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  1. #31
    Senior Member LunarMoon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lark View Post
    I'm not really sure where this discussion is going so I'm going to end it here, it feels like you're just being contrary now, if that isnt the case then I'm sure you could explain it but I'm going to stop speaking to you now.
    No. I do often debate for sport but I really do believe that capitalism is inherent to human nature and the idea that it’s a product of the last few centuries just seems fallacious to me. The idea that the preindustrial period was somehow better than the 21st century, at least in the first world, has also always been one of my major pet peeves, since it seems to sharply take for granted the luxuries that most have profited from in this era.

    In addition, while I can understand your objection to a contrarian position, the thing is that yes, we could simply give an answer without disagreeing with the preceding posts but it seems as if most of the discussion would become self referential and it wouldn’t honestly result in any insight at the end of it.
    Surgeons replace one of your neurons with a microchip that duplicates its input-output functions. You feel and behave exactly as before. Then they replace a second one, and a third one, and so on, until more and more of your brain becomes silicon. Since each microchip does exactly what the neuron did, your behavior and memory never change. Do you even notice the difference? Does it feel like dying? Is some other conscious entity moving in with you?
    -Steven Pinker on the Ship of Theseus Paradox

  2. #32
    nee andante bechimo's Avatar
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    Not certain capitalism will expire. More likely there will be another form of revolutionary equaliser since capitalism exacerbates two-tierism. It is the way of mankind to envy and eventually tear-down what they don't have, calling it equity. The French rallied behind the motto "Liberté, égalité, fraternité" and the Russians behind "land, bread and peace".

    While I don't think it will be a form of Communism, a mutated form of socialism might happen. Watch China and see how its mutant brand of socialism/capitalism evolves.

  3. #33
    Senior Member Survive & Stay Free's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Metaphor View Post
    Not certain capitalism will expire. More likely there will be another form of revolutionary equaliser since capitalism exacerbates two-tierism. It is the way of mankind to envy and eventually tear-down what they don't have, calling it equity. The French rallied behind the motto "Liberté, égalité, fraternité" and the Russians behind "land, bread and peace".

    While I don't think it will be a form of Communism, a mutated form of socialism might happen. Watch China and see how its mutant brand of socialism/capitalism evolves.
    Mind you the Chinese wont even admit that what they practice is "market maoism" they prefer, and always have, "socialism with chinese characteristics" and probably will always describe it as such. If you mean that there'll be a mixed economy with state intervention or that there will be state capitalism then I'm inclined to agree but "mutant socialism", hardly.

    I dont think that egalitarianism is a consequence of envy, for one that assumes a uniformity of tastes which I'd suspect isnt the case.

  4. #34
    Member peterk's Avatar
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    When we run out of resources in several thousand years will capitalism be even possible? Some form of agrarian communism may be the norm

  5. #35
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    Quote Originally Posted by peterk View Post
    When we run out of resources in several thousand years will capitalism be even possible? Some form of agrarian communism may be the norm
    I'm on this side of the debate, as well as the side of increased state influence in the markets.

    • I think capitalism will only really come to an end (and, even then, it might just evolve) if we run into a very serious resource problem or ecological disaster.

    • I also think that capitalism is being practiced in a number of different ways around the world, and that one of the lessons of this crisis is that the a priori assumption/worldview touted and pushed by the likes of Alan Greenspan that free markets lead to some sort of Leibnizean best possible state of the world is flawed, and that, with the apparent success of China's model (whether or not that success is derived more from the style of their system or just the immense cost advantages they have due to their incredible size and low level of development), many countries, including the United States, will be tempted to allow more state intervention in the economy.

    The latter of these two would seem to be more-or-less another form of capitalism: state capitalism (to be contrasted with free market capitalism). The former would be the only way that I see capitalism possibly coming to an end, and, even then, it might just evolve into something new (perhaps just capitalism in a "post-apocalyptic" environment).

    The question becomes: what is capitalism, really?

    I used to fall on the side of DiscoBiscuit and LunarMoon: that capitalism has always been with us, just in various forms.

    And I still think there's something useful to that view, as I think it gets to the crux of the issue: that capitalism is the use of self-interest via the profit motive (i.e., the desire to accrue benefits), as opposed to the use of self-interest via the fear motive (i.e., the desire to avoid costs), as the driving motivation/impetus of one's economy.

    When viewed from that definition, and in light of how effective capitalism has been over the last several hundred years, it's rather hard to imagine another mode of production replacing capitalism, unless capitalism proves itself to no longer be an effective motivation/impetus to drive one's economy, and/or it becomes forced upon us by either limited resources or a capitalistically-driven ecological disaster (and, ftr, I'm no green peace activist here).

  6. #36
    Senior Member fecaleagle's Avatar
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    It depends on how you define capitalism. I don't think we live in a true capitalist society anymore, and we haven't been for a long time despite the illusion. Interestingly enough, the closest we truly came to having capitalism was in the colonial era up until the banking system was compromised in 1863 during the Civil War. Right at the turn of the century and especially during the few decades that followed, Rockefeller, J.P. Morgan, and their cronies overtook the system and capitalism started dying. It's effect is just catching up to us in today's economic climate.

    The traditional capitalist model cannot sustain itself in the long run simply because human nature generates decoherence (I'll leave out a far-fetched quantum mechanics metaphor this time ). This inevitability of collapse is similar to a socialist model like Marxism, which would be on the other side of the spectrum (but I think is useful to compare extremes). Marxism sounds good in theory since it calls for a more classless society which I feel is crucial and more of an issue now than ever due to the middle class being demolished as the upper class increases in well-being. But when you apply this socialist model to human society we run into a) economic problems like economic incalculability and lack of entrepreneurship, in addition to b) social problems like greed and hunger for power, both ultimately contributing to the formation of a 2 class society (big lower class and small high class), and of course eventual collapse

    Similarly, capitalism won't sustain itself because of the exact same problem of greed that is found in human nature. Capitalism creates what we traditionally know as the 3 class system (high, middle, low), which is naturally better than having 2 classes. Although the free market foundation of capitalism is absolutely beautiful, the forces of greed and power chip away at the free market, driving us closer to economic socialism. Thus the upper class slowly and gradually drains the wealth from the middle class, forcing these people into the lower class group; in the end, you end up with a 2 class society just like with socialism, but it takes longer to get there. If it looks, feels, and smells like socialism, then it probably is socialism (or worse, fascism). That is exactly what is happening right before our eyes in the U.S. The reason it takes longer for capitalism to fail is that while capitalism has to battle mainly the social problem, socialism has to battle social AND economic problems which lead it to collapse more quickly. So socialism --> collapse, while capitalism --> "capitalism" --> socialism --> collapse. Solely because of crappy human nature.

    I wish I knew of a good alternative that could sustain itself while also allowing 3 classes without huge separations, but I just don't think human nature will allow it. I mean, isn't that pretty much how it works in the animal kingdom? A leader and a bunch of equal followers? Looks like we're not so special after all
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  7. #37
    pathwise dependent FDG's Avatar
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    Another example of a mixed private-public capitalistic society (obviously, only taking into account the economic side) was the Byzantine Empire.

    China is not a successful model of a capitalistic society. Most of its population is agrarian, with extremely low levels of economic well-being. Plus, they have a fixed exchange rate, which is completely "anti-capitalistic". A fixed exchange rate can, in many ways, be considered akin to a complete lack of meaningful currency (similar to what happened in the URSS).
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  8. #38
    Senior Member Survive & Stay Free's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by fecaleagle View Post
    It depends on how you define capitalism. I don't think we live in a true capitalist society anymore, and we haven't been for a long time despite the illusion. Interestingly enough, the closest we truly came to having capitalism was in the colonial era up until the banking system was compromised in 1863 during the Civil War. Right at the turn of the century and especially during the few decades that followed, Rockefeller, J.P. Morgan, and their cronies overtook the system and capitalism started dying. It's effect is just catching up to us in today's economic climate.

    The traditional capitalist model cannot sustain itself in the long run simply because human nature generates decoherence (I'll leave out a far-fetched quantum mechanics metaphor this time ). This inevitability of collapse is similar to a socialist model like Marxism, which would be on the other side of the spectrum (but I think is useful to compare extremes). Marxism sounds good in theory since it calls for a more classless society which I feel is crucial and more of an issue now than ever due to the middle class being demolished as the upper class increases in well-being. But when you apply this socialist model to human society we run into a) economic problems like economic incalculability and lack of entrepreneurship, in addition to b) social problems like greed and hunger for power, both ultimately contributing to the formation of a 2 class society (big lower class and small high class), and of course eventual collapse

    Similarly, capitalism won't sustain itself because of the exact same problem of greed that is found in human nature. Capitalism creates what we traditionally know as the 3 class system (high, middle, low), which is naturally better than having 2 classes. Although the free market foundation of capitalism is absolutely beautiful, the forces of greed and power chip away at the free market, driving us closer to economic socialism. Thus the upper class slowly and gradually drains the wealth from the middle class, forcing these people into the lower class group; in the end, you end up with a 2 class society just like with socialism, but it takes longer to get there. If it looks, feels, and smells like socialism, then it probably is socialism (or worse, fascism). That is exactly what is happening right before our eyes in the U.S. The reason it takes longer for capitalism to fail is that while capitalism has to battle mainly the social problem, socialism has to battle social AND economic problems which lead it to collapse more quickly. So socialism --> collapse, while capitalism --> "capitalism" --> socialism --> collapse. Solely because of crappy human nature.

    I wish I knew of a good alternative that could sustain itself while also allowing 3 classes without huge separations, but I just don't think human nature will allow it. I mean, isn't that pretty much how it works in the animal kingdom? A leader and a bunch of equal followers? Looks like we're not so special after all
    Interesting, I wouldnt say that socialism as it has been known to date and capitalism suffer from the same internal contradictions, although I may agree that capitalism did cease with the rise and rise of financial capital and the banking system but as you say that would depend on how you define it and while I do think there are class struggles within capitalism besides those between wage earners or employees and their management and the board I'm still inclined to define it all as a variety of capitalism.

    Ultimately I'm not convinced that the contradictions present in any economy are a consequence of human nature but are structural or cultural, the issues you mentioned as typifying socialism economic calculation or entrepreneurship are issues for late capitalism too, for all the worth of the critiques of socialism by Mise and Hayek they failed to acknowledge that beyond a certain scale (and I'd even say age) capitalist firms behave the same way as the state monopolies or agencies in central plan economies (which I dont see as synonymous with socialism per se).

    The thing about markets is they havent proven any better than central plan economies at estimation of price, costs and risk, otherwise there wouldnt have been any crisis or recession presently. In terms of economic planning iteration boards, consumers and producers "councils" or any of those myriad alternatives, some of which have been cherry picked by capitalist management theorists, could, realistically, do as good a job, especially with computer technology in assistance and especially where they began with the price, cost and risk as determined by markets presently and increasingly revised to a closer approximation.

    The main contradiction which I see in socialism presently is the desire to eradicate class struggles altogether, I'm less and less convinced that is feasible or even conseavable, in fact it may be vital to have those struggles but in a limited rather than total fashion in order to ensure just outcomes rather than elitism or special interests triumphs. That's not to say the edge couldnt be taken off or that one day they may shrink into the back ground, sort of the way that a present day constitutional monarchy would compare to an absolutist monarchy of yester year (from a modernist, democratic perspective).

  9. #39
    Senior Member fecaleagle's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lark View Post
    Interesting, I wouldnt say that socialism as it has been known to date and capitalism suffer from the same internal contradictions, although I may agree that capitalism did cease with the rise and rise of financial capital and the banking system but as you say that would depend on how you define it and while I do think there are class struggles within capitalism besides those between wage earners or employees and their management and the board I'm still inclined to define it all as a variety of capitalism.

    Ultimately I'm not convinced that the contradictions present in any economy are a consequence of human nature but are structural or cultural, the issues you mentioned as typifying socialism economic calculation or entrepreneurship are issues for late capitalism too, for all the worth of the critiques of socialism by Mise and Hayek they failed to acknowledge that beyond a certain scale (and I'd even say age) capitalist firms behave the same way as the state monopolies or agencies in central plan economies (which I dont see as synonymous with socialism per se).

    The thing about markets is they havent proven any better than central plan economies at estimation of price, costs and risk, otherwise there wouldnt have been any crisis or recession presently. In terms of economic planning iteration boards, consumers and producers "councils" or any of those myriad alternatives, some of which have been cherry picked by capitalist management theorists, could, realistically, do as good a job, especially with computer technology in assistance and especially where they began with the price, cost and risk as determined by markets presently and increasingly revised to a closer approximation.

    The main contradiction which I see in socialism presently is the desire to eradicate class struggles altogether, I'm less and less convinced that is feasible or even conseavable, in fact it may be vital to have those struggles but in a limited rather than total fashion in order to ensure just outcomes rather than elitism or special interests triumphs. That's not to say the edge couldnt be taken off or that one day they may shrink into the back ground, sort of the way that a present day constitutional monarchy would compare to an absolutist monarchy of yester year (from a modernist, democratic perspective).
    You make some good points, but I don't think that the Austrian explanation of why socialism fails economically can be applied to true capitalism. I mean, for thousands of years and even in early, early U.S. we had a perfectly functioning system of capitalism. There were free markets where people exchanged goods and services using gold, silver, and other valuable commodities (like tobacco and fur), and everyone fought against any sort of governmental interference; this is in stark contrast with today where we have completely intrinsically worthless paper money and virtual money known as credit that purchase goods in a market that is filled with manipulation, with people welcoming government interference. We didn't start having economic panics in the U.S. until we started experimenting with periods of money unbacked by gold/silver.

    But as you said, some of the economic problems with socialism do apply in our current financial system, but solely because these markets are becoming increasingly "socialized" through government intervention. This is what I was referring to initially by saying that capitalism converts to "capitalism" before eventually becoming socialism. This "capitalism" is really just a socio-capitalist hybrid between true capitalism and true socialism; the capitalist aspect becoming apparent from that the fact that separate markets exist for various goods and we still have a semi-functioning equilibrium between price and demand, and the socialist aspect being shown by various governmental interference such as price controls, artificial credit expansion, and of course general cronyism which gives certain firms unfair advantages over others, all of which interfere with the natural forces of both supply and demand. So blaming these ever increasing similarities with market socialism (which fails both in theory and in practice) on the THEORY of capitalism is very unfair since the failure is solely governmental; now, you can certainly say that capitalism fails in practice, which I attribute to human idiocy. So again, it comes down to whether you equate true capitalism with the human nature-hijacked version of capitalism that exists today. I like to distinguish them because I hate when capitalism gets criticized on economic principles like socialism does, and I put the blame on our application of the theory of capitalism.

    You mentioned a recent financial crisis in your post, so I'm assuming that you're referring to the 2008 one which I think is a good issue to bring up (since most people are blind to the much larger one that is currently quietly incubating). However, like I said, that crisis (and preceding ones) can't be attributed to the failure of capitalistism. During the "meltdown" on Wall Street, the government had 2 choices, which essentially came down to either taking the capitalist path or the socialist path. The capitalist option would have been to let the banks suffer the consequences of their bad judgements (read: greed); this would be in line with capitalist theory because all economic entities should be subject to failure/success depending on their good/bad decisions. However, we did not see anything like that at all! Our administration chose to bail these banks out (or really, the banks bailed themselves out but that's another story), which spread the pain throughout the population; this is textbook financial socialism. Or worse, because instead of aiming to help the poor it aimed to do the opposite, so maybe fascism is a better word. This should have been a wake up call to Americans (and the world), getting them to consider the possibility that capitalism may just be a mask over which a socialist system is brewing.

    So I'm not arguing that pure capitalism and pure socialism suffer from an overlap of similar causes; only when capitalism has been compromised and has formed a socio-capitalist hybrid that I referred to as "capitalism" because it is so well hidden to people who do not truly understand economics (I consider Keynesianism at best as valid as a first grader who rides the short bus theory on how the economy works).

    I agree that the class equality that socialism begs for is unrealistic and not ideal; I just think that with a true capitalist financial system we can find a middle ground between what Marx called for and what we are witnessing today. A functioning capitalist society would have 3 classes without huge separations, while socialism basically has 2. As time has gone by, our capitalism has been gaining socialist properties which have increased the separation of the 3 classes. What I am proposing is that now and in the near future we are/will be seeing this taken to the next level, ultimately resulting in the disappearance of the middle class, leaving us with the SOCIAL traits of sociliasm which will perfectly coincide with our ECONOMIC socio-capitalism being fully transformed into just socialism. And this socialism will suck even more than our quasi-capitalism today.
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  10. #40
    Senior Member Survive & Stay Free's Avatar
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    I dont believe there's a point in talking about pure capitalism, I'm not sure that the oft quoted and seriously idealised "frontier age of capitalism" ever really existed and it certainly beggars an economy which is much less developed, has less productive powers, provides a much lower standard of living to all involved, rich and poor alike, and people need to be satisfied with something more closely resembling subsistance or survival living standards. Objectively I would say that it resembled countries like Somalia or the like than anything a mixed economy has been able to provide.

    I do believe that mixed economies have arisen in response to objective contradictions within the economy, they are not originated by government at all and blaming the government for all faults and failings or even human nature, in order to preserve the pristine ideological character of a free market dreamland is something else.

    Its alright bemoaning any and all acknowledged faults and failings in contrast to an idealist "true capitalism" too but it all smacks of the Marxist and other promises of a better tommorrow or every wish answered on the morrow of either a revolution or removal of all threats to revolution or its legacy. Objectively we start from the state that we are in rather than a year zero or one we would prefer to be in, and objectively whether you consider them abberations of history, human nature, government or whatever, all attempts to reform or change the world to one which more closely approximates that of "true capitalism" will only strengthen the hand of "actual existing capitalists". There's no turning the clock back to Golden Ages because they never existed in the past, no more than they exist in the future predicted by other revolutionaries or utopians.

    I also dont see any way what-so-ever that an economy which serves the richest elites will ever approximate socialism or could ever approximate socialism, its a total and utter misnomer at the very best and betrays a gross ideological stigmatism at the very worst. You may aswell label the economic and social trends monarchism or byzantism or fecal eaglism for all its worth.

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