- Capitalism and Alternatives -

Has capitalism?

Posted by: Farinata ( L'inferno ) on September 16, 1999 at 22:43:23:

In Reply to: It hasn't worked. posted by Darcy Carter on September 16, 1999 at 20:37:43:

: : I've visited India before, as all my relatives are from there. You probably know that three of India's states, totaling about 110 million people, live under communist governments that they elected (and re-elected many times.) The conclusion seems obvious, that these people are smart enough to see that communism offers the only hope of actually bettering their lives.

: India. Yes. What a thoroughly well organised and prosperous state, the socialist dream has eradicated poverty, children are all well clothed, healthy and educated, there is universal education and health care and everyone glows with a sense of general well being. Get a grip.

Funny you should say that. I've been to India as well. I saw starving people. I saw some inequality. But I never saw anyone who looked down on their fellow Indian because of their poverty. I was treated with kindliness by rich and poor alike while travelling there; which is more than can be said about our mean-spirited and shabby country, Darcy.

Oh, and for your information, India is self-sufficient. It can feed itself. Can the US or UK say that? No.

So when it becomes economically impractical to transport foodstuffs intercontinentally due to rising fuel prices (give it 20 years), India will still be able to feed itself; where the UK and US will not. India is self-sustaining; we aren't.

Oh, and as for education, you might want to ask Nikhil about the literacy rate in Kerala, one of the Communist states.

: : : You would observe that we who are lucky enough to live in Western democracies, even if we are poor by the standards of these societies, live a life of paradise compared to the vast majority of those from the rest of the world.

: : Really? Were you perchance aware that a Cuban on average lives longer than an American, a Shanghainese longer than a New Yorker, and a black man from Sao Tome longer than a black man from Harlem. Or that starvation and destitution are rare in any genuine socialist / communist society?

: That says more about the American diet and Harlem drug / gang culture amongst young males than it does about socialism.

You really think Harlem is a statistically significant part of the US?

As for the American diet; well, if it weren't for the capitalists in government keeping the price of meat artificially low, meat and dairy produce would approach a "real" value reflecting their environmental cost; such a rise would typically make meat cost between 25 and 50 times what it costs today.

(Of course, the capitalist meat companies would have apopleptic fits if you suggested that meat obey the real laws of production cost; so they market their product at the public constantly and use the developing world as sources of cheap meat.)

: Have you ever been to Cuba? THE PEOPLE IN CUBA HAVE NOTHING. They are very, very poor. And China - well, overalls and political repression. Wonderful. If I lived there, I don't think i'd want to live that long.

Would you rather live in Burma, where they just gaoled a UK national for 7 years - for singing a song in a public place?

(The SLORC in Burma are supported by Total Oil, Dragon Oil, Siemens, Philips and sundry arms companies; it is also tacitly supported by the UK, French, German and US governments.)

Or Ogoniland in Nigeria; where Mobil and Chevron and Royal Dutch Shell are doing their best to wipe out the local people?

Or Colombia, where BP and Chevron are funding state-trained paramilitary groups?

Or Indonesia, where the military regime has been committing genocide of one sort or another for the last 30 years.

(The sad fact is that East Timor is the rare exception; a capitalist-funded genocide that got noticed; what about the genocide in West Papua?)

: These silly examples are to do with diet etc. Of course someone who lives on rice and fish is likely to live to a ripe old age even without top-class medical care. So what?

So, a nation which overeats as a default is likely to suffer poor health. Why do they overeat? Because they can. Why can they? Because others are not eating.

Let's make this nice and simple; there is a fixed physical amount of "food" in the world at any one time; regardless of money. If a power bloc like the West is overeating systematically, it is because there is another area which is not consuming.

: Where are these "genuine communist societies" that offer such living conditions? I might go and live there.

Try the Exodus collective; they're just outside Luton. There are also any number of LETS (local exchange trading schemes); there are about 10 to 15 in London and others elsewhere; they operate perfectly well without money, as they have been for 30 years. These are good examples of small-scale collectivism working.

: :
: : Most of those experiments weren't genuine communism, the ones that did make an effort at democratic communism generally succeeded.

: Like where? Like so many socialists, it's the "but it wasn't genuine communism" line. Doesn't this tell you anything? - "genuine communism" as you probably imagine it is impossible.

Perhaps you'd care to point to anywhere that genuine Adam Smith-style deregulated capitalism has been implemented?

The nearest thing to the promised state of unfettered capitalism we've seen is the last decade in Somalia (that haven of peace and serenity!); where any fast lad with an AK-47 and some ammo can make it to the top.

: There's been enough attempts. If it was going to work, it would have worked by now.

What? Let's see, it's less than 150 years since Karl Marx wrote Das Kapital.

Now, Plato wrote The Republic in 450 B.C. or thereabouts. How long was it between Plato's writing and any sort of modern democracy?

Does this mean that someone in 100 A.D., observing the flourishing Roman Empire, would be correct in saying "well, it was a very nice idea, but completely impractical in the real world..."?

: You don't hear capitalists bemoaning the ruin of a string of countries by their system and then saying "oh, but that wasn't genuine capitalism."

Oh yes you do. In fact, examine the current state of Russia. The quality of everyday life of the Russian citizen has suffered a dramatic drop over the last ten years. Ask a member of the Chicago School and they'll tell you it was because Russia was engaging in crony capitalism; despite the fact that the West and the IMF have been involved in Russia's economic policy for the last seven years. Point to the battleground that is Africa and capitalists will tell you that it's because they haven't implemented "pure" capitalism.

Observe the trade wars going on between the US and the EU; they exist due to "impure capitalism" (a.k.a. "protectionism") if you ask the free-marketeers.

Let's take a specific example; bananas.

As we all know, Chiquita has vast banana plantations in Mesoamerica; they treat their staff appallingly and churn out bananas and other fruit by the tonne, dominating the world banana market to the point of monopoly. They also donate money to the US government. A lot of money.

Now let's take the West Indies. They produce some bananas; but are subsidized by the EU, who are their major market for the bananas. Bananas are their one major cash crop. Because of these subsidies, they can stay afloat in the EU banana market. Chiquita observes these subsidies as unfair and contrary to the principles of free trade; for they want to dominate the EU market completely as well. So they complain to the US Government and point to the funds they donate to the Government saying "look, we give you money, support us". The US duly complains to the WTO, which rules that the subsidies are unfair according to the principles of "free trade".

Without the money from those bananas, the economy of the West Indies will be devastated; they will turn to their one other viable cash crop; illegal narcotics; which has a deleterious effect on the life of the average West Indian, but benefits the few crime lords who profit from the capitalist trade in drugs. Widespread suffering to the average West Indian, heaps of money to a few privileged West Indians and a whole new headache for the US in the form of a boom in the supply of illegal narcotics.

This is one example of what "free trade" does. Yet any good capitalist will tell you that imposing the free market on the West Indies is infinitely preferable to the subsidies and protectionism that went on beforehand. I don't think the average West Indian would agree, somehow.

: : Look at what social indicators like life expectancy, infant mortality, education, as well as things like inequality and satisfaction with the government, did during genuine democratic-communist or socialist revolutions. Such as the Sandinistas in Nicaragua, the parliamentary communism in Kerala or Bengal, the Sankaraist Revolution in Burkina Faso, or the Marxists in Namibia or Zimbabwe. Invariably conditions becme better in every regard. Even some states which are not fully democratic, like Cuba and Laos, still have made immense steps forward that put teh rest of teh world to shame.

: Cuba? Laos? Namimbia? Burkina Faso? Are you mad? The latter is the poorest country in the world. Namibia is currently a very frightening war zone patrolled by very unfriendly men with big guns. The people of Cuba are extremely poor, even if they are educated to a sufficient standard to read state propoganda and Loas - well, if that's an improvement I'd hate to have seen what it was like before. If that's the best you can come up with I really do think you're badly struggling.

You haven't actually provided any rebuttal to his arguments; merely pooh-poohed them. This is a Debating Room; we work on points of fact and evidenced arguments here. Nikhil has repeatedly cited evidence in the many previous posts he has made to this room; time for you to back up your claims, I feel.

: I was talking about what people's own governments had done to them.

Oh, like Burma, Indonesia, Chile, Argentina, Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Cuba (Batista-era), Haiti, Malaysia, Thailand.

(That's deaths, of course. We won't mention things like forcible sterilisation, as practised by Canada and Australia, or "racial profiling", as practised by the US.)

Or we could take a look at Amnesty International; which is currently campaigning againt the US's widespread disrespect and contravention of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights...

: The reason it will not happen again between 2 capitalist states is that those states / citizens have too much to loose under capitalism.

Oh good grief. Not this old chestnut again...

Let's not mention Serbia and Croatia in 1992...

Nikhil's the expert on this; he had a list of 12 examples of such conflicts since 1945. Of course, it depends what you mean by "capitalist"; Gee's response was "well, they're not really capitalist"...

: The reason much of the world is so poor today is that the political systems governing many countries are too corrupt to initiate a proper capitalist democracy.

Of course, this isn't helped by capitalist companies seeking to exploit the poor countries by propping up regimes which violate every human right in the book; can you say Burma, or Guatemala or Indonesia, or Turkey?

As an example, see how many of these "corrupt" countries have first-class tickets to exhibitions like COPEX? (the Covert and anti-insurgency Procurement Exhibition; held this year in Epsom, I think.)

The UK taxpayer funds representatives of these regimes to come over to the UK, where the "defence" industry tries to sell them instruments of torture and repression; such as stun batons, rubber handcuffs and nausea gases; the UK government knows that these weapons will be used in contravention of humanitarian codes against dissenters and protestors; in some cases, like that of R. Maudsley, a UK national gaoled a few weeks ago for 17 years because he handed out pro-democracy leaflets, it is entirely likely he was tortured with UK-made equipment.

The UK government persists with the arms industry because it insists that the defence industry creates jobs for Britain; in fact, as Vickers Ltd. informed the House of Commons, it can take up to 600,000 to create one job in some sectors of the defence industry; money that could fund 30 well-paid nurses.

: This will come with time - it is capitalism that will end poverty and, as discussed above, war.

Such faith. Such blind faith.

: Of Couse! Stalinism is not communism. Just like Thatcherism is not capitalism

Funny; it was one of Thatcher's proud boasts that she fostered the Adam Smith Institute; she would claim herself to be one of the purest capitalists around; she formed much of her minimal-state policy from the writings of Robert Nozick; writings which even Nozick said he thought were wrong in hindsight.

: : The valid comparison between communism and capitalism is that states which go from capitalism to social tend to do better in terms of standard of living while those that go from socialism to capitalism invariably see the standard of living fall.

: Chile got rid of their communist lunatics in the 1970s and the standard of living has increased dramatically.

Actually, if you examine the figures (which say that "Between 1972 and 1987, the GNP per capita fell 6.4 percent".), you'll see that the standard of living decreased with the accession of the dictator Pinochet. And the best that Friedman and his cronies could do was to bankrupt the country.

The salient points; the Chilean economy became more unstable than any other Latin American country, the inflation-adjusted earnings of the average worker in 1989 were lower than they were in 1973, Chile's economic growth was in fact the lowest of any South American country and Chile became the most polluted country in South America. Nice one, Milton Friedman.

((Pinochet) "has supported a fully free-market economy as a matter of principle. Chile is an economic miracle." - Milton Friedman, Newsweek, 1982)

See again my example of Russia above; they've suffered a decrease in average standard of living since the breakup of the USSR.

(This is *despite* the fact that the USSR was spending 50% of its GDP on weapons during some parts of the Cold War.)

:And Nicaragua - hardly a by word for political stability and prosperity. would you want to live there? I bloody know I wouldn't.

Not with all those US-funded Contras, no. They're a terrorist menace. Almost as bad as the Guatemalan government, or that of Pinochet.

In fact, since the US sponsored and trained torture squads in Bolivia, Colombia, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Peru,and Venezuela, Latin America isn't my idea of heaven.

Just face it - capitalism as it works in the real world (not in some text book) causes does not function to creat comfort or freedom for its people. There is no point saying that this or that country wasn't really capitalist or that it could work if this, that or the other were the case.


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