As Bill Mandel says, " There are no easy answers and no formulaic
solutions," but there is a tendency in this country to view things from
a purely US perspective, such as the notion that the majority of people
in poorer countries will do anything to get into the United States, when
it is only the ones who desperately try, and either succeed or fail,
that we pay any attention to. Having spent considerable time over the
years in poor countries, I have not found the same eagerness to emigrate
to the US that one can mistakenly extrapolate from media reports of the
minority that do.
Some situations are worse than others, Haiti being one example. Many
Israelis on the other hand, who enjoy a relatively high standard of
living, find the society's religious overtones restricting while a
welcome mat from both the US and the Jewish community awaits them here.
For corporations, diversity is often a better indicator of success than
is productivity, and the quality of the product becomes secondary when
one has a monopoly. An example is the Levition Co. which is the largest
manufacturer of electrical products. Seventy years ago, Leviton was one
of some 50 manufacturers of light sockets, and far from the best,
although their product then was far superior than any you can buy today.
But Leviton's product line was much more extensive, so that when the
others fell by the wayside, mostly in the depression, it was left with
but two competitors, Eagle and Bryant, both of which manufactured a
superior socket, but not much more than that. When Bryant gave up the
ghost about 10 or so years ago, Levition down-graded its quality and
then placed stickers on the new sockets that warned the consumers
against using anything higher than 60 watts (simply because the base of
the socket had been so reduced in size that anything higher might cause
a short). What are we to make of the fact that superior sockets that
safely allowed one to use a 250 watt bulb were being manufactured 100
years and can not be found today, except second-hand, if you're lucky?
Take your average appliance. Most of those made forty and fifty years
ago still work, while those manufactured today have a minimum life span
and those who buy them have no great expectations of their lasting even
a decade. Of course, they have been persuaded by sophisticated
advertising to become a part of what has been called as "conspicuous
consumption," and that they should change their appliances, most of
which they don't need, as often as they change their car.
I do agree that most people put their living standard before everything
else, but the standards, like quality of life, are not universal. I have
lived on several occasions over a thirty-five year period in Rome, where
the definition of quality of life was more dependent on social relations
than on material acquisitions, although thanks to the apparently
unstoppable penetration of US/MacDonald cultural values into Italian
society, as into virtually every other on the planet, it has begun to
change for the worse.
Marty Jezer is correct in pointing out that corporations rally innovate,
their entrepreneurial skills being more concentrated on buying out their
competition, and when necessary, keeping an innovation off the market.
One of the biggest crimes of capitalist society is its use of fossil
fuel in the thousands of instances when solar energy would be more
practical and this foolishness has been imitated by third world
countries that should know better such as Cuba that have been
"colonized" by first-world technology.
The best thing that I can say about Israel is that the Israelis
understand that they cannot hinge their economic well-being on fossil
fuel. Consequently, virtually every building in Israel has a solar
collector atop its roof. Is this an indication of capitalism's
superiority or simply realistic planning?
At the present time, as Bill points out. it does appear that some mix of
private ownership with a strong core of public welfare is the best
solution on the immediate horizon, but, in comparison with the present
mix enjoyed in other developed countries, the US is not even inside the
door. Although, since the fall of the USSR and the collapse of the East
Bloc there has been a major effort by international capital to destroy
the strong welfare institutions and worker protections in the other
developed countries, the like of which Americans could only dream of --
and which are considered socialistic here -- all of these countries are
light years ahead of the US when it comes to quality of life, measured
by any standard other than that of Wall Street and Hollywood.
William Mandel wrote:
It is simply that, in the market place, the hardest-driving
> win out in the key indicator, productivity of labor, which is
> what determines price. Workers simply don't want to drive
> themselves hard.
> And if you don't have a market, as in the Communist countries,
> monopolist burocracies perform the functions of allocation and
> planning, and experience proved that, lacking the stimulus of
> competition, they fall behind worldwide in the introduction of
> the new products that make our lives easier. The bottom line is
> that the people want those products
>...... But the vast majority,
> meaning of course those whose votes determine who will rule in a
> democracy, put living standard first.
> Bill Mandel
Marty Jezer wrote:
>...command economics leave little room for innovation; the
> entrepreneurial spirit. Those are words I choke on saying, but it's the
> truth. Here people see a need for a product and they fill that need. True,
> most of the products are unnecessary and most entrepreneurial ventures
> fail. But some do fulfill a need. Corporations, themselves, rarely
> innovate. They simply buy out the new ventures.
William Mandel wrote:
> > The most human societies that now exist are those with capitalism
> >of a social-democratic or New Deal nature. When we here attain
> >that, we'll be vastly better off. That will not end history, but
> >it will be for those in that capitalism with a human face to set
> >themselves further goals and seek routes to attain them.
> > Certainly global mega-corporations not only reflect but
> >effectuate economies of scale. And certainly they do all the
> >terrible things you list. By every measure of human welfare --
> >life expectancy, health, education, whatever -- people are better
> >off in the "developed" capitalist countries than anywhere else.
> >It is also true that, in the United States, the living standard
> >of the majority has declined in the past thirty years, but it
> >remains one that Haitian peasants and Israeli Ph.D.s fight like
> >hell to come here to enjoy.
> > There are no easy answers and no formulaic solutions.
> > William Mandel
> Every point you (Blankfort) make is worthy of consideration. The fact is that
> people from all over the world except western Europe, the white
> former components of the British Empire (Canada, Australia, New
> Zealand), and Japan, fight like hell to get into this country,
> plus a significant number from the advanced capitalist countries
> So one has to face the reality that the vast majority of
> human beings judge a country by the material living standard it
> offers, despite all the trade-offs. Use the word "consumerist" if
> you wish, but the fact remains.
> Bill Mandel
Michael Wright wrote:
> Capitalism continually innovates, but much
> of what is produced is cultural garbage.
> Then they use advertising to convince us
> that we need it. A lot of the junk coming
> out of our "innovative" system I would
> actually have a better life without.
> One of the worst "innovations" affecting
> my life in a negative fashion is the loud
> car stereo. Ever had your sleep, work, or
> concentration disturbed by a boom car
> rattling your windows?
> Cell phones? Who needs 'em? I get tired
> of hearing the ugly electronic "Pop Goes
> the Weasel" going off in libraries, which,
> in more civil times, were recognized as
> places where quiet was the rule.
> Paul Baron and Paul Sweezy had a lot to say
> about corporate "innovation" in their classic
> Monopoly Capital. They pointed out that
> just about every technological innovation
> in the auto industry of any substance was
> accomplished before 1950, when there were
> numerous competitors producing autos. Then
> in the 50s, when the market was dominated
> by the Big Three, competition was based only
> on styling changes and advertising strategis.
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