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Default Let's talk about socialism!

October 21st, 2008, 23:49
Originally Posted by Prime Junta View Post
"Freedom is merely privilege extended," eh?
Are you implying that I'm a communist? I don't think we have those here
in Canada - we only have lumberjacks and hockey players.

Originally Posted by JemyM View Post
Democracy is meant to protect against those who try to silence those needs.

By treating democracy as an absolute, it's an indicator that one needs really strong arguments before they begin to question it. By treating it as absolute, whoever questions it instantly pays a price, often with lost cultural status as result.
But look at the evidence. Democracy hasn't always protected us from those who try to silence those needs. One also doesn't need particularly strong arguments to question democracy. We just have to look around the world at governments who were democratically elected, yet perpetrated all kinds injustices and atrocities. Democracy is a double edged sword. It can work in the interests of the majority of the people, or it can work against the interests of the majority of the people. There's no guarantee. And in my opinion, it doesn't make sense to put it on a golden pedestal and hold it up as the ultimate goal and aim of human destiny without preconditions. Democracy on its own doesn't ensure universal human rights. The cultural preconditions (a highly educated population, freedom of information, a system of ethics which promotes cooperation and compassion and rejects racism, violence, cruetly etc.) need to be in place first before democracy or any other system can work to the betterment of society as a whole.

I do agree somewhat with your last post though. The mental condition of human beings is something that's often overlooked, though it can be just as harmful to a person's health and well being as environmental conditions.
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October 22nd, 2008, 09:00
Originally Posted by JemyM View Post
I find an important difference between being supposed to be unlucky and still strive to survive compared to being supposed to be happy and still decide to commit suicide. That tells me that there are more important things to what makes a life worth living than what meets the eye. Simply stating to a suicidal person that they are better of than a starving leper in Nepal doesn't really help. In fact, it have been suggested that it's the idea that someone is supposed to be happy that is the trigger that have lead suicide statistics to go up recently. People are told to be happy, they arent, they see themselves as a failure and they kill themselves.

-edit-: No, I am not stating that I am currently suicidal. I do however state that the condition of a swede who comitted suicide is worse than being a leper in Nepal. At least from a health perspective.
(1) Lots of Nepalese lepers commit suicide as well. What does this tell you?
(2) If your scale of misery puts a depressed Swede and a Nepalese leper on the same rung, what does this tell you of the usefulness of this scale? That is, what kinds of ethical imperatives do you derive from it, especially when applied to social or political action?

From where I'm at, the problem with this discussion is that you've shifted a conceptual framework that's useful for one purpose (answering the question "what makes us happy or unhappy?") in an area where it isn't readily applicable ("what constitutes social justice?").

Note that I'm deriving this observation from context — we were discussing socialism, its aspirations to social justice, and the inequities and injustices from which it emerged. Shifting perspective to a psychological/socio-cultural view of human motivations and happiness isn't likely to bring any clarity to the discussion.

In fact, it will very likely render the entire discussion moot, since there's pretty good scientific evidence that happiness is a personality trait: even huge personal events, say, becoming paraplegic or winning the lottery, will only create temporary changes in it.
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October 22nd, 2008, 09:13
Originally Posted by Geist View Post
But look at the evidence. Democracy hasn't always protected us from those who try to silence those needs.
Are you suggesting that there are a better alternative? The current best argument for democracy is that it isn't.

However; democracies only work if there's a working school system in which one is informed. If, hypothetically, the public school dies out, democracy will die in a generation or two. In a democracy with a failed school system, extreme ideologies with simple solutions can get votes easily.
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October 22nd, 2008, 09:39
Originally Posted by Prime Junta View Post
(1) Lots of Nepalese lepers commit suicide as well. What does this tell you?
The cause is easily guessed. Improve the wealth first. It will probably improve the situation quite alot, then it's time to get worried about the people who still have problems.

Originally Posted by Prime Junta View Post
(2) If your scale of misery puts a depressed Swede and a Nepalese leper on the same rung, what does this tell you of the usefulness of this scale? That is, what kinds of ethical imperatives do you derive from it, especially when applied to social or political action?
It tells me something important about how humans work. People have basic needs. Physical needs happen to be one of the most important ones but that need is usually solved by boosting the wealth and it's distribution, a stage which several countries already reached. The greatest difference between people in Sweden and Nepal is the amount of available wealth, their ability to cover their physical needs. However, people still have needs which arent covered by wealth alone. That means that a country isn't developed simply because it can accumulate an excess wealth. It means that we still have strong questions to ask which are important for ethical, social and political discussions. In fact, there seem to be an indicator that a country with excess wealth will actually loose something human.

Having said that, there's an important relationship between how you see yourself and how you see that you should be. If you can rationalize your situation and not blame yourself for your situation, it's easier to deal with it. If you are completely alienated between the demands you feel are put on you and your view on yourself you will build up anxiousness that in severe stages will make you take the quick road out of it. Learning how much we can demand from a person is important, even in a country where people do not need to die from starvation. When people still do due to cultural demand (anorexia) then something is wrong.

And this isn't really a Swedish problem, it's a western problem in general. Some would say the problem is related to capitalism.

Originally Posted by Prime Junta View Post
(From where I'm at, the problem with this discussion is that you've shifted a conceptual framework that's useful for one purpose (answering the question "what makes us happy or unhappy?") in an area where it isn't readily applicable ("what constitutes social justice?").
Note that I'm deriving this observation from context — we were discussing socialism, its aspirations to social justice, and the inequities and injustices from which it emerged. Shifting perspective to a psychological/socio-cultural view of human motivations and happiness isn't likely to bring any clarity to the discussion.
Right. Maybe this have nothing to do with socialism as an economic system. But it does relate to Marx and it does relate to "what makes us happy/unhappy".

Originally Posted by Prime Junta View Post
In fact, it will very likely render the entire discussion moot, since there's pretty good scientific evidence that happiness is a personality trait: even huge personal events, say, becoming paraplegic or winning the lottery, will only create temporary changes in it.
I say that the jury is still out on what makes people unhappy, although there are several good ideas worth considering. I was once diagnosed with depression, but they dropped that diagnosis after my life situation changed. If a leper in Nepal is unhappy, I wouldn't call it a personality trait.
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October 22nd, 2008, 10:58
Originally Posted by GothicGothicness View Post
As a contrast in sweden a lot of people want to pay more taxes! To make sure the health care and retirement homes are good for everyone and help the less fortunate, so I don't really think all humans strive for capitalism! In china I think it is more a problem that the people have been poor for a long time and they don't want to starve, and they want to feel secure and have a stable private economy.
Take that desire to pay taxes for what it is

It is true that social democrats and public sector affiliated unions usually can get a pro-tax answer to surveys asking questions like "Do you prefer lower taxes or worse health care?" or "are you prepared to pay higher taxes if it will help the quality of schools?". But you can get any result you like from a survey by phrasing the questions right.

It is rather telling that the movement behind most such surveys wont bet on that result when it is time to play hardball. When it comes to actual hard campaigning for votes the current social democrats are unlikely to roll back the vast majority of the center right government's tax cuts. Acceptance usually comes with a lag of about a year, during which the never hypocritical soc-dems loudly criticise the government for being grossly unfair and granting tax breaks to the wealthy.
Last edited by Zaleukos; October 22nd, 2008 at 17:02.
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October 22nd, 2008, 12:41
Originally Posted by JemyM View Post
Are you suggesting that there are a better alternative? The current best argument for democracy is that it isn't.

However; democracies only work if there's a working school system in which one is informed. If, hypothetically, the public school dies out, democracy will die in a generation or two. In a democracy with a failed school system, extreme ideologies with simple solutions can get votes easily.
I'm not against democracy; I'm merely pointing out that there are some major obstacles which prevent democracy from working the way it should, and we can't assume that democracy in itself will necessarily cure those problems. You mention the school system; I mentioned an educated population as one of my preconditions for democracy to work (or more precisely, for it to work in the way I feel it should work), so our positions are not that far apart. It goes further than just the school system though. Media control and ownership is another biggie.
To quote the Australian social scientist Alex Carey:
".. the 20th century has been characterized by three developments of great political importance: The growth of democracy, the growth of corporate power, and the growth of corporate propaganda as a means of protecting corporate power against democracy."

As a final note, I don't consider democracy as it's generally understood these days (a nation state in which leaders are elected through some form of representative government) as an absolute ideal. If some other system were to demonstrate itself more capable of promoting quality of life and happiness for all, then I would by no means rule it out. Unfortunately, while many alternative systems of government have been proposed, most of them exist only on paper, so we have precious little empirical evidence on which to evaluate them. We can still experiment though, or at least try to significantly reform and improve our present system. If we hadn't pushed for progress and new ideas, we never would have emerged from the shackles of 19th century style slave labor capitalism.
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October 22nd, 2008, 14:05
Excellent summary PJ, although I do still feel that attempts to explain political systems are best done with reference to two cows, in this instance:

Pure Capitalism
You have two cows. You sell one and buy a bull.

Pure Communism
You don't have cows. Your commune has two cows, and everyone shares them. You go home after work every day, content that you live in a classless society.

Pure Democracy
You have two cows. Your neighbours decide who gets the milk.

Pure Socialism
You have two cows. The government takes them and puts them in a barn with everyone else's cows. Everyone works together to take care of all of the cows. The milk is equally distributed among you all.

Communism - Chinese - Mao
You have two pigs. The government launches a campaign to convince you to donate them "voluntarily" to provide meat for workers in the city, and then sells them to the capitalist west. The government then declares that people don't need pigs to make pork. Quoting the correct phrases from your little red book, you and your neighbors try to create pork from sheer willpower. Your local party leader reports that you have exceeded all expectations, despite very limited success. You and your neighbors starve.

Capitalism - Republican 2
You have two cows. You give one cow to a lobbyist who gives the cow to a Congressman in exchange for lowering the cow tax. Now you have one cow and a Congressman. You fail to tell them apart.

Capitalism - Republican 3
The poor should give their cows to the rich so that the milk will trickle back down to the poor.

American Taxes Part I
You have two cows. The government has borrowed thousands upon thousands of cows from other countries and slaughtered them all, and confiscates one of yours. Rather than logically returning a cow to another country, they send it off to another country so that the terrorist cells there can use it to trade for guns.

Anarcho-communism
The cows are owned by everyone in general and nobody in particular. They are milked by anyone who wishes to do so. Their teats hurt.

British Democracy
You have two cows. You feed them sheep’s brains and they go mad. The government doesn't do anything.

British Democracy 2
You have two cows. One of your cows has a small foot infection. The government orders you to burn both cows. All the cows in the surrounding area are also burned, roads and footpaths are closed and the media throws the country into a panic. You decide to protest about not being allowed to hunt foxes on public roadways.

Bureaucracy
You have two cows. At first the government regulates what you can feed them and when you can milk them. Then it pays you not to milk them. Then it takes both, shoots one, milks the other dry and pours the milk down the drain. Then it requires you to fill out forms accounting for the missing cows.

American Taxes Part II
You have one cow. The government finds out that terrorists they recently donated a cow to have traded it in for weapons, and confiscate your remaining cow to provide milk to soldiers for a ten-year war effort to eliminate the terrorist threat. You, having no cows, have done your patriotic duty, and are now in poverty.
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October 22nd, 2008, 15:42
Looks like the cat's out of the bag. Comrade Ehrenreich spilled the beans in her last posting before her volunteer stint digging the Trans-Saharan canal.

"Report from the Socialist International Conspiracy."
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October 24th, 2008, 09:34
Joking aside though, I imagine a good portion of genuine socialists and communists are eagerly hoping for McCain to win. In any case, it seems that Marx is starting to stick his toes out of the grave again.
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October 27th, 2008, 16:18
Originally Posted by Prime Junta View Post
Looks like the cat's out of the bag. Comrade Ehrenreich spilled the beans in her last posting before her volunteer stint digging the Trans-Saharan canal.

"Report from the Socialist International Conspiracy."


The plan took shape during a particularly intense criticism/self-criticism session at our 2000 annual convention in a booth at an Akron IHOP. We realized that we'd been recruiting no more new members per year than the Green Bay Packers and that, despite all our efforts, more Americans have been taken aboard UFO's than have embraced the historic promise of socialism.
I'm feeling the solidarity.

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October 27th, 2008, 16:31
*adding another name to the watch list*
If you hear a third person on your phone calls, think nothing of it. I would call you a filthy communist, but that seems a bit redundant since I already called you a fargin liberal.

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June 30th, 2009, 14:41
Doing a little gravedigging with this thread, but my little tidbit is on topic, I think.

Like Sarah Palin, Samuel J Wurzelbacher is another relic of the McCain campaign that just won't go away. ( I'll try not to be overly snarky, but it's challenging on this one.)

Right now I'm reading some stuff about the American Revolution, because I feel I lack some knowledge in that area, but I'm a freakin genius historian compared to this guy:
Joe the Plumber Shares Conservative Views

Referring to the Constitution as "almost like the Bible," Wurzelbacher said of the Founding Fathers: "They knew socialism doesn't work. They knew communism doesn't work…..
Unless Thomas Jefferson, John Adams et al were mystically clairvoyant, it's a little hard to see how they could have known about a system that wouldn't be conceived for another fifty or 100 years….the political system they were concerned about replacing with a government by the people was monarchy, but I guess that just isn't scary and evil enough for Joe.

I don't know which is sadder, that someone could go through the American school system and not understand even the timeline of our independence, or that that same someone could be picked as a 'spokesman' for the presidential candidate of a major party.

Where there's smoke, there's mirrors.
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June 30th, 2009, 15:06
I find the American conservatives objection to positive rights to be as ignorant as the Soviet Unions conservatives rejection to labor freedom. It's like taking human needs and divide it into two, then keep one part of it and reject the other. The soviet union eventually collapsed, and we are currently seeing that the US as we knew it have begun to collapse as well. There's a limit to how long you can ignore people's needs until they begin to rally for change.

West Europe already absorbed the best of both systems and found it efficient to lead societies with a balance between both, shifting focus when necessary. We are not going to see any major changes in how Britain, Germany and France are lead anytime soon.

Having said that… I have all respect for an intellectual conservative, but I find it surprising how much one can make ones opinion heard in areas where education failed. It's evident to me that these people have no idea of either their country, the arguments for their own ideology or how it's supposed to work, or how their opponents ideology is supposed to work (to be able to pinpoint it's weaknesses).

When I have the time, I have to make some research in how the American school system works, because as far as I have seen it seems to be a total anarchy.

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June 30th, 2009, 15:15
Total anarchy describes it well.

Here's how the system works, in a nutshell, Jemy:

The system is funded by a mixture of local, state, and federal funds. Most schools get the lion's share of their budget from local property taxes (so in some states like in NJ this is ridiculously high).

Anyways, because of our federalist nature, the states are left to manage/run the school systems. In practice, most states set some guidelines and then let the local districts handle it from there. So we have not one, not fifty, but THOUSANDS of vastly different school systems in our country. There's no standard curriculum, no standard for teacher/student performance, no standard levels of funding, etc.


Example: So in Texas, now, the state board recently decided to remove all reference to the age of the universe from science text books. Why? Because they believe man rode dinosaurs 6,000 years ago and Jesus did everything with magic. They can't *actually* say that though, so they fall back to this non-existent "Teach the controversy!" thing and say it's all a bunch of "theory. Now, Texas is one of the focal points for the text book industry here in the states, so you're likely to see a great deal of textbooks across the country reflect the new Texas standard of "we won't talk about the age of the universe".

What's interesting, though, is you have a few random schools in VERY urban areas that are amongst the best of the nation - so it's not only an urban/suburban/rural divide that plays into the quality of the school. I've long argued we need to kidnap experts from China, Japan, and Europe and have them design a completely federal school system: Where kids go to school from 8:00-4:30(most school days in the states are about 6-6.5 hours long.), have half-days on saturday, and decrease the amount of summer vacation to 30 days.

Japan has something like the equivalent of two or three extra years of school on us when they finish highschool. For me, it's a national security issue - we need smart people to compete with other societies.
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June 30th, 2009, 15:19
I have to agree about the school system, Jemy. It appears to have changed radically since I was a kid. I'm old enough to have received a very decent education, but younger people seem to have gotten shafted. You have only to look at some of the comments on any blog—there are people on this forum for whom English is a second language that spell, phrase and communicate better in written English than many of the native speakers.

Worst to my mind is that no one knows any history, even American history, or classic literature, or even how to think and debate logically.It's like we've completely thrown away the past beyond the last fifty or so years.

Edit: Simulpost with Rith, who explains it better than I.

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June 30th, 2009, 15:44
I'm not claiming Joe the Plumber unless you claim Garafolo.

Slight tweak to Rith's explanation—something he says but then sorta contradicts. Each state has a board of eduction that sets a framework of requirements for all districts within their state. So, while you have thousands and thousands of policy sets established by local districts, you (in theory) only have 50 frameworks that control the national education system.

The downside of running education at the federal level is that it becomes more politicized rather than less. Every 4 years, you end up throwing out the system and starting over, depending on who won the election. Keeping education at the state level buffers out some of those shifts and allows a little better "tailoring" to the local populace. While the current system allows you to lose the age of the universe in Texas, federalizing it could allow the entire nation to lose that info for 4 years or more.

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June 30th, 2009, 16:10
Originally Posted by dteowner View Post
I'm not claiming Joe the Plumber unless you claim Garafolo.
Fair enough. Garafolo's ability to utilize words of more than one syllable is canceled out by her nutcase pov. And she has way too many tatts.

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June 30th, 2009, 16:20
My cohabit have been speaking to an American friend who are homeschooling her children, and after awhile they agreed that my cohabit will copy and send the entire Swedish school curriculum to her (which is available in English). The lack of national school curriculum is one of the most difficult aspects of the American system to grasp for a foreigner.

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June 30th, 2009, 16:29
Originally Posted by dteowner View Post
I'm not claiming Joe the Plumber unless you claim Garafolo.

Slight tweak to Rith's explanation—something he says but then sorta contradicts. Each state has a board of eduction that sets a framework of requirements for all districts within their state. So, while you have thousands and thousands of policy sets established by local districts, you (in theory) only have 50 frameworks that control the national education system.

The downside of running education at the federal level is that it becomes more politicized rather than less. Every 4 years, you end up throwing out the system and starting over, depending on who won the election. Keeping education at the state level buffers out some of those shifts and allows a little better "tailoring" to the local populace. While the current system allows you to lose the age of the universe in Texas, federalizing it could allow the entire nation to lose that info for 4 years or more.
Well, I'd tap top scientists to run my federal education system and design the curriculum. Nothing would be cut out for political/religious reasons. I think this is too critical for our national security to leave it up to random jerks in Des Moines or Lubbock.
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June 30th, 2009, 18:52
Uhm, interesting. Here in Canada, education is a provincial responsability like it is a state responsability in the US. The major difference is that what is taught is decided by the provincial ministry of education and the amount paid by students is the same for the entire province.
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