From "Challenge: Communism vs Capitalism"

(MOD EDIT: This discussion was split from the debate challenge thread Challenge: Communism vs Capitalism)

This should be interesting given that “human happiness and wellbeing/material prosperity/moral goodness/promotion of universally-accepted humanitarian rights” are non-quantifiable concepts. Since it is impossible to make interpersonal comparisons of such subjective matters, I look forward to learning how you guys will declare one social organization as being able to produce “more” of that stuff than any other.

you will see that i believe you CAN quantify these things, and i look forward to demonstrating as much :smiley:

Only by making omniscient God-like assumptions. Good luck with that.
What will your ethical judgments on the relative importance between different people be?

Toward a Reconstruction of Utility and Welfare Economics

Neoclassical economists, led by Professor Pigou, found a simple answer. Economics can establish that a man’s marginal utility of money diminishes as his money-income increases. Therefore, they concluded, the marginal utility of a dollar is less to a rich man than to a poor man. Other things being equal, social utility is maximized by a progressive income tax which takes from the rich and gives to the poor. This was the favorite demonstration of the “old welfare economics,” grounded on Benthamite utilitarian ethics, and brought to fruition by Edgeworth and Pigou. Economists continued blithely along this path until they were brought up short by Professor Robbins. Robbins showed that this demonstration rested on interpersonal comparisons of utility, and since utility is not a cardinal magnitude, such comparisons involve ethical judgments.[46] What Robbins actually accomplished was to reintroduce Pareto’s Unanimity Rule into economics and establish it as the iron gate where welfare economics must test its credentials.[47] This Rule runs as follows: We can only say that “social welfare” (or better, “social utility”) has increased due to a change, if no individual is worse off because of the change (and at least one is better off). If one individual is worse off, the fact that interpersonal utilities cannot be added or subtracted prevents economics from saying anything about social utility. Any statement about social utility would, in the absence of unanimity, imply an ethical interpersonal comparison between the gainers and the losers from a change. If X number of individuals gain, and Y number lose, from a change, any weighing to sum up in a “social” conclusion would necessarily imply an ethical judgment on the relative importance of the two groups.[48]
Toward a Reconstruction of Utility and Welfare Economics
K: I am waiting for an English translation of the above paragraph. :-k


Maybe you should take that as a clue. You know, like, maybe you should start by learning some basic economics before you, like, debate some economics.

In summation, it makes a reductio of ThreeTimesGreat’s premise. If it is easier for you, just read the last couple of sentences in that quote.

Toward a Reconstruction of Utility and Welfare Economics
not to get carried away prematurely with the issues here, but i certainly accept the rejection of “marginal utility”-based economic theories, partricularly with regard to free systems, which tend, as a function of their growth and economic expansion, to reward higher dollar amount investments with greater returns (a simple application of the interest rate), and that this counteracts any lost utility due to marginality, as well as providing reasons against progressive taxation. but i am not quite clear on the unanimity rule as such; i agree that to imply or impose an ethical comparison of groups and/or individual would be meaningless in terms of economics-- but a flat, equal numerical evaluation of gains/losses, as expected by a particular social change, seems to avoid the issue of ethics. dont get me wrong, i am not advocating for any sort of short or long-term “gains/losses” analysis with regard to social change, utility or the rest, but it does seem that, if one were to accept the concept that central economic intervention which is expected to produce greater overall gains than losses is a correct or ethical action, even under a free market system, why not just strip personal evaluation out of it completely? assign the same 1-value to all individuals, and measure gains/losses quantitatively. in this way, no individual is given ethical standing over another, and in fact, if we take into account that the numerous unknown and unknowable personal factors of the life-situations of individuals is so diverse and unpredictable, would not the principle of random distribution itself tend to even out any losses such that they are distributed evenly across the economy? if losses can be so distributed, equalized, then it seems any ‘unanimity’ objections would be groundless, and we could proceed with a strict gains vs loss analysis, to determine if such societal economic intervention is justified or not.

Correct. That is the direction you should take.
I think you can make a case* that capitalism is superior to communism without looking at any interpersonal evaluations at all.

No, because that would not jive with human behavior. Observations of human behavior demonstrate that individuals treat their own lives as being more valuable than other people’s lives.

  • The direction you have to go is by starting with a basic moral premise. You have to clearly elucidate what you believe is morally right and what is morally wrong with respect to human interaction. From there, you can apply them to the two different political structures and compare them.
    You can not avoid morality.

One more thing, you should clearly define what you guys mean by “communism” and “capitalism” otherwise you will likely just talk past eachother.

Peter Kropotkin: I am waiting for an English translation of the above paragraph. :-k

1Sam: Maybe you should take that as a clue. You know, like, maybe you should start by learning some basic economics before you, like, debate some economics.

K: I don’t need a stinking clue because I have irony. :banana-dance:


i agree that you “cannot escape morality”, but it seems that in strict economic theory you need to begin with regard to economics itself, which is just the science of production and distributrion of goods. such a science in-itself is non-moral (as opposed to moral or amoral) in the sense that it obeys certain rules and restrictions which determine its behavior and limits; however, because the system involves human subjects, and because humans are inherently moral creatures (moral knowledge is essential to our survival, as well as being ingrained in us instinctively) the two tend to merge at some point… it is at this point that i think the introduction of stable and justifiable moral principles is beneficial, as it can serve to reinforce the already-established economic structure, as well as form a synthesis of both basic economic and basic moral ideals, coming to a resolution of both which can demonstrate internal consistency, empirical justification, intuitiveness and sound logical support. so, i guess id say that you start with economics in itself, work to a place where you interject morality, and then the two conjoin and merge as they complement and reinforce each other.

of course, you could just strictly examine economics objectively or without ethical reference at all; however, such evaluations tend to exclude as unmeaningul human interactions/relations, which in fact are a central aspect of production/consumption itself… and lets not forget that economic systems DO presuppose moral standards and rules of conduct in their operations, if not always in theory (usually in theory as well, however), and therefore we would typically be remiss if we neglect morality altogether when devising a complete examination and comparison of the efficacy of various economic systems…

we need not deal with the “importance” between people, nor the important of people… such concepts play no role in a free economic system. the only “importance” that is ascribed to people in a free market is their freedom to act as they see fit, their responsibility to produce what they consume (i.e. to NOT be a thief, willingly or unwillingly). other than this, all people are viewed as equal ethically; no preferential treatment of ANY individual or group is required, ethically or otherwise, under a free market; nor is economic preferential treatment prohibited, in the sense that individuals retain the ability to choose who they will interact with, and for what reasons-- and that the state or authority has no right to limit or impose upon the individual’s judgment in these matters.

production and consumption reign supreme as the “great equilizer”, as wealth is indifferent and neutral in and of itself-- a dollar in the hands of an “amoral person” is just as meaningful and worthwhile as a dollar in the hands of a “moral person”.

in capitalism, theoretical free market capitalism, there is NO NEED to try and impress ethics into the economy, or make value judgments on people’s worth or importance; the basic principle of self-reliance, self-responsibility takes care of that. we are responsible for ourselves, and in a free system we are guaranteed to keep the fruits of our labor… THIS is the “ethics” of a free system, that there is no NEED to try and decide who is “better” or more “valuable” than another-- these types of arbitrary and false judgment need only be made under collective systems, which dole out money and rewards not based on merit or a relation between work and reward, but on whim, necessity of the moment, and political pull/favors.

Human happiness and wellbeing/material prosperity/moral goodness/promotion of universally-accepted humanitarian rights” are quantifiable concepts on an individual basis. Therefore you can promote those goals by using the social/economic concept that best promotes the rights of the individuals–which is still, as of this point, capitalism. Socialism (which necessarily includes communism and any form of government totalitarianism) is inherently the worst at it. It’s even worse than anarchy (which is mental concept only).

exactly (although i disagree that anarchy cannot be a real state of existence).