Author Archive for davidmc

Dusting off the Archives

There have been some recent additions of interest in the Australian section of the Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line.

The material was written by members of the Red Eureka Movement a Marxist-Leninist group from the late 1970s and early 1980s.

The entire encyclopedia deserves lengthy visits by anyone trying to make sense of the 20th century communist movement. This would include anyone planning to be part of some future 21st century communist movement.

The REM material is arguably the best place to start. It is generally more readable and insightful. This leaflet is good appetizer

The material represents a rebellion against nonsense that had become entrenched because of groupthink, lack of discussion, blind acceptance of decisions from the top with minimum of thought and the demonizing of opponents.

The REM material includes some important articles on foreign policy and also a range of articles critiquing the ‘left’s’ economic illiteracy.

While you are checking out the Encyclopedia don’t forget to go here to see what what Mao and the Chinese Communist Party were saying during the 1960s and 70s about the Soviet Union and the threat of capitalist restoration under socialism.

Wealth Tax Remedy for Future Depression

If the world economy gets stuck in a serious and prolonged slump, the most likely response by governments is to do nothing useful. This is because the only effective action is for governments around the world to take over ownership of large chunks of their economies’ productive assets. This ownership would give them control over a lot of spending decisions and therefore the potential to restore effective demand to levels that would get the economy moving again. Of course, it is hard to imagine governments adopting such a policy unless there is a really big change in the political landscape.

A lot of government ownership could be achieved with a fairly minimum amount of fuss by hitting the very rich. They could be slugged with a 100 per cent tax on any wealth that made them more than just very affluent. My hunch is that the cut off would be somewhere around $10 million. Paying this tax would not require the liquidation of financial assets such as shares and bonds. They would simply be handed over.

I am not sure how much government ownership would be achieved in this way. I suspect not enough. So what could they do next? Extending the wealth tax to the large number of people who are merely very affluent would cause far too much political resistance and would require the government to take over a lot of small and medium sized businesses. This problem could be avoided while greatly increasing government ownership and control if all shares in large public and private firms that have not been seized by the wealth tax were compulsorily exchanged for government bonds. In this way wealth is not confiscated, it is simply put in a form where it cannot cause quite so much mischief.

The government would then have considerable control of the financial sector. It would own the banks and all shares in large companies. To minimize the hassle involved and to quarantine them from political machinations the government could assign these shares to existing or newly formed investment houses. These firms would function much as they do now, except that they would be instructed by their new owner to invest on the assumption that the economy was taking off again. Likewise, companies would be instructed to utilize existing capacity on that assumption. All this activity would then create a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Through these institutions the government could also act as so-called investment angels and venture capitalists, indeed more vigorously than the present lot. They would take a stake in small private entrepreneurial startups and prepare them for the big takeover just like now.

Everything could then just chug along pretty much like the world as we know it. Businesses would continue to be driven by senior executives on high profit based salaries. And I think the government owned investment funds would be fairly effective vehicles for market discipline because their success and failure would show up clearly in their bottom line. (Am I missing anything free-marketeers?)

OK we have got rid of the super-rich and eliminated the business cycle.  That’s pretty good. However, I suspect a society which has just stripped the rich of their wealth, would be up for more than simply replacing them with government-owned capitalism.

OLPC to Drop Tablets from Sky

This looks like an interesting experiment. OLPC founder and chairman Nicholas Negroponte has revealed plans to airdrop shipments of the XO tablet into remote villages and return 12 months later to see how things panned out. The idea behind this approach is a ‘hands-off’ method of education; give the children the tablets and then leave them to figure out the devices and teach themselves to read.

It is inspired by the experience in India where kids taught themselves how to use public “hole in the wall” computers.

See PCmag.

Post-capitalism – day one and longer term

This is a rather clunky attempt to present some thoughts on the immediate and longer term programs for a radical party whose aim is to move to a society based on the social ownership of the means of production. The immediate program would have to be relatively limited in its objectives because change takes time and you do not want to bite off more than you can chew.

Grabbing the commanding heights of the economy would be the main job at first. This means nationalizing the large public companies. It has been suggested that the best way to handle this would be to allocate shares in these companies to government owned hedge funds. Hopefully, the well paid managers of these funds together with the nationalized banks would continue to invest as if nothing had happened. Likewise for senior management of enterprises. No doubt it will not work out quite as smoothly as we would like.

At the same time, arrangements will need to be made to ensure that people who previously owned shares in the nationalized companies – particularly the non-rich – continue receiving regular compensation payments.  Foreign investors may or may not be a tricky issue. It would depend on the political circumstances.

Smaller scale business would be left untouched. (I don’t know where you would draw the line.)

While these minimalist arrangements are being put in place, hopefully a lot of stuff is happening among the middle and lower ranks (the “masses”).  Generally they will be busily sticking their noses in where they previously did not belong. In many of the enterprises that are still private there will be calls for socialization. Policies will need to be developed on how and when this occurs. Continue reading ‘Post-capitalism — day one and longer term’

I just love this sentence

“The discussion at the Sydney Writers Festival is an extraordinary example of group-think, with opponents demonised, prejudices reinforced, counter arguments totally ignored and platitudes treated as profundities.”  Andrew Bolt – Monday, July 18

Why do we still have waiters?

If anything indicates the tardiness of capitalism to introduce new technologies, it would have to be the continued existence of waiters. The Associated Press has a gee whiz piece on a London restaurant where rather than ordering with one of those annoying pests you use a touch screen.   A waiter is still required to deliver your food to the table so the technology is only halfway there. How come some “entrepreneur” has not made a move on this one before now? Why don’t we have chains of restaurants where you place you order electronically and wait for the meal to arrive via some gadget attached to the ceiling?

 

WikiLeaks: Gadhafi and Chávez are Great Pals

This Huffington Post article about the warm relations between Gadhafi and Hugo Chavez of Venezuela is a good read: WikiLeaks Drags Libya and Venezuela Through the Mud

Brotherly Leader on the Ropes

It’s hard to imagine this lovely guy massacring his own people. As Libya’s Brotherly Leader and Guide of the Revolution, Gaddafi stands for everything warm and fuzzy and his regime is based on grass roots genuine democracy, not that phony stuff you find elsewhere. Anyone who opposes his regime is obviously a reactionary and agent of imperialism.

Come to think of it, there is an uncanny resemblance to Cuba, don’t you think?

Cuba: Viva la dissolution

Cuba definitely deserves our special attention because the hideous regime there calls itself socialist and people believe it. Current developments mean that things may start to get a bit more interesting. The current economic “reforms” are in full swing. Basically they are sacking about a million government employees while allowing them to set up small businesses and “cooperatives”. Also the fibre optic cable connection to Venezuela is complete and the government will now endeavor the tricky task of trying to manage wider use of the internet which is presently very limited.

Being basically a mix of feudalism and state capitalism, “socialism” in Cuba is a total disaster and needs a massive injection of “normal” capitalism to get any growth from its economy. Vietnam and China managed to get a lease of life from doing this. It will be interesting to see if Cuba can pull off the same trick. Any sort of socialist trajectory of course is out of the question because the privileged strata would suppress it and the populace at large are not subjectively equipped for the task, in any way shape or form.

I’ve got some books about Cuba on my Kindle which I have started to plow through. The first one is Persona Non Grata: A Memoir of Disenchantment with the Cuban Revolution by Jorge Edwards who was Chilean Charge d’Affaire in Cuba under Allende and is a famous novelist. Here are some interesting quotes from the book followed by a few comments. Continue reading ‘Cuba: Viva la dissolution’

Intellectual property is a big issue for the long haul

I plan to do quite a bit on intellectual property (IP) in the future because it is one area where you can attack capitalism and show how social ownership would be superior. At the moment I am spending a bit of time reading up on the views of “Austrian” economists on the subject. The libertarian/anarcho-capitalist camp to which they belong are split on the issue. The Austrians have generally disowned IP and don’t see it as legitimate bourgeois private property. The 73 page booklet Against Intellectual Property by N. Stephen Kinsella is a good place to start. He is the IP man in the von Mises universe. Continue reading ‘Intellectual property is a big issue for the long haul’

On Line Opinion under attack

Graham Young the editor of On Line Opinion has just put up this piece: Wanted – new financial backers

Some people have organized a very effective advertising boycott because OLO published an article by religious conservative Bill Muellenberg  against gay marriage.  OLO is an important institution on the political landscape which publishes anyone regardless of where they are on the political spectrum

Read the article and do whatever you can to support them.

Kindle 3 is a good little research tool

I am finding that the Kindle 3 is a great little learning or research tool. I’ve had mine for a couple of months now.

It keeps your place, so you can have numerous books on the go at the same time. And as you are reading you can highlight areas of text and add notes. These are then assigned to a file called “My Clippings.txt”. Every clipping or note has a header giving the title of the book, the location in the book and the time and date. Continue reading ‘Kindle 3 is a good little research tool’

That dreadful woman!

The hate speech from Sarah Palin is truly shocking.  Her liberal opponents would never dream of saying anything hateful about her.  She is so outrageous! She just encourages violence!

Likewise for all those Tea Party types.  Why can’t they be nice and invite their liberal neighbors around for a friendly debate?  I am sure they would be delighted to accept.

Addition by keza:

What you need to understand David, is that liberals are smart and sophisticated, they understand metaphor.  Obama can say things like “If they bring a knife to the fight, we bring a gun,” (his words at a Philadelphia fundraiser, 2008) and of course his clever followers understand that he’s not really talking about shooting people.

But Palin’s followers are crude and uneducated – you  know – literal types,  good with their hands, not so much with their brains – so when Sarah says:

“Never retreat, instead RELOAD!” , they just  go get a gun.   She shouldn’t be allowed to say such things.
Liberals know that a bumper sticker like the one below is just a joke.  It couldn’t be serious  - it’s just a very clever play on words.  But probably a bit of a challenge for the type of people who go to Palin rallies.
Abort Sarah Palin
Likewise, an image  such as this one which is part of a series called MILP  (Mothers I’d like to punch) involves a humorous juxtoposition of the words “mother’ and ’punch” and is just an entertaining way of expressing a deep understanding of the stupidity of  those who can’t see the sinister nature of Palin’s views. Mothers I'd like to punch
And how clever is this?!
Kill Bush

And here’s a YouTube mashup of a bit of liberal word play – far too advanced for Palin types to get their heads around, of course.  It just wouldn’t be possible to engage in anything as sophisticated as real debate with them because their grasp of the language, and their conceptual of the world in general is just far too limited.

Chavez regime to censor the internet

(Chavez with one of his more needy clients)

Venezuela’s outgoing parliament has passed laws that will punish ISPs that allow anything that Hugo Chavez does not like.

Under the new rules, providers of online contents and internet portals could be fined if images or messages appearing on their sites “disrespect public authorities, incite or promote hatred or create anxiety in the citizenry or alter public order”.

The measure was passed just days after parliament voted to give President Chavez special powers to pass laws by decree for 18 months.

BTW Chavez’s more green-minded sympathizers might like to read about his plans to build a nuclear power plant with Russian help.

It looks like the opposition is starting to get its act together. It received half the popular vote in the recent parliamentary elections although the Chavistas still have a majority of seats.

What can we do about Xmas?

Xmas reminds us of what life used to be like prior to the modern era. In the old days it was “Xmas” everyday in one way or another, when people’s lives were ruled by rituals and festivals, and our relatives had to be endured on a constant basis not just once a year. Social pressure was even greater then than now. There was no space for the individual. What you did and how you thought was totally prescribed.

By Xmas I mean the in-your-face stuff that fills the public space, physical and electronic. What Christians (or quasi Christians) do in the privacy of their own dining room or in church of course is their business. We will call that Christmas.

Oliver Cromwell and the Pilgrim Fathers banned Xmas. We can’t do that, but it would be helpful if some Christians were to denounce the whole thing as a pagan travesty, which it is, of course. George Washington had the right spirit when he crossed the Delaware River and launched a surprise attack on Hessian mercenaries while they were singing Stille Nacht (or doing something equally Xmasy) on December 25 1776.

An interesting way to spend Xmas. Washington crossing the Delaware

Continue reading ‘What can we do about Xmas?’