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March 31, 2012 / compassioninpolitics

Even more on the capitalism vs. cooperative communal living debate

As someone who had a bit of a hippie-like ideological streak in grad school and for many years after, its hard to say this, but the progress would not be as great–probably by orders of magnitude. At least given the current value alignments, commitments, and motivations of people.

Why? I would echo what Martin Wawrusch said and also point out that more anarchic or communal societies haven’t produced much innovation to my knowledge–at least in modern day society. It would be hard for these types of small de-centered organizations to provide comparable innovation to our health care, IT, communication, transportation, and consumer products (ie the washer machine, etc..) of the last 50 years. Plus, these innovations provide a catapult to still other forms of innovation.

Lack of profit motive also would likely require a re-distribution of types of employment, because no one would want to be janitors or fast food attendees (so scientists might have to spend 5% of their tim being trashmen or mailmen or the female equivalent). Moreover, most would want to be Hollywood stars, rock stars, and artists. Also, its always nice to have extrinsic motivation to fall back on when we get out of touch with our intrinsic ones. You don’t have a way to keep people from taking super kushy jobs that don’t pay money. How do you determine if someone gets to be a paper pusher or a rock star if not their own choice? The lack of a market feedback loop to evaluate skill and even motivation–creates a pretty large void in non-competitive ventures.

Pure, cooperative efforts don’t have as much risk taking. Competitive frameworks have the advantage of being able to draw on cooperative activities. (ie non-profits). The competitive framework, as such is able to provide more diversity in terms of institutions to solve the problem–and provide the best of both worlds. The cooperative environment, by contrast is just left with non-profits.

Caveats & Notations:
* To be fair–it is hard to compare modern innovation versus innovation in the past (say 1000 years ago). We have the advantage of standing on their shoulders in terms of both knowledge and innovation.
** If you’re argument is they wouldn’t be small and de-centered, you create a greater risk that they would look something like the USSR.
*** The recent historical examples debate may be a near wash (outside the technology issue I mentioned & the fact that capitalism gets to draw on the benefits of both competition and cooperative efforts). Open Source versus the X-Prize model. Plus, capitalism actually supports the open source model as paradoxical as that sounds (I would say the only problem being litigousness or how our legal frameworks operate).
**** Arguably mix-economies which are capitalism solve the free loader problem better than a cooperative society might. The only alternative I can see to that is for cooperative societies to punish or deport non-productive workers. Otherwise, you may have a compounding free-loader problem (especially with excess entertainment production).

Here is a link to the original discussion on Quora.



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  1. Nathan Ketsdever / Apr 4 2012 3:40 am

    Not everyone wants to be a comrade. Not everyone wants to live in a hippie commune for a week….much less a lifetime. The only route between here and there is revolution or step by step persuasion. The revolution isn’t worth it–the system plus ethical challenges from outside using the system itself (including Adam Smith’s work) is challenging it on its own terms and the terms of the ethical (a combination of justice and care).

    “inter-subjective realities through discourse with the other.” This sounds like all I need for a revolution is to talk myself & others into change. You can yell change at the top of your lungs as much as your want….but that movement is going no where. Also, I want a million dollars doesn’t create a million dollars. And you’re K doesn’t pay attention to the inter-subjective realities of the 99.9999999999999% people who are outside the room.

    And you’re always in the double-bind–at least in the short run. You’re always going to be a leech or dependent on capitalism because it creates so many good and services. The alternative is isolationism (which recreates otherization) or what became of the balkanization of the suburbs by ethnicity…..

    I said that capitalism was inevitable in the short run–I don’t take a position over the longer run. In that situation a better solution is saving lives & the meaning that capitalism creates. Some people love their jobs. They love their bosses. And some at least like them a lot.

    One big problem of de-centralized/hippie/commune is not only the risk of free loaders (which you’d probably have to deport or imprison to deal with), but also the rush of people to choose careers which didn’t do what the community needed versus what they felt like–given they would likely have some equivalent of equal pay for sculpting versus teaching versus collecting garbage and making the trains and planes run on time.

    This is the core of all attempts to apply positivism to the social sciences. HUMAN BEHAVIOR CAN’T BE PREDICTED OR CALCULATED!

    1. Individually you are probably right. Collectively not so much. You’d be surprise how much data maps to a bell curve (which incidently supports my idea about freeloaders).
    2. It can be over the longer term.
    3. This takes out all your captitalism impacts
    4. This takes out your alternative. Assuming your can’t predict human behavior.

    This is why rejecting bad theory is a positive action.

    You’re rejecting the theory which grounds action in terms of health care, communication, transportation, food, and a million other things and just crossing your fingers or clicking your heels. Modernity is winning (even before you take into account the way people can reform it from within by re-establishing a new north for it which integrates community stakeholders).
    Hans Rosling has a TED talk about how life expectancies are increasing over time–capitalism wins. Here is a 4 minute summary of some of those notions from the BBC (I’ll concede it makes an argument about colonialism but it also points out how this is the past–ie capitalism isn’t colonialist now & colonialism is capitalism & a need for human/human dominance, not capitalism itself):

    Capitalism only allows beings to be revealed as profit.

    You haven’t talked to anyone outside the academy on this one. Entrepreneurs mostly seem to love their work. People enjoy developing their skills (check out the work of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi….sorry its not specific to capitalism per se–over time captialism created ethical checks on itself over time–or have you forgotten the history of the progressive reforms here in the US?). People like building stuff and creating stuff and working together on shared projects. If you say they dont… can’t solve anyway.

  2. Nathan Ketsdever / Apr 4 2012 3:56 am

    The health care debate this summer speaks to the backlash & the barriers to real change… can’t just fiat your way to a perfect utopian (you can’t fiat your way to change). Given that the Heritage foundation supported the plan & that Obama had just won a historical–this problem would at least multiply times 15 by industrial sector.

    You’re always locked in that capitalism leads to NGOs debate–at least in the medium term. We are the only possible enablement for your alternative.

    >>>”sixth: “if you don’t remember your Rorty arguments…..the end result of most K’s is to do a dance and let the neo-cons take over. Whose supporting the far right now?” >>>thats implicitly an ethics argument–moral intentions which knowingly have the EXACT opposite effect is pretty immoral.”

    >>>Rorty is whining about post-modernism. He still thinks that practice comes before theory.

    It still applies to the way that may capitalism Ks engage both government and power (both on the link and alternative levels). And you don’t have an idea what step 1 looks like….much less what step 12….and step 100 on the way to your utopia. And you don’t have an interpretation or grounding for what stakeholders in the system will do in the mean time. Or what people who find their identity in capitalism or the notion of “the middle class” or what it means to be “American.” When was the last time you or your author lead a movement to have a one month change against capitalism with 24 or more people? You have to be able to walk…..before you can run…..and fly……..and reach escape velocity & transcend gravity for your movement. Just like getting the space shuttle up….its an incredibly complex task which your alternative simplifies as a click of your heals magic carpet ride. (Your decision to take the red pill or blue pill not-withstanding… can’t just muddle through until the anti-capitalist alternative arrives. As a movement leader you gotta be authentic & you gotta lead & you gotta do what you say and be accountable and you have to understand human motivation–all of which I’ve indicted above in earlier posts)

  3. Nathan Ketsdever / Apr 4 2012 5:15 am

    Your arguments are predicated on an uncritical acceptance of capitalism. Thats not me. I don’t make capitialism neutral–I realize it for what is is–a work in progress. The same way your brain & your debate skills are a work in progress.

    For instance you say:
    Nobody is the cartesian subject. Rationality is not a good way to be and is certainly not the only way people are as YOUR presumptions about the structure of human being argue. Which is why there can never be a perm. If you are convinced that corporations in our current economic system will choose more profit over more environmental sustainability then if this structure remains in place environmental destruction is inevitable. This is not a hard argument to win and is probably convincing to most people. In fact if anyone thinks otherwise you should google how corporations are legally binded to their shareholders to seek profit no matter how many externalities are necessary.

    i favor stakeholder capitalism & other internal critiques of capitalism which integrate ethics and checks on power–this checks back the eco impacts.

    Science can work in the world of emotional & rational individuals–it doesn’t require acceptance of Descarte & Bacon’s theories to work. Its you’re failure to realize their irrational & emotional attachments to their current identities which makes your argument such a cul de sac.

    And the embrace of the unchecked embrace emotional and anti-rational means we have no check on conspiracy theories….which result in massive untruths….and death (like the vaccine scare or any number of theories based on conjecture, hate, and otherization).

    Also, social science is self-reflective….thats why we have comm studies & theory….which part of your theory arose out of (the inter-subjective aspects). To be fair, thats probably makes the argument a wash.

    AT: Olson. He pointed out that self-organized communities would dissolve to power structures. His words:

    Olson argued that a “roving bandit” (under anarchy) has an incentive only to steal and destroy, whilst a “stationary bandit” (a tyrant) has an incentive to encourage a degree of economic success, since he will expect to be in power long enough to take a share of it. The stationary bandit thereby takes on the primordial function of government – protection of his citizens and property against roving bandits. Olson saw in the move from roving bandits to stationary bandits the seeds of civilization, paving the way for democracy, which improves incentives for good government by more closely aligning it with the wishes of the population.[2

    Moreover, in terms of Olson–this seems to contextualize this much better than you do. Collective groups life your alt would supposedly create experience problems–which only incentives (ie captialism) can solve: http://www.iris.umd….0a-88ce48350095
    [its not lost on me that I’m reading some words into what its saying….but not too much given it a) indicts collective action b) says you have to have presumably external structure to harness it effectively, which is what capitalism does–although it could do this better by being stakeholder based capitalism]

    AT: 3 examples. You still can’t scale those innovations in non-capitalist economies. In fact, speed is a virtue in capitalism. This means you don’t access those innovations & live saving impacts.

    Your internal link between social science and capitalism seems dubious. Social science has produced results on both sides of the aisle. Plus, thats question begging–the question of the empirical record of science versus the alternative is on fire good for science and abysmal if you look at the Dark Ages. Thats also what your alternative might look like by comparison–which internal link turns all your ethics claims. Jumping from system to system requires an inter-mediary step, which you risk as the economics of capital grinds to a standstill (assuming your movement gets off the ground with a closet capitalist at the healm–the Mercedes Marxist argument).

    It looks like we completely agree, community stakeholders damn that looks like an incremental step towards an alternative to capitalism.

    I’m not sure what I think about this attempt at a perm or almost PIK of my argument here. I can’t make heads or tails of it.

    Capitalism and capitalism are quite disruptive of ideas–which accesses some of your concelling arguments.

    Also, your concelling arguments are non-falsifiable. Its like the Dems saying we have to implement the health care bill to find out whats in the health care bill. And you don’t have a head to head comparison of the existence of large scale experiments with anti-capitalism with.

    A characterization of isolationism is characterizing people like states. The whole point of post-modern power is that sovereignty has been moving downward historically and finally foucault and others put the locus of sovereignty in discourse.

    Decentralization won’t continue infinitely–history moves in waves. See Hegel & the work of economists. Even Foucault seemed to sense this.

    I’m characterizing self-organizing groups like self-organizing groups. Plus, you can’t be self-organizing….if a backlash happens based on irrationality & identity & love of power & ego & any number of cultural connections.

    My predictions are based off an understanding that theory justifies practice.

    Well, you’re using one framework to understand how a whole system works. Your alt. doesn’t understand capitalism as a multi-dimentional system. And it doesn’t understand truth as multi-dimensional. Science and AI and economic modeling can provide guidance….best guesses about causality from academic authors who are speaking for the sub-altern–and probably haven’t left campus to do any social justice work or interview the people at the local homeless shelter or to interview the local entrepreneurs–probably doesn’t have a very good grounding of their theory. I would argue that congress & capitalist market research solves this problem.

    Also, purchasing power of the dollar creates a feedback loop–an earlier argument.

    So the only way to ever solve for the destruction of the world through capitalist economic structures is to start rejecting the discursive regime which upholds such structures.

    This is where the impact turns kick in–esp. in terms of health care.

    Also, I will win a better scaling mechanism which means that what innovation does occur reaches the masses quicker & better. ALso, more internal reforms will turbo-charge this. Example being the $4 prescription drug issue.

    I think your concession the NGO debate (where you turned it into a perm-like argument) makes your original link (whatever that was)….and our supposed inability to access your alternative a wash (ie we link roughly the same).

    Charlie Sheen may not be winning, but the historical record of modernity = WINNING! (see also Hans video & the historical record on that point).

    * Sorry, I again put answering ahead of organization.

  4. compassioninpolitics / Feb 4 2013 6:48 pm

    More specific to the upcoming Latin America debate:

    Your vote is for not influencing Latin America???? If a geneaological account of capitalism yields anything… that what came BEFORE was worse.

    Also….same goes for rule of law.

    I realize that we don’t have a perfect foreign policy. If your alternative can fiat people to be perfect….well then thats kind of abusive. Most of the America was bad in the past assumes a decade or more ago.

    Also….if you’re argument is that captialism = bad stuff…that just means its unaccountable. People without accountability often do bad stuff. That holds true for your alternative too.

  5. compassioninpolitics / Feb 24 2013 9:04 pm

    The aff never claims 100% precision with their calculations. (only that they are better than the alternatives)

    AND…..even if not stated….its almost implicitly a range. At least thats what smart & strategic policy makers and thinkers do. Their authors & their agents almost implicitly are thinking of a range.

    By the way…..your GDP numbers are empirical proof of the success of the US model of rationalistic calculation. (Its only when the radical extremes of irrational emotion & power politics combine that this becomes an issue).

    In terms of the science & positivism debate….the cards on science good are just better & comparative. Admittedly there are things which
    are out of its expertise (philosophy, ethics, purpose).

    Your argument is that science can never be objective enough. Five things:
    1) You can’t either PS.
    2) And you don’t necessarily have to access it 100% to get its benefits
    3) That extra stuff you talk (biases/heuristics/filters) about would probably be the result. Subjectivity = baggage….and baggage thats difficult to deal without fiating it away.
    4) That extra stuff you talk (biases/heuristics/filters) about is the way that science good can still access your arguments.
    5) There are very few scientists who are hyper-rationalists. Culture has indeed shifted post 2000. That means your arguments are essentialism & hyperbole–aka no specific link yo.

    The way that science can get past that to some extent is multiple points of view & peer review.

    Our predictions are based off our way of being, our way of knowing, and the way we construct both those things with our discourse.

    Thats every ideology. And ideologies that have theoretical freedom as their basis probably do better.

    I realize the two sides have different interpretations of freedom.

    And personally….I’m no Randian in this regard. I’m with Mr. Clinton on this one–that we should fix the distortions of capitalism.

    And you can’t know if the people would actually choose your form of social/political/cultural configuration unless you ask.
    Currently, people have voted with their feet for capitalism.

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