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Everything posted by Laika

  1. The Victims of Communism memorial foundations started doing an annual survey on American's attitudes to Socialism in 2016. As its not a subject that gets much coverage, information on public attitudes is pretty sparse so I thought it would be worth sharing. here is the report: http://victimsofcommunism.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/VOC-Report-101316.pdf The raw data from YouGov is here: http://victimsofcommunism.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/VOC-Attitudes-toward-Socialism-Topline-Data.pdf As a summary here are some details of the reports findings (listed below) from the link here: http://victimsofcommunism.org/new-report-reveals-u-s-attitudes-on-socialism-communism-on-eve-of-2016-election/ Basic Knowledge of Communism is Lacking: · Approximately one in four Americans (26%) and one-third of millennials (32%) believe more people were killed under George W. Bush than Joseph Stalin; · Nearly 7 in 10 (68%) of all Americans and nearly 6 in 10 (59%) of Generation Z (ages 16-20) falsely believe that more people were killed under Hitler than Stalin; · A vast majority (75%) underestimate the number of people killed by Communist regimes (more than 100 million); · Many millennials are unfamiliar with communist leaders – Mao: 42%; Guevara: 40%; Stalin: 18%; Lenin: 33%; Putin 18% · Of those millennials familiar with Vladimir Lenin, 25% have a favorable view of him Younger Americans Have Sharply Different Views of Communism and Socialism than Older Americans: · Roughly half of millennials (55%) believe Communism was and still is a problem – compared with 80% of Baby Boomers and 91% of elderly Americans; · While 57% of all Americans have a “very unfavorable” view of communism, that view is shared by just 37% of millennials and 38% of Generation Z; · 64% of Americans agreed with the classic Karl Marx statement that underpins Marxist philosophy: “from each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs”; · Nearly half of Generation Z (45%) say they would vote for a socialist; 1 in 5 (21%) say they would vote for a communist; Turning Against Capitalism – the “Bernie Sanders Bounce”: · A majority of millennials (53%) believe America’s economic system works against them; · 4 in 10 Americans call for a “complete change” of America’s economic system to ensure highest earners pay their fair share; · 64% of elderly Americans (age 65+) held a favorable view of capitalism, versus 42% of millennials; · Younger Americans were far less likely to agree with ideas of capitalist Milton Friedman (Gen Z: 55%; millennials: 58%) than they were Bernie Sanders (Gen Z: 71%; millennials: 71%). Any Thoughts?
  2. In the UK, the National Health Service has a sort of cult-like status and immunity from criticism. The principle that healthcare should be publicly owned and free at the point of need is not really questioned at all. If a politician said you should privatise the NHS in public, it may come across as a "flat-earther" to a Brit. The UK Libertarian Party appears to share this view and won't touch the issue of privatising the NHS either. I think as far as the brits are concerned, this is partly because healthcare is such a sensitive area as we all will need it at some point, and we are all going to die- so having the NHS there ready, waiting for when the time comes, perhaps makes it more reassuring that when we die it will not be complicated by how much money we have. There are some "positive externalities" from it too as if you are priced out of the market and simply too poor to afford healthcare, you may miss out on vaccinations that offer protection from preventable diseases and so make it easier for them to spread. In a way, its also nice to know that there is some "progress" in healthcare standards and that the government can ensure that the next generation doesn't suffer from diseases that may have existed in the past. no-one wants to be told their kid is going to die from a disease that's curable and its "your fault" for not being able to pay for it. that just doesn't sound even remotely civilised or humane. That's definitely not the case in the US as the fury over "Obama Care"/The Affordable Care Act shows even as Republicans scramble to try and repeal it. I'm guessing the view is defined in relation to the fear of government and the power of life and death (e.g. Sarah Palin's "death panels") but I'm not really sure. Making sure everyone is healthy as an obligation for the government and instituting public health care as a social and economic right would (it appear) be self-evidently a good thing. It may be something that as a brit I'm just too used to in order to see the other side of the argument. I'm guessing Objectivists won't support public healthcare and would privatise the NHS. Am I right on this? why would you do it and what do you think the benifits of doing so would be?
  3. because if I want to be an objectivist in real life, I'd (probably) have to be prepared to support private health care as a voluntary exchange based on the market. it is far easier to criticise something than to support something (especially with abstract principles), as the latter involves commitment and risk of failure, discovering the limits of our understanding and reason or making a mistake. supporting something is a much better reflection of productivity and integrity as you have to create. I could criticise capitalism all day, but that doesn't make the alternative good does it?
  4. About a year ago I would have agreed with you on North Korea then I had a better look at the literature. If I had to describe it, it is a specifically "Korean" version of Stalinist Marxism that traces its intellectual ancestry through Chinese Marxism and Maoism, rather than directly from the "Classical Marxism" of Marx and Engels from Western European sources. For North Korea it's taking Marx from second and third hand sources smuggled by the underground from the USSR to China during the Japanese Occupation of Korea probably going through several translations in different languages, which is why its so unfamiliar (so it's literally "Chinese whispers"). Here is the USA Korean Friendship Associations response to the same question: What is the Interrelationship Between the Juche Idea and Marxism-Leninism and What is the View of the Juche Idea on Marxism? Answer to the question by the delegation of the institute of philosophy, psychology and law, Mongolian Academy of Science: The Juche idea is a new and original philosophical idea that clarifies the man-centered philosophical principle. But it does not mean that the Juche idea has nothing common with Marxism-Leninism or the former denies the latter. The basic principles of Marxism-Leninism are the truth. The Juche idea has a close connection with Marxism-Leninism with commonness in its mission and class ideal. In other words, the Juche idea inherits the mission and class principle of Marxism-Leninism. The Juche idea approves the truthfulness of Marxism-Leninism and regards it as its presupposition. The Juche idea is a theory founded, developed and enriched in the course of applying and developing it creatively in accordance with requirements of the revolutionary practice in our times. However, the historical exploit of the Juche idea is not to have developed Marxism-Leninism but to have clarified a new man-centered philosophical principle. In a word, there is inheritance between the Juche idea and Marxism-Leninism, but the main is the originality of the Juche idea. The Juche idea approves historical exploits of Marxism-Leninism, but does not consider it as a complete revolutionary idea of the working class. [internet traffic to the site is probably watched but here's the link https://www.kfausa.org/interrelationship-juche-idea-marxism-leninism-view-juche-idea-marxism/ ] For the direct source from Kim Jong il 1996 clarification on the issue, see the link here: http://www.oneparty.co.uk/html/juche19.html As far as Communists defending Capitalism is concerned, the "rightists" will defend the use of "commodity relations" under Socialism (i.e. market systems of exchange). Given that Marxism originated from Classical Economics, it shouldn't be a huge surprise if there is overlap. Marxism isn't about moral objections to capitalism but a pseudo-scientific critique of market relations. So Marxists hands aren't quite so tied by anti-capitalist morals. it really depends on the context. One of Marxism's dirty little secrets is Karl Marx's defence of Free Trade in 1848, a position that was rejected by Socialists and Communists since based on the need to "reform" capitalism in the interests of the working class. "But, generally speaking, the Protective system in these days is conservative, while the Free Trade system works destructively. It breaks up old nationalities and carries antagonism of proletariat and bourgeoisie to the uttermost point. In a word, the Free Trade system hastens the Social Revolution. In this revolutionary sense alone, gentlemen, I am in favor of Free Trade." http://mailstar.net/classwar.html Here is Stalin's attack on "levelling of wages" (i.e. equality of outcome) from a speech in 1931. What is the cause of the fluidity of manpower? The cause is the wrong structure of wages, the wrong wage scales, the "Leftist" practice of wage equalisation. In a number of factories wage scales are drawn up in such a way as to practically wipe out the difference between skilled and unskilled labour, between heavy and light work. The consequence of wage equalisation is that the unskilled worker lacks the incentive to become a skilled worker and is thus deprived of the prospect of advancement; as a result he feels himself a "visitor" in the factory, working only temporarily so as to "earn a little money" and then go off to "try his luck" in some other place. The consequence of wage equalisation is that the skilled worker is obliged to go from factory to factory until he finds one where his skill is properly appreciated. Hence, the "general" drift from factory to factory; hence, the fluidity of manpower. In order to put an end to this evil we must abolish wage equalisation and discard the old wage scales. In order to put an end to this evil we must draw up wage scales that will take into account the difference between skilled and unskilled labour, between heavy and light work. We cannot tolerate a situation where a rolling-mill worker in the iron and steel industry earns no more than a sweeper. We cannot tolerate a situation where a locomotive driver earns only as much as a copying clerk. Marx and Lenin said that the difference between skilled and unskilled labour would exist even under socialism, even after classes had been abolished; that only under communism would this difference disappear and that, consequently, even under socialism "wages" must be paid according to work performed and not according to needs. But the equalitarians among our economic executives and trade-union officials do not agree with this and believe that under our Soviet system this difference has already disappeared. Who is right, Marx and Lenin or the equalitarians? It must be assumed that it is Marx and Lenin who are right. But it follows from this that whoever draws up wage scales on the "principle" of wage equalisation, without taking into account the difference between skilled and unskilled labour, breaks with Marxism, breaks with Leninism. see second section on wages: https://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/stalin/works/1931/06/23.htm
  5. the alternative to reasoning with Marxists is to accept that coercion is necessary because people have such a fixed and unchanging view. the futility of non-rational reasoning is perhaps the lesser evil, but it depends on your values. The marxist attitude is "if it works- do it" as its the results not the intentions that matter so using non-rational methods (like propaganda) is fine for them if it helps fulfil their ultimate objectives. It is also why Marxists so often head down the road to violence because it is the "quickest" way of changing things- but by no means the most effective when taken from a long-term perspective. Even under the threat of persecution, over half of the Soviet Population responded to the 1937 census as believers in a some sort of god in the hope it would get the government to back off and let them worship in peace. It was a major embarrassment equivalent to Saudi Arabia or Iran today finding out a majority of its population were atheists as a threat to the legitimacy of the state- so the Soviet just didn't publish the result. Their anti-religious policies as an attempt to change hearts and minds were a failure- even when the threat of violence was explicitly used. The reverse- that Communists won't change their views due to the threat or reality of violence, would also appear to be true if you take the Vietnam war as an example. peasants on bicycles beat B-52 bombers that dropped three times as much explosives on the country as the whole of world war II. When you go up against the most powerful country on earth, there had to be someone on the other side thinking, "oh, whats the point!" There is also the fact that, in the end, wars must end with peace and at least one side has to sit down and agree to surrender, or else both must give a little bit to call a truce. the government may try to pretend its "tough" but it will get round the negotiating table and talk to terrorists eventually. Attempts to wipe out the enemy almost never work and take a major toll on the participants because its so contrary to the human impulse to empathise as social animals. If ISIS had kept going- some accommodation would had to have been reached, principled or not (thankfully its losing and thats the best outcome really). Historically, there have been periods of liberalisation of Communism, reflecting a diversity of approaches as to "how" communism is best achieved even within Communist Parties themselves. These are "relatively" liberal to what goes before and after, such as the New Economic Policy under Lenin, the Secret Speech and De-Stalinisation under Khrushchev, Perstroika and Glasnot with Gorbachev, and Deng Xio Peng's economic reforms after the Cultural Revolution in China. These more "rightist" positions crop up every now and then. The more extreme left sections of the Communist Movement still have an ablity to grasp "reality", such as Stalin's decision to take the USSR along the road of "Socialism in One Country" and post-pone world revolution, or in introducing material incentives, competition and economic inequality into the Soviet Economic model during the 1930's. Stalin's rival, Leon Trotsky was an advocate of the militarisation of labour during War communism but made an early suggestion of the need to shift towards a more market based system. Realising how unprepared the USSR was for a war, Stalin was prepared to do a deal with the devil in the Nazi-Soviet pact (it didn't help in the end but it bought time much like appeasement in Czechoslovakia did for the UK and France). Neither Khrushchev nor Kennedy wanted a Nuclear War over Cuba in 1962 though Castro, Che and Mao did make statements that they were willing to do so much to Khrushchev's horror. There is a certain pragmatism in Communist ideology that means it does have *some* relationship with reality as objectivists would understand it. the problem is getting a Communist to distinguish between the sense that compromise with "class enemies" as a form of ideological weakness from compromise with reality, facts and uncomfortable truths. the greatest disasters such as the Ukrainan Famine and the Great leap Forward came from wanting to "make" reality conform with the theory and ignoring real obstacles in the way that could well be articulated in Communist theory (i.e. "not having enough food kills people" is a pretty obvious one). In so far as they accept their is *some* objective truth and the need to find solutions that "work" to achieve their own ideological ends there is room for manoeuvre but its not obvious to those outside of the movement because its all a big red blur and the ideology- as a way to process reality- isn't taken seriously. Richard Nixon, for all his faults, did actually try to understand Communist ideology better (see link below) and used it to exploit the Split between the USSR and China to achieve a thaw in relations with China on which US-China relations continue to be built this day. Given that Nixon rose to prominence based in the McCarthy era, I've had a grudging respect that he had the insight to try to understand what the enemy was actually fighting for and not fear a deeper knowledge of their views as some kind of corruption. Trust me- if you're a communist and someone says "communism works in theory but doesn't work in practice" for the thousandth time as if they had suddenly come up with an entirely original view- its no wonder you'd be driven to absurd levels of violence like slamming their head against the pavement just out of frustration and contempt. Informed, relatively respectful critics of communism with an understanding of Marxist theory are a rarity and the more honest and sincere Communists don't know how to deal with them. the ultra-leftist morons will have a fit based on the belief that there should be no compromise with the "class enemy" like the way racist or fascist are used nowadays to shut down the conservation (and anti-communists will do the same thing to "Pinkos", "reds" and "liberals" because "appeasement" is treated as weakness). showing you know something about a group of people you disagree with, can handle disagreement and have some common understanding is a good place to start as a basis for trust and negotiation. http://watergate.info/1960/08/21/nixon-the-meaning-of-communism-to-americans.html So yeah, it can work- but you need to find Communists who are willing to negotiate. it's worth keeping in mind that the US and North Korea will probably be forced to the negotiating table again unless they are willing to go through with a nuclear holocaust. North Korea is definitely *crazy* but there is method in the maddness if you read the literature. They believe in self-reliance (or "juche") and don't want to be dependent on anyone to protect their own security- so they want their own nukes and dont want to have to rely on China. ideologically, there is room for compromise there unless you are dealing with an ultra-left nut job who values their ideals above their own existence. the fanatics are genuinely dangerous because they've lost touch with reality and their own humanity. Americans may not like the compromise that's reached but its still the lesser evil to nuclear war or a long US occupation in a country that has been preparing for war, indoctrinated its people to hate americans and die for the dear leader for the past 60 years. I can't say whether that view is compatable with objectivist ethics, but there is a window of opportunity if you are willing to "know thy enemy" and use it to your advantage. it may not be principled but it can work.
  6. What would you have done differently to make the survey better? Do you have a set of questions in mind? The level of information about American Attitudes to Communism is very small, so I think the survey is perhaps better than nothing (though it is quite distorted and limited). Interestingly, there has been a spike in membership growth for the Democratic Socialists of American (from 6,000 to 21,000) and the Communist Party USA (up 600 members in the last two months of 2016) as a result of Trumps election. Overall, this is a very slight change and can't really be said to be a trend in the US overall because the socialist/communist left is so small, but that correspond with the shift in attitudes the survey indicates.
  7. Do you think that Capitalism will collapse by the end of the current century? Its becoming more obvious that there are major problems with how resources are allocated and used in the world economy. A "collapse", if it happened, would necessarily be global because of how globalisation has interconnected our economic and political destinies. I realise you could argue it either way- that it is the fault of capitalism, or that it is the by-product of distortions of "crony capitalism" and "corporate capitalism" in free, competitive markets, and that such a collapse would also hurt the non-capitalist countries (debatably, China and North Korea). It is however true that Capitalism can only collapse if people consciously decide to bring it down, whether by social revolution or by breaking the social contract and deciding its better to go our separate ways in anarchy or civil war. the weakening of free institutions, through apathy and cynicism from below, and creeping authoritarianism from above, is not a good sign. here's a few reasons why I think Capitalism may collapse. Climate Change and Environmental Problems: Ultimately, "free" societies are a privilege and a luxury of economies that have attained a sufficiently high level of production that they no longer need to use direct coercion, but can use voluntary exchanges within the market instead. Environmental Problems threaten to bring about an era of food and water insecurity (and if you include peak oil, energy insecurity) and this is not likely to be conducive to political stability at all. Ultimately, this is a major mis-allocation of resources as short-term profits take precedence over the long-term sustainability of maintaining resources and a failure to invest or innovate by new technologies and organisational structures that could address these problems. Consumerism: the irrational nature of expectations in the market means that people and institutions have become "addicted" to growth and consumption. This makes society less adaptable and people more irritable to falls in living standards. So the unrealistic expectations (perhaps "entitlement" if you want to call it that) make political extremism and instability more likely as people value instant gratification over the long-term stability of free institutions. Income Inequality and Corporate Capitalism: Whilst a certain level of income inequality may be healthy, the problem is that its got out of control. It doesn't reflect competition in the marketplace, but the concentration of economic power in the hands of the big banks and large corporations to "reallocate" resources to the wealthy. This is bad news because, it is the Middle Class which provides an economic basis for stability in developed countries. If the middle class begins to crumble, people no longer have an economic incentive to be part of the system. This is particularly true of young people, where opportunities to benefit from capitalism are getting harder and harder to find as social mobility gets lower. The failure of Democracy: the economic power and influence of large corporations means they are able to make democratic governments serve their interests, and hence are resistant to attempts at reform (whether they come from the left or the right). The Media: not sure where to start, but you have the combination of a highly concentrated media ownership with TV, newspapers, etc as sources of information, combined with the disruptive effects of the internet which has, by turning clicks, shares and views into the currency of social media, helped create an environment in which spreading "fake news", sensationalist stories, along with conspiracy theories into a major commercial enterprise. the incentives are there for people who want to make money, and they are rewarded for manipulating the public. Whether its a question of free economic and political institution, having people being badly informed and making less than rational decisions, is highly corrosive. On top of this, is a heavy dose of cultural pessimism that either reflects or perpetuates social decline and serves elites by getting people to stop believing that change is possible. The War on Terror and Religious Resurgence: I'm throwing this one in because I tend to think Capitalism can only work as a secular set of institutions, in which a person's religious beliefs are "private" and not a public/political concern. Both Christian and Islamic Fundamentalism have been on the rise for several decades, and the threat of Islamic Terrorism has been used to strengthen the hand of the state to invade people's lives and other countries (often only making the problem worse). the retreat of secularism isn't very good for capitalism because economic growth relies on the advance of Science, and if science and reason come under attack- capitalism will follow. I could probably think of others, but I think we'll just go with those ones for starters. Any Thoughts?
  8. Not a subject I know well, so bare with me... From a more leftist point of view the American Colonies and the early United States may have had the greatest level of income equality in the world. it wasn't until the late 19th century that "class" politics really came in, so its a rare instance that you can argue that liberty, equality and early modes of capitalism were aligned. https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2012/09/us-income-inequality-its-worse-today-than-it-was-in-1774/262537/ (I haven't read it but) here's the original research paper: http://www.nber.org/papers/w18396.pdf The attitudes towards women's rights were also comparatively more "progressive" than they were in the late 19th century as they were much more informal and so the boundaries were less strictly regulated. This is not to say they were "equal" but it doesn't fit into crude stereotypes of "sexism" and "patriarchy". http://americanhistory.oxfordre.com/view/10.1093/acrefore/9780199329175.001.0001/acrefore-9780199329175-e-216 About 9000 blacks fought on the Patriot side of the Revolution, but they also fought on the British-colonial side as well with the desire for liberty being a major factor in them participating. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/African_Americans_in_the_Revolutionary_War However, for Native Americans it was really bad news because tribes generally favoured British colonial authorities who promises limits to American territorial expansion and so supported the losing side. http://www.ushistory.org/us/13f.asp The absolutism of "the left" is very deceptive and history is often far more complex and nuanced than the weaponisation of liberal guilt for propaganda purposes. This doesn't mean that Slavery isn't a stain on Americans national conscience, but rather that simplistic narratives of imposing present day controversies and stereotypes on the past are dis-ingenious and irrational attempts to legitimate grievances. if people want to deal with present day problems- they should be talking about the present day as that is something you can change. Institutional racism by the police and the "Prison-industrial complex" do align with libertarian narratives up to a point in that it represents a violation of equality before the law, and that prison populations have exploded due to the war on drugs against a victim-less crime. Beyond legal equality and equal opportunities, its gets harder for the right to do much. Thomas Sowell (an Ex-marxist turned conservative) may be useful in shining a light academic objections to studies on institutional racism. Racism is a intellectually and emotionally difficult subject for the left because, more than likely, the author is a white suburban middle class college educated leftist whose concern with African Americans is driven by ignorance and opportunism, if not hypocrisy and even cynicism if its truly degenerate. the fact that "race" has become a popular issue doesn't mean that people understand it as part of the big picture or have viable solutions for the problem. Even for sincere egalitarians, it is dangerous pushing such narratives if they in fact perpetuates the "white man's burden" of civilising blacks as the white left must "save" blacks rather than fostering ideals of self-emancipation and individual dignity. the line between emancipation and oppression is very thin, and its as thin for the left as for anyone else so its not possible to take a clear "moral high-ground". slavery dirties everyone. the rational argument is at a minimum against hysterics but easily for an open, honest and informed discussion of the legacy of slavery and other abuses. we may be products of our own history but we are not prisoners of it. the left has its moments, but extremism is not an end in itself. whether in terms of rhetoric or violence, left-wing extremism can only be a means and it must make a rational and intellectually sound case for its own argument that can stand up to its opponents. if they can't do that- they are betraying their own ideals and revealing the insincerity and destructiveness of altruist and collectivist moralities. In so far as knowledge and truth is the legitimate basis of political power, the lefts failure to realise its own ideals benefits the right if they have better arguments and can come up with the solutions.
  9. It might be worth getting this thread moved to the "Questions of Objectivism" sub-forum and have it pinned so people can keep adding links and resources to it so there is some quick reference material available for people new to the forum. Edit: there is already a pinned thread on studying Objectivism here so maybe add this to there: btw, that's a really great selection of resources. Its especially good to see how varied it is and that its not only coming from Rand herself but from the broader Objectivist movement. I'll have to come back and read more to do it justice.
  10. Did Rand believe that "purpose" and "productiveness" were in conflict somehow? Or is it to do with another person's purpose becoming our own (and hence submitting to authority) through altruism?
  11. I think you could go the wrong way if you make the argument is simply "Anti-Marxist". Marxists specialise in deconstructing arguments in "critical theory" and you can't really "win" the argument with a Marxist by going negative. Its the fact that Capitalism, to one extent or another, helped bring about a middle class, free democratic societies, the rule of law and major scientific and technological advances that really counts. Its often things we take for granted and making people remember them can be useful. In the current political climate, the real battle is making a positive case for Capitalism (in the midst of the economic crisis and austerity) and Liberty (when free, democratic institutions are under attack). Marxism appeals because of its utopianism and, even with all the other layers of hatred, envy, fear, etc, its the positivity in believing human beings are connected to a bigger picture, that gives individuals significance and means they believe they can change things that really grips people. people want to matter and to make a difference, so its all about making people believe in themselves and giving them the confidence to try (then it just becomes self-reinforcing). If you want to make fanatics for Capitalism, you need to give them a reason to get out of bed in the morning other than following an anonymous routine of going to work. They need to think it matters as part of the human desire to rise above our animal state and as a source of achievement and self-worth. you give them a "bigger picture" to be part of. [edit: in marketing terms, you sell them a positive self-image based on personal growth that they can achieve and aspire to.]
  12. Ok. I wasn't 100% sure. The internet doesn't communicate the tone of comments very well. so no worries. In fairness, you're perfectly entitled to point out the inconsistencies in my post. Dialectics is a maze and its easy to get lost. The problem is in trying to come to terms with Marxism being evil and yet so very human. its very "raw" set of emotions, personal and difficult to communicate. Orwell was right when he said that in principle "the party" would go as far as to say 2+2=5 but actually re-learning how to think is a messy business. I hope that sharing the experience still have value though.
  13. Feel free to pose any question you wish and I will answer it honestly. If you want me to provide detailed sources so you know I am telling what I believe to be the truth, I will. I can't really say any more than that... *shrugs* whether you are dealing with a Marxist or not, the evidence is still the basis of any rational judgement. Not simply the person saying it.
  14. Global warming and Resource scarcity. Malthusian arguments are opposed to both centralised planning and free markets based on economic growth, so they are damaging regardless of the economic system involved.
  15. In the "collapse of Capitalism" thread Software Nerd mentioned Julian Simon in a post, and I decided to have a look into his ideas. I have been trying to get a better understanding of his view that humanity is not running out of natural resources as a form of "cornucopianism". I don't know a lot about him or have a view on him, but knowing he had depression as an experience I share, I can understand and sympathise with why he'd take the view he did. thinking about the end of the world is less than cheerful. The "Malthusian" view is up for debate, both because it's only one interpretation of the evidence with limited demonstrated predictive ability, involves potentially unnecessary coercive policies and relies on focusing on short-term limits on "land"/natural resources as a factor of production. The underlying values behind Malthus, originating from Christian conception of Mankind's "original sin" and inability to exercise "self-restraint" (whether it is regarding sex/population or "greed"/resources) are not position I subscribe to and are not consistent with my values. However, Malthusian views get much more coverage in the media than the opposing view (which is treated simply as "denial"). I suspect that climate change and resource limits will be an issue for the next century but that they are not beyond the human capacity to solve (given the money, resources and investment). we can go into outer space after all in the very long run and that can provide sources of key minerals that may be limited on earth. Either way, "trying" to do something is better than fatalistic resignation which seems to be the mood coming out of the environmental movement. The "alarmists" have asserted that a Malthusian catastrophe is on the way, but have proposed virtually no "real" solutions to it (beyond "change your light bulb, don't mix glass with plastics" which don't deal with the magnitude of the problem). At the heart of it, they believe that the problem is inherent in human nature- and that it is man himself not a particular pattern of development or specific technologies- that are at fault. It's dressed up as Anti-Capitalism but is in fact Anti-Humanism (as evidenced by the fact they oppose the Soviets as well for following a model of "unsustainable" economic growth and industrialisation). I'm not seeing the value of this kind of fatalism and depression in dealing with these problems and that ultimately the "end of the world" view is counter-productive to dealing with the problems themselves by talking down the human capacity to innovate. As this is new and unfamiliar territory, I want to ask where I should be looking for really good resources to challenge the doomsday scenario. Any suggestions?
  16. I agree with you on that. The emotional openness to opposing arguments is crucial to marxism's development but also uncharacteristic of Marxists both historically and in the present day. In my experience, I simply haven't met anyone of the Marxist-Communist persuasion who was really willing to be that open and honest. Not once have I met a Communist who could actually say "we killed innocent people and we were wrong to do so", nor really be open about whether that was what they would want. it was always disguised by political language of "class struggle", "dictatorship" and never really comprehended on a "human" level of experience, with all the personal turmoil and conflict that comes from caring about people- friends and so-called "enemies". That was a pretty strong indicator against the communist ideal of the "new man" as a noble and heroic standard bearer of "social justice" because it meant that the source of communist ideology couldn't be as simple as commitment to truth as a legitimate and moral source of political power. To give an example, here's a quote from Felix Dzerzhinsky's prison diary: ...Where lies the way out of the hell of present-day life, in which the wolfish law of exploitation, oppression and violence holds sway? The way out lies in the idea of a life which is based on harmony, a full life enjoyed by the whole of society, by all mankind; the way out is in the idea of socialism, the idea of solidarity of the working people. This idea is already approaching realisation, the people are ready to receive it with open arms. The time for it has already arrived. The ranks of the advocates of this idea must be united and the banner carried aloft so that the people see it and follow it. And today this is the most urgent of the tasks of Social-Democracy, of the tasks of the small handful that survives. Socialism should cease to be only the scientific prevision of the future. It should become the torch that kindles indomitable faith and energy in the hearts of people.... its a humane, bold and a courageous statement of socialist principle. And it makes absolutely no sense given that Dzerzhinsky was the founder of the Cheka, the soviet secret police that would torture and kill the regimes opponents: “We stand for organized terror - this should be frankly admitted. Terror is an absolute necessity during times of revolution. Our aim is to fight against the enemies of the Soviet Government and of the new order of life. We judge quickly. In most cases only a day passes between the apprehension of the criminal and his sentence. When confronted with evidence criminals in almost every case confess; and what argument can have greater weight than a criminal's own confession?” There is virtually no statement regarding Marxist ethics systematic enough to explain how its possible to say the first quote and then say the second quote. The truth is, the Communists never even tried to develop a Marxist system of ethics (beyond a single statement by Lenin saying ethics are subordinate to class struggle), nor is it obvious how logic, reason, ideology or even emotion can make the leap. the closest approximation is Trotsky's "Communism and Terrorism". As damning as it is for its defence of terror, censorship and forced labour, its also very superficial in that the "enemies of the people" are never treated as more than a mere abstraction. there's no real discussion of the moral meaning of the state having the power to decide who lives and who dies based on an introspective emotional or existential awareness of human frailty or fallibility. the same "lack of an argument" is common through out Marxist literature so it cannot be said to be rational even by Marxist standards. there is only an eerie silence. its hard to tell what could be more chilling; killing 100 million people because you believe it was right, or because they didn't need a reason to do it at all. The problem with Communism isn't so much a question of facts, though Communists have become extremely good at ignoring facts. Facts do not exist in isolation from reasoning and means we attribute cause and effect to different facts, and give them significance. i.e. Was the collapse of the USSR the result of causes within socialism itself or somehow the result of forces outside of and alien or hostile to Socialism? Were the Purges the result of Stalinist ideology and its propensity to paranoia or was the paranoia a justifiable attempt to maintain ideological purity and orthodoxy in the face of counter-revolutionary forces? You can go on like this and personally its not clear why one interpretation is better than the other and emotions played a pretty powerful role in my originally favouring Marxist interpretation over alternatives. the inner struggle wears you out and you want something "more". So I can only conclude that my preference for Marxism was at least in part deeply irrational. its still been a valuable experience into the human condition though.
  17. An idea that comes up in science fiction is that in space the "air" is privately owned and so people have to "pay to breathe". the idea was used in Total Recall but I remembered it as it came up in a recent episode of Doctor Who (ep. 5 series 12. "Oxygen"). In so far as the air becomes something that has to be produced to create a habitable environment and then regulated within capitalist property relations as a commodity, this is possible. Moreover, the nature of space travel means this is more likely to produce local monopolies with a particular ship running on a particular air supplier. So it would be difficult to have competition in the air supply.
  18. In terms of ethics, the company has violated the right to self-ownership "unless you offer your body to the person in charge of transportation" and "managers make employers strip off their clothes, defecate, and then smear themselves with their own feces before they can pick up their pay-check". However, in terms of actual power relations- I wouldn't know how to actually defend those rights without exercising a right to self-defence against the employers/management. edit: the best comparison for the early stages of space exploration is the European voyages of discovery, when people set off to draw the map and navigate the unknown in the hope of finding riches on the other side of the ocean. There were considerable risks (and I think a large portion of the crews were forced to join) but this is not "unknown" in human history. Its going to be on a much larger scale in terms of distance and that they will be relying entirely on their own resources (including oxygen, plants, animals, etc. ) to keep moving and to colonise moons and planets. the situation and technologies involved may be somewhat different but the "human" factor and potential for abuse remains largely the same.
  19. One of the responses to Climate Change that has had increasing attention is the idea of "engineering" the climate. this is still peripheral to discussions of climate change but may become more important as time goes on as a "techno-fix" if we fail to reduce emissions quickly enough to avert catastrophic climate change. It could be argued that by emitting greenhouse gases we are already engaged in an uncontrolled experiment with the Climate, and that climate engineering is simply trying to take control of something we are already doing. Broadly, Climate Engineering technologies divide into two types; solar radiation management and carbon dioxide removal from the atmosphere. it raises a lot of questions about the impacts of using the technology, how its use is governed internationally, the level of uncertainty in manipulating the earth's thermostat, if climate engineering creates a moral hazard so that we won't actually reduce greenhouse gas emissions as fast as we could and whether this is an emergency measure or is in fact the realisation of an ideal of man's mastery over nature. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Climate_engineering I'm was wondering what people's thoughts are on Climate Engineering and if there are any strong opinions favouring or opposing it?
  20. I imagine that, up to a point, the moral case for fossil fuels is ultimately the moral case for economic growth as a method of improving people's lives. It may perhaps be able to reconcile that with environmentalism by "humanising" it rather than treating human beings as "the enemy" of the planet. the central problem is the use of guilt and fear by the environmental movement to force people to fit into a crippling altruistic ideal of "sustainability". What that means in practice, I'm not sure. But there definitely need to be a humanisation of the environmental movement if they seriously want to achieve change. they can't advocate changes that go contary to fundamentally human interests in development. Rather they need to make climate change a human issue about socio-economic improvement not an environmental one opposed to material interests.
  21. As ironic as it may sound, perhaps the best approach with the "ordinary" Marxist (usually found on a University Campus) is a libertarian one. Think of a discussion as a mutually beneficial exchange of ideas in which you say one thing and they say the other. There will be differences of opinion, but that is not necessarily threatening and being open to exploring those differences can be rewarding. The thing to remember is that you cannot "pressure" Marxists or "coerce" them into giving up their beliefs by hysterics or appeals to ethical absolutes. that wouldn't work with anyone, and trying it with a marxist serves as evidence of how little respect you have for them as people trying to reason there way through the world. the truth is not enough- they desperately want people's respect because being "dedicated" to the cause is an attempt to have self-worth. The crucial thing is to NOT make a big deal out of it because Marxism, as a totalitarian ideology, is identical with the self. So an attack on Marxism is received as an attack on the Marxist's sense of self worth. If the goal is to "convert" a marxist over, be prepared to be flexible and do what works- not what we may instintively feel is "right" like telling them to go and live in North Korea (or whatever). you have to slowly encourage a separation between Marxism as an idea, and that "marxists" sense of self by showing they are in conflict. That's more to do with the person and what they want and thinking that Marxism is a means of achieving what they want. the trouble is the degree to which the "selfish" reasons to be a Marxist are rationalised and covered up by "altruistic" ideology. getting a Marxist to be specific about what they want, to try to become informed on specific subjects rather than sticking to vague "general principles" can plant the seeds of clear thinking. rather than saying "that can't work" go for "how would that work?" and you'll quickly see how much they actually know (often its very little). Only a handful of Marxists will have developed a really complete understanding of what they'd actually do if they got power- the rest of them are being used by empty promises of a "better world". Marxism is primarily (but by no means exclusively) an emotional response to people's suffering and the longing that human beings may enjoy a "humane" condition. It is built around a sense of grievance, victim hood and identification with "victims". It is only when you grasp that behind the mask of militancy lies a deep sense of vulnerability, of feeling at the mercy of market forces out of control, of being afraid of losing in the "anarchy" of competition, of not having "individuality" without property, or "oppressed" by a exploiting ruling class, that the humanity of marxists becomes clear. something had to go badly wrong for them to end up this way and they are often grappling with legitimate personal problems that they themselves feel they cannot change or control. So they look for a magic bullet to "change the world" and solve it for them. at its core- its selfish in wanting to not be overwhelmed or over-powered. Sadly, Marxists have chosen to respond to this vulnerability with a semi-conscious efforts to control their environment and surroundings through "planning" and ultimately, this means controlling people themselves (and being controlled). Often it can be more subtle in terms of adhering to a philosophical system that claim to explain, predict (and therefore control) everything as a "science". If you make a Marxist feel threatened- they will lose it and that will be the end of the discussion. all that vulnerability is a recipe for hatred, greed, lust and every other temptation known to man and its once you start to get the dissonance between the "ideal" and the "personal" that things really start to change. just like anyone else, they have things that set them off and limits to what they will discuss. you have to make them realise that if they had power- they would abuse it for their own selfish ends. it has to become personal and not just an abstract happening somewhere else to someone else in the world. That takes something "special" because the healthy part of the personality has to care about what would actually happen. its is a real turning point in a person's life and it can't be forced. From the outside, you can't help them- but you can help them help themselves. The trick is to respect them as people, recognise the vulnerability but suggest that they are being used and that the desire for control will not make them free or even safe from the things they are afraid of. This doesn't have to be big or dramatic but a steady "dripping tap" of doubts and insights that shows that- as emotionally invested as they are, as much as they want it to work and be true- they have let other use their vulnerability to become victims of a totalitarian ideology and system, and would readily betray their own ideals if they were even given the power because of how vulnerable they are. they have to create and find their own sense of value by becoming individuals.
  22. [I thought it was better to use an old thread rather than start a new one...] Economic (Left): -0.88 Social (Libertarian): -2.31 That's easily the most right-wing I've ever been and pretty close to the most authoritarian I've ever been too. When I was maybe 20, I was about -7,-7 deep in the Libertarian Left/Green Square. I was never able to pull off being in the Authoritarian Left/Red Square even during my most rabid Marxist days. political compass may under-estimate left-wing authoritarianism because it treats secular-rationalist views as automatically libertarianism. I've still have moderated a lot over time even if this is still the most left-wing result in this thread. I'll have to wait and see if it stays that way.
  23. yeah, that's more or less what I'm wondering. Marxists and Libertarians agree largely on the problems of the current society of arbitrary government and corporate power but disagree on the causes and the solutions. So I'm trying to think outside my own box and see how some of the issues that really bother me appear from the other end of the political spectrum (and whether that analysis is better or has insights I might have missed). I think the error of the labour theory of value is in postulating a sort of "pure" conception of utility that exists independently of the market as a means of evaluating a resources value. its going to be something I will need to look at. I got a copy of Capitalism: The unknown ideal yesterday (and reached chapter 5 this morning). its refreshingly bold and will make my head spin for a while. its pretty clear just how big the gulf between left and right ways of thinking on these questions are so I will just have to keep going. The section on anti-trust laws more than likely answers my question by arguing that economic and political power are not equivalent because political power rests on force/violence whereas economic power does not. the "bigness" of a company is a sign of its success and the result of accumulated voluntary transactions. I've not heard anyone put it in those terms before and couldn't really argue against it. I guess the issue is who decides that the reason why someone buys something is "stupid" to begin with, as that implies coercion in undermining a person's autonomy. I was more worried about how something like Television can be used to by-pass the rational side of the brain and appeal directly to the emotional part. whether its used for political or commercial reasons, that struck me as very corrosive to free thought. In Randian terms, its an appeal to the subjectivist value of what is "good" as a property of the mind and of emotions. That could be coercive in that what feels good becomes the norm of human behaviour by taking away from the human part and making us more into animals to be herded into Black Friday sales. I guess I'm horrified by how de-humanising it is for people to become a single unthinking collective mass in the name of shopping. In terms of its motivations, its a small step from that to Nuremberg Rallies if you change the symbolism. mobs are pretty scary whatever reason they form.
  24. thanks for your reply. Its certainly interesting to hear the argument framed in those terms and I agree that ideology does play a role in how Climate Change has been turned into a doomsday prophesy. Have you read Robert Zubrin's "The Merchants of Despair" as describing environmental restriction as anti-man and anti-life sounds very like what he wrote? It is a legitimate question as to why man's emissions are considered "unnatural" against "natural" emissions from cows and volcanoes. At a guess, it betrays a sense that man's emissions are under our conscious and collective control and therefore they are a "choice" that we can be held responsible for. However, in the competitive marketplace in which decision-making is decentralised, only individuals and companies can decide what their emissions are in isolation. So framing the argument in that way is a justification for state intervention. Of course, if state intervention were acceptable or effective as a remedy, the reality is that there is only a degree of control over emissions and so there is no way to cut emissions overnight without drastic effects on the economy by attacking its current technological base built on fossil fuels. So much of the leftist medias rhetoric is a load of hot air (if you'll forgive the pun).
  25. I'll probably have to take your advice in the long-run. I got Capitalism: the unknown ideal through the post today and started flicking through the introduction.