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View Diary: Socialism — what it isn’t (117 comments)

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  •  Do you think government should have power to (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Utahrd

    block or hinder people (not in prison) from leaving their country of birth and emigrating to another country?  Are people the property of the government?

    The most important way to protect the environment is not to have more than one child.

    by nextstep on Thu Apr 04, 2013 at 01:08:39 PM PDT

    [ Parent ]

    •  whoa, (4+ / 0-)

      that's not what I meant. I just meant that the reason why socialist nations have not been as good as they should have been is because the really talented people walked away. It's not the fault of socialism, but the result of greed, that was my attempted point. And the idea that socialism somehow destroys motivation is the same kind of argument that anti-union people use.

      •  The main argument against socialism is that (6+ / 0-)

        it does not fit the nature of people.  

        People most typically act in ways that fit their perceived own best interest (and what they perceive as in the best interests of those they love).  People do this regardless of the economic system they live in.  

        To dismiss this as greed just ignores reality.  Ignoring this in society is similar to an architect ignoring gravity when designing a skyscraper.

        In socialist societies, highly capable people  frequently withhold or don't develop their exceptional abilities, but far more common is ordinary people doing their job with the least effort and dedication that they can get away with - after all what they get in return will not be any different.

        A common joke in the Soviet Union was "they pretend to pay us and we pretend to work."

        Societies that are strongly socialist tend to become oppressive, as motivating people with money is replaced by motivating people with the threat of punishment -- physical and otherwise.  

        If you have the chance to visit China or Russia take the time to talk with ordinary people about what life was like in the 1970s and 1980s.  You can also talk to Chinese or Russians who now live in the US - but these would be the people who decided to leave a socialist country.

        The most important way to protect the environment is not to have more than one child.

        by nextstep on Thu Apr 04, 2013 at 02:04:58 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  What about a progressive tax code? (0+ / 0-)

          A truly steep progressive tax code would essentially resemble socialism. France has a moderately steep one now, do you think highly capable people will go galt there? Do you believe Art Laffer that higher tax rates supposedly reduce GDP? Do you think higher taxes discourage "job creators" from investing? Your argument has a little bit of that slippery slope to it.

          •  The US has on net one of the most progressive tax (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            coffeetalk, Whatithink, Sparhawk

            Codes in the world.

            When comparing how progressive tax policies are between countries, one needs to consider all the taxes.  There is more to this that the top marginal income tax rate, one needs to look at effective rates.

            To look at how progressive tax codes are, one should compare the share of tax burden paid by the different household income groups, in particular the lowest 20% to the top 20% and the mid 20% to the top 20% for simplicity (more complex measures can also be used).  

            France and the other advanced European economies have their income taxes kick in at lower incomes and very importantly have VATs of about 20% (similar to a national sales tax on most everything).  The net result of these calculations is that the US has a more progressive tax code than these other countries.

            Just to get technical as an economist.  Most people think the tax burden that one has is whatever the taxes they pay.  If you think the burden as how much less you are able to buy as a result of the tax policy, you will see the tax burden more clearly.  A classic example of this is raising the real estate tax on apartment owners.  Their typical response is to raise the rent on their tenants.  To the extent the owners increase the rent the tax is paid by the tenant and the tenant has the tax burden not the apartment owner.  

            Tax businesses that employ people in a country at high levels and the result is the businesses activity and jobs go to other countries.  The investors bear a small burden of this tax, but the resulting unemployed workers in the US have a loss larger than the taxes collected.

            The most important way to protect the environment is not to have more than one child.

            by nextstep on Thu Apr 04, 2013 at 03:56:53 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  The IRS tracks this data (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Whatithink
              To look at how progressive tax codes are, one should compare the share of tax burden paid by the different household income groups, in particular the lowest 20% to the top 20% and the mid 20% to the top 20% for simplicity (more complex measures can also be used).  
              The data can be found on a number of websites, such as here.  A very readable version that shows exactly what you are saying is here.
            •  The US is also among the worst.... (0+ / 0-)

              In reduction of after-tax & transfers  income inequality. Taxes may be more progressive, but there is little in other ways to transfer income from the wealthiest to the poorest.

            •  This. (0+ / 0-)
              Just to get technical as an economist.  Most people think the tax burden that one has is whatever the taxes they pay.  If you think the burden as how much less you are able to buy as a result of the tax policy, you will see the tax burden more clearly.
              I would modify this slightly: it's not just how much less you -could- buy, but how much less you -would- buy.

              10% tax on a $15K income?  MASSIVE TAX BURDEN.  You're literally taking food or medicine out of people's mouths, clothes off their back.

              100% tax on all income over, say, $100mil?  VIRTUALLY NO TAX BURDEN.  Almost none of the people with incomes that would hit that point spend anywhere near their income.

        •  They never had socialism. (8+ / 0-)

          They were stuck in State Capitalism.

          As for "human nature" . . . we humans lived communally for our first 200,000 years. That is what is "natural" to us. Capitalism is unnatural, as forced competition and artificially rigged rewards are unnatural. It is unnatural to allow a system that benefits a tiny fraction of the top at the cost of the vast majority of people on the planet -- and the planet itself.

          Also, whenever someone tells you that we humans are naturally selfish and competitive, they are actually just trying to excuse the rapaciousness of alphas and sociopaths, who make up a tiny percentage of the population. They want their own pathologies to be seen as "natural" for everyone, and they've managed to convince all too many people that this is the case. They want their own total lack of empathy to be seen as the norm.

          It's not. Most of us want to live in peace and cooperatively with our neighbors, and we have a moral compass and a moral imagination which includes empathy and compassion for others. We do not seek great power and wealth. Only a fool would project the pathologies of the few onto the many.

          •  The standard of living and lifespan was very poor (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            walkshills, Sparhawk

            for all of that 200,000 years except for the past 100 years, that market based economies came about.  Life in China was terrible with no improvements until China started introducing market based economics, similarly for India over the past 20 years.

            The standard and quality of life for the poor and lower income people are highest in the countries with regulated market economies.

            In almost all instances, except for cases of government corruption, the benefits to the wealthy from their wealth creation is a small fraction of the benefits society received from the wealth created.

            The benefits for the world population from Google, Apple, Facebook, Intel, Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer, Roche, Steven Speilburg, George Lucas, etc.. all far exceed the wealth they received.

            The truth is that it is far far easier to become wealthy by benefiting others far more than you receive than it is to become wealthy by making others poorer in a market economy.

            The most important way to protect the environment is not to have more than one child.

            by nextstep on Thu Apr 04, 2013 at 05:43:52 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Once again: (5+ / 0-)

              No one here is proposing that we replace the market economy with something else.

              What I've been proposing is that we move the needle on the continuum modestly (by the standards of history and the rest of the world) more in the direction of western european social democracy, and away from the current situation, which is moving relentlessly in the direction of the world described by Steinbeck:

              There is a crime here that goes beyond denunciation. There is a sorrow here that weeping cannot symbolize. There is a failure here that topples all our success. The fertile earth, the straight tree rows, the sturdy trunks, and the ripe fruit. And children dying of pellagra must die because a profit cannot be taken from an orange. And coroners must fill in the certificates — died of malnutrition — because the food must rot, must be forced to rot. The people come with nets to fish for potatoes in the river, and the guards hold them back; they come in rattling cars to get the dumped oranges, but the kerosene is sprayed. And they stand still and watch the potatoes float by, listen to the screaming pigs being killed in a ditch and covered with quicklime, watch the mountains of oranges slop down to a putrefying ooze; and in the eyes of the people there is the failure; and in the eyes of the hungry there is a growing wrath. In the souls of the people the grapes of wrath are filling and growing heavy, growing heavy for the vintage.

              The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts. -Bertrand Russell

              by mftalbot on Thu Apr 04, 2013 at 05:53:22 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Why would we move the needle more in (4+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Calamity Jean, nextstep, DFWmom, Sparhawk

                that direction? Have you been paying attention to Europe lately?

                •  Europe is ahead of the United States... (6+ / 0-)

                  in quite a few measures of quality of life.

                  The problems they are having are as a result of them acting more like the US.

                  The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts. -Bertrand Russell

                  by mftalbot on Thu Apr 04, 2013 at 06:53:09 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  I do know this... (0+ / 0-)

                    I've been reading how England treats people who have the same or similar condition as my daughter, and it SUCKS!!!!

                    They seized one child with ME from her parents, accusing her of being depressed, and threw her in a mental hospital where she DIED a month later from her illness, that was clearly NOT a mental health condition.

                    Another parent was trying to get homebound education for her child, which my child had to do, and was denied by her school.  

                    Doctors are refusing to give these patients referrals to specialists, and are reporting them to CPS, blaming them for their children's illnesses.

                    Their health system did a study on this condition, and basically said that adaptive pacing is not a good therapy because it's too expensive.   There is no choice with this illness. Adaptive pacing is like eating and breathing.  The translation of this study is, "It's too expensive to admit you are disabled, and therefore, we have decided that you cannot be disabled."   Their preferred treatment -- cognitive behavior therapy (close your eyes, relax and pretend there is no pain), and graded exercise therapy (just exercise harder -- which can cause a vicious flare that can make you sick for days or even weeks), do almost nothing to improve the patient's condition, and yet the medical system says that patient, even though they have no choice than to do just that.  

                    So, in certain ways that really count, Europe is not ahead of the United States.  Their medical system denies the existence of reality.

                    I wish they were ahead of us, because I believe in socialized medicine, but when it comes to M.E., Europe is failing miserably.   It is so bad that it is making the headlines.

                •  that's a result of financialization (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  84thProblem

                  The banking cartels have pretty much run amok there; but don't worry, it's on its way here soon enough....

                  The "extreme wing" of the Democratic Party is the wing that is hell-bent on protecting the banks and credit card companies. ~ Kos

                  by ozsea1 on Thu Apr 04, 2013 at 07:48:14 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  It started here. Not Europe. (4+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    unfangus, wasatch, sfbob, JosephK74

                    Wall Street set the dominoes falling all across the globe, and American started the neoliberal wave in the early 70s as well, pushing for financial deregulation on a massive scale.

                    IOW, America set the cancer in motion and pushed organizations like the World Bank and the WTO to push austerity and anti-labor practices.

                    Yeah, we had help. But the prime movers were on Wall Street.

                    •  The banking cartels are global in scope (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      unfangus

                      Wall St is just one of their many "enterprises"......

                      The "extreme wing" of the Democratic Party is the wing that is hell-bent on protecting the banks and credit card companies. ~ Kos

                      by ozsea1 on Thu Apr 04, 2013 at 11:13:00 PM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  Starting here. (1+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:
                        sfbob

                        Global in scope. Which is what I said. Wall Street is just a tag to use instead of trying to name all of the banksters, etc.

                        But American capitalists started this disaster and push it on others.

                        We're the first great power in the modern era to be economic imperialists. Conquering countries wasn't enough for us. We felt (and still feel) the need to force our economic theories on them, much to their detriment.

                        We're drug pushers of the worst kind. And the drug is capitalism.

                        •  Capitalism as such isn't the problem (2+ / 0-)
                          Recommended by:
                          mftalbot, sargoth

                          It is UNREGULATED capitalism which really is to blame...and the philosophy according to which ALL regulation will choke economic growth.

                          There's nothing wrong with having a market economy--nothing at all. However it is a game and games need rules as well as ways of enforcing those rules. A completely unregulated market will eventually destroy itself so, in order for it to function as well as it possibly can for the largest number of people, it needs to be regulated by an entity outside of it, namely government.

                          Those economists whose views control the way our market economy currently works are extremely resistant to any form of external regulation at all and will tolerate it only when they believe they have no choice but to accept it.

                          This view is severely deficient in that it results in the extreme concentration of wealth among a small number of the most greedy. Such as situation cannot possibly be healthy for long-term stability or survival.  Also at work here is the assumption that there is no civil society as such and no social contract and that each individual is or should be effectively on his or her own. Should any misfortune take place well, too bad. Once again, this is not a recipe for long-term stability.

                          Both portions of the above create a situation wherein there exist a relatively small number of extremely wealthy individuals, hellbent on protecting their wealth at all costs and an increasingly large number of impoverished and very angry people. We last faced such a situation in the US at the outset of the Great Depression. The reason FDR was so successful in carrying out his program is that he understood that the alternative to redistributing wealth while maintaining a market economy was a revolution, the ultimate results of which would be far beyond anyone's ability to control.

                          •  The problem is capitalism itself. (1+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            ozsea1

                            Its very structure creates economic apartheid, unless seriously checked by democracy.

                            Which means it's a stupid and irrational vehicle to have in place. It requires endless checks. Smarter to find a vehicle that doesn't need those checks in the first place, one with social justice baked into the pie.

                            Also, because of its structure, it redistributes power and wealth to the top of the pyramid. And who controls governments? Those at the top of those pyramids. So, in theory, one could at least make a weak case for having a regulated capitalist system, but in practice, this is impossible. Because the people who own government are capitalists and their interests are to keep those democratic checks at a minimum -- if they allow them at all.

                            We had one very brief time when we got some of those checks, and it happened after a major disaster (the Great Depression) and because of that disaster. The further we got away from it, the more traction capitalists got for undoing those checks. In short, we don't get to keep those checks for long, and we only get them after a massive disruption.

                            Rinse and repeat.

                            We can do better. It's the wrong system from the getgo.

                •  Europe has been moving in the opposite direction. (0+ / 0-)

                  Don't be disingenuous.

              •  more tears (0+ / 0-)

                upon reading this quote. what a sick and repulsive people we have not revolted against.

              •  I am. Capitalism needs to die. (7+ / 0-)

                It's an immoral, unethical and unsustainable system based upon theft.

                And "markets" are really just euphemism for the mechanics of economic apartheid.

                No one should have to live in poverty. No one. We are born once, live once, live a very short life, and it's unethical and immoral to allow a system that slots people into classes and dooms them accordingly, based primarily on the birth lottery.

                The only way to achieve social justice is to create an economic system that starts with equality as its base, creates on starting line for everyone, as the norm. Ours sacrifices billions of people to make a few million very rich. To let people born on third hit their triples or more.

                That's obscene.

            •  Pure nonsense. (8+ / 0-)

              Capitalism creates economic apartheid. That is its natural tendency. It functions as one big hoover, extracting wealth from workers, consumers and the earth and concentrating it at the top.

              Businesses are top down enterprises, authoritarian, anti-democratic. Capitalism just takes that and multiplies it across the globe, exports it, exports that apartheid.

              Capitalism destroys ecosystem after ecosystem as well, because it must grow or die, and it can't survive without more and more and more consumption.

              Already, the richest 20% of the world consume 85% of all resources. So your fantasy about the supposed uplift for the masses is just that. Pure fantasy. Three billion people live on less than $2.00 a day and one billion starve.

              That's capitalism in a nutshell.

            •  All countries have regulated market economies (0+ / 0-)

              except perhaps Cuba, so i'm not sure whether you statement holds.
              Contrary to your statement, Life in China and India had improved before the market reforms. Life expectancy for example in China had grown from something like the 40s to late 60s by 1979. It's a common narrative that these countries had no growth until the wonders of the market come to solve everything, but this is patent false. Just check out this chart of growth in China:
              Chart

              I think you're missing the point. No one disputes that some corporations have been beneficial on the whole. It is a question of whether the monetary benefits that accrue are commensurate with the value creation. For example
              Pfizer: receives subsidised R&D credits and well as extensive support through NHI etc as well as tax breaks, educated scientists, roads etc from society. Then Pfizer demands that for coming up with a drug due to the above, it must receive billions over and above the actual cost to the company to come up with said drug. On top of that and in total disregard to what a "free market" would dictate, insists that the government enforce monopolies aka patents.

              The problem is that most wealth generated is nothing more than economic "rents" i.e. unearned income

        •  This is just poppycock. (4+ / 0-)

          Look at Universities.  College professors are not motivated by money because bluntly we just don't make enough money.  Nonetheless, we drive ourselves into the ground doing research and publishing for the sake of both academic recognition and the intrinsic joy of figuring things up and inventing.  Universities are a perfect example of incredibly motivated people-- generally far more motivated than the private sector --without money being the cause of that motivation.  People left those countries because of political oppression and terror and because the living conditions following the revolution were absolutely dismal, not because they wanted money to do science.  

          •  I never said all people are motivated solely by (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            84thProblem, Sparhawk

            money.

            I wrote:

            People most typically act in ways that fit their perceived own best interest (and what they perceive as in the best interests of those they love).  People do this regardless of the economic system they live in.  
            Real world economists do not understand the world as people only placing value on money.  People place value on many other things in their economic decisions including: status, recognition, leisure, freedom to work on what is of interest, income security, fear of change, fear of risk, staying close to family, etc.. Of the many great entrepreneurs I have known, money was an important motivator but one of  many motivators.

            Not everyone is motivated by the same thing.  The world is a better place because of that.

            The most important way to protect the environment is not to have more than one child.

            by nextstep on Thu Apr 04, 2013 at 05:58:00 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  You said socialism (3+ / 0-)

              squelches innovation and invention because somehow it's against people's self-interest.  That assumed a money motive.  I gave you a widespread counter example.  Moreover, the case can be made that capitalism inhibits innovation and invention.  Look at the repetitive nature of the entertainment industry, for example.

            •  I would also add, that (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              unfangus

              you have a rather inaccurate view of real world economists.  While there is a strain of holistic economists, they are at the margins of academia in the States, are mostly a European phenomenon, and contemporary economics in the United States is overwhelmingly dominated by Chicago school orientations that reduce these issues to money and a very abstract conception of what constitutes a rational agent.

              Your conception of self-interest seems to be premised on the idea of self-centered egoism and atomistic individuals.  You seem to assume that socialisms are necessarily of the Stalinist and Maoist variety, where people live in utter squalor, economies are centrally planned, and there is perpetual threat of political persecution.  The Northern European countries do not at all fit this model.  Many people are socialists precisely because socialism is in their self-interest, not out of any pie in the sky altruism.  Readily available social services such as health care and education increase their life potential, give them greater security, and reduce crime.  Tax dollars that would be spent on law enforcement and wars of conquest instead go back to the people in the form of these services.

              There is no dearth of innovation and motivation within these governments and economic systems, so it's unclear as to why you think that one has to have a capitalist system in order for innovation and creativity to exist, nor why you believe that only capitalism provides a system most in accord with our self-interest.  These socialists would argue, by contrast, that capitalism is against the self-interest of the vast majority of people insofar as it creates class stagnation that renders it nearly impossible for ordinary people to improve their lot in life (if you're born poor you're statistically likely to stay poor, and likewise with the middle class), and these economies are inherently unstable, placing the 90% in perpetual economic danger.  What we have under capitalism is a new feudalism that is the very opposite of average self-interest.

        •  Selfishness as a virtue (0+ / 0-)
          The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness.
          ~ John Kenneth Galbraith

          At least coffeetalk knows how to frame her arguments in a cogent manner; you have to give her that.

          You, sir or madam, are merely tedious.

          The "extreme wing" of the Democratic Party is the wing that is hell-bent on protecting the banks and credit card companies. ~ Kos

          by ozsea1 on Thu Apr 04, 2013 at 07:44:15 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  Nextstep, try liberating the people of Denmark, (6+ / 0-)

          Sweden, Norway, and Finland from their Socialist hell. These countries successful mixed economies have the happiest, people in the world. They work at it, education, healthcare, and an economy designed to work for everyone, not just the elites.

          Isn't it a bit tired to identify socialism with these two brutal dictatorships? One of them is an oligarchic kleptocracy now, thanks to introducing Chicago school economics to police state thugs, and the other, in partnership with American financial elites, has recreated 19th century capitalism with 18th century working conditions. Bravo capitalists!

          If you talked to people from the rust belt in the American midwest who lived thru the 60s and 70s they would be tell you about how much better their lives were before America's economy was moved beyond the reach of democracy.

        •  That main argument is not true (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          sneakers563

          Socialism defined as people owning the means of production actually fits the nature of people. Think about it: if you are a metal worker, working in a steel factory, does it not make more sense that you should own the factory collectively with other workers and share in the surplus that is generated?

          Most people when thinking about socialism compare it to the actually exisiting socialism/communism of China/USSR etc that was very far from what democratic socialism really is. Those systems were nothing more than state capitalism with some features of socialism/communism.

          Along those lines, I think your statement that socialist societies tend toward oppression. Again, were those societies you are describing actually socialist?

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