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Democratic party rule, one year later…
Posted: 20 March 2010 08:59 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 61 ]  
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Thomas Orr - 20 March 2010 11:52 PM

We undergo changes all the time.

Yes, we do.  Some of it is good.  However, some of it is not.  And again, before go making big changes to government, or the economy, it really pays to gang warily as they old saying goes, because when you screw up in that field, other people pay for your mistakes.

Thomas Orr - 20 March 2010 11:52 PM

Like it or not, Marx was a great interpreter of history and economy.

No, he wasn’t.  He was right about some things, about others he was not just wrong, he was insanely wrong!  Marx was not an objective historian; he promulgated an ideology, and ideology works on the mind the same way religion does.  People adopt an ideology as a frame of reference, just the same as they adopt a religious point of view.  And just like a religion, they then devote all their intellect to fitting things into that frame of reference, which is very distinct from unbiased, objective examination of the facts and evidence.  Marx was certainly guilty of this.

Thomas Orr - 20 March 2010 11:52 PM

He observed that a class which has economic power will in the end achieve political power. I don’t know if this is why the communists regime were so paranoid about not letting people to own, engage in free enterprise, and get rich but that’s a different story. What is applicable to our situation though are the steady gains in political power of the big corporations. These are changes taking place today and these changes do worry me. Just think about the recent Supreme Court decision to recognize and uphold the right to “free speech” for the corporation as a legitimate cover for their role in the political process.

What the supreme court did was strike down a nakedly unconsitutional law, which restricted free speech in clear defiance of the first amendment.  The case involved banning “Hillary: the Movie” from video-on-demand distribution before an election.  What you have here is a group of people who produced this movie to express a point of view on political matters, and a law then banned that movie from distribution.  Mr. Orr, denial of first amendment right to free speech doesn’t get much more egregious than this.  The court was right to strike it down.  The law never should have been passed in the first place, but once it was, SCOTUS was duty bound to strike it down.  That’s what the supreme court is for.

Thomas Orr - 20 March 2010 11:52 PM

Knowing your reservations regarding pushing for change I want to ask you to fill out the following multiple choice questionnaire.

1. It is OK that corporations are actively influencing our laws and political process. The changes in laws and in interpretation of the Constitution caused by the corporate push for power do not impose danger to our democratic values. In short, there is no need to worry about anything here or take action.

It’s not okay, it’s merely unavoidable.  The practice can be somewhat restrained perhaps, but there is no way to end it.  Large, profitable corporations will earn money.  Money will inevitably confer a certain amount of power.  People who possess power will use it to advance their interests.  There is no way to eliminate this.  Rich people have ALWAYS influenced politics, in every society, in every civilization.

There is no way you are going to change this, and be careful that any solution you propose doesn’t have unintended consequences that will be worse than the status quo.

Thomas Orr - 20 March 2010 11:52 PM

2. The potential changes resulting from the corporate push for political power are a concern and we should resist those changes like any other changes in laws and Constitution for that matter.

Do you really imagine that rich people or corporations have more influence on policy today than they had a century ago?  Do you really believe that rich people or banks wield more power over government today than they did in 1893 when J.P. Morgan personally bailed out the U.S. Treasury?

I refer you back to my earlier quote about history being a powerful antidote to ideas thought to be new, but which one finds are, in fact, old hat.

Thomas Orr - 20 March 2010 11:52 PM

3. The corporations already went too far and we should fight back to regain the ground we lost.

See above.

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Posted: 21 March 2010 01:28 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 62 ]  
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Billy Shears - 21 March 2010 12:59 AM

No, he wasn’t.  He was right about some things, about others he was not just wrong, he was insanely wrong!  Marx was not an objective historian; he promulgated an ideology, and ideology works on the mind the same way religion does.  People adopt an ideology as a frame of reference, just the same as they adopt a religious point of view.  And just like a religion, they then devote all their intellect to fitting things into that frame of reference, which is very distinct from unbiased, objective examination of the facts and evidence.  Marx was certainly guilty of this.

Marx was a lousy philosopher and ideologue. His analysis of capitalism, however, was brilliant. I don’t understand what you mean by “ideology” driven. What ideology? There was not ideology, which could serve as a counterbalance to capitalism at his time. Some of today’s economist are driven by libertarian ideology, that’s for sure. The fact that Marx disliked injustice, inequality and predatory nature of capitalism only adds to the value of his work in my opinion.

Billy Shears - 21 March 2010 12:59 AM

It’s not okay, it’s merely unavoidable.  The practice can be somewhat restrained perhaps, but there is no way to end it.  Large, profitable corporations will earn money.  Money will inevitably confer a certain amount of power.  People who possess power will use it to advance their interests.  There is no way to eliminate this.  Rich people have ALWAYS influenced politics, in every society, in every civilization.

There is no way you are going to change this, and be careful that any solution you propose doesn’t have unintended consequences that will be worse than the status quo.

Simply not true. Putin had a pact with Russian oligarchy telling them will be tolerated as long as they stay away from politics. Then he destroy those who didn’t. China doesn’t let their rich to grab the power. Western Europe used to tax their rich at 90% tax rate. Finland had a law (arguing it is a truly democratic law) pegging the traffic violation fines to person’s annual income - some time ago a fine of hundreds of thousand of dollars handed to high Nokia executive for speeding made the headlines. Theses are all examples showing that nothing is unavoidable. The only unavoidable thing is a struggle for power. Who wins it depends on many more things that just being rich.

History proved that keeping rich under control makes country prosper. Kingdoms where kings managed to subdue the rich thrived and expanded. Kingdoms where opposite was taking place declined. I personally would welcome if our democracy got an upper hand over rich. If this is to be accomplished by taxing them at 90% tax rate so be it.

Billy Shears - 21 March 2010 12:59 AM

Do you really imagine that rich people or corporations have more influence on policy today than they had a century ago?  Do you really believe that rich people or banks wield more power over government today than they did in 1893 when J.P. Morgan personally bailed out the U.S. Treasury?

A communist leader in the country I was raised praised accomplishments of his regime by telling people that now, in 1960 there are more TVs than in 1930 (I am not sure if it was a joke or a true story.

The rich definitely have more power now than they had before Reagan took office.

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Posted: 21 March 2010 02:19 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 63 ]  
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Thomas Orr - 21 March 2010 05:28 PM

Marx was a lousy philosopher and ideologue. His analysis of capitalism, however, was brilliant.

No, it was nothing of the kind.  Marx’ analysis showed that he actually understood almost nothing about economics.  His entire critique of capitalism was wrapped up, in fact it hinges on, the so-called “labor theory of value,” which is basically that the more work that goes into something, the more value it has.  (He went on to assert that profit, or surplus-value arises when workers do more labor than is necessary to pay the cost of hiring their labor-power.)  However, the labor theory of value is basically false.  The late Robert A. Heinlein used quite a simple example to demolish the labor theory of value.  Take the labor of a chef, as an example.  A skilled chef can take a bunch of ingredients, each of which has value in itself, and by dint of his own skill and labor, create something that has even more value, in the form of a gourmet meal.  An unskilled chef, on the other hand, can take those same valuable ingredients, and produce an inedible mess—value now zero.  In other words, labor can actually subtract value.  In other words, there is no absolute and necessary correlation between labor and value.  Marx had it wrong.  And he also totally ignored the supply and demand side of things.  You can labor all you want at a task, but if, in the end, the fruit of your labors is something that is extremely commonplace (i.e. excess supply), or something no one wants (i.e. no demand), then it is essentially worthless, and the amount of your labor doesn’t change that.

Marx actually demonstrated very little understanding of either capitalism or of economics.  That’s basically why his theory of economics, I remind you, didn’t work!

Thomas Orr - 21 March 2010 05:28 PM

I don’t understand what you mean by “ideology” driven. What ideology?

gulp  Uhh… Communism.

Thomas Orr - 21 March 2010 05:28 PM

There was not ideology, which could serve as a counterbalance to capitalism at his time. Some of today’s economist are driven by libertarian ideology, that’s for sure. The fact that Marx disliked injustice, inequality and predatory nature of capitalism only adds to the value of his work in my opinion.

In other words, the fact that they’re all wrapped up in fuzzy good feelings should validate his ideas scientifically.

Sorry.  I don’t think so.  As John Adams said: “Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.”  Facts are pitiless, reality is unfeeling.  The world is what it is. And an idea is valid because it withstands the test of facts and evidence, not because its originator had empathy a sense of justice concern for the downtrodden or any other emotional impulse.  In fact, its when one lets emotion get in the way of reasoned, critical analysis, that one’s results come out flawed.  If you want to craft workable, practical, effective solution to the world’s problems, you can’t afford to look at the world through rose colored lenses.

Thomas Orr - 21 March 2010 05:28 PM
Billy Shears - 21 March 2010 12:59 AM

It’s not okay, it’s merely unavoidable.  The practice can be somewhat restrained perhaps, but there is no way to end it.  Large, profitable corporations will earn money.  Money will inevitably confer a certain amount of power.  People who possess power will use it to advance their interests.  There is no way to eliminate this.  Rich people have ALWAYS influenced politics, in every society, in every civilization.

There is no way you are going to change this, and be careful that any solution you propose doesn’t have unintended consequences that will be worse than the status quo.

Simply not true.

Simply is true.  NOTHING in human affairs is immune from the laws of economics.  NOTHING!

Thomas Orr - 21 March 2010 05:28 PM

Putin had a pact with Russian oligarchy telling them will be tolerated as long as they stay away from politics. Then he destroy those who didn’t.

And you think those who have the political power in Russia are not rich?  Really?  You think they don’t enjoy all the perks of wealth and power?  You think Russia’s ruling elite doesn’t eat better, dress better, take more vacations, have access to better quality goods, better living accommodations, etc.?  You really believe this?

Tell me, do you believe in the Tooth Fairy too?

All Putin may have managed to do is exclude a certain group of rich people.  That’s all.  And even then, if you imagine some wealthy industrialist in Russia doesn’t enjoy more influence of the politics of the country than some factory worker, buddy, you are dreaming

Thomas Orr - 21 March 2010 05:28 PM

China doesn’t let their rich to grab the power.

See above.

Thomas Orr - 21 March 2010 05:28 PM

Western Europe used to tax their rich at 90% tax rate.

Operative words being “used to.”  You do realize they had to stop because their economies were stagnating at that rate, do you not?

Thanks, you’re actually proving my point for me.

Thomas Orr - 21 March 2010 05:28 PM

Finland had a law (arguing it is a truly democratic law) pegging the traffic violation fines to person’s annual income - some time ago a fine of hundreds of thousand of dollars handed to high Nokia executive for speeding made the headlines. Theses are all examples showing that nothing is unavoidable. The only unavoidable thing is a struggle for power. Who wins it depends on many more things that just being rich.

I never said otherwise.  However there are two things, which are inevitable, about which you appear to be in deep denial: 1) those in power use power to make themselves richer, and 2) those who are rich use their wealth to exercise more power.

Thomas Orr - 21 March 2010 05:28 PM

History proved that keeping rich under control makes country prosper.

Examples?

Thomas Orr - 21 March 2010 05:28 PM

Kingdoms where kings managed to subdue the rich thrived and expanded. Kingdoms where opposite was taking place declined. I personally would welcome if our democracy got an upper hand over rich. If this is to be accomplished by taxing them at 90% tax rate so be it.

Of course, never mind that they will then become tax exiles, and you will then collect nothing.  Never mind that they will pack up and move their businesses to places with less punitive taxes, and all the jobs those business create will be lost.  Never mind the historical examples of places like Ireland that lowered corporate and other tax rates to create a more business friendly climate, and saw their economy take off, unemployment drop, and an emigration drain of the country’s best talent reverse itself for the first time in more than a hundred years.  Never mind the historical examples of how counterproductive “soak the rich” policies turn out to be.  Never mind all that.

Don’t let facts and evidence get in the way of your ideology. 

Thomas Orr - 21 March 2010 05:28 PM

A communist leader in the country I was raised praised accomplishments of his regime by telling people that now, in 1960 there are more TVs than in 1930 (I am not sure if it was a joke or a true story.

And at the same time, in the nasty, heartless, capitalist West, where the rich were running amok, there were probably six times more TVs than that.

Thomas Orr - 21 March 2010 05:28 PM

The rich definitely have more power now than they had before Reagan took office.

This is an assertion, nothing more.  How about some evidence?  It doesn’t look like you know anything about the history of this country.  If you think Microsoft or Boeing or GM or any other company today wields more power than U.S. Steel, or Standard Oil, did back in their day, again, you are kidding yourself.

[ Edited: 21 March 2010 02:24 PM by Billy Shears]
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They’ll burn in hell just as they should; their cries will be so lyrical
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Posted: 21 March 2010 07:01 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 64 ]  
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Billy Shears - 21 March 2010 06:19 PM

No, it was nothing of the kind.  Marx’ analysis showed that he actually understood almost nothing about economics.  His entire critique of capitalism was wrapped up, in fact it hinges on, the so-called “labor theory of value,” which is basically that the more work that goes into something, the more value it has.  (He went on to assert that profit, or surplus-value arises when workers do more labor than is necessary to pay the cost of hiring their labor-power.)  However, the labor theory of value is basically false.  The late Robert A. Heinlein used quite a simple example to demolish the labor theory of value.  Take the labor of a chef, as an example.  A skilled chef can take a bunch of ingredients, each of which has value in itself, and by dint of his own skill and labor, create something that has even more value, in the form of a gourmet meal.  An unskilled chef, on the other hand, can take those same valuable ingredients, and produce an inedible mess—value now zero.  In other words, labor can actually subtract value.  In other words, there is no absolute and necessary correlation between labor and value.  Marx had it wrong.  And he also totally ignored the supply and demand side of things.  You can labor all you want at a task, but if, in the end, the fruit of your labors is something that is extremely commonplace (i.e. excess supply), or something no one wants (i.e. no demand), then it is essentially worthless, and the amount of your labor doesn’t change that.

Marx actually demonstrated very little understanding of either capitalism or of economics.  That’s basically why his theory of economics, I remind you, didn’t work!

What didn’t work were the regimes, which called themselves marxists. Sorry to say that but your critique of Marx’s theory of labor value is rather primitive and does not add anything to this debate.

If you want an example of empty ideas it is the claim of libertarian philosophy dismissing the concept of value, claiming that the value of anything is only the price somebody is willing to pay for it. The value is sometimes fuzzy, which one can also say about such things like weight or length of an object. Yes, if you go to atomic level the size of the chair you are sitting on right now is indeed “undetermined”, but throwing out the concept of physical measures because of this would be a pure madness. Similarly, just because the value of goods changes and is affected by the market conditions does not mean that it is acceptable for a theory of economics to do away with it altogether.

The libertarian theory of value is a theory of a schizophrenic mind. The same people who enthusiastically embrace it in corporations nevertheless not only believe that the value of labor exists, they also believe that they can measure it. Unfortunately, in my life as a computer programmer I had to put up again and again with the results of mad people implementing mad ideas. First they tried to measure programmers productivity by counting the lines of code written, these days it is the “function points”. Indeed, this unrelenting pursuit to “measure” and control the labor force in capitalism is a true example of labor adding to the cost but not adding anything to the value of the final product.

Note. I am not saying managers should not attempt to measure workers productivity. I am only amazed that they do it in such a stupid way (just don’t tell your boss that whatever he is doing is stupid). I am also mad at the hypocrisy of people who make the living by trying to buy things for less than their actual value, sell for more than their actual value while maintaining all along that there is no such thing as value. A Nobel prize was awarded (I am sure you don’t dispute THAT Nobel prize) for the formula allowing to measure the “true” value of options. So who is mad? Marx or his libertarian critics?

Remember excuses of those who got us into the mortgage mess? They blame it on the fact that things (whatever stuff they were buying and selling) were traded below their “true” value. I rest my case.

Billy Shears - 21 March 2010 06:19 PM

In other words, the fact that they’re all wrapped up in fuzzy good feelings should validate his ideas scientifically.

Sorry.  I don’t think so.  As John Adams said: “Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.”  Facts are pitiless, reality is unfeeling.  The world is what it is. And an idea is valid because it withstands the test of facts and evidence, not because its originator had empathy a sense of justice concern for the downtrodden or any other emotional impulse.  In fact, its when one lets emotion get in the way of reasoned, critical analysis, that one’s results come out flawed.  If you want to craft workable, practical, effective solution to the world’s problems, you can’t afford to look at the world through rose colored lenses.

As a person who values reality and objectivity so much [as to despise fuzzy good feelings clouding the sound judgment] you show a surprising amount of passion ...

If I didn’t care about unfairness and injustice, and if I didn’t have emotional impulses I wouldn’t bother to post here either. Emotions do count. Conservatives know it and play that card really well.

Billy Shears - 21 March 2010 12:59 AM

It’s not okay, it’s merely unavoidable.  The practice can be somewhat restrained perhaps, but there is no way to end it.  Large, profitable corporations will earn money.  Money will inevitably confer a certain amount of power.  People who possess power will use it to advance their interests.  There is no way to eliminate this.  Rich people have ALWAYS influenced politics, in every society, in every civilization.

There is no way you are going to change this, and be careful that any solution you propose doesn’t have unintended consequences that will be worse than the status quo.

That’s right. My vote to increase taxes on rich will have unintended consequences of politicians squandering the gains. I know that. I have nothing against taxing rich. I am not scared of any doom and gloom predictions what’s gonna happen to economy when we tax rich [Answer: nothing bad]. But I know there will be “unintended consequences”. That’s why I am looking for a better solution.

I feel I need to explain what my ideas of change are and why do I think they will work. Let’s start with my American experience. I worked for about a quarter of century in the US, most of the time for big corporations. What I noticed, and I was not alone to notice that, that there is hardly any difference in how those corporations work and how the socialist bureaucracies worked. The same mess, the same nonsense. Big shots in the corporate management structure were completely divorced from the reality of the market place and the need to compete. Multimillion projects could be started for the sole purpose of increasing somebody’s personal power. Dirty politics and power struggle were the norm. Personal responsibilities of management were replaced, like in socialist bureaucracies, by “procedures”. The CEO of the first big company I worked for was brought from the outside with the mission of saving the sinking giant. He came with an aura of somebody with a great record of success. All he managed was to complete the job of destruction.

The difference between those failing corporations and socialist bureaucracies is that in a capitalist system we allow the losers to fail. So we failed and we punished the losers. Except that the losers were laid off workers and not the top management truly responsible for the failure. Also, those who lost, lost in more than one sense. Like the workers of former communist countries who lost their jobs when communism failed, the laid off workers from the failed American corporation found themselves without necessary skills to effectively compete in the job market. That’s what years of working for a giant company with no interest in investing in their labor force did to them.

I am a professional and I know what my class interest is. I want to work for an independent professional institutions where the only thing that counts is how well I perform as a professional. From my point of view big American corporations I had experience with are a disappointment. I couldn’t contribute as much as I was capable of contributing to producing something of value. I had to participate in the corporate rituals of something like “motivational training for employees”, which was an exercise in idiocy. Every new director taking over my division started his/her reign with an attempt to “change and revitalize”. Like in a communist state the change of regime was marked with new slogans and promises that people will be listened to. That was relatively harmless. Less harmless were new rules for “performance evaluation” and similar crap. I had financial awards but I lacked in the pride and satisfaction I feel I was entitled to.

I think that there are many more people in America with similar experiences. I hope that we can unite and start pushing for what our best class interest is. Our best class interest I think is to have a chance to contribute to society as much as we are capable of. Our best class interest is to have a viable alternative to working for a corporation. Indeed, in professions like education and health care not for profit organization and working for a salary is the only viable option of working with dignity and without internal conflict between personal financial interest and desire to contribute.

Now you know what I am really up to and I hope you can respect my right to my free opinion and the right of a citizen to push, within the rules governing democratic society, for my dream to come true. Incidentally, I am convinced that what’s best for the class of professionals like myself is not so bad for the country as a whole.

I respect your right to have a different opinion but I am not very excited about the prospect of continuing this debate. I am more interested in talking to like minded people with the hope of creating a movement and ultimately of bringing in the change.

[ Edited: 21 March 2010 07:09 PM by Thomas Orr]
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Posted: 22 March 2010 12:18 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 65 ]  
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Thomas Orr - 21 March 2010 11:01 PM

What didn’t work were the regimes, which called themselves marxists. Sorry to say that but your critique of Marx’s theory of labor value is rather primitive and does not add anything to this debate.

I cannot help but notice that your answer basically amounts to “no you’re wrong and I’m right,” and that’s it.  No explanation of why I am wrong.  I think this is basically because you have no way to refute it.  You have accepted Marxian economic theory as received wisdom, in much the same way that a Christian accepts the assertions of the Bible, and with about as much proof of its validity.

Thomas Orr - 21 March 2010 11:01 PM

If you want an example of empty ideas it is the claim of libertarian philosophy dismissing the concept of value, claiming that the value of anything is only the price somebody is willing to pay for it.

Sorry, but that’s essentially the way it is.  This is the real world.  If you have something to sell, and nobody wants it, it has no value.  Period.  You can’t sell it.  Cry all you like about how much the thing is worth as a result of your labor; it doesn’t change the fact that nobody will buy it.  So what sort of value does it truly have in strictly practical terms?  None.

Thomas Orr - 21 March 2010 11:01 PM

The value is sometimes fuzzy, which one can also say about such things like weight or length of an object. Yes, if you go to atomic level the size of the chair you are sitting on right now is indeed “undetermined”, but throwing out the concept of physical measures because of this would be a pure madness.

I don’t know where you’re getting this.  I never said anything about physical measures.  It looks like your thinking has become so muddled that you are responding to arguments I never made.  As best I can follow you, you are trying to assert that items have some sort of intrinsic value.  They don’t.  They are worth more or less depending on how in demand they are, and how scarce the supply is.  Just because something occupies a certain amount of physical space has essentially nothing to do with it.  A piece of iron pyrite may occupy exactly as much space, and weigh almost the same thing as a gold nugget of the same size, but one is as worthless as a clod of dirt and the other is worth a thousand bucks because one is commonplace and there is no demand for it, while the other is rare and much sought after.

Thomas Orr - 21 March 2010 11:01 PM

Similarly, just because the value of goods changes and is affected by the market conditions does not mean that it is acceptable for a theory of economics to do away with it altogether.

It doesn’t do away with it altogether, and if you assert that it does, that only goes to show you don’t understand capitalism any more than Marx did.  Labor almost always has a bearing on value, because labor produces things that are in demand.  Where Marx went wrong, and where you are going wrong in following him is in confusing effect for cause.  Labor is valuable because it produces things for which people have a demand, where Marx believed it was valuable purely for its own sake, independent of supply and demand. 

Thomas Orr - 21 March 2010 11:01 PM

The libertarian theory of value is a theory of a schizophrenic mind. The same people who enthusiastically embrace it in corporations nevertheless not only believe that the value of labor exists, they also believe that they can measure it. Unfortunately, in my life as a computer programmer I had to put up again and again with the results of mad people implementing mad ideas. First they tried to measure programmers productivity by counting the lines of code written, these days it is the “function points”. Indeed, this unrelenting pursuit to “measure” and control the labor force in capitalism is a true example of labor adding to the cost but not adding anything to the value of the final product.

This is merely the difficulty in trying to establish a reasonably accurate value for a rather abstract product.  It’s not easy.  Companies that find a sensible way to do it usually do well, while those that don’t have trouble staying profitable.  This is merely the marketplace working like natural selection.  And just like natural selection, it’s sloppy, inefficient, slow, and sometimes painful.

Thomas Orr - 21 March 2010 11:01 PM

Note. I am not saying managers should not attempt to measure workers productivity. I am only amazed that they do it in such a stupid way (just don’t tell your boss that whatever he is doing is stupid). I am also mad at the hypocrisy of people who make the living by trying to buy things for less than their actual value, sell for more than their actual value while maintaining all along that there is no such thing as value. A Nobel prize was awarded (I am sure you don’t dispute THAT Nobel prize) for the formula allowing to measure the “true” value of options. So who is mad? Marx or his libertarian critics?

Remember excuses of those who got us into the mortgage mess? They blame it on the fact that things (whatever stuff they were buying and selling) were traded below their “true” value. I rest my case.

Actually, that’s not the only, or even the main reason.  One of the determining factors was risky sub-prime mortgages given (under political pressure) to people with bad credit histories, who were likely to default, not loans which sold properties at below market value.

Thomas Orr - 21 March 2010 11:01 PM

As a person who values reality and objectivity so much [as to despise fuzzy good feelings clouding the sound judgment] you show a surprising amount of passion ...

If I didn’t care about unfairness and injustice, and if I didn’t have emotional impulses I wouldn’t bother to post here either. Emotions do count. Conservatives know it and play that card really well.

Of course they count.  But there is a difference between keeping a level head, and crafting practical, effective means to reach ends (which may arise out of emotional desires), and engaging in a lot of fuzzy, custard-headed wishful thinking.  You can identify desirable goals (e.g. improving access to medical care) out of perfectly valid and noble emotional desires (i.e. empathy for the plight of those who have inferior care, and suffer from it), but while emotions can help one identify the goals, they had better be kept under control during the actual process of devising solutions, and a rational, pragmatic approach needs to be used, because engaging in emotional, wishful thinking will lead to flawed solutions, that will have negative unintended consequences.

Thomas Orr - 21 March 2010 11:01 PM

That’s right. My vote to increase taxes on rich will have unintended consequences of politicians squandering the gains. I know that. I have nothing against taxing rich. I am not scared of any doom and gloom predictions what’s gonna happen to economy when we tax rich [Answer: nothing bad]. But I know there will be “unintended consequences”. That’s why I am looking for a better solution.

I feel I need to explain what my ideas of change are and why do I think they will work. Let’s start with my American experience. I worked for about a quarter of century in the US, most of the time for big corporations. What I noticed, and I was not alone to notice that, that there is hardly any difference in how those corporations work and how the socialist bureaucracies worked. The same mess, the same nonsense. Big shots in the corporate management structure were completely divorced from the reality of the market place and the need to compete. Multimillion projects could be started for the sole purpose of increasing somebody’s personal power. Dirty politics and power struggle were the norm. Personal responsibilities of management were replaced, like in socialist bureaucracies, by “procedures”. The CEO of the first big company I worked for was brought from the outside with the mission of saving the sinking giant. He came with an aura of somebody with a great record of success. All he managed was to complete the job of destruction.

The difference between those failing corporations and socialist bureaucracies is that in a capitalist system we allow the losers to fail.

Since the only alternative to this is to prop up failing companies with subsidies—in other words, taxpayer money—(a solution that socialist economies routinely employ), I fail to see why you consider this better.  A failing company that gets subsidized will continue right on doing the things that caused it to fail, with no incentive to change because they’ll just get bailed out every time they lose money, and become a drain on the economy and the tax base.

Thomas Orr - 21 March 2010 11:01 PM

So we failed and we punished the losers. Except that the losers were laid off workers and not the top management truly responsible for the failure. Also, those who lost, lost in more than one sense. Like the workers of former communist countries who lost their jobs when communism failed, the laid off workers from the failed American corporation found themselves without necessary skills to effectively compete in the job market. That’s what years of working for a giant company with no interest in investing in their labor force did to them.

Yes, the workers lose the biggest when a company fails.  There’s really no solution for this, and those that are tried are a cure worse than the disease.  You can’t guarantee success.

Thomas Orr - 21 March 2010 11:01 PM

I am a professional and I know what my class interest is. I want to work for an independent professional institutions where the only thing that counts is how well I perform as a professional. From my point of view big American corporations I had experience with are a disappointment. I couldn’t contribute as much as I was capable of contributing to producing something of value. I had to participate in the corporate rituals of something like “motivational training for employees”, which was an exercise in idiocy. Every new director taking over my division started his/her reign with an attempt to “change and revitalize”. Like in a communist state the change of regime was marked with new slogans and promises that people will be listened to. That was relatively harmless. Less harmless were new rules for “performance evaluation” and similar crap. I had financial awards but I lacked in the pride and satisfaction I feel I was entitled to.

I’ve got news for you, there’s no cure for this.  It can only be mitigated to various degrees.  The more layers of bureaucracy there are (and I remind you, our wonderful new health care bill will create more), whether governmental or corporate, the worse this gets.

Thomas Orr - 21 March 2010 11:01 PM

I respect your right to have a different opinion but I am not very excited about the prospect of continuing this debate. I am more interested in talking to like minded people with the hope of creating a movement and ultimately of bringing in the change.

Be careful.  Too much association with like-minded people, and not enough input from the other side, can lead to a phenomenon known as groupthink.

[ Edited: 22 March 2010 02:07 PM by Billy Shears]
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Posted: 22 March 2010 04:41 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 66 ]  
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Billy Shears - 22 March 2010 04:18 PM

I cannot help but notice that your answer basically amounts to “no you’re wrong and I’m right,” and that’s it.  No explanation of why I am wrong.  I think this is basically because you have no way to refute it.  You have accepted Marxian economic theory as received wisdom, in much the same way that a Christian accepts the assertions of the Bible, and with about as much proof of its validity.

I certainly do not know Marx well and my knowledge of Marx is not coming from reading what he wrote. It’s based on modern reviews of his work, which, except for few very biased sources (translate: libertarians) is quite favorable. After all the guy was talking about cyclical nature of economics up and downs, and recessions. He also predicted that natural transformation is for capitalism to evolve into imperialism and that’s exactly what is happening. Anyway, I needed Marx only to support my quote that those who have economic power will - eventually - gain political power as well. In all those aspects Marx seems to be pretty much on target and not “completely wrong and off” as you claim. Proof?

Billy Shears - 22 March 2010 04:18 PM

Sorry, but that’s essentially the way it is.  This is the real world.  If you have something to sell, and nobody wants it, it has no value.  Period.  You can’t sell it.  Cry all you like about how much the thing is worth as a result of your labor; it doesn’t change the fact that nobody will buy it.  So what sort of value does it truly have in strictly practical terms?  None.

Sure if that’s what you believe. Push that believe to extreme, as libertarians do, and you create what we have now. Today the house is worth $500,000. Tomorrow, puff, sorry we can give you $2,000 for it. Which is not as crazy as what was taking place in years leading to the crisis. “Oh, my house appreciates faster than inflation or the stock market”. You believe in waporware, you get waporware. I’ll tell you Bill what I accuse you and your economic beliefs of. Destruction based on disrespect for value. Ivory Coast used to be one of the most prosperous country in Africa. You used international “aid” organizations to destroy the country by undermining its cocoa industry. You did it by financing cocoa plantations in places like Malaysia so the chocolate producers could get raw cocoa even cheaper. You transformed America by sending everybody to shop and buy stuff they don’t really need. In the final stage of this race to madness American investment banks decided to create something out of nothing and that is how mortgage backed securities were created.
In the 50-ties America was exporting products of quality and value. We were helping the world. Now we are exporting mortgage based securities with the results like the near bankruptcy of Iceland, Ireland and Greece.

Billy Shears - 22 March 2010 04:18 PM

I don’t know where you’re getting this.  I never said anything about physical measures.  It looks like your thinking has become so muddled that you are responding to arguments I never made.

I thought it was simple. I compared the economic concept of value to the physical concept of measure. In either case you may accurately claim that there is no such thing as intrinsic value, or absolute measure. And in either case the difficulty in establishing the “true” value or measure is not an excuse to throw the concept away.

[ Edited: 22 March 2010 04:58 PM by Thomas Orr]
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Posted: 25 March 2010 12:03 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 67 ]  
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Thomas Orr - 22 March 2010 08:41 PM

I certainly do not know Marx well and my knowledge of Marx is not coming from reading what he wrote. It’s based on modern reviews of his work, which, except for few very biased sources (translate: libertarians) is quite favorable. After all the guy was talking about cyclical nature of economics up and downs, and recessions. He also predicted that natural transformation is for capitalism to evolve into imperialism and that’s exactly what is happening. Anyway, I needed Marx only to support my quote that those who have economic power will - eventually - gain political power as well.

This is hardly something that Marx was alone in seeing, or something that he had to be some sort of visionary or genius to perceive.  In fact, it pretty much falls into the realm of the blindingly obvious that money goes hand in hand with power and influence.  There have been wealthy men who used their riches to attain political power ever since there have been wealthy men.

Thomas Orr - 22 March 2010 08:41 PM

In all those aspects Marx seems to be pretty much on target and not “completely wrong and off” as you claim. Proof?

I hardly know where to start.  But we can take a couple points here:

He stated that “Society as a whole is more and more splitting up into two great hostile camps, into two great classes directly facing each other—bourgeoisie and proletariat.” He was simply wrong, the middle class actually increased since Marx’ day, and the socialist revolution he regarded as historically inevitable has proved to be nothing of the kind.  In fact, many countries with heavily socialized economies had to turn toward more a free market model because socialism wasn’t working, and their economies were stagnating.

I’ve already mentioned what balderdash his statement that the workers would “...have no interests separate and apart from those of the proletariat as a whole” is.

He also said: “The immediate aim of the Communists is the same as that of all other proletarian parties: Formation of the proletariat into a class, overthrow of the bourgeois supremacy, conquest of political power by the proletariat.”  Marx actually predicted that the state would “whither away” as the masses took power.  This is a ridiculous fantasy. An entire social class cannot seize power.  There is no practical way to make a government of that sort. Instead, it can only appoint representatives to take that power. The plain, hard fact of the matter is that all government power will always be in the hands of the few, in any system, whether that government is communist or capitalist, or whether its an oligarchy, theocracy, republic, dictatorship, or whatever. The only question is how much power that government will have, and Marx made the mistake of assuming that the more power the government had, the more power the masses would have. And this is another area where Marx was flat out, 100% wrong! Political power is a zero sum game; you cannot simultaneously give more power to the masses and to the government! Marx felt that free markets are undemocratic and unfair, but in reality, free markets are at least as democratic as some governments, and far more than others. They actually respond to the whims of the masses (i.e. the marketplace), while governments only make promises.

Marx, once again, clearly did not understand the simple principle of supply and demand.  He said: “The average price of wage labor is the minimum wage, i.e., that quantum of the means of subsistence which is absolutely requisite to keep the laborer in bare existence as a laborer.” In other words, he predicted that in an industrialized world, no one will be paid more than the bare minimum required to keep him alive.  He was demonstrably wrong in this prediction also.  In the real industrialized world, as opposed to his fantasy one, if you have a skill which is in demand, then you can command a higher salary for your services.  If you are a skilled engineer who can design better, more efficient cars, you can and will get a better paying job from an auto manufacturer than most other workers.  Conversely, if you have a skill which is very commonplace, for example, just basic mechanic skills, then you will get paid a a much smaller wage by that same car company.  I marvel that people still think of Karl Marx as some sort of genius when he obviously didn’t even understand the principles of supply and demand.

As I said, Marx was right about some things (usually very commonly understood things at that), and dead wrong about others, and that’s why the economic system based on his theories didn’t work—it was a house built on an unsound foundation.

Thomas Orr - 22 March 2010 08:41 PM

Sure if that’s what you believe. Push that believe to extreme, as libertarians do, and you create what we have now.

Why do you keep hitting me with libertarian philosophy.  I’m no more a libertarian than you are a communist.  Libertarians have some ideas I agree with, but some of their ideas are nutty.

Thomas Orr - 22 March 2010 08:41 PM

Today the house is worth $500,000. Tomorrow, puff, sorry we can give you $2,000 for it. Which is not as crazy as what was taking place in years leading to the crisis. “Oh, my house appreciates faster than inflation or the stock market”. You believe in waporware, you get waporware. I’ll tell you Bill what I accuse you and your economic beliefs of. Destruction based on disrespect for value. Ivory Coast used to be one of the most prosperous country in Africa. You used international “aid” organizations to destroy the country by undermining its cocoa industry. You did it by financing cocoa plantations in places like Malaysia so the chocolate producers could get raw cocoa even cheaper. You transformed America by sending everybody to shop and buy stuff they don’t really need. In the final stage of this race to madness American investment banks decided to create something out of nothing and that is how mortgage backed securities were created.
In the 50-ties America was exporting products of quality and value. We were helping the world. Now we are exporting mortgage based securities with the results like the near bankruptcy of Iceland, Ireland and Greece.

Actually, we transformed America for the worse by sending out manufacturing base overseas, and transforming the basis of our economy from industry to finance.  And the left has to share some of the blame for this.  One of the reasons manufacturers have outsourced jobs is that it has become far more profitable for them to do so.  And a big reason that it has become more profitable for them to do so is that unionization, punitively high taxes, and excessive government regulation has reduced the profitability of many industries in the U.S..  Again, I marvel at the inability of the left to see the consequences of its policies: excessively high taxes chase away the tax base, as people leave looking for greener, more business-friendly pastures.

Thomas Orr - 22 March 2010 08:41 PM
Billy Shears - 22 March 2010 04:18 PM

I don’t know where you’re getting this.  I never said anything about physical measures.  It looks like your thinking has become so muddled that you are responding to arguments I never made.

I thought it was simple. I compared the economic concept of value to the physical concept of measure. In either case you may accurately claim that there is no such thing as intrinsic value, or absolute measure. And in either case the difficulty in establishing the “true” value or measure is not an excuse to throw the concept away.

You’re comparing cheese and chalk.  Just because a thing may have a clearly measured physical presence, does not mean it has a value that can be established with anything even close to the same definitive, clearly measured degree.  A bar of gold that is thirty centimeters long and weighs 1 kilogram will remain that size and weight regardless (unless someone melts it down), its value will fluctuate considerably according to supply and demand.

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I am the very model of a Christian Evangelical
I’ve no need for courtesy when fighting things heretical
I know the bible word for word; you’ll find me pedagogical
I have my faith so I’ve no need for ideas that are logical
Atheists and Pagans fall before my wit satirical
They’ll burn in hell just as they should; their cries will be so lyrical
I’m always right, you’re always wrong, my reasoning’s dogmatical
For I’m the very model of a Christian Evangelical

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Posted: 26 March 2010 05:26 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 68 ]  
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Billy Shears - 25 March 2010 04:03 PM

I hardly know where to start.  But we can take a couple points here:

He stated that “Society as a whole is more and more splitting up into two great hostile camps, into two great classes directly facing each other—bourgeoisie and proletariat.” He was simply wrong, the middle class actually increased since Marx’ day, and the socialist revolution he regarded as historically inevitable has proved to be nothing of the kind.  In fact, many countries with heavily socialized economies had to turn toward more a free market model because socialism wasn’t working, and their economies were stagnating.

I’ve already mentioned what balderdash his statement that the workers would “...have no interests separate and apart from those of the proletariat as a whole” is.

He also said: “The immediate aim of the Communists is the same as that of all other proletarian parties: Formation of the proletariat into a class, overthrow of the bourgeois supremacy, conquest of political power by the proletariat.”  Marx actually predicted that the state would “whither away” as the masses took power.  This is a ridiculous fantasy. An entire social class cannot seize power.  There is no practical way to make a government of that sort. Instead, it can only appoint representatives to take that power. The plain, hard fact of the matter is that all government power will always be in the hands of the few, in any system, whether that government is communist or capitalist, or whether its an oligarchy, theocracy, republic, dictatorship, or whatever. The only question is how much power that government will have, and Marx made the mistake of assuming that the more power the government had, the more power the masses would have. And this is another area where Marx was flat out, 100% wrong! Political power is a zero sum game; you cannot simultaneously give more power to the masses and to the government! Marx felt that free markets are undemocratic and unfair, but in reality, free markets are at least as democratic as some governments, and far more than others. They actually respond to the whims of the masses (i.e. the marketplace), while governments only make promises.

Marx, once again, clearly did not understand the simple principle of supply and demand.  He said: “The average price of wage labor is the minimum wage, i.e., that quantum of the means of subsistence which is absolutely requisite to keep the laborer in bare existence as a laborer.” In other words, he predicted that in an industrialized world, no one will be paid more than the bare minimum required to keep him alive.  He was demonstrably wrong in this prediction also.  In the real industrialized world, as opposed to his fantasy one, if you have a skill which is in demand, then you can command a higher salary for your services.  If you are a skilled engineer who can design better, more efficient cars, you can and will get a better paying job from an auto manufacturer than most other workers.  Conversely, if you have a skill which is very commonplace, for example, just basic mechanic skills, then you will get paid a a much smaller wage by that same car company.  I marvel that people still think of Karl Marx as some sort of genius when he obviously didn’t even understand the principles of supply and demand.

As I said, Marx was right about some things (usually very commonly understood things at that), and dead wrong about others, and that’s why the economic system based on his theories didn’t work—it was a house built on an unsound foundation.

I certainly don’t argue that what Marx wrote about communism is worth much but I think there is a general agreement that his work analyzing how capitalism works is of great value. After all it is not just pure theory. In his most celebrated work “Capital” big body of facts from XIX century England is included to support whatever claims he made.

I am sorry for insinuating you are a blind follower of libertarian philosophy. I am glad you are not. Sorry again.

Also, I happen to agree with your assessment that losing our manufacturing base and shipping it overseas was perhaps the worst we did to our economy and to our future.

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