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Ask a Red, Second Edition

Discussion in 'Off-Topic' started by Cheezy the Wiz, Nov 7, 2010.

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  1. Gustave5436

    Gustave5436 Emperor

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    Thread title is "ask a red," not "ask a Borg." The two groups are wholly distinct. Literally zero overlap. So argumentative comments questions which you would pose to the Borg, like "isn't it bad to take away a person's right to self-determination?," are difficult for socialists to answer. Because they don't actually advocate that to begin with.
     
  2. NedimNapoleon

    NedimNapoleon Weird Little Human

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  3. Gary Childress

    Gary Childress Student for and of life

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    I don't think that. Now you're misrepresenting what some people who disbelieve in socialism or communism (or whatever) think.
     
  4. EnglishCrusader

    EnglishCrusader AYEEEEE

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    Or you could put a few Liberty Prime quotes in ;)
     
  5. NedimNapoleon

    NedimNapoleon Weird Little Human

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    I was just joking

    The best robot in the entire series :D
     
  6. Mallipeep

    Mallipeep Warlord

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    From this thread i have acquired a impression that for real communism to work, humankind must really change to be more selfless and smart in general.

    If that prerequisite is accomplished - why do the Reds think capitalism/democracy would be really worse compared to communism, and would there actually be any difference between capitalism and communism at all?


    To better understand where this question is coming from:
    I happen to work in a company where the owners and "bosses" actually
    - do care about the workers, and provide them great working conditions
    - really are good at deciding what the company should do strategy wise
    - constantly ask workers how best to make their job better

    If this company would be shifted to a ideal communist state, i would not really see any meaningful difference ( aside from the fact that company would be owned by all employees not just the founders and some other key figures - which is just paperwork)
    - Im very certain the employees would vote the current bosses back to their position, so the - strategy decisions would remain the same
    - Im pretty certain the working conditions would remain the same, as most of the employees would know better to vote against non-affordable things.
    - Workers might vote for bit higher salay, but then again they just might vote something crazy that would bring harm to company and actually worsen their income in long run. But this difference is countered by the fact that our bosses/owners might be kinder in giving higher salary to workers and they might be making worse crazy business decisions - so again i see no difference between capitalism/communism here.
     
  7. Traitorfish

    Traitorfish The Tighnahulish Kid

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    I don't really know what you mean by "equal", in this context.

    State capitalism. A book-length description can be found here, if you have altogether too much time on your hands, but because no-one will actually want to read that, I'll post an informal summary of the book from elsewhere.
     
  8. BuckeyeJim

    BuckeyeJim King

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    You believe in sharing the fruits of the labor equally correct? You believe that everyone in the business has an equal say in the direction of the business correct? The theory being that, like government, every worker deserves the right to universal suffrage because of the labor he inputs into the final product. If we're all equal in this context, or in a more egalitarian sense, a purely economic equality, do you think that this could be detrimental to society?
     
  9. GamezRule

    GamezRule Inconceivable!

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    "From each according to his ability, to each according to his need"
     
  10. Traitorfish

    Traitorfish The Tighnahulish Kid

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    For Marxists, at least, communism does not demand the achievement of a selfless enlightenment on the part of the masses, but emerges as the culmination of class struggle under capitalism, a process driven by the pursuit of a collective self-interest of the workers; it is generated in an organic fashion by the heightening of class struggle to a terminal point, i.e. social revolution, rather than being constructed in a mechanical fashion by an enlightened minority, or even majority. This naturally entails a slightly more "enlightened" attitude than get-what-you-can-grab selfishness, of course, but of an ethical and responsible self-interest, born of solidarity in struggle, rather than a monastic selflessness achieved through ideological commitment.

    A distinction must be drawn between market socialism and communism; the former is a society in which the means of production are owned collectively, but in which the basic social formation of capitalist society, i.e. as a society of generalised commodity production, remains intact. Communism would constitute the overturning not merely of an existing social order, but of the fundamental social relations of this formation, of the subjugation of labour to capital- even a democratically managed capital- which would by definition involve a far greater degree of social reorganisation than merely taking existing bodies into democratic control.

    Why would it? You're asking a very open-ended question.

    (And against, communism is "post-business", so it can't simply be thought of as a more democratic version of contemporary society.)
     
  11. BuckeyeJim

    BuckeyeJim King

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    Different people have different viewpoints on "post-business." Near as I can tell true socialism/communism simply puts the means of production in the hands of the worker. It doesn't, however, differentiate between the different areas where people can produce stuff that society wants. So while the members of one business may share in the fruits of their labor, that doesn't necessarily mean that the next business up the road isn't sharing a lot more fruit. But that is just an aside.

    The arguments proposed by you and Cheezy center around equality, while also taking into account the idea that people are not equal. I'm a pretty smart guy, but I'm not the smartest. There are a lot of people who are far more talented, and far more skilled than I am. You do not see the possibility for detriment giving me just as much say in a "post business" enterprise as the guy who is 10X more talented, intelligent, and able to direct a company than I am? I may even feel resentment getting the same share of the fruit, and the same say in the means of production as people who are far less talented than I am. This, of course, takes into account my personal belief that jealous and human envy are as natural as rain, and that you'll never be able to make these traits disappear no matter how hard you try to socially engineer them away. Therefore, I see that your vision would inevitably cause discord amongst the people who are either losing their fair share, or losing their ability to direct an enterprise to those who are less talented or less capable of making the best decisions.
     
  12. Traitorfish

    Traitorfish The Tighnahulish Kid

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    Well, again, I will observe that "true communism", in the Marxist sense, goes further than merely redistributing and democratising the means of production, but dissolves the fundamental relations of production which constitute a society of generalised commodity production, and the reconstruction of society on the basis of production for needs; "from each according to his ability, to each according to his need", as Marx put it. Production would not merely be collectivised, but socialised, every part of production recognised as inextricably bound to every other, and organised on such a basis, rather than each individual workplace or company continuing to operate in an atomised manner. Workers' control of production is the method by which this process is carried out, but not the whole end in itself.

    Why do you assume that talent endows some right of domination, or, as you would have it, "direction"? In what sense does the capacity for an individual to be more useful to society oblige you to make yourself useful to him? Defer to him, by all means- saying that the machine-worker is as integral to the process of production as the engineer is hardly to say that they are interchangeable- but why accept a natural superiority on his part?

    You say that humans are naturally envious, and that is perhaps true, but this envy is an emotion which exists within a specific ideological context. If the "aristocracy of merit" becomes discredited as a concept, if our collective world-view was reconstituted in such a fashion as to make such an ideal laughable, then why would people feel hard done by that they had not been granted access to it? You don't see the cunning and athletic wandering around the place today, expressing their bitterness that they are not granted their proper place as feudal overlords, do you?
     
  13. Cheezy the Wiz

    Cheezy the Wiz Socialist In A Hurry

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    The transformation began shortly after the realization that perhaps Mom and Dad don't know everything about the world, and began to question their previously-assumed-to-be-impeccable answers about how the world works and why things happen. So in other words shortly after I entered college. It was a gradual process of course.

    Spoiler :


    Because it will improve incredible amounts of peoples' lives immediately, and only proceed from there. It will be the permanent abolition of civil strife, because man can no longer institutionally take advantage of his fellow man.

    There is nothing in socialism that forces people to be equal. "From each according to his ability, to each according to his contribution" is our creed. The calling is rather similar to the capitalist lie we operate under now: that man deserves to collect and keep in kind what he has fairly earned. The problem is that under our present system, this is not how things actually work, it is only how we are told it works; in reality the majority of us are being made to serve the will of a few, who use us to appropriate wealth for themselves. It isn't "fairly and justly earned," it's expropriated and stolen. Socialist economics is built upon respect for the ethics that derive from the Labour Theory of Value, which is why our realization of this principle will be the fairest and the best one.

    My dear friend Traitorfish gets a bit ahead of himself with the "post-business" thing. That's how things will eventually end up, probably, but that is really putting the cart in front of the horse. First we have more concrete concerns: namely, the democratization and taming of existing industries; the conflicts of interest that arise from the desire to hoard resources will erode later. But that could take generations.

    It is purest form, this is precisely so. It is essentially the only meaningful qualifier for socialism.

    To be blunt: why shouldn't it be that way? If one group of people runs a tighter ship than another, why shouldn't they reap an increased reward? After all, you can't expect a hair salon and a platinum processing plant to do the same amount of business. No one is suggesting that doctors and highway workers be paid the same.

    No more than there is harm in giving you a political vote as well as he. You don't think you don't deserve that, now do you?

    Get over it?

    I can't imagine how you can think that humans are so inherently selfish, when they constantly do things which inhibit their personal freedom to create greater social freedom. We give up our right to kill someone whenever we feel like so that we can have the freedom from not constantly fearing being about to be killed. We respect private property rights so that other people do not steal our things. Having concern for oneself is not selfishness: helping yourself at the detriment of others is. Else everything could be construed as selfishness, even selflessness, and then both words would lose all meaning and the whole thing would be of no use to anyone at all.

    It is, of course, possible to run a business democratically on a republican model, if they so wish. Hold elections for different leadership positions: elect the managers, if you don't want to do away with them entirely. People who can manage things better will earn their spots through merit and through the consent of the people they are in charge of, and lead primus inter pares. And they will have good cause to elect capable people, else their enterprise will founder and all will be out of a job.

    You may also find this video interesting. If you're curious, I can point you to some of the studies they talk about. It's about what motivates us, and the results are startling (and somewhat relevant to the topic here).


    Link to video.
     
  14. BuckeyeJim

    BuckeyeJim King

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    Could you point out to me where Marx actually advocated a complete socialization of labor? I don't believe this is what he argued, and is a topic of criticism from his philosophical critics. So isn't the entire theory of a collectivized society determining, "what people need," or gauging what, "their abilities are." Again, don't you think this maxim in and of itself will cause an extreme amount of discontent because of these very reasons? How do you know what my abilities are? If I personally feel my needs are not met, why will I not be discontent?

    I am not saying that talent endows a right domination. That is a discussion for another day. We are discussing discontent and detriment to society. In this regard we are talking about the most talented people not working to their full abilities due to equal say and equal share, and thus resulting in a detriment to society. I believe that a great deal of individuals who are the most talented and skilled (typically type A personalities), are exceptionally prone to jealousy and envy. When you break them down to an equal plane, they will be the most likely to become jaded and obstinate.

    I do not believe that jealousy and envy result in any sort of ideological context. I believe that it always exists. You can see in the smallest and most ignorant of children. You see jealousy and envy in toddlers. Take their toys away, watch them pout. Give some candy to his sibling, watch him thrash. He will not sit there and tell himself that his sister needs it, and therefore it is fine. Jealousy and envy are as natural as rain. And it is a habitual human emotion that cannot be unlearned. Just as the child will pout when he doesn't feel he is being treated fairly, so won't the highly talented business man when you tell him he must make only $50,000 a year while doing the same part because he's just as important in the process as the machinist or the engineer.

    Also, I tend to be fearful and leery about people who believe they (or others) can eliminate this human trait simply by reformulating society, as it invariably leads to authoritarianism and social engineering in practice. What's more, is that it almost begets a de facto dictatorship (I guess we come full circle in this discussion!). After all, who is it that exactly decides the path towards eliminating and discrediting the aristocracy of merit? Who is it that shapes our collective world-view? Better yet, what makes you believe that you can even shape an entire worldview. What makes you think that you can ever change the mentality of the current aristocracy in the first place? Under any circumstance, if you were to ask 100 people from any given society what their idea of utopia would be, there would be 100 different unique answers. So when you finally stumble a singular plan towards reconstituting society in a communist paradigm where nobody is jealous, don't you think 99 others will view it as detrimental to their idea of utopia, feel jaded, and envious of those who's ideas have been implemented? I don't understand you arrive at a single point collectively. People are not the same. You can't just pull out the cookie cutter and expect people to arrive at the same universal truth. There will always be people who will not conform to your ideological egalitarian maxim.
     
  15. BuckeyeJim

    BuckeyeJim King

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    I know ;) . But you and Traitorfish seem to disagree on this aspect. Which, I quite frankly, find to be an excessive soft spot in the philosophy of communism. If you are going to have individual enterprises collectively owned, why should you stop there and not extend it to the community, state, or nation? In my opinion your model simply re-arranges the deck a bit. What is to stop the most talented people from monopolizing the industries which bear the most fruit and locking out less talented people? How would this be any more moral than the current model?

    Again, I do not see how this isn't a simple reshuffling of the deck that we currently have.

    I do not see, at all, how the two are comparable. My work, my career, it is a product of my brain and my hands. It is a product of my own doing. It is the fruit of my labor. Government, which is predicated on the protection of rights, and derivation of rights, is a completely different manner. We all have the explicit right to participate in the government that rules over us. But I do not at all think that we have a right to this participation in a business. If my buddy starts mowing lawns, and does a damn fine job of it. If he does such a good job that he believes he needs to hire someone else to fulfill unmet demand, I do not believe that I have absolutely positively ANY RIGHT to move in and claim that I have equal say in how that operation is run. If business continues to increase and we collectively decide to hire another person, I do not think that I and the other guy have any right to form a majority stake in that business. For all intents and purposes we could use our 66% majority and sell off the business that the other guy had built from nothing! This is not a principle that government rests upon.

    Easier said than done, and a weak argument. The point is that people will not get over it, and that it will result in a detriment to society. Particularly if two guys are in cahoots to sell the business you started!

    I disagree. I believe that every action, that every human being takes, is a selfish act that is done for selfish reasons.

    I challenge you to tell me how what Mother Teresa did wasn't selfish and in her own self-interest.

    You mean like how shareholders vote for these positions in a corporation?

    But you don't understand is that if you are equally sharing in the fruits of the labor that the most talented people have little motivation to enter into those positions. People will hold back their natural talents. They will not produce at 100%. There's no reason to if you aren't rewarded for your actual hard work. This is why the auto-unions ended up being so incredibly dysfunctional and unproductive. Everyone was dumped into the some box. A great deal of people entered into the union because they knew it'd be an easy job, that they could never get fired from, and earn a great wage without putting out! Basically, there is no motivation to work above and beyond the call of duty because you are not paid due to your actual skills or talent. You are simply lumped in with everyone who has the same seniority as you. There is no reason to prove that you are justified to work a better position. This is the problem socialism and communism faces. Human beings are not naturally driven to work. We are naturally driven to sit on our buts, eat BBQ, and drink sweet tea.

    I'm not saying there isn't validity in socialist or communist theory. All I'm saying is that it's for communists and socialists. It is not for everyone, and if it is imposed on everyone it will be a detriment to society as a whole.
     
  16. Cheezy the Wiz

    Cheezy the Wiz Socialist In A Hurry

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    Well Marx argued for it in a slightly different way: he said not that it would be morally superior, but rather that the laws of history made the movement towards that circumstance inevitable. He spent a lot of time elaborating the movements of history, the driving force behind it (class struggle, he said), and in turn extrapolated that to try and figure out where society was heading after this whole capitalism thing was done with. And it was going somewhere, he could be sure, because there was still social strife to guide it. I believe I gave a lengthy description of these dynamics in one of the first few pages of this thread, but if you want to hear it from the horse's mouth, a succinct version can be found in the first sections of the Communist Manifesto itself.

    Dude I already explained that forced equality is not part of our program.

    Children can also be extremely selfless. Ever witness a child give half his sandwich to a friend who forgot or lost his lunch? Ever see two children rotate willingly between use of toys? We teach children not to talk to strangers because they are often so innocently willing to help people, even adults.

    Children are raised and taught by their parents, their teachers, television, other adults and parents, and all authority figures in society. They are a product of their environment. If a child is selfish, it is because that is what they have been taught is right.

    That was one of Marx's main social points, which I already mentioned a few pages ago: that there is no such thing as "human nature," that man's nature was the product of his environment.

    It seems impossible for you to imagine that people as a group will direct these movements. This is not something that one person, or a small group of people, imposes upon others, in which morality is subject to their unique arbitration and all is conformed to their ideological vision. These things will come about because society wills it. The working class must become conscious of its inferior position and its superior potential, rise up, and say "no more!" to the exploitative cult of private property and the rule of the plutocratic caste. That great American socialist Eugene Debs put is most succinctly:

    "I don't want you to follow me or anyone else. If you are looking for a Moses to lead you out of the capitalist wilderness you will stay right where you are. I would not lead you into this promised land if I could, because if I could lead you in, someone else could lead you out.”


    The Leninists said that there must be a revolutionary vanguard to lead The People towards socialism. M-Ls today in Western countries are fools if they think this is appropriate for us. Do we need socialist parties, agitating organizations, planning, theorizing, and all the panoply of revolution? Absolutely. But Americans are not ignorant Russian muzhiks, they don't need an intellectual cadre to father them into socialism. America is the most ripe place on Earth for Marx's vision. It has been almost since Marx's day, he saw that even then. Sure we need leaders, but the essence of socialism is the realization that leaders are convenient, but not necessary. And if we don't understand that going into socialism, then I don't see how it can ever be expected to be realized once we get there.

    If you really want to see what I'm talking about, imagine this without the bloody suppression at the end.
     
  17. Traitorfish

    Traitorfish The Tighnahulish Kid

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    What is communism, if it isn't the socialisation of production? :confused: Perhaps I'm using inelegant terminology here- what do you interpret "socialisation of production" as meaning, and what do you understand Marx as having advocated/predicted?

    Hence the necessity of a radically democratic workers' self-management or "autogestion", to use the five-dollar abbreviation. Leaving it to some committee or bureaucrat to decide what people need is for the most part as unsatisfactory as much as leaving it up to the market; people must decide for themselves what they need, and how to meet those needs.

    Besides, this isn't exactly a criticism unique to communism, given capitalisms historically rather poor record in meeting the needs of the majority. If there's a differences, it's that communists suggest that people deserve to have their needs met, and so take on a certain burden in that regard, while capitalists merrily declare "Nah, screw 'em", and are so relieved of responsibility.

    In regards to material compensation, I will admit that, as Cheezy said, I am getting ahead of myself in talking about the constitution of a communist society, and he is correct in noting that a period of transition, of social reconstitution, is necessary, and in that period certain "inequalities", for want of a better word, may be sustained, in this period of transition. For Marxists, the immediate equalisation of all salaries would be a rather pointless act, because the goal isn't to equalise material wealth, but to dissolve the entire social formation that allows for material wealth to exist in this fashion. As such, there is nothing to say that a doctor or engineer may not be compensated to some greater degree than - and, if the historical and contemporary examples of various workers cooperatives is any guide, then most workers accept this as entirely reasonable. Marx, in his Critique of the Gotha Programme, suggested that the earlier phase of communism, preceding the development of a purely communistic mode of distribution ("from each according to his ability, to each according to his need") would most likely take the form of individual compensation determined democratically in proportion to contribution, later posed by Lenin as "To each according to his contribution", as a parallel to the more famous slogan.
    In regards to decision-making, I will note that simply according everyone a formally equal share of power does not mean accepting everyone's input as mechanically equal. Workers will still, quite inevitably, defer on certain subjects to those who are more knowledgeable or able than others, and permit certain "tactical", rather than "strategic" direction on their part. It is simply that the contemporarily understood link between coordination and imposed control will be broken; workers without managers, but not without planners, as it were.

    I was not suggesting that envy itself is a product of ideology, but that any given feeling of envy exists within an ideological context; in this case, that one individual may resent the higher wage of another, but will do so on the basis of a set of convictions as to the more proper distribution of wealth. If society reconstitutes its world-view in such a manner as to render that sort of conviction absurd, then why would people be envious in such a manner? By way of analogy, the Duke of Argyll can claim to be my clan chieftain, but he is unlikely to resent the fact that he is unable to collect the feudal dues once owed to such a chieftain, because that is simply not entertained by people in this society as a legitimate basis for entitlement. (...Setting aside the British monarchy, which is something of an aberration in this regard.)

    Then, again, I will direct you back to the point where I explain that communism is not constructed in a mechanical fashion by some enlightened clique, but is generated in an organic fashion by the working class self-organising as a class. The changes to which I refer- and I would it clear that, like Marx, I do not presume to be capable of making any predictions about such changes beyond a few basic points- are simply the product of the reconstitution of social relations in an associative rather than capitalistic manner, and not some product of social engineering.

    (Edit: And I'm sorry if I'm unnecessarily repeating at any point Cheezy, here; I did not see his reply before posting my own.)
     
  18. Gary Childress

    Gary Childress Student for and of life

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    I have a feeling people will always figure out ways of taking advantage of each other. Permanent abolition of civil strife sounds more like pie in the sky to me. Embrace socialism and it will never rain again except when you need it to and money will grow on trees?

    As I see it right now people have more control over their lives than socialists may lead us to believe. No. I can't just snap my fingers and become a miliionaire any more than civil strife will just magically disappear. But I can choose to accept the way the world is with all its imperfections and not want to flush it all down the toilet. Life isn't fair. If you view others as trying to take advantage of you all the time then yes you are going to live a miserable life.

    I remember talking to this one guy at the school I work at. He was saying what a scandal it was that banks hold YOUR money and make a profit off it and give so little of the profit back to you. I'm thinking, "no kidding, did you just discover this"?

    Well you can look at things that way and feel ripped off for the rest of your life or you can look at it rationally and say, "well banks need to maintain their existence in order to serve the purpose they serve. Yes they make money off your money. If they didn't serve a useful purpose then no one would use them right? People use banks all the time. So they must serve a purpose. In order to maintain their existence to serve that purpose banks need to make a profit. Sometimes you have to take the bad with the good and accept the way the world is. So what does that do? That makes the world a better place to me. I'm not being ripped off. I am approaching the world from a perspective of understanding and not trying to demonize it. You'd be surprised how far a little civility will get you in a "greedy capitalist" society. I've had people (people who were trying to sell me something) do me great favors for no other reason than I treated them with respect.

    I was car shopping a few weeks back. I told the salesman who was trying to push me a little into buying the car, "I know you guys like to get the ball rolling and would like to see me in the car of my dreams but I just don't think I can do it right now." You know the guy was very nice and invited me to let him know if I changed my mind and hasn't hounded me at all since. Things ended in civility. I didn't say to him, "Hey you're just trying to line your pockets with my money." Why start something like that? I've read a few bits of some anarchist pamphlets and I just see a bunch of "rabble rousing", I've read some Alexander Berkman (IIRC his name). He starts out telling the common man that he's being exploited and can do something to stop it. This is like me telling the guy I met, "You're right, the banks are out to get you. You can stop them. Just join my cause." The whole thought of stooping to that makes me kind of nautious.

    My point is that you sow your own garden where you are going to dwell. If you constantly accuse others of trying to take advantage of you and snarl at them, then yes you are probably going to live a rotten life and your view will become a self fulfilling prophecy. If you treat others with dignity, then they will treat you with dignity and you'll probably have a better life as a result.
     
  19. Traitorfish

    Traitorfish The Tighnahulish Kid

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    Have we really reached the point where the best anti-socialist argument that can be mustered is "worse things happen at sea"? :confused:

    Now we just have to figure out if that shows how little progress we've made, or how easy it will be to win people over... :lol:
     
  20. Gary Childress

    Gary Childress Student for and of life

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    What fundamental changes would you make to the current social system to create this optimal state? Would you a) do away with all forms of private ownership or would you b) only do away with private ownership of production? If b) is the case, would you do away with private ownership of all forms of production or only private ownership of certain industries, maybe just major ones?

    I guess the question would be, as a citizen of this socialist state, what am I allowed to own? For example, am I allowed to own a factory, am I allowed to own a small grocery store? Am I allowed only to own the clothes on my back?
     
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