Capitalism is Opposed to Human Happiness Debate
Date: 07-20-2010, 03:10 PM
Materialism is instrumental to happiness, but I do not believe that everyone should be "materially equal." Rather, I stated that it would be better to have "to receive according to their contribution," since within the Capitalist system, those who produce everything receive the smallest and those who produce nothing receive the greatest. I do not want to equalize what everyone receives, but I want to equalize the terms upon which everyone bargains with each other -- that is, just as possession of society's productive forces creates bargaining power for the Capitalist, I want such possession to be given to the workers. Hence, Socialism, though more of a direct-worker management nature.
Take anyone who has happiness of the mind, and prohibit them from shelter, and then from food, and then from water. How happy and pleasant would they become? Unless you're talking about a religious ascetic, they would not become happy. And, if we're talking about religious ascetics, then we really have lost sight of the larger picture of what system of economy maximizes the happiness of all people.
Who is happier? The father who cannot afford the surgery to save his daughter's life, or the one who can? To quote economists Peter T. Bauer and Basil S. Yamey, in a text edited by John Keynes and Milton Friedman...
Greater income means greater security, and greater opportunities of experience and social involvement, as well as partial guarantees that can prevent misfortunes. So, naturally, if greater income means that people don't have to watch their children starve to death or die from easily-cured diseases, then yes, it is instrumental to happiness -- or, at the very least, it is instrumental to more happiness.
When I say greater income, then, I am thinking of improved healthcare and education; or, more specifically, providing every person with everything that they need to fully develop themselves emotionally, intellectually, and socially. When I say "a greater share of income for the workers," I am saying the right to some leisure and freedom. What if it were possible to achieve a six-hour work-day, while maintaining the same pay, simply by improving the bargaining power of the workers? Or what about a five-hour day, or a four-hour day? Wouldn't people be happier, without having to work as much? In the essay, "The Instinct of Workmanship and the Irksomeness of Labor," by Sociologist Thorsten Veblen discusses why humanity hates work...
Imagine, for instance, that we are able to change the bargaining power between laborer and capitalist, so that the worker gains a larger share of their production. If the worker was somewhat rational and somewhat understood their own happiness, as economics tells us, then they would not spend the money on themselves, because they would know that further material wealth would not bring them greater happiness. And, with such a spiritual and emotional enlightenment, imagine that the excess of their paycheck goes to pay for medical supplies in developing nations to prevent high rates of infant mortality. With this reorganized distribution of society, would you say that people are more or less happy? Probably more.
But of course, this is scenario is based on the premise that material wealth does not contribute to happiness, and therefore, it actually seems very unlikely. After all, if you don't need material wealth to be happy, trust me -- I would not ever get a job, because it wouldn't benefit me or anyone else. But actually, work -- or the production of desired wealth -- is regarded as an activity than can contribute to the common welfare of all; or, more specifically, towards the common happiness and well-being of all.
Those people who were content and did not complain, who lived under dictators and nourished their tyrants without a single word, have done nothing for me. Every piece of liberty that I have, actually, has come from those who have rebelled. The "indispensable people" you speak of are the ones who are indispensable to dictatorship.
Are you really sure about that?
Actually, earlier, I pointed out very well that the great wealth of technological knowledge that we possess is from workers who were not compensated for this knowledge, or at least cheated of the full value of their labors.
As you can see, the best technologies that have been contributed to society are the labor of "humble, rank and file workers." Carnegie, Vanderbilt, Edison, even Paramount Pictures, Warner Bros. Studios, Microsoft, etc., are all Capitalists who built themselves on technology that they stole or exploited out of workers. And every time, upon ascending to power, they always engaged in anti-competitive behavior, so as to use every ounce of their weight in destroying every possible form of initiative, ambition, and creativity that might improve the happiness of humanity. Why else do pharmaceutical companies lobby against investigations into natural, alternatives in treating cancer or other disease, like Marijuana? Because those who have enough money and power behave like a monopoly -- they limit the supply of food and coal, because public starvation and artificial winter makes them more valuable. They are not carrying the banner of science.
Similarly, we should also be aware that none of these Capitalists did any labor. That is, they did not provide anything. They claimed deeds on land and machines that they neither understand nor labor upon. That is the only thing a Capitalist has ever done, and if he ventures beyond this, and does some tedium of work, then he is 99 parts Capitalist, and 1 part worker. The essential relationship, of the many suffering for the splendor and luxury of the few, has not changed.
As Adam Smith would say, "It was not by gold or by silver, but by labour, that all the wealth of the world was originally purchased..." ("Wealth of Nations," 1776, Book 1, Chapter 5.) Or the economist Isac Gervaise, "...the whole annual Labour of a Nation being always equal to all its annual Revenues..." ("The System or Theory of the Trade of the World," 1720.) Or even the enlightenment philosopher David Hume, "Every thing in the world is purchased by labour..." ("Of Commerce.") Even John Locke weighs in, "It is labour, then, which puts the greatest part of value upon land, without which it would scarcely be worth anything; it is to that we owe the greatest part of all its useful products..." ("Second Treatise on Government," Chapter 5.) Economist Thomas Malthus also points out "...the labouring classes of society, as the foundation on which the whole fabric rests..." and "Of the class of landholders, it may be truly said, that though they do not so actively contribute to the production of wealth..." ("The Grounds of an Opinion on the Policy of Restricting the Importation of Foreign Corn," 1815.) Etc., etc., etc.. If wealth exists, it was made by the laborers, and the Capitalist is indispensible only to their exploitation of the whole of society.
There has never been a "true Capitalism," then, because there have always been laborers who are kept starving by isolated control of society's productive forces. And, if there has never been a true form of Capitalism, with a "Libertarian government," maybe that's the problem. Isolated control and power of the economy, so that a few can allow some to work and the many to starve, is equivalent to isolated control and power of politics. They are partners and equals, just as the church was the partner to the feudal baron, one helping the other in fleecing the public. If that is true, then true Democracy is only possible if we are capable of smashing Capitalism and creating a system where everyone has an equal right to the means of production.
Date: 07-20-2010, 03:16 PM
In the words of Thoreau, "Do not ask how your bread is buttered; it will make you sick..." ("Life Without Principle," 1863.)
Date: 07-21-2010, 12:24 PM
This is like wisely-fettered monarchy. Yes, it is true that on occasion, there may be a truly enlightened, "philosopher-king," as Plato has described. However, examining the history of humanity, we find very rarely was there ever isolated authority in politics that didn't lead to corruption and tyranny. Similarly, isolated authority in economics must naturally lead to the same ends. Rather than the question of "how to make a wise king?", democracy defeated monarchy by asking the question of "how to reorganize society so as to equalize the powers of all citizens?" Naturally, if we are going to defeat the poverty and unemployment caused by Capitalism, we need to ask a similar question: "How do we reorganize the bargaining power of the common people so that they are not exploited by vastly powerful interests?" We must abolish isolated authority, and give everyone an equality of bargaining power. It was by making every citizen a king that created democratic society; so why shouldn't making every worker a capitalist also create a society without exploitation?
To quote Peter Kropotkin, "It is because, having reduced the masses to a point at which they have not the means of subsistence for a month, or even for a week in advance, the few only allow the many to work on condition of themselves receiving the lion's share. It is because these few prevent the remainder of men from producing the things they need, and force them to produce, not the necessaries of life for all, but whatever offers the greatest profits to the monopolists." (Peter Kropotkin, 1892, "The Conquest of Bread," Chapter 1, Part II.)
Date: 07-21-2010, 02:40 PM
I disagree. Capitalism has always used government to enforce its interests. To quote Adam Smith, "The masters upon these occasions [of union strikes] are just as clamorous upon the other side, and never cease to call aloud for the assistance of the civil magistrate, and the rigorous execution of those laws which have been enacted with so much severity against the combinations of servants, labourers, and journeymen." ("The Wealth of Nations," Book 1, Chapter 8.)
Or, in the words of Jean Jacques Rousseau, "Under bad governments, this equality is only apparent and illusory: it serves only to-keep the pauper in his poverty and the rich man in the position he has usurped. In fact, laws are always of use to those who possess and harmful to those who have nothing: from which it follows that the social state is advantageous to men only when all have something and none too much." (Rousseau, Jean Jacques, "Social Contract, or the Principles of Right, The," 1762, Book 1, Chapter 9, Footnote 5.)
Many of these enlightenment thinkers were completely well aware that government is nothing but a church for the rich possessors of capital. They didn't know the word "Corporatism," so they called it for what they saw it as "Capitalism," or the ideological of the possessor of capital. The fact that all of these Capitalists have used government to violently repress the people doesn't change the fact that it is Capitalism -- it is a system in which the few possess the means of production.
One more from Thomas More...
Date: 07-24-2010, 02:17 PM
Yes, this is true, but for the majority of history, the laboring class has been very small. And the Capitalist class actually was a dual class, Capitalist in that they own their tools, and laborer in that they must work upon. The vast majority of people did not have to ask a very few people for the right to work and eat. The problem of inequality of bargaining power is much weaker, when there are 10,000 capitalists and 2,000 laborers, versus 10 capitalists and 20,000 laborers.
But everyone is not in an equal economic position to make economic decisions. Not everyone has the start-up capital, or can live with their parents when making a business. Other problems, such as land, patents, and market oligopoly can pose significant and serious problems. These are the "barriers to entry." Statistically, it is unlikely for businesses to succeed. The rate of failure after only a few years, according to the US census, is fifty percent. Many of the businesses that succeed may not provide enough income or work to the owner. Many of the other businesses, too, aren't much better improved than the position of the average worker. (For instance, many truck drivers own their own trucks, which does give them a significant boost in bargaining power; but, essentially, they are still in the same, dependent situation.)
I disagree. There are many things that prevent people from owning their own business, such as the above-stated barriers to entry. In the United Kingdom, 70% of the land is owned by less than 1% of the people. (http://w
Whether or not the industrialist or entrepreneur works, there is one underlining aspect of their right to income: possession of the means of production.
A few extra dollars buys food for a worker. It's not even enough for a rich man to blow his nose. Austrian School of Economics: "The Marginal Utility Theory." There is little value for the Capitalist, there is immense value for the worker. Incentive does not work to make Capitalism efficient, it makes socialized industry efficient.
I agree that many unions have engaged in "business unionism," which focuses on lifting up only those workers in the union, usually at the cost to the rest of society -- as in the case of the American Federation of Labor. This union has spent most of its existence trying to limit the entry of new workers into industries which might depress wages.
Nikola Tesla invented the modern American car engine, and was paid $25 for something he was promised $1 million for. The same goes with the Industrial Revolution, textile machinery, the railroad, movies, etc., etc.. Babbage, who invented the computer, lost five out of eight children to disease, dying in poverty himself. The inventor of MS Dos, who created the Microsoft Empire, received $50 grand for creating $50 billion in value. The fact is, perhaps nobody wants to achieve responsibility, because they know for a fact that it will never benefit them. Nobody wants to do better. That is why goldbricking and quota restriction are so popular and widely used, especially in cheap labor areas, like India and China.
There is always tedious work. But it is vastly intensified when the only jobs are those with low pay and long hours, leaving you in poverty no matter how hard you work. In this sense, Capitalism deprives people of the right to fully develop themselves physically and intellectually.