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View Diary: Socialism — what it isn’t (117 comments)

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  •  What you are saying is that people (0+ / 0-)

    should act in the best interest of the community as a whole even when it is contrary to the best interests of themselves and their family.  You are saying that people should forgo a better life for themselves and their family if it is in the best interests of their neighbors. People don't behave that way.  Even good people, for the most part, don't behave that way.  Most people will put the best interests of their own families, of their own children, first. And I don't think it's realistic to expect an entire society to say, "I'll work extra hard, more than my next door neighbor, because even though it doesn't do much for me or my family, it helps the community as a whole, including my next door neighbor who is working less, or who didn't spend an extra seven years of his life in school, or who isn't risking his family's livelihood on some new idea.  

    •  You're missing the point (3+ / 0-)

      People want to live in a society where basic fairness is valued and, if necessary, enforced by law.

      The New Dealers (from whence much of “liberal” economics comes) had a central insight: unregulated capitalism tends to concentrate wealth, and thus power, in a smaller and smaller slice of people at the top of the economic pile. This eventually leads to crisis, because so much wealth is concentrated at the top that the rest of society does not have enough money to buy the products the elites are producing. Of course, elites can respond by loosening credit so that their workers can go into debt to buy their stuff, but eventually the credit cards are maxed, and then everything grinds to a halt. And by “grinds to a halt,” I mean, “people stop buying things, and then everyone – including the elites – stares terrified into the economic abyss.” See 1929 and 2008 for some sense of what that experience is like.

      Liberalism is designed to prevent capitalism from self-destructing by supporting the bargaining power of workers, restraining the myopic and ultimately self-destructive greed of the rich through progressive income taxes, and so on. It came to save capitalism, not to destroy it.

      The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts. -Bertrand Russell

      by mftalbot on Thu Apr 04, 2013 at 02:00:03 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I am not arguing against regulated capitalism (0+ / 0-)

        I am not arguing for a completely free market.  

        What I am saying is that socialism is a bad as unregulated capitalism.  The solution is somewhere in the middle: capitalism that allows people to get rich through talent, innovation, invention, and hard work, but is regulated enough so that everybody has an opportunity to better their own lives, and that happens by providing more people with the opportunity to gain the education and skills necessary, in our information-based economy, to make a better life for themselves and their families.

        I'm no Bill Gates myself -- I'm a lawyer in a mid-size city (New Orleans).  I've managed to build a pretty good life for my family and my children, largely because I worked really hard in school, sacrificed seven years of my life post-high school, and have been working 50-60 hours a week on average ever since.  I have no desire to take away the wealth of zillionaires like Al Copeland, who started with a little chicken stand in Arabi, Louisiana and built Popeye's Fried Chicken.  What I do think we ought to do is more to see to it that everybody has the opportunity to get marketable skills (a marketable vocation, or college, if they want to and have the scholastic skills) to make a better life for themselves.  And we should provide a social saftety net for people who cannot take care of themselves.  That's the regulation of capitalism I would favor.  

        •  And Al Copeland's reward... (0+ / 0-)

          is that he gets to be on top, from which lofty perch he cannot complain.  

          The '60s were simply an attempt to get the 21st Century started early; don't mistake an unfulfilled dream for a lost one. A dream has no deadline!

          by Panurge on Thu Apr 04, 2013 at 06:24:19 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  I like to think that most people would. (0+ / 0-)

      You're like my first friend here and I hate to be so contrarian like this, but socialism is based on these ideas. I think you're always going to have some greedy, selfish people, but I feel like your position gives credit to the right wing argument against a whole bunch of our ideas. I mean, even a steeply progressive tax code, which I think was mentioned above, would get battered by your argument. If people really are that selfish, I mean all of them, then you're basically saying that CEO's, doctors, etc. should really be paid more than teachers and police officers, or they won't get the extra education that those jobs take.

      •  I am saying exactly this (1+ / 0-)
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        then you're basically saying that CEO's, doctors, etc. should really be paid more than teachers and police officers, or they won't get the extra education that those jobs take.
        Yes, if a heart surgeon -- who had to go through a college, medical school, residency, and then the 12 hour days with 2 or three weeks of vacation a year --  didn't make substantially more than a teacher -- who goes to four years of college, and then gets 3 months off a year -- a lot of people wouldn't become doctors.  I am not downplaying teachers -- I have family members who are teachers.  But it is MUCH easier to become a teacher than to become a heart surgeon, and teachers work far fewer hours each year than my dad's heart surgeon does.  Not only that, but the heart surgeon has the extra stress of literally having someone's life in his hands every day.  If heart surgeons weren't paid much more than teachers, a lot of people wouldn't go through all of that.

        Do you think that if I could have made the same income without going to three years of law school, and without working 50-60 hours a week, I would have gone to law school and would have spent over 20 years working 50-60 hours a week?  Even within my profession, you can choose to teach -- it's a much easier life, far fewer hours, more secure, and less stress over running a business and over not having enough clients to pay the bills next month.  It's also less money.  That's a trade-off people consciously make, depending on their personal circumstances.

        If you could make the same thing if you (1) graduated from high school, and got a job where you worked 9-5, guaranteed income, secure job (with due process before you lose your income) or (2) went to 8 years of post-high school education, incurred the debt for that, had a residency, worked 50-60 hours a week, plus had to constantly worry that you wouldn't be able to bring in enough new business to make any income next month, and could lose your business if you weren't able to attract more business -- which would you choose?  

        It's the reason that, in colleges, engineers right now make more than, say, film studies or art majors.  Lots of people who major in things like engineering would love to spend their lives talking about films or art.  But they know it doesn't give them nearly the opportunity for making a good life for themselves that a degree in engineering does.  So, they choose a major that is more marketable -- i.e., presents them with a better opportunity for a future.  It's a trade off.  Engineering is less fun, but it pays better.  

        Life is a trade off.  For some people, it is worth doing the harder, more strenuous, more demanding -- and sometimes more unpleasant things -- for a better financial reward.  For others, it is not.

        What we need to do is provide everyone the opportunity to  be able to make those choices.  We need to make sure every child who is capable has the opportunity -- if he or she is capable AND is willing to make the tremendous sacrifices -- to become a heart surgeon.  We need to make sure that every child grows into an adult who has the opportunity to make those choices.

        •  What if... (2+ / 0-)

          ...medical education was supported by tax dollars - such that, if you've got the smarts and drive to go to medical school, then we as a society will pay for your education and training, since we will benefit from your skills when you're done?

          One very savvy thing the oligarchy has done is to raise the price of education to the point that people with the education to notice the rigged nature of the game are afraid of stepping out of line and speaking up, since they graduate owing so much money that doing anything other than selling their souls to The Machine will result in them being economically crippled for the rest of their lives.

          The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts. -Bertrand Russell

          by mftalbot on Thu Apr 04, 2013 at 03:38:36 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  The cost of education is only a part (1+ / 0-)
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            I agree that we need to make higher education more accessible.  Here in Louisiana, thanks to the generosity of oilman Pat Taylor, we have the TOPS plan, where if you have a certain GPA and ACT score, you can go to LSU or other state schools tuition free.  

            I completely agree -- as I've said elsewhere -- that we need to give opportunity to every one -- opportunity means the chance to make choices to make your life better.  TOPS is a great start.  But that can be done through vocational training for students who do not choose college, for example. I have a friend who graduated from high school and became a plumber.  He has made a very good life (he now owns a business and employs other plumbers).  He got that skill, and then went "over and above" to do what was necessary to own his own business.  Not every one will choose to do that, because getting to the point where you own your own plumbing business is much harder, and much more work,  than simply working for someone else.  But everyone should have the opportunity, if they are able and so choose, to get the skills necessary to do that, if that's what they want.  

            But the cost of the education is only a part.  Another part is the years of your life that you devote to education -- years where others are out earning a living.  In addition, things like medical school are hard and not fun.  Not. At. All.  And the life of a doctor (if you are a good one, the kind who makes a lot of money) is not an easy one.  Not. At. All.  I think of my dad's heart doctor, who sees patients all day and then can be found making the rounds to see the patients in the hospital at 8 or 9 at night.  And who literally tries every day to save lives, and has to live with himself, and the families, when he is not able to save a life.  It's not an easy life.  That's why my dad's heart doctor makes A LOT of money.  

            •  I know I'm the new guy, (0+ / 0-)

              but still, your plumber friend is not any more hardworking than the plumbers who provide the labor for "his" business. Does his bumper say "Government didn't build my business - I DID!" or any other clever tea party slogans?

              •  Yes, as a general matter, he is. (1+ / 0-)
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                They are plumbers.  

                He is a plumber, PLUS he spends the extra hours doing payroll, doing bookkeeping, deciding who to hire and fire, dealing with complaints, keeping inventory, deciding how to make sure he gets enough business to keep all those other plumbers busy (and that's a very important part of the life of any small business owner) --  all sorts of things that come with running a business.  

                The people who work for him, when they are finished fixing sinks, go home.  

                When he's finished fixing sinks, he goes home to that other stuff.  

                That's today.  To GET to the point where he could open his business, he worked as much overtime as he could (when he was working for others) and he and his family "did without" a lot of other things -- meals out, vacations, etc.) so he could use that money to save up to open his own business.  Nobody just throws that into your lap.  He made more sacrifices to get to the point where he could open his own business than somebody with the same skills who just was happy to go to work and go home and let somebody else do all that worry.   That's a choice he made, knowing that his sacrifices earlier would pay off for him later in life if he could manage to have a successful business of his own.  

        •  I think I just see the world a little differently (1+ / 0-)
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          than you do. By your logic, motivation is purely a function of the financial reward. Would people go to law school or medical school and do that extra work for the same amount of money as a teacher? I think most would. I know I would. But then again I'm an optimist.

          But I still wouldn't think its fair that I would make so much more as a doctor than a teacher does, when their job is just as important to society. I mean, what was the teacher doing while the doctor did the residency? eating bonbons? No, they just started working sooner.

          And what about somebody who "only" works 40 hours, then goes home and takes care of their family? That's a bunch more work. And don't parents bring just as much benefit to society as doctors and lawyers? Why do doctors and lawyers get to say that they "work more," and therefore, should get more money?

          •  Because that's completely unworkable (1+ / 0-)
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            and unrealistic.  And I would never, never, want to live in that society.

            Here's the big problem:  Who gets to say what "value to society" somebody brings in?  The government?  Do you realize the HUGE control over your life you would be ceding over to the government?

            Right now, the people paying the money, and working for the money, get a lot of control (not total control -- there are limits) over setting the "value" of someone's efforts.  If I want a plumber, I can call, and he tells me what he will charge, and I decide if it's worth it to pay that, or if I want to look elsewhere, or even try to do it myself.  

            The same happens when I hire a legal secretary.  I look at his skills, and what he can do to make my practice easier, decide what I'm willing to pay for that.  He gets to decide if he's willing to work for that.  

            What you are talking about is some all-knowing, all-powerful dictator (or group of dictators) who get to decide what you, and I, and everyone else is "worth."  That kind of system -- where the government tells everybody what they are "worth" -- did not work out well at all for China or the Soviet Union.  

            "Value" is a subjective thing.  Take 10 people off the street and they will disagree as to the "value" of something.  The only way to truly measure value is by a person actually being willing to pay so many of his own dollars for something else. If I'm talking in abstractions -- and talking about somebody else's dollars, not my own -- it's easy to say, "The guy who cuts my grass is as valuable as the local banker, because I see what he does every day, and I bank over the internet so I never see that banker guy.  Therefore, if YOU want your grass cut, YOU have to pay grass cutting guy $250 an hour."

            Who do you trust to do that with your money?  

            We are a society built on private property ownership.  that is incompatible with someone else coming in and dictating to me what my "value" is -- that even if I'm the best lawyer in the world, they think a stay at home mom is more valuable so I can only earn $x a year.   I'm fine with them having the opinion that a stay at home mom is more valuable than I am -- as long as their opinion affects THEIR actions, the choices THEY make, and what they do with THEIR money.  I should have the same right to MY opinion of "value" with MY choices, MY actions, and MY money and property.

            •  I do see where you're coming from. (0+ / 0-)

              If the system switched overnight, you would probably be right to feel jilted. Under the current system, you did work harder than a lot of people and I can empathize with the feelings of the high performers like you in our system. Kind of like lowering the age for a driver's license. The older people who had to wait - they feel ripped off, but the people who got it earlier don't see the problem. I guess, how do you make the jump to a socialist system? Somebody will always feel cheesed in the beginning. But after a few generations, doctors and teachers would see themselves as equals, even if one had to spend more time in school, because they would always be paid the same amount. I know the switchover from a capitalistic economy to a socialized one would be tricky, but I guess I refuse to believe that it would remove everyone's motivation to try hard. I hope you don't think I am diminishing your hard work with my banter, that's not at all my goal.  

              •  The real problem... (5+ / 0-)

       that you two are arguing about teachers vs. doctors when the real problem is Wall Street banksters who make literally A THOUSAND TIMES MORE than they do.

                The '60s were simply an attempt to get the 21st Century started early; don't mistake an unfulfilled dream for a lost one. A dream has no deadline!

                by Panurge on Thu Apr 04, 2013 at 06:28:28 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  And they deserve it (0+ / 0-)

                  Under the same metrics that determine the teacher and doctor salaries.

                  If they didn't perform a service of value, no one would pay them those salaries.

                  (-5.50,-6.67): Left Libertarian
                  Leadership doesn't mean taking a straw poll and then just throwing up your hands. -Jyrinx

                  by Sparhawk on Fri Apr 05, 2013 at 03:23:15 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  You are confusing real value... (0+ / 0-)

                    such as that which teachers and doctors provide and fictitious value a.k.a rent extraction which is where most of the profits on Wall Street comes from. Before the 1980s, Wall Street salaries were not very different from professional careers. Ask yourself why this is no longer the case.

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