Author Topic: Article: If the Point of Capitalism is to Escape Capitalism...  (Read 6200 times)

arebelspy

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Article: If the Point of Capitalism is to Escape Capitalism...
« on: October 11, 2018, 09:22:50 PM »
If the Point of Capitalism is to Escape Capitalism, Then What’s the Point of Capitalism?

An interesting article on potentially the end of Capitalism (via coming automation funding a UBI), and how basically everyone is trying to "escape" capitalism.

It's quite amusing, because the majority of Mustachians basically are exactly what he describes--capitalists trying to escape capitalism (working/a job). I found it an interesting read.

Please don't assume you know what it's about and comment based on the title/my description if you don't read it. It's short, maybe 5 minutes to read.

Enjoy!

Tagging a few people I think might find this interesting and/or have interesting comments: @sol @brooklynguy @maizeman @GuitarStv @nereo @dragoncar @forummm  @grantmeaname  @Paul der Krake  @Daley
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seattlecyclone

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Re: Article: If the Point of Capitalism is to Escape Capitalism...
« Reply #1 on: October 11, 2018, 11:28:25 PM »
I don't know that I'd say we're trying to "escape capitalism." One side of capitalism is that if you don't have much money you have to work for money to buy the things you need. The other side of capitalism is that once you have a bunch of money invested in different things, you get to collect a few pennies here and there from a bunch of other people working for things that they need, and these pennies pay for the things that you need. Moving from one side of the equation to the other isn't "escaping capitalism," it's merely experiencing a different side of it.

I agree with the author that we're moving toward an era where human labor is less necessary to provide everyone with a certain basic standard of material comfort. We're going to have to re-examine some of our assumptions with regard to work, because the stereotype labelling people without jobs as automatically lazy is becoming less and less true with every passing year. But "escaping capitalism..." I'm still not even sure what that would look like. Maybe someday we'll be at a point where there are a practically infinite number of robots, sufficient to provide every human with practically every material thing they might want or need. We're not there yet. Until we are, I'd much rather harness capitalism to fund my retirement than be stuck on the other side. There's no "escaping" possible at this point.

arebelspy

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Re: Article: If the Point of Capitalism is to Escape Capitalism...
« Reply #2 on: October 11, 2018, 11:32:30 PM »
Sure. I figured someone would make that distinction, which is why I added the parenthetical "working/a job" comment. It's still capitalism funding it, for us, for now. The author's point remains.

As far as what it might look like, I enjoyed this fictional short story about the growing automation and AI coming and UBI:
http://marshallbrain.com/manna1.htm
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seattlecyclone

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Re: Article: If the Point of Capitalism is to Escape Capitalism...
« Reply #3 on: October 12, 2018, 01:05:39 AM »
I'd still draw a pretty big distinction between escaping the need to work a job and escaping capitalism itself. The direct connection between labor and being able to meet your basic needs is hardly unique to capitalism. The phrase "He who does not work, neither shall he eat" has been uttered throughout the ages by leaders working under various economic systems, from Paul the Apostle to Vladimir Lenin.

It's not capitalism or feudalism or communism imposing this direct connection upon us, it's scarcity itself. These economic systems are just different ways of allocating scarce resources. We're not trying to transcend capitalism, we're trying to transcend scarcity.

Bateaux

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Re: Article: If the Point of Capitalism is to Escape Capitalism...
« Reply #4 on: October 12, 2018, 02:38:22 AM »
The scarcity of material things will come to an end.  Most everything manufactured will eventually become cheap.  Does that mean well own many things or very few.  Scarcity makes us horders of things.  There will still be need for human services well after the days that robots replace human/manual labor.  Capitalism indeed contributes to human suffering and scarcity.   People die because they cannot afford life saving drugs.   The human task should be the development, testing and administration of treatment.   The scarcity is completely artificial and driven by capitalism.   To deny a drug that can save a poor person is akin to denying water to a person dying of thirst when abundance of water is available.   This is the moral equilivent of the political resistance to single payer health care.   We choose not to save and improve quality of life due to a paper dollar.  This is backed by people who claim to be followers of Christ?   No, you are an idolatrous and selfish heretic.  Capitalism is your god.

cerat0n1a

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Re: Article: If the Point of Capitalism is to Escape Capitalism...
« Reply #5 on: October 12, 2018, 04:27:47 AM »
Have you seen the same author's predictions of an imminent collapse of the US - many recent articles on Medium?

Some people see a fairly utopian future, with UBI and much of our material needs taken care of by robots etc. while others are predicting ecological catastrophe, shortage of water and other resources etc. An interesting time to be alive.

ender

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Re: Article: If the Point of Capitalism is to Escape Capitalism...
« Reply #6 on: October 12, 2018, 06:46:03 AM »
I find this to be a well orchestrated strawman argument.

Namely, I think the author is generalizing their personal opinion into a general opinion. I disagree with the premise that the overwhelming majority of people are trying to "escape capitalism" or even that they find working so abject miserable as described in the article. Perhaps people who are stuck in minimum wage jobs but a fairly high percentage of people I work with (and have over the years) seem to enjoy their careers and jobs, or at a very least find significant meaning in them.

Frankly I think a lot of people actually find work fairly fulfilling as an end itself. This isn't 100% by any stretch but acting as if "we're all trying to escape it" seems a false presumption.

The examples of Bezos, Musk, and Gates don't really seem to serve the author's point well either. All three of them could very easily have "escaped" years ago if that was their goal. But it's not, which is why they are still working. They are, through their work, making the exact same impact that the author seems to suggest is impossible in a capitalistic society - namely "freedom to live lives which really sear us with meaning, purpose, and fulfillment" as the author says.

The author seems to be missing the point that working (and capitalism, to a lesser degree) is a means to an end. Musk is a great example the author shouldn't have used - capitalism is a wonderful means towards him fulfilling his personal goals. If you removed capitalism as an option, Musk would be far less effective in his efforts. Perhaps the author thinks Musk wouldn't care? Or maybe the assumption the author makes is that a post-capitalistic society can meet everyone's individualized needs simultaneously?

Basically, the author seems to be making way too strong a generalization of people's value systems and desires all fitting into a neat little box. There is zero effort given towards explaining how this works but it's a fundamental generalization that turns the whole article into a strawman.

GuitarStv

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Re: Article: If the Point of Capitalism is to Escape Capitalism...
« Reply #7 on: October 12, 2018, 06:54:50 AM »
Once it gets beyond meeting basic needs, pursuit of capitalism really means pursuit of destructive hedonism.  Hoarding, consuming, chasing ever more rarefied "experiences", and most importantly gloating about doing all of these things.

I think that the concept of a future world without scarcity is missing the reality that there are, will, and forever shall be limits.  Limits cause scarcity.  At best we can push scarcity back for a short period with technological developments and new methods of exploitation . . . but the real key to living without scarcity lies in mentally adapting to being happy with less.

ender

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Re: Article: If the Point of Capitalism is to Escape Capitalism...
« Reply #8 on: October 12, 2018, 07:00:10 AM »
Once it gets beyond meeting basic needs, pursuit of capitalism really means pursuit of destructive hedonism.  Hoarding, consuming, chasing ever more rarefied "experiences", and most importantly gloating about doing all of these things.

I think that the concept of a future world without scarcity is missing the reality that there are, will, and forever shall be limits.  Limits cause scarcity.  At best we can push scarcity back for a short period with technological developments and new methods of exploitation . . . but the real key to living without scarcity lies in mentally adapting to being happy with less.

Yeah, this is the other side of why I dislike the article (but several people wrote about already).

The only way scarcity doesn't affect the way people think about how they interact with others is... if there is a meaningful change in how we perceive and interact with others. I find this unlikely to happen anytime soon if ever, which means scarcity will always be at play in any conversation regarding this topic.

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Re: Article: If the Point of Capitalism is to Escape Capitalism...
« Reply #9 on: October 12, 2018, 07:53:53 AM »
I also found it an interesting read, but agree with several previous posters that pursuing freedom from labor/stress isn't the same thing as trying to escape capitalism, simply because the need for the vast majority of people to both work and worry has existed long before capitalism came into existence.

In most systems, there is essentially no way to escape the need for work and worry. If you're a peasant in a feudalistic society, no matter how hard you work, every day you'll be out in the fields, and every winter you'll have to worry about having enough to eat after the local noble takes his share of the harvest. If you're a factory worker in a soviet factory, you're going to continue working your entire life and worry about how you're going to manage with three families crammed into a single apartment. In current capitalistic societies (and yes guitarstv, modern capitalist societies include a fair bit of socialism as well), it is at least, in principle, possible to buy your freedom from both work and worry (at least justified worry).

It may well be that other, future, ways of organizing societies will make it easier for more people to achieve the same freedom, so I'm not trying to hold capitalism up as the one true path to salvation. I am only making the point that work and worry have essentially been an inherent part of the human condition, not something imposed from the outside, and it is only through bot societal and technological innovation that it is now slowly becoming feasible for significant numbers of us to escape from them.

brooklynguy

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Re: Article: If the Point of Capitalism is to Escape Capitalism...
« Reply #10 on: October 12, 2018, 08:00:23 AM »
This article reminds me of Warren Buffett's many writings on the topic of what he calls the miracle of American capitalism, which look at the same set of facts and reach the opposite conclusion:  that the game of American capitalism is not close to being over but is actually in its early innings.  He argues that market economics, combined with the rule of law and equality of opportunity, is the secret sauce that has unleashed human potential over the last two centuries and will continue to do so indefinitely into the future--and that the same capitalist system that has reallocated capital, brains and labor during technological disruptions in the past will continue to do so during the technological disruptions currently underway and into the future.  I find Buffett's argument more persuasive (and his unbridled optimism about American capitalism more refreshing, but that's neither here nor there).

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Re: Article: If the Point of Capitalism is to Escape Capitalism...
« Reply #11 on: October 12, 2018, 08:01:04 AM »
Thanks for looping me in, Rebs.

I have a couple observations about the article right now that I think are worth pointing out. I will refrain for the moment from wasting the bandwidth necessary to do much further than that.

It is worth noting that a distinction is made between the concept of escaping the framework of Capitalism and the labor implied there-in with participation in the system and working. Labor and working as it is framed by Mr. Haque in his article are two discrete things.

Two, he still cannot bring himself to think beyond the system and framework that Capitalism exists within. Capitalism is a natural outgrowth and stage to mankind exerting their control over nature (just like the rise of the next system he speaks toward), and demanding the products of that system to be necessary to fundamental human life. As it has been pointed out already, it ignores the self-limiting nature of resources and scarcity, but it also ignores the issue that the ends to his means in his article are still looking to the same imperfect and wanting system to fill and satisfy the very needs driving the dividing line between his concepts of labor and work - control and domination over the material world to fill a need that the material simply cannot provide as it is just as imperfect and damaged as the people trying to hold and refine mastery over it for [insert whatever justification here].

Money should just be a tool in the natural - a physical object readily exchanged for goods and services, but it is not within the framework of the greater system this thinking is trapped within. With this system, the very finite resources the system produces that this money is supposed to represent is wielded as a weapon of trying to control and subject the material world itself for the sake of everyone trying to shape and mold it into something designed to fill a hole in our lives that simply cannot be filled with anything material that can be created, traded for or bought. In that labor, no matter what system name you give it and no matter what subset label of society is participating in it - it does not fill, but shackles and enslaves. Mr. Haque went so far as to wisely draw the parallel between peak Capitalism and chattel slavery, yet entirely missed the boat in seeing that no matter what form this system of man takes, so long as we derive our value and our sustenance in life from the very system we create to control our environment and try to meet those intangible needs that respects no amount of material goods or wealth, it is still nothing more than slavery with extra steps.

Ooh la la, etc.
« Last Edit: October 12, 2018, 08:06:49 AM by Daley »

trollwithamustache

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Re: Article: If the Point of Capitalism is to Escape Capitalism...
« Reply #12 on: October 12, 2018, 08:06:31 AM »
Most people want to make more money so they can consume more.   Which is pretty much the point of our post WWII economic system. 

Plus from an internet retirement police perspective, very very few people *actually* retire, no matter how great they may have made their life.

Gary123

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Re: Article: If the Point of Capitalism is to Escape Capitalism...
« Reply #13 on: October 12, 2018, 08:31:23 AM »
The author doesn’t have a basic understanding of the terms he is using beginning with Capitalism, as evidenced by this statement,

“Let me prove it, with a simple and extreme example, that of a plantation, and slave, owner — the truest capitalist of all, not so long ago.”

Denying someone the fruit of their own labor is hardly capitalism. Capitalism is the free exchange of labor and goods not coerced exchange.  He apparently doesn’t understand that in the last century it was centrally controlled socialist and communist economies or systems that compelled people to labor absent the benefits of their labor.  In a capitalist system, everyone has the right to walk away from a job that doesn’t pay enough and find better employment.  A slave plantation is hardly a capitalist system but instead the truest form of centrally controlled economy the Left so admires since the slaves were given free housing, food and whatever “healthcare” the master provided.

His life experiences appear limited by the overall tone of his commentary.  What amazes me in a capitalist system is how successful entrepreneurs don’t stop working no matter how much money they have.  As Bill Gates used to complain, the most difficult part of building Microsoft was getting his management team to come to work everyday long after their respective net worth’s exceeded $10 million.  Contrary to the author’s view, they did keep working.

Last point, consumerism is a choice and not an obligation in a capitalist system.  Clearly, those lacking a good family or culture are vulnerable to squander what they earn on poor choices.  That is why Libertarians are mistaken.  Capitalism doesn’t produce the citizens it requires to succeed.  As Jordan Peterson asserts, one needs to be industrious, disciplined and most of all conscientious to succeed in our society and economic system.

It’s the conscientious part the author doesn’t seem to understand.  Nobody can be successful in a capitalist system if you don’t understand the needs and wants of other people.

Friedrich Hayek’s Fatal Conceit should be required reading in all high schools so people can’t grow to maturity without even a basic understanding of capitalism.
« Last Edit: October 12, 2018, 08:55:33 AM by Gary123 »

GuitarStv

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Re: Article: If the Point of Capitalism is to Escape Capitalism...
« Reply #14 on: October 12, 2018, 09:12:08 AM »
The author doesn’t have a basic understanding of the terms he is using beginning with Capitalism, as evidenced by this statement,

“Let me prove it, with a simple and extreme example, that of a plantation, and slave, owner — the truest capitalist of all, not so long ago.”

Denying someone the fruit of their own labor is hardly capitalism. Capitalism is the free exchange of labor and services not coerced exchange.

Without food I'll die.  I work therefore, because the alternative is death.  That's not a free exchange of labor and services, it's coerced exchange.

We deny people the fruit of their labour all the time.  If I make a piece of software that saves my company a billion dollars a year, I won't make a dime more than if I did the bare minimum at work.  Large businesses couldn't post profits without denying people the fruit of their labour . . . that's what profits of a company are - the fruit of the labour of employees that has been denied to them.
 


He apparently doesn’t understand that in the last century it was centrally controlled socialist and communist economies or systems that compelled people to labor absent the benefits of their labor.  In a capitalist system, everyone has the right to walk away from a job that doesn’t pay enough and find better employment.  A slave plantation is hardly a capitalist system but instead the truest form of centrally controlled economy the Left so admires since the slaves were given free housing, food and whatever “healthcare” the master provided.

Not everyone is free to choose their work.  To provide an example . . . what if I have a mentally disabled son.  He may be able to perform some menial tasks, but doesn't have the mental capacity to understand money, let alone choose an employer.  What sort of freedom does he have in a capitalist society?  He needs to be given free housing, food, and whatever "healthcare" that someone will provide him.  What's the capitalist solution to his scenario?



Last point, consumerism is a choice and not an obligation in a capitalist system.  Clearly, those lacking a good family or culture are vulnerable to squander what they earn on poor choices.  That is why Libertarians are mistaken.  Capitalism doesn’t produce the citizens it requires to succeed.  As Jordan Peterson asserts, one needs to be industrious, disciplined and most of all conscientious to succeed in our society and economic system.

I partly agree with you here.  Consumerism is a choice.  However, the nature of capitalism creates incredible incentive to encourage consumption.  We have people with dedicated jobs to push consumption from unhealthy foods and drinks explicitly designed to trigger addictive behaviour, to the promotion and sale of outright physically addictive products (cigarettes, alcohol, caffeine), to the overt and subtle emotional manipulation of billboards, television spots, internet ads, etc.

Consumerism is a choice, but fighting against it is always going to be a constant effort in a capitalist society.



It’s the conscientious part the author doesn’t seem to understand.  Nobody can be successful in a capitalist system if you don’t understand the needs and wants of other people.

You can create wants and needs though (at least for short periods of time) through manipulation of messages that people recieve.  A beanie baby is objectively useless and foolish.  Yet a gigantic number of them were pushed, sold as a need, and now lie in landfills.  This pattern repeats itself on a disturbingly regular basis in our society.



Don't get me wrong, I understand the (many) benefits of capitalism.  It's just disturbing when I run across someone ignorant (or choosing to ignore) the negatives.

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Re: Article: If the Point of Capitalism is to Escape Capitalism...
« Reply #15 on: October 12, 2018, 12:48:30 PM »
The article's premise is that work = capitalism, and that seems like a very weird thing to say/imply.

His underlying points that the goal of many people is to work less is probably true, though probably not as universal as he assumes. As an example his argument that Musk wants to escape to Mars is way off base. Musk doesn't want to escape anything, he wants to save the human race. The reason he wants humans on Mars is to safeguard humanity against an extinction level event on Earth. Once Mars, and other places in the solar system are colonized, he'd go straight to work on finding a way to colonize other star systems to safeguard against a system wide extinction event.

Musk could've retired and lived on his PayPal money, but instead he preferred to work (And chooses to work crazy hours), and you can argue the same for MMM himself. He retired from his job, but instead of living the work free life, he went to work on a bunch of different things. These people aren't trying to escape capitalism/work.

I'd argue we also aren't at a point where we could overnight switch to UBI and not have anyone need to work. We could redistribute wealth better so that people aren't forced to work to survive.

Sorinth

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Re: Article: If the Point of Capitalism is to Escape Capitalism...
« Reply #16 on: October 12, 2018, 01:12:46 PM »
We deny people the fruit of their labour all the time.  If I make a piece of software that saves my company a billion dollars a year, I won't make a dime more than if I did the bare minimum at work.  Large businesses couldn't post profits without denying people the fruit of their labour . . . that's what profits of a company are - the fruit of the labour of employees that has been denied to them.

Nobody is being denied the fruits of their labour in that example, the employee agreed to trade the potential fruits of his/her labour for a guaranteed income. You get paid regardless of whether you make the company lots of money or not. You could have started your own company and made a billion dollars with that piece of software, but you traded that potential billion dollars for a steady paycheck. And you probably made that trade because you didn't think that piece of software was a billion dollars in the making, or you thought if you started your own company it would fail. It was still a free and fair exchange.

Now it becomes a coerced if as you said, without taking the job you'd starve. However depending on where you live, there's a safety net in place that would prevent you from starving. So in these cases it wasn't coerced (Admittedly it's a scale not a yes/no).

And that's the author's biggest misunderstanding, if UBI starts tomorrow it wouldn't end capitalism, it would unleash it. People would be less scared of starting their own company and failing if they knew they could still put food on their table and have a roof over their head. So you would have an explosion of the number of small business that would startup.

BDWW

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Re: Article: If the Point of Capitalism is to Escape Capitalism...
« Reply #17 on: October 12, 2018, 01:27:02 PM »
Without food I'll die.  I work therefore, because the alternative is death.  That's not a free exchange of labor and services, it's coerced exchange.

Remove capitalism, what changes?

GuitarStv

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Re: Article: If the Point of Capitalism is to Escape Capitalism...
« Reply #18 on: October 12, 2018, 02:44:51 PM »
We deny people the fruit of their labour all the time.  If I make a piece of software that saves my company a billion dollars a year, I won't make a dime more than if I did the bare minimum at work.  Large businesses couldn't post profits without denying people the fruit of their labour . . . that's what profits of a company are - the fruit of the labour of employees that has been denied to them.

Nobody is being denied the fruits of their labour in that example, the employee agreed to trade the potential fruits of his/her labour for a guaranteed income. You get paid regardless of whether you make the company lots of money or not. You could have started your own company and made a billion dollars with that piece of software, but you traded that potential billion dollars for a steady paycheck. And you probably made that trade because you didn't think that piece of software was a billion dollars in the making, or you thought if you started your own company it would fail. It was still a free and fair exchange.

Now it becomes a coerced if as you said, without taking the job you'd starve. However depending on where you live, there's a safety net in place that would prevent you from starving. So in these cases it wasn't coerced (Admittedly it's a scale not a yes/no).

And that's the author's biggest misunderstanding, if UBI starts tomorrow it wouldn't end capitalism, it would unleash it. People would be less scared of starting their own company and failing if they knew they could still put food on their table and have a roof over their head. So you would have an explosion of the number of small business that would startup.

The safety net you mention is the antithesis of capitalism.  It's giving goods and services without an exchange of work.  It's purely socialist.
 I agree with you that socialism and capitalism tend to work better together than apart though.




Without food I'll die.  I work therefore, because the alternative is death.  That's not a free exchange of labor and services, it's coerced exchange.

Remove capitalism, what changes?

Well, in the example I gave in my previous post about the disabled kid . . . society takes care of him.  He's not left to die because of his inability to work.  So, sometimes removing capitalism means that those who would otherwise die, don't.

BDWW

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Re: Article: If the Point of Capitalism is to Escape Capitalism...
« Reply #19 on: October 12, 2018, 03:02:42 PM »
Without food I'll die.  I work therefore, because the alternative is death.  That's not a free exchange of labor and services, it's coerced exchange.

Remove capitalism, what changes?

Well, in the example I gave in my previous post about the disabled kid . . . society takes care of him.  He's not left to die because of his inability to work.  So, sometimes removing capitalism means that those who would otherwise die, don't.

Yet someone still has to work. And if you don't have capitalism you have to use another economic system. All of which to date have failed rather spectacularly.

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Re: Article: If the Point of Capitalism is to Escape Capitalism...
« Reply #20 on: October 12, 2018, 03:11:44 PM »
Without food I'll die.  I work therefore, because the alternative is death.  That's not a free exchange of labor and services, it's coerced exchange.

Remove capitalism, what changes?

Well, in the example I gave in my previous post about the disabled kid . . . society takes care of him.  He's not left to die because of his inability to work.  So, sometimes removing capitalism means that those who would otherwise die, don't.

Yet someone still has to work. And if you don't have capitalism you have to use another economic system. All of which to date have failed rather spectacularly.

Sure, someone somewhere always has to work.  Most won't choose work without some sort of coercion.  Pretending that coercion doesn't exist doesn't make it go away.

Most economic systems in the world are a mixture of capitalism and socialism.  Actually, I can't think of a single functioning purely capitalist system that has ever worked in history.  Can you?

Given the number of times that this has come up, I am beginning to feel like the US educational system (which ironically is largely public owned/funded and therefore socialist) does a very poor job of explaining exactly what capitalism is.

Daley

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Re: Article: If the Point of Capitalism is to Escape Capitalism...
« Reply #21 on: October 12, 2018, 03:20:00 PM »
And if you don't have capitalism you have to use another economic system. All of which to date have failed rather spectacularly.

Including capitalism.

Everything is a failed system, and the brightest minds will continue to fail so long as the system remains imperfect (and boy howdy, reality 'aint perfect) and preservation and elevation of the self reigns supreme. That cannot be escaped, from a philosophical perspective, until one comes to the realization that none of us sustains our own life.
« Last Edit: October 12, 2018, 03:22:41 PM by Daley »

BDWW

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Re: Article: If the Point of Capitalism is to Escape Capitalism...
« Reply #22 on: October 12, 2018, 03:33:19 PM »
Just curious if you went through the public education system? Because you're introducing a premise that was never contended. In these hybrid systems, how does the exchange of goods/services happen? I'm under the impression that our public teachers get paid, same for doctors under Medicare/NHS, etc et al.

In every modern economy I'm aware of, social safety nets exist as a layer on top of a capitalist market economy.

BDWW

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Re: Article: If the Point of Capitalism is to Escape Capitalism...
« Reply #23 on: October 12, 2018, 03:36:12 PM »
And if you don't have capitalism you have to use another economic system. All of which to date have failed rather spectacularly.

Including capitalism.

Everything is a failed system, and the brightest minds will continue to fail so long as the system remains imperfect (and boy howdy, reality 'aint perfect) and preservation and elevation of the self reigns supreme. That cannot be escaped, from a philosophical perspective, until one comes to the realization that none of us sustains our own life.

Depends on you're definition of failure I guess. Personally I appreciate the system that has been empirically the greatest success at alleviating poverty and human suffering.

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Re: Article: If the Point of Capitalism is to Escape Capitalism...
« Reply #24 on: October 12, 2018, 04:00:37 PM »
And if you don't have capitalism you have to use another economic system. All of which to date have failed rather spectacularly.

Including capitalism.

Everything is a failed system, and the brightest minds will continue to fail so long as the system remains imperfect (and boy howdy, reality 'aint perfect) and preservation and elevation of the self reigns supreme. That cannot be escaped, from a philosophical perspective, until one comes to the realization that none of us sustains our own life.

Depends on you're definition of failure I guess. Personally I appreciate the system that has been empirically the greatest success at alleviating poverty and human suffering.

Listen, friend... no human made system has ever successfully (under any definition or quantifiable metric) alleviated poverty and human suffering. NONE. No human system ever has in this world, nor will it ever - including your precious American Capitalism, and the history books are stacked with just as much dead and suffering humans for the benefit of the few as any other system out there that preceded it, and any that may come after made by the minds of men. Saying otherwise is a convenient lie people tell themselves so they can sleep at night.

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Re: Article: If the Point of Capitalism is to Escape Capitalism...
« Reply #25 on: October 12, 2018, 09:02:54 PM »


Listen, friend... no human made system has ever successfully (under any definition or quantifiable metric) alleviated poverty and human suffering. NONE.

Sure, not 100% alleviation.  But capitalism has caused a massive global decline in poverty.


1) Extreme poverty has declined by 80 percent from 1970 to present.

2) In 1820, 84% of the population was in poverty.... In 2011, it was only 17 percent. But that's not the crazy thing.  The global poverty rate was 53 percent very recently, in 1981.  It's declined from 53% to 17% in 25 yrs. Global capitalism is causing poverty to decrease rapidly.



3) According to Steven Horwitz, the world is 120 times better off today than in 1800 as a result of capitalism.  He calculates this by "the gains in consumption to the average human by the gain in life expectancy worldwide by 7".

4) Mortality rates are way down.  For children under the age of five, mortality declined by 49 percent from 1990 to 2013.  Wealth and global capitalism is the main contributor of this.


"It was globalization, free trade, the boom in international entrepreneurship," American Enterprise Institute (AEI) president Arthur Brooks saidin a 2012 speech . "In short, it was the free enterprise system, American style, which is our gift to the world."   https://www.aei.org/publication/chart-of-the-greatest-and-most-remarkable-achievement-in-human-history-thanks-to-free-market-capitalism/
« Last Edit: October 12, 2018, 09:10:08 PM by dustinst22 »

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Re: Article: If the Point of Capitalism is to Escape Capitalism...
« Reply #26 on: October 12, 2018, 10:40:53 PM »
The author doesn’t have a basic understanding of the terms he is using beginning with Capitalism, as evidenced by this statement,

“Let me prove it, with a simple and extreme example, that of a plantation, and slave, owner — the truest capitalist of all, not so long ago.”

Denying someone the fruit of their own labor is hardly capitalism. Capitalism is the free exchange of labor and goods not coerced exchange.  He apparently doesn’t understand that in the last century it was centrally controlled socialist and communist economies or systems that compelled people to labor absent the benefits of their labor.  In a capitalist system, everyone has the right to walk away from a job that doesn’t pay enough and find better employment.  A slave plantation is hardly a capitalist system but instead the truest form of centrally controlled economy the Left so admires since the slaves were given free housing, food and whatever “healthcare” the master provided.
Do you understand that the slave "owner" actually "owned" the slave?  The slave was his/her property.  Under that, very capitalist, system, no one was being denied the fruits of their labour.  The owner of a resource was utilising that resource to conduct their business.

Trying to suggest the practice of slavery is not compatible with capitalism is akin to suggesting Macbeth was not a true Scotsman.

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Re: Article: If the Point of Capitalism is to Escape Capitalism...
« Reply #27 on: October 13, 2018, 11:18:58 AM »
I think he's wrong when he says this:

Quote
You can see it in stark, comic terms. What are Bezos and Musk doing? Trying to flee to Mars. What’s Gates doing? Recommending you books to read, and trying to save the world with charity. LOL — how ironic.

Bezos, Musk and Gates aren't trying to flee capitalism.   They're using it to accomplish something they feel is worthwhile.

That's what most of us are doing.     We're not trying to escape capitalism per se - we're just trying to achieve some objective that we feel is worthwhile.

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Re: Article: If the Point of Capitalism is to Escape Capitalism...
« Reply #28 on: October 13, 2018, 12:10:37 PM »
I look this a bit differently.  As animals, we're trying to gain enough resources to enable us to survive.  Ideally, we can get enough resources to not have to "hunt" anymore.  The latest tool we use for this hunting is a free market system.  Saying we're trying to escape the free market is like saying our ancestors were trying to escape having to use a spear to hunt.  While there might be some truth to this, I think it's more useful to think of these as tools to achieve an aim.  There's a saying: "it's the chase, not the quarry".  Part of me thinks I wouldn't appreciate my freedom without having first put in the effort to achieve it for myself.  That said, if a better tool comes along, we should use it.  I'm not convinced that financial independence without the chase would be a good thing.
« Last Edit: October 13, 2018, 12:15:33 PM by dustinst22 »

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Re: Article: If the Point of Capitalism is to Escape Capitalism...
« Reply #29 on: October 13, 2018, 01:16:22 PM »
The safety net you mention is the antithesis of capitalism.  It's giving goods and services without an exchange of work.  It's purely socialist.
 I agree with you that socialism and capitalism tend to work better together than apart though.

Socialism isn't the antithesis of capitalism anymore then fascism or feudalism or mercantilism is. They are different systems, nor is capitalism defined as the exchange work for goods and services. In every economic system people exchange work for goods and services.

And unless you believe all taxes are socialism, then it's possible to create a safety net that isn't socialism. Simply have a negative tax bracket. That said, I do think a mix of socialism and capitalism is the best system we've come up with so far.

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Re: Article: If the Point of Capitalism is to Escape Capitalism...
« Reply #30 on: October 13, 2018, 01:33:03 PM »


And unless you believe all taxes are socialism, then it's possible to create a safety net that isn't socialism. Simply have a negative tax bracket.

A negative tax bracket would be a socialist function in the same way a progressive tax is -- it's a form of wealth redistribution.  I think it's important to differentiate socialist programs and functions versus an entire socialist economic system.  I don't think the latter has ever really been tested in the real world.
« Last Edit: October 13, 2018, 01:34:41 PM by dustinst22 »

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Re: Article: If the Point of Capitalism is to Escape Capitalism...
« Reply #31 on: October 13, 2018, 01:43:46 PM »
The author writes:

Quote
The capitalist, ironically enough, is trying to earn his freedom from capitalism — just like everyone else. The only difference is that he’s a step closer. Let me prove it, with a simple and extreme example, that of a plantation, and slave, owner — the truest capitalist of all, not so long ago. What is he really after? He’s trying to earn is freedom from labour — not having to do work, hence the slaves. He’s also trying to win freedom from exploitation — he holds the whip, but is above the moral law. And from control, punishment, hierarchy — he has no boss to answer to. Perhaps he devotes his life to more “gentlemanly” pursuits — art, literature, discovery, exploration: but what’s the point of these? These, too, are a freedom from capitalism — from its bruising stress, pressure, anxiety, competition — now he is free to really be himself.

Capitalism didn't emerge as a distinct concept until around the 17th-18th century, whereas slavery has existed since the beginning of human history. The author's description here is an accurate depiction of Greco-Roman society 2000 years ago where slaves were a integral component to freeing the elites to focus on philosophy, learning and the arts - and labor of all sorts was looked down upon. So either the author has a very non-standard definition of capitalism or he's woefully ignorant of the history of slavery predating capitalism. With such a flawed premise it's difficult to take the rest of the article seriously.

I'm no cheerleader for capitalism and see it's many flaws, but also skeptical that whatever system comes next will cure our ills. I'm just not convinced that economic systems are either the cause of or solution to society's problems (though think they can help or hinder to a degree). I've been reading Nietzsche lately and he seems to understand that a society that kills its god(s) must replace this with something else to create purpose and meaning. However, our society has struggled to fill this vacuum. Could be wrong (still reading, not a philosophy expert) but seems Nietzsche himself struggled to define an internally consistent replacement that itself isn't dogmatic, e.g. that reason in and of itself is good and meaningful. Society's move into secularism and a strict materialistic philosophy has, instead of elevating reason, resulted in a growing sense of nihilism such that the only purpose is to experience as much happiness and as little suffering as possible. In short, most people are in practice hedonists regardless of stated beliefs. Due to phenomena such as the hedonic treadmill I don't think any amount of material surplus will free humankind from the inward bend of the soul.

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Re: Article: If the Point of Capitalism is to Escape Capitalism...
« Reply #32 on: October 13, 2018, 02:23:53 PM »
Society's move into secularism and a strict materialistic philosophy has, instead of elevating reason, resulted in a growing sense of nihilism such that the only purpose is to experience as much happiness and as little suffering as possible. In short, most people are in practice hedonists regardless of stated beliefs. Due to phenomena such as the hedonic treadmill I don't think any amount of material surplus will free humankind from the inward bend of the soul.

To be pedantic, hedonism (thinking the purpose of life is to maximize joy) and nihilism (thinking life has no purpose) are not mutually compatible beliefs at a logical level. Which is not to say that plenty of folks aren't capable of intensely and unreservedly holding mutually contradictory beliefs simultaneously.

The concept of the hedonic treadmill is perhaps better referred to as the happiness setpoint theory. Using the term treadmill makes it sounds like if you stop walking on a treadmill you slide backwards, while the prediction of the setpoint theory/hedonic threadmill you stop trying to pursue the things which you're taught will make you happier, you won't slide backwards into unhappiness, you'll likely stay about as happy as you were regardless of how hard you try to pursue the things you're taught will make you happier or how many of them you reach.

The other key point is that regardless of what you call it the happiness set point/hedonic treadmill pretty clearly applies primarily to the things our current society teaches us will provide happiness. Removal of active sources of unhappiness (stress about money, negative interpersonal relationships in the home or workplace) can indeed raise individuals consistent levels of happiness, as can as a number of additions to ones habits and lifestyle (rather than simply removal of active sources of unhappiness). The best characterized of these is probably developing habits of altruistic acts or service, which seems to consistently improve long term happiness.

So a hypothetical person who adopted hedonism as a guiding life philosophy isn't doomed to failure by the happiness set point theory/hedonic treadmill, they just have to invest some time and consideration in the means by which they go about pursuing happiness/joy.

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Re: Article: If the Point of Capitalism is to Escape Capitalism...
« Reply #33 on: October 13, 2018, 03:21:51 PM »
I think he's wrong when he says this:

Quote
You can see it in stark, comic terms. What are Bezos and Musk doing? Trying to flee to Mars. What’s Gates doing? Recommending you books to read, and trying to save the world with charity. LOL — how ironic.

Bezos, Musk and Gates aren't trying to flee capitalism.   They're using it to accomplish something they feel is worthwhile.

That's what most of us are doing.     We're not trying to escape capitalism per se - we're just trying to achieve some objective that we feel is worthwhile.

Yeah, I don’t agree with several of the premises he sets out early on. And isn’t making money in the market while sitting on my ass the ultimate in capitalism?  I think his opening detracts from his ultimate proposals on basic income and such.

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Re: Article: If the Point of Capitalism is to Escape Capitalism...
« Reply #34 on: October 13, 2018, 03:45:03 PM »
Society's move into secularism and a strict materialistic philosophy has, instead of elevating reason, resulted in a growing sense of nihilism such that the only purpose is to experience as much happiness and as little suffering as possible. In short, most people are in practice hedonists regardless of stated beliefs. Due to phenomena such as the hedonic treadmill I don't think any amount of material surplus will free humankind from the inward bend of the soul.

To be pedantic, hedonism (thinking the purpose of life is to maximize joy) and nihilism (thinking life has no purpose) are not mutually compatible beliefs at a logical level. Which is not to say that plenty of folks aren't capable of intensely and unreservedly holding mutually contradictory beliefs simultaneously.

The concept of the hedonic treadmill is perhaps better referred to as the happiness setpoint theory. Using the term treadmill makes it sounds like if you stop walking on a treadmill you slide backwards, while the prediction of the setpoint theory/hedonic threadmill you stop trying to pursue the things which you're taught will make you happier, you won't slide backwards into unhappiness, you'll likely stay about as happy as you were regardless of how hard you try to pursue the things you're taught will make you happier or how many of them you reach.

The other key point is that regardless of what you call it the happiness set point/hedonic treadmill pretty clearly applies primarily to the things our current society teaches us will provide happiness. Removal of active sources of unhappiness (stress about money, negative interpersonal relationships in the home or workplace) can indeed raise individuals consistent levels of happiness, as can as a number of additions to ones habits and lifestyle (rather than simply removal of active sources of unhappiness). The best characterized of these is probably developing habits of altruistic acts or service, which seems to consistently improve long term happiness.

So a hypothetical person who adopted hedonism as a guiding life philosophy isn't doomed to failure by the happiness set point theory/hedonic treadmill, they just have to invest some time and consideration in the means by which they go about pursuing happiness/joy.

Agree that hedonism and nihilism are not mutually compatible, however that doesn't stop anyone from embracing aspects of both simultaneously. Humans are delightfully inconsistent :)

Also agree that, strictly speaking, a brand of hedonism focused on altruism and contentment could provide an escape from the hedonic treadmill. I just don't think that's likely if the primary focus (per the article) is changing the economic system. Largely my point here is in response to the article, about how "people who, having amassed fortunes, seem under the grip of a kind of compulsion" to keep growing their wealth. Or the fact that we live in a place and time unrivaled in terms of material wealth yet people are still stressed and unhappy. Economic systems focus on how resources are distributed, whereas the real problem is philosophical/spiritual, having do with how people think about purpose and meaning.

[ETA: Would also venture a guess that there are diminishing marginal returns of happiness for acts of altruism. E.g. I doubt Mother Teresa was exceptionally happier than the average person. In the end it ends up being a different type of treadmill, albeit one with much better results than consumptive hedonism.]
« Last Edit: October 13, 2018, 03:59:43 PM by FINate »

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Re: Article: If the Point of Capitalism is to Escape Capitalism...
« Reply #35 on: October 13, 2018, 04:04:44 PM »
Also agree that, strictly speaking, a brand of hedonism focused on altruism and contentment could provide an escape from the hedonic treadmill. I just don't think that's likely if the primary focus (per the article) is changing the economic system. Largely my point here is in response to the article, about how "people who, having amassed fortunes, seem under the grip of a kind of compulsion" to keep growing their wealth. Or the fact that we live in a place and time unrivaled in terms of material wealth yet people are still stressed and unhappy. Economic systems focus on how resources are distributed, whereas the real problem is philosophical/spiritual, having do with how people think about purpose and meaning.

Yes, no argument here that the author of that article is not in a position to lead people to a world full of happiness and contentment through changes to the economic system.

I think the people the author focuses on are, by definition, exceptional, because the people who make a relatively modest fortune and find a way to translate that into contentment don't make the newspapers.

There certainly are many people who spend their lives pursuing happiness/contentment through either consumerism, or trying to win at a game where money or status is the score card, and my sense is that neither strategy pays off very often. But I don't think that observation, at least by itself, is inherent evidence that the pursuit of happiness/contentment is a philosophically or spiritually flawed goal, just that those particular approaches aren't a viable path to achieve it (at least for most people).

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Re: Article: If the Point of Capitalism is to Escape Capitalism...
« Reply #36 on: October 13, 2018, 04:13:18 PM »
My favorite comment:

"The word capitalism seems to be confused with working. If the Point of “Working” is to Escape “Working”, Then What’s the Point of “Working”? See? Communicates the same point but takes away the needless enigma."

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Re: Article: If the Point of Capitalism is to Escape Capitalism...
« Reply #37 on: October 13, 2018, 04:19:23 PM »
There certainly are many people who spend their lives pursuing happiness/contentment through either consumerism, or trying to win at a game where money or status is the score card, and my sense is that neither strategy pays off very often. But I don't think that observation, at least by itself, is inherent evidence that the pursuit of happiness/contentment is a philosophically or spiritually flawed goal, just that those particular approaches aren't a viable path to achieve it (at least for most people).

Pursuit of contentment and altruism to increase happiness makes sense, but this is radically different from the hedonism rampant in society today with a focus on pleasure seeking, consumerism, comfort, YOLO and bucket lists. Even so, the human capacity for happiness is finite while our appetite for happiness is infinite. If contentment means accepting the limits of happiness then I wholeheartedly agree with this. However, would question if such a diminished view of the attainment of happiness falls within the scope of hedonism.

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Re: Article: If the Point of Capitalism is to Escape Capitalism...
« Reply #38 on: October 13, 2018, 04:27:18 PM »
There certainly are many people who spend their lives pursuing happiness/contentment through either consumerism, or trying to win at a game where money or status is the score card, and my sense is that neither strategy pays off very often. But I don't think that observation, at least by itself, is inherent evidence that the pursuit of happiness/contentment is a philosophically or spiritually flawed goal, just that those particular approaches aren't a viable path to achieve it (at least for most people).

Pursuit of contentment and altruism to increase happiness makes sense, but this is radically different from the hedonism rampant in society today with a focus on pleasure seeking, consumerism, comfort, YOLO and bucket lists. Even so, the human capacity for happiness is finite while our appetite for happiness is infinite. If contentment means accepting the limits of happiness then I wholeheartedly agree with this. However, would question if such a diminished view of the attainment of happiness falls within the scope of hedonism.

I believe we may be talking past each other to some extent.

My central point here is that none of the problems we're discussing with discontent in current society necessarily requires a spiritual or philosophical solution, but can, at least in principle, be addressed by changes in approach rather than changes in goals.

My understanding of your central point prior to your most recent post was that a materialistic worldview (in the sense of a worldview that doesn't provide for dual material and spiritual realms) inherently leads to unhappiness and dissatisfaction.

Is that an incorrect understanding of your view? If it is incorrect, would you be willing to try explaining your central point is in another way? For whatever reason I seem to be having a little trouble following alright right now, which certainly reflects a failing on my part not yours.

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Re: Article: If the Point of Capitalism is to Escape Capitalism...
« Reply #39 on: October 13, 2018, 07:01:58 PM »


And unless you believe all taxes are socialism, then it's possible to create a safety net that isn't socialism. Simply have a negative tax bracket.

A negative tax bracket would be a socialist function in the same way a progressive tax is -- it's a form of wealth redistribution.  I think it's important to differentiate socialist programs and functions versus an entire socialist economic system.  I don't think the latter has ever really been tested in the real world.

There's no way I would consider a progressive tax to be socialist. There's 0 guarantee that the money gets redistributed to the needy, it can just as easily fund a gigantic military, or corporate tax breaks, etc....

A negative tax bracket is certainly more socialist as it does redistribute money, but I still wouldn't classify it as socialist, though it would be in a grey area. In and of itself I'm not sure I would consider wealth redistribution to be socialist in function/nature. But that's more of a distinction between theory and practice, since yes in practice it's been mostly used for socialist goals.

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Re: Article: If the Point of Capitalism is to Escape Capitalism...
« Reply #40 on: October 13, 2018, 07:07:33 PM »
The author writes:

Quote
The capitalist, ironically enough, is trying to earn his freedom from capitalism — just like everyone else. The only difference is that he’s a step closer. Let me prove it, with a simple and extreme example, that of a plantation, and slave, owner — the truest capitalist of all, not so long ago. What is he really after? He’s trying to earn is freedom from labour — not having to do work, hence the slaves. He’s also trying to win freedom from exploitation — he holds the whip, but is above the moral law. And from control, punishment, hierarchy — he has no boss to answer to. Perhaps he devotes his life to more “gentlemanly” pursuits — art, literature, discovery, exploration: but what’s the point of these? These, too, are a freedom from capitalism — from its bruising stress, pressure, anxiety, competition — now he is free to really be himself.

Capitalism didn't emerge as a distinct concept until around the 17th-18th century, whereas slavery has existed since the beginning of human history. The author's description here is an accurate depiction of Greco-Roman society 2000 years ago where slaves were a integral component to freeing the elites to focus on philosophy, learning and the arts - and labor of all sorts was looked down upon. So either the author has a very non-standard definition of capitalism or he's woefully ignorant of the history of slavery predating capitalism. With such a flawed premise it's difficult to take the rest of the article seriously.

An argument can be a made that Greco-Roman societies were practicing free market capitalism. For example Crassus buying up property in the middle of a fire for cents on dollar is pretty much what unregulated capitalism looks like.

dustinst22

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Re: Article: If the Point of Capitalism is to Escape Capitalism...
« Reply #41 on: October 13, 2018, 07:29:33 PM »


There's no way I would consider a progressive tax to be socialist. There's 0 guarantee that the money gets redistributed to the needy, it can just as easily fund a gigantic military, or corporate tax breaks, etc....

A negative tax bracket is certainly more socialist as it does redistribute money, but I still wouldn't classify it as socialist, though it would be in a grey area. In and of itself I'm not sure I would consider wealth redistribution to be socialist in function/nature. But that's more of a distinction between theory and practice, since yes in practice it's been mostly used for socialist goals.

Either one puts more money in the pockets of those who earn less, as they don't pay as much in taxes.  In that sense, it is redistribution in comparison to a flat tax.

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Re: Article: If the Point of Capitalism is to Escape Capitalism...
« Reply #42 on: October 13, 2018, 09:06:47 PM »
I believe we may be talking past each other to some extent.

My central point here is that none of the problems we're discussing with discontent in current society necessarily requires a spiritual or philosophical solution, but can, at least in principle, be addressed by changes in approach rather than changes in goals.

My understanding of your central point prior to your most recent post was that a materialistic worldview (in the sense of a worldview that doesn't provide for dual material and spiritual realms) inherently leads to unhappiness and dissatisfaction.

Is that an incorrect understanding of your view? If it is incorrect, would you be willing to try explaining your central point is in another way? For whatever reason I seem to be having a little trouble following alright right now, which certainly reflects a failing on my part not yours.

Fair points, thanks for the gracious response. Was thinking about this while taking the kids for a bike ride today and think the term hedonism is too broad and amorphous so let me clarify. I mean specifically the type of hedonism that permeates modern American culture; let's label this American Hedonism. It's an unthinking branch of hedonism, one that leaves unchallenged assumptions that more money, more possessions, more food, more sex, more whatever will bring more happiness. These are all good things, yet they have become dysfunctions for millions of Americans as they seek to fill a vacuum with things that cannot possible fill it. I do think this is an outgrowth of a strictly materialistic worldview. We killed <deity> and attempted to fill the nihilistic void with consumption in various guises - this is not a statement about the religious vs. the nonreligious, it's true of virtually all faiths and creeds. We're all steeped in this culture, it's our default context. This is my main critique of the article, that by focusing on the economic system it has applied a bandaid to a gaping wound.

As a culture we have largely lost the mystical and the philosophical. I suspect many believe this a good thing, as it means freedom from superstition, and this is not without merit. But I think we've lost something along the way, something important about what it means to be human, a more expansive vision beyond one's self. A strict materialistic worldview doesn't speak to the meaning of life except to say that for some reason life wants to perpetuate.  A belief that life is special or meaningful is itself a value judgement without basis in the physical. The same is true of happiness. Is happiness good, is it desirable, what if it comes at the expense of others? These are value judgements. It's possible to conceive of a hedonistic philosophy that recaptures what was lost to challenge the rot inherent in American Hedonism, but this would be a philosophical/spiritual solution. It would require accepting the limits of happiness as necessary for one's own integrity and for the greater good, where "good" is not something that can be defined strictly in terms of the material.
« Last Edit: October 13, 2018, 09:26:33 PM by FINate »

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Re: Article: If the Point of Capitalism is to Escape Capitalism...
« Reply #43 on: October 13, 2018, 09:21:10 PM »
The author writes:

Quote
The capitalist, ironically enough, is trying to earn his freedom from capitalism — just like everyone else. The only difference is that he’s a step closer. Let me prove it, with a simple and extreme example, that of a plantation, and slave, owner — the truest capitalist of all, not so long ago. What is he really after? He’s trying to earn is freedom from labour — not having to do work, hence the slaves. He’s also trying to win freedom from exploitation — he holds the whip, but is above the moral law. And from control, punishment, hierarchy — he has no boss to answer to. Perhaps he devotes his life to more “gentlemanly” pursuits — art, literature, discovery, exploration: but what’s the point of these? These, too, are a freedom from capitalism — from its bruising stress, pressure, anxiety, competition — now he is free to really be himself.

Capitalism didn't emerge as a distinct concept until around the 17th-18th century, whereas slavery has existed since the beginning of human history. The author's description here is an accurate depiction of Greco-Roman society 2000 years ago where slaves were a integral component to freeing the elites to focus on philosophy, learning and the arts - and labor of all sorts was looked down upon. So either the author has a very non-standard definition of capitalism or he's woefully ignorant of the history of slavery predating capitalism. With such a flawed premise it's difficult to take the rest of the article seriously.

An argument can be a made that Greco-Roman societies were practicing free market capitalism. For example Crassus buying up property in the middle of a fire for cents on dollar is pretty much what unregulated capitalism looks like.

Commerce != capitalism. In fact, I'm struggling to think of any economic system that doesn't feature commerce (would it even be an economic system without it?). Even the Soviet Union had commerce. The defining features of capitalism have more to do with how the means of production are organized, rather than how the market functions, though the two are related. The Greco-Roman world was very much centered on the empire, aristocratic families, largely agrarian and fueled by slave labor. Yes, they had commerce, but overall it was very different from capitalism.

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Re: Article: If the Point of Capitalism is to Escape Capitalism...
« Reply #44 on: October 13, 2018, 09:56:36 PM »
Thanks FINate. Now that you've expanded a bit on your thoughts, it sounds like we are in complete agreement about the limitations and downsides of "American hedonism." Where our thinking diverges appears to be in whether "american hedonsim" is a inevitable outcome of a non-dualism (or materialistic) worldview, or just one of many possible outcomes.

It is been my observation that some people find satisfaction and meaning in a non-dualistic worldview, while other people seem to benefit from a worldview that includes that second, spiritual, world in one form or another to find the same meaning and purpose. Nothing wrong with either approach, it's just important to remember that this seems to be one of the cases where our own individual experiences don't generalize well to people as a whole. When people forget that, we tend to end up with materialists who don't understand why anyone would value the spiritual, and dualists who think all materialists are leading meaningless and unhappy lives and even in the best case scenario everyone comes away with hurt feelings.

Gary123

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Re: Article: If the Point of Capitalism is to Escape Capitalism...
« Reply #45 on: October 14, 2018, 07:10:48 AM »
GuitarSTV, I think you deliberately misunderstood my comment.  Capitalism is not a moral code by any means but an economic system for the free exchange of labor and goods.  That is why I also stated Libertarians have it wrong when they try to find morality in it and ignore the fact capitalism doesn’t necessarily create the ethical participants it requires to succeed.  People need to have a culture and moral code to participate ethically.

Regarding this comment,

“Without food I'll die.  I work therefore, because the alternative is death.  That's not a free exchange of labor and services, it's coerced exchange.”

Seems you are blaming capitalism on the reality of nature.  Mankind has suffered from nature more than anything else during our time on this earth.  If you don’t have an education or character to save for moving to another job than it’s a poverty of culture not a failure of capitalism.

In the United States, the poorest people suffer from a poverty of culture not opportunity.


Sorinth

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Re: Article: If the Point of Capitalism is to Escape Capitalism...
« Reply #46 on: October 14, 2018, 08:48:57 AM »
Commerce != capitalism. In fact, I'm struggling to think of any economic system that doesn't feature commerce (would it even be an economic system without it?). Even the Soviet Union had commerce. The defining features of capitalism have more to do with how the means of production are organized, rather than how the market functions, though the two are related. The Greco-Roman world was very much centered on the empire, aristocratic families, largely agrarian and fueled by slave labor. Yes, they had commerce, but overall it was very different from capitalism.

I agree commerce != capitalism, and that seems to be a major flaw in the authors article.

However the means of production of the greco-roman weren't controlled by the aristocracy simply because they were aristocrats (Like it would be in a feudal system), they were controlled by them because they were rich and bought them from other private citizens. It's no different then rich people now owning most of the businesses/land/etc... The Romans even had a term for people who would rise up above their background, Novus homo, a New Man. So if capitalism is defined as the private ownership of the means of production, then those societies were certainly capitalist, as private citizens could and did own everything.

Where admittedly the line gets blurry is that the same rich people would then run the government, so it would be somewhat of an Oligarchy, though still one based on capitalism.

GuitarStv

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Re: Article: If the Point of Capitalism is to Escape Capitalism...
« Reply #47 on: October 14, 2018, 09:44:42 AM »
GuitarSTV, I think you deliberately misunderstood my comment.  Capitalism is not a moral code by any means but an economic system for the free exchange of labor and goods.  That is why I also stated Libertarians have it wrong when they try to find morality in it and ignore the fact capitalism doesn’t necessarily create the ethical participants it requires to succeed.  People need to have a culture and moral code to participate ethically.

Regarding this comment,

“Without food I'll die.  I work therefore, because the alternative is death.  That's not a free exchange of labor and services, it's coerced exchange.”

Seems you are blaming capitalism on the reality of nature.  Mankind has suffered from nature more than anything else during our time on this earth.  If you don’t have an education or character to save for moving to another job than it’s a poverty of culture not a failure of capitalism.

In the United States, the poorest people suffer from a poverty of culture not opportunity.

That comment was made to attempt to dispel the lie that in a capitalist society there is no coerced work.  Work for the vast majority is always coerced, regardless of economic system in place.

GuitarStv

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Re: Article: If the Point of Capitalism is to Escape Capitalism...
« Reply #48 on: October 14, 2018, 10:02:56 AM »
The safety net you mention is the antithesis of capitalism.  It's giving goods and services without an exchange of work.  It's purely socialist.
 I agree with you that socialism and capitalism tend to work better together than apart though.

Socialism isn't the antithesis of capitalism anymore then fascism or feudalism or mercantilism is. They are different systems, nor is capitalism defined as the exchange work for goods and services. In every economic system people exchange work for goods and services.

And unless you believe all taxes are socialism, then it's possible to create a safety net that isn't socialism. Simply have a negative tax bracket. That said, I do think a mix of socialism and capitalism is the best system we've come up with so far.

Capitalism is at it's core, the glorification of private ownership and private wealth, minimal government controls, and a free market.  It's based on the idea that people should be rewarded for their work.  Socialism is about public ownership, publicly shared wealth, and wealth redistribution.  It tends to include more government and more heavily regulated markets, and is based on the core idea of equality and sharing.  There are opposite economic ideas by design.  Socialism keeps the worst of the excesses in check, capitalism privides motive for advancement.  Both suck when taken to the extreme.

Fascism isn't an economic system, it's a political one.  Feudalism isn't really an economic system, it's a way of organizing a society into castes.  I don't know what mercantilism, but will look it up.

No, not all taxes are socialism.  Taxes collected by a monarch simply because he wants to build a new palace certainly wouldn't fit the description for example.  Taxes collected to redistribute wealth to people absolutely are though.  A negative tax bracket is a redistribution of wealth, and pretty clearly socialist in nature.  You're taxing some people who are rich to give that money to others who are poor.  (. . . to each according to his need.)

FINate

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Re: Article: If the Point of Capitalism is to Escape Capitalism...
« Reply #49 on: October 14, 2018, 01:57:30 PM »
Thanks FINate. Now that you've expanded a bit on your thoughts, it sounds like we are in complete agreement about the limitations and downsides of "American hedonism." Where our thinking diverges appears to be in whether "american hedonsim" is a inevitable outcome of a non-dualism (or materialistic) worldview, or just one of many possible outcomes.

I never claimed American hedonism was an inevitable outcome. And yet it is the outcome we ended up with.

It is been my observation that some people find satisfaction and meaning in a non-dualistic worldview, while other people seem to benefit from a worldview that includes that second, spiritual, world in one form or another to find the same meaning and purpose. Nothing wrong with either approach, it's just important to remember that this seems to be one of the cases where our own individual experiences don't generalize well to people as a whole. When people forget that, we tend to end up with materialists who don't understand why anyone would value the spiritual, and dualists who think all materialists are leading meaningless and unhappy lives and even in the best case scenario everyone comes away with hurt feelings.

My observation is about American culture in general, not making universal claims about all individuals. Is it possible for someone have a strict materialistic worldview and still be happy and fulfilled? Sure, whatever works. But this is not the general state of affairs in the US today. And I question the extent to which people are congruent with their stated worldview. For example, a shocking number of self identified Christians are, for all intents and purposes, atheists with a veneer of moralism. Similarly, I know self proclaimed strict materialists who, in effect, smuggle non-materialist values in the form of love, liberty, freedom, contract law, or even happiness into their philosophy as a means to purpose and meaning. Nothing wrong with doing so, but let's stop pretending that it's all empirically provable, that one worldview is more enlightened than another.

Also, for clarification, a dualistic worldview is one alternative to materialistic, but it is by no means the only. A classical Judeo-Christian worldview does not view the spiritual and the physical in dualistic terms. Instead, the spiritual is not fully separable from the physical and vice versa. The dualistic view of disembodied soul as distinct from the physical body (such that our souls will float up to a spiritual heaven) is based on platonic philosophy/gnosticism rather than the teachings of scripture. Similarly, some eastern religions do not really think in terms the spiritual, but instead that the physical world is an illusion of true reality. Neither of these are dualistic, yet they are distinct from strict materialism.

But I digress. I agree that we should all respect each other's worldviews. Because whatever your worldview, it is fundamentally a religious belief in the broadest sense of the word. Even nihilism is, at its core, a closely held belief that is ultimately unprovable. So is the belief that everything is material, that there is nothing beyond the material. Religion is nothing more than what someone thinks this life is all about. Yet for too long we've been taught that religion has no place in public discourse, what Max Weber calls the "iron cage of rationality." I think this is wrong, it is offensive to say that people are not allowed to express their deepest beliefs. Our deepest beliefs inform our deepest values, and modern America has a values problem (e.g. systemic racism/white privilege, economic injustice, environmental injustice). 
« Last Edit: October 14, 2018, 02:14:13 PM by FINate »