Frank Robinson recently posted this interesting piece on Medium Alternatives to capitalism? … it stirred some very interesting responses (along with the usual responses to any position some people don’t agree with, dismissing the author as an uninformed rube).
Another Medium writer (Marea Sablin) posted this well researched but poorly supported piece There is, actually, an alternative to capitalism . I say poorly supported because in spite of lengthy citations espousing the value of labor units as measures of economic value, she fails to describe or present communism, her alternative to capitalism, as a successful alternative model. Indeed, she spends very little time supporting that supposition, other than presenting the questionable notion that Cuba has an outstanding health care model.
Sablin start by describing “the flawed assumption that money was invented” — this is semantics, money is a human creation, call it what you want.
Nitpicking here — “His erroneous assumption that money was “invented” and just exists, independent of the processes of society and trade is senseless twaddle, rendering the rest of this statement chaff”; “Immediately after blubbering this twaddle”. Oh my, how erudite.
She quotes from Introduction to Progress and Poverty — “I mean that the tendency of what we call material progress is in nowise to improve the condition of the lowest class in the essentials of healthy, happy human life.”. This is simply one person’s opinion, the author here in 1879 concedes that those in the lowest economic class enjoy a much-improved condition but then, without justification, says it has nothing to do with improved productivity.
She states “When we consider the evidence, we can say with absolute certainty that capitalism has not at all raised the world up but only partially”. Which is it? Not at all or partially? Even with the cherry-picked statistics she cites, you cannot make that statement “with absolute certainty”.
More quotes — “If a man can bring to London an ounce of silver out of the Earth of Peru, in the same time that he can produce a bushel of corn, then the one is the natural price of the other” (William Petty). “The economy we seek to create is not a sharing economy but one that abolishes money as a commodity and using labor as a common value between goods — two tremendously different things.” (Sablin). “The underlying theory behind this work is the abolition of money and its replacement with ‘labor tokens’, with one token representing one hour’s worth of socially necessary work” (Cockshott).
So it’s pretty clear where she stands, no point arguing her well researched position, other than to say it is based on postulation rather than practice. I am not aware of any successful modern system of measuring value and trading based on one hour’s work of socially necessary work”. Enlighten me if I am wrong. I hate to imagine who we would put in charge of determining “socially necessary work”. What about intellectual property?
“There is, in fact, an alternative to capitalism — history has shown that fully by the dynamic economies and societies of the Soviet Union, Cuba, and China.” Ok, one at a time here.
· The Soviet Union collapsed under the weight of its inefficient and ineffective economy along the suppression of human rights that inevitably accompanies communism.
· Cuba survives today only due to due the autocratic control of people named Castro; its economy is in shambles, and again, you have massive suppression of individual freedoms and rights.
· China only emerged as a global power only when it embraced major tenets of a capitalist economy; but Xi and the CCP, being the communists that they are, cannot resist tampering and exercising command control over the economy. Thomas Friedman says this has been good, maybe even ideal but he ignores a) the giant construction bust (that pales anything we’ve ever since in the US) the CCP is covering up and b) the disastrous response to COVID. And then again, as required in a command and control economy, you have massive subjugation of human rights and outright genocide. The jury is still out whether Communism and Capitalism can coexist in China.
But a discussion about the merits of communism vs capitalism need not depend on statistics. The very nature of communism, as practiced or postulated, rests on violating numerous individual liberties — including free market and free speech principles. Not a difficult choice for most people in recent history based on election results (free ones that is) and migration patterns.