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[flagged] Capitalism Is Collapsing and Nothing Is Rising to Replace It (alternet.org)
37 points by kodfodrasz 313 days ago | hide | past | web | 51 comments | favorite



Dean Baker, a great economist and easily the best on the (relatively) radical left, said (in the context of discussing Piketty's work) that "capitalism is infinitely malleable" - markets are shaped by infinite rules and tweaking those rules tweaks the outcomes. To speak of "capitalism" as a thing with defined outcomes is to ignore how vast that range of outcomes is, and how badly things work without any market whatsoever, which is what true alternatives (as opposed to tweaks) to capitalism amount to.

"That changed on Nov. 8, when the American oligarchs ousted noncompliant professional politicians and assumed direct power through Donald Trump and his cabinet."

Does it follow that Obama was defiant of "the American oligarchs" in his bold support for, say, TPP?

"Marx thought communism would see the withering-away of the state. Instead, capitalism has reduced the state until its chief functions are protecting the rich and policing the poor."

Does TFA imply that things got worse since Marx's days in terms of the absolute standard of living of "the poor"? Does the modern state redistribute less from "the rich" to "the poor" than it did in Marx's days?


Since the rich don't pay taxes, and the poor (unemployed) get only money from the state, there is no redistribution from the rich to the poor. There is redistribution from the middle class to the poor, right?


The rich do pay taxes, just a smaller portion of their income as compared to your average taxpayer. But that smaller portion is leaps and bounds larger than the bigger portion paid by the average taxpayer.

I seem to recall some graph indicating that even though they pay 4-5x (or higher) lower percentage of their money in taxes, the higher amounts mean they shoulder most of the tax burdon.

I don't think the percentage difference is ultimately beneficial to society, but it's not correct to say they pay nothing.



The share of taxes paid by the rich is greater than their share of income and wealth.


The chart in this article says people who make more than $250K per year are paying just over 1/2 of income tax paid.

http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/04/13/high-income-...

And then here, merely the top 10% of wealth holders hold 76% of the wealth, and the top 20% of wealth holders hold 85% of total wealth. The statistics are no where near what you appear to be claiming.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wealth_inequality_in_the_Unite...


Citation?


Do you mean that Warren "tax me harder" Buffet's much-publicized income tax of slightly less than $2M per year is not much relatively to his net worth of tens of billions, about half of which is taxpayers' money from bailouts? I guess you have a point. Still, I can't believe he completely evades the capital gains tax.

Anyway, I never looked very deeply into it, but I'm pretty sure that single-digit millionaires pay plenty of taxes, and I find it fair to call them "rich." I do agree that taxing income much more heavily than capital gains, property, etc. doesn't sound like a great idea.


I think the quote about Marx is quite funny in that it is a fundamental misinterpretation of the idea it ascribes to Marx, but not in the way Marx is usually misinterpreted.

Marx thought the state would wither away once socialism had gradually transformed society until a point where there were no more capitalists and thus no more class distinctions.

In other words: At the end of a long journey where he first expect capitalism to engage in a long sequence of boom-bust cycles, eventually have fully globalised to an extent where there are no new markets to expand into, and proceeded to compete itself into the ground by cutting margins until the only viable way of continued cost reduction is to push down total salary costs, and which he expected would culminate in a revolution once people were desperate enough, following by a long transition phase.

If anything the idea that "capitalism has reduced the state until its chief functions are protecting the rich and policing the poor" could almost be a quote from Marx as it is pretty much exactly the Marxist view of the state:

Marx explicitly saw the state as existing in its current form as a tool for the ruling class to use to oppress the rest. His phrase "dictatorship of the proletariat" is well known because it's a favorite to use because people think it refers to Soviet style oppression, but he also used the phrase "dictatorship of the bourgeoisie" to refer to capitalist states - irrespective of level of oppression. The terms refers to which class is in control, not the means of control or the level of individual freedom, and highlights the idea of the state-as-oppressor:

The dictatorship of the proletariat as envisioned by Marx was the working class taking control and oppressing the capitalists, and gradually transforming society and pushing said capitalists into the working class.

By doing so, the capitalist would become part of the ruling class again, as a worker, and the capitalist class would eventually cease to exist.

That end-state would be the start of communism: Once there's nobody who is able to work who is living off the work of others, and no class differences.

Marx argued that if you reach that point, the state-as-oppressor has no function left that can not be served by purely administrative organs subordinate to more egalitarian power structures such as communes, and then it would wither away.

As such, the quote you picked from the article is trying to set current capitalism up as an example of how Marx is wrong, while instead succeeding in making an arguments that most Marxist would agree with.


> Does TFA imply that things got worse since Marx's days in terms of the absolute standard of living of "the poor"? Does the modern state redistribute less from "the rich" to "the poor" than it did in Marx's days?

From Adam Smith's "The Wealth of Nations":

> By necessaries I understand not only the commodities which are indispensably necessary for the support of life, but whatever the custom of the country renders it indecent for creditable people, even of the lowest order, to be without. A linen shirt, for example, is, strictly speaking, not a necessary of life. The Greeks and Romans lived, I suppose, very comfortably though they had no linen. But in the present times, through the greater part of Europe, a creditable day-labourer would be ashamed to appear in public without a linen shirt, the want of which would be supposed to denote that disgraceful degree of poverty which, it is presumed, nobody can well fall into without extreme bad conduct. Custom, in the same manner, has rendered leather shoes a necessary of life in England. The poorest creditable person of either sex would be ashamed to appear in public without them. In Scotland, custom has rendered them a necessary of life to the lowest order of men; but not to the same order of women, who may, without any discredit, walk about barefooted. In France they are necessaries neither to men nor to women, the lowest rank of both sexes appearing there publicly, without any discredit, sometimes in wooden shoes, and sometimes barefooted. Under necessaries, therefore, I comprehend not only those things which nature, but those things which the established rules of decency have rendered necessary to the lowest rank of people.

His point is that poverty is not to be measured absolutely, but relative to the society and times that it exists.

"The poor" might have indoor plumbing now, which they might not have had in 1860, but it is disingenuous to suggest that means anything relative to living in America in 2017.


Our agency is collapsing. I recently read the Federalist papers. What struck me most was the impression that the founders viewed government simply as a problem to be solved. We view the Constitution as second only to God's word handed down on stone tablets, but it was just a bunch of guys getting together thinking through the potential implications of different systems. I'm reminded of the part of Zero to One that talks about how we used to imagine large scale projects (e.g. filling in the SF Bay, for better or worse), but today we barely can get 2 miles of subway built in NYC.

Somewhere along the way we fell into stasis. We have a bunch of a problems in society and in the world. They need to be solved. These days the only two dynamic areas are philanthropy and startups. Almost everything else - US federal, state, and local government, large legacy businesses, small businesses, the UN, the EU, NGOs - are stagnant.


We basically started caring about what people think and how we affect their lives. Those previous projects were done at the expense of those it affected negatively. Maybe they were willing to accept that because they believed life would be better for everyone as a result.


As far as gargantuan projects go, the knowledge of the red tape in the way is a limiter on imagination.


> Somewhere along the way we fell into stasis. We have a bunch of a problems in society and in the world. They need to be solved.

Internet may be partly to blame. It is at least somewhat responsible for making people believe their opinion is equally as valid as everyone else's, which diminishes experts and their ability to spearhead projects significantly. It made everyone into a NIMBY to some degree, and those NIMBYs penetrated all levels of government and policy.

Good god, that made me sound Ayn Randian...


> the American oligarchs ousted noncompliant professional politicians and assumed direct power through Donald Trump and his cabinet.

This strikes me as an extremely odd reading of the election results. The establishment (which oligarchs are almost by definition part of) was by and large very much anti-Trump.


Well, Trump definitely ousted the professional politicians and his cabinet is full of the very rich.


What happened after the election is that a lot of those people decided to try to convince themselves that maybe a Trump administration won't be so bad, but yes, they were very-much anti-Trump on election day.


And not to mention Clinton spent about $1 billion from very large donors on a very industrialized campaign based on TV advertising and direct mail, while Trump spent $60 million made up of small donations. To say presidential elections are won by big money oligarchs is kind of silly.


$60 Million? He put in over $60 Million of just his own money so that figure is off bigly! Big money put their money into PACs on both sides so it's impossible to say they have/had no effect. WAPost: https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/politics/2016-electi... Forture: http://fortune.com/2016/12/09/donald-trump-campaign-spending...


Yes Trump was not very establishment. I have to think in the really high circles he was known more as a flashy con-man.


Flashy con-men have their uses.


A more open, free, and transparent version of capitalism will be the cure I think.

Transparency is key, we need to start requiring openess in all aspects of government and business.


Could you elaborate on why you believe transparency is the cure?


Prototypical example: healthcare. Healthcare in the US is one of the most unfree markets anywhere. Price transparency is near zero across the board, and federal and state agencies, which engage in reverse price-fixing (mandating costs for goods and services they cover), account for over 30% of all healthcare spending.

Coupled with the copious regulations around insurance, pushing it out of the realm of reasonable affordability for all but the biggest corporations, and insurance companies' backroom dealing with major healthcare providers, price discovery for the consumer is basically dead.

As a result, US healthcare costs have ballooned out of control compared to everywhere else in the world, with no measurable improvement in outcomes.


It's been on the verge of collapsing imminently for almost 200 years now.


3000,since humans used some kind of currency.

It's always almost dead :)

The ones calling capitalism dead are the ones who want to replace it with communism and co.

And we know how that will end...

So we stick to capitalism and going back to future/ past feudalism


capitalism in most of the world is less than 200 years old. Before that we had feudalism.

Most progressives want to amend capitalism with some socialism; social democracy exists or did exist in much of Europe, and is largely under pressure by the race to the bottom caused by globalization. And of course ever-more powerful multi-national corporations.


First bourgeoisie states/city-states started to appear in 1500-1600s (Italian region). Many countries experienced a periods of reaction and return to feudal state (France and Britain for example). Last traces of feudalism ended somewhere in 1860-s. So full capitalism is less that 150 years old.

Same cycle happened before with transitions to slave labor and feudal system. Formation change is not a single event, but a process, spanning hundreds of years.


What is the race to the bottom? And if so, it's a great thing. Lower wages mean cheaper products.

Powerful multi-national corporations often lobby for anti-capitalistic measures (protectionism, subsidies). Socialism only increases the influence of corporations via a bigger government.


Lower wages doesn't necessarily mean cheaper products, especially once you take inflation into account. The cost of living has been increasing drastically, despite any efficiency gains. Wages have not been increasing to keep up with the pace. Seniors who are now retired are now effectively effed and are forced to go back to work to make ends meet. The young who are trying to get a fresh start aren't able to and most people in their 30s still live with their parents because a full time job isn't enough to afford the most basic apartment.

Companies are more willing to hire outside labor -- effectively slave labor, because they are able to pay foreign workers much less than domestic citizens. Companies are also more willing to replace human employees with robots, because it's cheaper than paying a human to do the same job. Companies will not help employees transition into new job positions. Fast food restaurants are beginning to replace all their workers with robots. The truck driving industry is about to replace all of it's drivers with robots. Walmart is replacing it's stockers and cashiers with robots. Pizza shops are even going for full autonomy with self-driving pizza trucks that automatically make pizza while delivering it. A huge percent of existing jobs today will soon be taken over by robots. You can definitely ensure that all the jobs that are considered entry level will no longer exist. How then, will the young get their foot in the door and become independent when they have no jobs?

That race to the bottom has merely displaced millions upon millions of people and abolished the middle class, in addition to destabilizing the world economy. Capitalism is entirely incapable of keeping up with the modern world. The only way forward is a basic income.


> Lower wages doesn't necessarily mean cheaper products, especially once you take inflation into account. Wages have not been increasing to keep up with the pace.

The wages are lower even adjusted even with inflation.

> The cost of living has been increasing drastically, despite any efficiency gains.

No, it has not. See https://www.bls.gov/cpi/cpid1611.pdf (PDF Page 70, Table 24). It's increased about 20% in the past 10 years.

In the same period GNI per capita (i.e. average income) has increased about 20%. (See http://data.worldbank.org/country/united-states)

> Seniors who are now retired are now effectively effed and are forced to go back to work to make ends meet.

But, why do you think this is due to capitalism?

> Companies are more willing to hire outside labor -- effectively slave labor, because they are able to pay foreign workers much less than domestic citizens.

How is it "slave labor"? Slavery is forced work. That's different from low wages, which are precisely why it's so wonderful. The poorest people of the world are getting jobs. It's bad but without a job they'll be in an even worse situation.

> Companies are also more willing to replace human employees with robots, because it's cheaper than paying a human to do the same job. [...] Walmart is replacing it's stockers and cashiers with robots. Pizza shops are even going for full autonomy with self-driving pizza trucks that automatically make pizza while delivering it.

That's great; we're moving one step towards robot utopia.

> Companies will not help employees transition into new job positions.

That's not in their contract so it's not their responsibility. Shareholders (most of us indirectly hold stock) want more money just like all of us.

> How then, will the young get their foot in the door and become independent when they have no jobs?

They will do other jobs that aren't replaced by robots. Those jobs' real wages will increase due to robots increasing purchasing power. Also, see lump of labor fallacy.

In fact, although this is probably due to the recovery from the 2008 recession, unemployment rate has been decreasing since the sudden increase in 2008. (https://data.bls.gov/timeseries/LNS14000000)

New technologies replacing jobs is hardly a new phenomenon. Robots aren't new either; they've been used for decades.

> The truck driving industry is about to replace all of it's drivers with robots.

Cheaper truck transport is great.

> That race to the bottom has merely displaced millions upon millions of people and abolished the middle class, in addition to destabilizing the world economy. Capitalism is entirely incapable of keeping up with the modern world. The only way forward is a basic income.

Who has been displaced? How has the middle-class been abolished? Globally, the middle-class is growing (7% -> 13 %) (http://www.pewglobal.org/2015/07/08/a-global-middle-class-is...) and inequality slightly decreased from 1981 to 2005 (ftp://ftp.fao.org/docrep/fao/012/ak968e/ak968e00.pdf, PDF page 2, Table 1).

> in addition to destabilizing the world economy.

What destabilization? If you mean recessions, socialist countries have had recessions too. And how are recessions due to capitalism?

EDIT: made corrections to part about global inequality


the problem is trust. there's a lot of people who don't trust capitalism and/or people with access to capital and thanks to technology only a few crazies are needed to completely destabilize the system. if you think about it it's actually amazing that the whole scheme hasn't collapsed yet.


If you've been a victim of episodic economic collapse since Reagan started deregulation, you think its collapsing (well, dysfunctional anyway). If you've saved money and kept your job, then everything is hunky-dory I guess.

A system that serves a fraction of the population is broken from some points of view. Its indeed 'collapsed' when it stops serving millions of people.


> episodic economic collapse since Reagan started deregulation

The Great Depression was before Reagan and there have been many recessions before Reagan. Why do you think it is due to deregulation?

Capitalism has done much better than socialism, empirically.

How does capitalism only serve a fraction of the population? It has served all of us; and it's done a pretty good job.

Socialism and communism only serve a fraction--lobbyist groups who can make the government do what they what. Indeed, that's what we're seeing with industrial protectionism and farmer subsidies.

That's because socialism is based on centralized control and force, while capitalism is based on individual freedom and mutual cooperation.


>Capitalism Is Collapsing

but it isn't really - it's a pretty robust system that's been through worse challenges such as the great depression and rise of communism. The author moaning about things like washing machines not lasting like they used to doesn't change that.


I've always found georgism to be an interesting political idea but idk if I'm actually in favor of it. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Georgism

Check out this book by Henry George himself https://www.amazon.com/Social-Problems-Henry-George-ebook/dp...


Systems of governance are not static. They have to keep on evolving. We have pretty highly educated populations now compared to 50 or 100 years ago.

Raising the scare of communism seems to be a position of anti-change and resorting to the anti improvement TINA factor.

Like capitalism communism was another form of governance, an experiment that did not always work but the motivation as not negative. It was a reaction to feudalism and a effort to find a better alternative.

Currently we need more democracy and accountability as elections are increasingly becoming token gestures while special interests and organized groups indulge in lobbying and regulatory capture everyday.


Question: Why is this flagged?


sssst - you will get downvoted for asking such questions. Answer: HN is pro-capitalism first and foremost. Everything else -democracy and truth included- take a back seat here.

@HN admins: you can hide your heads in the sand as much as you like. Good luck and thanks for the fish.

UPDATE: OK - I'll take at face value the replies and apologize for the attack to admins. I'm still not following though why/how this is flagged.


Actually, while HN is certainly strongly pro-capitalism, I regularly post lengthy comments here about socialism and have gotten plenty of upvotes from comments that have quoted things likethe Communist Manifesto to make my argument.

It's more likely to have been flagged because there's always some that flag political discussions of any kind not directly related to tech, and even more that flag political discussions that they expect will get heated because they don't think those kind of discussions belong here.

I'm strongly left wing and have not noticed any particularly strong bias either way in terms of what type of political articles get flagged. Specific subjects are more likely to be a trigger.


Yea I'm not left-leaning by any means, but I don't care if it's pro-anything. It's a discussion and the points of the article aren't delusional. Discussion on if the analysis is right is something I thought was pretty common on HN.

Why is this flagged but posts about how automation will ruin everything and we need a UBI aren't? It's the same topic. Same discussion but from different perspectives.


I think there's a sizeable pro-socialism portion that's at least 50%. Just look at the comments here.


HN does have quite a few left wing commenters, but also a very large liberal and libertarian portion that often express concern about where capitalism is heading without necessarily wanting socialism... But in either case I think this article's comment-section is a bad one to judge by - the headline draw in a specific subset of commenters with a specific interest in the idea of the collapse of capitalism, which I suspect will disproportionally include left-wingers.


I'm trying. http://catallax.info

Real life keeps getting int he way.


Weirdly Vancouver-centric. If Vancouver is collapsing, maybe Milwaukee can replace it.


flagged? It transcends me why this post might be flagged. And it will be a marker of very bad undemocratic qualities of this forum if it stays like that.


Flagging is the result of user action. Speculation, but one reason may be that users think the discussion is likely to generate much more heat than any additional new light on the topic.


I'm not following though. So -any user can flag a post without any need to justify his action? Where is the value in that? Only posts that are at least neutral to all get to pass? Then we end up talking about anything but the things that actually matter in fear that they will generate "heat".

The posted article is much more decent than most anti-Trump articles that were the norm in here the past months. Personally I cannot wrap my head around it being flagged. If this is a result of a defective process then fix the process - that is if this is supposed to be a forum of reasonable practical people trying to find solutions to problems (aka hackers).


Multiple users need to have flagged a submission for it to receive a '[flagged]' label.

My initial comment is not meant as arguing for or against flagging in general or for this submission in particular. You asked why it might have been flagged. Another commenter responded similarly:

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=13374725

If you've noticed submissions from the past couple of months, you've likely come across user discussion about flagging and what submissions are appropriate for HN. For example, there was a Political Detox Week: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=13108404

As an aside, I think it's a difficult process figuring out how have civil and substantive online discussions. Just asking people to do so, even if they're generally reasonable people, doesn't seem to be enough. Some topics will nearly always result in flame wars of various temperature, and too many of those can drive away those who are willing to be reasonable. I respect your desire to want to dig into topics like this, and they're things that should be discussed. That said, it's a legitimate question if this is indeed the forum where they can be discussed constructively. That's not necessarily a failing of HN or its community, either. It just may not be the right tool for the job, so to speak. There are other forums other there.


Why is this flagged? I would imagine that the nature of capitalism is something many tech employees with uncertain stock option payouts would be somewhat interested in.


This question has been asked twice in this submission with responses:

- https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=13374538

- https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=13374571




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