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Capitalism: A love Story


Øther
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This is mostly for Americans, since this country is what the movie is based on.

 

 

This is another Michael Moore film, and I have just come back from theaters from seeing it. To those who have watched it, what do think? To those who haven't, you should. It was pretty funny, but also sorta disturbing with all it reveals. It shows how capitalism has changed America and pretty much left it in disaster. I was also pretty surprised to see a few things about workers on strike and Obama agreeing with them that I haven't even heard about. It also talked about how capitalism really started taking over our country when Ronald Reagan was elected, and even that if President Roosevelt had lived through WWII, then America would be very different than the one I live in today, and there would be a second bill of rights. It was a very interesting movie.

 

 

EDIT: Didn't know why I forgot, but here is a link to a trailer.

http://www.apple.com/trailers/independent/capitalismalovestory/

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I was a bit curious about this movie, but our theater doesn't show movies any newer than ~ten days. I like watching Michael Moore films because of the humor, though I usually don't agree with what he has to say. Then again, I agreed with most of what he said in Fahrenheit 9/11.

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Off-topic inasmuch as I haven't seen this film and probably won't, but today I suddenly thought of a neat slogan that captures my personal economic ideal: "Bread Socialism, iPod Capitalism". In other words, try to guarantee subsistence to everyone, but distribute luxuries by the free market. It only works once your economy can easily provide subsistence for everyone and still crank out luxuries on top of that. But the First World is there, now. So BSIC is the goal, which I think we kind of attain in practice, though we could do it better. For one thing we need a lot of work on guaranteeing subsistence housing that's actually livable.

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The free market disagrees with your assessment of Michael Moore's filmmaking abilities.

 

—Alorael, who considers him an interesting provoker of discussions. His work tends towards propaganda more than documentary, but even propaganda (or perhaps especially propaganda) can push people to think and act on an issue.

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I saw the movie. The history was all too familiar to me (though I really liked the FDR clip). What I found most interesting was the religious sub-text. There was an underlying theme of taking Christianity back from the rich who use it for propaganda and returning it to its roots as the poor person's religion. It was... uplifting.

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Originally Posted By: Ephesos
TM thought this deserved some mention.


Apparently participatory economics aims at remuneration in proportion to effort. This is different from free market economics, which aims at remuneration in proportion to achievement — achievement being measured by all the people who decide that your products or services are worth their money. This is obviously unfair in the first instance, because with the same amount of effort there can be wildly different degrees of achievement.

But the problem with rewards in proportion to effort rather than achievement is that achievement is clearly not entirely due to random luck during the exertion of effort. There are also deterministic factors involved, ranging from inborn talent to inherited resources. These factors provide a leverage, so that if an average person can achieve X with Y effort and 2X with 2Y effort, an advantaged person might achieve 10 X with Y effort and 20 X with 2Y effort.

If only effort is rewarded, the expected result is that normal, advantaged, and disadvantaged people all work just as hard on average. But if achievement is rewarded, the advantaged will be more motivated to work harder than the disadvantaged, and can be expected on average to do so.

So if we have a pool of 10 normal people and one advantaged, and we motivate them all to X effort, we get 20 Y in results — 10 from the normals, and 10 from the advantaged. But suppose we take some of the rewards of the 10 normals away, so they work half as hard, and give the extra to the advantaged in such a way as to motivate them to double effort. Then we get 5 Y from the normals, and 20 Y from the advantaged — a 25% improvement in results over the equal effort situation.
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Originally Posted By: Sleeping Dragon
I saw the movie. The history was all too familiar to me (though I really liked the FDR clip). What I found most interesting was the religious sub-text. There was an underlying theme of taking Christianity back from the rich who use it for propaganda and returning it to its roots as the poor person's religion. It was... uplifting.


moore is a devout catholic and has been since forever, it's pretty much why he's so into social justice

catholics are pretty okay i guess most of the time, especially if they're not clergy

Originally Posted By: Student of Trinity
So if we have a pool of 10 normal people and one advantaged, and we motivate them all to X effort, we get 20 Y in results — 10 from the normals, and 10 from the advantaged. But suppose we take some of the rewards of the 10 normals away, so they work half as hard, and give the extra to the advantaged in such a way as to motivate them to double effort. Then we get 5 Y from the normals, and 20 Y from the advantaged — a 25% improvement in results over the equal effort situation.


Even if your analysis is valid, we're not just trying to maximise the production of goods. You also have to look at marginal utility effects from how those goods are distributed.

(Well, you don't have to look at them, if you're not a utilitarian. But if we're talking about ultimate goals here, supporting participatory economics because you believe in rewarding effort for the sake of rewarding effort is at least as plausible as supporting capitalism because you believe in maximising production of goods for the sake of maximising production of goods.)
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Originally Posted By: Thuryl
catholics are pretty okay i guess most of the time, especially if they're not clergy

Ah, but in the movie, a bishop actually comes to a worker's rally and cheers them on. Moore actually goes to see multiple clergy in the movie and they all said the same thing: that capitalism is evil. Of course, you didn't use punctuation, so maybe you were being sarcastic or something...

Originally Posted By: Thuryl
Even if your analysis is valid, we're not just trying to maximise the production of goods. You also have to look at marginal utility effects from how those goods are distributed.

(Well, you don't have to look at them, if you're not a utilitarian. But if we're talking about ultimate goals here, supporting participatory economics because you believe in rewarding effort for the sake of rewarding effort is at least as plausible as supporting capitalism because you believe in maximising production of goods for the sake of maximising production of goods.)
Actually, I was told by my philosophy professor that utilitarians do believe in maximizing profit. You're right that you need to look at distribution, but the utilitarian will always pick the situation where there are more goods to be distributed, with how they are distributed being a secondary concern. Yeah, I thought it was dumb too, but apparently that's how it works.
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Originally Posted By: Thuryl
Originally Posted By: Sleeping Dragon
I saw the movie. The history was all too familiar to me (though I really liked the FDR clip). What I found most interesting was the religious sub-text. There was an underlying theme of taking Christianity back from the rich who use it for propaganda and returning it to its roots as the poor person's religion. It was... uplifting.
moore is a devout catholic and has been since forever, it's pretty much why he's so into social justice

catholics are pretty okay i guess most of the time, especially if they're not clergy
Really don't want to derail the topic, but if I had a nickel every time I heard some variation of "Well, most 'Catholics' aren't like that...", I'd be a rich man. Sorry, just one of my pet peeves.

(OH NOES CROSS POSTING)
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Originally Posted By: Thuryl

Even if your analysis is valid, we're not just trying to maximise the production of goods. You also have to look at marginal utility effects from how those goods are distributed.


Sure. Heck, maybe someone has the goal for society that we all live in sandpits breathing 'Om'. I'm not trying to discuss which goals are better. And for that matter I myself consider a flatter wealth distribution to be valuable. If achieving it costs a bit of extra poverty, then up to a point I think that society comes out ahead.

But I (and many far better economists than I am, which isn't hard to be) simply point out that alternatives to free market economics tend to involve a much bigger hit to overall social wealth than their proponents usually recognize, because said proponents do not usually think far enough through the ramifications of their proposals.

If you're really willing to pay the full price for your egalitarian dream or whatever it is, okay, maybe it's a reasonable stance. But failing to account for effects like the one I mentioned can make the difference between a noble vision that looks appealingly workable and an idiotic scheme that obviously hurts the poor just to hurt the rich more.
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Originally Posted By: Student of Trinity
And for that matter I myself consider a flatter wealth distribution to be valuable. If achieving it costs a bit of extra poverty, then up to a point I think that society comes out ahead.
A utilitarian would choose to give +4 to one person over giving +1 to three people. This seems to coincide with your second point. A philosophical liberal would chose to give +1 to the person with only 1, rather than giving +1 to the three people who already have 2. That theoretically leads your first point in the long run, but neither philosophy seems particularly adequate.

 

In fact, I can't think of a philosophy that would promote giving most or all of it to the people with 2, and less or nothing to the people with 1 or the people with 5. Philosophers generally don't care about the people in the middle, despite the fact that the politicians always seem to claim the middle class is everything. My first instinct is to say don't trust or believe the politicians, but is there not something significant here? Why doesn't philosophy address the middle class? Or, if it does, please enlighten me, being in graduate school, I don't plan on ever taking a philosophy class again.

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Originally Posted By: Sleeping Dragon
A utilitarian would choose to give +4 to one person over giving +1 to three people.


4 units of utility, yes. The catch is that the more wealth you already have, the less each extra unit is worth to you: you gain less utility from it. So if you give 900 people $1,000 each, they're likely to benefit more from it in total than if you give one person $1,000,000.
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The middle class doesn't exist philosophically, but many forms of utilitarianism will happily say that it's better to give resources to the middle class, which can use them well, than to the rich, who don't particularly need them, or to the destitute, whose problems won't be fixed by the addition of insufficient resources.

 

—Alorael, who does think it's an interesting question, though. Most philosophy doesn't particularly favor the middle.

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Yes, well, I was taught this by a philosophy professor, not an economist. An economist teaching ethics, while more practical in theory, is probably a bad thing in theoretical practice.

 

Originally Posted By: Alorael
Most philosophy doesn't particularly favor the middle.

Hmm, I guess you just get more philosopher points for boldly picking one extreme or the other. A shame. The middle is where all the tough thinking is really at.

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Perhaps we should create our own philosophy school. Given todays standards, we're more than qualified. tongue We could call it Extreme Medianism. Truly, a philosophy for the modern world, one that caters to the center of the bell curve, yet makes itself seem more deviant than it really is. Though I suppose that given that most philosophies are either extremely black or extremely white, ours will by default be extreme in it's grayness.

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Originally Posted By: Sleeping Dragon
Perhaps we should create our own philosophy school. Given todays standards, we're more than qualified. tongue We could call it Extreme Medianism. Truly, a philosophy for the modern world, one that caters to the center of the bell curve, yet makes itself seem more deviant than it really is.


you realise that your suggestion precisely describes fascism don't you
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Originally Posted By: Thuryl

you realise that your suggestion [link to Umberto Eco on 'Ur-Fascism'] don't you


Hmm, in general I have a lot of respect for Eco, but this is not one of his better pieces. It's just a rambling shopping-list summary of the few original and explicitly fascist governments of the 1920's and 30's. So it's of no use for its stated purpose of identifying 'eternal fascism'.

As far as I can tell, you can understand fascism by asking, How could a gang of dumb thugs take over an entire industrialized nation-state? Eco's points will all come up as possible answers, along with the need for cultural and economic depression as a starting point. And if you happen to think of ways to thug rule that don't fit with historical fascism, then these ways are a lot more important than fascism, anyway.
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Originally Posted By: Sarachim
Originally Posted By: The Mystic
Michael Moore is to filmmaking what whiskey is to ice cream.


Either is good alone, but when you pour one on the other it's excellent?
Not quite. In both cases, the first item mentioned, when applied to the second, makes for a very bad combination. If you've ever literally poured whiskey over ice cream (sick), you'd understand my analogy better.
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Even if I accept your contention about pouring whiskey on ice cream (which I don't), your analogy is still problematic. It implies that Micheal Moore is great as long as you don't mix him with filmmaking, which I doubt you believe seeing as how he's if anything more obnoxious in person.

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Originally Posted By: Sarachim
Even if I accept your contention about pouring whiskey on ice cream (which I don't), your analogy is still problematic. It implies that Micheal Moore is great as long as you don't mix him with filmmaking, which I doubt you believe seeing as how he's if anything more obnoxious in person.
My analogy wasn't so much about the two parts of each combination, but the result of combining the two. Seen from that angle, it (hopefully) makes more sense.

And I agree with you about Micheal Moore being obnoxious; in fact, based on what I know from media coverage about him and his movies, I'd rather not be anywhere near either.
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