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 Post subject: Communism
PostPosted: Thu Jan 26, 2012 12:57 pm 
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Why? Because I can :lol:

Okay discussion is about the philosophical notion of a stateless, classless, moneyless society and potential avenues towards it. It is about the desirability of such a system, the attainability of it, and potential drawbacks.

I am not intending this to turn in to a debate on apparently failed 'transitory' states such as China, USSR, Cuba, Cambodia, North Korea or any country that has inaccurately being labelled 'communist' by the west.

Philosophical notion (preferably focusing on the application as it relates to developed nations only), not colloquialism.

I can see no problems ;)

Just to get the ball rolling:

Objection one, 'human nature' and our inherent greed.

Human nature is realised only in relation to the circumstances in which it is formed. We live in a consumer driven world where status, ownership, acquisition of wealth, success and comfort are all intertwined. Our society at present does breed selfish attitudes.

It does not mean, however, that examination of our current mode of existence can be used in isolation to form reasonable deductions about an inherent nature in all possible societies and existences.

Even if it did, we can observe altruism in our society as well as selfishness and greed. This would suggest things are not so straightforward as we might assume. We can not say everyone is naturally selfish any more than we can say they are naturally selfless.

Summary thus far: our current existence is not 'necessary,' it is conceivable that it could be otherwise, and that another existence would create a different 'natural' attitude of the humans that reside there. Just as we can observe selfishness, we can observe altruism, so human nature is more complex than we might expect.


Now assuming the worst case, and that we are selfish, it is conceivable that altruism could still be a favourable attitude. If the outcome that we seek for ourselves is only attainable through mutual aid, then altruism and selfishness can co-exist. For example, if two people are tied together, and want to head in different directions, they can either battle against each other, or head the opposite way briefly in order to untie themselves.

I have heard the human nature argument specified as an 'economic problem' That we need to satisfy apparently unlimited desire, with only finite goods. Allegedly we are greedy, and therefore there isn't enough to go around unless we bring in money, ownership etc.

To this I would agree....if we live in a situation of scarcity. When we create more than we actually need this problem goes away. For example, in a famine we will try and secure as much food as possible for our families and friends, and ourselves. If all food was free, however, how many loaves of bread would you actually take? 30, 40, 100? I wouldn't because I would just have to get rid of mouldy bread. I would take what I needed and a little spare, as would most people. The same with fuel, milk, eggs, meat, in fact all of my needs. As long as you produce more than you need (as in the developed world), then people will not take more than they can use, or not much more. Even if we were selfish, we could make things free and waste less.

If there is a problem, it is limited to luxury goods.

So much to say, but I think that is a start.


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 Post subject: Re: Communism
PostPosted: Thu Jan 26, 2012 2:57 pm 
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Quote:
Human nature is realised only in relation to the circumstances in which it is formed.


Not true. Human nature is inherent. Conversely circumstances are created because of our very own nature.

Coming back to communism, it is not necessarily a bad form of government. Infact communism exists even in democracies today (which most of us consider the best). Like you said its image has been tarnished by the west.

The major downside to communism, is its very nature to oppose human nature. We might preach equality at all levels, but most of us practice inequality at some level or the other. There is this inherent need in every person, to be "better than the rest", or be "successful" (since success is something that is relative). This very nature creates competition (and inequality) and it is competition that drives innovation. The more the competition, more rapid the growth which finally results in a Capitalist state where incentives are for people that perform.

I am not sure if you said Communism would work only in developed countries, but communism is a principle that works in poor countries. Because everyone that is poor wants to not be equal to each other, but be equal to the rich guy (Remember occupy wall street? :D). From that perspective communism as a principle is flawed. Communism in a rich country wont work, since most rich people have gotten there because of their hard work when they proved they were better than most other guys that competed with them.

Another common downside to communism is the fact that it gives rise to red tape and bureaucracy. For example trade unions. If you see places where unions exist, nothing will ever get done because everything is a collective effort. People dont get individual incentives, so why would they be motivated to do anything at all?

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 Post subject: Re: Communism
PostPosted: Thu Jan 26, 2012 7:10 pm 
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mfreak wrote:

Not true. Human nature is inherent. Conversely circumstances are created because of our very own nature.



I agree that human nature implies that, but I am rejecting it because of the implausibility of it. We have instincts, but these are limited to physical situations whereby we put our hand out when we fall, draw our hand away from something hot etc. Even these are not absolute and can be overcome. There is no decision that is hardwired in the same way.

Even if we had a definite human nature I am challenging our ability to establish what it is. Perhaps our nature will remain the same in different societies, but how it is realised WILL differ. See my bread example. Scarcity makes us act one way, surplus another.

Quote:
Coming back to communism, it is not necessarily a bad form of government. Infact communism exists even in democracies today (which most of us consider the best). Like you said its image has been tarnished by the west.


Communism is not a form of government as such, unless you are using the term in a very novel way :) Communism does not exist in any existing state. I am talking about philosophical communism as stated. A classless, stateless society...
Quote:
The major downside to communism, is its very nature to oppose human nature. We might preach equality at all levels, but most of us practice inequality at some level or the other.


Actually we practice both, depending on circumstance and other factors. Because we practice both I would not say that either is inherently definitive of who we are. There is as much problem saying we are inherently bad, as there is saying we are inherently good. The trick is to create a society in which the outcome remains the same whatever people feel.

Quote:
There is this inherent need in every person, to be "better than the rest", or be "successful" (since success is something that is relative). This very nature creates competition (and inequality) and it is competition that drives innovation. The more the competition, more rapid the growth which finally results in a Capitalist state where incentives are for people that perform.


I agree with the first bit to some extent, the second bit rather a lot, but I completely disagree with the third bit. No communist (in a genuine sense) denies the role that success and motivation have to play. This is not purely financial though, even now. It just happens to be for some.

For example people are motivated to cure disease, to educate the youth, to change laws, to stop wars....and these fields reward success with status more than material wealth for the most part. Yes you may accrue material wealth at the upper echelons, but this is not always the case. If getting 'stuff' was our only drive, we would not give to charity, and we would all try and run ftse 100 companies. We don't. The existence of these other motivations are not only compatible with communism, but are fundamental.

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I am not sure if you said Communism would work only in developed countries, but communism is a principle that works in poor countries.


I did, as did Karl Marx, and the vast majority of communist writers both past and present. Whether or not you subscribe to dialectical materialism, capitalism is vital! That is right, it is a communist term, and is seen as a necessary stage in human evolution. Without it you will not have a surplus of goods which is vital for overcoming the problem of greed in situations of scarcity. You need an affluent economy before you can let everyone help themselves. You need more than the bare minimum so that you can deal with people taking more than their share. When you have this they won't take that much more because good have only a use value, and are only desirable as such. My bread example again.

Communism cannot come from a poor country for the reasons stated above. The 'socialist' methods of state control and protectionist methods can help rapid industrialisation though. This comes at a price, but so does living in pre industrial society.

Quote:
Because everyone that is poor wants to not be equal to each other, but be equal to the rich guy (Remember occupy wall street? :D). From that perspective communism as a principle is flawed. Communism in a rich country wont work, since most rich people have gotten there because of their hard work when they proved they were better than most other guys that competed with them.


Most people have gotten rich because of their own hard work? One hand washes the other, and with limited room at the top it is going to be who you know at least as much as what you can do. If finances were distributed meritocratically then I would have less objection to the system, but this is not the case.

You have the problem of inheritance. Who has worked harder, a business man who turns over 200k having started from scratch, or a business man who turns over 200 million having had a 500million pound start up and a large infrastructure put in place by their parents? It is hard to quantify, but whilst they may well both be hard working, they live very different lives. Perhaps the small businessman would have turned over 600million, perhaps he would have lost it all. Perhaps the rich person would have made it from nothing, perhaps they wouldn't. The point is that money follows after money. What percentage of the richest 1000 people on earth started with no inheritance, no significant help from their family? How many were state educated children on free school meals? You do the math :)

People also get rich because they work hard in certain professions. Do doctors not work as hard, or teachers? Whilst doctors are seldom poor, they will not be as rich as businessmen, regardless of how hard they work. Teachers may devote every ounce of their being to their craft, but will never become as wealthy as even some people in middle management.

A hardworking refuse collector and a hardworking business man in the financial sector earn vastly different amounts. I know which one I would miss more though if they both stopped doing their job.

Quote:
Another common downside to communism is the fact that it gives rise to red tape and bureaucracy. For example trade unions. If you see places where unions exist, nothing will ever get done because everything is a collective effort. People dont get individual incentives, so why would they be motivated to do anything at all?

[/quote]

Trade unions? That is something that exists with capitalist states. Something that might exist approaching socialism. Not communism, at least not in most popular conceptions. I carefully restricted the debate at the beginning because the topic is huge, not because I don't like all aspects of it.


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 Post subject: Re: Communism
PostPosted: Thu Jan 26, 2012 11:18 pm 
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I agree that human nature implies that, but I am rejecting it because of the implausibility of it. We have instincts, but these are limited to physical situations whereby we put our hand out when we fall, draw our hand away from something hot etc. Even these are not absolute and can be overcome. There is no decision that is hardwired in the same way.

Even if we had a definite human nature I am challenging our ability to establish what it is. Perhaps our nature will remain the same in different societies, but how it is realised WILL differ. See my bread example. Scarcity makes us act one way, surplus another.


I am not talking about our inherent nature manifesting itself in different ways in times of surplus or scarcity. That is not human nature, but merely a response. There could be people who might be as greedy during surplus as they might be during scarcity. I am talking about our nature to "improve" or become better. Communism advocates egalitarianism. Whereby everyone is equal. This sort of equality is not IN a human being. A person always wants to be more successful than another. Thats why we have goals and ambitions. If you find yourself restricted, because a person with lesser skill has to be equal to you, which is something communism does, then you have problems like corruption, no individual freedom etc.

Generally speaking I think human nature differs from one person to another. In varying intensities. It cant really be generalized, except for certain situations and emotions. But these are not relevant to our debate.

Quote:
Communism is not a form of government as such, unless you are using the term in a very novel way Communism does not exist in any existing state. I am talking about philosophical communism as stated. A classless, stateless society...


Yeah communism is not a form of government. Its a economic and social system that a government uses. Thats what I meant.

Quote:
Actually we practice both, depending on circumstance and other factors. Because we practice both I would not say that either is inherently definitive of who we are. There is as much problem saying we are inherently bad, as there is saying we are inherently good. The trick is to create a society in which the outcome remains the same whatever people feel.


Its not a question of good or bad. I also dont think we really practice equality. At some level, we compete. ALWAYS.

Quote:
The existence of these other motivations are not only compatible with communism, but are fundamental.


I am not talking about just financial incentives. When you perform well, you get status as well as money. If someone were to just give me status, I wouldnt be as motivated. Why would I do something if I cant make my life better - for example buy a bigger house, a bigger car etc? What use is it if people just call you a great human being, but you personally still dont have anything that you desired for? I think individual goals if not met (like in communism) nothing will ever work.

Quote:
Communism cannot come from a poor country for the reasons stated above. The 'socialist' methods of state control and protectionist methods can help rapid industrialisation though. This comes at a price, but so does living in pre industrial society.


You are talking about two contradictory phenomenon. You say capitalism is necessary to get rich or create a surplus. And then implement communism to make everyone equal. Why do you think that will work? That definitely wont. Also, remember that nothing is ever "enough" in the truest sense. Thats just human nature ;)

Therefore communism appeals only to the poor people. Check this fact historically. You will find that americans never embraced communism. Whereas people that were poor (China, Cuba, Vietnam) etc embraced communism.

Quote:
You have the problem of inheritance.


Of course. But its not a problem. Its fair enough. Most of the top businessmen today are inheritors of wealth. Yes. But one of their ancestors worked hard to start the business. When your father earns enough money, you automatically earn it as the son. You cannot complain that someone was born rich and take his money away from him.

Quote:
People also get rich because they work hard in certain professions. Do doctors not work as hard, or teachers? Whilst doctors are seldom poor, they will not be as rich as businessmen, regardless of how hard they work. Teachers may devote every ounce of their being to their craft, but will never become as wealthy as even some people in middle management.

A hardworking refuse collector and a hardworking business man in the financial sector earn vastly different amounts. I know which one I would miss more though if they both stopped doing their job.


You are right. But it does not work that way in the monetary system. You are talking about hardworking. I am talking about adding value. A businessman might make a few calls, cut a deal and earn a billion dollars for the company. On the other hand, the Janitor even though he provides a service, is still a cost to the company. Why should he be paid more, when he does not help to earn for the corporation?

Quote:
Trade unions? That is something that exists with capitalist states. Something that might exist approaching socialism. Not communism, at least not in most popular conceptions. I carefully restricted the debate at the beginning because the topic is huge, not because I don't like all aspects of it.


Trade unions are for workers to self govern themselves (which is a principle in communism) and for collective representation. But in reality, wherever trade unions are, nothing will ever get done. They will strike if the yoghurt goes sour. lol.

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