- Capitalism and Alternatives -

Questioning the theory

Posted by: Gee ( si ) on January 21, 19100 at 13:07:21:

In Reply to: The ruling class determines which abilities are worth what posted by Barry Stoller on January 20, 19100 at 22:24:28:

: I am consolidating your two other posts, 12289 and 12285 into my response to this one.

Good idea.

: Briefly summarized, what a worker produces is determined not only by their effort and ability, but by the general level of material development, i.e. machinery, technology, and raw materials. Since most workers (in socialized, i.e. industrial society) do NOT determine the investment (hence, technological) level of the TOOLS they work with, they can NOT be really held accountable for what they produce.

Given that you have accepted their effort and ability is one of the determinents it should read "they can NOT be really held *wholly* accountable for what they produce" A matter with which I would tend to agree, the benefit of the machines etc being granted by those who conceived of and designed them.

: Example: the hard worker who makes telephones using crude machinery could not hope to compete with the goof-off who makes telephones using the most sophisticated, productive machinery. To penalize the first worker, to reward the second worker, because they access differing levels of technology (determined by people other than those workers) would be COMPLETELY ARBITRARY.

A nice example but as wages are determined by supply / demand (with a base rate at which it would not be worth working, ie the rate at which you're better off hunting and gathering) both workers are subject the value placed upon them by 1) their potential employers 2) by the availability of their competitors and substitutes and 3) orchestrating the whole - due to consumer demand.

So in this sense one isn't rewarding or penalising anyone in the sense of making an emotional or moral judgement. To hold onto the principle 'according to work' with a view to more or less equal outcomes one would have to constantly modify benefits for factors unrelated to output (calories burned anyone?) which would not sit well with reality. So I can see your position.

: (on that theoretical desert island you libertarian free market proponents insist represents our industrialized, interconnected society) could that principle be fair. Because labor is (now) socialized, 'receiving according to work' has become meaningless.

I'm not sure 'we' do think that - but 'we' do distinguish between different productive wholes. So the fellow operating a machine is 'productive' largely because of the machine's designers but not because of the carpenter nextdoor or his sister.

: That's why I advocate equal pay, i.e. the application of the communist principle, 'to each according to their need.'

People's needs differ, whether by objective or 'self defined' standards and so equal pay will not meet the stated goal.


: Version 2: "From each according to ability to each according to work"

: You'll have to help me out here. What does it mean by 'work'? Does that mean any work,
any contribution is an equal claim on ability?

These two question get to the essence of things.

What indeed is ability?

Skills which transform one thing into another - rocks into steel and cars, a ball and newtonian physics into entertaining baseball - ad infinitum. The keys are action and change. difficult concept agreed.

Who determines which abilities are more valuable than others?

When exchanging things people will value or not value different things, a 'consumer' determines it as we'll see in the basketball example.

:" In the social production of their existence, men inevitable enter into definite relations, which are independent of their will, "

But not independant of their will - or the relations would never have come about in the first place, there would be no 'relations' were it not for the will of people. This smacks of the 'hapless leaf on the breeze' view of man, unable to determine anything about his own life. I therefore dont see that "existence that determines their consciousness" but that such a process is far more a progressive two way relation, an involvement.

: "The personality of every one who has attained eminence in the intellectual or social field belongs to those chances whose appearance does not conflict in any way with the tendency of the average line of the intellectual development of mankind to follow a course parallel to that of its economic evolution".

Here the author implictly denies any role of a persons distinct identity (much disliked dna) as having a role and instead attributes every development to their social environment (but not their evolutionary one, which as I said before is a gross oversight). There is also the implication that all is 'chance' and that one's will makes no difference. I find that implausable in view of the above.

So, unsurprisingly, I don't hold those statments to be wholly true - but I recommend to any other 'individualists' who read them not to simply disregard them without thought.

: One: ideas correspond to the material development of an epoch. The epoch of feudalism did not require the steam engine, the capitalist epoch did. Indeed, the capitalist forces within the feudal era called forth the steam engine,

Hmm, I;m sure you didn't intend it but you made that sound as if the steam engine was a pre existing knowlegde just waiting in the wings! Those who developed the steam angine and the other technological advances which marked the industrial revolution are those who, intentionally or not, caused fuedalism to give way to a more capitalist society. To talk of 'forces' is to implicitly deny people's minds and wills in the matter, as if the progression is some natural occurance over which mankind has no power whilst in fact it is people who are steering.

:Two: ideas, materially and historically called forth, are invented by men---but only so far as the general development of society supports these ideas. Babbage may have anticipated computers, but his epoch didn't support the fruition of these ideas; the computer had to wait for another epoch (and another inventor) in which to appear.

Babbage's computers would have been the size of a barn and been able to struggle to simple mental arithmetic. They weren't made because Babbage and others did not understand / conceive of all the necessary technologies to enable a computer nor. Its not that the 'times' weren't ready but that the people didn't know how. Divorcing techology from its inventors by referring to 'epochs' reverses causality. States that technology and knowlegde results from an epoch, whereas an epoch evolves as people develop technology and knowledge. Not 'mere players' but those at the helm, unwittingly or not. Material forces don't think, people do, in response to whatever environmental demands it requires a person to think and act both of which are voluntary phenonoma and require the will of the individual to make so.

: In other words: if an individual did not invent something, another individual would have.

This conclusion then is the most hopefull of all. It is also untestable either way, there being no 'control planet' on which you can experiment with the removal of key inventors.

: Thus, ability is as much a product of social development as the 'private possession' of an individual.

You seem to be suggesting a roughly equal relationship between the two. Which does not sit with your following reason for the 'social claim' upon invention. Nor indeed do I see it that way. To suggest that an inventor is so because of the grace of *all* others in society is implausible. The inventors of computers have before them mathematics, engineering, philosophy and many other fields necessary to enable them to invent the computer, but pleasent mary next door is not part of that, has no claim on that.

So the inventor who wishes to retain their invention privately does not with to secret all the knowledge pre existing which enabled the invention, just his 'bit' which is not replicated by others and has not existed prior to his conception. This is no ransom.


: Example: the architect cannot build a house without workers, the workers cannot build a house without a plan. You will say---as you have so often said before---the architect's ability is scarcer, more valuable than the ability of the laborers required to build the house.

What I say is that the architect's plan is that which enables the workers to work - its the initiating force, the enabler. The availablity of the workers does not inhibit the architect from making the plan.

: However, the third participant is the landowner, who seems to possess so much ability that he / she will earn MUCH more than the architect and the laborers combined.

Focussing on the 'architects' has meant that I've missed the above too much, agreed. However - as I stated that the inventor may wish retain value equal to his output privately and is to be free to use that as he may then he in turn might become a landowner by vurtue of his ability and may choose to gift that to a worthless heir. It is pretty much a package deal, as I stated with socialism not being a menu from which to pick the agreeable - nor would the free market be.

Removing the above means denying the inventor the fruit of invetion and his will in the matter which I believe will result him producing less and less, as he has no private say in what he does. You won't have worthless heirs and unproductive land owners, but you won't have productive inventors and therefore workers either.

: But private property always devolves into the negation of ability: those with capital RENT (other's) ability, expropriate the surplus of that labor, become more powerful, dictate even harsher terms.....

Because the sum of wealth can grow and this growh is a function of ability there are no insurmountable barriers to the acquisition of new capital by said inventors and innovators who choose not to be rented.

: There's a new chicken and egg for you to ponder...



: The ruling class in every epoch determines which abilities are more important than others.

In the soviet union the ruling class ruled by the initiation of force (not the same as 'work or starve' which does not imply you *must* sell labor in order to live). The society in which basketball players are valued is one in which the free choice of consumers takes them to see basketball, especially with good players in it. Good players are rare and so attract a premium. The same consumers also value child care, but many people are good child care. In addition - one basketball player entertains millions of basketball fans on TV as well as live. Many times $0.10 would be a lot. One child carer however can only care for so many children. A few times $15 is not so much. You'll have to explain a little more how a 'ruling class' in such a society makes those consumer choices for the consumers.


: And so, when the socialist order releases the FULL potential of the means of production---no longer hampered by capitalist competition, monopoly, market anarchy, and periodic crises of overproduction---there will be enough goods to distribute all goods 'according to needs.' That is the higher phase of communist society to be achieved.

For reasons discussed above I don't think it will release the full potential, I think it will inhibit it.

: What if those of greater than average ability wish to retain value equal to that they've produced? what is to be done with them / to them?

: If social status, pride in accomplishment, and schedules of reinforcement do not encourage creativity in one person, then others will take that person's place (following Plekhanov).

I don't agree with Plekhanov's assertion, I think its a most dangerous and hopeful view, ans I'll wager that people wouldn't risk someone magically having the same thoughts as the inventor due to 'forces'. Lets assume, for our amusement, that he is right. What if the next inventor whant to make it private and so on and so on? Would Plekhanov see the village idiot eventually inventing the thing because he is 'next of the list'? Take Plekhanov with a large pinch of salt - he may have a useful point to a degree, but I wouln't put much stock in his statement.

:We do not know how many people with 'greater than average ability' there are, however---because capitalist society rations education and opportunity (75% of American...

Not rationed in some deliberate manner, also the proportion of educated is growing over time - its not static either. So I think its a questionable model. I agree with the first sentence though.

: As far as those people who refuse to work entirely, they will either work or starve.

: Just like it goes in capitalist society.

: (And that's the part of all my posts you keep dodging.)

I accept you position that those who don't contribute to 'society' will starve.

One of you best posts thus far though.

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