Thursday, June 30, 2011

Measuring Marxism: The Centralization Myth

This post is part of a series attempting to quantify Marx's theory of Socialism.

Marxism is largely a method of accounting and interpreting the mechanisms of economic power. While political power is understood to play a role, it is largely considered subservient to the role of economic motion. In times of stagnation, wherein technological changes often do not correspond with expanding markets and economic power is uniquely centralized, contemporary nodes of power are entrenched, and their social relations tend to become apparent. In such times, the condition of civil society becomes increasingly apparent, with all its nuances and relations to these power structures. Gramsci notes of this phenomenon:
"when the state trembled, a sturdy structure of civil society was at once revealed. ... Hegel's conception belongs to a period in which the spreading development of the bourgeoisie could seem limitless, so that its ethicity of universality could be asserted: all mankind will be bourgeois. But, in reality, only the social group that poses the end of  the State and its own end as the target to be achieved can create an ethical state - i.e. one which tends to put an end to the internal divisions of the ruled, etc., and to create a technically and morally unitary social organism."1

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Measuring Marxism: Where Did We Go Wrong?

 In my previous series, I assessed one aspect of the moral vision in Marxism - its relationship to individualism. This time around I want to confront the so-called "failure" of Marxism, and how can we measure his vision of socialism. This post is part of a series attempting to quantify Marx's theory of socialism.

Comprehensive privatization in China. The bureaucratization that plagued the Soviet Union. Repressive policies in nearly all 'socialist' states. The dilution of democratic apparatuses in the same. The data seem conclusive: Marxism has failed. Either that, or our measurements are off.

In fact, these failures reveal a number of conditions which do more to support Marxism than anything else. The accurate measurement of the Marxist framework has very little to do with the propaganda efforts of the NATO / Soviet blocs, which often invoke the imagery of workers' power for their own political gain.

Furthermore, it is the self-proclaimed anti-communists themselves who long ago quantified the very measurements which prove just how right Marx was.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Why Can't We Get Good Data on Corporate Tax Rates?

And why does it consistently come from firms with a material interest in lowering taxes, and therefore embellishing current rates?

Politifact Virginia recently reviewed comments by George Allen which claimed that the US tax rate on corporations is 35% - 2nd "worst" in the world, according to him. Politifact argued that the rate was 27.6% (the official "effective" tax rate) - 4th highest in the world. Comprehensive accounting might place the real US corporate tax rate as lowest among all industrialized nations. The conservative Tax Foundation places the rate at only 24.1%. Whatever the case, US corporations have paid more taxes overseas than in the US since 2008, relying on accounting practices that transfer profits out-of-state or overseas, while sales are mostly captured at home - taking advantage of a high-cost consumer infrastructure without having to pay for that platform.

Like so many economic indicators, the official corporate tax rate has a very important function in politics. In the context of a political philosophy which conflates job creation with accumulation of wealth, higher corporate tax rates provide political capital which allows for a more effective lobbying effort to lower taxes. Capitalist graft, therefore, has two incentives in its model of accounting and government graft:

  • to diminish the apparent profits reported to governments, while maintaining (or even expanding) profits reported to stockholders
  • to maintain official tax rate figures

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Nothing But Buzzwords

From the Wikipedia on Computer Monitors:

In 2008 the computer industry started to move over from 16:10 to 16:9. According to a report by displaysearch the reasons for this were/are:
  • Innovative product concepts drives a new product cycle and stimulating the growth of the notebook PC and LCD monitor market.
The source is not much better.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Individualism: The Basis of Socialism

This is part 3 of a 3-post series dealing with the Marxist concept of Socialism and Individualism.

Part 3: The Basis of Socialism

Socialism is on the one hand the transfer of the control over the means of production to the working class, in order to relieve this oppression. It is to overthrow the irrational, free-market state of political economy. But it serves a far more fundamental purpose for human society. As we have seen, socialism seeks to abolish the state of things wherein human labor is objectified. Human labor should, given the conditions of emancipation, serve the essential interests of the human being in the context of satisfied human needs. Erich Fromm:
"For Marx, socialism (or communism) is not flight or abstraction from, or loss of the objective world which men have created by the objectification of their faculties. It is not an impoverished return to unnatural, primitive simplicity. It is rather the first real emergence, the genuine actualization of man's nature as something real. Socialism, for Marx, is a society which permits the actualization of man's essence, bu overcoming his alienation. It is nothing less than creating the conditions for the truly free, rational, active and independent man; it is the fulfillment of the prophetic aim: the destruction of the idols."7
The socialization of the political economy is in keeping with the rejection of values, processes and constructs which do not meet the essential interests of a society of human beings. It is the judgement of capitalism, and all forms of organization, for the specific value in terms of rights and privileges it bestows on its members.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Individualism: The Freedom of Independence

This is part 2 of a 3-post series dealing with the Marxist concept of Socialism and Individualism.
Part 2: The Freedom of Independence

Human existence is a social phenomenon. The "individualist" ideal of capitalism seeks to privatize the sum of human relations in order to free the human being. Indeed, the many libertarian ideals seek to arrange society in such a way that "nobody steps on anybody else's toes." Property should exist as an extension of the individual. And the individuals, in turn, voluntarily exchange property.3

“The rate of privation between members of society is precisely the antithesis to the rate of independence or individualism.”
The facts, however, paint a different picture. The calculus of human "utility" posits that the disutility of uncomfortable jobs should incur greater pay - the opposite is true. Jobs with less autonomy, greater physical requirement, greater tolls on health and dirtier conditions tend to pay less. The social supply of labor, rather than the individual valuation of labor is the chief determinant of the value paid to workers. It is precisely this irrational construct which determines that an increase in the available productive forces of society, that is an increase in supply of labor, should instead decrease the value and incentive of a worker. What appears as an obvious supply-demand function is in the aggregate an irrational transfer of value to a minority - the capitalist who can pay his or her workers less, and yet has more supply (labor) available, and a larger potential market (laborers as consumers).3, 4