The director wants to build a house. Now, there are many methods that can be resorted to. Each of them offers, from the point of view of the director, certain advantages and disadvantages with regard to the utilization of the future building, and results in a different duration of the building’s serviceableness; each of them requires other expenditures of building materials and labor and absorbs other periods of production. Which method should the director choose? He cannot reduce to a common denominator the items of various materials and various kinds of labor to be expended. Therefore he cannot compare them. He cannot attach either to the waiting time (period of production) or to the duration of serviceableness a definite numerical expression. In short, he cannot, in comparing costs to be expended and gains to be earned, resort to any arithmetical operation. The plans of his architects enumerate a vast multiplicity of various items in kind; they refer to the physical and chemical qualities of various materials and to the physical productivity of various machines, tools, and procedures. But all their statements remain unrelated to each other. There is no means of establishing any connection between them.
Imagine the plight of the director when faced with a project. What he needs to know is whether or not the execution of the project will increase well-being, that is, add something to the wealth available without impairing the satisfaction of wants which he considers more urgent. But none of the reports he receives give him any clue to the solution of this problem.
We may for the sake of argument at first disregard the dilemmas involved in the choice of consumers’ goods to be produced. We may assume that this problem is settled. But there is the embarrassing multitude of producers’ goods and the infinite variety of procedures that can be resorted to for manufacturing definite consumers’ goods. The most advantageous location of each industry and the optimum size of each plant and of each piece of equipment must be determined. One must determine what kind of mechanical power should be employed in each of them, and which of the various formulas for the production of this energy should be applied. All these problems are raised daily in thousands and thousands of cases. Each case offers special conditions and requires an individual solution appropriate to these data. The number of elements with which the director’s decision has to deal is much greater than would be indicated by a merely technological description of the available producers’ goods in terms of physics and chemistry. The location of each of them must be taken into consideration as well as the serviceableness of the capital investments made in the past for their utilization. The director does not simply have to deal with coal as such, but with thousands and thousands of pits already in operation in various places, and with the possibilities for digging new pits, with the various methods of mining in each of them, with the various methods for utilizing the coal for the production of heat, power, and a great number of derivatives. It is permissible to say that the present state of technological knowledge makes it possible to produce almost anything out of almost everything. Our ancestors, for instance, knew only a limited number of employments for wood. Modern technology has added a multitude of possible new employments. Wood can be used for the production of paper, of various textile fibers, of foodstuffs, drugs, and many other synthetic products.
I never expected to witness the slow suicide of a country, a civilization. I suppose nobody does.
Let me tell you, there’s nothing epic about it. We who have the privilege of travel often look down in satisfaction at the ruins of ancient Greece; the Parthenon lit up in blues and greens. The acropolis. The Colosseum in Rome. We walk through the dusty streets of Timbuktu and gaze in wonder at the old mud mosques as we reflect on when these places had energy and purpose. They are not sad musings, for those of us who are tourists. Time has polished over the disaster. Now all that is left are great old buildings that tell a story of when things were remarkable – not of how they quietly fell away. “There was no reason, not really,” we tell each other as we disembark our air-conditioned buses. “These things just happen. Nothing is forever; and nobody is at fault. It’s just the way of the world,” our plastic wine glass in hand. Time ebbs and flows, slowly wearing away the foundations of a civilization until it collapses in upon itself – at least that’s what we say to comfort ourselves. There’s nothing to do about it. These things can’t be stopped. They just are.
This is what people will say in a hundred years, a thousand years about Caracas, Venezuela. Or Maracay, or Valencia, or Maracaibo. Those great sweltering South American cities with their malls and super-highways and skyscrapers and colossal stadiums. When the archeologists of the future dredge the waters of the Caribbean and find the remains of sunken boats; putting them on display in futuristic museums to tell of the time when this place had hosted a civilization. Ruins of great malls filled with water and crocodiles – maybe the ancient anaconda will have retaken their valleys; maybe the giant rats that wander the plains will have made their abodes in the once-opulent homes of the oligarchs – covering the tiles and marble with their excrement. “There was nothing that could have been done,” the futuristic tourists will also say. “The country declined – and vanished – it’s the way things go.”
by Eric Margolis 30 January, 2016
“When I’ve finished occupying the Soviet Union,” quipped a relaxed Adolf Hitler at dinner one night in 1941, “I’ll put that man Stalin back in charge. He’s the only person who knows how to deal with Russians.”
Stalin was the biggest murderer of modern history – and maybe in of all mankind’s past. His number of victims was only rivaled by Genghis Khan and, in our era, Mao Zedong.
Which bring me to the current observations of the 71st anniversary of the liberation of the concentration camp Auschwitz. Our media is full of stories about the persecution and mass killings of Europe’s Jews in the 1930’s and 1940’s.
And rightly so. This major historic crime must be vividly remembered and never allowed to slip into oblivion. But neither should it be used and reused to justify or excuse today’s repression of 5 million Palestinians.
While the world remembers the Jewish Holocaust, it has almost totally forgotten the other Holocausts. Amid all the references to Nazi death camps, like Auschwitz, Sobibor, and Treblinka, there was not a mention of Magadan, Vorkuta Norilsk, or Perm, all infamous ‘islands’ of the Soviet system of industrial murder, known as “the Gulag.”
Written by Charles Scaliger
At a town hall meeting in New Hampshire on October 30, senator and presidential candidate Bernie Sanders attempted to clarify in what sense he is a “socialist.” One voter in attendance, echoing the beliefs of many Americans, remarked, “I come from a generation where that’s a pretty radical term — we think of socialism (with) communism. Can you explain to us exactly what that is?” Sanders responded, in part: “If we go to some countries, what they will have is health care for all as a right. I believe in that. They will have paid family and medical leave. I believe in that. They will have a much stronger childcare system than we have, which is affordable for working families. I believe in that.”
Sanders went on to clarify that he regards himself as a democratic socialist: “What I mean by Democratic socialism is looking at countries in Scandinavia that have much lower rates of child poverty, that have a fairer tax system that guarantees basic necessities of life to working people. Essentially what I mean by that is creating a government that works for working families, rather than the kind of government we have today which is largely owned and controlled by wealthy individuals and large corporations.”
Sanders, the only self-acknowledged socialist ever to be elected to the U.S. Senate, is careful to distinguish “democratic socialism,” which supposedly distinguishes a democratic political system alongside a socialist economic system, from more authoritarian and even totalitarian forms of socialism such as Marxism, Stalinism, Maoism, and communism generally.
In making such a distinction, Sanders is hardly alone. A number of influential socialists, such as Rosa Luxemburg, Eugene Debs, Erich Fromm, and Howard Zinn, view “democratic socialism” as “socialism from below,” demanded and implemented by the grassroots, and “authoritarian socialism,” such as Stalinism, as “socialism from above.” The Scandinavian model of democratic socialism mentioned by Sanders is a popular talking point among democratic socialists, inasmuch as countries such as Denmark and Sweden appear prosperous, happy, and free despite being socialist.
While polls suggest that Bernie Sanders is unlikely to capture the Democratic nomination for president, his newfound national prominence as a presidential candidate has spurred a renewed interest in socialism. Given America’s struggles with violent crime, chronic unemployment, healthcare affordability, and the quality and cost of education, what could possibly be wrong with the sort of socialism that the likes of Sanders and Scandinavia believe in?
The Evolution of Socialism