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Asoka

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  1. FYI I am a United Statesian. So nothing about how I'm explicitly not trying to compare the modern-day situation of most wage laborers to the condition of slavery? I mean, your argument essentially amounts to "oh you mentioned slavery therefore your argument is invalid. It's fairly easy to figure out: when you view the problems that people are having as the result of their own stupid behavior, are you more or less likely to support policies that help those people out? You didn't see yourself as being exploited, but we've already seen in this thread how many ruling-class myths you wholeheartedly embrace. You can look up the social mobility numbers yourself. I guess your explanation would be too much "negativity" and too many people buying the "whole shtick about how the poor have no opportunities"... I mean, do you know literally anything about the history of working class activism and class struggle, anywhere in the world? The idea that leftists who point out injustice in the world are holding people back is simply asinine. Just to give an example of something I've done that I'm most proud of, I volunteered with a worker center called New Labor. The most important thing they do (IMO) is action (litigation and protesting) to recover wages that are stolen from undocumented immigrants in central New Jersey. Typically it is very empowering and it sets people on a positive path when they realize that the problems facing them are of a systemic nature (not that I'm saying all problems that hold people back are like this--people hold themselves back plenty too). The likelier consequence of your "meeting someone like me" when you were 20 would be your participation in activism and collective action with the potential to benefit millions of people instead of just yourself. The idea that injustice can be fought by ignoring it....is silly. But no sillier than plenty of other things you've said up in here. I mean, imagine if the people who participated in the Civil Rights movement in the 1950s and 60s had taken your attitude: we'd very likely still be living with segregation to this day. Semantic quibbling, irrelevant to the point. You want the universe to hold people accountable. I don't disagree with this as an abstract principle. I just disagree with your idea that the only way to determine who made "wise" choices is through real-world success. When you're rich it's very easy to be insulated from the bad consequences of your stupid or criminal behavior, but it's not so easy when you're poor. I mean, one example of this is the bankers who committed literally thousands of felonies during the housing bubble. Their behavior turned out to be quite wise, since Obama granted them a de facto immunity from prosecution, instead prosecuting many victims of fraud. This actually segues nicely into the next point that whether someone's behavior is "wise" should not be the whole equation. I think you will agree that virtue is important too. Take El Chapo, who I'm sure you will agree is an extremely capable and competent businessman. Should he be allowed to "enjoy the outcomes" his wise behavior has created? I mean, to put this more generally, if someone murders all his competitors and gets rich, does he deserve reward even if what he did was incredibly smart? I think not. I think this view is almost absurdly simplistic. I think the best approach is creating conditions such that people are encouraged to make good choices. I mean, you have clearly benefited from some basic level of education, which probably stopped you from making any number of bad choices that you might have made otherwise. Was compulsory education, preventing you from making bad choices, an unacceptable restriction on your freedom? I don't think people would act responsibly even where they are perfectly exposed to the consequences of their choices. You give humans too much credit for rational and lucid thought. You also seem to assume that the choices and their consequences have a much more straightforward and obvious relationship than exists in reality. BTW, another problem with your market doctrine is precisely that it assumes people all have access to all relevant information when making market decisions, which is obviously not true... It's the most important one though since it represents enormous 'fixed' costs. In any case, I've just gotten finished saying I don't think it makes much sense to view having children in this way. Some people make a conscious choice to have children, but many people have children by accident (and before you say that just means they chose not to use contraception, there is no contraceptive method with 100% of success, and in any case this gets back to my point that it's fucking counterproductive to blame people for having children). While you have stated your support for safety nets and public goods, many many other people oppose them on the grounds that people need to suffer for their bad choices (like having too many children). How this makes sense when it's children suffering for the bad choices of their parents, I don't know, but I don't buy into any of this barbarous nonsense, so... It's a lot easier to blame the poor for "living beyond their means" than it is to fix an economic system where real wages just aren't high enough, of course.
  2. Well, Hillary may represent the last gasp of the DLC-wing of the Democrat Party.
  3. Oh yeah. Citizens' United amounted to an admission that the court no longer cares about the conventional ethos involving legal precedent and such. They may already have destroyed the Republic with that one; I only hope we can begin to undo the damage before it's too late (if it isn't already).
  4. Renegade, to expand a bit on this: Note how I reverse what you said. I don't think that the rich are all evil and greedy or anywhere close to it. And I also believe that in a sense we are all guilty for society's wrongs. In a sense, the system of neoliberal capitalism demands that CEOs act like sociopaths. It becomes impossible to compete with people who flout the system when the government stops enforcing the rules. So in the normal run of things, CEOs who do not cut wages, lay people off, pollute the environment (often literally poisoning people), make things cheaply with quasi-slave labor in Pakistan or Vietnam, etc. It demands that quarterly returns to investors be the single biggest focus of large-scale enterprise. This is obviously a serious problem. It also leads to things like the frauds that caused the economic crisis, because as an honest lender you can't compete with fraudulent banks and suborned accountants and auditors. It makes problems systemic rather than the result of "individual choice" per se. Also, to claim that political conflicts are caused by politicians "pitting people against each other" is simply wrong. It's true in the trivial sense that politicians often find it advantageous to stir up enmity and play on fear, but without conflict there is no "politics"--since politics is, fundamentally, the ongoing peaceful or violent resolution of conflicts over power, status, and resources. So the political process, like campaigns and voting and such, is just the outward manifestation of these fundamental conflicts that are part of human existence. Of course, since in the US the terms of political discourse are particularly far from reality it is easy to see why you can imagine that the politicians are just stirring up trouble.
  5. AFAIK I've brought up racism a total of once in this thread. I am also not equating anything you've said with racism, merely with the ahistorical worlview often taken by racist apologists (who have in some cases used exactly the same words you used to explain to me why racism is not something we should be worried about in the present). The point of bringing up the past is not to say that the past isn't "over" but merely to gain some historical perspective. We cannot understand the present without knowing the past, after all... Well, if you notice I don't in fact draw a comparison between my hypothetical scenario and slavery...I think that there are wage-labor conditions that are about as bad as slavery, but again they are not particularly common in the contemporary West. This has largely been thanks to workers' movements that have struggled for better treatment and conditions. You can read contemporary descriptions of labor conditions from the early 19th century and judge for yourself how similar it was to slavery. Yes, I'm aware of that, but what you're "willing" to do doesn't really help out all the people with "commitments." Whereas the stuff you're peddling about how these are best viewed as "choices" for which a worker is responsible is, I think, demonstrably harmful. This is, of course, not really true. There are many reasons why a successful company might not end up "growing easily." Indeed, the 100% employee-controlled and owned model appears to work best for smaller firms with a few dozen workers. Worker control has rarely been tried at scale, for reasons that you hint at here: there are financing concerns and so forth that need to be addressed. And it is regrettable but true that the conventional banking system is often unwilling to finance democratic firms regardless of the underlying business prospects. Because it follows from what I have read of your philosophical framework. Your notion of "free choice" necessitates holding people responsible for their choices, as you have said in so many words. You have claimed inequality is desirable, even necessary, in order to reward virtue and punish (for lack of a better term) sin. As far as I can tell this ultimately derives from the ideas of Malthus, who claimed that suffering was necessary to maintain nature's balances. You also stated that "the negative consequences of quitting a job are self-imposed"! One wonders why you might say something like that, knowing full well we are talking about people who have kids to feed and can't quit their jobs, unless you believe that the problem is not that people are paid too little, but that they reproduce more than they can afford! You appear to be far more civilized than the typical social Darwinist, and obviously have rejected the more sadistic forms of "market discipline," but you should at least be aware and honest of where your ideas come from, and where they can lead. What on Earth gives you this idea? My opinion of poverty is that it is entirely unnecessary and purely the result of social arrangements. Rich and poor are categories that only make sense in the context of human social systems. I mean, you didn't get that from the Robert Owen quote? Most people cannot change their class. Even if everyone could, not everyone can be upper class. Class systems don't work that way. That's unfortunate: "class warfare", specifically working-class militancy, is largely responsible for the advances we've made to make wage labor better than slavery. A very stereotypically American thing to say. A quote, often attributed to John Steinbeck (though wikiquote lists it as "disputed") addresses this issue quite well: Socialism never took root in America because the poor see themselves not as an exploited proletariat, but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires. This is, ironically, a caricature of MY views (though not the views of many doctrinaire Marxists and evangelical Leftists floating around college campuses and such). I do think you drastically understate the amount of greed and cruelty among the rich; regrettably we live in a system where the easiest way to get ahead is to act like a sociopath. And my response would be: this is a delusion, at least under current circumstances. Indeed part of the reason I demand economic democracy and more socialism is to make these kinds of visions a reality. http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2015/07/america-social-mobility-parents-income/399311/
  6. Well, actually, this isn't true--there are measurable nutritional differences and so forth. You can actually learn a good deal about someone's health by closely examining her skeleton and particularly her teeth. And I don't think any measurements have been taken of what people's brains looked like in prehistory, either, to the point where we'd be able to compare it to modern times. Epigenetics means that while we may have the "same genes" there are environmental influences which influence what genes are "turned on." We don't really fully understand the rules governing how genes are expressed. And lots of other genes regulate relatively basic things like cell structures and DNA replication (which is why we share so much DNA with bananas). Anyway the point is that you're perhaps drawing unwarranted conclusions from the fact that we have basically the same genes as those hunter-gatherers. Well, more and more it seems like our choices are on the one hand, a higher form of life where the distinction between human and machine blurs (we're also going to have to learn to technologically imitate life before we can improve on the way it exploits the Sun's energy). On the other, collapse of civilization due to runaway climate change. These two things I guess aren't wholly mutually exclusive. I agree with you on this, by the way. The rational part of the brain is only a relatively recent addition to the reptilian and mammalian parts of the brain... It could be. I think climate change/mass extinction is likely to wipe us out (or at least, our technological civilization) before we can figure out all the relevant genetics. It seems likelier that we simply reverse-engineer the human brain and proceed to intelligently guide our own evolution - if we don't collapse first.
  7. I am hoping that Bernie does well enough in the primaries to really throw a monkey wrench into things.
  8. Scalia's reasoning is exactly equivalent to saying you only have to pay taxes for municipal garbage collection if you voted for the party that controls the city government. These right-wingers on the court are really poor excuses for human beings.
  9. *sigh* I already said you were right that the chart does not disprove marginal productivity theory. The chart, however, shows that wages kept pace with productivity increases until ca 1973. I am curious as to how you explain this observed correlation. Coincidence? Did technology only suddenly start playing a role in productivity increases in the early 1970s? Typically no (though, often US employees are required to buy their own safety equipment and such in violation of the law, but that is another topic). This has, however, nothing to do with Sraffa's point about marginal productivity theory. Would you prefer "using" to "in"? How much time are you going to waste on irrelevant semantic quibbles? The point is the use of a monetary (not real) measure of output to calculate productivity. Since you seem to agree that output is not denominated in, say, hamburgers, or Xboxes, I think we can move on... Well, in fact the government is still statutorily committed to full employment to this day! But of course that means nothing since the "full employment" was replaced with "non-accelerating inflation rate of unemployment" back at about the time we see the values in the chart begin to diverge... Typical Market Fundamentalist/racist trope: the past is over! So you know, this "logic" is typically used by racist apologists to deny that racism needs to be addressed in the present, since it's now "over." And most people have commitments that have nothing whatever to do with personal choice. For example, many poor people are actually helping to support the previous generations (parents, grandparents, etc) rather than a new family they have started. I suppose you could argue that people choose to assume these obligations but that would seem a little ridiculous...if the choice is between paying some money every month and seeing Grandma get evicted from her home there is no real choice. Another aspect of commitments that people have is of course health-related. My younger brother for example has several health conditions that require him to take 3 or 4 pills daily...these health conditions are primarily genetic and have nothing whatever to do with his personal choices. There are lots more people like my younger brother out there (I feel no problem with using this as a personal example because it's the kind of thing that can be verified quite easily, not in specific cases but generally). But, in fact, they ARE created by bad laws and greedy employers, as is easily demonstrable from the fact that other countries (Norway, Sweden, Denmark) have systems in place that greatly reduce the dependence of people on the wage system. As we have seen, we don't choose all our commitments. And even those like your children that are ostensibly a result of personal choice--well, what does the fact that you chose to have children matter once you have them? Should people's children be made to suffer for their choices? As for a "stretch" to say that commitment create some variations on slavery...well, of course it isn't. A situation where someone has to accept being treated like shit at his job because he had a kid or two and can't afford to quit is not ameliorated by you pointing out that having kids was a choice. One could just as easily argue that Africans who were captured "chose" to be slaves by putting themselves in circumstances that led to their capture. I suppose this segues nicely into the real problem I have with this personal choice idea, which is that it ultimately is a philosophy which is incapable of taking a critical view of any social structure. It defaults into blaming the victim. I mean, to put it slightly different, back in the days when wage workers were commonly whipped, sometimes chained to machines, and faced starvation as the alternative to toiling away for 14 or 16 hours a day, people applied the exact same arguments as you're applying now to show that the system really wasn't problematic at all and everyone had free choice so therefore all outcomes were perfectly fair. I mean, you're really verging on straight social darwinism, and from what you've already said it is apparent you agree with Ashley that the real problem is the poor reproduce too much. The basic idea with which I'm approaching this question, is that the happiness, fulfillment and flourishing of people is the ultimate goal of the social system. You appear to see it the opposite way: that the ultimate goal for all people should be to obey the dictates of the social system. Quite aside from all this there have been hundreds of slave labor cases in the US in recent years (mostly involving undocumented immigrants). Slavery continues to exist in the present, though in peripheral and largely extralegal forms. We should work to reduce the dependence of people on the wage system for survival as much as possible. Well, it certainly is against the law to expropriate the property of capitalists. But I agree with Robert Owen that the only thing intervening is ignorance to prevent this from catching on. People, BTW, are trying it out--just not on a particularly large scale because financing is not available (though efforts are underway to change that). At last, a testable prediction! Something tells me, however, that if wages don't rise you will not reevaluate any of the assumptions that led you to that belief.... From my point of view it is the opposite, you tend to focus on individuals to the exclusion of the systemic factors that operate to constrain people's choices (or to constrain their KNOWLEDGE or UNDERSTANDING of the choices available to them, which is effectively the same thing). You don't need to keep people in chains if you can fool them into putting the chains on themselves.
  10. There is no reason to expect a correlation except for the political structures that seem to influence how national income is distributed. The "productivity" of labor has always been inseparable from the productivity of the tools labor used. It's Sraffa again: commodities producing commodities producing commodities. Production is social, not "marginal", and always has been. Yet we do see a correlation between productivity and wages for the first half of the chart, for the reasons I've been explaining: that the level of wages is actually due to power imbalances between workers and employers. I would actually posit that the government's abandonment of full employment policy was probably the most important cause of this opening gap. It isn't patently false, at all. If it were not calculated (if you prefer that over "measured") in money-prices it would have to be measured in terms of services rendered and things produced. It isn't. The fact that productivity is calculated using a measure of, essentially, what things cost in terms of money, means logically that the value generated by workers using technology (the two are inseparable, which has been my entire point) is not being returned to them via wages. I suppose you are right that the gap on the chart doesn't disprove marginal productivity theory, because marginal productivity theory can't account for anything we see on that chart.
  11. They need to pass an act which creates some price index they can use to increase it constantly over the next twenty years or so.
  12. I would say this applies to the current state of the class struggle, too Hey, it wouldn't have to take that, even: a couple of times during the Cold War malfunctioning computer/radar systems almost triggered nuclear war. That's why I consider the Cold War to be the dumbest thing our species has done (though the first half the twentieth century is a close runner-up).
  13. Sure, I agree with you here. There are important differences between slavery and wage labor and the right of exit from wage labor is one of them. But this is a difference that in many cases only exists in theory. What are the actual consequences for people of "exiting the wage labor contract?" You seem to have been lucky enough to be able to easily bear a wait while finding another job. But lots of people don't share that luxury. They have rent to pay, family members to support...you get the idea. And also not all wage labor is "at-will", you know...there can certainly be contractual consequences for a worker breaking off a contract before a specified period of time has passed. But once more I believe the reason you don't see any connection between wage labor and slavery is that you're living in a time and place such that you've benefited tremendously from the struggle of previous generations of wage workers to secure some rights and improvements in their condition. Back in the 1800s conditions for wage workers in many industries was really not too different from slavery. There are also plenty of examples of workers living in company housing, being paid in company scrip, and going to the company store - obviously this arrangement is not very different than that of a peasant living on a feudal estate. This is the kind of thing that's avoided by having a central bank. No. Robert Owen, all the way back in 1816, wrote: He was right then and he was right now, but of course "ignorance" has a very formidable power, and while we've taken leaps and bounds to realizing Owen's dream we aren't there yet. Our institutions--states and economies--are essentially the instruments of war, and they have not really been turned to the business of peace yet. My theories are just that--theories. In real-life history, it's been messier, and of course actions have broken the law in the pursuit of justice. But I believe (and I think you'll agree) that breaking an unjust law cannot be an unjust act. Is it duh? It would be duh in a perfectly competitive market at full employment, I suppose but I don't think it's duh in our world. As to the rest of your post, I understand perfectly well how people apply "transactional theories" of human nature to human behavior: I don't need to read examples from you (though your example is a good one and is well-thought-out). All I want to hear is how you falsify this theory.
  14. Large majorities of the US population support socialist policies like redistributive taxes, social security, medicaid, etc. On actual policy the American public is much further to the left than the mainstream discourse would suggest. Undoubtedly this is because the consolidated corporate media no longer discusses these issues intelligently. There used to be more diversity in the media, and ownership and control was much more decentralized. Something like 90% of the US media is controlled by six companies now. Six!
  15. There is no logical contradiction (as is the case with an omnipotent God making a rock too heavy to lift). This is only a logical contradiction when we define freedom in terms of the ability to enter contracts, but when we understand that there are contracts which inherently immoral, even when they are entered into freely, it becomes easier to get. Of course, the idea that some "free" contracts are unacceptable completely undermines the entire classical-liberal system built on freedom of contract. Which is the entire point. David Ellerman (you should look him up) deals with this issue a lot in his work. The answer is that contracts which alienate the inalienable freedom of the human subject are not simply immoral but impossible to fulfill. The human cannot transform himself into a mere object, a tool for the carrying out of another's will. This of course is exactly what the wage labor contract and the self-sale contract do, the only difference being the length of time involved. I give you credit for understanding the logical implications of this. You appear to have taken the Orwellian position that freedom is slavery which is pretty unfortunate. No, I don't really subscribe to social contract theory so I do not agree about this. All freedoms boil down to obligations on others. It's mutual obligation that binds societies together, not "social contracts" where we trade freedom for security. Well, it would be interesting to see how the state would respond to a real attempt to do this. Generally when people attempt to organize on democratic principles they are stopped from doing so by state violence. A fairly typical case is the St. Louis Commune or the Paris Commune, both of which were ended violently by the state. Another example would be the anarchist regions of Spain during the civil war in that country; you should be able to figure out how that ended without doing any research at all. Yet another example, from the US, would be the Colorado Coal Strike which was ended through such events as the Ludlow Massacre.
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