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Socialism, Anarchism, Communism, the Future of Online Leftism

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28 minutes ago, Ser Scot A Ellison said:

Can there be competing collectives in any version of socialism?

As in one worker collective manufacturing Widget A competing with another worker collective also manufacturing Widget A?

That gets further in-depth to the theory than I'm really familiar with, but iirc, there are provisions under certain systems where such competition can happen, but I believe these are primarily designed to be transitional in nature. 

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14 minutes ago, The Great Unwashed said:

As in one worker collective manufacturing Widget A competing with another worker collective also manufacturing Widget A?

That gets further in-depth to the theory than I'm really familiar with, but iirc, there are provisions under certain systems where such competition can happen, but I believe these are primarily designed to be transitional in nature. 

What human society that is larger than 50 people has ever had the presence of mind to view everyone as equal members of the same “collective”?

How long will this “transitional phase” exist?  

Edited by Ser Scot A Ellison

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53 minutes ago, Ser Scot A Ellison said:

What human society that is larger than 50 people has ever had the presence of mind to view everyone as equal members of the same “collective”?

How long will this “transitional phase” exist?  

As long as it takes?

Considering that the alternative is the (possible) literal extinction of humanity because of the excesses of capitalism, I think it's safe to say we're at the "everything and the kitchen sink" level of brainstorming here. And if humankind marches boldly into extinction because of a literal world-ending lack of imagination that locks us in to an economic system based on perpetual competition with every other person on earth for the sole purpose of irrationally gathering mind-numbing amounts of wealth for no useful purpose, then we probably deserve what's coming to us.

Think about it; we have created a "Highlander" economic system where, according to our actual experiences with capitalism in practice, the stated goal of the economic system is the accretion of all wealth to the single entity able to utilize it most efficiently. Is an economic system based on cooperation really so much more fantastical to believe than one based on eternal competition?

We cooperate with one another every day at work to complete tasks. We have everyday experience with it. But competition is something we usually impose.

Is a system that is purportedly merit-based, but which in practice ensures that 99.99999999% of people of earth will NEVER get to utilize their particular and entirely unique talents for the job of "Boss" or "Owner" really so much worse or will result in such worse outcomes than one which *deliberately* squanders the human capital of *at least* 3 billion people by forcing them to live in abject poverty, while deliberately exploiting our earth's (as capitalists *love* reminding us) precious limited resources, for the benefit of a few rich assholes who have suckered all of us into a system where we voluntarily pay out the nose for worthless crap we don't really need at the expense of being able to feed, house, clothe and educate every person on earth really the BEST possible system?

Let's just say I have my doubts.

Edited by The Great Unwashed

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5 minutes ago, The Great Unwashed said:

As long as it takes?

Considering that the alternative is the (possible) literal extinction of humanity because of the excesses of capitalism, I think it's safe to say we're at the "everything and the kitchen sink" level of brainstorming here. And if humankind marches boldly into extinction because of a literal world-ending lack of imagination that locks us in to an economic system based on perpetual competition with every other person on earth for the sole purpose of irrationally gathering mind-numbing amounts of wealth for no useful purpose, then we probably deserve what's coming to us.

Think about it; we have created a "Highlander" economic system where, according to our actual experiences with capitalism in practice, the stated goal of the economic system is the accretion of all wealth to the single entity able to utilize it most efficiently. Is an economic system based on cooperation really so much more fantastical to believe than one based on eternal competition?

We cooperate with one another every day at work to complete tasks. We have everyday experience with it. But competition is something we usually impose.

Is a system that is purportedly merit-based, but which in practice ensures that 99.99999999% of people of earth will NEVER get to utilize their particular and entirely unique talents for the job of "Boss" or "Owner" really so much worse or will result in such worse outcomes than one which *deliberately* squanders the human capital of *at least* 3 billion people by forcing them to live in abject poverty, while deliberately exploiting our earth's (as capitalists *love* reminding us) precious limited resources, for the benefit of a few rich assholes who have suckered all of us into a system where we voluntarily pay out the nose for worthless crap we don't really need at the expense of being able to feed, house, and clothe every person on earth really the BEST possible system?

Let's just say I have my doubts.

Here’s the thing.  I Captialism as “amoral” not “immoral”.  As such imposing limits on capitalism via mixed economies makes sense.  What I don’t believe is that Humans are ever going to just surrender their acquisitive instincts.  We do work for collective goods but we never fully subsume our individuality into any hypothetical “collective”.  As such recognizing that and dealing realistically with that via mixed economies makes more sense than going for the ideal that is never reached.

Does that make sense?

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[What I really find funny is that I’m arguing with you from a position to your right politically while simultaneously arguing with another person who wants to claim the US is not a “racist” nation from the left.

I piss people off on both sides of the aisle.]

Edited by Ser Scot A Ellison

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4 minutes ago, Ser Scot A Ellison said:

Here’s the thing.  I Captialism as “amoral” not “immoral”.  As such imposing limits on capitalism via mixed economies makes sense.  What I don’t believe is that Humans are ever going to just surrender their acquisitive instincts.  We do work for collective goods but we never fully subsume our individuality into any hypothetical “collective”.  As such recognizing that and dealing realistically with that via mixed economies makes more sense than going for the ideal that is never reached.

Does that make sense?

I absolutely agree with you; I do agree with MLK, Jr., about the moral arc of the universe, but you're right - people aren't going to become cooperative ascetics overnight, nor even for thousands of years.

But since we agree that humans will never, or for at least as long a time to our perspective as it makes no difference from never, entirely be able to lose that streak of selfishness, isn't an economic system that feeds and stokes that acquisitive nature, rather than tempers it, a bad thing?

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17 hours ago, Zorral said:

"Imagining the End of Capitalism With Kim Stanley Robinson"

https://jacobinmag.com/2020/10/kim-stanley-robinson-ministry-future-science-fiction/

It is a long read.

 

 

Quote

There is a polemic for sure. First, I would want to make a distinction between economics and political economy, because by and large, economics as it’s practiced now is the study of capitalism. It takes the axioms of capitalism as givens and then tries to work from those to various ameliorations and tweaks to the system that would make for a better capitalism, but they don’t question the fundamental axioms: everybody’s in it for themselves, everybody pursues their own self-interest, which will produce the best possible outcomes for everybody. These axioms are highly questionable, and they come out of the eighteenth century or are even older, and they don’t match with modern social science or history itself in terms of how we behave, and they don’t value the natural biosphere properly, and they tend to encourage short-term extractive gain and short-term interests. These are philosophical positions that are expressed as though they are fixed or are nature itself, when in reality they are made by culture.

My advice for the left it wants a more progressive economics is avoid the post modernist flim flam and state in plain English what its foundational axioms are, if intends to replace the predominant marginalist framework.
It seems to me that the old left at least attempted to give us a solid understanding of what economics was about, for instance Saffras critique of the marginalist framework, heavily influenced by Ricardo. Preferably, these theories can be put into mathematical equations of some sort. There has been some criticism of the mathematics in economics, but at least with mathematical equations, you can spot many of the underlying assumptions pretty quickly, and gives people less ability to be vague with their terms, ie it cuts down on the bullshit factor.
Today, however, it seems we have a bunch post modernist and critical theory posers who say things like "everything thing is a social construct!" or "reimagine the economy" rather than giving us any sort of solid analytical framework to work from.
Also, marginalist economics doesn't always suggest that, that the government getting "out of the way" and people pursing their own self-interest always leads to the best outcomes. That is basically just the sloganeering of certain libertarian ideologues. 
Anyway, to be clear the foundations of marginalist economics petty much are:
1. People are generally happier when they have more commodities to consume.
2. As people consume more of a good, their utility from consuming one more item declines.
3. Given an income and a set of prices (and expected prices which may not pan out causing actors to revise their plans), people try to maximize their utility.
4. Various factors of production are used to produce commodities. If one factor of production increases its marginal output will fall, if we hold all other factors constant.
Even if these axioms aren't completely true, at least they can be made into testable theories, adding a few more assumptions, avoiding language games and flim flammery. Whether the best outcomes result from everyone acting in their "own self interest", depends heavily on market structure and information flows. 

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1 hour ago, Ser Scot A Ellison said:

Here’s the thing.  I Captialism as “amoral” not “immoral”.  As such imposing limits on capitalism via mixed economies makes sense.

The problem is, restrictions on capitalism can only slow it down, not halt its progress towards inevitable collapse.

1 hour ago, Ser Scot A Ellison said:

What I don’t believe is that Humans are ever going to just surrender their acquisitive instincts.  We do work for collective goods but we never fully subsume our individuality into any hypothetical “collective”.  As such recognizing that and dealing realistically with that via mixed economies makes more sense than going for the ideal that is never reached.

I certainly don't want people to subsume their individuality or cease to be acquisitive. All I want is a system that limits inequality*. And the most important thing that needs to be done to achieve that is eliminating the ability to make money from money. "The more you have the more you get" is not a fair, sane, or sustainable system. But there isn't just one alternative to capitalism, there's an infinite range of possibility. Arguing capitalism vs socialism isn't very productive; it would be more interesting to discuss what a better system could look like if capitalism were to be replaced.

* Oh, and I guess also a system capable of taking long term consequences into account would also be kind of useful, so it could take steps to avoid minor problems like setting the planet on fire.

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17 minutes ago, felice said:

The problem is, restrictions on capitalism can only slow it down, not halt its progress towards inevitable collapse.

I certainly don't want people to subsume their individuality or cease to be acquisitive. All I want is a system that limits inequality*. And the most important thing that needs to be done to achieve that is eliminating the ability to make money from money. "The more you have the more you get" is not a fair, sane, or sustainable system. But there isn't just one alternative to capitalism, there's an infinite range of possibility. Arguing capitalism vs socialism isn't very productive; it would be more interesting to discuss what a better system could look like if capitalism were to be replaced.

* Oh, and I guess also a system capable of taking long term consequences into account would also be kind of useful, so it could take steps to avoid minor problems like setting the planet on fire.

I’m not arguing capitalism v socialism.  I’m arguing a blend of the two seems to be the most effective as opposed to wholesale replacement of Capitalism with Socialism.

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Also:

Quote

Changing the way we regard money, that would be a step toward post-capitalism right there. If money was created from scratch but not given to the banks to loan to whatever they wanted but given to decarbonization projects first, then flowing out into the general economy — the first spending money by governments, which make money in the first place, would be targeted toward decarbonization efforts. This strikes me as a good idea, a necessary idea.

https://jacobinmag.com/2020/10/kim-stanley-robinson-ministry-future-science-fiction/

I'm not sure why this character thinks there is a big difference between this and congress simply borrowing money, by issuing bonds, to finance the payment of decarbonization programs.

There seems to be a whole lot of "re-imagining", but not a lot of understanding here.

Edited by OldGimletEye

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45 minutes ago, Ser Scot A Ellison said:

I’m not arguing capitalism v socialism.  I’m arguing a blend of the two seems to be the most effective as opposed to wholesale replacement of Capitalism with Socialism.

So you are OK if we nationalize banks, make Internet/phone/wi/fi a utility, and turn over Google's ad revenue to the people? It's still a blended system, Mcdonald's would still be selling hamburgers.

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https://jacobinmag.com/2020/10/kim-stanley-robinson-ministry-future-science-fiction/

Quote

Because, at this point, central banks are only concerned with stabilizing money and maybe helping employment levels, and they will not do anything else unless they are under enormous pressure. They need to be changed, and that’s a lot of what this novel’s about.

The author thinks this is just small potatoes. But, for people that lived during the Great Depression, the Great Recession, and the Weimar Hyperinflation it's not. Stabilizing inflation expectations while ensuring a high level unemployment are big deals and not easy to achieve. I'll grant that Central Banks should be in the business in supervising the banking system, but I'm not real sure what this character envisions that Central Banks should be doing.

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48 minutes ago, Martell Spy said:

So you are OK if we nationalize banks, make Internet/phone/wi/fi a utility, and turn over Google's ad revenue to the people? It's still a blended system, Mcdonald's would still be selling hamburgers.

I’m open to that possibility but I want to see the pros and cons.

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2 hours ago, Ser Scot A Ellison said:

I’m not arguing capitalism v socialism.  I’m arguing a blend of the two seems to be the most effective as opposed to wholesale replacement of Capitalism with Socialism.

The blend we have so far has gotten us billionaires. What kind of blend would you suggest that doesn't allow them to continue to increase their share of the world's wealth, but also doesn't discourage investment?

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16 minutes ago, felice said:

The blend we have so far has gotten us billionaires. What kind of blend would you suggest that doesn't allow them to continue to increase their share of the world's wealth, but also doesn't discourage investment?

I wouldn’t be opposed to a marginal tax rate that makes that degree of wealth accumulation... difficult, if not impossible.

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8 hours ago, Ser Scot A Ellison said:

And I like employee ownership.  I always have.  Is “collective ownership of the means of production” not the way socialism is defined or is the definition of “the collective” open to varying interpretations?

Collective is open to interpretation, but the problems such a system runs into occur at any scale. In principle, it is possible to start an employee-owned business even within a capitalist system. The reason it has not been done is that within such a system, it's generally not competitive. There are some exceptions (e.g. the kibbutzim in Israel), but for the most part, such businesses don't last.

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15 hours ago, OldGimletEye said:

Thus far about every "pure" socialist system has not worked out very well (I'm excluding mixed economies here). If people are advocating the full ownership of the means of production by the "collective", then I think it is on them to explain in detail how it will work and avoid the problems of the past.

Fair enough.

I'd defend collective ownership of the means of production any day, not just in everey single thread. More importantly, socialism as a principle is something most people agree with on some level or the other.
Being a socialist is just... believing that it works. It makes sense to have socialism in some areas of our life at least, like healthcare. The alternative to socialism is denying that we are all part of collectives.

The idea that employees should get a cut of the profits of the corporation they belong to (i.e. that they should be part of its ownership/management) is really common sense imho.

Why should anyone argue for "pure" socialism though? Right now what we need is to control our environmental footprint, but that affects different areas of the economy in different ways. Some areas should clearly be democratically supervised (like energy), but uncritical areas can have some degree of laissez-faire
Point is, we can imagine societies with 20%, 50%, 80% or 90% socialism. I think right now we need 90% (at least temporarily) but if someone sees alternatives to solve the climate crisis, I'm all ears.

14 hours ago, Ser Scot A Ellison said:

What human society that is larger than 50 people has ever had the presence of mind to view everyone as equal members of the same “collective”?

That's a very weird question. Most ideologies tend to see their followers as equal (or relatively equal).

13 hours ago, Ser Scot A Ellison said:

Here’s the thing.  I Captialism as “amoral” not “immoral”.  As such imposing limits on capitalism via mixed economies makes sense.  What I don’t believe is that Humans are ever going to just surrender their acquisitive instincts.  We do work for collective goods but we never fully subsume our individuality into any hypothetical “collective”.  As such recognizing that and dealing realistically with that via mixed economies makes more sense than going for the ideal that is never reached.

"Acquisitive instincts" are indeed the key issue. I wouldn't say "never" to humans surrending them.

We can get there very gradually. I think that's what Robinson is trying to imagine.

The real question is: is there an alternative? Because exponential growth isn't exactly going to work out.

 

Edited by Rippounet

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4 hours ago, Rippounet said:

Why should anyone argue for "pure" socialism though? Right now what we need is to control our environmental footprint, but that affects different areas of the economy in different ways. Some areas should clearly be democratically supervised (like energy), but uncritical areas can have some degree of laissez-faire.

Well, for one I'm  not and have never been some sort of libertarian "free market fundamentalist'" ideologue. I accept there a number of good reasons for the government to be involved in economic matters. In fact, I think most people accept that and the "mixed economy".

But, when I hear many on the left talk, they are really going beyond advocating for a mixed economy ie advocating for "pure socialism", Even the welfare states of Nordic countries aren't enough for them. And they want to "re-imagine" economics, throwing out the predominant marginalist approach. On the last point, I'm not really opposed to it, so long as its based on some plausible reasoning, is able to be operationalized enough that it can undergo empirical testing, and are not the musings of some asshole that read Foucault, or whatever, and couple of economic articles and thinks he is going to "deconstruct" economics or whatever.

At some point you probably have seen those old films of airplanes that crashed before the Wright Brothers finally built a plane that flew. New inventions often fail at first. Now inventors of air planes had a choice to make. They could either go back and meticulously analyze why their first attempts at flight failed. First by finding and acknowledging the problems. And then coming up with solutions to fix the problems. Or they could say, "We know the airplane failed, but it wasn't the "true airplane" design." Once we whip that sucker out, our airplane will fly!!!".  It seems to me that many socialist are choosing the second option. The true socialism was never done! Which of course, sounds about as credible as people running around saying Bush didn't do the true conservatism.

If I was a person, that really wanted to full ownership of the means of production by the state or the community and wanted to be taken seriously, I think I'd go back analyze all the old communist and socialist systems and acknowledge the problems they had and then propose how I would fix them. But there needs to be acknowledgement that these societies had a number of problems, to include the horrid authoritarianism. In the US we have had and still have a number fucked up problems. A lot of terrible things have been done. Yet, we have never had to, in our history, post guards around the border to keep people from leaving. I mean if I were like Trump and wanted to stop people from emigrating to the country, I'd just declare the US a communist state. Seems like an effective way to keep people wanting to come to your country. In fact, people want to leave.

The fact is there is a lot about economics and political economy we don't know. A socialist system might work, it's possible we just don't know the "right" formula. But, I don't see much, at this juncture, that it has been found. The point I'm trying to make here is I don't think a lot of people on the left have seriously grabbled with past failures and how they would correct them.

Edited by OldGimletEye

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One point against the broadly social democrat welfare states is that they are not very stable. Not in the sense of collapsing altogether but they have been gradually yielding to corporations and never got rid of HUGE differentials in wealth, income, personal independence and political power. (One can argue that this was somewhat better for a few decades from the 1950s through the 80s or 90s but this is also true for the US, only it lasted a bit longer in Europe.) Another is that the levels of consumerism, wastefulness and environmental impact of Sweden and the US are clearly in the same ballpark, even if healthcare is organized differently. So if the main point (as for some discutants here) are severe measures to curb enviromental impact/global warming, the track record of the European style social democracies is not that different from e.g. the US, so it is highly doubtful that a bit of social democracy would help a lot here.

In fact, Rippounet seems to avoid a crucial point above: "Democratic" control of energy etc. by the majority of the populace in some European country would almost certainly not result in a vote for austerity and a drastically less comfortable lifestyle (which would be necessary for reducing global footprints etc). This could only be achieved by "benevolent" dictators. I doubt that this is a real option. Most countries (except some East Asian, NZ and Australia) are obviously overtaxed by Covid (both by coming up with rational measures and by enforcing them). It's pure fantasy that current administrations could enforce measures reducing the standard of living for most people by 30-50% without creating riots and anarchy. And obviously they wouldn't get democratic majorities for such measures either.

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6 hours ago, OldGimletEye said:

But, when I hear many on the left talk, they are really going beyond advocating for a mixed economy ie advocating for "pure socialism", Even the welfare states of Nordic countries aren't enough for them. And they want to "re-imagine" economics, throwing out the predominant marginalist approach. On the last point, I'm not really opposed to it, so long as its based on some plausible reasoning, is able to be operationalized enough that it can undergo empirical testing, and are not the musings of some asshole that read Foucault, or whatever, and couple of economic articles and thinks he is going to "deconstruct" economics or whatever.

I agree entirely.  Post-modernism/post-struturalism is a nice tool in the analytical tool box.  To completely dismiss rationality and empiricism in favor of a purely “deconstructionist”/review of narrative approach to analysis is to throw out the baby with the bath water.  

Luna is a massive satellite in orbit around Earth regardless of who is looking at Luna.

1 hour ago, Jo498 said:

This could only be achieved by "benevolent" dictators

There is no such thing as a “benevolent dictator”.  If dictatorial powers are necessary to accomplish a given goal it is because it cannot be done peacefully.  Therefore, “benevolent dictatorship” is a contradiction in terms.

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