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Think twice before founding that free-market utopia (cornell.edu)
56 points by PaulHoule 9 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 107 comments





"At the same time, the wealthy sought to escape their social responsibilities – think of white flight to the suburbs as well as exit plans to oceans and islands."

Huh?


Wealthy white people have, historically, excluded people of color from their communities in USA. This resulted in strange phenomenon like, when nonwhite people gained enough access to live in cities, wealthy white people left those areas and also politically fought against social services that would benefit the city. For example: When it was ruled black people should be allowed to swim in public pools, primarily white neighborhoods shut down their public pool systems.

When in reference to exiting to oceans and islands, wealthy people have benefited from the stable society in which their wealth grows in. Their properties are protected by police enforcement, etc. In return they are supposed to pay taxes to fund the society their wealth grows in. When they exit to oceans/islands, they take their wealth with them, and society doesn't benefit from the investment in allowing wealthy people to grow their wealth within them (eg. the policing of wealthy property vs the policing of tax fraud).


Oceans and islands, sure, but suburbs? Can one not morally choose to live, grow wealth, and pay taxes in one town instead of another? Is this escaping one's social responsibilities?

And while "white flight" due to bona fide racism certainly has happened, it seems like a low-resolution take to frame all such choices that way today.


It's definitely immoral for a city to have laws that make it impossible for working class people to live there (e.g. a suburb with moderately expensive land that bans multifamily housing and has large minimum lot sizes).

Whether it's immoral on an individual level to move to such a city is debatable. It's not unreasonable to want to raise your children in a community with low crime and good schools. On the other hand you could argue that choosing to move to a city with immoral laws is itself a way of supporting those laws, and in doing so you become partially responsible for their outcomes.


> It's definitely immoral for a city to have laws that make it impossible for working class people to live there (e.g. a suburb with moderately expensive land that bans multifamily housing and has large minimum lot sizes).

"Working class" is your designation, but I don't think anyone is entitled to live in any specific place (especially when they don't currently live there). Even drawing the line at the city level is arbitrary--should every neighborhood have all social classes of people mandated for living in it? Every apartment building? I just fundamentally disagree that laws reducing population density are inherently immoral simply because they might become desirable places to live that make it more expensive to live there.

> On the other hand you could argue that choosing to move to a city with immoral laws is itself a way of supporting those laws, and in doing so you become partially responsible for their outcomes.

Who's morally responsible for the laws and policies resulting in high crime, bad schools, rampant homelessness, and high taxes endemic to urban areas (at least in the US)?


> Who's morally responsible for the laws and policies resulting in high crime, bad schools, rampant homelessness, and high taxes endemic to urban areas (at least in the US)?

You have a lot of options. You could blame the voters for electing the folks who make the laws. You could blame the politicians, since they frequently do things the voters wouldn’t know about or approve of. Since unintended consequences are a thing, maybe nobody is to blame.

Some theorize that a society where poor people live all together in one area while the middle class and rich live somewhere else naturally leads to those kinds of problems.


> but I don't think anyone is entitled to live in any specific place (especially when they don't currently live there).

I cannot parse this statement.

The first claim is people are not entitled to live in any specific place.

Then it is clarified that people who currently live in a place are more entitled to live there than people who do not currently live in a place.

The former statement would imply that if you force someone off of the land they are occupying, then you can now occupy that land. The latter statement contradicts this sentiment. Which is it?


Especially when literally the exact opposite is viewed as racism too: white people moving to where black people live is deemed gentrification and also bad.

> Especially when literally the exact opposite is viewed as racism too: white people moving to where black people live is deemed gentrification and also bad.

No, gentrification is rich people moving to where poor people live and pricing existing residents out (often, leading to landlords evicting existing residence to remodel or sell units to a new class of residents).

Because of racial wealth distribution, it often has a racial/ethnic dimension, but that's not the essence of gentrification.


Keyword: deemed.

That may be the official definition of gentrification, but in practice, you will be called a gentrifier if you move to a predominantly black neighborhood and have the same wealth as all of your black neighbors but are white instead of black.

I strongly disagree. It's generally more of a class thing than a race thing, in my experience. I've lived in and been to many areas that are mixed race and the same income level and never had a problem. Once I started making more money and moved into an "up and coming" neighborhood, I was certainly seen as a gentrifier. Truth is I was and am. I get along well with everyone now because I've actually made an effort to be a good neighbor, reach out, and generally be a part of the community.

If so, you will be labeled incorrectly.

"Please stop mansplaining to me"

I think the point is that white Americans fled the suburbs in the 70s in order to avoid paying urban taxes and living in racially diverse areas, while still using urban services and relying on the economic activity in urban centers. This led directly to urban decay; i.e. the New York budget crisis of the 70s.

Well, suburbs are actually pretty interesting, more interesting is that you might've skipped over the fact I gave explicit examples where white flight has contributed to politically changing to be against public services that benefit society simply because they had to share it with black people.

When a suburb becomes an island to retreat, and the populace there is established in order to maneuver against broader social support is it really that different than a single wealthy person leaving to an island and not paying taxes?

Additionally, not evaluating how this phenomenon affects today is quite strange. Redlining (the refusal of offering financial services to neighborhoods of black or brown people) is something that's being discovered as still happening as recently as a few years ago.


> Well, suburbs are actually pretty interesting, more interesting is that you might've skipped over the fact I gave explicit examples where white flight has contributed to politically changing to be against public services that benefit society simply because they had to share it with black people.

I touched on it. That's where I acknowledge it happened, but that it'd be a low-resolution view to apply it to everyone today. Unfalsifiable claims of racism are... unfalsifiable.

> When a suburb becomes an island to retreat, and the populace there is established in order to maneuver against broader social support is it really that different than a single wealthy person leaving to an island and not paying taxes?

Yes. Disliking high crime, bad schools, chronic homelessness, high taxes, and an unwillingness to acknowledge the policies that contribute to them is different from hiding wealth to avoid social responsibilities.

Your argument seems to be based on the premise that city governments are always doing what is good, moral, and effective for the best of society. They're not, though, and that's why people move elsewhere. Sometimes (shocker) there's more to it than racism and white supremacy.

> Additionally, not evaluating how this phenomenon affects today is quite strange. Redlining (the refusal of offering financial services to neighborhoods of black or brown people) is something that's being discovered as still happening as recently as a few years ago.

It's illegal and wrong, and anyone who does it should be punished severely. But it does not imply that someone today choosing to move to the suburbs is making an immoral decision.


Yes, one option is saying "Whelp, we created a lot of problems for certain people, but it's time to look forward and move on."

Is "we" white people? Or voters?

I grew up in a fairly rural area, but I've lived close to a big city for the last few years. Am I also morally in the wrong by choosing to leave? How many months of living as a white person in a city does it take before we're morally culpable for everything that happened there? Is it just white people or other groups you don't see as privileged?

And it's really missing the elephant in the room to not acknowledge that these cities still have significant tax bases and revenues they benefit from, yet voters near-monolithically support the same candidates and policies that contribute to many of the worst problems. Being a "good" white person by shoveling more tax money into the system that's continuously affirmed by voters and leading to bad outcomes seems emphatically less moral.


Generally speaking, if you're going to live in a community you should take an active part in actually trying to make it better for everyone and do things for those who need help in that community.

If you don't want to do that then, in my opinion, it's better to leave than just sit around and complain hoping someone else will take care of problems. In my experience, San Francisco is a great example of this. A huge part of the population, many of them new, just complain incessantly without putting in any amount of effort to make it better. They'll vote and complain online and feel like they did their duty. It was by far my least favorite thing about the city and one thing keeping me from moving back.


If you become wealthy within a society, it is on the back of that society in which you do it, so you effectively owe the society somewhat for your success, unless you think you'd have become a billionaire in the wilderness.

So if you get stinking rich and then don't contribute back in the form of tax, you're shirking your responsibility.

The workers you employ didn't train themselves, and your profit wouldn't exist without them toiling their lives away.


This is an absurd take on social relations. It's equivalent to declaring that you're owned by "society" from birth, with an unchosen obligation you can never escape, because everything you do with other people is done "on the back of society".

Society, as such, doesn't exist. There is no corporeal "society". The only reality is other individuals, living their lives, interacting with you or not. In a civilized society they're able to interact - or not - by mutual consent.

The belief that every individual exists only to serve the group is false and evil.


See, you've missed the word "somewhat", become victim to black and white thinking, and thus missed my point entirely. You, of course, own your own accomplishments, and the energy you've put into the world, and the ways in which you've been smart enough to extract value through efficiency such that you have created it. However, you cannot deny that you wouldn't have done anywhere near as well without the giants on which shoulders you stand and the world around you which others have worked to create, and thus you owe it. Somewhat.

I think your take on social relations is absurd.

Because actually, individuals as such do not exist, the only reality is there is just a bunch of living cells, interacting with each other.

The idea that cells only exist to serve the need of an individual is false and evil.


How did that work for the Internet exactly? It obviously didn't work on some form of noblesse oblige that you presume it does. If you recall, the only people who used it were academics, technical professionals, or nerdy outcasts until sometime about the turn about the millenium. Why does society deserve any profit for something it doesn't care to understand? And, more fundamentally, what exactly is a society in a borderless world and what does it mean to be "responsible" for it?

Absolutely this. You'd expect people to do that but what they do instead is pull the ladder through lobbying.

There is a general concept that many people believe in, that you have a responsibility to contribute back to society. This responsibility is usually assumed to be higher if you have reaped oversized rewards from society, such a becoming wealthy

> This responsibility is usually assumed to be higher if you have reaped oversized rewards from society, such a becoming wealthy

Thinking about Jeff Bezos. I feel that society as a whole has had a lot more to gain from his endeavors than he might be able to reap back from society in his lifetime. Unless he becomes an immortal meld between man and machine and rules the Empire of Mankind for millennia to come.


How are you calculating these gains and losses?

What value did you ascribe to a civilized non violent society, with sufficiently low theft rates, that allows a business to deliver door to door items worth hundreds and thousands of dollars?

Or a society that educated its populace to be sufficiently literate and develop a network of devices that can communicate so that Bezos’ website can operate?

The point is these types of comparisons are fruitless. There are numerous dependencies and benefits, both ways. The only thing that matters is what conditions lead to a better functioning society.


You mean the guy who doesn't pay taxes but tears up our highways with billions of deliveries each year?

> I feel

That’s fine. I don’t.

One of the core claims of capitalism being an improvement over centrally planned economies is that no entity is capable of making all the most efficient decisions without being an actor in the transaction. The decentralized nature of the free market is supposed to create efficiencies as the actors closer to the transaction and with better information, make more efficient transactions.

Mega rich billionaires are massive concentrations of wealth and as long as they control how it is deployed they are becoming closer and closer to the heads of centrally planned economies. The fact that they are private individuals doesn’t change that fact.

In my most charitable view, billionaires are a sign of a market failure, as in a competitive market they never would have had the margins to accumulate that much extra capital


Indeed, a reasonable concept of "limited government" has to extend to limiting individuals whose power approaches the power of a government.

Sometimes I'm reading an article and I come across a line like this and I'm sure it was generated by GPT3 or something similar.


This reads like a hit piece/advertisement with no substantive content.

It's a teaser interview to get you to buy the book. If you are intrigued by the teaser, you buy the book. If not, not.

90s mogadishu was basically the closest thing to an ancap free market utopia. Certain goods and services where security concerns were mitigated were dirt cheap (imported goods, cell and internet service) but most everybody was poor, reliant upon remittances from abroad and deathly afraid of violence.

The only difference is that the security void that ancap ideology says "ought" to be filled by "private defence companies" or "insurers" competing with each other over price inevitably ends up being filled by rival gangs who compete over territory. Frankly, that part of the ideology was always just a fever dream.


>the security void that ancap ideology says "ought" to be filled by "private defence companies" or "insurers" competing with each other over price inevitably ends up being filled by rival gangs who compete over territory.

So basically fledgling governments?


Sort of but there are supposed to be a few, theyre supposed to follow the "non aggression principle" and compete purely on the basis of providing government services for money.

So, basically warlords but warlords who all somehow agree never to fight.


> 90s mogadishu was basically the closest thing to an ancap free market utopia

Most ancaps I know don't tolerate the roving bands of murderous thieving warlords.


That's a PR issue. When a band of murderous thieving warlords settles down and calls themselves The Greater Mogadishu Private Security Corporation, and charges subscriptions and special call-out fees rather than robbery and bribery, that's perfectly in line with ancap ideology. Especially if there are multiple groups, so that they can protect you from each other rather than themselves.

When a band of murderous thieving warlords settles down and calls themselves the government, and charges subscriptions and special call-out fees rather than robbery and bribery, that's actually a description of the status quo. Read Franz Oppenheimer.

> perfectly in line with ancap ideology

No, it's not, because personal autonomy and property rights come first.


Which one comes first? To me it seems like personal autonomy and property rights are at odds with each other. If you own the resources I need to live, I can only choose to die or let you choose for me.

On the other hand I could just take what I want from you, depriving you of your property, and you'd have to figure out how to fight me off. Strongest team wins, 90s Mogadishu style.


They cant really come first if you dont have an institution which is geared towards enforcing them.

These "insurance" companies would have no particular reason to enforce these rules. Even if they started out with the best intentions theyd gradually turn into warlords fighting over territory.


My private judge corp I hired ruled that not only can I have my bands of murderous thieving warlords rove around, but that you also owe me 20 million in damages for suggesting I can’t use my rights.

Now pay up before we have to enforce this ruling


Yeah well I've got a different private judge backed up a private security firm that has some tanks, so we'll see about that.

That’s an unacceptable violation of the NAP. Obviously my initial actions were non violent because I wanted to do them. If you attempt to stop me, that’s the real violence

Come and see the violence inherent to the system! Or lack thereof!

What would they do about then?

Well, the other issue being foreign countries with government-funded militaries are unlikely to just ignore you and permanently suspend travel and diplomatic relations, and as soon as their citizens are facing threats in your paradise, those foreign militaries are likely to get involved. Major coordination problem in that ancap paradise probably only works if everyone does it.^[1] At least the communist version of utopia acknowledged this with Comintern (doomed to fail for other reasons, of course).

[1] Editing to add the note, in case David Friedman comes in here talking about medieval Iceland, I guess it can also work if the world does not yet have widespread global travel and expeditionary militaries.


What is a mafia if not an anarcho-capitalist "private defense" and "insurance" provider by another name?

This brings back memories of playing Bioshock...

While many attempts to build a socialist utopias have failed, it looks like building a libertarian one is even harder, and they disintegrate extremely quickly. I find it amusing because - contrary to what is often claimed - utopian capitalism fails much faster than utopian communism.

I suspect at least in the communist ideology, there is lot of emphasis on cooperation and collective agreement. While in the libertarian ideology, there is no way to resolve conflict, aside from - just avoid each other. That is obviously insufficient.


Humans like to oversimplify systems to soundbites, so any time you end up with pure X it always fails. There's no stability in a system of pure X. It turns out to be complicated to get humans to live together in harmony and picking and choosing various parts of all the -isms is really the only way to do it.

Yeah, the though experiment I play out always has a bunch of libertarians living together in a community in the frontier lands somewhere. One of the new settlers is an industrialist who brings their enterprising attitude and chemical plant with them during the move to this new exciting city. They graciously bring bootstrappy job opportunities for the locals around the new city to much applause. Anyway fast forward a few years and because disposing of PFAS chemicals is hard, they've just been dumping them in a local wetland to keep costs down and profits up. Lots of kids and many adults start finding it tough with all that cancer they need to pay for, but the local coffin maker is doing a great trade.

After a while the regular libertarians look to confront the plant owner about the waste and dumping asking for a cleanup and compensation for the damage to people and property.

Well hearing that people are upset, the plant owner has a town hall with the folk, they get rowdy and emotional. The plant owner get's defensive and thinks about the possibility of a down quarter for his victimized chemical plant. Everyone leaves a bit upset. Some more than others.

Later that night the plant owner sits in his home and reads about a new libertarian utopia that's started. They go to bed that night with a plan to pack up leave this ungrateful town.

A month later the plant over leaves with most of the towns job, the PFAS stays and everyone else is too sick or poor paying for someones sickness to be able to be a libertarian anymore.

Ta-da, the aristocrats.


Maybe that first community should have done a better job of regulating itself? All you’re really arguing for here is more engagement in local politics.

In Libertopia, the only regulations are contract enforcements.

It's a lot like cryptocurrency and DAO schemes: it turns out to be really really hard to get people to accept that a bug in the law means a bad outcome for them, and nobody writes non-trivial bug-free code.


In places more enlightened about gun ownership, self-regulation can just happen at the point of a gun, with no need for the middlemen.

> In Libertopia, the only regulations are contract enforcements.

That's disingenuous. There is plenty of libertarian literature on negative externalities. Milton Friedman, notably, was happy to use taxes and regulations to protect the environment.

The reasoning is simple: by polluting my land / poisoning me with PFAS, you have violated the NAP. This kind of pollution is illegal in "Libertopia".


I have polluted your land and poisoned you simply by driving past your window with my combustion engine on my neighboring property. That you draw the line at PFAS is completely arbitrary, which usually becomes clear when you ask libertarians what they believe constitutes an aggression.

Does every single Democrat agree about every minute detail of policy? Expecting unanimous consensus is an unfair bar you only apply to positions you already know you don't like.

The same can be said about your arbitrary argument. Why are the fine schedules set to $X today instead of $X+1? Why do we get drivers licenses at 16 instead of 17? Do you oppose Obamacare because it has such an arbitrary income limit?

Everything about the specific implementation of laws is arbitrary. The important thing is that it is reasonable, and on solid moral ground. A libertarian government would scale the fines / punishment / taxes in accordance with how grevious the crime was.


What is the basis for saying that the kind of pollution you describe is illegal in Libertopia, then? You say that it is, because of NAP. That's a simplistic answer which you now admit isn't necessarily true.

I am exactly not expecting unanimous consensus, which is why statements like "this kind of pollution is illegal in Libertopia [because of NAP]" seem dubious to me.


A fictitious government is always better than a real government for the purposes of argument.

There are no regulations in Libertarianville. If you are unfamiliar with their philosophy, they have this concept called the NAP(non-aggression principle).

The generally(this might be too strong a word to use with Libertarians) accepted interpretation of the NAP is that as long as I do not initiate violence against someone, my behavior is acceptable, and that violence is only acceptable against someone if they break the NAP first.

This breaks down in Libertarian communities as they cannot agree on common deductions of things like what counts as “someone”, what counts as “violence”, whether you have rights to the land if you’re not using it(Georgists/homesteaders), or if indirect damages like pollution are a violation of the NAP.

The idea that a libertarian community would let someone dump toxins into their neighborhood and leave without cleaning it up or compensating the hurt is completely plausible. Half of the community would not believe he directly caused the cancer unless he injected it into you, and you should have been more careful about what water you drink, and the other half’s only recourse would be to fight the first half.


>Yeah, the though experiment I play out always has a bunch of libertarians living together in a community in the frontier lands somewhere.

You might be interested in this review of an another book on a related topic:

>The Town That Went Feral

>When a group of libertarians set about scrapping their local government, chaos descended. And then the bears moved in.

>... This is the so-called Free Town Project, a venture wherein a group of libertarian activists attempted to take over a tiny New Hampshire town, Grafton, and transform it into a haven for libertarian ideals—part social experiment, part beacon to the faithful, Galt’s Gulch meets the New Jerusalem. These people had found one another largely over the internet, posting manifestos and engaging in utopian daydreaming on online message boards.

https://newrepublic.com/article/159662/libertarian-walks-int...


Yup

I find Libertarianism a good starting-off point, or default, for thinking about govt. In general, freedom is a good in itself.

The problem I've found is that, if given actual free reign, any libertarian state would soon end up re-inventing something like what we have now, or degenerate into authoritarianism.

It sounds lovely to have no hard laws & regulations, with conflicts resolved by the courts. Hell, I've had lots of race training and won sportscar racing championships, and having to conform with the rules of the guys with the blue lights is really annoying. Same for factories having to comply with pollution regs.

The problem is that without standards, everyone has a right of action. So instead of a known framework - I can go 65mph, or the factory can emit only X tons of pollutant-Y per 1000 tons of exhaust, anyone can take action. I might drive past someone at a very reasonable speed, but startle them, and now they're charging me in court. I might live 1000 miles downwind and not like that polluter, so I get some measuring devices and find the scintilla of pollutant they're dropping on my land. Soon, everyone would want some actual standards to meet so it isn't always chaos (aside from the massive court & enforcement system).

The other key concept is that the "Free Market" literally does not exist. Every market has rules, regulations, and constraints. Those constraints may not be enforced by a specific government entity, but a market cannot persist past one deal without them. Any completely "free market" would allow anything, including false advertising, products containing poisons, and murder-for-hire services. Taken to the logical conclusion, your greatest advantage in a totally free market is to either kill your vendor and take his goods or kill your customer and take their money, but that never even lasts past one deal. All things in every sustained market are regulated to one degree or another, even in completely extra-legal markets. The only question is how much are they regulated and by what entities.

History has pretty much demonstrated that governance is required for any kind of even slightly complex society. This is ALWAYS annoying and imperfect. The question is only how to make it least imperfect. Libertarianism seems to have good answers, but when actually examined even a bit, it fails.


It’s probably basically that thousands(more?) of years ago we all started at libertarianism and then you just start to resolve conflict after conflict and power struggle after power struggle until you get the mess we have now.

>> While many attempts to build a socialist utopias have failed, it looks like building a libertarian one is even harder, and they disintegrate extremely quickly

Given that attempts to build socialist utopias have resulted in the deaths of tens of millions of people, I'm pretty sure "fail fast" is a feature rather than a bug.


At what point would you say those “attempts to build socialist utopias” transition to “usurped by dictators”? As I see it, this happens early on in some significant cases. It seems to happen far back enough that I’m inclined to think we have seen very few attempts at socialist utopia, and they have mostly been successful and lacking in (local) deaths (UK, much of Europe since ww2).

I know this is a generalisation; I know that the UK (my home) has engaged in some shady horror abroad and I agree that should factor in to this conversation. But I also feel that the dreadful “communist” experiences you’re alluding to are outliers from the conversation, are dictatorships and oligarchies, and not genuine attempts at socialist utopia.


>At what point would you say those “attempts to build socialist utopias” transition to “usurped by dictators”?

...

>not genuine attempts at socialist utopia.

"Unsuccessful" attempts would seem to be a more accurate phrasing than "not genuine".

While I do think you have an interesting point, it could perhaps be the rigid uniformity and anti-individualism which is intrinsic to hard core socialism that has helped lead to those horrid dictatorships we've seen in the past 100 years


Good points.

I have not studied the roots of "hard core socialism" deeply enough to understand where this uniformity comes from. Taking a vary casual glance at Marx, it doesn't seem to be there. He seemed to be arguing for collective ownership and an eventual slide towards "cooperative anarchy" - a conscious balance or dialog between collective and individual desire. It's really hard for me to see where the rigid conformity came from. In other venues, we see rigid conformity tied to hierarchy (military, strict schools).. all venues that tend to have figurehead leaders, and disempowered individuals rather than collective empowerment.


I recently watched a Lex Fridman podcast with Richard Wolff, a philosopher and Marxist economist and he made many of the same compelling points you are making:

https://youtu.be/o0Bi-q89j5Y

>It's really hard for me to see where the rigid conformity came from.

Perhaps its from the concept of "equality of outcome", everyone is treated the same no matter what they do.

>In other venues, we see rigid conformity tied to hierarchy (military, strict schools).. all venues that tend to have figurehead leaders, and disempowered individuals rather than collective empowerment.

It's an interesting correlation, but within those organizations there does at least seem to be some elememts of meritocracy involved. Although, Stalin, Hitler, Mao etc. were all military based dictatorships who preached (though perhaps poorly practiced, or misinterpreted) Marxist ideas.


> It's an interesting correlation, but within those organizations there does at least seem to be some elememts of meritocracy involved. Although, Stalin, Hitler, Mao etc. were all military based dictatorships who preached (though perhaps poorly practiced, or misinterpreted) Marxist ideas.

I think meritocracy can be a by-word for negative discrimination, for enforcing conformity and disempowerment. "They must stay a developer because they're good at it; they must remain a welder because they're fast".. few can change to explore whether they're a good or crap manager or artist without serious negative QoL impacts/risks. Meritocracy is hierarchy's whip.

I think the preach/practice dichotomy is worthy of deeper unpacking. In my limited experience, practicing collective ownership is hard and takes skills, willpower and expectations we're not readily taught (because most of us grow up through multiple hierarchies).

Thanks for the podcast link. Bookmarked.


One of my understandings of the dangers of extreme or utopian "socialism"(communism, whatever you want to call it) is that they're not resilient to failure like this. So, an attempt to build a socialist utopia that gets usurped by dictators is one of the built in failure modes, not an exception as you put it. That doesn’t mean you can’t move in that direction or enact socialist policies just that at the extreme end this is utopian/dystopian horshoe

> So, an attempt to build a socialist utopia that gets usurped by dictators is one of the built in failure modes

Perhaps. I understand the direction you're thinking. We have two or three significant instances of that happening.

My suspicion is that it doesn't come from socialism, but from botched revolution. "The people" organised themselves into militia to prosecute a revolution. The militia benefitted from hierarchical leadership, as is the way with military process. As soon as power was taken from the previous despot, an opportunistic military leader leaped at the chance to replace the despot with themselves rather than truly ceding ownership to "the people". Maybe because the revolutionary leadership had been successful, "the people" accepted the revolutionary leaders should also be the "peacetime" leaders (plus the leaders had the military, so it's hard to argue against them). Hierarchy continued, just with a new face.


There's been some interesting Podcasts on https://porcfest.com/ which is a libertarian festival each year. The one thing I remember is lots of competition/disagreement on currencies.

I'm intrigued by this idea and would like to look through the historical record. Is there one or more societies you would consider utopian capitalism, and one or more you consider utopian communism that I could research?

> utopian capitalism fails much faster than utopian communism

A willingness to imprison entire populations and shoot anyone who won't cooperate will extend an experiment's lifespan significantly.


That is a critique that can be applied to America as well. There was a long time period where strikes were met with government violence until the labor force went back to work.

Examples:

https://listverse.com/2017/09/14/10-tragic-times-the-us-gove...


If America were an experiment in utopian capitalism, then OP's point that utopian communist experiments last longer would be wrong. But since America isn't an experiment in utopian capitalism, this is just totally irrelevant.

It was an experiment in utopian capitalism between the post civil war era and the the beginning of the Great Depression (which if you notice is when most of those worker crackdowns occurred). A feature of democracy that is separate from the economic system is that you can have peaceful revolutions which is what occurred when FDR gained power and implemented the socialist policies of The New Deal.

I’ll grant you that’s still several decades of utopian capitalism before it collapsed which is significantly better than what people might assume if they are only familiar with recent experiments like grafton nh


The US hasn't been willing to imprison entire populations before? It's practically the only thing the government's ever been truly good at.

If America were an experiment in utopian capitalism, then OP's point that utopian communist experiments last longer would be wrong. But since America isn't an experiment in utopian capitalism, this is just totally irrelevant.

It's not clear which system you are referring to!

Perhaps we might get a clue if we look up which country currently has the highest incarceration rate?

I don't think that hacker news users would find criticism of a 'free-market utopia' a fun read, @PaulHoule. The average user seems to skew libertarian and often used to link or quote Paul Graham, whose solution to everything is encouraging startups. Poor? Go build a startup. Etc.

>Poor? Go build a startup. Etc.

Well this is definitely not pg advice. For instance he makes very sure to categorize that it takes a certain mentality to be a founder and being a founder definitely isn't for everyone. On top of that he doesn't even recommend everyone join a startup -- he cites the likes of Microsoft as being a better option for certain people.


I strongly disagree.

I don’t need to share the beliefs of an author to find their work interesting - and seeing my own belief system from the perspective of an ideological “opponent” is a pretty important tool in understanding the way I see the world.


This being on the front page seems to contradict your argument.

For a person who is poor and has already exhausted other options for making money, starting a business is a great idea.

Right. Because if you're having trouble making ends meet, the thing to do is spend money you don't have on a venture that will likely fail.

The "white collar, grew up in a good school district" class that most of HN is from has a massive blind spot for what "starting a business" looks like at the low end.

There all sorts of "cash only side gig" type activities you can do that provide enough income to pay for a shitty apartment, food, basic transportation, etc if you do them 40+hr/wk. The first few months are hard but you get better, build your network, get regular customers, etc and things stabilize. If you're starting with some marketable skill or specialized knowledge it's even faster.


I think you need to re-read what you just wrote, because your opening line doesn't jive with what follows. You're describing what a "white collar, grew up in a good school district" class person would think is poor. That's not poor. That's lower-middle class. Poor is when you have no savings and are forced to clean out your kitchen garbage can in the tub because you can't afford to buy more can liners before payday because you don't want to pay interest on a payday loan... and that's lived experience after having worked and socialized with people who were generationally poor.

When you're poor, you don't just get to quit your job to start a business. Your business must necessarily function around the job that you have, which makes it exceedingly more difficult when you are doing shift work, as most poor people do.

The four biggest barriers to low-end gig jobs are still availability, startup costs, time, and cashflow. Customers expect you to be available when they need you. You aren't doing Uber in a beater. Any money you're spending on your business is money that you aren't spending on savings or necessary household expenses. And poor people are far more likely to fall prey to scams out of sheer desperation. That's not even talking about the regulatory hurdles that people with businesses need to jump. As a customer, you'd be a fool to allow someone onto your property to do anything without their own business insurance.


> The "white collar, grew up in a good school district" class that most of HN is from has a massive blind spot for what "starting a business" looks like at the low end.

Not all of us stayed in our school district during the day.

I think the real missing ingredient people might not realize is here is crime. Small “businesses” like these or sole proprietorships routinely just skip legal requirements on things like paying taxes, not writing off things that aren’t legal to write off, permits, etc.

When you cut out all that you can eke out a living doing the spot jobs.

I would also quibble with the term “stabilize” as “stable as a single worker in a self owned business” != “stable as a worker in a multi person company”


>I would also quibble with the term “stabilize” as “stable as a single worker in a self owned business” != “stable as a worker in a multi person company”

More stable than those kinds of people would be if they got a McJob somewhere that treated them like just another disposable body.


I don’t know that I’m convinced of that. They seem to be about the same economic status. The small business owners I’m referencing are weed dealers, car detailers, handyman, other unlicensed trades, etc compared to low level retail like McDonalds.

The handymen seem to do the best out of the group but they are also very feast and famine whereas the retail workers may not get all the hours they want but it is much more consistent. Wage theft is also a threat in retail but the examples I’ve seen and experienced were a few hours here and there or a manager reclassifying your OT as not OT. The handymen routinely deal with partial or complete non payment by customers who basically dare them to try and get their money in court.

I hadn’t considered the increase in retail wages over the past year either. The handymen I know have increased prices significantly but most of that has been sunk into parts and supplies that had a similar massive increase.


Right. Because a service based business doesn't need much capital.

It needs time to start, where you are not profitable. If you are poor you do not have the capital reserves to try and attempt that sort of revenue change.

You mean, anybody can be a capitalist who cleans other people's shoes?

Haven't you heard that the "gig economy" is the way to the Brighter Future™ (not really brighter, just advertised to be so)? So, there's the CEO of Clean Shoes International (coincidentally she's also the Worker of the Month, if you doubt her work ethics), happy to provide full B2B experience of shining footwear just for $0.05 per pair.

I rode with a gentleman once who decided he would become a full-time Uber driver after being laid off from his last gig, because he had children to support. He told me that he was renting the vehicles he drove for $300 a week. When I remarked that it seemed expensive, he said that it was vastly preferable to driving your own car and losing income because of breakdowns or servicing. He was driving over 100K miles a year, after all, and so he figured the depreciation from the mileage on whatever car he'd buy himself would be about as bad as the money he was paying for renting the cars. He'd drive one for a few weeks, and then they'd supply him with a different car to drive.



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