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Democracy breeds equitable growth; Capitalism breeds selfishness: comment

12/05/2007 1:26 AM

As a student in a remote part of India in 1960/ 62, I had a personal admiration for two of the then BIG world leaders. One was our own Jawahar Lal Nehru; and the other was the charismatic John F Kennedy (JFK) of the US. We did not have TV's at that time, and the radio was the all important home communication device. Once I had heard a great and spirited speech on Democracy, being delivered by JFK. It ran something like this ...

"The heart of the democratic faith is in the dependency of government, upon the consent of the governed. The grand right to every man and woman to have an equal voice to select ones own government and, thus, to shape ones own laws, is a RIGHT, unique to free democratic societies"

And, as a youngster (aged about 13 yrs in 1962) I had been influenced by the local politics (I lived in Kerala State, where we had a Communist government), and had a greater feeling for Communism than Democracy! But this great speech created and kindled tremendous interest in democracy. From that time till today my ideas and actions have all been dictated by the diktats of Democracy

Over the years, writings of personalities/ economists/ historians ... had great influence; two of them being: The Affluent Societies by Kenneth Galbraith, and ECONOMICS by Nobel Laureate, Paul A Samuelson.

Looking back today, I wish to observe and infer the following:

(1) Democracy tends to breed a sense of equity and self respect in every citizen; yet the very same democracy, by virtue of the same token, allows Capitalism to ultimately dictate the world ... something like the Communist dictatorship of the "proletariat"

(2) These and the other various wordly experiences, within this 59 years of my life, have made me wonder if Capitalism (which thrives in democracy) would ultimately lead us to (what we call in Thermodynamics, through the principle of ENTROPY) the "heat death of the universe"!!!

Hope to hear about the feelings and experienced views of the members of this forum

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#1

Re: Democracy breeds equitable growth; Capitalism breeds selfishness: comment

12/05/2007 3:38 AM

Democracy seems to get linked to capitalism and consumersm.

There is also the misunderstanding that 'democracy' is one system...there are many voting systems and systems of 'democratic' government.

Proportional representation tends to produce coallition.

By definition the 'majority' will be of average intelligence!

Then we have stupid target driven systems in the UK that want over half the people to go to university...e.g. Over half are above average intelligence????

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#2

Re: Democracy breeds equitable growth; Capitalism breeds selfishness: comment

12/05/2007 5:31 AM

I remember reading somewhere that there are two ways of voting, You can vote for what you need or you can vote for what you think is right. If you vote for what you think is right you end up with a government that rules as to what it thinks is right, a capitalist and communist in my mind are the same animal with different methods as to how to do what they think is right. If you vote for what you want, selfishness, then is the party being honest by saying they will give it to you? So democracy to me is every one being honest as to there needs and a party honest enough to be trueful on what is possible? I remember Calcutta and Madras well back in the 1960, when I was a young engineer.

Regards JD.

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#3

Re: Democracy breeds equitable growth; Capitalism breeds selfishness: comment

12/05/2007 6:24 AM

Hi Pvhramani - There are many flavours (implementations) of democracy with difference so big that it actually absurd to state that democracy is anything.

If You scan through so called democratic Governments you will find some of them far removed from the ideal.

The same apply to the concepts of capitalism and socialism. You actually wont find a true implementation of either because realities always seem to require a change.

Debating over these dead principles therefore do not make any sense.

In SA we have an almost good Constitution giving me Rights, privileges and duties and I submit to it and spend a lot of effort to apply it to the letter, but it do not imply that I agree with anything or everything the Government does.

If there is going to be a debate we would firstly require mutually acceptable definitions.

Democracy - Government for the people by the people (but what about minorities - I think you have them in India as well)

Socialism - Government hold and control all assets.

Capitalism - Assets in private and Governments hands - controlled by the holder but regulated by government

Writing the above I know that it will be challenged - But that is the intention, isn't it?

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#4
In reply to #3

Re: Democracy breeds equitable growth; Capitalism breeds selfishness: comment

12/05/2007 6:53 AM

I don't agree with your definition of socialism!

I'd say it was more like government with a social conscience. Government for the people.

Whereas Capitalism is government for those with the money.

But like you say...it's impossible to debate something like this when we can't even define it.

There are people who think socialism, communism and atheism are all the same thing!!!

(PS I see you got back from the moon ok )

Del

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#5
In reply to #4

Re: Democracy breeds equitable growth; Capitalism breeds selfishness: comment

12/05/2007 9:20 AM

Think about it like an engineer. First, if a nation is to make progress economically, there must be capital, savings, to invest in increasing productivity. It can be as simple as saving to buy a better hoe, or a plow, or as complicated as building a huge nuclear power plant.

Second, there has to be a control mechanism to choose the investment, to allocate the investment capital. The control can be centralized in a government bureaucracy or it can be decentralized, allowing individuals to decide how to invest their savings.

If you have no control over the fruits of your labor, you are a slave, but that's a moral judgment, not an "engineering decision." The problem is that centralized control (socialist, communist, fascist, whatever you call it) does not work well, for several reasons. The central decision maker does not have sufficient data to make an informed decision as to what you want. He taxes you and spends the money on what he wants, not what you want. It's a "one size fits all" solution. Further, the bureaucrat, spending your money, is not as carefull as you would be. (I have spent most my life working for governments, and I observe that when the government does it, it costs twice as much) A government troll may justify a decision as being "good for the people", but he decides on the basis of what is good for him, getting more power, spending more money, reducing his workload, etc. Innovation is not a trait of bureaucrats. (If the computer industry were a government monopoly, socialist, we would still be programming in binary and using vacuum tubes)

So, it is well established that when consumers and investers "vote" with their own money, things run more efficently, more responsively. Commonly we call that capitalism.

"Democracy" cannot work well if the individual does not have property rights. Slaves have no practical political rights. For example, "freedom of the press" is irrelevant if you cannot have a press. Capitalism is the foundation of democracy. Granted, there is a tendency of the wealthy to form undemocratic oligarchies (often calling it socialism). Likewise, a "dictatorship of the proletariate" is a dictatorship by individuals, oppressing the proletariate. If the people have no property rights, if they are slaves of the government, democracy is impossible. Whenever a "democratic" government imposes its will by force (police), it is not really democratic. ("Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for dinner")

One can make a moral judgment about "greedy capitalists." To quote an old movie, "Greed is good." It motivates people. If you work harder to get more food, you are being greedy. If the government takes your "surplus" food to give it to others, you will work less hard. The USSR demonstrated that collectivized agriculture is not productive. "Capitalists" are doing the necessary work of investing in productive enterprises, inventing new products, making the distribution more efficient, etc, motivated by greed. Granted, some "greedy capitalists" game the system, so as to make money without being productive. The recent "credit crisis" caused by "sub-prime mortgage bundling" and "derivative securities" is an example of gaming the system to get money without adding value, rent seeking. Perhaps the worst of those economic leeches are tax collectors and those who devalue the currency. They produce nothing while draining energy from the system.

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#6
In reply to #4

Re: Democracy breeds equitable growth; Capitalism breeds selfishness: comment

12/05/2007 2:53 PM

Maybe I am confused as well.

SA is most probably a socialist government. The communist party is a partner in government but in the minority.

Apart from Muslim controlling a lot of money self declared socialist is getting in capitalism big time. What is also strange is that known socialists are charging their fellow "disadvantaged" citizens 30% interest per month.

"social conscience. Government for the people" is also claimed as part of democracy.

The economy in SA is surprisingly healthy, maybe replacing stolen goods is boosting it.

Thinking about it the system in SA is criminalism.

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#15
In reply to #4

Re: Democracy breeds equitable growth; Capitalism breeds selfishness: comment

12/07/2007 3:36 AM

What's in a name?

"You can't judge a book by its cover" & "You can't judge the depth of the well by the length of the handle on the pump" are two sayings that are about 90% true.

Political systems and parties can definitely not be evaluated by the name alone and the policies, manifestos, track records etc of parties or government should be studied before a opinion can be aired.

I will firstly go for the RULE OF GOOD LAW. All subjects must have a clear indication of their Rights and duties.

Personally then I would vote (Democratic environment) for the party or person which policy matches most of my requirements or the person or party that can represent me the best. This policy of mine therefore do not exclude any xxxISM (not perceived as a monster).

Unfortunately most of the voters are too lazy to think. This laziness then results in bad governance because the wrong persons are put into power. A qualified voting system may serve a country better. (pipe dream).

Another stone in a bush - Democracy is not the only good model. In SA we also have a Council of Traditional Leaders. – These leaders are not elected but sort of inherit or grab their posts, They can almost be seen as dictators. The system must actually be seen as African Democracy The king or leader are mostly loved by the followers and all actually has an democratic voice. Each individual is known in decisions. I read something a long time ago that some of the slaves were actually part of the decision to be sold to slave traders.

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#7

Re: Democracy breeds equitable growth; Capitalism breeds selfishness: comment

12/05/2007 4:43 PM

Democracy is rule by the people. Which can take many forms. In Western Democracy's the people have decided that they as a private citizen can own property.

With the ownership of property you have capitalism. In a ideal democratic government all people are equal. If there is capitalism then the people with the most money use it to influence people. This influence can be for good or bad as human nature sees fit.

Yeah Capitalism can dictate the Democratic world as long as the capitalist rulers keep the majority of the citizens happy. The citizens if happy have no reason to rock the boat with their vote.

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#8
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Re: Democracy breeds equitable growth; Capitalism breeds selfishness: comment

12/05/2007 5:12 PM

<<In a ideal democratic government all people are equal. >>

I guess "ideal" is the operative word. One wonders if there has ever been a human society where all were equal. If, hypothetically, all were equal, then there would be no specialists, no leaders, no shamans, no distinction between parent and child.

Oh, you can qualify it by saying "equal before the law" or "one man, one vote." However, "the law" has to insure certain rights which others cannot infringe upon. Traditionally, inalienable rights included life, liberty, and property, or, if not property, "the pursuit of happiness." (Can one be happy if another "equal" steals one's property?) If one simply says that the majority is right, one gets the two wolves out-voting one lamb scenario, or mob rule. Dressing that up by calling it socialism, or compassion, or the most good for the most people, still does not make theft anything but theft. (Imagine you end up in an alley with three thugs who say, "We're democratic. We have voted a tax on all people who have more money than we do. Hand over your wallet.) Does that breed "equitable" growth?

What is equitable growth? Definition, anyone?

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#9
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Re: Democracy breeds equitable growth; Capitalism breeds selfishness: comment

12/05/2007 11:38 PM

Hi esbuck

Prima facie' the writer wishes to mention that this discussion was initiated so that the members of CR4 forums could express freely their own experiences, observations, inferences, and conclusions ... based on their interactions over a period in life. And, it is gratifying to note that the intention is getting "prototyped" through the various expressions here.

Though at this moment, the writer does not wish to comment on the various other discussion matter, as presented by many members, it is appropriate that, having initiated the discussion, this Question:

"What is equitable growth? Definition, anyone?"

... needs to be clarified.

Although it may not be possible to "clearly" define equitable distribution in so many words, we shall look at the phrase from certain accepted and understood "thoughts and actions" involved in a few other human endeavors:

  • The PATENTS Law and Patenting
  • A game of Rugby or Tennis

While in the former case the law of patents looks at "equity" on the basis of the yardstick that a new thing could be considered as an invention of a particular individual, if given an equivalent opportunity all others would not arrive at the said invention. So also, in the games of Tennis or Rugby (or any other), we work on certain accepted norms/ rules/ parameters, and the results are also accepted ...some one finally WINS! No one questions (off-course, there could be disputes, which also are worked out again on such "equity" principle).

"Equitable growth" in a democracy works on the same principle. And it is this "equitable growth" principle that allows personalities like Bill Gates to gain huge wealth. And, going a step further, it is in a democracy that the so-called Darwin principle of "survival of the fittest" also works. But, here the "buck seems to stop", and it now looks as though the very foundation of democracy - the principle of "equitable growth" - seems to breed a new form of deadly capitalism, leading to a "uni-polar" world!

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#12
In reply to #8

Re: Democracy breeds equitable growth; Capitalism breeds selfishness: comment

12/06/2007 7:34 AM

"If, hypothetically, all were equal, then there would be no specialists, no leaders, no shamans, no distinction between parent and child."

You have a new definition of democracy I see.

In the rule of the people all are equal.

The majority can be right or wrong, the wolves can out vote the lambs if there are more of them, and a mob is usually never the majority of the people.

I would stay out of alleys if I was you. Thats where the tugs tend to congregate whether they are tax collectors or not.

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#10

Re: Democracy breeds equitable growth; Capitalism breeds selfishness: comment

12/06/2007 12:40 AM

I think the best possible proof of the true nature of Marxism lies in the fact that during the Soviet era, ordinary Russians queued up for hours for a few slices of moldy bread and poor quality meat before going home to spartan apartments, while members of the Communist Party elite lived in luxurious dachas and ate fine food and drank fine wine. So much for governing for the people with a conscience.

Actually, Communists do govern for the benefit of the people with a conscience. They govern for the benefit of their own people, leaving their own consciences clear over the fact their own friends and relatives are well-taken care of, instead of living in squalor like ordinary people.

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#11
In reply to #10

Re: Democracy breeds equitable growth; Capitalism breeds selfishness: comment

12/06/2007 4:01 AM

Yup..

That's the problem with all systems in a nutshell.

Communism is fine in theory and works in a small commune!

All systems fail when those in power merely look after their own interests and those of their cousins/brothers etc. Capitalism and dictatorships are slightly more up front about it!

Was it Orwell said all power corrupts.....?

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#13

Re: Democracy breeds equitable growth; Capitalism breeds selfishness: comment

12/06/2007 10:40 AM

This is an interesting discussion. Coming from a math background I have been thinking of these as dynamic systems. The goal of the system is to maximize the general happiness and satisfaction of all the people. In economic terms Adam Smith talked about how selfish goals of individuals (pure capitalism) leads to the most optimial economic solution. John Nash later revised this to say that focusing on selfish needs and the needs of the group leads to the best overall solution. I feel that the combination of Democracy and Capitalism generates this situation quite nicely.

The capitalist aspect of the system allows for the interaction of numerous selfish entities. The wide variety of ideas and concepts generated by this system compete with each other and form a rapidly adapting and continuously improving economic situation. Basic goods and services are delivered at lower and lower costs and the general population has more surplus income to direct at making themselves happy as opposed to providing for their basic needs.

The major problem with capitalism is that unchecked it is self destructive. As specific individual entities are more succesful they become more powerful and concentrate the economic power into too small an entity. Individual companies start controlling entire industries and competition dies. Why compete if you have no chance of winning.

The government's job is to represent the group side of the Nash equilibrium. They need to make sure there is an envirionment of equality. Not that everyone is or should be equal, in fact the system doesn't work unless there is a wide variety of economic situations. It needs to make sure that there is an envirionment of equal opportunity. If a person puts in effort or creates innovation they should have the same probability of incrementally improving their personal situation (selfish wants/needs) as anyone else. In this situation not everyone is happy (the lazy always complain), but everyone has the ability to improve their own happiness through efforts that improve the whole system.

Regretably, the government side is as prone to the consolidation of power as the capitalist side is. Therefore we have a system of government that forces conflict inside itself and is not supposed to allow for power to become too highly concentrated. Despite what people in America think (note, I am American), the Republicans aren't right and neither are the Democrats, but the fight between them generates results that in general work. It is somewhat inefficient, but over the long run creates a system that seems to work well.

To finish up my rant. Some people in America don't have enough and some people have too much. Living in America means that you need to work hard and be innovative because you are surrounded by people who are very good at doing just that. I don't believe that our combination of Democracy and Capitalism are perfect, but in a competative world we are doing pretty well. Remember, if you don't like something about America, wait a few years, it will change.

Thanks for listening

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#14

Re: Democracy breeds equitable growth; Capitalism breeds selfishness: comment

12/06/2007 8:53 PM

I think we can sum up this debate in this way: capitalism and democracy are flawed, but together, they do work fairly well most of the time. At least, if you don't like the way things work, fine, kick the incumbents out, just like what happened to former Australian Prime Minister John Howard. Marxism, on the other hand, sounds fine on paper: power to the people. In reality, the only people power goes to are those in the Communist Party, and these guys will never relinquish power once they obtain it.

Remember how Salvador Allende refused to step down after he was voted out of office, prompting General Augusto Pinochet's bloody coup and brutal crackdown on (mostly foreign or foreign-educated) Communists? The truth of the matter can be summed up in 2 ways, one from Spider-Man (don't laugh, these are true words of wisdom), and one that's all too well known to everyone here.

"With great power comes great responsibility" (Ben Parker, Spider-Man), true words of wisdom,but unfortunately, words that politicians rarely, if ever heed.

"Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely", words that unfortunately describe far too many politicians and their actions.

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#16
In reply to #14

Re: Democracy breeds equitable growth; Capitalism breeds selfishness: comment

12/15/2007 7:29 PM

Probably seen before but I ran across this some time ago.

HOW LONG DOES THE USA HAVE BEFORE IT COLLAPSES?

This is the most interesting thing I've read in a long time. The sad thing about it, you can really see it coming!!

I have always heard about this "democracy countdown", and it is interesting to see it in print. God help us ....not that we deserve His help.

How Long Do We Have?

About the time our original thirteen states adopted their new constitution in 1787, Alexander Tyler, a Scottish history professor at the University of Edinburgh, had this to say about the fall of the Athenian Republic some 2,000 years earlier:

'A democracy is always temporary in nature; it simply cannot exist as a permanent form of government.'

'A democracy will continue to exist up until the time that voters discover they can vote themselves generous gifts from the public treasury.'

'From t hat moment on, the majority always vote for the candidates who promise the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that every democracy will finally collapse due to loose fiscal policy, which is always followed by a dictatorship.'

'The average age of the world's greatest civilizations from the beginning of history, has been about 200 years'

'During those 200 years, those

nations always progressed through the following sequence:

1. From bondage to spiritual faith;

2. From spiritual faith to great courage;

3. From courage to liberty;

4. From liberty to abundance;

5. From abundance to complacency;

6. From complacency to apathy;

7. From apathy to dependence;

8. From dependence back into bondage'


Professor Joseph Olson of Hemline University School of Law, St. Paul, Minnesota, points out some interesting facts concerning the 2000 Presidential election:

Number of States won by:
Gore: 19
Bush: 29

Square miles of land won by:
Gore: 580,000
Bush: 2,427,000

Population of counties won by:
Gore: 127 million
Bush: 143 million

Murder rate per 100,000 residents in counties won by:
Gore: 13.2
Bush: 2.1

Professor Olson adds: 'In aggregate, the map of the territory Bush won was mostly the land owned by the taxpaying citizens of this great country.
Gore's territory mostly encompassed those citizens living in government-owned tenements and living off various forms of government welfare...' Olson believes the United States is now somewhere between the 'complacency and apathy' phase of Professor Tyler's definition of democracy, with some forty percent of the nation's population already having reached the 'governmental dependency' phase.

Now, if Congress grants amnesty and citizenship to twenty million criminal invaders nicely called "illegal" ...and they begin to vote, then we can say goodbye to the USA in fewer than five years.
If you are in favor of this looming threat, then delete this message. But if you are not, then pass this along to help everyone realize just how much is at stake, knowing that apathy is the greatest danger to our freedom.

Thanks for reading it ....and considering the costs.


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#17

Re: Democracy breeds equitable growth; Capitalism breeds selfishness: comment

12/21/2007 12:13 PM

To the point that "Capitalism breeds selfishness", I can agree, but about that of "Democracy breeds equitable growth", that's a little bit quaint. Given the human nature, human beings tend to be competitive, if not with other people with themselves. Other are those who always tend to live always complaining that all the problems they confront are because others. Can't say it's not true, but I like to think that it's a matter of confronting the problem rather than pointing at it.

Now, that's universally known. What's the point of mentioning it? I think that capitalism exist because we like to grow even bigger no matter what in whatever we choose. And, not trying to be materialistic, regrettably you need money for that. Some people grow above others, some thanks to others, some at cost of others... you got the idea. And democracy it's the best case scenary for capitalist growth.

Ah, and to that, democracy breeds gowth, but far less than equitable. There's no human being equal to another in desires, hopes, etics, thoughts, etc. (Nothing to do with the contition of "human being", in which we are all equals... not the same but equals, if you like the correction) That doesn't mean some people are above or under others, but means that we don't pursue the same goals, or live in the same way. (I hope so, or give the mail of the ant queen). Some people will develop themselves better than other, just because they intend to. And the mayority ruling in democracy is not an exception.

If you think that I am saying this because I like the idea of my government, can't be more wrong. I come fighting against my "democratic" government since it came into power. If you don't believe me see some news and pictures of Bolivia and maybe you will find me. Also, maybe you better understand my point of view.

Thanks.

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#18
In reply to #17

Re: Democracy breeds equitable growth; Capitalism breeds selfishness: comment

12/21/2007 4:56 PM

Any society which progresses, which improves the quality of life, needs capital (savings, goods not consumed but invested) to invest in increased productivity. To that extent, any modern society is capitalist. The question is who gets to decide how to accumulate the capital and how it will be invested. In the "statist" (socialist) model, some "expert" gets to take (tax) the wealth from you and spend it as he sees fit. We have the example of Stalin taking the food and land from Ukrainian peasants and spending it on tank factories and unproductive collective farms. We have the thugs in the American congress taxing the middle class to spend $118 Billion on pork barrel projects or half a trillion on killing Iraqis, neither of which benefits the middle class workers who were taxed. The taxes are collected by force or threat of force, and the taxed have no say in how they are spent. (If you question "have no say", which probable candidate gives you the choice of whether your money is spent polluting Iraq with uranium bullets)

A centruy and a half ago, in my state, Missouri, there were slaves. The slaves consumed about half of what they produced, and the rest was taken by their masters, by force, if necessary. Now, all the people, on average, consume about half of what they produce, and the rest is taken by their (elected) masters, by force, if necessary. There hasn't been much progress, from my point of view.

In contrast, the "Libertarian" scheme allows the producer to spend his money as he wishes. He can save it and invest his own capital, or he can spend it, buying things from some capitalist who will invest his profits from the sale. Ether way, no force is required. The money changes hands voluntarily. I think that is a more desireable scheme.

So, what does democracy have to do with it? Isn't democracy "rule by the people"? Isn't disposing of your wealth as you desire, you being a person, more democratic than having your wealth taken and spent by a majority of 435 thugs in Washington DC or, more realistically, by a dimwitted would-be-Stalin who lives in a big White House?

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