Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Three Flaws with Socialism

Announcement. I have been interviewed. A podcast of an interview I performed recently is up at "Common Sense Atheism" titled, CPBD 003: Alonzo Fyfe - Morality without God..

Elsewhere, some members of the studio audience, in the comment section of this blog, have expressed an affection recently with socialism. They believe that, in the battle between socialism and capitalism, that capitalism has proven itself a failure, and socialism wins.

I disagree with that assessment.

For the record, my view on the Capitalism vs Socialism debate is that it is much like a debate that might occur among construction workers.

One worker proclaims all of the work that a hammer can do better than a saw – from pounding in nails to breaking rocks – and declares, “All construction work can and should be done with a hammer.”

The other worker lists all of the things that a saw can do more efficiently than a hammer, such as cut planks to length, and declares that all construction work should be done with a saw, and none with a hammer.

I look at the two participants in this debate as both being wrong. Capitalism and socialism (the free market and the state) are both tools. Each has their strengths and weaknesses, and it is foolish to limit ourselves to just one of these two tools.

Since the pendulum is swinging more toward socialism in recent weeks, I think it would be useful to remind ourselves of its weaknesses.

Here are three.

(1) Socialism puts decision-making power in the hands of people who are substantially ignorant as to many of the relevant facts for making a decision.

Each person seeks the fulfillment of the most and strongest of his desires. Now, when it comes to the fulfillment of Person A’s desires, we can give that authority to one of two people. We can give that authority to Person A himself (the individual), or we can give it to Person B (the state).

We should, as our default position, give authority in making particular decisions to the people who are the most well informed of the facts relevant to those decisions. So, when it comes to directing the course of Person A’s life, we should give the decision-making capability to Person A – unless Person A is known to be mentally incompetent (e.g., Person A is a child.)

In other words, we are better off giving people the power to make their own decisions governing their own lives in a free market of voluntary trade among individuals, then we are handing those decisions over to somebody else, such as the state. The state simply lacks the information it needs to make wise decisions in many cases. So, it will make poor decisions, even if all of its members were saints.

Which is another problem with socialism. It puts massive amounts of power in the hands of people who often are not saints.

(2) Each individual is the least corruptible guardian of his own interests.

Each person necessarily acts so as to fulfill the most and strongest of his own desires, given his beliefs.

One of the things we can count on with respect to this government spending program to try to jump start the economy, is that every single Senator and Representative will cast a vote that best fulfills his or her own desires, given his or her beliefs.

And what are those desires?

No leader is motivated solely by the public interests. They all have friends, and are going to be tempted to act so as to make their friends better off.

They like money – because the more money they have the greater ability they will have to spend it to fulfill the more and stronger of their desires – so this will motivate their votes in some instances.

Some of them may want sex, or simply be in love (even if it is an unrequited love without sex), and will seek to pleasure of the person who is the object of his or her affection. And who knows what that person wants?

Some are motivated by a desire for power, and will see merit in various plans (even to the point of deluding themselves that certain claims are true or arguments are valid that lack any support) that promises to deliver more power into their hands or do harm to rivals.

Consider giving full control of your money over to somebody who knows you and cares about you. You will no longer direct the spending of your own income, but you will give it over to your best friend. That friend will have instructions not to come to you for advice on how to spend it, but can only consult outside experts (each acting so as to fulfill the most and strongest of their desires).

Do you seriously think that the money will be spent as wisely in the fulfillment of your desires as it would be if you were given the authority to spend the money yourself?

(3) Socialist systems respond too slowly to information and not always in the best possible way.

Imagine a large community gets hit by a sudden petulance that wipes out the bulk of its food crop.

This community needs to immediately start treating food as a scarce commodity. It needs to quit using food for things (e.g., decorations and art, glue, dyes) where it is not being consumed for calories and to switch to other substitutes. It needs to immediately set to work discovering new sources of food that it can add to its stores. And, as new discoveries are made (e.g., new food is discovered or there is a fire that destroys some of the remaining food), it needs to respond as quickly as possible to this new information.

Socialist systems are very slow to react to news. It is slow even to recognize that a significant event has taken place and that a change of policy is in order. The government must be assembled. It must weigh the various benefits and costs (this process being hampered by the two problems already described – decision makers who have limited information and who are going to act so as to fulfill the most and strongest of their own desires). It must make a decision. Then, it must implement decision.

In a capitalist system, the response to new information is instantaneous. The instant – the very second – that news hits a market that some product in high demand will become scarce, the price goes up. The higher price signals people that they need to start looking for substitutes to use in place of the scarce commodity. It inspires people to go out and find substitutes, and to put extra effort into increasing the supply of the product that has suddenly become scarce.

It does not need to call a meeting into order. It does not need to engage in endless debate. It instantly puts society to work mitigating the damage that the change in the news implies.

Conclusion

These, then, are three unavoidable problems that will plague this multi-hundred-billion dollar economic recovery bill. The final results of the bill will be put together by people who lack sufficient information to do a good job, by people who are easily persuaded to act in ways not necessarily in the public interest, and who will institute a system that will respond very poorly to changes in information.

Capitalism has its own problems. This is not a claim that socialist tools should be abandoned entirely and only capitalist tools should be permitted. It is an invitation to consider seriously that the socialist tool is not perfect – it has its flaws – and we must give an honest consideration of the implications of those flaws.

35 comments:

Luke said...

Podcast link broken.

notreallyalice said...

I'm confused. Your flaws sound like flaws with any government rather than flaws of a particularly socialist government... unless the American government is more socialist than I am aware.

Alonzo Fyfe said...

Link fixed

Db0 said...

Socialism is not about "the state".

Steelman said...

I agree with commenter notreallyalice; it seems you're describing the human flaws already present in our current form of government.

"I look at the two participants in this debate as both being wrong. Capitalism and socialism (the free market and the state) are both tools. Each has their strengths and weaknesses, and it is foolish to limit ourselves to just one of these two tools."

I agree. I'm not a fan of total socialism; I'm more interested in a mixed economy where necessary commodities are regulated by the government, but innovation and choice are maintained by free enterprise, hence my previous comments that the present type of capitalism isn't working.

And it certainly isn't. Debt driven consumerism, among the masses and in the government, seems to be built on the concept of unlimited credit, and potentially unlimited income opportunities just to pay the interest.

Beyond that, U.S. companies have sent far too many jobs out of the country, giving away the country's means of production in the quest to capture market share via lower prices. That type of short term thinking hasn't served our nation well.

"The instant – the very second – that news hits a market that some product in high demand will become scarce, the price goes up."

It's exactly this type of "buy on the news" market gyration that allows money to be made not on actual product availability, but on rumors and manipulation.

Last year, companies I deal with in a commodity industry (metal) made a ton of money on the spread between future cost and present inventory valuation. China's increase in scrap purchasing and reduction on export offers, coupled with some panic buying, sent wholesale prices skyrocketing (approx. 5% per month). There were other factors involved, such as fuel prices and FTC tariff action against China, that factored into the price increases directly and indirectly (all Asian producers' reactions to these factors).

Now the bubble has burst and prices are falling to at or below current inventory costs. Practically every business connected to this commodity is in the red, and will be for awhile. While I'm not an economist, and so can't give specific details as to how a more socialistic approach to commerce might smooth out some of the roller coaster effect that comes from this kind of "free market," I can say that I think there has to be a better way of doing business in this country.

In addition, the very broad terms of "capitalism" and, especially, "free markets" can be rather misleading, I think. How free is a market when providers of goods and services have undue influence over the decisions of lawmakers as to what products are made available to the public, and how they may be marketed?

These are multifaceted, complex problems, and the main problem I have with discussing them on a blog, for instance, is that such discourse ceases to be constructive when it is based on reactions to buzzwords, and superficial descriptions of the difficulties involved. It's an easy trap to fall into.

anton said...

Socialist systems are very slow to react to news. It is slow even to recognize that a significant event has taken place and that a change of policy is in order.

Is that why trans-fats had been banned in several countries of the world long before US America would even admit they could be problem? Is that why the various bans on cigarette advertising and smoking in stipulated places was slow to occur in the US? Don't forget that the capitalist system as practiced in the US pays homage to the capitalists first. With US Americas freedoms of voice and choice, the so-called disadvantages of socialism disappear pretty quickly when the freedoms get invoked. Also, every time the US finds itself in a "self-inflicted" problem, it turns to socialist solutions for its problems. The current economic mess and US America's solution is a vivid example of socialism at its worst because US America does not have any experience implementing socialist solutions. Consequently, it really screws up when it attempts to apply them. What else can be said of the $350 billion that effectively "disappeared" because no one thought about placing some "socialist" conditions on the rescue plan?

Alonzo Fyfe said...

I agree with commenter notreallyalice; it seems you're describing the human flaws already present in our current form of government.

I am.

Yes, there is quite a bit of socialism in America - some of which is the legitimate object of Republican criticism. This is the socialism that the Republicans tend to complain about. These complaints are grounded on real concerns that ought to be taken seriously.

This does not mean that the Republicans are right about the best way to approach these issues. It does, however, mean that those concerns are not imaginary and are applicable to many policies and practices that already exist in the United States.

However, like I said, capitalism has its own problems (flaws that are also already present in our current form of government).

Perhaps I should list a few.

heather said...

I think there is a basic problem with what you are saying here. You haven't defined what you mean by "socialism" or "capitalism", even loosely.

So your attribution of specific flaws to "socialism" is basically hanging on your own internal definition of "socialism." As three other commenters have said, you seem to assume that socialism = state power of any kind.

Maybe you could explain exactly what you mean by "socialism"?

Katesickle said...

Heather, Socialism DOES equal state power in practice, even if that's not what it is supposed to mean. Let me elaborate:

Socialism is a system where everything is publicly owned. However 'The Public' is not an entity. It has no will, no thoughts, no desires, and no needs. It is the individuals making up 'The Public' that have these things--however desires and needs among individuals can differ, and even be contradictory. How do you decide how a commodity is to be used, if different members of the public have different opinions on the matter? You have to come up with a way of making those decisions, which means a form of government.

Steelman, the flaws you have found with today's capitalism are actually the result of a mixed market. The idea of unlimited credit is at least partly the government's fault--this is the same government, after all, that believes in deficit spending, printing money with nothing to back it up, and that lending money to low-income families will jelp the economy (if you want to know what caused the current financial situation, that's a major part of it).

Eneasz said...

Katesickle -

printing money with nothing to back it up

I've always found this a curious complaint. Ultimately, money represents human labor. How exactly do you use that to back a physical thing like green paper?

Most people who make this complaint want to see money backed by gold, which is just as arbitrary in value as paper is. It's value is directly proportional to how much people value it. It's just as arbitrary, so why the fixation on a gold-standard?

faithlessgod said...

HI Eneasz

Whilst I am not an advocate of going back to the gold standard, it does make the issue of money finite and constrained compared to today both before and after the financial meltdown whether it is allowing greater leverage and trading on margin or printing money.

Still though you are right the gold standard is arbitrary but any fixed standard of a finite resources would substantively alter the money supply compared to today. Simply put many of the abuses and their repercussions could have occurred.

Katesickle said...

Faithlessgod has it right--having any kind of finite resource as a standard greatly reduces the potential for things like inflation. With something that can be manufactured--like paper money--the person with the printing press can make as much as they want, with potentially disastrous consequences.

rgz said...

I have to object to this whole argument.

While I agree that we have to give power to the person with the most information to serve the individual -the individual himself- and that he is the most incorruptible observer of his own interests I cannot see the oligarchy accomplishing this goal either.

The oligarchy has shown that a collection of individuals can be made to act against their collective interest in the pursuit or protection of their individual interests.

So either we enforce socialist norms into the oligarchy or we simply break down any corporation that surpasses a designated boundary of power. The later seems more productive to me.

Or we could continue working under the oligarchy, the decision is ours (still (maybe?)).

bpe3812 said...

You seem to be equating socialism with state control which is inaccurate. Although many of the nominally socialist countries have employed an authoritarian state model so I can understand the mix-up. I think you need to specify that you are talking about authoritarian socialism. Socialist theory talks about abolition of the state and buying and selling. And this type of socialism has and does exist i.e. Zapatistas, Much of Spain during the Spanish revolution, etc.

Katesickle said...

bpe, you can't abolish the state and have pure socialism--it cannot work. If something belongs to everyone, who decides how to use it? Do we use that patch of fertile land to farm corn, like one person wants? Do we raise cattle there, like someone else says we should? Would the land be better left as a nature preserve, or a housing development, or something else entirely? All of these people 'own' the land, according to socialism---but they can't all use it as they wish. You either have to pick an individual owner (capitalism) or you need some type of authority who can make these decisions (the state).

David said...

I don't see how Alonzo is missing the definition of socialism. As far as I understand it, socialism is necessarily pooling more resources and necessarily changes the way a society decides what to produce, no matter what the state's role is. The first point (power to the ignorant) may only be a tendency, since theoretically centralized decision-making should allow more specialization and training. But the other two (guardianship of interest and slow response) are necessarily part of any socialist system as I understand it, since sharing resources entails some risk and requires more communication.

@anton: You complain that the US was slow to ban some things "despite" its capitalism, but (a) those are political problems, not economic and (b) those aren't necessarily the "best possible ways" to react to the issues. It's certainly true that the US is awful at implementing socialism (of course we're pretty bad at implementing capitalism, too). But I think most of the "self-inflicted problems" aren't really national problems at all, just a few individuals down on their luck and the rest of the nation feeling (irrationally) responsible or at risk. I think it's quite a stretch to say our "turning to socialism" demonstrates the value of socialism and the failure of capitalism.

David said...

You didn't even mention my favorite flaw with socialism: all the shell games of indignation and guilt. Whenever we make a concession or sacrifice, we expect other people to respect our sacrifice and not waste or abuse their benefit. But even if most people are fair and respectful, somebody sees a chance to get ahead and takes it. Pretty soon, both sides are whining that it's not fair, when the whole idea was mutual benefit.

Our natural tendency is to help out the underdog and then expect a return on investment, but it often doesn't turn out so well. We'd be better off choosing either to let people deal with their own problems or to stop attaching strings. Obligations suck for both parties.

bpe3812 said...

Katiesickle,
You are right that there would be no ownership of land, factories, hospitals, etc. in socialism but when it comes to determining who makes the decisions that is very simple: the people who live on the land or in the general vicinity/community, the workers who work in the factory. One of the main ideas of socialism is democratic control of the workers over what they produce and democratic control by the people of the land they inhabit. I am talking about direct democracy, not representation by bureaucrats and government officials.

Eneasz said...

Katesickle/faithlessgod -

I think understand the arguement better now. But how would a currency backed by a limited resource deal with the creation of wealth? Wouldn't a great deal of effort be wasted pulling more and more of this resource out of the ground to store it in a fort somewhere in order to back currency? And as I understand it, the price of gold (and most limited resources) is significantly more volatile than the value of a dollar. Having a currency that fluctuates in value that much would be quite a liability. Also, how would it be possible to trade with countries who don't use the same resource-backed standard without defaulting to a primitive barter system?

BPE - you said:
he people who live on the land or in the general vicinity/community, the workers who work in the factory

I'm not sure you've fully thought this out. Someone who wanted to create a factory would have to convince everyone who lived in the area (which could be tens of thousands of people) that the square footage needed should go to that purpose? What if some of them change their minds later? And how would the factory ever get built in the first place? Is this a system that only works if capitalism first built all the means of production and then just takes it from the capitalists? How will they go about making new factories to produce newer goods then? And finally, who decides who the employees of the factory are? Do the employees themselves take a vote anytime someone is to be hired or laid off? It seems this whole society would be based almost entirely on constant campaigning in every aspect of life.

faithlessgod said...

bpe3812

"One of the main ideas of socialism is democratic control of the workers over what they produce and democratic control by the people of the land they inhabit.I am talking about direct democracy, not representation by bureaucrats and government officials."
Okay so a pure democracy. This leads to the tyranny of the majority. Pure democracies will always be biased against the minority unless constitutionally constrained but who is to apply this in a stateless society - since the institutions of checks and balances no longer exist.

"in socialism but when it comes to determining who makes the decisions that is very simple: the people who live on the land or in the general vicinity/community, the workers who work in the factory. "
You seem to be harking back to an agricultural economy we live in a different world now, very few people till the land today. The benefit of division of labour is that people can specialize and contribute their skills to the mutual benefit of all that magnifies the power and scope of the group but that also means some are better equipped to make those decisions on behalf of everyone. A direct majority could be disastrous if made by workers who do not have the skills to make those decisions.

faithlessgod said...

Eneasz

"But how would a currency backed by a limited resource deal with the creation of wealth?"
There was no wealth created till 1970?

"Wouldn't a great deal of effort be wasted pulling more and more of this resource out of the ground to store it in a fort somewhere in order to back currency?"
No more than currently occurs ;-)

"And as I understand it, the price of gold (and most limited resources) is significantly more volatile than the value of a dollar"
Because of the disconnect between fiat money and gold.

"Having a currency that fluctuates in value that much would be quite a liability."
Have you seen currency movements the last few years?

"Also, how would it be possible to trade with countries who don't use the same resource-backed standard without defaulting to a primitive barter system"
Back currencies can still trade with floating currencies - it is called exchange rates. No difference between that and Swaps - trading fixed versus floating interest bonds- usually backed by very low counter-party risk - of course that is one thing that went badly askew recently (the measurement of risk).

Again note I am not arguing for going back to a gold standard nor specifically for some alternative resource such as labour e.g. the labour theory of value. I am saying that relating money supply to some broad set of resources would have avoided many of the problems we are experiencing today. The question is what resource set is appropriate. I do not know the answer to that but it is not gold nor labour.

One day I hope to apply the desire fulfilment theory of value to this as it emphasizes there are no intrinsic values (which supports better marginalism than labour theory btw).

Katesickle said...

bpe, a pure democracy IS a government--it is a government of the people. More specifically, it is a government of whoever has the most supporters (or the biggest guns).

Also, isn't it a contradiction to say that everyone owns something, but not everyone can use what they own as they see fit? Everyone may own the property in a meaningless, semantics-only sense, but in reality only a handful of the people actually own it.

Eneasz said...

Hello Faithlessgod!

There was no wealth created till 1970?

Correct me if I'm wrong, but wasn't one of the major reasons the gold standard was abandoned the fact that there wasn't enough gold in the entire US to back even a significant fraction of the money circulating in the system? Wealth was created, gold was not, and it became obvious that gold has little to do with wealth.

"Wouldn't a great deal of effort be wasted pulling more and more of this resource out of the ground to store it in a fort somewhere in order to back currency?"
No more than currently occurs ;-)


Currently I believe those resources are being put to some productive use. With a resource-backed currency, they'd have to be locked up somewhere doing nothing. Any other product that could be made with those resources will be much more expensive to make due to the artificial scarcity of the resource.

I am saying that relating money supply to some broad set of resources would have avoided many of the problems we are experiencing today.

It would avoid some problems, but it would create costlier/worse problems then it solves.

bpe3812 said...

Katiesickle,

You are right a pure democracy is a form of government - democracy literally means government (kratos) by the people (demos) but this is not the same thing as "the state". The state is exactly what you were referring to when you stated, "it is a government of whoever has the most supporters (or the biggest guns)."

There is a difference between ownership and communal ownership - I have communal ownership of the air I breathe but I cannot do with it as I please, if I were to pollute it with poisons then I would be infringe on the rights of others who also have a communal ownership of the air. What you are talking about when you use the word "ownership" is selfish hoarding of resources and commodities that cannot be rightfully and ethically owned by an individual.

I should stress that when socialists speak of private property they are referring to things like jets, factories, hospitals, apartment buildings, etc. not toothbrushes, clothing, personal entertainment items, etc. etc.

bpe3812 said...

A stateless society can also be backed by a constitution. One of the fundamentals of direct democracy is consensus decision making where there is an attempt to appease all parties involved by compromise until a near mutual agreement can be reached. Of course there would be times when this type of decision making would prove cumbersome and in those cases delegates could be appointed to represent all the interests and opinions of a community. These delegates would be instantly recallable if they were not representing the community - even those of the minority.

There would still be a need for a degree of specialization in a socialist society - we cannot all be doctors for instance. And there would also be instances where those with special knowledge would be consulted and asked to voice their concerns at a group meeting. Due to their credentials these individuals would be able to sway most people toward their view as long as it was based on reason.

Katesickle said...

bpe:

"The state is exactly what you were referring to when you stated, "it is a government of whoever has the most supporters (or the biggest guns)."
And that is exactly what arises in a pure democracy. THere is no defense against it. If enough people decide they want to burn down your house, or take your stuff, you have no recourse--they have more right to it then you because there are more of them. You either have to get a bigger gang, or submit.

"There is a difference between ownership and communal ownership - I have communal ownership of the air I breathe but I cannot do with it as I please,"
Which means you only "own" it in a meaningless, wordplay sense. It is imagined ownership.

"What you are talking about when you use the word "ownership" is selfish hoarding of resources and commodities that cannot be rightfully and ethically owned by an individual."
No, by 'ownership' I mean individual property rights.

"I should stress that when socialists speak of private property they are referring to things like jets, factories, hospitals, apartment buildings, etc. not toothbrushes, clothing, personal entertainment items, etc. etc."
That makes no difference. The idea is a contradiction no matter what specific type of property you are dealing with. The idea that you can 'own' something while not being able to use it as you see fit makes about as much sense as saying a slave 'owns' his life despite having no control over it. Its a ridiculous claim.

Eneasz said...

BPE - this is in reply to your latest post. Basically, imagine I just quoted the whole thing.

This system you propose fails to take into consideration that you are not dealing with theoretical constructs, but real people. An almost-complete consensus on all decisions? Experts swaying people based on reason? These are not statements that apply to reality. This is not even close to how real humans act. This system would fall apart as soon is it made contact with the real world.

Also, campaigning would make up a significant fraction of all effort expended by such a society, possibly greater than any other single endevour. Such waste is unworkable.

bpe3812 said...

Katiesickle and Eneasz,

You both seem to have a overly cynical view of humanity, why would people behave in such a way in a post-capitalist world? The main causes of crime and violence is the unfair distribution of wealth which capitalism creates. What you call ownership is also an abstraction, if you want to delve into semantic or philosophical arguments. One does "own" the air they breath just as one owns the water they drink just not in a selfish capitalistic way of thinking. Just think about the capitalistic phenomenon of "intellectual property" - how can one own an idea - now that is absurdity at its finest! These arguments are definitely an exercise in futility when dealing with Anarcho-capitalists, Randians, Libertarians, those who subscribe to the 2 party political scam in the US and other market dogmatists who have been indoctrinated with the idea that there is absolutely no alternative to the way we live now - so I do not plan on responding to future replies but I do encourage you both to try to imagine a progression away from selfish acquisition toward a future of human cooperation.

faithlessgod said...

BPE

"A stateless society can also be backed by a constitution."
How without a government? Once you have the institutions of a legislature with executive and a judicial branches you have a government and what they govern is, for our purposes, here, a state!

"One of the fundamentals of direct democracy is consensus decision making where there is an attempt to appease all parties involved by compromise until a near mutual agreement can be reached. Of course there would be times when this type of decision making would prove cumbersome and in those cases delegates could be appointed to represent all the interests and opinions of a community. These delegates would be instantly recallable if they were not representing the community - even those of the minority."
Who will ensure that this 'constitution' is abided by and who it to deal with transgressions of it?

"Due to their credentials these individuals would be able to sway most people toward their view as long as it was based on reason."

Lol!!! People are and have been "swayed" many false claims throughout history at great cost to society and there is no evidence this is likely to change in the future. This is one of the most naive claims I have read in a long time. If your 'socialism' is based on thinking like this, then if it ever occurs it will be a disaster. It looks like you are labouring under the illusion of creating a utopia when you are actually proposing a dsytopia, even worse than today's world.

faithlessgod said...

Eansz

"Correct me if I'm wrong, but wasn't one of the major reasons the gold standard was abandoned the fact that there wasn't enough gold in the entire US to back even a significant fraction of the money circulating in the system?"
Yes that is why I do not seek to go back to the gold standard. It did not match the resources available and being created. However to say that lets drop any connection with any resources is bad binary thinking and the result of a hasty generalisation. The question is how to create a resource-backed fiscal and financial system? Both the gold standard and the labour theory will not work, so what will?

anton said...

Faithlessgod:

"Both the gold standard and the labour theory will not work, so what will?

You could start with honesty!!!

Follow it with morality!!!

You could even base it on your output of cabbages!!!!

Steelman said...

bpe3812, in response to Katiesickle and Eneasz, said:"You both seem to have a overly cynical view of humanity, why would people behave in such a way in a post-capitalist world?"

Because improving the living conditions of human beings doesn't change the basic psychological underpinnings of human behavior. Of course, a society where the vast majority are healthy, happy, and have fewer reasons for conflict (however this is achieved, apart from making sure everyone takes their "happy meds") is probably going to be a peaceful place. Until disagreements arise, factions form, and people find something, trivial or otherwise, to fight about. It would take something more sophisticated and effective than just a general belief in the social contract to keep that society from falling apart. This isn't cynicism, it's realism about the inevitability of conflict over resources and beliefs that are a part of human history, and the varying degrees of success of different social constructs in dealing with that inevitability.

Whether it's the case of a majority of citizens who are against conflict, and a minority of troublemakers stirring things up; or a scarcity of resources that forces a "zero sum" game, conflict will arise. Any form of social arrangement has to take this into account, on both a community and worldwide scale, as far flung populations have become resource interdependent.

"The main causes of crime and violence is the unfair distribution of wealth which capitalism creates. What you call ownership is also an abstraction, if you want to delve into semantic or philosophical arguments. One does "own" the air they breath just as one owns the water they drink just not in a selfish capitalistic way of thinking. Just think about the capitalistic phenomenon of "intellectual property" - how can one own an idea - now that is absurdity at its finest!"

I agree that the gap between haves and have-nots creates crime and violence, and that the gap should be narrowed in a fair and moral way (not that I know how to achieve this). Your concept of ownership of natural resources seems to be more of an allusion to rights and responsibilities toward entities that human beings did not create. Whereas the idea of intellectual property involves unique human effort to create something that previously did not exist. These are very different entities. If an idea involves work that produces benefit, there needs to be a way to encourage those who produce good ideas to continue to do so, and to encourage others to begin producing good ideas of their own. How such efforts should be rewarded is debatable, and there are those who will give their work away without any thought of reward, but I think there needs to be some sort of incentive to encourage the process so more people will want to get involved.

"These arguments are definitely an exercise in futility when dealing with Anarcho-capitalists, Randians, Libertarians..."

I've read through what the comments here, and it seems to me that the others are objecting to the fact that the social arrangement you're proposing appears to be incomplete. How do you get everyone to agree on the plethora of issues that plague large populations? Propaganda, religion, something in the water? How do you effect trade between regions which possess different, yet necessary, natural resources? How are these trading practices maintained and enforced?

I don't think its fair to accuse others of being ideologically dogmatic when they're just having trouble understanding what you're talking about. Since you've said you won't be responding, perhaps you could write a concise essay on your own blog outlining your ideas? This might serve to answer some of the questions posed here, and allow you to express yourself more clearly.

Katesickle said...

The more I discuss economics with people, the more I become convinced that, at least to some, economic systems are a religion, requiring just as much faith as any god. Capitalism causes crime by creating an unequal distribution of wealth--despite the fact that capitalism decreases the gap between rich and poor. The idea that putting everything to a vote will not result in the best outcome is cynical, even though the evidence supports the claim. Perhaps I'm wrong, but that certainly seems like a belief based on faith.

Db0 said...

Agh, crappy Blogger...

Here's a manual backlink

Francois Tremblay said...

This entry is complete nonsense. You obviously think socialism means the Democratic Party or something.