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Author Topic: New Social Contract Redux
DrConway
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posted 01 July 2002 02:04 PM      Profile for DrConway     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
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.

It should be noted that the key factor is perfect competition. The health care sector is one of the clearest examples of market failures, since there are huge information asymmetries, oligopolistic tendencies among doctors, and the high capital cost of equipment with a poor rate of return on that equipment - yes, there's a guaranteed demand for health services, but it fluctuates in ways that are not controllable on the supply side, unlike cars and advertising.

For Rici Lake:

I don't know if you have seen my posts on the subject of agriculture, but I would say that it is the clearest example of a market with peculiar features: it is characterized (well, much less so now, but anyway) by being the closest thing there is to a perfectly competitive market, but it is also a sector that is subject, most vigorously, to inelastic demand. So the agriculture sector is a very hard one to make any kind of a profit in unless you can exert monopoly pricing power - which is why agribusiness is becoming so prevalent now.


From: You shall not side with the great against the powerless. | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
Zatamon
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posted 01 July 2002 02:06 PM      Profile for Zatamon     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Still here (damn you )
quote:
Apemantus: I believe, is to combine the best of both .... somewhere between the two is a workable system ...
Thank you Apemantus, finally we are in perfect agreement. That is exactly what I have been talking about all this time.

From: where hope for 'hope' is contemplated | Registered: Sep 2001  |  IP: Logged
Apemantus
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posted 01 July 2002 02:13 PM      Profile for Apemantus        Edit/Delete Post
At least we are narrowing this down I suppose.

quote:
'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

But the point I was making that I feel you have missed is that the private sector may be more efficient and more equitable than the public sector for some of the basic needs. And my criticism is that you will only let it operate where it doesn't matter (implication being it can do what it likes in that sphere) and ignore the potential benefits it could bring to the basic needs sphere. I.e. where it works, use it rather than being bound by ideology. Where it might get closer to realizing people's utility than a monopolistic means of production.


From: Brighton, UK | Registered: Nov 2001  |  IP: Logged
DrConway
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posted 01 July 2002 02:18 PM      Profile for DrConway     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Oh yeah. I almost forgot something else Apemantus neglected to mention in the quote I quoted:

All externalities must be internalized and the cost of production must reflect the true cost, including that of environmental clean-up, pollution, etc.

Otherwise you will get market imperfections and inefficiencies, since externalizing the cost of production is functionally equivalent to getting a government subsidy. In both cases, the supply curve is shifted farther out to the right than it would otherwise be.


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 02:19 PM      Profile for Apemantus        Edit/Delete Post
quote:
It should be noted that the key factor is perfect competition. The health care sector is one of the clearest examples of market failures, since there are huge information asymmetries, oligopolistic tendencies among doctors, and the high capital cost of equipment with a poor rate of return on that equipment - yes, there's a guaranteed demand for health services, but it fluctuates in ways that are not controllable on the supply side, unlike cars and advertising.



Yes, and there are very good examples of how the system gets run for the bureaucrats and the doctors and the patients take a back seat... not all public sector workers are knights or knaves... if there is no incentive for hospitals to perform (do more operations, do better operations etc.), then they can become unresponsive (to rising health demands) and can be structured around their workers rather than the people they are serving... What a monopolistic health service lacks is dynamic efficiency (making the best use of the resources they have).


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Apemantus
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posted 01 July 2002 02:21 PM      Profile for Apemantus        Edit/Delete Post
quote:
All externalities must be internalized and the cost of production must reflect the true cost, including that of environmental clean-up, pollution, etc.



And benefits too (vaccination has an externality.


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Apemantus
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posted 01 July 2002 02:25 PM      Profile for Apemantus        Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Thank you Apemantus, finally we are in perfect agreement. That is exactly what I have been talking about all this time.

Not very well, and as I explain above, I think you have consistently missed the point...


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redshift
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posted 01 July 2002 02:26 PM      Profile for redshift     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
i wonder if the internalizing of health care costs due to business and economic motivated environmental damage might render discussion of privately funded , publicly administered health moot?
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Zatamon
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posted 01 July 2002 02:31 PM      Profile for Zatamon     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Apementus: the private sector may be more efficient and more equitable than the public sector for some of the basic needs.
Sure, and a shark may be faster than a turtle taking me across the bay, but I rather 'ride' a turtle, if you don't mind.

(Translation: I rather have an assured decent basic meal, than an unreliable feast that may let me starve on occasion...filling me with anxiety about tomorrow, even when I am feasting today.)

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


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rici
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posted 01 July 2002 02:32 PM      Profile for rici     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
DrConway: I don't know if you have seen my posts on the subject of agriculture

Yep, I saw and even responded with a little essay on the problems associated with private ownership of agricultural land (see the last post in this thread)

As I noted before the previous Social Contract thread overflowed, even perfect competition is not sufficient to get away with the simplistic "free market is optimal" statement.

I insist on this point because for too long we've let them get away with saying "the free market is optimal". It's not optimal even when it is working in textbook conditions. In the real world, it is even more of a fantasy, of course.


From: Lima, Perú | Registered: Jun 2002  |  IP: Logged
rici
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posted 01 July 2002 02:36 PM      Profile for rici     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Apemantus: What a monopolistic health service lacks is dynamic efficiency

With all respect, I think you are talking about Britain's monopolistic health service, which is very different from Canada's medicare system. I've lived in both countries, and believe me, it's different.


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Apemantus
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posted 01 July 2002 02:37 PM      Profile for Apemantus        Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Sure, and a shark may be faster than a turtle taking me across the bay, but I rather 'ride' a turtle, if you don't mind.

Let's put this more simply - cancer - treat it slowly, make patients wait for treatment etc. (because of the monopoly being run for the doctors not the patient) and patients die.

Ride your turtle by all means but if you force it onto others, more people die as a result of your public but slow system.

And why not cross the bay in a motorboat?


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Apemantus
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posted 01 July 2002 02:39 PM      Profile for Apemantus        Edit/Delete Post
quote:
With all respect, I think you are talking about Britain's monopolistic health service, which is very different from Canada's medicare system. I've lived in both countries, and believe me, it's different.

Indeed, I am... and your point?


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Zatamon
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posted 01 July 2002 02:43 PM      Profile for Zatamon     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Apemantus: And why not cross the bay in a motorboat?
Because the bloody motor boat causes bloody cancer with the bloody fumes! And it is noisy and stinky and contributes to our environmental disaster. I have a few more reasons if you like?
quote:
…but if you force it onto others…
I don't force it on anyone. I just go along with the 75% majority consensus of a mostly sane human community.

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


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rici
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posted 01 July 2002 02:51 PM      Profile for rici     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Indeed, I am... and your point?

... is that (at least up to when I left Canada seven years ago), the medicare system struck me as extremely dynamic and efficient. But then it is not strictly a monopoly, and it is an interesting compromise.

Elsewhere I've described medicare as decommoditising health care, rather than socialising it. Much of the health apparatus is private, although there are public hospitals. Most doctors are self-employed. So looking at it on the supply side it looks like a regular free market economy.

Looking at it from the patient's perspective, it also looks like a market, but not an economic one. I choose my doctor based on my whims and her availability. Medicare intervenes by paying the doctor on my behalf, but that is more or less transparent to me.

So doctors receive income based on "feedback" from patients (free choice of doctors, unlike the UK) and are motivated to achieve efficiencies which do not decrease their perceived value to patients. Meanwhile, patients don't have to get a second mortgage in order to have a child (ok, that was a comparison with the US, but you get my drift, I hope.)

Finally, because (also unlike the UK) there is no opt-out / private medicine / Harley Street, there is equality of medical care. So if the rich and powerful want better care, they can lobby the government and raise the bar for everyone. (Or spend their fortunes across the border. Although there is not much evidence that it's worth it.)

One interesting aspect of the system from the doctor's perspective: Canadian doctors need about one-sixth of the administrative support staff that US doctors need (I don't know about UK doctors.) There are no bad debts to chase (or even second notices), no private insurance companies to argue with, and no loan sharks to subcontract loans to. That's quite a big efficiency, too.


From: Lima, Perú | Registered: Jun 2002  |  IP: Logged
Slick Willy
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posted 01 July 2002 02:58 PM      Profile for Slick Willy     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Sure, and a shark may be faster than a turtle taking me across the bay, but I rather
'ride' a turtle, if you don't mind.

Sound like exploitation to me. Has anyone asked the shark or the turtle how they feel becoming Zatmons' beast of burden? Isn't this a severe intrusion on their rights and freedoms?


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Michelle
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posted 01 July 2002 02:59 PM      Profile for Michelle   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Well, we would pay them well and let them organize, Slick.
From: I've got a fever, and the only prescription is more cowbell. | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
Zatamon
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posted 01 July 2002 03:01 PM      Profile for Zatamon     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Thanks Michelle!
From: where hope for 'hope' is contemplated | Registered: Sep 2001  |  IP: Logged
Slick Willy
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posted 01 July 2002 03:11 PM      Profile for Slick Willy     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
A gilded cage is no less a cage.

Forgot to add with no money there is no pay. I suppose you could offer trade but then what is there that we have that a shark or turtle would want? Not to mention sharks and turtles being solitary creatures, well I suppose some sharks don't mind a crowd when there is killing and feeding to be done. So wouldn't good pay and the right to organize nothing more than bobles and trinkets?

[ July 01, 2002: Message edited by: Slick Willy ]


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Zatamon
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posted 01 July 2002 03:18 PM      Profile for Zatamon     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
What cage? Oh, you mean the 25% who would rather starve than co-operate?
From: where hope for 'hope' is contemplated | Registered: Sep 2001  |  IP: Logged
Slick Willy
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posted 01 July 2002 03:21 PM      Profile for Slick Willy     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Sharks and turtles have been doing quite well right up until yur kind came along and started trampling all over their rights. What makes you think a turtle or a shark would starve if it wasn't for you?
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Zatamon
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posted 01 July 2002 03:26 PM      Profile for Zatamon     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Oh, you were talking about our friendly sharks! I thought you were talking about our friendly capitalists, who would feel like sharks in a cage in my proposed system?

On second thought... we were talking about the same thing, wern't we?


From: where hope for 'hope' is contemplated | Registered: Sep 2001  |  IP: Logged
Slick Willy
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posted 01 July 2002 03:47 PM      Profile for Slick Willy     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Well I was but you disagree with everything I say so it doesn't really matter if we are talking about the same thing or not. Eh!
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Zatamon
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posted 01 July 2002 03:53 PM      Profile for Zatamon     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
If you were talking about ‘real’ live sharks and turtles (rather the allegorical ones I used to illustrate a point) than we may have something we agree about. I am a vegetarian and an animal rights activist. I did not know you were either of those. Are you?
From: where hope for 'hope' is contemplated | Registered: Sep 2001  |  IP: Logged
Jacob Two-Two
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posted 02 July 2002 03:56 AM      Profile for Jacob Two-Two     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Just thought I'd drive home the point that Rici was making above.

Apemantus, you are afraid that socialist structures will become huge, bureaucratic monopolies lacking in flexibility and efficiency. You're falling into the classic trap here of equating capitalism with competition. Small socialist structures can easily compete with each other, giving the system as a whole a necessary dynamic element. There are many ways that you can have competition without capitalist exploitation.


From: There is but one Gord and Moolah is his profit | Registered: Jan 2002  |  IP: Logged
Apemantus
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posted 02 July 2002 05:23 AM      Profile for Apemantus        Edit/Delete Post
Such as?

If you mean internal markets, for example, such as we had in the NHS, then yes, though I would argue that is based on capitalist principles.

However, with something like food, other than regulation for quality, I would argue that a proper capitalist structure would be the most efficient AND equitable way of financing and provision.

I think the point is that I am not advocating capitalism should be the only answer, but I am against what Zatamon seems to imply, that socialist/government structures ONLY should deal with the basic needs, which I think would be less efficient IN SOME INSTANCES, than a mixture of both.


From: Brighton, UK | Registered: Nov 2001  |  IP: Logged
Zatamon
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posted 02 July 2002 07:22 AM      Profile for Zatamon     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Apemantus: basic needs, which I think would be less efficient IN SOME INSTANCES, than a mixture of both.
A priceless cartoon I once saw about efficiency: A Santa village with a sign: "Three Santas, no waiting!" and showed three very confused and unhappy looking kids sitting in three Santas' laps.

Moral: efficiency is not the most important factor in basic needs. Reliability, unconditional availability, equal participation, universality are all more important than efficiency. I would happily give up a 10% efficiency advantage (if there is one) in exchange for what I listed above. (Please let us not quibble about the number 10 )

History shows that what I listed above is always sacrificed when in conflict with the 'bottom line' in 'Capitalist' countries. I know, you will blame the 'enactment' and not the theory.

However, I blame the concept of 'pure Capitalism' which relegates basic needs of the poor and weak to unreliable charity instead of assuring it as a minimum and automatic standard, based on our common humanity.

Ayn Rand and I argued a lot about it back in the early seventies.


From: where hope for 'hope' is contemplated | Registered: Sep 2001  |  IP: Logged
Jacob Two-Two
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posted 03 July 2002 04:19 AM      Profile for Jacob Two-Two     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
The arguement of capitalism being efficient always leaves out the question of what it is efficient at.

It's primary focus is to create profit. It is extremely efficient at acheiving that goal. Other considerations, however, like serving the public, are only a side-effect of capitalism and hence, are not always so efficient.

Sometimes they are, sometimes they're not, but the point is that this is not really what capital endeavours are meant to accomplish, and so not where they're primary efficiency lies. It stands to reason that a system that made public service its primary priority would be more consistently efficient at that goal.

I actually think that food production is an excellent example of an industry in which capitalism fails miserably to provide the public service that is the main focus of us, the public.

If an industry cannot survive without heavy government subsidy, cannot operate properly without constant government regulation, in fact has its own government agency to guide its endeavours, well, in what sense can this industry still be said to be a part of the free market at all?

This huge government scaffolding grew up around the food industry as the result of the slow realisation that it cannot do its job of providing everyone with the affordable sustinance that they need without it. The free market cannot be trusted with this essential service. And still, it clings to the notion that it should be a private industry, for no other reason than so capitalists can scoop some profit up from the tax money that supports our food production.

Dispense with the parasitic middlemen and nationalise the lot. Enough competition can be built into the system to stem the evils of monopoly (probably more than we will get with the new era of monsanto agricultural fascism that is slowly building).


From: There is but one Gord and Moolah is his profit | Registered: Jan 2002  |  IP: Logged
Zatamon
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posted 03 July 2002 08:04 AM      Profile for Zatamon     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
The essence of Humanity is co-operation: work with each other for a common goal.

The essence of Capitalism is competition: work against each other for opposing goals

That is why I called Capitalism stupid.

[ July 03, 2002: Message edited by: Zatamon ]


From: where hope for 'hope' is contemplated | Registered: Sep 2001  |  IP: Logged
pogge
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posted 03 July 2002 11:54 AM      Profile for pogge   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
The essence of Humanity is co-operation...

Now there's a bold statement. Have you added a PhD in Psychology to your credentials while I wasn't looking? Yes, that's a smartass response but you're oversimplifying to such a gross degree that it begs for a smartass response.

You speak of competition and co-operation as if they're completely different, mutually exclusive qualities. In fact both are part of our nature and each has its advantages and disadvantages for survival. Sometimes they work in opposition to each other and sometimes they work together.

Your plan is sounding more and more like an experiment in social engineering. Count me out thanks.

quote:

That is why I called Capitalism stupid.

Capitalism is an economic system and economic systems aren't stupid. People are stupid. And smart. And creative. And curmudgeonly. And exquisitely complicated. And...


From: Why is this a required field? | Registered: Mar 2002  |  IP: Logged
Zatamon
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posted 03 July 2002 12:08 PM      Profile for Zatamon     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Slim: Count me out thanks.
You are. And welcome.

From: where hope for 'hope' is contemplated | Registered: Sep 2001  |  IP: Logged
nonsuch
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posted 03 July 2002 01:58 PM      Profile for nonsuch     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Your plan is sounding more and more like an experiment in social engineering.

And what we have now is certified organic?
Capitalism was, like, God's own original idea?

[ July 03, 2002: Message edited by: nonesuch ]


From: coming and going | Registered: Sep 2001  |  IP: Logged
Zatamon
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posted 03 July 2002 02:49 PM      Profile for Zatamon     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Slim: you're oversimplifying to such a gross degree
Dear Slim, allow me to do some even more 'gross oversimplification'.

I know I have a very 'Slim' chance of you agreeing with it, but here it is anyways.

Planet Earth has about six billion humans living on it. Most of these humans want to survive and, for that, they have to satisfy the requirements of their biological/mental nature. They need food, shelter and protection against the various threats from the environment.

Human animals have formed tribes from the dawn of History, just like wolves or baboons. The occasional human might succeed on his own, with more or less success; however, living in communities is a lot easier for the individual than going it alone.

Hunting was more efficient when part of the group was herding the prey into the spears of the other part. Three humans could build three shacks a lot faster if they worked together than separately. Two can hold up a long horizontal log over posts sticking out of the ground, while the third ties the ends together. Thus, they can build not only faster, but better and bigger structures.

These are some of the advantages in living together. Alas, there are disadvantages as well.

The basic cycle we keep repeating through life is production and consumption. We need to produce food (or at least get it from where it grows) before we can consume it.

If we do this individually, production is harder; however, once produced, there is no problem with consumption. If it is food, we wolf it down; if it is shelter, we move into it. We may have to defend both against challengers, but there is no argument about what is our share. We produced it alone; we consume it alone.

If we produce our necessities in tribes, using division of labor, there is no end of arguments about what any one of us is entitled to. Even though production was easier, faster, more plentiful, consumption becomes a problem.

There is an extra step necessary between production and consumption: distribution.

Throughout human history there were all kinds of arrangements and methods we devised to distribute the goods without too much waste of blood and energy. Nobody ever devised a perfect solution.

Whatever system we chose, we always had injustice. Sometimes those who contributed most to the production (with skill, ideas, strength, etc.) were cheated and got much less than they deserved (or even needed for survival), because, sometimes those who did not contribute much, or even obstructed production, were manipulative enough or ruthless enough to grab a big share for themselves.

Then, there was the question of what to do with the weak, the old, the useless. Some tribes let them die; some threw them the odd bone to gnaw on; some cherished and revered them.

The system of production, distribution and consumption grew very complicated over the centuries; however, the basic problems remain the same: fairness and compassion. These are the two most important problems of human coexistence.

Production is mostly science, technology and organization. Although we have disagreements, there are only so many ways to grow wheat, and trial and error determines the best method to meet requirements.

Consumption normally does not cause many problems.

Distribution is the hard part. How do we divide the goods? We need some basic principles that we agree about before we can work out a method. What are the options?

If we decide not to consider anarchy (fist fights or worse) and dictatorships (one small elite physically enslaving the masses), there are only two basic choices: either we establish some method to measure individual contribution and share the communally- produced goods accordingly, or we all share equally. The two main methods of distribution recommended by our various thinkers -- Capitalism and Communism -- follow these basic choices.

I must emphasize here that I am talking about the theoretical concept of Capitalism and Communism as defined by thinkers and philosophers - not the actual social organizations in human history that were labeled as one or the other. Let's forget about the ironies of history and follow basic concepts and logic for a while.

Capitalism and Communism as socio-economic systems are based on two radically different concepts.

Capitalism is most closely associated with the Darwinian principle: survival of the fittest.
Communism is based on the Christian view that we are one human family where love and caring dominates.

It is ironic that in reality, Communist societies are usually aggressively anti-religious while Capitalist ones pay lip service to God in some form.

Capitalism represents the view that we are all separate biological entities who owe each other nothing. We may, from time to time, decide to form associations based on voluntary co-operation, for mutual profit.

Ayn Rand, the brilliant advocate of this system, made the underlying philosophical principle very clear: no human being has the right to INITIATE the use of force against another human being. Only voluntary co-operation is allowed, based on mutual consent.

This system rewards (in principle) the competent, the most fit for survival. The less fortunate depend on the charity of the strong ("trickle-down economy"). Her stand on compassion is: 'You do not have the right to force me to pay for your pity on another human being'. It feels compellingly right on one hand.

Communism, on the other hand, holds the view that we are all a family. Like any good family, we have to share. Share the work, share the rewards, share the hardships. It is based on mutual caring and compassion. Being one big happy family, we do not have to fight each other for survival: we can co-operate. We can plan ahead and not waste our resources by duplication and competition. The less fortunate do not have to be afraid; they will be looked after by the strong and capable.

This also feels compellingly right.

In one of my favorite movies, 'Fiddler on the Roof', Tevye agrees with two opposing views. He tells one, then the other: "Yes, you are right." When a third points out that he contradicted himself: they cannot be both right, he answers: "You are also right!". I love this because it illustrates where logic and real life part company.

It seems we want to have our cake and eat it too. We want to be kind and compassionate to the weak and unfortunate. On the other hand, we do not want anybody to force us help them, either. We do not want to waste resources on cut-throat competition, but we want to succeed, even if it ruins our rival.

Capitalism - in theory - is based on the idea of individual sovereignty. The individual is of paramount importance. This system assumes that individuals have different values and different priorities and each is permitted to pursue his values and priorities by whatever means, as long as they do not use physical force or break a valid contract. Those with exceptional intelligence, superior abilities, strong drives and motivation are allowed to enjoy the rewards of their toil and luck. Those with a lesser degree of the above attributes will have to be satisfied with a much smaller 'share'.

Even in theory, Capitalism is not a Utopia. The individualistic nature of this social organization necessarily involves inefficiency and waste. Since society and its organization are not of paramount importance, it is a system where individuals - the strong and lucky ones - thrive, and where society as a whole merely limps along.

It is not based on the principle of "Let us organize in the most efficient way possible to satisfy our common basic needs (food, shelter, clothing, education, health, protection, etc.)". If it were, we would not have fifteen big companies manufacturing the same product, fighting against each other, cheering when the 'competition' meets some disaster - even though we all lose in the long run..

Of course, theory and practice seldom match in real life. While in theory Capitalism can be a 'just' social system (as Ayn Rand passionately argues), in practice it never approaches the lofty ideals described above.

The most aggressive and ruthless in our ranks seldom lets principle interfere with desire. The only difference between capitalist societies and cavemen is in method: in Capitalism, physical violence is mostly replaced by legal compulsion, which is, ultimately, based on the threat of physical violence.

As Will and Ariel Durant put it in their magnificent book "The Lessons of History": "Animals eat one another without qualm; civilized men consume each other by due process of law".

It does not become the ideal system based on individual achievement and cooperation based on mutual consent, but becomes a standoff between two interest groups: the entrenched elite, holding most of the wealth (hoarded together by whatever means proved expedient over the centuries), and the majority whose lots range from moderate comfort to utter poverty and deprivation.

The decision making process that is supposedly democratic becomes a farce of 'no choice' selection from virtually identical political parties that never question basic assumptions, and never threaten the elite. The masses are brainwashed, manipulated, duped by massive propaganda campaigns via media owned by the elite. Elections are financed by those who have the money.

This is the theory and practice of Capitalism.

Theoretical Communism, on the other hand, is based on the welfare of society. All individuals are assumed to have the same fundamental needs and our paramount task is organizing human production activities to satisfy these values in the most efficient way. This eliminates waste of resources and maximizes production.

Everybody contributes to production, according to their individual abilities and distribution is based on equal sharing, taking variations of individual needs into account: the handicapped, the sick, the old are looked after; nobody is allowed to want for basic necessities. Society becomes a pact of mutual assistance and a well-functioning, efficient and compassionate production-distribution machine.

Of course, in practice, the most aggressive and ruthless take over and use whatever means it finds to corrupt and bastardize the lofty principles and - in the end - it becomes the same standoff between entrenched classes of privilege and poverty, just as in Capitalism.

The theoretically predicted efficiency becomes a nightmare of bureaucratic mismanagement, corruption and waste, to a much larger degree than in practical Capitalism, where competition between rival companies forces some degree of intelligent planning within each company.

It seems like, there is no ideal solution. History has proved that attempts to base social organization on principles fail miserably, due to the most aggressive and ruthless in our ranks.

What should we do? What can we do? We can-not speed up evolution to wean out the aggressive, selfish genes from our species; we have to accept what we have. We will always have this conflict between freedom and compassion.

Most of us believe in both. We tried to reconcile the two and ended up with some form of Socialism.

Socialism is a compromise between 'laissez faire' Capitalism and Communism. Production is basically Capitalistic (with some 'public' enterprises in essential services like roads, sewers, water, electricity, police, prison, mail, health and education). Distribution is also predominantly Capitalistic, but the State intervenes with some degree of enforced redistribution by way of taxation to pay for a sizable 'public' sector of government employees and provide basic welfare for the dispossessed.

Socialism doesn't resolve the conflict between freedom and compassion. Our mixing the two principles is ad-hoc; done on a case by case basis, and we try to adjust and control the system from moment to moment; forever doomed to cleaning up and fire-fighting.

What is the 'fair' amount of taxation? Fair by what standard? How do we measure 'fairness'? How do we determine the maximum level of suffering we will allow our less fortunate citizens? Do we flip a coin? Do we pull straws? Do we sort it out with a fist-fight?

What luxury do we consider obscene? What do we call ostentatious wealth? Do we tolerate that some of our citizens live in hundred-million dollar mansions and sail royal-size yachts and wallpaper their living rooms with solid gold leaf (See Peter Newman: 'The Acquisitors' while some of our senior citizens live on the streets, sleep and feed on garbage, freeze to death on cold winter nights? Can anything justify that level of greed and indifference?

Where do we draw the line? How do we decide? Who will decide; based on what moral belief?

We never identified the principle by which the two opposing concepts could be mixed together. We do not have an agreement. We do not have a consensus. And consensus is the basis of any lasting system of co-operation among human beings.

We have opposing impulses and, depending on circumstances, we let one or the other have the upper hand. We make our decisions emotionally, and emotions can be wildly contradictory. So we swing between the two extremes: ruthless competition and charitable compassion.

[ July 03, 2002: Message edited by: Zatamon ]


From: where hope for 'hope' is contemplated | Registered: Sep 2001  |  IP: Logged
Apemantus
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posted 03 July 2002 03:32 PM      Profile for Apemantus        Edit/Delete Post
Food.

The subsidy is in fact against capitalist principles, and should be cut, but as you indicate, its a political thing - one which is (far too slowly) being phased out.

The capitalist theory is that by using price signals, humans indicate both WHAT they want/need and how much it is worth to them - i.e. because resources are scarce (though in farming getting less scarce), some way needs to be found of distributing them and determining what they are worth (nonmonetary) to individuals.

It is not about competition (that is what makes companies more efficient) other than that whether you like it or not, resources ARE scarce and we do need some way of determining their distribution. The government could order WHAT should be grown, HOW it should be distributed etc., but with food, there is lots of it, without the subsidies, it is still produced more cheaply by the market and distributed more efficiently.

The regulation is to ensure certain standards are met, because the consumer is not usually capable of full information that they need (i.e. what food may be dangerous etc.), but other than regulation, there is no need for government intervention.

For those that have little money (and therefore risk hunger), income redistribution is a more sensible solution.

Whether you and Ayn Rand disagreed or not, you have some fundamental misunderstandings of capitalism rather than its abusers, about which you know more.

But as your system rests on an excessively rosey view of humanity (and a rather simplistic one at that), I would argue the advantage of capitalism, all other things being equal, is that it caters for diverse choice (I like peas, others do not etc.), and allows us to show our different tastes and choices.


From: Brighton, UK | Registered: Nov 2001  |  IP: Logged
Apemantus
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posted 03 July 2002 03:44 PM      Profile for Apemantus        Edit/Delete Post
Ok, questions for you:

1... Do you think living standards now are higher than they used to be (define them how you wish, though explain the definition)?

2...To what do you ascribe the rise or loss?


From: Brighton, UK | Registered: Nov 2001  |  IP: Logged
pogge
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posted 03 July 2002 03:51 PM      Profile for pogge   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
nonesuch: And what we have now is certified organic?
Capitalism was, like, God's own original idea?

I haven't argued that the status quo is acceptable, only that Zatamon's alternative is not.

[ July 03, 2002: Message edited by: Slim ]


From: Why is this a required field? | Registered: Mar 2002  |  IP: Logged
Zatamon
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posted 03 July 2002 03:55 PM      Profile for Zatamon     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Apemantus, I am getting a little 'tired' of the hosanna of Capitalist theory. We all know how it is supposed to operate.

Well, damn it, it doesn't. It has been tried, paid lip service to, had a narcissistic love affair with, and still we have people hungry and cold and miserable all over the so called 'Capitalist' countries. And it is getting worse. No matter how much you want to deny it.

Blame it as much as you want on the 'enactment', the goddamn thing has been tried and tried and tried and it never worked and it never will.

Communism has also been tried and met with the same fate. That other 'goddamn thing' will not work either among human beings.

Socialist marriage between the two is an n-dimensional rope pulling contest, because there is no consensus about basic principles directing how the compromise is to be made.

The only thing that has never been tried in History to the best of my knowledge is a clearly defined compromise based on an ethical consensus. Something like what I tried to describe at the beginning of the 'other' thread.

As nonesuch said: "that might work".

So it is natural that you and other acolytes of the Capitalist mantra dismiss it out of hand.

Sorry for the sharper tone, but over-complication does the same to me as my 'perceived' over-simplification does to you.

[ July 03, 2002: Message edited by: Zatamon ]


From: where hope for 'hope' is contemplated | Registered: Sep 2001  |  IP: Logged
Apemantus
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posted 03 July 2002 04:04 PM      Profile for Apemantus        Edit/Delete Post
If you could answer my two questions above, preferably minus the rude tone.

And as you know, because you read threads thoroughly, I am no capitalism devotee and have mentioned in MANY posts MANY times when I accept the failing of capitalism but you consistently ignore those in your reply above (no matter I am sure you are as offended by how I have ignored your acceptance of the opposite).

Anyway, minus the rudeness, please answer my questions (that were not rhetorical).


From: Brighton, UK | Registered: Nov 2001  |  IP: Logged
pogge
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posted 03 July 2002 04:04 PM      Profile for pogge   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Zatamon:

I'm not sure what some of that long post had to do with what I wrote. And it didn't really end up anywhere except with a lot of questions.

But to address your opening, pun notwithstanding, yes you continue to oversimplify and to draw false dichotomies. Incidentally, to save time in the future, I've read Marx, Rand and the Durants. I would quibble with your description of Rand as "brilliant" but that's another thread.

I picked out this bit from your post:

quote:
It does not become the ideal system based on individual achievement and cooperation based on mutual consent, but becomes a standoff between two interest groups: the entrenched elite, holding most of the wealth (hoarded together by whatever means proved expedient over the centuries), and the majority whose lots range from moderate comfort to utter poverty and deprivation.

The decision making process that is supposedly democratic becomes a farce of 'no choice' selection from virtually identical political parties that never question basic assumptions, and never threaten the elite. The masses are brainwashed, manipulated, duped by massive propaganda campaigns via media owned by the elite. Elections are financed by those who have the money.


I think you confuse politics and economics. You described much of what is wrong with current society but you lay it all at the feet of Capitalism (that's your capital c) and presume that economic reform is the only cure for all of our ills. What about political reform? Why wouldn't campaign finance reform make the elected more reponsive to the electors and less so to those with large budgets for lobbyists? I could go on but the point has been made by other posters. You want to throw out the baby with the bathwater.

The fundamental flaw in your original plan wasn't economic, it was political. You proposed a tyranny of the majority where the rights of the minority are sacrificed to "The Consensus". That's just as much a dictatorship as the ones described in your post. You can discuss economics all day and all night but it doesn't change the fact that politically your proposal is a giant step backwards. You call it a contract, but it's only a contract when all involved parties enter it willingly.


From: Why is this a required field? | Registered: Mar 2002  |  IP: Logged
Apemantus
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posted 03 July 2002 04:05 PM      Profile for Apemantus        Edit/Delete Post
quote:
And it is getting worse


Could you expand on this, please.


From: Brighton, UK | Registered: Nov 2001  |  IP: Logged
rici
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posted 03 July 2002 04:17 PM      Profile for rici     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
The subsidy is in fact against capitalist principles, and should be cut, but as you indicate, its a political thing - one which is (far too slowly) being phased out.

No, it isn't. It is being steadily increased. The US just announced an extra US$190 billion over ten years; the EU continues to subsidise at US$41 billion per year. See this Oxfam report for more details.

quote:

The capitalist theory is that by using price signals, humans indicate both WHAT they want/need and how much it is worth to them...

Please revise the meaning of the word "theory" in the above

quote:

- i.e. because resources are scarce (though in farming getting less scarce), some way needs to be found of distributing them and determining what they are worth (nonmonetary) to individuals.

Actually, there is currently an overproduction of food in the world, and a massive overproduction in the first world. This does not stop third world countries from being forced to grow and export protein to be ground up into petfood for first world consumers.

An objective look at the state of the agricultural market anywhere in the world has to cast serious doubts on the morality of the current world order.


From: Lima, Perú | Registered: Jun 2002  |  IP: Logged
Zatamon
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posted 03 July 2002 04:22 PM      Profile for Zatamon     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Well, I decided to change tactics. Instead of replying to Apemantus and Slim immediately, (which I believe I already have all over the threads), I will take it easy a bit (it has been very tiring and frustrating for me) and see if any of those who did like my plan (and there were a few) could find the words and arguments (that I couldn't find) that would convince you guys that my suggestion may have some merit.

For Slim's notice: please note that I am blaming myself for not being able to sound more convincing to you two (three if we include SW) and I will try to analyze both my posts and yours to see where my attempt at communication failed.

Obviously you think that you understand my thoughts perfectly and it is a question of basic disagreement rather than of communication.

Well, we just have to agree to disagree about that.

If no one else will find the 'right words' to communicate my idea to you, I will see if I can come up with another angle or declare it hopeless.

Talk to you both later...


From: where hope for 'hope' is contemplated | Registered: Sep 2001  |  IP: Logged
pogge
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posted 03 July 2002 04:25 PM      Profile for pogge   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
For Slim's notice: please note that I am blaming myself...

So noted.

quote:
Obviously you think that you understand my thoughts perfectly...

Hell, I don't even claim to understand all of my own thoughts perfectly.


From: Why is this a required field? | Registered: Mar 2002  |  IP: Logged
rici
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posted 03 July 2002 04:25 PM      Profile for rici     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
I know you didn't aim these questions at me, but here goes:

quote:
1... Do you think living standards now are higher than they used to be (define them how you wish, though explain the definition)?

That depends whose living standards you are talking about.

The majority of the world is experiencing a steady decline in living standards. There are reliable statistics to demonstrate that in much of the developed world, the lowest tranche of the economy is also losing ground (adjusting for cost of living). However, the rich are definitely getting richer.

quote:
2...To what do you ascribe the rise or loss?

New and better techniques for extracting wealth from the poor.

From: Lima, Perú | Registered: Jun 2002  |  IP: Logged
Apemantus
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posted 03 July 2002 04:28 PM      Profile for Apemantus        Edit/Delete Post
Absolutely, but less people are starving now than used to be (however much one may deride that being far too many).

As for subsidies, I apologise for not making clearer that I was referring to the UK who are very slowly reducing subsidy.

However, your answer does kind of illustrate exactly the point - if the political will existed (and that political will is just as, if not more so, necessary for Zatamon's idea) and the free market was allowed to properly operate in food - poor countries would get fair recompense, reducing their problems and increasing their income, whilst some first world farmers would suffer initially, but the welfare systems etc. would help ameliorate that.

I would say that food is a good example of where the free market globally has not been allowed to operate and that has specifically contributed to the problems now faced. In the UK, which is where I was thinking of, food is more diverse (and we have not gone the GM route yet), production is efficient (and hopefully soon getting less cruel with the outlawing of factory hens).

The point is that we can dismiss the theory as unworkable in practice, but is not the whole point of this thread that political will needs to be found to reorganize society along with some massive changes in production of goods/services, and that criticizing me for advocating some theory that doesn't work in practice is perhaps a bit rich when the theory that is put forward rests on a similar assumption to mine - that the basic problem is one of political will and getting people/business/etc. to make theory a reality?


From: Brighton, UK | Registered: Nov 2001  |  IP: Logged
Apemantus
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posted 03 July 2002 04:36 PM      Profile for Apemantus        Edit/Delete Post
quote:
That depends whose living standards you are talking about. The majority of the world is experiencing a steady decline in living standards. There are reliable statistics to demonstrate that in much of the developed world, the lowest tranche of the economy is also losing ground (adjusting for cost of living). However, the rich are definitely getting richer.
New and better techniques for extracting wealth from the poor.

Nice witticism, and I take your point - presumably you would state that the countries who have experienced rising living standards may be correlated with freer markets/capitalism but also have exploited the poor (i.e. that we have robbed our wealth from the poor countries)?

Anyway, what statistics are you thinking of? I am genuinely interested because that sort of blanket statement could be made in return, so before I do so, I would like to know yours?

Another question: do you think there is a direct correlation between the amount lost by poor and the amount gained by rich, or do you think there is extra wealth being gained from somewhere?

Finally, if one looks at life expectancy/monetary wealth/health/housing and others, I think you will find generally that what I would call living standards are generally rising across most (but definitely not all) countries. But I am happy to hear your source of reliable statistics to prove that generalization wrong.


From: Brighton, UK | Registered: Nov 2001  |  IP: Logged
rici
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posted 03 July 2002 04:44 PM      Profile for rici     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Fair question.

Unfortunately, I'm about to be kicked out of the office, so I don't have enough time to give it the answer it deserves.

Here's a quickie from the UNDP annual report:

quote:

Today, one in five of the world’s people—1.2 billion—live on less than a dollar a day. Fifty-six percent of the developing world lacks the most basic sanitation, and more than 50 countries have lower real per capita incomes today than they
did a decade ago.

That would be the 50 poorest countries in the world, I would think.

The developing world stats are easier to get at, but I don't have them at hand. There have been several longitudinal studies in the United States over the last few years, and I think also in Britain, which illustrate that the vast majority of economic growth is captured by the top quintile. As I recall, the US studies showed that when you eliminated the top two quintiles, the constant dollar earnings diminished over the period 1970-1995 or so... I read these several years ago in the New York Review of Books, but I left my collection behind when I moved to Perú, sorry.

I'll try to be more specific tomorrow, though.

Do I think that it is simply robbery? No. I think that "wealth" is being created, too. But it is simple robbery. In other words, not only are they stealing the riches of the poor, but they are then investing them to make more riches.


From: Lima, Perú | Registered: Jun 2002  |  IP: Logged
DrConway
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posted 03 July 2002 05:37 PM      Profile for DrConway     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
1... Do you think living standards now are higher than they used to be (define them how you wish, though explain the definition)?

2...To what do you ascribe the rise or loss?


1. Yes and no. We have access to many consumer goods that didn't exist in the 1960s or 1970s, but much of the non-electronic infrastructure build-up from the 1940s to the 1970s has been indifferently maintained since then. I recall a news report from Seattle indicating that many roads in that city were well past their planned useful lifespan and needed urgent repaving. Some roads there have not been repaved in 60 years.

2. The rise in income inequality since 1973 has created a situation where those of us that can enjoy the full fruit of these new consumer goods that take less time to produce than ever before depend on the impoverishment of others. How likely is it, for example, that the Chinese factory worker who makes that $15 camera that looks like an iMac would even be able to afford it? ($15 Canadian is about 80 yuan renminbi)

Closer to home, we have people whose wages do not keep up with inflation, and welfare rates which are indifferently examined, if at all.


From: You shall not side with the great against the powerless. | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
Apemantus
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posted 03 July 2002 05:42 PM      Profile for Apemantus        Edit/Delete Post
quote:
... but much of the non-electronic infrastructure build-up from the 1940s to the 1970s has been indifferently maintained since then. I recall a news report from Seattle indicating that many roads in that city were well past their planned useful lifespan and needed urgent repaving. Some roads there have not been repaved in 60 years.

And unless I am mistaken much of that has been under the control of the local or central governments?


From: Brighton, UK | Registered: Nov 2001  |  IP: Logged
DrConway
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posted 03 July 2002 05:43 PM      Profile for DrConway     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Yes, but the fact that local governments can no longer maintain infrastructure as efficiently or as effectively as they used to has been because higher-level governments have been downloading responsibilities without downloading the money.

Yet another symptom of the fiscal squeeze that has been taking hold on governments since the 1970s.


From: You shall not side with the great against the powerless. | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
nonsuch
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posted 03 July 2002 06:31 PM      Profile for nonsuch     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
but less people are starving now than used to be

Where? How many? Which ones?
There are more people than there used to be (even five minutes ago), and an awful lot of them are just barely living.
We flood their farms for hydro projects (they have never needed electricity; the new factory does), throw them off their land, destroy their traditional crops, kill their goats...
But, hey, they can work at the new factory (well, a few of them) and we air-drop crates of powdered cow's milk (if they're allergic to it, that's their problem) and transistor radios, so their standard of living must have improved, right? Who needs a village, when they can have Bay Watch reruns?


From: coming and going | Registered: Sep 2001  |  IP: Logged
rici
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posted 03 July 2002 07:26 PM      Profile for rici     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Here are some World Bank statistics on the development of world poverty over the last 10 years.

Summary:

People living on less than US$1 per day:

1990 1,276,000,000

1999 1,151,000,000

People living on less than US$2 per day:

1990 2,718,000,000

1999 2,777,000,000

While the first set of figures does show a decrease, almost all of it is due to a single country: China.

After you verify the direction of the trend, please spend a little time thinking about the fact that there are almost 2.8 billion people living on a total income of less than US$2 per day.

[ July 03, 2002: Message edited by: Rici Lake ]


From: Lima, Perú | Registered: Jun 2002  |  IP: Logged
Zatamon
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posted 03 July 2002 07:36 PM      Profile for Zatamon     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
for a realistic snapshot of the status of our Planet, just in case you missed it, you may want to look at the "Western 'Superiority'" thread in "Politcs", a few weeks back.

Click here!

In this thread I expand a little on the statistical figures Rici Lake just quoted and present a few more facts too 'unpleasant to contemplate.

[ July 03, 2002: Message edited by: Zatamon ]


From: where hope for 'hope' is contemplated | Registered: Sep 2001  |  IP: Logged
Jake
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posted 03 July 2002 11:02 PM      Profile for Jake     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
I am reading The Growth Illusion “How economic growth has enriched the few, impoverished the many and endangered the planet” first published in ‘92, revised and updated in’99, by Richard Douthwaite.
If you have not already read it, I suggest that you check it out at your local library.

A quote from the introduction -

”But now much of the old confidence about the results of the growth process has evaporated and well-informed politicians no longer speak glowingly of its benefits. Looking for a good quotation to use at the start of Chapter One in this edition, I carried out a computerized search of every speech made by Tony Blair since he became British Prime Minister and found that he has never once suggested that growth is linked with improvements in the lives of ordinary people. Today, the only benefits he, and many of us, expect from economic growth are increased business profits and - if the rate of growth is fast enough - extra jobs. Moreover, we know that these benefits don't come free . . . “

Jake


From: the recycling bin | Registered: Apr 2001  |  IP: Logged
Zatamon
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posted 03 July 2002 11:19 PM      Profile for Zatamon     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz talks about the corporate looting spree and Bush's woeful mismanagement of the economy.

Click to read

In face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, can we maintain our child-like faith in ideolgy that failed every test history threw at it?

Isn't it time to look for a fundamentally new way that has not been tried and failed over and over again?

Are we so terrified to examine the foundations that all we ever dare to do is fiddle with the details?

If the foundation is rotten, shouldn't we consider a new building?

We have been 'tweeking' the system for hundreds of years and we are running out of time. Decade after decade after decade, we are sinking deeper and deeper into this shit.

We can't see the signs of decay more clearly because we are exporting it to the rest of the world. We are raping the Planet to maintain this illusion that all is well. Read the
"Western 'Superiority'" thread to see what we are doing to the rest of the world.

How many times does an idea have to fail before we learn?

Will we ever learn?

It is time to realize we are on the wrong road and turn back before it is too late.

The system is FUNDAMENTALLY FLAWED -- IT CAN NOT WORK!!!

We need a new foundation based on the reality of human nature. We need a new deal. We need a clearly defined compromise!!!

[ July 04, 2002: Message edited by: Zatamon ]


From: where hope for 'hope' is contemplated | Registered: Sep 2001  |  IP: Logged
Apemantus
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posted 04 July 2002 04:53 AM      Profile for Apemantus        Edit/Delete Post
Rici:

That is very disingenuous of you because in that time the world's population has grown by several million at least!!! So there are a whole load more people living on the planet yet the absolute number of people living on such a miniscule amount has increased by far less than the global population has increased by.

As for your comment:

quote:
please spend a little time thinking about the fact that there are almost 2.8 billion people living on a total income of less than US$2 per day.

You make that comment as though poverty/low living standards is a recent invention!!! Wealth may be recent (though see my redistribution thread for more on that) and this may make those who are poor seem more abject because of the contrast, but vast numbers of people have lived in abject poverty for millenia, and as you have no idea how much time I spend thinking about anything, don't make crass comments about what I should or should not think about!!!

This is a quote from an Oxfam report:

History makes a mockery of the claim that trade cannot work for the poor. In East Asia participation in trade, built on local economic dynamism, created new opportunities for investment, employment and growth

Its a PDF document for those interested. The point Oxfam makes is not that the underlying policy of trade is wrong, but that the hypocrisy of the West and how they expect others to respond to their protectionist policies is what causes the huge problems for poor countries. And I couldn't agree more.

Zatamon:

Nice rhetoric, didn't contain any new information.


Anyone interested, read my thread on Distribution and Redistribution.


From: Brighton, UK | Registered: Nov 2001  |  IP: Logged
rici
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posted 04 July 2002 06:31 AM      Profile for rici     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
That is very disingenuous of you because in that time the world's population has grown by several million at least!!

That's fair. In 1990, the world's population was 5,239 million and in 1999 it was 6,003 million, according to the US census bureau. (As far as I know, the US does not yet take it on itself to count everyone in the world, so I suppose those numbers should be considered estimates )

Putting that together, we see that in 1990, 51% of the world was living on less than US$2 per day, and in 1999 that percentage had dropped to 46%. (You will excuse me for failing to cheer this remarkable success story.) Before the cheering starts, though, it is worth noting that the majority of the poverty elimination was in China (as noted earlier); excluding China from the statistics gives the following view:


(World excluding China)
1990: pop. 4,100 million
poor 1,919 million
%poor 46.8

1999: pop. 4,752 million
poor 2,164 million
%poor 45.5

(Numbers are from the same sources.)

The developmentgoals.org site shows an absolute percentage increase in extreme poverty in two regions: Europe and Central Asia; and sub-Saharan Africa. They are particularly skeptical about the prospects for the latter.


From: Lima, Perú | Registered: Jun 2002  |  IP: Logged
Apemantus
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posted 04 July 2002 06:46 AM      Profile for Apemantus        Edit/Delete Post
In 1999, parts of Europe were at war - so that may account for some of the increase there, and as for Africa, I completely agree that continent is a disgrace, but what does Africa need:

Aid

No tarriffs in the West so that THEY can use their massive natural resources to sell to the developed world

Better governance (by which I mean less Mugabes NOT IMF/WTO diktat regimes)

And PLEASE stop implying that I cheer at these statistics, it really is a rather dubious argumentative ploy - I have never said that everything is rosey - indeed, many posts I have indicated where I think the problem lies:

enactment (i.e. how policies are implemented) - do you agree or disagree?

people (those in power especially) - i.e. the political will - agree or disagree

certain hypocritical policies - like free trade being what the West demands of Africa whilst not practising it itself - agree or disagree?


From: Brighton, UK | Registered: Nov 2001  |  IP: Logged
rici
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posted 04 July 2002 07:03 AM      Profile for rici     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
By the way, I apologise for the implication that you (Apemantus) didn't spend a lot of time thinking about poverty in the third world. I added the comment afterwards, thinking in the wider you (everyone who read the comment). English is annoying in not distinguishing between singular and plural second person.

I added the comment because I found myself just presenting numbers to bolster an argument, and suddenly realised that I was letting the academic numbers distract me from the reality of the suffering that the numbers implied.

Apemantus quotes the Oxfam report on the unfairness of world trade, which I also think is an excellent document. It was criticised by Warren Bello, and he makes some good points. Oxfam responded to Bello's critique with the following clarification, which I think is important:

quote:

That case does rest upon a proposition that some of our critics reject: namely that international markets, like national markets, can be made to work for the poor by challenging power relationships. At a global level that means challenging the domination of current IMF-World Bank-WTO prescriptions. At a national level, it means undertaking redistributive reforms.

At no stage of the report do we argue for neo-liberal export-led growth models, let alone for free-market prescriptions in developing countries. In fact, we clearly argue that export growth under globalisation has increased inequalities. Nor do we claim that export growth is a substitute for effective poverty-reduction strategies.



(bold was not in original.)

This is not exactly a ringing endorsement of the free market.

Bello's critique, Oxfam's reply, and a lot of other useful information on the subject can be found here.

Finally, for an exhaustive analysis on the growing inequality in one free market advocate (the United States), see Pulling Apart. On page 67 of that book, you will find a state-by-state analysis of family income by quintile. The composite figure for the lowest quintile in constant 1999 US$:

1978/80: 13,646

1988/90: 13,018

1998/00: 14,618

This does show an overall increase, I admit. There was a recovery on the low end starting in the late 90s, so earlier studies did not reveal it. However, I would note that the decline started earlier than 1978 and so current figures are only now approximating figures from the 60s.


From: Lima, Perú | Registered: Jun 2002  |  IP: Logged
rici
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posted 04 July 2002 07:15 AM      Profile for rici     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Crossed posts, I didn't mean to ignore these questions:

quote:

enactment (i.e. how policies are implemented) - do you agree or disagree?

Neither. I think the policies themselves are questionable. Also, one has to distinguish between expressed policies and intended policies.

quote:

people (those in power especially) - i.e. the political will - agree or disagree

Agree. People in power lack the will to address the problem. In general, I would say, the political will is to contain the legitimate demands of the poor by doing exactly what is necessary to prevent violent overthrow of the power structure.

quote:

certain hypocritical policies - like free trade being what the West demands of Africa whilst not practising it itself - agree or disagree?

Agree, sort of. It is certainly hypocritical. The West does not believe in free trade although it likes to say that it does; this is exactly the point that Oxfam makes.



None of that addresses the underlying question, though. The West has gotten extremely rich by not following the policy that it espouses. Is there, therefore, any evidence that it would be a good idea for anyone to follow that policy? ... over to you ...

From: Lima, Perú | Registered: Jun 2002  |  IP: Logged
Apemantus
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posted 04 July 2002 07:39 AM      Profile for Apemantus        Edit/Delete Post
quote:
free-market prescriptions in developing countries

I believe the original point of the Zatamon post was about developed countries (i.e. Canada and UK for my purposes), where the problem is that we do not have free markets... of course there are good arguments for developing countries needing more effective protection as they develop, something I have never denied.

And as I make clear in my new thread, I am very much in favour of redistribution of income, partly to rectify the massive inequities of before the evolution of capitalism and also because there needs to be protection for the poorest/least able, something early advocates of capitalism espoused as well.

My point as always needing refining:

that in the UK (and perhaps Canada, but I do not know the system) the problem is NOT capitalism but its inefficent operation, that services like health/education/food can be more equitably run without government controlling the entire process. I believe there is always a role for government intervention when there is market failure, just as there is a role for the market when there is government failure.

For more, read LeGrand's Theory of Government Failure amongst others.

Anyway, my point, as I have always tried to make clear is that basic needs can be better (more equitably) provided by capitalism in SOME circumstances and by government in others. My criticism of Zatamon was that he was overreliant on the government even for basic needs because he was blinded by ideology (I believe) and that on a case-by-case basis, capitalism may work better for some things than government and should not be dismissed out of hand.

quote:
None of that addresses the underlying question, though. The West has gotten extremely rich by not following the policy that it espouses. Is there, therefore, any evidence that it would be a good idea for anyone to follow that policy? ... over to you ...

Well, some parts of the West have, but if they had followed that policy they espouse properly, a more equal distribution would have resulted - the fact that it didn't work is an indictment of the fact that the West did NOT follow the policy rather than the policy itself.

If wealth was more evenly distributed (which is what most of us here want), then capitalism can be more equitable (both in compassion and freedom terms), but with an unequal distribution, the policy you follow is irrelevant, because the foundation is wrong, and power is unevenly distributed. Zatamon wants to change the foundation AND the policy, I just think the foundation is the problem and until that is resolved, the rest is just theory, BUT dismissing the theory because it has never been properly tried in practise ignores the main issue, and concentrates on ideology rather than practicality.


From: Brighton, UK | Registered: Nov 2001  |  IP: Logged
Zatamon
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posted 04 July 2002 10:18 AM      Profile for Zatamon     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Apementus thinks I am 'blinded by ideology'. Probably because it is not 'his ideology'.

He still has faith that 'Capitalism' with proper prodding and poking and safeguards and redistribution would be the answer.

The answer to what?

I am not sure what his main objective is. I am sure it is honourable.

My main objective is to save the eleven million dead children who starve to death every year on our Planet.

If humanity had the will to do that, we could very easily do that, starting today. Of course we will not because, for our rulers, everything else is much more important.

They want money and power.

As much as possible. Swim in it, amass it, own and possess it, way beyond their capacity to enjoy more than a fraction of it.

What makes it possible? Who makes it possible?

We allowed them to overcomplicate our simple existence to the point where nobody understands any of it any more. The system is dying under its own weight and can survive at all with constant prodding and poking and safeguards and redistribution that Apemantus likes so much.

And our rulers like this confusion. They actively encourage it and create as much of it as their control of education and the media makes possible.

So we follow all the red herrings they threw at us, and like self important, pedantic and 'expert' civil servants, we skillfully navigate our self-created maze. Looking for the cheese that isn't there.

I have been accused in the past of 'over-simplifying'. My usual response is: "no, I do not over-simplify -- you over-complicate". Which only proves that everything is relative.

However, basic concepts our lives depend on are very simple. Birth, death, procreation, family, food, clothing, shelter, co-operation, competition, love, hate, ...you know what I mean.

It is possible to build a very complex civilization on top of our simple basic needs, but NOTHING will change our basic needs for survival.

Often in History people lost sight of the basic necessities and allowed the self-created complexity of their human constructs destroy their chances to satisfy their simple needs. Needs that determine whether we live or die, whether we are happy or miserable.

For proof, again, I submit the fact of the eleven million dead children every year. Of course we have libraries full of explanations and excuses, but none of those will bring one dead child back.

And, in the meantime, our rulers find the hundreds of billions of dollars to wage war against the victims of our policies. No redistribution is needed for that.

The redistribution has already happened and unless we change the basic rules of the game, it is going to stay.

[ July 04, 2002: Message edited by: Zatamon ]


From: where hope for 'hope' is contemplated | Registered: Sep 2001  |  IP: Logged
Apemantus
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posted 04 July 2002 10:45 AM      Profile for Apemantus        Edit/Delete Post
quote:
If humanity had the will to do that, we could very easily do that, starting today. Of course we will not because, for our rulers, everything else is much more important.

If HUMANITY... we will not... our RULERS...

exactly my point that you consistently miss...


Let's say that we want to bring in your system of running society, Zatamon - what is necessary to do that?

A change in power? A change in humanity? A re-appraisal of our objectives etc.?

Stop spewing the rhetoric and answer the substantive point, which is:

IRRELEVANT of the system (yours or mine, for the sake of argument), what is needed is a massive change in humanity, in the distribution of power... do you at least accept that?


From: Brighton, UK | Registered: Nov 2001  |  IP: Logged
Zatamon
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posted 04 July 2002 12:03 PM      Profile for Zatamon     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Apemantus: Let's say that we want to bring in your system of running society, Zatamon - what is necessary to do that? ... what is needed is a massive change in humanity, in the distribution of power... do you at least accept that?
Legitimate question Apemantus.

I am not sure what you mean by ‘change in humanity’. What change?

1./ Our basic needs? - not very likely

2./ Our basic nature wanting both freedom and compassion? - not likely either.

3./ Our distribution of wealth and power? - maybe, but it would not lead to a sustainable system. Just look at history.

4./ Our perception of reality? - maybe, if things get so bad (e.g. nuclear holocaust) that we are horrified by what we have done.

5./ Our ethical stand? - maybe after 4./ happened and we realized it was important to have one.

If I wanted to summarize the essence of my proposal, it would be something like this:

Ordinary people are not very good at complexity. We easily get lost in the woods and lurch from tree to tree, unable to find our way out, because we do not see the whole forest.

We need a compass. For milennia religion was that compass. Not a very good one and it often lead us into disasters. But nobody had a hard time understanding what Jesus tried to say. Those who followed him in the true sense, became better human beings, because they had a reliable compass to lead them through confusing times.

Religion was more or less destroyed by science in the West, so we lost our compass. Science can not take its place because it is ethically neutral.

So now, in the West, we do not have a compass.

Our rulers try to elevate consumption to its place and many of us follow this new god with blind faith. It will lead them into disaster. Dragging the rest of us along.

What is needed, is a simple idea that people can believe in. Something that could inspire enough human beings to accept it as their ethical compass and follow it through confusing times.

That is what I have been trying to accomplish here. Suggest a basic principle of compromise we can all believe in. Then find a framework, in which that basic principle could be accommodated best.

I made a suggestion of what I thought might work. If nothing else, it started this discussion and that is a good thing. I hoped it would talk about basic principles, philosophical and ethical foundations and the essence of our humanity.



From: where hope for 'hope' is contemplated | Registered: Sep 2001  |  IP: Logged
Apemantus
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Babbler # 1845

posted 04 July 2002 12:42 PM      Profile for Apemantus        Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Those who followed him in the true sense, became better human beings,

quote:
Ordinary people are not very good at complexity

quote:
So now, in the West, we do not have a compass

quote:
What is needed, is a simple idea that people can believe in

quote:
Suggest a basic principle of compromise we can all believe in

I think these may help get to the key point - apart from being potentially rather patronizing (humans can't do complex, you mention), you seem to think that what is needed is a guide, a unified way of being human, a path that we must all follow. Ignoring all the arguments about what happens next, this relies on a degree of conformity that humanity has never exhibited before (and perhaps one that would only come about by a sort of re-education that only authoritarian regimes - be they political (Communist) or religious - could achieve) and relies on such a re-education of humanity (the change I refer to) that you may as well just re-educate people (in power) as to how Capitalism works.

I know now you will never understand what I am saying, but it seems to me you are saying I want to build a temple but to build the temple I want, I have to completely change the foundations. Well, if you need to completely change the foundations, you cannot blame the temple that was built on the previous foundations for the fact that it didn't work, because the foundations were wrong in the first place...

Never mind, I am off to find a hamster wheel and a brick wall!!!


From: Brighton, UK | Registered: Nov 2001  |  IP: Logged
Zatamon
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posted 04 July 2002 12:48 PM      Profile for Zatamon     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post

From: where hope for 'hope' is contemplated | Registered: Sep 2001  |  IP: Logged

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