Capitalistic methods and free economy in socialism

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Re: Capitalistic methods and free economy in socialism

Post by Sasquatch on Mon Oct 15, 2012 11:58 pm

Celtiberian wrote:This presupposes a coexisting economy which one could opt into, presumably a private sector free of taxation. The only alternative to that would be a territory designated for the sole purpose of banishing non-conformists.

Well, yes and no. In all fairness, I did not go into great detail about my views in this post.

First, if you rejected the citizenship contract, you would have two options available to you:

A) Remain in the country as a resident separate from the State. As such, you are free of responsibility to the State and its citizens, but receive none of the benefits of citizenship. You are solely responsible for yourself, and the State owes you nothing. You are free to live out your life as you see fit, so long as you respect the laws of the State (which in turn extends the same protection of those laws over you, to maintain a civil society), and do not violate the rights of others.

B) You leave the country, with the State helping you do so if you do not otherwise have the means.

Now, while I prefer these views (or, in reality, any improvement over our current system) is a nationwide reform of the current government and society, I recognize in all likelihood the best bet for something like this taking place will likely be a situation where the existing government collapses or is overthrown, and multiple new communities and governments rise in its place, in which case any system or society we create is not likely to be the only one, and there will be places for people to go if they do not wish to be a part of our system. Otherwise, those who wished to be residents would have to find some other way of supporting themselves, such as private employment.

The former option entails maintaining private enterprise, which is unacceptable for reasons of justice and sustainability. One of the chief theoretical foundations of socialism is the rejection of Locke's theory of property acquisition, and espousal of collective possession.

We would differ on this point. While I consider scarce resources such as natural resources and land to be communally owned, and I advocate nationalization of certain necessities, I do not have a problem with some of the methods of capitalism (namely, private enterprise, private initiative, or private production), so long as abuse is prevented, and these elements do their part to provide for the people of the State (such as payment of taxes in return for their private ownership of productions).

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Re: Capitalistic methods and free economy in socialism

Post by Rev Scare on Tue Oct 16, 2012 2:40 am

Sasquatch wrote:We would differ on this point. While I consider scarce resources such as natural resources and land to be communally owned, and I advocate nationalization of certain necessities, I do not have a problem with some of the methods of capitalism (namely, private enterprise, private initiative, or private production), so long as abuse is prevented, and these elements do their part to provide for the people of the State (such as payment of taxes in return for their private ownership of productions).

If you find the institution of private property legitimate, then you cannot call yourself a socialist. The extraction of surplus value through the employment of wage labor is exploitative, and as revolutionary socialists, we view this practice as morally indefensible. Social justice demands that the means of production be held in common and the surplus product be appropriated collectively—either via democratic workers' councils or a state surrogate. Not only is it illegitimate to gain from the unpaid labor of others, but the notion of "private initiative" is farcical, as the generation of the social product is a collective effort which cannot be reduced to the efforts of individuals. "Private" production is not in fact private, as individual producers perform labor within the context and as a part of the social labor process.

In addition, there are practical concerns when contemplating the retention of bourgeois relations. Capitalist enterprises, whether they be large or small, are intrinsically expansionist and therefore not only undermine but constantly threaten the socialist order. Such exploitative market oriented businesses would seek to grow and gain influence, and they would also appear superficially appealing to many market participants, because (petit-)bourgeois enterprises would allow them to privatize rather than equitably distribute profits. Permitting such a flagrant grey area to exist imperils whatever progress might be gained following the revolution.

Simply put, we must not allow capitalists and their clever philosophers to potentially manipulate such a critical matter by remaining ambivalent on the issue of preserving pockets of capitalism.

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Re: Capitalistic methods and free economy in socialism

Post by Sasquatch on Tue Oct 16, 2012 1:13 pm

Rev Scare wrote:If you find the institution of private property legitimate, then you cannot call yourself a socialist.

Well, first we would have to define "private property". Now, I hold that anything that one makes through their own efforts belongs to them, and as such they are free to do with it as they will. Things that are not made by one's own effort, such as the oil or minerals in the ground, or the land itself, cannot belong to an individual, but rather are a communal resource, and as such their use should benefit the whole of the State. Now, I support the idea of "private property" in the sense that one's possessions are protected by law, as I find purely possessive property to be problematic. Part of this means that just as a man owns that which he creates with his own labor, so too does he own something he pays money for, so long as it is not a communal resource. If a man wished to purchase the tools and facilities necessary to open a factory, for example, then I can morally see no reason he should not, nor can I see a reason why he should be prevented from engaging in private enterprise in the use of this factory. But the land it will be built on cannot be his: It is the State's (i.e. the people of the nation). Now, as I find possessive property problematic, he could not simply find unused land and move in, nor could others: This would rapidly lead to a Tragedy of the Commons scenario of communal resources were treated as such. Management must be called for, and as such land use is overseen by the government, under the direction of the State. Land cannot be owned, only used, and the way this would happen is if someone, say this aforementioned factory owner, wishes to use it, then it must be leased from the state, with the cost of the lease dependent on the amount of land, the value of the land, the location of the land, and the natural resources present on the land. In this way, one cannot own land, but instead can own the rights to the private use of land, with the money collected from the lease being used to fund various State programs such as the production of necessities for the population, so that the use of the land in this way benefits everyone, not simply the one who is making use of it.

Now, you can argue I am sure whether this makes me a "true" socialist or not, but that is not my concern.

The extraction of surplus value through the employment of wage labor is exploitative, and as revolutionary socialists, we view this practice as morally indefensible. Social justice demands that the means of production be held in common and the surplus product be appropriated collectively—either via democratic workers' councils or a state surrogate. Not only is it illegitimate to gain from the unpaid labor of others, but the notion of "private initiative" is farcical, as the generation of the social product is a collective effort which cannot be reduced to the efforts of individuals. "Private" production is not in fact private, as individual producers perform labor within the context and as a part of the social labor process.

Well, I agree and disagree with parts of this. The methods utilized by wage labor today is nothing but exploitative, and we can identify the main cause of this as being the way by which our society is organized. We live in a capitalist society, where your livelihood is dependent on your ability to earn money, and without it you face severe consequences, such as starvation, homelessness, sickness, etc, for you and for your family. In such a system, the capitalist holds all of the power in the worker-employee relationship, and the worker often has no choice but to agree to work for whatever wages and benefits the employer dictates, because to refuse would mean to not have a job, especially considering how many people are in the U.S. currently seeking employment. And in this way, capitalism becomes highly abusive and exploitative.

Now, it should be noted that I of course do support the production of necessities being collectively managed and owned, but only necessities: More would be not only impractical in my opinion, but near impossible to implement. There is, for example, no real need for socially produced designer clothing, or sports cars, or video games, or any number of other things that could legitimately be handled better by markets than attempts to produce and distribute. And so, I feel social production (in the sense of collectively by the whole of the State) should be limited to the living and social necessities, things like food, water, shelter, basic clothing, medical care, the generation of power, public transportation, education, and the like. This production would then be used to meet the needs of the citizenry, in exchange for their responsibilities to the State as a whole.

This, in turn, would change the relationship between workers and capitalists. The capitalists would find that they could no longer dictate the terms of employment with impunity: they have nothing to threaten the workers with. The worker, if he feels the wages for a job are not sufficient compensation for his labor, loses nothing by refusing the position: He will not starve, or be homeless, or have to worry about sickness, because there will always be a way for him to get these things if he is willing, and he is not reliant on the capitalist to live. And so, the capitalists and the worker are placed on level ground with one another, and must come to an agreement on what would be an acceptable wage for the job being performed. There is nothing inherently immoral or unjust about this. And in turn, privately owned businesses and companies in turn pay taxes on their profits, which are used to help worker and capitalist alike.

In addition, there are practical concerns when contemplating the retention of bourgeois relations. Capitalist enterprises, whether they be large or small, are intrinsically expansionist and therefore not only undermine but constantly threaten the socialist order. Such exploitative market oriented businesses would seek to grow and gain influence, and they would also appear superficially appealing to many market participants, because (petit-)bourgeois enterprises would allow them to privatize rather than equitably distribute profits. Permitting such a flagrant grey area to exist imperils whatever progress might be gained following the revolution.

Simply put, we must not allow capitalists and their clever philosophers to potentially manipulate such a critical matter by remaining ambivalent on the issue of preserving pockets of capitalism.

Well, I do not support capitalism per say, I simply support the idea of free economics in the private market, that such a market outside of the production of necessities should be profit-driven, and that individuals within the market have the liberty and right to seek financial success in a manner of their choosing, as long as it is lawful in nature. This means you could go into self-employment, form or join a co-op where profit is shared equally among all workers, or exchange your labor for wages from a man who owns the means to production of something there is a market for, such as sports bikes. In this sense, once properly defanged, I have no objection to capitalistic processes, so long as they are not allowed to become exploitative. This market should, in turn, be subject to sound social management of the macro-economy, in order to make sure the surplus from said market benefits all the people of the State, to prevent both worker and consumer abuse by the market, to ensure fair business practices, etc.

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Re: Capitalistic methods and free economy in socialism

Post by Celtiberian on Thu Oct 18, 2012 1:14 am

Sasquatch wrote:Well, first we would have to define "private property".

In the socialist tradition, the term generally refers to private ownership of the means of production, as opposed to possessions for active personal use.

Now, I hold that anything that one makes through their own efforts belongs to them, and as such they are free to do with it as they will. Things that are not made by one's own effort, such as the oil or minerals in the ground, or the land itself, cannot belong to an individual, but rather are a communal resource, and as such their use should benefit the whole of the State.

This is the standard Georgist position, which doesn't follow its own premises to their logical conclusion. If you adhere to a notion of common ownership of land, then all of the products created from the land's resources should also be viewed as jointly owned. This may seem like an extreme conclusion, but the implications aren't that drastic. For instance, since possessions for active personal use (homes, cars, computers, etc.) are, for the most part, rather benign, it makes sense to only apply moderate regulations to them. The manner by which the means of production are organized and utilized, however, affects society in profound ways; e.g., it influences how people are remunerated (exploitatively or justly), the social relations we live with, war and peace, and whether or not ecological sustainability will be achieved.

Socialists argue (correctly, in my opinion) that bourgeois property is exploitative, engenders autocratic social relations and imperialism, and threatens life on earth in myriad ways. Consequently, the only way to mount a reasonable defense of private ownership of the means of production and bourgeois social relations would be to resort to some sort of utilitarian calculation that indicates the alternatives to them would somehow produce far worse outcomes—which is false.

Your qualification for private property being "effort" is rather vague and can mean any number of things. Are capitalist firms legitimate simply because entrepreneurs took the initiative to organize them? I doubt you would consider chattel slavery a justifiable practice, even though slave masters made similar investments and also organized successful commercial enterprises. That isn't to say that entrepreneurial activity is useless, though—far from it. A socialist society which holds property in common will undoubtedly require entrepreneurship. The usual response by bourgeois ideologues is to stress that entrepreneurs require incentives in order to exercise their scarce talent, and that may be so, but that doesn't represent a vindication of private property, as they believe. The profit which firms generate is far in excess of what is required to spur entrepreneurial activity, and society can easily come up with alternative methods of celebrating and rewarding innovation and discovery. More importantly, entrepreneurial skill is the product of environmental and genetic factors which no one has control over, and thus isn't deserving of inordinate material reward.

If a man wished to purchase the tools and facilities necessary to open a factory, for example, then I can morally see no reason he should not, nor can I see a reason why he should be prevented from engaging in private enterprise in the use of this factory.

The moral concern should be exploitation. Simply put, capitalists are at a structural advantage over the working class, which compels the latter group to sign away their autonomy and labor in surplus of what is required to sustain them, in wage-for-labor-time contracts. The only way to overcome exploitation is by eliminating wage labor.

Now, it should be noted that I of course do support the production of necessities being collectively managed and owned, but only necessities: More would be not only impractical in my opinion, but near impossible to implement. There is, for example, no real need for socially produced designer clothing, or sports cars, or video games, or any number of other things that could legitimately be handled better by markets than attempts to produce and distribute.

Claiming a fully collectivized economy would be "impossible to implement" is a baseless assertion. And you may think that retaining markets for nonessential products is harmless, but there is an enormous difference between markets and capitalism. Moreover, notwithstanding the possibility of fulfilling such an objective by using a socialist market (i.e., a market characterized by collectively-owned, competitive, labor-managed firms), the reason we should seek to transcend market relations in toto is because markets allocate resources inequitably, undermine social cohesion, and keep humanity alienated. Michael Albert put the matter well in the following response to a question posed by Barbara Ehrenreich on this subject:

"The big choice is not markets versus a bunch of committees. That’s a false polarity. The big choice is between competitive markets—which depend on each actor fleecing the rest, which misaccount the relative value of all items and distort preferences, which lead workplaces to seek maximum surpluses and deliver unjust remuneration, which apportion decision making influence hierarchically, and which produce class division and class rule—and cooperative participatory planning, which produces equity, solidarity, diversity, and self-management.

Having markets for some items and not for others might have relative benefits if markets had significant virtues that no alternative allocation system could match and exceed and if markets had no huge debits for the proposed items and if a market in some items, but not in others was viable, for that matter.

But markets have numerous disastrous faults that apply not only to markets in labor or to markets in huge investment projects, but to markets in any item at all, including dresses. Finally, if you don’t have labor markets, the entire argument that marketeers put forth for having any kind of markets collapses.

Applying all this to skirts, we should want the tastes and preferences of all workers and consumers and particularly of people who wear and those who produce skirts to interactively proportionately influence their length and colors, as well as their number and composition, their method of production, and so on—instead of profit seeking determining all these results. But to have a market in skirts not only violates these desires, it means skirt prices will diverge from the true social costs and benefits of their production and consumption, that skirt factories will seek surpluses as their guiding motive, will remunerate their workers unjustly, will utilize ill conceived methods of production, and will incorporate class division, among many other faults.

All the items involved in economic life are connected. Producing more of any one item leaves less assets for producing all other items. Items that seem relatively simple on the consumption side can utilize all kinds of inputs with wide ranging ramifications. Mispricing any item induces a ripple effect that misprices the rest. Having antisocial motives at play in any one item’s production and consumption skews the context for other items’ production and consumption. Excessive or inferior remuneration levels generate harmful incentives.

In other words, markets aren’t a little bad in some contexts. Instead, in all contexts, markets instill anti-social motivations in buyers and sellers, misprice items that are exchanged, misdirect aims regarding what to produce in what quantities and by what means, mis-remunerate producers, introduce class division and class rule, and embody an imperial logic that spreads itself throughout economic life.

If eating, having shelter, and having desirable additional items to express and fulfill our potentials and enjoy life’s options—including skirts—couldn’t be had by some system better in its material and human implications than markets, then, yes, we would have to settle for markets and try to ameliorate their ills as our highest aspiration. But luckily, there is a system that is much better than markets so that we can strive for participatory planning even as we also ameliorate current market ills
."

Capitalism also must be abolished, but because the alternative would entail the perpetuation of exploitation and the maintenance of a class whose material interests are diametrically opposed to socialism.

This, in turn, would change the relationship between workers and capitalists. The capitalists would find that they could no longer dictate the terms of employment with impunity: they have nothing to threaten the workers with. The worker, if he feels the wages for a job are not sufficient compensation for his labor, loses nothing by refusing the position: He will not starve, or be homeless, or have to worry about sickness, because there will always be a way for him to get these things if he is willing, and he is not reliant on the capitalist to live.

In addition to the problems I outlined above, maintaining a capitalist sector under such conditions is problematic for two reasons. First, while the coercion workers face in the labor market would be mitigated insofar as basic provisions are publicly provided to them, they would still be required to sell their labor power to capitalists if they sought a lifestyle beyond what welfare could afford them—which most people would likely desire. A basic income, housing, food, and health care doesn't suddenly justify the bourgeoisie being the residual claimant of income-generating assets. Second, were this scheme to genuinely provide workers with greater bargaining power in wage-for-labor-time contract negotiations, a profit squeeze scenario would emerge. Hence, banks would be reluctant to lend to those firms, and inefficiencies resulting from the principal–agent problem would be exacerbated. (I recommend researching the conflict theory of the firm to learn of further undesirable consequences of private enterprise.)

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Capitalistic methods and free economy in socialism

Post by Sasquatch on Thu Oct 18, 2012 12:46 pm

I started this new thread as a conversation in another thread (http://www.socialistphalanx.com/t1115-police-state) was getting seriously off-topic. For those interested in seeing the progression of the discussion leading up to this point, I recommend checking the link.

Now, basically, I am advocating a system of free economy outside of necessities in a system of state socialism. That is, the necessities of life and society, such as food, water, shelter, basic clothing, power, medical care, public transportation, education, etc, would be nationalized and collectively managed and produced by the State, to be distributed/made available to the citizens of the nation according to need. Everything that could be considered a non-essential would in turn be handled by a "free market" that is subject to sound social management and regulation of the macro-economy. In short, outside of the production of necessities for the State, one is free to engage in economic practices of your choosing so long as it is voluntary, non-violent, and lawful. This includes the formation of co-ops, self-employment, or more traditional worker/employer companies and businesses.

Now, where the discussion left off:

Celtiberian wrote:This is the standard Georgist position, which doesn't follow its own premises to their logical conclusion.

Yes, my views have been described as being Georgist in nature, in this particular sense. However, it is interesting to point out I came to these conclusions regarding land use and leasing before I had been exposed to Georgism, or was familiar with the basic tenets. It should also be pointed out there are some key differences, namely in application. While Georgists hold largely libertarian views, and feel the money collected from land leasing should go to the local community to be used as they see fit, I prefer the money is collected by a centralized government under the direction of the State, and the money then being used on projects and programs that benefit the whole of the State, such as food production.

While I have been told Georgism is a rather "Un-socialist" view, I find the basic principles described here (i.e. communal ownership of land, leasing the land for private use, making use of lease fees to fund social projects and programs, etc) to be wholly socialist in nature, and the only effective, viable solution I can see for implementing state socialism.

If you adhere to a notion of common ownership of land, then all of the products created from the land's resources should also be viewed as jointly owned. This may seem like an extreme conclusion, but the implications aren't that drastic. For instance, since possessions for active personal use (homes, cars, computers, etc.) are, for the most part, rather benign, it makes sense to only apply moderate regulations to them. The manner by which the means of production are organized and utilized, however, affects society in profound ways; e.g., it influences how people are remunerated (exploitatively or justly), the social relations we live with, war and peace, and whether or not ecological sustainability will be achieved.

This would be a logical conclusion to draw, but it is hardly the only one. I find this conclusion to be just as problematic as the implications of communal land ownership where everyone would simply be able to use land and resources as they saw fit. If it stands to reason that anything created with the resources is communally owned, then that nice house you spent the past 4 months making from trees on your land belongs to everyone as well. You claim the implications of this are not drastic, but I would disagree. On one hand, we are left with the idea that since you made your house from the trees, and the trees are a communally owned resource, then the house is communally owned as well, and to what extend does the community then have a say in matters affecting your home? You could apply, as you suggest, moderate regulations, but the problem persists. I find the solution is again rather simple: Individuals, groups, or organizations lease the land for private use, and pay society a fee for doing so, granting them the ability to make use of the land, and in addition a royalty is charged (10-15% perhaps) on resource extraction for commercial use. In this way, the individual can benefit from the private use of the land (either by making a home for himself and his family, or using it commercially), and the State collects money used to benefit all citizens as a result of their communal ownership. When land is leased, and all appropriate fees paid, then those making use of the land, and creating things out of its resources out of their labor, are the ones who "own" the products of that labor, not society, as the issue of communal ownership is addressed.

Your qualification for private property being "effort" is rather vague and can mean any number of things. Are capitalist firms legitimate simply because entrepreneurs took the initiative to organize them?

Well, this isn't so much a qualification for private property, but rather for possession or ownership. It is really no different than the standard socialist viewpoint in this regard. What you create, through your own effort and labor, belongs to you. Build your house, it is yours. Make a shoe, yours. Write a book, yours. Etc, etc. If multiple people are involved in a process (such as in the situation of a co-op), then they come to an agreement regarding ownership. In a process where different people are involved at different times (such as writer and publishers), then an agreement would also be needed. "Property" is just when this ownership is protected by law.

Now, as for capitalist firms, I would consider them legitimate if A) They were voluntary, B) Did not rely on force or exploitation, and C) Operated within the bounds of economic regulation and law. And I hold the same for any other economic or financial organization, regardless of individual ideas or methods.

I doubt you would consider chattel slavery a justifiable practice, even though slave masters made similar investments and also organized successful commercial enterprises.

Of course I would not, but there is a rather large, distinct difference between slavery where people are property, and a man voluntarily entering an agreement to exchange his time and labor for monetary compensation (i.e. a wage). To claim otherwise throws free will out the window, would it not?

That isn't to say that entrepreneurial activity is useless, though—far from it. A socialist society which holds property in common will undoubtedly require entrepreneurship. The usual response by bourgeois ideologues is to stress that entrepreneurs require incentives in order to exercise their scarce talent, and that may be so, but that doesn't represent a vindication of private property, as they believe. The profit which firms generate is far in excess of what is required to spur entrepreneurial activity, and society can easily come up with alternative methods of celebrating and rewarding innovation and discovery. More importantly, entrepreneurial skill is the product of environmental and genetic factors which no one has control over, and thus isn't deserving of inordinate material reward.

I cannot really find much to disagree with here, but on the flip side, I do not see how this is in conflict with the views I am asserting. Excess profits generated by such firms are taxed, and the money is then used to the benefit of the workers to fund projects and programs that benefit the State.

The moral concern should be exploitation. Simply put, capitalists are at a structural advantage over the working class, which compels the latter group to sign away their autonomy and labor in surplus of what is required to sustain them, in wage-for-labor-time contracts. The only way to overcome exploitation is by eliminating wage labor.

But the question is, where does the exploitation come in if the capitalist loses his primary means of exploiting his workers? (I.E., he can no longer threaten them with their livelihood). The provision of necessities places the two on more equal ground, and the worker has no incentive to work for anything less that what he considers the value of his labor, and will not work for anything less than a wage or compensation he is satisfied with. If you own a retail store, and I am seeking employment, and I find that the wage you are offering me to work in your store to assist customers, move stock, and prevent theft is an acceptable compensation for my time and labor, exactly how am I being exploited? You cannot threaten my livelihood, or intimidate me into accepting less, nor can you bully or abuse me on the basis of firing me if I resist, for I would likely simply quit under those circumstances. You largely lose your ability to exploit me.

Claiming a fully collectivized economy would be "impossible to implement" is a baseless assertion.

Hmm... this misunderstanding is largely the result of my misspeaking, let me explain.

I am not talking about collectivization in terms of multiple individuals pooling their efforts together to produce a good or service. I was speaking of collectivization in the sense that I was speaking of the collectivization of necessities: as in the nationalization of an industry or service, collectively managed and produced by the State as a whole, and distributed as needed. While it is true you could have a collectivized economy, and this would be largely desirable, I do not believe it would be possible or beneficial to effectively organized a collective economy from a centralized standpoint as I do necessities. Again, there is no need for the State to oversee production of sports cars, entertainment, designer clothing, etc.

And you may think that retaining markets for nonessential products is harmless, but there is an enormous difference between markets and capitalism. Moreover, notwithstanding the possibility of fulfilling such an objective by using a socialist market (i.e., a market characterized by collectively-owned, competitive, labor-managed firms), the reason we should seek to transcend market relations in toto is because markets allocate resources inequitably, undermine social cohesion, and keep humanity alienated...

Capitalism also must be abolished, but because the alternative would entail the perpetuation of exploitation and the maintenance of a class whose material interests are diametrically opposed to socialism.

As I have already said, I do not so much support capitalism, as I do a free economic market where individuals are free to interact with one another economically in a manner of their choosing, so long as it is voluntary, non-violent, and lawful. This includes what we might consider more capitalistic methods, co-ops, individual employment, and numerous other options.

Now, on the matter of bringing an end to markets, I simply do not agree with this, for the time being. While I do not think markets should be the primary source of necessities, I do see the value in them for other reasons. They meet the public demand for luxuries and wants, and they do provide these things better than other methods might. For example, there is truth in the idea that competition generates quality (but only under sound management to prevent abuse). Market factors provide incentive to produce higher quality items, in order to generate more profit, and therefore improve one's own financial situation. Profit has also been a source of innovation, and of progress.

Now, as for alienating humanity and undermining social cohesion, markets are only a part of the underlying problem causing these issues, and they again mainly play a part where people are set in competition for their livelihoods and ability to provide needed necessities for themselves and their families. If people worked to either be productive in order to collect citizen benefits in the form of necessities, or to gain money to purchase luxuries and extras that they wanted, we would see less of this cut-throat competition among brothers.

All in all, outside of necessities, I see markets as the most effective and beneficial way to meet the needs and wants of society.

In addition to the problems I outlined above, maintaining a capitalist sector under such conditions is problematic for two reasons. First, while the coercion workers face in the labor market would be mitigated insofar as basic provisions are publicly provided to them, they would still be required to sell their labor power to capitalists if they sought a lifestyle beyond what welfare could afford them—which most people would likely desire. A basic income, housing, food, and health care doesn't suddenly justify the bourgeoisie being the residual claimant of income-generating assets. Second, were this scheme to genuinely provide workers with greater bargaining power in wage-for-labor-time contract negotiations, a profit squeeze scenario would emerge. Hence, banks would be reluctant to lend to those firms, and inefficiencies resulting from the principal–agent problem would be exacerbated.

Well, first, they would be required to do no such thing, they would only sell their labor to a capitalist if that is the route they sought to take. Other options would be self-employment, forming or joining a co-op where production and profit is completely worker owned and directed, or any other method they can think of, such as workers and capitalists agreeing to share the means of production, and split profits accordingly. Really, the traditional capitalist method would only be one method, and by no means the only one. And we could create incentives for alternate forms of economic business (such as providing subsidies to start co-ops, or charging privately owned companies greater taxes due to profit inequalities). This would help maintain a balance, and combined with cutting private capitalist interests out of the government (a serious problem facing society today), they would be subject to the same regulations and rules as everyone else, and have to play by those rules.

Second, the question here would be why. Why would they do this? While it is true greed is a part of human nature, such rampant greed is generally a result of circumstances. People primarily attempt such actions now (such as through strikes and unions) because the wages and benefits of their job are largely inadequate to meet their needs. Under a system of provision of necessities, this is largely a non-issue, and so strikes become largely pointless. There would be, for example, no need for laws regarding strikes, as striking to improve your ability to meet your needs would be pointless, and a non-issue. Most people, I feel, would likely be happy working for a moderate wage, depending on the work being done (and such a wage would likely be lower than what people earn now, and this would suffice for their purposes). If a worker tried to squeeze his employer for profits, he would likely simply find himself out of a job, and another willing to take his place. And as the system dictates that in order to receive your necessities you must remain productive (with certain exceptions), and this generally means either Public Workforce, or private employment, most people will choose private employment over Workforce as the pay would be superior, even at a more base pay. The system generates incentives all around, not just in one direction.

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Re: Capitalistic methods and free economy in socialism

Post by Sasquatch on Thu Oct 18, 2012 10:07 pm

My thanks to Admin for moving over the relevant posts. Much appreciated.

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Re: Capitalistic methods and free economy in socialism

Post by Celtiberian on Fri Nov 02, 2012 5:23 pm

Sasquatch wrote:Now, basically, I am advocating a system of free economy outside of necessities in a system of state socialism. That is, the necessities of life and society, such as food, water, shelter, basic clothing, power, medical care, public transportation, education, etc, would be nationalized and collectively managed and produced by the State, to be distributed/made available to the citizens of the nation according to need.

The only difference between your position and that of contemporary social democrats is that you believe these welfare services should be produced and allocated by the state, whereas they find no fault in using public revenue to subsidize private firms to provide them. This cannot be said to be "state socialism" because state socialism has historically entailed nationalizing the entire economy and replacing market relations with comprehensive economic planning. And the question remains that if you feel the state is competent enough to handle producing and distributing life's necessities, why should it be excluded from producing other goods and services? Propertarians, though wrong, are at least logically consistent in arguing that state involvement in the economy is ethically reprehensible and economically inefficient. You, on the other hand, argue the state should be entrusted with the responsibility of providing the masses with all manner of essential goods and services, but, for whatever reason, feel it should be excluded from producing, say, cellular telephones.

While I have been told Georgism is a rather "Un-socialist" view, I find the basic principles described here (i.e. communal ownership of land, leasing the land for private use, making use of lease fees to fund social projects and programs, etc) to be wholly socialist in nature, and the only effective, viable solution I can see for implementing state socialism.

The problem with the Georgist program is that it simply doesn't go far enough. Henry George limited the scope of his critique to the parasitical nature of the rentier class, while ignoring the exploitation which occurs within the realm of capitalist production itself. Moreover, communal ownership of land was a tenet of socialism long before George wrote Progress and Poverty.

This would be a logical conclusion to draw, but it is hardly the only one. I find this conclusion to be just as problematic as the implications of communal land ownership where everyone would simply be able to use land and resources as they saw fit. If it stands to reason that anything created with the resources is communally owned, then that nice house you spent the past 4 months making from trees on your land belongs to everyone as well.

Theoretically, yes. But people are perfectly capable of setting reasonable regulations on the use of resources. In the U.S., states currently levy a property tax on homes and regulate them for safety, which already restricts one's ownership of resources. In other words, the principle is already in place. Propertarians reject this, of course, because they adhere to a neo-Lockean natural rights scheme in which taxation represents a form of 'theft.' You stated that these eccentric individuals should be allowed to "opt out" of the social contract, presumably because to do otherwise would require coercion. I responded by arguing that all forms of property require a degree of coercion to enforce and that the trade-offs required to permit bourgeois individualists to pursue a propertarian lifestyle are too great for a socialist accept.

Property ultimately rests upon the ethical principles a community espouses. For socialism to function optimally, an egalitarian ethos is necessary. Sociopaths obviously cannot develop said ethos, but they are too insignificant as a percentage of the population to be concerned with. However, during the transition from capitalism to communism—the "lower phase" of communism, as Marx called it—it's possible that some people will prefer returning to a system of free enterprise. Social contract theory addresses this issue by allowing individuals to emigrate to a country they find more agreeable. Socialists should also abide by this principle, but with the caveat that any public funds expended to educate them must be paid back before allowing them to leave. Most people find this method acceptable, and it has the added benefit of not undermining the system in the way your idea does.

Well, this isn't so much a qualification for private property, but rather for possession or ownership. It is really no different than the standard socialist viewpoint in this regard. What you create, through your own effort and labor, belongs to you. Build your house, it is yours. Make a shoe, yours. Write a book, yours. Etc, etc. If multiple people are involved in a process (such as in the situation of a co-op), then they come to an agreement regarding ownership. In a process where different people are involved at different times (such as writer and publishers), then an agreement would also be needed.

What you're describing is the mutualist viewpoint, not the socialist one. Labor alone is not a sufficient basis for ownership, because it ignores the myriad social processes required for that labor to even commence—from education to infrastructure. The socialist conception of justice is clearly broader than your own, because we also take into consideration matters of equity. For example, we feel that effort and sacrifice are the only factors that should be measured in order to determine how much one is remunerated, because everything else stems from sheer luck (in circumstance or genetic endowment). Markets cannot ensure fair remuneration, which is one of the reasons why the project of market abolition must be taken up by socialists, and any socialist mode of production which falls short of it (e.g., market syndicalism) should be regarded as second-best.

Now, as for capitalist firms, I would consider them legitimate if A) They were voluntary, B) Did not rely on force or exploitation, and C) Operated within the bounds of economic regulation and law. And I hold the same for any other economic or financial organization, regardless of individual ideas or methods.

The problem is that capitalist firms are inherently exploitative; for without the expropriation of surplus labor capitalism is impossible because profit couldn't be accumulated.

Of course I would not, but there is a rather large, distinct difference between slavery where people are property, and a man voluntarily entering an agreement to exchange his time and labor for monetary compensation (i.e. a wage). To claim otherwise throws free will out the window, would it not?

If freedom of choice is the sole basis of your ethical appraisal, you should have no qualms with voluntary slavery contracts. Personally, I think it's an egregious error to ignore the material conditions which compel individuals to sell their labor power. Simon-Nicholas Henri Linguet eloquently described how wage slavery emerges, when he wrote in 1793:

"It is the impossibility of living by any other means that compels our farm laborers to till the soil whose fruits they will not eat, and our masons to construct buildings in which they will not live. It is want that drags them to those markets where they await masters who will do them the kindness of buying them. It is want that compels them to go down on their knees to the rich man in order to get from him permission to enrich him. . . . What effective gain has the suppression of slavery brought him? . . . He is free you say. Ah! That is his misfortune. The slave was precious to his master because of the money he had cost him. But the handicraftsman costs nothing to the rich voluptuary who employs him. . . . These men, it is said, have no master—they have one, and the most terrible, the most imperious of masters, that is need. It is this that reduces them to the most cruel dependence."
Linguet quoted in Anthony Arnove (ed.), The Essential Chomsky (New York: The New Press, 2008), p. 86.

I realize that you favor some sort of basic income policy, which is why you feel wage labor would then become truly voluntary. But, as I said, anyone who sought a lifestyle beyond the very modest one a UBI could provide would face the same dilemma. Other criticisms could also be leveled at wage labor, such as the political instability it would cause in a progressive state and the fact it would perpetuate market relations (which, again, engender alienation and injustice in remuneration). However, this is merely a thought-experiment. Since you disregard the role of class in shaping society, you believe that the state has the potential to act as an impartial agent in economic affairs—a mistake commonly exhibited by liberals and fascists alike. In the real world, the bourgeoisie would never allow the state to tax their income to subsidize a social dividend for the masses, and since they would continue to have access to income-generating assets in your ideal society, they would possess the means by which to overturn whatever other policies they found objectionable.

In short, your political philosophy suffers from the same exact contradictions of social democracy. Every state that has attempted to construct socialism without liquidating the bourgeoisie has encountered destabilizing resistance that inevitably destroys it. A contemporary example can be found in Venezuela, where a failed coup d'état nearly overthrew the Chávez regime and the capitalist media is involved in the daily dissemination of false consciousness. If the Bolivarian Revolution fails to expropriate the means of production from the bourgeoisie, the forces of reaction will eventually succeed in destroying the progress which has been made.

While it is true you could have a collectivized economy, and this would be largely desirable, I do not believe it would be possible or beneficial to effectively organized a collective economy from a centralized standpoint as I do necessities. Again, there is no need for the State to oversee production of sports cars, entertainment, designer clothing, etc.

The historic experience of state socialism in eastern Europe, Asia, and Cuba has sufficiently demonstrated the strengths and weaknesses of centralized economic planning. What many radicals (including myself) have concluded is that decentralized, participatory planning is not only necessary for matters of justice, but also efficiency. As for its "need," if you disagree with the Marxist critique of capital and the aforementioned socialist conception of justice, you're obviously going to fail to appreciate the imperative behind collectivization.

This includes what we might consider more capitalistic methods, co-ops, individual employment, and numerous other options.

I don't consider workers' cooperatives or self-employment to be "capitalistic" in nature because they lack capitalism's defining characteristic, i.e., the appropriation of surplus value by non-workers (or their representatives). As Karl Marx explained, "property in money, means of subsistence, machines and other means of production, does not yet stamp a man as a capitalist if the essential complement to these things is missing: the wage-labourer, the other man, who is compelled to sell himself of his own free-will" [Karl Marx, Capital Vol. I (London: Penguin Books, 1990), p. 932]. That they operate within a market is irrelevant, as the market precedes capitalism by millenia.

While I do not think markets should be the primary source of necessities, I do see the value in them for other reasons. They meet the public demand for luxuries and wants, and they do provide these things better than other methods might. For example, there is truth in the idea that competition generates quality (but only under sound management to prevent abuse). Market factors provide incentive to produce higher quality items, in order to generate more profit, and therefore improve one's own financial situation. Profit has also been a source of innovation, and of progress.

These erroneous assumptions are the hallmark of bourgeois ideology. The notion that "competition generates quality" is misguided and overlooks other issues of importance to society:

"Even if the race for profits results in a higher speed of production and greater volume, this may well come at the expense of quality. Norman Lear, for example, insists that the dreadful mediocrity of television programming is a direct result of competition among the networks. Earlier I noted that trying to be number one and trying to do a task well are two different things; here we may observe the relevance of this distinction to economics. 'The aim of competition often becomes one of winning the market rather than producing a better product,' argues Arthur W. Combs. 'Competition seeks to prove superiority, even if it does not exist. It places the emphasis upon capturing the buyer rather than producing a better product.'

"Let us not overlook, finally, the noneconomic costs of economic competition, which have been said to include a loss of community and sociability, a heightening of selfishness, and such other consequences as anxiety, hostility, obsessional thinking, and the suppression of individuality
."
Alfie Kohn, No Contest: The Case Against Competition (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1992), pp. 77-78.

Among other things, planned obsolescence and immensely wasteful investments into marketing (to cultivate frivolous desires in the masses) are the fruit of market competition.

One of the valuable lessons drawn from the Soviet experience is that in order to ensure product quality, what's required is some consumer oversight. There was, for example, an enormous difference in quality between the products made for the nomenklatura and those for regular Soviet citizens—the former having access to superior goods and services. This can be achieved in a syndicalist economy by establishing consumer councils to negotiate with workers' councils, and revoking the licenses of firms which produce goods and services consumers dislike.

With respect to incentive and innovation, a combination of effort ratings and material and social rewards can sufficiently secure them in a socialist society without recourse to markets, as I explained in my previous post.

Now, as for alienating humanity and undermining social cohesion, markets are only a part of the underlying problem causing these issues, and they again mainly play a part where people are set in competition for their livelihoods and ability to provide needed necessities for themselves and their families.

In the Marxist tradition, alienation is attributable to both market social relations and private ownership of the means of production. Regarding competition in particular, it's virtually axiomatic that it has had a largely deleterious effect on social cohesion throughout history. I don't deny that a robust social safety net can ameliorate the negative qualities competition has on society to an extent, but it's certainly not the best humanity can achieve, nor are such programs sustainable within countries that maintain a bourgeois class.

Well, first, they would be required to do no such thing, they would only sell their labor to a capitalist if that is the route they sought to take. Other options would be self-employment, forming or joining a co-op where production and profit is completely worker owned and directed, or any other method they can think of, such as workers and capitalists agreeing to share the means of production, and split profits accordingly. Really, the traditional capitalist method would only be one method, and by no means the only one.

I already touched upon some of the problems associated with such a proposal above, but I will add yet another one here. Worker cooperatives are at a disadvantage relative to capitalist firms because they are structured so as to maximize profit per worker, not aggregate profits. Consequently, they are less likely to expand under conditions of constant returns to scale than are capitalist enterprises, which is the chief reason there are so few of them in market economies today. Socializing credit and attaching conditions to loans (e.g., increasing employment whenever possible) could surmount the problem, but the question then becomes: why should the public also finance exploitative enterprises?

Second, the question here would be why. Why would they do this?

The simple answer is alienation. Acquisitiveness is observed under conditions of extreme privation, but bourgeois social relations generate the phenomenon as well. Workers in collective firms are generally more productive than wage slaves because they possess substantive control over their work lives and have a direct incentive to labor productively. The incentive for wage slaves is the converse: laboring productively merely results in increasing profits for the owner(s) of the enterprise, so it makes sense to attempt to work as little and demand as much as possible in that context. The greater bargaining power one has, the more incentive s/he has to behave in such a manner; and it's not because s/he is innately greedy, but because it's irrational to do otherwise.

Believing that workers will be satisfied with a modest income is a misguided faith, especially while a capitalist advertising industry exists that socializes the masses into thinking that attaining social status through conspicuous consumption is life's highest purpose. Surely employers hope that their particular workers are frugal and comfortable with an austere lifestyle, but they certainly don't want other workers to be—how else could they sell their commodities? It's one of capitalism's many internal contradictions.

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Re: Capitalistic methods and free economy in socialism

Post by Sasquatch on Tue Nov 13, 2012 12:41 pm

Celtiberian wrote:The only difference between your position and that of contemporary social democrats is that you believe these welfare services should be produced and allocated by the state, whereas they find no fault in using public revenue to subsidize private firms to provide them.

There are other differences, I have spent some time speaking with social democrats, and while they find many of my views appealing, many of them also dislike them. As for the difference in communally providing necessities through the State rather than private services, I find the argument of using private firms to produce such things to be antithetical to what I wish to accomplish. To subsidize a private, for-profit firm to do this would be more expensive and less effective than communal production.

This cannot be said to be "state socialism" because state socialism has historically entailed nationalizing the entire economy and replacing market relations with comprehensive economic planning.

Well, state socialism is historically a wide variety of things, and as a term is used to refer to many different systems and idea, more so than the State simply producing everything. From Wikipedia, for example:

"State socialism is a variant of socialism which advocates public ownership of major industries, remedial measures to benefit the working class, and a gradual process of developing socialism through government policy. "State socialism" may also be used to classify any variety of socialist philosophies that advocates the ownership of the means of production by the state apparatus, either as a transitional stage between capitalism and socialism, or as an end-goal in itself."

Where does my views not meet the criteria of State socialism? It advocates public ownership of major industries (with a major industry being defined as any industry necessary for the production of living and social necessities in this case), it provides remedial measures to ensure that workers are not exploited, and it brings about a more socialist system, by which capitalism can die out organically as it is replaced by more socially responsible forms of production and business, rather than problematically being forced.

And the question remains that if you feel the state is competent enough to handle producing and distributing life's necessities, why should it be excluded from producing other goods and services? Propertarians, though wrong, are at least logically consistent in arguing that state involvement in the economy is ethically reprehensible and economically inefficient. You, on the other hand, argue the state should be entrusted with the responsibility of providing the masses with all manner of essential goods and services, but, for whatever reason, feel it should be excluded from producing, say, cellular telephones.

A matter of need really. I think I pointed this out before, though I could be wrong. The State is a sum of its individuals, the political organization of society, and as such produces the necessities needed by all in a communal fashion. Many things, such as comic books, video games, even cell phones as you point out, are not necessities. They are not needed by all, and so there is no need for the State to communally produce them. This does not mean the State could not produce them, simply that it has no need to. If the citizens of the State decided that something other than what we have discussed fell into the category of a genuine necessity, then I see no reason why it could not be produced communally.

As for it being ethically reprehensible, how do you figure? We are talking about the sum of society communally working to produce the necessities they all need for their day-to-day lives. What is reprehensible about this?

The problem with the Georgist program is that it simply doesn't go far enough. Henry George limited the scope of his critique to the parasitical nature of the rentier class, while ignoring the exploitation which occurs within the realm of capitalist production itself.

Agreed, and in my views, I have tried to take it further, by addressing the means by which the capitalist class exploits the workers.

You stated that these eccentric individuals should be allowed to "opt out" of the social contract, presumably because to do otherwise would require coercion. I responded by arguing that all forms of property require a degree of coercion to enforce and that the trade-offs required to permit bourgeois individualists to pursue a propertarian lifestyle are too great for a socialist accept.

Except this is not property in the sense of private property today, you do not and cannot own in. It is simply the means by which citizens make use of the common land, and the rest of the State benefits from the use of said land.

As for those who opt-out and remain as a resident, they can also make use of this land, but through paying the State a rent fee, and with severe limitations as to how much they could make use of, and in what way. For example, a resident could likely rent an acre of land from the State to live on, but he cannot rent large tracts of land and make use of its natural resources, or use it to create an industry.

Labor alone is not a sufficient basis for ownership, because it ignores the myriad social processes required for that labor to even commence—from education to infrastructure. The socialist conception of justice is clearly broader than your own, because we also take into consideration matters of equity. For example, we feel that effort and sacrifice are the only factors that should be measured in order to determine how much one is remunerated, because everything else stems from sheer luck (in circumstance or genetic endowment).

I cannot find much here to disagree with. I was merely pointing out that what you create out of your own labor by your own initiative is yours. True, all labor requires the social structure to begin, but there are ways of addressing this quite easily. I don't really know where you are coming from saying your conception of justice is broader than my own, seeing as how in this quote, I can't really see much where we disagree.

The problem is that capitalist firms are inherently exploitative; for without the expropriation of surplus labor capitalism is impossible because profit couldn't be accumulated.

So people are fond of repeating, but again, I see nothing wrong with exchanging one's labor for a wage to make use of means of production that he otherwise would not have access to. Capitalism can be exploitative, and I personally dislike it, but if de-fanged, we will see it organically die out, which will be far less harmful to society than trying to forcibly end it, which like all uses of force and coercion, would create new enemies.

There are, of course, different types of capitalist. Should we lump the capitalist who owns the means of production, and actively takes part in the manufacturing and business processes through supervision, handling business, doing paperwork, and even helping around the work place, as we do the man who owns everything, and hires everyone else to do the work for him while he plays golf? I have known, and worked for, the former, and most of them are not bad. The latter, however, simply manipulates money, and so means would be needed to prevent his exploitation.

If freedom of choice is the sole basis of your ethical appraisal, you should have no qualms with voluntary slavery contracts. Personally, I think it's an egregious error to ignore the material conditions which compel individuals to sell their labor power.

I find it an egregious error to ignore the fact that I have already explained under this system that the material conditions which compel individuals to sell their labor power has changed from being a matter of necessity in order to provide the necessities of life for them and their family, to simply working to improve and purchase the things they want in life, without worrying about whether they will lose their job and starve, as well as to be productive as part of their citizenship responsibilities (that, however, is another subject altogether, and not related to the current one).

And if someone wants to voluntarily sell themselves into slavery, that is their choice, is it not? This does not, however, mean that people would do it, especially if the social conditions that would likely drive such a decision (extreme poverty, etc) would not exist.

Since you disregard the role of class in shaping society, you believe that the state has the potential to act as an impartial agent in economic affairs—a mistake commonly exhibited by liberals and fascists alike.

Please point out where I disregard the role of class in shaping society. Go ahead, I'll wait.

Done? Good. Now, when you have to put words in my mouth to generate a strawman, it makes it hard for me to take your argument seriously. Just saying.

In the real world, the bourgeoisie would never allow the state to tax their income to subsidize a social dividend for the masses, and since they would continue to have access to income-generating assets in your ideal society, they would possess the means by which to overturn whatever other policies they found objectionable.

Maybe, maybe not. It all depends on implementation, does it not? If through reform, then some of them maintain their assets insofar as means of production and corporations, though those very assets are then used through their use to benefit the people of the State through land leasing (as they would lose any claim of ownership over land itself), and taxes on corporate profits and private means of production. If this came about due to the economic collapse or otherwise failing of the current system, then they would not maintain anything beyond what everyone else has in all likelihood, and would have to work for what they want same as everyone else.

As for whether they would allow it or not, they would not have a choice. This gets into a subject other than what we are talking about, namely the governmental and citizenship processes of the theorized State, but part of citizenship is accepting social responsibilities, which means taxes where applicable. If they do not like it, they can leave, and in doing so lose the same income-generating assets they wanted to keep. In addition, my proposed system's government is designed to prevent such abuse by those with wealth. The bourgeoisie can abuse the system now because they can buy off those who have the power to create legislation and affect policy. In what I propose, the ones who have the final say on legislation or new policy is the voting citizens of the State, who will likely object to said bourgeoisie attempting to use his socially-generated wealth to avoid paying into his share of social responsibility.

In short, your political philosophy suffers from the same exact contradictions of social democracy. Every state that has attempted to construct socialism without liquidating the bourgeoisie has encountered destabilizing resistance that inevitably destroys it.

This again finds us moving into the subject of government in addition to economics. In this system, the bourgeoisie would find themselves extremely limited, if able to exist at all. Their methods of influencing governmental processes would be removed through revolution in how the government functions (moving from a representative democracy where so-called representatives make decisions and pass them down to the rest of the State, to a meritocratic democracy where citizens who can vote elect delegates and facilitators of limited power who oversee governmental functions and public affairs on their behalf, with limited jurisdictions and no power to dictate policy to the State). Second, one of the responsibilities of the citizen, bourgeoisie included, is that to receive the benefits of the State, such as necessities, they must in turn be productive within their means. For most, this would mean being employed in some fashion, whether public service, part of a public workforce maintaining infrastructure and doing needed public work, or privately and generating taxes. Combined with an end to corporate welfare and subsidies, and high inheritance taxes, most Bourgeoisie individuals will likely find their current lifestyles hard to maintain, and we will see the bourgeoisie dissolve on their own, or at least shrink to the point they are irrelevant.

I don't consider workers' cooperatives or self-employment to be "capitalistic" in nature because they lack capitalism's defining characteristic, i.e., the appropriation of surplus value by non-workers (or their representatives).

A misunderstanding. I was not saying co-ops were capitalist, I was listing co-ops as a possible measure by which people could gain employment, in addition to capitalist processes and self-employment. My apologies for the poor word use.

This can be achieved in a syndicalist economy by establishing consumer councils to negotiate with workers' councils, and revoking the licenses of firms which produce goods and services consumers dislike.

I am sorry, how is this not competition? You still have firms competing with one another to produce goods and services that consumers like, or else they lose their licensing. This is not different in any essential sense to what I am talking about.

With respect to incentive and innovation, a combination of effort ratings and material and social rewards can sufficiently secure them in a socialist society without recourse to markets, as I explained in my previous post.

And I do not disagree with you. But one can argue that within a market, the reward for their innovation is still material and social rewards. Same end, different means.

Worker cooperatives are at a disadvantage relative to capitalist firms because they are structured so as to maximize profit per worker, not aggregate profits. Consequently, they are less likely to expand under conditions of constant returns to scale than are capitalist enterprises, which is the chief reason there are so few of them in market economies today. Socializing credit and attaching conditions to loans (e.g., increasing employment whenever possible) could surmount the problem, but the question then becomes: why should the public also finance exploitative enterprises?

I believe I said we could create incentives to make more worker-owned co-ops, such as much lower tax rates combined with subsidies to lower the cost of leasing land to use, though it is possible I could be mistaken, I can be a bit absent-minded at times.

And to answer the last question, it shouldn't.

Believing that workers will be satisfied with a modest income is a misguided faith, especially while a capitalist advertising industry exists that socializes the masses into thinking that attaining social status through conspicuous consumption is life's highest purpose. Surely employers hope that their particular workers are frugal and comfortable with an austere lifestyle, but they certainly don't want other workers to be—how else could they sell their commodities? It's one of capitalism's many internal contradictions.

Then why should we believe workers will be satisfied working for a capitalist boss if they could get more for their labor by working in a co-op? We can affect how the masses think in regards to social status, because if we could not, then trying to bring about any form of socialism would be fruitless in light of what you just said.

The simple fact here is that I do no support capitalism, I support economic freedom. That is, so long as it is lawful and voluntary, a person is free to improve their financial situation how they choose. Given how my proposed system works, while capitalism would be able to survive, I expect to see it shrink, and eventually go the way of the dodo as worker-controlled production becomes more and more common. For this transition to be a lasting and meaningful one, however, it must occur organically, without force or coercion, or else we simply give those who would support such things more reason to resist.

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Re: Capitalistic methods and free economy in socialism

Post by sytar on Tue Nov 13, 2012 4:03 pm

Celtiberian wrote:The problem is that capitalist firms are inherently exploitative; for without the expropriation of surplus labor capitalism is impossible because profit couldn't be accumulated.

I don't find this convincing. The capitalists aren't completely without their contribution to value. My Uncle went to the Caribbean and sold tires by the side of the road for a year before he saved up money to buy a small building to peddle his goods from. He eventually moved up into a full scale operation, with many workers, several warehouses, and a complex knowledge of supply-chaining. He's making multi-millions of dollars from his operations. Meanwhile, one of his employees, Rubbles, lives like a slave. He literally sleep in a tiny shanty constructed by my uncle in the back of the tire shop. He's given subsistence wages and housing and that's it. His body is freakishly muscular, unlike anything you've ever seen before in your life. It's really sad. He pays his supervisor about $2.50/hr and the workers around $1.75/hr~. Is this enterprise exploitative? Holy shit yes. Does it necessarily have to be exploitative? I don't think so.

Big reforms have to be made, for sure. Proudhon and Henry George's idea of socializing the land and natural resources is a priority, and a society without this can scarcely be unoppressed. Unionization is also key. Worker rights. Transfer payments to make up for any unintentional exploitation, perhaps. My uncle works from early in the morning until he goes to sleep at night. He definitely provides value and works hard. He's a capitalist, but I can't say he doesn't deserve any of the surplus value. How much does he deserve? I don't know. Honestly. I don't know. I am very uncomfortable with the so called "marginal productivity theory of income distribution" and think its reactionary garbage, but I am convinced he does something productive even though he never physically changes tires or does wheel alignments.

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Re: Capitalistic methods and free economy in socialism

Post by Celtiberian on Sat Dec 08, 2012 5:14 pm

Sasquatch wrote:To subsidize a private, for-profit firm to do this would be more expensive and less effective than communal production.

This admission further demonstrates the inconsistency in your political philosophy.

Well, state socialism is historically a wide variety of things, and as a term is used to refer to many different systems and idea, more so than the State simply producing everything. From Wikipedia, for example:

"State socialism is a variant of socialism which advocates public ownership of major industries, remedial measures to benefit the working class, and a gradual process of developing socialism through government policy. "State socialism" may also be used to classify any variety of socialist philosophies that advocates the ownership of the means of production by the state apparatus, either as a transitional stage between capitalism and socialism, or as an end-goal in itself."

Where does my views not meet the criteria of State socialism? It advocates public ownership of major industries (with a major industry being defined as any industry necessary for the production of living and social necessities in this case), it provides remedial measures to ensure that workers are not exploited, and it brings about a more socialist system, by which capitalism can die out organically as it is replaced by more socially responsible forms of production and business, rather than problematically being forced.

Your criteria is simply too vague to determine whether it's truly representative of "state socialism." The production of living facilities, food, and clothing requires inputs from a wide variety of sources; so would steel mills and tool companies, for instance, also be nationalized, since they are vital components in the process of manufacturing the aforementioned social necessities?

The definition you cited describes two distinct types of state socialism, the former of which you claim to identify with. Social Democrats of the Second International were state socialists of that variety, as they demanded the nationalization of the commanding heights of the economy. Such a system is to the right of the state socialism I was referring to (i.e., complete nationalization of the means of production coupled with comprehensive, centralized economic planning), but still further to the left than what you seem to advocate. However, I'm not interested in continuing to debate such a trivial semantic issue.

A matter of need really. I think I pointed this out before, though I could be wrong. The State is a sum of its individuals, the political organization of society, and as such produces the necessities needed by all in a communal fashion. Many things, such as comic books, video games, even cell phones as you point out, are not necessities. They are not needed by all, and so there is no need for the State to communally produce them. This does not mean the State could not produce them, simply that it has no need to. If the citizens of the State decided that something other than what we have discussed fell into the category of a genuine necessity, then I see no reason why it could not be produced communally.

In other words, you accept that goods and services could be produced efficiently through means other than private enterprise, yet arbitrarily limit them to the production of essential needs because you're not concerned with the injustice inherent in market allocations of resources and wage labor.

As for it being ethically reprehensible, how do you figure? We are talking about the sum of society communally working to produce the necessities they all need for their day-to-day lives. What is reprehensible about this?

You miscomprehended the sentence. I wrote that propertarians consider it ethically reprehensible, not I.

Agreed, and in my views, I have tried to take it further, by addressing the means by which the capitalist class exploits the workers.

Your conception of "exploitation" differs from that held by the Marxian tradition. You exclusively focus on coercion, which is why you believe a basic income policy would be sufficient to eliminate economic injustice. Marxists, however, define exploitation as the instrumentalization of one's economic vulnerability for purposes of self-enrichment. Thus, capitalists, by virtue of their ownership of the means of production, are at an advantage relative to workers, which entitles them to appropriate the latter's labor. Basic income does nothing to redress this injustice because it's fundamentally a relational issue, and all the policy would do is slightly improve the bargaining power of labor while nevertheless preserving the property system which permits a class of individuals (the bourgeoisie) to be in a position to dominate those who wish to obtain the means by which to lead a fulfilling, dignified existence—and a modest government welfare payment affords no such thing. The communist demand is the complete abolition of economic conditions which enable certain individuals to take advantage of those at a relative disadvantage to themselves. This can only be achieved by collectivizing and democratizing the means of production and, eventually, replacing markets with a system of comprehensive participatory planning.

As for those who opt-out and remain as a resident, they can also make use of this land, but through paying the State a rent fee, and with severe limitations as to how much they could make use of, and in what way. For example, a resident could likely rent an acre of land from the State to live on, but he cannot rent large tracts of land and make use of its natural resources, or use it to create an industry.

I see. It would have saved us both some time had you included these qualifications earlier.

I don't really know where you are coming from saying your conception of justice is broader than my own, seeing as how in this quote, I can't really see much where we disagree.

You claim you agree with it, and yet you advocate a system in which vast inequities in remuneration would persist. At no point have you stated that you support participatory planning, which is the only method I'm aware of that could establish a system whereby workers' access to the social product is granted on the basis of effort and sacrifice. I suppose it's conceivable that you favor the Ricardian socialists' convoluted market arrangement, whereby products would exchange at their value through the medium of a people's bank and workers would be remunerated with labor vouchers, but, being that you haven't made reference to anything of the sort, I doubt it.

So people are fond of repeating, but again, I see nothing wrong with exchanging one's labor for a wage to make use of means of production that he otherwise would not have access to. Capitalism can be exploitative, and I personally dislike it, but if de-fanged, we will see it organically die out, which will be far less harmful to society than trying to forcibly end it, which like all uses of force and coercion, would create new enemies.

Then we've clearly reached an impasse. The bourgeoisie already are the proletariat's enemy, and always have been. Attempting to allow this class to "die out" over the duration of a gradual evolutionary process is naïve for the reasons I mentioned in my previous posts. Adam Smith himself outlined the various ways by which the bourgeoisie organize to capture the state to advance their interests (chambers of commerce, lobbying, bribery, etc.), and you're being irrationally optimistic if you believe that they couldn't just as easily subvert the development of your ideal social democratic state.

As for wage labor, I've explained why Marxists consider it exploitative ad nauseam. If you see nothing wrong with people taking advantage of those in a position of vulnerability relative to themselves, then you might as well abandon not only socialism, but an ethical life in general. Consider the following scenario, that of two men sinking in quicksand. Man A is closer to the hard surface and could easily extend his arm and pull man B to the surface with him, but decides instead to offer to do so only under the condition that B agrees to give him his car in exchange. B, fearing for his life and being in a position of dependence, agrees to the terms. A has performed a service he is not obliged to, just as a property owner is when he hires a worker, but I think you'll agree that A still exploited B because of his taking advantage of B's vulnerability relative to himself. However, to be logically consistent, you could not condemn this act.

Employment isn't a life or death matter in developed capitalist welfare states, but that doesn't mean the ethical dimension of the analogy erodes, for it's still a matter of man exploiting the relative vulnerability of man. In your scheme, a basic income ensures that one's lifestyle cannot fall beneath a certain level, but if they desire more from life they are still embedded in a society where they'll be in a position of dependence relative to men who possess the means of production they require access to in order to lead such a life. Hence, capitalists are still endowed with the ability to dominate men for the purpose of self-enrichment, albeit to a lesser degree than they currently are. You call this 'de-fanging,' I call it the unnecessary perpetuation of injustice.

There are, of course, different types of capitalist. Should we lump the capitalist who owns the means of production, and actively takes part in the manufacturing and business processes through supervision, handling business, doing paperwork, and even helping around the work place, as we do the man who owns everything, and hires everyone else to do the work for him while he plays golf?

The capitalist qua capitalist merely owns property, which entitles him to the surplus product generated by wage laborers. What you're asking is whether I consider capitalists who additionally perform managerial labor just as reprehensible as those which don't. The answer is that I respect individuals who perform socially useful labor, and thus loathe the capitalists which simultaneously occupy the subsumed class position of manager slightly less than those who don't. The reason I consider them only a slight improvement is because their incentives as managers are diametrically opposed to those of the proletariat, which their actions often reflect—e.g., by maximizing the exploitation of labor in the pursuit of capital accumulation. Is the slave owner who whips his own slaves and is heavily involved in the marketing of his crops superior to the one who hires others to do so? Arguably he is for actively engaging in the commercial work, but it takes a fairly callous person to directly dominate other people for their own gain. Exceptions obviously exist, such as the petit-bourgeois businessmen who intentionally devise a more equitable division of profits and refrain from hiring the cheapest labor available on the market, but they are rarities.

In short, I consider benevolent monarchs, dictators, slave owners, and capitalists better than malevolent ones, but that doesn't render those social relations defensible.

I find it an egregious error to ignore the fact that I have already explained under this system that the material conditions which compel individuals to sell their labor power has changed from being a matter of necessity in order to provide the necessities of life for them and their family, to simply working to improve and purchase the things they want in life, without worrying about whether they will lose their job and starve, as well as to be productive as part of their citizenship responsibilities (that, however, is another subject altogether, and not related to the current one).

I've not ignored that fact.

And if someone wants to voluntarily sell themselves into slavery, that is their choice, is it not? This does not, however, mean that people would do it, especially if the social conditions that would likely drive such a decision (extreme poverty, etc) would not exist.

It's their choice if they should happen to live in a society which permits them to make it. However, even advanced bourgeois states are civilized enough to realize that such contracts are illegitimate because they violate our inalienable rights and would represent a blight on our culture. Servility, regardless of how free the conditions are under which it materializes, should not be tolerated by a self-respecting society.

Please point out where I disregard the role of class in shaping society. Go ahead, I'll wait.

Done? Good. Now, when you have to put words in my mouth to generate a strawman, it makes it hard for me to take your argument seriously. Just saying.

It has been implicit throughout our exchange. You have argued in favor of developing socialism within the parameters of class society and implementing a universal basic income. Anyone familiar with class dynamics, however, would realize that the capitalists would never permit their wealth to be taxed in order to finance a basic income for the masses; and even if the program was to be financed through other means, they would still oppose it because it undermines their authority to an unacceptable extent. They would also staunchly oppose the growth of a non-capitalist economic sector, just as the history of Allende's Chile and Chávez's Venezuela attests.

Maybe, maybe not. It all depends on implementation, does it not? If through reform, then some of them maintain their assets insofar as means of production and corporations, though those very assets are then used through their use to benefit the people of the State through land leasing (as they would lose any claim of ownership over land itself), and taxes on corporate profits and private means of production.

It's virtually impossible through reform. Even the mild New Deal regulations couldn't withstand the bourgeois assault upon them for longer than a few decades.

If this came about due to the economic collapse or otherwise failing of the current system, then they would not maintain anything beyond what everyone else has in all likelihood, and would have to work for what they want same as everyone else.

Anything is possible under conditions of total economic collapse, but important factors would include whether the currency retained any value, the distribution of income, and how the state would thereafter manage property. If the currency was worthless and the state collectivized all assets and legally prohibited wage labor and private ownership of the means of production, then socialism could certainly be established. But this would require that the state be captured by a class conscious proletariat.

In addition, my proposed system's government is designed to prevent such abuse by those with wealth. The bourgeoisie can abuse the system now because they can buy off those who have the power to create legislation and affect policy. In what I propose, the ones who have the final say on legislation or new policy is the voting citizens of the State, who will likely object to said bourgeoisie attempting to use his socially-generated wealth to avoid paying into his share of social responsibility.

And how do you foresee such a polity emerging? The amount of struggle and sacrifice that would be required to adjust our political establishment in a genuinely participatory direction would border on the revolutionary, in which case why preserve hostile propertied classes at all?

I am sorry, how is this not competition? You still have firms competing with one another to produce goods and services that consumers like, or else they lose their licensing. This is not different in any essential sense to what I am talking about.

It's not competition because firms wouldn't compete with one another over market share. Rather, firms would be evaluated by consumer councils regarding whether or not they are performing competently and in accordance with the annual economic plan. If their productivity or the quality of their goods or services as an enterprise are determined to be inadequate, they would lose their license to produce and the laborers would search for employment in other collectives. This is radically different from market relations, wherein buyers and sellers interact in an antagonistic manner, each attempting to fleece the other while destructive externalities are ignored. Participatory planning, by contrast, entails a cooperative process whereby workers' councils and consumer councils negotiate an annual economic plan. Consumers would have access to detailed information regarding work conditions in every enterprise, and could adjust their consumption requests as their conscience dictates, and producers would have an opportunity to debate whatever aspects of the annual plans they consider too unreasonable in an iterative process.

And I do not disagree with you. But one can argue that within a market, the reward for their innovation is still material and social rewards. Same end, different means.

Incorrect—the ends are dramatically different. Markets reward power, and if an individual invents a product (no matter have frivolous) that happens to be in great demand, he commands the power to amass a fortune which has the potential to impact society in myriad ways. A syndicalist market economy which encourages social entrepreneurship and rewards ingenuity and innovation in a fairer way could mitigate the problem, but a capitalist market surely cannot.

I believe I said we could create incentives to make more worker-owned co-ops, such as much lower tax rates combined with subsidies to lower the cost of leasing land to use, though it is possible I could be mistaken, I can be a bit absent-minded at times.

Lowering taxes and extending subsidies wouldn't be enough. The only method which market socialist theorists have found that would enable worker cooperatives to displace capitalist enterprises to an appreciable extent would be through externally financing cooperatives through state grants, and attaching employment conditions to said grants.

The simple fact here is that I do no support capitalism, I support economic freedom. That is, so long as it is lawful and voluntary, a person is free to improve their financial situation how they choose.

You support the "freedom" of individuals to become exploited, and that's the crux of our disagreement. You're essentially hung up on the moral conundrum of whether individuals should possess the right to engage in what Robert Nozick called "capitalist acts between consenting adults." The fact of the matter is all societies impose limitations on liberty, and socialism is no different. But if freedom is your barometer for deciding whether capitalist firms are ethically permissible, you should be in favor of eliminating them, because in so doing you are actually extending the freedom of all members of society to substantially control their economic lives. Furthermore, by retaining capitalism (even on the margins of society), you risk undermining the freedom and autonomy of the working class for the reasons I addressed earlier, when I discussed the destabilizing influence of class antagonisms.

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Re: Capitalistic methods and free economy in socialism

Post by Celtiberian on Tue Dec 11, 2012 9:34 am

sytar wrote:I don't find this convincing. The capitalists aren't completely without their contribution to value.

It depends entirely on what is meant by "capitalist." Socialists draw a sharp distinction between entrepreneurs, who engage in the productive activity of searching for unmet consumer demands; managers, who ensure that labor is performed efficiently; and capitalists, whose mere ownership of property entitles them to the surplus product created by the working class. Certain capitalists occupy all three roles simultaneously, others just two, and still others simply free ride off of someone else's entrepreneurial discovery and hire wage laborers to oversee the management of their enterprise(s), but the point is they are fundamentally separate categories. Socialists fully acknowledge that entrepreneurship and management are indispensable aspects of economic activity, but we contend that these tasks can be performed in a more collective and participatory manner, and reject the notion that they in any way justify wage slavery.

As for value creation, even if one rejects the labor theory of value, i.e., that labor alone creates value, it's undeniable that labor is still the only factor in the creation of that which has value. Access to equipment (e.g., factories and tools) and a viable organizational structure are undoubtedly essential components, but it is ultimately labor itself that brings value into being.

Unionization is also key. Worker rights. Transfer payments to make up for any unintentional exploitation, perhaps.

Unionization cannot eliminate exploitation, at least as we Marxists define the term.

My uncle works from early in the morning until he goes to sleep at night. He definitely provides value and works hard.

Your uncle is clearly an assiduous manager, as several capitalists who also occupy that subsumed class position are. I, for one, would never characterize such people as 'lazy,' or what have you, as they are sacrificing a considerable portion of their lives at work. But, again, we must separate the capitalist qua capitalist from individuals who engage in entrepreneurial and managerial labor. We must ever bear in mind that individuals can, and often do, occupy different class roles simultaneously under capitalism. To take another example, managers in certain firms will occasionally roll up their sleeves and work alongside direct laborers on an assembly line, literally engaging in the manufacturing of a commodity, in which case they are occupying two separate class positions—both of the working class, but one in which value is being extracted, and the other in which it's being created; the former being a subsumed class process, the latter being a fundamental one.

Furthermore, Marxists consider the immense sacrifice bourgeois individuals like your uncle make in the pursuit of capital accumulation to represent a form of alienation. (Spending 16 hours a day in an office, doing all one can to ensure their business remains competitive, is not the way human beings were meant to live.)

He's a capitalist, but I can't say he doesn't deserve any of the surplus value. How much does he deserve? I don't know. Honestly. I don't know. I am very uncomfortable with the so called "marginal productivity theory of income distribution" and think its reactionary garbage, but I am convinced he does something productive even though he never physically changes tires or does wheel alignments.

Managers in a syndicalist economy would receive from the social product on the same basis as everyone else: effort and sacrifice. Entrepreneurs and inventors are a different case, however, as it's more difficult to measure their contributions. In my opinion, entrepreneurship should become a collective effort to the greatest extent possible, but I suspect there will be those who prefer to do such work on an individual basis for the foreseeable future. As I've stated elsewhere, some combination of material and social reward should suffice to ensure a socialist society remains technologically dynamic. The precise level of those rewards is debatable are very much dependent on how much of an egalitarian ethos has been developed among those possessing scare talents, but being the recipient of the surplus value created by wage slaves will no longer be an option in a just society.

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"Nationality. . . is a historic, local fact which, like all real and harmless facts, has the right to claim general acceptance. . . Every people, like every person, is involuntarily that which it is and therefore has a right to be itself. . . Nationality is not a principle; it is a legitimate fact, just as individuality is. Every nationality, great or small, has the incontestable right to be itself, to live according to its own nature. This right is simply the corollary of the general principle of freedom."
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