An Anonymous Coward writes:
The Guardian reports that "socialism" was the most looked-up word on Merriam-Webster's site this year, a change the American dictionary publisher attributes to US presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, who has positioned of himself as a "democratic socialist".
As a socialist (or communist) myself, I personally think it's great that especially people from the United States try to figure out the meaning of the word beyond McCarthyism. I'm glad that people show interest in politics and finding out about positions of candidates.
Past years winners are available on Wikipedia.
Nobody said they established utopia. They did revolutionize political thought though, even if they left unfinished business. And note well they did leave pretty obvious hooks in their political code to make eliminating slavery easy, Lincoln was just an incompetent fool and made a hash of the patch.
This is simple folks, we have two proposed political systems.
Option one, the Enlightenment's vision of a Free Society, Capitalism, etc. Best perfected to date with the U.S. Constitution but widely implemented successfully around the world atop a variety of underlying cultures. From America to Singapore, the basic free economic model has brought forth a rising standard of living and economic bounty. While the details, especially the social order beyond economic affairs can vary to fit the local culture, there are only two basic requirements. Establish a stable enough monetary unit that economic calculation is feasible and second establish property rights and Rule of Law to allow those who invest in longer range plans than the next harvest to have a reasonable chance of predicting the outcome and believe they can reap the benefit of delayed gratification. That is it, the whole magic formula. Do those things and your society will prosper, leaving even the poorest and those least inclined to capitalistic efforts better off. You can refine it to increase the rate of growth, trade a little growth for other desirable things (military strength, economic independence, etc) but just those two are sufficient.
Option two, Socialism in various flavors, ever changing because since they all fail nobody ever wants to emulate an existing implementation. But the silver tongued servants of the Dark One keep tweaking it and promising that THIS one will work. Being based on envy and malice they seem to have no problem attracting adherents though.
But the silver tongued servants of the Dark One keep tweaking it and promising that THIS one will work.
Dark One? OK, the new Star Wars movie just came out, so it is not surprising you have Darth Cheney ++++Vader on the mind. Really, any empire ought to be able to get a Death Star right on the third try!
Not that one? Could it be, . . . (best Church Lady voice)> SATAN?!? Magic formulas and the Market Economy. Hookay!! Been nice talking to you.
[And South Park did is best in The Battle of Heaven and Hell episode, where Satan's advisor came up with a devilish plan, but Satan asks, "But how can we do that?" Advisor: "We'll do what we always do, use the Republicans!" ]
the Enlightenment's vision [...] Best perfected to date with the U.S. Constitution
Let's see:- Partisan legislators drawing up voting districts- The anti-democratic Electoral College- First-past-the-post elections- The lack of automatic registration of those eligible to vote- Lifetime tenure for federal judges- A fixed term for politicians, with no pre-defined method for quickly removing bad performers- A chamber of the legislature with a non-proportional structure
Meh. American Exceptionalism and its promoters are difficult to stomach.Parliamentarian systems existed before the USA emerged and those actually give proportional representation as determined by the vote.
Socialism in various flavors [...] Being based on envy and malice
You forgot the obvious: Deceptive naming of their anti-Democratic systems.
Don't you ever get tired of being wrong?
I agree with you on what you're saying here and in your previous post upthread about Socialism--it's been tried many ways in sufficient number and variation to discredit its chances for successful implementation (though, to be pedantic, we're really talking about getting to the end stage of Communism when human productive culture will have been liberated by the false consciousness manufactured by the capitalists, and government can be abolished entirely. Socialism was supposed to be a transitional stage designed to prevent counter-revolution and back-sliding due to force of habit.).
But I would argue that the same thing can be said of Capitalism to a lesser degree. We have had interludes of prosperity, but it too keeps regressing to Crony Capitalism that throttles entrepreneurs, smothers small businesses, and concentrates money and power in fewer and fewer hands. Teddy Roosevelt's progressive reforms at the dawn of the 20th Century broke the grip (or at least significantly loosened) of the Trusts and set the stage for the rise of the American middle class. But all that has been reversed now. Even in that happier interlude in the 20th century the Trusts/monopolies and concentrated wealth and power never truly went away, thus we have never really had the blissful capitalism you've described.
So it is not, contrary to your characterization, simple. It could only be deemed simple if you're squinting, glossing, and sticking your fingers in your ears.
The truth is both of the major political-economic theories from the last 150 years have played themselves out without a successor theory waiting in the wings. We have different flavors of hybrids, inversions, and such roiling and tumbling around, but nothing fresh, exciting, and resonant. It would take a towering figure to cast such a new theory, one that could break through the apathy and deeply engrained sense of betrayal that its predecessors left behind and try to take the world through the next 150 years of progress. But ours is a world where many have stopped studying the Humanities and where others belittle even the attempt to think about such things (even here, on a daily basis, in fact). At this point such a person would have to be on the scale of the Second Coming of Jesus.
So, what we're probably going to get is a collapse and a new Dark Age.
It is hard to compare a free market to what we have had since the Progressive Era began. I'd suggest getting Ludwig Von Mises's Human Action (free in several formats from mises.org) and reading around in Part Six - The Hampered Market Economy. All these attempts to 'fix' imagined problems only make it worse. And of course the 'solution' to the unintended consequences of one round of intervention is of course more government intervention. In the end there are only two sorts of monopoly and most are of the government creation type where the solution is to get the government to stop doing that. As for Crony Capitalism, that is obviously a symptom of the problem of government intervention and that too will tend to degrade into Socialism if not checked. The boom/bust cycle? Yup, that it usually government intervention directly (money printing) or failing to do one of the few jobs it is actually supposed to do and keep the banks honest (credit expansion).
No we don't need a new economic theory, there is no third way. What we need is to somehow return to the moral and educated public we were before the Progressive Era and I'm darned if I see how that happens. It takes an educated people to see the trap of redistributionist schemes and a moral one to not be seduced by the envy and greed Socialism uses to gain power. One advantage though is that last time we really didn't have the solid economics knowledge to properly defend Capitalism. If we could get hold of the education machinery we could probably immunize the next generation with solid education as to why Capitalism works and why Socialism is a trap.
Von Miser, eh? The Deuce you say! So your garden variety Vienna Circle Libertarianism, and next we will hear that "true" libertarianism has never been tried!
For a guy who supposedly dislikes utopias you seem curiously stuck with "pure capitalism", which is based on impossible requirements, such as
*Perfect information*No barriers of entry and exit*Zero transaction costs*Non-increasing returns to scale*No externalities
and the most impossible of all
I guess people like to publicly root for some other ism besides egoism...
I see the Marxists are here with their talking points. All those issues and more are addressed in the referenced book. And it and a metric crapload more are freely downloadable in multiple formats. In this great Age of Information there really is no excuse for ignorance.
Seriously. Perfect information? It is the market economy that can deal with it, planned ones reliably fail in the presence of incomplete, or worse conflicting, information. Externalities? Yup, it is in there. Scale issues? Open a book and learn. Even the problem of rational actors vs irrational ones is addressed.
Economics is mostly a solved problem. What apparently isn't solved is the political science and psychology to get people to actually accept the science. We live in a dark age of New Age Religions, wicked political systems, half baked redistribution schemes masquerading as economics and general unreason. It won't end well.