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Arakan

The fight for climate protection and the end of capitalism?

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Frankly, the world's response to Coronavirus demonstrates quite clearly that we don't have the ability to take any sort of decisive collection action against climate change.

I think as the twenty-first century goes on, neoliberal capitalism will give way to a decidedly illiberal capitalism - the chief opposition to neoliberalism is now coming from the Right, not the Left. The Left had its chance after the GFC, and blew it, what with its retreat into identity politics.   

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42 minutes ago, The Marquis de Leech said:

Frankly, the world's response to Coronavirus demonstrates quite clearly that we don't have the ability to take any sort of decisive collection action against climate change.

I think as the twenty-first century goes on, neoliberal capitalism will give way to a decidedly illiberal capitalism - the chief opposition to neoliberalism is now coming from the Right, not the Left. The Left had its chance after the GFC, and blew it, what with its retreat into identity politics.   

I fear what you write is quite realistic albeit depressing. Which of course means that humanity as a whole will be in for a rough ride the coming decades. But the signs are clearly there. Authoritarians gain power all over the world, we could see increasing protectionism and maybe even some form of mercantilism. All combined with rising xenophobia and a „close the gates“ mentality. All of which means that humanity as a whole will lose out. 

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18 hours ago, Mentat said:

A government might refuse to make a decision because of bribes or promises from wealthy people or corporations if they block it (though this is a crime in my part of the world), but it's far more likely that they don't because they don't personally believe in it

A big part of the problem is how much what people believe in is shaped by capitalist interests. When everyone is swimming in capitalist ideology and takes capitalist rights to profit and the necessity of a free market as axiomatic, actual bribery isn't that necessary.

18 hours ago, Mentat said:

Finally, it has been proven quite conclusively that global warming is in fact very bad for the economy, so there's good reason for the wealthy to help fight it rather than do their best to exacerbate it.

In theory, sure, but the problem is that individual actions can't stop global warming - even ultrawealthy multinational corporation owners. Such an individual could make expensive short-term-unprofitable changes to reduce their impact on the climate - but on their own, the benefit to the planet would be small, and shared by all their competitors who'll use their lower costs to take a bigger share of the market. They all want everyone else to make changes to combat global warming, but it mostly isn't worth it to do anything themselves.

18 hours ago, Mentat said:

Capitalism is very good at providing lots of people with reasonably priced commodities (not only expensive iphones, but electricity, food and water, books, housing, medicines).

No, it's very bad at it! Planned obsolescence, vast resources wasted on manipulating purchasing decisions, etc. It is good at providing relatively cheap goods for Western consumers by outsourcing production to countries with much lower standards for wages & working conditions and environmental regulations, but I don't see that as particularly admirable. Failures of electricity infrastructure have been in the news recently (California, Texas), and capitalist health care like the US has is a nightmare. Technological advances have resulted in greatly increased average standard of living for a lot of people, but that's something capitalism has taken advantage of, not something it caused.

17 hours ago, Mentat said:

We probably wouldn't agree that private property is theft

 

That's an awful misleading slogan relying on a very specific definition of "property". It would be better to say "earning money from other people's work is theft". Eg earning money from sale of goods produced in a factory that other people built and other people work in, and you might never even have seen, just because you were already rich enough to pay for it.

4 hours ago, Altherion said:

Our lives require extremely complex supply chains that stretch the length of the world and modern capitalism is how we manage these structures.

Do you really think a network of countless independent and secretive organisations each driven to minimise their own costs and maximise their own revenue regardless of the needs of humanity in general is the best way to manage extremely complex global supply chains?

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Those supply chains haven't proved particularly resilient in the corona crisis. They are not dependable and need to be shortened.

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3 hours ago, felice said:

No, it's very bad at it! Planned obsolescence, vast resources wasted on manipulating purchasing decisions, etc. It is good at providing relatively cheap goods for Western consumers by outsourcing production to countries with much lower standards for wages & working conditions and environmental regulations, but I don't see that as particularly admirable. Failures of electricity infrastructure have been in the news recently (California, Texas), and capitalist health care like the US has is a nightmare. Technological advances have resulted in greatly increased average standard of living for a lot of people, but that's something capitalism has taken advantage of, not something it caused.

I feel that some simply forget that prices of many goods, services and products are only „moderate“ due to heavy regulations…otherwise (lack of regulation) customers become cash cows faster than they can write „cow“ (Germany examples: electricity prices, telecommunications prices). It’s a running gag that our (Germany) mobile telecommunications network is shit (not only compared to the best but to everyone), many dead spots, often slow and much more expensive than everyone else in Europe.

Why? Because negligent regulations and pro cartel /customer unfriendly policies
- oligopoly of O2, Telekom, Vodafone as net providers 
- no necessity of net sharing 
- coverage rate based on population/not area (thus the many dead spots)

Its a joke going on for 25 years plus. So when I hear efficient market I must laugh. Efficient for who? Surely not the cash cow aka customer. Capitalism knows no real intrinsic integrity or ethics or morale, just profit margin. 

My example is harmless, when it comes to Pharma companies then their greed kills people.

Edited by Arakan

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16 hours ago, Rippounet said:

Most humans use money as a means, not an ends. If I work extra hours to renovate my house, I'm providing a service in exchange for money, and then use this money to pay a carpenter. I've used money as a means of exchange, and in the greater picture I've exchanged my labor for someone else's labor.
This is not capitalism. At no point in this operation did money become "capital" that could be invested.

On the other hand, if I borrow money from the bank to renovate my house, then I will have to pay interests to the bank. The bank gives me money, I use the money to buy the carpenter's labor, and the bank earns money in the process. This is capitalism.

In economics we write that there is a difference between C-M-C' in which C and C' are commodities (and I would include labor as a source of commodity) and M is money, and M-C-M'.
In the first case (C-M-C'), humans strive to earn stuff. There is a clear objective in mind (in my case, having a nice house) and the end goal is C', a commodity.
In the second case (M-C-M'), humans are making money with money. The point is capital accumulation. Even if M is an investment, the end goal is always M', i.e. moare money.
This is why it is sometimes said that what characterizes capitalism is greed.

 

This is very interesting, but I'm not sure I'm understanding it properly. Money is just something you can freely exchange for commodities (which is the whole justification of its worth and value). If I lease you a warehouse and tools in exchange for monthly payments and a financial institution loans you the money so that you can buy them yourself (and pay off part of the loan plus interests monthly), is it really that different? Now, there are certain financial operations that can be performed with money but not with physical commodities, which might be where you're getting at (I'm mainly thinking of those which allow a financial institution to lend money far above their actual liquidity).   

 

16 hours ago, Rippounet said:

There are several factors, but I would argue that the economic system was crucial in our case, i.e. the industrial revolutions throughout the Western world.

 

I don't see the Industrial Revolution (or any technological advancement, really) as an intrinsic feature of Capitalism. I just believe we use whatever technology is available at the time and place to produce goods in the most efficient way possible. 19th century capitalists had steam engines and coal, so they used steam engines and coal. If they'd had fission reactors and replicators, they would have used that instead. If we blame Capitalism for the negative effects of technological development it seems like we should also give it credit for its benefits.

 

17 hours ago, Rippounet said:

Certainly. But I would go much further than that and legislate to prevent the accumulation of capital.

 

You win on left-wing one-upmanship :P

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3 hours ago, felice said:

A big part of the problem is how much what people believe in is shaped by capitalist interests. When everyone is swimming in capitalist ideology and takes capitalist rights to profit and the necessity of a free market as axiomatic, actual bribery isn't that necessary.

 

Yes, I'd agree with this. People often confuse the way things are with the way they should be.

 

3 hours ago, felice said:

No, it's very bad at it!

 

I can't agree. I can go out to town (or go on Amazon) and buy loads of consumer goods from all around the world at affordable prices. If you know of any way to do it more efficiently, you're missing out on a patent.

Now, I agree there are two big problems with this: one is that producing lots of cheap goods raises serious issues of sustainability and waste that the market is ill-equipped to deal with, the other that efficiency is an economic quality, not a moral one (I can afford to sell even cheaper goods by paying my workforce less, but that's not something I should be doing), and many of the problems you point out (such as outsourcing to countries with less strict environmental and labor regulations) are very real... but I find it very hard to believe that a more efficient way to produce and distribute cheap consumer goods than capitalism currently exists, if only for the reason that it would have displaced capitalism already.

 

3 hours ago, felice said:

That's an awful misleading slogan relying on a very specific definition of "property". It would be better to say "earning money from other people's work is theft". Eg earning money from sale of goods produced in a factory that other people built and other people work in, and you might never even have seen, just because you were already rich enough to pay for it.

 

Nowadays everyone earns money (which is to say, benefits) from other people's work. Now, I agree that some people seem to be benefiting far more than would appear to be fair, but establishing what everyone's fair share should be is a very tall order. 

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1 hour ago, Mentat said:

I don't see the Industrial Revolution (or any technological advancement, really) as an intrinsic feature of Capitalism.

I'm... kinda arguing the reverse: the Industrial Revolution was initially fueled by capitalism (and then, they fueled each other).

1 hour ago, Mentat said:

I just believe we use whatever technology is available at the time and place to produce goods in the most efficient way possible.

The point is that this idea of "efficiency in production" was really developed under capitalism. Pre-capitalist societies had (/have) different notions of "efficiency."

1 hour ago, Mentat said:

If I lease you a warehouse and tools in exchange for monthly payments and a financial institution loans you the money so that you can buy them yourself (and pay off part of the loan plus interests monthly), is it really that different?

Yes. In the former case your economy doesn't exactly grow: it is limited by constraints linked to the material world. In your example, you can only lease the warehouse(s) you already have.
The bank however creates money corresponding to labor/production that doesn't exist yet.

In other words, there is a fundamental shift in perspective. IIRC, Harari says it's about "trusting in the future" or something, i.e. by using now the money of activity that is yet to exist, we make a bet that we are in fact going to keep developing such activities. Same thing when we use money as capital to invest in future activity.

This wouldn't be bad in itself... if our planetary resources were not limited in the first place. If we're constantly betting on development/growth, we're basically creating money to commodify resources now that should really be kept for the future.

1 hour ago, Mentat said:

If we blame Capitalism for the negative effects of technological development it seems like we should also give it credit for its benefits.

But we do, and I did. The problem is that they are in fact two sides of the same coin.

On the one hand, mass production of non-essential goods and services means more material comfort(s). On the other hand, it means our societies become geared toward this materialism and end up being wasteful and destructive of the environment.

Hence my initial position: no, you cannot really solve the environmental crisis in a capitalist system, because the environmental crisis is the capitalist system.

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I don't think capitalism is much of an issue fighting climate change. If voters in Western democracies cared about this they could vote in politicians to stop it, the same as they've voted in politicians that have enacted eviromental and labor standards I don't see how have a socialist mode of production would change voters priorities. 

We can also see with the USSR in the past and China now countries without full capatilist modes of production are still focused on the here and now more than climate change. 

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21 minutes ago, Darzin said:

I don't think capitalism is much of an issue fighting climate change. If voters in Western democracies cared about this they could vote in politicians to stop it, the same as they've voted in politicians that have enacted eviromental and labor standards I don't see how have a socialist mode of production would change voters priorities. 

We can also see with the USSR in the past and China now countries without full capatilist modes of production are still focused on the here and now more than climate change. 

Western democracies can't vote in politicians to stop it when every political party with a chance to win is dragging their feet on it, because of capitalism.  Capitalism has created a world where we can't do what should or needs to be done because it hurts shareholders.  

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7 hours ago, felice said:

Do you really think a network of countless independent and secretive organisations each driven to minimise their own costs and maximise their own revenue regardless of the needs of humanity in general is the best way to manage extremely complex global supply chains?

It's almost certainly not, but it has proven surprisingly difficult to think of something better and of a way to reach that better system from where we are. Your argument is not new; it came up when centrally planned economies first came into vogue about a century ago. That system was much simpler than the one we have today and they undoubtedly thought something along the lines of "Surely we can do better!", but it turns out that they could not and neither could anyone else ever since.

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13 minutes ago, Altherion said:

It's almost certainly not, but it has proven surprisingly difficult to think of something better and of a way to reach that better system from where we are. Your argument is not new; it came up when centrally planned economies first came into vogue about a century ago. That system was much simpler than the one we have today and they undoubtedly thought something along the lines of "Surely we can do better!", but it turns out that they could not and neither could anyone else ever since.

I think it's less of they "couldn't do better" and more of "these corporations profits have stronger legal/power protections than what needs to be done for the greater good".  

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I'd say less about capitalism being an issue and more about democracy being an issue. If China wanted to they could rapidly and decisively change their policies and the corporations would pretty much have to buy right in or risk being thrown in jail. China is absolutely capitalistic - but their government has far more power over that capitalism and far more power in general. 

The problem then is not that one cannot have capitalism to do big things; the problem is one cannot have corporations as major sources of power in the government to the point where they have de facto veto power. And part of the reason that is the case is that those rich people fund massive amounts of political power via campaign financing, lucrative lobbying, job creation and more. If that is taken away, I suspect that it would be significantly easier.

So I guess the point is that you either get an oligarchy, a kakistocracy, or an authoritarian system - but you probably don't get a democratic one - when going with capitalism. 

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I get that capitalism isn’t in itself doing the environment any good. But even capitalist companies usually obey laws, and those laws - even if said capitalist companies do everything in their power to prevent it - do get stricter when it comes to protecting the environment. Evidence includes California laws mandating EV sales, EU regulations cracking down on emissions and so on. Admittedly it might be in spite of capitalism, but certainly progress isn’t impossible even with the current system?

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7 minutes ago, Erik of Hazelfield said:

I get that capitalism isn’t in itself doing the environment any good. But even capitalist companies usually obey laws, and those laws - even if said capitalist companies do everything in their power to prevent it - do get stricter when it comes to protecting the environment.

Capitalist countries do obey laws - but it's typically after they've written them. 

7 minutes ago, Erik of Hazelfield said:

Evidence includes California laws mandating EV sales, EU regulations cracking down on emissions and so on. Admittedly it might be in spite of capitalism, but certainly progress isn’t impossible even with the current system?

Progress is possible, sure! Incremental progress with very little gain and people feeling good about it is the corporate way. Sufficient results? Almost certainly not. 

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10 hours ago, Mentat said:

I can't agree. I can go out to town (or go on Amazon) and buy loads of consumer goods from all around the world at affordable prices. If you know of any way to do it more efficiently, you're missing out on a patent.

Patents are part of the problem! :P And the more efficient production I'm talking about isn't profitable - it means making better quality goods that last longer and are easier to repair, which means lower long term sales. And you also need to ensure that everyone can afford decent quality goods, rather than being forced to resort to cheap crap, which is decidedly uncapitalist. https://samvimesbootstheory.com/

There is obviously some demand for more expensive goods, which to an extent means higher quality but also means paying to be "fashionable" which is another way to force people to buy replacements. A lot of quality improvements could be made for relatively tiny increases in production cost.

The superiority of public healthcare services over for-profit healthcare and insurance is very obvious from international comparisons, and the problems of leaving housing to the free market are also obvious, eg in NZ it's become effectively impossible to buy a first home with assistance from rich parents (though counter-examples of good public housing are more limited - I'm not aware of anywhere that does public housing on anywhere like the same scale as public healthcare).

10 hours ago, Mentat said:

Nowadays everyone earns money (which is to say, benefits) from other people's work.

I'm not entirely sure what you mean by that?

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6 hours ago, Erik of Hazelfield said:

I get that capitalism isn’t in itself doing the environment any good. But even capitalist companies usually obey laws, and those laws - even if said capitalist companies do everything in their power to prevent it - do get stricter when it comes to protecting the environment. Evidence includes California laws mandating EV sales, EU regulations cracking down on emissions and so on. Admittedly it might be in spite of capitalism, but certainly progress isn’t impossible even with the current system?

As Kal already said: it’s not enough, not even close. Every little improve in laws and regulations has to be hard fought over, over years. It won’t work this way. 

And laws can be changed anyway. We need a different mindset. As of now the overwhelming majority of companies or private citizens will say: yeah of course let’s protect the environment. Though only as long as it doesn’t cost them more than a few posts on social media or adds on TV. 

Humanity so incredible stupid. In Germany a forest of 40 sqm was erased to exploit brown coal. That is now. How tone deaf is this? Especially as there are better alternatives available (natural gas from Russia). But we are speaking of huge corporations. Only when the cash flow stops they will change. 

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Even the alt-right have a hard time with capitalism (partially at least). I know it’s Laura Southern and she is an extremist but she has some self-reflective moments here. Problem of course is that in the end they (alt-right) will always double down on their cognitive dissonance. 

Or more likely it’s a form of subversive propaganda to catch the low-income and worker votes. In any way, it’s a dangerous angle. I hope the Greens and SPD in Germany have learnt their lesson (single focus on bourgeoisie).

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