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What is Socialism?

Discussion in 'Off-Topic' started by Lexicus, Aug 30, 2016.

  1. Lexicus

    Lexicus Deity

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    The US and Western Europe, ca 1945-1970.

    You will of course say it was stuff outside the market that led to wealth being distributed more equitably, and I will say it was stuff outside the market that leads to wealth being distributed unequally. My point all along (not very well-articulated, I grant) has been that the market itself is more neutral, and we need to look beyond it for why wealth is distributed the way it is.
     
  2. Timsup2nothin

    Timsup2nothin Deity

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    Actually I think it was some dictionary site, but definitely from somewhere. No use reinventing the wheel.

    You seem to be assigning me something that you can knock down for some reason. Your limitation that only "buying and selling" is "exchange for gain" is unique to you. ALL exchange is "for gain," or it wouldn't happen.

    The ancient societies you describe had an economic system that regulated a market...and one of the "goods" that was exchanged in that market was the loyalty of the people to the governing body. The good that was most commonly exchanged for that good was food. The food was generally acquired from surrounding landholders in exchange for protection. This market worked quite well in its time, and I'm already familiar with it, so I see no need to "study."

    On your other examples of "non market exchanges"...

    Gift giving is NEVER done without expectation of return. It may not be negotiated return, and may sometimes result in disappointment, but it is certainly just as much a market exchange as any other.

    Social security checks are nothing more than the talent of bread handed out by the ruler of Babylon.

    A lot of what you might think of as "non-market" are actually just misleading because people think of the spot market. Continuing delivery of bread, or eventual delivery of SS checks, in exchange for lifelong loyalty as a citizen is not the "this in hand for that in hand" exchange that is easily followed in a spot market, where delivery on both sides is immediate upon completion of negotiations, but it is still an exchange, and it is still governed by the rules of the economic system, and it still occurs in "the market."
     
  3. Cheezy the Wiz

    Cheezy the Wiz Socialist In A Hurry

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    43 posts, a whole bunch of bad definitions of socialism, and nobody has yet asked the dialecticians for an answer. For shame.

    I mean, we have a thread for it and everything....
     
  4. Ajidica

    Ajidica High Quality Person

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    Since when did Marxists get to decide what Socialism meant?
    I'm pretty sure Julius Nyerere, Patrice Lumumba, or Aneurin Bevan would be a little annoyed that you didn't consider them socialist.
    I would say that socialism is more than reaching X number of dead capitalist scum and sticking a hammer and sickle on your flag but that is just me.
    Unless of course we want to head down the absolutely hilarious rabbit hole of "socialist" politicians in Cold War Africa which saw North Korea training Zairean soldiers who fought alongside French paratroopers to defend Franco-Belgian mining interests from the FNLC (who were descended from ex Katangese Gendarmes who fled Katanga after Mobutu took over) and were supported by the MPLA. The MPLA in turn used Cuban soldiers -with East German weapons- to guard Chevron oil platforms from the self-proclaimed "Maoist" UNITA who were supported by South Africa and the US.
    So either the East Germans, Cubans, and Best Koreans were *terrible* judges of authentic socialist ardor or perhaps socialism is a bit broader than the "Leninist BFFs Club". Bevan considered himself a socialist and I dare say that that the Welfare State did more to help people than any amount of choreographed military parades chanting how there is no motherland without you.
     
  5. Lexicus

    Lexicus Deity

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    I'm not knocking it, I just thought it was funny because it was close to word-for-word.

    Change that to material gain. The rest of your post is just the standard market-fundamentalist nonsense. Loyalty to the state has nothing to do with the market, while gift-giving is a quintessential non-market "economic" activity. Interpreting breathing and eating as market behaviors means markets are natural but such a view of markets has nothing to do with reality - it's unfalsifiable metaphysics.

    It's a lot simpler if we interpret behaviors that clearly have nothing to do with buying or selling as non-market behaviors, than if we bend over backwards to see everything in terms of a big market. But whatever. No point convincing market-fundamentalists that their religion is wrong.
     
  6. Timsup2nothin

    Timsup2nothin Deity

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    Breathing isn't a market behavior, because air, at least for now, is not scarce. Eating isn't a market activity, but the acquisition of food certainly is.

    If you have a better idea, within economics, than what you are calling nonsense I'd be happy to hear it. It appears to me that you are trying to portray assorted ancient civilizations as "non market economies" out of some inclination to paint "not for material gain" as some sort of "noble savage ideal," and that requires that these "not for material gain" exchanges occur outside your narrowly defined market.

    While there certainly ARE valid economic modeling practices that can describe those systems without using the principles of the market model, they aren't any simpler or more predictive than what you are calling "market fundamentalism." Occam's razor, and all that.
     
  7. Lexicus

    Lexicus Deity

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    They key phrase is of course within economics. Economics, at least the formal economics with lots of math that you seem to be talking about, cannot be applied to premodern societies.
    It's nothing at all to do with advancing a "noble savage" idea, it's the fact that these societies work qualitatively differently from our own, in which the market is much more present.
    Economics poses as 'the science of how humans dispose of scarce resources' but it's in fact the science of how buyers and sellers interact in markets. Where humans are not acting as buyers or sellers in a market economics is useless.
     
  8. Timsup2nothin

    Timsup2nothin Deity

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    I disagree. Economics provides a valid modeling tool for any system in which there are scarce resources, and works particularly well in analysis of societies where food was the primary scarcity. The widely held idea that "you can only use it if you consider such nebulous 'goods' as loyalty or security to be equivalent to tangible goods like rice or wheat" is valid, in a way, but not in the final analysis. Yes, you have to treat those intangibles as goods for the model to be effective, but as long as you do the model becomes highly predictive and more useful than any "oh, hey, economics just doesn't apply so let's examine this in some randomly subjective manner" could possibly be.

    Anyway, now we've reached the impasse, I suspect. You are claiming "exemptions" from economic analysis that I don't accept myself, but you are certainly free to analyze whatever you want using whatever tools you prefer. Economics is pretty much my most preferred tool, so it will likely continue to be my first choice.
     
  9. Lexicus

    Lexicus Deity

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    Economics doesn't provide "a" modeling tool. There are many different models in economics. None of them can be applied in the absence of integrated markets.
     
  10. west india man

    west india man Immortal

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    Not an equitable distribution of wealth at all

    Bevan didn't act alone, and while he may have considered himself a Parliamentarian socialist, destroying capitalism doesn't come peacefully (not even with a ''socialist'' as Prime Minister).

    Leninists seem to define socialism as any place that calls itself socialist, though, so maybe all that was needed was re-naming the UK so that it would become the People's Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
     
  11. trader/warrior

    trader/warrior Deity

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    I am generally against purist definitions of things like socialism and capitalism. I would say my country has a strong socialist tradition, but probably even more so capitalist, resulting in it being described as typical social democratic in broad terms. These sort of purist definitions seem to me to result in its supporters focusing more on eliminating those who profess opposing views rather than implementing their own, because that kind of purity will by definition never be reached. Someone who wants "pure capitalism" or "pure socialism" will view anyone who isn't that kind of pure as the very thing that prevents them from having their preferred mode of societal organization.
     
  12. Lexicus

    Lexicus Deity

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    Relatively equitable. In the US wages matched productivity for example. What's the problem with that?
     
  13. west india man

    west india man Immortal

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    Wages by definition do not match productivity, because they are the product of theft. There may have been a smaller gap between the richest and the poorest than there is today, but that doesn't mean that the gap didn't exist, it just means that a situation that was already terrible has since gotten even worse.
     
  14. Lexicus

    Lexicus Deity

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    This is just Marxist dogma. The labor theory of value is the cornerstone of this analysis, and the labor theory of value is clearly wrong in that labor is not the only thing that produces value.

    To the extent that wages are below productivity, you can accuse the capitalists of theft- but where wages equal productivity, you cannot, and where wages exceed productivity ( a historically rare circumstance but it actually did happen in the US in the second half of the 19th century, leading to the corporate reorganization of the economy from 1890-1910) theft is going the other way.

    This reflects a lack of historical perspective. 1945-70 in the US and Western Europe was arguably the least unequal time and place in history. The longer sweep is of capitalist society becoming more equal over time and then those gains being lost in the more recent period from 1970-present. We are now exceeding the inequality of the '20s that produced the Depression, and the only question is when the next crisis comes.
     
  15. Timsup2nothin

    Timsup2nothin Deity

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    If you are going to suggest that wealth inequality produced the depression, please back that up.

    I agree that we currently have gross inequality, and that it is likely to produce a crisis of some sort, but of all the causes I've heard defended for the great depression wealth inequality isn't among the front runners.
     
  16. Lexicus

    Lexicus Deity

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    Wealth inequality is more specific than I was, but the Depression, like the Great Recession, was a classic crisis of overproduction. The 1920s saw unprecedented productivity gains, due to technical advances and things like widespread electrification. Yet at the same time real wages were stagnant or decreasing (sound familiar?).
    What this does is create a mass of wealth that has no productive investment outlet. So that wealth went into inflating a bubble, which broke and crashed the stock market. This caused a credit crunch which meant that it was no longer possible for people to finance consumption with debt, as had happened on an unprecedented scale in the late '20s (again, exactly what happened in the 2000s).
    No consumption (low aggregate demand) means no economic activity. Companies will not invest or hire people if people are not consuming.
    The New Deal helped matters some, by snatching the financial system out of freefall and giving people some disposable income, but it wasn't until World War II that the political constraints on government spending were removed which enabled us to actually get out of the Depression.
     
  17. Timsup2nothin

    Timsup2nothin Deity

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    I agree that the depression was a classic. It was similar in every respect to every recession that came before it, as it was a standard feature of the free market capitalism of the times. It was the final demonstration that free market capitalism doesn't work, in that every one of those recessions was deeper and longer than the one before it, and it was predictable that if the next one followed that pattern and was deeper and longer than the depression of the 1930s it would be fatal.

    That pending fatality is what justified the New Deal, which was the first exploration of interventionist capitalism, which has been the economic structure ever since. Trying to equate recessions suffered in a totally different economic structure is a poor effort. A crisis in an intervionist capitalism system needs to be analyzed within the rules of that system, not adjusted to fit the rules of a dead system.
     
  18. west india man

    west india man Immortal

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    Free market capitalism hasn't died

    What else produces value, then?

    Wages cannot exceed productivity by definition, because if wages are received, then someone is using the wealth generated from the productivity to pay said wages. Thinking that workers are stealing from bosses because you might think that they have high wages is ludicrous, because the fact that wages exist at all are a testament to the fact that capitalists are stealing from the workers.

    Capitalism generates inequality pretty much by definition, and neoliberalism is a reaction by capitalists to undo rights which have been fought for by workers. Wealth inequality in Europe and North America in the mid-late 20th Century was noticeably high, and I wouldn't consider it any sort of golden age of egalitarianism at all.
     
  19. Timsup2nothin

    Timsup2nothin Deity

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    Where is it being practiced? There is no country on earth that isn't participating in the interventionist capitalism of Keynes. They might take different approaches to it, with "austerity" being an obviously stupid approach that is currently way too popular, and an assortment of other poor approaches also being far too prevalent, but they all operate in the same basic set of rules.
     
  20. Manfred Belheim

    Manfred Belheim Moaner Lisa

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    That may be true if the worker designs the product, mines/chops/grows all the raw materials required to make the product, refines them, builds or buys the machinery and tools required to then use them to make the product, for every part of the product at all stages, then packages the product, does all the marketing and advertising for the product, then transports the product to where it is required (and presumably loads of other steps I missed out). But if you're doing all of that you're unlikely to be working for someone else anyway.

    If you're not doing that then you're not responsible for the entire value of the final sold item, and the guy who runs the company can most definitely supply all the organisational "labour" required to make the whole thing work and generate a profit, which has value. Unless you're stating that, by definition, any "capitalist" (i.e., someone who employs other people) does not ever do anything of any value and therefore cannot legitimately earn a living from the combined profits of the labours of himself and his employees.
     

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