- Capitalism and Alternatives -

More for Gort (better)

Posted by: Stoller on December 06, 1999 at 20:57:58:

In Reply to: More for Stoller posted by Stuart Gort on December 06, 1999 at 11:05:55:

Responding to my brief exposition on dialectics. . .

: Handily omitted from your vision, however, is an analysis of why people are motivated to create businesses and even whole industries in a socialist system. I don't see any persuasive argument to suggest that the profit motive (which worked for me) can be replaced with an altruistic motivation and continue to produce wealth. I firmly believe, on the basis of all heretofore implemented collectivist ideas, that productivity will decrease when the profit motive is gone.

People have been motivated to 'create businesses and even whole industries' long before businesses and industries (as we know them now) existed. Labor has been collectivized since the beginning of human relations. Only when labor produced a surplus did an appropriating, property-owning class exist.*

Again, you call Marxist socialism 'altruism.' THAT ISN'T SO.

Marxist socialism requires no 'sacrifice' of anyone; it only posits that each person works to the best of their ability, receiving in return all that they need.

What about receiving all a person might want, you might ask. Whether or not to produce ILLIMITABLE ABUNDANCE will be the choice of EVERYONE (in the socialist future), not just a minority as it stands now. And, please don't forget: the ostentatious riches that the wealthy have NOW is created by the LABOR of those who do not share in its creation. Why should those who produce it not decide whether or not to work so hard?

You assert that the 'profit motive' is the creator of wealth (like so many other pro-capitalists). Then why the EMPLOYEES, Stuart? And do not those employees who receive no 'profit motive' CREATE MUCH WEALTH (for their bosses)?

Of course, here you might wish to say that labor receives only what it would receive had not 'superior ability,' inventiveness, and risk-taking stepped in to create 'more' wealth---as Doc does here.**

While that certainly is a flattering notion for the capitalist appropriators, that theory omits some important details. One is that, as Shaw put it, 'It is not the man who is singular, but the position.'(1) How many bosses are really required? Plus, as Marx observed: 'Science, generally speaking, costs the capitalist nothing, a fact that by no means hinders him from exploiting it. The science of others is as much annexed by capital as the labor of others.'(2) Think of the incredible amount of industry R & D that is SUBSIDIZED by taxpayers; think of how much private research is done under contract to industry. Inventors are almost never those who profit from inventions. And finally, risk-taking: do not the employees lose their jobs, health benefits (this obviously doesn't apply to your employees), and, in some cases (ditto), their pensions when a business goes belly up?

In short: the tired, old capitalist-as-Prometheus argument is EGOISTICAL BUNK.

And that's just your opening statement...

: Believing all men are equal was a basic belief of our founding fathers...

. . . the merry slave-owners.

: I believe capitalism harnesses the inequalities that exist naturally between men and forces them to work for the common man.

Oh, how generous. Didn't the feudal lords say the SAME thing?

: You don't have the luxury of redefining the word "freedom" according to perspective, Barry.

There is no universal definition of freedom. Each epoch, each era characterized by the dominant mode of production, has defined freedom differently.

: [I]f pressed I'll start listing all the wonderful statistics there are on the overwhelming percentages of millionaires in this country who started in the lower and middle classes.

Please do. (But don't use Stanely & Dankoís Millionaire Next Door, as Gee once did. The methodology of that 'study' went splat here and here.)

Stock can be purchased and owned by anyone at all.

And 'anyone' can win the lottery as well.

: Now, Barry. That was pretty juvenile - don't you think? You've equated an activity that requires financial discipline and prudence with one that promotes exactly the opposite. You could just magnanimously concede my point but then you'd have to conclude that your implied caste system is nonsense too. I wish you'd be a bit more intellectually honest in your posts.

No, I'll concede nothing on this point. The comparison is apt: only A MINORITY succeeds. Sure one activity requires skill (forgetting about the large personal fortunes of idiots like Dan Qualye) AND luck, the other ONLY luck---but BOTH requires luck (in most instances***).

And, again, my stubborn statistical break-down: 71% of households own no shares at all or hold less than $2,000 worth in any form, including mutual funds, 401(k)s, and traditional pensions (Business Week, 1 September 1997, p. 67).

: But the Wall Street stat excluded institutional investors such as, "investment companies (including mutual funds), pension systems, insurance companies, universities and banks". This puts an extraordinary percentage of Americans indirectly owning stock and taking advantage of our stock markets through the above mentioned entities. In light of this fact, your statistic isn't quite as stubborn as you think. The success of the American markets are positively affecting quite nearly every American regardless of the statistical games of socialists.

Did you read the last sentence above---'or hold less than $2,000 worth in any form, including mutual funds, 401(k)s, and traditional pensions'? They 'indirectly' own VERY LITTLE. And, seeing how my statistics came from Business Week, Iíd hardly call them 'games of socialists.'

Now if you want to. . . say. . . that 'anyone' can get a piece of the means of production WITHOUT higher education, then you are ignoring government data that unequivocally shows that those without higher education have average incomes of UNDER $20,000 annually (Statistical Abstract of the United States 1999, table 748, p. 473). And those folks don't have a piece of nothin'.

: In this you insist that freedom based capitalism does not provide those who aspire to more than $20,000 a year with an opportunity to do so. You are wrong. I stand as proof of that. As a very young man with no college degree, I took $1000. . .

Again you wish to NEGATE the majority of instances with ONE EXCEPTION.

Stuart, I know it's your exception but, dammit, can't you ever get outside yourself for ONE MINUTE? If you're going to keep rejecting the facts as gathered by the U.S. government, Business Week, etc., etc. in favor of YOUR LIFE STORY, then I'm going to have to ask you to go bother someone else for a while. . .

I know that Elvis 'made it' on good looks and good singing---but the capitalist world needs more workers in pressing plants, auditoriums, and record shops than singers---no matter how many good singers there may be!

: Your dismissal of my "anecdotal" story trivializes my solid work ethic and ignores my aspirations, Barry.

I told you here that one problem with anecdotes is that people who use them take them TOO PERSONALLY when debating others.

: I suggest quite plainly that there will always be pump jockeys and soda jerks but some pump jockeys (I worked at many gas stations in my youth) want more than that.

What if ALL OF THEM wanted 'more than that'?

Again, we return to the issue that you keep evading: the capitalist system perpetuates an INELASTIC ratio of employees to bosses. There's not enough decent work to EVER go around in capitalist social relations of production.

Falling back on 'that's the way it's always been' disregards Morgan H. Lewis (and all subsequent research) PLUS regurgitates the fundamentalist logic of the slave-holder (I ruled, I rule, therefore itís RIGHT that I rule).

: When did my labor cease to be mine during the course of my business investment and growth? I notice you skip this every time I ask the question because it forces you into a quandary of jargon juxtaposition.

'Skip it each time'? Are you deaf? Each tedious debate we have, I say: 'Your' labor is always predicated upon the labor of OTHERS. We can never separate 'your' labor from the labor of 'youR' employees except by monopolizing the means of production and forcing most people to accept 'your' terms of separation---under penalty of hunger and homelessness. If THAT is 'a quandary of jargon juxtaposition,' then I suspect you are simply clinging to an ideology that 'conveniently' justifies your appropriation of other people's work.

* Engels based his conclusions on the anthropological research of Lewis H. Morgan, proof that communal, matriarchal social relations were the NORM in prerecorded history. These 19th century findings have been confirmed a thousand times over since then.

** Rand, contrary to Doc's dubious assertion, did NOT originate the 'superior brains' theory. Bernard Shaw debated this issue in his 1894 Socialism and Superior Brains polemic, around the time Rand discovered sucking her thumb.

*** Of course, there are exceptions. And they are so rare WE CALL THEM 'exceptions.'


1. Shaw, Socialism and Superior Brains [1894], John Lane Co., 1911, p. 30.

2. Marx, Capital volume one [1867], International 1967, p. 386.

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