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  1. garth


    Hecate was a witch from Greek mythology, so there is some correlation there. Don't forget Dante wrote the Inferno partly as a way to condemn his political enemies in a subtle way. As for Erasmus, his character is probably the best thing to come out of the prequels, but apart from the philosopher from history, can't really think of a strong connection.
  2. garth


    *Sniff* the Time of Titans will be missed :'( Erasmus/Gilbertus Albans/Agamemnon are the only reasons to read the prequels.
  3. I doubt Bush will invade Iran even if he could. We simply don't have the troops to do so. Furthermore, he'd be dooming the Republican Party in the midterm elections if he decided to invade. If there are conservative Republicans in the House and Senate willing to break with the president on social security reform, there will be a helluva lot more that will break over something costing thousands of American lives (if Iraq is the baseline example). The Iraq venture is already a complete failure: what incentive does the Iraqi people have to build democratic institutions if the US has acknowledged we will stay in their country "as long as it takes?" Why do it themselves when we can do it for them artificially and at the point of a gun? This lack of social capital will mean that upon our withdrawal, the system we put in place will collapse.
  4. Haha Edric and I just never argue over the stuff we already agree on. Start a topic on why secularism is the best thing since sliced bread and we'll probably be on the same side.
  5. "Oh, yes, it certainly does all those things. On the other hand, greed for property and goods also drives wars, atrocities and crimes of every imaginable kind." Thats why you have enforceable property rights that make the cost of fighting higher than that of cooperating in mutually beneficial trade. "You're assuming that it's okay to do anything to people as long as you give them a "choice" - even if that "choice" is between obeying you or starving to death." I make no such moral distinction of people's choices. It only becomes hopelessly muddled in conflicting value systems that are inherently subjective. "and now they have a "choice" between staying in that hole and dying, or saving their lives by becoming the slaves of multinational corporations. Naturally, they'll choose the second option. But this "choice" is neither free nor fair. It is a case of exploitation, pure and simple." It's not slavery, don't you understand that nobody is forcing them to buy anything from multinational corporations? "I'm not opposed to western culture, but I do need to point out that there are many dictatorships in the Middle East who impose "western culture" by force. If elections were held in Saudi Arabia, for example, anything and everything to do with the West in general and America in particular would be thrown out of the country the very next day." Yes you are opposed to western culture, you want to impose a tyranny of the majority which does not exist in any current western society I know of. "Besides, what is "force" anyway? When a thief puts a gun to your head, he gives you a choice between giving him all your money or having your brains blown out. So does that make it ok?" No, because this is not a mutually beneficial trade and the property rights of the victim are not respected. This is not at all like what is happening around the world; globalization is benefitting the poorest countries: During the 1980's and 90's the real per capita income of increased by more than 160 percent (Garrett 87). "You don't seem to get it. Yes, of course the Iraqis hated Saddam Hussein. But they hate the US occupation too. They want NEITHER Saddam's way NOR the American way." They'll choose their own way when we're gone. "Oh yes, liberal democracy in government is certainly a good thing. But why stop there? If happiness is a good thing, and if democracy is the best form of government because it forces the government to make the decisions that are most likely to make the greatest number of people happy, then why not expand democracy to the sphere of economics as well? Why not have economic democracy - in other words, socialism and/or communism?" Because socialism/communism does absolutely nothing to eliminate the problem of scarcity which means that some people will always have more than others which in turn means some people will always be "poorer" than others. "This excellent insight forms the basis for an irrefutable argument in favour of the economic democracy of socialism and against the capitalist "free market". Wealth is defined as absolutely anything that people value. The purpose of an economy is not to produce stuff for the sake of producing stuff - the purpose is to make people happy." The purpose of an economic system is to distribute wealth in the most equitable and efficient manner, not to make people happy. "And prices DO have a lot to do with the quality and quantity of work and resources that went into making a certain product, since you can't sell something for less money than it cost you to make it." No you're absolutely wrong, businesses often sell goods at below cost to attract people into the store on the assumption that once they're in there they will tend to make other purchases. "Of course everyone holds power in a market - the problem is that some hold vastly more power than others. In other words, there are vast imbalances of power. The average worker or consumer holds very little power compared to a giant corporation. As for "nobody is forced to buy anything they don't wish to purchase", you seem to hold a very strange view of "force". Every person has to buy food or drinking water, for example." No, you can grow your own food and dig a well for your own water. "What a ridiculous oversimplification! Go take some courses on human psychology, and perhaps then you'll discover that people are not the automatons you seem to consider them to be." It is impossible to scientifically study cognition, the behaviorists were right.
  6. "It decides what to produce, how to produce it, and how to distribute what is produced - just like any other economic system." And I guarantee you that any individual or collection of individuals in charge of deciding what to produce and how to distribute it will act in a way to benefit themselves. How many examples throughout history are required to prove this? "Also, like in any democracy, there will be laws to protect minorities and ensure that their wishes are respected and also satisfied as much as possible." Unless they want to live their lives whichever way they see fit. In which case, Big Brother government smashes them and steals their stuff and gives it away. "Of course that prices are, to a great extent, subjective (although in many cases they can be analyzed objectively as well, for example by the quality and quantity of work and resources that went into making a certain product - or, in the case of vital necessities, by setting the price so as to make sure nobody dies for lack of food or drinking water)." Prices have absolutely nothing to do with the quality or quantity of work and the resources that go into making them. If I make something that is utterly useless and requires 50 years to complete and a million tons of steel, that doesn't mean I should fetch a high price for it. Prices are determined only by what somebody is willing to pay for them (DEMAND). For instance, a lump of gold in and of itself is worthless, unless somebody values it and is willing to pay a price to acquire it. Prices change so rapidly in response to demand that any group of people sitting in a forum would never be able to leave the room nor would they have all the information necessary in predicting the market price, which would then lead to economic paralysis in your fantasy society. "To say that the Soviet economy "failed" is a ridiculous and biased oversimplification. In reality, the economy of the Soviet Union worked better than any other in history for a few decades, then slowed down in the 60's, then stagnated in the 70's, and then collapsed in the 80's. Obviously, their system had a flaw, but this flaw was so small that it had no effect whatsoever for the first 30 years or so of Soviet economic planning. And we already know what the flaw was: lack of democracy, leading to lack of accountability for the economic planners, leading to incompetence (because they could get away with it, since they did not have to answer before anyone), ultimately leading to economic collapse. It was dictatorship that brought down the Soviet Union." Economic theory has a pro-market bias, there is no way around that. The Soviet Union had an elected body called the politburo and elections were held at the local, regional, and national level for many offices. The problem was there was only the communist party to choose from. The lack of democracy (one person, one vote) was not the problem, the problem was that the central planners didn't know anything about what a price is much less why you shouldn't set one. That isn't a small flaw. "What you describe is a tyranny of the market - or, to be more exact, a tyranny of those who hold power in the market." Consumers and producers hold power in the market, everybody is either a consumer, producer, or dead, and nobody is forced to buy anything they don't wish to purchase. "Individual freedom, as I pointed out, tends to be higher in socialist-leaning democracies than in free market countries (which are almost always dictatorships). As for property rights, you're damn right that I have no regard for them. Private property is illegitimate - or "theft", as Pierre-Joseph Proudhon called it." You just don't get it, private property arises from the existence of scarcity. *SOMEBODY* has to be a residual claimant in order for the optimal decision affecting him or her to be made. "I'm sure I could also muster a majority of people that understand why diamonds have to be expensive compared to other goods. Besides, the government has a duty to inform the people of the consequences of taking this or that economic decision." A diamond is worthless to somebody who has no use for it, therefore whatever price your "omnipotent" and hopelessly flawed system of government decided would be invalid. The existence of markets is the only way to optimally decide utility for each individual. Furthermore, markets would still arise in a society with so-called communal property "Self-interest explains human behaviour only if you define it so as to cover all human behaviour by definition. To make a comparison, explaining human behaviour through self-interest is like explaining the laws of physics by saying that all movement is caused by tiny invisible pixies who push or pull objects - and defining the concept of "pixie" so as to be impossible to verify the existence of pixies...Don't be an idiot. I did not say that people never act in their self-interest. I said that sometimes they do and sometimes they don't." You just verified that self-interest exists, thank you for proving my point. Your pixie comparison is therefore invalid. "You're the one living in a dream world where non-falsifiable assertions get accepted as truth, Shaddam.' Just because it is an assertion doesn't mean it's untrue. You're living in a dream world if you don't think people are rational, self-interested, and respond to incentives. All social phenomena emerge from the actions and interactions of individuals who are choosing in response to expected additional benefits and costs to themselves. A social system with clear property rights and few restrictions on exchange generates money prices ON ITS OWN that help people who are pursuing their comparative advantage to discover in exactly which direction their advantage lies. Market processes inform people of their opportunities and thereby lead to discoveries of efficient ways of creating net benefits for their participants. Socialism deprives individuals of the incentive to pursue comparative advantage and thus hinders innovation. No matter how much you try to change the rules of the game Edric, people will still respond by pursuing whatever gives them the most net benefit. Socialism deprives people of choices because it deprives them of private property, making them very, very unhappy. If the goal of government is to provide happiness for the people it has to allow for individual choice because that is the only way for people to decide what gives them the most net benefit. Any elected body would crumble in a morass of inefficiency, and people will then demand their property back. Cut out the ad hominem attacks please, its not getting you anywhere.
  7. "I thought you said that "wealth is defined as absolutely anything that people value". Therefore, by definition, the popular thing IS always the right thing (in economics at least). Whatever the people value - in other words, whatever is popular - counts as a good thing according to your own economic theory. If people value increased socialization and economic democracy (which they do), then THAT is what maximizes their utility, so THAT is what should be implemented as economic policy." You're making a leap of logic here, just because people want more of what they value that doesn't mean that everybody desires the same things, and therefore what a person wants should not be left for everybody else to decide democratically. Your assumption here makes the rest of your argument for a democratic economy bogus. There is no way you can empirically analyze what constitutes a "fair" price, it is completely subjective, but free markets can arrive at a price that satisfies consumers and producers. "Notice that I have defeated your free market theory using this point alone: Since wealth is defined as anything the people value, economic decisions should be taken according to the wishes of the people. A democratic system should be used to solve the fundamental problem of economics - in other words, to determine what to produce, how to produce, and how to distribute what is produced. And such a system of economic democracy is the essence of socialism." This idea is absurd, there is no way for an elected body to sit down and decide how much of what to produce and who to give it to: they tried this is Russia and China and it failed utterly. What you describe is a tyranny of the majority, and you have no regard for individual freedom and property rights. You will never be able to have a society that strips one group of people of what they own and gives it to other without their consent. "It is for the people to decide what kind of government they wish to have, and it is for that government to decide economic policy, including prices. If the people are dissatisfied with a government's economic policy, they can change it. If the people are satisfied with it, then a "fair price" has been achieved." I'm sure you could muster a majority of people that think diamonds are too expensive, surely you must think there would be a majority who would want the price per carat of a diamond to be 1 cent. Try implementing that policy and apply this example to every other good imaginable and you will see that government command and control does absolutely nothing to eliminate the problem of scarcity. "Ah, I was expecting you to fall into that fallacy. For your information, that definition of "self-interest" is unscientific, because it is non-falsifiable (you define "self-interest" in such a way as to cover every possible human action, making the concept itself worthless), and because the "good feeling" you get from charity can't be measured in any objective way." You cannot generate another basic assumption that explains human behavior, self-interest does. If you disagree, and claim that people do not act in their self-interest, then you must assume: If Bob values money, and he wants to buy a lottery ticket, and he has two choices of equal payoffs, Bob would choose the lottery ticket that gave him the lowest odds of success. Rational self-interest is a universal principle for humanity that stands any test you can throw at it, to deny this creates an illusionary dream world. Adam Smith was wrong about a lot of things, he wasn't a god or anything. However, he was right in many things and is still the founding father of economic thought. On the other hand, Karl Marx and his ilk have been relegated to the dustbins of history, where they rightfully belong.
  8. Allow me to correct a misconception... "Isn't another economic assumption that people are always happier with more as opposed to less? As long as that holds, scarcity really doesn't seem to be an issue." Nope, people want more of what they value. That may take the form of a material or it may not. For instance, some people value banging their heads into the wall, when they do this they are generating utility for themselves (wealth). That said, scarcity of material will always be a problem with which to contend. Btw, having two threads on this is really confusing.
  9. "Organizations, countries and cultures are made up of individuals. They can make choices just like any group of individuals can make choices. And if the decision-making system of the group in question is democratic, the choices it makes are the aggregate of the individual choices made by its individual members." Whether it is a government, community, or corporation there is ONLY an individual making a choice somewhere. Whether it is a board of directors, a Senate, a House, whatever, theyre all made up of people who make choices. To say that a "country" is making a decision is wholly inaccurate, only PEOPLE make decisions. "Hahahahaha - leaving aside the issue of whether the "free market way" is actually desirable or not (it isn't), you seem to be forgetting the history of the past 150 years or so. Democratic countries have moved away from the free-marketeering of the 19th century, and this was done by popular demand." The free market way is desirable because it allows for individual liberty which then allows for the maximum generation of wealth for the most people possible. Democratic countries have become more socialized in Europe since the 19th century and it was down on popular demand, but the right thing is not always popular and the popular thing is not always right. Those same European economies are still stagnating to this day, and America is moving towards a more free-market approach to societies problems. It is not for the government to decide what is or is not a "fair" price, there is NO WAY to empirically do so, whether its a wage or a head of cabbage. Creating price floors creates surpluses (such as unemployment in the case of the minimum wage). Price ceilings create shortages by preventing consumers from bidding up the price of a good. Protectionist tariffs transfer the cost of inefficient industry to the consumers which decreases their purchasing power, decreasing demand, and creating recession. "Bullshit. Individuals make decisions solely for the benefit of other individuals every day. They donate to charity, do volunteer community work, help out a neighbor or a friend, etc. Some people even dedicate their entire lives to helping others - and these people number in the millions worldwide. "Human nature", in the sense you're talking about it, is a ridiculous myth with no basis in reality. It is proved wrong by historical and social evidence (people help each other without seeking personal gain every day), as well as by scientific evidence (the human genome does not contain any "selfish gene")." Absolutely incorrect, you are falling into the trap of thinking that "wealth" means merely money or some other medium of exchange. Rather, wealth is defined as absolutely anything that people value. Therefore, when people such as Mother Theresa gave up everything for others she was generating utility/wealth/whatever she valued for HERSELF, thus she was acting in her self-interest. If I value charity, and I give charity to somebody, then I am acting in my self-interest because the act is generating utility for me. "Yeah, we need Bush's far-right government to be even more right-wing! Let's have more free trade - bring back child labour!" Free trade is a liberal idea. Free Market economics is a liberal idea. Adam Smith was a product of the Enlightenment, the birth of liberalism. "As for the fall in wages being compensated by the fall in prices, this only holds true as long as prices fall by an amount that is equal to (or greater than) the fall in wages. So far, that hasn't been the case. The buying-power of the average American citizen has been declining for the past 30 years. What has been increasing are corporate profits." Incorrect. The net wealth of Americans has increased exponentially over the past 30 years. The movement of the DJIA from 3-4,000 to over 11,000 during that time is indicative of this. Show me numbers that prove what you're talking about (and their source) and I'll dig up my numbers. "Ah, if only things were that simple... but they aren't. Subsidies may help keep afloat a company that is making a loss due to some temporary condition (like a bad harvest in the case of agricultural companies), for example. They may also help innovation in the long run by supporting a small company that tries to make inroads into a market dominated by a monopolistic corporation (subsidies for Linux, for example, would stimulate competition in the OS market and thus encourage innovation). And so on and so forth." Subsidies create incentives not to innovate. If a person or corporation are failing in the free market then they must innovate in order to survive. Whether a product is superior to another is not something that the government is able to do, self-interested people will make decisions that benefit them first and foremost. The only way to do it freely and fairly to all parties involved is to unleash the forces of markets. Again, nobody is forced to buy Windows or Linux or any other product, so the idea that there is a big bad corporation (that *GASP* provides thousands of jobs and millions in revenues!) is nothing more than a straw-man.
  10. If any Dune novel is needed between already existing books, it's one between Children of Dune and God Emperor of Dune. There's lots of potential intrigue with a banished Wensicia and a recalcitrant Farad'n.
  11. "Actually, they're being overhauled because those with wealth and power decided to overhaul them, and those without wealth and power don't have too much of a say in the matter. "Happiness", or the welfare of third-world citizens, doesn't have much to do with it at all." Only individuals make choices, not organizations, countries, or cultures. Societies fail and are overhauled because they rot from within. They fail to address the problem of scarcity and the allocation of resources in a free market way. Individuals always have a say in the matter, they can refuse to buy consumer goods etc. etc. Decisions are never made by individuals solely for the interest of other individuals, it's contrary to human nature. "For the record, a lot of those backwards cultures are bad precisely because they have too much law and order (being police states and all that), and because they have too many property rights and property-like relations (in the way a husband tends to "own" his wife, for example, or various other types of quasi-slavery)." I'm not arguing against law and order, I'm arguing against command and control economies that attempt to control prices through ceilings and floors, tariffs, and subsidies. "That would be the softwood lumber dispute between Canada (although it is tariffs). The WTO has pretty much called it illegal, and yet USA sends it lawyers to waste more time. I think American farms are heavily subsidized compared to Canadian. Hope the border gets open soon." I hope you're right, I'm sick and tired of this mealy-mouthed Bush administration that preaches the virtues of globalization and free trade and then enacts obstructionist policies to defeat them. :- "But if all of the manufacturing jobs are sent overseas, Americans are out of jobs and then can not afford to buy any products from Asia. Unless the entire working economy transforms completely to a service industry. Like personal mechanics/repair personnel to fix products that break from Asia." There are always going to be casualties for an economy in transition, and the short term growing pains will undoubtedly hurt a lot of people. However, the fall in wages would be followed by a decline in prices so the two would reach equilibrium. What America needs to do is allow the transition away from labor intensive industries to continue, so incentives will be created for people to seek less strenuous jobs that pay more. "If unemployment increases, there would be a larger amount of people looking for work and so companies in USA would not have to compete for hard working educated workers in America. Wages would stagnate. Subsidies are probably not a great way to increase competitiveness from the company. They are probably a way for it to get lazy and be inneficient." It doesn't matter if wages stagnate so long as prices fall or remain the same. I agree with you on subsidies though, they create incentives for corporations not to innovate.
  12. I would call the situation you describe as the division of labor, not slavery. You can cook your own meals, make your own clothes, etc. if you want. You don't have to have a car, fancy meals at restaurants, or any of that if you so choose. Don't want to work 40+ hours a week? Don't do it. The reason people don't do everything themselves anymore is because the marginal cost of doing so is too high. As cynical as it may sound, a choice between death and life at subsistence level is still a choice. I'm all for outsourcing; I think it's a great service to the nation. By shipping our manufacturing jobs overseas we allow for lower prices (labor costs lowered) which means everybody else's wages are worth more, which means we get more value for less cost. I don't think its right to discriminate based on occupation by saying "You're a textile worker, so you deserve a subsidy." People who argue for that are really trying to buy votes. That said, the government should not promote it with subsidies and/or tariffs.
  13. About the workers being "exploited," I would argue that they always have a choice no matter what. They can choose not to work, starve, and then die. This isn't a desirable outcome for any party concerned, but we must always be careful that a solution isn't worse than the problem it was designed to fix. Banning international trade, multinational corporations, the collectivization of property, tariffs, etc. that could be possible solutions are far, far worse than the problem, in my opinion, in that they would usher in a Depression that would make 1929 look like a rainy day in the park. "If history is progressive and we'll find something better, that means what we have now is the best we've got and we should institute it across the world until the better alternative is discovered!" Personally, I think history has generally been progressive, but the possibility exists for backsliding. Further complicating matters, things that would be called horrible in the present day could prove to be beneficial hundreds of years down the road (I suggest the Black Death and British Imperialism are good examples). Honestly, I think we've reached the end of the line as far as "perfecting" (I use the term loosely, people are not perfect and therefore nothing man ever creates will be perfect) governments goes. Unless something happens that makes all resources infinitely abundant, which is highly unlikely. Capitalism, with liberal, democratic republican government seems to me to be the best if you look at all the current alternatives. If anyone can eliminate the scarcity problem, please inform me how to do it. ;)
  14. The situation you're describing is most fundamentally a problem of property rights not being respected and not an issue of human self-interest. Unless you value activities such as washing clothes by hand or riding a horse as your primary form of transportation, they are menial, and if you don't value said activities then anything that would alleviate you of them would be a "good" thing. Please see the first paragraph of my previous argument, I edited the post before you responded. :)
  15. Allow me to preface the following argument with a bit of background information. I'm currently working on a degree in economics and political science, so I assume that people are rational, self-interested, and respond to incentives. Furthermore, I define wealth (prosperity) as anything that people value (it could be cold, hard cash or snail shells). If you disagree with me on these points, then there is not much point in arguing with me in this topic, so make a new one. However, if you agree with me on the above, please continue. :) Greed for property and goods is a bad thing?
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