20 votes

What do you guys think about socialism or other utopias?

Is socialism achievable in our lifetimes? I'm M/29/India. I haven't read Marx or Kropotkin.

1 Honestly, at some point you have to ask yourself: if our economic system doesn't secure public health and well-being, and doesn't protect and regenerate ecology, then what's actually the point?

2 This economic crisis is revealing that the main reason we all have to work for wages isn't just to buy the things we need, but to pay rents and debts - in other words, to give money to the holders of capital.

If capitalism is preventing a large majority of human population from leading happy and dignified lives, then why can't we change the economic system?

61 comments

  1. [18]
    Algernon_Asimov
    Link
    I love that you implicitly assume that socialism is utopian: "socialism or other utopias". :)

    I love that you implicitly assume that socialism is utopian: "socialism or other utopias". :)

    24 votes
    1. [18]
      Comment deleted by author
      Link Parent
      1. [16]
        Algernon_Asimov
        Link Parent
        Yes, but just because one option is bad, that doesn't mean another option is automatically perfect. The only times humanity has come close to trying socialism, we've messed it up. Maybe socialism...

        Yes, but just because one option is bad, that doesn't mean another option is automatically perfect. The only times humanity has come close to trying socialism, we've messed it up. Maybe socialism would be utopian if done by perfect beings, but when it's done by us flawed humans, it doesn't turn out utopian.

        15 votes
        1. [5]
          tindall
          Link Parent
          Let's see. USSR: Founded by avowed anti-semites and racists, who proceeded to be anti-semitic and racist, causing decay from within at the same time as the entire world attacked them from without....

          Let's see.

          USSR: Founded by avowed anti-semites and racists, who proceeded to be anti-semitic and racist, causing decay from within at the same time as the entire world attacked them from without.

          CCP and associates: Mao sucks, MLMs don't @ me.

          Cuba: once they got rid of the USSR's yoke, did a lot better despite extremely harsh trade sanctions to the point that rich US citizens sneak over to Cuba for some kinds of medical treatment that our own country can't provide.

          Rojava: Did fine and caused major technological, economic, and especially social progress in the region until the Turks decided to wipe them out.

          Zapatistas: as mentioned here, they're still sticking around providing a decent life for people in their controlled regions despite continued aggression from the Mexican government and trade restrictions with the US.

          All this to say, it seems to me that the anarchist-leaning/leftlib movements tend to do fine, until some larger capitalist power decides "communism bad" (or "Armenians bad", as the case may be) and fucks all their shit up.

          22 votes
          1. [3]
            NaraVara
            Link Parent
            If you're talking about Rojava, it's technically "Kurds bad." The "Armenians bad" angle was the other genocide they did from before. It's hard to keep them straight, I know. (I went and made...

            "communism bad" (or "Armenians bad", as the case may be)

            If you're talking about Rojava, it's technically "Kurds bad." The "Armenians bad" angle was the other genocide they did from before.

            It's hard to keep them straight, I know.

            (I went and made myself sad. . .)

            9 votes
            1. [2]
              tindall
              Link Parent
              You're absolutely right. Yeah, that's... I don't want to live in a world where we're mixing up genocides. Damn.

              You're absolutely right. Yeah, that's... I don't want to live in a world where we're mixing up genocides. Damn.

              3 votes
              1. ShilohMizook
                Link Parent
                Especially when Kurds participated in the Armenian Genocide.

                Especially when Kurds participated in the Armenian Genocide.

          2. tempestoftruth
            Link Parent
            Don't forget the Spanish anarchist movement in Barcelona prior to the Spanish civil war, were doing absolutely fantastic until fascist Francoism supported financially by the United States shut...

            Don't forget the Spanish anarchist movement in Barcelona prior to the Spanish civil war, were doing absolutely fantastic until fascist Francoism supported financially by the United States shut them down.

            7 votes
        2. [8]
          no_exit
          Link Parent
          The Zapatistas are still going strong over 20 years after their initial declaration of revolution. Besides that, it's inaccurate to suggest that every socialist movement has failed due to internal...

          The only times humanity has come close to trying socialism, we've messed it up.

          The Zapatistas are still going strong over 20 years after their initial declaration of revolution. Besides that, it's inaccurate to suggest that every socialist movement has failed due to internal problems.

          11 votes
          1. scissortail
            Link Parent
            Good point re: the Zapatistas. I think one of the weaknesses in the broader discussion is that when folks hear "socialism", they think immediately of Stalin and those who followed in the...

            Good point re: the Zapatistas. I think one of the weaknesses in the broader discussion is that when folks hear "socialism", they think immediately of Stalin and those who followed in the authoritarian socialist mold. I think if folks knew more about libertarian socialism they'd be willing to give the term more broadly a bit of a fairer shake.

            Hell, even a democratic state socialism, decoupled from extremely powerful executive power, is dramatically different from the most commonly known failed socialist states.

            8 votes
          2. [5]
            NaraVara
            Link Parent
            I don't know if "strong" is the operative term. They're beleagured and have been for decades and they're still relegated to small agrarian townships. There usually isn't much doubt as to whether...

            I don't know if "strong" is the operative term. They're beleagured and have been for decades and they're still relegated to small agrarian townships. There usually isn't much doubt as to whether communitarian social systems can function in basic, subsistence agricultural levels. The question is usually whether we can govern an advanced industrial society, with all its bureaucratic complexity and issues of scale, this way.

            7 votes
            1. [4]
              no_exit
              Link Parent
              That's also a question of how much of that industrial production is necessary in the first place, especially in the context of climate change concerns. Personally, I don't think it's something...

              The question is usually whether we can govern an advanced industrial society, with all its bureaucratic complexity and issues of scale, this way

              That's also a question of how much of that industrial production is necessary in the first place, especially in the context of climate change concerns. Personally, I don't think it's something that's going to survive the next century in its current globalized state. But it's still a valid question.

              7 votes
              1. NaraVara
                Link Parent
                The Soviet and Maoist systems, as well as the softer Fabian systems from the non-aligned nations, all had trouble meeting even the meagre requirements to sustain a dignified standard of living for...

                That's also a question of how much of that industrial production is necessary in the first place, especially in the context of climate change concerns.

                The Soviet and Maoist systems, as well as the softer Fabian systems from the non-aligned nations, all had trouble meeting even the meagre requirements to sustain a dignified standard of living for everyone.

                This also kind of hits at a tension within this stream of thought. On the one hand, the promise is that we can live in a world of plenty if we only learn to share. Maybe we lose some of the production efficiencies from being less ruthless and more respectful of peoples' rights and autonomy, but everyone should have a comfortable quality of life. But then if we turn around and say "Do we really need all these creature comforts" that starts to work against the assertion. I thought the point was that we'd all be materially better off, are we now being asked to sacrifice our material well being?

                The context of climate change concerns is actually a good example. The market incentive fix would involve taxation, carbon credits, or some other mechanism for pricing in the costs of carbon. In theory, this lets you attack the problem from multiple angles by creating incentives to both do less of the carbon intensive stuff and to figure out how to do the carbon-dependent production in more efficient, less carbon intensive ways. If your action plan is to decide what people should do directly, though, you have some issues figuring out what the right mix of reduction vs. efficiency is for the best long term results. Your ideal situation would be to figure out, based on models, what the maximum level of carbon you can admit is, set a cap that's a little below that, and let people figure out the best way to come in under that cap. That leaves the million nitty-gritty detail decisions to the people to figure out instead of a technocrat who has to take a best guess at what will work for a huge and varied economy that requires tons of highly specialized skill sets to function.

                4 votes
              2. [3]
                Comment deleted by author
                Link Parent
                1. [2]
                  no_exit
                  Link Parent
                  It's hard to say for certain, but the one thing I'm pretty unhappily confident about is a failure to tackle climate change in a meaningful way, resulting in 2* C warming or greater. My views have...

                  It's hard to say for certain, but the one thing I'm pretty unhappily confident about is a failure to tackle climate change in a meaningful way, resulting in 2* C warming or greater. My views have been heavily influenced by Desert, a long-form essay speculating on those questions from an anarchist perspective. The two main points for me are:

                  • strong challenges to the nation-state model driven by food and water insecurity and mass migration
                  • movement away from a globalized system of capitalism, though full collapse or revolution are unlikely
                  4 votes
                  1. tempestoftruth
                    Link Parent
                    This was very illuminating, thank you for sharing.

                    My views have been heavily influenced by Desert, a long-form essay speculating on those questions from an anarchist perspective.

                    This was very illuminating, thank you for sharing.

                    2 votes
          3. Algernon_Asimov
            Link Parent
            I hadn't heard of the Zapatistas. Thanks.

            I hadn't heard of the Zapatistas. Thanks.

            4 votes
        3. [3]
          Comment deleted by author
          Link Parent
          1. [2]
            AugustusFerdinand
            Link Parent
            Which has what to do with socialism? There's nothing in socialism that stops sexual predators.

            I just can't comprehend the workings of evil beings like epstein and prince andrew

            Which has what to do with socialism? There's nothing in socialism that stops sexual predators.

            10 votes
            1. gpl
              Link Parent
              I think the implication here is that in a capitalist society an individual’s wealth and ability to capture more wealth (I.e. their class) determines their level of influence. The higher class is...

              I think the implication here is that in a capitalist society an individual’s wealth and ability to capture more wealth (I.e. their class) determines their level of influence. The higher class is less accountable for their crimes. In a classless society this would not be the case and while it would not completely remove abhorrent crimes and behavior, it would greatly reduce the ability of people to escape justice for it.

              13 votes
      2. determinism
        Link Parent
        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Utopian_socialism

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

        The term utopian socialism was introduced by Karl Marx in "For a Ruthless Criticism of Everything" in 1843 and then developed in The Communist Manifesto in 1848, although shortly before its publication Marx had already attacked the ideas of Pierre-Joseph Proudhon in Das Elend der Philosophie (originally written in French, 1847). The term was used by later socialist thinkers to describe early socialist or quasi-socialist intellectuals who created hypothetical visions of egalitarian, communalist, meritocratic, or other notions of perfect societies without considering how these societies could be created or sustained.

        2 votes
  2. NaraVara
    Link
    Socialism isn't really utopian. Utopianism is a general framework that assumes underlying social tensions have been resolved. Communism is the utopian version (as defined in the Communist...

    Socialism isn't really utopian. Utopianism is a general framework that assumes underlying social tensions have been resolved. Communism is the utopian version (as defined in the Communist Manifesto) where it assumes the interesting questions about what to produce, how much, and for whom (and how) have been resolved to everyone's satisfaction and there is no such thing as unalienated labor anymore. Socialism is a more general worldview that asserts social ownership over the primary means of production is preferable to exclusive private ownership. That's just a statement of values, but still acknowledges that there's lots of questions to address and tensions to manage in maintaining it.

    In other words, utopian societies have no pushes and pulls keeping them in place. Real societies exist in a stable equilibrium where all the forces acting on them cancel out.

    If capitalism is preventing a large majority of human population from leading happy and dignified lives, then why can't we change the economic system?

    This would be a bit like asking ancient Romans "If these lead pipes are making us all go mad in old age, why can't we change the system for getting our water?" Sure it sounds easy, but then you ask yourself what other metal would you have us use? We can't get furnaces hot enough to manipulate other, non-corrosive metals yet. How are we going to wholesale replace it? The old plumbing infrastructure was all built up over hundreds of years. And as we replace it, who gets to benefit from the replacements first and who gets to live with lead piping for the other hundred years it would take our renewal plan to go through? How do we make sure the construction program to replace it all goes properly and is durable in the face of social unrest, barbarian threats, budgetary shortfalls, etc?

    It's not enough to say "capitalism sucks, let's get rid of it." You need to actually build the alternative, which can only happen through an iterative trial and error process.

    14 votes
  3. [14]
    mrbig
    (edited )
    Link
    Capitalism and socialism establish rules for wealth distribution. They are different approaches to a scenario of scarcity. The solution is ending the scarcity altogether. Eventually, automation...

    Capitalism and socialism establish rules for wealth distribution. They are different approaches to a scenario of scarcity. The solution is ending the scarcity altogether. Eventually, automation and planetary travel will get us there.

    And then we'll come up with other reasons to hate each other :)

    6 votes
    1. [13]
      pvik
      (edited )
      Link Parent
      I don't think I get this. With Neo-Liberal Capitalism at the reins, how will we ever reach a post-scaricity economy. Taking food production for example, we produce way more that what is needed for...

      I don't think I get this.

      With Neo-Liberal Capitalism at the reins, how will we ever reach a post-scaricity economy. Taking food production for example, we produce way more that what is needed for everyone on the planet currently. However, a large number of people do not have access to this, since the means of distribution of this resource is governed by capitalism. Housing is another thing that is controlled in a way that is most profitable to the land owners in a neoliberal capitalistic society.

      The way I see it, neo-liberal capitalism has a very strong survival instinct. Capitalists control large sectors of the government, and can influence the law (at least in countries like the US).
      Of what I understand of post-scarcity economics, means of production of goods will be cheap or even free, does this means, the capitalists will agree to sell these goods cheaply or even give them away for free?
      What about their profits?
      What is the incentive for neo-liberal capitalism to usher in the era os post-scarcity economics?

      I have not read enough of post-scarcity economics so I am probably missing something obvious.

      8 votes
      1. [12]
        mrbig
        Link Parent
        What makes you think humankind will forever remain under that paradigm?

        With Neo-Liberal Capitalism at the reins

        What makes you think humankind will forever remain under that paradigm?

        2 votes
        1. [8]
          pvik
          Link Parent
          I don't know if we will have Neo-Liberal Capitalism forever. However, any prediction I make of the future will have to be grounded in what is the reality now. We currently have a Neo-Liberal...

          I don't know if we will have Neo-Liberal Capitalism forever.

          However, any prediction I make of the future will have to be grounded in what is the reality now.
          We currently have a Neo-Liberal Capitalistic economic model in the majority of the countries.

          And as I mentioned Neo-Liberal capitalism has a strong self-preservation instinct (Wasn't capitalism supposed to crash and burn in the 70s?).

          And as a tangent to our discussion:
          Compounding onto this, with the climate change crisis, how much time do we really have to fix the larger issues surrounding our very survival?
          Even if we reach a state where we have sufficiently advanced technology to be able to produce goods required for basic survival of humanity almost for free, what is to prevent the ultra rich from keeping that for themselves and let the rest of us be doomed to our fate? Cause technically at that point, there will be no need for the laborers to keep the capitalistic machinery going, right?

          edit: This might be very cynical, but I am jaded by the state of things. I am sorry for being a downer.

          2 votes
          1. [7]
            mrbig
            (edited )
            Link Parent
            I can tell you, based on my very superficial knowledge of history, that change, not permanence, is a major constant when it comes to economical paradigms. So I predict the future based on that....

            I can tell you, based on my very superficial knowledge of history, that change, not permanence, is a major constant when it comes to economical paradigms. So I predict the future based on that. It's easy to think of neo-liberal capitalism as eternal because it feels like that for us; we lived our entire lives under that system. If we lived in the 15th century we might think that Monarchy would be eternal.

            Even if we reach a state where we have sufficiently advanced technology to be able to produce goods required for basic survival of humanity almost for free, what is to prevent the ultra rich from keeping that for themselves and let the rest of us be doomed to our fate?

            Hard to say, but there's a recent topic related to that question.

            1 vote
            1. [6]
              pvik
              Link Parent
              I agree that change is a constant. However, I am cynical with the direction that change generally happens. Historically we have more often changed to enrich/empower a few rather than the many....

              I agree that change is a constant.

              However, I am cynical with the direction that change generally happens. Historically we have more often changed to enrich/empower a few rather than the many.

              Take for example the birth of Liberalism, (since that also touches your topic on a change from monarchy). With the English Civil War ending with the beheading of Charles the First in 1649, we could've ushered in something that could've truly benefited the many (We even had groups like the Diggers who had a rudimentary form of Anarchistic Socialism long before Marx was even born). But, we have Cromwell beheading most of the people in his Army wanting any actual change and became the Lord Protector of England. This leaves the the Parliament in England in charge of everything, and we have capitalism off the leash (More capitalism, More Colonialism, More Slavery). Then we have Locke come along in 1690 with his Two Treatises of Government truly giving birth to Liberalism. We then have a bunch of slave-owners take the Ideas from Locke and build a whole new country!
              (Obviously not a very detailed account of how we went from Monarchy to Neo-Liberal Capitalism, but you get the idea)

              I do want to believe humanity will do better. But, I am not holding my breath.

              One thing the people in power have always been able to do well, is make everyone else make choices that benefit those in power; and more often that not, this choice is to the detriment of the masses.

              3 votes
              1. [5]
                mrbig
                Link Parent
                We absolutely changed for the better. There are always significant setbacks but capitalism and democracy are vastly superior to monarchy, theocracy, etc. Historical progress is not measured in...

                We absolutely changed for the better. There are always significant setbacks but capitalism and democracy are vastly superior to monarchy, theocracy, etc.

                Historical progress is not measured in comparison to what could have been better, but to what was definitely worse.

                1 vote
                1. [4]
                  pvik
                  Link Parent
                  I think most of the change for better in our lives are from technological innovation, which I think would've happened even if we had monarchies around the world. To play the devils advocate (and...

                  I think most of the change for better in our lives are from technological innovation, which I think would've happened even if we had monarchies around the world.

                  To play the devils advocate (and since I do not like blanket statements, generalizing complex topics like these)

                  capitalism and democracy are vastly superior to monarchy, theocracy, etc.

                  Which Monarchy are you comparing against which Democratic rule? All of these have so many variables and facets to each of them, that I think it is very unfair to say "Monarchy Bad, Democracy Good".
                  Is a democracy any good if the voters are uninformed (or can be easily manipulated)?
                  How do we even decide one is better than the other?
                  The general happiness of the people and providing basic necessities to every one under their rule? There have been several kings who have had people well provided for, in India, Japan, China, etc. There have also been a lot of absolute monarchs who have been bad at this. There are also democratic countries who have large number of people below the poverty line and with people not having enough food.

                  It is also very tricky comparing Monarchies to Democratic societies (who embrace Liberalism). Liberalism is very individualistic. If someone under a modern democratic country does not have enough food, it is that individual's fault.
                  In monarchies, the King's subjects were provided for by their king, if not, they rose up and revolted.

                  Monarchies, having a central figure holding all the power, and passing that power down a line of succession, also allows the ruler to become more corrupt and distant from the needs of the people he governs very easily. Which in turn leads to revolts and the people wanting to take over the power. Which we see quite often in history!

                  With Neo-Liberal Capitalistic societies we have today, with an individualistic ideology, it makes it easier for the people in power to hold all the power but not really be accountable for most things. With declining quality of education most people receive, increased surveillance, reduced privacy, the masses cannot even form groups to revolt easily.

                  2 votes
                  1. [3]
                    mrbig
                    Link Parent
                    I’m not sure it’s worthy to pose a counter argument, since I believe the notion that democracy is generally preferable to monarchy was so abundantly demonstrated elsewhere that discussing this...

                    I’m not sure it’s worthy to pose a counter argument, since I believe the notion that democracy is generally preferable to monarchy was so abundantly demonstrated elsewhere that discussing this matter is not something I wish to do. Sorry :(

                    1. [2]
                      pvik
                      Link Parent
                      I Understand and No need to apologize! I do believe in the spirit of Democracy and feel it is the best we have got. However, democracy is also only as good as the people participating in it. (I...

                      I Understand and No need to apologize!

                      I do believe in the spirit of Democracy and feel it is the best we have got. However, democracy is also only as good as the people participating in it.

                      (I have been recently spending a lot of time world-building for a sci-fi story I am working on. This has led me down several rabbit holes of History, most of it however just leaves me depressed.)

                      2 votes
        2. [3]
          Kuromantis
          Link Parent
          Not OP but I think politics, mostly. Neoliberalism is the best ideology for large corporations, since it puts no limits on corporate growth/power, doesn't oppose minorities at random and makes the...

          Not OP but I think politics, mostly. Neoliberalism is the best ideology for large corporations, since it puts no limits on corporate growth/power, doesn't oppose minorities at random and makes the market as global as possible. If Biden wins the Presidency and the Senate not much changes economically without outside help short of voting depending on the state. If Trump wins the house nothing changes except for minorities being punished harder and voting registration approaching Jim Crow or worse and if Bernie won the moderates would still stop/compromise and limit a lot of his more ballsy policies.

          It certainly wouldn't be forever (2-5 more decades if democracy isn't killed), but progressivism doesn't gardner that much support yet, at least in the US, and I don't even know if it's viable in a country like Brazil where corruption is occult and unknown.

          1. [2]
            mrbig
            Link Parent
            This is all very short term. I’m speaking in historical terms. There’s no guarantee this state of things will persist for the next 200 years.

            This is all very short term. I’m speaking in historical terms. There’s no guarantee this state of things will persist for the next 200 years.

            1 vote
            1. Kuromantis
              Link Parent
              In that case I agree, and I said it myself:

              In that case I agree, and I said it myself:

              (~2-5 more decades if democracy isn't killed)

  4. knocklessmonster
    (edited )
    Link
    Yes. It can't be anything like Marx or Kropotkin wanted, and I'd say they were ideologues who brought important ideas, but their end goals are fantasy. Or... "utopian," as Marx would refer to his...

    Is socialism achievable in our lifetimes?

    Yes. It can't be anything like Marx or Kropotkin wanted, and I'd say they were ideologues who brought important ideas, but their end goals are fantasy. Or... "utopian," as Marx would refer to his more moderate market socialist contemporaries. Marx was one of the people who laid the framework for the field of comparative economics, though, which is interesting.

    Adam Smith, Marx's opposite, the "father of modern capitalism" and author of Wealth of Nations made assumptions about the behavior of the free market that require the same amount of human behavioral perfection Marx and Kropotkin require for their plans/theories. You'll see both extreme arguments will tend to fall over if you push them far enough.

    The best system we'll have would aim to minimize income disparity and ensure everybody has the essential needs met: food, water, shelter, comfort. This system would also allow down time for individuals so they don't have to grind all the time, and can enjoy their weekend, and even take vacations (see many places in Europe that almost shut down for three weeks at the end of summer, like Spain, or Scandinavia). Our socialist utopia will have to be somewhere in the middle, again a regulated but generally free market with proper income redistribution* and provision of essentials, with things like strong unions, universal healthcare, publicly provided housing, and a regulated free market to protect the consumers and ensure no underhanded dealings go down.

    *EDIT: redistribution rather than distribution. Something in the way of a UBI-type system, or a society that could have more true workers coops with profit redistribution schemes.

    5 votes
  5. [5]
    asoftbird
    Link
    It'd be nice but it's a Third Law of @asoftbird kind of thing: one person will always ruin it for the rest of the group. That and l really don't see it happening considering our entire society...

    It'd be nice but it's a Third Law of @asoftbird kind of thing: one person will always ruin it for the rest of the group.

    That and l really don't see it happening considering our entire society revolves around capitalism.

    4 votes
    1. [2]
      gpl
      Link Parent
      Some of Marx’s earlier writing revolves around arguing that this doesn’t really matter. Our society has revolves around other economic systems in the not-to-distant past, and there’s no reason it...

      That and l really don't see it happening considering our entire society revolves around capitalism.

      Some of Marx’s earlier writing revolves around arguing that this doesn’t really matter. Our society has revolves around other economic systems in the not-to-distant past, and there’s no reason it can’t revolve around others in the future. There is nothing natural or optimal about capitalism - it’s not the natural culmination of economic theory, it doesn’t optimally distribute resources or optimally leverage human behavior. It’s simply the system we’ve ended up with. Humans are about as naturally collective and cooperative as we are individualistic and competitive, which is the point.

      At the end of the day I disagreed with a lot of Marx’s later stuff (communist manifesto, e.g), but the one insight I took away is: things have been different before, and they could be again. Never confuse those things that are imposed by society with those things that are ‘natural’.

      9 votes
      1. no_exit
        Link Parent
        The late Mark Fisher wrote an entire book, Capitalist Realism, about this phenomenon of people being unable to imagine a world radically different than the one we live in. It's worth a read.

        The late Mark Fisher wrote an entire book, Capitalist Realism, about this phenomenon of people being unable to imagine a world radically different than the one we live in. It's worth a read.

        8 votes
    2. [2]
      patience_limited
      Link Parent
      That's actually a corollary of the Second Law of Thermodynamics - it's vastly easier to destroy anything than it is to build it. One loony with a bomb can kill thousands, one troll can make a site...

      That's actually a corollary of the Second Law of Thermodynamics - it's vastly easier to destroy anything than it is to build it.

      One loony with a bomb can kill thousands, one troll can make a site unusable, one malicious coder can wipe out whole institutions worth of data, one mask hoarder can expose thousands to a virus.

      Every Eden will have its snake, and that's why we can't have nice things.

      Footnote: I don't want to deny that it's worth trying. One of the problems I always had with the religious moral of the Eden story was the question, "why not just eject the snake?".

      8 votes
      1. Moonchild
        Link Parent
        That's not really the point of that story, but: and more importantly, you cannot draw such clear ethical delineations. Someone must decide who gets ejected, and not everyone is going to be happy...

        One of the problems I always had with the religious moral of the Eden story was the question, "why not just eject the snake?"

        1. That's not really the point of that story, but:

        2. and more importantly, you cannot draw such clear ethical delineations. Someone must decide who gets ejected, and not everyone is going to be happy with those choices. So then, if you start to solicit people's opinions, what you get is partisan democracy, like we have in Europe and parts of Asia and North America.

        I'm not saying there's no better system, but it's certainly not that easy to come up with.

        2 votes
  6. [2]
    nothis
    (edited )
    Link
    I think socialism is basically the default in the Western world right now, crazy outliers like the US healthcare system just stand out in contrast. It is also not contradictory to capitalism in...

    I think socialism is basically the default in the Western world right now, crazy outliers like the US healthcare system just stand out in contrast. It is also not contradictory to capitalism in any major way. The only problem is the "-ism" part.

    As soon as you argue "-isms", you're denying flaws and necessary exceptions. A social system can be exploited but these cases are rare enough to be specifically fought with counter-measures. The problem with capitalism is the idea that the prices it comes up with are always a reflection of reality, as soon as you acknowledge how easy it is to trick people and suppress competition, you can establish laws to combat fraud and monopolies. But you have to acknowledge these issues.

    All the problems with authoritarian governments come from suppression of criticism (and the greed of the people benefiting from it). What's the number one thing that comes to your mind when thinking of crazy places like North Korea and Turkmenistan (or China and Russia, for less obvious but more powerful examples)? No freedom of information. It's always the first step of maintaining a flawed system: Suppress all tools to fix its flaws.

    In other words, rooting for "utopias" (i.e. perfection) is dangerous as you can only believe in them if you ignore their flaws. Any idea of a "perfect" system is unrealistic at best (and often very cynical). What matters is always keeping a free path towards improvements based on a realistic assessment of the status quo.

    3 votes
    1. thundergolfer
      Link Parent
      These two sentences are extremely controversial, and I'd say they're both just flat out wrong. Taking Australia as an example "Western world" country, how is it socialist given it has large...

      I think socialism is basically the default in the Western world right now, crazy outliers like the US healthcare system just stand out in contrast. It is also not contradictory to capitalism in any major way.

      These two sentences are extremely controversial, and I'd say they're both just flat out wrong.

      Taking Australia as an example "Western world" country, how is it socialist given it has large private sectors in healthcare, education, transport, energy, agriculture, minerals, etc? Most Australian workers are not in a union, let alone participating in a co-op with worker control over the enterprise.

      Australia certain has elements of social democracy, as citizens can access public education and healthcare and housing 'free at the point of access', but that's not socialism.

      4 votes
  7. [3]
    arp242
    Link
    A lot of people seem to interpret "socialism" as "absolute socialism". This is obviously a bad idea, as has been shown by history. Absolute anything is usually a bad idea: absolute capitalism,...

    A lot of people seem to interpret "socialism" as "absolute socialism". This is obviously a bad idea, as has been shown by history. Absolute anything is usually a bad idea: absolute capitalism, absolute freedom, etc.

    But almost all countries – including the United States – have socialist aspects and policies. Whether it's good or bad all depends on the specific policy. Very few self-proclaimed socialists today believe in absolute socialism, but rather in a free market capitalist society tempered by socialism. In other words: they want to combine the best aspects from both systems.

    3 votes
    1. [3]
      Comment deleted by author
      Link Parent
      1. [2]
        arp242
        Link Parent
        Meh; I prefer to use the common definition of socialism, rather than the academical one. That's what almost everyone uses, including various socialist parties in Europe.

        Meh; I prefer to use the common definition of socialism, rather than the academical one. That's what almost everyone uses, including various socialist parties in Europe.

        1. thundergolfer
          Link Parent
          Is this what you say is the "common definition"? The "socialism = Denmark" definition?

          free market capitalist society tempered by socialism

          Is this what you say is the "common definition"? The "socialism = Denmark" definition?

          3 votes
  8. [2]
    mrnd
    Link
    I'm going to use "communism" instead of "socialism", because it's definition is much clearer: society without state, class and money. I don't think it's possible during our lifetimes. Even the...

    I'm going to use "communism" instead of "socialism", because it's definition is much clearer: society without state, class and money.

    I don't think it's possible during our lifetimes. Even the revolutionary communists generally thought it would take many decades to build it. Even China doesn't pretend it is going to get there anytime soon.

    (and also, with the most soft possible definition of socialism, like "has public healthcare", I'm already living in a socialist state, so it's not very useful discussion.)

    But nevertheless, communism should always be the goal we look towards, and we should keep it in mind when making political decisions. It's worthwhile to have dreams and goals, even if they remain far away.

    Sometimes moving towards the dream is easy, especially in places like the USA: just build public healthcare, stronger unions, better public transport and public housing and so on. Probably that requires pushing Democrats to the left, but that's mostly an implementation detail. It's is probably hard, but progress needs to happen and it doesn't happen by itself.

    In more advanced countries, the problem is that we haven't really been dreaming about communism for decades. It's hard to imagine what should be done next, when nobody today is really talking about the alternatives to neoliberal capitalism.

    Personally I think people should just read Kropotkin's the Conquest of Bread, and then do that, but I probably shouldn't count on that. In more practical approach, we should probably be thinking in the lines of Murray Bookchin's Communalism.

    In any case, I hate seeing utopias shot down as unrealistic, because dreaming is exactly what the world needs right now.

    3 votes
    1. [2]
      Comment deleted by author
      Link Parent
      1. mrnd
        Link Parent
        Finland, but I literally just mean the public healthcare, and that applies in at least most European countries. I don't think it's actually a good definition for socialism.

        Finland, but I literally just mean the public healthcare, and that applies in at least most European countries. I don't think it's actually a good definition for socialism.

        1 vote
  9. vegai
    Link
    What's happening right now thanks to COVID-19? The whole world is adopting strong socialist policies because capitalism has nothing to offer when crises are happening. In fact, companies are...

    What's happening right now thanks to COVID-19? The whole world is adopting strong socialist policies because capitalism has nothing to offer when crises are happening. In fact, companies are increasingly becoming liabilities that need to be rescued with significant public funding.

    Some of these policies may end up being permanent.

    3 votes
  10. [8]
    envy
    Link
    Capitalism has lifted many people out of poverty. I don't know if this measures the best thing for humanity, but the number of people globally living below the poverty line has been continually...

    Capitalism has lifted many people out of poverty. I don't know if this measures the best thing for humanity, but the number of people globally living below the poverty line has been continually improving. There are a lot of people in richer countries who are unhappy that their jobs are being outsourced, but from a global perspective, everyone is better off.

    There are many countries that combine capitalism with government social welfare to pay for public healthcare, low cost housing, unemployment benefits, childcare, schooling... Capitalism doesn't automatically mean wealth disparity and low taxes for the rich along with tax evadance, avoidance.

    2 votes
    1. [7]
      Comment deleted by author
      Link Parent
      1. [4]
        NaraVara
        Link Parent
        My favorite thing about this is that the proponents of it analogized it as "shock therapy," and nobody seemed to acknowledge that shock therapy doesn't actually work and just induces trauma. . .

        The uncontrolled introduction of capitalism in the former Eastern Block destroyed our economies, increased death rates and resulted in powerful oligarchs and mafia run governments.

        My favorite thing about this is that the proponents of it analogized it as "shock therapy," and nobody seemed to acknowledge that shock therapy doesn't actually work and just induces trauma. . .

        11 votes
        1. [3]
          krg
          Link Parent
          A bit of an aside (and not to harsh your analogy), but doesn't shock therapy work for some people? Doesn't seem all that dangerous these days, either.

          A bit of an aside (and not to harsh your analogy), but doesn't shock therapy work for some people? Doesn't seem all that dangerous these days, either.

          1. [2]
            NaraVara
            Link Parent
            I suppose so. But even then, it's under very closely controlled settings. it's not just a red-in-tooth-and-claw free for all orgy of market forces being unleashed on the world.

            I suppose so. But even then, it's under very closely controlled settings. it's not just a red-in-tooth-and-claw free for all orgy of market forces being unleashed on the world.

            1. krg
              Link Parent
              ya, just regarding the misconceptions of the efficacy of ECT. certainly, pulling the rug from under some established system can cause disastrous results.

              it's not just a red-in-tooth-and-claw free for all orgy of market forces being unleashed on the world.

              ya, just regarding the misconceptions of the efficacy of ECT. certainly, pulling the rug from under some established system can cause disastrous results.

      2. [2]
        skybrian
        Link Parent
        Even modern Chinese history is pretty complicated, but to simplify it is largely about suffering at enormous scale, with for example an estimated 30 to 55 million people dying in the Great Chinese...

        Even modern Chinese history is pretty complicated, but to simplify it is largely about suffering at enormous scale, with for example an estimated 30 to 55 million people dying in the Great Chinese Famine. It's not until the Deng Xiaoping era that things got going, and from that point China was moving away from communism (unofficially).

        You could also look at the rest of Asia for some interesting and quite different stories of how different countries emerged from poverty.

        Reading history is interesting but be wary of drawing simple conclusions. As non-experts we are likely to get the history wrong. Economic growth is extremely important when it comes to avoiding suffering, but there is still a lot of debate even among experts about why some countries have managed it and others haven't.

        4 votes
        1. [2]
          Comment deleted by author
          Link Parent
          1. skybrian
            Link Parent
            When it comes down to it, "capitalist" and "socialist" are just adjectives. As with most adjectives, they can be useful, but usage is fuzzy and deciding whether they apply in any particular case...

            When it comes down to it, "capitalist" and "socialist" are just adjectives. As with most adjectives, they can be useful, but usage is fuzzy and deciding whether they apply in any particular case can be somewhat nebulous.

            We should be curious about China, but "Is China communist" doesn't seem like a particularly useful question for organizing your understanding.

            There are more specific questions you can ask, though, like: how does money work there? How are prices set? How are decisions made about what to make, what infrastructure to build, and what to buy or sell? What workers do? How are non-workers taken care of? How does governance work?

            In broad strokes, many customs and institutions associated with capitalism exist in China, but the differences are important.

            1 vote
    2. thundergolfer
      Link Parent
      We can attribute causality to things other than Capitalism. I wonder if you find this alternative framing fair. Claude Shannon's Mathematical Theory of Communication is foundational to computer...

      Capitalism has lifted many people out of poverty.

      We can attribute causality to things other than Capitalism. I wonder if you find this alternative framing fair.

      Claude Shannon's Mathematical Theory of Communication is foundational to computer science and having been invented has led to a truly staggering amount of innovation that has made people's lives better (ie. made them wealthier).

      Claude Shannon was not a Capitalist. He was a brilliant mathematician and engineer who sold his intellectual labour to Bell Labs, and later worked as a teacher and academic. He didn't do his work to amass wealth, he wasn't 'doing Capitalism', but his work led directly to trillions of dollars in capital being produced.

      Shannon's story is similar to thousands of other people's who invented things and produced knowledge that has made the world a better place. When I see the sentiment "Capitalism has lifted many people out of poverty", I think of these geniuses who in the main did not live and work to make money. On this view, I find the following sentiments much more accurate:

      • "Knowledge has lifted many people out of poverty"
      • "Education has lifted many people out of poverty"
      4 votes
  11. skybrian
    (edited )
    Link
    Socialism as commonly understood seems to me like a bumper sticker, too vague to be worth critiquing. The most charitable way I can take it is that many people are very frustrated with the status...

    Socialism as commonly understood seems to me like a bumper sticker, too vague to be worth critiquing. The most charitable way I can take it is that many people are very frustrated with the status quo, and I can certainly agree with sentiment that the system sucks. I might find some more specific plan more interesting.

    As a curious outsider, I would like to see more book reviews and sharing of links to interesting things people have to say about alternatives to capitalism. I'm vaguely aware that a lot has been written about Marxism and there are courses you can take, but as someone who isn't going to major in it, I don't know how to find what's interesting.

    It seems like a healthy intellectual movement would be doing a lot of the lighter intellectual work, things like link sharing and FAQ writing. There are a few socialism FAQ's out there but the ones I tried reading didn't really speak to me.

    2 votes
  12. Akir
    Link
    IMHO, the biggest problem with socialism is simply that capitalists have far too much power for socialism to thrive. The core of capitalism is consumption. Think back to a reconstruction South...

    IMHO, the biggest problem with socialism is simply that capitalists have far too much power for socialism to thrive.

    The core of capitalism is consumption. Think back to a reconstruction South after the American Civil war; who are the villians of that time? Northern "Carpetbaggers"; capitalists who took advantage of the Southerners who didn't have any Union currency and had to sell the land they owned in order to support themselves. These people were considered scummy, but they were just agents of the "invisible hands of the market". Capitalism created carpetbaggers.

    What I'm trying to get at is that socialism cannot be tolerated because in order for a society to exist it needs to have the resources for people to want to be part of it. And if there are resources, capitalists will want them so they can exploit them. In more concrete terms, the US already has a history interfering with foreign governments to better it's own interests, and the US has had an interest in destroying communism for quite some time now.

    2 votes
  13. Kuromantis
    (edited )
    Link
    I haven't read any theory either but there are a few things I'm gonna point out in this long detour and comment for social democracy, From what I recall the purpose/goal of capitalism/the market...

    I haven't read any socialist theory either but there are a few things I'm gonna point out in this long detour and comment for social democracy,

    1: Honestly, at some point you have to ask yourself: if our economic system doesn't secure public health and well-being, and doesn't protect and regenerate ecology, then what's actually the point?

    This economic crisis is revealing that the main reason we all have to work for wages isn't just to buy the things we need, but to pay rents and debts - in other words, to give money to the holders of capital.

    If capitalism is preventing a large majority of human population from leading happy and dignified lives, then why can't we change the economic system?

    From what I recall the purpose/goal of capitalism/the market economy is to increase innovation by rewarding whoever manages to make stuff people want because people will buy it and pay the maker with money, rewarding them and encouraging then to make more. If we look at the early Internet we see what IMO is a pretty good example of this, with new software and hardware being made at breakneck speed.

    The main problems with our current system are

    1: When a single company becomes the whole market they effectively have no incentive to do any of the implied above since no one is there to outdo them.

    (This also applies to when a few companies control several markets like a large part of everything that's software or mobile now)

    2: When large corporations can fund the government to do their bidding it becomes very difficult to get anyone to go against it since that's how they get the money to campaign.

    3: When people aren't well aware of what corporations are doing or how they can change things it becomes much easier to just sell them a lie or something mediocre from brand recognition. (This also the makes the item above harder to do)

    4: When corporations control outlets of information like TV or most of the Internet via advertising it becomes very easy to select what goes to the top (or at all) based on advertising revenue or brand safety and if efffective advertising is what matters the most the only real market incentive left is to show/make people click as many ads as possible

    5: If people become poor enough they might not be able to pay for higher quality but often more expensive services, meaning those are inaccessible to poor people whoboften need them the most

    There are some things that just don't work under free markets (roads, housing, healthcare, maybe airlines and rockets if being too hard counts and most extraction/harvesting for being too damaging if done enough) but most other things just need regulation to work well in my opinion. The most 'socialist' proposals I'd find seriously important is really stuff like unions and some level of democracy in corporations and other than that, capitalism isn't/wouldn't be seen as fundamentally bad, I just think would be seen as needing accountability and once that happens the market would have to be ethical.

    As for your orginal question, this long detour is why I'd say probably not, since capitalism is good with accountability to and used for the people. Even if Sanders somehow passed the full of his views and the entire world somehow followed suit I don't think full socialism would be better than social democracy/welfare capitalism and strongly advocated. The Overton window could/would shift left in such a scenario but I think socialism would happen because what we're lacking now is accountability, and with that we would have (sufficient) equality.

    1 vote
  14. ohyran
    Link
    Sure, why not? People thought the right of kings was an inevitability and impossible to avoid until it wasn't. Utopias are just utopias until they happen and then they stop being utopias. If...

    Sure, why not? People thought the right of kings was an inevitability and impossible to avoid until it wasn't.

    Utopias are just utopias until they happen and then they stop being utopias. If someone had sauntered up to say anyone during the start of the French Revolution and gone blow for blow about how modern democracy work 230 years later they would either freak out, get overly excited or completely dejected. Their glistening utopia is our grimey reality.

    "Socialism" is tricky, same as "Democracy" (or "Feudalism" for that matter or any of the others). Both only work if put in context of realities - where the constraints on them or what they are and could be are put in to some sort of actual real world situation. Currently I live in what to some are some kind of socialist utopia, others "random capitalism", others "horrible corporativistic nonsense" and to others "nationalism taken to its market ideal" - it all depends on what they think of the word Socialism and what they think it should contain (I am sure there are good summaries of the word on wikipedia for that semantic sidedebate but in reality the word is as flexible as any ideological base).

    As for the rest of it. I mean yeah I guess I agree in most but you know, working hard with a red flag over my neck, or a nation flag or just the threat of being "not marketable as a worker in the free market of life exploitation" doesn't much matter. What matters are the practical effects on my life. Like the having to "work hard" bit.
    If it brings good things... then fine. Socialism, here we go!

    1 vote
  15. [2]
    est
    Link
    Socialism is not carbon neutral. You can't maintain a realistic sized human society without net consumption of energy from somewhere.

    Socialism is not carbon neutral. You can't maintain a realistic sized human society without net consumption of energy from somewhere.

    1. ThatFanficGuy
      Link Parent
      Those two are not synonymous.

      Socialism is not carbon neutral.
      You can't maintain a realistic sized human society without net consumption of energy from somewhere.

      Those two are not synonymous.