It is also being set up to fail.

It is true that natural resources are limited and over population are huge problems. But those problems will continue under any economic model not just capitalism.

There are a lot of people that want capitalism to fail and act accordingly. A huge bloated government operating under tremendous debt as well as a liberal tainted so called “news media” are perhaps the biggest adversaries to capitalism. It seems like there is also a growing grass roots level opposition to capitalism (such as the Wall St. occupiers). Yes capitalism’s eventual demise is likely.

When capitalism finally fails, in which all the banks and big businesses collapse due to huge government bureaucracies and debt then the government will be there to take over everything.

The day the capitalism completely dies the news headlines might read something like, “We gave capitalism a chance and it failed.”

ETpro's avatar

@6rant6 There is nothing in the question that asks “whether capitalism or socialism is the better system”. That’s your straw man. If you are not right wing, why did you feel the need to erect a straw man instead of simply answering the question that was asked. If there is an unteachable person in this debate, it isn’t me, my friend. Have a look in the mirror, because I think you are projecting.

@gondwanalon I tend to agree on both points. It’s ultimately doomed. Total automation requires we find some other system. And in the US, greed is causing some who have already benefited from capitalism to use their wealth to try to bend the government to their will and thereby get more, and more, till they have it all. phenomenally That is setting it up for early failure.

The problem of resource depletion is worsened by a system that must produce ever more, and convince us we need to throw away perfectly servicable items so we can “look cool” sporting the latest sneakers and carrying the latest 4G phone and hand held device.

Population growth could be controlled. In America, we incentivize it with tax credits for having children. Not very logical.

6rant6's avatar

@ETpro Capitalism is the private ownership of the means of production. You can make up other names for the government owning the means of production, but economists call it socialism.

You still posted this in the social section. Which means I am not restricted to answering your ill-formed and rambling question. If you just want to tell someone what a good job you did writing an essay, e-mail your mom.

ETpro's avatar

@6rant6 You are right that the question is in the social section. You are free to answer whatever questin you like to expound on. But I am equally free to point out that you are attacking your own straw man and not my original question.

But since you are so found of jousting with your own straw man, I feel that in the spirit of the Social Section, it might be fun to ride to his defense. I pointed out one alternative for social order that are neither capitalist or socialist. The American Indians were neither, and they had a social order which would have been sustainable for far longer than our Capitalist system of today, which is in the early stages of self destruction. The Thessalonians shared everything equally, but not under government ownership of the means of production and distribution of wealth. Some religious sects in the US follow that model today. Germany has a mix of strong social welfare and private ownership of the means of production and distribution of wealth. I know that the right loves to demonize “European Socialism” but it seems to me we might learn a thing or two from Germany and the Scandinavian states. They have strong and vibrant economies. Germany is the world’s largest lender state while the US is the world’s largest debtor nation. And The Germans and Scandinavians are happy with their lives and with their government, while we Americans routinely score low on both those metrics.

whitenoise's avatar

In thinking more about this question, I realize there are three prevalent sources for economic power:

1) Power derived from ownership (of resources and money)
2) Power from value contribution (through trade, skill or labour, for instance.)
3) Governmental power, derived from the people.

Of these powers the first power is the one cherished most by capitalism. Any decent system should however also address and value the other power sources. In a meritocracy, the second power source might (should) be the most leading one. In a society driven by values,the third may be the one in the lead.

Personally, I find that any system is flawed, if it chooses to cling to any of these three power sources to the detriment of any of the others.

In my book, it is equally if not more important what someone is contributing or the value they add ‘right now’ (source two), contrast to what wealth they have acquired from past activities, through inheritance or through thievery (their capital).

On top, I believe that people (and animals and nature) have rights merely from being. These are or should be represented through the government. Through government, people (and any other relevant actors) can have power based on their inalienable rights borne in their existence.

These three powers come with a fourth responsibilty: sustainability.

So in short:
Pure capitalism is flawed because it focusses only on one of the factors, while ignoring the others.
Pure Socialism is wrong because it focusses merely on factor three.
A system that only focusses on factor two, I have so far not seen.

Sorry if this doesn’t make sense… it probably needs more time for me to word it better. In any case… these are my thoughts.

mazingerz88's avatar

Could it be this simple? Finite Earth’s resources. Too much people. Come up with ways to influence people to use reason in limiting procreation?

6rant6's avatar

@ETpro It’s absurd to refer to “the American Indians.” What are you a third grade teacher? The social organizations of different tribes, the place of property, the use of slavery, the place of war were different for different tribes, and different over time. You have a romanticized notion of American Indians. You might as well be writing about how wonderful life was in Oz.

There have been modern experiments to share all things equally. They have all failed. The larger scale one was called Communism.

The idea of everyone in a society of 300 million people sharing things without some group in the middle is magical thinking. We call that middle group government. And when they order the distribution of resources, that’s Socialism.

I’m not making a case for capitalism. In fact, I advocate more equal distribution of wealth – not just now, but an engine of social progress forever. But to blame capitalism for things which it is not responsible is to deflect the actual issue – justice – and have people spend two decades wrangling about whether global warming is real.

Unregulated capitalism leads to a less just world, not a more polluted one. So stand on your hind legs and say its wrong because its unjust and don’t get caught up in these distractions.

ETpro's avatar

@6rant6 I do not see how it is “absurd” to refer to hunter gathers as having a model of social order that would work ad infinitum. They did.

I am also tired of your string of personal attacks, suggesting in your first off-topic answer that my understanding of word meanings is limited when there was nothing in my OP to indicate that, and now claiming that I have a third grade mentality. I have not given you any cause to move from debating issues to ad hominems. If you continue to use that logical fallacy, I’ll hit the silk and let you talk to yourself.

Now, as to the issues you raise, I see nothing “absurd” in noting that the American Indians had a social order (all of them collectively) that would have lasted for far longer than our current capitalist model will. It is true, and it’s true for virtually all hunter-gatherer societies. It makes no difference what chunk of real estate they occupied, or how they ordered their tribe for wars. Their tribalism meant that the survival of any one tribe had no influence over the survival of the larger group.

Communism failed for two reasons. First and foremost, the people who set the system in place (with the possible exception of Lenin, who was likely assassinated by Stalin) conceived it as a way to extract from the “proletariat” a luxuriant lifestyle for themselves. They were utterly uninterested in any real scheme to share and share alike. I will grant you that given the human tendencies toward greed, it is difficult to imagine communism working long without the ugly specter of greed taking over. And there remains the problem of motivating the inherently lazy among us in thea absence of any reward for meritocracy.

But once again, I will try to get it through to you. There are thousands and perhaps infinite numbers of systems that are neither pure laissez-faire capitalism nor pure state-ownership socialism. I know perfectly well what both those words mean. I said nothing in the OP or discussion to give you the impression I was unaware of their meaning. That I was clueless about their meaning is just another of your straw men.

Regarding what is so often incorrectly characterized as socialism, Germany is a Nation worthy of consideration. Like the US, most of the means of production of wealth there are privately owned, not state owned. But they have a very strong social safety net. Germany is what GOPers are denigrating when they demonize European Socialism. Yet Germany is not a socialist state by the definition, it is distinctly capitalist. They just do things somewhat differently than we do here. Factory floor workers and union stewards are part of the board of directors in German corporations. They bring the worker’s concerns to the management, and the competitive pressures the firm faces back to the workers on the floor. Germany is also the world’s largest lender nation. The US, with our approach, is the world’s largest debtor nation. Who are we to claim our system is so far superior to the German model?

Germany is just one of thousands of hybrid examples. And there could be whole new models, as yet untried. But the hour is late. .More on that tomorrow if you are interested in debating rather than insulting.

mattbrowne's avatar

Until someone invents something that is better than

which keeps unrestrained capitalism in check. And as Joseph Stiglitz repeatedly pointed out free market fundamentalism is a blessing for a few and a boon for many.

6rant6's avatar

Let me simplify this for you.

1.“American Indians” were not a unified homogenous group. To reference them as if they were is to quote your third grade reader.

2. Not everyone knows what capitalism and socialism are. Your essay conflated unrelated issues that would confuse people. Maybe that was your intent. If it wasn’t then I’m happy to clear things up. If it was your intent, then deal with it.

3. Capitalism/Socialism is one dimension of society. The degree to which the state provides social services is another. You are the one pretending that capitalism somehow prevents social welfare services. Then you introduce Germany. Talk about straw men!

trents's avatar

“The social market economy, as well as market socialism, rests on the principle first enunciated by the great liberal thinker J. S. Mill that production must be governed by the laws of economics, but distribution of the product is for society to decide.”

“It is a sad truth that Mill did in fact say this. He must have imagined, as do so many social reformers to this day, that production and distribution are two distinct events that follow one another in real time. First, the cake is baked, and then we set about slicing it and distributing the slices. At this stage, it is decided whether the slices are to be equal or whether some should be bigger than others, who shall get which slice, and whether all should get slices. Fortunately, the cake has already been baked and will neither shrink nor swell depending on how it is sliced. This, of course, is a childish fairytale image, for a moment’s thought reveals that production and distribution are simultaneous aspects of the economic process. Output is distributed while it is produced. Wage earners get some of it as wages in exchange for their efforts; owners of capital get some of it as interest and rent in exchange for past saving. Entrepreneurs get the residual as profit in exchange for organization and risk bearing. By the time the cake is “baked,” it is also sliced and those who played a part in baking it have all got their slices. No distributive decision is missing, left over for “society” to take. What “society” can and typically does do is to use the state’s coercive powers for taking possession by direct and indirect taxation of bits of everybody’s slices. Thus, it can modify the primary distribution by a secondary redistribution. However, if you believe that doing this does not impinge on the “baking of the cake” that is taking place at the same time, you will believe anything.” —-Anthony de Jasay

trents's avatar

It’s hard no to call you a communist @ETpro, especially when you’re in favor for progressive taxation and unions.

Karl Marx – The Communist Manifesto

I. Bourgeois and Proletarians. “The bourgeoisie constantly exploits the proletariat for its manual labour and cheap wages, ultimately to create profit for the bourgeois; the proletariat rise to power through revolution against the bourgeoisie such as riots or creation of unions. While there is still class struggle amongst society, capitalism will be overthrown by the proletariat only to start again in the near future; ultimately communism is the key to class equality amongst the citizens of Europe.”

II. Proletarians and Communists. “2. A heavy progressive or graduated income tax.”

ragingloli's avatar

The core tenets of Communism are common ownership of the means of production and distribution, the abolishment of wage labour, free access to goods of consumption and the dissolution of the state as an entity. Believing in those makes one a communist, not peripheral parts of it.
According to your logic, you would have to call yourself a Nazi because you are against communism. After all, Nazis were against communism.

trents's avatar

@ETpro wrote, “I do want to be free to pursue happiness and my own self interests. I also enjoy contributing to others. That’s part of my happiness.”

If you want to be free to pursue happiness and your own self-interests then don’t you think other people want to do the same? Don’t you think they might have a different view of happiness then yours?

If you understand that, then how can you have the audacity to talk about how much other people should be taxed, where their money should be distributed to, and how entrepreneurs should operate their own Corporations.

trents's avatar


Why should I trust that he is only grabbing parts of the communist manifesto, and not all of it? Communists are very deceptive people.

If he is already showing signs of some of it, then is no reason to not believe that he would be in favor for the rest of it.

ragingloli's avatar

I can say the same thing about you, McCarthy.

trents's avatar

No, McCarthy was different.

I actually provided evidence, he didn’t.

ragingloli's avatar

You haven’t provided any evidence. Adam Smith was in favour of progressive taxation, and he wasn’t a communist.

trents's avatar

Yes I did. I showed you the communist manifesto and how ETpro is promoting some of its teachings.

Adam Smith wasn’t a communist, but America didn’t model after him, we modeled after John Locke. We rejected progressive taxation until Franklin D. Roosevelt brought it back.

HungryGuy's avatar

@ETpro – You have my sympathies, dude. I’m a semi-libertarian (lefty on social issues, and righty on economic issues). Lefties call me a neocon. And righties call me commie.

ETpro's avatar

@HungryGuy The righties finally created a new sock puppet to call me a commie. That’s what you get in America for launching a small business? Perhaps I have gotten the attention of the Greedy Oligarch Pig overlords, and they are sending in sock puppet water carriers now to try to silence me. :-)

@ragingloli This is not a person who considers facts relevant. You are wasting your time debating with @trents as it they are.

@trents You are so fundamentally wrong I don’t know where to start. I don’t really have the patience for all the name calling and labeling in this thread. I;m aware it’s in the Social section, but I actually asied it because I want to deal with the question, not 10,000 right wing insults.

But to deal with one of your many distortions and outright falsehoods, Ever since the 16th Amendment was passed and the income tax was established in 1918, it has been a progressive system. FDR didn’t initiate progressive taxation any more than he caused the Great Depression. Believe it or not, I have had righties make that absurd claim too.

To keep things on topic, perhaps I will ask a separate question on why the American Right today has become so much like Fascist and there, where it will be on topic, we can lock horns on all the insults you wish to dredge up.

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