Modern Democratic Capitalism - is it sustainable?

Reply Mon 9 May, 2005 01:57 am
Eorl wrote:
I think all socialist concepts have at their core a belief that humanity is on the whole good, generous and hardworking - and that is the flaw.

The truth I suspect is much more Darwinian. I think you can see capitalism and "survival of the fittest" as very similar systems, which explains the "success" of capitalism worldwide - it is the system that most closely resembles human nature.

Unfortunately, as is the case in "nature", the weak don't do very well as a result.
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Reply Mon 9 May, 2005 10:43 pm
Perhaps the reason a true socialist regime does not exist is because it is not feasible. A small utopia or commune is very workable, where the bad apples can be easily removed or excluded it is a wonderful idea and heavily practiced here in capitalist USA. Think of a few friends going in together on that wonderful vacation home (doesn't always work to everyone's pleasure). On a large scale, a small percentage of non compliant citizens cause a huge mess, especially since you can't get rid of them. The idea of the government compelling compliance creates a system similar to feudal europe in the dark ages, with a ruling class of lords and lots and lots of subsistent serfs.
Without the voluntary component of the "perfect socialist country" you get a communist dictatorship. "From each according to his ability" becomes "from each what I demand" and "to each according to his needs" becomes "to each what I allot" and while there may be some people who find your taste perfectly acceptable I am sure there are many who do not. You could quash this "dissent" in the same way Cuba does, with mass political imprisonment and massacre, or by letting the "dissent" float to America on innertubes. If Cuba is so desirable as the closest thing to your fantasy of a commune, move there. I am sure Fidel and company would welcome you with open arms.
I agree that the doctor ignoring the poor man because of his inability to pay is offensive. But the sliding scale of the value of human life is not exclusive of the capitalists, if it is not financial position that determines ones worth, it will be something else. I also agree with the varying socialist concepts wich agree that people as a group are good. This is the very reason capitalism and a culture of free choice is the best means of providing for all the people. It is the reason the people should be empowered with freedom, from owning guns to choosing ones life calling according to what they want to do. Not by what they are told to do. Americans donate more money per head for charitable works than anyone else. I don't believe the cubans are sending any personal money to aid those suffering from the tsunami in Asia. Just because the government doesn't finance the recovery completely, the citizens individually as a group contribute exponentially greater amounts. Even where there may be people around with the means who do not contribute, it does not diminish the benevolence of the group.
The idea and feasibility of the perfect commune depend on the individual choices of the membership coming together, which sounds an awful lot like the capitalistic ideal of free choice.
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Reply Mon 9 May, 2005 10:59 pm
Hiya Tony

I never thought of capitalism as an ideology, it's more of a system, I've never heard of a manifesto - but I'm not a political science grad.

I'd also argue against your assertion that capitalism is about free choice. Unfettered capitalism led to the massive cartels that were legislated against in the USA in the first half of last century. Does that make US govt anti-capitalist?

We almost seem to be heading towards a similar situation now (on an international scale), massive mergers of large corporations seems commonplace, but what happens when they're all merged into one? Or even the token two or three that govt watchdogs seem able to approve of. What's the term, oligopoly?

Remember the demand for Microsoft to be broken up? Never happened.

We constantly see small businesses squeezed out by supermarket chains and fast food franchises.

I don't think capitalism is about free markets or choices, it's about maximising profit and if I was a multinational company I'd see competition as something that ate into profit, and monopoly as a great business strategy.

Is there an end game? Does the snake it itself tail first? What happens to the big fish when it eats ALL the little fishes?
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Reply Tue 10 May, 2005 08:37 pm
Who is the economic system supposed to benefit? Whose interests ar to be maintained. In the "capitalist" system the consumer (the one with the money) is the one who is right (as a group). The call for the breakup of Microsoft came from competing companies and a minority of people who may have been better served by a split. Ultimately, Microsoft's current operations are good for consumers. The free marketplace does not disallow monoplies, but the system is in place to naturally dismantle them when they become less beneficial to the public. The EU believes differently, that the anti-trust regulations are in place to benefit other/smaller companies, regardless of the impact on the people. When the government forces inferior (again very subjective) products on the people who really gains. Should the government continue to support unsuccessful government programs with tax money?
In a capitalistic world, good ideas prevail to the benefit of the people(think populus, think socialist ideals). Violent coercion is not capitalism, so the cornering of markets through violence is not capitalism. It is no different than the government forcing everyone to buy a dodge because the current government likes dodge and they will kill you if you don't. Exactly the kind of behavior the government should stifle.
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Reply Tue 10 May, 2005 09:28 pm
But the US has anti trust laws too, why single out the EU?

The free marketplace does not disallow monoplies, but the system is in place to naturally dismantle them when they become less beneficial to the public

You've lost me there - what natural free market mechanism is there to break up a monopoly? Make up an example for me.

To my way of thinking if one company is the only supplier then that company can manipulate the price to the limits of the elasticity of demand, with profit being the sole motive.

To explain what I mean using your Dodge example. What if Dodge keeps buying other car companies until they are all owned by dodge? (This isn't fantasy, auto companies merge regularly). The economies of scale and the cost of manufacturing capital (and a bunch of other factors) mean no new players enter the market. When Dodge owns every car company, everyone will be driving dodge, not because the govt said so but because Dodge is the only car maker. No competition pressure on price. How does this benefit the public?

Which brings me back to your 'naturally dismantle' monopolies idea. Please explain.
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Reply Tue 10 May, 2005 10:03 pm
The US has anti-trust laws, it is their design and application that differs from the European types(not always).
The US is not entirely capitalist, there is often government interference. Sometimes this interference is unnecessary, while other times a company has cornered the market by means other then those which are economic.

Conceivably, ingenuity dismantles the monoply. If not that, "people" will accept an inferior product at a reasonable price. This can be likened to the emergence of the korean auto manufacturers such as Kia and Hyundai who put out some very lousy cars, but at a very cheap price. As they gain market share, even with small profit margins, they were able to reinvest in their products. The reinvestment means a greater profit margin, as people pay more for their cars because of their improved quality. The auto market was not exactly monopolized, but the market was extremely established. If "the monopolizer" is chasing out all the compitition, then the people have the responsibility to themselves to BOYCOTT. There are very few things that one "needs."

Health care is one of those things. Generally, health care is an emergency service. It is needed when it is needed, convenient or not. I certainly think that health care providers should have to post their procedural rates so that the consumer has a chance to "comparison shop" the market for performance and price before an immediate need comes about. That is the problem in America's health care system. The immediate care of a person is a mini-monopoly, as one does not have a chance to evaluate the service or cost. Short of a heart attack or such, a person should be able to decide exactly what type of care they would like and at what price. Doctors and providers quote prices for procedures to insurance companies if they are a member of a plan, but they will not quote it to you, and they don't have to.
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