George W Bush

dan_reynolds's picture

Eliminate the Electoral College, and actually count write-in votes, and then we would have a democracy.

Actually, if we eliminated the electoral college, we still wouldn't have a democracy. We live under a Republic. Without the electoral college, our Republic would oly gain the direct election of the president.

William Berkson's picture

>This is the fine work of the World Bank

Huh? The web site is of the International Textile, Garment & Leather Workers' Federation, and it doesn't mention the World Bank that I can see.

By the way, the mention of Amartya Sen on your other link reminds me; he is known for pointing out that "no famine has ever occurred in a country with a free press and regular elections".

Another of the great blessings of democracy and a liberal state.





gerald_giampa's picture

Mr Technicality.

http://www.newint.org/issue214/simply.htm

WORLD BANK

By 1990 SAPs were in place across much of the Third World. The result was a massive haemorrhage of wealth from the poor nations to the rich - an estimated $50 billion in 1985 alone. Co-operation between the IMF and the World Bank has meant that Third World nations continue to pay the interest on their debts even as they accumulate new ones. The social effects have been devastating: increased malnutrition, illiteracy, infant mortality and poverty. UNICEF estimates a half million children died in 1988 alone as a result of debt-induced austerity measures.

World Bank and IMF staff now exert more power in some Third World countries than government ministers. There is little proof their policies do anything more than help bankers collect interest. In fact competition for scarce export markets holds down prices and depresses wages. The main winners have been Western consumers and multinational corporations who benefit from both low commodity prices and low Third World wages. Resentment is growing in the poor nations as World Bank/IMF policies increase the drain of wealth from South to North and reinforce the inequality of the global system.

hrant's picture

William, your intricate network of delusions would be cute, if they didn't make me sick to my stomach. But I want you to keep spewing the miasma, because it will remind people exactly what's wrong. In fact what makes your ilk hard to banish is that you're generally quiet, causing the misery form the background.

hhp

azeli's picture

> And for our friend that is frightened by the great Cuban liberator, Fidel Castro. Worse >things have happened in Cuba by Americans torturing innocent youths. Human rights >dictatorship vs human rights democracy.

Gerald, maybe you should try to explain the difference to those incarcerated (77 persons in last month) for the decades (10-28 yrs) for a typewriter possession. Fidel Castro is plain dictator like Hitler, Stalin or Lenin. There is no excuse for the silly words you have written.

Pavel

Thomas Phinney's picture

Gerald:

It's all very well to blame the loans, but would the Third World have really been better off without that money? What would have been the result of no loans?

William:

It might be true that no famine has ever occurred in a country with regular elections and a free press. But this raises a cause/effect question: isn't it quite possible that relative affluence is the root of regular elections and a free press, as well as of not having famines? It seems like this is a necessary pre-requisite for both.

It seems to me that even in a democracy with regular elections and a free press, if there are sufficient social divisions (perhaps ethnic or religious) which correspond with regional divisions, famine is still possible. Imagine if the great depression of the 1930s with the American "dustbowl" of former farmland had occurred in a country with the internal tensions of a Yugoslavia....

Must get back to work!

T

steve_p's picture

>>We have one kind of democratic respresentation. The decision to include geographic weighting (as we do in the Senate of the US also) may be debatable or imperfect but it is still a democratic system.


The decision to include geographic weighting can only be described as inhibiting democracy. What is debateable about a set of measures which make votes count for different weights without any conceivable advantage?
In the UK, we have a 3 party system and we elect a parliament of local representatives, not a president, or even a government. It is these factors which allow opponents of democracy to cloud the issue of uneven weighting of votes. In the US there is no such excuse. The US will not be a democracy just by getting a democratic electoral system, but it can't be a democracy until it takes this first step.




>>Actually, if we eliminated the electoral college, we still wouldn't have a democracy. We live under a Republic. Without the electoral college, our Republic would oly gain the direct election of the president.

This is true, but you seem to be holding 'republic' and 'democracy' as mutually exclusive. Am I mistaken, or is that what you're saying?

William Berkson's picture

>isn't it quite possible that relative affluence is the root of regular elections and a free press, as well as of not having famines?

I believe that Sen carefully tries to show that where India had more democracy and a free press, even with poverty, famine didn't result. If you read the link I gave earlier, you will get the flavor of Sen's argument, though it is based in both a study of the facts and in economic theory (which doesn't make it right of course). Famines usually happen with war and/or despotism, as in the recent war-related African famines or the famines in North Korea related to despotism. In neither case was there an lack of food, but rather of distribution to the people who needed it.

>spewing the miasma

So Hrant, Sen's pro-liberal democratic views are 'miasma'? He grew up in Bengal, witnessed famine first hand, and went on to study it in great depth as an adult. For this and other work he got the Nobel Prize. So now that I suppose according to you he is a victim of 'psychological subjugation' by the Western media, right?

>causing the misery form the background

Hrant, I have no position of power to cause misery to anyone, except to you by shaking your from your dogmatic anti-democratic views. I actually don't want to cause any pain to you, but I also don't want to let your pernicious anti-democratic views to go on unanswered, which is why I have posted on this topic today.

steve_p's picture

>>"no famine has ever occurred in a country with a free press and regular elections".

>>isn't it quite possible that relative affluence is the root of regular elections and a free press, as well as of not having famines

Hey, Marx would be proud of you both!
Of course he would have taken 500 pages to have said the same thing, but the point is that from a Marxist point of view, regular elections and a famine free society are both achievements of capitalism.
Pre-capitalist society is plagued by famine, and unemcumbered by elections.

Personally, I'm not so sure that its as clear cut as that. Officially there were no famines in 18th century England, but there definitely were very poor harvests and quite a lot of starvation. Of course, there were elections (in a 2 party system) but they were not democratic.

On another note...
Remember, just because Hrant says it, it doesn't mean its necessarily untrue. We have to keep in mind that elections are only about choosing the personnel, and the policies, not about choosing the system of government. (I know in theory an elected party could do this, but in practice the weight of vested interests prevents anything even close to that).

William Berkson's picture

>The decision to include geographic weighting can only be described as inhibiting democracy

Steve, these issues are very complicated ones which political scientists have debated, but I don't see the point in going into them here are they are comparatively marginal to the issue - Hrant is arguing against democracy and for some kind of benevolent (he hopes) despot.

I just wanted to separate the criticism of Bush, much of which is merited, from rejection of democracy - a terrible idea.

hrant's picture

I recommend you stop trying to invoke me.

hhp

steve_p's picture

>>Steve, these issues are very complicated ones which political scientists have debated, but I don't see the point in going into them here are they are comparatively marginal to the issue...

William, these issues are marginal to Hrant's position, but more relevant to the earlier discussion about the virtues of the 2 party system. The volume of debate over electoral systems is massive (and I've read much too much of it), but geographical weighting in a 2-horse presedential race - can there be any defence?

William Berkson's picture

>Marx would be proud of you both

No, I think Sen is anti-Marx. Marx was contemptuous of democratic institutions, which he regarded I believe as quite ineffectual, and argued that the 'progressive emiseration of the working class' was inevitable. Dire proverty in the most developed countries was supposed to happen (I don't know whether with famine or not), followed by the seizing of power by the proletriat. Of course it didn't happen that way.

steve_p's picture

>>No, I think Sen is anti-Marx

That doesn't stop him (like many others) saying things which Marx has already said.
One of the great problems with someone like Marx is that too many people (even those who make their living as political commentators) have enough of an idea of what Marx said to excuse them from ever having to find out what he did actually say.
Marx didn't see democratic instituions as innefectual, he saw them as ably doing what they were designed for - assisting the birth and growth of the capitalist economic structure.

Marx didn't predict dire poverty under capitalism - he saw it as the most capable system for delivering a massive increase in material wellbeing and technological development.

This is why he predicted the failure of future revolutions in Russia (in the 1870s and 1880s) - because Russia had not experienced a developed capitalist economy, and so was short of material abundance - a pre-requisite of a successful socialist revolution.

William Berkson's picture

>geographical weighting in a 2-horse presedential race - can there be any defence?

Well, most people in the US see it as a pointless relic, including me, but whenever people try to change it, they run into exactly the same problems that led to the geographic weighting in the first place. The less populous states feel that they will be ignored both in the election, and afterwards. As a result this antique the 'electoral college' has never gotten changed.

I think the key problem in the last election was the politically influenced reasoning of the US Supreme Court.

steve_p's picture

>>I think the key problem in the last election was the politically influenced reasoning of the US Supreme Court.

Not the fact that the candidate with the most votes lost?

steve_p's picture

>>The less populous states feel that they will be ignored both in the election, and afterwards

What about the people who vote for the candidate who gets most votes, but loses the election? Don't they feel ignored?

Daniel Poindexter's picture

Tracy:

While I am positively seething to get this man out of office, I have to agree. The problem is, is his "right thing" good for our country and the rest of the world? Socially, economically, environmentally?

Yes, that's really the crux of it. It's up to every voter to decide whether a particular canidate's convictions are good for the country and the world. That's why character is so important

hrant's picture

Daniel, you need to travel more.

hhp

William Berkson's picture

>Marx didn't predict dire poverty under capitalism

Yes he did. After the initial increase in wealth, the 'inner contradictions' of capitalism would result in concentration of wealth for owners and lower and lower wages for workers, until the revolution would come. This is in Capital, and also in 'Wages Price and Profit', where he says "The general tendency of capitalistic production is not to raise but to sink the average standard of wages, or to push the value of labor more or less to its minimum limit."

>Marx didn't see democratic instituions as innefectual

I meant ineffectual in the goals of helping the rights of the common man, as conceived of by democrats. Marx says in the Communist Manifesto that democratic institutions are "merely a committee for managing the economic affairs of the whole bourgeoisie." The idea that they could protect the ordinary person from famine is alien to Marx, I believe.

Daniel Poindexter's picture

William, you knew Karl Popper? That's very cool.

Steve, you replied while I was typing, so I should probably exapnd a bit more. The idea of geographically weighted voting is really based in the functional principle behind both democracy and capitalism, which is factionalism. Factionalism basically postulates that in any democratic system, balance can only be maintained by competing interests. That's the reasoning behind antitrust laws, as well basic separation of powers (same thing in the UK: Executive, Legislative, and Judicial branches).

Factionalism means that you need to prevent any one interest from having all the power. Now, peoples' interests take a number of different forms

hrant's picture

> would result in concentration of wealth for owners and lower and
> lower wages for workers, until the revolution would come.

Clearly the opposite of what's actually been happening... :-/

Hopeless peons, borrowing, borrowing ideas (from those already in power, no less) until they can't tell right from wrong. Techinically I'm a peon too, but it's great to see my independenly-evolved ideas match those of an intellectual giant (as opposed to the psychological dwarfs trading technicalities) like Marx so closely.

hhp

Daniel Poindexter's picture

....and yet it's interesting how those independently developed ideas totally fail to take reality into account.

Seriously, if the best you can do in defense of your theories is call us peons, save yourself the time and stop now.

jim_rimmer's picture

I've been reading the many digressions from the original post: "George Bush", and although I generally avoid discussing politics or religion, it is impossible not to make a comment, at least about the man in question if nothing else.

It is sad and incomprehensible that a man like Bush could have ever attained the position of leader of the land. Does this mean that he is considered by the electorate to be in the same intellectual company as Jefferson, Frankiln D. Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman?

If the answer is "yes", then I am utterly without hope. If the answer is "no", then what on earth is he doing in the Whitehouse?

I have always heard that is is was possible for anyone born in the US to become president. Of that I now have little doubt.

It may seem boorish that a Canadian has the cheek to make an unkind comment on the leader of our nearest and long-time friend, the USA. My comment is a sincere one, spurred on by the fact that Bush's preciptous actions against Iraq have put Canada under threat of terrorist attack, if the news services are to be believed.

Jim Rimmer

gerald_giampa's picture

Thomas,

It's all very well to blame the loans, but would the Third World have really been better off without that money? What would have been the result of no loans?

Yes, they would have been better off without the loans. They would be better to simply default on the loans.

You want to know why?

gerald_giampa's picture

William,

>Marx didn't predict dire poverty under capitalism

Yes he did. After the initial increase in wealth, the 'inner contradictions' of capitalism would result in concentration of wealth for owners and lower and lower wages for workers, until the revolution would come. This is in Capital, and also in 'Wages Price and Profit', where he says "The general tendency of capitalistic production is not to raise but to sink the average standard of wages, or to push the value of labor more or less to its minimum limit."

steve_p's picture

William,

Marx's prediction of a decline in the average standard of wages doesn't include the prediction of 'dire poverty in the most advanced countries'.
For one thing, as capitalism is becoming truly global, the average standard of wages would need to take account of those many millions of workers who do not live in capitalist societies themselves (and receive none of the freedoms and benefits which Marx says exist for workers under capitalism), but whose labour power is employed by capitalists, largely contributing to the material wellbeing of workers in the advanced capitalist economies.
Also, the standard of wages is relative to the overall value of production.

The point I was trying to make is this: For Marx, famine (on the whole) is the product of a pre-capitalist economic structure. Agrarian revolution, leading to a massive increase in agricultural productivity and the stabilisation of agricultural output is a necessary pre-condition of the development of capitalism.
Once capitalism begins to take hold, technological developments lead to material abundance, in the most advanced countries at least.

==========================

>>lower and lower wages for workers, until the revolution would come

Historical materialism doesn't depend on the dire poverty of workers to push them into revolutionary action. For Marx, the revolution which removes capitalism doesn't have to mean 'manning the barricades' or storming the Winter Palace. The "era of social revolution" is essentially characterised by the displacement of one dominant production relation by another. It is possible that this revolution could consist entirely of processes of 'adaptive metamorphosis' or revolution from above. Marx's description of the emergence of capitalism in England includes elements of both of these processes. He saw the bourgeois revolution in England as involving a variety of forms of revolutionary action, and a broad range of 'revolutionaries', including feudal landowners.

==========================

>> Marx says in the Communist Manifesto that democratic institutions are "merely a committee for managing the economic affairs of the whole bourgeoisie." The idea that they could protect the ordinary person from famine is alien to Marx, I believe.

Actually, it is the 'executive of the modern state' which he sees in that way. (Or, in Terrell Carver's 1998 translation, 'the power of the modern state'). This is a judgement on the non-democratic states of mid-19th century Europe, rather than upon the concept of democratic institutions. Marx sees the then existing states, and even the further development of representative democracy, as only possible under capitalist (and ultimately post-capitalist) economic forms, and therefore historically incompatible with famine.

I suppose the summary of all that is this:
Democracy can only come into being with capitalism, though it doesn't have to go when capitalism does.
The technological advances that enable the emergence of capitalism, and those much more spectacular advances which it facilitates, render famine, largely, a thing of the past.

gerald_giampa's picture

Pavel

> And for our friend that is frightened by the great Cuban liberator, Fidel Castro. Worse >things have happened in Cuba by Americans torturing innocent youths. Human rights >dictatorship vs human rights democracy.

Gerald, maybe you should try to explain the difference to those incarcerated (77 persons in last month) for the decades (10-28 yrs) for a typewriter possession. Fidel Castro is plain dictator like Hitler, Stalin or Lenin. There is no excuse for the silly words you have written.


Owning typewriters is a moral sin that will be addressed, I trust, in the after world.

There are some things that are morally demonic, typewriters are one of them. Fidel Castro is obviously greatly enlightened and I appreciate this nugget of information you have given me. Those mono unit typewriter faces ruined my mommies vision hence the bad taste decorating in the family home.

Turquoise! What a disgrace! You better watch out this could happen to you. Oh, and liver shaped coffee tables, these visual travesties were unleashed all throughout the America's by that hideous contraption "the typewriter",

Castro rightly calls them the "devils horns", at least that is what Captain Juan Valdez told me aboard this very ship. http://lanstontype.com/FinnishCargoShip.html
He said, and I pass this wisdom on to all. "Wake up and smell the coffee!"

If my mother drank coffee instead of that dastardly tea she may have had the brains to get rid of that ungodly home wrecking invention.

I was so disgraced I ran away from home when I was thirteen and never got an education. Would you want that to happen to your children? That they should wind up like me? Go ahead, say it, you don't do you.

Let me make it easier for you.

http://lanstontype.com/GiampaGoesToSea.html

Yes, Castro believes in the family unit. He has his priorities correct. Make cigars not typewriters.

And I say, "good for him".

You know some people think I look like Castro.
http://lanstontype.com/GiampaHat.html

The other contraption that should be banished is bikes. Those snarky little double cheeked bums wagging insult after insult in your eyeballs as they peddle, pump. peddle, pump, peddle, pump down the street "burning up gallon after gallon of gasoline as it there were no tomorrow."

I say drive the suckers over. Don't they have any respect for the environment. All those danged gas guzzling bikes. What a bunch of inconsiderate morons.

Just think about? Those slimy sweaty cabbage patch misfits peddling away thinking they are doing "just the right thing". Meanwhile every car has to slow down in order to pass them. Slow down, then the poor motorist has to "step on the gas". You got it folks, "lots and lots and lots of gas. Every car must do the same thing. One car after another.

Those granola eaters are responsible for the war in Iraq. Don't get me started.

Gallon upon gallon spewing to the hemispheres.

Then these Nimrods dare lecture me about how eco friendly they are. I would like them to

dan's picture

Gerald, I don't appreciate your humor when it comes to bikes. I ride about 12,000 miles a year and I have more than one road raging motorest threaten me or worse try to run me over, why, because I exist. Cell phones have only made it worse I was almost run over two years ago by a cell phone talking motorist who was paying no attention to what she was doing (driving the car), bikes are not toys, the average racing bike now costs well over $2000 american and a really good one is in the $5000 range. Threatening life is not humor, at least not to me.

azeli's picture

> Just what I hate, typewriters, bikes and nimrods.

Okay Gerald, you got me! Because all typewriter owners are imprisoned already I am gonna liquidate all bikers I meet today in yours favour. Hope it helps.

Pavel

gerald_giampa's picture

Pavel,

That calls for a Cuban cigar!

William Berkson's picture

Steve, I think you are reading apologists who want to cover up what Marx and Engles actually said - for they were quite wrong in their historical prophesies.

The 'executive of the state' includes democratic institutions in Marxism. Here is Engels: "In reality the state is nothing more than a machine for the oppression of one class by another and this holds for a democratic republic no less than for a monarchy." (Introduction to 'The Civil War In France')

I can tell you that in England in the late '60s, when I was there at the LSE, and Marxism was riding high in certain circles, the Marxists were constantly ridiculing the emptiness of democratic institutions as nothing but the tool of the boureoisie for oppression of the working class.

And the collapse of capitalism is supposed to come from increasingly severe depressions which are cataclysmic. Here is Marx on these economic crises (from the Manifesto): "It appears as if a famine, a universal war of devastation had cut off the supply of every means of subsistence; industry and commerce seem to be destroyed..."

The idea that elections could protect against famine is, I think, totally alien to Marx's thinking. As to the internationalization of the work force, as I said Lenin tried to give this as an explanation for the failure of Marx's predictions of the collapse of capitalism. The problem is that the wages in poor countries like China, where production is done for rich countries, are rising, not falling, in spite of a huge reservoir of poor rural people wanting industrial work.

In spite of brilliant insights, Marx's analysis is wrong in so many ways that it is just antiquated. People like Amartya Sen are going to give you an incredibly more advanced understanding of the current economic system than did the Marx and Engels of over a hundred years ago.

By the way, the edition of 'Capital' I have, published in Moscow in 1968, is set in 10 point Bodoni with no leading - practically unreadable. Now that's backward for you!

steve_p's picture

>>Steve, I think you are reading apologists who want to cover up what Marx and Engles actually said

William, I think you're being patronising.
Nothing I have said here has been taken from any Marxist's work (except Marx himself - or Marx and Engels)



>>for they were quite wrong in their historical prophesies

Well, I think predictions would be the word, rather than prophesies.
OK, I'm not suggesting everything Marx said was correct, or that everything he predicted has happened, but Marx and Engels were not as wrong as you clearly think they were, and their analytical framework provides a much more perceptive vision of the modern world than anything I've seen people like Sen or Popper come up with.



>>The 'executive of the state' includes democratic institutions in Marxism. Here is Engels: "In reality the state is nothing more than a machine for the oppression of one class by another and this holds for a democratic republic no less than for a monarchy." (Introduction to 'The Civil War In France')

William, you don't seem to be able to appreciate context at all. From Marx and Engels perspective democracy is something to be criticised, not because its wrong or evil, but because it doesn't go far enough. Too often, their contemporaries saw democracy as the goal, whereas Marx and Engels were arguing that its the economic form which has to be changed. Do you think that they envisaged the post-capitalist state as a tool of class oppression?


>>I can tell you that in England in the late '60s, when I was there at the LSE, and Marxism was riding high in certain circles, the Marxists were constantly ridiculing the emptiness of democratic institutions as nothing but the tool of the boureoisie for oppression of the working class.

Well, that's Marxists for you. Is that anything to do with me?
(Oh, by the way, they may have assumed that they didn't have to spell it out to you that they were referring to democratic institutions UNDER CAPITALISM. In such circumstances the state does indeed have the role of assisting the bourgeoisie in exploiting the working class. On the other hand they may not have understood the distinction themselves).

>>And the collapse of capitalism is supposed to come from increasingly severe depressions which are cataclysmic. Here is Marx on these economic crises (from the Manifesto): "It appears as if a famine, a universal war of devastation had cut off the supply of every means of subsistence; industry and commerce seem to be destroyed..."

Oohhh, very cataclismic, but..errr...you forgot to quote the rest of the paragraph. The bit where Marx notes that these crises aren't so cataclismic that the bourgeoisie can't find a way around them - by finding new markets to exploit, and further exploiting the existing ones. So all the drama and devastation and destruction is really a bit of dramatic licence in what was, after all, a call to action, rather than the rigourous analytical work that was more typical of Marx. Marx and Engels did admit later in life that they had made a mistake in viewing the crisis of 1848 as the death-agony of capitalism. Quite soon afterwards the awful truth dawned on them that 1848 had merely been part of the birth-pangs.



>>The idea that elections could protect against famine is, I think, totally alien to Marx's thinking.

And mine too. I think I've already said this in a few different ways, but maybe another way will allow it to sink in (if I simplify it enough), here goes...

Elections and stable agricultural output are both absent in the pre-capitalist epoch.



>>As to the internationalization of the work force, as I said Lenin tried to give this as an explanation for the failure of Marx's predictions of the collapse of capitalism. The problem is that the wages in poor countries like China, where production is done for rich countries, are rising, not falling, in spite of a huge reservoir of poor rural people wanting industrial work.

OK, but are the wages of those in, say, the shoe industry, in say, China (a poor example, if I may say so, but we can run with it), higher than those of the workers in, say, the shoe industry, in say, Northamptonshire, in say, the 1970s? That is to say, taking the shoe industry as an example, are the wages of those on the production line rising, or falling?


>>By the way, the edition of 'Capital' I have, published in Moscow in 1968, is set in 10 point Bodoni with no leading - practically unreadable. Now that's backward for you!

You seem to say this with the kind of misplaced triumphalism that characterises the work of the thick witted Fukuyama. This makes me think (and I hope I'm wrong) that you think that the industrial backwardness of the Soviet Union in 1968 supports your argument, and mitigates against mine.

Daniel Poindexter's picture

Hrant,

I sure do need to travel more, but that's not really good grounds to dismiss my statements. I've lived in several different countries and spent time dozens of them. What all this amounts to is a simple appeal to belief. Just because a lot of people believe something does not necessarily make it true.

gerald_giampa's picture

Thomas,

It's all very well to blame the loans, but would the Third World have really been better off without that money? What would have been the result of no loans?

The answer is clearly yes. The third world would be much better off without those loans. Better to simply default.

http://sept.globalizethis.org/article.php?list=type&type=7

Nick Shinn's picture

10 pt Bodoni with no leading in 1968?
That's Madison Ave. (eg Carl Ally for Hertz.)

William Berkson's picture

>their analytical framework provides a much more perceptive vision of the modern world

I'm not being patronizing; I just think you are wrong.

The twentieth century was one massive testing and refutation of Marx's views, as extreme socialist (Communist) states collapsed or changed, and mild socialist states, like the European ones, only kept the welfare state, which had been introduced by Bismark, not Marx. The extreme socialist states were huge economic and moral failures. Socialist agriculture, in particular, proved to be an oxymoron, like 'round square'. It never worked, anywhere, anytime.

Now I know that Marx had his loony anarchist vision - unrelated to his critique of capitalism - of 'whithering away' of the state, but I think his ideas need to be judged by the reality of those who have earnestly tried to put them into practice.

To maintain that Marx is so much more perceptive than liberals like Popper or Sen is, in light of repeated failures of socialism, and repeated successes of liberal states with mixed economies (capitalism, welfare state) to me flies in the face of experience. There are plenty of problems with modern Captitalism and democratic states, but to look to Marx for solutions is, in my opinion, bizarre.

>That is to say, taking the shoe industry as an example, are the wages of those on the production line rising, or falling?

So you want to maintain Marx's theory of steadily falling wages for workers, in spite of a hundred and fifty years of refutation? The comparison is not with English shoe workers today, because English workers are in different vocations, but they are working. I believe that the wages of English workers are higher in real terms now than in 1970.


dan's picture

William, If I remember correctly Ronald Regan (who I didn't vote for) had a pissing match with the USSR on who could spend more money on arms, knowing it would bankrupt them and it did. If you look carefully at Russia today its new Tsar (oops president) Putin uses all the terms of democracy and basicly runs a closed political system. Every country has gotten the idea of a spin doctor and will make even the most horrible government sound like a free institution. I don't judge a country on its retoric, but on its actions. President Bush in his want to erraticate world wide terrorism has invaded two countries and has no exit policy, and every day another American or ally dies for lack of an exit strategy.

hrant's picture

> democracy is something to be criticised, not because
> its wrong or evil, but because it doesn't go far enough.

Exactly.

> Just because a lot of people believe something does not necessarily make it true.

Exactly.

--

And long live Tsar Putin. (Hey, that sounds like "Rasputin".)

hhp

steve_p's picture

>>I'm not being patronizing; I just think you are wrong

Please by all means, think I'm wrong, its up to you.
However, the statement of yours which was patronising was 'I think you are reading apologists who want to cover up what Marx and Engles actually said'.

I've read enough Marx first hand to find that statement patronising. From the look of the rest of your post, you haven't read nearly as much.

You say that 'The extreme socialist states were huge economic and moral failures' and present this as a refutation of Marx.

Oh dear, now I feel like I need to bemoan the commentators you've been reading.
(I'll try to be brief as everyone else must be bored by now)
For Marx, there were certain pre-conditions which had to be fulfilled before any given economic form could develop. Capitalism, for example, cannot arise while the mass of the population are tied to the land, either by laws of settlement or by ownership rights. A mass of landless labourers is a pre-requisite for capitalist development.
Socialism, or communism, if you like, also has certain pre-requisites. One of these is that capitalism has developed and created massive productive capabilities and material abundance.
In The German Ideology (1845-47) Marx and Engels predicted failure for attempts to establish socialism before this material requirement had been met:

Nick Shinn's picture

>one massive testing and refutation of Marx's views

William, communist states were isolated and crushed by the West. That's not a refutation of Marx's views.

steve_p's picture

I just re-read that post.

Oh Sh1t, if that's my attempt to be brief, I'd better go and drink more beer.

hrant's picture

Steve, I'm impressed by your grasp of this.

Let me ask you a hypothetical version of a very real question you've asked me:
If one wanted to replace a democracy with a benign monarchy, what is a practical scheme? Would it make sense to allow a really really long campaign and then have the people choose a monarch, who subsequently would choose a successor, maybe somebody not related by family?

hhp

steve_p's picture

Hrant,
I know you're being hypothetical here, but I can't imagine wanting to replace a democracy with a monarchy. Its a step backwards. And part of the problem is that I can't imagine a practical scheme for giving someone absolute power.
Aside from all the usual problems, what if they go insane? Can they still rule, or does someone have the power to remove them? Who decides if they are insane? What if they turn out to be really unpopular after a few years, or become obsessed with a particular idea or person, or experience a life changing event and develop a completely different character, or just slowly transform from a vibrant young go-getting type into a grumpy old man?
And what about the succession? What if they sell the succession to the highest bidder, or give it to the highest briber, or just choose the girl with the nicest nose? What if they leave it to a cats home?

Sorry to sound negative hhp, but I can't make my head see monarchies as anything other than a really silly, and dangerous, way to govern a country.

(Most modern European monarchies are actually harmless enough, but they're still a waste of money and that hereditary thing really sticks in my throat).

hrant's picture

Steve, this isn't at all the right place to put you on the spot about the merits of democracy versus monarchy, but I would like to ask you this: If you're not interested in the hypothetical angle (it's not like any of us have any real power anyway), then why did you once ask me to elaborate on this myself? Should I unflag that post of yours? Or were your questions just now not [all] rhetorical after all? If not, then I guess the main answer is: "shite happens".

hhp

steve_p's picture

>>If you're not interested in the hypothetical angle (it's not like any of us have any real power anyway), then why did you once ask me to elaborate on this myself?

Its not that I object to the hypothetical angle.
But its you that recommends a monarchy, so its up to you to answer potential problems with that solution, hypothetical or otherwise. (Of course, there's no obligation to address such questions, but if you suggest a solution without addressing people's concerns, then its hard for people to take your suggestion seriously).
To be honest, I can't get into the whole monarchy thing - for the reasons given above, and for the want of answers to the questions I put to you before, among other things - but if you can provide satisfactory answers to my doubts, maybe I'll be persuaded.
Maybe its also because I'm intrigued. Usually, when I meet a monarchist its an old lady with a blue rinse who thinks the queen does ever so well to put up with what she has to put up with ("and you never hear her complain"). Asking for a practical or ideological justification of the monarchy from those people is like asking monkeys to argue the case for bananas. I'm interested in what a travelled & cosmopolitan person of my generation sees in the idea. (I hope I'm not making you out to be older than you are).
I can't see myself being persuaded, but without some answers, I'll never know!

William Berkson's picture

>William, communist states were isolated and crushed by the West. That's not a refutation of Marx's views.

Well, they were incredibly stagnant and unproductive economically, while the West was going from strength to strength. They were also horribly oppressive and corrupt. And they really didn't have any excuse. The old Soviet empire had plenty of raw materials, population, land and education. The West had a lot to do with limiting the spread of their power, but they fell of their own internal stagnation, decay, and in lack of belief in their own system. In my opinion, Ronald Reagan had very little to do with it, in spite of what US right wingers like to claim.


Steve, the reason I thought you must be reading someone else's version of Marx is a.) you didn't quote Marx and b.) you seemed to claim stuff that is contrary to what I heard Marxists say for years, and that I read myself.

For example, you said "This [view of government as purely a tool of the bourgeoisie] is a judgment on the non-democratic states of mid-19th century Europe, rather than upon the concept of democratic institutions." But Engels, as I quoted above, flatly contradicts your statement.

Furthermore, Marx's claim I quoted is that "The general tendency of capitalistic production is not to raise but to sink the average standard of wages, or to push the value of labor more or less to its minimum limit." You can compare shoe workers in England and China, but that is not the test of Marx's claim. The relevant comparison is of the change in average wages in a country, or in the world at large, and in both cases the average standard has raised, not lowered, thus contradicting Marx.

As to the relevance of the twentieth century Communism and Socialism to Marx, it is necessary to separate two things. First is Marx's critique of capitalism and second is his ideas about the socialist state. His critique is insightful but fundamentally flawed. His views of the socialist state are practically non-existent, as he basically relied on his loony idea that once the state owned the means of production, it would wither away. Lenin had to develop a theory of a socialist state, in which the Communist party was somehow able to speak for the proletariat. This was rubbish, but it was an excuse to rule and oppress others. And of course the state did anything but wither away.

In moderate socialist experiments of Western Europe, nationalized industries just didn't work very well. The experience of socialist experiments of the 20th century give us a lot of basis to judge Marx's dreams by, and they look pretty miserable.

Frankly, Marxism is not high on my list of stuff to engage again intellectually, as it is in my opinion one of the deadest philosophies out there. Therefore I will not add further to the case I have made up to now concerning Marxism. Popper made a much more powerful case in 'The Open Society and Its Enemies', if anyone is interested.

gerald_giampa's picture

Frankly, Marxism is not high on my list of stuff to engage again intellectually, as it is in my opinion one of the deadest philosophies out there.

I find it ironic anyone would consider the problems of intenstinal consumption a philosophy. Wouldn't that be a medical problem?

Capitalists, and slugs are all one and the same, they love to consume, and both leave tracks.

Plumbers know what should run downhill. Trouble with captitalists is it runs uphill. You know "you" need a plumber, something is backed up. It smells bad.

You can always do it in the "Bush" at election time.

gerald_giampa's picture

Look, how do you figure the world average income is up. If so, do your really have any reason to believe it has anything to do with capitalism vs communism?

What is all of this based on? I can't seem to find any source that is worthy of repeating.

Some how, the poor, look, just poor. And the rich look like they don't deserve to be. Well, except obese.

steve_p's picture

William,

I don't think there's much point in taking this any further. You are still blaming the Soviet Union on Marx despite the fact that he specifically said that such a revolution would fail to bring about socialism, and would result in the restoration of 'all the old filthy business'. Have a look out east.

What Lenin did or said is not relevant to a discussion of Marx. Same goes for Stalin, Gorby and anyone at the LSE in the 1960s.
I'm not saying that no-one has anything relevant to say about Marx, but pointing out errors in the arguments of those who claim to be Marxists is not relevant to a discussion of Marx's ideas.
Your failure to be able to look past this is what handicaps your ability to understand the discussion.

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