(Democratically) Controlling Ownership of Production's Means
July 17, 2018 6:33 AM   Subscribe

The Socialist Network - "At the heart of the split between liberals and socialists, at least in theory, is the question of what to do about capitalism. Liberals tend to see it as something that needs to be fixed. Socialists see it as something to be defeated. They say they do, anyway. As we've seen, the Millennial socialist intellectuals aren't really calling for government takeover of industry. Still, their stated opposition to capitalism-as-such has consequences for how we address the problems of the modern economy." (via)
Of course, the relative merits of socialism—and Marxism, Maoism, anarcho-syndicalism, you name it—have been debated in lefty journals and academic circles for a century or more. Members of this new generation, however, aren’t just talking among themselves; they’re trying to take socialism mainstream. And unlike their predecessors, they have reason to think Americans will take their ideas seriously.

They’ve got a double challenge. The first is to convince skeptical Americans that, despite what they may have learned in high school, socialism doesn’t have to mean Stalinism, and it doesn’t lead inexorably to the gulags of Soviet Russia or the starvation of Nicolas Maduro’s Venezuela. The second may be even trickier. They must explain how their version of socialism fits, or doesn’t, into the American political system while showing how, specifically, it is distinct from traditional Democratic Party liberalism. In other words, they must not only defend socialism in the twenty-first century; they must define it.
An Interview With Cynthia Nixon - "Never in my lifetime have I seen such a hunger for progressive change, both for our people here on the ground and as a way of combating the Trump agenda nationally. The good news is we have the ability to do it here in New York State because we're such a progressive, Democratic bastion. But we haven't. We're going to miss this moment if we don't have a governor who's a progressive leader who will seize this moment and galvanize this appetite for change."

Are You Ready To Consider That Capitalism Is The Real Problem? - "Why do people feel this way? Probably not because they deny the abundant material benefits of modern life that many are able to enjoy. Or because they want to travel back in time and live in the U.S.S.R. It's because they realize—either consciously or at some gut level—that there's something fundamentally flawed about a system that has a prime directive to churn nature and humans into capital, and do it more and more each year, regardless of the costs to human well-being and to the environment we depend on."
What might a better world look like? There are a million ideas out there. We can start by changing how we understand and measure progress. As Robert Kennedy famously said, GDP “does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education, or the joy of their play . . . it measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile.”

We can change that. People want health care and education to be social goods, not market commodities, so we can choose to put public goods back in public hands. People want the fruits of production and the yields of our generous planet to benefit everyone, rather than being siphoned up by the super-rich, so we can change tax laws and introduce potentially transformative measures [that] could dethrone capitalism’s prime directive and replace it with a more balanced logic, that recognizes the many factors required for a healthy and thriving civilization. If done systematically enough, they could consign one-dimensional capitalism to the dustbin of history.

None of this is actually radical. Our leaders will tell us that these ideas are not feasible, but what is not feasible is the assumption that we can carry on with the status quo. If we keep pounding on the wedge of inequality and chewing through our living planet, the whole thing is going to implode. The choice is stark, and it seems people are waking up to it in large numbers: Either we evolve into a future beyond capitalism, or we won’t have a future at all.
If democratic socialism is so bad, why is Norway so great? - "Norway is not some destitute hellscape."

Purposes of a Social Wealth Fund:
  1. Redistribute income/wealth from capital (including land) owners to regular folks
  2. Automatically insure society against the "rise of the robots" scenario
  3. Manage citizens' wealth in a non-predatory way
Guns and Ice Cream - "I've gotten some pushback on the line from my decarbonization piece that 'wartime mobilization did not crowd out civilian production'. More than one person has told me they agree with the broader argument but don't find that claim believable."
I think people are attracted to the idea of wartime austerity because we’ve all been steeped in the idea of scarcity – that economic problems consist of the allocation of scarce means among alternative ends, in Lionel Robbins’ famous phrase. Aggregate demand is, in that sense, a profoundly subversive idea – it suggests that’s what’s really scarce isn’t our means but our wants. Most people are doing far less than they could be, given the basic constraints of the material world, to meet real human needs. And markets are a weak and unreliable tool for redirecting our energies to something better. World War II is the biggest experiment to date on the limits of boosting output through a combination of increased market demand and central planning. And it suggests that, altho supply constraints are real — wartime controls on rubber and steel were there for a reason – in general we are much, much farther from those constraints than we normally think.
Democracy Against Capitalism: Capital in a Fiat Money World - "Beyond the factual reality of a world awash in capital, we don't live in a world of limited money. Money is a commodity created by the state. It isn't pieces of metal, and it isn't limited by how much of the metal there is in government vaults. Government can create all it wants and needs."

World After Capital: Limits of Capitalism (Self-Conservation) - "Toward the end of the Agrarian Age, when land was scarce, the political elites came from land ownership. Their influence really wasn't substantially diminished until after World War II. Now we are at the end of the scarcity of capital, but the political elites largely represent the interests of capital. In some countries, such as China, this is the case outright. Senior political leaders and their families own large parts of industry. In other countries, such as the United States, politicians are influenced by the owners of capital because of the constant need to fundraise."
Individual and corporate lobbying results in policies favorable to owners of capital, such as low capital gains tax rates (or in the case of venture capital and buyout funds the taxation of General Partner profits as capital gains instead of income). Low corporate tax rates with lots of loopholes, including the accumulation of corporate cash in low tax countries is also favorable to owners of capital. So in 2018 we are finding ourselves with some of the lowest corporate tax rates, the highest stock prices and the highest share of profits in national income... The existing political and economic system thus acts to conserve the scarcity of capital past its expiration date.
What determines value? - "I'd argue that the most peoples intuitive sense of 'economic value' still comes back to their sense of which inputs were used. Much like Marx, most people will attribute value to output based on the perceived labor effort that went into producing it. Like the Physiocrats, production that involves extracting or processing raw materials is considered to have value... when people argue for a minimum wage, or a 'living wage', they often appeal to the idea that a hard days work (e.g. the input) grants the work value different from and beyond the dollar value that work earns on the open market. Support for family farms has a similar language of value based on fact that it employs physical labor and - Physiocratic-style - land. It is seen as unfair if this labor and land does not generate a large monetary value, because we assign inherent value to those inputs."

If You Love Capitalism, Worry About Small Business - "Is modern financialized, 'superstar' capitalism destroying capitalism's core support group?"
For centuries, small business has been a route to the middle class and the upper-middle class for the enterprising and the self-reliant. Merchants and craftspeople made up much of the urban middle class in pre-industrial Britain and France — the people Karl Marx labeled the “bourgeoisie.”

... What happens when this class shrinks? What happens when business ownership stops being something anyone can do because access to capital isn't something normal people have, but something that only huge mega-corporations control? A possible answer is that capitalism will probably lose some of its broad appeal. Smart, self-reliant young people will be forced to dream not of starting their own business, but of securing a good job at Alphabet (Google) or Wal-Mart or Exxon or JPMorgan Chase. And once in the mindset of relying on a large organization for their future, what’s to stop them from turning to an even mightier patron -- the government?

In other words, declining business opportunity may be pushing Americans toward socialism.

Of course, that might not be a bad thing; socialism, of the democratic kind practiced in Western Europe, has much to recommend it. But anyone who wants to preserve capitalism needs to grapple with the issue of big business dominance.
Why Did Hayek Support a Basic Income? - "What makes the coercion of the slavemaster, or the monopolist, so worrisome for Hayek is that it involves the arbitrary imposition of one person's will on another. By contrast, a tax system that is clearly and publicly defined in advance, that imposes only reasonable rates for genuinely public purposes, that is imposed equally upon all, and that is constrained by democratic procedures and the rule of law, might still be constitute interference, but not arbitrary interference."

-An anti-MMT thread.
-Universal Basic Income Is Not the Solution to Poverty
-'Give People Money' and 'The War on Normal People' Review: The Cure for Poverty?

Why Marx's Capital Still Matters - "Capitalists start the day with a certain amount of money, take the money into the marketplace and buy some commodities like means of production and labor power, and put them to work in a labor process that produces a new commodity. That new commodity is sold for money, plus a profit. Then the profit is redistributed in various ways, in the form of rents and interest, and then it circulates back into that money, which starts the production cycle again. It's a circulation process. And the three volumes of Capital deal with different aspects of that process."
The Left should be working on a politics in which we say, “we welcome artificial intelligence and automation, but they should give us much more free time.” One of the big things Marx does suggest is that free time is one of the most emancipatory things we can have. He has a nice phrase: the realm of freedom begins when the realm of necessity is left behind. Imagine a world in which necessities could be taken care of. One or two days a week working, and the rest of the time is free time.

Now, we’ve got all of these labor-saving innovations in the labor process, and also in the household. But if you ask people, do you have more free time than you once had? The answer is, “no, I have less free time.” We’ve got to organize all of this so that we actually have as much free time as possible, so that if it’s Wednesday at five o’clock, you can go do whatever you want. This is the kind of imagination of a society that Marx has in mind. And it’s an obvious idea.
Consider the Lichen - "Biological scalability is the ability to support a larger, denser, and/or wealthier population in a given ecosystem."
posted by kliuless (64 comments total) 73 users marked this as a favorite
 
Two words: Robot Revolution!
posted by sammyo at 6:56 AM on July 17, 2018


Robot police? >

Two words: Robot Revolution!
posted by Reasonably Everything Happens at 7:02 AM on July 17, 2018


Why do anti-Socialists keep trotting out Venezuela when they talk about Socialism's failures. Why not Norway or Finland, or any of the other successful Scandinavian countries? Usually, when I point out their successes under Socialism, the response is something among the lines of "Oh, it works there because they have a much more homogenous population."

1. And Venezuela doesn't?
2. So you're saying Socialism won't work in the US because you're racist. Thanks.
posted by SansPoint at 7:10 AM on July 17, 2018 [31 favorites]


Why do anti-Socialists keep trotting out Venezuela when they talk about Socialism's failures.

I'm guessing it's for the same reasons they always talk about the deaths caused by marxist revolution but ignore the massive number of deaths caused by capitalism/colonialism (and, prior to that, aristocracy).
posted by mondo dentro at 7:18 AM on July 17, 2018 [19 favorites]


Money is a commodity created by the state. It isn't pieces of metal, and it isn't limited by how much of the metal there is in government vaults. Government can create all it wants and needs."

Wait, what? So why doesn't, oh say Venezuela, print up a whole bunch of Bolívars and hand them out to the starving population?
posted by sammyo at 7:21 AM on July 17, 2018 [1 favorite]


Usually, when I point out their successes under Socialism, the response is something among the lines of "Oh, it works there because they have a much more homogenous population."

It stunned me when people started using that as an argument against anything that could be an example of socialism, ie. food stamps, single payer health care, welfare, etc. It's an overt acknowledgement that the people that are against these things don't necessarily have a problem with those types of programs. They have a problem with people of color benefiting from them. At this point, I think somebody could advance the idea of single payer health care or food stamp increases, but only for whites, and the majority of white conservatives would probably be just fine with that. But since they can't actually have an apartheid-like separation of benefits, since our pesky constitution forbids it, they're more than happy to suffer as capitalism crushes them as well. As long as people of color are getting crushed harder.
posted by katyggls at 7:22 AM on July 17, 2018 [31 favorites]




Two words: Robot Revolution!

It's hard to tell if this is a pro- or anti-socialism stance. It seems more and more likely that the automation revolution will just result in a tiny clique of the ultra-wealthy owning the mega-corporations that make the robots, a small professional class under them to serve whatever needs the ultra-rich have that machines can't fill or for which a human is desirable, and the vast mass of the rest of us given just enough via UBI to survive or working some menial jobs that happen to not be worth automating.
posted by Sangermaine at 7:27 AM on July 17, 2018 [2 favorites]


The latest episode of the Bruenigs' charming podcast is a followup to all this: Nordic Socialism is Really Real.
posted by Space Coyote at 7:28 AM on July 17, 2018 [3 favorites]


> At this point, I think somebody could advance the idea of single payer health care or food stamp increases, but only for whites, and the majority of white conservatives would probably be just fine with that.

I think that's how FDR got support for the New Deal.
posted by klarck at 7:41 AM on July 17, 2018 [10 favorites]


It stunned me when people started using that as an argument against anything that could be an example of socialism, ie. food stamps, single payer health care, welfare, etc. It's an overt acknowledgement that the people that are against these things don't necessarily have a problem with those types of programs. They have a problem with people of color benefiting from them.

I've also heard this argument in the sense of "this country is too racist for socialism" rather than "I personally am too racist for socialism." I think that's wrong and short-sighted (and leads to supporting an inherently racist status quo), but still.
posted by showbiz_liz at 7:45 AM on July 17, 2018 [2 favorites]


Wait, what? So why doesn't, oh say Venezuela, print up a whole bunch of Bolívars and hand them out to the starving population?

They did.
posted by sfenders at 7:45 AM on July 17, 2018 [3 favorites]


sammyo: "Wait, what? So why doesn't, oh say Venezuela, print up a whole bunch of Bolívars and hand them out to the starving population?"

They did, which is part of the problem. It's called hyperinflation. Just look at what happened with the currency in Zimbabwe.
posted by Grither at 7:46 AM on July 17, 2018 [2 favorites]


Hyperinflation is a symptom of disastrous problems with your economy, not a cause in and of itself. People can get used to pretty much any level of inflation if it's predictable (although higher levels carry secondary costs which you want to avoid).
posted by pharm at 7:55 AM on July 17, 2018 [1 favorite]


At this point, I think somebody could advance the idea of single payer health care or food stamp increases, but only for whites, and the majority of white conservatives would probably be just fine with that.

Hah, there's actually a fascist tendency which markets itself this way called Strasserism, after the Strasser brothers who were the leaders of the Sturmabteilung or SA. A big part of the reason for the Night of Long Knives (in which the SA leadership were killed and the SA was broken up) was breaking Strasserism as a force within the Nazi Party so that the Nazis could cement their alliance with the German bourgeoisie.

Since then, Strasserism has been a reasonably popular ideology for neo-Nazi groups; I always imagine them as the guy in the back of the Nazi rally raising his hand and saying "Excuse me, I was under the impression that there would be socialism?"
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:56 AM on July 17, 2018 [18 favorites]


Doesn't matter much in the larger question but

1. And Venezuela doesn't?

Venezuela doesn't. Venezuela might look like it does, to an American or European, because we're used to pointing at all the different ethnic groups there and saying "Latino." But it's a diverse mix of ethnic groups and backgrounds, just like other Latin American nations that didn't just about fully exterminate their indigenous populations. Whiteness is privileged and most people do not identify as white. Likewise, the population that identifies as white is split between several European and middle eastern backgrounds.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 8:01 AM on July 17, 2018 [22 favorites]


Yeah, the whole MMT idea that governments are not constrained by a finite money supply still accounts for the fact of inflation. The point of it is that governments in theory can control the supply of money on both ends, adding money to the economy via printing and then removing it -- to prevent hyperinflation -- via taxation, etc. Doing either one of those things without the other is a recipe for disaster under any version of monetary theory.

Usually, the point MMT advocates are making is that the government doesn't have to "find money" to pay for something in an emergency, they can just spend on the immediate need and then deal with the consequences of that spending later. Which is how governments already handle things like, I dunno just spitballing here, dropping a bunch of bombs on foreign countries just to show off how big their "manly characteristic" is.
posted by tobascodagama at 8:01 AM on July 17, 2018 [7 favorites]


Ugh, that "anti-MMT" thread. "You can't use MMT to justify social spending or the GOP will... do exactly what they've been doing for the last 60-some years anyway."
posted by tobascodagama at 8:03 AM on July 17, 2018 [2 favorites]


I'm guessing it's for the same reasons they always talk about the deaths caused by marxist revolution but ignore the massive number of deaths caused by capitalism/colonialism (and, prior to that, aristocracy).

Well, I think if you try to find the best system for a society by comparing their body counts in history, the conclusion is probably going to be that they're all flavors of bad.
posted by FJT at 8:08 AM on July 17, 2018 [6 favorites]


Weirdly I got recently dragged by online tankies and cosplaying Marxist-Leninist who took a very uncharitable reading of a light hearted take that we can frame things as utopianists who look for a world focused on lesuire not labor.

I was trying to make the distinction that stuff like looks like social democratic goals should be seen as a larger struggle to create fully democratic, fully worker controlled societies where all belong to all - we already have the productive capacity for food, shelter, and clothing to everyone, and all the major leftward efforts in history tend to collapse cause no one can build a new society when starving. Care for the most affected in your scoeity, the weakest and most at risk and that care will seep upward. We’re not going to overthrow , we’re going to erode, grain by grain, brick by brick, until we create just a new politic, but a new sense of community and de alienation.

In looking at social democracy, we should look at why and where social democratic states fail and where they weaken. I belive direct worker control, broad universalist programs, climate/green anti-profit program focus, and the inclusion of democracy combined with, yes I’ll say it, redistribution of extreme wealth will help keep your reforms from being gutted a generation later. After all, the 21st century Soildarity economy is not going to look like anything that came before.

It just seemed weird that me, a self described champange socialist because I belive in thinking about things in terms of abudence over austerity, got called a fascist collaborator cause I ...quoted anarchist philosophers? it just all you need to know about that minority. They tried to call me a Utopianist and yes, I am a itopianist, I belive, as Wilde said, any map of the future that does not include Utopia is not worth drawing. I used Star Trek as a metaphor not cause I’m a seeekrit Imperalist but because it’s a metaphor and reference most people understand.

Make no mistake, I think the practical and attainable midterm goal of the socialist project is the elimination of personal debt. Debt is the primary weapon of the ruling class against people. Debt is why people stay in bad jobs or bad relationships. Debt is why poverty becomes generational, Debt is a fake idea.

The upside of being dragged by online tankiies is you never have to worry about awkwardly meeting them in person at an organizing or activist event. Here’s me being interviewed about the rise of American Socialism recently The Socialists Are Back And They’re Pissed
posted by The Whelk at 8:42 AM on July 17, 2018 [17 favorites]


(Its also worth pointing out s big program of Venezuela, aside from cult of personality politics and being tied entirely to extraction economics like oil, is that a capital strike by the non nationalized food producers is starving the country. They would rather not grow crops or sell them on the black market then take a hit in profits. Armies march on thier stomachs and movements die in the pantry)
posted by The Whelk at 8:47 AM on July 17, 2018 [3 favorites]


Well, I'm basically just a new deal economic liberal, so it seems reasonable to me that they would be too...

I think Capitalism is like fire. Fire is awesome. It lights the darkness, keeps us warm, cooks our food, and does all kind of great things that I really like. However, if you don't keep a tight reign on a fire, it will destroy everything you care about and you'll die screaming. It certainly doesn't mean that the answer to every problem is to set something on fire, or that fire is a kind of a moral imperative where more fire is always better than less fire and anything that's not actively on fire is flawed and needs to be set on fire to make the world a better place.

It doesn't seem all that complicated to me, but apparently it is.
posted by Naberius at 8:54 AM on July 17, 2018 [21 favorites]


they're more than happy to suffer as capitalism crushes them as well. As long as people of color are getting crushed harder.

And not forgetting that many of those that barely skim above or do well enough in the system are scared of losing any advantage/leverage they have over the poors.
posted by lmfsilva at 9:03 AM on July 17, 2018 [1 favorite]


(Democratically) Controlling Ownership of Production's Means
July 17, 2018 6:33 AM Subscribe
The Socialist Network - "At the heart of the split between liberals and socialists, at least in theory, is the question of what to do about capitalism. Liberals tend to see it as something that needs to be fixed.
...
Consider the Lichen - "Biological scalability is the ability to support a larger, denser, and/or wealthier population in a given ecosystem."

posted by kliuless (23 comments total) [remove from activity] Added. [remove from favorites] Favorite added! 36 users marked this as a favorite [!]


Anti-eponysterical?

A lot of interesting content in that lengthy post, kliuless, and thank you for it. I've got some reading cut out now.

I did want to say that my own economic/political/philosophical position has resolved down to the idea that 1) democracy good, especially the representative kind; 2) socialism good for essential services (e.g., healthcare, energy, basic sustenance, mass transportation, basic housing, etc.); 3) capitalism good in limited industries where competition can create better choices and improved quality.

I would like to see a core of collectively run businesses that supply people's basic needs with a capitalistic overlay for things purchased with disposable income. That would preserve the "creative destruction" that legitimately leads to innovation and drives quality, while ensuring that no ones life depends upon them being useful to that process.
posted by Mental Wimp at 9:49 AM on July 17, 2018 [3 favorites]


I caught myself saying to a friend recently I don't think small scale inessential commodity markets are incompatible with Democratic socialism "after all you wouldn't want the state designing your sex toys...."

But what if they did?
posted by The Whelk at 10:23 AM on July 17, 2018 [2 favorites]


State designed sex toys:

Start with about 100 meetings to gather requirements and about 1000 consultant hours on design, which will all be wasted as the committee pares down the requirements to the most bland, inoffensive thing imaginable that can still be technically used for a sex toy.

Then it gets sent out for an RFP, to start the procurement process. Vendors submit engineering samples as part of their RFP response, and some poor team of shmucks has to evaluate each sample against a matrix of weighted requirements, both mandatory and optional. This probably involves someone having to physically test each sex toy in a lab environment which costs hundreds of thousands of dollars to simulate the human body and erogenous responses (can't use an actual human for obvious reasons - 'optics' problems mostly).

The winning bid is the one that barely meets the mandatory requirements and is also the cheapest to procure.

Then there are massive delays and the final product doesn't really meet all of the requirements but it's so over budget by now they call it a win and the product is available for the citizenry to use.

Of course, by this time the product is not even really usable as a sex toy anymore and any joy that could possible have been achieved by this product is never realized as pallets of sex toys designed by committe languish in warehouses all over the counrty.

Fin.
posted by some loser at 10:44 AM on July 17, 2018 [2 favorites]


Why do anti-Socialists keep trotting out Venezuela when they talk about Socialism's failures.

Because socialism failed in Venezuela.
posted by lstanley at 11:09 AM on July 17, 2018 [3 favorites]


Colonialism, Capitalism, and Military Dictatorships (and the kleptocratic elite that benefit from the aforementioned systems) failed Venezuela long before Socialism did. So, let's not blame all of Venezuela's current woes on Socialism.
posted by nikoniko at 11:36 AM on July 17, 2018 [8 favorites]


Capitalism has also failed (in various ways) in Haiti, Sudan, Congo, Syria, Liberia, Zimbabwe, and probably a majority of "failed states" around the world I would guess. Of course none of them were *really* capitalist at the times they had problems, because that label is only for successful countries.
posted by sfenders at 11:40 AM on July 17, 2018 [8 favorites]


Why do anti-Socialists keep trotting out Venezuela when they talk about Socialism's failures. Why not Norway or Finland, or any of the other successful Scandinavian countries?

Because Hugo Chavez and his followers called what they was doing "socialism" and the country is manifestly experiencing an economic disaster under their watch (as others point out, there are other mitigating factors involved, as well). Scandinavian leaders were never so ostentatious about appropriating that terminology.

(There's a lesson here for those that endeavor to advocate for "socialism" today but want to redefine the term to mean anything moderately progressive...)

So you're saying Socialism won't work in the US because you're racist. Thanks.

I think that's a misunderstanding of the argument. The argument, as I understand it, is not that certain peoples are inherently predisposed to being governed under a socialist system. Rather, it is that the existence of a heterogeneous population produces conflictual dynamics that renders socialism impossible. Incidentally, however, this argument isn't very convincing.
posted by Noisy Pink Bubbles at 11:41 AM on July 17, 2018 [2 favorites]


Of course, by this time the product is not even really usable as a sex toy anymore and any joy that could possible have been achieved by this product is never realized as pallets of sex toys designed by committe languish in warehouses all over the counrty.

And this situation is different from the status of the sex toy industry until about the mid-2000s how exactly?
posted by tobascodagama at 12:51 PM on July 17, 2018 [4 favorites]


Why do anti-Socialists keep trotting out Venezuela when they talk about Socialism's failures. Why not Norway or Finland, or any of the other successful Scandinavian countries? Usually, when I point out their successes under Socialism, the response is something among the lines of "Oh, it works there because they have a much more homogenous population."

Well, whether Scandinavian social democracies are really "socialism" versus just the leftmost variation of liberal capitalism is something a lot of socialists have strong opinions about. I lean toward saying it isn't quite "socialism," but also against drawing a strong line. And I'm all for its implementation over what we've got in the U.S. regardless.

Of course whether Venezuela counts is also debated.
posted by atoxyl at 1:17 PM on July 17, 2018 [2 favorites]


Well, whether Scandinavian social democracies are really "socialism" versus just the leftmost variation of liberal capitalism is something a lot of socialists have strong opinions about.

I haven't read all of the links in the post yet, but The Socialist Network link talks about this in detail.
posted by tofu_crouton at 1:20 PM on July 17, 2018 [2 favorites]


Just an FYI reminder kind of thing, that I occasionally remember to remind myself.

Corporate charters are entirely subject to the people, through their governments. There is nothing inherently legitimate about corporations. Every one of them is theoretically subject to review by the people.

Corporations exist because we let them exist. The conditions of the agreement that allows them to exist is perfectly open to modification.
posted by yesster at 1:34 PM on July 17, 2018 [4 favorites]


Somewhere near 80% of Venezuelan workers are employed by the private sector. A better question is why are capitalists never forced to own their complete and utter failures in, say, almost all of Central America where the World Bank and IMF have run laissez faire riot resulting in unprecedented poverty, crime and misery.
posted by smithsmith at 2:01 PM on July 17, 2018 [7 favorites]


Bringing the literature to the people I like to top up my bar’s free shelf with Leftist literature and stickers and such. I got an avowed “moderate” dude to pick up the communist manifesto so hopefully things are working out.
posted by The Whelk at 3:00 PM on July 17, 2018 [2 favorites]


One thing I know for sure about Scandinavia is there is definitely capitalism there. I checked and for example I checked in my 401k and I indirectly own like, several dozen dollars' worth of a Danish green energy corporation. So if they're socialist, it's some capitalist form of socialism...

Are there actual Scandinavians agreeing they are socialist?
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 5:05 PM on July 17, 2018


Colonialism, Capitalism, and Military Dictatorships (and the kleptocratic elite that benefit from the aforementioned systems) failed Venezuela long before Socialism did. So, let's not blame all of Venezuela's current woes on Socialism.

This and several other comments above along these lines. Venezuela's problems have more to do with Hugo Chavez and his cronies than 'socialism' per se.

Also, the actual analog to Venezuela's situation is Donald Trump. Trump is a mirror image of what Chavez was; he is corrupt as fuck, makes extravagant gestures/dramatic changes to national policy on a whim without thinking of the consequences, affecting millions of people, and has little-to-no follow-through on his promises.

When people intone but what about Venezuela! I think of Trump.
posted by ishmael at 5:26 PM on July 17, 2018 [3 favorites]


Also, Trump is good at riling up his base to support all kinds of nonsense, regardless of evidence to the contrary, just like Chavez was.
posted by ishmael at 5:28 PM on July 17, 2018 [1 favorite]


The “Nordic Socialism is Really Real” podcast episode makes a convincing argument that Nordic socialism is really real. Apart from the welfare state, a huge percentage of capital in the country is state owned, and some key industries (electricity, especially) are nearly totally nationalized.

“Market socialism” is a longstanding idea.
posted by vogon_poet at 5:29 PM on July 17, 2018 [5 favorites]


It doesn't seem all that complicated to me, but apparently it is.

Or there are just a whole lot of people who are devoting a lot of time to presenting it as vastly more complicated than it is. If the roof leaks, it benefits both the guy who doesn't want do the work and the guy who wants to move to a different house to claim that repairing it isn't possible, although they might phrase it differently ("nothing serious is wrong, toughen up" vs. "this place can't be made livable, period full stop").

Governments are often dysfunctional. Arguably every government ever has been somewhat dysfunctional. I've never considered that an argument in favor of getting rid of government, or drowning it in a bathtub or whatever. Military forces and police are both, as institutions, potentially dangerous. I'm rather glad to have both. Democracy and the rule of law have both, at various times, stood in the way of human rights and social progress - majorities can be bigoted, as can judiciaries. Not going to throw those out either. I've come to believe that one of the most enlightening things to learn about someone is what flawed human inventions they default to as "fixable, tolerable, necessary", as "don't throw the baby out with the bathwater", and which they absolutely can't wait to get rid of, any excuse will do. For me things like private property and market forces are both, in their present configuration (here in the USA and around the world) fixable and in need of fixing.

I like the fire analogy above - I don't know if Naberius self-identifies as liberal or not, but I think that one of the key things that differentiates liberals is their view of the world as filled with things - ideas, institutions, people - which are always and ineradicably potentially dangerous and potentially useful.

Somewhere near 80% of Venezuelan workers are employed by the private sector.

Not sure that public sector vs. private sector employment really has much relation to either good economic outcomes or even "socialism" in any meaningful sense. Leading the pack in public sector employment at present are Cuba, India, Belarus, China, Kuwait, Russia and Norway. Norway's a clear success and debatably socialist, Cuba is socialist and debatably successful. The rest are wildly variable.

Of course none of them were *really* capitalist at the times they had problems, because that label is only for successful countries.

Replace "capitalist" with "socialist" and you have the basic assumption of much of this thread thus far. The bagpipes are fucking wailing in here.

“Market socialism” is a longstanding idea.

I don't disagree with your broader point here, but you could just as well call this "social capitalism". At some point the words are no longer being used to demarcate any clearly defined entities, they're just being used to make rhetorical points. "Socialism" or "Capitalism" become good by virtue of how many success stories you can redefine as some adjectivally-enhanced variant of "socialist" or "capitalist". Hence the way so much fire is being flung about around the Scandinavian examples in particular, because they're clear success stories and everyone wants them in their column.

I can remember arguments back in college in which Leftists I knew would actively sniff at Sweden et. al. - "they're not real socialists", "it's just capitalism with band-aids". One of the main factors there? The existence of Chavez's Venezuela, where they were doing "real socialism" (and which looked, from the outside, more or less fine at the time). Likewise, I had conservative friends who until fairly recently wouldn't shut up about how Europe was a sclerotic, socialist nightmare crawling towards the grave, and now they can't stop talking about how Germany and the Scandinavian states are economic dynamos - capitalist economic dynamos. Not because anything in particular has changed over there, but because now claiming them is a useful rhetorical way to fend off any link between the ongoing economic trash fire that has been smoldering since 2008 and "capitalism" as an abstraction that exists mainly in their own heads.
posted by AdamCSnider at 6:45 PM on July 17, 2018 [3 favorites]


I recommend the Parecon writings for a plain language, political economic theory to enable you or us, to begin to separate all the problems with markets, and their enforcement of asymmetrical and limited information, from all the problems with economic systems that are centrally planned by the oligarchs and corporate bureaucrats, as in capitalism, or centrally planned by the state bureaucrats, as in state socialism.

Another challenge to keep in mind for the united states is that many polities in the united states arose as authoritarian, slavery-based, capitalist republics, and the laws and built environment still reflect so much of that caste system. Human beings and liquidated land holdings were a large part or majority of the liquid wealth of the united states for so long. The sheriffs were the work bosses for the owners for so much of united states' economic history.

I look at large infrastructure in the US, so much of which was funded by bonds on the wealth held in human chattel and "free" land, and I no longer wonder why current public institutions cannot fund such projects, why they disappoint---the government and private institutions no longer have people as a wealth source, and has to has to pay the full labor cost now. It really upsets the balance between expectations Vs reality of public spending in the US, when we have all these hidden monuments to slavery and genocide all around us. All the nations' decaying levees and ditches, for example.

In that context, I can almost sympathize with Alan Greenspan s movement to turn US real estate and insurance into the next vast, endless source of liquidity. Almost. And I rent, so fuck Greenspan.
posted by eustatic at 10:44 PM on July 17, 2018 [2 favorites]


Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's Historic Win and the Future of the Democratic Party - "Come November, Ocasio-Cortez is almost certain to become the youngest woman ever elected to Congress. Will her democratic-socialist identity push the Party to the left?"
She is more voluble about her view of capitalism. “I do think we are in a crisis of late-stage capitalism, where people are working sixty, eighty hours a week and they can’t feed their families,” she said. “There is a lot that is economically dystopic in this country. So that’s why people are open to change.”

But what first appealed to her about the Democratic Socialists of America had less to do with theory or ideology than with the simple fact that she kept seeing members at rallies for every cause she cares about, from the Hurricane Maria rescue effort to Black Lives Matter. She defines her politics as a struggle for “social, economic, and racial dignity.” The distance between here and there—between establishing a set of values and policies and then finding a way to pass them into law and pay for them—is not at the core of her argument. She knows it is a long road. “I want to get there,” she said. “I want to live in that country.”
also btw...
  • Unlike most millennials, Norway's are rich - "Young Norwegians have enjoyed a 13% rise in disposable household income, bucking a downward trend in other strong economies. Will this golden age last?"
  • Norway: The country where no salaries are secret - "Anyone can find out how much anyone else is paid - and it rarely causes problems. In the past, your salary was published in a book. A list of everyone's income, assets and the tax they had paid, could be found on a shelf in the public library. These days, the information is online, just a few keystrokes away."
  • Transparency is important, Staavi says, partly because Norwegians pay high levels of income tax - an average of 40.2% compared to 33.3% in the UK, according to Eurostat, while the EU average is just 30.1%.

    "When you pay that much you have to know that everyone else is doing it, and you have to know that the money goes to something reasonable," he says.

    "We [need to] have trust and confidence in both the tax system and in the social security system."

    This is considered to far outweigh any problems that may be caused by envy.

    In fact, in most workplaces, people have a fairly good idea how much their colleagues are earning, without having to look it up.

    Wages in many sectors are set through collective agreements, and pay gaps are relatively narrow.

    The gender pay gap is also narrow, by international standards. The World Economic Forum ranks Norway third out of 144 countries in terms of wage equality for similar work.

    So the figures that flashed up on Facebook may not have taken many people by surprise. But at a certain point Tom Staavi and others lobbied the government to introduce measures that would encourage people to think twice before snooping on the salary details of a friend, neighbour or colleague.

    People now have to log in using their national ID number in order to access the data on the tax authority's website, and for the last three years it has been impossible to search anonymously.

    "Since 2014 it has been possible to find out who has been doing searches on your information," explains Hans Christian Holte, the head of Norway's tax authority.

    "We saw a significant drop to about a 10th of the volume that was before. I think it has taken out the Peeping Tom mentality."

    There are some three million taxpayers in Norway, out of a total population of 5.2 million. The tax authority logged 16.5 million searches in the year before restrictions were put into place. Today there are around two million searches per year.

    In a recent survey 92% of people said they did not look up friends, family or acquaintances.

    "Earlier I did do searches, but now it's visible if you do it, so I don't do it any more," says a woman I meet on the streets of Oslo, Nelly Bjorge.

    "I was curious about some neighbours, and also about celebrities and royalty. It could be good to know if very rich people are cheating, but you don't always know. Because they have many ways of reducing their income."
  • Can Economists and Humanists Ever Be Friends? - "One discipline reduces behavior to elegantly simple rules; the other wallows in our full, complex particularity. What can they learn from each other?"
  • My preoccupation at that point was with obfuscation and obscurity in the jargon of money, and the way they could be used as a tool to keep laypeople at a distance. The private-equity guy was polite about what I’d said, but added that I had left something out: the way professionals use the language of economics as a tool for dissociating—for switching off their feelings... That, he said, was what the language was for: to let you talk about human realities without feeling their impact—to ignore death.
  • Why Adam Smith wasn't a heartless neoliberal - "The Scottish economist thought purely free markets were a myth and warned of crony capitalism."
posted by kliuless at 3:14 AM on July 18, 2018 [3 favorites]


Norway: The country where no salaries are secret

I've mentioned a few times before on how I think the taboo on this issue is one of the leading causes of working class support of ghastly economic policies that erode their own rights in favour of their bosses. It would be a lot more difficult to explain certain things like working a full time job at a multi-national company and still needing benefits if they realized their CEOs are often making 500 or 1000 times more (or even beyond) than the average worker salary, not to mention women being paid less than a man in exactly the same conditions. Since it's gauche to know what people make, there's absolutely no baseline to compare.

Funny how the pushback against this disparity in the US picked up steam when a provision of Dodd-Frank forced companies to publicly disclose CEO and median worker pay.
posted by lmfsilva at 4:39 AM on July 18, 2018 [2 favorites]


At some point the words are no longer being used to demarcate any clearly defined entities, they're just being used to make rhetorical points.

The NYTimes has an article about the shifting meanings of all these political labels: America Can Never Sort Out Whether ‘Socialism’ Is Marginal or Rising
posted by Noisy Pink Bubbles at 5:55 AM on July 18, 2018


How we lost America to greed and envy - "The poor state of so many Americans is in part the product of plutocratic politics: a relentless and systematic devotion to the interests of the very rich. As I have argued before, a politics of low taxes, low social spending and high inequality is sustainable in a universal suffrage democracy only with a mixture of propaganda in favour of 'trickle down' economics, splitting the less well off on cultural and racial lines, ruthless gerrymandering and outright voter suppression. All this has indeed happened."
posted by kliuless at 6:19 AM on July 18, 2018


I don’t know what they thought the result of “bringing back the material conditions of the late 19th century” was gonna be but here we are.
posted by The Whelk at 6:28 AM on July 18, 2018


I don’t know what they thought the result of “bringing back the material conditions of the late 19th century” was gonna be but here we are.

Well, for certain values of 'they,' I'm assuming it was "with our modern psychological manipulation and surveillance technologies, we can maintain the whole 'untouchable robber baron' thing for way longer than those guys did!"
posted by showbiz_liz at 7:15 AM on July 18, 2018


On the other hand, we have much more sophisticated pitchforks and torches now.
posted by ragtag at 7:27 AM on July 18, 2018 [1 favorite]


On the other hand, we have much more sophisticated pitchforks and torches now

This is certainly true, but I do worry that as push gets closer to shove we're going to need to get serious about building/using ones that aren't connected to kill switches under direct robber baron control.
posted by contraption at 8:06 AM on July 18, 2018 [4 favorites]


They must explain how their version of socialism fits, or doesn’t, into the American political system while showing how, specifically, it is distinct from traditional Democratic Party liberalism.

Although socialism is distinct from traditional liberalism in the US in terms of its theoretical underpinnings, I don't think there needs to be such a sharp boundary between socialism and liberalism in terms of real-world action or even policy within the current US context. The ways in which an imperfectly capitalist society is "imperfect" are in the ways in which it is socialist, and there IS a very strong liberal tradition here of supporting those socialist modifications. Such as, funding public schools and decrying vouchers. Such as, expanding Medicaid. Such as, welfare as a legal entitlement (which it was from the New Deal acts until 1996 welfare reform). Such as, food stamps and WIC. Such as, public works programs like the Hoover dam or the electrification of Appalachia.

What makes socialism distinct from other forms of liberalism is in the question of capitalism and property ownership, but even garden variety liberalism believes in public ownership of public goods. And speaking in macroeconomic terms, there are many public goods that private companies just cannot handle the production and distribution of profitably, and those goods will be produced and distributed by the government rather than through private enterprise even in a perfectly functioning "capitalist" economy. (The classic examples are defense, environmental preservation, health care, education...and you can easily include other things that the public has a strong economic/social interest in everybody having access to even if it's not directly profitable, like food, housing, child care, elder care, transportation, etc). In the US, even public goods are being privatized, though. We're talking Prince's mercenary army, Devos's private and "charter" schools, Medicaid work requirements and the repeal of the ACA, privatization of utilities, etc. There's also the question of transparency -- if we the public own these goods, then we need to be informed and have real decision-making power over their operation and use. Which is feasible in a functional democracy, but not so much in a neo-fascist state. So in real terms, there's not going to be any light between a socialist and a garden variety liberal in today's US, because they are both going to be fighting for public ownership/production/distribution of public goods, democracy, and real government transparency at this point. Every liberal, including socialists, can happily fight for Medicare for all, funding public but not private education, Head Start for all, conservation of public lands, voting rights, etc. And if someone can't even agree with that, maybe they aren't actually liberal, let alone socialist.

Once we stem the tide of privatization and once we have taken on public ownership of all commonly agreed-upon public goods, we might start seeing light between traditional liberals and socialists. At that point, I guess we can start debating what else should be socialized and what else shouldn't. But until then, I think the division is artificial -- and harmful...And really freaking tiresome, when it's used as a jumping off point for snobs of either stripe to play "identity politics grudge match," just saying.
posted by rue72 at 12:43 PM on July 18, 2018 [5 favorites]


Maybe this is more of a MeTa topic, but it gets really hard to follow these threads sometimes when half the people are using the traditional polisci definition of "liberal" and half the people are using the modern colloquial definition of "liberal".
posted by tobascodagama at 1:31 PM on July 18, 2018 [5 favorites]


Booked: The End of an Illusion -interview with with Fred Block, author of Capitalism: The Future of an Illusion.

The premise of the book is that linguistic larceny plays a big role in politics. Between 1890 and 1914, reformist intellectuals in the U.S. and England redefined liberalism from economic liberalism to political liberalism to justify expanding state action to constrain market forces. Free-market thinkers protested against the redefinition, but they were ineffective and the move put them at a huge disadvantage for many decades. Ultimately, many of the Mont Pelerin types relabeled themselves as neoliberals. But they got their revenge by stealing the word capitalism from the left and redefining it as a coherent and unified system that cannot be modified without a huge loss in economic output. It is that view of capitalism that I am calling an illusion.
posted by tofu_crouton at 5:52 AM on July 20, 2018 [2 favorites]




I keep seeing that article posted and want to read it but the LA Times is blocked for me. Mind sharing the gist please?
posted by iamkimiam at 11:11 PM on July 20, 2018


(heads up: if the problem is the LA Times throwing a fit over GPDR, any web proxy thingy with a US server option should work)
posted by lmfsilva at 6:31 AM on July 21, 2018 [1 favorite]


Same article in the wayback machine, which should be accessible from anywhere
posted by vibratory manner of working at 9:28 AM on July 21, 2018


more... posted by kliuless at 7:42 AM on July 22, 2018


(Looks at links...) Well, there goes my week.
posted by daHIFI at 9:58 AM on July 24, 2018




UNDERMINE MARKET MENTALITY would be a good t-shirt.
posted by The Whelk at 12:13 PM on July 25, 2018 [1 favorite]




Democratic socialism, explained by a democratic socialist - Meagan Day, Vox
... In the long run, democratic socialists want to end capitalism. And we want to do that by pursuing a reform agenda today in an effort to revive a politics focused on class hierarchy and inequality in the United States. The eventual goal is to transform the world to promote everyone’s needs rather than to produce massive profits for a small handful of citizens.

Democratic socialists share goals with New Deal liberals. But they want to go further.


Pooling society’s resources to meet people’s basic needs is a tenet of social democracy, one that’s been advocated domestically by much of the labor movement and many of its political supporters among New Deal and post-New Deal liberals. This is a vision we share. But we also want more than FDR did. A robust welfare state in an economy that’s still organized around capitalists’ profits can mitigate the worst inequalities for a while, but it’s at best a temporary truce between bosses and workers — and one that the former will look to scrap as soon as they can.
posted by ZeusHumms at 7:38 AM on August 2, 2018 [1 favorite]


Public service announcement—following a link from this FPP article from April I ended up at https://www.worldsocialism.org/, which currently says
Due to a security incident, the websites for the World Socialist Movement and the Socialist Party of Great Britain are currently down for extended maintenance.

On 6 July 2018 the Socialist Party of Great Britain (SPGB) discovered that a malicious third party had gained control of the worldsocialism.org web server. The server hosts the websites for the SPGB, the World Socialist Movement (WSM), the Socialist Party of Canada (SPC), and the World Socialist Party of New Zealand (WSPNZ).

Once we became aware of the attack, we immediately took the web server offline and began taking steps to assess and repair the damage. Our initial assessment is that the attack took place on or around 30 June 2018 and that it was effected through a security flaw in the content management system that powers the SPGB website. The identity of the attacker is not currently known to us.

The evidence we have examined so far suggests that the attacker had the opportunity to access almost all information stored on the web server, including the SPGB forum's user database. The user database stores passwords in a secure manner, so it is unlikely that the attacker was able to see them. However, the attacker may have been intercepting data submitted through the SPGB website from the time of the attack until yesterday evening. This means that if you logged into the SPGB forum on worldsocialism.org, then the attacker may have your username and password. In any case, if you use the same username/password or e-mail/password combination on both the SPGB forum and on other websites, we advise you to change your password on those other websites immediately.

If you entered any other kind of information (such as submitting a contact form or sending a private message on the SPGB forum) on the websites of the SPGB, the WSM, the SPC, or the WSPNZ, then for now you should proceed on the assumption that that information has been exposed to the attacker.
posted by XMLicious at 10:05 AM on August 8, 2018 [1 favorite]


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