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Old December 10 2012, 11:37 PM   #14
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Re: Scientist declares “Earth is F**ked" --Discuss?!

newtype_alpha wrote: View Post
That's like equating "gun" with ".50 caliber automatic machinegun." If it's pointed at a child's head when it goes off, that's a distinction without a difference.
This is a non-sequitur.

My point, in case I wasn't clear, is that your post confused one particular type of capitalism with capitalism in general. And that this is exactly the sort of reductionism that pervades the discourse of market fundamentalists, who argue that markets can never fail--only be failed. The difference being, that they regard capitalism as something essentially good, while you seem to regard it as essentially evil.

What's more, you pretty much admit that I was correct to point this out. For as you yourself go on to say:

I was mainly alluding to the disaster-capitalism experiments that devastated Argentina in the 1980s and other similar misadventures in South and Central America. There's a fairly large collection of broken countries and broken governments in our recent history who saw their economies implode basically because somebody (or a large group of somebodies) pulled a leveraged buyout of all their key industries and then stuck the taxpayers with the bill.
That is to say: you were talking about a small number of cases, in the past couple of decades, and making sweeping generalizations based on this very limited data set. Thank you.

Many capitalists are quite insistent that it IS.
So what?

Many conservatives insist that President Obama is a communist Muslim who secretly wants to destroy America. Are they correct?

And I am not sufficiently impressed by the achievements of capitalism to pretend that it is an appropriate solution to all possible social/political needs.
This is a straw man.

I never said that capitalism is an appropriate solution to all possible social/political needs. What I said was that I do not believe that a "less materialistic, more socially-oriented set of economic policies" must necessarily be un- or anti-capitalist.

I don't believe that because, as I said above, I don't accept the market fundamentalists' reductionist definition of "capitalism". Or yours, for that matter.

Put that another way: capitalists are great at producing new commodities or superior versions of old ones. They are great at driving industry, at employing people, at creating wealth and prosperity. They are great at innovating and evolving new capabilities in existing technologies. There are, however, a number of things that capitalists do exceedingly poorly. Social investment -- that is, maintaining the stability of important institutions that promote broad social stability -- is one of those things. Justice and law enforcement is another, along with education, emergency response, political discourse and military defense. None of those things are capitalistic in nature, and a civilized society cannot function properly without them.
I don't disagree. But I think you're confusing capitalism with business, and making an artificial distinction between the market and the state--once again, much as market fundamentalists do.

Markets are not separate or distinct from states: they exist within, and are shaped by, and are dependent upon, certain legal and political (and social and cultural) frameworks. It's all connected, and the character of any capitalist economy is determined by these various circumstances.

For example:

Problems arise when capitalists insist on being placed in charge of these inherently non-capitalistic institutions and running them as if they were commodities.
Actually, problems arise under many more circumstances than this. See, for example, Great Britain in the 1970s--a country which no one would ever accuse of being run by capitalists who insisted on managing state institutions as businesses.

If you want to understand the rise of the New Right and market fundamentalism, then you need to understand the contexts in which these movements arose and flourished, and the weaknesses and failures of the ideologies, institutions, and systems they sought to replace.

True, but only capitalist economic systems fail systematically.
No. That's obviously not true.

Socialist systems mainly fail when/because they are designed to benefit influential party members at the seat of power to the expense of everyone else.
You mean, like when somebody (or a large group of somebodies) pulls a leveraged buyout of country's key industries and then sticks the taxpayers with the bill?

What you're describing is not a problem with socialism, or capitalism, or any other economic and political system: it's much more basic than that. It's the problem of power.

With great power comes great irresponsibility. People will only behave in a responsible fashion if someone or something actually has the power to make them answer for their actions. The more power we have, the fewer the people to whom we have to answer, until, like God, we are all-powerful, and answerable to no one. And at this point, we indulge our every whim, no matter how bizarre, and find any resistance or inconvenience intolerable

The classical answer to this problem has been to try to create a division and balance of powers--to balance, for example, the power of the monarch, the aristocracy, and the populace. If one becomes too powerful, the others will restore the balance by combining against it. This is the foundation on which the US Constitution was built.

The problem with both capitalism and socialism is that, left unchecked, they both have a tendency to produce concentrations and imbalances of power: under socialism, an imbalance of political power that distorts the economic process; and under capitalism, a concentration of economic power that distorts the political process. They both 'systematically fail' if they're pursued too far.

True as that is, just because a system is unjust doesn't make it a failure. Saddam Hussein, for example, was arguably the most effective leader Iraq ever had, despite the fact that he was basically a gangster with an army of psychopaths at his beck and call.
I don't see how you can say that.

Let's leave aside the lack of freedom, the torture, the executions, and the use of chemical weapons against rebellious Kurds. Let's assume that a regime can be considered effective, even when it rules by force and terror, and systematically violates the rights of its own people.

This "most effective leader" practically destroyed his country, by leading it into a decade-long confrontation with the United States that ended only with Operation Iraqi Freedom. His dream of making Iraq the dominant regional power led to the Iran-Iraq War, the Gulf War, and years of debilitating economic sanctions. And in the process, he made himself a convenient target for a United States that wanted to live out an action-movie revenge fantasy after 9/11. He might as well have painted a bullseye on Baghdad.

Whatever his economic policies may have been--and I confess I don't know much about that--whatever economic successes his regime may have enjoyed, they were more than counterbalanced by its political failures. And those failures were the all-too-predictable outcome of the nature of his regime.

What causes a lot of problems is that many people -- especially capitalists -- like to believe that capitalism is a social/political system as well as an economic one. When it is used in this way, it inevitably disrupts and collapses the social and political apparatuses it sought to improve. To put that another way: many people in many countries have found out the hard way that while there are many capitalist MARKETS, there is no such thing as a capitalist SOCIETY.
That also is obviously not true, for the reasons I've already explained.
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