Why Socialism?

Microsoft / Data T Gracchus
Jan 6 37 Comments

Is it advisable for one who is not an expert on economic and social issues to express views on the subject of socialism? I believe for a number of reasons that it is.

Let us first consider the question from the point of view of scientific knowledge. It might appear that there are no essential methodological differences between astronomy and economics: scientists in both fields attempt to discover laws of general acceptability for a circumscribed group of phenomena in order to make the interconnection of these phenomena as clearly understandable as possible. But in reality such methodological differences do exist. The discovery of general laws in the field of economics is made difficult by the circumstance that observed economic phenomena are often affected by many factors which are very hard to evaluate separately. In addition, the experience which has accumulated since the beginning of the so-called civilized period of human history has—as is well known—been largely influenced and limited by causes which are by no means exclusively economic in nature. For example, most of the major states of history owed their existence to conquest. The conquering peoples established themselves, legally and economically, as the privileged class of the conquered country. They seized for themselves a monopoly of the land ownership and appointed a priesthood from among their own ranks. The priests, in control of education, made the class division of society into a permanent institution and created a system of values by which the people were thenceforth, to a large extent unconsciously, guided in their social behavior.

But historic tradition is, so to speak, of yesterday; nowhere have we really overcome what Thorstein Veblen called “the predatory phase” of human development. The observable economic facts belong to that phase and even such laws as we can derive from them are not applicable to other phases. Since the real purpose of socialism is precisely to overcome and advance beyond the predatory phase of human development, economic science in its present state can throw little light on the socialist society of the future.

Second, socialism is directed towards a social-ethical end. Science, however, cannot create ends and, even less, instill them in human beings; science, at most, can supply the means by which to attain certain ends. But the ends themselves are conceived by personalities with lofty ethical ideals and—if these ends are not stillborn, but vital and vigorous—are adopted and carried forward by those many human beings who, half unconsciously, determine the slow evolution of society.

For these reasons, we should be on our guard not to overestimate science and scientific methods when it is a question of human problems; and we should not assume that experts are the only ones who have a right to express themselves on questions affecting the organization of society.

Innumerable voices have been asserting for some time now that human society is passing through a crisis, that its stability has been gravely shattered. It is characteristic of such a situation that individuals feel indifferent or even hostile toward the group, small or large, to which they belong. In order to illustrate my meaning, let me record here a personal experience. I recently discussed with an intelligent and well-disposed man the threat of another war, which in my opinion would seriously endanger the existence of mankind, and I remarked that only a supra-national organization would offer protection from that danger. Thereupon my visitor, very calmly and coolly, said to me: “Why are you so deeply opposed to the disappearance of the human race?”

I am sure that as little as a century ago no one would have so lightly made a statement of this kind. It is the statement of a man who has striven in vain to attain an equilibrium within himself and has more or less lost hope of succeeding. It is the expression of a painful solitude and isolation from which so many people are suffering in these days. What is the cause? Is there a way out?

It is easy to raise such questions, but difficult to answer them with any degree of assurance. I must try, however, as best I can, although I am very conscious of the fact that our feelings and strivings are often contradictory and obscure and that they cannot be expressed in easy and simple formulas.

Man is, at one and the same time, a solitary being and a social being. As a solitary being, he attempts to protect his own existence and that of those who are closest to him, to satisfy his personal desires, and to develop his innate abilities. As a social being, he seeks to gain the recognition and affection of his fellow human beings, to share in their pleasures, to comfort them in their sorrows, and to improve their conditions of life. Only the existence of these varied, frequently conflicting, strivings accounts for the special character of a man, and their specific combination determines the extent to which an individual can achieve an inner equilibrium and can contribute to the well-being of society. It is quite possible that the relative strength of these two drives is, in the main, fixed by inheritance. But the personality that finally emerges is largely formed by the environment in which a man happens to find himself during his development, by the structure of the society in which he grows up, by the tradition of that society, and by its appraisal of particular types of behavior. The abstract concept “society” means to the individual human being the sum total of his direct and indirect relations to his contemporaries and to all the people of earlier generations. The individual is able to think, feel, strive, and work by himself; but he depends so much upon society—in his physical, intellectual, and emotional existence—that it is impossible to think of him, or to understand him, outside the framework of society. It is “society” which provides man with food, clothing, a home, the tools of work, language, the forms of thought, and most of the content of thought; his life is made possible through the labor and the accomplishments of the many millions past and present who are all hidden behind the small word “society.”

It is evident, therefore, that the dependence of the individual upon society is a fact of nature which cannot be abolished—just as in the case of ants and bees. However, while the whole life process of ants and bees is fixed down to the smallest detail by rigid, hereditary instincts, the social pattern and interrelationships of human beings are very variable and susceptible to change. Memory, the capacity to make new combinations, the gift of oral communication have made possible developments among human being which are not dictated by biological necessities. Such developments manifest themselves in traditions, institutions, and organizations; in literature; in scientific and engineering accomplishments; in works of art. This explains how it happens that, in a certain sense, man can influence his life through his own conduct, and that in this process conscious thinking and wanting can play a part.

Man acquires at birth, through heredity, a biological constitution which we must consider fixed and unalterable, including the natural urges which are characteristic of the human species. In addition, during his lifetime, he acquires a cultural constitution which he adopts from society through communication and through many other types of influences. It is this cultural constitution which, with the passage of time, is subject to change and which determines to a very large extent the relationship between the individual and society. Modern anthropology has taught us, through comparative investigation of so-called primitive cultures, that the social behavior of human beings may differ greatly, depending upon prevailing cultural patterns and the types of organization which predominate in society. It is on this that those who are striving to improve the lot of man may ground their hopes: human beings are not condemned, because of their biological constitution, to annihilate each other or to be at the mercy of a cruel, self-inflicted fate.

If we ask ourselves how the structure of society and the cultural attitude of man should be changed in order to make human life as satisfying as possible, we should constantly be conscious of the fact that there are certain conditions which we are unable to modify. As mentioned before, the biological nature of man is, for all practical purposes, not subject to change. Furthermore, technological and demographic developments of the last few centuries have created conditions which are here to stay. In relatively densely settled populations with the goods which are indispensable to their continued existence, an extreme division of labor and a highly-centralized productive apparatus are absolutely necessary. The time—which, looking back, seems so idyllic—is gone forever when individuals or relatively small groups could be completely self-sufficient. It is only a slight exaggeration to say that mankind constitutes even now a planetary community of production and consumption.

I have now reached the point where I may indicate briefly what to me constitutes the essence of the crisis of our time. It concerns the relationship of the individual to society. The individual has become more conscious than ever of his dependence upon society. But he does not experience this dependence as a positive asset, as an organic tie, as a protective force, but rather as a threat to his natural rights, or even to his economic existence. Moreover, his position in society is such that the egotistical drives of his make-up are constantly being accentuated, while his social drives, which are by nature weaker, progressively deteriorate. All human beings, whatever their position in society, are suffering from this process of deterioration. Unknowingly prisoners of their own egotism, they feel insecure, lonely, and deprived of the naive, simple, and unsophisticated enjoyment of life. Man can find meaning in life, short and perilous as it is, only through devoting himself to society.

The economic anarchy of capitalist society as it exists today is, in my opinion, the real source of the evil. We see before us a huge community of producers the members of which are unceasingly striving to deprive each other of the fruits of their collective labor—not by force, but on the whole in faithful compliance with legally established rules. In this respect, it is important to realize that the means of production—that is to say, the entire productive capacity that is needed for producing consumer goods as well as additional capital goods—may legally be, and for the most part are, the private property of individuals.

For the sake of simplicity, in the discussion that follows I shall call “workers” all those who do not share in the ownership of the means of production—although this does not quite correspond to the customary use of the term. The owner of the means of production is in a position to purchase the labor power of the worker. By using the means of production, the worker produces new goods which become the property of the capitalist. The essential point about this process is the relation between what the worker produces and what he is paid, both measured in terms of real value. Insofar as the labor contract is “free,” what the worker receives is determined not by the real value of the goods he produces, but by his minimum needs and by the capitalists’ requirements for labor power in relation to the number of workers competing for jobs. It is important to understand that even in theory the payment of the worker is not determined by the value of his product.

Private capital tends to become concentrated in few hands, partly because of competition among the capitalists, and partly because technological development and the increasing division of labor encourage the formation of larger units of production at the expense of smaller ones. The result of these developments is an oligarchy of private capital the enormous power of which cannot be effectively checked even by a democratically organized political society. This is true since the members of legislative bodies are selected by political parties, largely financed or otherwise influenced by private capitalists who, for all practical purposes, separate the electorate from the legislature. The consequence is that the representatives of the people do not in fact sufficiently protect the interests of the underprivileged sections of the population. Moreover, under existing conditions, private capitalists inevitably control, directly or indirectly, the main sources of information (press, radio, education). It is thus extremely difficult, and indeed in most cases quite impossible, for the individual citizen to come to objective conclusions and to make intelligent use of his political rights.

The situation prevailing in an economy based on the private ownership of capital is thus characterized by two main principles: first, means of production (capital) are privately owned and the owners dispose of them as they see fit; second, the labor contract is free. Of course, there is no such thing as a pure capitalist society in this sense. In particular, it should be noted that the workers, through long and bitter political struggles, have succeeded in securing a somewhat improved form of the “free labor contract” for certain categories of workers. But taken as a whole, the present day economy does not differ much from “pure” capitalism.

Production is carried on for profit, not for use. There is no provision that all those able and willing to work will always be in a position to find employment; an “army of unemployed” almost always exists. The worker is constantly in fear of losing his job. Since unemployed and poorly paid workers do not provide a profitable market, the production of consumers’ goods is restricted, and great hardship is the consequence. Technological progress frequently results in more unemployment rather than in an easing of the burden of work for all. The profit motive, in conjunction with competition among capitalists, is responsible for an instability in the accumulation and utilization of capital which leads to increasingly severe depressions. Unlimited competition leads to a huge waste of labor, and to that crippling of the social consciousness of individuals which I mentioned before.

This crippling of individuals I consider the worst evil of capitalism. Our whole educational system suffers from this evil. An exaggerated competitive attitude is inculcated into the student, who is trained to worship acquisitive success as a preparation for his future career.

I am convinced there is only one way to eliminate these grave evils, namely through the establishment of a socialist economy, accompanied by an educational system which would be oriented toward social goals. In such an economy, the means of production are owned by society itself and are utilized in a planned fashion. A planned economy, which adjusts production to the needs of the community, would distribute the work to be done among all those able to work and would guarantee a livelihood to every man, woman, and child. The education of the individual, in addition to promoting his own innate abilities, would attempt to develop in him a sense of responsibility for his fellow men in place of the glorification of power and success in our present society.

Nevertheless, it is necessary to remember that a planned economy is not yet socialism. A planned economy as such may be accompanied by the complete enslavement of the individual. The achievement of socialism requires the solution of some extremely difficult socio-political problems: how is it possible, in view of the far-reaching centralization of political and economic power, to prevent bureaucracy from becoming all-powerful and overweening? How can the rights of the individual be protected and therewith a democratic counterweight to the power of bureaucracy be assured?

Clarity about the aims and problems of socialism is of greatest significance in our age of transition. Since, under present circumstances, free and unhindered discussion of these problems has come under a powerful taboo, I consider the foundation of this magazine to be an important public service.

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TOP 37 Comments
  • Amazon lolwhat
    as Karl Marx once said: TC or GTFO.
    Jan 6 0
  • Dude printed the whole bible.
    Jan 6 1
  • Google RockLobsta
    Wtf.
    Jan 6 0
  • Microsoft / Eng babaisyou
    We don’t have enough work here at Microsoft.
    Jan 6 1
    • Autodesk / Eng Vjvcjko
      Working for billion dollar companies your ass off doesn’t mean shit to human existence, the sooner we realize the better
      Jan 6
  • Oracle / Mgmt yahboi
    If you like socialism so much how come you don’t move to Venezuela or any of the other socialist countries? There are so many to choose from. But socialists never do that. They want to ruin the country they are in with their socialist worldview.

    You say under capitalism wealth is concentrated to few hands. Again, look at Venezuela. They are pedal to the metal socialists and what do you see there now? The food, medicine, and other resources are concentrated either with the Maduro, the criminal enterprises, or the party elite. Meanwhile the citizens are starving and fleeing the country in droves (three million have fled the country.). Venezuela is the most violent country in South America with over 23,000 deaths.

    As for the concentrated wealth that is in our capitalist system here in the US. Did you know the top 1% (the wealthiest) pay almost 40% of all income taxes? In 2014, the top 1% of taxpayers accounted for more income taxes paid than the bottom 90 percent *combined*. So maybe that will make you feel better.

    Socialism is basically theft of private property codified into law.

    "The goal of socialism is communism." Vladimir Lenin

    "Socialism is a philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy, its inherent virtue is the equal sharing of misery." Winston Churchill

    "Socialism in general has a record of failure so blatant that only an intellectual could ignore or evade it." Thomas Sowell

    "The problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other peoples' money." Margaret Thatcher

    http://www.aei.org/publication/why-socialism-always-fails/
    Jan 6 2
  • Google Lame.
    Cool bruh. You are pitching socialism to bunch of wealthy engineers in a TC rat race.
    Jan 6 0
  • SAP jordy
    Didn't read shitty long post
    Jan 6 0
  • Logitech / QA
    xzibitrabi

    Logitech QA

    PRE
    Uber, Lyft, Microsoft
    xzibitrabimore
    Anyone actually read that shit? Sum it up pls..
    Jan 6 0
  • Autodesk / Eng Vjvcjko
    Problem with planned economy is that it is hard to organize and everyone in human race is only looking for quick incentive for their survival which is pathetic, makes me wonder if wiping out the human existence isnt so bad after all cause we dont seem to learn our lesson🤦‍♀️

    Free trade among masses and less materialistic ambitions, might make some difference
    Jan 6 2
    • Microsoft / Data T Gracchus
      OP
      The boys of Capital chortle in their martinis about the death of socialism. The word has been banned from polite conversation. And they hope that no one will notice that every socialist experiment of any significance in the past century has either been corrupted, subverted, perverted, or destabilized ... or crushed, overthrown, bombed, or invaded ... or otherwise had life made impossible for it, by the United States. Not one socialist government or movement -- from the Russian Revolution to Cuba, the Sandinistas in Nicaragua and the FMLN in Salvador, from Communist China to Grenada, Chile and Vietnam -- not one was permitted to rise or fall solely on its own merits; not one was left secure enough to drop its guard against the all-powerful enemy abroad and freely and fully relax control at home. Even many plain old social democracies -- such as in Guatemala, Iran, British Guiana, Serbia and Haiti, which were not in love with capitalism and were looking for another path -- even these too were made to bite the dust by Uncle Sam.

      It's as if the Wright brothers' first experiments with flying machines all failed because the automobile interests sabotaged each test flight. And then the good and god-fearing folk of America looked upon this, took notice of the consequences, nodded their collective heads wisely, and intoned solemnly: Man shall never fly. 

      - William Blum, Killing Hope
      Jan 6
    • Autodesk / Eng Vjvcjko
      I would like to think there is hope, but if every human is smitten by the quick incentive that uncle sam provides there’s barely anyone that can help the collective
      Jan 6
  • Uber / Other Travesty
    Anyone here who advocates socialism please donate 80% of your own damn money to Uncle Sam. Only then are you credible enough to defend it.

    https://youtu.be/1i9FQ834yFc
    Jan 6 2
    • Credit Karma EllisDee25
      This is confusing. Why would a socialist give extra money to the world’s strongest capitalist government?
      Jan 7
    • Gartner yagami123
      Travesty agreed 🙌
      Jan 7
  • Yelp / Design oohsecrets
    The fact that capitalism has won, and all socialist experiments have failed with dire human consequences (regardless of the fact that they were sabotaged by America), proves that capitalism is the naturally stronger system between the two.

    What we’re left asking is, how might we design a socially conscious society using the principles of capitalism. Social capitalism must leverage the individual motivations of greed, status, class mobility, and the pursuit of economic freedom while maintaining a social safety net for those left behind. This, along with education, seem to be the next best thing to pure socialism, which unfortunately seems to be a losing battle given it’s natural flaws.
    Jan 7 3
    • Autodesk / Eng Vjvcjko
      Its also about individual choices we make regarding consumer capitalism
      Jan 7
    • Yelp / Design oohsecrets
      Agree.

      Individual social responsibility seem to be results of education and the spread of impactful ideas (thank you religion, college, the internet, Hollywood, etc). I personally don’t see that alone leading to a widespread societal change but we can definitely hope so and in many cases it’s most we can do...
      Jan 7
    • Microsoft / Data T Gracchus
      OP
      A bunch of poor, agrarian countries have revolutions, implement "state capitalism", have coup attempts by US backed rebels or the CIA (Russia, Korea, El Salvador, Guatamala, Nicaragua, Honduras, Panama, Chile, Cuba, Czechoslovakia, Greece, Iran, Egypt, Korea, Vietnam, Laos, Bolivia, Afghanistan, Grenada, Lebanon, Syria), and then falter as they have no trading partners left (Cuba, North Korea), so they open up their economy to predatory western countries (China, Vietnam, Laos), and then you in 2018 come along and say "well clearly capitalism is better xD xD"
      Jan 7
  • Microsoft *cW2x91p
    tldr: socialism is a failure the end
    Jan 6 0
  • Roku Mixi
    Hot pile of garbage
    Jan 6 0
  • Gartner yagami123
    Tldr?
    Jan 6 0
  • Microsoft Decius Mus
    Why Socialism?
    by Albert Einstein
    https://monthlyreview.org/2009/05/01/why-socialism
    Jan 6 1
    • Microsoft Decius Mus
      Regarding [Economics], orthodox conservatism holds there is but one correct doctrine: the free market über alles! If that means offshoring the last job from the last factory on America soil so that productivity can tick up, and the CPI down, one-tenth of one basis point, then so be it. The numbers never lie and their movement in the “right” direction proves that outsourcing is the right thing to do and all the laid off workers back home are just losers or whiners. Winners go back to school and upgrade their skills.

      Plato and Aristotle teach that in a healthy political community, the richest citizen ought to have no more than five times the property of the poorest. Perhaps that formula is inapt to a modern commercial republic. And without question, the Aristotelian virtue of magnificence—through which accumulated wealth has created so much beauty and splendor in the world—depends on great fortunes. But is it necessary—or healthy—for our richest citizen to hold literally one million times the wealth, not of our poorest citizen, but of the median income? A fortune he is spending, I need hardly add, not on magnificent bequeaths to his own country or civilization, but on social engineering the Third World. Even if this disparity were morally and politically defensible, is there any sane reason to favor policies that widen it—both by pushing the incomes of the lowest down, and those of the richest up? Conservative politicians and intellectuals alike have helped create, and continue to help maintain, a new class of tax-exempt aristocrats, well beyond ducally rich, who are not loyal to the American people, American interests, or America itself. Perversely, yet fittingly, the more conservatives have bent over backwards to kiss the arse of this class, the more its members and the big businesses they run have turned left to openly despise and mock conservatism and conservatives. Seeing conservatives court billionaires—which I have had occasion to do dozens, if not hundreds, of times—is like watching dorks tell cheerleaders how pretty they are: the more their lips move, the more the girls’ mouths pucker in contempt.
      Jan 6
  • Oracle eeel
    latest thriller films to hit Netflix, Bird Box. People are even taking their love for the movie so far that Netflix has had to warn viewers not to reenact the movie in real life. The "Bird Box Challenge" is now a real thing and Netflix has even issued a warning telling people not to try it at home.

    READ ALSO: The Creators Of 'Bird Box' Revealed What The Monsters Look Like And It's Not What You'd Think

    Bird Box is a post-apocalyptic movie where a family has to go on a dangerous journey completely blindfolded to avoid getting killed by a dangerous monster that captures you through eyesight. Tons of memes have been made about the movie, and now people are taking it to the next level and actually blindfolding themselves in real life to act of the plot at home.

    READ ALSO: 'Bird Box' Is Finally Out On Netflix And People Actually Had To Stop Watching Half Way Through

    The "Bird Box Challenge" consists of people living their everyday lives blindfolded as if they were in the movie. Whether it's completing tasks or even just walking down the street or in their house, people are now documenting their experiences blindfolded. The videos are completely insane, and Netflix is now warning viewers that doing the "Bird Box Challenge" could lead to hospitalization.
    Jan 6 3
    • Autodesk / Eng Vjvcjko
      😀 pathetically scripted movies like birdbox receiving such adulation from masses just because everyone wants to get on the hip ship makes me loose more faith in humanity🤦‍♀️
      Jan 6
    • Barclays PLC FAANGHNTER
      People have nothing to do with their lives. They look to Netflix for inspiration. They are the Gods now.
      Jan 6
    • Gartner yagami123
      Agree with Autodesk, pathetic movie, doesn’t even makes sense
      Jan 7
  • Barclays PLC FAANGHNTER
    We can have some schemes that are socialist , like health or subsidized education. But socialist economy can't be good.
    Jan 6 1
    • Autodesk / Eng Vjvcjko
      True, we cant go complete socialism, adapting to the true human needs might help, religion would provide community kitchens that would provide decent food for the poor, makes me worship religion for that alone, although i am not a fan of god/religion
      Jan 6
  • Oracle ypoint
    You didn't warn us before we clicked!
    Jan 7 0
  • Verizon / Product SnoopDoge
    This dude needs a friend. Or something.
    Jan 7 0
  • Google / Eng come2daddy
    “Man acquires at birth, through heredity, a biological constitution which we must consider fixed and unalterable, including the natural urges which are characteristic of the human species” .

    This is the best racist explanation ever read . Nothing is unalterable. Even genes in your body change with exercise and diet.

    The problem with philosophy is that it sees world in mutual exclusive way. A real world is never one thing or other but an entangled mess. Socialism is a proven failed way of governance. US is on the way to demonstrate how un-checked capitalism self destructs.

    World’s best governed countries in terms of less income disparity, HDI and least government corruption have demonstrated time and again that free market capitalism with social welfare work best. Selling deep fried burgers and Saving life should not be evaluated on one yard stick. Pure socialism in terms of society ownership kills innovation. Government should own welfare and private ownership is best for innovation and industrialization.

    “There is no provision that all those able and willing to work will always be in a position to find employment; an “army of unemployed” almost always exists. “ Not true at all as seen with STEM branches. Until you are dictating what percentage of people study what kind of courses, balancing demand and supply for skilled workforce is not possible. Unskilled labour is a different matter - this makes socialism outdated.

    Pitching socialism as a solution to capitalism and vice versa is 1900s understanding of manufacturing and labour intensive industry. What the world need is socialist welfare state which gets money from free market.
    Jan 6 0

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