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Author Topic: Distribution and Redistribution
Apemantus
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posted 04 July 2002 05:35 AM      Profile for Apemantus        Edit/Delete Post
One of the problems, whatever system one chooses to run a country/society, is the starting point. My criticism of much of what was wrong with both Communism and Capitalism was that they started from an unfair distribution of power. In communism, too much power was concentrated on the central controllers, but in capitalism, as the system evolved, no attempt was made to rectify a previous massive imbalance of wealth (in land, money or power over people), much if not all of which had been obtained through exploitative and foul means.

Now, as Zatamon's other thread has indicated a new consensus is required, one which should involve, if I read him correctly (for once), a wholesale redistribution of resources and power. My entire argument has been (whether this has been understood or not) that if we are to go through the wholesale redistribution of resources etc. (with which I agree), then the actual system need not be changed, because once we start from an equal playing field, and with the inbuilt welfare state (certainly such as we have in the UK) as it currently exists, that is where all the problems lie.

And again, just as Zatamon's system relies on both a consensus of opinion and the enforcement (by prison, labour or whatever) of the rules, so too capitalism requires the same.

So, my point once more is that whatever system (capitalism, communism or a hybrid or something different) is adopted is irrelevant IF the political will does not exist to enforce it.

That political will has been lacking in enforcing capitalism, because of the entrenched interests that existed before the evolution of the system, so the underlying problem is that the political will must exist first and foremost, and if we could get the political will to bring into being Zatamon's system, the leap of imagination and the reclaiming of power by the people that that implies is even more than the will required to make capitalism work (by redistribution and enforcing tax systems etc.)

Comments are welcome, on broadly two fronts (as if I would be so lucky!):

My original proposition that the problem rests with the unfair/inequitable starting point rather than the system.

My view that the difficulties of enforcing Zatamon's system are more than those required to make capitalism work.


(Though I do accept that some people will always hanker after revolution rather than tinkering, such is the yearning of human nature!)


From: Brighton, UK | Registered: Nov 2001  |  IP: Logged
nonsuch
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posted 04 July 2002 11:01 AM      Profile for nonsuch     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Where/when is the starting point? How far back in time? In one nation or all over the world?

In fact, i don't think one needs to abolish anything (well, maybe the IMF and WTO) in order to redistribute wealth and power. There are two alternatives to revolution (and changing the rules is revolutionary, whether done by force of arms or peaceful protest on a huge scale).

The total breakdown of an economic system which has outgrown its food-supply (depression) usually results in a fresh start, if an unpleasant one.

The second alternative is democracy. When democracy functions anywhere close to its definition - everybody votes; the elected representatives act upon the wishes of their constituents; the government doesn't favour special interest over the general population; the government doesn't lie to the people - there is always a trend toward equality. It's during those periods of responsible and responsive government that we get medicare, minimum wage, old age pension, subsidized housing, etc.

It isn't necessary to change the rules - only to abide by the rules we pretend to have.


From: coming and going | Registered: Sep 2001  |  IP: Logged
rici
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posted 04 July 2002 12:52 PM      Profile for rici     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
My criticism of much of what was wrong with both Communism and Capitalism was that they started from an unfair distribution of power.

Given that there was, is and will continue to be for a while a serious power imbalance, the criticism seems a little unreasonable. Had the world been equitable, it would not have been necessary to contemplate a change to the economic order, in 1776, in 1876, or today.

I may be reading between the lines, but I had the impression that when Marx said "Workers of the world unite, you have nothing to lose but your chains", he was referring to precisely this power differential. And then all that stuff about thesis, antithesis and synthesis, precisely about how power structures shift over time, no?

Similarly, Adam Smith posited free trade as an attempt to counterbalance the established power structures and create something he thought would be more equitable. He was, at least in print, a moralist, although this did not prevent him from accepting a rather lucrative sinecure as a customs inspector (at the time, this meant getting a cut of the duties) which kept him in presbyterian comfort into his old age.

So it would be fair to complain that the implementation of communism, say under Stalin, or of capitalism, say in the rainy island, did not balance the scales. That both of them changed the power structure is unquestionable. (As Bernard Shaw says, "revolution does not lift the burden of tyranny, it merely shifts it to another shoulder.")

If regarded as a failure, there are two possible explanations: either the theory was wrong or the implementation was deficient.

On the other hand, it is possible to assert that neither Soviet communism nor anglican capitalism failed, in the sense that power and resources were less badly distributed afterwards than before. (Czarist Russia was not exactly an examplar of equality, as we'll recall, although George W. might have found it an acceptable ally.)

Still, paradise did not emerge and we have to ask "why not?", and more to the point, "what do we do now?"

Part of the answer is that economic reform is simply not enough to change the world. It may be necessary, but it is not sufficient. Without real democracy, power will continue to corrupt, whether the power is hereditary, ideological, financial or arbitrary.

But then democracy is not enough either, I would argue, because people make rational decisions within the context in which they find themselves, and that includes the economic context. And I do not believe that the "free market" model is actually a rational economic model, although it may work in some market sectors. In particular, I do not believe that it works in food (agriculture), housing (land), or infrastructure.

It is not coincidental that these are some of the most important aspects of life, and moreover the aspects of life over which one might reasonably expect to have democratic control; the fact that in the "free market" model we cede such control to the market is tangential to the reasons I don't believe the free market works in these sectors, but it makes it more poignant somehow.

I feel like I should expand on my reasons, but the margins of this bulletin board are too small for the proof or, more to the point, I don't have time right now. But I'll try to get there soon...


From: Lima, Perú | Registered: Jun 2002  |  IP: Logged
Apemantus
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posted 04 July 2002 01:59 PM      Profile for Apemantus        Edit/Delete Post
I would be interested in specifically a more detailed explanation of why you think the free market does not work in food.

And as for the overall thrust of the argument, I hear what you are saying, but it is the same as Zatamon - revolution or change humanity.

Democracy in the UK is slowly becoming better - reforms are under way to the House of Lords (hereditary chamber), to how political parties are funded (state funding is growing more appealing), to regional assemblies (more effective in London than elsewhere, and have been labelled as more talkings shops, but given time...). Many of the problems with capitalism in this country are to do with the vested interests I refer to above, and though there is an awful lot to do, the Tories are so useless, Labour may get the extra 10 years it needs to get rid of some of those vested interests and replaced by more diverse and democratic power structures...perhaps.


From: Brighton, UK | Registered: Nov 2001  |  IP: Logged
nonsuch
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posted 04 July 2002 03:06 PM      Profile for nonsuch     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
As long as the majority of people don't get their asses in gear, inform themselves, and press for change, the vested interests are sure not going to roll over.
Any political system works in direct proportion to the percentage of honest participants. Every system fails in direct proportion to the percentage of participants who subvert or ignore the stated principles. When more than about 20% cheat (assume that 10% of cheaters at the top, where there is most to gain) the system fails utterly.

So, the problem is not usually in the principle, but in how many people actually believe in it, and how easy or difficult it is to cheat.


From: coming and going | Registered: Sep 2001  |  IP: Logged
Zatamon
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posted 04 July 2002 03:10 PM      Profile for Zatamon     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
some principles are easier to believe in (by more people) than some others.
From: where hope for 'hope' is contemplated | Registered: Sep 2001  |  IP: Logged
pogge
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posted 04 July 2002 03:15 PM      Profile for pogge   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
As long as the majority of people don't get their asses in gear, inform themselves, and press for change, the vested interests are sure not going to roll over.

Agreed. As much as we might love to sit back and blame it all on the greedy, we have to blame it just as much on our own complacency. We get the kind of government we deserve, and we've been asleep at the switch for too long.

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


From: Why is this a required field? | Registered: Mar 2002  |  IP: Logged
Apemantus
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posted 04 July 2002 03:16 PM      Profile for Apemantus        Edit/Delete Post
quote:
As long as the majority of people don't get their asses in gear, inform themselves, and press for change, the vested interests are sure not going to roll over.

Well, I guess that's the end of the matter then.

What about those vested interests that believe in different systems?

Or do you have a one-size-fits-all view of the vested interests?


From: Brighton, UK | Registered: Nov 2001  |  IP: Logged
Zatamon
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posted 04 July 2002 03:30 PM      Profile for Zatamon     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Slim: We get the kind of government we deserve
The exact quote I was using in the

"The trouble with violent protest and the equally vexatious issue of peaceful protests"

thread. See post on November 05, 2001 09:37 PM.

It got me into trouble.

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


From: where hope for 'hope' is contemplated | Registered: Sep 2001  |  IP: Logged
pogge
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posted 04 July 2002 03:43 PM      Profile for pogge   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
It's been my experience so far that it's not hard to get into trouble around here.

"Don't go looking for trouble, trouble will find you." - Steve Goodman


From: Why is this a required field? | Registered: Mar 2002  |  IP: Logged
Zatamon
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posted 04 July 2002 03:48 PM      Profile for Zatamon     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Also, a long time ago, on another thread, under another name, I asked the following questions:

"...
Are the banks evil? – so why do I continue dealing with them?
Is unearned wealth evil? – so why do I invest my money hoping to take out more later?
Is exploitation evil? – so why do I buy goods produced by slave labour overseas?
Is pollution evil? – so why do I buy junk I could easily live without? They all contribute.
Is propaganda evil? – so why do I watch TV and read mainstream media?
Is the system evil? – so why do I vote, thereby sanctioning it?
Is war evil? – so why do I work in a weapons factory (if I did)
Is poverty evil? – so why don’t I share more with the less fortunate?
Is cruelty to animals evil? - so why do I eat veal or buy 'chicken factory' eggs?

I could go on but I am sure you know what I mean. There are alternatives to all of the above and it is my individual choice how I behave. I could change my current attitude at any time. No systems-change needed beforehand. And if enough people made these individual changes, the system change would be automatic.

The point I am trying to make is that it is general human weakness (mine included, before I am accused of acting superior again) to tackle the easier tasks first: try to change the system. I am not putting down activism, but without living what we preach, we come across as hypocritical. It is so much easier to try to change others, compared to trying to change ourselves. And without the second, we will never accomplish the first...."

However, most of us need to be inspired enough by some overwhelmingly convincing 'vision', before we can make the major personal changes required.

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


From: where hope for 'hope' is contemplated | Registered: Sep 2001  |  IP: Logged
nonsuch
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posted 04 July 2002 03:50 PM      Profile for nonsuch     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
What about those vested interests that believe in different systems?

It doesn't make any difference to the outcome. Whatever the ideology, the model, the explanation, people live in pretty much the same way and establish pretty much the same relationships; elites behave in pretty much the same way, no matter what they're called. An honest king does a better job than a dishonest president; an honest commissar does a better job than a dishonest pope. No kind of leader can do anything - good or bad - without supporters.

If enough people get disgruntled enough with how the elite run it, the system comes down. By revolution, by non-cooperation, by subversion - or by its own incompetence.


From: coming and going | Registered: Sep 2001  |  IP: Logged
Zatamon
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posted 04 July 2002 04:46 PM      Profile for Zatamon     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
It is true, getting 'disgruntled enough with the elite' is the immediate reason people decide to change the system. It normally takes enormous abuse by the power that be, before people are disgruntled enough. When that happens, they need leaders, intellectuals, artists, philosophers to channel the blind and destructive anger into some vision that people can believe in. Preferably the vision will be other than 'racial superiority'.

This way the 'revolution' can be changed from a 'revolution against' to a 'revolution for'.

I don't think we are very far from that happening. The pretense at 'all is well, just needs a little tweaking' can not be sustained much longer.

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


From: where hope for 'hope' is contemplated | Registered: Sep 2001  |  IP: Logged
Jacob Two-Two
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posted 04 July 2002 06:06 PM      Profile for Jacob Two-Two     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
I would take definite issue, Apemantus, with your assertion that if we started from a place of equality that capitalism would work (or communism for that matter).

In fact, one of the best arguements against the direct redistribution of wealth is that, once rebistributed, everything will quickly go back to the way it was.

The nature of capitalism ensures that small differences of wealth snowball into large ones. Without constant and direct intervention in the natural workings of capital, wealth will always concentrate into fewer and fewer hands.

Like you, I believe that capitalism can be an asset to society, but unlike you, I see the only way of doing this to be treating capitalism like a dangerous animal that has to be kept on a very short leash. It's tendency is to create inequality -this is intrinsic to the way it works. The more of a free hand it has, the more inequality will result.

[ July 04, 2002: Message edited by: Jacob Two-Two ]


From: There is but one Gord and Moolah is his profit | Registered: Jan 2002  |  IP: Logged
Zatamon
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posted 04 July 2002 06:15 PM      Profile for Zatamon     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Jacob: I believe that capitalism can be an asset to society, but unlike you, I see the only way of doing this to be treating capitalism like a dangerous animal that has to be kept on a very short leash.
Thanks, Jacob, for expressing my sentiments so well. That is exactly what my proposed system was trying to accomplish.

From: where hope for 'hope' is contemplated | Registered: Sep 2001  |  IP: Logged
DrConway
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posted 04 July 2002 07:09 PM      Profile for DrConway     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Capitalism is a good servant, but a bad master.
From: You shall not side with the great against the powerless. | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
Apemantus
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posted 04 July 2002 08:45 PM      Profile for Apemantus        Edit/Delete Post
Elites exist. Revolutions just replace one elite with another. Anything that involves power structures (and Zatamon's system has as many of those as any current system) will have powerful elites (big or small).

As for the capitalism concentrating wealth, I have repeated time and again and again and again, in almost every post, every time I post, on any thread in this forum, on most posts, that capitalism from its earliest proponents has said there need to be checks and balances - what I criticized Zatamon for was that he dismissed it out of hand every time it was mentioned...I have explained where it can be beneficial, and the poster above who also accepts that, is someone whose comment Zatamon agrees with - so he accepts that capitalism might be useful in some circumstances with conditions which is similar to the first post I make in detail about my views on Capitalism which have since been misrepresented (in an attempt to make me seem more enthusiastic a supporter of Capitalism than I am and than I made clear in my posts):

quote:
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.

You know I reread the first thread to find a quote and instead all I noticed is how you persistently evaded my criticisms, mentioned how many people you persuade with your visions, how you used to worship Ayn Rand (never liked or agreed with her myself, but each their own), how you worked in some aspect of the communist system (implication behind all these are 'I am an expert, others love what I do, I am an expert etc.'), but you never actually respond to my criticisms. Doc does a better job than you of that.

My conclusion ended up that you invited me onto the original thread in the belief that I would read it and go 'yes, your dreams are great, I am a follower too!' or something along those lines...

And then when I didn't, that peed you off somewhat and you became annoyed that the pupil was biting the master (or similar analogy) and became cantankerous and aloof...

Another post of mine:

quote:
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!


Anyway, I was enjoying the feeling of my blood and brains running down that brick wall...

(Edited for grammar)

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


From: Brighton, UK | Registered: Nov 2001  |  IP: Logged
Zatamon
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Babbler # 1394

posted 04 July 2002 08:59 PM      Profile for Zatamon     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Apemantus, despite everything said, I still think (as I stated before) that we have a lot more in common than you would like to think. Something in my 'message' irritates you and you don't seem to 'hear' what is so important, and seems so obvious, to me. You also misrepresent my position (probably I am doing it too) and, I suspect, we both are arguing with our 'image' of the other, instead of the real person. Luckily, we both seem to have got tired of it at the same time. No hard feelings, I hope.

PS. As far as not responding to your criticisms, when true, there was a very good reason for it. These threads were very important to me, because I had a very specific goal I wanted to accomplish and a very specific message to communicate. Whenever I thought that there was a danger of getting bogged down in (what I considered) irrelevant details, something that would derail the thread and dilute the message, I admit, I purposefully ignored it. I am sorry if this made you feel frustrated.

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


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

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