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Tue Jan 7, 2020, 01:17 PM

Is this Philosophy?

This was written in response to a post in the democratic primary forum. That's where it died. I am re-posting it here. I spent a some time writing it. Maybe it belongs here, maybe it can inspire some thought. Or we can just let it RIP.

In our 2020 federal governmental elections it looks like we may have to deal with three major eco-political systems: Capitalism, Socialism and Communism. If you think "what the heck is he talking about", please hear me out.

Capitalism is defined (searched it's meaning on Bing) as "an economic and political system in which a country's trade and industry are controlled by private owners for profit, rather than by the state."

Socialism is defined (searched it's meaning on Bing) as "a political and economic theory of social organization which advocates that the means of production, distribution, and exchange should be owned or regulated by the community as a whole." And I believe that definition must have come from a capitalist, since the wording seems to deny or downplay the existence of socialism. So I like to edit it to the format of the definition of capitalism.

Socialism is a political and economic system which advocates that a country's means of production, distribution, and exchange are controlled by the country's government, rather than by private owners for profit. (as edited by Huin)

Communism is defined (also as searched as "meaning of " on Bing) as "a political theory[ or system, as edited] derived from Karl Marx, advocating class war and leading to a society in which all property is publicly owned and each person works and is paid according to their abilities and needs." If we apply this to our country we would be more correct to further edit out the words "class war and leading to". As edited, communism becomes defined as "a political system derived from Karl Marx, advocating a society in which all property is publicly owned and each person works and is paid according to their abilities and needs."

Though these systems are distinct and different from each other, it seems to me that capitalism and socialism can be merged and co-exist to the benefit of most people in our nation. Conservatives forces clearly advocate and support a capitalist system in our country. On the other hand, retired people, like myself, rely on the existence of Social Security and Medicare. I also know someone with pre-existing conditions who was saved from financial ruin as a result of the Affordable Care Act.

In our country there maybe 15% to 20% extreme right wing capitalists who will not accept a merged concept of capitalism and socialism for the benefit of the vast majority of people in our country. Also, believe it or not, there may be 15% to 20% of the population on the very left wing who see capitalism as a deadly enemy. To them, it means fight them or be destroyed by them.

If we disregard for the moment these Right- and Left-wingers, we are left with about 60% of American voters who would wholeheartedly accept the peaceful coexistence of capitalism with a moderate form of socialism in our country. Sixty percent of votes constitute a landslide victory for any party. Any one of our two parties can have the opportunity in the 2020 election to become that party of choice. Under Trump, I doubt whether the direction of Republicans as a whole will change. Though as time marches on there may be a few candidates to see the light.

Let's digress for a moment. Humans consider themselves as being different from most animals than merely in shape and form. Some believe that our difference lies in the fact that we can reason rather than use our basic instincts. And there may be something to that. But even with reason it may be like physical strength: Use it or lose it. Another distinction over most animals is that humans have become masters in the use of tools. We use golf carts to avoid having to walk to the next challenge on the golf course. We use cars to avoid having to walk to the grocery store or to school and we use computers and the internet; and airplanes to visit faraway places. And we use weapons to kill our enemies.

Besides all this there is in my mind one thing which predominantly distinguishes humans from animals. We love to possess property of various forms. Some live for the life of the rich and famous. Others may be happy to spend half a day to shine and clean the used car which they just bought at a year's end sale. Property is what most live for and how much depends often on how much are we willing to work for or to sacrifice for. But whatever it is that we have collected, it is ours, we try to protect it. After all, that property represents who we are and what we have achieved up to that point in our lives.

Putting this little interjection aside and returning to the main thread, the Democratic Party has an enormous opportunity, if its leadership will just take the helm and steer in the right direction. I believe that when candidates advocate to tax wealth, even if the tax is imposed only on the wealthiest and only as a small amount like a percent or two, it sounds good but spells doom. A tax on wealth is a tax on what most people consider the basis of their existence. It represents their lives' achievement. If I were wealthy, though I am not, I would certainly be worried. But I am still concerned for another reason. If I were a multi-billionaire and might become subject to a tax on what I have, I would pack up my marbles and move. I would not stay in a country that attacks my very existence, my pride, my everything. If I left early enough I might not even lose on sales of real property. There are any number of civilized countries in the Western world that would love to welcome me and my wealth as a new citizen.

But what happens to the country without the wealth of those that have left? Real estate is a fickle thing. Its worth is determined by what someone is willing and able to pay. Sure, publicly traded companies may continue to exist. But credit and trade will suffer. Those candidates who advocate a wealth tax may be blinded by the immediate opportunity to fund social projects without taking on added debt. However, the tax does not create wealth. The money to pay the tax is probably already invested in a wealth creating project and would merely be re-routed. What happens when all billionaires have flown the coup? The nation as a whole will be poorer for it. Those who enjoyed those programs will then believe they have rights to them and they will revolt when those freebees go away. Sure we can always print money but that ultimately will not be worth the ink used for printing it.

I worked with a colleague who had come to this country from Germany. He had grown up in Berlin during the run-away inflation in the early 1920s. The inflation devastated many and is attributed to be a cause for the rise of Hitler's murderous empire. My colleague's dad got paid twice a day and had to buy groceries during lunch because he could no longer afford them later with the money he earned that morning.

I have heard of a maxim in political science which says that if people had to choose between a dictatorship and chaos they would choose a dictatorship. This year will be a challenge to all of us.

12 replies, 1875 views

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Replies to this discussion thread
Arrow 12 replies Author Time Post
Reply Is this Philosophy? (Original post)
Huin Jan 2020 OP
Cartoonist Jan 2020 #1
Huin Jan 2020 #6
Normanart Jan 2020 #11
Newest Reality Jan 2020 #2
Huin Jan 2020 #8
Newest Reality Jan 2020 #10
Voltaire2 Jan 2020 #3
Huin Jan 2020 #4
Voltaire2 Jan 2020 #5
Huin Jan 2020 #7
Voltaire2 Jan 2020 #9
Normanart Jan 2020 #12

Response to Huin (Original post)

Tue Jan 7, 2020, 01:24 PM

1. No system is perfect

I'm pro socialism. But I don't think the government should own everything. For example, while I like government support of the Arts, it must be left free of constraints.

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Response to Cartoonist (Reply #1)

Wed Jan 8, 2020, 06:14 PM

6. Right you are

though, should we not always strive toward perfection? What is the best possible solution for an existing problem? But don't we need to understand the problem before we can weigh alternatives and suggest an optimum solution?

Years ago, when I bought my first computer, I believe it was an Apple with 16 or 32K memory. Storage was on a cassette tape recorder. I played a simple program. It was called Lunar Lander (I believe). The object was to set a capsule down on the moon without crashing it. The task could only be accomplished if you applied reverse thrust moderately and evenly. In real life a good compromise may be anything but perfect, but it may represent an optimum solution for most.

My purpose for my original post was to point to a problem which I perceived.

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Response to Huin (Reply #6)

Fri Jan 10, 2020, 12:36 PM

11. System perfection

I have observed that the three systems described here are perfect, as long as they are internally consistent. The problems arise during implementation by people that pervert the system. Human beings are fallible and easily corrupted, rendering any system imperfect. The challenge for the 21st century is fixing stupid.

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Response to Huin (Original post)

Tue Jan 7, 2020, 01:48 PM

2. To me...

That falls in the category of political science, but some views about it could be considered philosophical. It depends on the context and focus.

There are some problems in there that would need to be addressed, but that's about the big picture. It takes a lot more investigation into idealistic ideologies in order to even form a coherent and cogent summation and response to it.

On the other hand, I do appreciate someone going into more depth about the subject. Political and economic systems are both complex and problematic even for those who study, teach and debate the subjects. However, public debates, (which I recommend) seem to help bring things into better focus by way of contrast. Diametrically opposed views can accentuate the fallacies and flaws in each and synthesis is possible in some cases.

I am getting to be more of a utilitarian pragmatist about politics and economics in the sense of doing what needs to be done based on the data and context of the situation and not just by following older paradigms and worn ideologies camped under certain labels.

I think that, (for better or for worse) there will be a shift towards a more resource-based system that may render aging political dichotomies and certain views on economics obsolete to some degree. That is because, even as we speak, algorithms are making more and more decisions and part of the reason for that, (see Germany's digital progress) is efficiency and speed. As the digital infrastructure rapidly evolves under the surface, so to speak, the Fourth Industrial Revolution will become extremely disruptive and too the degree that change will accelerate and older systems will give way. This is not going to take long now, either.

So, we can add a sort of ubiquitous, rather transparent potential for a technocracy to the threats that oligarchy and theocracy offer to democracy itself. Of those three, I think the technical changes have a better chance of fulfilling something along the lines of what the author is trying to get at, but it may be a "like or not" scenario since there are numerous variables and it is not at all a simple thing. Also, the impetus of weak AI may yield to strong AI and that is the big game changer and the dynamic chaos of rapid change will be a factor unlike anything we have experienced to date. It is clear that, as has been said in the industry, AI may be our last invention, so to speak. We have to wonder if the the apple falls far from the tree here and what chip of the old block we may get in the biases of those algorithms.

My point is that, in a tumult of an impending and accelerating transition like that, it seems rather difficult to extrapolate a workable socioeconomic system when the results may be obsolete while in the making. That is something to think about. I actually think we would be better off know more about that and preparing ourselves to come to terms with it before it is knocking on our doors.

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Response to Newest Reality (Reply #2)

Wed Jan 8, 2020, 11:39 PM

8. Enjoyed your reply

I joined DU to find answers to questions I had. I posted this discussion in this group because where I had posted before, it had died without any further reply. And some replies are not worth getting further into it. But that may be why I did not get an answer to my earlier post in the political group. I may be getting to old for all this. The younger generation has other values.

The name of the website implies that its members might have political interests. You are correct in that my post may have fit into a category of political science. I just searched the subject of political science on Google for this website. One result was a joke and the second was a thread on AOK and her sincere activism. There were responses but all of them bore the same date.

I would like to have a good discussion on how we can improve the function of our government within the bounds of our constitution. Would a multi party system in congress be an improvement?
What would be fair taxes?
Could there be an added-value tax without an constitutional amendment?
Should medical ads be banned from television to reduce their cost?
There really are no specific forums or groups for this, and there are very few posts in this group. I thought I might lighten it up a little. What are your thought on this. Ultimately, philosophical theories are of real value if they can be generally accepted and find application in real life situations. Or am I wrong in that assumption?

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Response to Huin (Reply #8)

Fri Jan 10, 2020, 11:46 AM

10. In reply...

Sorry it took me a while to get back to you.

I can appreciate your concerns about the details and policies you mentioned. They are not trivial or simple matters.

This forum is very diverse, but it is really not a venue for the complexities of political science, which is more of an academic affair since there is a copious amount of material generated in that field. When you get into politics that deep, you are usually going an undergraduate unless you are so endeared to the subject that you get your nose in the books and come out for coffee and donuts.

I also think that many political topics require some background information and are always amenable to debate. While people tend to shy away from political arguments due to emotional reactions that generate incongruity, argument in this sense is both a testing ground for ideas as well as a petri dish for potential synthesis due to the dynamism and contextual relationship of political debate.

I do recommend reviewing the political thinking of the Enlightenment era to get more familiar with the precursor to our current system here in the US. The Declaration of Independence is really the outcome of the political thinking and debate of that period and it strongly influenced the framing of the Constitution as well. Those documents, of course, were not a spur of the moment idea, as we know.

There are videos on YT that cover the Renaissance and Enlightenment, and many videos on political subjects. I like the Crash Course series as excellent primers and much is covered in short time in their European History and US History playlists. The history is not only useful as a basis, it can spark new ideas and ways of thinking. Oh, and Noam Chomsky and others have some good thinking along political lines. I find him invaluable just for the amount of research and information he brings to the table.

To answer your question, we could start from the caveat that to retain a republic/democracy requires and informed and vigilant citizenry. In that respect, I always applaud those who dive in and engage with philosophical contemplation in general. While you are facing a David vs. Goliath scenario as an individual, it makes sense to consider that what you learn and think, when others are exposed to it, can have some effect, no matter how minuscule. In fact, there are many writers and even YT channels that are in that process. In that case, yes, it is always valuable. In fact, it is essential.

You may not like some of the topics that she brings up, but I find that Natalie Wynn has a lot of insight into the "politics" of the Internet social sphere. She has an academic background and often shines some light, (in entertaining and humorous ways) on that sampling of cyber-social-space.

Of course, the topics you were providing as samples are a matter of more in-depth discussion. For instance, Europe has countries with multiparty systems and there are pros and cons to that so investigating their results might be insightful, particularly in regards to the UK and the Brexit fiasco in progress. I would keep in mind not only the history of the US government in comparison, but the demographics may also play into a multi-party system here. So far, having one is always countered by the threat of drawing votes a way from one of the two major parties as we have seen.

As per taxes, I think we have to pay attention to the regressive nature of taxation when we consider changes in this country. I am not in favor of any taxes that put more of a burden on people who are on the verge of poverty or already immersed in it. The growing inequality here is not only indicative of an imbalanced, biased system, but it represents a danger for all concerned as well as a deprecation of the important value of the commons--which is symbolic of the original, founding concepts of the common will for the common good--which represents the common "space" of our society, to me.

This could get too long, but again, I appreciate your curiosity and attempts to incite discussion about this. I have opinions about some of the other points, or course, but covering them in one comment would not be prudent. It is by way of point/counterpoint that ideas are tested, tried and decided upon as viable for enactment.

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Response to Huin (Original post)

Tue Jan 7, 2020, 01:58 PM

3. Where they gonna move?

And why didn't they move there back when taxes were higher?

Oh and the number of people on the left who identify as 'communist" is probably a fraction of a per cent at this point.

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Response to Voltaire2 (Reply #3)

Wed Jan 8, 2020, 05:19 PM

4. Philosophy is a study, among others, of life and behavior...

,,,also, how we live and what we do and why. That may not be a formal definition, but it explains what philosophy in part pertains to. You challenge me by asking "And why didn't they move there back when taxes were higher?" Do you realize how much is 2% of 50 Billion? That comes to 100 Million Dollars. That's not from your income and in addition to your income taxes. You would have to sell part of your belongings every year to come up with such an amount.

You need to study what I wrote. I addressed a basic human instinct, a need (no, even stronger), an obsession to protect our possessions. When we pay taxes, we pay income taxes, and that is what you are referring to. We allow society to have its share of the profits for providing the forum which allowed us to do something of value to someone else in our society. The transaction could only be made because of the orderly society within we live. The other party or parties paid an amount most likely with the understanding that we would pass on society's share to the government. In some cases, an estimated amount may be withheld and paid by the payor. But what is left after taxes becomes our property. That is and should be ours to keep and cherish or do with as we please.

We talk so much about the Second Amendment. In reality, the wording of the second amendment of the constitution does not grant a right to bear arms. Think about it. It merely acknowledges that there may be a right to bear arms, and the constitution dictates that whatever right exists, as it may be limited or not by laws of the several states, that right shall not be infringed by operation of the federal government. Nobody is perfect not even the NRA or the Supreme Court.

Now, look at amendment five of the constitution: "No person shall be … deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation." If you take these words without misconstruing them in lawyerly fashion, if you take something and give just compensation, you have a "Quid pro Quo". What that meant was that the Government could take land or other property under "eminent domain", hence with compensation. But it also says that the federal government cannot tax property. The way I look at life (philosophically), I believe when one advocates taxing wealth, such person has crossed the boundary from socialism to communism. And I also believe that people who support those who advocate taxing wealth share politically the same philosophy. From what I read I thought that I was way short on what on one usually estimates in normal distributions of five to ten percent of left and right fringes on a normal curve. That is why I estimated a higher percentage of followers.

Summarizing, I only know of one European country for sure that does not tax property. And they did not move when taxes were higher because they generally accepted the fact that if the Union offers them the opportunity to do business nationwide it is not unreasonable to share. That's similar to paying someone who offered to do a service for you and you accepted.

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Response to Huin (Reply #4)

Wed Jan 8, 2020, 05:31 PM

5. wtf?

You do understand that we had lots of very wealthy people 60 years ago when tax rates on income were massively higher, and that these people didn't move to - well where would they go? You still didn't answer that.

Oh and TL;DR make your point without all the gibberish please.

The income tax was an amendment to the constitution.

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Response to Voltaire2 (Reply #5)

Wed Jan 8, 2020, 10:22 PM

7. 60 years ago -no wealth tax

Super-rich prepare to leave UK 'within minutes' if Labour wins election (Article 2 months old and pertaining to UK)

Please understand the difference between income tax and wealth tax, they are not the same.

And where would they go? Maybe Switzerland, Monaco, Luxembourg or Germany

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Response to Huin (Reply #7)

Thu Jan 9, 2020, 09:01 AM

9. Estate taxes are wealth taxes.

If your complaint is with a wealth tax, you did not make that clear. Yes the Warren proposal might require an amendment. Or not, opinions are divided. Don’t care either way, but obviously an amendment is more difficult to enact.

I’m fine with all the billionaires fleeing to Monaco. The businesses that made them billionaires are obviously not going there. Nor will they be able to move all their taxable wealth.

This weeping for the poor put upon billionaires is absurd.

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Response to Huin (Original post)

Fri Jan 10, 2020, 12:59 PM

12. Getting the point

Great wealth, once acquired, must be defended. I feel you are correct in identifying the issue with a “wealth tax”. Very different from income tax, but a tax that directly affects relatively few people. However, the perception of some may be negative in the sense of an attack on accumulated wealth. This perception may be held by people who will never be wealthy, and never be subject to the tax. Is this a problem politically? A cautious maybe.

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