Is Socialism Feasible? Would it be better than the current system? What does the evidence say?

October 2021 Forums General discussion Is Socialism Feasible? Would it be better than the current system? What does the evidence say?

Viewing 15 posts - 16 through 30 (of 51 total)
  • Author
    Posts
  • #92104
    Anonymous
    Inactive

    Ed,"I know you won't be happy with my answers, you'll probably accuse me of dodging the questions. However, I think your questions are based on speculation not fact. How can they not be? And if they are based on speculation, on hypothetical situations, how can the answers be anything but speculation. So while you may feel the answers are unfair I believe it is the questions which are unfair"My questions are not based on speculation. My questions are asking for solutions to particular problems. There are mechanisms within the current system for dealing with these problems (obviously not perfect but I don't expect a utopia). If such solutions to these problems cannot be provided I feel that there is little evidence that socialism is feasible or would be better than the current society.Of course it is the case that these solutions would be somewhat speculative. But there are different levels of speculation. Lets take your suggestion that we can use social capital to get people to work (a solution I put forward myself when asking the question).The feasibility of this proposition is in large part dependent on what "social capital" is and to what extent a democratic vote can be used to choose the criteria by which it is allocated. In its current form this a highly speculative proposition with little evidence that such mechanisms are particularly reliable.What I have in mind are solutions that are quite clear about what assumptions they rely upon. These assumptions are then tested. If these assumptions hold up then the solution have a much better chance of holding up when put to the test. However, this does not necessarily mean that this is good enough evidence: but we won't know if it is good enough until such attempts at solving the problems in a scientific fashion are attempted.Note, the above two paragraphs are very favourable to the socialist position, from my perspective. As if I believed such questions "are impossible to answer empirically." then I would completely discard socialism. If it is not possible to show that we can expect, with high probability, socialism to be both feasible and better than the current society then I don't want to push for it. Again:Why would anyone want to struggle for something unless they have good reason to think it is going to improve the world or improve their lives?And your statement is, to my eyes, saying that one: we don't have good reason to think it is going to improve the world or our lives,; and two, we can't hope to get such evidence. But elsewhere you seem to believe that socialism would make the world better, to believe that it is feasible, and to believe that you have good reason for believing these things. I don't know if I should reply to your particular solutions as it seems you believe we need to know if we can solve these problems. I will reply to the specific solutions if  you think that: i) it is important to have solutions to these problems if we are to have good reasons to believe socialism is feasible; ii)  that it is important that these solutions do not rest upon untested or untestable assumptions (as much as possible, obviously we can't test the method of induction); iii) it is important to have good reason to believe socialism is feasible if we are going to put our time and effort into making it happen.If, however, you think we don't have evidence that socialism is feasible or better; that we can't have such evidence prior to socialism; and we do not need such evidence to support socialism; then we should really have the debate about that. It seems to be everyone else’s position on this comment thread. The debate might be short though as it is pretty fundamental for me that you should only struggle for something if you think you have good reason to think it will improve the world.Is the position of the party really:Socialism! A Good Idea? Who knows? Who cares? Not us!If it is then I have really wasted my time. But this is the answer that everyone keeps coming back to.Does anyone in the party think they have very good reasons to think that socialism would be better than capitalism (Yes to (a) and (b))? And think that these very good reasons for thinking socialism is better than capitalism are necessary for them to support socialism? Because you all keep saying it doesn't matter. 

    #92105
    Anonymous
    Inactive

    To be honest I think, before engaging in further debate, the question that needs to be answered is:Why should anyone  struggle for socialism if they do not have good reason to think it is going to improve the world or improve their lives?My answer is "They Shouldn't.".If your answer is also "They Shouldn't" then questions (a) and (b) are important. In which case we can have a meaningful debate about questions (a) and (b).If your answer is something other than "They Shouldn't" then we can debate this alternative reason.

    #92106
    Ed
    Participant

    Lets flip this around, Alaric, can you empirically prove that the problems you've stated and the many more you imagine are not the result of class society and will thus exist in a socialist society?There are different levels of speculation, the Higgs Bossom particle being one example of acceptable speculation. But they didn't come up with it on a whim; all the evidence pointed to it being there and it was the only conclusion which made sense to them. What I need is your indisputable proof that these problems will exist in a socialist society.

    #92107
    Ed
    Participant

    On whether it will be better, that can be seen as a fairly subjective term. It's not a question without warrant. There's historical precedent for changes which are largely positive to make some worse off. Take slavery in the United States; the abolition of slavery made some slaves worse off. The sudden change from slave to proletarian was a sharp shock which left many homeless, without food and without a job. Would we then say that because some of these people were materially worse off for a while that nobody should have bothered with the act of abolition in the first place?For the vast majority of the planet it couldn't get much worse. If, say you were David Beckham, a multi-millionaire earning £200,000+ a week, then no, perhaps you might not be better off. If not then what have you got to lose?

    #92108
    Anonymous
    Inactive

    4) How do you get people to work hard on boring/unglamorous/hard jobs of which there will still be many?


    This is a vey boring unglamorous question.As someone who has already done such work,shovelling ,hosing blocked shit in sewage works,the short socialist answer is, ' I'll do that'.This is unrewarding work in capitalism, with long hours needed to get a living,yet even in capitalism sewage workers see the social usefullness of it from a public health point. of view. In socialism such work will be shared or pooled, so the long hours can go.The rewards springing from all needs being met, allied with usefull 'social status' of such work being re-appraised ,will go towards providing altered 'glamourous' models for speculative shit stirrers.Glamour is just a PR clamour.

    #92109
    Anonymous
    Inactive
    Ed wrote:
    Lets flip this around, Alaric, can you empirically prove that the problems you've stated and the many more you imagine are not the result of class society and will thus exist in a socialist society?….What I need is your indisputable proof that these problems will exist in a socialist society.

    Socialist: You should join the socialist revolution.Worker: Will it work?Socialist: Can you prove that it definitely won't?Worker: WTF! I'm going to the pub.

    #92110
    Anonymous
    Inactive
    Ed wrote:
    Lets flip this around, Alaric, can you empirically prove that the problems you've stated and the many more you imagine are not the result of class society and will thus exist in a socialist society?…. What I need is your indisputable proof that these problems will exist in a socialist society.

    I am an atheist in the sense I do not believe in God. I do not believe in God because I haven't been given any evidence that God exists. Religious folk often ask me for evidence that God does not exist. Of course I cannot provide such evidence; but I don't need to because I don't have a strong prior belief in the existence of God. To persuade me they need to provide the evidence that God exists. For me to persuade them that they should not believe in God I will argue that they should only believe in God if they have good evidence for God's existence. Of course, such argumentation fails because they have a deep emotional and social attachment to their belief in God's existence.Now, I think there is more evidence to suggest that a socialist society might function than to suggest that God exists. I also believe that we can get more evidence about such things. However, not showing socialism is impossible is not a good reason to believe that socialism is feasible, or that it will be better. Just as failure to disprove God is not a good reason for me to believe in God.I try to support things based on expected outcomes. If these outcomes are highly uncertain then they are highly uncertain and I base my decisions accordinly. If it is is difficult to get evidence on the outcomes I still base my decisions on the available evidence.Now, it is a fact  that in many communities and  collective settings there are failures to manage public goods (type) problems. These are problems in which the benefit of a contribution is larger for the whole than it is for the individual. A previoues example that I have given is cleaning the common area in a shared house. The person who does the cleaning reaps the benefit of a clean room, but so does everyone else in the house. Now, frequently shared houses end up with an underprovision of cleaning and I would suggest that it is in large part due to the fact that the benefit of cleaning is not fully owned by the cleaner. There is a huge empirical literature on the failures and successes in managing public goods problems within capitalist societies and hunter-gatherer societies.That I know there are many cases of failure to manage public goods problems I worry that the provision of labour could well become a public goods problem. I don't know why I put in the caveat "unglamourous/etc" as I am happy to just ask about how we get people to provide labour for all the jobs that need doing. Time is a scarce resource in a human beings life — it is difficult to produce extra time for people — and so spending that time doing something that you don't want to do is undesirable. Now, I have no reason to think that this will stop being the case in a socialist society. One of the arguments people make is that work will be desirable if there are no classes. I do not know why this would be the case, a lot of work seems undesirable in itself: picking vegetables is hard and unpleasant work; and training to be a doctor is long and arduous. Another argument is that people can use social capital as a reward or punishment — praise slavery — to provide incentives to work. The fact that people feel the need to provide such solutions suggests that they also believe that this is a problem which requires a solution.

    #92111
    Anonymous
    Inactive
    Ed wrote:
    On whether it will be better, that can be seen as a fairly subjective term. It's not a question without warrant. There's historical precedent for changes which are largely positive to make some worse off. Take slavery in the United States; the abolition of slavery made some slaves worse off. The sudden change from slave to proletarian was a sharp shock which left many homeless, without food and without a job. Would we then say that because some of these people were materially worse off for a while that nobody should have bothered with the act of abolition in the first place?For the vast majority of the planet it couldn't get much worse. If, say you were David Beckham, a multi-millionaire earning £200,000+ a week, then no, perhaps you might not be better off. If not then what have you got to lose?

     As I said  earlier I would allow many definitions of better. I do not require that a socialist revolution makes everyone better off. Nor do I require that it be defined as materially better off. Where did you get the idea that I did given that I have been so clear about the looseness with which I will allow better to be definied.However,

    Ed wrote:
    For the vast majority of the planet it couldn't get much worse. If, say you were David Beckham, a multi-millionaire earning £200,000+ a week, then no, perhaps you might not be better off. If not then what have you got to lose?

    I think this plain false. The idea that you need to be living the life of Beckham to have something to lose is insane. If socialism is attempted but it turns out that it is deasible (in the sense that it is sustainable) but provides less food and less healthcare than capitalism then nearly everyone has something to lose. Moreover, if socialism is attempted and fails who knows what the fall out would be. People have their family and loved ones to lose.Also, life under capitalism is not hell. Not only that, it has improved under capitalism fairly persistently for the last 200 years (and this includes the developing world). Life expectancy is up. Working hours are down. Work is less arduous. Work is safer. There is greater freedom of expression. There is less racism. If the party position is based on the supposition that life under capitalism is hell then you are out of touch with people and the evidence.

    #92112
    Anonymous
    Inactive

    Matt,Forget glamour. Forget boring. I wish I hadn't used those phrases as they don't capture what concerns me (and pretty much anyone to which you tell the party case).People can choose to work or not in socialism and get the same material income. This might create problems where very large numbers of people choose not to work at all; or choose to work only on things that they like doing. This would be a big problem if it did happen: it could cause a collapse in socialism.There may be solutions to these problems but I am unaware of solutions backed up by good evidence. We can't rely on everyone to have your work ethic. As someone who has done hard labour I am fairly sure that many people's short answer is "Someone else can do it.".

    #92113
    Young Master Smeet
    Participant
    Alaric wrote:
    I do not understand. We live in a capitalist world. We do not need to demonstrate it is feasible to have a capitalist world as we live in one now. I do not see the current capitalist system as failing. It might, but it is not currently failing relative to a medieval village.

    My point was, if it didn't exist, on paper it would look unfeasible and the market relations breakdown and become supported by bureaucratic administrative mechanisms.

    Alaric wrote:
    "Also, do we need to scale these interactions, or spread them?  A market interaction remains a buyerseller relationship even when embedded in much more complex processes the same would occur for democratic non=market interaction between different co-operative socialist agencies."I don't really understand what you are saying here, be more specific please. Which processes? Which evidence type are you referring to?

    What I am saying is that markets don't scale, all that happens is there is more of them, so we need to look at concrete peer-to-peer interactions that will occur in socialism, rather than an overarching and complex plan.BTW, you're right that co-ops and armies have coercive power behind them, but charities and voluntary organisations, which consume millions of hours of labour time, do not.

    #92114
    Anonymous
    Inactive

    I don't have a particularly hard work ethic for a start. I was compelled to do this work in between jobs I couldn't get as a raging thirst had to be quenched.The point was in response to those you raised about perceptions regarding certain types of work. The point was the workers' perceptions of the usefulness of their toil from a public health perspective. OK as you distance yourself from some of those I have to once again draw on actual experience.Recently, as I am now retired though not quite yet in my dotage I see all manner of voluntarism taking place unprompted by the lash of wage-slavery, snow being cleared for elderly neighbours and being bid to return indoors by neighbours, filling in gaps in services which should be done by the local council, even in good times it doesn't get around to my enclave.A friend who lost his house due to the recent floods in more northern climes finds another worker whom he was helping get his car reclaimed, who gives him and family rent free accommodation a stone's throw from where they previously lived as the worker is an offshore oil worker with another flat elsewhere and the place he recounted how much assistance was returned as they were inaundated by gifts etc. from unknown well wishers.My point is every example you can give will have its counter example even inside capitalism.There is no reason to suppose this will disappear as the social system changes over, there is every likelihood this generous impulse will be enhanced as fear and insecurity decrease and control moves from a top-down allocation of rationed resources to local regional and global cooperative ones.

    #92115
    Anonymous
    Inactive

    Mr Smeet, "My point was, if it didn't exist, on paper it would look unfeasible and the market relations breakdown and become supported by bureaucratic administrative mechanisms." If capitalism didn't exist on a large scale I would also question whether it could operate on a large scale. As it turns out it does. But, I note that you said market relations. Well I am unconvinced as to whether market relations are entirely scalable. It is certainly the case that they need a lot of non-market relations to keep them operating at the current scale. When arguing with anarcho-libertarians I require convincing solutions to a series of problems that a purely market based society would face. Moreover, as you have pointed out with your GM example, there are scales (and levels of complexity) in which market relations are not used. These large organisations may rely on wages and markets to discipline and provide inputs but it is a heirarchical system that organises these inputs. So in some sense I don't believe that markets are wholly scalable, but capitalism is not a system that uses only markets. "What I am saying is that markets don't scale, all that happens is there is more of them, so we need to look at concrete peer-to-peer interactions that will occur in socialism, rather than an overarching and complex plan." Ah! I think we mean different things by scale. The problems facing large societies are different to those facing small societies. Consequently, while some cooperative peer-to-peer interaction may be sufficient to run a society the size of Tristan Da Cunha (<200 peope) it does not follow that this peer-to peer interaction is sufficient to run a society of 6.5 Billion. Why is it that very small cooperative societies exist (and have existed) but no larger ones have? There may be many explanations, but one is scalability. "BTW, you're right that co-ops and armies have coercive power behind them, but charities and voluntary organisations, which consume millions of hours of labour time, do not." Very true. I would note that a very large proportion of charities and voluntary organisations are run using wage labour at the funding end and the delivery end. I believe this is because a) voluntary labour is not as reliable and b) they need people to work full time (and capitalism doesn't allow that to happen, it says little about the extent of people's altruism). However, people (except for those involved in fund raising) take lower wages and, of course, people give their money. I would never argue that the world is without altruism, good will, or whatever it is that drives people to be as generous as they are.Currently, it is a tiny fraction of truly disposable income/labour time that gets put into charitable activities. It is not clear that an entire global economy can be run on such good will.

    #92117
    Anonymous
    Inactive

    Matt,I do not doubt that people can be generous or altruistic. I believe that they frequently are. I believe that a lot of the world operates as well as it does because people have moral values, and because society inculcates such moral values. If there were no examples of this within capitalism then I would have no hesitance in rejecting the feasibility of socialism.It does not follow, however, that such noble intentions will be sufficient to run an entire global economy. For example, the conservatives have recently rolled back large amounts of funding for public services. They have argued, much as you have done, that public minded individuals will step up to fill the gaps. I am sure that some people have done so but the gaps have certainly not been filled. Given the extent of unemployment then it can't be that people don't have the time on their hands. Note, that this is not supposed to be a knock down argument. I am just illustrating that the existence of a certain amount of good will and decency does not imply that it exists in sufficient quantities to run a global society with a highly complex and sophisticated production process. Please realise, that I am not writing off such possibilities. Its just that if I am to support a political movement for a particular society I need more than "it might work"; I need "we can be pretty damn sure that it will work".   

    #92116
    Young Master Smeet
    Participant
    Alaric wrote:
    Ah! I think we mean different things by scale. The problems facing large societies are different to those facing small societies. Consequently, while some cooperative peer-to-peer interaction may be sufficient to run a society the size of Tristan Da Cunha (<200 peope) it does not follow that this peer-to peer interaction is sufficient to run a society of 6.5 Billion. Why is it that very small cooperative societies exist (and have existed) but no larger ones have? There may be many explanations, but one is scalability.

    I think we were understanding the same thing.  My point was that market society does not grow by increasing the numbers involved in market interactions, but the numbers of such interactions.  So, instead of, say, an organisation of 10,000 people, what you have is 5,000 1:1 interactions happening relatively autonomously.  At each stage there are still only 2 people in any given 1:1, but you could increase the, lets call it width, of such activity to 100,000 people simply by increasing the numbers of 1:1'sObviously, socialism, like capitalism, will need large and complex organisations, but it will still need the logic (and situation) of a similar autonomous interactions. p.s. Please note, I am not a Mister, I'm a Master…

    #92118
    Anonymous
    Inactive

    Master Smeet,By my definition if you have 6 billlion people having 12 billion 1:1 market based interactions then the market system is operating at a different scale to 600 people having 1200 1:1 market based interactions. My concern about examples of very small proto-socialist societies is that the kind of 1:x relations used in these small societies will not be sufficient (or very useful) to run a society of a much larger scale and complexity. Just as I think market relations tend to be very inefficient for a very small society with simple production processes. Are we on the same page? Do you share my concern?  p.s. I am not trying to force a central planners position upon you guys. I am happy to have an autonomous self-organising system; I just need to know it will work.

Viewing 15 posts - 16 through 30 (of 51 total)
  • You must be logged in to reply to this topic.