Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Economic Systems

  1. May 31, 2005 #1
    I've researched a little about Marxism, and I've found that Karl Marx was a brilliant philosopher; however, I've never heard anyone commend communism. Despite this, why is communism deemed an inappropriate economic system? I've heard the argument of greed being unstoppable, but didn't Marx argue that greed was the result of social conditioning? Couldn't a communist economic system simply result in slackers being pressured to work by outside sources - wouldn't something be implemented to prevent abuse of the system?

    Also, I've noticed that people often group socialism and communism together (perhaps because Marx said socialism led to communism); however, they aren't identical. Socialism, to my knowledge, contains no unrealistic factors as an economic system. To each according to ability, to each according to effort - it seems reasonable to me. With a socialist system wouldn't talented individuals who coast on the capitalist system be forced to work harder?

    Overall, I've been researching other economic systems for interest; furthermore, I'm wondering why the world has seemed to stop and say - democracy and capitalism - that is the answer. Shouldn't society progress over time - is a democratic, capitalist society really the final answer until the end of time? I know many brilliant individuals have advocated change - if I remember correctly, Einstein supported social democracy.
  2. jcsd
  3. May 31, 2005 #2


    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    You haven't been paying attention here for the last couple of months. Alexandra is a big fan and we've had some rather lively discussions.
    Well, you answered your own question, but posed another. The answer to that question is that no, greed is not the result of social conditioning, its human (and animal) nature. Related to that, greed is necessary for human achievement. Calling it "greed" gives it a bad connotation, but greed, competitiveness, and ambition are all the same. Whether its the quest for personal knowledge or the quest for personal monetary wealth, its the same feeling motivating people to succeed.
    Yes. In practice, every communist system tried has resulted in the proliferation of mediocrity. Russia is a wasteland of environmental disaster, low quality buildings, crumbling infrastructure, and shoddy industry. And Russia is the communist success story! The other side of the coin is North Korea, in which a full 10% of the population has starved to death in the past 10 years.
    Not identical, but two parts of the same ideology and related.
    Sure, it seems reasonable, but how do you get it to work? How do you convince a doctor that even though he is vastly more intelligent and skilled than a janitor that he and the janitor are worth the same salary?
    Talented individuals who coast in capitalism?? Huh? Anyway, it has been proven that you cannot force someone to work harder for very long. S/he has to want to. Besides, who wants an autocratic system where people are forced to do things they don't want to do? Whatever happened to freedom?
    Well, democracy and capitalism continue to evolve. However, since democracy and capitalism have been vastly successful, most people have decided its better tweak what works than to abandon it completely for something that may or may not.
  4. May 31, 2005 #3
    communism has always failed miserably, look at the USSR.
    In a communism system, you work for fear of punishment, not desire for reward.
    that is the main difference, and that is why communism is bad. go ask anyone not high up in the soviet communist party, they will tell that life sucks unless you get friends or power. look at the inventer of the AK-47 compared to the inventor of the M-16. the guy who made the m-16 made loads of cash, the guy who made the AK is poor. While one could argue that the AK is more reliable than the older versions of the 16 first made in NAM, capitalism permitted the 16's creator to make money. if you make a really cool inventioin, would you rather be communist or capitolist? communism and monarchy always fails and is overthrown, simply because it makes the people miserable. people in America may complain about the economy or government debt, but Americans have it really good. America is a great country to live in with many opprotunities. America is one of the few countries where a drop out could become rich (DELL). I could continue, but i think you get it.

  5. May 31, 2005 #4


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Gold Member
    Dearly Missed

    Fibo, some of us get tired of pointing out the fact that the USSR was not a communist state by any criteria except their own. Their political organization was party-based tyranny and their economic system was state capitalism.
  6. May 31, 2005 #5


    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    Others get tired of pointing out that by the same [flawed] logic, there has never been a capitalist or democratic state either.

    We also like to point out that the fact that Marx's vision wasn't attained does constitute evidence that his vision was unattainable.

    Either the USSR was communist or they were an attempt at communism. Either way you split that hair, it says nothing good about Marx's vision.
    Lenin would certainly disagree and so would everyone who made an attempt to follow in his or the USSR's footsteps: China, Cuba, N Korea, etc.

    Furthermore, Marx doesn't own communism any more than Einstein owns Relativity. All theories evolve beyond what their creator envisioned. In fact, that makes the USSR (Lenin, Stlain)more communist than Marx! (Just as Penrose & Hawking know more about Relativity than Einstein ever did)
    Last edited: Jun 1, 2005
  7. Jun 1, 2005 #6
    Hello Dooga

    It seems Russ has kindly introduced me as the resident 'crazy Marxist' already - pleased to 'meet' you :smile: I like your questions, so I thought I'd respond. I've sort of given up on posting too much on this board because of all the emotional, irrational 'shouting' that happens here - I began seeing it as a waste of time trying to discuss anything seriously. But your questions are different - and it will be nice to talk to someone who is calm and interested in exploring the topic for a change.

    To respond to your above statement: I totally and irrevocably commend communism - not the so-called 'communism' of Stalinist Russia, or of any state that has claimed to be socialist or communist in our times. In common with other internationalist socialists (yes, there are many of us!), I believe that it is impossible to achieve socialism or communism in a global environment in which capitalism predominates; it can only be achieved internationally. I believe that if humanity does not achieve socialism (a more just and rationally organised society), the economic, social and environmental consequences will be so disastrous that literally anything could happen - we are already living George Orwell's prediction of '1984' (a really important book to read if you haven't read it yet, in my opinion - Orwell's predictions of constant warfare against ever-changing enemies, and his concepts of 'thoughtcrime', of 'doublethink', and surveillance by 'Big Brother' define our current lives). The global environment is also in serious trouble, and as capitalism gets more and more ruthless it will only degrade further and may reach some catastrophic point of 'no return'. So I truly believe it's either going to be socialism or ever-increasing poverty, suffering, social dislocation and chaos, and perhaps even a serious environmental disaster.

    You will be aware that one of Marx's central concepts is 'ideology', and that the dominant ideology (or body of ideas current in a society) is always created by the ruling class and is disseminated via its major institutions (the education system, the mass media, the churches, etc). The mass media especially have been very instrumental in painting communism as unworkable, and key 'intellectuals' (sorry, I do not believe they truly do deserve the title) have declared 'Marxism' and 'communism' dead, and have declared 'the end of history' and 'the triumph of capitalism'. As I read posts in these threads, I see this ideology being accepted by many uncritically (though not everyone is uncritical, thank goodness!). I think people do this for a variety of reasons, including that:
    * many people are unable to question the status quo (or to imagine a different world) because they have never been taught how to question things critically;
    * it is not in some people's interest to question the way things are because they belong to a class (or hope to belong to a class or, sadder still, fool themselves into believing that they belong to a class) that benefits from the status quo;
    * the propaganda has been so good (and Stalinism, Maoism, etc haven't helped much either) that people refuse to even look at Marxist theory - they have written communism off as 'bad' because 'everyone says so'.

    Marx (and many social scientists) argue that there is no such thing as ‘human nature’ (it’s the old ‘nature versus nurture’ debate). But it is in the interests of capitalists (and those who support the profit system) to present humans as innately ‘greedy’ and ‘individualistic’. There have been a number of studies on various aspects of the ‘nature versus nurture’ debate, and I found this very interesting comment on a research article that was published in the science magazine Nature on this issue: http://mailman1.u.washington.edu/pipermail/pophealth/2003-September/000647.html A brief extract:
    (Dooga, just watch how those who do not agree react to this quoted evidence – they will either refute it loudly, without presenting counter-evidence for their claims, or they will ignore it!)
    LOL – yes! Precisely. And this is the point! This is what everyone’s so scared of. In a communist society, you’d never get this scandalous situation:
    I believe that the confusion of terms is sometimes deliberate – just as Stalinism is labelled ‘communism’, political terms are used incorrectly so that people get confused and can’t distinguish between the different systems; they’re all lumped together, and are all ‘bad’ or ‘evil’. Sometimes I believe the confusion of terms is because of genuine lack of knowledge – it does not seem as if Marxism is a popular research topic, and people just haven’t been exposed to the existence of these ideas and definitions.

    Ah, yes – he certainly did! Here’s a link to an article he wrote about it entitled ‘Why Socialism’: http://www.monthlyreview.org/598einst.htm . Another interesting link is the FBI’s huge file on Einstein - he was under surveillance because he belonged to the Communist Party: http://foia.fbi.gov/foiaindex/einstein.htm

    Well, Dooga, it’s been a pleasure; thank you for this opportunity for discussion of ideas :smile:

    PS: To everyone who’s going to flame irrational responses to what I have written here – don’t bother. I really won’t be wasting my time trying to discuss politics with people who aren’t serious about investigating issues.
    Last edited: Jun 1, 2005
  8. Jun 1, 2005 #7
    Yes. That proves it. Karl Marx was a monkey.
  9. Jun 1, 2005 #8


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    I will help you booga and point you to previous threads alexandra has been part of. After reviewing his/her postings, it was fairly evident that people will give him/her a good amount of information to the contrary and seeing that he/she has run into a brick wall, will complain she is somehow being "attacked" for her beliefs and that everyone else is suffering from some sort of emotional ignorance when she is, in fact, the first person to get emotional and the first to start attacking people outside of the argument.

    Maybe this is why communism doesnt stand a chance eh? Their advocates deem any counter-argument or facts to the contrary as an "attack" or "emotional outburst".

    I'd also like to remind you that im sure Einstein woudl be the first to note that he was not an economist.
  10. Jun 1, 2005 #9


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    To clear things up, this basically means they were basically socialists
  11. Jun 1, 2005 #10


    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    Surprise surprise: I think that that monkey study is completly consitent with what we know about humans (and the competitiveness observed in monkeys). The problem is that Marxists misunderstand the concept of fairness. In the study, recieving unequal reward for equal work is unfair. Seems obvious - but in Marxism, people are to recieve equal reward for unequal work! In Marxism, effort (labor) is what counts and that is part of the reason Marxism failed: that's a flawed way of viewing "fairness".

    Tell me: where did the monkeys get the pebbles (money)?
    I don't see why that's funny or why forcing people to work is a good thing. Human history is filled with slavery and other forms of involuntary servitude. Its abolition is considered to be one of the more important social achievements of human history.
    If you really think you've been flamed here, try posting in a politics forum somewhere else. You'll find you didn't realize what flaming really is.
    Last edited: Jun 1, 2005
  12. Jun 1, 2005 #11


    User Avatar
    Gold Member



    there! go there! just put capitalism/communism in your title and dont even make a post and see what true flaming is all about.
  13. Jun 1, 2005 #12
    And of course your posts have been so much more informative, open minded, and as with this post, not a personal attack on anyone. :rolleyes:
  14. Jun 1, 2005 #13


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    I have only pity for someone who seemingly devotes his life to the study of Marxism.
  15. Jun 1, 2005 #14


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Go review some older threads and you'll understand why i choose to be very close minded to this alexandra person. Simply informing others of what to expect and to not get their hopes up.
  16. Jun 1, 2005 #15

    Les Sleeth

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Everybody has theories. Juxtaposed against that is the pragmatic value of "what works," or at least what is working now. It's true that Marx's theory has never been applied exactly as he envisioned, but it certainly wasn't for lack of trying.

    However, Russia did manage to implement a crucial part of Marx's theory, which was to insist individuals give TOP priority to working for the benefit of the whole. It didn't take very long before participants began to feel unfulfilled by working for some invisible "whole." Why? Because built into humans, whether by genes or God, is the need to feel personally fulfilled by what we give ourselves to. If we put out and put out and put out . . . but we get back nothing close to what we give, or if what we get back isn't fulfilling, then we start to lose interest.

    The big mistake Marx made, IMO, was to think economics (translated: survival) is what inspires, motivates, pushes humanity more than anything else all the time. That is only true if survival is threatened. Studies have repeatedly shown that once humans are physically secure, other things move to top priority. When reasonably comfortable, we want to be creative, to feel like we contribute, to be part of the decision making process, to feel appreciated . . . i.e., the need for self actualization moves to the forefront.

    So although Marxist theorists often try to squirm out of their failures by claiming the theory has never been properly implemented, that doesn't explain the much greater success (by far) of democratic capitalism (a self-rewarding system) which also has not been ideally practiced.

    Marxist theorists try to claim too that humans have no nature -- a theory not supported by observation. You'd have to live in the dark ages not to notice that the reason some human-based system works better than another is primarily because the system is designed around human nature; likewise, the worse a human-based system does, the more contrary to human nature it has proven to be.

    Whatever sort of system makes humans get naturally excited, naturally committed, naturally interested (i.e., with out "state" pressure and propagandizing to hypnotize citizens into obeying/believing) . . . that's what we have the most evidence of working best.

    I kinda like democratic capitalistic socialism myself. :tongue2:
    Last edited: Jun 2, 2005
  17. Jun 2, 2005 #16
    Marx did not think that what inspires and motivates humanity is economics; on the contrary, this is what he wrote (I posted this in a discussion on the 'Political Perspectives' thread):
    So Marx argues argues that capitalist competition for a larger share of the pie impoverishes humans by robbing them of having any worthwhile goals as intellectual/artistic/creative beings. It is simplistic and inaccurate to accuse Marx of economic determinism. That some of his interpreters misinterpret his theory so crudely does not mean that the theory itself is crude.
  18. Jun 2, 2005 #17
    Please, Les, show me the observational/research studies that claim to be the final word on this issue. It is not enough to say ‘You’d have to live in the dark ages not to notice… etc’, because we are trying to have a reasoned exchange of ideas here so we need to back up our claims.
    But Les, what about the extraordinary amount of consumer pressure and propagandising that occurs in capitalist societies? I have studied the techniques used by advertising agents (here’s one reference to back up my claim, but I can find many others if you want me to): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Advertising#Techniques , and these are nothing but propaganda, as you will notice at once if you just click on this link to ‘Propaganda Techniques’ (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Propaganda#Techniques_of_propaganda_generation )– and anyone who switches on a television set, or reads a magazine or newspaper can see how prevalent advertising is in daily life. As for ‘hypnotizing citizens into obeying/believing’ – well, isn’t that exactly what politicians and their media-buddies do? The Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania’s website, http://www.annenbergpublicpolicycenter.org/ , has a number of interesting links to reports about these topics; for example here’s a link to a report on just one of the issues, “Issue Advertising in the 1999-2000 Election Cycle”, http://www.annenbergpublicpolicycen...nication/issueads/2001_pressrelease020101.pdf
  19. Jun 2, 2005 #18
    While this may have been true once I would not agree that it is now. More and more people are capable of making a living as an artist or writer and even if you aren't talented enough to make a living you can still do them for your own self gratification.
  20. Jun 3, 2005 #19
    Although what you say is true, overall we will have to disagree about this, TheStatutoryApe - my argument is that under a communist system many more people (perhaps even all people) will have the opportunity to meet their potential as human beings.

    I have no empirical evidence to back up my claim except that the Soviet Union produced many talented individuals and they did not have to be rich to become brilliant. The Soviet Union was not communist, but it was not capitalist either. It had more of a 'social welfare' system, though - most importantly for this discussion, education was free. I believe that there are many talented people living in capitalist societies whose potential will never be reached for a very silly reason: they just lack the means to achieve it.

    But you will disagree with me (we obviously adopt different ideological positions in many of our discussions), so perhaps we should just agree to disagree on this issue, for which neither of us can provide empirical supporting evidence?
  21. Jun 3, 2005 #20


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    How so? Under communism, you are forced to do a task that you may very well not want to do "for the good of society". I dont think anyones dreams and ambitions will be fulfilled when they are told they need to be garbage men "for the good of society" for the rest of their lives.
Know someone interested in this topic? Share this thread via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook

Have something to add?

Similar Discussions: Economic Systems
  1. Economic Problems (Replies: 24)

  2. Socialist Economics (Replies: 17)

  3. Economic distress (Replies: 4)

  4. Economic Recovery (Replies: 603)