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Seven Fixes for American Capitalism (bloomberg.com)
74 points by pseudolus 15 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 144 comments



>Among their recommendations is preventing tech platforms from vertically integrating into different lines of business, where they can potentially favor their own services and harm rivals. In this view, Facebook shouldn’t be allowed to own Instagram.

Weird, I would argue that Facebook buying Instagram was a horizontal integration.

Amazon buying cloudflare is more something I'd think is vertical but it's possible I just don't understand the terms.


I don't know why you arr being downvotes, but your understanding is consistent with mine.

Although I still think the Instagram acquisition was at some level also vertical since one could argue Instagram was a more efficient delivery conduit for a certain subset of the population, and what Facebook was really out for was to pad their datasets.


the issue is you didn't directly attack Facebook and therefore are in violation of the groupthink de jour.


Please don't post unsubstantive comments like this to Hacker News. Even if you have a good point, it damages the quality of the thread.


> “I don’t even think stasis is compatible with liberty,” he told the Washington audience. - Bezos

Suppose one were to attempt to steelman Jeff’s statement. Is there any credible basis for this statement?

Or is it just one of those things that powerful people say because it makes them sound profound and they don’t have to follow it up with substantive supporting evidence.


If he's talking about economic stasis, let's give it a go:

1) Economics are the monetary interactions of a given society, subgroup, population, etc

2) stasis refers to not just stagnation, but a complete lack of change

3) total lack of change at a meta-scale like a society only exists in totalitarian societies

4) in the case of total economic stasis, you would need a command economy/controlled economy

5) in the scenario of a command economy, some of the people involved in the economy would fundamentally need to be oppressed

6) therefore, regardless of any moral or ethical judgements, a totally static economy would be inhibiting of the liberty of any given individual participating in it

Now, that said, there are many things to be gained by limiting what people are allowed to do. By the same course of logic you could argue that all laws are incompatible with liberty, since technically the government is trying to force you not to kill people, for instance. Obviously that is still to the benefit of society even if you personally have one fewer option. At this point it comes down to the fact that laws and regulations, when done correctly, can increase the number of practical/feasible options available to a populace, even though they technically restrict some of the options that would cause a society to fall apart. People can accomplish more in groups than they could on their own due to the options of specialization and parallelizing work becoming viable when they have restrictive agreements to cooperate. That's the whole point of companies.

So this is IMO a case of him being technically correct while still not making a very deep or substantial point in the overall context.


Laws against murder don't violate Liberty assuming private property rights which include ownership of self. - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Negative_liberty


I think your post hides a few ideological conveniences which you've used to bolster your argument, or at least make it suond convincing. For instance,

>total lack of change at a meta-scale like a society only exists in totalitarian societies

Does it? Why?

>in the scenario of a command economy, some of the people involved in the economy would fundamentally need to be oppressed

Why? Where does the oppression come in? If it is being told what to produce then doesn't capitalism do the same, though through a distributed model of command? Isn't it true that under capitalism, one must work by someone else's instructions, by the duration dictated by this other, in the method prescribed by this other, in exchange for compensation often only negotiated by a group of these 'others' (save the power of unions intervening)?

>regardless of any moral or ethical judgements, a totally static economy would be inhibiting of the liberty of any given individual participating in it

According to what definition of liberty? Here's what Marx talked about[0]: communism comes in the form of a stateless society, its conception of liberty is radically different to the English liberal tradition's, which places liberty negatively defined as freedom from interference from others. So it seems like you need to preface "liberty" with "bourgeois liberty", or if you prefer, "classical libertarian definitions of liberty". You cannot take them for given.

>laws and regulations, when done correctly, can increase the number of practical/feasible options available to a populace, even though they technically restrict some of the options that would cause a society to fall apart

Under this schema, a hypothetical restriction on employing labour could do the same - people have more options on how to spend their time and to what end. But it's worth nothing that Marx (or any traditional socialist) never argued for imposing laws and regulations, they spoke about changing society, the whole framework of it. Consider that in Hegel, freedom is defined as the negation of necessity.

[0] https://www.marxists.org/glossary/terms/f/r.htm


It's true that my post is grossly simplified for the sake of an exercise in pseudo-formal logic. This is largely for the sake of readability, as it was pretty long already.

>>total lack of change at a meta-scale like a society only exists in totalitarian societies

>Does it? Why?

This is genuinely interesting to me, so I'm going to try to write out my intuitive reasoning. Please bear with me and feel free to point out any errors.

1) The natural state of closed systems is to change unless at an equilibrium. (2nd law of thermodynamics)

2) In order for an economy to stop changing you need to be at some sort of equilibrium, typically these are either brought about by implicit military force with a government or by economic force in the case of functional monopolies.

3) While monopolies can crush entire industries, they have yet to take over entire societies without government assistance, to my knowledge

4) Therefore when you're talking about (relatively) complete stasis within an entire society's economy, you must be talking about a scenario where either government intervention is involved, or perhaps a hypothetical scenario where a single monopoly has taken over the entire economy and therefore functionally replaced the government.

I would say either of those hypothetical societies are roughly equivalent to totalitarianism, at least with regards to the economy, which is still the domain we're talking about, right?

>Why? Where does the oppression come in? If it is being told what to produce then doesn't capitalism do the same, though through a distributed model of command?

A distributed model of command? By allowing market forces to dictate what is in-demand and what is not, is that an imposition by an external will, or is it closer to gravity and surface tension defining the path of water as it flows down a hill?

I would argue that a fundamental aspect of oppression is intention. The market itself has no fundamental intentions but to grow. That said, it is bad at certain types of planning and must be redirected in many cases with external force in order to get it to work in the best interests of the public.

Having said all that, I don't think that we disagree on any of the points you've made. I was steelmanning Bezos' argument as suggested by the parent comment, not trying to make my own (except the very last paragraph). Yes, the use of "liberty" was assuming a bourgeois definition, this was because I had assumed it was the definition that Bezos was using.


> is that an imposition by an external will, or is it closer to gravity and surface tension defining the path of water as it flows down a hill?

It is imposition of the will of capital, as the personification goes. As such it is also the imposition of its representatives - politicians, churches and economists. Even water flowed down hills before capitalism - so the natural analogy is only half way there, perhaps a much more recent (and thoroughly capitalist) natural analogy would do: the pollution of the earth!

More than a bee builds a hive, we're responsible because we are thinking creatures, with the power to change nature and make it ours.

"The institutions of feudalism are artificial institutions, those of the bourgeoisie are natural institutions. In this, they resemble the theologians, who likewise establish two kinds of religion. Every religion which is not theirs is an invention of men, while their own is an emanation from God. When the economists say that present-day relations — the relations of bourgeois production — are natural, they imply that these are the relations in which wealth is created and productive forces developed in conformity with the laws of nature"

On intention, we'd agree that intention is a very human thing. Does the air show intent? Do animals show intent? No, intent is human - and so the force of capital must also be, or so it would go if we don't use the power of abstraction. To think abstractly about the situation, we recognise that abstract entities do have intentions of their own. Socialists don't want to go about blaming, they want to get on finding the most abstract form of this system, which is totalitarian: it absorbs every section of society (from interactions every day, to leisure time, to work time, to our relationships, to art, philosophy, science...) to work for it. If you don't conform as a capitalist or a worker, you're out. Intention is the question when we want to blame someone, but not even Marx blamed (or praised) the capitalists.

"To prevent possible misunderstanding, a word. I paint the capitalist and the landlord in no sense couleur de rose [i.e., seen through rose-tinted glasses]. But here individuals are dealt with only in so far as they are the personifications of economic categories, embodiments of particular class-relations and class-interests. My standpoint, from which the evolution of the economic formation of society is viewed as a process of natural history, can less than any other make the individual responsible for relations whose creature he socially remains, however much he may subjectively raise himself above them."

I think we have reached the point where the growth of the market should be questioned, and whether its worse continuing to serve this external alien authority, both as capitalists and as workers. The question of what follows is to many still an open one, as I'm sure you'd agree if I were to say my own (which you can probably guess is). Can there be a society without the kind of coercion capitalism uses to "redirect our resources"? Maybe you don't think so, but by saying the answer is "no", we're throwing out weighing up its criticism (sociological, economic, moral, artistic) and where it has excelled over any previous system.


But “the will of capital” is defined by market demand; in other words, consumers. This is what makes it different from totalitarian imposition.


You haven't given any reason to think that. I've already addressed why intention is not necessary for the critique. Are you aware of ideas such as structural violence, for instance?

Imagine if you lived in a society in which the idea of liberty simply didn't exist, and the intentions of those in charge were good intentions (as far as they know), and those in charge were numerous, or even the whole populace. Would you call this potentially totalitarian?

Why is capitalism totalitarian? Because it creates a totality in which all life is absorbed, from the economic foundation of society (even you would agree), but also to the way we do science, create art and how we interact with other people.


> Would you call this potentially totalitarian?

Absolutely. And “good intentions” is irrelevant, what matters is the results. How do people in that hypothetical society live? Obviously we cannot tell, but we can study history and check how things go when liberty is discarded.

> Because it creates a totality

This is just word play. The word “totalitarian” has a very specific meaning. From the dictionary:

1) of or relating to a centralized government that does not tolerate parties of differing opinion and that exercises dictatorial control over many aspects of life.

2) exercising control over the freedom, will, or thought of others; authoritarian; autocratic.


>Absolutely. And “good intentions” is irrelevant, what matters is the results.

Fantastic, I agree. So then the intentions actually seem to matter very little (or not at all) in the kind of society we create; so why do you insist on the human factor, if the intentions don't matter? What do you think of emergent properties of a system, for which nobody is to blame individually?

>The word “totalitarian” has a very specific meaning. From the dictionary

I don't trust the dictionary to define terms which are better defined in their own fields (in this case, sociology or politics or philosophy). But I can see capitalism fitting into the second definition, or the first definition, since you say that the good-intentions-but-unfree society I described before is totalitarian.

Another example: can racism be totalitarian? Even your second definition would seem to suggest so. What about gender roles? In the end, I see no reason at all why totalitarianism must come about as part of a coordinated intention or conspiracy. If good-intentioned bureaucrats can create a totalitarian society, why can't neutrally-intentioned capitalists and consumers?


> so why do you insist on the human factor, if the intentions don't matter

Because, regardless of intention, results are a consequence of human action.

> What do you think of emergent properties of a system, for which nobody is to blame individually?

Are you asking if emergent properties can be totalitarian? I think this question is not very useful. Do we have a real-world system in which nobody is to blame for its properties?

> But I can see capitalism fitting into the second definition, or the first definition

If you're talking about the capitalist societies we have today, yes, they can absolutely be totalitarian. But is that because of capitalism or in spite of it?

The fear of totalitarianism is the reason capitalists defend freedom and the reduction of the state.

> can racism be totalitarian?

The idea of racism? The definition of the word? I don't think so. But a society where racists can exert power over people and reduce their freedom is totalitarian. But we're back to the human factor.


On the face of it the statement looks like one of those things that is either a tautology, or false.

If society is in a state of stasis, that means no one is allowed to do things that go beyond what society is doing in the present. That means you don't have the right to innovate, to try new things, and so on, which seems integral to individual liberty. So his statement is obviously true.

However, if you consider liberty as a social construct that means you're allowed to do things as defined by society, then whether that society is static or not is immaterial. So the statement isn't necessarily true.

And that's what you get when you make arguments about the definition of words.


However, if you consider liberty as a social construct that means you're allowed to do things as defined by society

In fact, you have just demonstrated that liberty can't exist permanently as a social construct. Therefore, liberty needs to be based on something apart from and beyond society. For example, we could have a society which is based on universal and inviolate principles of personal liberty. (The United States gets laudably close to it.)

There are things which are beyond social constructs, like math, science, and nature. People who claim otherwise are just trying to use a social construct to get you to act as if all those other things are ours to define arbitrarily, because ultimately they want to have power over you and other people.

(EDIT: The fact that the US and Britain have had something like universal principles of individual rights is precisely what allowed societies to eventually reject their socially constructed acceptability of slavery. So also beware of people who advocate reducing or infringing on individual rights. We know that things like freedom of speech, property rights, and judicial due process are important for liberty, precisely because in the historical record, authoritarians have suppressed speech, taken property, and manipulated judicial processes to squash political opposition.)


> if you consider liberty as a social construct

If you consider prosperity as a social construct, you'll find out that many societies have self-reportedly achieved it, even if you would find them oppressive and dirt-poor by your own standards.

BTW moving key notions from the realm of somehow reality-testable to the realm of purely denotational and conventional was the way how the Party in "1984" ruled the minds of people. War is peace, freedom is slavery, etc.


BTW moving key notions from the realm of somehow reality-testable to the realm of purely denotational and conventional was the way how the Party in "1984" ruled the minds of people. War is peace, freedom is slavery, etc.

Also, such attacks on universal principles and the reality-testable are waged by taking the purely conventional and raising those up to the level of empirical fact and universal principle.


it's an opinion, that's why he says ' i don't even -think-'. it carries no value or credibility than that of his opinions- which you can choose to value or not. besides that what liberty is is also opinion.


It's valid to ask whether there is any credible theory or evidence that he is basing his opinion on. I'm also interested in hearing whether there is.


indeed. i’m not interested in merely tearing him down. i want to understand where he’s coming from, as it’s a statement I haven’t heard before.


i’m more interested in steelmanning the argument than adopting a dismissive stance, which still would be absolutely warranted as you have rightly pointed out.

also, just because liberty itself must be defined, doesn’t mean that we cannot identify common interpretations and analyze the possibilities. i’d be careful not to view relativism as a dealbreaker to fruitful discussion.


Here's his full speech with context if that helps. The quote in question is on page 25.

https://www.economicclub.org/sites/default/files/transcripts...


Thanks. Reading all of page 25, the quote makes more sense. It's a throwaway remark, the discussion is about the implications of energy use, and how capping our energy use ("stasis") would be a big change for all of us.


I'll play:

So if our governance became static it would be safe to assume that it would be unable to adapt to changing culture. For that government to be continually effective it would then need to enforce that it's constituents' values and lifestyles are unchanging, which seems antithetical to the concept of liberty.

In practice we see this since totalitarian regimes work to suppress and homogenize their populations.


No mention of ending inflation, which is a deliberate state-driven policy to steal from the poor to give to the rich and make the state "look good" by lowering the metric of unemployment:

https://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/02/13/the-case-for-hi...

"even in the long run, it’s really, really hard to cut nominal wages. Yet when you have very low inflation, getting relative wages right would require that a significant number of workers take wage cuts. So having a somewhat higher inflation rate would lead to lower unemployment, not just temporarily, but on a sustained basis."


From the OP:

> The real constraint only kicks in when there’s too much spending relative to a limited supply of goods and services—in other words, when inflation spikes. And there’s been little sign of that in America for decades.

It amazes me that this can still be repeated with a straight face. The prices for housing, healthcare, and education have skyrocketed - many would say that the costs for these are the problem.

What is happening is that technological and economic progression are continually trying to lower the prices of consumer goods. Rather than let this natural deflation occur, the overt monetary policy is to inject new money in the consumer sector until average prices rise instead.

But this money isn't given directly to consumers as cash, but only supplied as loans through financing channels. People don't have an extra ten dollars to spend on groceries (which would make grocery prices rise), but an extra $1,000 to borrow and bid up financializable assets. The monthly payments to service the debt (sometimes called rent) are also mandatory, so their financial position becomes ever more dependent on continual income.


Drop a line!


a. isn't krugman arguing FOR inflation?

b. why is low unemployment bad? let's say we have a deflationary economy, doesn't that lead to high unemployment which is a feedback to more deflation? how is that not a bad thing?

excuse my naivete


His arguing for inflation, exactly. And read the quote. The way it works is by stealing from workers.

> "let's say we have a deflationary economy, doesn't that lead to high unemployment which is a feedback to more deflation"

I suppose in a deflationary economy the equilibrium state is no one will have a job?


I think the problem was in dnautic's phrasing.

I initially read it as "No mention of ending (inflation, which is a deliberate state-driven policy to steal from the poor to give to the rich)".

But after reading the follow-up from dnautic (peer to this comment), I now think the intended meaning was "No mention of (ending inflation), which is (a deliberate state-driven policy to steal from the poor to give to the rich)".

That is, dnautic (if I understand correctly) is saying that the problem is ending inflation, rather than that inflation is the problem.


Nope. Inflation is the problem with contemporary capitalism.


> why is low unemployment bad?

Low unemployment isn't inherently bad as an indicator, but attempting to force low unemployment with monetary policy is. In this context, lowering unemployment means increasing the financial pressure on workers so they accept lower wages.

Meanwhile technological progress is eliminating many traditional positions, so workers end up stuck between a rock and a hard place - the screws are being turned on them so they go out and look for a job harder, yet there's nothing to be found!


Inflation is the Keynesian economist's tool for cutting wages without letting the wage-employees know that their wages are being cut.

Monetary inflation (and monetary deflation) benefit those closest to the monetary authority, those with information advantage, and those with pricing power at the expense of everyone else. If you know what the Fed will do, you get richer. If you can get the new money first, you get richer. If you are holding money when old money is destroyed, you get richer.

The economy works best when the growth in the money supply exactly matches the growth in economic activity. The Fed targets a positive inflation rate for several reasons, but one of them is that it makes real wages fall at a steady rate, and therefore workers become cheaper over time, encouraging hiring. If more wages were keyed to the inflation rate with automatic raises, the exercise would be pointless.

Always-inflation monetary policy means that everyone who works gets a pay cut, all the time. It's a stupid accounting trick, and it only works on paper. In practice, it means that the lowest-paid workers, with the least wage-bargaining power, are constantly slipping closer to poverty. But hey, they can always find a job that is decreasingly able to pay all their bills, right?

Low unemployment is not inherently bad. It is bad when you are screwing with the numbers just to hide bigger problems in your economy that may be contributing to a high unemployment rate.


> No mention of ending inflation

Did you mean to say "No mention of ending low inflation"?

Otherwise your comment doesn't make sense to me.


What are you talking about? The point of inflation is to encourage the spending and investment of money. It doesn’t really have anything to do with unemployment.


Fine, if that's what you believe is the point of inflation. Whom does "investment" benefit? Go down to the tenderloin in SF, look around, and ask yourself if these people are benefitted by 'investment'. And the mechanism, as indicated in the quote, has at least a side effect of lowering the real value of workers (his words, not mine) wages.

Inflation is exactly stealing from the poor to give to the wealthy. There's a reason why the income gap turned in mid 70s when Nixon closed the gold window; we can never hope to fix income inequality with linear downward redistributive policy until the compounding, upward redistribution is stopped.


You’re getting this backwards. Inflation helps the poor because the rich are much more likely to invest in job creation (by spending money and hiring people), when we have inflation. deflation is terrible for the poor, unemployment goes up and job creation goes down. If you look at historical data of inflation vs unemployment I’m sure you’ll come to the same conclusion.

If the money supply doesn’t increase, it’s actually deflationary, due to population growth. If inflation is 0, it means that the money supply is increasing at the same rate as production. To provide good incentives, you want the money supply to slightly outpace the growth in production. Which is what 1-2% inflation precisely does.

Clearly, super inflation is distinctly bad for the poor, but that’s different from inflation that slightly out paces population growth.

Almost all economists are of the same opinion.


> deflation is terrible for the poor, unemployment goes up and job creation goes down

Yes, this is the standard assertion that is continually repeated to justify the state policy of overwhelming monetary inflation.

But it presupposes that what makes people poor is simply a lack of employment, rather than being unable to keep up with their essential expenses. Of course if you personally benefit from there being more minimum wage workers, this makes perfect sense to you - if 40 hours a week at minimum wage is not enough for someone to pay their bills, they can simply find another job and work 80!

But if you instead consider someone who does have a constant job that we accept as "full time", then having the real purchasing power of their salary generally trending down is certainly doing them no favors. That is the wage theft of inflation.


That someone will get raises, assuming they are doing something in which their skills matter. A checkout cashier probably won't, because their job is a commodity, i.e, it doesn't matter if they are good or bad at their job, the results will be the same. If someone has skills in which there is competition, lets say a factory workers (there is a tangible difference between the best factory worker and the worst), they will see their wages rise due to inflation. Because of inflation more investment capital will flow into the factory company, and the company will have more money to try and select the "best" factory workers. The competition for labor will then drive up the wages up the factory worker .


You've laid out a long chain of handwaving causality, stated as if each link happens automatically. But the market is not fully efficient, so default states matter.

What you're effectively arguing is that only the direct upsides matter, as the direct downsides will be erased by market feedback. Surely you can appreciate that the dynamics of the situation are quite different when a person has to rely on continually getting raises just for their financial situation to remain the same.

Tangentially, the productivity difference between a good worker and an average worker is exactly what businesses have worked to eliminate over the past few decades - via moving intelligence to larger processes, with individuals treated as cogs. And they've been quite successful at it.


I recommend taking an Economics course.

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


The chart showing USG spending / GDP excludes transfer payments, which strikes me as misleading. Transfer payments have ballooned in the time period shown and are still transfers of cash out of the government's coffers. I'm not some sky-is-falling Federal debt doomsayer; borrowing has been cheap and we're not breaking a sweat to service the debt. Still, it's hardly controversial that the current trajectory is unsustainable in the not-so-long term of a few decades.


Transfer payments are presumably excluded because GDP traditionally excludes transfer payments. Including something in the numerator, but not in the denominator, is a good way to get weird ratios. E.g. it would be possible (though it would not presently happen in the US) to have a spending:GDP ratio greater than one.

I do agree that it would be better to use some other denominator that does not have this problem, but it isn't a crazy decision to begin with.


See also an article [1] I submitted a few days ago that provides a trader’s take on MMT.

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=19073500


I agree with some of the points being made in this article, but there's definitely better resources on this topic.

The paper mentioned in the article, "Amazon's Antitrust Paradox", is very thorough and easy to read even for someone (like me) who doesn't have a background in economics.

The key point made in that paper is that modern antitrust legislation only looks at price when determining whether a monopoly is harming the consumer, and doesn't consider scale or the effects on the overall market and competition.

>This Note argues that the current framework in antitrust—specifically its pegging competition to “consumer welfare,” defined as short-term price effects—is unequipped to capture the architecture of market power in the modern economy. We cannot cognize the potential harms to competition posed by Amazon’s dominance if we measure competition primarily through price and output. Specifically, current doctrine underappreciates the risk of predatory pricing and how integration across distinct business lines may prove anticompetitive. These concerns are heightened in the context of online platforms for two reasons. First, the economics of platform markets create incentives for a company to pursue growth over profits, a strategy that investors have rewarded. Under these conditions, predatory pricing becomes highly rational—even as existing doctrine treats it as irrational and therefore implausible. Second, because online platforms serve as critical intermediaries, integrating across business lines positions these platforms to control the essential infrastructure on which their rivals depend. This dual role also enables a platform to exploit information collected on companies using its services to undermine them as competitors.

Even though I'm a software engineer, I'm skeptical of claims that technology can help fix social, economic, or environmental problems. I support green technology, but they're not a panacea. In articles pushing green tech and sustainable energy, there seems to be this implicit assumption that we can maintain our current standard of living in a "sustainable" way. Solar panels and electric cars aren't going to prevent climate catastrophe if only 5% of people can afford them. Rather than relying on individual consumers to make ethical choices (opting into living sustainably) we need drastic changes at a state-wide level (so that choosing not to be sustainable is opt-out).

>Income inequality can be solved by educating or retraining workers for the high-tech jobs of the future.

This statement doesn't make any sense. If you increase the number of software engineers, the average wage will decrease.

Edit: Forgot to mention that tech is absolutely automating away a large number of jobs.


Another thing the pricing test favored by the Chicago School doesn't consider is the effect of consolidation on entrepreneurship. Huge consolidated companies become de-facto standards that are hard to compete with for many many reasons and that have the resources to simply buy or clone any competitor in its crib. In the computing world they also tend to become platform monopolies with strong lock-in from APIs and network effects. You also get a huge problem with regulatory capture due to the massive budgets these companies have for lobbying and revolving door deals. If the mega-corps get big enough and exist long enough they start to effectively merge with the state.

The price to the consumer might not change a lot, but a lot of innovation doesn't happen when the market gets dominated by players like that.

Back to inequality -- this effect also leads to consolidation of more and more wealth at the top by these companies and to geographic consolidation of wealth in the cities where these monster companies are headquartered or have major operations. Today that's San Francisco, Seattle, Los Angeles, and New York. Due to the "law of rent" this forces up real estate costs in these cities, further making it hard for middle class people to build wealth regardless of where they live. Geographic wealth concentration means you face a choice between poor career prospects and living in a city where the real estate market takes all your surplus due to the natural spatial supply limits (land, commute times) that exist for housing.

Entrepreneurship is a major vehicle for geographic wealth dispersal and for class mobility from the middle class upward. Without entrepreneurship the ranks of the very wealthy become incredibly stagnant and almost like a generational nobility. (Europe has this problem too, though for very different reasons. In Europe the problem is too much cumbersome regulation making it too hard to start new businesses. So Europe has too much government and America has unstoppable mega-corps that crush everything new.)


It's weird to me to see a narrow "pricing approach" towards antitrust being attributed to the Chicago School. I thought the Chicago perspective on antitrust was that it should potentially be applied to markets that aren't "contestable" (i.e. have high barriers to entry) for either structural or regulatory reasons, and in particular, that well-designed regulation could be used in such cases to minimize and constrain the non-contestable portion of a complex, multi-lateral market structure (see e.g. the markets in energy, telcos and the like - IT does not seem all that different), while "carving out" new, more contestable markets that could then sustain a lesser regulatory burden. This seems quite close to the power-focused approach that the "critics" are pursuing, and it's weird that they're being characterized as anti-free-market.


It's possible that as with Keynes' advice about counter-cyclic spending the Chicago school's views on monopoly and antitrust have been distorted by politicians and lobbyists.

In the case of Keynes counter-cyclic spending became "deficits don't matter, always spend more no matter what." In recessions spending goes up and in booms spending goes up. Keynes argued that governments should cut during booms to achieve something at least close to a net balance, but the cutting part is ignored.


> This statement doesn't make any sense. If you increase the number of software engineers, the average wage will decrease.

It also assumes that there will be jobs available. Increasing the supply software engineers does not mean the demand will increase. I see this logic error all the time when people discuss solutions to income and wealth inequality. Actually, the solutions are taxation and estate taxes; but those proven solutions are rarely mentioned.


Thank you for addressing the only point on this list which shows any promise - a renewed commitment to Trust Busting.

I have a similar take on technology - new industries are nice, but without some serious push, each is going to take time to get started. If we wait for the "market" to drive solar panel adoption by itself, foreign competition is going to choke out domestic firms.

This list lost me at more Supply Side "Economics". Both US political parties have been trying variations on this theme continuously since 1980. As far as Im concerned, this is the problem, not the solution. The same goes for disingenuous Corporate Libertarianism, German-style subsidies, and whatever other model you can invent to pretend this still works.

The real solution? Workers need to tell their bosses, "F%$k You, Pay Me." In all seriousness, driving for Uber or Lyft is just a way to devalue your vehicle for pay that rarely keeps pace with such and gas.

Inflation continues, even as workers see their pre-inflation average wages remain constant. Its almost like the economy doesn't really include us anymore.

Your economy is struggling? Maybe you should pay us enough to participate, boss.


Two things that can have a major positive impact: end usury/interest, end artificial inflation.


Interest != usury.

And what do you mean by "artificial" inflation? QE?


Any amount of money you owe on a loan (whether it be a fixed amount, like 1 cent per 10,000 usd or a percentage) is usury. It is bad because it exploits people in need, and people with money get more money doing basically nothing. Do not distinguish between the two based on how much interest gets charged, it's all the same. As far as I'm aware, what are known as Abrahamic religions made no distinction between the two. It's a modern invention.

Most inflation today is artificial, banks print more money to stimulate people spending more money. This is one summary I came across: https://www.quora.com/What-is-artificial-inflation


A lot of analyses of capitalism miss out on the fact that the problems it creates vary widely by sector. Warren Buffet said that if "a farsighted capitalist had been present at Kitty Hawk, he would have done his successors a huge favor by shooting Orville down." That's because the airline industry didn't return profits to investors; instead the vast value created by the industry accrued overwhelmingly to the public, because of competition.

So a good general strategy would be for the government to make sure that, at least in the long run, the rules for each sector are tweaked to make the sector look more and more like the airline industry.

It's not hard to imagine a way for this to happen in the tech industry. We can imagine a technology sector that runs completely on commodity hardware, open-source software, and open APIs instead of walled gardens like FaceBook. This would just take a bit of political will and some smart regulations - no need to radically overthrow the system that has created so much prosperity for us.


The computer you're typing on and your Internet connection has everything you need to create incredible value for yourself and humanity. No property, factories, government intervention required.

What's sitting in front of you is so mind bogglingly more powerful than the "airline industry".

btw "..for the government to make sure that.." is asking a lot. Keeping potholes filled gives the government a run for its money.


> “That's because the airline industry didn't return profits to investors; instead the vast value created by the industry accrued overwhelmingly to the public, because of competition.“

rhur?

competition is essential to capitalism; monopoly returns to investors are not. no one is even guaranteed a profit. you describe exactly how capitalism is designed to work.

this kind of basic misunderstanding is part of why we’re in the mess we’re in. economics and finance should really be required in high school.


I think it's a bit much to imply that Warren Buffet missed out on learning economics and finance in high school.


might yours be an intentional misreading? buffett surely knows that capitalism's purpose is to allocate capital efficiently in an economy, not generate outsized returns to investors, which is a form of inefficiency:

"[E]ventually a fundamental rule of economics prevailed: In an unregulated commodity business, a company must lower its costs to competitive levels or face extinction." -- Warren Buffett, in the 1994 Berkshire Hathaway shareholder letter

but he's not an impartial observer--a definitional statement that suits his vested interest is not surprising.


> buffett surely knows that capitalism's purpose is to allocate capital efficiently in an economy

No, it's not. That's an retrospective rationalization invented centuries after capitalism came into existence, and even after it was named by its critics.

The purpose of capitalism which motivated them pushing the changes which formed it was to secure power previously held by the feudal aristocracy in the hands of the mercantile—what would become “capitalist"—class.


the history is debated, and knowledge is generally retrospective and rationalized. besides, the historical origin of capitalism has little to do with its pragmatic purpose.

capitalism wouldn't be a practiced (locally optimal?) economic system were it not relatively efficient at allocating capital in an economy. decentralization of the means of production is also a critical feature of its success, but i'm sure the 18th c. bourgeoisie didn't think about that either.


> capitalism wouldn't be a practiced (locally optimal?) economic system were it not relatively efficient at allocating capital in an economy.

Why not?

It's certainly reasonable to expect productive efficiency (at least in some sense of output, though not necessarily the pure aggregate utilitarian sense it is normally used) ceteris paribus to lead to better survival of an economic meme, but it seems unwarranted in the extreme to assume that that is the only differentiator in the survival of such memes, which is necesat for the implication you suggest to reliably hold.

(And even if it does hold, what does that say about the near-universal evolution away from pure capitalism to various forms of the modern mixed economy?)


sure, it's premature to be absolutely sure of the reasons for capitalism's current success (and potential demise), but that doesn't mean we can't draw any conclusions.

the underlying conjecture is that capitalism combines with modern political and cultural systems to create broad distribution of esteem and opportunity, while also being more efficient at it, so that attention is drawn toward positive-sum production (and away from zero-/negative-sum conflict), making it more stable than other systems like feudalism.

moreover capitalism seems to be flexible enough to combine with diverse political and cultural systems. the modern mixed economy, then, can be thought of as an expression of the pragmatic holistic sociopoliticoeconomic system (vs. the ideal) as it counteracts various forms of self-serving distortions.

do you believe maximizing personal capital is a worthy goal in itself, or is there another reason for the debate?


It's not an issue of having good ideas. The issue is really about execution and consensus building.

We need to stop propping up 'the choosen one' type leaders and we will see change. I want boring people elected ala Merkel.

Starting all the way back from Clinton\Bush\Obama\Trump to AOC these leaders are the wrong fit to make change happen in polarized times. They are great for media rating but not much else.

I want to see a non-charismatic figure who is not evaluated by how much dopamine they produce in my head through an instagram pic or a cool speech.

I am tired of these leaders who think that's the route. They have all failed. I can't believe no one sees that.


As the other responder said, boring non-charismatic people do not get elected in the US for President. The Democrat Party has been trying this over and over and over, and losing easily-winnable elections as a result. The latest election with Hillary losing is the most visible example of this phenomenon: she had no charisma at all, and lost to someone who was extremely polarizing.

It doesn't work this way in other countries because they don't elect their executives. In Parliamentary systems, the Parliament chooses the executive, rather than that person being chosen in a popular election. So the executive only needs to be charismatic enough to win a seat in parliament, not so popular as to win a nationwide popular election for a single and critical post.


When marking the ballot in a parliamentary election, people put the X beside the name of their chosen representative for their local district, but in practice that name often has very little impact on the vote. The party and its leader have far more sway in most voters' minds than the local representative.


The problem is that a boring non charismatic people fail to get elected. Do you think that the past presidents the USA had were the best fit for their jobs? Some did well but we can never know what the alternatives would have done.


The title implies Capitalism is broken. It's not. Capitalism has provided more benefits to more people than any other economic system in history. American Capitalism has produced the telephone, the automobile, the personal computer, the cell phone, the internet, and made us one of the richest countries in the world.

A better title would be, Tweaks that can make American Capitalism Better.


For a long time America has been by far the richest country in the world, without a credible second place (though maybe China is that now)

And yet for decades the quality of life of hundreds of millions of Americans is lower than that of people in other, poorer developed countries.

Why is that? What's the point in having the richest country if it doesn't have the best conditions for those living in it?

Is it worthwhile just being rich for the sake of being rich, even if you get no benefit from it?


> And yet for decades the quality of life of hundreds of millions of Americans is lower than that of people in other, poorer developed countries.

This statement is wildly ignorant or intentionally misleading, you are claiming that at the very least 2/3 of all americans have a quality of life worse than other poorer countries. this is simply a false unsubstantiated statement.


No, it's completely true. Most Americans do not have a better quality of life than most Swedes, most Danes, or most Germans.


There is no objective measure of quality of life. It might well be that you personally would rather be poor there than here, but it's not an objective and verifiable statement, and it could easily go the other way. It depends on which factors that you, personally, rate highest.


I agree that there is no 100% objective measure; however, that doesn't mean that we cannot look at common factors and get an overall idea.

Something along the lines of the degree to which one's life allows them to: Meet their physical needs Own a house/land Raise a family Have atonomy Satisfy higher needs such as education, creativity, self improvement, etc.


I think part of many Americans' quality of life definition is the possibility to hit it big and end up in the top 10% and have an even better life than most Swedes/Danes/Germans. Temporarily embarrassed millionaires.


Depending on how you measure how "rich" a country is, the US often isn't #1 and there are plenty that are a close #2 (Japan, Western Europe).

And yes, the quality of life for many Americans is lower than developing countries, but that's because the developing countries have become richer.


Ok. We found a good move. But did we find the best move? Or, somewhat more weakly, can we find a better move?

Don't let the good be the enemy of the better.


Don't let someone's opinion or conceptualization of "better" be the enemy of what's good.


Isn't that exactly what joshuaheard said, though?


No because capitalism, even on paper, will still imply poverty as a structural element. Without poverty and exploitation, the system cannot sustain itself. This without considering waste: Capitalism, being competitive at every scale, implies that to give feedback to the system, you have to waste. Waste resources, waste time, waste lives. The more waste, the better the outcome.

If it works by different assumptions, it stops being capitalism. So if you aim to remove these elements, you're aiming at destroying capitalism.


I cannot figure out how you came to the conclusion that poverty and exploitation are structural elements to capitalism.

In fact, I believe the opposite is true: that capitalism succeeds despite the drag that decisions made under desperate poverty (and the exploitation that comes with that) makes on the system. And, without that drag, capitalism would actually be far more successful than it already is.


One definition of capitalism is simply the re-investment of profits into improvements - better tools, for example. That in no way implies poverty as a structural element.


I believe what GP is trying to say is that capitalism necessarily creates such an element, since they view it as a class structure society.


I believe that's what they are saying, too. I think it's flat-out wrong.

If you and I are both working stiffs, and we both have $50 left at the end of the month, and you buy some beer, and I buy a used sewing machine so I can take sewing jobs in the evening, then I'm a capitalist and you aren't. That doesn't make us of different classes, though, (except that I may be mentally at a different place than you are).


>and I buy a used sewing machine so I can take sewing jobs in the evening, then I'm a capitalist and you aren't

I don't think that's true. In the traditional schema (for its faults and advantages), a capitalist is someone who both owns capital and employs wage labour. If you hired people to work on your sewing machine and kept their produce, that would likely make you a capitalist. At the end of the day, these examples don't work well to illustrate the notion of capitalism as a social phenomenon, rather than one involving two individuals who buy beer.


If you're interested, read up on the Islamic economic system. It allows for competition in a similar fashion that capitalism does, but it is still controlled. It also abolishes evil practices that feed on the poor like usury and interest, yet ensures that the poor get a good share by means of charity and other ways.


If my car has a broken headlight, my car is still broken and I still fix it, even if it has been providing value and even if it still does so. The implication is only that it isn't living up to its promises, not that it is not worth keeping. (Besides, the title refers to American Capitalism.)


Capitalism has ignored negative externalities for a long time, and now the bill is nearly due. The environment is devastated, climate change will disrupt the ecosystem services we take for granted, and inequality is giving rise to political turmoil.

A better title would be, How to save Capitalism before it's too late.


> Capitalism has provided more benefits to more people than any other economic system in history.

Provably false. One example is the Islamic economic system. It was famously noted that there were no more people who accepted charity during the rule of Omar Ibn Abdul-Aziz, because poverty was basically eliminated.


How many people need to be working for sub-poverty wages before we can say American capitalism isn't perfect? How many inches do the oceans need to rise? How many people need to file bankruptcy due to medical bills?

No wonder we can't fix our problems if people insist on pretending their aren't any.


"The first step in solving a problem is recognizing there is one" — Will Mcavoy


I don't believe anyone has claimed American capitalism is perfect only that it's better than the known alternatives.


Capitalism provides more benefits than feudalism, which in turn provided more benefits than a pre-feudal barter economy. But that doesn't mean that there is no economic system that would provide still more benefits than capitalism.


Capitalism isn't perfect, but it is the best system we have.


Why does capitalism get the credit for industrial and scientific breakthroughs? That's begging the question, no? There is absolutely zero proof that these things are inclusive of one another, and plenty of evidence to the contrary. Especially when the current capitalistic system is not reasonably sharing the benefits of these breakthroughs?


What is reasonable? And more to the point, what non-capitalist system has ever been more reasonable?


>What is reasonable?

I think not having a continual decline in purchasing power and living standards despite increases in productivity and consistent technological breakthroughs is pretty reasonable.


Is that reasonable when heath-care costs, at 20% of the economy, are increasing at 10+% a year? The economy is not growing even close to fast enough to offset this. Our productivity is not increasing even close to fast enough.


>Is that reasonable when heath-care costs, at 20% of the economy, are increasing at 10+% a year?

Yes.

One, because cash flow one way doesn't justify cash flow another way. Regardless of other costs. So I'm not sure how one relates to the other. Purchasing power and real wages don't necessarily mean you have more money to spend freely. It's a way of looking at how average workers are getting their slice of the pie, so to speak.

Two, because the fundamental reason these costs are increasing are also because of the economic system that is hoarding wealth -- the product of productivity -- into one class tier. This class tier has almost no real input or contribution to productivity and technological advancements, yet are quite literally the only ones benefiting from it.

Continuing, there is absolutely no reason for healthcare costs to have increased as much as they have. Not at current spending levels. I wish people would understand this. There is no fundamental, principle reason why healthcare costs go up except greed and the system we have chosen to implement. Price increases happen because you have private companies that have continually increased prices -- and in some cases taken drugs that used to be free and now charge thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars, for products and services. A lot of which are funded directly by federal grants, and none of which the public receives returns on. Our ineffectual government (when it comes to regulatory matters) has done nothing to curtail this.

https://www-tc.pbs.org/prod-media/newshour/photos/2012/10/02...

and

https://www-tc.pbs.org/prod-media/newshour/photos/2012/10/02...

We have every ounce of data telling us "this system is wrong, it is not functioning by any metric" Yet a large portion of the populace doesn't care or continues to adhere to the mantra. It's not religious, it's an economic cult sprinkled with political astrology. Capitalism has its place. But it needs to be put back in its place, so to speak.


Lol, you can't use health care and capitalism in the same sentence. The most heavily regulated and government controlled industry happens to also be the poorest ran and most corrupt? So many carveouts for the politically connected? State mandated hospital sections to limit competition? The whole industry is a horror show of the dumbest most self defeating rules imaginable, and yet capitalism takes the blame?


>you can't use health care and capitalism in the same sentence.

I most certainly can. Because the poorly defended ideas of capitalism have infected the healthcare system. It is principally the reason why healthcare in the U.S. is in such a sorry state, as I outlined earlier. You can't sit there and invoke a no true scotsman just to validate voodoo economics.

We see other systems working just fine. You should ask yourself "what does it look like if I my ideas and perceptions are wrong."


> Capitalism has provided more benefits to more people than any other economic system in history.

Stop spinning this as an argument that capitalism is not broken. It's merely less broken than alternative systems and evidently only works in conjunction with heavy regulation.

Historic examples of (nearly) unregulated capitalism exist and they are horrifying.


You can buy and sell almost anything under capitalism. You can buy or sell property. You can buy or sell pieces of a company (stocks). You can buy or sell human labor. And the way that businesses make money is by essentially arbitraging some market, for example by buying something in one place and selling it somewhere where it is more expensive, or by buying labor and selling the products of that labor at a profit.

But there are certain things you already cannot buy and sell in our current system, and this is key to seeing the way forward. You can't buy and sell people, for instance. That would be slavery. The purest form of capitalism would include slavery also. You can buy labor, but no more than 40 hours per week without paying overtime.

The socialist point of view on this is that it isn't just buying the life of a person that is morally wrong; buying their lives piecemeal 8 hours at a time and then arbitraging the value of their labor is wrong as well. So under socialism when people work, they work always and only for themselves or as part of a cooperative that they are an equal owner of. So they are taking part in a voluntary activity, not selling themselves. Ultimately that's the only way to fix our economic system; allowing the arbitrage of labor leads to fundamental instabilities and inequalities that cannot be resolved. Otherwise the pressures within society will continue to grow until the society tears itself apart or relieves the pressure by going to war.


Thank you - this is a concise definition and gives a working pov that can be widely applied - do I own my personal data, can I sell it? Its an easy one to think around

As an intellectual framework this is a great jumping off point.

I hope you don't mind if I suggest you may not have originally thought of it - where can I read more?


you can sell your own personal data all day long, how could it be otherwise? Finding a buyer is another story but there's zero barrier to putting it up for sale.


Haha, thanks- I gave it my own twist but really this line of thought dates all the way back to Karl Marx. But for an lighter, more up to date analysis you can start with Richard Wolff's youtube channel "Democracy at Work"- he's an economist specializing in socialist economics.

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCK-6FjMu9OI8i0Fo6bkW0VA


To me the concept of labor in socialism is outdated. Consider Facebook, do all the uses who generate the content and activity that gives Facebook its value count towards "labor" and therefore should participate in the rewards of that labor?

If everything was still physical factories, staffed by humans, and creating physical widgets then I can at least understand the socialist view. However, in the current market labor so is detached from profit it doesn't make a lot of sense.


>>> do all the uses who generate the content and activity that gives Facebook its value count towards "labor" and therefore should participate in the rewards of that labor?

yes.

I have contributed a small part of labor, but probably more importantly I have sold my Intellectual Property - my Personal data, to Facebook who then monetise it and give me no cut of the proceeds.

It is an interesting framework from fallingfrog. I like it


If you sold them something then you should send them an invoice. Or, did you agree to their terms and conditions of using their website/mobile app voluntarily?

This makes no sense to me.


to make an (extreme and not equal example) you can enter a contract to sell your liver - society has decided that such contracts should be illegal. we shall probably make a similar decision on selling personal data.


>Consider Facebook, do all the uses who generate the content and activity that gives Facebook its value count towards "labor"

It is labour, so yes. What do you think the concept of labour in socialism is? Only then can we judge if it is inaccurate. For instance, Marx never excluded mental/information-work/management labour, and in fact he mentioned them specifically at many points.


I was seriously just thinking that I'd like to see a Marxist analysis of this from you. So please, keep going.

My initial attempt at it: Facebook is the capitalist, owning the means of production. The workers aren't the employees of Facebook (I mean, yes, those are workers too, but they aren't the ones we're concerned about here). Instead, the workers are the users who generate the content. Facebook profits by keeping the fruits of their labor (their content).

What would it look like for the workers to own the means of production?


> So under socialism when people work, they work always and only for themselves or as part of a cooperative that they are an equal owner of.

I don't see how this is possible without killing or even reversing progress.

Example: You work alone and make $500k a year. You know that if you had another good developer you could make a million a year. You know a lot of developers who currently make $100k a year. What is a fair pay? You might say $500k, sure, now both of you earn the same. But, then you realize that you can earn $1200k in total with yet another developer, what should you pay that developer then? $200k? Seems unfair, now he earns less than the first developer even though they do exactly the same job. Do you reduce the salary of the first developer to $350k to make it fair for both? I doubt many workers would think that reducing salary just to hire people is a good thing. Also you yourself would still earn $150k more than them, so would you reduce your own salary to $400k to make it fair? Then why would you even do the work to hire these people? Would they be happier to be stuck with $100k a year when you could easily pay them both $150k a year while still keeping significant profit? Would the world be better off with the 3 of you producing $700k total value (your $500k + their $100k each) instead of $1200k that you would produce together at your company?

Ultimately, the only reasonable thing to do is to hire people at what their job is worth for a typical company or slightly above that. Any value above that is not created by the worker but by the work creator. Then they are happy since you pay them more than they got before, you are happy since you earn money for the work of providing valuable jobs. As a bonus you never get into situations where you would like to hire a person, the person would like to work for you but you can't pay him the same as the rest of your workers since those workers are significantly overpaid compared to the rest of the market.


> So under socialism when people work, they work always and only for themselves or as part of a cooperative that they are an equal owner of.

The thing is that all new businesses start that way already. People, including workers, sell their shares in businesses to outside investors - sometimes even ceding their control into how the business is run, thus becoming "wage labor" at least to some extent - for all sorts of reasons. This does not make such transactions "non-voluntary"!


What socialism system are you talking about? Just name one socialist country that applies your ideal scenarios. IMHO this system only exist in your mind, it is not real.

Countries that people say are Socialist like those in the north of Europe, are really capitalistic societies.

I have known plenty of real socialist countries in the world, and they only share misery. In those socialist countries, like Venezuela or Cuba, the old Soviet World, differences between those in power and those that are not are enormous, bigger than in any capitalist system.

In Venezuela for example, those in power made deals selling the gold of the country, the oil and until recently, had access to favorable exchange of currency that they sold in the black market making a tremendous profit.

In Cuba people earn a maximum by law of something like 30 dollars/month. But people in charge sells access to country resources like permission to place a Hotel or a factory and make millions. All the heroes of revolution living in Mansions in front of the sea while normal people do not have permission to change a broken electrical switch in their houses or feeding the cow in front of their house, starbing.

Cooperatives, like Mondragón in Spain or kibbutz in Israel have their own set of problems. If you pay everybody the same, the best people just get out soon.


I am constantly surprised by the reaction to the word socialism.

I live in the UK, where the government takes 50% of GDP, and spends it mostly on communal activities - shared ownership. We share our resources so that the sick can get treated, our children educated, our air space protected from Russian invasion.

We are sharing most of our national resources, and handing them out according to principles of those who need, not those who have money.

Call it whatever you like but it smells like socialist utopia.

Now if 99% of the resources were allocated such, would the whole thing collapse? Would we be better off if only 25% of resources were shared?

I think the difference between vibrant capitalism and collpasing communism is the efficency vs fairness trade off


>We share our resources so that... our air space protected from Russian invasion

The US subsidizing more than 70% of NATO probably helps a bit there.


making us more of a socialist civilisation .. ?


Yes. Things may look quite a bit different without ~700B in US NATO funding.


Normally I would not do this but it's worth checking this as it has seemed a big contentious issue and I wanted to get a view

So USA total expenditure on defence is around the 700bn mark - at about 4% GDP roughly double the major EU countries at the 2% Nato recommended mark. The UK is listed below at 50bn (~2%) but I happen to know the UK Blue Book has 95 Bn - so even basic accounting is a difficult issue these days...

However this is not the same as the Nato budget or "contributions" - the NATO countries contribute very little to NATO specifically (a building in Brussels etc). An aircraft carrier belonging to the US Navy still belongs to the US Navy whether it's on NATO exercises or on patrol by Hawaii.

I think Trump makes a fair point saying those that are not spending 2% on defence should increase the defence expenditure as they agreed - but equally that is mostly considered an internal political decision. Having international agreements that get in the way of internal politics is ... well Brexit, NAFTA, most wars ...

Interesting to do a little research and get an understanding of the problem - thank you for the prompting - but I think the USA is not going to stop spending 700bn - the issue is will they step away from a mutual defence pact?

In the end I can still be a well armed socialist ;-)

[1] https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_militar...

https://www.nato.int/nato_static_fl2014/assets/pdf/pdf_2017_...

https://www.factcheck.org/2017/12/distorted-nato-funding-fig... (little disappointed by fact check article quality here)


>However this is not the same as the Nato budget or "contributions" - the NATO countries contribute very little to NATO specifically (a building in Brussels etc). An aircraft carrier belonging to the US Navy still belongs to the US Navy whether it's on NATO exercises or on patrol by Hawaii.

Sure, but that carrier costs a lot of money to operate. If we're doing so in accordance with a NATO treaty/policy/request then it's still an expense.

Of course the US doesn't do this for completely altruistic reasons. We obviously have a vested interest in the stability of western Europe and the safety of our allies. That does not change the fact that the US contributes the vast majority of resources used to defend NATO allies and that things in that region would look quite a bit different if e.g. we decided to massively scale back.

It is complicated however and I don't pretend to have a high level of understanding on all of the details. There's a lot I could learn here.


>>> t the US contributes the vast majority of resources used to defend NATO allies ...

That seems unlikely ... i mean all the armies of the non-US nation's are by definition based in Europe.

>>> things in the region would look different

absolutely- but there is a world of difference between sabre rattling in order to get changed spending commitments and some positive domestic press and a truly isolationist foreign affairs policy

(Yes the US will look East more than West for the future, and that will mean scaling back. But Russia remains belligerent.)


What’s the deal with both sides of the socialism debate leaning on “No true Scotsman!” To make their point?

I mean, a decade ago the conservative press was even trying to argue Venezuela wasn’t a true socialist country because 70% of its economy is still private. Source: https://www.foxnews.com/world/what-socialism-private-sector-...

Part of the reason “socialism” has seen a rise in popularity is that everything a millimeter left of Hayak is branded as socialism if it’s rhetorically convientient.


Both capitalism and socialism have been applied in the kinds of totalitarian contexts you are describing. The real question is more fundamental: for whose benefit does government exist? Is it for the powerful or the powerless?

There is a vast ocean of possibilities between paying everybody the same and regressive class-preserving exploitation disguised under lofty free-market ideals.


>for whose benefit does government exist? Is it for the powerful or the powerless?

Why is neither not an option?


I'm open to the possibility if could describe that system in concrete terms which wouldn't implicitly favor the powerful.


A government that takes a hands off approach to most peoples day to day life wouldn't really favor anyone.

I'm not sure how you implement your system. If you favor the powerless wouldn't they just become the powerful at that point?


I'm sure you can expand your perspective on this question with some additional inquiry.

"but that's socialism!"

Ok fine, give us socialism.

"but those countries aren't socialist"

Ok fine, give us what those countries have.

"but that's socialism!"


Look, I get what you mean. People should just clarify that they mean "Socialism with Danish characteristics", and all this ambiguity would disappear!


Anti-trust isn’t equipped to deal with anything because it’s arbitrary and vague. “You’re too big because some bureaucrats said so” is not law. That’s not justice. It’s totalitarian.

How can a company avoid breaking the law if they don’t know they’re breaking it?


>>Anti-trust isn’t equipped to deal with anything because it’s arbitrary and vague.

That's something of a gross mischaracterization of antitrust law. The Sherman Act and other laws provide various guidelines as to what constitutes anticompetitive conduct. Through the succeeding decades since the introduction of antitrust legislation courts have also consistently built up case law that provides further guidance.


Right.

It's not as ambiguous as people think it is, and that is what will likely disappoint a lot of people who think we can use it to reign in tech companies. It's actually been decided over the decades that some pretty specific things need to happen for an entity to warrant a breakup. For instance, Microsoft, was not broken up. AT&T was. There were actually some very specific reasons that this was the case. Contrary to popular belief at the time, it was not because Microsoft paid off the government.

By way of illustration using cases from anotheer era, I think Standard Oil and American Tobacco were broken up on the same day. The reasons behind Standard Oil are obvious so we don't need to go into that case, but American Tobacco is the interesting one. They thought they would get away with what they were doing because, in their minds, they were no different than the American Sugar Refining trust. They didn't control growing the tobacco, and they didn't control retail of the tobacco. Here's the thing though, they did control manufacturing of the products. ALL tobacco products. So you could grow tobacco, but there really was only one entity to which you could sell your crops. Ditto for retail of tobacco. You could only get products from one source. The court laughed off the United States v. E. C. Knight Company case because American Sugar did not control growing of sugar, or retailing of sugar, and they didn't even control all the making of sugar. So in reality, American Tobacco was something entirely different than American Sugar. The principals at American Tobacco had definitely miscalculated in this regard.

(Incidentally, by around 1920 (I think?), American Sugar could be shown to control Cuba's plantations, all refining of sugar, etc etc, and I believe? they were broken up too? Or maybe not broken up, but there were some sanctions for them? I don't remember it all it's been a while since law school. Anyway, you can google it if you want more info.)

Point is, you can't just have a successful company like Microsoft and claim that they have a monopoly. There's actually a lot more moving parts. It's why Microsoft walked out of court with a slap on the wrist. It's why American Sugar didn't even get a slap on the wrist in 1895, but the court had a good belly laugh. And it's why AT&T and American Tobacco got broken up as a result of their indictments.


You are arguing in favour of the above argument. If case law has to be established on a case by case basis, then because the law is a priori insufficient.


No individual statute can encompass all possibilities hence the need for case law to clarify the law - it's a distinguishing characteristic of common law systems and, at least with respect to interpretation of statutes, also civil law systems.


> No individual statute can encompass all possibilities

In the same sense, a benevolent reading of OP's would find that it doesn't implicate all Anti Trust decisions, but just alleges that it's prone to, well, miscarriage of justice, I guess, having left specific examples to be specified by the factfinders, other commentators. I get that leaving arguments open like that is considered bad form.

No need to tell me that Anti Trust is based on prior case law and thus based on Examples. I wouldn't know. I feel that they didn't feel the need to spell those cases out again is a general problem, and I see that as a problem more from a coding persöective. It's horrible spaghetti code and bound to be buggy. As debugging has it, inspections run very slow and for a really good development experience you have to pay suppliers for support and fixes. Vice versa, some vital functionality may be outsourced from the OS to third parties, or restricted by the OS. Complaints against such practice yield the typical recommendation to use free software or implement your own stack, instead.


I saw this argument in another HN post that I found very convincing. The current antitrust standard of "consumer welfare" isn't necessarily wrong, but in the current world of tech it is wrongly applied because "the consumer" has been misidentified.

As we like to say so often "if you're not the paying customer, you're the product." Then in the world of Facebook and Google, the customers are really the advertisers, who are forced to pay monopoly rates because there are no good alternatives. Even with Amazon the long term reduction in viable competitors is not a good thing for end consumers, and if you look at other areas (I'd consider an author a customer of a publishing house, and if Amazon rules all of book distribution it means authors are worse off).


I think the earlier post you're referring to was a review of Tim Wu's "The Curse of Bigness" in the Los Angeles Review of Books [0][1]. It's a great overview of antitrust issues with respect to technology.

[0] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=19079526

[1] https://www.lareviewofbooks.org/article/trust-busting-as-the...


I think the ambiguity is kind of the point. If things were written out ("doing X is monopolistic"), then it would be easy for companies to operate in an noncompetitive manner, so long as they don't violate specific laws. Plus, the definitions of things like monopolies vary so much across industries, that it would be impossible to come up with specifics that cover every instance of anti-trust violations. I don't think it's perfect, but I do think it's more effective than the alternatives.


OP alleges that the given rules are used for abusive judcement. You miss the point and opine that it works as intended. In sum, there's the funny argument that abuse is intended :D


It's like a law against harrassment...it requires human judgment. Some harassment is obvious. Some depend on perspective. Enforcing harassment laws can still be justice even though it is arbitrary and vague.

Hell, if laws weren't arbitrary and vague depending on circumstance, we wouldn't need lawyers and courts!


That's just saying it's the decisions that are arbitrary, not the rules.

OP implies that judgement should be not just within the limits of the law, but dictated by it.

Truly, the cut off where a law's guidance ends and judgement begins is rather arbitrary. Exegesis of law is difficult. OP takes the principled stance that law exists to conserve the power of governance (totalitarian). You take the stance that judges are arbiters (arbitrariness). That's no contradiction. In a perfect world, every body could excert their will arbitrarily. Practically though, individual wishes are mutually exclusive. Thus, totality is impossible, and harrasment prossecution e.g. only a retarded (too slow) meassure. Even totalitarianism has to make ammends (assuming e.g. it would want to abolish perversely incentivized harrasment for good) and it's therefore a misnomer. That the law has or tries to have in effect a monopoly on power (I'm translating loosely from German Gewaltmonopol, where Gewalt is power, violence, force ...) as the dominating institution in the market might be just a liberal thing. If the invisible hand of the market works, that's not a bad thing. If dismantling monopolies were a bad thing, OP's shallowly underhanded call for opposition to this monopoly woud be just too ironic. It's downright paradox, although I might be missing a few presupposed assumptions.


Your analysis assumes that all monopolies are created equal -- that a monopoly on violence is the same as a monopoly on a commodity. Nothing could be further from the truth.


Not if power is derived from goods. Goods of limited accessibility are by definition no commodity, though, so you would be right in that sense.



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