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 Making Poverty History 
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Joined: June 15th, 2011, 10:22 pm
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Location: Bristol, UK
It's long been my view that the one and only method of ending poverty is stabilising populations. Some areas are now so desperate that they need a population reduction before stabilisation. There are various ways to do this but the most popular option in the context of absolute poverty in, say, Africa, seems to be the empowerment (largely through education) of women.

In the UK we are constantly being told about shortages in housing and other resources. I can't help wonder why it is so hard just to limit our population. I get tired of people saying "it's just not good enough" when a resource is in short supply. People expect to have what they had yesterday at the same steady rate. They have no thought for the bigger picture, of how it arrives at their doorstep for them to use conveniently. I am also disgusted to see people on benefits with large families. If you can't look after yourself, don't have children. Now I'm not saying that their unemployment is their fault. They are unemployed due to a lack of jobs because, again, there are too many people. What I am saying is that it makes the problem much worse for the future when these people are having more than two children.

The counter-argument to population limitation is that technology will increase efficiency and allow our resources to work to greater effect. "Growth in technology increases the population's 'carrying capacity'". I don't dispute this. On the contrary I am very enthusiastic about free-market capitalism. It works to increase quality of life for all of us, eventually. What I don't like is this idea of "yes there's poverty but give it time and technology will chase it up.” Why adopt such a passive stance? We could do so much more if we just limited ourselves. Stabilising a population will allow technology to catch up and provide a more stable human race. At the moment, technology is fighting a losing game to catch the tail of population growth. Technology gets better but the population gets larger, and at an increasing rate. If the current situation persists, things can only get worse.

I would currently feel useless donating money to provide a mosquito net to one person who can then go and have more than two children who will all need another net themselves. It is futile. In contrast, if I was donating a mosquito net to a stabilised population I would know that I was providing real long-term protection. Currently I would favour donation towards projects that are doing the real good: educating primitive cultures and, most of all, their women.

Maybe there’s a general distaste towards being told that two children is enough but I don’t see why. Eugenics received a bad name from the Nazis and it hasn’t been able to shake it off since. But this isn’t even true eugenics! We are not talking about putting down every third child but instead a shift towards sensible family planning for the good of everyone, particularly those in poverty, whether it’s the relative poverty over here in the UK or the absolute lowest poverty elsewhere in the world.

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June 28th, 2011, 7:39 am
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I agree with most of what you say - you don't mention global warming but that is another pressing problem aggravated by increasing population; loss of biodiversity is yet another result of too many people. Empowering women in cultures which value them only for their breeding and family roles is the most important means to this end, but there is a long way to go in this; there is hopefully a virtuous circle in which rising living standards leads to smaller families (via the "population transition" I think it's called). I am not so sure about people on benefit with large families being a suitable target though - what are you going to do, deprive them of it? And I think you are just wrong to say that too many people means unemployment - more people means more demand for goods and services, hence more jobs.


June 28th, 2011, 8:20 am
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This is such an important thing to analyze. I believe that organizations like Planned Parenthood had the notion to educate women on actual family planning. They really are not just dishing out abortions, although I think that is a viable option in planning , or planning not to, have a family. My concern about the state of poverty are those folks that have recently lost everything to natural disaster. They will be needing help from our money that the government dishes out. I think its how someone decides "need". I do not think that people should have multiple children if it contributes to a lack of resources, I also disagree with our desire to prolong life for fear of death. It has become almost a race to keep people around, without being willing to give on the other side, Birth. As a humanist, and a human being, I cannot turn a blind eye to someone that is less fortunate , whether it be a child in Africa, or a child in Brooklyn, or a person, like myself, that is disabled.It is in our nature to try to do something, regardless of what you can afford to give. I do donate a little, mostly a 5 dollar donation which is what i can give. I like to think that can add to the pool. I see in myself, that I can not feel well if something bothers me, and I dont try, so for myself "I try". it helps me to feel whole. I would also suggest that we begin to use the title of "I" or "we" instead of "they". I get public assistance in the form of Social security as I am disabled. I payed into "Social Security" in the event that I were aged, disabled, or some other reason I may not be able to work. That is a We, WE decided that we needed security for our socially incapable, We justify their need with applications that you must qualify to recieve benifits. That is not something "I" decided, that is our ancestors idea, however I have accepted it and supported it. and I can say, it is I , and my community that help the socially incapable. I feel better when "I" have decisions, therefore I look for forums to say it. it is valuable.I will check back at times to see whre this goes

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June 28th, 2011, 10:25 am
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Welcome, Cain Cocteau! I like your point about using 'we' instead of 'they'.
Alex, I don't agree that population growth itself is a problem; more people means more demand plus more productive capacity. The problem is the availability of resources (including space) to feed this growing production/demand process. The groups you mention ('third world' people and people on welfare) consume far less, per head, than wealthier people. If we all consumed resources at the same rate as a fairly well-fed 'third world' family, there would be no resource shortages at all!
The free-market theory doesn't really work, in this view, because the free market requires continuous growth, or else it collapses. So we can't count on the free market to reach a state of equilibrium, after which consumption of natural resources holds steady. Free market capitalism requires us, almost as a duty, to consume more and more, with no mechanism for a controlled reversal of the rate of 'growth'; instead there are occasional reversals under conditions of crisis. 'Recovery' is the word used to describe our return to a maximum rate of consumption. If the rate of consumption of resources ever stabilised, with everyone deciding they only needed 'enough' and declining to produce or consume any more than enough (where enough includes a surplus for 'back-up'), that would be disastrous for the free market.


June 28th, 2011, 10:54 am
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thundril wrote:
Alex, I don't agree that population growth itself is a problem; more people means more demand plus more productive capacity.

animist wrote:
And I think you are just wrong to say that too many people means unemployment - more people means more demand for goods and services, hence more jobs.

Very true, an oversight on my behalf. Agreed with the pair of ya.
Cain Cocteau wrote:
I would also suggest that we begin to use the title of "I" or "we" instead of "they". I get public assistance in the form of Social security as I am disabled. I payed into "Social Security" in the event that I were aged, disabled, or some other reason I may not be able to work.

Of course, we have institutions to help us as a whole, to give all of us security if or when we need it. But this must be rational. We cannot continously hand out child benefit to large families because we would be denying better placed benefits to those that cannot even look after themselves.
thundril wrote:
The free-market theory doesn't really work, in this view, because the free market requires continuous growth, or else it collapses. So we can't count on the free market to reach a state of equilibrium, after which consumption of natural resources holds steady. Free market capitalism requires us, almost as a duty, to consume more and more, with no mechanism for a controlled reversal of the rate of 'growth'; instead there are occasional reversals under conditions of crisis.

I'm not talking about reaching a socialist state of equilibrium in that sense. We can consume more if rate of technological advance caught up with population growth. This is currently not the case. So a period of stabilising consumption is also needed before we can continue to advance and consume more at a sustainable rate. Capitalism works but there are always going to be a relative poor. It's something we have to accept because in the long term capitalism will benefit us all. The problem is when the relative poor of the system have more children than they can possibly sustain. We could alleviate some of the deprivation in these areas just by limiting the population. We could make the goods of capitalism go further and be of more benefit to the relative poor. But at the moment, capitalism cannot keep up.

And welcome Cain Cocteau! :D

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June 28th, 2011, 4:28 pm
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AlexVocat wrote:
thundril wrote:
Alex, I don't agree that population growth itself is a problem; more people means more demand plus more productive capacity.

animist wrote:
And I think you are just wrong to say that too many people means unemployment - more people means more demand for goods and services, hence more jobs.

Very true, an oversight on my behalf. Agreed with the pair of ya.
that is a slightly strange way to respond to thundril, since what he says seems to contradict your main point? He made the same point as I did, but used it to argue that population growth is all right. Well, I don't think it is all right, for the reasons I gave, though I agree with thundril that the Western world should stop thinking in growth terms; unfortunately this obsession with growth is infectious, and the Chinese are buying private cars at a depressingly enormous rate. Thundril is probably wrong to say that capitalism absolutely depends on growth, since capitalism is simply private enterprise, and this does seem to be able to adapt to changing needs - such as sustainability. But my hunch is that a dose of socialism (not called that of course, as it would not go down well in the USA) will at some point be necessary to avert global warming.


June 28th, 2011, 6:00 pm
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animist wrote:
Thundril is probably wrong to say that capitalism absolutely depends on growth, since capitalism is simply private enterprise,

I did specify 'free market capitalism' which is definitely not 'simply private enterprise'.
'Private enterprise' functions splendidly as a mechanism for producing and distributing certain goods; free market capitalism is an arena in which the people who don't actually produce any goods or services (except to a particular class of compulsive gambler) end up politically and practically controlling the entire structure of human trade. It is this, the need to return an ever-increasing profit to the financiers, which makes it impossible for society to reverse the rate of 'growth'.
animist wrote:
But my hunch is that a dose of socialism (not called that of course, as it would not go down well in the USA) will at some point be necessary to avert global warming.

Yes. I think some kind of control will have to be imposed on those whose drive for profit threatens the welfare of all who depend on the health of our ecosystem; in other words, everyone, including the blind profiteers!
AlexVocat wrote:
I'm not talking about reaching a socialist state of equilibrium in that sense.

I am! :smile:
AlexVocat wrote:
We can consume more if rate of technological advance caught up with population growth. This is currently not the case.

Statistics for this? Are you talking productive capacity per worker? In agriculture, construction etc? In communications, admin, secretarial? In computing, scientific lab testing? In which areas has productive capacity been slower than population growth over the past few decades? ( And for that matter, why should we want to consume more?)
AlexVocat wrote:
So a period of stabilising consumption is also needed before we can continue to advance and consume more at a sustainable rate.

OK, so how does the 'free market' achieve this 'period of stabilising consumption'?
AlexVocat wrote:
. . . in the long term capitalism will benefit us all.

Apart from a quasi-religious faith, what evidence is there to support this assertion?
AlexVocat wrote:
The problem is when the relative poor of the system have more children than they can possibly sustain. We could alleviate some of the deprivation in these areas just by limiting the population. We could make the goods of capitalism go further and be of more benefit to the relative poor.

Who are "they' and who are 'we'? I just don't accept this distinction. A large percentage of 'us' are dying for want of clean water, while some few of 'us' are profiting from activities that damage the water-table in drought-prone areas. 'We' have a right to control this exploitation of 'our' resources. 'We' are not going to limit the number of children we have until 'we' can be sure that a fair percentage of 'our' kids are going to survive past the age of three!
AlexVocat wrote:
But at the moment, capitalism cannot keep up.

Yes. I know. So something has to change, doesn't it?


June 28th, 2011, 6:42 pm
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AlexVocat wrote:
In the UK we are constantly being told about shortages in housing and other resources. I can't help wonder why it is so hard just to limit our population.
When it comes to housing shortages, the issue is not just about population, it's about the number of households, which has risen as more people are living alone. Apparently, the number of new households grew 4.2 million between 1981 and 2008 while the population grew by just 1.8 million (Moneyweek). And the people who live alone want more space. So when we ask why it's so hard to limit our population, we also have to ask why it's so hard to limit our space requirements. And when I say "we", I include "me".
AlexVocat wrote:
I get tired of people saying "it's just not good enough" when a resource is in short supply. People expect to have what they had yesterday at the same steady rate. They have no thought for the bigger picture, of how it arrives at their doorstep for them to use conveniently.
And it's not just about resources; it's about waste, too. We don't think about what happens to our waste when it leaves our doorstep or the sewer under our doorstep. Out of sight; out of mind. But that's not surprising, is it? It's a lot to think about. And most people don't have the time or the inclination to consider the bigger picture.
AlexVocat wrote:
I am also disgusted to see people on benefits with large families. If you can't look after yourself, don't have children.
Disgusted? Now that's a strong word for someone who doesn't believe that people are in control of their actions, and doesn't see them as morally responsible for them.
AlexVocat wrote:
Now I'm not saying that their unemployment is their fault.
But are you suggesting that when people have more than two children it is their fault? If so, why?
AlexVocat wrote:
They are unemployed due to a lack of jobs because, again, there are too many people. What I am saying is that it makes the problem much worse for the future when these people are having more than two children.
Thundril has already pointed out that the lack of jobs is not caused by too many people. People create jobs, and the more they consume goods and services the more jobs they create. And in the future, those of us who are old and frail will need people to care for us. What will we do if the birth rate drops significantly, education improves, and there aren't enough people willing to do all that unpleasant but necessary and very badly paid work?
AlexVocat wrote:
The counter-argument to population limitation is that technology will increase efficiency and allow our resources to work to greater effect. "Growth in technology increases the population's 'carrying capacity'". I don't dispute this. On the contrary I am very enthusiastic about free-market capitalism. It works to increase quality of life for all of us, eventually.
The invisible hand, eh? Nah, I don't believe in it. Free-market capitalism does nothing to protect the environment and prevent climate change, and it does nothing to protect communities and social cohesion.
AlexVocat wrote:
What I don't like is this idea of "yes there's poverty but give it time and technology will chase it up.” Why adopt such a passive stance? We could do so much more if we just limited ourselves. Stabilising a population will allow technology to catch up and provide a more stable human race. At the moment, technology is fighting a losing game to catch the tail of population growth. Technology gets better but the population gets larger, and at an increasing rate. If the current situation persists, things can only get worse.
Things will get worse. The population will increase. So will consumption. We're all doomed! :D
AlexVocat wrote:
I would currently feel useless donating money to provide a mosquito net to one person who can then go and have more than two children who will all need another net themselves. It is futile.
No, it's not. Malaria is both a consequence and a cause of poverty. Anything that helps to slow its spread will help reduce poverty, and that will in turn help development, including education, including the education of women and girls. And it is likely that malaria is also more directly a cause of higher birth rates. Where infant mortality is high, birth rates tend to be high. Families who expect a large proportion of their children to die are more likely to have more children to increase the chances that enough will survive to help with all the vital tasks of life.
AlexVocat wrote:
In contrast, if I was donating a mosquito net to a stabilised population I would know that I was providing real long-term protection.
If you want to provide real long-term protection, then wouldn't it be better to help members of that stabilised population learn to make their own mosquito nets? Or perhaps to manufacture VUAA1?
AlexVocat wrote:
Currently I would favour donation towards projects that are doing the real good: educating primitive cultures and, most of all, their women.
Primitive cultures? Lawks, there's a term I haven't come across for many years. I shall have to fight a knee-jerk politically correct reaction here, and look beyond your words. I agree with you that education is critical. And the education of girls seems to be particularly important. According to the World Bank, it is estimated that one year of female schooling reduces fertility by 10 per cent, and the effect is particularly pronounced for secondary schooling.
AlexVocat wrote:
Maybe there’s a general distaste towards being told that two children is enough but I don’t see why. Eugenics received a bad name from the Nazis and it hasn’t been able to shake it off since. But this isn’t even true eugenics! We are not talking about putting down every third child but instead a shift towards sensible family planning for the good of everyone, particularly those in poverty, whether it’s the relative poverty over here in the UK or the absolute lowest poverty elsewhere in the world.
Yes, sensible family planning — can't argue with that. Let's promote more of it. (And perhaps avoid using words like eugenics!) But what if people still want to have more than two children? What then? Would you want to introduce a two-child policy, and if so, what would the sanctions be for flouting the policy?

Emma


June 28th, 2011, 7:10 pm
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animist wrote:
that is a slightly strange way to respond to thundril, since what he says seems to contradict your main point?

Not at all. Technological advancement allows for population growth. At a certain level of technology, there is a maximum population that can be sustained. As soon as the level of technology rises, the same resources can be used more efficiently and thus the maximum population that can be sustained also rises. My argument is that population growth is increasing far too fast for the increase in level of technology to keep up. I’ve underlined the bit I omitted in my original argument.

So how does level of technology increase? Capitalism.
AlexVocat wrote:
In the long term capitalism will benefit us all.

thundril wrote:
Apart from a quasi-religious faith, what evidence is there to support this assertion?

I sense an anti-capitalist in Thundril. The proof is in the pudding. Look at every failed state that did away with capitalism. I’ll be the first to admit that it needs controlling; a world dominated by Wal-Mart is not the idea. But the principle works. Socialism is the worst way to promote technological advance. There is little incentive for it unless specified in a government quota. Capitalism positively seeks out entrepreneurs and new technologies. This is funded by the rich in society and the products eventually work their way down to the poor. To repeat: there will always be a relative poor, but quality of life for all increases.
thundril wrote:
Yes. I know. So something has to change, doesn't it?

Yes but increasing our consumption does not have to change. Granted we could decrease the rate at which consumption increases but the absolute key is to stabilise population growth. Once this is done we can wait for technology to catch up. It would finally not be constantly chasing the tail of population growth. We could also reduce population to speed up this process. But cutting capitalism off altogether is a big mistake. One must accept that there will always be a relative poor but capitalism increases quality of life for all in the long run. Socialism in theory stabilises quality of life. The poorest in the UK are still better off than they were only decades ago because of capitalism. A read of Matt Ridley’s ‘The Rational Optimist’ would give you reason to trust the system.

Emma wrote:
Disgusted? Now that's a strong word for someone who doesn't believe that people are in control of their actions, and doesn't see them as morally responsible for them.

But are you suggesting that when people have more than two children it is their fault? If so, why?

I think it’s best if we keep free will out of this. The only impact that free will’s non-existence should have is a stop to blind punishment. Yes, strictly speaking, it is not somebody’s fault if they have more than two children, but this still needs to be prevented, as you agree in your paragraph about family planning.
Emma wrote:
The invisible hand, eh? Nah, I don't believe in it. Free-market capitalism does nothing to protect the environment and prevent climate change, and it does nothing to protect communities and social cohesion.

Another socialist? Oh dear, looks like I’m a minority here.
Emma wrote:
No, it's not. Malaria is both a consequence and a cause of poverty. Anything that helps to slow its spread will help reduce poverty, and that will in turn help development, including education, including the education of women and girls.

A good point. So it’s maybe not futile but there are better options, which you offer yourself.
Emma wrote:
Primitive cultures? Lawks, there's a term I haven't come across for many years. I shall have to fight a knee-jerk politically correct reaction here, and look beyond your words.

You do make me chuckle. I’m sorry but a culture does not get awarded untouchable status just because it’s a culture. This is the precise same argument that religions use to fight off criticism. If we are to accept the valid point that ‘they’ should be included into ‘we’ then condemnation of cultures must come as a part of that. I think you may be getting uncomfortable with the idea of us telling people how to run a country and I have some sympathy to this, but we must recognise the superior position we are in. This is what I mean by primitive. In a lot of cases we can’t blame the members of these societies because they have never known any better. But this does not mean that we should leave them to it and ‘respect’ their culture. Sometimes you have to realise that we (the First World) are in a better position to make judgements on what should be done. Education is the key to this difference.
Emma wrote:
What would the sanctions be for flouting the policy?

A difficult question but one that should not lead to giving up on the idea. Maybe financial incentives could be applied (at least in the UK) instead of black and white legislation. Any ideas yourself?

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June 29th, 2011, 12:00 am
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Emma wrote:
AlexVocat wrote:
I am also disgusted to see people on benefits with large families. If you can't look after yourself, don't have children.
Disgusted? Now that's a strong word for someone who doesn't believe that people are in control of their actions, and doesn't see them as morally responsible for them.
I wish I had said that! Yes I think this shows how difficult it is to separate one's actual behaviour from theoretical speculation about ethics and behaviour, and I don't see the point of denying the validity of the former in favour of the dubious claims of the latter. I agree with your other points; what we see in Western society is the result of the end of the extended family and of the successful drive to prolong lifespans: more demand for separate households, and this is frankly a luxury in the situation of limited space and resources. The other thing, which I mentioned previously as the population transition (actually the demographic transition), is that there seems to be an effect whereby family size reduces as result of economic development: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demographic_transition
Of course, whether we can rely on this is another matter, as the article implies.

As politics seems to be creeping in here, I don't think either capitalism or communism on their own have good records with the environment: the invisible hand of the free market ignores externalities like pollution, while the Soviet efforts to develop Central Asia led to disasters like the drying up of the Aral Sea. We need cooperation and a sustained sustainability focus, with the rich countries helping, not bullying, the poorer ones


June 29th, 2011, 10:44 am
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AlexVocat wrote:
animist wrote:
that is a slightly strange way to respond to thundril, since what he says seems to contradict your main point?

Not at all. Technological advancement allows for population growth. At a certain level of technology, there is a maximum population that can be sustained. As soon as the level of technology rises, the same resources can be used more efficiently and thus the maximum population that can be sustained also rises. My argument is that population growth is increasing far too fast for the increase in level of technology to keep up. I’ve underlined the bit I omitted in my original argument.

So how does level of technology increase? Capitalism.

You evoke an image of these parallel curves of technological advance and population growth as if they were related in some fixed and fairly simple way (eg both linear, or both exponential). But, as you repeatedly show, under capitalism the increased productivity made possible by technological development is not distributed evenly (per capita) across the population; there is no direct correlation here. And further, the disadvantages resulting from technological development tend to be distributed in something like inverse proportion to the wealth of local populations.
AlexVocat wrote:
In the long term capitalism will benefit us all.

thundril wrote:
Apart from a quasi-religious faith, what evidence is there to support this assertion?

Quote:
I sense an anti-capitalist in Thundril.

Yep! :)
AlexVocat wrote:
The proof is in the pudding. Look at every failed state that did away with capitalism.

This is a non-refutation of my criticism of capitalism.
Though the two major attempts that have been made so far to develop an alternative to capitalism (China and the Soviet Union) deserve many negative characterisations (dictatorship, repressive, corrupt, bureaucratic), they could hardly be described as 'failed states'. Neither could Cuba, which has worked astonishingly well, under extremely difficult circumstances. In fact I can't think of any states that 'failed' because they 'did away with capitalism'. Can you supply examples? Or perhaps you could clarify what you mean by the term 'failed states'?
The development of monstrous oppressive state-machines in Russia and China indicates that there are things we need to learn if we are to find better ways of producing and distributing life-essential goods and services; better ways of protecting vulnerable populations from powerful interests exploiting their local resources; and better ways of living our lives than being trapped in an ever-more-frantic whirl of work more to earn more to consume more to need more to work more. This way lies madness!
AlexVocat wrote:
I’ll be the first to admit that it needs controlling;

So your commitment to 'free-market' is not that great?
AlexVocat wrote:
a world dominated by Wal-Mart is not the idea.

Which 'idea' are we discussing here? The 'idea' that the free market will alleviate poverty?
AlexVocat wrote:
But the principle works. Socialism is the worst way to promote technological advance.

What? Worse than, say, threatening Galileo with the Inquisition? Beware hyperbole, Alex!


June 29th, 2011, 11:01 am
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AlexVocat wrote:
Emma wrote:
Primitive cultures? Lawks, there's a term I haven't come across for many years. I shall have to fight a knee-jerk politically correct reaction here, and look beyond your words.

You do make me chuckle. I’m sorry but a culture does not get awarded untouchable status just because it’s a culture. This is the precise same argument that religions use to fight off criticism. If we are to accept the valid point that ‘they’ should be included into ‘we’ then condemnation of cultures must come as a part of that. I think you may be getting uncomfortable with the idea of us telling people how to run a country and I have some sympathy to this, but we must recognise the superior position we are in.
and whose culture has produced the problems of over-consumption and pollution, supplied the weapons for disastrous wars, and created the underlying conditions for those wars? Your language of superiority is inappropriate in a situation where a return to so-called primitive lifestyles based on recycling and thrift may have at least a part to play in saving the planet


June 29th, 2011, 12:45 pm
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AlexVocat wrote:
Another socialist? Oh dear, looks like I’m a minority here.

Possibly not, Alex. Nick, for example, presents a very robust and well informed economic argument for capitalism. So can some other TH regulars. Check out 'Modern Economics', in the "Science and Pseudo-science" forum.

AlexVocat wrote:
Emma wrote:
Primitive cultures? Lawks, there's a term I haven't come across for many years. I shall have to fight a knee-jerk politically correct reaction here, and look beyond your words.

You do make me chuckle. I’m sorry but a culture does not get awarded untouchable status just because it’s a culture.

This is a total non-sequitur!
AlexVocat wrote:
This is the precise same argument that religions use to fight off criticism.

This is another non-sequitur! Can you explain how your responses connect with the the statements you quoted?
AlexVocat wrote:
If we are to accept the valid point that ‘they’ should be included into ‘we’ then condemnation of cultures must come as a part of that.

Why must it? As an example; Although we (the English) have a lot of different cultures, (eg the differences in attitudes and humour between Liverpool and Bristol) I don't see that makes it legitimate for me, as a natural-born Scouser, to condemn Bristolian culture (just because they're a bunch of humourless dullards)?
:exit:
AlexVocat wrote:
but we must recognise the superior position we are in. This is what I mean by primitive.

Please clarify. I trust your do not intend to imply that a position of power, attained through a combination of ingenuity, ruthlessness and historic circumstance, actually equates to superiority?
AlexVocat wrote:
In a lot of cases we can’t blame the members of these societies because they have never known any better.

But I took your comment on 'free will and moral responsibility' to imply that we can't 'blame' the members of any societies in any cases at all? (I'm not even going to touch the patronising bit at the end.)
AlexVocat wrote:
Sometimes you have to realise that we (the First World)

Ummm, you buy all that shit about the countries of the 'Third World' not actually being part of the capitalist sphere of activity?
AlexVocat wrote:
are in a better position to make judgements on what should be done.

Why? Because we have hands-on experience of how corrupt dictatorships operate?


June 29th, 2011, 1:05 pm
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Location: Bristol, UK
Let me start by saying – as a general response – that I never said capitalism was without faults. I referred to the use of controlling it several times. Without such control we would end up with something similar to a Wal-Mart dominated world.
thundril wrote:
So your commitment to 'free-market' is not that great?

Well ‘free-market’ is the term used. If you want to be pedantic and argue that any control whatsoever would bring an end to markets being free then go ahead but the idea of a market-dominated economy is the point. One where ideas can bloom (with some wasted). This provides incentive for invention (new, more efficient methods of doing things) and allows the demands of society to be met.

I see socialism as a reaction to the very worst of un-tamed capitalism which goes too far the other way. It’s too idealist and doesn’t work as well as capitalism. Perhaps the term ‘failed states’ was too strong. But put it this way, where would you rather be living?
thundril wrote:
The development of monstrous oppressive state-machines in Russia and China indicates that there are things we need to learn if we are to find better ways of producing and distributing life-essential goods and services; better ways of protecting vulnerable populations from powerful interests exploiting their local resources; and better ways of living our lives than being trapped in an ever-more-frantic whirl of work more to earn more to consume more to need more to work more.

You miss the important point; the one defining benefit of capitalism and the one I have already mentioned: quality of life increases, maybe not equally, but it does increase for all in the long term. Now I know I’ve said this before but bear with me. It’s not working more to work more. It’s constantly finding more efficient ways to make the same amount of work go further. Socialism would create a near-stagnant economy. It’s sustainable sure, but capitalism can be as well with the right controls. The idea that you work to make up your quota as designated by a large, central government is hardly a stage for great innovation.

I think what you guys are saying is that we’ve got far enough, we are at the point that the rich are consuming way more than they need to, to the detriment of the poor. You seem to be saying that now is the time to spread the wealth. Maybe this is a viable option in the future but currently the level of absolute poverty is too low. Because most wealth is concentrated in a small part of the population (something one must accept in capitalism in return for the long-term benefits to everyone), spreading the wealth will not raise the level of absolute poverty sufficiently. Not yet. Until the level of absolute poverty is sufficient to give those people the essentials for living with acceptable health and wellbeing. The only way we can get to this level is through some form of capitalism. I’ll quote a passage from ‘The Rational Optimist’:
Quote:
The rich have got richer, but the poor have done even better. The poor in the developing world grew their consumption twice as fast as the world as a whole between 1980 and 2000. The Chinese are ten times as rich, one-third as fecund and twenty-eight years longer-lived than they were in 1955. Despite a doubling of world population, even the raw number of people living in absolute poverty (defined as less than a 1985 dollar a day) has fallen since the 1950s. The percentage living in such absolute poverty has dropped by more than half – to less than 18 per cent. That number is, of course, still all too horribly high, but the trend is hardly a cause for despair: at the current rate of decline it would hit zero around 2035 – though it probably won’t. The UN estimates that poverty was reduced more in the last fifty years than in the previous 500

So what’s the difference between the last 50 years and the previous 500? The birth of the global market. Not just trading but ‘innovation networking’ (as Ridley calls it).

I accept that China and others are not failed states and have done very well. But is it the best option? In the case of China remember that it has received much FDI from companies originating in capitalist democracies. It has a large workforce which companies are making use of. If the whole world worked on the basis of China’s system then things would be a lot different. In short, communist China (now becoming more and more free) has succeeded only because of the capitalist countries it deals with. If we are looking for the best self-contained system which could be replicated across the world, capitalism is the best option.

animist wrote:
and whose culture has produced the problems of over-consumption and pollution, supplied the weapons for disastrous wars, and created the underlying conditions for those wars? Your language of superiority is inappropriate in a situation where a return to so-called primitive lifestyles based on recycling and thrift may have at least a part to play in saving the planet.

No no no. This desire to go back to hunter-gatherer, self-sufficient lifestyles is totally irrational, a reactionist desire in light of what capitalism allows for when untamed. It is not virtuous to do away with our global market. Such a view is ignorant of the vast amount of workers at your disposal when you walk into a supermarket. We are able to consume tiny fractions of the specialised work of so many people and we all benefit. The problems you cite can be dealt with using adjustments to a system that, at its most fundamental, works.

You guys may define capitalism in a much stronger way than I do. I can’t stress enough how much I agree that companies on the whole cannot be trusted to be moral, but they can be trusted to supply what’s in demand. I am totally for control of such companies and a stripping of their power over our governments. But it’s going too far to wish for an idealist system.

I’m clinging onto the cliff here. I’m a student and it's generally accepted to be a rite of passage that I will have a left-wing ‘phase’. I’m not trying to defeat this stereotype but I have a father who went through it all: die hard Marxist to a free-market right winger. For me it’s a sign that most people ‘grow out of it’, accept that there will always be relative poverty but that the key is to employ the best system to increase the threshold of absolute poverty.

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Alex Vocat


June 29th, 2011, 9:15 pm
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AlexVocat wrote:
Let me start by saying – as a general response – that I never said capitalism was without faults. I referred to the use of controlling it several times. Without such control we would end up with something similar to a Wal-Mart dominated world.
thundril wrote:
So your commitment to 'free-market' is not that great?

AlexVocat wrote:
Well ‘free-market’ is the term used.

By you, very specifically.
AlexVocat wrote:
I see socialism as a reaction to the very worst of un-tamed capitalism which goes too far the other way.

A reasonable point of view, but one which seems a bit simplistic to me. Perhaps that's because I don't see the only options as 'either Capitalism or Stalinism'


June 29th, 2011, 11:34 pm
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Free market capitalism obviously makes the average person more prosperous. It's very efficient. But you have to regulate certain aspects of it. Unfettered capitalism results in monopolies, and you have to prevent that as best you can. Anything that reduces competition also reduces efficiency, costs jobs, cuts wages, and raises prices. That's why there are anti-trust laws for businesses in the USA. You've also got to regulate the financial markets.

As long as the economy is humming along, businesses do well. There's low unemployment, so there's competition for workers, and wages are good. There are plenty of consumers with money and there's price/value competition, so prices stay low.

When the economy slumps, what should happen ideally, in my opinion, is that businesses should be able to cut wages and lay off workers as necessary. That way, unemployment doesn't get hit so hard, more people have at least some money to spend, more businesses survive, and the recession shouldn't last so long. The pain is spread out. But that can't happen in an industry that is unionized. They keep wages high, which forces businesses to keep product prices high, if they are going to survive, which is therefore going to be difficult. Eventually more businesses are going to fail, when they wouldn't if they had been able to adjust according to traditional market forces.

At least in the US, unions are exempt from anti-trust laws. Certainly unions should be allowed, but they shouldn't be able to keep businesses from adjusting to business conditions. In my opinion, unions have too much power. You can't blame them for acting in their workers' interest, but I believe that they make the recovery from recessions longer. That's because they reduce the efficiency that is the strength of market economies.


June 30th, 2011, 12:23 am
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What you've done there Wilson is laid out some of the 'controls' of capitalism that I have repeatedly talk of. I'm sure you'll agree that what you are referred to in your posts is a tamed capitalism, not a market-enhanced socialism. Do you see my point? We're not talking about stalinism or capitalism but we are talking about something based upon the fundamentals of capitalism. If you want me to do away with my use of 'free-market' and 'capitalism' (maybe these are too strong terms?) can we at least agree that right-leaning is best?

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Alex Vocat


June 30th, 2011, 2:48 am
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This from the chambers of all quick knowledge, Wikipedia:
Quote:
A social market economy [also called social capitalism in this article] is a nominally free-market system where government intervention in price formation is kept to a minimum, but the state provides for moderate to extensive provision of social security, unemployment benefits and recognition of labor rights through national collective bargaining schemes. The social market is based on private ownership of businesses.

I struggle to see what is fundamentally wrong with this. Maximum freedom with benefits for the less well off but an acceptance of differential wealth in light of the long-term benefits for all.

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Alex Vocat


June 30th, 2011, 2:58 am
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thundril wrote:
AlexVocat wrote:
Emma wrote:
Primitive cultures? Lawks, there's a term I haven't come across for many years. I shall have to fight a knee-jerk politically correct reaction here, and look beyond your words.

You do make me chuckle. I’m sorry but a culture does not get awarded untouchable status just because it’s a culture.

This is a total non-sequitur!

No it's not. Emma was implying that I had no right to use the term 'primitive cultures', or that it was distasteful. But it's not. Who's the bad guy out of:
- a culture which - say - still openly treats women as inferior or places faith as its main source of morality, or
- me who labels such a culture as primitive?

I would agree whole-heartedly that we are in our superior position completely because of circumstance and that the means by which we got here are not all clean. But why be so humble and respectful to what are so clearly primitive cultures? There's a point where you have to realise that we are in the best position to see what should be done. And it's all down to level of education. This doesn't mean that we get it right all the time but do you really think we can leave them to it, that they should be left to advance education for themselves? If you really want to make a difference then you have to realise that in making that difference you are judging what is bad about a society and working to improve it based on your standards. To then say that our societies are equal and that neither is primitive is to be opposed to any intervention whatsoever, including something as passive as provision of education.

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Alex Vocat


June 30th, 2011, 3:45 am
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Alex, we're not that far apart in our economic views, I think. The thing about capitalism that isn't good is that in some cases there is an almost obscene concentration of wealth in the hands of the superrich. Wealth begats wealth. I believe that income tax rates should be quite graduated in an attempt to even things out to some extent. In a communist or extreme socialist system the people have the satisfaction of knowing that their neighbors - unless they are privileged government officials - are not much wealthier than they - but chances are that they and all their neighbors don't have a lot. Which system leads to greater happiness? Probably a well regulated free enterprise system, even with its inequities, because of all the freedoms you have and the greater prosperity. But there might be exceptions. Money doesn't always buy contentment.


June 30th, 2011, 4:30 am
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