I have a background as a corporate IT executive. I remember driving home from work one day depressed after a meeting with a division head that wanted a new multi-million dollar computer system that would be funded by the savings it would derive in a reduction in workforce. I was literally working in a discipline to reduce the number of jobs in corporate America.

Currently I own and run a couple of small businesses. One of them is a non-profit that provides financing to small business with a mission to grow jobs in the communities we serve (a tonic to my previous professional job-destruction role). Both of my businesses have seen personnel costs and other costs rise, primarily because of the constant increase in regulatory compliance, fee and taxes and dumb policy moves... with the fees and taxes going to government... government that keeps expanding and with government employees that are all paid significantly more than their private sector peers in total compensation.

In the other business, which is a food product manufacturing operation, we needed a piece of equipment to support a task that was significantly difficult manual labor. The equipment was only made in China and Canada... even though the design of the equipment was originally made in the US and produced in the US. The Canadian version of the equipment was not a good fit for our application (they were targeting larger operations). So I had to purchase a Chinese version. The installed equipment freed up my employees to do more valuable labor.

I would have paid 2x or 3x the cost of the Chinese equipment to purchase USA-made equipment.

However, it is not made here. It is not made here for several reasons.

1. It requires welders, and welders are in short supply in the US.

2. The business to make the equipment is industrial and the US regulations for starting an industrial business are complex, costly and restrictive.

3. The energy costs for an industrial equipment manufacturer are extreme in many parts of the US.

4. US parents have sent their kids to expensive liberal arts schools and the kids don't want to work at any physical labor.

5. The parts of the country where these jobs would be welcome are a mess with drug problems and crime. And the education system sucks so bad that there the number of people that can be trained to do the jobs required to manufacture the equipment are too few.

Today there are millions of unfilled jobs, and plenty of opportunity to start and grow small businesses that would provide more jobs. However, the Marxists know that they are better served to push these narratives of automation causing the need to approve Universal Basic Income.

One last point. Collectivism does not work. It sucks in any form. You cannot pay people to not work and expect human needs will be met. We are better off subsidizing work as needed to get more humans doing productive things. We are entering an anti-work cultural shift that is terrible and will be the end of us if it continues.

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Capitalism is going great, therefore we need to change to an economic system that has only produced starvation and misery. Because equity. Pass

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I think the issue is relative versus absolute measures of poverty. Yes, there is a bottom 20% in the United States. But that bottom quintile still owns color televisions, mobile phones, Play Stations and XBoxes, etc. And it is a 20% that doesn't have to worry about starving to death, although hunger can still be a concern.

The United States and the rest of the modern world is already Star Trek in terms of abundance. And I think you can argue, as Freddie seems to suggest, that once you reach the level where everybody has an Android or iPhone that people are comfortable enough that real change becomes very difficult.

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I think you're making two fundamental errors here. One, you're not distinguishing productivity and distribution. Two, you're not distinguishing what productivity gains are technological and what are non-technological. These are important distinctions!

Start with one. You characterize Denmark, Sweden and so on as "more socialist" -- but their difference from what you would call "less socialist" countries, like the United States, is overwhelmingly in their distribution of wealth, not in their production of it. Both groups have golden gooses. They distribute the eggs quite differently. But their gooses are not very different at all. You can't use the success of messing with distribution as evidence that it would be good to mess with production. They aren't the same things. To say otherwise would be to say that, oh, ok, since messing with who gets the eggs works fine, it would also be ok to mess with the goose. That's obviously not true, and it's how you end up with a dead goose.

Second. Not all of the gains in productivity are technological. We've all had or heard of bad bosses. Not jerks or criminals, but ones who organize things badly, who make bad decisions. Bosses who are not engineers but harass the engineering team with useless suggestions and directives. Bosses who are lawyers that insist that the support staff use a word document for a task that is obviously more suited to a spreadsheet, because the lawyer is more comfortable with word documents. Bosses who insist on unanimity as a decision-making process only to discover that the only way to get that unanimity is to kick out the dissenters, which they do. It's easy to believe that these things are symptoms of capitalism, but there's another possibility which is that this sort of behavior is basically human, and capitalism's pressures to deliver the goods (especially in more competitive industries) significantly reduces such behavior. I certainly believe that, and if those of you that have worked with or seen a lot of badly-managed movements in the non-capitalist space consider how much bad management they have vs. how much bad management is in business, you may find that you believe it too. Good management is hard, and transitioning social systems can 100% throw it down the drain. I know you don't like to use the example of Chinese communist experiences because they are old, but I really think that the fact that farms in China became outrageously more productive once Deng Xiaoping allowed them to operate privately is a pretty clear indicator that it isn't all about technology. Those farms didn't suddenly get a bunch of technological breakthroughs. The technology was the same before and after. What they got was better management. It's not all about the tech.

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Like other commenters here, I have absolutely no problem with material abundance, and skewing things heavily toward the less fortunate. But by that I mean skewing future things, not taking from me and giving to others. And no, I'm not anti tax or anything weird. But I am old and retired. And rich. I'm exactly the kind of person progressives are thinking about when they say tax the rich and Elizabeth Warren complains that I won't pay "just two cents more". But when I was young and starting out, I did the sensible thing, and figured out how much I'd need to retire and what kind of lifestyle I could afford just living on my retirement income. So when I retired, I locked into that lifestyle. (It includes giving 10% of my income to charity every year and leaving everything to charity when I die, I'm not Scrooge). But then Obama increased taxes on investment income by four percent. Then my town quintupled my property tax. Then Trump made state and local taxes non deductible. And now my state is adding four percentage points to my state income taxes. So just in the last few years my taxes have skyrocketed, and I'm paying well over 50% of my retirement income in taxes. And this at a time when we're clearly broke running record deficits, and investment options are all extremely unappealing, and progressives have a laundry list of huge new programs, all to be funded by the rich of course, under the delusion that somehow the rich don't already pay all the taxes. And I know I'll get "world's smallest violin" type reactions, but lifestyles just aren't that fluid, especially for old people. There is no market for my old hideously expensive to maintain house with its ludicrous property taxes. And being old comes with a lot of expenses, it's not just a big Carnival Cruise (thankfully).

The only solution I have for this sort of problem, and yes I know it's entirely self serving, is that taxes and benefits should be "locked in" as much as possible. I made my plans on the basis of fairly stable tax rates and SALT deductions. Don't give me further deductions but spare me from future increases as well, or take them when I'm dead. Don't arbitrarily erase student debts for people today when I paid mine off too soon to benefit from this. Had I known I wouldn't have to pay them back I wouldn't have. etc etc. It's the randomness that is a killer for older folk, while younger people have plenty of time to adjust for both tax and benefit changes.

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To me, this reads as an argument for the Nordic model: capitalism plus redistribution. I find it strange, then, that Freddie explicitly says that's NOT socialism, and we should want something more socialismer than that, with more direct government in the process of production, rather than just redistribution. And I still don't get what that would look like, or why we should want it.

The "let's do a better job of sharing our abundance" thing sounds great to me, even though I'm fortunate enough that I'd likely have less wealth in that scenario. But honestly, putting to one side the feasibility of it or anything like that, having my work life governed by something other than market forces sounds kind of awful. For example, at my job I teach a summer class, which is above and beyond my usual duties, because I get paid more. That's great, because I have a choice: I can work less, or I can have less money. I chose to take the money, but maybe I'll decide differently in the future. Either way I'm happy. What does that look like in a non-market world? My supervisor tells me I have to teach the summer job, and if I don't like it, tough? I'm honestly asking, because it's something I really can't envision as desirable.

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"Of course, the fact that no countries have followed advanced capitalism with communism might suggest that capitalism is good enough that people don’t want to switch."

Unironically, yes.

Another thing to grapple with is that the "global poor" are far, far poorer than the poor in any advanced industrial country (what's more nationalistic than a social program helping the poor in one country?). So unless you want to jump straight to global communism, somehow, implementing full on socialism in any rich country very well might hurt economic growth in impoverished countries.

Capitalism + safety net can be done without wrecking market mechanisms, misaligning incentives, or killing the Golden Goose of technological progress, increased productivity, and economic growth. Web3, er, I mean neoliberalism solves this. Be growth-focused, not redistribution-focused, and you tend to get the (realistically) best of both.

If you haven't read it, Tyler Cowen's Stubborn Attachments is probably the best explanation of this I'm aware of.

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"But I will say this: I’ve never met anyone who doesn’t agree with the system of universal abundance in Star Trek, given the conditions in Star Trek. This isn’t a joke: I mean that, if you present people with a society where technological progress is so advanced that abundance for everyone is possible, even the most ardent capitalist will concede that it would be immoral to perpetuate a system that did not allow for the distribution of abundance to everyone."

I have. I don't disbelieve you. But I've met people who believe humanity needs the threat of misery and death hanging over individuals if they don't shape up in order for civilization to survive. There are only ever the gods of the copybook headings, these people believe, even if they're self-identified Christians:


Back in 2019, Matt McManus published a short piece on why some self-identified libertarians / classical liberals were attracted to the alt-right and why some weren't. He pointed out that for some, the attraction of free markets was less the freedom than the competition, competition to reward the superior and punish the inferior: both carrots and sticks.


Many libertarians acknowledge that generally free market paired with a modest, simple welfare state would still offer plenty of carrots to reward superior performance. Others, though, worry that not enough stick will be the death of us all. They might, if forced to choose between more freedom and more stick, choose more stick.

Forget just libertarians. That people need the pinch of scarcity for good moral development still seems a pretty common opinion in general. Societies that can afford otherwise risk "decadence".

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"I’ve never met anyone who doesn’t agree with the system of universal abundance in Star Trek, given the conditions in Star Trek."

No shot, Sherlick.

Of course if you ask people, "Would you like a magical replicator device to magically give you every material good you desire?", very few people are going to reply, "No! I would HATE it! Material abundance is for the WEAK!"

Freddie, I think your article is asking the wrong question. The question is not, "At what level of material abundance should we switch to communism?" The key question is, "How do we increase the amount of goods/services produced *per unit of human time/energy/effort*?"

Notice the goods that have gone down in price in the graph above: they are all things that can be produced at scale in a highly automated fashion. If flat-screen TVs were painstakingly crafted one at a time by a skilled artisan, you bet they would cost orders of magnitude more than they do now.

In contrast, the expensive goods are those that are either non-scalable/labor intensive (like health care) and/or beset by government regulations (like housing). You know this; you mention Baumol's cost disease in your article. But then you pivot to "and this is why we should switch to socialism/communism."

I don't follow your logic. I'm not an economist, but it seems to me that disincentivizing labor is a bad way to lower the cost of labor-intensive goods, and from what I know about communism, it's a piss-poor way to incentivize labor.

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Really too bad that apparently all the Marxists who seized the means of production were anti-capitalists instead of post-capitalists.

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Freddie seems to be on the cusp of grasping the obvious, but just won't close his hand around it. The labor intensive service sector just keeps getting more expensive...because it's labor intensive and that's what you need to pay to motivate someone to do the job. If you just distribute the hard goods to people, why would anyone cook your meal, help an elderly stranger bathe themself or change the sheets on a hotel bed?

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Whoa, reality check. Tsarist Russia was the world's largest wheat exporter in it's day. South Vietnam was a large rice exporter during the US-Vietnamese war, but exports fell after the Communists took over the country. Venezuela had abundant food before the Communists took over, today the average Venezuelan has lost something like 14kg (28lbs) due to hunger. Today people drink from the open sewers. This is the price of enforced equality—extreme poverty.

Early Communist Russia didn't provide for her poor, NO, Russia oversaw the Holomodore, she starved thirty million people to death. 30,000,000. Twice the number killed in the Holocaust, does the main-stream media acknowledge this? No, Communism always gets a pass. China, proceeded to starve seventy million ... 70,000,000 to death, almost 5x the Holocaust, again Communism gets a pass.

No country followed advance Capitalism with Communism ... Well, how about Venezuela? Venezuela was a very advanced Capitalist economy, until Communism took over. People flee Venezuela, people flee Communism.

Productivity ... some of these Nordic countries have valuable oil fields, some specialize in money-laundering, and they have populations equivalent to New York City boroughs. These aren't big complex countries, these are puny wealthy city-states.

Look at the root causes of poverty in the US—yes its lack of money—but the root cause is lack of responsibility. Granted, this is most likely a generational chain of lack of responsibility, but all the same, the root cause is still lack of responsibility. Yes, I know its hard to say it to the child lacking responsible parents, lacking the upbringing, but its still there. I don't know how to fix the problem, but when the elementary school feeds a kid three meals a day, this is a responsibility problem, this will be multi-generational problem. I don't advocate letting children go hungry, but when the parents are offered a choice between responsibility, and irresponsibility, and they choose irresponsibility, where do we go?

The preponderance of Ganja-villes (tent cities shrouded in a green cloud) we see here in California is amazing. What are these Ganja-villes, but outposts of drug-addled irresponsibility, funded, perhaps even promoted by socialism. Will throwing more money at them make them go away, or grow larger?

I work in Alaska, the people there enjoy a minimalist UBI ... it's a total disaster. Alaska is the alcohol, drug, suicide, fetal-alcohol syndrome, and child abuse capital of the world. One out of a thousand teens kill themselves, 3x the national average. You can't go anywhere without seeing cars off-the-road, smashed into trees, upside-down, abandoned along the roads, even in the cities. My friend's wife is an elementary school teacher, she says about 1/2 the children show signs of fetal alcohol syndrome. The rate of illiteracy among adults is astounding, we've had to fire adult men who couldn't read. There is little motivation for youths to obtain an education. Children see their parents live a subsistence lifestyle, receive the Permanent Fund Dividend, and a Native Corporation Dividend. Why do things you don't have to? Why work when money comes for free, why get an education if you don't need to work? This doesn't end well.

I've seen it, UBI is a human disaster.

Hard times make hard people. Hard people make good times. Good times make for soft people. For some years I worked in California Agriculture. What I saw was this: Grandpa has a dream, build a large productive farm. Works his ass off, starts well. Dad comes along and follows in Grandpa's foot-steps, works hard, builds a profitable farm. Junior comes along, reaps all the benefits without the hard work, grows up a soft lazy fool, oversees the collapse of the enterprise, his kids grow up in poverty.

Why don't you do your own animal experiment of UBI? Leave a full bowl of cat food on your door-step every night for a year. My great-grandmother did this in downtown Sacramento. Sure it feels good to feed the stray cats ... and after several months, Nana couldn't sleep for the cat-fights all night long. We ended up hauling dozens of feral cats to the SPCA ... on multiple occasions.

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You characterize a number of European countries as somehow meaningfully more generous than the US. That's somewhat true, but our social spending is very much on par with the rest of the OECD (and, by some measures, we are near the top). We certainly outspend countries like Australia, Canada, and Iceland.



And, for example, we spend the same on public healthcare, as a percentage of GDP, as the EU average -- see this report at page 3: https://www.piie.com/publications/pb/pb15-4.pdf

I am open to arguments that our spending is inefficient. For example, perhaps a negative income tax is more effective than food stamps; maybe we shouldn't be giving rich people the child tax credit; and for sure our health care spending as a whole needs reform. But the idea that the United States is some kind of miserly ogre is not at all borne out by the numbers.

EDIT: And keep in mind that this is spending as a percentage of GDP. Because the US has a very high GDP per capita, our per capita spending is actually quite favorable.

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It is pretty to think that post-capitalism would be followed by an equitable society sharing the blessings of productivity and wealth. But in the real world, I think Robert A Heinlein has it better: “Throughout history, poverty is the normal condition of man. Advances which permit this norm to be exceeded — here and there, now and then — are the work of an extremely small minority, frequently despised, often condemned, and almost always opposed by all right-thinking people. Whenever this tiny minority is kept from creating, or (as sometimes happens) is driven out of a society, the people then slip back into abject poverty. This is known as 'bad luck.'”

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What about China? I have lived here/there for the last five years. They've pulled millions upon millions out of poverty over the last forty years. The government makes policies that are generally good for the masses and focused on distribution of wealth, recently for example they shut down private tutoring so the rich kids can't get all kinds of extra help to get into the best schools. Policies here are actually all about the many. For better and for worse (I'm sure you all will let me know about the worse part as pretty much the only things people read about China are relentlessly negative). It is a functioning socialist state who has recently begun working on the problem of wealth distribution. Yet, I'd rather live in the States and all its dysfunction because of its 'freedoms' (and because my family and friends are there). All to say, I think socialism requires real sacrifice, sacrifice that most Americans are not willing to make

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"Why would we let anyone go hungry or cold when we have this kind of productive capacity?"

Right now, every one of us is likely within a mile or so (at most) of a homeless person, someone who is likely hungry and cold.

Is any one of us going to go out, find such a person, and invite him or her into our home? Let them eat a nice dinner with us and then sleep in a warm comfortable bed?

Nope, not a single one of us is going to do this.

And that's the answer to the question. We don't do it because we don't want to. A deep selfishness is baked into human psychology (probably mammalian psychology more generally).

It's not a question of the amount of abundance. Every human society that has ever gotten above bare subsistence level for all (which has been the case for thousands of years) has faced the problem of how to distribute the excess. And they've all arrived at essentially the same conclusion: extremely unequal division (power law with a large exponent) with an excessively wealthy elite.

Why that happens is a problem for psychologists and anthroopologists to figure out. But it's independent of how much excess there is in the first place.

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