Daniel Marques

Biomedical Scientist,

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Capitalism is still dominant. Isn't it time we changed to a more enlightened, less greedy system?

The world is ruled by capitalism. Every country is, in one way or the other, a part of the capitalist machine. Debt or credit is the problematic system of Earth today and, if you look into it, you will usually find that most of today's major problems are due to the way we have developed into a capitalist world. Communism as seen today is not what was ever meant by Marx or Engels. A more fair/ equal society (socialistic) was meant for an advanced capitalist society such as the UK. Yet whenever I start asking why we don't consider changing to a more equal society people start throwing around "totalitarianism-tenancies" and "didn't work for Stalin".

I read into it and it's pretty obvious to me why they all failed. But more importantly I realise (as I'm sure many others do) why if worked out democratically and in stages, would not be susceptible to the historical problems of other attempts. We learn from history. Only by educating more of the promises of a new system could we plan to stop hunger and poverty in the world. Too many people have given up on changing capitalism, despite the inherent flaws in the system (boom-bust cycles) which just leads to more poverty, debt and war and the top 1-5% of the rich becoming richer.

Please tell me there are others in the TED community that have similar thoughts. And what could we do to work on a system that could be proposed in the future. Perhaps there's a think tank working on it now?

  • Aug 9 2011: Socialism does not have to be what Stalin, Mao or Cavusesku did. Their versions collapsed but in the future, I am sure it will happen in some modern form...
    Socialism didn't work for Stalin because, as Krizstian said, people were forced to obey the system.They never understood the philosophy of being a "proletarian". Most of them were simply after fulling their stomachs only. It also didn't work because the entire world was against them. Western powers were doing everything they can to collapse their system. Even NATO was formed mostly for this. Thus, Russia got into an arms race and spent too much time, resource, effort and manpower on military. Just like what North Korea is doing today...

    Daniel, you say people gave up on changing capitalism but in my opinion, it will change. Capitalist regimes will evolve to socialism over time. Materialistic view, consumerism, exploitation and greed surround the world today. This can't continue while hunger, poverty, unemployment, rage and ignorance are skyrocketing.. People have started the riots already...the ones in Middle East, in Greece, Spain, Turkey... the looting in London... I guess these are just the beginning... Marxian theories are occurring. (Oh yes! Pay attention to what he is saying)
    UN states that world population will hit 10 billion in 2050. Most of these people will be jobless, uneducated and poor. Around that time, the robotics technology will be way better from today and those "useless" human beings will be of "no use" to the society. These points to a fact that worse and more bloody riots will happen in the future. And it will force governments to become more and more "socialistic". Over time, that will lead to many socialist countries...
    I think this is how socialism will come...just like the French Revolution. The true socialism has not even showed up yet. People "themselves" won't be able to take it anymore and revolt for their rights, not some dictator/leader with an attitude...
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      • Aug 11 2011: Today, It really hurts me to see people are still working their asses off for decades (some have 2-3 jobs and work almost 100 hours a week) just to be able to survive and maintain what they have. I believe today, with good planning, It is possible to work for 4 hours a day, 5 days a week and 10 months a year. A society working to live rather than living to work, is not a dream...
        We have all the resources, manpower, technology and farmlands to provide the best of all the basic needs of the entire humanity...good food, good cars, good houses, the best education, free electricity, unlimited phone service, unlimited internet, free healtcare...etc. The best of the required amount of other needs are also providable to the whole world if the awareness against greed, consumerism, and materialistic view is raised by governments and media...

        Some people here will still say Capitalism is the best. Yes, It is great for the elite and so-so for the middle class. Majority of the world population is working class and under class. Can it provide the things above for the entire humanity? No...Even it can, it would never do it. On the other hand, if there was true socialism world-wide, I am sure all of the above are doable.

        I understand the grudge against socialism. Those people who suffered under the rule of "socialish" dictators, would have a grudge against capitalism if the entire world was socialist and trying to collapse their "capitalish" dictatorship.

        Some people think that socialism can not work even in theory. Well, humanity had been living with "communism" for more than 200.000 years. Capitalism is recent. It was invented..learned...and can be unlearned too.
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          Aug 14 2011: @ Harun………”if the awareness against greed, consumerism, and materialistic view is raised by governments and media”… is exactly the point I made in a more recent (today) post. I cannot speak for the rest of the world but having grown up in the US, I can say definitively that any compassion I was taught came from unofficial home based sources. These do not have to be religious either. Simply asking a misbehaving child (say one who just took a toy away from another crying child) “How would you feel if he took it away from you?” can help plant the seeds of compassion in the child. It must be socially pervasive and culturally consonant and most of all ubiquitous and agreed upon as a technique. It should be a technique as basic to society as teaching children how to read or count. And it must be done exhaustively and repetitively beginning at a very young age.

          “Some people think that socialism can not work” --- Mostly these people are those who already have a bundle of material wealth and are defending it, OR are pseudo proles who think they are on the verge of climbing through the Diamond Ceiling of class distinctions into the heaven of Wealth OR they are too undereducated to understand what ‘socialism’ means. They are deluded or ignorant (NOT stupid, I did not say stupid). The lack of education could be fixed, theoretically by a society wide determination to educate everyone (as I understand Finland has done). It’s not likely while corporatists control the national media and propaganda. The hungering for wealth could only be ‘fixed’ I think by taking the wealth away and forbidding its accumulation (as some of the founding fathers wished to do to prevent the kind of aristocracy that we now, again, live under). Not likely either. Sounds too much like communism, and we all ‘know’ that is b-a-d.
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      Aug 11 2011: They never understood the philosophy of being a "proletarian". That is a perfect statement about why soviets collapsed. But I fear that people of our age will not choose to be proletarian even if they fully understand what it means. I think thats what Chinsee people are struggling araound these days.
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    Aug 9 2011: The problem is not capitalism or the communism or socialism, the actual problem lies in the inherent greed of mankind to claim as much one can! It all started with humans since they are gifted with intellect.

    Just look around other kingdoms, i.e. animal kingdom, or the dirds etc. they do not have intellect who suggest to claim as much a it can! usually no animal or bird or fish claim more then its requirement. W are exactly the opposite.

    Until we learn that we should claim possess as much as we require it, no system in the world can improve human condition at all.

    Systems are developed on the bases of requirements of certain time period looking at the prevailing circumstances, we can change it, but what about human values? We need to change it first.

    The best example for this topic to understand is the case of corruption. Just look at democratic nations, capitalist nations communist nations, or countries ruled by autocracy, corruption is every where, it shows that greed is the real culprit of al the problems of humanity.
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      Aug 10 2011: I don't think greed began with humans, but our complex cultures exaggerate it. Greed is competition for resources, and that is not only common in every form of life, but fundamental to evolution. We could describe greed as excessive collection of resources, and its purpose is for use over a period of time. Most organisms don't have the facility to store food, moving or hibernating when it is scarce. But some do. The grey squirrel collects acorns and buries them to eat over the winter. It tries to collect as many as possible with the minimum expenditure of energy, and even steals from others. Our private property is our store of resources to help us survive lean times. We have an evolutionary drive to collect it, but there is almost no evolutionary benefit in stopping. This is echoed in our widespread overeating - during our evolution, we never had such massive abundance of food.

      And the problem is that being relatively wealthy in resources gives us an unfair advantage to acquire more. The multi-billionaire still feels he's not rich enough, and has the means to get richer. These are deep, ancient brain processes. So I don't think it's a matter of us "learning" (as individuals) that it's not in our best interest because we're wrecking the planet. We can learn that together and then establish legal mechanisms to ameliorate the problem. Or there's mass brain surgery or chemicals!

      Another problem is that when groups voluntarily choose poverty or restraint or generosity, they cause themselves evolutionary disadvantage, and so tend to fare badly or die out. Exceptions that come to mind are monks who beg for gifts and who are indulged because it's thought to bestow spiritual gain to give to them. Actually, that describes most surviving religions, although some cleverly manage to pretend they need your money while they get very rich and amass empires. But if my cat could be pope, he would.
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        Aug 14 2011: this is from "A DiffErEnt PoInT of ViEw" comments please.
        Greed.
        It is understandable that people would object to having all their money becoming valueless overnight. Unfortunately, money stimulates greed & greedy people love money. Oddly enough, these same people never seem to have enough money. No matter how rich they get, they always want more. Greed is a symptom of insecurity. Money will never satisfy this greed, because it is only a substitute for the real things they want. Strangely enough, these 'greedy' people are likely to be the most enthusiastic about a system like the Natural society, because it can provide the real security which they crave. No matter how solid their assets might seem, they still waste away & are not always reliable enough to satisfy the needs of the holders. The Natural Social system that provides everything the World needs free of charge & can never run out, must be highly appealing.
        People on the poverty level & those struggling with life, can also feel very insecure. Taking away money, the only form of security they have known will be very difficult for them to accept. Their trust will have to be won over in order to get their acceptance. People save money for a rainy day, or old age. It will be used to buy things that require human power to make. In a Natural Society human power will always be there. Why collect the symbols of wealth & prosperity when you can have the real thing? Working to collect money which will be spent on things made by people working is rather inefficient. There are costs attached to receiving, holding & spending money. There are taxes, bank charges, stamp duty, not to mention all the time spent on recording & handling the money.
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          Aug 14 2011: Hi Vernon, you asked for comments:

          I'm not sure what "Natural Society" you mean, organic farming and natural medicine, Ludditism, anarchy...? It sounds like what you advocate is not having money, but you don't say enough for me to understand your p.o.v.

          Removing greed is like removing money. So far in my experience well-meaning people suggest it, but have no reasonable suggestion about how to implement it. If my crop fails and I have to be supplied food by a neighbour, am I allowed to scribble an IOU? That's a kind of money; it's the basis of money. If not, how is my neighbour to survive if he's supplying people all over the place and runs out himself? How are we to maintain any kind of civilisation without money? And the fear that leads to greed that you mention is common to everyone, not just those at the top and bottom of the wealth scale, and doesn't go away unless we see the reality that our future is completely secure. It never is, so greed doesn't go away.

          Thus one solution to people not wanting more than "enough", and to stop them having money (or private property), is to have an elite forcing that on them, the priviledged few, the communist party, and they'll be greedy and use money and screw the proles for everything they can get until there's a revolution.
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          Aug 15 2011: Oh I see, "A DiffErEnt PoInT of ViEw" is a book. Different doesn't always mean better.

          "The Natural Social system that provides everything the World needs free of charge & can never run out, must be highly appealing." --- yes indeed. So is a race of happy little people who come out from under mushrooms at night to make it happen. ;)
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      Aug 14 2011: @ Bakul ....... Insightful, interesting and valid.
      You forgot to mention the 'opposable thumbs' (as well as the superior intellect) which fact gives us a large advantage in manipulating tools. I think it is part of our being animal. Other animals do exhibit greed however, even intra species and intra familial greed to the disadvantage of other members of the group.
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    Aug 8 2011: first thing to note: socialism never ever was chosen by people. in the post soviet bloc, state socialisms were forced on the people by the most horrible dictatorships. in the west, the current movement is toward more socialistic states, but the people are reluctant to give up liberties. state socialism tries to sneak in, but the opposition is significant. and will become even more significant, as the state intervention starts to reach the most valued personal areas.

    second thing to note: socialism did not only fail because it was wrongly implemented. one thing they tried very hard is to grow in power, in economy, so they can beat the west. however they have failed in every aspect, even in military power. how could that be? the reason for that is central planning, and nothing else. without the correcting forces of the free market (trial and error), economy can not grow and develop. it was nicely demonstrated by ludwig von mises in 1920, and later by hayek, who got the nobel price for that.

    third thing to note is that free market economists long since identified the cause of the boom-bust cycle, and it is not the market, but the credit expansion. created by incorrectly regulated banks and especially the central bank.

    fourth thing is: despite all the state interventions, and the harm they've done, the poor still getting better and better, and life conditions improve in capitalism. the "poor getting poorer" argument is not factually correct. average, median and even the bottom 10% is richer and richer in the western capitalist economies.

    fifth and final argument: marxian theories are logically fallacious, not to mention factually wrong. i would not recommend to give too much credit to him.
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      Aug 11 2011: I really don't know very much about economy, but I get the impression that a big problem with central banking is that it is too much like planed economy. Is there an alternative?
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        Aug 11 2011: not exactly. the central banks don't really control anything except bank credit expansion. the planning board is the government and its so called welfare programs.

        alternative: surely there is. the alternative to central bank is no central bank. what would prevent us from doing that? we decide how we organize our lives.
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          Aug 11 2011: Well, I didn't mean planed economy to any very high degree, but elements of it. It was the credit expansion I thought of. Having a single entity adjusting the money suply to have the market react to it. But I can't see a better solution, because if every bank was allowed to expand credits at their own will we would sure run into hyperinflation.
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          Aug 14 2011: @ Krisztián....... There is a logical oversight in your exposition I believe (so I am not saying "you are wrong").

          Central banks control government, but do it indirectly. The members of the boards of directors are themselves among the richest capitalists and bankers in the world. They control what the Central Banks do, but they also [perhaps separately] also control who gets elected, who votes which way, and what regulations get enforced. These "powers" are not overtly nor legally given to the Central Banksters, but they are co-opted by the banksters in any case.
    • Aug 13 2011: "marxian theories are logically fallacious, not to mention factually wrong."

      http://online.wsj.com/video/nouriel-roubini-karl-marx-was-right/68EE8F89-EC24-42F8-9B9D-47B510E473B0.html
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          Aug 14 2011: Birdia, I think you're absolutely right about the big picture, and about how ultimately it will be the problem solvers who bring about a better system, better society, better world.
        • Aug 14 2011: Problem is not just the recession. It is the system itself. No matter how good it gets, capitalism is doomed to fail because it feeds on exploitation and consumption. What will happen when there is nothing left to consume or no one left to exploit? One doesn't have to be an economist to realize that the system is self destructive...
          On that video, Roubini says that capitalism is killing itself. He is absolutely right...

          * In order to reduce the costs, more and more workers are getting fired by companies,
          * An army of unemployed people are not consuming because they don't have income,
          * Economy gets worse and since people are not consuming, there is not enough demand.
          * Not enough demand leads to reduction in sales so companies fire more people... Awesome isn't it...

          Oh! and companies are not just this thoughtless and selfish during the recession. They would want to fire everyone if computers or machines can do the work we do. They wouldn't even think that we are actually a customer too.

          Roubini also talks about the inequality of the distribution of wealth. I did some research and saw this report of a Swiss Financial Group.

          According to Credit Suisse's "2010 Global Wealth Report"; the global total wealth estimate is $195 trillion. It also states that 2.4 million people, in the world, are millionaires. ( $1 million and over) Although these people are "0.5%" of the world population, they control $69.2 trillion in assets, which is the "35.6%" of the global wealth.

          The same reports says that 3.03 "billion" people owns only the "4.3%" of the global wealth...

          and some people still thinks capitalism is good...
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          Aug 14 2011: I think Roubini's assessment of the economic situation and about the fate of capitalism is short-sited and unimaginative.

          In the early 1900's here in America, as capitalism was gaining momentum, the dark side of capitalism was revealed: atrocious working conditions and wages, inhumane and unsanitary slaughter houses, etc. etc. etc. "Buyer Beware" summed up how much capitalism had taken hold of American society. Democracy is the weapon we used to "tame" the dark side of capitalism and put in place the necessary regulations.... And that is what, to a large degree, is happening now (or at least Obama is trying to make it happen). The entrepreneurial spirit will prevail.

          Without regulations capitalism can be a monster. I liken it to steroid use. The American economy was an "economy on steroids" during the Bush years. We are now "off the juice" and slowly regaining strength. But it will be a long time before our economic engine ever revs up to what it was when it was on steroids. That is unless we get with the program and enter into the new age of economics that have to do with green, alternative fuels, global markets, etc.

          ...But I beg to differ with your assessment that capitalism is self-destructive. It's actually self-correcting (as Birdia pointed out).
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          Aug 27 2011: This is a fruitful discussion. I think capitalism has the potential to be better but only when people demand that it is better and have the power to do so. I am convinced we are teetering on the brink of it tipping over so that it has no corrective force. Michael Porter, the Harvard prof is leading the way and Bill Gates and Warren Buffet are trying to implement his tactics but they are not taking too much ground as of yet. Too much power has been transferred to corporations which are not designed to do anything but take profit and power into themselves. There is no human conscience operating within these machines which looks out for the common good. How do we take this power back when the whole of that social group has been born and bred to preserve its own position and wealth? What will the mechanism of a better society be? The brutal kings of old thought they ruled by 'divine right' too.
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        • Aug 14 2011: "An economic and political system in which a country's trade and industry are controlled by private owners for profit, rather than by the state."

          As long as the the building blocks of the system are "private owners" who cares about their own "profit" only, the system will always be prone to exploiting people. In order to survive, It has to be a lot more "social"...
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          Aug 14 2011: @ Birdia...... of all the things you wrote, many of which I find objectionable, the most irritating statement was: "The guys who wrecked the system are the guys most qualified to fix it."

          In other words, and I am not hyperbolizing here (am I?), the best people to "fix" the mortgage crisis in the US would be the Hedge Fund Managers who invented the criminal scheme in the first place? Or wait, maybe the best ones to solve the mortgage crisis are the Congresspersons who supported (tacitly or actively) the deregulation of investment banking.

          When the original destructive behavior amounts to criminality, letting the criminals control the court system is not a solution. It is ridiculously naive. It is self destructive. It is seppuku .
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          Aug 14 2011: @ Birdia ..... "An economic and political system in which a country's trade and industry are controlled by private owners for profit, rather than by the state."

          Your definition might be from a respected dictionary, but it is naive, simplistic and not related to what we are discussing. The globalized, monopolized, profit obsessed, impersonal, robotically insensate decisions made by corporations nowdays are unsustainable.

          You confuse (naively) or conflate (deliberately) small businesses, which hire, sell, and produce locally, WITH megalithic, monopolistic, global, super-corporations which have no limits on their impulse to profit. Local business owners live locally, hire locally, produce locally, rent locally, sell locally and are thus a part of the community and subject to its pressures.

          Exxon doesn't care. Not at all. Big Big Difference.
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          Aug 14 2011: You speak as a person of a wealthy and privileged childhood might speak, but I do not accuse you of elitism or insensitivity or simplicity. Exploitation, especially economic (as if there were any other kind that mattered), can look like slavery in the US, casteism in India, apartheid in South Africa, can't it? In those cases, refusing to be exploited by others would get you killed, beaten, crippled, jailed, tortured or separated from your family. But at least you wouldn't have been exploited.

          Doesn't make sense. Not at all. Regardless of the system.
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        Aug 14 2011: please summarize it to me. i got a headache trying to decipher his accent. i'm not native speaker.
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          Aug 29 2011: Sure Birdia, some links. Unfortunately I'm unable to link to Nassim Taleb's TED talk "What will tomorrow bring?", because it was never published by TED. He preaches humility at the wheel of this economic beast. Kind of an antidote to the Enron-type recklessness shown by the FED and the banksters. Unfortunately my broadband is down to dial-up so I can't pick through for a good youtube clip, sorry about that. This maybe?
          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mhSRaehWSvY&feature=related

          Harry Makopolos needs to be listened to. I hear the movie is a dog "Chasing Madoff" but the man can see clearly and he is as straight as a die.
          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LagkkLz0q_I&feature=channel_video_title

          For a big picture presentation on money and debt, Mike Maloney is looking at fundamentals (and is something I think everybody should see).
          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tj2s6vzErqY&feature=channel_video_title

          For daily economic and political commentary I like Chris Greene, his youtube channel Greenewave. Very insightful. He talks a lot about banks, bailouts, Buffet, Bernanke. He makes some huge calls which I think he gets a kick out of. He's been ahead of the curve, so that's what he does. Keeps me sharp. A platform for going forward here:
          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Eqy8o5eX_So&feature=channel_video_title

          and perhaps
          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BQJsMf8Vth8

          Finally, the Austrian economists. Most of the economic mistakes (as apposed to political malfesance) that are being made can be explained by the difference between Austrian and Keynesian schools of economic thought. Austrian is common sense- you need to save to invest. Keynesian is short-sighted- you can just create credit instead! We are currently witnessing the limits of Keynesian economics.

          Sorry, I don't expect you to watch half of them but you can if you want to know where I am coming from. I apologize for being blunt earlier, your logic is sound regards Jamie Oliver, but please don't trust the banks.
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        Aug 27 2011: Hi Birdia, I have to agree with Renzo and object to your statement "The guys who wrecked the system are the guys most qualified to fix it." These people that you would leave in power (Goldman Sachs et al), either were ignorant enough to not see what was coming or were morally repugnant so as to drive the economy there anyway. From my research the latter seems far more likely. The Fed and the big banks are rotten to the core along with the politicians in their pockets.

        Far better would be to call on the people that predicted where we were headed and were ignored. The whistleblowers, the trends forecasters, the Austrian economists.
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        Aug 28 2011: I had a look at that Goldman Sachs document.

        When reading documents like this I go in thinking what does it hide? This document is not the product of one man, this is the product of a culture- the culture that has got into the political system and everywhere else power is - Goldman Sachs, Merril Lynch, BOA, News Corporation, The Fed, the IMF etc. We see the culture in their actions but not their words. The proponents know which part of it other cultures don’t like (and by other cultures I mean yours), and so they will try to gloss over them.

        It is presented as follows:
        “At its core, contingent capital is a security that recapitalizes a troubled financial firm without recourse to taxpayer funds. In doing so, it can contain the fallout from a single bank failure and potentially the follow-on failures that can spiral into a systemic crisis. While the underlying recapitalization function of contingent capital is relatively straightforward, “why,”“when” and “how” it operates can vary substantially.”

        They are promising they can create a security (remember the morgage-backed ones?) that won’t cost Americans a thing. Unfortunately they can’t pay these "IOU"s and it will be taxpayers footing the bill. Apparently bailouts don’t cost Americans. Of course, this works much like a bailout by expanding credit (printing money).

        “At its core, contingent capital is simply a security that recapitalizes a troubled financial firm.”

        It sounds like a little tool that makes debts vanish, or as they like to say; “absorb losses”. “A new entity” gets to choose who gets to make their debts to vanish, while other banks get to trade in their debts for these ones. Its like another barrier for anybody but their mates to get bailouts. They were given billions of dollars of taxpayer money and now they’re asking for more.
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          Aug 28 2011: The "Troubled Assets Bailout" was in the amount of $300 billion, give or take. To date, approximately $150 billion has been paid back, with more payback expected.
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        Aug 29 2011: But Jim, TARP is just a small part of the cash out-flow. In the first (partial) audit of the Fed a couple of months ago there was $16 trillion in secret Fed loans made to banks all over the world at zero% interest between December 2007 and June 2011. Goldman Sachs received 814 billion dollars while Federal Reserve also donated $2.5 trillion to Citigroup, and $2.04 trillion to Morgan Stanley.

        http://infinitesque.net/articles/2011/bailout/

        You can also read about it on Sen. Bernie Sanders' website or the GAO audit itself. If Ron Paul and Alan Grayson hadn't added an amendment to the Dodd-Frank bill last year we wouldn't have found out. As it is, we get incomplete information two years late.

        http://sanders.senate.gov/newsroom/news/?id=9e2a4ea8-6e73-4be2-a753-62060dcbb3c3
        "This is a clear case of socialism for the rich and rugged, you're-on-your-own individualism for everyone else."
    • Aug 13 2011: Krisztian- Maybe in Hungary the poor are getting richer, but in the major western countries, the poor are getting poorer and the majority of wealth is getting concentrated with a very small percentage of the population. The biggest problem with economical statistics is that they use consumer indexes, wages and property data to base their positions. This doen't take into account the large number of disadvantaged and disillusioned persons who have gone off grid. The American and Canadian governments have been bragging about their unemployment rates, but these numbers are completely bogus, because they only count jobs that file taxes. High paying jobs have been out-sourced to third world countries; decent paying, secure public service jobs have been contracted out to fly by night, minimum wage contractors; middle class debt load is the highest it has ever been. If things are better over here I haven't seen any sign of it.
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        Aug 14 2011: show me any statistics proving that point. i'm not aware that the life standards in the US were falling in any social group. (except of course those who lost their jobs, but that's not our current topic.) i challenge you to compare your life to that of ten years ago, in terms of stuff, not dollars. i doubt you are in worse shape today.

        i would also call your attention to the fact that the current halt in economic development is a temporary thing, and will be solved either this or that way. the US will return to the path or progress again.
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          Aug 28 2011: My life as compared to ten years ago is better.
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      Aug 16 2011: I do not think it is valid to say that "socialism never ever was chosen by people". Primitive people (hunter gatherers) lived communally, sharing food, child care, resource access, defense, hunting etc. And some more modern groups such as the Amish, Shakers, hippies, 'intentional communities' etc have chosen freely to encapsulate themselves in sequestered communities where resource sharing was the rule.
      Even the idea that one strong man does not exert a "right" when he beats a weaker man and steals his goods for no reason but greed, is ancient and entrenched in the earliest codes of law. That is how judicial systems came into being. So we recognize at a fundamental level that strength does not confer privilege, per se, for any purpose that strength choses to pursue. Monopolistic capitalism is not the same entity as entrepreneurism. Insufficiently regulated capitalism is a Godzilla monster jumping up and down in a little plastic Tokyo movie set, eating skyscrapers and kicking over apartment buildings. Over and over again, discussants in this topic make the same mistake by confusing the two. It is not just here that there is confusion. The US Supreme Court last year declared that "money = (free)speech" and any corporation can legally contribute any amount of free speech (= money) to ANY political campaign. So now the Godzilla monster is jumping up and down inside the control booth of the American political system. Whatever democracy there was here, is now shrinking rapidly. An so it always seems with unregulated 'capitalism'.
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        Aug 16 2011: the idea of primitive communities is actually a marxian mistake. historians do not agree with that. we don't really know how cavemen lived, but there are indications that they had a very clear idea about private property.

        from here, i can't follow you. "monopolistic capitalism" is an oxymoron, free capitalism is not monopolistic. entrepreneurism is a non-word. regulation does not seem to do us any good, and i claim that the dire problems in capitalism are consequences of state interventions. money = free speech is a notion that does not make any goddamn sense. if the supreme court decided that way, it is yet another sign that we don't need the supreme court, nor any other state provided brainless political organization, disconnected from reality. especially in the era of the internet. in the US, democracy is rather high level, and people are lamenting about it because other people vote "incorrectly". sorry, in a democracy, people might vote not to your taste. deal with it.
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          Aug 16 2011: @ Krisztián - regarding
          1) "money = free speech is a notion that does not make any goddamn sense"
          2) "in the US, democracy is rather high level, and people are lamenting about it because other people vote 'incorrectly'"

          1) Excuse me for abbreviating. In January 2010 the US Supreme Court ruled in "Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission" that limitation of political contributions is tantamount to limitation of free speech. Free speech is guaranteed in the (US) Constitution. Therefore from that point on, no limitations on the amount, source or recipient of political contributions will be allowed. (money = speech). This effectively allows, for example, the People's Republic of China, to set up and fund a political action committee in the US and contribute unlimited funds to the election of a favored candidate. "Goddamn sense" in this instance is what the US Supreme Court says it is, since they assumed the right hundreds of years ago to rule on the legality of anything - anything.
          2) Democracy in the US is overrated, misunderstood and as abused as a red headed step child. I apparently mistakenly thought you at least had experience living here. I lament the demise of democracy because corporate interests have suborned the 'vote' by bribery, legal actions, misinformation and bad information, not because informed competent voters disagree with me. Multiple instances of fraudulent vote counting are documented (which actually secured the election of THE candidate), and the US Supreme Court appointed George Bush president (which is not anywhere listed in the powers assigned to the Court, nor is there any precedent in law). These are not consistent with anyone's definition of democracy, not even yours I suspect.
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          Aug 16 2011: @ Krisztián

          I don't want to debate historic communities. At all.

          You wrote: "i can't follow you. "monopolistic capitalism" is an oxymoron"
          And likewise I do not understand what you mean here by oxymoron. For me, all capitalism is by its nature, monopolistic (motivated solely by profit), since it does not ever seek to allow competition and will always attempt to eradicate it (to make more and more profit). You, on the other hand, magically believe that there will ALWAYS BE competition... History has multiple examples of monopolies being broken up (to restore competition) by reasonable and democratic governments.
          However, "free"capitalism has NOT to my best information EVER existed anywhere on planet Earth. So this is becoming theoretical, like the first topic (historical communities).
          Entrepreneurism (entrepreneur, enterpriser) is small scale capitalism: local and integrated into the community, 'mom and pop' operations, small business. Crédit Suisse, Exxon, GE, and the like are not entrepreneurial and their assets are so spread out as to prevent any chance of complete collapse, which is always a threat to small businesses. It may be a neologism, but it is comprehensible (outside of your framework perhaps but still comprehensible).
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        Aug 16 2011: oh boy. this conversation is turning into a direction i don't like. "equals to" relation is very different than "part of". and "money" is very different than "contribution". the cited court decision is that contribution is a *form* of free speech. you interpret it as money equals free speech. you need to be much much more thorough and careful when formulating and interpreting arguments.

        i'm fed up with that argument that democracy is not in effect because ... and here comes some elusive, symbolic talk. i hear that here too, always from people who happen to disagree with the current establishment, and tries to cover up their own failure to understand why things went wrong. in the era of the internet, it is simply a serious case of bs to say that money controls information. the fact is, stupidity controls information. fox news might be shameful, but also the people who watch it.
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          Aug 16 2011: Oh I see. Sorry to have bothered you with my opinions.
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          Aug 27 2011: You can quibble over money vs contribution but its just rhetoric. The concept in question is whether bribery is a justified means of influence.

          "it is simply a serious case of bs to say that money controls information". Are you kidding me? Do we live on the same planet? Are you blind to the fact that Americans are being lied to relentlessly by mainstream media? Do you really think Fox is alone? They all toe the party line.
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        Aug 16 2011: and yet again, you mix words in the worst possible way. "one track minded" does not equal "monopolistic". the word monopoly has a well defined meaning. either learn it, or stop using it. state is a monopoly. free market capitalism makes it very hard for monopolies to form. in fact, the very few near-monopolies produced by the market do not show any signs of being a monopoly. however, state created monopolies are indeed that bad. profit motive is very very different. profit motive means we want to employ resources in an effective manner, that is, produce more from less. i can't see the problem with that mindset.

        the fact that you can't comprehend large scale enterprises does not stop them being enterprises. many times we saw large corporations fail, and small ones take over. it happens all the time. size does not protect you in any way from failure.
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          Aug 16 2011: Oh I see. Sorry to have bothered you with my opinions.
          After I get a decent education, maybe we can talk again.
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    Aug 8 2011: Since I have lived in two different systems, socialism and capitalism, I can actually make the comparison.
    And I believe a middle ground should be found. As far as I remember, the only really serious question during the years in socialism was the freedom of speech, but everything else worked much better for an individual in the society. OK, now you will say- JUST the freedom of speach, but that is the thing I would change, and to be honest, it's an issue even in the capitalist countries, only now it's not the government that controls you, but capital.
    On the other hand, there are more than enough resources to go around! Shouldn't the free education be a sign of our advancing as humanity? If there is knowledge and means, shouldn't every sick person have the right to treatment? What kind of society leaves the weak to die? The cave men had more compassion and bigger sense of community! It is funny how the exploiters managed to make us believe we actually want to be exploited...
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      Aug 8 2011: strange that our memories are so different. as i remember, in the shops, there were two kinds of milk: red pack and blue pack. neither was durable, they lasted 2-3 days. we didn't have passports by right, but had to request it. traveling to the west was often denied by arbitrary reasons, and was surely denied to everyone "suspicious". our cars were ladas and trabants, and you had to wait 5 years to get one. our flats were all state provided, and you had to sign up for one at your workplace. higher jobs were reserved to the "good comrades". we were observed, stalked and many of us had a record (me not, i'm too young). 1-5% of the population were informers (edit: informants, that is), many of them blackmailed into it, some of them paid. parents didn't dare to tell their children about true history, because they feared that the children might blab something in school or to neighbors.

      life changed in 1990 so significantly that no words can tell. people! wake up! socialism was tried already, and it ruined the lives of millions.
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        Aug 8 2011: Well, Yugoslavia was a bit softer :) I was also too young to remember most things, but I know we were a part of Non-alignment movement, not the Eastern block, so it wasn't that ugly.
        As I said you were not allowed to speak about certain stuff, I remember asking my mom where Croatia was, and she said- I'll tell you when we get home. That wasn't the conversation for the streets.
        But we were allowed to travel, and we did. I still have my first passport from when I was 3 yo. We also had our own house. (edit: my dad also had a french car :P)
        And yes, there was a lot of "wrongs", but I don't think it's any better nowdays. Not just with our 20 yo capitalism, but with the whole world.
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        Aug 9 2011: Krisztian with all due respect I am not sure that you suffered from socialism. In fact you suffered from ''good comrades'' who ran the system in Hungary at those days. Maybe Socialism's biggest flaw was its fragile nature that was relied on its keepers. Actually we Turks always suffered and still suffering from ''good comrades'' even we had never experienced a communist or socialist era.

        We have seen nationalist left governments , military coups, center-right and even Islamic right governments and they all caused similar inequities on society as you mentioned
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          Aug 9 2011: a centrally planned economy is doomed to fail, because of the lack of trial and error. good comrades obviously had their share in the process, but even the best heads could not be able to bring any better results. and we see the "good comrades" lined up even in our democracies. they just wait like vultures for their time to come.
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        Aug 13 2011: Krisztian, with all respect to your memory , do you think thsoe were ineherent to socialism? Isn't similar kind of things happening in capitalist countries as well (the whole middle east is capitalist , what's the situation of human rights there?)

        The points you made are the results of autocratic regime not socialism of single party or single person , who become greedier over time to keep their stronghold stronger besides CIA & media agression against socialism as a whole. The past regime of socialism had two major draw backs , first is autocracy , second is zero media strength.

        As a whole I feel socialism has only one weakness that is lack of competition and hence innovation.Otherwise socialism has much more elements for society at large than capitalism as the base of capitalism is GREED.
        Interestingly I feel slowly capitalism is embracing those societal aspect of socialism.
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          Aug 14 2011: i believe most of these things are direct results of central planning and others are results of autocracy. but autocracy is itself a direct result of the socialist idea, because opposition (the counter revolution) is to be crushed.

          i feel free to equate state socialism with socialism, because other forms of socialism don't call themselves that way these days. usually they call themselves anarchists. and also, when we talk about politics, we almost always talk about the state, and what should it do. reforming the state can only result in state socialism, and not anarchist socialism.

          and yes, socialism is above all an economic idea. i say this because this is the most important and most devastating aspect of it. central planning the economy is in itself is responsible for unimaginable destruction of wealth.
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        Aug 10 2011: To make it clear, my parents were not members of the Party, my mom is half Italian, and my father was the president of the first democratic Croatian party in my city in 1990. I was a homeless refugee at 6, because out city was under Serbian occupation for 5 years.
        In 50's and 60's building standards in Yugoslavia were much better than they are now, but there are still some very old buildings with poor sanitary conditions, some of them from medieval times (my friend has an apartment with separate toilet in Pula, a town that was built by Romans!!), so what you saw was not a building standard, at least not in Croatia, for rest I cannot speak.
        Even with many things that were unfair, we still lived better than we do now. I don't have a job, my sister doesn't have a job, since 1 year ago students have to pay tuitions, slowly they're making us pay for medicine, unemployment is through the roof, factories are closing due to bad management and corruption, workers are being exploited, some working for 100euros per month (average is around 1000USD), some working without pay for years!!!!
        I would put restrictions on a "free market" anytime.
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    Aug 27 2011: @ Jim Moonan
    «...But I beg to differ with your assessment that capitalism is self-destructive. It's actually self-correcting (as Birdia pointed out).»

    Capitalism is not, I agree, self destructive, unfortunately. It is always, willfully and proudly, the biggest and baddest bull elephant in musth. The ONLY way that capitalism (e.g. “profit from investment”) corrects itself is to increase profit. NOTHING else matters.
    Does a leopard change its spots? Is the Pope Catholic? Do bears defecate in the woods?
    It is therefore up to the government (...of the people, by the people, for the people) to chain the beast to two strong trees so that 'the people' "shall not perish from the Earth".

    Odd that the metaphor I chose ‘musth’ derived from the Persian root for ‘intoxicated’ and therefore implies not being in right mind or rational.
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    Aug 14 2011: Another method to increase social justice, economic opportunity, and stability in society is to increase the ability to empathize or be compassionate. You change by changing. We have allowed ourselves only two essential stances in society in the US: you believe that you have a right to everything you want, OR you believe that everyone is lesser than you because they do not share your religion, politics, ethnicity, wealth, sexuality, et et et et et et et et cetera. These could be called greed and righteousness (or the 'American Dream'), but they exemplify the internal and external policies of the US for most of its existence (not to say anything about the thirteen colonies, or the Brits, or Europe, or the rest of the world, at least not here, not now).

    We could start by trying to transform "our" minds and behavior into full sentience for the sake of humanity and for the sake of ourselves (not for the sake of god, or for the sake of our entry into heaven which is simply greed) . We need to do this without reference to religion or gods or dogmas and to do it eventually all together (though we might start as individuals). We need to find ways to encourage empathy, sharing, cooperation as the means to live successfully. I do not think it requires giving up money, or capitalism (although strong enforceable and enforced regulations on capitalism would be essential).

    My personal approach to this is secular buddhism (i.e. not religious, and also modern). Steve Batchelor (former zen monk and Tibetan monk) has brilliant new interpretations of what Gotama was trying to communicate. To wit - living a moral life with self reflection (mindfulness) and compassion for all others leads to a better society, and justifies its own propagation as the basis for social cohesion (more or less).

    The idea is not new, but we must in order to make it palatable, make it non denominational, and teach it as a skill for living (like knowing how to read or how to add up the cost of grocery item
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    Aug 12 2011: What will happen to capitalism when the oil runs out?

    The lifeblood of capitalism is oil. Oil, oil, oil...

    Should we start to worry about capitalism's welfare and longevity when we start using up to three barrels of oil to get one out? (Oh, sorry - we already are!)

    How many billions do we need to spend invading oil rich countries (for humanitarian reasons, of course) to satiate our oil addiction?
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      Aug 12 2011: the stone age didn't end because we ran out of stone. new technologies will emerge sooner than we run out of fossils. fourth generation nuclear plants are on the way. solar is cheaper every year. electric cars already run on our roads.
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        Aug 12 2011: With respect, the comparison is somewhat irrelevant. Stone did not generate massive revenues. Oil does. It is those revenues that are the problem, linked as they are to the greedier aspects of human nature. Capitalism inherently has to exploit commodities - that's what it does. It exploits finite natural resources and cheap labour in poorer countries to maintain (as John put it) the sickening levels of wealth at the top of the triangle and the equally sickening levels of poverty at the bottom. A side effect of this false reality is the increase in world population to the sort of unsustainable levels that only large (but unevenly distributed) world revenues can cope with. Heaven only knows what sort of humanitarian crisis will ensue when that dries up.

        Like most 'isms', capitalism is nothing but a temporary fad. It is unequal. It is squandering. It is too 'here and now' and 'I'm all right Jack' to be in any way sustainable. Big cracks are already beginning to show in the western world right now, as the whole juggernaut starts to move east.

        There will have to be an exponential increase in technological development to fill all the gaps left behind by oil. I do not see sufficient funding being allocated to such an increase in research and development into alternative energy sources - in fact much of it is being pulled.
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          Aug 12 2011: stone did not generate massive revenues? they didn't use the term massive revenue back than. but the effect of stone on the economy was probably just as big, as later iron, oil and the computer had. they all massively changed the life standards of people. thinking that the oil is something unique is a fallacy. granted, today oil is a big factor in our richness. but tomorrow something else will be that big factor.

          capitalism, the term, might fall with time. freedom, on the other hand, is not an ism, but a dom. doms don't retire that often. and i hope freedom never retires.

          the free market won't allocate resources into post-fossil technologies until it is feasible economically. today it is not. we see no direct signs of climate change. and we also don't see the end of the fossil fuels. oil might be an issue, but gas seems to be fairly unlimited in short to mid term. i'm not saying it is not an issue, but surely not an issue that people would spend a dime to resolve. but this will change as the price of alternatives fall.
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          Aug 13 2011: Krisztián Pintér, you say "the free market won't allocate resources into post-fossil technologies until it is feasible economically. today it is not. we see no direct signs of climate change. and we also don't see the end of the fossil fuels. oil might be an issue, but gas seems to be fairly unlimited in short to mid term. i'm not saying it is not an issue, but surely not an issue that people would spend a dime to resolve. but this will change as the price of alternatives fall"

          Doesn't this miss a couple of important things - actually, we *do* see signs of climate change, and anyway, our best scientists predict that it's going to get worse, and as you admit, it may be easier to keep burning gas, or finding more oil, ignoring the environmental crisis? This is the "tradgedy of the commons", which seems to me to be inherent in capitalism within a closed system. While we could just move somewhere else and find more stuff to exploit, and somewhere that didn't matter to dump the toxic fallout, capitalism worked. Now everywhere is our shared back garden, but it still makes me a quick buck if I dig some minerals out of it to sell, when nobody has anywhere left to grow food. Everywhere is our common sky, but it makes economic sense if I can get away with burning carbon irresponsibly. It's my "freedom". You keep going on about freedom. Where's your interest in responsibility? That is what everybody seems to have forgotten in this day and age, from politicians and bankers and business tycoons to looters and revolutionaries. Me, me, me. Well, we're all stuffed now, thank you very much. There had better be something else besides global capitalism, because it's falling apart right now.

          I know I've kind of changed my tune. I don't know if there is anything else we can do instead. Maybe mass slaughter will re-instate the value of sharing, and make greed in the post-apocalyptic world such a disgusting behaviour that nobody can bear to collect more than they need. Probably not. :(
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    Aug 9 2011: With any system, whether capitalism or socialism, there would be problems.
    It's not the system that is fundamentally dysfunctional. It's the abuse of the system by the people in charge that has begotten so many adversities. Essentially, it's the wrong plus-factors: capitalism + elitism = "rich get richer, poor get poorer."
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    Aug 9 2011: Of course the world could use a lot less greed. The question is how. All of the world's political spheres should give this issue the long-overdue attention it so desperately needs, especially during these tumultuous times.
  • Aug 8 2011: We should not think about socialism and capitalism; do whatever is good without harming anybody. We shouldn’t bind our thoughts and actions only to either of capitalism and socialism.

    I have seen so many people rejecting helpful ideas because it is socialism or capitalism in nature.
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    Sep 5 2011: just goto wall street and dress up like Indian Endhiran and goto start doing nonsense, then people would think that geologically its not the place to be and would think about an algorithmic alternative for thinking like this... :P
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    Aug 17 2011: Should this question be addressed from a standpoint of the global, rather than the particular? It seems to me that the 'isms' - capitalism and socialism - are too narrow and polarised to be part of the solution, when called upon to self-regulate themselves, via their passionate advocates, at a time when both have proven to be untenable. One seems to be used to discredit the other in a game of one-upmanship in these discussions (and I'm just as guilty as anyone else in that!).

    Would the more global 'ologies' - sociology, psychology, anthropology etc - be a better standpoint to start from when solutions to the big questions such as this one are needed? Elements of both capitalism and socialism might still be part of that solution, but at least it would be one that might be more acceptable universally, and also respectful of the human condition.

    Should we just 'stand back a bit' to see the whole problem rather than small parts of it?Just a thought....
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      Aug 17 2011: very true. one needs to look at the whole problem, and not dwell too much on word endings.
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      Aug 27 2011: Hi Allan, although changing the language we use is useful when words like "capitalism" and "communism" are so loaded with meaning that they risk alienating a wider audience from anything we propose, they are words that describe economic systems. I like to call a spade a spade.

      My understanding is capitalism just describes how people interact in a free market system with private property rights. If there is no private property it is communism; otherwise any market system with private property is capitalism at its heart. The primary motivator is our survival instincts which left unchecked can be considered greed. There are other subjective motives which influence the way we interact in a capitalist society of course, but still within a capitalist framework. Socialist mechanisms like taxation are added to the mix if they are deemed to generate greater social benefits than pure capitalism. Socialism is added. Right-leaning ideologies value less socialism, left-leaning value more.

      My point is that the " 'ologies' - sociology, psychology, anthropology etc", can inform the application of socialism to a capitalist system, but they influence a system that is either capitalism or communism. I can only see these two options.

      Am I missing something? Can we step back from the problem further?
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    Aug 14 2011: @Renzo Bruni

    "[bankers] control who gets elected, who votes which way"

    how would bankers and rich figures control who votes to who?
  • Aug 12 2011: (Continued from below)Since we are a K-seelcted species, and our members seek freedom to compete, Communism, Socialism, etc can only be imposed by force. Force implies power, and power means sooner or later a psychopath will get his hands on it, and the bloodshed will begin as he attempts to maintain his control. As a K-selected species, Humans were just designed to want to be free from government control, and designed to want to earn rewards in free interactions, and then keep them and enjoy them. Thus all the models of radical leftism always fail. For more on r/K Selection Theory and political ideology, please see http://www.atheoryofwar.com/rk.html
  • Aug 12 2011: You cannot understand Humans without understanding r/K Selection Theory in Biology. In this theory, there will exit two psychologies. Each is an attempt to maximize competitive advantage in a certain environment.
    When a population is heavily preyed upon, lifespans shorten, and resources become plentiful, respective to the diminished population. Under these conditions, an organism will reject competition to minimize risk, and embrace promiscuity and low investment, single parent child rearing, to maximize reproduction.
    This is the origin of political leftism. Leftists reject all free competition between men, from Capitalism to war, to a homeowner confronting a criminal with a gun. They tend to be more embracing of promiscuity than a Conservative, and they are accepting of single parent child rearing.
    The opposite of r-selection is K-selection. When a population has no mortality, it reproduces, until there are so many individuals that not everyone can survive due to limited resources, relative to the population numbers. Someone must die. At that point, a competition for resources ensues. This favors the K-selected psychology, which seeks to compete, chooses a highly fit mate carefully, mates monogamously, and rears children carefully in a two parent family, so they will be as competitive as possible. This is the origin of the Political Right. Conservatives seek competition, from Capitalism to war, they embrace monogamy and disdain single parent child-rearing.
    The thing is, we are as advanced as we are, because we are a K-selected species whose members competed rigorously, and gave us these evolutionary adaptations. As a result, most people will want to be free from any external control to compete. Most people will not want the rewards they earn in our competition taken, and given to others who didn't earn them.
    (Continued below)
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      Aug 12 2011: how woud you characterize me? i'm a great fan of capitalism and competition, but i'm strongly against war.
      • Aug 13 2011: It is tough to say, for a number of reasons.

        Humans are complex. Each individual can adopt any one of an infinite variety of positions, on many different issues, just as in nature, where a single organism may embrace monogamy, but seek to avoid competition. In humans, individuals may stray from their strategy on any issue, for any number of reasons. For that reason, as when applied in nature, this theory is a group theory. Zoom out to view the entire population, and you have two political ideologies, the Left and the Right. And they mirror the psychologies found in r/K Selection theory exactly.

        I also do not know enough about you. You say you are against war, intellectually. So is almost everyone, however, including the K-selected humans. The delineation is one's willingness to engage in war when provoked. Suppose your nation was attacked, ala Sept 11th, in the US? Would you support war to eradicate your enemy and protect your people, or would you seek to find out why your attackers attacked you, so you could live in better harmony with them in the future, and avoid bloodshed? In America, we had people who wanted all terrorists dead, and we had people saying we needed to change our policies, to placate those who would attack us. The former tended to be Conservative, and the latter tended to be Liberal.

        I'm guessing if you support Capitalism, you support a rigorous national defense. Those two generally go hand in hand.

        I find the theory useful for defusing the emotion in politics. Once one sees the bigger picture, all of these political battles become just a microcosm of common biological processes which greatly predate us, and which will continue wherever life forms in the universe, forever, long after we are gone. So long as man exists, one component of our populace will seek to be free, compete, and enjoy the fruits of their success, while the other will seek the power to stop competitions, redistribute all sucess, and provide equality to all, for fairness.
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          Aug 13 2011: to help you out characterizing me, i tell you beforehand that i'm an anarcho-capitalist. so

          * no, i would not agree with attacking a nation for a terrorist attack. the terrorist only is responsible for that. any kind of preemptive attack is a crime.

          * i don't want to change policies. i want to abolish policies altogether. i don't believe in the state. but i do believe that the US violates the rights of many people on regular basis, so yeah, policies are a big factor.

          * i don't support national defense. i support local defense. and yes, i think defense is a key to a stable society.

          in that coordinate system you gave here, seeking self fulfillment or seeking control over others, i can relate to that. and my way is freedom.
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    Aug 12 2011: Thanks for posting this. I was considering a similar question to the community on what sort of system could come after Capitalism. Something that strives for balance instead of ever increasing profits.
    Surely someone is working on a system that has at its core the value of all that we have on this earth and how it can be traded and developed for the greater good. Imagine if every nation did a major stock taking exercise and listed its assets and liabilities in a wholly new way. Assets would be natural resources, an educated, trained population, arable land, etc. Liabilities would be nuclear waste dumps, deforested eroding landscapes, soil salinity, pollution in groundwater, dying ecosystems, etc. You would have to start there and develop some kind of model that would address our liabilities and promote the growth of assets that will enhance the lives of everyone. Oh, and population control, please...... Brilliant minds are a start, but then there is the question of will. Do we have it in us to make this sort of change?
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    Aug 10 2011: Hello Daniel Marques,

    I think that capitalism is the best economic system we have. I'm not saying it's good, because we both know that in capitalism the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.

    However, it is the best system up to date. Now, is there anything we can do to improve socialism in a capitalistic society?

    How to do it? Communism tells us that socialism should be promoted by the government and for this, the government needs to have a stronger position on the market. However, capitalism requires slim-none government interference for it to work. So, what can be done?

    In my opinion, if I believe that capitalism is the best (not perfect or not even good nowadays, but the best) system, than we should educate people to get the most of capitalism and this is obtained by equal opportunities for all.

    And how do we achieve that? With quality public education, equal opportunities when it comes to accessing university (taking also in account the tuition issue) and a more social healthcare.

    Given all the people the same opportunities it's up to them to live up to this system. There was a chinese proverb that went: "if one is hungry, don't give him the fish, but teach them how to fish".

    However the government also need to regulate the markets. We can't afford having another economic crisis due to the lack of regulation. Regulation assures the rich don't get richer by literally stealing from the poor
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    Aug 8 2011: Thank you to everyone for their answers. This is great as i have a lot of different points of view to read. I have read a lot of retrospective opinions. I agree with you that the systems that have been have not been adequate. Today's capitalism provides for many, some of whom are philanthropists and do help others. Yet the sheer number of people in the world suffering abysmally because of third world debt brought on by the very same banks that fuel our economy is the reason for my search on this site for ideas on alternatives. No amount of philanthropists at today's levels can right this wrong. Neo-liberalism and the freedom to make unregulated amounts of money (e.g bankers), even when it clearly is exploiting so many millions, i believe should not be sought after. In a world (imaginary for now) where we don't need billions for an individual to be happy, why should they need to increase interest/profit so much.

    I agree that it can't happen now. It probably won't even be called socialism. I think what we could be doing is working out a way of changing the current system in a number of stages towards the next system. Just as capitalism followed feudalism

    So I'll ask, based on a time in the future, why would anyone need so much money if the state already provided them with food, housing and clean transport. I think if the citizens of a state hadn't grown up with such a profit hungry society, they would be happy in following their aspirations. Instead of working for a profit organisation, why wouldn't working for your true desires lead to more fruitful products of labour. Scientists such as Newton, Einstein or Hawking haven't been making breakthrough's for capital but for the ultimate endeavour of their lives; the progress of human knowledge and understanding of our universe. Sure today capitalism will be funding the research, but the incentive has usually been a personal drive.

    Wow I've really gone on a bit. This is great. In short, any new system ideas?
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      Aug 8 2011: in what philosophy you can "earn what you want"? i'm not aware of any of such school of thought, and it sounds crazy indeed. keep what you earn is something free market liberals say. but that sounds kind of rational, isn't it? also you seem to be confused about terms like interest and profit and their origins. nobody can "increase" neither of them. to increase profit, you have to do a better job. to increase interest, you have to save less or find a better use of capital. you can't just decide their level. it also seems to be the case that we have a rather different definition of exploitation. voluntary cooperation of two parties, whatever dire need one of them is in, is not exploitation in my book. especially not if their life standards are not at all lower than ours was when we were at their level economically. if you think we can't wait for kenya to grow on its own to our level, you are free to send some money over. it would actually be quite nice of you. you also can lend some money on kiva, if you don't find interest evil.
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        Aug 14 2011: yes1see A DiFfErEnT PoInT Of ViEw, ask me if you want a copy.
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        Aug 15 2011: Krisztián, you say "to increase profit, you have to do a better job. to increase interest, you have to save less or find a better use of capital", but two ways of increasing profit are to do a worse job, by cutting costs, safety standards, worker's rights, etc., and restricting supply. Both of these cast doubt on your belief, "voluntary cooperation of two parties, whatever dire need one of them is in, is not exploitation in my book", since the only alternative to "voluntary cooperation" may be starvation or unemployment, or exploitation by an even worse employer. This is the experience of millions of workers around the world.

        I also fail to understand how one can increase interest by saving less: the opposite seems to be the case (maybe I'm not understanding your use of the word "saving" - isn't it synonymous with "investing"?). A glance at interest rates I could get on $1000 and $100,000 demonstrate my point.

        You may not have seen my reply to you below due to the odd nature of the threads here, but I'd welcome discussing those points further as well if you wish. It was in your discussion with Allan Macdougall. You seem enthusiastic about capitalism. I see it as a major contributing factor in wrecking the planet and bringing us to global economic meltdown...although, unfortunately, I can't think of a solution. "Oh dear".

        Incidentally, if you want to understand exploitation of the masses in the West, I highly recommend "A Century of the Self" by Adam Curtis (when you've got 4 hours, although the first 20 minutes ought to give a decent overview). I must watch more of his films. This is also a very interesting interview with him, relating to our current discussion. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4sKCDl5Br4g&feature=related
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          Aug 15 2011: "to do a better job" can mean a lot of things, including cutting costs in some cases. these are not two ways. produce more from less, that is profit.

          imagine a country with no economy to speak of. children die in thousands. if i go there and build a factory, so children can not die lying on the ground, but come in, work, get a dollar or two a day, and have food, it is evil? you always have to consider the alternative. and in many countries, the alternative is to die in hunger. the free market solves that, because factories will move in. the first will offer half dollar a day. the next will offer one dollar, because it has to compete the first. the third will give one fifty. and so on, until the wage reaches the level of productivity. the worst you can do is to erect barriers for companies to move in and compete.

          the capital market is just like any other market. you make more apples, price of apples fall. if bad weather decreases plantation yields, apple prices go up. if you save, amount of savings is increased, price of capital falls (that is, interest falls). if you save less, capital is more scarce, price (=interest) goes up. that is how the free market works.

          i saw the century of the self, and though it was interesting, i believe it does not focus on what is really important, and also does not draw the necessary conclusions.
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    Aug 8 2011: I think to make things better, we don't have to change the whole system because small changes in certain behavior can change so much. E.g. in the USA and in Europe private households and especially food retailers and wholesalers throw away healthy, good food. In fact, the amount of food which is thrown away could feed all poor nations. Yes, consumerism is part of capitalism somehow but what I mean is that those things can be changed by simple market policies and regulations but still in the context of capitalism.
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    Aug 8 2011: (...Cont'd...) Capitalist apologists emphasise the fact that everyone lower down the pyramid does benefit, even though they may be less fortunate than those above. This may be superficially true. However, it seems to me that the pyramid stretches and polarizes, with sickening levels of wealth at the top and sickening levels of poverty at the bottom.

    It would be nice to remove all this and find a way to share the resources equitably. Unfortunately, I don't think it is possible except, as I say, with some moderation of the capitalist systems. If we can restore our democratic control of those who really have the power, it would be great. I don't know how it could be done. The powerful elite, being wealthy, can afford the best of everything, weapons, economics professors, scientists, and have more resources to squander in the pursuit of ways to hang on to that position.

    One glimmer of hope may rest in what Bob Shingles said: "Maybe when base resources become infinite then humanity can switch to a different system". I don't think they have to become infinite, just sufficiently abundant, and I'm starting to think that has been quite achievable for some time, but has been deliberately kept from us to maintain the power imbalance. The history of liquid fuel thorium reactors is a case in point (being sidelined in favour of the vastly more dangerous light water reactors we have, probably for the latter's potential to make weapons grade fuel), or from considering the pitiful funding of renewable energy and the enormous sums spent fighting over dwindling oil supplies. As most of this evil is paid for with borrowed money (I've heard it described as one big ponzi scheme), the global economy eventually collapses...and here we are.

    What can we do? Maybe only minimize the damage, educate ourselves, work together. Capitalism is rooted in nature, unfortunately. There never was a golden age, and there may never be one, but there may just be a chance of a fairer capitalism.
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    Aug 8 2011: Hi Daniel,

    I haven't completely given up hope of a "fairer" future, but I'm not confident I have any answers. I certainly think that switching to some kind of communism, even if we seriously tweaked its form and function, would be likely to fail (but I'm all ears if anyone has solutions of that ilk). I think that the best scenarios I have pondered are some kind of regulated capitalism.

    I'm no expert by any means, so the following should be taken with that in mind, but I think it's beginning to be more widely understood that capitalism has shaken loose from the democratic process, so that our voting is largely irrelevant. Perhaps our democracies were always an illusion, as some conspiracy theorists would have us believe, set up by some elite long ago to keep us quiet (Illuminati). It's not altogether an untenable idea. It appears that business and "Western" governments have colluded in manipulating the general public since at least the 1950s, but perhaps not just for evil, greedy ends, but because of the various mathematical models of economics that arose then, which suggested general benefit from capitalism, various aspects of "game theory". The idea, of course, is that everyone working in their own self-interest (or that of their family or other group) creates overall benefit for the population and results in an equilibrium - not equality of wealth, necessarily, but a stable pyramid.

    I have also heard that the US & GB governments after WWII were pretty desperate to maintain any kind of equilibrium, and that one way of doing this was to artificially inflate consumerism: keep people busy producing and consuming more and more shiny, labour-saving devices, perhaps a benefit to them, but also to distract them from what was happening further up the pyramid. What that was now appears to be the development of the modern "Empire", the buying and selling of countries and enslavement of 3/4 of the world in maintaining the excessive growth of the other 1/4. (...cont'd...)
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    Aug 8 2011: It is not about the system, it is about people. Even socialism has suffered from greedy people. On the other hand capitalism has to be regulated more tight and strictly by state and society. It evolves into something totally inhumane these days.
  • Aug 7 2011: It is not time to dispose of capitalism. Capitalism is still evolving and we can mold it into a system that provides for the greater good. Not all capitalists are greedy. The majority of them want to provide for others which can include not only their family, but their community. Need will never go away under any system, in the same way that evil will never go away. Capitalism allows for private wealth, as stated in Mr. Shingles comment, and private wealth can be used for the benefit of any community. "Need" is often viewed in terms of the impoverished, the hungry, the sick - but need can also be a need for opportunity or for the technology necessary to address hunger and illness. Private wealth allows for the development of an environment which grows opportunity, technology and other necessities for creating a healthy community. We have seen that absolute power corrupts absolutely and that is true when government is too powerful. The very people we entrust to take care of our community as a whole can abuse that trust and cause greater harm to a larger group of people than any wealthy individual could. Instead of eliminating capitalism in favor of some other system, lets guide it by rewarding those who use their wealth to benefit others.
  • Aug 7 2011: No it is not time change. Yes, Capitalism has its flaws but not as many as the other systems.

    Often in these arguments I hear the word "fair" thrown around a lot but what is more fair than capitalism? You work to own your own private capital. Private property allows individuals immense freedom to support the causes they want to support.

    I hear consistently that it is not "fair" that the majority of money is held by a minority of people but, for example, do not the creators of Google, Facebook, and every other revolutionary business or service deserve to be compensated for changing the world?

    Personally, I do not think it is fair that people want to take resources they did not earn and give those resources to people that did not innovate or, in any way, deserve those resources. Some will point to exceptions, those who stole money, but I still do not think it is fair to redistribute all resources because of the exceptions.

    Maybe when base resources become infinite then humanity can switch to a different system.