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Greatest Achievements of American Socialism
February 6, 2009 11:40 AM   Subscribe


 
Growing up, I spent a lot of summers in Salmon, Idaho, and I had no idea there was anything historic there.
posted by mr_crash_davis mark II: Jazz Odyssey at 11:51 AM on February 6, 2009


If this bailout results in lots of new art deco skyscrapers, I am 150% in favour of it.
posted by GuyZero at 11:58 AM on February 6, 2009 [23 favorites]


The internet?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:02 PM on February 6, 2009


Vote Debs!
posted by Abiezer at 12:08 PM on February 6, 2009 [5 favorites]


No no no. Privatizing and deregulating brings down costs. Because having a few semi-monopolies work in cahoots to fix prices and maximize their profit is always going to be cheaper than having the government do it at cost with no expectation of profit. And this makes sense because I am crazy.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:12 PM on February 6, 2009 [47 favorites]


I'd be interested in seeing a list of things bought with our money which were then handed to private companies so we could pay for them twice: once to create them and again to use them. Socialism didn't whither in the Reagan era, it just got a lot more expensive.
posted by George_Spiggott at 12:13 PM on February 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


(Yes, I meant wither, not whither. Though come to think of it, that too.)
posted by George_Spiggott at 12:15 PM on February 6, 2009


The pessimistic side of me sees this, though, and is anticipating some responses like "okay, building dams and stuff like that is okay, I guess, but why'd the government build a crippled kid's camp/fancy post office/murals in Coit Tower?" I'm pessimistic enough to think there should have been more obvious infrastructure-type things for it to be "acceptable."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:16 PM on February 6, 2009


The question isn't whether socialism "works", it's whether an equivalent properly capitalistic option is better or not. I have no doubt that the government can build all sorts of cool things with money. Anyone can. The article doesn't really say anything new. I'd be interested in why spending taxpayer money on big shiny things is better than taxpayers spending their own money on what they want.

Astro Zombie: Since when did the government do things at-cost? Everything in the government is done for the amount of money budgeted; there is no incentive to do anything cheaper.
posted by saeculorum at 12:16 PM on February 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


I'd be interested in why spending taxpayer money on big shiny things is better than taxpayers spending their own money on what they want.
Because the chances of me scraping together the cash to renew the transport infrastructure are looking a bit slim? Did have a bet on Laughing Boy in the 3.15 at Haydock though, so you never know.
posted by Abiezer at 12:20 PM on February 6, 2009 [5 favorites]


WOW! A handful of great projects in how many years? Thanks socialism!
posted by smackwich at 12:20 PM on February 6, 2009


Yes, smackwich, unfortunately the slideshow comprises the totality of discretionary governmental public works spending over the last 150 years.
posted by Mister_A at 12:24 PM on February 6, 2009 [5 favorites]


But they are wasting a hundred and fifty million dollars of your hard earned tax dollars studying honey bees!

"Well. Kind of. It's for an insurance system for all livestock producers. Including honey bees."

BEES! Probably the same BEES stung over and over and over me at Camp Wanpudawunda!

"But the Senate voted on this measure before. In 2008. Twice. And you approved it. It was Bush that vetoed that bill for other reasons."

GEORGE BUSH WAS SAVING US FROM TERRORIST BEES! [begins swatting the air furiously]

"Honey bees, becuase the pollinate our crops, essentially make our entire agricultural economy possible. And it appears bees have been dying off at high rates..."

BEES! AAAAAAAAAAAH! [runs off madly swatting at air]

*sigh*
posted by tkchrist at 12:31 PM on February 6, 2009 [14 favorites]


I glad to see the Cathedral of Learning made the cut. I took most of my linguistics courses in that building and it is truly inspiring inside and out. The elevator system is crazy, but I can't think of a more memorable environment for learning.
posted by Alison at 12:31 PM on February 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


Everything in the government is done for the amount of money budgeted; there is no incentive to do anything cheaper.

And yet it STILL comes in consistently cheaper than when stuff is privatized. Gosh. Who'd a thunk?
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:34 PM on February 6, 2009 [3 favorites]


I know of a beautiful handbuilt, stone stairway on the side of mountain in the middle of the White Mountains National Forest. Damn mountain hating socialists.
posted by R. Mutt at 12:35 PM on February 6, 2009


I'm not sure this wasn't supposed to go in the next thread up, but the criticism leveled here is valid and stinging.
posted by Mister_A at 12:35 PM on February 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'd be interested in why spending taxpayer money on big shiny things is better than taxpayers spending their own money on what they want.

Like? You really think people in debt up to their eyes who have lost their jobs are gonna spend on new "stuff"? And who's to say that stuff is made here? What good does it do a US worker when people take a government check or "tax relief" and spend on shit made in China? That's the problem.

In the situation that we Americans are in now, which is frigg'n dire as hell, is, unfortunately, the Keynesian approach.
posted by tkchrist at 12:38 PM on February 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


What I think is useful about this slideshow is that probably a lot of us grew up thinking government couldn't build anything lovelier or more inspiring than a public school building, and that only with private funds could we hope to build something elegant, beautiful, uplifting, and edifying.
posted by treepour at 12:41 PM on February 6, 2009


I have no issue with paying for the majority of things the government provides. It turns out I actually pay taxes. Most interestingly, I actually pay more taxes than I receive in government benefits. I'm happy to stay that way. I would, however, prefer my voice not be discounted merely because I'm not "in debt up to [my] eyes".

My issue with the current re-discovered interest in Keynesian economics is that the second part of Keynesian economics has never come to fruition. Unfortunately, no one seems willing to take the step of paying for all this crap we're buying. Keynesian economics is not as simple as "throw money into the air when needed." The issue I have is not that I object to paying for governmental stimulus. It's that I'm not the one paying for it. The US debt is something our children will be paying for, not me. I think it's morally objectionable to subject someone to debt when they can neither consent nor voice disapproval to the cost. Giant buildings are great. Building a giant building and then forcing someone who hasn't been born yet to pay for it is wrong.

I also object to the statement that buying "shit made in China" can't help the United States. It ignores the principle of comparative advantage.
posted by saeculorum at 1:00 PM on February 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


Putting money in peoples' pockets gets us a new national electrical grid how exactly? Do we take the money and wrap copper wire around it, then connect it to bundles of other peoples' money, or what? Do we have to buy the copper wire ourselves? I need more details on how tax cuts would provide us this stuff.
posted by jamstigator at 1:03 PM on February 6, 2009 [3 favorites]


I'd be interested in why spending taxpayer money on big shiny things is better than taxpayers spending their own money on what they want.

How do you replicate the benefit you enjoy from a bridge or an aquarium using your own money? By buying a goldfish and a dinghy?
posted by WPW at 1:04 PM on February 6, 2009 [8 favorites]


how weird is it to see a slideshow of stuff collectively approved of, paid for and feel proud of it? most of the time this stuff is shown as amazing feats of engineering! or periodicised as part of whatever style, but socialist? these people might be onto something.
posted by doobiedoo at 1:06 PM on February 6, 2009


Incidentally, unless you would take any tax cuts and deposit them immediately and in their entirety in savings accounts for your kids, then I find tax cuts morally objectionable. Tax cuts now is basically the same exact thing as taking your kids' credit cards, charging a pile of cash to them, then putting their money in your pocket. At least when you spend the moolah ON something, then you HAVE something. As long as it's stuff that benefits the kids, that's cool with me. I'm sure future generations will make use of new transit, energy, schools, electrical grid, roads, etc. I think our kids would be far MORE pissed if they found out we racked up a huge bill on their backs just for some freaking spending money.
posted by jamstigator at 1:06 PM on February 6, 2009 [4 favorites]




Sometimes I wonder if hardcore right wingers avoid using things created under the WPA, like the ones outlined in the slideshow. No drives down the Blue Ridge Parkway and certainly no trips to NYC.

Also, PS, someone please post this to Free Republic.
posted by piratebowling at 1:09 PM on February 6, 2009


The accomplishments of the WPA and CCC go far beyond buildings and infrastructure. The amount of social and historical documentation that was gathered during the Depression as a result of these publicly funded groups is astounding. Particularly the oral histories from former slaves are very important to the study of history in America.

Not only did the WPA build some impressive and beautiful buildings, it gave jobs to thousands of Americans who were out of work. Not a bad idea, considering.
posted by teleri025 at 1:13 PM on February 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


I have not indicated I have any desire for tax cuts. Ideally, I'd like taxes to be tied to the US budget and make it impossible for the government to run a deficit. I am pragmatic enough to realize that short-term deficits can be useful. However, we're now in a multi-generational debtor's scheme. When I was born, I took on about $11k in debt (today's dollars) of my parents. Any child born today will taken on $35k (today's dollars) of my debt. I'd much rather make that number $0 than give the next generation a bunch of shiny things.

We have not "paid for" anything created by US socialism yet. Until the amount of US debt owned by non-Americans is $0, the United States is owned by its creditors.
posted by saeculorum at 1:17 PM on February 6, 2009


Sometimes I wonder if hardcore right wingers avoid using things created under the WPA

May they also avoid reciting The Pledge of Allegiance and singing "This Land Is Your Land," both written by American Socialists.
posted by zoomorphic at 1:18 PM on February 6, 2009


Goddamit, socialism is not a kind of capitalism. It is an entirely different form of economic organization which is wholly incompatible with it.
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:18 PM on February 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


My stuff > your shit.

(to paraphrase Carlin)
posted by Smedleyman at 1:19 PM on February 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


I don't think I was familiar with the Cathedral of Learning before.
That thing is fucking gorgeous. Man.
posted by Dr. Wu at 1:21 PM on February 6, 2009


For those who ask how people could spend their own money to build new infrastructure, bridges, aquariums, et al instead of gov't socialism: Have you never driven on toll road?
posted by blue_beetle at 1:40 PM on February 6, 2009


Have you never driven on toll road?

Yes, but they're not built by tax cuts. In fact they're not often built at all.
posted by WPW at 1:47 PM on February 6, 2009


Especially during recessions and depression, when millions are out of work.
posted by WPW at 1:47 PM on February 6, 2009


Have you never driven on toll road?

So, every road a toll road then? You do realize that even toll roads are massive undertakings that require government, don't you? And, are you wiling to pay a toll to drive down your residential street everyday, rather than paying taxes? Or go without roads and get stranded in ruts and ditches when you leave your house?

Government investment and planning is necessary; we can argue about how it should do what it does, but without it, we are screwed, we are living in the freaking middle ages, and I gladly put up with taxes because I don't want to live without the benefits of government and what it can do.

So effing tired of the "let me keep my money" whining from people who do not seem to have the faintest grasp of how much of what makes their lives livable is a direct result of taxpayer-funded government programs.
posted by emjaybee at 1:54 PM on February 6, 2009 [8 favorites]


Hey, if some private companies want to jump in and create alternative methods of getting from point A to point B, and charge for it, that'd be fine with me. I do not want to replace our public roads though, because I don't want to have to carry a wad of $1 bills with me just to get to and from the grocery store. That'd get old...immediately.
posted by jamstigator at 1:54 PM on February 6, 2009


one of the secondary links from the first salon piece points out how right wing hacks like to claim that the new deal didn't actually make an impact on the problem of unemployment--and their basis for the claim is that they exclude people who were employed by new deal programs from their counts of the employed!

how are you supposed to deal in good faith with idealogues who are that readily willing to twist reality to suit their agenda?

here are my favorite two examples of so-called american socialism in action to throw in right-wing blowhard's faces:

1) the pacific railway act, which used public funding to build the first interstate railway and telegraph network, was ushered into law by the republican lincoln administration.

2) the modern progressive taxation system was passionately advocated by and first established in law under the republican administration of teddy roosevelt.
posted by saulgoodman at 1:56 PM on February 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


Giant buildings are great. Building a giant building and then forcing someone who hasn't been born yet to pay for it is wrong.

That's silly, buildings last a long time, so it's possible for several generations to use them.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:56 PM on February 6, 2009


Building a giant building and then forcing someone who hasn't been born yet to pay for it is wrong.

How about building a giant dam and then forcing someone who hasn't been born yet to pay for it -- but also letting that someone who hasn't been born yet benefit from the use of the electricity generated BY that dam?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:06 PM on February 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


Look, sidewalks are great–but it's not fair to expect me to fund sidewalks in Pittsburgh! Fuck Pittsburgh!
posted by Mister_A at 2:09 PM on February 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


"Building a giant building and then forcing someone who hasn't been born yet to pay for it is wrong."

Yeah to hell with buildings. Dams, too. And Interstate highways. Waste of taxpayers' money, all of it.

What's the emoticon for an eye-roll followed by a dismissive snort?
posted by mr_crash_davis mark II: Jazz Odyssey at 2:16 PM on February 6, 2009


Fuck Pittsburgh!

You were saying?
posted by stargell at 2:21 PM on February 6, 2009


Building a giant building and then forcing someone who hasn't been born yet to pay for it is wrong.

two points:

1) all that money really is, when you get down to it, is a formal, government backed IOU note we exchange for valuable services rendered or valuable goods delivered (that's why cash money has the words "this note is legal tender for all debts public and private" printed right there on it). it's all debt, friend! sorry to let you down.

2) and what better justification for printing up and distributing a bunch of these IOU notes we call money than to pay them out to hard working people who produce tangible works that provide us practical benefits and have intrinsic value long into the future?
posted by saulgoodman at 2:24 PM on February 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm only willing to put my tax money into a space elevator, and, even then, only if I can be the first to ride it.
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:24 PM on February 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


there's some good stuff on that point about all money being debt and the history of money more generally here on the pbs site, which recently did a series called "the ascent of money" based on the book of the same name.
posted by saulgoodman at 2:27 PM on February 6, 2009


It's not like private companies borrow money to fund capital investment, is it? They fund everything out of a cellar full of gold.

Captial investment - infrastructure, hard facilities - is about the only sensible use of money raised by the state through borrowing. Funding running expenses that way is not very clever. Funding tax cuts that way is legalised looting of the treasury.
posted by WPW at 2:31 PM on February 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


AZ: "I'm only willing to put my tax money into a space elevator, and, even then, only if I can be the first to ride it."

Your money is better spent on a launch loop. The space elevator would take days to get into orbit because of the van allen belts, while a launch loop can handle several launches per day and can be built with existing materials.
posted by mullingitover at 2:36 PM on February 6, 2009 [3 favorites]


What Pope Guilty said, over and over and over again. None of these projects are remotely socialist. Socialism doesn't coexist with capitalism (with progressively indexed taxes, a strong executive and a budget chocked with feel-good spending), it aggressively supplants it. The kind of capitalism with a (ruling-class) human face that FDR and apparently Obama stand for, in fact, tends to co-opt any genuine movement for economic reorganisation and reform. When the socialists arrive, you'll know them by their redistribution, their establishment of collective ownership, their militant trade unionism, and so on. They'll be the ones, as the saying goes, busy strangling the last capitalist with the guts of the last priest.
Sure, the salon article is a wry look at ignorant conservative blowhards, but what the hell are the rest of you Americans reading to misunderstand socialism so profoundly? It's not about the levels of your taxes or the nature of your spending—it's about which class is in control. It's not a revolutionary omelette unless you're breaking eggs.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 3:06 PM on February 6, 2009


Wow! This is such a great slideshow. I never realized that the US Government was capable of so much planning for social good. I come from a "socialist" country (in American terms -- we would never consider ourselves socialist) that is considered relatively godless. I have always been astonished that, in such an ostensibly Christian country as the US, the welfare of the masses is so easily subsumed to the welfare of the owners of capital (to misquote Marx). Why does political ideology have to be so polarized? Why can't we all focus on helping our fellow human beings?
posted by Susurration at 3:31 PM on February 6, 2009 [3 favorites]


17. Constant state of war.
posted by kid ichorous at 3:40 PM on February 6, 2009


I saw that Glenn Beck video earlier today. Is he supposed to be the new, hip, 'with it' sort of conservative?

As I see it, the people railing against "Socialism!" are either:
1. Rich people who want to keep on getting richer.
2. Poor people who want to get rich, who blame their failure to become rich on the laziness of those even more disadvantaged than they are.
posted by dunkadunc at 3:51 PM on February 6, 2009 [3 favorites]


how are you supposed to deal in good faith with idealogues who are that readily willing to twist reality to suit their agenda?

I'm not sure how I'm supposed to deal with you in good faith when you present such an appallingly distorted argument.

Go ahead and actually look at the essay by Shales. I quote, "The result is what we today call the Lebergott/Bureau of Labor Statistics series. ... Mr. Lebergott went on to become one of America's premier economic historians at Wesleyan University. His data are what I cite. So do others, including our president-elect in the "60 Minutes" interview.". These workers are not counted because they are on short term projects. The point of a stimulus is to get businesses moving, to increase private employment so that when the spending stops (?), the jobs are still there.

This is a much better summary of Ohanian's and Cole's research. Here's an excerpt:

"In the three years following the implementation of Roosevelt's policies, wages in 11 key industries averaged 25 percent higher than they otherwise would have done, the economists calculate. But unemployment was also 25 percent higher than it should have been, given gains in productivity.

Meanwhile, prices across 19 industries averaged 23 percent above where they should have been, given the state of the economy. With goods and services that much harder for consumers to afford, demand stalled and the gross national product floundered at 27 percent below where it otherwise might have been.

"High wages and high prices in an economic slump run contrary to everything we know about market forces in economic downturns," Ohanian said. "As we've seen in the past several years, salaries and prices fall when unemployment is high. By artificially inflating both, the New Deal policies short-circuited the market's self-correcting forces."

...

""The fact that the Depression dragged on for years convinced generations of economists and policy-makers that capitalism could not be trusted to recover from depressions and that significant government intervention was required to achieve good outcomes," Cole said. "Ironically, our work shows that the recovery would have been very rapid had the government not intervened.""

So their use of Bureau of Labor Statistics, means they are "idealogues who are that readily willing to twist reality to suit their agenda". Get real.

---

These policies are not socialist? Come on, who are you kidding?

The ten planks of the Communist Manifesto:

1 Abolition of property in land and application of all rents of land to public purposes.
2 A heavy progressive or graduated income tax.
3 Abolition of all right of inheritance.
4 Confiscation of the property of all emigrants and rebels.
5 Centralisation of credit in the hands of the State, by means of a national bank with State capital and an exclusive monopoly.
6 Centralisation of the means of communication and transport in the hands of the State.
7 Extension of factories and instruments of production owned by the State; the bringing into cultivation of waste-lands, and the improvement of the soil generally in accordance with a common plan.
8 Equal liability of all to labour. Establishment of industrial armies, especially for agriculture.
9 Combination of agriculture with manufacturing industries; gradual abolition of the distinction between town and country, by a more equal distribution of the population over the country.
10 Free education for all children in public schools. Abolition of children's factory labour in its present form. Combination of education with industrial production, &c., &c.

Socialism can't transform or coexist with capitalism? Here's what Norm Thomas, six time presidential candidate for the Socialist Party of America, thought about that, "The American people will never knowingly adopt socialism. But, under the name of 'liberalism', they will adopt every fragment of the socialist program, until one day America will be a socialist nation, without knowing how it happened.”
posted by BigSky at 4:07 PM on February 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


I like when the government takes over industries with regional monopolies or oligopolies and runs them directly. I see no reason why cable and telephone wiring infrastructure should be controlled by ILECs and cable companies. The fact that ILECs don't compete on each other's turf indicates that telephony is still not a level playing field. On the other hand, I've heard horror stories about phone techs cutting or sabotaging rivals lines and circuits wherever they have access. Municipal Utilities Districts generally offer lower pricing than their privatized peers.

Having the government take over industries where the market is healthy and competitive is incredibly harmful though. When the government gets co-opted by oligopolies to use regulation to raise barriers to entry, also not good.

I like bridges, but the short term economic benefit of building them dropped a little when most steel production moved overseas.

The environmentalist in me is less happy about building more highway infrastructure. I'm sure that there's an economic argument that the increased traffic yields some kind of economic good, but I can't help but thinking we are just subsidizing the kind of overcentralized industry and food production that turns around and bites us on the ass next time the fuel prices goes up.

Big buildings and rail I can get behind, but only if the project is managed well from the perspective of maintenance costs over the life of the project. Light rail infrastructure when every screw or part is proprietary yields mixed benefits over the life of the project.
posted by BrotherCaine at 4:54 PM on February 6, 2009


From the article linked by BigSky (emphasis added):

"Using data collected in 1929 by the Conference Board and the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Cole and Ohanian were able to establish average wages and prices across a range of industries just prior to the Depression. By adjusting for annual increases in productivity, they were able to use the 1929 benchmark to figure out what prices and wages would have been during every year of the Depression had Roosevelt's policies not gone into effect. They then compared those figures with actual prices and wages as reflected in the Conference Board data."

I'm confused by that statement. Are they saying they based their entire analysis on the assumption that average wages and prices would have continued as they did based on one year of data? That's a pretty big assumption you have there economists.

"The bigger to dismantle FDR's policies with my dear!"
posted by Green With You at 4:54 PM on February 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


A couple of responses to the Shlaes piece:

Changes in money-wages and Amity Shlaes

There she goes again.
posted by homunculus at 4:59 PM on February 6, 2009


That's some nutty shit right there.
posted by tkchrist at 5:00 PM on February 6, 2009


Are Americans ready to do the hands on work that built so much of the WPA and CCC projects? Hands on work is just all but sneered upon in todays America. Seriously; work with ones own hands? Have to sweat in the heat, be cold in a winter breeze? Get dirty? Go home and blow metal, concrete, or earthen dust out of ones nose every day after work?

These plans are fantastic and awesome; but if folks have forgotten the sweat equity that made all, then what? Bring in out-of-country labour to do the actual work? Very few people in today's America want anything to do with labour.
posted by buzzman at 5:02 PM on February 6, 2009


FDR RUINED AMERICA! WE SHOULD STILL BE ON THE GOLD STANDARD!

Oh. And.

EUGENE MCCARTHY WAS A HERO, GOD DAMN IT!

Now if you'll excuse me I have a Pinkerton Wagon to catch and some shiftless coal miners to beat back to work with my sterling silver shovel.
posted by tkchrist at 5:04 PM on February 6, 2009 [3 favorites]


These plans are fantastic and awesome; but if folks have forgotten the sweat equity that made all, then what? Bring in out-of-country labour to do the actual work? Very few people in today's America want anything to do with labour.

Bollocks. There are lots of people willing to work in trades, especially if there are fair wages and safe working conditions. Some legal immigrants, undoubtedly some illegal immigrants, some people like my brother, who's built dozens of houses in his career. He tried college, preferred this instead. My dad was a union man, an electrician, and had a permanent farmer tan from hours in the sun, and scars on his arms from electrical accidents. He helped build DFW Airport. My other brother works on cars, even though he got straight As in college, he preferred that instead. All three are intelligent guys who just don't want to be behind a desk.
posted by emjaybee at 6:27 PM on February 6, 2009 [9 favorites]


amen, emjaybee. and i watched my grandfather every evening using gasoline to "disinfect" the gashes he would get on his arms while working in his shop as a heavy equipment mechanic all day. before he and my grandmother were financially ruined by crooked business partners later in life, he had managed to build up a timber business worth millions in annual revenue solely on sweat and determination. don't tell me about americans not having what it takes to do real work.
posted by saulgoodman at 7:03 PM on February 6, 2009


Are Americans ready to do the hands on work that built so much of the WPA and CCC projects? Hands on work is just all but sneered upon in todays America. Seriously; work with ones own hands? Have to sweat in the heat, be cold in a winter breeze? Get dirty? Go home and blow metal, concrete, or earthen dust out of ones nose every day after work?

Construction? Road crews? There are plenty of people in the building trades who make stuff out in the elements every day, rain or shine.

It may be possible to live in socioeconomic circles where it seems everyone has or wants a white-collar job, but it's hardly possible to live in this country without, you know, occasionally seeing the people who don't.
posted by Sublimity at 7:12 PM on February 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


Are Americans ready to do the hands on work that built so much of the WPA and CCC projects?

This is why people like Amity Shales need to be punched in the face. Because they completely ignore the emotional impact of giving desperate, scared, suddenly disenfranchised adults A SENSE OF FREAKIN WORTH by providing work with real, tangible results. You want 20% of the adult population drinking themselves silly because their isn't a means of feeling like a useful, productive adult? Fine, then FDR was a fool. You want to give every man and woman that has a desire to work and feel productive a reason to get up in the morning in the face of tremendous catastrophe so that they remain hopeful, sane and productive when the shit has passed? Then FDR was a god damn saint.

It's real easy to sit in a grad library 80 years after the fact and look at raw numbers and go 'well now if we had all just sat back and crossed our legs and sipped our afternoon tea things would have all panned out great'. It's whole 'nother bag of apples to be alive day to day when the shit is actually hitting the fan and trying to DO SOMETHING for the people that put you in office with no idea of what the next week, month or year is gonna bring. We'll see what kind of administration we have while the current version of the shit is hitting the fan.

I said this the last time this Amity moron was brought up...go find some depression era survivors and ask them what they would have preferred...WPA or wishful thinking? I know what my grandparents preferred. If they were still alive I'd send em over to Chez Shales.
posted by spicynuts at 9:26 PM on February 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


Are Americans ready to do the hands on work that built so much of the WPA and CCC projects? Hands on work is just all but sneered upon in todays America.

I don't know of anyone who sneers at hands-on work. Do you?
posted by zippy at 10:25 PM on February 6, 2009


have worked digging ditches, paving roads, and building houses, and liked the latter two just fine.
posted by zippy at 10:26 PM on February 6, 2009


Are Americans ready to do the hands on work that built so much of the WPA and CCC projects?

Is this a serious question?
posted by dirigibleman at 11:39 PM on February 6, 2009


Cathedral of Learning is amazing! Gorgeous on the outside, and Alison's link to pictures of its rooms — omg, what genius! I am in awe of that building now.

There was a time the USA had a progressive tax system in which the ultra-wealthy paid up to 70% taxes. Strangely enough, this did not drive them out of the country, nor did it make them poor; and sho' nuff, the government was adequately funded.

The USA has made two huge economic mistakes: one was to allow significant manufacturing leave the country; the other was tax cutbacks. Oh, and deregulation of financial industries, that was a huge mistake. And pissing away untold trillions on unnecessary wars. So make that four huge economic mistakes.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:43 PM on February 6, 2009


The USA has made two huge economic mistakes: one was to allow significant manufacturing leave the country; the other was tax cutbacks. Oh, and deregulation of financial industries, that was a huge mistake. And pissing away untold trillions on unnecessary wars. So make that four huge economic mistakes.

Let me come in again.
posted by Caduceus at 1:12 AM on February 7, 2009


The photos were both interesting, and a tad underwhelming, especially the projects that ended up building novelties for the elite (that lodge, Camp David). But it certainly shows what big ideas look like. In both the USA and Canada, I haven't seen much in the way of infrastructure big ideas in the last 30 years.

To everyone who's against infrastructure spending because of the debt it will saddle our kids with... I agree. Tell you what - just put all the lost revenue from the last 30 years of tax cuts back into the pot. Add to that the money wasted on the war in Iraq, and all of last fall's TARP money that has apparently done nothing for the current crisis (except to make some bank executives' holidays that much sweeter). Give us back that money, and I swear we won't borrow a cent more from the taxpayer.
posted by Artful Codger at 8:21 AM on February 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


Let me come in again.

Eh?
posted by five fresh fish at 8:36 AM on February 7, 2009


"Beck: Obama has us on the road not just to Socialism but Communism"

Dude's a scientologist. Who cares what he thinks?
posted by Eideteker at 9:24 AM on February 7, 2009


Eh?

Sorry, it was an obtuse Monty Python reference. The way you phrased your comment reminding me of the Spanish Inquisition sketch.
posted by Caduceus at 11:12 AM on February 7, 2009


D-oh. I should have recognized that joke. Especially as I was thinking about the S.I. sketch as I wrote it.
posted by five fresh fish at 12:51 PM on February 7, 2009


The Salon piece sort of acknowledges that 'socialism' when applied to New Deal projects is exaggeration; a more accurate description would be 'shit that got done to save capitalism'.

One should never underestimate Niall Ferguson's capacity to jump on a bandwagon. He was a neo-imperialist when that was in demand, and now he's back to his actual speciality as an economic historian. That's capitalism for you.
posted by holgate at 12:57 PM on February 7, 2009


homunculus,

I read both pieces. The Krugman response doesn't convince, but I rarely get much out of his column. When he asks how low labor prices would have led to labor demand, there is an immediate intuitive answer and the paragraph that follows seems like a red herring. Low labor prices lead to a lower product sale price. It might be the Depression, but somebody's got some money. The lower the sale price, the larger the product's potential market is going to be. Assuming that the business is producing something the market wants, the business expands with growth in sales, requiring an increase in employment. Now, I may be wrong, but I think that's a fairly standard view from a pro-free market perspective. If Krugman is interested in showing how this view is deficient, and he might not be, then it would be more effective to address it directly.

Eric Rauchway is more interesting. Even better is this post. However, neither piece gets into why some, like myself, think these emergency jobs should, at the very least, have an asterisk besides them. His argument reduces down to, "Hey, they had jobs!". Yeah, OK, I get that taxpayers were cutting them a paycheck. But were they productive? Not hard-working, you can work hard digging and filling holes. The question is, did they produce wealth? We know that jobs in the private sector produce wealth because if the worker does not produce more than the costs of his employment, his position is eliminated. Where is this feedback with government spending? The reasonable conclusion is that the work does not pay for itself. It is evident in that the government took it on. If there was enough incentive for it in the market, private enterprise would have taken the job. Jobs that don't produce are subsidized, meaning they are an additional burden for the parts of the economy that do produce as their profits are taxed further to pay for the emergency projects. Is this a fair way to look at all government spending, including highway and national park maintenance? Perhaps not, but it's a great fit for jobs that are "created" by legislation predominantly designed to "help" the economy.
posted by BigSky at 2:04 PM on February 7, 2009


Low labor prices lead to a lower product sale price.

I could believe this, if Levi jeans cost less now than they did when they were being made by adult Americans instead of third-world children.
posted by five fresh fish at 2:43 PM on February 7, 2009 [2 favorites]


I could believe this, if Levi jeans cost less now than they did when they were being made by adult Americans instead of third-world children.

Going by my memory of Levi's prices in the late 80s and what I see now, then in inflation-adjusted dollars, they do.
posted by BigSky at 6:41 PM on February 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


Canada's “socialism” it aint has proven better by far than the things other countries have been trying.

A little common sense and a sense of fair play goes a long way.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:46 PM on February 7, 2009


We know that jobs in the private sector produce wealth because if the worker does not produce more than the costs of his employment, his position is eliminated.

We know this in theory. If it were true in practice, The Office would be a work of surreal fantasy rather than exaggerated comedy, and Dwight Schrute would be a libertarian exemplar rather than a weirdo who lives on a beet farm, but I repeat myself.
posted by holgate at 11:17 PM on February 7, 2009


I can not find any price history for Levis.

I did find that a Craftsman drill in 1969 was about $40. A semi-equivalent drill today (but with far, far less steel in its build) runs $170. Inflation-adjusted, the American-built, all-metal 1969 drill would be $180–250.

So America lost a tool factory and several hundred jobs, while the consumer gets a not-much-cheaper, Chinese-made product that is not built like a tank. What a great deal.

The little red wagon (34x16" with ball-bearing wheels) was $9, $40–55 in today's dollar. Sold today, though, it's $99. The steel is light-gauge now, the wheels are plastic, and there are no ball-bearings. Talk about screwing the consumer.

A men's broadcloth dress shirt, $6, which translates to $27-37. Today the price is around $20-30. American cotton farms, textile mills, and sewing factories all lost to the Chinese for the sake of a couple bucks.

A Kenmore washer-dryer combo in 1969: $310, which converts to $1420–1900. Both had 1/2HP motors. The washer weighed 237lb, the dryer 154lb. I expect they had excellent warranties, and I know from experience that they would run trouble-free for decades.

Today the combo is $650 and gets a piddling 1yr warranty. The washer weight only 175lbs, because it's choc-a-bloc full of plastic; the dryer is nearly the same weight as it used to be (132lbs). Upping the warranty to a more reasonable 5 years is going to add $110 to each, so we'd best call it $870.

Significant savings, finally! But, then again, you and I both know the new Kenmore products will never, ever last that long. In the end you'll both pay repair bills and then replacement; in the end, you'll spend just as much as you would have in 1969.

Bottom line: I don't think we've saved sweet-fuck-all. The imported products are inevitably cheaper — cheaper materials, lousy warranties, designed to break, and sometimes a few bucks less. Over the longer term, they cost us more.

Meanwhile, thousands of factories have been shuttered, the ripple effect from that has terminated innumerable other businesses, from raw resource sources to parts manufacturing, and hundreds of thousands of jobs evaporated.

The 1969 prices, by the way, are from a Sears Wishbook from Kansas. Median family income at that time in that State was $8690, which translates to $40–55000 today. As near as I can tell, the median income in Kansas is within that range; in other words, people there are not making any more money than they used to. Most Americans aren't.

I'm afraid that every which way I look at it, allowing manufacturing to leave the USA was a terrible, terrible mistake, at least as it regards the welfare of American citizens. It has been an incredible blessing for China's peasants, so I guess you can take comfort (as you lose your home and look for ditch-digging work) that it all evens out in the end.

Conversions to 2007 equivalents
Household income in the usa
Sears Wishbook archive

posted by five fresh fish at 12:45 AM on February 8, 2009 [9 favorites]


We know that jobs in the private sector produce wealth because if the worker does not produce more than the costs of his employment, his position is eliminated.

I'd love to see some sort of evidence that CEOs, paid an average 400x front-line worker salary these days, are producing more than the costs of their employment.

How is it that the average American worker is said to have maintained productivity growth of 1.5–3% for the past forty years, yet real wages definitively have not increased at the same pace?

Yet at the same time, CEOs have gone from 30x front-line salary to over 400x front-line salary.

AHA! There's the answer to the conundrum! CEOs have become massively more productive, by orders of magnitude, while those lazy front-line slackers have actually become counter-productive over the years, thus dragging down the average and damn near nullifying the CEOs effect.
posted by five fresh fish at 1:02 AM on February 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


Rachel Maddow says it.

The idiocy and partisanship and downright lying and thieving going on in the House/Senate is not only sickening, it's going to destroy the nation.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:08 AM on February 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


Great link, fff. That's gotta be required watching before anyone unleashes more crackpot Reaganesque anti-stimulus blather.

bigsky > The question is, did [workers on subsidized projects] produce wealth? We know that jobs in the private sector produce wealth because if the worker does not produce more than the costs of his employment, his position is eliminated. Where is this feedback with government spending?

I love how "small-government" people can ask this with a straight face. If you did just fall off the turnip truck yesterday and are being sincere, the answer is to broaden your definition and measurement of wealth. It isn't just your bank balance. Highways. Police. Water. Education. Military. FDA. National standards. Research. Can we move on, please?

The reasonable conclusion is that the work does not pay for itself. It is evident in that the government took it on. If there was enough incentive for it in the market, private enterprise would have taken the job.

So, how long have you lived in Galt's Gulch, exactly?

The free market is most definitely not Jesus' kid brother. Healthcare in the US costs more to deliver per-capita than in many countries with "socialized" medicine. And the overall level of health in the US is in many cases lower. Energy management? Private enterprise gave us Enron, and cost-cutting that helped cause the blackout of 2003. Automobile technology? American car companies are years behind their European and Japanese counterparts in developing diesel or high-efficiency engines. When the desirable outcome is anything other than maximizing financial returns, private enterprise without government oversight lets us down.

Also... did you sleep through 2007 and 2008? Wall St - the Vatican of the Free Market - has just vapourized nearly 30% off of our real-estate worth, decimated our retirement investments, and are now raiding the future earnings of our children and grandchildren.

Jobs that don't produce are subsidized, meaning they are an additional burden for the parts of the economy that do produce as their profits are taxed further to pay for the emergency projects. Is this a fair way to look at all government spending, including highway and national park maintenance?

I would argue that the prevailing fiscal short-sightedness of the last 30 or so years has meant that alot of much-needed infrastructure spending has been neglected (though it was still possible to find a trillion or so to make a mess with in Iraq?). So, crisis or not, there's alot of housekeeping to catch up on... why not now, when costs are potentially lower?

If nothing else, look at it this way: in the fall, TARP dumped hundreds of billions into bank vaults, and for that we've received... squat. Banks are still tightfisted, companies are still laying off, real estate is still depressed. On the other hand, hundreds of billions dumped into infrastructure and education will at leave us with... infrastructure, and a better-educated workforce. And some people who were able to keep working.

But as I said upthread, just give the government back the funds lost to the last 30 years of tax cuts, to the war in Iraq, and fired into the black hole of TARP, and they wouldn't have to borrow a dime for infrastructure projects.
posted by Artful Codger at 9:31 AM on February 8, 2009 [3 favorites]


Wow, that Rachel Maddow video is great! I don't think I've heard anyone spew such inanities about the economy in quite some time. Did she actually say that the stimulus bill was "scientifically, economically necessary"? Based on what? According to whom? A couple of weeks ago, hundreds of economists responded to Obama's ludicrous lie that all economists agree on the need for government action. And then she kept pushing the notion that spending is stimulus. No, it isn't. Spending can't stimulate the economy. Since it takes resources away from the wealth producers and puts them into negative sum transactions, it is a drag on the economy. Government can't put money into the economy without taking it out first. Well, they could print more out of thin air, but more on that below. Ms. Maddow also says that we need to get Americans out there buying more stuff, as if Americans need to be encouraged in their retail shopping. Reckless use of credit on retail goods is part of the problem. And of course, we need to get it passed in a hurry, time is critical. But the Congressional Budget Office predicts that the stimulus bill will result in somewhere between 1.6 and 3.2 million "jobs" by the end of 2010. That's 2010. Given that time frame, another three weeks doesn't make any kind of difference. So thanks again for the link, it's just a fantastic example of pure liberal idiocy.

If you did just fall off the turnip truck yesterday and are being sincere, the answer is to broaden your definition and measurement of wealth.

Do you have a definition of wealth? In the abstract, I think of wealth as anything that has value to some person. Perhaps you could "broaden" that? And in the section you quoted I was using it in terms of the aggregate wealth created by free choice and control of the markets. When the Egyptians built the pyramids, there was a creation of value according to the perspective of the Pharaohs, but in comparison to what all the workers would have done with the resource of their own time, it was a negative sum transaction. The society is poorer because resources are being spent in the production of goods that they wouldn't have chosen to produce on their own initiative.

Your criticisms of the free market are unfair. The California electricity shortage is not an example of a failure of deregulation and free markets. California itself limited the supply of power plants by impeding their construction for many years. And at the same time, population boomed. Then when California deregulated the energy market, prices were capped. That's free markets?

You might want development of diesel or high-efficiency engines, but your desire counts for little. The market 'votes' with money. That's what free choice means. Of course private enterprise maximizes financial returns. And in order to do so they have to be responsive to the desires of their entire market, not just you.

Also... did you sleep through 2007 and 2008? Wall St - the Vatican of the Free Market - has just vapourized nearly 30% off of our real-estate worth, decimated our retirement investments, and are now raiding the future earnings of our children and grandchildren.

This is just funny. If you were familiar with any pro free market writers you would know that many, if not most, have been sharply critical of our monetary policy and crony capitalism for years. Not kidding - take a look around.

On the other hand, hundreds of billions dumped into infrastructure and education will at leave us with... infrastructure, and a better-educated workforce. And some people who were able to keep working.

No. This is where we are heading. Ignore Glenn Beck if you like, but what he's talking about here is real; there is no two ways about it. And by the way, Glenn Beck is not a Scientologist. Nice smear, though.
posted by BigSky at 11:57 AM on February 8, 2009


Eric Rauchway: The New Deal roots in the stimulus debate
posted by homunculus at 12:19 PM on February 8, 2009


Since it takes resources away from the wealth producers and puts them into negative sum transactions, it is a drag on the economy. Government can't put money into the economy without taking it out first.

That's true. Which is why the 1% who possess 50% of the private wealth need to be taxed at a fair rate. They do not pay their share, and it is crippling the country.

The ideals you are promoting have utterly failed us, BigSky. Completely fucked us all. (Well, all except that extremely privileged 1%.)
posted by five fresh fish at 12:45 PM on February 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


(I guess we're in agreement, because what Beck is saying is that firing up the printing presses to make more money is a Very Bad idea. Which is true. The money needs to be reclaimed from the top-tier wealthy.)
posted by five fresh fish at 12:51 PM on February 8, 2009


Your criticisms of the free market are unfair.

Your assertions of free market ideology as demonstrated fact are ungrounded.

What's your point here, given that you seem to be confusing the ideal and the real? "Libertarian capitalism works: it's just never been tried?"
posted by holgate at 1:22 PM on February 8, 2009


Hi bigsky, thanks for responding.

First, apologies if I have disparaged the Free Market. I try to respect people's religious beliefs, and I hadn't quite figured out what yours was. But let me challenge one more before backing off. I just adore it when people refer to investors or the free market as wealth PRODUCERS. The free market isn't a wealth PRODUCER. It is wicked clever and efficient at the release, transfer and reuse of capital, but it's a PROCESSOR, an enabler, and it requires INPUTS - resources (minerals, energy, trees, plants etc) and labour - before anything meaningful comes out. Lately the Free Market seems to have got so caught up in building up shell games with CDSs, CDOs, and derivatives that they stopped thinking about the inputs.

I have a few problems understanding parts of your response. That pyramid analogy was way out in left right field, unless you somehow think slavery is coming back. Also... I don't recall mentioning California's energy shortage (though I agree on how short-sighted they've been). My point was that Enrons don't manage resources for the public benefit, just for their own benefit, and that's often not the same thing.

(me) On the other hand, hundreds of billions dumped into infrastructure and education will at leave us with... infrastructure, and a better-educated workforce. And some people who were able to keep working.

(you) No.

Whaddaya mean no? Do you mean that infrastructure spending won't result in infrastructure? Education doesn't result in educated people? What?

I looked at "declaration" signed by those economists. They register their objection to the stimulus, but the only suggestion they can put forth is "Lower tax rates and a reduction in the burden of government are the best ways of using fiscal policy to boost growth." I have two comments: 1) That's it? WTF?!?, and 2) prove it.

Also Glenn Beck is a real hoot, and that graph was both funny and scary. I do concede its accuracy, because it clearly shows how the real deficit growth slant started with Reagan, and how even in a time of relative prosperity, Bush & Co managed keep the deficit rolling skyward with tax cuts and an unnecessary war.

Which sort of makes the last point I gave: Taken together, the amounts spent on preceding years' tax cuts, war spending, and the TARP giveaway far exceed the amount of money involved in the currently discussed stimulus. Where are you on that?

I would happily consider any alternative solutions you have, if you are able to justify them. Just parroting "tax cuts" and small government doesn't cut it any more.
posted by Artful Codger at 2:04 PM on February 8, 2009 [3 favorites]


BigSky: the scientology thing was a joke, dude. The other Beck is a scientologist.

Since the joke was a stand-alone comment by someone who has not otherwise made arguments in this thread, and was pretty obviously not a full-fledged position statement, I'd suggest you be a little less defensive. No one is trying to turn this into a smearfest... a lot of people here legitimately disagree with you, and you should give them a little more benefit of the doubt.
posted by Riki tiki at 2:51 PM on February 8, 2009


I distinctly recall Reagan and his Republican so-called "fiscal conservatives" declaring proudly that "deficits didn't matter."

Where were all these fiscal conservatives over the last eight years of Bush's disastrous unprecedented spending spree and Republican pork barreling? I could be wrong but I'm looking through BigSky's posting history and I don't see much specifically about Bush's deficit spending. Interesting.

Oh. Yeah that's right. That was to kill TERROR! Which appearantly came mostly in the form of a couple hundred thousand innocent Iraqi's.

Yup. Deficit spending is just fine when you're putting bullets through the skulls of nine year old girls in Fallujah and handing thier natural resources over to oil companies.

But build a bridge or a school? YOU FUCKING COMMIES ARE KILLING AMURICAH!
posted by tkchrist at 3:01 PM on February 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


BigSky: the scientology thing was a joke, dude. The other Beck is a scientologist.

Glenn Beck is a former drunk and drug addict who converted to Mormonism. So it's not much better.
posted by tkchrist at 3:03 PM on February 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


And has had pro-Scientology guests a number of times.
posted by five fresh fish at 3:12 PM on February 8, 2009


I have a few problems understanding parts of your response. That pyramid analogy was way out in left right field, unless you somehow think slavery is coming back.

Slavery is irrelevant in the example. Let's change it to a hypothetical country where significant taxes are collected and then spent on hiring workers to dig and fill a big hole. Something is being accomplished, perhaps of value to a sadistic bureaucrat, but the tax payers would have most likely chosen to spend that money on something else. With regard to the satisfaction of the ones making the payment, the country is poorer for having collected those taxes. In ancient Egypt, the central authority is dictating how the resource of labor will be spent instead of money.

Also... I don't recall mentioning California's energy shortage (though I agree on how short-sighted they've been). My point was that Enrons don't manage resources for the public benefit, just for their own benefit, and that's often not the same thing.

But it was the price cap that gave Enron room to maneuver. Someone who is selling a product or service, often does best when they align their own interests with their customers. That's what my own experience shows me, both at work and as a consumer. Pointing to Enron, a failed business whose leaders are convicted criminals, as the example of the business community pursuing its own interests, is biased.

I have two comments: 1) That's it? WTF?!?, and 2) prove it.

'Proving it' is a tall order. If it was possible to do so with any degree of rigor, there wouldn't be Nobel laureates on both sides of the debate. The logic for tax cuts is that private enterprise involves risks. If the rewards are reduced, this means taxed: income, capital gains and corporate, there is less incentive to run the risks. Historic examples in the U.S. of tax cuts followed by economic growth are the 20s, 60s and 80s. Thatcher's tax cuts and the growth which followed in the U.K. is another example. You might find this paper on 'The Historical Lessons of Lower Tax Rates' to be of interest.

Whaddaya mean no? Do you mean that infrastructure spending won't result in infrastructure? Education doesn't result in educated people? What?

This is my mistake. I should have noted that you said 'keep working' instead of 'employed'. And even if you had, it was the wrong place to pursue the distinction between productive and non-productive labor. However, I don't think that our problems in education have anything to do with funding.

Which sort of makes the last point I gave: Taken together, the amounts spent on preceding years' tax cuts, war spending, and the TARP giveaway far exceed the amount of money involved in the currently discussed stimulus. Where are you on that?

Here's where I am. The vast majority of war spending was an absolute waste. Yes, the TARP giveaway was just pissing more money away. And that doesn't go nearly far enough when we talk about money thrown away by the government. I'd like to see a much smaller federal government, i.e. elimination of DEA, ATF, IRS, Dept. of Education, etc., the closing of most international military bases, reduction and privatization of entitlement programs, and so on. But what's the relevance of talking about all the other money the government has wasted? I probably think it's a larger number than you, what does it matter? That the stimulus package is smaller doesn't make it prudent. It's still a ton of money we're adding to the federal burden.

---

BigSky: the scientology thing was a joke, dude. The other Beck is a scientologist.

Since the joke was a stand-alone comment by someone who has not otherwise made arguments in this thread, and was pretty obviously not a full-fledged position statement, I'd suggest you be a little less defensive. No one is trying to turn this into a smearfest... a lot of people here legitimately disagree with you, and you should give them a little more benefit of the doubt.


Cool. I had no idea Beck was a Scientologist. WTF?!
posted by BigSky at 5:50 PM on February 8, 2009


"No man should receive a dollar unless that dollar has been fairly earned. Every dollar received should represent a dollars worth of service rendered not gambling in stocks, but service rendered. The really big fortune, the swollen fortune, by the mere fact of its size, acquires qualities which differentiate it in kind as well as in degree from what is possessed by men of relatively small means. Therefore, I believe in a graduated income tax on big fortunes, and in another tax which is far more easily collected and far more effective a graduated inheritance tax on big fortunes, properly safeguarded against evasion, and increasing rapidly in amount with the size of the estate."

--Karl Marx?

Nope:

--Teddy Roosevelt.

K. Thx. Bye.
posted by saulgoodman at 6:35 AM on February 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Since reading these threads with intelligent mefites being under the sway of discredited 70 year old economic theory is just too fucking depressing, I'm going to talk about obscure leftist theories instead.

Goddamit, socialism is not a kind of capitalism. It is an entirely different form of economic organization which is wholly incompatible with it.

While this might be true for big C Capitalism, I don't think that socialism is necessarilyincompatible with modern markets and firms. Market socialism has a long and fruitful history of great theorizing and shitty execution, but I read this recently about John E. Roemer's plan for market socialism and it makes a lot of sense.

Basically it takes what is considered one of the primary problems with modern Corporate Capitalism, the principal-agent problem and turns it into a virtue by making the people the the owners of all the principle.

He does this by leaving the current management and labor structures of corporations the same, letting them to continue to set wages and prices as they see fit. Instead he would nationalize the stock market and give every adult citizen a certain allotment of stock coupons when they turn 18. This has the social benefit of giving anybody the option of a steady income from dividends if they choose, but has the added benefit of making the "principle's" goals the same as the people, which would hopefully mean they would hopefully make sure the firms did not hurt the overall society with things like destructive labor practice and too much pollution.

I haven't read the book, and I can think of some big problems like what do small firms do and how do firms raise new capital, but if these could be worked out it sounds like it would be a rather awesome system.

Too bad it will never happen in America. Maybe somewhere without such entrenched economic dogma, China maybe, crazier things have happened there.
posted by afu at 8:19 AM on February 9, 2009


afu, I'm most disappointed in some of the arguments here because there's a real huge genuine problem that needs fixing, yet people are still in their particular corners, on their favourite soapboxes, going on about theoretical stuff that has no relevance to ythe current problem.

The US isn't about to become a socialist paradise next week; it is equally unlikely to become a libertarian meritocracy. Both are fairy tales. They are unworkable at any time, and equally useless as solutions to the crisis.

Is this an opportunity to remake things? It would seem so; I believe it was Bruce Sterling who mentioned on the WELL that this crisis is entirely imaginary- it only exists in our behaviour towards each other (confidence to spend, lending or not, what we price things at). But the vast majority of us, even if we're laid off or facing foreclosure, are still eating well and surrounded by all our cool stuff and we think this just something that will pass. So there's not yet enough affected and desperate people who are willing to abandon their fairy-tales, or even to think about this stuff for the first time, who would be willing to seriously consider a drastic change.

Maybe in six months...
posted by Artful Codger at 9:09 AM on February 9, 2009




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