Author Topic: Socialism  (Read 66851 times)

Seriati

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Re: Socialism
« Reply #50 on: August 07, 2019, 12:05:01 PM »
Fen,

You seem to be talking past me rather than to me.  Altruism has nothing to do with the distinction between socialism and capitalism.  Fundamentally the conflict between the two is a simple property dispute.  In socialism, the state ultimately owns all property, and it suffers private use only to the extent it advances the state's goals.  In capitalism, private ownership of property is the rule (while not pure capitalism, every modern capitalistic society recognizes the right of a state to take and use private property, generally after fair compensation to the private owner, and to impose usage restrictions at the least designed to limit externalities from a use of the property (which fairly recharaterized as prevent encroachment on others)).

Altruism or social good is something else.  Altruistic socialists see the government and the people as one and make look to protect the poor, non-altruistic socialists see the people as subject to the government and seek to control them and maximize government power.   Altruistic capitalists (which was the dominant ethos of the US) see an obligation to use part of their property to benefit the less fortunate, they do so directly, through organizations (charities and churches) or even through supporting government programs by giving them cash to spend on those efforts (ie taxes) and they seek to fairly account for externalities.  Non-altruistic capitalists seek to exploit and extract all gains, without regard to externalities.

There is nothing about "Socialism" that is inherently connected to a belief in social welfare.

I think this is closer to the core of the issue than you may realize. Part of the M.O. of the conservative position on the public good is the presumption that any good that needs doing can, and likely will, come about as a result of individual choices and good will, and that paternalistic government is not the answer.

That's not really accurate.  You seem to be talking about charity - vaguely.  Most of the public good that "needs doing" is not about charity, building roads is not charity, supporting schools is not charity.  Taking care of the impoverished is.  I think small communities do in fact take care of the disadvantaged (though they often have social costs), bigger ones do not as they easily treat it as "someone else's problem."

If you think the socialism inclined will actually take care of these people ask yourself why homeless problems are largest in blue big cities.  You can look at the heat maps and see it.

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Part of the M.O. of the liberal position is that this simply will not function in practice and that if government doesn't act as arbiter of the public good then the public good will in practice not be served enough.

I note that "liberal" is not the same as socialist, nor is Democrat the same as either term.  I do agree that the left endorses more government control (but I deny the assertion that this is all good natured caring for others). 

But acting as "arbiter" of public good can take on many forms only some of which are socialist.  Market regulations, enforcement of contracts, enforcing liability for foreseeable (and even unforeseeable) externalities, are all parts of capitalism.  Many of the "socialist" positions - like rent control, minimum wages - have known harmful impacts on the poor.  Rent control benefits those in the apartments that are controlled and raises the prices on all other apartments, which disadvantages the poor who didn't win the rent control lottery, makes a whole other class of previously middle class poor and harms everyone who has to pay the higher rents.  It also has the unintended side effect of reducing the amount that landlords are willing or able to expend to maintain those units, which leads them to become increasingly run down and unsafe over time.  Was it really "altruistic" to favor "doing some" and "leading with your heart" over the long term creation of a slum and making everyone else poorer?  I don't care which effects you believe are true, if you acknowledge that the other side can reasonably believe its position then "altruism" is clearly not linked to one side or the other.

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"Government" just properly means collective action through a central proxy (at least when it's not acting for corrupt, self-serving purposes).

That's agreed.  However, I read your position to effectively be equating "socialism" with "government" or even worse with "good intentioned goverment," and neither is accurate.

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The "ideal" is that wealth has been unfairly distributed and that it should be redistributed by the government "fairly."  That's it.  Even if you could demonstrate - as a fact - that continuing an unfair distribution results in greater wealth and even those at the bottom are better off than they would be without that unfair distribution, socialism still rebels at the "unfairness."  Ergo, it's not primarily about caring about society or what's best for society, it's about redistributive justice as a primary value.
On this point I generally think you're too specific in what you think socialist policy does. It's true that redistribution of weather is a tool that socialist policy can employ.

It's not a "tool" of the philosophy.  The philosophy believes that the collective/government is the true owner of property, and believes that correcting individual uses that stray from the collective/government's goals is required. 

I don't get why you're soft selling what socialism is.

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But as I mentioned earlier there is plenty of redistrubition of wealth going on that is clearly not socialist in the slightest.

Out of curiosity where do you see something like this?

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This is part of what I meant about this definition creating contradictions. The tool of redistribution is by no means exclusive to socialist intentions.

Redistribution /= to taxing and spending on the common good.  Redistribution is taking from one private actor to benefit another private actor.  There are other systems that also believe in the tool, authoritarians, monarchies, anarchies and oligarchies come to mind.  Theologies, if corrupt, also fit the bag.

Capitalism does not agree that taking from one to give to another is anything but theft. 

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The toolkit of what steps can be taken to pursue 'socialist goals' can include anything the imagination can conjure up. If you release a PSA pushing the idea of thinking of the well-being of others before greed, that's politically socialist.

It's not.  That's just altruistic.  There's nothing about thinking of others, or even using your wealth to benefit them that remotely speaks to use of governmental intervention to achieve the goal.

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If you designate certain land as wildlife reserve, that's socialist on the grounds of it being for the public good rather than for the betterment of any particular group.

That's a greyer example.  But it exists in all forms of government.  If you believe that the persons who owned the land have to be fairly compensated it's actually a socially conscious capitalistic action, if you believe you can just take the land without compensation for the "public good" THEN its a socialist action.

Take a look at how Venezuela nationalized the oil industry.  They simply decreed that the industry would revert to the country without compensation for any of the equipment or development.  That's a socialistic action.  Compare that to how a US government seizes property to build a building and the valuations and compensation that they have to provide.

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There are many, many courses of action that can be taken that are aimed at using the central force of government to guarantee certain conditions for all that I would consider to be socialist. Legislation guanteeing labor conditions would be another example of this, where the free market negotiation between employer and employee is deemed to not be equitable enough to leave it as a purely private matter.

I think interference in employment certainly trends more socialist.  But it was a capitalist society that pioneered worker's rights and still provides higher and better worker rights than the purely socialist ones.  Why do you think that is?  It's because socialism (state ownership of property) is barely removed from state ownership of people.  When the people's rights are a gift of the government, rather than a right of the people, there's little real incentive for the government to negotiate against itself and grant more rights.

Much of how labor rights have developed in the US markets centers around removing unfair advantages.  We real debt slaves, we had company towns and stores, we had corporate armies, none of which was consistent with a free negotiation of labor.  All the corrections on that front improved the negotiations between the parties by making them more equitable. 

When you go beyond that in search of "social" goods you actually make the negotiations worse and the results worse.  Mandating a $15 minimum wage, for example, has the direct (and known) consequence of impairing the ability of the young and the poorly skilled to get a legitimate job.  Employers over emphasize experience and refuse opportunities.  They rigidly cap overtime (the opposite happens when you mandate excessive benefits, they ruthlessly exploit overtime), they shut down or don't expand.  Your social policy denied many people an opportunity to work at wages they'd have been happy to have (and not abused by receiving) because of a one size fits all conclusion.

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Capitalism is just an ideal, you can agree or disagree with it, but agreeing does not oblige anyone to make a statement that they believe it requires free markets?

Socialism is about government control of industries.  It's an economic philosophy not a moral one.

I have to say I think this is backwards. That is, unless I have mistaken your meaning with the part I bolded. If I understand you correctly, you're trying to reverse what I said about socialism being an ideal, and are saying that actually capitalism is an ideal, whereas socialism is just a tool to leverage redistribution.

Fen, it was attempt to demonstrate the absurdity of your original passage.  You can not divorce socialism from what it is to define it in other terms.  Socialism is a specific philosophy, as is capitalism, they both involve ideals as well, but "socialism" is not defined by altruism, it's defined by state control of property.

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It may, *or may not*, be the case that allowing free negotiation of labor and resources in a free enviroment will lead to wealth for the most and the greatest conditions for the most. There has literally never been an example of this occurring in history, and 100% of cases demonstrate that this doesn't happen, notwithstanding the fact that a 'true capitalist' enviroment has never been allowed to be tested.

I tend to think "pure capitalism" pursued by non-altruistic people, is not a real philosophy.  That construct would for instance support a slave trade if it were profitable and interested persons were able to impose it.  In fact, even pure capitalism as a philosophy requires certain prohibitions and restrictions to protect the right of free negotiation.

That said, it's really indisputable that capitalism generates wealth.  The entire design of capitalism is about allocating resources to pursue wealth maximization.

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Socialism, on the other hand, doesn't (to whit) make definite statements about exactly which conditions will lead to what result as a long-term projection.

Agreed in part, socialism is not a sensible projective philosophy.  It's a philosophy about punishing mistakes by redistributing assets from "non-conforming" uses to conforming uses.  The fact of how the communists have operating is clearly demonstrative that such a system can be used for non-altruistic goals.  I tend to believe that this result is always inevitable as power seekers in such a system will inherently move to government roles and there are no mechanisms that control their abuses.

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Rather, it seems to be reactive to actual injustices or problems, with the view that it is the right and probably the obligation of government to 'interfere' in the public state of affairs in order to make corrections to things that don't work.

If you replace "actual injustices or problems" with "perceived injustices" you'd be closer.  Like the injustice of someone owning a building, or running a successful shop.  Or someone not having bread while their hardworking neighbor does.

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It says not that redistribution is mandatory, but rather that it's a legitimate tool that can be employed is the current state of distribution is fubar.

It says redistribution is right and proper and does not limit its use to "fubar" situations.  Private use is tolerated to varying degrees, but fundamentally is not a right and the state may take it away to serve any purpose no matter how petty or trivial.

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As a philosophical position all socialism says is that "it is legitimate and right for government, on behalf of the people, to make corrections to malfunction in the system."

Again, that's not "socialism" that's just a part of "government."  There is no governmental system operating today that doesn't believe its legitimate and right for government to make corrections to malfunctions in the system.  You seem to be defining "capitalism" narrowly and claiming the field is "socialism," it's not.

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An opposite philosophy to this wouldn't be 'capitalism', but rather maybe something like 'individualism', which might read as something like "the government has no sovereign right to tell me what to do, even in the case where my choices harm others and the government's actions would improve the public good."

Actually, you've just circled back to "anarchy," which is the rejection of a social contract that we refer to as "government."  Socialism is a philosophy of how to form and operate a government, not a term that is synomous with government.

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The question of rights here is orthogonal to the question of results. Socialism says that government can and should be interfering, and the opposite belief would be that it shouldn't be interfering regardless of the quality of the situation.

This is why I'm having such problems with your definitional conclusions.  You've misdefined socialism which leads to this mush.  Socialism is about property rights, I tend to believe that those who believe the state owns all property will trend to believing that all rights are granted by the state, but it's not required, its just a concordant philosophy. 

Socialism says all property is the government's only rightly used when it benefits the government, and interference is warranted when this is not occurring.  This is why capitalism is the opposite philosophy.

It doesn't say government should be interfering, only that it has the absolute right to do so.  Socialism is not the opposite of anarchy (the belief that there should not be a government or that a government can never intervene).

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The matter of importance is not the consciousness that some action is needed, but specifically the license givern to government to take this actions. It makes it the government's direct job to practically effect what on an individual level is what you're calling social consciousness philosophy. It basically centralizes that conciousness and acts based on that collective feeling using its central power.

Again it doesn't.  Communistic countries are direct evidence that altruism is not inherent to the philosophy.  If you want to argue that the means and the thought are required, then I'm left with pointing out the absolute nonsense of resting all power in a government and expecting it to remain altruistic long term, when by definition there can be no contrary power centers with the ability or right to resist the government's decisions or even abuses.

If what you mean by "socialism" is tantamount to choosing government by "philosopher kings" its pretty much useless.

Practically speaking, the biggest problem with socialism is that there is no actual limit on government authority and abuse.

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I didn't argue that good will is irrelevant, only that socialism is not properly defined as good social will.

Well, not if you're already defining it as "the evil practive of stealing from people." Historically speaking it is indeed muddy to try to extract the 'true meaning' of a loaded word like this one, which is why I'm trying to to sort mine out the stated intentions of socialism historically as opposed to the doublespeak uses of its terminology in the employment of despotism.

It just feels like you're trying to sanitize a word that doesn't need it.  The word has a specific meaning.  If you want to argue for state ownership of property and/or absolute right to redistribute is not all "socialism" is then then you need to lay out controls that separate that from what those policies mean.  Socialism is not good will.

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In my claim, at least, I am also not defining socialism as good social will. I am defining it as the concept that good social will should properly be integrated into the mandate of government as an obligatory policy intent.

Definitionally all government is, is the embodiment of a social contract.  Government is literally the integration of the polity's agreement of what  "good social will" actually is into an enforceable practice.  The US for example cedes authority to use force proactively to the government, feudalism retained that to the local lordship.  That's a different choice about good social will.

I think what you mean is that social welfare should be added to the governmental mandate.  There's nothing stopping a capitalistic society from doing so, nor is there any thing that mandates a socialist one will do so (unless you think say re-education camps are for the social good). 

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And as I write this I know you feel that this often (or usually?) leads to misery, and that paternalistic government is bad at knowing how to create good conditions for anyone. My answer to this last point is only that I'm not advocating in favor of socialist government, and especially not on the grounds that I'm claiming it's good at achieving those goals; I'm only trying to state what I think it is, and it would be another discussion to assess whether it's a good idea to have a government with a socialist agenda.

Again, by confusing "socialism" with "social good will" you are in fact confusing the point and making it much harder to be persuasive. 
« Last Edit: August 07, 2019, 12:08:41 PM by Seriati »

TheDrake

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Re: Socialism
« Reply #51 on: August 07, 2019, 12:56:34 PM »
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Cause black market loan sharks are so much better for the poor.  I suspect you are correct, but advocates for the poor are not ivory tower thinkers that would make them illegal without implementing a replacement support system.  The CPFB rules amount to a denial of banking, not a replacement with something better.

Try to work out the superior system.  You have a class of people who can not or will not repay loans.  How do you structure a lending program for them - other than as a charity.

The replacement is biting the bullet. Bankruptcy, getting evicted and trying to move in with friends who know you can't pay the rent, cancelling your cable tv and your mobile phone plan, buying only used clothes, quit drinking and smoking, learning to use public transit, sell anything valuable, sign up for medical experiments, get a second job.

Because over 90% are likely to go in that direction eventually.

Seriati

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Re: Socialism
« Reply #52 on: August 07, 2019, 01:06:45 PM »
TheDrake, none of that is actually responsive.  How do you replace an emergency banking system?

Making the poor bite the bullet and fix the problem themselves is at best missing the point.  Bankruptcy is irrelevant (and just as possible after the payday loans).  Having a social support network is not guaranteed, and often puts a burden on other people that can barely afford it.  It also completely ignores that many at this level of destitution have already burned those bridges and exploited those opportunities and borrowed and not paid back their family members.

Pay day loans are there because people have no other options, not because they're choosing not to use them.

Fenring

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Re: Socialism
« Reply #53 on: August 07, 2019, 01:19:34 PM »
Seriati,

Haha, I read that whole post before you edited it to clean up the quotes. So I think that as you point out part of why we're having trouble seeing eye to eye on what the discussion is about is a definitional one. So let's not let that get in our way. I know that the word "socialism" has often been used in the past as a catchall term referring to government simply seizing everything and 'the people' having collective ownership over everything. Fact is, though, that this has never actually happened as such. Yes, some regimes like the USSR simply stole or razed anything they pleased and called it "socialism". I think a better term for that would be "Darth Vader." More commonly in South America we see attempts to nationalize certain elements of industry, which is a very mired can of worms and in my view cannot be inspected out of context of what led up to those actions. You can't just point at those 'socialists' and observe (correctly) how the actions led to bad results, because the motivation for such actions was often to try desperately to get out of conditions where foreign powers were effectively running their government as a result of debt slavery and foreign ownership of industry. That's an *extremely* involved subject and it's wrong to take those events out of context and treat them like some good example of why the idea of socialism is self-destructive. You see how crazed people get about even talking to Russians? Well imagine if they owned huge swathes of the American economy and directly communicated with the Congress to tell them how to vote. There would literally be a revolution if that happened, which is exactly why is happens in South America.

That said, here's a link to the sort of thing I'm talking about:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Socialism#Social_and_political_theory

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Many forms of socialist theory hold that human behaviour is largely shaped by the social environment. In particular, socialism holds that social mores, values, cultural traits and economic practices are social creations and not the result of an immutable natural law. The object of their critique is thus not human avarice or human consciousness, but the material conditions and man-made social systems (i.e. the economic structure of society) that gives rise to observed social problems and inefficiencies.

I'd rather not go in circles with you on whether XYZ country was or wasn't a 'real' example of socialism, when what I am personally try to get at is the theory behind why to do any of this. It is true that at times countries have basically dismissed the notion of personal property and ownership and claimed that the [totalitarian] state owns everything. But I think you're allowing an overly narrow definition create a wall to discussing the issue. If you insist that the word "socialism" must essentially mean totalitarianism (that basically the government can do anything at all it wants and no one has any rights), then of course it will be nonsensical to you to admit that it can have anything to do with good will. Not only will you have to claim it's about redistribution, but additionally you'll have to claim that it's inherently inhuman, to lack a better term. I propose that this is an insufficient definition even if you're only talking about economic policy, and it will certainly result in shutting down any kind of discussion of which sorts of socialist policies or ideas could be incorporated into mixed economies or social democracies.

I know you're saying that any form of government can be altruistic, but if what you're saying is that in a capitalist arena a government can have full license to regulate, dictate, set terms, and affect even the fundamental way in which contracts are made legal or illegal, in my view what you're saying is that mixed economies are the only reasonable form, in which case we'd be in agreement. But to be clear - mixed economy means that there is a blend of purely free market and of socialist and/or centrally controlled elements mixed together to use the best of both worlds. Again, socialism in the way I'm using the term doesn't have to mean "the state controls and owns literally everything", but rather designates the state as having the authority (morally and legally) to shape the economic landscape in any way that will serve the greater social good. That can be as light as enforcing contracts, and as strong as effecting a UBI, setting tariffs, and enacting mat/pat leave and social health care. In theory it could be even stronger than that if needed, but the idea isn't that the government should de facto destroy all social infrastructure from before and run everything itself; not even China believes in that any more. It's that it's fundamentally wrong to argue that "the government should stay out of private affairs". The Fed/state level argument does figure into this in the U.S. in particular, but that's just a detail and not relevant to the general theory.

The UBI is a good example of socialist policy that is clearly not just an 'expression of altruism' but amounts to a definite claim about the state of production and what the general interest actually requires. It's not just 'oh this would be nice of us to do' but actually more like 'we will be screwed eventually unless we do this.' If you look historically there will always be cases of people with socialist ideas vis a vis thinking of new ways to self-organize, but the main thrust of socialism as we now know it is essentially a response to new production technology and a recognition of the fact that government policy has a huge impact on trade and on the state of the economic landscape. One change in government rules could mean the difference between the middle class being wiped out, or of a general trend towards equalization of economic power. So the theory just states that government really does have to get involved. People who complain that it picks winners and losers are right, insofar as corrupt government will pick winners and losers with no regard to the public good.

You asked me above to list examples of redistributive policies that have nothing to do with socialism, so here are a few:

-QE (quantitative easing), which is only a special case of a general practive of slowly shifting wealth around subtly so that most people don't notice it's happening. It increases the money supply for strategic purposes, but in so doing certain parties benefit far more than others. Further, the inflation of the currency also shifts real spending power around.
-Bailouts: literally shifting wealth to specific parties, and effectively coming out of the public coffers (through inflation).
-Corporate welfare: this includes stimulating the economy through tax breaks, where some companies effectively pay zero tax; it includes creating policy to suit particular corporate interests (pharma, military, etc); it includes creation of budget cycles where public monies are earmarked for private enterprise on a recurrant basis; and it also includes the revolving door of insiders in government positions, which often involves regulatory capture but can also just be described as an old boys' club.
-I'll list this separate, even though it could be seen as being part of the above: the military-industry model whereby the government is beholden to regularize contracts to military companies, and in turn that material is needed to be used (or sold) in order to justify subsequent purchases, therefore resulting in overly aggressive foreign policy, as well as a habit of selling armaments to 'questionable' parties.

All of these are policies that very directly shift wealth around, establish a particular ecosystem where monies flow in certain directions ('currents' is a very important term in such analysis), and definitely favor certain parties over others. But I don't think anyone would call any of those socialist, and especially not in America where if anything those tend to be Republican type policies more so than Democrat ones (although that has converged lately). And certainly none of those policies have anything to do with socialist *theory* where the idea is to free up the working man from subservience to those who control the means of production.

Sorry if this went on a bit long, but really I don't see how there can be any discussion about 'socialism', or socialist theory, or socialist-type policies, if any time it's ever brough up the answer of "no, socialism is just when the government seizes everything including the kitchen sink." That can be how the word is used, but it certainly does not capture how it generally is used, and especially doesn't even apply to discussions about social democracy.
« Last Edit: August 07, 2019, 01:23:52 PM by Fenring »

TheDrake

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Re: Socialism
« Reply #54 on: August 07, 2019, 01:27:31 PM »
TheDrake, none of that is actually responsive.  How do you replace an emergency banking system?

Making the poor bite the bullet and fix the problem themselves is at best missing the point.  Bankruptcy is irrelevant (and just as possible after the payday loans).  Having a social support network is not guaranteed, and often puts a burden on other people that can barely afford it.  It also completely ignores that many at this level of destitution have already burned those bridges and exploited those opportunities and borrowed and not paid back their family members.

Pay day loans are there because people have no other options, not because they're choosing not to use them.

And why not have an even more emergency banking system with 9000% interest for the even more desperate people who defaulted on those loans? Or let people sell their organs?

Because at some point we draw a line on people profiting on the misery of others.

Seriati

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Re: Socialism
« Reply #55 on: August 07, 2019, 01:42:53 PM »
But you are not drawing a line on the profits, only on the legal borrowing options.  That just leaves the black market or whatever otherwise avoidable consequence there is to not having access to money.  Tearing something down as "wrong" when it serves a specific purpose, without putting in place a replacement to address that purpose is misguided at best.

TheDrake

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Re: Socialism
« Reply #56 on: August 07, 2019, 01:56:29 PM »
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Across the pond in North America, the need to provide alternatives to payday loans has started to become recognized as a necessity to ensure financial health for citizens as well as economic health security. Research has shown that low-wage employees that are provided immediate access to their wages has a direct correlation to increased productivity at work, as well as an improved corporate culture overall. Walmart recognized this and last year partnered with a lending startup to provide their employees with instant access to their salaries. Comcast has started offering short-term loans to employees, with payment installments being deducted from employee paychecks. Other startups have also partnered with employers to provide instant access to wages for employees. With startups offering alternatives to dangerous, high-interest payday loans, low-wage workers are able to make secure financial decisions for their future.

Already happening at some scale. It will accelerate if the crappy alternatives cease to exist.

Seriati

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Re: Socialism
« Reply #57 on: August 07, 2019, 02:36:53 PM »
Fen,

I'm still not understanding why you want to remove the actual core features of the definition in favor of non-core components.  This seems like social engineering designed to support a motte and bailey argument.

Here's the first 2 definitions from Merriam Webster:

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1 : any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods
2a : a system of society or group living in which there is no private property
b : a system or condition of society in which the means of production are owned and controlled by the state

The core is about the state owning property and controlling distribution.  Period.  Altruism is a separate matter that differentiates between the goals of a system, it's not a core of the system.


I know that the word "socialism" has often been used in the past as a catchall term referring to government simply seizing everything and 'the people' having collective ownership over everything.

That is justifiable under socialism.  But the point is neither here nor there, as I didn't claim that is the "whole" picture.

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Many forms of socialist theory hold that human behaviour is largely shaped by the social environment. In particular, socialism holds that social mores, values, cultural traits and economic practices are social creations and not the result of an immutable natural law. The object of their critique is thus not human avarice or human consciousness, but the material conditions and man-made social systems (i.e. the economic structure of society) that gives rise to observed social problems and inefficiencies.

Which is flowery language that translates directly into "Rights are granted by the Government, and are exactly and only what the Government determines."  Everything I said flows from that reality.  It's perception of injustice that creates recourse, not objective standards.  There is no recourse against government misconduct (which is definitionally impossible in such a system).

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If you insist that the word "socialism" must essentially mean totalitarianism (that basically the government can do anything at all it wants and no one has any rights), then of course it will be nonsensical to you to admit that it can have anything to do with good will.

I said the philosophy was concordant, and I walked through why I thought it is the inevitable result.

Neither here nor there though because I'm still objecting to reading in "good will" to the definition.  It's not part of it, nor is it necessary.  If you want to believe that application of good will through socialism is possible go ahead, you can even make the argument, but you're damaging speach if you define socialism as good will when its not.

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...in my view what you're saying is that mixed economies are the only reasonable form, in which case we'd be in agreement.

Economies and governments are different things.  Confusing "government" with "socialism" by inferring that all regulation is socialism is not true.

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But to be clear - mixed economy means that there is a blend of purely free market and of socialist and/or centrally controlled elements mixed together to use the best of both worlds.

And this why that distinction is important.  One does not have to believe ANY PART of central control is desirable to believe that regulations are.

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Again, socialism in the way I'm using the term doesn't have to mean "the state controls and owns literally everything", but rather designates the state as having the authority (morally and legally) to shape the economic landscape in any way that will serve the greater social good.

I think I'm going to have to say I can't discuss this with you.  There's no way to come to a meeting of the minds on higher topics, when you're defining the term in such a non-standard manner.

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The UBI is a good example of socialist policy that is clearly not just an 'expression of altruism' but amounts to a definite claim about the state of production and what the general interest actually requires.

In my view, the UBI is just a gimmick promise designed to grab votes by re-labelling communism as a right.  There's no difference behind the curtain between a UBI and the Soviet style right to access common goods. 

Don't believe me?  Play the game of imagination and actually model out what would happen at varying levels of UBI.  If the theory really is sound, then you should be able to scale up to just about any income level you want.  Would giving everyone $1 million a year, make it so we could all afford to buy yahcts?  No, it's make the price of yahcts and every thing else rise dramatically.  Basic housing would cost millions in rent and tens of millions to buy.   Trips to the grocery store would cost tens of thousands.  The fact that we can "play games" with small amounts because we have a strong economy does not protect us from the nonsense that would ensue if we decided to proactively eliminate the connection between income and effort.

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You asked me above to list examples of redistributive policies that have nothing to do with socialism, so here are a few:

Lol, it's a bit of a trick question.

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-QE (quantitative easing), which is only a special case of a general practive of slowly shifting wealth around subtly so that most people don't notice it's happening. It increases the money supply for strategic purposes, but in so doing certain parties benefit far more than others. Further, the inflation of the currency also shifts real spending power around.

Not a redistribution.  This is an accounting trick where the government prints extra money without taxing anyone to do so.  It's literally a distribution without taking.  A strong economy like the US can get away with it, Zimbabwe on the other hand destroyed the value of their currency by doing the same thing.

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-Bailouts: literally shifting wealth to specific parties, and effectively coming out of the public coffers (through inflation).

Bailouts also don't qualify directly as re-distribution - there's generally no seizure to support them.  Pyrtolin was correct about what money actually is, government spending is not actually connected to taxation, we just pretend it is for good reasons.  But let's assume we could construe taxation as a "taking" and redistribution for a bailout.

Even then, it's literal socialism.  The government is distributing to a specific economic actor for the purposes of the government, not for any other person.  The government has not identified an injustice, or even necessarily correctly identified a problem (collapse of a company while tramatic often opens up at least as many new opportunities as it closes).  Yet the government has decided to "take" in the form of taxes from the many to give to a single actor to "correct" that problem.  It doesn't matter if it's doing so save the economy or save jobs, or because the CEO of the solar panel plant is a friend of the administration's.

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-Corporate welfare: this includes stimulating the economy through tax breaks, where some companies effectively pay zero tax;

That's a hard claim for a taking.  All taxes are a destruction of currency, and could be construed as a taking, lifting a burden on some to encourage a government policy to be construed as a taking would have to be seen as a "taking from others."  Generally speaking not taxing is the opposite of a taking so you're really drawing an inference from taking less?

Whether taxes even exist in a socialist society is questionable.  The state owns the property, is it a tax to take it?  So tax policy is frequently used by capitalistic societies to drive social good.  Tax breaks for charities encourage charitable donation for example. 

Refundable tax credits - those meet the bill.  Zero effective tax rates speak more to either a really vital government need being met, or a poorly drafted law (which may be the result of corruption or rent seeking, or just bad thinking).

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it includes creating policy to suit particular corporate interests (pharma, military, etc);

Another super tangential connection, and not one that distinguishes well from socialism, where ALL corporate policies are designed to suit the corporate interests of the state (China for example, super subsidizes and favors tech and military endeavors).

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it includes creation of budget cycles where public monies are earmarked for private enterprise on a recurrant basis; and it also includes the revolving door of insiders in government positions, which often involves regulatory capture but can also just be described as an old boys' club.

That sounds more like a pet peeve than an example of non-socialist redistribution.  In any event, I completely concur that corruption manipulates the share of public resources.  In socialist societies, as the government is the only relevant actor, corruption tends to be enshrined as the "ordinary course" of business where even official actions often require bribes to the officials involved. 

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-I'll list this separate, even though it could be seen as being part of the above: the military-industry model whereby the government is beholden to regularize contracts to military companies, and in turn that material is needed to be used (or sold) in order to justify subsequent purchases, therefore resulting in overly aggressive foreign policy, as well as a habit of selling armaments to 'questionable' parties.

I don't even get what you're implying here.  Where is the non-socialist redistribution.  Protection is part of the basic social contract of all governments regardless of form or philosophy.  Providing for the common good is not a redistribution.

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Sorry if this went on a bit long, but really I don't see how there can be any discussion about 'socialism', or socialist theory, or socialist-type policies, if any time it's ever brough up the answer of "no, socialism is just when the government seizes everything including the kitchen sink." That can be how the word is used, but it certainly does not capture how it generally is used, and especially doesn't even apply to discussions about social democracy.

It's like if we wanted to have a discussion about Monarchy as a form of government and you insisted that the monarch is not a relevant part of the Monarchy. 

Whether the government takes the kitchen sink isn't the question, it's whether the government already owns the kitchen but is letting you use it (so long as that's consistent with their goals).  Socialism is literally about giving up your property to the collective without any say.

Fenring

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Re: Socialism
« Reply #58 on: August 07, 2019, 03:26:33 PM »
Seriati,

I do think we can find a way to discuss this, and I actually think it's important we do (if we have the will do keep trying) because the sort of disconnect we're having on this one seems to me strikingly similar to other instances where you find yourself at complete cross-purposes with, say, liberal posters on Ornery on certain topics. I recognize what you're trying to say and I'm trying to build a bridge to it, but I find it problematic to think that a disagreement about definitions should prevent us being able to say "yeah, I see what you're saying. It makes sense, but I disagree." Now, granted, not everything people argue does make sense so we don't want to take that as a given. But I do think there is the possibility yo disagree about the conclusion even while agreeing on the facts. More often that that, though, there seems to be a fundamental inability to agree on even the facts. So that's part of why I'm making the effort to push through on this one.

Here's the first 2 definitions from Merriam Webster:

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1 : any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods
2a : a system of society or group living in which there is no private property
b : a system or condition of society in which the means of production are owned and controlled by the state

The core is about the state owning property and controlling distribution.  Period.  Altruism is a separate matter that differentiates between the goals of a system, it's not a core of the system.
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Socialism is literally about giving up your property to the collective without any say.

I know the dictionary definition, and this is also the first topic in the Wiki as well. Problem is, these sources are good at listing basics (and sometimes Wiki is a great deal better even at details) but aren't there to be academic treatises on the history of the word "socialism" or its current common usages. The definition above is one I know, so I'm not pretending it doesn't exist, but as I said earlier there is actually no case at all in present times where that type of socialism actually exists, nor is there any signficiant movement for it to exist. European socialists are not advocating for government to own everything; Asian socialist governments do not actually own everything, although in NK it's hard to know exactly what structure they have. And no South American country does that or has done that. So if the above is being used as "the definition" of socialism we may as well throw out the term and introduce a new one, like "social design-ism" or something and use that new term to discuss what I'm calling "social-oriented moves by government to shape the economic landscape". The term socialism as you're using it is either obsolete or else it never meant anything, because any kind of either anarcho-syndicalism or other anarcho-groups where the people run everything but laterally rather than centrally, and likewise any systems where literally everything is run centrally 'for the people' have never existed in any recognizable or significant forms. I'm not playing a motte and bailey with you; I'm literally saying that the term as you want to use it is just useless and has no relevance to the modern world (if it ever did previously). The few countries that did literally seize and/or own everything (like the USSR) were very far from socialist in my opinion, and would be best defined as totalitarian empires. It was the same with the Nazis, where even their lip service to private property was always trumped by the state being able to use force to do anything it wanted. That's not socialism either, even though they technically did basically take control of all industries they cared to, along with all social and political institutions. And the funny thing is the Nazis called themselves socialist primarily to set themselves as enemies to the communist parties, so even in the lip service sense they viewed 'national socialism' as being theoretically fundamentally opposed to communism, the latter of which is the form where the government owns and controls everything. The fact that the Nazis basically went ahead and did that anyhow just shows how their branding was nonsense propaganda, but in a funny way it also shows that popularly at the time socialism was seen as being so different from communism that they could be understood to be mortal enemies.

I don't think we disagree that the government should have in its purview that it can assess and make changes to the economic landscape when there are problems. We may disagree about which of thoses fixes would actually work, but that's ok because that's an engineering issue rather than a philosophical one. It would be good to be able to establish that the government has both the moral authority and the right to establish a UBI, even if we agree to disagree on what the effects of what such a policy would be. Right? And bear in mind I'm not disagreeing with all of your ideas when I try to argue that the word "socialist" can be applied so that's it's actually a useful term. You won't get an argument from me about it being bad if government seizes things without proper recompense, and obviously I don't like the idea of it 'owning' everything. But it's really unhelpful when someone talks about Bernie being into 'democratic socialism' and the answer (not necessarily from you) being "you see! He admits he's a socialist, and you people still like him??" Now *that* is a real motte and bailey use of the term, when Bernie's theories really have nothing to do with government owning all property and industry, but where that's the implication used when people say he "admits" to being a socialist. TheDeamon was on a good track in trying to sort out the various flavors of socialist-oriented belief systems as they pertain to modern government, and I think we mainly need to understand that the term can't just mean "government owns everything" and still be useful to us as a term. Rather than dispense with it I would suggest that we can still use it and just know that it does not mean what Mirian Webster above says it means. Frankly, I'm not a huge fan of dictionary definitions as they apply to philosophical or technical positions. Usually it's way off-base and of little relevance as a guide unless it's to define, shall we say, connective words; words that modify other words. So people have a disagreement about what "effulgent means", so by all means go look it up. But having a disagreement about what the fundamentals of quantum mechanics are, or the proper definition of French existentialism? Mirian Webster is not the place to go.

So let's put aside the "owns everything" noun (which you are calling socialism) and understand that we're talking about the other noun, which I'm calling socialism. You said I'm destroying language when I call it that, but really am I, since my goal is to filter out a meaning for it that we can actually use profitably? I don't see any profit in using the term your way, primarily because I observe that all it does is put up barriers to discussion and make it tought to discuss the actual topics with various people. I'm not criticizing you personally, but just saying that I don't think using the term in that very specific sense yields any fruit. So let's use it in a way that's useful, while recognizing that the word "socialist" has meant many things over the years, especially on the theoretical side, and that we're in no way betraying it by using it to mean "government has the authority to dictate terms as needed in the economic system." Your version is encompassed in this usage, but this one allows in other forms as well that have certainly been called socialist in the past and present. And I'm trying to take it away from being defined as a mechanism alone (redistrubtion) since I still maintain that redistribution can be done in very un-socialist ways. Like, you can go with clubs and a gang and take a bunch of people's stuff by force; that's redistribution. If that gang has sheriff badges on the action is the same, although the authority appears to be different. By in neither case is clubbing people and taking their stuff a 'socialist policy.' It's just mayhem, and nothing more. There is no philosophical underpinning behind abusing the weak, and I do maintain (as Grant mentioned earlier) that socialism must have a philosophical underpinning to be called by that name.

Are we getting a bit closer to being able to discuss this? I'm not trying to trick you or rewrite language or anything. I hope you recognize that what I'm trying to do is actually open up the possibility for dialogue on this type of subject beyond "you're wrong!"   "no, you're wrong!"