Can a Communist be an optimist?

I have argued, as some of you may know, on behalf of free market Capitalism during the course of at least three topics here. It’s not my intention at all to rehash any of that with this topic. Anybody interested in those arguments can find them at Capitalism versus Communism, Minimum Wage, or Minimalism or Socialism?. It’s all there and I really don’t want to revisit any of it here.

But what has really begun to interest me lately is the one common denominator I have noticed in the arguments I have seen presented against free-market Capitalism. It’s never explicitly stated but it’s always there, floating just beneath the surface of the arguments, and it’s this implicit idea that individuals cannot be trusted with freedom. Consequently, strong, intrusive governments are needed to make sure that people behave in the “correct” way. This seems to me to be the real divide between Socialists/Communists and free-market Capitalists.

And so I have been thinking that, in a nutshell, the only real difference is how we regard humanity. Capitalists seem more optimistic and seem to put much more faith in their fellow man. We believe that if people are given the freedom to live their lives as they see fit, unfettered by governmental intrusion, and able to freely pursue their goals and dreams, the world will be just fine.

Socialists/Communists, on the other hand, seem to regard humanity with a suspicion that borders on contempt. Socialists/Communists seem to maintain that man, left to his own devices, without the collective “wisdom” of society to show (or force) the way, will choose to live selfishly, greedily, and without pity or sympathy for others. They seem to believe that man is unable to handle true freedom and those that believe otherwise are hopelessly naive.

Now, I don‘t mean to put words in anybody‘s mouth or set up any kind of straw man. I’m pledging to remain open-minded because I’d really like to know if I’m onto something. It may be that Socialists/Communists are right about humanity and people like me are, in fact, hopelessly naive. Or maybe I’m completely wrong about how Socialists/Communists really feel about their fellow human beings. I don’t know. I’m willing to listen.

Again, I’m not at all interested in debating the merits of the economic systems. I’m just interested in this: Does a person’s view of humanity determine, to at least some degree, that person’s preference for government?

I wasn’t aware that all Capitalists believed in Democracy.

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i think jerry is refferring to the kind of communism in the ussr, maybe its called leninism. but i think marxism has no central leadership at all except during the transitory stage of socialism, which the ussr never got out of.

i agree that communism is, at this point, a little too naive and trusting. jerrys trust of the free market is also a little too naive.

look at any example of where our lives could be better if corporations werent so damn selfish. when do they ever care about the good of humanity and not themselves? never ever unless they will get some good pr. never ever never.

why do nike shoes cost so much? why does music on mtv suck ass? why is mcdonalds as unhealthy as possible? why are countless shady advertising strategies like bait and switch completely accepted and encouraged? why are there so many poor people? why is american foreign policy a complete horror?

maybe because when the motivation to do things is money, the motivation is not to create the perfect world. the only way to fix this without relying on the complete altruism of millions of people is to setup a govt made up of a much smaller number of altruistic people, and have them actually enforce a law or two.

theres three options, either the people in charge of the companies care about whats best for the world, the people with the capability to change what those comapanies do cares about whats best for the world, or everybody does whatever they want regardless of whats best for the world. clearly, option three has been taken and its not so great. do you agree with this paragraph jerry?

sure its hard to make an altruistic govt, but its pretty impossible to expect that corporations will just become altruistic somehow without any coercion.

It is hardly surprising you seem more optimistic. You think that Capitalists make unlimited pies and that society is an ‘Eat All You Can Diner’, and the only reason some people go hungry is because they choose not to eat. The rest of us know that, although there is more than enough pie to go round, it is served in an exclusive restaurant and those at the top table have so much pie that they, their children and a hundred generations down the line couldn’t possibly eat it all. Those that can’t get in have to hang around the bins, waiting for the scraps…and they’re the lucky ones. So, jerry, take of those rose-tinted glasses, take another look (a proper look, mind) and tell me there is much to be optimistic about.

I would think so. I think it would be the biggest reason for preference.

Abgrund will tell you from previous conversations with me that I’m not always the quickest on the uptake, but I think I see what you’re getting at here. Yes I suppose there’s some pessimism on the part of Capitalists too. We’re wary of groups. But if we trust in people so much, then why doesn’t it follow that we trust them to come together and form acceptable governments? I think that’s a fair question. Probably it stems from the difficulty we have in even contemplating “groups” in the first place. I don’t recognize “society”, for example, as some single entity moving in a single direction. Instead I see a group of individuals, each with their own ideas.

But regardless, I don’t favor Capitalism because of my suspicion of groups. I favor Capitalism because of my belief in the individual. My preference for government has its source, therefore, in optimism, not pessimism. Contrast that with your typical Socialist/Communist and I think you’ll see the difference. A Socialist/Communist favors intrusive government precisely because of his apprehension regarding the free individual and not on an overriding optimism about groups. How, after all, does one even begin thinking in terms of groups unless one has first considered individuals? And in the Socialist/Communist mind-set, that consideration, born in pessimism, leads naturally to the idea of contemplating leadership by group.

Abgrund, you’re right about ideal Marxists and I should probably redefine. I am really more referring to people who desire a system with a strong centralized government. But in thinking about it, “Can a Socialist be an optimist” doesn’t seem to have the same ring to it. So I’ll claim poetic license. Seems a small price to pay for a more catchy title.

And there it is. The implied pessimism. The underlying cynicism floating just below the surface of Socialist arguments. This is very instructive. One has a choice, it seems to me. One can believe that people acting in their own interests is a good thing, or one can believe that people acting in their own interests is a bad thing. If one chooses the former (as an optimist might), one believes that people acting in their own interests means that people will recognize that things like cooperation, charity, helping out one’s fellow man, even common courtesy, are things that are in their self-interest. If one believes the latter, then one (at least it seems to me) is resigned to the idea that people acting in their own self-interest always means greed, selfishness, gluttony, and plotting endlessly how to screw one’s neighbor.

Again, I’m not saying one way or the other which is the more accurate worldview. It might even be in the middle somewhere. But back to the question at hand: Would you not agree with me, abgrund, that a person’s view of humanity will determine his preference for government?

Now, Future Man‘s arguments, we can see, don’t really get bogged down with the subtle or the implicit. It’s not below the surface here. No sir.

Meanwhile, I’m seeing a lot of anecdotal stuff here, as with most of FM’s rants, and I’m wondering if the lack of quantitative evidence for “people are selfish, greedy, unfeeling bastards” is proof of some sort of a pessimistic bias.

This says even worse things about the consumers than about the producers and so it seems to me as if your pessimism, FM, is not limited to corporations, but to people in general. Can I get you to admit to your cynicism about humanity? I think it’s an important point

Hi, Delboy! Good to hear from you again. And thanks for helping to illustrate my major point.

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Was your point that Capitalism is elitist, exploitive, and anti-individual?

If you want to be pro-individual, the only path I can suggest is Anarchism.

absolutely, consumers will lay down their hard earned money to literally buy shiny objects, or the same music theyve heard a million times, or a credit card that has a picture of nascar on it, or a car that comes with a computer, or whatever stupid pointless crap the tv shoves down their throats.

we can call them idiots and say the corporations are just doing what they can to make money. or we can condemn the corporations for taking advantage of idiots. do we condone the taking advantage of idiots? is that a fundamental part of capitalism? or just this corrupted monster that is in desperate need of repair? would capitalism ever work without taking advantage of stupid customers?

i dont get it. what kind of evidence are you looking for that will prove my “bias” is true? do you have a whole ton of stories about how altruistic the corporations are? because im pretty sure if we went through and listed all of the times that corporations had an opportunity to be altruistic and there was no public relations opportunity, i think i can bet everything that ive ever owned that 100% of the time, the corporations acted selfishly due to the nature of the situation.

nobody wants to tell their boss that they didnt make as much money as they could because some stupid humans were in the way. seriously, i want to know exactly why you think corporations have shown us the potential for their altruism. i dont want to know why you think they are currently altruistic because thats just silly. why do you think that, in the future, they will be able to be nice to humanity? the govt will shape up and enforce a law or two? i can believe that.

what i very much cannot believe is that corporations are currently acting anywhere near anything that resembles altruism. how do we get a govt thats altruistic? a different election mechanism set up and monitored by people who give a damn. not hard. i want to know how you think we can possibly change the corporations to put self-regulating people in there. because we obviously have to dramatically change one or the other, right?

No problem, jerry, after all that’s what us ‘commies’ like to do, help others (especially those less able to help themselves :wink: ). Having said that, my post was more a comment on the current condition of humanity, which I can’t see much to be optimistic about (sorry for going off-topic).

I think I would have to agree with abgrund that communists have a very positive view of ‘man’s’ potential. The reason they may appear negative is that capitalism causes us to feel alienated and therefore our current condition is false. However, once capitalism has self-destructed (and it will) we will all be released form these shackles and the world will be absolutely wonderful! :smiley:

The thing I find fascinating about both communism and capitalism is how their adherents seem to swap sides as they get closer to their goal of global domination.

For instance, as a communist leader gets further up the hierarchical ladder, he acquires more and more wealth, power and prestige. Soon he’s being driven around in limos, living in luxury apartments (with staff), going on regular overseas trips, enjoying the best food and entertainment. Not bad for a person who believes: “From each according to ability; to each according to need” Obviously, the communist/socialist hierarchy are very, very needy?

On the other hand, a successful capitalist tends to increasingly stifle free and fair competition at every chance he can get (or get away with). He does this, not by healthy, open, one-on-one competition but by buying up the competition or locking them out of markets via patents, partnerships or strategies designed to kill off any threats.

The capitalist then uses his conglomerate’s huge leverage to set monopolistic market prices and/or to demand government subsidize his private business via tax breaks, cheap loans or minimum wage guarantees etc) in return for setting up business.

It seems it doesn’t matter what you believe, we all end up behaving exactly the same way when we get the chance – power hungry ass holes.

Because I look forward to becoming a power hungry ass hole, I wonder if that makes me a negative commie or a positive crapatialist?

My point was that there have been and continue to be Authoritarian governments that employ a capitalist economic model. Capitalism does not necessarily equate with democratic ideals and governance. Strong governments can allow for private ownership and open markets and still retain control vis a vis direct military and police enforcement (or the threat thereof). It is a mistake to believe that the two always go hand in hand, just as it is also a mistake to assume that a Communist economic system will always require an Authoritarian government.

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there is no hierarchical ladder in communism.

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To be more correct, I should have used the term socialism rather than communism but the topic was on “communism and capitalism” so I stuck with those terms for simplicity’s sake.

As there are no true communists I don’t think we need to keep explaining this. It’s like me demanding you use the term Protestant or Catholic rather than “Christian” in every post because what Christ taught is definitely not what Protestantism or Catholicism is.

if i accused christians of torturing and murdering heretics like their all encompassing representatives, the spanish inquisition did, then that would be pretty wrong. because jesus said no to that.

communism is concerned with gettind rid of that whole evil hierarchy deal and giving ownership of a factory to all of the workers (well what i call communism is, might just be anarchism). capitalism is the opposite, capitalism is the one system out of the two that is specifically aimed at delivering the most wealth to the smallest number of people.

dividing the rich and poor is a fundamental part of unregulated capitalism, the owners of the factories are in charge of who gets the profits and therefore they get more money and therefore can buy more factories which will get them more money. exponential increase in wealth for the owners, and all motivation aimed at lowering the workers wages as much as possible.

is that not a fundamental part of capitalism that requires outside regulation to ameliorate? it has absolutely nothing to do with communism, even less than the inquisition had to do with christianity.

the fact that there currently arent any true communist countries is about as relevant as the fact that there is no true free market capitalism. we can use our imaginations. the fact that stalin was greedy is about as relevant as the fact that bush is greedy.

“Imposed” freedom. Interesting concept. But anyway, that’s not the point in question, at least not my point in question. Not here.

Well let’s consider the benefits. Maybe it’s not so silly. Look, I give to charity. I have done so anonymously. I open doors for people. For no reason except common courtesy. Last week I stopped and let a guy use my jumper cables. Why? Maybe it makes me feel good to help others. Maybe somehow I think it’s important. Maybe I just want to be nice for no other reason than niceness suits me. As an optimist, I don’t consider myself an exception, either. I see acts of kindness every day from people from all walks of life. Seeking nothing in return. How do you want to explain that?