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 Making Poverty History 
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AlexVocat wrote:
I think the thrust of my point was that capitalism evolved in a bottom-up fashion. The evolved part is the key though. Naturally, something which has evolved has stood the test of time and has worked best for the greatest number of people.

Correction: Naturally something that has evolved has stood the test of time and works best for its own survival. The welfare of people has very little to do with it. Cosider how long slave-economies have persisted for.
AlexVocat wrote:
The most capitalist countries are also democratic.

Not true. Lots of capitalist countries operate for long periods of time with no democracy whatsoever.
All the South American Dictatorships in the mid 20th Century.
Apartheid South Africa.
Almost all the countries of North Africa and the Middle East.
In fact, apart from Libya, North Korea and Cuba, all the dictatorships in the world are capitalist.[/quote]


July 22nd, 2011, 1:39 am
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What you're overlooking, Thundril, in your analysis, is that the great technological inventions that have made life better for most of the world have come under capitalism. Free markets drive innovation as well as efficiency.

The "invisible hand" that you disparage is not so much theory as observation. Where there are producers and merchants and customers operating freely in the absence of monopolies, competition drives fast responses, better products, makers and vendors coming in to a market or leaving it, lower prices, and better standard of living. That's what Adam Smith saw happening without any control except for each person acting in his own self interest. He didn't invent the term until he observed it in action.

Now it gets more complicated and less clear cut as market size increases. Big corporations and labor unions try to get monopolies wherever they can, and to craft the laws to their benefit, and if they are successful, then you no longer have free markets operating. You could still call it capitalism, but it's a bastardized form of capitalism, and the invisible hand is no longer at work. I suspect nobody here is in favor of that kind of "unfettered laissez-faire" capitalism. But on a smaller scale, and if well controlled by government rules on a larger scale, free market capitalism is a great system for everybody.

There is indeed the issue of inequality of wealth. Obscene disparities, as we have now, are disheartening, and ideally would be diminished by tax policy. But I'd rather somebody have ten times the money that I do, as long as I can live and eat well, than everybody being equally poor, including me.


July 22nd, 2011, 2:29 am
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Wilson wrote:
What you're overlooking, Thundril, in your analysis, is that the great technological inventions that have made life better for most of the world have come under capitalism.

I am not overlooking this, Wilson. I have stated several times that I recognise that private enterprise is an excellent mechanism for satisfying a particular set of human needs. But I would point out that some of the most important improvements in human life have been discoveries like the importance of basic hygiene and nutrition; I don't see that these discoveries would never have been made under any conditions except the 'free-market'.
Like you, I see the downside of 'unfettered capitalism'. I think what separates us more than anything else is that I think that the harm that capitalism is doing requires a response more positive than a pious hope that the free market would sort it all out without planned intervention if only it wasn't for the most efficient of the capitalists!


July 22nd, 2011, 2:44 am
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Wilson wrote:
What you're overlooking, Thundril, in your analysis, is that the great technological inventions that have made life better for most of the world have come under capitalism.
Is that the result of capitalism or the result of the vast amounts spent on defence/space research?

Quote:
Free markets drive innovation as well as efficiency.
And waste.

Quote:
The "invisible hand" that you disparage is not so much theory as observation. Where there are producers and merchants and customers operating freely in the absence of monopolies, competition drives fast responses, better products, makers and vendors coming in to a market or leaving it, lower prices, and better standard of living. That's what Adam Smith saw happening without any control except for each person acting in his own self interest. He didn't invent the term until he observed it in action.
I'm reminded of the programme I saw a few months ago. A company was spending millions of pounds on a campaign to persuade us to buy their new brand (sic) of water rather than some other. The amount of intellectual effort, creativity as well as the money being spent on this was obscene. Yes, it's this 'competition' that - possibly - keeps other manufacturers' prices down, but the utter waste of it all is disgusting.

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Now it gets more complicated and less clear cut as market size increases. Big corporations and labor unions try to get monopolies wherever they can, and to craft the laws to their benefit, and if they are successful, then you no longer have free markets operating. You could still call it capitalism, but it's a bastardized form of capitalism, and the invisible hand is no longer at work. I suspect nobody here is in favor of that kind of "unfettered laissez-faire" capitalism. But on a smaller scale, and if well controlled by government rules on a larger scale, free market capitalism is a great system for everybody.
But isn't that the ultimate aim - and indeed, the daily aim - of capitalism: to monopolise the market so they control prices, rather than their customers having any kind of a say?

Quote:
There is indeed the issue of inequality of wealth. Obscene disparities, as we have now, are disheartening, and ideally would be diminished by tax policy. But I'd rather somebody have ten times the money that I do, as long as I can live and eat well, than everybody being equally poor, including me.
Tax policies only have a limited effect, particularly if they are local and not global. We keep getting told that if our tax regime is too onerous on businesses or individuals, they will simply go elsewhere, because the aim, first and foremost is to maximise profit. The disparities will continue as obscene as ever until we find a better way, but it seems clear to me that unfettered capitalism can only ever be a failure and even controlled capitalism, a compromise that we have to continually refine to stop those with the monetary power turning it back into the unfettered variety.

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July 22nd, 2011, 10:49 am
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AlexVocat wrote:
Thundril wrote:
Or there might be a push to innovation precisely because feeding everyone is so important.

Interesting point. But the incentive is greatly reduced. Remember selfish desires. If we want development to help secure our next meal then the idea that any profit will be instantly spread like a raindrop in a swimming pool reduces the selfish incentive. Granted it's still there, but to a much smaller extent. The greatest prosperity comes from bottom-up trade. As soon as you dictate who does what and where products go, rate of prosperity is reduced.


AlexVocat wrote:
But the incentive is greatly reduced.

How is it reduced? Why doesn't this apply to, for example, soldiers? Why are so many people willing to give time, energy, even blood, quite freely for the common good? Remember unselfish desires are just as real!
AlexVocat wrote:
If we want development to help secure our next meal then the idea that any profit will be instantly spread like a raindrop in a swimming pool reduces the selfish incentive.

Well, it would. But how would that neccessarily impact on production, given the prevalence of other motives for working?
AlexVocat wrote:
The greatest prosperity comes from bottom-up trade.

Can you explain this statement? indeed, can you substantiate any of the unsupported assertions you have repeatedly made, and for which I have repeatedly requested explanations, Alex?
AlexVocat wrote:
As soon as you dictate who does what and where products go, rate of prosperity is reduced

Who is proposing such a dicatorship over production and distribution? Another strawman.

AlexVocat wrote:
Thundril wrote:
Marxism is certainly not 'idealist' in the philosophical sense.

I'll concede that.

Thank you!

AlexVocat wrote:
There are direct consequences of socialism which would be repeated in any country it was tried in.
Thundril wrote:
Name some.

Stagnation of economy, and the knock-on effects of this.

"stagnation of economy". - Why?
"knock-on effects". - For example?

AlexVocat wrote:
Thundril wrote:
I noted earlier your appeals to human nature, but have yet to see exactly what you think human nature is. I wonder if you could point to any parts of human behaviour (individual or collective) which can be attributed to anything other than human nature?

Perhaps human nature is a confusing phrase to use.

Well, why have you used it so consistently? and why do references to 'human nature' crop up with such dreary predictability in so many capitalist apologias? And why do they so consistently fail to say what this 'human nature' is supposed to be, that fits capitalism so well?
And, if we drop all the appeals to human nature from your own contributions to this thread, what are we left with? -arguments against over-population which, AFAICS, go something like this:
1. Capitalism is better than any other system for solving human need. You have to take this as a flat statement of (unsupported) fact, because I can point to some other systems that are worse.
2. There are too many poor people. I see this as a problem. But if there weren't so many poor people I wouldn't see such a problem.
3. If there weren't so many poor people then capitalism would be able to solve everyone's needs; but there would have to be not so many of the most successful capitalist enterprises as well. So we need to stop the poor from breeding, and then find some (not-too-onerous) way to get the most successful capitalists to stop doing the things that made them the most successful capitalists in the first place.
Admittedly this is a rough (and perhaps rather unkind) sketch of your position, but can you say which parts of it are actually wrong?


July 22nd, 2011, 1:25 pm
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Alan wrote:
And waste.

I wouldn't go there. Central-planning leads to a great deal more waste then markets. Both create it, but markets are more efficient and create less of it.

Alan wrote:
But isn't that the ultimate aim - and indeed, the daily aim - of capitalism: to monopolise the market so they control prices, rather than their customers having any kind of a say?

No, capitalism has no 'aim'. Businesses have their goals, we can embrace these as well as control them when they operate to the detriment of the rest of the market. There is no New World Order administered by the world's to CEOs. As I've said, capitalism is evolved trade, it has no 'aim'.

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July 22nd, 2011, 3:34 pm
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AlexVocat wrote:
Alan wrote:
And waste.

I wouldn't go there. Central-planning leads to a great deal more waste then markets. Both create it, but markets are more efficient and create less of it.

Stil citing 'Central Planning' as the only conceivable alternative to consumerism, Alex? You do have a strange attachment to this particular strawman. Why?


July 22nd, 2011, 3:38 pm
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AlexVocat wrote:
There is no New World Order administered by the world's to CEOs.

Depends what you mean by 'New'. :smile:


July 22nd, 2011, 3:46 pm
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Thundril wrote:
1. Capitalism is better than any other system for solving human need. You have to take this as a flat statement of (unsupported) fact, because I can point to some other systems that are worse.

The way you've worded makes it sound like there's a point to it. In actual fact you have just described the very definition of 'better' or 'best' system. It's better than the rest. What's wrong with that? If you want to see it as a lesser of many evils then fine, but it's still the best. This is supported by observation. There are many countries that are both democratic and capitalist. This does say something.

Thundril wrote:
2. There are too many poor people. I see this as a problem. But if there weren't so many poor people I wouldn't see such a problem.

Well let me re-write this. There are too many people. I see this as a problem because there aren't enough resources to sustain all these people to a decent level of life standard at the current level of efficiency. But if there weren't so many people, the same amount of resources could sustain them to a greater life standard without even a need for increasing efficiency. Once this has occured, efficiency can increase as much as it wants and the population, which remains at the same size, experiences an increasing level of life standard.

You've treated the poor and rich as seperate. You seem to think that I'm saying we should "stop the poor from breeding". Not so. We should limit all of us from breeding. Only then could any socialist spreading of wealth (which I agree with in theory) be implemented. But as I've said before, once this is done there is no reason why increasing efficiency cannot be allowed to continue. I would just mean increasing life standard for everyone. But only if the population remained at the same size.

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July 22nd, 2011, 3:53 pm
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Alan wrote:
Stil citing 'Central Planning' as the only conceivable alternative to consumerism, Alex? You do have a strange attachment to this particular strawman. Why?

Complete Central Planning ----------------Alan?--------------------------------A------------- Complete Free Market

My position is where the 'A' is. The markets are the most efficient means of producing our needs and desires. In an ideal world, every business owner would recognise that too much greed of money and power ends up becoming detrimental to society. But in the real world, some don't recognise this. Thus we have systems in place to prevent this (or at least we should have). So you say that full central planning is a straw man, that no-one is advocating it in this thread. Fine, but why do you advocate being further left than me? If it's control of markets you're after, then join me on my little 'A'. What other benefits occupy the space between complete central planning and 'A'?

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July 22nd, 2011, 4:01 pm
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Thrundril wrote:
"stagnation of economy". - Why?

You have a job, as designated by Mr Government. This job may be suitable to your talents (as is the theory) but you have better ideas for increased efficiency or making more money (not just for yourself because any system you invent could benefit everyone else). But labour is designated by the government. Sure you can apply for new things but the beauracracy is thick. Gaps in the 'market' cannot be filled easily, they must be approved. Supply and demand can still, in theory, work but it becomes a slower more lethargic cycle. Demand leads to the government discussing it which then maybe leads to it being supplied by a designated supplier.

The thing is, the above would be alright. But the thing is, my model of pop. control, spreading of wealth and then continuation of capitalism gives better progress. And history has lead us to the point where a switch to socialism without pop. control would dramatically reduce the life quality of some and increase by a miniscule amount, the quality of life of the many. Pointless.

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July 22nd, 2011, 4:14 pm
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AlexVocat wrote:
Thundril wrote:
1. Capitalism is better than any other system for solving human need. You have to take this as a flat statement of (unsupported) fact, because I can point to some other systems that are worse.


The way you've worded makes it sound like there's a point to it. In actual fact you have just described the very definition of 'better' or 'best' system. It's better than the rest. What's wrong with that? If you want to see it as a lesser of many evils then fine, but it's still the best. This is supported by observation. There are many countries that are both democratic and capitalist. This does say something.


OK so you are confirming that statement no 1 (although somewhat roughly phrased) is a statement of your position. Yes? You take the 'systems' that have existed so far as the only possible 'systems'? Yes?

AlexVocat wrote:
Thundril wrote:
2. There are too many poor people. I see this as a problem. But if there weren't so many poor people I wouldn't see such a problem.


Well let me re-write this. There are too many people. I see this as a problem because there aren't enough resources to sustain all these people to a decent level of life standard at the current level of efficiency. But if there weren't so many people, the same amount of resources could sustain them to a greater life standard without even a need for increasing efficiency. Once this has occured, efficiency can increase as much as it wants and the population, which remains at the same size, experiences an increasing level of life standard.


What exactly is the reason you think there are 'too many people'? Is it not precisely because you think the world's productive capacity at the moment cannot sustain so many people without some of them being in a state of absolute poverty? If this is your position, (as you seem to be reiterating here) how is that different from saying 'there are too many poor people'?

AlexVocat wrote:
But only if the population remained at the same size.


Unless efficiency continued to grow at a faster rate than the population! :wink:


July 22nd, 2011, 4:46 pm
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AlexVocat wrote:
Thrundril wrote:
"stagnation of economy". - Why?

You have a job, as designated by Mr Government. This job may be suitable to your talents (as is the theory) but you have better ideas for increased efficiency or making more money (not just for yourself because any system you invent could benefit everyone else). But labour is designated by the government. Sure you can apply for new things but the beauracracy is thick. Gaps in the 'market' cannot be filled easily, they must be approved. Supply and demand can still, in theory, work but it becomes a slower more lethargic cycle. Demand leads to the government discussing it which then maybe leads to it being supplied by a designated supplier.

As a pastiche of the way the Stalinist models of Socialism operated in the 20th Century, this is not bad, Alex. But how many times do I have to say this? I am not advocating the establishment of a state socialist system. I am saying that
1. There are some things wrong with the current form of capitalism, as it operates to increase suffering and deprivation in the world. This needs to be recognised and considered, in the context of intervening to improve things for the people who currently are suffering the most.
2. There are some things wrong with the current form of consumerism, as it drives us to produce and consume at an ever-increasing rate in the context of finite and ever decreasing resources. This needs to be considered, with a view to possibly reducing the rate at which we are consuming resources, and the rate at which we are increasing greenhouse gasses.
3. Some form of collectivisation of effort and resources needs to be considered as a possible part of the solution, with respect to the production and distribution of some classes of goods, and with historic awareness of the dangers of putting power into the hands of bureaucracies without having appropriately-developed political safeguards in place.
Now. Since this is merely a reiteration of what I have said several times already, can you perhaps point to the relevance of your attacks on the Stalinist political model?


July 22nd, 2011, 5:05 pm
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AlexVocat wrote:
Alan wrote:
And waste.

I wouldn't go there. Central-planning leads to a great deal more waste then markets. Both create it, but markets are more efficient and create less of it.
Why bring up central planning? I never mentioned it.

Quote:
Alan wrote:
But isn't that the ultimate aim - and indeed, the daily aim - of capitalism: to monopolise the market so they control prices, rather than their customers having any kind of a say?

No, capitalism has no 'aim'. Businesses have their goals, we can embrace these as well as control them when they operate to the detriment of the rest of the market. There is no New World Order administered by the world's to CEOs. As I've said, capitalism is evolved trade, it has no 'aim'.
I see that as playing with words. Businesses - with some exceptions - are out to control their market and make as much money as possible. And what's this talk about a 'New World Order'?

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July 22nd, 2011, 5:27 pm
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Alan H wrote:
Why bring up central planning? I never mentioned it.


Well, come on, boys, tell us what system you advocate. It's pointless to criticize free market capitalism without offering an alternative. When you, Alan, or Thundril, accuse Alex of straw man arguments, it's frustrating, because you're never described what economic model you have in mind. Maybe you don't really have one. I have to reluctantly conclude that you're just whining at the injustice of it all - which is fine, but totally worthless with respect to making things better.


July 22nd, 2011, 5:48 pm
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Wilson wrote:
Well, come on, boys, tell us what system you advocate. It's pointless to criticize free market capitalism without offering an alternative. When you, Alan, or Thundril, accuse Alex of straw man arguments, it's frustrating, because you're never described what economic model you have in mind. Maybe you don't really have one. I have to reluctantly conclude that you're just whining at the injustice of it all - which is fine, but totally worthless with respect to making things better.

Wilson. I'm copy-pasting this from my post slightly further up this page, just in case you haven't read it.
Quote:
I am saying that
1. There are some things wrong with the current form of capitalism, as it operates to increase suffering and deprivation in the world. This needs to be recognised and considered, in the context of intervening to improve things for the people who currently are suffering the most.
2. There are some things wrong with the current form of consumerism, as it drives us to produce and consume at an ever-increasing rate in the context of finite and ever decreasing resources. This needs to be considered, with a view to possibly reducing the rate at which we are consuming resources, and the rate at which we are increasing greenhouse gasses.
3. Some form of collectivisation of effort and resources needs to be considered as a possible part of the solution, with respect to the production and distribution of some classes of goods, and with historic awareness of the dangers of putting power into the hands of bureaucracies without having appropriately-developed political safeguards in place.

Even earlier in this thread, (or was it in a different one?) you reply to Alex with a remark to the effect that you're not a 'rules kind of guy'. Well I'm not a 'rigid pre-defined systems' kind of guy.
At the very least, I don't recommend a 'system' until we have examined the problems, come to some outline agreements that the problems actually exist, and proposed some directions in which to search for solutions. How is this 'whining', or 'totally worthless with respect to making things better'?


July 22nd, 2011, 6:39 pm
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With respect, thundril, there's not much substance there. If you're simply saying that we should continue with capitalism, but work to correct its shortcomings, I agree with you.


July 22nd, 2011, 7:48 pm
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Wilson wrote:
Alan H wrote:
Why bring up central planning? I never mentioned it.


Well, come on, boys, tell us what system you advocate. It's pointless to criticize free market capitalism without offering an alternative. When you, Alan, or Thundril, accuse Alex of straw man arguments, it's frustrating, because you're never described what economic model you have in mind. Maybe you don't really have one. I have to reluctantly conclude that you're just whining at the injustice of it all - which is fine, but totally worthless with respect to making things better.
I don't have one in mind and I've said that many, many times! First, let's agree there is a problem; then lets work out where we want to be sometime in the future; then we can work out how we might get there. But please don't dismiss what I have to say just because I don't have a ready-packaged answer to the problems - problems don't usually get resolved like that, do they?

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July 22nd, 2011, 8:36 pm
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Wilson wrote:
With respect, thundril, there's not much substance there. If you're simply saying that we should continue with capitalism, but work to correct its shortcomings, I agree with you.
That, of course, does not have to be the only solution. In fact, it might be best to get rid of one system altogether, rather than just tinker with it. Before you ask, see my previous post.

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July 22nd, 2011, 8:38 pm
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Wilson wrote:
With respect, thundril, there's not much substance there. If you're simply saying that we should continue with capitalism, but work to correct its shortcomings, I agree with you.

The substance of my argument is that, contrary to the rosy view of the 'invisible hand' faithful, there are things wrong with the way capitalism operates. I am arguing that we need to examine these faults honestly, because only when we have an agreement on this point, (ie whether or not these faults are endemic to the existing system) can we sensibly move on to discuss solutions.
How can you say there is 'not much substance' in the argument that modern capitalism is fundamentally harmful to the poorest in society? You may well disagree with the statement, but it's not insubstantial, is it?
How can you say there is 'not much substance' in the claim that there is a serious contradiction with a system that requires more and more consumption of goods in a world of rapidly depleting resources?
How can you possibly have interpreted my last contribution as a proposal that we should "simply . . continue with capitalism, but work to correct its shortcomings,.."?
I am saying that it is the working of capitalism itself that is driving these problems (of over-consumption, of dwindling resources, of conflict over control of the sources of the raw materials needed to produce the ever-increasing flood of 'stuff', and therefore of war and poverty in the countries where these raw materials are found).
I am proposing that part of the solution to this over-exploitation of 'resources', including people, is for us to consider ways in which we could reduce our consumption, without reducing our quality of life.
I am suggesting that, because we are intelligent, resourceful, imaginative, creative people, this change of behaviour would not be nearly as difficult as the 'consumption-machine' propagandists would have us believe,.
How is any of that 'insubstantial'?


July 22nd, 2011, 8:40 pm
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