Socialism, Merits and Flaws

Discussion in 'Archive: The Senate Floor' started by Jedi Merkurian, Mar 20, 2009.

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  1. LostOnHoth Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Feb 15, 2000
    star 5
    Actually, I would have to say you're a survivor. :p
  2. Gonk Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jul 8, 1998
    star 6
    Gonk, to a degree I concede you're correct on point one but even still, if the merit is really just the allocation of praise for which a company can bask for its socialist goodness, is it really a meritocracy? Can you have a meritocracy that's inherently fair, because even if the meritous acts/behavior/outcomes were justly and fairly achieved the allocation of merit ends up being a preferential allocation which is inherently un-socialistic in nature.

    Well, not really -- hey, I said you could technically have a meritocracy: I never said it would be a GOOD one. A meritocracy that relies chiefly on freedom of the press would admittedly be pretty thin because it relies on those in power willingly stepping away from encroaching on press freedoms. To date, either no country has ever done that or found themselves in a significant position to call that notion to the test. Clearly in cases of communism the state media has not been sufficiently independant, and even in cases like the BBC there have been times where the government has at least attempted to influence the reporting (Margret THatcher and her attempt to influence coverage of the Falklands).

    THe reason for that is pretty universal: in cases of leaders with what one might call deficient morality, they would deny press freedoms for constraining them for the purpose of thier own gain. But even in cases where the leader thinks they are doing the right thing... heck, in cases where it can be proven they ARE doing the right thing... there would often be the constant temptation to encroach on press freedoms to easier facilitate what they deemed necessary. And few people should just assume they are above that behavior until they find themselves in that position of power, BTW.

    Anything that relies on the qualities of the people running them to work tends at best to last only a generation, if that. If you cannot somehow build your morality or desired qualities into your machine -- or your process, laws, or rules of society -- soon enough it will be gone, and probably sooner than later. Some would say that is human nature: I say it is even more fundamental than that: it is the simple mathmatics of the situation.



    You're correct about the need for certain non-profitable essential services to be provided but this is where we thank JS Mill for taking the redeeming qualities of socialist thought and ditching the idealised rubbish which has no place in reality.


    Well I tihnk that is where some butt heads. Proponents of socialism usually think what they suggest is merely the nationalizing of essential services. To others the notion is more far-reaching. So one needs to sort of define where Capitalism starts, where it ends, where Socialism starts, where it ends, and where Communism starts, and where it ends so everyone knows what everyone else is talking about. And maybe throw in political Anachry in as well just in case.

    Otherwise we get people coming in here saying Socialism rocks, and people saying they are off thier nut, and the entire time they have two entirely different meanings in thier heads. Maybe one person has the right definition in thier heads and the other the wrong one: but in the long term it does not precisely matter if nobody listens. It especially fails to matter if people get caught up on technicalities and those arguing viewpoints that are outright wrong and aimed at appealing to emotion like Limbaugh and his Dittoheads end up carrying the day because they do not happen to care if they are honestly right or wrong; only that people listen. And I for one do not hold any reservations that Limbaugh and his views might one day become the most prominent in America if they are not already: after all we live in a world where once a major world power thought that racial minorities were the bane of all societies, and another even further back thought the guillotine was means by which a perfect society could be brought about. And to the degree people in these countries did not think these things, they ended up powerless to stop them on the backs of the majo
  3. Ender Sai Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Feb 18, 2001
    star 9
    Wikipedia cites two sources for this definition:

    "Socialism refers to a broad set of economic theories of social organization advocating public or state ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods, and a society characterized by equality for all individuals, with a fair or egalitarian method of compensation."

    I agree with the first half and reject the second completely. A society of basically decent, selfless, caring people was debunked as being purely the domain of collectivists by JS Mill in "On Liberty".

    ES
  4. Zaz Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Oct 11, 1998
    star 9
    British Columbia has had several socialist governments. The last one nearly ran the province into the ground financially.

    Ontario had one, too. Same thing happened.
  5. Gonk Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jul 8, 1998
    star 6
    That's essentially the REAL problem with Socialism, is that it can get quite expensive. It's not usually the "OMG Communistz r here!" or anythign like that. It's just at the end of the day you can run into stagnation, high debt, and an uncompetitive market.

    I might admire Pierre Trudeau on some levels, but there's no question in my mind that whatever Paul Martin and Jean Chretien came up with in the mid-90s and whoever was truly responsible is clearly a far more ideal model to work from in terms of economic balance than what Trudeau implemented in the 70s.

    And considering Trudeau came from the classroom while Martin and Chretien came from far different areas of the spectrum of the world at large (Martin from privilage, Chretien from poverty), maybe that's fitting.
  6. Zaz Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Oct 11, 1998
    star 9
    I couldn't say whether Trudeau was a soclialist or not. Though he was a very bright man, he never understood economics at all. It took Canada *years* to dig itself out of the resulting deficit.
  7. Ghost Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Oct 13, 2003
    star 6
    The biggest problem with socialism is also the biggest problem with capitalism, that there is a natural scarcity of many of our resources.



    When resources are limited and scarce, people tend to me more individualistic and only look after themselves and their families, acting in competition with one another.
    Resource Scarcity naturally leads to Capitalism.

    When resources are plentiful and abundant, people tend to be more selfless and caring members of society, acting in cooperation with one another.
    Resource Abundance naturally leads to Socialism.


    Capitalism tries to solve this problem [of scarcity] by creating a meritocracy, with the state intervention being minimal, to give each person an equal chance at life by giving them an equal opportunity to excel and rise up the ranks (you can earn your way, through hard work, from rags to riches).
    ---If the state is not actively interfering enough, then that will lead to a concentration of wealth. Monopolies form, megacorporations form, more deregulation, special interests placed over public interests in government, there is political corruption, there is exploitation of labor, there is disregard of the environment, lax standards for the product, profit is emphasized over safety and sustainability. That is when the rich tend to stop being the top rank of individual achievement and become their own permanent class, and society starts to work against being a true Meritocracy.
    ---If the middle class shrinks too much (and society becomes viewed as largely having two classes again, with a huge perceived gap between the few rich at the top of the pyramid and the many poor at the bottom of the pyramid), then that is when the people will become very unhappy and discontent with the little that the state is doing to help them out.

    Socialism tries to solve this problem [of scarcity] by saying the wealth should be redistributed by the state among its members, to give each person an equal chance at life by giving them equal access to public education/healthcare/housing/transportation/food/etc (from each according to ability, to each according to need).
    ---If the state is not very resource-rich or modernized, social programs will become very expensive and lead to a bloated bureaucracy and inefficient state, and even lead to underfinancing in other critical areas.
    ---If resources (or the production/distribution/utility of those resources) are not plentiful or seem unfair, the people will become very unhappy and discontent with the little the state can afford to give each of them.



    In short, if the people do not think they are getting out of the system what they are putting into it, then it will not last for long as the people lose confidence in the system, for either capitalism or socialism.



    Socialism is fine (if done right, with respect still existing for individual rights, in other words not Stalinism or Maoism), but only when dealing with an economy based upon abundance, not scarcity. In today's world, I don't think an economy with abundant resources exists right now.
    ---That may change if we expand into space, and harness new and advanced technologies, using science to help bring us toward an economy of abundance and plenty. Then society will naturally shift from a capitalist to a more socialist one. Prosperity is the true path to Socialism.
    ---Just like the United States becoming slightly more socialist in the post-WW2 era because of the increase in state and national resources; the U.S. created more social programs (and became a superpower) because of the political reach and will, and the scientific knowledge, to fully take advantage of those resources. The problem is that we were not thinking enough in the bigger picture of Society when handling those resources, leading to the environmental/energy/financial problems of today.
  8. Gonk Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jul 8, 1998
    star 6
    I think it's more to day he didn't understand them as well as he thought he did. You listen to him in conversations with Richard Nixon and Kissenger and it doesn't come off as if he doesn't know what he's talking about. It was probably something on the fundamental level wasn't working how he thought it did.

    And unfortunately the governments following Trudeau did little to actually fill in the hole he began. It only got bigger under the conservatives.

    Then again, some say that was because everyone turned on Joe Clark when he tried telling everyone the truth about what they were going to have to do. And they opted for... someone else instead.
  9. Zaz Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Oct 11, 1998
    star 9
    True. But Trudeau was wealthy and had been a law professor for years. He probably could use briefing notes to *sound* as though he knew what he was talking about, but I suspect it simply didn't interest him. And I agree Clark knew the problem, but was stupid enough to try to do something about it with a minority government. Nimrod.
  10. Gonk Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jul 8, 1998
    star 6
    True. But Trudeau was wealthy and had been a law professor for years. He probably could use briefing notes to *sound* as though he knew what he was talking about, but I suspect it simply didn't interest him.

    I think it interested him fine -- he was just working from pre-concieved notions he'd picked up from in his youth. He was someone that was into outspoken civil disobedience before it was so popular in the 60s. You know, going around with a swatztika on his bike in the 30s and all that.

    I know better than to say Trudeau sympathized with Nazis, but it probably points to someone who might have had these sort of ideas that regular people don't get the truth about subjects like economics (or in that case, Nazi Germany). And generally speaking, that can be very true... but that doesn't mean he really got them either.

    From what I read you're sort of saying it was all a show and that he knew he didn't know as much as he professed. I'm simply saying he thought he knew it and he just didn't. We're arriving at the same conclusion, though.



    And I agree Clark knew the problem, but was stupid enough to try to do something about it with a minority government. Nimrod.

    It was what Clarke had to work with. Clarke was not, of course, very politically savvy, as were Trudeau or Chretien -- or Mulrooney. But he as an opposition leader could at least attempt something Trudeau couldn't bring himself to do and admit he was totally wrong. Meanwhile Mulrooney with his majority just didn't have the guts to address the issue. I don't know that Chretien would have either per se, but at least by then enough people hated Mulrooney that it gave him some breathing room.

    It's the same thing with Clarke's stubborn refusal to merge the conservative parties for so long. Frankly, I think he tended to come to the right decisions for his country. It just didn't spell success for his own party. Not the brightest of fellows, but like Paul Martin, at least his intentions were very much in the right place.

    We can't all be like Chretien, who sort of ended up with the best of everything both from his combination of ability, fortunate circumstance, and without the dumb pre-conceived notions to screw everything up. He was Canada's Emperor Claudius and they probably all really hate him for that.
  11. Zaz Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Oct 11, 1998
    star 9
    I don't hate Chretien, but I think he held on too long. But it was Martin that really did something about the deficit, but got little to no credit for it.
  12. Ender Sai Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Feb 18, 2001
    star 9
    Darth Ghost

    That was a fairly economically naive and one sided analysis, and it does nothing to address the points I've raised above. Socialism, as an economic model is essentially going to fail. No ifs or buts.

    ES
  13. Ghost Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Oct 13, 2003
    star 6
    Well I tried to boil it down to the basics, I don't think it was one-sided. I just know more about the flaws of capitalism because I've only ever lived in the U.S., and the Soviet Union fell before I learned how to talk. Also, Socialism =/= Stalinism/Maoism/Leninism. They failed, but they're not the only kinds of socialism. What about social democracy?




    I think under current conditions, socialism would fail too. That's what I was saying, there are not enough resources in the world for it. The state bureacracy would also get in the way of efficiency, which wouldn't matter if we had unlimited resources, but we don't and never have.

    But I'm also saying capitalism has a lot of flaws too, which may lead it to eventually stop being a true meritocracy, and defeating the "American Dream."

    With the way the world is right now, both pure capitalism and pure socialism will eventually fail.




    That's why the best way to go right now is a mixed economy, like we have. I just happen to think our mixed economy would do better if it leaned a little more socialist than capitalist given the challenges we face right now.

    We should think more about Society, but without taking away any individual rights. That way we can tackle environmental problems (decrease waste & pollution, improve efficiency, alternative energy), make the system into a meritocracy again (improving education, reforming healthcare, labor rights, more openness and transparency), so we do not have a permanent rich class concentrating all the power and wealth in order to stay at the top.

    We need to look at the bigger picture of Society and think more long-term. Encourage safety & sustainability, not cheap profits. More regultations and standards to be held responsible for, from financing and insurance to safer products and food. Bust the trusts, break the monoplies, split all those "too big too fail" into much smaller separate organizations.

    At least government can be held accountable by the people through elections, unlike business.



    Does that address your points?
  14. Ender Sai Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Feb 18, 2001
    star 9
    Not really. Firstly, the American Dream needs to burn, it's what caused this global collapse. Secondly, companies are elected. Any time a company has an IPO it trades private ownership away for capital for growth and becomes subject to shareholder influence.

    Learn more about capitalism, from a purely practical perspective. Avoid the GAP trick of thinking critics and critiques are a viable avenue for learning about something.

    ES
  15. Gonk Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jul 8, 1998
    star 6
    Firstly, the American Dream needs to burn, it's what caused this global collapse.

    Define "burning" in this context.

    I would think the American Dream is more or less capitalist itself, isn't it? The sort of reaching for that brass ring that requires social mobility that -- at least once upon a time -- you might not have gotten in more class-focused societies like the UK.

    Or are you maybe referring to the notion of being "entitled" to the American Dream needs to burn? That, to take a page from Lowbacca here, you can grow up being told you're going to get all these things, then go into university or college to take an arts degree or something just as rarely applicable in the outside world, and expect to get yourself a home and mortgage?

    I sort of liked Lowbacca's notion on shifting education to make sciences more desirable, BTW: I know most students end up going into arts because -- well let's face it, arts is easier and more subjective. But it's also more difficult to find a career, and as a career it's usually in the creation of a product that's by definition a luxury item.

    The only reason -- and this might be a good one -- not to adopt it is that universities require those arts students to come and pay for those useless degrees so that the money can be re-allocated to other departments for major scientific research.

    But if the majority of English Literature students's money is going to the English Literature department itself... well yeah: Lowbacca's idea makes sense.
  16. GrandAdmiralPelleaon Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Oct 28, 2000
    star 6
    Wow, one year of experience as an investment banker. I can see that you've dug into the system thoroughly. While I like the pretentious nonsense you're spouting there, it's just really not true that my views are based on 'inexperience' and having been 'told what to think' -although, one could argue that everybody internalises a certain type of discourse- & funnily enough, I know enough people with way more experience than yourself that certainly don't hold your views. Cop out argument.

    Do you really think you're the first person to present me with your line of thinking? Psh, don't play your played-out wise guy character with me. Your arguments make me giggle because I just get the feeling you're copying them straight out of Joseph Schumpeter & Benjamin Rogge -You even use the same sentence structuring at times, lol-. Favourite nightstand literature maybe? Be careful though, before you know it you'll defending child labour. I hope you won't follow them in their yawn inducing anti-intellectual bull. ^_^

    I was, by the way, not referring to McDonalds in any of my posts. What do you think I am, a Marxist? lol

    P.S. Aren't you the one who always went off at people for using anecdotes as facts? Fact is, and this has been corroborated by studies, that the amount of social mobility has stagnated the last 50-60 years or so, and that the vast majority of the 'managers' come from that back ground too. Not to mention the irony that American social mobility is ... lower ... than it is in countries with more a more 'socialist tinted' economic policy in Western Europe. :0

    P.P.S. I love it when you assume I only read socialist critique on the market. I do try to get around, not to mention my library really doesn't stop at the red star classics.

    P.P.P.S. I'm still voting for Van Rossem in 2011 if he runs, it'll be hilarious.
  17. KGhobgoblin Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Jan 5, 2009
    star 1
    I disagree on your "essential services" argument because food is more essential than any of those things, yet the government doesn't need to control that.

    The only thing that absolutely needs to be controlled by the government is the police/military because without that control, we have a situation where whoever owns the weaponry can make their own laws. Think Orwell's "Animal Farm" with the dogs.

    Whether something is necessary to our survival has nothing to do with whether the government should own it.

    One argument I'd like to hear discussed on this thread is that capitalism leads to a better quality of life for greater numbers of people, even if the results are not equal.
  18. Lowbacca_1977 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jun 28, 2006
    star 6
    Oh, I'm fine with say.....someone going to college to get a Music Breadth major. Im just saying that they should be paying for that, and things like government aid shouldn't apply to it. They can attend college and pay for whatever major they want. My restrictions are entirely when we enter the range of how the government helps in education.

    I should note that these views have led to some heated arguments (and by arguments, i mostly mean me being insulted) by my brother who is majoring in, like, choir or something. I'm not sure what the proper catagory is at this point, but its a performing art.
  19. SuperWatto Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Sep 19, 2000
    star 5
    I guess you wouldn't agree with my country's habit of subsidizing actor troupes?
    That's alright, I don't either.

    I wouldn't call an education in arts 'useless', but I do agree that the government shouldn't have much to do with it.
  20. Gonk Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jul 8, 1998
    star 6
    I disagree on your "essential services" argument because food is more essential than any of those things, yet the government doesn't need to control that.

    Ok, sorry to sound condescending, but that is an INCEDIBLY simplistic way of thinking about the notion of "essential services".

    Food is an essential service, but it comes relatively cheap because the means of production are not that high-cost, and so there's plentiful redundancy.

    Anyone can, for instance, with only a certain level of cash, equipment and knowhow go out and make a farm for themselves that can provide food to a wide variety of people. Sure, you have to have a lot more investment for it to be GOOD food, but you'd find that the amount of money needed is not beyond the scope of many upper middle class families if they dedicated themselves to it. The land would come cheaply, and if they employed only a few people, bought equipment, learned a few things about the trade... well, there you go.

    There is NO way an upper middle class family could just go out and build a functioning and reliable power plant. At least not one people would conceivably purchase energy from. The land is either going to be more expensive or the equipement to facilitate delivery more expensive, you need to know or have people that know a lot more about engineering (and I'm sorry, running a farm is MUCH less complex than mechanical or electrical Engineering) and possibly more people to man the facility. The level of investment needed, and the lack of alternative for the customer if the plant goes belly up, is just not there and is incredibly difficult to duplicate.

    That's not to say it can't be done: I'm not actually making the argument power generation needs to be considered an essential service. But what I'm saying is that things like medical facilities and power plants are just way out of reach for 99% of the population to create with relative indepednance. And these are also facilities where if they fail, a consumer can't just go next door and buy from another shop down the street. Because of the level of customers you'd need to pay back the huge investment, you'd at best only have a limited number of competitors.

    If your company created Fender Stratocasters, then maybe it's not a big deal. Heck, if your company build cars it's not a big deal. But power generation IS a big deal because so much relies on it.


    The only thing that absolutely needs to be controlled by the government is the police/military because without that control, we have a situation where whoever owns the weaponry can make their own laws. Think Orwell's "Animal Farm" with the dogs.

    Naturally I agree with you. But limiting it to this means that many services people count on are governed by market forces, and market forces are driven by profit. I think at some point you have to come to the conclusion that totally leaving Transportation, Health Care, Police/Military, Education (at least pre-secondary education) and possibly power generation to market forces has the potential to create a Dickensian social situation.
  21. Gonk Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jul 8, 1998
    star 6
    I wouldn't call an education in arts 'useless', but I do agree that the government shouldn't have much to do with it.

    No, it's not: it's just that people who get them never end up applying them in many cases, making them often useless. But in any case I agree with the overall sentiment of not having government subsidize post-secondary education unless under the right circumstances.
  22. Zaz Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Oct 11, 1998
    star 9
    Subsidizing the arts is a tricky business, as a lot of modern art is hard to justify. To me, anyway.
  23. Jedi Ben Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Jul 19, 1999
    star 6
    Hmm, you're now in banking eh, Ender? Quick, comrades! Grab the pitchforks, we must storm the bastion of capitalism!

    Right then...onto my own bugbear on this area: The notion that the NHS is socialist - it frigging isn't. Hospital trusts employ staff, who will have been recruited in the usual fashion. The drugs will be purchased from pharmaceutical companies, it may be the NHS gets a lower price due to being a major client but that's pure capitalism and procurement theory in practice. Hospital trusts have set budgets for each year and if anything the problem isn't that the hospitals aren't competant, it is that the politicians don't trust them, thus a lot of hospital trusts' hands are tied.

    None of this stops the 'socialism' term being peddled around by the ignorant. Then again, given how often 'socialism' seems to be used as a kind of boogeyman in the US, is it any wonder no one actually looks into what it really means?

  24. Ender Sai Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Feb 18, 2001
    star 9
    Well, even Friedman was arguing that the state only needed to provide the military and roads (because roads will always cost more than they can earn) - and I was never especially comfortable with that either. The state will have an effective role in certain areas that companies can't, like basic social welfare (in the Millsian liberal context).

    Of course it does. The simple side of it is that capitalism has the most effect means of distributing surplus, where socialism does not.

    Utilitarianism > egalitarianism simply because the former actually works.

    ES
  25. T-65XJ Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jul 27, 2002
    star 3
    Let's assume these studies are correct.

    First of all, I want to clarify, when you say social mobility has stagnated, do you mean it's remaining at the same rate or do you mean it's stopped?

    Second, if these reports are trying to say it's harder for poor people to move up in society, do they give a reason? Is it the system they blame or is it due to laziness and an overdeveloped sense of entitlement from some malcontent lazy people?

    Because my personal experience suggests no such thing exists in the first world. At least not among Chinese, Vietnamese and Indian immigrants.

    I can give a huge number of examples of very underpriviliged people who have made something of their lives by working hard or studying hard after coming to a first world country. I know many people who are in similar situations, couples in their 40's coming to a new country in the 1980's with very few possessions, don't even speak english and no recognized qualifications. If these people can retire comfortablly after 20 years, I'd say the system is great. And if you can't do the same, it's your fault and not that of the system's.
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