Why capitalism sucks...I think...

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mrandrewv
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Why capitalism sucks...I think...

Postby mrandrewv » Mon Jul 21, 2008 6:30 pm UTC

You see, capitalism is all fine and good, for most things, but there are a few areas where it falls flat on its arse.

Medical Care, Energy, basic Education, in fact ANYTHING which directly affects an inalienable human right should NEVER have to submit to market forces (I include energy because at the moment it is at the heart of environmentalism and that affects everyone's lives).

I mean doesn't it alarm anyone that many people in the US now have to go to Mexico to get medicine?

See, and I've never studied economics so please feel free to correct me on stuff, my understanding of capitalism is that it is based on the idea that an open market leads to better choices for the consumer. Note: not MORE choices, but BETTER choices (more does not = better. It might help, but it is far from a solution in itself).

The problem is that this isn't true. I mean at this stage it is OBVIOUSLY not true, because if it was then Mexican hospitals would not be getting so many new dollars (and good for them i say!) and Enron would not have been able to manufacture a shortage of electricity in California where there wasn't one.

Now the question immediately arises: shouldn't doctors be well paid for their years of training and their vital skills? The answer is of course they should! Just like teachers, nurses, police officers, garbage workers and everyone else who is absolutely vital for the running of a society. But it is the government who should pay them, not the consumer.

I mean why do you pay taxes? I always thought we paid taxes so that the government would take them and use the money to protect us. Well if I pay my taxes and then die because I can't afford a vital operation and the free clinic is too busy to get to me in time then cleasrly the government isn't doing its job. If they can't save me from illness then what good are they? No good at all.

Even if the government pays them it is the consumers who are paying them. The difference is that if a particular system is privatised then the consumers instantly start losing out. I mean the simple fact that profits are higher in privatised industries means that consumers are getting screwed. Look at the oil crisis: prices are skyrocketing, consumers are suffering and the oil companies are making larger profits than ever.

Think of it as a fist fight.
In the red corner you have the consumer, average education (by definition) average knowledge of market forces and economics.
In the blue corner you have a corporation. Its decisions are made by executives. These are people who are, by definition, exceptional. They have exceptional command of market forces and exceptional understanding of economics.
This really isn't a fair fight.

"But wait!" cries the dogged free-market capitalist, "the analogy is not far because there will be a number of different corporations and the consumer can choose which one to use!"
Ah but you see that is where my analogy shows its true worth. Because while it is true that there are a number of different corporations NONE of them will be vying for the opportunity to give the consumer a better service. ALL of them will instead be battling for the right to screw the consumer in a DIFFERENT WAY. In theory the consumer has the ability to choose between them, in practise this is not true. Let's have a look:
Energy: a small group of giant corporations making massive profits while people suffer.
Healthcare: a small group of giant corporations making massive profits while people suffer.
Pharmaceuticals: a small group of...well you get the idea.

So it is like a fist fight, except its more like 10 on 1 ;)

Of course privatised industries are more efficient but the only thing they are efficient at is making money, not offering good service.

And when I was in school I was told that the countries in the world that have the highest standards of living are all Socialist Democracies (Norway, Finland, Iceland, Holland, Sweden) because they have highers literacy rates, lower unemployment and longer life expectancies than countries like the US. Now that was an awful long time ago, so it may be completely untrue, and if it is I hope you will tell me, so that I can stop repeating it.

My (completely ill educated and simplistic understanding) of these societies is that you are still free to work hard and make lots of money, if that floats your boat, but things that are regarded as basic rights (like healthcare and education) are taken care of by the state, through higher taxation of everyone, particularly the wealthy.

Have I got it all wrong? More info please.
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jayhsu
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Re: Why capitalism sucks...I think...

Postby jayhsu » Mon Jul 21, 2008 6:35 pm UTC

Large socialist societies don't fare well either (USSR). It might not be fair to compare Finland or Sweden to America. It doesn't scale.

China is also a very economically capitalist country. I don't think that's a good example for comparison.
-Jay

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Re: Why capitalism sucks...I think...

Postby mrandrewv » Mon Jul 21, 2008 6:39 pm UTC

Actually the USSR only claimed to be Socialist. One of the first things Stalin did when he took power was undo all the socialist reforms that the revolution had already created, and centralising power in his own hands.

It stayed like that, and it remained corrupt as hell.

Also: I'm not suggesting communism, I also think it will fail, for all the reasons Ayn Rand said it would. But that doesn't mean socialism (where you can work for your own benefit) is going to fail in the same way.

Can you think of any reason why the examples I've listed can't be compared to America?
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jayhsu
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Re: Why capitalism sucks...I think...

Postby jayhsu » Mon Jul 21, 2008 6:42 pm UTC

Because it's not as simple as scaling it. A larger country must necessarily spend a great deal more on things a smaller country might not need (say, a far more extensive and complex highway system).
-Jay

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Re: Why capitalism sucks...I think...

Postby mrandrewv » Mon Jul 21, 2008 6:46 pm UTC

I totally get that. But I still don't see why that would make a difference.

Yes the US is larger, but it also has more tax payers and a HELL of alot more money.

I really don't think availability of funds is the issue.

In fact it makes sense that nationalised industries will be cheaper than privatised ones for all the reasons I listed.
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Re: Why capitalism sucks...I think...

Postby jayhsu » Mon Jul 21, 2008 6:50 pm UTC

I don't think America taxes as heavily as those socialist countries do either.

So: Less taxation + more money needed overall for civil services = screwed.

I'm not an economist (business student, heh), so I am definitely making generalizations here. Can we get some more opinions in here?
-Jay

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Re: Why capitalism sucks...I think...

Postby Belial » Mon Jul 21, 2008 6:52 pm UTC

I don't think America taxes as heavily as those socialist countries do either.


Obviously, to switch to a more socialistic system, taxes would need to be raised.

Of course, you wouldn't be paying for privatized medicine and energy and such anymore, so it would probably balance out largely.
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Re: Why capitalism sucks...I think...

Postby mrandrewv » Mon Jul 21, 2008 6:53 pm UTC

And the increase in taxes would mostly be on the extremely wealthy, and seriously, they can afford it, especially in the US.
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jayhsu
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Re: Why capitalism sucks...I think...

Postby jayhsu » Mon Jul 21, 2008 6:55 pm UTC

Capitalism does eventually make rich people richer and poor people very badly off - but it might be easier to correct this than just having everyone in the mud.

@mrandrewv:

I have heard the argument that taxing the most wealthy is not necessarily the best idea - this is because as the wealthy spend their money, more of it cycles back into the economy (or some such).
-Jay

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Re: Why capitalism sucks...I think...

Postby Gunfingers » Mon Jul 21, 2008 6:59 pm UTC

So...do you actually know anything about people who run businesses, or are you just mentally picturing a bunch of guys in dark suits sitting in and office and wringing their hands while discussing how they'll steal money from the little guy? I'm not even sure how you define "getting screwed". I've never left a business feeling i'd been screwed, and that includes Wal-Mart. And really, fuck Wal-Mart.

I mean, you can rhetoricize about all the terrible things capitalism could be, but it very rarely materializes. We don't get rolling blackouts in the US, we don't have people dying in the streets because they can't afford to have their injuries treated, and we don't have terrible education. Wait, yes we do, but our education is also socialized! Really, where is the iron fist of capitalism ruining things for anyone here in the states? I can't think of too many examples.*

And to be honest, even if it were producing less quality than socialism i'd still be against it. The US isn't about making sure everyone has all the basic necessities and protections and whatever**. It's about individualism and self-determinism. Frontier spirit and all that jazz. It's one of the areas where our culture is almost completely unique from that of the rest of the first world. We start socializing everything, and we lose what makes us America. I had to sound like one of those "If you don't like it, get out!" guys, but honestly if you want the government to provide everything for you than the US isn't really the country for you.



*Healthcare is actually a great example of the industry making things difficult on people. I'd feel worse about it, but, as mentioned, we don't exactly have people dying in the streets, and if that isn't happening then America doesn't care.
**Well, it isn't supposed to be. Fuck you guys and your "Homeland Security".

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Re: Why capitalism sucks...I think...

Postby mrandrewv » Mon Jul 21, 2008 7:00 pm UTC

Perhaps, but even if it is "in the economy" that doesn't mean that the poor arn't being screwed.

Remember I'm not talking about all industries, just those that involve fundamental human rights. In these industries corporations should NOT be making large profits, because that necessarily means that people are being exorted for services that they should receive simply by being a human being in a society that claims to care for them.

The argument in favour of privatising these industries is always phrased as it somehow being "better for the consumer". But we can see that this simply isn't so. Healthcare and energy are two perfect examples.

And I don't see how some higher taxation puts everyone in the "mud". If I am right about the socialist democracies having higher standards of living then that is hardly very "muddy" ;)
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jayhsu
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Re: Why capitalism sucks...I think...

Postby jayhsu » Mon Jul 21, 2008 7:06 pm UTC

I believe your contention is that economies should strive to be more like Norway, Holland, Finland, &c.? Where healthcare is universal, &c.?

There is a push for universal healthcare in America (personally, not for it, but that's another thread). And again, I'd like to see a country of America's scale handling socialism well. It is definitely not as simple as "raise some taxes, tax some rich bastards."
-Jay

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Adalwolf
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Re: Why capitalism sucks...I think...

Postby Adalwolf » Mon Jul 21, 2008 7:12 pm UTC

To the OP:

You are confused. Health care is not a right, and not part of what a government should focused on. That destroys most of your argument right there.
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Re: Why capitalism sucks...I think...

Postby mrandrewv » Mon Jul 21, 2008 7:15 pm UTC

Well when I think of businesses I picture 2 things:

1) all those exxonmobil ads where they try and keep us addicted to fossil fuels

2) the documentary I just watched about Enron where Enron DID CAUSE BLACKOUTS all over California so that they could raise the cost of electricity.

Good, I'm glad we agree that the healthcare industry is crap.

Sorry dude, your education isn't even CLOSE to being socialised. In the US poor people get an inferior education BY LAW. Because wealthy people give more taxes, they get better education, thats just about the opposite of social reform (see thread about how to fix the US education system).

Once again: stop the strawman agruments! I am not talking about socialising everything, just those industries that involve fundamental human rights.

More examples of the iron fist of capitalism:
1) The war profiteering taking place in Iraq.
2) Pharmaceutical companies trying to stop SOuth Africa from using generic ARVs (which would have killed MILLIONS OF PEOPLE FROM AIDS, seriously, no exageration, millions would have died, and they didn't care, in fact they took legal action to try and make those people die).
3) Your healthcare system, see above
4) Your education system, disguised as a national industry but actually only benefits the rich.
5) Enron creating artificial shortages of electricity.
6) Deutsche Bank speculating on the South African Rand so heavily that the currency actually devalued by whole percentage points.
7) The stock holders of the New York Times ordering the paper to replace its editorial team because they allowed an article to come out that criticised one of their advertisers.
8) NAFTA
9) The World Bank's insistence that 3rd world countries nationalise water industries, thus depriving the poor of the most basic requirement of life.

Can you really not think of any others?
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Re: Why capitalism sucks...I think...

Postby mrandrewv » Mon Jul 21, 2008 7:17 pm UTC

Adalwolf: you are quite right, "Health" is not a right.

However healthCARE definitely is.

I mean really, if you don't think people have a right to the best healthcare their country can afford then why hell should they pay taxes?

"Here, i will give you this money, even though one of the most basic things I need for life will not be given to me."

Dude, wtf?
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Re: Why capitalism sucks...I think...

Postby PhilSandifer » Mon Jul 21, 2008 7:25 pm UTC

Adalwolf wrote:To the OP:

You are confused. Health care is not a right, and not part of what a government should focused on. That destroys most of your argument right there.


It's not a right, no. Roads are also not a right, but we generally have no problem with the idea that the government is going to provide them. National defense is not a right, but we generally are willing to contract that to the government instead of to private militias. There's no reason we couldn't just let Raytheon build missiles and manage their use.

The issue is that we have a concept of infrastructure - things where the collective benefit of providing a service outweighs the benefit to any given person. This is the argument for net neutrality - yes, there's tons of profit to be gained by letting AT&T charge Google for fast service. But, the theory goes, there's more overall value if everybody has equal access. So though a certain amount of value is generated by preferential network treatment, a larger amount of value is generated by not doing so. The problem is that AT&T - the people who get to make the decision, get more value for themselves by going for preferential bandwidth, and have insufficient interest in creating the larger amount of overall value given that they get a smaller share of the pie.

In these cases, it is generally preferable to manage the asset publicly instead of privately. Not because we have a right to the asset, but because it is in the interests of the society as a whole to take a course of action that is different from the course of action most profitable to the people with controlling financial interest in the asset.

The question is whether health care is an infrastructure issue or not.

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Re: Why capitalism sucks...I think...

Postby Adalwolf » Mon Jul 21, 2008 7:27 pm UTC

mrandrewv wrote:Adalwolf: you are quite right, "Health" is not a right.

However healthCARE definitely is.

I mean really, if you don't think people have a right to the best healthcare their country can afford then why hell should they pay taxes?

"Here, i will give you this money, even though one of the most basic things I need for life will not be given to me."

Dude, wtf?


Not at all.

Good health comes from luck (genes, wealth, etc) and work (protecting your health).

They pay taxes so education, infrastruce, emergency services, and the military can be payed for. They should also pay taxes so they aren't thrown in jail.

Doctors blow. Better to die at 50 than to live another 20 years depending on doctors and medicines while watching yourself deteriate into a shadow of your former self.
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Re: Why capitalism sucks...I think...

Postby mrandrewv » Mon Jul 21, 2008 7:32 pm UTC

Yes absolutely right.

And completely irrelevant.

HEALTH comes from all those factors.

HealthCARE comes from society. And I am surprised that you didn't list "good healthcare" next to genes, luck etc. It definitely plays a part, these days an even bigger part than luck and genetics.

And paying taxes to stay out of jail is the STUPIDEST reason to pay them, if the tax requirements are immoral then you shouldn't pay them. Morality and legality have very little to do with one another.
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Re: Why capitalism sucks...I think...

Postby Gunfingers » Mon Jul 21, 2008 7:37 pm UTC

In response to your most recent post:

The whole point to socializing it is that the people who need it won't be paying for it. The guy living in the trailer unable to pay his medical bills is paying virtually nothing in taxes. He's not paying for something he's not getting. Instead, someone else would be paying for him to get it. That's why you'll never see it in the states. We don't like paying taxes to benefit other people.

In response to the response to me:

I didn't say healthcare our was crap, i just said it's one of the easiest to see problems in. By at least one metric the US actually has the best healthcare in the world.

Our education IS socialised, and the inequality is a product of that. Well, of our poor implementation thereof, anyway. I think we've discussed my feelings on this issue in your education thread.

I'd like to comment on the Enron thing, but i haven't seen the documentary. Which one was it? For that matter, could you give me a better idea of what you're talking about with all of your examples? I could just as easily say socialism requires you to eat puppies, and you wouldn't be able to defend it because you'd have no idea where that data came from.

We agree on one thing, though:

8) NAFTA

NAFTA is one hip mother.

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Re: Why capitalism sucks...I think...

Postby Vaniver » Mon Jul 21, 2008 7:39 pm UTC

mrandrewv wrote:Medical Care, Energy, basic Education, in fact ANYTHING which directly affects an inalienable human right should NEVER have to submit to market forces (I include energy because at the moment it is at the heart of environmentalism and that affects everyone's lives).
Is food too critical for the market to be able to deliver it?

And if something absolutely essential like food can be delivered well, what prevents less essential things from being delivered well?

mrandrewv wrote:And when I was in school I was told that the countries in the world that have the highest standards of living are all Socialist Democracies (Norway, Finland, Iceland, Holland, Sweden) because they have highers literacy rates, lower unemployment and longer life expectancies than countries like the US. Now that was an awful long time ago, so it may be completely untrue, and if it is I hope you will tell me, so that I can stop repeating it.

My (completely ill educated and simplistic understanding) of these societies is that you are still free to work hard and make lots of money, if that floats your boat, but things that are regarded as basic rights (like healthcare and education) are taken care of by the state, through higher taxation of everyone, particularly the wealthy.
The thing to keep in mind about Scandinavia is that the countries there tend to have massive oil wealth which is controlled by the government. It's easy to have free healthcare and abundant social services when you have a lot of oil to spread around a small population- but the taxes are still remarkably high.

I mean, look at the numbers sometime. ExxonMobil's revenues are larger than Norway's GDP. If you divide ExxonMobil's net income by the number of people in America, you come out with $135 a person, whereas if you divide StatoilHydro's net income by the number of people in Norway, you come out with $1853 a person.

mrandrewv wrote:And the increase in taxes would mostly be on the extremely wealthy, and seriously, they can afford it, especially in the US.
Where do the rich get their money? If taxes increase and they decide to devote more of their time to leisure (because each hour of working is worth less consumption), what is lost? If taxes increase and they decide to invest less, what is lost? If taxes increase and they decide to move more money into tax shelters, what is lost?

mrandrewv wrote:4) Your education system, disguised as a national industry but actually only benefits the rich.
Bwuh? The education system is in shambles because it's a government monopoly. Compare American primary education, which is run by counties and routinely underperforms other countries, and American secondary education, which attracts the best and brightest from across the world. One of the main differences is that one competes for students, and the other doesn't.

mrandrewv, I think you're thinking far too much in generalities and not focusing on specifics. The USSR is a prime example- who gets ahead in a place where politics determines your role? Then, in the US, who gets ahead in a place where people have to voluntarily give you their money for you to get rich?

Sam Walton came up with a better way to do retail. Prices for many basic items are significantly lower for the poor/middle class. Yes, his method involves less jobs- that's one of the reasons why it's cheaper. And no, cutting jobs isn't a bad thing- it makes it so those people can do other things. 95% of Americans used to employed in agriculture- now that number is less than 1%. Is this an economic tragedy? No- it's necessary for progress. Keeping people locked in low-value jobs harms the economy.

Yes, there are failures like Enron- but those are hardly typical corporations. Go down the Fortune 500 list sometime, and count how many companies have made your life easier or better by existing.
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Re: Why capitalism sucks...I think...

Postby mrandrewv » Mon Jul 21, 2008 7:51 pm UTC

First things first: lol @ smiley ;)

Anyway the documentary was "Enron: The Smartest People in the Room". The most convincing evidence in the documentary came from ex employees, internal memos and recorded conversations between brokers.

You really think that the bad education is not because the poor schools are underfunded by law? I think I need to revisit the education thread.

I repeat: America has crap healthcare. I don't really care if one percent has a great healthcare system, you cannot use exceptional examples to justify a flawed system. If the structures that are in place do not work for the average person then they DO NOT WORK.

Once again: I am only really talking about the things that involve human rights.

Vaniver: you make a good point about food being a different example. Now in my country things that are regarded as "basic" food stuffs (meaning mostly bread, milk and some vegetables) have their prices tightly controlled, for obvious reasons. And isn't the US farming industry heavily subsidised by the government?

I take your points about the Socialist Democracies, and yet they STILL have a higher standard of living than the US, and a better education system (theirs is nationalised too).

About the education thing: it will only get worse if it gets privatised, but I'm worried that this thread will get derailed so if you would like to talk about it either PM me or post in the education thread. Thx ;) But suffice it to say that just because it attracts the best students to the RICH schools does not mean that it is better for the country.

I mean if you have looked at your own education statistics you can see that it clearly doesn't.
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Re: Why capitalism sucks...I think...

Postby mrandrewv » Mon Jul 21, 2008 7:54 pm UTC

And can we please keep this about the things that involve fundamental human rights and not, for example, clothes and junk? Those are the only things I said should be nationalised.

Sorry for double post, but I can't help but feel that we are drifiting away from my point, which is that certain things should not be subject to market forces.
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Re: Why capitalism sucks...I think...

Postby n4ry4 » Mon Jul 21, 2008 8:05 pm UTC

mrandrewv wrote:Remember I'm not talking about all industries, just those that involve fundamental human rights. In these industries corporations should NOT be making large profits, because that necessarily means that people are being exorted for services that they should receive simply by being a human being in a society that claims to care for them.

The argument in favour of privatising these industries is always phrased as it somehow being "better for the consumer". But we can see that this simply isn't so. Healthcare and energy are two perfect examples.


There might be an important distinction to make between privatization and free market competition.

There are a lot of important needs, things some people might call "basic human rights" (we can discuss positive rights vs negative rights elsewhere) that society has whose providers are almost entirely privatized and provided in a market context, with lots of competition and moderate amounts of regulation.

With FOOD, for example, one of the most basic needs that costs resources to fulfill, we don't have government-run farms and grocery stores. They're all privatized, and starvation is almost nonexistant here. In fact, people who don't have enough money to buy enough food don't go to publicly-run food stores; they're qualified for vouchers to purchase food (aka food stamps) that they use at for-profit businesses (grocery stores).

For people who want to socialize every basic human need in society, I would ask: should we have the government distribute food with ration cards distributed evenly to all citizens? Would this be a good idea, or is it okay to have the free market provide society with something as basic as food?

Also, clothing is a pretty basic human necessity, probably even more necessary to society than health care. (If we walked around in the heat and cold naked then we'd probably get very sick quickly).

And yet, why is there no clothing crisis in the U.S.? Is every poor hapless consumer getting screwed when he/she goes to JC Penny and buys a durable pair of jeans that will last for years for just an hour or two's wages?

Any private company with enough political influence can probably negotiate itself a fat government contract to provide services (e.g. Halliburton, Blackwater, pick your favorite corrupt contractor), and I know there is often failure. But there is a HUGE difference, I believe, between a private institution making profits because they were able to lobby for them in a corrupt political system and a private institution making profits because they do a great job providing the people in society what they want and need.

Public institutions fail too sometimes. Also, quite often, public institutions outsource many of their needs to private for-profit companies that are very successful too. If a government institution needs software, should they have the Department of Software Development bureaucracy write their own software, or purchase some from private profit-driven companies like Apple or Microsoft?

Is it wrong when a hospital spends tens of thousands of dollars on private corporation like IBM, to purchase the computers they need? When they do, why is there not an outcry of, "health care is too important, and we're spending tens of thousands of dollars to depend on a for-profit corporation for computer technology used daily in the delivery of healthcare!!"?

The fact is, so many for-profit companies in our capitalist market provide valuable services (even critical services that everyone depends on) that you don't even notice because you're so used to what they produce being high-quality and dependable.

When you have a medical emergency, and you call (on a telephone produced by a for-profit technology corporation) for an ambulance, and the ambulance (which was produced by a for-profit auto manufacturer) rushes you back to the hospital (which was built by a for-profit construction company, whose heating and a/c were provided by a for-profit heating & cooling contractor), do you often worry that your phone call will get dropped by a greedy voice network provider, or that the ambulance will break down on the way to the hospital because of corporate greed over at Ford or GM? Or that the hospital building will collapse because the contractor hoarded bricks out of evil capitalist greed?

With moderate amounts of regulation & safety standards, profit-seeking capital-driven businesses provide dependable goods & services in ways that we don't always notice unless they're absent, but on the occasion when one company is corrupt or does stuff illegal, it gets all the news attention (e.g. Enron, WorldCom, etc).

As for public schools, they are a great example of government failure. In the U.S. the federal government has more control and spends more federal dollars today than ever before on public education, however even as government involvement has increased, quality has decreased. And this is not something that can be pinned on capitalism because schools (except private schools) are publicly-run institutions, managed by government bureaucracies, not investment-driven, profit-seeking enterprises.

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Re: Why capitalism sucks...I think...

Postby Vaniver » Mon Jul 21, 2008 8:19 pm UTC

mrandrewv wrote:I don't really care if one percent has a great healthcare system, you cannot use exceptional examples to justify a flawed system.
Actually, it's more like 60% have a great system, 30% have a mediocre system, and 10% don't get much treatment at all.

mrandrewv wrote:And isn't the US farming industry heavily subsidised by the government?
Sort of- starting around WWII, there was a tremendous overinvestment into American farms that made it so that there was too much grain for the grain to be worth enough to keep the farmers out of bankruptcy (and most of this investment was in the form of farmers taking out loans to buy tractors or other capital). In response, farmers are subsidized primarily to not grow all the food they could, and the government buys a significant amount of American food to ship to Africa (because if you're going to throw away food, you might as well throw it towards starving people).

mrandrewv wrote:I take your points about the Socialist Democracies, and yet they STILL have a higher standard of living than the US, and a better education system (theirs is nationalised too).
Yeah- but again, the numbers matter. All the Scandinavian countries (using the loose definition that includes Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, and Iceland) have a combined population of around 25 million; that's around three times as many people as live in NYC, and a twelfth of the population of the US. If allowed to pick and choose regions, you can find the nice twelfth of the US and probably beat out Scandinavia. A better comparison is probably the US and the EU-* despite having 66% more people, their GDPs are neck and neck.

mrandrewv wrote:Sorry for double post, but I can't help but feel that we are drifiting away from my point, which is that certain things should not be subject to market forces.
But you've yet to come up with a convincing reason why. I feel the opposite- fundamental elements of standard of living are too important to trust them to a monopoly (which is what giving them to the government is). I want to be able to get my house from a different builder if I don't like my current one; I want to be able to switch brands of food/grocery stores/farms; I want to be able to switch medical care providers.

Now, whether or not everyone is guaranteed a certain standard of living just for being human or for being American is an entirely different question, and one not related to capitalism. But if we feel that, say, $12,000 is the minimum income anyone should have for continuing to breathe then it's more efficient to write checks than it is to have a government monopoly provide those services- because the poor can derive far more benefit from $12,000 than a government agency with a budget of $12,000.

*Most EU countries follow welfare capitalism, so their methods are similar to Scandinavia while their resources aren't.
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Re: Why capitalism sucks...I think...

Postby mrandrewv » Mon Jul 21, 2008 8:28 pm UTC

N4ry4: First off, yes, if you could clarify the difference between those two that would be great.

Secondly: thank you. As usual I learn alot from your posts.

But something still bothers me. Here in the Real World the American healthcare system is in such a shambles that, as I mentioned before, many consumers are going to Mexico to have their health needs satisfied.

To me this means that, for those people, the US healthcare system is inferior to the Mexican one.

The food thing: I always thought food stamps were paid for by the government? ANd that the US agricultural industry is also heavily subsidised by the government.

Higher education is not a basic human right, at least not as I understand it. But primary education is. Could you please find an example of a country that has a successful primary education system that is privatised? Cause I've already listed my examples of countries where primary education is socialised, AND highly successful.

I'm still not up to date with NCLB (but if you would like more information about the South African education system I could talk almost indefinitely :) ) but my understanding is that many of the problems from it stemmed from the fact that the fundamental flaw in the system has not been dealt with: schools in poor areas get less money, therefore they will perform worse, therefore their good students will leave, therefore they will get less money from incentive programs and so the cycle continues. I also blame this on capitalism because it is a completely capitalist idea that because your parents are rich you should get an unfair advantage (unfair because as important as quality of education is if you want to survive in the market your education needs to be COMPETITIVE, and poor schools simply cannot compete with wealthy ones).

But Vaniver: if your ideas of privatised healthcare are actually accurate then why is the US healthcare system in such a bad state?

And I'm sorry, but I don't really see what you are getting at with the Scandanavian countries. If their system was flawed then surely their standard of living would be lower? And remember that these are countries that were gutted after WWII, yet they still recovered, and have apparently surpassed the US in some vital areas. Yes the US has a vaster population, it also, as you said, have a gigantic assload more money.

And yet their standard of living is still higher, as is their literacy rate, their employment rate and their life expectancy.
It's all very interesting...

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Re: Why capitalism sucks...I think...

Postby Belial » Mon Jul 21, 2008 8:35 pm UTC

And I'm sorry, but I don't really see what you are getting at with the Scandanavian countries. If their system was flawed then surely their standard of living would be lower?


I believe what vaniver is saying is that an incredible wealth of resources can make even an inefficient system run well.

So if their system is bad, it can still have good results (high standard of living) simply because there is SO MUCH MONEY being channeled through it due to their resource wealth.
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Re: Why capitalism sucks...I think...

Postby Micron » Mon Jul 21, 2008 8:55 pm UTC

I don't feel like diving into the specific arguments you've started here but I'll offer two points that I think are relevant to the discussion.

mrandrewv wrote:You see, capitalism is all fine and good, for most things, but there are a few areas where it falls flat on its arse.
...
See, and I've never studied economics so please feel free to correct me on stuff, ...

You've sort of got the right idea. Market failures are a pretty basic concept in economics and something you might want to read more about. There are a number of different cases where we know that a free market cannot operate efficiently, meaning that goods will not be traded in the way that maximizes everyone's well-being and that a better alternative could exist under different market conditions. Unfortunately all this means is that a free market cannot hit the ideal case under such conditions but we can't promise that any other system would actually do better. Interfering with a free market (usually through government regulation) might be able to make it operate more efficiently but can also make it less efficient. Therefore a reasonable debate over economic policy (good luck finding one!) is usually over how much to interfere with a market and how to make sure such interference has a positive net result.

Secondly this thread appears to be falling into a false dichotomy by suggesting that government control of "basic needs" is an all-or-nothing proposition. In reality we can and do have a balance between free market supply of goods and government rationing. Usually this appears in the form of a guaranteed minimum supply of resources or services while allowing the market to control access to preferable levels of those goods.
The market might dictate the supply and cost of food but by adding social programs to try to make sure no one actually starves to death we can get the benefit of a fairly efficient market while avoiding the economic cost of creating a desperate and unproductive segment of the population and we even get to do something generally considered to be proper ethical behavior.

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Re: Why capitalism sucks...I think...

Postby Vaniver » Mon Jul 21, 2008 9:02 pm UTC

mrandrewv wrote:But Vaniver: if your ideas of privatised healthcare are actually accurate then why is the US healthcare system in such a bad state?
It depends on what aspect of the system we're talking about and whether or not you consider the US healthcare system private or not. It also depends on what we mean by bad state- for the ~60%, the US system is working fine. If you judge by equality of access, then yeah the US system has deep flaws (that's how we got #37)- but why should we call equality of access a part of the system's quality?

mrandrewv wrote:If their system was flawed then surely their standard of living would be lower? And remember that these are countries that were gutted after WWII, yet they still recovered, and have apparently surpassed the US in some vital areas. Yes the US has a vaster population, it also, as you said, have a gigantic assload more money.
My point is that if you divide up a large region, you're going to get small regions that are different from each other- and so coming to conclusions about the US and Europe by comparing, say, Delaware* and the EU as a whole is as fair as comparing Iceland and the US as a whole. I mean, we didn't close our eyes and randomly pick Scandinavia to compare to the US- Scandinavia is one of the wealthier subregions of Europe, primarily because of oil reserves.

*Delaware has the highest GSP per capita of any US state at $59k, while the lowest is Mississippi at $24k, according to wikipedia. Fun side note: Only 4 US states have a GDP per capita lower than that of the EU as a whole.
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Re: Why capitalism sucks...I think...

Postby KevorkianKat » Mon Jul 21, 2008 9:16 pm UTC

I like this:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Communalism

It's like capitalism at a macro level and then in each community is run socially on a medium level, but allows for individualism on a micro level.

It's like having your cake and eating it too, as long as your neighbors agree it won't poison the water.

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Re: Why capitalism sucks...I think...

Postby Gunfingers » Mon Jul 21, 2008 9:31 pm UTC

As an interesting side note, it turns out some of the hospitals in mexico are actually really nice. In fact, they are visited by wealthy and affluent people from all over the world seeking top-notch health care.

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Re: Why capitalism sucks...I think...

Postby the_stabbage » Mon Jul 21, 2008 10:05 pm UTC

PhilSandifer wrote:It's not a right, no. Roads are also not a right, but we generally have no problem with the idea that the government is going to provide them. National defense is not a right, but we generally are willing to contract that to the government instead of to private militias. There's no reason we couldn't just let Raytheon build missiles and manage their use.


I would argue that national defense, to a level that is reasonable and not half of government spending like in the States, is a right. Security is one of the key things a government has to ensure to its citizens. It's unfortunate that governments have to defend their citizens from other governments, and defend their citizens from themselves, but they have to do it.

Gunfingers wrote:In response to your most recent post:

The whole point to socializing it is that the people who need it won't be paying for it. The guy living in the trailer unable to pay his medical bills is paying virtually nothing in taxes. He's not paying for something he's not getting. Instead, someone else would be paying for him to get it. That's why you'll never see it in the states. We don't like paying taxes to benefit other people.


If everyone paid taxes, and in return got something with the exact value of their contribution, there isn't much point in taxing. If Johnny Trailer pays $100 a year in taxes, does he deserve $100 a year of police protection or highway use? As socialist as it sounds, taxes are there to redistribute some wealth, and to pool money together to get something that $10 from every person wouldn't get done.

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Re: Why capitalism sucks...I think...

Postby Indon » Mon Jul 21, 2008 11:18 pm UTC

Belial wrote:I believe what vaniver is saying is that an incredible wealth of resources can make even an inefficient system run well.

So if their system is bad, it can still have good results (high standard of living) simply because there is SO MUCH MONEY being channeled through it due to their resource wealth.


The US is a resource-rich nation, too, with not only extensive oil reserves but with a laundry list of varied natural resources. With all of our land mass and continental shelf compared to our relatively small population, how could we not be? But those resources are part of the market, not socialized - if the market could provide a service in any nation as a result of natural wealth, it should provide it in the US (With the possible exception of Kuwait, which has an exceptionally small population of citizens due to extremely restrictive naturalization laws).

the_stabbage wrote:If everyone paid taxes, and in return got something with the exact value of their contribution, there isn't much point in taxing. If Johnny Trailer pays $100 a year in taxes, does he deserve $100 a year of police protection or highway use? As socialist as it sounds, taxes are there to redistribute some wealth, and to pool money together to get something that $10 from every person wouldn't get done.


I would say wealth redistribution is only a side-effect of a good tax system (and even then, the actual amount of wealth redistribution that would be ideal is very much up for debate), with the primary purpose being to get everyone to pay for things which theoretically, any given person could pay for, but wouldn't. We could privatize roads, for instance - but it's unlikely that would be a good idea.

I also think we're neglecting something important in this conversation - problems that result specifically from the interaction between government and market forces. Enron did not occur in some capitalistic vacuum - the government has quite a hand in energy and Enron had quite an influence over that hand.

So I should think we should stop talking so much about why capitalism sucks, and instead why wealth-oriented (as opposed to democratic) influence over government is so abusable, and how it might be possible to reduce its' impact.
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Re: Why capitalism sucks...I think...

Postby Vaniver » Tue Jul 22, 2008 1:55 am UTC

the_stabbage wrote:If everyone paid taxes, and in return got something with the exact value of their contribution, there isn't much point in taxing. If Johnny Trailer pays $100 a year in taxes, does he deserve $100 a year of police protection or highway use? As socialist as it sounds, taxes are there to redistribute some wealth, and to pool money together to get something that $10 from every person wouldn't get done.
Arguably, that's exactly what (flat) income or property taxes do- the value of your protection is proportional to your income or your property.

Indon wrote:I also think we're neglecting something important in this conversation - problems that result specifically from the interaction between government and market forces. Enron did not occur in some capitalistic vacuum - the government has quite a hand in energy and Enron had quite an influence over that hand.
I could have sworn I had brought that up but I must have deleted it. But yes- in most cases where privatization goes wrong, it's because you didn't privatize enough, not because you privatized some.
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Re: Why capitalism sucks...I think...

Postby fjafjan » Tue Jul 22, 2008 2:17 am UTC

Belial wrote:
And I'm sorry, but I don't really see what you are getting at with the Scandanavian countries. If their system was flawed then surely their standard of living would be lower?


I believe what vaniver is saying is that an incredible wealth of resources can make even an inefficient system run well.

So if their system is bad, it can still have good results (high standard of living) simply because there is SO MUCH MONEY being channeled through it due to their resource wealth.

And he is, still, horribly fucking wrong, I have destroyed this argument far too many times.
It is true for Norway, and to a lesser extent Denmark. It is not at ALL true for Sweden or Finland, both of who rely more or less entirely on innovation etc for wealth creation.
Infact that argument is more easily applied on the US, who does have significant natural resources, especially compared to Sweden and Finland.
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Re: Why capitalism sucks...I think...

Postby Griffin » Tue Jul 22, 2008 2:52 am UTC

The problem in the US isn't a crappy healthcare industry, its that insurance industries in general are prone to market failures and the US medical insurance industry is completely fucked up. Well that and a combination of not enough doctors/nurses/medical proffessionals. (a problem government control only tends to make worse).]

And I don't think you can really say anythign representative about Enron, because most of what they did was illegal. You can argue that the system needs better oversight, and I'd agree, but corruption isn't going to go away by putting things in the hands of the government - if anything that will make it even more difficult for the truth to come out and the people responsible to be prosecuted.

Also, the primary goal of taxation isn't wealth distribution, its the understanding that be pooling are money we can get back something more valuable than our contribution (roads, national defense, education) - economics works because its not, as many people seem to believe, a zero sum game. Everybody profits from a good transaction.

And education in the US, grade school anyways, IS government run, and we have a crappy system. Our college system is known for being among the best in the world (if not the best) and that education is 100% private.

Anyways, summarizing, there are situations where government regulation, government services, and government control are beneficial. You have to argue a lot better than you've done to prove thats the case in any of the industries you mentioned, though.

There are many situations where the government could do better than private industry is doing. That doesn't mean that it WILL, however... one could argue that private industry should reasonable be doing better as well, were it not full of liars and people trying to game the system, but poor implentations are possible anywhere. I think money would be better spent by the government ensuring as free a market as possible in those areas than killing the market completely (or affecting it with other approaches, like, say, subsidizing medical training and regulating medical insurance standards, which would probably do a lot to drop prices in the US).
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Re: Why capitalism sucks...I think...

Postby PhilSandifer » Tue Jul 22, 2008 4:03 am UTC

the_stabbage wrote:
PhilSandifer wrote:It's not a right, no. Roads are also not a right, but we generally have no problem with the idea that the government is going to provide them. National defense is not a right, but we generally are willing to contract that to the government instead of to private militias. There's no reason we couldn't just let Raytheon build missiles and manage their use.


I would argue that national defense, to a level that is reasonable and not half of government spending like in the States, is a right. Security is one of the key things a government has to ensure to its citizens. It's unfortunate that governments have to defend their citizens from other governments, and defend their citizens from themselves, but they have to do it.


I think you have the right to not be attacked by other governments, but I'm skeptical of the right to have any specific person defend you. It's a subtle big significant difference.

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Re: Why capitalism sucks...I think...

Postby Jahoclave » Tue Jul 22, 2008 4:52 am UTC

Griffin wrote:And education in the US, grade school anyways, IS government run, and we have a crappy system. Our college system is known for being among the best in the world (if not the best) and that education is 100% private.

So all that money going to state schools from the state governments is what now? Just saying, it's not 100% private.

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Re: Why capitalism sucks...I think...

Postby mrandrewv » Tue Jul 22, 2008 11:03 am UTC

Summary:

1) Healthcare is a privatised industry in the US, and it stinks, which is why people have to go to Mexico for their healthcare.
2) The US has more money AND greater natural resources than certain aforementioned Socialist Democracies and yet they still have a higher standard of living.
3) They also have nationalised education and a better literacy rate than that of the US.
4)The education system as it stands is inherently unfair, and will remain so FOREVER until poor kids are given an education that allows them to compete against rich kids.
5) fjafjan OWNS! :D

(Oh and btw what Enron did in California by creating an artificial shortage of electricity was not illegal, just completely immoral, thats why it was impossible to stop.)
It's all very interesting...

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Re: Why capitalism sucks...I think...

Postby mrandrewv » Tue Jul 22, 2008 12:00 pm UTC

Well since my other thread got locked I shall post this here then, and go and read the rules again.

Paste:

Hang on.

Once again let me say that I am posting this because I don't know anything about economics and business and I find that debate is a good way to learn.

Goodhart's law says that when you use a surrogate measure for something (for example using the pass rate as a measure of the quality of teaching) and then use what you have found to make social or economic policy then the surrogate measure you are using will very quickly become useless for its intended purpose, because people will always find ways of cheating the system (e.g. lower standards so low that almost everyone passes).

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Goodhart%27s_law

And it occured to me that if this law is true then it implies a fundamental philosophical flaw in Capitalist theory.

Check it out.
1) Capitalism posits that if people are given choice over which company's services they use then the service that is better will be chosen more often by them and will thus become more successful.

2) The way that we measure how successful a company is should be through a surrogate measure: money.

3) Therefore the company that makes more money must be the company that is offering the best service.

Now if Goodhart's law is true then companies will devote alot of time and energy to find ways of getting the surrogate measure (money) instead of spending their time trying to get the actual end product: a better service.

Now in theory companies can't devote themselve to money to the detriment of the quality of their service, because then consumer's will neglect them, and go for companies whose services are better.

The problem with this theory has already been dealt with in depth: it doesn't seem to apply in the really real world, and the US Healthcare system and the health insurance companies are a perfect example of this (the South African banking system is also a good example, don't get me started). They have clearly found a way to get more money for themselves in a way that is definitely to the detriment of the quality of the service they are offering.

See being too expensive definitely lowers the quality of your service, if "quality" is defined as being "what the consumers want". I mean since this is all about choice if people are unhappy with the service, for any reason, then they should be able to find a service that they are happy with.

And clearly that isn't happening, since they are still going to Mexico for healthcare (yeah I know, I keep harping on this point, but so far no one has explained it).

Anyway I just thought this might be an interesting discussion from a philosophical perspective.
It's all very interesting...

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Re: Why capitalism sucks...I think...

Postby Gunfingers » Tue Jul 22, 2008 1:03 pm UTC

mrandrewv wrote:Summary:

1) Healthcare is a privatised industry in the US, and it stinks, which is why people have to go to Mexico for their healthcare.

Again, doesn't stink. Some people have gone to Mexico because there are hospitals there specifically designed to appeal to medical tourism (unless you have some other data, because that's all i've heard of). I've heard just as many stories of people leaving England to get treated in the states. Which is to say, in both cases a trivial amount compared to the number of people who don't do it.
mrandrewv wrote:2) The US has more money AND greater natural resources than certain aforementioned Socialist Democracies and yet they still have a higher standard of living.

Ignoring for a moment that the freedoms afforded by a decentralized and free market are more important than bread and circuses, we'll remind you of the scaling problems. The US has more resources (maybe), but also approximately twelve times as many people.
mrandrewv wrote:3) They also have nationalised education and a better literacy rate than that of the US.

Whoa, whoa, whoa, our socialized education system sucks? Let's not say things we can't take back.
mrandrewv wrote:4)The education system as it stands is inherently unfair, and will remain so FOREVER until poor kids are given an education that allows them to compete against rich kids.

Correct. Well, ish. It is unfair, but people's livlihoods aren't made or broken on the difference between a school in a good neighborhood and a school in a bad neighborhood. Not that simple. After all, they both suck. Now a flat across-the-board funding system, rather than funding by local property taxes would help. But so would parent choice, and the half-dozen other things we discussed in the education thread.
mrandrewv wrote:5) fjafjan OWNS! :D

Meh, he's okay (please don't ban me, Mr Fjafjan! Also, how the piss do you pronounce your name?).


Good point with the Goodheart's law thing, though. Someone should have told us that 200 years ago. We didn't realize how failed a system free market was. We were probably fooled by how rich and well-off we are as a country.


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