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152 Responses

  1. Joe
    Joe September 22, 2011 at 9:35 pm |

    Your posts on this blog have been terrific. Feministe used to be just one of the many progressive blogs I subscribed to, but it’s rapidly becoming one of my favorites. Thanks.

  2. tomoe gozen
    tomoe gozen September 22, 2011 at 9:36 pm |

    “Capitalism will always be around forever.”

    An attitude that Mark Fisher has dubbed ‘capitalist realism’. He’s written an excellent book by the same name.

  3. Clarissa
    Clarissa September 22, 2011 at 9:52 pm |

    Feminists are so attached to capitalism because there would be no feminism without capitalism: http://clarissasblog.com/2011/08/03/feminism-and-capitalism/

  4. PrettyAmiable
    PrettyAmiable September 22, 2011 at 10:02 pm |

    I appreciate that you identified how you’re defining capitalism. I think one of the big problems for people on the left is that we’re using different definitions when we talk about it.

    For example, I am a capitalist. (I say this the same way I say I’m a feminist – with the knowledge that it is an imperfect system that is pretty frankly flawed). But when I talk about Capitalism (TM), I’m thinking about perfect capitalism. So, for example, capitalism where people who want to build cars could move and live somewhere where they could build those cars if the industry left. Supply and demand evening out, living wages realized, and so on.

    And it’s easy for me to think this way, because I always wanted to work in finance and nothing ever stopped me from moving to NYC. Why? Well, because I’m hyper-privileged in the kyriarchy, and because I have nothing anchoring me anywhere else (like children or a dude-friend who may have their own career aspirations).

    But Communists piss me off because I think of Communism the way you think of Capitalism (i.e. the way it is – and was – actually practiced rather than how it could be practiced in theory). It’s interesting, that disconnect.

    Sorry – I know that was a completely minor point and that my comment is kind of a derail. I just wanted to say that I appreciated that you defined the term as you’re using it. That rarely happens in conversations like this.

  5. Esti
    Esti September 22, 2011 at 10:10 pm |

    Wow, thanks for that backhanded shout out. I am happy to engage in conversations about the ways in which we can change the current system, or about complete alternatives to the current system, that are more just and more equitable. But I don’t think that requires me to avoid critiques of alternative systems. In fact, I think it requires us to interrogate those alternatives.

    My criticisms were not “we can only have capitalism!” or “I think you’re stupid.” My criticisms were “these are the practical reasons I don’t think this specific idea would work.” I’m not attached to capitalism for its own sake, but I’m also not going to be convinced that something is a better alternative simply because it’s an alternative.

  6. Renee
    Renee September 22, 2011 at 10:14 pm |

    Huh. I had sort of shifted away from Feministe a while ago. I’d even heard about your run here, and yet didn’t make my way back until now. I wish I had sooner. As an unemployed person living between Ypsilanti and Detroit, I’m digging the focus on Michigan, and SE Michigan especially.

    And yes, I’ve often been bewildered by the left’s attachment to capitalism. How is that no one ever talks about the natural outcome of capitalism, if left unchecked? It’s a system based around the idea of competition, and the natural end-state of competitions is a few winners and a lot of losers.

    Regarding building community systems that reflect ourselves and our values, do we have blueprints for these already, taken from the way many marginalized communities already come together on a micro-scale to survive in the face of the great capitalism-game? My experience is mostly with the SE Michigan trans community, and granted a lot of what I see is desperate people coming together to hopefully just get by, but if you squint closely you can sometimes see structures taking shape.

  7. llama
    llama September 22, 2011 at 10:19 pm |

    Clarissa: Feminists are so attached to capitalism because there would be no feminism without capitalism: http://clarissasblog.com/2011/08/03/feminism-and-capitalism/

    The argument in the link that you provided says capitalism moves power from the physical to financial and is thus more equitable for women.

    But this just creates a new privileged class, those born into money. I bet if you are not in that class then the physical becomes just as much a feature of life as without capitalism.

  8. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. September 22, 2011 at 10:26 pm |

    @bfp,

    Have you run into the ideas behind re-envisioning capitalism around fiduciary principles? (Not Hawley’s Fiduciary Capitalism which is different.) The fundamental idea is what if corporations had a fiduciary obligation not just to their shareholders but also to other stakeholders like workers and consumers. The duty would be balance the best interests of all three types of stakeholders. In theory corporations couldn’t extract profits by using monopoly pricing or pressuring workers. It’s not a perfect idea, and there are *many* critics but I’ve always thought it was possibly a move in the right direction.

  9. z
    z September 22, 2011 at 10:27 pm |

    It also does not mean a violent overthrow of the government (as the Tea Party is showing us)

    I hardly think that the Tea Party are anarchists. Really.

  10. llama
    llama September 22, 2011 at 10:30 pm |

    Renee: It’s a system based around the idea of competition, and the natural end-state of competitions is a few winners and a lot of losers.

    Well said!

    Also capitalism’s need for continual economic growth in a world with finite resources is unsustainable. On the day these resources run out we are going to be forced to change the model, better to get a more sustainable model happening now.

  11. Renee
    Renee September 22, 2011 at 10:47 pm |

    @llama

    *nods*

  12. Chuckie K
    Chuckie K September 22, 2011 at 10:55 pm |

    Marx defined communism as the real ongoing struggle. That’s why there isn’t a blueprint. It’s what we create as we go along and find out what we need.

  13. Miriam
    Miriam September 22, 2011 at 10:57 pm |

    Hi BFP! Sorry, long post to follow:

    I’ve been really enjoying your posts so far, but I have to admit that this one raised my hackles, and I’d like to engage with you more on some of the things you imply about certain ideas in public school reform.

    So, context and standpoint as far as where I come from: I taught for two years through Teach for America (an organization whose flaws I readily understand and critique myself, so please judge my ideas independently from theirs) at a high-achieving (by standardized test standards) urban public charter school in Brooklyn, New York. I left after two years to work in a statewide education advocacy organization in Texas, where I’m originally from, and I manage investments in programs that support and develop seated public school principals.

    I have to admit that some of the things you wrote in this post made me feel very attacked and defensive, so I apologize in advance if that comes out in my tone—I have just grown to respect you so much over the last few posts, and I was shocked to read some of the assumptions you seem to have made.
    I really have to take issue with a couple of things here: Your repeated assertion that the “far right” (which I have never considered myself a part of, though I infer I’m a part of the movement you’re referring to) is “destroying the public school system.” The public school system, as you point out, has a history that has fostered systemic flaws that make it an extremely difficult system to reform for the benefit of students. These systemic flaws have contributed to a public school system wherein kids who are generally nonwhite and generally poor achieve at much lower levels – “achieve” here defined as on state and national standardized tests, although you could measure this in many other ways, such as high school graduation, college attendance, likelihood of imprisonment, future average earnings, etc. etc. – than their white, economically privileged counterparts.

    I want to unpack this paragraph:
    “What *would* a school system look like that was youth centered? What would it look like if schools were based on community values rather than corporate values? What would it look like to have teachers accountable to “raising a quality human being” rather than “getting the most students to pass the test”? What would it look like to have an equal pay system between administration and teachers?”

    Please don’t mistake me as a union-basher – I’ve known personally people whose lives and careers have been justly saved by teachers unions from totally corrupt and insane administrators. I know it happens, and I know unions are necessary.

    That said: I believe in adult accountability to results for children. In order to hold adults accountable to results for children, we must define the results we seek and plan to assess the results. That is the basic foundation of being able to hold anyone accountable to any kind of results.

    Like you, I believe that “raising a quality human being” should be the ultimate goal of a school. That being said, “raising a quality human being” is an awfully hard thing to assess in a way that is in any way fair to the people responsible for it and in a way that makes those assessment results clearly transparent to the people who need them to be. What we can assess a lot more easily is whether teachers have done the work of leading students to proficiency in math, science, and (harder to assess in a standardized way, admittedly) reading and writing. The problem, as you must be aware, is that kids in schools that are under-resourced, in communities with populations with more challenges than others, are not even meeting this basic standard, an injustice that makes me want to scream and has repeatedly made me cry. I hardly consider my motivations a desire to “corporatize” public schools as an end in itself. In the vast majority of cases, passing a state-level standardized test is, in my opinion, the barest minimum of what a student of that grade level should be able to accomplish. If a student cannot even pass a grade-level standardized test, that student has not been fairly educated.

    I’m not a cheerleader for standardized tests as they currently are everywhere, but I am a fan of standardization in the interest of transparency and accountability. I worked in a school where character education was paramount. It is possible to use a school to “raise a quality human being” while also ensuring that adults – teachers, administrators, district leaders – meet the basic responsibility of giving students the academic skills they require for the freedom in life to do as they please. I am just not convinced that the awesome things happening at the Chicago Freedom School (and it does look awesome) are mutually exclusive with giving students basic academic proficiency and skills. In fact, students of teachers who engage them in more critical thinking activities and do more of the character education you reference do BETTER on those standardized tests.

    I agree with you that there should be more equity between teachers and administrators. I know firsthand that the quality of an administrator can make or break the culture and overall success of a school. But it sounds to me like you are making an awful lot of assumptions about the motivations and goals of people like me—we do the work we do and believe the things we believe not because we want to make prison pipelines, but because we want to do exactly what you are suggesting: we are both fighting to keep the system that exists but make it better—because there is no way to quickly dismantle and change it in a way that is fair to students—and propose new systems-within-systems, like charter schools (which are flawed, I know, and overall not as successful as traditional public schools), magnet schools, early college high schools, to make them more student-centered, to make adults more accountable to student achievement.

  14. z
    z September 22, 2011 at 11:10 pm |

    bfp:
    @z–did I say that they were?

    “Overthrow” does mean “put an end to”.

  15. haley
    haley September 22, 2011 at 11:28 pm |

    We could have a system that is not Capitalist (economic dynamic referring the the ownership of the means of production), but is also not State Communist (glorious leader, vanguard, monopoly on the use of force).

    We could have an economic system where workers control the means of production, labor unions are organized horizontally, worker councils and community councils work together using Direct Democracy to make decision that effect the whole community. Federations would unite communities within cities, which could federate with other cities across the state(s).

    We could have an economic system which is highly planned in so much that workers (who are also consumers) within these federations and labor councils directly democratically decide how to allocate funds for major projects (transit, technology, buildings, science and medical development), while still having regulated markets for consumer goods, trading, etc.)

    We could have Balanced Job Complexes. This would be another way to diminish/rid of class hierarchy as well as tackle the question of “in a free society, who would want to do the unpleasant work?”

    With Balanced J.C we wouldn’t have a “professional class”, a group of people who are solely doctors, lawyers, teachers, etc. Nor would we have people who were solely asphalt layers, burger flippers, garbage disposers. Everyone would have access to free education and to pursue his/her/hir/ desire, but everyone regardless of education would be expected to put a certain amount of time into other jobs. Maybe we could have a point system, where people rate jobs according to how pleasant or unpleasant they are. The most unpleasant jobs (waste removal) would be rated lower and so people would be compensated more for doing them while having to put less hours into said crappy job.

    M-W I am a Doctor at Cook County Hospital, Thursday I have off, Friday its my turn being the help-desk clerk, but since I am doing less pleasant work, I get paid more this day and have the weekend off.

    If we want to continue having a mass society (with all its benefits like sewage systems, transportation, clean water, food, medicine, technology) without being exploitive and hierarchal we need to have an economic and governmental process that is truly operated by the people.

    TIL: Direct Democracy is a radical option for addressing the needs of a society outside of Capitalism or the State.

  16. Darque
    Darque September 22, 2011 at 11:34 pm |

    As soon as an anarchist movement overthrows a government, another government will rise to take its place. The idea of anarchy being a country’s main mode of political operation is laughable, like having a rule that says “there shall be no rules”.

    What is an anarchist to do if I want to form a government with my neighbor, or secede from his anarchist state and form a capitalist or a communist government? If he stops me, then he is no longer an anarchist. If I form my government, then his anarchy has been supplanted with something that is not.

  17. Miriam
    Miriam September 22, 2011 at 11:51 pm |

    Thanks for the response!

    I think I’m still confused about exactly who you’re referring to as “the far right” and what you mean by “attacks on schools” – it is certainly true that there are small fringe movements of people who literally believe in dismantling the public school system entirely in favor of a radical “capitalist” model (homeschooling, total privatization of education – and all other government programs, for that matter) but I don’t think there is much evidence to suggest that those groups have real influence over education policy right now (maybe you have better evidence than I).

    Basically, a left/right dichotomy when you’re talking about education policy is not a self-evidently descriptive distinction to me. In the context of educating children, what do people on the “right” believe versus people on the “left”?

  18. z
    z September 22, 2011 at 11:55 pm |

    Darque:
    As soon as an anarchist movement overthrows a government, another government will rise to take its place. The idea of anarchy being a country’s main mode of political operation is laughable, like having a rule that says “there shall be no rules”.

    You say that like that’s a good thing.

    Darque:
    What is an anarchist to do if I want to form a government with my neighbor, or secede from his anarchist state and form a capitalist or a communist government? If he stops me, then he is no longer an anarchist. If I form my government, then his anarchy has been supplanted with something that is not.

    If your government does not interfere with mine, does not coerce me, does not attempt to kill me … then what, exactly, is lost? You are free to make the associations you wish and I am free to make mine.

    You keep using that word, “anarchy”. I do not think it means what you think it means.

  19. GinnyC
    GinnyC September 23, 2011 at 12:05 am |

    I’m very interested the schooling issue in the Mexican context. It is a situation were the objective conditions are much worse than in the US and unions and radicalismare often, maybe usually, representing the interests of the state and privledged classes. So, what are the solutions or ideas in a global context?

    That question is haunting me. I don’t have answers.

    bfp, Thank you for this post. I have beem reading your series, but did not have the time free to comment until now.

  20. rational_male
    rational_male September 23, 2011 at 12:19 am |

    What a disheartening, and frankly disturbing post.

    The school system is one of the largest artifacts of liberal paradise…the unions are stronger than any where in the world, there is more and more govt. money indiscriminately thrown at the schools (per pupil speding is up 300% in REAL dollars since 1970 http://reason.com/archives/2011/02/22/losing-the-brains-race )… limited choice of schools… and ridculous mandates (like 20 students per class in florida passed in 1997.. deemed to be a HORRIBLE failure.

    Sure there are certainly some on the right who want to make schools and charter schools a profit machine.. but there are also TONS who want to make real school choice and competition matter… and are amiable to limited profit structures, possibly even non-profit status for many charters. But the idea would be they could innovate. They could pay teachers $65,000 vs. $45,000 and have 30% larger classrooms, and ask if the brightest teachers with great resources can change the game. If that school system sucks, then they fail and we can try the local union run school. There are of course logistical issues (how to transport, how often can students change schools, what exactly is the funding mechanism), but the right GENUINELY cares about students and HATES to see that people try to limit the responsibilities of young people to realize how much they can achieve.

    I am steaming mad right now as I listen to you trope on about his junk, when you simply don’t know the facts. And interestingly, you bemoan the “corprotocracy” of the schools.. but ultimately isn’t what you are complaining about is how certain classes of people (women, minorities, poor children etc.) will never earn enough money in well paying jobs?

    Well part of the solution is to make schools prepare students FOR JOBS… they should all know personal finance, should all know how to read a financial statement. You may laugh, but think how powerful it would be to have an 18 year old be like, “wow, I could be an I-banker and make $400,000 a year… or I can be a teacher and change the world by being motivated and hard working”.

    Both choices are acceptable. Truly. And the more you educate people on the financial realities of this world the more they can make the choice what they want to be! Capitalism and TRUE conservatism is all about hope, inspiration and creating a system where NON-corrupt competition happens.

    Finally, where you and others bashers of capitalism are wrong is that conservatives and most liberals still support the ideal of capitalism because it has proven to work and fundamentally does reflect the judeo-christian work ethic which runs very strongly through this great nation (I am not that religious, but to deny this point would be to deny reality). Where you are 100% right is currently monied-interests capture the regulators and govt. Both unions and corporations do this. If you (using you as a general stereotype of liberals, perhaps you are different in this regard) continue to deny the corruption of unions you lose all credibility. Corporations are bad in many ways of exerting undue influence, but there is only one thing which can change that: Public-funding of elections. I bet we agree on that one at least :)

    WHile I realize this is a rambling comment, my message is to inspire those readers out there to see the optimism of capitalism, true conservatives, and to focus on embracing capitalism and then reforming the corruption.

    This article, to be blunt, but fair, TOTALLY mischaracterizes education. Hopefully the author will see the errors of her way! Feel free to contact me if you would like more help understanding other ways you are wrong! I don’t mean that as prickish as it sounds… it is just sad to see someone with a voice who is so wrong.

    Later.

  21. kloncke
    kloncke September 23, 2011 at 1:23 am |

    Damn! Excited about this post, though undoubtedly the thread will be a doozy. There’s just so much here . . . everyone will come at it from different angles.

    One of my angles is: how do we deal with the state?

    While visioning, reviving, and building new micro-economies, ways of learning and co-educating, etc. have certainly worked in various pockets around the world at different times, it also seems to me that once these alternatives start significantly interfering with capitalism on a world/state/empire scale (i.e. any given nation, or the various Western European / U.S. colonial and neocolonial empires), then the ruling/owning class (which always exists under capitalism, definitionally, as I understand it) has always deployed the state (“a special body of armed men”) to crush those societies or movements that threaten the flow of capital and preservation/growth of profit (or what bourgeois economists would call “The Global Economy”). They do this either by rolling back legal “gains,” and enforcing the rollbacks through police/violence, or just dispensing with the niceties and going straight to violence.

    Does that make sense? Basically, it seems like historically either these pockets of self-governing societies have been (a) crushed militarily, or (b) so small as to die out quickly (I think one name for one type of this is utopian socialism — not utopian as in “could never exist” but as in “cannot spread large enough to truly challenge and defeat capitalism as a global system of class society”).

    So how do we *both* build the societies we want to see (“practical, leave no one behind”) *and* spread these networks to areas where capitalism dominates by force of violence, public (military, police, (in)justice system) and private (the wage system; Blackwater; mobs)?

    To be totally honest, this is a super emotional question for me right now, so I’m not gonna put too much energy into this comment thread. More convos to be had offline. But I hope the question makes sense at least . . . basically, I increasingly feel like I need to choose between (a) strategically orienting toward the overthrow/ending of capitalism on a world scale, which for me means focusing on its root vulnerabilities, wherever the most indispensable labor forces are, or (b) transformative work with the very communities that have been left behind by capitalism (or have to play into it through nonprofits), and therefore might more easily exist on its periphery since they don’t pose a large threat to its continued functioning.

    Race and family plays into this question a lot for me, too.

    . . . blegh, sorry for the long-ass comment. Much love to you, and thanks for this.

  22. matlun
    matlun September 23, 2011 at 1:40 am |

    It all depends on what you mean with capitalism. If we are just talking about the type of regulated market economy we see in practice, this describes the vast majority of industrialized societies today (including for example China). It must be recognized that this is not an “ideologically pure” system. It is built on many compromises and within this framework there is a lot of room to find different balance points.

    (The US is pretty far right on this scale on a global scale. From my European perspective, the Democrats is a far right party, and the Republicans are just surreal)

    As to more radical change however:
    I do not believe anarchy could ever work in practice. In a power vacuum strong leaders will rise up and take power through force, so an anarchic society will not be stable.

  23. llama
    llama September 23, 2011 at 1:54 am |

    The far right represent the rich. Education represents the only viable way most can achieve social mobility. If you are rich why would you want this mobility to exist?

  24. Stephanie
    Stephanie September 23, 2011 at 1:56 am |

    llama: Also capitalism’s need for continual economic growth in a world with finite resources is unsustainable. On the day these resources run out we are going to be forced to change the model, better to get a more sustainable model happening now.

    This is all I can think about pretty much every time I turn on the news. People lamenting the lack of growth in the economy–we’re not building enough houses, cars, etc. I just don’t understand it. Are we going to cover America with houses? And then build houses on the moon?

    @bfp I love this post overall and I’m glad to see this kind of radical politics and radical re-thinking appearing here. It seems more like something that’d be posted on Tiger Beatdown than on Feministe, but I guess that’s why I like it so much.

  25. llama
    llama September 23, 2011 at 2:29 am |

    rational_male: Capitalism and TRUE conservatism is all about hope, inspiration and creating a system where NON-corrupt competition happens.

    So should health be about competition?

    There is a little island only 90 miles of the US coast called Cuba it has lower infant mortality rates than the US (according to the CIA world fact book).

    https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/rankorder/2091rank.html?countryName=Cuba&countryCode=cu&regionCode=cam&rank=184#cu

    This island is supposed to be run by a corrupt government and not known for promoting competition but they are beating the US in one of the basic measures of primary health care.

    Why hasn’t competition worked in this case? and why would you think education would not be any different?

  26. irrational_male
    irrational_male September 23, 2011 at 2:33 am |

    In the past two years I’ve noticed the reopening of a distinction that seemed to have been smothered in the mists of time — that between “capitalism” and “free markets”, with the ‘far right’ falling right into the populist mode of championing the latter, while both left and right castigate the former.

    “Capitalism” is usually meant as the system where the means of production are privately owned for profit, but also a very specific historical process that began at the beginning of the 17th century in the Netherlands. It connotes the corporation, stock and bond markets, intellectual property, the payment of interest, the issuance of debt or credit, fractional reserve banking and central banking, a ‘capitalist class’ of ‘bourgeois’ asserting their political rights, and generally the entire social, political, institutional and cultural process as described by 19th century writers including Marx, laying the foundation for the so-called industrial revolution. On the other hand, you have “free markets” which is entirely different. It connotes only a weak and small government, and a simple, horizonal economic system consisting of individuals or small groups interacting on the basis of what you could call property relations grounded in an instinctive sense of fairness ground in us from childhood. The latter is what you could call yeomanism, Jeffersonianism, or Jacksonianism. The tea party strikes me are more of this latter type than really pro-capitalist. But back in that day when it seemed that it could be a practical reality in an agricultural country, that view was a leftist view because of its horizonal and simple nature. And really, if you look at the portions of the country where the tea party is strong, it is the same in many cases as the portion of the country where yeomanism was strong 150-200 years ago, and vice versa. Poor capitalism then! It is really being castigated mercilessly from both the populist left and the populist right.

    Today neither of those positions is really leftist. The left still has a vision of distribution that is basically collective, it is an attempt to adapt our aversion to hierarchy to the complex, modern economy. But while we have many collective prescriptions, and I sense this thread is an attempt to move towards a new one on education, where the left has been slow is the formulation of collective vision. By that I mean, a real ideology that is so attractive that it actually makes people want to be part of a group, a collective. And I know that that is a really controversial notion even among liberals. But without it, we don’t really have a language of economics at the viscerial level. We can’t compete with the tea party because the mechanism of their movement is the really fundamental, instinctual and knee-jerk reaction in everyone that tends to respect property and see injustice when property is “redistributed.” There is no rejoinder to that at the atomistic level without some collective vision that is attractive.

  27. Raja
    Raja September 23, 2011 at 3:03 am |

    Capitalism in the original sense as Adam Smith wrote about it has changed drastically over the last 200 years. In fact he would probably be horrified if he saw what was happening today, he warned that if the capitalists were not kept in check they would take society down with them, therefore competition was the best way to do this even though they would try to undermine it anyway. He also said education was essential to a well being of a democracy as without it people would become nothing more than machines. The way some republicans use him now to justify their policies now is completely incorrect and i doubt they have actually read his books at all except that one part about comparative advantage maybe in Wealth of Nations but even fewer have read his first book Theory of Moral Sentiment which talks about all that i have described above.

  28. Collins
    Collins September 23, 2011 at 3:49 am |

    Clarissa: http://clarissasblog.com/2011/08/03/feminism-and-capitalism/

    Then why is feminism doing so much better in Norway, Finland, Denmark, and pretty much every Socialist country there is?

  29. Raja
    Raja September 23, 2011 at 5:27 am |

    North Americans would consider Norway, Finland, Denmark and several other European countries to be “socialist” by our standreds but they are still market economies. They have socialist like tendencies when it comes to necessities but when it comes to luxaries it is more of a capitalistic market. Take Germany for example. I personally like it this way, command economy for necessities such as health care, education etc. and than have a more capitalistic market for luxury goods because a command economy isn’t exactly the best way for determining stuff that isn’t essential such as an Xbox 360 or the newest car.

  30. llama
    llama September 23, 2011 at 5:45 am |

    irrational_male: But while we have many collective prescriptions, and I sense this thread is an attempt to move towards a new one on education

    Part of the reason why the US is letting so many of its young people down educationally is because only a small part of GDP is invested in education.

    Again the CIA world fact book highlights the countries that are more social progressive are in the lead when it comes to spending on education. The US comes in at 43rd (is their even that many developed countries?).

    https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/rankorder/2206rank.html?countryName=Sweden&countryCode=sw&regionCode=eur&rank=21#sw

    Collins: Then why is feminism doing so much better in Norway, Finland, Denmark, and pretty much every Socialist country there is?

    Note these are the same countries that spend more of their GDP on education than the US.

  31. matlun
    matlun September 23, 2011 at 5:57 am |

    @Collins: What is your definition of socialism and what distinguishes this from capitalism?

    As Raja mentioned above they are market economies and in all of them for example health care and education systems are a mix between public and private. (“command economy” is an oversimplification unless I misunderstand the term)

  32. Sheelzebub
    Sheelzebub September 23, 2011 at 6:12 am |

    BFP, I am loving your posts.

    I think you’re right–we do have to start imagining something different for ourselves, something that is NOT communism or socialism or whatever (these sytems, like capitalism, sound great in theory, but in practice morphs into something that looks nothing like the ideal). Capitalism has morphed into corporate feudalism in the US, and the “true” conservatives seem to be happy to let people who haven’t had much of a chance or a start in life founder and fall further behind, and use hateful rhetoric to justify themselves. I think you’re right that we have to break out of these paradigms (it’s not like these systems have been great for women, people of color, LGBT communities, or other marginalized communities) and build something that works for us.

    Just a point on the attachment to a particular economic system against all reason: I remember when PBS did a documentary on behavioral economics, where the behavioral economists were showing that marketplace decisions were not made rationally or impartially, either on an individual level or a macro level. Free-market ideologues freaked out–they were insisting they were oh-so-rational (as is capitalism) yet the evidence that human psychology doesn’t work that way left them a sputtering mess. The thing with any economic theory is that the human element comes in and throws a spanner into the works.

  33. Collins
    Collins September 23, 2011 at 6:56 am |

    @Raja: Well, sure — you want to get really technical, there’s no country that’s purely capitalist either. That’s a given. I’m assuming the American definition of a square where there’s socialist at one point, communist at another point, capitalist, and anarchist. There may be other -ists, but they’re not familiar enough to be graphed in 2D.

    That said, when a country nationalizes industries and operates them for the good of the people, it’s on the socialist end of the spectrum. Allowing a couple of Starbucks to operate within your borders doesn’t fundamentally change that.

    You can make a colourable argument that Denmark’s a mixed market in the American sense, but I don’t think that’d hold up under closer inspection. The Scandanavian countries, and especially Norway, definitely aren’t because of their relationship to the energy sector. (But under Wikipedia’s labeling rules, everything’s a mixed market economy — even though they’re fundamentally incommensurate.)

    We really need to do a better job of bringing the Norwegian experience into the feminist conversation.

  34. alexa
    alexa September 23, 2011 at 7:14 am |

    I don’t live in the US (Canada) and although my country is also capitalist, in my experience Americans are taught in school about the benefits of capitalism, which students in my country generally aren’t. Or something – because I find that people in my country are significantly less attached to the idea of capitalism than Americans, and for some reason most of the Americans I talk to actually have remarkably homogeneous talking points ready about capitalism (while I find for many Canadians, it’s sort of a novel conversation).

    Probably because Canada has a more socialist element, so “socialism” is not seen as inherently bad or Stalin-esque. In a way, it’s sort of viewed as a chore – not particularly beloved, but you kind of have to do it. And I say this as someone who things my nation-state is a piece of evil shit for what it’s done to everyone from the poor to indigenous peoples: my country horrifies me but the US downright terrifies me.

    Anyway, I think support of capitalism often has ideas flowing underneath about fairness and deserving and bootstrap narratives that also certainly exist in Canada, but not as militantly as the US. Which is why, I think, you can have a country like Canada that is actually quite stodgy and conservative in certain respects but is nowhere near doing away with “socialized” healthcare or some similar social services.

    At this point I just can’t work with anyone who is into capitalism. I don’t think it’s “flawed but could, hypothetically, work perfectly” – I think it’s inherently imperfect and cannot ever work perfectly because in some very fundamental ways it is fucked up. And I don’t understand how people can see all the various effects of capitalism and still stand by it as “the best system”. To me, that’s quite literally like calling sweatshops “the best system” just because they’re better than, say, outright slavery.

    And if you look at the effects of capitalism globally, I fail to see how it’s any better than an oppressive communist state or dictatorship. People are being “disappeared”, oppressed, and even enslaved because of capitalism, it’s just not happening as violently or visibly in the US as it is in other countries that US and multinational corporations are shitting on.

    I think the end result of capitalism is that the dollar matters more than anything, and as long as we place it above health or quality of life or human rights (not corporate rights!) and hope that somehow caring about the dollar more will “trickle down” to improving health or quality of life or human rights, we’re going to see violations of health or quality of life of human rights in the dollar’s name.

    I remember a year ago (or more), there was a thread on Feministe and the writer “came out” as being a capitalist, and the comments were filled with relieved comments from capitalists outing themselves too and having a fun little “yeah, capitalism just needs more regulation but it’s really the best we’ve got and it’s the most logical system and communism is evil” party.

    I had to leave Feministe for months after that, because it was just too upsetting. Like, as someone whose personal history has been indelibly marked by capitalism (and not in a good way), I don’t understand how everyone can be so fantastically loyal to a system that causes the oppression of so many people.

  35. Kaz
    Kaz September 23, 2011 at 7:44 am |

    This is an amazing, amazing post.

    I’ve noticed the attachment to capitalism a lot when it comes to making social justice-based critiques about something and then getting as an answer, essentially, “but capitalism!” An example might be people arguing against legally enforced accessibility in workplaces because “it’s not profitable for the employer”. I find it strange because it essentially argues “this thing is a consequence of capitalism so it must be morally OK and can’t be criticised” where my reaction is more along the lines of “we need to prevent this unjust and oppressive thing from happening, so if it follows from capitalism that means there is an issue with capitalism”. I am no economic theorist, but I thought capitalism was meant to be an economic system and people using it as a code of ethics sits very badly with me.

  36. La Lubu
    La Lubu September 23, 2011 at 7:57 am |

    bfp, absolutely loving your posts.

    Well, the answer to the first question about much of (what passes for) the US left and US feminist attachment to “Capitalism” is easy—back when the left was not capitalist-oriented, a lot of its leaders were imprisoned, lynched, deported, etc. That 20-30 years you mention was the slight giveback to angry, organized workers in conjunction with the heavy anti-communist repression in the labor movement, and relentless propaganda such that many USians couldn’t tell you what exactly a communist (or a socialist) is, except they’re against it (sputter something about Russia, dictatorship, waiting in line to buy toilet paper…and that’s about it). And frankly, the remaining left hasn’t been much better….too many one-upmanship games about who’s the better Marxist, who is more eloquent with theory…(Daisy Deadhead! You out there? Wanna elaborate?)

    (I could probably also insert something really cynical about capitalist-oriented feminism and its reliance on an underclass of (especially) women to give them a leg-up on equality, or something about the erasure of women laborers and organizers from the lower classes from standard feminist narrative…)

    But really…I don’t think most average folks are all that attached to Capitalism. The pundits and politicos and nonprofit industrial complex is more invested in Capitalism than the average worker. From my dealings (and as a fellow midwesterner, I’m sure you’ll recognize what I’m talking about!)….it’s more that folks are dealing with the daily-grind questions of “what do I do now, in the meantime; I gotta eat/pay rent/keep the lights on/get the kids through school now, before the revolution”. And we get to the point of envisioning something else when the status quo totally breaks down. As long as it’s limping along, people make do, the same way we do with beater cars or any of the other half-working things that get us by. It’s that damning midwestern practicality.

    And what you’re talking about….is not about getting by. It’s not about making do. It’s about liberation. That’s a disconnect for much of the US left, because it was channeled (via Capitalist carrot and stick) into just getting by, just making do. Not liberation. Where I live, the most active, galvanizing force (especially in the area of education), the one most welcome to alternative visions and let’s-try-this and the most willing to work with other community groups…..comes out of the African-American church. That’s no accident, and I think it’s heavily related to how certain communities (i.e., white folks invested in the Protestant Work ethic and less-than-full-liberation class structures—because trust, it’s more about keeping the class and race structures intact than about the particular economic system) view what freedom *is*. What it looks like. What its practices are. (I could really go off on a helluva tangent here about how white people need to decolonize their minds, as many who made it to the US or America in general originally came from colonized areas…)

    So, yeah. I didn’t make it to the organizing meeting last night (had a time conflict—what’s that about how time is our unlimited resource? *smile*), but the local group that has the vision and feet-on-the-ground about education started with old-school Black churches already grounded in the Civil Rights movement, and they threw out the welcome mat to the other usual suspects (liberation theology-oriented Catholics, labor, etc.).

  37. TeiTetua
    TeiTetua September 23, 2011 at 8:06 am |

    If it worries you that you have enough to eat and a probable lifespan of over 80, of course you can complain about capitalism. Go ahead, use this system of instantaneous worldwide communication to do it.

  38. La Lubu
    La Lubu September 23, 2011 at 9:26 am |

    Exactly…that immediate meeting of needs vs. immediate downscale of life quality. One advantage to rust belt organizing is that when folks already have their asses out in the breeze, there’s a certain “can’t hurt; might help” outlook present to combat the cynical apathy that is more about “at least I’m not gonna be taken for a ride”. Like when I mentioned Danville getting the traffic signals removed…well, one of the intersections that had its lights removed is at an abandoned grocery store; a community group took that over as an electronics recycling facility where they refurbish computers and have a sweat-equity deal (like Habitat) whereby folks who put in labor can get their own computer for free. The same group cobbled up an abandoned schoolhouse (a really, really small split-level) and is making a youth center out of it.

    But there is still the process of rebuilding community….sometimes from scratch. One thing the US left has been bad at is building a seamless transition of leadership. The opposition *does* have structures for training leaders and bringing them up through their organization. The left was effectively taken down by targeting lead organizers. That didn’t just leave a gap in work, but a gap in history (I’m thinking Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz in Outlaw Woman, learning long after the fact about her long-dead grandfather’s radical background….how those lessons weren’t passed on, that sort of thing).

    I also think PrettyAmiable had a fascinating comment. I’ve always leaned anticapitalist for precisely the opposite reasons she’s leaned pro-….the advantages I had (being “officially smart”, as in passed-ahead-a-grade; hard-working; multi-skilled; articulate; learns easy; high-energy; gets along well with other people) were not enough. I experienced capitalism the same way my great-grandparents experienced feudalism….an inability to rise above one’s station. Granted, I was raised with an old school labor outlook, but my life experience coincided with that, along with my observation that other folks were having the same experience….that capitalism at the level of the average working person is a game of musical chairs, and that hard work and brains aren’t as important in getting to sit down as connections and family name (“it’s not what you know but who you know”). That surplus labor is necessary to the system (the folks left standing without a chair). That at the higher levels, it’s a Ponzi scheme….folks late to the game can only contribute to those at the top. Fundamentally unsustainable.

  39. Rich
    Rich September 23, 2011 at 10:11 am |

    This was a terrific post! It got me thinking, for the first time, of alternatives to Capitalism in the USA. Keep writing…..

  40. William
    William September 23, 2011 at 10:12 am |

    but everyone regardless of education would be expected to put a certain amount of time into other jobs.

    The problem with that idea is that the end result is going to be reduced access to higher level services and the flat elimination of certain kinds of expert level services.

    I hold a doctorate in Clinical Psychology. The work I do isn’t transferable. You can’t swap a ditch digger or a burger flipper into my job for a couple days a week and, even though I’ve got the back for manual labor, asking me to do unskilled work has the end result of reducing the amount of mental health services available in my community.

    The unfortunate reality is that, even with unlimited access to education, not everyone can achieve everything. Some people simply don’t have the curiosity, willpower, or intellectual resources to make it through graduate school or advanced training. Part of the reason there aren’t more doctors is because medical school is expensive, but part of it is also because there are relatively few people capable of being doctors. Hell, with student loans and professional schools practically anyone willing to take on the debt and capable of putting forth the time can become a psychologist. Despite that, only about a quarter of the people I knew in my first year actually graduated. Its hard, its intellectually demanding, and not everyone can do it. Even with free access (which I believe we need desperately) to higher education, not everyone is going to cultivate useful skills. That means that when you take a skilled person out of a skilled job and balance the complex out by placing them in an unskilled job your are trading labor equality for access to professional-level services.

    More than that, it would actually hurt patients and eliminate certain kinds of intensive services all together because it would limit specialization options. I work now in a (privately owned but publicly funded) therapeutic high school for students with significant emotional disorders and high achievement potential. My patients come to school five days a week and, while they have regularly scheduled appointments, their meltdowns don’t conform to any predictable schedule. That means I cannot do this job part time, I cannot provide the level and model of care that I do if I’m not here when my patients are. You couldn’t even swap me out for another psychologist because a big part of what I do is focused on predictability and consideration of the relationship between a therapist and a patient.

    Finally, you have the human element. More education means better critical thinking skills means more opposition and defiance. Thats why the right wants to break education: ignorant workers are more likely to be compliant workers. You flat couldn’t make me do something I didn’t want to do. Even if you forced me at gunpoint to go through the motions what you would end up with was a poorly done job, someone with an eye towards sabotage and the intelligence to fuck things up in subtle ways, and a worker very motivated to revolt the minute your attention wavered. Offering more money wouldn’t help because, frankly, if money was my driving goal I’d be in finance instead of psychology. Sure, my level of defiance isn’t typical, but an intelligent, bored, resentful, strong willed work force isn’t likely to produce good outcomes. After all, what are you going to do, fire us?

  41. Miriam
    Miriam September 23, 2011 at 10:41 am |

    Re Michigan and Texas, I stand corrected. Thanks for the Perry article; I actually had no idea that he had said that. Good to know.

    I have to say, though, I utterly reject that the Gates Foundation should be lumped in with Rick Perry and Michelle Bachmann. We must draw a distinction between “attacking public schools” and “attacking students and communities.” Gates is a huge supporter of public early college high schools; charter schools are public schools by definition; and honestly, although I work to support public schools, my #1 priority is to ensure that all students have the opportunity to receive an excellent education. I personally don’t support things like vouchers NOT because they attack public schools but because there is not enough evidence that vouchers actually do anything to improve student achievement. Public school support should not be an end in itself; community and student support should be.

    I also don’t get the distinction you imply between “teacher performance” and “student outcomes.” I suppose you mean that “teacher performance” is “standardized test results” and “student outcomes” means something else – what would be an alternative method for transparently understanding how we are to provide a baseline measure of teacher effectiveness? As I said before, providing students with the tools to be better people and providing students with essential academic skills are NOT mutually exclusive; in fact, they are mutually supportive. It is not unfair to hold adults to the basic standard of getting kids to pass a standardized test.

    This is NOT the same thing as teacher-bashing. I taught in a public school for two years. I agree that teachers should be paid more, respected more, and supported more; I agree that administrators need to be held more to account for creating safe spaces of adult learning that ultimately affects student performance positively. I agree that, by and large, teachers do the best they can at all times to do the best for their students; I have also seen a teacher in a low-performing 7th grade choose to play movies in class rather than teach them basic math skills, and this is criminally unacceptable. I do NOT support performance pay, mainly because there is no credible evidence that performance pay actually makes teachers do better work; I do support making it easier to fire teachers who do things like what I mentioned above. I do support administrators being more supportive, transparent, and careful when it comes to teacher evaluation; this does not mean that districts should have to shuffle people around in order to avoid the massive and expensive legal battle that it would take simply to fire a person who was, effectively, destroying children’s lives. The vast majority of teachers are not like this; some are.

    It’s also kind of hard for me not to interpret your left/right distinction as “left is progressive and forward-thinking; right is backwards and evil.” What do you think, beyond the basic motivation of “capitalism!” is the ultimate motive of the “far right”? How do you think that they interpret their philosophies and policies as being ultimately beneficial for the world?

  42. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. September 23, 2011 at 10:47 am |

    @William,

    I agree and disagree. I think the heart of the problem is that the work done by certain people is *valued* more. So we end up with the tyranny of the talented. But in all seriousness are the efforts of a person less deserving of reward because ze digs a ditch rather than provides mental health services? Why is digging a ditch *unskilled* while writing a memo in a pedantic style is “skilled”?

    I wouldn’t have skilled people necessarily switch jobs outside of their preference in my utopia, but I wouldn’t value one person’s efforts over another’s.

  43. Jadey
    Jadey September 23, 2011 at 11:02 am |

    haley: With Balanced J.C we wouldn’t have a “professional class”, a group of people who are solely doctors, lawyers, teachers, etc. Nor would we have people who were solely asphalt layers, burger flippers, garbage disposers. Everyone would have access to free education and to pursue his/her/hir/ desire, but everyone regardless of education would be expected to put a certain amount of time into other jobs. Maybe we could have a point system, where people rate jobs according to how pleasant or unpleasant they are. The most unpleasant jobs (waste removal) would be rated lower and so people would be compensated more for doing them while having to put less hours into said crappy job.

    I oppose labour exploitation, but I always find labour systemization schemes like this to fail to reflect the complexity and nuance of human nature. William’s comment above is a pretty good case study of why. On the flipside of the professionalized perspective, there are lots of people who love their “crappy” jobs even if other people would despise them. This is precisely why I enjoy watching Mike Rowe’s Dirty Jobs TV series – there’s no case to be made that the people on that show are representative of all people with unpleasant or unusual jobs, nor that what appears in the show is even representative of their typical working conditions. But there’s something to me that grates to suggest that we can rank-order working experiences, and that being an asphalt-layer or waste-disposer is inherently less fulfilling or meaningful than being a doctor in a generalizable way. For all we know, there are people out there who are just fine with doing what other people think of as ‘shit’ jobs, providing people respect the work that they do.

    Again, that’s not to say that we don’t currently rank professions in other ways – through social prestige and income – and I’m not fond of that either. But I think an alternative needs to do more than reinforce the hierarchy in a new way.

    I’m not imaginative enough to think of a good alternative to capitalism. I usually end up somewhere in the realm of more protections and regulations to prevent serious exploitation, and forcing companies to be more creative about being ethical and profitable. But I’m also convinced that many nations’ economies have already gone past the point of no return in relying on ever-increasing debt and credit to fuel profit and that the entire global economy is a bubble with a countdown and a touchy detonator, and that what we really need is a plan to rebuild after, not just revamp the existing structure. I’m reading the thread eagerly for better thoughts than mine.

  44. matlun
    matlun September 23, 2011 at 11:47 am |

    Kristen J.: I agree and disagree. I think the heart of the problem is that the work done by certain people is *valued* more.

    Is this always a problem? Perhaps the work they do actually have more value? (How this is measured is of course a problematic question, but in some cases this is just true).

    Kristen J.: I wouldn’t have skilled people necessarily switch jobs outside of their preference in my utopia, but I wouldn’t value one person’s efforts over another’s.

    I would. Not all people are able to perform at the same level.

    As a very simple example: Perhaps person A and B are actually doing the same job, but person A is just better at it and more productive.

    According to some ideal capitalism each person should be rewarded according to the value of their work. You could argue that this is not ideal (perhaps you want to go more for “to each according to need” as a goal?), but the value of work to the community will still differ between individuals.

  45. Well. . .
    Well. . . September 23, 2011 at 11:49 am |

    Long story short: Capitalism is good.

    Communism doesn’t work, full-on socialism doesn’t work. Most fully functioning societies operate on a capitalist model with some socialist aspects.

    The reason is simple: People want to be paid for their work, they want their possessions to have value, and they don’t want to worry that someone, at any time, could take them away from them “for the good of others”.

    You might be all about the welfare of the poor, but would you be pleased if the government came into your home, and sold off all your belongings to give the money to someone else?

    Or if you weren’t allowed to own property?

    That’d set women’s (and human) rights back quite a bit.

    Also in a non-capitalist society, education, and everything else would fail and falter.

    For the most part, people don’t go into law, medicine, and other high paying jobs because of the fulfillment. It’s for the money.

    What incentive would there be to engage in a dozen years of schooling if you made the same amount of money as a burger flipper?

    Inversely, if everyone could be a doctor or a lawyer, who would do the menial jobs?

    I could go on and on and on, but really, trying to advocate a system other than capitalism IS idealistic nonsense.

    It works because of a great many reasons, a great deal of which is pure human nature.

  46. Well. . .
    Well. . . September 23, 2011 at 11:52 am |

    Skilled labor implies that one requires a certain skillset. Unskilled implies it does not. It takes special skills to be a surgeon. It takes no special skills to dig a ditch, or pump gas.

    You can take the phrase as insulting, but there’s no better way to put it. If something can be done by anyone, it’s unskilled labor. If it can only be done with special training and skills, then it’s skilled labor.

    Kristen J.:
    @William,

    I agree and disagree.I think the heart of the problem is that the work done by certain people is *valued* more.So we end up with the tyranny of the talented.But in all seriousness are the efforts of a person less deserving of reward because ze digs a ditch rather than provides mental health services?Why is digging a ditch *unskilled* while writing a memo in a pedantic style is “skilled”?

    I wouldn’t have skilled people necessarily switch jobs outside of their preference in my utopia, but I wouldn’t value one person’s efforts over another’s.

  47. Lyndsay
    Lyndsay September 23, 2011 at 12:16 pm |

    “Part of the reason there aren’t more doctors is because medical school is expensive, but part of it is also because there are relatively few people capable of being doctors. ”

    I don’t think either of these are the issue for medical doctors. A small percentage of people who apply to med school get in. I’m sure they aren’t all qualified to be doctors but I’m sure not only the ones accepted are.

    “The most unpleasant jobs (waste removal) would be rated lower and so people would be compensated more for doing them while having to put less hours into said crappy job. ”

    I don’t think this would be as much of a problem as people think. Many unpleasant or unstimulating jobs have been replaced by automation. In our current society this is a problem as it raises unemployment. But I think there are solutions we are not interested in considering (e.g. working fewer hours to create more jobs). Also, many jobs are unpleasant *because* of our capitalist system. Not everyone wants to waitress but it isn’t an inherently unpleasant job. It’s unenjoyable when it’s stressful because you have to work fast so your employer can hire fewer waitresses and bring in more profit. Even then, some people seem to work better when they have a lot to do. This is definitely not me and the idea that jobs like waitressing are considered “unskilled labour” astounds me.

    Btw, I loved this post. I hope you write more about this. I met various anti-capitalist people in England last year and became interested in community-building actions that mostly don’t involve capitalism. I learned first-hand about Couch Surfing, open-source software and dumpster diving for example.

  48. Well. . .
    Well. . . September 23, 2011 at 12:32 pm |

    bfp: I’m talking about higher education, not primary. You don’t become a surgeon from going to middle/high school.

    You can’t use Detroit as an example, because Detroit is dying. The city has no money, the state has no money. Socialism and communism wouldn’t help the fact that Detroit has no jobs, because they built their entire infrastructure on the idea that “GM is immortal and will never let us down”.

    GM failed. Sat on their asses while foreign cars improved, got better mileage, rode better, looked better. Kept making the same junkers. Got left behind.

    Still doesn’t change that I’m referring to higher education.

    No, I haven’t seen Roger and Me because Michael Moore is an obnoxious blowhard, and no better than a Limbaugh or a Coulter. I cannot stand him.

    I notice though, for all the weeping and gnashing of teeth over capitalism, nobody’s got a better solution. Well, except a few edge cases where idealistic hippies seem to think we can all smoke a ton of dope and live on a commune, and love everyone and weave baskets. That, however, is not realistic.

    Capitalism drives progress, too.

    If everyone just lived communally and farmed and such, would we have an internet? The computer? Put people on the moon? Air travel?

    Nahhh. Most all the stuff you use exists because a capitalistic need for it existed.

  49. BHuesca
    BHuesca September 23, 2011 at 12:38 pm |

    Clarissa:
    Feminists are so attached to capitalism because there would be no feminism without capitalism: http://clarissasblog.com/2011/08/03/feminism-and-capitalism/

    Thanks, Clarissa! I really appreciate the explanation!

  50. Jadey
    Jadey September 23, 2011 at 12:51 pm |

    Well. . .: Skilled labor implies that one requires a certain skillset. Unskilled implies it does not. It takes special skills to be a surgeon. It takes no special skills to dig a ditch, or pump gas.

    You can take the phrase as insulting, but there’s no better way to put it. If something can be done by anyone, it’s unskilled labor. If it can only be done with special training and skills, then it’s skilled labor.

    This is the thing that really pisses me off, and it’s a very narrow, foolish way to look at the value of work.

    Just yesterday I had this conversation with a woman I know who is stuck with “two jobs in one”, where her main responsibility is ideally to be furthering the research agenda of our office, but her actual day-to-day responsibilities end up being much more administrative and secretarial (e.g., setting up meetings, filing paperwork, answering emails, etc.) because she is her own assistant as well as our research coordinator.

    The problem there is that she has been given more work than one person can manage on her schedule, but there’s another message here as well – even though the research work is more “important” and “meaningful” in a grand sense, that part of her job is impossible to do until the filing gets done. The unskilled scutwork is absolutely essential to the continued existence of our office, which sounds pretty meaningful to me.

    You may think that jobs which require a great deal of training to do well are inherently more valuable and worthwhile than jobs which are relatively simple and straightforward in their requirements, but a more holistic perspective on labour takes into account the fact that *everyone contributes*. We live in interdependent labour systems – if the CEO doesn’t have a secretary, her job becomes a lot harder. Maybe even impossible, until she can get someone else do to those basic tasks of keeping an office running and getting a schedule together. Never mind that those unspecialized skills are a hell of a lot more transferable to other parts of one’s life than are highly technical skills, says the student with specialized statistical training that will almost never be as useful to her outside of a particular setting as the myriad life skills she earned during her time in food service and admin jobs.

  51. chava
    chava September 23, 2011 at 12:55 pm |

    I’ve never been very good with the larger critique of “capitalism” as a post-Ind. Rev entity, because to me capitalism at its most base level just means people exchanging things…for other things. Even with small hunter gatherer groups (usually held up as acapitalist models) goods are traded with neighboring groups, and within the group itself, the members are still getting something (security, assurance that mutual help won’t be denied) from each other. It’s just a less explicit trade.

    I guess what I’m getting it is that however you devise a societal contract (communism, socialism, whatever), a percentage of those in power will always be evil, and some sort of check and balance is needed to prevent them from fucking up things overmuch. Clearly, what we have now Isn’t Working. I’m just hesitant to blame it on capitalism as an economic process rather than on human nature. OTOH, I’m inclined to agree that many of the *moral* values we have assimilated to “Capitalism” are in fact corporate propaganda.

  52. La Lubu
    La Lubu September 23, 2011 at 12:58 pm |

    For the most part, people don’t go into law, medicine, and other high paying jobs because of the fulfillment. It’s for the money.

    This is a very popular capitalist myth, but it’s empirically untrue. Read Daniel Pink’s Drive. Or, just pay attention to what State Lottery boards are banking on to fuel the ticket-buying public—the ability to leave their unsatisfying jobs and finally have the wealth to fulfill their dreams, do the work they actually want to do.

    Capitalism has a similar tease as other gambling operations; that you *too* can be one of the lucky winners. Like other gambling operations, it isn’t too keen on folks keeping “the house always wins” at the forefront of their minds. They might stop playing.

    Another popular capitalist myth is that socialist systems don’t allow individuals to own anything (“what if The State came in to haul off all your favorite books/clothes/whatever”). ‘Private Property’ in the socialist sense means ‘the means of production.’ (no one is going to empty your bookshelves or closets).

    For a really good take on how the mechanisms of capitalism (in conjunction with public policy) keep the rich richer and the poor poorer, especially considering the wealth gap by race, check out The Hidden Cost of Being African American by Thomas Shapiro. It effective strangles the “bootstraps” myth.

    I really like Rethinking Schools as a resource for alternative visions for education while still dealing with what we have. I started subscribing when my daughter started school, back in Early Start. I wanted to get some grounding on what-could-be, what-should-be, in the educational system as I dealt with the dilemma of being a struggling single parent with a daughter that had a great deal of learning difficulties from her prematurity. I wanted something more than “hope”; I wanted to see what people were doing, and get clues on what to do myself.

  53. Mercedes Allen
    Mercedes Allen September 23, 2011 at 1:00 pm |

    Raja:
    Capitalism in the original sense as Adam Smith wrote about it has changed drastically over the last 200 years…

    I’ll agree, but take it from a completely opposite vantage point.

    We live in a blended economy — probably moreso here (Canada) than there, but there are still aspects like Medicare, Medicaid, and pockets of socialism in the form of union-negotiated work requirements, with which other employers have to compete.

    A such, we’ve grown up never knowing actual capitalism, dark underbelly and all. It’s been blunted by the things that the corporate establishment are now seeking to erode, to see how far they can optimize their net power without finally triggering a citizen revolt.

    And because what we think of as “capitalism” includes these things, it has lulled the public into romanticizing it in an unreal way, to ideate the system as some unassailable article of faith. Until that faith is broken, society will be complacent. Once that faith IS broken (and we’re getting there), there will likely be a period of defeatism before an actual wave of change. You’ll have to excuse the analogy, but it is not the broken animal that fights back: it is the cornered one. The broken ones follow.

    But back to the topic, how to we envision something outside capitalism (and maybe also socialism etc)? The answer will reside in motive. Currently, we have an investment in capitalism, through our society’s faith that hard work will produce personal prosperity. That faith has to be broken to cause people to envision it, and there needs to be a new faith, a new potential to believe in to inspire people to bother to work toward it.

    With schools, it’s similar. Self-interest (alas) is always the key.

  54. BHuesca
    BHuesca September 23, 2011 at 1:01 pm |

    bfp:
    @miriam–I disagree that the far right is a “small fringe movement”–if you look at the governor of my state, he is absolutely all about dismantling public schools (as his connection with the Mackinaw Center suggests). also see rick perry’s stance on public schools (which is the most blatantly far right of them all), but Michelle Bachman’s views are not much better. Scott walker’s attacks on public education are well known, and the gates foundation has had a huuuge impact on shifting schools into private, charter, etc territory and/or emphasizing teacher performance over student outcomes.

    This is not a comprehensive overview of the the far right and their influence on public education at the moment–but i think it’s enough to get to the point.

    re: not self-evidently descriptive. point taken. I guess I will emphasize the left as being: liberal reformists, in particular mainstream feminists, and mainstream liberal press like salon and huffington post, the Democrats, etcetc.
    when mentioning the far right, i am referring to all who I mentioned here, and especially the christian right (think: 90s contract w/america, jerry falwell, etc) of which the tea party sprang from.

    The Gates Foundation is far right?? Really? They are rich, but i hadn’t heard that their political views were far-right. With all their humanitarian aid, and their work and funding to eradicate malaria in a large percentage of the world? And their antiretroviral distribution at a low cost (or free) to people in nations in Africa? Well, I mean, the George W Bush administration did do a lot of AIDS eradication work too…if this makes the Gateses right-wing, I wouldn’t consider that bad….

  55. La Lubu
    La Lubu September 23, 2011 at 1:03 pm |

    Have you ever seen Roger and Me?

    Not to mention “Capitalism: A Love Story” (my take here) and “Sicko” (god, I was out of my mind with rage during this one).

  56. La Lubu
    La Lubu September 23, 2011 at 1:07 pm |

    Also: can we retire the pot-smoking, basket-weaving hippie stereotype as the only alternative to powersuited capitalism, already? It’s about as tired as the bra-burning feminist.

  57. Angel H.
    Angel H. September 23, 2011 at 1:13 pm |

    Well. . .: Skilled labor implies that one requires a certain skillset. Unskilled implies it does not. It takes special skills to be a surgeon. It takes no special skills to dig a ditch, or pump gas.You can take the phrase as insulting, but there’s no better way to put it. If something can be done by anyone, it’s unskilled labor. If it can only be done with special training and skills, then it’s skilled labor.

    I take it you’ve never had to do “unskilled” labor. Otherwise, you would know that not everyone is capable. Just because a person can lift a plate, doesn’t mean that person would make a good waitress or waiter. Just because a person can cook a decent meal at home, doesn’t mean that person would be suited to working in a restaurant. And just because you can pump your own gas, it doesn’t mean you have the necessary skills to deal with customers at a busy gas station.

    Well. . .:
    Inversely, if everyone could be a doctor or a lawyer, who would do the menial jobs?

    You’re assuming that everyone would want to be a doctor or lawyer, or any similar position with that amount of stress and responsibility.

  58. matlun
    matlun September 23, 2011 at 1:28 pm |

    chava: Clearly, what we have now Isn’t Working. I’m just hesitant to blame it on capitalism as an economic process rather than on human nature. OTOH, I’m inclined to agree that many of the *moral* values we have assimilated to “Capitalism” are in fact corporate propaganda.

    I somewhat disagree and think that what we have now could in principle work.

    The biggest problem I see with how capitalism is presented in US culture (and to a lesser extent elsewhere) is that it is seen as some kind of ideal and almost sacred thing.

    Idealistic and simplified models often does not work in practice and the laissez-faire free market is a prime example of this. For example, you need good regulation to handle externalities (such as protecting the environment) and limit the excessive concentration of power and money to a few. Government interference in the market is a critical element to get a good society.

    Getting the political system and the government to work for the common good is the real challenge, though. In my more cynical moments I feel that the largest problem with the western democratic systems is the lack of an informed electorate. We get the politicians we deserve.

    (There are other problems also, of course. For example, in the US there are huge problems with the system of legalized bribery aka political donations).

  59. L
    L September 23, 2011 at 1:30 pm |

    I’m going to go back and read the comments, but for now I just want to say that the biggest reason I feel for a change right now is that we are basically going for unlimited economic growth on finite resources and a finite planet. It cannot possibly work in the long run, it is not sustainable. We are going to have to make a change at some point, and I REALLY don’t understand the attachment to capitalism. Most social justice issues have roots in capitalism and the never ending quest for a profitable bottom line. Ie. slavery, and it’s current ramifications on race relations, particularly in the US.

    I find it funny when people lash out and say “well socialism certainly hasn’t worked everywhere, what a bunch of idealistic pot smoking hippies”. But we could easily say the same thing about capitalism. The never ending quest for profit and more profit is ruining the planet and creating a system where there are a handful of winners and literally billions of losers. If anyone is idealistic, it’s people who are attached to capitalism and think that it can be spread to other parts of the world without any issues.

    Maybe we need to be a little bit more creative and move away from applying socialism, capitalism or communism straight from the textbook definition? Maybe it needs to be a mix, or something totally different altogether. All I know is this system is not working and we will be forced to change it in the future.

  60. Sheelzebub
    Sheelzebub September 23, 2011 at 1:36 pm |

    For the most part, people don’t go into law, medicine, and other high paying jobs because of the fulfillment. It’s for the money.

    Actually, I know people who became doctors and surgeons because they either loved medicine, hate disease, and/or love helping people. They may want to be paid well, but that’s often because they had to take out huge loans for medical school (since grants are commie pinko things, apparently, and we are all about the loans here in the US. Though becoming a teacher can rack up a sizable student loan bill as well, and you’re not going to make anywhere near what a doctor or big firm lawyer makes. Teaching is a skilled job that requires a lot of education–where is the renumeration?).

    Also: can we retire the pot-smoking, basket-weaving hippie stereotype as the only alternative to powersuited capitalism, already? It’s about as tired as the bra-burning feminist.

    No shit. That straw hippie wouldn’t be at all at home in Flint, MI or Lawrence, MA. Also, I’m not sure how we got from “instead of trying to fit into these economic paradigms of capitalism/socialism/communism that don’t work, it’s better for us to center our needs and values” to ZOMG COLLECTIVE FARMS.

    Also? The government asks that I pay a much higher percentage of taxes while people who make more than 100 times as much as I do don’t have to. The government asks that I pay a much higher percentage of taxes so that corporations don’t have to pay their share. And then I’m exhorted to not be selfish or greedy when I say it would be nice for people to be paid a fair wage and not be fucked over, but when I point out that someone who’s a multi-millionaire or a billionaire could pay even the percentage that I do in taxes, I’m being horribly unfair to them and waging class warfare. WTF?

  61. BHuesca
    BHuesca September 23, 2011 at 1:46 pm |

    Well. . .:
    Skilled labor implies that one requires a certain skillset.Unskilled implies it does not.It takes special skills to be a surgeon.It takes no special skills to dig a ditch, or pump gas.

    You can take the phrase as insulting, but there’s no better way to put it.If something can be done by anyone, it’s unskilled labor.If it can only be done with special training and skills, then it’s skilled labor.

    But you have to have a certain level of *ability*, if not skill. This is pointed out much more eloquently in Clarissa’s early link, but ditch digging requires *ability* as in legs and back and arms that are strong and “able” (sorry if this is offensive, but I can’t think of another way to put it: a paraplegic probably would not be the person digging the ditch.)

  62. L
    L September 23, 2011 at 1:50 pm |

    Well. . .: If everyone just lived communally and farmed and such, would we have an internet? The computer? Put people on the moon? Air travel?

    Put people on the moon? Who cares, seriously?

    It’s not like before the Internet, people thought “I wish we had the Internet”. If something doesn’t exist yet, you don’t miss it. What about other supposed “victories” of capitalism? Why exactly do we need a bajillion different kinds of toothpaste?

    It’s a complete myth that people only invent things to make money. There is something called internal motivation, and if you look up any theories by Daniel Pink, you would see that people come up with the best, craziest ideas not when they are promised money, but when they are simply left to think. Money gives you tunnel vision, ensuring that you won’t ever think outside the box.

  63. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. September 23, 2011 at 2:07 pm |

    matlun: Is this always a problem? Perhaps the work they do actually have more value? (How this is measured is of course a problematic question, but in some cases this is just true).

    I would. Not all people are able to perform at the same level.

    As a very simple example: Perhaps person A and B are actually doing the same job, but person A is just better at it and more productive.

    According to some ideal capitalism each person should be rewarded according to the value of their work. You could argue that this is not ideal (perhaps you want to go more for “to each according to need” as a goal?), but the value of work to the community will still differ between individuals.

    But why are we valuing *output* rather than *input*. Why value someone’s efforts at the level of their production rather than at their level of effort? Why not have a human centered value system rather than a production/efficiency centered value system.

  64. L
    L September 23, 2011 at 2:09 pm |

    TeiTetua: If it worries you that you have enough to eat and a probable lifespan of over 80, of course you can complain about capitalism. Go ahead, use this system of instantaneous worldwide communication to do it.

    Umm what? 80% of the world doesn’t have enough to eat and definitely does not have a probable lifespan of over 80, because of capitalism.

  65. randiradio
    randiradio September 23, 2011 at 2:23 pm |

    I completely agree with bfp on this:

    We are looking for a practical way to address the needs of our communities–rather than sticking to a strict ideological viewpoint.

    I also agree with this:

    Maybe we need to be a little bit more creative and move away from applying socialism, capitalism or communism straight from the textbook definition? Maybe it needs to be a mix, or something totally different altogether. All I know is this system is not working and we will be forced to change it in the future.

    No ideology is perfect in serving the needs of the people, but there are some useful aspects in most ideologies. What I’m seeing with captialism as it’s currently being used is things that sound good in theory don’t always work in practice. For example, in theory, under capitalism businesses compete to bring in customers, which should result in businesses increasing the quality of their products and services to bring in customers. But that’s not what’s been happening in North America. Some multinational corporations (e.g. Wal-Mart) are directly responsible for a decrease in the quality of products (e.g. many electronics are no longer built to last, they’re built to be disposable so consumers will have to buy more) and services (McJobs). Also, there’s incidents like multinationals receiving government subsidies–under “pure” capitalism, that shouldn’t be happening.

    I also agree wtih bfp that it’s important to have a conversation about resources. There are companies who are right now gaining control of water–who said water was a resource to buy and sell? Who let these particular companies do it? Is this acceptable in a purely capitalist economy?

    Food is one thing I believe should be socialized. It’s a basic human need and shouldn’t be subject entirely to capitalist forces. If a person has no money for food, they’re at the mercy of the generosity of others–food banks and their donors, people with money being ok with MAH TAX $$$ used for welfare benefits, people looking the other way when needy people steal food. Certain parts of the food industry could be left to market forces (novelty food like ice cream), but I think at the very least we can agree everyone is entitled to not starve, and a purely capitalist economy wouldn’t do well in preventing that.

  66. matlun
    matlun September 23, 2011 at 2:37 pm |

    Kristen J.: But why are we valuing *output* rather than *input*. Why value someone’s efforts at the level of their production rather than at their level of effort? Why not have a human centered value system rather than a production/efficiency centered value system.

    Perhaps this is mostly a question of semantics (what did you mean by “value” in the first post above), and perhaps I misunderstood your meaning (?)

    I read this as value as in “value to society” (which is admittedly not well defined).
    For example: If a great composer creates a fabulous piece of music, this should IMO be more highly valued than anything I could compose (my musical talents are very limited). Regardless of the effort.

    The level of effort put in could certainly alter how much I respect that person. (Eg someone who manages to overcome great adversity through strength of will, I do indeed see as very worthy of respect). But this to me is a different type of judgment than the one about the value of their work.

    As I said: Perhaps just a question of semantics?

  67. Well. . .
    Well. . . September 23, 2011 at 2:40 pm |

    bfp: Way to dismiss entire post.

    Jadey:

    The terms “skilled” and “unskilled” do not denote value. If you see that they do, that’s an inference you’re placing there.

    They are neutral terms, implying exactly what I said. One requires special skills, one does not.

  68. Shives
    Shives September 23, 2011 at 3:09 pm |

    Well. . .:
    You can’t use Detroit as an example, because Detroit is dying.

    And so are alot of other towns, cities, states across the country. As a native Michigander it pisses me off when people write of the situation in Michigan. While we may be getting there faster than some other areas of the country, this is exactly where everyone is heading if policies and attitudes don’t change. We aren’t a special little snowflake of a state, the same corporate and political climate that has turned Michigan into what it is today can be found all over this country. So yes, Detroit can be used as an example. If we can find a solution in Detroit we can find a solution for the rest of the country.

  69. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. September 23, 2011 at 3:19 pm |

    matlun: Perhaps this is mostly a question of semantics (what did you mean by “value” in the first post above), and perhaps I misunderstood your meaning (?)

    I read this as value as in “value to society” (which is admittedly not well defined).
    For example: If a great composer creates a fabulous piece of music, this should IMO be more highly valued than anything I could compose (my musical talents are very limited). Regardless of the effort.

    The level of effort put in could certainly alter how much I respect that person. (Eg someone who manages to overcome great adversity through strength of will, I do indeed see as very worthy of respect). But this to me is a different type of judgment than the one about the value of their work.

    As I said: Perhaps just a question of semantics?

    I don’t think its a question of semantics as much as I’m calling for a revision in how values are assigned. Currently we do value production/output in wages and respect. I would argue that value system is flawed and we should value with wages and respect the effort individual expend rather than their productive capacity. In my view its one of the only ways to account (in some small fashion) for brute luck.

  70. PrettyAmiable
    PrettyAmiable September 23, 2011 at 3:23 pm |

    L: Umm what? 80% of the world doesn’t have enough to eat and definitely does not have a probable lifespan of over 80, because of capitalism.

    Given that 1/6 of the world lives in China, a Communist country, I’m going to go ahead and call bullshit on the “enough to eat” stat.

  71. PrettyAmiable
    PrettyAmiable September 23, 2011 at 3:26 pm |

    L: It’s not like before the Internet, people thought “I wish we had the Internet”. If something doesn’t exist yet, you don’t miss it. What about other supposed “victories” of capitalism?

    This is pretty ridiculous as well. Are you saying your life hasn’t been bettered by the internet? Because that’s the point.

  72. Well. . .
    Well. . . September 23, 2011 at 5:04 pm |

    L: You seriously think putting people on the moon isn’t important? Or that the internet is “eh, whatever?”. The species needs to advance. We can’t sit around in mud huts and be agrarian and go fight battles with swords and ballistas.

    Putting people on the moon was one of the most significant things we’ve done in recent history. You realize how many things you have, right now, that came from that? You probably don’t. The internet, the greatest tool for communication and learning and globalization on the entire planet, and you act like it’s no big deal?

    You sound a bit of a luddite. I have a distinct lack of trust for such people, as it borders strongly on anti-science.

    Shives: It’s Michiganian. Michigander is a pejorative. I’m from Michigan. Born and raised. Detroit is dead because of Detroit’s own fault.

    I grew up listening to shop workers complaining that their $60/hour and huge benefits packages weren’t enough, going on strike, demanding more money, while meanwhile, other people were making $5/hour.

    I grew up watching Toyota, Honda, Hyundai, (and more) export cars to the US that were better, faster, cleaner, and had better gas mileage. Watching GM keep cranking out big, clunky, poorly made, overpriced, bad mileage cars. Expecting that nothing would ever stop. I watched the entire city attach itself to ONE BUSINESS.

    There are towns and cities all across this country that tried that. To attach everyone in the area’s livelihood to one single business.

    The solution isn’t communism or socialism, or living on a hippie commune and smoking pot.

    I hate to pull an age card here, but chances are high that I’m older than you, and lived around GM a lot longer, and watched the fall of Detroit over a longer span of time.

    Detroit’s fall wasn’t capitalism. Quite the opposite. Detroit’s fall was GM failing to actually do one of the tenets of capitalism. “If someone makes a better product, you make yours better.”

    They didn’t. Someone made a better product, and they kept making the same bad one. People didn’t buy foreign because they hate America, they bought foreign because the cars were better. GM refused to compete, because they never once for a single second thought that anything bad would happen.

    Every other business in this country understands you have to compete. American automakers didn’t.

    bfp: If you believe “GM” foods are bad, it’s hard to take you seriously. Genetically modified crops aren’t harmful. They’re the exact same thing a farmer would do 100 years ago via selective crossbreeding. They just remove the steps that take forever. For the most part, the stories of horrible mutant monster plants are pretty much scare tactics from the “organic” industry. (An industry, by the way, that is worse for the environment and causes more e-coli than any other food production. Fun fact.)

    bfp: Most everyone in the US lives in proximity to a library. Libraries offer internet access. The US has poor broadband penetration, but fairly decent internet access. South Korea, if I recall correctly, has the best internet access rate and broadband penetration in the world.

    Also, the internet is fairly new. You can’t expect the entire planet to have it in perfect distribution. There are many roadblocks to getting it to every single person.

    That said, it doesn’t make it less of an important achievement.

  73. matlun
    matlun September 23, 2011 at 5:10 pm |

    Kristen J.: I don’t think its a question of semantics as much as I’m calling for a revision in how values are assigned. Currently we do value production/output in wages and respect. I would argue that value system is flawed

    I do not agree. In the end, the actual results/output matter. Society should be appreciating productivity and efficiency, because from a purely pragmatic perspective this is important for the common good. In an ideal word without scarcity, work as we know it might not even be necessary at all, but as it is needed the output/value produced is not an unimportant side effect.

    We may be a bit more likely to be in agreement on how much the value of the work should be reflected in wages/reward. IMO this should not be on a proportional scale from this actual value. Ie we want minimum levels (social security nets) as well a more even distribution than is “natural” (eg progressive taxation).
    Many (including me) would claim that for example in the US today there is too uneven a distribution.

    Another discussion would of course be which output that should be valued and how much. Ie which work actually serves society? Which people today are getting rewards out of proportion (either too small or too large) to the value of their contribution?

    (I guess this would tie into the discussion bfp wanted on how resources should be distributed/what people are entitled to)

  74. Chuckie K
    Chuckie K September 23, 2011 at 5:25 pm |

    On the whole discussion of ‘value.’ Jobs and skills are ‘valued’ in as much as they produce profits for capitalists. “We” don’t value them with waqges. Capitalists do that.

  75. Chuckie K
    Chuckie K September 23, 2011 at 5:38 pm |

    @Chavea. when you say “capitalism at its most base level just means people exchanging things…for other things. Even with small hunter gatherer groups (usually held up as acapitalist models) goods are traded with neighboring groups, and within the group itself” I think you’ve made two claims that are not based on facts. People in smakll groups do not have privately owned industries that mass produce for profit. they are not in any way capitalist. And small groups as studies by anthropologists don’t work that way either, the second question was recently discussed here: http://tinyurl.com/3lwefbj and http://tinyurl.com/42n4mp3

  76. Chuckie K
    Chuckie K September 23, 2011 at 5:49 pm |

    @Well< This argument, "Capitalism is good. Communism doesn’t work, full-on socialism doesn’t work. Most fully functioning societies operate on a capitalist model with some socialist aspects" is exactly the argument made repeatedly from 1500-1800 why capitlaism could not work, but feudalism did. Of course they thought people hated to be paqid, and wanted to enjoy their proper station in life. Times change and so do way sof producing, distributing and consuming.

  77. Chuckie K
    Chuckie K September 23, 2011 at 5:51 pm |

    @Well< This argument, "Capitalism is good. Communism doesn’t work, full-on socialism doesn’t work. Most fully functioning societies operate on a capitalist model with some socialist aspects" is exactly the argument made repeatedly from 1500-1850 why capitlaism could not work, but feudalism did (or slavery!). Of course they thought people hated to be paqid, and wanted to enjoy their proper station in life. Times change and so do way sof producing, distributing and consuming.

  78. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. September 23, 2011 at 6:16 pm |

    matlun: I do not agree. In the end, the actual results/output matter. Society should be appreciating productivity and efficiency, because from a purely pragmatic perspective this is important for the common good. In an ideal word without scarcity, work as we know it might not even be necessary at all, but as it is needed the output/value produced is not an unimportant side effect.

    We may be a bit more likely to be in agreement on how much the value of the work should be reflected in wages/reward. IMO this should not be on a proportional scale from this actual value. Ie we want minimum levels (social security nets) as well a more even distribution than is “natural” (eg progressive taxation).
    Many (including me) would claim that for example in the US today there is too uneven a distribution.

    Another discussion would of course be which output that should be valued and how much. Ie which work actually serves society? Which people today are getting rewards out of proportion (either too small or too large) to the value of their contribution?

    (I guess this would tie into the discussion bfp wanted on how resources should be distributed/what people are entitled to

    Eh…I’m unconvinced that output is as crucial as capitalist societies label it. And in any society where “talent” or “skill” or “efficiency” (i.e., productive capacity) is specially rewarded you are going to inevitably have economic oppression of those deemed less skillful or less productive. Since productive capacity is most often a product of brute luck, you are going to have a fundamentally unequal society where the “productive” are *entitled* to more resources.

  79. April
    April September 23, 2011 at 8:43 pm |

    Before I read any of the comments, I just want to say I LOVE this post, especially:

    I don’t believe our only choices are “Capitalism,” “Communism,” or “Socialism.”

    I was just saying this all over the interwebz the other day. It’s really frustrating that, as soon as someone starts critiquing capitalism, capitalist apologists (as I like to call them) always say something to the effect of “but socialism is teh evilll!” as if an opposition to capitalism automatically implies favoring state-owned means of production or Communist Russia.

    Personally, I’m very interested in distributism.

  80. April
    April September 23, 2011 at 9:18 pm |

    I wanted to say one more thing, before I delve too deeply into the comments so as to distract me:

    I’ve been thinking a lot lately between the differences between “radical” feminism and “liberal” feminism. I actually wrote a blog post about it a while ago, and touched on some of these issues there, but the main point that related to this post is that I think radical feminism is more about a collective sisterhood, while liberal feminism is more about the individual. These characteristics are parallel in many ways to capitalism and socialism. Radical feminists, in my observation, tend to be sort of automatically opposed to capitalism, while the liberal feminists (who I think you’re referring to in this post) are more accepting of it, because it’s the system we exist in, and liberals tend to prefer reform as opposed to revolution.

    I personally don’t consider myself a radical feminist, because I understand that radical feminism believes that all oppression is rooted in the oppression of women, while I believe it’s mostly rooted in class differences. I don’t think we will have any meaningful change in our society, gender- or otherwise, until we radically alter our economic system– and capitalism is absolutely dependent on an oppressed class of people to survive. Every other oppression, the way I see it play out in front of me and in my own life, is an auxiliary method of oppression that serves to further aid the privilege of the economically privileged and oppress those without that privilege.

  81. llama
    llama September 23, 2011 at 9:42 pm |

    Well. . .: Also in a non-capitalist society, education, and everything else would fail and falter.

    Yes because of course the soviet communists did not get a man in to space first, nor was laser eye surgery a communist invention. I could go on endlessly and list more non inventions that were due to a complete failure of their education system. But then I wouldn’t get to mention the failure of the Chinese to produce millions of tertiary graduates each year and their failure to dramatically increase this number each year. I wouldn’t even get to mention the absolute failure of the Nordic countries to come in the top handful of countries educationally because of their socialist approach to education.

    I would agree that some things will be at risk without capitalism, like rich people getting richer of the efforts of poorer people. Is this something I should be really concerned about?

  82. llama
    llama September 23, 2011 at 9:50 pm |

    April: . I don’t think we will have any meaningful change in our society, gender- or otherwise, until we radically alter our economic system– and capitalism is absolutely dependent on an oppressed class of people to survive. Every other oppression, the way I see it play out in front of me and in my own life, is an auxiliary method of oppression that serves to further aid the privilege of the economically privileged and oppress those without that privilege.

    *nods*

  83. PrettyAmiable
    PrettyAmiable September 23, 2011 at 9:52 pm |

    bfp:
    @pretty amiable–I think the point is that a huge population of people esp. in the US don’t have access to that life bettering internet.

    Pretty sure that’s not what Well meant. Granted, he’s been kind of a dick in this thread and throughout, but there’s always going a trade-off between progress (i.e. technological advances that give us the ability to travel great distances, the internet, etc) and something. And I would argue that most people don’t want to live in a world entirely without those advances. So what is the appropriate trade-off? Or if that’s not the right question (because I think it presupposes capitalism), how do we have a more socialist model that actually pushes for innovation?

  84. K
    K September 23, 2011 at 10:10 pm |

    bfp: Loving your posts, and this post especially, thanks!

    The conversation seems to have zeroed in on the economics/jobs question, but I wanted to bring it back to the education system for a bit.

    I have often felt alienated in left/progressive spaces due to my strong opposition to the existing public school system. For the record, my opposition has nothing to do with the fact that the school system is government funded, and everything to do with the way it approaches education and young people. I take a dim view of most private schools for the same reason.

    From the age of 9-13, I attended an alternative school modeled on Sudbury Valley School principles. (http://www.sudval.org/) In the world of alternative education, Sudbury is out there on the fringes with un-schooling. I went to school in an environment where no one had the right to force me to do anything, regardless of their age or position. I had complete control over how I spent my time, and I had an equal vote in budgeting and hiring decisions along with every other student and staff member.

    I cannot explain how powerful my school experience was for me. I do not think the Sudbury model is perfect, and my little satellite school definitely had its share of problems. But I think our current education system is an abusive entity that violates the basic rights of young people.

    This does not mean that I think all, or even most, teachers and school administrators are abusive or malicious. Several of my best friends went into teaching after we graduated, and I have huge respect for them and what they do. But the system, what it assumes and allows, the basic way it functions, is appalling to me.

    When I listen to discussions about “school reform” in progressive spaces, there is no place for my voice. Most people on the left are so busy defending teachers and teacher unions that my thoughts are either ignored or interpreted as just another attack on our sainted educators. Here is the truth of my experience: some public school teachers are great, some are apathetic, and some get off on the power of their position and can really fuck with their students with very little interference.

    This shouldn’t be a surprise-we know what happens when humans are given almost total control over other humans, whom they believe are inferior. It ain’t pretty, for the guards or the inmates.

    When I voice my opposition to the school system, I tend to hit really strong resistance. Not only that, but people tend to take it very personally. “It was good enough for me” and ” I came out fine” are things I frequently hear. Or people say “I never could have succeeded in a school like that”, which makes me very sad. So many people have bought into the myth that they wouldn’t do anything or have any worth if they weren’t forced to work and learn.

    This came out long, but basically: what do people think of the existing public school system, as seperate from the idea of government-funded public education? How is the attachment to the education system similar to the attachment to Capitalism. How do we confront the insistence that only incremental changes are possible?

  85. llama
    llama September 23, 2011 at 10:33 pm |

    bfp: I think a far more beneficial conversation to have would be to ask who is entitled to resources? Why is there an instinctive shudder when you say “entitled to resources”? is anybody entitled to resources? If people are not entitled to resources, why don’t we challenge the idea that corporations or governments are? What are the ethics that should guide the parcelling out of resources? Or the defense of resources?

    I think this is the conversation that really needs to take place and on a global level. The world has limited resources and until now we have been able to ignore this, but not for much longer.

  86. llama
    llama September 23, 2011 at 10:47 pm |

    Well. . .: They’re the exact same thing a farmer would do 100 years ago via selective crossbreeding

    WRONG. Look under transgenic on the Wikipedia genetically modified plant page.

    You will see that some GM plants have genes inserted into them from bacteria this is not something that is possible with selective breeding as generally plants and bacteria do not breed.

  87. llama
    llama September 23, 2011 at 11:36 pm |

    Well. . .: Putting people on the moon was one of the most significant things we’ve done in recent history.

    Ok lets take your fallacious argument that this could not be done without capitalism and let it run its course.

    1) The US putting men on the moon was an ideological statement. It was simply a response to the Soviets putting a man in space first. There is a huge list of other communist soviet space firsts. First to land on another planet etc etc etc.

    2) To argue that it is some way a capitalist venture when it was completely government funded and the only competition was an ideological one against a communist state is to either argue in bad faith or to be ignorant of the facts.

    3) Capitalism has lost this race, the US currently has no way of getting men into space without the product of communist Russia being involved. For now your astronauts travel by communist designed Soyuz capsule to the international space station and all your heavy lift rockets use communist designed rocket engines manufactured in Russia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RD-180.

    4) The next person on the moon will be Chinese put there by a communist government, using a capsule mainly designed in communist Russia and a rocket designed in communist China.

    If you seriously think that landing men on the moon is some important measure of a society then the fact the US can no longer do this must be either an indication of capitalism’s failure or evidence that your argument was fallacious to begin with.

  88. Well...
    Well... September 24, 2011 at 1:05 am |

    llama: China is about as communist as my foot. The thing is, of all societies called “communist”, none have been truly communist. China has billionaires. You truly think that’d be allowed in communism? Be serious.

    Also, the Nordic countries ARE NOT SOCIALIST. Pretty much every first world nation on Earth is capitalist, like I said, with socialist aspects.

    As far as things go, no nation on Earth is truly, completely socialist or communist. Just capitalist, with aspects of the others.

    So, yeah. Economics and such, learn them.

    I mean, by your argument, the US is socialist, because we have socialist schools, roads, police, fire departments, welfare, and various other programs.

    Again, you sound very young and idealistic.

    You also sound incredibly ignorant about economics, and a lot of other things. Believe in what you will, be it a magic hug commune of love and farming, but don’t argue where you don’t know what you’re talking about, starting with the humorous concept that you really think China and Russia are communist in any sense other than “name only”.

  89. Matt
    Matt September 24, 2011 at 1:18 am |

    K:
    bfp: Loving your posts, and this post especially, thanks!

    The conversation seems to have zeroed in on the economics/jobs question, but I wanted to bring it back to the education system for a bit.

    I have often felt alienated in left/progressive spaces due to my strong opposition to the existing public school system. For the record, my opposition has nothing to do with the fact that the school system is government funded, and everything to do with the way it approaches education and young people. I take a dim view of most private schools for the same reason.

    From the age of 9-13, I attended an alternative school modeled on Sudbury Valley School principles. (http://www.sudval.org/) In the world of alternative education, Sudbury is out there on the fringes with un-schooling. I went to school in an environment where no one had the right to force me to do anything, regardless of their age or position. I had complete control over how I spent my time, and I had an equal vote in budgeting and hiring decisions along with every other student and staff member.

    I cannot explain how powerful my school experience was for me. I do not think the Sudbury model is perfect, and my little satellite school definitely had its share of problems. But I think our current education system is an abusive entity that violates the basic rights of young people.

    This does not mean that I think all, or even most, teachers and school administrators are abusive or malicious. Several of my best friends went into teaching after we graduated, and I have huge respect for them and what they do. But the system, what it assumes and allows, the basic way it functions, is appalling to me.

    When I listen to discussions about “school reform” in progressive spaces, there is no place for my voice. Most people on the left are so busy defending teachers and teacher unions that my thoughts are either ignored or interpreted as just another attack on our sainted educators. Here is the truth of my experience: some public school teachers are great, some are apathetic, and some get off on the power of their position and can really fuck with their students with very little interference.

    This shouldn’t be a surprise-we know what happens when humans are given almost total control over other humans, whom they believe are inferior. It ain’t pretty, for the guards or the inmates.

    When I voice my opposition to the school system, I tend to hit really strong resistance. Not only that, but people tend to take it very personally. “It was good enough for me” and ” I came out fine” are things I frequently hear. Or people say “I never could have succeeded in a school like that”, which makes me very sad. So many people have bought into the myth that they wouldn’t do anything or have any worth if they weren’t forced to work and learn.

    This came out long, but basically: what do people think of the existing public school system, as seperate from the idea of government-funded public education? How is the attachment to the education system similar to the attachment to Capitalism. How do we confront the insistence that only incremental changes are possible?

    Heh, I have a similar problem. If I ever bring up the ridiculousness of the idea of internal drive, or the fact that parents impose crushing restrictions long before school is a factor, I get massive rage and accusations of trolling.
    “Internal drive” is created by “internalizing” external pressure. Have you ever seen the results of letting a human or baby exist without the external imposition of rules? You say that allowing you to control your own time is something helpful and appropriate. Do you understand that before you went to your magic school your time was massively structured under powerful emotional pressure by your parents? That people who have internalized different things would flounder in that environment? Have you ever been prevented from doing something by someone? Then you don’t and didn’t control your own time. If you lied to your parents or refused to do something, did they just let it go? Just because you don’t properly remember aspects of your early life socialization doesn’t mean they didn’t happen.
    And even at magic happy school people forced you to do things. Could you go home if you wanted? Would you be allowed to leave the premises? What if you wanted to spend all your time playing gameboy? Was that cool with your benevolent dictators?
    You claim to be looking at the world and seeing something that other people can’t or won’t see. You’ve critically evaluated your experience and think that it is superior. But have you studied its effects on others? You’re eyes are just as closed to your repression as anyone else’s. If some restriction didn’t bug you, or if you didn’t push against some rule, you don’t even realize that it exists.

  90. Renee
    Renee September 24, 2011 at 1:30 am |

    llama: 2) To argue that it is some way a capitalist venture when it was completely government funded and the only competition was an ideological one against a communist state is to either argue in bad faith or to be ignorant of the facts.

    3) Capitalism has lost this race, the US currently has no way of getting men into space without the product of communist Russia being involved. For now your astronauts travel by communist designed Soyuz capsule to the international space station and all your heavy lift rockets use communist designed rocket engines manufactured in Russia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RD-180.

    ^^^ this ^^^

    Also, I seriously have to laugh at any assertion of what may or may not have developed in the absence of capitalism. Such statements demand a greater control of the time-space continuum than I possess, at any rate. The system we have is broken…it fails all but the lucky few, and is completely unsustainable on either the micro or macro scale. It makes sense to consider alternatives, and fearmongering about all the great things we’re going to miss if change is pointless…we don’t know what will or won’t be innovated upon tomorrow, and for those of us dying in the cracks, we don’t much care.

    And the take-down on Detroit is bunk. Yes, GM made some bad decisions, and yes, they got arrogant and probably gave up competing before they had to. But that’s what capitalism does; as I’ve said elsewhere, two companies battling in the free market can only get better so many times…innovation and improvement is limited in a million different ways (off the top of my head, labor costs, technology, and raw resources to name three), and eventually someone wins and someone loses. The winner moves on to the next competitor and either wins or loses. Eventually one person holds all the marbles, and then goes home to hoard them.

  91. Raja
    Raja September 24, 2011 at 4:04 am |

    China is communist mostly in name and is now shifting towards state run capitalism. Even when it was supposedly communist it managed to kill more people than Hitler or Stalin under Mao. Russia is no longer communist though one could argue that even during the days of the USSR they weren’t actually practicing true communism and more of an oligarchy because if you look at its elite members living standards compared to the vast majority of the population they were way higher. Hell they even had their own private medical system just for people who were in the party while everyone else wasn’t so fortunate. They also had their own military industrial complex except it was state run and practiced their own form of imperialism (East Europe and other countries around the globe) and their treatment of ethnic minorities within their own country was less than pleasant and the same is true today espicially in areas like Chechnya which rarely get media coverage from the West. As for the whole space thing that will probably be China along with EU and Russia though more countries will probably join them in the future.

  92. La Lubu
    La Lubu September 24, 2011 at 9:12 am |

    “Well….”, it is hard for me to take you seriously when you are:

    ….the only person on this thread that has assumed anticapitalism means a return to subsistence agriculture.

    ….the only person on this thread that has mentioned layabout pot-smoking hippies (basket-weaving, even. wow, that was the popular trope in the 70s. I suggest updating your hippie stereotype.)

    ….the only person who has repeated the right-wing talking point of autoworkers taking home “$60/hr” (despite the empirical evidence that the average autoworker takes home around $29/hr, with a benefit package that takes the total value of the job up around $40/hr—-very typical for skilled tradespeople)

    Someone that hangs out that many strawpeople to burn isn’t interested in discussion—-but then, anyone that read your other thread with the anti-dance screed probably already knows that (FWIW, I thought it was hilarious, and that you didn’t believe your own bullshit…but perhaps you do).

  93. llama
    llama September 24, 2011 at 10:23 am |

    Well…:
    llama: China is about as communist as my foot.The thing is, of all societies called “communist”, none have been truly communist.

    So in that case how do you assert that communism cannot work? According to you it has never been tried, or did it just not work in your mind experiment?

    Well…: Also, the Nordic countries ARE NOT SOCIALIST.

    Rather than making it up inside your own head, read what I said, which was:

    llama: I wouldn’t even get to mention the absolute failure of the Nordic countries to come in the top handful of countries educationally because of their socialist approach to education.

    i.e., No assertion that these countries are socialist just an assertion they have a socialist approach to education. So take your caps lock and put it with your reading comprehension.

    Well…: I mean, by your argument, the US is socialist, because we have socialist schools, roads, police, fire departments, welfare, and various other programs.

    No because if they were socialist on a country wide scale then you would not be closing fire departments and pulling out street lights just because a city can’t afford them. You would have federal support for areas that needed help.

    Well…: You also sound incredibly ignorant about economics

    Yeah not believing in the same model of “capitalism” as the US follows might seem ignorant to you. But hey all the countries that I have a passport for have universal healthcare and universal education. I like that form of “capitalism” a lot better and it seems, so do the other ignorant people in those countries.

    But then none of these countries have a system that is quite as good at maintaining the gap between the rich and poor as the form of “capitalism” the US follows.

    Now you might think putting quotes around the word capitalism everywhere is strange but then what do you do when what it really means now is corporate feudalism ?

    Well…: Again, you sound very young and idealistic.

    I didn’t see where you had mentioned this before for it to be an “again” but regardless, thanks, at 49 it is great to be considered young. I don’t quite see what is wrong with idealistic either. Don’t you have ideals? Did you sell them on the free market?

  94. Athenia
    Athenia September 24, 2011 at 10:30 am |

    Awesome post!

    I think the reason why a lot of feminists don’t engage with capitalism is that it’s very hard to even think about that when you’re fighting for basic rights–the right to have an abortion, the right to have a job and medical care no matter how your body is perceived.

    That seems to be reason why the answer–capitalism, socialism, communism etc, is never going serve the needs of its people (or could serve their needs) because they are all based on the people’s *values*. And by value, I mean what is valued. So if certain women, for example, aren’t valued no amount of communism, capitalism etc is going solve the problem.

  95. William
    William September 24, 2011 at 10:36 am |

    @ Kristen J #50,

    My father was a ditch digger until he got sick, got a lawyer, and got a desk. He worked a tough job for pay that seemed pretty fair until the work gave him something that damn near killed him. I know how hard manual labor is and I don’t think it should be valued less. At the same time, I think that often times when we have these discussions we want to drift to the egalitarian ideal that anyone can be good at anything if they just have the opportunity and resources. Some jobs are more important than others, some people have more to contribute. That doesn’t mean that those people should be at the top of the tyranny heap, but I think its something we need to grapple with. Some people are born better, some are made better, some are good enough at working out the game to pass as better, but whatever your idea of progress is under whatever system you prefer the end result is going to be that some people have more to offer than others. Not everyone has the internal capacity to be Charles Mingus or Carl Rogers and some people have the internal capacity to be Ted Bundy or Joseph Stalin. People aren’t equal. Rights, treatment, and access desperately need to be, but people just plain aren’t. People are individuals.

    I was a kid who didn’t have the resources I deserved when I was young. I had the good luck of genetics and aggressive parents to help pull me through, but it hurt and I bled a lot more than I should have. Thats part of why I do the work I do today. I’ve grown a thick skin, but when I see comments like the one I was responding to I get angry. I’m one of those people who won the lottery of class, genetics, and internalized experience. Any system I end up in I’m going to be able to take advantage of. I’m going to find loopholes and anticipate needs and ultimately profit. For complex personal reasons the profit I’m after isn’t a bank account but my vision of a better world, of a world where people know more about why they do what they do so that they can figure out what they want to be to be happy. But I cannot do that in a top-down, carefully planned, system. The more I have to dodge around bullshit, the more I have to fight with political expediency and insurance boards and governments who just plain don’t give two tugs of a dead dogs cock about mad folks and their quality of life, the less I can do my job. Suggesting that I dig a ditch to keep things fair means that I won’t be able to do the job I’m trained to do, I won’t be able to help form the better world I’d like to form, I won’t be able to try to make others bleed just a little less than I did.

    Those are my patients someone is talking about fucking with in the name of some half-thought out utopian ideal. So yes, this is absolutely about what we value more, but I’m pretty sure we’re not all talking about the same system of valuation.

  96. La Lubu
    La Lubu September 24, 2011 at 10:36 am |

    K, why my neck hairs raise when I hear “opposition to the public school system”….is because there is a well-oiled, well-funded, politically powerful movement that is out there to abolish public schools, and they sure the hell do not want to replace them with anything remotely progressive. This article from Rethinking Schools is a pretty good flash-forward to what a school voucher program would really look like, especially in economically-deprived areas.

  97. William
    William September 24, 2011 at 10:37 am |

    Erm….Kristen J @53….

  98. llama
    llama September 24, 2011 at 10:41 am |

    In for a penny in for a pound.

    Well…: . Believe in what you will, be it a magic hug commune of love and farming

    Yeah throw some more straw men on the bonfire. It is laughable that you are staunchly defending capitalism at a time where all the capital in the system is actually coming from government debt. i.e., tax payers money not from people with capital.

    Well…: but don’t argue where you don’t know what you’re talking about,

    It doesn’t seem to be an impediment to you! Read my post #104 in reply to your erroneous comment about GM plants. It seems you think even 15 seconds reading on Wikipedia is too much of an investment of time and it much better to push your uninformed view.

  99. La Lubu
    La Lubu September 24, 2011 at 10:55 am |

    I think a far more beneficial conversation to have would be to ask who is entitled to resources? Why is there an instinctive shudder when you say “entitled to resources”? is anybody entitled to resources? If people are not entitled to resources, why don’t we challenge the idea that corporations or governments are? What are the ethics that should guide the parcelling out of resources? Or the defense of resources?

    THIS. And we can start with “where do those resources come from?”

  100. Well. . .
    Well. . . September 24, 2011 at 11:05 am |

    Renee: That’s false. Competition begets improvement. Detroit just stopped competing. It wasn’t as if the standards of the Asian automakers were impossible to reach, or were so unaffordable that no one could possibly do it but then. They made better cars, Detroit didn’t. Detroit could have, didn’t. They made an active choice to not attempt to improve the product. If they had actually attempted to compete, and made a comparable vehicle, then what would have happened might have been GM surviving, and me not being forced to watch tax dollars go to bail them out (and pay for big fat CEO bonuses). Or, maybe that would have forced Asian automakers to improve their cars, and then us, ours, and so on.

    La Lubu: “Right wing talking point?” Oh, fuck off. I LIVED THERE. SAW IT WITH OWN EYES FOR 20 YEARS UNTIL I MOVED OUT OF THE STATE.

    So, take that “talking point”. Matter of fact, father of a friend of mine used to make 86.30/hour at GM.

    You’re saying “average autoworker takes home”. Currently, sure! Then? No. So, yeah. Maybe you need to realize some people have experience you don’t. You get your information from the internet, I got it from being there.

    They don’t take home as much now. Every time GM lowered pay, strikes. Again, if you didn’t live there, watch it, and listen to them complain about making 10 times more than the average person in the city, as if it was “impossible to live” on “only” 50 bucks an hour (not including benefits), then shut up. Seriously.

    Also, no one said it directly, but most of the anticapitalist posts either have no ideas, or sort of allude to a magic wonderland of caring and sharing.

  101. jameseq
    jameseq September 24, 2011 at 1:33 pm |

    Well. . . 9.23.2011 at 12:32 pm
    [snip]
    I notice though, for all the weeping and gnashing of teeth over capitalism, nobody’s got a better solution. Well, except a few edge cases where idealistic hippies seem to think we can all smoke a ton of dope and live on a commune, and love everyone and weave baskets. That, however, is not realistic.
    Capitalism drives progress, too.

    If everyone just lived communally and farmed and such, would we have an internet? The computer? Put people on the moon? Air travel?

    Nahhh. Most all the stuff you use exists because a capitalistic need for it existed.

    Capitalism certainly does not drive progress. It actually impedes progress.
    Businesses especially those with large shareholders are actually riskaverse. Preferring to generate profits not by gambling with risk. But by attempting to corner the market, drive down production costs(including worker’s salaries), sell the same product with minor changes every few years(a favourite of the pharmaceutical sector. Theyd rather reissue a preexisting drug with minor mods to maintain the life of the patent, than spend one billion dollars on creating a new drug — and wouldnt you in their shoes) . Also the profit motive only allows for short term considerations: that next quarter, next year, next two years – next 10 years? ‘erm, why would i as CEO care, ill be retired. why should i risk now for someone else to MAYBE get the reward 10yrs later when i wont be here. i prefer to get my reward NOW’

    The internet, the moon missions, the computer(mainframe at least) were all government funded. Nowt capitalist about them. If you look at the history of inventions or discoveries most were funded until recently by wealthy patrons or by governments. The only time business funded most of the bill of its inventions was in the early electric era (1870to1920), before the increasing complexities of further inventions required larger funding. Much larger than businesses could afford to risk. An example of this is IBM in the 1930s
    http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=9xJxpwR3p5MC&pg=PA37&lpg=PA37&dq=government+funding+of+ibm+in+1930s&source=bl&ots=FV7RZXOhvm&sig=fRA4Z48iEdZj9AhEA0c_yv_cIqo&hl=en&ei=2gd-Tv3LLIak0QW3gPnSDw&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CCsQ6AEwAA

    Personal computers werent created by business, by but home-enthusiasts in the 1970s when the technology was still simple enough for them to do so. eg. the crew bill gates was part of in the 1970s in cali.
    As for airtravel

    Coach Class
    In the 1950s the American aviation industry grew dramatically. Airline companies had gradually adopted the technological improvements of World War II for their civilian planes, and commercial air travel became faster and more comfortable. It also became cheaper as new planes accommodating more people were introduced. Airlines began to offer “air coach class” seating, priced to compete with railroad’s “coach” business. By paying coach fares, passengers could fly almost anywhere in the country for about one hundred dollars, one-third less than airfares of the late 1940s. “For the first time the ordinary man began to fly with us,” observed Juan Trippe, longtime head of Pan American. By 1955 more Americans were traveling by air than by railroad.
    h ttp://www.novelguide.com/a/discover/adec_0001_0006_0/adec_0001_0006_0_01799.html

    Who funded the ‘the technological improvements of World War II’ – government. Without those improvements, airtravel is the preserve of the wealthy.

    No, most primary research is government funded and then licensed to and marketed by eg. the pharmaceutical, aerospace or the defence industry.
    The funds now needed for most large scale innovations can only come from the noncapitalist purse of government.

    . Most all the stuff you use exists because a capitalistic need for it existed.

    Most all the stuff you use exists because a capitalistic need for it existed.
    Most all the stuff you use exists because a mercantile need for it existed.
    Most all the stuff you use exists because a (european)feudal need for it existed.
    Capitalism is not THE market economy. it is an iteration, a form of a market economy. Markets have always existed.
    Needs have always existed. Needs existed before capitalism, and it was met by the market and by society. And people still desired profit before capitalism

    I notice though, for all the weeping and gnashing of teeth over capitalism, nobody’s got a better solution

    When did the wealth of the Western middle classes boom in the last 200yrs? Only under the what i call ‘aristocratic socialism/communism’ (which was effectively the continuation of ww2 tax rates and government sponsorship of large scale business projects) between 1945 to the oil shocks of the early 1970s. It only took 1.5 incomes for the ordinary family of four to have a decent life. Now it takes 2,3 or even 4 incomes for the same family. the gap between rich and poor here in the UK is now larger, than in Oliver Twist’s Dickensian England! I repeat, the gap between rich and poor here in the UK is now larger, than in Oliver Twist’s Dickensian England. People are blinded by our technological gadgets, so they cant see this disparity.

    Whether this aristocratic socialism can be repeated, i still mull over in my mind as the success of this version of a market economy was based on two things:
    1. a stable and low price of oil, which was $20 a barrel in todays money.
    2. the redistribution of the revenue from the upper tax rate, which was 70 to 90% ! The very high tax rate is why the beatles wrote the song ‘the taxman’. Aristocratic socialism worked for everyone apart from the people who would smash it apart in the early 1970s – the ‘self made’ highearner from a nonwealthy background. Unlike the preexisting elite who had already had their old-money wealth, and so didnt mind too much being highly taxed on subsequent earnings. The tax rate didnt allow for new-money, the ‘selfmade’ to accrue their own stash. So if aristocractic socialism was to be reintroduced, a mechanism needs to be created to allow the ‘selfmade’ high earners from nonwealthy backgrounds to enjoy more of the spoils of their work. Perhaps a complete tax holiday every 4 years, although that may pervert the business cycle with unintended consequences.

  102. Renee
    Renee September 24, 2011 at 1:38 pm |

    I’ll reiterate only this: Competition isn’t about improvement, it just happens as a sort of side effect up to a point, and only as a side-effect. The real goal of competition, whether in the market place or over a game of Monopoly, is to win. That is what is happening with our current system; if it’s not readily obvious given the dwindling middle-class, the widening gap between rich and poor, the ridiculous unemployment rate, the subversion of our political system, and so many other symptoms, then you’ve got your eyes closed.

  103. Chuckie K
    Chuckie K September 24, 2011 at 1:43 pm |

    @Well “Competition begets improvement.” Now I don’t mean this personally. It’s an argument I use all the time. Who was your mother competing with when she raised you?

  104. Chuckie K
    Chuckie K September 24, 2011 at 2:18 pm |

    A lot of this discussion has taken the inevitable direction. What’s “real,” what’s isn’t. “Real” capitalism. “Real” socialism.s In my view, not discussions that can ge anywhere.

    I want to talk about one of the needs I feel. Which involves the “jobs,” “value” and doing multiple konds of work questions. And as far as I’m concerned shows that “competition produces improvement” is delusionally selective thinking.

    I spent fourteen years as my mother’s sole caregiver. In the twelfth year she fell twice, once breaking her arm, once fracturing her pelvis. Both times she had to go through physical rehabilitation. The frist facility was run by Marriot, the second by Sodexho. Both also provided long-term care for old people paid for by Medicare. Old people sitting in wheelchairs in hallways with nothing to do. Lonely bored.
    From the second rehab. my mohter went straight to a private pay skilled nursing facility. This palce wouldn’t accept Medicare payments. So we forked over $3,000 a month for two years. Better. Better ratio staff to residents. Better food. More activities. And all still obviously inadaequate.
    My mother was in a wheelchair that she couldn’t move herself. Couldn’t feed herself. Couldn’t talk. But was pretty much all there inside. So for those two years, I visited her for an hour on every work day and three or four hours on my days off.

    So I know that government benefits, that is a slightly mediated capitalist solution, for these seriously impaired old folks are big revenue source for “hospitality” corporations, but provide the residents with little more than warehousing. The purely capitalist solution cannot provide adequate levels of care either.

    Faced with this demoralizing situation, what were my needs? What are the social needs? I needed to be able to be a family member as much as a worker. I needed *paid* time to care for my mother, three – fours hours every day. The residents needed twice as many caregivers at all times.
    they needed their family members to have the freedom to visit them more easily. They needed people with time to talk to them, to hold their hands, to take them outside on a nice day. Things I had to do for many of them than just my mother. The caregivers needed wages, hours and leave time that would allow them to be members of their families more too.
    There is a crying need for care for the elderly. But their incomes and the cost of services mean that “markets” by their very nature cannot translate need into “demand.” So I don’t see how capitalist competition can even exist or if it did provide comprehensive care for our parents and for us.

  105. jameseq
    jameseq September 24, 2011 at 2:21 pm |


    Competition isn’t about improvement,

    Indeed Renee, Some people make a similar mistake about evolution. That both competition and evolution will result in linear improvement. As you said, It is about winning, full stop. Whatever fits the market, the environment wins – even if it is markedly inferior to the objective eye than the competitor. Rather like how VHS with its rubbish visual quality beat the superior BETAMAX video, and became the home video recorder in the 1980s – simply because it was cheaper.

  106. La Lubu
    La Lubu September 24, 2011 at 2:39 pm |

    Well…..fuck you, too. I’m a lifelong midwesterner from Illinois, who has heard the same bullshit about autoworkers in my own state. It was just as untrue for them. There’s a reason all the right-wing pundits wouldn’t pony up and show an actual paycheck stub to support their claims of $60-70/hr autoworker pay, and it’s because those stubs don’t exist.

    So, unless you’re prepared to post “my friend’s dad’s” (typical urban legend chain) paycheck stub for proof, I’m calling bullshit. (especially considering the timeline you’re giving for this scenario.) Put up or shut up, pal. Oh, and son? You can stop pulling the age card anytime now. You’re not the elder statesman of this thread.

  107. Chuckie K
    Chuckie K September 24, 2011 at 4:11 pm |

    As for autoworkers’ wages. In Germany during the time we’re talking about, autoworkers’ wages and benefits were higher than in the U.S. It didn’t keep their manufacturers from successfully competing. Thier unit-costs were in fact lower. Blaming the workers is the lazy way out for loser capitalists.

  108. L
    L September 24, 2011 at 5:51 pm |

    Well. . .: L: You seriously think putting people on the moon isn’t important? Or that the internet is “eh, whatever?”. The species needs to advance. We can’t sit around in mud huts and be agrarian and go fight battles with swords and ballistas.

    Hahahaha luddite? Yes I’m a luddite, with my cell phone and my car and my computer. I never even said that the internet is “meh whatever” I was merely making the point that in my opinion, the way we do things now with the Internet isn’t necessarily better or worse than how it used to be, it’s simply different. Yes there are great things, like ability to communicate faster globally, which has even been used to empower people in other parts of the world under oppressive governments. But who is to say that if the Internet had never been developed, we would not have invented a system of global communication even superior to the Internet? Also, is my life always bettered by the Internet? I don’t know, does reblogging kittens on Tumblr all day better my life? I know that my generation has a much shorter attention span, likely due to all the technology we were brought up with. Isn’t this a bad thing? Or?

    I can look up bus routes and talk to my friends and do all sorts of things on the Internet in a snap which is great, but if I didn’t have the internet I would just find a different way to do those things.

    And no, I really don’t care that we put people on the moon. For what purpose? Please tell me how landing on the moon has bettered anyone’s life? The only reason that even happened in the first place was because countries act like spoiled children and try to one-up each other constantly. Please excuse me but I’m not overly impressed with large scale pissing contests.

    Also please quit it with the hippie pot smoking agrarian communes, strawman much? No one has brought this up except you.

    And ok great, we have the internet now, we have all these technological advances. We’ve gotten to this point. Now maybe it’s time to smarten up and realize that we live on a finite planet with finite resources, and our goal should not be to achieve infinite economic growth and treat corporations with more empathy and respect than we do actual human beings.

    We have this assumption that in order for anything great to be invented that furthers humankind, someone must have been motivated with cash. That money is the one and only motivator. This is a complete myth, when you are looking for non-linear think-outside-the-box solutions to big problems.

    http://www.ted.com/talks/dan_pink_on_motivation.html

  109. K
    K September 24, 2011 at 7:28 pm |

    La Lubu:
    K, why my neck hairs raise when I hear “opposition to the public school system”….is because there is a well-oiled, well-funded, politically powerful movement that is out there to abolish public schools, and they sure the hell do not want to replace them with anything remotely progressive. This article from Rethinking Schools is a pretty good flash-forward to what a school voucher program would really look like, especially in economically-deprived areas.

    I completely agree that the republican/right wing proposals for funding primary education are a nightmare. I am no friend of vouchers. But I think this illustrates the bind I find myself in as a progressive/leftist/thingy. Many many progressives are so invested in fighting off the right wing attack on publicly funded education that they can’t engage with major criticism of the existing system. As bfp said, the existing system isn’t working for a lot of people. This is why I asked if we could separate the idea of government-funded education from its current manifestation (i.e. the public school system).

    We need to find a way to both push back against the privatization of education AND proactively talk about systemic changes we would like to see. And I agree with bfp (if I understand her correctly) that the best way to do this is to identify the structure we want and then figure out how to transform the existing system, even if it takes 30 years. ( As opposed to looking at the existing system and saying “what can we realistically do with this?”)

  110. llama
    llama September 24, 2011 at 7:29 pm |

    L: We have this assumption that in order for anything great to be invented that furthers humankind, someone must have been motivated with cash.

    *nods

    L: Now maybe it’s time to smarten up and realize that we live on a finite planet with finite resources, and our goal should not be to achieve infinite economic growth and treat corporations with more empathy and respect than we do actual human beings.

    Yes, Yes and Yes!!!

    Capitalism will have us fighting over the last cup of potable water but to what end? It will still be the last cup of drinking water.

    I like the point about treating corporations with more respect than a natural person. There are numerous examples of this and they all make my blood boil.

  111. La Lubu
    La Lubu September 24, 2011 at 8:49 pm |

    As bfp said, the existing system isn’t working for a lot of people.

    I fully agree. But right now (not thirty years from now; my daughter is attending middle school right now), privatization is the only politically viable alternative—and for those of us living in economically depressed areas, this is not a better alternative to the existing system, but a worse one. I don’t live in a Liberal Paradise™ where there is a critical mass of clout-heavy folks who are pro-public education; the move towards privatization is a real threat.

    I don’t think we’re thinking of the same thing when hearing the phrase “public school system”. When I hear the term, I think, “publically funded school system that is possible for the public to access”. I’m not thinking of a specific methodology or practices (which comes from my personal experience of having attended many different—but all public, all working class neighborhood, all Illinois—schools…..I moved a lot as a kid. It was my experience that similarly-situated schools could be quite different in operation).

    Also, even for its flaws, the public school my daughter attends (a low-income, Title I school) is providing her with a superior education than the one she would receive at the Sudbury school you linked. (not of course, that she would ever be accepted there even if it were possible to afford). While I think that system is functional for gifted, motivated, well-organized students with a strong academic background…..it isn’t going to be so for students with learning disabilities and/or who struggle with learning (not the desire to learn, mind you—the nuts and bolts of learning and retaining knowledge). I was pretty less-than-impressed with the case study offered on the boy who never studied math, then realized as a young adult he needed to have enough math to get a decent SAT score to get into college. The cheery staffer said that because he was “motivated,” he was able to reach his goal of a decent math SAT score in six weeks!

    And…I believe her. What I don’t believe, is that this is something the average person is capable of doing, any more than the average person is going to become competant in a foreign language or musical instrument in six weeks. There’s a reason schools, teachers, classes, curriculums, syllabi, apprenticeships, etc. have been around for so long—there’s a proven track record of those structures providing the transfer of knowledge to the largest number of people. There are children who can effectively learn “adult-style”, but they are few in number. I was one of them. My daughter is not.

    Also, I’m convinced that the current “window of opportunity” theory in childhood brain development is correct; one of my critiques of the current methodologies in most public schools is that they don’t include this in their pedagogy—for example, learning a second language or playing a musical instrument isn’t an option in most public schools until the “window of opportunity” (the time of brain development when instruction is the easiest) is passed.

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but it seems that your critiques center around methodology, practices and outcomes—not necessarily the structure of a school (and you’ve been clear that you are not opposed to public funding or public control). If so, we’re on the same page. My concern is keeping a publically-funded educational system that is accessible to all students—even the ones that schools give the eyeroll to (and private schools disdain as students).

  112. Justin
    Justin September 25, 2011 at 1:46 am |

    TeiTetua:
    If it worries you that you have enough to eat and a probable lifespan of over 80, of course you can complain about capitalism. Go ahead, use this system of instantaneous worldwide communication to do it.

    This system of instantaneous worldwide communication…that was developed using government money (aka, socialism)? You seem to have made the opposite point from what you intended.

  113. Alexandra
    Alexandra September 25, 2011 at 4:00 pm |

    This is such a fascinating thread, I’ve learned a great deal by reading it. I (tentatively) think of myself as a social democrat, something that doesn’t really exist in the US – but what I desperately wish the US would move towards is a more European system with a comprehensive social safety net and a commitment to reducing the inequalities which American capitalism has tended towards. I am an American, and I do value the traditional paramount American value of liberty, but I don’t think the freedom of the so-called free markets is necessarily the liberty Americans should be pursuing. What kind of liberty is there to get an education, for instance, when that education costs more than your average 18-year-old could earn in a year, or two years? Let alone entry into the professional schools, aka the trade schools for the wealthy.

    I guess you could say that I’m a big fan of government redistribution of wealth – a graduated tax rate that means that those who are getting the most out of this country are re-investing in the education, health care, and for some food and shelter for those who have less.

    I’m pretty burnt out right now from seeing what a lack of a safety net does to the most vulnerable. I was just at a psych hospital which was discharging schizophrenic patients to homeless shelters with a three day supply of their medications. That’s a broken system, and it fills me with rage. And why is it happening? Because after the dismantling of the state psychiatric hospitals in the 60s/70s/80s, the so-called community mental health centers and residential treatment programs which were supposed to come into existence were funded badly, or not at all. A perfect example of this capitalist nation screwing the most vulnerable, and it’s a joke to say that private charity – the traditional capitalist/libertarian retort to a state-funded social safety net – is going to rush in to fill the void.

    Because I /am/ an American, and love liberty, and am suspicious of authority, SOCIALISM (in all caps) has always been unappealing to me. But I don’t think it’s incompatible with the constitution of the country or the nature of its citizens to make a conscious choice to invest not just in the infrastructure of technology, of roads and power lines, but also in the infrastructure of humanity: education, health care, food and shelter security. We are so wealthy as a nation, we can afford to make sure that every citizen is free from want.

    It’s a moral issue.

  114. Manju
    Manju September 25, 2011 at 4:58 pm |

    I often have a really hard time trying to understand the attachment to “Capitalism” that people on the left exhibit.

    I think for the most serious economic thinkers on the left, the answer is simply that this is where the data leads you. Ergo, even the world’s most influential left-wing economist views anti-globalization activists as enemies of the world’s poor:

    In short, my correspondents [opponents of globalization] are not entitled to their self-righteousness. They have not thought the matter through. And when the hopes of hundreds of millions are at stake, thinking things through is not just good intellectual practice. It is a moral duty.
    -Paul Krugman

    Krugman said this because the data is overwhelming. Free trade/anti-protectionism enjoys as big a consensus among academic economists as you can possibly find (around 93%). Thus the mainstream American left’s most effective branding, ever since Clinton, is that they are smarter, better capitalists than the Republicans.

    As for the right, they have gotten overconfident after largely being proven correct over the true nature of socialism and communism. As Paul Krugman says;

    “socialism is a system that just can’t deliver the goods, while capitalism is a system that can.”

    So armed with this vindication, the right got so cocky that they rejected capitalists like Keynes and clung to theories almost as detached from reality as the left-wingers they defeated, like tax cuts always pay for themselves.

    Therefore, Clinton and Obama have discovered that the best path for the Left is to embrace some right-wing ideas while returning Keynes to the center, and simultaneously rejecting anything to the left of him.

    This is simply where the data would lead you. Ergo, the reality-based community.

  115. Matt
    Matt September 25, 2011 at 7:24 pm |

    Globalization will be a disaster for America. Our average quality of life will plummet and the rich will stay rich and get richer. The more possible power/wealth there is to possess, the larger the difference will be between the top and the bottom. As America super regulates their industry the corporations will just move to poorer countries with a more ignorant populace that is easier to exploit.
    If the world was all equally regulated the problem would be less significant but that is not the case, although even then globalization would be an issue.
    As the people on this site all love to say, there is a finite amount of resources of every kind in the world. And it cannot support western lifestyles, especially of the kind with a safety net like the one proposed by many of the posters in this thread.
    Without the use of robot labor and asteroid mining and genetically engineered foods, our planets resources cannot support a quality of life like that possessed by the western democratic middle class.

  116. llama
    llama September 25, 2011 at 7:34 pm |

    Matt: As the people on this site all love to say, there is a finite amount of resources of every kind in the world. And it cannot support western lifestyles, especially of the kind with a safety net like the one proposed by many of the posters in this thread.

    Well perhaps western lifestyles are part of the problem. But I would suggest it is more the top few percent of western lifestyles that are the problem.

  117. Matt
    Matt September 25, 2011 at 10:26 pm |

    Top lifestyles in every country are the problem. I am referring to the inability of the world to sustain a western democratic middle class life style for every living person. If people plan on equalizing living conditions to a certain standard, I just hope they are aware that that standard is not going to trend upwards from the current middle class one, but rather downward.

    llama: Well perhaps western lifestyles are part of the problem. But I would suggest it is more the top few percent of western lifestyles that are the problem.

  118. Manju
    Manju September 26, 2011 at 3:45 am |

    Matt, Re: Globalization

    You are making proclamations about a subject that has a lot of data behind it. The academic consensus is so overwhelming that even the world’s most influential left-wing economist compares you to those who don’t believe in evolution:

    “The title of this paper is a play on that of an admirable recent book by the philosopher Daniel Dennett, Darwin’s Dangerous Idea…Dennett’s book is an examination of the reasons why so many intellectuals remain hostile to the idea of evolution…”

    “The idea of comparative advantage — with its implication that trade between two nations normally raises the real incomes of both — is, like evolution via natural selection…”

    “At the deepest level, opposition to comparative advantage — like opposition to the theory of evolution — reflects the aversion of many intellectuals to an essentially mathematical way of understanding the world.”

    “The hostility that both evolutionary theorists and economists encounter from humanists arises from the fact that both fields lie on the front line of the war between C.P. Snow’s two cultures: territory that humanists feel is rightfully theirs, but which has been invaded by aliens armed with equations and computers.”

    -Paul Krugman http://web.mit.edu/krugman/www/ricardo.htm

    In China and India, we are literally witnessing the greatest poverty eradication programs in the history of the world. Because the most significant beneficiaries of Globalization are the world’s poor, the issue can be very easily Willie Hortonized. Luckily for us, the South is no longer under the thumb of the party more philosophically inclined toward protectionism. So all we have to worry about is them believing that tax cuts pay for themselves.

    But your ideas are no less detached from reality.

  119. matlun
    matlun September 26, 2011 at 3:50 am |

    La Lubu: Well, the answer to the first question about much of (what passes for) the US left and US feminist attachment to “Capitalism” is easy—back when the left was not capitalist-oriented, a lot of its leaders were imprisoned, lynched, deported, etc.

    I am not convinced of this. The failure of world communism might be a better reason. Except for communism/marxism, what non-capitalist approaches have been suppressed? Anarchism has never managed to get any real traction and socialism has in practice become a sub category of capitalism.

    For the US, I think it is more of an issue that the left perspective has virtually died out in mainstream politics. IMO this is more due to the rightward shift of the political spectrum that has been going at least since Reagan.

    Obama’s politics are to the right of Nixon’s, and he is being portrayed by the right as a radical leftist.

  120. William
    William September 26, 2011 at 8:25 am |

    I fully agree. But right now (not thirty years from now; my daughter is attending middle school right now), privatization is the only politically viable alternative—and for those of us living in economically depressed areas, this is not a better alternative to the existing system, but a worse one.

    I know that we disagree pretty strongly about this in some places, but I really do think that the threat of privatization has less to do with privatization and more to do with the kinds of privatization we tend to see. The difference between a publicly funded public school and a publicly funded private school basically comes down to whether you’re going to lose money to waste or to profits. In Illinois, for instance, publicly funded therapeutic day schools have their overall rate cut if profits, non-direct service salaries, or administrative costs exceed a certain threshold.

    Being able to direct that money means that the school I’m a therapist at can specialize in kids with high intelligence, capable to handling significant academic rigor, but who are also on the spectrum or suffer from significant emotional disturbances that mean they cannot survive in their normal local high school. A strictly public school system has already failed these kids, their local schools have already been proven incapable of meeting their educational needs, and the small local school districts in Northern Illinois just don’t have the resources to put together their own programs. Our school exists because they take a little cut from 50 or so high schools in Illinois and puts that money together into a truly unique program.

    My concern is keeping a publically-funded educational system that is accessible to all students—even the ones that schools give the eyeroll to (and private schools disdain as students).

    I think you can maintain public funding and oversight without maintaining the cumbersome beast that is public education today. Politics aside, the system we have really doesn’t work very well. You have a lot of students who don’t learn anything, standardized testing that makes disabled students a liability, teacher’s unions that hold working parents hostage with strike threats, administrations costs that wouldn’t be tolerated in the private sector, politically motivated demands on what gets taught, and for every kid like your daughter who finds a public school that works from them you have one like me who very nearly gave up on education entirely because it went from disdain an eyerolls to outright hostility once it became apparent that my disability didn’t fit their LD program.

    I think shifting to charter schools and a meaningful voucher program would be a good experiment in big urban areas. I think that in general schools need to be smaller and more specialized. I think that we ought to be getting more for the enormous amounts of money we put into public education in Illinois. We need innovation because what we have isn’t working. Right now, in our current political and economic climate, innovation means competition. I believe that the best way to get to innovation is to keep public funding and oversight but to reduce (not eliminate) the number of students served by direct public administration. We spend close to $11,000 per student per year on education in Illinois, we can do better than we are with that kind of money.

  121. Matt
    Matt September 26, 2011 at 10:02 am |

    You guys love the krugster eh?
    I am not arguing that globalization reduces the total economic productivity of the world. I am arguing that western democracies function on a glut of resources that is even now unsustainable and if everyone was using so many resources it would become impossible to subsist at that level in even less time.
    Krugman’s analysis is correct if we assume that we have unlimited resources.
    China’s leap to economic equivalency creates incredible amounts of pollution. Do you think that every person in the world could use as much oil as an average US citizen and that there wouldn’t be problems in producing enough and preventing ecological destruction?
    You have to understand that economics is based on several underlying assumptions that aren’t necessarily accurate in all circumstances. Remember also that trade creation of wealth doesn’t relate to WHO gets the value, only that it is added to the totality.
    You make a statement about the beneficiaries of globalization being the worlds poor, which is amusing because when you are busy calling me detached from reality you are still agreeing with the post you quoted. I said that globalization will raise the living standards of the worlds poor in that very post. I just said that the resulting level will be lower than what western democracies middle classes’ are accustomed to.
    If you think that you can just quote Krugman and have everyone fall in line you are sadly mistaken, both because in recent decades we have seen the failure of multiple economic schools to predict our circumstances and because you are arguing against a point that I am not making with arguments by an economist that, when they address what I’ve said at all, agree with me.

    Manju:
    Matt, Re: Globalization

    You are making proclamations about a subject that has a lot of data behind it. The academic consensus is so overwhelming that even the world’s most influential left-wing economist compares you to those who don’t believe in evolution:

    In China and India, we are literally witnessing the greatest poverty eradication programs in the history of the world. Because the most significant beneficiaries of Globalization are the world’s poor, the issue can be very easily Willie Hortonized. Luckily for us, the South is no longer under the thumb of the party more philosophically inclined toward protectionism. So all we have to worry about is them believing that tax cuts pay for themselves.

    But your ideas are no less detached from reality.

  122. Aaron
    Aaron September 26, 2011 at 10:48 am |

    I’m very, very perplexed by the reasoning in this post. You say that “the Left” clings to an idea of capitalism, but at one point it seems like you’re saying that we’re obsessed with the idea of eliminating it (referring to alternatives like socialism and communism), but then suggest that the Left believes that well regulated capitalism “is a system that works well…[but] only…for a certain segment of people.” Do we “cling” to capitalism as our enemy, or cling to it as something to be reformed?

    Later on you mention that “Govenor Rick Snyder meets regularly with the ultra conservative Mackinaw Center, a think tank that helps to create and implement a radical right agenda…that *sounds* like a dismantling of “Capitalism” as the left understands it and replacing it with a Corporatocracy.”

    But the revolutionary Left (revolutionary socialists, anarchists, etc.) have always recognized the inherent cooperation between the economy and the State.

    In spite of popular belief capitalism is not a system of an economy free of government intervention, but in fact it is a system that has always depended on a structure of legal and political norms (consider the idea of a “legal right” to own private property, a bedrock of the capitalist economy). So the idea that “the Left” has been wrong about capitalism because now we’re seeing all this corporate-government cooperation and backroom deal making doesn’t really make sense to me. This has always been the way that capitalism, and really any system of economics has been. Any economic system is going to have corresponding norms of politics, culture, family, etc. Capitalism developed thru a wave of colonization, racial oppression (the slave trade, imperial expansion, genocide of indigenous Americans, etc.) and brutal, violent sexual oppression (Witch Trials, etc.) and continues to enforce and necessitate the oppression of people of color, women, queers, and so on, as part of maintaining the dominance of a small ruling class. Alongside the birth of capitalism also came corresponding revolutions across the globe that made liberal democracy the new standard. But even Marx noted that this is a development well suited to the individualistic, liberal logic of capitalism and additionally noted that government is but a “committee for organizing the affairs of the whole bourgeoisie.”

    To me the only alternative to the evils of capitalism is going to be socialism — whether we want to call it that or not — i.e., a classless economy where property is owned and managed in common, and where democratic planning distributes the things produced, is going to be the only alternative and a necessary precondition for eliminating not only class exploitation, but all oppression.

    As far as schooling goes, I think you’re spot on with outlining the complications the debate around “education reform” poses. On the one hand you have the capitalist form of schooling: rote, monotonous, concerned merely with training people to take their future place in the economy (whether as a manager, a worker, or even living in perpetual unemployment); on the other hand you have a reactionary element trying to strip away even the right to a free, public education. I think, however, this development reflects a force in capitalism trying to cope with the new developments in production, e.g., globalization, and new modes of communication and automation. These developments have left millions impoverished and unemployed (enter Detroit, Flint, Pittsburgh, parts of Chicago, and the rest of the Rust Belt, NYC, LA, SF, etc.). So what do you do with public education, built around training a future workforce, when there are no jobs left? It makes no sense for the state to continue dolling out public funds for an education meant to serve a population that’s become “superfluous” for the purposes of producing profit, so privatization (as well as militarization through metal detectors, constant police presence, locker searches, etc.) makes sense if you’re a capitalist. The militarization of education is particularly important, as it shows how the capitalist state works to criminalize “superfluous” sections of the population, and thus incarcerate and control them through a constant police presence.

    I know it’s a shameless plug, but I actually wrote something kind similar to this on my blog: http://shegetzguevara.wordpress.com/2011/09/05/the-social-function-of-failing-schools-under-capitalism/

  123. La Lubu
    La Lubu September 26, 2011 at 10:53 am |

    William, did you follow my link to the experimental voucher program? A whole helluva lot of….babysitting, with a strong fundamentalist orientation. That’s exactly what we would see downstate. Private organizations *other* than churches aren’t going to drive south of I-80 to set up Waldorf schools or whatever other alternative programs here, because there isn’t a critical mass of upper middle class liberals here. And to be very blunt, upper-middle class liberals (in general) do not think working class students are educable (besides some basic training to prepare them for low-paid service occupations). That attitude is amplified for LD children.

    Downstate, vouchers would increase the existing problems. Also, I’m totally opposed to my tax dollars going towards religious instruction. In my city, the current alternatives to the public schools are mostly Catholic schools that teach women’s inferiority and homophobia right along with academics. So far, I haven’t heard of a voucher system that prohibits requiring religious instruction.

    I like the idea of ‘academies’ that have different approaches to education, but I’m not too keen on the way they usually are instituted—with a more narrow academic focus and no difference in approach. I especially don’t like the traditional “humanities *or* science/math *or* arts *or* tech splits—-integrative approaches are seldom an option.

    Also, I want to be clear that I don’t think what I have right now is an optimum, or even adequate….just that it is the best of all *realistic* options that I can access. I haven’t had an IEP meeting yet this year, and I’m already loaded for bear….not too happy with a few things. But I’m also not convinced that a model of education that is geared towards individual consumer choice is necessaarily going to improve things—and not just because those choices are going to be extremely limited in my area (basically, public, Catholic,fundamentalist—-the people who are the market for progressive models of education already have their children in public white-flight suburban schools and are satisfied with that). It isn’t true that consumers have more power and more voice as consumers than as public stakeholders/taxpayers/voters. Not downstate.

    And my community has a different relationship to teacher’s unions than you present. Teachers aren’t separate from the community; here, teacher’s kids attend the same public schools and deal with the same parental issues the rest of us do in addition to their workplace issues. I’ve lived here for over 20 years and there haven’t been any strikes in that time. A fairly-nearby rural community had a recent strike over healthcare costs, and the school board rapidly caved because of the strong support the *teachers* had from the rest of the community. Just sayin’. Unions aren’t the institution responsible for the disconnect between the school system and the community in Chicago.

  124. Sheelzebub
    Sheelzebub September 26, 2011 at 11:29 am |

    I am unsurprised but saddened that some commenters are blaming poor people and working class people (or unions) for the economic and societal ills we’re dealing with. Look UP, people. It’s the policies that benefit the ultra wealthy and corporations that are fucking us over.

  125. La Lubu
    La Lubu September 26, 2011 at 1:15 pm |

    I think you can maintain public funding and oversight without maintaining the cumbersome beast that is public education today.

    Why do you think public ownership is a problem? If you have no problem with public funding and oversight (by whom? and elected body, or an appointed body?), why not keep the schools publically-owned as well?

    I’m not convinced that privatization (and especially by large monopolies, which are the only ones that would be interested in developing educational ventures downstate—think: Wal-Mart schools) provides better quality or better service. Downstate, we just don’t have the critical mass necessary for easy or guaranteed profit. You might get that viability in Chicago (for some students) as a plethora of outfits compete for cherry-picking the “good” (read: easy-to-educate) students….but that won’t happen downstate, for the same reasons the progressive (and expensive) Waldorf education hasn’t moved in to compete with the equally-expensive Catholic schools—too risky a venture. The population base (and tax base) isn’t there.

    It has been my experience that public entities are, in general, more responsive than private entities. That there is more accountability from public entities than from private ones. Perhaps that reflects our different locations, or our different socioeconomic standing, but there it is. Different stores I go to could give a shit if I’m a customer or not, because my purchases aren’t enough in the grand scheme of things to make them give a shit. I don’t “count” as a consumer—I don’t consume enough.

    And that’s how it would be in a privatized education system. Even if “the money follows the student” and all parents get the same stipend—I have a child with learning disabilities. In a privatized system, they would measure my public stipend against the actual cost of her education…and it would come up short. After awhile (or even in the admissions process), we’d be “invited” to try another school. Just as I don’t count in the balance sheet in the consumer market, my daughter would be viewed as a net drain on the balance sheet for a privatized school system. For its flaws, the public school system is required to take her, required by federal law to educate her, and is accountable for her learning—because they are penalized if they don’t get results.

  126. William
    William September 26, 2011 at 3:22 pm |

    That’s exactly what we would see downstate. Private organizations *other* than churches aren’t going to drive south of I-80

    They aren’t right now because theres no money in it. Right now the situation is generally: badly run free public school or badly run expensive religious education because thats all we’ve had for a long time. What I’ve seen with therapeutic day schools, however, is that when the money becomes available the schools begin to open because it makes sense. If parents in your community could look at the scary religious instruction and underperforming public schools and say “fuck it, I want a third option” someone would be there to take your money if it was in your power. At the same time, if that was an option I’d be willing to bet that the public schools would do better.

    Even if it didn’t work, we need to try something.

    And to be very blunt, upper-middle class liberals (in general) do not think working class students are educable (besides some basic training to prepare them for low-paid service occupations). That attitude is amplified for LD children.

    You don’t have to tell me how uneducable I was perceived to be. Nonverbal learning disability, high IQ, and oppositional defiant disorder (which, 9 times out of 10, was just a symptom of knowing teachers were full of shit) taught me that.

    I think that one of the biggest problems we have with our system is that it is designed to create compliant workers and quiet victims. It isn’t geared towards education. Thats a problem. I just don’t see the massive state sponsored school system, whose absolutely terrible performance and vision benefits the corporate and state interests who pay the bills, doing much to change that without being subjected to competition.

    Downstate, vouchers would increase the existing problems.

    So start a pilot upstate, iron out some of the kinks, and get the regulatory bodies and infrastructure in place on the North Shore. Build the system there with students who have the resources to manage even with the hiccups. Get the startups running, and then expand. I’m not saying do away with the local schools, I’m saying allow other schools to compete without parents needing the resources to foot the cost of education themselves. Hell, make religious instruction exempt from reimbursement. Try something, anything, and see if it works. Because what we have fails.

    Also, I’m totally opposed to my tax dollars going towards religious instruction.

    So am I, but thats life. I’m opposed to a third of every tax dollar I pay going to fund a bloated military and millionaires being able to draw social security. My aunt thinks its horrible that her taxes went towards paying for AIDS research. I spoke to a parent not too long ago that vowed to leave the state if her kid had to get the HPV vaccine. Thats the downside of a big society.

    It isn’t true that consumers have more power and more voice as consumers than as public stakeholders/taxpayers/voters. Not downstate.

    I disagree. There isn’t a whole hell of a lot of difference between being a public stakeholder and a private consumer. Hell, in Illinois, I’d argue that a dollar has a better chance of counting than a vote any day of the week.

    Unions aren’t the institution responsible for the disconnect between the school system and the community in Chicago.

    Not the source but a source. At some point teachers need to take responsibility for their role in schools failing, just as parents do, and governments. Pretty much everyone has some responsibility for the heaping pile of shit that is education in America except for the kids. No one who has failed us deserves to be insulated. Some teachers need to be fired, some teacher’s unions need to be broken, some schools need to be closed, some politicians need to be voted out, some corporate and religious interests need to lose their voice. Otherwise we’re just shifting the proportions of the pile, not trying to clean the table.

    Why do you think public ownership is a problem? If you have no problem with public funding and oversight (by whom? and elected body, or an appointed body?), why not keep the schools publically-owned as well?

    Because without meaningful consequences and competition it would just be throwing good money after bad. Voting one party out of office doesn’t mean agitating for a one party system. The schools don’t work well, I think a big part of that is because they have no incentive to work well and no consequences for failure.

    I’m not convinced that privatization (and especially by large monopolies, which are the only ones that would be interested in developing educational ventures downstate—think: Wal-Mart schools) provides better quality or better service.

    So allow for paralel systems and equal access. Don’t charge direct tuition but instead use the rate system that therapeutic day schools use. If a school (public or private) performs poorly, cut their rate and make those cuts in administrative and payroll budgets rather than direct service.

  127. La Lubu
    La Lubu September 26, 2011 at 5:37 pm |

    William, privatization of the education system will create more authoritarianism, not less. Less accountability, not more. See, there is centralized authority with the current system, but also centralized dissent. With a consumer-choice model, you have the same centralized authority, but atomized dissent. The problem suddenly becomes not-anything-in-the-school, but that the parent is a poor consumer and made the wrong choice—-despite not having *any* access to anything solid on which to base that choice. Private businesses aren’t required to open their books to anyone, including the consumers. There’s no way for a person to fact-check whether a given school is abiding by Title IX, for example. Say what you will about the public schools, but their information is all public—you don’t have to be a student, parent, or worker in order to see it (private schools typically do not allow even those people to see detailed financial statements; public school districts must post theirs online).

    And again, private schools are not and will not be required to accept all students. They are not and will not be required to post all their financial and educational information publically, where it can be examined by stakeholders. There have been and are pilot voucher programs; none of those programs has required the private schools participating to accept all students, abide by ADA, abide by Title IX or allow students to opt-out of religious programming. I’m basing my assessment on the history of voucher programs—voucher programs which aren’t required to assess their students with the same rigor the current public schools are. They are held to a lesser standard.

    (Urban) Public schools are underperforming by design. The design was white flight. The parents with the race privilege and wealth took the option of moving elsewhere, to a location where those without the race and class privilege couldn’t follow—couldn’t afford the price of admission. That took the students for whom standardized testing was designed for out of the mix of the (urban….really, urban and rural) public schools….which drove the test scores down.

    Look, you can’t convince me that students in urban and rural schools are, on average, less intelligent than students in suburban schools. But I will challenge you to provide me with examples of private companies that openly cater to poor and working class consumers with quality goods and services. Openly, actively seek the poor and working class market, because there’s money to be made there.

    Are you thinking Wal-Mart? Because the Walton family is a huge supporter of privatization of education. I don’t know how familiar you are with Wal-Mart, but they are a very authoritarian company that is salivating over the chance to get their hands on public education dollars. They would offer a cheaper price than the current public system because they wouldn’t have to support the aging infrastructure, plus they would have fewer administrators—their field administrators would take their walking orders from the corporate office.

    Perhaps you think Wal-Mart schools would be an improvement over the average public school. I don’t. I don’t share your view that a privatized system of education would offer better education, because I don’t see evidence of anything else private that is offering even adequate goods and services to the poor and working class market. What makes you think education is going to be any different?

    Also, say what you will about the price of public education—it’s cheaper than the Catholic schools. Catholic schools don’t charge the parents the full rate of what they pay per student, but do expect parents to fundraise several more thousand dollars per year (and make up the difference personally for any gap in their fundraising). For Catholic schools in impoverished areas of the city, huge fundraising efforts are sought from private businesses and community organizations. For both types of schools, the diocese makes up for what the schools can’t cover. In comparison, public education is a bargain.

    And I find it hard to believe that you would be willing to abandon one of the few things that really work in the current system—an absence of religious indoctrination. (which doesn’t just impact kids, but teachers and other staff as well. Private religious schools would retain the ability to hire and fire based on religious orientation or for doctrinaire reasons. Teacher’s unions were instrumental in fighting that when it happened routinely in the past in public schools, and continue to fight it occasionally today.)

  128. haley
    haley September 27, 2011 at 12:14 am |

    I should have came back to this thread sooner to address a couple key points, especially concerning my original post at #20.

    A Directly Democracy society would be one where individuals have autonomy over themselves and an equal vote in the decisions proportional to how it effect their lives. This would be the basis of a anti-authoritarian, non-capitalist society.

    Balanced Job Complexes could be a viable alternative to the specialization of labor we currently see. We would still have highly skilled work, such as surgeons, clinical psychologists, etc., but once again, those workers would not be exempt from participating within other levels of the community/economy. The purpose of this is to prevent the creation of a vanguard or capitalist/professional class from re-emerging.

    True, not everyone will want dedicate themselves to learning tough fields, or even have the aptitude and curiosity for certain jobs. I acknowledge that, but just like now, everyone is not expected to do everything or have every job. Industry standards will have to be placed, qualifications determined by workers within said field. We could develop incentive structures such as higher wages to reward work based on effort, time, achievement quality and production.

    We’ll never have a Utopian society….there’ll always be segments of the population who will seek to act oppressively or try to reinstate exploitive institutions. So we should create a horizontal democratic system, so that those segments of people do not monopolize the economy, government and natural recourses. It is that stance which makes me a part of “the Left”, and which drives me and others to think critically and creatively about how we could live outside of Capitalism (or state communism for that matter).

  129. Raja
    Raja September 27, 2011 at 1:48 am |

    Though I went to private school most of my life because of my learning difference I support public school because I realize not everyone can afford to go to private school (my parents are still paying back the money to this day)

  130. William
    William September 27, 2011 at 9:49 am |

    Let me just say upfront, La Lubu, I love these skirmishes. Part of why I got into this thread was because I knew you were here and, even though I doubt we’ll ever really change one another’s minds, I know that every single time you and I have talked about school reform I’ve walked away with a better understanding not just of the other side but of my own. There ain’t no growth without grief.

    William, privatization of the education system will create more authoritarianism, not less. Less accountability, not more. See, there is centralized authority with the current system, but also centralized dissent.

    I disagree. What I’ve seen, not just in schools but in life in general, is that centralized authority leads to irrelevant dissent. The way I’ve seen public schools respond to dissent has ranged from “so run for School Board or get out of my office” to “What are you gonna do, send your kid to Catholic school?” There isn’t really much in the way of dissent. I’m sure thats different in smaller school boards, but in Chicago you’ve got about as much of a chance of your voice being heard as you do of seeing a serious Republican candidate for mayor.

    Private businesses aren’t required to open their books to anyone, including the consumers.

    When it comes to publicly funded but privately owned therapeutic day schools thats just flat untrue. Not only does the state get to demand open books (or else they won’t pay the rate and 95% of our kids aren’t private pay), but they get to demand standardized books so that everything is in the same place when the oversight bodies look at different schools. We have two different cabinets of office supplies, one for students and one for staff, because dollars are tracked down to that level. If the money is coming from the state the state can attach whatever strings they want. Not willing to open your books? No public funds then. Not willing to maintain academic standards? Ditto. Poor performance? 20% off your rate until it improves. Too much administrative overhead? Your rate is going down and you need to prove you spent more on direct service this year than last year if you want to be eligible next year? Unusually low admin costs and high performance? Time to up your base rate so you can expand. Illinois already has this system in place today for therapeutic day schools, all it needs is some scaling to get a pilot program going.

    I’m not suggesting we open the field to a free market. I’m suggesting that we work to find a composite system for all students like the one we have for students with disabilities. Maintain the local public school, because it does work for some kids, but allow for alternative choices when that school doesn’t fit the student. I want to see the standard public school, a charter school, an academy, a therapeutic day school, even a parochial school operating smaller schools. Maybe follow the university model of larger campuses containing smaller schools, maybe follow the day school model of a number of independent smaller schools. Regardless of the application, pay for these school with public money, public oversight, and open books. There is nothing stopping a public school from trying a Waldorf or Montessori model other than inertia. I think a less centralized, more varied system would do a lot to break that inertia. Not a free market, but an open one because monopolies are bad. Monopolies which apply only to the poor, which is what our current system is today, are even worse.

    (Urban) Public schools are underperforming by design. The design was white flight. The parents with the race privilege and wealth took the option of moving elsewhere, to a location where those without the race and class privilege couldn’t follow—couldn’t afford the price of admission.

    Thats not entirely true. Take the North Side of Chicago, for instance. The North Side has been white since before white flight and stayed white afterwards. It has working, middle, and upper class communities. Yeah, it lacks the hardcore North Shore crowd like Deerfield or New Trier, but you’ve still got a lot of underperforming (or, more commonly, spottily performing) but well funded public schools. They still fail because, ultimately, you’re still talking about a one-size-fits-all system and a lot of students just don’t fit.

    Part of the problem is design and racism. Part of it is funding. Part of it is teachers. But part of the problem is also that when you develop a system for everyone you’re necessarily going to fail people who deviate from the mean in ways that aren’t useful to the system. I don’t think our existing model of education is ever going to be able to manage that. It sucks with creative students, it sucks with disabled students, it sucks with bright students (fuck “gifted” and all the shitty Christian guilt and shame that gets piled onto students who are smarter than their teachers, let alone their peers), it sucks with students who don’t learn well in a factory setting, it sucks with non-neurotypical students. More than that it pathologizes or criminalizes (or both, with wonderful diagnoses like “oppositional defiant disorder, ” “conduct disorder,” and “antisocial personality disorder”) anyone who deviates from the mean. It turns human diversity into disabilities to be treated and behavioral problems to be broken. It plagues students with a combination of unobtainable (not to mention developmentally inappropriate) behavioral ideals and insultingly low intellectual expectations. Our schools, even the very best ones, are little more than facilities designed to separate those students who can be terrorized into a useful trauma presentation and those who need to advanced to a more specialized traumatic experience. All we do is beat compliance into different grades of workers. Your basic educational model, your average IEP, and your dominant behavioral plan all ask the same question: how can we best make this child compliant?

    From a purely pragmatic perspective I believe that anything which interferes with the efficiency of a model like that is at least worth a shot. A decentralized system will have more trouble maintaining control. Its a different ideal and a different perspective.

    Look, you can’t convince me that students in urban and rural schools are, on average, less intelligent than students in suburban schools.

    Why would I want to. You know thats not what I believe. Thats a low shot.

    But I will challenge you to provide me with examples of private companies that openly cater to poor and working class consumers with quality goods and services. Openly, actively seek the poor and working class market, because there’s money to be made there.

    Thats the point of the rate system. If you give an urban or rural student from an underperforming school a spot in a better school they do better because they’re just as intelligent, on average, as any other group of students. Hell, we often do better because we’ve got a pretty good idea of whats at stake. Thats why urban Charter schools, selective entry public schools, even lottery admission public schools, do so well. What we need is a system designed to attract schools to pupils who don’t have the kind of money parents from Deerfield have. The way you do that is funding education from a central pot, getting rid of region based funding, and then paying schools based not on the income of the parents but on the performance of schools and students. I’m willing to see the education budget grow every year if that money is going to reward schools for actually educating students. Hell, bump the base rate up in regions that are underserved. Create an economic incentive for schools to be not-for-profit or non-profit if we want to avoid the Waltons from moving in.

    Right now I work in a private school with 60ish students. We have 21 staff members, nearly a third of whom are psychologists. Students take cabs to and from school. Our tuition is substantial, its also paid almost exclusively by school districts. Better than 95% of our students are completely publicly funded. Our students parents are able to force their districts into paying because of the ADA. I like that this is available for mad students, I think something similar should be available for all students. I also that that would mean a lot fewer mad students.

    And I find it hard to believe that you would be willing to abandon one of the few things that really work in the current system—an absence of religious indoctrination.

    I don’t see a huge difference between the disgusting state indoctrination we get in public schools and the disgusting religious indoctrination in parochial schools (I don’t have enough fingers to count the people I know who lost their faith due to Catholic Education).

    That aside, I don’t think we should be thinking about an all-or-nothing system. I don’t want to see public schools go away, I want to see them improve. I don’t think thats going to happen without the monopoly being broken. I also don’t think that, when you’re talking about something on the order of $11,000 a year, you won’t be able to find educators willing to open schools.

    More to the point, this is the system I think would work best. That doesn’t mean its the only system I’d be interested in. I think that what we have now doesn’t work and that we need something new. What that is, however, likely isn’t going to be any single person’s vision. A better system needs both of us and a lot of other people. As long as we cling to something which doesn’t work, has never worked, cannot work, and isn’t designed to work we’re going to have something that isn’t working. I know that my primary and secondary education has me reflexively reaching for a gas can, but I’d be plenty happy with just a little fire if it meant something actually happening.

  131. Matt
    Matt September 27, 2011 at 2:14 pm |

    Direct democracy doesn’t work. Period.
    Incentives are directly contradictory to the rest of your idea.
    Forcing people to take time off from their professional studies to do other things is stupid. It will retard progress in those fields.
    And anyway for such a society as you describe to survive, it would have to include all of humanity. Otherwise capitalist societies would out compete you easily and conquer you.

    haley:
    I should have came back to this thread sooner to address a couple key points, especially concerning my original post at #20.

    A Directly Democracy society would be one where individuals have autonomy over themselves and an equal vote in the decisions proportional to how it effect their lives. This would be the basis of a anti-authoritarian, non-capitalist society.

    Balanced Job Complexes could be a viable alternative to the specialization of labor we currently see. We would still have highly skilled work, such as surgeons, clinical psychologists, etc., but once again, those workers would not be exempt from participating within other levels of the community/economy.The purpose of this is to prevent the creation of a vanguard or capitalist/professional class from re-emerging.

    True, not everyone will want dedicate themselves to learning tough fields, or even have the aptitude and curiosity for certain jobs. I acknowledge that, but just like now, everyone is not expected to do everything or have every job. Industry standards will have to be placed, qualifications determined by workers within said field. We could develop incentive structures such as higher wages to reward work based on effort, time, achievement quality and production.

    We’ll never have a Utopian society….there’ll always be segments of the population who will seek to act oppressively or try to reinstate exploitive institutions. So we should create a horizontal democratic system, so that those segments of people do not monopolize the economy, government and natural recourses. It is that stance which makes me a part of “the Left”, and which drives me and others to think critically and creatively about how we could live outside of Capitalism (or state communism for that matter).

  132. William
    William September 27, 2011 at 2:46 pm |

    A Directly Democracy society would be one where individuals have autonomy over themselves and an equal vote in the decisions proportional to how it effect their lives. This would be the basis of a anti-authoritarian, non-capitalist society.

    No, you just farm your authoritarian bullshit down to a lower level of government. Theres a reason the right is always crowing about state’s right and federalism.

    Balanced Job Complexes could be a viable alternative to the specialization of labor we currently see. We would still have highly skilled work, such as surgeons, clinical psychologists, etc., but once again, those workers would not be exempt from participating within other levels of the community/economy. The purpose of this is to prevent the creation of a vanguard or capitalist/professional class from re-emerging.

    You’re still avoiding the problem that making highly skilled workers do comparatively lower skilled work means less services. If you have 10 clinical psychologists in a community doing 30 hours of direct service per week, thats 300 hours of service available. If the community needs 325 hours of service you’re already running a deficit. Making those same psychologists collect trash one day a week means that instead of a 25 hour deficit in services you have a 105 hour deficit. Even in an economy of scale there just aren’t enough people who are going to be both capable of becoming a psychologist and who will want to in order to cover all of the people who need help. A system in which you mandate that people with high levels of skill do unskilled labor to keep them humble means that you’ll have less skilled service available. What you’re suggesting is a system in which people will go without service in the name of a social message.

    More, you’re going to have a very hard time making highly skilled people clean out toilets without a pretty aggressively authoritarian system. Either that, or you’ll have to increase compensation to comical degrees only for skilled workers in order to make it worth their time but not have unskilled workers taking up all of the toilet cleaning duties. That requires cash which, again, is going to require some substantial authority to collect.

    Either way you end up with less service and more authoritarian control.

  133. Raja
    Raja September 28, 2011 at 1:24 am |

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-pacific-15064623 On China’s “supposed” communism but than again after Mao its understandable why even the communist party wanted to back away after the cultural revolution which killed more people than Hitler or Stalin. As for democracy, its worth noting that Plato who first wrote about the concept in his book The Republic held democracy in contempt because he said it would lead to tyranny of the masses. After 2000+ years his point still remains. (Note; I do not believe a one party dictatiorship is the answer either)

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