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Author Topic: Socialism or lack thereof in the US (split from Christine O'Donnell)  (Read 5858 times)

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Offline Salamander

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Re: Socialism or lack thereof in the US (split from Christine O'Donnell)
« Reply #50 on: September 30, 2010, 04:45:58 AM »
While we did indeed create the free markets, capitalism is indeed the most natural thing in the world.  Why?  Because in our hearts, just about every human being is incredibly self centered, and out only to benefit himself and those he cares about.  Capitalism plays off of this fact by incentivizing working hard and being better then everyone else, thus boosting production by harnessing our own inherent avarice.  Indeed, a lot of the social programs that are in decline short-circuit this basic principle, and thus tend to fail when put up against their private counterparts.  Just look at most private schools, a capitalist program, vs public schools, a socialist program.  They outperform their counterparts in just about every conceivable way.

This isn't to say that complete deregulation is a good thing.  People are by nature avaricious, and so they will try to take advantage if they can.  The capitalist system only works if there are options, competition.  If one company gets to be so big that there is no competition, or if there is collusion, where they are working together, then they will cut costs wherever they can to make a profit, thus hurting their workers and the people who need their products.

This is a fine example of the sort of erroneous thinking that I referred to in my post above. People do indeed have selfish desires. They also have altruistic/ co operative desires. The societies that most closely approximate our 'natural' condition, the condition in which we evolved, are hunter-gatherer tribes. And guess what? They're always organized to promote co operation and limit competition, which is perceived as being damaging to the social group.

Societies can be organized in such a way as to promote and encourage our co operative instincts. They can also be organized to do the opposite- promote and encourage competition. Capitalism is an example of the latter, and it is undoubtedly successful in terms of creating economic growth. The great thing about the Scandinavian model is that it harnesses this growth in the interests of society as a whole. Whereas the Anglo-American model is a purely exploitative one- the rich get rich, and screw everybody else.

As far as the alleged superiority of private schools goes, that may well be an artifact of their selectivity and the socio-economic status of their intake. Once you account for these facts, the picture is not so straightforward. For example, their record in maths education may well be worse:

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/02/090226093423.htm




Offline Trieste

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Re: Socialism or lack thereof in the US (split from Christine O'Donnell)
« Reply #51 on: September 30, 2010, 06:51:55 AM »
Indeed, the default state seems to be egalitarianism not because of a "why can't we be friends?" attitude but because it's essentially a "share or die" situation. Not only that, but as you go on, groups of people start to act like a single aggregate organism, with individuals not only forced to make sacrifices for the group, but often willing to do so. I've seen it argued in both textbooks and articles that the social animal is man's ground state - the place at which he is most comfortable and most healthy.

Offline Salamander

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Re: Socialism or lack thereof in the US (split from Christine O'Donnell)
« Reply #52 on: September 30, 2010, 08:41:56 AM »
Indeed, the default state seems to be egalitarianism not because of a "why can't we be friends?" attitude but because it's essentially a "share or die" situation. Not only that, but as you go on, groups of people start to act like a single aggregate organism, with individuals not only forced to make sacrifices for the group, but often willing to do so. I've seen it argued in both textbooks and articles that the social animal is man's ground state - the place at which he is most comfortable and most healthy.

Absolutely. Well said.

Its also worth pointing out that where competition does occur in 'primitive' societies, it is competition in the interests of the group, the reward for which is status. For example, young males might compete for the role of 'greatest buffalo hunter' (or whatever), but the meat of the buffalo that get caught is always shared out among tribe. This is sort of analogous to the Nordic model, where high fliers get the status (doctors and managers are held in high regard), but are also taxed very heavily. And just as the hunters in a 'primitive' society are happy to (in effect) work for status, so are the professionals in Sweden, the Netherlands etc. Its noteworthy that these countries usually fare pretty well in international comparisons of economic competitiveness; if it really was all about personal economic gain then they'd be very uncompetitive indeed.

Offline Loke

Re: Socialism or lack thereof in the US (split from Christine O'Donnell)
« Reply #53 on: September 30, 2010, 11:19:15 AM »
Indeed, the default state seems to be egalitarianism not because of a "why can't we be friends?" attitude but because it's essentially a "share or die" situation. Not only that, but as you go on, groups of people start to act like a single aggregate organism, with individuals not only forced to make sacrifices for the group, but often willing to do so. I've seen it argued in both textbooks and articles that the social animal is man's ground state - the place at which he is most comfortable and most healthy.

You make a great point here; we are social creatures and as a social creature we are willing to "take one for the team" in order to help our fellow human beings.


This isn't to say that complete deregulation is a good thing.  People are by nature avaricious, and so they will try to take advantage if they can.  The capitalist system only works if there are options, competition.  If one company gets to be so big that there is no competition, or if there is collusion, where they are working together, then they will cut costs wherever they can to make a profit, thus hurting their workers and the people who need their products.


You state that company's will only, as you put it "cut costs wherever they can to make a profit" witch basically is fire people, redusing their wages, making them work longer to be able to produce more and not giving them any health insurance, when their is no compilation. I say that they will do it even if they are not the dominating company, they see a way to make more money and get even richer they will take it no mather what. If it means firing people or reduce their wages to basically nothing they will do it.
And that is the weary essence of capitalism; make more money for the individual not for his fellow men but for him self.

Salamander-
Your example of buffalo hunters is a great one and your post shows how a socialistic society should be build, by making the people that have more money then others should pay higher taxes, Sweden had a wealth tax (but our current government took it away) with were: all that makes more then 40.000 SK (SK=our currency) had to pay an additional tax on those money, still keeping them wealth but by taking that extra money and spending it on the social welfare the social standards of Sweden held/holds a weary high standard.

Offline Trieste

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Re: Socialism or lack thereof in the US (split from Christine O'Donnell)
« Reply #54 on: September 30, 2010, 11:22:16 AM »
Wasn't it Sweden that rated highest on worldwide standard of living polls? And also were found to have one of the smallest gaps between the poorest class and the richest class? And that even the wealthier folks liked it there?

I believe it's been shown again and again and again that people are happier when 5% of the country doesn't hold 90% of the wealth.

Offline Loke

Re: Socialism or lack thereof in the US (split from Christine O'Donnell)
« Reply #55 on: September 30, 2010, 11:33:09 AM »
Wasn't it Sweden that rated highest on worldwide standard of living polls? And also were found to have one of the smallest gaps between the poorest class and the richest class? And that even the wealthier folks liked it there?

I believe it's been shown again and again and again that people are happier when 5% of the country doesn't hold 90% of the wealth.

Yes I think it was Sweden that was in the top, but I'm not sure. As for the class differences, Sweden's true back bone working class are all in the middle class (sounds a bit confusing but I hope you get it) because the working class standrad has been steadily improved since the 1930's.
The wealthiest in Sweden are not close to the wealthiest in the USA, not by a long shot. And that is because of the wealth tax, they still reamins wealthy but the standards of all of Sweden improves.

As for your last point I couldn't agree more you nailed it  :-)

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Re: Socialism or lack thereof in the US (split from Christine O'Donnell)
« Reply #56 on: September 30, 2010, 11:56:27 AM »
Yes I think it was Sweden that was in the top, but I'm not sure. As for the class differences, Sweden's true back bone working class are all in the middle class (sounds a bit confusing but I hope you get it) because the working class standrad has been steadily improved since the 1930's.
The wealthiest in Sweden are not close to the wealthiest in the USA, not by a long shot. And that is because of the wealth tax, they still reamins wealthy but the standards of all of Sweden improves.

As for your last point I couldn't agree more you nailed it  :-)

If it's not the top, it's right up there.  I'm guessing you mean that the working class, man-in-the-street Swede enjoys a life similar to what we in the US consider middle class: homeowner, car in every garage, chicken in every pot, holidays at the shore (or where-ever you want to go to).  Maybe a little debt month-to-month, but nothing crippling.

Offline Salamander

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Re: Socialism or lack thereof in the US (split from Christine O'Donnell)
« Reply #57 on: September 30, 2010, 02:13:39 PM »
Some great posts from Trieste, Loke and Oniya. Just to add a couple more tidbits of information, and ask a question.

I checked out the website for the World Economic Forum, which produces an annual comparative index of international competitiveness. The US comes out as number 4 in the world; number 3 is....Sweden. Three other European Social Democracies also make it into the top 10- Finland 7th, Netherlands 8th, Denmark 9th. Germany (considerably more socialist than America, but not to my mind a real social democracy) is 5th. This demolishes any sort of argument along the lines of 'you need to be unequal to be competitive in the modern world'. Not true at all- countries can be highly egalitarian and highly competitive. Oh...and in case you're wondering, Switzerland comes out as the most competitive country, and Singapore is 2nd.

My second tidbit is this study here:

http://current.com/1ajm74c

The salient points:
- In the US, the top 20% of the population owns 84% of the wealth, which leaves only 16% of the wealth for 80% of the population. In Sweden, the top 20% owns 32% of the wealth- an absolutely enormous difference from the American situation.
- Americans grossly underestimate the level of wealth disparity in their society. The mean estimate for the proportion of the wealth owned by the richest 20% of Americans was 59%.
- A staggering 92% of the Americans in the study preferred the Swedish wealth distribution to the American wealth distribution.

Reading that study has given me some hope. Maybe Americans will eventually wake up and realize that their current social model sucks, and that there are better alternatives on offer. Unfortunately, looking at the progress of the tea party and their ilk, it seems a long way off.

Finally, a question: The Swedes aren't just socialists, they're godless socialists. Sweden is generally reckoned to be one of the most atheist countries in the world, perhaps even the most atheistic. The US, on the other hand, is a deeply religious nation, and religion (and religious rhetoric) plays an important role in politics. Is there a link here? To what extent, if at all, is religion the opium of the American masses?


Offline Loke

Re: Socialism or lack thereof in the US (split from Christine O'Donnell)
« Reply #58 on: September 30, 2010, 03:23:52 PM »

My second tidbit is this study here:

http://current.com/1ajm74c

The salient points:
- In the US, the top 20% of the population owns 84% of the wealth, which leaves only 16% of the wealth for 80% of the population. In Sweden, the top 20% owns 32% of the wealth- an absolutely enormous difference from the American situation.
- Americans grossly underestimate the level of wealth disparity in their society. The mean estimate for the proportion of the wealth owned by the richest 20% of Americans was 59%.
- A staggering 92% of the Americans in the study preferred the Swedish wealth distribution to the American wealth distribution.

Reading that study has given me some hope. Maybe Americans will eventually wake up and realize that their current social model sucks, and that there are better alternatives on offer. Unfortunately, looking at the progress of the tea party and their ilk, it seems a long way off.

Finally, a question: The Swedes aren't just socialists, they're godless socialists. Sweden is generally reckoned to be one of the most atheist countries in the world, perhaps even the most atheistic. The US, on the other hand, is a deeply religious nation, and religion (and religious rhetoric) plays an important role in politics. Is there a link here? To what extent, if at all, is religion the opium of the American masses?



My world just shook "In the US, the top 20% of the population owns 84% of the wealth, which leaves only 16% of the wealth for 80% "... I'm speechless and furious, how the ******** can you people call your self freedom fighters !!! you're basically a nation populated by slaves ! No wonder 92% wants a social system where they have right to basic ethnically rights and a social safety net ! Have your government no empathy, conchies or emotions or all you all Vulcan's !?!

And yes we are a very atheistic but of the population of 9,5 million, half a million is Muslims that's because we don't have a forced religion or even a state religion and we don't make our 5 year old kids swear to god that they will love and fight for their country. Also we don't believe that all Muslims are extremists and terrorist's.

Hope that that answered your question Salamander and thanks for sharing this information to me if you need moor for an answer just ask and I will answer I'm just to PISSED OF at the moment 

Offline Noelle

Re: Socialism or lack thereof in the US (split from Christine O'Donnell)
« Reply #59 on: September 30, 2010, 04:13:50 PM »
Salamander, your post reminds me of an article I read recently. While it's not 100% relevant, I do think the point it tries to make is interesting in regards to what people are convinced they're voting for (a la dishonest advertising/reporting/general ignorance of politics in general with no real desire to find out) versus what they're actually getting (things that don't really benefit them).

Problem is, America has always had a large emphasis on the individual over the collective. That if you work hard, you will succeed and get what's coming to you. There's value placed in individual wealth -- hell, even the average "roadmap" of a person's life is marked by what they own. First you own your own apartment. You upgrade a few times, then you go after a house. You go after a bigger house. You fill that house with stuff that's yours and do things in said house as you want. You own your own car, you go the places you want to go, you have the freedom to travel as you please. Individual success is highly prized, which I would argue largely contributes to the overall mentality, especially in regards to welfare.

By all means, those who work hard deserve to be rewarded, they deserve to get theirs for their successes, but to view things like taxes for social services as a "punishment" is what holds a lot of people back. They are short-sighted; all it means to them is a slightly smaller number on their paycheck and an image of some overweight woman with twelve kids laughing all the way to the bank. Admittedly, taxes suck. I've worked enough shitty jobs that I know that without them, I'd have more to myself come payday, that it would be easier to make ends meet. But they're a necessary evil, they contribute to maintaining our quality of life and improving the country we live in.

A lot of the same people at the places I've worked who bitch about welfare don't realize that I, a person working hard at their job, no kids, trying to climb higher on the employment ladder, have benefited greatly from welfare services their tax dollars have paid for. I think it makes a huge difference when you see somebody who has truly used the system as it was meant to as opposed to all these horror stories of "welfare queens" and the like. When I don't need a service, I don't use it. When I use a free service, I try to give something back to it, even if it's only a $10 donation to Planned Parenthood because I want that service to be able to continue both for myself and others in the same situation. You never know what misfortunes will befall you, no matter how rich you are. You don't shit on what could very well save you someday.

Socialist has become a dirty word in the US largely because people don't understand it. Any hint of government involvement prompts a red-scare-style OMG UR A SOSHULIST accusation, it's practically like a witch hunt.

Anyway, to end this tl;dr, it's entirely possible that European-style socialism won't work in the US. You have to adapt things to suit the needs of the population, but that doesn't mean positive elements of socialism won't work at all. Things as they are really aren't working out for us, it's just a matter of convincing people to stop crying about things they have no clue about and get them to look at the real facts of the situation. Socialism is not the end of the world. Government intervention doesn't mean we're all going to be controlled drones someday. Helping those who are struggling to help themselves will improve our overall standard of living in the country.

Offline Pumpkin Seeds

Re: Socialism or lack thereof in the US (split from Christine O'Donnell)
« Reply #60 on: September 30, 2010, 04:38:50 PM »
Wow Loke, with those kind words and encouragement it’s amazing we are not all socialists by now.  Noelle is right to say that socialist policies would have to be adapted to the culture of those in the United States and made to fit into our notions of right and wrong.  A lesson to those around the world from the fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan is the detriment of trying to make one’s belief system and values fit onto another culture and country.  The United States illustrated, quite gloriously, in their failure that such a methodology does not work especially when dealing with concepts like democracy.  There are certainly steps that must be taken by a populace before they are ready to do other things.  To say “moving forward” is extremely arrogant and ethnocentric.

Keep in mind the youth of the United States as a country and its need to learn and grow.  Powerful the United States may be, there is a lot of growth in a short amount of time.  We have made strides in some areas, fallen short in others and in whole made mistakes as any other nation has done in the past.  I do not say this is an excuse to escape criticism or to evade our faults.  As any good American does I criticize my own country just as anyone else, but I do ask that people keep certain ideas in mind before calling us a country of slaves. 

I understand being upset by those numbers since they upset me each time I see them, but keep in mind that you are talking about a person’s nation and culture.  People on these forums have fought for the country you call “a nation populated by slaves !”  If your sentiment is to be disrespectful and belligerent, then by all means I do apologize for this rebuttal of your statement.  Though I would also encourage you not to make remarks on this particular forum.

Online Oniya

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Re: Socialism or lack thereof in the US (split from Christine O'Donnell)
« Reply #61 on: September 30, 2010, 04:41:55 PM »
And yes we are a very atheistic but of the population of 9,5 million, half a million is Muslims that's because we don't have a forced religion or even a state religion and we don't make our 5 year old kids swear to god that they will love and fight for their country. Also we don't believe that all Muslims are extremists and terrorist's.

If you're referring to the Pledge of Allegiance, you might be interested to know that it was a) originally written by a socialist minister (Francis Bellamy), and b) only gained the words 'under God' in 1954 (as a reaction to 'the Communist threat').  Bellamy's daughter objected to the revision.  The words 'under God' have also been challenged by students and their parents who follow an atheist Path, or object to the implication of a national church.

Offline HairyHeretic

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Re: Socialism or lack thereof in the US (split from Christine O'Donnell)
« Reply #62 on: September 30, 2010, 05:16:48 PM »
Folks, let's keep the debate civil, ok? If you're getting hot under the collar, put the keyboard aside for a bit.

Offline errantwandering

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Re: Socialism or lack thereof in the US (split from Christine O'Donnell)
« Reply #63 on: September 30, 2010, 09:21:21 PM »
Guess I'll continue being the lone cynic/libertarian in this conversation.  Here goes.

People do have incredibly noble, altruistic impulses, this is true...but I do think that it is wrong to assume that people will usually behave altruistically.  Yes, incredibly primitive societies did cooperate splendidly together, that was because if they didn't they would starve.  Pretty much as soon as we had a surplus of food, we started trying to find ways to steal other people's food, and get more food then everyone else.  Look in any ancient civilization that did rather well, and you will see a great deal of oppression and barbarism.  Even societies that are held up for their philosophy and reason, like the ancient Greeks, practiced slavery and were constantly fighting with each other.  The Egyptians, the ancient Israelites, the Chinese, the various African tribes, all were warlike, all enslaved others, all struggled constantly to be the best.

Even now most socialism only works on a fairly small scale.  Yes, Switzerland and Sweden are very well off, but their populations are much smaller, making it a lot easier.  Trying to implement it on a very large scale has historically always failed.  That isn't to say that capitalism won't fail historically, it hasn't existed on a large scale for all that long, historically speaking, but I'd give better odds to a system that counts on people being greedy rather then a system that believes that people will act in the interests of their fellow man.

This brings me to my second point, actually.  While socialism is commonly held at a moral high ground, personally, I find it highly immoral.  Socialism amounts to government sponsored theft, plain and simple.  I work hard for my money, and taking it from me to give to someone else, essentially at gun-point, because that is what I'll eventually face if I don't pay up, is extortion and theft.  That isn't to say that I don't think we should help one another and work for the common good, I think that we absolutely should.  What I find despicable is being forced to give up my money in order to accomplish something that someone else says is for the good, rather then choosing to give my money where I feel that it will do good.

As a final point, not all Americans hate Islam, or think every Muslim is a terrorist.  I'm a pretty good example of that.  I'm pagan, but couldn't really care less about what someone else believes, so long as they do me no harm.  Loudmouthed bigots are the most entertaining to watch, so they get the most airtime.

Offline Trieste

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Re: Socialism or lack thereof in the US (split from Christine O'Donnell)
« Reply #64 on: September 30, 2010, 09:47:04 PM »
Guess I'll continue being the lone cynic/libertarian in this conversation.  Here goes.

"Woe, woe is me, the lone sane man" has no place in here, so please leave it at the door in the future.

People do have incredibly noble, altruistic impulses, this is true...but I do think that it is wrong to assume that people will usually behave altruistically.  Yes, incredibly primitive societies did cooperate splendidly together, that was because if they didn't they would starve.  Pretty much as soon as we had a surplus of food, we started trying to find ways to steal other people's food, and get more food then everyone else.  Look in any ancient civilization that did rather well, and you will see a great deal of oppression and barbarism.  Even societies that are held up for their philosophy and reason, like the ancient Greeks, practiced slavery and were constantly fighting with each other.  The Egyptians, the ancient Israelites, the Chinese, the various African tribes, all were warlike, all enslaved others, all struggled constantly to be the best.

It's generally wrong to assume things about people, but these are not assumptions. They are facts. Look up nearly any anthropological work you'd like about egalitarianism in early societies and they will tell you the same thing. It's an established fact that early societies cooperated, and they considered it required. It is also a fact that people in more egalitarian cultures are happier with their lives than people in situations like the US. That's just the way it is, man. Look it up.

As far as ancient civs, they were warlike and competitive, except for all those times that they worked together. They would compete with one another (Athens and Sparta had their share of competition) but would cooperate when another, larger enemy (Marathon, anyone?) threatened. When Persia (who was not 'one of us') came along and threatened, Athens was very quick to call for Sparta, and the only reason Sparta didn't go right away was because of a religious observance. As soon as the religious observance was over, they were right there for their fellow Greeks. Why? Because if Persia romped and stomped all over Athens, they would likely come for Sparta next.

Humans are generally smart enough to recognize when it's really better to work in groups than try to go it alone because they don't want to share the goods. And the people who don't recognize situations like that don't really matter much to the species, because they tend to get selected out preeeeetty quickly.

Even now most socialism only works on a fairly small scale.  Yes, Switzerland and Sweden are very well off, but their populations are much smaller, making it a lot easier.  Trying to implement it on a very large scale has historically always failed.  That isn't to say that capitalism won't fail historically, it hasn't existed on a large scale for all that long, historically speaking, but I'd give better odds to a system that counts on people being greedy rather then a system that believes that people will act in the interests of their fellow man.

This brings me to my second point, actually.  While socialism is commonly held at a moral high ground, personally, I find it highly immoral.  Socialism amounts to government sponsored theft, plain and simple.  I work hard for my money, and taking it from me to give to someone else, essentially at gun-point, because that is what I'll eventually face if I don't pay up, is extortion and theft.  That isn't to say that I don't think we should help one another and work for the common good, I think that we absolutely should.  What I find despicable is being forced to give up my money in order to accomplish something that someone else says is for the good, rather then choosing to give my money where I feel that it will do good.

As a final point, not all Americans hate Islam, or think every Muslim is a terrorist.  I'm a pretty good example of that.  I'm pagan, but couldn't really care less about what someone else believes, so long as they do me no harm.  Loudmouthed bigots are the most entertaining to watch, so they get the most airtime.

Socialism is just one way to bring about egalitarianism, and it can fail pretty heftily. However, the fact remains that being more equal with your fellow man makes people happier. You can do it a few ways. You can limit incomes, limit how much people make, and pay them close to the same amount no matter how much work they do - which failed in the USSR. Or, you can tax people who make more money so much that their take-home pay is similar to people who make less but are taxed at a lower amount. This seems to work well for countries that have a wealth tax.

The thing is that the U.S. really should be multiple countries, or at least independent principalities. You could move the northeast on its own, the southeast on its own, let Texas secede already and then maybe make another country or two out of everything west of the Mississippi. Were that to happen, I think that the populations in most of each area would be much happier. As it stands, the U.S. comes from so many varied backgrounds and whatnot that it's difficult to figure out what to compromise on, let alone what that compromise should be.

Offline errantwandering

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Re: Socialism or lack thereof in the US (split from Christine O'Donnell)
« Reply #65 on: September 30, 2010, 10:09:23 PM »
Apologies if I gave the impression of being the "lone, sane man" in the room.  I actually found it more amusing then anything, but I'll do my best to watch my tone in the future.  No one that knows me has ever accused me of being "sane".

Yes, ancient peoples did work together when they had to in order to survive.  They worked together to avoid starvation, and often teamed up together to fight a common foe.  As soon as was necessary, however, they were right back at war.  Sparta and Athens worked together to fight Persia, but were constantly at war with each-other.  Sparta actually worked with Persia as well, in order to fight against Athens.  Each country did all that it could to advance itself, though cooperation if that was the most efficient course, and by less altruistic means when it wasn't.

One thing we absolutely agree on is that the US is too big and should be divided.  If it were in chunks, then everyone would be much happier, and could do their own thing, instead of constantly fighting about whether or not their way is best.

Offline Noelle

Re: Socialism or lack thereof in the US (split from Christine O'Donnell)
« Reply #66 on: September 30, 2010, 10:33:10 PM »
Quote
This brings me to my second point, actually.  While socialism is commonly held at a moral high ground, personally, I find it highly immoral.  Socialism amounts to government sponsored theft, plain and simple.  I work hard for my money, and taking it from me to give to someone else, essentially at gun-point, because that is what I'll eventually face if I don't pay up, is extortion and theft.  That isn't to say that I don't think we should help one another and work for the common good, I think that we absolutely should.  What I find despicable is being forced to give up my money in order to accomplish something that someone else says is for the good, rather then choosing to give my money where I feel that it will do good.

What makes it theft, exactly? You're living in a country that makes demands of you every single day. I would challenge those who look at taxes like punishment to live in a society where people can actually pick and choose where their money goes and see how many of our public needs go unfulfilled. I'm mad at the cops for giving me a speeding ticket, why should I pay them? I'm no longer in school and I don't plan to have kids, why should I care? I don't drive anywhere, I'm not going to pay into road maintenance. See where I'm going with this? Picking and choosing means certain areas start to suffer tremendously and our overall quality of life goes down with it, and what do we do then?

We invest in certain public things because they keep us stable. They benefit the public at large and keep things running smoothly. You pay taxes because the government has to tax you. They're not selling lemonade on the White House lawn to pay for the things that are maintaining our standard of living. The disparity starts to come in how others view the importance of investing tax dollars in...the people in general. The disagreement in America is whether or not the actual citizens are as much of a public concern as our transportation infrastructure, military, public safety, education, etc. The answer to me seems obvious, but I understand that others view it differently.

Calling it 'theft' and 'extortion' in of itself is a gross exaggeration. If threat of imprisonment due to failure to pay taxes is extortion, then we're being coerced and told what to do every single day of our lives so that we don't murder, steal, rape, harass, or assault one another. We're being extorted into obeying speed limits and obtaining permits and following health codes because it's for "the common good". What makes those okay to live with but not things like welfare? There are so many things that have been picked and chosen for you already.

Fact is, I work hard and pay taxes, too. They're taking money from my paycheck as well as yours and millions of others. I have used government-sponsored services before because I couldn't afford them despite the fact that I work hard. Working hard is no longer a valid excuse because it's simply not enough. There are companies out there offering $8 an hour who think that working 40 hours a week with that kind of wage will get you by. Everybody works hard for their money, not everybody is getting what they need. That is our present woe in America. Leeching should never be acceptable, I think everyone across the board can agree that if you're capable of working and you're not, you're a detriment to the system and shouldn't be using up those resources, but as things are now, people who are struggling to get by are not being taken care of by the private sector as it is. There seems to me to be a catch-22 going on; "the people" (the private sector) aren't sufficiently caring for those who are struggling, but the government can't intervene because that's too "socialist". What do you want, exactly?

Offline Trieste

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Re: Socialism or lack thereof in the US (split from Christine O'Donnell)
« Reply #67 on: September 30, 2010, 10:49:20 PM »
Apologies if I gave the impression of being the "lone, sane man" in the room.  I actually found it more amusing then anything, but I'll do my best to watch my tone in the future.  No one that knows me has ever accused me of being "sane".

Sorry, sorry. I misread your tone as one of woe and frustration instead of amusement. Mea maxima culpa.

Offline Asuras

Re: Socialism or lack thereof in the US (split from Christine O'Donnell)
« Reply #68 on: September 30, 2010, 11:09:32 PM »
Quote from: Trieste
As far as ancient civs, they were warlike and competitive, except for all those times that they worked together. They would compete with one another (Athens and Sparta had their share of competition) but would cooperate when another, larger enemy (Marathon, anyone?) threatened. When Persia (who was not 'one of us') came along and threatened, Athens was very quick to call for Sparta, and the only reason Sparta didn't go right away was because of a religious observance. As soon as the religious observance was over, they were right there for their fellow Greeks. Why? Because if Persia romped and stomped all over Athens, they would likely come for Sparta next.

And what about that whole Peloponnesian War thing? Or when Macedon and Rome came to visit? Did the Greeks all work together those times?

Quote from: Trieste
The thing is that the U.S. really should be multiple countries, or at least independent principalities. You could move the northeast on its own, the southeast on its own, let Texas secede already and then maybe make another country or two out of everything west of the Mississippi. Were that to happen, I think that the populations in most of each area would be much happier. As it stands, the U.S. comes from so many varied backgrounds and whatnot that it's difficult to figure out what to compromise on, let alone what that compromise should be.

As a Texan and a New Yorker, I'd be perfectly happy to see what the the rest of you do with Texas oil and New York finance squeezing you without federal restraint.

Offline Trieste

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Re: Socialism or lack thereof in the US (split from Christine O'Donnell)
« Reply #69 on: September 30, 2010, 11:11:05 PM »
I'm sorry, Asuras, but I couldn't actually find your on topic point amongst the sarcasm. Perhaps you could elucidate it for me... or perhaps make one in the first place. :)

Offline Asuras

Re: Socialism or lack thereof in the US (split from Christine O'Donnell)
« Reply #70 on: September 30, 2010, 11:32:40 PM »
Quote from: Trieste
I'm sorry, Asuras, but I couldn't actually find your on topic point amongst the sarcasm. Perhaps you could elucidate it for me... or perhaps make one in the first place. :)

Happily.

You said:

Quote from: Trieste
As far as ancient civs, they were warlike and competitive, except for all those times that they worked together. They would compete with one another (Athens and Sparta had their share of competition) but would cooperate when another, larger enemy (Marathon, anyone?) threatened. When Persia (who was not 'one of us') came along and threatened, Athens was very quick to call for Sparta, and the only reason Sparta didn't go right away was because of a religious observance. As soon as the religious observance was over, they were right there for their fellow Greeks. Why? Because if Persia romped and stomped all over Athens, they would likely come for Sparta next.

If I may summarize, you are contending here that Greek city-states bound together when threatened by a foreign opponent. I oppose this by pointing out three examples:

Quote from: Asuras
And what about that whole Peloponnesian War thing? Or when Macedon and Rome came to visit? Did the Greeks all work together those times?

You contended the following:

Quote
The thing is that the U.S. really should be multiple countries, or at least independent principalities. You could move the northeast on its own, the southeast on its own, let Texas secede already and then maybe make another country or two out of everything west of the Mississippi. Were that to happen, I think that the populations in most of each area would be much happier. As it stands, the U.S. comes from so many varied backgrounds and whatnot that it's difficult to figure out what to compromise on, let alone what that compromise should be.

I responded:

Quote from: Trieste
As a Texan and a New Yorker, I'd be perfectly happy to see what the the rest of you do with Texas oil and New York finance squeezing you without federal restraint.

You are right that I responded sarcastically because the vast majority of Americans do not advocate secession so I treat this idea as ridiculous, as most of this country properly does.

What I meant to highlight, and I regret that I was not clear enough, was how the removal of Texas and New York and their resulting freedom to impose tariffs, quotas, regulations and other trade restrictions would impact other states. I am interested in knowing how other states would feel if Texas were given total freedom to tariff oil, and what other states would feel if New York were given the right to freely embargo funds held in New York banks. (for instance) I think that if you contemplated these things you would feel differently about the dissolution of the United States.
« Last Edit: September 30, 2010, 11:34:07 PM by Asuras »

Offline Trieste

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Re: Socialism or lack thereof in the US (split from Christine O'Donnell)
« Reply #71 on: September 30, 2010, 11:40:01 PM »
If I may summarize, you are contending here that Greek city-states bound together when threatened by a foreign opponent. I oppose this by pointing out three examples:

Yes. I'm not sure if you missed it, but we were discussing it in the wider context of egalitarianism and socialism and wealth disparities and whatnot. You can name a million examples of when people didn't work together and I can name a million examples of when they did. However, I have made my arguments in the context of the wider discussion, and presented a point.

So I ask again: What is your point?

What I meant to highlight, and I regret that I was not clear enough, was how the removal of Texas and New York and their resulting freedom to impose tariffs, quotas, regulations and other trade restrictions would impact other states. I am interested in knowing how other states would feel if Texas were given total freedom to tariff oil, and what other states would feel if New York were given the right to freely embargo funds held in New York banks. (for instance) I think that if you contemplated these things you would feel differently about the dissolution of the United States.

While I'm certain you didn't intend it, you're being arrogant and condescending in your previous post. The fact that you don't agree with me doesn't make my opinion ludicrous, thank you.

As to the specifics of splitting up the US into countries, you can feel free to make a thread if you want to discuss it in depth; my intention on mentioning it was related to the previous statement that wealth-leveling (via a system like Switzerland's, for instance) worked in smaller countries but did not work in the U.S. because it's so big. My response was that I really don't think that anything works in the U.S. because it's so big. Again, while I only meant to graze the topic, if you find it that interesting you can feel free to open up a new thread.

Edits made to correct spelling and clarify some syntax. Trd. X_x
« Last Edit: September 30, 2010, 11:42:57 PM by Trieste »

Offline Asuras

Re: Socialism or lack thereof in the US (split from Christine O'Donnell)
« Reply #72 on: October 01, 2010, 12:25:44 AM »
Quote from: Trieste
Yes. I'm not sure if you missed it, but we were discussing it in the wider context of egalitarianism and socialism and wealth disparities and whatnot. You can name a million examples of when people didn't work together and I can name a million examples of when they did.

Yeah, I'd be the first to agree that "cite by arbitrary example" is a poor way of going about history and statistics. But what was is this about:

Quote from: Trieste
They would compete with one another (Athens and Sparta had their share of competition) but would cooperate when another, larger enemy (Marathon, anyone?) threatened. When Persia (who was not 'one of us') came along and threatened, Athens was very quick to call for Sparta, and the only reason Sparta didn't go right away was because of a religious observance. As soon as the religious observance was over, they were right there for their fellow Greeks. Why? Because if Persia romped and stomped all over Athens, they would likely come for Sparta next.

If you want to argue that we can "name a million examples of when people didn't work together and I can name a million examples of when they did" then we should argue about statistics to find those "millions". You haven't argued any. On the contrary, you've argued exactly what you deny - a singular and irreproducible example of Greek city-states fighting against one foreign invader once upon one time.

Quote from: Trieste
While I'm certain you didn't intend it, you're being arrogant and condescending here. The fact that you don't agree with me doesn't make my opinion ludicrous, thank you.

As to the specifics of splitting up the US into countries, you can feel free to make a thread if you want to discuss it in depth; my intention on mentioning it was related to the previous statement that wealth-leveling (via a system like Switzerland's, for instance) worked in smaller countries but did not work in the U.S. because it's so big. My response was that I really think that anything works in the U.S. because it's so big. Again, while I only meant to graze the topic, if you find it that interesting you can feel free to open up a new thread.

You're advocating secession and the dissolution of the United States. That deserves skepticism, right?

I'll make a thread when I have time.

Offline Salamander

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Re: Socialism or lack thereof in the US (split from Christine O'Donnell)
« Reply #73 on: October 01, 2010, 07:27:33 AM »
Hmm...The conversation has moved on a tad since I last posted here. The idea of dividing up the US strikes me as a bit of a red herring here. As well as being pretty unworkable- the US has a highly integrated economy, and its geographical and economic diversity is surely one of its great strengths. Historically, this diversity has allowed Americans to cope with localized economic busts and booms by moving- from the dust bowl to California in the 30s; from the South to the industrial Midwest during WW2; from the then 'rustbelt' Midwest to California, Texas and Florida in the 70s and early 80s. It seems to me that a break-up would do far more harm than good.

The objection that socialism is somehow 'immoral' and that libertarian capitalism is a more moral order is one that I've heard before, and it needs answering. The fundamental conceptual error here is this: individual efforts are being viewed outside of their social context; and yet it is only within the context of society that those efforts have any meaning. Money, for example is a social fact, not a brute fact of nature like a mountain or a disease. Money only exists because people collectively agree that it exists. When people stop agreeing that something counts as money (think: Germany in the early 20s; present-day Zimbabwe), then the money-token ceases to have value. And gold is no better by the way- it also only has value because people collectively attribute value to it. Gold is a token too.

Making money is only possible because society agrees to view some sort of token as 'money', and instantiates institutions (banks, stock exchanges, deeds of ownership etc) that allow money to be made. The set of economic institutions that any society has is a product of its history and culture. There is nothing inevitable or 'natural' about any particular set of such institutions- they are all historically contingent, and they only continue to exist because society as a whole continues to accept them. For a lone man on a desert island there is no money and no money-making.

So what of the entrepeneur, the guy who has his own business and employs other people? He plays a useful social role- without him there would be a few more unemployed, and his products wouldn't be available to consumers. He deserves our respect, and he deserves a good standard of living- I wouldn't say otherwise. Without the prospect of respect and renumeration, its unlikely that he'd have put in all of those hours, or risked his savings to start up the business. Incentives are important, and societies that don't have them are liable to stagnate.

Nevertheless...the fact remains that our entrepeneur only has money because the rest of society recognizes those 1s and 0s on his bank's computer as being something significant. He only owns his business, his house and his car because the rest of society has recognized the deeds of ownership that he has as being meaningful. He can only do business at all because of the laws that society has enacted, and the other economic institutions that society has created. Without the rest of humanity, the entrepeneur has precisely nothing. The idea that his wealth was somehow created solely by him is, I'm afraid, pure fiction. His wealth is a social creation, just like the laws and institutions on which it depends.

So, is it really moral for the entrepeneur to keep everything? Surely not. Surely the moral and just course of action is to recognise reality as what it is, and say that he owes society some of that money back. He depends completely on the efforts of others, and it is only right and proper that this should be repaid. And the more he makes, the more he owes- a wealth tax and/ or graduated income tax seems like a sensible way forward here. How much of his money should go to the rest of society is a practical issue rather than a matter of philosophical principle. Myself, I'd say that the important question is this: What kind of society do you want to live in? And I would prefer to live in a society in which people receive decent health care, the streets are reasonably safe, the gap between wealth and poverty isn't a chasm, there is a high degree of social mobility, and everyone has a stake in the social order. All of which describes Sweden rather well, but not (alas) the United States.

Incidentally, I think that Loke went way too far in describing Americans as 'slaves'. Plainly this isn't true. The US has largely free and fair elections. It also has reasonable civil rights- they used to be better before the Bush security state was enacted post-9/11, but its still a mainly free country. However, its also a country which for whatever reason is governed mainly in the interests of the wealthy, the result of which is a staggering huge gap between the rich and poor. And as well as being very unequal, its also (contrary to the popular mythology) a place with very poor social mobility. If someone is born poor in America, then its statistically very unlikely that s/he will be able to escape from poverty. If s/he is born rich, then rich s/he will remain. Even the UK, home of the legendary British class system, apparently has more social mobility than the USA. For a modern industrial state with a divisive and increasingly ossified class system don't look at Europe- look at the USA.

So I guess the question is this: why do Americans tolerate this situation? Internet access is the norm, so all of the facts that we've been discussing are available to the vast majority of US citizens. And Americans are an educated bunch- their school system functions a lot better than their health care, and their universities are rightly held in high regard the world over. The religious right is part of the answer, the tradition of individualism is another part, and perhaps a political system that requires large amounts of money for elections is important too. All the same...it doesn't make a great deal of sense to me. Whats especially bizarre is that the most important popular movement right now is the tea party, which seeks changes that would make the whole situation worse rather than better. But perhaps things will change. I live in hope.

Offline RubySlippers

Re: Socialism or lack thereof in the US (split from Christine O'Donnell)
« Reply #74 on: October 01, 2010, 07:53:43 AM »
May I speak for POOR people, I earn usually around $13k a year that puts me among the working poor so I want my perspective here.

Class income levels to me ,in Florida and my area, Middle Class would be $40,000 a year per person to for a family $100,000 a year for income. Below that the Lower Class and over that the Upper Class from the comfortable to uber-rich. So if a couple earning $250,000 a year and will pay more in taxes your talking about from my view comfortable upper class so they can afford it. The arguement $250,000 to me as Middle Class is not something I or more poor can fathom.

As for what I want from the government - to take care of my needs I can't afford working right now that is Health Care. And to make sure everyone gets minimal support if things go bad for them of essentials for life and to make sure there are jobs for everyone including the light skilled (means to me manufacturing and other jobs not requiring more than High School diploma or provide education to be employed - both). They are failing that to me save for passing Health Care reform. So for me socialism as in Sweden is better they seem to get it we are a people, well-off make money on me so they have a moral obligation and duty to pay taxes so their workers make them their money. Its odd Sweden have wealthy people and those low income there seem to be employed and don't have homless people on the streets. They and other nations get it.

And I'm not worried about an armed rebellion but a non-violent one the poor finally voting in our best interests that may be the difference in Sweden if the poor vote they get a say, they matter. You ignore them their politicians I suspect would lose their jobs. We need that here.