Marxism

NickOtani's picture
Submitted by NickOtani on Sat, 2008-02-02 23:40

Karl Marx (1818-1883) was born in Germany and had an interest in philosophy when he was young. Later, he wrote for the Rheinische Zeitung, and teamed up with Friedrich Engels, in 1848, to write the Communist Manifesto. He had to leave Germany and France and ended up in London, England, where he worked on more academic books, like Das Capital, in 1867, and it is here, in London, where he died and is buried.

History has shown many problems with uncontrolled capitalism. There has been child labor, unsafe working conditions, shoddy products sold by unscrupulous entrepreneurs who are satisfied to make a buck and move on, avoiding the justice of the invisible hand of economic law, and there have been competition stifling monopolies. There have been rich industrialists who have cornered certain markets such that they need not respect the invisible hand. A few problems have been identified by Karl Marx, that capitalism leads to a classed society of owners of the means of production, the bourgeoisie, and the working class, the proletariat, and that this results in alienation for the proletariat.

Marx is identified as a dialectical materialist. He got the dialectic from Hegel’s process of thesis-antithesis-synthesis, but Hegel and Fichte were concerned about the clash of ideas, not concrete, material things. Feurbach and Marx shifted their emphasis to economic things, goods and services and means of production, that which people need to survive. Marx stood Hegel on his head.

Marx theorized that the conflict between the opposing classes of bourgeoisie and proletariat would result in a revolution ultimately resulting in a proletariat controlled society, a society where humans can be free to interact with each other and not be alienated by slavery to non-human capital.

In capitalistic societies, where private property is protected, transactions are about property, not human concerns. If I buy a car from someone, I am not concerned with that car owner as a person. I only care about his or her property, the car. He or she is also not concerned about me. He or she is concerned with how much money, capital, I can exchange for the car. Human interactions are determined by material which alienates humans from each other.

Anyone who works in a factory also knows what alienation feels like. It is when people feel that they are not humans but part of the machines which produce the products. The pay they receive is comparable to the maintenance and fuel needed by the machines so that they will continue to function. And, those workers are not paid more than the minimum that is needed for their continued functioning. They will not be allowed to earn enough to improve their condition and escape their proletariat class. They will be held there, and their children and the children’s children will always be held back, earning only enough to perpetuate the working class. The owners, the bourgeois, also will remain as they are, never giving up their positions of power.

Work should make people proud. They should feel like they are at one with the products they create. However, this forced way that workers are kept oppressed, keeps this natural pride from happening. It produces alienation, a very unnatural feeling.

Many people, according to Marx, use religion to cope with this alienation. It is, he said, the opiate of the people. People will put up with discomfort as long as they are promised something better sometime in the future, or in an after-life. Without such an opiate, people might revolt earlier.

One of Marx’s maxims for producing a classless society is “ from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.” Ayn Rand looked at this very critically in Atlas Shrugged. She demonstrated how such a goal can produce much more harm than good, how it tends to punish the talented. It can reward the lazy and willfully unproductive at the expense of the productive, and this can make Atlasses, those who metaphorically hold the world on their shoulders, feel that their increased efforts are not worthwhile. It can make them want to shrug.

Versions of Marx’s socialism have been attempted by Lenin, Stalin, Mao Tze-tung, and others. Marx had an impact on most of the world, but he would probably not approve of much of it. It was his humanistic goal to free people so they could be authentic. Instead, his name has been attached to the worst kind of fascism and totalitarianism ever.

Marxism is now losing its hold on much of the world, but there is still some concern with his legitimate criticisms of how some forms of capitalism can produce a stagnant, classed society and alienation.

bis bald,

Nick


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http://mises.org/media.aspx?

Adam Gold's picture

http://mises.org/media.aspx?ac...

http://mises.org/Controls/Medi...
[Calculation and Socialism: a lecture by professor Joseph Salerno]

The two links above point to free downloadable MP3 audio lectures by Joseph Salerno, professor of economics at Pace University, and one of the senior administrators of the Mises Institute. The second link, especially, is an important lecture for anyone interested in economics to listen to, since it clearly explains a deep, structural problem within socialism of any pattern -- Russian ("communism") or German ("fascist" or "National Socialist"). The argument comes from a famous paper by Ludwig von Mises in 1920 entitled "Economic Calculation in the Socialist Commonwealth," which served as the basis of his 1922 book "Socialism."

Here is a summary of Salerno's lecture:

Prior to Marx, the most outspoken school of socialists called themselves the "Utopians." Famous members were Charles Fourier, Henri de Saint-Simon, and Robert Owen. All of them were very influential, both in Europe and the United States. Unfortunately for their cause, the Utopians had the habit of claiming to know something about this final, blissful state they called "socialism." Some would commit themselves to statements like "under socialism, chickens will fly in through your open window, already cooked, and land on your plate, ready to eat."

Statements like these infuriated Marx. What especially irked him was not so much the part about pre-cooked chickens through open windows; what annoyed him was the incredible chutzpah these Utopians apparently displayed by claiming to have knowledge of what a socialist society would actually be like.. Marx believed in "inevitable laws of historical development" that would "transform capitalism into socialism", and he believed that it was futile even to speculate on what this final state of societal evolution would be like. He wasn't foolish enough to believe that it would involve self-rotisseried chickens landing on your plate of their own accord, but he did believe that it would come about, willy-nilly, irrespective of the decisions of individuals. It would simply happen, Marx claimed, and not only is there nothing we can do about it, there is nothing we can, in scientific honesty, say about that end state. Furthermore (continues Marx), to state anything positively about the end state of socialism -- to speculate about what it might be like -- is inherently unscientific and therefore invalid.

Indeed, the three volumes of "Das Kapital" purport to say much about capitalism, yet say almost nothing about socialism.

At about this time -- during the initial spread of Marxism -- various criticisms of socialism appeared, some from the so-called "British classical" school of economists (early luminaries were David Hume, Adam Smith, David Ricardo, James Mill, and John Stuart Mill). Most of the criticisms centered around the so-called "incentive problem"; i.e., under socialism of the Marxist variety, if everyone receives according to his needs and contributes according to his abilities, who's going to take out the garbage (and clean the sewers, and perform dangerous mining work, or dangerous rescue operations, etc., etc.)? Why should such a person perform work like this if everything is provided to him and he contributes only what his abilities allow?

It's an honest enough question because it appeals directly to an inner voice that always asks us, when engaging in any sort of market exchange: what's in it for me? Well, to the surprise of the British free market school, the Marxian socialists had an answer: "Through total control of education and the media, we will cultivate a new kind of man -- a New Socialist Man -- who will have had all of those base, ignoble feelings of selfishness bred out of him. It won't be a problem."

Aside from the Marxian socialists' contradiction of now claiming to know something about this future state of socialism toward which we all inevitably move, the classical liberals of the day didn't have much of a response except to say "Sure. Whatever you say."

That was about the state of the debate until Ludwig von Mises joined in. His attack on socialism was ingenious, original, and frankly, deadly. It has not been adequately responded to (and certainly not refuted) by socialists of any variety to this day.

Mises first started off with the assumption that it was possible to state something about a future socialist society, and that, furthermore, it was the duty of the professional economist to say with honesty what such a society would be like. He began by asking himself a simple economic question:

"What does it mean to say that a resource -- land, labor, capital, etc. -- is being used 'rationally'?"

His answer: "A resource is used 'rationally' when it is used in such a way as to produce the highest value."

Nothing wrong with this definition -- "rational" now becomes a term-of-art within the economics profession. But his answer leads to two more questions that are interrelated:

"What do we mean by 'value'?" and

"What do we mean by 'highest'?"

The answer to the first question leads to the answer of the second.

The value of a thing -- a good or a service -- is inherently subjective; it arises as an ordinal (not cardinal) ranking on an individual's personal value scale and involves the ability of that good to satisfy, at any given moment in time when the choice is being made, the economic actor's least (or "marginal") need or desire. When many people engage in market transactions, and when these market participants use a medium of exchange -- money -- rather than exchanging by means of direct barter, these individual, personal value scales of buyers and sellers take the form of objective money-prices for all the goods and services on the market. Money-prices ARE objective, but their appearance (as well as their propensity to change) is rooted in the personal value scales of individuals.

Money-prices arise on the market through exchange and because of exchange. Without market exchange, there are NO money-prices.

Furthermore, we can say this: Exchange occurs because the parties involved -- the "buyer" and "seller" -- IN FACT own, as property, the results of the transaction. When I spend $2.00 on a Starbuck's latte, I now OWN that latte; it's mine: I can throw it out; I can pour it over my head; I can store it in my fridge; I can drink it immediately. The franchise owner OWNS the $2.00 I just gave him, and has the freedom to do with it what he wishes. It is HIGHLY UNLIKELY that this exchange would have taken place in the first place were I not acting under the assumption that I would own the latte and the franchisee own the $2.00.

Summing this up, we can say that objective money-prices arise from individual market exchange under the assumption that the right to private property is being upheld.

Now we know what "value" is on a free market. But what is "highest"?

Since we now have objective money-prices, we can answer that easily: "highest" means "highest money-price."

The answer to Mises's first question about rational use of resources can now be rephrased:

"A resource is being used 'rationally' when it is used in such a way as to command the highest price on a free market."

Under competition, the sellers of a good bid the price DOWN so as to attract as many buyers as possible; but buyers are also under competitive pressure with one another -- and they bid the price UP (and where the "greed" of the seller bidding prices down meets the "greed" of the buyer bidding prices up, the so-called equilibrium price becomes established: the price at which the good is actually moved out of inventory, or off the shelf, and into the consumer's hands). So when buyers bid up the money-price of a good, it means that they value that good more highly than something for which they would pay less money for; and this means that the good that was being bid up is finding its way to be employed in its most economically rational way.

Real ownership of private property encourages and leads to market exchange among buyers and sellers; market exchange (with the use of money) leads to objective money-prices for all goods.

It's a simple argument to grasp. Here's the clincher:

If an entity -- say the government -- were to own everything, then there are, by definition, no buyers and sellers on the market; the government acts simply as one giant monopoly. If there are no buyers and sellers, then there are no objective money-prices generated...because money-prices arise by means of private exchange. But if there are no objective money-prices, then it is not possible to judge if a resource is being used to satisfy its 'highest' value or some value that is less than 'highest'. In other words, it becomes impossible to judge if a resource is being used 'rationally', as that term was defined above.

Let me repeat this argument:

Without private property, especially in the sector of the economy dealing with the means of production -- the so-called capital goods sector (land, mines, forests, factories, power plants, etc.) -- and assuming that there is one giant monopolistic owner (that is, the government), there cannot be any privately initiated exchange between buyers and sellers; there are no buyers and sellers but only one monolithic owner: government. Under these conditions, there obviously can be no generation of money-prices; and without money-prices for land, forests, mines, factories, and power plants, no one in the economy would be able to state with certainty whether or not such resource was being used in such a way as to satisfy its users' highest value.

Under capitalism, division of labor, and private property, the way this is solved is by looking at PRICES. Prices contain information; they are signals; they tell the businessman/capitalist/entrepreneur toward which ends a resource should be employed. When the capitalist sees a high price, he knows it's because that resource is very highly valued; when he sees a low price, he knows it's because that resource is less highly valued. When he sees a low price and suspects consumers are mistaken in their estimation of the resource's value, and he expects them to bid up the price in the future, a nice opportunity to earn profit presents itself to him. Of course, his suspicions might be wrong, in which case he will suffer a loss.

The entire issue is known in economics as the problem of economic calculation; and the claim by Mises and other Austrian economists is that socialism, by centralizing ownership of the means of production with government, cannot rationally calculate the best, highest-valued ends for its resources...not because of any "incentive problem" within human nature; but precisely because of central ownership of the means of production.

I'll cite two examples given by Salerno in his audio lecture that illustrate how a free market easily solves a complex problem in calculation, and a socialist economy is unable even to solve a simple one.

The first one involves a personal story that Salerno relates. He tells his audience about a friend of his who owns a ranch somewhere out west. One day he was speaking with her on the phone and she tells him "Oh, we've moved into a new house!" Salerno replies "So...you've moved off your ranch?" "No," she replies, "we had our old house towed away, and the new one brought in by truck."

What! Well, it turns out that in that part of the west -- big sky country -- it's more rational NOT to dig foundations and hire large construction crews on site to build a home as we do on the east coast. Instead, the houses are constructed in modular pre-fabricated units. When you want a new home, you hire some local labor to put the units together and tow the old home away. As they say in Staples, "Easy." Now, how was this magic accomplished? BY LOOKING AT RELATIVE PRICES.

Now consider this example:

Toward the end of the cold war in the former USSR, the Russian government decided to continue its humanitarian tradition of providing for the Russian people by engaging in a large housing construction project: the Russian people SHALL have houses to live in! That's a very noble sentiment.

At about the same time, a group of American economists were allowed to visit the USSR (part of "Glasnost"). And they saw and reported the following: row after row of very nice new wooden houses for Russian families...with NO roofs! What happened to the roofs?

Well, you have to understand how production took place in the USSR. All means of production were owned by the state; there were no private house construction companies or private steel mills or private railroads. Production was carried out in 5-year plans with certain target production goals, administered by a bureaucracy called "Gosplan." Gosplan would issue the target goals to the various production czars, and each czar (actually called a "production minister") would issue an order to a particular industry to produce "X" amount of a certain good.

Now, forget about incentive here for a moment or the threat of punishment for failure to meet a requirement...yes, that was all true, but concentrate strictly on the economic issues involved. When the "Minister of Steel Production" gets his order from Gosplan, he has to turn around and tell the steel mills how much of EACH STEEL GOOD they should be making (!) Even within the category of a single steel good -- like nails, for example -- the minister couldn't possibly know how much of each kind of nail ought to be produced, because there must be 200 different sorts of nails (perhaps more). So instead of meeting his production target by saying "Produce X number of roofing nails; Y number of 2-inch nails; and Z number of large railway spikes" -- since any number he picked would be completely arbitrary and therefore meaningless -- he issues the following order: "Produce X tons of nails."

He issues the order in tonnage instead of a cardinal number because it makes perfect sense for him to do so. Now the head of the factory has received a command to produce X tons of nails, but HE now has the headache of determining whether those tons should consist of X number of little roofing nails + Y number of 2-inch nails + Z number of big railway spikes. Obviously any combination that he comes up will be arbitrary and therefore meaningless, so he takes the easiest way out: make big heavy railway spikes...because we only need to make a few of them to meet the tonnage requirement, whereas we would have to make lots and lots and lots of little roofing nails to do so.

Result? A shortage of little roofing nails desperately needed to complete housing construction, and a glut of large railway spikes.

Do you see how something simple such as making little nails for roofs becomes impossible to produce rationally under central ownership of production? Now imagine this same sort of screw-up and miscoordination in every sector of the socialist economy for 70 years: food, energy, transportation, etc. A nightmare!

You see, the central problem that any economy has to answer is not "how do we produce X"; that's a problem of technique. The central problem is "SHOULD we produce X? Or should we use the resources that could produce X and use them to produce Y instead?" That's a problem of calculation that can only be answered rationally under a system of division of labor with private property (including private ownership of the means of production), individually initiated exchange on a free market, and objective money-prices that perform the function of displaying information to businessmen, capitalists, and entrepreneurs. In short, the problem of economic calculation cannot, in principle be solved under socialism of any pattern, and can ONLY be solved under capitalism.

I don't see it

NickOtani's picture

Gregster is simply pointing at things I said and calling them obfuscation. Because he doesn't understand something doesn't mean it isn't clear. It could mean he is a little dense. Should I be more clear about that?

bis bald,

Nick

Examples

gregster's picture

"The Otani Method"

"I don't think I am really arguing, Aaron. I'm discussing

Dictionary definitions don't always get into the precise meanings of the word

It is true that many women can't do many jobs that some men can do, but some can

Any high school history book enlightens us with this historical evidence of problems with unregulated capitalism

just to make the bosses and owners, who seem to be sitting on their asses, richer

please show how the alienation about which Marx talks, and the potential for a classed society, are not concerns we should have about capitalism

It's the reason Marxist socialism failed in most of the world. However, this doesn't mean that capitalism didn't have problems once and doesn't still have potential problems now. Some employers do have good incentive programs to deal with alienation and classism"

Endless, pointless drivel. Nothing to learn here, must move along.

"Attacking people personally, like gregster does, for talking about Marx objectively, is not the best way to persuade rational people that Marxism is flawed."

Objectively????
Get the dictionary out again?
But he doesn't trust dictionary meanings?!
He likes nothing to be crystal clear and objective.
He likes to obfuscate every time his mouth opens.

Poor gregster

NickOtani's picture

Dictionary definitions don't always get into the precise meanings of the word. In the logical sense, "argument" is a statement involving premises and a conclusion. It can be examined for formal or informal fallacies. Several such arguments can be presented in normal discussion, but it doesn't really become a debate, an argument between two people, until a proposition is identified and supported by an affirmative proponent against an opponent who argues against it.

I have challenged people to debate with me on philosophical propositions. My challenges have gone unaccepted.

I am not interested in supporting a specific proposition in this discussion about Marx, except to say that he is a force to be respected, even if one disagrees with him. I am not a Marxist. I am not trying to win arguments. I am presenting them for discussion and evaluation.

I will argue, though, that gregster's personal attacks on me are not convincing or persuasive to any rational person. They actually reveal more about him than they do about me.

bis bald,

Nick

ar·gu·ment

gregster's picture

Again - he'll even take the wrongheaded sense of a word's meaning - JUST TO TALK MORE SHIT!

"ar·gu·ment –noun

1. an oral disagreement; verbal opposition; contention; altercation: a violent argument.

2. a discussion involving differing points of view; debate: They were deeply involved in an argument about inflation.

3. a process of reasoning; series of reasons: I couldn't follow his argument.

4. a statement, reason, or fact for or against a point: This is a strong argument in favour of her theory.

5. an address or composition intended to convince or persuade; persuasive discourse.

6. subject matter; theme: The central argument of his paper was presented clearly.

7. an abstract or summary of the major points in a work of prose or poetry, or of sections of such a work."

Aaron

NickOtani's picture

I don't think I am really arguing, Aaron. I'm discussing. Certain points need to be made, but I have no vested interest in winning anything here. I'm not advocating or defending anything other than perhaps that Marx is more important than what some people think.

Yes, to some extent, I'm playing devil's advocate. I've defended capitalism a lot when I was younger. I used your arguments and those of personallydissin... I ran into the arguments that I'm throwing back at you. A good Marxist would say these things I'm saying. I'm interested in seeing how you respond.

These days, I have been trying to stick with epistemology and metaphysics. I've got lots of these kind of propositions on the forum, yet nobody is interested in debating me on those topics. Economics seems to be a little easier, and Marx is still a lightening rod.

I have had liberal professors who talked about the upsides of public education and the military, and the down sides of planned obsolescence and being stuck in dead-end jobs. I have had factory jobs and know what alienation feels like. I have studied history and know about the bloody transition from an agrarian to an industrial society. It hasn't all been peaches and cream. On the other hand, I've also been behind the iron curton before the wall came down. I've seen the contrasts between capitalism and socialism.

Aaron, mainstream politics is not going to embrace completely privatising schools and not having any public utilities. It's okay to voice extreme views in 3rd parties, like the Libertarian Party, and on Objectivist forums like this one, but few respected authorities on Meet the Press or Face the Nation would get very far by voicing such views.

Yes, capitalism is better than Marxist socialism, and there are good arguments for it, and against Marxism. Many of these arguments, both for capitalism and against Marxism, are in Atlas Shrugged. However, Marx is not some simpleton who can be dismissed easily. He had an impact on most of the world, and he is still relevant. He needs to be understood, taken seriously, and refuted thoughtfully. Attacking people personally, like gregster does, for talking about Marx objectively, is not the best way to persuade rational people that Marxism is flawed.

bis bald,

Nick

Scott (& Aaron)

gregster's picture

"Saying that you agree that capitalism is better than Marxism, then saying that capitalism has its issues seems irrelevant to me."

This is Nick's method. You are wasting your time dealing with his circular spurious arguments.

They are interminable and a real scourge here.

Nick- Yes, knowing Groucho

Aaron's picture

Nick-
Yes, knowing Groucho from Karl is useful, and there's no doubt which one is more adept at both humor and economics.

"Well, imagine if we didn’t have schools and school age children were on the job market. We have problems with unemployment already. Schools do us the favor of keeping a significant portion of the population off the job market for awhile."

What a bizarre argument.. Prisons also do us that 'favor'. would locking random people be positive because it reduces the labor pool?

Seriously, worrying about more immigrants, more students, more whoever taking jobs is economically ignorant. More workers are more consumers, on net more jobs will exist, etc. The only way this gets mucked up and significant unemployment exists is via artificial involvement in the marketplace by the government - e.g. forcing people to only be able to work if they have a license, or only if they accept a certain minimum or maximum wage.

"We can argue about whether or not private education would work better than public education, but there are some good things about public education. It forces integration to some extent. This and the Army puts people together with people outside their neighborhoods and lets them get to know each other."

We can argue about this in the same sense that we can argue about whether freedom would work better than slavery. Public education requires coercion, plain and simple. It takes stolen money to fund, and uses force to dictate what youngsters are allowed to do with 7 hours of each day. I don't give a damn about inessential 'upsides' any more than someone claiming chattel slavery had an upside of letting slaves travel and see lands they otherwise wouldn't get to.

"Hey, I’m not trying to debate that Marxism is better than capitalism. I don’t believe it is. I think capitalism is a system which preserves individual rights and allows for free exchange, not getting something by force."

If you're not supporting Marx, what is your real goal on this thread? Are you arguing for a compromise such as a mixed economy? Are you generally favoring capitalism but unsure of your arguments so exploring it, 'devil's advocate' style? Or what exactly?

Aaron

You and Marx both hate factories, I get it

personallydisinterested's picture

Excuse me for being completely dismissive of Marx, but all of his ideas have been proven wrong or very destructive.  He didn't like what he saw in the factories of the 19th century, who would?  Personally, I don't like subsistence farming, which is usually the alternative to poor working conditions in industrializing countries.  Factories allow workers to avoid the cycle of subsistence and famine that human beings have lived through since we discovered agriculture.  Not that subsistence farming isn't better than the constant famine experienced by hunter gatherers. 

Marxism is irrelevant to your discomfort with factories.  Factories are a fact of life, Pandora's box is open, just as with agriculture, fire, etc.  Perhaps the risk of dying in a fire or being burned has increased significantly since its discovery, but fire has given us the ability to stay warm in the winter (instead of dying), boiling water (instead of dying), and cooking meat (instead of dying). 

Marxism doesn't provide any answers nor any solutions. 

1. We are not going to run out of natural resources unless we have too much socialism and the market is not allowed to provide alternatives to say, oil. 

2. Working conditions improve under capitalism, even if unions are responsible for improved working conditions (which I do not concede), unions are not necessarily the result of socialism.  A thorough study of economics and history (not just from a high school text book), makes the case for a free market incontrovertible. 

3.  Capitalism has provided the opportunity for workers to own portions of their own companies through shares that socialism has never provided.  Under state ownership, workers do not own their company, they are enslaved to it. 

4.  Competition amongst the bourgeoisie has not led to a situation in which there is no profit.  The idea that competition will lead to a complete sacrifice of wages, working conditions, and profits in order to stay in business across entire industries is wrong.   

Marx never took into account technology, the benefits of competition, and the adaptability of entrepreneurs. 

Saying that you agree that capitalism is better than Marxism, then saying that capitalism has its issues seems irrelevant to me.  Your problem is not with capitalism but with development.  Capitalism is perfect, development has its issues, but the alternative to development is non-development. 

Should people study Marx?  Yes, so they don't endorse his ideas.  We should also study Soviet Russia, but not so that we can determine what they did right so much as resolve ourselves to avoid their mistakes. 

Did Marx have any enlightening ideas?  No. 

 

Your point

NickOtani's picture

It is true that many women can't do many jobs that some men can do, but some can. I respect those who want to use the same standards as men. There are also men who can't handle the jackhammer or carry people.

We do see women in college classes and in more and more jobs traditionally held by men. There are female physicists, doctors, lawyers, judges, executives, and police. However, we can still look around and not see much influence from women, except for giving birth and being mothers to men. It's usually men who designed and built the buildings in which we live and work. It's men who are responsible for much of the technology on which we depend in our civilized world. It's men who paved the roads and parking lot outside the window and maintain the grounds. It's men who designed and built the vehicles in the parking lot, and it's men, the mechanics, who usually maintain them. Women generally are secretaries and office workers, librarians, teachers, nurses, cooks, and such. Even the sewing machines many women use were invented by men. Women can be military commanders, but they are not allowed in ground combat jobs in the military.

Do you really think this is just a case of deaf people don't make good music critics? Or, is there still some sexism in our society?

bis bald,

Nick

One point

Landon Erp's picture

"When you worked in construction, did you notice any discrimination on the basis of sex? I’ve seen women get jobs holding the sign which says “construction ahead”, but I haven’t seen them working with the jack-hammer. Of course, most women don’t want those jobs."

You also don't se a lot of Deaf music critics, quadrapalegic ballerinas, or blind driving instructors.

Working a jackhammer is a physically demanding job and most women just don't have the physical strength to do it whether they want to or not. And there's no equivilant in construction to the practice of fire departments allowing women not to carry individuals who are too heavy.

I've heard that they allow women to drag such individuals by their ankles but the part that isn't up for debate is that they allow women to test with a dummy that's significantly lighter than any male taking the test. Many women are embarassed by this double standard and insist on taking the test at the male standard but many also don't.

---Landon

Never mistake contempt for compassion, or power lust for ambition.

http://www.myspace.com/wickedlakes

personallydisin... and Aaron

NickOtani's picture

I'm sure I would enjoy working in a factory at some point. All the machinery and organisation in the modern day factory would be interesting to see and understand. At this point, I don't think it will ever happen.

I’m sure you would enjoy working in a factory if you know it is temporary and that you really don’t need to do it. It would be something else if you had no choice and if you did the same routine every day, eight hours a day, for thirty years. You wouldn’t feel like a fully actualized human being. You wouldn’t have a chance to learn other things and develop other talents and interests. You would get home, take a shower, eat, watch television for awhile, and then go to bed to get enough sleep to be able to do the same thing again the next day. You may go hunting or fishing on weekends. Is that enough for a full life? Some people do take evening classes and get degrees and move on up, but this is the exception. Most factory workers are pulled down to the level of the people with whom they work. Nobody cares if you have read Shakespeare or can write poetry. Nobody cares if you can do algebra. They just expect you to do your job and not make waves. Yes, I know, this happens in socialism also, and it is a reason why West Germany suffered when the wall came down and unskilled East Germans came over to the west and wanted jobs in the capitalistic system. It was like if America tried to find jobs for all our homeless.

I've worked in construction, agriculture, landscaping, sales, property management, and a few other things. My experiences in the labor market, travels, and my education have shown me time and time again how capitalism is wonderful.

When you worked in construction, did you notice any discrimination on the basis of sex? I’ve seen women get jobs holding the sign which says “construction ahead”, but I haven’t seen them working with the jack-hammer. Of course, most women don’t want those jobs. They want to work in the clean and comfortable office. However, there may be some who want to do what the men do. Would they have problems?

In sales, were things like they were in Death of a Salesman, by Arthur Miller? There are probably insurance programs which keep that from happening today.

Yes, I agree. Capitalism is better than socialism. I was in Berlin before the wall came down. I saw how bright and flashy everything was in the west while everything was dismal, depressing, and in disrepair in the east. However, this doesn’t mean there are no problems at all with capitalism. We don’t make them better by ignoring them or dismissing them cavalierly. Marx is worth knowing about.

Children were and are expensive to support and raise. Children could be expected to at least contribute to earning their keep. A child working 10 hours a day in a factory for some capitalist still had it easy compared to working 14 hours a day on the farm for mom and dad. It's only with the affluence we have now that children take relatively less to raise and that we have the luxury to regard children as being able to spend their time free not to work (but unfortunately largely unfree since forcibly educated in government institutions).

Well, imagine if we didn’t have schools and school age children were on the job market. We have problems with unemployment already. Schools do us the favor of keeping a significant portion of the population off the job market for awhile. Yes, I know some places in Mexico and South America people have kids just so they will have more hands to work in the fields, and migrant workers in the U.S. are not supposed to make their kids work but try to get away with it. Farm owners will pay a huge fine if they get caught allowing child labor, but they can’t see everything happening in the field.

We can argue about whether or not private education would work better than public education, but there are some good things about public education. It forces integration to some extent. This and the Army puts people together with people outside their neighborhoods and lets them get to know each other. There are still problems, but it is a little better now than it was when people could grow up never knowing anyone within a ten-mile radius of where they were born.

"unsafe working conditions"
'Safe' is a continuum. Degree of safety varies by environment, worker, precautions, etc. A given job can often be made statistically safer at greater cost, with diminishing returns. Like other factors such as pay, variety of work, inside or outside, working with people or not, etc., degree of risk is one factor people consider when choosing a job. Some will accept more risk due to temperment, some for money, some may choose something less safe for other factors.

Terrible things can happen around chemicals and hazardous materials. They happen in socialistic countries too. I was in Munich, running the Munich marathon, when Chernobyl happened. Nuclear radiation could have drifted over the border and affected me. Even now, as I am living in the state of Washington, waste from Hanover threatens us here. There are still industrial accidents were people are failing to follow precautions about locking down equipment before cleaning inside it. Someone comes along and flips a switch, and someone gets chopped up. In the early days of industrialization, this happened with children because they were small enough to get inside some machines. We also have those stories of the bridges which collapsed, killing steal men. We know of men falling into vats of molten steal. And, there were the early days of railroad building when they sent the Chinese coolies into the tunnel to see if it was safe. If it blew-up, they knew it wasn’t safe for white men. This is all part of our history.

"shoddy products"
Shoddy products always were and will be with us. Some people choose to pay less for disposable 'shoddy' products they'll have to replace in a year instead of paying much more for a sturdy one that will last longer. Durability, like fashion, features, etc. is just one factor that individual consumers may choose.
Unexpectedly or fraudulently shoddy products are another matter, but those have also always been with us, by and large fail in the marketplace as knowledge spreads, and are not prevented by government mandates of uniform shoddiness.

Yes, we have 99 cent stores where nothing is worth more than 50 cents, but even expensive automobiles will dent if we look at them and cost hundreds of dollars to fix. It’s true that products will fail when knowledge spreads, but people can become millionaires if enough people buy their product only once. And, some products are food and drugs, they can harm us. Even with the FDA, medications are being found that do nothing or are actually harmful. In the early days of industrialization, as depicted in The Jungle, by Upton Sinclare, people were losing limbs in meat cutting machines and getting them chopped up and sold with the meat.

"class perpetuation"
True rags-to-riches may be rare in capitalism, but generally there is upward mobility between generations, and it is at least possible, unlike systems based on caste or government-favor.

Some people are making it. If they invent something and get it marketed well, they can make lots of money. I agree it is more possible under capitalism than in other systems. And, although the class system is not as noticeable now as it once was, as when there were Aristocrats and laborers, (Did you see The Titanic?) there are still blue collar workers and white collar workers. Generally, they don’t mix socially. It’s like the beer drinkers and the fine wine drinkers.

Hey, I’m not trying to debate that Marxism is better than capitalism. I don’t believe it is. I think capitalism is a system which preserves individual rights and allows for free exchange, not getting something by force. And, I think it improves quality through competition. However, I do think we should reflect sometimes on past, present, and potentially future problems with capitalism to keep it viable. We should not just close our eyes to these problems. Someone who does not know Karl Marx from Groucho Marx is not enlightened.

Bis bald,
Nick

Nick

personallydisinterested's picture

I'm sure I would enjoy working in a factory at some point.  All the machinery and organisation in the modern day factory would be interesting to see and understand.  At this point, I don't think it will ever happen.  I've worked in construction, agriculture, landscaping, sales, property management, and a few other things.  My experiences in the labor market, travels, and my education have shown me time and time again how capitalism is wonderful. 

Thanks Aaron

personallydisinterested's picture

I was attempting to approach the issue from the specifics, but never got the opportunity.  I doubt you left anything to dispute, but I guess we'll find out.

You are creating and citing

Aaron's picture

You are creating and citing 'problems' given a context that is only possible now as the result of prosperity due to two centuries of (relatively unmeddled-with) capitalism:

"child labor"

Children were and are expensive to support and raise. Children could be expected to at least contribute to earning their keep. A child working 10 hours a day in a factory for some capitalist still had it easy compared to working 14 hours a day on the farm for mom and dad. It's only with the affluence we have now that children take relatively less to raise and that we have the luxury to regard children as being able to spend their time free not to work (but unfortunately largely unfree since forcibly educated in government institutions).

"unsafe working conditions"

'Safe' is a continuum. Degree of safety varies by environment, worker, precautions, etc. A given job can often be made statistically safer at greater cost, with diminishing returns. Like other factors such as pay, variety of work, inside or outside, working with people or not, etc., degree of risk is one factor people consider when choosing a job. Some will accept more risk due to temperment, some for money, some may choose something less safe for other factors.

"shoddy products"

Shoddy products always were and will be with us. Some people choose to pay less for disposable 'shoddy' products they'll have to replace in a year instead of paying much more for a sturdy one that will last longer. Durability, like fashion, features, etc. is just one factor that individual consumers may choose.

Unexpectedly or fraudulently shoddy products are another matter, but those have also always been with us, by and large fail in the marketplace as knowledge spreads, and are not prevented by government mandates of uniform shoddiness.

"class perpetuation"

True rags-to-riches may be rare in capitalism, but generally there is upward mobility between generations, and it is at least possible, unlike systems based on caste or government-favor.

Still

NickOtani's picture

I don't think you can find any historical examples of capitalism malfunctioning. You refer to the historical evidence. Please enlighten me.

The early days of the industrial revolution did have the problems of child labor, unsafe working conditions, shoddy products, and class perpetuation. The Jungle, by Upton Sinclare, documents abuses prior to government interventions such as the pure food and drug act. And, I already alluded to the early days of unions, when employers were organized but employees were not. Any high school history book enlightens us with this historical evidence of problems with unregulated capitalism.

I have never worked in a factory. Are factories limited to capitalism? Are they the only product of capitalism? Do people not work in factories due to socialism? I don't see the motivation behind your problem with factories nor its relationship to capitalism. Factory work may be boring and restrictive, but that's why it pays more. There are advantages to working in a factory besides more money, like working inside. Capitalism allows people to choose whether they want to work in a factory or not, socialism dictates that they work in the factory or not. Mabey you feel that you are required to work in a factory Nick, but I assure you that you have other options.

No, factories are not limited to capitalism. However, they are privately owned in capitalistic systems and, supposedly, publically owned in socialistic systems. Socialism is public ownership of the means of production. Unfortunately, this was translated into government ownership of the means of production in most countries, and that was not necessarily the same. I have been to socialistic countries, and I agree that they had terrible problems. Things were run down because people did not care about the product. They didn't own it. It's the reason Marxist socialism failed in most of the world. However, this doesn't mean that capitalism didn't have problems once and doesn't still have potential problems now. Some employers do have good incentive programs to deal with alienation and classism. They have 401 K programs, education programs, and insurance benefits. I have benefitted from some of those programs. Still, it is not as easy for some people to quit a job and find another.

As for being dysfunctional, I doubt that the people you work with are dysfunctional because of their job. It is more likely that they have the job because they are dysfunctional. If you don't hold people accountable to reality, they won't take responsibility for themselves.

Many of these people would agree with you. It's part of their disfunction. They hate it that they are working their butts off just to make the bosses and owners, who seem to be sitting on their asses, richer, but they defend capitalism, vote republican, and are very conservative and religious. Some of them will lynch anyone who criticises capitalism.

You should get a factory job during the summer sometime. It will be an experience. It will make you a better teacher to have this life experience.

bis bald,

Nick

Again

personallydisinterested's picture

I don't think you can find any historical examples of capitalism malfunctioning.  You refer to the historical evidence.  Please enlighten me. 

I have never worked in a factory.  Are factories limited to capitalism?  Are they the only product of capitalism?  Do people not work in factories due to socialism?  I don't see the motivation behind your problem with factories nor its relationship to capitalism.  Factory work may be boring and restrictive, but that's why it pays more.  There are advantages to working in a factory besides more money, like working inside.  Capitalism allows people to choose whether they want to work in a factory or not, socialism dictates that they work in the factory or not.  Mabey you feel that you are required to work in a factory Nick, but I assure you that you have other options. 

As for being dysfunctional, I doubt that the people you work with are dysfunctional because of their job.  It is more likely that they have the job because they are dysfunctional.  If you don't hold people accountable to reality, they won't take responsibility for themselves. 

As for making someone richer, the workers don't benefit from the relationship?  I personally don't mind someone getting richer with my help. 

Alienation and class

NickOtani's picture

I'm not sure I can convince you that alienation and class are not things to worry about, but I certainly don't.

How often have you worked as a lowly grunt, doing repetitious unskilled work, in a factory, Scott? Have you done assembly work for any length of time? Have you had intelligent conversations with co-workers? Did they feel like they had a future in management? Or, was it more likely that they had family problems, legal problems, and money problems, yet they spent lots of money on cigarettes and alcohol? How many of them feel like they are just part of a machine, getting paid enough to keep on working but not enough to get ahead?

Again, I’m not a Marxist. However, if I were, I’d say a working person in a capitalistic system is working to make a factory owner richer. Would you rather be working for the greater good, of whom you are one, or just the owner of the business? Yes, theoretically, in capitalistic models, employers must appeal to the self-interest of consumers and employees or leave themselves open to competition from those who do. In return, the employees will appeal to the self-interest of the employer, and everyone will be happy. However, historically, employers have been able to organize against employees. If someone should quit, the other employers would not hire him or her. It was harder for employees, who were more numerous, to organize into unions, but they finally did.

Then, some rich families have cornered a market such that they need not worry about the invisible hand. People get regulated, pushed around, either by government or big business.

Again, I prefer to work for capitalism, but some of these problems are not easy to solve.

BTW, the Amish have inbreading problems which are resulting in birth defects. They are too closed and small in number.

Bis bald,

Nick

Alienation and Class

personallydisinterested's picture

I was actually talking about child labor, abusive working conditions, slave wages, etc. 

I'm not sure I can convince you that alienation and class are not things to worry about, but I certainly don't. 

Class is not a problem.  Nor is it a situation that only occurs in capitalism, you should be well aware of the fact.  The difference under capitalism is the separation of wealth and force.  While I might not be a member of the upper class, I'm not scared of it's members.  However, I have good reason to fear political leaders and bureaucrats.  A disturbing trend in this country is the alignment of the ruling and wealthy classes.  I realize that there has never been a perfect separation, and as in many countries, many people in the upper class have the government to thank. 

Alienation is a silly concern.  I can't make you enjoy your job, and neither can the government.  Additionally, I can't make you enjoy the benefits that that employment provides.  However, if you feel alienated because you don't like your profession, you have quite a bit more opportunity under capitalism than socialism.  Under captialism you have the choice of many professions.  Under socialism you should perform the task that provides the greatest good for the greatest number. 

I disagree that a commune has to depend on capitalism.  The Amish, while not socialists, do not depend on the greater economy to survive.  In fact, they are at a serious disadvantage with the current economy because they have to pay property taxes.  Because they have to pay these taxes, they are forced to participate in the greater economy through furniture sales and tourism.  Anyway, the point is that you could be self sufficient if the premise of socialism works.  It doesn't work, so the tendency is to expand the socialism until it is "perfect" and able to function. 

Dishonesty?

NickOtani's picture

There would be problems under socialism also. I included the criticism that Rand pointed out in Atlas Shrugged. It is not alienation so much as an incentive problem for the talented.

There are those, like Eric Fromm, who claim that Marx was a humanist. Taking the emphasis off capital, the non-human, souless thing to which people would be slaves in a capitalistic society would, in theory, make people care more about each other. The emphasis would be on people and not material. This didn't work out, as far as we can see. Marxism didn't progress like he thought it would, to become a libertarian, anarchist type society where government would not be needed. However, some people think the dialectic is still in the process of becoming.

How was Marx dishonest? Is there a tendency for Objectivists to accuse anyone who disagrees with them with being dishonest or immoral? Is this any way to get along with other scientists and thinkers who are not necessarily Objectivists?

bis bald,

Nick

How does Marx figure that

Chris Cathcart's picture

How does Marx figure that this "alienation" is a problem for capitalistic society but would not be a problem in socialist society?

See? Dishonesty . . .

Possible abuses

NickOtani's picture

If you show me an abuse brought on by capitalism, I will show you how that abuse was incredibly short lived, not abusive, or caused by socialism.

Okay, please show how the alienation about which Marx talks, and the potential for a classed society, are not concerns we should have about capitalism.

BTW, yes, small communes can exist within a capitalistic framework. Since they depend on capitalism, they are not necessarily perfect socialisms. The perfect socialism may be like the perfect line or perfect circle, a Platonic form existing in some mental realm.

bis bald,

Nick

Sides and degrees

personallydisinterested's picture

It is obviously important to study the writers that Rand criticised, so that one can understand the criticisms as well as possible.  Hearing one side of a story lends one to being mislead.  However, after studying Marx and Rand, it is impossible for me to side with Marx.  Besides understanding the different viewpoints, it is also necessary to study so as to be able to defend one's own philosophy. 

I agree that the world has never seen a perfect capitalism.  Capitalists are right to criticise socialism because the evidence is on their side.  If you show me an abuse brought on by capitalism, I will show you how that abuse was incredibly short lived, not abusive, or caused by socialism. 

I cannot agree that there has never been a perfect socialism.  Today they are called intentional communities, they used to be called communes.  Socialism and communism used to be voluntary, which sounds much closer to perfect than mandatory.  In a free, capitalistic society, people are free (and can afford) to live in communes without being taxed or regulated out of existence. 

 

Manifesto

Landon Erp's picture

I thought it was hilariously funny up until the thinly veiled open call to murder.

---Landon

Never mistake contempt for compassion, or power lust for ambition.

http://www.myspace.com/wickedlakes

personallydisin

NickOtani's picture

This is simply untrue. These are the repercussions of mixed and socialized economies. You can't ignore the "invisible hand". The whole point of the "invisible hand" is that capitalists don't have to respect it whether they have cornered the market or not. Who has ever cornered a market without government assistance?

Nick, are you just looking for something else to argue about? Seriously, making these "good arguments" here seems like fishing.

The world has never seen a perfect capitalism nor a perfect socialism. All economies have been more or less one or the other. They have been mixed economies. Those who support capitalism blame problems on government intervention, violations of pure capitalism, and those who support socialism blame problems on unregulated capitalism. Marx is the most popular critic of capitalism blaming problems on unregulated capitalism. At the time he was writing, Europe was experimenting with capitalism and seemed to have these problems I spoke about above.

In the interest of balance, I also included Rand's argument against one of Marx's maxims. Von Mises and Hayack also make good points against a centrally controlled economy.

I, personally, support capitalism more so than Marxist socialism. However, I do understand what he is saying about alienation and a classed society. These are things we should be concerned about.

If people only read Rand's and Peikoff's version of Marx, I don't think they get a fair picture of what he was trying to say. And, there are a few people on boards like this who don't know Karl Marx from Groucho Marx. If they want to understand Rand better, I think they should learn more about people such as Plato, Kant, Hegel, and Marx; the people Rand and Peikoff criticize. They should learn the bad and the possible good these people have to offer.

bis bald,

Nick

Marx's (dis)honesty

Chris Cathcart's picture

Euan writes:


I don't understand how Marx could calculate the actual value of labour so to be able to ascertain the surplus value....Or would he rely on the market to do this???

Marxism had been discredited by the end of the 19th Cenury as living standards for the "working" class had substantially improved from 1848, completely at odds with Marxist theory, hence the development of revisionists within the Movement.

Marx is not worth wasting time on.

Marx is worth spending time on as an example of how corrupt major thinkers can get and still be taken seriously. The "problem of surplus value" was something he and Engels were well-attuned to as an unresolved tension in their theory, but they plowed right on ahead with it anyway because they had conclusions to reach.

Otani mentions that Marx, fantastically, took Hegel's dialectical idealism, which at least the sense about it to tie dialectics to actual dialecting (something involving a back-and-forth of ideas), and "turned it on its head" by constructing this mystical picture of history as a dialectical progression of the material world, and then concocts "evidence" (the fact of historical change -- gee!) to support it. To top it off, he and his followers tell us that this is unfalsifiable worldview is "scientific"! Mises explodes these myths but cuts their advocates way too much slack. Rand isn't afraid to say it.

As Marx scholars would likely tell you, Marx, being an integrated and holistic thinker, would probably have made it a matter of "dialectical necessity" both the labor theory of value and the labor-capital relations/conflicts this would inevitably give rise to. And how, in a dialectical materialist worldview, does the phenomenon of "value" come out as anything other than the effect of material phenomena, the material being the driving force? It makes plain sense in his system that physical labor and not something else could be the only ultimate source of value, and not just of production (totally aside from the issue of measuring the comparative value of labor that implements creative ideas initiated freely and independent of the "inevitable flow of history"). For all this to add up to what it did in Marx, it's got to be a consistent, self-contained worldview, without some serious and honest premise-checking.

This can be said for Marxism proper (I don't know about whatever many-varied revisions that self-styled Marxists might have engaged in since, or whatever of incidental worth they might have extricated from the entanglements of the original system): it's a dead-end, a particular cumulative result of corruption compounded upon corruption. Someone who looks at thousands of years of private property arrangements and fantasizes about some society on the near horizon without them, should have been pronounced as having a screw loose, not as someone whose ideas should actually have been put into practice with the inevitable tragedy and misery that followed. Here, Hayek, Mises, Rand and loads of other reasonable people dovetail on their intellectual assessment of such rationalistic anti-private-property idiots.

Re: Good arguments

personallydisinterested's picture

History has shown many problems with uncontrolled capitalism. There has been child labor, unsafe working conditions, shoddy products sold by unscrupulous entrepreneurs who are satisfied to make a buck and move on, avoiding the justice of the invisible hand of economic law, and there have been competition stifling monopolies. There have been rich industrialists who have cornered certain markets such that they need not respect the invisible hand. A few problems have been identified by Karl Marx, that capitalism leads to a classed society of owners of the means of production, the bourgeoisie, and the working class, the proletariat, and that this results in alienation for the proletariat.

This is simply untrue.  These are the repercussions of mixed and socialized economies.  You can't ignore the "invisible hand".  The whole point of the "invisible hand" is that capitalists don't have to respect it whether they have cornered the market or not.  Who has ever cornered a market without government assistance?

Nick, are you just looking for something else to argue about?  Seriously, making these "good arguments" here seems like fishing.

      

Marx theory of surplus value

Euan's picture

I don't understand how Marx could calculate the actual value of labour so to be able to ascertain the surplus value....Or would he rely on the market to do this???

Marxism had been discredited by the end of the 19th Cenury as living standards for the "working" class had substantially improved from 1848, completely at odds with Marxist theory, hence the development of revisionists within the Movement.

Marx is not worth wasting time on.

 

The fun part

Chris Cathcart's picture

is not knowing whether it's a sense of humor or a real snarl.

As for the "arguments," well, standard stuff we've seen plenty before. I particularly like the epistemology behind implicitly defining capitalism such that "unfettered capitalism" means unscrupulous practices and no reasonable legal structures regarding children, etc. I also like the typical "Marx's dialectical materialism, labor theory of value, dubiously supported claims about wage growth or lack thereof under capitalism, and vision of a society without private property, were unduly used in the cause of totalitarianism." Gee, if only we could have a peaceful society where property is collectivized, and Marx would be vindicated. Poor misunderstood Marx.

You see

Richard Goode's picture

Nick does have a sense of humour.

And some good arguments. Smiling

Oh!

NickOtani's picture

Okay, go fuck yourself. Is that better?

Nick

Now this just isn't any fun

Chris Cathcart's picture

without a good mean growl here and there.

Sad

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