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News Socialism again

  1. Feb 5, 2007 #1


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    Socialism again....

    In an effort to keep it out of the thread on poverty, I'm going to go ahead and start a "new" discussion here. "New" is in quotes because, of course, we've had the discussion before.

    I'm going to try to focus this on one specific part of the discussion: socialistic policies in western nations. Please note: all western nations have some socialistic policies and the problems they face in trying to make them work are the same in every country. So the only relevance of comparing one country to another is for measuring how more or less socialism affects the economic development of countries. The individual issues, though, are the same. Specifically:

    The primary problem with socialism, and we've all discussed it before, is that it rewards failure and it is human nature to become complacant if there is no pressure to succeed. Examples abound throughout the west, but the US provides a rare recent example of a scaling-back of a major socialist policy (again, human nature makes that extremely difficult: see France's labor problems). I am, of course, talking about welfare reform.

    I'm frankly amazed that Clinton wasn't drummed out of the party for his welfare reform because it is so specifically against the core ideals of his party. And I'm amazed he did it. But the effects on the US economy and the perspectives of the people directly affected by it cannot be ignored (and I posted this in a previous thread...): http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2006-07-17-welfare-reform-cover_x.htm These are individual perspectives on the effects of being forced out of welfare:
    Quotes from other people affected:
    These are the overall effects:
    The point of all this is that self-interest, greed, or whatever you want to call it is a fact of life. It's a survival instinct adapting to modern life, and it can't be ignored. An economic system must either harness it or be damaged by it: In a capitalistic system, it drives people to achieve. In a socialistic system it lulls them into complacency and mediocrity.
    Last edited: Feb 5, 2007
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  3. Feb 6, 2007 #2
    I used to believe such, but at the time I was brain damaged by reading too much Ayn Rand. Seriously, Russ I don't think it is an either/or proposition you make it out to be. People are driven by a variety of motives, and the assumption that a competion model vs one of cooperation is lacking evidence. For some, to be the top dog and have lots of "things"--the he who dies with the most toys school of thought is entirely antithetical to the motivations that move me. I personally believe that a mixed system is best in that some things are too precious to trust entirely to market forces, while others too basic to trust to the individuals sense of collective enterprise. In other words, one can be "over"motivated by self-interest to the detriment of others just as surely as one can be undermotivated. Plus there needs to be some basic sense of justice built into the system, like right to health care, education, decent livng conditions for all. Now that doesn't imply medicine for instance need be socialized, only that everyone has basic access.

    I'm a big believer in meritocracies, but here I think Marx had some valid points, among them, that as wealth accumulates, it becomes anything but a level playing field. We certainly don't have one at present.

    On the other hand, maybe if no one else did anything and there were no rewards, maybe Atlas would shrug. Its a bedeviling problem along many dimensions. I'm just hopeful that we will figure out something superior soon.
  4. May 23, 2007 #3
    I agree with Marx that capitalism is oppressive. Capitalism crushes and kills individuals for money and profit but modern capitalism is different from the time in which marx lived. Marx didn't mention all the forces which are at the core of modern capitalism. Marx didn't mention the payment system which forces people to pay money for goods and services. Without the payment system, goods and services will be free for all. If everything is free (without money), the workers won't need their employers to give them money wages, the workers and the employers could get everything they need for free in the supermarkets. All have the same right to a good quality of life and the satisfaction of their needs, regardless of how socially valued is their work. Money is only needed if we want a society with big social inequality, so one person can own a billion times as much as another. The very concept of exchange economy is also flawed. Exchange presupposes that people have some money to exchange with but many people have not enough money to exchange with and become dependent on others. Those who can accumulate a lot of money and private property get power over other people. In capitalism there is a need for a big bureaucracy, the monetary exchange system, to decide how much each person has worked, what the value of his work is, how much money he has the right to and how much he can buy with that money. This administration system uses a lot of human effort, a lot of people are busy counting money, calculate how much is needed to pay, worry about money, calculate how much goods you are taking out from the supermarket and the cashiers make sure you pay for it. People are stealing money, policemen chase the robber, people build banks and ATM machines, all that, which has anything to do with money and other value papers, is the administration system of capitalism.

    In modern capitalism education is the main road toward wealth. But the education is not free. People have to pay a lot of money for education (it may cost 10,000 dollars). Modern capitalism forces people to work hard for earning money. Those without the educational qualificiations, certifications and degrees find it much harder to find adequate pay and to get out of poverty. For example a university professor will be paid much higher than someone who didn't finish high school (no high school diploma). An engineer will be pe paid more than a technician etc. Society is a pyramid and in order to climb up people need to invest hard work and effort.
    Last edited: May 23, 2007
  5. May 23, 2007 #4
    There was a story going around that during the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, Red Guards broke the fingers of the piano player Liu Shikun. If the story is true (I have my doubts), they truly understood socialism. If you support socialism, but would not have broken his fingers, then you don't really mean what you say.
  6. May 23, 2007 #5
    i think it could be a long while before anything significant changes. the people who have power have no reason or interest in spreading it around and the people without power seem to be mostly content with the way things are. as russ has pointed out, there are problems with too much socialism and as others have pointed out, there are also problems with too much capitalism so right now the trend seems to be people trying to find a balance between the 2 that works for them

    when only half a population votes, there are a lot of people who don't have much civic or political ambition. there may be a case to be made that because someone doesn't vote it doesn't mean they are not willing to force change but i cant think of it off the top of my head.
  7. May 23, 2007 #6


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    Let us not forget the other half of socialism: collective ownership of capital. We tend to focus on wealth redistribution in these discussions of socialist politicies in industrialized nations, but a big part of what makes many European countries so much more socialistic than the US is that the government owns and controls far more industries than defense and trains.
  8. May 23, 2007 #7


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    Right - Marx wasn't aware of how capitalism could be controlled/guided to avoid those problems because the methods of control hadn't been invented yet. He certainly gets a pass for not being able to predict the future.

    This is why I find it incomprehensible that people still follow his theory as if it is completely valid today. The analogy would be people still following Newtonian physics in areas where it doesn't work today. Scientific theory has not stood still and neither has political/economic theory.
    If everything is free, why would I need to work at all?
    You're completely right about the first part, mostly wrong about the second. The correlation between education and income is extremely strong. The poverty line basically runs right through the gap between high school dropouts and graduates. But education up to and including high school is completely free, so the vast majority of the poor, who are also the vast majority of high school dropouts essentially had financial security handed to them on a silver platter and turned it down.

    Beyond that, a very high percentage of college students are receiving some kind of financial aid. It isn't usually completely free, but there are plenty of ways to get it almost completely free, or at least defer the cost until you have the income to pay for it.
    Last edited: May 23, 2007
  9. May 23, 2007 #8
    this seems like a socialist policy that is for the good of everyone, wouldn't you agree?
  10. May 23, 2007 #9
    I must respectfully say that education if not free. The United States spends a tremendous amount on public education, in addition those attending it must also spend money both for school supplies and because in many places in the world children work. Time spent in school is money taken away from the family.

    Second, not everyone is capable of completing high school. The idea that everyone could pass either makes the accomplishment meaningless or your expectations of everyone is the same... a rather socialistic view.

    You speek in generalities, If you look at the US US Department of Education's figures published in January the yearly cost of tuition at a four-year public school is $5,836 and over $22,218 for private. Keep in mind this is just tuition.

    Last year less then 28% percent of undergraduate university students received scholarships. The number is high in the top teir schools around 40% of undergraduate use them for two years or more.

    This assumes you go into a field that can pay back 25 to 80 thousand at 3% interest and eat at the same time. Keep in mind that this problem is also what is driving many students away from pure science.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 23, 2007
  11. May 23, 2007 #10
    I would agree. I believe community colleges should be free as well. Investing in education by the tax-payer (to an extent) can only help society. But government should not sponsor religion, socialism, nor secularism in schools. Stick to the basics. The rest can be offered at private schools if one is so inclined.

    Welfare has it's place as temporary assistance for those in dire circumstances. But if you are 300 lbs sitting on your butt watching Oprah all day crying the blues...

    I've been so poor I've lived on the streets and it was all my doing. I did something about it because I know I have the opportunity to do anything I put my mind to in this country. I have little sympathy for those that live in America and don't make ends meet. Even the poorest of the poor here live like kings compared to those in much of the rest of the world and won't even appreciate what they have.

    This country was founded on rights, not entitlements.
  12. May 23, 2007 #11
  13. May 23, 2007 #12
    So far so good. Assuming, at least, that you don't mean that things like socialism shouldn't be taught in schools. They should, but in as objective a manner as possible.

    Again, I agree.

    That's a lovely story, and I'm glad you got back on your feet, but that doesn't entitle you to judge other people's misfortunes or preach to them about what they could or could not have done to get out of their situations. How many people are struggling as a result of circumstances not under their control?

    And you're probably right that most people (poor included) don't appreciate all the benefits and advantages they enjoy as Americans, but the fact that they have certain advantages doesn't mean that they should sit quietly and stop complaining. I agree that they shouldn't anticipate being supported by welfare indefinitely, but is it unreasonable to expect some help from the government when you're going through a tough time?

    Big deal. This country was also founded on slavery. Should we reinstate that, too? (Incidentally, about the rights...something tells me the slaves wouldn't have agreed with your assessment).

    The point is, we can't make policy choices today based on the principles the country was "founded" on 200 years ago. I'm not saying you're right or wrong, but at least keep that in mind.
  14. May 23, 2007 #13
    For the record, Archon, welfare has it's place. I've already stated that. Don't argue as if I did not.

    I believe we can make choices today based on policies made 200 years ago. They are based on history that goes beyond even 200 yrs before then. People are the same today as they have been since the beginning of civilization.

    Our country was founded on slavery? Nonsense. It may have existed back then but by know means was it founded on it. That's not even a logical argument. It was founded on a system that was able to abolish slavery, consider that for a moment! The system has a couple of centuries of success, maybe that's worth mentioning?
  15. May 23, 2007 #14


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    Yes, I do, and that is utterly irrelevant to the thread....
  16. May 23, 2007 #15


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    You are splitting hairs: poor people do not pay income or property taxes and what I meant, in any case, is that people don't directly pay for their high school, the government does, through taxes. School supplies are an extremely small expense and most of what you need comes from the school anyway, so that isn't relevant either.
    Abusive child labor is not a valid point to use here. It isn't a positive thing that children work in other countries. It isn't even positive for those countries!
    Wow, that's a really pessimisstic view. I think virtually everyone should be able to pass high school and yes, it isn't a huge accomplishment, but it is still an important one. The statistics on education vs income speak for themselves ($26k vs $35k median income for males who completed some high school vs people who completed high school but nothing more).


    None of what you haver here is meaningful/relevant to the point.
    Last edited: May 23, 2007
  17. May 23, 2007 #16

    That is like saying this nation was founded on the 10 commandments.
  18. May 23, 2007 #17


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    (note: when I used 'destined' I mean genetically so)

    I'm a bit of a predeterminist, I suppose. I think that people who are 'destined' to fail will always fail no matter how much money you throw at them, but people that are 'destined' to succeed (but were born into or thrown into a bad situation) will be able to turn that money into stable income (by investing in their own work value to the work force or capitalism).

    Of course, there's also the effects of nurture which can't always be isolated from nature, but I tend to think nature is the stronger of the two in where there's not extreme conditions.
  19. May 23, 2007 #18


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    Actually, no - the importance of individual rights is a critical part of what the Constitution was designed for (to protect). The concept of entitlement barely even existed at the time. Almost all of the so-called "entitlements" we have today came much, much later and in the view of many people go against the important concept personal freedom.
  20. May 23, 2007 #19
    You are going to have to explain this one. I was going to sit back as if you might actually have a point but... huh?
  21. May 24, 2007 #20
    I assume you mean the amendments of The Constitution?

    - Because the original Constitution had this to say

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