"There is always a philosophy for lack of courage."—Albert Camus

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

What's Wrong with Socialism?

Mary Katherine Ham is posting over at HughHewitt.com. If he let’s her post a little more often, I might forgive him for the Harriet Miers debacle.

She says something about socialism that resonates deeply with my own thoughts:

So, conversations with socialists. I have them. A lot.

I have them with that special brand of socialist-- the 20-something post-collegiate angsty intellectual who has the luxury of saying Fidel Castro "has some pretty good ideas" because, for him, it's not a national talking point enforced at the muzzle of a gun and the blindfolded brink of a ditch. That kind of socialist.

They're good folks. They truly do want the best for people. They think "equal" necessarily equals "good." They, therefore, want equality enforced.

Sometimes during these conversations, my big-government buddies concede, "All right, so maybe it doesn't always work in practice, but it's a nice thought."

I used to concede that point. "Yes, it's a nice idea in theory," I'd say, "But it never works in practice. In fact, it's disastrous, deadly, and scoops out people's souls like so many cold lumps of cosmic ice cream, splatted on the sidewalks of humanity. But you're getting the picture."

In the last couple years, I've had to revise that. The truth is that it is not a nice idea, in theory. Well, not if you actually think about what the theory implies.

Socialism is enforced equality. But someone has to enforce. Someone has to take all that a country of dynamic, amazing, different people has produced and slice it up into dull, government-approved parcels that go to each according to his need. So much for diversity, right?

This means that no one owns anything except for the guy doing the enforcing of equality, who without fail, feels a lot less strongly about his own equality with the proletariat than he does about the rabble's equality with each other. That's how Fidel Castro ended up on the Forbe's list of richest people.

This guy inevitably gets a little testy when folks step out of line by wanting to own the things they earn, thereby cutting down on his net worth. And by testy, I mean blood-thirsty and murdery.

Mary Katherine has it exactly right. Beware Chavez-istas. You won’t like the future.

37 comments:

Tlaloc said...

again the obvious counter argument to "but socialism always fails" is "yeah and capitalism has no better track record."

Every promise of both systems has been broken. The American Dream is a myth, a particularly vile and cruel one. The American reality is exactly the same as the soviet reality: the powerful get more, the poor get squat.

Hunter Baker said...

Capitalism, dear Tlaloc, has never sanctioned the intentional and cold-blooded killing of tens of millions of human beings because they committed the sin of disagreement.

I think you might also find some challengers to your sweeping and basically dishonest statement that capitalism has failed. It has produced more freedom and prosperity for more people than any other macro-system in the world. Why? Because it is, in fact, a synonym for freedom.

Tlaloc said...

"Capitalism, dear Tlaloc, has never sanctioned the intentional and cold-blooded killing of tens of millions of human beings because they committed the sin of disagreement."

MAD.
Mutually Assured Destruction.



"I think you might also find some challengers to your sweeping and basically dishonest statement that capitalism has failed. It has produced more freedom and prosperity for more people than any other macro-system in the world. Why? Because it is, in fact, a synonym for freedom."

And you've been brainwashed into believing that when the opposite is true.

Lets look at the WTO, okay? They force nations to privatize their utility systems whenever they can. It's perfectly fitting with capitalism. It also inevitabluy leads to worse service. The poor inevitably end up losing access to water and power. How exactly is that freedom and prosperity, Hunter?

Capitalism doesn't produce prosperity. People do. All that capitalism does is make sure that the most rapacious among us are encouraged to loot and plunder their fellows.
remember "greed is good."

Go back and read the article on the woman who had her life support pulled because she couldn't pay. That's capitalism. It is the most brutal system. Everything that you hate about darwinism, all your misconcieved notions about what "survival of the fittest" means, are right there in the economic system you embrace lovingly.

It is a system of predation in which the weak are to be devoured by the strong. That's it. And it doesn't work. Because with regulation it breaks down into monopolistic ventures which are anti-capitalism.

JC said...

"Capitalism has no better track record."
Hunter Baker said it in his first sentence. Personally, I know someone whose family immigrated from Cuba. He disagrees with your viewpoint very passionately. Having escaped from Castro's grip, he is now living the "American Dream" with a family, home, good job (as a professor), and so on. He has told me he hates it when people equate capitalism and America with socialism and socialist states. I recommend Shostakovich's autobiography (the famous composer) if you really think the "American reality" is the same as the "Soviet reality."

Moreover, no "promise" of capitalism to me has been broken. I grew up in a middle-class family, and with a reasonable effort I was able to go to a good college, get a degree, buy a car, and get a job. At age 20, I have more assets than my parents do.

I also suspect that capitalism is treating you reasonably well, tlaloc, since you clearly have internet access and free time to spend posting on blogs, not to mention the fact that your frequent complaints against America and its government have not yet earned you a prison or death sentence.

You have staked out a rather extreme position, tlaloc. In answering, you must show that capitalism fails not compared to a hypothetical utopia but when compared to socialism---that our government is no better than those of Castro, Stalin and friends. Good luck.

I highly recommend "What's so Great About America" by the immigrant Dinesh D'Souza on this very subject.

JC said...

Mutually Assured Destruction is a hypothetical scenario in game theory that explains why we (the most powerful nations in the world, being armed with nuclear weapons) have not attacked and utterly destroyed each other, even when we were really, really annoyed. It's (at least partly) why the Cold War ended without heating up. So how exactly does posting the phrase Mutually Assured Destruction support socialism?

JC said...

Still more accurately, according to Wikipedia:
"Mutual assured destruction (MAD) is the doctrine of military strategy in which a full scale use of nuclear weapons by one of two opposing sides would result in the destruction of both the attacker and the defender. [...] The strategy is effectively a form of Nash Equilibrium, in which both sides are attempting to avoid their worst possible outcome--Nuclear Annihilation."

Hunter Baker said...

The notion that MAD is a critique of capitalism is, well, mad. The Soviets were aggressive from the moment the second world war ended. I think it would have been silly to let them build a dominant offensive force and hope for their benevolence in not using it.

aardvark said...

"Yes, it's a nice idea in theory," I'd say, "But it never works in practice. In fact, it's disastrous, deadly, and scoops out people's souls like so many cold lumps of cosmic ice cream, splatted on the sidewalks of humanity. But you're getting the picture."

I'm sure that you have people who are going to fall for the bait and stake positions on this matter. Then again, perhaps the point is to crank up the decibel level and let the loudest speaker win.

As a student of Probability Theory, I have had to solve problems that involved an "unfair coin toss." In such a context, it should be understood that such a claim (i.e. coin in experiment is inherently biased) is NOT VIABLE IN REALITY.

What does this have to do with Socialism? It is easier to be derailed from solving the problem (i.e. the probability-based one) by getting bogged down on whether or not Lagrangian Mechanics should have been invoked instead of claiming that a coin cannot be inherently biased. Addressing the actual problem becomes a non-issue, because it is easier to do battle on the validity of the "plot device." It might even provide an opportunity to "throw out the baby with the bathwater."

The point is, if you even refuse to acknowledge an idea, is there really any worthwhile dialogue to be engaged in on the matter? Note that this question is independent of whether or not the idea to be advanced with the "plot device" is flawed. Are such advocates misguided? Perhaps. The twentieth century is riddled with examples of how Socialism has failed. However, the refusal to accept that Capitalism shares several traits is an exercise in futility.

I shall steer clear of any attempt to speculate on the purpose of attempting to deny the idea that "Socialism is a nice idea in theory", but be assured that such denial comes at a price. It may be easier to engage in the use of sophistry and cheap shots as opposed to actually putting forth valid arguments against the theory, but many years from now, I will not be suprised if history repeats itself. That, afterall, "...is the end result of purposeful forgetting..."

The way I see it, the perversion known as Marxism seems to have a more constructive relative in history. It does not have a name, but it does appear in the last five verses of the fourth chapter of Acts.

Then again, the post may have intended to trigger something other than reasonable dialogue...

Tlaloc said...

"I know someone whose family immigrated from Cuba. He disagrees with your viewpoint very passionately."

Neat. And I know people who have moved from the US to Canada to get the health care. They disagree with your disagreement.



"Having escaped from Castro's grip, he is now living the "American Dream" with a family, home, good job (as a professor), and so on. He has told me he hates it when people equate capitalism and America with socialism and socialist states. I recommend Shostakovich's autobiography (the famous composer) if you really think the "American reality" is the same as the "Soviet reality.""

Shostakovich was a very interesting guy. I did a blog entry about him after a discussion with my wife (who is a classically trained musician). However he was also around during the period of Stalin. Stalin was in no way shape or form a socialist. He was pure autocratic psychopath. You know exactly the kind that the US loves to fund.

Pinochet
Noriega
Hussein
Bin Laden

see a pattern here? The US loves us some mudering tyrants, we just tend to employ them overseas instead of at home. I guess if you are amazingly indifferent to human suffering that is somehow better. (the other pattern is, of course, that these people come back to bite us on the butt later, some evidence for Karma I suppose).



"Moreover, no "promise" of capitalism to me has been broken. I grew up in a middle-class family, and with a reasonable effort I was able to go to a good college, get a degree, buy a car, and get a job. At age 20, I have more assets than my parents do."

Good luck with that.



"I also suspect that capitalism is treating you reasonably well, tlaloc, since you clearly have internet access and free time to spend posting on blogs,"

Indeed I'm very lucky. But I could be just as lucky under socialism. Notice that it has nothing to do with the system and everything to do with the circustances.



"not to mention the fact that your frequent complaints against America and its government have not yet earned you a prison or death sentence."

That has nothig to do with capitalism. There are a great many capitlaistic state in which i could be killed/jailed for criticizing the status quo. Iraq is (and was) one of them.



"You have staked out a rather extreme position, tlaloc. In answering, you must show that capitalism fails not compared to a hypothetical utopia but when compared to socialism---that our government is no better than those of Castro, Stalin and friends. Good luck."

Sure. 12 million american children have no health insurance today. And more will have none tomorrow. The wealthies nation on earth... in the history of the earth cannot even provide medicine to it's children. If you don't consider that a failing then I think we lack any common ground on which to discuss the matter.

That's just one mere aspect of America and already we are sunk.

Tlaloc said...

"The notion that MAD is a critique of capitalism is, well, mad."

It was your criteria Hunter: Capitalism, dear Tlaloc, has never sanctioned the intentional and cold-blooded killing of tens of millions of human beings because they committed the sin of disagreement

Pointing thousands of nuclear weapons at the millions of inhabitants of China and the USSR is precisely that. We sanctioned the deaths of all those civilians because their beliefs were threatening to us.

You chose the criteria don't blame me when we meet them.

JC said...

Aardvark, it's ironic that you accuse the author of being a troll (or insinuate the same). I'll give you the benefit of the doubt and respond anyway.

No, the early church was not a successful experiment in socialism. All income redistribution was 100% voluntary ("charity"), whereas in a socialist state, the government forces it one everyone and mandates the terms of redistribution with no accountability, thus inherently encouraging the very problems that have been played out again and again in history.

Now, is capitalism perfect? No. A free market encourages the most efficient production, except in a few cases (e.g. with monopolies or "free rider" situations). Some government regulation is necessary and it still won't be perfect. No one is refusing to accept this, so let's not make a straw man.

However, equating capitalism with socialism is ridiculous and does a disservice to those who have been forced to live under socialism. This is not a straw man---tlaloc did equate them above. The myth we decry is that "The American reality is exactly the same as the Soviet reality."

As for denying that an idea is good even "in theory," what's wrong with that? Here's an even more obvious example. We (now) all agree that dictatorship is a bad form of government, even in theory, because it inherently encourages the corruption of the dictator. We know this from both theory and history. Now, what if the dictator were omniscient, fair and uncorruptable? Then it would be great---optimally efficient, optimally fair, etc. So maybe dictatorship is a good idea in theory. Except that such a human being does not exist to our knowledge. So the theory falls apart. Dictatorship is not a good idea, even "in theory," given what we know about people. It could never work, and it never has. The same is true of socialism, for essentially the same reasons.

Tlaloc said...

"The Soviets were aggressive from the moment the second world war ended."

And we weren't? Are you crazy? The "great game"' didn't play itself. It had two sides equally committed to be bastards. Us and the Soviets. The Soviets did a lot of miserable horrible things in central Europe. We did a lot of miserable horrible things in Central America. Both sides did a lot of horrible things in the Middle East. It was brutal and ugly all around and we are equally to blame for it.

JC said...

Tlaloc, your most reply to my post suggests basically two things:

1) Any example of a failed socialist state wasn't "really" socialist.
2) Any example of good things happening in a capitalist society are "lucky," and in your opinion, one could be just as lucky under socialism.

So I ask
1) According to you, which states have been socialist?
2) Is it luck that most Americans are relatively well-off? Poverty is less of a problem here than in many other nations on Earth. For every million people without health care, there are millions more that have it. Poverty is rampant in socialist states, while relatively rare in the U.S. and many other capitalist states.

Hunter Baker said...

Wrong, simply wrong. Pre-WWII, the U.S. was largely isolationist. It took a lot of convincing and demonstration to get Americans into the fight. The only thing that got us into the massive chess match of world domination (or ultimately, on our part) liberation, was the clearly aggressive behavior of the Soviets. The old playground saw is a true one: They started it. Of course, the George Bushism is also true: We finished it to the great happiness of people like, say, the Eastern Europeans.

JC said...

"not to mention the fact that your frequent complaints against America and its government have not yet earned you a prison or death sentence."
That has nothig to do with capitalism.


The point of the article is that the idea of capitalism is based on, and encourages, freedom. Socialism is based on, and encourages, an authoritarian government. So I'd say, yes, it does have to do with capitalism.

I think Hunter Baker made a similar observation.

Hunter Baker said...

Quite right, JC. Capitalism is the economic system that naturally arises from the business activities of free persons.

Tlaloc said...

"Any example of a failed socialist state wasn't "really" socialist."

No that's not true. Lets be clear here, you invoked Shostakovich. He was anti-soviet because he lived during Stalin's rule. You do know that Stalin wasn't a socialist, rght?

That is not to say that there are not examples of failed socialist states, there absolutely are, in abundance. But the exqmple you chose was quite frankly wrong. I have this thing about accuracy.



"Any example of good things happening in a capitalist society are "lucky," and in your opinion, one could be just as lucky under socialism"

You point out that you and I have done well under capitalism, and you are absolutely right. I point out that just as easily you and I could be sitting in an alleyway urinating on ourselves to keep warm. And I'm absolutely right too. So if we both could have either good or bad outcomes based in no way on our own abilities what do you call that? It's called luck. And yes there were people who did quite well under socialism too (and people who fared miserably).



"Is it luck that most Americans are relatively well-off? Poverty is less of a problem here than in many other nations on Earth. For every million people without health care, there are millions more that have it. Poverty is rampant in socialist states, while relatively rare in the U.S. and many other capitalist states."

well lets look at how the US compares then, shall we?
"The US had the highest overall poverty rate (17.0%) of the 17 OECD countries where
data was available. Australia (14.3%), Italy (12.7%), the United Kingdom (12.5%),
and Ireland (12.3%) had the next highest poverty rates after the US.

The US had the highest child poverty rate (21.9%) and the second-highest elderly
poverty rate (24.7%). Finland (5.4%), Norway (6.4%), and Sweden (6.5%) had the
lowest overall poverty rates.

US poverty was the most persistent, with a much higher share of people who were
poor continuously over three years, according to the latest data (between 1993-1995).
At 9.5%, the US rate was over twice as high as most other countries, which range from
0.8% (Denmark) to 7.8% (Portugal).

The US had the highest rate of permanent poverty (14.5%) among OECD countries.
The relatively large numbers of people in poverty for long durations in the US"
http://www.epinet.org/books/swa2004/news/swafacts_international.pdf

And yet the US had the highest percapit income. Quick quiz what does it mean if a nation has both the most wealth (by far) and also the most poverty? Does it tend to support the idea of an american dream? Gosh I guess those 17% in poverty must really like it since you claim they have opportunitues and yet almost all of them will wind up in the status of permanent poverty.

Tlaloc said...

"Wrong, simply wrong. Pre-WWII, the U.S. was largely isolationist."

What are you talking about? You said the Soviets were aggressive AFTER ww2. That's what I responded to and all of a sudden you are talking pre-ww2.



"The only thing that got us into the massive chess match of world domination (or ultimately, on our part) liberation, was the clearly aggressive behavior of the Soviets."

Bull. You can't play chess without two people. We could have been isolationist, or at least non-interventionist. WOuld the Soviets have done more, quite possibly but claiming we were innocent victims that had to be murdering bastards because they were doesn't wash for a minute. We could have upheld our priniciples, we didn't. Instead we funded ever petty thug and killer who didn't like the "reds."



"The point of the article is that the idea of capitalism is based on, and encourages, freedom."
And they are wrong. Iraq under Hussein was far and away capitalistic. So was Chile under Pinochet. Capitalism has no connection to freedom whatsoever.

FOr every example of a dictator socialist state I can give you one of a capitalist dictator. Beside which I can just as easily say that socialism since it is (supposed to be) an economic system of equals promotes freedom far more than capitalism. Of course it turns out not to be true and in both systems the powerful rule mercilessly.

Communism is a system in which the economic power is controlled by a political elite, and the masses have nothing. Capitalism is a system in which the political power is helpd by an economic elite, and the masses have nothing.

You may not like it, but it is true.

James Elliott said...

Funny, but no one is actually pointing to socialist countries while continuing this argument. The Soviet Union and Cuba are Communist. They're a funky combination of fascism and socialism, the perversion of an ideal that, while nice in theory, totally ignores the nature of human interaction.

One might point out that the American Revolution was a revolt, in part, against a systemic combination of capitalism and monarchy. Is the American Revolution a refutation of capitalism as much as monarchy? No. Nor is an escape from Cuba a refutation of socialism, but rather a unique and only vaguely socialist system (Communism).

No one's actually arguing the point in hand, and it's a fundamental flaw within the conservative argument: conflating socialism with Communism.

Matt Huisman said...

Haven't seen you in a while, James...glad you're still around.

Hunter Baker said...

First off, it's good to see James back. I was afraid I mortally offended him by suggesting he should be a conservative because of his fondness for westerns other than Brokeback Mountain.

Second, Tlaloc, you don't understand capitalism. It can't exist in the presence of prerogative power by the government. What you are referring to under Hussein and Pinochet is simply dictatorship with some room for free enterprise to operate.

Now, James would come back by noting that there are socialist regimes that don't kill the dissenters. And so there are. They are basically the Western European states and Sweden. I think the deliverances of economics are that those economies will not be able to continue indefinitely without economic liberalization (which means free markets, not nationalization).

The bottom line would be something like this:

Dictatorial socialism -- Mao's China, Soviet Union, Cuba -- bad, deadly bad.

Democratic socialism -- Sweden, Germany, France (all mixed with significantly free markets unlike the above) -- not deadly bad, maybe economically bad in the long run, but not terrible as a certainty. Maybe even acceptable as a governing approach.

The Classic Liberal Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
The Classic Liberal Anonymous said...

Great descriptions, Hunter.

Although if you think of a "sliding scale" between capitalism and socialism (ie, the amount of state control over the economy), isn't the good 'ol USofA just a tad bit less socialist than Western Europe?

IMHO, there is a point on the capitalism-socialism continuum that is optimal. USA is closer to that point than Western Europe.

Hong Kong is closer to it than USA.

Tlaloc said...

"Second, Tlaloc, you don't understand capitalism. It can't exist in the presence of prerogative power by the government. What you are referring to under Hussein and Pinochet is simply dictatorship with some room for free enterprise to operate."

Afraid you have it backwards Hunter, Capitalism can't exist WITHOUT a central government that regulates it because, as previously (and frequently) demonstrated, it comes apart at the seams almost instantly. Even with a significant amount of regulation there is ample monopolistic abuse.

Really this is pretty basic economics Hunter. In an unregulated system the most powerful ecopnomic predator will inevitably try to strangle all opposition, and without oversite it will succeed. Ma Bell. Microsoft. US Steel.

In those cases where the rivals cannot be simply crushed they will enter into price fixing arrangements. Our current cable companies act as a monopolistic venture because they agree not to compete in markets with each other. Gas distributors act this way as well.

I'm sorry it doesn't fit with what you were trained to believe but unregulated capitalism is one of the least stable systems ever designed by man.

Tlaloc said...

"IMHO, there is a point on the capitalism-socialism continuum that is optimal."

I agree, which is why "capitalism good! Socialism bad!" is so patently absurd. Both ends of the spectrum have good and bad points and work or don't work well in certain types of environments.

The trick then is to try a custom mixture that gives you as many benefits as possible. That requires us to be a tad more discerning though than simply pretending socialism is inferior to capitalism.

Hunter Baker said...

We're agreed that there has to be some mixture. I think completely unregulated capitalism is beyond my faith.

However, T is wrong about capitalism being invented. I think it is actually the one economic approach that is au naturale.

Tlaloc said...

"However, T is wrong about capitalism being invented. I think it is actually the one economic approach that is au naturale."

Right, because natural humans never shared resources. Hunter have you ever studied anthropology?

We are a highly social species. We engage naturally in a lot of self centered (capitalism) and altruistic (socilism) behaviors. For instance we provided for pregnant females. This was an inherently altruistic behavior which allowed for more complicated birthing as a species but netted the individual nothing. On the other hand species that are truly self centered (think mantids and spiders) have no altruistic behaviors. Not only are mates not protected or provided for they are generally consumed after or during mating. The instinct to take advantage cannot be suppressed completely even by the sexual drive.

The Classic Liberal Anonymous said...

Tlaloc says (sarcastically I think): "Right, because natural humans never shared resources."

You state this with the assumption that under "capitalism" resources are somehow NOT shared. (Please correct me if I misunderstood your post).

I believe that one underlying theme of this thread is that "capitalism" does a much better job at allocating scarce resources than does "socialism".

Tlaloc said...

"You state this with the assumption that under "capitalism" resources are somehow NOT shared"

Uh yeah. Capitalism in it's purest form involves absolutely no sharing. Everything is bought or sold. Socialism in it's purest form involves the shared distribution of everything. Nothing is bought or sold. Again this is speaking of the two in their most abstract state.



"I believe that one underlying theme of this thread is that "capitalism" does a much better job at allocating scarce resources than does "socialism"."

allocating =/= sharing
and better all depends on your goal. Is Capitalism better at allocating scare recources to those who already have much? Absolutely. Is it better at allocating to those who have little? Absolutely not. Look back at the US poverty stats for a prime example.

Hunter Baker said...

No, again, T. Public choice economics spells out the ideal capitalism. Some things, like the air or a river or stream don't yield well to private ownership, so they are shared and regulated according to some agreed code. But other things can effectively be owned, manipulated, and made to increase in value. Those things are part of the unfettered free market. And it works great.

connie deady said...

I don't know any socialists. I suppose I used to be one years ago. Old age mellows one towards the center. I've developed a fondness for capitalism, my socialist ideals lead to believe some regulation of capitalism is necessary. Anyone who lives in coal country would understand that regulations and unions are a good check to unbridled capitalism. Watch The Molly Maguires

I guess I don't get the point of talking about socialists, because they are few and far between and have little to do with mainstream liberal democrats, other than we tend to be concerned with the benefit of the many instead of the few.

Also I would add that hunter is certainly confusing socialism with tyranny, which could be either capitalist or socialist. It comes from centralized control and destruction of opposition.

Hunter Baker said...

The point of the lady I was quoting is that socialism has inherent totalitarian tendencies. Somebody has to do all that leveling.

James Elliott said...

"Haven't seen you in a while, James...glad you're still around."

I appreciate the sentiment, Matt. I was in Albuquerque for two weeks visiting the soon-to-be in-laws. Not a lot of time to jump online and I had to use my laptop to steal the neighbors wireless LAN connection in order to check my email when the opportunity arose (which was rare). If you're ever in New Mexico, I can now highly recommend Garduno's in Albuquerque and La Fonda in Santa Fe for the best Mexican food ever.

Devang said...

Since this discussion is about a comment away from this, and we're talking about some sort of a balance between socialism and capitalism, or capitalism with regulation, whichever you prefer to call the US, I'll mention this: Within capitalism, there are many economic approaches, a fact which isn't emphasised nearly enough.

Labor economics (Department of Labor) used to be vastly different and much more influential than it is now. Yet, all I read of and hear of now is sell-side economics. There are other approaches, but these two stand out, and seemingly aren't complementary or converging.

This is despite the facts that tlaloc mentioned where the US, being the wealthiest country, is behind most other developing countries in poverty rates and infant mortality rates to throw in healthcare. It's even behind in crime rates for all this talk about the 2nd ammendment, but that is another topic.

You would have to be mad to deny the problems facing the US economy and politics. Labor and it's declining wages being the biggest one. EU socialism seems closer to solving the first two problems than the US is given all the projected ballooning costs in social security, medicare, over the next decades. My point is, If there is a trade off between economic growth and the welfare of the general public, it's time to choose the welfare of the general public, and bring back the old Labor Dept. and have a progressive tax system. Sell side economics is perhaps the epitome of an already increasing income gap and the old mantra "rich get richer and the poor get poorer."

As for the European social model being sustainable, there are plenty of books on how the EU is already and will probably continue to be as great or a greater economic superpower than the US. The EU is, I believe, nearer to that equlibirum between captialism and socialism than either Hong Kong or the US is.

I will have to disagree with the assertion that capitalism is au naturale, when we can't seem to find the right amount of regulation, or the right economic foundation. I guess I am attacking the neoliberal economic POV. Regardless, the au naturale distinction is much more fitting to anarchism, read Chomsky's talks on anarchism for more.

Go ahead, tell me how capitalism has been sell side economics in disguise...

This post and it's comments have been especially good reading.

connie deady said...

The point of the lady I was quoting is that socialism has inherent totalitarian tendencies. Somebody has to do all that leveling.

Then you have a different definition of totalitarian than I do. If you mean progressive taxation as totalitarian because it takes more away from the rich, then I'd definitely disagree.

I'd found tyranny or facism to be worse.

Ed Darrell said...

I'm not sure why it is so many people have such difficulty separating "socialism" from "totalitarianism." Capitalism may not sanction mass killings, but capitalists have, in various places at various times. The coldly-calculated failure to re-engineer the gas tank of the Pinto isn't exactly a shining moment for capitalism, nor was child labor, nor banana politics in Central America. It's little comfort that capitalist totalitarians may have been less successful at murder.

Ernie Cortes may be right: The issue is survival. Survivors can fight oppression. Philosophically, isn't a kid better off to survive childhood (Cuba has the lowest infant mortality rate in the Americas) and learn to read (Cuba has the highest literacy rate in the Americas), to take advantage of capitalism? Born in Cuba, immigrate to the U.S. . . . many do.

Can't we do better?

Americans still dream, despite the (temporary, we hope) Stalinesque affectations in the current regime. Some of us dream of a time when American kids have at least the same good health care that a Cuban baby has, or the same chance at good preventive health care that prevents heart disease that a Canadian citizen has, or the same opportunities for out-of-wedlock kids that Swedes used to grant.

Is it necessary to sacrifice our neighbors and our children to preserve economic choice? Are not the poor our neighbors?

For all the advantages of capitalism, it may have limits. If, as some predict, oil production peaks in the next 24 months, we may discover that the faults of capitalism are much greater than we thought, and much greater than we can deal with in laissez-faire style.

Socialism doesn't sanction the intentional and cold-blooded kiling of tens of millions of human beings for disagreement, either. The murders are done by totalitarians driven by something other than economic theory.

What will we say in quick retort to socialists if, in ten years, the Chinese complete their turn to capitalism, but maintain their murderous ways with dissenters and petty criminals? Will we say the organs available for transplant justify the means?

aardvark said...

1) JC:
"Aardvark, it's ironic that you accuse the author of being a troll (or insinuate the same)."

Initial remark:
"I'm sure that you have people who are going to fall for the bait and stake positions on this matter."

Consider the definition of [flame]bait, as obtained from Computer Desktop Encyclopedia:

"A subject posted to an Internet newsgroup that is designed to produce an emotional reaction and start a flame war."

Over the last two days, there have been more than three dozen comments on this post. Look up the definition for "flame war".

James Elliot, who seems more eloquent than I am, has astutely noted:

"No one's actually arguing the point in hand, and it's a fundamental flaw within the conservative argument: conflating socialism with Communism."

2)JC:
"No, the early church was not a successful experiment in socialism."

Initial remark:
"The way I see it, the perversion known as Marxism seems to have a more constructive relative in history. It does not have a name, but it does appear in the last five verses of the fourth chapter of Acts."

3)JC:
"However, equating capitalism with socialism is ridiculous and does a disservice to those who have been forced to live under socialism ... The myth we decry is that "The American reality is exactly the same as the Soviet reality."

Off-topic. Neither the initial/topic post nor my previous remarks said anything about this myth.

4)JC:
"As for denying that an idea is good even "in theory," what's wrong with that? Here's an even more obvious example. We (now) all agree that dictatorship is a bad form of government, even in theory, because it inherently encourages the corruption of the dictator."

'Bait-and-switch' maneuver detected...

JC: "The same is true of socialism, for essentially the same reasons."

An attempt was made on my part to substitute socialist-equivalent terms in your argument. The result: sheer sophistry.

James Elliot's remarks are worth repeating here:

"No one's actually arguing the point in hand, and it's a fundamental flaw within the conservative argument..."