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What's Wrong with Socialism?


iNow
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So, in the context of a "redistribution of wealth" discussion in another thread, the idea of socialism came up repeatedly.

 

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Socialism

Socialism refers to a broad set of economic theories of social organization advocating state or collective ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods, and the creation of an egalitarian society.

 

 

 

Often, it was described as inherently bad (like the woman at the McCain rally who said Obama was an Arab, as if that too were inherently bad).

 

This thread is intended to explore the relative positive and negative aspects of socialism. It is not to throw partisan grenades at one another, nor to associate any real life candidates with the ideology. It's an academic exercise only.

 

What's wrong with socialism?

What's right with socialism?

 

 

Discuss.

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Your questions are hard to address with out understanding the degree from pure socialism you start from, or for that matter from the Federal or State. Today, in the US we have many social programs from SS/Medicare, Welfare Programs, Health care Mandates, laws making every person an equal to obtain or do certain thing (housing/education/voting etc) and we have many more programs granting exemptions for compliance...all socialistic.

 

Good; Pure socialism would be good for half the people or bad for half the people. Under achievers for any reason are elevated and the achievers meeting somewhere the center of the total.

 

Bad; In a Capitalistic Society (US and most the worlds industrialized nations) Tax Collections (pays for socialism) and investments (drives economies and capitalism) and made and paid by the achievers. Where would the incentive come from to maintain that base.

 

Since one major complaint seems to be just where all the wealth currently lies, I might suggest, so has the source any social program advancement or that to reduce the few holding wealth is about at an end, at least in the US...

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The degree of socialism really dictates a lot. Are you talking about just covering basic services like healthcare and utilities or the whole enchilada where factories report to the govt?

 

In any areas that are governed by socialism, you're supposed to be missing the competitive advantage brought on by the profit motive. Pride probably plays in to an extent, but you are not going to get Sony's like they make in Japan because they probably don't invest a lot in R&D, when they can just copy designs.

 

On a side note, here in Texas, electricity is no longer sold directly by the local provider because the monopolies engaged in price gouging. Rather it is distributed by the local provider and retailed by any company registered to do so, mostly other providers around the state tied into the grid.

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What's wrong with socialism: there's no profit motive, and therefore no competition, so the solutions they provide may be suboptimal in many areas

 

What's right with socialism: there's no profit motive, therefore state-owned entities can focus on things other than profit, like maximizing the well-being of the population as a whole

 

I don't think I'd want government-produced consumer electronics or cars, but I'd sure likes myself some socialized medicine

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Pride probably plays in to an extent, but you are not going to get Sony's like they make in Japan because they probably don't invest a lot in R&D, when they can just copy designs.

 

Funny bit is that the taxation system in Japan would probably be "socialist" from the US point of view. And they do have Sony's like they do in Japan. Unless they are sold out.

 

But really socialism has been used as a scare word in the US quite a lot (second only to communism). It appears that in popular opinion in the US there is little difference between the classic socialism and to the social market economy as practiced in Europe in Japan.

Edited by CharonY
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The core tenant of socialism seems to be: "we can decide as a whole what is best for the whole" which leads to a lack of diversity in approaches to problems. This can be good, since everyone will get some solution, which will be the same solution, whereas less socialistic approaches will have people taking their own approaches, allowing some to succeed well, and some to fail spectacularly.

 

I am taking a gamble, by not having health insurance right now, but I am living lean to maximize my time to dedicate to side projects that can make me very successful as I go.

 

That could fail spectacularly, or succeed spectacularly, but in a socialist system I probably wouldn't have the option to try either.

 

Socialism also tends to lean towards centralization and sweeping policies, that do not account for unique needs in unique areas.

 

The biggest problems I think we can find is:

1) complex tuning of socialistic systems require experts, that citizens can't follow

2) experts cannot account for all impacts, productivity becomes narrowly viewed (a person working 10 hrs a week so they can write a book is "forced" to have same benefits as a 50 hr a week factory worker, and thus is viewed by the State as "cheating" and forced to work more and not write, or justify the book to the State)

3) broad stroke policies always have at least locality holes, and people resort to illegal activity to work around it, leading to "corruption by necessity" and a greater breakdown of law.

 

 

 

 

I think the best solution, is the mix with socially backed or implemented critical services, with the majority of services being capitalist in nature, with some level of social oversight.

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[Copied over from previous thread]

 

Obama's tax plan introduces new tax credits, and increases on these credits - refundable credits - that amount to transfering wealth. Progressive taxation is one thing, but these tax credits are about wealth redistribution.

 

Another effect of these credits is that it amounts to giving people a raise. It would also encourage them to work more. That should be beneficial to the economy.

 

That's blatant strong arming by the masses, taking from a minority of citizens. Sure, they got loop holes, and yadda yadda yadda - but the legal structure is there; sanctioned by uncle sam to loot the rich to help the poor. It may look great on TV for your favorite super action hero, but in real life that's justifying theft. It's wrong.

 

Saying it is wrong implies that it is not fair. But that depends on how you look at it. And life isn't fair. Much of the wealth of the rich is based off the work of the poor. The free market ideal doesn't apply too well here -- the rich can afford not to hire workers more than workers can afford not to work, which gives the rich the advantage in negotiating wages. The rich can invest, the poor must work. If the tables are naturally turned against the poor, perhaps it is fair for the government to balance that out?

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The interesting bit is how fervently the poor will sometimes fight against tax hikes on the rich, solely out of the hope that one day they too will be rich. Its sad in an uplifting way...how hard someone will fight for the American dream.

 

</literary BS>

 

Government is there to serve the citizens, so there is some basis in increasing taxes on the rich to help the poor get by. It's sort of a "the successful should give back to the community to help the community that made them successful" mentality at work. And while I wish that the wealthy would do this out of the goodness of their hearts, they don't.

 

Hence tax hikes on the rich.

 

I don't remember who said it, but "From each according to his ability, to each according to his need" is quite applicable.

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What's wrong with socialism: there's no profit motive, and therefore no competition, so the solutions they provide may be suboptimal in many areas

 

What's right with socialism: there's no profit motive, therefore state-owned entities can focus on things other than profit, like maximizing the well-being of the population as a whole

 

I don't think I'd want government-produced consumer electronics or cars, but I'd sure likes myself some socialized medicine

 

Very well put.

 

Without a profit motive, there is much less incentive to create wealth. You can't spread it if you don't make it.

 

Going out on a limb, it goes against human nature. Humans are wary of parasites. Those that don't contribute are shunned. If there is no incentive to contribute, fewer do, and animosity builds within the community.

 

Human altruism has a time limit for able bodied people.

 

That's why most of the hippy communes failed.

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Everyone agrees this is an extremely hypothetical thread, right? Not that I'm objecting, but anybody who thinks we're headed towards socialism under an Obama administration, either in stark terror or in gleeful anticipation, is just deluding themselves, IMO.

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Everyone pointing out that 100% socialism eliminates the profit motive has a good point. However, I think that iNow was not suggesting 100% socialism, but rather asking why going partway socialism is a bad thing.

 

Another thing to consider. People say "From each according to his ability, to each according to his need" about progressive taxes. However, consider that rich people frequently start off with more money -- money that can purchase a better education, money that can purchase better medicine, money that can purchase healthier food. Money that can be invested, money that can be used to start projects. Other things they inherit are connections to other rich people, experience with managing people as opposed to going to work, sometimes even a business. The biggest thing here is the capital that they can invest to start a business, something that poor people don't get.

 

Basically, I'm saying, "Do the rich really have more ability?" and "Is it fair for some people to start off with more?"

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Everyone pointing out that 100% socialism eliminates the profit motive has a good point. However, I think that iNow was not suggesting 100% socialism, but rather asking why going partway socialism is a bad thing.

 

Even with socialism light (<20 % ?) human altruism has a time limit for the able bodied. You say…

 

…rich people frequently start off with more money -- money that can purchase a better education, money that can purchase better medicine, money that can purchase healthier food. Money that can be invested, money that can be used to start projects. Other things they inherit are connections to other rich people, experience with managing people as opposed to going to work, sometimes even a business. The biggest thing here is the capital that they can invest to start a business, something that poor people don't get.

 

Basically, I'm saying, "Do the rich really have more ability?" and "Is it fair for some people to start off with more?"

 

With respect to education, even children have to work to achieve an educated status. With respect to medicine and food, particularly for those yet to reach adulthood, these people can be considered less than able bodied. If you are an adult in good health and capable of becoming educated you better be contributing or you will be shunned. It's just human nature.

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If you are an adult in good health and capable of becoming educated you better be contributing or you will be shunned. It's just human nature.

 

Define "contributing" though: a struggling actor/writer/artist/musician maybe admired for taking such a risky, hard route, or reviled for wasting their time on a pipe dream. Many of the most famous artists and writers were not even recognized for their talents in their own lifetime.

 

The more socialistic we are, the more we try to force others to conform to our consensus on the definition of "contributing" and the more we suffer culturally in the long run.

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I am taking a gamble, by not having health insurance right now, but I am living lean to maximize my time to dedicate to side projects that can make me very successful as I go.

 

Living lean sounds like a good way to set yourself up for some oxidized stress, a ticket for a whole slew of really troublesome disorders. Don't forget to invest in an antioxidant supplement for a mere $25 a month.

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I think a better discussion would be what is the best mix of socialism and free markets. For instance, why is it necessary to have a profit motive for things like banking, basic health care, or insurance? I don't think anyone here is ready to give up government altogether but if its job is to look out for the citizenry what kind of interventions are needed to do this and to what extent?

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...a struggling actor/writer/artist/musician maybe admired for taking such a risky, hard route, or reviled for wasting their time on a pipe dream. Many of the most famous artists and writers were not even recognized for their talents in their own lifetime.

 

These people are admired because their sacrifices are their own. Under socialism there is no sacrifice. Socialism produces an abundance of non staving misunderstood artists. "From each according to their abilities to each according to their needs" always produces an abundance of needy people without abilities.

 

Don't get me wrong. I do believe that all humans depend on a proper level societal altruism to flourish. Socialism errors on the side of too much. If you look at most western democracies with capitalistic economies the level seems about appropriate. The young, old, and infirm are the primary benefactors of altruism. Productive people who experience some form of unexpected catastrophe are also helped. The level of support however is always kept to the bear minimum to prevent producing dependence.

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I like the way bascule put it. For those services that we decide it is more important to have lack of profit motive and purity in our approach to humanity, government is the current answer. For those services that we decide will be better served exploiting profit motivation, then free market is the answer.

 

Beyond that, socialism would seem to regress the advancement of individuals and threatens the species. Intellectual diversity is jeopardized by sanitation of individuality via the legislation of morality and engineered behavior molded by the democratic process of essential majority rule. We suffer from that in the US today, already, and we're not even socialist yet.

 

I would think diversity in intellect, application, government, philosophy, ethics, morals – all of it, would be preferred. The more diverse we are then the more prepared mankind is for future threats. It’s rolling out “generalism” whereas I believe socialism promotes “specialism”, again via the exercise of sanctioned behavior by majority rule.

 

I've always felt that socialism merely provides an attractive band-aid to the “unmentionables” of society. We can feel good buying a big screen now because we pay taxes to help the poor, so I don’t need to pay attention to that guy holding the sign that says he’ll work for food. I don’t personally have to bother with helping the less fortunate, or to even address the real reason for their misfortune, I can blissfully ignore that world since my government will handle it.

 

This is a nasty form of selfishness that is far uglier than materialism, in my opinion. It appears to be more about relieving personal responsibility to make it "someone else's" responsibility - for a small fee the government will deal with the "panhandlers" so you don't have to.

 

The responsibility, of course, is self generated, and is a proud feature of being human today, so it's particularly disgusting when we undermine it with delusional notions that a centralized beaurocratic system can match that of personal involvement. It's selfishness, but we don't see it that way since we're giving money. Just like politicians, we think problems are solved by throwing more money at them.

 

But, I do believe there are appropriate things the government should handle, and I've seriously been considering the possibility that Healthcare be one of them. It would seem to fall under the preference for a more non-profit, 'humanity first' intent.

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I've always felt that socialism merely provides an attractive band-aid to the “unmentionables” of society. We can feel good buying a big screen now because we pay taxes to help the poor, so I don’t need to pay attention to that guy holding the sign that says he’ll work for food. I don’t personally have to bother with helping the less fortunate, or to even address the real reason for their misfortune, I can blissfully ignore that world since my government will handle it.

 

This is a nasty form of selfishness that is far uglier than materialism, in my opinion. It appears to be more about relieving personal responsibility to make it "someone else's" responsibility - for a small fee the government will deal with the "panhandlers" so you don't have to.

 

This is a very good point. My understanding from working with people in more socialistic systems (like Sweden) is that very few people give money to charity. Several Swedes I work with claim that charitable giving is Sweden is very low.

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The thing is, socialism, an investment in coercion, gets faster results because you force the population to comply, but the consequences are that coercion be maintained - it becomes required to coerce. And then you have the side effects of a compelled society, indifference to it, and etc. That society is destined to require external control indefinitely.

 

Persuasion changes the game dramatically. Suddenly you must prove yourself, must prove value in what you're asking others to invest in; forces personal involvement. The results are slower, but more everlasting. Just like we can be conditioned for compliance, we can also be conditioned for self motivation. I'll take a self motivator over a yes-man any day.

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Another thought:

If you consider people to be a business, then you also have to consider that they have business losses. That is, to be able to work, they also need food, shelter, clothing, transportation, medicine, etc., just to survive and be able to work. Therefore, these costs of living must be subtracted from their revenue (eg wages) to determine what is their profit. The result is that if the profit (revenue - costs) is the only part that is taxed, the result would be a very "progressive" looking tax structure if you look only at the income. Just something for people who consider progressive taxes to be unfair and socialist to consider.

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Another thought:

If you consider people to be a business, then you also have to consider that they have business losses. That is, to be able to work, they also need food, shelter, clothing, transportation, medicine, etc., just to survive and be able to work. Therefore, these costs of living must be subtracted from their revenue (eg wages) to determine what is their profit. The result is that if the profit (revenue - costs) is the only part that is taxed, the result would be a very "progressive" looking tax structure if you look only at the income. Just something for people who consider progressive taxes to be unfair and socialist to consider.

 

Well now I'm not sure how progressive that is when the rate is flat. That's the part that smells. If my capital gain was say, 200 dollars after all of my expenses, and someone else's gain is 200 million dollars, then the same percentage rate seems fair. But passing judgement on that 200 million dollars and subjectively concluding that it's so much money we should tax an even higher percentage is bullshit. Capital gain is capital gain, if it's good for the uber-rich, then it's good for me. Otherwise it's class warfare. And makes us thugs.

 

Incidentally, I like that assessment, and I'm guessing that's the overall intent of our income tax code, but I'd rather do that in a way that doesn't involve sharing personal information with the government and eyeballing all of my private financial life.

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