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  • Capitalism is Opposed to Human Happiness Debate, Volume 2

    A Debate with
    the community of PoliticsForum.org

    Part #14

    Posts #066-#070

    By Gigi Ibrahim
    Image: By Gigi Ibrahim, CC BY 2.0

    Post #66

    Red Barn...
    Date: Wed 28 Jul 2010

    Then I guess you've been answered twice. :) Lucky indeed!

    I'm curious, though, as to how you come to agree with Radical, but very certainly not with me? :( I never said I advocated a centralized state. I'm a Libertarian Socialist, and agree with the majority of her/his points (which, BTW, I think have been presented in an admirably thoughtful and painstaking fashion).

    I think its interesting that any and all efforts at objective analysis of very practical things like wages and profits and productivity and surplus immediately calls up this sort of response from people. Is it because Marx's system of analysis is used? Or because the word "socialism" is tossed around?

    I personally don't happen to believe that a post-Capitalist planned economy is necessarily a centralized economy, and I'm curious as to why so many apparently do.

    Post #67

    Punkerslut (using the alias CNT-FAI Radical)...
    Date: Fri 30 Jul 2010

    Hello, CatoLives,

    CatoLives wrote:
    I think you are on to something here Radical. What we need is extreme decentralization. I propose we divide society up into units - we will call them individuals - and give each individual autonomous control over their bodies and the property they own. Allow them to interact with each other, to trade, to make deals, if it suits both parties. See, this is even better than your proposal, because it goes further. Since the problem is centralization and individuals with too much power and control over each other, we need to totally remove the power and control man can weild over man, and allow only voluntary interactions. Every individual would be autonomous, self governing, and ACTUALLY free instead of enslaved to some idiot council.

    I do not think that a workers' council is necessarily "some idiot council." They operate far more democratic than any other government: the delegates in charge have no authority and can pass no laws. They can only draw up suggestions and pass them to along to workrers, who can accept or reject these proposals, as well as replace or remove any delegate.

    It would be impossible to decentralize industrial economy. This may have been feasible several centuries ago, where decentralization meant giving a plot of land with a hoe and a hammer. How do you expect to decentralize the oil industry, where probably less than a few percent of the globe's surface has drillable access to petroleum? How do you expect to decentralize mines and factories? Even farms have come under so much machinery that it is virtually impossible to have a one-person farm. So, yes, while technology does increase the total output per head, it comes with the difficulty that no one person can really own their own piece of productive property. Or, at least, it would be so little and insignificant compared to the great vast holdings of corporations.

    One single person who owns and works a mine, a farm, or a factory, then, will be utilizing the productive property to only 4 or 6% of its total capability. And, imagine if we gave one factory to each person. That's probably a few thousand people out of every ten million. So, if we want to equalize productive power, that necessarily entails collective. Long ago, we could have equalized the property of hammers and saws, but today, it would be industrial suicide to give one person a turbine, the next an iron press, and the next an assembly line. The factory only works because it is the epitome of economic centralization. Technology, without this centralization, is practically impossible. Naturally, the only solution is to organize each productive industry according to the democratic referendum of its workers. Of course, it is ideal to continually chop these industries into smaller and smaller pieces -- but, the fact pretty much remains, that it would be impossible to truly decentralize any of this productive technology. This is especially so with current industrial trends, where machinery requires less labor, but significantly far more capital investment -- it will be more like a hundred or two factories for every ten million, than a few thousand.

    If we did not collectivize industry, then one person in charge of a mine would naturally result in the same act of domination again. The one, who has the means of production, exploiting the many. And so, this solution would not be able to resolve the problem.

    Hello, amjdmg,

    amjdmg wrote:
    But as you know (and as the OP demonstrated), the exploitation theory is derived from the labour value theory.

    Really? How come I wasn't aware of this demonstration? You can answer the question 'where does wealth come from?' without necessarily asking or answering the question 'how do we value wealth?'. It is only necessary to have the most abstract concept of wealth.

    Hello, KPres,

    KPres wrote:
    Too much blabber...

    I see a lot of happy capitalists...

    That's interesting. South America and Africa have been dominated, economically and politically, by Capitalists for the past four hundred years. Sounds like Capitalism made them very unhappy.

    And Mexico is listed as happy? Mexico is a happy place? Clearly, this is a graph based on national production, and nothing else. Mexico is so happy, that in 2006, the workers and the people violently rose up, and overthrew both the state and Capitalism in Oaxaca, fighting Mexican Imperialist forces for six months, in as glorious a fashion as the Paris Commune -- and you're telling me, these people are happy with their government? I suppose the French were in love with King Louis XVI. India, which holds a sixth of the world's population, seems to be very unhappy, after six decades of local, parliamentary, capitalist government and the centuries of foreign, parliamentary, capitalist government. And, this is perfect: Ireland is more happy than Britain. Perhaps staying a colony increases your chances of "happiness."

    KPres wrote:
    Surplus value is an empty concept because it ignores the value of intellectual labor. A person, a capitalist, who brings together disparate elements into a productive capacity adds value by that act. Even if all you do is lend out your money, you have to lend to the right people, that is, those who will use it a profitable manner, otherwise they won't pay you back. That requires research, which is labor. Even if all you do is hire people to do your intellectual labor, to manage your affairs, you have to hire the right people, or they'll blow it all on unprofitable, socially useless endeavors. So again, we have intellectual labor. Warren Buffett, for example, is worth $47 billion because that is the combined market value of his intellectual endeavors to this point.

    The creator of MS-Dos received $50,000, but the person responsible for withholding it from the public and creating a monopoly with it received $50 billion. If you look at the story of the automatic boiler, the automobile engine, the railroad, or even film and motion picture, you'll find the exact same story: one person invented the device and received nothing for it, but a few managed to create a monopoly on it and exploit the public. In many cases, the invention was stolen, and we do not even know the actual name of the inventor.

    Consider this from the point of view of my argument: that society should be organized according to the means that best improves the happiness of all. It would be to the advantage of both society and inventors if capital was directly controlled by the public. Then there would be an opportunity for every inventor, as well as the incentive to create, whereas today, there is no incentive for invention in Capitalism. Most businesses require that you sign a waiver resigning all your rights to anything that may be invented during your employment. This is for a good reason: workers are the ones who create, labor, and invent, capitalists could never imagine what is necessary for it.

    Yes, management is necessary to business, but it can and has been done collectively. The reason why capitalists receive wealth is not because they're "managers," since they usually hire someone else to do that. On the same token, you could just as well say they receive wealth for "mopping the floors" and "pushing the machine's buttons," -- even though they actually just hire someone else to do it. There is no intelligence labor done by the Capitalist, just like there is no physical labor. They pay other people to do it. This is absolutely the case for any business that isn't operated on such a small, tiny level.

    KPres wrote:
    ? Suska, that map measures self-ascribed "satisfaction with life."

    You're telling me that some reporting agnecy went to every single country in the world and actually conducted interviews with people to see how satisfied they are with their life? What firm speaks that many languages?

    No, of course not, that's ridiculous. As you can see from the Wikipedia page, it says quite clearly it is a measurement of "health (.7), wealth (.6), and access to basic education (.6)." Or, basically, wealth, since health and education require wealth. So, it is Colbertism: the measure of a nation's prosperity by the physical amount of wealth within its borders.

    Hello, Arie,

    Arie wrote:
    As pointed out earlier (by lucky?), we ourselves are part of society's productive forces: Does everyone have an equal right to us?

    This is a redefinition of the terms. Labor, technically, is capital, because it can produce, but capital, technically, is labor, because it was created by workers. These are poetic rephrasings and not the original meaning. People have a right to productive property, because it will guarantee a social order without any group having a greater bargaining power over another. People "having a right to each other" does not have this effect, but actually sounds more like a form of slavery. The end of the measures is equalizing of bargaining positions between all economic agents; a right to productive property for everyone does this, but a right to each other does not.

    Arie wrote:
    Choosing "worker's cooperatives" rather than "corporations" implies that only workers have a right to rule.

    Those who do the work should receive complete right to do what they want with the product of their labors. Under Capitalism, on the other hand, those who do not do the work have that right, the Capitalists. Furthermore, this isn't quite so much an entire "ruling society" situation, but only "ruling our workplace." After all, the citizens of a town should be those who choose how to organize it, instead of just one king among them -- and likewise, the workers of an industry should be those who choose how to organize it. There is no need for either king over subjects or capitalist over workers.

    Arie wrote:
    This is also true with a corporation in which each worker owns an equal share.

    Yes, but there is a difference between shares in a corporation and the right for every human being to the land. Shares are tradable, inherent rights of humanity are not.

    Arie wrote:
    If this is a successful model, than I suspect it will catch on. But I don't think you can say that a worker's cooperative could not become too large: The splitting of cooperatives you referenced is a volitional act, not one that would necessarily happen naturally.

    True, but given natural economic forces, a diseconomy of scale would put an overly-large cooperative at a disadvantage. Furthermore, people prefer to be one voice out of fifty or a hundred, as opposed to one voice out of ten thousand or twenty thousand. There is a natural type of sectionism among people; when I describe the cooperative as a "commune," I am speaking of it in its original Medieval Latin communia, "a small gathering of people sharing a common life." There are certainly many styles of unionism, cooperatives, etc., and we should choose a style that favors the success of equalizing economic positions.

    CNT-FAI Radical wrote:
    With each cooperative in need of others for resources, and with each cooperative made up of equally empowered workers, there no longer stands any person with the power to exploit. There is no longer anyone who can live off of the labor of others, control land without the peoples' consent, and create artificial hunger to boost prices.

    Arie wrote:
    You can say pretty much the same thing of corporations in which each member owns an equal share and the size of each corporation is limited. The main difference is that the "cooperative" emphasizes power to workers, and corporation emphasizes power to owners -- who might or might not be workers.

    You are absolutely correct. Peter Kropotkin noted in studying the history of European railroads that they are possessed by hundreds of different owners, but they managed to come to a common agreement on their share in production costs and profits. There was no exploitation between Capitalist of equal bargaining positions, which is exactly why I want to replicate this situation between all members of society -- so that there is no one subject to perpetual poverty in labor, while a very few have the fortune of extravagant luxury without contributing anything.

    Arie wrote:
    This inequality of bargaining power predates capitalism. You are using the term capitalism to represent opposition to labor and consumer unions. I don't think capitalism is opposed to labor and consumer union, but rather to mandated labor and consumer unions.

    I am using the word Capitalism as society has been organized in fact rather than in theory. In every age, there has been Capitalists, whether the upper-Caste of Indian religion, the Patrician class of Rome, wealthy merchants who exploited small-holders, feudalism and manorialism, etc., etc.. In each of these cases, a very few managed to gain the lion's share of society's production, without contributing labor. They had this power because of their possession of land and productive power, or "capital." And hence, those who have lived by their possession of capital, no matter what age it is, are "capitalists," and they are the masters of the "capitalist system." There certainly has been many forms of this inequality of bargaining positions, but it has always worked towards the great demise of the many at the benefit of the very few. Unfortunately, today people are only opposed to the ancient forms of inequality, not recognizing the contradiction in supporting the current form.

    Capitalism is naturally opposed to the people, seeking to have more for the few at the expense of the many. This has always been how it works, no matter what justification or form it has taken. Or, in the words of Jean Jacques Roussau, "Remember that the walls of towns are built of the ruins of the houses of the countryside. For every palace I see raised in the capital, my mind's eye sees a whole country made desolate." ("The Social Contract," 1762, Book 3, Chapter 13.) Thomas Hodgskin made it more clear in 1825, "Wages vary inversely as profits; or wages rise when profits fall, and profits rise when wages fall; and it is therefore profits, or the capitalist's share of the national produce, which is opposed to wages, or the share of the labourer." ("Labour Defended against the Claims of Capital.") Karl Marx certainly said something very similar to this, (see "Wage Labour and Capital") but these earlier analyses work just as well.

    Arie wrote:
    To expand on this difference, your implication is that if someone owns shares and is not a worker, he is exploiting others, or the work of others. Doesn't this view, the emphasis on work, ignore the value of raw materials, or at least denies any inherent right to own the ground you stands on, the air you breathe, or even your own self?

    If someone owns something, and makes a living by owning, they are not contributing anything. The "raw materials" or the capital provided, likewise, was not made by the Capitalist -- it was produced by other workers who were similarly exploited because of their lacking bargaining power. There should be a right to ownership for anyone who chooses to labor, and for no other reason.

    To quote John Locke, "He that is nourished by the acorns he picked up under an oak, or the apples he gathered from the trees in the wood, has certainly appropriated them to himself.... and it is plain, if the first gathering made them not his, nothing else could. That labour put a distinction between them and common: that added something to them more than nature, the common mother of all, had done; and so they became his private right." ("Second Treatise on Government," Chapter 5.) It seems rather clear from this that it is the laborers who have the right to the land they cultivate; Capitalists, who do not labor but live by employing labor, do not have a right to the land.

    Locke even went so far to say this could only be just "since there was still enough, and as good left; and more than the yet unprovided could use." He was talking about bargaining power that left the common person with an alternative to the wages offered by an established proprietor -- but that does not exist today, as there is not much easily-habitable land that anyone can just pick out and claim as their own.

    CNT-FAI Radical wrote:
    But, all the tiny plots of the Homestead Movement were either integrated into or consumed by monopoly Capitalism.

    Arie wrote:
    They were not consumed by an ideology, they were consumed by people with power. The central issue on which there seems to be some agreement here is that power should be distributed: At least political power, which in my view includes economic power (or at least not easily separated from it) but I'm sure there's disagreement on this point.

    I've never heard of anyone calling themselves a Monopoly Capitalist. I was making a reference to the market structure, which can either be "Monopoly," "Oligopoly," or "Monopsony." The people with power who consumed the small homesteaders were the Monopolist Capitalists.

    It is true that economic power needs to be widely distributed, but this cannot happen where the many are dependent upon the few for their right to eat and live.

    Arie wrote:
    Nor do I see why any attempt to do this is fundamentally different than the failed attempts you cited -- they were not created to "benefit the very few" nor to provide "questionable benefits", and some advocated a "wide popular movement determined to guarantee an equality of voice in politics", but they didn't. I think an interesting question is how would you prevent your proposal from having a similar fate? It could be an open question for now...

    For all I can tell from past revolutions, the question has been affirmatively convincing the people that it is in their benefit to change society. What exactly needs to be done is intensive, but I like the program of the CNT-FAI: widespread trade unionism among both agricultural and urban workers, unionization of street peddlers and petty merchants, endorsement of both the worker and consumer cooperative models, organizing the unemployed within the union, cultural and educational programs, etc., etc.. It is a matter of finding whatever means are most effective for shifting economic, bargaining power from an isolated few to the vast majority. And it is not likely to be the same solution in two different places.

    In the words of Peter Kropotkin, in regards to the expropriation of the means of production, "In any case, a system which springs up spontaneously, under stress of immediate need, will be infinitely preferable to anything invented between four walls by hide-bound theorists sitting on any number of committees." ("The Conquest of Bread," 1892, Chapter 5, Part III.)

    Post #068

    Date: Fri 30 Jul 2010

    No, of course not, that's ridiculous. As you can see from the Wikipedia page, it says quite clearly it is a measurement of "health (.7), wealth (.6), and access to basic education (.6)." Or, basically, wealth, since health and education require wealth. So, it is Colbertism: the measure of a nation's prosperity by the physical amount of wealth within its borders.

    Its just poorly worded. Although I can't help but laugh anyway. Are you happy? mwa... Have I had my coffee yet?

    Post #069

    Punkerslut (using the alias CNT-FAI Radical)...
    Date: Sat 31 Jul 2010

    Hello, lucky,

    lucky wrote:
    It's a very bad idea. Even the standard socialism where the state owns everything makes more sense.

    Suppose I have a one-person shop that's quite profitable. Just to hire somebody to help me sell more stuff, I would have to give up 50% ownership, which often would not be beneficial for me to do if my business is very profitable, or has a lot of inventory, or is otherwise worth a lot. I'd rather make 100% of the profit than 50% of a somewhat bigger profit. The price of labor wouldn't depend on the supply and demand for labor, but on the employer profitability and inventory. This would destroy the labor market.

    Suppose I own a house (I'm not sure how you think about house ownership in your system, but houses are really investments like any other). If I want to hire somebody to periodically clean the house, I can't, unless I share 50% of the house ownership with them? Or a lower percentage - and who decides that? In any case, I'd probably rather clean myself, especially if the house is expensive. It doesn't make sense for payment for labor to depend so completely on *where* the person is working.

    Suppose Google wants to hire a new employee. In your system they can't unless they share 1/20000 of Google stock with him. That's currently worth about $7.5 million in the market. Pretty steep "minimum wage". It simply wouldn't make sense to hire new people.

    Basically, you want to set an arbitrary price on labor rather than base it on supply and demand. That's not a good idea, just like any other price floor.

    As John Locke said in 1690, "As much as any one can make use of to any advantage of life before it spoils, so much he may by his labour fix a property in. Whatever is beyond this is more than his share, and belongs to others." ("Second Treatise on Government," chapter 5.) Before Adam Smith, David Ricardo, or Alfred Marshall, Locke was capable of discussing these essential aspects of economics. There is a meaningful difference between using property productively to increase your own wealth by your labor, and using property as a means to live off of the labor of others. Or, Locke set this limit as the taking of property "which makes it more difficult for others to take property." Naturally, Capitalism is certainly guilty of this, as there is no longer any free land to claim. Working twelve hours a day in unsafe conditions -- in every industrial revolution, the new working class suffered more than had they not even entered the industrial age.

    Naturally, if a worker is a manager and owner of all capital, there won't be any sale of capital. It will be up to the workers to decide collectively upon its management. So, a person who works at google isn't going to claim the 1/20000th value of the company and sell it. They're going to have an equal right to society's productive property which will allow them to bargain for a fair wage, and to have the necessary alternative should they decide to leave the bargaining table. Each person has a right to take whatever productive property is available, as long as this is not done to exclude others. It's such a simple concept, that John Locke has never been questioned upon it.

    There won't be a "labor market" where everyone is equally an owner and laborer of industry, or neither. Workers themselves can manage industries, and different industries like different cooperatives can work together towards larger, social aims.

    Hello, DanDaMan,

    CNT-FAI Radical wrote:
    These are questions of how we value objects. The question I asked was how to reorganize society so as to maximize access to valuable objects for all people. It doesn't matter if value is determined by labor or by utility.

    DanDaMan wrote:
    It does matter. There is no "utility" if the labor outweighs the utility.

    Yes, and it also matters that utility is defined as things that are useful, and labor as exertion upon the product. Yes, these are side-facts of the matter, and completely facts. But that has nothing to do with the point I was making, that the exact method for valuation of method (which nobody has given a formula to) is not necessary to understand how to reorganize society.

    Could you please be more specific why the difference between utility/labor valuation is essential in understanding who should be in control of society's products?

    Hello, again, Michaeluj,

    Michaeluj wrote:
    I was arguing that capitalism increases material gains through production, and you said, 'NO, that's worthless because then the people would be like slaves!' You were not interested in capitalism's benefits at all as long as there were the issues of bargaining inequality.You have been for a " society that most materially benefits its members and participants" yet you want that gains made primarily, fundamentally, dominantly through the use of social bargaining to make it so that "no person is exploited by any other simply because they do not possess productive property." I didn't say that you are against production, but that you hold almost no value to it when bargaining is still the primary issue to you. You are the one who is focusing on social issues foremost, meaning that you believe that fixing those issues first will provide the most gains; so, discounting pretty much all of my arguments for the productive benefits of capitalism with "
    Your justification for Capitalism is that it has a "propensity for production." I pointed out slavery, because it could be justified on the same ground. Ipso facto, we need a better justification than "Oh, this system can produce! It's good enough for me!"" is basically, since you're not stating the effectiveness of capitalism's productive potential, meant that you hold almost no value for production while bargaining is still your primary, only focus. So, do you really want to continue with talking about production when you clearly don't?

    This is your response from...

    You: Capitalism has a propensity for production.
    Me: So does slavery.

    You could have said something more intelligent like, "Wow, I guess productive powers of society aren't the most important thing."

    But, no... apparently, it means that I don't value production. Yeap, exactly.

    I think I'm done reading your post, but thanks.

    Post #70

    Date: Sat 31 Jul 2010

    DanDaMan wrote:
    It does matter. There is no "utility" if the labor outweighs the utility.

    Yes, and it also matters that utility is defined as things that are useful, and labor as exertion upon the product. Yes, these are side-facts of the matter, and completely facts. But that has nothing to do with the point I was making, that the exact method for valuation of method (which nobody has given a formula to) is not necessary to understand how to reorganize society.

    You actually just defined the flaw of organized societies. No model or bureaucracy can make an exact valuation.

    The reason socialist states work is not because they can calculate values... it's because their freer market neighbors make the price and demand calculations and they just mimic them.

    You remove the examination of freer market economies from the world and bureaucratic controlled markets fail very quickly. period.

    This is why Cuba is a slum and N. Koreans starve to death and have no anesthesia for amputations. They ignore their neighbors and rely on arcane models made by academics.

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