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Tue Dec 20, 2016, 03:59 PM

Should I stay or should I go?

Last edited Tue Dec 20, 2016, 05:23 PM - Edit history (1)

I think there should be a separation of terms. Anarchists should say they are Anarchists, Communists that they are Communists and leave the term Socialist to another group. To me the separation is in the belief in the laws of Economics. To Anarchists and Communists economics is learned behavior. Marx got this from the Anarchists. Marx replaced the first law of economics ďwhenever two people are present sacristy existsĒ with ďfrom each according to his abilities, to each according to his needsĒ. This was a direct and purposeful refutation of economics. He thought the 7 factors of production should be reduced to 4. Instead of the laws of supply and demand he wanted central planning. Communism is a specific system, Anarchism is sort of an anti-system, but there is a thing called Socialism that is separate. To me Socialists still believe that the laws of economics but hold that it produces bad effects. The founding document of Socialism to me is the Bevridge report of 1942. It puts forward a set of ideas that define the ills of the laws of economics and sets out a path to overcome them. To me Economics is a science no different from physics. You can use physics to build a bridge that works or that fails. You can use economics to build a society that works or fails. A socialist law would say if stock is such a good incentive for CEOs why not for workers. Pass a law that every worker should get at least $15 dollars and one share of stock for every hour. I am not a Socialist, Iím a Democrat but I like that law. And I am sick and tired of the media labeling anyone to the left of Ronald Reagan a Socialist. If you believe that economics is learned behavior say youíre a Communist, if not you might be a Socialist. Or worse, a Democrat like me.

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Arrow 12 replies Author Time Post
Reply Should I stay or should I go? (Original post)
sab390 Dec 2016 OP
The Polack MSgt Dec 2016 #1
sab390 Dec 2016 #4
The Polack MSgt Dec 2016 #5
MFM008 Dec 2016 #2
Starry Messenger Dec 2016 #3
sab390 Dec 2016 #6
Starry Messenger Dec 2016 #7
PETRUS Dec 2016 #8
sab390 Jan 2017 #9
PETRUS Jan 2017 #10
sab390 Jan 2017 #11
PETRUS Jan 2017 #12

Response to sab390 (Original post)

Tue Dec 20, 2016, 04:02 PM

1. The first step to improving this country

Would be to re-establish that words have actual definitions. You can't just assign whatever meaning you want to the words you use.

Welcome to DU Sab390

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Response to The Polack MSgt (Reply #1)

Tue Dec 20, 2016, 04:21 PM

4. It wasn't the intent

I just wanted to get some separation and distinction. The reaction was to the media calling me Socialist. I will accept any definitions, it is just the lumping together of what are different views under one term that I dislike. What about my definitions don't you like?

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Response to sab390 (Reply #4)

Tue Dec 20, 2016, 04:32 PM

5. I'm fine with your definitions

And I get that the MSM just lumping every non rethug under the umbrella of "socialist" is frustrating.

My point is tangential to yours. Specifically, we can't have an honest debate on any subject if one side gets to make up what they mean as they go on.

Not an attack on your point - peace

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Response to sab390 (Original post)

Tue Dec 20, 2016, 04:16 PM

2. Or that Science

Is based in fact.....

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Response to sab390 (Original post)

Tue Dec 20, 2016, 04:20 PM

3. I am a host in this group, and I like to keep it ecumenical, as it were.

We have a variety of views here. I know a lot of socialists and communists who are Democrats, and vice versa.

Most Communists I know believe that Socialism is a stage before Communism. If we ever get even to Socialism, it will be a world-changing achievement--I think most people in this group would agree with that last part.

The details on getting there are what we try to discuss. I'm not familiar with the Breckenridge report--if you have a moment, perhaps you could share it?

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Response to Starry Messenger (Reply #3)

Tue Dec 20, 2016, 04:40 PM

6. That's because I mangled it

Beveridge report and it was 1942.


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Response to sab390 (Reply #6)

Tue Dec 20, 2016, 05:40 PM

7. Thank you!

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Response to sab390 (Original post)

Fri Dec 30, 2016, 04:43 PM

8. Thoughts about your post.

"The First Law of Economists: For every economist, there exists an equal and opposite economist.

The Second Law of Economists: Theyíre both wrong."

― David Wildasin

"The purpose of studying economics is not to acquire a set of ready-made answers to economic questions, but to learn how to avoid being deceived by economists."

― Joan Robinson

Economics is not a science like physics. If you want to compare economics to the study of natural phenomena and the application of knowledge, it's more like predicting the weather than building bridges. And even that isn't quite right - unlike concrete and steel, or the atmosphere, people have agency, their priorities vary, and their motives are often inscrutable. Economics does not have "laws" like nature has "laws." Apples on the ground do not occasionally fall up and reattach themselves to trees, but people frequently confound expectations.

Economies function as they do because of human institutions. Significantly, there is no property in nature; property exists only in the mind. In a state of nature, animals (including humans) help themselves to whatever resources are available, and sometimes fight over access. Throughout history, various people have invented various ideas about property and imposed them on populations to arbitrate competing claims (and still sometimes fight over access). These ideas about property (and other economic institutions) have differed in both major and minor ways from one time and place to the next. The US economy is structured differently than it was fifty years ago, and if you were able to consult with a 15th century European, or a 17th century Native American, or a 19th century Georgian plantation owner, you would encounter ideas about property that stand in stark contrast to current US law. In this sense - and others - a fair amount of economic activity is in fact learned (or coerced) behavior. An analogy that comes to mind is language: you speak English not because it's the best or only way to communicate, but because it's traditional in your community and you have to get by, and convincing everyone to drop English in favor of Greek (or Esperanto, or whatever) is difficult, and even if you're successful in that regard it won't happen overnight. (And over time, language changes organically anyway.)

At its best, economics studies what happens under specific institutional constraints and tries to predict what will happen if laws and customs change in specific ways or remain the same. Also, economic policy is always ideological. Your notions of an ideal society might not be the same as the next person's. And economists and politicians often try to disguise their true motives and intentions - this is probably why the "experts" can be so wrong in their predictions and still retain credibility with decision makers. Is there any other "science" where this happens so frequently?

Regarding your comments about disparate schools of thought among leftists, I agree that it would be nice for terms to have specific meanings, but socialism, communism, and anarchism are broad categories (within each group there are a variety of different ideas), and these words are not well understood by many people. If I took twenty random US voters and told them I'm a leftist that favors socialism and left it at that, I'd be surprised if even one of them could guess my meaning accurately and probably more than half of them would be egregiously incorrect. I've long since come to terms with this, so if I'm trying to have a meaningful conversation with somebody I tend to eschew those labels and try to talk about my values or policy ideas with more specific language. Personally, I don't think I have all the answers and I make an effort to keep an open mind and listen to ideas from anyone no matter what they call themselves. I'd like to think I'm not alone in this respect. For the most part, I think successful political action involves assembling a coalition of people who have a somewhat similar outlook but are willing to compromise - getting a large enough group of people to be 100% in agreement on everything is effectively impossible. In a context like this, I'm happy to debate/discuss anything, but ultimately I'd rather be identifying commonalities and avoiding partitioning potential allies.

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Response to PETRUS (Reply #8)

Sun Jan 1, 2017, 12:37 AM

9. I also am open to debate/discuss

I do agree. We do differ in a belief that economics is learned behavior. But I also strongly agree that we should work together to achieve a common goal. We see the same problems, we seek the same future. A world clean, unpolluted, and able to provide a future for our children and grandchildren. My goal is the most stuff for the most people and at least the enough for everyone. Some would stress the latter, I donít think that is incompatible with the former. My solutions come from Keynes, not Beveridge or Marx, but I am open to anything that might achieve the goal, even if I think it may not be the best way. Even the Neolibs proved that a partial solution is better that what is being pushed now. Clinton got to full employment and a surplus just by rolling back a bit of the Reagan agenda. George the second got in and trashed the system by going back to it. I am not a fan of the Neolibs but we can point to that partial success as an example of what is possible. I think the Welfare State is a failed experiment but I fully support its goal, I certainly do not want to throw it out until a better solution is found. I am very interested in the Finish experiment with basic income
I would like to see a state try this. So, like you say, letís get together the large tent, even the Neolibs, of people who want a better future and argue over the method later. Iíll try anything. Iím from Milwaukee, we had a Socialist Mayor while I was growing up and the city did very well. Now under this lot it is dying. George the first called Reaganomics voodoo economics so even most of the people who believe economics is a science think this is garbage. We need to keep trying different things while keeping our eyes on the prize. Iíll walk with anyone if they are going down a path to try to get to a better future. Experimentation and clear analysis of results and the outcomes is the true hallmark of a science. One last thing. We need to shout with a loud common voice that this is crap. We are being drowned out by the media, hate radio, and book after book of garbage. I am sure we can agree that the first order of business is to try to get the truth out about this failure of economic, and immoral, ideas. All of the present ills have been caused by this right wing, I donít want to call it an ideology, evil. Got any ideas of where to start?

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Response to sab390 (Reply #9)

Tue Jan 3, 2017, 06:54 PM

10. Thanks for the reply.

If you ask me, Keynes deserves a lot of respect. His analysis provided both a coherent explanation for the state of the economy at the time and reasonably accurate predictions about future results. Additionally, his proposals put him on higher moral ground than a lot of others (a subjective judgment on my part, of course). Not incidentally, those are the same basic criteria by which I judge other economists - i.e., are they being intellectually honest, do their models make good predictions, are the policies they favor morally acceptable to me. But I don't think Keynes was flawless, or the last word, and I doubt he'd make those claims about himself.

I don't have any suggestions of where to start other than to study hard. There's a vast amount of economic disinformation propagated by powerful interests, so I think it's helpful to understand things well enough to call bullshit on that. In general, I'm open to any policy suggestions that promote freedom and egalitarianism. In terms of short to medium term changes, I find value in the work of Dean Baker, Stephanie Kelton, and a number of other heterodox economists. In the long run, I'd prefer a radially different system but I'm not enough of a visionary to be very specific about what that would look like, let alone how to get there from here.

Some questions for you:

You indicate mixed feelings about the welfare state. You say you support its goals and would like to see a higher minimum wage (a wage floor being a key component of the welfare state) but you also describe it as a failed experiment. In what sense do you think it has failed/is failing?

I disagree with your comments on the nature of the economy during the Clinton years. And we can talk about that if you want - the short version of my take is that the economy was driven by an unhealthy asset bubble in tech stocks, and full employment and wage gains were achieved because the Fed didn't raise rates even though unemployment was lower than the conventional wisdom about NAIRU. But I'm mostly curious about your thoughts on neoliberalism. What do you see as the merits of neoliberalism?

You have been emphatic about your belief that learned behavior is not a factor in economics. How do you account for the fact that the historical/anthropological record reveals that there are cultures with conventions governing ownership and exchange that are incompatible with the laws and customs of other cultures?

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Response to PETRUS (Reply #10)

Wed Jan 4, 2017, 02:14 PM

11. A partial response

Marx was a great analyst and I respect his work. Like you say about Keynes nobody gets everything right. As for the historical record I look at a book like Cows, Pigs, Wars and Witches and think that the rules do apply. Itís a use of historical materialism that I think Marx would have approved of.
As to the Neolibs I think they are Concord Republics who saw their party being hijacked by a bunch of religious nuts and switched to be Dems. Big tent and all, we need every vote we can get. I would like to see the party leadership, platform, and policies implemented be more center, center left. Bill Clinton was a Dixiecrat, Obama was in the center but surrounded himself with Neolibs. I donít know what Hillary would have done. I would love to see this be a battle between Eisenhower Concord Republicans and progressive Democrats. I wouldnít feel so bad losing elections like I do to this evil bunch of assholes. We would also be able to project a more progressive agenda.
As to the Welfare State, and I include Britain in this, I donít like the results. A great deal of it has to with racism, sexism, and the abhorrent belief that the poor are somehow worth less as human beings, it does seem to be a trap. The work force participation rate is at an all time low, and social mobility, the poor being trapped and not able to move up, is nonexistent. I maybe just complaining about the implementation, I really do want to see what happens in Finland when people are given a living wage and can actually work to build a future. Maybe the problem is itís not enough. Iím old fashioned, I still have that old Puritan idea that work provides dignity. I would like to see day care, training, and jobs that will lure people into the market. 8 bucks an hour and shitty benefits isnít getting anyone off the couch.
The unemployment rate during the Clinton years was right where it should have been. It meant McDonalds in Omaha had to pay 14 an hour and healthcare. We see this today here in Minnesota. The minimum wage is going up but almost all pay is above it. A labor shortage is a great thing. I got a $3.5 million grant to build a library for a small college during those years. George the second took all of the Title V money meant for colleges with 25% Hispanic populations and gave it to big institutions. Got to go, Iíll try to continue later.

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Response to sab390 (Reply #11)

Fri Jan 6, 2017, 08:54 PM

12. ...

Given all the time I've spend studying economics (thousands and thousands of pages of reading), you might think I'd have a respectable amount of Marx under my belt, but I don't. I've read a few short sections of Capital (and The Communist Manifesto, but that's not economic theory) but that's it. And my coursework in economics definitely did not involve much Marx. So I couldn't tell you, except in the vaguest terms, where I agree or disagree with him.

Regarding the welfare state, I have plenty of criticisms (which I'll share if you want). I do think it's preferable to a number of alternatives. But it's not true that work force participation is at an all time low. It's down from its peak, but the data suggests that's due to the availability of jobs (lack of demand in the economy), not because opting out is more attractive than it once was. And the countries with the highest levels of labor force participation are nations with some of the most robust welfare states (Norway, Sweden, the Netherlands, Germany). This shouldn't be all that surprising, as a lot of welfare state provisions are tied to employment (e.g. social security, a minimum wage).

You didn't answer my question about neoliberalism; perhaps you misunderstood me? I wasn't asking about neoliberals as individuals, I was asking about neoliberalism as policy. Your answer was something about needing all the votes we can get, when what I wanted to know was what neoliberal policies (if any) meet your approval. But since you brought up voters, I'll address that. If your premise is that neoliberal reforms were in response to public demand, I think you have a very weak case. Neoliberal policies were designed and pushed by a tiny sliver of the total population. There was no public outcry for the commodities futures modernization act (how many voters even know the details of that?), for example. By far the strongest showing of an independent/3rd party presidential candidate in modern US history was Perot in 1992, who ran an explicitly anti-NAFTA campaign. When it comes to neoliberal policy, I think most Americans are somewhere along the spectrum of ignorance/confusion/apathy/reluctance. On the other hand, policies that are unquestionably contrary to neoliberalism enjoy broad popular support: social security, medicare/medicaid, minimum wages, progressive taxation, etc.

I could give you more things to think about vis a vis "the laws of economics," but you haven't even made an argument yet. If you have some kind of response to the questions I've posed, please share it. At the very least, it would add clarity to the discussion, and it might lead me to rethink things. Simply telling someone that you think they're wrong isn't a very effective debating tactic. Maybe you have some logic in your own mind, but if you don't share it, it looks to me as though you're clinging to your position as a matter of faith. By the way, I looked up "Cows, Pigs, Wars, and Witches." I'll quote from the jacket copy: "Harris shows that no matter how bizarre a people's behavior may seem, it always stems from concrete social and economic conditions." In other words, variations in one's physical and cultural circumstances produce variations in behavior, which is pretty much what I've been saying.

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