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Socialist Cyborgs (logicmag.io)
58 points by tlrss 65 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 96 comments



This narrative reminds me of the similar program in the UK to teach a whole generation computer literacy which I think the country still benefits from. It is somewhat comforting to see what long lasting consequences such programs can have if you really put in the effort, if only for a few years.

Maybe this also hits a bit close to home when my own government constantly declares how they want to make us the next center of [insert current buzzowrd] and of course always fails because it's just an excuse to pump a few billion into the private sector. But looking at these kind of stories, hope is not lost and I wish to see these kind of experiments again soon.


> This narrative reminds me of the similar program in the UK to teach a whole generation computer literacy

Probably the "BBC Computer Literacy Project" https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=BBC_Computer_Lite... (apologies, there's no specific wikipedia page) which produced both a home computer - the BBC Micro - and a series of TV programmes starting with The Computer Programme.


Yes, thank you. Not being from the UK and having heard about it mainly from youtube I could not remember the name.


To provide further context: one could say ARM spun out of it.


I'm from Bulgaria and the article is pretty good for the most part. I'm from the so called "children of democracy" generation which is basically the first generation(s) after the communist regime fell in '89 (I was born in 1993).

One thing I have to say is that IT in Bulgaria succeeds right now not because of the government or some historical acumen, but despite of it. I think there might be some inertia from back then, but that's gone if we look things as of today. Taxes are low (relatively) to other EU countries, while the quality of work being done is very high. With that said Bulgaria is still mainly an outsourcing destination. There are some innovative homegrown companies like Chaos Group (creators of V-Ray) and others, but relatively to the size of the market they are few and far between.

I'm based in London now, but on my recent trip back a month ago I met with some ex-colleagues and we talked about how there's potentially a salary bubble forming. There are positions for new grads without any experience starting from 5000 BGN (2500 EUR) which is absolutely insane. Given that the average gross salary for Sofia (the capital and most well paid/expensive city in Bulgaria) is 1976 BGN[1] that's not normal. Another case was for a German company so desperate to find people that they paid a friend of mine net 6000 EUR a month as a front-end. That's even crazier. Companies like VMware that created big campuses pay around 7000-9000 BGN a month for devs (not seniors/team leads). You can live like a king with those kinds of salaries in Bulgaria, but you'll be surrounded by shitty infrastructure, non-existing government and all other types of shit that people like me that have left don't want to deal with.

[1] https://www.nsi.bg/en/content/3930/statistical-regions-distr...


New graduates in computer science start out at about 2x the median household income in my small US state.

I don't know if it is a bubble or the world economy is changing faster than people can be educated.


> the world economy is changing faster than people can be educated

how can people learn if large parts of humanity's scientific and technological feedback/learning loops are commoditized and made artificially scarce by our economic system? especially now that we have digital technology available that could make the storing and transmitting of informational artifacts super cheap.

so i think neither of the two reasons you stated, but because we are living in a black box society. we are being forcefully disinherited by the propertied class.

knowledge laborers who get 2x median income have just been less victim to capitalist gatekeeping, since a few are needed to generate more intellectual property for the propertied class. [2]

[1] Aaron Swartz, Guerilla Open Access Manifesto: https://archive.org/stream/GuerillaOpenAccessManifesto/Goamj...

[2] Wendy Liu, Gatekeeping in the tech industry: https://dellsystem.me/posts/fragments-50


scihub, libgen, you now have the keys to the kingdom.

Hilariously enough in my current gig I have access to pretty much all the journals out there, yet scihub is still easier to use and libgen has more books. The only place I think that has libgen beat is the British Library and that's only because they haven't digitised most of their old books yet.


There is no scarcity at all in access to scientific knowledge, technology, investing in the market, or access to guidance on how to get ahead in life. And the only capitalist gatekeeping is some few formalized online schools ask for a pittance in tuition in order to receive credentials. But no one can say there's a scarcity in access to knowledge when MIT offers most of their catalog online for free.

The problem is how few people take advantage of this wealth of access and knowledge.


> The problem is how few people take advantage of this wealth of access and knowledge.

The problem is how a profit-seeking knowledge-enclosing/commoditizing capitalist economy and education system allows the propertied class to control the supply of technical labor.

The problem is that many in the working class don't have a methodological literacy.

"The researchers note that it’s tough for lay audiences to fully understand complex topics [...] They suggest a more sustainable solution for curbing misinformation is helping the public develop a type of scientific literacy known as methodological literacy. People who understand scientific methods and research designs can better evaluate claims about science and research, they explain."

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=28658946

imo we won't see many positive changes until we abolish silicon valley and the western-led intellectual property regime. liberate science and technology from capitalism.

https://tribunemag.co.uk/2019/01/abolish-silicon-valley


>Another case was for a German company so desperate to find people that they paid a friend of mine net 6000 EUR a month as a front-end. That's even crazier.

Wait how much? At flat 10% tax that's competitive with non-CA salaries in the US. Throw in that healthcare is top notch and a 20th of the price and some CA positions start looking worse.

Do you have more information on this?


I broke my wrist in Bulgaria earlier this year and spent a night in a hospital in Varna.

It is not top notch.


> You can live like a king with those kinds of salaries in Bulgaria, but you'll be surrounded by shitty infrastructure, non-existing government and all other types of shit that people like me that have left don't want to deal with.

No roads? Why not to build one?

Road building was synonymic with mafia from even before the USSR collapse in Russia.

So, my father, back in mid-late nineties simply imported equipment from China, hired labourers, built the road for our village for 1/8th of what the mafia asked, and then sold the equipment on the open market.

Money is power. Don't be ashamed to use it for the right cause.


I hate to say it but, if this is really what happened, it is only because the local mafia was ineffective. Normally, mafias have a lot of well known and often unpleasant ways of keeping rivals off their turf.


I think one would run into trouble with the local hard-power gatekeepers in most places with this approach. I believe South Africa had a problem where activists tried to improve water supply infra but got blocked by the local government (which was and is doing a terrible job).


Why not then just buy off these local bureaucrats to make them f... off and let you do their job?

Second, if it comes to "hard-power gatekeepers," $1000-$2000 a months buys you employment of a local toughboy ready to receive punches, and deliver punches for you.

A successful IT business can probably really throw its weight around when it comes to somebody trying to "наехать"


> Second, if it comes to "hard-power gatekeepers," $1000-$2000 a months buys you employment of a local toughboy ready to receive punches, and deliver punches for you.

Sure, but at this point isn't your advice just "why not bribe government officials and go to war with the mafia"? Sure, someone could do that. But...maybe we can imagine reasons why they would be reluctant to do so?

One notable failure mode of this strategy would be: mafia guy shows up at your house and hits you with a hammer until you're no longer able to/interested in continuing to pursue this strategy.


Well or you could just migrate to a country where you don’t need to наехать


I always thought my grandpa was making these numbers up but apparently it's true...


>Perhaps today’s technological and political entrepreneurs, like their socialist predecessors, may find out that a new generation raised in conditions of financial crashes, pandemics, and political deadlock may draw different ideological conclusions to what the new status quo intends.

What a weird take, the generation that lived after the end of communism saw everything get worse year after year.

It's just that the majority of us left.

Out of six first cousins born between 1983 and 2003 one is still in Bulgaria because she can make a living from the farmland that we were all meant to inherit and is keeping an eye on the ageing relatives that are still there.

The rest of us aren't there and don't intend to return for the next 40 years.

We all view socialism very favourably and our parents as idiots who killed the golden goose expecting golden chicken nuggets till the end of time.


The last paragraph caught me by surprise, most eastern European expats I know are quite anti-socialist.


Of course I vote against socialism in the West, I'm here to make money, the less taxes the more money.


I can't tell where there might be irony here -

>We all view socialism very favourably and our parents as idiots who killed the golden goose expecting golden chicken nuggets till the end of time.

vs.

>Of course I vote against socialism in the West, I'm here to make money, the less taxes the more money.

Can you describe how these two statements can be rationalized into a cohesive position?


A vegan cattle rancher doesn't want everyone to be vegan.


So I guess you see socialism not necessarily as a good way to run a society but rather as a good way for your relatives to have a good/comfortable life?


I don't want to be rich in a socialist county. Since I'm rich here I don't want it to be a socialist county.


I remember the socialist India where workers unions opposed any kind of computerization/automation. This especially hurt Indian banks as they continued to use costly manual calculations which employed army of clerks.

However one of the despotic Indian PM forcibly took over all private banks and "nationalized" it and later the same party used these banks as a jobs program to employ thousands of party workers and others to win votes.

A lot of these youngsters were bored of this manual work and insisted on computerization and the workers unions could not maintain the opposition. (In Indian government owned businesses people never lose their jobs. Which means even if a machine replaces your work, you will still get paid just to show up at work. While it makes sense to oppose digitization when you are unemployed, it makes sense to support it once you are employed. A bit of catch 22. This is not true for private companies as they can not keep people on payroll they don't need.)


> The organization that prepared most Bulgarian children to be the model communists of the future was the Dimitrov Communist Youth Union (DKMS).

Ah, that's why my Red Hat machine was always building DKMS modules!


Is it about socialism or communism?


great!!


> The conventional narrative of Eastern European communism is one of technologically backward states that failed to enter the information age, locked behind an impenetrable Iron Curtain that prevented both people and ideas from circulating.

Yeah. That's typical Western Russophobia for you.


For sure, but it's also the other way around, I read RTV for some time (everybody should), same news, very different angle. The fear and contempt of the west (the NATO) is palpable. I imagine it is the same the other way around, but I am just used to it.

Edit: A nice example:

EU: https://www.dw.com/en/nord-stream-2-gas-pipeline-what-is-the...

RT: https://www.rt.com/business/476844-eu-russia-us-sanctions/


Yes, I absolutely recognise that. I've spent enough time in both Sweden and Russia (and Poland, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Romania, etc, etc, etc) to recognise the same stories and military expeditions being told from different angles. It is absolutely true that each nation tells their citizens their own stories.

The point I took issue with was in the excerpt I pulled, which describes the Western perspective as the "conventional" one, which seems a rather Americentric thing to write.


This is literal whataboutism.


It is not, I think, if it's the _exact same relation in reverse.


It is still whataboutism. Do two wrongs make a right? Does an accusation of hypocrisy nullify any original criticism, no matter how true?


No, I get what you mean, but I still think it's a different argument in nature. It's not two wrongs, it's one and the same.

For me typical fallacy would be something like

"You did A. A is bad."

"So what? You did B. B is bad."

This tries to dismiss A , while "Both did A." tells us something about A.


You need to learn some history instead of propaganda. Both people and ideas were highly filtered in circulation. That's a fact.


>You need to learn some history instead of propaganda.

Just don't trust the history of your national side -- or the winners, in most cases.


WW2, for example


Especially that.

What with provoking the Japanese before Pearl Harbor to get an excuse to join the war, the propaganda over decades to dismiss the importance of USSR in the fall of Nazi Germany, Dresden, the reasoning behind hitting Hiroshima and Nagashaki, the cozying up with "ex" Nazis in West Germany (now an ally), and tons of other dirty laundry...

What, you expected at least this to be a clear cut "pure good vs pure evil" affair, the way "sanctioned" national histories retell it?

Here's but an example:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MS_St._Louis#The_%22Voyage_of_...

https://www.theatlantic.com/photo/2017/06/american-nazis-in-...

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

https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2001/04/hitlers...


> provoking the Japanese before Pearl Harbor to get an excuse to join the war

Not sure really any significant group of historians push this. Japan invading China is basically universally condemned, they signed the Tripartite pact with Nazi Germany, and you think it's the US' fault they decided to stop airplanes and oil to that regime?


>Not sure really any significant group of historians push this.

No, just the accurate ones. The state sanctioned historiography pretends it's not a thing.

>Japan invading China is basically universally condemned, they signed the Tripartite pact with Nazi Germany, and you think it's the US' fault they decided to stop airplanes and oil to that regime?

Yeah, the kind US that warred in the Philipines, and toppled/established/promoted regimes all around the world for the whole 20th century (and the 21st) got so upset at Japan invading China...

The same Japan they earlier attacked as a sovereign state and forced-open to their trade and terms, just because they could... (Who invaded whom first here?)


1st point is whataboutism, that still doesn't mean the US provoked the attack.

2nd point was in like 1860, 80 years prior, and no one is advocating that it was a good thing.

Those are two very weak points if you're trying to make the case that the US "provoked" the attack.


>1st point is whataboutism

Well, I don't care for though-stoppers like "whataboutism". I'm also neither American nor Japanese, so I do care about putting both in perspective, and seeing the historical progress and causes of their grievances, their relative guilt and so on - not about picking this or that target and slice of time, and condemn them in isolation (which is great for posturing and patriotism, but the total opposite of studying history to understand it and to properly assign the required blame).

>2nd point was in like 1860, 80 years prior, and no one is advocating that it was a good thing.

Yes. And in the US slavery was 150+ years prior today, so? Things have consequences in history, there don't die when the year passes, or someone changes the topic.

Contrary to what Americans think, decades or even centuries matter in history, politics, and affairs of state. "That was long ago" might absolve the children of those responsible, but doesn't absolve a state, nor does it change relations between states (unless corrections have been made, or the point is no longer a threat. But US expanding in the Philipines and SE Asia in 1940, was more a threat to Japan that the US of Perry that forced it to open its borders "because I say so". And in the following decades after the war US would also meddle where it had no business being in Asia, in Vietnam, Korea, all the way to Suharto's Indonesia).

(In any case, for countries with long historical experiences - like Japan -, "80 years prior" is nothing, there are disputes and continued attacks that go back to millenia in many cases).

China, for one, still considers what they had to go through during the "century of humilliation" in its politics (and does very well for doing so).


The US was pulling out of the Philipines when WW2 started, as it had been decided almost a decade earlier to slowly transition to Philippine independence.

Your entire justification for Japan attacking the US was that America was no saint and had done terrible things previously. What I'm advocating is that a major source of unnecessary wars all over the world is continued eye-for-an-eye long-held grievances resurfacing, mostly because it is convenient for a state to resurface them in accomplishing whatever they wanted to do in the first place (expand their territory and resources to enrich themselves).

Your equivalent today would be a country saying "look what they did to us 80 years ago, let's go attack them." Almost everyone sane has realized this doesn't lead anywhere productive, even when the grievances were true. Should China invade or attack Japan today for the Rape of Nanking? That's what you're justifying.

Lastly, US being world police is a hotly contested issue for good reason. You can advocate they had "no business" in Vietnam and Korea, whereas others can point out that without the US, the fate of South Korea would be a North Korean state over all of Korea, at the expense of millions of Korean's rights and welfare. Following what the US prevented in Korea, and without any hindsight, they thought they could do the same in Vietnam, though in hindsight this was fraught for many other reasons.


Correct me if I’m wrong, I did not study US history as part of my education, but wasn’t the attack on Pearl Harbour sold to the American public as “unprovoked”?


Yes as is the general historian consensus around the world. There are some that try to make a case that the US also had done bad things, like force open Japan's ports 80 years prior, and then stopped trading oil and airplanes to Japan, as "provoking" a bombing attack. However these are probably the same people that think Russia is being "provoked" into invading other countries...

Essentially though, Japan had imperial ambitions across most of East and Southeast Asia, knew the US wouldn't allow them much more conquest, and miscalculated that attacking first would be the best chess move to negotiate and secure the rest of the Asian territory they wanted.


Minor in comparison to the larger propaganda over that war


It depends. The general shortage implied a relatively high average level of knowledge.

I grew up in Eastern Germany. At the time I started my studies, the country routinely created clones of the early 8086 PC. As a common user, you got a manual, describing things down to machine language. 'opcode hunting' (finding the assembly instructions from previously unknown opcodes) was kind of a competition among us aspiring physicists and mathematicians.


It's great that Bulgaria was so technologically forward in 1945!

If the Warsaw Pact allowed people and ideas to circulate, they might have launched satellites and men in space before the West!


Is any of those points wrong, though?


…Well, yes? Of course? How else do you explain a supposedly "technologically backward" society beating even the Americans in the space race?

I mean, even this very article immediately refutes that narrative.


Ok, but you're talking 1950s, when this article is talking about the '70s and '80s.

The US got so far ahead of the USSR in computing because of the military-industrial-academic complex that channelled vast public resources and knowledge into projects that had both military/state ends as well as commercial ones too. Especially after the launch of Sputnik and the subsequent sense that the US was trailing the USSR in a 'cybernetics gap', which triggered a huge amount of funding in the US for technical developments. This is the story of how the personal, graphical, interactive and internetworked computer was invented.

In the USSR the military did its own thing without sharing its knowledge and inventions with the wider society, especially with such cutting edge inventions like computers. As such outside of the military (even this is debatable), the USSR as a whole did fall significantly behind the West in terms of technological progress. Who knows, if it hadn't it might still be around today.

See Slava Gerovitch and Benjamin Peter's writings, for example:

InterNyet: https://web.mit.edu/slava/homepage/articles/Gerovitch-InterN...


I'm not really refuting any of that, and I think your point is orthogonal to the one that I'm making. As far as I'm aware, Western sentiment with regards to technological capability in the USSR didn't radically shift in those two or three decades. In fact I believe popular sentiment remained fairly static all throughout the Cold War which encompasses the decades you named.


> How else do you explain a supposedly "technologically backward" society beating even the Americans in the space race?

Invest in a small elite and let the rest of the country starve. That's old as civilization.


That's very unfair. The education was free for all, there was significant investment in education, 90% of schools in my rather ancient city were built during Soviet time, not before, not after. Same for university campuses and hospitals. That systemic investment into education along with state-wide industrialisation eventually paid-off. There were wide-spread programs how for example factory worker can get a higher education while still being able to provide for his family.

Invest in a small elite and let the rest starve was more of a motto of Russian Empire, where most of people couldn't read, yet there were some technological achievements nevertheless.


I argue that the ways of the Russian Empire weren't that much different from the Soviet Union ways - both internally and with its vassal states.


"New boss... same as the old boss." as they say. This is true for most regime changes in history. Those in power change, and their motivated reasoning may change, but the net effects on those down the stack is pretty much the same.


I would say that Russian Empire and USSR were similar in the methods of achieving their goals — a lot of rigid hierarchical structures, top-down management, a certain level of brutality. But the goals were very different.


Russian Empire was very different, like South Korea - North Korea different.


I think you're mistranslating "conventional narrative" as "we think this is a rock-solid fact". It doesn't mean that.


I'm not sure why you think that. I certainly don't think "fact" has anything to do with this, as this is all about narrative.

What I'm taking issue with is that this narrative is being characterised as conventional, which means in accordance with what is generally done or believed. I think this is only generally done or believed in Western society, which I already alluded to.


The propagandist wants the opponent to be strong enough to be a threat but ideologically weak enough to defeat. That should be enough for anyone to pause and think hard about what's really going on.


Russian boots on the moon when?


Dude, are you literally trolling right now? The space race did not end the way you think it did.

And no, the article does not refute that "narrative" at all, if you're reading carefully. The 80s were the years of the microcomputing revolution in the West, by that time most of the computing products of the Eastern block were knockoffs of the western counterparts. They were objectively lagging behind at that point.


It always makes me sad to see these beautiful ideas to use technology to bring about a better life for everyone squashed by ineptitude and greed of bureaucracy.

In their view, it was the Bulgarian worker rather than the system that was to blame—shirking responsibilities, pilfering the petty change, and sleeping on the job.

It's amazing how similar this is to capitalist thinking. Guess it doesn't matter if the people are exploited by private owners or the state.


The major Achilles heel of communism is its central planning. It was, and likely still is, intractable to model the nuances and therefore inherent flexibility of a price based market system.

The Soviet Union would seesaw back and forth from plenty in one particular item to absolute scarcity. There was very little room for micro adjustments as so much was centralised.

The efforts that were undertaken to replace the price signal were also truly monumental, armies of bureaucrats collecting information on every detail of consumption and then trying project needs across an entire society. It's a herculean task even by today's standards of information processing.


I am wondering to what extent the central planning is much more tractable now with the amount of data and computerization. It is not like free market is perfect in adjusting either (i.e. situation with timber or computer chips or containers in covid times). I'm not convinced that central planning is the best way to organize the state, but I'm wondering whether the intractability argument against is still valid or not.


Assuming GP is talking about Von-Mises style criticism of command economies, it's not computational tractability, it's information tractability.

The problem isn't that you don't know whether action A results in N units of X, it's that you don't know if the aggregate preferences are such that it's optimal to produce N units of X or M units of Y.


> I am wondering to what extent the central planning is much more tractable now with the amount of data and computerization. It is not like free market is perfect in adjusting either (i.e. situation with timber or computer chips or containers in covid times). I'm not convinced that central planning is the best way to organize the state, but I'm wondering whether the intractability argument against is still valid or not.

I am personally very grateful to have come across the work of Lynn Foster and Bob Haugen (and a few other parties, e.g. Sensorica). They are working on exactly this problem. Their project is called http://valueflo.ws (their software org is: http://mikorizal.org). One of the projects I'm most excited about is the Valueflo.ws vocabulary on the Holochain distributed app framework: https://github.com/holo-rea. It can basically replace today's centralized Enterprise Resource Planning model with an ecology of fully distributed economic resource protocols.

Lynn did a fantastic presentation; which includes a good intro to their accounting model (Bill McCarthy's Resource Event Agent (REA)): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vymAHXGSM14

There is also a great story (using the example of making a pie) in pdf format on the Valueflo.ws website: http://mikorizal.org/ValueFlows-Story.pdf

NY Textile Lab is a project that is working to integrate Valueflows: https://www.newyorktextilelab.com/holochain-app-development


It's going to be highly non-trivial when most of your supply chain (any item maker in the world) is not on the same plan, but instead offers wares at market rate.


The value computation problem that socialist economists attempted remains intractable. Dogma has them clinging to assumptions are fundamentally wrong like such as the very idea of a universal fixed value, or their notion of exploitation.


Let’s say with data central planning is more tractable. What is the benefit? To make more items people should want? I mean capitalism does a pretty good job making things people do want.

And capitalism is highly distributed decision making. As we all know, top down decision making pretty much sucks no matter how much information they might have.


> capitalism does a pretty good job making things people do want

This is a two-edged sword, because it also makes people want stuff that it can make.


Have a good example? I mean, the demand for relatively vacuous consumer goods was pretty strong in communist countries as well.


There was a semi-successful attempt at this in the 70s in Chile, but it was stopped by the CIA: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_Cybersyn


What an interesting article, thanks for sharing. The photo looks like it could have been taken on the set of Star Trek.


There is a great documentary that came out just a few weeks ago.

Cybersocialism: Project Cybersyn & The CIA Coup in Chile: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RJLA2_Ho7X0


Internally, every large corporation in a capitalist system is a miniature Stalinist centrally-planned economy. The key differences are that (a) corporations are generally several orders of magnitude smaller than a state (hence, easier to plan for and amenable to real-time adjustments if the plan veers into the long grass), and (b) the corporation can dump overheads into the external state -- downsizing, for example. (If you try to reduce the head-count of a nation-state by 10% that tends to earn you a place in the history books, and not a good one.)

If you step down to an even smaller scale factor most families operate on a communal basis, with married/cohabiting adults holding shared assets and funds, contributing their earnings from external employment and disbursing in accordance with need -- a pattern that goes back into deep antiquity.

So the dysfunctional aspects of communism emerge when you scale it up too far -- which suggests to me that it's an information processing problem.


I would argue most governments at a point start looking more pseudo-anarchic due to how departments often compete with each other for resources without much in the way of a referee even if you factor in the secretary or under-secretary level positions. So the command in command economy is largely just giving general directives that rarely amount to much unless the underlying organizations know how to play well with each other.


> The major Achilles heel of communism is its central planning.

> The efforts that were undertaken to replace the price signal were also truly monumental, armies of bureaucrats collecting information on every detail of consumption and then trying project needs across an entire society. It's a herculean task even by today's standards of information processing.

No it's very much possible today. An exciting project I follow closely: http://valueflo.ws


Do not forget corruption. The inflexible hierarchies of totalitarian regimes create networks of personal loyalties and secret infighting that use institutions and public resources into either weapons or sources of self-enrichment without the Transperancy and accountability of NGO-s and independent courts.


> that use institutions and public resources into either weapons or sources of self-enrichment

I think this is not a good example. Look at the situation right now with the military-industrial complex in the USA, or the lobbying problem. The independent courts and NGOs are muted or are not very effective.


The problem is that many corporations were allowed to amass unimaginable wealth through loopholes and corruption and they can now use that money to keep themselves above the law and also teasing subsequent administrations with censorship of opposing views. This situation is going to be impossible to resolve, as people will be manipulated to not vote for an option that will dissolve these corporations or significantly curb their influence (and make them pay back taxes).


The fact the US has problems with corruption and lobbying isn’t proof that authoritarian central planning isn’t worse.

The example I always like was Vietel, the national telecom company in Vietnam. It’s a business owned by the People’s Army of Vietnam.

Wrap your head around that. The military has its own side business running the nations telecommunications infrastructure.


> isn’t proof that authoritarian central planning isn’t worse

All advanced economies in the world today are mixed economies. One can point USA or China as two success stories (in their own way) and argue for years about what is best.

> It’s a business owned by the People’s Army of Vietnam.

I do not know anything about Vietel and how they will operate. Would the population be served better if it was privatized? Because I can point plenty of failures of the so called "free market capitalism" that is so perfect that never exists if it fails, as proponents of communism do with "communist" countries.

Would Swiss be better serviced with private trains like in the UK? Would the UK citizens would be better serviced with private healthcare like in the US?


Well, my comment was less about Vietel being private, since it’s neither, it’s owned by well connected people in the government. My comment was more about the opportunity for corruption. At least if a company I private there is (or can be) a separation in decision making which reduces the risk of people lining their own pockets with someone else’s money.


I think it is a good example. Corruption and acquisition of power into the hands of a few is the result of pretty much any system. One can still acknowledge, however, that some approaches lead to this result much faster.


> One can still acknowledge, however, that some approaches lead to this result much faster.

Agree, but there is plenty of nuance on it. A vocal proportion of HN likes to throw around some blanket statements about state institutions, tax, and societal issues... that are questionable at best.


> The inflexible hierarchies of totalitarian regimes create networks of personal loyalties and secret infighting that use institutions and public resources into either weapons or sources of self-enrichment

Wow that sounds a lot like the global system we have today. Especially when you look at the unequal ecological 'exchange' (read: plunder) going on between the global north and the global south:

https://www.theguardian.com/global-development-professionals...

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

Dead Donkeys Fear No Hyenas is fantastic documentary on this issue, it beautifully lays out the struggles of the Ethiopian working class who are trying to hold onto their land which is increasingly being (literally) given away to global north capitalists: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=isiYYVmvn2U


In the case of late Soviet Union, one should not discount their inept economics: they've seriously tried to stop inflation at 0% and never increase prices despite growing incomes.

It has eventually lead to more and more goods' production stop being profitable and require subsidies. Which are then bound to have quotes.

It's not an easy task of planning anything where your populace wants both cars and shoes, but you have budget for only one item and have to choose.

Bloated defence budgets and large foreign-help funds did not help, sure.


There is nothing wrong with 0% inflation.


Central planning is not a necessary feature of communism, and it has also been employed in capitalist economies.


> The major Achilles heel of communism is its central planning.

It is removing agency from people and assumes that the party knows better - which essentially is just another form of slavery.


Agreed, this is my go-to argument when trying to fix communist.

For the sake of argument, take away human nature. Assume you have an all benevolent polibutro who really is looking to maximize the greater good. Now imagine the data collection and modeling necessary to make central planning work. Everything about communism goes against every macrotrend in modern thought. Distributed systems, the actor model, concensus protocols, microservicers, the freaking blockchain. We are designing all of our systems to be broken into smaller independent parts that can evovle and make decision on their own. Why the hell then are software engineers so obsessed with doing the exact opposite when it comes to run or economic system?!




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