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Wednesday night quiz from your local Socialist

 
Bartender
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I suspect I’m probably the resident “Socialist” on these forums; although I’ve always thought of myself as Gladstonian Liberal – equality of opportunity (with, maybe, a few biases where I think society–or the law–doesn’t match up).

And, as many of you may know, I dislike capitalism. Intrinsically. I think it’s a poor excuse for a social order because it’s founded on one of the Bible’s ‘deadly sins’ (unless someone can convince me otherwise).

So: I have two propositions for discussion – and I promise I won’t reply (I tend to get a bit heated sometimes), but I will award plusses and cows,. The only rule is that you cannot use the old chestnut that ‘capitalism is not a system; it’s the absence of one’ unless you can back it up IN CONTEXT.

My propositions:

1. The latest banking crisis is due to ‘Thatcherist’ (or ‘Reaganist’) economics, and the ethics they spawned.

2. China will be the world’s largest economy within 10 years. Given that it's a Communist country, capitalism has therefore failed.


And if anyone wants to tackle this one:

3. Western democracy will be obsolete before the year 2100.


Have fun.

Winston
 
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I take issue with #2

Isn't that like saying "given than Stack Overflow is the largest programming site on the web, JavaRanch has failed"?

or

Given than the New York Yankees have won the most World Series (27), the St. Louis Cardinals have failed as a baseball team with only eleven wins?



Further, doesn't China's larger population sort of help drive the larger economy? after all, with four times the population of the U.S., I would expect its economy to be at least four times larger.

Ok...maybe there isn't a 1:1 correlation between population and economy, but I think (granted, with absolutely no facts to back this up) that there is at least SOME direct correlation.

[edit - typo]
 
Rancher
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I don't think the Chinese economy can be properly characterized as "communist" at this point.
 
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Winston Gutkowski wrote:

2. China will be the world’s largest economy within 10 years. Given that it's a Communist country, capitalism has therefore failed.


Failed at what? Is becoming the largest economy "the" thing a country must achieve to be called a success? In my view, a country that provides equal opportunity to all and freedom of speech and expression is successful. Capitalism, Socialism, or communism, are just means. They don't really matter if a country achieves the above two things, IMHO.


3. Western democracy will be obsolete before the year 2100.


You might want to define "western" democracy if you want to get any meaningful debate. Since you are qualifying democracy with "western", I am curious to know which other democracy do you know about and how is it different. Which aspect of western democracy makes it "western" in your opinion? (This is a genuine question.)
 
Marshal
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I'm going to delegate my answer:

Thomas Piketty wrote:When the rate of return on capital exceeds the rate of growth of output and income, as it did in the nineteenth century and seems quite likely to do again in the twenty-first, capitalism automatically generates arbitrary and unsustainable inequalities that radically undermine the meritocratic values on which democratic societies are based.



There ya go... capitalism vs democracy in one sentence. (I've only got up to page 2 in the book, there's a long way to go yet.)


 
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#1. Yes, agreed. The "de-regulation" of the financial services industry and 35 years of blind faith in voo-doo "trickledown economics" continues to stifle any attempt to force these parasitic crooks to deliver any meaningful benefit to wider society, so they continue to concentrate wealth in the hands of a tiny elite.

#2. Not sure - like Fred says, China's size probably plays a big part in its recent success.

#3. Western democracy is already obsolete. We are reduced to sham elections where we are supposed to choose between Pepsi and Coke - political frontmen and apologists for global corporate interests, or media-friendly charlatans like bloody Nigel Farrago, the Arturo Ui of our times. It hardly matters who you vote for when it's business as usual for the real elites (see #1).

By the way, I'm more of an antisocial-ist myself...
 
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Give me an enormous break Chris, now I hate to bring politics into any discussion board, but Nigel Farage is one of the most demonized persons in the UK. The last thing the media is, is friendly to Niger Farage. That he makes a good appearance, that is his quality. Furthermore if you would name charlatans, it are the preachers of the multicultural society that deceive us, and keep silent about known facts that would put their ideal society, that does not exist for the Joe Public without an engineer salary and a residence in the good part of town, in a bad light.
 
chris webster
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Hi Jan

Sure, take a break!

OK, Farage is not really a fascist thug, although some of the folk he hangs out with might well qualify. But he is certainly not "demonised" by the UK media, unlike poor Nick Clegg who has become the scapegoat for anything people don't like about the current government. Farage gets a vast amount of attention from the media, much of it uncritical, as the tabloids just want to stir up trouble and are often sympathetic to his cause, while TV is nervous of seeming biased. The end result is that what is essentially a one-man, one-issue, one-policy party has been able to stay in the news for months, grabbing media attention and protest votes without ever being challenged to present themselves and their policies for serious analysis.

When his party gained seats in the European parliament, his reaction was that now they could have fun disrupting the work of the parliament. There are plenty of things wrong with the EU political establishment, but there are also good things about it, and many people in the real world depend on the EU institutions doing their job properly. But Farage thinks it's "fun" to play childish games instead of trying to solve problems: the man and his party are just a bunch of political hooligans.

Now we can expect to see this gurning clown popping up on next year's UK election debates, yet his party has only one MP and no discernible policies or ideas about anything except EU membership and immigration. Meanwhile, the Green party has had an MP for years, and has invested years of effort into a wide range of often innovative and forward-thinking policy ideas, but is still excluded from mainstream political debate in the media.

As for his pretence that he represents the little man challenging a powerful establishment, that's almost the exact opposite of the truth. UKIP is a short-term annoyance and distraction to the mainstream political parties and may influence the balance of power at the next election. But Farage and co are no threat to the global corporate interests that increasingly control our lives, and can't be bothered even to think about these issues in the first place. We will probably have a referendum on EU membership in the next few years. If people vote to stay in, then UKIP has lost its raison-d'etre because their only policy has been rejected. If people vote to leave the EU, then UKIP has lost its raison-d'etre because they have no other policies. UKIP will disappear, leaving the rest of us to clear up after them.

In my more cynical moments I wonder if Farage might be just another sock-puppet for global corporations, as he gives us the illusion of a political alternative with lots of media attention but offers no real alternative ideas except to leave the EU. Meanwhile the EU at least occasionally acts to limit the power of the big multinationals, and I suspect some of them might like to see the EU's power and political/economic foundations diminished by a UK exit. If Farage didn't exist, they'd probably have to invent something like him.

Anyway, speaking personally, I'd prefer to see a real political challenge to our corporate masters, not this rabble-rousing media muppet. YMMV of course!
 
Paul Clapham
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Western democracy has been pretty much trivialized, at least the version where I live. In about a month we're having municipal elections, where we get to vote for mayors and councillors. Those are the people who do basic things like getting our garbage taken away and dealt with somehow.

So what is the news media covering? In Burnaby, the hot story is one of the fringe candidates who wants to ban public displays of affection in public. She got an interview in one of the national papers. None of the real candidates did.
 
fred rosenberger
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Let's not forget about fangate
 
chris webster
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Paul Clapham wrote:I'm going to delegate my answer:

Thomas Piketty wrote:When the rate of return on capital exceeds the rate of growth of output and income, as it did in the nineteenth century and seems quite likely to do again in the twenty-first, capitalism automatically generates arbitrary and unsustainable inequalities that radically undermine the meritocratic values on which democratic societies are based.



There ya go... capitalism vs democracy in one sentence. (I've only got up to page 2 in the book, there's a long way to go yet.)


Or just watch the movie...
 
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chris webster wrote:#1. Yes, agreed. The "de-regulation" of the financial services industry and 35 years of blind faith in voo-doo "trickledown economics" continues to stifle any attempt to force these parasitic crooks to deliver any meaningful benefit to wider society, so they continue to concentrate wealth in the hands of a tiny elite.

#3. Western democracy is already obsolete. We are reduced to sham elections where we are supposed to choose between Pepsi and Coke - political frontmen and apologists for global corporate interests, or media-friendly charlatans like bloody Nigel Farrago, the Arturo Ui of our times. It hardly matters who you vote for when it's business as usual for the real elites (see #1).



There is some hope as I learned from this article which reports that Wells Fargo shared some of its profits with its non-ceo employees - http://www.businessinsider.com/tyrel-oates-letter-to-wells-fargo-ceo-2014-10
 
chris webster
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Ali Gordon wrote:There is some hope as I learned from this article which reports that Wells Fargo shared some of its profits with its non-ceo employees - http://www.businessinsider.com/tyrel-oates-letter-to-wells-fargo-ceo-2014-10


Here in the UK we have the John Lewis Partnership, which runs a chain of department stores and another chain of grocery stores (Waitrose). The firm was set up in the early 20th century based on a partnership model where staff are "partners" in the business, are paid annual bonuses based on the performance of the business, and generally enjoy better employment conditions (especially pensions and other benefits) than workers in other retail sector businesses. There have been some questions over how far the JLP should try to push this model out to sub-contracted staff, such as cleaners, where they have yet to exert their power to force sub-contractors to pay better wages as well. But within the JLP there is a cap on how far executive pay can exceed pay for ordinary workers, unlike all those corporations where they insist they have to pay execs grotesquely inflated salaries to recruit the so-called "talent", while grinding down the ordinary worker's wages. Yet the JLP seems to have been doing very well in recent years even while other retailers have had serious problems.

So it may be there's a way to rescue capitalism by simply treating staff decently so they work hard for the business, and making sure all workers enjoy a reasonable share of the profits of their endeavours. Or does that sound too much like "socialism"?
 
Winston Gutkowski
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Wow. Sparked quite a debate; well done chaps. I've been away for a while because it looks like I'm going to be moving back to the UK, so lots of planning to do.

chris webster wrote:Here in the UK we have the John Lewis Partnership, which runs a chain of department stores and another chain of grocery stores (Waitrose)...


I'd forgotten about JLP. Sounds to me very much like the old Quaker model - as pioneered by companies like Cadbury's and Clark's, whose bywords were "honest dealing" and "fair treatment" - lots of sweet manufacturers in their number; sadly most of them now owned by Nestle's or other multinationals with nowhere near the same level of social responsibility (although I think Clark's is still independent). What do you think of Branson? Genuine ground-breaker, or glib-talking smoothie?

As for Farage, I think he's just a passing phase - a bit like le Pen and the Front National - a plausible populist who comes across well on the media. UKIP is basically a one-issue party that's managed to capitalize on the current crisis by blaming all manner of 'foreigners' for the UK's ills - immigrants, refugees...and of course "Europe" (everybody's favourite whipping-boy at the moment it would seem). That's what happens in a democracy. I'm just waiting for people to finally work out that he and his party are the Emperor's new clothes of the new millenium.

Thanks again for the feedback; keep it up.

Winston
 
chris webster
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Winston Gutkowski wrote:... it looks like I'm going to be moving back to the UK...


Do you have a non-UK EU passport? Because the way things are going, if you return to the UK you may end up being stuck here!
 
Winston Gutkowski
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chris webster wrote:Do you have a non-UK EU passport? Because the way things are going, if you return to the UK you may end up being stuck here!


Maybe not because it looks like I'll be moving to Scotland - and next time around Alec may get his wish if UKIP are part of any government.

Nothing certain yet, but I'm going to view some places next month.

But, to answer your question: No. On the other hand, I do have (or at least, I'm entitled to) a Canadian one.

Winston
 
chris webster
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Winston Gutkowski wrote:...Sounds to me very much like the old Quaker model - as pioneered by companies like Cadbury's and Clark's, whose bywords were "honest dealing" and "fair treatment" ...


Yes indeed. Unfortunately, most of them have long since abandoned those principles e.g. Barclays!
 
Winston Gutkowski
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chris webster wrote:Yes indeed. Unfortunately, most of them have long since abandoned those principles e.g. Barclays!


Yup. I banked with them at the time, and was part of the 'Barclaycard protest'. Didn't actually know they were a Quaker business though.

Winston
 
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Winston Gutkowski wrote:
My propositions:

1. The latest banking crisis is due to ‘Thatcherist’ (or ‘Reaganist’) economics, and the ethics they spawned.

2. China will be the world’s largest economy within 10 years. Given that it's a Communist country, capitalism has therefore failed.

And if anyone wants to tackle this one:

3. Western democracy will be obsolete before the year 2100.



My thoughts.

1) The first warning sign in the U.S. that this was a bad idea was that the Republicans and Democrats agreed on it. That is a big red flag, only when the left or the right is fighting something tooth and nail which gets done anyway do you have a chance (a small chance) that it is actually worth doing and will be helpful to anyone.

2) That is assuming current growth rates, which are not likely to continue unchanged. Even so China will be the 2nd largest economy shortly after it becomes the largest economy, India will overtake it about 10 years later (20 at teh outside), clearly communism has failed.

3) Western democracy failed long ago, too much of the electorate is uneducated and frankly led around by the nose (or perhaps by the pocketbook). Strangely the death of democracy was universal suffrage. The electorate being the main problem, the secondary problem (and some may argue that it is the main problem) is that in every democracy the primary job of an elected official seems to be to win reelection rather than to govern the country they were elected to help run. Policies instituted to help officials win reelection are not likely to benefit society as a whole.
 
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Capitalism is the absence of a system? In fact it's the oldest and most natural system there is.

An intuitive association between democracy and capitalism is being made in this thread, which is a correct intuition. Good to keep that in mind.

If you hope for a worker's revolution, just be sure you aren't the one consigned to man the shovel (or the hammer or the sickle). You will need to be the leader of course, like a good capitalist.


As for choosing between Pepsi and Coke, you are so right! But, 'twas ever thus. Worse in the past, I would say. Yet it still works. That is the beauty of it.
 
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We did not prevent the banks from becoming "too big to fail." I don't know that capitalism _requires_ us to let that happen.
 
Paul Clapham
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Frank Silbermann wrote:We did not prevent the banks from becoming "too big to fail." I don't know that capitalism _requires_ us to let that happen.



That's true. And likewise if the river starts to flood, there's nothing that requires people to get out the sandbags and keep the water out of their neighbours' houses. It's just a thing we do so we can have a civilized society.
 
chris webster
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Just stumbled across this: Why Am I Moving Left?

Seems reasonable enough to me.
 
chris webster
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Guillermo Ishi wrote:Capitalism is the absence of a system? In fact it's the oldest and most natural system there is.

An intuitive association between democracy and capitalism is being made in this thread, which is a correct intuition.
....
Worse in the past, I would say. Yet it still works. That is the beauty of it.


Really?

You might want to check out self-confessed plutocrat Nick Hanauer's warning that rising inequality is a natural consequence of capitalism that will destroy capitalist democracies (along with the plutocrats) if the current blind faith in trickle-down economics continues.

I need to check in my shed for a pitch-fork...
 
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