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"we need to talk about how that works"

Absolutely, but the marxists have been gaslighting us on this for 150 years, so I don't have much hope that they are going to come clean and admit that they have no idea how it's all supposed to work.

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I've seen you comment this a few times on a few different posts and I don't know whether you're being disingenuous or not. In any case, I think in this particular situation, it seems to me, at least, you're missing the forest for the trees. The whole idea is, perhaps, to put that collective productivity to work in various ways, including figuring out the specifics of what you ask. Besides, to my understanding, collective ownership doesn't necessarily imply collectively "manning the ship". That is, assuming the idea would even apply to small businesses.

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deletedFeb 14, 2022·edited Feb 14, 2022
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So you're implying that how socialism is presently conceived will not work?

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I am not being disingenous, I really want to know if any socialist has an actual plan. As far as I can tell, the answer is no.

"Besides, to my understanding, collective ownership doesn't necessarily imply collectively "manning the ship"."

Well according to at least some socialists, that's exactly what it means:

"It would be necessary to draw up a plan, involving the whole of society, on what industry needed to produce. At every level, in communities and workplaces, committees would be set up and would elect representatives to regional and national government – again on the basis of recall at anytime if they disagreed with their decisions. Everybody would be able to participate in real decision-making about how best to run society."

https://www.socialistalternative.org/socialism-in-the-21st-century/how-could-socialism-work/

And does it apply to small businesses, or not? How small is "small"? Etc etc etc.

And if the plan is to work it all out later: sorry, no. Every time socialists have seized power, it's led to total disaster. And that is precisely because THEY HAVE NO ACTUAL PLAN. So they just wing it. And then we end up with dictators-for-life like Xi and Ortega.

So I'm willing to listen if there's an actual plan, with details like what is a small business and what is not. But not before. Before you have that, all you have is slogans and vaporware and a very bad history.

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Removed (Banned)Feb 14, 2022
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Sure, but then why waste time and effort and good will by advocating for it?

I say: advocate for practical, achievable good things instead.

Like electing more centrist Democrats to red state legislatures who will vote for Medicaid expansion.

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Removed (Banned)Feb 14, 2022
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Why is capitalism always the opposite of socialism? Can't we weave these two things together?

What if we taxed corporations based on the ratio of their highest to lowest earner? Either the corporation shares money, or we'll take it and redistribute it for you, with the idea that the former is actually more efficient and probably makes people happier.

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That's not socialism, by definition. But it's an interesting tax scheme, I like it.

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its not exactly capitalism either. Which is why need ideas like this - turn the whole thing on its head, stop talking about what camp you are in, and come up with new ideas.

Certainly there are smarter people than me out there that can think up this stuff.

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To your first point about materialism as a core principle, I think the preponderance of self-care rituals and memes is proof that people are struggling to remain embodied in, well, their bodies. When you start to believe that language is reality, that the Internet represents life, is there any wonder so many people are so deeply unhappy?

Also, genuine question: if the nation state was eliminated, how would that not yield the tyranny of structurelessness? I’m not sure I agree that nation-statehood itself is a product of capitalism and imperialism exclusively; seems like it’s an inevitable apex level of organization.

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It also leads to people trying to push the river up stream. We didn't address poverty among the elderly by changing the terms we use to describe them or deconstructing the notion of age. We did it through social security, which gave them a bunch of money.

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In retrospect, the only good thing Obama did was expand Medicaid. People were simply given health insurance. It's not complicated.

The more the Left panders to alienated and deranged intellectuals, and tries to give credence to their esoteric critiques, the less likely it is to be successful.

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Also raising the age a child can stay on their parent's plan to 26. But, yeah, I agree, the technocratic shit is useless. Trump repealed the super controversial individual mandate and nothing happened.

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Repealing the individual mandate caused insurance rates to rise. Not catastrophic, but a real and negative effect.

Many of the Obama "technocratic" reforms had real, positive effects for a lot of people.

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Designing the system poorly also caused insurance rates to rise.

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Nonsense

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ACA also allowed people who didn't qualify for Medicaid to buy their own health insurance. Prior to that, there were a lot of people who were simply unable to buy health insurance at any price due to pre-existing conditions.

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Yeah but it's still a mess. 'Designed to fail,' as one health policy *expert* said to me.

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The health care system in the USA is a huge, unruly mess. It's a mish-mash of private and state-run entities, confusing and contradictory regulations and bad incentives.

Expecting that anyone or anything would able to unfuck this whole thing in one go is just ridiculous. It's especially so given the dysfunctional nature of our political system where Joe Lieberman was able to block some very basic things like a Medicare buy in or public option.

Any large and transformative piece of legislation like ACA should go through an iterative process where results are evaluated and legislative changes and corrections are made. But the its opponents refused to allow any such corrections to be made and did everything to break it.

Even still, ACA has improved the lives of millions of Americans in very real ways. Many people have health insurance and access to care that they didn't before. People don't have to worry that their claims will be denied due to pre-existing conditions.

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Yup, I agree. I just think the Medicaid expansion represented >80% of net benefit.

If Dems have another chance I would hope that they could further expand Medicaid to get us close to 100% coverage nationally.

Saying this as someone who does not consider themselves left wing.

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I would state that as "we forcibly took money from the people, with a promise to repay it later."

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And it was paid later and somewhat redistributed in a way that greatly reduced poverty among seniors.

https://www.cbpp.org/research/social-security/social-security-lifts-more-americans-above-poverty-than-any-other-program

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I would not recommend wading this deep in the dog shit, but are you aware of the whole "homeless vs. houseless" discourse?

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Yes, it becomes simple when you split the problem. Short term homelessness is due to financial difficulty. Long term homelessness is due to mental/drug issues.

When you have energy inflation, people lose the ability to pay their expenses, they lose their homes. When you have general inflation, people lose the ability to pay their expenses, they lose their homes. When you have people sent home due to lockdowns, they lose the ability to pay their expenses, they lose their homes.

We have a trifecta of causes of homelessness: Lockdown poverty, energy poverty, food poverty. The political leadership does not think these are problems. As someone who was long term unemployed and right on the cusp of homelessness as a young guy, I not only know these things, I lived them.

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There are other social structures than nations. City states, communes, weird viking anarchy. Feudalism. Not all are even the slightest bit structureless.

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True. I guess we could try weird viking anarchy on in the U.S. and see how it works.

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I think the commonality of self-care rituals also speaks to how challenging it can be to live in our capitalist society, though.

Regarding the nation-state, though, I'm not sure I would say it is the "apex", but I do think it has its merits, unless I knew what Freddie was proposing as an alternative.

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For a very simple of example of why nation states are silly, I’m just going to look at the EPA vs what we could be doing instead.

Let’s say we abolish the EPA along with the nation state, and instead we now have the Lake Erie watershed commons and the Mississippi River watershed commons that are managing the resource at the level it makes sense. And now instead of having multiple states, and even multiple nations in the case of a Great Lake managing a water resource, it’s a group that just encompasses that specific natural resource commons. For things like the air and the ocean; ideally the whole world has a say.

To organize between regions, you use some version of federalism.

Furthermore, just because Lake Erie should be managed as one single common resource, it doesn’t mean that everything else public needs managed at that scale - like roads should probably be pretty localized.

Maybe the public library system should be as worldwide as possible to have the best book sharing capabilities, but the local collection should be chosen by people living close enough to utilize the library. The point here is that multiple governance structures can (and I think should) have overlapping districts, based on the region that makes sense for that function. And those regions should be fluid in the case it makes sense for one to expand or shrink.

None of this stuff requires structurelessness, or not electing leaders: it just doesn’t require some ultimate authority, with a monopoly on violence, ruling over an arbitrarily selected chunk of land - a state. Instead govern things at the level that makes sense, and use federalism and dispute resolution bodies to coordinate between regions and governance organizations.

Probably not what FdB has in mind as state abolition, but it’s hopefully an example to show how it might work.

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Isn't this kind of what we already have?

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Yes kind of, but borders and the violence they inspire are pretty bad. And the mono-centric governance schemes we use are not the most effective way we could be organizing.

Lots of other problems with nation states in my opinion as well. Maybe later I will expand on this comment to add more detail/sources.

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And why can’t we have a federation of bodies of overlapping jurisdictions instead of Congress and a nation state, with a rigid definition of the size and scope of governance body? Why should we have the executive branch and similar bodies from other governments who can just unilaterally do things that override local governance, without having to get approval from the congress?

You’re right we can’t eliminate human nature - and that makes it even more pressing to have checks on power beyond borders.

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If I had a nickel for every time someone fought a battle over Toledo. Lets just move forward people. Leave the toledoans in peace.

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ROFL.

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I look forward to it! I like the idea of organizations around regional resources that are governed by stakeholders. That makes sense and is far less arbitrary than say state lines.

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You make it sound easy, and I agree we could make some changes along the lines you suggest and things would make more sense. A Lake Erie Commission that doesn't answer to the separate state bodies would probably make more sense, but it should always answer to some higher power. Everything eventually flows to the sea, after all.

Right now we have this going on: https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20150402-the-worst-place-on-earth

So, should we put all ultimate authority under the control of a single global government that can step in and punish any locally governing Commission that gets corrupt?

The problem with that, of course, is that individuals almost invariably succumb to avarice, and so if there is just a tiny group at the top with ultimate power, they will do anything they can to crush dissent. But we desperately need dissent, because that's how we learn about injustices at every level of any given system.

Perhaps the most universal and most dangerous human failing is our craving to be right, and so we must encourage and listen to those who are willing to tell us we are wrong. That becomes a bureaucratic nightmare, of course; the potential arguments against any given human activity are functionally infinite.

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"But we desperately need dissent, because that's how we learn about injustices at every level of any given system."

Not just injustices, but failures of knowledge, too. See the discussion above about science. Crushing of dissent = Lysenkoism (among other bad outcomes).

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Absolutely, I almost wrote "dissent is how we learn, full stop". Listening to people who disagree with us and realizing that they actually have information we don't...that's how learning happens, man. :D

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Here's the disaster in that idea.

In the Lake Tahoe basin, 75 different NGOs/agencies could tell homeowners they couldn't cut the overgrown pine trees, sweep up the beds of mulching pine needles, nor clear brush ... yet none of these agencies were responsible for the resulting unstoppable Angora Fire which burned 200 homes.

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Complicated systems are always hard to manage and benefits and costs are often unevenly distributed among those impacted. That shouldn't rule out the possibility of change for the better, just make us humbler when we consider it. California has always had wildfires. The Angora fire was started by an illegal camper, there is no reason that removing debris would have stopped it, other than your assertion. Do you have any evidence for your beliefs?

Californians have foolishly build a large number of homes in high fire danger areas. Who should pay the cost for when they burn down? Should we continue to provide subsidized insurance so that they can continue to do so?

What about people whose homes have been more likely to burn due to climate change? What should the remedy be for these people?

I don't have all the answers for sure, but when you are in a hole, the first thing you should do is to stop digging.

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Yes, yes, yes. I live in an Oak Woodland Forest in the Sierra Nevada Foothills, I know these things, I live them.

But, we have several problems with governance. First off, environmental groups go out and dictate how much tree harvesting we can happen, how much power line clearing, how much debris cleaning. These thing, trees, forest litter, trees too close to power lines are fire ignition and fire fuel. Fires don't burn without fuel.

Climate change has a role too. Actually the Sierra Nevada has cooled, but CO2 has caused greening, about 40% world wide. Add the greening with the reduction of tree harvesting, the reduction of private forest management, the reduction of public forest management, these add up to increased fire danger. In the 70s and 80s, when I was a teen, rangers then we saying the reduction of forest management will create exactly these problems. These management plans were put in place by the people of the State of California. Mostly by activist environmental-political groups, The Sierra Club, The Nature Conservancy, etc. Of course, its more likely driven by their Lawyers, who stand to make serious bank on suing the state/counties, but that's serious bank that the people paid up front, and now we pay one hundred times more with the results of poor forest management ... driven by big city environmental lobby.

TL;DR: if an environmental org can dictate you can't thin the forest, and fire climbs to the crown (unfightable), who is to blame? I'm pretty sure its not the people who were the root cause of the problem.

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It is most likely in most situations that the people closest to the problem have the best answers. There is room in any debate for the voices of experts but ultimately I think decisions should be made closer to the problem, not in Washington or Sacramento.

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The problem is the Sierra Club Lawyers based in San Francisco want to earn money by suing the state in Sacramento.

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Not that the award means much, but Nobel prize winning economist Eleanor Ostrom and her husband spent their entire careers theorizing and doing empirical studies on the politics of polycentricity and commons resource management. First, what they found is that much of the time a single center of power or privatization are not the ideal solution to a problem. And second, that the “tragedy of the commons” is a myth, and that they are really only worse than state management or private property if you don’t govern the commons correctly.

Unfortunately, as far as I know all of their work is pay walled in academic journals or requires buying a book. But here is a link to her 8 principles for effective commons governance. http://www.onthecommons.org/magazine/elinor-ostroms-8-principles-managing-commmons

In your example, it sounds like principles 3, 4, and 8 were not followed when creating the system, and since we are talking about NGOs I have a feeling it’s even more of them than that.

And also, I’m sure I could dig up individual cases of private property owners or the EPA making horrible environmental decisions. That doesn’t prove that on average, these systems are worse than the alternatives.

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A key benefit of states is that they provide GENERAL services. For a given (often, admittedly, arbitrary) piece of territory, the state provides both an external security apparatus and the internal enforcement apparatus.

The external security apparatus is important to prevent people who are not party to the national agreement from coming in and free riding. (E.g., by polluting.)

Internally, there is one state mechanism that provides dispute resolution (courts), one mechanism of punishment (prisons), and often one investigative machine (though in practice sometimes policing is broken up into different agencies). Because they are general in nature, these internal tools can be used over and over again for a variety of problems -- pollution, but also bribery and child abuse and traffic regulation.

So, take Lake Erie. Your proposal seems to be that we abolish Canada and the United States (two countries that haven't gone to war with each other in almost two centuries) and instead form some kind of Lake Erie commons. But you haven't really said what such a body is. Is it just an agreement? Who enters into it? (And what if a relevant stakeholder doesn't want to enter into it?) Who enforces it -- both internally and externally? I.e., does the Lake Erie commons have an army to prevent outsiders from polluting Lake Erie in ways contrary to the agreement? (Who commands that army?) And does it have its own courts, etc. to deter and punish bad behavior by its members?

Let's say it does have some form of external security and internal enforcement. Does it govern everything that happens in and around Lake Erie -- for example, building roads between Toledo and Buffalo? Is there a separate "roadshed commons" in the Lake Erie area? Does it focus only on roads around the Lake? If so, isn't there some arbitrary point where that commons must end? -- which gets you back to arbitrary physical boundaries. And if there is a dispute about roads, does the roadshed commons have to have a police force, court system, and prison system that is separate from the one used for the Lake Erie commons?

If the answer is that each function of government has to supply itself with its own enforcement mechanisms, that starts to sound quite cumbersome and ineffective. It also sounds like a recipe for constant war, as there will be all these little micro-states asserting power in "overlapping" (i.e., potentially conflicting) areas.

If the answer is that they would pool their resources and submit to a higher authority... that starts to sound like a state. "Federalism" could be the answer -- but it's also the one we already have. Any federalist system strong enough to be effective is essentially a state. And a federalist system that can't exert the powers of a state is... the League of Nations. Or the US under the Articles of Confederation.

I see that below you cite to Elinor Ostrom's work. But that work has to do with small, local communities where you have to face your neighbor's disapproval. There is no reason to think that the mechanisms of hyperlocal social pacts will scale -- and, indeed, the very existence of pollution suggests they do not. Perhaps most crucially, those examples also tend to take place within the context of larger states that provide a safe environment within which a certain amount of spontaneous self-organization is possible.

I guess what I'm saying is that nation-states evolved to solve a large number of problems in a reasonably efficient way, and before we replace them we have to understand how they work and why. If nation-states do many things well but some things poorly, IMO it makes sense to reform them rather than abandoning them. Over time, of course, the reform may be so great that what we are left with no longer looks like the entity we started with. But I think it's incredibly risky to START from the premise that the state itself is the problem, and it should be abolished.

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On the subject of nation-statehood, while I don’t think I have a complete answer to whether or not its organizing structures are the best, I think I have some ideas that can elucidate its context.

I don’t see nation-statehood as a product of capitalism, so much as it’s a product of ideology (nationalism, in this case). It is a conceptualization of social organization that has scaled with the level of inter-social technology and communication that has become possible as globalization has increased over time. Obviously geography and culture and such things play a part, but in the past, the overriding ideologies of social cohesion have been tribal families, religion, race, etc.

Check out Benedict Anderson’s “Imagined Communities”, if you haven’t before. Huge influence on my thoughts on the matter.

I’m inclined to agree with you that on a level of inevitability, the current nationalistic form or social organization is our current apex, despite how much I disagree with nationalism as an ideology. My curiosity lies with what organizational structures would come after the “dissolution of the state”, in lieu of “the terror of bureaucracy” that would still need to exist within organizing structures in a post-capitalist, globalized world.

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Thanks for the book rec. I’ll look into it.

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I think it's also worth noting that nationalism had a role in the break-up of empires and anti-colonial movements. The relationship with imperialism is fairly complex.

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An anecdote I've returned to in my head so many times I think it might just have replaced all my other opinions about current capitalism: A few years ago I had a job interview for a state government lawyer position. One of their interview questions was how I handled "self-care" when work was very stressful. I told them that I worked best when I had a strict work/home balance - I'd stay late at work if needed, work the 14-hour day on a big case deadline, etc., but in order to function I needed work to be work and home to be home, and to leave work at the office whenever I finally left. They straight-up told me that I was supposed to say something like "yoga on lunch break" or "taking a bath." Then implied that I'd told them I didn't intend to work more than the bare minimum.

Message taken! "Self-care" only counts if it's stuff you're buying. Embodiment through consumption!

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This is beautiful.

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I want a *Left wing* political movement that is ignorant of material conditions (and justifies the status quo), that serves to create social status for precarious elites, that panders to my hysteria and narcissism, that validates grudges that developmentally I should have gotten beyond by this point of my life, and that focuses attention on my social class and its strange, esoteric enthusiasms.

Is that too much too ask?

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I’ve got great news for you.

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I'd also like that movement to be grounded in the certainty that we live in a hellish dystopia that cannot be improved by human will and ingenuity, and that any good-faith efforts to suggest otherwise are met with anguished outpourings of scorn and revulsion.

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We should try The Walking Dead org method.

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Beautiful, and absolutely not too much to ask. Working on it :) More soon!

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founding

> My ideal movement would recognize that science exists within human power relations, and that scientific arguments are often used to marginalize other points of view, but it would also recognize that science is key to human flourishing and would engender respect for science even as it permitted skepticism towards the claims of particular scientists.

Lately I honestly almost wish we would stop using the word "science." It gets applied to such a wide variety of practices that its primary use today is for a bait-and-switch. Bait with Newton's second law, and once you have a patina of rigorous knowledge production, swap in an underpowered survey that tells us we should all be assuming the power pose.

> The new world we want to build would take advantage of the incredible productive capacity that capitalism has unleashed on the world and use it to spread material goods through a system of collective ownership.

You write this a lot, but I've never seen you respond to the pretty obvious Lucas Critique that follows. When we take pie capitalism baked and parcel it out, are we not cutting off the branch we are sitting on? Where will next year's productivity come from?

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I'd like to see a shift to believing in "engineering". It's probably the most materialistic field we have. Yes, science makes fundamental discoveries, but it doesn't effect people until it is implemented and tested in the real world. Let's celebrate vaccine research, but also notice that the engineering involved in mass producing vaccines is an order of magnitude more impressive than the vaccine research process.

Chip makers don't need to worry about power poses. Our electrical and sewage systems can't be p-hacked. The heat in your house always works and your car (almost) always starts. You always have water, and the planes stay in the sky. These are engineering marvels that make our lives measurably better and are in deserve of some real praise.

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Maybe not p-hacked, but hacked they can definitely be. Just ask the WaPo about Russia and Vermont's electrical grid. /s

Seriously though I've been saying for a long time that if our "defense" department is really about defending us, the people, from legitimate real world threats, we'd close 90% of our foreign bases and re-direct 80% of the funds toward the USACE and other civil works type programs intended to harden our utilities and infrastructure against such hacks and the effects of climate change/global warming.

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"social engineering" scares the shit out of people

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I was really hopeful about Kathryn Garcia's mayoral campaign for precisely this reason...hopefully she keeps being a force.

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I agree that a response to the critique would be a great column.

While I have some serious disagreements with most of Freddie's political positions, I greatly appreciate his consistency and coherence. In this particular case, I think we might find the key in the argument that we have moved from an age defined by scarcity to one defined by abundance. A post-capitalist world might be one where abundance allows better framing of distribution of that abundance. I'd be interested in seeing how he would envision that or tell me that I missed the point completely.

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Freddie's recent column regarding Capitalism ended with this question: "The compelling questions are, what level of abundance is sufficient to prompt this moral imperative, and how do we know when we’ve gotten there?" I would want to hear an answer too those questions. You could argue we are there now. Or maybe we were there in 1980? I think the problem is that abundance is relative, not absolute. So the moral argument gets difficult when you possibly limit future productivity improvements by moving away from innovation to distribution.

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founding

It also hinges on this weird assumption that we will just sustain the current level of productivity under a fundamentally different model, which isn't obvious at all.

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But even putting that aside and making the assumption we could sustain our productivity and successfully reasonably distribute our current abundance, there still is the moral question of what future abundance we are giving up to do that. The problem of Global Warming is a good example. If we fix our productive capacity in our current fossil fuel powered economy are we dooming our future by not continuing our innovative economy until we find a cleaner form of cheap energy? IOW, I agree it's not obvious *how* we can distribute abundance, but the more fundamental moral questions are *why* and *when* we should do it. (Of course I'm assuming an end to innovation coincides with our move to the distributive model which may not necessarily be the case)

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Feb 14, 2022·edited Feb 14, 2022

I mean, if you think free-market capitalism is going to one day give us spaceships and replicators, then I agree that its probably unethical to ever try and move away from it. But it also seems like a huge section of our economic productivity has already shifted away from the kind of big, scientific innovation you are talking about and towards commodification, meaning, taking something that already functions pretty optimally, and tweaking it just enough that you can convince people the new version is now a necessity. Which is part of how we end up confused by what abundance really means.

Put another way, its possible we've reached the level where we can feed, clothe, and shelter everyone and provide for these things in perpetuity, and are denying society those things for the sake of a model that provides newer Iphones every year.

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I think it will. Spaceflight was stagnating and deteriorating for decades until the two richest men in the world decided to change that. In the past it was mainly pushed forward due to the cold war.

I'd prefer capitalism driven progress over war driven progress. So far no other option has proven capable.

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"I think the problem is that abundance is relative, not absolute." I agree. As soon as a human society gets above bare subsistence level (which happened in most places thosands of years ago), the question is how to distribute the excess. It's not a new question.

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In my opinion, if the human race were to ride out our current levels of “innovation” — insanely effective healthcare, psychotropic meds, hand held computers/phones, mass production modes of goods and agriculture — for the entire duration of human civilization, we would be fine.

I think since the invention of penicillan, vaccines, the computer, and the internet, there aren’t many categories of human life that we are so urgently in need of innovation for that the best possible route to it is through competition in a neoliberal corporatized climate. I hear you when it comes to innovation, but I think it needs to be put in perspective.

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Sorry, I should’ve clarified, medical practice/technology. Not our healthcare system.

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Ahh, got it. That makes more sense!

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"the problem is that abundance is relative, not absolute. " - not quite. Absolute poverty does exist, even in the USA and other rich areas.

But most folk who claim to want to "reduce poverty" are more interested, in practice, with hurting the super rich (who ARE on TV), rather than helping the really poor.

And underdiscussed is what to do about lousy, life-style choices. An alcoholic, addicted gambler who is also lazy with a low IQ. The "bad" Forest Gump.

Is the abundance solution merely: give him UBI (daily? weekly?) and let him waste his life in poverty squalor? All historical socialisms seem to require some work - how is that, or any, requirement enforced, if not police? (I support guaranteed jobs, but only voluntary; no complete solution.)

With material abundance, status hierarchy becomes more important - and there's not a lot of room up at the top 10%. The vast majority, we among the 90%, ain't there and ain't getting there, and there's no level of abundance that changes that. Capitalist economics is a positive sum - that's why we're getting richer.

Status is zero sum - you can only go up if somebody else goes down.

Humans, as human, are status conscious and status seeking. But maybe we can create a culture which is less so, and thus better, than what we have now.

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I once heard a conservative argue for basic income on exactly these grounds: once the social safety net is robust enough, you can finally say to someone honestly "look, society has treated you fairly, from this point on, you have to figure it out for yourself." I'm not sure I agree entirely, but its an interesting argument that someone on the Right found very sympathetic.

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Charles Murray likes UBI - to replace some 72 (?) or so other, targeted, expensive, means-tested programs.

A reasonable idea from a Libertarian, not quite conservative.

But I support a Jobs Offer instead; a volunteer National, or State, or City Service.

>> partly to replace those other programs.

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I think the argument against that is that you are going to create pointless busywork just to justify paying people when you could be more efficient (and kinder) just giving them the money.

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The reality of human nature is that people will not work for the collective good. They just won't. People work hard when it is in their own interest. Ask ANY child who has done well on a test or made money at a lemonade stand they built and operated on their own if they then will give away their reward to people who did nothing so they're even. Universally, they will say no. Socialism/communism never works because it totally disregards human nature for an ideal where we're all suddenly selfless, egoless, and aimless. Scandinavian "democratic socialist" countries aren't truly socialist - they do embrace capitalism - and only work to the extent they have because they have a very homogenous culture.

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deletedFeb 14, 2022·edited Feb 14, 2022
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I think what it comes down to for me is that so much of capitalist argument is "man, human nature just BLOWS. Like, we are the WORST. And you think SOCIALISM would work???"

Like, okay. People die getting eaten by tigers or drinking water infected by cholera, too. Like you realize you're just arguing against the very concept of civilization, right? Fucking weirdos. I can't wait until they all go to Mars.

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What the left lacks is a coherent morality. The religious teach kids things like selflessness (at least ostensibly) in service of a higher power. Morality CAN be taught. It’s harder to come up with an agreed-upon moral code without the unifying principle of, say, a god and his or her wishes.

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Sometimes I think the left should adopt Star Trek as a religion. I'm only half joking. It would be a great basis for a socialist talmudic religion.

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Or something with science in it. Scientism. Scienceology? 😏

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Please god I’ve seen what they did to Clearwater, I thought I escaped 😩

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Star Fleet is a command-and-control military organization. Picard, one of its most respected leaders, is an aristocratic white man who periodically retreats to his family's vineyard. This doesn't feel like a left-wing political alignment to me, if anything it's rightist.

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"Workers of the world, unite, and put the old white guys with vinyards in charge!" is /very/ on-brand for the contemporary Left.

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That seems to be how it works in California.

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Indeed. Look what they did to the last worker who ran for an office that was earmarked for a vinyard-owner.

"Workers of the world, unite!"

<beat>

"NOT LIKE THAT!"

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Starfleet is not the Federation and form does not always equal function.

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But, a more robust answer: the primary issue with Star Trek in all its forms is that it is a product of a very particular economic model and also is a product of 20th and 21st Century America with all its unexamined assumptions about modernity, western capitalism, etc. But despite all that it posits a more hopeful and optimistic take on humanity than just about any of piece of creative/narrative art that anyone can think of. Star Trek: The Next Generation is basically about pleasant space communists tooling around the galaxy helping others with no expectation of reciprocity. It's sci-fi solidarity, the tv show.

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Then Deep Space Nine came and turned it on its head. Sure, the Federation worked when they were allied with the Klingons and the Romulans mostly kept to themselves.

Then the Federation came under real pressure from the Dominion and all hell broke loose.

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Deep Space Nine is the Kaballah of Star Trek.

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Please no. After several years of trying to do this with Wokism, the last thing I need is a widely accepted and socially enforced moral system. I need to be able to make up my own mind about things.

Empathy is just fine.

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Oh I don’t want that. I’m just saying it’s an easy way to organize toward a specific aim.

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Can you have one without the other?

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The most basic form of liberalism is I think a structure for morality. I don't think morality has to be religious in nature; it's just easier to get people in line when say eternal damnation is at stake.

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There is NO NEUTRAL in right and wrong, tho most morality includes freedom where non-wrong actions are accepted. Everything "taught" includes some morality. Ayn Rand's (Libertarian adjacent) Objectivism notes this (but it's too self-oriented to be socially optimal.)

As you say, there's no agreed-upon moral code. There is not even an agreed upon "social optimal":

What level of drunkeness is "too much"? What speed is "too fast"?

How much shaming of "bad behavior" is acceptable? Who decides what is "bad"?

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C'mon man. That's not true at all. Sure there are lots of factions and each is peculiar in its own way, but I can go to the DSA website and look at their principals and so can you.

Start with FDRs "Four Freedoms" and you have a basic outline of what leftists almost all agree upon.

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Feb 14, 2022Liked by Freddie deBoer

"Socialism/communism never works because it totally disregards human nature for an ideal where we're all suddenly selfless, egoless, and aimless"

Except that's not what socialism says, like, at all.

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RemovedFeb 14, 2022·edited Feb 14, 2022
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Yes, well said.

The imcompatibility of socialism with human nature is demonstrated by the lack of any details in the socialist vision of society. Where is the draft legislation that will implement it?

There is also a complete lack of compelling socialist art.

Where are all the novels set in the socialist utopia of the future, showing us all how great it is to live there?

Those novels don't exist. I claim that's because nobody can even imagine a believable socialist future.

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What the actual hell are you talking about? I would posit that if you don't think they exist, then you're not very well-read.

You could spend the next year reading the collected works of Iain Banks and Kim Stanley Robinson, and that's just for starters.

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I think that’s generally correct but not the whole story. Banks positions them as communist. And the AIs don’t really run the Culture but they do participate in it.

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I think my favorite is Le Guin's "The Dispossessed." She portrays a very believable communist society without glossing over the inconvenient realities of human nature (hence the subtitle, "An ambiguous utopia").

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The Dispossessed is excellent!

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I've read some Banks and a lot of Robinson and pretty much all of LeGuin.

The anarchist state in The Dispossessed seems like a pretty miserable place to live, which is why the book's protaganist feels compelled to leave it! He had to go to the capitalist state to get his society-transforming ideas recognized.

Robinson's recent book about the intergenerational starship shows the collapse and failure of an enforced communist society.

Banks is too far future to be relevant.

So I've not seen anything that presents a working socialist society in a recognizable version of our world that feels remotely realistic.

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The Dispossessed is about a lot more than just that. Urras is wealthier but much less free. I think that was kind of an honest assessment by Le Guin. She could have made it a polemic but it is much more interesting by being complicated.

I think it is odd that you find the Urras more compelling with its wars, its prisons and its stratified society, but I am not surprised. Each is represented warts and all.

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Got it. Enjoy capitalism. You won, after all. Go enjoy it!

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Feb 14, 2022·edited Feb 15, 2022

The Dispossessed by Ursula Le Guin. Start there.

It's not hard to imagine a better world with less hierarchy, no poverty, less government control, fewer wars, no billionaires and no more freedom.

You just lack imagination.

The demand for a perfect blueprint for the future is an absurd one. But the roadmap to a better place is right there in front of you.

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Because it's not a utopian project. It's about accepting that history will always be in motion and we need to work toward real, material improvements and not some imaginary vision where every problem is fixed.

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Feb 14, 2022·edited Feb 14, 2022

It's also a strange defense of capitalism, where you work for a the wealth of a private boss.

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no, you work for cash - at some possibly BS job that pays you. If you can find some other a*hole boss, private or gov't, who pays "more", you leave for better. Most who have jobs and leave for another job leave for more money, not more other benefits. Many DO leave for less money but "more" of something else they want - but these are usually still middle class or better jobs.

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Yes, and the boss pays you because he makes more money through your labor than the cost of your wage.

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Of course he does. He is being compensated for his labor, part of which is deciding what you should be doing.

Socialism assumes that the means of production will run just as well if you make the decisions that your boss currently makes. That's not a supposition that's supported by much evidence.

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Most human labor is done for "free" as part of a family unit or similar arrangement. People work just fine when they are allowed to make their own decisions, when they have the right incentives.

Also see all the millions of successful cooperatives, small farming communities, etc all over the world.

Large scale organization has given us tremendous wealth to be sure, but at great cost and very little improvement in human happiness, probably none at all.

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I just want to know how it's going to work.

I don't have to share my pants, great.

But how big does my small business have to get before it's collectivized?

No answers, ever, from the socialists to these kinds of questions.

Which is why socialism has so little popular support

And that's not going to change until those answers are forthcoming.

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Here even in the massively propagandized United States, socialism is viewed positively by 38% of the population. I don't consider that "so little popular support."

https://news.gallup.com/poll/357755/socialism-capitalism-ratings-unchanged.aspx

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I think people think universal health care is socialism, not living in communal buildings and sharing communal jobs, and doing communal child care on a communal farm... etc.

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"We would not take as a goal the total elimination of private property, but rather would pursue universal joint ownership and control of the productive apparatus of society. (You don’t have to share your pants.)"

I actually can't imagine this post-capitalist system. Ownership can be diffuse, as it is with the stockholders in capitalism, but control still gets vested in a few people. Jesus said, the poor you have always with you. Apparently, Elon Musk we'll have always with us, or someone like him. Will he work more for the common good if he answers to the Benign Government rather than to stockholders?

A wonderful book about true communism is The Sex Lives of Savages, horrible title but misleading. The airport at the Christmas Islands has to be run by a foreigner, because a native would feel compelled to give all the light bulbs to his neighbors if they asked for them.

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On some podcast, I heard a Swedish woman talk about democratic socialism in her country, and she said that those in America generally did not understand how they came to this form of government. It wasn't necessarily because everyone is so caring. Rather, people are very afraid of being dependent on a collective that they have no input into - namely family. She said that Swedes don't like the idea that you may have to compromise with family members to receive money and care from them when you need it. They believe that in a system like this you are always compromising love, understanding, and self-expression so that you can get resources from local communities or family members. Real relationships are only possible when the unequal resource exchanges are removed from them.

Which is interesting, because it is a self-motivating version of using the government as a collective institution. Basically, we are all dependent on some amount of collectivism, you just have a choice as to which version of collectivism you choose. The government is superior to family because then you don't have to bow to your older or richer family members' will.

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founding

> Scandinavian "democratic socialist" countries aren't truly socialist - they do embrace capitalism - and only work to the extent they have because they have a very homogenous culture.

Your first claim - that the nordics embrace capitalism - is 100% true. Some people have even taken this argument one step further, and argued that relative to their population, these nations punch above their weight class in business *because* of their socialist policies, not in spite of them. It's easier to gamble on starting a business if you don't have to worry about losing your health insurance or being unable to pay your kid's tuition. I don't know if this is true, but what's clear is that socialised health care and education do not preclude a perfectly healthy business climate.

The second part - that such a system requires cultural homogeneity - is a hypothesis, not a fact. And it's not clear to me that the available evidence supports this hypothesis. For example, the Canadian distribution of public/private sector duties resembles the nordics more than the US - and Canada is anything but culturally homogenous.

I think the more likely driver of a healthy socialist/capitalist hybrid is proportional representation in elections.

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The Economist argues that the primary driver of an effective economic system of any sort is the lack of corruption and the amount of trust people have in institutions.

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Can I have a more specific reference to where in Napoleon's letters I should look to learn about his understanding of the development of the nation-state?

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I'd also like to know why Athens and Sparta don't count as "nation states". Is it only size that matters?

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How is power distributed among various institutions in this vision? Are there still a broad number of institutions to balance each other, or has power been centralized to the government?

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Great question. But the socialists have no answers for you. They've devoted zero effort to working out these little details.

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I am about as far from Marxism as it is possible to be, and yet I find I could happily support most of your goals.

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As could any good Christian - and so many do support, in practice, helping the poor more than many loud folk on the "Left". See how many AIDs folk were helped by Christians in the 70s & 80s, for instance.

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I'd really like to find someone from the Right that could productively debate and critique these ideas. I can't think of anyone. It would devolve into labeling and repetitive, disingenuous argument.

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Excuse me but shouldn't the institutions, the universities, the NGOs, the corporations, the non-profits, the corporate media, the CIA, and other interested parties have a say in this?

Certainly they produce Knowledge and Science and Justice and Health? How can you have a progressive movement without Knowledge and Science and Justice and Health?

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“ The new world we want to build would take advantage of the incredible productive capacity that capitalism has unleashed on the world and use it to spread material goods through a system of collective ownership.”

Via index funds? A command economy of government owned businesses hasn’t traditionally worked very well. But Singapore style collective ownership of independent businesses seems to work fine - an example being Singapore Airlines.

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founding

This is really interesting! Something I wonder about lately is poorly understood knock-on effects of the rise of broad index funds. (Namely monopsonistic and monopolistic effects - Black Rock, Vanguard, and State Street are the largest owners of something like 90% of firms listed on the SP500. Technically the owner is "all of us", but Black Rock goes to the board meeting on our behalf. And I'm not convinced that Black Rock's rep is reading the email where I ask them not to say "fix prices"). I wonder if state management of ETFs would alleviate this. I'll have to read about Singapore Airlines.

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Or the state of Lower Saxony’s stake in VW which includes Porsche, Audi, Bentley, Lamborghini, Bugatti.

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Could you explain what you mean by "universal joint ownership and control of the productive apparatus of society"? Is this similar to the Soviet system where private enterprise is mostly disallowed, all businesses are state enterprises and the economy is coordinated via planning? Or is private enterprise allowed and if so, where do we draw the line between what is "jointly owned" and what can be privately owned? Happy to read an article or book that you feel explains your preferred economic system in detail if you can point me to one. Thanks.

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It's very difficult to imagine "universal joint ownership and control of the productive apparatus of society". Greed is a destructive and productive force in humans. Is it possible to harness the creative powers that people have without the incentive of material rewards? Definitely capitalism needs boundaries and rules. Its messy and inefficient, like democracy. But are the alternatives better? So far they haven't been.

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"We would operate under the assumption that removing human beings from the immediate need to work to live would not result in mass apathy and listlessness, but rather unleash a massive flourishing of creativity, productivity, and inspiration." But I struggle to think of a single sentient species on this earth, including humans, for which the "need to work to live" is not an essential quality and shaper of a fruitful existence...

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Yeah, that's where it kinda goes off the rails for me too.

All species need to work to survive--whether it be grazing, hunting, fighting off rivals, etc. Humans are no different, although technology and better organization has allowed us to free a significant portion of our population from tasks that are explicitly related to survival. But *someone* has to plant crops, tend them, harvest them when they're ready. Someone has to gather trash. Someone has to clean up biohazards. Someone has to bury corpses. Someone has to build houses and fences. Someone has to cook food and do laundry. Someone has to make cloth and sew clothes. All of these are dirty, physically demanding jobs that already a lot of people don't really want to do.

So...how do we decide? We're already facing labor shortages in farming and construction. Do we make farming and garbage collection prestigious, and encourage people that way? Do we just hope people will volunteer to pick strawberries when they get hungry? I believe people, under a situation like UBI, would continue to be productive...it's just *where* they're productive that concerns me. Capitalism sucks in a lot of ways, but it has a self-corrective mechanism in raising wages to attempt to draw people into fields that need workers. What is the corrective mechanism here?

We are a wealthy enough society that we have the luxury of being able to maintain a sizable non-working population. As long as we are able, I want us to support the disabled and the elderly and the young and not tie their livelihood to their (in)ability to work. But there is an immediate need to work to live as a society which has nothing to do with any political structure and everything to do with being physical creatures with physical needs.

Am I just not understanding this?

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"it has a self-corrective mechanism in raising wages to attempt to draw people into fields that need workers"

If that's true, why are all the shittiest jobs the worst-paid? As far as I can tell, this is the one thing that capitalism absolutely does not do and has never done.

And might people not be perfectly happy to contribute in various ways, if the conditions and working hours were less unpleasant and they had access to advanced machinery? All these jobs don't have to be as shitty as capitalism is making them.

People like to work. People like to contribute. People don't like to be wage slaves.

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Because labor without a physical product is expensive. Child care doesn't produce a widget that can be created with automated labor and sold in lots of a million for a reasonable price. Child care produces ... a couple of kids. While that's very valuable, it doesn't create wealth, at least not immediately. So, its super expensive per unit and difficult to fund.

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...they're not poorly compensated though, for the most part. Construction is very well compensated, and things like textile/clothing manufacturing is relatively well compensated compared to the conditions in the countries it's based out of. Trash collectors make a respectable salary most places. Farmers *can* make a lot of money, although margins are slim and nature is a fickle mistress. Really the only poorly compensated ones are produce picking (but the migrant workers are, again, relatively well compensated compared to what they could do back home, and the presence of illegal migrants and slave labor is artificially depressing wages) and stuff like fast food (where the wage and benefits is currently rapidly rising due to labor shortages).

And they're intrinsically demanding. Capitalism has been doing everything it can to get rid of workers in these jobs--farm equipment alone has gone through incredible technological advances. I love gardening, but it's hard work and it kinda sucks. Picking produce on any sort of industrial scale (which will be required to maintain current levels of food distribution) is going to require more than "people go out to the local berry patch and pick what they want". And if the answer is "we're not going to maintain current levels of food distribution"...you gotta own that, and explain to people how it's not going to lead to collapse. Wannabe communists and socialists have historically struggled badly with famine. Anyone wanting to go down that path or a similar pathway needs to answer the question: where does the food come from, how is it produced, and how do we guarantee against widespread famine?

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Feb 14, 2022·edited Feb 14, 2022

The government, under capitalism, already heavily subsidizes the farming industry. I don’t understand why a socialist government couldn’t continue to do so and build on the remarkable productive capacity we have already, while fixing the distribution part to be more people than profit focused.

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Every socialist government has failed spectacularly in agriculture.

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Feb 14, 2022·edited Feb 14, 2022

Not really. Look at China in the 70 years before Mao and the 70 years afterwards. It's not like he was a smashing success or anything but it clearly was an improvement. The Russians overthew the Czars for a reason. They were mostly better off afterwards.

Sure you can cherry pick North and South Korea and point to the clear failures of totalitarianism.

But look at Vietnam vs. Indonesia. Or Cuba, China or Vietnam before their Communist revolutions and afterwards.

It's nowhere as near black and white as you seem to think that it was.

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If you look at a field where people are picking vegetables (Salinas, CA), you'll see a lot of very nice cars and trucks.

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"why are all the shittiest jobs the worst-paid"

Anyone illiterate or innumerate can flip burgers, push a lawnmower, collect trash.

If you want someone who can read & follow construction plans, select the proper fasteners, read a tape measure, etc. that costs a little more.

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"there is an immediate need to work to live as a society which has nothing to do with any political structure and everything to do with being physical creatures with physical needs"

+100

I feel like Freddie is making a category error, similarly to the one he makes with war and violence:

Freddie: "The nation-state causes war and violence!"

No, human nature causes war and violence. If we didn't have nation-states, we would have war/conflict/violence between tribes, clans, empires, rival gangs, etc. See: almost all of recorded human history.

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Yes to this. The best (partial) solution is sublimation. Super Bowl Sunday should be renamed War Sublimation Day.

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There is a certain truth to this. I think sports competition is a substitute for warring on the "other". As much as I hate to admit it sometimes, business competition probably serves some of the same purpose.

The impulse to attack the "other" person, the one who isn't fully human, take their stuff and rape the women is probably hardwired into us, as unpleasant as it is to admit.

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The nation state is when violence really became large scale. There were never millions dead in a war before the nation state.

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If you count up the number of war dead in all the little local wars, and express it per capita, I don't believe you are correct that the nation-state era is worse.

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Do you have any evidence for this? It would be hard to prove one way or another given the paucity of evidence.

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Not off hand. Pinker may have written about it. It just seems likely to me. Between 4 and 8 million people died in the 30 Years War in Europe in the 1600s, including about 1/3 of the population of Germany, and that was just one of many such wars:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/European_wars_of_religion

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It reminds me a great deal of the early-2000s internet atheism and it's assumption that removing religion would cause rationality to flourish. Well, we're living in possibly the least-religious era of human history and look how that's turned out. People just filled the void of meaning with crap like woke politics.

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Feb 14, 2022·edited Feb 14, 2022

From what I've seen, any attempts at UBI are disastrous. I work in Alaska, where all residents enjoy the Permanent Fund Dividend, Native peoples receive their Corporate Dividends, which is the village/tribe/region dividend from mining/oil/fishing fees. Alcoholism/Drugs/Spousal Abuse/Child Abuse/DUI/Suicide are the highest here than anywhere else in the US. 1:1,000 teens kill themselves, which is much higher than the rest of the US. Cars off the road all over the place. Trash dumped on the road despite the fact the county dump is free.

When you go to the hardware store, the clerk doesn't push a credit card application on you, they push employment application on you ... and there's a guy begging right outside the door.

EDIT: I forgot about the illiteracy and innumeracy. If you see your parents living the life of Riley, collecting the dividends, why study, why go to school, why work at improving yourself; why work at higher knowledge; get high just like mom & dad, do a little hunting, a little fishing; get by with less—don't need no skollin' for that.

You find an extraordinary number of illiterate and innumerate adults; unemployable.

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Now see the Nordic model. Just money isn't enough, I agree.

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I lived in AK. The stuff you talk about is not BECAUSE of the pfd, which is only around 2k a year.

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https://theanarchistlibrary.org/library/bob-black-the-abolition-of-work/

Most drudgery can be automated. I lived in a democratically run large scale housing cooperative where we all chipped in and did some work for the common good. We rotated the really unpopular tasks, like bathroom cleanup and volunteered for things like cooking and cleaning. Due to a combination of peer pressure, democratically elected leadership with the ability to supervise and fine and a general agreement to live in such a way, it worked pretty well.

Can it be generalized? I don't see why not. We would have to socialize people better to the benefits of cooperation than we do now in the US. But even in the US we were able to attract about 5% of the student population to our endeavour.

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RemovedFeb 14, 2022·edited Feb 14, 2022
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What seems to work best is some kind of mixed economy. Most of the squabbling is over how mixed. 100% Capitalism is a failure too.

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Which leaves the other 95%, like me, who absolutely do not want to live in a "democratically run large scale housing cooperative" where I am subjected to "peer pressure".

I want to own my house and do with it what I like, thank you very much.

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Of course you do.

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So does Freddie. So do most other people. That's why the answer to "Can it be generalized?" is "no".

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Feb 14, 2022·edited Feb 14, 2022

You were asked for working examples of non-coercive non-capitalist communities and when given one your rebuttal is "I don't want that".

I am curious why you think you know what Freddie wants. I bet he wants more small scale democracy too.

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Feb 14, 2022·edited Feb 15, 2022

This is going to be a very long opinion piece advance warning. It draws heavily from my own experiences and my observation of human behavior.

People all over the world live in all kinds of living arrangements, but one thing that is universal is the "family." Not everyone lives with their family but almost everyone lives with one for some part of their lives. Usually there is a common living space, shared work of some sort and shared resources. This is normal to most people so not even seriously examined. But it is a form of small scale cooperative. Usually decisions aren't really democratic but each individual has some say, from the crying baby to the crone.

I lived in a family of various sorts. For my teenage years, until I escaped off to college at the age of 17, I lived with seven siblings and two adults in a two bedroom, one bath house on one acre in the country. We had kids sleeping in the laundry room, the porch, in a camper shell in the front yard, you name it. This undoubtedly influenced what conditions I think one "should" or "could" live in, but my situation was probably better than most of humanities.

After that I lived in dorms, barracks, housing cooperatives, with roomates in a big shared house after college and eventually in an apartment with my wife and a roommate. After kids, just with the family, though we owned a duplex and my wifes old roommates lived downstairs, so we spent a lot of time together in each other's flats. I lived alone once for a couple of weeks and didn't like it very much. For most of life I had someone sleeping in the same room as me, sometimes it was a necessity, sometimes it was a choice.

The point of all this is that it is not binary: one does not own their own property where they are lord and master and do whatever they like, or live in some stifling collective where every decision is scrutinized. For me, personally, living in the cooperative was the freest time of my life, probably because I was a young adult with no responsibilities. Community living does not have to be confining, in fact most young adults find it come with more freedom than living with mom and dad.

I don't know if you personally live alone, but you probably do not and you probably have to make accommodations with the people you live with. We all do, it's the human condition.

There is nothing sacrosanct about one way of arranging how we live with each other, there have been probably as many arrangements as there have been cultures throughout history. Perhaps some have more utility attached to them than others, but I don't see the particularly American suburban ideal as being especially conducive to human welfare and happiness. People certainly prefer it, for various reasons, but that is as much a product of culture and dare I say, propaganda as anything else. There is an almost universal human desire to acquire things, whether they be larger houses, bigger cars, more stuff, but it doesn't really provide any lasting happiness.

Here is a very long Atlantic essay on the human condition and how our accumulation of things doesn't really make us any happier.

https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2022/03/why-we-are-never-satisfied-happiness/621304/?utm_source=email&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=share

"Satisfaction, I told my daughter, is the greatest paradox of human life. We crave it, we believe we can get it, we glimpse it and maybe even experience it for a brief moment, and then it vanishes. But we never give up on our quest to get and hold on to it. “I try, and I try, and I try, and I try,” Jagger sings. How? Through sex and consumerism, according to the song. By building a life that is ever more baroque, expensive, and laden with crap."

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Feb 14, 2022·edited Feb 15, 2022

I am afraid I will hit some kind of word limit or lose my essay so the rest is here.

Eclesiastes probably does a better job in fewer words than the essay above.

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Ecclesiastes%201&version=NIV

This book in the Bible does a great job of describing the dissatisfaction at the core of the human heart and while I don't find the conclusion personally a workable one (submission to God), I appreciate that it seems to help for some people at least.

There is no reason to believe that the solution to how to organize our life today is the best possible one. It almost assuredly is not. We can see that Americans consume more resources per person than people in other places. Does it make us the happiest? Not by a long shot.

I think that we need to find a way to use less, one way or another, due to resource constraints and pollution. The risk of a disastrous outcome from climate change should at least give us pause.

What works well to provide widespread happiness without using an unreasonable amount of resources is best. I don't presume to know exactly what that is. I have some ideas and have seen some other solutions that I think work better. Each of us will have to decide for ourselves obviously. And given the constraints of the world we live in and free will, which is entirely too far off topic for me to get into here.

But we should be open to other ways of doing things. It seems pretty clear to me that more "socialist" or really more communal ways of living produce superior outcomes. I think there is a fair amount of evidence for this, which I can share if you like. Remember I am more of an anarchist than a socialist, so I am probably not capable of giving you the vision for the grand socialism that you seem to want to see from Freddie.

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Feb 15, 2022·edited Feb 15, 2022

There is a huge waiting list for the coop, over 1000 people. We could easily have twice as many members if we could find the way to expand for it.

The main reason people live there in the first place is because it is cheap, about 1/3 the cost of the dorms. There is a book about it called "A Cheap Place to Live"

https://ejinjue.org/green-book/cheap-place-to-live/

This story ends in 1971 and apparently there were 200 coopers then. There are 1300 now. So we have been doing pretty well for a long time.

The interesting thing is that most people who move there are influenced by it at least somewhat. It is most people's experience with direct democracy. We have it in other places in society to be sure, but for most college freshman it is their first taste.

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"Can it be generalized? I don't see why not."

I dunno. Small-scale, this stuff is easy to organize, because the tasks are easy and generalized, and as you say there's both peer pressure and voluntary agreement.

I don't think it works that way at a societal scale. It doesn't make sense to ask everyone to sign up for the roster and do oil drilling or waste treatment three hours a month for the common good. Nor, for that matter, would we want to -- those are specialized skills.

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"Small-scale, this stuff is easy to organize..." I'm afraid you're too optimistic about the small scale. Internet advice columns are chock-full of variations on "My roommates are jerks who never clean up after themselves, I'm tired of nagging them/doing all the cleaning myself and I can't afford to move out, what do I do?"

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Feb 14, 2022·edited Feb 15, 2022

Why can't the oil workers run their own democratic society where they pick their leaders and determine working conditions and outputs?

What we have now as the pinnacle of capitalism is Amazon. Jeff Bezos is the wealthiest person on the world so that must be due to superiority of his business right?

As far as I can tell there is a small well educated elite who work at Amazon in hyper competitive situations where they are expected to work extremely long hours for very good pay. Pay enough to give them a comfortable upper middle class lifestyle and maybe even entry into the 1% if they got there early enough or to climb high enough on the corporate ladder. Climbing involves sacrificing almost all of your personal life.

And the rest work at minimum wage jobs or barely above, pushing themselves as hard as they possibly can doing work that almost no one can accomplish over 50. Or being a driver, which is apparently a job with no benefits.

And of course, being Jeff Bezos, the richest guy in the world.

Is that the best we can do?

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But more to your point, no I don't think we can run the complicated global supply chain that hundreds of millions depend upon for survival with a bunch of local democratically run cooperatives. For better or for worse, here we are. But we can try to avoid the concentration of so much power in the hands of so few oligarchs. That usually doesn't end well.

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Congratulations.

You've found a streamlined will working solution to household chores among many people that, in my household, me and the love of my life still cannot agree upon.

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I have lived with all kinds of different roommates, but because of my background many are from the cooperative I lived in when I was at college. They always made better roommates.

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Things might get more difficult when there are kids or elder care involved. I can only imagine this working among a bunch of hippies or very young people that just straight up have zero preferences for how anything is done or decorated.

Best of luck to you.

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I think the confusion here is a conflation of Work with work. It takes work (exercise, cooking, child rearing) to live. But that shouldn’t be equivalent to “it takes 40+ hours of (typically) nonessential busyness per week (in addition to exercise, cooking, and child rearing) to live.” I think the essay is referring to the later.

Also, don’t ignore the work that the word “immediate” is doing there. A brown bear works hard to live, but there are months at a time when it doesn’t have an immediate need to work to live. Whereas, for most of us, 2 weeks of not Working can easily lead to a spiral takes years to escape from.

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Let's be precise, then. If Freddie meant "meaningless non-essential busyness for pay," he could have said so. But I think the willful disregard of human nature (and, indeed, nature itself) that underlies Marxism goes deeper than semantics over the meaning of "work."

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There's a small body of work on "deviant leisure" which documents the fact that some people with time on their hands will devote that time to antisocial behavior, purely for fun. Example paper: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/01490400.2017.1329040?journalCode=ulsc20

"The idle brain is the devil's playground" is a cliche, but has some truth to it just the same. Whether that constitutes a meaningful argument against, say, UBI is a separate discussion...but it's one reason that I have a hard time with the "massive flourishing of productivity" assumption.

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Any successful progressive political movement going forward will have to take into account that for many political issues there is no Left or Right but only one pole which is the Center and that the conflict is between the Center and the Periphery.

The Center creates policy, sanctifies official knowledge, produces and distributes culture, houses disproportionate numbers of technocrats and professionals of every field, and spins out *Left wing* astroturfed nonsense that is apparently indistinguishable from the real thing.

What is the meaning and purpose of a *Left wing* that is a house pet subsidiary of the Center?

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