Sunday 7 December 2008

Seeing The Wood For The Trees

Sometimes, the problem with concepts, is you really are fighting ingrained ways of looking at things.
Sometimes, an ingrained way of looking at something is hard to fight. A comment on a previous post by a commenter who is highly intelligent in many ways made me realise this.
That in explaining the obvious regarding the huge flaws in Capitalist Economics, is hard.
Because sometimes, making a conceptual leap is hard.

And I admit, it took a while for me to grasp the Marxist argument, simple as that argument is, once you see the point.

I suppose it relates to how easily the human mind gets stuck in ruts.

I remember at scout camp once the topic came up of how many states there are in the US. It kind of become a running joke. That I could be wound up on the subject. Because I had had the argument before, with the female cub scout leader. She was a primary school teacher and maintained there were fifty two. As many states in the US, as there are weeks in the year, that's what she taught her class.

Many people believe it. That there were fifty, but then Alaska and Hawaii joined, making it fifty two.
I know it may sound trivial, but it really is a commonly held piece of ignorance. And I got very wound up about it. I even listed them all. But it turned out I'd left Texas out, someone noticed.
God know what state I said twice.

Anyway, when we went into Swansea, our troop leader went to a bookshop. And grudgingly admitted I was right. The US has fifty states, no more, no less.

The point is, if an opinion is widely regarded to be correct, it's hard to shift it.

But also, it's sometimes hard for people to grasp something that YOU think is obvious.
For example, space.
Trying to explain to someone that the universe is FINITE, but LIMITLESS.
In other words, there isn't an end to it.
But it doesn't go on for ever.

There isn't an edge, where you can go out beyond into nothingness. Every direction leads back to it's starting point. Of course, you couldn't actually DO that, because the universe is expanding faster than you could travel, but ultimately, in our universe, any straight line goes back to its starting point.

And the point about why it is the Capitalist Economy can't actually work any longer, isn't that human technology can't advance- of course it can.
The point is that the Capitalist economy can no longer achieve that, can no longer power it.
Because the Capitalist economy has turned to eat itself.

It's not that our capacity to progress has halted.
It's how that progress was funded.
And it was funded by having a sufficient portion of the new wealth brought into the economy every year, being sucked up in interest payments.

In other words, the Capitalist economy can only survive by adding more money to it every year.
And in the nineteenth century this was done by literally expanding the economy every year. Adding more consumers.
And in the twentieth century it was done by having a good number of people living off handouts so they consume but don't produce, and by continually printing more money every year. Having permanent inflation.
Capitalists hide that.

That once you really have turned everyone into a consumer in the same economy, the only way the total amount of money in circulation grows- is by adding more money.
Except it's not real wealth. You're not actually adding materials.
You're simply devaluing the money.
This means the interest can be paid, because by the time you pay it, the interest, like everything else, will be worth less in real terms.

But even that stopped being enough.
So we had to invent money that didn't exist.

And eventually, more money will be owed out than actually exists.

And that's pretty much where we are now.

So the problem isn't to do with our ability to invent new technology.

The problem is, the system we have of working out the relative values of things, and the relative value of human energy contributions, no longer makes sense and is no longer efficient.

The flaws in it, lead to us making daft decisions.

If you catch fish in the North Sea, and the fishfingers made from those fish, are to be eaten in the UK, then if your 'Economy' really is telling you that the most efficient place to bread those fish fingers is the Czech Republic, than the flaw clearly lies in the accounting system being used.

Our Economy is making something INEFFICIENT, efficient. And it's increasingly going to deliver silly answers like that.
Because it is now so skewed, it cannot help but warp our own systems of production and distribution.

Quite clearly, being OBJECTIVE, breading the fish fingers in the Czech Republic, is NOT, in terms of use of human systems of production and distribution, remotely sensible.
It is NOT cheaper, in terms of energy costs, labour put in, or any other tangible factor.
But it turns out to be cheaper in terms of these little exchange tokens that exist primarily on computer screens.

Now if these tokens weren't called money, and we weren't so wedded to treating them as sacrosanct, if it was a computer told us something as STUPID as 'Catch the fish in the North Sea, bread the fish in the Czech Republic and then bring the finished product back to the UK' we'd get a software engineer to rewrite such an obviously flawed program.

But Bird's Eye are doing just that. Closing down UK operations.
Because MONEY has told them too.

And no one seems to have twigged...
The money is now giving us WRONG answers.

Money itself is screwing up the Economy.

Money is telling us to go for solutions that in REAL terms, in terms of USE OF TIME AND RESOURCES are less efficient.

Because Czech money is cheap compared to the Pound in international markets. So converting your money to Czech money to pay Czech workers means you can pay a lot more Czech workers than you can British workers out of the same money.

So the problem is simple.
Money doesn't do what it's supposed to do any more.

Accurately reflect the relative value of things.

And that's what is screwing up the world.

That we use a system for determining the value of things that- doesn't in fact do that.
And all economists ACTUALLY do, is explain to us why their flawed system gives us the flawed answers it does.

And this blinds us to the fact that the answers are obviously flawed.

That half us working fifty hour weeks and having new kitchens every two years, whilst others are paid by us to do nothing is a flawed answer.
That having a quarter of the world living a continent run by warlords where rape and pillage are an everyday feature of life, is a flawed answer.

That using up most of our communal technology to point expensive missiles at eachother, when we can't afford to make sure we can maintain radio contact with a probe we send to Mars, is a flawed answer.

That having a system of human relations based on finding as many ways to waste human energy as possible, is a flawed answer.

That we have in place a system of determining the values of things and how we should best use human energy and resources.
And we trust in it blindly.
And it's called money.

And yet the answers it gives are clearly wrong.
Because it isn't delivering the answers that are in fact the best use of human energy and resources.

The answers it gives just cannot, logically, be the right answers.

So the only conclusion any rational human being can draw, is that the money system doesn't work.
Not any more.


Anonymous said...

The symptoms you describe are not a result of capitalism but of socialism. Admittedly a watered-down version. Fiat money is not a capitalist tool of oppression, it is a state tool of oppression. The welfare system is not a product of capitalism but of socialism. The expectation of limitless wealth for all does not come from businesspeople but politicians. Government is the problem. Government cannot be the solution.

Please don't accuse me of being blinkered. I am not.

Anonymous said...

Not at all, I was simply pointing out the fact that we have lost sight of the ACTUAL purpose of money.

We say that it is tokens to use to exchange for goods and services, but in real terms it's social function is to determine the relative values of things.
It's prime purpose, is to allow us to organise tasks efficiently.

It's clearly not doing this.

Cheaper in terms of money, no longer means cheaper in terms of COST in terms of labour and raw materials.

The Economy now makes business decisions that actually cost more when you actually look at the things going in that the money is SUPPOSED to represent.

Catching the fish in the North Sea, breading it in Hull, and delivering the product to UK consumers, uses far less labour and raw materials than doing the breading in the Czech Republic.

So the only way you can come up with an economic verdict that says otherwise, is if the system designed to work out what something is actually worth, fails dismally at doing that.

It's forcing human society to follow practices that actually use up more resources and use up more labour.

Looked at from an overall systematic point of view,it doesn't make sense.

Human beings can waste less fuel and less time breading fishfingers than they decide to do.

So actually, in real terms we're consuming way more than we have to get a result- breaded fishfingers.

And the Economy that yields those results can't be rectified until fiat money and interest are removed from the equation and a simple relative values index replaces it. One global system of values exchanges based on actual values of things in terms of how they relate to eachother in real terms.

Anonymous said...

The reason that it is cheaper to bread the fish in the Czech Republic is that the denizens of Hull refuse to do the work for a reasonable wage. To work at all they demand a wage substantially above what the state will give them for doing no work at all. Which means that to employ Hullites would bankrupt a business. The second issue is that our own currency is vastly over-valued by the markets. For some reason they think that Britain has a strong economy when clearly it has a deeply flawed one.

Anonymous said...

I do somewhat agree that money itself is part of the problem with the economy, it being imaginary and all. People here in the US got it in their heads that the value of home prices could indefinitely go up and were shocked, SHOCKED when that trend could not be sustained. And it will happen again, I assure you. Unless the government puts in some good regulations to prevent it. I think the actual value of goods and services will always be skewed. I have hopes that teachers will get better pay for their work than say professional sports players, but the values of society are still messed up in that regard, in my opinion.

On the other hand, what you, Crushed, are talking about is a system that will pay you to sit around and spout your theories all day long because you have decided they hold a greater value to society than whatever other job you could be doing. I think there are millions of people who would love to sit around and talk about what they think all day and get paid for it. Get in line.

Also, there actually is an intellectual elite, even if they don't have badges on their tweed jackets to show for it. They write books and opinion columns. They work in academia and think tanks. What is holding you back from joining their ranks?

Anonymous said...

I agree with Vicarious.

You are far to overwhelmed with your own self importance to write articles of fact. You present facts to accord with your own belief systems and take the credit for ideas and theories that are as old as the hills.

And seriously, buying cocaine to sustain you? And an automatic promotion to the "intellectual elite"? Do you not realize how mad that sounds?

Anonymous said...

Actually the money is giving the RIGHT answers, however the leaders aren't giving us the truth. And the truth ?

Capitalism has been rather too successful. It has delivered freedoms of choice and a standard of living that is far to high in relation to the paucity of talent of those receiving it.

The shift of Fish Fingers production is only the first part of that truth; the second part is that pretty soon English people won't be able to afford to eat Fish Fingers.

Devolvement of production - and then consumption - by stealth.

Anonymous said...

Holey mackeral, Crushed, every time you open your mouth these days there's someone around to smack you. There is nothing at all radical in asserting that everyone is born into equal value and should be born into equal opportunity and that different people have different levels of intellectual ability or leadership ability. Like you say, sometimes the ideas that seem most self-evident can be the hardest to articulate. The Beginning Of The End Of Capitalism was marked at the point at which everything that could be owned was. Then it began eating itself. The defenders of capitalism love to give it credit for anything good that exists. "Freedoms of Choice"? What brand of toothpaste I buy today is not choice. Capitalism and our pathetic version of 'democracy' has resulted in a fat complacent hypocritical middleclass who have a choice between brands and billions of people who have no choice but to get out of bed and face economic slavery everyday. It has also resulted in the economic enslavement of most of Africa, where people's only choice is suffer in silence or get shot. It has resulted in the complete undermining of the dream of freedom in places like North America where coorporations commit the most outrageous crimes with impunity because they have bought out the political system. And so on. You know I have come to accept, Crushed, that I would far prefer to talk to honest facist than another hypocritical soft brained, over educated, middleclass liberal. They are like a virus of mediocrity overrunning the entire bloggoland. Hope you are having as much fun as I am, buckle up, get angry and stop being so nice to these people.

Anonymous said...

Crushed, Blue eyes has a point. Except the one about the valu of the £ may be getting out of date real fast.

It is Socialist ideas that keep “a good number of people living off handouts so they consume but don't produce”. Nothing to do with capitalism. It’s called the welfare state.

I figure if you really want insane, go look at a system that forces fishermen to dump tons of dead fish that could have been fish fingers, back into the sea. That is a criminal waste. Why? Because of, near as I can figure it, quotas that may not even be scientifically valid. That has got to drive up the cost of fish fingers.

Or a system that encourages Spanish trawlers to fish resources round the UK, driving local trawlers out of business, because of licence allocation. Isn’t this the doing of the EC?

Whatever else the EC is, it sure aint capitalist.

As for Africa? Yes it is terrible, but what are you going to do to fix it? I figure lots of us would like to hear a fix for that.

You will be probably be accused of being an imperialist if you do.

Anonymous said...

Blue Eyes- The second reason is more potent than the first.
The problem is chiefly in the relative exchange values of currencies.
In real terms, the Czech workers probably earn much the same as the workers in Hull.

Vicarious Rising- Or unless we move away from the current system of fiat money and have a genuine index for determining relative values...

Well, yes, I admit I'm being optimistic.
But the point was a valid one.

I'm not sure it does- hence the brain drain.
And much as I'd love to write, the sort of stuff I'd choose to write wouldn't attract the big bucks.

La Femme- You'd be surprised. Seriously. I discovered blogging by accident- whilst doing exactly that under my own name.
A certain amount of objective analysis is necessary in any interpretation of facts. There is a difference between writing a blog with a definite slant and writing posts under my own name analysing something else entirely.

Hmm. I never said automatic promontion or any such thing.

E-K- What you actually mean is that we live too well here compared to other parts of the globe, compared to what we put in.
I agree though, the Uk economy is built on a house of cards and it looks likely to tumble.

Gingatao- I agree pretty much with most of what you write.
Though i would say that the REAL problem is so many of our so-called liberals aren't liberal at all- they are Fascists. Because they essentially uphold the existing ethos and writhe when it is questioned.

They think freely- within a box :)

The world now has one class system, The corporations, then the white and blue collar workers of the west, then a global underclass. There are classes in between, but that's pretty much the way it stands now.

A global class structure. With the barriers between the classess effectively sealed.

Moggs- Well, I'm not strictly a socialist. Libertarian Anarchist is more accurate. Though I must admit I can't quite find a good term to describe my outlook.
I did think of Social Hedonism as a term, the idea of a philosophy designed to ansure the greatest happiness of the greatest number, but I'm still not sure on that one. Democratic Collectivist seems to be a better one, but it still fails to convey the ethos.

Much of the way the EU is structured is pretty daft. Nevertheless, I do think that we need continental government. Just at the moment it's pretty awful.

What Africa has now, is cloaked Imperialism. I actually suggest we do what we promised to do bwefore we fucked off leaving it in the state it is- develop it for the benefit of those that live there.

Existing arrangements won't achieve that.

Anonymous said...

Middle class liberal virus hey? I do declare.

The simple fact is that in putting forward your beliefs, you are attacking the beliefs of others. The world turns on different points of views but you need to be able to communicate in such a way that it does not deride/insult/patronise.

As for all of the other comments - theories are there to be tested, examined and pulled apart.

What I do find really interesting is that when others have a go at you on other blogs you are defended. Yet when the same thing happens here to other people, you say nothing.

Anonymous said...

La Femme- I am not entirely clear where I insult/deride/patronise, I think I try make sure I account for all sensibilities.

Of course theories are there to be tried, tested and- falsified.
A theory is not a theory unless it actually contains within its premise a demonstrable way of falsifying it, should it be wrong.

Generally, I think all arguments in comments sections should centre on points being made in the posts concerned, and/or related information.
Not ad hominem arguments.

Generally speaking, I try ensure I leave polite comments on all blogs I visit and avoid causing offence, even when I violently disagree. It's different here, because it's my own blog. Nevertheless, I still think I answer comments courteously in most cases.

Naturally, people won't always agree, but ad hominem arguments should be avoided, period.

If anyone attacked you personally, then that would be a clear breach of my blog policy. I can't see any evidence of such a breach.
The closest I can see is a remark referring to criticisms that might be made of the position put forward in this post, and a judgement made on SOME of the groups that might make such criticism, and your comment being quite critical (in a manner SOME might see as bordering on personal, but don't worry I've learned not to be easily offended), you identified that as being primarily directed towards yourself.

I don't read it as having been aimed specifically at you. I would agree with the general sentiments being expressed, that many so-called liberals are far from, but I didn't read that as being a personal criticism of yourself. I do not doubt the sincerity of your principles for a moment. Your comments are always valued here.

And I certainly would not stand by whilst you were personally insulted.
I'm surprised you think I would.

Anonymous said...

"Generally speaking, I try ensure I leave polite comments on all blogs I visit and avoid causing offence, even when I violently disagree."

That seems an odd thing for you to do. Why bother posting on other people's blogs if all you are writing is banalities? It seems counter to who you present yourself here. Would you want others to do the same to your blog?

I don't mean go forth and offend, but I had thought you have a world to revolutionize and communes to set up, leaving no time waste on idle niceties?

My apologies for going ad hominem on the post. Sort of.

Anonymous said...

Vicariousrising, I think it is perfectly possible to disagree with someone, or argue against a point of view/position/etc. yet be polite and avoid being personal (leaving a side certain comments by one individual).I think generally, posts/comments on this blog manage that. I figure Crushed manages it fairly effectively.

About the comment “many of our so-called liberals aren't liberal at all- they are Fascists.”

Fascist is a word that is readily bandied about, often by people with very different views and disparate ideas of exactly what it means. It seems to me it is often used as not much more than a term of abuse for someone they disagree with.

I am not saying that you don’t know what it means Crushed, I figure you would. Though Liberal?

I figure as a concrete idea it really originated with Mussolini. It had socialist roots. The big idea was to use state regulation to control things like business.. and everything else.

Being a bit contentious here... Someone suggested to me recently that looks uncomfortably like how New Labour manage things…

Anonymous said...

Quite frankly, Crushed, I couldn't give a fuck who attacks me personally or not. I worked in the criminal courts for years and been a grown up for quite some time. I'm tough girl.

You present as fact that x is x and y has no value. Despite evidence that the large majority of people don't want to accept the loss of family, monogamy or any of a number of propositions you put forward - you continue to say that their way is wrong, and your way is right. Period.

You see, the difference between your idea of the world and mine is that my world unquestionably accepts that you have the right to live how you do, but you don't accept that others have the right to do likewise. And that is not cool. The world is pretty fucked, but I want to see my contribution as something tangible, through empathy, compassion and giving of my time to others. I happily surrender my self and my own interests. That is how I want to live my life.

I respect your right to determine your own life. I don't agree with your views, and I would would counter-revolution any world that exists along the same lines in my lifetime. And I'd win too!

This is just too bloody nonsensical to bother with anymore. Over and out.

Anonymous said...

VicariousRising- One can be polite without being banal.

One can question someone's points- quite devastatingly- without being nasty.

Generally, when people comment in a manner that gets personal, it tends to suggest a lack of OBJECTIVE arguments. So to adopt the Sid Vicious approach to commenting, tends to suggest a lack of constructive things to say.

I think, to me, it's kind of a principle. When I comment at a blog, it's not a private discussion, it's a public one. and that should never be forgotten.

Niceties are very important, really. I've been places where you realise just HOW important.

Moggs- I like to think so. I think confrontation and debate is good, but it really should be debate. I like to think we'd all like eachother in RL and be able to sit round a meal and have a really good put the world to rights chat.

I agree-partly-in that had Mussolini not made that one TINY mistake, joining the war, the word would never have got the reputation it has. Nazism and Fascism are actually not that similar really. Franco's regime WAS Fascist and it gets its bad press as a result. Though in fact, a quick look at Mussolini and Franco's regimes shows, that really, they don't remotely compare in terms of brutality even to Someone like Tito. Neither of them had labour camps, for example.

But in a wider sense, yes any system who's basic creed is striong government for its own sake, is Fascist. Because actually, that was the ONLY belief Fascism in its true sense had.
So Stalin was a Fascist. As was Blair.
Mussolini actually was strongly backed by Italian liberals- its why the party never recovered afterwards.

Liberal can mean many things. But Liberal in the sense of Western Liberal Democracy, isn't, methicks, truly liberal.

La Femme- They would say the same back :)

I don't say people shouldn't be allowed to practice whatever arrangements suit them. But right now there is a consensus that certain things, marriage, nuclear family, etc are 'good' and everything else 'bad'.

I don't agree. I think socoety should aboloish the marital framework, then most people will choose not to bother with it, but those who choose to do so, can still do it. I doubt Churches would stop doing the ceremony. Just that that's all it would be. A private commitment, not one enforced by law.

I think many of us want to surrender ourselves, it's just trying to find the most constructive way to do it.

We can't all agree. And if we did, we wouldn't find answwrs. Or progress. It's back to the dialectic. The thesis creates it's own antithesis, which finds a new synthesis between the two, which becomes the new thesis, and so in.

Only be disagreeing, do we progress.