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LQD: Capitalism is Not Worth Saving

by DeAnander Fri May 15th, 2009 at 04:51:41 AM EST

John Sanbonmatsu, in Tikkun, lays it on the line:

As of spring 2009, the leading capitalist states in Europe, North America, and Asia have thus either spent outright, or exposed themselves to financial risks totaling, well over $10 trillion-a figure so vast that one searches in vain for any relevant historical parallel. By comparison, the entire Marshall Plan to rebuild Europe after World War II cost a mere $9.3 billion (in constant 2005 dollars). According to the United Nations, it would cost $195 billion to eradicate most poverty-related deaths in the Third World, including deaths from malaria, from malnutrition, and from AIDS. So the amount of money committed by policymakers to save capitalism from itself is already fifty times greater than what it would take to save tens of millions of human beings from terrible daily suffering and premature death. If the wealthy nations instead invested that $10 trillion into the economies, health systems, and infrastructure of the Third World, rather than transferring it to the world's richest banks, private financial institutions, and investors, they could usher in a new epoch in the history of the species-a world community in which every human being would be guaranteed a livable life.

That the financial bailout is a colossal misdirection and waste of public resources, however, is not the most scandalous thing about it. What is truly unconscionable is that all this money is being spent to prop up capitalism itself-a mode of economic and social life that has corrupted and hollowed out our democracies, reduced great swaths of the planet's ecosystem to polluted rubble, condemned hundreds of millions of human beings to wretchedness and exploitation, and enslaved billions of other animals in farms that resemble concentration camps.

From the diaries - afew


Capitalism is rightly credited with having unleashed enormous forces of productivity and technology. But it has also reduced much of the world to ruin and squalor. After four centuries of triumph as the dominant mode of global development, capitalism has furnished for itself a world in which one out of two human beings lives on $2 per day or less, and more than one in three still lacks access to a toilet. Most children in the world never complete their education, and most will live out their lives without dependable medical care. As the world economic crisis deepens, already deplorable conditions in the Third World will only deteriorate further.

Meanwhile, our planet is dying. Or rather, its flesh and blood creatures are. At the height of the financial crisis last year, a Swiss conversation group released a study showing that as many as one-third of known mammals on earth face imminent extinction, perhaps in a matter of decades, as a result of habitat destruction and mass killing by human beings. Yet not one of the hundreds of bloggers, news analysts, or politicians at the time thought to connect the dots between this and similar warnings of mass species extinctions and the dominant mode of development, capitalism.  Yet it is just this metastatic, expansionist system that has imperiled human civilization and the natural world alike.
[...]
In 1997, a group of European academics published a book called The Black Book of Communism, in which they documented the brutality and mass killings committed by totalitarian Communist regimes in the course of the twentieth century. Perhaps a group of academics will one day publish a Black Book of Capitalism. They should. For when a mode of life that subordinates all human and spiritual values to the pursuit of private wealth persists for centuries, there is a lengthy accounting to be made. Among the innumerable sins that have followed in capitalism's long train, we might mention, for example, the hidden indignities and daily humiliations of the working class and the poor; the strangulation of daily life by corporate bureaucracies such as the HMOs, the telecom companies, and the computer giants; the corruption of art and culture by money; the destruction of eroticism by pornography; the corruption of higher education by corporatization; the ceaseless pitching of harmful products to our children and infants; the obliteration of the natural landscape by strip malls, highways, and toxic dumps; the abuse of elderly men and women by low-paid workers in squalid for-profit institutions; the fact that millions of poor children are sold into sexual slavery, and millions of others are orphaned by AIDS; the fact that tens of millions of women turn to prostitution to pay their bills; and the suffering of the 50 million to 100 million vertebrates that die in scientific laboratories each year. We might also highlight the dozens of wars and civil conflicts that are directly or indirectly rooted in the gross material disparities of the capitalist system-the bloody conflicts that simmer along from month to month, year to year, as though as natural and immutable as the waxing and waning of the moon-in places like Darfur, Rwanda, Congo, Afghanistan, Vietnam, and Iraq, where millions of wretchedly poor people die either at the hands of other wretchedly poor people, or from the bombs dropped from the automated battle platforms of the last surviving superpower. Capitalism is responsible for all this, and more besides. Yet perhaps its most destructive feature-the one that in many ways stands as the greatest single impediment to our own efforts to find a practical and creative solution to the present crisis-is capitalism's fundamental antagonism toward democracy.

An interesting read.

Tikkun is not a communist or socialist rag, but a left/liberal Jewish-American culture/politics mag.  Its readers are definitely to the left of, say, the DNC;  but then again, they are not a tiny group of muttering sectarians so far out of the mainstream that they've forgotten how to swim, either.  So the Question of Capitalism seems to be floating just a wee bit closer to the surface of public discourse, even in the US where capitalism is the state religion and heretics are shunned and ridiculed.

So, it's an interesting question.  Knowing what we know about the mismatch between the concept of compound interest and the fixed-return-rate imposed by the natural world with its real, physical limits, do we believe capitalism can be saved?  Is capitalism possible without the usury (i.e. compounding interest) that requires a rate of "growth" that in turn demands stripmining of all biotic resources far faster than they can be replenished?

Words of the form XXXX-ism usually mean that XXXX is -- for adherents -- considered the most important cultural idea, the core concept;  so Communism allegedly means a belief system in which the commons, the communal, a shared social wealth is the central meme.  Capitalism, by its very name, suggests a belief system in which capital -- hoarded currency, liquid assets, private property -- is the central, indispensible meme. (Both philosophies in C20 morphed into industrial fetishism, scientism, and so on, but that's another story.)

What would an alternative philosophy of wealth or social priorities be called?  I'm tempted to suggest "biotism" -- a philosophy based on observation, analysis, and understanding of biotic processes/systems and their strengths, weaknesses, and limits.  Biotism would hold that the most important wealth of a society is not "capital" (i.e. money, tokens, cowrie shells, dead stuff with symbolic meaning) but biotic systems such as living soil, living rivers, living forests, living fisheries, and so on.  It seems pretty clear that a degree of commonism if not Communism would be implied, because (a) so much of what makes the biotic world tick is symbiosis and (b) the biotic world has no hermetic borders.

Anyway, this is drive-by post as I am trying to get my act together for a (sail) racing weekend and should be packing rather than typing.  But a friend threw the Sanbonmatsu URL at me and I found it too provocative to ignore.  What do you say:  Is Capitalism Worth Saving?  is it possible to "save" capitalism without kissing goodbye to all our pretences of democracy and egalitarian principles, and perhaps even to a planet viable for human inhabitation?  Are we faced with a choice between saving (a) capitalism or (b) ourselves?

Inquiring minds would really like to know :-)

An interesting companion -- or counter-point -- article is found recently at Orion:  Curtis White's The Barbaric Heart:  Capitalism and the Crisis of Nature. Curtis suggests that capitalism itself is not The Problem:  it's just a new face of our ancient, recurring problem... barbarism.

After all, isn’t it true that what corporations and the individuals who run them try to do is something very human and very familiar? Even admirable? They try to be creative (or innovative, as they like to say). They try to grow. They revel in discovery. They delight in complexity. They have always been major benefactors to education and the arts. (For instance, the merchant capitalists of the Italian Renaissance were also the facilitators of humanism. Where the bankers went, the artists were not far behind.) They try to exercise critical analytic skills in evaluating the world in which they act. They try to help their friends. They try to make the people who are most important to them prosper. They have an astonishing capacity for creative adaptation, even if it is only in the name of preserving their own dominance. In short, they try to win. They try to thrive. We should all be so committed to the risk of “living large.” The problem is not with these qualities as admirable human qualities. The problem is with what exactly it is that they’re trying to help thrive.

My claim is that what is behind these activities is not the stereotypical capitalist mentality of cold logic, a lack of normal feelings, and an unbridled appetite for gain. Rather, I see the Barbaric Heart. First, it is important to say that in associating capitalism with the barbaric I am not merely name-calling. This is so because, as I’ve already suggested, there is something admirable about the astonishingly complex world that capitalism has made. [...] Imagine a satellite image illuminating all the activity at shopping malls in the United States on a typical American Saturday afternoon. From a vantage in space, it would look like North America was flowing and glowing with strange life. If you could for a moment exclude the other consequences of this activity (environmental, social, military), you might be tempted to call this vision beautiful. (As in the ambiguous shots of Los Angeles freeways in the movie Koyaanisqatsi. The slow, winding flow of headlights comes to look like a natural phenomenon, like watching the northern lights.)

To say that there is something barbaric at work in these accomplishments is to say that there is also something admirable about the Barbaric Heart itself. The Barbaric Heart is not the opposite of the civilized. In fact, the Barbaric Heart is civilized, for all the good that does it, and has always happily clad itself in the decorous togas of Rome (as the Ostrogoth King Theodoric did), the pinstripes of Wall Street, and the comfy suburbanity of L. L. Bean. The Barbaric Heart has always wanted to look nice even when it didn’t (consider the leisure suit). The barbaric is admirable for its sheer strength, its daring, its energy, and its willingness to take risks. It is taller than we are. It is prouder in the way that a beautiful animal is proud. It is, as Friedrich Nietzsche put it, a “blonde beast.” (He mostly thought that was a good thing, or at least better than being a slave.)

Unhappily, beyond its strength and pride and willingness to take on difficult tasks, there is something dangerous to itself and others in the Barbaric Heart. The Barbaric Heart is a great and energetic actor, but it is no better at questioning itself about the meaning of its actions than capitalism is at asking why the unlimited growth of the Gross Domestic Product is good. Capitalism does not ask, “What’s the economy for?” Capitalism merely asks it to grow. (It’s as if the only alternative to “growth” was “recession,” and no one is allowed to be for that.) Nonetheless, questions are in order. The Greek that opens the Gospel according to John reads, “In the beginning was Logos.” What is the logos (the spirit, the logic) of the Barbaric Heart? In short, in what name does it act?

THE NATURAL MODE of reasoning for the Barbaric Heart is simple enough to describe. It was the logic not only of the ancient northern hordes, clothed in animal skins, but of the Roman Empire and the Western civilization that followed as well. (That must be our first deconstructive insight: the barbarian is not an “other” to be driven away in the name of civilized virtue.) For the Romans, virtue simply meant success, usually military success. Valor. That was the heart of Romanitas. For the Roman forces under Scipio Aemilianus at the end of the Third Punic War against Carthage, the routine was well understood: half of the time would be devoted to violence, to killing every human and dog and cat that crossed their path, and half the time would be given to plunder, to the transfer of every valuable material thing back to Rome, especially gold and silver things. Roman violence was above all orderly. As a consequence, as Polybius wrote, Rome “billowed in booty.”

This is the barbaric calculation: if you can prosper from violence, then you should go ahead and be violent. In short order the Barbaric Heart is led to conclude that in fact prosperity is dependent on violence. Therefore, you should be good at violence, for your own sake and the sake of your country. That was Roman virtu. Which is a way of saying that the barbaric itself is a form of virtue, especially if you think that winning, surviving, triumphing, and accumulating great wealth are virtues, just as, in order, athletes, Darwinians, military commanders, and capitalists do. Ultimately, these types are all the same. The athlete, the soldier, and the businessman all want to “win,” and by whatever means necessary.

White suggests that we need to contend with far more than just capital-ism.  We need to contend with the barbarism in our own and each others' hearts:  we need to defend and demand thoughtfulness and a love and respect for the beautiful:


The idea that we are trying to create a culture whose primary satisfaction is its beauty is not really such an extravagant thought. When we say that we desire a world in which nature is intact and animal life thrives; when we say that we desire human communities in harmony with nature; and when we say that within those communities human beings should be able to live in dignity, so that they can be something more than worker-consumers, we are arguing for a reality that is first aesthetic. Environmentalists argue for such a reality all the time. It is what they propose in the place of a barbaric culture of profit and violence. Even so, we are often seduced by the economic and scientific appeals to efficiency, sustainability, and prosperity, in spite of the fact that we suspect that these appeals are actually part of the problem. But in our heart of hearts we are not fooled. What we want is the beautiful. We say it with a smile on our faces when we go for a hike, or when we visit an “eco-friendly” town full of bike paths and locally owned shops with a mountain vista in the background. We do not say of such places, “I’m grooving on this system’s ecological balance.” Or, “The Green Economy is working well.” We say, “It’s beautiful here!” And yet when we set out to make our most public arguments for nature, we seem almost embarrassed to say that what convinces us is the argument of the beautiful. The thoughtfulness of the beautiful. In fact, I’m embarrassed right now!

What is it that makes such an argument so difficult to make? If what we want is the beautiful, why do we feel that our most persuasive arguments will be made by scientists, environmental engineers, regional planners, and sustainability economists? In part, it is the fact that we have been intimidated by all those who would say that such thinking is “unrealistic,” by which they really mean “does not concede the brutal fact of the enduring triumph of the Barbaric Heart.” By this measure, to be realistic is to say, “We plan to win by conceding the game to our adversaries before the contest has even begun.”

So... where does that leave us?


Historians often wonder what it was like for the Romans to live under the rule of the Goths in the sixth century. Barbarians in the Senate, barbarians in the market, barbarians in the temple, barbarians in the countryside. The constant presence of the violently alien. Well, perhaps it was like living with Best Buy and Costco and Barnes and Noble, in our Big Box world. In both the ancient world and the present, it is like living, in Nietzsche’s mordant phrase, “estranged from house and home in the service of malignant dwarfs.” But somehow when we look on the ugliness that this reality brings, we see a “high standard of living.” Those enchanted by the malignant dwarfs (CEOs? MBAs?) do not think to ask, “What makes life worth living?” The answer is obvious: “The high standards, of course!” A very strange conclusion for a people who are the living witnesses of so much permanent destruction.

Which brings us back to the first question:  can capitalism be saved?  and should it be?  is "saving capitalism" not merely prolonging and perpetuating barbarism?

Display:
It bugs me that they allow the American version of capitalism feudalism to lay claim to being the only model of capitalism.

The distinguishing feature of capitalism is not the stock market, or the banking sector. It is private ownership of the means of production. And frankly, in a great many cases, private ownership of means of production make a lot of sense.

Would promoting unionisation, killing off the more noxious corporate structures, trust-busting, enforcing environmental protections and taxing permissible externalities be the demise of capitalism? Not as a feature of the political economy.

Of course, it would be the demise of capitalism as a state religion, and even perhaps as the dominant feature of the political economy. But there is a place for privately owned productive assets in a properly managed economy.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Fri May 15th, 2009 at 05:17:00 AM EST
Such whining!

It bugs me that they allow the American version of capitalism feudalism to lay claim to being the only model of capitalism.

Exactly my thought. And it is very easy to groan and moan about how horrible everything is when you are a comfortable living
left/liberal Jewish-American culture/politics
, probably the only thing worse than
a communist or socialist
. Frankfurt school PC cultural marxism, go away! You're not helping!

But there is a place for privately owned productive assets in a properly managed economy.

You don't say... </snark>

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.
by Starvid on Fri May 15th, 2009 at 01:41:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
From Wikipedia:
Frankfurt School is a romantic, elitist critique of mass culture with a contrived neo-Marxist guise.

I mean, wtf is wrong with the American left? They can't be bothered with "boring" stuff like labor unions, wage equality, tax-financed health care, infrastructure but instead obsess over their idiot "romantic, elitist critique of mass culture", something the working classes kind of enjoy, indeed, which is the very thing the capitalist society has made it possible to create.

But oh no, do keep enjoying Fight Club and V for Vendetta while feeling "alternative", even while these movies are actually expressions of the (very nice) mass culture they pretend to criticise.

Grrrrr.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.

by Starvid on Fri May 15th, 2009 at 01:55:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I mean just listen to all these stupid pompous soundbites, never used by anyone but the roaders at US liberal arts colleges (and their bastard children colleges in Sweden).

"capitalism itself-a mode of economic and social life [...] condemned hundreds of millions of human beings to wretchedness and exploitation, and enslaved billions of other animals in farms that resemble concentration camps."

"capitalism has furnished for itself a world in which one out of two human beings lives on $2 per day or less, and more than one in three still lacks access to a toilet. Most children in the world never complete their education, and most will live out their lives without dependable medical care."

"the hidden indignities and daily humiliations of the working class and the poor"

"the strangulation of daily life by corporate bureaucracies such as the HMOs the telecom companies, and the computer giants"

"the corruption of art and culture by money"

"the destruction of eroticism by pornography"

"the corruption of higher education by corporatization"

"the ceaseless pitching of harmful products to our children and infants"

"the obliteration of the natural landscape by strip malls, highways, and toxic dumps"

"the abuse of elderly men and women by low-paid workers in squalid for-profit institutions"

"the fact that millions of poor children are sold into sexual slavery"

"and millions of others are orphaned by AIDS"

"the fact that tens of millions of women turn to prostitution to pay their bills"

"and the suffering of the 50 million to 100 million vertebrates that die in scientific laboratories each year."

"We might also highlight the dozens of wars and civil conflicts that are directly or indirectly rooted in the gross material disparities of the capitalist system"

"Darfur, Rwanda, Congo, Afghanistan, Vietnam, and Iraq, where millions of wretchedly poor people die"

"the automated battle platforms"

"Capitalism is responsible for all this, and more besides."

Yes, indeed. Why not blame it for lack of sliced bread, the fact that there isn't always a full moon or that the winter is so nasty here in Sweden?

Seriously, this article deserves a massive deconstruction, only that would take several hours adnd several pages.

Ah, one more...

"capitalism's fundamental antagonism toward democracy."
Because there are just so many democratic non-capitalist societies out there, and it's not like democracy has developed in intimate parallell with capitalism in every single place it has sprouted.

Argh, argh, argh.

Not only do these people distract themselves with pompous bullshit, they also scare away every sane ordinary voter from any and all progressive politics.

Well done! </snark>

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.

by Starvid on Fri May 15th, 2009 at 02:19:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
We have bastard children colleges in Sweden?  What's that about?

"Talking nonsense is the sole privilege mankind possesses over the other organisms." -Dostoevsky
by poemless on Fri May 15th, 2009 at 02:30:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Uh... I think I might have screwed that up a bit...

Not colleges for bastard children, but colleges who are themselves the bastard children of American colleges, or rather the intellectual trash they keep sending across the Atlantic.

Well, the Germans sent it to them first, so I guess they just want to spread the pain right back at us.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.

by Starvid on Fri May 15th, 2009 at 02:35:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It is where children who from an early age show talent for being a bastard are taught the basic skills of using automated battle platforms before being sent to protect the interest of international capitalism the swedish citizens in places like Afghanistan.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se
by A swedish kind of death on Fri May 15th, 2009 at 06:29:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
No wikipedia does not say that the "Frankfurt School is a romantic, elitist critique of mass culture with a contrived neo-Marxist guise" except when describing its critics, basically Georg Lukács, who was certainly not criticizing the FS from any sort of unbiased viewpoint, quite possibly because most of its members were not at all friendly to the USSR. IMHO one can complain about a lot of things regarding the FS (they were not the, um, unverbose of writers, certainly), but "romantic" seems a bit stretched, and "idiot" requires substantiation.

And mass culture was around, in some scale, since well before the Colosseum I think.

The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom - William Blake

by talos (mihalis at gmail dot com) on Sun May 17th, 2009 at 10:54:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Capitalims was performing aggressively well when something was expanding, especially financial markets or energy consumption. But leveraging expansions is in the nature of capitalism. What can capitalism do when the flow of stock market newcomers, real estate flippers has to stop?

At the bottom, the crisis boils down to the archaic debt problem. Biblical and other sources warn of dangers of debt burden. Perhaps we underestimate the scale of Babilon era experiences with runaway debt. Promised economic freedom becomes debt slavery.

Michael Hudson is tracking the modern debt epic attentively:

The IMF Collects Debts on Behalf of the World's Largest Banks

Last month the G-20 authorized the International Monetary Fund to increase its loan resources to $1 trillion. It's not hard to see why. Weakening currencies in the post-Soviet states threaten to raise default rates on foreign-currency mortgages as collapse of the Baltic real estate bubble drags down Swedish banks, while the Hungarian property plunge threatens Austrian banks. It seems reasonable to infer that creditor-nation banks hope to be bailed out. The IMF is expected to lend the Baltic, central European and other debtor-country governments money to pay them. These hapless debtor economies are then to follow IMF "conditionalities" to squeeze enough money out of their populations to pay foreign creditors - and repay the Fund by imposing yet more onerous taxes on their labor and industry, making them even more high-cost and therefore pushing them even further into trade and credit dependency....  For fifty years the IMF has organized such payouts to creditor nations. Loans are made to debtor-country governments to "promote exchange-rate and price stability." In practice this means pouring tens of billions of dollars into currency markets to make bad gambles against raiders....

(But not all debtors are equal. What should countries like China do with their Central Bank reserves, or why should work for American consumers for no joy?)

by das monde on Fri May 15th, 2009 at 05:21:51 AM EST
das monde:
Biblical and other sources warn of dangers of debt burden.

Compounding debt is not a problem per se. The toxic problem has arisen when debt is combined with exclusive private ownership in the commons of land, and this now extends to Jake's point to private ownership of the means of production, which is increasingly in the form of Knowledge.

My take is that our principal problem has been in the nature of the enterprise models or legal and financial structures we use, and the fact that they do not "scale" well.

I think that big and pervasive unions may be as toxic in their effects on the economy and society as big and pervasive corporates, or a big and pervasive State. The problem lies in the very nature of organisations as institutions.

There are new structures becoming increasingly common in use, and which are complementary to existing structures. In my view these are capable of spreading virally and organically in a networked and non-hierarchical way through the use of partnership-based frameworks.

The change I see happening is evolutionary, not revolutionary.

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Fri May 15th, 2009 at 06:33:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The problem with not having a big and pervasive state is that it makes violence between smaller players almost certain.

Unfortunately what we have now is a situation where the big and pervasive corporates use the big and pervasive state to implement violence on demand. Big and pervasive unions offer some checks and balances to that.

But unless organisations are limited by state sanction to a certain small size, any system will create organisations which attempt to dominate and grow beyond their niches.

The history of the political machines in the US makes interesting reading. They were usually run by individuals who managed their contacts and allegiances in person - but who managed to become de facto rulers of entire cities, able to define policy and legislation and promote or frustrate interest groups in line with their personal interests.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Fri May 15th, 2009 at 09:06:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Some recommended related sci-fi reading:
Nancy Kress's A Alien Light (on violence and progress)
Ben Bova's Orion (on neanderthals vs cromagnon)

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Fri May 15th, 2009 at 05:30:42 AM EST
Kim Stanley Robinson's Red Mars, Green Mars, Blue Mars trilogy should also be required reading.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Fri May 15th, 2009 at 06:30:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
But they're horrible. Red Mars went back to the library unread, and that never happens.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri May 15th, 2009 at 06:34:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Horrible, how? I quite liked Red Mars. But it's true that it doesn't grab you right from page one...

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Fri May 15th, 2009 at 06:49:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I have to agree with Colman. I found the science fascinating. The story however, was shallow and unimaginative. And it gets worse in the later books.

What do you people think of Ian M. Banks?

by Trond Ove on Fri May 15th, 2009 at 08:05:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Good writer, but often creepy. He looks like he's a freewheeling quasi-anarchist, but his books trade on brutality, militarism and violence for a lot of their effect.

I hadn't read any of his non-SF until a few months ago, and was shocked to find that the two novels I tried were both fairly traditional corporate wet dream fiction.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Fri May 15th, 2009 at 08:54:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
He looks like he's a freewheeling quasi-anarchist, but his books trade on brutality, militarism and violence for a lot of their effect.

sounds a lot like capitalism :-)

I'm on the run.  sorry to post and flee, but I'll be
back Monday sometime.  agree with Chris that scale is a serious problem, particularly in conjunction with Taylorism and machine-consciousness.  more later, I hope...

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...

by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Fri May 15th, 2009 at 11:08:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yeah, I never really got his non-fiction either. One was an icky love story, the other, as you say, a "corporate wet dream".

I guess he is a bit Fukuyamaish in his description of the utopian society having to deal with the rest of the universe, but I always thought of it as a way of anchoring his (very well written) stories, and to bring out the nuances of his universe.

And I guess it depends on which book you start with. I read "Use of Weapons" first, which is a very depressing, violent book. Didn't read anything else by him for years after. Now he is one of my favourite modern sci fi writers. Definitely the best british one I've read.

by Trond Ove on Fri May 15th, 2009 at 12:10:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Good sci fi (there is some, so thanks for references).

Patrice Ayme Patriceayme.com Patriceayme.wordpress.com http://tyranosopher.blogspot.com/
by Patrice Ayme on Fri May 15th, 2009 at 02:50:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I agree that JakeS that just because the prevailing form of capitalism today may be a path to doom, not all forms of capitalism necessarily are.  I am not convinced that all forms of capitalism entail the "stripmining of all biotic resources far faster than they can be replenished".  We should be careful about throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

I often think back to a post Jérôme wrote about hot showers a several years ago, but switching something else in for "hot showers", usually some form of medical treatment (e.g. ACL surgery, crowning a damaged tooth, corrective glasses, etc.) for hot showers.  I am quoting him out of context here, and his point is not quite the same as the one I am trying to make, but I sympathize very much with his feeling when he wrote:

... Hot water, for some reason, is the embodiment of civilisation in my mind, and I enjoy this luxury every single day, thinking that any tear in the fabric of our Western world could bring this down and tragically make hot water disappear from normal daily life. <...>

... remember that we live in a system which we all contribute to create and should defend.

My discomfort with wholesale attacks on "capitalism" is two-fold:

One, as noted above, they presume that there is only one form of capitalism, and that it cannot be made environmentally sustainable and socially just.

Two, they do not articulate an alternative for human economic life that could develop and maintain a comparable level of knowledge, culture and technology as has emerged over four centuries of capitalism.

Regarding the second point, perhaps critics of capitalism would not mind re-winding the clock to 1600 in terms of scientific, artistic, and material achievements.  And I admit, modern medicine is a luxury I might be willing to live without if it meant salvaging the earth's environment, protecting other species, and fostering a more egalitarian and just society overall.  But if that is a consequence to abandoning capitalism, then I would like us to be wide-eyed about such trade-off's.

Truth unfolds in time through a communal process.

by marco on Fri May 15th, 2009 at 01:21:53 PM EST
People don't forget, and every civilization has built on the best it found in the ashes of the old.  Should ours collapse and should the survivors revert to an economy that can use no more energy than the sun, wind, waves, and hands provide, that does not mean our science, art, philosophy, etc. would disappear.  The sheer volume of written material out there, scattered across the globe in both printed and digital forms, is so massive, that it would be impossible to lose everything.

Just because said future society would not have the means to build or run a facility capable of mass-producing microprocessors does not mean that nobody would ever again have a microprocessor.  It's rather remarkable what people can hand craft, given the time and the knowledge.  Should the demand for cost/time efficiency be dropped, there is not much in the modern world that could not be remade by small groups of craftspeople.

by Zwackus on Fri May 15th, 2009 at 09:35:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
There is no way to handcraft a microprocessor even remotely close to anything that's around today, even with all the time in the world.

Trust me on this - there really isn't.

Aside from the core technologies of logic generation and path routing, which are so complicated they cannot be done by hand, the energy requirements needed to build a processor are staggering - from ovens which can melt sand, to far-UV light sources for lithography, to some of the hardest vacuum you'll find outside of space.

As for legacy - written material turns out to be useless if no one understands it. Most engineering and science is really taught in person, supported by text.

It would take a rare genius to work through a text book unaided and make any sense of it at all.

Collapse to a post-agrarian society with plenty of farming supporting 10% of the current population is plausible. But it would lose at least 99% of today's knowledge, and would likely revert to a much more superstitious, more violent and even less rational culture.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Fri May 15th, 2009 at 09:57:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I wasn't implying that you could make one with wooden tools in a blacksmiths shop.

But it seems that there's a huge difference in the plant and energy necessary to run an assembly line of whatevers with production runs in the hundreds of thousands, and the plant necessary to make them one or two at a time.  The latter may well be unsustainable, but would the former be as well?

Technical issues aside, I mainly want to challenge the idea that any collapse will follow the popular image of collapse following Rome - that the end of the capitalist world system would result in a "dark ages" of ignorance and superstition from which recovery would be impossible.  For a whole variety of reasons, I just don't think things would run the same way.  Really, though, this is a topic for another time in another diary.

by Zwackus on Fri May 15th, 2009 at 11:02:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
There's a huge difference in the resources required to run it... but in the case of microprocessors in particular, I'm not certain that the resources to run it are more important than the resources to build it in the first place.

Industrial society is both highly resilient and highly vulnerable. If you take out a sufficiently small part of the system, it will be able to repair or replace it with relative ease. But if you take out too large a part of the system, the rest will collapse catastrophically. It is hard to see any viable path from here to a "half-industrial" society. And it is even harder to see why such a society would be desirable.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sat May 16th, 2009 at 01:12:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I can't argue on the technical feasibility of such a system, so I won't.  It is an interesting question to think of absolute minimum-possible plant requirements to make certain things, but not one that I can engage in on anything more than a purely speculative nature.

However, as for the desirability of such a thing, well, that seems a bit easier to answer.  The possibility of a "half-industrial" society provides an alternative to the either/or dichotomy we seem faced with - mass industrialism or life in 1700.  There are things that are good and useful and valuable in our modern technological repertoire, but our current means of producing them is horribly wasteful and environmentally damaging.  As most of our technology has been developed in the age of mass-production, our ways of thinking about these things has been similarly linked to the idea of mass-production.  However, is this a necessary link?  I don't think the technological means or possibilities of small-scale production have really been explored, because in our current system, they don't make sense.  However, that does not mean that they are impossible.

This is turning into a diary.  Maybe I'll write one.

by Zwackus on Sat May 16th, 2009 at 02:14:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Depends on your definition of "mass production." If you mean mass production in the sense of assembly-line production of more or less uniform copies of a single blueprint, there is nothing that prevents mass production from being compatible with sustainable consumption patterns. Very few things are produced in only a handful of factories - meaning that we could scale back production of most goods by a factor of at least ten, and still not hit the physical limits where this definition of industrial mass production becomes non-viable. This would still be a fully industrial society, but it would have a much smaller ecological footprint.

OTOH, if you mean "mass production" in the sense of "producing a lot of cheap stuff that breaks fast and cannot be repaired," rather than - say - making stuff that's a little more expensive up-front but doesn't break if you give it a nasty look, and which can be repaired when it does break. Then yes, I agree that that kind of "mass production" has to go away.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sat May 16th, 2009 at 03:03:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
"I mainly want to challenge the idea that the end of the capitalist world system would result in a "dark ages" of ignorance and superstition from which recovery would be impossible."

Seems to me that the point is not whether it is POSSIBLE to "recover" from such a collapse, but whether there is a large chunk of humanity to which it doesn't really matter. Most people, the huge majority, are interested primarily in football and beer and conversation. Add in a nice ritualistic religion that provides rote answers to all existential questions, and most people are happy.

Suffering? Hello, everybody experiences dukkha. Modern medicine? People still die. War? Sure. Thanks to us not being in the Dark Ages, now we have supercomputers. Big deal!

In what way has the Enlightenment actually made things better for most people? The most secure and self-satisfied people I know are hard line Catholics and Presbyterians and Evangelicals who know all the answers and watch TV all weekend.

by asdf on Sat May 16th, 2009 at 03:37:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
In what way has the Enlightenment actually made things better for most people?

We have hot showers, running water, electricity and usually don't die from lung infections. Does that count?

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sat May 16th, 2009 at 06:04:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yeah, but excepting hot showers, running water, electricity and modern medicine, what did the Romans ever do for us?

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.
by Starvid on Sat May 16th, 2009 at 06:43:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Personally, I can totally relate to the "they don't die from XXX" argument, because in the absence of modern medicine, I would have checked out a long time ago.

HOWEVER, everybody still dies. Instead of dying at 35 from a lung infection, we die at 95 after 10 years of "living" in vegetable mode in a nursing home. Which is somehow better, I suppose...

by asdf on Sun May 17th, 2009 at 12:35:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You can always shoot yourself in the head at 85 if you prefer that. Still much better than dying at 35 in the body of a 60 year old.

My grandmother became 93 and lived at home all the time until her death, with complete mental clarity all the time.

Still, my fathers grandmother became 99(!) and that was without much modern medicine as she was born sometime in the mid 19th century.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.

by Starvid on Sun May 17th, 2009 at 05:20:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
There is no way to handcraft a microprocessor even remotely close to anything that's around today, even with all the time in the world.

As someone familiar with what it takes to make a processor, I disagree. A century or millennium of technological development in an extremely energy limited environment will produce results as radical as the microprocessor of today would have looked a century ago when we were on the front edge of our current environment of nearly free energy.

But it would lose at least 99% of today's knowledge, and would likely revert to a much more superstitious, more violent and even less rational culture.

But for how long? My core question here is why do we assume the level of social organization and technology we can achieve has to be proportional to the amount of energy we are able to exploit? Arguments that have nearly convinced me of what chaos is likely to come over the next century have far less power, IMO, to predict the course of the future beyond that, not because it gets harder to predict the further into the future you go, but because they assume our technical know how will not only diminish but stay at that diminished level in perpetuity.

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Sat May 16th, 2009 at 01:50:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
As someone who's also familiar with what it takes to build a processor, I disagree with your disagreement.

MillMan:

A century or millennium of technological development in an extremely energy limited environment will produce results as radical as the microprocessor of today would have looked a century ago when we were on the front edge of our current environment of nearly free energy.

That's just a statement of faith, and ignores the long dark periods that happen after empires fall - which are part of the historical record, and not just speculation.

I'm thinking in terms of the technology available today, which took the best part of 5000 years to develop.

If you lose the essential industrial base needed to build stuff, you're going to have to retrace those steps in a more hostile environmemt where resources are more expensive.

I can imagine, maybe, progress in bio-engineering which could grow systems instead of building them mechanically. But that still needs a solid industrial base to bootstrap itself.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Sat May 16th, 2009 at 11:55:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Are the long dark periods really there though, or are they interpretations of later historians living in an empire? I still haven't quite figured that out.

And in any case, all of this is speculation: your argument seems to me at least as faith based as Millman's. Past performance does not guarantee future results, after all.

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Sat May 16th, 2009 at 11:59:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
All the things ive read suggest that suggest that its part of a suggestion that the culture of kingdom and empire are direct successors to the knowledge and culture of the Classical world. Conveniently editing out the culture of the Islamic world in-between. If they had been acknowledged as co-inheritors, and cultural leaders, then political and ethical situations would be somewhat different.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Sat May 16th, 2009 at 12:24:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
And when? For the first three centuries, those centuries bin Laden laments the grandeur of, every day, in his cave, most of the "Islamic world" was undergoing its "Golden Age", characterized by a Judeo-Christian majority.

... Many top "Islamic" scholars, with impressive Arab sounding names, turn out to have been Jews.

It is true, though that in the times of Ibn Rushd ("Averroes"), the Islamist world was truly Islamist, while capable of conducting a conversation with the West on Physics. But Ibn Rushd was a Spaniard, and his influence (in particular his theory of secularism being compatible with theocratism) had a huge influence on the Franks, but not in the rest of the Muslim world (Muslim Spain was its Caliphate).

Patrice Ayme Patriceayme.com Patriceayme.wordpress.com http://tyranosopher.blogspot.com/

by Patrice Ayme on Sat May 16th, 2009 at 03:26:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
So you want to discount the contribution to mathematics and medicine? or are you to claim that any discovery was made by jewish scholars?

Or their founding of optics? major works in Astronomy, Geology and Chemistry?

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.

by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Sat May 16th, 2009 at 04:42:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
or are you to claim that any discovery was made by jewish scholars?
Well, Jews and Christians did have special status in Islamic society, especially during the Caliphate.  The Jews in particular tended to occupy positions of importance.  That period of Islamic culture was particularly pluralistic.  I don't think it occurred to the Caliphs to be concerned that many of the best works were produced by Jews.  

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sun May 17th, 2009 at 12:33:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
the "Islamic" world was a melting pot, multi ethnic, multi religious, multi cultural.

Not all, but many "Islamist" thinkers were not that Islamist. So many ended up stoned to death.

So I am not dismissing. Pure Islam, like pure Christian, is rare as a contributor (great Xtian thinkers were later condemened by the fascist Xtian church; Erigenus, Abelard, Buridan, etc..)

Patrice Ayme Patriceayme.com Patriceayme.wordpress.com http://tyranosopher.blogspot.com/

by Patrice Ayme on Sun May 17th, 2009 at 05:55:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Algebra.

This has been another edition of Simple Answers to Simple Questions.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sat May 16th, 2009 at 06:06:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
...I had been provoked first... True some Arab speaking Muslim mathematicians did contribute. But Babylonian, Greek and Indian contributions were more important.
Full symbolic algebra was invented by Descartes.

Al-Jabr is the description of the maneuver to solve the quadratic equation. That came, and was invented by the treatise written in 820 by the Persian mathematician, Muhammad ibn Mūsā al-Khwārizmī (from which algorithm comes). He was from Uzbekistan, although he was resident at the "House of wisdom" in Baghdad (then held by Persians, not Arabs).
PA

Patrice Ayme Patriceayme.com Patriceayme.wordpress.com http://tyranosopher.blogspot.com/

by Patrice Ayme on Sun May 17th, 2009 at 06:25:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The collapse that was the Roman empire, especially after it went plutocratic theocratic fascist after being simply plutocratic fascist, is a case in point.

Dark Macedonian ("Hellenistic") another example. Dark Age of Greece ~ 1000 BCE, another. Collapse of Mayas, an even more spectacular case. Collapse of Crete, too.

And then, of course, there is what happened to what was long the richest and most civilized region of the world, the Middle East.

PA  

Patrice Ayme Patriceayme.com Patriceayme.wordpress.com http://tyranosopher.blogspot.com/

by Patrice Ayme on Sat May 16th, 2009 at 03:01:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I always thought that Gibbon's "Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire" was a history, but Gay in "The Enlightenment: The Rise of Modern Paganism " seems to say it's more of an anti-Christian screed...
by asdf on Sat May 16th, 2009 at 03:29:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
of pages already.

Christian propaganda has highjacked civilization, after Christianity tried its best to destroy it completely.

Why did all the books end up with the Arabs? because the Arabs were dedicated scholars? No. The first book written in (primitive, experimental) Arabic was the Qur'an.

The books of the West ended in the East and South because the Christians destroyed them. Oh, they also destroyed physically the intellectuals, who fled to Persia. To protect them, Persia declared war to Xtian fanatical Rome/Constantinople. That terrible war destroyed both empires, and Muhammad decided to pounce, as is explained in the Qur'an.

And so on...

Gibbon: too nice. But we are 250 years later, and I do not have to be as nice...
PA

Patrice Ayme Patriceayme.com Patriceayme.wordpress.com http://tyranosopher.blogspot.com/

by Patrice Ayme on Sun May 17th, 2009 at 06:03:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I should have said "could" instead of will. Sure, running ourselves to extinction is also a strong possibility. But I think you are tying the concept of the microprocessor to the technologies we use to create it. They are not the same thing.

I can imagine, maybe, progress in bio-engineering which could grow systems instead of building them mechanically. But that still needs a solid industrial base to bootstrap itself.

Our disagreement boils down to this comment - you're assuming a very specific base state for the creation of a microprocessor, whereas I think there may be alternatives that I can't imagine as my mind is limited to what I see before me and an imagination that lets me move outside that box - to some extent.

I can imagine creating a microprocessor in a craft environment even if it takes thousands of years after a dark age to develop radically low power technologies to create a device that looks alien in form but the same in function. I also won't underrate human ingenuity to tackle our core limitations, and as energy scarcity is a 180 from energy abundance (the world I live in), I believe my imagination is quite limited.

Don't underrate that 1% of knowledge that gets passed forward, either. How much fossil fuel does that knowledge amount to? A lot. And the simple knowledge that something was possible in the past is an extremely good motivator for recreating it in the present, even without an instruction manual.

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Sun May 17th, 2009 at 12:34:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Zwackus:
Should ours collapse and should the survivors revert to an economy that can use no more energy than the sun, wind, waves, and hands provide, that does not mean our science, art, philosophy, etc. would disappear.

quite the contrary, i believe. in fact the removal, sudden or slow, of the massive hologram/hallucination we affectionately term 'kool-aide' will lay bare a deeper debate on what philosophy should be, in terms of theory and practice, without creative minds swamped in overwork creating baubles, and let's not forget hunger being better for creative thinking than chloresterolic satiation. i don't mean starvation, obviously, but leaner reasoning, less fatty acids clogging up the psyche!

as for art, as above, but even more so, as the abstractions of philosophy require some intellectual horsepower and classical education, while art is less exigent, requiring only time to concentrate and easily available materials.

and we crave that, otherwise why would aboriginal sand paintings sell for such high prices, they certainly don't need microprocessors for that!

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Sat May 16th, 2009 at 03:51:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Aha. And can you perchance furnish us with historical examples of economic collapse leading to a renaissance of science, art and general creativity?

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sat May 16th, 2009 at 04:46:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
um, no, though that doesn't prove it didn't or couldn't happen in the future. feel free to speculate otherwise!

also prior to said economic collapses, art and philosophy did thrive, maybe there's no causation involved, maybe there is...

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Sat May 16th, 2009 at 07:36:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
As I see it melo argues quality, not quantity.

So - from a certain perspective - you can easily argue that the art and philosophy of a certain group was qualitively superior to a the decadent culture that precedeed it.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Sat May 16th, 2009 at 02:24:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I see.

Me, personally, I'm not a big fan of the Paul Atreides school of human development.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sat May 16th, 2009 at 06:17:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
True philosophical renaissance: God back in its cage, women out to become queens, slaves liberated... Hence tech supremacy within a century or two.

Patrice Ayme Patriceayme.com Patriceayme.wordpress.com http://tyranosopher.blogspot.com/
by Patrice Ayme on Sun May 17th, 2009 at 06:29:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Marco, quoting Jérôme : "Hot water, for some reason, is the embodiment of civilisation in my mind".

The day the energy-based system we live in crumbles, and we revert to living in yourts and caves, hot water and the various assorted comforts are not what I will miss the most.

What would impoverish my life in a more profund measure will be losing access to beauty, as provided to me by just clicking, say, here and see and listen to Sumi Jo:

Really, what a loss !

by balbuz on Sat May 16th, 2009 at 12:37:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I like this version of Ave Maria better:

I'd miss music and beauty, but I'm certain I'd miss hot showers before (scratch, scratch, itch, itch)

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sat May 16th, 2009 at 12:49:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]


In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sat May 16th, 2009 at 12:58:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I sure could listen to this one, while itching and scratching... No problem.
by balbuz on Sat May 16th, 2009 at 01:43:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Although the situation is revolting, it's important to use precise concepts.

  1. Capitalism has nothing to do with it, besides capitalism is unavoidable (Stalin was the biggest capitalist.)By having a debate about "capitalism", we are having a false debate, and that can only please the true culprits.

  2. what is going on is subsidies, by the plutocrats, for the plutocrats. It is extremely dangerous: that is how the Roman republic was destroyed.

Patrice Ayme

Patrice Ayme Patriceayme.com Patriceayme.wordpress.com http://tyranosopher.blogspot.com/
by Patrice Ayme on Fri May 15th, 2009 at 02:55:39 PM EST
  1. The Soviet economy under Stalin was not a capitalist one. It was 100 % planned, and essentially ate coal to shit steel.

  2. The Roman Republic was destroyed because the military transfered its loyalty from the government to the generals. This happened partly because the draft was replaced by salaried proletarian soldiers, which happened because Rome had run out of enough relatively rich people to draft (they had to buy their own weapons and armour).


Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.
by Starvid on Fri May 15th, 2009 at 02:59:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
so planned does not mean non capitalist.

There was no draft in Rome. Soldiers were signing for 20 years. Renewable.

As I wrote in countless essays before, on my wordpress and tyranosopher sites, the collapse of the republic was caused firstly by the rise of the plutocracy (just read the Gracchi).

I think you are confusing Greek soldiers (buying their own weapons), and Roman army (military weapons were mass produced in state factories).

PA

Patrice Ayme Patriceayme.com Patriceayme.wordpress.com http://tyranosopher.blogspot.com/

by Patrice Ayme on Fri May 15th, 2009 at 05:07:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You using special definitions shared not by anyone else does not ease understanding of the issues. The Wikipedia definition of capitalism is a good one.

There was no draft in Rome. Soldiers were signing for 20 years. Renewable.

Only after the Marian reforms, which really were what initiated the downfall of the Republic.

Up until the last decade of the second century BC the eligibility requirements to become a Roman soldier in the service of the Republic were very strict.

    * He had to be a member of the fifth census class or higher.
    * He had to own property worth 3000 sesterces in value.
    * He had to supply his own armaments.

When war threatened, the consuls of the day would be charged with the duty of recruiting an army from the eligible citizenry of the Republic. As a rule, one of the consuls would lead this mainly volunteer army into battle.

[...]

The foremost of the Marian reforms was the inclusion of the Roman landless masses, the capite censi, men who had no property to be assessed in the census. Instead they were "counted by the head". These men were now among the ranks of those who could be recruited even though they owned no significant property. Because these poor citizens could not afford to purchase their own weapons and armor, Marius arranged for the state to supply them with arms. He thus offered the disenfranchised masses permanent employment for pay as professional soldiers, and the opportunity to gain spoils on campaign. With little hope of gaining status in other ways, the masses flocked to join Marius in his new army. These professional soldiers were recruited for an enlistment term of 16 years, later to rise to 20 years full service and 5 years as evocati under the reforms of Augustus.

[...]

However, loyalty of the legions shifted away from the Roman state, i.e. the Senate and People of Rome, and towards the generals who led the army. It became alarmingly common for a general to prolong his Imperium by using the army to influence the senate and consolidate his power. Some even went as far as to declare war on their enemies (see Roman civil wars).

This led ultimately to the destruction of the Republic and its transformation into an Empire under the rule of an Emperor in all but name.



Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.
by Starvid on Fri May 15th, 2009 at 05:39:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
and pasted. I collect books on Rome... But some, like books on Nazism, are far out...

Notice the "mainly volunteer army" part, which is exactly what I said before. It was even completely voluntary, come to think of it, like I said.

Now accusing Marius to have started the problem is not a new theory (plutocrats love that one, that is why they tried to assassinate Marius). But clearly, as explained by the Gracchi a generation earlier, and expecially considering the thousands of Gracchi partisans killed by Blackwater, ooppss, sorry I meant the plutocratic militia, the problem is much anterior to Marius.  

The last section of the text above is not correct. Only Sulla and Caesar did this. Pompey did not. It was not "common".

The republic was destroyed by plutocrats, not really generals. The generals moved in the mess caused by plutocrats.

PA

Patrice Ayme Patriceayme.com Patriceayme.wordpress.com http://tyranosopher.blogspot.com/

by Patrice Ayme on Fri May 15th, 2009 at 06:31:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Marian reforms

Search engines are very practical for finding from where text are copied.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Fri May 15th, 2009 at 06:39:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
From Wikipedia:
Capitalism is an economic system in which wealth, and the means of producing wealth, are privately owned.[1][2] Through capitalism, the land, labor, and capital are owned, operated, and traded for the purpose of generating profits, without force or fraud, by private individuals either singly or jointly,[3][4] and investments, distribution, income, production, pricing and supply of goods, commodities and services are determined by voluntary private decision in a market economy.[5] A distinguishing feature of capitalism is that each person owns his or her own labor and therefore is allowed to sell the use of it to employers.[3][6] In a "capitalist state", private rights and property relations are protected by the rule of law of a limited regulatory framework.[7][8]

You understand that the claim that Stalin was "the biggest capitalist" is, well, a bit daft, right?  Or is this some kind of No True Capitalist game/time suck?

"Talking nonsense is the sole privilege mankind possesses over the other organisms." -Dostoevsky

by poemless on Fri May 15th, 2009 at 03:09:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
for me...
It's not because some have had some silly ideas before, that I should repeat them exactly.

Capital is capital. It's not an ideology. As Bourdieu pointed out, there is even intellectual capital.

Obviously, when Stalin owned ten million slaves, he was a big time capitalist of sort, except if you want to tell me ten million people are not any sort of capital (in which case I send you back to Bourdieu)

I think, therefore I create.

Respectfully yours,
Thoughtful, and not thoughless,

PA

Patrice Ayme Patriceayme.com Patriceayme.wordpress.com http://tyranosopher.blogspot.com/

by Patrice Ayme on Fri May 15th, 2009 at 04:22:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, then you should correct the Wikipedia entry if it is incorrect.  Why not?  

Oh wait, because Wikipedia, for all its shortcomings, is subject to a modicum of peer-review, whereas the only criteria I can find for your process of determining the veracity of something is: whether or not you thought of it.  Because when asked to substantiate your claims, the evidence you provide is usually some odd assertion of your own intellect.  As in, if you thought it, it must be true.  And if others can't figure out what you are talking about, it must be that they are silly or mentally deficient in some manner.  This is not evidence of thoughtfulness.

"Talking nonsense is the sole privilege mankind possesses over the other organisms." -Dostoevsky

by poemless on Fri May 15th, 2009 at 04:39:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You seem to be defining a "capitalist" as anyone who uses anything that can be considered "capital," which is pretty much anything.  So, any system in which any individual works for another, under any terms, is capitalist.

Not only does that not fit the wikipedia definition of capitalist, it does not fit any commonly used definition of the term.

In an argument, you do not win simply by asserting that the terms being used in that discussion mean something different from what everybody else thinks.  Words have shared meanings for a reason - so that we can use them and know what people are talking about.

By all means, make your arguments, and if you like, explain your alternative definitions and the reasons for that.  But it's a bit much to get snippy at others for challenging your custom definitions.

by Zwackus on Fri May 15th, 2009 at 09:44:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
My point is that to get to the truth, one needs precise language, otherwise one is like dogs barking. Dogs express opinion, but it is sort of indistinct...

I may differ from the commons in semantics, but (sociologist) Bourdieu's arguments on capital are now well accepted at the highest levels of culture.  

If someone owns a car, or a house, or shoes that someone has capital. So one cannot just attack "capitalism", without attacking oneself. It's the wrong debate.

Patrice Ayme Patriceayme.com Patriceayme.wordpress.com http://tyranosopher.blogspot.com/

by Patrice Ayme on Sat May 16th, 2009 at 03:36:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I find the critiques provided by John Sanbonmatsu's  to be little more than a concentrated compilation of common criticisms of the current implementation of Capitalism, as practiced in the Anglo world.  Are we to turn away from the dark side of our society?  

Is not the money being expended to prop up Wall Street which is in excess of the minimum required to prevent collapse a colossal waste?  Most of the effort seems devoted to protecting from the consequences of their actions the very individuals and organizations that caused the problem.  And all efforts have been taken to avoid extracting any price in terms of freeing the US Government from servitude to the financial sector.  Is there not an enormous opportunity cost involved for that money, as opposed to money spent on infrastructure?

Has not the baleful influence of financial and business interests on higher education been well demonstrated, at least in part by the triumph and tenure of Neo-Classical Economics in the academy, in government policy and in the public mind?  Have not Sinclair Lewis and Mason Gaffney shown in clear detail how this came about?

Is not the "externalization" of almost all of the environmental downside of the current Anglo Capitalism system an enormously effective device to reserve profits to a few and dump the cost on the vast majority?  And has not this process brought the livability of our planet into peril?  Can we conceivably continue on this course for another 90 years without catastrophic consequences?  Can we conceivably alter course without altering the mindset and socio-economic organization that has given rise to this condition?

Is everyone convinced that the "barbarian mind" as so defined above, consisting of war and plunder abroad in the service of domestic virtue has been totally vanquished?  Was Bush then correct in his assertions of the necessity of invading Iraq?  Is Chevron then going to voluntarily pay to mitigate the damages it caused in the Amazonian basin of Equador?  Etc?  Etc?  Have all of these corporations learned their lessons and will they voluntarily, and, out of a sense of their interest and that of the world as a whole, planning on doing a more responsible job going forward and supporting regulations that will require such behavior of all?

If all the above changes have indeed happened, then we might avoid even a four degree centigrade increase in average ambient temperature of the earth and may be able to keep some ice on Greenland and West Antarctica into the 22nd century.  But I do not see that any of those questions can be answered affirmatively.

Just because one finds the tone of an article annoying doesn't mean that the substance claimed is invalid.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Fri May 15th, 2009 at 03:32:16 PM EST
The problem is not that the tenor of the hyperbole is annoying - although it indisputably is. The problem with the article is that it pretends that capitalism is fundamentally irreconcilable with survivable social development. It has the same fundamental problem as the market-worshippers, only with the opposite sign convention:

Market-fundies deify "the individual" and "the market" to the point of closing their eyes to extortion, oppression and even outright murder as long as it is profitable (according to their rather non-intuitive definition of profit...). But this tract - if we are to take it at its word - proposes that private ownership of, say, a windmill is irreconcilable with building a just and sustainable society. I fail to see how that is any more productive than blind worship of Wall Street.

And to add insult to injury, there is more than a whiff of anti-industrialism - a school of thought that is nonsense at the best of times, and more frequently worse.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Fri May 15th, 2009 at 04:37:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
do with it. Even birds of paradise gather capital.

Rabid anti capitalism is up there with all other rabid states, would I add diplomatically.

It turns protesters into mad dogs barking up the wrong tree.
PA

Patrice Ayme Patriceayme.com Patriceayme.wordpress.com http://tyranosopher.blogspot.com/

by Patrice Ayme on Fri May 15th, 2009 at 05:11:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Patrice Ayme:
Even birds of paradise gather capital.

Huh?

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Fri May 15th, 2009 at 10:01:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
and they are more clever than dogs, cats and monkeys, in some sense...

Patrice Ayme Patriceayme.com Patriceayme.wordpress.com http://tyranosopher.blogspot.com/
by Patrice Ayme on Sat May 16th, 2009 at 03:05:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
this diary and discussion really highlight how hyperbole, though it does stimulate discussion, tends to weaken an argument.

attacking capitalism per se is as stupid as a war on terror. its an abstraction that has little to do with reality, which is trade.

there have been historical examples of wise rule and government where the populace was content enough to go along with the program, and even content to allow significant status difference and class systems, as long as they stayed within some bright line and scraps were plentiful.

extreme inequality is morally offensive as well as myopically greedy, but too often the drug of power feeds the sociopathy and hubris, till the inevitable blowback... when the elite get too far from the rest of the herd, the herd will teach them a lesson. one could speculate the herd even need an elite, as something to sacrifice, just as ancient civilisations fattened the prettiest boy and girl, festooned them with flowers, then threw them off a cliff. set up the skittles for the rush of knocking them over.

cleverness has displaced wisdom, grab the max now like a thief, because deep down there is a guilty knowledge, hidden in the subconscious, that the arc of justice would scythe sometime, so the more you could screw out of the system, the more you could hold the fear at bay with the intoxication of risk and the illusion of safety surrounded by paid thugs bought 'security'...

the dissolution of trust through the cancerous institutionalisation of mendacity has the consequences we now see unfold.

capitalism is a straw man being attacked, and while 99% of it maybe pure undiluted evil, pretending that tha concept itself is broken is to say no one is doing ethical business today, which is patently untrue.

absolutism run amok

this omission condemns the dissertation as less than serious, though the trust of the message -sans hyperbole- most assuredly is...

if you try and demonise the trust and mutual benefit of honest trade without suggesting anything systemically better that will realistically supplant a system-set that has taken millennia to evolve to the currently nasty mutation we see daily splashed across the media, not only will your argument be weakened, but you'll actively turn off people who would be ready to consider modulating their mindset, were it not for the globally accusative tone.

capitalism can't and shouldn't be extinguished or avenged, it needs to be pruned back to the quick. (and quick, lol). it's the only way to rediscover true value, something we have now wedded to spurious conceits.

it's too big a job for tiny humans though, way above our paygrade.....that's ok, it'll happen anyway, force majeure, no need for martyrs and demagogues, no need to crash a plane that's already in its death glide, fuel gauge in the red.

honest trade and trust has morphed into a sci fi horror flick, it's probably futile to expect different, people have been so thoroughly programmed.

when will we ever learn? any way but the hard way, that is?

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Fri May 15th, 2009 at 05:51:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
what is most peculiar in the US debate, and from what I can see in EU as well, is that the people who claim to be presenting "socialist" critiques in their few concrete proposals look like New Labour - with a grabbag of weirdly selected nostrums from conservative sources. So we see Ian Welch announcing, in the name of socialism, that "mark-to-market" accounting is the gold standard, and Doug Henwood explaining the virtues of the Canadian system of a few dominant banks controlling the economy. I mean, "arise revolutionary masses against the tyranny of non-GAAP accounting standards" is odd.
by rootless2 on Fri May 15th, 2009 at 06:17:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Jake
The problem with the article is that it pretends that capitalism is fundamentally irreconcilable with survivable social development. It has the same fundamental problem as the market-worshippers, only with the opposite sign convention

I will concede that the title of the Tikkun piece might be a bit hyperbolic.  But I have read the article from which the quote was taken without offense and with general agreement.  Asserting the need to preserve a viable biosphere certainly implies significant change in how we conceive and execute industrial production and the current version of Anglo Capitalism has proven very resistant to such change.  It appears to me that it is this existing form of Capitalism that is particularly the object of the question "can capitalism be saved?" and "should capitalism be saved?"  The actual title of the Tikkun article is "Why Capitalism Shouldn't Be Saved."  Again I believe he is referring to Anglo Capitalism.

My own answer to the question "can capitalism be saved?"  is "Perhaps, depending on how it is regulated."  To the question "should capitalism be saved?" I would answer "not in its current US form.  It is a cancer that is destroying the society, the economy and the biosphere."  My own view of the prospects is that the existing system will lurch from disaster to disaster over the next two or three years and that, should it survive intact, it will eventually take the entire biosphere down with it.  The prospects for moderating the behavior of the existing system seem to be on the same order as those for wresting control of the US Government from the grasp of the existing financial elite.

While I do not believe "that capitalism is fundamentally irreconcilable with survivable social development", I do not see such a reconciliation occurring within the framework of the existing system, where the US Government is a captive of the financial elite.  I would prefer to be wrong than to see the existing system take us all where it seems to be headed, but I fear that I am right.

Perhaps I have not been sufficiently exposed to "Frankfurt school PC cultural marxism" to develop the intellectual antibodies that seem to have been aroused in yourself and, to a greater extent, Starvid.  I do not see that the author ruled out all forms of capitalism or private ownership or even proposed a specific solution.  I have to wonder if you are not imputing positions to these authors that they have not themselves stated.  Or perhaps the authors are known to you from other works or circumstances.

It seems to me that the views expressed by the two authors cited in De's diary are quite similar to those that many have stated here and that they should be seen as allies, not enemies.  If not, please explain why.  Geezers want to know.

 

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Fri May 15th, 2009 at 08:48:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
...system, which gives bankers powers only the government had for the last few millennia of civilization. I have a nearly finished essay on this I have been working on for weeks, and will submit promptly.

The point is that either bankers are our lords and owners, or we consider them quasi employees of the State, complete with fiduciary duty and tightly regulated with something like a Hypocratic oath.

The present form of political-financial system in the USA has zero future, be it only because it is destroying the USA, and can subsist only through subsidies from the poorest to the richest (which goes not through taxes, but by depriving most of the population of basic services.)

PA  

Patrice Ayme Patriceayme.com Patriceayme.wordpress.com http://tyranosopher.blogspot.com/

by Patrice Ayme on Fri May 15th, 2009 at 09:26:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
... fractional reserve banking that cannot be solved by wealth taxes and nationalisation of the clearing system.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sat May 16th, 2009 at 01:13:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
But that requires breaking the grip of the financial system over the US Government.  If we could institute an effective wealth tax we could easily solve the current system.  Currently the big bankers have an almost absolute veto over anything they dislike.  See NBBooks current diary.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sat May 16th, 2009 at 01:30:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Carping critics might note that abolishing fractional reserve banking would also require breaking the grip of the financial system over the US Government.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sat May 16th, 2009 at 01:42:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Banking Act of 1933 ("Glass Steagal") did this.

Fractional Reserve banking introduces a fiduciary duty and calls to make bankers officers of the State. Because only the State, as the will of the People, should have the power of creating money and giving newly created money to whomever it pleases.

Patrice Ayme Patriceayme.com Patriceayme.wordpress.com http://tyranosopher.blogspot.com/

by Patrice Ayme on Sat May 16th, 2009 at 03:50:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Sorry Jake, but there is a great deal wrong with it. Fractional reserve banking is (with the "For Profit" Corporation) one of the chief drivers of inflation and also of unrestricted and unsustainable economic growth.

I agree that levies on privilege - which operate as taxes on wealth - would assist in redistributing wealth so that purchasing power is more widely spread and people become more credit worthy.  But such fiscal remedies have almost nothing to to do with monetary problems.

Finally, while I agree with ownership in common (whuich is not necessarily ownershipby the State), I doubt whether a publicly operated clearing system would be any better than a privately operated one. Indeed, in some respects, it would probably be worse. I advocate a new form of Public/Private partnership model for utilities, as you know.

Making a Mint

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Sat May 16th, 2009 at 05:46:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]

I agree that levies on privilege - which operate as taxes on wealth - would assist in redistributing wealth so that purchasing power is more widely spread and people become more credit worthy.  But such fiscal remedies have almost nothing to to do with monetary problems.

yes they do. By preventing concentration of capital, and eliminating the ability to concentrate capital simply by capitalising interest, you prevent attempts at exponential growth of money. It's highly relevant.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sat May 16th, 2009 at 10:50:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Are you defining capital as "financial capital"?

And if so, how do you propose to apply a Wealth Tax to it?

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Sat May 16th, 2009 at 10:54:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
estate taxes are pretty good at that, as Piketty documented.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sat May 16th, 2009 at 12:42:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Estate taxes are better than nothing, it's true.

Jerome a Paris:

you prevent attempts at exponential growth of money.

AFAIK nothing other than defaults and debt deflation prevents exponential growth of money based on interest-bearing debt.

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Sat May 16th, 2009 at 12:53:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Money can grow as fast as productivity. Now how you measure productivity is a tricky question, as we know, but I see no reason why we can't continually create more value from the same material resources available to us, by being smarter about it.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sat May 16th, 2009 at 12:56:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
without setting off inflation and causing bubbles, of course you mean.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sat May 16th, 2009 at 01:08:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
We should also be able to have growth even with declining consumption of material resources through more ingenious use of resources and through better recycling.  Growth based on expanding consumption and degradation of material resources is just the dumbest and simplest way to do it, and the most efficient and profitable IF WE IGNORE OR "EXTERNALIZE" resource limitations and the degradation of the biosphere.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sat May 16th, 2009 at 01:13:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Jerome a Paris:
but I see no reason why we can't continually create more value from the same material resources available to us, by being smarter about it.

I agree with that: Knowldge is key.

I think that the introduction of a truly connected knowledge economy will unleash colossal value, and provided these gains are spread equitably then there should be no problem.

As things stand, they would not be, of course, but if the broken status quo continues, these gains will not be made, since IMHO the key to unleashing knowledge value is a collaborative and open enterprise model.

I think that levies on privilege - particularly the privileges of exclusive rights of use of land/location; non-renewables; and knowledge - are the best way that this evolution may be achieved. I would drastically cut taxes on earned income - to maybe 10% - remove all other taxes entirely, and replace means-tested benefits with National Dividends.

No chance of any of that of course because privileged turkeys don't vote for Christmas, but I think that the evolution of P2P finance can and will have the same outcome.

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Sat May 16th, 2009 at 01:33:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
ChrisCook: I think that levies on privilege - particularly the privileges of exclusive rights of use of land/location; non-renewables; and knowledge - are the best way that this evolution may be achieved. I would drastically cut taxes on earned income - to maybe 10% - remove all other taxes entirely, and replace means-tested benefits with National Dividends.

So you would get rid of the estate tax and capital gains taxes?

Could you describe or point me to an example of how you would levy an exclusive right of use of knowledge?  Would you levy exclusive right of use of artistic work?

An educated, healthy and confident nation is harder to govern. -- Tony Benn in Sicko

by marco on Sat May 16th, 2009 at 02:06:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
marco:
So you would get rid of the estate tax and capital gains taxes?

Indeed I would, since the levies I propose would capture the relevant value more certainly and more efficiently, I believe.

marco:

Could you describe or point me to an example of how you would levy an exclusive right of use of knowledge?

The mechanism I would use is a Limited Liability Levy on gross revenues of Corporations collected simply and unavoidably via the clearing system.

After all, an increasingly large part of the value of such Corporations consists of the intellectual capital of knowledge, experience and gumption residing between its employees' ears and the objectified intellectual property it owns.

I would also get rid of Corporation Tax, VAT and tax on dividends.

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Sat May 16th, 2009 at 02:21:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
thanks for the clarifications.

is this minimal taxing aspect of your thinking a recent development, or did i miss it when you have presented it earlier?

An educated, healthy and confident nation is harder to govern. -- Tony Benn in Sicko

by marco on Sun May 17th, 2009 at 10:19:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]
My thinking in relation to taxation of privilege has evolved, it's true, following reflection upon what the true sources of value actually are.

I have long been convinced by the Georgist rationale for a Land Value Tax - ie a tax on the privilege of exclusive rights of land use - but I had not extended the logic of taxation of privilege much further until the last few months.

For a while I thought that tax on earned income might be unnecessary and maybe unjustified, but I think that a tax on earned income could be considered as a levy made on the privileges of security, education and good healthcare which a decent Society provides to all.

If a Location Benefit Levy; Non-Renewables Levy and Limited Liability Levy etc were applied, then I doubt whether taxation on earned income need be set too high. It would be interesting - but a major task, I suspect - to run the numbers.

By way of example, in Hong Kong, land taxation raises around 35% of the tax take, and until the current government capped it about 8 years ago, I understand that Denmark's land tax raised about 30%. In the absence of these taxes, then taxation of earned income would have to rise to levels which would probably be unacceptable -in Hong Kong at least.

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Sun May 17th, 2009 at 02:39:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
marco:
Would you levy exclusive right of use of artistic work?

In relation to copyrights owned by individuals (rather than corporations), I think that a levy on gross revenues would be appropriate.

I'm not sure about patents: certainly a levy on revenues received by individuals. I would also wish to encourage the use of patents through a "use it or lose it" provision, perhaps.

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Sat May 16th, 2009 at 02:29:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
there is also POWER capital. And that is not taxed.

Patrice Ayme Patriceayme.com Patriceayme.wordpress.com http://tyranosopher.blogspot.com/
by Patrice Ayme on Sat May 16th, 2009 at 03:52:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Fractional reserve banking is (with the "For Profit" Corporation) one of the chief drivers of inflation

There is nothing wrong with inflation that cannot be solved by index-linking wages and public transfers and pursuing an active exchange rate policy.

and also of unrestricted and unsustainable economic growth.

The monetary system is the tail. The dog is the fact that our societies fail to price in externalities and seek to punish everyone who does not clock a full 40 hour work week.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sat May 16th, 2009 at 06:21:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Making OTHERS pay for your externalities is the whole POINT of capitalism.  

If you have to pay the real cost of things the whole capitalist investment concept falls apart.  

The Fates are kind.

by Gaianne on Wed May 20th, 2009 at 05:34:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Asserting the need to preserve a viable biosphere certainly implies significant change in how we conceive and execute industrial production

That depends on what you mean by "significant change." Inasmuch as you mean "simply" that we have to cut back on our consumption of useless crap, that we have to redesign our cities to be habitable to people without a car and that we have to start making the stuff we do deem it desirable to make in ways that do not prevent our children from making that stuff in the same ways, then I'm all with you.

But none of this requires abandoning capitalism, nevermind industrial production.

and the current version of Anglo Capitalism has proven very resistant to such change.

No argument there. The American version of capitalism should be shot in the back of the head and dumped in an open ditch.

But the American version of government should also be shot in the back of the head and dumped in an open ditch. As Jerome never tires of pointing out, this does not mean that government has screwed up American - it means that Americans have screwed up their government.

Again I believe he is referring to Anglo Capitalism.

Thereby conceding to the Fukuyamaites that Anglo capitalism is the only form of capitalism. That is the part that bugs me most.

I do not see that the author ruled out all forms of capitalism or private ownership or even proposed a specific solution.

OK, that's a significant difference in reading. If your reading is correct, then my critique is largely nonsense.

I have to wonder if you are not imputing positions to these authors that they have not themselves stated.  Or perhaps the authors are known to you from other works or circumstances.

Not the authors per se, but the style and tone is. And it rubs me the wrong way. But I'll admit that rubbing me the wrong way may have caused me to read it in a way that does not quite do it justice.

It seems to me that the views expressed by the two authors cited in De's diary are quite similar to those that many have stated here and that they should be seen as allies, not enemies.

Valid point. As practical politics goes, I suspect that we'll find a lot of common ground.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sat May 16th, 2009 at 01:34:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]


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