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  • Capitalism is Opposed to Human Happiness Debate, Volume 2

    A Debate with
    the community of PoliticsForum.org

    Part #22

    Posts #106-#110

    By Flats!
    Image: By Flats!, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

    Post #106

    Date: Sat 07 Aug 2010
    Yes, in the current "capitalist", or rather free market world, various arrangements and configurations are permitted and continue to evolve. A key activity in this system is negotiation or bargaining. The concern is about fair distribution of this bargaining power, which gave rise to unions, or collective bargaining.

    Your point that both labor and capital contribute is valid: It's just that you assume that the capital legitimately belongs to the investor, and the way to entice investment is by offering him a share of the profits in perpetuity (dividends). An "anti-capitalist" would argue that this is not a legitimate deal (much like ponzi schemes or other shady games with money, that even we don't recognize as legitimate), and that his ownership of his capital is illegitimate in the first place, being based on the labor of others. The bottom line then is a debate about who is the legitimate owner of the capital.

    Post #107

    Punkerslut (using the alias CNT-FAI Radical)...
    Date: Sun 08 Aug 2010
    lucky wrote:
    ^ I assumed equal skills and equal family situation, for simplicity, hence equal shares. I strive for the simplest example to present the core problem so that it's simple to understand. That the details of a real scenario could be more complex doesn't fix the underlying issue.

    Your example was about how two inventors need to share their earnings equally with semi-skilled labor. How is it possible that this situation is "equal skill"?

    Either way, I like Adam Smith's observations of trends with independent workers, you know, preferred to your made-up example. Consider the automotive industry, worth billions. Why take on another worker, when it means splitting with them everything that the automotive industry has? Oh, wait, that's right. The entire industry is based on stealing patents and nobody legally owns a car design. (See Nikola Tesla's Autobiography.) So, as I have pointed out many times, why should any worker invent anything under Capitalism? They have never benefited from it. MS-Dos to the car to the loom.

    But, I did point out multiple, actual situations where workers abolished government and Capitalism, without any problem, and were able to create the most egalitarian society imagined on this planet. (Doubt it? Read "Homage to Catalonia" by George Orwell, and let me know.)

    After all, as I pointed out, Amazon is wealthy only because they are so capable of being unskilled in their unproductivity, such as the 1-Point Click sale. Their inventors are not wealthy for making themselves productive -- they're wealthy for preventing others from being productive, just like Microsoft and Macintosh. So, according to this theory, every worker who joins deserves a debt of $50,000 from their contribution to unproductivity, right?

    Naturally, it won't be a problem when businesses are directed by the people themselves. " ...one cannot by fair dealing, and without injury to others, satisfy the nobles, but you can satisfy the people, for their object is more righteous than that of the nobles, the latter wishing to oppress, whilst the former only desire not to be oppressed." ("The Prince," Machiavelli, Chapter 9.)

    Oh, wait... that has nothing to do with what you said, right? Probably, because I just repeated what I said before in simpler, quicker language. (If you aren't the "reader type.")

    Post #108

    Punkerslut (using the alias CNT-FAI Radical)...
    Date: Sun 08 Aug 2010
    Hello, Arie,

    Arie wrote:
    I didn't labor to create myself, I didn't labor to create the air, I didn't labor to create the land I stand on. I didn't labor to create the sea, the beach, the forest, the animals, the trees, their fruit. These are gifts of God the creator, or nature. Of course I understand that labor was invested to improve the land, to plant seeds and tend to their growth, etc: To manipulate these gifts to great advantage, when necessary and possible. Human labor didn't "create" the tree, it took care of it. Our ancient role is stewardship, not creation. To believe that human creation, the products of human labor are the only things of value, being more valuable than God's creations, is the epitome of human arrogance. The ideal was known even in ancient times: Man did not work in the Garden of Eden. If you are familiar with that allegory, it explains the need to work as a curse, not as a commandment or a moral imperative.

    In as friendly a tone as possible, I need to point something out to you: There is no god. And if there is, you wouldn't be able to know it. Because... " If god has spoken, why is not the universe convinced?" (Baron D'Holbach)

    Either way, that's conjecture in a realm beyond economics. You don't believe in the heavenly mandate when it comes to politics. You don't believe some fool who comes up to you and says "God appointed me to that throne!" Then why would you accept heavenly mandate into the sphere of economics? There is no place for it here, at least if you're trying to think rationally and intelligently.

    Arie wrote:
    Furthermore, aren't we always trying to find ways to reduce our work load? to increase efficiency and produce more with less work? You yourself mentioned the move to reduce work hours: It is our goal to reduce the amount of labor that we need to invest, with the ultimate culmination being no need to work at all! In effect, returning to the "Garden of Eden".

    Of course, and mos of reduction of work is done by workers. This is why almost every place of employment comes with a waiver, "Any invention you make under the employ of X shall become the property of X..." Even for the worst, assembly line jobs you could imagine. Fact is, even if you were a genius, you couldn't do a thing about. Your inventions, like Windows and the railroad and the steam engine and the automobile and motion pictures, will be taken from you -- and you won't receive a dime for it.

    But isn't it ironic that, typically the most ignorant of society, are responsible for some of the most important and significant inventions? The automatic steam-engine, invented by a child of eight-years old, unknown by name to history, and probably completely illiterate. Invented so he could have a machine do his job while playing with his friends. (Discussed very early in "Wealth of Nations," by Adam Smith.)

    Further, as you can see from instances like "1-Click Sale," Capitalists invent devices to be unproductive. The option to buy something online with one click. That's so genius, it deserves to be patented. Now all business online is in civil violation of the patent, except Amazon who owns the patent. You want to be your own innovator, and make your own online business? Well, spend fifty-thousand dollars to borrow a patent for the right to sell things online. No, it's not really respected anymore, but it's still a legally-enforceable patent. Now, are you really telling me... that some Amazon CEO deserves $50k for every website that sells something, just for inventing the idea of selling things online with mouse clicks?

    No, obviously not. Vanderbilt, Carnegie, Edison, look up the portraits of history's fabled industrialist. They invented artificial shortages -- man-made famine from lack of food, man-made winter from lack of coal. And whatever inventions they did make, every year, more and more evidence confirms that it was their workers, and not the Capitalists, who invented anything.

    When I'm talking about Socialism and I'm talking about the right to the fruits of their labors, of course the workers must absolutely own the means of production. Who do you think is going to pay an inventor more? Some Capitalists who loses something by paying it, especially if it is productive and makes commodities more available? ("Manufacturing Consent," by Michael Burawoy, contains many examples of this at the U.S. military contractor Allied.) Or, in fact, the workers themselves?

    You don't have many other options. You can criticize one or the other, but in the end, it has to be one, or the other, and it cannot be both or neither. You can institute a Communist Party chairman or someone from the king's nobility -- it's still a Capitalist who directs work and reaps the profits. So, who is it that is more likely to reward productive work? Capitalists, who are known to reward unproductive work that makes profits, or workers, who are going to reap lesser working time and greater compensation from higher productivity? Clearly, it is the latter.

    For the Capitalist can gain commercially, by withholding the introduction of prodcutive machinery. And even where it is introduced, market prices for those commodities typically remain the same, according to statistics and not according to university-taught economic theory. (See "Political Economy," by Sismonde de Sismondi, for the textile example.) But the worker, on the other hand, knows that they can feed more and work less, by more productivity.

    It is like the democracy of politics. Kings will resist anything that makes the people more united or more self-sufficient, for it means they need the king less. And Capitalists will resist introducing productive machinery, because that will mean a weaker bargaining position on the market. The question is not "how do we reward our kings and queens, for the wonderful designs they have implemented upon society?" The question is "how do we reorganize society, so that everyone is properly rewarded, for whatever contribution they make to society's art and science?"

    In regards to the 1% of Britain owning 70% of the land...

    Arie wrote:
    I don't support such discrepancy in the distribution of wealth, so this is not a response to anything I said.

    I understand that, but I was just trying to point out a few things. First, the likelihood of a few Capitalists slowly gaining more and more, like in the case of Carnegie or Vanderbilt, until the point where they are that economically powerful. That is to say, especially with the Industrial Revolution, market forces naturally have a tendency to economically separate owners of capital from workers of capital. And second, with this new entrenched oligopoly of Capitalists, trying to establish your own commercial independence is going to be difficult. The near-monopoly and near-monoposony conditions will produce a situation of unequal positions of bargaining power. It is the same difficulty as the worker against the big Capitalist, as for the home-mail order business against Walmart.

    Arie wrote:
    I don't have a problem with the "tiny shareholder", but I think you do. The implied question was why? and you answered it in your first line, before bringing up these huge owners: you believe these tiny shareholders should not own something that they did not create. I don't see a problem with that, as I explained above. The problem is with skewed distributions.

    Personally, I am not opposed to personal ownership of capital upon one condition: that the capital is small enough to be efficiently worked by a single person. Essentially, it is employment that translates to someone working to create the wealth to feed themselves, and the wealth of their master. That is, it translates to the many working, creating everything, and living in misery, with a very few not working, creating unproductive obstacles, and living in absolute luxury. The question we have to ask ourselves is what form of social organization best guarantees the economic opportunity and well-being of all? The Capitalist, by levying a tax, ends up being no more than a middleman, like the state (who also should be abolished, as it is a parasite that can provide nothing except what it has forcibly taken).

    From the distribution of wealth to the least productive members, to the inventing of inefficient monopoly, everything shows Capitalism to be inefficient to best serve the real needs of society's members.

    CNT-FAI Radical wrote:
    Dividing up territory in small plots and giving each individual person a piece of land will not solve it; this has been tried, and it was easily eroded by the developing power of a new form of Capitalism. (Such as land redistribution programs during the French Revolution, or even those of Lenin's Revolution.)

    Arie wrote:
    That's precisely why shares of ownership, as in a corporation, are much more practical: They are more flexible and portable, and they permit the corporation/cooperative/business to operate as it normally does, in a manner found to be most effective, but re-define for whose benefit it operates.

    Shares of ownership has multiple problems that I have earlier pointed...

    "In one case, you make decisions on everything in your immediate area. In the other case, a Parisian baker is going to be making a democratic vote with five hundred million other people on the work conditions and activities of oil-rig laborers off the coast of Scandinavia. Which seems easier?"

    "The joint-stock system and the corporation have only existed for a few centuries. Communal and collective existence has existed for hundreds of thousands of years. The latter system seems to me far more inherently natural and acceptable to humanity's characteristics."

    One big corporation has the problem of not being decentralized. On top of that, it is unnatural to human characteristics, as they have been displayed or the past million years or so. "I have a right to 1/5000000th the voice of all of Denmark's industry." Does that really sound natural? Does it sound like liberty? Does it sound like perfect freedom, to bound and kept up within borders like that? By pure simplicity, my plan is simply this: everyone owns the ground beneath them, everyone has a right to directing the means of production that they themselves labor upon, and everyone can enter into whatever associations they like.

    CNT-FAI Radical wrote:
    There have been hundreds of socialist Communes, by the Fouriers and the Owens and all those "utopian Socialists." But they have, likewise, a universal failure, each being abandoned in typically only a few years. Even Individualist-Anarchist utopians have produced the same failure. These should show that it is not simply enough to divide up the land into small parcels, and to give each an equal share.

    Arie wrote:
    Probably true; that's why it is better to let the land be managed by whatever means is most effective (and unlike the failed cooperative you mentioned, modern corporations are a great success with regard to function and longevity), but redefine the beneficiaries to achieve more democracy -- without affecting the smooth functioning and management of the land.

    It is questionable whether modern corporations are a great success, and if they are, that is an unusual definition of success. Environmental destruction, sweatshops and forced labor, and coups against republics in the underdeveloped world (Indonesia, Iran, Venezuela, Chile...). It is quite possible that corporations are a success only where their purpose is the destruction of human life. Elsewhere, they have not shown much use. How is it possible that everyone being a shareholder in one gigantic company make it change so significantly? After all, with the introduction of so-called "universal suffrage" (someone's always restricted), there are still wars, unemployment, poverty, depressions, corruption, concentration camps, and the like. If universal suffrage achieved minimal advantages in politics, what makes you think it'll achieved maximum advantages in economics?

    Arie wrote:
    Collectives are not the only configuration supporting equal bargaining power: If the agents have equal wealth, then they have as much equal bargaining power as in forming a collective.

    Yes, this is true, but simply consider this proportion. The amount of people in society:the amount of productive property in society. For every mine, factory, farm, how many people are there? Is it possible to really have owners without there also being employees? It would seem nice to give everyone a factory and a mine, but that's simply not practical. And to give it to any one or few means to deny it to an even more significant number of people.

    Arie wrote:
    The workers who made the machinery are not the same workers who use them.

    How do you know that? Maybe they didn't design the machinery, but maybe they made it in a previous job. Or maybe they mined ore for it in a previous job. Or maybe they transported it in a previous job. All of these are necessary to the production and distribution of capital.

    Arie wrote:
    If I accept your earlier premise that people should own what they create, the workers who made the machinery own them.

    And the workers who made the ore should keep it? Why would they want to? They'd sell it.

    Arie wrote:
    It would be proper for them to negotiate for the machines with the machines' creators -- i.e. buy capital.

    Capital is still produced and sold by cooperatives. I don't understand why you would think capital formation would cease. Productivity was increased significantly in Barcelona when Anarchists abolished Capitalism, allowing them to increase wages up to 50% for barbers, for instance. They organized some of the most efficient modes of production and distribution. You're ignoring what has actually happened when talking about the interactions of worker cooperatives.

    Arie wrote:
    It is not at all a given that the creators of the tools have an advantage, a greater bargaining power than the workers who need to use them, just because they own the "capital". It all depends on the specifics and measures involved.

    Yes, it is true that anyone who possess capital is an advantage to someone who needs capital to work. This has been the entire premise of my argument, which I stated very early in the beginning. Tell me why you think the observations of Adam Smith, Isaac Gervaise, Paul Mattick, Turgot, James Steuart, etc., etc., are incorrect?

    After all, if the worker says no, they starve. If the Capitalist says no, they have other workers. Inequality of bargaining power by its very definition.

    Post #109

    Punkerslut (using the alias CNT-FAI Radical)...
    Date: Sun 08 Aug 2010
    Hello, lucky,

    Lucky wrote:
    In his world, workers who work on the capital automatically become part of the "cooperative" and get a share in the profits generated by that capital. Negotiations where I buy labor for a set payment would be, I imagine, illegal.

    Illegal? In a world without governments, capitalists, and laws? I don't see how.

    But Arie is correct about my interpretation of "negotiating independent cooperatives." Or, as I have quoted the Russian Trade Union Congress, every syndicate is defined as a self-governing, autonomous commune of producers and consumers. Or "Collective," if you prefer that to "Commune."

    Lucky wrote:
    If you want to start a multi-person "cooperative" (or in more modern terms, a partnership), there are no laws in capitalist countries to stop that. In fact, it's a common arrangement.

    The economic laws of oligopoly and monoposony make it extremely difficult. The phrase used by economists is barrier to entry.

    Post #110

    Date: Sun 08 Aug 2010

    To focus on whether or not there is a God is to miss the point. The point is that what God or nature has provided, is essential to our life and could not have been created by any man, and is therefore more valuable than any thing man "creates". This is simply proper humility. The point is that work was not viewed as our purpose but rather a result of poor choices. I'm surprised that someone as literate as you cannot grasp ancient wisdom because it is written in the context of ancient language, in terms of gods.

    If someone pays me periodically in exchange for some work and any invention I might conceive during this period, it is a mutually agreed upon deal. To keep it clear, let's consider only the part of the payment that is made in exchange for any invention I might conceive. Is it fair? That depends on the amount of pay, on what happens in the future, and whether we have comparable bargaining power. In this sense, it's a bet. I'm betting that I'm better off selling the (as yet unconceived) invention for a fixed amount of cash, and the buyer is betting that he's better off owning the invention. Only fate determines who is right. If we believe that gambling is unethical, that leaving people to their fate, allowing them to suffer or prosper according to fate is unethical, then this kind of bet should not occur.
    Secondly, once the invention is conceived, I might not be in a position to implement it or derive benefit from it that the buyer could. So the invention is useless to me without this buyer. It is worth more to him than to me. The real question is why? Is it because he has the necessary capital and I don't? Then the issue is the legitimate distribution of capital ownership.

    That there are unfair deals and patents that perhaps should not have been granted is not a problem with capitalism but with human error, which would occur in any system.

    The competition between companies is sometimes quite productive: Sometimes it is about obstructing the competition by bettering them in productivity. I believe that's what gave rise to the amazing quick and on-going development of the personal computer, from chips to software, with the corresponding drop in prices. But sometimes it's about obstructing the competition in other ways as you've noted. That's suppose to be the purpose of laws and regulations, to prevent obstructions and force competition into socially productive channels, and these laws continue to evolve.

    If a "capitalist" gains by creating shortages and withholding introduction of productive machinery, so would the "workers" if they were the ones in charge, for the same reasons: The mechanics of supply and demand don't change. Whatever a "capitalist" (or "worker", for that matter) does which is unethical, should not be done. The essence of capitalism is that one is entitled to benefit from ownership (such as that of labor saving devices), not just from work. And that is precisely what workers are doing when they acquire labor saving devices: The "worker" becomes a "capitalist". The issue is who owns the labor saving device and therefore can benefit from it. I.e. who should be the capitalist? Most of the examples you cite are about people who have a huge degree of control compared to others, and you call them capitalists. The issue is one of distribution of power, including economic power, not "workers" versus "capitalist".

    In this regard, your contention is that "market forces naturally have a tendency to economically separate owners of capital from workers of capital."
    If that's true, I submit that distributing ownership of capital would counter-act that tendency.

    I don't accept your arguments regarding the problems with share ownership: If shares are sold to a Parisian Banker, it is a deal in which this Parisian Banker provided some useful capital, some benefit to the concern, in exchange: Something that was not available locally. Whether decisions are made locally or more globally is entirely up to the operational structure of the company, which is permitted to evolve to whichever mode is more effective.

    As to the "naturalness" of worker cooperatives vs public corporations, it's also more natural to sit by a fire place in a log cabin than to watch NOVA on a flat-panel HDTV in an apartment with central heating, or to walk 50 miles instead of drive. So? We're allowed to evolve.

    And I still don't understand your argument regarding the right of workers to ownership of capital because they use it, without regard to the the other workers who created it.

    Finally, as lucky noted, the free market does not prevent the formation of worker's cooperatives. If there are unfair obstructions to their formation, these obstructions should be removed. That's the purpose of anti-trust laws. But there's no need to change the free market system in which these worker cooperatives can exist.

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