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Is capitalism good?

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  • Is capitalism good?

    A story I snitched from another forum. Please help me refute or discredit this?


    �THE TWO WOMEN seated next to me in the cab claimed to be my advocates. But as we traveled toward the World Trade Organization ministerial meeting, in Cancun, I found myself frustrated by their statements and doubtful that the policies they promoted could do anything to solve my people’s poverty.

    They were scholars from a Canadian university, in Cancun with a women’s-rights group to protest the WTO. In the past, I’d felt gratitude toward such people, who invested time, money and energy – even risking jail, by turning violent -- to fight for the poor of the world, a class to which most of my family and friends belong.

    The more I learned about economics and world trade, though, the less I believed these women’s rhetoric. Nonetheless, I thought that the cab ride would help me understand why these educated people would so oppose free trade and the economic reforms promoted by the WTO.

    I asked them why they saw free trade as a threat to the poor’s chances at wealth creation. They pointed at the huge hotels of Cancun and one of them said, �Look -- look at all this. I was in Cancun in the ’80s and this place was very indigenous; now, it looks just like the United States, no different. I can hardly recognize it at all! Look --there’s a McDonald’s, under the [North American] Free Trade Agreement that they signed with the U.S.!�

    They were disgusted, but I looked around and saw opportunity. I wished that we had such hotels in Kenya, where we have wonderful beaches and many pleasant people who would benefit enormously if the tourism industry flourished, as it does in Cancun. I said, �I’m sure that the people of Cancun are happier, since they have jobs and hence money to buy food, clothing and shelter. They meet people from around the world, and can easily sell their goods and services to these visitors.�

    The women snapped back that Cancun workers were paid barely livable wages. Puzzled, I asked, �So you would like to visit Cancun and see more indigenous people in their indigenous clothes, living in their indigenous huts, farming in their indigenous methods, and eating only their indigenous food?� To my horror, they said, �It would be better for the environment and for cultural diversity!�

    Like many other globalization protesters I’ve encountered, they seemed to believe that Mexicans and other poor people don’t want the same conveniences of life that they themselves enjoyed: running water, permanent homes, affordable clothes and food, leisure time, cars. They preferred things to stay �exotic� -- underdeveloped and poor. The �indigenous� customs enjoyed by such tourists are not so charming when they make up one’s day-to-day existence. The protesters curse the use of DDT, the only effective control of malaria, because it harms birds -- but they never have to wonder if their children will survive the current malaria epidemic. They argue against the use of pesticides and pest- and drought-resistant crops -- but they never have to wonder how they will survive if a pest invasion or drought destroys all their grown food. They argue against new technologies, such as the genetic modification of
    crops, that might increase productivity and help us move from subsistence farming to cash crops -- but they never have to worry that there might not be food on the table.

    Such anti-free-traders -- including world leaders who refuse to remove trade barriers and who promote environmental policies that sustain famine in poor countries - should take their children and move to these poor countries. There, living under the laws that they advocate, they would be without credit cards or jobs, sleeping in mud huts, cooking with firewood (from chopped trees), and inhaling indoor smoke – while dealing with corrupt dictators and excessive regulation from their own government.

    Coupled with the escalating tariffs and subsidies applied by the First World, these anti-free-traders would find themselves unable to escape the poverty that we in the poor countries know only too well. I don’t wish this on my worst enemy, and I wish that our �friends� would stop imposing it on us.�

    - Akinyi June Arunga, director of youth education at the Inter-Region Economic Network, in Kenya. September, 2003.

  • #2
    A good bit of polemic, eh? Anti-globalisation protesters can be quite an easy target, and I'm sure this is an accurate depiction. Karl Marx was, of course, a great admirer of 'progress', and would have had the indigenous people out of their mud huts in no time at all! But is this enough to convince me of the value of unfettered market forces? I don't think so.

    This reminds me of the way that opposition to the Iraq war was presented by the media in what was supposed to pass for an 'evenhanded' way (ha, ha - I spotted it!) A well-meaning but hopelessly naive peace protester (often a schoolchild) would be placed in a 'debate' with a seasoned and cynical political hack, with the obvious results. It's a bit cheap, really.

    It wouldn't be hard for those on the left to pick holes in the arguments of a footsoldier from the UKIP or Countryside Alliance, but generally we choose to go hunting for animals from higher up the food chain! :lol:
    \"...an ape reft of his tail, and grown rusty at climbing, who yet feels himself to be a symbol and the frail representative of Omnipotence in a place that is not home.\" James Branch Cabell

    Comment


    • #3
      The argument is fallacious, because it assumes that capitalism will bring first world standards of living to a third world country. This is often used against Cuba - on being asked "do you think Cubans are well off?" you hardly could answer "oh yeah, I envy them". BUT if you compare Cuba to certain other South American countries where the US influence has enforced capitalism for decades...

      health, education, birth control etc.: Cuba wins.
      living conditions of the working class: comparable, most of the time.
      (same applies to political violence, repression by the regimes etc. but this may be a bit too polemical)

      Actually, there are very good reasons to state that the cuban people is far better prepared to prosperate in a market economy than most other latin american countries... The near future will tell if I'm right in thinking this.

      Comment


      • #4
        The point being that capitalism has worked - comparably and so far - well for Europe in a unique historical context, lacking in particular of incomparably greater external economical powers ready to vampirize us. Different conditions give different results - and call for different solutions.

        Comment


        • #5
          Is Capitalism Good?

          I've been thinking about this using physics. There are ideas about the natural environment which use physics to explain the big picture. It is interesting that physics could have something profound to say about our societies and how they operate. Here is an attempt to analyse what is happening:

          The answer comes from the 2nd law of thermodynamics, the tendency for entropy to increase in a system. Entropy is a measure of disorder

          The capitalist system tries to maintain itself in a low entropy state by increasing the entropy of the natural systems it exists with.

          Capitalist society irreversibly transforms the environment increasing entropy in the environment. For example high biodiversity, low entropy systems like rainforests are transformed into low biodiversity potato farms for macdonalds increasing the overall entropy.

          For the workers of the world stressful lives indicate high entropy for people. The more we are pushed the higher the entropy.

          Just a few ideas I've been hinking about... What do you think?
          :-) flamingo

          Comment


          • #6
            re: GE

            the person who wrote the original article was arguing the GE crops are a good idea. But it has been farmers in the majority world who have been protesting against their introduction because they will lead to greater control over the growing of food by big companies like Monsanto.

            Remember that Monsanto is responsible for the production of Agent Orange that has resulted in generations of children being born horribly deformed in Vietnam. It is these people we are being asked to put our trust in when they say that GE is good for the people.

            Also there is enough food to go around for everyone - is just that the distribution sucks. Global warming also is a culprit for lands becoming infertile due to lower rainfall. All capitalist problems.

            The person is arguing for more cash crops. This will lead to competition and oversupply. For example coffee - a cash crop - is not worth very much for the farmers to grow. The big coffee companies can pit growers in different countries against each other lowering the market price.

            It is a problem that the poor countries are treated like a plantation or a mine by the rich countries. The people won't increase their standard of living when they are being treated like that.

            Finally just because this person is from a poor country doesn't mean they have the same interests as all the workers and farmers in that country. Just like in the west the elite stand up for the interests of the elite.

            And doubly finally- the person has set up a classic "straw person" - they contrived exactly what they would like an anti globalisation protester to say and then set out to argue against the argument they themself invented. Its not hard to win an argument against yourself.
            :-) flamingo

            Comment


            • #7
              Re: Is Capitalism Good?

              Originally posted by flamingo
              I've been thinking about this using physics. There are ideas about the natural environment which use physics to explain the big picture. It is interesting that physics could have something profound to say about our societies and how they operate. Here is an attempt to analyse what is happening:

              The answer comes from the 2nd law of thermodynamics, the tendency for entropy to increase in a system. Entropy is a measure of disorder

              The capitalist system tries to maintain itself in a low entropy state by increasing the entropy of the natural systems it exists with.

              Capitalist society irreversibly transforms the environment increasing entropy in the environment. For example high biodiversity, low entropy systems like rainforests are transformed into low biodiversity potato farms for macdonalds increasing the overall entropy.

              For the workers of the world stressful lives indicate high entropy for people. The more we are pushed the higher the entropy.

              Just a few ideas I've been hinking about... What do you think?
              Well of course you are right! If workers and the lower classes, even middle-class people. Feel to much stress. We get a more dumbed down version of society. More crime, teenage pregnancies and drug abuse. Workplaces that have happier employeأ©s produce better quality products. Well at least they should.

              Maybe we should write a new Manifesto about the "Chaos And Law: Achieving A Progressive Balance in Society". :)
              But maybe the "Balance" is just Social Democracy? Or am I out of 'context' here?

              After all.. Social Democracy was relatively stable. But not in the eyes of 'The Elite'.

              Problem is.. I think it has rather more to do with WTO and IMF Monetarist policies than the local politics.

              I see alot of right-wing people associate A. Huxleys 'Brave New World' with Socialism and Marxism. Well sure enough he does make obvious hints about it. But i also notice that it also has alot to do with Industrialism and the Capitalist "The Death Of History". Philosophically.. Man has always had trouble defining his place in linear history.
              To give his life a meaning and purpose. Those who pride themselves with a higher purpose do it in different ways.
              Humankinds step out of mythological mysticism maybe?
              Or maybe i'm just 'barmy'.

              Comment


              • #8
                Something very simple is happening in glabal capitalism. McDonalds in Cancun is evidence of cultural homogeny, for a start, but has little to do with this thread. What is more important is the simple question of "who benefits."

                When a capitalist system displaces another, the standard of living usually decreases, particularly under imported US-style capitalism. The reasons are

                1) An increase in internal social and economic stratification. In other words, capitalism often introduces inequality into a society. Relatedly...

                2) People who are instrumental in bringing in industries are nearly always people who already have power and wealth. This increases the gaps between haves and have nots, which used to be relatively small.

                3) The people who work in these operations usually cannot afford what they produce. The classic examples come from the textile industries, where people might make $5 a day in a place where no one makes $5 a week, but that still leaves them unable to buy a shirt that they sew. This increases relative depravation.

                4) These operations also place these societies into the global economy--at the bottom. They may "join the world of opportunity," but they are joining, if you'll allow a bad analogy, a race they cannot hope to win. They are starting the race after the leaders have passed the finish line. This, too, increases relative depravation. In other words, "we belong, but they have everything. We didn't care before."

                Opportunities? For whom? Give me a break.

                Comment


                • #9
                  http://www.geoffdavies.com/default.html

                  The above link references Geoff Davies' "Economia", excerpts of which are available for download. It looks at a new model for "development" that is socially, culturally and environmentally sensitive.

                  Personally, I see globalisation as the great "greying" of the world (sort of like the ultimate realisation of LAW) wherby everything becomes a homogenised, generic unit for consumption. People see an increasing ability to consume as a rise in living standards.

                  Yes, there are health, poverty, violence etc issues in the world. BUT, is free market capitalism the mechanism for addressing these issues, or is it merely the mechanism by which these issues are exacerbated, with the rich growing steadily more powerful on the plundered resources of the poor?

                  It's interesting to note that the original context for the story was apparently by a Kenyan in Cancun - a tropical resort that caters for the tourist dollar. One wonders how their view of the uplifting benefits of capitalism would have been coloured if the conference had been in Bhopal.

                  Or, for that matter, on one of the housing projects on Cabrini Green in Chicago.
                  Does it follow that I reject all authority? Perish the thought. In the matter of boots, I defer to the authority of the boot-maker.
                  Bakunin

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Groakes
                    http://www.geoffdavies.com/default.html

                    The above link references Geoff Davies' "Economia", excerpts of which are available for download. It looks at a new model for "development" that is socially, culturally and environmentally sensitive.
                    Of course it is! The trouble is convincing companies and marketplayers.
                    And first of all.. Certain "market philosophers". There is the argument on "The problem of happiness". Humans are not to have happiness in any social model because it doesn't lead to any driving force. "If people are overall content they will have no mystery or need to evolve".

                    I think this is stupid. But it's what they think..

                    I'm against using old and tried methods of economics from the 20's that don't provide or produce a stable society. Keynes was liked in america by the government. The problem was the market players didn't.

                    Originally posted by Groakes
                    Personally, I see globalisation as the great "greying" of the world (sort of like the ultimate realisation of LAW) wherby everything becomes a homogenised, generic unit for consumption. People see an increasing ability to consume as a rise in living standards.

                    Yes, there are health, poverty, violence etc issues in the world. BUT, is free market capitalism the mechanism for addressing these issues, or is it merely the mechanism by which these issues are exacerbated, with the rich growing steadily more powerful on the plundered resources of the poor?
                    Economics is the 'blood' of society. If you keep clotting it in only one area, or certain places. Well... You get the picture.
                    The rich behave just like cancers on the planet economy.

                    The problem is that the rich need to stop hoarding cash. Giving handouts just to the third world inflamates the problem more deeply. I think getting them to move and let go of the money without fear fear of losing their position, or comfort, might be a new way of looking at it. What if Bill Gates et al where to spread out those huge amounts of cash he gets, back into the system.
                    A new kind of mentality might spring into their minds when they think:
                    "Did i do that!? Did i leave something good for the next generation?
                    Will i be remebered?"

                    People remember those, who benefited society with grace, in a mythological sense. Olof Palme was one prime minister we in Sweden remember in that sense. Same goes for Martin Luther King and The Kennedy's, Gandhi. Even Jesus..

                    All where shot down by 'greed and averice'.
                    Why the benefactors are hated is the root of the problem.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      I think economics is more a virus - it has infected society and reconfigured it to best support its (economics') continued existence. As economics becomes more widespread, society becomes less beneficial for those within it, there well being becoming subservient to the needs of the economy.

                      The models behind economics are so flawed that if the same level of rigour were applied to any other discipline you would be laughed out of town. Of course the economists object stringently to such observations, but they would, wouldn't they. Like, you wouldn't ask a cigarette company if cigarettes are harmful, so why would you trust an economist to tell you whether economics is good for you.

                      oh - and for those unfamiliar with what happened at Bhopal in 1984 (and continues to happen), I have provided this link http://bhopal.org/whathappened.html
                      Does it follow that I reject all authority? Perish the thought. In the matter of boots, I defer to the authority of the boot-maker.
                      Bakunin

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        On a related issue, this morning on the radio I heard an interview with someone from Intel (or maybe it was IBM) discussing the implications of Moore's "Law" - that (to paraphrase) the complexity of integrated circuitry will double every 18 months http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moore%27s_law.

                        Unfortunately for chip makers, the laws of physics are starting to impinge meaning the rate of increase in computer power using current technology will reach it's limits within the foreseeable future.

                        What was interesting though, was Intel/IBM's take on this - a new technology MUST be developed to sustain the levels of growth for the chip manufacturing industry - i.e. growth for growth's sake!
                        Does it follow that I reject all authority? Perish the thought. In the matter of boots, I defer to the authority of the boot-maker.
                        Bakunin

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Groakes
                          I think economics is more a virus - it has infected society and reconfigured it to best support its (economics') continued existence. As economics becomes more widespread, society becomes less beneficial for those within it, there well being becoming subservient to the needs of the economy.

                          The models behind economics are so flawed that if the same level of rigour were applied to any other discipline you would be laughed out of town. Of course the economists object stringently to such observations, but they would, wouldn't they. Like, you wouldn't ask a cigarette company if cigarettes are harmful, so why would you trust an economist to tell you whether economics is good for you.
                          Well of course money is a sham. Ever wonder why the commie's introduced fiat money? Who says that it brings power.
                          And that money is god? Like in "In God We trust."
                          I'd like to know who made that logo on the Greenbacks?

                          In the future, if evolution favours these people. We would have a 'The banal and idiot master', 'The accounter, aka war-profiteer' and the 'The Brown-noser', and some slaves. Wait? We Already have those..
                          Don't we?

                          Well i think Mike said it best with "Find the money and you'll find the problem." It's what uncovered the Watergate scandal!
                          Makes me wonder what would happen if money was just taken out of the system? How would we control the resources.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Brave New World was in fast written by Huxley after visiting America, which is why it's a more prescient novel than 1984, and in many ways more depressing - free expression is tolerated in the Alpha class because it will have no effect.

                            Regarding the general theme of the thread - some third world countries are finding themselves able to leap stages of development - i.e. creating a mobile network where creating a telephone network would be too costly.

                            India hasn't bothered trying to go for an industrialised economy but invested in education (for a tiny percentage of the population admittedly) to compete in services and software.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Another thought - if the world was homogenised in terms of shops, products and media tommorow, how long do you think it would take for the different and local to emerge?

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