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Author Topic: Proposal for a new social contract - a dream
Zatamon
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Babbler # 1394

posted 27 June 2002 09:56 AM      Profile for Zatamon     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
As they say, revolutions happen when people feel they have nothing to lose any more. I saw it in Hungary in 1956, even though I was only eleven, but I knew what was happening. Kids as young as nine were throwing Molotov cocktails at the tanks and boys, not much older, attacked Kalashnikov-toting Russian soldiers with target pistols. I know, my big brother was one of them.

People were mad and felt they had nothing to lose.

Why is it important here and now to know how Hungarian freedom fighters felt in 1956?

It is important, because they were defeated. They waited too long to act, and by that time they never had a chance. Thousands were killed during the fight, thousands were thrown in jail or executed after. A quarter million fled the country.

They should have been mad enough to act a long time before.

Here and now we feel we have so much to lose, so we are reluctant to act.

We put up with loss after loss of our freedom, our honour, loyalty and compassion for each other, because we feel we have so much to lose. Our careers, our homes, cars, TV-s, VCR-s and microwave ovens. The newest gadgets in our kitchens, the stereo, the computer and the ski-vacation or the time-share condo. Many of us don't have it so well off, but we all have something to lose.

So we hang on to whatever we don't want to lose and let history unfold around us. Most of us are not yet mad enough.

When we will be - and I am sure we will - then we will act. We will pour out unto the streets in our millions and will shout our anger and defiance, but by then it may be too late.

So what can I as an individual do?

The least I can do is dream. If I can't change the world, at least I want to know what kind of world I would like to live in.

And why not? Was it only Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. who could "have a dream"?

And sometime, somewhere, some parts of some dreams do come true. Medicare used to be a dream.

However, for a dream to come true, you need a dreamer to dream them up.

What should be possible in my human family, on my living Planet?

Once I define this dream-world for myself, I can hold that vision in front of me, at all time, and, as long as I am still around and can communicate to my fellow human beings, I can paint and re-paint this picture that lives so vividly in my mind.

Maybe when this is all over and the survivors pick up the pieces, they will get it right.

I believe it is possible to learn from the past and start out in a new direction, with a new vision of how we humans could live with each other?

What is the most important lesson we can learn from our long and bloody history?

What defines us?

We are a species full of contradictions.

Co-operation and competition.
Freedom and aggression
Compassion and greed
Love and hate

Could I distill all these contradiction into one fundamental and defining duality?

I believe I can:

It is our need for both freedom and love in our lives.

In our personal lives it manifests itself as 'single' and 'married' lifestyles.

In a social context it manifests itself as freedom from, and compassion for, each other.

The different social systems in our history were built on different assumptions of our human nature.

- Capitalism assumes that our primary motivation is greedy self interest (freedom-loving)

- Communism is built on the assumption that we can be a loving family, caring for each other (compassionate).

- Socialism of various kinds were all trying to find a compromise.

So far without much success, because the compromise was arbitrary, without a clearly defined principle guiding us when we tried to accommodate our conflicting impulses.

Can we make peace? Can we find a compromise acceptable to most people?

I believe we can.

OK, here it goes:
-----------------

In that "Suggestions to the Federal Cabinet" I gave you one hint when I put the word in the mouth of my 'beloved' Prime Minister Jean Chretien: "It sounds like you propose to merge Capitalism and Communism. I have to admit, it is an attractive thought: Save the best part of both systems and have some basic fairness, compassion and freedom in the Country"

The basic principle of compromise I have been hinting at is the following:

Let's agree that we acknowledge both of our needs: freedom from, and compassion for, each other. Let us agree that the compassion part has priority, up to a very well defined point. This point is where the basic survival needs of every citizen in our country is assured. Beyond this point our priorities change and our need for freedom takes over.

The concept I have in mind is not unheard of: it is a variety of 'Basic Income Alternative' a policy that has been and is currently studied by various western governments (including Ireland and Canada).

In my version of this idea we have a two-tier economy, with the two tiers completely isolated from each other. One tier is the ‘public sector’ and is ‘Communist’ by nature, while the second tier is the ‘private sector’ and is pure ‘Capitalist’.

In the ‘public sector’, basic human needs are the responsibility of the national government and takes priority over every other human activity. In this system there is no money involved.

The government is in charge of all the industries (without exception) required to provide basic human needs (food, clothing, housing, health, education, communication, transportation) and it is self contained. The government 'owns' all the resources to satisfy basic human needs of the population. It is an economy planned and designed to serve one purpose: to eliminate poverty and make sure every citizen's basic needs are satisfied, regardless of any other consideration (worth of contribution for example).

The basic human needs can be easily calculated by using scientific data on age-dependent calorie requirements, climate-dependent clothing and housing requirement, population-dependent health- and education-requirement and the necessary energy and raw-material production, as well as the necessary infrastructure in transportation and communication. It could be easily planned based on physiological, climatic and demographic data.

Production in this economy presupposes that the system is self contained, the nation owns all the resources, required to implement this system, within its own borders. Canada is a prime example where this could be easily done. So everything required for this production for basic needs is under the jurisdiction of the national government, no foreign trade is required to satisfy these basic needs.

Problems start when we come to 'distribution'.
In past socialist experiments, attempts at distribution were always tied to bureaucratic measurements of individual needs and rigid safeguards to make sure nobody consumed more than their share. This method was based on three assumptions:

1./ assumption of insufficient resources and technology
2./ assumption of human greed and lack of honour
3./ assumption of desire for a 'perfectly just' system

So the system became a nightmare of bureaucratic red tape, inefficiency, waste and injustice. See Soviet Union and East Europe under 'Communism'.

What if we discarded those assumptions? Can we discard those assumptions? My answer is yes, quite easily, given our level of science and technology today.

Basic human needs are very easy to satisfy (has anyone calculated how many hungry children could be fed from liberating the resources that went into producing one aircraft carrier or nuclear submarine?). If we decided that basic needs are a priority before anything else, we have all the resources and the technology to do it quite easily today (I am doing some research right now to prove it).

We can do it in abundance if we put everything else on hold (luxuries, entertainment, sports, arts, etc., etc.) and eliminate all waste (military, finance, most of government, duplication and competition) until basic human needs are satisfied. In my opinion no ethical human being could justify spending any amount of resources on those items I just listed, as long as there is one hungry child or homeless citizen in the country.

This does not mean that I would want to live without arts or sports or some luxuries, but the beauty of the system is that I would not have to. The key word above is ***ABUNDANCE***. With intelligent organization, elimination of wasteful competition and duplication, we could produce ***ENOUGH*** of the basic necessities to accommodate individual differences in needs and statistical fluctuations in demand, with a comfortable margin of safety.

And here comes the final element of the system:

No regulation on the individual level is necessary. The produced goods and services could be made freely available for anyone needing it and people could just help themselves in the supermarkets, the stores, find the 'basic quality' house they need, close to the place where they work. If basic needs are guaranteed, no sane person would bother with hoarding, so no artificial shortages would happen (the assumption being that insane persons are in a very tiny minority).

Sounds impossible? Well, it isn't. If we don't tie ourselves into knots over money, we have everything we need to make it reality: material and energy resources and the manpower with all the different skills required (this is the current chapter of my book I am working on right now -- I will soon have all the scientific and statistical data to prove these assumptions).

Besides being in charge of all production activity to satisfy this goal, the government will have to maintain the police and the courts to make sure the system is defended against criminals, sociopaths and psychopaths. Another beauty of the system is that once basic needs are satisfied, the level of crime, violence and destructive behavior will decrease drastically.

The government would not have to deal with economic crimes (tax evasion for example) because the government does not deal with money at all. There is only one crime that could be considered 'economic' by nature: it would be against the law not to participate in the production of basic needs for any able adult who is not in training or vacation at the time.

It could be easily calculated how many hours per weekday on the average one citizen will have to work to do their share in producing these goods. According to some estimates I have seen, this could be as low as four hours per workday, if it is organized intelligently (like distributing production centers according to population density as much as possible, so no wasteful long-distance shipping needs to be supported).

This minimal contribution can be accumulated in advance to provide for vacations and personal projects, but would not be transferable to make sure no person has a 'free ride'. You don't have to 'save up' for illness and retirement (the key word above is 'able') because those are provided for from the excess safety buffer built into the system.

There would be an immediate and automatic incarceration (or expulsion from the country for chronic offenders) for anyone who refuses to participate in basic needs-related production activities. This would not be a fixed-length sentence, but a 'stay in jail until you are willing to pull your weight' alternative, and it may end the next day if desired. Also, any citizen is free to renounce his/her citizenship and move to another country if welcome there.

The government would stay the sole 'owner' of all natural resources that are common birthright of all citizens. Among these are primarily land, air, water, space, forests, wildlife, mineral deposits, communication frequency bands. Nobody can expropriate any of this for exclusive personal use beyond what they are entitled to in their basic needs (these needs are defined by national consensus, reached be referendum, based on scientific and demographical data).

After basic needs are satisfied and poverty, hunger, preventable illness and ignorance is eliminated from the nation; crimes are prevented to the best of the police's ability, then the government's task ends. It has done all in its power to make sure that basic human needs are satisfied, nobody goes hungry, no one freezes to death on a winter sidewalk, nobody gets abused by crime or exploitation, no one too young, old or sick gets neglected, no human greed and evil is allowed to rule.

And this was the 'Communist' part of the system I am proposing.

However, as I hinted above, there is a 'Capitalist' part as well.

According to my estimates (and the data I have collected so far in my research) after basic needs are satisfied, there is plenty of resources left over (material and energy resources and the manpower with all kinds of skills) for a second tier in the economy which would be completely private, and totally separate from the first tier and the government. Other than assuring that no criminal activity (theft, fraud, murder, pollution, inhumanity to animals, etc) is taking place in the second tier, the government is staying completely out of it.

The second tier could be organized in any way participants want to - it can have money and banks and loans and interest rates and what-have-you. It can lease excess natural resources (only in a sustainable way) from the government for its own purposes, by contributing extra benefit to the public, basic-needs production economy (they can not pay in currency because the government does not use any). The value of natural resources in terms of public service provided for its use will have to be calculated by the economic planners of the government, based on scarcity of resources versus public benefit of service provided for it. It has to be dynamic, with strict guidelines protecting it from abuse.

Nobody could be forced to participate in the 'private tier' of the economy, it would be strictly voluntary. If the private economy organizes itself to use a recognized common currency, then citizens could get 'paid' for their work in the private sector and use this money to purchase luxuries (products and services beyond basic needs) just like now.

No private sector 'company' would be allowed to compete with public sector production centers so, for example, no two-tier health care or education would be allowed to exist. Private 'luxury' companies must produce real luxuries that go beyond and above what is freely available to every citizen.

In my view the proposed system would be sustainable, encompassing ***both*** freedom and compassion. It would not lead to 'equality' (only in minimum basic needs) -- those citizens who are willing to work extra, can 'earn' luxuries to the limit of their energies and talents. But no compromise would be tolerated when it comes to basic needs and rights, the sustainability of the system, the health of the environment and the rights of other living species.

Of course there are millions of details to be worked out, I only wanted to describe the basic principles of a 'workable' social organization. And, of course, I have no roadmap leading from 'A' to 'B' and don't even know if such a roadmap is possible in the immediate future. However, I wanted to describe how a social organization could exist without money and I tried to do that.

I also used the assumption that the country where this 'experiment' was performed was not threatened (or coerced) from abroad, so no military would need to be maintained, and there is no foreign trade whatsoever practiced by the government. For basic needs the system must be completely self contained, not dependent or influenced by fortunes outside its borders. The private sector could do any amount of foreign trade so long as it does not compromise the first-tier economy.

The only way to make this system work is by eliminating the second assumption listed above (2./ assumption of human greed and lack of honour). We are up against the age-old question of 'human nature' and its primary attribute: is it basically competitive or basically cooperative. All Capitalist western societies are based on the assumption of man being basically competitive. However, newer studies are refuting this 'Social Darwinism' at increasing frequency and tell us that, given the chance, human beings are actually quite decent (See Sally Goerner's "After the Clockwork Universe" or John Ralston Saul's "On Equilibrium" for example).

To summarize:

The essence of my system is the following: People decide that the most important goal is to make sure everybody's basic needs are met. They create an economy to assure that. There is no money involved, every citizen has to participate with a minimum number of hours per day and the produced goods are made available to everyone freely. This economy is completely self contained: it has its power generating stations, their mining, their industries, agriculture, transportation and communication facilities, schools and hospitals. Everything they need to produce basic goods. Then they say: we have it covered. Now, whoever wants more, can do it in their spare time, as long as 1./ they don't touch our economy in any way whatsoever (if they can't do it without us, it is their problem, we will not let anything compromise the 'prime directive'). 2./ They don't cause damage to the environment and don't harm anyone in the process (including other species) 3./They don't try to duplicate basic services and thus create a two-tier system.

I am not writing this book to tell people how to change. I am merely trying to demonstrate that we could do anything we wanted to. We were given a marvelous Planet with everything on it we need. We were given intelligence to turn it into Paradise for all of us, including other life forms.

Unfortunately we were also given some other attributes that make this Utopia impossible and we are fast approaching the nightmare of turning our world into a poisoned sewer in the best case, a nuclear wasteland in the worst.

We have tried everything else already (the results are all around us, for all to see) -- why not give sanity a chance? It might save our collective asses.

As Will Durant wrote in "The Lessons of History (chapter X. - Government and History) -- "If our economy of freedom fails to distribute wealth as ably as it has created it, the road to dictatorship will be open to any man who can persuasively promise security to all; and a martial government, under whatever charming phrases, will engulf the democratic world"

[ July 01, 2002: Message edited by: Zatamon ]


From: where hope for 'hope' is contemplated | Registered: Sep 2001  |  IP: Logged
Slick Willy
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Babbler # 184

posted 27 June 2002 10:14 AM      Profile for Slick Willy     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
censored

[ June 29, 2002: Message edited by: Slick Willy ]


From: Hog Heaven | Registered: Apr 2001  |  IP: Logged
Zatamon
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Babbler # 1394

posted 27 June 2002 10:23 AM      Profile for Zatamon     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
First response is from someone who doesn't think we can ever get down from the trees and walk on our hind legs.

PS. I don't think SW actually read my post. Probably skimmed it very quickly and dashed off his 'learned opinion'.

The time difference between my posting and his is 18 minutes. It is a very long post (my apologies). Even if we assume that he started reading it seconds after I posted, he still needed time to read it, consider it (I put a lot into this post), decide on his reply and type or paste it and post.

SW, you may have been a bit too hasty with your reply -- why not give it a second look?

I hope others give it more of a chance.

[ June 27, 2002: Message edited by: Zatamon ]


From: where hope for 'hope' is contemplated | Registered: Sep 2001  |  IP: Logged
agent007
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posted 27 June 2002 01:55 PM      Profile for agent007     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Zatamon, I've only read the Summary ...

I laud you for wanting a better world for all, and it's obvious that your heart is in the right place ... BUT your suggestions fall into the type of thinking that leads to the much-desired "Perpetual Motion Machine" -- a beautiful dream.

Nothing that we concoct can possibly change the world into a world where we can implement the needed changes to change the world.


From: Niagara Falls ON | Registered: Aug 2001  |  IP: Logged
Zatamon
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Babbler # 1394

posted 27 June 2002 02:02 PM      Profile for Zatamon     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
agent007, all my answers to your post are in the part of my Proposal that you have *not* read.
From: where hope for 'hope' is contemplated | Registered: Sep 2001  |  IP: Logged
rici
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posted 27 June 2002 08:46 PM      Profile for rici     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Sad to see such pessimism.

Zatamon's vision is indeed a beautiful dream, but dreams are achievable -- if you believe in them enough.

There are (at least) two theories of political development: either accept the world as it is and try to make the best of it, or work actively to make it better for you (and, if you feel so inclined, for everyone else). It seems that the rich and powerful have opted successfully for option two. It's time for us to get back to it as well.

Knowing where you want to end up is a basic prerequisite for getting there. Maybe you won't see the destination in your lifetime, but you have a chance to see that you've gotten closer.

OK, enough of the inspirational babble. Let me be concrete. Canada has had two revolutionary policies which were implemented; one of them is still hanging on by a thread. Those are Medicare and the Saskatchewan Land Bank.

Both of these were attempts to diminish the power of the capitalist system in a way that improved the lives of everyone. Or in other words, taking important things out of the financial arena and putting them where they belong, in the political arena.

There are three lessons we can learn from this:

1) Well articulated policies, even highly socialist ones, can be implemented in Canada. It is therefore worthwhile thinking up such policies.

2) Even partial decapitalisation of life is a tremendous benefit. You don't have to go straight to "GO".

3) Getting something implemented is not enough. Every generation has to understand why it is important.

Thinking about this afterwards, I realised that I probably should have added the Wheat Board to the list. And maybe some more... you make the list. If we managed to do enough of these things, we would get somewhere.

"If enough people bash their heads against a brick wall...

... it will fall over"

[ June 27, 2002: Message edited by: Rici Lake ]


From: Lima, Perú | Registered: Jun 2002  |  IP: Logged
nonsuch
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posted 27 June 2002 09:52 PM      Profile for nonsuch     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Dairy and egg marketing boards, farmers co-ops; heritage seed bank, crop insurance...

There is also the Ontario Savings Office (which, i understand, is on the auctioneer's block right now... whether that's constitutional or not).

I'm hazy, at best, on the technicalities, but i read a pamphlet some time ago which asserted that provinces have a great deal of control over their money supply and credit.
Co-operation isn't exactly a radical idea; it's just fallen into disrepute of late.


From: coming and going | Registered: Sep 2001  |  IP: Logged
Dogbert
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posted 27 June 2002 10:03 PM      Profile for Dogbert     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Interesting reading, Zeta.

My criticism of this proposal is that it seems to be simply the welfare state on steroids. Certainly its goals are laudable, but it has a fatal flaw... it leaves both big buisiness and the upper classes intact. This guarantees that there will be a group of people with large amounts of money and power that have a vested interest in dismantling the protections you've put in place. Money or no, these "guaranteed necessities" will use resources that the private sector will not be allowed to touch.

More importantly, it will leave a large sector of society outside of their ability to make profit. Just look at what's happening now... health care, water, power, all the major public goods built up over the past century are being privitized so the capital-owning class can make more money. What would stop this from happening in your system?

I do like the idea of a socialist/capitalist hybrid system, though I'd do it a bit differently. I'll describe it sometime when I'm feeling windy, but this is your thread, I won't try and steal your thunder.


From: Elbonia | Registered: Aug 2001  |  IP: Logged
nonsuch
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posted 27 June 2002 10:20 PM      Profile for nonsuch     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
there will be a group of people with large amounts of money and power ... dismantling the protections you've put in place.

Obviously, they would try. But, if they have control only of the money, which has just become irrelevant for necessities, how much power can they muster? A whole lot of guys have just discovered that they can paint or write poetry or grow herb or make love in their spare time, without having to worry about food and shelter. This will seriously thin the available manpower to dismantle anything.


From: coming and going | Registered: Sep 2001  |  IP: Logged
Zatamon
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posted 28 June 2002 01:14 AM      Profile for Zatamon     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Rici Lake: Sad to see such pessimism. Zatamon's vision is indeed a beautiful dream, but dreams are achievable -- if you believe in them enough.....Knowing where you want to end up is a basic prerequisite for getting there. Maybe you won't see the destination in your lifetime, but you have a chance to see that you've gotten closer. (my emphasis)
When I lived in Hungary, we dreamed a lot. We ‘lived in our dreams’ because there wasn’t much anything else to do. In real life we lived in skin-tight straight jackets and the only escape was to our dreams.

We dreamed a lot about the ‘West’ .

It was imagined just as SW’s silly reply to my original post. The promised land.

This dream had sustained me for a long time, until I had an opportunity to escape to ‘dream-land’.

When finally I got here, the dream ended: I was forced to wake up and face reality: power is power in whatever disguise, and I had to start dreaming all over again.

I rely on my dreams yet once more to give me strength to carry on.

The curious thing is though: in Hungary we shared our dreams. It gave us strength to cope with the present. We were a suppressed people and we knew it.

Here, I find a lot of hostility, some jeering, good natured patronizing and dismissal for those dreams that we ought to share.

It is almost as if here, in the West, we wanted to believe in the propaganda of our exploiters, as if we wanted to convince ourselves that we are all evil by nature and this is “as good as it gets”.

Just as Rici Lake said in the quote above:” it is sad to see so much pessimism”.

[ June 28, 2002: Message edited by: Zatamon ]


From: where hope for 'hope' is contemplated | Registered: Sep 2001  |  IP: Logged
nonsuch
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posted 28 June 2002 01:54 AM      Profile for nonsuch     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Somebody dreams of flight faster than sound - no problem. Somebody dreams of a cordless phone - no problem. Somebody dreams of a gadget to control everything - no problem. Big possible bucks. Somebody dreams of a social sytem where nobody hurts - silly sausage!

What the hey; it works here, too.


From: coming and going | Registered: Sep 2001  |  IP: Logged
Jacob Two-Two
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posted 28 June 2002 03:18 AM      Profile for Jacob Two-Two     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
GO ZATAMON!!!

At the risk of looking like I'm just hitching to your (most excellent) star, what you have written is a much more eloquent and completed version of the thoughts I have been having myself for some time. I usually put it to myself as "necessities should be free, luxuries you can put on the market".

I especially love the way that the government doesn't use money at all! Brilliant! It owns communal resources, extracts a social obligation from each citizen in the form of labour (similar to military service, and replacing the concept of taxes), and uses these to provide basic necessities (as defined democratically by us, the citizens). Instead of opposing capitalism head-on, it just circumvents it by placing the means of reproduction out of its hands.

This is completely doable, by the way. And it would work so well that if it was ever instituted, there would be little chance of the capitalist class reversing it. After all, they have no means to influence a moneyless system. They would be reduced to supplying fancy jams and soaps, etc. I would be cool with such a capitalism. It would know its place.

As well, it occurs to me that the few people who made a career of public service would not be paid anything for their work, ensuring that these positions would be filled by individuals of great altruism rather than great ambition.

I wonder if there's any need to make competition with the primary economy illegal, however. How can they compete anyway? If you're giving away bread for nothing, there is no market to corner. The worst they can do is give away their own bread, and what would be the point of that?

The only real obstacle to implimenting this system (assuming the political will was there) would be the strong, even murderous, opposition of the capital class in our own country and in others. They would have no intention of allowing democracy to produce such a diminishment of their power. They would pull out all the stops. Elected officials would die if necessary. This would be the end for them and they would know it.

It occurs to me, reading this eminently rational and enlightened dream, how important it is to fight for a more effective democracy. Not just for this dream, but for any dream you might have. It is wonderful to have dreams and more wonderful to share them with others, but they must be implimented, and to do that we need better mechanisms of government that will allow the shared dreams of the citizenry to become reality.

I believe in people. I believe that the more power you give them in common, the more responsible and thoughtful they will become, because they will want to use this power, but they will not be able to do so unless they can learn the skills and virtues of compromise and negotiation.

We need more than dreams, and even more than fighting for particular dreams. We need a way that we can make everyone's dreams more accessible. We need more democracy.


From: There is but one Gord and Moolah is his profit | Registered: Jan 2002  |  IP: Logged
Slick Willy
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posted 28 June 2002 06:38 AM      Profile for Slick Willy     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
First response is from someone who doesn't think we can ever get down from the trees and walk on our hind legs

censored

[ June 29, 2002: Message edited by: Slick Willy ]


From: Hog Heaven | Registered: Apr 2001  |  IP: Logged
Slick Willy
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posted 28 June 2002 06:48 AM      Profile for Slick Willy     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
t was imagined just as SW’s silly reply to my original post. The promised land.

censored

[ June 29, 2002: Message edited by: Slick Willy ]


From: Hog Heaven | Registered: Apr 2001  |  IP: Logged
hibachi
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posted 28 June 2002 06:50 AM      Profile for hibachi   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
No. That's why we are here, and you are trolling us.
From: Toronto, Ont. | Registered: Jul 2001  |  IP: Logged
Zatamon
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posted 28 June 2002 08:21 AM      Profile for Zatamon     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
voluntarily removed...

[ June 29, 2002: Message edited by: Zatamon ]


From: where hope for 'hope' is contemplated | Registered: Sep 2001  |  IP: Logged
Slick Willy
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posted 28 June 2002 08:24 AM      Profile for Slick Willy     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
censored

[ June 29, 2002: Message edited by: Slick Willy ]


From: Hog Heaven | Registered: Apr 2001  |  IP: Logged
Zatamon
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posted 28 June 2002 08:48 AM      Profile for Zatamon     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Jacob Two-Two: I wonder if there's any need to make competition with the primary economy illegal, however. How can they compete anyway? If you're giving away bread for nothing, there is no market to corner. The worst they can do is give away their own bread, and what would be the point of that?
Jacob, thanks for the compliments (guess what SW thinks of you now? )

I included that bit as a safeguard against two-tier services. Just as you correctly pointed out, those who would lose power would do anything to corrupt the system. I can see them trying to bribe talented doctors and teachers to work in their spare time for private clinics and schools in exchange for luxury goods.

I am not saying that private clinics or schools would be any better than public ones. All I am saying is: if public hospitals are the only place 'they' can go to with their health problems and public schools are the only schools 'they' can send their children to, then it is in 'their' very best interest not to sabotage it.

However, you can not force my system on people.

The only way to make this work is by reaching a national consensus on basic principles of human decency:

quote:
Zatamon: Let's agree that we acknowledge both of our needs: freedom from, and compassion for, each other. Let us agree that the compassion part has priority, up to a very well defined point. This point is where the basic survival needs of every citizen in our country is assured. Beyond this point our priorities change and our need for freedom takes over.
If you have a nation that accepts this compromise, then you have a working proposition.

I am sure if it was suggested in a national referendum, people would seriously consider it. However, I don't see the question put to the people in the near future.

And even if it was, do you think our friendly neighbor to the south would just politely congratulate us for our great social step forward?

We can work on it only step by step, just as Rici Lake suggested.

First step is: save Medicare!

Then the next and the next and the next...

But it is necessary to know what we would like, to know what to work towards.

[ June 28, 2002: Message edited by: Zatamon ]


From: where hope for 'hope' is contemplated | Registered: Sep 2001  |  IP: Logged
Slick Willy
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posted 28 June 2002 09:33 AM      Profile for Slick Willy     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
am sure if it was suggested in a national referendum, people would seriously consider it.
However, I don't see the question put to the people in the near future.

censored

[ June 29, 2002: Message edited by: Slick Willy ]


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satana
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posted 28 June 2002 10:09 AM      Profile for satana     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Zatamon,
I can I agree with your basic priciple of compromise.
But I believe that your utopia is based on too many assumptions to survive for long should it ever come to exist.
A basic challenge to your system is that Canada has a very diverse population.
A mix of cultures with different traditions, different values and different world-views.
As you mentioned in the "Suggestions" thread: "A society, gentlemen, is based on consensus of the community."
So what if after your system is applied
someone decides they want to do things their own way?
What if some people think of a different, "better" system?
What if a community goes on strike or a disruptive protest?
In your dream, I imagine these people would be labeled "criminals", taken from their homes and kept in jails till they "repent" ... or die.
Your plan looks good in writing,
and maybe on a small scale, in a community of like minded people your Utopia could be applied successfully.
But, on a larger scale, where people with different lifestyles and backgrounds involved,
I fear, that your dream, like many well-intentioned, rational dreams that have come to life before,
could also imply witch-hunts, concentration camps, and other "inconveniences".

From: far away | Registered: Jun 2002  |  IP: Logged
Zatamon
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posted 28 June 2002 10:23 AM      Profile for Zatamon     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Santana, I appreciate your comments and you raised very important points.

Let me point it out to you that I also wrote:

“you can not force my system on people. The only way to make this work is by reaching a national consensus on basic principles of human decency…. If you have a nation that accepts this compromise, then you have a working proposition…..We can work on it only step by step, just as Rici Lake suggested. First step is: save Medicare! Then the next and the next and the next... But it is necessary to know what we would like, to know what to work towards.”

I agree, people in a vast and varied country like Canada are not yet ready for the full implementation of this dream.

But they are ready to follow the principle of compromise, one step at a time.

As you quoted me correctly, ***consensus*** is crucial to achieveing success. And there was consensus reached on many different questions before. Like Madicare, for example. Without the consensus it required, it would not have been possible.

However, no attempt to reach a consensus on a basic principle of compromise in economics and social organization has ever been made as far as I know.

There were some assumptions made about 'human nature' but people were never asked to find a balance between our conflicting impulses of freedom and compassion.

Once people realize this and the principle is spelled out, discussed and hopefully accepted, it will be a lot easier to reach consensus on the actual form it should take.

In a way, the Charter of Rights was such an attempt to have an agreement on basic principles.

All we need now is to extend it into economics and social organization.

[ June 28, 2002: Message edited by: Zatamon ]


From: where hope for 'hope' is contemplated | Registered: Sep 2001  |  IP: Logged
ValleyGirl
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posted 28 June 2002 11:02 AM      Profile for ValleyGirl        Edit/Delete Post
When John Lennon wrote "Imagine",he knew he wasn't the only dreamer.Martin Luther King had a dream,too.Mahatma Gandhi,father of passive resistance,had many hopes and dreams.Without the dreams of Abraham Lincoln,America might be a very different place...Do you see a pattern forming?Unfortunately,(especially in America)folks who dare to dream become moving targets.Don't get me wrong,Zata,I believe your dreams are definitely worth pursuing.
Years ago,the Trudeau government did try to enact legislation providing a guaranteed income to
the poor.It was quickly quashed by the Tories.I think it may have been Mark Lalonde who came up with the plan.It was a very good one.

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Slick Willy
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posted 28 June 2002 01:09 PM      Profile for Slick Willy     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
However, no attempt to reach a consensus on a basic principle of compromise in economics and social organization has ever been made as far as I know.

censored

[ June 29, 2002: Message edited by: Slick Willy ]


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rbil
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posted 28 June 2002 01:44 PM      Profile for rbil     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Hello Zatamon,

Obviously you've put a lot of thought into this post and it does deserve and calls for a response that goes beyond the simple name calling and obscenities we see from Slick Willy. I've read your article carefully and have been thinking about it (as much as I can think at this time of the morning).

You speak of the different assumptions of human nature - capitalism with its greedy self interest defined as "freedom-loving" (ie, free to be greedy) and communism as caring for each other and "compassionate". I can accept that these world views contain those elements. Then you go on to say that various kinds of socialism are trying to find a compromise between the two assumptions, and you then build your whole future society as requiring both elements. I'm not sure why you feel this is necessary? To placate the greedy capitalists or the likes of Slick Willy? Is it beyond our abilities as a people to structure our society and economy in a way that simply eliminates the capitalist mode of production entirely?

I accept that this is by your own admission a "dream", but before pursuing a dream and putting much effort towards making it happen, maybe we need to step back and analyse whether such a social system is workable? The elements you describe as being the public sector and communist by nature, appears to be workable and obtainable, in and of itself. Where I see a problem is the workability of the "second tier" - the private capitalist sector mainly because it excludes some fundamental and essential requirements for such an economy. Let me explain ...

First off comes the question of capitalist "profit". Profits are derived from the exploitation of labour power and the appropriation of surplus value. A worker works for the capitalist for a period of time and produces value that is returned to the worker as a wage. This wage is essentially the amount of value produced to support the worker and keep worker and his/her family alive. The hours worked beyond this point is surplus value that the capitalist appropriates in the way of "profit". That is the fundamental economic relationship between workers and capitalists. With the state providing and meeting the needs of basic livelihood for the worker, the capitalist will no longer have any need to do this. Correct? But, your plan calls for no money from the state. So how does the capitalist sell his commodities to the worker? Obviously, the capitalist must pay the worker in money if he intends to sell his produce to the workers, who are the vaste majority of consumers in a society. Your system would mean that workers would be no longer forced to work under penalty of starvation, but rather for the simple ability to obtain luxury goods beyond what the state provides as a right of every citizen. At the same time, your system requires each worker to contribute labour power to the upkeep of the first tier of this economy. The end results are either really overworked workers who want to drive their big SUVs around, or a capitalist economy with ever declining profits.

Secondly, one of capitalism's inherent laws is that the rate of exploitation of labour power must always be increasing. This is accomplished through automation of the means of production so that less and less of the value produced needs to go to wages and can be appropriated by the capitalist class as surplus value. Between the contradictions your economic system would bring about as described in the paragraph above and the essential need for increasing exploitation described in this paragraph, capitalist "profitability" would come into a big crunch in a very short time, as the capitalists would quickly lose consumers of their products.

Thirdly, surplus value is obtained by the exploitation of natural resources, the raw materials for the commodities produced. Capitalism REQUIRES a free reign in terms of access to these resources at ever cheaper costs. This would certainly come in dramatic conflict with the ownership of said resources by the first tier who you say will control and own these resources to start with.

So far, I've just been discussing the problems and contradictions the capitalist tier would have under such a system but what about the political side of things?

Contrary to what many utopian socialists believe, the state does not stand above and independent of the class relationships within a society. States came into being as a means to guard and promote the interests of the particular class in society that was the ruling class of the time. So let's look at your new social system in terms of the role of the state.

You propose that the state will exist as a guarantor of the distribution of wealth to all its citizens. It will also be the "sole owner of all natural resources" and no one will be able to expropriate any of this for exclusive personal use. It sounds like your society will then give hegemony to the working class and will require a state that keeps the second tier under control in terms of its ability to interfer in disturbing this new hegemony by the working class. This would require some sort of standing army to guard against the greedy capitalists, who placed in the ungodly position of diminishing returns, will be forced to encroach on the potential wealth of the first tier. But let us assume for the moment that the political system itself would be pluralistic and democratic (as we define it under a capitalist system today). This would mean a continuation of the constant political jostling for political power between the citizens of the country (in the vaste majority the working class) and the smaller capitalist class. How long do you suppose it would take the capitalist class to either gain political control for their selfish greedy interests unless the state was setup to (by force if necessary) prevent this occurance?

Well, I see that I can go on and on with this thing, but should stop. So I will. ;-)

Let me just conclude with this observation: the first tier society is possible to obtain and is workable provided it is the only economic structure within this new society. I see no reason at all that we need to look towards building a new society that accomodates the capitalist class at all and to do so would carry such contradictions in its very core that it would prove to be unworkable. A socialist society that cares about the equal distribution of wealth, the protection of the environment and the production of commodities to satisfy the wishes and needs of the majority is obtainable without the need for capitalist exploitation. My socialist society would not be acceptable to the capitalist class, but neither would yours. You will never build a concensus that will have the capitalist class agree to a society like you describe, because it will simply be unworkable for capitalism. You could build a consensus amongst the working class for a socialist society because from its class standpoint it could work.

Cheers,
Rene


From: IRC: irc.bcwireless.net JOIN: #linuxtalk | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
Slick Willy
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posted 28 June 2002 01:56 PM      Profile for Slick Willy     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
My socialist society would not be acceptable to the capitalist class, but neither would yours.

censored

[ June 29, 2002: Message edited by: Slick Willy ]


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Zatamon
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posted 28 June 2002 01:59 PM      Profile for Zatamon     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Hello Rene,

I read your detailed response with great delight. This is just a quick note to let you know that an equally detailed response is coming as soon as I can write it down. Until then, I thank you for the thoughtful post and hope there will be many others from babblers who want to explore the idea of basic principles in social organization.


From: where hope for 'hope' is contemplated | Registered: Sep 2001  |  IP: Logged
satana
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posted 28 June 2002 02:58 PM      Profile for satana     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Food, clothing, housing, etc. are basic needs.
But what KIND of food, clothing, housing, etc. will your government provide?
What if I don't like the cornflakes or the white bread at the government supermarket. What if want hummous and pita bread for breakfast?
What will happen to the Chinese speciality shop? or the kosher deli? You might not shop there for your basic, everyday needs, but I know a lot of people who do.
How can these businesses survive?
Or will they be considered illegal competition?
What if I need a new sari? I can't wear your plain T-shirts and skirts. Will I have to order my clothes from another country? Or would that be illegal?

In your system it seems to me that "taste" will inevitably be determined by the government and diversity would become a luxury.
That is a compromise that I can't be comfortable with.


From: far away | Registered: Jun 2002  |  IP: Logged
nonsuch
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posted 28 June 2002 03:22 PM      Profile for nonsuch     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Slick Willie, I don’t see what you’re having such a huge problem with.

Is it the idea of having to work part time for the public good? You do that now, if you pay taxes. Now, some of the money you worked for is given to people who didn’t work at all; some of it is leaving the country; a lot of it is wasted. If the public work were shared out more evenly – if everybody else had to pull their own weight - plus all the people employed in the collection and administration and allocation and filing of taxes, freed up to do useful work, your share of public work would actually be smaller than it is now, and give you a lot more time to work for the luxuries you desire.

Is it that other people wouldn’t be allowed to starve or freeze? How does their misery help you? What lesson do they learn? If housing is free and liquor isn’t, no irresponsible parent could drink the rent money. They would be forced to work for the first and allowed to work for the second. What’s so awful about that?

Is it the removal of chance from daily life? If you die or your business goes bust, your dependents would still have the necessities. What’s so awful about that?

You say this is a great country. Would it be better or worse without the government services we have now? Do you want them all dismantled?

We already have old age pension, unemployment insurance and welfare; law enforcement and social services. We already have food-banks and homeless shelters. We already have public schools, hospitals, libraries, roads, parks, laboratories, administrative buildings, postal service, food inspection, water and sewage works, transit, garbage collection. And they are NOT ‘crappy’! They have been very good – a situation that’s changing now, because of money.

Why in the world would your apartment – or anything else – be shitty? We have the resources, the ingenuity and the manpower to make everyone’s home, everyone’s neighbourhood, everyone’s work-place nice. If you want yours nicer than the next guy’s, you’d be free to make it so. Well, so would he. Is that the problem? That everyone else would have the same opportunity and freedom?

What Zatamon is suggesting is really not so different from what we’ve already accomplished, in a piecemeal, haphazard way. All he’s done is add a little more comfort and security for everyone and put in safeguards against individuals stealing and wasting the resources we all own and hold in trust for the next generation. Oh, and he took away a lot of messy complication and opportunities for corruption by divorcing public services from money.
The ‘communist’ systems you’ve been yelling about don’t work – because of money. Capitalist systems don’t work.
Take money out of the first; put the second on top and leave all the money in there. That might work.

[ June 28, 2002: Message edited by: nonesuch ]


From: coming and going | Registered: Sep 2001  |  IP: Logged
Zatamon
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posted 28 June 2002 03:34 PM      Profile for Zatamon     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Rene, before I answer individual points in your post, I have to make a generalized statement that hopefully clears up some of the misunderstanding.

First of all, I am basing my statements on ‘human nature’ primarily on personal observation about my own, secondarily on observing people I have known during my 57 years on this planet.

I am in somewhat of an advantaged position here, because I lived in ‘Communist’ Hungary for 27 years and ‘Capitalist’ Canada for the other 30.

Anyone who has basic education in History and Sociology, will know for a fact, that the so called “Communist’ countries had nothing to do with the theory of Communism other than their slogans (and some very basic attempts to provide minimum survival to its citizens. I described conditions in ‘Communist’ Hungary in my post called “Travelers’ Tales” in the “Ask Rabble Rousers” topic).

The same person with the same education would also know that conditions in Canada and US, and other ‘Capitalist’ countries are equally far away from theoretical Capitalism (with the corporate welfare and other abominations that would cause Adam Smith die in shame)

What a lot of people can’t get over (I am sure SW is one of them) is the word ‘Communist’ that, due to 55 years of intensive and effective western cold-war propaganda, became synonymous with ‘evil’.

Having said all that, let us get back to human nature.

I know that my strongest emotional needs in life are: freedom and love.

Having lived in a much more repressive social system for 27 years, I know how much I hate to be told what to do (when it makes no sense), to be forbidden to do something (even though it would make perfect sense) and generally treated like a mindless slave who has to obey someone’s command without a good reason.

I also know that I would not be happy in a system demanding that I limit myself to the lowest common denominator and would forbid me to improve my conditions beyond some basic human survival needs. Either SW doesn’t understand this or deliberately misrepresenting my position.

However, I am a community minded person, I understand the need for compromise and ready to make allowances for our differences.

So when I am talking about a system where our basic needs are provided by our equal cooperation, I am talking about ***basic survival needs***, not all of our needs as SW tried to imply I suggested.

What is so diffiicult to understand about it?

Basic survival needs are very simple to understand and define: Food, shelter, clothes, health, education, communication and transportation. It means no more people freezing to death, no more kids going to school hungry, no one dying of a curable disease and no person unable to have an education.

Is that too much to ask for, in the land of ‘milk and honey’?

This should take priority over everything else, no matter how much some of us would like to have a second condo somewhere, at the price of some kids being hungry all the time.

And there is an important point I have to make here. It is not provided by a (deliberately misleading image of) all powerful government (from above). It is our own cooperation and personal efforts that creates this minimum. This is based on our common human decency and agreement on what the minimum should be for every citizen. The government is OUR GOVERNMENT, our representatives, our friends and fellow citizens who do their share in the common effort by trying to organize and facilitate this common dream.

That is why I keep saying that, without a consensus and full participation, this would never work. If we don’t find the will in our hearts to define our minimum common humanity, it will never happen.

Once this basic minimum is achieved, I would be the last person who would want to sit on my ass and do nothing the rest of my day, after I have done my ‘four hours’ of ‘community work’.

I would want to be free to dream up projects for myself, improve my lot, be creative, add luxuries to my basic share. I would not want to do it at the price of pushing anyone below the basic minimum, by polluting our world, by harming other species, by expropriating common resources or being a threat or nuisance to my neighbors.

However, there are many, many ways of acquiring luxuries without doing any of the antisocial harms listed above.

So, as you see, I needed to come up with a system that accommodates my needs for both freedom and compassion.

That is why I came up with the two-tier system that I thought could do that.

Now as far as the viability of the ‘Capitalist’ tier is concerned, I don’t see any problem.

Because participation in this tier would be voluntary and nobody’s basic livelihood is dependent on income from it, it can not be exploitative the way it is now.

We would not need an ‘army’ to control it, a competent police force would suffice.

Now to answer the points you raised:

“Rene: So how does the capitalist sell his commodities to the worker? Obviously, the capitalist must pay the worker in money”

In my suggestion I mentioned that the ‘private sector’ can have money, banks, interest rates, profit, just like now, as long as they don’t interfere with the ‘public sector.

“Rene: The end results are either really overworked workers who want to drive their big SUVs around, or a capitalist economy with ever declining profits.”

According studies I have seen, basic minimum *survival-human-needs* can be produced with an average of 20 hours per person workweek or less. That leaves plenty of time left for enterprising people like SW and myself to pursue our own projects, either alone or in cooperation with each other.

“Rene: capitalist "profitability" would come into a big crunch in a very short time, as the capitalists would quickly lose consumers of their products. “

One of your misunderstanding (I think) comes from the word ‘Capitalist’. I never intended the ‘private sector’ to be exploitative in the same sense as it is now, and it could not be, under my system, because it does not have a captive work force and market. People would not be desperate dependents of this system, but voluntary, more or less equal participants. So the ‘private’ enterprises would be more like co-operatives instead of the hierarchical pyramid structures of fear and power as they are now.

“Rene: How long do you suppose it would take the capitalist class to either gain political control for their selfish greedy interests unless the state was setup to (by force if necessary) prevent this occurance? “

Again, my system would not have a ‘capitalist class’ in entrenched position as it is the case now. And yes, antisocial elements may and will jostle for political position, but there will be very few of these. Most of government is used to organize production and distribution of basic goods. The planning arm of the government could be influenced I guess and even infiltrated, but it all boils down to one crucial requirement for the system work:

If there is a basic agreement among the citizens about the minimum human standard that should be maintained for everyone, the system will defend itself from antisocial attacks from within and without. Common human decency, spread out over the whole ‘body’, will be its ‘immune system’.

If there isn’t one, my system will never work.

That is why it is so crucially important to have a PHYLOSOPHICAL agreement within the nation about basic principles of compromise. Without that we will continue going around circles, killing each other in the process.

As far as a completely communistic, centrally planned system is concerned, I don’t think it would be a fair or workable proposition. I spent 27 years in a practical implementation of the idea and I know what it turns into in practice. In theory it sounds good, but in practice it is doomed because of our different needs, talents, interests, energies and our need to pursue our own dreams, at least part of the time.

I hope this clears up some of the misunderstanding and even SW will stop attacking me for implications that I would be the first to reject.

[ June 28, 2002: Message edited by: Zatamon ]


From: where hope for 'hope' is contemplated | Registered: Sep 2001  |  IP: Logged
Zatamon
rabble-rouser
Babbler # 1394

posted 28 June 2002 03:57 PM      Profile for Zatamon     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
satana, I hope my long and detailed response to Rene answered all your questions. If not, please let me know.
From: where hope for 'hope' is contemplated | Registered: Sep 2001  |  IP: Logged
Slick Willy
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posted 28 June 2002 04:00 PM      Profile for Slick Willy     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
They would be forced to work for the
first

censored

[ June 29, 2002: Message edited by: Slick Willy ]


From: Hog Heaven | Registered: Apr 2001  |  IP: Logged
nonsuch
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posted 28 June 2002 04:11 PM      Profile for nonsuch     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Put you in jail, of course.
Just as they put you in jail now, if they catch you not paying your taxes.

From: coming and going | Registered: Sep 2001  |  IP: Logged
DrConway
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Babbler # 490

posted 28 June 2002 04:51 PM      Profile for DrConway     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
I love you all. (even Slick Willy, though your lap is not at the moment preferable to Jacob's *innocently crunches some Meow Mix and bats a ball of twine at Jacob's nose )

It is clear that there would be elements of society that would be much opposed to a plan to remove the provision of basic necessities from the profit-making sector and placing it in a non-profit or governmental sector, if only by reason of the fact that they would lose the capacity to make that profit.

However, is it necessarily that these elements would be so short-sighted as to be unable to see the long-term benefit in allowing all people, everywhere, to realize dreams and ambitions instead of a fortunate few?

Recall that many businesses these days, even 'progressive' businesses, act the way they do because the structure of our economy leaves them no other choice. They must make a profit or die. So if that means not paying overtime, they'll do it. If it means taking advantage of the training wage loopholes in BC, they'll do it.

There are two ways to force a change in this behavior pattern, and it seems that Zatamon's plan actually does attack this problem from both sides.

First: The choices workers face are expanded and the requirement to work or starve is removed. This changes the balance of power in favor of labor and away from capital.

Second: Capital itself is circumscribed, and propped up with favorable demand conditions, since there will always be things that people would wish to buy that are not basic necessities. A corollary appears to be the disappearance of the rentier class which does no work but appropriates the profit from business or the interest on debt.

Again, I can't help but be struck by the comparisons, surely unintended, between nonesuch's & Zatamon's plans and Edward Bellamy's book Looking Backward.

The premise in both cases is the replacement of the corporate employer by the government, with changes in the system of incentives used to cause people to excel - instead of wages being changed, the hours of labor are changed to nudge people in one direction or another.

A question arises to my mind, however: Something must adjust in any economic system to respond to booms and busts.

In our economy today, three things change: Unemployment, the exchange rate, and interest rates. In general, workers take the brunt of adjustment to economic changes; in recessions, they lose their jobs. In booms, they find that imported goods become more expensive.

But what entity takes on the brunt of adjustment to changed conditions, and... how?


From: You shall not side with the great against the powerless. | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
Zatamon
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Babbler # 1394

posted 28 June 2002 05:13 PM      Profile for Zatamon     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Dr.C, I am not sure I understand the question.

The ‘public sector' works by continuously adjusting production parameters according to the dynamically changing basic needs of the population, and does not involve money at all. So I don't see how boom and bust could affect it.

The 'private sector' will be subject to the same 'boom and bust' cycles but, frankly, I am not terribly concerned about that. And because the organization of the 'private sector' will be more of a co-operative rather than the hierarchical command structure of today (see my post to Rene above), there will be a lot more intelligent long term planning involved, diminishing the severity of the cycles.

It is possible that I missed something, in which case I am sure you will explain to me what you mean.

BTW. I never heard of the book ("looking backward") you keep mentioning and now I must see a copy of it ASAP, before I get into trouble for 'plagiarism'.


From: where hope for 'hope' is contemplated | Registered: Sep 2001  |  IP: Logged
bittersweet
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posted 28 June 2002 05:50 PM      Profile for bittersweet     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
I'm currently reading Hannah Arendt's Crises Of The Republic. She had an interesting view on the subject of the ideal state, based on her assessment of various revolutions in history. I think her suggestion of a "federal" or "council" system has the potential to assuage the legitimate concerns of those who reject the almost identical catastrophes that both practical capitalism and socialism have produced. These "councils" seem an awful lot like the notorious "special interest groups" we're constantly being warned about, but with the distinction that they're linked to one another in some sort of formal system--which I think is beginning to exert itself more and more, almost naturally out of opposition to corporate globalisation. The possibilities seem quite exciting to me. If I've understood Arendt correctly (and there's a good chance I haven't!) her notion of an ideal state--again, based on her interpretation of history--prioritizes not an economic arrangement, but a political one, which is where the undercurrent of dissent seems to be flowing right now. Anyway, for what it's worth to the discussion, here's some of what she had to say. I apologize for the length; if I'd snipped her comments any shorter, her conclusion wouldn't make sense.
quote:
All our experiences--as distinguished from theories and ideologies--tell us that the process of expropriation, which started with the rise of capitalism, does not stop with the expropriation of the means of production; only legal and political institutions that are independent of the economic forces and their automatism can control and check the inherently monstrous potentialities of this process...Our problem today is not how to expropriate the expropriators, but, rather, how to arrange matters so that the masses, dispossessed by industrial society in capitalist and socialist systems, can regain property. For this reason alone, the alternative between capitalism and socialism is false--not only because neither exists anywhere in its pure state anyhow, but because we have here twins, each wearing a different hat...Capitalism has done away with all the collective groups which were a protection for the individual and for his property...In their place it has put the "classes," essentially just two: the exploiters and the exploited...Socialism or communism...has destroyed this class too [the working class], its institutions, the unions and the labor parties, and its rights...in their stead, these regimes offered the illusion that the factories were the property of the working class, which as a class had just been abolished, and the atrocious lie that unemployment no long existed...In essence, socialism has simply continued, and driven to its extreme, what capitalism began. Why should it be the remedy?...Since the revolutions of the eighteenth century, every large upheaval has actually developed the rudiments of an entirely new form of government, which emerged independent of all preceding revolutionary theories, directly out of the course of the revolution itself, that is, out of the experiences of action and out of the resulting will of the actors to participate in the further development of public affairs. This new form of government is the council system, which, as we know, has perished every time and everywhere, destroyed either directly by the bureaucracy of the nation-states or by the party machines. Whether this system is a pure utopia--in any case it would be a people's utopia, not the utopia of theoreticians and ideologies--I cannot say. It seems to me, however, the single alternative that has ever appeared in history, and has reappeared time and again. Spontaneous organization of the council systems occurred in all revolutions, in the French Revolution, with Jefferson in the American Revolution, in the Parisian commune, in the Russian revolutions, in the wake of the revolutions in Germany and Austria at the end of WWI, finally in the Hungarian Revolution. What is more, they never came into being as a result of a conscious revolutionary tradition or theory, but entirely spontaneously, each time as though there had never been anything of the sort before. Hence the council system seems to correspond to and spring from the very experience of political action...The councils say: We want to participate, we want to debate, we want to make our voices heard in public, and we want to have a possibility to determine the political course of our country. Since the country is too big for all of us to come together and determine our fate, we need a number of public spaces within it. The booth in which we deposit our ballots is unquestionably too small, for this booth has room for only one. The parties are completely unsuitable; there we are, most of us, nothing but the manipulated electorate. But if only ten of us are sitting around a table, each expressing his opinion, each hearing the opinions of others, then a rational formation of opinion can take place through the exchange of opinions. There, too, it will become clear which one of us is best suited to present our view before the higher council, where in turn our view will be clarified through the influence of other views, revised, or proved wrong. By no means every resident of a country needs to be a member in such councils. Not everyone wants to or has to concern himself with public affairs. In this fashion a self-selective process is possible that would draw together a true political elite in a country...In this direction I see the possibility of forming a new concept of the state. A council-state of this sort, to which the principle of sovereignty would be wholly alien, would be admirably suited to federations of the most various kinds, especially because in it power would be constituted horizontally and not vertically. But if you ask me now what prospect it has of being realized, then I must say to you: Very slight, if at all. And yet perhaps, after all--in the wake of the next revolution.

From: land of the midnight lotus | Registered: Apr 2002  |  IP: Logged
frandroid_atreides
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posted 28 June 2002 09:52 PM      Profile for frandroid_atreides   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
spokescouncils have emerged as the decision model of choice within the "anti-"globalisation movement. we're up for a new revolution...

Zatamon: so when are you going to declare your candidacy in the NDP leadership race?


From: Toronto, Arrakis | Registered: Apr 2002  |  IP: Logged
bittersweet
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posted 28 June 2002 10:43 PM      Profile for bittersweet     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
In Arendt's context, perhaps it would be more appropriate to consider Zatamon as a potential spokesman to "present 'our' view before the higher council", in which it may be clarified or revised or proven wrong by the influence of other views. I wouldn't want to lose him, or "our" point-of-view, to a party, and thus remain the "manipulated electorate."

However, because Zatamon's point-of-view hasn't found consensus in this wee council of ours, I would also consider Slick Willy as a potential candidate for the honour of spokesman if he should convincingly clarify, revise, or prove wrong, this view. There is always room for doubt.


From: land of the midnight lotus | Registered: Apr 2002  |  IP: Logged
Zatamon
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posted 29 June 2002 08:24 AM      Profile for Zatamon     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Bittersweet, Frandroid, thanks for considering me for such an honourable role, but I think I need to confess to the total unsuitability for the task.

One of the prerequisites for efficiency is to know our strengths and weaknesses. In spite of the cynicism surrounding politicians, I firmly believe that it is possible to do good even in that environment, if you have two attributes: personal integrity and a very good understanding of people. I have one of these attributes, but very little of the other -- I have always been a lousy psychologist.

I always knew that the fight has to happen on multiple levels:

1./ Personal life style
2./ Activism
3./ Intellectual
4./ Art
5./ Media
6./ Political system

My strength is in 1./ and 3./ but I always admired those who were good at the other four. I think all six are equally important and they strengthen and reinforce each other.

So, in view of the above, I respectfully withdraw my name from consideration to the leadership of the NDP or as spokesperson for our ‘wee council’.

PS. For the same reason I don't follow SW's advice to run from door to door collecting signatures -- I rather hope to inspire him with my dream sufficiently, so he would do it for us.

[ June 29, 2002: Message edited by: Zatamon ]


From: where hope for 'hope' is contemplated | Registered: Sep 2001  |  IP: Logged
Slick Willy
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posted 29 June 2002 12:56 PM      Profile for Slick Willy     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
PS. For the same reason I don't follow SW's advice to run from door to door collecting
signatures -- I rather hope to inspire him with my dream sufficiently, so he would do it for us

Well I guess you can dream right?

Let me throw some questions up for your though.
What if someone doesn't want to live in an apartment that you want them to live in? As you notice, people live in all sorts of homes. Each different from the next. A law prohibiting sale of building material means that there is no chance to express individual tastes.

It also seems that many things we enjoy now would be also outlaw. Pizza for example is not something that is needed as a basic living requirement. So no one can have pizza?

Someone mentioned throwing those who choose not to join up in jail. I would like to hear what you have to say on that matter, and in the case where a revote starts, perhaps by outside instagation from another country, how do you propose to handle a large scale problem where people will not work and will opt for jail, which I would guess, must meet with some standards of care about the same as that which define the basic living standard to begin with?

I have lots more questions but I will start here.


From: Hog Heaven | Registered: Apr 2001  |  IP: Logged
Zatamon
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posted 29 June 2002 01:02 PM      Profile for Zatamon     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
SW, I will start talking to you again, after you apologized for the totally disgusting, stupid, unprovoked and unfair insults you threw at me earlier. Until then, please consider yourself ignored.
From: where hope for 'hope' is contemplated | Registered: Sep 2001  |  IP: Logged
Slick Willy
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posted 29 June 2002 01:12 PM      Profile for Slick Willy     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Yeah ok sorry go ahead.
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Zatamon
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posted 29 June 2002 01:18 PM      Profile for Zatamon     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
I will, as soon as you edit them out of those posts. I don't like them sitting there on my thread. Call me sensitive if you want, but there you are.
From: where hope for 'hope' is contemplated | Registered: Sep 2001  |  IP: Logged
Slick Willy
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posted 29 June 2002 01:34 PM      Profile for Slick Willy     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
SW, I will start talking to you again, after you apologized for the totally disgusting,
stupid, unprovoked and unfair insults you threw at me earlier. Until then, please consider yourself ignored.

Ok sometime sorry just isn't good enough.

quote:
will, as soon as you edit them out of those posts. I don't like them sitting there on my
thread. Call me sensitive if you want, but there you are.

Ok I have censored out all the things I think have upset you in the messages I posted. So go ahead.


From: Hog Heaven | Registered: Apr 2001  |  IP: Logged
Zatamon
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posted 29 June 2002 01:39 PM      Profile for Zatamon     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Thank you, SW. I would have preferred 'voluntarily removed' instead of 'censored', but I will accept it in good humour.

I hope you realize, it was not the criticism I objected to.

In your last post you brought up valid concerns (also expressed by satana earlier) and I will give you both a detailed response, just as soon as I got back from an errand I have to leave for right now. It deserves a detailed and specific response and I can't do it in a couple of minutes.

Back soon...


From: where hope for 'hope' is contemplated | Registered: Sep 2001  |  IP: Logged
Zatamon
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posted 30 June 2002 09:11 AM      Profile for Zatamon     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Sorry, the ‘errand’ took a bit longer than anticipated.

So where were we? Oh yes, answering detailed questions asked by Satana and SW.

First of all, SW’s concern about non-compliance. If you read my previous posts carefully, you noticed how I kept emphasizing that the system can not be forced on people. If there is a social consensus it will work, if there isn’t, it won’t. Another of the assumptions I made was no threat from outside, so no need for an army. I know that this second assumption is totally unrealistic and I said so. However, it is only a dream to help me decide what kind of world I would like to live in, so I would know what to work toward in 'real life'.

Let me go back another step and tell you what kind of challenge I set to myself when I came up with this dream.

Recognizing my dual nature of wanting both freedom from, and compassion to, my fellow human beings, I asked myself: what kind of system would I want to establish in a society of well meaning, decent, freedom-loving and compassionate people? Would it be possible at all?

SW knows very well that when designing most software systems, first you concentrate on the main-line of the logic. Make sure that you think of everything the system is supposed to do and design it in such a way that it is covering all the requirements and doing it efficiently. When this is done, then you start thinking of everything that can possibly go wrong and put in all the checks and procedures to handle those. So lets follow this well proven method and concentrate on how the system is supposed to work among well meaning decent human beings who want both freedom and compassion in their world.

Since the ‘no-competition’ clause was a safety feature added to the body of the system, aimed at preventing hostile citizens from purposefully destroying the system, I am willing to remove it in the first stage of the planning phase. Then, when we have a smoothly functioning system (in design), we can re-examine the concept and see if it is required at all; in a limited way (for health and education); or for all basic necessities.

That should eliminate all the other objections SW and Satana brought up.

Before I go into more detail, I want to ask at this point if anyone has any concern left with my 'social contract dream', in view of what I just said?

[ June 30, 2002: Message edited by: Zatamon ]


From: where hope for 'hope' is contemplated | Registered: Sep 2001  |  IP: Logged
Slick Willy
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posted 30 June 2002 11:30 AM      Profile for Slick Willy     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
If there is a social consensus it will work, if there isn’t, it won’t.

This in and of itself renders your plan outright impossible. Not only in Canada but everywhere else that is a democratic society. There is nothing that we know of that everyone agrees on.

What concerns me is that this idea of getting everyone to agree will be one of the first things to get tossed out the window which is by far more often the case. Normally there would be no problem with that. As it is now you can do what you like. Work or don't work. But with your system, everyone has to work whether they want to or not.

That leads to enforcement. Rather than suffering for the lack of necessities people suffer in jail for lack of motivation to join up.

As well since the government owns all communications in which media is included, there is no opportunity for unbias reporting or critical discussion on governmental matters and policy. Nor anyway for the public to remove the government or timetable of duration of the sitting government.

The other huge problem is sovernty. Just because you would wish that everyone in the world was nice, is no reason that everyone will be.

On a small scale farm atmosphere sure this could work not bad for a while. In a small city there is no chance in hell of it ever getting off the ground.

But don't lose heart. There are plenty of small islands available for purchase and you could set up your dream utopia there with some newage hippys. For that matter, there are islands in the Gulf that aren't even on the power grid. There are plenty of small communities where people are sort of doing what you are talking about on a very small scale. So before you go and take over Canada maybe you should try working your way up to it first.


From: Hog Heaven | Registered: Apr 2001  |  IP: Logged
clersal
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posted 30 June 2002 11:34 AM      Profile for clersal     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
As well since the government owns all communications in which media is included, there is no opportunity for unbias reporting or critical discussion on governmental matters and policy. Nor anyway for the public to remove the government or timetable of duration of the sitting government.


Governments can be changed. I believe it is called voting.

From: Canton Marchand, Québec | Registered: Apr 2001  |  IP: Logged
Slick Willy
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posted 30 June 2002 11:42 AM      Profile for Slick Willy     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Governments can be changed. I believe it is called voting.

I saw nothing about voting in Zatamons proposal.
but that does raise more questions, if at sometime a candidate comes along that wants to change the basic founding principles, what happens then? Who is in opposition? Is opposition allowed?


From: Hog Heaven | Registered: Apr 2001  |  IP: Logged
clersal
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posted 30 June 2002 11:48 AM      Profile for clersal     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
if at sometime a candidate comes along that wants to change the basic founding principles, what happens then? Who is in opposition? Is opposition allowed?

There ya go with the ifs Slick.

From: Canton Marchand, Québec | Registered: Apr 2001  |  IP: Logged
Slick Willy
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posted 30 June 2002 11:53 AM      Profile for Slick Willy     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
There ya go with the ifs Slick.

I am sorry. Is this an example of how questions will be treated in the new utopia?


From: Hog Heaven | Registered: Apr 2001  |  IP: Logged
clersal
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posted 30 June 2002 11:58 AM      Profile for clersal     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Come on Slick. Don't be a discussion pooper. You know what I mean.
From: Canton Marchand, Québec | Registered: Apr 2001  |  IP: Logged
Slick Willy
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posted 30 June 2002 12:06 PM      Profile for Slick Willy     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Again I am sorry for being a discussion pooper.
I am just one of those guys who makes sure there are all the things needed incase of an emergency are in the truck before I start the road trip as opposed to those who would wait till there is a problem to think what they need to solve it.

That's just one of the problems with thinking ahead. All those problematical ifs.


From: Hog Heaven | Registered: Apr 2001  |  IP: Logged
Zatamon
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posted 30 June 2002 12:07 PM      Profile for Zatamon     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
And, for a second, I had thought there might be hope for you yet, SW.

Now I don’t know if you read only every third paragraph I write, or you read it all and can’t understand, or just deliberately refuse to ‘hear’ most of what I am saying. And it is very tiring to have to keep repeating the same thing over and over again.

You quote me on ‘consensus’ and then try to contradict it with

“SW: There is nothing that we know of that everyone agrees on. “

Please look up definition of ‘consensus’.

Then you say

“SW: But with your system, everyone has to work whether they want to or not. “

even though you know that if a human being wants to survive, then he has to work, or he will starve. Unless he ‘causes’ other people to do it for him. Working ahead to save up for vacations or personal projects are perfectly possible in my system. To live without an effort (by ‘causing’ others to make the effort on your behalf) is not.

Then you say

“SW: people suffer in jail for lack of motivation to join up. “.

All kinds of people will suffer in jail. Rapists, murderers, polluters, those convicted for cruelty to animals, those helping themselves to the result of other people’s effort without contributing any of their own. I don’t see anything wrong with any of that. Do you?

Nobody is forced to ‘join up’. If we have a social community that achieved consensus (agreement by the overwhelming majority), then either you ‘join up’ or you go elsewhere to join another community you like better, or live on your own. I stated that anyone is free to leave any time.

Next:

“SW: Nor anyway for the public to remove the government or timetable of duration of the sitting government. “

You again miss the assumption that there is consensus and the government is not a foreign body ‘above’ the population, but part of the population, specialized on organizing production and distribution activities. When you have a job with the government, it is a job just as if you were designing computer systems. You are one of us, doing a specialized job, just like the rest of us doing it in our area of expertise. The decision making process is democratic. I actually like the idea bittersweet brought up (Arendt’s council of councils) which is not unlike Joe Clark’s “community of communities”. I am not very hot on the idea of centralized power.

Last one:

”SW: The other huge problem is sovernty “

I have already dealt with it in my assumptions except you pretend I did not.

You seem to ignore that I have stated over and over again, with bold letters; I included it in the title, that this DREAM is not a suggestion for a realistically possible system today in the world as it is. It is a dream to help us realize in what direction we should be progressing with step after step in our struggle.

Either you do not understand the role of ‘vision’, goal, aspiration, dream in social progress or you just pretend you don’t, to be contrary.

Finally you go back to being personal and sarcastic (Within easily tolerable limit this time) which is all right if completely pointless.

Anyway, in view of all I said above, I don’t see much hope for a meaningful dialog with you on this subject at this time. So unless you start reading my posts with a lot more attention and reply to what I actually said, without selectively ignoring half of it, we may as well stop arguing – it is a waste of everyone’s time.

Does anyone else have any more question or concern regarding the basic idea of the ‘dream’? I am prepared and willing to go into as much detail as required to explain how this ‘dream-world’ would function.

[ June 30, 2002: Message edited by: Zatamon ]


From: where hope for 'hope' is contemplated | Registered: Sep 2001  |  IP: Logged
Slick Willy
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posted 30 June 2002 12:15 PM      Profile for Slick Willy     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Well overlooking the pointlessness of Zatamon's insulting personal attacks and ducking of the questions, I will return later to focus on the areas where fearless leader I mean Zatamon has managed make his stand in quicksand.

For now I am going out to enjoy the weather and play with some kids. Just like the real people do.


From: Hog Heaven | Registered: Apr 2001  |  IP: Logged
Apemantus
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posted 30 June 2002 12:20 PM      Profile for Apemantus        Edit/Delete Post
quote:
There would be an immediate and automatic incarceration (or expulsion from the country for chronic offenders) for anyone who refuses to participate in basic needs-related production activities. This would not be a fixed-length sentence, but a 'stay in jail until you are willing to pull your weight' alternative, and it may end the next day if desired. Also, any citizen is free to renounce his/her citizenship and move to another country if welcome there.

The government would stay the sole 'owner' of all natural resources that are common birthright of all citizens. Among these are primarily land, air, water, space, forests, wildlife, mineral deposits, communication frequency bands. Nobody can expropriate any of this for exclusive personal use beyond what they are entitled to in their basic needs (these needs are defined by national consensus, reached be referendum, based on scientific and demographical data).

After basic needs are satisfied and poverty, hunger, preventable illness and ignorance is eliminated from the nation; crimes are prevented to the best of the police's ability, then the government's task ends. It has done all in its power to make sure that basic human needs are satisfied, nobody goes hungry, no one freezes to death on a winter sidewalk, nobody gets abused by crime or exploitation, no one too young, old or sick gets neglected, no human greed and evil is allowed to rule.


Ouch!

quote:
(these needs are defined by national consensus, reached be referendum, based on scientific and demographical data

Double ouch!

I find your dream a very frightening one for various reasons - it is authoritarian, dictatorial, oppressive, and inefficient. Who defines a basic education, basic health, basic housing etc.? This dream limits freedom to an unacceptable extent, and would only provide protection for basic rights/needs upto a point determined nationally, with penalties for those who do not wish to abide by the rules, a tyranny of the majority if ever there were one!

IGNORING that, there are extremely good arguments why governments should not command and control housing, education and health, partly because they will ignore people's individual preferences, and partly because it is an extremely inefficient and ineffective way to run things. One need only look at the hash politicians have made of these things so far (which is NOT to say that privitization is the way to go) to realise that one should be very careful before handing such immense power to them.


From: Brighton, UK | Registered: Nov 2001  |  IP: Logged
Zatamon
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posted 30 June 2002 12:31 PM      Profile for Zatamon     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
SW: Zatamon's insulting personal attacks and ducking of the questions
Anyone, please, help me! Am I losing my mind? I went over my last post with a magnifying glass to find any sign of "insulting personal attacks" and I can't find any, no matter how hard I tried.

Yes, I have been complaining about SW not reading my posts carefully and ignoring half of what I had said, and even asked (asked, not stated) if he was doing it deliberately, which I think is possible (none of us like to admit to losing an argument ) -- but I did not wish to insult him personally, I was only exasperated over SW's 'inefficient' and 'unproductive' mode of debating an issue.

If he finds it 'personally insulting', I am sorry, SW, I did not mean to do that.

As far as 'ducking' his questions is concerned, please point out a question I 'ducked'. I tried to answer all of them, even though I had answered them before, some of them many times.


From: where hope for 'hope' is contemplated | Registered: Sep 2001  |  IP: Logged
Zatamon
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posted 30 June 2002 12:46 PM      Profile for Zatamon     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Apemantus, if you assure me that you have carefully read everything I said in this thread, then I will gladly answer your questions and concerns. But not until then. SW (see above) tired me out, and I just refused to do any more of his reading for him.

I know it is long, but the subject is not trivial. I wish more people asked me for clarification, instead of assuming they know my answers (not you Apemantus -- yet). So, if you have carefully read everything I said in this thread, please ask away and I will be very happy to answer any questions and concerns, without 'ducking them' as SW tried to suggest.

[ June 30, 2002: Message edited by: Zatamon ]


From: where hope for 'hope' is contemplated | Registered: Sep 2001  |  IP: Logged
Apemantus
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posted 30 June 2002 01:26 PM      Profile for Apemantus        Edit/Delete Post
Ok, Who defines a basic education, basic health, basic housing needs etc.?

You say by national consensus, to paraphrase - is that correct?


From: Brighton, UK | Registered: Nov 2001  |  IP: Logged
redshift
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posted 30 June 2002 01:32 PM      Profile for redshift     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
well-written, carefully concieved and an admirable concept. now if we can put flesh to the bones. it seems to me that what is lacking is a program of socially responsible education. generally changing an existing order is driven by extreme need, implemented hodge-podge by forces of self-interest, or enlightened altruism, both headed up by elite cadres of motivated individuals. what you are proposing is, IMHO, only sustainable through effective short-term goals of education and commitment over the widest possible population base.this will, perhaps , and must, lead to a longer vision of the role of social capitalism in determining and evaluating the value of regulation on economic policy.the public good within the private interest and , more importantly the reverse.
negative policy, the destruction of existing economic infrastructure offers a limited supply of social energy before it reaches entropy. the great challenge, with its limitless possibilities is motivating the disempowered to seek a constructive path toward egalitarian opportunity.
i still love Rousseau's Social Contract.

From: cranbrook,bc | Registered: Oct 2001  |  IP: Logged
clersal
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posted 30 June 2002 01:42 PM      Profile for clersal     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Did I detect a hint of sarcasm Slick? I think the whole idea is to build a system where all the IFS are accounted for. That is why it is a bit useless to keep bringing in ifs.

Anyhow it is a scorcher here and I am going to loll in the lake all day. If I don't I will be sorry.


From: Canton Marchand, Québec | Registered: Apr 2001  |  IP: Logged
Zatamon
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posted 30 June 2002 01:50 PM      Profile for Zatamon     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Apemantus: Ok, Who defines a basic education, basic health, basic housing needs etc.?
Apemantus, I assume that your reply to my earlier question: "if you assure me that you have carefully read everything I said in this thread," is a "YES".

Well, let me quote from things I said on this thread. After that, please tell me if you still don't see my answer.

Original post:

"The basic human needs can be easily calculated by using scientific data on age-dependent calorie requirements, climate-dependent clothing and housing requirement, population-dependent health- and education-requirement and the necessary energy and raw-material production, as well as the necessary infrastructure in transportation and communication. It could be easily planned based on physiological, climatic and demographic data."

"these needs are defined by national consensus, reached be referendum, based on scientific and demographical data"

"It [the government] has done all in its power to make sure that basic human needs are satisfied, nobody goes hungry, no one freezes to death on a winter sidewalk, nobody gets abused by crime or exploitation, no one too young, old or sick gets neglected, no human greed and evil is allowed to rule."

"The essence of my system is the following: People decide that the most important goal is to make sure everybody's basic needs are met."


posted June 28, 2002 10:23 AM

"As you quoted me correctly, ***consensus*** is crucial to achieving success. And there was consensus reached on many different questions before. Like Madicare, for example. Without the consensus it required, it would not have been possible."


posted June 28, 2002 03:34 PM

"So when I am talking about a system where our basic needs are provided by our equal cooperation, I am talking about ***basic survival needs***, not all of our needs as SW tried to imply I suggested. What is so difficult to understand about it? "

"Basic survival needs are very simple to understand and define: Food, shelter, clothes, health, education, communication and transportation. It means no more people freezing to death, no more kids going to school hungry, no one dying of a curable disease and no person unable to have an education. "

"And there is an important point I have to make here. It is not provided by a (deliberately misleading image of) all powerful government (from above). It is our own cooperation and personal efforts that creates this minimum. This is based on our common human decency and agreement on what the minimum should be for every citizen. The government is OUR GOVERNMENT, our representatives, our friends and fellow citizens who do their share in the common effort by trying to organize and facilitate this common dream.

"As far as a completely communistic, centrally planned system is concerned, I don't think it would be a fair or workable proposition. I spent 27 years in a practical implementation of the idea and I know what it turns into in practice. In theory it sounds good, but in practice it is doomed because of our different needs, talents, interests, energies and our need to pursue our own dreams, at least part of the time."


posted June 30, 2002 12:07 PM

"You again miss the assumption that there is consensus and the government is not a foreign body 'above' the population, but part of the population, specialized on organizing production and distribution activities. When you have a job with the government, it is a job just as if you were designing computer systems. You are one of us, doing a specialized job, just like the rest of us doing it in our area of expertise. The decision making process is democratic. I actually like the idea bittersweet brought up (Arendt's council of councils) which is not unlike Joe Clark's "community of communities". I am not very hot on the idea of centralized power."

[ June 30, 2002: Message edited by: Zatamon ]


From: where hope for 'hope' is contemplated | Registered: Sep 2001  |  IP: Logged
Apemantus
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posted 30 June 2002 02:13 PM      Profile for Apemantus        Edit/Delete Post
That sounds frighteningly similar to Big Brother (you are part of the government, the government is you) and you need to define consensus - majority, how big a majority?

Plus, how does one get rid of the incentives for people to do as little as possible knowing that their basic needs will be met - forced labour?

You are very unspecific on how the government (or people) will run the system/services. If you are thinking along commune lines (all for one, one for all), they only work in small groups because human nature is DIFFERENT. Humans are individuals not a homogenous whole, and any system that rests on the basis that they are the same will fail. That is the one big advantage capitalism does have - it responds to individuality, it is varied. Sure if companies get too much power, choice suffers and people get told what they should want (by advertising etc.), but the problem there is not capitalism, it is IMPERFECT capitalism - true capitalism (where everything was shared out so we all had equal resources) would not result in monopolies etc. but it requires perfect conditions - perfect competition, perfect information etc.

So, the basic problem I see with your plan is

a. how do you get social consensus
b. how do you maintain that social consensus
c. how do you prevent people being incentivized to do as little as necessary, which may result in a downward shrinking spiral.

Answers please.


From: Brighton, UK | Registered: Nov 2001  |  IP: Logged
Zatamon
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posted 30 June 2002 02:43 PM      Profile for Zatamon     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Apemantus: a. how do you get social consensus
b. how do you maintain that social consensus

Luckily, I still don't have to write much new stuff, because I have already answered your fitst two questions in the thread that you claim you have read fully and carefully.

Back to quoting myself (I wish I didn't have to)

Original post:

"If I can't change the world, at least I want to know what kind of world I would like to live in. And why not? Was it only Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. who could "have a dream"? And sometime, somewhere, some parts of some dreams do come true. Medicare used to be a dream. However, for a dream to come true, you need a dreamer to dream them up. "

"The basic principle of compromise I have been hinting at is the following: Let's agree that we acknowledge both of our needs: freedom from, and compassion for, each other. Let us agree that the compassion part has priority, up to a very well defined point. This point is where the basic survival needs of every citizen in our country is assured. Beyond this point our priorities change and our need for freedom takes over. "


posted June 28, 2002 01:14 A

"The curious thing is though: in Hungary we shared our dreams. It gave us strength to cope with the present. We were a suppressed people and we knew it. Here, I find a lot of hostility, some jeering, good natured patronizing and dismissal for those dreams that we ought to share. It is almost as if here, in the West, we wanted to believe in the propaganda of our exploiters, as if we wanted to convince ourselves that we are all evil by nature and this is "as good as it gets". "

posted June 28, 2002 10:23 AM

"you can not force my system on people. The only way to make this work is by reaching a national consensus on basic principles of human decency…. If you have a nation that accepts this compromise, then you have a working proposition…..We can work on it only step by step, just as Rici Lake suggested. First step is: save Medicare! Then the next and the next and the next... But it is necessary to know what we would like, to know what to work towards."


posted June 29, 2002 08:24 AM

I always knew that the fight has to happen on multiple levels:
1./ Personal life style
2./ Activism
3./ Intellectual
4./ Art
5./ Media
6./ Political system


posted June 30, 2002 09:11 AM

"However, it is only a dream to help me decide what kind of world I would like to live in, so I would know what to work toward in 'real life'. Let me go back another step and tell you what kind of challenge I set to myself when I came up with this dream. Recognizing my dual nature of wanting both freedom from, and compassion to, my fellow human beings, I asked myself: what kind of system would I want to establish in a society of well meaning, decent, freedom-loving and compassionate people? Would it be possible at all? "

"when designing most software systems, first you concentrate on the main-line of the logic. Make sure that you think of everything the system is supposed to do and design it in such a way that it is covering all the requirements and doing it efficiently. When this is done, then you start thinking of everything that can possibly go wrong and put in all the checks and procedures to handle those. So lets follow this well proven method and concentrate on how the system is supposed to work among well meaning decent human beings who want both freedom and compassion in their world."

"Since the 'no-competition' clause was a safety feature added to the body of the system, aimed at preventing hostile citizens from purposefully destroying the system, I am willing to remove it in the first stage of the planning phase. Then, when we have a smoothly functioning system (in design), we can re-examine the concept and see if it is required at all; in a limited way (for health and education); or for all basic necessities."


Finally, a new question:

quote:
c. how do you prevent people being incentivized to do as little as necessary, which may result in a downward shrinking spiral.

I don't want to prevent people from doing (or not doing) anything. The only thing I want to prevent 'you' from is not pulling 'your' weight. If 'you' accept your minimum level of comfort, I want 'you' to contribute to it. If 'you' do, then fine. If 'you' are happy with 'your' minimum and don't want to work for more, that's fine too. Those who want more will have unlimited (within ethical social coexistence - and I did spell out what those were, so don't make me go back and hunt for the quotes again) opportunity to do it in the 'private sector'.

And another quote from your post:

quote:
Apemantus: Humans are individuals not a homogenous whole, and any system that rests on the basis that they are the same will fail.
I have answered this right above your post as:

Zatamon: "As far as a completely communistic, centrally planned system is concerned, I don't think it would be a fair or workable proposition. I spent 27 years in a practical implementation of the idea and I know what it turns into in practice. In theory it sounds good, but in practice it is doomed because of our different needs, talents, interests, energies and our need to pursue our own dreams, at least part of the time."

Now you are making me quote my quote of my original statement. Apemantus, if you want me to make all the effort in this dialog, it won't work. I guarantee you that.

[ June 30, 2002: Message edited by: Zatamon ]


From: where hope for 'hope' is contemplated | Registered: Sep 2001  |  IP: Logged
Apemantus
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posted 30 June 2002 02:50 PM      Profile for Apemantus        Edit/Delete Post
You failed to answer my first two questions, other than with vague statements - if you want to make a dream a reality, you have to flesh out the substance - so how will the consensus be determined - by vote? referendum? elected representatives? I need more DETAIL.

And for the latter, that I fear is where the system will come unstuck potentially, as if people know that come what may, their housing, health, education needs will be met, there may be a lot of people happy with that... but the ones who want to do more will not want to work in the public sector providing the basic needs, as there will be no money to be made, so the workers won't work where workers are needed and the nonworkers won't work.

Everyone ends up miserable and worse off, as far as I can tell.


From: Brighton, UK | Registered: Nov 2001  |  IP: Logged
Zatamon
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posted 30 June 2002 03:09 PM      Profile for Zatamon     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Apemantus: if people know that come what may, their housing, health, education needs will be met, there may be a lot of people happy with that... but the ones who want to do more will not want to work in the public sector providing the basic needs, as there will be no money to be made, so the workers won't work where workers are needed and the nonworkers won't work.

Apemantus, you know of the concept of 'diminishing return' I am sure.

With the quote above, you confessed to a total lack of understanding of what my proposed social contract dream is about. And I am tired of quoting myself on and on.

Interestingly, there were quite a few posters who did not seem to have any difficulty understanding what I was trying to say.

I don't expect to make sense for everyone, and I am ready to admit when I failed to communicate my ideas to someone I tried to convince.

SW and you seem to be beyond me abilities to communicate with effectively. I am sure it is my fault (one way or another, the buck stop right in the lap of the one who proposes an idea and fails to get it across).

So I would like to ask everybody else if I should go into more detail about my proposed social contract dream. How it would work among decent, freedom loving and compassionate people who don't expect an 'unearned' living, don't want to accept hungry children and homeless people and want the freedom to pursue their own dreams once basic minimum humanity is assured for all.


From: where hope for 'hope' is contemplated | Registered: Sep 2001  |  IP: Logged
Apemantus
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posted 30 June 2002 03:23 PM      Profile for Apemantus        Edit/Delete Post
Maybe that is the point:

quote:
How it would work among decent, freedom loving and compassionate people who don't expect an 'unearned' living, don't want to accept hungry children and homeless people and want the freedom to pursue their own dreams once basic minimum humanity is assured for all.

Unfortunately Utopia is always possible if you can populate it with 'ideal' people and for the same reason that communism would never work in practice:

it does not deal with the variety found in human nature - I am sure with the right people, anything could be achieved, but as we have seen before getting the correct population to suit the idea can only be done by means foul.

Put it another way: maybe the idea works fine, so the problem is not the idea, but how you get the correct people necessary to make it work? Eugenics, voluntary euthanasia?

I would also be interested in what you said (assuming you said it and I missed it) about how to deal with the relativity. In the UK, there is abject poverty, RELATIVE to others, but in terms of what would be termed poverty 150 years ago, none (or very few) people live in that. To some extent, on some scales, basic needs are met already, and then those that want to can pursue their dreams via capitalism... So when there is a consensus on basic needs and it needs updating, does that mean those that have worked hard and increased the gap between them and those living on the basics, such that it becomes unacceptable to many, that they must lose the fruits of their labours?


From: Brighton, UK | Registered: Nov 2001  |  IP: Logged
Zatamon
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posted 30 June 2002 03:33 PM      Profile for Zatamon     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Anyone else willing to explore my dream with completely open minds, without prejudice and hostility? I have a lot more of the details worked out in my head, but there is no point going into any of that if the basic idea is rejected out of hand. In that case it would be a waste of everyone's time.

I also would like to invite everyone who is not hostile to the basic idea to contribute to the dream with actual suggestions. Those who already have are much appreciated.


From: where hope for 'hope' is contemplated | Registered: Sep 2001  |  IP: Logged
pogge
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posted 30 June 2002 03:58 PM      Profile for pogge   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Zatamon wrote:

quote:
With the quote above, you confessed to a total lack of understanding of what my proposed social contract dream is about. And I am tired of quoting myself on and on.

Even the best of writers occasionally struggles to express his ideas. That's why god made editors.

On various occasions in this thread you've answered requests for clarification or legitimate concerns and criticisms with a response that essentially says "I expressed it perfectly the first time, and if you didn't understand it then it must be your fault". You assume at every turn that any failure to communicate must be the fault of the reader because it couldn't possibly be the fault of the writer. That's not discussion, and that's one of several reasons why I'm declining your invitation.


From: Why is this a required field? | Registered: Mar 2002  |  IP: Logged
Zatamon
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posted 30 June 2002 04:06 PM      Profile for Zatamon     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Slim, three posts above yours:
quote:
Zatamon: I don't expect to make sense to everyone, and I am ready to admit when I failed to communicate my ideas to someone I tried to convince....SW and you seem to be beyond me abilities to communicate with effectively. I am sure it is my fault (one way or another, the buck stop right in the lap of the one who proposes an idea and fails to get it across).
Can you explain your last post in view of this?

[ June 30, 2002: Message edited by: Zatamon ]


From: where hope for 'hope' is contemplated | Registered: Sep 2001  |  IP: Logged
Slick Willy
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posted 30 June 2002 04:09 PM      Profile for Slick Willy     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Ok so I will start over once again and I will quote the text I am reffering to so that Zatamon can see that I have at least read enough of it to find a starting point and an ending point to quote. I can only hope that he will give me the benefit of the doubt as to reading it.

As a precursor to all of this, I would like to clarify the difference between assumptions and agreement. Since this is supposed to be a social contract, then there should be some meeting of the minds rather than an assumption that everyone just agrees with Zatamon. I think it is unreasonable to assume people will just up and leave their homes so communists can have the property. As proof of this I urge you to look up the stats of the Canadian Communist Party's results in the last election in Canada.


quote:
Let us agree that the compassion part has
priority, up to a very well defined point. This point is where the basic survival needs of every citizen in our country is assured.

Basic needs as you define them:

quote:
(food, clothing, housing, health, education, communication, transportation)

Each of these basic requirements are not defined at all and cover a very broad spectrum. Caviar, donuts and lobster are food and so is oatmeal, brussel sprouts and potatos. As people's tastes differ as well as allergies to specific foods and food groups, not to mention religious restrictions. Is the allotment of food increased if one has guests or relatives come to visit? Does it mean that all members of a family must go shopping together in order to insure that no one is getting more than their share? Are those who over eat punished?

Education is an easy one. Just have a look at how well the government has managed education in Ontario.

Clothing is also a sticking point but it is becoming very grey in that first you said the government controls all the resourses and any competition would be outlawed. Then you changed your mind and said that this restriction could be lifted. If all things are to be desided by consensus, how many times a day/week/month/ are people going to have to vote in refferendums?
Or does everyone wear red jumpsuits?

quote:
The basic human needs can be easily calculated by using scientific data on
age-dependent calorie requirements, climate-dependent clothing and housing
requirement, population-dependent health- and education-requirement and the necessary energy and raw-material production, as well as the necessary infrastructure in transportation and communication. It could be easily planned based on
physiological, climatic and demographic data.

If the above is in answer to the questions I posted on those issues, how is it that some won't be cold all the time and others hot all the time?
I see people walking around in warm jackets and toques when it is above 20 degrees. Others wear shorts if the thermometer gets above 10 degrees.
If it is based on data, is it safe to say that the government will have to know all about each and every citizen's paticular health and physical needs which will be passed on to other members of the bureaucracy? If so then why is that not an invasion of privacy?

quote:
This does not mean that I would want to live without arts or sports or some luxuries, but
the beauty of the system is that I would not have to. The key word above is ***ABUNDANCE***. With intelligent organization, elimination of wasteful competition and duplication, we could produce ***ENOUGH*** of the basic necessities to
accommodate individual differences in needs and statistical fluctuations in demand, with a comfortable margin of safety.

Maybe a nice steak dinner would be one of those luxuries.

quote:
No regulation on the individual level is necessary. The produced goods and services could be made freely available for anyone needing it and people could just help themselves in the supermarkets, the stores,

If this is the case what is to stop me from taking 600 nice steaks from the supermarket and selling them in my upscale restaurant?

quote:
The government would not have to deal with economic crimes (tax evasion for example) because the government does not deal with money at all. There is only one crime that could be considered 'economic' by nature: it would be against the law not to participate in the production of basic needs for any able adult who is not in training or
vacation at the time.

And what of mothers and young children? When do children begin working? What if a mother wanted 12 kids? would she be expected to work regardless of her condition or would she be excused?

What of those with chronic illness? As well it is common knowledge that people work better at jobs they enjoy. Few people enjoy hard physical labour yet it is vital that this work be done. How are people selected for the work that needs to be done? What happens to those who are willing to work but not in the position asigned to them?

quote:
It could be easily calculated how many hours per weekday on the average one citizen
will have to work to do their share in producing these goods. According to some estimates I have seen, this could be as low as four hours per workday, if it is organized intelligently (like distributing production centers according to population density as much as possible, so no wasteful long-distance shipping needs to be
supported).

I think it is understood that there are somethings that can not be located close to areas of population. Mining, farming, landfills, refineries, and some proccessing plants would have to be located away from the cities. This would involve wasteful longdistance shipping. As well production plants are more efficient if they are running full time. But this would lead to an abundance of product in some areas and unneccesary
duplication due to locating production plants close to cities.


quote:
You don't have to 'save up' for illness and retirement (the key word above is 'able') because those are provided for from the excess safety buffer built into the system.

When is retirement? What happens when population booms occur such as the "baby boomers"? How are production levels kept the same when the population increases and decreases and the percentage of people in retirment increases and decreases?

quote:
There would be an immediate and automatic incarceration (or expulsion from the country for chronic offenders) for anyone who refuses to participate in basic needs-related production activities.

Where would people be expelled to? What if the country you hoped to expell them to say no thanks, you deal with them? Or for that matter how do you determine if someone is pulling their weight or not? What if they are just having an off week? Or become upset for a while due to an untimely death in the family? What of due proccess?

quote:
According to my estimates (and the data I have collected so far in my research) after basic needs are satisfied, there is plenty of resources left over (material and energy resources and the manpower with all kinds of skills) for a second tier in the economy which would be completely private, and totally separate from the first tier and the government. Other than assuring that no criminal activity (theft, fraud, murder, pollution, inhumanity to animals, etc) is taking place in the second tier, the government is
staying completely out of it.

But isn't education the governments domain? If all they were to teach is what is needed to provide the basics, where do the skills to produce the luxuries and extras for the second tier come from?
Perhaps the private sector can have schools too to teach the skills needed to produce fine sports cars or big screen tvs and such. But then the government would have to regulate the private schools to ensure that they did not intrude on governmental jurisdiction, correct? Where would religion fall into all fo this? Or would it be outlawed due to it being a competitive opposition to the government schools. So maybe the government teaches skills needed for the private sectors productions. But then that would not be a basic needs issue and the government would be again at odds with itself.

As well seeing as how damn near everything polutes in one way or another, how would the private sector operate without creating some polution? Even the government would be in conflict with itself over polution. Or does the government have the freedom to polute as needed?

Based on thise contradictions I think the next bit here needs clarification.

quote:
Private 'luxury' companies must produce real luxuries that go beyond and above what is freely available to every citizen.

What is the definition of "real luxuries"?

quote:
But no compromise would be tolerated when it comes to basic needs and rights, the sustainability of the system, the health of the environment and the rights of other living species.

This sounds a bit strict to me. Possibly due to the details being left out. Rats can spread decease and ruin food production. But according to this law, nothing could be done to prevent that from happening as it would violate the rights of the rats and other pests and parasites that will feed off our existence. How is this catch 22 avoided? As well is eating animals violating their rights? If so how do you prevent the majority of people rejecting this plan as they are not vegitarians? Further, of the many medical discoveries that have been made with the use of laboratory animals being tested, what would happen to the health of the public?

quote:
However, newer studies are refuting this 'Social Darwinism' at increasing frequency and tell us that, given the chance, human beings
are actually quite decent (See Sally Goerner's "After the Clockwork Universe" or John Ralston Saul's "On Equilibrium" for example).

Did anyone bother to explain this to the worst monsters the world has seen? Hitler, Pol Pot, Stalin, Bernardo, Ng, List as many as you need to.

quote:
I also used the assumption that the country where this 'experiment' was performed
was not threatened (or coerced) from abroad, so no military would need to be maintained,

Isn't that just asking for a huge suspension of disbelief? What of other countries in the third world that would like to have some of our resources to stave off starvation and suffering?
How could such a compassionate society tell them no we don't export our resources to other countries?


quote:
Unfortunately we were also given some other attributes that make this Utopia impossible and we are fast approaching the nightmare of turning our world into a poisoned sewer in the best case, a nuclear wasteland in the worst.

Why isn't this labeled as speculation and fear mongering? If I said that we as a country need nuclear weapons because "they" want to turn our country into a nuclear wasteland, wouldn't someone say that I was speculating and fear mongering?

quote:
We have tried everything else already (the results are all around us, for all to see) --
why not give sanity a chance? It might save our collective asses.

Well the first thought that comes to mind is that every time this is tried somewhere in the world it turns in to a dictatorship where human rights offenses are committed each and everyday. It results in everyone regardless of talent or motivation to exist at the lowest common denominator. No matter how well intentioned, so far communism has fallen flat on it's face with the appologists rushing to overlook blatant and unneccesary suffering of the people it was heralded to lift out of their misery.
A good example are in the statistics that show immigration between capitalist and communist countries.


From: Hog Heaven | Registered: Apr 2001  |  IP: Logged
pogge
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posted 30 June 2002 04:26 PM      Profile for pogge   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
All quotes from Zatamon:

quote:
Responding to me: Can you explain your last post in view of this?

quote:
PS. I don't think SW actually read my post. Probably skimmed it very quickly and dashed off his 'learned opinion'.

Admittedly, Slick didn't respond in the most civil manner, but I saw no indication that he hadn't read your post.

quote:
agent007, all my answers to your post are in the part of my Proposal that you have *not* read.

quote:
Now I don’t know if you read only every third paragraph I write, or you read it all and can’t understand, or just deliberately refuse to ‘hear’ most of what I am saying. And it is very tiring to have to keep repeating the same thing over and over again.

quote:
Apemantus, if you assure me that you have carefully read everything I said in this thread, then I will gladly answer your questions and concerns.

quote:
Apemantus, I assume that your reply to my earlier question: "if you assure me that you have carefully read everything I said in this thread," is a "YES".

Well, let me quote from things I said on this thread. After that, please tell me if you still don't see my answer.


So you assume he's read it and still requires clarification, but you then go on to quote yourself and add nothing substantially new.

quote:
Luckily, I still don't have to write much new stuff, because I have already answered your fitst two questions in the thread that you claim you have read fully and carefully.

Back to quoting myself (I wish I didn't have to)


quote:
With the quote above, you confessed to a total lack of understanding of what my proposed social contract dream is about. And I am tired of quoting myself on and on.

Everyone who agrees with you has perfect reading comprehension skills. Everyone who disagrees with you is at fault because they didn't read you carefully enough the first time.

[ June 30, 2002: Message edited by: Slim ]


From: Why is this a required field? | Registered: Mar 2002  |  IP: Logged
DrConway
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posted 30 June 2002 04:29 PM      Profile for DrConway     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Apemantus's sticking-point appears to be in the difficulty of imagining an entire labor force being rewarded, essentially, in barter rather than in money for the sector defined as being the provision of basic needs and not subject to privatization under any circumstances.

Would this be an accurate characterization? If so, I hope my statement has cleared it up.

Being required to work 4 hours a day, 5 days a week, in order to ensure my basic standard of living certainly doesn't seem *that* much of a hardship especially if I know that my basic needs will be taken care of in perpetuity - that I can go to the supermarket and obtain whatever foods I require to sustain myself, sleep in a room with no threat of eviction, and have access to clean water for personal hygiene.


From: You shall not side with the great against the powerless. | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
Zatamon
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posted 30 June 2002 04:32 PM      Profile for Zatamon     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Slim, you still ignore the quote I provided you with (see above):
quote:
Zatamon: I don't expect to make sense to everyone, and I am ready to admit when I failed to communicate my ideas to someone I tried to convince....SW and you seem to be beyond me abilities to communicate with effectively. I am sure it is my fault (one way or another, the buck stop right in the lap of the one who proposes an idea and fails to get it across).
Please tell me, why is that?

From: where hope for 'hope' is contemplated | Registered: Sep 2001  |  IP: Logged
pogge
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posted 30 June 2002 04:32 PM      Profile for pogge   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
I'm responding to what you do, rather than what you say.
From: Why is this a required field? | Registered: Mar 2002  |  IP: Logged
Apemantus
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posted 30 June 2002 04:35 PM      Profile for Apemantus        Edit/Delete Post
I would like to ask why all my responses (and you did invite me to respond to this thread, Zatamon) have been met with a dismissive "reread what I said..." I don't think my questions or my criticisms have been unreasonable, and I am very much in favour of abolishing poverty, ensuring basic standards etc., I just think the way you propose to do it is unworkable, illogical and unethical and have explained why, and you have failed to answer my fears. If you can't make the case to me (who is an idealist) how do you hope to persuade less willing audiences? If I am off the mark, others who do agree with Zatamon (those reasonable, decent, eugenically manufactured people) are free to back him up.

I hate to agree with Slick Willy (I just dislike his style!! ), but he makes some very coherent points.

Defend your plan, Zatamon, fight off us marauders, prove us wrong.... I am genuinely interested to see if you can answer our points, but alas, I feel that your basic foundations are genuinely so shaky, the building that rests on them will fall down if anyone leans against it...

(Just to reinforce so you don't feel I am being *too* arrogant, I agree with the basic intent, just think your method is erroneous)

[ June 30, 2002: Message edited by: Apemantus ]


From: Brighton, UK | Registered: Nov 2001  |  IP: Logged
Slick Willy
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posted 30 June 2002 04:53 PM      Profile for Slick Willy     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Being required to work 4 hours a day, 5 days a week,

According to Zatamon:

quote:
According to some estimates I have seen, this could be as low as four hours per workday

4 hours is a guess at the very minimum amount of work required from each person. As demands change, so will the requirement. I feel that this is a low ball estimate and in actuality the figure would be higher. No to mention there is no specification of how many workdays there are in a week/month/year.
If in fact it turns out to be 37.5 or more hours per week then how do you come out ahead?


From: Hog Heaven | Registered: Apr 2001  |  IP: Logged
Zatamon
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posted 30 June 2002 04:56 PM      Profile for Zatamon     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Yes, Apemantus, I invited you to join the thread. No problem there. And I do respect your opinion and your intentions and your right to both. And I am not saying that you are 'arrogant' or 'unreasonable' or can't communicate.

All I am saying is that, for some reason, I have difficulty communicating with you.

How do you explain that right after I made this statement

posted June 30, 2002 01:50 PM

quote:
Zatamon: As far as a completely communistic, centrally planned system is concerned, I don't think it would be a fair or workable proposition. I spent 27 years in a practical implementation of the idea and I know what it turns into in practice. In theory it sounds good, but in practice it is doomed because of our different needs, talents, interests, energies and our need to pursue our own dreams, at least part of the time.
Right below it, in your next statement you say:

posted June 30, 2002 02:13 PM

quote:
Apemantus:
If you are thinking along commune lines (all for one, one for all), they only work in small groups because human nature is DIFFERENT. Humans are individuals not a homogenous whole, and any system that rests on the basis that they are the same will fail.
Don't you think it is enough to make someone frustrated?

My assumption (and only an assumption) is that you are hostile to the basic premise of my dream and you are not trying to understand my position but trying to "refute it".

Which you have a perfect right to do, but I find it difficult to argue with what I see as 'prejudice'.

All this said, I really liked what you wrote in the "Meritocracy" thread, that is why I invited you to this thread.

No hard feelings, I hope.

As far as SW's long post is concerned, I will make one more attempt to spell out my idea in more details and specifics, but I fear he will refuse to consider any of it, because I think he is also hostile to the basic premise (with every right to be), but maybe it will interest some other babblers.

I definitely do not want to get involved in 'personality conflicts', I prefer to explore ideas. However, when I see that my 'best' wasn't good enough to get an idea across, I don't want to spend more time on it.

[ June 30, 2002: Message edited by: Zatamon ]


From: where hope for 'hope' is contemplated | Registered: Sep 2001  |  IP: Logged
DrConway
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posted 30 June 2002 04:57 PM      Profile for DrConway     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
What difference does it make if your employer is the government and your pay is in your basic needs?

No rent payments. No basic telephone payments. No electricity bills. No nothing. I could live with that. As it is right now most of the money I get on my paychecks goes right back out the door, so I'd come out ahead just in the lack-of-worry factor.


From: You shall not side with the great against the powerless. | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
Apemantus
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posted 30 June 2002 05:05 PM      Profile for Apemantus        Edit/Delete Post
But you later say that

quote:
How it would work among decent, freedom loving and compassionate people who don't expect an 'unearned' living, don't want to accept hungry children and homeless people and want the freedom to pursue their own dreams once basic minimum humanity is assured for all.

the implication being that you are looking for a basic similarity across humans first and that is what I am querying - how will your system work with humans as they are rather than as the system needs them to be?

Doc Conway:

I would argue that gives the government way too much power which is concentrated in one entity/political group. I accept that there are many people who have power over workers now, but at least the person who controls your phone is different from your landlord and different from your foodstore owner and you can change them regularly if they fail you.


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DrConway
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posted 30 June 2002 05:16 PM      Profile for DrConway     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Good. Now look on the previous page and read my other reply You missed it, so look closely!
From: You shall not side with the great against the powerless. | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
Zatamon
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posted 30 June 2002 05:19 PM      Profile for Zatamon     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Apemantus, I also explained to SW how I would like to proceed:

posted June 30, 2002 09:11 AM

quote:
Let me go back another step and tell you what kind of challenge I set to myself when I came up with this dream.

Recognizing my dual nature of wanting both freedom from, and compassion to, my fellow human beings, I asked myself: what kind of system would I want to establish in a society of well meaning, decent, freedom-loving and compassionate people? Would it be possible at all?

SW knows very well that when designing most software systems, first you concentrate on the main-line of the logic. Make sure that you think of everything the system is supposed to do and design it in such a way that it is covering all the requirements and doing it efficiently. When this is done, then you start thinking of everything that can possibly go wrong and put in all the checks and procedures to handle those. So lets follow this well proven method and concentrate on how the system is supposed to work among well meaning decent human beings who want both freedom and compassion in their world.

Since the 'no-competition' clause was a safety feature added to the body of the system, aimed at preventing hostile citizens from purposefully destroying the system, I am willing to remove it in the first stage of the planning phase. Then, when we have a smoothly functioning system (in design), we can re-examine the concept and see if it is required at all; in a limited way (for health and education); or for all basic necessities.


That should explain what I intended.

Step #

1./ Let's assume a sufficient majority (say 75% - or three out of every four) of the citizenry agrees with the principle of compromise I spelled out in the first post

2./ The representatives from the council of councils of councils... sit down to try to design a perfect system, based on the assumption that they have consensus.

3./ Once the logic is clear and the compromise is reached, then

4./ They go over the plan again and try to imagine anything that could go wrong (icluding opposition and hostility from the 'other' 25%)

5./ Put in as many safeguards as they can think of, without turning it into a straight jacket

6./ Keep the system healthy by dynamically adjusting it to changing circumstances, making sure they maintain the consensus

7./ Live happily ever after.

[ June 30, 2002: Message edited by: Zatamon ]


From: where hope for 'hope' is contemplated | Registered: Sep 2001  |  IP: Logged
Slick Willy
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posted 30 June 2002 05:22 PM      Profile for Slick Willy     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
As far as SW's long post is concerned, I will make one more attempt to spell out my idea in more details and specifics, but I fear he will refuse to consider any of it, because I think he is also hostile to the basic premise (with every right to be), but maybe it will interest some other babblers.

No need to go to all that trouble. Just quote the questions I asked and reply with the specific answers. Easy peasy. I don't need some long speech that I would find as confusing and contradictory as your first statement.

As well I think it was Apemantus that raised a good point about your plan. When you drew attention to it and asked if he could understand how you would be frustrated.

Your plan would work just great on a small scale. It would be easy to find a group of people who feel just that way and get them all together working in just the way you spelled out.

But as the numbers grow, you will in fact find people who don't share that view and wouldn't fit into your plan. Your problem here is that you say it would work country wide in a nation such as Canada. Further you say that those who don't follow your paticular plan here would be invited to leave or locked up. How is that different than say some rightwing party being elected and throwing those who object to the way they want to run things in jail or deported?


From: Hog Heaven | Registered: Apr 2001  |  IP: Logged
Zatamon
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posted 30 June 2002 05:38 PM      Profile for Zatamon     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
SW, look at my post above yours. Also remember, that I specifically stated that Canada is not ready to implement such a plan. The best we can hope for is moving in this direction step by step. The ‘dream’ is necessary to see the direction.

Medicare, old age pension, unemployment insurance, .... are steps already taken in this direction.

We need more, not turning back the clock and dismantling them.

Without a clear vision and basic philosophical principles it is so easy to get confused about 'what is what' and where we are heading.

For the umpteen-th time, my dream was never meant to be put into practice tomorrow.

It was meant to be a vision to inspire those who agree with my ethical stand.

I know you disagree with everything I said, so let's accept it and keep on truckin'

[ June 30, 2002: Message edited by: Zatamon ]


From: where hope for 'hope' is contemplated | Registered: Sep 2001  |  IP: Logged
Apemantus
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posted 30 June 2002 06:00 PM      Profile for Apemantus        Edit/Delete Post
After reading your post above, why not just perfect the current system rather than reinventing the wheel - there is a lot going for the current system, why not just spend your energy convincing the 75% that they should support higher social secuirity spending, higher government spending on the basic needs services where they need it? Why redo everything when not everything is broke?

Doc: just repost the relevant bit, cos I missed it.... (remember, I am stupid!)


From: Brighton, UK | Registered: Nov 2001  |  IP: Logged
DrConway
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posted 30 June 2002 06:06 PM      Profile for DrConway     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Apemantus, it's right here, precisely three posts above the last post on that page.
From: You shall not side with the great against the powerless. | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
Apemantus
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posted 30 June 2002 06:13 PM      Profile for Apemantus        Edit/Delete Post
And that doesn't answer my question about the concentration of power in the hands of the government - I accept that you may be prepared to do 4 hours a day 5 days a week for basic stuff, but that means you are reduced once more to the life of a serf to the condescending and nice state and has a much more rosey view of government than any previous or current incarnation of government has suggested is possible. Even if one could find the ideal people needed for Zatamon's Utopia, I am very unsure that the ideal government is plausible (not least, to reinforce the question I would like you to answer, Doc, because power corrupts and absolute... etc...)
From: Brighton, UK | Registered: Nov 2001  |  IP: Logged
Zatamon
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posted 30 June 2002 06:16 PM      Profile for Zatamon     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Apemantus: After reading your post above, why not just perfect the current system rather than reinventing the wheel - there is a lot going for the current system, why not just spend your energy convincing the 75% that they should support higher social secuirity spending, higher government spending on the basic needs services where they need it? Why redo everything when not everything is broke?
Apemantus, that is precisely what I am doing. Read the post above yours again, you will see what I mean.

One tool I have in my tool-bag is 'inspiring' people with a vision of what could be. You would be surprised to learn how many people respond to my 'visions'.

Also, recall an earlier post onthis thread

posted June 29, 2002 08:24 AM

quote:
Zatamon: One of the prerequisites for efficiency is to know our strengths and weaknesses. In spite of the cynicism surrounding politicians, I firmly believe that it is possible to do good even in that environment, if you have two attributes: personal integrity and a very good understanding of people. I have one of these attributes, but very little of the other -- I have always been a lousy psychologist.

I always knew that the fight has to happen on multiple levels:

1./ Personal life style
2./ Activism
3./ Intellectual
4./ Art
5./ Media
6./ Political system

My strength is in 1./ and 3./ but I always admired those who were good at the other four. I think all six are equally important and they strengthen and reinforce each other.


I hope you see better now what I am trying to accomplish. If not, I am sorry, I really tried!


From: where hope for 'hope' is contemplated | Registered: Sep 2001  |  IP: Logged
Apemantus
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posted 30 June 2002 06:19 PM      Profile for Apemantus        Edit/Delete Post
Do I believe in a just and fair world?

Yes.

Do I think more could be done to achieve it?

Yes

Do I think an entire new political system and method of structuring society needs to be devised or adopted to achieve this just and fair world?

No.

Does that answer your question?


From: Brighton, UK | Registered: Nov 2001  |  IP: Logged
Zatamon
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posted 30 June 2002 06:25 PM      Profile for Zatamon     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Yes, Apemantus, it does. It tells me that you are a very practical person, concentrating on the task at hand. Also, it tells me that you don't like theoretical speculations and you are not much given to imagining what could be, if we could have it any way we wanted to. You have the heart of an engineer, instead of a poet.

I believe, both are necessary in this world.


From: where hope for 'hope' is contemplated | Registered: Sep 2001  |  IP: Logged
clersal
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posted 30 June 2002 06:33 PM      Profile for clersal     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
I am back from my6 lolling and I expected you people to have solved everything Oh well I guess change is not that near. I will return with more clever thoughts. Later.
From: Canton Marchand, Québec | Registered: Apr 2001  |  IP: Logged
Apemantus
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posted 30 June 2002 06:35 PM      Profile for Apemantus        Edit/Delete Post
No. The reason I don't think we need to change the basic system is I don't think there is anything wrong with the system - the basic theory and aspirations ARE Utopian. Much like religion, the ideals are fantastic, the problem is the practitioners. So you are not dreaming of something worth dreaming about because you dream (in my view) of a WORSE Utopia than the potential one we have in our grasp.

The problem with what we have is that too much power is concentrated in too few hands, that that power has been acceded to them through centuries of exploitation and abuse of power, that the possibilities are vast for both compassion and freedom, and to make it happen, one should not sit around dreaming of a different system, but mould this one into how it should be. The aspirations I have are just as poetic as you, because I can see the poetry in Adam Smith... the problem is interpreting it so everyone sees it.

You have the heart of a dreamer, all well and good, but of no use to man nor beast - rather than change the world as it is, you dream a new world.

BTW, if you can't see the poetry in engineering, you need to go back to school!!

Shakespeare didn't invent English, he just knew how to manipulate it beautifully and to full effect!


From: Brighton, UK | Registered: Nov 2001  |  IP: Logged
Zatamon
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posted 30 June 2002 06:47 PM      Profile for Zatamon     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Apemantus, by training I am a scientist (theoretical physics); by profession I am an engineer (software); by hobby I am a poet and musician; by my wretched fate I am someone willing to spend an absolutely beautiful day, since 7AM this morning, glued to my bloody computer keyboard (while clersal is 'lolling' in her lake) trying to ***DO*** my best to inspire and motivate people to hang on to their dreams that are currently being yanked out from under them.

I want to tell people that their dreams are the 'right dreams' and they should feel proud of those dreams and they should not let anyone confuse them with neo-conservative propaganda (not meaning you or Adam Smith who would die of horror today) that has been discredited by history over and over again.

Yes, in this sense, I am a dreamer and I am proud of it.

But please don't tell me that I do nothing but dream, because then my fingers would not be so sore from all this typing.

[ June 30, 2002: Message edited by: Zatamon ]


From: where hope for 'hope' is contemplated | Registered: Sep 2001  |  IP: Logged
Apemantus
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posted 30 June 2002 06:53 PM      Profile for Apemantus        Edit/Delete Post
I don't think I did... Nothing wrong with telling people to dream, even less wrong with telling people to live their dreams, to make dreams a reality... I have no problem with that...

(I just worried that your dream was really a nightmare!!)


From: Brighton, UK | Registered: Nov 2001  |  IP: Logged
Zatamon
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posted 30 June 2002 07:03 PM      Profile for Zatamon     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
That figures... one person's dream is always some other person's nightmare

Incidentally, in my 'conservative phase' a long, long time ago, I used to be an Ayn Rand 'desciple' and I thought she had the answer to everything. I really thought her 'dream' was the most beautiful dream anyone could wish for.

It took me a few decades to know better.


From: where hope for 'hope' is contemplated | Registered: Sep 2001  |  IP: Logged
Apemantus
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posted 30 June 2002 07:11 PM      Profile for Apemantus        Edit/Delete Post
I have been socialist for as long as I can remember, well as long as I have been aware of such things (which sadly was not for a while when I were growing up), and have recently seen the truth of capitalism rather than the myth and hype that both extreme left and the right like to peddle. I still have many doubts about structuring systems too much around the pursuit of money, but that is not the heart of capitalism, capitalism is more about freedom and getting as close as one can to maximising individual utility without damaging others (at least, that is how I interpret it). And Adam Smith was both aware of and warned against many of the pitfalls that have occurred over the past century.

I once characterised my Utopia as anarcho-pacifist, which some (ignoramuses) would characterize as a contradiction, but I think that pure capitalism is as close as a society can get to anarchy without losing the societal aspect.

Not sure that has made sense to anything other than my mind!


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Apemantus
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posted 30 June 2002 07:16 PM      Profile for Apemantus        Edit/Delete Post
The main problems as I see it are how to redistribute resources that have been gained unfairly (i.e. the wealth that has accumulated through the exploitation by previous generations/people) and how to ensure that people do not suffer through things over which they have no control (i.e. born disabled). Normally, I find most people, once that is spelt out to them, at least see some validity in the aspiration, even if they are unsure how it should best be achieved. But the political will seldom exists to take on the task.
From: Brighton, UK | Registered: Nov 2001  |  IP: Logged
Zatamon
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posted 30 June 2002 07:17 PM      Profile for Zatamon     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Apemantus, it is a fascinating topic, one I would love to discuss with you at length (maybe another thread?), but I have to stop for today. I have been at it for almost 12 hours now and I am absolutely exhausted.

So I will go away now, have my dinner, watch the 'final' (I still don't know the result, thanks god) and enjoy whatever is left of the beautiful day I 'dreamed away'.

Back tomorrow.


From: where hope for 'hope' is contemplated | Registered: Sep 2001  |  IP: Logged
Slick Willy
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posted 30 June 2002 07:56 PM      Profile for Slick Willy     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
How often would they get the public to vote?
If youwant to say whenever they need to how would you go about the twice daily voting and counting, and how much time would be alotted to educating the public about the changes?

From: Hog Heaven | Registered: Apr 2001  |  IP: Logged
clersal
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posted 30 June 2002 10:38 PM      Profile for clersal     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Get the people to vote on what?
From: Canton Marchand, Québec | Registered: Apr 2001  |  IP: Logged
Boinker
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posted 01 July 2002 12:25 AM      Profile for Boinker   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
A thought...

Were the failures of Utopian and socialistic experiments - the good ones not the Stalinist versions - problems of design and logic?


With the Dot Com meltdown won't there be a ton of people with Zatamon's type of skills (more or less) who will be focussing on broader social issues?

What will be the upshot of it all?

Interesting I think.

[ July 01, 2002: Message edited by: Boinker ]


From: The Junction | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
Jacob Two-Two
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posted 01 July 2002 04:30 AM      Profile for Jacob Two-Two     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
All right. Here is an idea that I have tossed around in my head for quite some time that is fairly similar to Zatamon's. It may address some of the concerns of the detractors (or maybe not).

Instead of turning the government into a provider of basic needs, you have the government create a people's corporation to do the job. It would be an entirely seperate entity from the government, with voluntary memebership and management elected by the members.It could start off small (some basic food and clothing) and expand over time to include whatever the members wanted it to produce.

The part that I'm stealing from Zatamon is that it would be moneyless. Instead of paying it's members (who are all owners and employees, of course) it would just provide them with its products for free. As it expanded, it would require more and more people and hours of labour, but it would provide more and more of life's basic necessities as compensation (apartment complexes, communications, various media).

Of course, where would it get its resources, you are asking. It probably couldn't be moneyless right away. It would need capital to initiate and expand until it became big enough that the majority of the voting public was involved, at which point it would have the political muscle to access whatever it needed. At this point it would probably have health and education systems that would be as good as the government's, completely free.

While this institution would be extremely powerful (but remember, it is still democratic) it would not be the government. You are free not to join (though at a certain point it would seem stupid) and it would have no legislative powers. For all involved, however, it would free them from want forever with a relatively small investment of labour. Smaller all the time, I'd say, since mechanising everything would be a number one priority, in order to maximise output while minimising effort.

This would effectively create the two seperate economies, although how long the "free" economy would hold out against this co-operative juggernaut is anyone's guess. More likely is the creation of several of these people's corporations which would constantly compete for members by trying to provide the best standard of living for it's participants. This would give the system the necessary competitive element to prevent the evils of monopoly. But perhaps this wouldn't happen and the "second" economy of traditional capitalism would be fine. This could be the case even if everyone was involved in these PC's. They just might like to buy certain things from private enterprise and earn money working in it.

The important point is that none of these corporations would be the government. They could not pass laws or determine foreign policy (except to the extent that their members are voting citizens). They are exclusively economic entities, without the exploitation.


From: There is but one Gord and Moolah is his profit | Registered: Jan 2002  |  IP: Logged
DrConway
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posted 01 July 2002 04:34 AM      Profile for DrConway     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Interesting. I never thought of it quite that way before.

I think it is clear that we should not be hung up on the notion that it is necessarily the government that must separate the basic-needs sector from the private sector, although having its legislative might behind the project wouldn't hurt.

The important thing is how to most effectively divorce basic needs from the encroachment by the private sector which seeks to privatize the profit and socialize the ill effects.

And the fundamental principle is that the exchange is barter, not money. You exchange your labor for whatever goods and services are defined as provisionable within the basic-needs sector.


From: You shall not side with the great against the powerless. | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
Apemantus
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posted 01 July 2002 05:16 AM      Profile for Apemantus        Edit/Delete Post
Co-operatives exist throughout the world, probably many in Canada (certainly there are many in the UK), so the basic idea exists - its not a new idea, you just need to find likeminded people - look around, you should see the odd commune and co-operative.

I think one of the reasons they are not more prevalent is that people feel (rightly or wrongly) that the system that operates at present gives them more opportunity to get more sooner (selfish motivations). What these co-op systems are based on is unselfish motivations, which are not so prevalent.


From: Brighton, UK | Registered: Nov 2001  |  IP: Logged
Zatamon
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posted 01 July 2002 07:54 AM      Profile for Zatamon     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Apemantus, it all boils down to our assumption about 'human nature'.

Communism and Capitalism are based on assumptions of only compassionate or only freedom-loving. Both have been tried over and over and both failed (corrupted) over and over again, because we are both!!!

Both Communism and Capitalism has attractive features that appeal to one or the other part of our dual nature.

Neither of them has enough of what we need to make it work.

The only system never tried in History before (in its clear, consistent form) is the one that recognizes this duality and satisfies both of our needs to be free from, and compassionate to, each other.

That is why I made up that 'dream'.

It could work, based on our real human nature.

Not today, not immediately, but that is the system I would want to live under, and I am willing to work toward. One step at a time.

Pure Capitalism is stupid and inefficient. Competition is horribly wasteful and makes no sense at all, except for creatures who don't know how to co-operate.

Pure Communism is made for angels in heaven who are perfectly happy to sit at God's feet whole day and sing hosannas in perfect unison.

The only system that is made for 'real' human beings is one that recognizes human beings for what they really are and accommodates both of our needs for freedom and compassion.

Once we admit this, then we are on the right track.

This thread has been a very good learning opportunity for me. It taught me to avoid certain words in the future, words that trigger an automatic emotional reaction for some people. 'Government' is one, 'Communist' is another. 'Plan', 'design',...there are more. What if I use 'co-operatives' instead of 'government' and use 'compassionate' instead of 'communist'. I bet it would be a lot more palatable for SW and Apemantus?

[ July 01, 2002: Message edited by: Zatamon ]


From: where hope for 'hope' is contemplated | Registered: Sep 2001  |  IP: Logged
Apemantus
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posted 01 July 2002 08:51 AM      Profile for Apemantus        Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Pure Capitalism is stupid and inefficient. Competition is horribly wasteful and makes no sense at all, except for creatures who don't know how to co-operate.

Oh dear, someone who hasn't studied capitalism properly. One of capitalism's strong points is precisely the opposite - it reduces waste, because it allocates resources in the most efficient manner and by allowing people the freedom to express their preferences. Competition provides the incentive to reduce waste, for producers to limit waste as it reduces their profit. At the same time, they will all try, under ideal conditions, to produce at the lowest possible cost to the consumer, to undercut their competitors. Obviously, there is a role for government to prevent monopolies, which restrict competition and thus can artificially force prices above their natural level, as well as roles where the market fails (imperfect information, for example) and also in regulation, such as ensuring basic standards of food quality.

However, there are reasons why food is generally left to the market, other than regulation, in terms of its provision, whereas healthcare is more provided by the state, because if left to the market various problems of equity or efficiency may arise.

The problem with co-operation is that the greater the number of people that co-operate, the larger the loss in individual freedom. It makes much more sense, all other things being equal, to redistribute income where necessary (towards the needy, for example) and leave the actual allocation of goods and services to the market.

Rather like the criticism oft aimed at Communism, you are assuming that because the current capitalist system is not working, capitalism must be wrong, but it is more because the current system is very far removed from the ideal of capitalism such that even Adam Smith (who saw a major role for government) would balk!


From: Brighton, UK | Registered: Nov 2001  |  IP: Logged
Apemantus
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posted 01 July 2002 08:56 AM      Profile for Apemantus        Edit/Delete Post
To make it clear as you seem to think I am like Slick Willy, compassion does not have to be removed from Capitalism, and just because corporate America and others have previously twisted every drop of compassion out of the system does not mean the theory is false, just its realization at present.

May I suggest that before you assume I have something against government (I study Social Policy and will work in the public sector, FYI) that you read about what Capitalism actually is, in theory rather than practice.

You like to have dreams - Adam Smith had one - try understanding his, before jumping to your own conclusions at the use of a word.


From: Brighton, UK | Registered: Nov 2001  |  IP: Logged
Zatamon
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posted 01 July 2002 09:10 AM      Profile for Zatamon     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Apemantus: you are assuming that because the current capitalist system is not working, capitalism must be wrong, but it is more because the current system is very far removed from the ideal of capitalism
And I wonder why it is not working? Was it ever working? If yes, how did it get removed from the 'ideal'? In Plato's ideal world I am sure it could, but us poor schmucks in the caves, all we have to live with is the reflections on the cave walls.

What you are saying is that the 'ideal' would work if propped up by the government, interfering, redistributing, supervising -- negating the unpleasant logical consequences (in view of real human nature) of the 'ideal'.

What kind of 'ideal' is the one that can only survive if we poke at it and prod it and curtail it all the time. I wouldn't call it an 'ideal', I would call it a 'silly notion'.

PS. In my 'conservative phase' I mentioned yesterday, I studied the theory of Capitalism extensively. I have read Adam Smith (and have a lot of respect for him) but I have read Marx as well (compulsory reading in Hungary) and I have a lot of respect for many of his insights as well (especially on the unavoidable cycles of bust and boom). Don't assume that I can reject an idea only because I am unfamiliar with it. And no, I never thought you were like SW.

[ July 01, 2002: Message edited by: Zatamon ]


From: where hope for 'hope' is contemplated | Registered: Sep 2001  |  IP: Logged
Apemantus
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posted 01 July 2002 09:46 AM      Profile for Apemantus        Edit/Delete Post
Who was it who suggested one should dream in order to understand where one would like to end up (to paraphrase you). You imply by the above that your idea is workable in a way that Capitalism isn't. They are both ideals to strive for but the reason neither will ever be achieved is exactly that, they are IDEALS. But that doesn't negate them or make them not worth attempting, it just means you have to, as you said, put the system in practice and then work it and work it... something you have said would be necessary as much as I have. The difference (and now I feel it is YOU who is making ME feel frustrated, damn you ) is that I think your ideal is flawed whereas you seem to think (on the basis that you haven't corrected my interpretation of ideal capitalism) that the enaction is flawed, which I agree with.

Grrr.


From: Brighton, UK | Registered: Nov 2001  |  IP: Logged
Zatamon
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posted 01 July 2002 10:23 AM      Profile for Zatamon     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Apemantus: The difference (and now I feel it is YOU who is making ME feel frustrated, damn you ) is that I think your ideal is flawed whereas you seem to think (on the basis that you haven't corrected my interpretation of ideal capitalism) that the enaction is flawed, which I agree with.
Sorry for causing you frustration. I strongly suspect we have less of a difference in our ideals than you might think. Please recall that ‘Capitalism’ is built into my ideal world as well.

We both agree that both freedom and compassion are a good thing. We both desire to eliminate hunger and poverty and suffering.

You think that in a pure Capitalist system the government can intervene to achieve that.

I agree. The only real difference between your ideal and mine is that I want to draw a very clear line about the extent of that intervention.

That line is our definition of basic human needs. And this is not an arbitrary line. Hunger is a physiological phenomenon, well understood by medical science. Unhealthy living conditions likewise. Have you noticed that tubercolosis is on the rise again, as poverty deepens? There is a connection,well understood. There is only one way someone can freeze to death and it has not changed in the history of the Planet. The argument is not about caviar, whether it is a basic human need or not.

I think that if we have a social consensus about protecting our minimum humanity at any cost, making it inviolable by any excuse, making it unconditionally available for any human beings and demanding that every able bodied member of the community contribute to it, then we eliminated the never ending, constant bickering about where to draw the line. This bickering is what’s destroying our social fabric.

For a Utopia (which is a social system that works) we need a human community with a strong consensus about what is fair, what is right. Without this, the system is doomed to breakdowns, blowups, constant fighting and bickering and throat-cutting and fraud and violence. Just like our world.

We have no consensus at all: the proponents of excessive freedom (conservative capitalists) and of excessive compassion ('bleeding-heart' liberals) are at each other's throats all the time. There is no real dialogue between the two groups; they fight to sway the public their own way with alternating success.

The public is not offered a reasonable compromise that makes any sense, so it keeps voting for the side it is less disgusted with at the moment.

We used to vote for the Liberal Party (in Canada) to help the poor and curb the filthy rich. When the Liberals went on an orgy of public spending, creating welfare bums and social rip-off artists, extending their compassion to criminals, religious fanatics, even terrorists, then the public switched sides.

Then we voted for the Conservatives to force fiscal responsibility, free the productive forces from red tape, create wealth and prosperity. Soon, the welfare bums were replaced at the public trough by big corporations getting their tax-cuts and juicy government contracts while the deficit still kept going up and the poverty level, unemployment, crime and other social miseries followed suit.

So the public changed side again and again, with ever increasing frequency (We don't have this choice any more. Now all our major parties are identical and owned by big business)

This has to end. We have to have an agreement about the minimum humanity we want to maintain so we can call ourselves human. That is what I was trying to do with my ‘dream’.

[ July 01, 2002: Message edited by: Zatamon ]


From: where hope for 'hope' is contemplated | Registered: Sep 2001  |  IP: Logged
Apemantus
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posted 01 July 2002 10:34 AM      Profile for Apemantus        Edit/Delete Post
quote:
That line is our definition of basic human needs. And this is not an arbitrary line. Hunger is a physiological phenomenon, well understood by medical science. Unhealthy living conditions likewise. There is only one way someone can freeze to death and it has not changed in the history of the Planet. The argument is not about caviar, whether it is a basic human need or not.

No one need be homeless in the UK, no-one need medically starve or go hungry, healthcare is free for all. We have reached that consensus about basic human needs (and unless Canada is radically different I would hazard that you have too), and it IS catered for. And whenever people are asked what they think, they are happy about the basic levels of subsistence, but express their fear about INEQUALITY. THAT is the issue, not the basics.

It will always, once one has reached a point, be relative.


From: Brighton, UK | Registered: Nov 2001  |  IP: Logged
Zatamon
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posted 01 July 2002 10:50 AM      Profile for Zatamon     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
I have my doubts about your 'rosy' assessment of the situation in England, and definitely know better about conditions in Canada. According to a recently published report, one out of every six children in Canada goes to school hungry every morning. For doubters I suggest Mel Hurtig's book: "Pay the Rent or Feed the Kids?" Quite an eye opener.

I wonder why tuberculosis is on the rise?

I don't want to start a statistics-war, because I have a much more important point to make.

In both countries, the minimum (whatever it is) is not unconditional, very much to the contrary.

The minimum is available only if you obey your orders and jump when they want you to. The ultimate argument in any social conflict is 'losing your job' if you don't toe the line.

And once you have no income, you are a non-entity, (almost) nobody wants to know about you. You are an embarrassment. One politician in Canada seriously suggested to keep homeless people in jail 'for their own good'.

Until we have minimum basic human needs unconditionally available to everyone, and all is required to contribute to it (by equal time, not money), we will never have a sustainable human civilization.

Which is one of the options, of course

[ July 01, 2002: Message edited by: Zatamon ]


From: where hope for 'hope' is contemplated | Registered: Sep 2001  |  IP: Logged
Apemantus
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posted 01 July 2002 11:19 AM      Profile for Apemantus        Edit/Delete Post
Well, I am sorry if you think that providing everyone with the basics is 'rosy' by your appraisal, I think it is pretty poor when one considers the wealth (inherited and exploited as well as earned) of others. You may think the basics is rosy, I do not, so please don't put that subjective interpretation onto me when I didn't make it. I simply stated that the basics as YOU defined them above are provided for - we do have social housing, we do have income support (for life, if needed) and we do have healthcare free at the point of use. Now, there may be many reasons why poor people have worse health, diet and housing and they may all be to do with HOW the system is enacted, though (and this is often a bone of contention for the right) none of these are conditional on being employed, but they are not because society has not agreed a basic minimum Again, the problem is enactment, NOT a lack of an agreed minimum standard.

quote:
The ultimate argument in any social conflict is 'losing your job' if you don't toe the line.

Unless you don't have one in the first place.


From: Brighton, UK | Registered: Nov 2001  |  IP: Logged
Apemantus
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posted 01 July 2002 11:24 AM      Profile for Apemantus        Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Until we have minimum basic human needs unconditionally available to everyone, and all is required to contribute to it (by equal time, not money), we will never have a sustainable human civilization.


Time or money makes no difference, neither IS the need, both are means of achieving the need, so whether you tax people and redistribute or whether you force them to work x no. of hours a week is irrelevant, its effect is the same. In effect, if you are taxed at 25%, that means 1 out of every 4 hours you ARE working/spending time on others' needs.

Define sustainable as well, please.


From: Brighton, UK | Registered: Nov 2001  |  IP: Logged
Zatamon
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posted 01 July 2002 11:25 AM      Profile for Zatamon     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
You misunderstood. I did not say 'basic' was rosy.

I said that your assessment of the situation in England was 'rosy'. I hope you see the difference.


From: where hope for 'hope' is contemplated | Registered: Sep 2001  |  IP: Logged
Zatamon
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posted 01 July 2002 11:29 AM      Profile for Zatamon     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Apemantus: whether you tax people and redistribute or whether you force them to work x no. of hours a week is irrelevant
Like bloody hell it is!

If I steal the money first and then contribute from it to basic survival, is definitely not the same as rolling up my sleave and making an effort.

Oh yeah, some very successful thieves work very hard at it, so I guess, they do make an effort after all!


From: where hope for 'hope' is contemplated | Registered: Sep 2001  |  IP: Logged
Apemantus
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posted 01 July 2002 11:32 AM      Profile for Apemantus        Edit/Delete Post
but again, that is an issue of how the current system is enacted, no different from someone getting someone else to do their labour.

And rosy is not my assessment of it, do I say that anywhere?


From: Brighton, UK | Registered: Nov 2001  |  IP: Logged
Zatamon
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posted 01 July 2002 11:41 AM      Profile for Zatamon     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
It must be my poor English. When I called your assessment 'rosy', I meant to say: "I am sure real conditions in England are worse than the way you describe them". I thought you were too optimistic about what real conditions were for a lot of people in the UK. I have been exchanging posts with people in UK on other Forums, I also read UN reports and such. So I am not entirely ignorant. So can we put 'rosy' to rest? Have I explained what I meant, to your satisfaction? I hope so.

[ July 01, 2002: Message edited by: Zatamon ]


From: where hope for 'hope' is contemplated | Registered: Sep 2001  |  IP: Logged
Apemantus
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posted 01 July 2002 11:55 AM      Profile for Apemantus        Edit/Delete Post
quote:
That line is our definition of basic human needs.


My response that you think is rosy was specifically to this passage and whether you disagree that the needs are being met, they HAVE been agreed upon, so are you telling me that because some people may not have the healthcare or housing they deserve that means that society does not think they deserve it? Because that is making an unfounded leap... it is like saying because Americans died on 9/11, that means they didn't want to live in a peaceful society.

Their MEANS (enactment) of achieving it may be faulty, but that there is a consensus about BASIC needs, there is no doubt. The trick is to make the system effective enough to achieve that minimum.

Further, I think there are a load of things wrong with how the system operates, not least because the politicians do not listen to the consensus, but that does not mean the system needs junking, it means the parts of it (democracy) that do not work need studying, understanding why they fail and then repairing, reforming.

But you seem to think that because the politicians do not heed the consensus, that the consensus does not exist.


From: Brighton, UK | Registered: Nov 2001  |  IP: Logged
rici
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posted 01 July 2002 12:07 PM      Profile for rici     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Apemantus:
Oh dear, someone who hasn't studied capitalism properly. One of capitalism's strong points is precisely the opposite - it reduces waste, because it allocates resources in the most efficient manner and by allowing people the freedom to express their preferences. Competition provides the incentive to reduce waste, for producers to limit waste as it reduces their profit. At the same time, they will all try, under ideal conditions, to produce at the lowest possible cost to the consumer, to undercut their competitors. Obviously, there is a role for government to prevent monopolies, which restrict competition and thus can artificially force prices above their natural level, as well as roles where the market fails (imperfect information, for example) and also in regulation, such as ensuring basic standards of food quality.

I'm afraid that the above is just one of the myths of the free market. In some markets it works. But you have to remember that it is just a theory.

A very well-developed (and mainstream) counterargument comes from the field of network economics, particularly the work of Nicholas Economides. Economides is an economics professor at Stern University who achieved a certain public notoriety by arguing in favour of the Microsoft monopoly. However, his work is worth reading.

(From The Economics of Networks, 1996)

quote:
In the presence of network externalities, it is evident that perfect competition is inefficient: The marginal social benefit of network expansion is larger than the benefit that accrues to a particular firm under perfect competition. Thus, perfect competition will provide a smaller network than is socially optimal, and for some relatively high marginal costs perfect competition will not provide the good while it is socially optimal to provide it.

I won't try to summarise the whole paper here, but it is definitely worth reading for anyone interested in economics.


From: Lima, Perú | Registered: Jun 2002  |  IP: Logged
Zatamon
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posted 01 July 2002 12:08 PM      Profile for Zatamon     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Final post (for a while).

Of course we have 'one kind' of consensus. We all know it is not nice to let people starve.

However, we do not have institutionalized, enforcable, political consensus, thus the poor 'enactment' you keep talking about.

Unfortunately, hungry children have to cope with the 'enactment', not the 'theoretical consensus'.

I am sure you know what I mean.

I think we should let the thread rest for a while. I will for sure. See if anyone else has anything new to say.

I am going out to my garden now. It is really beautiful today. The world will have to wait a bit to be 'saved' by me.


From: where hope for 'hope' is contemplated | Registered: Sep 2001  |  IP: Logged
Apemantus
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posted 01 July 2002 12:15 PM      Profile for Apemantus        Edit/Delete Post
Rici - true, I had forgotten about increasing returns to scale, but in many aspects, the market is more efficient than a monopoly would be, but yes, there are some circumstances where monopoly might be more efficent.
From: Brighton, UK | Registered: Nov 2001  |  IP: Logged
Apemantus
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posted 01 July 2002 12:19 PM      Profile for Apemantus        Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Of course we have 'one kind' of consensus. We all know it is not nice to let people starve.

However, we do not have institutionalized, enforcable, political consensus, thus the poor 'enactment' you keep talking about.

Unfortunately, hungry children have to cope with the 'enactment', not the 'theoretical consensus'


So you want to impose another 'ideal/dream' onto them... maybe it is me, but I think you are contradicting your previous arguments.

(and yes, we do have institutionalized, enforcable, political consensus, but human nature being such, not everyone succumbs to it, which is no different from the people who would not work, be sent to prison or go abroad under your model)


From: Brighton, UK | Registered: Nov 2001  |  IP: Logged
rici
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posted 01 July 2002 12:31 PM      Profile for rici     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
A surprising number of markets, actually.

Network externalities apply both in markets which are obviously networks (railroads, telephone systems, computer networks, etc.) but also in markets where there is complementarity between goods. Roughly speaking, that would include markets where the consumption of goods requires an infrastructure, but it goes a little beyond that. Economides supported Microsoft because he sees the existence of proprietary protocols like Microsoft Word as infrastructural (this is a very loose interpretation of his argument) and therefore a situation in which the monopoly provides an equilibrium with more social value.

Economides, of course, is a relatively conservative economics professor. But I think his work is required reading for socialists because it is a credible explanation for why the free market does not actually provide socially optimal results. For example, one could argue that public ownership of infrastructural is necessary (not just acceptable) precisely in those markets where network externalities apply, because one really does not want to give those markets over to monopolists but free competition does not provide an optimal solution either. (Think Railtrack here.) For a socialist working in the real world, it's nice to be able to quote conservative economists once in a while :-)

But that's just one example in which the simplistic free-market theory of the optimality of unrestrained trade has been disproven. There are undoubtedly more.

So don't go around accusing people of not having studied capitalism sufficiently when they say that competition is not optimal, OK?


From: Lima, Perú | Registered: Jun 2002  |  IP: Logged
Zatamon
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posted 01 July 2002 12:51 PM      Profile for Zatamon     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Sorry, deleted accidental double post.

[ July 01, 2002: Message edited by: Zatamon ]


From: where hope for 'hope' is contemplated | Registered: Sep 2001  |  IP: Logged
Zatamon
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posted 01 July 2002 12:52 PM      Profile for Zatamon     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Not really here, just walked through my office and 'peeked'
quote:
Apemantus: maybe it is me...
Yes, it is...

From: where hope for 'hope' is contemplated | Registered: Sep 2001  |  IP: Logged
Apemantus
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posted 01 July 2002 01:14 PM      Profile for Apemantus        Edit/Delete Post
quote:
So don't go around accusing people of not having studied capitalism sufficiently when they say that competition is not optimal, OK?

No, not OK, actually, I was making the valid point that the following comment (in quotes below) showed a limited understanding of capitalism and implied that their grasp of the theory IS limited and therefore I would say they have NOT studied capitalism sufficiently. I am aware of some of its downfalls, but Zatamon seems to dismiss the entire system out of hand on the basis of a simplistic interpretation of it.

quote:
Pure Capitalism is stupid and inefficient. Competition is horribly wasteful and makes no sense at all, except for creatures who don't know how to co-operate

And in terms of basic human needs - food, health, housing - there are very good reasons for government involvement in their production, but there are also very good reasons for the market being left to operate. Food should be regulated for quality, but does not need to be provided by the government who will generally do a worse job than the private market.

OK?


From: Brighton, UK | Registered: Nov 2001  |  IP: Logged
rici
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posted 01 July 2002 01:33 PM      Profile for rici     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Sort of OK.

I'm ok with private production of food, but as argued elsewhere, I do not think that private land ownership is a good idea. I haven't worked out whether agricultural land really counts as a network economy, but it does seem that agriculture does not "work" in a free market environment. At least, there are good reasons to doubt that it will.

Leaving aside sophisticated economics theories, it's useful to try to deconstruct a bit. Zatamon says "competition is horribly inefficient" compared with cooperation. The received wisdom of market economics says that "ceterus paribus, competition generates more social good than monopolies." These statements are not opposed to each other.

Cooperation simply doesn't figure in the economics textbooks, except in the form of oligopolies. Zatamon, in contrast, maybe doesn't distinguish between capitalists-as-competitors and capitalists-as-monopolists, and it has got to be said that when you see the sharks smiling at Davos, it is pretty hard to distinguish.

I guess you just hit a raw point with me. I hate it when people trot out the fairy tale of free market competition leading to the best of all possible worlds. It seems to be to give away far too much to the Davoids.


From: Lima, Perú | Registered: Jun 2002  |  IP: Logged
Zatamon
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posted 01 July 2002 01:50 PM      Profile for Zatamon     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
I can't help it...
quote:
Apemantus: Zatamon seems to dismiss the entire system
I 'dismiss' it so much that I want to make it an integral part of my system ('private sector'). Kept to its place and limits, of course.

From: where hope for 'hope' is contemplated | Registered: Sep 2001  |  IP: Logged
Apemantus
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posted 01 July 2002 01:51 PM      Profile for Apemantus        Edit/Delete Post
quote:
hate it when people trot out the fairy tale of free market competition leading to the best of all possible worlds.

Indeed, as do I, and I hope the point I was making is that neither is the opposite the ideal people imagine it to be - there are very definite problems with the state being all powerful as much as with private markets, and the trick, I believe, is to combine the best of both - I think, for example, that Labour have gone too far with the PPP (public private partnerships) because the private sector is not taking on its share of the risk (ie effectively government is giving them money irrelevant of how well they perform) and the incentives are weird and contradictory etc., but I am also of the opinion that large bureaucracies tend to have problems as well and are not the solution - somewhere between the two is a workable system, but it needs a bit of political courage to make it work properly...


From: Brighton, UK | Registered: Nov 2001  |  IP: Logged
audra trower williams
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posted 01 July 2002 01:59 PM      Profile for audra trower williams   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
I dream of shorter threads.
From: And I'm a look you in the eye for every bar of the chorus | Registered: Apr 2001  |  IP: Logged

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