- Capitalism and Alternatives -

OK, hexadecimal then

Posted by: Nikhil Jaikumar ( DSA, MA, USA ) on October 05, 1999 at 15:17:23:

In Reply to: me binary? posted by Gee on October 04, 1999 at 11:09:57:

: Did I suggest it was an overnight success? However take the general trend over centuries and observe the impact of technology from the fist tools via farming, Roman building, Middle age iron and renaissance machinery and you have an upward tremd which escalates with technological advance.

Escalates with on the average, hoever the two do not always go hand in hand, you can have technological increases combined with a decreased standard of living (e.g. the early invention of agriculture). I woudl ague that at leats teh early industrial revolution might fall into thsi category (though I'm nottoo knowledgeable about this era).

Also, while the point above is (generally) well taken, i am not convinced that capitalism is a logical or necessray extension of the process described above. If the progress you describe is continuous, then capitalism should merely be a seamless extension- but is it? or is it rather one of several economic systems which can accomodate progress, and perhaps not the best in terms of satisfying basic needs for everyone?

: standards of living right befroe capitalism took hold were better than those (in Europe) of a hundred years before, and so on. To find a point at which "99.9%" of people were living in squalor, and at whichj conditions frist started improving, you would have to go way back into history- long before capitalism was even invented.

: Yes, wasnt saying that 1699 was squalor, but 1700 was wonderful. One needs to note the rapid exapnasion (in proportion of human population) in the last 3 centuries though, and particularly in this one - despite the best efforts of Hitler, Stalin and Zedong.

.....and despite the attempts of the Belgians, the Imperial Germans, the indonesians, and the market-induced famines. Bear in mind, however, that an increase inpopulation does not necessarily mean a higher average standard of living. You can ahve a tradeoff between supporting mroe people at a lower level or fewer people at a higher level. The invention of agriculture and the subsequent carbohydrate-rich diet allowed us to feed many mroe people, but it also caused nutrition levels to drop and made us vulnerable to nutritional deficiencey diseases, esp. protein and vitamins.

: : Well, actually, to a degree technological progress can make you MORE vulnerable to weather vicisstiudes; e.g, agriculture and the invention of cities, necessitated a sedentary lifestyle, which made people more vulnerable to droughts, flooding, blights, communicable disease, etcetera. To quote colin turnbull, "what teh hunter lsoes today he can regain tomorrow", such is nbot teh case fro a farmer or a factroy worker. In general, improvements in teh standard of living ahev lagged behind improvements in technology.

: The point is that tech gives you a blanket of safegaurds against nature - some areas may fail while others continue.

Well, sometimes the safeguards simply don't exist- urbanization makes for easier disease transport, for example, and if you are a city dweller caught in a cholera epidemic today tehre isn't a whole hell of a lot you can do. While technology amy save some people from some emergencies, it makes other people more vulnerable to other emergencies. teh tradeoff you are talking about is a societal one- more people benefit than suffer- so it has little relevance to teh lives of those who are the victims.

: : see above. The only iron-clad argument you can make about human life getting better is that many diseases have been vanquished, multiplying human life expectancy by a factor of maybe four times. This is an immense achievemnet, but it is due more to the achievemnets of pure science rather than applied technology.

: The latter is required to make the former of practical value.

Not so. Science advanced under plenty of non-capitalist regimes; pre-capitalist Germany, monarchical Italy, Soveit Russia, India, Cuba...even in our own country, the atomic bomb was made possible by government funding. Scientists need money (in general- some of tehm don't even need that much) and it doesn'yt particulraly matter if teh money comes from private industry for the government. the argument about 'private donations are necessary to give --- an incentive) that people use about public televison, etc. is simply not applicable here. If you double the funding to a scientist, it doesn't follwo that he will discovertwice as much stuff. he will make discoveries if and only if his theory is correct, his experiment is appropriate, etc. there si no telling in advance whether the result fo an experiment will be positive or not. It is fpor this reason that i say the profit motive is irrelevant to scientific progress.

: : No one was paying the doctor who discovered penicillin to find a new antibiotic; he noticed one day that some mold killed bacteria, and tehre we were. Likewise, most of teh fudnamental acheivements of science had no profitability or economic application at the time tehy were made,

: They were very long range 'investments', observe maxwell's equations and its influence on communications and physics.

I'm having a little tyrouble parsing this. Are you saying that Maxwell discovered the 4 laws of electromagnetism because he foresaw that someday they woudl make television possible, amnd he wanted to rake in the bucks. Do you REALLY believ that?! If so, then I'm afraid the only polite thing i can say is "still skeptical".

: : thus you can't argue that they came about because the profit motive.

: Not all profit is money today. Knowledge is gain too.

But if you define profit in such a broad way, it becomes almost devodi of meaning, doesn't it?

: : How, then, can you claim that science would not ahve advanced without teh profit motive?

: I didnt argue it. I did argue that said medicines wouldnt get anywhere without the profit motive to encourage people to develop masses of needles, pills and distribution networks.

1) Look, it's well known that if you're interested in the profit motive, you don't go into science. Scientists are well-enough educated that they could be making lots more money as doctors or engineers; resarch salaries, comapred with what they migt be making, are generaly pretty piddly. If the profit motive is already a low priority for these people, then what makes you think that increaisng their profits woulfd make them work harder (many of them already work 16-hour days, so i don't see how they COULD 'work harder' even if he wanted to).

2) Scientific advances are not directly related to teh amount of work you put in, so even if they did work twice as hard, if they have the wrong theory and/or are asking teh wrong questions, they won't get anywhere.

3) As for distribution networks, etc., nonrpofit groups and government medical boards ahve done far more for sick people than private hospitals (many countries don't even have private hospitals). It's well knwon that most epopel who get sick are poor, and poor people don't ahve money to pay doctors, so....

:A scientists who sneers at this as 'below him' condemns his discovery to waste.

What does it mean for a discovery to be 'wasted'/ You just said above that 'knowledge = profit', didn't you?

: : Erm, major factual problem here. The san of soutehrn Africa, and the Pygmies, today's prototypical exampels of hunter-gathering societies, spent only 3 hours a day frogaing fro food and doing otehr necessary things for survival;

: Look where they live and compare with eskimos and desert dwelling people.

Uh? I'm not sure what you're asking here.

: Can you link some evidence for leisure time - i see so much conflicting stuff.

: : See the point above about intellectual curiosity being teh driving force behind so muchscinetific research

: I liked Carl Sagan too.

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