Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.
  1.  Perhaps it's come up in some of the economics-focused diaries I don't read, but could you provide some examples of how the term "Capitalism" has been irresponsibly used in a serious diary or comment?  I'm just a bit confused, because I find debates about the nuances of systems of economics and governance far outnumber "strawmen" arguments here.  

  2.  For clarification, when I say, "Capitalism," I mean specifically, "the economic incarnation of evil."  

  3.  Ok, seriously, now.  (Apologizes.)  As a layperson, I am concerned with how an ideology which favors private enterprise over collective responsibility and public welfare (which is what I do mean when I use the term "Capitalism") effects our lives (humanity, all of it) negatively or positively, and for me this is a matter of ethics.  

There is a smidgen of strawman argument in the sentence "The mechanisms involved in Capitalism - competition, free-markets, etc - are good tools for finding solutions to certain classes of production and distribution under the economic constraints that are in place but the solutions they will provide are determined by the constraints under which they find themselves."  Firstly, one could just as easy say "The mechanisms involved in torture - fear, psychological manipulation, etc - are good tools for finding solutions to certain classes of perceived social threats under the legal constraints that are in place but the solutions they will provide are determined by the constraints under which they find themselves."  What's that?  Torture doesn't have a good track record of getting reliable results?  It places people in situations in which they are stripped of their dignity?  It may lead to death?  Maybe that's just because governments aren't using it responsibly or regulating it enough.  Ok, that's a strawman too.  But analogy is the only way I can make the point.  Do I need to elaborate?  

My problems with this line of reasoning:

  •  The assumption that this system is a just toolbox and without any inherent ideological nature or (perhaps more importantly) function.  That the problems and solutions are practical, not moral in nature.  Purely about supply and demand.
  •  The assumption that the faults of this system are not implicit or unavoidable, but are results of how this ideology is implemented or regulated by governments.  Unless by "constraints under which they find themselves" you mean inherent constraints and not imposed constraints.  That's vague.  
  •  The assumption that we agree on what constitutes a certain problem, solution or constraint.  That we have the same goals and motives.  
  •  The assumption that even if we agree on what constitutes a certain problem, solution or constraint, that there is not a more preferable set of tools to accomplish the same desired outcome.
  •  The assumption that how any of these tools work in theory resemble in any way how they actually work in reality.
  •  The assumption that it is solely governments and not individuals who are responsible "to set the constraints under which the tools of Capitalism work and to deal with the problems which aren't amenable to solution with those tools - not to mention ameliorating the undesirable consequences of the tools themselves." I personally find the implication here counter-intuitive.  Capitalism (private enterprise over collective responsibility and public welfare) is fine so long as governments regulate it and clean up it's mess?  Here in America we call that ... Socialism!  It's "no true Scotsman" for capitalists!  lol.

FWIW, I pretty much agree with your last paragraph, and I suspect most people are truly in more agreement than they image, but get hung up on self-identification and the deeply connotative nature of ideological labels.    

So, really I'm not debating capitalism here, but just the way in which you presented your concern.  Which, ironically, I think repeats some of same mistakes that are getting under your skin.

I think I just gave myself a migraine, so I'll take this comment off the air.  Thanks. :)

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.

by poemless on Thu Feb 21st, 2008 at 12:53:43 PM EST
walking around here, either. On the other hand I think that Colman's point is substantive. (No evidence presented, but it's understandable and supportable IMO.)

You bring in ethics and 'evil'. Colman did not. The fact that I agree with you and your response is 'off thread' - however brilliantly written (as usual).

Capitalism is mostly criticized (or derided) on this site for several good reasons. First, from the purely historical viewpoint, here we are. Even if I was a Rockefeller, I would not be happy/satisfied with the current state of the world. Can't really blame the Communists or the "Nobility" for it. Even the local dictators play a minor role. The capitalist plutocracy is driving this thing.

Second, from a theory-of-capitalism viewpoint, the idea is to pull a % return from the use of capital - no limit in time, only 'market limits' on portion size, no regard for extraneous concerns, no regard for the effect of private accumulation on the 'health' of the total system. (If you go back to Adam Smith, there are some constraints; but practice - again - shows more about the loss of those constraints than their use.)

Third - a kind-of strawman, but, again, historical - the accumulation of wealth is in a spiral cycle with concentration of influence. This can apply to any economic system, but here we are at the endpoint (where the past meets the future) of capitalistic hegemony.  C. Wright Mills described this tendency over 50 years ago and predicted the current situation.

For me - I think that capitalism (small c) has a useful niche. It is a reasonable system for deployment of innovation, given a time limit for exclusive exploitation, plus application of regulations concerning environmental impact, health and safety, and such. It is OK - maybe optimal, maybe not - for trade in non-essential items (essential items = food (nutrition), water, health-care, shelter, underwear).

Beyond that, either strong regulation, socialism, or Chris' scheme.

paul spencer

by paul spencer (paulgspencer@gmail.com) on Thu Feb 21st, 2008 at 04:28:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
There are ways in which self-organizing systems can be conservative. SOS is a kind of free market. I am coming to the conclusion - for practical business applications - that both a horizontal and a vertical system are needed - intertwined at some level. Like my Dutch cops recognizing SOS as the way they create flexibility, speed and robustness with former colleagues in other jurisdictions, by bypassing the hierarchy in which they work.

In nature there are both packs and flocks. And they co-inhabit in all the space of any ecosystem.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Thu Feb 21st, 2008 at 05:09:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
plus we need something like permanent revolution - not exactly that, but something like a low-O2 detector that says, "Hey, we're approaching a dangerous situation. We need to reconsider the current business model."

paul spencer
by paul spencer (paulgspencer@gmail.com) on Thu Feb 21st, 2008 at 06:05:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]


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