Marxism discussion thread

Discussion in 'Politics & Current Events' started by will_shred, Aug 15, 2017.

  1. will_shred

    will_shred not that good.

    Messages:
    2,824
    Likes Received:
    340
    Joined:
    Sep 18, 2012
    Location:
    Rochester NY
    Hey all, with the talk of the recent right/left violence and increasing political polarity, I thought it would be fun to start a thread to discuss what many people view as the epitome of the "radical left" Marxism. I think that the value in Marx is in his critique of capitalism. But you don't need to look to Marx to see the internal contradictions of capitalism. Take economist Thomas Piketty, in his book Capital in the 21st Century, he demonstrates how "market capitalism" as we know it, will generate continually increasing income inequality and class division (the book is almost 1000 pages, forgive me for having only read parts of it). His basic idea can be demonstrated with this "R>G" which means that when the rate of return on capital is greater than the rate of economic growth, income inequality will rise. With income inequality come a great number of problems that I don't think I need to go into detail on. Marx's ideas laid the foundation for many different alternatives to capitalism, and I think it goes without saying that 20th century communism was a failure. But that doesn't mean we should give up the search for alternative's to market capitalism. So to start the conversation, I will talk a little about a couple modern thinkers who were heavily influenced by Marx, who propose alternatives to our current system. One is an idealist, one is more of a realist who has a very simple idea that could bring big change. I'm mostly doing this because I injured my hand and haven't been able to play guitar for over a week.

    The first is Peter Joseph, who's point is very simple, and powerful. His idea is that, technologically speaking, there is nothing stopping our civilization from creating a "post scarcity" economy. The TL;DR is that with modern energy technology, and vertical farming technology, we could theoretically create a world without poverty. Its not a matter of technological limitations, its a matter of how inefficient markets are as resource distribution systems. Peter is an idealist, essentially saying that the only thing between us and a technological communist utopia (I use that world very lightly, because you can't have up without down) is a lack of political will, not technological limitation.





    The next is Richard Wolff, who is more of a realist. He proposes that by introducing "democracy at work", and abolishing the employer employee relationship, we could make capitalism into a much more ethical system. Every worker at a business will be able to vote on what the business does with the profits of that business, instead of a board of directors who have a power over the business that kings had over countries. His proposal isn't a utopian vision, but one that would propel us forward into a better tomorrow.



     
    Last edited: Aug 15, 2017
    vilk and AngstRiddenDreams like this.
  2. AngstRiddenDreams

    AngstRiddenDreams Filthy Casual

    Messages:
    3,467
    Likes Received:
    311
    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2011
    Location:
    Seattle
    In before "muh human nature"
     
  3. tedtan

    tedtan SS.org Regular

    Messages:
    3,905
    Likes Received:
    488
    Joined:
    Dec 2, 2009
    Location:
    Never Neverland
    "muh human nature" :fawk:
     
  4. tedtan

    tedtan SS.org Regular

    Messages:
    3,905
    Likes Received:
    488
    Joined:
    Dec 2, 2009
    Location:
    Never Neverland
    Seriously, though, if someone risks their money and the well being of their family creating a business (and the jobs that go along with it), why would they agree to allow their employees to determine what they can do with their profits?
     
  5. AngstRiddenDreams

    AngstRiddenDreams Filthy Casual

    Messages:
    3,467
    Likes Received:
    311
    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2011
    Location:
    Seattle
    Because those employees are responsible for those profits.
    The idea that hundreds or thousands of workers can create value that is solely the property of one person is ridiculous.

    Watch the Wolff video.
     
    vilk likes this.
  6. Drew

    Drew Forum MVP

    Messages:
    26,343
    Likes Received:
    1,876
    Joined:
    Aug 17, 2004
    Location:
    Somerville, MA
    I haven't read Picketty's work, and while I'd like to at some point and I think from 10,000 feet his argument is sound (though, I wonder if there's any cyclicality to it and that we're just currently in a period where returns on capital are higher than the return on labor), I have read summaries of a couple pretty good critiques of his work. This one ran in The Economist about two years ago (I thought it was more recently, honestly, but sure enough, March 2015).

    https://www.economist.com/news/fina...chiefly-responsible-rising-inequality-through

    Pertinent passages:

    So, yes... But it's probably not as simple as Picketty makes it out to be, and the argument that the long-term return on capital will NOT converge to the economic growth rate as opportunities to outperform the long run growth rate are arbitraged away would seem to defy basic economic theory.

    That's not to say inequality isn't a huge problem, and that lots of home-owners with lots of equity wrapped up in their houses having a higher share of wealth than non-home-owners isn't problematic in its own right... But, it's important to remember that Picketty is merely one (if an important, and currently very trendy) voice in a much larger discussion.

    Personally, I'm reminded of Churchill's famous quote on democracy; "Democracy is the worst form of government, except all of the others." I think you can fairly say the same about capitalism.

    Well, again, it's a complicated subject... but, the profits aren't solely the result of the workers. They're also the result of the committed capital employed. Giving the workers total credit for the profits generated and total decision making authority ignores the reality that someone else put up large sums of money to invest in property, machinery, input materials, etc, and would not do that unless they were likely to receive a decent return on their capital.

    Now, the devil, of course, is in determining the appropriate breakdown between return on capital and return on labor. But clearly it's not 100% return on labor and 0% return on capital, or you'd have to be a fool to commit capital to a business.
     
  7. will_shred

    will_shred not that good.

    Messages:
    2,824
    Likes Received:
    340
    Joined:
    Sep 18, 2012
    Location:
    Rochester NY
    Because the business literally is built off the labor of the workers, there would be no business without workers, and the decisions that the employers make with the profits effect the lives of the workers. The workers should have equal say in what happens to the profits because those choices have just as much impact on the lives of the workers as they do the founders of the business. What gives the "owners" the exclusive rights to decide what happens to the profits when they have so little involvement in the day to day running of the business? at best you could say that the duty of management is itself a lot of work, which i will concede, but it isn't vastly more difficult than any other skilled labor, and in my book that does not constitute grounds for being given exclusive rights to decide how profits are distributed.

    If workers decided what happened with the profits, do you think CEO's would be making 300 times what the average worker makes? Not a chance.
     
    Last edited: Aug 15, 2017
    vilk and AngstRiddenDreams like this.
  8. Explorer

    Explorer He seldomly knows...

    Messages:
    6,351
    Likes Received:
    934
    Joined:
    May 23, 2009
    Location:
    Formerly from Cucaramacatacatirimilcote...
    Is there some mechanism whch prevents workers from formng their own cooperatives to compete with owner-owned businesses?

    Is it being proposed that potential employees be forbidden by law for working for an owner-owned business?

    Is it being proposed that non-cooperatives be illegal, down to a owner-ownd and -operated single-person business which then hires one additional employee?

    I'm just curious as to when people are proposing stripping a single owner of the business, into which he put his work. What is the line he or she has to cross to suddenly be penalized for having been a good worker for his own company?

    Similarly, can an employee who is proving a detriment to the business be stripped of previous wages? If not, why not?

    The more astute will understand my puzzlement on these matters.
     
  9. Spaced Out Ace

    Spaced Out Ace 0 0 1 0 0 6 5 0 3\

    Messages:
    3,049
    Likes Received:
    434
    Joined:
    Jan 27, 2010
    Location:
    Washington
    The only thing I like about Marxism is Anthony Fantano's "Marx debunked ______ years ago!!!`111`" meme. Shit's dank.
     
  10. marcwormjim

    marcwormjim SS.org Regular

    Messages:
    1,442
    Likes Received:
    533
    Joined:
    Jan 15, 2015
    Location:
    Not here
    I always enjoyed knowing that Chico was a great pianist, but that fans assumed Harpo was better because he only knew one song; and had developed it over his lifetime to be a devastating party piece.
     
    vilk likes this.
  11. Spaced Out Ace

    Spaced Out Ace 0 0 1 0 0 6 5 0 3\

    Messages:
    3,049
    Likes Received:
    434
    Joined:
    Jan 27, 2010
    Location:
    Washington
    "The workers should have equal say in what happens to the profits because those choices have just as much impact on the lives of the workers as they do the founders of the business." That's never going to happen, and should never happen. Unless you have drones or robotic automation, you'll never get a group of people to agree on something. And if they don't agree on something, then that person whose wishes does not get acknowledged in the final decision therefore does not have any say at all, and certainly not an equal say.

    I could hear out everyone's opinion on here what guitar/gear I should spend $500 bucks on, and after the thread has died down, say fuck it and buy 8 or so fleshlights. In the same notion, an owner could listen to everyone's concerns or ideas, etc. and say fuck all of that, I'm buying myself a Porsche, now get your asses back to work, slackers.

    And owners have "little involvement in the day to day running of the business"? Uhh... Only owners that wish to see their business close up due to mismanagement do not have involvement with the day to day running of their business.
     
  12. Lemonbaby

    Lemonbaby SS.org Regular

    Messages:
    304
    Likes Received:
    109
    Joined:
    Jun 3, 2015
    Location:
    Germany
    That discussion is as old as our modern market itself. Standard question back: if the workers want to decide on what's happening with the profit of a company - are they willing to also compensate for the losses from their salaries?

    Just discussing the profit situations is a massively simplified view on a complex topic. Everyone feels obliged to dish out money that's been earned, but who's responsible for decisions that might run the company bankrupt. All of a sudden. no one will be there to demonstrate his skills, I can assure you.
     
  13. will_shred

    will_shred not that good.

    Messages:
    2,824
    Likes Received:
    340
    Joined:
    Sep 18, 2012
    Location:
    Rochester NY
    No there isn't, and worker owned co-ops have already been shown to be effective business models. That's why Richard Wolff's entire platform for change is basically advocating for more co-ops. Like I said, its far more realistic than Peter Josephs technological utopia.
     
  14. will_shred

    will_shred not that good.

    Messages:
    2,824
    Likes Received:
    340
    Joined:
    Sep 18, 2012
    Location:
    Rochester NY
    You're still making the assumptions that the founders of the business "own" the entirety of the profits of the business in the same way you "own" your paycheck. Your paycheck is delegated from the work you do, the profits are the result of the collective efforts of everyone in the company. Like I already said, management is itself a job, obviously, but it is defined by a set of skills that anyone could theoretically learn. The management class are not uniquely qualified to make decisions for the business on behalf of the employees of the business who's livelihoods depend on that business.
     
  15. will_shred

    will_shred not that good.

    Messages:
    2,824
    Likes Received:
    340
    Joined:
    Sep 18, 2012
    Location:
    Rochester NY

    The problem with that counter argument to Piketty is that Capital is essentially a history of modern capitalism, and Piketty demonstrated pretty clearly that the only time in modern history where G>R was in the post WWII economic boom, which was due to a highly unique and complex set of circumstances that are unlikely to happen again short of another world war.
     
  16. Adam Of Angels

    Adam Of Angels The GAS Man Contributor

    Messages:
    8,710
    Likes Received:
    706
    Joined:
    Nov 15, 2008
    Location:
    Mount Pleasant, PA
    It's worth noting, because it hasn't yet been explicitly noted, that Capitalism allows everything from workplace democracies to outright communistic systems.
     
  17. Drew

    Drew Forum MVP

    Messages:
    26,343
    Likes Received:
    1,876
    Joined:
    Aug 17, 2004
    Location:
    Somerville, MA
    You're missing most of my argument. Two main points you either didn't see or ignore.

    1) Businesses require both labor AND capital. There needs to be SOME return on capital for capital-holders to invest in a business, so the profits need to be divided between those who contribute labor and those who contribute capital. The raw materials necessary to make a product (or the factory its made in) don't pay for themselves.

    2) Critics of Pikkety have demonstrated, fairly concretely, that most of the returns on capital Pikkety has pointed to in his work can be attributed to the return on housing assets, which are assets not employed in the production of goods via labor.

    G>R alone isn't a nuanced, thorough critique of capitalism. There are PLENTY of grounds with which to critique capitalism, but at the end of the day it's a very efficient manner of distributing scarce resources to where they can create the greatest utility. Given a government and regulatory environment that ensures maximum utility remains at least reasonably well aligned with the common good, it's a pretty workable economic model, and I have yet to see one with a better track record. It isn't perfect, but it's the least worst option I've seen.
     
  18. Drew

    Drew Forum MVP

    Messages:
    26,343
    Likes Received:
    1,876
    Joined:
    Aug 17, 2004
    Location:
    Somerville, MA
    ...and that lately we've seen a premium paid for things in this model - farmers' markets, local artisanal crafts, locally owned businesses, businesses with sustainable and socially conscious labor practices, etc. I guess you can say capitalism is just a very good way of giving us the economy we want, even if we don't necessarily realize what it is we're asking for.
     
  19. tedtan

    tedtan SS.org Regular

    Messages:
    3,905
    Likes Received:
    488
    Joined:
    Dec 2, 2009
    Location:
    Never Neverland
    No, the business owner investing his time and money, sacrificing other things he could have done, in an effort to build the business is what built the business. There would literally be no business without the founder's contributions.

    As the business grew, he was able to provide opportunities for others (e.g., jobs) and those others certainly helped grow the business from that point. But they didn't create the business and they certainly haven't sacrificed their money, their relationships, time and effort to the extent that the owner has. Plus they're compensated for the time and effort they have put into growing the business in the form of their pay whereas the owner is on the hook for any liabilities or losses the business incurs along with any profit it earns.

    If the owner can't expect a return on his investments of time and money, why would he put that time and money into creating the business in the first place? And without that investment from the owner, where would the employees be? Unemployed without income?


    How many laborers do you know who know enough about corporate finance that they could make sound decisions about what to do with the corporate profits that they could keep the business in business and profitable? And why should they be able to decide what to do with someone else's money just because the person that owns the money pays them to show up and do some work? They're already paid to show up and work.

    If they want to decide what to do with the profit from their efforts, their choice is simple: stop working for someone else and start their own business (but then they are owners rather than workers, and have to assume the risks and liabilities that go along with owning a business rather than just taking their check in exchange for their time).


    Well, fundamentally, the owner(s) owns that profit via owning the business. The workers, not owning the business, do not own that profit.


    No, owners of a business own the profit because they own the business that produced the profit, not because they manage the business. Management is still just workers, for the most part.


    Most CEOs do not make anywhere near that high a multiple of what their employees make. Sure, there are a few CEOs of large, publicly traded companies that do, but you're cherry picking your facts in order to come up with that multiple.

    Most CEOs probably make between $150k and $300k per year whereas their employees make between $35k and $150k per year. A multiple of between 2 and 10 would be much closer to reality than 300. And when you look at the profitability of each employee (how much they "profit" they create less what they cost in terms of wages, overtime, salary, benefits, etc.), CEOs are generally worth their pay because they bring in the big deals that generate many time the CEO's pay in revenues for the company.
     
  20. AngstRiddenDreams

    AngstRiddenDreams Filthy Casual

    Messages:
    3,467
    Likes Received:
    311
    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2011
    Location:
    Seattle
    Okay. All of the employees of any large company quit. Does the owner owning the company create profit or was it the presence of workers accomplishing things?
    What you're explaining is redundant, owners owning profit because they own the business. Yes, that is how things are functioning. We're opposing that.

    You also seem to believe that you know what the experience of all business owners is like.

    To me your argument sounds like "that can't be because that isn't how things are right now"

    @ Adam and drew, capitalism is a necessary step for communism according to Marx so you're not wrong
     
    Last edited: Aug 16, 2017

Share This Page