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People over profit: What is Socialism?

By Mike Tudoreanu

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Flickr/401(K) 2012

“Socialism” is one of the most misused political terms in the world, especially in the United States. The second column of my three-part series on it was dedicated to addressing some common misconceptions. In this third and final column, I wish to answer the question I get asked most often in emails: “You keep writing about what socialism isn’t. So, what is it, then?”

As I wrote before, socialism abolishes profit, along with all other unearned income (rent and interest). Thus, it must also abolish the market economy and private companies. To be more exact, socialism abolishes private ownership over the means of production – workplaces, natural resources, and all the machines and equipment used to produce goods and services – and places them under public ownership. They become the property of society, collectively owned by all citizens so that each citizen becomes a kind of “shareholder” in the national economy. In other words, all firms and companies are placed under the collective authority of the people. The people will then be able to decide, democratically, how their new property is to be used. Socialism is economic democracy.

Since there are no separate groups of owners who may compete with each other, the socialist economy cannot be driven by markets. Instead, it is a planned economy. Every year, or every few years, people will vote to decide a new economic plan for the next period. Decisions such as the number of schools and hospitals to build, whether or not to create a high-speed rail network, the number of old factories to close and what to put in their place – all these will be made democratically by the people, instead of being left up to corporations and investment banks. There will be political parties, or something like them, campaigning for different economic plans. Some may think that healthcare should be the priority, while others would like to build green power plants, and so on.

Like all types of democracy, the economic democracy of socialism may be direct or representative. People may vote directly on economic questions – such as the next economic plan – or they may elect representatives to make decisions. The day-to-day running of factories and offices will most likely have to be left to such representatives. This is where the idea of state ownership comes in. Socialist companies may be considered to be owned by the state, in the sense that the state is elected by the people to take care of the day-to-day management of such companies.

It is absolutely essential that the state must be very democratic so it can be a genuine representative of the people. Elections need to be free and fair, they need to happen often, and there cannot be any private money involved. If the state does not represent the wishes of the people, then we don’t have economic democracy, so we don’t have socialism.

I mentioned the closing of old factories as a possibility. In capitalism, this means firing the workers there and creating unemployment. But in socialism, there will be no unemployment. If we have an economic plan, then we can require it to follow a rule saying that for every job eliminated somewhere, a new one must be opened somewhere else. People will be able to decide when and where to close factories and workplaces, so that such closings can be put off until we make new jobs available in the area. Contrary to popular belief, unemployment is not merely bad for the unemployed. It actually makes everyone else poorer. If a person wants to work but cannot find work, that is one person who could be helping society but isn’t. Unemployment is a waste of labor, and it is one of the greatest inefficiencies of capitalism.

There is a very common myth about socialism, which says that socialism would give everyone the same wage, and therefore no one would have a reason to work hard. This is false. First of all, capitalism survives just fine without paying most people according to how hard they work. Most jobs come with a set wage, not with a wage that goes up or down depending on your performance last month.

More importantly, the majority of socialists do not advocate a system of equal wages. Socialism does promote equality of wealth, but it does this by getting rid of profit, interest and rent as opposed to by equalizing wages. Most of the inequality in capitalism does not come from different wage levels, but from the fact that a few people own companies, banks or vast tracts of land, while most people don’t. In socialism, inequality of wages may remain, but that will be the only inequality. Everyone will have a job and work for a wage and some wages will be higher than others, but the highest paid person will only get five or 10 times as much as the lowest paid – not hundreds or even thousands of times more. In addition, the income that currently goes into the pockets of the 1 percent would be distributed equally, so the lowest wages would be much higher than they are today.

There are a number of socialists who do advocate equal wages but they always propose some other type of incentive to replace wage differences. For example, people who work hard could be promoted into jobs that are more enjoyable or more desirable, so that job satisfaction plays the role of an incentive. Or the people who work hard could get the jobs they like best, while people who don’t make an effort are stuck with the jobs that no one wants.

Money would continue to exist under socialism, but its uses would be more limited. You would get paid for your work and use that money to buy consumer goods – anything from food to cars to computer games – but companies and workplaces, being the collective property of the people, would not be for sale. Thus there would be no investment banks, no stock exchange or financial markets … and no financial crises. There would be no need to take on huge loans, either. Education would be free, and the economic plan could include the construction of houses and their sale at low prices. So the two largest sources of debt in America – mortgages and college loans – would no longer exist.

There are many more things that could be said about a socialist society, but ultimately it all comes back to economic democracy. Socialism is a kind of society where people get to vote on what is produced and how it is produced, where income is distributed much more equally than today (but not absolutely equal) and where the laws prevent anyone from getting rich off the labor of others.

Mike Tudoreanu is a Collegian contributor. He can be reached at [email protected]

66 Comments

66 Responses to “People over profit: What is Socialism?”

  1. Kris on December 7th, 2012 8:33 am

    “But in socialism, there will be no unemployment.”

    You finally convinced me Mihnea, but I want a unicorn too.

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  2. David Hunt '90 on December 7th, 2012 9:43 am

    And where has this worked in the world, ever?

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  3. Ben on December 7th, 2012 10:17 am

    Kris, you do realize that planned economies that have existed in the past DID eliminate unemployment, right? That’s one of the relatively *less* radical things that socialism aims to do. You don’t even need socialism to eliminate unemployment. You just need a planned economy – any kind of planned economy. The US did it during WW2, for example.

    What is unemployment, anyway? It’s what happens when you have more people wanting to work than you have available jobs. In a planned economy, the number of jobs is set by whoever is doing the planning. So just set it equal to the workforce, and there you go: no more unemployment.

    After all, it’s not hard to find more work that needs to be done, is it?

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  4. hm on December 7th, 2012 4:52 pm

    eh, i find marxist arguments more compelling when it focuses on the practical problems with capitalism, that is, that it can’t sustain itself and will eventually be forced to collapse/turn into something else. if all you are doing is making moral arguments for a utopia, it’s a largely aesthetic project of building castles in the air. ‘would’, ‘should’ blah blah… what happened to historical materialism?

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  5. mason on December 7th, 2012 9:16 pm

    The ideal economic model is the Chinese economy; it is already within 4 trillion dollars within as ours as the secondest largest on the planet and within 10 years will become the largest and by 2050 will reach a state of wealth that far surpasses any country on the planet, including other large nations like India.

    Although the Chinese government is no longer a communism country but state capitalism and that shows that planned investing and planned support of key industries along with a free market is the best approach to a rapidly growing economy and prosperous nation.

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  6. txr on December 8th, 2012 12:55 am

    David Hunt, you’re right. We all know that if something hasn’t been done before, that means it can never be done in the future. Makes perfect sense. That’s why, for example, the Founders of the United States were wrong to try creating a democratic republic – because it had never worked before, ever!

    /sarcasm

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  7. junior on December 8th, 2012 10:34 am

    This is this guy for real? Obviously he’s not an econ major.

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  8. Dr. Ed Cutting on December 8th, 2012 12:26 pm

    Mike, you may be young enough to still believe that the world is a nice place and that people are kind, decent and fair.
    .
    You’ll get over it…
    .
    If you want to look at successful socialism, look at Switzerland, which very much has private property and interest and the rest. You can argue for or against their system, but that is functioning socialism.

    What you propose is the same naive idealism that I see in young women who believe that they can go into a party wearing nearly nothing, get drunk out of their minds, and have nothing bad happen to them.

    If no one owns anything, no one will take care of it either — that is why Eastern Europe has such horrendous pollution problems. Do you realize what happens to minority groups in a truly democratic election where they are outnumbered?
    .
    Look at the Pilgrims though – and the first year where men didn’t see why they should work to feed other men’s families and hence didn’t — and the second year, where socialism was abandoned, and they had a bumper harvest.

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  9. Kris on December 8th, 2012 3:55 pm

    Sadly enough, this kid is a PhD in econ at UMass, but UMass also has a radically moronic econ department.

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  10. senior on December 8th, 2012 5:14 pm

    Actually, Tudoreanu is an econ graduate student… or at least that’s what his email address indicates.

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  11. txr on December 8th, 2012 5:35 pm

    Ed Cutting, you say this is all too idealistic, but you don’t explain why. Which parts of the article are wrong, and why?
    .
    No one said anything about people being kind, decent and fair, or about anyone having to work to feed other men’s families. I don’t see this article arguing for some kind of hippie commune or people sharing stuff out of the goodness of their hearts.
    .
    Collective ownership doesn’t mean that people have to like each other or work for each other. I think the comparison with the shareholders of a company is best. The shareholders are a group of people who own a company. Socialism proposes to extend this group so that it includes everyone in society, rather than just a few hundred rich shareholders. That’s what collective ownership means. The people involved in it don’t have to like each other or work for each other any more than capitalist shareholders do.

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  12. Wayne on December 8th, 2012 6:14 pm

    I am a Socialist…but I don’t believe “the [current] world is a nice place” and I certainly don’t believe all “people are kind, decent and fair”; the existence of Ed Cutting is proof of enough that for me. Good to see you took the high road again, Ed, in this discussion on a future socialist society to interject your blame-the-victim justification for rape.

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  13. David Hunt '90 on December 8th, 2012 7:29 pm

    A panel of central experts who have more knowledge than the aggregate knowledge of all the people in the market? No such animal.

    You aren’t smart enough to run my life.

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  14. Brian D. on December 9th, 2012 4:43 am

    David Hunt: What experts? If there are any “experts” involved in socialism at all, their only role would be to come up with a number of different proposals (such as proposed economic plans) that the people could vote on.
    .
    .
    Ed Cutting: Eastern Europe (which has been capitalist for the past 23 years, by the way) has horrendous pollution problems because it does not have environmental regulations, and because governments during the Soviet period pursued rapid industrialization. The vast majority of pollution is caused by large factories without environmental standards, not by individual people “not taking care” of things they don’t own.
    .
    What happens to minority groups in a truly democratic election where they are outnumbered? Well, it depends what the election is about, doesn’t it? If we are talking about the economic democracy of socialism, then we’re talking about an election held to make some economic decision. Like whether we should open a new school in town next year, or how much of the national budget to spend on defense, or which industries we need to wind down and which industries we need to expand. What happens to minority groups is that they don’t get the decision they want. That’s it. These are *economic* decisions, not decisions about civil rights.

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  15. David Hunt '90 on December 9th, 2012 9:05 am

    Why do we need a panel to come up with ANYTHING?

    Please tell me everything needed so that I can make a standard #2 pencil.

    Or, you can watch this video and actually learn something. It’s 10 minutes.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4ERbC7JyCfU

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  16. Brian D. on December 9th, 2012 3:08 pm

    You do realize that non-market economies are also perfectly good at making standard #2 pencils, right? Even the Soviet Union, with all its faults in other areas, never had a problem making pencils. I don’t personally know everything needed to make a pencil, but I COULD find out. The information is out there. There’s nothing stopping me, or anyone else, from finding out.
    .
    There’s an important point to be made here, and it’s not just about pencils: When free-market extremists say things like “there’s nobody in the world who knows how to make a pencil”, as an argument for why we need capitalist markets to guide the production of pencils, they are LYING. First of all, as I’ve said, the fact is that planned economies have made pencils in the past. So the claim that you need capitalist markets to coordinate the production of pencils is an absolute lie. And besides pencils, the same applies to every other object made by planned economies in the past (including things like space stations and submarines).
    .
    Secondly, the whole idea that you need any one person to KNOW how to make a pencil from start to finish in order to have a planned economy that makes pencils, is a lie. Think about it. When you make a plan – any plan – that involves other people doing things, do you have to KNOW precisely how they carry out their part of the plan? No. I can make a plan that involves you buying pizza, and I don’t have to know what kind of car you drive to the store or where you get your gas. I can make a plan to produce pencils using wood, graphite, steel tools to cut down the wood and so on, without knowing exactly how any of those things are made. It is possible to DELEGATE tasks in this world.

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  17. Mike on December 9th, 2012 4:00 pm

    And the delusion continues in your opening paragraph. Unearned wages such as rent and interest? I am pretty sure that by taking my time out to invest in property and manage real estate I earn what you pay me by living there. I am also pretty sure that by giving my own money to you when you are in need and asking for a usage fee, that money which I earned (whether it be through large scale coordinated effort of a loan firm or simply my own physical labor) does not make it un-earned.

    The ideas you propose are scary and unfair, and the very idea of stealing from individuals because you deem them not worthy through taking their companies, their equipment, their machinery, their intellectual property and legally barring anyone from being able to use their unique abilities or intellect to be something great and own and start something great is absurd. You support a totalitarian control system in which your enticement to work hard is to be less miserable in your job.

    Fortunately, people in this country will still kill to prevent this from happening. Any actual (though impossible) movement towards this level of state control will lead to a civil war, and I am confident your side will lose. A free country doesn’t mean I don’t get to be a free person. People will put their lives ahead of your disgusting ideas.

    Mike

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  18. Ben on December 9th, 2012 7:25 pm

    Mike, it’s interesting to hear that you are willing to kill to protect the profits of Wall Street and the fortunes of the super-rich. I am sure the Koch brothers would love you – after all, someone has to do the dirty work, and they certainly don’t want any of that blood on THEIR perfectly manicured hands.

    Tell me, if a socialist state decides that banks don’t deserve to own the houses they’ve foreclosed, and starts giving those houses back to the families who used to live in them, will you kill to get those families back on the street and the banks back in control? Will you shoot the kids, too?

    Or if the socialist state says that Wal-Mart belongs to the workers now, and those workers start running the stores for themselves, will you go to a former Wal-Mart, kick the front door and open fire, so that the Walton family can have its megacorporation back?

    You see, socialism is not about state control, it’s about workers’ control. It’s about the vast majority of the people deciding that they are going to take over the factories, offices and malls owned by the rich, and that they are going to live in their own homes and not pay one more cent to the bank or the landowner. It’s also about the state supporting all of this, by passing the necessary laws to make it happen.

    Of course it’s not likely to happen any time soon. But when it DOES happen, who are you going to kill to stop it? Your neighbors, who have joined the movement and taken over the property of the rich? Will you really kill ordinary people to give billionaires their money back? Because THAT is what would be required for your precious “civil war.”

    Maybe you will. But, fortunately, I’m confident that the vast majority of Americans are decent people, not would-be murderers like you.

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  19. Mike on December 9th, 2012 10:17 pm

    I don’t much care for thieves. That includes corporations that steal as much as it includes a disgruntled mob the decides to steal what they didn’t earn. Looting is morally wrong in my eyes. We have a republic because the majority can always vote away their rights (it has managed to happen even within our republic).

    If armed government cronies were to ever (fortunately won’t happen in the U.S. in my lifetime)start STEALING peoples businesses based off some arbitrary dollar value that they assign and had NO hand in building, I know which side I’ll be standing on, and which side I will raise my children to stand on. That is the side of what is right. And it isn’t RIGHT to take what isn’t yours, what you didn’t work for, and give it to others.

    Fortunately MOST of America can still see this, so it won’t happen here. I stand on the side of people keeping what they earn, not based off what some nobody thinks they deserve to have.

    I don’t want a civil war, and won’t have a civil war because this economic theory not only would not work, but won’t take foothold in this country, so it’s not really a problem. That said, I will always stand up for my beliefs. I guess I’d be a murderer because I’d do whatever I could to stop the guys stealing from business owners and anyone you deem not worthy of their money at gun point. I’ll defend what is right with equal force if I must, as would enough other good people left to stop your twisted dreamworld from becoming a reality. Fascism is never ok, even if put in place by “democratic means.”

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  20. Ben on December 10th, 2012 10:10 am

    So you would shoot workers, and maybe also their families and children, to protect Wall Street and the rich. Because you think that the Koch brothers, the Walton family and Donald Trump deserve their billions, and your neighbors who couldn’t make mortgage payments deserve to freeze in the street. Got it.

    Also, after you were the one who brought up death threats in this comment thread, and after you said you want to be the armed enforcer of the rich and powerful, you have the nerve to complain about “fascism.” Priceless.

    Just remember that we stand up for our beliefs too, and we don’t look kindly upon murderers and thugs who want to kill working people. We will never fire first – unlike you – but we will defend ourselves.

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  21. Kevin Bush on December 10th, 2012 12:16 pm

    Riddle me this Mikey…how could any good or service possibly be worth something other than..what someone else is willing to pay for it?

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  22. Kevin Bush on December 10th, 2012 12:20 pm

    AND THE THERE”S THE TENTH COMMANDMENT. ‘Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor anything that is thy neighbor’s.’ The Ten Com
    mandments are God’s basic rules about how we should live — a brief list of sacred obligations and solemn moral precepts.
    The first nine Commandments concern theological principles and social law. But then, right at the end, is ‘Don’t envy your buddy’s cow.’ How did that make the top ten? What’s it doing there? Why would God, with just ten things to tell Moses, choose as one of those things jealousy about the starter mansion with in-ground pool next door?
    Yet think how important the Tenth Commandment is to a community, to a nation, indeed to a presidential election. If you want a mule, if you want a pot roast, if you want a cleaning lady, don’t whine about what the people across the street have — go get your own.
    The Tenth Commandment sends a message to all who want redistribution of wealth, higher taxes, more government programs, more government regulation, more government, less free enterprise, and less freedom.

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  23. David Hunt '90 on December 10th, 2012 3:50 pm

    Brian:

    It’s about the advantages of a free market, and people trading voluntarily.

    Socialism and it’s cousin, Fascism, ultimately rely on FORCE and COMPULSION.

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  24. mike on December 10th, 2012 6:12 pm

    How am I the bad guy for fighting back when your fantasy scenario has government agents coming to steal my intelectual, physical, monetary, and land property? Please tell me how I.am the bad guy here.

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  25. Brian D. on December 10th, 2012 8:32 pm

    Kevin Bush: Do you think the Tenth Commandment prohibits you from wanting ANYTHING that ANYONE else owns, under any circumstances? Really? Think about that for a second.
    .
    Suppose I steal your car and forge some papers to make it look like I bought it from a dealer. Suppose the cops don’t catch me. Then I use it as my car for a while – let’s say a few months – until one day you see me driving it as you’re walking down the street. Would it be against the Tenth Commandment for you to “covet” my car at that point?
    .
    Or suppose you live in Saudi Arabia. King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud owns almost everything of importance in the country, including the immensely valuable oil reserves. You work in one of his oil refineries and have to survive on poverty wages that are barely enough to buy food, while he lives in golden palaces (literally). Would it be against the Tenth Commandment for you to “covet” some of his oil money?
    .
    Or suppose you live in a village in Mexico ruled by drug lords, who make you work for them at gunpoint. Would it be against the Tenth Commandment for you to “covet” their money – or, for that matter, their guns?
    .
    These are just three examples of someone owning something unjustly. There are millions of others in the world. The point is that, sometimes, people own things they do not deserve. And sometimes other people own things that should rightfully belong to you, not them. Maybe they stole them from you, maybe they made you work for them and didn’t give you your fair share, or maybe they are just evil tyrants who need to be overthrown. Does the Tenth Commandment imply that you should accept all these situations and do nothing about it? Does it imply that you should never covet things that were unjustly acquired by others?
    .
    NO. That would be absurd. No just God would tell you to support injustice. Clearly, the Tenth Commandment says that you should not covet things that RIGHTFULLY belong to your neighbor – things that your neighbor actually worked for and actually deserves. We can argue about what those things are, and we can argue about when it is ok to want something that someone else has, but you cannot possibly tell me that it’s NEVER ok to take away someone else’s property.
    .
    Unless you really want to support people like Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, I guess.

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  26. Brian D. on December 10th, 2012 8:56 pm

    Oh, and by the way, prior to the American Revolution, all land in the American colonies was considered the property of the King of England. Was it wrong for the Founders of the US to “covet” and “steal” the King’s property? No? Why not?
    .
    …because he didn’t WORK FOR IT, that’s why. He didn’t work for it, so he wasn’t its rightful owner.
    .
    Maybe this will also help to answer your question: “how could any good or service possibly be worth something other than..what someone else is willing to pay for it?” For most goods and services, you are right, they are only worth what people are willing to pay for them. But there are exceptions. Human life, for instance. Or human labor. What is your labor worth? It is worth the value of what you produce (minus material costs). If you produce a chair worth $20, and the wood and tools necessary to make it cost $8, then your labor was worth $12. If someone pays you only $5, they are unjustly stealing some of the value of your labor.

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  27. Mike on December 10th, 2012 9:39 pm

    No. Your labor is worth what I will pay for it. If I need you to lace a bunch of shoes at my factory I’ll find someone who will take minimum wage for it. You don’t deserve more because I have figured out a way to sell those shoes at a good profit. That’s how it works, the few who possess the skills to really make these things work deserve what they are able to make, not the person working the mindless job that any drone can do. Ever heard of supply and demand? If you want, you could go start your own shoe company, or patent a shoe design and sell it to me and collect royalties.
    *** the person paying you 5 isn’t stealing anything. They designed the chair. The put in the overhead to set up the factory. Sure they may have a solid profit margin, but that entire setup didn’t magically appear with the workers, somebody with a special limited skill set had to set it all up. How does this idea completely escape you guys?

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  28. Kris on December 10th, 2012 10:28 pm

    Those were three of the worst examples for any argument I have ever heard.

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  29. Kevin Bush on December 11th, 2012 12:06 pm

    Brian….so you’re saying that anyone with a lot of “stuff” ..stole it from you? ..Well I can only surmise that you believe all this wealth stuff is what they call a “zero sum game”. That the “pie” is finite ….that there’s only so much pie ..so ..the more someone else has ..the less you have .. right? So the “rich guys”… the Warren Buffetts , the Koch Brothers ..the John Kerrys ..the Al Gores and of course Comrade Fraulein Peloskys.. all got rich at your expense.and you’re entitled to some of their pie..right? Bzzzzt! Wrong ! …nice try…it’s a convenient canard..and a lie….wealth is not a zero sum game. The pie is not finite. The pie is always growing ..or at least until recently… and you’re welcome to join in. As JFK once famously said ..”A ah rising ah tide..ah floats all boats “ Remember .. life is not fair and never will be.. and envy is ugly, unproductive and unbecoming…no matter what Professor Dipstick says…

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  30. Kevin Bush on December 11th, 2012 12:57 pm

    Final note .. Lenin and Marx got kicked out of the Garden of Eden with the rest of us..
    Why the Garden of Eden? ..cause that’s where we became “human”.. where God gave us ‘Freedom” in the form of “Free Will” .. where he let us fend for ourselves instead of being totally dependent.. like some kind of farm animals .. The Commies in their attempt to recreate heaven on earth
    (their “workers paradise”.. where everything will be “equitable” and “fair” and all that good stuff )….. know the only way to do that is by destroying free will… ..by destroying our very humanity so we have to depend on “the State’ ..yep.. like farm animals. . …and the only way to destroy our humanity is through terror .. violence and intimidation… Can you say ..” Baaaah?”…

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  31. Mike on December 11th, 2012 1:09 pm

    You might be a fascist if you believe that ones motivation to work hard is to be less miserable while working….

    Mike

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  32. Kevin Bush on December 11th, 2012 1:55 pm

    Whoa..name calling..good argument Mike
    Meanwhile from Lenny Bruce…….”Capitalism is the best. It’s free enterprise. Barter. At Gimbels, if I get really rank with the clerk, “Well I don’t like this”, how can I resolve it? If it gets really ridiculous, I go, “Frig it, man, I walk.” What can this guy do at Gimbels, even if he was the president of Gimbels? He can always eject me from that store, but I can always go to Macy’s. He can’t really hurt me. Communism is like one big phone company. Government control, man. And if I get too rank with that phone company, where can I go?.. I’ll end up like a schmuck with a dixie cup on a string.”

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  33. Mike on December 11th, 2012 3:18 pm

    I was mocking their arguments for motivation to work hard with no place for profits.

    “Or the people who work hard could get the jobs they like best, while people who don’t make an effort are stuck with the jobs that no one wants.”

    If I work hard I’ll be less miserable with my day to day tasks. Go socialism!

    Mike

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  34. Brian D. on December 11th, 2012 4:56 pm

    Kevin Bush, you avoided the issue. I didn’t say anything about wealth being “zero sum” (in fact I believe that workers create wealth, which means wealth is, indeed, created, which means it is not “zero sum”).
    .
    What I said was that sometimes, people own wealth that should not rightfully be theirs – wealth they do not deserve. And when that happens, the desire to take away their wealth is a desire for justice, not a matter of envy. As examples of people who do not deserve their wealth, I brought up a car thief, the King of Saudi Arabia, Mexican drug lords, and the King of England at the time of American Independence. The reason I used these examples was precisely because I thought we could ALL agree that those people do not deserve their wealth, and justice demands that we take it away from them. That’s what the Founders of the US thought about the property of the King of England, for example, and they took it from him.
    .
    The point was that we can all agree that SOME people do not deserve their wealth, and the only disagreement is about WHICH people fall under that category (for instance, I think all bankers and corporate owners do, but you disagree).
    .
    Do you deny this? Do you believe that ALL people always deserve exactly what they get?

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  35. Ben on December 12th, 2012 12:12 am

    Mike, I didn’t know that getting your dream job, doing what you always wanted to do, has no importance to you and only counts as “being less miserable with your day to day tasks.” I guess you have nothing you really like to do, no hopes and dreams beyond getting money.

    It must be a very sad existence. I’m so sorry.

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  36. Kevin Bush on December 12th, 2012 9:35 am

    Brian..I’m sure people exist that didn’t “earn” their money according to your definition of “earn”… because for you apparently the only way to “earn” money is by diggin a ditch or somethin…I just know nobody took nuthin from me…. “corporate owners” (millions of shareholders) and bankers earn every penny .. and again your anger is about envy plain and simple..like I said..; the world is not “fair” and never will be..the sooner you give up the notion that the world “should be fair”.. the happier you’ll be.. Oh bye the way..if you want to point fingers at some who might actually be “unjustly rewarded”… check out UMASS faculty and Administration salaries …..

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  37. mike on December 12th, 2012 9:39 am

    Hahaha. You know nothing about me, but keep assuming. My dream job includes being able to work hard for a lot of money, because I like having things. I like my harley, I like fast cars, I like guns, I like going on vacations, and I want to own a nice house with nice furniture and nice electronics, maybe a vacation home as well. I like most Americans aspire to have a nice life and a good one for my family. Enjoying my work is part of that, but so is making money and having nice things. You talk about people not deserving what they have. How about people who use no special skills having there existance funded by those who work hard and have worked hard. You want the same as a king, you just want to divide others hard work up amongst your friends. I’m happy knowing your fantasy will never happen here in your lifetime. By the way, I’ve worked llonger hours in more dangerous conditions for less money than you ever will, yet Im still orders of magnitude less resentful. Huh

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  38. Kevin Bush on December 12th, 2012 11:57 am

    Brian..lets carry this further..I’m intrigued. Why would you say “all bankers” and “corporate owners” do not deserve their wealth?

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  39. The Juggernaut on December 12th, 2012 12:02 pm

    If anything is certain, it is that I myself am not a Marxist.
    Karl Marx

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  40. mason on December 13th, 2012 5:32 pm

    It’s sad that neither marxist or those who oppose communism have actually read Karl Marx. In mention the above comment, Karl Marx certainly supported revolutions and he spent his later life trying to overthrow capitalism. So I don’t think he would have opposed mike although mike seems to follow the new left or progressive communism. The notion that emerged after the 1960s that radical revolution wasn’t possible and it made more practical sense to support regressive reform; in that sense liberals have greatly succeeded since the 1960s in expanding the welfare state.

    I am not a liberal or a conservative nor do I really care about capitalism or communism. One is a belief and the other is a form of organizing an economy. I think it’s sad that your going to attach your emotions, dreams and the way you view life based on an intellectual theory.

    Anyway my point is that either side should read karl marx, he was clearly a very intelligent person and one of the last original academic minds. He’s very smart and regardless if you agree or disagree, his works can offer alot of insight.

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  41. mason on December 13th, 2012 5:34 pm

    Actually I dont know what he supports, revolution or progressive reform?

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  42. rob on December 14th, 2012 11:32 am

    This is hilarious. I’m sure the author is a very nice person that wishes the best for everyone. Unfortunately, that’s not human nature in general. Most people aren’t going to work hard unless there’s something in it for them as an individual. If I’m making the same exact money as the guy next to me, I’m not putting in the extra hours improving my skills and trying to figure out ways to be more efficient.

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  43. Kevin Bush on December 14th, 2012 2:47 pm

    I’m not sure some of these authors wish the best for everyone..Mr.Brian is all for confiscating the earnings of “bankers” and “corporate owners” because according to him they didn’t “earn” their money.. but stole it like a car thief or some Mexican drug lord using slave labor.. I wonder how he feels about the earnings of Jay Z… or Oprah.. Matt Damon..Johnny Depp..Kobe Bryant ..and Tiger Woods.. All these folks (including bankers and corporate honchos) earned their money through a peaceful means of exchange ..which looks like.. “I’ll do something good for you if you do something good for me ” .. AKA an agreement between consenting adults.. Governments on the other hand (just like drug lords) prefer the violent means of exchange ..which looks like ..”If you don’t do something good for me ..I’ll do something bad to you”…

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  44. Brian D. on December 15th, 2012 6:36 am

    Kevin Bush said: “the world is not “fair” and never will be..the sooner you give up the notion that the world “should be fair”.. the happier you’ll be..”
    .
    Really? Then I guess you wouldn’t be upset to live in a society where, for example, people named Kevin are stoned to death. After all, “the world isn’t fair”, so everything goes, right? Hell, if we’d better give up the notion that the world “should be fair”, why do we even have courts and a justice system? Let’s just abolish all laws, and sit back and let everyone do whatever they like. And if you happen to get the short end of the stick – for example, if your house get torched by a biker gang for fun – you shouldn’t complain the world isn’t fair, right?
    .
    In fact, why are you even bothering to argue about politics, if you think fairness doesn’t matter? Who cares what political or economic system we have, if fairness doesn’t matter? You should just deal with anything that comes your way and stop complaining.
    .
    Of course, the fact is, you DON’T really believe that fairness doesn’t matter. No one believes that. You just think fairness doesn’t matter as long as OTHER people get treated unfairly. But if unfair things started happening to YOU, I bet you’d be screaming about it at the top of your lungs.

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  45. Brian D. on December 15th, 2012 7:18 am

    Now, Kevin, to answer your question on how I feel about the earnings of Jay Z, Oprah, Matt Damon, Tiger Woods, etc.: These people are artists or athletes who have worked for a large part of their money, so they deserve that money. They are not getting their money by directly exploiting other people, like Donald Trump, the Koch brothers, the Walton family or the bankers on Wall Street. To the extent that they get their money by working – as singers, TV presenters, golf players or whatever – they deserve that money.
    .
    Having said that, I also believe that the fact they are paid so much is a side effect of capitalism. For example, they get a lot of money from corporate sponsorships, which would of course cease to exist if private corporations ceased to exist. Likewise, without capitalism pouring vast amounts of money into advertising, famous people would no longer get paid for product endorsements, product placement in movies, or hosting TV shows that bring in large amounts of ad revenue.
    .
    So yes, on the one hand, superstar actors, athletes, etc. – who get their money by working – deserve that money in the kind of society we have right now. But on the other hand, without capitalism, we would have a different type of society and they would be paid significantly less. They’d still get paid far above average, but not AS far as now.
    .
    All workers deserve the money they are currently making (and in many cases, a lot more), even if their income would be different in a better society.
    .
    You know what the difference is between earning money by working, and getting unearned money without working? Those who work say “I will do something for you if you give me something in return.” Those who DON’T work say “I will allow you to do something with some property if you give me something in return.”
    .
    Just because you got something by free exchange between consenting adults doesn’t mean you earned it or deserve it. “Give me a million dollars in exchange for these pictures of you and your boss’s wife that I happen to have” is a way to get money by free exchange between consenting adults. Does that mean that you’ve EARNED the million dollars you got in this way?

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  46. Kevin Bush on December 16th, 2012 11:34 pm

    Wow.. this level of delusion can only exist in the opposite of diversity…. AKA “university” ..good luck in the real world comrade…..

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  47. Mike on December 18th, 2012 7:12 pm

    Comparing extortion to companies selling a premium product or service that people want so they pay more for? Wow, you guys are awesome.

    Mike

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  48. The Juggernaut on December 18th, 2012 7:25 pm

    I have read Karl Marx, not to mention despite my unwavering support for capitalism I scored the highest (a 99 average) in the class at UMass on it.

    Capitalism is far more democratic than communism. The stock market allows you to choose where you want to put your money, and allows a common person to own a portion of a company of their choosing.

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  49. Brian D. on December 18th, 2012 10:27 pm

    Oh, I’m sorry, did you run out of arguments? I’ll try to go easier on you next time.
    .
    I love it when right-wing people in universities accuse left-wing people in universities of “not living in the real world.” Bonus points if it’s a conservative professor doing it.

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  50. Brian D. on December 20th, 2012 2:17 am

    (my previous comment was directed at Kevin Bush; the comments in between had not shown up yet)
    .
    Mike, the part of capitalism that involves companies selling goods and services to people is NOT the part we oppose. If capitalism was limited to what happens when you go shopping, we socialists would have nothing against it.
    .
    The part of capitalism that we oppose is what happens when you go to work for a boss, what happens when you look for a job, what happens when you need a loan or a mortgage, what happens in health care and education, and what happens on Wall Street. And these parts of capitalism are often EXACTLY like extortion. Many workers – probably the majority of them in the United States – are faced with extortion every time they go to work. You have to obey the boss or else get fired. If you have no other job lined up (and most people don’t), then the words “do what I say or you’re fired” really mean “do what I say or I’ll make sure you can’t pay the bills or support your family.”
    .
    I remember once reading a history book which claimed that “socialism is a rebellion against the bosses.” I still think that is the best way to sum up the spirit of socialism in one line.

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  51. Mike on December 20th, 2012 2:05 pm

    A rebellion against bosses? You basically just believe that nobody has a right to own, start, or run their own business. You believe that nobody deserves to be paid for owning, maintaining, and managing property. You say we insult you because we run out of arguments. We insult you because you are fascists, you want government prohibition on people being able to run their own lives.

    Mike

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  52. Kevin Bush on December 20th, 2012 4:56 pm

    “You have to obey the boss or else get fired. If you have no other job lined up (and most people don’t), then the words “do what I say or you’re fired” really mean “do what I say or I’ll make sure you can’t pay the bills or support your family.”

    Hello McFly..anybody home?..when you took the job you agreed to do what the “boss” wants ..in exchange for money.. If you don’t do what the boss wants ..you broke the agreement Trotsky..and fired yourself..

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  53. Brian D. on December 21st, 2012 4:26 am

    Yes, the spirit of socialism can be summed up as a rebellion against bosses. We don’t want government prohibition on people being able to run their own lives, we want government prohibition on people being able to run the lives of others and profit from the work of others. THAT is what bosses do, THAT is what you do when you get paid for owning property, and THAT is the basis of capitalism.
    .
    If you get paid for owning property, then you get paid out of the wealth created by others. Where do you think wealth comes from? How is it created? If I sit around doing nothing, but I own a company and receive an income from that company’s profit, am I creating wealth? Is it possible to create wealth or contribute to society if you’re doing nothing? Of course not. But in capitalism, you can get paid simply for OWNING things, which means getting paid for doing nothing.
    .
    Damn right we believe that should be prohibited. Because wealth is created by human labor, not by holding a piece of paper that says you own a company. So every time you get paid for holding that piece of paper, someone else is working hard and being cheated out of the full income they deserve for their labor.
    .
    Socialism is the radical idea that people do not have a right to be paid for doing nothing.

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  54. Brian D. on December 21st, 2012 4:30 am

    ****************************************
    .
    I just noticed that we are now on the second page of comments, and the link to the first page gets bumped all the way to the bottom of the thread. So I am leaving this here as a notice to all new people reading these comments:
    .
    THIS IS THE SECOND PAGE OF COMMENTS. TO SEE THE FIRST 50 COMMENTS, PLEASE SCROLL DOWN TO THE BOTTOM AND CLICK ON “Older Comments”.
    .
    ****************************************

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  55. Brian D. on December 21st, 2012 4:48 am

    By the way, we are not against people being paid for maintaining and managing property. There will always be a need for janitors, repair staff, and managers. These people are doing wealth, therefore creating wealth, and so they have every right to be paid for their work. But no one has any right to be paid simply for OWNING things. The owners of all businesses should be the working class (which also means that workers should hire and fire managers, not the other way around).
    .
    As for “when you took the job you agreed to do what the boss wants”, remember that we were talking about how capitalist employment is similar to extortion. So tell me, what do you call a situation where you have to sign an agreement saying that you will follow any and all orders from a certain person, because if you don’t sign the agreement you won’t be able to pay the bills or buy food?
    .
    If that’s not extortion, then what is?

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  56. vincent paci on December 21st, 2012 12:59 pm

    This socialist experiment has been tried many times and almost always failed miserably (USSR, China, Cuba, Vietnam). All of these countries have switched to a free market economy. Socialism may sound like a good idea in theory, but it just simply does not work. Competition leads to innovation. Socialism leads to corruption.

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  57. Brian D. on December 21st, 2012 7:33 pm

    This socialist experiment has been tried in the USSR, China, Cuba and Vietnam? Really? You mean those countries had an economic system in which the workers democratically decided what to produce and how to organize production? You mean those countries had open discussion between different political parties or groups, each with their own proposed economic plan, and then held a vote to decide which economic plan to follow?
    .
    Or perhaps you mean that they tried a DIFFERENT thing which they called “socialism”, and THAT thing failed.

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  58. Mike on December 21st, 2012 10:45 pm

    So basically intellectual work isn’t work. The organizational ability, ability to understand supply and demand and various housing markets doesn’t count, because you aren’t doing it with a hammer and sickle?

    I don’t care if a “democracy” of selfish lazy people decide they are going to steal a factory I designed and built for their own gain, they are going to lose, and that is in no way shape or form “fair.”

    Mike

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  59. The Juggernaut on December 22nd, 2012 3:25 am

    I am a manager in the real world. I hire, train, and fire all my employees (right now about 45 of them). Without me, my workers literally know nothing. They have no skills; so thus they should be able to fire me?

    On another note…

    Socialism will fail because it fails to address something that capitalism makes best of; human greed. There is no way for socialism to solve the problem of scarcity yet, and it conveniently sidesteps any addressing of what to do with anything in extremely rare amounts. When we do get the Star Trek device that allows us to create anything out of thin air socialism will work, but it stands no chance until then.

    Despite what socialists think, workers will continue to vote in favor of their own greed, ironically in the same pattern socialists think managers, capitalists, bankers, and anyone else they stereotype.

    Not convinced? Take a look at the UAW’s golf course, or the SEIU supporting illegal immigration (which undermines fair wages for themselves and legal Americans). Unions do not represent the workers now, and are corrupt as the corporations they fight. Under socialism greed won’t disappear, it will just transfer from corporations to unions.

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  60. john on December 23rd, 2012 8:39 pm

    “Without me, my workers literally know nothing.” That makes you sound very arrogant and if that is true, than you must work at a job that requires the least talented and capable of people to work there. A very large mcdonalds?

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  61. Mike on December 25th, 2012 7:46 pm

    Maybe he does, so what?

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  62. The Juggernaut on December 27th, 2012 2:37 pm

    Even if I do, as Mike says, you fail to address any of my points.

    Attack my substance, not me; or can you not?

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  63. Jamie on December 28th, 2012 3:10 am

    >”So basically intellectual work isn’t work.”

    Eh? What? Did anyone say that? No. Intellectual work – the work of scientists, engineers, architects, doctors, and everyone else who is HIRED and paid a WAGE – absolutely DOES count. You know what doesn’t count? You know what ISN’T work? Buying a company, hiring people to work for you (including intellectual workers), and then sitting back and getting money for nothing. Which is what every single capitalist is doing right now. That’s what the stock market is all about: buying companies (or, to be more exact, parts of companies) and getting money without doing any actual work for those companies.

    Also, FYI: Capitalists don’t design or build factories. Architects, engineers and construction workers do that.

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  64. mike on January 1st, 2013 1:19 am

    Many design and build their own companies, and then proceed to run them or hire shop managers to run them. They still set up the entire thing, made that employment possible, risked their capital, etc.

    Buying a company, being able to do cost benefit analysis, hiring workers based off what you need, etc is still all work. You clearly have zero understanding about how even the simplest of businesses work, let alone our national or global economy. Try again

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  65. Masonic3 on July 10th, 2015 10:32 pm

    That sounds absolutely horrible. Imagine all of the amazing companies and products that would not exist if not for the drive of capatalism. If you like the idea of socialism then you have never worked for the Gov, taken a economics class or seen the waste of Government bodies.

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  66. CriminalMajor on February 22nd, 2017 4:23 pm

    Really. So how do you think not having the ability to own property, a democracy!! This system would drag everyone down. There would be no incentive to create or achieve something that could benefit society. Business owners create jobs which allows workers to earn money making products that people would use. These businesses need other companies for support. You could not achieve financial security under socialism. Capitalism you can own property and use it to borrow money to make improvements or buy more property. How could you retire?

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