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swears
19-02-2008, 06:05 PM
In 50 years time, the vast majority of people over 40 years old will be dead. All the present day young 'uns will be in charge.

Is this good because we are more left-leaning, tolerant and able to process lots of abstract information*... or is it bad because we are all pomo consumerist zombies who will just grow up to be yuppies anyway, like the hippies did, only worse? Will the children of the rich and powerful just assume their parents' positions anyway?


*If this is even really true.

nomadologist
22-02-2008, 09:27 PM
I think that the positive characteristics of the next generation are increasingly being drained in the service of creative industries--i.e., the smarter, more creative people from our generation are basically being recruited straight into ad firms and consulting firms. A la "Immaterial Labor".

Sick Boy
22-02-2008, 10:00 PM
Will the children of the rich and powerful just assume their parents' positions anyway?


If only. :o
By the looks of people around me, we're going to be a load of apathetic deadbeats.
Then again, I hang out with a load of apathetic deadbeats.

:p

nomadologist
22-02-2008, 10:05 PM
Thing is, if the economy hits the level of recession some people are predicting, the first jobs to go will be the cushy consulting firm jobs. Or those will be high on the list of jobs that disappear into the corporate-financial ether.

zhao
24-03-2008, 02:40 PM
Thing is, if the economy hits the level of recession some people are predicting, the first jobs to go will be the cushy consulting firm jobs. Or those will be high on the list of jobs that disappear into the corporate-financial ether.

just glad i work for the entertainment industry (WOW that sounds wrong!) for when the shit hits the fan...

nomadologist
26-03-2008, 03:36 AM
just glad i work for the entertainment industry (WOW that sounds wrong!) for when the shit hits the fan...

yeah luckily i think i'm hedged against the recession as a professional dominatrix -- if i still worked in medical publishing i'd be toast soon

zhao
26-03-2008, 09:37 AM
yeah luckily i think i'm hedged against the recession as a professional dominatrix

so that's what you been doing all this time, starting up a new career. seems fitting in some ways...

i dated a girl long time ago who was sub in real life but worked as a dominatrix to put herself through school. she always wanted to role play but at the time it was just kind of embarrassing to me and i couldn't take it seriously.

nomadologist
26-03-2008, 04:26 PM
i only role play for $$$$, i really hate the games like teacher/student, boss/employee. ugh.

swears
28-03-2008, 10:44 AM
http://www.turboconnection.com/images/picard.jpg

Derailed!

Pulchritude
28-03-2008, 01:42 PM
I think a lot of people my age (the, erm, younger generation) are much more conservative and intolerant than they seem.

Mr. Tea
28-03-2008, 01:51 PM
Damned intolerant people, send 'em all back I say, hanging's too for 'em etc. etc.

noel emits
28-03-2008, 01:55 PM
I think a lot of people my age (the, erm, younger generation) are much more conservative and intolerant than they seem.
Certainly 'exotic' appearance is no longer (was it ever?) any indicator of open mindedness or even any kind of thought at all. Yes, almost the opposite in many cases.

noel emits
28-03-2008, 01:56 PM
Damned intolerant people, send 'em all back I say, hanging's too for 'em etc. etc.
I've no time for that kind of attitude. You bigots are all the same.

Mr. Tea
28-03-2008, 02:03 PM
I've no time for that kind of attitude. You bigots are all the same.

Prejudiced people piss me off. They always generalise about everything.

Pestario
28-03-2008, 03:46 PM
"Only the Sith deal in absolutes" - Obi Wan

http://www.jedi-academy.com/film/kenobi_main.jpg

swears
28-03-2008, 04:03 PM
I think a lot of people my age (the, erm, younger generation) are much more conservative and intolerant than they seem.

I think this is what the Tories are betting on with cuddly Cameron.

I know a few young economic conservatives (or "liberals", depending on how you define that) who advocate lower taxes, scaling back the state, etc... But they are against prejudice, pro-immigration, pro-gay marriage, very "open minded". The problem is that everything has become so personalised and depoliticised that people can have beliefs that they thet wouldn't be able to classify as left or right wing anyway.

Mr. Tea
28-03-2008, 04:17 PM
The problem is that everything has become so personalised and depoliticised that people can have beliefs that they thet wouldn't be able to classify as left or right wing anyway.

Is that necessarily a problem, though? Why should people's opinions conform to pre-existing paradigms of political alignment? If those paradigms are obsolete, we need new ones to describe what people think these days, don't we?

vimothy
28-03-2008, 04:24 PM
I know a few young economic conservatives (or "liberals", depending on how you define that) who advocate lower taxes, scaling back the state, etc... But they are against prejudice, pro-immigration, pro-gay marriage, very "open minded". The problem is that everything has become so personalised and depoliticised that people can have beliefs that they thet wouldn't be able to classify as left or right wing anyway.

And, similarly, I know some people who are leftists advocating big-government solutions (especially to their own problems), but who are closed minded, anti-immigration, anti-gay, and basically quite bigoted.

I think that the idea that bigots are necessarily "right-wing" whereas open-minded people are necesarily "left-wing" is old hat and something of a distraction from the real issues.

Pestario
28-03-2008, 04:35 PM
And, similarly, I know some people who are leftists advocating big-government solutions (especially to their own problems), but who are closed minded, anti-immigration, anti-gay, and basically quite bigoted.

I think that the idea that bigots are necessarily "right-wing" whereas open-minded people are necesarily "left-wing" is old hat and something of a distraction from the real issues.

Isn't this just a case of the 'left' and 'right' wings operating on two axes:

http://farm2.static.flickr.com/1299/1144199186_ac9446f06d.jpg

And that current bipartisan politics doesn't fully accommodate this spread of opinion.

From what has been said here, the next generation are moving down and to the right

zhao
28-03-2008, 04:37 PM
I think a lot of people my age (the, erm, younger generation) are much more conservative and intolerant than they seem.

ON. THE. FUCKIN. MONEY.

oh i got stories... of hip young republicans...

swears
28-03-2008, 04:40 PM
Is that necessarily a problem, though? Why should people's opinions conform to pre-existing paradigms of political alignment? If those paradigms are obsolete, we need new ones to describe what people think these days, don't we?

Yeah, sure. But don't you think it's at least important for people to understand where these divisions come from before we try to work past them? Besides, the current political climate is a result of that left/right binary: Don't think you would've had Thatcher's rise to power without there being socialist tendencies in the UK for her to challenge in the first place, for example.

I think that the idea that bigots are necessarily "right-wing" whereas open-minded people are necesarily "left-wing" is old hat and something of a distraction from the real issues.

Perhaps, but hasn't the left in the UK had more of a history of opposing bigotry and discrimination through movements like The Anti-nazi League or Rock Against Racism?

vimothy
28-03-2008, 04:53 PM
From what has been said here, the next generation are moving down and to the right

Well, I certainly hope so, but I haven't seen very much evidence of that. Quite the opposite, in fact, where they are moving at all.


Perhaps, but hasn't the left in the UK had more of a history of opposing bigotry and discrimination through movements like The Anti-nazi League or Rock Against Racism?

Are they really "left" platforms? I mean, can't you be for economic freedom and cultural freedom at the same time? Some people on the right, e.g., are pro-immigration, and some are anti-immigration. Some people on the left are anti-immigration, and some are pro-immigration. It all depends. I remember when I first started to read libertarian / classical liberal stuff -- the idea that people were on the right and yet not monstrous arseholes was quite a shock, but it's worth considering, unless you want your predjudices dictating your economic and political votes.

swears
28-03-2008, 04:58 PM
Vim: I know classical liberals like Hayek are not automatically racist, evil or even right wing at all. "Why I am not a conservative, etc..."
But I see the most dissent against intolerance coming from the left, maybe they are just shouting the loudest.

Pestario
28-03-2008, 05:21 PM
Well, I certainly hope so, but I haven't seen very much evidence of that. Quite the opposite, in fact, where they are moving at all.

I was just expressing the immediate impression I got from what people have said in this thread. To declare my political leanings I would like things down and to the left (surprise surprise).

vimothy
28-03-2008, 05:32 PM
Vim: I know classical liberals like Hayek are not automatically racist, evil or even right wing at all. "Why I am not a conservative, etc..."
But I see the most dissent against intolerance coming from the left, maybe they are just shouting the loudest.

I know what you mean, but I think it's bit more complicated. For instance, Gary Bushell's English Democrats (http://www.englishdemocrats.org.uk/) are actually pretty generic, and hardly "right-wing" as I would describe it. That is, they say Nu-Labour-ish stuff like, "A healthy economy is a mixed economy." My uncles are all staunch republicans and pretty sectarian and bigoted in many ways, but they are very much (well-off) leftists, as are most of the fuckwits on the other side of the divide.

If you're defining "dissent against intolerance" as going on marches and handing out flyers, then for the last thirty years or so, most of the people in this country who went on the marches probably voted Labour or described themselves as leftists. I think the left has a reasonably good history of living up to its own predjudices, and (drawing a diplomatic veil over the less pleasant aspects of leftist "dissent" in this country) where those predjudices are worthwhile (e.g. anti-racism), then its a good thing. But I don't think that there's anything essentially leftist about being against racism.

[There's also the complications of recent years, where it's not obvious to the "left" whether it should support religious conservatives because they form part of an "ethnic minority" or whether it should attack them because they're religious conservatives.]


I was just expressing the immediate impression I got from what people have said in this thread. To declare my political leanings I would like things down and to the left (surprise surprise).

Not been very impressed with socialist libertarianism, to be honest, but it's definitely better than authoritarian communism.

vimothy
28-03-2008, 05:43 PM
I was just expressing the immediate impression I got from what people have said in this thread. To declare my political leanings I would like things down and to the left (surprise surprise).

Actuallly, it seems to me that most people are generally moving to the centre-left. The harder, radical left has lost whatever plot it once had, so that it's basically just radicalism without a political programme, and therefore not very relevant.

Pestario
28-03-2008, 05:45 PM
[There's also the complications of recent years, where it's not obvious to the "left" whether it should support religious conservatives because they form part of an "ethnic minority" or whether it should attack them because they're religious conservatives.]



To be OT for a second...

I find this very interesting. Are you talking about Christian Conservatives?

vimothy
28-03-2008, 05:49 PM
To be OT for a second...

I find this very interesting. Are you talking about Christian Conservatives?

Err, no... I was thinking about Muslim conservatives. But your question is interesting -- I expect that, given the very large numbers of Christian and socially conservative migrants from the "Global South", this will be an issue in the not too distant future.

Pestario
28-03-2008, 06:00 PM
Ah, of course. I was thinking more along the lines of how far conservative religious views can be accommodated in the public realm, e.g. should Christian adoption charities be able to turn down gay couples etc.

S-Mac
29-03-2008, 01:24 PM
I think this is what the Tories are betting on with cuddly Cameron.

I know a few young economic conservatives (or "liberals", depending on how you define that) who advocate lower taxes, scaling back the state, etc... But they are against prejudice, pro-immigration, pro-gay marriage, very "open minded". The problem is that everything has become so personalised and depoliticised that people can have beliefs that they thet wouldn't be able to classify as left or right wing anyway.

The association of economic liberalism with social conservatism is really just a product of politics, beginning during the Reagan era in the US, rather than of an actual ideological standpoint. Neo-Conservatives needed an apparently sound economic agenda to appeal to a whole chunk of middle-class voters, while Neo-liberals needed a moral agenda to appeal to the conservative base which was their only real political option, since most left-leaning voters were obviously attached to state intervention.

The two positions are extremely contradictory and are quite frequently at odds with each other, since conservatives tend to want more government/legal intervention into peoples private lives (fertility rights, drugs, etc) which neo-liberals are in principle opposed to.

Happily for them, a shared love for capital accumulation, and hysteric opposition to anything smelling remotely of communsim, takes prioity above everything glossing over the myriad contradictions for the sake of political power.

So being economically conservative/liberal and socially liberal is really a more internally consistent position.

The problem for the the political 'left' is that most are also scared shared shitless of communsim or any truely radical ideology, and a desire to appear hip-to-the-economic-groove neccessitates making concessions to neo-liberal economics (being 'realistic' about the economy) while retaining some socialist principles, leading them more towards the centre, where other types of contradictions abound.

[Edit]

From my own observations (of middle-class college students), for most youngish folk 'communism' of any sort is completely off the agenda for all but a minority of students and activists. Most are quite aware of the 'evils of capitalism' but at the same time cant imagine anything else but a capitalist economy being possible, leading to two general ideological positions (if they're bothered to take one at all); fully-fledged libertarianism, believing that if all barriers to 'freedom' are removed, a Van Hayekian/Friedmanian Utopia of a grand markt-equilibrium awaits; or a sort of rearticulated Third Way, with the negative effects free-markets balanced by some sensible social policies.

nomadologist
29-03-2008, 04:46 PM
The association of economic liberalism with social conservatism is really just a product of politics, beginning during the Reagan era in the US, rather than of an actual ideological standpoint. Neo-Conservatives needed an apparently sound economic agenda to appeal to a whole chunk of middle-class voters, while Neo-liberals needed a moral agenda to appeal to the conservative base which was their only real political option, since most left-leaning voters were obviously attached to state intervention.

The two positions are extremely contradictory and are quite frequently at odds with each other, since conservatives tend to want more government/legal intervention into peoples private lives (fertility rights, drugs, etc) which neo-liberals are in principle opposed to.

Happily for them, a shared love for capital accumulation, and hysteric opposition to anything smelling remotely of communsim, takes prioity above everything glossing over the myriad contradictions for the sake of political power.

So being economically conservative/liberal and socially liberal is really a more internally consistent position.

The problem for the the political 'left' is that most are also scared shared shitless of communsim or any truely radical ideology, and a desire to appear hip-to-the-economic-groove neccessitates making concessions to neo-liberal economics (being 'realistic' about the economy) while retaining some socialist principles, leading them more towards the centre, where other types of contradictions abound.

[Edit]

From my own observations (of middle-class college students), for most youngish folk 'communism' of any sort is completely off the agenda for all but a minority of students and activists. Most are quite aware of the 'evils of capitalism' but at the same time cant imagine anything else but a capitalist economy being possible, leading to two general ideological positions (if they're bothered to take one at all); fully-fledged libertarianism, believing that if all barriers to 'freedom' are removed, a Van Hayekian/Friedmanian Utopia of a grand markt-equilibrium awaits; or a sort of rearticulated Third Way, with the negative effects free-markets balanced by some sensible social policies.


This was a truly great post, though I think those who are scared of communism are obviously wrong. Grandmarkt equilibrium? Please. The market thrives on instability.

Mr. Tea
29-03-2008, 06:45 PM
I think those who are scared of communism are obviously wrong.

I refer you to 20th century world history, passim.

mixed_biscuits
29-03-2008, 07:38 PM
As someone who has experienced life under Communism (Romania), I'm not particularly keen on more of the same either.

nomadologist
30-03-2008, 12:36 AM
There have been problems in a lot of communist countries historically, yes. Have there not been problems in *every* system of government historically?

If communism were no real threat to capitalism, America and most of the rest of the western world would not have spent so many years on McCarthyism and so many dollars and lives on fighting its mere existence.

nomadologist
30-03-2008, 12:46 AM
As someone who has experienced life under Communism (Romania), I'm not particularly keen on more of the same either.

Have a very good friend from Romania, and one psychiatrist, and neither had much of a problem with Communism--in fact my friend expresses nostalgia for her childhood in a communist state at times...

What was your experience like?

mixed_biscuits
30-03-2008, 09:21 AM
Have a very good friend from Romania, and one psychiatrist, and neither had much of a problem with Communism--in fact my friend expresses nostalgia for her childhood in a communist state at times...

What was your experience like?

Hmm...super-long queues for heavily rationed poor quality food; 60W light bulbs and no brighter permitted; government propaganda on telly every day and little else; restrictions on cultural imports; persecution of dissenters; signing in to police stations; not being able to speak one's mind about anything; destruction of hundreds of villages and forced relocation of peasants; flattening of vast areas of the capital city with great loss of cultural heritage; erection of vast, pointless monuments to the leader's ego; ludicrous academic promotion of leader's wife...it goes on and on and on...The country's back was broken by Communism (and this is a place that has the natural resources to be very strong: fertile land, oil, sea and mountains for tourism...)

My mum (Romanian side of the family) treats Western friends of mine who might praise Communism with undisguised, sad contempt.

Your friends' views are odd.

S-Mac
30-03-2008, 07:07 PM
As someone who has experienced life under Communism (Romania), I'm not particularly keen on more of the same either.

I doubt anyone would want more of that.

But it's precisely this instant conflation of the term communism with the specifics of Soviet repressive authoritarianism that makes people so scared of giving it any serious thought.

But there is no essential link between a form of social organisation based around the commune, in one way or another, and authritarianism. Just as there is no essential link between capitalism and freedom or democracy (as contempoary China and Russia are showing us, and to a lesser extent the revocation of human rights in the UK and US).

So much time and energy has been expended on forging an inherent theoretical link between communism and repressive authoritariansim, and next to none on developing a workable alternative to capitalism or repressive forms of Communism.

And for what its worth (and at the risk of turning this discussion into a Monthy Python sketch), my mother's family couldn't afford decent, food, housing, lighting or heating, but instead of being able to identify the structures which put them in such a situation, and being able to attribute a name to it and oppose it, it was simply accepted as 'the way things were'. She is highly contemptuous of anyone who is in favour of preserving massive social inequality or suggests that it might be a 'neccessary evil' for the sake of 'a dynamic economy', 'economic efficiency' or 'wealth generation'.

mixed_biscuits
30-03-2008, 11:11 PM
But there is no essential link between a form of social organisation based around the commune, in one way or another, and authritarianism.

Fine - you set up your commune with like-minded people and then seek to expand it for what you presume to be the good of the masses, whilst doing so implicitly or explicitly agreeing to do things a certain way. Unfortunately, a pesky bastard like me decides that your rules are rubbish and, to boot, I have something to offer that your commune would really like (so I can't just be ignored) - how are you going to make me toe the line or ensure that your rules aren't bent for the sake of convenience?

This conundrum always seems to stump my idealist communist-minded buddies.

Reminding them of the dysfunctional train wreck of their personal lives can also serve as a reminder of the difficulty of putting their communal ideas into practice (ie. creating harmony amongst men).

nomadologist
30-03-2008, 11:14 PM
Fine - you set up your commune with like-minded people and then seek to expand it for what you presume to be the good of the masses, whilst doing so implicitly or explicitly agreeing to do things a certain way. Unfortunately, a pesky bastard like me decides that your rules are rubbish and, to boot, I have something to offer that your commune would really like (so I can't just be ignored) - how are you going to make me toe the line or ensure that your rules aren't bent for the sake of convenience?

This conundrum always seems to stump my idealist communist-minded buddies.

If you're not interested in making decisions that are based on the mutual good of the "commune", and disagree with the form of government proposed by others within the organization, then you can always leave. Why should you continue to benefit from the organization if you fundamentally disagree with its precepts?

Don't let the door hit you on the way out!

nomadologist
30-03-2008, 11:16 PM
Hmm...super-long queues for heavily rationed poor quality food; 60W light bulbs and no brighter permitted; government propaganda on telly every day and little else; restrictions on cultural imports; persecution of dissenters; signing in to police stations; not being able to speak one's mind about anything; destruction of hundreds of villages and forced relocation of peasants; flattening of vast areas of the capital city with great loss of cultural heritage; erection of vast, pointless monuments to the leader's ego; ludicrous academic promotion of leader's wife...it goes on and on and on...The country's back was broken by Communism (and this is a place that has the natural resources to be very strong: fertile land, oil, sea and mountains for tourism...)

My mum (Romanian side of the family) treats Western friends of mine who might praise Communism with undisguised, sad contempt.

Your friends' views are odd.

Romania now is hardly utopia. There were people who did better under communism there than they would have otherwise. I imagine those are the types who are nostalgic for it.

But yes, I agree with S-Mac, let's not conflate the USSR and its likeminded authoritarian partnership regimes with all or any form of communism.

mixed_biscuits
30-03-2008, 11:20 PM
Romania now is hardly utopia. There were people who did better under communism there than they would have otherwise. I imagine those are the types who are nostalgic for it.

It's a damn sight better than it was.

Life is harder for some now, but not by much - inevitably tough transition period.

mixed_biscuits
30-03-2008, 11:22 PM
If you're not interested in making decisions that are based on the mutual good of the "commune", and disagree with the form of government proposed by others within the organization, then you can always leave. Why should you continue to benefit from the organization if you fundamentally disagree with its precepts?

Don't let the door hit you on the way out!

My hypothetical specified that I had something to offer to the commune that could not be ignored.

The problem is that people do decide to leave - in their droves. So communist governments put up big walls to stop them going = authoritarianism.

I've got no problem with people setting up their own little communes, provided that they don't expect to be allowed to force other people to join them.

nomadologist
30-03-2008, 11:34 PM
My hypothetical specified that I had something to offer to the commune that could not be ignored.

The problem is that people do decide to leave - in their droves. So communist governments put up big walls to stop them going = authoritarianism.

I've got no problem with people setting up their own little communes, provided that they don't expect to be allowed to force other people to join them.

Yes and what would you be offering? This hypothetical makes no sense unless it has content--i.e., do you have a couple of trillion dollars? A cheaper way to run public transit? What exactly could you possibly have that would be this important?

mixed_biscuits
30-03-2008, 11:40 PM
Yes and what would you be offering? This hypothetical makes no sense unless it has content--i.e., do you have a couple of trillion dollars? A cheaper way to run public transit? What exactly could you possibly have that would be this important?

Scale the size of the commune down if you're having problems with the hypothetical.

In any case, your solution is either to tell me to sling my hook or just ignore me. If you have 100,000s of dissenters in your large commune (which, of course, is inevitable), you would be wasting a lot of human resources.

nomadologist
30-03-2008, 11:44 PM
I'm not having "problems" with the hypothetical, it simply doesn't make sense to "hypothetically" have something so wonderful that an entire group of people would have to throw off any principles they would use to structure their government. Either you have something you can name that is this wonderful, or it's just a bullshit argument.

What do you have? A couple of cars? Some drums of crude oil?

It doesn't matter how many people we're talking about.

nomadologist
30-03-2008, 11:45 PM
Scale the size of the commune down if you're having problems with the hypothetical.

In any case, your solution is either to tell me to sling my hook or just ignore me. If you have 100,000s of dissenters in your large commune (which, of course, is inevitable), you would be wasting a lot of human resources.

Well that depends on quite a few factors. Not all people are "human resources" as such, many are drains on an economy, on a country's resources, on its ability to thrive.

mixed_biscuits
30-03-2008, 11:47 PM
Well that depends on quite a few factors. Not all people are "human resources" as such, many are drains on an economy, on a country's resources, on its ability to thrive.

You might as well just bump them off, eh.

nomadologist
31-03-2008, 01:36 AM
of course not. people shouldn't be reduced to their "profit value" to society. some people simply will never be able to make as much money than others, but this does not mean they don't deserve to live as well as others can and do.

mixed_biscuits
31-03-2008, 01:07 PM
of course not. people shouldn't be reduced to their "profit value" to society. some people simply will never be able to make as much money than others, but this does not mean they don't deserve to live as well as others can and do.

Well, quite

vimothy
31-03-2008, 01:30 PM
If you're not interested in making decisions that are based on the mutual good of the "commune", and disagree with the form of government proposed by others within the organization, then you can always leave. Why should you continue to benefit from the organization if you fundamentally disagree with its precepts?

Don't let the door hit you on the way out!

Yeah, right.

Didn't the communists have rather different ideas about the freedom of their slave-populations? If you disagree with the with the policies meant to acheive the "mutual good" of the commune (as decided by your unelected leaders), go straight to the gulag.

vimothy
31-03-2008, 01:41 PM
of course not. people shouldn't be reduced to their "profit value" to society. some people simply will never be able to make as much money than others, but this does not mean they don't deserve to live as well as others can and do.

It's not a question of "deserving" anything. You live in a world of scarcity, you are not in the position to decide who deserves what and you are not in a position to redistribute gains.

mixed_biscuits hypothetical is easy: imagine he is a fantastically clever mathematician/economist who has solved the socialist calculation problem and can show you how to correctly distribute resourses such that you are producing at an optimal level that would only be possible under a market economy otherwise. Without him your economy is in ruins. Do you let him leave? What happened historically in similar cases?


But there is no essential link between a form of social organisation based around the commune, in one way or another, and authritarianism.

Given that, don't you think it's strange that all communist countries have been authoritarian hell-holes? Why is that?


Just as there is no essential link between capitalism and freedom or democracy (as contempoary China and Russia are showing us, and to a lesser extent the revocation of human rights in the UK and US).

Perhaps -- but there does appear to be a link between capitalism and freedom or democracy. Why is that?

[The "sustainable autocracy" angle is interesting, but I'd like to hear your views on these other correlations first.]

Mr. Tea
31-03-2008, 02:43 PM
Romania now is hardly utopia. There were people who did better under communism there than they would have otherwise. I imagine those are the types who are nostalgic for it.


Oh, I'm sure - the Party elite, military leaders and police chiefs, to name a few.

vimothy
31-03-2008, 03:05 PM
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/6/66/Nicolae_Ceausescu.png/195px-Nicolae_Ceausescu.png


Hard not to feel a little nostalgic before the visage of the "Genius of the Carpathians", eh?

turtles
31-03-2008, 08:05 PM
So I've always wondered this, and it's probably something very obvious covered in Communism 101, but what exactly is the stopping point of having a democratically elected communist government?

(I once almost started a "Questions you are dying to ask but are too scared to because of Philosophy/Politics nerd cred" thread just to ask this question...)

Mr. Tea
31-03-2008, 08:39 PM
So I've always wondered this, and it's probably something very obvious covered in Communism 101, but what exactly is the stopping point of having a democratically elected communist government?


Do you mean, why aren't there any? Well there could be, I mean the UK has a Communist Party and so do most countries - it's just that no-one votes for them.

noel emits
31-03-2008, 08:53 PM
I think what he means is would it necessarily be nonsensical to talk about a communist constitution with democratically elected representatives/ executives?

Mr. Tea
31-03-2008, 09:07 PM
Well in a true democracy you can vote not just for your favourite communist, but also for politicians who aren't communists at all, and if enough of these get elected then the System (meaning the government, the State, the economy...) will no longer be communist.
You can of course argue that in a country like the UK at present the only real choice is between a few not-terribly-different flavours of capitalist, but the fact remains that there are candidates for fart-left parties and one of them could form a government if it polled enough votes.

noel emits
31-03-2008, 09:14 PM
Except in most democracies with constitutions there are limits imposed, mostly that a government can not abolish the democratic process etc.

So I guess the question is why can't you have a similar situation for a form of communism where certain principles are protected in the constitution while elections are still held.

LOL at fart-left ;)

Mr. Tea
31-03-2008, 09:24 PM
Except in most democracies with constitutions there are limits imposed, mostly that a government can not abolish the democratic process etc.

So I guess the question is why can't you have a similar situation for a form of communism where certain principles are protected in the constitution while elections are still held.


I guess because maybe communism is a form of government unlike most others, in that it involves total state ownership of and control over many aspects of the economic and social life of a country that would otherwise be left to NGOs, private corporations or members of the public to run for themselves. It seems to me that some of those 'certain principles' that a communist government would seek to uphold might not necessarily be compatible with a constitution that allows free democratic elections and the possibility of a government that would undo the collectivisation necessary for a communist regime.



LOL at fart-left ;)

Haha, think I'll leave it as it is. :)

turtles
31-03-2008, 09:28 PM
Yeah basically I was wondering if you could have a communist economy without any of the authoritarian garbage, and instead have regular elections, freedom of the press and things like that. This is, of course, assuming broad based support for communism, but if a communist economy could function properly and efficiently and keep people happy, you would assume that they would keep electing communists to the government.

Basically I don't really see why this would be a contradictory approach. If a state-run enterprise is being run poorly, elect some different people that will run it better!

swears
31-03-2008, 09:45 PM
I guess the answer would lie in actually having communally run services and industries that are better than anything private enterprise could provide, rather than putting capitalism out of the picture by saying "This stuff's the state's now Mr businessman, kthanxbye! Off to the gulag with you". I expect Vimothy to respond with "Yeah, good luck with that." Suppose I am a big wet social democrat, really.

Guybrush
31-03-2008, 11:37 PM
(I once almost started a "Questions you are dying to ask but are too scared to because of Philosophy/Politics nerd cred" thread just to ask this question...)

A very good idea, actually.

vimothy
01-04-2008, 10:48 AM
So I've always wondered this, and it's probably something very obvious covered in Communism 101, but what exactly is the stopping point of having a democratically elected communist government?

As far as I can see, in order to carry out the communist economic enterprise (mutual ownership of the means of production), the government must by necessity be authoritarian, if not outright totalitarian. Why? Because people trade for their own benefit naturally and without encouragement, and they have done for centuries. Trade must be suppressed and communism must be imposed. (I point you to the historical record for proof). Therefore, any communist government must use the mechanisms of state control to suppress the market (stealing land, business, labour, etc). Come the next election, they'd probably be straight out the door (you know, 'cos they stole your family farm).... but then, communists seem to have a strange aversion to holding elections once they actually hold power.

There's also this thing that Lenin (not Marx) came up with --> "dictatorship of the proletariat."


If a state-run enterprise is being run poorly, elect some different people that will run it better!

Unfortunately for the Communists, it's not, nor was it ever, that simple. It's not just a "state run enterprise", it's the whole shebang -- the entire economy. I think I can kill communism in one thought experiment. Just imagine you are in charge: forget consumable goods, how the fucking hell are you going to figure out how many capital goods you need to build?

swears
01-04-2008, 01:15 PM
There's also this thing that Lenin (not Marx) came up with --> "dictatorship of the proletariat."



Yeah, that's only for the first few hundred years, though.

vimothy
01-04-2008, 04:42 PM
One thing that I've ever understood is, why is it that people (like Communists) who think that their governments are generally imperialist fraudsters, want to hand over all control of the economy to that very group of imperialist fraudsters?

It makes no sense.

john eden
01-04-2008, 04:49 PM
One thing that I've ever understood is, why is it that people (like Communists) who think that their governments are generally imperialist fraudsters, want to hand over all control of the economy to that very group of imperialist fraudsters?

It makes no sense.

I have some sympathy with that, but here goes the defence

- a very bad distillation is that essentially the people in power act in the interests of their class. This isn't too much of a stretch when you consider that most of the people in the cabinet went to Oxbridge and a large proportion of the people in the shadow cabinet went to Oxbridge and Eton.

So what is needed is working class rule which favours the majority of the population.

Having said that, the actual machinery of govt has been set up by and operates in favour of the ruling class in this country. So you actually need a different system of govt as well as different people doing the governing.

The anarchist position might be similar to yours - i.e. that the state apparatus will automatically lead people to become "imperialist fraudsters" regardless of their origins.

vimothy
01-04-2008, 05:26 PM
Hmm... I'm not convinced by the class angle. I personally feel that people in power will generally act in whatever way they feel will keep them in power. That's all they want: to keep their jobs, their perks, their flows of private goodies.

Britain today looks like a very middle class society, with a native working class that has been reduced to more of an underemployed underclass, living on benefits on sink estates. Hence the Nu-Labour elites really are acting in the interests of the majority if they are acting in the interests of their socio-economic class. And are they doing what's best for the middle class majority? Hard to say and there's much disagreement.

But maybe they are acting in the interests of the upper-middle class or the upper class. Not too far fetched, certainly, but then we have to wonder why Nu-Labour got in power, and why they haven't been voted out if the electorate feels that they have been captured by rival class interests.

Imagine a political party that could guarantee economic growth and a "rising tide that lifts all boats", such that everyone from every class would be better off. They'd get voted in and they'd stay in power, because it would be in everyone's self-interest, and if people can do nothing else, they can recognise their own self-interest. However, that party doesn't exist and no one knows how to run the economy in such a way to guarantee prosperity for all. Even if a "working class" power ran the UK, there's no hard and fast guarantee that life would be better for working class people, not only because of the undoubted lure of corruption, but also because intending to make life better for one or more constituent groups does not necessarily ensure that outcome. That's a big lesson of Communism's failures in the 20th C, surely.

Anyway, based on what John said,

If you think Brown and co are corrupt and captured by upper (or whatever) class interests, you should want to limit their involvement in the economy.

If you think that the political system guarantees corrupt politicians captured by upper class interests, you should want to limit political manipulation of the economy, period, regardless of who is in power.

I don't think that there's any chance of having a revolution and making things fairer, because that just about never happens, certainly not if you're already in a democracy (unless we get to be citizens with a written constitution, at long last). Basically the best system is the system where the maximum amount of consent is required for a government to hold power, because that guarantees more public goods than private goods. Don't know of anythng superior to democracy in that regard.

noel emits
01-04-2008, 06:59 PM
and if people can do nothing else, they can recognise their own self-interest.
Are you sure about this? I suppose you mean that people can recognise what might appear on the most superficial level to be in their interests but in reality it's the fact that this is so completely not the case that is the major cause of most of the word's economic and political difficulties. For a start to understand what is truly in your self-interest requires a good understanding of the complete world situation which I would say in fact necessitates standing outside your immediate 'self-interest' to get a good perspective on, not to mention making apparent sacrifices. So a party making the usual appeals to basic greed or desire for instant gratification would more than likely be doing the opposite of what is best for all. And I think in the long run that's what we see happening.

Imagine a political party that could guarantee economic growth and a "rising tide that lifts all boats", such that everyone from every class would be better off. They'd get voted in and they'd stay in power, because it would be in everyone's self-interest,
Even if such a thing were possible or had been devised, and setting aside the question of whether 'economic growth' is the ultimate desirable anyway, it just would not be recognised as such by enough people so we would probably never get to test it out. See above for why.

If there is a political or economic solution to be had it needs to be founded on a more holistic idea of self-interest. And of course this makes no sense if it is imposed by 'the state' so I'm not talking about communism as we have known it.

But maybe that last point is not really relevant anyway, the fact is that so often people plainly do not act in their own best interests, even if they do have some idea what those might actually be.

mixed_biscuits
01-04-2008, 07:30 PM
This isn't too much of a stretch when you consider that most of the people in the cabinet went to Oxbridge and a large proportion of the people in the shadow cabinet went to Oxbridge and Eton.

So what? Do you want the best-educated people in charge of the complex machinery of state or not?

Not to mention that several prominent politicians had resolutely normal backgrounds: John Major's dad sold garden ornaments; Margaret Thatcher's father was a grocer; John Prescott's dad was a railway signalman. Politics is not a closed shop to the progeny of the working classes or petit-bourgeoisie, provided that they have the ability and the ambition.

Vimothy is totally OTM in this thread.

nomadologist
01-04-2008, 08:26 PM
Yeah basically I was wondering if you could have a communist economy without any of the authoritarian garbage, and instead have regular elections, freedom of the press and things like that. This is, of course, assuming broad based support for communism, but if a communist economy could function properly and efficiently and keep people happy, you would assume that they would keep electing communists to the government.

Basically I don't really see why this would be a contradictory approach. If a state-run enterprise is being run poorly, elect some different people that will run it better!

Yes, of course you could.

The West is full of chicken shits scared dickless of communism, that's why we've spent billions upon billions fighting its propogation throughout the world.

i don't like authoritarianism any more than anyone else does, but anyone with half a brain realizes that not even our DEMOCRACY is very democratic.

oh i have a choice between two versions of the same corporation-run bullshit? great where do i sign up?

nomadologist
01-04-2008, 08:31 PM
Yeah, right.

Didn't the communists have rather different ideas about the freedom of their slave-populations? If you disagree with the with the policies meant to acheive the "mutual good" of the commune (as decided by your unelected leaders), go straight to the gulag.

That was Russian communism. Not at communists are Stalinists, or Leninists, or whatever you want to pigeonhole them as.

Take a look at China right now. They're all set up to surpass the U.S. and with it the U.K. and the E.U. And they (gasp) have a communist form of government. Imagine that.

Mr. Tea
01-04-2008, 09:36 PM
Take a look at China right now. They're all set up to surpass the U.S. and with it the U.K. and the E.U. And they (gasp) have a communist form of government. Imagine that.

Do they bollocks! They have a very ruthless, centralised form of state capitalism, with all the attendant apparatus of a communist police state. I saw a programme the other day about China's economic development and they were talking to this old woman whose son was having to work two jobs (or something like that) to pay for her medical treatment because the family couldn't afford medical insurance. Sound like another country you know of? Communism, my arse.

turtles
01-04-2008, 10:16 PM
Thanks nomad, that's kinda what I thought.

People seem to be starting from the assumption that a communist economy [I]couldn't[I] ever be popular with people, based mostly on the evidence that all centrally planned communist economies so far have ended up failing miserably and being very unpopular. But couldn't that be because they were run by a bunch of authoritarian assholes? People like to point at the track record of communism and say "hey nice idea but it didn't work!" without ever offering up much of a reason WHY it didn't work, aside from Vimothy's rather weak "economies are just too complicated to control!" argument, which I find pretty funny coming from a man seems to subscribe quite religiously to modern economic theory, aka the theory of how economies work!

So basically I'm suggesting that maybe if communist governments were held accountable to the populace on some sort of time interval, they would be much more motivated to get it right. And I think people could be made very motivated to support the challenges of creating a well functioning communist economy simply based on the MORAL superiority over free market capitalism. Witness how willing people are to pay more supposedly fair trade, organic, biodegradable anything (as dodgy as this practice actually is). People actually like the idea of living in a society that cares about people and the environment.

Noel emits is very otm re: people's inability to make decisions that actually ARE in their best interests. Moral rather than financial motivations could probably keep a communist democracy swimming along nicely, really.

Also john eden otm about communist leadership. I do believe the point of communism was to create a society without class such that any leadership would be a leadership of the people. However communism as practiced essentially just cut it down to two classes, the proletariat and those with communist managerial positions, thus retaining the class basis for oppression.

Lastly, mixed_biscuits the idea that the people with the most prestigious degrees are actually our best and brightest is laughable. Most indoctrinated maybe.

noel emits
01-04-2008, 10:37 PM
I think that even beyond a moral argument, an economic argument could be made for an almost exponential increase in such things as ingenuity, efficiency, technological progress and productivity in a society composed of enfranchised, engaged individuals living and working in an environment engineered to support their wellbeing. Does that sound crazy?

Mr. Tea
01-04-2008, 10:38 PM
People seem to be starting from the assumption that a communist economy [I]couldn't[I] ever be popular with people

I'm sure it was (and still would be) very popular indeed among, for example, starving oppressed peasants or malnourished mill workers; thankfully, this no longer describes the populations of developed countries.



Lastly, mixed_biscuits the idea that the people with the most prestigious degrees are actually our best and brightest is laughable. Most indoctrinated maybe.

Oh come on, we can do better than this kind of sixth-form politics, can't we? Sure there's a big element of privilege in terms of who gets into what university due to the differing levels of school education (to say nothing of home life and general cultural background) available to people of different socio-economic groups, but at the same time you're not going to get (say) a First in politics from Cambridge without being pretty fucking smart and hard-working as well. In any case, m_b didn't say brightest, he said best educated, and you can say what you like about the political culture prevalent at top universities but they do generally offer a pretty good education. That's why even people with no particular interest in becoming our future oligarchs and mandarins make such efforts to get in!

mixed_biscuits
01-04-2008, 10:45 PM
Lastly, mixed_biscuits the idea that the people with the most prestigious degrees are actually our best and brightest is laughable. Most indoctrinated maybe.

Well, if you think that our education system produces mindless clones (which, of course, is obviously wrong), then maybe, but bear in mind that if there's anything that students might get indoctrinated in at university, it's Marxist theory, as the overwhelming majority of academics are lefties (from my experience of 4 different subjects on four different campuses).

If you were to claim that Oxbridge didn't offer more to, and demand more from, its students than any of the other universities in the UK, meaning that they weren't put through the most rigorous intellectual training, then you might have a better argument, but that too would still be incorrect - there's a reason that the most prestigious educational institutions are seen as such, and it's not because they advertise on the tube.

mixed_biscuits
01-04-2008, 10:51 PM
...living and working in an environment engineered to support their wellbeing. Does that sound crazy?

It sounds like a creche.

noel emits
01-04-2008, 10:54 PM
The sort of people who are interested in being politicians are generally the last people I would like to be making decisions about my life and my society. I think picking community representatives on some sort of random basis would be better, it can't be worse.

noel emits
01-04-2008, 10:56 PM
It sounds like a creche.
So you'd rather live in an environment you have little say in , that is toxic on several levels and generally geared towards making you feel crap and buy crap?

turtles
01-04-2008, 11:04 PM
Having gone through both a BSc and an MSc at one of Canada's top universities I feel confident in saying that I know as many university educated morons as I do non-university educated morons. The primary thing higher education tests is your ability to stubbornly stick to a task and bring it to completion in a form that meets the standards set for you. Yes there are some very smart people in university, but just the same there are many very stupid stubborn people who know a lot of facts and think very highly of themselves. Though I would never have the job I have now if I hadn't gone to uni (but this only because of idiotic credentialism) I sometimes wonder if I could have accomplished a helluva lot more, and a lot more interesting things, had I gone off and started working and traveling and teaching myself about the world straight out of high school.

noel emits
01-04-2008, 11:05 PM
but at the same time you're not going to get (say) a First in politics from Cambridge without being pretty fucking smart and hard-working as well.
'Pretty fucking smart'? That's plainly not the case, you just need to be smart enough and complicit enough to get through the exams and interviews.

Mr. Tea
01-04-2008, 11:10 PM
'Pretty fucking smart'? That's plainly not the case, you just need to be smart enough and complicit enough to get through the exams and interviews.

Is that not the case? Maybe I'm arguing from a position of ignorance about arts and social science degrees, I dunno. The people I knew in my course (theoretical physics) who got firsts were generally quite bright, I'd say. Whether that makes them ideally suited to running the country is hard to say, although that's largely irrelevant because as far as I know none of them wanted to (and, by your argument, would therefore be the sort we should have running the country - a position I have some sympathy with, I have to say).

mixed_biscuits
01-04-2008, 11:10 PM
So you'd rather live in an environment you have little say in , that is toxic on several levels and generally geared towards making you feel crap and buy crap?

I'm reasonably confident that I can make decisions to change the circumstances of my life to my own benefit - I don't want someone else to have too much of a say in making those decisions for me.

If you buy crap because of advertising etc (I'm inferring that this is something that you're worried about) then you're a mug who doesn't deserve a benevolent corporation-smashing dictator to look out for you in the first place. The only things I buy are cheap cds and food, and I only buy the rampantly unfashionable cds I do because I have money burning a hole in my pocket and live in hope. ;)

As for feeling crap, I generally feel good, as long as I'm either playing quiz machines or talking to friends. And I don't think either are a hot topic modern malaise-wise.

mixed_biscuits
01-04-2008, 11:19 PM
The sort of people who are interested in being politicians are generally the last people I would like to be making decisions about my life and my society. I think picking community representatives on some sort of random basis would be better, it can't be worse.

We couldn't do that, because the idea hadn't been put forward by someone randomly selected in the first place.

I agree that a lot of people interested in being politicians are fannies, tho' (just from personal experience).

noel emits
01-04-2008, 11:22 PM
I'm reasonably confident that I can make decisions to change the circumstances of my life to my own benefit - I don't want someone else to have too much of a say in making those decisions for me.
'Your own life'. This is the very thing, I'm talking about a shift in perspective. Our lives can only really improve on a scale when the society is ordered around a different principle - one of human benefit rather than some abstract commercial idea. There's little point in being the richest man on a planet of miserable people. not sure where you get the idea I'm suggesting that others make decisions for you - quite the opposite. There's lots that goes on in my neighbourhood that contributes to lowered quality of life for everyone but is driven by purely commercial concerns. I think it's short sighted and self defeating as well, but that's very hard to see for someone deep in that mindset.

noel emits
01-04-2008, 11:28 PM
If you buy crap because of advertising etc (I'm inferring that this is something that you're worried about) then you're a mug who doesn't deserve a benevolent corporation-smashing dictator to look out for you in the first place. The only things I buy are cheap cds and food, and I only buy the rampantly unfashionable cds I do because I have money burning a hole in my pocket and live in hope. ;)

As for feeling crap, I generally feel good, as long as I'm either playing quiz machines or talking to friends. And I don't think either are a hot topic modern malaise-wise.
I wasn't taking about advertising as such, just a general lack of concern for people and understanding of their needs.

It's great if you feel good and like to think you are immune to the toxic aspects of our society but I presume you don't live in a bubble. But where's the vision? This is what I'm talking about. Are we reduced to being happy to play quiz machines and buy the odd CD? Is this the extent of what we can do as the human race? Is this the extent of the concern for how the world is? OK, I know you're kidding a bit but it's kind of indicative don't you think?

mixed_biscuits
01-04-2008, 11:32 PM
'Your own life'. This is the very thing, I'm talking about a shift in perspective. Our lives can only really improve on a scale when the society is ordered around a different principle - one of human benefit rather than some abstract commercial idea.

Well yes, fine, I agree, we could all help each other more BUT I'm highly suspicious of attempts to radically re-order society in root-and-branch fashion. What impresses me more is people making concerted efforts to connect with those directly around them, with positive changes being conceptualised and carried out with reference to the concrete, rather than the abstract, like that woman on the telly recently who sorted out her council estate (new series, can't remember the name).

mixed_biscuits
01-04-2008, 11:33 PM
It's great if you feel good and like to think you are immune to the toxic aspects of our society but I presume you don't live in a bubble. But where's the vision? This is what I'm talking about. Are we reduced to being happy to play quiz machines and buy the odd CD? Is this the extent of what we can do as the human race? Is this the extent of the concern for how the world is? OK, I know you're kidding a bit but it's kind of indicative don't you think?

Yes, absolutely, but I'm hoping that the teaching I do covers the idealism angle, (as well as reminding me every day how difficult it is to change people.)

noel emits
01-04-2008, 11:35 PM
We couldn't do that, because the idea hadn't been put forward by someone randomly selected in the first place.
I guess this is a flippant comment but of course it could be something proposed by existing government.

I mean, my question to politicians would be, why does NOTHING sensible ever happen? Do people really not want things to work? Is the argument that if you do something sensible you'll get voted out?

So maybe you could have a kind of bottom-up pyramid form of government - small neighbourhood councils with a lot of direct involvement, perhaps with some kind of random selection process, who then put forward representatives for larger regional councils and so on... I can develop this further but maybe the point is that we can now do a lot things practically as regards democracy that we couldn't have conceived of before so why don't we?

mixed_biscuits
01-04-2008, 11:41 PM
So maybe you could have a kind of bottom-up pyramid form of government - small neighbourhood councils with a lot of direct involvement, perhaps with some kind of random selection process, who then put forward representatives for larger regional councils and so on... I can develop this further but maybe the point is that we can now do a lot things practically as regards democracy that we couldn't have conceived of before so why don't we?

I think the first thing to do would be to research whether anything like this has been done before anywhere. It's almost inevitable that it has.

Maybe what you're describing is the initial evolution of government - small tribe is led by 'random' leader, ie. whoever could be arsed to put in the legwork; encounters other tribe so, sensing a possible threat, puts forward a more clued-up rep. to negotiate things etc etc. Do we really want to go through all of this again?

obv Length of thread = inversely proportional to = probability of my having gained a 1st in Politics.

I definitely like a bit of randomness, am for the idea of the House of Lords and the Queen being correctives to the excesses of our elected representatives.

noel emits
01-04-2008, 11:43 PM
Yes, absolutely, but I'm hoping that the teaching I do covers the idealism angle, (as well as reminding me every day how difficult it is to change people.)
Of course you do what you can, and being happy is important.

Yes it's very hard to change things, but I think the prerequisite is to be able to conceive of radical possibilities as possible. And it can be very difficult to this when thinking about society in terms of current limitations and parameters, so in that sense we can never get beyond it and into the next space without taking the most idealistic position we can.

mixed_biscuits
01-04-2008, 11:49 PM
Of course you do what you can, and being happy is important of course.

Yes it's very hard to change things, but I think the prerequisite is to be able to conceive of radical possibilities as possible. And it can be very difficult to this when thinking about society in terms of current limitations and parameters, so in that sense we can never get beyond it and into the next space without taking the most idealistic position we can.

I think taking a highly idealistic position can lead to disappearing up one's own arse.

I remember a philosophy professor (post-modernist, obv.) waxing lyrical about his ideal political attitude: one that moved randomly through all possible stances. Certainly gets a tick for 'thinking outside of the box,' but a big cross as regards the likelihood of convincing others that it might be a good flag to rally behind.

Your comment also reminds me of the Marxist false consciousness thing: you're the clairvoyant, everyone else is a dupe. I don't think that that attitude is helpful either.

noel emits
01-04-2008, 11:57 PM
Is that not the case? Maybe I'm arguing from a position of ignorance about arts and social science degrees, I dunno. The people I knew in my course (theoretic physics) who got firsts were generally quite bright, I'd say. Whether that makes them ideally suited to running the country is hard to say, although that's largely irrelevant because as far as I know none of them wanted to (and, by your argument, would therefore be the sort we should have running the country - a position I have some sympathy with, I have to say).
I would imagine that to get a first in theoretical physics you have to be smart in a very specific way. And maybe it is relevant that none of these people are interested in running a country.

A social sciences is one thing - at a basic level to get a first I would say you need perhaps a basic degree of intelligence, interest and an ability to repeat information - but success in politics is something else which requires more than anything a certain kind of confidence in one's suitability for the job and general correctness, either that or just plain sociopathy ;)

noel emits
02-04-2008, 12:02 AM
I think taking a highly idealistic position can lead to disappearing up one's own arse.

I remember a philosophy professor (post-modernist, obv.) waxing lyrical about his ideal political attitude: one that moved randomly through all possible stances. Certainly gets a tick for 'thinking outside of the box,' but a big cross as regards the likelihood of convincing others that it might be a good flag to rally behind.

Your comment also reminds me of the Marxist false consciousness thing: you're the clairvoyant, everyone else is a dupe. I don't think that that attitude is helpful either.
The possiblities I'm thinking of aren't even that radical, but it might seem that way from a present perspective so I put it in those terms.

Everything is connected. The benefit of all is exactly that, and it's self reinforcing. I'm just suggesting that more than the moral argument for a socially orientated democratic government, there could actually be huge benefits in terms of material prosperity. Yes, it's speculative but that's what I think.

Mr. Tea
02-04-2008, 12:04 AM
I would imagine that to get a first in theoretical physics you have to be smart in a very specific way.

Pffft, well you're doing better than me, at least you can spell the fucking thing! ('theoretic' :rolleyes:)

mixed_biscuits
02-04-2008, 12:05 AM
I would imagine that to get a first in theoretical physics you have to be smart in a very specific way. And maybe it is relevant that none of these people are interested in running a country.

I know someone who got a first in theoretical physics. He came top in the country in A-Level Geography and reads classic Russian literature in his spare time. He also spends a fair amount of his time growing his biceps.

Surely the perfect candidate for PM?

noel emits
02-04-2008, 12:10 AM
Perhaps he should be forced to do it? ;) I doubt he'd want to.

You know, there's a certain sense in which being very learned and intelligent can hugely undermine the kind of blind certainty that is so useful for convincing others that you know what the fuck you are talking about. It takes a very rare talent to combine the two. Well that's the received opinion anyway, do the voting public respond better to politicians who try to honestly convey the complexities and nuances of truth than to those that take a very definite and intransigent line on everything? Look at some high profile US politicians, like say, the President. They're uncomprehending certainty and blissful ignorance is so useful to the party for this reason. Yeah, maybe he knows what's going on, I don't think so. Starting to suspect that they;ve been lying to him though.

Mr. Tea
02-04-2008, 12:17 AM
Well that's the received opinion anyway, do the voting public respond better to politicians who try to honestly convey the complexities and nuances of truth than to those that take a very definite and intransigent line on everything?

Hmm, better ask the American public about that! That's why GWB had the popularity rating he had for so long, before it all started to go tits-up; he's got that "Aww, shucks" thing he does that appeals to dumb hicks by convincing them that he is a dumb hick (as opposed to the heir to a multi-million dollar fortune) and consequently 'one of them' rather than one of those airy-fairy intellectual New England liberal faggots.

Geography = colouring in maps, btw.

mixed_biscuits
02-04-2008, 12:20 AM
You know, there's a certain sense in which being very learned and intelligent can hugely undermine the kind of blind certainty that is so useful for convincing others that you know what the fuck you are talking about.

Rowan Williams seems to fit your bill - always (mis)using his considerable brainpower to generate an over-intellectualised hyper-uncertainty. I think he tries too much to be all things to all men.

Alternatively, there are people like John Redwood or Gordon Brown - very intelligent but with an earnestness and seriousness that prevents them from being particularly spontaneous or juggling multiple viewpoints.

No, but you're right: none of the above seem particularly convincing.

mixed_biscuits
02-04-2008, 12:24 AM
Geography = colouring in maps, btw.

physics = attaching weights to a spring and bouncing them up and down

(as far as I remember it, anyway - wait a minute, is this what theoretical physics is?)

Mr. Tea
02-04-2008, 12:26 AM
physics = attaching weights to a spring and bouncing them up and down



Yeah, but not at degree level! I reckon they make you a Professor of Geography when you can do an entire world atlas without going over the edges. :D

mixed_biscuits
02-04-2008, 12:28 AM
Yeah, but not at degree level!

Yeah, then you get to build a giant doughnut-shaped water slide underneath Switzerland and get Marat Safin and Andy Roddick to serve tennis balls at each other until the world explodes.

noel emits
02-04-2008, 12:36 AM
physics = attaching weights to a spring and bouncing them up and down
I thought it was throwing paper darts at the back of the teacher's head. But that's a state education for you.

mixed_biscuits
02-04-2008, 12:38 AM
I thought it was throwing paper darts at the back of the teacher's head. But that's a state education for you.

Heh

john eden
02-04-2008, 10:30 AM
Hmm... I'm not convinced by the class angle.

Yeah I know and that is basically the root of our disagreement. :)

My belief is that class society exists to perpetuate itself, in the interests of those at the top of the ladder.

We've been over this before, but it is sometimes possible for people at the bottom of the ladder to force concessions out of those in power - things that ensure a basic standard of living - welfare state, minimum wage etc.

That isn't possible if the apparatus of the state is done away with.

Tho I recognise that you are more focussed on economic growth and (what you would call) prosperity not being hindered by tax and bureaucracy...

The thing about production and how much to produce - nobody is pretending that the transition would be easy. And whilst there are no historical examples of it happening successfully, I do still believe that humanity is creative enough to produce things based on need and not profit or competition or whatever.

Vast swathes of time and effort is spent on revenue collection, planned obsolescence, useless innovation, non-productive jobs. Possibly that energy could be spent on other things - like making stuff last longer or forever, developing creative ways of sharing resources....

Will it work? Well we're nowhere near it yet, but it's worth thinking about.

vimothy
02-04-2008, 10:51 AM
People seem to be starting from the assumption that a communist economy couldn't[I] ever be popular with people, based mostly on the evidence that all centrally planned communist economies so far have ended up failing miserably and being very unpopular. But couldn't that be because they were run by a bunch of authoritarian assholes? People like to point at the track record of communism and say "hey nice idea but it didn't work!" without ever offering up much of a reason WHY it didn't work, aside from Vimothy's rather weak "economies are just too complicated to control!" argument, which I find pretty funny coming from a man seems to subscribe quite religiously to modern economic theory, aka the theory of how economies work!

Rather weak!? Are you mad? An entire empire spanning half the globe crumbled because of this "rather weak... argument". If modern economics is anything it is an explanation of why Communism failed -- and I told you why in one simple thought experiment. Answer the question if it's so simple: on what basis are you manufacturing capital goods?

Thinking that understanding economics means you can plan a macroeconomy is akin to thinking that meterologists can control the weather.

Some other massive errors in this thread, like this:


[I]I think that even beyond a moral argument, an economic argument could be made for an almost exponential increase in such things as ingenuity, efficiency, technological progress and productivity in a society composed of enfranchised, engaged individuals living and working in an environment engineered to support their wellbeing. Does that sound crazy?

Yes it does sound crazy, for two reasons:

1. There is no economic argument, which is why you're not making it and neither is anyone else -- you're simply saying there could be an economic argument. Well, there could, but there isn't.

2. Communism has already failed on economic dimensions, for reasons I outlined above.

And I still find it contradictory that the general feeling is that 1, our overlords are underserving upper class twits and yet that 2, the solution is centralised economic control just with better overlords.

noel emits
02-04-2008, 11:04 AM
Yes it does sound crazy, for two reasons:

1. There is no economic argument, which is why you're not making it and neither is anyone else -- you're simply saying there could be an economic argument. Well, there could, but there isn't.
Well first this depends on what we mean by economic and what is actually required of an economy, what is it and what is it there for? I suppose I'm talking about this:

I do still believe that humanity is creative enough to produce things based on need and not profit or competition or whatever.

Vast swathes of time and effort is spent on revenue collection, planned obsolescence, useless innovation, non-productive jobs. Possibly that energy could be spent on other things - like making stuff last longer or forever, developing creative ways of sharing resources....
And others have made the argument, in specific mathematical terms - Buckminster Fuller for one. Whether these are recognised as such or understood is a different matter.

But I already said the 'economic' justification is in addition to the 'moral' one turtles was talking about. What are we aiming for as a species or society? Progress? How is that defined? Do we just want to content ourselves with inventing more elaborate economic games to no particular end?

I guess that leads on to what's so bafflingly stupid about the neo-con thing. If they are into the Straussian idea that mankind needs myths live by, which I am sympathetic to, then why do they have to go and choose such rubbish myths? The point is that we can choose. Perhaps we should use a little imagination in that regard, as a planet.

vimothy
02-04-2008, 01:57 PM
Maybe I'm not explaining myself very well. Let me try again...


Well first this depends on what we mean by economic and what is actually required of an economy, what is it and what is it there for?

An economy is the set of social relationships determining what is produced, how much is produced and who it is produced for. In a market economy, most of these decisions are made by individual buyers and sellers brought together in the market. In a command economy, most of these decisions are made by whatever government body or figure is given control by whoever is in power. Frequently, the person in power of a command economy is a dictator, but this is not necessary in theory nor always true in fact. The basic question we are trying to answer in this thread is which economic system is "better" (scare quotes because I'm well aware there's a variety of ways to define "better" in this context).

Because we live in a world of scarcity, we must make choices as to how we use our limited resources. One might describe it as the fundamental human problem. The government must decide which public programmes are most in need of funds (e.g. the NHS), and which are least in need (e.g. arts). You the consumer must decide if you want to blow all your money now on expensive sandwiches and cocaine, or save up for that summer holiday in the Seychelles. We can see from our two definitions above that in a command economy (like the USSR) all decisions relating to the management of scarce resourses (i.e. what is being produced, how much is being produced and who it is being produced for) are made by a government body. Possibly the people on this government body are fantastically intelligent, with degrees in theoretical physics from Oxbridge, possibly not. But the fundamental thing to remember is that resources are limited and choices will have to be made. In a market economy, on the other hand, the individual makes his or her choices as they see fit. Resources are not managed from the top down, but are left to be put into operation at the micro level. Collective decisions then emerge in aggregate.

Let's take our two states, the command and the market, and look at a simple economic model. Imagine you are the head of the economic planning committee in the Socialist Republic of Britain. You need to make bread. We all want to eat bread. How do you know? Well, it's just fucking obvious, isn't it? Everyone eats bread, it's a staple food source. So that's good - quite a simple decision that could easily be harder if it wasn't such a universally consumed product. It might be very difficult to decide if other things you know very little about, possibly that have just been invented, should be mass produced. But let's gloss over the really difficult questions and focus on what we know that we know. Make bread. How much bread should we make? Er -- fuck. Ok, how much bread did we sell when we were a market economy? Good job we are able to compare our figured decisions to actual market outcomes, because that helps to make sense of it all. Add to that number or amount the opinion of the petty bureaucrat (i.e. you): every family gets two loaves a week. That way, the same amount of bread consumed under market conditions is consumed under command economy conditions. Great. Is this an improvement? You have redistributed bread such that rather than having individuals buy and sell the total amount of bread they desire, you, in your Oxbridge wisdom, have decided for them. This is the very essence of Communism and to me, this is a morally bankrupt economic system. It shouldn't be something that you the government impose on me the individual. But at least at this stage it's possible that you could describe this as fairer, because everyone gets the same amount of bread. Note that the success of command economies along this (moral) dimension of fair distribution of consumables is reliant entirely on the good will and sense of the person in charge. You have to put a lot of faith in the dear leader, and historically the dear leader hasn't done a brilliant job.

However, the economic failure that this leads to is much deeper and more fatal than the immorality of having a government committee make everyone's decisions for them... Why? Because resources are scarce and it is not anywhere near as simple as saying, "how much bread do we need? Right-o, that's sorted then!"

Really think about this. First of all, you need to decide how much bread you want to give everyone. Then you need to make it. Here's where communism meets reality. Yeast flour and salt, and probably some preservatives. That's all you need to make bread. Of course, you also need somewhere to make it (a factory), some stuff to make it with (capital goods), and some people to operate the stuff (slaves... sorry, workers). Under a market economy the owner of a factory will sell it or rent it to whoever wants to buy at a price he or she finds appropriate. The producers of capital goods will sell or rent them to individuals or firms who want to buy at a level they find appropriate. And workers will sell their labour to firms who want to buy at a level they find appropriate. Everyone in a market economy makes a trade off between what they have to sell and what they will receive for it (i.e. the price). No government involvement is required, but bread is produced and sold on the open market every day.

Under a command economy, the situation is very different, because you have one single entity trying to make all these tiny micro level decisions. What does this actually mean? It's about how you make trade offs with your scarce resources. Remember the pictures of lines of people waiting for bread in the USSR -- this is the reason why there were shortages. It all boils down to the fact that prices "clear" markets, i.e. that prices regulate supply and demand. You tell you factories in the Socialist Republic of Britain to make bread, and that's what they do. You tell your producers of capital goods to make ovens and that's what they do. You tell your farmers to grow wheat and your steel manufacturers to make steel, and that's what they do. In the absence of any other needs, everything is fine, because no choices have to be made. But this isn't the world we live in. In the world we live in, resources are scarce. At what point do you tell your steel manufacturers, "hey, slow down production, we have a surplus"? At best, only when you already have a surplus. Under a market economy, the price of steel would go down, and individuals would shift resources away from steel manufacturing towards something more profitable. What happens when you have a crop failure, and you run out of wheat? Under a market economy, the price of wheat would rise, and so would the price of bread. Producers and consumers would look for alternatives. But you don't have individual decision makers, just you and your comittee. What are you going to do? You're going to have a bread shortage.

Step back from the micro one good perspective: what else does your economy need? Shit -- that's a pretty hard question to answer. You basically have no real idea beyond the vague and obvious: food, shelter, energy. How do you know if too much of your resources are being used up in the production of bread? You don't, because you can't, because you have no way of knowing, because there are no price changes, because there is no price. You have to guess. I guess that we will consume X amount of bread, therefore we will order our manufacturers to make X amount of capital goods, which I'm guessing is the approriate level, for which I guess we will need X amount of steel and other materials, and I'm just going to hope that these are productive firms, but I have no way of knowing that either because they aren't competing at the level of price, but rather are being subsidised by we the government. In fact, communism historically has simply tried to appropriate market economy levels, because it has no other way to judge and no basis on which to make decisions where scarce resources are traded off against different ends.

[cont... apologies for the boring length of this...]

vimothy
02-04-2008, 01:58 PM
It comes back to my question: you might imagine (incorrectly) that you can research and discover the correct level of consumption for simple goods like bread or pencils. But what you will never know is what the correct production process is and what the correct mix of resources is for that production process. Firstly, everything is changing all the time: crops fail, new mines are discovered, new production processes are found. The balance of resources changes. Even a superhuman Oxbridge physicist could not agggregate all the rapidly changing microeconomic data and make decisions for those micro units of economic resource. Secondly, the level of complexity is so vast that it would be impossible even if it were static. Make bread, ok. But make capital goods? And who makes the capital goods that make the capital goods? And who makes the capital goods that make the capital goods that make the capital goods? It all turns to gibberish, which is why the Soviet Union was so inefficient. Mises pointed this out (http://www.mises.org/econcalc/Ch2.asp) nearly 100 years ago, and it's a shame that so few Communists today are familiar with the debate:


One may anticipate the nature of the future socialist society. There will be hundreds and thousands of factories in operation. Very few of these will be producing wares ready for use; in the majority of cases what will be manufactured will be unfinished goods and production goods. All these concerns will be interrelated. Every good will go through a whole series of stages before it is ready for use. In the ceaseless toil and moil of this process, however, the administration will be without any means of testing their bearings. It will never be able to determine whether a given good has not been kept for a superfluous length of time in the necessary processes of production, or whether work and material have not been wasted in its completion. How will it be able to decide whether this or that method of production is the more profitable? At best it will only be able to compare the quality and quantity of the consumable end product produced, but will in the rarest cases be in a position to compare the expenses entailed in production. It will know, or think it knows, the ends to be achieved by economic organization, and will have to regulate its activities accordingly, i.e. it will have to attain those ends with the least expense. It will have to make its computations with a view to finding the cheapest way. This computation will naturally have to be a value computation. It is eminently clear, and requires no further proof, that it cannot be of a technical character, and that it cannot be based upon the objective use value of goods and services.

All of which makes john eden's comment quite ironic:

Vast swathes of time and effort is spent on revenue collection, planned obsolescence, useless innovation, non-productive jobs. Possibly that energy could be spent on other things - like making stuff last longer or forever, developing creative ways of sharing resources....

noel emits
02-04-2008, 02:37 PM
The basic question we are trying to answer in this thread is which economic system is "better" (scare quotes because I'm well aware there's a variety of ways to define "better" in this context).
Well not exactly. I'm thinking about other ways to organise societies but not necessarily communism or a complete command economy. I'm not interested in reducing it to that dull binary.

Because we live in a world of scarcity, we must make choices as to how we use our limited resources. One might describe it as the fundamental human problem.
What to do about the problem that we find ourselves with now where major economic players consider it to be against their interests for scarcity to be reduced or for needs to be reduced, or indeed for the means of production to be removed from their more or less exclusive hands? This is all counter productive to meaningful progress and improvement I would say. Would you really say this is an unavoidable side-effect of the only meaningful way you can see for a society to be organised? It's a big stumbling block.

Thanks for the big post.

vimothy
02-04-2008, 05:55 PM
People seem to be starting from the assumption that a communist economy couldn't[I] ever be popular with people, based mostly on the evidence that all centrally planned communist economies so far have ended up failing miserably and being very unpopular. But couldn't that be because they were run by a bunch of authoritarian assholes? People like to point at the track record of communism and say "hey nice idea but it didn't work!" without ever offering up much of a reason WHY it didn't work, aside from Vimothy's rather weak "economies are just too complicated to control!" argument, which I find pretty funny coming from a man seems to subscribe quite religiously to modern economic theory, aka the theory of how economies work!

I just want to come back to this once again to reiterate the fact that I have put forward an argument explaining why Communism and command economies have failed historically, though it is by no means mine. It is not at all a weak argument but a classic, long running problem of Marxian economics that even goes back to Marx and Das Kapital, where it was described as the "transformation problem" and a prize was offered to the reader who could solve it.

At the time Mises wrote Economic Calculation In The Socialist Commonwealth, it was widely felt that the Communists and economic planners had won the debate, and that the Austrians were a bunch of cranks on the wrong side of history. However, the theoretical problem never went away, it was just addressed in a manner similar to your (pretty weak) response here: imagine that it could be solved. Lange said that a big enough computer with a unit of account system (i.e. the price system Communism is trying to escape) could mirror or even better market allocation of resources. No one was ever capable of engineering such a system or producing such a computer, rather the argument was that such a system is conceivable. It is conceivable, but so are flying pigs.

What Mises and Hayek demostrated is the impossibility of both aggregating economy-wide knowledge without a unit of account for measurement, making decisions without being able to measure one set of resource allocation preferences against another, and the elusive nature of knowledge itself. Most knowledge is not known to a committee head, no matter where he went to university. Most knowledge is tacit, temporal and highly dispersed. It will never be extracted. It doesn't matter how well meaning you are, what matters is that for all intents and purposes you are an ignoramus.

And we know how it turned out. Communism collapsed; large scale economic planning was discredited.

So: there is no theoretical basis for a successful communist economy that I am aware of, beyond the one advanced here (i.e. merely that it is conceivable that there might be a theoretical basis, which we might discover in the future); there are no historical examples of successful communist economies.

There is also the question of why Communism seems to go with the mechanisms of the police state in every instance where the Communists took power. (It makes nomadologist's statement that, "Not at communists are Stalinists, or Leninists, or whatever you want to pigeonhole them as" look rather amusing. Communists are never authoritarians until they get into power). As I said upthread, Communism must be imposed and capitalism (trading for personal profit) must be suppressed. I think it's that simple. Communists have no other choice. noel emits seems like a genuine person and I think his calls for goals or determined consideration about what progress means for us as a species or a society are heartfelt. However, it runs perfectly with the "command" metaphor. What this means in practice is someone deciding what's best for the rest of us and then forcing us to do it. Which is exactly what happened in Communist countries.

One final thing. noel, I think you are being slightly contradictory here. At one point you say,


[I]...setting aside the question of whether 'economic growth' is the ultimate desirable anyway...

Yet you then go on to say,


What to do about the problem that we find ourselves with now where major economic players consider it to be against their interests for scarcity to be reduced or for needs to be reduced, or indeed for the means of production to be removed from their more or less exclusive hands?

When it should be clear that growth is the mechanism that reduces scarcity or needs or poverty (or whatever you want to call it), which is why it's desirable in the first place.

noel emits
02-04-2008, 07:09 PM
noel emits seems like a genuine person and I think his calls for goals or determined consideration about what progress means for us as a species or a society are heartfelt. However, it runs perfectly with the "command" metaphor. What this means in practice is someone deciding what's best for the rest of us and then forcing us to do it. Which is exactly what happened in Communist countries.
Well I'm all for things getting better because I think the human race is capable of more. But I'm more for removing the barriers to that happening than in imposing more control if anything.

I haven't 'made calls for goals or determined consideration' exactly, I've been discussing what was suggested. But then those things are already at work anyway. Don't know what makes you think I'm arguing for communism. There are numerous changes that could be made to our economic and legal mechanisms that would favour people and their needs more.


When it should be clear that growth is the mechanism that reduces scarcity or needs or poverty (or whatever you want to call it), which is why it's desirable in the first place.
One mechanism, not the only mechanism. I guess technological progress being the obvious other.

Anyway I should probably only talk about this stuff when I am drunk. So maybe later. :)

swears
02-04-2008, 08:12 PM
Vimothy:

Isn't a lot of the success of western, capitalist countries down to the role the state has played? Universal healthcare and education, workers rights, rule of law... Isn't there some long term planning that profit-driven private industries just aren't very good at? I don't see businesses solving climate change without state intervention, for example. I see it as a question of extremes: in Russia the USSR failed, but so did the pro-market "shock therapy" reforms that followed.

ripley
03-04-2008, 08:41 AM
Vimothy:

Isn't a lot of the success of western, capitalist countries down to the role the state has played? Universal healthcare and education, workers rights, rule of law... Isn't there some long term planning that profit-driven private industries just aren't very good at? I don't see businesses solving climate change without state intervention, for example. I see it as a question of extremes: in Russia the USSR failed, but so did the pro-market "shock therapy" reforms that followed.

Ah, but Swears, the USSR failed because it was fundamentally flawed, and the shock therapy failed because reality was flawed!

vimothy
03-04-2008, 10:52 AM
Isn't a lot of the success of western, capitalist countries down to the role the state has played? Universal healthcare and education, workers rights, rule of law... Isn't there some long term planning that profit-driven private industries just aren't very good at? I don't see businesses solving climate change without state intervention, for example. I see it as a question of extremes: in Russia the USSR failed, but so did the pro-market "shock therapy" reforms that followed.

The role of the state is vital. But if the (original) question is, "can communism work?" The answer is no, it can't, even with really good leaders. Western capitalist countries all have huge states, and are successful, so I'm not arguing for dismantling government, I'm just arguing that government can't plan and run an entire economy. It's too complicated, especially if you don't have prices that mean anything.

Shock therapy was a bad idea. Douglass North was on the committee that went to Russia to advise them on liberalisation, and told the Russians to ignore what the other economists (like Sachs) were advising. They didn't listen, unfortunately. Of course it isn't as simple as ticking a few boxes (privatisation - check, remove price controls - check: everything will be fine now). But there are other reasons why Russia specifically had the problems it had.

Personally, as far as development goes, I very much favour Dani Rodrik's "growth diagnostics" and intelligent institutional economics. From an FT review (http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/d0665784-f7b2-11dc-ac40-000077b07658.html) of dani's book:


Part of the problem hitherto may have been a confusion of ends with means. Rodrik quotes Larry Summers, fellow Harvard academic and former US treasury secretary, to the effect that no country has failed to grow after implementing the following: integrating with the global economy through trade and investment, maintaining sound government finances, and putting in place an institutional environment that protects property rights and enforces contracts. How to get to those desirable states is another question, however. It is not as if the average African president during his or her first day in power finds a draft order on the desk saying ''Integrate with global economy: yes/no? Tick one.''

Orthodox outcomes may result from unorthodox policies and vice versa. The central American state of Haiti cut its trade tariffs heavily and removed import quotas in the 1990s, while in south-east Asia, Vietnam continued with high import taxes and restrictions and extensive state intervention in the economy. Yet Vietnam is rapidly becoming the new China, foreign multinationals are investing like crazy and happily exporting; Haiti remains desperately poor and largely isolated from global trade.

Rodrik's approach involves an eclectic, practical approach of ''growth diagnostics'': trying to work out what is holding a country back - poor infrastructure? lack of education? too much regulation? - and designing responses appropriately.

IdleRich
03-04-2008, 05:52 PM
"Ah, but Swears, the USSR failed because it was fundamentally flawed, and the shock therapy failed because reality was flawed!"
I like the definition in the fashionable dictionary:

Marxism
1. Probably not true, but it should be.
2. Useful for understanding dialectical biology

http://www.butterfliesandwheels.com/dictionary.php

nomadologist
04-04-2008, 07:18 AM
I saw a programme the other day about China's economic development and they were talking to this old woman whose son was having to work two jobs (or something like that) to pay for her medical treatment because the family couldn't afford medical insurance. Sound like another country you know of? Communism, my arse.

A third of Americans don't have health insurance either. Plenty of Americans have to work three jobs to pay their cancer treatment bills or whichever. Sounds like AMERICA.


Regardless, this doesn't mean that their economy couldn't do well and eventually do better than some others in the first world.

nomadologist
04-04-2008, 07:24 AM
I think taking a highly idealistic position can lead to disappearing up one's own arse.

I remember a philosophy professor (post-modernist, obv.) waxing lyrical about his ideal political attitude: one that moved randomly through all possible stances. Certainly gets a tick for 'thinking outside of the box,' but a big cross as regards the likelihood of convincing others that it might be a good flag to rally behind.

Your comment also reminds me of the Marxist false consciousness thing: you're the clairvoyant, everyone else is a dupe. I don't think that that attitude is helpful either.

A "post-modernist" philosophy professor? Do we have to waste threadspace going over why "post-modernism" is not a set of precepts to which one either subscribes or does not, and is instead a state of cultural being after modernism again? Please let's not.

nomadologist
04-04-2008, 07:29 AM
Do we also need another thread where someone who has taken a couple of years in an econ program somewhere tries to convince people of his particular and fashionable, widely held brand of reductionism where humans and their potential and aspirations all bow down to the Almighty Dollar, mostly by writing treatise-length posts about why he already believes this, as if this is somehow proof that humans are not capable of doing more, living better, doing things for reasons beyond their own immediate gain in the here and now?

Yawn.

nomadologist
04-04-2008, 07:38 AM
Perhaps he should be forced to do it? ;) I doubt he'd want to.

You know, there's a certain sense in which being very learned and intelligent can hugely undermine the kind of blind certainty that is so useful for convincing others that you know what the fuck you are talking about. It takes a very rare talent to combine the two. Well that's the received opinion anyway, do the voting public respond better to politicians who try to honestly convey the complexities and nuances of truth than to those that take a very definite and intransigent line on everything? Look at some high profile US politicians, like say, the President. They're uncomprehending certainty and blissful ignorance is so useful to the party for this reason. Yeah, maybe he knows what's going on, I don't think so. Starting to suspect that they;ve been lying to him though.

I don't think you have to be *book smart* to make good decisions about how to live or even how to allocate resources. Most people will do the "smart thing" that benefits as many people as possible if they have enough accurate information to use in charting the way.

That is, unless they've grown up indoctrinated in the ways of mindless conspicuous consumption, vapid consumerism, "greed is good" Reagan-era cokehead Ibanker bullshit, and the rest of it. Pair our culture with the male ego and female desperation and the child's boundless love for entertainment and voila you've got countries full of fat, prematurely atherosclerotic morons with all the access to information you could ever ask for and no one but Rupert Murdoch out there to sell it over the airwaves he and similar titans of capitalism own and operate.

nomadologist
04-04-2008, 07:45 AM
btw I'm more a fan of democratic socialism myself, but I'm so so sick of the idea that because it's difficult to set up a communist government that all communist governments are ipso facto authoritarian regimes.

some people point to the early christian church in the first 20-100 years after christ as an early form of communism.

nomadologist
04-04-2008, 07:52 AM
oh wait, i forgot, "economics" dictates that you can't set up a government with a set of elected officials that redistributes wealth in order to ensure all humans live up to a certain standard

nope only Stalins want to do things like this. evil evil evil.

aMinadaB
04-04-2008, 07:57 AM
A "post-modernist" philosophy professor? Do we have to waste threadspace going over why "post-modernism" is not a set of precepts to which one either subscribes or does not, and is instead a state of cultural being after modernism again? Please let's not.
Have never been overly enamored of lumping contemporary phenomena under the exclusive heading of one 'post-modernism.' Also, I'd cast suspicion over any notion of "after modernism," as most thinkers since Nietzsche or whomever (take your pick) have repeatedly shown in numerous ways that absolute breaks or ruptures often come to look fallacious anyway, for a number of reasons.

Tho I do hear what you're saying.

To my eyes and ears, though, we've got many, many competing post-modernisms, modernisms, and maybe even a few medievalisms floating around, viciously intertwined (among others, no doubt). If we really want to take the bull by the horns and try to get clear on where we are historically, I'm always on the side of locating the complexity first and then setting to work on analysing it (and maybe even effecting change, imagine!), rather than grouping all under one 'post' heading and risk the appearance of laboring under one smug panoptic grasp of the situation (am not attributing that position to nomadlogist, please note).

If anything I'd say we're in the FFT age already, where the digital recording, re-presentation, sampling, sequencing, re-production, and digitized dissemination of the life world is fully underway, and the ontological consequences already visible ...

nomadologist
04-04-2008, 08:10 AM
Have never been overly enamored of lumping contemporary phenomena under the exclusive heading of one 'post-modernism.' Also, I'd cast suspicion over any notion of "after modernism," as most thinkers since Nietzsche or whomever (take your pick) have repeatedly shown in numerous ways that absolute breaks or ruptures often come to look fallacious anyway, for a number of reasons.

Tho I do hear what you're saying.

To my eyes and ears, though, we've got many, many competing post-modernisms, modernisms, and maybe even a few medievalisms floating around, viciously intertwined (among others, no doubt). If we really want to take the bull by the horns and try to get clear on where we are historically, I'm always on the side of locating the complexity first and then setting to work on analysing it (and maybe even effecting change, imagine!), rather than grouping all under one 'post' heading and risking the appearance of laboring under one smug panoptic grasp of the situation (am not attributing that position to nomadlogist, please note, just sayin').

If anything I'd say we're in the FFT age already, where the digital recording, re-presentation, sampling, sequencing, re-production, and digitized dissemination of the life world is fully underway, and the ontological consequences already visible here and there in pockets ...

Historically speaking, we're only minutes away from redescribing consciousness as feedback circuits and sampling rates. David Tudor and hip-hop looking at itself in a DAW, lol.

Agreed agreed. Thanks for putting this in the eloquent words that I was too impatient and preoccupied to reach for.

I just get so sick of having to rehash all this (the fact that post-modernism is not a concrete set of precepts, but rather, broadly, and differing substantially of course in various definitions, a socio-historical ontological condition that as such manifests itself in everything that exists under its auspices but applies adjectivally to precious few specific people in any meaningful way--I prefer Lyotard's definition obvs) and it comes up here quite frequently. I absolutely despise the use of "post-modernIST" as an adjective, especially when applied to individuals who have read critical theory and psychoanalysis. Some people are interested in theories about culture, psychology, art, etc. Get over it.

Some people say "post-modernist" the way I imagine others might say "leper."

aMinadaB
04-04-2008, 08:16 AM
I just get so sick of having to rehash all this (the fact that post-modernism is not a concrete set of precepts, but rather, broadly, and differing substantially of course in various definitions, a socio-historical ontological condition that as such manifests itself in everything that exists under its auspices but applies adjectivally to precious few specific people in any meaningful way--I prefer Lyotard's definition obvs) and it comes up here quite frequently. I absolutely despise the use of "post-modernIST" as an adjective, especially when applied to individuals who have read critical theory and psychoanalysis. Some people are interested in theories about culture, psychology, art, etc. Get over it.

Some people say "post-modernist" the way I imagine others might say "leper."
Yep yep, agreed, feel pretty much the same way as you do. :D

vimothy
04-04-2008, 12:13 PM
*sighs*

Maybe this will help -- How to Disagree (http://www.paulgraham.com/disagree.html), Paul Graham

Where to start...? There's probably little point in doing this, because I guess that if it's not obvious now, it never will be. Nevertheless...

I wrote my "treatise-length post" because someone asked a question earlier in the thread. That question was, basically, "Is there a reason communism failed beyond the fact that its leaders were destructive tyrants?" Or to put it another way, "Could communism work with competent, elected leaders?" It has nothing to do with being fashionable (?), or wanting you to bow down to the almighty dollar (not so almighty anyway), or trying to prove humans incapable of acting beyond a narrowly defined sphere of self-interest. I said nothing about about these disparate subjects. None of these things are essential to capitalism or communism. They are beside the point I was trying to make.

"You reduce everything to economics!" The debate I was having, or trying to have, was about economics. Asking what stops communism from working is a question about economics. All the other stuff -- wanting to live non-greedy lives of poetry, passion and organic yoghurt weaving -- is fine by me, but I don't see how it's relevant to the discussion. It's pretty simple (though there is some interaction between the following points):

Rational economic planning on a nation-wide scale is very, very difficult, if not impossible, because knowledge is tacit, temporal and dispersed.

Rational economic calculation is impossible on a nation-wide scale if you don't have a price system.

Or you can just attempt my thought experiment: On what basis or according to what criterea would you manufacture capital goods, that is, the seccond, third, and so on, order goods that are used in the production of other goods, in a Communist system?

Ironically, nomadologist, you also gave a pretty good description of the invisible hand:

I don't think you have to be *book smart* to make good decisions about how to live or even how to allocate resources. Most people will do the "smart thing" that benefits as many people as possible if they have enough accurate information to use in charting the way.

That's my point. That's why it makes more sense to make your own decisions than have a government make them for you.


btw I'm more a fan of democratic socialism myself, but I'm so so sick of the idea that because it's difficult to set up a communist government that all communist governments are ipso facto authoritarian regimes.

Bully for you, but the whole point of communism is mutual ownership of the means of production, i.e. to bring the mechanisms of production under the aegis of the proletariat, i.e. under the control of the central government body, which acts on behalf of the proletariat.


oh wait, i forgot, "economics" dictates that you can't set up a government with a set of elected officials that redistributes wealth in order to ensure all humans live up to a certain standard

I never said that, and I don't think anyone else did either.

Mr. Tea
04-04-2008, 01:16 PM
A third of Americans don't have health insurance either. Plenty of Americans have to work three jobs to pay their cancer treatment bills or whichever. Sounds like AMERICA.

Um, yeah, that's exactly my point.


Regardless, this doesn't mean that their economy couldn't do well and eventually do better than some others in the first world.
Yes, but it doesn't exactly chime very well with "To each according to his need", does it?

vimothy
04-04-2008, 02:50 PM
I like the definition in the fashionable dictionary:

Marxism
1. Probably not true, but it should be.
2. Useful for understanding dialectical biology

http://www.butterfliesandwheels.com/dictionary.php

Fnar -- that dictonary is great! I particularly like,


Empiricism
Absurd notion that observation and measurement are useful in getting to know about things (see positivism).

Enlightenment
Sinister, destructive period of history which had a 'project' to dominate nature, prefer reason to superstition, and stop going to church. All a big mistake, but postmodernism will fix it.

Evidence
1. Something that can be tailored to the requirements of my arguments.
2. A tiresome thing that may conflict with something that I believe.

Evolution
Something to do with a snail called Burgess. Occurred only during the Cambrian period. Punctuated.

noel emits
09-04-2008, 01:39 PM
If anything I'd say we're in the FFT age already
FFS age more like. ;)

slightly crooked
09-04-2008, 03:05 PM
There is also the question of why Communism seems to go with the mechanisms of the police state in every instance where the Communists took power. (It makes nomadologist's statement that, "Not at communists are Stalinists, or Leninists, or whatever you want to pigeonhole them as" look rather amusing. Communists are never authoritarians until they get into power). As I said upthread, Communism must be imposed and capitalism (trading for personal profit) must be suppressed. I think it's that simple. Communists have no other choice.

Whilst you can advance an economic argument for the tendency of command economies towards economic stagnation or failure to adequately meet the material needs of their citizens, I don't think the trend towards tyranny is necessarily so straightforwardly an economic matter. Instead, I think a better assessment can be achieved by looking at the way the ideas that inspire communism work. Communism provides a vision of a single conception of the ideal, ordered society that is the inevitable conclusion of human history. If you believe you know where history is heading, then surely you are justified in helping it along its way, and if other people are obstructing the march of history you are doing nothing wrong in removing such obstacles. Therefore, I would say the historical path of Soviet or Chinese communism was aimed far more at stamping out dissent (from all quarters: religious, political and economic), rather than simply removing trading for personal profit.

This is a dynamic that is latent within any political ideology that believes it has access to the true ends of human purpose. It could, for instance, be suggested that the neo-conservative notion that the correct form of societal organisation (free trade economics coupled with liberal democratic political apparatus) can be advanced by means of military action also opens up the possibility of barbarous acts being committed in the name of human progress. The extent to which this dynamic becomes apparent is obviously going to be different depending upon the nature of the political system through which the ideology operates: a single party state apparatus with a high degree of central control and a paranoid head of state will be far more prone to tyranny than a system with full democratic accountability and a free press, for instance...

vimothy
11-04-2008, 03:06 PM
Francis Fukuyama famously described himself as "Marxist", in contradistinction to the "Leninist" neoconservatives.

Anyway, good post! I basically agree with what you say about Soviet totalitarianism: it wasn't simply a function of an economic system, but also the expression and the domination of an ideology across all categories of social existance. I would perhaps argue that the Hegelian heritage of Communism is of less importance than the psychological, atavistic desires that totalitarian politics satisfies. And I would also reiterate that what I was trying to get at in the above post is that the mechanics of the command economy necessitate a degree of authoritarianism, because a command economy necessarily entails the suppression of natural forms of trade and exchange. Even if our hypothetical is realised ("nice communists"), society must still be made to bend to ideology's will.