For a long time I've wondered about these issues and E2 seems like a good place to hear some intelligent ideas on the subject.

These questions may seem biased towards capitalism, and that's probably because I'm playing devil's advocate and trying to gain insight into different viewpoints. By way of disclosure, I live in the US and have done pretty well under our economic system. I started out dirt poor and now I'm pretty cozy. Despite that, my mind isn't necessarily made up and I'd genuinely like more information on other economic systems. In other words, these are honest questions.

    1. I've always equated capitalism with freedom: the freedom to create and keep the fruits of that creation. It seems that any non-capitalistic wealth distribution system must include force and coercion to redistribute wealth to those that did not create it. So question one is, Why is coercion better than inequity? And if your favorite non-capitalistic economic system doesn't advocate coercion, how does it redistribute wealth?

    2. It seems that most of the arguments against capitalism center around its treatment of the poor. What's wrong with typical "safety nets" of capitalistic societies such as welfare and (in the United States) Social Security? Instead of an entire society living at the minimum acceptable standard, only those who try and fail (or never try at all) are sustained at that level. Contrary to popular belief, these safety nets (at least in the US) do include health care coverage, meaning the poor and elderly have full access to the health care system. At this time Social Security does not include a prescription drug benefit, but everyone here seems to want it, and it seems likely to pass.

    3. I agree that capitalism is not "fair", but I don't know of any economic system which is "more fair" than capitalism. Do any exist? Have they been tried and proven?

    4. If wealth is redistributed somewhat equally, what is the incentive for people to achieve or produce more than they are allowed to keep?

    5. Why is it that the government is always tasked with caring for the poor? Do you think there could ever be a sustainable economic system based on capitalism in which caring for the needy was the responsibility of NGOs (non-governmental organizations) such as churches or charities?

    6. How should freedom be ranked against economic equality? Higher or lower? It seems to me that any economic system which includes redistribution of wealth, freedom is given less consideration than economic equality. Is this a good thing?

If you choose to respond please have respect for your fellow noders and check your dogma at the door. Thank you.

The problem is, I think that most people equate capitalism with laissez faire capitalism, where government allows private industry to do more or less whatever it pleases. As Keynes has shown, laissez faire capitalism does not always work.

Along with the notion of laissez faire capitalism is the notion that government = monopoly = inefficient, while free markets = efficient. Although true most of the time, this is not necessarily so. The government of France, for example, runs one of the most efficient power services in the world.

While the Communist ideology has been discredited the past years, a centrally planned economy does have its merits, especially if local situations are suitable. Singapore is a good example of a successful centrally planned economy.

Another problem with laissez faire capitalism is that local markets of developing countries tend to be so small that they are prone to manipulation. Even in Hong Kong -- that bastion of capitalism -- their government had to intervene in their robust stock market to staunch an attack coming from the influx of large amounts of foreign capital.

At that time, many commentators were saying that Hong Kong made a mistake, that it has compromised its support for free markets. However, most people now see it as a prescient and effective move to protect the local economy.

I saw the first write up in this node when it hit the New Writeups nodelet and I really wanted to be the first to dash off a line by line answer of profoundly original clarity and depth. As a slow writer I resigned myself to not being able to accomplish such a feat. Then I noticed that the writeups that slowly appeared didn't actually respond to the questions comprehensively, in sequence, so I got down to business and decided to go for it. This is going to be long because most of my answers involve completely recontextualizing the questions. For example "Why is coercion better than inequity?" implies that something called "capitalism" doesn't involve coercion and does involve inequity. I can speak to the issues, I think, but the pithier my responses, the more they reinforce the basic assumptions. Operational Translation: this is going to take a while to answer...

First (though I know they're boring) some definitions are useful because when different people discuss politics they often use the same "labels" and vocabulary but mean drastically different things. RevJim23 seems to think "capitalism" means "our economic system" as it currently works. His questions seem to imply that "our economic system" (AKA "capitalism") involves (1) freedom, (2) a moderate safety net, and (3) a situation where the work ethic is a belief that will induce successful behavior.

Note that this is distinct from what many people would think of as "real" capitalism where you'd have to start using French words like "laissez-faire", mention interest rates at least tangentially, and probably discuss monopolies.

My basic strategy for the rest of this writeup will be to point out where I think RevJim23 got the "what is really happening" part of "our economic system" wrong. After that I will have enough background to answer each of his questions from the perspective of what I think is really happening and then respond to why he framed the issues the way he did given his perspective on what is really happening.

I think the best place to start is with a quote from Noam Chomsky in What Uncle Sam Really Wants, 1986 (pgs.9-10):

    Kennan was one of the most intelligent and lucid of US planners, and a major figure in shaping the postwar world. His writings are an extremely interesting illustration of the dovish position. One document to look at if you want to understand your country is Policy Planning Study 23, written by Kennan for the State Department planning staff in 1948. Here is some of what it says:

      we have about 50% of the world's wealth, but only 6.3% of its population... In this situation, we cannot fail to be the object of envy and resentment. Our real task is to devise a pattern of relationships which will permit us to maintain this position of disparity... To do so, we will have to dispense with all sentimentality and day-dreaming; and our attention will have to be concentrated everywhere on our immediate national objectives... We should cease to talk about vague and... unreal objectives such as human rights, the raising of the living standards, and democratization. The day is not far off when we are going to have to deal in straight power concepts. The less we are then hampered by idealistic slogans, the better.

    PPS 23 was, of course, a top-secret document. To pacify the public, it was necessary to trumpet the "idealistic slogans" (as is still being done constantly), but here the planners were talking to one another.

    Along the same lines, in a briefing for US ambassadors to Latin American countries in 1950, Kennan observed that a major concern of US foreign policy must be "the protection of our (i.e. Latin America's) raw materials." We must therefore combat as dangerous heresy which, US intelligence reported, was spreading through Latin America: "the idea that the government has direct responsibility for the welfare of the people."

    US Planners call that idea Communism, whatever the actual political views of the people advocating it. They can be Church-based self-help groups or whatever, but if they support this heresy, they're Communists.

I think that it is clear that this Chomsky quote is a bit dated. But the post-WWII history still basically holds. After a bit more broad summarizing, the rest of the book is full of similar line by line analysis of the various wars we fought (including Vietnam) that were based on this policy and were generally successful at making sure no government actually succeeded in improving "the welfare of the people" (by which criteria, Vietnam was a resounding success) and setting an example for what other countries could do if they stopped acting like tiberium harvesters in some world-wide Command and Conquer game and acting more like people trying to feed themselves. And don't think the end of the Cold War has changed anything: cut and paste the rhetoric and do exactly what we've been doing for half a century and our drug policy in Columbia makes perfect sense.

I have to admit now: That first quote was mostly for the "explaining where RevJim23 might have gotten his impressions about capitalism" part of the answers below: carefully thought out government PR (which is called propaganda when other people do it). It also (hopefully) gives the setup for another quote that has a lot more to do with our domestic policy and directly answering RevJim23's questions. Also from Noam Chomsky in What Uncle Sam Really Wants, 1986 (pgs.13-14)

    The US government had two major roles to play. The first was to secure the far-flung domains of the Grand Area. That required a very intimidating posture, to ensure that no one interferes with this task - which is one reason why there's been such a drive for nuclear weapons.

    The government's second role was to organize a public subsidy for high-technology industry. For various reasons, the method adopted has been military spending, in large part.

    Free trade is fine for economics departments and newspaper editorials, nut nobody in the corporate world or the government takes the doctrine seriously. The parts of the US economy which are able to compete internationally are primarily the state-subsidized ones: capital intensive agriculture (agribusiness, as it's called), high-tech industry, pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, etc.

    The same is true of other industrial societies. The US government has the public pay for research and development and provides, largely through the military, a state-guaranteed market for waste production. If something is marketable the private sector takes it over. This system of public subsidy and private profit is what is called free enterprise.

    Postwar planners like Kennan realized right off that it was going to be vital for the health of US corporations that the other Western industrial societies reconstruct from wartime damage so they could import US manufactured goods and provide investment opportunities. (I'm counting Japan as part of the West, following South African convention of treating Japanese as "honorary whites.") But it was crucial that these societies reconstruct in a very special way.

    The traditional, right-wing order had to be restored, with business dominant, labor split and weakened, and the burden of reconstruction placed squarely on the shoulders of the working classes and the poor.

    The major thing that stood in the way of this was the anti-fascist resistance, so we suppressed it all over the world, often installing facists and Nazi collaborators in its place. Sometimes that required extreme violence, but other times it was done by softer measures, like subverting elections and withholding food. (This ought to be Chapter 1 in any honest history of the postwar period, but in fact it's seldom even discussed.)

    The pattern was set in 1942, when President Roosevelt installed a French Admiral, Jean Darlan, as Governor-General of all French North Africa. Darlan was a leading Nazi collaborator and the author of the anti-semitic laws promulgated by the Vichy government (the Nazi's puppet regime in France).

After that Chomsky discusses each European country in sequence, describing who we shot, who we starved, and who we put into power. Then the book settles down to get into the detailed summaries of all the little "police actions", what the theory behind them was, and which corporations benefited... up till the present.

I wonder how many people are still reading and how many have tuned out already?

There's a lot in those quotes to think about, but I will summarize the main points I'm trying to establish: (1) the practical operations of the current economic system has a lot to do with power politics and very little to do with the theology of economics, (2) the "poor people" you see daily who are on welfare are not the poor people who are really getting screwed by the current economic system (those people rotted in ditches in Nicaragua years ago after being tortured by US trained thugs or are currently making sneakers in Thailand), (3) as outrageous and unjust as this is, you don't really want it to change because the immediate short-term alternative is to average your lifestyle against the $20/year lifestyle of a hundred other people who you don't know and who probably don't speak English as a first language.

I think I'm ready to answer the questions line by line now :-)

1. Why is coercion better than inequity? The kind of coercion this question countenanced was the kind of coercion that Sweden practiced prior to 1991, where an individual's paid up to 80% income taxes and corporations up to 52% (compare with the US where the top individual income tax in the US during the Kennedy administration was in the 60%'s, was 36% last time I checked, and is expected to go lower in the near future thanks to a certain president who scammed his way into office). To me (and admittedly I voted for Nader in '00 when it was cool and in '96 when it wasn't nearly so glamorous) this seems mostly like rearranging chairs on the deck of the Titanic.

That said, the present economic system of the US (which everyone calls capitalism, remember) does involve quite a bit of coercion: aozilla's apple example works, there's also the men with guns who will put me in a cage for putting certain pictures on certain kinds of paper, copyright laws driven mostly by Disney's desire to keep Mickey Mouse out of the public domain, and the five million or so police officers protecting the property of some people and not the property of others.

2. What's wrong with typical "safety nets" of capitalistic societies such as welfare and (in the United States) Social Security? The only problem I have with them is the gross amounts of effort wasted distributing a carefully determined number of food tokens (read dollars) to certain specifically delimited people. If I had my way, everyone in the country including Donald Trump would get a $40,000 check every year (different amounts at different times, but you get the picture), sales taxes would be targeted to (1) take into account the true external costs of products (like gasoline and beef which currently enjoy massive subsidies in the wrong direction) and (2) increase the costs of luxuries to prevent the sales tax from being to regressive. Most government income would come from capital gains, corporate taxes, a stock transfer taxes. All the social security, welfare, veterans, disability, and other entitlement bureaucracies would be dismantled and the people staffing them sent to technical schools to become engineers (or whatever actual productive skill they wanted to learn). The out-payments the bean counters used to be in charge of would be covered by the $40,000.

3. Do(es) any (economic system which is "more fair") exist? Have they been tried and proven? See the node describing a gift economy. If you want something a little less revolutionary or a little more modern, I can tell you about my living arrangements :-) I am a member of the Santa Barbara Student Housing Co-op. The SBSHC is a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation that was founded in the mid 70's by a starry eyed idealist to whom I am very grateful, which owns buildings near the University of California Santa Barbara . Its members are all students and they run everything. The guy who lives upstairs from me in Dashain House is the president of our Board of Directors (he also got gassed at the Seattle WTO protests and makes a mean Chinese noodle salad). Our "rent" pays a mortgage and anything leftover at the end of each academic quarter is returned to the members. We don't pay landlords a dime. No one makes a profit off of our need to not sleep in the rain. Our co-op is part of the North American Students of Cooperation. NASCO will help you set up a co-op at your school if you want.

As to the "tried and proven" part of the question, my co-op is 25 years old and has an excellent credit rating. There are older co-ops that are equally solvent. And whole cultures have made do with gift economies for thousands of years before corporate mergers were invented.

4. If wealth is redistributed somewhat equally, what is the incentive for people to achieve or produce more than they are allowed to keep? Why did Linus Torvald start working on Linux if he was planning on giving it away? A sense of community. Personal prestige. Go read the gift economy node if you want a more in depth explanation. To extend on the discussion of "my" co-op: I am on the housing committee. We are looking to expand the co-op by buying or building more houses. While the monetary costs will be paid by future co-op members as dues to pay a mortgage, several people in the co-op including myself are putting hours of effort into something that will not personally benefit us. We just want to see the co-op grow because we have found it great to live in a house whose costs aren't an indication of their "fair market value" (which given the housing crunch in Santa Barbara generally, is neither "fair" nor particularly equal to the "value" of the building).

Another thing I just wanted to point out, is that incentives for people to produce more than they actually need are a bit perverse when you think about it. People aren't pack mules. If they want to loaf they should be able to, but if they want to schedule every second of their lives in day planners and drive BMWs they should be able to do that too. One of the things I was trying to make clear is that most of the really brutal costs of our economic system are born by people who are not on welfare, and most of the really obscene wealth is collected by people like the Duponts, the Forbeses, and lately the Gates dynasty (plus a bunch of smaller "business people" who are only "millionaires" who have learned the art of contract manipulation). Those people have the "tokens" to get thousands of times more stuff than they could ever produce with their own hands... and that means someone is making more with their hands than they have the tokens to claim... guess who? Maybe the same people who are being "incented" to produce more than they need?

5. Do you think there could ever be a sustainable economic system based on capitalism in which caring for the needy was the responsibility of NGOs (non-governmental organizations) such as churches or charities? Taking capitalism to mean "what the US is doing right now" my answer would be no. Listen to Chomsky (again from What Uncle Sam Really Wants, 1986) discuss what went on in El Salvador under the liberals (pgs.34-36) pay special attention to which NGO participants were being killed :-)

    For many years, repression, torture and murder were carried on in El Salvador by dictators installed and supported by the US government, a matter of no interest here. The story was virtually never covered. By the late 1970s, however, the US government began to be concerned about a couple of things.

    One was that Somoza, the dictator of Nicaragua, was losing control. The US was losing a major base for its exercise of force in the region. A second danger was even more threatening. In El Salvador in the 1970s, there was a growth of what were called "popular organizations" - peasant associations, cooperatives, unions, Church-based Bible study groups that evolved into self-help groups, etc. That raised the threat of democracy.

    In February 1980, the Archbishop of El Salvador, Oscar Romero, sent a letter to President Carter, in which he begged him not to send military aid to the junta that ran the country. He said such aid would be used to "sharpen injustice and repression against the people's organizations" which were struggling "for respect for their most basic human rights" (hardly news to Washington, needless to say).

    A few weeks later, Archbishop Romero was assassinated while saying a mass. The neo-Nazi Roberto d'Aubuisson is generally assumed to be responsible for this assassination (amongst countless other atrocities). D'Aubuisson was "leader-for-life" of the ARENA party, which now governs El Salvador; members of the party, like current Salvadoran president Alfredo Cristiani, had to take a blood oath of loyalty to him.

    Thousands of peasants and urban poor took part in a commemorative mass a decade later, along with many foreign bishops, but the US was notable by its absence. The Salvadoran Church formally proposed Romero for sainthood.

    All of this passed with scarcely a mention in the country that funded and trained Romero's assassins. The New York Times, the "newspaper of record," published no editorial on the assassination when it occurred or in the years that followed, and no editorial or news report on the commemoration.

    On March 7, 1980, two weeks before the assassination, a state of siege had been instituted in El Salvador, and the war against the population began in force (with continued US support and involvement). The first major attack was a big massacre at the Rio Sumpul, a coordinated military operation of the Honduras and Salvadoran armies in which at least 600 people were butchered. Infants were cut to pieces with machetes, and women were tortured and drowned. Pieces of bodies were found in the river for days afterwards. There were church observers, so the information came out immediately, but the mainstream US media didn't think it was worth reporting.

    Peasants were the main victims of this war, along with labor organizers, students, priests, or anyone suspected of working for the interests of the people. In Carter's year, 1980, the death toll reached about 10,000, rising to about 13,000 for 1981 as the Reaganites took command.

I could go on... in the next couple paragraphs it discusses the political maneuvers necessary to keep military funding going after a PR blunder consisting of the rape of four US nuns... If by "a sustainable economic system based on capitalism" you don't mean this kind of capitalism, but just something like "a system where people use tokens called money to trade stuff" then sure. Just about any NGO could work within those limitations.

6. How should freedom be ranked against economic equality? I think I've gone on long enough with the quotes and discussion. To distill my message: Most ideology is crap. Most economics is theology in disguise. Try to listen to the minority views of every side, figure out what your gut says is right, then use your brain to work on doing it.

Finally, I should point out that in writing this out I've worked myself into more of a political lather than usual. My shoes were made by child labor, just like yours. Just as RevJim23 was playing devil's advocate for capitalism, some of this was me playing devil's advocate for progressive politics. Of course that doesn't mean the WTO's existence and Nader having no chance at elective office isn't fucked up...

I want to add the following, which I believe is rather important:

Question 2: What is wrong with (capitalistic) social safety nets?

The most pressing challenge with these are inequality. As soon as you start charging people for healthcare and social services (like homes for old people), you define that the rich deserves better services than the poor. Why is a rich person more worth than a poor person?

Question 4: If wealth is redistributed somewhat equally, what is the incentive for people to achieve or produce more than they are allowed to keep?

If we define a person's goal in life to be happy, we are getting close to the point here. Because what makes people happy, what is their 'reward' for doing anything good for the community?

The materialistic-capitalistic idea is that material wealth is what makes people happy - and only that. The question assumes the same - if people don't get money and more food, why bother to work more?

People would like to work because of the feeling of doing something for others, because of the friendship you make with your colleagues, and because they want to learn and improve themselves. Quite simply. Very much has been achieved without big rewards or wages.

Update September 1st, 2002:
To add to my last paragraph: E2 in itself is a prime example of this. The reward for spending your time contributing to E2 is merely symbolic (the XP system) and most people do it just to be a nice person in the E2 society.

I think I'll add my $0.05 too. :)

  1. I've always equated capitalism with freedom: the freedom to create and keep the fruits of that creation. It seems that any non-capitalistic wealth distribution system must include force and coercion to redistribute wealth to those that did not create it.

    The Marxist analysis is quite the opposite. (simplified and breifly:) A capitalist system is one whith two distinct classes, capitalists and workers. The tools and raw material is considered to be the "property" of the capitalist (which is enforced by the state), and since those are nessessary for creating things, no creation outside the capitalist control is possible. Instead the non-owning class, the workers, sell their labour. They get some compensation, the salary, but cannot keep the fruit of their work: the cars, cloths, programs, etc they produce becomes the property of the factory and by extension the capitalist, thus perpetuationg the system.

    The capital (Machinery, Land, etc), is of course crucial to the creation of wealth. The capitalist, however, does not create that capital nor does he add any work to enrich it. He merly is fortunate enough to own it. Under the capitalist system, a large part of the wealth created by the working class is redistributed to the capitalists - and anyone who do not respect the latters property rigths will surely experience coercion! :)


  2. It seems that most of the arguments against capitalism center around its treatment of the poor. What's wrong with typical "safety nets" of capitalistic societies such as welfare and (in the United States) Social Security?

    Apart from the fact that many seem to consider them insufficient even to keep people out of poverty, this type of measures that try to graft equality on top of capitalism without changing the underlying system kind of miss the point.

    To use an unorthodox example: the people who revolted against the Ancien r'egime did so not only because of the immediate economic conditions, but also because it was considered unjust that a small (nobel) minority should rule without doing any productive work, simply because of their birth. Giving the masses the bread they were demanding might have postponed the conflict, but ultimately what was needed was a redistribution of power, not food.

    The point of the analogy should be obvious: the current system of a small minority that controls most organizations without doing any productive work, simply because of what they own, is unsatisfactory not only for the economic hardship that results, but also for more fundamental reasons.


  3. I don't know of any economic system which is "more fair" than capitalism. Do any exist? Have they been tried and proven?.

    Good question. One sometimes hear about "primitive" societies that were not capitalistic, as well as pre-industiralised Europe (often there are different classes in these societies too, but the ruling class use non-economic means, say religion, to maintain their power). Some of the east block countries in the cold war did manage to put an end to private capitalism, but they were often quite unpleasant to live in for other reasons. Marxism promises a utopian future, but it would be nice to have some less religious assurance. Of course, attempts to create some other system (the Spanish anarchists, the early Bolshevik revolution) had to fight quite desperately against the capitalist west. In any case, one can dislike capitalism even if no successful alternative has been presented.


  4. If wealth is redistributed somewhat equally, what is the incentive for people to achieve or produce more than they are allowed to keep?. See say's writeup.


  5. Do you think there could ever be a sustainable economic system based on capitalism in which caring for the needy was the responsibility of NGOs (non-governmental organizations) such as churches or charities?. Caring for the needy certainly is the resonsibility of everyone! Organizations and government can only act as our proxies. However, in a capitalistic society, the state is priviledged in being able to redistribute wealth from the capitalist class to the needy without the former's permission - the only non-governmental organization I can think of that succesfully pulled off that stunt was Robin Hood and his Merry Men. An economic system where the state stays low thus relies on the altruism or self-interest of the capitalist class. Surely, the conditions in the 19th-century industrialized countries show that to be undesireable?


  6. How should freedom be ranked against economic equality? I don't belive freedom is possible without economic equality, nor equality without freedom.

RevJim23 asks why some NGOs don't take on the burden of caring for the poor. In Britain the Mental Health Charity MIND is a significant operator in providing Day-care facilities for people like me who have mental illnesses. MIND is a well-run, caring organisation but it is sometimes suggested that The British health system is 'copping out' of providing enough day-care facilities for the mentally ill. MIND provides a good alternative for people who find the state mental health system sinister or controlling in some way, and it also allows a high level of user participation. On this basis my idea is that NGO's in the welfare sector might be a good idea.

I'm not so sure I'm the right person to response for this because I think RevJim23 has a whole different understanding about what is to say "I don't like capitalism.". Basically I prefer the economic system based on workers' self-management and basic social income whereas many supporters of capitalism don't see any other alternative than planned economy or some sort of primitive system.
But here we go..

1. A coercion; what is a coercion? Many of those who don't like capitalism can quite rightfully argue that property is based on coercion. If there's something we can learn from Marx that is what he wrote about the ownership of land in England. Basically, those who are called "the noble" are nothing but the bunch of robbers and their sons. We may also recall Proudhon talking about the property in general: The property is theft.
So, because no one can justify to be a proprietor, at least not in the case of land, we may impose basic social income derived from the possession of land.

2. There's nothing wrong with safety nets. Equally, they are not capitalistic safety nets. By the nature, they are more profoundly socialist than capitalist. The fact that social security is (almost) universal feature of capitalist states doesn't imply that they themselves are capitalistic.

3. This question depends how do you define capitalism. For many people for example the market economy based on cooperatives or enterprises managed by workers themselves is not a capitalistic.
Some supporters of workers' self-management favor the experience of Yugoslavia after WWII. Yugoslavia was one of the most efficient economies in the world at that time.

4. By rejecting the ideology of work and property we can create a market economy system that distributes wealth somewhat equally at the first place. In some relatively big cooperatives, that are efficient enough to run even in capitalist system, differences between top and bottom wages are 1:3 or 1:5. Yes, there's still considerably big difference but it's remarkably less than nowadays.

5. Yes, that might be sustainable but there's evidence that charity is not enough. But that's a sort of reformism I don't want to talk about here. It all leads back to the ideology of work.. (and property).

6. This is very limited view of freedom. If we talk about workers' self-management and so forth, we don't see fundamental conflict between freedom and economic equality. When we reject the ideology of work and property we have a whole different perspective to the concept of freedom. (I don't go into this in detail I should because it's the notion worth of own node..)

Some comments on what people wrote. Note: to get the bottomline of what I'm saying, only read the texts in bold.

RevJim23 wrote:

"I agree that capitalism is not "fair", but I don't know of any economic system which is "more fair" than capitalism. Do any exist? Have they been tried and proven?"

When you go to the bottom of it, the problem does not lie within the economic system or form of government; socialism and communism are absolutely great ideas: equal sharing of goods and commodities among everyone, it just doesn't work. Capitalism, in its written, ideal form, is also a fantastic idea: constant growth of economy, everybody is happy and do well, the sun shines, birds sing and children laugh. Then you wake up and go walk the dog. The keyword to understand why it just does not work is greed. I'm sure you get my point.

It really makes no difference how a government chooses to deal with wealth and the distribution of it. What does make a difference is how it chooses to deal with the people. Or, in other words: What makes all the difference is how people choose to deal with people.

Flyingroc wrote:

"Singapore is a good example of a successful centrally planned economy."

While this may be true, Singapore has huge problems. The anti-drug policy of the country is among one of if not the harshest in the world:

(This is somewhat off-topic but, well reflects the way priorities are set in this "successful economy".)

"The death penalty is mandatory for anyone, over the age of 18, found in possession of more than 15 grams of heroin, 30 grams of morphine or cocaine, or 500 grams of cannabis."

That is, drug abusers, those in possession of drugs and minor traffickers are put to death while those behind the crime escape. Statistics indicate that out of 340 people executed between 1991 and 2000, 247 had been convicted of drug trafficking. The real problem here is that the situation only goes worse all the time. Also note that in Singapore it makes no difference as to why you were in possession of large amounts of drugs; if the abovementioned limits are passed, you will be executed even if the drugs were planted on you unless you specifically manage to prove yourself innocent. This is a perfect analogy to how people are sent to jail in the US. All the time the laws get stricter and harsher and the means used get more radical. I see this as a downward spiral - it will not work in the long run.

Even if this has nothing to do with capitalism per se, it does, in part, come to prove how concentration on economy can (and likely will) override or even exclude the caring for people. I'm sure everyone has, at some point, met a person with "so much money (s)he does not need to care about others, or how they feel". Blind, ignorant arrogance at its worst.

say wrote:

"Why is a rich person more worth than a poor person?"

The answer to this is very simple: the amount of money involved. Especially in a capitalistic system. There it is, even in the very name of the system: money. A rich person is exactly what you wrote: worth more than a poor person. This has nothing to do with humanity or fairness. It is no different from the fact that in capitalistic countries it's capita that is being protected, not the people. Money is the (only) real safety net in such systems. That's true hardcore capitalism all the way.

What makes me wonder is how anyone has the nerve to call the capitalistic systems sophisticated, or the people praising them as good intelligent or even human. A quote from Douglas Adams' "The Hitch Hiker's Guide to Galaxy":

"...Man had always assumed that he was more intelligent than dolphins because he had achieved so much... the wheel, New York, wars, and so on, whilst all the dolphins had ever done was muck about in the water having a good time. But conversely the dolphins believed themselves to be more intelligent than man for precisely the same reasons."

Amen to that.

A big thanks to geekaus for pointing out a typo in the wu that made nearly the whole writeup appear in bold.

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