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October 01, 2008

Comments

Danny Boy

Amen. Maybe it's not to late to pull my money out of Wells Fargo (before they steal it) and get the hell out of this country. Screw capitalism.

Property Listing

Manifesto opens with the warmth of basil, undescored by incisive pepper and citrus essences. http://realestate.blogtells.com/2008/09/15/property-listing-how-to-search-for-your-dream-home/

CJ

"But not even Obama, whose lawn sign I still proudly display, seems to have the stomach for such a “trickle upwards” approach."

Just because the alternative is untenable doesn't make Obama a candidate in whom pride should be taken. I wouldn't expect Mr. equivocation to demonstrate leadership on this, or anything else, any time soon.

roger

" 10 Planks of the Communist Manifesto


1. Abolition of property in land and application of all rents of land to public purposes.
2. A heavy progressive or graduated income tax.
3. Abolition of all right of inheritance.
4. Confiscation of the property of all emigrants and rebels.
5. Centralization of credit in the hands of the State, by means of a national bank with State capital and an exclusive monopoly.
6. Centralization of the means of communication and transport in the hands of the State.
7. Extension of factories and instruments of production owned by the State; the bringing into cultivation of waste-lands, and the improvement of the soil generally in accordance with a common plan.
8. Equal liability of all to labour. Establishment of industrial armies, especially for agriculture.
9. Combination of agriculture with manufacturing industries; gradual abolition of the distinction between town and country, by a more equable distribution of the population over the country.
10. Free education for all children in public schools. Abolition of children's factory labour in its present form. Combination of education with industrial production, &c., &c.[4]


http://www.anu.edu.au/polsci/marx/classics/manifesto.html

i would be curious to know what you find attractive here.

roger

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

" The introduction, by editor Stéphane Courtois, asserts that "...Communist regimes...turned mass crime into a full-blown system of government". Using unofficial estimates he cites a death toll which totals 94 million, not counting the "excess deaths" (decrease of the population due to lower than the expected birth rate). The breakdown of the number of deaths given by Courtois is as follows:

20 million in the Soviet Union
65 million in the People's Republic of China
1 million in Vietnam
2 million in North Korea
2 million in Cambodia
1 million in the Communist states of Eastern Europe
150,000 in Latin America
1.7 million in Africa
1.5 million in Afghanistan
10,000 deaths "resulting from actions of the international communist movement and communist parties not in power."(p. 4)

lets assume that global communism takes only half of the lives which the authors here claim. what is it specifically and analytically which you find attractive here?

Xaque

Barbara,

I have very little room to critique much of your work. Your book “Nickel and Dimed…” still stands as a great social commentary reminiscent of Orwell’s prison experience, and I applaud your courage and conviction.

Despite my limitations as a literary critique, on a more inductive and scientific grounds I think a legitimate criticism ought to be made on your most recent article in the Nation. In short, I think most of your economic theory is bogus. If you weren’t already aware, no Marxian or social economist, who is still right, has ever received a Nobel. On the other hand free marketers like Freidman, Hayek, and others continually thanked for the great success of capitalism, liberty, and so on while also being granted Nobels, departments, and halls across academia. I’m sure I’m merely repeating the same old rebuttal you probably expected, and it seems you’ve intentionally ignored the the aforementioned tradition.

Den of thieves that it is, the Nation does make some room, as you demonstrate, for honest discourse. Why not, let’s be honest, admit that the very institution you want to rely on for a ‘little’ change is the same that got us into this mess, by your argument. In other words the government that is supposed to ‘address the crisis is to… bail out... increase… extend… and make a massive… public investment” ('little' in deed) is also the one that was so myopic as to not be able to predict the need for these protractions in the first place. Is that what you are saying? Rely on the body of power that has demonstrated in more than a thousand ways, from a thousand directions, that it can’t finitely or broadly control most of our problems? What is the private sector, chopped liver?

To be terse I’ll make one more point. You say Marx predicted the increased separation between the upper and lower classes, the fall of an economy because of said separation, and then you conclude by saying that his reasons for believing this are independent of the actual falling event. Why is it then that you include Marx’s doctrine in the first place? In a sense you say that Marx’s predictive power is not found in the fulfillment of the logic that derived the prediction. How can his prediction be independent of his reasons for predicting? This seems to be a classic violation of Newton’s third law. An effect cannot be without a cause. The loss of economic trust comes for a reason. Not to mention the reason is to say that the solution to prevent whatever that reason implies is nonexistent. The leap you make from ‘he may have been wrong about the reasons’ to let’s use his solution is in error by definition.

Thinkers like Freidman and Schwartz work their whole lives searching for reasons to make claims about natural phenomena. To make the kinds of lofty claims you buy into without any reasons for doing so is astigmatic and depressingly false on multiple counts.

Tim Worstall

"But on one point Marx and Engels proved right: Within capitalist societies, or at least the kind of wildly unregulated capitalism America has had, the rich got richer, the workers got poorer,"

So, let's see. Have the poor got poorer since 1848?

Umm, you know, I rather think that they haven't. So Marx and Engels have in fact been proved entirely wrong, have they not?

Chickensh*tEagle

Xaque: "How can his prediction be independent of his reasons for predicting? This seems to be a classic violation of Newton’s third law."

Since Newton's laws of motion apply in the world of physics, a violation would have to involve some anomaly seen in the physical world -- such as a rocket traveling in the same direction as its exhaust instead of the opposite one -- not inside somebody's head.

Or, acknowledging that you might have been speaking metaphorically, what have Marx's "predictions and reasons for predicting" to do with action and reaction?

"Thinkers like Freidman and Schwartz work their whole lives searching for reasons to make claims about natural phenomena."

But didn't find any, and decided to make claims about economic phenomena instead, for one very good reason -- it pays better.

Danny Boy

Tim- Actually, if you count inflation rates (inlcuding cost-of-living), the poor of 1848 were financial gods compared to the poor 2008.
Xaque-The flaw in your argument is that the goverment got us into this mess. It was actually Big Business, which controls the government thanks to a weak constitution that fails to address multinational corporations. So in fact, Barbara is right about the government's potential to fix the problem through socialism. And nobel prizes? Give me a break. I'm a science major, and Nobel prizes are often given away for things later shown to be in error. Prime example: Al Gore. Please spare us nobel prize arguments, as they are absolutely meaningless in scientific reality.

roger

" So in fact, Barbara is right about the government's potential to fix the problem through socialism. "

well go ahead.

enlighten us about how socialism can deliver as well or better than capitalism that which marx insisted was essential for throwing off the yoke of their masters: shelter, clothing and food.

i might suggest some reading: http://books.google.com/books?id=_vTLJpWj-0wC&dq=the+man+who+stayed+behind&pg=PP1&ots=Gtq-iiOYDL&sig=YdztvILHkP5reGNb6sGBrqMWEAQ&hl=en&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=4&ct=result

the experiment failed in spectacular fashion.

roger

" The Great Leap Forward is now widely seen – both within China and outside – as a major economic failure and great humanitarian disaster with estimates of the number of people who starved to death during this period ranging from 14 to 43 million. "

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

potlatch

"enlighten us about how socialism can deliver as well or better than capitalism that which marx insisted was essential for throwing off the yoke of their masters: shelter, clothing and food."

Let's talk figures. When state interventionist policies were dominant, global growth averaged 3.5% in the 1960s and 2.4% in the 1970s. When neoliberal policies were in ascendence, average global growth was 1.4% in the 1980s and 1.1% in the 1990s. Now we are in full-blown crisis. Neoliberalism, and financialisation, did nothing to solve the fundamental problems in the real capitalist economy.

Now we're left with a gaping wound, a hole revealing the underlying cause of this crisis of capitalism. And no apparent solution in sight except more of the same.

jack

Let's home we have another civil war before property and the right of inheritance are abolished. It's a philosophy for weaklings and derelicts. Yes, I know, these leftist loons are soiling themselves with glee over the financial market debacle, hoping beyond hope that the "wildly under-regulated" collapses, vindicating them. But it aint gonna happen. Americans might vote for the nationalization of certain chunks of the financial markets out of temporary necessity, but don't think we've turned the corner into some communist shangri-la. We haven't. Why? Because Americans simply don't like their paychecks confiscated and given to derelicts.

Teo

Maybe this will help:

www.monthlyreview.org/0906ball.htm

Happy birthday, Communist Manifesto!

Jr

Barbara - At least some of the blame for the current economic mess belongs to the borrowers. We must get back to a society where personal responsibility and prudent decision making is rewarded. Bailing out greedy homeowners is almost as bad as bailing out greedy wall streeters. Lots of homeowners have been drunk on easy credit for many years, and now that the party is over, they must sober up. Capitalism is not perfect, and neither is Communism. The right balance is located between the two. More aggressively taxing the wealthy would be a good start. For some reason, this country worships Warren Buffett, while he continues to build wealth at their expense.

dan keefe

Dear Barbara, I'm dancing in the streets...now we can get on with the on-going reformation !

Brian

If the next administration simply solves 4 things, universal health insurance, funding social security, medicare, and medicaid, sets up an apparatus to drop the mortgage interest rates 1 percent for those that would have qualified under fannie mae, add's money market insurance for the first 100,000 dollars and 250,000 for bank deposits, regulates wallstreet and the banks like its supposed to, gets us out of Iraq, starts an infrastructure rebuilding plan including restarting the Youth Consrevation Corps with expanded trades job training to give them alternatives to sitting in cubicles, and to include people who are older as well, assist and fund the startup of green industries, increased auto milage to 45 miles per gallon, funds more pilot projects in solar, wind, geothermal, and natural gas, pilots designs of new generation safe nuclear plants for later construction, distributes new led lighting technology, gives tax breaks on hybrid and alternative fuel cars and assists with building out a hub of electric and hydrogen feuling stations in cities and highways(have to start somewhere), reduces the prison population by diverting nonviolent prisoners into other types of programs, focus the war on drugs on dealers and merchangts of violence rather than our citizens driving their cars, and finds creative ways to reduce college and trade school tuitions in exchange for 2 year tours of community service or the military, we could really turn this country around, and changes the mindset of the nation into more an engineering to solve problems one rather than a legal and financial one, we could really turn the nation around. I don't think any of it directly challenges corporations, but rather nudges and focuses them into new strategies for survival as well as bringing on the talent of our people. This should allow political passage if we can redo our tax and spending structure, but still within some tolerable bounds. We have the tools, but they are strewn all over the floor and we simply need to reorganize ourselves around productive ventures again. Its not just some big government doing everything, but a government that helps organize and focus us where in many ways we and the private sector will make it work. It will take some real leadership in congress to get them coherent even with a good administration. I would suggest a strong grass roots push up to infrom the political structure that this is what we want and we mean business. This past weeks House of Reps vote down due to popular demand is a good example of what people can do. Instead of 70 percent lawyers in congress I would rather see more engineers, scientists, public administrators with experience, teachers, and other types of talent in our society at the helm.

Danny Boy

Jack-Derelicts? You mean those Billionaires who do no work for their money, which is taken from the hard labor of others?
Roger- You might want to take a sociology class before you start talking sociology. In fact, Europe consists of mostly socialist countries (usually with some form of democratic or constitutional government), most of which are more wealthy than the U.S. Those countries also have less poverty, less homelessness, less crime, higher houshold incomes, and less inequality. I would do the homework before standing up for our clearly failing economic system.

racetoinfinty

Roger - It seems you only read the title of this post, and it pushed your Ayn Rand buttons and you went to work with your anti-communist talking points. Barbara is not advocating communism. She's advocating an FDR type liberal recovery, essentially. Read the article before you "go off".

Brian

There is a school of thought that an FDR type of recovery from the great depression didn't happen. Instead what happened is world war 11. For years before we entered the war we ramped up manufacturing and shipped war material overseas big time, then we amped up our own. We pushed men into low paid military jobs and women at lower wages into the civilian workforce makeing labor far more productive. Then after thw war we in many ways rebuilt the developed world for the times and this was immensely profitable as they became our biggest customers. FDR, social security, the youth conservation corps, the fancy trades work, probably did little to really turn our economy around, but it did help give hope, new skills, and some sembalance of security to the peopple. But it was WW 11 that really got us out of the great depression.

Diane

'Socialism''is no more an evil word than ''Christianity.'' Socialism no more prescribed Joseph Stalin and his secret police and shuttered churches than Christianity prescribed the Spanish Inquisition. Christianity and socialism alike, in fact, prescribe a society dedicated to the proposition that all men, women and children are created equal, and shalt not starve.

Adolf Hitler, incidentally, was a two-fer. He named his party the National Socialists, the Nazis. Hitler also had crosses painted on his tanks and airplanes. The swastika wasn’t a pagan symbol, as so many people believe. It was a working person’s Christian cross, made of axes, of tools.

About Stalin’s shuttered churches, and those in China today: Such suppression of religion was supposedly justified by Karl Marx’s statement that that ''religion is the opium of the people.'' Marx said that back in 1844, when opium and opium derivatives were the only effective painkillers anyone could take. Marx himself had taken them. He was grateful for the temporary relief they had given him. He was simply noticing, and surely not condemning, the fact that religion could also be comforting to those in economic or social distress. It was a casual truism, not a dictum.

When Marx wrote those words, by the way, we hadn’t even freed our slaves yet. Whom do you imagine was more pleasing in the eyes of a merciful God back then: Karl Marx or the United States of America?

Stalin was happy to take Marx’s truism as a decree, and Chinese tyrants as well, since it seemingly empowered them to put preachers out of business who might speak ill of them or their goals.

The statement has also entitled many in this country to say that socialists are anti-religion, are anti-God, and therefore absolutely loathsome. - Kurt Vonnegut

Brian

I wonder if anyone ever researched the bank accounts and wealth amassed by the top tier players in Hitlers regieme, including himself. Did they steal money too, or appropriate it in a mass scale into personal fortunes, or did the state just assign them all the help, houses, and perks they reauested? Some of hitlers generals stole art and gold of course but its unclear if that became their personal fortune or they were just "temporary caretakers" of the loot. Or did the nazi government police its own and forbid the accumulation of "the states" winnings for personal gain? How did they even pay all their domestic and administrative help? Its really unclear how the nazi system distributed money. Without understanding the real nuts and bolts of simple things like money between nazi's we are more likely to not recognize it when it comes back again. A Financial Study of the Third Reich, would be an interesting read.

forrest curo

There actually are some post-Copernican economists who saw all this coming while the Chicago School orthodox was selling our legislators an economic policy that benefited one swollen sector of the economy at the expense of everything real! In the spirit of your wonderful analyses of what happened to the culture over the last half-century, there's a rogue Wall Street financial economist, Michael Hudson who can give a pretty good background on the technical aspects of why:
please see
http://www.michael-hudson.com/articles/debt/0406SavingInflationDeflation.html

The basic prediction goes back to Hyman Minsky in 1987, but Hudson makes a lot of sense of why the real economy got drowned in fluff!

Brian

Thanks, reading Hudson made me realize that before the current wallstreet crash, the orthodoxy that the free market knows best was so strong you couldn't take his paper seriously, but now you can. WE do need to rethink our basis of economical theory once again. If speculative bubbles confiscate wealth from going into tangible production they are inhibitors to growth. The finanical world made its own hyperbolic economy and while it lured so many of us into big debt, it really didn't rebuild our aging infrastructure, revamp our health care system, improve our public schools, fix our pot holes real good this time, secure stable retirements, but instead siphoned off this money into the hands that controlled the tools of the speculative bubble. The 100 million dollar pay packages that went to ceo's, etc, was simply the confiscated wealth of the rest of the country in this new scheme. I still don't know why people aren't simply outraged at the government for not regulating this as it went on and on. While I don't think America is about to fall, I think it will profoundly rethink its blind alliegence to private enterprise and the star game. Already other nations are mocking us for stumbling regardless of their own internal imbroligios. Wallstreet impaired our national security.

MaineArt

This discussion is so refreshing! Thank you.

roger

Roger- You might want to take a sociology class before you start talking sociology. In fact, Europe consists of mostly socialist countries

sociology: the science or study of the origin, development, organization, and functioning of human society; the science of the fundamental laws of social relations, institutions, etc.

socialism: (in Marxist theory) the stage following capitalism in the transition of a society to communism, characterized by the imperfect implementation of collectivist principles.

http://dictionary.reference.com/

next time im "talking sociology" ill keep your advise in mind.

roger

you went to work with your anti-communist talking points. "


talking points are a summary of a political position.


the starvation of some 20 million persons as a result of efforts to achieve communism is a matter of historical fact.


how do you know what she is advocating. we do know she is celebrating the 160th anniversary of the communist manifesto. is it your position that this point is above criticism.

roger

" 'Socialism''is no more an evil word than ''Christianity.'' Socialism no more prescribed Joseph Stalin and his secret police and shuttered churches than Christianity prescribed the Spanish Inquisition. Christianity and socialism alike, in fact, prescribe a society dedicated to the proposition that all men, women and children are created equal, and shalt not starve. "


the socialist ideology would call for living in an egalitarian society, a communal society, in which the community owns all aspects of society. the theory sounds enticing. the application of the theory leads to the moscow show trials and kolyma in the soviet union, the great leap forward and the cultural revolution in china, and labor camps in north korea.


http://www.iht.com/articles/2007/05/31/asia/refugees.php


when barbara celebrates 160 years of the communist manifesto, there is not allowance to divest herself of the atrocities committed in the name of marx in actual practice.


first hand account of marxist soviet suppression and persecution:
http://www.amazon.com/Journey-Whirlwind-Helen-Wolff-Books/dp/0156027518


" As with thousands of other victims, Ginzburg was taken to jail, subjected to repeated interrogations and, over the course of the next year or so, traveled from prison to prison where the process of interrogation and mistreatment was continued. Ginzburg's memoirs in this volume continue through this initial her imprisonment through her eventual transfer in cattle cars and a cargo ship to the frozen wasteland of Siberia. "

roger

" and it pushed your Ayn Rand buttons "

i would need to say that there is plenty of room for manouver between ayn rand and her doctrine of unregulated business and the misery of communism. the world is not that pronunced.

Buena

Excellent post, Barbara.

What if we start by getting rid of the outdated, inaccurate labels we use: liberal, conservative, socialist, democratic -- they're practically meaningless. And, they just push people's buttons and shut down any sort of thoughtfulness.

We need a whole new system based on fairness and decency.

Yeah, I know -- I can just hear the guys on Wall St. laughing at that idea.

Buena

P.S. -- I just read this piece on Slate by Jacob Weisberg, about what we should call our economic system now:

http://www.slate.com/id/2201534/

Informative and clever.

The Eternal Squire

My comments as far as the economy is concerned: I've been pounding sand for years trying to find ANY kind of work, let alone software design work. So I think now is a very good time for me to be going back for my doctorate in computer science, and that is what I am doing. Nothing else is going on with what I would laughingly call my career. I just might be allowed to drive a taxicab with my new credentials.

The Eternal Squire

Anarcissie

I like the Communist Manifesto as literature, especially its romantic and colorful panegyric to the revolutionary nature of capitalism, but I don't really think it predicted the contemporary world. The present crisis was most immediately caused by credit inflation, for example Bubbles Greenspan's insistence on keeping interest rates very low, or the recent bailouts (note plural). In capitalism, money has to go somewhere so it can do something, so when a huge frothy amount of funny money was created it's no surprise it wound up in very strange and dubious places. There is nothing in the Manifesto about such shenanigans. It gestures to us rather helplessly from another, simpler age.

Danny Boy

Roger-"sociology: the science or study of the origin, development, organization, and functioning of human society; the science of the fundamental laws of social relations, institutions, etc.

socialism: (in Marxist theory) the stage following capitalism in the transition of a society to communism, characterized by the imperfect implementation of collectivist principles.

http://dictionary.reference.com/

next time im "talking sociology" ill keep your advise in mind."

Danny Boy

The above comment by Roger displays his usual ignorance, as he failed to use a true sociological dictionary (the definitions he gave are incorrect) From the Online Dictionary of the Social Sciences:SOCIALISM
A political doctrine that upholds the principle of collectivity, rather than individualism, as the foundation for economic and social life. Socialists favour state and co-operative ownership of economic resources, equality of economic condition and democratic rule and management of economic and social institutions.

My Oxford Dictionary of Sociology largely agrees(although, it goes into a much longer analysis). Point is, Rog is a non-expert in sociology. And that is what my degree is in. Sorry, Danny 2, Roger 0.

ROGER  GORLICKI

HAVE NEVER COME ACROSS ANYTHING WRITTEN BY YOU THAT I RECALL, BUT I THOROUGHLY ENJOYED READING YOUR COLUMN IN SUNDAY'S CHICAGO SUN-TIMES. THIS WAS A REFRESHING DIFFERENCE FROM WHAT IS PUT OUT BY THE DAILY HACKS.

brian

Yes, Happy Birthday Communist Manifesto, it's bound to be a good year.

Has anybody else noticed how whenever some rash, horrible thing happens, Chucky Gibson and Brian Williams start calling it a "manifesto" for i.e. there was the Virginia Tech massacre, called "Cho’s Manifesto" and later Cho sent a "media Manifesto" to NBC and then there was the "Unibomber’s Manifesto." The intent of the language is to construct preconceptions in younger people who are unfamiliar with Marxian ideas with the hope that it will throw them off the scent by causing unconscious associations of Marx with the Manifesto of the latest violent act. Marx's ideas are smart, and unbelievably useful. Most importantly, Marx’s aimed to alleviate suffering for a majority of people on this planet rather than continue to extend suffering for the majority under a misguided concept called choice.

Marx came out of a strong religious background, where morality was the ultimate ocean concern of his ideas. I think that the main problem with capitalism is that something about it is perhaps increasingly obviously immoral, especially when it is applied to necessary services like healthcare and the food supply. When consumers (formerly known as people) get things like a nurse with 14 patients and horrible ironies like McDonalds or KFC’s right next to hospital Cardiac Catheter labs, maybe there is more pressure to pull the plug.

As my wife so smartly asked the other day, "What is the point of choice when basic needs aren't met?" So my thought when she said this was, well maybe if poor people are given rice, beans and potatoes for rations, then if they go to Hardy's or Wendy's, then maybe you could begin to say they made a bad choice. But when so many Americans are getting poorer and have been marching into the abattoirs of convenience since about 1985 or so, can we be blamed for making bad choices? Self-help books, one attempt to cover up a lack of financial and social resources while also making readers inwardly analytical (depression) instead of outwardly analytical (anger) even while fanned by pretty people with impossibly white teeth like Oprah may work for awhile, but I don't think these attempts by the Culture Industry to pacify the population will work indefinitely.

I totally digressed but, my wife's thoughts have led me, at my own pace, easily and comfortably to think that she's right, authentic choices do not exist. Choices exist in movies, Joel Osteen books and maybe in the minds of people who are wealthy and or successful in order to make themselves actually believe that they worked hard enough for the $100 dollar meal or to use the valet parking, but if you could follow that persons history, you would find it to consist of a lot of social support. Music albums don’t lie about the importance of other people helping to bring something about. If you look at a music album, there is usually thanks to about 10-30 people, for just that one album too!

forrest curo

If there is a school of economists (Minsky etc) who kept Keynes' inconvenient truths, & developed them further, & found that the economy would increasingly force people into "Ponzi financing" to remain in the financial sector at all--Then the short-sighted were bound to be concentrated at the financial (and media) controls of the system. So your stress on financial misbehavior (& the rising inequality that forms a vicious circle in the process) is like blaming a wolf for eating sheep; if he weren't a wolf he wouldn't be there!
& Michael Hudson's analysis finding that the 'FIRE' (financial/insurance/real-estate) sector was munching 99.9% of our ongoing economic activity, leaving .1 percent available for investment in the 'real' economy (production & actually desirable services)--is due a prominent place in the public discussion. There weren't/aren't just bad financial/social practices hijacking the economy; if you think of the economy as like an ailing person, she's being cared for by being bled & given massive amphetamine shots!
We need to address widespread ignorance (& venal 'expertise') as to how the system works--because we can't get support for any effective intervention until people can see what is necessary & why. Until then we're like a jury instructed to believe a polluter's expert witnesses!

Brian

less than 1 week after the 80 billion US bail out of AIG was agreed to, the company had an executive retreat at st. regis, california where they spent about half a mil for rooms, food, and the spa. Then in waxman's hearing the two top execs said simply they were victims of the markets with no culpability despite paying 280 million to a retired exect the year before and lobbying for million dollar bonuses for the other execs recently with Sullivan capturing an extra 5 mil for his efforts. This is insanity. We need show trials since our justice and regulatory systems will do nothing punative to these people. Fuld of Lehman had no apoloies for what went on there and I could hear in his voice absolutely no shame at any of it. His ex-partners started blackstone and built it up and cashed in with billion dollar paychecks a piece taxed only at the lower capital gains rate(15%), not the icome tax rate, and they floated a stock offering, got the chinese to invest and then the stock went sharply down in value making the chinese think twice about investing further here. What kind of country is this that lets these people get away with this while it will imprison a poor man for stealing a pizza on a three strikes charge for life?

Susan W.

Some of the best books on Marxism were written by Eric Fromm. He makes it very clear that the corrupted and distorted form used by the USSR was not what Marx intended---much as peaceful religions are used as a smoke screen for aggression. His books are difficult to find now but still available on Amazon and well worth reading. My personal favorite is To Have or To Be?

Danny Boy

Brian- I am as outraged as you are by this. I did hear about the congressional hearing with Fuld, and I'm not surprised by the AIG stuff too. There are no words yet invented by English speaking peoples to describe the absolute corruption, greed, evil, maliciousness, and immorality displayed by coprorate executives (and large shareholders too) and what they've done. If anyone still thinks that capitalism and the "free" market system works, those people are morons. We need European socialism, and we need it now. I am absolutely outraged, infuriated, resentful and vindictive about this. I don't think that those responsible (i.e., CEO's, shareholders, owners of corporations, corrupt politicians, and supporters of capitalism) will ever have forgiveness from me, or deserve it from anyone.

roger

" If anyone still thinks that capitalism and the "free" market system works, those people are morons. "

alright, i, the usually ignorant one, will bite. enlighten us as to what capitalism does when it “ works ”.

Danny Boy

I do apologize if my comments seem rude. I'm just expressing disgust. The truth is, I don't believe capitalism can ever "work". This is because the whole economic system is based on the assumption that a king of the hill free-for-all is good for everyone. The problem is that capitalism, a "free market" system, provides a very small hill. Most people will be left out for no reason. Capitalism also assumes you get to that hill by your own effort, and if fail, you have only yourself to blame, rather than blaming the people on the hill knocking you down. In capitalism, rewarded personal effort is a myth. Alternative economic systems, like socialism, reward personal achievements and efforts. I personally like a level playing field. It's a shame CEO's and billionaire investors don't work hard for their millions, whilst the rest of us work harder than humanly possible for our meager bread crumbs. So much for capitalism rewarding comensurate personal effort. It's not that I don't appreciate certain aspects of capitalism. In a perfect world, it might have some merits. And when I was a kid, I thought it was great. But I was naive. As an adult who has extensively studied sociology and related disciplines, I can no longer support a failed idea in good conscience.

roger

" The truth is, I don't believe capitalism can ever "work". "

exxon apparently made $41 billion in 2007. the company extracts oil and sludge out of the ground, refines it into various products and sells it on the market for a tremendous profit.

i cant imagine how you came to believe that capitalism doesn’t “work”. capitalism creates wealth and provides products. that is all that it does. capitalism is like fire. fire consumes material and then produces heat. capitalism, in most cases, consumes raw material, and produces wealth. the wealth itself is amoral. if the fire is applied to your morning eggs then you get a meal. if the fire is applied to human flesh then you would be injured. capitalism works in a similar manner. it is an engine which produces wealth without regard as to whether the little guy benefits. the weakness of your argument is that you believe that simply because wealth has not been evenly distributed, that this means that capitalism doesn’t work.

if the wealth which capitalism produces is directed in a beneficial direction, then magically no one is bitching about the engine producing wealth to pay mortgages, fuel retirement funds, pay utilities, pay for boats and rvs, pay for education, pay for groceries. when the tap is on no one bitches about the engine which creates wealth. the only time people complain about capitalism is when they themselves are not benefiting.

ford corporation, a capitalist entity, has for many years transformed raw material, with the application of human labor and created a product. this product is sold on the market and wealth is created. the wealth is then unevenly distributed among invested parties, some of whom you have already bitched about: owners, share holders, investors. many share holders are simple working class people who have a small investment through their 401k or 457. they rely on the wealth created by capitalism to fund their well earned retirements. how you came to think that all stockholders were filthy fat cats is unclear to me. it is also distributed among the workers who produced the product in the form of wages. additionally, ford retirees benefit in the form of retirement benefits and health insurance. it should be noted that the workers past and present accessed their portion of the wealth by exchanging and investing, in the vast majority of the cases, nothing more than manual labor. in exchange for this labor they would receive lifetime wages and retirement benefits and health insurance. i am not blind to abuse by companies in the workplace. there is no place for abuse of any kind. that issue would need to be corrected by strict labor law. wages, health insurance, retirement benefits are all provided for out of wealth created by capitalism. no one bitches when the wages and health insurance are flowing. it only in time as in now with too many retirees needing benefits from a poorly administered benefit plan, that there are complaints about capitalism not working.

the problem is not capitalism. the problem is greed, hubris, and exceptionally poor judgment (see enron) in the administration of the amoral wealth created by capitalism.

$700 billion in your taxes for a bailout is not the results of failed capitalism, but rather the response to fools making every effort to kill the golden goose.

if your complaint is that capitalism is not serving you, then you have an entirely different issue which european socialism simply does not answer.

Anarcissie

roger: '... the problem is not capitalism. the problem is greed, hubris, and exceptionally poor judgment (see enron) in the administration of the amoral wealth created by capitalism. ...'

Greed, hubris and poor judgement are endemic and ubiquitous. Any social arrangement must be able to deal with them. I thought, though, that capitalism was supposed to have done some of this, for instance, directing aggression via greed into accumulation instead of political power and its unpleasant tools (war, terror, torture, propaganda, etc.)

The problem, I suppose, is that the term "works" is ambiguous. Something "works" when it does what we want. Some people don't mind the effects of capitalism. The present crisis is not an example of capitalism failing to work, it is an example of capitalism working, for capitalism has a destructive phase as well as a creative phase. In the destructive phase, the weak, the inefficient, the unlucky are Darwinianly destroyed so that the next creative phase can take place. If you don't accept the destructive side, then you can't have the creative side. If you would prefer a more humane social order, then you may have to accept less stuff and excitement. But most people really, really want stuff and more stuff. And they like fairy tales that tell them they can have their cake and eat it, too. So....

Brian

Regulated capitalism in a generally moral culture can work, but government needs to address the big issues like public education, health care, crime, retirement and provide a basic financial security network you can trust. They say there are 25,000 lobbyists living in Washington and each elected official needs millions to hundreds of millions to get elected and stay elected. The truth is our brand of capitalism concentrates untold wealth in a few thousand hands in a country of 300 million people giving a few extradinary powers. At the top we have a free for all kind of socialism actually, but socialism without any representation, and it controls our government, our commerce, our values, even what we think. You can study capital flows and see an abstract artificial intelligence at work, or study the men moving the money and see a quasi tribal greed at work. And then in our system we give these same peole untold leverage and global reach. At the roots of our problem lies the behavioral genesis of really bad behavior that self reinforces itself. Frankly if wallstreet wilts away, the smaller commercial banks can pick up the banking needs of workers and we will survive and rebuild a new model. What we will lose is easy credit and living long beyond our means. And we won't have the money to pay off the twin deficits or even a lot of our personal debt. We will just group chater 11 and morph into a less gradiose financial nation.

Brian

I guess the question comes up---How can workers prepare a workable retirement plan that will sustain a downturn for the future? People cannot afford to lose 35 percent when they are retired and they don't make enough to save that extra 35 percent for the inevitable downturns. Losing 35 percent during your first 5 years of retirement will handicap you for life and you will never make that back. Bonds were no help, money markets barely pay 1.5% interest now, bank accounts 0.1%, and were at risk. so what do we do? construct ladders of CD's that pay 4 percent or so that freeze access to our money and who is to say they are even safe. IF a big AAA insurance company like AIG suddenly goes bankrupt will the annuities we bought be worthless? The managements of the most staid historical investment firms, banks, and AIG promise one week they are solvent and not to worry and go belly up en-masse the next week. If you cannot trust anyone what do you do, as you still need accounts that beat inflation. Its insulting that not only did bonds and money markets drop their yields to below inflation levels they increased their risks at the same time. The idiots that designed these credit default swaps did a lousy job for everything to go down at once, and they are supposed to be the expertise your paying good money for. Do you simply buy a growth fund and pair it with a bear fund to maintain principal and stability giving up most of your future gains in the process while inflation eats your money away year after year? Nobody seems to be good at that either over the long haul. I think its fair to say in the next up business cycle all the money that is being pumped into the system now will prove inflationary and further devalue the dollar. Not while we are in recession, but after we enter a strong global growth phase again.

Nowax

Wow. I'm fascinated by the responses to this blog entry. Some of these posters didn't seem to get past the word, "communism". They just leapt to conclusions about your blog posting that have no real connection to what you wrote.

I'm amazed at the amount of denial these rabid "Pro-Free Market Or Die" people are having about what has happened to our economy in the last 30 years. Are they part of the "upper class" and feeling threatened?

If yes, I suspect some of them are sitting on piles of inherited money, (re: fears of "loss of inheritance rights") and are holding on for dear life. (I've never understood how Americans have been comfortable with allowing the inheritance of huge wealth from one generation to the next. The inheritance tax was a necessary safeguard to ensure that we wouldn't develop an aristocracy like Europe. If a spoiled child is whining about not being able to sop up his parent's wealth, I say to him go out and earn your own. Very few obscenely wealthy people DID anything to earn their money, since chances are their parent(s) probably appropriated it through nefarious means, or government corporate subsidies or tax breaks, anyway.)

If they aren't upper class, then what is the basis of their belief system? These people have been proven wrong over and over, yet they still stay clamped onto their beliefs like rabid dogs.

I think these posters are angry because the things they believed in heart and soul are being disproved in front of their eyes and they cannot deal with the pain. So they lash out at the people who are speaking the Truth. The Truth that this system was/is deeply flawed and based on some deeply flawed assumptions that aren't true.

I really kind of feel for them. Ah, ok, I lied. I don't feel a bit sorry for them!

Nowax

Wow. I'm fascinated by the responses to this blog entry. Some of these posters didn't seem to get past the word, "communism". They just leapt to conclusions about your blog posting that have no real connection to what you wrote.

I'm amazed at the amount of denial these rabid "Pro-Free Market Or Die" people are having about what has happened to our economy in the last 30 years. Are they part of the "upper class" and feeling threatened?

If yes, I suspect some of them are sitting on piles of inherited money, (re: fears of "loss of inheritance rights") and are holding on for dear life. (I've never understood how Americans have been comfortable with allowing the inheritance of huge wealth from one generation to the next. The inheritance tax was a necessary safeguard to ensure that we wouldn't develop an aristocracy like Europe. If a spoiled child is whining about not being able to sop up his parent's wealth, I say to him go out and earn your own. Very few obscenely wealthy people DID anything to earn their money, since chances are their parent(s) probably appropriated it through nefarious means, or government corporate subsidies or tax breaks, anyway.)

If they aren't upper class, then what is the basis of their belief system? These people have been proven wrong over and over, yet they still stay clamped onto their beliefs like rabid dogs.

I think these posters are angry because the things they believed in heart and soul are being disproved in front of their eyes and they cannot deal with the pain. So they lash out at the people who are speaking the Truth. The Truth that this system was/is deeply flawed and based on some deeply flawed assumptions that aren't true.

I really kind of feel for them. Ah, ok, I lied. I don't feel a bit sorry for them!

roger

" I'm amazed at the amount of denial these rabid "Pro-Free Market Or Die" people are having about what has happened to our economy in the last 30 years. "

" If they aren't upper class, then what is the basis of their belief system? These people have been proven wrong over and over, yet they still stay clamped onto their beliefs like rabid dogs. "

im certainly not upper class. my father was a mechanic and unsuccessfully retired at 67 to return to work a few years later as social security was insufficient to meet our needs.

rabid dogs. oh no I have not been affirmed. woe is me.

enlighten us about the various pitfalls of the free market system. i will repeat for sake of argument that abuse of any kind is of course noxious and needs to be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

when marx wrote that the revolution would fail unless clothing, food and shelter were provided to the masses, he meant that these were the necessities essential to ongoing activity. i would adopt this criterion to ask: if these are necessary, which system (regulated if necessary) would best provide these basic provisions. i would argue that capitalism, with all of its flaws, is that method and device which allows for the best chance for the greatest number of persons to gain these necessities and greater security. we read about thousands of persons crossing the southwest desert in an attempt to cross into the united states each year. i assure you these good people are not coming in search of ideology. they want bread.

i would readily and surely concede that the safety net needs strengthening for those who do not compete well.

please enlighten us at to the failure of capitalism in the last 30 years.

roger

" The present crisis is not an example of capitalism failing to work, it is an example of capitalism working, for capitalism has a destructive phase as well as a creative phase. In the destructive phase, the weak, the inefficient, the unlucky are Darwinianly destroyed so that the next creative phase can take place. If you don't accept the destructive side, then you can't have the creative side. "
" They won't; you will, as your money turns to toilet paper, or your bank accounts disappear altogether, or possibly the remaining wealth and credit of the U.S. is consumed in yet another war or perhaps an environmental catastrophe which we "can't afford" to avert. "
http://letters.salon.com/ee9fd7e090d504ce996934e2cda8fd82/author/index9.html

not being able to see into the future, i dont know that either the weak will be destroyed or that bank accounts will disappear completely. i will say that it appears that capitalism has yielded a method by which those who lack other marketable skills, are able to access wealth and security by means of unskilled labor. i am unclear as to why you expect capitalism to provide more than this in exchange for unskilled labor.
capitalism, as i understand it, is a tool by which wealth is created and those with varying skills or ownership benefit from this wealth based upon their competence of skills and their degree of ownership. i fail to see capitalism as a social arrangement.

Anarcissie

roger, if you fail to see capitalism as a social arrangement then you use words differently than I do. Perhaps "social order" or "social formation" will be clearer. System? Set-up?

If you don't understand the destructive side of capitalism you probably need to do some reading. You could start with the entry for "creative destruction" in Wikipedia.

Obviously, other systems besides capitalism could take in unskilled laborers and do something for them. I can't satisfy your lack of clarity as to my expectation that capitalism will or should provide more than whatever, without your being more specific about what it is you think I expect capitalism to provide.

The second quote appears to be taken out of context. In any case _I_ can't remember the context, but it looks like some raging about the Great Bailout of a few weeks ago. That is not exactly on this subject and I don't know why you dragged it in.

roger

it is possible that i am seeing this too narrowly.


i see capitalism as an economic tool and nothing more. the wealth created from capitalism is then appropriated by the social model in an effort to provide for either the upper classes or for the masses in general.


the dominant class in the social model uses capitalism as a tool to its own end. this may or may not benefit the masses.


stalin's five year plan for example crushed millions of innocent persons in the pursuit of gold and other precious ore from siberia for the purpose of selling it on the western market. a capitalist endeavor, in a socialist setting, failed to benefit the masses and enriched the dominant class.


of course i see the destructive aspects of capitalism. one would not need to look any further than the children abused in the mining industry in the early parts of the previous century or the textile industry of the same era to find blinding examples of abuse. these, as stated before would needed to have been prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

Chickensh*tEagle

"...these, as stated before would needed to have been prosecuted to the full extent of the law."

So far, so good. Now, when the capitalists own the lawmakers and control the lawmaking processes, what then?

Anarcissie

roger: 'i see capitalism as an economic tool and nothing more. ...'

Capitalist societies look different from non-capitalist societies. They probably sound, feel and smell different, too. This should tell you something.

The destructive aspects of capitalism are _necessary_ for it to function. The old must be broken up to get it out of the way and help provide material for the new. I am not talking about child labor -- capitalists might find children better objects of exploitation as consumers. I'm talking about destroying social institutions, economies, physical plant, whatever can be used or is in the way.

Chris S.

In the 90s there was too much easy credit. Then people starting using home equity lines of credit like credit cards. There's plenty of blame to go around for the current mess. "if you can't make it, then fake it (with plastic)" became the de facto motto for alot fo folks. The bill is due now.

Chris

Unfettered Greenspanian/Rothbardian/ Capitalism is so pernicious that the majority of western medicine could be rewritten and most diseases that Americans have could be called CPMD Complex (Capitalism’s Profit Motive Disease). CPMD is a real disease with a very wide spectrum. The AMA has yet to recognize it as a disease because research into CPMD is for some strange reason having trouble finding funding?


1) Hypertension – cheap bad diets, cheap and convenient brand name processed foods, stress at work and at home about finances, stress at work through the speed- up processes to meet quotas in an increasingly global and competitive world. (The job market has grown increasingly flexible which as of about two months ago George Bush was still able to tout how flexible our workforce is in his weekly addresses without a blink from the public. Of course flexibility means, your employer has established a new working center in India or some place and will leave if you kvetch.
2) Heart attacks – bad diets, processed foods, same causes as hypertension and including hypertension
3) Asthma and Lung Cancer and COPD- from Marlboro and Winston and Camel cigarettes and the images that were pushed through the culture of sexy movie stars and advertisements which caused a generation of people to associate smoking with being part of a crowd or fitting in with a group. (Even though Friedman, Greenspan Frank Knight and others are philosophers that know that human beings are creatures whose fundamental drive is to consume things on their way to becoming individuals)
4) Back Pain and Sciatic nerve damage- construction workers, warehouse workers, hospital workers, people who lift things repeatedly at their jobs and also people probably get it from shopping too much too.
5) Addiction – attempts to escape a life of isolation (individualism) through alcoholism and drug abuse, legal drug abuse through prescriptions for the middle class and illegal drug use for the working class.
6) Depression/Anxiety– this is the most obvious one, it is not people in the middle class or the upper class who are depressed, it’s people who are depressed financially and have little to no future ahead of them. Depression leads to suicide sometimes. Do people safely in the middle classes and upper classes commit suicide at the same rate as people in the working class? Maybe people in the working class have what most doctors unthinkingly call “A bad lifestyle.” The term “lifestyle” is one of those Orwellian terms that tries to make it sound as if the working class person has chosen the lifestyle (which amounts to eating burgers and drinking Mr. Pibb) twisted forms of individual expression at best
7) Many other mental disorders like Bipolar, ADD are probably issuing from something about our society that is damaging. Maybe all the horseshit in the water? Sorry to digress but Roger had a Freudian slip when he said: “im certainly not upper class. my father was a mechanic and unsuccessfully retired at 67 to return to work a few years later as social security was insufficient to meet “our” needs.” Our needs? What were you like 40 years old and trying to live off your father’s social security? Of course Social Security would fail, it was never meant for parents to be supporting their 40 year old children.)
8) Cancer – nobody knows, but there are a lot of strange chemicals that have started to be used for the first time in the last 100 years or so to yield more profitable products by capitalists, from fertilizers and pesticides and then they end up in water supplies, this one is a toss up too.
9) Probably Restless Leg Syndrome – I don’t know what that is just yet but it is a new disorder and it came along pretty much the same time the market for derivatives went from being a 100 trillion dollar business in 2002 to being a 531 trillion dollar business in 2008
10) Sleeping Disorders – caused by cheap fast and bad diets, not enough time for exercise, drinking too much coffee, drinking too much wine, and then the cures like Ambien and Lunestra, who knows what that will do to anybody five years from now. Also the little blinking lights on all the various electronic tools of convenience that we can’t part with doesn’t help sleep hygiene a wink.
11) Fibromyalgia – might have something to do with sleeping disorders, not getting deep restful sleep, for example because of worry about retirement savings becoming nonexistent when reality gives way for about a week in the system of eternal optimism that they have been guided to place their retirement savings in.

roger

" Now, when the capitalists own the lawmakers and control the lawmaking processes, what then? "

i have been following the crandall canyon mine disaster in utah for a year. the federal government successfully brought charges against the mine and its owner for unsafe practices.

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


U.S. Government fine
On July 24th, 2008 MSHA announced its highest penalty for coal mine safety violations, $1.85 million, for the collapse. The government fined Genwal Resources, $1.34 million "for violations that directly contributed to the deaths of six miners last year," plus nearly $300,000 for other violations. Richard E. Stickler, the government's top mine safety official said "It was not -- and I repeat, it was not -- a natural occurring earthquake." The government also levied a $220,000 fine against a mining consultant, Agapito Associates, "for faulty analysis of the mine's design."[5]

roger

" What were you like 40 years old and trying to live off your father’s social security? Of course Social Security would fail, it was never meant for parents to be supporting their 40 year old children.) "

my father was 50 when i was born. i was 17 at the time of my fathers retirement with younger siblings from his second marriage.

roger

" The destructive aspects of capitalism are _necessary_ for it to function. The old must be broken up to get it out of the way and help provide material for the new. I am not talking about child labor -- capitalists might find children better objects of exploitation as consumers. "


from wiki: " creative destruction" :


" Creative destruction can hurt. Layoffs of workers with obsolete working skills can be one price of new innovations valued by consumers. Though a continually innovating economy generates new opportunities for workers to participate in more creative and productive enterprises (provided they can acquire the necessary skills), creative destruction can cause severe hardship in the short term, and in the long term for those who cannot acquire the skills and
work experience. "


ok, but let me ask here. is there anything here which amounts to more than the need for the guy that use to make whips for horse buggies to now need to learn how to make transmissions for automobiles.

if the workforce depends upon capitalism as a tool to gain access to wealth, then the workforce would need to stay sufficiently nimble in an effort to remain relevant and marketable.

tell me what i am missing here.

roger

" capitalists might find children better objects of exploitation as consumers. "


consumers as victims. would you clarify this.

roger

" Unfettered Greenspanian/Rothbardian/ Capitalism is so pernicious that the majority of western medicine could be rewritten and most diseases that Americans have could be called CPMD Complex (Capitalism’s Profit Motive Disease). "

" ) Hypertension – cheap bad diets, cheap and convenient brand name processed foods, stress at work and at home about finances, stress at work through the speed- up processes to meet quotas in an increasingly global and competitive world. "

" 10) Sleeping Disorders – caused by cheap fast and bad diets, not enough time for exercise, drinking too much coffee, drinking too much wine, and then the cures like Ambien and Lunestra, who knows what that will do to anybody five years from now. Also the little blinking lights on all the various electronic tools of convenience that we can’t part with doesn’t help sleep hygiene a wink. "

tell me this is parody.


capitalists held a gun to your head and made you eat those doritos and drink too much coffee and wine.


Anarcissie

roger -- there are lots of books about the evils of capitalism. However, if they are factual, I find that capitalism fans usual reject them with some variant of the No True Scotsman rhetorical strategy, so my recommending any reading turns out to be a waste of time. Nevertheless, I'll state that I'm currently reading Naomi Klein's _The_Shock_Doctrine_ which certainly contains lots of malfeasance by people who at least thought and think of themselves as capitalists or capitalism fans, and I'll go so far as to recommend it to you, although parts of it are heavy going, especially if you are already familiar with a lot of the historical material.

"Exploit" just means "make use of." It doesn't necessarily mean the person or thing exploited is ill-used, although that is often the result. Often the exploiter has no interest in the welfare of the exploitee one way or the other; but the wise parasite avoids killing its host.

The quotations in your last message could be checked against the physical world, for instance, one could discover whether people in capitalist communities have more or less hypertension, sleep disorder, and so on. If you can make these measurements then you can decide whether you are seeing parody or just the facts. I don't know the answer. I suspect different forms of social organization produce different kinds and different proportions of trouble, but I've never seen a scientific survey along those lines.

Brian

Roger, it has so failed right now, this day, its not even funny. The government is effectively nationalizing the banks with dollars while leaving the private principles basically in control. Our government has privatized gains and socialized the losses. How nice! Capitalism blew itself up in America tis year and we the people got left holding the bag. You forget the most greedy, aggressive, people will rise to the top in capitalism, but now they are using the weaker passive people to subsidize them. Nobody with any kind of brain believes in what passes for capitalism here anymore. Nobody is going to follow you off a cliff again. The lemming days are over.

Deanna

Actually, I don't really blame the homebuyers that much. They may have been foolish, but many of them were caught in the crunch of sky-high rentals just to live in a semi-decent apartment in a fairly safe area. They were vulnerable and desperate and hoodwinked. And they didn't have any other options for either a reasonable rental or an affordable home purchase.

Anarcissie

The subprime borrowers' mistake was believing in the mainstream media and those supposed experts the media chose to present, all of whom told them that real estate could only go up forever.

I don't know why people still believe the stuff they read in the newspapers and see on television, but they do. Nothing seems to shake their faith, in spite of all the talk.

Puzzled European

It's strange that americans, on both the left and the right, seem to think that there are only two possible, economic systems; "communism" and "capitalism". And you confuse the words socialism and communism a lot.

For starters: there are no socialist countries in Europe. My neck of theese woods, Norway, has a large welfare state and strategic state ownership in some large bussineses (for instance the oil-industry), but most of the means of production and distribution are in the hands of capitalists. And actually, as your rightwing thinkthank Cato Institute has pointed out, Norway (and the other nordic countries), in some aspects are more laizzes-faire than the US. Limited state ownership and welfare is not at all the same as "socialism". The norwegian welfare state was built in consensus between the left and the right. Actually it was a rightwing administration that implemented our generous, public pension system.

Socialism means worker control. As for communism, in marxian terms, it is a utopian society without classes or a state aparatus. (Similar to the utopia pictured by many anarchists.) In classical marxism/leninism one talks about socialism as a transitional phase between capitalism and communism in wich the workers take control over the means of production and the state aparatus. ("The dictatorship of the proletarians").

roger

" It's strange that americans, on both the left and the right, seem to think that there are only two possible, economic systems; "communism" and "capitalism". And you confuse the words socialism and communism a lot. "

well i think that there are at least two avenues of thought regarding socialism and communism in the united states.

there is genuine confusion on the one hand by many folks about the transitional nature of socialism and many assume that socialism and communism are one and the same.

on the other hand there are those who want to avoid socialism itself since it is evident by the soviet and chinese experiments that true communism will never be realized since socialism never transitions completely. it is best to avoid the experiment altogether given the soviet and chinese experiences.

do you find the welfare state to work for norway?

your thoughts?

gaby

No one argues that people who are smart, hardworking and entrepreneurial should be richly awarded. But as we have seen in this capitalist society, many smart, hardworking and entrepreneurial people are not getting their due while scoundrels who greatest innovation was how to cheat the system were. In fact I am prepared to argue that far too many people are being right down punished for being forthright and hardworking with low wages and unfair taxes.

I believe in socialism (as do many rich people right now). I believe in worker protection and a safety net, yes, even if it means supporting Joe Blow who is too lazy to get out of bed. Because someday it may be me who will need support because bad luck and tragedy can strike anyone at anytime. I would sleep a lot better knowing there is a net to catch me should I fall.

Deanna

Entrepreneurialism for the average person is quickly being eroded by the big corporate chain takeovers(gentrification capitalism?) and complex financing issues and restraints imposed on small businesses in general. Also, the small businesses that do succeed well enough to open more stores or restaurants or whatever eventually become part of the big business mentality!

spike

I'm not sure if I buy Barbara's point on a long Time-Historical perspective (the poor in industrialized societies are much better off today than they were in 1848) but in shorter time periods, such as the last 30 years, there has been some stagnation and even regression for the working class. But where did Marx go wrong? Well, I think he underestimated the willingness of Capitalism to compromise its principles. Bismarck, the founder of the modern Welfare State, said it most honestly: State Socialism was a defensive mechanism to defuse the danger of Communist Revolution. It seems to have worked, but the uderlying tension is still there.

Anarcissie

Here's where Uncle Karl went wrong. This is part of a famous passage from the Communist Manifesto. He's talking about the revolutionary nature of capitalism.

"All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned, and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses his real condition of life and his relations with his kind."

As it turned out, when capitalism went bad (World War 1, the Great Depression) man did not face anything with sober senses. He ran after fascists and Great Leaders and made what was bad much worse. As has been often noted, human beings employ reason only when every other strategy has failed.

Uncle Karl believed humans being were rational. He was wrong.

blue8064

Roger and Anarcissie mention unskilled labor. However, I should mention that low-wage jobs are not necessarily as unskilled as we often seem to think. Specifically, I have noticed that we often seem to forget that dealing with customers is a skill. Even many low-wage jobs involve dealing with customers. When one considers that some customers will be nasty, and that dissatisfied customers may stop doing business with the company, and possibly spread the word to others, it seems to me to be awfully risky to take for granted the skill of dealing with customers.

Moreover, skill deficiencies here cannot always easily be remedied by more education and training. Most standard education and job training do practically nothing about deficiencies in social intelligence. This is especially a problem for high-functioning autistics. They are often intelligent enough to get advanced degrees, but lack the social intelligence to do most jobs requiring those advanced degrees. Even worse, since their chief skill deficiencies are things that most people seem to learn without being taught, they are often completely unaware of what they do not know.

melissa

Is this our future with Obama?
"'Your new tax plan is going to tax me more, isn't it?' the plumber asked, complaining that he was being taxed 'more and more for fulfilling the American dream.'

"'It's not that I want to punish your success. I just want to make sure that everybody who is behind you, that they've got a chance for success too,' Obama responded. 'My attitude is that if the economy's good for folks from the bottom up, it's gonnabe good for everybody ... I think when you spread the wealth around, it's good for everybody."
-Barack Obama


Interesting eh??? Hummm.... so basically the Robin Hood strategy? Steal from the rich and give to the poor? Why should the government punish someone for making more money than someone else?
Ok, so for you who still don't get it, let me put it this way;
If two people walk into a store one woman makes $10 hr and the other woman makes $20 hr. They buy the exact same shoes, but when they get to the register the woman who makes $20 hr has to pay more for the same shoes ....just to make it fair, cause the other lady doesn't have enough money.

Come on! Seriously? And people are buying into this crap??

I looked up socialism in the encyclopedia and next to Obama's picture it read this;
Socialism
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Socialism refers to a broad set of economic theories of social organization advocating state or collective ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods, and the creation of an egalitarian society. Represents the transitional stage between capitalism and communism.

Brian

Melissa, we have a corporate culture of ceo's looting their companys to the tune of 100's of millions of dollars and they are just the hired help themselves. Its stockholders money legally as they are the owners, and it comes from customers and worker productivity and capping their wages and health insurances. The money these ceo's get their compensation lawyers and committees to sign off on is a total rip off of the company. So I see it as cheating. The government is supposed to police and regulate cheating. Stealing a pizza is stealing but somehow looting a company through lawyers isn't. Its been shown time and again that the boards and compensation committees just willy nilly sign off on these huge pay packages. Many of the appointees on the boards are from the ceo. Its corrupt as can be. Shareholders don't even get a vote in the package. Should not the owner of a company get to do that? Being a mindless capitalist over exercising some common sense and fair play is what you are doing. Its not socialism to police business shenanigans. If I can see the obvious theft, why cannot you? Because your an ideologue and enabler of thsse evil people. In the bible they would just be called theives.

Chris

Anarcissie wrote:

"As it turned out, when capitalism went bad (World War 1, the Great Depression) man did not face anything with sober senses."

Yeah, instead so called human beings threw each other cheer-parades to congratulate themselves on ever spiraling murder and now because certain irresponsible Organic Intellectuals say about WWII "It was the last moral war" I hear people saying the difference between Vietnam and WWII was that "WWII was the last moral war."

Was Dresden moral?

It would make sense the hunger for capitalism and war let up in Europe where the battles and bombs were, while in America it was easier to fall back on prvailing optimism, where the horrors of battle were mostly known secondhand. And the returning American soldiers escaped the rubble and corpses to return to a relative paradise, so I can see how it was easy to forget the extent of the misery and horror.

One storyteller who did his job, bless his heart, was Kurt Vonnegut Jr. and anybody who still thinks war is admirable or Capitalism is stellar should read "Bluebeard."

The scene of the huge painting by Rabo called "Happy Valley" at the end of the story is a brain-blood flow altering experience.

roger

" Yeah, instead so called human beings threw each other cheer-parades to congratulate themselves on ever spiraling murder "

would you have paris now speaking german. would you have the concentration camps continue to operate. would you prefer that austria and the netherlands remain under nazi rule. does the united states owe anything to poland or is poland to be abandoned as well.

" Was Dresden moral? "

a much better question of course is: was it justified to bomb both hiroshima and nagasaki in the closing months of the pacific theater.

the question never has been as simple as: why does the evil, imperialist america stomp around the world murdering innocents. you would do well to get your history from some other source than howard zinn.

roger

some suggested reading:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Hiding_Place_(book)

" Due to the family's strong Christian beliefs, they felt obligated to help their Jewish friends in every way possible. The Beje soon became the center for a major anti-Nazi operation. Corrie, who had grown to think of herself as a middle-aged spinster, found herself involved in black market operations, stealing ration cards, and eventually, hiding Jews in her own home. "

how would you, in your sterile little world, characterize this behaviour. moral or immoral.


Chickensh*tEagle

"'Was Dresden moral?'

"a much better question of course is: was it justified to bomb both hiroshima and nagasaki in the closing months of the pacific theater."

Nice sidestep, but the Dresden question is still a good one and still deserves an answer.

"the question never has been as simple as: why does the evil, imperialist america stomp around the world murdering innocents. "

That particular question is indeed that simple. That's not to say there aren't other questions.

"...you would do well to get your history from some other source than howard zinn."

No historian can give you the whole picture, but Howard Zinn fills in a lot of vital parts that are missing from the conventional narratives.

roger

tell me your opinion of the necessity for the firebombing of dresden in february 1945. it appears that some 30,000 persons were killed in this action.


hiroshima, by contrast killed some 200,000 persons. nagasaki killed some 40,000.


if we are sufficiently presumptuous and arrogant to assign relative morality to the action of war some 60 years after the action, then the arbitrary index of number of those incinerated should fit the bill.


what about paris, netherlands, belgium, austria, philippines, hawaii.

roger

"the question never has been as simple as: why does the evil, imperialist america stomp around the world murdering innocents. "

That particular question is indeed that simple. That's not to say there aren't other questions.

what is your opinion of ward churchill's essay:

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

" As for those in the World Trade Center... Well, really, let's get a grip here, shall we? True enough, they were civilians of a sort. But innocent? Gimme a break. They formed a technocratic corps at the very heart of America's global financial empire - the "mighty engine of profit" to which the military dimension of U.S. policy has always been enslaved - and they did so both willingly and knowingly. "

" More likely, it was because they were too busy braying, incessantly and self-importantly, into their cell phones, arranging power lunches and stock transactions, each of which translated, conveniently out of sight, mind and smelling distance, into the starved and rotting flesh of infants. If there was a better, more effective, or in fact any other way of visiting some penalty befitting their participation upon the little Eichmanns inhabiting the sterile sanctuary of the twin towers, I'd really be interested in hearing about it. "

help me understand how to process this.


Chickensh*tEagle

roger: "tell me your opinion of the necessity for the firebombing of dresden in february 1945. it appears that some 30,000 persons were killed in this action. hiroshima, by contrast killed some 200,000 persons. nagasaki killed some 40,000.

Those actions all unnecessarily targeted civilians and so they were all war crimes. And since the perpertrators were the ones dispensing justice after the war, they went unpunished.

"help me understand how to process this."

You can process Ward Churchill's speech any way you like, and then perhaps you can tell me what it has to do with the Communist Manifesto. And what Dresden, Hiroshima and Nagasaki have to do with it, for that matter.

roger

“ You can process Ward Churchill's speech any way you like, and then perhaps you can tell me what it has to do with the Communist Manifesto. And what Dresden, Hiroshima and Nagasaki have to do with it, for that matter. “

I raise Ward Churchill and Howard Zinn because you seem all too willing, in concert with them, to simply accept the narrative that America is evil and imperialist. This narrative is insisted upon notwithstanding the liberation of Hawaii, Philippines Poland, Austria, the Netherlands, France, Italy and the Jews in the camps.


Now is Dresden the rule or the exception. I believe that Hiroshima is the better example of horrifying civilian death in war. So the question is this: Given the catastrophic civilian casualties of Dresden and Hiroshima, do we see these as representative of unforgivable imperialistic war crimes as you and Howard Zinn and Ward Churchhill would insist or are these exceptionally unfortunate incidents of undeniably horrific levels of civilian death in times of war in response to aggression by the Nazis and the Japanese.

“ That particular question is indeed that simple. That's not to say there aren't other questions. “

Interesting that you do not state the other questions.


Octavian

Barbara - I read your entire article. In all honesty, thank you for it. While your intention deserves the audience's appreciation, the execution, in my opinion, does not - not from a professional level POV which I am not qualified to evaluate (although I personally find it exquisite) but from a content perspective. In this context, I find your article rather superficial and, more importantly, misguiding, especially to people who do not know too much about communism, whether as theory or implementation. I know a bit of both, having lived, been educated and worked for a period of time that covers the first half of my life in a communist country. Let me justify my comments:

Communism, as a theory, came to life in response to social inequalities and economical conundrums at a certain moment in our evolution and in a certain political and economical context (although very important, I will not elaborate on this here, due to space constraints). As always, intellectuals, artists, free thinkers, were exploring ways to address the fundamental problems of our society. The idea of defeating the system (inherently capitalist at the time) by negating one, or more, of its principles seemed appealing and also natural. After all, this is how we, as humanity, moved on from slavery to feudalism and then to capitalism.

At the time, communism made sense “on paper” and many embraced it as the next progressive approach to achieve social, political and economical well-being. What else can be “better” than escaping the individual responsibility of producing to own, and, instead, to “transfer” this responsibility to the group we belong to? Suddenly, we all live and work for the good of the people. We do our very best to ensure the wellness and progress of the community, which, in turn, will provide our “share” of well-being and individual growth. Wonderful! Amazing! Everyone is happy, there is no exploitation, no competition, everybody has their needs fulfilled and the society is thriving! The perfect world, the perfect system!

Unfortunately, in my opinion, such model can not be implemented in the real world. The main “obstacle” is what we call “Human Nature”. Given a group of people, a hierarchy will always be established: whether driven by intellectual, physical, spiritual or other given means of differentiation. Not all people are born equal in abilities. Make no mistake, every cell in me believes in equality when it comes to the right to live and the right of living well; the right to love, dream, create, develop, make the best of ourselves, individually and at the community level. The reality, however, is that we have different abilities, different perceptions of the world, different expectations. There is variety! It has always been. The communist model ignores this fundamental truth; not only that it does not promote it but it denies and destroys it by imposing uniformity. In both the Marxist theory (implicitly) and practice (explicitly).

Reading your article I felt a tendency towards promoting the values of an idealistic communist system at the expense of the “general” failure of our capitalistic society (apologies in advance if this is only me distorting your initial intent). I have the utmost respect for anyone’s views whether political, religious, economical, etc. no matter how different from mine.

Just expressing my opinion: times are tough, maybe tougher than ever before economy wise. I do believe however that so far, the capitalist system provided more access to freedom than any other system before; way far from perfection but better than all others so far. What is happening today is not only about recession or about, let’s hope not, facing a potential depression. I believe a realignment of global values is taking place. Who knows, maybe the new and better system will find its stem in what we are doing and experiencing today. But I pray to God, that it will not be Communism!

My best regards to you.

Comrade Richard Neva

As a member of the Communist Party of America I can say that times have never been better to watch Capitalism die a bloody death! How can you say that there is no alternative to capitalism? That is absurd, and flies into the truth that is spelled out in all of Marx's teachings. His words leap off the page in describing exactly what is happening today in America and the world for that matter. Capitalism is dying! You have to be blind not to see it happening and it will never bounce back like Obama tells you all. he is but another servant of capitalism in the White House and all that bail out money is being borrowed from the Fed. Who do you think will pay for that? The tax payers now and for the next 9 generations! All the while the bankers at the Fed are becoming trillionaires. Wake up and smell the roses. It is Marxist Socialism and Chavez has just showed us how it can be done. That man is head and shoulders above any politician in this country and may God bless his soul. He is doing something for his people and they love him and so do I! Viva la revolucion!

Peter Ekegren

Just a comment on a common misunderstanding: there is not, and never has been and never will be, a Nobel Prize in Economics! The prize is suppoo honor the memory of Alfred Nobel, and the committe choose to use Nobel's name despite strong protests from the Nobel family!!!

Nicholas Truske

My experience over the years has been that people have no idea the pervasiveness of socialism (including fascism) in this country (U.S.A) .
I would not have known this either, however, starting about 1969, I read all I could of what was available at the time of the many socialist, Marxist, communist, and fascist newspapers. I was then able to see how each paper would perceive the same news event—very interesting to compare these ideas to that of the mainstream press.

After a couple of years, it became clear to me that the mainstream versions of current events are just watered down versions of the socialist views. I would tell people about my discovery but they had no reference, all they knew was the mainstream media. I then realized over the next thirty years that mostly all people know is the mainstream press — which is diluted socialism.

So when I would engage people to see if they would consider other views, I saw minds close down, and get extremely attached to “their” political/religious ideas. People protect their attachment to whatever ideas they have internalized, and then unashamedly inflict “their” ideas through the force of government on others. It matters not, how thoughtfully they arrived at whatever they espouse, or what the consequences of their actions might bring.

The masses have never thirsted after truth. Whoever can supply them with illusions is easily their master; whoever attempts to destroy their illusions is always their victim. ~ Gustave Le Bon

Mildred Martinez

I'm reading "This land is their land". You've done it again. Thank you for everything. Together we can make a better and more just world.

noone

yea guess if capitalism fail you communists can put people who believe they can make it in reeducation camps.

beth

check out a really good article featuring barbara on the big issue website
http://www.bigissuescotland.com/features/view/216

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