Marxism/Socialism/Communism

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Gunfingers
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Re: Marxism/Socialism/Communism

Postby Gunfingers » Wed Aug 20, 2008 7:27 pm UTC

I'm not fully familiar with the history of Nepal, and what i've read on the CIA website doesn't really say much in your favor. Can you be more specific?

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Re: Marxism/Socialism/Communism

Postby Jahoclave » Wed Aug 20, 2008 7:31 pm UTC

Vaniver wrote:
Jahoclave wrote:And it's not that simple. You have to eat? Food costs money. You must work to make money.
I have never promised that life is peaches and cream, or that it would be possible to fulfill basic wants without some sort of sacrifice.

Jahoclave wrote:If no company offers an alternative payscale then you don't much have the option of choosing to work for such payscale because you have needs that need to be fulfilled.
Monopsonies are unpleasant. How frequently does it come to pass that there is a single employer in the community? Should we ignore that this horror story describes most versions of Marxism?

Do you just ignore shit? Where did my statement indicate a monopoly? It didn't. Should we ignore the fact that your last statement is wrong?

Jahoclave wrote:And in the capitalist system you don't have to maximize output to maximize profit. You can make more producing less if you cut costs, such as compensation for labor.
Depending on the situation. Employers are in competition with one another, and part of that competition is competing for quality labor.

Except you can profit off the labor side.

Jahoclave wrote:The capitalist method provides greater benefits for investors and the capitalists.
How are you measuring benefits? Dollar inflows, or quality of life?

Seeing as those two are related.

Jahoclave wrote:The Capitalist methods ensure that the working class doesn't have much of a say in the matter.
In a Capitalist society, every man is his own master, although he may not be able to influence others as much as he would like. In a Communist society, every man is community property.

So while he may be a drop in the sea of collective opinion, I would argue he has far less say in the matter.

And once again you miss the point. Marxism doesn't change the fundamental structure of democracy. Very little of the way America runs its government would actually have to change. So saying that every man is property is an outright lie. I'd say he has a far greater say in how the company is run because some say is better than no say. Unless you've changed math.

Jahoclave wrote:You produce 10 value units. You are given 9 value units. The employer gains 1 value unit. 10 value units are in the world. You're now 10% poorer than you were before you produced ten value units.
Why do you assume that it costs me 10 value units to make 10 value units?

Because cost is outside this example. I'm only talking about the value of labor that the worker put into the product. It could cost you a hundred value units to produce the product, ten of which are the value of the labor put in. However, if you only pay your worker 9 units it'll only cost you 99.

Jahoclave wrote:Which, when combined with the last statement, is why you have a lot of Russia, China, etc don't count because they run almost contradictory to the way the theory should have been applied.
I believe that Russia, China, and such are the last stage of the natural progression of Communist societies. Marx believes that utopia is the last stage of that progression.

One of us has had our expectations fulfilled every time.

I'd rather say they aren't since they aren't utopian. So I believe you're wrong. Doesn't get much of anywhere.

Gun, how about you look at their most recent ELECTION results; hint, the communist/marxist parties cleaned house.

Yakk, perhaps if you stopped treating your laws like they're only allowed under a capitalist society then perhaps I could answer your question. However, the ability to trade goods has been in every economy. That's what you're asking me to say I'm outlawing. So unless you're going to stop loading your question so that it can be answered, it's not a valid question. Also, which of your rules did those systems make illegal? You didn't seem to answer that I noticed.

As to the company buy in. If you use Robinson's model you start out with an apprenticeship which you then use to buy into the company. When you leave you get that capital back. It's not inherently Marxist but it is a solution to the problem.

And where did I say that the workers of a company could go back on a contract after they signed it? Oh right, I didn't. I said that they have a say in the matter of making the contract. Of course apparently I'm supposed to outlaw this for some reason according to you? After all, apparently you've taken it upon yourself to define what Marxism is.

By the way Yakk, how do you plan to solve all the problems identified with Capitalism? I'll be awaiting your proposed solutions.

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Re: Marxism/Socialism/Communism

Postby Gunfingers » Wed Aug 20, 2008 8:04 pm UTC

Confirmed: Out of the 601 seats in the Nepalese congress 323 are divided between their two communist parties (220 to the maoists, 103 to the marxist-leninists) with the only other major party being some socialist party. Thanks for the clarification.

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Re: Marxism/Socialism/Communism

Postby Jahoclave » Wed Aug 20, 2008 8:05 pm UTC

Gunfingers wrote:Confirmed: Out of the 601 seats in the Nepalese congress 323 are divided between their two communist parties (220 to the maoists, 103 to the marxist-leninists) with the only other major party being some socialist party. Thanks for the clarification.

No problem.

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Re: Marxism/Socialism/Communism

Postby Yakk » Wed Aug 20, 2008 9:15 pm UTC

If no company offers an alternative payscale then you don't much have the option of choosing to work for such payscale because you have needs that need to be fulfilled.


Monopsonies are unpleasant. How frequently does it come to pass that there is a single employer in the community? Should we ignore that this horror story describes most versions of Marxism?


Do you just ignore shit? Where did my statement indicate a monopoly? It didn't. Should we ignore the fact that your last statement is wrong?

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

A Monopsony is a purchaser monopoly (as opposed to a supplier monopoly, which are called monopolies). If there is no company offering alternative employment, then that company is indeed a monopsony of employment.

Except you can profit off the labor side.

Labor can profit off of capital, except when you define "value" to be "that which is produced by labor", and deny that investment has value.

Fuck -- I think I can do it in that case. A company spends 1 billion dollars investing in a plant. The demand for the good plummets, and the plant is only worth 100 million as scrap. The company will want to continue employing workers, even though the company will make a net loss, so long as an operating profit exists, even if that operating profit is swallowed up in the 1 billion dollar dead-weight initial investment.

Had the workers been the people who put up the capital to build that factory, they would be out the 1 billion dollars (well 900 million).

Much like workers tend to avoid spending 100,000$s on training for a job that pays 10,000$ per year, this is something that companies try to avoid.

And once again you miss the point. Marxism doesn't change the fundamental structure of democracy. Very little of the way America runs its government would actually have to change. So saying that every man is property is an outright lie. I'd say he has a far greater say in how the company is run because some say is better than no say. Unless you've changed math.

He cannot own land. He cannot invest resources in a small business.

Currently, you can form a Coop that acts as you want it to be law for every single company to act like. You have that freedom. You want to take away the option to engage in alternatives, and (possibly) take away all currently amassed capital at gun-point.

Gun, how about you look at their most recent ELECTION results; hint, the communist/marxist parties cleaned house.

Yakk, perhaps if you stopped treating your laws like they're only allowed under a capitalist society then perhaps I could answer your question. However, the ability to trade goods has been in every economy. That's what you're asking me to say I'm outlawing. So unless you're going to stop loading your question so that it can be answered, it's not a valid question.


If you can take capital, make investments with that capital, and make contracts so that the capital others are using is used in the way you dictate, you have a capitalist market society.

You stated that you cannot legally give capital to another, and arrange for repayment later. I have the answer, I suppose.

Also, which of your rules did those systems make illegal? You didn't seem to answer that I noticed.


Going from Feudalism to Capitalism happened because certain things became illegal? Are you talking about what kind of things you'd have to make illegal in order to go from Capitalism to Feudalism?

And where did I say that the workers of a company could go back on a contract after they signed it? Oh right, I didn't. I said that they have a say in the matter of making the contract. Of course apparently I'm supposed to outlaw this for some reason according to you? After all, apparently you've taken it upon yourself to define what Marxism is.


But I have a say in my contract with investors. It is called my employment contract. They agree to pay me a salary and benefits and the like. Sure, it is mediated through a legal fiction called the "corporation", so I don't have to go and make deals with all 1 million investors in a given enterprise, because that would be stupidly complex, and rather make having investors much more of a bother.

If they "have control what to do with profits", then the investor doesn't have such control. Which means the investor is fucked, doesn't it? Unless, of course, you allowed the investor to place obligations on the company in exchange for the investment... at which point, we just reinvented capitalism.

By the way Yakk, how do you plan to solve all the problems identified with Capitalism? I'll be awaiting your proposed solutions.

Attempt to price in externalities. Attempt to create non-deforming taxation to generate a central government to prevent anarchy, and to provide natural monopoly services (or regulate same). Have regulations about monopolies and monopsony that discourage them, and adapt them to changing circumstances. When giving out "discount" positive externality-laden thing (like education), attach conditional debt that is offset by taxation, and matures if and only if the person in question ceases paying taxes.

Dip into the huge amount of created wealth with taxes to generate a social safety net that provides a minimal guaranteed income (not enough to be well off, but enough not to starve if you move where living is cheap), while making sure that the effective marginal tax rate doesn't explode at either end (most welfare states generate insane effective marginal tax rates due to claw-backs on the poorest portion of society).

Arrange for taxes like the inheritance tax, that cuts into inter-generational capital accumulation (the children of someone who is good at picking investments aren't always that good). This tax should be similar in rate to how, say, hiring people to build a house is taxed.

Many of these problems are hard, but each of these problems (factoring in externalities -- how much?, caring for the poor and those who cannot or will not employ themselves, etc) exist in alternative systems.

That leaves the property price problem (if a city or neighborhood becomes a better place to live, most of the value is captured in property prices. Renters end up paying more for living in a better place (even if it doesn't line up with their idea of better), which means they have no incentive to make their city better to live in -- they pay for the quality increase on a monthly basis...)
One of the painful things about our time is that those who feel certainty are stupid, and those with any imagination and understanding are filled with doubt and indecision - BR

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Re: Marxism/Socialism/Communism

Postby Indon » Wed Aug 20, 2008 9:26 pm UTC

Yakk wrote:He cannot own land. He cannot invest resources in a small business.

Problems of converting to a marxist structure aside, I might point out that despite my right to bear arms, I can't personally own a working tank. Having freedom by no means implies having all freedoms.
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Re: Marxism/Socialism/Communism

Postby existential_elevator » Wed Aug 20, 2008 10:23 pm UTC

CFT wrote:...Only in your second post you give an example of competition. But your claim isn't supported in reality. You wrote "...it starts making cuts; perhaps in the quality of material it uses". In reality high quality clothes are available, but at a higher price than lower quality. "or in how many people it employs or how much it pays them". In a first world industry labour unions exists giving bargaining power to the workers. In the example of the clothing industry, they often outsource work to third world countries, so your sweatshop reference is pretty accurate. But your thesis is "capitalism supports competition, but at the cost of the consumers". If you claimed that third world workers are exploited for the benefit of consumers, that argument would fit better.
And you still didn't answer my question: Why do you think a government monopoly would do better?

This progression is still at the cost of the consumer. If the company would accept a lower profit margin, they could afford to pay for better materials and better workers and achieve the same lower prices for their customer. Instead, we're seeing ridiculous gaps [more money spent on branding and advertisement than in actually maintating production] where the excess capital is all a bit senseless, and could be used more efficiently.
I am not suggesting a government monopoly. I don't think the government are likely to start manufacturing jumpsuits. It's not fair to assume that in a communist country the state controls everything [ie, is totalitarian]. If the incentive of manufacturing is something other than profit, between two competing brands, the outcome seems better for the consumer. Perhaps they compete to give better value, or better quality.

Your second argument is "This public service cannot be run in competition, due to practicalities". Cases like this exist, but they are extremely rare. And there are models for solving them. Usually it comes from someone that wants a monopoly either for profit(if he is a businessman) or for power and higher funding(if he is a government bureaucrat). In the case of the bus route example, I can tell you with most certainty that London can support more than one bus company on competing routes.

London might be able to support such a system, but smaller towns and villages cannot. I do know some routes that are serviced by several different bus companies, but these are only the profitable routes [ones that attract commuters, mainly]. It seems that the people who just want to get the bus over to <local village x> to visit <local friend y> are thus worse off because they cannot choose, and are given no choice, over who provides their transport.

Vaniver wrote:
existential elevator wrote:The problem is that, in providing public services, we are far worst off when they are provided by private companies, especially when these services are necessary.
In some cases (a private company is the sole supplier) you are often right; in others (private companies compete to supply a public need) you are often wrong. A government contractor as the only firm fulfilling a service is not very different from a government agency as the only firm fulfilling the service, and in both cases you run into trouble because you don't have competition as a motivator.

We could discuss for a bit for what things this problem is endemic (having multiple bus companies in the same city is probably worse than a single mediocre efficient bus company) and for what things this problem is artificial (there's no reason each school couldn't buy its own dinners from whatever supplier it wants), but that's probably going a bit too far off on a tangent.


Okay, so the problem with the school is still that the actual consumer does not have any control over the choice made. Yes, the appropriate school official can choose a supplier, but this person will not be eating the food. Due to vast economic pressures, s/he is obviously going to pick the cheapest. Public schools are, of course, not a profitable venture, and the school itself will not make money from providing food, but will rather be spending it where it will be wanted elsewhere [buying other supplies for instance].
Competition should not be the only form of regulation. There need to be government controls on quality, especially on food.

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Re: Marxism/Socialism/Communism

Postby Yakk » Wed Aug 20, 2008 11:48 pm UTC

existential_elevator wrote:This progression is still at the cost of the consumer. If the company would accept a lower profit margin, they could afford to pay for better materials and better workers and achieve the same lower prices for their customer. Instead, we're seeing ridiculous gaps [more money spent on branding and advertisement than in actually maintating production] where the excess capital is all a bit senseless, and could be used more efficiently.


But people freely choose to buy from the company that advritises and brands themselves.

Really, they do.

Who are you to say that they shouldn't be doing it?

Second, that profit is what convinced other people to give up their consumption power, and invest assets into the company. So now you need to figure out a way to allocate assets to infrastructure without any profit to encourage people to do it freely.

The reason there is profit is to reward the allocation of assets to increase production. If you have a magic ball that can find the ideal allocation and use of assets, and a cornicopia that can produce the assets to invest in production[1], then no, you don't need profit.

The profit provides a method by which individuals can individually use their brains to figure out a way to invest their assets in a way to improve productivity. The and loss possibility give them their reward/punishment for succeeding or failing, in whatever way they figure it out. The possibility of profit makes people happy to not spend assets on immediate consumption, and instead invest them in increasing the productivity of other people.

In the case of pure buying and selling, their purchase decisions provide the information about the relative demand, supply, rarity and usefulness of various comanies and goods. When someone is deciding "should I make this wire copper or gold" -- gold would be better -- the price of copper and gold, together with how useful they would be, tells them what the right choice is.

[1] If you have a cornicopia, of course, you don't need much in the way of production investment.

...

If you ignore "the business screwed up, so it fails, and it's remaining capital is allocated to other tasks", "determining where to invest finite capital so it generates the most wealth is a difficult problem", "convincing someone that not consuming goods right now, and instead investing in increasing the societies productivity, is a reward", "determining the proper trade off ratios between goods when making a decision", "you can freely set up a marxist company, where the workers own the company, and collectively decide what to do with profits" -- then yes, capitalism sucks.

But you are allowed to try out your models. You can build CoOp companies and see if they do better at a task -- I even shop regularly at one (Mountain Equipment Coop). Everyone has that freedom.

But that isn't enough. You have to make the alternatives illegal.
One of the painful things about our time is that those who feel certainty are stupid, and those with any imagination and understanding are filled with doubt and indecision - BR

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Re: Marxism/Socialism/Communism

Postby Indon » Thu Aug 21, 2008 1:53 am UTC

Yakk wrote:If you have a magic ball that can find the ideal allocation and use of assets, and a cornicopia that can produce the assets to invest in production[1], then no, you don't need profit.

Educated professionals can form your magic ball, possibly better than what's already there. Now, the cornucopia isn't off-the-top-of-the-head easy to produce, on the other hand.

Hmm.

Loans might be a good alternative. A good deal of investment is already performed with loans, and they don't have the boundless-reward-for-nothing aspect of ownership. How does a Marxist society deal with finance?
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Re: Marxism/Socialism/Communism

Postby Yakk » Thu Aug 21, 2008 2:55 am UTC

Indon wrote:
Yakk wrote:If you have a magic ball that can find the ideal allocation and use of assets, and a cornicopia that can produce the assets to invest in production[1], then no, you don't need profit.

Educated professionals can form your magic ball, possibly better than what's already there.

Educated professionals make mistakes all of the time. What we do right now is to use them, test them, and throw out those that don't make decisions that produce lots of surplus value (or enough to justify the risk/time value of money/etc).

Now, the cornucopia isn't off-the-top-of-the-head easy to produce, on the other hand.

Hmm.

Loans might be a good alternative. A good deal of investment is already performed with loans, and they don't have the boundless-reward-for-nothing aspect of ownership. How does a Marxist society deal with finance?

Sure, but Loans typically require:
1> Lots of collateral, ideally amounts that exceed the loan value (a house mortgage -- which, btw, acts a hell of a lot like rent!)

2> A really high interest rate, such as credit card debt.

Companies often get loans because they effectively have a huge pool of assets that get consumed first before the loans do -- equity in a company gets profits last, and takes losses first. You can see an example of this with Bear Sterns, where the company was rendered worthless to stockholders, but creditors got their money.

In effect, you'd be able to pull off things like:
Build a factory. Now get a loan for the "scrap" value of your factory to invest in additional goods. (By "scrap" I mean the value the factory has if your plan doesn't work).

Build a factory. Now get a loan against the value of your home, maybe some future income (if they have loan-friendly bankruptcy systems), etc, and invest more into the factory.

None of this approaches the amount of investment you can get by saying "If this works, you'll be really really rich", and convincing someone of it.
One of the painful things about our time is that those who feel certainty are stupid, and those with any imagination and understanding are filled with doubt and indecision - BR

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Re: Marxism/Socialism/Communism

Postby Vaniver » Thu Aug 21, 2008 5:13 am UTC

Jahoclave wrote:Wow, you know there was also famine in the U.S. during the depression as well.
A famine that was not accompanied by mass starvation, unlike the other famines mentioned.

Jahoclave wrote:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trofim_Lysenko
Soviet scientist is wrong, dissent is rewarded with the gulag, crop yields don't improve until people start using other methods. You're bringing him up why?

Jahoclave wrote:Do you just ignore shit? Where did my statement indicate a monopoly? It didn't.
I apologize; next time I won't assume that you know basic economics or can wikipedia terms you don't recognize.

A monopsony is a situation where there is one buyer and many sellers. It can cause market failures just like a monopoly (a situation in which there is one seller and many buyers).

Jahoclave wrote:Should we ignore the fact that your last statement is wrong?
In most versions of Marxism, everyone is employed by the state (or the community as a whole). That means there is only one employer to pick from; if his terms are not to your liking, you have no recourse.

Jahoclave wrote:Except you can profit off the labor side.
Employment is not a zero-sum deal. In a Capitalist system, if employer and employed are not both made richer by their contract they won't make the contract.

Jahoclave wrote:Seeing as those two are related.
But obviously not linearly; the person making a million dollars a year is not living a life a thousand times more pleasant than the person making a thousand dollars per year. If you compare the ultra-rich of Western Europe in 1008 AD and the ultra-rich of Western Europe in 2008 AD, they still command the best there is to offer- the main difference is most of their servants are now mechanical. Quality of life is better, but maybe only double. If you compare the poor of Western Europe in 1008 AD and the poor of Western Europe in 2008 AD, the quality of life differences are staggering.

Similarly, you can compare the American making 50k a year and the American making 50m a year; both have an air-conditioned home, refrigerated food, machines to do or hasten most chores around the house, quick, cheap transportation, medical care (though the person living off 50k may have trouble comfortably paying for a chronic condition), and copious entertainment. The second American's home will be larger or in a nicer position, their fridge will be bigger, their machines will gleam more and do some other trivial tasks, their transportation will be fancier, the medical care nicer, and the entertainment nicer. But the distance is nowhere near as significant as the difference in their incomes.

Jahoclave wrote:And once again you miss the point. Marxism doesn't change the fundamental structure of democracy. Very little of the way America runs its government would actually have to change. So saying that every man is property is an outright lie.
In a Capitalist system, I always have the ability to stop playing and take my ball home, or go to someone else's playground.

In every Marxism system I've seen which actually is Marxist, that's not an option; the ball is everyone's property, and I can't choose to not work (suggesting that I too am everyone's property).

Jahoclave wrote:I'd say he has a far greater say in how the company is run because some say is better than no say. Unless you've changed math.
Company? I'm not talking about an individual company. I'm talking about how, instead of an individual being able to make their own economic decisions, their decisions are made for them, either by some elected bureaucrat or by everyone voting at once.

I can't see how you think that giving up control of yourself in any way increases the amount of say that you have.

Jahoclave wrote:Because cost is outside this example. I'm only talking about the value of labor that the worker put into the product. It could cost you a hundred value units to produce the product, ten of which are the value of the labor put in. However, if you only pay your worker 9 units it'll only cost you 99.
What determines what the labor is worth?

If it's the market, and I try to shortchange my workers, they'll go work for someone else, because someone else if offering them 10 units for that work. One of the hallmarks of capitalism is that there's competition. That word means something- it means that you can't arbitrarily decide to do whatever you want. Actions have consequences, and trying to screw over everyone else will result in you going out of business.

Jahoclave wrote:I'd rather say they aren't since they aren't utopian. So I believe you're wrong. Doesn't get much of anywhere.

Is there a way for a Marxist/Communist society to fail and that demonstrate that Marxism/Communism itself doesn't work? Or are we throwing falsifiability, the key principle of science, out the window?

Otherwise, your logic is running like this:
1. History disagrees with the Prophet.
2. The Prophet cannot be wrong.
Ergo, the Prophet is not wrong.

existential elevator wrote:Okay, so the problem with the school is still that the actual consumer does not have any control over the choice made. Yes, the appropriate school official can choose a supplier, but this person will not be eating the food.
Indeed, this is another known problem- and one that, since you brought it up, Marxism/Communism has in spades.

Indon wrote:How does a Marxist society deal with finance?
I'm seeing no mention of it in Das Kapital (but as my copy has no index and I'm just checking the Table of Contents, I may easily have missed it).

The Communist Manifesto suggests "Centralization of credit in the banks of the state, by means of a national bank with state capital and an exclusive monopoly."

So, essentially, trust the government to run finance perfectly, because monopolies work so well.
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Re: Marxism/Socialism/Communism

Postby CFT » Thu Aug 21, 2008 10:22 am UTC

Jahoclave wrote:
Jahoclave wrote:[...]Russia, China, etc don't count because they run almost contradictory to the way the theory should have been applied.

What communists don't seem to understand is that most people don't want them in charge. The evidence is how poor they perform in democratic elections. This is why communists must kill/send to reeducation camps anyone who openly disagrees with them. When they loosen the leash people start having ideas, as in Prague in the 1960s. That is why "Peoples Republic" is the only way a communist can rule people. If a group of like minded people try to work in a CoOp, then I support their right to do it. But its when they try to force their way of thinking on others this leads to trouble.

Nepal. Argument lost. Also, thanks for cutting out an important part of the beginning of that quote.

I stand corrected. You found one case of one democracy that on its only elections so far has elected a communist government. But I still argue that Russia, China, etc had to run a system in a contradictory way to theory, because they forced the system on people who disagreed with them. This is a lesson that every revolutionary Marxist must learn.

But I find Nepal to be a fascinating experiment. What kind of changes did they do to the economy? Did they nationalize industry and farms?
You also mentioned that you don't consider China to match the theory and they appear to be Maoists. Do you consider them to be real Marxists? Do you think they'll succeed or fail?
The first two questions are for anyone who knows. The last two are for anyone with an opinion.

Jahoclave wrote:
Jahoclave wrote:Also, on failed farming in the Soviet Union. Some of that also had to do with a dogmatic, almost religious adherence to a particular scientist that eventually led to crop problems because they were using bad farming methods.

I never heard of that, so you will have to give a reference. I thought that the bad farming methods came to be because the people who knew how to run a farm were declared "bourgeois", and replaced with people who had no clue about farming. When reality didn't live up to communist theory, famine struck. Also note that there was famine in Russia in the 1920s, in Ukraine in the 1930s, and in China in the 1950s.

Wow, you know there was also famine in the U.S. during the depression as well.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trofim_Lysenko

I clicked that link. It said:
wikipedia wrote:His unorthodox experimental research in improved crop yields earned the support of Soviet leadership, especially following the famine and loss of productivity resulting from forced collectivization in several regions of the Soviet Union in the early 1930s.

Since his advice was followed mostly after the famine I don't think it's fair to put blame on him. And since there was no additional famine despite the fact that they even listened to him more, shows there is no correlation of the famine to his advice. So this one you got wrong.
But I agree with you that religious adherence to an unproven and untested theory was at fault. It's called Marxism. But they appear to have a sinusoidal learning curve. In 1921 Lenin ordered an new economic policy that allowed some capitalism, and successfully ended the famine. In china after the failure of the great leap forward, Mao was removed from power to end trouble. Then he returned to power and created the cultural revolution, another disaster. Adding Lysenkoism, clinging to untested and unproven theories appears to be a pattern with Marxists.

I didn't know that there was famine in the USA during the great depression. So I googled "usa great depression famine". All I found was copies of this article
pravda wrote:Another online scandal has been gathering pace recently. Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, deleted an article by a Russian researcher, who wrote about the USA’s losses in the Great Depression of 1932-1933. Indignant bloggers began to actively distribute the article on the Russian part of a popular blog service known as Livejournal. The above-mentioned article triggered a heated debate.

This guy didn't even live up to wikipedia's lax standards. If you will argue that there was famine in the USA during the depression based on claims by this guy alone, I will lose all respect for you. So I still don't know that there was famine in the USA, or anywhere else(I also googled"great depression famine"), as a result of the great depression.

Jahoclave wrote:
Jahoclave wrote:I also don't like agricultural examples as all too valid, at least not until Capitalism has stomped out world hunger.

Since famine today never strikes capitalist democracies, I say that capitalism did an excellent job there. You should also remember that unlike Marxism, capitalism doesn't claim it can create a Utopian society. Complaining about the flaws of capitalism is equivalent to complaining that in modern medicine everybody dies eventually. The argument that capitalism is not perfect so we must replace it with something different is as ridiculous as the claim that modern medicine can't cure everything so we must use homeopathy. You must first show that your system works better before we change what we have today. And the failure of communist experiments does not support your thesis.

Except modern medicine still works on trying to solve that problem. Yet it seems to me that the arguments here is the answer to Capitalisms problems are more capitalism. So until you present me with your idea on how to solve the problems of Capitalism I'm going to keep working on mine.

So, if I think that the solution for the problems of science1 is more science, am I doing something wrong?
In the case of capitalism, nobody today argues pure capitalism, or that capitalism is perfect. It's just better than anything else(see also democracy, evolution, general relativity). The current regulation of the banks is the result of lessons learned by capitalists from the great depression, so it's not pure capitalism anymore. I also don't argue capitalism for the sake of capitalism. I consider a democratic communist Nepal to be a lot better than capitalistic, excellent economy, single party Singapore. I want capitalism because it is better than anything else people tried, and in a democratic country people benefit more from this system.
Your idea on fixing the problems with Marxism is equivalent to trying to fix the problems with homeopathy: You can try to do that, but I don't think you will succeed. And trying to sell people homeopathic medicine on the expense of modern medicine is dangerous and unethical.


1 It is not omniscient.

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Re: Marxism/Socialism/Communism

Postby TheStranger » Thu Aug 21, 2008 10:47 am UTC

wikipedia wrote:His unorthodox experimental research in improved crop yields earned the support of Soviet leadership, especially following the famine and loss of productivity resulting from forced collectivization in several regions of the Soviet Union in the early 1930s.

Since his advice was followed mostly after the famine I don't think it's fair to put blame on him. And since there was no additional famine despite the fact that they even listened to him more, shows there is no correlation of the famine to his advice. So this one you got wrong.


Don't forget the impact that his ideas had in China (which continued to use them after the Soviets had discreditited him).

His ideas were state policy, and those who disagree with state policy are punished under communist systems.
Last edited by TheStranger on Thu Aug 21, 2008 10:47 pm UTC, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: Marxism/Socialism/Communism

Postby SpiderMonkey » Thu Aug 21, 2008 11:27 am UTC

My main problem with Marx is his implicit denial of free will. In this, he shares a common failing with the advocates of capitalism. If you reduce man to a purely economic creature, algorithmically attempting to further either his personal interests of those of his social class, then you deny he has any choice in his actions. Free will is opposed by both nominally socialist states (function as part of the plan or else) and by capitalist states (take the economically optimal choice or suffer destitution).

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Re: Marxism/Socialism/Communism

Postby qbg » Thu Aug 21, 2008 1:50 pm UTC

Vaniver wrote:
Jahoclave wrote:Because cost is outside this example. I'm only talking about the value of labor that the worker put into the product. It could cost you a hundred value units to produce the product, ten of which are the value of the labor put in. However, if you only pay your worker 9 units it'll only cost you 99.
What determines what the labor is worth?

If it's the market, and I try to shortchange my workers, they'll go work for someone else, because someone else if offering them 10 units for that work. One of the hallmarks of capitalism is that there's competition. That word means something- it means that you can't arbitrarily decide to do whatever you want. Actions have consequences, and trying to screw over everyone else will result in you going out of business.

It is (almost always) the case that capitalists wouldn't hire someone if they didn't produce profit for them, so it will be very hard to find someone who pays 10 units for 10 units of work.

They may be able to find a capitalist who would pay 9.5 units for 10 units of work, but doing so would result in less profit for the capitalist, so it would be harder to grow as fast as they would if they only paid 9 units. Because capitalism operates in a "grow or die" mentality, this would not be good for the capitalist.

Also, it is still not exactly easy for labor to move large distances to find better work.

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Re: Marxism/Socialism/Communism

Postby Silas » Thu Aug 21, 2008 2:40 pm UTC

qbg wrote:It is (almost always) the case that capitalists wouldn't hire someone if they didn't produce profit for them, so it will be very hard to find someone who pays 10 units for 10 units of work.

They may be able to find a capitalist who would pay 9.5 units for 10 units of work, but doing so would result in less profit for the capitalist, so it would be harder to grow as fast as they would if they only paid 9 units. Because capitalism operates in a "grow or die" mentality, this would not be good for the capitalist.


You're missing the point on several levels.

A firm that paid its workers less than its competitors wouldn't have an advantage in growth, because it would hemorrhage workers and throw its production line into disarray.

Under the standard model, a firm is happy to pay the exact amount (ok, arbitrarily close to the exact amount) of an input's (including a worker's) marginal productivity. If you upset this principle and insist that every worker be paid for his average productivity, you'll create a pathological situation where it's advantageous to lay off workers who, before, were productively employed.

The fact that you can only ever find an employer who'll pay 9.5 units of money for 10 units of work should suggest that you've miscalculated the relative values of work and money, not that employers are exploitive. Firms are willing to accept an arbitrarily small amount of (economic) profit.

But I'll repeat my objection that, for a thread that began with a challenge to point out flaws with communism, this has turned out to be mostly communists trying to point out flaws with capitalism.
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Re: Marxism/Socialism/Communism

Postby qbg » Thu Aug 21, 2008 3:35 pm UTC

Silas wrote:
qbg wrote:It is (almost always) the case that capitalists wouldn't hire someone if they didn't produce profit for them, so it will be very hard to find someone who pays 10 units for 10 units of work.

They may be able to find a capitalist who would pay 9.5 units for 10 units of work, but doing so would result in less profit for the capitalist, so it would be harder to grow as fast as they would if they only paid 9 units. Because capitalism operates in a "grow or die" mentality, this would not be good for the capitalist.

You're missing the point on several levels.

A firm that paid its workers less than its competitors wouldn't have an advantage in growth, because it would hemorrhage workers and throw its production line into disarray.

1) The number of jobs that pay above market value is smaller than the number of workers, and won't grow as fast or possibly shrink/go out of business.

2) The majority of firms would be paying market value, so there aren't many competitors. (note: market value != actual value to socialists)

3) Socialists will also mention the interaction between unemployment (the "reserve army of the unemployed" and all that) and wages; the idea being that during periods of low unemployment wages better reflect the actual value of labor because workers have more power to make demands to employers, and during periods of high(er) unemployment wages less reflect actual value of labor because labor has less power due to the greater number of replacements and the increased fear of the sack. If ((#ofJobs < #ofWorkers) and (valueExploitedWage > valueNoWage)) then theoretically market value of labor can easily be below actual value because you could fire/threaten to fire workers who demand wages nearest to actual value and (eventually) replace them with workers who will work for less.
Under the standard model, a firm is happy to pay the exact amount (ok, arbitrarily close to the exact amount) of an input's (including a worker's) marginal productivity. If you upset this principle and insist that every worker be paid for his average productivity, you'll create a pathological situation where it's advantageous to lay off workers who, before, were productively employed.

This relates to the communist objection that labor is social. IIRC, it goes something like this:

Okay so you have a have job to do (lets say build a house). Lets pull some numbers from the air and say that we hire one man for $10/day and he can do it in 100 days. Lets say we instead hire 10 men for the same amount and they do it in 7 days. They both end up doing the same amount of labor and the men were paid the same but the employer pays $1000 for the first job and only $700 for the second. The employer was able to get away with doing this because there is one aspect of labor he did not pay: the increased productivity of all of the men by the fact that they were working together. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts in this case. In a similar way the sum of the marginal value of each worker can exceed what the whole is paid.

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Re: Marxism/Socialism/Communism

Postby Vaniver » Thu Aug 21, 2008 5:18 pm UTC

SpiderMonkey wrote:My main problem with Marx is his implicit denial of free will. In this, he shares a common failing with the advocates of capitalism. If you reduce man to a purely economic creature, algorithmically attempting to further either his personal interests of those of his social class, then you deny he has any choice in his actions. Free will is opposed by both nominally socialist states (function as part of the plan or else) and by capitalist states (take the economically optimal choice or suffer destitution).
Hm? Capitalism acknowledges that people will do what benefits them most- and it's the foolish economist that ignores intangible values.

qbg wrote:It is (almost always) the case that capitalists wouldn't hire someone if they didn't produce profit for them, so it will be very hard to find someone who pays 10 units for 10 units of work.
Silas's objections are along the right lines, but let me put it a different way- if I go to the grocery store and try to buy an apple that costs $10 for $9, the grocer isn't going to accept that deal when there are other people trying to buy that apple. A wage is a price like any other.

No good or service has an objectively determinable correct price- and so it's nonsense to talk about someone's work being worth 10 units in a vacuum. If it's worth 10 units, that means that someone out there is willing to pay 10 units for it- and that suggests that the benefit to the someone out there is at least 10 units.

qbg wrote:Socialists will also mention the interaction between unemployment (the "reserve army of the unemployed" and all that) and wages; the idea being that during periods of low unemployment wages better reflect the actual value of labor because workers have more power to make demands to employers, and during periods of high(er) unemployment wages less reflect actual value of labor because labor has less power due to the greater number of replacements and the increased fear of the sack. If ((#ofJobs < #ofWorkers) and (valueExploitedWage > valueNoWage)) then theoretically market value of labor can easily be below actual value because you could fire/threaten to fire workers who demand wages nearest to actual value and (eventually) replace them with workers who will work for less.
Which is, honestly, as it should be- if supply increases, the price should probably decrease.

qbg wrote:They both end up doing the same amount of labor and the men were paid the same but the employer pays $1000 for the first job and only $700 for the second. The employer was able to get away with doing this because there is one aspect of labor he did not pay: the increased productivity of all of the men by the fact that they were working together.
There seems to be a confusion in terms here. How are we measuring labor? Hours spent, or tasks completed? Because if both groups finished identical houses, then they produced the same amount- but it's obvious that they didn't do the same amount of work to get there.

Paying people according to output rewards efficiency; paying people according to input rewards inefficiency. While both payment structures can exist in capitalism (with input only existing for some salaried workers), a system that cares deeply about income inequality cannot choose the first in a world where there are giant skill and human capital differences between workers.

qbg wrote:In a similar way the sum of the marginal value of each worker can exceed what the whole is paid.
[edit-Error on my part.]
Last edited by Vaniver on Fri Aug 22, 2008 12:34 am UTC, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Marxism/Socialism/Communism

Postby SpiderMonkey » Thu Aug 21, 2008 6:27 pm UTC

Hm? Capitalism acknowledges that people will do what benefits them most- and it's the foolish economist that ignores intangible values.


And people haven't a choice in this? What utter rubbish. The assumption that people will act as little rational economic engines denies the possibility that a person might want to engage themselves in a course of action that isn't economically optimal at that particular time. In other words, no free will.

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Re: Marxism/Socialism/Communism

Postby Silas » Thu Aug 21, 2008 6:31 pm UTC

qbg wrote:1) The number of jobs that pay above market value is smaller than the number of workers, and won't grow as fast or possibly shrink/go out of business.

2) The majority of firms would be paying market value, so there aren't many competitors. (note: market value != actual value to socialists)

You're right that firms who pay above the market value are punished for it by the market- this is almost a tautology. What I'm going to try to show, using an example that I think is equivalent to your own, is that paying workers according other kinds of valuation (namely, average productivity instead of marginal productivity, which seems to be the "labor value" that's been proposed here) lead to intractable complications.

[T]he communist objection that labor is social[,] IIRC, it goes something like this:

Okay so you have a have job to do (lets say build a house). Lets pull some numbers from the air and say that we hire one man for $10/day and he can do it in 100 days. Lets say we instead hire 10 men for the same amount and they do it in 7 days. They both end up doing the same amount of labor and the men were paid the same but the employer pays $1000 for the first job and only $700 for the second. The employer was able to get away with doing this because there is one aspect of labor he did not pay: the increased productivity of all of the men by the fact that they were working together. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts in this case. In a similar way the sum of the marginal value of each worker can exceed what the whole is paid.


Suppose we have a co-op, a factory that makes pens. The market for pens is arbitrarily large, so however many pens this factory makes, it can sell them for $1.50; the cost of materials is also constant at $0.50 per pen. This must mean that the "labor value" of a pen is $1, since that's the value added, provided the factory has no operating costs (it doesn't). Here's the factory's output chart: labor, quantity, marginal productivity, and average productivity.

Code: Select all

L   Q   MP(L)   AP(L)
1   10   10   10
2   22   12   11
3   36   14   12
4   52   16   13
5   66   14   13.3   
6   78   12   13
7   88   10   12.57
8   96   8   12
9   102   6   11.33
10   106   4   10.6
11   108   2   9.82
12   108   0   9

Suppose the going wage for suitable workers in this scenario is $10. A classical firm will hire (six or) seven workers, pay them each $10, and keep $18 of surplus for itself.

For the co-op, it depends how it works. If applicants are entitled to a job (provided they work, of course), you'll end up with ten workers; the eleventh will realize that he could get $0.18 better working for the Man. Nobody will be better off than before.

But suppose the current members of the co-op vote on whether to admit a new member. Now, you'll have five workers; under no circumstances will they vote to admit a new member. Why will the sixth through tenth workers be out of a job- or even just earning less than their peers? Because workers controlled the means of production. Why will the co-op workers be the rich ones? Not because they work harder or are more productive, only be cause they were luckier. No fair.

Insisting on absolute fairness at the lowest level can easily lead to unfairness at higher levels.

edit: fixed chart tags and, on a third go-round, realized that I'd used the version with a $12 wage instead of $10, which actually works. Thanks for catching it, Yakk.
Last edited by Silas on Thu Aug 21, 2008 8:55 pm UTC, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: Marxism/Socialism/Communism

Postby frezik » Thu Aug 21, 2008 6:55 pm UTC

SpiderMonkey wrote:
Hm? Capitalism acknowledges that people will do what benefits them most- and it's the foolish economist that ignores intangible values.


And people haven't a choice in this? What utter rubbish. The assumption that people will act as little rational economic engines denies the possibility that a person might want to engage themselves in a course of action that isn't economically optimal at that particular time. In other words, no free will.


Good economists know that a person working in rational self interest is an abstraction, not solid fact. That doesn't mean the model isn't useful.

We can take a similar approach that fulid dynamics takes; we can't predict the individual, but we can predict the average movement of a large population. I don't know that Asimov intended Psychohistory to become an actual science, but I could certainly see it becoming one someday.
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Re: Marxism/Socialism/Communism

Postby SpiderMonkey » Thu Aug 21, 2008 7:09 pm UTC

frezik wrote:
SpiderMonkey wrote:
Hm? Capitalism acknowledges that people will do what benefits them most- and it's the foolish economist that ignores intangible values.


And people haven't a choice in this? What utter rubbish. The assumption that people will act as little rational economic engines denies the possibility that a person might want to engage themselves in a course of action that isn't economically optimal at that particular time. In other words, no free will.


Good economists know that a person working in rational self interest is an abstraction, not solid fact. That doesn't mean the model isn't useful.


The model claims, based on that abstraction, that markets left alone will reach equilibrium. There is no evidence of this at all - in fact there is evidence to the contrary. The idea of self-interest excludes pretty much every behaviour that defines humans as different from animals.

We can take a similar approach that fluid dynamics takes; we can't predict the individual, but we can predict the average movement of a large population. I don't know that Asimov intended Psychohistory to become an actual science, but I could certainly see it becoming one someday.


This denies the impact the free will of the people in a society can have on the course of that society. The difference with fluid dynamics, is that atoms and molecules are indistinguishable from each other; human beings are not. Thus you can't model society like a fluid.

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Re: Marxism/Socialism/Communism

Postby Pyrotix » Thu Aug 21, 2008 7:33 pm UTC

I pretty much disgarded communism as rubbish when I read the manifesto and parts of Das Kapital (or whatever that thing by Marx is actually called) and learned some economic theory.

Marx's theory was that society would be divided wholly into the two classes of the Bourgeousie and the Proletariat as the industrial revolution progressed. That the state of the worker would get worse and worse as he had more potential replacements and unemployment increased. The position of the proletariat would eventually become so poor, that enraged they would rise up in revolt, and cast of the chains of their capitalist oppressors and found a utopian society that equally divided work and wealth.

The truth of the matter is that in the time since the industrial revolution the greatest increase in human wealth, health, and welfare in history has occurred. Instead of conditions becoming worse workers formed unions and began to purchase the products produced in the factories where they worked. As a result production increased and unemployment fell.

Increased specialization and mechanization increased efficiency and productivity resulting in more wealth for all.

It's pretty clear that Marx's vision of the future was wholly of mark.

Why capitalism is much more effective than other systems of commerce is quite simple really: it relies most of the time on people acting in their own best interest. Most people if they were given their current standard of living but had the choice of whether to work for it, would work much less than they currently do. It makes much more sense for a society to rely on people's selfishness than their altruism to survive.

As Adam Smith said, it is not to the altruism of the Butcher to which we owe his labor, bit his self-interest and desire to feed his family. The idea in capitalism is that in an economic transaction both parties benefit. Would students be as likely to work at fast-food joints, providing a service to people, if they were not paid?

There are points at which the market fails-- see monopolies and monopsonies. These are the scenarios where a capitalist system does not achieve the ideal allocation of resources. The solution is that a government acting in the collective self-interest of the people of a nation legislates corrections for these situations.

If you forcibly remove the rewards from people that result from their contributions to society, from risking their capital-- they become much less likely to contribute.

The model claims, based on that abstraction, that markets left alone will reach equilibrium. There is no evidence of this at all - in fact there is evidence to the contrary. The idea of self-interest excludes pretty much every behaviour that defines humans as different from animals.


Self-interest is still by far the best motive to use when modelling human interactions. There is also such a thing as behavioual economics where the model of the human agent is refined to try and take into account the cognitive and emotional decisions that affect economic decisions.

It's not like however it reaches radically different conclusions from neoclassical economics, it just has more situations where ideal resource allocation does not occur.

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Re: Marxism/Socialism/Communism

Postby Yakk » Thu Aug 21, 2008 8:17 pm UTC

Silas wrote:Suppose we have a co-op, a factory that makes pens. The market for pens is arbitrarily large, so however many pens this factory makes, it can sell them for $1.50; the cost of materials is also constant at $0.50 per pen. This must mean that the "labor value" of a pen is $1, since that's the value added, provided the factory has no operating costs (it doesn't). Here's the factory's output chart: labor, quantity, marginal productivity, and average productivity.

Code: Select all

L   Q   MP(L)   AP(L)
1   10   10   10
2   22   12   11
3   36   14   12
4   52   16   13
5   66   14   13.3   
6   78   12   13
7   88   10   12.57
8   96   8   12
9   102   6   11.33
10   106   4   10.6
11   108   2   9.82
12   108   0   9

(if a mod can clean up this chart- I don't know how to work the code)

Edit your post, and put [ code ] and [ /code ] tags at the top and bottom of your table. I did it when I quoted you.

Suppose the going wage for suitable workers in this scenario is $12. A classical firm will hire seven workers, pay them each $12, and keep $6 of surplus for itself.

Do we suppose that the company knows the above information? If so, they stop at 5 or 6 workers, because that is the point at which hiring an additional worker generates less (or no more) marginal productivity than it costs to hire the worker.

For the co-op, it depends how it works. If applicants are entitled to a job (provided they work, of course), you'll end up with eight workers; the ninth will realize that he could get $0.67 better working for the Man. Nobody will be better off than before.

But suppose the current members of the co-op vote on whether to admit a new member. Now, you'll have five workers; under no circumstances will they vote to admit a new member. Why will the sixth, seventh, and eighth workers be out of a job- or even just earning less than their peers? Because workers controlled the means of production. Why will the co-op workers be the rich ones? Not because they work harder or are more productive, only be cause they were luckier. No fair.

Insisting on absolute fairness at the lowest level can easily lead to unfairness at higher levels.


As it happens, in your example, the profit-oriented company lines up with the decision of the coop members.

Here is another chart that actually works:

Code: Select all

       MP     TP     AP
1      11     11     11
2      13     24     12
3      15     39     13
4      17     56     14
5      19     75     15
6      21     96     16
7      23     119     17
8      25     144     18
9      16     160     17.77777778
10     15     175     17.5
11     14     189     17.18181818
12     13     202     16.83333333
13     12     214     16.46153846
14     11     225     16.07142857
...


The company will stop hiring at 12 or 13 workers, while the coop will stop hiring at 9 workers.

Hiring the 10th worker at the CoOp lowers the average wages of everyone already working there.

Hiring the 10th through 12th worker generates a surplus over the 12$ wage.

This case can be made as extreme as one wants. The CoOp will want to stop hiring at the max average productivity, while the non-CoOp will want to stop hiring at the point where the cost of hiring a new person is less than the additional productivity produced. (They are "indifferent" at the point where the new hire breaks even).

(Columns are Marginal Productivity, Total Productivity, and Average Productivity.)
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Re: Marxism/Socialism/Communism

Postby Vaniver » Thu Aug 21, 2008 8:40 pm UTC

SpiderMonkey wrote:And people haven't a choice in this? What utter rubbish. The assumption that people will act as little rational economic engines denies the possibility that a person might want to engage themselves in a course of action that isn't economically optimal at that particular time. In other words, no free will.
Of course people have choices. If you're worried about the rationality part, there's a neat trick you can pull- rationality is making choices to best fulfill desires. Since we can't measure desires, we just assume that people are acting rationally to fulfill desires that may be radically different from the desires they claim to have.

Now, that twists rationality a bit- the person who buys a lottery ticket to get rich doesn't seem rational. But one can orient their worldview so that is rational without too much trouble (using discounting, utility functions, etc.) though it's helpful to have another adjective, like wise, which applies to things that looked rational without pulling the aforementioned trick.

Say, for example, there's some path of action that would bring me the most pleasure. I decide to prove that I'm not rational, and so pick a worse path; but the economist just smiles and says "but clearly, you desire choices that seem suboptimal more than you desire the difference between that and the optimal path."

It's important to remember that economics is descriptive, not prescriptive. What should Mr. X do in any situation? Well, that depends entirely on Mr. X. How much does he want to do various things, and what resources does he have available to him? It doesn't make judgments about value either- if someone wants to pay a million dollars for some film on fabric, economics is just interested in the mechanics of the transaction and the industry that it represents, not whether or not the painting in question is tasteful (because, if the buyer didn't get something out of buying it, they wouldn't be buying it).

SpiderMonkey wrote:The model claims, based on that abstraction, that markets left alone will reach equilibrium. There is no evidence of this at all - in fact there is evidence to the contrary.
Hardly. First, equilibria are reached- the problem is that the real story of economics is dynamics, not equilibria (production is far from stagnant, and innovation exists), which is significantly harder to discuss abstractly and still say meaningful things.

SpiderMonkey wrote:The idea of self-interest excludes pretty much every behaviour that defines humans as different from animals.
The meaningful difference between humans and animals has to do with cognitive ability, not empathy or other emotive factors. We can't easily compare chimpanzee love to human love; but we can easily compare chimpanzee tool use to human tool use.

Yakk wrote:The company will stop hiring at 12 or 13 workers, while the coop will stop hiring at 9 workers.

Hiring the 10th worker at the CoOp lowers the average wages of everyone already working there.
I think you meant that it won't hire the 9th worker, not that it won't hire the 10th.
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Re: Marxism/Socialism/Communism

Postby SpiderMonkey » Thu Aug 21, 2008 8:46 pm UTC

Why capitalism is much more effective than other systems of commerce is quite simple really: it relies most of the time on people acting in their own best interest. Most people if they were given their current standard of living but had the choice of whether to work for it, would work much less than they currently do. It makes much more sense for a society to rely on people's selfishness than their altruism to survive.


Capitalism is not effective at all; the entire world is run basically on capitalist principles, and most of the world is poor and starving. It only seems to work if you ignore the majority of humanity.

As Adam Smith said, it is not to the altruism of the Butcher to which we owe his labor, bit his self-interest and desire to feed his family. The idea in capitalism is that in an economic transaction both parties benefit. Would students be as likely to work at fast-food joints, providing a service to people, if they were not paid?


I don't know what the relevance is; people are paid even in North Korea.

There are points at which the market fails-- see monopolies and monopsonies. These are the scenarios where a capitalist system does not achieve the ideal allocation of resources. The solution is that a government acting in the collective self-interest of the people of a nation legislates corrections for these situations.


Such a government will be taken over by corporate interests that will correct the market towards their own interests rather than the public interest.

If you forcibly remove the rewards from people that result from their contributions to society, from risking their capital-- they become much less likely to contribute.


People who see themselves as contributors to society often ignore what society has done for them, and how that enabled them to get to where they are.

Self-interest is still by far the best motive to use when modelling human interactions. There is also such a thing as behavioual economics where the model of the human agent is refined to try and take into account the cognitive and emotional decisions that affect economic decisions.

It's not like however it reaches radically different conclusions from neoclassical economics, it just has more situations where ideal resource allocation does not occur.


Our society runs on the 'self-interest' assumption, and it fails horrifically because of it. Inequality is rising. Social cohesion is collapsing. Most western countries don't even try to justify their existence beyond a simple appeal to tradition and the threat of force.

Marx is basically correct about what happens to capitalist societies: what he didn't anticipate is how capitalist societies would break from his historical inevitability, and make choices that allowed them to survive. A combination of welfare states and exporting the worst jobs mitigated the worst effects of the inherent inequality of the system, whilst the advent of mass media gave the rich the capacity to control public discourse and keep subversive thoughts on the fringes.

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Re: Marxism/Socialism/Communism

Postby Yakk » Thu Aug 21, 2008 9:09 pm UTC

SpiderMonkey wrote:Capitalism is not effective at all; the entire world is run basically on capitalist principles, and most of the world is poor and starving. It only seems to work if you ignore the majority of humanity.

Strange. The poorest portions of the world are not, as far as I can tell, very capitalist. Zimbabwe, North Korea, Sudan, etc. Areas where you cannot be expected to hold on to your property unless you personally have lots of guns are not functioning capitalist markets.

Our society runs on the 'self-interest' assumption, and it fails horrifically because of it. Inequality is rising. Social cohesion is collapsing. Most western countries don't even try to justify their existence beyond a simple appeal to tradition and the threat of force.

I was willing to produce evidence that inequality is not rising. Globally, it definitely isn't, with the rise of the new capitalist "global middle class" in China, following the market reforms there.

Marx is basically correct about what happens to capitalist societies: what he didn't anticipate is how capitalist societies would break from his historical inevitability, and make choices that allowed them to survive.

A inevitability that can be prevented is not an inevitability. Marx was a relatively pampered and kept intellectual, who wrote a stirring bit of economic propaganda. He wasn't a prophet.

A combination of welfare states and exporting the worst jobs mitigated the worst effects of the inherent inequality of the system, whilst the advent of mass media gave the rich the capacity to control public discourse and keep subversive thoughts on the fringes.

Considering that citizens of the first world work in potash mines, that Japan build highly automated factories, etc etc -- think about that for a second.

The export of factory labor has allowed 100s of millions of people to raise themselves out of absolute poverty. It is true that the west has exported a large amount of factory labor -- but the alternatives existed, in the form of highly automated factories. It turns out that paying extremely poor people high wages relative to what they can get otherwise is cheaper than building high-tech factories for many problems.

But before that happened, high tech factories with heavy automation where being built. Examine modern western car factories -- they are high tech mass production machines.

The current unleashing of global capitalism into areas it was barred has caused of all things a raw resource shortage, as nearly a billion people start consuming raw materials at faster rates to lift their standard of living. The oil price increases? Caused by increases in the use of oil among the third world nations of the world, which was caused by them getting much much richer than they where in the past.

I'm hoping that the world will start dealing with this by producing more raw materials -- in particular, we can solve the energy shortage by producing factories that generate energy from alternative sources (nuclear, hydro, wind, solar, or (heaven forbid) coal), and building devices that consume electricity instead of petrol.

Vaniver wrote:I think you meant that it won't hire the 9th worker, not that it won't hire the 10th.


*nod*, oops, off-by-one error.
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Re: Marxism/Socialism/Communism

Postby Indon » Thu Aug 21, 2008 11:03 pm UTC

Yakk wrote:Educated professionals make mistakes all of the time. What we do right now is to use them, test them, and throw out those that don't make decisions that produce lots of surplus value (or enough to justify the risk/time value of money/etc).

Our capitalist society uses professionals primarily as middlemen for asset management, working on behalf of asset owners. And while a professional certainly will screw up, a non-professional owner is bound to screw up more frequently and more severely.

Yakk wrote:None of this approaches the amount of investment you can get by saying "If this works, you'll be really really rich", and convincing someone of it.

If I were a Marxist, I would read what you're saying as, "Loans can't cover the costs of entrepreneurs because the people who would cause economic development by developing new assets don't actually own sufficient assets, which are largely pooled into the ownership of a very small group of people." And while I do kinda think that, I know how much of a gordion knot good finance is (as opposed to what we find in the western world, which is often pretty bad finance as far as economic development goes) in the first place, and I consider devising a superior process a fascinating and difficult problem.

Vaniver wrote:Is there a way for a Marxist/Communist society to fail and that demonstrate that Marxism/Communism itself doesn't work? Or are we throwing falsifiability, the key principle of science, out the window?

Falsifiability is only one aspect of science. Improvement is another. I imagine only the most foolish of Marxists would believe that, say, the first conception of Marxism was a particularly good theory, just like no physicist would think that the original atomic theory was very good.

But this doesn't prevent Marxism from developing an improved theory under the same name, much as our atomic theory no longer includes things like phlogiston.

Personally, I suspect that Marxism will continue to make contributions that improve our capitalist system, like it has in the past (with, for instance, the concept of unions).

Vaniver wrote:The Communist Manifesto suggests "Centralization of credit in the banks of the state, by means of a national bank with state capital and an exclusive monopoly."

So, essentially, trust the government to run finance perfectly, because monopolies work so well.

Sounds like it wasn't given that much thought.

Jahoclave; can you tell us what present-day Marxism thinks of the value of finance, and if there are any potential improvements for finance structures?

Vaniver wrote:Hm? Capitalism acknowledges that people will do what benefits them most- and it's the foolish economist that ignores intangible values.

But even with intangible values, humans simply are not Homo Economicus, in a number of significant and increasingly important (as we become better aware of them) ways.

I'm happy that fields such as game theory are investigating things like this, because I feel the discrepancies between Sapiens and Economicus will be of paramount importance in the continued development of human economies.

SpiderMonkey wrote:And people haven't a choice in this? What utter rubbish. The assumption that people will act as little rational economic engines denies the possibility that a person might want to engage themselves in a course of action that isn't economically optimal at that particular time. In other words, no free will.

Science really doesn't work with anything that would commonly be called 'free will'. This is true in Marxism, too - they just posit a different kind of human machine.

Vaniver wrote:The meaningful difference between humans and animals has to do with cognitive ability, not empathy or other emotive factors.

I disagree. While our language capabilities certainly are important, quirks in human social behavior are likely to have also contributed to our unique situation. Not that that's all too relevant to the actual topic.

Edit: Bah, and to think I tried so hard not to post a wall of text in this thread.
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Re: Marxism/Socialism/Communism

Postby Vaniver » Fri Aug 22, 2008 12:06 am UTC

Indon wrote:Falsifiability is only one aspect of science. Improvement is another. I imagine only the most foolish of Marxists would believe that, say, the first conception of Marxism was a particularly good theory, just like no physicist would think that the original atomic theory was very good.

But this doesn't prevent Marxism from developing an improved theory under the same name, much as our atomic theory no longer includes things like phlogiston.
But we're not talking about gradual refinements (ok, here's a Marxist explanation of finance where before there was none). We're talking about fundamental tenets (capitalism reduces the quality of life of the working class, to each according to their need, there are two sharply defined classes whose interests are in direct competition, etc.).

Indon wrote:Personally, I suspect that Marxism will continue to make contributions that improve our capitalist system, like it has in the past (with, for instance, the concept of unions).
Unions? Unions are as Marxist as the labor theory of value- which is to say, they were brought up by Adam Smith in the Wealth of Nations.
Adam Smith wrote:What are the common wages of labour, depends every where upon the contract usually made between [employer and employed], whose interests are by no means the same. The workmen desire to get as much, the masters to give as little as possible. The former are disposed to combine in order to raise, the latter in order to lower the wages of labour.
He goes on to lament how it is far easier for employers to combine, and how legislation (in England when he wrote it) blocks workers from combining.

Indon wrote:I disagree. While our language capabilities certainly are important, quirks in human social behavior are likely to have also contributed to our unique situation. Not that that's all too relevant to the actual topic.
Perhaps- but I would argue that most of those quirks should probably be classified as cognitive rather than emotive. Other primates appear to have similar tribal instincts that we do, and have had similar amounts of time to develop the complexity and size of their tribes- but we've been able to move past societies where everyone knows everyone else and they haven't, more because of technological (counting cultural norms as technology) improvement than any particular empathy.

Indon wrote:Edit: Bah, and to think I tried so hard not to post a wall of text in this thread.
Well, you didn't; you just got into a relatively minor quote war :P
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Re: Marxism/Socialism/Communism

Postby Pyrotix » Fri Aug 22, 2008 12:14 am UTC

SpiderMonkey wrote:Capitalism is not effective at all; the entire world is run basically on capitalist principles, and most of the world is poor and starving. It only seems to work if you ignore the majority of humanity.

I don't know what the relevance is; people are paid even in North Korea.


Eh, what? Look at the difference in quality of life between North and South Korea if you want to see the difference a relatively efficient economic system makes. Please note that's its frickin' huge.

Such a government will be taken over by corporate interests that will correct the market towards their own interests rather than the public interest.


... Yes, business' will try to influence the government to work for their interests. If you've been paying ANY attention you'll notice that's the sort of thought that economics runs by. However, a democratic government is ultimately accountable not to the business interests but the people which elect it, it lives or dies by their votes. In a nation where the populace keeps well informed the government will be serving them. Hell, even the U.S. , which hardly serves as a shining example of accountable government and transparency, has loads of antitrust legislation.

People who see themselves as contributors to society often ignore what society has done for them, and how that enabled them to get to where they are.

This is entirely true. Rich people sometimes have difficulty seeing how the tax dollars that they pay that go to public schools and healthcare (wooohooo Canada!) are being better spent than if they were allowed to keep them. The government however, as a collective representation of the people, all of whom have equal voting power should act in its own interest (the collective interest of the people). If it makes sense to take some money from individuals and spend it in a way that creates more wealth for the populace over time the government should do so.

Self-interest is still by far the best motive to use when modelling human interactions. There is also such a thing as behavioual economics where the model of the human agent is refined to try and take into account the cognitive and emotional decisions that affect economic decisions.

It's not like however it reaches radically different conclusions from neoclassical economics, it just has more situations where ideal resource allocation does not occur.


Our society runs on the 'self-interest' assumption, and it fails horrifically because of it. Inequality is rising. Social cohesion is collapsing. Most western countries don't even try to justify their existence beyond a simple appeal to tradition and the threat of force.

Marx is basically correct about what happens to capitalist societies: what he didn't anticipate is how capitalist societies would break from his historical inevitability, and make choices that allowed them to survive. A combination of welfare states and exporting the worst jobs mitigated the worst effects of the inherent inequality of the system, whilst the advent of mass media gave the rich the capacity to control public discourse and keep subversive thoughts on the fringes.


1st.. please go to this website: http://www.gapminder.org/ . Look at the graphs, and note how by practically every possible metric life has drastically improved in nearly every country over the past century (excluding things like pollution). I'm talking about metrics that range from PPP GDP to infant mortality to literacy to life expectancy. Your claims are patently ridiculous. The fantasy world you live in seems to be a dark and pitiable place.

2ndly... our models that run based upon self-interest fail why? Because people are selfish? The models depend on people being selfish! It is precisely people acting in their self-interest within this system that allows humanity to be enriched. It is in a communist system where people are trusted to act altruistically where things really fuck up. And Western democracies don't justify themselves beyond the threat of force? What the hell are you smoking? Social contract theory. If you don't like it go to North Korea and join their social contract which has slightly differing terms.

3rdly how can you assert in the same sentence that Marx was basically right, despite acknowledging his predictions went entirely wrong? Welfare state prevented the collapse? I thought you maintained that the government was controlled by the bourgeousie? Or did the bourgeousie decide to give up their money on welfare to prevent the imminent proletarian revolution from occuring? The cognitive dissonance it seems you must deal with to keep these beliefs is staggering.

Also a question: There lives a relatively poor immigrant family who own a laundromat. They now and again hire some students to help with the business. In the same city there also is a lawyer who makes more than 100k a year.

Are we supposed to believe that the poor family is composed of capitalist oppressors depriving students of the fruit of their labours while the lawyer is a proletarian worker the sweat of whom's brow is dedicated to enriching the clients which exploit him?

What if this lawyer was kept by many poor families, like the one owning the laundromat, on retainer? Is he an exploited worker despite the fact he makes much more than them?

I don't know. However I approach it, I can't seem to find any angle from which marxism is less ridiculous.

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Re: Marxism/Socialism/Communism

Postby qbg » Fri Aug 22, 2008 12:25 am UTC

Vaniver wrote:Which is, honestly, as it should be- if supply increases, the price should probably decrease.

If the cost of materials stays the same, the workers produce the same number of widgets and the widgets sell for the same amount, but the supply of workers increase so the workers' wages decrease, has the value of the labor decreased?
That's, um, not how marginal value works. Do you know calculus?

Assuming 10 identical workers (with equal pay), if the worker is paid their marginal productivity, then this would need to be true for the sum of their marginal productivity to equal the sum of their pay:
p(10)-p(9) = p(10)/10

But is this true?

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Re: Marxism/Socialism/Communism

Postby Vaniver » Fri Aug 22, 2008 12:33 am UTC

qbg wrote:If the cost of materials stays the same, the workers produce the same number of widgets and the widgets sell for the same amount, but the supply of workers increase so the workers' wages decrease, has the value of the labor decreased?
Value is a vague word. The price for labor has decreased because labor is less scarce; the product of labor is unchanged. Failing to include scarcity in a price leads to inefficiency (because people are no longer incentivized as much to switch from a glutted field to an empty field).

qbg wrote:Assuming 10 identical workers (with equal pay), if the worker is paid their marginal productivity, then this would need to be true for the sum of their marginal productivity to equal the sum of their pay:
p(10)-p(9) = p(10)/10

But is this true?
I'm sorry, I completely misread your previous statement. Yes, the total product of labor is more than the total wage of labor. Are you familiar with the term consumer surplus?
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Re: Marxism/Socialism/Communism

Postby Indon » Fri Aug 22, 2008 12:36 am UTC

Vaniver wrote:Unions? Unions are as Marxist as the labor theory of value- which is to say, they were brought up by Adam Smith in the Wealth of Nations.
Adam Smith wrote:What are the common wages of labour, depends every where upon the contract usually made between [employer and employed], whose interests are by no means the same. The workmen desire to get as much, the masters to give as little as possible. The former are disposed to combine in order to raise, the latter in order to lower the wages of labour.
He goes on to lament how it is far easier for employers to combine, and how legislation (in England when he wrote it) blocks workers from combining.

Huh. Mayhap Marxism is simply less scientific as a movement than I imagined. While that doesn't keep the economic subdiscipline from contributing, it does not bode well for it.

Vaniver wrote:Perhaps- but I would argue that most of those quirks should probably be classified as cognitive rather than emotive. Other primates appear to have similar tribal instincts that we do, and have had similar amounts of time to develop the complexity and size of their tribes- but we've been able to move past societies where everyone knows everyone else and they haven't, more because of technological (counting cultural norms as technology) improvement than any particular empathy.

It's hard to distinguish some cognition and emotion from each other, but I think one telling emotive difference is our strong tribal hostility. As far as I can tell, only dolphins are as bloodthirsty as humans are in that respect. I dunno about love or empathy, except as how it might extend from a very strong tribal bond.
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Re: Marxism/Socialism/Communism

Postby Elvish Pillager » Fri Aug 22, 2008 12:45 am UTC

Capitalist societies? Are people still arguing about the success or lack thereof of capitalist societies?

There are no capitalist societies! There never have been any! Welfare is anti-capitalist. Emancipation is anti-capitalist. Heck, a country whose constitution allows representatives of the people to modify economic or property law by a vote, is anti-capitalist! On the other face, there haven't been any communist societies either, except maybe on a very small scale. Lenin, Stalin, and Mao were the three greatest enemies of communism in history.

In short: Capitalism and Communism are both entirely theoretical economic proposals. Oh, and incidentally, neither of them actually works in practice.

Capitalism first. It's based on a variety of assumptions, at least two of which are simply incorrect:
1) that all individuals will act perfectly in their own self-interest. This is compromised by the fact that people are actually pretty stupid in their economic decisions.
2) that no one has a great enough share to influence the market. This is compromised by the fact that any share can influence the market.
So much for Capitalist theory. As it turns out, a bunch of people/countries have implemented systems that are loosely based on Capitalism, but no one can very well judge whether their success is because of Capitalist influences or despite them.

Now, it's harder to criticize "Communism", since the word can refer to a variety of different ideologies. Marxism proper, though, is easy to debunk, because it's based on the idea of the overthrow of a Capitalist system - and who are we to judge whether that would have worked, if there had been any true Capitalist systems to overthrow?

As it turns out, when the people threaten to hold a serious revolution, the State actually gives a little ground - thus moving itself further from the capitalist "ideal". So you end up with these things that exist as a hodgepodge of ideas from capitalism, communism, democracy, bureaucracy, and other such stuff, and since no one seems to be willing to experiment, the truth is far beyond the reach of scientific inquiry.
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Re: Marxism/Socialism/Communism

Postby Vaniver » Fri Aug 22, 2008 1:38 am UTC

Elvish Pillager wrote:Welfare is anti-capitalist.
Not really, so far as the level of welfare is low. Unless you're talking about anarchocapitalism- which is not the capitalism most people talk about. Governments need to exist for a capitalist society to work properly, and one of the accepted functions of governments is to provide for the destitute.* But that's significantly different than a wide-scale income redistribution project.

Elvish Pillager wrote:Emancipation is anti-capitalist.
Huh? Let's read some more Smith, shall we?
Adam Smith wrote:But if great improvements are seldom to be expected from great proprietors, they are least of all to be expected when they employ slaves for their workmen. The experience of all ages and nations, I believe, demonstrates that the work done by slaves, though it appears to cost only their maintenance, is in the end the dearest of any. A person who can acquire no property, can have no other interest but to eat as much, and to labour as little as possible. Whatever work he does beyond what is sufficient to purchase his own maintenance, can be squeezed out of him by violence only, and not by any interest of his own. In ancient Italy, how much hte cultivation of corn degenerated, how unprofitable it became to master when it fell under the management of slaves, is remarked by both Pliny and Columella.
As well, most modern forms of capitalism are deeply wedded to individualism, which finds slavery abhorrent.

Elvish Pillager wrote:Heck, a country whose constitution allows representatives of the people to modify economic or property law by a vote, is anti-capitalist!
Capitalist societies work better with proper regulation (i.e. correction for externalities). When capitalists get unhappy is when the government changes from being the referee, to the referee and the star player.

I mean, yeah, abstract anarchocapitalism doesn't exist and shouldn't exist. But that doesn't mean capitalism the practical system doesn't work (if you haven't been paying attention the last several hundred years, it does).

*Though this can be accomplished, and sometimes is better accomplished, by private individuals.
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Re: Marxism/Socialism/Communism

Postby Indon » Fri Aug 22, 2008 4:13 am UTC

Vaniver wrote:As well, most modern forms of capitalism are deeply wedded to individualism, which finds slavery abhorrent.

Perhaps institutionalized hereditary slavery - contractual slavery (such as debt slavery or indentured servitude) seems to me to be a property right.

Vaniver wrote:When capitalists get unhappy is when the government changes from being the referee, to the referee and the star player.

I somewhat disagree. A capitalist who can significantly influence the government would want a more powerful government - it's in his self-interest to increase the utility of his tools.

But, for most individuals, I'd say that's true.
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Re: Marxism/Socialism/Communism

Postby SpiderMonkey » Fri Aug 22, 2008 8:43 am UTC

Indon wrote:Science really doesn't work with anything that would commonly be called 'free will'. This is true in Marxism, too - they just posit a different kind of human machine.


The 19th century called, they want their deterministic Newtonian universe back.

Don't try and speak for 'science' unless you know damn well what you are talking about. You do not.

Pyrotix wrote:
SpiderMonkey wrote:Capitalism is not effective at all; the entire world is run basically on capitalist principles, and most of the world is poor and starving. It only seems to work if you ignore the majority of humanity.

I don't know what the relevance is; people are paid even in North Korea.


Eh, what? Look at the difference in quality of life between North and South Korea if you want to see the difference a relatively efficient economic system makes. Please note that's its frickin' huge.


You were raising an irrelevant point that 'people like to be paid' - I was just pointing out that nobody is advocating not paying people. Don't try and make me out to be a DPRK sympathiser because that is intellectually dishonest.

... Yes, business' will try to influence the government to work for their interests. If you've been paying ANY attention you'll notice that's the sort of thought that economics runs by. However, a democratic government is ultimately accountable not to the business interests but the people which elect it, it lives or dies by their votes. In a nation where the populace keeps well informed the government will be serving them. Hell, even the U.S. , which hardly serves as a shining example of accountable government and transparency, has loads of antitrust legislation.

This is entirely true. Rich people sometimes have difficulty seeing how the tax dollars that they pay that go to public schools and healthcare (wooohooo Canada!) are being better spent than if they were allowed to keep them. The government however, as a collective representation of the people, all of whom have equal voting power should act in its own interest (the collective interest of the people). If it makes sense to take some money from individuals and spend it in a way that creates more wealth for the populace over time the government should do so.


I think you are very naive about the nature of western governments. Money controls public discourse, and thus money decides elections.

Our society runs on the 'self-interest' assumption, and it fails horrifically because of it. Inequality is rising. Social cohesion is collapsing. Most western countries don't even try to justify their existence beyond a simple appeal to tradition and the threat of force.

Marx is basically correct about what happens to capitalist societies: what he didn't anticipate is how capitalist societies would break from his historical inevitability, and make choices that allowed them to survive. A combination of welfare states and exporting the worst jobs mitigated the worst effects of the inherent inequality of the system, whilst the advent of mass media gave the rich the capacity to control public discourse and keep subversive thoughts on the fringes.


1st.. please go to this website: http://www.gapminder.org/ . Look at the graphs, and note how by practically every possible metric life has drastically improved in nearly every country over the past century (excluding things like pollution). I'm talking about metrics that range from PPP GDP to infant mortality to literacy to life expectancy. Your claims are patently ridiculous. The fantasy world you live in seems to be a dark and pitiable place.


The number of people starving is increasing. You can pick and choose your metrics to make things look rosy, but you can't really get away from the fact that more people are dying through hunger (and thus indirectly through poverty) than ever before. Just because something contradicts your dearly held beliefs, doesn't make it 'ridiculous'

2ndly... our models that run based upon self-interest fail why? Because people are selfish? The models depend on people being selfish! It is precisely people acting in their self-interest within this system that allows humanity to be enriched. It is in a communist system where people are trusted to act altruistically where things really fuck up. And Western democracies don't justify themselves beyond the threat of force? What the hell are you smoking? Social contract theory. If you don't like it go to North Korea and join their social contract which has slightly differing terms.


People are not selfish. Its a common meme but it has little bearing on reality. The tenets of game theory might look good on paper, but in practice only economists and sociopaths act as mathematically optimal players. Normal people perversely attempt to cooperate and help each other.

3rdly how can you assert in the same sentence that Marx was basically right, despite acknowledging his predictions went entirely wrong? Welfare state prevented the collapse? I thought you maintained that the government was controlled by the bourgeousie? Or did the bourgeousie decide to give up their money on welfare to prevent the imminent proletarian revolution from occuring? The cognitive dissonance it seems you must deal with to keep these beliefs is staggering.


You need a lesson in reading comprehension. I said Marx's diagnosis of western civilisation was correct, but the idea of historic inevitability was wrong because human choices affect things - in this case the choice to adapt capitalism and avoid the fate predicted by Marx.

Also a question: There lives a relatively poor immigrant family who own a laundromat. They now and again hire some students to help with the business. In the same city there also is a lawyer who makes more than 100k a year.

Are we supposed to believe that the poor family is composed of capitalist oppressors depriving students of the fruit of their labours while the lawyer is a proletarian worker the sweat of whom's brow is dedicated to enriching the clients which exploit him?

What if this lawyer was kept by many poor families, like the one owning the laundromat, on retainer? Is he an exploited worker despite the fact he makes much more than them?

I don't know. However I approach it, I can't seem to find any angle from which marxism is less ridiculous.


You consider the idea of people starving to death ridiculous, despite the fact it is happening. So your finding a theory ridiculous doesn't seem to have any bearing on its correctness, does it?

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TheStranger
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Re: Marxism/Socialism/Communism

Postby TheStranger » Fri Aug 22, 2008 11:07 am UTC

SpiderMonkey wrote:The 19th century called, they want their deterministic Newtonian universe back.

Don't try and speak for 'science' unless you know damn well what you are talking about. You do not.


I was unaware of a plausible theory of Free Will, perhaps you can enlighten me (plus the 90s called, they want their joke back).

Doesn't Communism treat people as machines just a Capitalism? Only instead of acting perfectly in a selfish manner it seems to operate on the idea that people will act in a perfectly self-less.

SpiderMonkey wrote:You were raising an irrelevant point that 'people like to be paid' - I was just pointing out that nobody is advocating not paying people. Don't try and make me out to be a DPRK sympathiser because that is intellectually dishonest.


I believe that the point was: South Korea is Capitalist, North Korea is not (and is an attempted implementation of Communism). It's like saying that Democracy doesn't work because people in non-democratic states cannot vote.

SpiderMonkey wrote:I think you are very naive about the nature of western governments. Money controls public discourse, and thus money decides elections.


Yes, money does have a large impact on public discourse, but it is not the totality of it.

SpiderMonkey wrote:The number of people starving is increasing. You can pick and choose your metrics to make things look rosy, but you can't really get away from the fact that more people are dying through hunger (and thus indirectly through poverty) than ever before. Just because something contradicts your dearly held beliefs, doesn't make it 'ridiculous'


The number of people, or the percentage of the population (a very important distinction in my book)? Even so, how many of those people (and what percentage of the population) live in functioning Democracies with a Capitalist economy?

SpiderMonkey wrote:People are not selfish. Its a common meme but it has little bearing on reality. The tenets of game theory might look good on paper, but in practice only economists and sociopaths act as mathematically optimal players. Normal people perversely attempt to cooperate and help each other.


Though people will work together most individuals will also seek the maximum benefit to themselves.

SpiderMonkey wrote:You consider the idea of people starving to death ridiculous, despite the fact it is happening. So your finding a theory ridiculous doesn't seem to have any bearing on its correctness, does it?


Are those people starving as a direct result of Capitalism, or is it related to political instability that prevents a stable economy (of any type) from forming? Does the number of starving people compose a significant portion of the population in stable Capitalist states (the US, EU, etc...) or is it a fringe? Would a practical application of a Communist economy be able to feed those people without detrimental impact on the rest of the population?

I've yet to see a good demonstration of how Communism would be 'better' then Capitalism... so far all that's come across is a criticism of Capitalism (I've always found Marx to be more interesting when seen as a critique of Capitalism, and it's inherent risks, then a rival economic system).
"To bow before the pressure of the ignorant is weakness."
Azalin Rex, Wizard-King of Darkon

qbg
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Re: Marxism/Socialism/Communism

Postby qbg » Fri Aug 22, 2008 2:21 pm UTC

Vaniver wrote:
qbg wrote:Assuming 10 identical workers (with equal pay), if the worker is paid their marginal productivity, then this would need to be true for the sum of their marginal productivity to equal the sum of their pay:
p(10)-p(9) = p(10)/10

But is this true?
I'm sorry, I completely misread your previous statement. Yes, the total product of labor is more than the total wage of labor. Are you familiar with the term consumer surplus?

Going back to the quote that started this: "Under the standard model, a firm is happy to pay the exact amount (ok, arbitrarily close to the exact amount) of an input's (including a worker's) marginal productivity." But because sum of each worker's marginal productivity does not equal the sum of each worker's wage, the firm is not paying each worker arbitrarily close to the their marginal productivity. (Quoting Wikipedia, "In heterodox economics, the economic surplus denotes the total income which the ruling class derives from its ownership of scarce factors of production, which is either reinvested or spent on consumption.")

Silas
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Re: Marxism/Socialism/Communism

Postby Silas » Fri Aug 22, 2008 6:40 pm UTC

Each worker doesn't have his own marginal productivity; "the sum of each worker's marginal productivity does not equal the sum of each worker's wage" is like saying "the breadth of the square is less than its area". Labor has a marginal productivity: how much the addition of the last (or next, in the continuous case, the two are indistinguishable) worker increased the overall production.

Did you imagine in my original (now corrected) example that I was saying a classical firm would pay workers 1-7 wages of $10, 12, 14, 16, 14, 12 and 10, respectively? That'd be absurd, because the workers are identical. No, they'll each be paid $10, because if one of them got up and left, that's how much the firm would suffer from it.
Felstaff wrote:Serves you goddamned right. I hope you're happy, Cake Ruiner


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