I saw a tweet today from His Holiness the Dalai Lama on materialism, I think it is great he takes a stance on things like this:
In today’s materialistic world there is a risk of people becoming
slaves to money, as though they were simply cogs in a great
money-making machine. This does nothing for human dignity,
freedom, and genuine well-being. Wealth should serve humanity,
and not the other way around.
I think he has seen it accurately. If you look at most businesses, that is exactly what they do: treat people as cogs in a money-making machine. Corporations are often optimised around the idea of profit — look at the whole idea of cost-cutting exercises for example. They try to minimise what is spent on staff, what staff spend time on, and maximise profits.
If you then think that many people around the world are spending many hours doing the bidding of these kinds of corporations, we are already well on the way to humanity serving money. Compare that to a hundred years ago, when the modern factory was barely more than a glint in Henry Ford’s eye.
I don't see an issue with businesses trying to make money, it is in the interest of their stakeholders to do so, including the staff they pay. I see that quote as more applicable to individuals and their desire to accumulate wealth. People are slaves to money because they want more and more of it and are seldom satisfied with what they have. There is money required for subsistence and beyond that the money serves materialism.
I too see that message as being directed more at individuals rather than an economic system.
Regarding capitalism more generally. When I see numbers like those in this graph showing how much global poverty has been reduced over the last almost 2 centuries I have a hard time throwing out capitalism even with all of its flaws.
I think it's directed towards both. The logic of the system, as it's currently structured, conditions people to be slaves to money. The system coerces capital to accumulate while it coerces labour to make the surplus value that accumulates, which in turn is where former's wages come from. In addition, it influences a consumeristic culture and a thing-oriented society rather than a people-oriented society, not to mention extreme wealth inequality and an overall focus on production for profit rather than human need.
Maybe with awakening, we can move to a happiness-orientated society.
Iz Buddha plan.
There are many reasons why capitalism sticks.
A large population while it cannot be said to be the root of any problems it does make it harder to move from it.
Capitalism (as it is now at least) is something that grows and as it spreads it becomes more dominant idea so it becomes hard to think past it and as more debt is accumulated i think it becomes harder to deal with as well.
It has brought some good things like bringing people better wealth in some countries and technology innovations though of course some people have suffered worse for it. The system of having the capitalists at the top is inherently unequal. Also the system does encourage exploitation although ethics can be also an asset in some cases. And of course you only need so much material wealth. The system also encourages advertising to milk people to buy more goods because it needs consumers.
Either there will be some sort of awakening on the issues or there is a major crisis that causes people to have to come to terms with things.
Some people are starting counter the damage done from capitalism to the enviroment.
Just as a footnote, I like to remember that "materialism" is crediting things with a material and abiding nature. "Materialism" is not the same as "acquisitiveness" which bases itself in the notion that I am bigger and better if I have more bathrooms or cars. In Christian-speak, it's not "money" that is the root of all evil: It is "the love of money" that fans the flames of suffering and is sometimes called "evil." Roughly put, it ain't the stuff that's the problem; it's the meaning and affection lavished on that stuff.
It seems the entire western world as a whole is already a slave to money. There are always outliers and exceptions but the systems themselves and the society that supports them. I really know very very few folks whose lives don't revolve mostly around money and things and paying for the things and going into debt for an education that allows the job to pay for the things then spend half your adult life paying off the education and all the things and HOPE that by the time you are 65-70 you have enough health to enjoy a few years at the end of your life. It's an awful cycle and I hate it. But it's hard to work out of once you have bought into it. It's funny how much people cling to it, too. people get so scared when you talk about not wanting to be part of it, as if you'd simply POOF into non-existence without your yearly vacation or IRA investments.
I'd love to see a world based in skills trade. there are websites that provide that connection now, it'd be nice to see them grow. Some of that stuff still happens where I live, and it works SO much better than a strictly money based system.
In my view the start of the problem was the invention of agriculture. People who lived in hunter gatherer societies had easy access to food around them. They only had to work a few hours each day to provide what they needed, the rest of the day they could focus on social interaction, there was almost universal cultural uniformity and social accountability and probably little to no exploiting each other, at least within the tribe. Of course if there was a drought maybe your whole tribe died or you would likely die if injured.
Agriculture allowed specialists and a stratified society with those at the bottom living lives of drudgery to provide for those at the top. Lots of people are slaves to money and work long hours to maintain that need, but that is nothing new to capitalism. People used to work even longer hours just to survive and pay taxes to some lord so hopefully he would protect you from bandits or the much more common throughout history, invading army.
I feel like the problem isn't the system as much as it is the ethics of the people in the system. The business model of maximizing shareholder value at the expense of everything else isn't an inherent part of capitalism. There is a model called conscious capitalism that seeks to put the welfare of all stakeholders (employees, customers, investors, etc.) as a businesses core principle.
Conspicuous consumption is a problem. Excessive inequality is a problem. Environmental degradation is a problem. Worker exploitation is a problem. I guess I have yet to learn about a better system that doesn't depend on people being ethical and isn't also open to being exploited.
An argument can be made that the logic of the system in many ways conditions the ethics of the people within the system, from our protestant work ethic to the ethic of maximizing shareholder value, which many companies are legally required to do. For example, capital has a tendency to accumulate, creating systematic wealth inequality. Money, being a form of social power, also gives those with more of it a greater voice in the system, and they tend to vote to keep/accumulate as much of it as possible. Furthermore, it also engenders competition between capitals as well as workers for the same jobs/better pay, making cooperation more difficult/less a part of the ethical substrata of society. Etc. To change this, I do think we have to change aspects of the system itself and how it works, moving towards the de-privatization of opportunities and the socialization of ownership in order to not only counteract inequality but to give everyone a say in the workplace.
His last sentence that "wealth should serve humanity, and not the other way around" reminds me of market fundamentalism. Capitalism excels at wealth creation, but elevating free market principals to sacred status sacrifices the human needs the market ostensibly serves. Capitalism harnesses the power of greed to create and distribute wealth, but misplaced priorities rarely pull the harness. For some in one of the wealthiest countries in the world, wealth such as healthcare, higher education or just making minimal ends meet, is out of reach. The wealth is there, just inaccessible. It's not a problem of capitalism but misplaced priorities, where "human dignity, freedom, and genuine well-being" take a backseat to wealth creation.
What would happen in the world if everyone were able to employ their talents and strengths? You know how the saying goes, no one grows up dreaming to be a tax collector/whatever. But if all jobs paid the same (perhaps pay in having needs met versus money) what would the world look like if we all knew what our real purpose was in that way and were able to use our talents and strengths to the full potential? Consumerism would largely fall apart it seems because so much of it are jobs no one wants but feel forced to have to take. How many more people would be things like artists and gardeners and musicians and stay at home parents, real teachers, actual healers etc? Not held back by red tape that mostly serves to protect those who want to hoard all our resources. Obviously I know this won't happen, but I do wonder what it would look like. Does the world really have to be set up this way? doesn't seem so as we didn't live this way for most of humanity.
Sometimes I think "Argh, Trump is working to destroy all of these institutions!" and yet I have this little voice inside that say "Yeah, but maybe they need to be destroyed." Obviously a catastrophic failure of everything wouldn't be in our individual best interests, but perhaps it is in the best interest for the planet and humanitys' survival as a whole (even if that means a whole lot of us die, maybe that's what needs to happen if we can't get our poop in a group otherwise). Not being all nihilist or anything just thinking aloud. We think about the suffering that would be wrought by that kind of catastrophic failure of our major systems, but is the suffering we're all doing now better? Is it better to be eaten alive slowly by a fire ant? Or just devoured by a grizzly in a matter of moments?
I think that is a decent point. I'm not sure people didn't work a lot prior to capitalism just to survive and support the powerful elite.
I don't know much about the history of that practice. In the video it was said that the practice only started in the 70s, but maybe it was an inevitable evolution.
Inequality was a problem prior to capitalism. And even though inequality continues the ethic and personal empowerment that capitalism also promotes actually creates more wealth so there is much more to go around. I'd rather half the population share %10 of 1 trillion dollars than 50% of 1 billion.
Edited to add: I am in favor of progressive taxation, particularly a large estate tax to avoid an aristocracy and promote meritocracy.
I'd agree that there is a tendency in society towards a sort of hyper competitive environment. I don't know if you've read about the culture at Amazon but it sounds awful. I would say though that competition is an effective way to sort out good and bad products and employees.
Maybe you know enough about actual socialism to answer some questions I have with it.
I can understand how an established business could become socialized, but how would a new company with a potentially risky and innovative idea start? Where would they get capital if not from capitalists? Would all the employees be willing to work long hours with little pay on the gamble that it would pay off big in a few years? Would a committee be flexible enough to make difficult and quick enough decisions to lay people off in difficult times or take risky decisions that might not pay off to potentially grow or keep up with change?
For myself, I've been an independent construction contractor for a couple decades now. I don't have employees but if I were to hire some would a socialized work force mean that the employees also would take the financial risk I do if I bid a job way to low? Does the reputation and network I've cultivated have a material value or is labor the only value and all else actually considered theft?
Edited to simplify: Essentially how are innovation and risk, two essential properties for creating value and wealth, handled in a socialist system? They don't seem compatible with a committee style of leadership.
The biggest thing I take issue with is the tendency to reduce human well being to a number on a spread sheet, meaning it's irrelevant and only efficiency matters. Capitalism creates wealth and raises the economic ground but should that come at the basic dignity of the people in the system? In other words would enslaving today's humans to grow wealth and produce a world for future humans that had no more poverty and inequality be justified?
At any rate, all this hand wringing will probably be moot in a few more decades once the robots take over the work load and we live in a world of post scarcity. We'll have new problems to ponder over, systems to adopt and stories we tell ourselves about them. Hopefully if we do it right, @karasti's vision could become the reality for people.
@person, apologies for the following, rambling reply...
To start, certainly various forms of equality existed prior to capitalism. What I'm concerned with, however, are the forms that are peculiar to capitalism since this is the reality we're confronted with. And in this context, one of the biggest forms of inequality is that of wealth inequality, since capitalism has excelled at producing greater and greater levels of wealth while at the same time concentrating it into fewer and fewer hands.
This tendency of capital to accumulate, whether in the form of corporations (e.g., mergers, etc.) or individual capitalists (e.g., Bezos), stems from the way capital itself functions in the creation of surplus value. And when ownership is limited to a small minority of owners, they're the ones who are going to benefit the most by having ownership/control of the wealth created by the labour they employ. In our lifetime, it's conceivable we could have a situation where Amazon has a monopoly on commodities, Google has a monopoly on information, Disney has a monopoly on media, and automation has eliminated most unskilled jobs, leaving even more massive income inequality and unemployment in its wake.
The only ways to really reduce this form of inequality is a massive tax and redistribution system (which will be difficult to pass and sustain since capital either controls or can at least bribe legislators) or the socialization of ownership giving labour access to the wealth they help to create. In the end, though, this won't be sustainable and we'll have to evolve towards a system that treats ownership, labour, and markets differently, moving away from wage labour and the institution of private property as we know it. If not, we will likely suffer in our general move towards a more automated economy, which I think illustrates the insanity of our current economic system and the logic underlying it.
We tend to view machines that free us from labour as a bad thing because they 'steal our jobs' and screw us out of an income. At the same time, capital invents new jobs to retake up that time and replace said income rather than working towards reducing hours of labour and moving away from a reliance on wage-labour altogether.
Money is social construct 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 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. They go hungry and are forced to sleep on the streets due to a lack of money.
And ironically, technological advances and increases in efficiency only make matter worse by creating a mass of unproductive capital and labour (hordes of cash 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.
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 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.
On the plus side, I think the seeds for this transition towards socialization have already been planted thanks to the innovations and creation of wealth brought about by capitalism. Examples of more socialized economics are all around us. Many, though, are obscured by capitalistic social relations but still arise out of a type of 'sharing economy' and illustrate how capitalism is socializing all aspects of life. Take things like Uber and Lyft.
The technology is certainly a positive innovation in that it makes commuting more socialized. But the contradictions inherent to capitalism and property rights suppress that aspect and are instead creating a ponzi scheme that's ultimately benefiting the owners of the intellectual property rights and not the mass of workers who are actually utilizing the software, doing the driving, and supplying the majority of the capital (cars, insurance, etc.) needed to keep the service functional.
These companies are a great example of how the contradictions within capitalism help to push for the creation of new technologies that lay the foundation for a more socialized society while at the same time inhibiting that potential via systematic pressures imposed by the coercive laws of competition and capital accumulation, and in this case, inverting it so that the cost of business is socialized while the profits themselves are privatized. The next step is really to further socialize these kinds of industries and technologies, giving workers more control over their labour-power and its fruits, which would expand the socialized aspects, reduce inequality, etc.
Examples are also found in countries that, while capitalist, have intentionally sought to 'socialize' their economies to greater and lesser extents. This includes things like implementing universal education and healthcare to implementing more worker protections and employee rights, high levels of unionization, etc., which gives workers more power over their working lives, which raises overall satisfaction while reducing inequality. Their schools and healthcare systems outshine our own here in the US, where socialization is a four-letter word.
In essence, I see this potential transition taking place, just as feudalism gave way to capitalism. Everything is becoming more socialized, and we have the material capabilities to give people what they need and work less hours doing it. Food. Housing. Medicine. Clothes. Luxury items. Entertainment. Everything. Capitalists are currently doing their best to prevent this transition, but I don't think they can hold it off forever. And if we want it to take a more democratic and egalitarian shape, I think we need to start to seriously thinking about it and help guide that transition.
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I think @Jason has summed it up nicely. I would love to see more social enterprises such as the Grayson Bakery in New York, founded by Bernie Glassman, where they employ a lot of re-entrants into society and the jobs market.
The thing that stands out to me is that labor isn't the only thing that has value. I see large rewards to owners as incentives to take the risks necessary to start a new product that may fail. Would most employees today be alright getting paid by only stock options and profit shares which only come to fruition if they succeed and no guaranteed wage?
If people lived with the basic necessities that they did 50 or 100 years ago most of us could work part time or retire very early. But people want a 2,000 square foot home instead of 1,000. We want a TV in every room instead of just one, or all the toys. I don't work full time, instead I live with less, many others do the same.
There are all kinds of opportunities for a worker to either start their own business or become an independent contractor so that they can have greater control and reap greater rewards for their labor.
I'm for capitalism primarily because I like the world today, I like the level of wealth. It's true that the top 1% have better things like healthcare than the rest. But the rest of us have better healthcare than our parents or grandparents.
@Jason I'll take the time later to read through some of your links when I get a chance. But at least in your main post I didn't see the issues I raised about risk, innovation and wealth creation addressed, unless your saying capitalism was good but the pie is big enough now and we don't need any more growth.
Those kinds of businesses are created in a capitalist system and there is no obstacle to doing so.
Perhaps there are no obstacles, but there are no incentives either. Society as a whole has become so obsessed with wealth that the other views of the world are being seen as lesser. The mere fact that I can cite the Graystone Bakery and no others as enterprises with those kind of principles says a lot.
I honestly think that if the world had stayed as it was in 1970 we would not complain about lacking anything. And in fact it might as well have - I saw a statistic recently which said that all the wealth created since 1990 has disappeared into the pockets of the 1%.
If you like the world today, then you have to also make peace with the inequality, exploitation, and environmental degradation of today, all of which have roots in the current mode of production.
The OP reminded me of an interesting article from a few (six?) years ago exploring the rather unlikely partnership of Buddhism and Marxism, and the need for Buddhism to consciously "enter the movement of the real and be engaged with the struggle to end suffering, and man's inhumanity to man" instead of continuing its transformation into "a fetish that ultimately enables the status quo to maintain its continuing control, dominance, and expansion":
Occupy Buddhism: Or Why the Dalai Lama is a Marxist
Smithers asks, "Does [Buddhism] have the legs of an emancipatory religion, a religion of liberation with the power to transform societies and cultures?" and seems to answer in the affirmative. And from my own experience, I'm inclined to agree. Buddhism definitely has that potential.
Before I became interested in Buddhism, for example, I didn't really have any political-economic views to speak of. In fact, I was more or less completely uninterested in politics whatsoever. After years of studying and practicing Buddhism, however, I began to take more of an active interest in the world. This was partially due to cultivating compassion and being more sensitive the suffering of others, as well as Buddhism's encouragement to analyze our actions and their effects in the world in an effort to make ourselves and the world a better place. And in this aspect, I've found the seemingly unrelated aims of Buddhism and Marxism to be quite complementary.
To me, the main difference between the approaches of Buddhism and Marxism is one of focus; whereas the Buddha's focus was primarily on how to liberate the individual from their mental suffering by mastering the process of 'I-making and my-making' involved with our conception of self, Marx's focus was primarily on how to liberate society from its suffering and alienation by changing the material conditions that support it. But the article isn't about turning Buddhism into some kind of revolutionary political philosophy; it's about applying the ideals of Buddhism in all that we do, which for me (and others like the Dalai Lama) includes trying to help society overcome and advance beyond what Thorstein Veblen called 'the predatory phase' of human development.
So for me, instead of canceling the full impact of reality and making me "indulgent, pleasure-seeking, distancing, and largely apathetic to worldwide suffering and misery," Buddhism has done the exact opposite, leading me to become more disciplined, involved, open, socially engaged, and sensitive to worldwide suffering and misery.
Marxism has really good critique capitalism, he even did actually praise it for it's merits too but it is limited when people adopt marxism as a way of seeing the world, as it is limited to the idea of two economic classes (perhaps a product of the social context at the time) and over emphasises economic factors. It is oversimplified in many ways with the idea of class struggle for example, ignoring other struggles.
Also the way Marx suggested that the transition to a new society (which he didn't clearly specify) would require dismantling the class system rather than authority/state (which is what anarchists promote), made it quite flawed. Some also considered that violent revolution was necessary to get there although i'm not sure if Marx himself promoted that.
But yea I don't think the way society is now really should be able to continue.
Minimising suffering and reducing alienation are good goals, it's a question of how to get there and what we can do.
That's a fair point, as a whole the pursuit of wealth is generally psychologically unhealthy IMO and compassion and concern for our fellow beings on the planet is healthy.
That may be alright for us living in the developed world but when 1.5 billion people worldwide have been lifted out of extreme poverty since 1970 I don't think we should stop.
And, yes, more recently gains in productivity have more and more gone to the top and the average citizen hasn't benefited much.
I don't say capitalism doesn't create problems that we need to address. I'm not a laissez faire capitalist, I believe in a mixed economy to solve capitalism's excesses. I also don't have to make peace with them to disagree that socialism is the correct solution.
I used to have similar views against capitalism. But when I look at the way it creates value and builds wealth across the board, I see capitalism as the compassionate system.
There's that hypothetical question that is asked sometimes, "If you could be born at any time in history, when would that be?" Without hesitation I say today. Maybe living as an elite a couple hundred years ago would be good but for 95% of the population the levels of poverty, drudgery, violence, disease would make even much of the developing world today balk.
I understand the solution to the human problems of greed, anger, delusion as being one to be tackled at an individual, educational level. The one stanza of Buddhist philosophy that has had the greatest impact on me and one I carry with me is the one by Shantideva:
Benefits are more valuable to us than wages, @person. While we will be fine downsizing even more, especially with kids leaving home, our health benefits are tied to our jobs for so many of us. That would have to be part of a major shift, too. While I would love to have my husband home more by working part time, it is not an option when his benefits require him to be full time and with a diabetic kid, his medical care would bankrupt us in a couple of years. I would love to go without vehicles but where we live does not allow for it. Maybe one day.
My dad walked out on his high school graduation and went to work at 17. He worked his way up from janitor to plant computer operations solely by virtue of his intelligence and problem solving, and he retired before he was 50 which was his goal all along. He spends his time traveling and enjoying his vast array of hobbies. Even now (he started work in the 70s and stayed with the same workplace the whole time). No point really just a comparison I always find interesting compared to now where people move around so frequently and work so late into life.
I think the Marxist perspective is primarily meant to illuminate the often obscured logic of, and contradictions inherent to, capitalism in a systematic way, which is done to counter the ruling-class individualism accompanying it from an intellectual POV that always seeks to place the blame of inequality etc. on the individual worker. By taking a wider perspective, that of markets and classes and mechanisms of power etc., it highlights what's often obscured on an individual level, allowing a better view of how wealth is created and distributed, and the imbalances and crises caused by this process. And to that end, Marx did advocate for the dismantling of the state as well as social classes through political and economic democracy (whether through violence or political means). The Paris Commune is often pointed to as an example of this. The question was always what role the state will play in this transition, a question whose answer I think depends on the political form of the nation-state in question. The more democratic a state, the more of a role I think it can play, maybe even one day finding the perfect balance.
I'm not sure I'm making my point very well. I'm making a long term, historical argument for capitalism, not a current world snapshot of it.
For example, in current world terms having to work so hard to provide healthcare for your son is hard and could be made easier with a more equitable distribution of resources. In historical terms I'm sure you appreciate even having the ability to provide proper care and medicine for your son. Or people who get a simple infection, or CF, or dozens of other conditions that you wouldn't have had a few generations ago.
The world is unequal but the floor for what is average and how bad it can get is much higher thanks to capitalism and science.
You are free to view capitalism any way you wish. I myself see it as a way of creating wealth for a small minority of owners through the labour of the majority of workers and others exploited for their resources (oil in the middle east, gold and oil in Africa, etc.).
For one, it's hard to ignore the fact that the growth and spread of capitalism is directly responsible for the spread of violence in the form of colonialism and things like banana republics, imperialism, slavery, and the countless wars that have been utilized to expand and protect economic interests, not to mention that in the form of wealth inequality, poverty, and unemployment. The logic was such that markets had to grow, resources needed to be exploited, and barriers to both had to be broken down.
And then there are the capitalistic causes for material shortages, such as artificial scarcity, boom and bust cycles, and direct interference in the form of economic sanctions and embargoes on other countries to force them to do what we want (economic imperialism), that further harm huge populations or working people.
Beyond that, the profit motive creates a far from compassionate system in my POV. Take rental markets, for example, which are little more than a secondary means of surplus-value extraction from workers.
Renters have no little-to-no rights or recourse within the current system based on profit and property rights. They're at the whim of markets, often unsympathetic legislators and courts (e.g., no cause evictions, restrictions on rent controls, etc.), and property owners and developers who are conditioned and/or coerced by competitive pressures to make decisions based on profit rather than the needs of tenants or the surrounding community.
Due to market forces, the rate of rent increases over the last 4+ years where I live is staggering, drawing national attention. Vacancy rates are low, wages are stagnant, and prices have far exceeded what low income people with no government help can pay (and section 8 restrictions are punitive and barbaric). In addition, the majority of workers' pay goes towards rent, leaving little for other necessities like food, medicine, and clothing, let alone to be put into savings. And so you have scenarios, for example, where the contradictions between use value and exchange value allow for there to be more empty buildings than people without homes and prevents those people from being housed. Or for people being evicted for inability to pay. Or kicked out illegally from their apartments as they get converted into condos, like I was.
Capital and rentiers don't care if workers eat well, enjoy the neighbourhoods they live in, or even have a roof over their heads because they know they can be exploited regardless. Profit is their holy grail, and little else matters. Last year, a local woman froze to death after she was legally evicted for being $338 behind on her rent. And she wasn't the only casualty.
This also highlights a key contradiction In this case, the rental market acts as a means of secondary surplus value extraction without actually producing any new value itself, while developers make tons of money building units that increase prices and push up property values that, in turn, displace poorer residence. And so you have scenarios, for example, where the contradictions between use value and exchange value allow for there to be more empty buildings than people without homes and prevents those people from being housed. Or for people being evicted for inability to pay. Or kicked out illegally from their apartments as they get converted into condos, like I was.
I'm not saying that capitalism is inherently evil, it just functions the way it functions and compels people to act in certain ways, often out of necessity. I don't really care if people like the idea of socialism or not, I just want to stop people from being homeless or uneducated or exploited because of a lack of means. And to do that, something has to drastically change.
@Jason and @Karasti Wow and I thought this country (UK) was screwed up, the NHS might be struggling and very underfunded (my personal view is that the Conservative party want to screw it over to contract it out to American health care companies) but at least its free to citizens (both UK and EU) at the point of use. The only time I was homeless was due to being severely mentally ill and fleeing from my paranoid delusional pursuers. My rent is paid by the local council for a housing association flat and if your on low wages you can claim assistance with your rent. I'm on a decent disability payment to meet my daily needs as well. There is no time limit on unemloyment payments in the UK if your income or savings don't meet a certain level. All this was set up by the Labour Party to help soldiers returning from WWII. I'm bloody glad I live in Britain it's not half as crap as a lot of countries.
I understand what you mean overall @person I was only referring to this statement with my reply, sorry if I was unclear, I should have quoted by my keyboard is being a pain (replacement on the way, some keys only work 10% of the time, lol)
"If people lived with the basic necessities that they did 50 or 100 years ago most of us could work part time or retire very early. But people want a 2,000 square foot home instead of 1,000. We want a TV in every room instead of just one, or all the toys. I don't work full time, instead I live with less, many others do the same."
For us, medical care in whatever way we have it available is a basic necessity but 100 years ago, our son would have died. Potentially 2 of our 3 kids. Just a small snapshot based only on that statement but I do understand your larger picture as well.
@Traveller we are lucky to have excellent insurance but even then it is a sticker shock to most who have nationalised health care. We pay a portion of our insurance from each paycheck of my husband's (around $400 a month) and then we pay another $2500 in deductible expenses per year. But without it we'd be looking at many thousands of dollars a year in bills. His insulin alone is almost $300 a month without insurance (which is more than 7 times what it costs in the UK).
So I guess my question is, do the owners of business create any value by developing new products, services or systems that they could be rewarded for or is the main thing that rates as valuable labor?
I wouldn't disagree with any of that I would just add that capitalism, or more specifically global trade and the mutualism it requires is indirectly responsible for a reduction in war
And shortages and actual scarcity are less common.
Sanctions can be done for bad reasons but they are also a non military way to enforce global ethical standards. Yes, the common person gets hurt by sanctions but letting a belligerent country do as they please harms people too.
I agree, the profit motive doesn't create a compassionate system. It creates more wealth, which creates more access to opportunity and resources overall.
I want that too. Utah gave homeless people free housing, no strings attached and it was a better financial decision because homelessness creates expensive social problems. An educated populace makes economic sense because they are better skilled and more productive. We do have some government institutions to protect against exploitation like the FDA or worker protections. I don't know that we need anything that drastic, maybe adding measures of human well being to our economic measures could accomplish a lot.
I essentially agree that the problems you outline are real. However, I also think that having a modern home is better than a sod house or a log cabin without plumbing or electricity.
A lot of people are a lot better off even though many still suffer.
Everyone creates value in some shape or form. In the context of capitalism, however, most of the value created in the form of commodities is created via the labour put into their production, and generally the owner puts forth little in that area. Other people mine the raw materials, adding value. Other people refine those materials, adding value. Other people assemble those materials, adding value. Other people market and distribute those materials. Etc. Many of the intellectual ideas come from others who are paid to contribute value in that realm. The thing is, the creation of the value we're talking about here is part of the overall production process, not just the work of a single person. And that value, while created through this integrated production process, is ultimately owned and hence controlled by the owners, not the mass of labourers.
Yes, peace is sometimes more profitable than war. But when markets dry up and/or there's a glut of superfluous (i.e., unproductive capital), wars are great for business. (And it's also great for gaining access to natural resources. Or regional and market hegemony. Etc.) The creative destruction initiated during WWII is a case in point.
People (especially on the left) often like to point towards this snapshot in history as an ideal time, an economic golden age, noting the fact that taxes on the wealthy were high and so was employment, wages, and economic growth. What those same people may not realize, however, is that the massive destruction of superfluous capital (as well as the industrial centres of Europe and Asia) caused by the war paved the way for the US's growing prosperity following the Great Depression, which was arguably caused by a crisis of overaccumulation and the subsequent over-indebtedness and financial speculation utilized to bolster consumption and profits. In other words, it wasn't simply an issue of taxes and wages being just right, but Washington's consumption of unproductive capital and labour through the war economy and the increase in exports that resulted from the actual destruction of Europe and Asia's means of productions.
It's almost always the common people who are harmed, which is the point. We intentionally put the squeeze on countries in order to hurt the common people, hoping that they in turn tear down unwanted government or push them in certain directions when other forms of intervention (such as assassination attempts) have failed. We did this to Cuba (after numerous assassination attempts and an unsuccessful coup attempt). We did this to Iraq (before overthrowing them by force, probably for oil). We did this to Iran (after overthrowing their government once because of oil). Etc. Personally, I think most sanctions are unethical because of this.
Except opportunities are effectively privatized while the negative externalities created by this process are socialized. It doesn't matter if that wealth is controlled by fewer and fewer hands, leading to growing levels of inequality. Eventually there will come a breaking point.
Yes, I'm familiar with what Utah did. I think every state should do likewise. And much, much more. I think we need a drastic change, not only to how we house and treat the homeless, but to how we approach everything form education and healthcare to democracy in the workplace.
A bit of a strawman. I never suggested having a sod house is better than a modern one. I'm simply suggesting that the logic of the current system creates problems ranging from gross wealth inequality to periodic crises that hurt working people, most of which are created by market forces we allow to dictate our lives and social relations. And in the end, as much as one may fetishize the free market of capitalism, the freedom of that market is relative and dependent upon class relations.
The working class as a whole is free to sell its labour, yes, but that exchange is coerced by physical and social needs, and the terms of that exchange are unequal. But the economy itself isn't some magical creation of capital or the state or some unseen, guiding hand of Providence beyond our keen; it's created by all the labour of working people--we, collectively, are the economy. And its manifestation isn't preordained, either. Rather, it takes its shape based on how economic life is organized. And we can, and I think should, change the way it's organized to make it more equitable for all.
@Jason While for most of my adult life I've leaned towards the left you've made me want to read Das Kapital mate.
It's good, but a difficult read. I'd also highly recommend anything by David Harvey, like Limits to Capital, or his lecture series, Reading Marx's Capital. Also, the life of Eugene Debs was really inspiring to me.
@Jason Frankly I don't know that I'm smart enough or informed enough to make detailed or powerful enough arguments on the subject. Let me just ask you more about what form of socialism you want.
Where on the scale of governmental control to some sort of worker co-op model do you fall? If it's a co-op, how does one get started?
And what about market forces, is it okay if some businesses fail and put the workforce out of work or supply and demand puts some goods outside the reach of the average consumer?
The short answer is, I support the de-privatization (i.e., socialization) of opportunity and the weakening of class antagonisms and hierarchies arising out of social relations unique to capitalism and other predominately exploitative systems. I believe in complete social equality, collective ownership of the means of production, and hope that we one day live by the maxim, "From each according to their ability, to each according to their needs." At the very least (and I mean least), I think housing, healthcare, and education should be guaranteed rights. I also think political democracy should be mirrored by economic democracy, with working people having a say in their workplaces. It's not about having jobs for the sake of jobs, it's about getting us to the next stage of our development, hopefully one that's more equitable for all and not simply benefiting a small minority of the population.
Fascinating posts (we can talk about politics - group hug)
Some in USA in particular those listening to Naom Chomsky may be interested in
which is his politics
What was the Buddha’s autocratic politics? Sangha Socialism? Compulsory enlightenment?
I think we can agree on that goal. I think we disagree on how we get there.
I think if you look at countries who are closer to where a lot of us would rather be, they do not really seem to suffer a lack of innovation. Netherlands is responsible for quite a few medical companies used widely in the US (novo nordisk for example) much of Scandinavia also has a lot of innovation. Their increased socialism (which is still more democratic socialism than pure socialism of course) has not stifled their innovation. Perhaps there is an opportunity for it to actually increase because the number of people who have access to education in order to learn and spread innovation is increased. They certainly don't live in sod cabins with no water but are doing leagues better than we are in almost every measurable category. Something is working.
Because they are capitalist countries with market economies. They use progressive taxation then to promote equity. Almost all developed countries around the world today are mixed economies the difference is the level of taxation and social redistribution they have. I don't believe in lassiez faire capitalism, I am in favor of progressive taxation and redistribution for programs that help empower individuals to succeed, like education, healthcare and infrastructure. I'm defending capitalism as the base system as opposed to socialism. The actual real world examples of socialist economies stagnated and failed, there are probably other reasons that contributed to that and better versions of socialism that would be more productive, I don't know.
This is long but I think it lays out the benefits to the quality of the average person and the reduction in poverty that has occured during the past two centuries when countries adopt market economies pretty well. And this video sums up my position fairly well, it's also longer but I think worth the watch.
I'd personally nitpick with some of those definitions, as I don't think state capitalism is analogous to socialism. However, if you consider places like the Soviet Union and China as socialist, then I'd consider taking another look at China, because despite all the attempts by countries like the US to hold them down, they're not failing or stagnating. In fact, they went from a predominately agrarian society to the number one economic superpower in the world according the IMF in less than four decades, and without anywhere the same level of imperialism as the US or its European allies. And, despite all their flaws, they're also on their way to leading the world in the energy revolution. I'm not saying that I advocate going down that road, only that it's a lot more complex than capitalism = good, everything else = shitty in terms of producing wealth or innovation.
Yes, I asked before what form of socialism you promoted a state centered or worker co-op model and just said that there may be better versions that are more productive. I can now see that you want a model that looks to me like it only replaces private enterprise with co-operative enterprise. That preserves market forces for determining supply and demand and allows for some level of individual initiative. It seems to me that all the current volatility problems with capitalism today still remain problems there so I'm not sure a critique of those issues in capitalism scores any points for this socialist system.
Also, it remains mostly theoretical, especially on a large scale where all of the unethical people also get their grubby minds all over it. To me it comes down to the ethics of the citizenry, ethical people can make any system ethical, unethical people can make any system unethical. I can easily imagine a Goldman-Sachs investment co-op gaining relative superiority and exploiting the McDonalds co-op. Maybe not, but since it's still theoretical it's easy to only consider it's upsides without having to deal with any of the real world messiness that will no doubt take place.
Then there is the issue I have that if I were to adopt worker control as a system I wanted I would want more details on how it actually worked from a more practical perspective. For example the question I had about how a co-op start up would work. Take for example the eyeglass company Warby-Parker, two friends had an idea of how to produce quality glasses more affordably. In today's system they presumably drew up a business plan, acquired capital loans and then started building the business including hiring employees. Under the co-op model would they need to take on a certain number of employees before acquisition of capital or after and would those employees also be susceptible to potential bankruptcy and loss of salary if income was too low during some pay period? Would most people be willing to take on uncertainty and risk or do they want security and stability in their work? Would entrepreneurs be as willing to take on uncertainty and risk if there wasn't the potential of large returns?
I don't consider China a socialist country. I'm not sure what it is, I don't really know it well but there seems to be lots of contradictions. State control, private enterprise, lots of competition, lots of pirating of intellectual property and corruption. There is a lot of room in the process of modernizing for growth, will it last though or is it's economy a giant ponzi scheme and will collapse?
What I'd like would take a small book to explain since it's a complicated issue and involves a reimagining of everything, from a change in how we approach the institution of private property to wage labour and a whole lot more (e.g., people always want to think in terms of money, even when trying to envision something radically different, because they can't see past the use of capital and wage labour when these are merely narrative/tools that we use but can be supplanted in a new economic framework, especially in one where less labour is needed to produce what we need and automation will eventually lead to what Yuval Harari calls a new 'useless class'). Maybe one day when I have the time I'll do that. The thing is, though, it's not just theoretical as we can see things becoming more and more socialized all around us, from technologies to social relations. One of the key things I'd like to eventual see, however, is economic democracy.
On an individual level, I think it's important because most of us spend the majority of our lives working, giving up huge amounts of our time and energy, essentially our lives, in the reproduction of society. But under capitalism, we must sell our labour as a commodity to another. And without a say in that process, we become alienated from our labour and the products of that labour, neither of which belongs to us, giving rise to an existential and even spiritual malaise. Work becomes drudgery, and we're left with a bare 'semblance of a human existence' rather than a more fulfilling and meaningful one.
On a broader level, I believe it's important because it'd give society as a whole a greater say in how its organized by giving workers greater control over their labour and what their labour produces, as well as the surplus-value created by that labour. This would essentially serve to de-privatize (i.e., socialize) opportunity and weaken the class antagonisms and hierarchies arising out of social relations unique to capitalism and other predominately exploitative systems. In the US in particular, we have this perception that we live in a society characterized by freedom. But we can never be truly free until we're liberated from both political despotism and from the structural and personal forms of dependence that underlie wage-labour under capitalism.
In essence, I think that having a say in all aspects of our life is better than having a say in only part of it.
As for your criticisms of China, I'd first point out that everything is characterized by contradictions. But in China's case, they're not all that different from here. The biggest difference, I think, is that the control of the economy is more direct in China. But we still have state control to some extent here, except the companies control the state rather than the other way around. In addition, we pirate our fair share, from Nazi scientists after WWII (whose medical and military innovations bled into the private sector) to tech people stealing ideas from one another. As such, I do think that their economy is susceptible to market fluctuations, financial disturbances, over-production, and other contradictions inherent to capitalism. My point was merely that the good ol' capitalism of the US isn't necessarily superior to the state capitalism of China, which has arguably done more in less time.
I love Yuval, maybe you know this but he spends a month or two in meditation retreat, I think some sort of vipassana. I do think the idea of fully automated luxury communism is a viable solution in a post work world.
Maybe my having a hard time seeing it has to do with the fact that I haven't been an employee for over 20 years. With that though I absolutely do understand the value of keeping the fruits of your labor, which I think is what I think I like about capitalism since I have the viewpoint of an entrepreneur (albeit a low level one) rather than an employee. I can get on board with profit sharing or stock incentives.
I do think that there are structural imbalances and obstacles to most people that inhibit them reaching their potential. I have a conservative view in that I think personal and individual empowerment and responsibility are the best way of improving someone's circumstance. I differ from conservatives in that I acknowledge those (at least those I'm aware of) structural obstacles and would like redistribution to focus on removing those obstacles and level the playing field so that we have a more truly meritocratic system. I would like redistribution to give people a hand up rather than a hand out as a means to removing suffering. And if there are still those who truly can't better themselves provide a basic safety net.
I guess this is rather paternalistic of me but I don't think lots of people are mature enough to responsibly handle that kind of freedom. But maybe having the opportunity would be impetus for some to rise to meet it.
I really don't know what China is doing, but I do know that I am not for the status quo in the US. And I'm not an actual redneck that would ever use the phrase "good ol'", I'm only a redneck adjacent sympathizer.
See, something we agree upon!
Then there is the question of how much western wealth is built on the back of bank and public lending. It could well be argued that that too is a Ponzi scheme...
The whole idea of a post-capitalistic society is something I find very attractive though. If you look at present day society there is significant under-employment of people, those who are employed are often over-worked, and at the same time many do not have the space to fully develop their talents.
Look at the arts for instance, or the humanities. Many people with an inclination in those directions never end up fulfilling their promise. It would be great to see more room for these kind of things in a post-capitalist world, where people do not have to chase subsistence so much...
@person might it be that our insistence that people are not mature enough turns into a bit of a self fulfilling prophecy though? If you look back to 130 years ago or whatever, people who were in their teens held jobs, got married, raised families etc. It seems insane to us now, but were they really nuts or were the lives they lead just conducive to that level of maturity? That kids now stay, effectively, kids until they are in their early to mid 20s seems to be largely the result of our system keeping young people stuck in years of education in order to get into the work force. Is it because they are not mature enough or have we MADE them not mature enough for a reason?
It sounds great, in a world full of people pursuing their passions who is going to fill the potholes, enforce the laws, balance the books, etc. though? People have always had to work doing things they maybe don't want to do to get by, I don't see why that is being thought of as unfair or some sort of imposition. Maybe once robots take over all the jobs that might be possible, but before then I think people need to contribute economically.
It could be, and I believe I did say something to that effect. In general greater freedom requires greater responsibility to take actions that lead to good outcomes. In my area of self employed people I see many who once on their own with no one to check their work or make sure they show up on time and pay their taxes simply aren't able to self motivate and provide quality work. It takes discipline and conscientiousness to be independent. I do tend to think that the people being raised since about our time have been more coddled to their detriment
I think more accurately what I meant was ethically mature. In a capitalist system people benefit the whole by pursuing their own self interest. If they want to provide for themselves and their families they need to offer something that other people want, which in the aggregate makes everyone better off. If the system requires people to put forth effort not primarily for themselves but for the good of all then people need to have an altruistic motivation or they won't be as motivated.
Maybe capitalism not only harnesses that selfish motive but also reinforces it and maybe an explicitly cooperative system would encourage altruism, but it would also work against a deep human trait of self interest and IMO would lead to corruption and stagnation if people aren't ethically mature enough to look beyond their own interests.
People like this. There are plenty of people willing to do things that need to be done, whether they're paid for it or not. And if more people had the freedom to do more, whether by reducing hours of labour in the work week or providing a UBI, I think they're contribute all the labour that's needed.
The premise of this seems to be that, in general, people are too lazy and dumb to have more of a say in how things are organized and run, and that they have to be selfish in order to do things to benefit society. I think that's a rather cynical POV, and I disagree that if people were given more time, more responsibility, and a more community-oriented economic system, nothing would get done and/or they'd just be corrupt. I think they might surprise you. Also, being self-interested and being community-interested aren't mutually exclusive; and having a system that has a better mix of both just might be superior to one that relies more on self-interest.
I think that if we reduced hours, spreading jobs that aren't automated to more people working less hours, giving them more time, and focused on providing universal healthcare and education, then we'd have a population that would not only be happier and more engaged, but productive as well.
Hmm like in ****Scandinavian countries****
Kinda, yeah. I definitely think they're moving more in the right direction.