Author Topic: Any communists here?  (Read 1505 times)

thisisjeopardy

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Any communists here?
« on: February 13, 2017, 04:14:24 AM »
I'm more of a social Democrat but reading more and more Friedrich Engels and it just makes more and more sense. Anyone here actively involved with socialism or communism?

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shelivesthedream

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Re: Any communists here?
« Reply #1 on: February 13, 2017, 08:02:13 AM »
I love the idea of communism, but I believe it is incompatible with human nature. I am, however, a committed socialist in the sense that I believe in social liberty (I'm not telling you what to do with your life) but economic redistribution and nationalistion (but I am telling you what to do with your money).
« Last Edit: February 13, 2017, 10:03:22 AM by shelivesthedream »

supermatthew

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Re: Any communists here?
« Reply #2 on: February 13, 2017, 08:20:02 AM »
I somewhat recently read Marx: A Very Short Introduction and thought it was a beautiful idea.

Specifically when I see workers who have to "rent" their ability to work from the owners, who own the means of production, it does strike me as unfair. For example, I've heard that barbers in Chinatown pay around 50% of their earnings to the owner of the shop, which comes out to barely anything. They basically work very hard and physically, while someone who is (possibly lucky to be) rich and bought the shop in the first place gets a full half of the benefit no matter how hard the barber works.

Another example that upsets me is that machines (such as in McDonald's) have enabled workers to produce product so much faster than in the past. But rather than causing their wages to increase above the minimum wage, these productivity gains end up entirely in the hands of shareholders, the public (through cheaper goods) and CEOs. Mostly not in the hands of the people who actually get their hands dirty (with the exception of some enginerds who designed the machines, and are probably also exploited).

In short, reading about communism made me more aware of these problems but not sure the solution. Maybe mandatory profit sharing?

Kaspian

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Re: Any communists here?
« Reply #3 on: February 13, 2017, 09:21:00 AM »
Absolutely fucking disgusting.  I have friends in Romania, Latvia, Estonia, Poland, Russia, and the Czech Republic and  I highly recommend you go to that area and speak to people who lived through it and present your arguments.  Oh, and "USSR ≠ 'real' communism, therefore communism works," isn't an argument.  The Marxist version of "unfairness/inequality" keeps getting redefined indefinitely until nobody has anything and all are sitting in ashes (or jail or dead).  I used to appreciate the ideas behind it but once I learned exactly what happens when followed to its logical conclusions, the abject horror became so apparent I was extremely ashamed I'd ever entertained the notion.  Communism sits on the pendulum 180 from fascism and is equally totalitarian, terrifying, and murderous.  I can no longer even debate the pros and cons of that structure any more than I could the benefits of white supremecy.  Just...  I don't know?  Trust me--there is nothing at all good to be had there.  Sometimes what sounds good in books or on paper cannot possibly play out well.  And again, go to those countries, talk to the people who were there, your eyes will be open in ways you wish they never were.
« Last Edit: February 13, 2017, 09:25:00 AM by Kaspian »
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Rosbif

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Re: Any communists here?
« Reply #4 on: February 13, 2017, 09:33:57 AM »
I live in France, so socialism, I guess? There are still a couple of Communist senators, though.

Universal revenue and taxing robots are both in the legislative program of the socialist candidate.

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Re: Any communists here?
« Reply #5 on: February 13, 2017, 09:38:28 AM »
Absolutely fucking disgusting.  I have friends in Romania, Latvia, Estonia, Poland, Russia, and the Czech Republic and  I highly recommend you go to that area and speak to people who lived through it and present your arguments.  Oh, and "USSR ≠ 'real' communism, therefore communism works," isn't an argument.  The Marxist version of "unfairness/inequality" keeps getting redefined indefinitely until nobody has anything and all are sitting in ashes (or jail or dead).  I used to appreciate the ideas behind it but once I learned exactly what happens when followed to its logical conclusions, the abject horror became so apparent I was extremely ashamed I'd ever entertained the notion.  Communism sits on the pendulum 180 from fascism and is equally totalitarian, terrifying, and murderous.  I can no longer even debate the pros and cons of that structure any more than I could the benefits of white supremecy.  Just...  I don't know?  Trust me--there is nothing at all good to be had there.  Sometimes what sounds good in books or on paper cannot possibly play out well.  And again, go to those countries, talk to the people who were there, your eyes will be open in ways you wish they never were.

This, my family came to the USA from Poland right after the collapse of the soviet block........no thank you.
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iris lily

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Re: Any communists here?
« Reply #6 on: February 13, 2017, 09:58:56 AM »
I somewhat recently read Marx: A Very Short Introduction and thought it was a beautiful idea.

Specifically when I see workers who have to "rent" their ability to work from the owners, who own the means of production, it does strike me as unfair. For example, I've heard that barbers in Chinatown pay around 50% of their earnings to the owner of the shop, which comes out to barely anything. They basically work very hard and physically, while someone who is (possibly lucky to be) rich and bought the shop in the first place gets a full half of the benefit no matter how hard the barber works.

Another example that upsets me is that machines (such as in McDonald's) have enabled workers to produce product so much faster than in the past. But rather than causing their wages to increase above the minimum wage, these productivity gains end up entirely in the hands of shareholders, the public (through cheaper goods) and CEOs. Mostly not in the hands of the people who actually get their hands dirty (with the exception of some enginerds who designed the machines, and are probably also exploited).

In short, reading about communism made me more aware of these problems but not sure the solution. Maybe mandatory profit sharing?

Umm, did you even consider how hard and long the shop owner worked to buy the expensive piece of real estate that houses these barber chairs? And the risk he takes in keeping much of his assets in an illiquid asset? And the expenses he incurs  to maintain the illiquid asset?

Capitalism allows the barber who rents the chair to pick up his tools and go elsewhere for a better deal.  Or  if it is such easy money to rent out barber chairs, why dont those guys who pay rent buy a building and set it up to rent out chairs?


iris lily

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Re: Any communists here?
« Reply #7 on: February 13, 2017, 10:04:17 AM »
There is a guy in our neighborhood who refers to himself as a "communist." He is from Cuba. I dont onow his story of how he got out, but he is fairly young, like in his 30's.

When our neighborhood newspaper went under  we we searching for someone to take it over (it was always a volunteer job, no one got paid) he submitted a proposal to run the newspaper for $75,000 annually, and the neighborhood keeps all ad revenue.  Egad, I dont think advertising  even generates $5,000 annually.

So essentially he would be buying himself a job. guess our neighborhood wasnt communist enough, because we declined his kind (and stupid)  offer.


supermatthew

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Re: Any communists here?
« Reply #8 on: February 13, 2017, 10:23:47 AM »
Umm, did you even consider how hard and long the shop owner worked to buy the expensive piece of real estate that houses these barber chairs? And the risk he takes in keeping much of his assets in an illiquid asset? And the expenses he incurs  to maintain the illiquid asset?

Yes, I absolutely have considered that which is why I used the word "possibly lucky". But the fact still remains that those who start out with a lot of capital (regardless of how they ended up with it) have the option of working, investing, or owning, while those who start out with nothing have no choice but to sell their labor - and often working harder just benefits the owners (the concept of "surplus labor").

Quote
Capitalism allows the barber who rents the chair to pick up his tools and go elsewhere for a better deal.  Or if it is such easy money to rent out barber chairs, why dont those guys who pay rent buy a building and set it up to rent out chairs?

It is not easy to rent out barber chairs - in fact it is impossible for most people to come up with the capital necessary to make that investment in the first place. Could they band together? Yes, but if they were clever enough to do that, they wouldn't be the subject of this discussion.

I'm not a communist, but I have learned that it does provide some legitimate critiques of capitalism. Why haven't we gone the whole way with capitalism? Maybe we should abolish minimum wage, and watch most of the jobs which pay minimum wage right now settle at an even lower amount. How would you like millions of your fellow citizens making $3 an hour? When people's earnings are that low, they can't act as freely as you suggest in "picking up and going elsewhere". The people who pay their wages and own the companies they work for, have zero incentive to share the gains due to innovation with the workers.

davisgang90

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Re: Any communists here?
« Reply #9 on: February 13, 2017, 10:24:41 AM »
Your stache belongs to the state now comrade.  Report to the nearest train station with a shovel and a heavy coat.

No thanks.
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tarheeldan

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Re: Any communists here?
« Reply #10 on: February 13, 2017, 10:30:31 AM »
No. Sounds nice, doesn't make any sense. Like shelivesthedream said, goes against human nature. That's the beauty of capitalism, it works because of human nature. But it can't be unfettered, because of externalities, imperfect/asymmetrical information, and other forms of market failure or failure to optimize social welfare functions. So, democratic socialism.

mxt0133

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Re: Any communists here?
« Reply #11 on: February 13, 2017, 10:47:03 AM »
IMO communism won't work as long as there is real or perceived scarcity.  Look what happened to Russia those that were supposed to distribute and allocate goods we corrupt.  Why did higher ranking officials get more privileges than the guy on the bottom?  Until humans get over meritocracy communism won't work because people will deem it unfair.  Same with universal income it wil never pass because most people still feel that you have to earn the right to live, via work.

shelivesthedream

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Re: Any communists here?
« Reply #12 on: February 13, 2017, 11:06:29 AM »
IMO communism won't work as long as there is real or perceived scarcity.  Look what happened to Russia those that were supposed to distribute and allocate goods we corrupt.  Why did higher ranking officials get more privileges than the guy on the bottom?  Until humans get over meritocracy communism won't work because people will deem it unfair.  Same with universal income it wil never pass because most people still feel that you have to earn the right to live, via work.

One major element of the "human nature problem" WRT communism is as follows:
1. We are not communists now because (some) people are shits.
2. We need a state apparatus to introduce/impose communism to get things going. This state apparatus will be made up of people.
3. This state apparatus will be made up of shits. But don't worry, I'm sure they'll use their power wisely.

tooqk4u22

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Re: Any communists here?
« Reply #13 on: February 13, 2017, 12:11:00 PM »
Umm, did you even consider how hard and long the shop owner worked to buy the expensive piece of real estate that houses these barber chairs? And the risk he takes in keeping much of his assets in an illiquid asset? And the expenses he incurs  to maintain the illiquid asset?

Yes, I absolutely have considered that which is why I used the word "possibly lucky". But the fact still remains that those who start out with a lot of capital (regardless of how they ended up with it) have the option of working, investing, or owning, while those who start out with nothing have no choice but to sell their labor - and often working harder just benefits the owners (the concept of "surplus labor").

Quote
Capitalism allows the barber who rents the chair to pick up his tools and go elsewhere for a better deal.  Or if it is such easy money to rent out barber chairs, why dont those guys who pay rent buy a building and set it up to rent out chairs?

It is not easy to rent out barber chairs - in fact it is impossible for most people to come up with the capital necessary to make that investment in the first place. Could they band together? Yes, but if they were clever enough to do that, they wouldn't be the subject of this discussion.

I'm not a communist, but I have learned that it does provide some legitimate critiques of capitalism. Why haven't we gone the whole way with capitalism? Maybe we should abolish minimum wage, and watch most of the jobs which pay minimum wage right now settle at an even lower amount. How would you like millions of your fellow citizens making $3 an hour? When people's earnings are that low, they can't act as freely as you suggest in "picking up and going elsewhere". The people who pay their wages and own the companies they work for, have zero incentive to share the gains due to innovation with the workers.

So let me get this right, so those self made Billionaires should be stripped of all their resources and start over - Mark Zuckerberg, Elon Musk, Howard Schultz, Ken Langone, Oprah Winfrey, Shahid Khan, Leonardo Del Vecchio, George Soros, Sheldon Adelson. 

They are all self made, many of them came from humble beginnings or worse, buy all were innovative in their own way.  Along the way they would have paid significant amount in taxes, employed hundreds of thousands of people including many high earners, and continue to make money but also contribute and be involved in many philanthropic endeavors. 

As the saying goes "If it were easy then everyone would do it"  Opportunities being hard/difficult/not easy is not acceptable excuse for communism. 

waltworks

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Re: Any communists here?
« Reply #14 on: February 13, 2017, 12:19:00 PM »
I think you can simultaneously think that Marx's whole "capitalism will eventually kill itself by concentrating wealth too narrowly as capital gets more and labor gets less" is probably right while also recognizing that just abolishing private ownership of things is also never going to work out.

Marx would not have been surprised by Trump's election, for example. The bottom 2/3 of the United States hasn't had a raise in real terms in 40 years. The rest of us (I'm assuming that most MMM folks own plenty of stocks/bonds/RE) have gotten much, much richer in that time. That can't continue forever.

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GuitarStv

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Re: Any communists here?
« Reply #15 on: February 13, 2017, 12:22:54 PM »
The founding concept of communism is very appealing to me.  People are treated according to their needs and ability.  Everything is publicly owned, so the poor get the same access to things as the rich.  At it's heart it's an attempt to devise a system where sharing and fairness rule.  I think that's why the idea continues to have such sway on so many people even given the failure after failure when attempting to implement it in real life.

Pure communism appears doomed to failure.

(Oddly enough, the political system I see sharing the most similarities with it is the one that should be furthest from it . . . Libertarianism.  Libertarians tend to be drawn towards great sounding ideals - the fundamental concepts that underpin Libertarianism are very seductive too - that are fundamentally impossible to implement in the real world.)

Kaspian

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Re: Any communists here?
« Reply #16 on: February 13, 2017, 12:59:42 PM »
The founding concept of communism is very appealing to me.  People are treated according to their needs and ability.  Everything is publicly owned, so the poor get the same access to things as the rich.  At it's heart it's an attempt to devise a system where sharing and fairness rule.  I think that's why the idea continues to have such sway on so many people even given the failure after failure when attempting to implement it in real life.

Yes, and this is how that system works--it's extremely nefarious as it feeds on empathy:

1. Identify a human endeavour where some people are doing better than others.  (This can literally be anything.)
2. Declare those underachieving as "oppressed" and those who do well as "perpetrators". Create resentment.
3. Remove/demote those who've excelled and promote the people who haven't done as well.
4. Revel in the fairness created but ponder (only for a second) why the activity is crumbling apart.
5. Repeat INDEFINITELY. 

It's fucking badness, all over.  Anyone who espouses communism should have nothing to say about right-wing fascism because it's just the other side of the same coin.  In fascism it's all about getting for me and mine and eliminating anyone else.  In communism it's about doing everything for everybody and there is no room for the individual.  And that means eliminating everyone too--because every single person is an individual on some level.  It's the Daleks versus the fucking Borg is what it is.

However, communism isn't the same as sharing a vegetable garden with your neighbor.  ...That shit's fine and called "voluntary sharing," I think.

« Last Edit: February 13, 2017, 01:25:02 PM by Kaspian »
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shelivesthedream

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Re: Any communists here?
« Reply #17 on: February 13, 2017, 03:38:48 PM »
I have read about a lot of utopian communities/communes where everything is held in common and everyone works for the common good. My impression is that it only takes one shit who isn't pulling their weight for it to all fall apart. I keep intending to read a good book about the founding of and daily life of monastic communities to see what they are like to live in (as they were very successful self-perpetuating communes for many centuries, not always with willing adherents) but I haven't got round to it yet.

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Re: Any communists here?
« Reply #18 on: February 13, 2017, 04:07:44 PM »
I love the idea of communism, but I believe it is incompatible with human nature.

One of the best descriptions of Soviet style Communism I've ever heard was, "We pretend to work, and they pretend to pay us."
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prognastat

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Re: Any communists here?
« Reply #19 on: February 15, 2017, 07:55:12 AM »
I have read about a lot of utopian communities/communes where everything is held in common and everyone works for the common good. My impression is that it only takes one shit who isn't pulling their weight for it to all fall apart. I keep intending to read a good book about the founding of and daily life of monastic communities to see what they are like to live in (as they were very successful self-perpetuating communes for many centuries, not always with willing adherents) but I haven't got round to it yet.

Yeah even the voluntary communities are very vulnerable and are easily derailed by only a few abusing other people's goodwill. Now imagine on top of that it not being voluntarily done, but coerced and that is what it is, because no one will ever get everyone to agree with it. That's when you get gulags.

Marx had some good criticisms of capitalism and capitalism has it flaws and unfettered capitalism is not the ultimate solution, however Marx's "solution" is batshit and won't work and worse yet has lead to the deaths of millions upon millions of deaths and the oppression of countless others.

I am of the belief that universal basic income will be necessary once large scale automation takes over in the near future, however if the option to earn more than universal basic income is available I think enough people can be convinced at that point.

GuitarStv

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Re: Any communists here?
« Reply #20 on: February 15, 2017, 08:13:11 AM »
I have read about a lot of utopian communities/communes where everything is held in common and everyone works for the common good. My impression is that it only takes one shit who isn't pulling their weight for it to all fall apart. I keep intending to read a good book about the founding of and daily life of monastic communities to see what they are like to live in (as they were very successful self-perpetuating communes for many centuries, not always with willing adherents) but I haven't got round to it yet.

Epicurean communes were the blueprint of an awful lot of communal living situations (most monasteries and cloistered living situations borrowed heavily from his ideas).  The Epicurean philosophy is one of pursuit of happiness through the elimination of non-essentials.  While there are some similarities to the ideas that went into communism, implementation is quite different.

ariapluscat

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Re: Any communists here?
« Reply #21 on: February 15, 2017, 09:46:39 AM »
possibly?
materialist analysis is the thing that makes me happy as an academic and i wish we had more public land.

also, fun fyi: private property is a recent idea. before 17th century, even the core Western countries relied on common use and public land with no legal definition of private property. if we're going to argue about human nature, we have to discuss at least the previous 5,000 years of recorded history and more than just Europe. lots of societies have other ways of structuring care and labor that don't rely on private property. incas had the corvee; middle kingdom egypt utilized religious and bureaucratic organization until the imposition of serfdom with famine; mencius describes communal land usage, the well-field system, and a focus on self sufficiency in early china. heck, even early hominids have elder care and shared land usage between groups.

i mean, i personally wouldn't advocate feudal organization of land, but we can't deny that for thousands of years humans competently organized themselves in both egalitarian and caste-driven societies w/o private property, much less capitalism.

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Re: Any communists here?
« Reply #22 on: February 15, 2017, 10:37:40 PM »
Absolutely fucking disgusting.  I have friends in Romania, Latvia, Estonia, Poland, Russia, and the Czech Republic and  I highly recommend you go to that area and speak to people who lived through it and present your arguments.  Oh, and "USSR ≠ 'real' communism, therefore communism works," isn't an argument.

Ah, you see, Communism sounds like a good idea that must work.  Every implementation of Communism, so far, has been an utter and complete genocidal failure.  Therefore, it was not True Communism, because it didn't work!

You can basically apply the No True Scotsman fallacy to anyone supporting Communism and be correct.

One major element of the "human nature problem" WRT communism is as follows:
1. We are not communists now because (some) people are shits.
2. We need a state apparatus to introduce/impose communism to get things going. This state apparatus will be made up of people.
3. This state apparatus will be made up of shits. But don't worry, I'm sure they'll use their power wisely.

It's worse.  The state apparatus will have absolute power.  Which, perhaps, will not corrupt absolutely this time?

Pure communism appears doomed to failure.

Yeah, but it's pretty damned effective at killing (by starvation, murder, genocide... they're not picky) millions of people before it fails!

I have read about a lot of utopian communities/communes where everything is held in common and everyone works for the common good. My impression is that it only takes one shit who isn't pulling their weight for it to all fall apart. I keep intending to read a good book about the founding of and daily life of monastic communities to see what they are like to live in (as they were very successful self-perpetuating communes for many centuries, not always with willing adherents) but I haven't got round to it yet.

The only communities of that form that work, based on history, are those that are single-gender, entirely non-sexual, devoted to a live of utter poverty, and generally religions.

Monestaries and Nunneries (?) work, but most of the other "back to the land" communes tended to go down the path of mixed gender, free love, and drug use - which, empirically, does not work.  Jealousy and slackers pretty much kill that within a few years.
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Metric Mouse

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Re: Any communists here?
« Reply #23 on: February 15, 2017, 11:44:29 PM »
possibly?
materialist analysis is the thing that makes me happy as an academic and i wish we had more public land.

also, fun fyi: private property is a recent idea. before 17th century, even the core Western countries relied on common use and public land with no legal definition of private property. if we're going to argue about human nature, we have to discuss at least the previous 5,000 years of recorded history and more than just Europe. lots of societies have other ways of structuring care and labor that don't rely on private property. incas had the corvee; middle kingdom egypt utilized religious and bureaucratic organization until the imposition of serfdom with famine; mencius describes communal land usage, the well-field system, and a focus on self sufficiency in early china. heck, even early hominids have elder care and shared land usage between groups.

i mean, i personally wouldn't advocate feudal organization of land, but we can't deny that for thousands of years humans competently organized themselves in both egalitarian and caste-driven societies w/o private property, much less capitalism.
Yes, but modern human population and technological advances have radically changed things. Now the tragedy of the commons is very real - the Dust Bowl in the '30's was largely attributed to 'common use' overuse of grazing lands and mechanical farm equipment plowing massive areas of land. So at some level, there needs to be control over resources; sadly we can no longer just 'free-for-all' due to problems such as these.
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GuitarStv

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Re: Any communists here?
« Reply #24 on: February 16, 2017, 06:54:47 AM »
possibly?
materialist analysis is the thing that makes me happy as an academic and i wish we had more public land.

also, fun fyi: private property is a recent idea. before 17th century, even the core Western countries relied on common use and public land with no legal definition of private property. if we're going to argue about human nature, we have to discuss at least the previous 5,000 years of recorded history and more than just Europe. lots of societies have other ways of structuring care and labor that don't rely on private property. incas had the corvee; middle kingdom egypt utilized religious and bureaucratic organization until the imposition of serfdom with famine; mencius describes communal land usage, the well-field system, and a focus on self sufficiency in early china. heck, even early hominids have elder care and shared land usage between groups.

i mean, i personally wouldn't advocate feudal organization of land, but we can't deny that for thousands of years humans competently organized themselves in both egalitarian and caste-driven societies w/o private property, much less capitalism.
Yes, but modern human population and technological advances have radically changed things. Now the tragedy of the commons is very real - the Dust Bowl in the '30's was largely attributed to 'common use' overuse of grazing lands and mechanical farm equipment plowing massive areas of land. So at some level, there needs to be control over resources; sadly we can no longer just 'free-for-all' due to problems such as these.

Tragedy of the Commons has always been real . . . it's not a modern phenomenon.  We're just better able to see it happen these days.

In 1294 the English started using yew for their longbows, leading to shortages of the wood by 1350.  Other woods were used, but demand remained high causing more shortages.  Eventually it was such a big deal that the Statute of Westminster was enacted in 1472 which required every ship coming to an English port to bring four bow staves due to the shortage of wood.

This type of pattern has been repeated over and over again through history.  Deforestation across Europe during the shipbuilding expansionist years, the American hunting and eradication of passenger pigeons in the 1800s, Canadian overfishing of cod around Newfoundland, etc.

ariapluscat

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Re: Any communists here?
« Reply #25 on: February 16, 2017, 07:33:16 AM »
yet more reason to return to pre-agricultural nomadic societies. i feel like mmm would like the heavy usage of bikes/walking and low focus on material belongings ;)

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Re: Any communists here?
« Reply #26 on: February 16, 2017, 07:55:16 AM »
yet more reason to return to pre-agricultural nomadic societies. i feel like mmm would like the heavy usage of bikes/walking and low focus on material belongings ;)

No, more reasons for us to analyze this stuff and make intelligent, non-political decisions. I'm not holding my breath on this from either party in the US right now... but it is not acceptable to return to a hard, painful short life like those of pre agrarian nomads. No thank you.

We need to double down on progress and get the fuck off this rock. We'll find a nice new rock somewhere and dump you off to start your pre-ag society if you want, I guess.

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Re: Any communists here?
« Reply #27 on: February 16, 2017, 08:04:41 AM »
yet more reason to return to pre-agricultural nomadic societies. i feel like mmm would like the heavy usage of bikes/walking and low focus on material belongings ;)

No, more reasons for us to analyze this stuff and make intelligent, non-political decisions. I'm not holding my breath on this from either party in the US right now... but it is not acceptable to return to a hard, painful short life like those of pre agrarian nomads. No thank you.

We need to double down on progress and get the fuck off this rock. We'll find a nice new rock somewhere and dump you off to start your pre-ag society if you want, I guess.
... it was a joke

Papa bear

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Re: Any communists here?
« Reply #28 on: February 16, 2017, 08:08:09 AM »
So I had an economics professor in college.  Taught economic history; an absolutely fascinating subject. Anyway, he had a story from his time at an economics conference in Soviet Moscow. 

The professor, a large man, was staying in a hotel with the rest of the US economists.  One of the other attendees, a small female, asked him to come to her room to move a lamp from a table.  He thought, well this is odd, why can't she move it?

He goes to the room and attempts to move the lamp.  He can barely budge the thing.  So he calls a few of his friends and they are able to lift and move the lamp. 

This confused the economists.  Why have such a heavy lamp?  They found a scale and weighed it, notating that it was more than 200lbs.   Why on earth would anyone build a 200lb lamp?? 

As economists, they decided to research.  Turns out, the factory where the lamp was produced was on a quota, much like all the other production in the USSR. However, production was measured not by the number of working lamps, but by the weight of raw materials converted to finished goods. 

So, instead of making 100 2lb lamps, it was easier to just make 1 200lb lamp. 

See where we are going here?  There was no profit motive, only an arbitrary quota to be filled.  And they will fill that quota in the easiest way possible for the facility. 

Upon further research, a majority of production facilities had quota systems that were not making the most efficient use of raw materials or labor in the USSR. 

In essence, communism, if continued on its course, would be wholly unsustainable given non growing inputs.  See, the USSR constantly needed new countries or territory to continue the Ponzi scheme.  This led to US policy on communism; contain at all costs, and got us in to quite a few wars to stop the spread of communism.  They knew that given enough time, the system will collapse.  Turns out it did. 




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Tasty Pinecones

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Re: Any communists here?
« Reply #29 on: February 16, 2017, 10:10:01 AM »
Great story. So communism was unsustainable - what about our country here with muti-billionaires and automation staring down the common man? Do we have a future either?

GuitarStv

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Re: Any communists here?
« Reply #30 on: February 16, 2017, 10:16:35 AM »
See where we are going here?  There was no profit motive, only an arbitrary quota to be filled.  And they will fill that quota in the easiest way possible for the facility.

While I totally get the point you're trying to send across . . . the problem isn't communism in your example, it's just use of bad metrics for measurement of productivity.

I've worked at places where I was told to do useless/stupid things because of bad management decisions without ever setting foot in a communist country.  One could argue that capitalism should eventually be self-correcting, and to a certain point I'd agree that this is the case . . . but bad goals lead to bad productivity regardless of the economic system.

prognastat

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Re: Any communists here?
« Reply #31 on: February 16, 2017, 10:21:05 AM »
Great story. So communism was unsustainable - what about our country here with muti-billionaires and automation staring down the common man? Do we have a future either?

The current system as is definitely is not going to last through the automations that are extremely likely to happen soon and most first world countries are going to need to have a discussion about this sooner rather than later. America seems to be behind on these conversations due to some issues with the general relation the average American has between work and money.

Papa bear

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Re: Any communists here?
« Reply #32 on: February 16, 2017, 12:13:25 PM »
See where we are going here?  There was no profit motive, only an arbitrary quota to be filled.  And they will fill that quota in the easiest way possible for the facility.

While I totally get the point you're trying to send across . . . the problem isn't communism in your example, it's just use of bad metrics for measurement of productivity.

I've worked at places where I was told to do useless/stupid things because of bad management decisions without ever setting foot in a communist country.  One could argue that capitalism should eventually be self-correcting, and to a certain point I'd agree that this is the case . . . but bad goals lead to bad productivity regardless of the economic system.

Usually the best measure of productivity is profit.  Obviously this is not true in all cases, such as healthcare or education.




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Papa bear

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Re: Any communists here?
« Reply #33 on: February 16, 2017, 12:16:47 PM »
Great story. So communism was unsustainable - what about our country here with muti-billionaires and automation staring down the common man? Do we have a future either?

The class didn't make any predictions. Economics are great at explaining things that happened, not necessarily predicting what will. 

History will tell us that when there is too much inequality though, there tends to be some sort of nasty revolution.  We may have the opportunity to vote to make changes that will redistribute wealth without having mobs of people taking up arms for it.


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GuitarStv

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Re: Any communists here?
« Reply #34 on: February 16, 2017, 12:43:23 PM »
See where we are going here?  There was no profit motive, only an arbitrary quota to be filled.  And they will fill that quota in the easiest way possible for the facility.

While I totally get the point you're trying to send across . . . the problem isn't communism in your example, it's just use of bad metrics for measurement of productivity.

I've worked at places where I was told to do useless/stupid things because of bad management decisions without ever setting foot in a communist country.  One could argue that capitalism should eventually be self-correcting, and to a certain point I'd agree that this is the case . . . but bad goals lead to bad productivity regardless of the economic system.

Usually the best measure of productivity is profit.  Obviously this is not true in all cases, such as healthcare or education.

While the two sometime do align, it's a big mistake to attempt to force it into being a measure of productivity.  (Otherwise you would be arguing that Jesus, Ghandi, and Mother Theresa weren't very productive people.)

Besides the exceptions you mentioned of health care and education, I'd argue that most public service falls into this realm (police, firefighters, postal workers).  There are so many times that profit is divorced from productivity in day to day stuff - from market speculation, to the classic pollution/tragedy of the common case where profit is maximized at the expense of all, to cases like the dabbawalla in India who are tremendously productive despite making very little profit.  Do you believe that a lawyer who bills eight hundred dollars an hour is as productive as a hundred people working minimum wage for the same time?

RangerOne

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Re: Any communists here?
« Reply #35 on: February 16, 2017, 12:47:07 PM »
My inclination is to believe that if we could develop an effective society that allowed people to not worry about earning money and paying for basic human needs. And then on top of afford everyone a basic level of comfort and luxury to allow us all to focus our energy on growth in areas like, science, culture, art, spirituality and philosophy we could be a better society.

In practice no government historically has been capable of satisfactorily providing this structure without essentially becoming controlling and oppressive due to human nature. So the only true examples of communism that we have, have been pretty much fascist.

Fundamentally I believe that humans wasting time worrying about economics and consumerism is an utter waste of human energy. In reality the free market and pandering to human desire has been the only way historically to reward good behavior in a free and fare way.

I have often wondered in the future if it may be possible to essentially allow some form of computer system to fill the role no human government can achieve and fairly govern the basic necessities of a communist society, to free up human energy for more idealistic pursuits.

Papa bear

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Re: Any communists here?
« Reply #36 on: February 16, 2017, 01:52:50 PM »
See where we are going here?  There was no profit motive, only an arbitrary quota to be filled.  And they will fill that quota in the easiest way possible for the facility.

While I totally get the point you're trying to send across . . . the problem isn't communism in your example, it's just use of bad metrics for measurement of productivity.

I've worked at places where I was told to do useless/stupid things because of bad management decisions without ever setting foot in a communist country.  One could argue that capitalism should eventually be self-correcting, and to a certain point I'd agree that this is the case . . . but bad goals lead to bad productivity regardless of the economic system.

Usually the best measure of productivity is profit.  Obviously this is not true in all cases, such as healthcare or education.

While the two sometime do align, it's a big mistake to attempt to force it into being a measure of productivity.  (Otherwise you would be arguing that Jesus, Ghandi, and Mother Theresa weren't very productive people.)

Besides the exceptions you mentioned of health care and education, I'd argue that most public service falls into this realm (police, firefighters, postal workers).  There are so many times that profit is divorced from productivity in day to day stuff - from market speculation, to the classic pollution/tragedy of the common case where profit is maximized at the expense of all, to cases like the dabbawalla in India who are tremendously productive despite making very little profit.  Do you believe that a lawyer who bills eight hundred dollars an hour is as productive as a hundred people working minimum wage for the same time?

I don't disagree with you.  In my opinion, profit is not going to be a good measure of productivity in a lot of different areas.  I'm sure we could create an exhaustive list. 

There are plenty of people, though, that will argue that even traditional public services need a profit motive to be more efficient. They believe that profit is the best measure of productivity for most, if not all, production or services.

Now for the lawyer example, if we use "profit" as the measure, I would say 100 minimum wage workers provide greater productivity than the one lawyer.  The lawyer's total revenue is at 800, while the revenue derived from 100 minimum wage workers should be much higher than that, as just the direct salary cost is at 800.  I know. I am being pedantic here.  But to answer your question fairly, how can you compare the productivity between different workers without standardizing what it means to be productive?  Productivity is measured in economic output, here in the US, in dollars.  It's how you measure GDP.  That's how we can get the information on a workers increase in productivity year over year. 

Without a standard means of comparison, who is more productive? A public school teacher who educates hundreds of children?  Or a carpenter who frames houses in a growing neighborhood? 

And to comment on the pollution, tragedy of the commons example, there are positive or negative externalities that are associated with some industries.   A government needs to incentivize or regulate for those externalities.  I personally think a carbon tax or a large increase in gasoline/diesel tax is a phenomenal idea. 

Apologies for missing anything, typos, or grammar. Typing on a phone can be... unproductive!




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shelivesthedream

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Re: Any communists here?
« Reply #37 on: February 16, 2017, 02:15:28 PM »
I have often wondered in the future if it may be possible to essentially allow some form of computer system to fill the role no human government can achieve and fairly govern the basic necessities of a communist society, to free up human energy for more idealistic pursuits.

Ooh, intriguing... Writing the operating principles of such a computer system would be a hell of a bit of homework for a political philosophy class.

Kaspian

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Re: Any communists here?
« Reply #38 on: February 17, 2017, 09:17:51 AM »
Do you believe that a lawyer who bills eight hundred dollars an hour is as productive as a hundred people working minimum wage for the same time?

This ignores the unique capabilities/qualifications of a particular individual.  If you develop expertise in areas most people don't have, and those expertise are in demand because of low supply, the freemarket will pay you for them.  If sitting in court, I'd rather pay for one good defense lawyer rather than 100 Walmart greeters.  (Not that there's anything wrong with greeters--just an example!)  It doesn't matter how "productive" the greeters are, if they don't know case law, I'm fucked.  Similar logic: "Why would I pay $200 for a Rolling Stones ticket when I could see 20 local bands for the same price?"  Because maybe all bands aren't created equal? 

I digress--these lines of communist/Marxist thought, good on paper, bad in practice, really need to me examined carefully by anyone who extolls them.  And I don't mean reading more!  I mean (sincerely!) this great experiment has already happened and is still ongoing--so go to the former USSR, Cuba, China, Venezuela, North Korea (gulp!) and check it out for yourself.  Otherwise it's really signalling virtues of a doctrine without doing a proper investigation.
« Last Edit: February 17, 2017, 09:19:47 AM by Kaspian »
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Tasty Pinecones

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Re: Any communists here?
« Reply #39 on: February 17, 2017, 09:20:42 AM »
I have often wondered in the future if it may be possible to essentially allow some form of computer system to fill the role no human government can achieve and fairly govern the basic necessities of a communist society, to free up human energy for more idealistic pursuits.

Sounds like the precursor of a dystopian science fiction story...

Kaspian

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Re: Any communists here?
« Reply #40 on: February 17, 2017, 09:28:51 AM »
I have often wondered in the future if it may be possible to essentially allow some form of computer system to fill the role no human government can achieve and fairly govern the basic necessities of a communist society, to free up human energy for more idealistic pursuits.

Sounds like the precursor of a dystopian science fiction story...

Exactly!!  And the computers, allowed to govern/program themselves, would come to an inevitable logical conclusion that the world would be better off without humans.  Which is abhorent.  ...Also, the pursuit of ideology itself is as scary as fuck--because anyone who doesn't fit exactly (which is everybody) gets cut out.

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ncornilsen

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Re: Any communists here?
« Reply #41 on: February 17, 2017, 09:40:35 AM »
I have often wondered in the future if it may be possible to essentially allow some form of computer system to fill the role no human government can achieve and fairly govern the basic necessities of a communist society, to free up human energy for more idealistic pursuits.

Sounds like the precursor of a dystopian science fiction story...

Exactly!!  And the computers, allowed to govern/program themselves, would come to an inevitable logical conclusion that the world would be better off without humans.  Which is abhorent.  ...Also, the pursuit of ideology itself is as scary as fuck--because anyone who doesn't fit exactly (which is everybody) gets cut out.



I believe Asimov had a short story about a 3-laws compliant set of (4?) positronic brains controlling the world economy. Since the first law is that "a robot cannot injure and human being, nor through inaction allow a human being to come to harm" the brains found that it hurt human self esteem to have robots control everything perfectly, so they started making mistakes on purpose and eventually quit doing anything...

supermatthew

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Re: Any communists here?
« Reply #42 on: February 17, 2017, 09:44:53 AM »
This ignores the unique capabilities/qualifications of a particular individual.  If you develop expertise in areas most people don't have, and those expertise are in demand because of low supply, the freemarket will pay you for them.  If sitting in court, I'd rather pay for one good defense lawyer rather than 100 Walmart greeters.  (Not that there's anything wrong with greeters--just an example!)  It doesn't matter how "productive" the greeters are, if they don't know case law, I'm fucked.  Similar logic: "Why would I pay $200 for a Rolling Stones ticket when I could see 20 local bands for the same price?"  Because maybe all bands aren't created equal? 

That's really two separate questions:
1) is it fair for one occupation to be paid 20x more than another?
2) should I personally pay 20x more for one thing than for another?

The first one, I agree is just supply and demand.
The second should be answered by comparing the utility you get from one thing vs 20 of the other. You may in fact enjoy 20 local band concerts more than 1 Rolling Stones concert, but idk you personally. For me, a similar calculation makes me always choose Chipotle over a fancy restaurant. I'm not saying the fancy restaurant is price gouging, as there must be some people whose calculations lead them to choose the fancy place.

Kaspian

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Re: Any communists here?
« Reply #43 on: February 17, 2017, 10:04:36 AM »
I agree with that!  I'm not picky about restaurants (most things, etc.), but I am glad the option is there should others wish to choose it.  Or, if at some crazy point in the future where I'd lost my mind, I wanted to have nouveaux cuisine served on fine linnen overlooking the ocean, that at least there is such a thing.  The communist "fairness" rule removes all that--nobody will eat better food than anyone else, nobody will have access to foods others don't, restaurants are state enterprises, they don't worry about competition (therefore quality), everyone will pay the same.  ...Yum--sounds delicious!  :(

(PS:  Hahaha... Glad I'm not a mainstream music fan.  The Stones aren't my band.  The most I ever paid for a ticket was for the Sex Pistols and I think it was $55.  But hell, if someone wants to pay $200 for a standium rock band they love, let 'em, right?)
« Last Edit: February 17, 2017, 10:06:25 AM by Kaspian »
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