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  •  What a crock! (2.50)
    If communism has not been discredited, why has every single communistic economy collapsed into ruin?  The most powerful communist country in the world has become more capitalistic than the U.S. rather than follow in the footsteps of the Soviet Union, Cuba, North Korea, and countless other tinpot, Marxist dictatorships.  Shoot, I could argue very eloquently that the quickest way to destroy a country economically is to convert it to communism.

    The problem is that without any semblance of a  free market, there is no way to determine the appropriate prices of goods and services in an economy.  As such, a centrally-planned economy is doomed to inevitable failure.  How can you possibly argue otherwise?  It's utterly incomprehensible to me that communism still has defenders when there has not been a single case of a successfully-run centrally-planned economy.

    As for capitalism promoting greed, I say good!  That is, it's good if people want to better themselves in an environment of free exchange without coercion from government.  You can call that greed if you want, I call it opportunity.  Besides, who gets to determine what constitutes greed?  To paraphrase one of my favorite columnists: "greed" is when someone wants to keep more of their own money, "need" is when someone else wants that person's money, "compassion" is when the government arranges the transfer.

    What we have today in the U.S. is not capitalism; it's closer to fascism in that the government allows private property to exist, but maintains the right to specify how it may be used.  Crony, subsidized capitalism is not what Adam Smith was talking about.

    As for monopolies, there are two types.  The first attains monopoly status by providing a good or service far better than the competition such that the consumer bestows a de facto monopoly status on that entity.  This is a good monopoly in that the consumer's needs are met, the business is successful, and any misstep by that business allows competing businesses a chance to meet customer demand more efficiently.  The second type of monopoly is a government-protected monopoly where big businesses use politicians to enact legislation to prevent their competitors from engaging in real competition.  This is a bad monopoly in that the consumer is usually subsidizing the monopoly, other businesses with less political influence are out of luck, and there is often no way to compete against legislated advantages.

    It amazes me how much antipathy exists on the left toward the idea that people should be able to engage in a free exchange of goods and services in a marketplace unfettered by political ideology.  If you want to attempt to better meet the needs of those who would supposedly suffer under free-market principles, go ahead and use your own time, money, and effort to do so, but you have no right to dictate to everyone else how they may use their own property.  Who the hell died and made you God?

    "War is God's way of teaching Americans geography." -- Ambrose Bierce

    by Libertarialoon on Mon Sep 13, 2004 at 03:35:11 PM PDT

    [ Parent ]

    •  Time, money, property (none)
      Civilization requires rules restricting a person's use of their property.  You may not use your bulldozer on my land, you may use your gun at my direction, you may not use your radio transmitter in a way that interferes with order, you may not drive your car down the wrong direction on a highway, and much much more!

      A free market may be great if you want to set fair values on goods, but the ideal of communism is that production and delivery of goods and services is not valued monetarily.  Centrally planned economies are artifacts of Marxism-Leninism, not of communism per se.  Just like the banking industry is not a direct artifact of capitalism.

      The problem with communism was and has always been that all of the wealth has to be redistributed.  Not just the wealth within the borders of the U.S.S.R. or Cuba.  Because, as history showed, the wealth just leaves and moves to America making the communist nation that much poorer.  This was the whole purpose of the international, and the root of the reason why you and most Americans have been raised to hate communism so much.  

      •  A flawed ideal (none)
        but the ideal of communism is that production and delivery of goods and services is not valued monetarily

        Everything created has monetary value because everything created has an opportunity cost associated with its creation.  Do you honestly believe that the effort required to become a surgeon is of the same value as the effort required to work the grill at McDonald's?  There is a much greater opportunity cost associated with becoming a doctor - years in school, huge tuition costs - hence a doctor is able to command more value for his services than the guy making burgers.

        If there is no monetary incentive to create goods and services, then those goods and services which are difficult to create will not be created.  In a communistic society, there is simply no incentive to put forth the effort when the well-deserved fruits of your labor will never come to fruition.  Once again, the quickest way to destroy a healthy economy is to convert it to communism.  When everyone owns everything, no one really owns anything.  When no one owns anything, no one has any reason to do anything.

        "War is God's way of teaching Americans geography." -- Ambrose Bierce

        by Libertarialoon on Mon Sep 13, 2004 at 04:50:17 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  This website is a refutation of your premise (none)
          If there is no monetary incentive to create goods and services, then those goods and services which are difficult to create will not be created.

          This website runs on an Open Source Linux system... Linux was difficult to create, but was created by the donated labor of countless individuals without profit motive.

          This website runs on an Apache server. Apache, like Linux, was an Open Source development effort.

          Many, many pieces of complex software (and hardware) have been created by creative individuals out of personal desire for the end result... or love of the process of creating and/or the social process of collaborating in the creation of it.

          There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamed of in your philosophy.

          "I hope ever to see America among the foremost nations of justice and liberality."
          George Washington

          by Malacandra on Tue Sep 14, 2004 at 07:30:09 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Software is a different beast altogether (none)
            Creating software is a distributed process.  Because software is not a tangible good - it's simply 1s and 0s, there is no barrier to duplicating it.  The cost of creating a copy of Linux is virtually nil.  As a result, although there was certainly a great deal of effort put forth in the early years of the creation of Linux, particularly by Linus Torvalds and Alan Cox, that task is now accomplished by thousands of engineers the world over now.  There is very little opportunity cost associated with the continued development of Linux because the development model of Free Software is conducive to spreading out the job to countless engineers all over the world via the Internet.

            The same cannot be said of any industry that deals in tangible goods and services.  Tangible goods are created using natural resources which are scarce.  This scarcity results in those resources having a specific value and a specific cost incurred by the person producing those goods and services.  If there is no financial incentive to create those goods - i.e., the producer is not entitled to fruits of his labor - those goods will not be produced.  Software, in fact, all digital IP, is not subject to these constraints, because it is not scarce in any way.

            Likewise, if there is no financial incentive to learn the skills necessary to perform a service that requires a significant amount of education, creating software for example, those skills will  not be learned.  Linux Torvalds and Alan Cox both spent a good number of years and money learning software engineering.  In fact, virtually all the big projects in the Free Software world - Linux, Apache, Perl, Samba, etc - were initiated by expert software engineers.  There are thousands of poorly written applications in the Free Software world that were written by those with no formal training in software engineering.  Virtually no one uses, or has even heard of, these programs.

            So even the examples you cite were in no way free.  Torvalds and Cox both have high-paying jobs that allow them to work on Linux.  Both of them made significant financial investments in learning their craft.

            "War is God's way of teaching Americans geography." -- Ambrose Bierce

            by Libertarialoon on Tue Sep 14, 2004 at 09:15:34 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  I stand by my point (none)
              You cite mitigating factors, in the software industry, that are the reason why the quote of yours that I excerpted didn't qualify as the universal postulate that you seemed to be implying.

              Yes, there's a lot of training that goes into coding. I know... I've been doing it for over 20 years myself. Much of what I learned, though, I learned without expectation of monetary reward, even though that may have come later (and it often didn't).
              I suspect that this is true of many endeavors: playing a musical instrument, writing poetry, doing various forms of scientific research... or volunteering time to a political campaign. At various points in my life I've become interested in one facet of the world or another, whether painting, or negotiation & conflict resolution, or software, or history, or politics, or psychology... and I've pursued those things whether there was a profit in it. Sometimes they've been applicable to having more fulfilling friendships and relationships, which are non-renumerative.

              Do some people do these things for profit or for expectation of reward? Certainly. Do some people do this out of pure love and intellectual curiosity? Yeah, they do. Even if they are hard to master. Even if they require a significant amount of education.  

              The fact that people dedicate time and resources to pursue these kinds of activities can contradicts your argument rather than bolstering it.

              And, no, nothing is "free". I'm familiar with Newton's Laws. Still, there are values that people hold that go way beyond profit motive. And, no, I'm not saying that profit motive is inconsiderable, either.

              "I hope ever to see America among the foremost nations of justice and liberality."
              George Washington

              by Malacandra on Tue Sep 14, 2004 at 04:58:56 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

          •  aoeu (none)
            Actually Linux gets plenty of paid contributors.  So does Apache.  In the begining it was donated labor, and labor as a result of school/grad projects, but now there is significant paid contributions from companies like IBM Intel and AMD.

            The turtle told John
            that W is for wrong.
            Kerry listened well.

            by TealVeal on Tue Sep 14, 2004 at 11:10:09 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

    •  Yohoo oh yohoo you big strong capitalist!! (none)
      Have you thought about China?  Still communist far as I know and wielding enormous and growing economic clout.  Take a look at the Hong Kong elections, will you?  The commies won.
    •  Um... (none)
      the communist countries called themselves "democratic," as well.  Does that mean their collapse discredited democracy?  The answer sometimes is right in front of your nose.
      •  So you're arguing (none)
        that the Soviet Union, China under Mao, and North Korea aren't truly communist?  I'd like to see some evidence to support that assertion.  If you're trying to state that they weren't communist because they didn't adhere to the Marxist utopian ideal, I'll say that's because the Marxist utopian ideal is unworkable.

        Lenin attempted to precisely implement Marx's ideology shortly after the Bolshevik Revolution.  Unfortunately, he soon realized that the elimination of private enterprise resulted in a collapse of production since there was no economic incentive to create.  Instead of realizing this inherent flaw in communism, he acted in the only other way he possibly could - the establishment of an authoritarian regime which would mandate production under the strict had of the State.  The same story has held true for every single instance of communism.  As an economic ideology, communism is about the worst idea ever put into practice.

        As a free-market anarchist, I am constantly barraged with accusations of advocating an unworkable, utopian ideal.  Many of these same people are loathe to say the same thing about communism for some reason.  At least my ideology has not been put into practice on a national level.  Communism, on the other hand, has been debunked so many times that I have to assume that its advocates are simply unhinged.

        "War is God's way of teaching Americans geography." -- Ambrose Bierce

        by Libertarialoon on Tue Sep 14, 2004 at 09:35:42 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Unhinged, I guess (none)
          But I never "advocated" communism.  Marx never articulated any "utopian ideas," at least none that could be used to create a communist society.  What he did was analyze capitalism and theorize that it would develop into a more socialist arrangement, where workers would control the means of production.  Lenin "applied" Marx in the same way that Bush "applies" Jesus.  That is, in no meaningful sense.  Besides, your "history" of what Lenin "did" is so far removed from reality that it makes little sense to continue the dialogue.  Lenin, far from moving to destroy "capitalism," moved to destroy the soviets (kind of anarcho-syndicalist communes), which were not under his control and were doing quite well.  He lusted for power, crushed them, coopted "socialist" ideas into a one-party state (totally incompatible with the socialist program that was then in ascendancy) and called the result "communism."  He also called it democratic, another misnomer.  What you miss is that the autocrats in control in "communist" states and the plutocrats in control in the "capitalist" states both had convergent interests in identifying the communist states with socialism.  The former, to benefit from the prestige of the idea, the latter to discredit socialism by equating it with dictatorial regimes with basket case economies.  When both major power groups say something is so, people tend to believe it rather than think for themselves.

          One final point: comparing "communist" states and their economic development with First World developed countries makes little sense.  When communism took over, those states were at the economic level of Third World states in Latin America.  By the 1970s, the communist states had managed to develop their economies and infrastructures to a level far beyond comparable states in the "free world."  Compare 1970s Bulgaria to 1970s Guatemala, and then you're making an intelligent comparison....and gain some insights.

          Again, I don't "advocate" communism.  North Korea and the Soviet Union are nothing to aspire to.  (China, at least on the economic level, may be another story, at least if you're a backward country at the same economic level in 2004 as you were in 1980.  You probably look at China and think, if only we had rejected "capitalism".)

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