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  • Capitalism is Opposed to Human Happiness Debate, Volume 2

    A Debate with
    the community of PoliticsForum.org

    Part #25

    Posts #121-#125

    By EnvironmentBlog
    Image: By EnvironmentBlog, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

    Post #121

    Date: Thu 12 Aug 2010
    I just want to add that slavery provides no material benefit to the slaves while capitalism provides increased material benefit to the workers, despite both being 'prone to production'. Thus, capitalism cannot be compared to slavery in terms of material benefit.

    Post #122

    Date: Thu 12 Aug 2010

    Arie wrote:
    I would prefer retaining the free market capital ownership system, but with that ownership distributed more democratically

    You can't have private ownership and periodic democratic redistribution. It's one or the other. The definition of ownership is that something is not taken away from you. If you democratically redistribute it, you have to violate ownership.

    Post #123

    Date: Thu 12 Aug 2010

    ^Democratic distribution of wealth is not "periodic democratic redistribution", unless you accept the validity of current ownership claims. The definition of ownership is that something you own is not taken away from you. Therefore, if your claim of ownership is not valid, taking what you claim is yours is not a violation of your ownership. I'm not talking about redistribution of ownership, but rather a reclamation of what already rightfully belongs to each citizen: There's a difference between denying certain types of ownership in principle, and disputing specific current claims of ownership. Do share holders in a corporation have private ownership of their shares? My hypothetical proposal was that we look at a country simply as a land owning corporation, with all the citizens as equal shareholders. Then would they not each have private ownership of their share?

    Post #124

    Date: Thu 12 Aug 2010
    I didn't realize that you were just talking about land. "Capital" typically is more general, and often doesn't even include land. But OK, I'll interpret your "capital" to mean "land" then.

    Arie wrote:
    Therefore, if your claim of ownership is not valid, taking what you claim is yours is not a violation of your ownership. I'm not talking about redistribution of ownership, but rather a reclamation of what already rightfully belongs to each citizen

    I don't know what you mean by "valid" and "rightfully". Ownership is a legal concept, it's defined by laws, and current law defines private ownership in most countries. In any case, changing ownership ("valid" or not) is "redistribution" by definition.

    Arie wrote:
    My hypothetical proposal was that we look at a country simply as a land owning corporation, with all the citizens as equal shareholders.

    I see. That contradicts the statement you made that you prefer retaining "the free market system" of land ownership. If there is a country that is a monopoly land owning corporation, that's not "retaining the current free market system" in land, it's creating a socialist system of land ownership. Whether citizens are "shareholders" or "citizens" of the state doesn't change that fact - if the state owns it all, it's socialism, not "free market", as far as land is concerned. The first line in Wikipedia says "Socialism is an economic and political theory advocating public or common ownership of the means of production", which is what you are advocating regarding land. There is no "market" if there is just one participant (the state corporation).

    Also, I wonder what if in 10 years the distribution of shares of the state corporation is unequal - would you not repeat the redistribution? Or would you ban trading to prevent it from happening? If you ban trading, that's not "ownership" of those shares, ownership implies the right to trade.

    Post #125

    Punkerslut (using the alias CNT-FAI Radical)...
    Date: Fri 13 Aug 2010
    Hello, Arie,

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

    There is no natural form of wealth that has any use without first being labored upon. Even the pear was originally inedible in ancient times, just as domesticated wheat was originally created by man, with selective breeding occuring over thousands of years by nameless farmers. The fields that are currently farmed throughout Europe and North America were originally not fertile at all -- and before there could have been any harvest "from nature," it had to be drained, dug up, and ploughed. Even the air you breathe cannot be taken in without first the exertion of expanding and contracting your lungs. All of these things, whether they have value or not, have absolutely no utility without labor. And, naturally, by the utility theory of value on its own, there is nothing with value that has no labor. The biggest gold deposit in the world could be worth millions, but it provides no utility to anyone, if it is left there unmined.

    Besides, if everything is provided by god, doesn't that give incentive that everything must be equally shared and owned? "God provided this land. Not your laborers who made it useful, planted on it, and harvested from it. Thank god, not labor." Oh, so I guess nobody can own the land, then, right? Nobody can own the forests, the mines, the factories, or anything, because it was all provided by god for humanity to share amply, right? I mean, it would be ridiculous to argue it the other way: "Since god made everything for mankind, only a very few people should be allowed to own everything! And when they say that they labored for it, we shall say that god provided it, and they have done nothing for it, though we take the expense of paying them for nothing. It is natural that if god provided something, I can pick it right up, and own it all by myself, even if it means millions of starving outside of the farm or factory gates."

    Either (a) labor creates wealth, and the common laborers deserve it, or (b) god created wealth, and the common laborers deserve it. I don't see either being reasoned out to "therefore, a very few should have economic domination over the many."

    Arie wrote:
    If someone pays me periodically in exchange for some work and any invention I might conceive during this period, it is a mutually agreed upon deal. To keep it clear, let's consider only the part of the payment that is made in exchange for any invention I might conceive. Is it fair? That depends on the amount of pay, on what happens in the future, and whether we have comparable bargaining power. In this sense, it's a bet. I'm betting that I'm better off selling the (as yet unconceived) invention for a fixed amount of cash, and the buyer is betting that he's better off owning the invention.

    That is incorrect. These "release all inventions you have made" contracts are standard in every single business. They don't even imagine that any of their assembly workers are going to rise to any height. Except with excessive investment in a diploma, (capital, as in a title of nobility) there is no job out there that pays you just to invent or innovate, nor is there any encouragement or opportunity for those who have that type of genius. It's why Charles Babbage died in poverty, why we don't know the name of the inventor of the automatic steam engine, and why the inventor of Windows and MS-DOS was paid $50 thousand for a contract worth $50 billion.

    Your approach to economics is flawed. There is no person who is hired with this clause on the grounds that they will be innovative. It is strictly a matter of the bargaining power of the few over the many in taking away more of the productions of labor. Perhaps the ideas of laborers in inventions, too, are provided by god, just as much as all of the wealth in the world?

    Arie wrote:
    Secondly, once the invention is conceived, I might not be in a position to implement it or derive benefit from it that the buyer could. So the invention is useless to me without this buyer. It is worth more to him than to me. The real question is why? Is it because he has the necessary capital and I don't? Then the issue is the legitimate distribution of capital ownership.

    As noted above, multiple times, this so-called buyer-system does not contribute toward scientific development, except in the sense that it might be slightly better than the Dark Ages. Why could the inventor of MS-Dos and the Windows file system not have received, say, $20 billion of the profits he created? In this system, (a) people have an ambition to invent, and (b) they are rewarded for it. This is not the case in your system. Your analysis of the wage as a "bet" does not meet of any the real evidence in our world. And there's no point in "droning the same anthem- division of labour, wages, surplus value, capital, etc.- arriving at the same conclusion, that production is insufficient to satisfy all needs; a conclusion which, if true, does not answer the question: 'Can or cannot man by his labour produce the bread he needs? And if he cannot, what is hindering him?'" (Peter Kropotkin, "The Conquest of Bread," 1892, Chapter 14, Part I.)

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

    So things that are good that occur in Capitalism, like competitive trade between equal-bargaining units, should then be considered "part of human nature," and not part of Free Trade. Instead of your reasoning of human nature, I'll take the evidence of history for the past five thousand years of wages -- the monoposony power of a few has always led to the greatest of inequalities, as well as the mass poverty and unemployment of the masses. This is definitely not part of human nature, as poverty and hunger were not known to Africa, South America, or North America until the arrival of the idea of property.

    "Uh, yeah, we have the perfect social order, but somehow, because of human error, more than three quarters of the planet are on the brink of starvation." I do not see the appeal in this argument.

    Arie wrote:
    The competition between companies is sometimes quite productive...

    Human nature. Not Capitalism, remember?

    Arie wrote:
    Sometimes it is about obstructing the competition by bettering them in productivity. I believe that's what gave rise to the amazing quick and on-going development of the personal computer, from chips to software, with the corresponding drop in prices.

    Chips like the transistor, which were developed by engineers working under a government-funded research and development contract? You mean computers like, the CPU, invented by Charles Babbage, who died in poverty and watched the majority of his children die from easily-curable diseases? And you mean software like MS-Dos built by Seattle Computer Products, who received almost none of the profits received from this product?

    Your system is only a hundred of how productive it could be. That is because the most productive people are forced to endure the worst of grinding poverty and misery. But the great wealth they create, well, that goes to someone who didn't do anything at all. If we are going to get to a society that is so productive that almost no work is required, it is not going to be through the current society -- which has only beaten down the innovator with miserable exploitation, and punished them solely for the act of thinking.

    You seem like making generalizations about "competition" and immediately attributing it to Capitalism, while the extreme poverty of those who created everything we use is somehow "human error." If that is true, then human error must make up 99.9% of every act of the Capitalists, but I doubt this, seeing as they have maintained their empires reasonably well.

    Arie wrote:
    But sometimes it's about obstructing the competition in other ways as you've noted. That's suppose to be the purpose of laws and regulations, to prevent obstructions and force competition into socially productive channels, and these laws continue to evolve.

    There are a billion regulations, from wages, to environment, to price-fixing, to union rights, etc., etc.. These are all confirmed proofs that, with perfect liberty and on their own, the Capitalist will do everything that they can to oppress the laboring people, without a single thread of conscience to their thought. The wide amount of restrictions should not be taken as a sign of a good social order -- they are a symptom of the inherent class conflict between those the few who own and the many who work.

    Arie wrote:
    If a "capitalist" gains by creating shortages and withholding introduction of productive machinery, so would the "workers" if they were the ones in charge, for the same reasons: The mechanics of supply and demand don't change. Whatever a "capitalist" (or "worker", for that matter) does which is unethical, should not be done.

    Yes, the mechanics do change. This is like saying "So, you replace the rule of a king with the rule of the people. They still rule in exactly the same way." It is, in fact, exactly the opposite. The purpose of putting the people in charge, whether in politics or economics, is because they are far more responsible in their decision-making, especially in terms of environment, community, society, war, imperialism, poverty, starvation, etc., etc., etc.. It is because the worker lives in a community where they must see the artificial famine and winter they create that they have a personal interest and a moral character that prevents this type of catastrophe. And if the common people don't rule, who do you expect to make decisions? God appears to be the worst absentee landlord in the history of humanity. The common people are those who are best capable of making decisions in their own interest; I would not expect anyone else, especially someone who represents god, to make better decisions, or at least, to make decisions with an eye according to the interest of the people.

    Likewise, equality of bargaining positions tends to lead toward a situation where every independent producer needs every other one. Every business that produces a shortage can face a shortage, and since there are more harmed by the shortage than those benefited, equality of bargaining position means that the other side can apply equal force against the planned shortage.

    Arie wrote:
    The essence of capitalism is that one is entitled to benefit from ownership (such as that of labor saving devices), not just from work. And that is precisely what workers are doing when they acquire labor saving devices: The "worker" becomes a "capitalist". The issue is who owns the labor saving device and therefore can benefit from it. I.e. who should be the capitalist? Most of the examples you cite are about people who have a huge degree of control compared to others, and you call them capitalists. The issue is one of distribution of power, including economic power, not "workers" versus "capitalist".

    (a) Why should someone benefit from the work of others? You call it ownership, but be realistic: ownership of productive property, like a deed to nobility, is the right to live off of the work of others, and nothing else.

    (b) As I have pointed out much earlier, all philosophy of Distributivism (of capital) has not been able to produce a society based on equality of bargaining power. This philosophy has failed, with the homestead and the artisan movement, with independent agriculturalists whether in Russia or Canada. Redistributing a little land here and there, or setting up professionals, has not been able to offset the fact that the vast majority of important production is done collectively. Since workers do not have the capital to invest in their own cooperative, it tends to happen instead that capitalists buy up mines and factories, which workers could hardly afford. Nowhere is there any reason or sign for believing that widely distributing the land or the means of production to a few "smaller capitalists" will produce significantly larger bargaining power for the worker. There is more, but not much more. And in the end, the great vast majority of society is still left to beg a very few, though it is technically "more than before," for the right to bread. Wherever it has been practised, it has not worked to change bargaining power significantly, nor has it worked to even sustain itself.

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

    As I pointed out earlier... It's been done a million times, it's failed a million times.

    Arie wrote:
    I don't accept your arguments regarding the problems with share ownership: If shares are sold to a Parisian Banker, it is a deal in which this Parisian Banker provided some useful capital, some benefit to the concern, in exchange...

    I'm aware of this. The capital was not made by the Parisian banker. It was made by the workers. It doesn't matter that god poisoned them by mixing hemlock in with their fennel, or that he gave them deadly and poisoning berries right next to their blueberries and raspberries. (All productive creations of god, I'm sure you'll agree.) And more than this, forget all your morality about "who owes who what" and the "rights of the kings of economy." I have only asked one simple question: what form of social organization provides the greatest benefit to every participant of society? Yes, I know that investors "lead corporations," like kings "lead nations." The question is not "do they deserve absolute power for their contributions?" The question is, "Hey, isn't there a better way of doing this?"

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

    You bring up "human error" to defend the problems of Capitalism. But I cannot bring up "human characteristics" that have existed for millions of years? I am not arguing for what is natural, but for what is most accomodating to human nature. The collective and the commune has been practised everywhere, from France to Mexico, in ancientest times to today. A massive corporation that owns everything, with everyone being told that they have an equal share, sounds like the worst nightmare to come out of George Orwell's 1984. In contrast to libertarian collectivism, your system of the massive corporation does not seem accomodating to the inherent characteristics of human nature, such as the desire to socialize and collectivize, as well as to control the world that you directly experience.

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

    Company A is a smelting refinery managed by its workers. Company B is a mine that digs up ore. They trade with each other. At no point, ever within these cooperatives, is someone going to say "But wait, he made that, and I have no right to use it, and how dare he take from me what I willingly traded to him in an equal position of bargaining!" The regard to other workers who created it has been given: they were paid according to the value that they created. Nowhere does this occur within Capitalism.

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

    Who said anything about changing the free market system? I have been arguing, the entire time, for equality of bargaining positions between all participants of society as the greatest means of achieving social harmony and equality of harmony, as well as providing the greatest amount of well-being to all. At no point whatsoever have I said anything about obstructing the market. How would I obstruct the market with laws and regulations, when I have already firmly stated that true Socialism will require the destruction of all formal governments and laws?

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

    Arie wrote:
    I see you still don't understand the concept of shareholding. You don't need to give everyone a whole factory or mine. You can give everyone a share of the factory or mine. You'd still hire "employees" to work, but they too will own shares.

    I was making a response to your argument of "spreading out capital" as a means of alleviating the problem of inequality of bargaining stations between society's participants -- but if you meant shareholding, that's something else. Either way, what's the difference between saying every worker should have an equal voice in the decision-making process of where they labor and saying every worker should receive an equal amount of shares in some company or another? In my understanding, you seem to be simply applying terms of modern Capitalism with those of traditional Anarchism and Socialism.

    Arie wrote:
    Huh? no one "made" the ore.

    No, but it was made useful by being dug up. Something that cannot be done by owning a deed to the land where the ore may exist.

    Arie wrote:
    After all, If there are more capitalists than workers, then the situation is reversed:
    If a worker says no, he can work on someone else's capital, i.e. for some other "capitalist". If a capitalist says no, he might not find another worker. It's not about "capital" vs. "labor", it's about distribution of capital.

    The problem of more Capitalists than workers is interesting, and has not existed in Europe since, say, the rise or fall of the Roman Empire -- though most historians mistakenly attribute it to the Industrial Revolution. Either way, (a) where there are more Capitalists than workers, the Capitalist are workers, since so widely distributed capital must necessarily mean that each Capitalist does not have enough tools to provide for all potential labor they could hire. And, (b) with the advent of the Industrial Revolution, it is impossible for there to be more capitalists than workers. As a factory or two or three is necessary for the Capitalist, but for each factory, there must be two hundred workers. Take the situation with an office building or a mine, a farm or a dock, and you'll see that it is certainly the same. The only way to expect that it will be reversed is the introduction of productive capital, that is extremely cheap and abundant, which is more productive when labored upon by one person than by many. That is to say, it is nowhere near sight even in the distant future.

    Arie wrote:
    BTW appeal to authority is not an argument.

    I have already cited the statistics and the books written by these economists. Citation of evidence is not "an appeal to authority." It is an appeal to evidence. Those quotes are summaries, in my opinion, of the presented evidence, which I also showed. If you disagree with the summary of the evidence, investigate it, and tell me why.

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