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Thread: The Problem With Socialism

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    The Problem With Socialism

    I think we've had a few anti-capitalism threads lately and want to balance out the perspectives.

    First I'll place myself. I'm an anarchist. That makes me more "right" than "left" but I have no intention of trying to tell anyone how it would be better than the current system.

    So, Socialism:
    The first argument you usually hear is that it produces laziness. I'm pretty sure that people like their stuff so I'd argue against society becoming so lackadaisical they stop producing.

    My main concern is that, if you put the government in charge of running our affairs you create a control spiral. If they are to be responsible they need to be given the tools to ensure success and that means giving all of our personal resources and decision making power to the overseers. If you've ever worked with a control freak who started without any power you've see how the one evolves from the other.

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    Re: The Problem With Socialism

    Quote Originally Posted by koan View Post
    I think we've had a few anti-capitalism threads lately and want to balance out the perspectives.

    First I'll place myself. I'm an anarchist. That makes me more "right" than "left" but I have no intention of trying to tell anyone how it would be better than the current system.

    So, Socialism:
    The first argument you usually hear is that it produces laziness. I'm pretty sure that people like their stuff so I'd argue against society becoming so lackadaisical they stop producing.

    My main concern is that, if you put the government in charge of running our affairs you create a control spiral. If they are to be responsible they need to be given the tools to ensure success and that means giving all of our personal resources and decision making power to the overseers. If you've ever worked with a control freak who started without any power you've see how the one evolves from the other.
    Well, I guess we can't agree on every issue! For a good portion of my adult life, I have considered myself to be a libertarian, or a conservative by Canadian standards here.

    I have never been a social conservative, but up until recent times there was no such thing here; now our conservative parties are becoming branch operations of the Republican Party.

    On economic matters, a smaller, more efficient government seems to make sense, and social welfare problems are always prone to attracting the "free rider" problem, as they call it in game theory.

    For a number of reasons, I feel like I have moved right across the political spectrum from one end to the other during the last five years or so.

    One big reason is dealing with environmental problems. For all of the problems of government, there is not going to be a free enterprize solution to climate change. It's a slowly accelerating problem that corporations such as energy companies are placing a distant 2nd behind their concerns for maintaining a highly profitable industry. Not only is it going to take governments that don't take orders from oil company CEO's; it's going to require international coordination. It's a long shot to get the kind of action that needs to be taken to prevent the worse catastrophic scenarios -- like a possible 6 degree rise in global temperatures at the end of this century -- but nothing else is going to put together a coordinated effort to stop continuous increases in greenhouse gases.

    My no. 2 reason for losing faith in libertarian dogma is that all of their focus on reducing the size and scope of government has blinded us to the increasing power of corporate citizens; and like it or not, government is the only check on the power of the corporation. What about the corporate control spiral? That's the one we should really be worrying about today.

    Next, would be the broken promises of free trade and globalization. Thirty years ago, we were told that some jobs and some inefficient industries would be lost, but on balance, there would be more wealth and better paying jobs. And none of this has come true.... neither in Canada, nor in the U.S. Instead, the outsourcing of manufacturing jobs has been relentless; and even high tech jobs are being outsourced to India. The beneficiaries have been the corporations who have cut payrolls and maximized profits at the expense of the shrinking middle class.

    Finally, since I live in an economically depressed city, that has been hammered by the hollowing out of our manufacturing, we see a lot of the harmful effects of growing levels of poverty here in Hamilton. Those of us who are still part of the middle class are the usual targets of tax increases, and we all know that there some people who are on social assistance that are using the system -- but, nevertheless I am not with those who want more cuts to social spending (added to the ones that have already been made). The gap in incomes has already gone too far, and the libertarian strategy of cutting taxes and cutting support for the poor is eventually going to make Canada and the United States look like third world nations that have drastic divisions between rich and poor.

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    Re: The Problem With Socialism

    Quote Originally Posted by koan View Post
    First I'll place myself. I'm an anarchist. That makes me more "right" than "left" but I have no intention of trying to tell anyone how it would be better than the current system.
    All the online tests I've taken tell me I'm as libertarian (small l) as they come. I met a self-described "libertarian socialist" online. I consider him a good friend, but still can't convince him that the label is an oxymoron.

    Quote Originally Posted by koan View Post
    My main concern is that, if you put the government in charge of running our affairs you create a control spiral. If they are to be responsible they need to be given the tools to ensure success and that means giving all of our personal resources and decision making power to the overseers. If you've ever worked with a control freak who started without any power you've see how the one evolves from the other.
    We see that even now in our relatively free society.

    Quote Originally Posted by recovering conservative View Post
    One big reason is dealing with environmental problems. For all of the problems of government, there is not going to be a free enterprize solution to climate change. It's a slowly accelerating problem that corporations such as energy companies are placing a distant 2nd behind their concerns for maintaining a highly profitable industry. Not only is it going to take governments that don't take orders from oil company CEO's; it's going to require international coordination. It's a long shot to get the kind of action that needs to be taken to prevent the worse catastrophic scenarios -- like a possible 6 degree rise in global temperatures at the end of this century -- but nothing else is going to put together a coordinated effort to stop continuous increases in greenhouse gases.

    My no. 2 reason for losing faith in libertarian dogma is that all of their focus on reducing the size and scope of government has blinded us to the increasing power of corporate citizens; and like it or not, government is the only check on the power of the corporation. What about the corporate control spiral? That's the one we should really be worrying about today.
    You seem to be under some illusion that corporations have no influence over the government. That may be true in Canada, I don't know. It's definitely not true in the US. But setting that aside, smaller government trimmed of all the social programs the US federal gov't was never intended to enact (and is arguably even prohibited from it) would be better able to check corporate power.

    Quote Originally Posted by recovering conservative View Post
    Next, would be the broken promises of free trade and globalization. Thirty years ago, we were told that some jobs and some inefficient industries would be lost, but on balance, there would be more wealth and better paying jobs. And none of this has come true.... neither in Canada, nor in the U.S. Instead, the outsourcing of manufacturing jobs has been relentless; and even high tech jobs are being outsourced to India. The beneficiaries have been the corporations who have cut payrolls and maximized profits at the expense of the shrinking middle class.
    I think our mistake in this case was imposing our own meaning onto the words. (1) Inefficient industries were lost. The more efficient industries, being more efficient, require fewer employees. (2) There is more wealth, just not in everybody's pockets. (3) Those jobs in those newer, more efficient industries, do pay very, very well. So the reality does match the promise, just not the implication.

    Nevertheless, that's the current reality. Pain brings about innovation. I'm optimistic about the future.

    Quote Originally Posted by recovering conservative View Post
    Finally, since I live in an economically depressed city, that has been hammered by the hollowing out of our manufacturing, we see a lot of the harmful effects of growing levels of poverty here in Hamilton. Those of us who are still part of the middle class are the usual targets of tax increases, and we all know that there some people who are on social assistance that are using the system -- but, nevertheless I am not with those who want more cuts to social spending (added to the ones that have already been made). The gap in incomes has already gone too far, and the libertarian strategy of cutting taxes and cutting support for the poor is eventually going to make Canada and the United States look like third world nations that have drastic divisions between rich and poor.
    Social spending encourages complacency & dependence, inhibits innovation, and maintains poverty. A safety net to keep people from starving is fine, but gov't programs such as this current endless unemployment compensation will only increase that income gap that you indicate is so important.

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    Re: The Problem With Socialism

    Quote Originally Posted by Accountable View Post
    Pain brings about innovation.
    Social spending encourages complacency & dependence, inhibits innovation, and maintains poverty. A safety net to keep people from starving is fine, but gov't programs such as this current endless unemployment compensation will only increase that income gap that you indicate is so important.
    What evidence causes you to espouse this view? The first thing that comes to my mind is if this were correct wouldn't we see countries such as Africa and Afghanistan leading the way on innovation? Also, here in America wouldn't it also follow that blacks as well as native Americans and females would be the richest among us. Knowing you as I do I doubt you'd assert that all blacks, Native Americans and females are complacent and dependent.

    Poverty, since it is painful would be a good thing and drive innovation, no?

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    Re: The Problem With Socialism

    Quote Originally Posted by koan View Post
    I think we've had a few anti-capitalism threads lately and want to balance out the perspectives.

    First I'll place myself. I'm an anarchist. That makes me more "right" than "left" but I have no intention of trying to tell anyone how it would be better than the current system.

    So, Socialism:
    The first argument you usually hear is that it produces laziness. I'm pretty sure that people like their stuff so I'd argue against society becoming so lackadaisical they stop producing.

    My main concern is that, if you put the government in charge of running our affairs you create a control spiral. If they are to be responsible they need to be given the tools to ensure success and that means giving all of our personal resources and decision making power to the overseers. If you've ever worked with a control freak who started without any power you've see how the one evolves from the other.
    *The* government? There's more than one type of government. If you attach a socialist economic system to an authoritarian government, it will likely fail as will any economic system. Everyone will be miserable.

    However, if you attach it to a democratic model it is not much different than making everyone a partial shareholder in the company they work for. Would you work less or more, if you had a direct stake and vote in the business you were working at?

    Socialism and capitalism are really not diametrically opposed systems, as one can implement socialism within the framework of capitalism and private property law. The GPL software license is a good example of this.

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    Re: The Problem With Socialism

    Quote Originally Posted by Ahso! View Post
    What evidence causes you to espouse this view? The first thing that comes to my mind is if this were correct wouldn't we see countries such as Africa and Afghanistan leading the way on innovation? Also, here in America wouldn't it also follow that blacks as well as native Americans and females would be the richest among us. Knowing you as I do I doubt you'd assert that all blacks, Native Americans and females are complacent and dependent.

    Poverty, since it is painful would be a good thing and drive innovation, no?
    That's a good point. If pain is good, should also pick the most lousy form of government possible. Which, according to capitalists is socialism.

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    Re: The Problem With Socialism

    Quote Originally Posted by Accountable View Post
    All the online tests I've taken tell me I'm as libertarian (small l) as they come. I met a self-described "libertarian socialist" online. I consider him a good friend, but still can't convince him that the label is an oxymoron.
    In software development, you meet a lot of liberatarians and socialists that support open source software. In it's best form, both goals converge. You have the freedom to use the software anyway you want, and there's no private property (other than the software belongs to whoever uses it). I'm not sure the label is always a contradiction, but in some cases you are right it might be difficult to achieve both aims simultaneously.

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    Re: The Problem With Socialism

    I had a feeling that your ears would be burning!

    Quote Originally Posted by Accountable View Post
    You seem to be under some illusion that corporations have no influence over the government. That may be true in Canada, I don't know. It's definitely not true in the US. But setting that aside, smaller government trimmed of all the social programs the US federal gov't was never intended to enact (and is arguably even prohibited from it) would be better able to check corporate power.
    Wee've talked about this before! How exactly could smaller governments, which have outsourced more services and responsibilities to private corporations be a check on corporate power?

    The problem is that large corporations already have too much influence over government -- and not just over the politicians! The Citizen's United Case is the latest and most egregious sign of their growing influence among lawmakers. The rights of artificial corporate citizens has been growing slowly for over a hundred years, and Citizens United shows that even the highest judicial body -- which is out of reach of their lobbyists, is still contaminated by the arrival of conservative judges steeped in decades of right wing thinking that larger, wealthier, more powerful corporations are to everyone's benefit. Otherwise, the judicial activism of the Supreme's conservatives makes no sense.


    I think our mistake in this case was imposing our own meaning onto the words. (1) Inefficient industries were lost. The more efficient industries, being more efficient, require fewer employees. (2) There is more wealth, just not in everybody's pockets. (3) Those jobs in those newer, more efficient industries, do pay very, very well. So the reality does match the promise, just not the implication.
    Show Me The Numbers!
    Every time I've looked at stats on income over the last ten years, or the last 30 years, the top income groups are getting richer, while everyone else is stagnating and falling backwards; and the hollowing out of manufacturing in the U.S. and Canada has shrunk the middle class to insignificance. Forty years ago, factory closings would have led to strikes on par with what's going on in France or Greece -- but now the factories close, the jobs get shipped overseas, and most of the former plant workers finish off their working lives working in McDonald's or donut shops. Most of the ones who try to start up their own businesses get ripped off by franchisers, and have to hope that they didn't waste their entire nest egg trying to start their own business.

    And (3), those "newer, more efficient industries" do not pay higher wages than the existing manufacturers. When GM and Ford started a strategy of outsourcing parts manufacturing, the suppliers had state of the art equipment, but paid half or one third of what a North American auto worker would make for the same job.

    But that's all beside the point now since manufacturers have tried to outsource everything to China and Indonesia, and elsewhere. U.S. manufacturing jobs used to make up more than one third of the work force 30 to 40 years ago; now they are barely 15% of the total, and people working in financial services -- pushing money around in new creative ways -- are the new backbone of the economy. And the banking and real estate meltdown of a couple of years ago, showed the dangers of relying on funny money scamming to drive the economy.

    Nevertheless, that's the current reality. Pain brings about innovation. I'm optimistic about the future.
    I'm not, for a lot of reasons! My crystal ball tells me that America is an empire that is about to collapse, and Canada is already a petro-state that is going to be ruined both environmentally and economically by the developments of dirty tar sands oil.

    The big picture is that we are living in an overcrowded, overconsuming world that has reached the limits of sustainability because the cheap oil has run out. Eventually I'm going to get around to starting a thread on this subject, but briefly, my prediction for the near future is that every time the economy starts to improve....under Obama, or the next president, it will fall back into recession, because the extra oil right now is coming from our tar sands and expensive offshore, deep sea oil rigs. Every time the economy goes up in the coming years, oil prices are going to go back to $150 a barrel or more, and then we are back in recession again.

    Now where the problems of supplying vast amounts of cheap energy intersects with political ideology, is that simple supply and demand rules should have led to new oil supplies.....well they have, but they are too expensive to maintain globalized capitalism. Many of these current problems are not going to be solved by technological innovation, but instead by re-localization -- we are going to have to go back to the old ways of producing most of what we need locally, because transportation costs are going to rule out importing everything from China.

    Social spending encourages complacency & dependence, inhibits innovation, and maintains poverty. A safety net to keep people from starving is fine, but gov't programs such as this current endless unemployment compensation will only increase that income gap that you indicate is so important.
    How about a guaranteed minimum income? Because in most places outside of Sweden, living on welfare is pretty close to starvation.

    It boils down to what kind of society we want to have. I don't deny that there are going to be free riders in a welfare state; but the alternative of having an even poorer, more desperate underclass will fuel crime rates, prostitution, drug and other substance abuse....and we end up like the Third World -- where the rich live safely behind walled communities, and have armed security guards travelling with them and their children, while the small middle class that can't afford all this, has to deal with the increasing violence coming from below.

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    Re: The Problem With Socialism

    Quote Originally Posted by recovering conservative View Post
    How exactly could smaller governments, which have outsourced more services and responsibilities to private corporations be a check on corporate power?

    <Snip>

    Not sure where that one came from, the suggestion has always been that the Federal Government should be made smaller by devolving most of the functions that it now performs onto local government, not outsources it to commercial organisations.

    A government that concentrates its attention on foreign relations, security (internal and external) and national law would be less influenced by commercial considerations and pressure from big corporations after mega-contracts for projects that would then be handled by the State Governments.

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    Re: The Problem With Socialism

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bryn Mawr View Post
    Not sure where that one came from, the suggestion has always been that the Federal Government should be made smaller by devolving most of the functions that it now performs onto local government, not outsources it to commercial organisations.

    A government that concentrates its attention on foreign relations, security (internal and external) and national law would be less influenced by commercial considerations and pressure from big corporations after mega-contracts for projects that would then be handled by the State Governments.
    Far too often these projects handed out to private contractors end up underbid, overcharged, workers underpaid, left without health insurance and workers compensation insurance and more while the corporation makes tens of millions in profit. A few years ago our main bypass was reconstructed by a British firm who was the lowest bidder and it became a total disaster. I just don't see why these services cannot be done by state employees as was the custom years ago. I appreciate the fact that the burden of legalities are borne by the contractor, but state and local governments can purchase the insurance too.

    Heres a blurb on the project. http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1P2-9124862.html

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