Communism or Capitalism?

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Communism or Captialism

Captialism
60
56%
Communism
48
44%
 
Total votes : 108

Unread postby bodidley » Thu Sep 01, 2005 6:27 pm

Sun Hua wrote:I'm afraid that you are comparing the "difficulties" of attempts at communism with the lofty ideals of western democracy (not just capitalism).


The ideals of capitalism and western "democracy" happen to be quite compatible. Communism strangles the principles of self-determination and free will because the communist system inevitably relies on coerction to crush free will for the sake of government control, and the philosophies of class-struggle and redistribution of wealth marginalize the importance of self-determination. Communism does not value the individual's right to make choices, and it does not value the individual's basic rights against the choices made by government.

Sun Hua wrote:To make any kind of a comparison, you have to compare the ideals of the two systems of redistribution. One is based on fairness, whereas the other promotes greed, selfishness and usury.


Is it fairness when the government gets to decide who prospers and who does not? Or when government officials decide who gets what job based on their own whims rather than the merit of the candidates? Is it fairness when the government controls the economic lives of the people with such overwhelming domination that they have no refuge or power against corruption and oppression?

Crime and corruption are halmarks of any communist system, the communist system in no way eliminates greed to create a utopian society. In fact, the communist system makes wealth the most prized aspect of social organization, and is ready to crush all other values to achieve and distribute wealth. Does the worship of wealth as the object of society not promote greed?

We've already debated the exploitation of capitalism in the pursuit of greed. There have been laws against usury for over a thousand years. Usury, monopoly, and price-fixing can be stopped by regulation. In the communist system, there is nothing to stop the monopoly of the government, or the exploitation of those without power by those with power. Communism is the ultimate surrender of power to the government, it is incompatible with the "ideals of western democracy".

Sun Hua wrote: You won't find me defending China as a communist ideal. It is currently infected by capitalism after all.


I wouldn't call China either "infected" or "capitalist" the key word in "free enterprise" is "free". All economic activity in China is subject to the control and intervention of the Communist Party, and those without ties to the Party are exploited as a result. Would you be more ready to defend Chinese communism in the 1950s and 1960s? I don't think we need to go down that road.
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Unread postby bodidley » Thu Sep 01, 2005 6:29 pm

barbarosso wrote:I'm back, Jeez these posts are getting too long, aw well lets start.


I'll agree to that. It's a pain to read posts with a grocery list of rebuttals. Maybe two or three responses per post would be better.
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Unread postby Duncan » Wed Sep 07, 2005 9:23 am

Fair point about length of posts.

However (first point), it is almost impossible to make posts short when the issues are so complex. Where people post paragraphs where each sentence in a paragraph contains a misconception that needs to be corrected, how is it possible to keep posts short? In your response to me bodidley, your assumption is that previous attempts at Communism have achieved its ideals, rather than failed at the first hurdle (and achieved a small-c communism which is a travesty of the ideal).

bodidley wrote:
Sun Hua wrote:I'm afraid that you are comparing the "difficulties" of attempts at communism with the lofty ideals of western democracy (not just capitalism).

The ideals of capitalism and western "democracy" happen to be quite compatible.

Second point. The issue I'd like to point out here is that capitalism does not equate to western democracy (although the latter includes the former). The debate here is not between western democracy and communism but between capitalism and communism. The ideals of our western democracy cannot be summed up by capitalism, just as the ideals of communism cannot be summed up by authoritarian dictatorships. Whether capitalism is compatible with western democracy is largely irrelevant.

bodidley wrote:
Sun Hua wrote:To make any kind of a comparison, you have to compare the ideals of the two systems of redistribution. One is based on fairness, whereas the other promotes greed, selfishness and usury.

Is it fairness when the government gets to decide who prospers and who does not? Or when government officials decide who gets what job based on their own whims rather than the merit of the candidates? Is it fairness when the government controls the economic lives of the people with such overwhelming domination that they have no refuge or power against corruption and oppression?

Governments are elected by the people to look after the best interests of people and society. If you feel government is not responsive to the needs of the people who elect it, if they are not getting the balance right, you can always vote out the current incumbents. That is the thing with governments - if they are not representative of the interests of the people and society they are supposed to be responsible to, they need to be removed from power by one means or another.

I ask you, in response, is it fairness when corporations decide the fate of individuals and governments, determine the direction of government policy and manipulate the trajectory of our society, when they have no responsibility to individuals or the generality of society? As the worship of wealth promotes greed, leading to crime and corruption, and are therefore the direct products of capitalism, should we be promoting capitalism, or good government?

Thats my third and final point. I'll leave the rest of your post because I'm only allowed three points...
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Unread postby football11f » Thu Dec 29, 2005 2:57 am

Bump.

Sun Hua wrote:I ask you, in response, is it fairness when corporations decide the fate of individuals and governments, determine the direction of government policy and manipulate the trajectory of our society, when they have no responsibility to individuals or the generality of society? As the worship of wealth promotes greed, leading to crime and corruption, and are therefore the direct products of capitalism, should we be promoting capitalism, or good government?


Corporations have no responsability to society? Corporations have more responsability to society than any other institution.

In order to make money (Greed) corporations must be responsable for society's wants and needs. WalMart may have issues with their labor practices, but they do produce what the consumer wants. I fthey fail to do so, then they're screwed. In this way, greed benefits society exponentially.

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Unread postby Shield of Rohan » Thu Dec 29, 2005 6:20 am

I disagree. Corporations don't have a responsibility to do anything but play by the law. The rest ought to be up to their own pursuit of self-interest (and like you mentioned, social virtue, so long as the corporation sees virtue in its self-interest). Of course, the law should strictly be focused on the protection of fundamental individual rights (those, as John Locke spelled out, of life, liberty, and property). IMO, governments, America included, need to ease off other restrictions applied on corporations in the name of some moral goal of society.

That being said, I am an advocate of laissez-faire capitalism :) as the only truly moral system of government.

Second point. The issue I'd like to point out here is that capitalism does not equate to western democracy (although the latter includes the former). The debate here is not between western democracy and communism but between capitalism and communism. The ideals of our western democracy cannot be summed up by capitalism, just as the ideals of communism cannot be summed up by authoritarian dictatorships. Whether capitalism is compatible with western democracy is largely irrelevant.


What do you define as the ideals of western democracy?

Governments are elected by the people to look after the best interests of people and society. If you feel government is not responsive to the needs of the people who elect it, if they are not getting the balance right, you can always vote out the current incumbents. That is the thing with governments - if they are not representative of the interests of the people and society they are supposed to be responsible to, they need to be removed from power by one means or another.


IMO, this line of thinking is what brings up so many of the troublesome issues of government that western democracies face today. What if the interests of society are said to be those of a hardline Christian policy? Or a strong socialist shift in policy? As I have come to believe, government shouldn't try to serve the special interests of society at all by working towards what the majority believe to be the correct moral goal. It shouldn't work towards "moral goals" of society at all, and should be stripped of all that vast bulk built up over the centuries to do just that. According to capitalism, government should be dedicated to only the protection of rights through such systems as law enforcement, national defense, a court system, etc. Its interests should only be in the protection of rights, and therefore should be small, and purged of corruption by interests seeking to manipulate that mandate to uphold life, liberty, and property for each man to their own gain. A true capitalist society is one where each man has the full exercise of his/her rights - as short and simple as that.

I ask you, in response, is it fairness when corporations decide the fate of individuals and governments, determine the direction of government policy and manipulate the trajectory of our society, when they have no responsibility to individuals or the generality of society? As the worship of wealth promotes greed, leading to crime and corruption, and are therefore the direct products of capitalism, should we be promoting capitalism, or good government?


For the first aspect, no, it is not right for corporations to manipulate government for their purposes, determine its policies, etc - because government should not act in the interests of any portion of society whatsoever. A government that acts only to secure rights would have little room to act in the interests of any segment of society whatsoever. Sure, it wouldn't be completely free from such influences, but its a fine leap in the right direction.

Overall, I don't think you've mentioned symptoms of capitalism so much as symptoms of a government that doesn't turn its eye solely to the securing of individual rights. Crime and corruption result when a government does not adequately protect individual rights, and takes on duties beyond such protections, respectively.
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Unread postby Wentai » Thu Dec 29, 2005 7:18 am

'Captialism,' because while capitolism and communism are both equally susceptible to corruption, market values tend to be more reliable than human values. Competition is necessary for a nation to excel in any way- you can't just rely on people's patriotism, unless you indoctrinate them ceaselessly. Which is why past communisms have never given much consideration to human rights :wink:
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Re: Communism or Capitalism?

Unread postby bodidley » Wed Feb 15, 2012 8:59 am

True Communism, as an ideology and form of government, is near perfect, and yet impossible to achieve.


I hear this statement quite a bit in defense of communism. Aside from the fact that it's a paradox (how can a government be ideal if it's impossible to organize, doesn't that defeat the purpose of having a government in the first place?) does this statement really make sense from a moral or theoretical standpoint, and is it really true?

The communist manifesto says that capitalism is a system in which one elite class of society benefits from the labor of a poor working class, and capitalism is a system of exploitation that is based on individual ownership of property. The solution then, is to abolish individual ownership of property and reorganize society toward the goal of redistributing wealth evenly. The moral basis of the system is that it's immoral for one person possesses more wealth than another person, and that it's immoral for one person to derive the benefit of another person's labor.

In my opinion, there's nothing inherently wrong about one person possessing more than another person, especially if we consider that differences in talent, skill, work ethic, planning and even luck will result in two people starting in the exact same circumstances yielding different results. Imagine two farmers starting off with two identical fields, identical planting seed and identical tools. One farmer manages to reap a better harvest than the other. Does the disparity in one farmer's harvest automatically entitle the less successful farmer to half the difference in other farmer's yield? Would it be wrong for the more successful farmer to enjoy all the benefits of his labor, or should he give up some of his profits in order to make his neighbor equal? What if the less successful farmer took it upon himself to take his fair share himself? Would that be right or wrong?

I have to agree that it can be quite unfair for one person to take most of the benefits of another person's labor, and that is the basis of slavery, and it has been argued that controlling the means of production and hiring labor in exchange for pay is a form of wage slavery. I agree that wage slavery can and does exist, but I completely disagree that hiring labor in exchange for pay in and of itself constitutes wage slavery. If the condition of the worker is such that the value of the wage is considerably less than the value of the worker's output and (not one or the other) the wage is barely enough to keep the worker alive, then the situation is very much like slavery.

Let's take the example of the two farmers again. If one farmer were to capture the other and force him to work on the land in exchange for enough produce to survive, then obviously that would be slavery. However, let's say one farmer saw that the other's harvest had done poorly or failed, and offered him a job helping on his own farm in exchange for a portion of the harvest or a wage. If the harvest is successful and the farmer makes a profit, then the farmhand will take a portion of his profit. Maybe that portion of the profit is smaller than he would make if he had done the same amount of work on land that he owned. So it would appear that his labor is being exploited. But if the farmhand received an equal portion to what he would earn controlling the means of production, then the farmer would take a loss from what he could make doing the labor himself or with, say, one of his sons, and he would also take a loss from losing use of the equipment he lent him. In this case wouldn't the farmhand be exploiting the farmer? If the farmer pays the farmhand for his labor but has a bad harvest, then the farmhand benefits from his own labor (and that of the farmer) while the farmer takes a loss. Clearly the farmhand does not share the same burden of risk in the relationship and so cannot have an equal say in decision making. The contract between two free individuals or between a free individual and an organization found in capitalism, is in actuality the ideal free association between individuals creating production envisioned in communist theory.

I would attack the idea that there haven't really been any communist countries in history, but I want to keep this post to a reasonable size, so I'll save it for later. Thoughts?
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Re: Communism or Capitalism?

Unread postby WeiWenDi » Fri Feb 17, 2012 9:29 pm

I'm rather scandalised that there's not a 'neither' option. That would probably get the most traction here, and it would certainly get my vote. There are certainly a number of alternatives to either capitalism or communism, including the post-War consensus, Old Labourism, Tory radicalism, libertarian socialism / anarcho-syndicalism / mutualism, social corporatism, distributism, post-Keynesianism...

bodidley wrote:In my opinion, there's nothing inherently wrong about one person possessing more than another person, especially if we consider that differences in talent, skill, work ethic, planning and even luck will result in two people starting in the exact same circumstances yielding different results.


I also have no problems with inequality per se. I do not have problems with inequality that is born of differences in talent, skill, work ethic or planning - but none of these are the primary causes of the sorts of inequality we see today. There is a very specific body of talents, abilities and information (pertaining to financial and capital investment) that are kept deliberately obscured from most of the world's people in order to bar access to the vast majority of the world's wealth. As a result, we see skyrocketing inequality between executives and investors on the one hand and common employees on the other - to the tune of the former taking home 200-fold multiples of the latter's total income. And I should note that that is just income - capital gains are even more obscenely disproportionally distributed.

A just society is not necessarily a completely 'flat' society or a completely egalitarian society. Rather, it is one in which wealthy people and poor people share an overlap of common material interests and share an overlap of perspectives on issues which affect both. Huge wealth gaps are unjust not because they represent differences in talent, skill, work ethic, planning, etc., but because they represent differences in how comparable talents, skills, work, planning, etc. are valued and what interests they share.

bodidley wrote:The contract between two free individuals or between a free individual and an organization found in capitalism, is in actuality the ideal free association between individuals creating production envisioned in communist theory.


I disagree. And your model of the two farmers makes me wonder how much time you've actually spent on a farm.

When a smallholder farmer like the one in the model (somebody like my grandfather) hires a farmhand, there are a number of obligations the farmer has to take on for the farmhand's sake. One of them is that the farmhand has to be accommodated with lodgings near the farm, particularly in season, because of the long and irregular hours that have to be worked. Often the farmer will also take responsibility for giving food and other benefits to his hands which are not contractual, but a matter of simple expediency. And the labour is dependent entirely on the physical location of the land; and the productivity of the farm almost solely a matter of natural luck. None of this is the case for a firm in a manufacturing or service-sector industry; the power differentials are entirely different.

Economic democracy (as per the heterodox economic theories of Karl Polanyi) is a much more viable and humane alternative to 'free markets' in actual existing economies where power (both physical and economic) is so ill-distributed.

bodidley wrote:I would attack the idea that there haven't really been any communist countries in history, but I want to keep this post to a reasonable size, so I'll save it for later.


And I would agree with you. In addition, I would also attack the idea that there has never been a 'truly' capitalist society the way the more extreme libertarians would argue. :D
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Re: Communism or Capitalism?

Unread postby bodidley » Sun Feb 19, 2012 6:09 am

WeiWenDi wrote:I disagree. And your model of the two farmers makes me wonder how much time you've actually spent on a farm.


:lol: That's like saying you disagree with Plato's model in the parable of the cave on the basis that it makes you question how much experience he has in corrections services. Dude, it's an allegory. Imagine two guys in biblical times with hoes if you like. I have spent some time on farms, but it's beside the point.

WeiWenDi wrote:One of them is that the farmhand has to be accommodated with lodgings near the farm, particularly in season, because of the long and irregular hours that have to be worked. Often the farmer will also take responsibility for giving food and other benefits to his hands which are not contractual, but a matter of simple expediency. And the labour is dependent entirely on the physical location of the land; and the productivity of the farm almost solely a matter of natural luck. None of this is the case for a firm in a manufacturing or service-sector industry; the power differentials are entirely different.


There are plenty of cases in history, recent or ancient, in which farmers have been ruined by inefficient or destructive farming methods, and it's a continuously evolving art. Farmers are frequently at the mercy of the weather, but so are manufacturers and retailers at the mercy of the market. Any business will find lady luck fickle. Also, the conditions you've described often depend on what service or industry you're talking about. Just like not all farms require accommodation for a large group of migrant laborers, many industries require a place to house their workers as well. In fact there are cities built to house mine workers in some places. The oil industry does the same as well. Even factories have put their workers in dormitory-style housing and it was common practice during the industrial revolution. Ever heard of Lowell, Massachusetts? Once again, I don't think it undermines the example.

WeiWenDi wrote: There is a very specific body of talents, abilities and information (pertaining to financial and capital investment) that are kept deliberately obscured from most of the world's people in order to bar access to the vast majority of the world's wealth. As a result, we see skyrocketing inequality between executives and investors on the one hand and common employees on the other - to the tune of the former taking home 200-fold multiples of the latter's total income.


Are people in developed nations barred outright from acquiring these skills or is it a question of credentials that people must acquire? I agree that the pay for corporate executives in the U.S. is appalling, especially since they're not worth the money they bring into their companies, but I disagree with your assessment of the cause. The problem is with the way the board of directors works in many big companies. They frequently have little accountability to their stockholders, so they can elect to give their pals huge salaries even if they don't expect to get justifiable returns. A different case would be professional athletes, who often get paid obscene salaries to play a game, but at the end of the day their team owners are making an investment in a product that will earn their company far more money than they are paying the talent so it's justified.

That being said, if a CEO is managing a company that employs 30,000 people would it always be unjustifiable to pay him 200 times the lowest paid employee's income? If you can attract talent that increases profit by 5% then the CEO's talent certainly winds up being a much greater multiplier than the guy assembling the widgets. Why shouldn't companies compete over talented business leaders? After all, out of hundreds of millions of people is is a problem if you have a couple super-rich people? Heck, his hobbies could employ dozens of people.
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Re: Communism or Capitalism?

Unread postby WeiWenDi » Mon Feb 20, 2012 6:31 pm

bodidley wrote:Are people in developed nations barred outright from acquiring these skills or is it a question of credentials that people must acquire? I agree that the pay for corporate executives in the U.S. is appalling, especially since they're not worth the money they bring into their companies, but I disagree with your assessment of the cause. The problem is with the way the board of directors works in many big companies. They frequently have little accountability to their stockholders, so they can elect to give their pals huge salaries even if they don't expect to get justifiable returns.


Well, that's a different problem, but it still points to an unjustifiable power maldistribution within the system. To me, it seems that if the stockholders and the workers were the same people, and if those workers had in-house unionisation into the bargain (with all the rights that come with being so), the power distribution between stockholders and executives would be brought into parity, the corporate executives would have a reasonable check on their power, and further, the economic incentives of the stockholders, the workers and the corporation would align more effectively. As it stands, in the current system very few of the incentives align, which has massive implications in terms of how viable and how pervasive corruption can be.

bodidley wrote:There are plenty of cases in history, recent or ancient, in which farmers have been ruined by inefficient or destructive farming methods, and it's a continuously evolving art. Farmers are frequently at the mercy of the weather, but so are manufacturers and retailers at the mercy of the market. Any business will find lady luck fickle.


Quite so. But the point I was making is that risk-sharing is better all-around where power distributions are equal. For what it's worth, I agree with you that a wage system is infinitely preferable to risk-sharing schemes in the absence of controls on economic (and physical) power and its abuse. Better wage slavery than actual slavery, or sharecropping. But the corollary to that is, better living wages than wage slavery; and better risk-sharing schemes which neutralise power differences, encourage class cooperation and discourage class warfare than the wage system.

bodidley wrote:That being said, if a CEO is managing a company that employs 30,000 people would it always be unjustifiable to pay him 200 times the lowest paid employee's income?


Um... in a word, yes! There's simply no reason for it, even at such large scales, and it has been shown to create conflicts of interest between executives and the rest of the firm.

I take as my model the social-corporatism of the Mondragon Corporation, which applies very strict caps on executive-worker pay ratios, yet still has built the capital and human resources to remain competitive in an international market, even spreading its business model to North America (to Mexico, and now to the United States through their negotiations with United Steelworkers).
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