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How long do you believe capitalism will last?


How long do you believe capitalism will last?  

37 members have voted

  1. 1. How long do you believe capitalism will last?

    • Less than 50 years. We will live to see its end.
      8
    • Between 50 and 200 years. Our grandchildren or great-grandchildren will see its end.
      8
    • Between 200 and 500 years. We're still in the first half of the capitalist age.
      9
    • Between 500 and 1000 years. Capitalism will be around beyond the time of Star Trek.
      2
    • Over 1000 years. Capitalism will still exist when our technology is indistinguishable from magic.
      10


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Those conditions sound ridiculous when you read them, and in many ways they are ridiculous. They never happen in the real world. Does that mean that markets don't exist? No, it just means that perfect markets don't exist. Supply and demand never work like in textbooks - but they do work in mostly similar ways most of the time.

Likewise, the conditions you have listed for perfect economic planning can never happen in the real world. Does that show that planning is impossible? No, it only shows that perfect planning is impossible. But no one ever expected socialism to involve perfect economic planning.

You seem to believe that socialism has a choice between being perfect and not existing at all.

This is what our stand has always been. At least, my stand is that even if we find middle ground, we must see what the main focus is. Market Socialism is still capitalism if the main method of distributing resources is still by the free market. When Edric O argued the excluded middle fallacy, he didn't say that the middle ground was always good, but that the middle ground is not always bad. It depends on which side you tend towards.

The perfecly competitive market is the model towards all the markets tend to move but never reach. Like equilibrium point is the point towards which the market moves but never reaches.

I am aware of the inefficientcies of monopolistic competitive markets. And they do have even economic profits because of those inefficiencies. I did say that we can not go into pure capitalism, however the opposition to me on the forum has not made that same statement. Edric O did reject the idea of market socialism (middle point betweent the two systems). The statement was that if it has market in it, it is not socialism. Correct me if I am wrong by opposition has been willingly defending socialism in its pure form.

Exactly. This is why it is equally unreasonable of you to expect socialism to work only when there is perfect planning. The burden of proof weighs heavily on both sides of the debate.

Also, that is the inherent contradiction in capitalism. In an analysis for the 4 main market structures, we observe that economic profit almost always comes at the expense of allocative efficiency. It's a zero sum game and we thus cannot conclude that capitalism has the absolute advantage in this aspect.

As I already stated that there is too many things to program and too many things to input in order to try to create a model of the economy. This is not just a number of computers, some one has to make you a program for those computers to run and interact as the carry over effects transfer from market to market to market. Since no market is completely isolated from the other one. I stated Barone as the economist who created the formulas for that planning but he saw this task as huge and the result to be the same exactly to allocation of the capitalism system.

Any problem that socialist planners are going to face will be the same as that faced by capitalist planners. The fundamental difference is that socialist planners have an entire economy to coordinate, but capitalist planners have only their small fraction of the market to coordinate, if you call that coordination at all. Why else do we face problems of overlapping of production? At the end of the day, it is because capitalists work against each other (most of the time, excluding mergers and collusions) and there is little way we can really achieve a full-fledged efficiency in this aspect. Besides, capitalist planners also need these models for their planning, exactly what socialist planners face. Why else do we talk about ceteris paribus? Different markets can affect each other, and thus capitalists have to account for most of the factors, if not all, that socialist planners face.

In capitalism I stated the firms and induviduals decide ont he information that is appropriate to their decision according to their beleives and constraints of gathering the information. This of course creates certain inefficiencies but do to flexibility of the market the inefficiencies could be absorbed easily. Socialism without market structure would be inflexible its adjustment to inefficiencies would require remaking the plan which will take a long time to do. Capitalism with everyone being their own personal planner allows the adjustment process to be carried out by everyone which is way faster than a limited number of planners.

It is exactly because capitalists have their own personal planners that they can do whatever they want, regardless of how what they do really affect the economy in general. Thus, in such anarchy, we can expect numerous mistakes to be made all over the place, even if there is a greater adaptability, if the adaptability is really non-existent in socialism.

The government run monopolies are not ineficient if they act ont eh basis of the MC=D instead of MC=MR (at this point it is inefficient). However as any economist knows MC is very difficult number to calculate because it not only includes explicit costs (ex. cost calauclated by accoutants) but also implicit costs (ex. opportunity cost).Flexibility of capitalism is the flexibiluty that allows faster corrections to be done through market than through recreation of the plan to correct for every stress that suddenly occurs and makes the plan inefficient.

This issue has been dealt with earlier under the main points of:

1.) What exactly determines efficiency, and how it can be mitigated

2.) Planning and adaptability

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"Management ussualy equals control so the more economy is managed the more it is controlled."

And the economy is managed in capitalism, as you go to great lengths to observe. What's your point?

The economy in capitalism is managed on decentralised level which means they much freer to do what they liek there is not central management for all the firms each firm manages to extent it needs. The control is not in the hands of the government (central manager) but rather in the hands of the each firm. They are more free because they decide what to do not somebody else tells them what to do.

"firm won't be able to respond by increasing or decreasing its quantity or price if its costs sudenly change or its suppliers failed."Why not? There's absolutely no reason it can't make an interim decision while awaiting for the revised figures to arrive in a few hours' time (if that). In fact, chances are, a socialist society would know faster, since if there are changes further up or down the line, there's no immediate way for a capitalist firm to realise except by a process of osmosis.

Most of the governments int eh world are democratic so this type change of plana nd each change of plan would have to be passed through the legislative body like all the governments do with their budget because now they control the whole economy not only little part. All of firms spendings are their spendings, all firms purchases are their purchases. This has to be passed. Ussually takes an aweful amount of time. So changes would once again would have to go through same legislative body. By passing this process you will move closer to totalitarian regime.

"As I already stated that there is too many things to program and too many things to input in order to try to create a model of the economy."

Cockshott & Cottrill 'Towards a New Socialism' gives the equations used and calculates "a computer with a speed of one billion instructions per second could do the job in 2

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gunner154 has made a very good point and vey good attack on my arguments. Correct me if I am worng I been critisising pure socialism but but pure capitalism is disastraus as well if it is in its pure form. Since i'll be leaving my place of residence and be unable to access internet till june 1st i am just going to clarify some things.

I am not a crazy capitalist. I have always stood behind market socialism. Some of the best examples of it were Frence form 1950s to 1980s, Japan untill lately and the Four Tigers.

No pure system will be able to exist without backfiring. Both socialism and capitalism will see at their extremes withering away of the state. This is just disastraous by itself.

Capitalism

The idea of the "invisisble hand" (as said by Adam Smith) regulating the market.

The markets settle (in reality move constantly towards equilbibrium) at which the resoruces allocated most efficiently.

Avantage over the planners is (in the words of Hayer and Mises): the economic problem is how to secure the best use of resurces (efficient) known to any member of society, for ends whose relative importance only these induviduals know, or to put it briefly, it is a problem of utilization of knowledge not given to anyone in its totality.

In other words economic agents (consumers and producers) specilaise in information about prices, priducts and locations that is releveant to them, they dont need to know all prices, products and locations to behave efficiently in the market place. Markets generate information through market prices. Socialist planners don't have markets that generate that information. Itroducing markets into socialism will make it market socialism and not planned anymore.

Capitalism needs to function rule of law, however it is governmental intervention that makes markets less efficient. Governmental intervention is the introduction of socialism element. Since capitalism strives to have no governemntal intervention than we have a problem right here immediately.

Capitalism needs monetary policy - policy that governce the supply of money. However that immediatly is governmetnal intervention. Since money is nothing but IOUs of the government to the induvidual than same IOUs couldbe issued by anyone as long as we are willing to trust them to pay on them. (happened with the gold smiths in Middle Ages and the trading companies and banks before establishment of central banks). Problems are the fact that kind of things could backfire as the issuer won't be able to back up their IOUs and difficulty of conducting business with all sorts of "money" floating around. Once again pure capitalism digs a hole for itself.

Fiscal policy is needed by capitalism - policy of the tax colection and spending of the money. However taxes are government intervention that create inneficiencies in the markets. Revmoval of government would remove the rule of law that is needed by capitalism.

Financial Intermediaries are needed by the capitalist economist to accpet deposits and use that money and through its factors to augment it and thus create finance for the investments.

State intervention is needed to control the monopolies to certain level in the short-run. Socialistic behaviour in itself.

State maust provide public goods that market is deemed unable to provide - national defence,, pulic roads, legal system and foreign policy, fire departments and etc. Whiel some of these good wil be able to provide (privite police, privite fire departments) the provision would be will cause huge problems and also would be inhumane in its provision.

Problems of external effects. Theya re effects that come outside of the market. Market might deal with them but only when this effects become too serious enough. Example is pollution, the emitied pollution is a social cost but not a privite cost (unless it becomes too serious that the company is unable to operate due to its presence). Market analysis takes in only privite costs not public. Often one companies pollution could become other companies cost of clening up. Example is: The firm upstrim pollutes the water, the firm downstream has to clean up the water because it needs clean water for its operations.

There are helpful external effects too but because they are produced as the byproduct the company that produced it does not get rewarded for it.

Government interference in income distribution is also an partial introduction of socialims. The capitalism beleives that each person is payed according to value of their work. Disabled, young and old are unable to produce work as valauble as the other members of society and so they get paid less and can provide less for themselves in capitalism. The governmental programs that correct that are already introduction of socialism (attempt to make equalise the income to some extent). Also value of the work could increase due to the cpaital investment present in the firm.

Capitalism balances in the long run but as Keynes said "we are all dead in the long run". This means that goevenmetnal intervention is needed to balance out serious enough problems faster than the capitalism can do themselves. However this is not direct plan but rather guidance of the economy towards certain objectives. Objectives ussually are not specific to a certain number but rather a wider range of a value.

So in other words capitalism by itself without a mix of socialims can not exist effectively. You need socialistic intervention to help it out.

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Now Socialism

Socialism generally looks out for the public good over the longer run periods. Capitalism looks voer privite good over short periods of time. Socialism might take on projects that pay off in the "bright future", but would be a losses in short run. Capitalism will miss the long term benefit projects and take short term projects  due to faster pay off but could become disastraous in the long run.

The best example is that the socialist economies promote higher savings in the present for the benefits in the future, while capitalism promotes higer spending in the present leaving little savings for the future.

Removal of the price sstem and the markets that determine prices makes it impssible for the planers to tell if the cost of production and valalue of the putput product are equal. This creates the problem of deciding whether the output is efficient or not.

Information gathering problem. Since planners need to gather information from the firms int he amrket agency cost appaears. Firms ussually posses information advantage ver central authority since they are the ones providing the information. Attempts to hide and conceal information. Implementing the improvements in technology after plan has been issued, now the firm can produce the product faster and easier but it is not outputting its optimal amount of output because the plan was made before the technological improvment. The firms might claim false facts about their capabilities and thus force an inefficient decision on the planner.

Income is distributed to all equally despite their work value. This in itself reduces the incentive to work to full capacity or to increase produtivity through invention and innovation. Since firms are told their price and the quantity they become monopolists ont he markets since they no longer compete with each other, there is no point sicne each one is assigned each market. This removes incentives ont the level of the firms to innovate and invent. This is often called a free rider problem. When a peson takes advantage of governmental program.

Firms have incentive to unite and lobby the planners as a bigger force in order to push their interests through. the new set up prices and quanititys could create over supply or shortage and cause firms to do black market deals for higher prices or lower in order to remove shortage or surplus.

Planning out the carry over effects on the other markets proves an impossible task. Example, more steel is needed, for more steel more coal is needed, for more coal more electricity is needed and so on. This second round effecs cosntlantly mov through out the economic system makeing theme impossible to calculate.

Plan could satisfy the demand for products in the economy but it might not b e optimal. Naturally one could finde the optimal plan however due to time consraint problem also a few versions are created and theere is no reason for them to be optimal.

Plans are static and not dynaic. Over the perido of time the amoutn of inputs to produce the same outputs is deemed to be constant. However that is not the case as the economies of scale and scope tend to kick in.

For easier planning the planners tend to group firms into sectors of the economy, however that reduces realism and leads to less accurate results. Why this is done:

Economy prodces millions of distinct products and factor inputs (what is required for production of the product). Aggregating this products would remove from realit of economy. For optimal planning the planners must know relative importance and beneift of the goods in the economy. this requrres addition to beuracracy of planners filed specific advisors.

Introduction of the market prices in order to make sure that the produced product is not more expensive than its revenue, steping away from equal income distribution, letting some sectros of economy, the small enterprises to plan themselves and such solutions would be introducing capitaist elements. So there you have it the problems and beneifts of socialism and capitalism in their pure forms disccussed.

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In the end no country on earth usses currently either of the thse systems instead they ahve a mix betwen the two. This has been the case since the beggining of human civilization. The different mix is two sstems is optimal for different situations. There is no uniformal solution to the problems of all countries, each one has to find its own mix that is approprtiate at the time and keep changing it in order to stay high in the world economy. Unability to adjust will mean inability to survive. So back tot he question of the board. Economy will continue to exist in this constant mix between two extremes never reaching either.

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Note that Market Socialism is a different type of system than what you seem to be advocating, which is ususally called a mixed economy.

As to whether or not I'm defending "pure" socialism, it's not a question I can really answer. It depends on how you define "pure" socialism, and I can only really describe *a* form (or some forms) of socialism.

"Removal of the price sstem and the markets that determine prices makes it impssible for the planers to tell if the cost of production and valalue of the putput product are equal. This creates the problem of deciding whether the output is efficient or not."

Why? Cost of production is easy enough to calculate: add up all the labour hours spent on each product (including externalities), and there you have the price in labour hours. So if it's taken one hour of other people's labour to make a cake, it will cost me one labour-hour-worth to buy that cake.

"Income is distributed to all equally despite their work value. This in itself reduces the incentive to work to full capacity or to increase produtivity through invention and innovation. Since firms are told their"

You've already mentioned this, and I've already responded.

"Firms have incentive to unite and lobby the planners as a bigger force in order to push their interests through. the new set up prices and quanititys could create over supply or shortage and cause firms to do black market deals for higher prices or lower in order to remove shortage or surplus."

Firms wouldn't have the authority or the identity to lobby like Capitalist businesses do. As I've already mentioned, prices and quantities can be computed, and any interference would be obvious and amendable.

"Planning out the carry over effects on the other markets proves an impossible task. Example, more steel is needed, for more steel more coal is needed, for more coal more electricity is needed and so on."

Simultaneous equations. See the link I gave you.

"Plans are static and not dynaic. Over the perido of time the amoutn of inputs to produce the same outputs is deemed to be constant. However that is not the case as the economies of scale and scope tend to kick in."

Why not include those phenomena in planning?

"Economy prodces millions of distinct products and factor inputs (what is required for production of the product). Aggregating this products would remove from realit of economy. For optimal planning the planners must know relative importance and beneift of the goods in the economy. this requrres addition to beuracracy of planners filed specific advisors."

Not really. Towards a new socialism, Page 106 explains that quanrities can be done through a little feedback loop based on demand.

What you've described is not so much "pure" socialism as "bureaucratic" (possibly plain "stupid") socialism. That I'm not a supporter of.

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"The economy in capitalism is managed on decentralised level which means they much freer to do what they liek there is not central management for all the firms each firm manages to extent it needs. The control is not in the hands of the government (central manager) but rather in the hands of the each firm. They are more free because they decide what to do not somebody else tells them what to do."

Everyone within a firm apart from the owner is subject to the owner's decisions. Therefore, freedom is granted to only a small section of society. I'd also like to point out that most variants of socialism stipulate ground-up control of industries, and therefore everyone has control over their workplace and everyone is free.

"Most of the governments int eh world are democratic so this type change of plana nd each change of plan would have to be passed through the legislative body like all the governments do with their budget because now they control the whole economy not only little part. All of firms spendings are their spendings, all firms purchases are their purchases. This has to be passed. Ussually takes an aweful amount of time. So changes would once again would have to go through same legislative body. By passing this process you will move closer to totalitarian regime."

OK, we have a misunderstanding here. There's a difference between automated planning and the precepts on which the plan is based. Automated planning would be continuously updated by companies across the country as they report sales figures, inputs and outputs, wastages, changes in capacities and techniques and so on: prices and orders would adapt accordingly, let's say once a day. This wouldn't even require human interference, though it would presumably require some supervision for error-checking. The democratic part would be the decisions on what non-economic factors and overall goals to include in the computation, such as how much the computer should increase the relative cost of non-renewable natural resources over the labour-hours needed to extract them, and would make decisions that aren't computable, like deciding on locations for new factories.

"Of course, you need only a computer science's guy and understanding of economics is completely unneeded. You know I want that thing, heck if we sell it properly all the firms in the world would want it because it will cut away at costs. Why didn't that happen? The world wide secret conspiracy. Sure! A discovery of such program would warrant a Noble Price in field of economics.

You trying to program inside a computer a human behaviour (that is what economics is science of human behaviour). Go ahead program a human into a computer.

Capitalist economy is capable of self-adjusting very quickly a plan cannot.If you going to adjust a plan next day why make one at all."

Why hasn't this particular model been adopted? It's useless to businesses: they don't control pricing, they don't issue their own currency. You don't need to programme in human behaviour for this, anyway, only a few processes and a little sales data. Actually, some of it's quite similar to what businesses *do* use.

"But you siad that job is guaranteed, therefore a person after loosing a job will get another one."

Unless they work, they won't be paid.

"You supermarket in the town would put the prices at the level of margianl revenue=margianl cost. the most beneficial for society is when firms's Price = marginal revenue. For your supermarket monopoly Price is above marginal revenue. The supermarket is making an economic profit. Annother one moves in now we have a duopoly. The marginal revenue changes and the Price is closer to the marginal revenue. They make economic profit but their combined profit is less than an economic profit of the monopolist."

Actually, they'll make a loss. Let's say the first company was initially making a 60% markup on its outlet, and the outlet supplied the town of 8,000 perfectly. When the second supermarket moves in, twice as many goods are being brought into the town, but *the same amount arte being sold*. So each supermarket is making a 100% loss on 4,000 mouths' worth of goods. In order just to break even, each must increase their markup to 100%. From society's point of view, this is very bad because 8,000 people-worth of goods are being wasted.

Ok, that's slightly exaggerated, and not really my point, because the supermarkets would simply order fewer goods. But, the important effects are the capital investments and natural inflexibility. In order to set up a competitor, you need to build a supermarket. That's expensive, in terms of land, building materials, and inflexible upkeep, like electricity and security, which do not vary according to the number of goods you sell. There are other concerns like economies of scale that are less fulfilled when at half-capacity. All these expenses are unnecessary and wasteful, when the first supermarket could have supplied the town perfectly adequately without all these drains on society's resources.

"Each company makes the change when it hits it not all together. The effect transfer could be late by several weeks."

Precisely. A plan would update all firm ahead of this.

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Thanks Colonel_here for the compliment, though I don't deserve it. Anyway, Nema Fakei has dealt with most of the main issues, so I'll just deal with some other issues.

Since we've both agreed that neither extreme is attainable, we can now compare the 2 different middle grounds we have. One still tends towards Capitalism, except with Socialist elements. The other deals with Socialism that tends to be perfect. It cannot attain this perfection (unless we have super-duper-computers that can perfectly simulate the economy, which is a bad thing in my opinion for non-economic reasons), but it doesn't try to borrow too much of Capitalist elements.

Now for the main points of contention:

1.) Information & Price Signals (Allocative Efficiency)

2.) Externalities

3.) Government Intervention

---

1.) Information

There is little difference between obtaining information from a market than obtaining information from simple reports. For obvious reasons, it is not in the interest of a person to accumulate everything and store them up in his house, especially if he doesn't need those items. Thus, in Socialism, the main factor serving as a signal is the quantity demanded. Thus, how much is needed can be easily determined by society by looking at the reports, which indicate the surplus or shortages. How exactly allocative efficiency can be determined under literally "price-less" systems is something I do not know as of yet.

2.) Externalities

That is exactly where planning comes in. Planning can minimise the efficiencies due to external costs by ensuring the proper positioning of factories. The factory example isn't the best example to demonstrate the efficiency of socialist economies, but the main point is that it is much better for firms to avoid going against each other because they would cause detriments to each other.

3.) Government Intervention

I do admit that Keynesian economics is really good economics, and government intervention would help mitigate the negative effects of capitalism. However, it is my conviction (albeit difficult to justify, I must admit) that government policies cannot really sustain capitalism as a whole, as certain issues such as equity remain problematic even in Keynesian economics as the government would need to use policies to redistribute income in order to solve them. But that would be delving too deep into Socialism and giving little room for comparison altogether.

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A little note on Keynes. The fact that Keynesian economics works and works well is a pretty damning criticism of the system (in socialism there's no market, so it actually doesn't really apply).

Think about it: if government paying people to do things that are useless to society helps the economy, what does that say about the efficiency of the society?

Ok, so governments don't have people doing *entirely* useless things, and I know you're not going to advocate it, but the fact that if they did, the economy propspers, according to almost any indicator you choose to name says to me that the indicators are no good.

Interestingly, on a related note, how do you defend the role of the military in nations like the UK and US as an employer of last resort?

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Actually, like you had said, that hinges on the very shaky assumption that government expenditure goes into entirely useless things. However, even if government expenditure achieves no purpose, it is the direct effect that is of no benefit to society. However, if the end result is the kickstarting of the economy back in action, then it is still perfectly justified.

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A long time. I voted 50-200 years, since capitalism will, eventually, be succeeded by a more efficient economic system, or it will be warped to such a degree that it cannot be called capitalism anymore. Take Sweden, for example. One of the most socialist countries in Europe, and look how it is now. Prosperous, culturally and economically rich, and so on and so forth. We might not live to see the end of capitalism, but I don't doubt that our children or grandchildren might.

Or it mihgt go on forever and ever, amen.

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In term of system of thought and way to manage the world, it is ever present (but not always dominant). Even though I do think no system [edit: system dominance] as eternal, it is not like if it became inexistant. A bit like paganism, which still comes back in other forms and was still there long after the fall of Romans.

How long did the Roman economic system of law exist?... What we see is in some ways a continuation. And it is false to dissociate these older times from nowadays as we do not simply have "free now" and "unfree before"; it's a matter of degree.

It might go down, and then go back up. Did it ever appear or disappear? It all flows.

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  • 2 months later...

One could take Star Trek into example. When the Replicator was invented, people started to have things they wanted - thus a change of economics (many suggests that Star Trek is indeed somekind of socialist society). That is, if people are allowed to have replicators by the rich and mighty...

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"Capitalism" is the word that describes the process of natural selection when quantified numerically. Capitalism will never end so long as credit -- money, in any form -- exists to describe the practical interactions between humans. We evolved from the desire to survive as individuals and to propagate our individualistic traits over others. Nothing short of a conscious, direct and irrevocable intervention in the human genome can alter this. To the chagrin of socialists, I will say that while capitalism may end -- as creditary forms of interactions become obsolete -- the negative aspects of capitalism that arise from human evolutionary psychology will remain for eons to come.

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"Capitalism" is the word that describes the process of natural selection when quantified numerically.

Be careful with your definitions. If you define "capitalism" differently than we do, your "capitalism" may well go on forever even if our "capitalism" ends.

As we have defined it so far, capitalism is a specific economic system, not a process of natural selection. Keep in mind, by the way, that no political conclusions can be drawn by applying the principle of natural selection to humans. If we are subject to natural selection, then by definition we cannot control it or interfere with it. Anything that we do - including socialist revolutions - is done because natural selection has caused us to do it. What you are proposing is a very deterministic view of humanity (which, ironically, was shared by Marx; he believed communism would be the result of human social evolution).

If, on the other hand, we can control our evolution - either making it go better or worse by adopting different political stances - then we have freed ourselves from natural selection.

Capitalism will never end so long as credit -- money, in any form -- exists to describe the practical interactions between humans.

I hope you do realize that according to that definition, the Soviet Union was capitalist (since the Soviet economy used money).

We evolved from the desire to survive as individuals and to propagate our individualistic traits over others.

No, we evolved as social animals living in packs (tribes) of hunter-gatherers. Humans are not tigers. Tigers hunt alone; but a human being alone in the wild would have zero chances of survival.

From the earliest days of our species, the survival of the individual depended on the survival of the group. This social nature of ours was the reason we developed language and intelligence.

To the chagrin of socialists, I will say that while capitalism may end -- as creditary forms of interactions become obsolete -- the negative aspects of capitalism that arise from human evolutionary psychology will remain for eons to come.

If you're talking about the negative aspects of human psychology, of course they will last for eons to come. The human mind will work the same way. But capitalism and socialism are not about the mind; the negative aspects of capitalism are practical, not psychological.

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1. Definitions. I feel that my definition of capitalism is more lasting than other definitions that seem to exist pertaining to this issue. To define capitalism as the economic model of modern Western liberal democracies and the nations that preceeded them would be to exclude various future economic models that, while not capitalist in the strictest modern definitions, reach essentially the same socio-economic ends. In explanation, societies where there is a significant divide between richer and poorer classes, where mobility is possible, but difficult, and where economic scarcity exists as the chief limitor of economic, political and social development. To define capitalism in terms that will include such hypothetical economic models, it is necessary to recognize the inherent, principle motivators of man (in this case, natural selection, if you want to debate me on that, that's another debate for another day) that lead to the creation of economic systems, and how those principle motivators manifest themselves. To me, it seems that capitalism as quantified-competition perfectly marries with the concepts of Darwin.

2. Bolshevism? To define the Soviet Union as capitalist by 20th century Western, liberal democratic terms is incorrect. Yet, to define it as communist by strict Marxist terms of barely a century earlier would also be incorrect. The Soviet Union, as I am sure you are well aware, Mr. O, did not exist as a paragon of puritanical socialist society. Rather, it was often mocked for betraying the stated and intended aims of its foundation.

3. The Origins of Man. "From the earliest days of our species" ignores the bulk of time where evolution leading up to what you term as modern man originated from. There was a time when the rodent-like mammals that would later give rise to apes, dogs, cats, elephants and bears hunted alone, or in small family units with a single male and female. There were times when later or earlier versions of these rodent-like mammals hunted in packs. There were yet other times when these mammals preyed on the eggs of the larger, now-weakened reptillian creatures that dominated the planet. We sure more than 50% of our DNA with the vast majority of mammalia. While we share 97% with modern apes, who indeed are social animals, we happen to share just as much DNA with bears, solitary stalkers, as we do with wolves, modern pack hunters. Therefore, human beings were once tigers -- in fact, tigers and humans share, for certain, an advanced common ancestor that walked on land and killed its prey with teeth. My point being, the behaviors, shape and diet of all animals -- including humans -- is dependent on natural selection's response to the changes in environment, climate and geography present in the world. It's all well and good that at some point in the early history of man that we were tribal hunters, but a little earlier we might have been lone wolves. I also must point out a critical flaw in your argument concerning this matter. The very reason modern humans banded together in tribes to hunt was not to advance "society." Rather, it was because, from the individual's point of view, it was more beneficial to utilize the efforts of others to advance an individual's genes. This does not mean, Edric, that social cooperation is always, forever necessarily to the benefit of the individual. The amount of cooperation that existed was forever dependent on the degree to which that cooperation increased the individual's chance of propagating his genes. Mothers weaned their children at different rates, children competed with each other based on the degree of relatedness between themselves and other members of the social group at hand. When environmental conditions change such that cooperation is no longer to the benefit of the individual, that cooperation will most certainly end. But the competition between individuals is eternal.

4. Negative Humanity. I am not entirely certain where you were going with this, and therefore I might have done a poor job of making my point in the first place. To re-state, I feel that evolutionary psychology is responsible for many of the negative aspects of society as we see it today. Society as we see it today is the product of barely mitigated capitalistic tendancies. I am not certain whether evolutionary psychology gave rise to capitalism or that capitalism itself is a form of evolutionary psychology that developed as human beings' environemnts became increasingly social. The only important implication here is that, if human psychology demands a capitalistic model, and if human evolutionary psychology cannot be easily altered, then it follows that capitalism shall, too remain with us.

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1. Definitions. I feel that my definition of capitalism is more lasting than other definitions that seem to exist pertaining to this issue. To define capitalism as the economic model of modern Western liberal democracies and the nations that preceeded them would be to exclude various future economic models that, while not capitalist in the strictest modern definitions, reach essentially the same socio-economic ends. In explanation, societies where there is a significant divide between richer and poorer classes, where mobility is possible, but difficult, and where economic scarcity exists as the chief limitor of economic, political and social development. To define capitalism in terms that will include such hypothetical economic models, it is necessary to recognize the inherent, principle motivators of man (in this case, natural selection, if you want to debate me on that, that's another debate for another day) that lead to the creation of economic systems, and how those principle motivators manifest themselves. To me, it seems that capitalism as quantified-competition perfectly marries with the concepts of Darwin.

I am not sure what you mean when you say that your definition is more "lasting" than others. If you mean that you define capitalism in such as way that it includes a broader spectrum of possible economic systems and is therefore likely to last longer, I question the value of such a definition. Why not keep the word "capitalism" to refer to what it usually refers to - the economic system that developed in 18th century Europe and now covers most of the globe - and use some other word as a name for the concept you are talking about?

To define capitalism as "societies where there is a significant divide between richer and poorer classes, where mobility is possible, but difficult, and where economic scarcity exists as the chief limitor of economic, political and social development" means that nearly every society in history falls under your definition of "capitalism". Again, I'd like to point out that your definition does not exclude the Soviet Union and other stalinist countries: They had a significant divide between rich and poor (smaller than in Western countries, but not much smaller), they had about the same level of social mobility as Western democracies, and, of course, they had scarcity as the chief limitor of economic, political and social development (as did all societies that ever existed). Thus, according to your definition of capitalism, the Soviet Union and other stalinist countries were capitalist.

I use this as an argument that your definition is far too broad. Indeed, it includes not only stalinism, but also most conceptions of socialism. Socialism would certainly have some degree of wealth inequality (though much less than either capitalism or stalinism), it would have more social mobility than current societies but not much more, and it would have course be subject to scarcity.

In brief, you argue that "capitalism" will go on forever, but your idea of "capitalism" is so broad that it includes my idea of "socialism" (alongside many other possible economic models).

2. Bolshevism? To define the Soviet Union as capitalist by 20th century Western, liberal democratic terms is incorrect. Yet, to define it as communist by strict Marxist terms of barely a century earlier would also be incorrect. The Soviet Union, as I am sure you are well aware, Mr. O, did not exist as a paragon of puritanical socialist society. Rather, it was often mocked for betraying the stated and intended aims of its foundation.

Of course. The USSR was certainly not socialist or communist, but it was also not capitalist. I call it stalinist. In any case, my point was that your definition of capitalism (not mine) is so broad that it includes the Soviet Union.

3. The Origins of Man. "From the earliest days of our species" ignores the bulk of time where evolution leading up to what you term as modern man originated from.

That evolution is what gave us two arms and two legs, a head, a heart, a pair of lungs and so forth. Social behaviour is a very recent add-on. Ancient evolution gave us the "nuts and bolts" of our bodies. But our behaviour is a function of our big brains, and our big brains are a pretty recent development.

My point being, the behaviors, shape and diet of all animals -- including humans -- is dependent on natural selection's response to the changes in environment, climate and geography present in the world. It's all well and good that at some point in the early history of man that we were tribal hunters, but a little earlier we might have been lone wolves.

And at an even earlier point we were bacteria. But we don't share much of our behaviour with bacteria, do we? Recent developments trump older ones. We have more in common with primates than wolves, so it should only be expected that we would behave more like primates than like wolves.

I also must point out a critical flaw in your argument concerning this matter. The very reason modern humans banded together in tribes to hunt was not to advance "society." Rather, it was because, from the individual's point of view, it was more beneficial to utilize the efforts of others to advance an individual's genes.

I never said otherwise.

This does not mean, Edric, that social cooperation is always, forever necessarily to the benefit of the individual.

No, but social cooperation is always, forever necessarily to the benefit of society.

Keep in mind that societies are just as much in competition with each other as separate individuals are. A society whose individuals are more inclined to cooperate will out-compete a society whose individuals are more inclined to fight among themselves.

The amount of cooperation that existed was forever dependent on the degree to which that cooperation increased the individual's chance of propagating his genes. Mothers weaned their children at different rates, children competed with each other based on the degree of relatedness between themselves and other members of the social group at hand. When environmental conditions change such that cooperation is no longer to the benefit of the individual, that cooperation will most certainly end. But the competition between individuals is eternal.

Environmental conditions. That is the crux of the problem. The degree of cooperation between human individuals is determined by environmental conditions - you said it, and I entirely agree. Now, it follows that human beings can be made more cooperative by changing their environment in an appropriate way. That is, essentially, what we communists want to do. Create such a social environment so as to achieve maximum cooperation between individuals.

4. Negative Humanity. I am not entirely certain where you were going with this, and therefore I might have done a poor job of making my point in the first place. To re-state, I feel that evolutionary psychology is responsible for many of the negative aspects of society as we see it today. Society as we see it today is the product of barely mitigated capitalistic tendancies. I am not certain whether evolutionary psychology gave rise to capitalism or that capitalism itself is a form of evolutionary psychology that developed as human beings' environemnts became increasingly social. The only important implication here is that, if human psychology demands a capitalistic model, and if human evolutionary psychology cannot be easily altered, then it follows that capitalism shall, too remain with us.

Again, I must point out that your definition of "capitalism" is so broad that this "capitalism" would still be with us even if we lived in what I call a socialist society. In other words, your "capitalism" - which basically refers to a desire to perpetuate one's genes, not a specific economic system - is compatible with my "socialism". As such, I have no need to argue against you on this point.

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1. Definitions. I crafted my definition of capitalism as above, (ref: "societies where there is a significant divide between richer and poorer classes, where mobility is possible, but difficult, and where economic scarcity exists as the chief limitor of economic, political and social development") because these are the only things that we care about. If your proposed socialism fits the above definition -- as you have admitted -- then I want no part of it.

2. Evolution. Human beings in their current physical form have existed for 2 million years. Human beings, however, have only lived in settled society for at most, 10,000, and even then have only left written records for 5,000. "Recent developments trump older ones. We have more in common with primates than wolves, so it should only be expected that we would behave more like primates than like wolves." This is incorrect. The level of cooperation that your argument requires, chiefly, the evolved cooperative state such that people are willing to live in advanced social communities, could not possible have evolved in such short a period of time. Indeed, the differences between the human beings of 2006, AD and those of 2,000,000 BC would be minute, merely the tiniest of differences. I maintain that the primacy of the individual as an evolutionary psychology exists strongly in the human psyche, and the "newer" developments that you require cannot possible have evolved in such a short period of time.

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1. Definitions. I crafted my definition of capitalism as above, (ref: "societies where there is a significant divide between richer and poorer classes, where mobility is possible, but difficult, and where economic scarcity exists as the chief limitor of economic, political and social development") because these are the only things that we care about. If your proposed socialism fits the above definition -- as you have admitted -- then I want no part of it.

Wait, I'm not sure I understand how you can, at the same time:

a. Argue that "capitalism" will go on for the forseeable future.

b. Say that you want no part of anything that fits the definition of "capitalism".

Are you saying you would support a kind of socialism that did not fit your above definition? Even though you do not believe such a kind of socialism would have any chance of being implemented any time soon? ???

And, on a side note, the qualifier "significant" that you use in your definition ("significant divide between rich and poor") is extremely vague. Socialism - at least, my proposed socialism - would certainly still have some degree of economic inequality, though it would be many orders of magnitude smaller than the inequality existing under capitalism. Does that still count as "significant"?

I prefer to think in terms of exponential inequality (under capitalism) versus linear inequality (under socialism). Currently, under capitalism, wealth is distributed along the curve of an exponential function. Under socialism, wealth should be distributed along a linear function.

2. Evolution. Human beings in their current physical form have existed for 2 million years. Human beings, however, have only lived in settled society for at most, 10,000, and even then have only left written records for 5,000. "Recent developments trump older ones. We have more in common with primates than wolves, so it should only be expected that we would behave more like primates than like wolves." This is incorrect. The level of cooperation that your argument requires, chiefly, the evolved cooperative state such that people are willing to live in advanced social communities, could not possible have evolved in such short a period of time. Indeed, the differences between the human beings of 2006, AD and those of 2,000,000 BC would be minute, merely the tiniest of differences. I maintain that the primacy of the individual as an evolutionary psychology exists strongly in the human psyche, and the "newer" developments that you require cannot possible have evolved in such a short period of time.

Homo Sapiens has actually existed for far less than two million years. I believe the figure is closer to two hundred thousand. Also, settled society is irrelevant. I was talking about humans living in social groups such as tribes, which far pre-date settled society.

Interestingly, if our evolutionary psychology is as powerful as you believe, how come we have managed to create a stable settled society when all our ancestors were nomadic? Surely agriculture and industry are not part of the "natural" activities of man.

But in any case, the ancestors of human beings going back many millions of years have lived in social groups. The vast majority of primates are social. To find the most recent solitary ancestor of man, you'd have to go back at least 10 million years. Surely 10 million years is more than enough time to develop an evolutionary psychology with a strongly ingrained sense of society.

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1. Definitions

Sub-1. Statistics. I use the word "significant" in the sense that I refer to only statistically significant differences. Now, we can do the math to actually find the statistically significant difference in wealth that would satisfy the aove definition, or we can go with the general mathematician's rule of thumb; 1/20th. If something is 5% or more off from another target number, the difference is said to be statistically significant. I chose this number because the reality is actually quite ironically the opposite; the rich control 95% of the world's wealth while the poor control only 5%. To put it simply, the poor control only a barely statistically significant portion of the wealth. Any less, and we could very well say -- for all practical intents and purposes -- that all of the world's wealth is controlled by the rich.

Now, back to what you aren't sure you can understand. Yes, I argue that my definition of capitalism will go on for the forseeable future, and I argue that I want no part of that capitalism. What's so hard to understand about that? Or, did you assume that by observing, acknowledging and professing the inevitability of humanity's individual competition that I actually advocated it? I think quite the latter. Not everyone is a rabid Ayn Randian out to get you, Edric ;)

2. Evolution. It's two million. I checked this afternoon, the work entitled, "The Last Two Million Years," an introductory volume into anthropology printed in the last decade. Homo sapiens sapiens, the current form of the species, has originated at least as far back as 2 million BC.

Now, your second argument is certainly sub-par when considering the excellence of your work in general. We've both acknowledged that evolutionary psychology is dependent on the beheaviors by which an individual transmits the individual's genome. We've also both acknowledged that individuals will become social if the environment is such that an individual's chances of propagating its genome are greater in a social environment. Don't twist that around and say that because I argue that evolutionary psychology pulls for emphasis on individual procreation of an individual's particular genome that all cooperation is impossible. I never said that, and you know it.

The point of the matter was that the very evolution of humankind as a social creature was dependent on those societies' abilities to better the chances of survival for particular individuals. That has not changed. The propagation of an individual's particular genome is the very engine that drives natural selection; without it, evolution itself would grind to a halt. While evolution seems to have shifted the momentum of the human species in the direction of society, I assure you, the reasons for it are environmental, and once that changes, humankind will once again accept isolationist tendencies.

An interesting related study, CNN reported yesterday that while America has never been more populous or well-connected in terms of communication, more Americans than ever live solitary lives. I can't find the link, but it's certainly in their archives if you want to check.

And 10 million years is a drop in the bucket when compared to 4700 million years for life on earth. The difference is, shall we say, not even statistically significant. Though, certainly, evolution sometimes works by leaps and bounds, I shall not discount that, but I feel the above argumentation makes my refutation clear enough.

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  • 3 months later...

I'm inclined to believe capitalism will remain in place for the duration. This is a reflection of the nature of humans who are possessed of the knowledge and means to manage and maipulate systems of wealth, more than an expression of my personal preference or my sense of social justice.

Capitalism is founded on the legal concept of the corporation, which at legal precedent and as a entity, is the most powerful vehicle for control and wealth creation in human history. Its capacity to adapt to or even absorb systems of government is prodigious, as is its capacity to enforce peace (except for isolated flashpoints of violence among the recently dispossessed, or as a means of boosting production by reducing populations and creating a market for reinvestment and recasting of non-capitalist countries).

I don't say I love all its aspects, but its effective at what it sets out to do, and better at what it does than other systems are at what they do. The most interesting part of capitalism its restraining democratisation through internet consumer and political activism. Will it always be possible though?

Biggest threats to capitalism? I'd rank them in this order: 1/ Asteroid. 2/ Global nuclear war started by terrorists. 3/ Global warming going further than the ability of capitalist nations to restrain it. 4/ Legalisation of recreational drugs. 5/ The bible being true.

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You know I just thought of something, If capitalism purely means the handling or manipulating of wealth then, communism would mean the handling of communities or societies that means communism would last ( almost ) forever also, till mankind becomes total savages, in that case 'that' capitalism would die to :D.

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Capitalism and Communism are fundamentally disjoint sets. Their coexistence involves the sacrifice of certain aspects of at least one of them, ie. almost mutually exclusive. Communism isn't about the management of societies. It's also primarily the reallocation of resources, ie. handling wealth in your terminology, but a completely different way.

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I just read somewhere, that capitalism is a socio-economical reflection of the evolutionary law (and btw by one theologist vice versa - that the theory of evolution was made on the image of socio-economical structure of victorian Britain).

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Environment and output rarely get one-sided influence for long. It seems that in certain "types" of times, ideas like Locke's and Humes (and Smith continuing) are coming out more: Locke' ideas can apparently be found in India ages ago. But the existing sprouts change the times which water them, like Aristotle with both Aquinas and al Ghazali.

Capitalism is known to adapt and absorb, with opposite ideas (ie.Austrian school of economics confronting fascist thought, Keynes with Marxism, "information age"). It looks dialectical dualism, except that humans lose general directions with particular events to adapt to. And the more recent takes more importance (no infinite memory).

So the "future of capitalism" seems about if

1- It is limited in adaptation to all possible currents to come

2- If not, can it (a) keep the currents out of where it is not adapted or (b) just be a same name for whattever system follows

Anything "economics" can end up as "capitalist", except for those defining what they "are" by what they "are not" (Marxism, Fascism, etc.). Doing this is quite typical of not knowing where one stands, as Nazis defining volk by "not Jewish": it unites and pushes further, but is unsettling. It adapts to this particular enemy-of-the-day instead of being a general rule.

"Under capitalism, man exploits man. Under communism, it's just the opposite."

Maybe we just need a stronger general enemy-of-the-aeons against trends :P

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