- Capitalism and Alternatives -

How sad...

Posted by: Red Deathy ( Socialist Party, UK ) on May 18, 1999 at 21:46:07:

In Reply to: the tragic tale of the lampshade maker posted by Gee on May 18, 1999 at 15:24:45:

: May I suggest that the due debate would last forever. The debate would be a series of conflicting wants (end products) and conflicting job wants (in terms of what they wish to do) which presetn either/or propositions.

Don't forget, job wants also co-incide with providing for needs, if people want needs satisfying, they should help work towards getting them satisfied.

: Imagine a person who wants to be lampshade maker when there are more than enough lampshades. In capitalism he will be put off by the very low returns available in a saturated market. In the above scenario he must be dissuaded by his fellows, who must have information about lampshades (can you tell if London has enough lampshades?) if they are to 'prove' anything. The lampshade man must also then be self motivated not to go ahead and make lampshades pointlessly, because he still gets to share in what other people are producing, but to work at something thats needed (which again is difficult, can you tell how many loaves of bread are actually needed in London, or in the local village for that matter?).

1:We can tell hpow many are needed by how many are ordered, or by how many generally get used.
2:If they are a specially good lamp-shade maker, why shouldn't they go on making lampshades, to order, if they run out of orders, they can find something else to do to kill the time...gardens need weeding tha knowest...lack of orders means boredom for our lamp-shade maker.

: In capitalism he will be put off by the low returns (low demand) and motivated by the higher returns (caused by demand) in bread making. In the above scenario he needs to be 'advised' by other people to change job with information which is questionable, and can be debated in terms divorced from reality (ie "i want to, I feel invigorated - its an intangible benefit") and when put to vote, can be ignored anyway ("I have the right to make lampshades and the right to share in your produce too")

Again, since its production for needs, and since orders slump off, thye'll run out of work to do, and if they make a surplus of lampshades, then perhaps others don't need to do that work,a nd can knock off and do otehr things. If people think they're being a wanker, they'll say so to their face. the point is, capitalism can't knock off when demand slumps, it has to keep on trying to produce, or it goes out of business, when demand for lampshades dies, our friend has some spare time coming...

: The problem being that identifying the source of their own downfall would be debatable. Imagine a commune where necessities are produced that *just* keep everyone alive. the musicians dont want anything more (ie they are not failing) and simply take the food and carry on being musical. For them, all their wants are met. The people producing the actual goods needed for survival do want more goods and more choice (they are failing), and certainly want less second rate renditions of Bob Dylan. They debate & they vote, but they cant a) force musicians to do more productive work or b) produce only for themselves which would free up capacity to pursue those other wants they had.

Ah, I think I miss-understood your half-hour musicians, I thought you meant people putting half-an hour in a week as musicians along side otehr tings- well, anyway, these musicians would have to note that their falling down on the job, and would have to realise that the entire system is endangered if them as are doing harder work start to feel like they need more goods. 'From each according to their abilities...' etc.

: The musicians have the others over a barrel. As long as they (others) produce sufficient collective basic goods they can just take and live off their work whilst putting out their own unwanted 'produce'.
And the system would fall apart- again, teh condition of failure is its motivation for success, their self interest does not lie in expropriation of others' work.

: In capitalism the musicians will understand the low regard their produce is held in by the lack of resources they get for their efforts. The producers of the basic goods will have the extra capacity to produce extra goodies. The musicians will not be baled out (*rewarded* for producing no value for other people) by others.

However, under capitalism, people who produce too much have disincentive, too much food, too many shirts, and you start to go bankrupt. For the sake of self-interest, everyone must keep the system going- the condition for the devlopment of each is the development of all. Plus they'd get bored doing half-and-hour a weeks music, and go on to do more useful things...

: Red, Im not being obtuse. I think you underestimate the complexity of 'producing for needs' and the extent to which the system is open to abuse, either well meaning (the lampshade man) or malicious (the musicians) with the consequence that the output is grossly inefficient (lampshades) or grossly unjust (musicians). Less extreme and far more subtle versions of both the 'well meaning' and malicious abuses of democratically orchestrated production would plague even quite homogeneous communes.

No, I understand thats its complex, however, production is supply side led- people place orders, based on what they want, and producers try to comply, if the lamp-shade making were a serious drain on resources, the community would have to cut off supplying the lamp-shade maker with materials- as a last resort. People have to actively apply themselves to making teh system work.

: The key is that people act in their self interest by following their individual values and i argue that the values poeple pursue differ so widely that the homogeneous populations required for even the marginal success of such market-less communes dont exist in any number over around (I'm guessing) 200 well chosen highly similar members. It is no accident that the most vigorous competitive capitalism grew up in the 'melting pot' of highly diversified America, whilst in comparison the more homogeneous japanese people are notably more 'collective' in their culture (to a point).

Hmm, England was pretty homogeneous... ;) did well for two centuries. But when people are living as part of a productive community, their self-interest is their communal interest, and vice-versa, a communal bond would be formed, out of sheer necessity to keep the system afloat.

: I do think youre 100% right that this kind of socialism cant happen until people are ready for it, and that is the reason I dont think it will ever happen on any significant scale.

People are ready for it, they just have to want it.

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