Socialism Can Work 2nd Edition
Debate Rounds (3)
Same set up as before.
Round 1: Acceptance
Round 2: Arguments
Round 3: Rebuttals and Conclusions
No trolling or mean/rude language please.
FYI, that has never happened, and it never will happen, for the reasons I will discuss in the debate.
Let us begin by looking at something absolutely basic: feeding people. The world is currently richer and more productive than it has ever been in history, yet, according to the United Nations, 963 million people live in hunger and fear of starvation, and about 25,000 people, mostly children, actually die of hunger, or causes related to hunger, every day. Is this because of a shortage of food? No.
According to the Institute for Food and Development Policy/Food First think-tank, "Enough wheat, rice and other grains are produced to provide every human being with 3,500 calories a day. That doesn't even count many other commonly eaten foods - vegetables, beans, nuts, root crops, fruits, grass-fed meats, and fish. Enough food is available to provide at least 4.3 pounds of food per person a day worldwide: two and a half pounds of grain, beans and nuts, about a pound of fruits and vegetables, and nearly another pound of meat, milk and eggs - enough to make most people fat! Even most 'hungry countries' have enough food for all their people right now. Many are net exporters of food and other agricultural products."
Perhaps the problem is transport - maybe the hungry are in remote parts of the world and the food can't reach them. On the contrary, many of them are in huge cities where planes, and sometimes tourists, fly every day - places like Calcutta, Rio de Janeiro or Dhaka. Besides, we know we have the means of getting planes with bombs to all the remote places of the earth.
Perhaps people just don't care if thousands of children starve. Except the UN is full of people who "care". There's an abundance of charities, like Oxfam and Save the Children, who care a lot and depend on donations from people who care, and the poor countries themselves are full of NGOs doing their best, yet the hunger and the malnutrition continue. Why? There is one answer you can read on any website dealing with this issue and which all the agencies and charities from the UN down would agree on: poverty. People go hungry because they are poor and can't afford to buy the food available.
But actually this is only part of the story. What would we think of parents with four children and a larder full of food who allowed one of the children to starve on the grounds that the child could not afford to pay for the food? In fact poverty only leads to people going hungry for a reason that you don't find on the charity websites, namely that in capitalist society food, like almost everything else, is a commodity, a good produced for sale on the market in order to make a profit.
Socialism would deal with this seemingly intractable problem of hunger in the easiest and most obvious way, the way any ordinary family deals with it, by not treating food as a commodity and simply distributing enough of it to people to ensure that everyone has enough for a healthy diet.
Just think about what this would mean: no more starving children, no more distended bellies and vacant, staring eyes, no need for kids to work 12 hours a day in sweatshops or for old people to die in the gutter or beggars to crawl in the dirt; so much human suffering ended. Even if it achieved nothing else, this alone would be enough to justify socialism a thousand times over. But, of course, it's too good to be true; there must be a catch somewhere!
This is where those "standard objections" pop into our heads, just as they have been programmed to do. If food was distributed free there would be no incentive. Wouldn't people all stop work? Actually, no. Very few people reading this article will ever have literally gone hungry, very few people in Britain do, but we haven't all stopped work. The truth is the opposite: if you are starving you soon lose the ability to work at all and people with a decent diet work much more productively than the malnourished.
As it happens there are two major "catches" to distributing food to the hungry: the first is that the big corporations would not be able to make their billions in profits out of it, and the second is that if it would work for food it would work for other things too - housing for example.
Shelter is one of the basic requirements of human life. Yet even in the richest cities in the richest country in the world, the US, there are homeless people sleeping on the streets, just as there are in London. In the mega-cities of the world's poorer countries, with their favellas and shanty towns, the problem is horrendous.
Socialist planning would solve this problem very simply. Take Britain as a starting point. Strictly speaking, there is no housing shortage in Britain, only a shortage of affordable housing. Dealing with the immediate problem of homelessness would just involve requisitioning the empty properties, the mansions and second and third homes of the rich. But a permanent solution is easy to envisage. Use the census to estimate the housing needs of the population (something like this happens already) and establish a public house building programme, employing thousands of bricklayers, carpenters and other building workers to build slightly more houses than are needed. Then make the provision of a modest but decent residence for every family or individual citizen a basic right, in the same way that every child has a right to a place in school, or the NHS provides free healthcare for all. In other words, stop treating houses as a commodity and distribute them on the basis of need.
The same principles could be applied to transport. Presently transport is a complete mess. Technologically, of course, it is possible to transport people around the world more efficiently than ever before in history, but under capitalism the organisation of transport is both inefficient and destructive. The main form of transport is the private car, and car ownership and use have become so widespread that the roads are clogged up and the pollution generated is a major contributor to climate change.
The socialist solution is obvious: set up a comprehensive integrated system of free public transport. This would involve a huge expansion of the railways for freight and intercity travel, since they are clearly faster, more cost efficient and more environmentally friendly than cars and lorries. Within towns it could be a combination of trams, buses, subways, monorails, minibuses and bicycles. The precise details don't matter here. The point is that, provided the public transport was sufficiently extensive and effective, the private car, with its attendant problems of parking, congestion, accidents, petrol and pollution, could virtually be eliminated in urban areas (and rural areas too if the public network was extensive enough).
So at this point we have free food, housing and transport along with, I assume, free health and education. Inevitably the question arises, "How would this all be paid for?" Given the unbelievable sums raised to bail out the banks in recent months this question loses much of its charge, but in any case there are two answers to it depending on how far we look into the matter. The first answer is simply that it would be paid for out of taxation, as the NHS, schools and, of course, the armed services and their wars are at present. Clearly if food, housing and transport were all free, people would have more money to pay tax with.
However, looking a bit further we have to remember that money does not itself create wealth, or goods or services. Only the application of labour to nature does that. Money is just a means of exchanging goods and services that have become commodities. The less goods and services are treated as commodities, and socialism would systematically reduce commodity production until it disappeared, the less role money will have. So the real question becomes, would it be possible for society to allocate sufficient labour to grow and distribute enough food to feed everyone adequately, to build enough houses for everyone and to make and operate enough trains, trams, buses, etc to move people around. And we know the answer to this is yes because we more or less do it already.
But how would all these collectively owned industries be run? Socialist planning will not be socialist and will not work practically unless it is democratic and actively involves the mass of ordinary people. As for some people getting to the top and abusing their position, this will be a problem, not because it is human nature, but because socialism has to be built by people brought up under capitalism, not by saints and angels. The answer is to develop mechanisms for controlling and removing such individuals, and since the Paris Commune of 1871, we have known what those mechanisms are: make all public officials subject to election and recall and pay them a worker's wage.
Once that happens, a better world, a far better world, will move from being a possibility to being a reality.
Because a more prosperous society is one with the wealth to buy things that make life better, such as necessities, entertainment, things that do work for you, like dishwashers, so you can have more time for entertainment, etc., the ultimate goal of society should be to allow as much of this wealth creating activity, trade, as possible. People are wealthier when they have more of what they want, like the things that makes life enjoyable to them. This is what capitalism does, and why it is the best economic system.
Socialism, on the other hand, means everyone owns everything. There is no property in a socialist economy; if someone has less then you, or something of lower quality, the government takes from you to compensate, no matter what. If you want to trade your time and labor for an amount of money worth more to you because it will allow you to trade for something that makes your life better, too bad, because that would mean you own more than other people in society; even though your extra work benefits society by creating more wealth (AKA helping in the effort to create something worth more to people than the resources it was made from, like an iPhone), it does not matter, everyone must be equal.
Because of this, no one will be motivated to work harder, because even if you do .001% of the work that another person does, you will get the same amount of pay as them. The amount of work people do will gradually decrease as people realize this fact, and everyone will want to get their pay check for less work, since there is no decrease in their pay for working less, because everyone else is working for their money. As the amount of labor is rapidly dropping, the economy will grind to a halt, and there will be far less wealth in society, and people will get paid less and less, and everyone will be less happy and society less prosperous. You may think everyone will work to benefit society, but they will not because they see all the lazy people exploiting the system and not working for the same amount of money, and they will want to get a free ride too. If no one is motivated to work for their own prosperity, they will not work.
The beauty of capitalism is that is transforms everyone's self interest into wealth and prosperity, because the only way to become wealthier is to make things people value and will make their life better. You then use that money to buy something someone worked hard (out of self interest) to make that makes your life better, and the cycle continues. If you want your life to be better, you must make someone else's better.
You are wrong.
People are too greedy - this is a common objection to socialism, and suggests that, in socialism, some people would take more than their share of goods. Images are conjured up of people walking out of supermarkets carrying stockpiles of food"after all, isn't that what everyone would do if all goods were freely available?
It may be what people would do in today's capitalist society, where what we need appears to be scarce because it is rationed by the payment of the wage. But if food were given away free in socialism, there would be no need to take more than you need. Because food will have been produced to satisfy society's needs, not for profit, it will be available on that basis. The current world food supply (let alone the potential supply) is enough to feed the global population (see How we could feed the world). Indeed, there is the potential to meet the broader range of human needs, in an environmentally sustainable way, if socialism were established. Once the insecurity of our current society is left behind, it would simply become pointless to take more than you needed.
Besides, we argue that people are not greedy enough! If people were as "greedy" as people claim, why do they give away all their wealth and power to the capitalist class in the first place?
In response to the next point, people would have no incentive to work, let's first understand why people work in a capitalist society. Here are a few main reasons:
1. They legitimately enjoy their job, almost as one would enjoy their hobby. They like the satisfaction of doing something that they love, honing their skills at it, and like to manage their own expertise in whatever way they see fit. This is called Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose.
2. They feel a societal need to work. Kids are often urged by their parents to work in order to get some structure in their lives, get some money for themselves, and make themselves useful. Not working makes one look lazy and they don't want to look bad.
3. They need to work, or they starve. This is what most people under capitalism live with. Most people (I'm speaking globally right now, we can talk specifically in the US if you want) must work a job in order to buy their food for the week, pay for water, and pay for shelter. In this scenario, you are not achieving any mastery of purpose, you are simply using your job as a means to an end, and not an end itself.
Under socialism, in essence (I'm really trying not to make this post long), the motivation to work would be a combination of 1, and maybe a little bit of 2. Never 3.
Someone who has to work in order to live is neither truly working to their full potential, nor are they truly living. It is a basic trait of the human experience that if you are insecure about your food sources, your shelter, and your basic necessities, that it is almost impossible to reach one's full productive and creative abilities.
-There is so much world hunger
Yes, because oppressive governments take almost all of the people's wealth for themselves, preventing the creation and distribution of wealth through free trade that benefits all, which is also why they are technological backwards, because businesses can not innovate, or even exist, to provide a supply for people's demand when the government steals the people's wealth.
-Food shouldn't be a commodity
Commodity definition: something of use, advantage, or value.
Regardless of what you think, anything that requires labor or resources to obtain has value, and is a commodity (AKA everything that is a physical object), and therefore must be paid for in exchange if you can not obtain it with your own labor and/or resources. If a commodity, such as food, was a right, people would be forced to provide it for others, even if they do not work, meaning people are forced to use their labor and/or resources to provide a product/service to someone for nothing in return; we call that slavery.
-Socialism gives free food like in a family
Who worked hard and paid for that "free" food provided to the children? Food doesn't come from thin air, farmers work to grow/raise it, and people work to get paid and pay farmers in exchange for their food resource. No resource is free.
-People with food in rich countries still work, they will still work if food is given for free???
Why do you think they have food in the first place? They worked to pay for it.
-There are homeless in the richest countries
They do not work. It is as simple as that; however, they may not have jobs because they have no working experience and no labor education, so their labor is not worth what minimum wage is. If there was no minimum wage, the homeless could stop mooching off welfare and get a job, get enough worker experience, and eventually get a job that pays for a house (assuming they are not lazy and get fired).
-Government should pay workers to build housing and give it for free
Who will provide for the worker's labor costs and the materials and the planning and design? These all cost money, and someone needs to pay for it. How is it fair that people must pay for their house AND someone else's for nothing in return?
-Houses should not be a commodity
Again, houses are a commodity because they require labor and resources; making shelter a right forces those who provide them into slavery.
-Society should provide free transport
Again, who pays for it? Commodities can not justly be made rights, because it forces others to work for it for nothing
-Now that these things are free, people can now pay for them with taxes???
Why can't people pay for what they want themselves? People should not have to work for someone's house for nothing in return, that is slavery. If you need other people to pay for them, THEY OBVIOUSLY ARE NOT FREE.
-Society will work to provide these things for others
Why can they not work for it themselves if they are the ones who want it? No, society will not work for other people's things; they will see that others are not working and getting a free ride, and they will want the same.
-Company leaders should be elected by workers
Most workers do not know anything about how to run a business, and no one will want to work harder in that position for the same pay.
Free trade creates wealth, so why would a prosperous society want to interfere with it? When you force someone to work for someone else's things, they will ask "why do they get to work less, but get the same as me?" Just because we live in an age of civilization does not mean that we do not have to work for food, water, and shelter, or that everything is free. If you want something, you need to use your time, labor, and resources to get it, or pay someone else to provide their time, labor, and resources for you. It is unjust to force people to work for others for nothing in return, it is a violation to their freedom, and it will create a backwards society that is full of people who are unhappy that they can not work harder to have a better life, and will have stopped working because they wanted a free ride like everyone else. And no, people will not just work because they like it, because if it requires more work and time spent on education, people want a reward for their hard work and sacrifice, even if they love doing it. They will not work harder so others can have a free ride.
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