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Category: Philosophy

Need assistance in reviewing comments received re: socialism/capitalism

I think I now need some help. Totally flat out with 10s of things and no time to review in detail. I have received the following tw comments in response to my post here: Why doesn’t socialism work?

Could someone please review and provide any thoughts?

===COMMENT 1===

The term socialism has a range of meanings. What has been stated is the extreme communist variant. The way the term has been defined, India is hardly a socialist state. If socialism is conflated with social democracy or a welfare state, there is no nation in the world which is not so, almost all government budgets are around 30-40% of GDP. So what are we talking about. Are we saying regulation or provisioning of education, health, welfare, which is terribly less in India, is socialist?

===COMMENT 2==

Just to add a few more points to what has been posted by xxx.

“Capitalism is about enlightened ‘self-interest.” Sorry, can’t agree. It appears to be a self-contradictory statement. If u r saying that human beings r biologically programmed to only pursue their self-interest, how can u come up with the concept of “enlightened” self interest???

It’s only in theory. Even Smith, its author, towards the later part, got terribly frustrated with the lack of ‘enlightened’ aspect — the spirit of cooperation n collaboration among commercial people (the invisible hand theory) and concluded that pursuing of rabid self-interest cud only bring misery to many. And will not serve the interests of society as a whole….
Pardon me for this repeat post:-

The building blocks of Smith’s economic system do not allow concentration of wealth; the important point about Smith’s system is that it precluded steep inequalities. Once we put the building blocks of his system together, concentration of wealth simply cannot emerge.

In Smith, profits should be low and labour wages high, legislation in favor of the worker is “always just and equitable,” land distributed

First, Smith thought high profits denoted economic pathology. The rate of profit, he said, was “always highest in the countries which are going fastest to ruin.” This pathology was not simply a symptom of mercantilism, but resulted from the incentives on the economic groups living by profit alone.

Unlike Ricardo, Smith believed that the interests of profit-seekers were structurally and thus “directly opposite to that of the great body of the people,” because “the rate of profit does not, like rent and wages, rise with the prosperity, and fall with the declension of the society. On the contrary, it is naturally low in rich, and high in poor countries” (with a few exceptions, especially new economies). Accordingly, when the economy is sound, wealth concentration should not occur. Only when profit-seekers have rigged the system through legislation do concentrations occur. Smith states that fortunes would, indeed, not be high and that in any case they were prone to dissipation. Such a system cannot generate steep inequality.

Wages, at the same time, should rise with increased wealth. On this basis, Smith defends adequate labor wages, which had to be at least sufficient to provide the “necessaries,” covering lodging, food and clothes, the latter tailored to middle-class comforts. This baseline appears minimal, yet it provides for more than is covered by the contemporary minimum wage. Moreover, high wage levels should occur naturally. Wages are only lowered artificially, through state intervention, because of the sophistry of merchants and manufacturers who are much more adroit in manipulating legislatures to pass laws in their favor. Moreover, employers enjoy a bargaining advantage over workers and can coerce them to accept worse terms, because they need individual workers less than individual workers need employment. Wages are not the simple product of supply and demand in Smith; bargaining asymmetries are key.

Taxation is perhaps the most contentious topic today, with prescriptions of punitive levels as the main instrument applied to reverse inequality. As such, it is seen as a distorting intervention in the market and a departure from “free market” principles. Smith did not prescribe punitive taxation, but what is missed is that he praised the British tax system though it imposed double per capita taxes than the French. Yet, “The people of France…are much more oppressed by taxes than the people of Great Britain.” Why? Because taxes were less equitably distributed, falling disproportionately on the poor.

A fair distribution of taxation was key to the soundness of the English economy in Smith. The rich, he claimed, should be taxed “something more than in proportion” to their wealth. “The inequality of the worst kind” was when taxes must “fall much heavier upon the poor than upon the rich.” The reasons were not moral. Bad taxes were simply bad economics.

Smith’s overarching point was this: taxes were bad only when they undermined the productive use of capital. But taxation should be used to discourage unproductive economic activities.

What kind of enlightened self-interest is served with the latest Trump proposal of taxing corporates @ 15% but individuals at 35%. This’s just an example…!

Scientific socialism as a theory can’t be said to be based on wrong assumptions coz of its skewed implementation (of its practitioners). If Trotsky instead of Stalin had taken over leadership, the scenario wud hv been different. So why blame socialism in the same way why blame Smith’s theories: he never propounded “crony capitalism”?

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Anarchists are like religious believers, 100 percent oblivious to the biological roots of the human animal

An anarchist wrote this: “Even if one concurs, for a moment, with illogical and fallible argument of statists that a “limited role” is necessary, one needs to ask, whose purpose exactly, the State is serving.”

MY RESPONSE

Re: “a “limited role” is necessary” – This is not about necessity. This is about the historical evolution of mankind from monkey to semi-civilised human.

That journey took place through centralisation of resources in the state. No tribal (anarchist) society can compete in terms of innovation and intelligence with an organised state.

So the issue is not about “necessary” but about working to limit the harm caused by the big state.

Anarchists are totally and comprehensively impotent to reverse the growth of centralisation. This is a fruitless ideology, completely cut off from reality.

It is far more productive and extremely fruitful to win small battles, one after the other, in favour of greater liberty from the power of the state.

The outcome could well be an anarchist outcome, but it can’t be achieved by anarchists. They are like an ostrich that buries its head in the sand.

ADDENDUM

Let me add  – Anarchy is unsustainable – but it is a good guiding light.

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Charles Murray – a racist, a goof, a classical liberal, a scientist?

I have bumped into the works of Charles Murray from time to time. Recently I read his book, What it Means to be a Libertarian.

I have differences on a few issues, but overall, I’d rate this book “good“.

At the same time, there is the book The Bell Curve that Murray wrote in 1994. That book has earned him a major reputation as a racist across the world.

Before proceeding further, let me state that I’ve NOT read The Bell Curve. Nor intend to read it, since I’ve read far more recent and relevant stuff on the subject of IQ (and also commented in my book BFN, as well as extensively on this blog).

KEY ARGUMENTS PEOPLE MAKE AGAINST MURRAY

This is a pretty good takedown of Murray.

What I find problematic – from reading this particular review – is that Murray relied on Richard Lynn. Lynn is, in my opinion, a sad specimen of a “scientist”. I’ve extensively critiqued his work on this blog. Lynn is a an abomination with zero capacity to understand science.

Now, it is quite possible that Murray doesn’t understand science, that’s why he cited Lynn. But in that case he should not be dabbling in matters such as IQ which require a thorough grasp on the science of human biology. And economics.

Thomas Sowell, the great economist, took down Murray’s book. See this. I would tend to agree with Sowell.

KEY ARGUMENT IN HIS FAVOUR

Murray defends himself here, quite persuasively.

What this suggests is that he took on a subject without understanding it; came to no conclusion; but then managed to give the impression to readers that he had a bias towards the genetic explanation (even though elsewhere in the book he said he didn’t know the answer). Clearly this was a project that he should have left alone.

But here, in an interview 20 years later he said: “I immodestly suggest that “The Bell Curve” was about as prescient as social science gets.” [Source] – I think that means he believes he HAD said something meaningful. In which case he is fibbing about not having a view on the subject.

He actually said this: “Here’s what Dick and I said: There is a mean difference in black and white scores on mental tests, historically about one standard deviation in magnitude on IQ tests (IQ tests are normed so that the mean is 100 points and the standard deviation is 15). This difference is not the result of test bias, but reflects differences in cognitive functioning. The predictive validity of IQ scores for educational and socioeconomic outcomes is about the same for blacks and whites.” [Source]

Overall, his is a highly questionable approach.

And it is PURE NONSENSE to suggest that IQ has anything to do with modern trends (I’ve discussed this issue elsewhere).

HE HAS BEEN MAKING REALLY STUPID COMMENTS EVEN TILL TODAY

American Enterprise Institute scholar Charles Murray … told an audience at the University of Texas this week that there is no “evidence” showing that any woman has ever been a “significant original thinker.” He then said the reason for this was the smaller size of the female brain.

“When you compare the size of a man’s brain with that of a woman, there’s no comparison,” explained Murray. “It’s not that I have anything against women. They’re nice enough, but it’s just a physical fact that their brains have developed to the same degree that men’s brains have developed.”

“I’m not a doctor,” he added, “but it may have something to do with their need to develop breasts. The human body can’t do everything.”

His comments came as he was defending his assertions in a 2005 paper that women have not played significant roles in the field of philosophy. He argued that he could only recall a single female philosopher, “and she was not a significant thinker in the estimation of historians of philosophy. Until somebody gives me evidence to the contrary, I’ll stick with that statement.” [Source]

In 2005 he wrote a paper titled “Where Are the Female Einsteins?”

This is REALLY, really bad. The man is not just a goof, he is a fool.

MY CONCLUSION ABOUT MURRAY

Murray is a fool. He has little to no understanding of science but imagines he understands it. REJECT ALL HIS VIEWS ON IQ/ WOMEN/ HUMAN BRAIN, ETC. ETC.

Having said that, his work on liberalism would still pass muster and he is actually a reasonably competent classical liberal thinker. So you can read him occasionally, but with a GREAT PINCH OF SALT, for he is in a sense, quite STUPID.

WARNING!

He is totally wrong on universal basic income. [See this and this – instead, BIG is immoral, not moral]

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You can’t observe inside your head. No light penetrates there. You can only delude yourself.

From my FB post here:

MY COMMENT

Spiritualism = self-delusion. India leads the world in self-delusion, no wonder its results are so poor.

COMMENTATOR

What about self observation ?

MY RESPONSE

That’s precisely the source of the delusion. As a biological creature we are endogenous to the physical world and every moment we engage with the physical world. We should be like the other animals on this Earth.

Just because we have a more evolved brain (which underpins our survival as a species) doesn’t mean we need to create complexity where there is none. Instead, there is real complexity in the physical world: we should try to observe and understand it – including how our brain works.

Observing the “self” is like observing a black hole. It is just a hole, where no light penetrates. The only “observations” are imaginary.

Similarly, billions of humans have “observed” the “self” and ALL have come to different explanations of the observation.

To anyone (such as a child who is habituated to speaking the truth) this indicates that there is nothing to observe, and everything is being generated by our imagination.

If there was anything to observe, we’d all observe the exactly same thing.

I trust that makes clear why this “observation” is a delusion – basically brain-generated imagination.

The only thing that CAN be observed is the product of “self-observation” by billions of people. And that is religious scripture/ literature. And any objective observer can see that it is a total khichri.

On the other hand if the same time is spent in studying the real universe (which is purely physical – I’m including the underlying energy as physical), these billions of people would have produced useful knowledge.

Instead of observing “self”, observe the outside – and see how filthy and rotten it is. See how corrupt everyone has become. See how people are killing themselves on the basis of their delusions.
 
Looking outside can create real value since it is a worthwhile exercise. Looking inside is both addictive (people imagine they have become “wise” or “spiritual” and live their life in a total daze) but has nothing useful to offer us as an animal species.
FURTHER
How are such rotten people able to make a fool of us all?

Because we are busy looking “inside”. These Yogis and Babas are totally outward-focused (on money and power) but they delude us that they are looking “inside” and are “wise” and “superior”.

The filth, lies and hate that comes from their mouths then starts appearing to us to be “revealed wisdom”.

We lock our cerebrum and start following them like a dog follows its master.

And then these people gain what they really want – power over us all.

Why else would these Modis and Ramdevs and Adityanaths have any role to play in our lives? They are so despicable I would not let them come in my presence (yes, I realise Ramdev made a fool out of me as well, for a while – he is good at lying through his teeth).

I’m so glad I resigned the IAS – it would have destroyed my soul to work for these people in any capacity.

FURTHER

The only real science of “self-observation” is economics

For only economics can explain what someone who has been “meditating” will do with his time and money when he gets up to engage with the real world.

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