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The Manifest Idiocy of Capitalism January 14, 2004 by RedStar2000


In this particular forum--Opposing Ideologies--it's all too common to see threads entitled "The Folly of Socialism" or "Why Communism Can't Work", etc.

So I thought I'd try my hand at such a thread: The Manifest Idiocy of Capitalism.

In bourgeois economic theory, capitalism allocates resources in an efficient manner to supply people's needs and wants in abundance and at affordable prices.

In the real world, it never works that way.

Here's why: in the real world, if a capitalist makes "too much" of something, the price he and his competitors can charge falls to such a low level that he can no longer make a profit...or, at least, a profit that he finds "acceptable".

Therefore, it is greatly to his advantage if there is a real "shortage" of his product...if not from extraneous causes, then from his own decision to "produce less". The worse thing he can do is actually try to "meet the demand" for his product. Only if he has a near or actual monopoly for his product can he produce "as much as people want" and still keep prices at stratospheric levels.

Thus it is that every spring in North America--the beginning of the "driving season"--the oil companies shut down some of their refineries to create a "shortage" of gasoline...duly followed by price increases "at the pump" of 20% or even more.

Every fall, the same thing happens with natural gas--widely used for winter heating in North America. Some natural gas wells are "taken off line" and we have a "shortage"--the price jumps dramatically.

As a result, profits grow by selling less.

This is, in practice, a "delicate" scam, requiring considerable finesse. If you produce "too little", consumers will seek out reasonably acceptable lower-priced substitutes for your product (if they exist). But that is a "small risk" compared to the risk of "over-producing" and ending up actually losing money.

In neither socialist or communist economies can this kind of idiocy take place. If shortages exist, they are real ones...not the contrivance of some greedy bastards.

The Soviet Union, for all its numerous shortcomings, made very low cost energy supplies available to consumers in unlimited amounts. Now, under capitalism, much of Russia "freezes in the dark" every winter. (What they actually do, of course, is install a wood-burning or oil-burning stove in their kitchens and live and sleep there throughout the long winter months. In the spring, they can start using the rest of the rooms in their apartments again.)

A particularly sad story comes from Vietnam. When that formerly socialist country decided to go back to capitalism, they asked the advice of the World Bank (run by the U.S., of course) on the best way to "break into" the global economy. The bankers suggested that they grow coffee for export (the highlands of Vietnam are extremely suitable for the coffee plant).

The Vietnamese, hard working people that they are, took the advice of the bankers and planted many thousands of acres in coffee. The world market price of coffee plunged.

The Vietnamese ended up having to rip up and destroy much of what they had planted...so that the price of coffee would rise high enough to make it profitable to keep the rest.

Welcome, Vietnam, to the manifest idiocy of capitalism.
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First posted at Che-Lives on January 9, 2004
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quote:

...yet the arguments on this board are stemming from communist theory against capitalist reality. These arguments always end up as shouting matches because it is difficult to compare theory to reality. Who knows if communism would work exactly as the theory states, since it has never been tried properly before?


Agreed.

Still, many of the "shouting matches" concern the actual performance of capitalism in the real world.

How many people come to this particular forum for the purpose of "justifying" U.S. imperialism, globalization, the immiseration of the "third world", "getting rich" by "working hard", and even America's fake presidential "election" of 2000?

Suppose there were no socialist or communist theory at all? Suppose all we had to go on was how capitalism has actually panned out in practice?

Those who are "winners" or who think they will be "winners" by "working hard" will concentrate on the "advantages" of capitalism--it gives you the "chance" to be a "winner". They are just as "unbiased" as lottery winners on the subject of lotteries.

Those who take a closer look develop different views. If socialist and communist theory didn't exist, it would be invented by people now to explain what's really going on.

And what to do about it.

quote:

Please show some documented sources for your claims that oil companies and gas companies purposely cut lines to increase demand.


Sorry, you must have mistaken me for your "research assistant". This phenomenon is "common knowledge" and is reported in the bourgeois media in North America every spring and every fall with regularity. Much verbal fuss is raised...nothing changes.

quote:

The Vietnamese should have had someone tell them that growing too much coffee would make the price plummet, but they didn't search for that little tidbit of information, did they?


No, they believed they could "get rich" by "working hard". Poor naive bastards.

quote:

...the way the 'shortage' works is simply a function of willingness to pay.


"Willingness to pay" is a bourgeois economist fiction. I can be "willing" to pay any price, but if I don't have the money, my "willingness to pay" is meaningless.

I am more than willing to pay for a small cottage in Tahiti or even a beach-front condo in Honolulu...but I don't have the money.
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First posted at Che-Lives on January 9, 2004
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quote:

if there is enough of a shortage, and prices rise high enough, that field becomes rather attractive and competitors begin to build more, eliminating the shortage.


Yes, that is what is "supposed" to happen, in theory.

Why doesn't it?

Look around, for example, for a new personal computer. Check prices on Dell, Gateway, Hewlett-Packard-Compaq, IBM, etc. All about the same. Features? All about the same. Customer Service? All about the same. Even "weird brands" that you never heard of...prices and features are all about the same and there's no way of learning about their customer service at all.

How can this be? Why isn't someone making a $200 home pc? Maybe it wouldn't have all the features, maybe it wouldn't be quite as fast or have quite as much memory...but it would open up a market of millions of people who can't afford $600 or $800 or more for a pc.

Why doesn't this happen?

Or consider the annual "spring shortage" of gasoline and "fall shortage" of natural gas...how is it that not one of the producers of gasoline or natural gas doesn't seize this opportunity to lower prices and gain market share?

What's going on?

quote:

Thus you can see how market forces naturally gravitate towards fair prices.


No, I don't "see". I don't actually see that happening at all. I see artificial shortages and artificially elevated prices--occasionally, as was the case recently in California--to the point of near catastrophe.

What are these idiots doing...besides getting rich?
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First posted at Che-Lives on January 9, 2004
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quote:

Now you give examples of oil and natural gas and those are good examples to show that even capitalism in its real world practice requires a small degree of control to ensure monopolistic positioning doesn't become a problem. The reason being because these are not industries that are open for entry of new competition. It is downright impossible to have a startup oil or natural gas company. However this is not the case for the major majority of industries.


What do you mean "doesn't become a problem"? Every spring and every fall (in North America) it is a problem.

There are regulatory bodies in place at both the state and federal levels...yet it just "keeps happening"--in total defiance of bourgeois economic theory.

One of those oil or gas companies "should" lower their prices to gain market share...but none of them do it.

Yes, I'm well aware of the matter of "entry costs"...which is another gaping hole in classical economics. If a firm creates an artificial shortage to keep prices up, then capital is supposed to flow out of other, less profitable, markets and into this highly-profitable market...both relieving the shortage and driving prices down to a more affordable level.

That doesn't happen either. Entry level costs are so high that it is prohibitively expensive for all but the very largest and wealthiest corporations to enter the market...except for "trash commodities". The market for Adam Smith's famous pins may indeed function according to free market theory. Who knows or cares who makes pins? How many do you buy in your whole life?

It's the "big stuff" that works entirely differently. Energy, housing, durable goods, autos, health care, higher education, etc....and even consumer electronics, though the latter may be a partially free market.

The largest and wealthiest corporations can afford the "entry costs", but why should they do it? They know, from experience, that as soon as they enter that market, prices will fall and so will potential and actual profitability. They can never be as profitable as the corporation which presently dominates the market for that particular good or service. That doesn't stop it from happening, but it makes it a fairly rare event.

Only on those unusual occasions when they have or believe they have a genuinely superior product is it really "worth the risk".

My experience has been that genuinely superior products are in very short supply. The latest marketing strategy of major corporations appears to be "branding" and "known quality". McDonald's may serve shitburgers, but you know when you walk into a McDonald's that it will be a certain level of shit, no worse and no better. You can "count on it". In the long run, this is a far less costly strategy than actually trying to develop superior products; research & development is expensive and may pay off zilch.

quote:

Basically, they [the Vietnamese coffee-growers] got bit on the butt by the law of supply and demand.


And their esteemed and respectable advisers from the World Bank didn't warn them of this outcome?

Gee, if you can't trust the World Bank, who can you trust? *Laughs*

quote:

Then you're not willing to pay. If you were, you would sell everything else you own and work double shifts to get the money to buy it. "Willingness to pay" is a balancing act consumers must go through to decide if the product or services is worth the cost. Cost being what will be required from that individual to purchase the product.


Yes, if I quit eating for a couple of years and slept on the sidewalk, I could accumulate the down-payment for that cottage in Tahiti.

You are hiding behind words...using "detached" terminology to disguise the painful economic reality that most people face in their lives.

I can understand why you find it necessary to do that...a "naked" description of capitalist reality is kind of uncomfortable, isn't it?

It could make you "feel bad" about yourself...and you certainly don't want that. Who does?

Keep in mind that make-up on a corpse does not really change anything...or make it smell any better.

quote:

But this market [computers] is a good example. Review the pricing for the major retailers again. If you look hard enough, there is almost always one of them offering "special deals" at reduced prices.


Yes, that does happen. The discounts are normally not significant ($100 or less) except on "re-built" or "re-conditioned" units...where you really have very little idea of what you're buying.

I did purchase my computer used...for $300. But it cost another $135 to get it to work properly.

But speaking of computers reminds me of another example of the "free market". Have you priced broadband in your area? There are two providers where I live (DSL and cable)...and, by sheer chance, they both charge $49.95 a month.

What a coincidence. *Laughs*
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First posted at Che-Lives on January 10, 2004
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In the centuries prior to Marx, it was intellectually respectable to argue "from first principles". By "pure reason" we could understand what was both "rational" and "moral". Abstractions like "freedom" and "justice" could be clearly articulated and made obvious to all.

One of the crucial contributions of Marx was the discovery that this "pure reason" was not "pure" at all...it was and has always been rooted in the material conditions of the society that has produced it.

There was never any such thing as "man in a state of nature"...there have always been actual living people in specific situations. People with a particular technology, living in a particular place, living within particular relations with each other.

John Locke lived in a particular time, the 17th century, and in a particular place, England. He represented the views of the rising merchant class in that country; a class that was very resentful of aristocratic privilege and extravagance...and the high taxes required to pay for that extravagance.

Thus his preference for a "cheap government" that would exist only for the purpose of "protecting property".

Locke was waging ideological struggle on behalf of his class and against the ideas that supported the old landed oligarchs. And he fought well.

But that was all a long time ago...and the class struggle is of a very different nature now than it was then.

Locke's class won and eventually became the capitalist oligarchy that oppresses and exploits us today.

That's why we read Marx; while Locke is of interest only to historians.
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First posted at Che-Lives on January 10, 2004
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quote:

Funny that Marxism's concept of Polylogicism (multiple logics) is only applied to capitalist economics, not evil capitalist science, or math...


No, it can be applied to lots of different areas...though religion, political philosophy, and economic theory are the areas in which the effects are most obvious.

Mathematics, after all, didn't originate as a product of "pure reason"...it was the division of land and the construction of large structures that forced humans to learn the rudiments of geometry. It was the desire to find a better way to "divine the future" that lay behind astrology.

And yes, science can be heavily influenced for a time by class considerations.

Do you not recall "social Darwinism", replaced by "racial science", replaced by "socio-biology", and now its latest incarnation "evolutionary psychology"? Each "new & improved" version of this pseudo-scientific scam has and has always had a single purpose: to "prove" with "biological evidence" that the ruling class "really is superior" and "deserves" its powers and privileges.

Science is unique in that sooner or later, the scam is exposed and the fraudulent rejected. But it can take a while. Scientists are part of class society and their views on matters are influenced by that fact...whether they are aware of it or not.

It's kind of amusing that westerners like to poke fun at the Stalinist fraud Lysenko (even though it's quite possible that Lysenko was entirely sincere in his convictions). The English psychologist Cyril Burt spent a whole "scientific" lifetime making up numbers to "prove" the stupidity of the working class...and received a knighthood for his pains. He even went so far as to make up "research assistants" that didn't exist!

It is always well to cast a critical (Marxist) eye...even at science.
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First posted at Che-Lives on January 11, 2004
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quote:

Egalitarianism, which claims only to want an "equality" in end results, hates the exceptional man who, through his own mental effort, achieves that which others cannot.


No, the egalitarians do not "hate" the "exceptional man" (however that might be defined). It is the exceptional reward that is up for question...especially when--as under capitalism--it is wildly disproportionate to the actual effort.

For someone who suffers from mental retardation, it requires great mental effort to dress oneself correctly or prepare a meal. For someone like Marx or Einstein, it requires great mental effort to think of "a whole new way of looking at reality".

The question is: should the genius live "in opulence" while the "retard" suffers on the streets?

Yes, the genius may make a magnificent contribution to the advancement of the human species...and is likely to be honored in the popular imagination regardless of "official honors".

What more is required?

Do you think Marx labored so that he might receive a "knighthood"? Did Einstein puzzle over the nature of light so that one day he could get a Nobel Prize?

The author, for all his praise of "exceptional men" (he ignores women entirely except as "fashion models"...!), shows that he truly mis-understands the motivations of genuinely exceptional people.

His piece is really in praise of those who possess the "talent" to "make money"...the only kind of "genius" that capitalism really honors.

If you can make a fortune--and manage to avoid prison--you are an "exceptional man" in the eyes of capitalism's defenders. All others are "fools" or "suckers".

quote:

That some people are exceptional that some have more intelligence, are more beautiful or work harder than others is a threat to egalitarians.


No, it is a "threat" (minor) to those who--for their own reasons--wish to create the appearance of equality.

Modern capitalism is, as regards the public, about the appearance of equality--the image of a society in which "all can succeed".

This is fairly recent; prior to World War I, the aristocrats of capital publicly displayed their opulence in much the same fashion as their feudal predecessors. The idea was to awe the "rabble" with their magnificence.

Unlike serfs, workers were not "awed" but instead became hostile. Thus the trend began of displaying wealth "behind closed doors"...far out of the public eye. The curtain is occasionally lifted--we see the stretch limo or read about the $10 million dollar party--but, in the course of our normal lives, we really have no idea of how our oligarchs really live...or what it really costs to maintain that standard on a daily basis.

The author further makes the assumption that there is a positive correlation between "more intelligence", "more beauty", or "harder work" and reward; that is, money.

Once again, this completely ignores the real world. Most members of the ruling class are no smarter than average, no better looking, and certainly no harder working than ordinary people.

What they are is luckier...being born to great wealth makes a huge difference in your life. In fact, it makes "all the difference in the world".

quote:

Egalitarianism demands the punishment and envy of anyone who is better than someone else at anything. We must tear down the competent and the strong raze them to the level of the incompetent and the weak. We must worship a zero and sneer at a creator.


Social Darwinist crap! How exactly are the "competent" and the "strong" being "torn down"? Where is the evidence (outside of religion) where we are "worshiping a zero"?

quote:

Feminists thus smear fashion models for being more beautiful than ordinary women.


Smear? More "beautiful"? What feminists have actually pointed out is that over the last three or four decades, models have become less and less representative of what women normally look like.

Marilyn Monroe was a beautiful woman but she looked like a woman. Many contemporary models look like "boys with breasts".

This discrepancy is calculated to create a sense of "inferiority" and anxiety among women about their looks...hopefully (in the minds of capitalists) leading to the increased purchase of "beauty products" and "fashion".

quote:

Liberal commentators chastise Americans for being proud that our Olympic athletes won more medals than did other athletes.


Not being a liberal myself, I'll take his word for it. But it seems to me that "pride" in the athletic achievements (or any achievements) of others is a pretty foolish emotion.

One can enjoy the excellence of athletic performance without getting one's own ego mixed up in it...can't one?

I do.

quote:

Industrial giants, such as Bill Gates, are vilified for making "too much" money.


"Too much money" for too little effort to be precise. His real contributions to information technology are far overshadowed by those of many others.

But the greedy little bastard knew how to make money off the work of others...and did it better than many ever have.

quote:

And America's greatest companies are persecuted by the Justice Department's Antitrust Division for having better management, and thereby a larger market share, than does the competition.


The author is, at least, not without a sense of humor.

American anti-trust law is a joke and its enforcement is an even bigger joke.

But I guess he felt it was too awkward to say what he really wants to say: "monopoly is good!".

quote:

To accommodate the slowest learners, the entire K-12 curriculum has been "dumbed down." And high schools on both coasts are dispensing with awards honoring top seniors. They don't select "the most likely to succeed" or the "most talented." These schools no longer offer class rankings, nor do they select a class valedictorian. In today's age of achievement-hatred, it is okay to spend millions on playground psychopaths. But it is considered morally low to honor a bright student.


Quite a rant, none of which makes any sense. I did like that phrase "millions on playground psychopaths", though. It has a nice "ring" to it, even though it has no real world referents at all.

And why would a "bright student" need to be "honored"? S/he knows s/he is bright; so does everyone who knows her/him. What purpose is served by putting them on a stage and saying, "Sure enough, you're bright".

As it happens, I finished in third place in a high school graduating class of more than 350 kids...and I was "honored" for doing so. Big fucking deal! All it turned out to mean is that I was "smart enough" to be admitted to Columbia University...but not rich enough to move to New York City and actually attend this prestigious institution.

That's my "reward" for making the "dumb mistake" of being born into the working class in a capitalist society.

quote:

Is it any mystery why there isn't more talent in the world today?


Not to me. There's only "so much room" for "talent" in the capitalist world...and nearly all of it is reserved for the children of the upper classes. The enormous talents of the working class lie dormant and unwanted...we are simply required to "shut up" and "do what we're told".

No!
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First posted at Che-Lives on January 12, 2004
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quote:

"Exceptional man"? He didn't say that, he said "THAT SOME PEOPLE ARE EXCEPTIONAL".


I don't wish to be "picky", but do you think you could take the trouble to read what you "cut & paste"?

Here is the first sentence of your article...

quote:

Egalitarianism, which claims only to want an "equality" in end results, hates the exceptional man...


Emphasis added.

quote:

I don't know why you decided to compare a retard and Einstein. That there is a reward for a genius does not mean that the retard will be punished. Where do you get that from?


From reality, of course...something which you persistently ignore.

Those who are "less bright" are punished by capitalism as it actually operates. (Unless, of course, Mr. Van Dummy is born to wealthy parents...in which case he lives a pretty good life even if he's not altogether aware of it.)

A disproportionate number of people in prison and living on the streets are obviously mentally retarded; instead of proper care for their needs, capitalism prescribes poverty, prosecution, and even execution.

That's "punishment" in my dictionary.

quote:

...but don't you think they might want to profit from their magnificent contributions?


Why? If you really have made a "magnificent contribution" (or think you have) then you already know it and the rest of the world either knows it or will find out sooner or later.

The only reason "profit" comes up is because that is how prestige and status are measured in capitalist society.

The greater your net worth, the more "truly exceptional" you are. Even Mr. Van Dummy, with sufficient wealth, ranks "higher", is more "exceptional" than even the greatest scientist, artist, athlete, etc.

quote:

...but if they do [want to profit] why do you want to make them seem evil?


Because "profit" does not "fall out of the sky". If one person grows wealthier, many others grow relatively poorer...and sometimes absolutely poorer.

If I manage to steal $1.00 from each and every person in the United States, I'll accumulate a tidy little fortune of $280,000,000 or so--making me an "exceptional man"--and everyone else will be $1.00 poorer.

Reality is more complex than this example; I realize that. But you get the idea.

quote:

...and no, you're a crook if you do that.


Not necessarily. Under capitalism, a "crook" is the guy that stole your car or robs a convenience store or ingests an "illegal substance".

Someone who can steal millions or even billions is "a businessman", an "industrial giant", or, in the words of your mentor, "an exceptional man"...until such time as he goes to prison, if he is convicted.

The "big boys" at Enron have yet to be indicted, much less convicted.

You may call them "crooks" if you like; they are laughing all the way to the (offshore) bank.

quote:

He did not say all rich people are better looking, more intelligent and work harder.


No, because if he said that in plain language, people would laugh at him and call him stupid.

But with all his talk of the "exceptional man", that is what he implies.

quote:

All rich people are born rich?? 70 percent of rich people are 1st generation rich.


If you believe that, I've got a "really great" investment opportunity just for you. *Laughs*

quote:

...was the owner of walmart always rich?


No, but his three kids will be. I think they're tied for 3rd place on Fortune's "Billionaire List". How's that for "exceptional" achievement?

quote:

you don't think not having class rankings or a class valedictorian is punishing the good student??


Nope. I don't think that kind of crap means diddly squat. And I also think that anyone who gets "puffed up" over something like that is not as bright as they think they are...regardless of their grade-point standing.

quote:

feminist (jealous, ugly fat lesbians that hate men)


They're not necessarily jealous, not necessarily ugly, not necessarily fat, and not all lesbians.

They don't even hate "all men".

But they do hate men like you.

I think you've earned it.

quote:

In the Olympics, the athlete represents their country so obviously people want them to win, and when they do they receive praise.


Represents? Obviously?

Yes, I know that many people think those things. But I think they are foolish things to think. An athlete from the United States does not "represent" me; I didn't choose her as "the best the country has to offer".

I don't care who wins in the Olympics or any other sporting event; a good performance is what is interesting to me...assuming I find the particular sport interesting to watch.

You have to remember that sports is a business..."winning" is "nice" but making money is essential.

quote:

Once again you talk about the upper classes. You must be jealous and hate people that are rich. Most of the rich were born rich. What is so bad that a parent wants to leave his kids money?


Here you contradict yourself; earlier you said that most rich people were not born rich, and now you admit that they are...and say "what's wrong with that"?

What's "wrong" is that it shatters your whole argument about "exceptional men".

The only "exceptional" thing they did was manage to get born and stay alive long enough to inherit.

Something even a "retard" can do.
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First posted at Che-Lives on January 13, 2004
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quote:

That is the summary, I was talking about the article.


So was I...

quote:

...a view of justice which tells you to evaluate and reward a man based on his talents.


Ok?

quote:

No, they are also crooks.


Such innocence.

quote:

But their kids worked for the billions. As most if not all of them have worked to improve the family business. They probably started working when their dad was not even a multi-millionaire.


Yes, they worked "really hard" too, I'll bet.

Do you realize how naive you sound when you say things like that?

quote:

Feminist[s] don't hate men, have you ever heard what Martha Burke wanted to do to men, so that they could be good fathers?...blah, blah, blah.


I can easily imagine what they'd like to do to you...and I think I'll just stand aside and let them do it.

You pretty much "have it coming".

quote:

NOT the Olympics.


Especially the Olympics...it is such a huge money-maker that bribes fly like swarms of locusts.

quote:

Most of the rich weren't born rich.


I beg to disagree.

quote:

What is so bad that a parent wants to leave money to a kid?


I repeat myself: because it shatters your argument about "exceptional men".

If you inherit serious wealth, you are already "exceptional" without having to lift a finger.

The game is "over" when the lawyer reads the will. You won!

Congratulations, son.
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First posted at Che-Lives on January 13, 2004
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