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Flourishing - A new understanding of well being

personperson Don't believe everything you think'Merica! Veteran

I just came across this talk by Martin Seligman, the "founder" of positive psychology. I particularly liked his idea that we may be at new axial age. The original axial age was the time in the ancient world when people woke up to their condition and many of the worlds religions were founded and philosophy began. Anyway, the new axial age he proposes is that with the degree that we have pushed back many of the classic forms of suffering in the world our focus maybe is or should shift away from preventing and avoiding suffering to creating flourishing.

lobsterShoshin

Comments

  • lobsterlobster Veteran

    Outstanding @person
    According to the video and Nietzsche, Buddhism would be a camel mentality ... ?

    I went to the wrong website mentioned in the video but prefer it ...
    http://authentic-happiness.com

    Here is the good doctors website
    https://www.authentichappiness.sas.upenn.edu/home

  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran
    edited October 4

    I couldn’t get through the video, he is not the most engaging of speakers. I will try again when I am more awake, it is still a bit early for serious matter. It’s ironic that for a speaker on happiness he has such a doldrum, scientific quality...

    It reminds me of something I read, that science is essentially destructive because it tries to take everything apart. Now you can’t really destroy happiness but by taking it to it’s constituent parts in an incorrect fashion perhaps you’ll end up damaging some people, I don’t know.

    The idea of a new axial age intrigues me. I think because there are so many people on the Earth today, there are bound to be more exceptional people too... there were an estimated 170m people in 1 CE, now there are 35x more. But are there the same means for growth of a meme? The information landscape is far more competitive today, if you look at the number of books and websites that are published.

    Osho was the last guru I know of who had worldwide appeal, at his peak he had about a million followers, and to see an orange-clad neo-sannyasin on the street was not unusual. Here in the Netherlands we had Osho meditation centres in many major cities. I don’t think we will see that kind of movement again for a while.

    But the idea that from a lack of suffering we would move to greater flourishing I find perhaps a little naive. If you look at what’s happening many people have increased wealth, but not increased free time, and a lot of the free time that there is is being spent on entertainments such as movies and games that didn’t exist during the last axial age.

  • lobsterlobster Veteran

    Martin Seligman is not very engaging as @kerome says but the data is genuinely useful and hopefully helpful. Seligman also used his PERMA model to improve the well being of US troops. Which maybe is related to The First Earth Battalion Field Manual, created by the pioneering Lieutenant Colonel Jim Channon, which was the basis of the film 'The Men who Stare at Goats'...

    http://media.hearingvoices.com.s3.amazonaws.com/doc/The-First-Earth-Battalion-Field-Manual.pdf

    I wonder if a happiness pill is available?
    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-45721670

  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran
    edited October 4

    Oh, soma anyone? The idea of a happiness pill has a longish history, not least including the drug given to keep the people happy in Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World.

    But the idea of a mental model to increase happiness seems a bit, well, over engineered. The fact that it was used first on soldiers rather than on those who suffer depression is perhaps a pointer, if you have to force it is it a way to real happiness?

    For me, happiness is a process of internal blossoming... one throws off more and more chains, comes more and more to acceptance of the fact that you unavoidably always have real responsibility for your actions, finds more freedom and spaciousness in that.

  • personperson Don't believe everything you think 'Merica! Veteran
    edited October 4

    I guess that isn't the talk of his I originally listened to. It was about the same length and also given in Australia, but the one I linked was several years ago. I don't know exactly what he talked about there but I have the transcript from his more recent talk about a new axial age.

    And so what I'm going to talk about today is to kind of to look backward through the main issues I've been involved with; to look at their past, present and future. Future will be science-fiction-y for each of those. And to try to…well, I'll tell you how it makes sense, and this is sort of what the book's about, that in my lifetime, in more than 50 years of psychology, three things happened, interlocked and in the same direction.

    The first was I went from being a depressed, anxious kid to being happy—to my great surprise. Second, my field, psychology, went from being about misery and suffering and conflict and aggression and competition to being about things like love and meaning, and positive emotion and accomplishment. Those two things went, and the third thing, the world got better. Today's world, in spite of what you may feel by watching the news, this is the best time human beings have ever been alive. Every statistic I know: mortality, morbidity, real wealth, education, women's rights—you name it—these are all better than they've ever been.

    So the book, and the way in which the dream makes sense and my life makes sense is that all three of these things happened. And that's the story I want to tell today. And I'm going to set it in two contexts before I do the concreta. The first context is the big one—what's going on here in the very big picture of the human endeavour; I'll try to set that to begin with. And then the second is the smaller one, that is the history of modern psychology, and what psychology 50 years ago believed and what it now believes, and why that change has occurred. And then I'll talk about the four different big ideas that I've been involved in, their past, present and future. So that's what I have in mind to do today.

    Something major happened 2,500 years ago that we don't really understand. And it's—Jaspers called it the First Axial Age. How many of you have heard that term before? Good, I'm glad to introduce it, because I think it is a very important term. And what happened, basically, suddenly across the planet in places unrelated to each other the Buddha, Moses, Confucius, Jainism, the Upanishads, La Baguita, Zarathustra—all of these things happened in the space of a couple of hundred years, about 2,500 years ago.

    No-one knows why, by the way, it all happened, and as best we can see it, in the first axial age human beings became aware of being human for the first time, and what its limits were. And it asked, 'Do I matter?' Do human beings matter? And interestingly virtually all of our religious and philosophical traditions flow from what happened in this 200-year period. And I think the basic question that was asked was, 'What is the human condition?' What are human beings? Where do we come from and where are we going? And why? And does it matter? Does it matter that you lived, or I lived? Does it matter that human beings lived?

    And the program that came out of the philosophical and religious traditions were about human suffering Let's see if we can't alleviate human suffering. Let's do something about misery and helplessness.

    So that's the first axial age. We now live in the beginning of the second axial age. And I'll try to characterise why this is important and what it's about. Starting roughly with the Enlightenment, but not necessarily stemming from it. For the first time there was human progress. So after the first axial age there were 2,000 years in which by no criterion that I can think of was there anything like human progress. But now, for the first time, in the last 300 years, there's been human progress.

    One of the causes of this was science, and what I mean by human progress, and by the way many of you may not believe there's been human progress and so I want to try to convince you of this. One hundred and fifty years ago the average age of death was about 40. Now it's pushing 82 in Australia and the rest of the world. Two hundred years ago only 10% of the people on this planet had access to clean water. Now 90% of the people on earth have access to clean water.

    Two hundred years ago 85% of the world was malnourished. Now 90% of the world is not malnourished. About 10% of the world is malnourished. And the bold statement here—and I'll return to it later when I talk about religion and politics—there's less human suffering per capita than there's ever been before. This is a remarkable change. It's quantifiable. And by the way there's a beautiful book that's just come out on it—not mine; a much better book than mine—Steve Pinker's Age of Enlightenment.

    So Steve in 2011 wrote The Better Angels of Our Nature, and argued that violence had enormously decreased in the last 3,000 years. And basically, just a representative statistic, if you were born in London 500 years ago, your chances of dying a violent death were about one in 50. Now your chances are one in 50,000. And that's kind of representative of what's… So Steve in the new book does this for all the objective things we care about. But keep in mind—though I do believe that every objective thing we care about has gotten better: fewer soldiers dying on the battle field, these things, I'll talk about wealth in a moment—two things haven't changed. Our morale—depression, anxiety, and human happiness. They've remained as best as we can tell about the same.

    And one of the themes I'm going to talk about is why? Why haven't we responded to a better world? Why do so many of you think there's been no human progress? It's not just objective stuff that got better. It's all the stuff that we care about, that the first axial age care about. There are more human rights counted around the world: democracy, and very important, capitalism. Up until about 1500 the only way to get rich was to steal it from someone else. Wealth was a constant. But starting about 1500, real wealth increased, probably as a function of capitalism, of contracts, of property rights and the like.

    And the natural state of human beings is poverty. So the question isn't why are we poor, the question is why are wealthy. Wealth occurred for the first time across the world. And you are 100 times wealthier than your great-grandparents were. Remarkably. And violence decreased.

    How many of you know what the Flynn effect is? The Flynn effect is that the IQ of people across the whole world has in the last 50 years increased by about 15 IQ points, maybe 20. Your kids are smarter than you are. And you are smarter than I am, as it turns out. No-one's really explained it. It's not that kids know more facts. They're better reasoners than we were.

    And one has to ask, has there been a moral Flynn effect? That is, when you look at these changes in the world, one has to wonder if in the second axial age we're witnessing a change in human morality. A decrease in tribalism and a change in the moral circle. And the central issue here is human wellbeing. This will bring me to my main subject, but David Cameron, about five years ago, said, 'This will be the first generation of Brits whose kids will not be as wealthy as their parents.' That may or may not be so. But while wealth may not go up in the next 50 years in the way it has in the last 500, there's huge room for an increase in human wellbeing. And that is, indeed, the theme of what I'm going to talk about.

    And I'm going to talk about the brain as being not about the past or the present but the human brain is about planning for the future. And so I'm going to try to persuade you that what you're doing right now—taking what I'm saying and grinding it into the things you care about, and what you might do with it—is the essence of human beings, that we're not homo sapiens, we're homo prospectus. We're planners of the future. I'll go into that more.

    Okay, so that's the very big picture. I think we're moving from a first axial age, which was about human suffering, to a second axial age in which the main theme will be the building of human flourishing, and the material pieces are in place for that.

    http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/allinthemind/martin-seligman-1/9886008

    And a link to the second half of his talk. They are both also available in audio form.

    http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/allinthemind/optimism-and-hope—with-martin-seligman/9910458

    kando
  • personperson Don't believe everything you think 'Merica! Veteran

    @Kerome said:
    I couldn’t get through the video, he is not the most engaging of speakers. I will try again when I am more awake, it is still a bit early for serious matter. It’s ironic that for a speaker on happiness he has such a doldrum, scientific quality...

    I suppose its a matter of taste, I generally feel interested and engaged by data and facts and disinterested in passionate or emotional arguments

    It reminds me of something I read, that science is essentially destructive because it tries to take everything apart. Now you can’t really destroy happiness but by taking it to it’s constituent parts in an incorrect fashion perhaps you’ll end up damaging some people, I don’t know.

    Or science is essentially creative because it teaches us how things work. If you try to help without really understanding the true causes you'll end up damaging some people too.

    The idea of a new axial age intrigues me. I think because there are so many people on the Earth today, there are bound to be more exceptional people too... there were an estimated 170m people in 1 CE, now there are 35x more. But are there the same means for growth of a meme? The information landscape is far more competitive today, if you look at the number of books and websites that are published.

    Osho was the last guru I know of who had worldwide appeal, at his peak he had about a million followers, and to see an orange-clad neo-sannyasin on the street was not unusual. Here in the Netherlands we had Osho meditation centres in many major cities. I don’t think we will see that kind of movement again for a while.

    No question we are a more fractured society in many regards. I would say more in comparison to the past century or two though rather than 1 CE, back then we were so fractured that we didn't even know how fractured we were. You may be right though that a new story that engages large portions of humanity may not be possible currently. But as you say, with more problem solvers the ability to solve problems is increased.

    But the idea that from a lack of suffering we would move to greater flourishing I find perhaps a little naive. If you look at what’s happening many people have increased wealth, but not increased free time, and a lot of the free time that there is is being spent on entertainments such as movies and games that didn’t exist during the last axial age.

    What else should we do? If people have increased wealth but not increased time or they are spending it on superficial pleasures, that seems like a matter of priorities and choices and showing people a better way seems to me a meaningful solution. Particularly if you can back up the benefits with the authority of science.

  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran
    edited October 4

    @person said:
    What else should we do? If people have increased wealth but not increased time or they are spending it on superficial pleasures, that seems like a matter of priorities and choices and showing people a better way seems to me a meaningful solution. Particularly if you can back up the benefits with the authority of science.

    All I was saying is that the conditions for an axial age now are quite different from when the first one emerged, and it is dubious whether ideas from this age would find the traction and influence that the ideas of the Buddha or of Confucius found.

    As long as the internet exists, I think there will be this abundance of words, books and ideas being shared and created. It is difficult for things to come forward and get a large audience, although a few do manage because of the same internet’s magnifying effect.

    But who knows, perhaps in another few hundred years people will see Harry Potter as the bible to live by, and the largest fruit of an axial age. The future may take a different shape than we imagine.

  • personperson Don't believe everything you think 'Merica! Veteran

    Its a fair point, the future seems very uncertain and the internet makes some sort of unification seem less likely. When I think of the way the internet will effect society I tend to think of other knowledge revolutions like writing or the printing press. Socrates lamented the forgetfulness and impersonal, dead nature that the written word presents opposed to the oral tradition. In many respects he was right but the written word has allowed for knowledge to be built on knowledge in profound ways. And the printing press led to large social upheavals such as the protestant reformation and the scientific revolution. I don't know what that means specifically for the internet age, but I would say that it will shake things up a great deal and eventually sort itself out into something new.

    I would say that the axial age is able to be defined as such because unconnected areas of the world started to acknowledge and address the human condition at around the same time. There wasn't a single grand idea that influenced everyone, rather the changing conditions of the time influenced the ideas. So my take on his argument is that the changing positive material conditions of the world will change our ideas about what it means to lead a quality life, simply not suffering won't be enough.

  • kandokando northern Ireland Veteran

    Thanks for posting this @person, lots to think about here! I agree that science is creative, it's odd that so much sci-fi portrays it primarily as a destructive, dehumanising force when it does so much to illuminate life and make knowledge accessible.

    person
  • personperson Don't believe everything you think 'Merica! Veteran

    @kando said:
    Thanks for posting this @person, lots to think about here! I agree that science is creative, it's odd that so much sci-fi portrays it primarily as a destructive, dehumanising force when it does so much to illuminate life and make knowledge accessible.

    I really appreciate your comment, I'm a science fan too so that is where my heart lies. I suppose science has a certain neutral quality to it that allows it to be used for both good and ill. Knowledge is kind of like that, it lights the way and allows us to be more effective, but its up to us how we use it. Are we more effectively destructive or constructive?

    My guess for why scifi portrays it the way it does is for the drama of the story. We have a negativity bias so the negative grabs our attention in a stronger way.

  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran
    edited October 5

    @person said:
    I really appreciate your comment, I'm a science fan too so that is where my heart lies. I suppose science has a certain neutral quality to it that allows it to be used for both good and ill. Knowledge is kind of like that, it lights the way and allows us to be more effective, but its up to us how we use it. Are we more effectively destructive or constructive?

    I’ve spent much of my life as an engineer, and I’ve found the analytical aspect of science often tends to take over, and I find that a bit depressing. Perhaps that’s why that quote about science being destructive stuck in my mind.

    But i agree some branches of science are a lot more humane, like natural history. I’ve always loved the big dinosaur bones, the Natural History Museum in London was one of my favourite haunts. That it’s conveniently located next to the Science Museum and the Victoria & Albert Museum was a great side benefit... London has many wonderful museums and they are all free.

    My guess for why scifi portrays it the way it does is for the drama of the story. We have a negativity bias so the negative grabs our attention in a stronger way.

    Ooh, favourite subject of mine. Not all sci-fi portrays science as negative, if you take movies as an example some very significant early movies are very science positive like The Forbidden Planet and 2001: A Space Oddyssey. Even many of the later movies put a positive face on things like Star Trek, Gattaca, and Passengers. Of the more negative movies you have Alien and debateably Star Wars. But I think you have to mark Blade Runner as the start of the dystopia’s, it more or less introduced the concept of the ‘used future’.

    The new Cosmos tv show is excellent, not exactly sci-fi but still wonderful.

    person
  • lobsterlobster Veteran

    But the idea of a mental model to increase happiness seems a bit, well, over engineered. The fact that it was used first on soldiers rather than on those who suffer depression is perhaps a pointer, if you have to force it is it a way to real happiness?

    The video shows how soldiers suffering from stress and suicide were helped. I consider soldiers sentient beings just as much as cultists and lovely hippys. I am sure you do too. The PERMA model shows the proven things that enable, force if you will, a happier mindframe.

    https://positivepsychologyprogram.com/perma-model/

    person
  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran

    I’ve wondered about the PERMA model. It seems quite “driven” by the needs of society, using words such as ‘strengths to meet challenges’, ‘find your purpose’, ‘accomplish goals’ and ‘strive for greatness’. Those are the kind of attitudes which make one a useful part of society, which make one a so-called success and able to fit in.

  • lobsterlobster Veteran

    Depends how you perceive society and success @Kerome :

    • The Buddhist Path requires strength to meet challenges. Of course the pretend easy path requires no effort, no challenge and gets ... nowhere but its own cleverness. Who noticed?
    • No Path. No Purpose. No Nirvana. Surprising?
    • Accomplish goals ... Alliavate, personal, social and wider unhappiness. I'll join.
    • Striving for great humility, sure is a paradox. Who would know it ... Greatness in the inner realm is not always valued by unenlightened society ... I know whose society I prefer ...
    Keromeperson
  • personperson Don't believe everything you think 'Merica! Veteran

    @Kerome said:
    I’ve wondered about the PERMA model. It seems quite “driven” by the needs of society, using words such as ‘strengths to meet challenges’, ‘find your purpose’, ‘accomplish goals’ and ‘strive for greatness’. Those are the kind of attitudes which make one a useful part of society, which make one a so-called success and able to fit in.

    I think its important for each of us to contribute to society in a meaningful way for the betterment of the world as a whole.

  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran
    edited October 8

    @person said:
    I think its important for each of us to contribute to society in a meaningful way for the betterment of the world as a whole.

    I think that’s a statement that is really difficult to quantify. Let’s take the case of a Western-style Buddhist author who is doing his bit to spread the dharma, he is definitely making a meaningful contribution. But what about his student who is a commercial wood cutter? He is making a living but is he meaningfully contributing to the betterment of the world?

    Or what about an ex-single mom living on state benefits but volunteering at a hospice for the dying homeless? More worthy or less worthy than a teenager flipping burgers at McDonalds barely making ends meet? Or compared to a high-flying fashion designer living the good life in New York?

    These people all subsist on some form of income, their work has varying degrees of worthiness seen from a Buddhist perspective, but it’s all rewarded to a greater or lesser degree by society, which doesn’t care much if at all for worthiness. So you could say very few people are actually contributing to the betterment of society. But is that fair?

    I certainly wouldn’t want to try and judge who is worthy or contributing a reasonable level and who isn’t.

    personkando
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    I think it's a question of doing the best we can, within the environment we live in.
    I can't make any difference to anyone in the High-flying world of fashion, but I might be able to help the burger-flipper, and I can equate with the single mom volunteering... Therefore, these same people can only do the best they can, with the available resources... It's whether they do something, or nothing. And that is up to the individual...

    person
  • personperson Don't believe everything you think 'Merica! Veteran

    @Kerome said:

    @person said:
    I think its important for each of us to contribute to society in a meaningful way for the betterment of the world as a whole.

    I think that’s a statement that is really difficult to quantify. Let’s take the case of a Western-style Buddhist author who is doing his bit to spread the dharma, he is definitely making a meaningful contribution. But what about his student who is a commercial wood cutter? He is making a living but is he meaningfully contributing to the betterment of the world?

    Or what about an ex-single mom living on state benefits but volunteering at a hospice for the dying homeless? More worthy or less worthy than a teenager flipping burgers at McDonalds barely making ends meet? Or compared to a high-flying fashion designer living the good life in New York?

    These people all subsist on some form of income, their work has varying degrees of worthiness seen from a Buddhist perspective, but it’s all rewarded to a greater or lesser degree by society, which doesn’t care much if at all for worthiness. So you could say very few people are actually contributing to the betterment of society. But is that fair?

    I certainly wouldn’t want to try and judge who is worthy or contributing a reasonable level and who isn’t.

    Yeah, I suppose it all comes down to what anyone means by meaningful. To my mind a commercial wood cutter is also making a meaningful contribution, I mean stuff needs to get done in the world in our endless struggle against chaos and entropy. And at any rate, adopting a PERMA attitude is going to help the social worker and Dharma teacher just as much as the road worker and fashion designer.

    I think maybe I'm kind of a collectivist in this sense, to paraphrase JFK that we should be thinking about what we can do for society rather than what society can do for us. I may be earning a living in my profession but if I didn't do what I do, people's homes would deteriorate and rot. I'm not washing people's feet but I am contributing to society in a meaningful way.

  • personperson Don't believe everything you think 'Merica! Veteran
    edited October 9

    I guess we were raised in fairly different environments. I grew up in a working class family and was brought up with a strong work ethic, I was expected to do chores around the house and have always had a job starting at maybe 13 or 14 doing a paper route. About the only times I haven't had a job was during a couple years at college. Work wasn't just a thing I had to do to get money, it was an integral part of contributing to the family and from there I suppose I held onto that and work contributing to family became work contributing to society. Not that I particularly like working, but it has some sort of value and meaning to me beyond a paycheck.

    kando
  • JasonJason God Emperor Arrakis Moderator

    @person said:

    @Kerome said:
    I’ve wondered about the PERMA model. It seems quite “driven” by the needs of society, using words such as ‘strengths to meet challenges’, ‘find your purpose’, ‘accomplish goals’ and ‘strive for greatness’. Those are the kind of attitudes which make one a useful part of society, which make one a so-called success and able to fit in.

    I think its important for each of us to contribute to society in a meaningful way for the betterment of the world as a whole.

    I agree. Too bad work is directed more towards making money for someone else and not so much on bettering the world, although some work does also do that. In a way, we're wasting so much of our labour power and time on things that don't truly make the world better. If only we'd see beyond wage labour and production for profit and focus more on collectively labouring for the needs of all.

    kandosova
  • kandokando northern Ireland Veteran

    The most important thing for people is to feel valued for who they are, the true face beneath all the masks we often have to wear just to survive! If society did that, what a wonderful world :)

    person
  • personperson Don't believe everything you think 'Merica! Veteran

    @Jason said:

    @person said:

    @Kerome said:
    I’ve wondered about the PERMA model. It seems quite “driven” by the needs of society, using words such as ‘strengths to meet challenges’, ‘find your purpose’, ‘accomplish goals’ and ‘strive for greatness’. Those are the kind of attitudes which make one a useful part of society, which make one a so-called success and able to fit in.

    I think its important for each of us to contribute to society in a meaningful way for the betterment of the world as a whole.

    I agree. Too bad work is directed more towards making money for someone else and not so much on bettering the world, although some work does also do that. In a way, we're wasting so much of our labour power and time on things that don't truly make the world better. If only we'd see beyond wage labour and production for profit and focus more on collectively labouring for the needs of all.

    I would like to see a world where our resources are put more towards human flourishing and less towards vanity and greed. I'm just not that confident in top down measures that try to enforce or control those things. The world is extremely complex and our efforts to direct human behavior almost always come with collateral damage and unintended consequences. I think a light touch and bottom up efforts to influence individual human morality and social norms, while probably more difficult, produce better results. I would say that I think an overall holistic approach works best along the lines of the chart in the video below, but I suppose my bias is more towards the personal rather than the systems view.

  • JasonJason God Emperor Arrakis Moderator
    edited October 9

    Who said anything about top down? When have I ever suggested something like that rather creating a system where all working people have democratic control over what they make, how they make it, etc.? 🤷‍♀️

    We need to collectively make these decisions rather than leaving them up to a small handful of people whose primary concern is the accumulation of profit, getting rid of harmful and bullshit jobs and focusing on the betterment of society. We need to start thinking about what people need and want, what the planet needs, and how to best provide that with the minimum amount of labour and environmental impact as possible. If we don't make these decisions, they'll be made for us.

  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran

    I think there is definitely an argument to be made that capitalism can go too far in its search for efficiency in production, to the point where it is squeezing resources and people to get down to a minimum cost while losing sight of things like the importance of clean air and water, a living wage, safety of workers, and many other issues. Capitalism when it goes too far is harmful to the planet and the people, which is why we regulate it.

    But it seems that regulations are not strict enough or well enough enforced in a lot of areas of the world, and it still leaves most people struggling to survive in a difficult-to-navigate system. We don’t seem to be making any large strides towards solving the world’s biggest problems, which, let’s face it, are caused by us.

    What I’m more wary of than merely decisions being made for us by the money grubbing upper classes is the consequences of inaction. Climate change, overpopulation, crashing biodiversity, the spread of the concrete jungle, plastic soups polluting the oceans... there are a lot of freakin’ big problems out there, and half of our effort seems to be going into talking ourselves OUT of doing things because it will cost money. It’s vaguely ridiculous.

  • personperson Don't believe everything you think 'Merica! Veteran
    edited October 10

    @Jason said:
    Who said anything about top down? When have I ever suggested something like that rather creating a system where all working people have democratic control over what they make, how they make it, etc.? 🤷‍♀️

    We need to collectively make these decisions rather than leaving them up to a small handful of people whose primary concern is the accumulation of profit, getting rid of harmful and bullshit jobs and focusing on the betterment of society. We need to start thinking about what people need and want, what the planet needs, and how to best provide that with the minimum amount of labour and environmental impact as possible. If we don't make these decisions, they'll be made for us.

    Top down, as in the sense of controlled or planned (even via democratic vote) vs market oriented. Exactly which jobs are harmful and bullshit? For example, are we to vote whether fashion designers contribute to a better society or is fashion wasteful and it would be better for the environment and equality if we all wore the same minimalist clothing? And who is the we that need to start thinking about what people want and need other than all the people who make those decisions everyday with what they purchase? Because there are lots of products now available that are environmentally and socially responsible. Top down means someone else decides what everyone else can or cannot buy.

    As someone who has their own individual business and comes from an extended family that passed down an auto repair shop through the generations I seem to have a very different perspective on what a business is and how it operates. 53% of people employed by business are employed by small business and 95% of those have fewer than 10 employees. So frankly, many of us have already taken democratic control over what we make and how we make it.

    https://www.huffingtonpost.com/kristie-arslan/five-big-myths-about-amer_b_866118.html

  • I like the idea/word 'value'.

    It is why I feel the scientific evaluation of what really makes us happy, PREMA is of value. In a similar way economic models, spiritual models or fashion models may have different values dependent on our priorities.

    The early sangha are reknowned for their sartotial and economic model. o:)
    https://oneminddharma.com/sangha/

    Must be time for the priceless Four Yorkshiremen skit ...

  • JasonJason God Emperor Arrakis Moderator

    What we have is currently top down and 'controlled' by a small minority of people who dictate what's produced, how it's produced, working conditions, how wealth gets distributed, etc. Bottom up is the majority of workers having a say in all these things. A market doesn't magically make our current structure less authoritarian/top down/controlled. The majority is still at the whim of a minority and 'the market,' which is just shorthand for the totality of economic relations.

    As for the rest, we've already discussed this. Harmful jobs are jobs that may be profitable but cause harm to people and/or the planet. Bullshit jobs are jobs that are bullshit. Paper pushing, etc. Pick up Bullshit Jobs. Plenty of examples out there. But if you don't like that idea, we can just continue down the same path we're going, allowing inequality to worsen, relying on cheap, exploitative labour to keep our shoes and iPhones affordable, destroy what's left of the environment, and the rich can buy their private armies and hideaway in their ivory towers while the rest of the world struggles not to die and competes for scarce resources, food, and clean water in the aftermath. 🤷‍♀️

  • personperson Don't believe everything you think 'Merica! Veteran
    edited October 10

    @Jason said:
    What we have is currently top down and 'controlled' by a small minority of people who dictate what's produced, how it's produced, working conditions, how wealth gets distributed, etc. Bottom up is the majority of workers having a say in all these things. A market doesn't magically make our current structure less authoritarian/top down/controlled. The majority is still at the whim of a minority and 'the market,' which is just shorthand for the totality of economic relations.

    I don't know, if 53% of the private workforce is employed by small business and 38% by big business, I'm not sure how much of a minority it is that controls everything. Those who run businesses aren't dictating to people which products to buy, they want to make money so they sell things that the majority want.

    As for the rest, we've already discussed this. Harmful jobs are jobs that may be profitable but cause harm to people and/or the planet. Bullshit jobs are jobs that are bullshit. Paper pushing, etc. Pick up Bullshit Jobs. Plenty of examples out there.

    So fashion and managerial jobs, probably cosmetics or recreation/entertainment industries too(they are aren't really necessary and contribute unneeded waste).

    But if you don't like that idea, we can just continue down the same path we're going, allowing inequality to worsen, relying on cheap, exploitative labour to keep our shoes and iPhones affordable, destroy what's left of the environment, and the rich can buy their private armies and hideaway in their ivory towers while the rest of the world struggles not to die and competes for scarce resources, food, and clean water in the aftermath. 🤷‍♀️

    I really don't think the only options are to do nothing and continue down the current path or overturn the whole system and replace it with a system that has, in all its previous iterations, failed. I'm for reform and think mixed economies have done a pretty good job of harnessing the effectiveness and efficiencies of the capitalist system while trying to mitigate its harmful externalities and attempting to steer us in a positive direction. Governments and institutions could do more, but I think this is where the debate should be.

    I think you make some decent points about some of the situations in the economy. But overall find the view you put forth as being fairly exaggerated and one sided.

  • JasonJason God Emperor Arrakis Moderator
    edited October 10

    People benefit greatly from things like recreation and entertainment, etc. But we can provide those things without having to worry about producing profit, putting more effort into providing these things more equitably, with less labour, and give more people a say in what they want because they'll have more of a say in the production process itself and what they want to consume.

    We can have things like Amazon where one person alone doesn't accumulation billions of dollars and people don't have to work so hard they injury themselves and have to pee in jars so as to not stop working. I know you think things like cyclical crises, inequality, unequal social relations between capital and labour, etc. can be mitigated, but the point I keep trying to make is that the internal logic of capitalism prevents what you're talking about. And every time you try to regulate one aspect, it causes issues elsewhere, which in turn require intervention and regulations, etc.

    And just for fun, here's some exaggerations for you in relations to Amazon's working conditions and the state of the climate (p.s. most of the harmful emissions and environmental degradation come from large companies and militaries, not individual consumers):

    https://www.cbsnews.com/news/inside-an-amazon-warehouse-treating-human-beings-as-robots/

    https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/07/climate/ipcc-climate-report-2040.html

  • personperson Don't believe everything you think 'Merica! Veteran
    edited October 10

    @Jason said:
    People benefit greatly from things like recreation and entertainment, etc. But we can provide those things without having to worry about producing profit, putting more effort into providing these things more equitably, with less labour, and give more people a say in what they want because they'll have more of a say in the production process itself and what they want to consume.

    What can I say, I'm wary (just wary, not ideologically opposed in all situtations) of one group of people deciding what is acceptable for everyone else.

    At some point in time many new technologies were considered superfluous, if the decision to produce them was left up to whatever process you propose to make that decision many of the things we consider beneficial or essential today may never have come to be.

    We can have things like Amazon where one person alone doesn't accumulation billions of dollars and people don't have to work so hard they injury themselves and have to pee in jars so as to not stop working. I know you think things like cyclical crises, inequality, unequal social relations between capital and labour, etc. can be mitigated, but the point I keep trying to make is that the internal logic of capitalism prevents what you're talking about. And every time you try to regulate one aspect, it causes issues elsewhere, which in turn require intervention and regulations, etc.

    And just for fun, here's some exaggerations for you in relations to Amazon's working conditions and the state of the climate (p.s. most of the harmful emissions and environmental degradation come from large companies and militaries, not individual consumers):

    https://www.cbsnews.com/news/inside-an-amazon-warehouse-treating-human-beings-as-robots/

    https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/07/climate/ipcc-climate-report-2040.html

    Yeah, the Amazon workplace sucks. The competitive work environment totally misunderstands human nature, we are very cooperative within in groups. All of the people I know who work for businesses aren't treated like robots, they are very much appreciated and treated like people. I guess my brother in law had a bad boss who created a toxic work environment, he got a different job. My point isn't that no one anywhere is ever exploited or that pollution isn't a problem, it's that I don't think on the whole its as widespread as the specific examples you highlight or that there aren't other, less drastic solutions.

    1. While there are many negative examples out there, you're criticism leaves out any positive aspects and as such is biased. I like getting various points of view so I'm willing to listen but to the extent that the analysis of the problem leaves out certain aspects of the picture I tend to remain skeptical.

    2. Even if I were to accept that the system needed wholesale change I'm quite unconvinced that the solution I understand you proposing would work. I think it clashes too strongly with human nature to work on a large scale.

  • JasonJason God Emperor Arrakis Moderator
    edited October 10

    @person said:
    What can I say, I'm wary (just wary, not ideologically opposed in all situtations) of one group of people deciding what is acceptable for everyone else.

    Again, there's a group who already decides what's acceptable for everyone else. They're the same group who controls the lion's share of the world's wealth. The same group who has a disproportionate say in politics. You act like capitalism doesn't decide what gets produced and who has access, but it already does that too. I could argue the same, that so many wonderful and beneficial things weren't made because too much money was made elsewhere. One example is green energy. So much money was (and still is) made from fossil fuels that that oil and gas companies tried hard to kill green innovations and hide the effects of greenhouse gases on climate change while lobbying for weaker regulations and against green energy projects. And that's still going on despite what we now know.

    Yes, I'm biased. I'm biased about trying to not only help save the planet but help make people's working lives better.

  • JasonJason God Emperor Arrakis Moderator

    @person said:

    1. While there are many negative examples out there, you're criticism leaves out any positive aspects and as such is biased. I like getting various points of view so I'm willing to listen but to the extent that the analysis of the problem leaves out certain aspects of the picture I tend to remain skeptical.

    2. Even if I were to accept that the system needed wholesale change I'm quite unconvinced that the solution I understand you proposing would work. I think it clashes too strongly with human nature to work on a large scale.

    That's because you're cynical of people's abilities and motivations, and you lack the imagination to envision a different world, which are both common. It's hard to picture a different world. I'm just asking you to try.

  • JasonJason God Emperor Arrakis Moderator
    edited October 10

    An aside on human nature. One thing that I completely agree with the Young Marx on is the need for society to move beyond its fetishism of the right to liberty in the form of private property (i.e., the right to enjoy and dispose of property without regard to others, esp. in terms of corporate 'persons') and towards a realization of its species-being.

    Unlike those who assume 'human nature' is a fixed, static thing that's naturally greedy, competitive, etc., I take the position that much of what we label human nature is fluid and changeable yet strongly conditioned by the world around us, especially by the economic 'base' of society, i.e., the way society reproduces itself. Hence the forces and social relations that are embodied within any given mode of production help to shape and influence the ideas and interrelationships within that society (which, in a global context, includes those between nation-states as well as between individuals).

    In A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy, for example, Marx famously writes:

    In the social production of their existence, men inevitably enter into definite relations, which are independent of their will, namely relations of production appropriate to a given stage in the development of their material forces of production. The totality of these relations of production constitutes the economic structure of society, the real foundation, on which arises a legal and political superstructure and to which correspond definite forms of social consciousness. The mode of production of material life conditions the general process of social, political and intellectual life. It is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence, but their social existence that determines their consciousness.

    Within capitalism, what Marx terms the 'coercive laws of competition' force individual capitals to compete with one another and exploit labour as much as they can in the pursuit of profit; and at the same time, these coercive laws of competition force individual workers to compete with fellow workers, locally as well as globally, for jobs that provide the wages they depend on to survive. And this, in turn, influences and reinforces relations (individual, national, etc.) that are built upon or grow out of this socio-economic foundation.

    The problem is, civil society is a decidedly communal endeavour. And as Marx saw it, our species-being is an "ensemble of social relations," which are mutable, rather than an "abstraction inherent in each single individual." The logic of capitalism and the social relations arising out of it, however, structure a society in which we create the bare "semblance of a human existence" instead allowing our nature its full expression, leading to everything from alienated labour to the fostering of profitable industries that harm our very existence.

    And I think no area demonstrates this more than the environment and the negative impact the contradictions inherent to capitalism have had on it, with its crises, coercive laws of competition, and accumulation for accumulation's sake that compel businesses and individual capitalists to put profits over all other concerns, e.g.:

    https://mpra.ub.uni-muenchen.de/30238/1/Economic_Growth_and_Sustainability_april_asici.pdf

    https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/exxon-knew-about-climate-change-almost-40-years-ago/

    https://forgottenhistoryblog.com/the-white-house-sported-solar-panels-until-reagan-removed-them-in-1986/

    https://www.cnn.com/2018/10/08/politics/un-climate-change-report-epa-us-policy-global-warming/index.html

    https://legalinsurrection.com/2018/10/scotus-rejects-appeal-to-review-kavanaugh-ruling-on-obama-era-epa-regulations/

    https://www.scribd.com/document/384159560/The-climate-lobby-a-sectoral-analysis-of-lobbying-spending-on-climate-change-in-the-USA-2000-to-2016

    Kerome
  • JasonJason God Emperor Arrakis Moderator

    @person, I just listened to the new Under the Skin podcast with Yuval Noah Harari. He hits the nail on the head when he talks about the need to protect people not jobs, that if we can cheaply and easily feed and clothe people with new technology (and I'd add shortening hours of labour and having more people share jobs), then we will have more time for ourselves and to contribute in other ways that don't necessarily contribute to GDP and the profit of capital, such as reproductive labour, art, volunteering, etc., which is the very basis of Marx and socialism in general. We glorify labour because of a combination of the Protestant work ethic and systematic pressures arising out of the internal logic of capitalism. Labour time is the primary source of surplus value. Our labour benefits the bottom line of the capitalist class. And if we want to see a world of abundance and reduced labour, we have to transcend capitalism. Otherwise, the only ones to benefit will be the capitalists, who own and control the machines and technology of the future, and only a small number of workers who build and maintain them will be able to make a living, this useless class taking the place of Marx's reserve army of labour. Such a future requires us to move away from wage labour and the idea that if you're unproductive from the standpoint of capitalism, then you don't deserve a share in the wealth of society, let alone the bare necessities of life.

    Kerome
  • personperson Don't believe everything you think 'Merica! Veteran
    edited October 14

    @Jason said:
    @person, I just listened to the new Under the Skin podcast with Yuval Noah Harari. He hits the nail on the head when he talks about the need to protect people not jobs, that if we can cheaply and easily feed and clothe people with new technology (and I'd add shortening hours of labour and having more people share jobs), then we will have more time for ourselves and to contribute in other ways that don't necessarily contribute to GDP and the profit of capital, such as reproductive labour, art, volunteering, etc., which is the very basis of Marx and socialism in general. We glorify labour because of a combination of the Protestant work ethic and systematic pressures arising out of the internal logic of capitalism. Labour time is the primary source of surplus value. Our labour benefits the bottom line of the capitalist class. And if we want to see a world of abundance and reduced labour, we have to transcend capitalism. Otherwise, the only ones to benefit will be the capitalists, who own and control the machines and technology of the future, and only a small number of workers who build and maintain them will be able to make a living, this useless class taking the place of Marx's reserve army of labour. Such a future requires us to move away from wage labour and the idea that if you're unproductive from the standpoint of capitalism, then you don't deserve a share in the wealth of society, let alone the bare necessities of life.

    There are other ways to view many of these things that also make sense. I value labor because I like food on my table and the lights on, these things don't just happen by themselves, people have to produce them. The more effectively and efficiently we can do that the more labor and resources we can invest in other areas of life. And in economic terms wealth isn't about the amount of money in the bank, its much more about how labor converts to the amount of goods we can purchase. For example 250 years ago 5 hours of artificial light would have cost around $1,000, now its a fraction of a cent. So everyone shares in the wealth of society when the cost of goods goes down over time from the effect of competitive market forces.
    https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2017/06/26/the-amount-of-work-that-once-bought-an-hour-of-light-now-buys-51-years-of-it/?noredirect=on

    The amount of goods even a poor person living in the developed world can purchase with their labor makes them extraordinarily wealthy by any sort of historical standards. Economic development and absolute levels of wealth matter more than equal distribution and relative levels of wealth.

    It just goes back to the same things again. You aren't necessarily wrong in many of your criticisms, but I don't think your overall worldview factors in important components of how economies function and create wealth. And until it does I doubt you'll be able to convert me or others who have a rudimentary understanding of economics.

  • JasonJason God Emperor Arrakis Moderator

    Lol, dang. And here I was thinking you'd be more into it because your boy Yuval said it. I wish I had time to go through all your points more thoroughly, with references and statistics, but I'm at work and can only offer a few quick points.

    The first thing is, nobody (especially me) is saying labour isn't valuable. Living human labour creates the majority of society's wealth, after all. As such, it's extremely important and relevant to any discussion of political-economics (it can also help give us a sense of worth and accomplishment, as well).

    But the issue is, only certain kinds of labour are treated as productive and worthy of a wage under the current system -- the kind that produces profit for capital -- and not only does that create contradictions which cause things like crises, inequality, and unemployment, but that very model is breaking down due to the exponential increase in automation, etc. And you may say that freeing up of labour time is good, and shifts to different/more environmentally friendly jobs, will take place under the current system; but again, only if they can produce profit. And capital can up and move easily, whereas workers can't, leaving many areas and workers out of luck, e.g., Flint, abandoned by the auto industry; places in Appalachia, abandoned by the coal industry; etc. They can barely afford the bare necessities let alone have the means to relocate, get reeducated, etc.

    Another issue is that capitalism requires perpetual growth, which is harming the environment and consuming natural resources in less than ideal ways; and the increasing shortage of living-labour needs due to automation is also causing a particular kind of contraction re: scarcity of employment and stagnating wages, which is merely one appearance of wealth.

    Speaking of wealth, I fully take into account the creation of wealth by labour, including the exchange values created, the use values created, etc. That's a central component of any socialist critique of capitalism and never in dispute. What's at issue here is, who owns and controls that wealth, wealth which largely gets concentrated in the form of capital that's accumulated by a small percentage of the population? How is all of that wealth used and distributed? And ultimately, how can that wealth be more equitably managed?

    If current social relations remain unchanged, those who own and control the means of production and intellectual property, including the next generation of robots and automated tech that will reduce the need for living labour, will benefit the most. I can't stress what Stephen Hawking said enough, "Everyone can enjoy a life of luxurious leisure if the machine-produced wealth is shared, or most people can end up miserably poor if the machine-owners successfully lobby against wealth redistribution. So far, the trend seems to be toward the second option, with technology driving ever-increasing inequality."

    I'm not trying to convert you so much as trying to get you to see how people aren't flourishing due to the logic of a system that places the creation and realization of profit as the driving force rather than the general welfare of society, which is sometimes a corollary, but not the primary aim. Many people are suffering privation, or at least not flourishing right now, because of this. And if things don't change, I'm confident that many more will suffer and their suffering will be much greater.

    You may think I don't understand how economies work, but I think I do. And I also think that people who are benefiting from the current economy and comfortable right now are overlooking the many who aren't, as well as the problems inherent to the internal logic of the present system, which sre setting us up for more crises and an unsustainable (and I'd argue) untenable future. It's so glaringly obvious at this point that even non-economists like Hawking can see the writing on the wall.

  • personperson Don't believe everything you think 'Merica! Veteran

    @Jason
    I'm unconvinced that living labor is a primary factor in wealth creation, you brushed past all my points, they are real and largely agreed upon realities. In the example about light the same amount of labor that produced one hour of light wealth at one point in time now produces 51 years of light wealth. Same amount of labor, vastly different amount of wealth created.

    I do worry about the effects of automation and human deprivation and I don't think just doing nothing is the way to go. As far as I've heard Yuval Noah Harari doesn't endorse Marxist style socialism and makes the point that UBI is really National Basic Income and realizes that even people who would be in favor of redistribution of successful areas of a nation to struggling areas wouldn't be so supportive of that money heading out of their country to support people in Bangladesh, for example.

    I completely acknowledge the capitalist system leaves some people behind and hurts others, which is why I support redistribution to help pick those people up and put them back on their feet and regulations aimed at mitigating those harms. When capital picks up and leaves it does hurt those areas it leaves but it benefits the areas it relocates to and benefits consumers in the form of more affordable goods, freeing up money for other needs and wants.

    Regarding environmental issues, people generally follow along Maslow's hierarchy of needs. Countries and the people in them care about economic security first and when they reach a developed level the trend is they care much more about environmental health and focus efforts on cleaning things up.

    What exactly are the problems inherent to the internal logic of the present system? That isn't really clear as a central idea.

  • JasonJason God Emperor Arrakis Moderator
    edited 3:15AM

    1) I didn't brush past them, I simply addressed them from a POV you don't agree with/ don't want to hear. I'm sorry if it appears I'm being dismissive or simply brushing your points aside. I'm just trying to get at something deeper and more fundamental than orthodox economics because I think they fall short.

    2) What kind of labour do you think creates wealth then? Or do you think that labour has little to do with wealth creation, whether in terms of surplus value realized via exchange value, use value, etc.? If so, what does in your opinion?

    3) Re: your light example, yes, as a general rule, less labour is needed to produce x commodity. But it also produces less surplus value/profit in the process, requiring longer hours of labour/larger quantities of commodities to make the same amount of money.

    To use a simplistic example. A lot more labour time went into making axe handles, for instance. A person handcrafted them, and all that labour time and power added value into the wood, both in terms of use value and exchange value. But with automation, many can now be produced. As a result, axe handles are much, much cheaper, but a lot more have to be produced to achieve the same amount of profit. So someone has to run that machine many hours a day, and many days a week to create enough surplus value to pay for their labour plus the extra accumulated by the owner of the machine/axe handle company. We can now easily and cheaply produce enough so that every person can have one, but only produce what can be sold for a profit and sit on/destroy the rest.

    In general terms, the cheaper things get due to automation, the harder it is to make money from them, and one of the few ways of making up for it is cheaper materials or less human labour, which is bad for workers depending on those wages. But even then, living human labour goes into designing, making, running, and upkeeing those machines, imbuing them with added value, and that 'dead labour' contained within them continues to impart value to the commodities produced.

    4) Yuval doesn't advocate for explicitly socialist or Marxist solutions. At the same time, he essentially agrees with all the fundamental basics of socialism, its aims, and its critique of capitalism, which is a lot in and of itself.

    But the issue I see time and time again is that people simply have a hard time thinking about these things outside of wage labour and profit, and because of that, see everything in terms of money. It's just so ingrained into us, it's one of capitalism's foundational narratives. But money is really a social construct (and form of social power) that enables a few to accumulate vast amounts of wealth and power while giving the working class just enough to reproduce itself.

    At this stage of economic and technological development, it's entirely superfluous to satisfying our needs. People don't starve because there's not enough food in the stores. People don't live in the streets because they're aren't enough empty homes and apartments to put them in. They go hungry and are forced to sleep on the streets due to a lack of money. Unsold food gets tossed from grocery store shelves, and garbage pickers get prosecuted for taking it. There are more empty homes and apartments than people on the streets, but many will sit empty until landlords get the price they want (and make money by writing off depreciationto boot!).

    And ironically, technological advances and increases in efficiency only make matters worse by creating a mass of unproductive capital and labour (hordes of cash that can't be used to make more money and unemployment respectively), and causing the rate of profit to fall and a shrinkage in the absolute mass of profit created, meaning less money in the form of wages for the working class as a whole. Hence, we have to work even longer and harder to afford just the basic necessities, let alone anything more. It's completely absurd.

    The way we view the necessity of labour (economically, morally, etc.) is outdated and counterproductive. Our productive capacities are such that we no longer have a material necessity for capitalist wage-labour or social relations, but the demand for profit creates an political-economic system that consistently depresses our productive capabilities and produces artificial scarcity, limiting the production and consumption of commodities to only that which can realize profit, among other things, or sitting on/destroying the excess to help boost demand and raise prices.

    Almost everyone agrees that we've reached an epoch of material abundance via the technological advancements and innovations of the past. But the old masters, who must increasingly rely on the state (so much so that the two are almost indistinguishable, with the state essentially acting as the national capitalist), are refusing to let go of their death grip on wealth and power, their ownership of the means of production, finance, etc., stalling our transition to a post-capitalist society.

    What's worse is that most of us follow suit, fearing that society would drift into chaos and crisis and economic barbarism without them, without capital, wage-labour, profit, and even money itself, when the reality is that we're actually descending into chaos and crisis and economic barbarism because of them, because we refuse to let these relics of a past epoch go, because these things are holding us back and we lack both the imagination and the motivation to conceive of a future without them.

    We've reached a point where, even with vast reductions in hours of labour and/or employment, we can (and often do) consistently produce more than can be productively consumed in the capitalist production process (i.e., in a way that produces surplus-value for the capitalist) despite no shortage of need and yet we're worried about robots taking our jobs without realizing that 'we' don't need those jobs anymore, capital does.

    5) I personally think UBIs are a good idea (see here, but they unfortunately don't fix the underlying contradictions inherent to capitalism that create cyclical crises, inequality, unemployment, the need for ever expanding markets, etc. I'm not against redistributionism, I just don't think it's a viable longterm solution.

    6) Frankly, we need to realize that we can't continue to follow the model you've described re: Maslow's hierarchy, or else redefine the hierarchy in a radical and more expansive way. Our survival literally depends on getting ahead of this looming crisis, which includes helping everyone achieve better standards of living and creating green infrastructures now, not some point in the future, without thought of cost or who's benefiting the most from a capitalist POV. It can't continue to be every person and every country for themselves and then thinking about doing things differently once they've hit some higher level of industrialuzation and economic security. We have to start working together in a more concerted and collective way, with thought for humanityand the environment as a whole.

    7) Re: the internal logic of capitalism and the issues engendered by it, I'd point you to Marx's Capital, David Harvey's Limits to Capital and Seventeen Contradictions of Capitalism, and David Graeber's Debt and Bullshit Jobs for starters. And to help with thinking about alternatives, I'd suggest works of fiction such as Looking Backward and The Dispossessed. In fact, here's a list of other good things and what's good about them.

  • personperson Don't believe everything you think 'Merica! Veteran

    I was thinking about it, even before I officially became a Capitalist who owns my means of production the jobs I had were almost all of an independent nature. Paper routes, baby sitting and a job working weekend breakfasts at a fast food restaurant where I was shift leader with mainly 2 other people where we were pretty much left to run it on our own, and we had the most business of all the regional stores.

    I guess I like the freedom and responsibility of owning my means of production and deciding how and what I produce. I like being able to focus on a quality product and be rewarded more than someone who doesn't care or does poor work. But as much as I decide what and how I produce, it's my customers who decide if they want to hire me or recommend me to others. If I don't produce something they want I go broke, ultimately they are in charge. It's a symbiotic relationship not that of oppressor/oppressed.

    I'm an individual who is a member of society, I gladly pay my taxes and follow the laws but I don't really want to be part of a collective that decides for me what to do and how to do it.

    I appreciate owning my means of production so I can see the appeal. I'd rather people started their own business, but it involves risk, most businesses fail and the income fluctuates. People like predictability and security. Would people under a collective worker ownership be able to handle the risk and unreliability that running a business entails or would they vote for safety and security?

    Capitalism has worked and even though it has problems, I'd need more than a good idea that has failed whenever some version of it has been tried. I watch and read plenty of scifi, I can imagine a better future. Things can be made worse and much worse, I can imagine that too. Give me some proof that it can work on a large scale first, why haven't any European countries taken the plunge yet?

    I've voted Democrat, and even Green a couple times, my whole life but I honestly don't know what I'd do if they nominated a serious socialist as candidate. Possibly third party because Republicans suck. Hate me if you want, think I'm ill informed or immoral but for now I think I'll just stick with what works.

  • JasonJason God Emperor Arrakis Moderator
    edited 3:33AM

    A. Capitalism has failed in many ways, and has caused many deaths too, from wars between imperialist powers to people dying from lack of food and shelter and medicine and very soon, catastrophic climate change. But people never seem to want to admit that and face up to the fact that these things are and will disadvantage and hurt a lot of people because of that kind of 'we gotta get ours first' mentality.

    B. I don't hate you or think you're immoral or uninformed, and I'm glad you're finally admitting that you care more about your own relative level of autonomy and privilege than you do about the rest of humanity's future and that of the environment. I think it's a good place to start from, But you still can't seem to see beyond the logic of capitalist wage labour, which is evident when you say things like, "Would people under a collective worker ownership be able to handle the risk and unreliability that running a business entails or would they vote for safety and security?" For one, the monetary risks only apply within such a system, not one that no longer relies on such economic dynamics. People can produce what they want and can change their minds about what to produce if people want other things. It's not that big of a deal unless you view it from a capitalist POV and see it as investments failing and lost in the void of an often unforgiving market. But the only real investment would be of time and labour, and both of those could be easily put towards other things if need be, and people wouldn't go hungry because of it due to lost capital and wages. We don't need to rely on these things anymore. We can produce enough to sustain society and flourish as individuals without them. It's a tall order, but we just have to organize the economy differently and value human lives over the need to accumulate profit.

    C. You say that you think things can be worse, and I assure you, they will be for many, many people in the very near future, especially those who haven't inherited family businesses or come from wealthy and powerful families. To me, it sounds like what you're basically saying is that, you're sticking with what works for you, not the whole of society. That's your choice, and the choice of many others. But I hope that you and others like you eventually start to change your mind about that and get serious about working towards other alternatives, alternatives where opportunity is socialized, the economy becomes a part of the commons, and the health of the environment is paramount in any economic decision. I'm not saying all of this to be mean or antagonistic for the sake of it, but because I think the stakes are that high.

    D. If you don't believe any of that, or don't care, or think that capitalism is working just fine and everything will be great, feel free to disregard everything I've said and ignore my harangues.

  • personperson Don't believe everything you think 'Merica! Veteran
    edited 1:49PM

    What was occurring to me this morning was that you've made arguments that effectively argue that up is down, and that others effectively argue that down is up. So I'm left wondering if there is no such thing as truth and reality is whatever we say it is. In the end I still hold onto the idea that there is some sort of objective world out there and some stories work better than others. Maybe I could get into it enough to sort it out whether one view is better than another but frankly I don't know that I really have the inclination to get that into the weeds.

    If it all comes down to what we choose to believe I would choose something like what the Buddha talked about when he made the analogy of two acrobats each simultaneously aware of their own responsibility and their obligation to the other. But I'm a pragmatist at heart so I deal with the world as it is more than as I would like it to be, so maybe the world is divided into a binary choice at present. To the extent that is true I choose freedom and responsibility over dependence and control.

    I don't make that choice solely for my own benefit. I live a simple life and find meaning in my Buddhist practice, so I would prefer a life where my needs are met and I can focus on my dual passions of Buddhism and Netflix. I make that choice because to me compassion isn't so much about taking care of or providing for people but helping them take responsibility for their lives and empowering people to provide for themselves and their families. I think airing on that side is better for society as a whole because life is hard and the world doesn't care about us, it is up to us to build the world and resist entropy. We need to incentivize effort and innovation, roads crumble, food is consumed and material conditions can still be improved. We also need some mechanism as a society for deciding what is worth investing in, what are good products that people want and what is not, we can't invest in everything or we'll go broke. Risk/reward is a mechanism that sorts that out, explain how effective investment is determined within your system.

    My grandfather who started the family auto repair business didn't have it handed down to him, he built it up himself with his effort and any modest wealth my family has doesn't come from working in prestigious, high paying fields but from frugal living, taking advantage of opportunities and saving for the future (theirs and the their children's). His and my uncles efforts don't just benefit them and their close ones, providing a quality, responsive service provides real benefit to the farmers and vehicle owners in their community. If providing for myself by offering something beneficial for someone else makes me selfish, then maybe I am. Of course we have shared goals and a sound infrastructure, healthy and educated citizens make it all work, so we're not all just in it for ourselves.

    I don't think things are working just fine. I support reformers like Elizabeth Warren rather than revolutionaries. And happiness comes from within, its not dependent on external conditions.

  • JasonJason God Emperor Arrakis Moderator
    edited 4:21PM

    I want to apologize to you @person, because I know the following will sound harsh, and some of it is. But like the Buddha in MN 58, I think it's worth saying something I believe to be true and beneficial, even if it's displeasing, when the time is right (and when it comes to this, the only time is now).

    Point one. I'm not the only one saying these things. Many people have for many years. It's not like what I'm saying is up is down; it's more like orthodox economic is superficial and describes the surface movements of capitalism while heterodox economics, inspired my Marx, looks deeper at the internal logic of capitalism and the contradictions that give rise to things orthodox economists are often at a miss to explain if the market works as they say, or else simply accept things like cyclical crises, inequality, poverty, unemployment, etc. as necessary evils we just have to live with. In addition, capitalism has helped create this climate crisis and is not prepared to do what needs to be done to try and reverse it, in fact, it's been fighting against that for decades.

    Point two. We fundamentally disagree about responsibility, I think. The sutta you're referring to is an analogy about the practice of mindfulness and the virtues of patience, non-harming, loving kindness, and caring for others. And caring for others means we sometimes have to be more active in the world. If our actions or the actions of our government or corporate entities are harming others and the very planet we live on, then we have a duty to do something. Which leads me to point three.

    Point three. You say that, "I don't make that choice solely for my own benefit. I live a simple life and find meaning in my Buddhist practice, so I would prefer a life where my needs are met and I can focus on my dual passions of Buddhism and Netflix." That sounds exactly like your making this choice for your own benefit, comfort, and enjoyment. Just reread what you wrote and see how many times you say 'I' in your response and talk about doing whatever it is you're doing and believing whatever it is you're believing for yourself. Immediately after, you say, "I make that choice because to me compassion isn't so much about taking care of or providing for people but helping them take responsibility for their lives and empowering people to provide for themselves and their families." A noble sentiment, but what I think it really means that you simply don't want to do anything to help others, to leave them to their own devices because it's easier to. You say you're doing it to empower them, but how are they empowered by your lack of action?

    Point four. It truly upsets me when people seem to use Buddhism to essentially renounce responsibility for the world they live in. Yes, the practice is very contemplative and inward looking. But it's also balanced by things that are meant to inspire actions, actions that are informed by non-greed (generosity), non-hatred (loving-kindness), and non-delusion (wisdom). Moreover, just from a practical standpoint, not addressing many of the material conditions giving rise to and supporting society's suffering ultimately serves to help maintain their continued existence (when this is, that is), which can negatively affect our practice, as well as that of others. If the society one lives in isn't conducive to practicing Buddhism, then it does matter what kind of society one lives, so we should naturally try to make it as conducive for ourselves and others as possible. As the Buddha said in Khp 5, "To reside in a suitable locality, to have done meritorious actions in the past and to set oneself in the right course — this is the greatest blessing [or privilege]." Soon, much of the world won't be 'suitable.'

    I'm heartened that you don't think things are working just fine, and that you support reformers like Elizabeth Warren. I like her too. But happiness requires both internal and external supporting conditions. No one is happy in hell, and that's where the world is headed if we don't do something drastic soon.

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