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Capitalism v. Socialism


JDaveG
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In another thread, eatcorn wrote:

I said long before the election: Obama is NOT the progressive the far left has been waiting for, and I think that's a good thing. He's pragmatic and fairly moderate, and certainly pro-business.

I tend to agree with this, and I want to touch off on another tangent regarding "capitalism" versus "socialism" in America.

We are hardly a capitalist country. We have meddling in the markets, protectionism, tax breaks for corporations that individuals do not get, tax credits to large corporations that small companies cannot get which give the large corporations a competitive advantage, etc. Energy is a good example of this. Look at oil and ethanol subsidies and tell me this is a "free market." Please.

Likewise, we are hardly a socialist country. Yes we have all this meddling in the markets, but at the end of the day, the means of production are still in private hands. Yes we have protection for labor unions, but their employers are still in private hands. Even the widely criticized healthcare bill is not "socialist" -- there is no public option, the government doesn't "own" any insurer. Really, the healthcare bill was a boon for insurers -- in exchange for having to drop pre-existing conditions exclusions, they get a whole bunch of new customers that the government gives them at the point of a bayonet!

What we are is a country where power is concentrated among smaller and smaller groups. The answer if we want to be capitalist is NOT to continue policies that "help big business," but rather to get more capital into the hands of more people and give more people a competitive advantage in the marketplace.

In short, the very problem with "too much capitalism" is that we have far too few capitalists.

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I like it.

Adding: I think part of the problem with the public debate on the matter is that people rarely want to discuss gray areas. In order to feel heard, people must be loud, and to be loud, their message must be simple. Couple that need for simplicity with a culture that is increasingly dependent on slogans and sound bytes to get people's ever-shortening attention, and you end up with loud, simplistic sloganeering instead of thoughtful, involved debate. There are few countries that are purely attendant to any economic theory, as economies are always growing and changing, so any discussion of a national economy must always be fluid and open, not rigid and absolute.

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Adding: I think part of the problem with the public debate on the matter is that people rarely want to discuss gray areas. In order to feel heard, people must be loud, and to be loud, their message must be simple. Couple that need for simplicity with a culture that is increasingly dependent on slogans and sound bytes to get people's ever-shortening attention, and you end up with loud, simplistic sloganeering instead of thoughtful, involved debate. There are few countries that are purely attendant to any economic theory, as economies are always growing and changing, so any discussion of a national economy must always be fluid and open, not rigid and absolute.

I think that's probably right. I've said a hundred times this goes back over 20 years now. We really have lost the sense of politely disagreeing on policy. And as part of that, the media soundbite "30 second" snippet culture we have where we're too busy to devote any real time do doing any real thinking about anything has ruined our ability to think through what is being said and critically consider the issues.

That's why I listen to podcasts in my car more than talk radio or even music. I can't handle the noise level on either side of the talk radio divide and while I still listen to a lot of music, I can do that at home, whereas the car is the best place I have to just be alone and listen to quality, thoughtful discussion. Most of my podcasts are theological in nature, but one in particular touches on a lot of current social issues, so I get that "fix" without having to worry about the BS you get on the radio.

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I listen to NPR in the car sometimes, but mostly music. My disgust with media isn't about 'bias', but more about content. I react most swiftly when I feel I am being patronized or marketed to, so I can't stomach any of the 24 hour cable outlets.

I do find that BBC World News and the Newshour with Jim Lehrer are the most direct TV news sources for me, so I try to catch those. CNN/MSNBC/Fox, etc. are just too ADD for my taste. They present the news like they're trying to get the attention of a 13 year old girl.

I used to get the Economist, but they just piled up too fast. Now I just get the New Yorker, which I LOVE, but I do find myself rolling my eyes at some of the liberal political assumptions at times.

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If good podcasts weren't so readily available, I'd probably listen to NPR more. I can handle bias as well -- ****, I used to listen to Sirius Left all the time. But my bigger issue is I can't handle the shallow thought coming from the noise machines.

The 13-year old perspective is about right. Not only do they act like they're trying to get the attention of a 13-year old girl, but their thought process is all "Chevy versus Ford," or "Dawgs versus Gators," or whatever. My team is always right, your team is always wrong, and no real intellectual basis for thinking that.

I stopped the Economist and National Review for the same reason -- nowhere to put them all, and I can get most of it online anyway if I'm interested (and I'm usually not these days).

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I'm down with that.

I'd also be down with some form of universal health care and a minimum number of vacation days.

On universal health care, do you think that is more socialistic?

I note you say "some form of," which is why I ask. It seems to me single payer is more socialist than capitalist. It would be essentially a usurping of an entire private industry by government.

But short of that? Where is that line drawn? As I said, the current healthcare plan is far more corporatist than socialist, so I'm convinced there IS a line. Just wondering where you would place it.

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I'm not a socialist, but honestly I am for socialized healthcare, though not quite single payer.

Keep insurance companies, just convert them to non-profit with reimbursements of excess revenue back to customers instead of creating profit for investors and paying ridiculous bonuses to executives who don't do much (because their industry is already pretty much protected by the fact that humans need healthcare).

Couple that with some SERIOUS regulation of the pharmaceutical industry (they spend more on marketing than R&D, for godsake) and it would be a HUGE improvement. Maybe put caps on corporate profit the way we do certain utility companies.

If those "innovative" insurance executives find that their compensation isn't enough, they can go get a job in a different industry (one that isn't literally vital to our nation's health, and therefore our economy and national security).

What would go wrong under this scenario? Doctors and pharma researchers keep getting paid. Insurance adjusters, actuaries, etc. all keep their jobs. I guess it would be a rough transition and some investors (who make money off sick peoples' backs) would get screwed. Seems worth it to me, but I'm not an economist or a healthcare professional.

Basically I'm a capitalist that believes certain things are more important than profit.

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Basically I'm a capitalist that believes certain things are more important than profit.

I agree with this as a worldview.

The problem is, as an economics system, capitalism cannot work unless profit is driving the train. That's not to say we shouldn't encourage people in whatever way we can to do the right thing, but ultimately, the market sorts out the morality, and we vote with our dollars and our feet. The way to encourage a business to not open on Sunday is to not visit them or their competitors on Sunday, as one (admittedly poor) example.

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