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The Venus Project (thevenusproject.com)
62 points by nynx 3 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 112 comments





The mission statement gives me some psychohistory vibes

>The Venus Project is a non-profit organization that presents a new socio-economic model utilizing science and technology toward social betterment to achieve a sustainable civilization of abundance for all, without exception.

But sadly, nothing of substance to be found upon digging deeper. I came expecting science, but what I found was a t-shirt and book sale.


If you're interested in psychohistory, there is a field called "cliomancy" where scholars attempt to actually treat history as a somewhat hard science and look for correlating trends and stuff. I'm massively oversimplifying of course. I think Peter Turchin is the most well known author in the field.

Cliodynamics actually

Haha. Thank you. Not sure how I goofed that one up.

A centrally-planned economy has been tried many times previously. From each according to their ability, to each according to their need, all that stuff. I guess this time it will end well?

The Soviet Union consistently had the highest GDP growth in the 20th century with a centrally planned economy. Russia transformed from a backwoods feudal mudpit into a global superpower. Some aspects of China's economy today are still centrally planned, and they continue to have excellent growth. I'm not saying every aspect of the economy should be planned; but the opposite -- giving complete lead to the anarchy of production -- has proven to be disastrous for average working people.

And average working people were so well off in the USSR that they never tried to leave, lamented its fall, etc...

/sarcasm

When you write comments like the above it reads like you are unfamiliar with history, with original sources.

My view: all power distribution systems are more or less the same- the people who care about power fight for it, where the in-groups of the winners do quite well, and the people who don't don't and tend to suffer. This is true in the US, in Russia now, in China, you name it.

There are many metrics by which average working people in the US suffer, the US jails dominated by black men who have done nothing wrong are abhorrent and shameful, etc etc etc, but like with many things this is an exercise in least bad.

Many, many systems- including ANY explicitly centralized power structure- are going in the end to be more bad.

The US is remarkably decentralized, and that is its blessing and saving grace, the suffering of those who are not in aside.

In the end, central planning does not survive any good intentions of its originators. Power consolidation becomes the ends of any next generation. And then you think it is bad being alive as an out group in the US? At least they are alive.


| "unfamiliar with history, with original sources."

Tales of expats explicitly lean toward the negative, creating a sort of survivor's bias, amplifying the negative presentation despite the fact that there were many more people who had positive experiences.

This happens with Cuban expats as well, despite the millions of people that are supportive of the Cuban government; the perspective of those who "escaped" gets amplified into the mainstream Western discourse.

For further justification, see the high rates of Soviet nostalgia that currently exist in Russia, as well as the majority who lived under the Soviet system saying that life was better back then.


> he majority who lived under the Soviet system saying that life was better back then.

They were at least 30 years younger. Healthier, stronger and better looking.

But if you have a chance, can you ask them if they remember how many hours per day they were spending in line to buy food?


Why would tales of expats skew negative? Expats tend to be better educated and come from more privileged segments of the populations. When an expat is complaining about how an engineer in Soviet union lives with his family in a 700sqft 1-bedroom and cannot afford a car, do you seriously think you are missing the counter-evidence from a better engineer living in Moscow suburbs with two cars? No, what you are actually missing is the evidence of a chemical factory worker living in a small town 25 miles from Moscow in a wooden cottage with no running water and wood stove for heat (that is a real person I personally knew ;)). The latter guy is not going to show up as an expat.

There's a great 80ies rock song by Nautilus (I can't find a translation good enough to post) that really captures the essence of living under late socialist central planning, both in economic and political sense... for the former, it's not that it's chaotic or particularly malicious, it's that it's so laughably, pointless-ly mismanaged and pitiful. My family comes from probably top 5% of Soviet population by QoL (from Moscow and with some very minor connections due to someone in the family being a high ranking and respected engineer at Moscow subway), not at all anti-Soviet, and yet I can totally attest to that both from family stories and personal experience (e.g. the flats inherited from socialist times, the indirect evidence like books that I used to read as a kid that my family "obtained" 5-10 years in advance because you couldn't just go and buy good books, or habits that my parents and grandparents still have like not ever throwing away anything, even if it's broken and useless "in case you need it for something" [implying you cannot just go and buy something], using the healthcare system inherited from the Soviet times, etc.). It's really kinda hard to convey... there was a blog post here about "how it feels to be poor" in the US, and the guy was complaining about his tiny 900sqft apartment... I literally laughed out loud.

Don't know much about Cuba, but there's no reason to believe it's any better. My favorite story about Cuba is a Canadian guy telling me he really likes Cuba, it's a great country, he visits all the time and it's really nice how any girl would sleep with you for a pack of cigarettes or a dinner ;)

The "support" for the regimes is mostly a combination of propaganda, not knowing any better, and lack of opportunity to actually change anything turning people towards so called "inner emigration" into cynical/self-serving indifference, going thru the motions to either ignore or even abuse the system.


> And average working people were so well off in the USSR that they never tried to leave, lamented its fall, etc...

Indeed most average people were quite happy with the regimes. The dissidents, people trying to flee etc. were usually academics. (I'm from Eastern Germany, so this is anecdata, but at least the first-hand kind).

I suppose this is also true for China: The young people there have seen huge intergenerational prosperity advances for three or sometimes four generations.

This mixes up topics, though: central planning is largely orthogonal to political freedom. As a mirror, there were a bunch of authoritarian free market situations, e.g. in South America, but also Italy, Spain and Germany during their dictatorships.

> The US is remarkably decentralized,

Are you sure about that? My impression is that large parts of the economy are actually controlled by (quasi-)monopolies or oligopolies.

> In the end, central planning does not survive any good intentions of its originators.

Most European countries have a federal budget to GDP ratio of over 50%, suggesting that central planning actually does deliver in many segments of the economy, notably those where working market dynamics are very hard to achieve (esp. education, healthcare, pensions, social services, often also energy and water infrastructure).


Ten million corpses here, ten million corpses there, pretty soon we'll be making _real_ progress!

Which brand of industrial capitalism are you advertising here? /s

> Russia transformed from a backwoods feudal mudpit

1. Wouldn't high growth be easy starting from near zero? Almost always growth slows down when you become fully developed.

2. What is Russia's growth now?

3. You leave out one of the reasons for the collapse of USSR: the failing economy.

> But the opposite -- giving complete lead to the anarchy of production -- has proven to be disastrous for average working people.

Average working people are much better in the US than in USSR or Russia almost by any objective measure.

You leave out North Korea, Venezuela etc. All centrally planned.


> You leave out North Korea, Venezuela etc. All centrally planned.

You've clearly never been to Venezuela.


I have. Planning is different from execution.

Stop with this bullshit. USSR showed growth, it never showed actual great economy. The growth was only impressive so long as it was in a process of getting shit together. Educating population, building basic road infrastructure, etc. when you are in a shithole, you can show impressive growth for a while while getting to a basic level. They never figured out how to actually prosper.

A great example of "moving the goalposts."

"Educating [the] population" and "building basic infrastructure" is something we're doing a pretty shoddy job of in the U.S., so the attempt to minimize the significance is pretty disingenuous.

What's your criteria for a nation to "actually prosper?" Hyperdriven, rampant, and mind-numbing consumerism? More millionaires? At the expense of the laborers of which colonized nation?


So prosperous and happy they had to build a wall to keep people out. Oh, wait.

>educating population, building basic road infrastructure, etc

So things a not centrally planned economy like the US is failing miserably at? You made a case against your point of view without even realizing it.


Education and basic road infrastructure are severely behind in the US. I think a lot of people look at billionaires flying to space and believe that means the US population is advanced. Sadly, it isn't true. We are lagging in important areas.

Even a 3rd grader knows that 'growth' is relative to a base. So if you literally start from almost nothing in 1920 because of a civil war, of course you are gone have pretty good growth. That doesn't mean its comparable to nations like the US or Britain.

In fact, economic trends were going better during Russian Imperial regime. The 'feudal mudpit' was in a extreme growth phase. In fact part of the reason for WW1 was the German plans were looking at Russia and seeing how soon they would be overtaken. But I guess they just didn't know that it was a 'feudal mudpit'.

And of course Russia was never feudal in the first place so I suggest a history book.

> feudal mudpit

I see you are repeating the same old Soviet Propaganda nonsense. Funny how the Soviets literally financed the first 10 years of their rule with systematically exploiting the wealth produced by that 'feudal mudpit' when they sold of much of the wealth of church and the whole cultural heritage of the country.

Imperial Russia built a massively large and massively successful weapons industry before and during WW1. In fact Russia did amazingly well and by 1917 was able to seriously equip the largest army in Europe with competitive weapons and keep them in the field.

Its a total misconception that Russia was not a first rate economy power. The literally fought Germany, Austria and the Ottoman with almost no supplies from outside. Unlike Soviets, they didn't have massive amounts of British and later US supplies flowing in. Russia already WAS a global super power. Many people even back then realized that most likely the world would be heading into a situation where Russia and the US were the two major powers, both in Britain and Germany.

These very factories is what helped the Reds win the Civil war and is the bases for the next 10-20 of growth back to old level. From there massive peasant exploitation that literally killed 20-30 million people allowed them to buy massive amounts of tools and machines from the West. Often buying Western plants and 1 to 1 rebuilding them in the Soviet union.

Additional measure they used where making a deal with the Germans, where Germany was secretly using Soviet land as training ground for the army and building factory for weapons that were not allowed by the West. A great way to extract industrial goods and plans from Germany for payment and also systematically stealing every single German economics secret. This operation is actually far larger then we knew until recently and was going on from 1922. That policy didn't work out so great for them.


You’re thinking about Peter the Great. The Czar. Also, if you think you can get credible reports from Pravda, about a country with Potemkin villages of all things, then I don’t think you’re looking very critically at that information.

> highest GDP growth

GDP fails to measure the most important factors of life (freedom, happiness, equality). It also fails to capture environmental concerns: industrial growth is like cancer growth... impressive but not desired.

> Russia transformed from a backwoods feudal mudpit into a global superpower.

Russia was already a global superpower before 1917. Their imperialism spread so far and wide their political police (Okrana) cooperated regularly with the political police in France (Sûreté de l'État) to hunt down the anarchists.

Also, how is creating more global superpowers a good thing? If your end goal is to do away with capitalism and imperialism, how is creating a new Empire (or whatever brand of "republic" you call it) helping in any way?

> Some aspects of China's economy today are still centrally planned

Yes, they're producing tons of stuff (why? do we need all of that shit?). Yet they have some of the most grueling pollution problems on our planet, and still have plenty of poverty. How is that a role model? To be fair, i'm not saying western neo-colonial republics are any better: we are facing the very same issues here in France.

> giving complete lead to the anarchy of production -- has proven to be disastrous for average working people

Unregulated business has proven to be disastrous, but that can hardly be called an anarchy, as there is still strong powers (capital) dictating what should be produced and how resources should be allocated.

Anarchy of production and distribution sounds great. What's wrong with self-organized workers cooperatives producing what we need, and sharing according to anyone's needs?


I think any effort to demonstrate the viability of planned economies based on past non-democratic planned economies is doomed to fail as people won't easily accept a dictatorship.

Any future implementation will need to trade with the non planned world (as trade is the best deterrent from being attacked by other democracies) and it needs to be democratic both in the workplace and in governance of the state.


> won't easily accept a dictatorship.

What would they do in case they were in a ditatorship?

I'm of the opinion that democracy in governance is something akin to a farce. Without money, it falls apart.


I am talking about new dictatorship coming in.

Disinvest, leave the country, general strikes, social resistance, protests.


Democracy is a farce, authoritarianism is a tragedy. Take your pick.

the growth in GDP in the Soviet Union was impressive, but I get the strong impression that the social and economic life within was oppressive, to say nothing of the bouts of political madness like Lysenkoism that have a much greater potential to kill people when they're scoped to the entire country's productive capacity rather than one business or one constrained democracy.

First, the GDP growth estimates of the Soviet Union were consistently overestimated by both Soviet sources (for obvious reasons) and by Western sources (to justify more military spending). After the 60s when all of the low-hanging industrialization fruit had been picked, stagnation set in and mediocrity reigned. They never managed to transition to a high value-add economy. Example: their microchip industry never even came close to matching the West or Japan. By the end stages, the Soviet industrial base was kept alive by subsidies, a ward of the state. It was so inefficient and mismanaged that the finished products were worth less on the world market than the raw materials used to make them, i.e. the Soviet economy literally destroyed value rather than creating it. They could only keep the lights on because they got lucky and found gas and oil.

Second, even supposing we take the fraudulently high GDP figures at face value: it wasn't worth the cost. The economy was made for man, not man for the economy. To achieve these years of "high GDP growth", they built a system of state terror and industrialized slave labor. Yes, slave labor, there is no better term for it. Millions of people were kidnapped (under the farcical pretense of lawful arrest) and sent to work in slave labor camps in remote corners of Siberia. Their unpaid work in mines, logging camps, farms, and factories undergirded the entire Stalinist economy. A significant fraction of these unfortunates simply died of overwork or starvation or disease, if they weren't deliberately shot. Millions of Ukrainian peasants starved as their grain was confiscated. Millions of Chechens and Kazakhs and Jews and Koreans and sundry other ethnic groups were scooped out of their homelands and scattered to the other end of the continent if they were lucky, or into mass graves if they were unlucky.

It was a completely rotten system, indefensible in every way except for the consolation prize that it managed to defeat another totalitarian system that was slightly more evil (but only after allying with it and launching a joint war of aggression against the helpless country between them).

But I'm sure we'll hear more from the Durantys of the world about how it never happened and it was a long time ago and it wasn't real socialism and they all deserved it anyway.


True, highest GDP growth despite the second world war and losing 30 million people, and having to bail out other countries w Warsaw Pact while competing w countries that got help from the Marshall Plan

Although to achieve this system, they literally had a civil war that killed 20 million people — more than Russia lost in the entire WW1 — destroyed thei GDP, and after all was said and done Lenin instituted the “NEP” which brought back private property and allowed Russia’s GDP to bounce back. In his own words — they weren’t ready for full socialism back then.

This may have quietly continued if Stalin hadn’t taken over and started collectivizing everything again and making five year plans, and shooting all the newly minted high ranking officials. Stalin with all his central planning couldn’t see Nazi Germany coming a mile away, arming the rhineland, taking over countries. Instead he struck a deal to divide Europe. Then sat for three days in shock as the Germans and Vlasov army blitzkrieged Russia.

Stalin was probably the worst leader Russia ever had. Most people killed. Least preparation for WW2 or fucks given, or just total incompetence.


Provided we learn from the past it will be better than last time and unlike market mechanisms which are able only to guarantee that a point of the pareto front can reached under exploitation planned economies allows selection of where on the pareto front people want to land. This should happen democratically.

- many actors in our economy run a small (or big) private cenrtrally-planned economy [1]

- as all those centrally planned economies were in non democratic states it's not obvious if the flaw is central planning or being non-democratic. I find it reasonable that more democracy would help as east Germany which at least had a fake parties and regular elections did better than it's eastern comrades

- computer are a lot faster and algorithms for mixed-integer linear programming (or similar modeling frameworks) have matured

- databases or similar immutable storage technologies make corruption a lot harder

- central planning in combination with free trade could remove inefficiencies in the current economic system inside the country

[1] The People’s Republic of Walmart

Note: I am not particularly convinced by the venus projects


It needs a certain change of perspective, but big companies are in effect large centrally planned economies that are thriving, many several times the size of a small country.

The amount of waste and craziness, inequity, and straight out maliciousness that I've personally witnessed at the upper and upper-middle layers of large companies is reminiscent of most resource-extraction-oriented small countries (banana republics). They are not efficient or pleasant.

There's a reason small companies outperform them and are a threat to them and why they focus so hard on regulatory capture to prevent competition.


I'm not saying they are all great places, I'm just saying they are an existence proof for large scale centrally planned economic entities that don't collapse like many centrally planned national economies, suggesting that central planning was maybe not the deciding factor.

Based on the changes to the set of large companies over time, they do in fact collapse and generally very few even last 30-40 years let alone hundreds.

Good point, but some like GE or petroleum companies seem to have lasted quite long already.

> The amount of waste and craziness, inequity, and straight out maliciousness that I've personally witnessed at the upper and upper-middle layers of large companies

interestingly places that are not controlled by democratic means, i wonder if these places were electable and up for challenge by everyone in the company if those behaviors you associate with non-democratic states would become less.


“The dictators handbook” covers this topic in detail.

Nobody is against planning, the point is different plans should be allowed to compete, as long as people are willing to put a personal stake into their plan that carries consequences. Hence capitalism. Central planning eliminates the personal stakes, the competition and most of the individual consequences for the planners.

In practice a hybrid approach often has advantages, particularly for very large scale projects which are meeting a vital need and where direct competition would be wasteful but you can still have contractors bid for the work. Major infrastructure such as bridges, airports, power generation. Bureaucratic central planning (government) can play a role in that, but government should have it's own competitive forces and accountability in the form of democratic elections.

Many like yourself do see waste in this system and you are right, in any competition, either economic or political there are losers as well as winners and sometimes outcomes can be somewhat arbitrary. Whatever system we use we must deal with corruption and exploitation. While a confirmed capitalist, I strongly support basic social welfare and services in the European model. This system has proved in practice again and again to be far, far superior to all the alternatives, or the least worst among them anyway.



The core difference, of course, being that there's an in-built mechanism for meritocratic selection and failure. Big companies that "centrally plan" first of all only get there by establishing merit via product/market fit (unlike dictatorships), and if they fail, they usually go out of business or fade into obscurity (unlike dictatorships). If Sears was anointed the supply chain central planner on account of its one-time dominance, there's no guarantee that they'd "thrive" forever.

One might then decide, okay, it's really dictatorships that are bad, let's add democracy on top of the central planning. Except...there's no empirical evidence that democracies organically elect central planners that yield the same kinds of outcomes as the "big companies". In practice, democratically elected planners have been selected more on the basis of their political clout, rather than on the basis of their merit. An example: Tesla is arguably the foremost "central planner" in electric cars today[1]. And yet, the White House recently snubbed Tesla in a summit on the future of electric vehicles[2]. California's state government not only drove Tesla out, they've decided to allocate EV resources towards laggards like Hyundai[3]. The political calculus is obvious: Elon Musk is politically unpopular among the base of voters that anointed the aforementioned democratically elected governments. Nevertheless, it's quite the indictment of democratic planning. Another observation: if the United States decided to centrally plan supply chains in 1997, there's no way they would have selected Jeff Bezos to be the politically appointed commissar[4], despite him (and his company) probably fitting your description of a "big company in effect that's a large centrally planned economy that's thriving". The opposite is happening, where factions of the currently elected government are determined to relieve Amazon of its role as a "central planner", despite (to your admission) its effectiveness.

At least with dictatorial planning you might (if you’re lucky) have a competent dictator/bureaucracy that might have some unified plan / vision with the leeway to install politically unpopular but highly competent planners (and therefore no accountability), and you can actually get some stuff done. You see this with China and Singapore, which are both more authoritarian than liberal democracies (especially China), but generally have fast moving development — though even they rely predominately on the private sector / markets for their growth/development. With democratic planning/resource allocation, nothing ever gets done because at best it’s basically design by committee, and at worst it's a popularity contest where the most competent "planners" lose if they're simply unlikable.

Also, there's really no big company on the planet that's centrally planning every single price signal in an economy — not even Amazon. They're dominant, yes, but by no means are they the sole producer/distributor/allocator of all goods and services. The largest corporations account for single digit percentage of GDP (if even). This is not true of state-driven central planning, at least historically speaking.

The nuanced reality is that, yes, at some layer, we're all central planners. The family unit is usually centrally planned, and so too are corporations. The empirical lesson we've learned (historically) is that once you get to a certain size, there are diminishing returns to effectiveness of central planning, and at worst after a certain point it becomes actively detrimental to the well-being of the economy.

[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/22/business/tesla-electric-c...

[2] https://www.theverge.com/2021/9/28/22699339/elon-musk-joe-bi...

[3] https://twitter.com/DavidSacks/status/1393342790931664899

[4] https://twitter.com/JimPethokoukis/status/123124591376463872...


>they've decided to allocate EV resources towards laggards like Hyundai[3]. Nevertheless, it's quite the indictment of democratic planning.

Democratic planning is trying to get competition into that market. How is that bad? competition is inherently inefficient, that's why monopolies form and companies grow endlessly in the first place.


Except there is already quite a lot of competition in the market. Tesla is by no means a monopoly, and the automobile market has traditionally never had a monopoly problem. It's just that Tesla happens to have the strongest product today. That will inevitably change in the future as other manufacturers catch up, but traditionally the capital allocation to potentially worthy competitors has been driven by market signals so as to ensure that we not only have competition for the sake of competition, but actual competition among effective "planners". The aforementioned California actions are not being made on that basis. E.g. why Hyundai? Why not up-starts like Lucid Motors or Polestar? Why not Volkswagen or Toyota or GM? Most institutional investors that operate on market forces make their allocation decisions based on actual financial models and tend to prefer startups over large incumbents due to the asymmetric upside.

That said, we actually agree that competition is a good thing — despite its near term inefficiency — and hence we then agree that central planning is sub-optimal. The question then becomes, between "democratic central planning" and "decentralized market planning" which system of resource allocation is better at fostering competition and actually high quality goods and services? From where I sit, there's been no real evidence that democratic planning is necessarily better at fostering competition than market forces, and in fact there's plenty of evidence to the contrary. While you're correct that there's a necessary role for the state to prevent monopolies from forming, this isn't the same as actually creating and establishing the competing planners from the get-go.

Another example highlighting the mis-incentives in play when democratically planning:

NASA's planned SLS moon mission is over budget and behind schedule. Because the boosters aren't reusable, each launch is expected to cost $1B (with a B) dollars — EACH launch! Meanwhile SpaceX's target cost-per-launch is $50M. We can probably agree that NASA's approach is grossly inefficient, but you might charitably make the case that NASA is just fostering competition by propping up Boeing as a worthy competitor to SpaceX. Except...Boeing's track record has shown that it's a rather weak competitor, and worse, it's become increasingly difficult for new entrants to participate in the aerospace industry owing to Boeing's state sanctioned entrenchment. SLS is also pretty classic NASA; basically every US swing state has to have a plant manufacturing something for it so the Congresspeople approve it — again not a decision made out of a need for efficiency, competition, nor to provide the better product, but on the basis of political expediency.

Again, the nuanced reality is that democratic planning can probably work at some layers (though even at the local level, there have been some notable disasters[1][2][3]). It could also be that once you get to a certain size, there are diminishing returns to effectiveness of "democratic planning", and at worst after a certain point it becomes actively detrimental, just based on outcomes we see at the Federal level.

[1] https://twitter.com/michelletandler/status/14484838413504512...

[2] https://twitter.com/wesyang/status/1448460530289676289

[3] https://twitter.com/Noahpinion/status/1448464328848396290


and this is why conservatives need to seriously rethink their approach to corporations

If anyone is in doubt that's the purpose of this endeavor here's a related fragment: "- Realizing the declaration of the world’s resources as being the common heritage of all people.

- Replacing money-based nationalistic economies with a resource-based world economy."


There's never been an economy that wasn't resource-based. Money is just the medium by which prices and price movements are allowed to allocate those (scarce) resources in a market economy, and so far it has proven to be the most efficient way to achieve that.

Money is flawed but it doesn't have to be abolished. There are some good and old ideas like the IMF SDR. There is also the option to get to negative real interest rates to ensure people spend or invest their money.

Saving money without a corresponding debtor is the same as delaying the economy. During a recession everyone is delaying the economy.


That doesn't make any sense.

Are we going back to bartering with shiny rocks and physical goods?


It might make more sense if you read the site rather than random fragments quoted from it out of context. Fresco's idea of a "resource-based economy" is kind of vague to me but is definitely not a plan to move to a barter economy; instead it seems to be some kind of centrally-planned economy to mathematically optimize productivity using operations-research algorithms with democratically-decided production priorities.

Even though i'm no fan, i think that capitalism is a matches better with our genes. Competition for resources and mates seems to be what drives us. Criminals and scientists alike exert the highest effort till they hit 30 years of age. The old status pyramid does not care, if we wish it away. But i still think better forms of living are possible. Instead of a tribal us vs them, be it neighbour / sports team / city / state / skin colour / political affiliation / whatever...

I think a more inclusive, communal style of living is possible. Would lower the rate of depression caused by loneliness / alienation too i think.


> Would lower the rate of depression caused by loneliness / alienation too i think.

depression is caused by the fact life today is too easy


You mean it's easy to withdraw from society. Just move to a small town, work at a gas station and watch netflix all day. It's easy.

No I mean that life is too easy. Depression is caused by feeling that our actions do not translate into consequences in our daily life. When we are unable to achieve anything by our own hands, we start to feel that life is out of control, and depression quickly sinks in. This is the most common form of depression today.

One does not even need to move to a small town or work at a gas station. Most can just leech off parents.


> Even though i'm no fan, i think that capitalism is a matches better with our genes.

Capitalism can be great for all. Unfortunately, in the US at least, we only have crony capitalism.


I would argue that any form of capitalism devolves into "crony capitalism" sooner or later. It's an inherent feature of the system.

As people or groups acquire more resources through their capitalist success, the obvious next step for them is to distort the system to their advantage through regulatory capture.

A "free market" can only be sustained until someone gets rich enough to bribe themselves into an unfair advantage.


It's still the best system we've ever had (without the crony part). I'm all for making it better, or even replacing it, just not with something that has been tried before. Especially something that's been tried and failed many times, at the cost of millions of lives.

I'd argue something better was there in the form of Socialist Yugoslavia - an economically successful country, with social freedoms and freedom of movement (only passport that was able to freely travel both blocks during the cold war!), greater economic self-determination than today's capitalist systems (all companies were worker-run coops, competing in the marketplace with leadership elected by workers). Unfortunately, ethnic strife and nationalism brought it to an end.

I also think that line of reasoning ignores the opportunity cost of not trying - it's easy for us to condemn other systems for killing people when we are not part of the millions in the global south being killed by capitalism _right now_. Try telling a person living in the Congo, ravaged by warlords fighting for resources to sell on the marketplace, how capitalism is "the best system we've ever had" and see how they feel about it.


> I would argue that any form of capitalism devolves into "crony capitalism" sooner or later. It's an inherent feature of the system.

I don't know what you mean by "the system" but land value taxes and negative interest rates would solve most of the problems.

Of course the fact that something as obvious as land value taxes isn't universal and that economics don't even want to think about negative interest rates tells you that we are still far away from a practically realizable "utopia".

Let's be serious. Land ownership is permanent in a world where almost everything else isn't. If you want a dynasty you buy things that can last generations. How does one value a perpetual asset like land? Everyone has a different time frame. Some may only consider the next 10 years of returns in their valuation of the land. Some may go as far as 100 years. As the total yield of the asset is potentially infinite, land becomes an increasingly speculative investment. Since shelter is a basic human need, these yields are obtained through coercion and simply diverted from the people who worked to earn their money. If the government collects that money it can then reduce indirect taxes that fund infrastructure and services that increase the value of the land and tax the recipient of the services directly. If you do not want those services then just move somewhere else.


>in the US at least, we only have crony capitalism.

They're the same thing. You wouldn't distinguish communism from "crony communism," would you? Of course not; that would be absurd.

Both systems create perverse incentives, and it is unproductive when everyone continues ignoring that fact.


Building the cult-of-personality around an AI that takes human inputs Mturk-style does seem likelier to work than building it around a single human. But at that point, how different is it from the system we have now?..

Central planning was indeed common in the 20th century (and previously), however "to each according to their needs" (an old anarchist principle) was rarely applied, as most of the world lived under capitalist rule.

Most notably, USSR and China were "never" (at least not for more than a few months) communist utopias, but rather State-capitalist economies.

I believe an egalitarian society is fundamentally incompatible both with central planning and with private property. Some level of coordination/cooperation is required, but central planning means a higher authority gets to decide who needs what which sounds just like capitalism all over again. Or, as some USSR critics have put it in the past, "we're all equal, but some are more equal than others".

On the topic of (lack of) Communism in Russia, you can read Emma Goldman from 1935: https://theanarchistlibrary.org/library/emma-goldman-there-i...


All capitalist companies are centrally-planned hierarchical structures and run on quarterly plans.

How is capitalism working out for the world?

If the history books haven't been completely falsified, it would seem that it has raised hundreds of millions of people out of abject poverty.

If you define "not poverty" as earning more than $1.90 a day, like the world bank does, that might be true.

If you define "not poverty" as $7.40, which the UN claims is the "absolute minimum for basic nutrition and normal life expectancy", the only place that has moved people out of poverty at scale is... centrally planned China.

This claim is nothing more than propaganda by a capitalist institution fudging the numbers to make itself look good.


It has also put hundreds of millions of people into poverty.

Any system that rewards winners is going to see people lose.

Now I’m not suggesting we should do away with capitalism either. Just that we shouldn’t fetish over it as the perfect solution.


I'd be more comfortable discussing capitalism's flaws if that didn't imply I agreed with people I wouldn't want running a community garden, let alone a national economy.

In fact, there's probably a linguistic divergence that predicts whose proposed solutions I'll find reasonable. What does capitalism mean to the person making the critique? To me it refers to any system involving private property and voluntary exchange thereof. I suspect people critiquing 'capitalism' are critiquing what I'd call 'growth-dependant corporatocracy' which I'm happy to critique all day long. Using 'capitalism' to refer to that indicates the kinds of solutions someone would bring forth if I decided to listen to them - and given the track record of those solutions, I feel justified in not listening.


> and given the track record of those solutions, I feel justified in not listening.

But that's one of the biggest problems with the ideology you're critiquing!

I mean, what are the odds that a Frankfurt School-educated critical theorist in the 70s would be confronted with a product of capitalism that undermines one of the fundamental assumptions of both capitalism and classical Marxism? The likelihood is so low I'm sure they believed they could call it 0% and get on with their work.

And in nearly all cases they probably could.

Then the personal computer revolution brought the idea of zero marginal cost into the realm of practicality for most of the Western world. And the one field which claims to study hidden corner cases of the struggle for freedom and self-determination is stuck writing about the impact of zero marginal cost data only in retrospect. It's an embarrassing oversight, especially for a field that seems like it was designed specifically to illuminate (and predict!) esoteric social and technological developments that other fields would miss. E.g., the cheap, ubiquitous zero-marginal-cost factories that are our smartphones and laptops.

Anyway, if your aim is to become the kind of ideologue you're attempting to avoid, by all means use your proposed filter to interpret the few interesting writings you come across as noise.


Not sure which ideology you say I'm critiquing in this context. Frankfurt school of economics? I confess I don't know much about it beyond that the Q set thinks it's the new Illuminati.

In any case I think it's a pretty good filter - 'capitalism' is used as a deliberately vague title that lets the reader fill in their own meaning. If there were genuinely interesting writings based on hostility towards a deliberately vaguely-defined concept I'd be interested to see them, but I know enough about the concept of a Volksfeind to feel justified in my skepticism.

Vitalik Buterin can talk about public goods without ever mentioning capitalism because he's got actual solutions in mind. He doesn't need a malleable boogeyman to lend them gravitas. I'm sure anyone else with genuinely interesting insights would have precise enough solutions that they need more precise problem statements than 'capitalism'.


>I mean, what are the odds that a Frankfurt School-educated critical theorist in the 70s would be confronted with a product of capitalism that undermines one of the fundamental assumptions of both capitalism and classical Marxism? The likelihood is so low I'm sure they believed they could call it 0% and get on with their work.

Well, negative yields and interest rates are a pretty good candidate. Marxism has no reason to exist because Marx assumed that communism is an utopia that follows capitalism where negative yields mark the end of capitalism. If you simply allow negative yields then reaching the abundance utopia doesn't need capitalism to end. However, the capitalists pride themselves in the opposite, that there will never be abundance nor utopia and that they will always be needed and that they must keep working forever. All of this is based on the assumption that yields cannot be negative.

We are about to find out whether that is true.


> To me it refers to any system involving private property and voluntary exchange thereof.

That's just an ideal. As soon as you talk about e.g. CO2 emissions everyone talks about how voluntary exchange through CO2 taxes is preventing prosperity.

Also, as soon as you talk about taxing land ownership people will go crazy.

Finally, people think money is private property when it is just a relationship with other people that owe you something. People love the idea of insisting that someone else is forced to owe you something but they also love to reprimand that person for refusing this involuntary relationship. Simplified: "inflation is bad because I want to keep others in debt and never forgive that debt" The idea of money being your private property is the same as insisting that a part of another human (their time) is your private property.

>'growth-dependant corporatocracy' which I'm happy to critique all day long.

Well, the above is already pretty damning. Once you add morals to the capitalist economy you basically are trapped into a prisoners dilemma. Work is allocated as full time jobs even when there isn't enough aggregate demand to keep everyone employed full time. So full time employees must consume the exponentially growing production of a full time employee otherwise there is no point in working full time. What often happens is that upper middle class people and below with "too much" money want to work less and they do not work less today, they will want to retire early. They are effectively delaying their economic involvement for decades while people today need this money to be employed today. This has lead to a massive expansion in private and public debt just to maintain a semblance of full time employment for everyone. The debt itself isn't the problem, it's the fact that the people who are betting on early retirement will be forced to realize that there won't be enough young people in the labor force to take care of them by the time they retire.

Let's assume 0% inflation. A population of 1000 accumulates 1000000 tokens representing one hour of work each. The working age population declines to 100. Without inflation the amount of owed work doesn't change. Each worker has to work 10 times as much to honor the token. The reality is that they cannot do 10 times the work. Maybe 4 times if automation has been progressing quickly and they work more hours per day. That means 1000000 tokens only represent 400000 hours of work. 2.5x inflation becomes necessary.

Thinking of money as property fools people into believing they were robbed by inflation. In this case it is clear that the price level shifted because of a lack of workers. Did the 900 retired workers rob the elderly? Did nature rob us of our youth?


I haven't seen that. In fact, in capitalism the winners usually win by giving the masses something they want. So everybody wins; the masses all win a little by getting a little boost in quality of life and the big winners win by getting a ton of money.

It’s very easy to believe that when you’re one of the winners (as most who frequent this forum will be) but according to the 2020 US census there are 37.2 million people living in poverty in the US alone:

https://www.census.gov/library/publications/2021/demo/p60-27...

There are numerous examples of where capitalistic businesses have gone out of their way to exploit their customer needs. Not “wants” but needs. Such as companies that buy up mobile home parks and then hike up the land rent forcing people out of their own house. The health sector is a biggie too. Clearly the victims of those businesses are not equal “winners” in such an arrangement.

I focus on America here but that’s not fair because the rest of the world have their fair share of problems too.


I would encourage everyone to check out Thomas Sowell's 'Basic Economics', in which he lays out why centrally-planned economies are terrible at allocating scarce resources which have alternative uses.

I'm open to considering alternatives. But if the proposal is some form of central planning, I think the burden is on the proponents to actually have a plan. Pointing out problems isn't the same as having a solution.

Have to paraphrase Churchill: "Badly, but better than all alternatives we tried so far."

Fairly well, there are issues, but otherwise, it seems to be fine.

It’s been awesome in general. Fueled the greatest expansion of economic output, standard of living, health, population increase, personal freedoms, etc. since we first rolled a wheel.

But I tire of having to praise capitalism. Capitalism does not need my defending. Let’s see proof of another working system that hasn’t resulted in famines, gulags, brutal repression, and people trying to escape to - wait for it - a capitalist society.


Well, the Venus Project should scrap their ideas and just adopt Freiwirtschaft.

Please don't respond to snark with more snark.

This is probably a bad place to ask this question. Posters here are likely to be biased to the minority for which capitalism is doing great.

It's the best system that ever was, and still the best, but ruined by crony capitalism in a lot of places.

pretty good. so good, there is even a market for communist mythology and postmodernism miasma

Infinitely better than communism ever did?

Their flagship project (that campus they are calling "center for resource management") seems like an amalgamation of all that is wrong with last century urbanism, it seems like the 1950s idea of an utopia. They ignored all that we now know about building on a human scale, walkability, mixed-use, and close connection; and instead went with a cross between a North-American detached-suburb, a golf course, and a 1950s car-centric planned city. They seem to be the type of person that thinks Brasilia is an example to be followed.

The flummery language makes me wary. So many words to say so little. Long unnecessary words chosen to sound smart. Run.

Plus a certain lack of self-awareness:

> Language has evolved over centuries through ages of scarcity, superstition, and social insufficiency, and often contains ambiguity and uncertainty when important issues are at stake.

(From https://www.thevenusproject.com/resource-based-economy/human...)


Perhaps a better source than the text and images on the website, sadly, is the 02006 documentary about the Venus Project: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I1IXWnS6vwk https://www.thevenusproject.com/multimedia/future-by-design-...

Worth noting that Peter Joseph founded the Zeitgeist Movement as a sort of evangelical wing of the Venus Project, but then it got excommunicated some years later — the Venus Project folks didn't like the direction it was going.

In a sense Jacque Fresco was one of the last of a group of believers in progress who sought to design a better future for humanity from first principles, along with Paolo Soleri, Buckminster Fuller, Joseph Stalin, Walt Disney, Mao Zedong, Juan Perón, Falco, and Franklin Roosevelt. The failures of that movement have included some of the greatest tragedies in the history of humanity, arguably including the advent of nuclear warfare, but its successes have also been quite notable, including space travel, the elimination of polio and smallpox, and the modern welfare state.

I'm not convinced that strong, centralized states that can carry out such plans are a net good (and Fresco apparently had plans to sort of eliminate them, although I haven't been able to find the details), but if we are going have such a state in place — the status quo in developed countries — it would be better for it to carry out judiciously chosen plans for improving the general welfare than for it to spend its strength on limiting access to borax, toluene, and copyrighted information.


Calling ones discipline "sociocyberneering" is a bit much. I also find it interesting how much of Fresco's designs is designed inside an suburban context.

Interestingly also hyperloop like concepts: https://youtu.be/I1IXWnS6vwk?t=2376 And so much individual transport

I find it interesting that in this youtube video only old people are interested in the future he proposes.


Remember Fresco grew up in a time when socially accepted people invented words like "cybernetics", "Dymaxion", "omnitriangulated", "magnetron", "transistor", "Comintern", and "sociobiology". Today it's socially acceptable to go around inventing acronyms, but probably in 80 years people will sneer at anyone who insists on naming their inventions things like "UAVs" and "SHORAD".

This may have something to do with why mostly only old people were interested: people are mostly guided by what is fashionable, so when someone is working on an angle that was fashionable forty years earlier, mostly only people who grew up when it was fashionable will pay attention.


This looks like vaporware and a fever dream from someone who watched iRobot a few too many times. There's nothing of substance on the page, no real "goal", no real demonstration of competency. Just some pretty pictures of a high tech utopia and some airy words about a better future, with no plan on how to get there.

I volunteered years ago. Wrote a technical proposal for achieving their mission goals. The only response or discussion was that they would get "the experts" in to solve these problems laters, instead we should only focus on promotion and advertizing.

Considering I am an expert in the subject I wrote on, I found it very condescending and lost all interest (and indeed, belief) in the Venus Project (totally not just communist futurism).

Also they make you sign an NDA. So you can't talk about the better world you're supposedly building.


Haha, that amazing. It always seem that they just had ideas and when anybody asked on actually how anything would work it was always 'some experts will make some software'.

I always asked where the open source was where that software was being developed but apparently nothing actually existed.


You can tell that it's not utopian because of all the definitely constructable and not at all unrealistic or impractical architectural renders made of a definitely extant white material of infinite strength and malleability.

Oww, come one. Plastic-cement composite materials are strong enough. However impractical they are.

Solve climate change one plastic-cement centrally-planned megastructure at a time, what could go wrong?

It will end up like many recycled products. Originally designed to reduce waste but then the product itself becomes popular enough that there isn't enough waste material and newly extracted raw materials are used instead.

My own hope is that the large and growing global group of technocrats and related ideologies will incorporate some understanding of decentralized technologies and a general appreciation for the robustness of networks.

The thing about decentralization technologies that people don't realize is that they are actually are best approach for creating global holistic systems, but in a scalable, fair, and evolvable way.

Using distributed technological solutions, it should be possible have comprehensive accounting and planning without an actual centralized point of failure and authoritarianism. For example, one or more peer-based databases aggregating global resource use data would provide powerful and relatively objective insights for planners.

I think rather than eliminating money, we need to upgrade it to be a high tech systems that integrates more information.


> My own hope is that the large and growing global group of technocrats and related ideologies will incorporate some understanding of decentralized technologies and a general appreciation for the robustness of networks.

Everyone has an appreciation for robust networks, I don't really see how that relates. Facebook, Instagram and Whatsapp all went down for several hours the other day and almost everyone on Earth knew about it and was impacted in some way, even indirectly.

> The thing about decentralization technologies that people don't realize is that they are actually are best approach for creating global holistic systems, but in a scalable, fair, and evolvable way.

On paper. In practice, there are still ways to control such systems as we've seen with Etherium, and there are other issues that come into play - such as massive electrical requirements, and the fact that if the system were to fail catastrophically (in the case where we rely on it entirely), we're left with nothing.

> Using distributed technological solutions, it should be possible have comprehensive accounting and planning without an actual centralized point of failure and authoritarianism. For example, one or more peer-based databases aggregating global resource use data would provide powerful and relatively objective insights for planners.

So many words to say "decentralized currencies exist". This doesn't really say anything.

> I think rather than eliminating money, we need to upgrade it to be a high tech systems that integrates more information.

Ah yes, more information. Let's track everyone's purchases down to the very cent and publicly broadcast them on a ledger, force everyone to use it, and then reap the rewards when someone is able to control it.


Oh, the venus project. A decade ago, back in 2009, I tried to get involved with this with a group of friends.

We had formed our own branch, so we reached out to them as a means of cooperation. We were threatened with legal action. We opted to be transparent and call them, and we got an extremely rude and unprofessional individual on the other side of the line who continued to be uncooperative and threatened more legal action. Well, that was the end of any cooperation.

It was for the best though, I was more naive back then and it was good to learn how two-faced an organization can be.


It looks like Epcot Center.

this reminds me of two other hypothetical projects: Fully Automated Luxury Communism, and The Australia Project from Manna (https://marshallbrain.com/manna1).

This is the (I would think, obvious) utopian ideal of a post-scarcity or late-scarcity economy. The hard part is actually making it possible, ie routing through the potential futures to get to this destination. You have all of Earth's accumulated sociopolitical baggage as a headwind, plus the challenge of designing and implementing a global adaptive logistical system. I'm not saying it's impossible, but the fantasy is the easy part.


Great point. I've been thinking about this in terms of the declaration 'economic growth is decoupling from resource use'. I'm sure that what's meant by that is that portions of the economy are entering a late-scarcity stage; music and books certainly don't feel scarce right now. But the statement that an economy like that is 'growing' seems to imply something untrue about the things that still are scarce.

I'm not super up on Star Trek lore, but to my understanding the setting takes place in a post-scarcity universe, where the only thing that is still scarce is latinum. Latinum isn't good for much except that it can't be replicated, so some traditions from the scarcity era use it as a medium of exchange, even though everything useful can be produced without any latinum. When a cup of earl grey is replicated, does the value of the remaining latinum go up or down compared to the (now slightly larger) economy?

It seems like there's a fundamental problem with the structure of our thought around these questions. We can imagine scarcity and it's absence, but we seem cognitively unprepared for a situation where some things are valuable and scarce and others are valuable but not scarce.


> I'm not super up on Star Trek lore, but to my understanding the setting takes place in a post-scarcity universe, where the only thing that is still scarce is latinum.

Perhaps it's some material where replicators always add some noise to the atomic structure when replicating; and then the "value" is just how close it's to a perfect structure, by whatever measure of perfection. Then you'd have replicator farms just replicating them over and over until something of acceptable quality pops out - like a physical PoW.

It makes for a fun theory at least! And the post-scarcity societies can go "whatever would you want that for?"


The Technocracy movement had a somewhat similar ethos, and gained a decent following in the '30s, but obviously nothing really came of it https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Technocracy_movement

Sounds like the Zeitgeist movement. Just some Americans re-inventing socialism yet again (more specifically the branch of socialism sometimes referred to as Fully Automated Luxury Gay Space Communism), but not reading any of the existing theory, thus resulting in this square wheel scenario.

In fact this site and the idea was promoted heavily in the original release of the Zeitgeist movie by Peter Joseph back in 2007 and 2010. It's too bad really because the first parts of that movie minus the weird psychological intro was actually quite interesting. It was a very divisive and curious set of topics covered that caused different factions to try to debunk each other. They are still at it to this day. You can find pieces of it on youtube but now that it is a well funded movie they keep pulling it. The debates from all the people he angered are still up though. It really upset many religious communities.

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Communism 2.0... what can possibly go wrong? I can still remember the sugar and sausage queues...

The Algorithm has determined that sugar and sausage are at odds with a good and wholesome society so has shifted the production resources to the new Soma Pharmaceuticals production facility, thank you for your support in these new and exciting times.

You know, that comment at first seems hyperbolic, and then:

> As we outgrow the need for professions such as lawyers, bankers, insurance agents, marketing and advertising personnel, salespersons, and stockbrokers, a considerable amount of waste of human ingenuity will be eliminated. Considerable amounts of energy would also be saved by eliminating the duplication of competitive products such as tools, eating utensils, pots, pans and vacuum cleaners. Only a few of the highest quality products would be needed to serve the entire population instead of hundreds of different manufacturing plants with paperwork and personnel turning out similar products.

Ah yes, the waste of jobs we don't see the point in and bottom shelf products we don't buy. It's rarely that an admonishment like "ah, so just communism, eh?" is actually technically correct. The waste argument is my favorite because it is the polar opposite of the entrepreneur's argument: instead of making something people like, their aim is to aim something that will do and eliminate all other competition: efficiency! That communists do not see that ultimately -they- are the most brutal capitalists is an irony so rich and deep i'm practically bourgeoisie for tasting it.

The history of the VW Beetle is very similar. Why make loads of cars? So wasteful! The people should make just one, great car! Ah, the giant megafactory we were promised was built to make our VWs is making tanks? Shucks, so much for power and capital! Decentralization isn't efficient, it's resilient.




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