Friday, July 09, 2010

Capitalism Wins, Always

I'm not sure why, but most people have trouble grasping long time periods.  Like the people who deny the idea of evolution because they haven't seen anything evolve within their lifetime, failing to grasp the concept of millions of years. 

No, a slug didn't become a superior type of slug in the time it took you to go from Pampers to Depends, but civilization hasn't even been around 10,000 years, while a million years is one hundred times longer than that; and even a million years isn't a long time when you're considering evolution.  But still, a slug now is the same slug they saw as a child, so that disproves that anything can change over millions of years. 

That's a classic example of small-minded thinking: Because they didn't see something change in sixty years, nothing can change over sixty million years.  It's as if adding "million" to a number is somehow insignificant.

Watching Mountains Grow

Similarly, because people can't see society changes within a twenty year period, they insist that we'll never see changes unless we force them ourselves.  They simply can't conceive of a bigger picture with forces that are outside our individual control.  Obama's president, so Obama should be able to strong-arm anything from anyone; and that's the only way things happen.  It's all about strong people taking bold actions, and without that, nothing will change.  And if Obama can't give us everything we want right now, we'll never get it.

But that's bunk.  For as much as I appreciate the bold actions Obama has taken, he's only building on things that have been in motion for decades, and if the time's not right for something, then it's stupid to force it.  The Civil Rights movement didn't happen because MLK showed up, and had he gone in a time machine to Birmingham a hundred years earlier, he would have been lucky to merely end up in jail.  He was a strong player in the movement, but he was part of something that started long before him.

Just as the individual actions you took as a teen will effect you the rest of your life, group actions societies took decades ago are slowly coming into fruition.  And so much of this is beyond human ken.  The bigger something is, the more inertia it has and the longer it takes to move and to stop; and watching society change is like watching mountains grow.  We know it's happening, yet all the same, it just looks like the same damn piece of rock to us.

Progress in China

And that all brings me to my main point: China.  I keep hearing about how dreadful workers are treated in China and how we need to stop buying Chinese products because of this.  Or conversely, that China's going to take us over if we don't stop buying their shit.  And it's as if the conditions in China will somehow always stay that way because that's how they are now. 

But that's simply incorrect.  As I keep explaining, they will eventually form a middle-class as their increasingly growing economic needs require more and more skilled workers; both as skilled labor as well as managers, accountants, and other such administrative personnel and middle-men.  And soon, they'll be striking for better work conditions, demanding more pay, and eventually they'll form powerful unions that grow lazy and corrupt and screw everything up for them; just like what happened here in America. 

And yeah, the Chinese government will bust their heads, just as our early unions got their heads busted, but this sort of thing is simply inevitable.  By accepting limited capitalism into their country, they're stuck getting the whole damn thing shoved down their throats; and what we couldn't do with bombs or embargoes, we can easily do by buying their shit; and there's not a damn thing they can do to stop it. 

And the only way we could stop it is if we stopped buying their shit, forcing them all back into poverty.  Yes, they're being exploited, but it's obviously better for them than the alternative.  And that's why Disney's in Vietnam, while North Korea's still a backwards suckhole.  They were both totalitarian, but only the North Koreans forbid outsiders.  Same goes for Cuba, which would be a swinging destination for drunk Spring Breakers, if only we sold them our shit and bought their cigars.

iPad to Prosperity

I've been saying that for quite a few years now, and it now looks like we have evidence that I was right (not that I had any doubts).
Factory workers demanding better wages and working conditions are hastening the eventual end of an era of cheap costs that helped make southern coastal China the world's factory floor.

A series of strikes over the past two months have been a rude wakeup call for the many foreign companies that depend on China's low costs to compete overseas, from makers of Christmas trees to manufacturers of gadgets like the iPad.
[....]
They have little choice. Many of today's factory workers have higher ambitions than their parents, who generally saved their earnings from assembling toys and television sets for retirement in their rural hometowns. They are also choosier about wages and working conditions. "The conflicts are challenging the current set-up of low-wage, low-tech manufacturing, and may catalyze the transformation of China's industrial sector," said Yu Hai, a sociology professor at Shanghai's Fudan University.
And well, duh.  I mean, what else would happen?  Are we really to imagine that Americans and other westerners are so different from the Chinese that they somehow wouldn't make the same progress we made?  Could we really think that China could post huge economic gains without creating a skilled labor force that would wise-up to how they were getting ripped off? 

Hell, America did it without much guidance at all, while the Chinese are well aware of how this shit works.  They've got the internet.  They watch our movies.  They know how workers are supposed to be treated.  And moreover, these guys are doing more complex work than the mine workers of yore.  The idea that China could perpetually keep them down is a huge insult; as if Chinese workers are simply too stupid to unionize.

Tides of History

And no, it's not going to happen overnight.  Big things never do.  But it'll definitely happen, and not just in China, but anywhere we buy shit from.  The more dollars that flow into a third-world country, the sooner they'll develop into second-world countries, and then eventually become first-world.  That's just how it works.  And the only way to stop it is to stop buying their shit.

Or...we can pretend that workers will magically unionize before the factories arrive and they'll all be paid great wages to sit around watching porn all day, like us Americans do.  But I don't see that happening.  Like it or not, the exploiters will pave the way to economic freedom, just as they always have, and we'll have to wait a few decades before the exploiters have to move on to greener pastures.  But a few decades is nothing in the grand scheme of things.

Someday, we'll all regret that living conditions are identical the world over; not because things were so great before, but because people just like having something to bitch about.  Life is better now than it's ever been.  Don't let anyone tell you any different.

21 comments:

mahakal said...

Tell it to Nigeria.

Doctor Biobrain said...

I'll confess that I don't know what you're talking about. Sorry, but if you expect to convey your message, you need to be less cryptic about it.

But if you're suggesting that we buy as much of Nigeria's stuff as we do from China, I find that hard to believe.

mahakal said...

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/may/30/oil-spills-nigeria-niger-delta-shell

Doctor Biobrain said...

Sorry, perhaps I should have put a caveat in this to explain that it only refers to exploited labor forces, like in China, Mexico, and any other country being exploited for cheap labor. Eventually, they'll become more powerful and less exploited.

But it doesn't apply to countries which are being exploited for natural resources, as the money is all being funnelled out of the country, with small kickbacks going to those in power. It's not as if we could expect the oil to rise up and unionize. So these countries will inherently be made less powerful the more they're exploited.

And the blame here isn't strictly on capitalism, but on the people in power of these countries. Capitalism is a necessary good, but still requires oversight. And without a proper government keeping greed in check, it's worse for everyone; including the capitalists. The world is a lot better off the more we allow its people to be better off.

mahakal said...

So capitalism only works for countries without natural resources? Or only when the government regulates the economy appropriately? How much regulation before it gets called socialism? Does socialism work better or worse than capitalism?

Doctor Biobrain said...

Yes, I'm an idiot. I actually said that capitalism only works in countries without natural resources, like our own country. I really am so dumb that I'd say such a thing.

Oh, wait. No, I'm not. I wrote "it doesn't apply to countries which are being exploited for natural resources." See, the keyword there is exploited. And if a country is using its own natural resources to its advantages, you don't have these problems. And as was my original point, when its the labor force that's being exploited, then it's a matter of time before those people begin to organize and demand better treatment. And that's exactly what we're seeing now in China; just as I've been predicting for the last few years.

Beyond that, I don't think the government regulates the economy. They regulate businesses in order to make sure they're following certain guidelines. For example, here in America, we regulate how long employees can work, what age they can work at, what wages they can be paid, and other such things. I don't think this is socialism. In Europe, they're a tad bit closer to socialism than us, but they're still capitalists. As you're surely aware, there is no purely capitalist or socialist country, but rather, everyone fits within the spectrum somewhere in between.

As for your last question, I definitely believe that capitalism is the superior system; just as long as it's regulated properly. And that's not just for the good of the people, but for the good of the wealthy too. Unfortunately, most of them are just too short-sighted to realize it. Fortunately, there are better ones, like Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, and George Soros; who understand that they benefit most when we all benefit.

mahakal said...

"When its the labor force that's being exploited, then it's a matter of time before those people begin to organize and demand better treatment"

So how many generations can you keep people slaves before they risk everything to organize and throw off their shackles?

mahakal said...

Here's an idea. Don't exploit people.

Doctor Biobrain said...

First off, my post was largely about how long this sort of thing takes. I failt to see why I should repeat it.

Secondly, we're not talking about slavery. We're talking about voluntary employment. These people are being exploited because they can't get better paying jobs anywhere else, and so they choose to work for shitty wages in crappy conditions. And in China, they're now forming unions and getting better wages.

And for as much as there IS slave labor being exploited around the world, it's because of governments that allow it. There are many capitalists who don't exploit their workers, while there are few corrupt governments that don't.

And that's the main problem here. It's not capitalism you're attacking, but governments which allow their people to be exploited; and that can happen in socialist economies, too. I mean, hell, China's still run by Communists. Are you really going to blame Steve Jobs because commies let him use cheap labor? And yes, I understand they're not true communists, but they're not capitalists either. And whatever it is, it's a government issue, not an economic one. That's what I keep saying. If governments protect their people, you don't have these problems.

As for not exploiting people, if the Chinese commies could have figured out a way of bringing these people good factory jobs, they would have done it. But they couldn't, so the capitalists stepped in. Sorry, but command-style economic systems just don't work. It's the capitalists who bring the factories and the governments that regulate them.

And for god's sake, will you ever get around to answering anything I say, or will you keep treating me like I'm some capitalist stooge who burns poor people to heat my mansion? Look, I'm describing a real system that works. And you're not describing anything.

mahakal said...

It isn't my place to blog my proposed solutions here in detail, but I support a more agrarian cannabis hemp economy. As for your resenting any questions of your own moral and intellectual superiority, I'm sorry if you are offended, but you do in fact justify metaphorically burning poor people to heat your mansion on pragmatic grounds that they do burn well after all.

Doctor Biobrain said...

Look, I have no problem with people asking questions about what I'm writing. I actually encourage it. But I DO have a problem with your assumptions that I'm automatically wrong, as well as your refusal to even consider the possibility that I might have a point. I keep answering your "questions," but you ignore my answers and attack me again.

After all, developments in China are proving my point, yet you ignore them completely and throw self-righteous attacks suggesting that I support slavery and the theft of natural resources. Why? Because I support capitalism and you hate capitalism because you imagine it's an immoral system. And so you refuse to listen to anything I'm saying, because you already assume I'm wrong. You're not asking questions. You're attacking me.

And if you think the basis of my argument is "We should exploit people because they're cheap and build good stuff," then fuck you. You haven't read a thing I wrote and missed the point completely.


And fine, I can do this too: Your agrarian stoner system would use slaves to harvest your weed. So you support slavery, too. Woo boy, this is a productive debate. Who needs to ask questions when we can just attack each other instead?

mahakal said...

Actually I am concerned with the issue of land tenure, which is something you probably give no consideration to, but when a tiny percentage of the population owns the vast majority of land and resources without paying the community for exclusion, it hardly matters what you call your system.

And no, I do not advocate the use of slave labor nor would I use slaves, nor is there any evidence of slavery in any form or manifestation existing in present day cannabis production. Perhaps if you had a clue, you would realize that cannabis is something that helps slaves free themselves.

I do not believe in compelling labor in any form, in fact. I would guarantee to everyone food, housing, shelter and medicine, those who want to work for better accommodations or more choices of enjoyment may certainly earn more and benefit, plus I have no objection to people starting and running businesses for profit without limited liability or artificial personhood, so I am not "anti-capitalist" as you imagine, but I do not think that the capitalists should be in charge. Rather, we should have social democracy, and mercantile interests are subordinate to the public good.

Doctor Biobrain said...

Of course I don't think you're advocating slave labor. That's my point: Neither am I. I just said that because I was so frustrated at you throwing that crap in my face and suggesting that my system justifies burning humans.

And how would your system prevent someone from using slave labor? The same way we currently do: Using the government.

That's what I keep saying, this isn't an issue of an economic system. This is about the government. And even a hemp-based agrarian society would require a government of some sort to prevent the use of slave labor. After all, America once had an agrarian society that grew hemp, and they most certainly used slave labor. Inequality and exploitation wasn't invented by capitalists.

And just to get this back to my original point: Capitalism is a means that brings corrupt governments into the modern-age, giving people these rights. It happened in America and Europe, and it's happening now in China. The more factories we build there, the more rights the workers will be able to obtain. That's just a natural outcome that can't be avoided.

And I really can't stress this enough: Freedom is GREAT for capitalism. Slaves don't buy stuff, well-paid workers do. The more wealth that is spread around, the better it is for everyone.

mahakal said...

I think there's some magical thinking going on here about the power of capitalism, and anyhow you keep talking about industrialization as if it is the same thing.

But I think we are indeed in fundamental agreement that it isn't the economic system, but the government which is most important. Otherwise with unlimited power given to the banking and mercantile interests you have feudalism in some form.

What is capitalism, anyhow? You don't mean the same thing by the term as Ayn Rand does. You really are an adherent of liberal, social democracy, just as I am, but you call what you like capitalism, because I guess capitalism is what Americans are supposed to cheer for, whatever it is.

And I can't find anything about it in the constitution, either.

Doctor Biobrain said...

What magical thinking? Show me a thriving capitalist nation that has slave laborers and heavily exploited workers. You won't find one. You find those things in shitty countries with corrupt leaders who suck all the wealth for themselves and their cronies. And by having an overpowering government control society, they're denying capitalism the ability to work.

And in America and Old Europe, you'll find a relatively powerful labor force with lots of government protections. You think that's coincidence? Now who's got the magical thinking? The economy came first, and THEN came the workers rights. It's never happened the other way.

And look, it's really simple: Supply & Demand. The more factories that are built in a country, the higher the demand for workers; giving them more leverage to demand higher wages and better treatment. And that's why we're seeing workers striking in China, and winning. And we'd see this a lot more, if other countries were booming as much as China is. That's also why workers got paid more during the 90's, because there was a higher demand for them.

As for Ayn Rand, she was a crazy fool. That wasn't capitalism. That was a cult. Pure selfishness disguised as philosophy. And if we all followed Ayn Rand's philosophy, the world would crumble because nobody would ever want to work for anyone else or compromise their precious egos.


As for capitalism, you can look up Wikipedia for the offical definition, but it's the system where individuals own the means of production and make economic decisions. And there's nothing to suggest that government can't regulate it or outlaw slavery. Capitalism wouldn't work without government rules.

Meanwhile, socialism means that the government or some other collective owns the means of production and makes economic decisions; rather than individuals. And there's nothing to suggest that a socialist government would always be fair or outlaw slavery. Basically, socialism gives more power to the government, and is only as fair as the people running the government.

And what we have here in America and Europe is a hybrid of capitalism and socialism. We allow private individuals to own businesses and make economic decisions based upon their own needs, but use the government to regulate them. And for goods and services private individuals won't provide, the government provides them. So businesses decide which computers and clothes to manufacture and sell, while the government decides where to build roads and schools. And not only do we do this to provide for roads and schools, but also as a means of boosting the economy.

Honestly, did I really need to explain this to you? Not that I mind, I just didn't think it was necessary.

mahakal said...

"And in America and Old Europe, you'll find a relatively powerful labor force with lots of government protections. You think that's coincidence? Now who's got the magical thinking? The economy came first, and THEN came the workers rights. It's never happened the other way."

I call b.s. America had a revolution and established a constitution before, then fought a civil war against slavery, before the current economic paradigm dominated.

Look this is clearly a religious belief you have, and you even acknowledge that America and Europe have mixed economies, not "capitalism". All you seem to do is recite definitions from high school civics which don't quite apply in the real world.

Show me a capitalist country, not a mixed economy, and we can discuss it.

Doctor Biobrain said...

Uhm...are you suggesting that worker rights stemmed from the Revolution or Civil War? They didn't. They were established after that. And lots of exploited American and European workers had to fight for decades to get the rights we take for granted now. These things didn't magically happen.

The factories happened first; not the workers rights. And they certainly didn't come from the Constitution. There's nothing in the Constitution about minimum wage or a 40-hour work week. In fact, most conservatives believe that such laws aren't allowed by the Constitution; though being a liberal, I obviously disagree.

And the better the economy is, the easier it is for workers to get better pay and working conditions. That's why the 90's were much better for workers than the Bush years; because unemployment was low, making the demand for workers higher. And because people had more spending money, they could keep the economic pump flowing; making things better for everyone, including Wall Street. All that changed during the Bush Years, when people had to borrow money because their pay wasn't increasing. And the worst thing that can happen is if too much money or power consolidates. That's bad for workers AND capitalism. Again, Wall Street did a lot better in the 90's than it did after Bush took over.

Look, this isn't some fantasy religion of mine. I'm describing the system as it is now.

And yes, I understand that there isn't a purely capitalist country. I've already said that repeatedly. I'm not calling for a pure capitalist country. I want mixed economies, just like we have now and believe that this is the future for the rest of the world; and I call this "capitalism" because that's the generally accepted term for what we have here in America, even if it's not pure capitalism. And you're the one calling for something radically different, which doesn't exist now.

Oh, and if you think government regulation is socialism, then you've been listening to wingnuts too long. Capitalism requires rules and "free-market" doesn't mean "free-for-all." Without government oversight, capitalism won't work.

mahakal said...

We need more than rules and regulations, we require also a social safety net. But you and I agree we have and need a mixed economy. So the real debate isn't ideological at all but just terminological. You like to call this mixed economy capitalism, which it isn't any more than it is socialism.

Pure capitalism doesn't work and neither does pure socialism. You cannot take away people's freedom to do what they want to do, centrally planning everything cannot work, but at the same time, you cannot let people be exploited, it is the proper job of government to protect against that.

The system as it is exploits people quite severely, in fact. So defending the status quo doesn't seem to me a very progressive idea.

Doctor Biobrain said...

But we're much closer to capitalism than we are to socialism. I mean, a lot of countries own their oil industry. Countries like China, Cuba, and other places have REAL socialism. Not a safety net, but actual control over their economies. It's only recently that China allowed capitalism in, and it's definitely an improvement.

And seriously, if you're not willing to call what we have in America "capitalism," then these words don't mean anything. No, we're not pure capitalism (as if such a thing could exist), but we're clearly much closer to capitalism than we are socialism. I mean, EVERYONE agrees that we have a mixed economy. That's not even debatable.

And just to be clear, I don't consider a social safety net to be socialism. Unless you're willing to call Social Security, welfare, and food stamps an "industry" or "business" of some sort, I don't see how that's socialism.

A government takeover of the banking or auto industries would be socialism. Mere aid to fired workers isn't, especially as one big purpose of this aid is to help the economy improve by pumping more cash into the system. Give money to an unemployed person and it goes to a private business immediately. That's what makes Republican attacks on these programs so pathetic, as these things are GOOD for business. Tax cuts for the rich help individual rich people, but do very little to help the businesses they own or the economy. That's what Keynsian Economics is all about. The fact that it helps people is a side effect, not the purpose.

As for exploitation, that's clearly a relative term. And if you think someone's exploited simply because the government won't give them free room and board, then I just disagree with you. While I fully agree that people need economic assistance at times, I definitely don't think people should be guaranteed a free-ride if they don't feel like taking care of themselves.

Overall, I think people need to be educated so that they learn how to take control of their lives and understand how they fit into society so they can take care of themselves. People are only exploited if they let themselves be exploited. It doesn't have to be like this.

And just to be clear, I'm not advocating the "sink or swim" method of starving people into independence as many conservatives do; so don't try to lay that on me. Instead, we need to teach people how to see the big picture and understand how they fit into it. And most of all, they need to be taught how to think for themselves, rather than the obedience training we beat into people. Fear might prevent someone from doing bad, but it isn't a motivational tool.

There are people (myself included) who have learned how to take charge of their lives and find their own place in society. That's the sort of thing more people need. Not a free-ride, but the ability to live their lives on their own terms. I know people who are given free rides by their parents, and I wouldn't trade my life for theirs; even if their lives are a lot easier.

As for me, I work when I want to, love the work I do, and enjoy helping my clients run their businesses. I have total job satisfaction and don't feel exploited in the least. And how did I do it? I got a good education and learned how to think outside the constraints that society tries putting on people. If everyone could learn what I learned, the world would be a much happier place.

mahakal said...

"I got mine jack keep your hands off of my stack" is pretty classic Republican thinking. Other people suffering doesn't concern you much, they must be lazy or not as smart as you. Yeah, the current Republican rump has gone insane, and you're more like the old school, George Bush Sr. style. But I don't think there's much more to discuss here if your own self satisfaction even leads you to defend the destruction of the planet for your own comfort.

Doctor Biobrain said...

Wow. You missed my point completely. I was talking about the need to teach people how to take control of their own lives, and you translate that into "screw the poor." Simply amazing.

And to think, I actually thought we almost had a good dialogue going on here. But now I'm an evil scrooge, even though I believe we should help those in need and think the rich should pay more in taxes. If anything, I'd put myself as an FDR or LBJ liberal, as I support what they did; and think LBJ's mistake was that he focused on immediate bandaids rather than long-term solutions. If you think that makes me a Bush Sr Republican, you're nuts.

And just to be clear about something: I'm really quite lazy. My "stack"? I'm not rich. I make enough to buy the stuff I need with a little left over for a few things I want, mainly because I'm so lazy that I generally don't work more than 20 hours a week. And yeah, I AM smarter than most people. That's not something I'm ashamed of.


And just so it's clear, the "teaching" I'm talking about is the sort of enlightenment that you'd think of in spirtual terms. It's about people finding who they are, what makes them happy, and how to take positive steps to make their own lives better. The big difference between you and me is that you think this requires some sort of religious experience, while I don't. I'm not talking about teaching the poor how to make money. I'm talking about teaching everyone how to be happy by finding how to take control of their lives; which is a lesson the rich need as well as the poor.