- Capitalism and Alternatives -

Have you ever lived in my country?

Posted by: Thomas ( U.S.A. ) on November 29, 1999 at 12:25:55:

In Reply to: Every layer of society is much better off than it used to be. posted by Darcy Carter on September 16, 1999 at 19:37:28:

I've noted the UK after your name, and I'm assuming you to be British. I'm curious if you've ever lived in the U.S., which is obviously the most used example when referring to modern capitalism. I live in a large U.S. metropolitan area, and out of the 30 Europeans I've known in my life in the U.S., 28 of them were very disappointed with the United States, and moved back to Europe. The two that remained
were a English married couple, and stayed because they happened to run a business which was generally more profitable here than in England (taxes). All others complained that they would never want to raise a child in a country that had such inferior public education (they felt that European public schools were better than most American private schools), and more murder & crime than some third world countries at war. They complained of the U.S. being incredibly boring and generally
catering to the stupid with zero culture whatsoever. They felt the American mindset was generally barbaric & base. They felt that America revolved more around commercialism than real freedom of any kind. All felt they could exist, but not have a real life here, unless all they cared about was money. I must point out that most of these points, I COMPLETLY agree with, but have not had the luxury to compare modern Europe's alternative(s).
Though I have not had the luxury of spending time in Europe (I work roughly 50 hours per week to pay basic bills, and still have NO health insurance or vacation time beyond 2 weeks per year), I'm looking forward to doing my own comparisons in quality of living in many of the Democratic Socialist/Capitalist mix of countries in Europe. So far, 12 Americans I know that have spent a good deal (1-10 years) of time in various countries in Western Europe, tend to think very highly of it. I find this curious, due to the American media downplaying Europe when doing comparisons to the United States.

: :
: : [You are of course right to point out the teleology in all sorts of "evolutionist" arguments.]

: :
: : : The most successful of thes institutions in terms of human advancent have been made in Western, capitalist societies.

: : [On the other hand, this might be a bit of a leap. Which particular "human advancements" are you referring to, and how are these particular "advancements" directly attributable to capitalism - and (if we can agree on an advancement) why would they be unlikely to occur under a socialist system?]

: ::: I am referring fundamentally to advancements in the creation of wealth (which to me is not a dirty word). Without "wealth" in the broadest sense, there can be none of the more specific advancements in technology, culture or our institutions that I would say were important (ie -democratic government, universal education to name but 2). This is becuase, with no wealth, everyone has to work just to live. When technology allows a surplus to be produced, many can work on more specialised tasks. it is the "wealth" that has been created since the stone age that has allowed humans to build everything we think of as the modern world.

: These institutions (ie -democracy, education) have flourished best in the capitalist world. I don't think it's necessarily impossible for them to have flourished under socialism, but they just haven't. Socialsim has had its chance and it just hasn't come up with the goods. I'll bet there is no socialist country (past or present) that you would honestly like to live in.

: : : Socialists just can't bear to admit you're wrong even though history has proved it to be the case.

: : [Well, this is a common trait. Few people care to admit they are wrong. Do you?]

: ::: fair point - though I have changed my mind on several issues over the years. I used to be a socialist unti I realised it was ridiculous.

: : :If you don't believe me, I suggest you spend your next holiday in one of the ex-Soviet republics. You will see the effect that a prologed experiment with socialism has had on prople's lives.
: :
: : [Your use of history is irrelevant here. Nobody (so far as I know) has defended State Socialism as it appeared in the Soviet Union and the satellite nations. Those socialists who post on this board are quite familiar with the history. They just have a Very different idea as to what socialism Could be. For many, socialism without democracy would be unthinkable.

: :::Socialism's proponents never advocate the type of socialism that the world has actually seen - only the kind that it has never actaully seen. I find this deeply suspicious. I am also sceptical that a socialist state could ever be free and democratic in a true sense (rather than merely allowing people to choose from a selection of state puppets.) The reasons for this are many but, essentially, people are not equal. In order to keep them that way, the state must enquire into people's affairs (in order to monitor the artifice of equality) and restrict actions that would inevitably lead to some citizens becoming less equal than others.

: : In the sweep of human history, capitalism has been on the scene for a tiny fraction of time. It is a bit early for an "End of History" thesis - certainly modern global capitalism has brought forth technological marvels. It has also, in the process, created immense poverty and suffering. (We like to point out the horrors of Russia's slave labor in, for example, building Dneiper type dams. We conveiently forget about the deaths of thousands of Chinese in building the railroads, or other projects like the Panama Canal)

: : Capitalism is a good idea for those preoccupied with methods of accumulating wealth. It is not such a good idea for those more preoccupied with matters of social justice and the environment.

: :::Social justice (an absurd phrase but lets run with it) is only possible due to wealth creation. There's no point in everyone being equal if everyone is poor. I agree capitalism is recent, but so is the flourishing of out technology and wealth.

: Also, most socialists admit the wealth created by capitalism but add the caveat that it has also done other, terrible things. I could accept this if, in following capitalism, we had sacrificed something wonderful in order to create wealth. The fact is, that although not everybody is rich under capitalism, nobody is poor that was rich (or indeed had some other less tangible benefit) before. EVERYONE is better off. Even the very poor are better off than they were 100 years ago. Inequality has increased, admittedly, but so has the opportunity to rise from the class that you find yourself in like. Before this century, you were born working class, and stayed that way. You were poor. 1 per cent of the population was fabulously rich but they lived far away and you never saw them.

: Now there is a very visible middle class with expensive consumer goods that you might not be able to afford. You are much better off than your predecessor 100 years ago and can move into the middle class with relative ease - but the close presence of that middle class and saturation by advertising of consumer goods make you feel more unequal.

: I do not believe the former situation is better. Yes - there is poverty in capitalist societies. In non-capitalist societies, there is almost universal poverty and of a much harsher type. Every layer of society is much better off than it used to be.

: Now what's wrong with that?

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