08-18-15 6:21  •  Utopias and Beyond

TanyaTucker: You and your crazy ideas! Can you explain to me how your utopia works?

Happy to! My current Utopia works a lot like the United States now. We're born, live, go to school, work, have families, pay taxes, speak our minds and vote our consciences, etc. I would just add few notable changes to make it work even better:

• Acceptance of Socialism

We are already using tons of socialism, but the word got a bad rap because it was hijacked by totalitarians. However we in the U.S. and the other prosperous democracies are using socialized services to provide the kinds of things that capitalism alone does not provide, like a bottom to the economy, and shared infrastructure like roads and schools.

In my utopia people would realize we are already using socialism to a very great effect and not be fearful of considering social answers.

• Full Social Services

Right now our social services are pretty good, but not good enough. We have social retirement and social medicine for seniors, and that works, but fully socialized medicine for the whole society, a la Canada, works even better. We have public education, but it lacks basic funding and prestige, and stops at the 12th grade level. We have social assistance, but without access to public education it is not enfranchising.

In my utopia, we would provide full public education lifelong, like Finland does, with lavishly funded schools and well-paid and well-educated teachers. We would have Medicare for all, and full social health and education services aimed at finding ways for every single person to be a contributor, remuneratively or otherwise.

• Wealth Unimportant

I know some people just have that drive to be wealthy, and where would the human race be without them? The U.S. is a great place for people like this, and their drive contributes to a broad prosperity. However, financial acumen, good luck or innovative inventions do not make a political mandate. In other words, no matter how much money a person has, he should not have more political power than one person. Money cannot be transferable into political power.

So in my Utopia, we have overturned Citizens United and instituted publicly financed political campaigns so that money does not talk.

• Social Priorities

We already have enough money in this country to pay for all of this. If we shifted priorities from useless wars, including the drug war, we would have money to make all the schools very good. If we used a national public health insurance instead of a bunch of private profit insurers, we would spend a dollar for every four we are spending now on healthcare and get better health. A very tiny Financial Transaction Tax would pay for us to continue public school through the university level for everyone.

In my utopia we would make minor tweaks to the funding and tax codes to pay for what really matters and what really works.

• Climate Surfing

Climate change is happening. Humans are making it worse. The potential for catastrophic climate change could destablize our global economy and cause human suffering on a large scale. Claiming that "it would cost too much" to address it is a pathetically short-sighted excuse for doing nothing.

We need to quickly address dire environmental symptoms like ocean acidification, and make more rapid transitions to cleaner energy. We would also need to devote every resource possible to humanely addressing the number one cause of environmental degredation worldwide - rapidly exploding human population.

In my Utopia we will have a warmer world, because that seems inevitable, but we will share it better and wear it out slower and try to save some piece of it for the rest of the Anthropocene.

Please let me know if I can explain in any further detail. Thanks Tanya!

Carpter: LMAO! You just keep dreaming that dream. What is the means of enforcing your utopia?

How are we enforcing it now? How are they enforcing it in Denmark, Sweden, etc?

Carpter: I asked first.

I answered, you just missed it. The answer is, we would continue to enforce social democracy the exact same way we have always done it, the exact same way all the other social democracies do it, exactly as we are all "enforcing" our social democratic systems right now. The Nordic model countries seem to have a good system:

The United Nations World Happiness Report 2013 shows that the happiest nations are concentrated in northern Europe, where the Nordic model of social democracy is employed, with Denmark topping the list. This is at times attributed to the success of the Nordic model in the region. The Nordic countries ranked highest on the metrics of real GDP per capita, healthy life expectancy, having someone to count on, perceived freedom to make life choices, generosity and freedom from corruption.

Although there are significant differences among the Nordic countries, they all share some common traits. These include support for a "universalist" welfare state (relative to other developed countries) which is aimed specifically at enhancing individual autonomy, promoting social mobility and ensuring the universal provision of basic human rights, as well as for stabilizing the economy, alongside a commitment to free trade. The Nordic model is distinguished from other types of welfare states by its emphasis on maximizing labor force participation, promoting gender equality, egalitarian and extensive benefit levels, the large magnitude of income redistribution, and liberal use of expansionary fiscal policy.[5]

What means of enforcement are the Nordic Model countries using to make this happen? Why are they problematic?

Carpter: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jan/27/scandinavian-miracle-brutal-truth-denmark-norway-sweden
[link to "nobody's perfect" article about social problems in the Nordic countries]

Thanks for the article Carpy. Wow, who knew? Danish television is boring! Swedish people don't "feel strongly." Finland has too many mosquitos! (Well, just in summer.) And worse. They have debt. They aren't green enough.

Nobody ever suggested they were perfect, or free from social problems. They are people too, and there is room for improvement in any society. But if you are reduced to complaining that Denmark has too many reruns on television, or Norway does not grant enough applications for asylum, or Finnish men drink too much, that's is scraping the bottom of the barrel to come up with enough complaints for an article. On most measures of societal health they all rank very high.

Certainly nothing here is evidence that the hybird economy does not work, or that it takes a police state to "enforce" a hybrid economy.

On the other hand, the United States has the highest percentage of incarcerations in the world, along with some of the most heaviliy armed and militarized police. Is this evidence that it takes a police state to "enforce" capitalism?

The U.S. ranks above Norway, Iceland and Sweden in per capita alcohol consumption. Is this evidence that our brand of economics is oppressive and doesn't work?

08-17-15 12:21  •  Capitalism, Greed, Generosity, Socialism - and Bernie

Renfest: Capitalism is a natural result of our selfish nature. The inherent selfishness of humans is a biological function that is hard wired into us.

Our inherent generosity and compassion are biological functions that are hard wired into us too. It's not just one or the other. Humans are both greedy and not greedy.

In order for a group to be successful, it has to contain many different personality types - some timid, some bold, some thinkers, some brutes, some greedy, and some not greedy, etc. So, some people have naturally greedy temperments and some have naturally generous temperments. All these different types allow the group to expoit the widest variety of opportunities which occur.

Also at work are ingroup / outgroup factors. People as a group tend to be very generous and caring to others who are in their group, and be unconcerned, disdainful or even hostile towards people not in their group. So the very same people can seem very generous in some circumstances and very greedy in others, depending on who would be the recipient of their largesse.

Lastly, generosity vs. greed exist along a continuum, and I agree that societies support more or less greedy culture by the rules and values they choose to institute. However both forces are always present.

The only system which effectively channels both our natural greed and our natural generosity is the capitalist/socialist hybrid that we and the other advanced nations are using right now.

No country meets the needs of the citizenry through market economics alone. None can meet the needs of the citizenry without it, either. But it doesn't do everything. That is why capitalism and socialism only work together.

Renfest: That means that human selfishness isn't a product of modern society, modern society is a product of human selfishness.

I agree that human societies are a product of our biology, which as I said contains both great greed and great selflessness. But since the invention of writing, we are also the product of error correction.

It is possible for us to observe and keep track of what has worked and what hasn't. Particularly since the Enlightenment, when we invented systematic looking, we have been able to rapidly create far more knowledge, prosperity and enfranchisement than any humans who ever lived before. We have done this through error correction - by observing what worked, and by seeing that some things in our culture caused great suffering, i.e. slavery, and working to end those things altogether.

That is why the moral arc of history is long, but bends toward justice. We are learning, and as long as the learning is preserved it can be used to show what works, and what to avoid. In this way we can overcome the limitations of our biology if the old instincts don't apply in the new circumstances.

Merrily: Who could vote for Bernie Sanders? Socialism doesn't work on a large scale. I mean, yes we do have socialism in the U.S.

It works here pretty good, and in the thirty other most prosperous nations in the world.

Merrily: Our police, fire departments, etc are examples of socialism but history has shown us socialism as a form of government doesn't work.

Socialism is not a form of government. It is organized systems of social health. Fire departments are one example, public education is another.

Capitalism is our economic system, representative democracy is our government system. Socialism is our system of organizing human services. All of the prosperous nations of the world have this triad of interwoven systems holding up their societies.

Merrily: We need something new if we hope to have our republic survive into it's 3rd century.

The something new is understanding how great what we have is already working, and seeing that we just need to shift a little more in the direction of organized systems of social health, ie socialism, to get better results. That shift in balance is all Sanders is proposing.

Merrily: As over 40% of the voters, independents have a chance to get rid of both parties and replace them with independents who actually know what it's like to struggle and who understand our citizens, not just the rich and powerful few. People who don't owe their election to the select few.

Unfortunately, that cannot exist in our current system, because mounting a viable political campaign is too expensive. It is literally beyond all but a few. That is one important thing Sanders is proposing to change, by running on campaign finance reform and reversing the effects of Citizens United.

Carpter: Socialism is an economic model.

Socialism has never worked as an economic model. Before the word was co-opted by Marxists, it just meant "general concern for the problems of capitalism." Today political Socialists are mostly like Bernie Sanders - people who live in societies which utilize markets and organized systems of social health at the same time.

Call it Social Democracy if you prefer. It just means channeling both our human tendencies to greed and our human tendencies to compassion into formal systems of social organization that work together and balance each other out.

08-08-15 8:20  •  The Logic of Bernie Sanders

Carpter: Bernie Sanders is a Socialist! This author writes, "In his delusion, centralized control is always preferable to voluntary enterprise."

What kind of centralized control is Bernie proposing?

Carpter: "Better that government czars should decide what is produced, and impose their plan from above."

Denmark, Finland, Sweden and the other Socialist countries we have now are all Democratic Socialists with capitalist economies. How different is what Bernie wants for the U.S.?

Carpter: "Populist rhetoric from a 'humorless aging hippie peacenik Socialist' doesn’t fill empty food bowls. Market economies do."

What country meets the needs of every citizen with no more than market economics?

Carpter: I would explain it to you, but it would just go over your head.

BluesSinger: This is the thing - we already have free trade! We are so rolled into capitalism that recent studies have shown that we are less a republic and more of an oligarchy. That is a problem.

Yes, the recent Princeton study showed that despite our freedoms of speech, etc, we are fundamentally disenfranchised. Sustainable systems require balance, and we shifted too far in the direction of capitalism, so that wealth is now more powerful than governments. Definitely a problem. A shift leftward would help correct this.

BluesSinger: Yes, Bernie is part socialist. However, he sees the error of the many ways of places like the Soviet Union, North Korea and Tanzania. He doesn't want to bring that form of government here.

The problem with those governments is not their use of "socialism," it is totalitarianism. Democratic nations with capitalist economies have used socialism to address the needs not addressed by capitalism very well.

Capitalism alone does not do what this author suggests. It fills some bowls. Other bowls it empties. A very tiny few it fills so profusely that they are no longer bowls but just artifacts at the bottom of an ocean. But that is not enough.

We need systems that work for everyone. Capitalism is an engine that produces, but it is only half of the system. The other half is Socialism. They can only work together.

BluesSinger: His platform is misunderstood by those who run screaming for the hills when they hear "socialist".

Early Socialist Oscar Wilde found "money" and "property" to be so gauche, so silly, such a waste of human effort, that he felt it was beneath dignified people. He envisioned some kind of planned distribution to parcel out commodities to remove that burden from everyone.

However keep in mind that he envisioned this nearly 150 years ago, before Socialism had ever been tested, and he was not counting on how much people enjoy the "burden" of money. This is why black markets spring up wherever trade is suppressed - it comes very naturally. Also, Wilde did not realize the great power of self-seeking to distribute a wide variety of interesting things across society.

Capitalism is, as I mentioned, an engine. Self-seeking produces a lot of energetic motion. But an engine alone doesn't get you where you need to go by itself; it has to be steered, and go in good directions. Capitalism needs democratic oversight so that it steers in directions that work for everyone, and societies need social programs to meet the many needs capitalism does not meet.

Capitalism alone is a winner-take-all game which leaves nothing for losers. Without capitalism, socialism and democracy have no way to pay the bills. They can only work together.

I am with Oscar Wilde on one thing, though - economics is gauche, and people deserve better than a life all about what they can get instead of what they can be.

We're stuck with this now, but I can envision a future where anyone who wants to participate in economic activities can, and anyone who does not want to, can choose not to. Wilde envisioned Individuality set free by each person answering only to what he wants to do, with no task pressed upon him by need. He thought this would release humanity to create incredible art based upon the uniqueness of each human mind. Despite the flaws in Wilde's ideas, I think this is something worth reaching for.

Thanks for the opportunity to speak of this BluesSinger!

BluesSinger: Hell RaverLady! Nice to meet someone who is actually polite :)

Thank you, that's nice of you to say. I have been enjoying your posts very much. I'm glad I had some time today to weigh in because I feel these topics are very important.

BluesSinger: The issue is that the Right is very entangled in the idea of complete free capitalism despite the issues that it brings.

There is a very, very high stake in that idea. If not for the artificial loftiness created by hugely telescoping inequality, the power holders would just be citizens.

So a lot of money is available, and is being used, to promulgate this ideology.

BluesSinger: However, you will be hard pressed to present this idea to some women here and have them not argue with you.

Are you kidding? I have been spoiling for a fight on this subject and not getting one. Despite the fact that these matters are, as Carpy eloquently describes, way "over my head," I have been studying them for years and have a thoroughgoing understanding of the relevant economic equations, such as the Nash equilibrium and Piketty's r>g.

I would be very happy for someone to argue with me. Even if a dim bulb like me could not understand their argument, it would be great to see an intelligible opposition presented to these ideas in the own words of anyone here. So I hope you are right.

BluesSinger: Letting capitalism run rampant is not the answer for the US. It has brought us to near ruin once already.

At least twice in the last hundred years, with many living in ruin in the meantime. We can do better.

MyMyFriend: "Over her head"? If you had half the smarts of Raverlady you'd agree with her twice as much.

Carpter: If I had half her smarts, I would be pretty stupid.

MyMyFriend: Yes but you should still aspire to lift yourself up to pretty stupid - you can do it!

BluesSinger: LOL, okay that was hilarious.

TanyaTucker: Can you give educated reasons and not quips on why he would be a good President?

MyMyFriend: You can see his positions here: https://berniesanders.com/issues/

TanyaTucker: I know what he is running on. I want educated reasons as to why you think that is good.

Great question Tanya! There are many good reasons to support Bernie Sanders, some because of his positions and some because of who else is running. I realize that, as Carpy pointed out, I'm so dim-witted that I couldn't find the square of the hypotenuse of a right triangle with both hands and the sum of the square of the other two sides, but I'll give the topic a shot. I look forward to much more intelligent rebuttals of every point.

10 Educated Reasons to Support Bernie Sanders for President

Who else is running reasons:

1) The Republican position is bad for the country. We do not need more power shifted to the already powerful. We need balance. The Republican candidates are running on a platform of increased power to the wealthy through increased wealth and political influence. Not good.

2) Republicans are ignoring climate change, also not good. Republicans are running on more limits of women's choices, less recognition of marriage equality, less social services, fewer Americans with healthcare, more militarized police forces, more aggressive global militarism, less oversight of capitalism, etc. All not good for the country, so supporting a Democrat is very important.

3) Hillary, like the previous President Clinton and Obama, is a triangulating Third Wayer who is too centrist for the needs of our time. Bernie Sanders may have no real shot at the presidency, but running to the left of Hillary Clinton will force her to address the issues she would otherwise take for granted as a Democrat.

Bernie position reasons -

4) Living Economics.

Humans do not exist to serve the needs of capitalism. We invented capitalism to serve our needs. If capitalism is not naturally producing jobs that people can live on, we have a responsibility to change the system to make it work better for people. Working people should not live in poverty so that structurally low wages can support the highest ever corporate profits. It's not fair and it's not working - the middle class is disappearing.

Raising the minimum wage gives people at the bottom of the economic structure more money to spend. The money they are paid in wages goes right back into the pockets of the employers as people use it to pay for goods and services. This stimulates the economy and creates more demand, and it is demand that creates new jobs. Win win.

5) LGBT Equality

We have come a long way on understanding the complexities of human gender and orientation, but a lot of misunderstanding still exists. Bernie has consistently voted for marriage and LGBT equality and will continue to help make prejudice around sexual identity issues a thing of the past.

6) Women and Family

Bernie is a consistent supporter of women's rights and reproductive choice. We would have less to fear of the continual erosion and outright attack on women's established rights. Bernie also proposed the Paycheck Fairness Act, to see that women make the same amount as men for the same work. Bernie is also proposing we catch up with the rest of the developed world with our policies for parental and sick leave, and guarantee workers the same amount of vacation time people in other countries get.

7) Racial Justice

As with other civil rights issues, we have come a long way, but have a long way to go. Bernie supports practical measures for decreasing racial injustice, like de-militarizing our police forces and fostering community policing. He supports ending the disproportionally unjust War on Drugs. He supports strong voting protections.

8) Reforming Wall Street

The silly gambling of everyone's money by the super rich has almost destoyed the world's economy more than once. There is no reason for the financial sector to have this kind of power. Bernie suggests reforms to reign in Wall Street, like restoring the Glass-Steagall act which separated speculative finance from secure deposits. He also proposes breaking up "too big to fail" banks and is supporting a Financial Transaction Tax which, while small, would quickly produce the revenue to make U.S. public colleges and universities tuition free like in other advanced nations.

9) Social Safety Net

As a Socialist, Bernie understands the necessary balance between the capital and social needs of the nation. Capitalism is a great force, but a clumsy, amoral one. Laissez-faire economic policies allow greed and profit to subvert all else, to great suffering and eventual collapse, which is why we were forced to invent all manner of worker protections and safety nets and social fixes for the problems it created.

Bernie supports the kind of balance between capital and social needs which is delivering such a high quality of life for the people of Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands. In the United States, the Socialist policies put in place after the First Great Crash created decades of rising prosperity, which only began to fray after the policies which supported the middle class were eroded. We need that kind of Socialism again.

10) Climate Action

Bernie was an early proponent of acknowledging the human contribution to climate change and continues to lead on climate action in the Senate. Socialists share common cause with environmentalists in refusing to exploit our natural world for profit gain to the point where it threatens biodiversity and human prosperity. With Bernie Sanders leading the charge we can quit pretending that climate change is a hoax, or it could be real but no one really knows, or it's real but humans had nothing to do with it, or it's real but it would cost too much to address carbon dioxide emissions, etc, etc. With Bernie as President, or even running hard to the left of Hill, we can expect the next leader of our country to lead the world on climate action.

Thanks again for asking Tanya!

Carpter: I bet the first thing "President Bernie" does is ban all the deodorant.

BluesSinger: Um, what?

Carpter: The guy apparently has a problem with deodorant. He said in a speech that the problem with the U.S. is that we have too many different kinds of deodorant for sale.

BluesSinger: Oh, that quote! You missed his point! He was saying that we are so involved with ourselves that we worry ourselves over which of the 30 different types of deodorant we have to choose from instead of trying to find ways to ensure children don't go hungry. As a whole, Americans are greedy and self centered.

With all due respect BluesSinger, I don't agree that this is the point the speaker was making with the deodorant.

Here is the quote in question:

"You don’t necessarily need a choice of 23 underarm spray deodorants or of 18 different pairs of sneakers when children are hungry in this country."

This is not lamenting people's preoccupation with trivial grooming and fashion concerns. He is talking about what Capitalism can do and what it can't do.

Capitalism as we practice it is great at putting a huge profusion of consumer product selections on the shelves. No doubt about that. But at what price?

What capitalism mostly produces is exploitation (which is why we had to invent all kinds of protections.) How important is it to keep a system that results in 23 different varieties of underarm spray, but doesn't result in food for everyone?

He is saying that wide consumer selection, the hallmark of American capitalism, is a hollow substitute for everyone being able to have a good life.

Shallow people can pretend this is about cosmetics. It is actually about our country being burdened with a system that doesn't work for what is actually important, and how we need to change it.

TanyaTucker: Sanders doesn't embrace capitalism if he thinks there is something wrong with numerous choices of items!

It is possible to embrace capitalism while understanding its grave limitations. Socialism is the way the limitations of capitalism are addressed. As I have mentioned, Capitalism and Socialism have to be used together in order to work, and that is what Bernie Sanders is proposing.

We're already doing it. At the moment we have many different kinds and varieties of deodorant, and people are not starving to death at the same time. If we did not have some Socialism, they could be. That is why we started doing it in the first place.

Bernie would like to shift to just a bit more Socialism, so that in addition to not starving, children can be well-fed, and well-educated, and live in a system which produces lots of easy onramps to enfranchisement. We're so close to this now, it shouldn't significantly impact our deodorant selection.

Paula: No one will need hand outs and free medical care if they are working and people can spend again.

Actually this is not an accurate picture and here's why. First of all, in every human group there are people who cannot participate in wage earning. At the very least, children, the elderly, and the disabled will always be with us and so there will always be some, even if it is just a small percentage of the population, who need "hand outs" - social aid.

Secondly, even among the able-bodied there are the disenfranchised and the inept, and they also require social aid until such time as their disenfrahchisement and ineptitude is corrected. As long as these numbers are small, and society provides a lot of easy ways to correct disenfranchisement and ineptitude, this is not a problem, and it is far preferable to the alternatives. Deprivation does not correct disenfranchisement or ineptitude.

Your overall point, that a better economy helps these things, is spot on. It does. However a better economy will never be enough to meet every need, which is why social aid has to exist and we need to have good systems to provide it. The better the social aid is, the less people need it, as illustrated in Finland and Denmark. They have high levels of social aid and almost zero poverty.

I'd also like to address the misnomer, "free medical care." My healthcare feels "free," or nearly so, because I have only tiny co-pays when I visit a doctor's office. But of course it's not free, it's paid for as a form of compensation my husband earns for working at his job.

Single payer healthcare like they have in Canada is really just another form of insurance, where the resources are pooled by a group and paid out at need. Like any insurance, this works better the larger the pool, because you have the most healthy people paying in and not drawing out, all at once. The difference is that in the Canadian system, there is no "insurance company" so there is no entity removing money from the system as profits. It makes the system very simple and efficient.

It really works. People in Canada rate their healthcare system very high. They spend only about a dollar on healthcare for every four we spend in the U.S., and they are getting more for their money - Canadians score better than Americans in health measures like longevity, infant mortality, recovery times, etc.

This is the kind of system that works whether the economy is good or bad, so I would argue that everyone needs this kind of "free" healthcare regardless.

Paula: Crappy education, crappy medical care, no respect as a Country, no jobs...all comes from a crappy economy which we are in now.

The economy is not precisely crappy. It is actually in recovery. It was ruined by a Republican and it has taken almost all of Obama's presidency to recover. At the moment economic indicators are up, Wall Street is booming, and corporate profits are soaring to all time highs.

However, it probably feels pretty crappy, because it is a "jobless recovery." That is because 90% of the money is stuck up at the top of the economy with no way to get back down. So, just your part of the economy is crappy. The rich are richer than ever and increasing their wealth faster than ever, so it's not at all crappy for them.

This is happening because of structural changes made to the economy, mostly by Republican presidents (though Bill Clinton gets a black mark as a Democrat for repealing Glass-Steagall.)

The point is that Republican, laissez faire economics are what allowed most of the world's money to get stuck at the top. Obama's policies worked a bit to squeeze some of it out, but more laissez faire is just going to send it all back up again. What economies need to work is a lot of ways to put money in at the bottom where it will get spent. It really doesn't matter how.

Social programs of the kind which raise the bottom are one of the best ways. Money at the bottom is immediately spent, and spent again, working back up to the top again, but creating value at every level as it goes.

Republicans have shifted too far in the direction of Capitalism, so we are unbalanced. We need the other half of the system, social aid and economic oversight - Socialism - to restore a working balance. That plan is not coming from any Republican. It might come from a Democrat, if we push them.

Lawsy: Sanders is pushing for $15 an hour federal minimum wage, something that has already caused massive problems in the places where it has been enacted. By raising minimum wage we have to raise everyone else's wages too. Eventually you get to a point where it becomes unsustainable.

2) Myth: An increase in the minimum wage won’t help anyone if all other costs go up, too

One assumption about increasing the minimum wage is that it will force to the cost of living to increase at the same rate, and in doing so, we’d really just be speeding up inflation.

This isn’t really how economics works. A 2013 study by the Chicago Fed found that increasing the minimum wage even just to $9 would increase consumer spending by $28 billion. When spending—i.e. demand—increases, manufacturers and other purveyors of goods and services can actually charge less or at least avoid increasing their prices, because they’re increasing overall revenue.

While increasing minimum wage, thus, benefits the economy, there are hidden costs of low-wage work which impact everyone. Working full-time at the current federal minimum wage of $7.25 means employees make just about $165 per month above the federal poverty level. If they have even one child, they are well below it, which means they are dependent on social services to the tune of about$152.8 billion in taxpayer money per year.

Lawsy:Raising minimum wage does nothing more than put a crappy bandaid on a real problem, by giving the unskilled more money without requiring more skills you haven't helped them.

Raising the bottom helps those at the bottom, and everyone on up. People at the bottom do not keep the extra money. They spend it, and it goes right back into the hands of the employers, which is what an economy needs to happen in order to work.

Lawsy: The problem with the assertion that raising minimum wage will decrease the need for social services is that in the places where they have enacted $15 minimum wage employees are being laid off or asking for less hours to maintain their benefits. Businesses are raising prices to cover the higher cost of employment, everyone who isn't getting an increase in wages can buy less with their disposable income.

Are you talking about Seattle? Some of that is just fearmongering. For example:

Dan Springer reported that Seattle is facing the "unintended consequences" of increasing its minimum wage. The worst of these consequences, he claims, is that some employees "make too much money to stay on certain welfare programs" and are requesting fewer hours because "the raises [are] pushing them over the income threshold and out of welfare programs like subsidized food, child care, and rent." In all three segments, Springer's evidence for this alleged poverty trap was an interview with Seattle-based radio host Jason Rantz, not with actual recipients who rely on government assistance.


For example, Ivar's Salmon House, a Seattle icon, increased its menu prices and no longer accepts tips. But, according to NPR, the restaurant decided to institute the full $15 minimum wage three years ahead of schedule for its employees and now automatically prices gratuity into the bill, which thus far has not hurt sales or workers.

There is bound to be some reshuffling as businesses adapt, or fail to adapt, to a change in circumstances. One pizza restaurant closed in Seattle, citing the new wage - another pizza shop opened in the same location.

Also, several businesses which vocally resisted the wage hikes, claiming it would hurt their bottom line, are now expanding:

The businesses, for example, that feared the law are now reporting the following (according to Working Washington): Liberty Bar, which said independent businesses will close, is opening a second bar; Lam's Seafood Market said the law would be devastating, but is now expanding its parking lot; Holiday Inn Express said it was afraid of the minimum wage, but is now hiring; Poppy said $15 without a top would jeopardize business, but is now opening a second restaurant.

Results of a study on the impact of the new wage in Seattle will be available in 2016, but in the meantime almost all previous studies of minimum wage hikes have shown that they helped the workers and impacted businesses very little.

Lawsy: And again it comes back to the issue of why is simply giving more money to people without skills or education a better option than making taxes fairer and decreasing the cost of eduction so that society as a whole keeps more of their income and is better educated? This would leave "minimum wage" jobs for those whom burger flipping and grocery bagging jobs were intended for, teenagers and college students who don't need to make a "living wage".

First of all, it's not "giving" them money. It is paying them money in exchange for something precious and utterly irreplacable - hours of their life. There is no person so unskilled or uneducated that their time is worth less than their life. No person who works for forty hours in a week should end up at the end of the week with less money than it takes to live for a week.

Secondly, I am wholeheartedly in agreement that every person in society needs to be educated and that cost should be no barrier to anyone willing to sit in a classroom. However there will always be some people who just need to work, for whatever reason, regardless of whether their current skillset happens to match some current opening. Entry level jobs cannot fail to be a viable alternative for anyone.

It doesn't matter who is behind that register or why - they deserve to get paid to live a week for working a week.

Carpter: You have no idea how devastating Socialism is! If you don't believe me go speak to a few old Russians!

Actually, Russians seem to be split over what Sanders "wildcard" candidacy means, but they don't seem to be seeing anything that reminds them of the U.S.S.R. or Soviet oppression. On the contrary:

...Russian pundits seem to enjoy the senator's unerring craving to point out the problems facing American society, from crumbling infrastructure, to soaring education costs, to unemployment, to the US "billionaire class's" control of the political and economic life of the country.


Sanders rhetoric has exposed some of the real economic and social problems faced by tens of millions of Americans, taking some of the sheen off lofty arguments about American exceptionalism and the ideal of exporting 'American values' around the world.

Carpter: Capitalism has feed more people that any other economic system in history.

Not without Socialism.

Carpter: You don't think Bernie Sanders is a fascist? What is your definition then?

BluesSinger: Fascism is an authoritarian and nationalistic right wing system of government.

Bernie is not authoritarian. He is promoting policies of power sharing, not power concentration. He is not nationalistic, trying to drum up ingroup fervor about outgroup threats. He is not right-wing, he is left-wing.

For example, the overmilitarization of our police force was a right-wing response to 9/11 and Bernie is proposing to de-militarize it. That is less fascism, not more.

08-02-15 8:20  •  What Economy Works

Irate_Mom: I dont care how large the church membership is, the head of the flock does not need to live in splendor while there is a starving person anywhere in this world!

Not that I disagree, but does this go for any rich person or just church leaders?

Irate_Mom: Now that you mention it, lol....

I'm tired of money, the root of all evil and all. I'm down for a barter and trade society ;)

Unfortunately that would not really work. There is just no way to ensure that the guy who has what you want will want what you have. Value has to be abstracted in some way.

Capitalism is naturally occurring in humans and any attempt to suppress it simply creates black markets. It's here to stay. And that's not a bad thing. It is a great engine of production.

But, it is extremely easy to abuse. When wealth amasses in huge quantities, it becomes freely convertable directly into political power. So you end up with these people with no mandate, who care only about their own narrow self-interest, making all the decisions for everyone.

Capitalism can only work if it is regulated against abuse and if there are strong systems to make sure that those without money are not permanently disenfranchised. In other words, capitalism can only work alongside of socialism. Neither can work alone. They can only work together.

Stella: It only goes for church leaders, who are freeloaders. Alot of rich people have worked their butts off for their money, while the pastor sits and waits for the money to be given to him.

I disagree with this idea for a couple of reasons. For one, I don't think that just because somebody works their butt off for money that means it is okay for them to sit on a pile that is far larger than anything they could ever need while others starve.

For two, it is a myth that the great wealth of the world is amassed by "hard work." For one thing, the wealthiest people are making their wealth in the financial sector. The pastor is doing more work giving a sermon once a week than a guy who talks on the phone to his broker once a month. For another, wealth is almost always determined by where you started, not by how hard you work. The wealth level of your family is the greatest determining factor. For another, even the hardest working CEO is not working 400 times harder than his secretary, but he is making 400 times as much money. The wealth that is accumulated at that level is completely unhinged from a value that reflects actual effort.

Social stratification is natural and even necessary. However unregulated wealth accumulation results in an unmandated weilding of power. There need to be checks and balances on the power of wealth, just as we require checks and balances on the power of government.

One way to do this is to ensure that wealth is not hoarded. My husband says it's like Thanksgiving dinner - everybody needs to get firsts before anyone gets seconds. In other words, the needs of everyone must be met first, and then the few can satisfy their wants with what is left.

Irate_Mom: You are PRO-capitalism!? Ick!!

Believe me, I understand your revulsion. Capitalism is utterly amoral, and the suffering, turmoil and environmental rape it is perpetuating are destroying human societies and perhaps even risking the viability of the biosphere.

Even sadder, capitalism - as usually practiced - creates an extremely arbitrary measure of social worth and places all of societies' emphasis on what is not important, like things. Oscar Wilde said, "The trouble with capitalism is that it makes a man's life about what he can get, instead of what he can do." I agree with this and think it is a terrible waste of human life.

ICK!!!! is right!

But, like any other thing people really want to do - like say, become intoxicated - it cannot be repressed. Attempts by "communist" countries to deviate from capitalism result in utterly amoral and repulsive capitalist black markets becoming the "real" economy.

Just as attempts to disrupt alcohol consumption in the 20's did nothing to stop drinking, attempts to keep people from individual monetary pursuits largely fail.

Irate_Mom: Really?

As far as I can tell. I have looked into many possible alternatives to capitalism - planned economies, barter societies, participatory economics, cooperative value systems, etc - and I have not seen any that seem viable for complex social groups, and none that could disrupt normal trade without horrific levels of oppression.

It's like getting people to stop fucking. Capitalism is an engine and it will run no matter what.

But, that is not bad. In fact, it is very useful.

Irate_Mom: You don't have any faith in humanity?

On the contrary. I don't need faith, I have seen humans create beautiful working systems, and I know we are capable of creating caring societies that meet the needs of everyone. Several places have it almost going right now.

The best countries in the world today, by any measure of social success - the happiest, healthiest, the best social services, the most educated, etc. - the most "socialist" countries in the world, like Sweden, Denmark and Finland - have capitalist economies. The reason they work is because they also have socialism.

Using both capitalism and socialism, the U.S. lifted the quality of life for almost everyone in the post-WWII era. The G.I. Bill created a whole new class of citizens with full education. Strong unions assured real value for workers - reasonable hours, good wages and protection from exploitation. Strong anti-trust laws kept markets competitive and created plenty of room for upward mobility by innovation. Strong regulations on banking and the stock market kept Wall Street from the over-reach of bubble, crash and burn. Strong regulation of politics kept moneyed interests from drowning out the voices of voters. Strong social sustenance programs kept those who were not productive - like senior citizens, for example - from falling out of the bottom of the economy.

Of course there were still problems - enivornmental disregard and persistent poverty among the most obvious - but for the very first time in human history, there was a huge bulge in the middle of the economy, so that most people were getting the education, health and sustenance they needed to create comfort and leisure.

We know a lot more about what works now than we did then. We can address the previous failures. Some countries are really trying to get it right, and having a lot of success. It's not even very different from what we have now. "Social" capitalism harnesses the engine of commerce to create production, and uses it to produce an educated and healthy society with the security from want necessary for personal development.

Capitalism without socialism is a winner-take-all game where the greediest few win and the losers get nothing. Socialism without capitalism has no way to pay for itself. They can only work together.

Irate_Mom: All we'd have to do is keep doing our jobs (although we'd be doing jobs we're passionate about, not these stupid slave ones) and everyone could have the products of our labor.

Social capitalism offers the freedom of sub-economies for those who prefer cooperative economics. However it does not suppress ownership or individual monetary pursuit for those who prefer them. It just tightly regulates both to protect the commons and prevent exploitation.

Irate_Mom: Yes, I am an evil anti-capitalist...I keep getting called that and wonder why its an insult.

It isn't. If only more people cared, or realized that there is an alternative.

08-02-15 7:20  •  What does it for you?

JerseyShore: This question is for atheists. Without God, what really does it for you? What fulfils your spirit? What quenches your soul?

Reality. I fucking love it.

All the real stuff. Love...work...art...laughter. Truth. Growth. It's all just about more than I can stand sometimes.

The world is so full of a number of things

I'm sure we should all be as happy as kings.

                                 ~ Robert Louis Stevenson

JerseyShore: Have you found that special thing yet that makes you peaceful in your life?

Yes. Learning to be peaceful. It is a skill.

08-01-15 2:12  •  Blind Men + Elephant = Meh

Melanie: Neither the theist or the atheist can see the whole picture. Who can say the other is wrong? Each is right in his own way.

It's like the blind men and the elephant - we all have our specific frames of reference, our different ways of looking at humanity, spirituality, and Divinity.

The story goes, that five blind men each could feel one part of an elephant. One, who feels the leg, says, it is a pillar. The one who feels the tail says, it is a rope. The one who feels the trunk says, it is a tree branch. The one who feels the belly says, it is a wall. The one who feels the ear says it is a hand fan.

In the Jain version of the story, this is resolved when a king tells them:

"All of you are right! The reason every one of you is telling it differently is because each one of you touched the different part of an elephant."

I have seen this parable introduced to support the "everybody is right" contention of religion, and I completely reject it. This is not how we determine the truth.

This parable supposes that each "blind man" conducts the briefest examination and then stops. In reality, the blind men would have the opportunity to move around, touching different parts of the elephant, until all had felt each part. They would have the ability to communicate with each other, comparing what they discovered in each area with what others had discovered there. They would almost immediately be able to tell that their initial descriptions were wrong.

They would also have the opportunity to feel the movement and breath of the elephant, the eyes and mouth, and compare these to their own body features, and quickly ascertain that what they sensed was a living being. If they worked together, were thorough, and used their brains, their supposed lack of "sight" would be no impediment at all to determining that they were surrounding a large animal with animal features. They could certainly come up with a description that would be recognizable to anyone familiar with elephants.

So the parable is not apt.

We are not like blind men standing near an elephant with only one quick feel to guide us. We can each feel the different parts over and over, and compare what we feel and come to an agreement and understanding about what we are experiencing. Despite our "specific frames of reference," consensus is possible when examining the real, because it exists outside of us. This is how we have used science and a consensus of knowledge to create incredible technology.

I understand the compassionate impulse behind not wanting to impugn people's beliefs because they are different. But the "everybody is right" conclusion is not supported by examination. Some beliefs are very obviously wrong, and many are completely unsubstantiated. Purporting that these are right anyway, because "everybody's right," does nothing to further understanding.

We can't find out what is really going on by stopping inside our own frames of reference. We have to keep looking and compare. We have to be willing to accept what is revealed by the examination, even if it means that what we "thought" we were seeing doesn't hold up.

Melanie: We may come to different understandings, but the experience and understanding is still valid.

I just can't agree. The "it is a pillar" and "it is a hand fan" versions are not valid understanding. The elephant was never those things, and only by giving those ideas up and finding out what can be perceived and compared by everyone can they come to real understanding.

Read more in the Archives.