So it falls to more general arguments evaluated in light of our current context, which is inherently messy because we don't have the answer sheet yet.
In telecom we've got companies screwing over their customers in a myriad of ways, in gaming we've got companies turning their games in slot machines for kids, in medicine we've got $1000 pills that cost $2 in India, in tech we've got the indiscriminate gathering of every piece of consumer information we can gather (and subsequent lack of security placed on it), agriculture's struggling with dicamba drift and so on. It doesn't seem clear to me that you can draw a strict line between the profit-seeking behavior of those private enterprises and that of a private enterprise like prisons.
Prescription stuff is probably one of the most screwed up parts of our country. The fact that weed is illegal because big pharma wants it to be. I don't think the situation would be much improved if the government siezed control of pharma companies, but it would be improved if pharma companies no longer had control of the government.
Seeking control of the government is a side effect of profit motive, it's a symptom of capitalism. Seizing the means of big pharma seems totally fine to me, it's a public good and our world where the amount spent researching a cure is proportional to how much money we can milk out of those afflicted seems a lot worse to me than a world where the amount spent researching a cure is proportional to the misery of those afflicted.
Compete on what merits? Corporate pharma is going to win on profit created and government pharma is going to win on any altruistic measurement. At that point why even bother with the corporate pharma? The money that goes into corporate pharma is still my money, it's what I'm paying at the pharmacy. I'd much rather my tax go up a little bit and we get full on government pharma research than getting good prices on some drugs (gov created) and getting gouged on others (corporate created).
I'd like to see a programme where some of these young kids get sent to Venezuela, Cuba, North Korea in a kind of political exchange programme and see what they think after a year of existing in those governments amongst the locals.
For most the fervor would become flat, some might double down, but for most reality would become apparent.
That's not to day we can't improve our own system. There is much room. But at the same time, the grass is brown on the other side, while you just have some weeds you gotta clear.
I recommend you talking to your average Joe (or Pablo, or Petr) living (or that lived) in places like Venezuela, Cuba, the hole Eastern Bloc, Albania, Cambodia, Mao's China, or any sub Sahara African state (except Botswana and RSA) that actively pursued the Marxist dream.
They haven't forgotten. They grew up in a world where the US was hegemon.
If you must think in terms of duality, state or privately controlled, there is perhaps a good rubric: If the industry is inherently monopolistic due to it controlling a singular resource (like a central park, or water), then the resource should be owned democratically by its community of users. In contrast, if the field can be competitive, then government should only be regulating the fair competition within that market. Note that even within a singular, monopolistic market there are always subordinate markets that are, in fact, competitive (e.g. parts & labour).
Democratic control need not imply centralized control. Even in the singular resource case, a democratically-controlled user or consumer cooperative specific to that resource is often a better organization structure than making it operated by an arm of a governmental entity. For example, rural electric companies are consumer cooperatives that serve their local area; often times they own & operate only the power lines and transmission (the monopoly part) and leave power generation (the competitive market part) to independent for-profit entities. Regional electric companies are not really part of a centralized government, yet they are democratically controlled by the subscribers who purchase electric service from them.
Systems can be built based on mutual trust (actual communism) or distrust (rule by jury law), distributed (like marxism or democracy) or centralized (oligarchy, autocracy and monarchy).
A hybrid tends to get dominated by one or another extreme or gets unwieldy.
Currently centralization is winning despite what is a sham of a de jure republic.
This is exactly what full-blown socialists believe, it's actually the core reason they think we should transition to a socialist state.
Many unanswered questions lie this way.
When compared to places like Venezuela, which people love to bring up as socialist disaster of sorts, but which has way more people employed in private enterprises than China, China looks more socialist by your standard mainstream definition of "socialism".
Tangent but: I think this really killed Libertarianism. Libertarians and classical liberals from Adam Smith to Ayn Rand said this wasn't possible. Capitalism and freedom are inseparable, they said. China proves that Capitalism works perfectly well and in fact may work better under a more authoritarian system. Freedom is not required beyond a few degrees of freedom to act economically. The presence of a totalitarian ruler willing to constantly backstop markets prevents panics and actually makes the system work better.
... or seems to so far. History isn't over. China could crash.
Not really. Remember this? https://www.forbes.com/sites/gordonchang/2014/01/19/mega-def...
If the government backs everything, people will engage in riskier behavior because they don't accurately assess risk. That creates a massive bubble of risky investments until it's too large for the government to effectively control.
There's an interesting book on the subject you might want to check out:
Bubbles always psych people out. They always go higher than anyone expects. They always make the nay-sayers look like fools... until they don't, and the nay-sayers end up looking like prophets.
My brother in law lived and worked in China for about 10 years. He went from thinking China would conquer the world in the first few to thinking China is Enron.
- Exalts nation and race over the individual? Mostly true.
- Centralized, authoritarian, and often dictatorial government? True.
- Strong and charismatic leader? Mostly true (strong yes, charismatic no)
- Strict governmental control over opposition, freedom of speech and freedom of assembly? True.
- Severe social regulations? True.
- Crucial role of heroes? Partly true, less so now than in the past.
- Strong attachment to moral, nationalistic values? True.
- Glory of the state over the individual? Mostly true.
- The individual is required to put the interest of the state before his personal goals/needs? True.
- Strong governmental involvement in economy an production? True.
- The State has strong influence over investment and industries? True.
- In order to receive the support of the government, businesses need to promise that their main interest is the enhancement of the country? True.
- Opposed to free market economy? Mostly true, freedom within the confines of what the state allows is not true freedom.
This list comes from a definition of fascism , not capitalism or socialism. There are many ways to make such lists and none of them have veritable claims to authenticity but in general China does tend towards fascism and state capitalism more than it does towards capitalism. They actually seem to follow a course laid out by Benito Mussolini who claimed that "...dynamic or heroic capitalism and the bourgeoisie could be prevented from degenerating into static capitalism and then supercapitalism only if the concept of economic individualism were abandoned and if state supervision of the economy was introduced. Private enterprise would control production but it would be supervised by the state. ..."
This closely resembles current-day China, more or less exactly where it concerns 'state capitalism' and to a large extent where it concerns fascism.
I guess most nations have regulations of what is or is not allowed. I can't, for example, buy my neighbor and press him into forced labor, or buy a meth lab and sell meth to my neighbor's kids in the US.
I guess I'd have to go to some failed nation state like Somalia to have that kind of freedom—a true libertarian paradise.
The reality of most nations is that they exist on a continuum. China is more authoritarian / curtailing of freedom than most, but less so than, say, North Korea. The US is less authoritarian / curtailing of freedom than many but more so than many developing countries that lack regulatory protections.
Can you find a civilization that has lasted with continuous benevolent and competent leadership? Because I can give you hundreds that haven't.
No, not for me to draw conclusions with extreme certainty as so many others do, especially considering the complexity of the systems involved and the unreliability of the historic record. It's certainly not enough data for an arrogantly overconfident position.
> Can you find a civilization that has lasted with continuous benevolent and competent leadership?
I cannot, hence my usage of the phrase "I believe".
To me, it's an interesting idea to ponder, not a showdown.
If that is not enough data, I doubt any amount of data is.
Interesting ideas to ponder are all well and good, but you're positing that a system of government is the best one and making a fairly outlandish claim about China with absolutely no supporting evidence of such a system being sustainable.
I wonder if that same logic holds in medical trials, which are a far more simplistic and controlled study.
(No, I am not talking about current politics but economy.)
I'm saying that if you concentrate power into one person's hands, it's awesome and efficient if that person is competent and benevolent. If he is not, it's really bad. Unfortunately, in the history of the world, there has been no government continuously run by benevolent and competent leaders.
The US arguably concentrates too much power into the hands of a single person, but not nearly to the same extent as a centralized and managed economy does. This has nothing to do with capitalism.
The ideology called "communism" in the US is actually national socialism. Not to be mistaken with fascism, but close. (Yes, it is Nazism. Soviet ideology was actually identical.) Alleged soviet collectivism was actually nationalisation.
It feels like I know a lot of people who think "socialism is evil, and therefore we need a market economy made safe via government regulation and state control of essential services."
And then I know a lot of other people who think "capitalism is evil, and therefore we need a market economy made safe via government regulation and..."
At a certain point I just shrug and ignore the words; they often end up predicting more about team allegiances than what actual system someone wants to see established.
Other than that though, are you talking about the distinction between totalitarianism and democracy?
There has been a (imo very odd) tendency in the US to confuse Communism with totalitarianism and Capitalism with democracy (despite counter-examples like Chile), and I've seen same rhetoric in Eastern Europe (where Communism-branded totalitarianism is a recent experience) but this tendency isn't universal.
many things about American society changed in the 50s to support this false dichotomy, primarily to draw a clearer distinction between communism, but most of them have nothing to do with anything related to the frameworks of nations, or any of the philosophical writings that underpinned these societal experiments.
We've had 20-30 years of ever escalating bailouts. Heads: you win. Tails: the public looses.
"Capitalism", or rather the free market, works by moving from failure to failure. Without "Tails: you get taken to the woodshed", failure doesn't lead to learning and improvement. No amount of regulation will change that.
Quite the opposite: most modern regulation is so complex that lawyers can't get enough of it. Not to mention the revolving doors between regulators and their targets.
Same thing put differently: we already have socialism. It's just socialism for the rich.
I don't believe we'll see this in my lifetime or even 200 or 300 hundred years, but I believe it could happen one day. And when that happens, capitalism will be rendered useless, and we'll go towards something more like communism or socialism.
As for today, show me something else that works better at managing resources than capitalism. It's shitty, I'll entertain hypotheticals and theories, but capitalism is the only thing thats worked so far. In the distant future I root for its demise.
Planned economies can be excellent at going in a straight line or when everybody is the same. That is why they look good on paper and seduce technocrats and academics who think they can plan something as big and complex as the economy. However they are horrible at adapting to new situations because of everything from bureaucracy to new technology to balancing competing goals. So planned economies tend to do well now but fail as the world they were built for changes. Capitalism requires some amount of faith in that we believe solutions will come but don't know what they are yet. Capitalism is said to harness the power of necessity and imagination, and those are impossible to predict.
The nordic countries had to change or fail and they have adopted market based changes. The jury is still out on China and what will happen when the world changes underneath it - become more market oriented or wither.
There has been pushback from the nordic leaders for calling them socialism: https://www.investors.com/politics/commentary/denmark-tells-...
My gut tells me that the sheer size and competency of China plus their authoritarian political system will be such a juggernaut that it won't matter what anyone else does, they are near unbeatable. They can still fail on their own though.
Capitalism does not harness innovation at all, because at some critical mass such capitalist notions like patents, royalties and exclusive contracts get involved to freeze the market and boost the big existing players at the cost of incumbents who are actually innovative.
What you cannot sell gets neglected too.
The market and agora gets converted into an authoritarian oligarchy. (Nonetheless capitalist.)
You can have a mixed economy with a lot more socialism than the US and still have a great society (see Europe for examples).
Now the Soviet Union was pretty horrible, and it’s a shame we’ve decided that it should be the poster child / cautionary tale for any socialist policy in a mixed economy. It’s a shame because I think the Soviet Union was actually a poster child for some things far worse than, and not necessarily intrinsic to, careful application of socialist policies:
- Command economy where production was governed by a combination of ideology and information systems (human and technological) that were comically ill-equipped to attempt such a thing.
- Horrible autocratic leadership. I’m open to the possibility that an economy, past some hypothetical ratio of socialism, results uniformly in autocracy. But... in the Soviet Union’s case, I think we need to consider the proud, nearly homogeneous, legacy of horrible autocratic rule and horrible living conditions in Russia.
But maybe we will soon have the IT capability to efficiently run a command economy. Imagine a world in which Amazon captures an even larger share of global sales... eventually handling the vast majority of all economic transactions: Amazon insurance payments to Amazon networks of doctors. Homogeneously decent quality inexpensive Amazon Basics cookware, clothing, televisions. Amazon News Network. How would that be different than a command economy?
Maybe no one corporation would ever capture anything like the full economy. But maybe an oligopoly of corporations could...
I actually think we need to figure out some form of (partial) socialism that is compatible with a democratic society, because the capitalist economic end-game starts to looks rife with potential for exploitation. If Amazon and Walmart carve up the world’s economy and resources, I want damn sure I can have equal representation in electing their leadership.
Sir, you are a noble soul! Where can I send a cheque to you, so that you can implement healthcare and education for all?
It would also eliminate a lot of the unnecessary laws that benefit those who hold power (selective enforcement, tying smaller players in red tape, etc). It does benefit monopolies though, that could be fixed with fairly enforced regulation, which granted would be contrary to her beliefs afaik.
Most people who criticize Rand don't know very much about her philosophy in my experience.
Virtually all regulations are based on nonobjective standards, meaning that businessmen must constantly defer to the judgment of bureaucrats.
The above is the from the Ayn Rand institute.
That sounds a hell of a lot like the system we have today. Wall street has a great run and pockets all the money, then boom and they get bailed out by the taxpayer. I don't know who "Ayn Randians" are, but they certainly aren't followers of her original writing. I consider myself a bit of an an old school Randian, and if I was running the show most people on Wall Street would be scared shitless, because a lot of them would be going to prison.
But then, perhaps she was less than honest, she was drinking buddies with Alan Greenspan, who I think is a criminal of the highest order.
> A wild west approach to capitalism would be disastrous.
> Virtually all regulations are based on nonobjective standards, meaning that businessmen must constantly defer to the judgment of bureaucrats.
I agree with that more or less. People on the left tend to disagree with this because they want to regulate according to their personal beliefs, as if they were passed down from god. Personally, I'm more than happy to negotiate a compromise, but I sure don't get that feeling from today's left.
I don't think a lot of Rand's beliefs stand up to the test of time, or would be pragmatic in today's world - philosophy should change with the times. But an example of one of her beliefs that I disagree with is the FDA - while I think it has more power than it should, if I recall correctly she believed it should be abolished entirely. Not that this is impossible or would be the end of the world, but I consider it sub-optimal, considering the dishonesty of westerners. But then, we didn't used to be this dishonest either.
She also had a tendency to put principle before pragmatism, I disagree somewhat with that as well.
One should be fairly open minded about these sorts of things.
A woman was accused of saying things against the state and was sentenced to death. She lied to her daughter and told her daughter of her guilt, so that her daughter would not think bad thoughts against the state, the same state that was going to falsely execute her.
They used to bury people in mass graves, alive. Burying them alive was not out of cruelty, but convenience. They found that live bodies were easier to take from the carts into the graves than if they had to lift dead bodies.
The worst thing about capitalism is so much better than the worst thing about communism. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Gulag_Archipelago
Perhaps you could say that capitalism does a better job of dispersing the benefits but it’s worst aspects are quite bad. Overall, the thing to fear is concentrated power in too few hands and unregulated markets.
Also, lets pretend the hand chopper-offer is not an individual running a business, lets say he's in charge of an all-powerful communist government. When you centralize power too much, you risk a tyrant seizing control of that power.
Communism means the government seizes control of the means of productions. There are few businesses that I would rather see ran by the government than by a citizen with skin in the game.
Read the book Animal Farm if you haven’t already. That captures the psychology of communism perfectly and demonstrates why it never, ever works.
Orwell himself was a left anarchist and staunch antifascist and anticapitalist. His critique is that of authoritarianism. If you take away from Orwell that he supports capitalism in any form then you may have missed his point.
Everything goes to pot when the Stalin-analogue takes over, because the book is a reflection of Orwell's opinions of the Soviet Union and his experience fighting with the communes in Spain and the subsequent purges committed Stalinist factions against the Trotskyists. If you read the Ukranian prologue, which is included with most modern published editions, Orwell even outlines that Animal Farm is an attack on Stalinism, and he firmly believes in socialism.
"Only conscious organisation of social production, in which production and distribution are carried on in a planned way, can lift mankind above the rest of the animal world as regards the social aspect, in the same way that production in general has done this for men in their aspect as species. Historical evolution makes such an organisation daily more indispensable, but also with every day more possible."
"If it should become necessary for communist society to regulate the production of men, just as it will have already regulated the production of things, then it, and it alone, will be able to do this without difficulties. It seems to me that it should not be too difficult for such a society to achieve in a planned way what has already come about naturally, without planning, in France and Lower Austria. In any case it will be for those people to decide if, when and what they want to do about it, and what means to employ"
That's why, in the transition period, power would end up concentrated in the hands of a small group of people.
Obviously eventually the idea was that the State would cease to be anything more than a mechanism for distribution of resources and stop managing people, but there are an awful lot of problems with that, conceptually.
Also, the guy I responded to said it didn't have to involve central planning. It kinda does, at least Marx and Engel's version does.
Like something that treats the market economy as a tool that works rather well to maximise production, but doesn't mistake it for an end itself. If only...