About the author

Joseph Natoli

Joseph Natoli

Joseph P Natoli is a retired college professor and author of numerous books on culture and politics. He is a member of the editorial collective of BAD SUBJECTS, the oldest political online magazine on the web. He writes regularly for a number of political and pop culture online magazines, including SENSES OF CINEMA, BRIGHT LIGHTS FILM JOURNAL, POPMATTERS, AMERICANA, DANDELION SALAD, GODOT, TRUTHOUT

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11 Comments

  1. 1

    Anthony Bernardo

    Very interesting and controversial. I’ve become somewhat of a student of economics and political thought in my retirement and find that a lot of this thesis can be attributed to a lack of insight or curmudgery, if I may, of our people in the social media world in which we live: we believe everything we hear or read without fact checking. After years of this, one can be convinced to believe anything that fits their world view. Hyperdemocracy could be called anarchy, no, and the Tea Party folks seem to want just that. The 80/20terization of the society is not only the results of media brain washing of the most affected part of the 80, but also gives rise to a Bernie or a dark Bernie, Trump. It leads us further from the middle, and closer to a serious conflict between a police state and democracy, if what we have could have ever been really called a democracy. I think, barring a major October surprise, this election is already over, and Trump will prevail because no one really understands why they’re pissed off,beyond what they’ve been told by FOX or Drudge or Breitbart, or even MSNBC. It’s becaue free trade capitalism no longer works, maybe never did, in an unequal global economy where making profit trumps domestic economic support.

  2. 2

    Richard Ivans

    Free trade capitalism absolutely works.
    Any country that goes in that direction prospers — China since Mao, Eastern Europe and Russia since peristroika, the United States after throwing out the Brits, western Europe after the industrial revolution. All capitalist countries. All prosperous.

    On the other hand – Cuba since Castro, North Korea under the dough boy and his dad, Kampuchea under Pol Pot, Russia under Stalin, National Socialist Germany, Eastern Europe behind the iron curtain. All socialist countries. All centrally controlled command economies. All economies created by violating natural rights.

    No system ever invented by man has brought more prosperity to more people than free market capitalism.

    History is very clear. Capitalism brings prosperity. Socialism brings misery.

  3. 3

    Anthony Bernardo

    Tell that to Scandinavia, and Finland which are far more socialistic than we. My comment on free market capitalism doesn’t mean socialism. Even the administration admits that some trade deals result in more, but lower paying, jobs. It helps the economy, but not the workers displaced. In my view, pure FMC must eventually fail in the long run. It can only grow to the extent investment and consumption allow, which on the local level depends solely on ROI and wages. It helps the undeveloped global economy, but not the developed country.

  4. 4

    Richard Ivans

    .
    SCANDINAVIA? SOCIALISM?
    Not really. Socialism represses economic freedom. Capitalism ensures economic freedom. Here’s how Scandinavian countries rank in economic freedom:

    See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Index_of_Economic_Freedom

    See also: http://www.heritage.org/index/ranking

    Scandinavian countries are *not* predominantly socialist. Of course, every country has some elements of socialism. It turns out the more socialism the more misery.
    ——————————–
    SOCIALISM
    Under pure socialism there is no economic freedom for individuals. Individual freedom, what America was founded on, does not exist. The government owns the means of production – shovels, factories, tractors, land, water, computers, and anybody who produces anything. They own you.

    Socialist countries put up fences, to keep people in. They own the people.

    Under socialism the government tells you what to make, how much, when, and at what price to sell it. The government can do that because the government, not you, owns the shovel you use to grow corn, or the guitar you use to make music.

    Under Socialist Stalin you sing Stalin songs or you are sent to the Gulag. Only Nazi approved songs in National Socialist Germany. Pro-revolutionary songs under Castro. Pro Kim songs in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. They decide the songs you produce.

    Under socialism you don’t get to keep the corn you grow or the song you write. “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs” means the government takes your corn and songs and redistributes them according to needs.
    ——————————
    GOVERNMENT FORCE
    Socialism throws good productive people in jail.
    Capitalism leaves good productive people alone, instead it throws into jail those that violate the rights of others.

    Under socialism the government forces good productive citizens to give up their property. It uses guns to do this. How else can government get someone to give up their corn and songs?

    Under capitalism if someone violates your natural rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness then the government throws them in jail. Under capitalism you are free to move about, make what you want, buy and sell as you want, and keep the fruits of your labor. The harder and smarter you work the more fruit you get.
    ——————————
    INCENTIVE
    Psych 101:
    Reward a behavior and you get more of it.
    Punish a behavior and you get less of it.

    Capitalism rewards productive people.
    Socialism punishes productive people.
    —————————–
    HELPING THE POOR
    Socialism forces you to give up your fruit so that the government can redistribute it to the poor.
    Free market capitalism relies on charity to help the poor.
    Traditional Americans are the most charitable people in the world. Traditional America is freedom based, capitalism based.
    —————————-
    YOU SAY…
    “[Free market capitalism] can only grow to the extent investment and consumption allow, which on the local level depends solely on ROI and wages.”

    I’m not sure what you are talking about. Free market capitalism doesn’t grow, the prosperity it brings grows.

    I’m not sure what you are talking about with respect to ROI and wages either. In free market capitalism return on investment is limited only by an investor’s skill. Wages are limited only by a worker’s skill. Only under socialism, where investments and wages are dictated by central government, are they limited.

    Free man are free to make as much money as they can. They are free to make as smart and as lucrative investments as they can.

  5. 5

    Anthony Bernardo

    You seem to juxtapose socialism with dictatorship regimes freely. The last time I checked, the US ranked poorly vs so called socialist countries in education, health care and a number of other social measures. However it did rank first in defense, spending more than the next nine countries combined, consuming almost 25% of our tax receipts, about 800 billion. Nobody is questioning freedom under capitalism or socialism if in democratic and inclusive political systems. Freedom and capitalism are not synonymous. You site dictatorships and then call that socialism. Regarding economic freedom, economic mobility has been stagnant in the US for years, so while you may perceive that we’re more economically free than a more socialistic society, the advantage doesn’t seem to buy us anything. Regarding my comment on FMC, markets cannot grow without investment and investment will not be made without an appropriate ROI, which is dependent on demand. Demand is dependent on wages and growth is dependent on wage growth. Without wage growth, there won’t be investment because the returns on that investment won’t reach a hurdle. There will be creative destruction, no doubt, but that doesn’t automatically result in growth or economic “freedom ” It might cause the opposite. Believe me, I executed enough of these projects in my career to know that investment is only made if there is a return, not because it’s a nice thing to do for the country. There may be a claim that companies are always investing to improve their bottom line, but where are those investments made; In mature markets like the US or Europe, or in growth markets like China or Asia in general? Here they will tend to be cost reduction investments in technology while there they will tend to be new product investment or cost reduction investments for products sold here. None of these cases creates economic freedoms for the workers displaced here or forced to take jobs at a lower wage in service industries. Like it or not, free market capitalism, without some degree of social safety net will (which is increasing by necessity of demographics and technology in general ) ultimately leave too many behind to be inclusive enough to support the freedoms you exalt for capitalism.

  6. 6

    Richard Ivans

    .
    “JUXTAPOSE SOCIALISM”?
    No. I don’t juxtapose socialism with dictatorships. Juxtapose means to put side-by-side to compare and contrast.

    I don’t compare or contrast socialism with dictatorships. I say that socialism is dictatorial. Socialism requires dictatorship. They are one and the same. No compare or contrast.

    How else, but thru dictatorial force, are you going to get a quy to give up his guitar and songs?
    How else are you going to take money from a guy who earned it honestly through hard work, while he watches you give it to someone that didn’t?
    —————————–
    OH BUT I’M TALKING ABOUT NICE SOCIALISM
    No, there is no such thing. Forget the idea that Bernie is for democratic socialism, the nice kind where the people choose him thru democracy, and then people continually elect socialists to redistribute their wealth.

    Maybe in the beginning they. But once a socialist country takes away one of a guy’s cars, or the money he saved for his kid’s private college education, and then gives it to someone who plays the system for a handout, then the guy decides he doesn’t like socialism. But then it’s too late. By then Bernie already controls the media, the campaign finance system, the military, the banks. He is Joseph Stalin and calls his country a Republic. Or he is Pol Pot and calls his country Democratic.

    Yeah, yeah, Bernie wouldn’t do that. (Marx, they say, was a nice guy too.) But the next guy, or the guy after that, will. Power tends to corrupt. When you have the power to take away the fruit of a man’s labor and give it to another then you have the essence of that man. He is a slave to you. That’s what slave masters do, they take the products of a slave’s labor and redistribute it.

    Socialism is tyranny.
    ——————————————
    “SO CALLED SOCIALIST COUNTRIES”?
    Name them. Then tell us where they are on the economic freedom scale. Are they really socialist?

    For example, just because Canada has deeply entrenched socialized medicine, doesn’t mean they are a socialist country. In fact we have less economic freedom than they do. Check out those listings in my previous post. Canada has more economic freedom, less socialism than us.
    ——————————————
    DEFENSE SPENDING?
    Are you just throwing that out there just to see if it sticks?
    Defense spending has almost nothing to do with capitalism or socialism. Both economic systems spend a lot on defense at times, and only a little at other times. The USSR spent a lot.
    —————————————–
    FREEDOM IS A REQUIREMENT FOR CAPITALISM
    “Freedom and capitalism are not synonymous” <—-WRONG

    Capitalism is two free guys looking each other in the eye, negotiating a transaction. Freely negotiating. If they agree then they shake hands, making a contract. Neither man is forced into any situation. Each man is free to keep the money or product they exchanged. Freedom. No government guy with a gun is looking over their shoulders.

    Socialism is two guys bound by the dictates of the central planners. What is made, bought and sold, and at what price, is dictated by the central planners. Socialism is tyranny. If you make something not authorized, or transact at a forbidden price, or keep what you earn without turning it over for redistribution to others, then you go to jail.
    ——————————————
    "USA IS STAGNANT"
    Yes, we were much more dynamic in the past before the federal government started centrally planning energy, education, insurance, medicine, and what kind of light bulb and how many gallons per flush you can maintain in your private business.

    Back when prosperity was experiencing explosive growth capitalists Rockefeller, Carnegie, JP Morgan, and Henry Ford were accumulating fortunes beyond dreams.

    And the average man was going from outhouse to indoor plumbing, no shoes to a closet full, vacations in the back yard to vacations with a boat and a cabin at a distant lake. Poor uneducated people stood in line to get a job from those wildly wealthy men. After a dozen years of working for those capitalists the poor folks were solid middle class.

    Back in 1960 Detroit was the wealthiest large city in the world. Today, after social justice programs starting with LBJ's War on Poverty, after 50 years of Democrat mayors and councils, and after BILLIONS of dollar of welfare, wealth redistributed into Detroit, the city is a crime ridden, impoverished cesspool. The only pockets of prosperity are the casino area and the sports venues, run by capitalists Ford and Mike Illitch.

    Bastard capitalists? I don't think so.
    ————————————-
    JOHN MAYNARD KEYNES
    could have said what you did: "Demand is dependent on wages and growth is dependent on wage growth." Well, that is wrong.

    Here's a simple example to show it wrong.
    Suppose Robinson Crusoe and Friday use pearls to pay for each others labor. So wages are paid in pearls.

    Assume one day 10,000 pearls wash up on shore, Friday get 5,000, Crusoe gets 5,000. So instantly they have an enormous amount of money. What does that do to wages? Well, wages go up of course.

    Will Crusoe now harvest more coconuts? now that Friday is buying them for 200 pearls instead of the previous price of 1 pearl? NO.

    Higher wages does not increase wealth. More coconuts increases wealth. You get more coconuts by investment. When Crusoe invests time into fashioning a reaching stick then he can harvest more coconuts. That creates wealth, not a wage growth.

    NOTE: Instead of money washing up on shore our government prints more and redistributes it, to their friends, to pay back favors and to buy votes.

    Our island has a population greater than 2, so it may take a while for the new money to make it around the island.

    If you are one of the first people to get the money than you benefit. If not then you don't benefit, instead you simply get the inflation experienced by Crusoe and Friday.
    ————————————–
    "SAFETY NET"
    I don't know what you mean by safety net. At the grocery store I've seen plenty of able bodied people buying candy with food stamps. Yes, there are truly needy people, but government is notorious for not being able to sort them out of the scammers.

    Private charities do a much better job.

    No one is starving in America. Yeah there are some mentally ill or negligent parents that cause kids to go hungry, but that happens no matter how much wealth is going around.

    Americans give more to charity than another other country. We run out of truly needy people here, so each year we send tens of BILLIONS of dollars overseas, year after year. That is private charity, not money out of our taxes.
    ————————————
    IT'S NICE YOU ARE SO CARING
    It's nice that you have concern for the downtrodden, the poor, the little man. It is nice you don't want to "..leave too many behind".

    It is *not* nice that your solution is to force other people to pay for helping the poor. You should pay yourself, freely. You should advocate that others do the same. No?

    Why do you want the other guys, especially the rich guys to be forced to put their money where your mouth is?

    If you really believe in income redistribution why wait for Bernie?

    I assume you make more than the nationwide average or median income. I assume your wealth is more than the average. So to not be a hypocrite you should donate until your income and wealth is at the average. You should pay more taxes until you are paying at the rate you want to rich to pay.

    You can donate to one of these: http://www.charitynavigator.org/
    You can pay more taxes here: https://www.pay.gov/public/form/start/23779454/
    =========================
    CLICK HERE: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/21/opinion/21kristof.html
    =========================

    1. 6.1

      Anthony Bernardo

      Thanks for the English lesson. You continue to juxtapose socialism and dictatorship and capitalism/freedom. A country does not, absolutely not, require dictatorship for socialism and many capitalistic systems are quite the dictatorship. Need I remind you that fascism is basically corporate dictatorship with a front man, unless it morphs into Nazism which is worse. I have nothing but the utmost respect for Europe. They outlive us, they are better educated, they have better health care for all, and they manage to implement fairly capitalistic economies with these strong socialistic safety nets. Your example of wage growth is naïve at best. You tell me how stagnant wages that can afford “X” commodities will be able to afford more than those “X” commodities if wages don’t increase, especially in an inflationary environment. If you think that’s possible, go check the credit growth to afford more goods, because cash isn’t available. And read your Keynes or Schumpeter before you try to lecture me on their economic principles. You might also read Wealth of Nations, boring as it is, to see the warnings Smith mad about pure capitalism. But you desire the good old days of Rockefeller and monopolists, while lecturing me on how innovative those days were. Are you mad? Do you think innovation is not alive and well right now? You’re either blind or simply self interested, and it clearly is the latter with your last section on taxes. Yes, it always comes down to the zero sum game and why should I pay for your misfortune. I don’t know your age, but if you’ve ever been seriously ill and required major attention, and are fortunate enough to have good insurance, who do you think paid for that care- you? Dream on, it was the premiums of others that paid for your health, and if you’re on Medicare, do you think you receive less welfare than the poor guy on unemployment insurance because his/her job went away? You get more, my friend, with any heart surgery, cancer, or other major disorder, much more. So it comes down to the old standard, you pay too much in taxes and it’s unfair, so unfair. You pay nothing compared to what the unfortunate pay in grief and despair and lack of future prospects. But enough of this. We clearly disagree. Over and out.

  7. 7

    Richard Ivans

    You keep defining socialism and capitalism *your* way, and don’t provide any examples of socialist or capitalist countries. I’ll help out:
    —————-
    SOCIALIST COUNTRIES
    These are/were socialist countries:
    — Nazi Germany (thru extreme regulation the government “in effect” owned the means of production, hence Socialism)
    — USSR under Stalin
    — Castro’s Cuba
    — Venezuela today
    — Kim’s North Korea
    — German Democratic Republic
    — Pol Pot’s Democratic Kampuchea
    — Mao”s China
    —————-
    CAPITALIST COUNTRIES
    — USA
    — Canada
    — Hong Kong
    — Scandinavia Countries
    —————-
    FORCEFUL CONFISCATION
    “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need”
    That *absolutely* requires dictatorial power to implement. Which free man will willingly give you his kid’s college fund so that you can distribute it to other kids?
    ——————–
    ADAM SMITH
    Who is talking about “pure capitalism”? Not I.
    Adam Smith was not a fan or pure capitalism, neither were our Founding Fathers. There must be the protection of unalienable god given rights to go along with it.
    ———————
    MONEY
    You seem to be confused about what money is. It is a medium of exchange. In itself it holds no value. You evidently didn’t read, or didn’t understand my Robinson Crusoe example. Or you chose to ignore it because you have no rebuttal to it.

    Again: Wages can increase dramatically, but that will not prompt an expansion of the overall economy. Increases in production expand the economy. Those increases come about by investment in the things that increase productivity.
    ——————–
    ZERO SUM GAME
    That is the board game MONOPOLY, it is not real life. In real life cavemen don’t just exchange goods with no overall increase ever happening in the economy. In real life people create more and more, and everyone gets wealthier than the cavemen we started out as.
    ——————–
    TOO IN MUCH TAXES
    You only pay too much in taxes if you are paying for special interest groups (Goldman Sachs, college student loans, Tesla tax credit, Solar tax credit, corn farmer subsidies, food stamps).

    Our Constitution’s Taxing and Spending clause forbids welfare for special interest groups.

    It is common sense – no man should be forced to give the fruits of his labor to another.

    It is also common sense that each of us should tithe to the poor.
    ——————–
    http://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/english/juxtapose

    1. 7.1

      Anthony Bernardo

      And I am not an advocate of pure socialism. I advocate for a blend of regulated capitalism with social priorities. Suggest you read The Zero Sum Economy, Lester Thurow. or Zero SumFuture, Gideon Rachman, to name just two books on the subject of zero sums. Thanks for reminding me that money is just a means of exchange? What’s your point? But most important you continue to associate dictatorship with socialism and freedom with capitalism. Dictatorship is dictatorship and can occur in any system. Freedom is freedom and can also occur in any system. I suggest you read Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy by Schumpeter. The Constitution says very little about taxes other than excise and duties and leaves it to the equal branches of government to decide, but I’ll refresh my understanding. I believe it’s Federalist 12 or 13 or both that discusses the necessity to raise revenue. I don’t believe welfare is ever mentioned. But enough of this. I’ve enjoyed the discussion and believe we have reached some agreement, although we differ on many beliefs. C’est la vie.

    2. 7.2

      Anthony Bernardo

      Actually, The Constitution grants the Congress the Power to lay and collect, Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defense, and GENERAL WELFARE, of the United States. Under Hamilton’s argument, in the Federalist Papers, he included agriculture or education as part of the general welfare provided the spending is general in nature and doesn’t favor any specific section of the country over another. It makes no reference to special interest groups per se and if education or agriculture are so interpreted, then he actually endorsed taxes for special interest groups if equally required by all sections of the country. But enough. Have a good day.

  8. 8

    Richard Ivans

    .
    Damn you cram a lot of topics into one paragraph. I’ll break them into sections as well as I can.
    ————————-
    CAPITALISM AND SOCIAL JUSTICE
    “I advocate for a blend of regulated capitalism with social priorities”

    No reasonable person advocates *unregulated* laissez faire economics. A government allowing that would not be a government. The purpose of government is to ensure individual rights, which would be violated in an unregulated environment.

    Note, Our Declaration and our Constitution provide protection for individual rights. Not social rights.

    There is no such thing as “social justice”. Justice is on an individual basis. Our Constitution and the legal system it created functions that way – ensuring individual rights. Court cases pit one person, or a collection of individuals all with a very specific grievance (class action), against another person, or a collection of individuals all with specific responsibility.

    Court cases do not pit Blacks vs Society, or Gays vs Society, or Poor People vs Rich People. Social priorities, social justice, is not in the realm of government.

    You can have social priorities if you wish but the government can not. The government’s only job is to ensure individual rights.

    A government with social priorities violates individual rights in favor of this social group, or that social group, depending on who is in office.
    ———–
    ZERO SUM
    Again, zero sum is a board game called Monopoly. Zero sum is also a cave man economy forever, one strong guy taking at the expense of the others. The caveman economy never advancing as a whole. That never happened. Cavemen invested and their lives got better. No zero sum.

    In real life each of us can invest money and time to create systems that create more. Hence man’s wealth since cavemen times has increased a million fold, and will increase a million fold in the future, so long as government doesn’t stunt private investment.
    ———–
    MEDIUM OF EXCHANGE
    “Thanks for reminding me that money is just a means of exchange? What’s your point?”

    MEDIUM of exchange, not means of exchange.

    You said the economy can’t grow without increased wages. That is wrong.

    My point is that increased wages does not increase prosperity, because increasing wages is simply an increase in the medium of exchange, an inflationary increase. Government politicians printing more money and spreading it around to their friends doesn’t increase the nation’s prosperity.

    Prosperity comes from an increase in real stuff (food, houses, cars, toys, labor saving devices, brick and mortar), GDP. Those come from increased investment, from private industry re-investing profits into labor saving machinery, for example.
    ————-
    DICTATORSHIP AND FREE MARKET CAPITALISM..
    can not co-exist, not unless your dictator doesn’t care about controlling who, what, when, where, and how. Free market capitalism requires free association, negotiation, contracts of labor, goods, services, and price.
    ————-
    SOCIALISM AND TYRRANY
    There is little freedom under Socialism. You are not free to own the means of production – a shovel, a guitar, a tractor, a computer. You are not free to produce what you want. You are not free to pay your workers what you and they agree on. You are not free to hire on at any wage you and an employer agree on. You are not free to keep the fruits of your labor, instead you must give them to the government for redistribution. That’s not freedom.

    Socialist countries: Stalin’s USSR, Hitler’s National Socialist Germany, Castro’s Cuba, Pol Pot’s Kampuchea, Caesar Chavez’s Venezuela, Mao’s China, Kim’s Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
    ————
    TAX AND SPEND CLAUSE
    “The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;”

    Note: “general Welfare”. They were pretty good with language. If they had meant specific welfare then they would have said specific welfare. They said “general Welfare”. Which is thoroughly in line with common sense. Why should taxpayers across the country pay taxes that will benefit corn farmers, windmill makers, college students, poor hungry people, wall street bankers.

    We aren’t bankers, corn farmers, and hungry.

    Forcibly taking money from a honest law abiding man and then giving it to another man is wrong. No?

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