| Thursday, June 26, 2008 - 09:41 am |
Very interesting. There is no question that you cannot separate the economic and political portions of any system. I'll touch on history first. For the sake of discussion I'm going to follow the evolutionary path as opposed to the divine creation path.
As soon as mankind decided that for purposes of survival it was better to belong to a group, politics was born. Someone had to make the decisions.
As family units grew into clans, another level of intricacy was needed. Prior to the development of agriculture the majority of the time of the "working stiffs" was spent just providing food, with the females traditionally being gatherers, the males hunters. Pure communism, and it worked well as long as food security was a major concern. The development of agriculture provided a security foodwise that was previously unknown. This led to a "class" system. And allowed much larger population bases. Now some of the population were farmers, some were hunters, and a portion still maintained the gathering of those items which resisted domestication. The further development of agriculture to include animal husbandry essentially changed things permanently. Now you could feed huge quantities of people, and the percentage needed to do so grew smaller. The people not involved in the food industry began to specialize in new industries, which utilized the natural resources of their particular area. The world was moving away from communism into something new. Various forms of government evolved from this, dictatorships (which sometimes turned into line of succession dynasties) being the most common form.
As populations grew it became necessary for the leaders to delegate powers to subordinates. They just couldn't physically go out and kick the butts of everyone any more. How to divide the power became the next step in political evolution.
Contrary to popular belief, ancient Greece was NOT a true democracy. Only land owning males were given a vote. A true democracy is for practical purposes unachievable. Greece was basically an aberration in political development.
City states appeared, and dominated the world system for a period. They were able to provide the populace with both food security and a reasonable amount of physical security.
The complicated monarchical system developed when city states began to unite with each other to provide even greater levels of security. It became dominant, and when the British nobility signed the Magna Carta, the seed of self determination was planted.
The idea of a confederation was the next step in political evolution. And, strange though it may sound, the United States was born as a confederation. And the idea did not originate with our founding fathers. They based the idea on the Seven Nations of the Iroquois, which fascinated Ben Franklin long before the idea of independance from Britain was born.
All of the modern isms are really just revisited forms of the basic evolutionary types mentioned above. Communism, socialism, fascism, all seek to have the state provide the population with all it's needs. The methodology differs on how to do this, but the bottom line is the same.
The point is that as long as there is food on the table, everything else is window dressing. If there is no food on the table, no government will survive (ask Marie Antoinette if you run into her). I know it is a very simplistic view and there are numerous exceptions, but it's already too long.
Capitalism's major strength is it incentivizes people. It also allows employees to have ownership in the company, which induces higher productivity and quality. Where it fails is when through the lack of a free market, monopolies are formed. Monopolies are the direct opposite of capitalism. They breed inefficiency, apathy, and poor product. Who cares what type of product we put out, it's us or nobody anyway.
While I respect the opinions of Casus Belli and Moonbox, I do disagree with their assessments. Capitalism DOES require freedom. Democracy no. The capitalism in China is a very crude form, limited to specific regions of the country, with oppressive taxation, and extreme regulation, including price regulation. It was actually just the government's way of collecting on what was previously a booming black market. It is being successful, but for the government, not necessarily the individual. I'm not going to debate the comments about distribution of resources, social inclusion, and fairness, because that's not the job of a company to provide.
I also disagree that it entails waste and suffering. A company which is ineffective will lose out to one who is streamlined, and end up bankrupt. I can't comment on the suffering because I'm at a loss to understand what is meant by that. Providing jobs and products doesn't seem like suffering to me.
With regard to Moonbox's comments, I'll have to research the figures that are mentioned, they seem a bit out of line. Even if they are correct, that means that there are about 25 million people who control 90% of the wealth. Considering the GDP of the US is 13.84 trillion dollars (2007 IMF data)per year, that leaves 43,584 bucks per person for the rest of us, per year. That ranks us number one in the world. We also rank at or near the top in EVERY economic statistic that is published by the World Bank and the IMF. This does not seem like a failure to me, nor does it seem as if something were seriously wrong.
The idea that a 100% free market would result in the rich controlling all production, while employees would work for scraps is fallacious at best. Firstly it ignores collective bargaining. Secondly, it makes a fallacious assumption that companies are all privately held. While there are many that are so, the most successful ones are publically owned, and their employees are part of that ownership. Thirdly, it makes the assumption that the workers will not have the ability to go anywhere but where the rich tell them they can go. A free market entails freedom of the employee to move about the job market at will. Don't think you're getting a fair shake at Acme products? Take a job with Beta group. Fourthly, it assumes that all corporations are evil, Ebenezer Scrooge type entities who would like nothing more than to come kick our dogs. And lastly it assumes that the rich are in this grand conspiracy to keep the peons under their thumbs. If anything the US government needs to deregulate everything that doesn't involve health, safety, and basic living needs (housing market, power companies, food and drugs, etc.)
The story of Bill Gates should be required reading. When he and his friends thought up the idea of microsoft, they were not rich. They only had a dream. And they had the cojones to go for the dream, and because of capitalism they are now in that hated "rich" group. And how many billions per year does Bill give to charities? This is bad and the American voter needs to be willing to change or it will get worse? And Gates is not the only one. Most of the rich are heavy charitable givers. And the top 10% of Americans pay a majority of the taxes collected each year. Sorry, while I respect the opinions of the both of you I just can't agree that capitalism is a negative thing. The alternative of a controlled economy has failed every where it's been attempted.