Pulling Teeth -- Dialog with a Dentist August 17, 2004 by RedStar2000
As I've often said, arguing with rightists is generally a waste of time. Once in a while, a fairly intelligent one will show up...revealing how weak pro-capitalist "arguments" are even when developed in their most coherent form.
Capitalism is still widely supported by many people -- who ought to know better by now. But it strikes me that its intellectual foundations grow more feeble with every passing decade.
A promising sign...for us!
In late capitalism, it actually makes more sense to train yourself to be a really skillful vampire than it does to do something that is at least potentially socially useful, like engineering.
For ambitious young people today, capitalism has a message: don't do something useful or productive with your life -- become a blood-sucker!
Learn to be a lawyer, stockbroker, banker, securities analyst, derivatives trader, venture capital hustler, government regulator, media manipulator, etc.
That's where the money is!
Now...contemplate the future of such a system.
First posted at Che-Lives on August 9, 2004
You may reject them on a theoretical basis, but in the real world classes are quite necessary...when you remove the distinctions between people, that is, when you attempt to put them all into one class, the vacuum left will inevitably be filled by oligarchs.
Under capitalism, we are all "equal" in that none of us are chattel slaves...yet no class of slave-holders has sprung forth to re-enslave those who are "naturally submissive".
We are also all "equal" in that none of us are serfs any longer...in the terminology of the Middle Ages, we are all "masterless men" (and women). Yet "inevitability" has brought forth no fresh class of aristocrats to put us back in "our proper station".
Well, we don't permit that any longer. Now and then, in fact, some individual will try to re-enslave people -- usually illegal immigrants. When they get caught at it, they go to prison.
Our ideas of what freedom actually means have changed considerably over the centuries...do you imagine that they will not continue to change?
The oligarch wannabe of the 22nd century is apt to evoke two responses: laughter at his pretensions or a date with a firing squad.
My guess is that damned near everything we are will turn out to be in our genes...
I also like to guess at stuff I don't know anything about -- must be a genetic trait.
Seriously, you must be aware that such "arguments" were being advanced before the ink was dry on Darwin's Origin of Species...and have been scientifically refuted over and over again. Remember "racial science"?
Since the last quarter of the 19th century, there has been a ready market among the wealthy for a "scientific" theory that would "prove" that they were "naturally superior" to all other humans.
In other words, that their position in the ruling class was "deserved"...and not a matter of contingency.
Genetics was their "last best hope" for such "proof"...but the cracks have already appeared.
Alas, poor Darwin : arguments against evolutionary psychology, edited by Hilary Rose and Steven Rose, New York : Harmony Books, 2000, ISBN: 0609605135.
Formal scientific refutation is only a matter of time, of course. Anyone who has had any contact with capitalist authority on a daily basis has little difficulty recognizing the wide-spread stupidity characteristic of our "superiors". The popular comic strip Dilbert© is actually based on such encounters.
Every ruling class in history has always been convinced that their "superiority" was conferred by birth.
The record is pretty clear that such a hypothesis cannot withstand critical examination.
I believe that people should earn and reap the full fruits of their labor.
Then your support of capitalism makes no logical sense. The only people under capitalism who "reap the full fruits of their labor" are the self-employed.
That's not a small number...but it's very, very far from a majority.
However, being a Christian, I believe that it is my Christian duty to help the poor, the orphaned, and the widowed.
The tax advantages have nothing to do with it, right?
Like I've stated, capitalism without safety nets or morals is not something for which most people would argue.
Just the rich...they argue for precisely that. See any issue of The Economist.
Needless to say, their arguments usually prevail.
...the citizens of the US, on the other hand, know that the US carries a big stick -- we don’t need to see the stick marching down main street in order to complete, or validate our collective identity.
No, we get "our collective identity" from watching our glorious warriors beat the living crap out of defenseless third world countries on the dummyvision.
It's more fun than a boring old parade.
Class systems are part of our evolution -- they were necessary, or they never would have happened...To say that they are not necessary, is to enter the realm of theory and imagination -- where Santa Claus lives.
That's an interesting hypothesis...I don't think there is sufficient data to either confirm or refute it.
But let's assume that you're correct; classes were a necessary stage in the evolution of human societies.
On what empirical grounds can you assert that they "will always be necessary"?
That seems to be just as "imaginative" as our assertion that the time is approaching when they will no longer be necessary and in fact have become an obstacle to the evolution of civilization (possibly even a fatal flaw).
The enormous squandering of resources to "keep the lower orders in their place" (armies, weaponry, police, prisons, the whole entertainment complex, etc.) does not inspire confidence, to say the least.
If we don't get rid of class society, it may well get rid of the human species.
...but there is something that makes the alphas alphas...what do you suggest it is, if not genetic?
Any social order that rewards "alpha-behavior" will have alphas and alpha-wannabes in profusion.
On the other hand, any society which did not reward such behavior would have very few alphas...there'd be no point to such behavior and only the pathological would engage in it.
We have many genetic "potentials"...the ones that actually get expressed depend on the world in which we find ourselves.
No, I mean the citizens walking through Red Square, in their greys and browns, never smiling, with their heads hung low like subjugated puppies.
Are you criticizing their fashion taste?
Or the fact that they lowered their heads against the icy winds that prevail most of the year there?
Good grief...people in Chicago walk the same way!
It's fucking cold!
Inevitably, in a commie regime, people have to be assigned jobs.
There's that word "inevitably" again. We say that we are not going to repeat the stupidities of 20th century communism, and the reply is "oh, but you will, it's inevitable!"
Against such faith, no mere argument can prevail.
Thus, individual sovereignty, or supreme authority over the self, is a necessary pre-requisite to individualism and self-determination.
Quite so...exactly what most of us don't enjoy under capitalism.
First posted at Che-Lives on August 13, 2004
"Class war" was one of your ideas, not ours.
Blame the Athenians; they recognized class war existed and wrote about it more than 2,200 years prior to Marx.
The definition of freedom hasn't changed -- the acceptance that it is necessary has.
Your definition of "freedom" is the freedom to become wealthy by hiring the labor of others.
That's time-specific -- not "eternal".
It was not always thus...nor will it always be.
Now just tell us where our heads of state have claimed "superiority from birth".
They don't say it. They hire people to say it about them...including even some "scientists".
The message they wish propagated about themselves is that their eminence did not result from chance and circumstance but was rather acquired on "intrinsic merit"...they were "born superior to others".
Nonsense, of course.
Then I guess we're not living under capitalism, but some other system; one that does not recognise individual rights/sovereignty.
Capitalism recognizes only the rights of capital.
You have such "individual rights" as capital finds it convenient or useful to grant you --and if capital so decides, your "individual rights" simply "melt into air"...the Patriot Act, for example.
First posted at Che-Lives on August 13, 2004
I suggest that it is indeed inevitable that the few would indeed attempt enslave the many.
You argue this, of course, from the standpoint of recorded history...which is indeed the history of class societies.
But the human species is what, 150,000 to 250,000 years old. An enormous time span about which we know nothing or pretty close to that.
You will, of course, assert that humanity was hierarchical in that period...but suppose it wasn't?
Hunter-gatherer societies that lasted long enough to be studied by 20th century anthropologists were rare...but evidently (to the best of my knowledge), they had very little of what we would call "class" (a "war chief" but only as long as there was a "war"; a "hunting chief" but only while there was a collective hunt actually going on; a "shaman" to negotiate with the "spirits", etc.).
In those days, everyone was essentially in the same relationship to the means of production...no one was in any position to compel another to labor for his benefit. My guess is that a "war chief" or "hunting chief" who got "the big head" was probably killed and eaten.
Among the Hopi (American southwest), it was not that long ago that alpha-arrogance was met by stringing the bastard up by his thumbs. (!)
The premise of your argument is flawed. I suggested that oligarchs would emerge if we attempted to erase the natural distinctions between us. You are countering that no class of aristocrats or slave owners has emerged, completely ignoring the fact that we have classes within our society which is why there are no oligarchs.
We do still have oligarchs...obviously!
My point is that the previous forms of oligarchy have been abolished. We no longer accept Aristotle's premise that some people are "natural slaves". Likewise, we no longer accept the "divine right of kings", the "natural aristocracy", or the right of a religious leader to dictate earthly policy on "Godly authority".
Possession of capital has become the final argument in support of oligarchy. It is still widely-accepted.
But for how much longer?
I am not, and never have suggested that a particular group of people are genetically superior and thus fit to rule over any other group. When I suggested that what we are is most certainly genetic, and that the traits that may allow one person to achieve more success than another are in all likelihood genetic, I was speaking in terms of the individual -- not his ethnic or socioeconomic group.
And you cannot slip out of the "group" character of your hypothesis so easily. That innocent phrase "socio-economic group" is pretty damn important when you consider the role of inheritance in modern capitalist society.
The most important step in acquiring great wealth these days is being born to it.
You can call that "genetic" if you like.
We know that much of what we do is related to the pleasure centers of our brains which would certainly be a genetic trait.
Well, yes and no. A reward to the "pleasure centers" is greatly to be desired...but I imagine that those centers are extremely flexible and respond to a very wide range of stimuli.
Since we are quite sharply divided on the war, I would say that there is nothing collective about it -- and the leadership of the nation had no collectivist thought in mind when the decision to war was made. In fact, we don't have a collective identity here....there is nothing collective about us.
That's a pretty silly thing to say; if you look at the history of our imperial adventures, you'll find enormous public support for them...at the beginning, at least.
In any group, there must be someone who is in charge -- otherwise you merely have a collection of individuals who are competing for the available resources.
No, that's a myth common to all despotic paradigms...including capitalism.
The vast bulk of human behavior -- if there were a way to measure it -- would probably prove to be co-operative rather than competitive.
In order to have organization, there must be an organizer...and the organizer is genetically programmed to be exactly what he is.
Yeah, organizers come with a special variant of the AABBc gene on the 12th chromosome.
You are being silly.
One only has to look to the animal kingdom to see the truth in this.
I think you've been reading too much Robert Ardrey.
Hold on a minute, you contradict your previous statement here...you said yourself that there were no oligarchs trying to keep us in our places, and now you say that the oligarchs are expending tremendous amounts of resources to keep us in our places..which is it??...
I think I clarified this point above. Oligarchy has changed.
The fact that we no longer permit certain kinds of oligarchy suggests to me that we need not permit any kind of oligarchy.
There have always been those who have claimed that if we don’t do this, or we don’t do that, the sky will fall...You are just one more person promising doom.
Please try to read more carefully...I used the word may, not "will".
We are what we are. You are railing against nature.
And you are simply ranting.
What you're really saying is that you hope that nature will preserve your class privilege.
Maybe, maybe not.
There can be no system that does not reward alpha behavior.
That's just more of the same. You hope that "there can be no system", etc.
The alpha gets an endorphin rush simply from seeing the others submit...It isn’t the submission that he wants, it is the endorphin rush...demanding the submission is merely the tool he uses to get the rush.
Interesting hypothesis...and it suggests a very simple solution to the "alpha-problem".
Give them an implant that dispenses a generous amount of cocaine on a regular basis.
They'll get their regular "rush"...and the rest of us can be permanently free of all oligarchs.
It would certainly be nice if it all turned out to be that simple.
...and if within our genes is the potential to be an alpha, that is where the pleasure will be found and that is what the individual will be.
No...because there are other ways to "find pleasure".
Freedom to live in [the] absence of coercion. That is the definition of freedom. It is eternal.
It is a totally abstract and unhistorical definition...hence meaningless.
If a social order does not permit you to rape, have you "lost your freedom"?
Again, such as who?
Who? All of them!
Good grief, what planet do you live on? Have you ever heard of some rich bastard commissioning a biography to the effect that "he was an incompetent asshole who got lucky"?
Capital is an inanimate concept; it is not entitled to rights.
You are completely ignorant of modern bourgeois law.
Individual rights apply to everyone rich or poor. It has nothing to do with "capital". Rights are not for sale.
Tell it to O.J. Simpson. If you're rich enough, you can commit murder and get away with it!
Rights are always for sale in modern capitalism.
[The Patriot Act] is anti-capitalist. I don't know why you're whining about it.
Yes, we "know" that the Patriot Act is "anti-capitalist" because the whole capitalist class rose up and denounced it.
Note further that I am not "whining"...simply explaining to you the "facts of political life".
And not having an easy job of it either.
First posted at Che-Lives on August 13, 2004
To study these mostly vanished ways of life was to get a glimpse at the early stages of our own cultural evolution. In a sense, their cultures were living fossils.
Not exactly. What we saw were hunter-gatherer societies in extremis...long after they had been pushed to the margins of habitation.
We don't really know anything about how they functioned when they were the only form of human society on earth...say 15,000 years ago or so.
The largest stable unit of their society was the family and the male head of the family was the entire political organization and its entire legal system. Even when we reach the irreducible minimum, there is someone in charge.
The Shoshone had "nuclear families" with "dad" in charge...just like a 1950s dummyvision sitcom?
You know what? I don't believe that. I think this is likely to be a case of reading the cultural prejudices of the anthropologist into the data.
Think about that. How would you "know" that "dad" was "in charge"...all the time?
What happened when the anthropologist "wasn't looking"?
Why do you suppose we remember the names of the great chiefs but not of the tribesmen?
Cultural prejudice, of course. The 18th and 19th century folks who studied hunter-gatherer societies still believed in a "great man" theory of history.
Now, of course, even reputable bourgeois historians have rejected the "great man" theory...only "popular history" still uses such a "method".
I would argue that we don’t -- at least here in the US anyway. We are not ruled by the few. While the few may be in the positions of power, we are still the ones that put them there.
You mean in the sense of our periodic "elections" in which we get to "choose" Oligarch A or Oligarch B?
In any event, that's not what I was referring to when I spoke of our modern oligarchs: the major stockholders, directors, and executives of the largest corporations.
Capitalist politicians are ceremonial "hired hands" for the most part...though real oligarchs occasionally take a direct hand in things (Nelson Rockefeller really wanted his name in the history books as an American president...for some strange reason.)
You must remember that the purpose of bourgeois "democracy" is to give the appearance of popular sovereignty while ensuring that real decision-making power remains in the hands of the oligarchs.
No one disputes that world class athletes achieve what they do because they are genetically disposed to it.
Then let me be the first.
Your example of Lance Armstrong is instructive: in a society that did not even have, much less race, bicycles, would anyone have ever heard of him? Yes, one can be born with the genetic potential to do all kinds of things...but if the social order does not have some of those things, then you will never do them, regardless of your genetic potential.
All the potentially great writers with the misfortune to be born before writing was invented...lived in vain.
There are successful people in this world who also make it look so easy. Is it such a stretch to think that it might just be what they are made of?
The reason that it "looks easy" is often that it really is easy. But you have to have the social apparatus in place.
It doesn't hurt to be lucky, either.
Here, you are simply wrong. In the US, 80% of all millionaires are first generation rich. This is easily verified. The numbers of people who inherit wealth in this country are growing smaller every year. Many of the old fortunes have been lost.
Total fantasy...and overlooks the fact that most first generation millionaires started with at least a few hundred thousand.
It also overlooks the fact that by contemporary capitalist standards, a million dollars is not really a significant sum (however enormous it may appear in the eyes of a worker).
The "cheap seats" in the ruling class probably run $50-100 million.
...he is on track to make his first million by the time he is 30...
And likely his last as well.
In this country the most important step in acquiring great wealth is the willingness to get out and work for it.
Nope. Great fortunes may begin with the "hard-working entrepreneur" who is also lucky -- but after that, the hardest work you have to do is get yourself born and survive to hear the reading of daddy's will.
Sam Walton's kids are tied for what, fourth place, on the wealthiest Americans list...did they "work hard" for their $12 billion each? Are they "genetically superior" to you or me?
You may also stop and consider why such a fuss was raised over the repeal of the inheritance tax.
If "hard work" is so "important", why would anyone care even if the inheritance tax was 100 per cent?
I do a little thing sometimes in my spare time...damned near anyone can do it. It is not illegal, or immoral, or painful ..and it is not unusual to get paid $200 an hour or more for doing it. It doesn't involve sales, marketing, or any of that crap...and you get to make the rules...Would you be interested to know what it is?
I have discovered an interesting mathematical model for sharply reducing the odds against winning the lottery...it won't guarantee you a winning combination but you'll be playing at enormously better odds than other players. "Would you be interested to know what it is"?
Given the rise of superstition in late capitalism, starting a new religion would be a "sure-fire" winner...you just need a strong stomach and a flair for lying. (Genetic traits, no doubt.)
Exactly -- as I said, some people may derive pleasure from the very things that are required for success, while others may derive their pleasure from activity that has no economic value.
That is what you said, but I was not agreeing with you.
My point is that the pleasure centers in each individual possess the capacity to respond to a wide variety of stimuli.
If one kind of pleasurable stimulus is unavailable, you will still respond to others.
Denial of the pleasure of "getting rich" does not mean a life of "gloom" and "despair".
No, we were divided [on the war] from the beginning.
The polls said otherwise...perhaps they were lying.
Please give some examples -- if cooperative, describes the vast bulk of human behavior, examples should be easy to come by.
How about your last hunting trip? (Assuming you hunt with friends.)
Or anything else that you've done for the intrinsic pleasure of the activity...a picnic, a trip to the beach, whatever.
Did you put someone "in charge" and "obey his orders" unquestioningly?
Even within the hierarchal workplace, useful work is actually most likely to be accomplished when workers co-operate with each other rather than compete with each other. A workforce "at each other's throats" makes a crappy mousetrap.
Evolutionary psychologists have made a compelling case that unconscious savviness is simply a part of what we are and is rooted ultimately in our genes.
I don't mean to be unduly harsh here, but I don't think evolutionary psychologists could make a "compelling case" for taking a leak.
That stuff is "junk science"...consult the reference that I've already posted.
Ok, if I am being silly, then explain why, in the animal kingdom, it isn’t uncommon for the alpha to not necessarily be the largest, or strongest -- why would a large man back down and exhibit submissive body language to a smaller weaker man in a confrontational situation?
In the "animal kingdom" (a lovely archaic phrase that expresses an outmoded class bias), "alpha status" is often unstable or, at best, meta-stable.
Today's "alpha" may be tomorrow's "beta" or even "gamma".
As to the big guy "backing down" from the "little guy"...it's generally because the "little guy" has a bunch of goons ready to back him up.
Retreating in the face of superior over-all strength does not, I think, require a specific "genetic" explanation.
Look into what we are and how we act, then compare our behaviors to animal behaviors -- when you find examples of us, acting like them, or them acting like us -- chances are, you are seeing genetics at work.
Ah, but which animals and what specific behaviors? The variety of animal behaviors far exceeds the variety among humans...do you just pick the examples you like and ignore the ones that teach other lessons?
If bonobos cooperate and baboons compete, let's concentrate on baboons, right?
Like I said, junk science.
An oligarchy is not something that is permitted -- it is a situation in which a few people dictate, without fear of reprisal, to the entire society.
Oligarchy is "permitted" in the sense that it could in principle be overthrown at any moment. All that's required is refusal to obey and the oligarchy is powerless.
While it may be that the numbers of congress are few compared to the numbers of the population, the power still lies with us because we can remove them from power with our vote (yeah, I still believe in the power of my vote).
No, all you can do is change the personnel in that particular oligarchy...they remain collectively an oligarchy.
The fact that you "still believe in the power" of your vote is unfortunate...but has no bearing on what is actually taking place.
I don’t even think that I have class privilege. I am a Lakota Sioux. I have never lived on the reservation. I grew up in a small mill town in South Carolina. My parents were dirt poor -- Today I am a dentist with a very successful practice. I am 57 years old -- I grew up before the days of affirmative action. I worked hard -- simple as that.
It's always difficult to respond to people's "life stories" without causing offense.
So I'll try to keep this general rather than personal.
The way I heard it, the folks who go to dental college are the ones who couldn't afford/couldn't get into medical school. The ones who can't afford/can't get into dental college go to mortuary school.
And I would imagine that kids who do grow up "on the reservation" are pretty lucky to even make it through high school.
In any event, "hard work" doesn't have much to do with the over-all outcome. Your "starting-point" in capitalist society usually has the final word on where you "finish".
Again, please describe a system that does not reward alpha behavior.
I thought that was precisely your objection to communism...that because it didn't reward "alpha-behavior", it "couldn't work" -- all you'd get would be a USSR-style despotism with "alphas" running the show.
Communism would indeed be a society in which "alpha-behavior" would not only not be rewarded but would be met with social disapproval and possibly even punishment.
I did mention the Hopi, didn't I?
At this time, I am unable to describe any system in which there would be no rewards for being smarter, stronger, better looking, etc... You claim that there is such a system, describe it...but be prepared for "what if’s".
This shifts the ground of the discussion slightly...when I use the phrase "alpha behavior", I'm talking about social dominance -- the power to "give orders".
In this paragraph, it seems to me that you're getting at the matter of "status"...we humans prefer the company of those who are smart, physically competent, good looking, etc.
I see no problem with those attributes as long as we don't "flop on our bellies" and start treating such folks as if they were entitled to rule us because of genetic accident.
The problem with your suggestion is that the cocaine would eventually destroy the alpha’s ability to do the very thing that he is often needed to do.
That's the idea! We will not need "alphas" anymore...to do anything.
In fact, we do not want them around...but if we must have them around, then we certainly don't want them running anything more complicated than a power mower.
If cocaine will solve the problem, let's try a field test.
I am a dentist, would you want to sit down in my chair knowing that I have a cocaine implant in my head juicing my system while I am working on your teeth?
You are not an "alpha"! No cocaine for you. (Sorry.)
The top executives of large corporations are the "alphas" in capitalist society...not people like you and me or your grass-cutting proto-millionaire.
By the way, the use of drugs may improve or impair function in a wide variety of tasks...as I'm sure you know.
If I get my jollies from a certain thing, don’t suppose that you can suggest another thing and expect me to simply go along...I am driven to be the best dentist that I can possibly be...I make a lot of money at it, but the satisfaction, for me, is in perfecting my craft.
I would not dream of suggesting any alternative for you. You perform a socially-useful function and take great pride and pleasure in doing it as skillfully as you possibly can.
In fact, you have a downright communist attitude towards what you do.
Suppose there existed a society in which all your material needs were there for the asking? Would you still want to be "a great dentist"? Even though there was no possibility of ever "getting rich"?
Many defenders of capitalism come to this board with the view that no one would ever do anything unless material want or a lust for wealth compelled them.
We'd all just lay back in the grass and watch the pretty clouds.
The communist view is that nearly all people enjoy productive labor; what they hate is being overworked, taking orders from stupid bosses, not having their material needs met, etc.
Meanwhile, what of those who "get pleasure" out of intimidating others, compelling submission, etc.?
Bad news for them, I'm afraid. If cocaine isn't an acceptable substitute, then it's the firing squad.
We will permit no oligarchs, period!
...and why should I not be compensated at a higher rate than a dentist who does not possess my degree of skill or my dedication to seeing that you get the best care possible?
If your skill and dedication are truly superior, then what difference does the extra money make?
Under capitalism, we "need" to accumulate as much money as we can because of the uncertainties built into the system itself...it is always possible that you can lose most of what you have accumulated at any moment. If you're really unlucky, you can "lose it all".
In a communist society, all of your reasonable material needs would be met...no matter what.
As it became known that you were an especially skillful dentist, patients would line up at your door. Dental schools would invite you to give lectures. Young dentists would want to apprentice with you. You would enjoy prestige.
And you'd never fill out a goddam insurance form again.
First posted at Che-Lives on August 14, 2004
All of the primitive cultures that we have studied, without regard to their location in the world, have been remarkably similar.
Yes, because they were all stuck in areas that no more advanced society wanted.
The only exception that I'm aware of are the complex of tribes that lived in the Pacific Northwest.
In this unusually abundant ecological niche, they did develop a unique form of "class" society. A "big man" was the guy who gave the "biggest gifts".
But in doing that, he acquired prestige and status...not the power of command.
There is no reason at all to suppose that they made some "shift" from a communist lifestyle to a classed society at some point in their evolution.
Nor is there any reason not to...aside from plausibility.
As I said early, we do not know what hunter-gatherer societies were like in their "salad days".
The role of population growth and density and the consequent scarcity of resources should not be overlooked in the emergence and rise of class society among humans.
It doesn’t matter whether you believe it or not...the information is easily verified.
So you say. But neither you nor the anthropologist are necessarily "unbiased witnesses"...therefore I am free to remain skeptical.
And I do.
I am pretty well read in the subject of anthropology and cultural anthropology and have not seen any work from a reputable source that suggests that the idea of big man, great man, chieftain is an outdated line of thought.
From the time of Marx it's been understood that material conditions are the "motive forces" of history...not "great men" (who may have some influence on the details, of course).
To suggest that a CEO or a stock broker is an oligarch is pretty far fetched...Neither of these could use the power of the law to imprison me simply upon their say so...
Indeed they could...though it might be difficult for them to keep you arbitrarily imprisoned.
You must remember that the oligarchs have their own rules...and too brazen a power-play by one (such as simply making up a phony criminal charge) might serve to draw other oligarchs into the fray.
In late 19th century America and present-day Russia, it was/is not unknown to dispose of a business competitor with a bullet.
If you managed to seriously upset the CEO of a major corporation, you would at the very least be buried beneath a blizzard of unmerited lawsuits...and should you fail to respond, you could find yourself in jail on "contempt of court" judgments.
Do not think for a minute that you must actually commit a crime to go to jail in modern capitalism.
If I were a member of a society that didn’t have bicycles, I would still be superior at any number of tasks that require great stamina.
Yeah, but you wouldn't be "rich and famous".
Changing even a few hundred thousand into a million is no easy task. If it were, then we should reasonably be able to expect the poor to be able to change their few hundred into a few thousand with relative ease, and then change that few thousand into a few hundred thousand just as easily.
No, that's wrong. The poor use their few hundred or few thousand to acquire the means to physically survive. They never have any "surplus" to invest...except in a lottery ticket of course.
With a few hundred thousand, you have the surplus to purchase the means of production...and a (small) chance to make that million. Luck is very important here...there are hundreds of thousands of new businesses started every year in the U.S., and most of them fail in their first year.
The reason: under-capitalization.
They simply didn't have enough money to keep operating until their business reached the break-even point and started making money.
That said, the majority of the new millionaires did not start out with a couple of hundred thousand...most of the new millionaires are small business owners who started off with debt.
Which means they had to get that money from somebody. Did the loan officer at Vampire Federal Bank take pity on them? Did they sucker their family and friends?
Capital doesn't fall out of the sky. No one starts with "nothing" and makes anything but nothing.
And if a million is chump change to you, send it my way.
Careful reading again: I didn't say or imply that it was "chump change" to you or me...to the ruling class, however, that's exactly what it is.
They throw parties that cost more than a million!
To suggest that he has peaked is simply doom and gloom.
Well, I'm a communist...what do you expect?
Start-up costs are relatively low in his line of work...he will have competition.
Landscaping is a "luxury"...in an economic downturn, businesses and individuals often drop it, reducing the pool of potential customers.
Product differentiation is difficult...an expert eye might be able to tell a "good" landscaper from a mediocre one; most people wouldn't be able to spot the difference.
I rather doubt his chances of even making that first million...unless he gets lucky.
Their ability to hang on to his wealth and grow it is yet to be seen.
The only "ability" they need to "grow that wealth" is the ability to sign their names.
When you have serious money to work with, you don't have to "take risks" anymore. You purchase "investment grade" bonds, sit back, and watch the money roll in.
The Walton fortune, like the Rockefeller fortune, has long passed the "take-off" point and will grow forever...or at least until the revolution.
The numbers who were born rich and lost it due to bad decision-making are legion.
I'm rather skeptical of that...though I suppose it might happen from time to time.
It's really hard to run through serious money.
I believe that anyone can tell stories to kids with just a bit of practice and make some genuine money. There is an ever growing market out there that is eagerly waiting for new storytellers and willing to pay them very well.
Why do I have the feeling that you're practicing on us?
Those people are the happiest if you ask me...they are doing what they love to do...and getting paid for it...what more could one ask for? The problem is, that this status is simply not accessible to everyone and it never will be and no abstract construct will ever make it happen. Sad..unfortuante...but a fact of life never the less.
Yet another bald assertion..."it never will be".
I counter-assert: oh yes it will!
Someone has to provide a vision that all the workers can agree upon in order to cooperate to achieve the goal.
True...but under capitalism, it is not a matter of workers "agreeing". They submit to the "vision" of the capitalist -- regardless of that vision's frequently self-evident stupidity -- because they need to eat.
There will be as many if not more visionaries under communism than under capitalism...but they will have to be genuinely persuasive or else no one will co-operate with them.
If you remove the alphas, and the alphas in waiting, in most cases there is no individual among the "submissives" who will step up and take over...this is just as true among us human animals.
A good argument for communism; we want to get rid of the alphas and it's nice to know that "nature" says it's possible to do so.
Our physical dimension is not necessarily a component of this. It is a product of the stuff we are made of.
Outside of a particular social context with a particular history, I don't think your sentence has any semantic content.
If physical courage is rewarded, then you'll see lots of it. If it's regarded as primitive and undesirable behavior, then the people who display it will be regarded as pathological.
Are you suggesting that there are no alphas among bonobos?
Certainly not in the same sense as there are among baboons (the capitalist's favorite primate).
Bonobos are rather loosely "governed" by a small collective of senior females. When a male exhibits "alpha behavior", the females gather around and give him a beating. Afterwards, they all have sex.
Not too shabby, eh?
I find it very interesting that communists will proclaim "speculation" or "junk science" at the drop of a hat as if a good scientific hypothesis is worthless unless it can be proven beyond a shadow of a doubt...
We don't do that "all the time"...just when the issue of human affairs appears on the agenda.
You see we have learned that even scientists are part of class society and can, despite their best intentions, be misled by that insidious bias.
And some of them have proven that they don't have the "best intentions"...they are willing to lie for a bigger paycheck.
In addition, skepticism is always a valid scientific position until such point as the evidence really is overwhelming.
The attempts to provide "scientific justification" for capitalism and hierarchy don't even approach this point, of course.
...yet you hold dear a political philosophy that is pure theory and will defend it vehemently with no real world evidence to fall back upon or use as an example.
Actually, there is evidence...it is just quite fragmentary up to this point. For brief periods of time, it has been shown that ordinary working people "can run the show" in a non-hierarchal fashion...that classless society can "work". That their initial efforts were militarily crushed by superior force does not "disprove" them...but rather suggests that they were "pre-mature".
Keep in mind that the capitalist class did not rise to its present eminence "in a smooth curve"...there were many set-backs along the way.
Still, I will concede this much: the Marxist hypothesis -- a proletarian revolution leading to a classless society -- has yet to acquire definitive proof.
That can only be provided by, as you say, real-world examples that are clearly sustainable.
If that fails to occur over the next few centuries, then Marx was wrong!
But don't break out the champaign. If Marx was wrong, then the most probable outcome is a return to barbarism...a new "dark age".
There are signs of that now.
If you believe that, then you have disadvantaged yourself before you ever got started.
I don't think it's a matter of "belief" but rather one of empirical fact.
Of course, people move "up and down" in the class structure throughout their lives...but they do so within a very narrow range.
Measuring your own personal achievements against your "starting point", you are quite proud of your "gain".
But from the standpoint of the truly wealthy, your gain is literally "too small to measure".
I was asking for a description of a society that wouldn’t reward alpha behavior. You tell me communism wouldn’t, but didn’t describe how that would work.
Can We Ever Say How Communism Will "Work"?
Who Will Clean the Sewers?
The Myth of "Individualism vs. Collectivism"
Democracy without Elections; Demarchy and Communism
Wants and Needs in Communist Society
Further Notes on Demarchy
Communist Society -- Some Brief Reflections
You won't "like" any of this stuff...but at least you'll have a clearer idea what you don't like.
Alpha behavior isn’t as simple as giving orders...alpha behavior is any behavior that gives one advantage over others...
No, that can't be right. It's too incoherent. Even overtly submissive behavior could be considered "alpha" if the "intent" was to manipulate the "dominant".
Doesn’t this put you in the category of oligarch yourself...act as we demand or die?
If we execute murderers, does that make us "also murderers"?
Yes, I know, some people do maintain that position...but I am not one of them.
In any event, whether or not an alpha-wannabe gets shot is up to the larger community, not to a small group of "nouveau-oligarchs".
Maybe we'll just emulate the Hopi and string him up by his thumbs.
Goods cost money...who pays in a communist society?
There's no money and no "costs" in the sense that you are using the word.
We see from history that the more socialist a society becomes, the higher the unemployment level becomes...
That's both wrong and irrelevant. All of the 20th century socialist countries had full employment and many people actually had two or even three jobs.
And I am a communist, not a socialist.
I pay someone to fill out insurance forms..it is what she does for a living...you would put her out of work?
Aren't you sweet. But perhaps, under communism, she will find more interesting things to do with her life than fill out your forms for you.
First posted at Che-Lives on August 14, 2004
The wolf replied "Yeah, you may be right...in fact, I may die before this week ends, but I would rather die up here, in my hills as a free wolf, than live to a very old age down in your village as a slave."
A charming tale...and a frequent observation of 18th and 19th century historians, who often admired the "poor but free barbarians" while morally condemning the wealthy servility of Empire.
But many conclusions can be drawn from such tales.
It's unlikely, for example, that communist society will ever countenance the lavish display of "wealth for wealth's sake" so characteristic of late capitalism.
We envision a society on a human scale...and not the monumental excesses that we see around us now.
Soon, as I understand it, the ruling class will begin constructing another 100-story monstrosity on the site of the old World Trade Center buildings.
Imagine those resources diverted to renovating every tenement in Harlem instead.
Does that make us "wolves"?
First posted at Che-Lives on August 15, 2004
In 50 years, that 100 story monstrosity will still be generating capital and income for tens of thousands of people who work there, and millions scattered across the world who do business with people based there....
Myself, I think there's a good chance it will be abandoned by then, a useless and vulgar extravagance, a phallic monument to a capitalism that no longer exists.
Or perhaps converted into the world's tallest apartment building.
You have a nice dream...but the human scale has outgrown that dream...If Marx lived today, I don't suppose he would have written as he did...the human scale was much different then than it is today...Humans are global in scale today...in Marx's day, the scale was an order of magnitude smaller.
You confuse humanity with the size of capitalism, a fairly frequent error. The economy was global in Marx's day and will no doubt be global in many respects under communism.
What it won't be is utterly indifferent to human needs unless some bastard can make a profit.
Meanwhile, I also like to speculate on what Marx would have written were he alive today...but I don't think his views would win approval in the pages of the Wall Street Journal.
First posted at Che-Lives on August 16, 2004
...history suggests that in 50 years, the new tower will be doing exactly what it is being designed for.
Your notion of "history" being, of course, that "nothing much changes" and "tomorrow will be pretty much like today".
Are you sure you're 57?
You may have, as you claim, read Marx...but I seriously doubt if you were paying attention.
To compare the "globalism" of his day with the globalism of today is to again, completely ignore history.
Actually, in the years leading up to World War I, global economic activity was a higher proportion of all economic activity than it is today...though we are "catching up" with 1913 and may surpass it in another decade or two.
...the fact that capital has been the rule for humanity since the beginning of recorded history probably doesn't even make a dent in your cranium...
Hey, that's a good one! "Capitalism has existed forever."
I don't really think you should permit yourself to even use the word "history"...at least not until you acquaint yourself with some of the gross details.
The Waning of the Middle Ages : a Study of the Forms of Life, Thought, and Art in France and the Netherlands in the XIVth and XVth centuries by Johan Huizinga might be a good place for you to begin.
There have been merchant-capitalists at the margins of society throughout recorded history...but capitalism is a recent development.
First posted at Che-Lives on August 16, 2004
...is it impossible to look at the broader picture and still maintain a logical belief in communism? I ask this because I am a "big picture" kind of guy, and the big picture just doesn't seem to have any real room for communism within it...
I think it depends on who's painting that "big picture"...and who commissioned the work.
Marxism is one of several "meta-historical" theories that have emerged over the last 150 years or so...and the only one to remain vital. (Try to find a follower of Herbert Spencer or Arnold Toynbee these days...good luck!)
Bourgeois historians have been reduced to contingency -- shit happens! -- or the post-modernist retreat into "history is really unknowable" and what we think of as history is just a temporary social construct that will be replaced with another temporary social construct in a few decades, etc.
They're really not much improvement over Gibbon -- "history is a record of the crimes, follies, and misfortunes of mankind".
So if you are, as you claim, a "big picture" guy, then you have little choice other than Marxism...or chaos: history is a series of random events with no discernible relationship to each other.
No doubt you would much prefer the latter...but in making that choice you also make hash out of any notion that "nothing much changes from day to day or decade to decade". This view of history means that anything can happen at any time. All the cards are "wild" and nothing is really "impossible".
But perhaps you'd prefer to abandon history altogether and take shelter under the dubious premises of "evolutionary psychology" -- people are selfish-gene machines, period, and always have been...and always will be. Everything else is just trivia.
A profoundly gloomy view of things...but each to their taste, I suppose.
One thing can be said for it: you'll never be disappointed.
First posted at Che-Lives on August 17, 2004
· Communists Against Religion -- Part 19 June 6, 2006
· Conversations with Capitalists May 21, 2006
· Vegetable Morality April 17, 2006
· Parents and Children April 11, 2006
· The Curse of Lenin's Mummy April 3, 2006
What Did Marx "Get Wrong"? September 13, 2004
Class in Post-Revolutionary Society - Part 1 July 9, 2004
Demarchy and a New Revolutionary Communist Movement November 13, 2003
A New Type of Communist Organization October 5, 2003
The "Tools" of Marxism July 19, 2003
Marxism Without the Crap July 3, 2003
What is Socialism? An Attempt at a Brief Definition June 19, 2003
What is Communism? A Brief Definition June 19, 2003
A New Communist Paradigm for the 21st Century May 8, 2003
On "Dialectics" -- The Heresy Posts May 8, 2003
|Things will not really improve here for us until U.S. imperialism suffers some staggering defeats...
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