- Nov 8, 2018 at 10:38 pm #3563242
There’s an equal fallacy in the assumption that those that earn more/have more wealth do so because they work harder than others. It cuts both ways Nick…but we’ve been down this road before.
Yes, if course, there are many factors.
I often have heard many employees complain that the hard working employee who got the promotion did so because they were a brown-nose or a “company man.”
I have heard many, many men complain when a woman gets a raise that she must have given the boss or her customers special “favors,” when in fact the promotion was based on hard work and job performance.
Too many people are worried about what their co-workers are doing or how much money they make, rather than their own job performance. On the other hand, sometimes people make less money or don’t get promotions because of race, sex, religion, sexual orientation, etc.Nov 8, 2018 at 11:32 pm #3563250
“Yes, if course, there are many factors.”
Which is why I’m wary of anyone advocating the complete implementation of one pure system over another; I.E. the idea that only Socialism or Capitalism will save us and that they must be exclusive of one another. Strict adherence to any single doctrine is what I define as extremism. It’s quite clear to me that a functional society needs a mix of approaches to tackle complex issues. Let’s not forget that some of the most popular institutions in American culture sit far more within the spirit and intent of what is defined as socialism or collectivism in the dictionary:
Socialism: a political and economic theory of social organization that advocates that the means of production, distribution, and exchange should be owned or regulated by the community as a whole
Collectivism: the practice or principle of giving a group priority over each individual in it; the theory and practice of the ownership of land and the means of production by the people or the state
Sounds a lot like public lands, public education, public emergency services, public libraries…
This should be an especially relevant topic to us backpackers and lovers of public land, especially in an age in which public lands are under increased scrutiny/attack. What would happen if we allowed wilderness lands to be bought and consolidated at will, leaving land owners as opposed to the collective to determine usage, not in the spirit of what is good for the group, but only for the individual owner and their constituents? I don’t want to live in a fenced-off, NO TRESPASS, private land state like Texas. I don’t want to ask permission to trespass to take a backpacking or hunting trip. It’s no wonder why so many outdoors-people gravitate West.
We need to get off of this either/or-superior/inferior-socialist/capitalist false dichotomy take a deep breath. Too much trying to win ideological battles based on narrow definitions at the expense of intelligent compromise- on both sides. I think we especially need to drop the ideas that free markets solve everything and that collective ownership leads to Stalinist deathcamps. I think about this every time I’m out hunting and fishing and camping on public lands. I think our public lands, schools, clinics, libraries, roads, emergency services….all of them represent the best of collectivist thinking and the spirit of placing what’s best for the group before the individual.Nov 9, 2018 at 12:03 am #3563256
I think there’s an issue with semantics here regarding socialism vs capitalism and that we aren’t all on the same sheet of music as to how they should be applied.
I look at those two terms as umbrella economic systems. There are some countries that are being labeled “democratic socialist” countries that have from what I can tell a functioning capitalist economic system that funds a robust social welfare state. To me, that’s not socialism or communism.
When someone talks about the merits of Socialism or Communism, what I’m hearing is that they are advocating for the public to seize control of private businesses. If they mean something else, then we have a good ol’ fashioned communication breakdown.
Also, it’s not implied to me that social welfare programs are incompatible within a capitalist society. Hell, the past 27 years, you kind taxpayers have been funding my paycheck and have subsidized my healthcare. I’m in absolutely no position to advocate for the privatization of everything nor do I think that’s a good idea. Some functions are better run in the public sector and other in the private sector, but I’m definitely opposed to “the people” seizing control of Amazon as an example.
2008 killed the concept of an unregulated market for me in some cases. Any company or bank that’s too big to fail or would somehow cripple our economy/infrastructure if they became insolvent needs oversight. For other businesses, I’m okay with market Darwinism. I’m sorry to see bookshops and music stores close down, but I’d rather the market make that decision than have the government make those choices for us.
It’s a nuanced topic.Nov 9, 2018 at 12:17 am #3563257
Definitely. I know this is a semantics game to an extent Ian.
And I agree…good old free-market capitalism is probably better for bookshops and hamburger stands. But when giants like Amazon move in…is it free market book shop competition anymore when someone is so big they can take a loss just to maintain book market share? At what point does the free market produce players so big that the market is no longer free? Definitely nuanced.
I think you and I are likely on the same page; I agree with what you’re saying above. I think part of the difference is in the semantics…when I hear Socialism/Collectivism, I’m thinking of basic textbook definitions of systems, not about the historical ways in which they were implemented in the USSR. I try and separate the two and I think it’s important to try. Leaving them connected is about as fair as leftists saying free-market Capitalism is inextricably linked with the African slave trade and global colonization and can never amount to more. I don’t think either viewpoint is productive and I think both can be reasonably separated from their histories in order to find the usefulness in them.Nov 9, 2018 at 12:29 am #3563259
Fair enough Craig but I do think this is one of those cases where definitions matter.
I think the terms are perverted by both sides for their own reasons.
I’ve seen actual socialists give examples of single payer health care systems and declare it as evidence as to why socialism works, when the system in question is in reality a free market and privately owned, but the speaker desires a Marxist style takeover of private businesses.
Conversely, I’ve seen capitalists call for the privatization or elimination of social welfare programs under the banner of fighting socialism as a means to rally the troops.
I also believe results matter. It’s been years but when the Tea Party formed, all of their founding principles seemed more than reasonable to me. From their infancy, I watched them as I would love to see a grass roots organization work with the federal government to get spending under control and work towards balancing the budget and paying down our debt. Within a couple months, they jumped off topic and started going after gay marriage, and I promptly wrote them off.
Where has true communism worked and in a way that didn’t greatly restrict personal freedom? There’s too much cradle to the grave micromanagement that goes along with socialism for me to consider it as a viable option, and history has proven time and time again that it’s not an ideology to be trusted on any level.Nov 9, 2018 at 12:34 am #3563261
Again, I’m not willing to eliminate most social welfare programs in place and would rather make them work better with greater efficiency. I’m also willing to consider a single payer system if it can be implemented in a way that reduces cost, doesn’t impact the quality of care, and doesn’t create months long waiting lists (which already exist in some areas). I think that could happen without seizing control of private businesses, but that would mean that unless they adopt a new business model, they would quickly become irrelevant.Nov 9, 2018 at 12:40 am #3563262
Lastly, I do agree with Nick that it’s important to read and study ideas we are all opposed to. With the resurgence of text book socialism support here in the PNW, I do plan on finally getting around to reading the Communist Manifesto in its entirety. Our local library has a copy (yay for public services!!!)
I have an ongoing problem of starting new projects and buying books faster than I can complete them, so I need to whittle down the stack I’ve got in the house currently before I can get to that.Nov 9, 2018 at 1:07 am #3563266
“Where has true communism worked and in a way that didn’t greatly restrict personal freedom?”
I guess it’s this sort of line of questioning that I have problems with. A perfectly reasonable counter would be to ask where true capitalism has existed in which people were not oppressed for profit of others.
The other issue with the capitalism vs. socialism “who’s more evil” debate is that it’s hard to find an example of a “true” state of either system that was not arguably influenced by perfectly human factors (such as greed or lust for power or group dynamics) that run in parallel with the professed ideology. Who is the arbiter of what is “true” anyway? Can we say the chattel slavery is simply a “true” extension of free-market economics? Or was it a perversion? I believe the same goes for many of the Socialist questions.
I would also argue that any ideology can produce horrific results in the hands of the right regime. The followers of The Prince of Peace have killed their fair share…but I not sure it’s fair to say it was the Bible or Jesus’ fault; everything is open to interpretation. So is it the doctrine or the followers that are flawed? Or are we at best flawed people trying to follow flawed ideologies, simply because no one ideology can answer all questions? Of course this is open to debate.
But again, I say it cuts both ways.Nov 9, 2018 at 1:29 am #3563267
All great points CraigNov 9, 2018 at 2:19 am #3563278
Just finished up parent teacher conferences with both kids. I finished every meeting with “you ain’t bad but you ain’t no W I S N E R !”
I think this loops us back to the OP some and how facism and socialism have played out in history and contemporary society. Facism is easy enough to identify as evil on its surface. Socialism is a bit more insidious because there’s isnt anything within the political philosophy that’s outright calling for the marginalization of minorities and much worse. In my view, the real concern comes from the sense of self righteousness that fuels the belief that violence in the name of the cause is justified. Back to my original comment at the beginning, the root of the problem is zealotry, intolerance, and otherwise unwillingness to accept the differences of others which happens in both scenarios.
I’m not saying the US is perfect and that we don’t have blood on our hands, but it’s a far cry from the USSR/Cambodia/China and Nazi Germany.
Nov 9, 2018 at 3:19 am #3563286
- This reply was modified 2 months, 1 week ago by Ian.
Ha. Thanks Ian. I just came in from a road bike ride that went by like nothing because of all this swirling in my head!
Anyhow, I appreciate talking with all of you about this, it certainly gets me thinking and checking my arguments. I think it’s good to get called out on what does/doesn’t hold merit. I don’t have time for a proper response to what you just wrote at the moment, but I think we’re somewhat in agreement here.Nov 9, 2018 at 4:25 am #3563299
Tom KBPL Member
“I’m not saying the US is perfect and that we don’t have blood on our hands, but it’s a far cry from the USSR/Cambodia/China and Nazi Germany.”
And also a far cry from the democratic forms of socialism practiced in various Western European countries that put us to shame when it comes to delivering health care, education, and a social safety net that enables their citizens to live a secure and dignified life when unemployed and in their senior years. Not to mention they have, with the exception of being dragged into our excellent adventures in the Muslim world by their NATO obligations, been able to avoid gratuitously getting the blood of innocents on their hands. Your blanket indictment of socialism mystifies me, Ian. You are generally a thoughtful, compassionate man who offers perspectives worth pondering on many topics. This is an unfortunate exception to that generality.Nov 9, 2018 at 4:29 am #3563300
Duly noted Tom.
Again, those are not socialist countries so not really applicable.Nov 9, 2018 at 6:17 am #3563309
first an editorial note. My 2019 Chaff New Year resolution is off to an early start, notably I’m not going to make these personal, YMMV.
I’m also not going to keep typing the same thing over and over again, so you can feel free to read through what I’ve already typed on this thread, or don’t. No skin off my nose either way.
Now to respond, there are definitely socialists in Europe but there isn’t a single socialist nation. Not one. Not opinion and not even really debatable.
Regarding their escapades into the Muslim world, uh, Libya? Certainly with our assistance but German sourced nerve agent given to Sadam and dropped on Iran? You may want to reconsider your position some.
Democratic Socialism is a nonsense term. It’s not a real thing. Socialism is however and has already been defined and discussed in this thread so I won’t bother reposting.
But you are correct in my position on actual real socialism. It’s an enemy to civilization and has earned my undying hostility, melodrama and all.
It appears you’re upset about some imagined position you assume (incorrectly) I might have on social welfare, which is something else entirely.
Nov 9, 2018 at 8:33 am #3563314
- This reply was modified 2 months, 1 week ago by Ian. Reason: Clarity
You guys are all over the place with the “isms.” That is predictable because there are so many complexities when we discuss the “isms.”
Perhaps it might be helpful for us to separate political systems from economic systems.
A dictionary definition of political system:
a coordinated set of principles, laws, ideas, and procedures relating to a particular form of government, or the form of government itself
There is nothing in this definition about economic systems. Our founding fathers weren’t concerned with economic systems as they were about the rights of man; “life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness.” “Property” isn’t in the Declaration of Independence, but the quote comes from John Locke’s “life, liberty, and property.” This is affirmed in the 14th Amendment, “… nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” BTW, the Wealth of Nations was published after the Revolutionary war started ;-)
Our founding fathers believed that to protect these rights, the government had to be limited in its powers. They also were well educated in all forms of government and political theory. The first important work was done by Aristotle, which influenced all the political intellectuals from that point forward, many of whom influenced the contents in the Declaration and Constitution. Aristotle and his students studied around 170 constitutions (many weren’t written). Aristotle came to the conclusion that all forms of government become perverted and eventually end up in despotism, tyranny, or oligarchy. This includes democracy.
Knowing this, our founders tried to create a government that would not meet the fate of Aristotle’s noted perversions and they came up with a Federal Republic. Sorry guys and gals, we don’t live in a democracy. We have a federation of states with the intent of a limited national government. But the government is no longer “limited.”
Let’s look at the largest “industries” in our country. This comes from the World Atlas, which was the first Google hit in a search and I haven’t fact checked it. “Industries” are ranked by percent of the GDP.
#1 — Real Estate, renting, and leasing constitutes the largest sector of the United States’ economy with the GDP value added of $1.898 trillion accounting for 13% of the national GDP.
#2 — State and Local Governments have a combined GDP value added of $1.336 trillion to become the second largest GDP contributor representing 9% of the total US GDP.
#9 — The Federal Government comes in ninth position with a GDP value added of $658 billion which accounts for 5% of the total GDP.
Holy Moly!! State and local governments are bigger than the Finance and Insurance sector, the Health and Social Care industry, Durable Manufacturing, the retail trade industry, Wholesale Trade, and the non-durable manufacturing industry. Does anyone see a problem here?
Do we need more government? Does government do anything well?
Someone mentioned the government best meets our needs with many public services. Education was one. So how is this working out? US News & World Report does an annual best colleges in the US (link provided). Of the top 30 colleges (actually 32 because there are two ties) 29 were private. I may have miscounted, but the ratio is significant.
I don’t know of any government agency, from my personal experience, that is more inconvenient, more customer unfriendly, or more difficult to deal with than the Calif DMV. It is so bad, that I am willing to pay a yearly membership to AAA, so I can do my DMV business with them (among other things). Now, keep in mind that AAA is a non-profit organization. I guess technically it is is a not-for-profit “mutual benefit” organization. AAA pays taxes but doesn’t have to submit financial statements to the public. Other kinds of mutual benefit organizations are country clubs and even some public broadcasting stations. Opps… I thought we lived in some sort of government mandated for-profit capitalistic society. Nope. We can choose.
Most of us have bought stuff from REI. REI is a member owned co-op. Each member gets one vote, if you spent at least $10 in merchandise during the year. Each member gets to vote for members of the board of directors and each member gets a dividend for purchases made. It is not a for profit company.
Someone asked if communism has worked in a way that didn’t restrict personal freedoms. As an official planned economy of a government, No. But yes it has worked often. And when it has failed, the members decided they didn’t like it and freely left. It has been alive and well in the US for over a hundred years. In the 19th century (especially in the 1840s and 1850s) there arose many communist and socialist societies and no one bothered them — because we used to revere individual rights in the US. In our country you can live in a communist or socialist society if you wish to. One of the most interesting to me was the Oneida Community. Everyone was expected to work, and “each according to his or her abilities.” By the way, if you own any Oneida silverware or flatware, the company was started by the Oneida Community (communists). The community was founded in 1848 and started manufacturing silverware in 1877.
In the 1960s many, many communes were created and folks lived voluntarily in a communist and socialist type of community, many are still in operation.
Someone mentioned Amazon and questioned if this is free market economics. (And no, they don’t sell product below cost — they didn’t make a profit for a long time because they were pumping capital into warehouses, computer systems, and buying more inventory to expand from books to just about everything). And yes it is how the free market works. The market changes and those who don’t anticipate and/or change to meet the needs of consumers, die. Otherwise we would be driving Model Ts and listening to music on a gramophone. What Amazon figured out is our method of distributing goods doesn’t work very well and many people prefer to buy online instead of physically going to a retail store. No one is forced to patronize Amazon or eBay — they choose to do so. Just as many people choose to go to Walmart for cheap goods and no service. To be honest, Walmart has probably decimated more small businesses than Amazon. That is Walmart’s modus operandi. Amazon puts big companies like Sports Chalet, Sports Authority, Sears and K-Mart out of business because they are inefficient and poorly run. Besides the retail model in the United States is an environmental disaster. Hundreds of thousands of stores all lit up, air conditioners and/or heating systems humming away, computers sucking up electricity, etc. The retail industry is the biggest employer in the United States, so we have the largest work-group in the country driving to a store almost everyday, and millions and millions of people driving to shopping centers and stores to buy stuff. If we believe that climate change is human caused, then maybe we should be jumping up and down for joy that Amazon could end up reducing more CO2 emissions than any other action in the world, by killing off all these retail operations.
If you want to end up in the graveyard of perverted governments that end in despotism or tyranny — opt for a government that forces communism, socialism or any other “ism” on its citizens,Nov 9, 2018 at 2:53 pm #3563323
I think we’re at the point we’re talking past each other because your distinction between economic systems and political systems is exactly what I’m referring to when I speak of separating socialism as a system from the history of its implementation in places like the USSR.
I totally disagree regarding Amazon. The idea that nobody is forced to patronize them is more complicated than it seems. The ripple effects of their business model have in fact been forced upon us and spread across society; as you said, compete with their prices or die. Match their business model or die. This effects small businesses (to the point of destroying them), often driving down wages among competitors in order to be able to maintain a pricepoint that can compete. A company as large and diversified as Amazon can take a huge hit in a sector without flinching just to get their foot in the door, buoying themselves with profits from other sectors. If you happen to run a small business in a sector that Amazon is entering, you’re done.
I see little practical difference from the small business owner’s point of view between them and a state run business. Especially given they are also heavily invested in political contributions that in turn further skew the system in their favor. Only someone with the means of a financial juggernaut or the State can win a race to the bottom, not a small business, not you or I.
I’m failing to see the freedom in this trend. In fact, I see a society increasingly held captive by fewer and fewer of these juggernauts, Amazon being one of a handful.
So at what point does a free market produce winners so powerful that the freedom is lost?Nov 9, 2018 at 3:18 pm #3563326
Yeah I think we’ve reached the nuh uh vs uh huh part of the thread where the same thing keeps getting repeated over and over agin, so I’ll bow out now.Nov 9, 2018 at 3:30 pm #3563328Nov 9, 2018 at 3:32 pm #3563333
And while I disagree about certain things regarding Amazon Nick, I think your breakdown of the environmental impact is spot-on and something that doesn’t get mentioned enough. From that point of view, consolidation might be smarter if we’re to have this mega-consumption society.Nov 9, 2018 at 3:53 pm #3563337
Jerry AdamsBPL Member
@retiredjerryLocale: Oregon and Washington
That is a great article Ian. Short, but lots of contradictory ideas that leave my head spinning trying to understand it.
“Equally disturbing is that most younger defenders of communism buy into the oldest propaganda line of the Left—that real communism has never been tried and fascism is the polar opposite of communism.”
“real communism has never been tried” – you could substitute other “isms” like libertarianism – real libertarianism has never been tried, that’s what we need to implement to fix the world, I’ve heard people say that
“That the Nazis were actually “National Socialists,” these apologists argue, was merely a cynical ploy on the part of Hitler to gain the support of the working and middle classes of Germany.”
Trump uses various causes to get the support of people. Like, he wants to get people’s jobs back by deporting illegals and killing trade deals. But he doesn’t care about people’s jobs, he just cares about Trump. It’s a cynical ploy.
“In the West, one of the first to recognize these vital connections was none other than Friedrich Hayek, the Austrian turned Englishman. Nationalism is nothing “but a twin brother of socialism,” he proclaimed in a 1945 speech in Dublin.”
Maybe if the Republican party would adopt the principles of “The American Conservative” they could win elections, rather than having to result to cynical tactics like saying dog whistles to the white supremacists to get their support, nominating “conservative” judges to get support of Christian evangelicals, criticizing kneeling at football games to get support of hyper patriots,…Nov 9, 2018 at 4:01 pm #3563338
Jerry AdamsBPL Member
@retiredjerryLocale: Oregon and Washington
This is a great thread. It’s too complicated to break it down to an answer that’s “true”. No one is taking offense that the answer they’re arguing for is being dis-respected. I got to read through it a couple times to figure it out. I’m sure the solution to the world’s problems is here somewhere : )Nov 9, 2018 at 4:11 pm #3563341
Paul WagnerBPL Member
@balzaccomLocale: Wine Country
I’ve been sitting this discussion out, but enjoying it. A couple of thoughts, now that it seems to be winding down. I love the note that all of these topics are more nuanced than simple isms from one side or the other. As a dear friend of mine who is a religious brother says: “There are no simple solutions to complicated problems.”
Do you believe that community ownership of major assets is the way to go? Then we can all look at the disasters of the ex-USSR industries to see how that worked. Do you believe that de-regulation of all industries is the way to go? Then let’s look at the savings and loan and telephone companies here in the USA. Yep. Neither side wines that argument.
But if we look at our national parks? That’s pretty damn good community ownership of major assets. De-regulation for a free market? That’s how most of our news media works–almost completely deregulated, and you can read just about anything you want. So that works, even if you disagree with a lot of what you read.
So no ism is going to solve the problem on its own.
And what I have loved in this discussion is that it has followed one of my most deeply held beliefs about politics: You learn the most when people talk about what they believe, rather than what they think (or want you to think) about what their opponents believe. In political debate, far too many people want to portray the other side as unreasonable and unthinking extremists, while they, themselves, are reasonable.
Don’t tell me what the other guy is saying. Tell me what you believe. The more we do that, the more likely it is that we will find common ground.Nov 9, 2018 at 4:55 pm #3563344
Thanks for chiming in Paul, well said.
@nick, I can’t begin to address your constant criticism of public education, it warrants an entirely different thread…But I will say that simply showing private college rankings as proof that public education is a failure (and by extension, government programs) is glossing over a tremendous number of social and economic complexities and is arguably bordering on being disingenuous.Nov 9, 2018 at 6:29 pm #3563349
I totally disagree regarding Amazon. The idea that nobody is forced to patronize them is more complicated than it seems. The ripple effects of their business model have in fact been forced upon us and spread across society; as you said, compete with their prices or die. Match their business model or die.
What most people don’t know is that over 50% of paid units sold on Amazon’s website come from third party sellers. With a single click by a buyer on Amazon ‘s website, the payment is completed for both parties. Some sellers direct ship and other sellers have Amazon warehouse, pick, and ship their products for them. Amazon doesn’t resell their product like a retail store does. Just under 50% of the total units sold on Amazon are products Amazon has bought or even had manufactured for them (Firestick, Kindle, Echo, Ring, etc.). Interesting story about Ring — the founder tried to get financing from the Shark Tank investors and all of them rejected him. A few years later Amazon bought his company for over $1 Billion.
Companies like Amazon and eBay create opportunities for millions of people to realize their dream of owning their own business.
Amazon started as a book seller. At that time an aspiring writer had two choices to get a book published. The most common was a book publishing company. There are many famous writers whose first book was rejected by tens or dozens of publishers before someone “took a chance” on them. The other path was the expensive “vanity press” industry. Amazon changed all of that.
I have several acquaintances who been able to publish because of Amazon. Two of my good friends, Bart Windrum and Dennis Haugh have been able to publish books and Amazon was an important piece of the puzzle. Both have Kindle versions too. It was exciting for me when Bart and Dennis were working on their books (they don’t know each other) and I was able to provide some feedback on their early drafts and watch them move from concept, development, writing, publish and sell.
It is so difficult to start a new business. 20% fail in the first year, 50% by year five, and almost 70% by the tenth year. Amazon and eBay provide opportunity for entrepreneurs. Because both are so large (a criticism just expressed) individuals with small businesses can now reach a world-wide potential market instead of trying to get small retailers to purchase, stock and sell their product. They don’t need to have website, and they don’t need a brick and mortar building!Nov 9, 2018 at 7:45 pm #3563354
A deal with the Devil? Stories abound of third parties selling on Amazon only to be undercut by Amazon after Amazon looks at the metrics on the same product and decides it’s worth their while. People get driven out of business like this, utterly killed by Amazon’s economy of scale, and are paying a third party seller fee for the privilege.
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