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Free Inquiry is about humanism, you say?
Posted: 29 July 2006 07:54 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 16 ]
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Re: Doug missing the point?

Hi Barry,

[quote author=“Barry”]The opposite of capitalism is not socialism. Socialism is not purely about economics.  And not all socialism is nondemocratic.

Agreed, for sure. As I said in another thread, I am partial to many ideas of the european socialists. They are pro-capitalism but also believe that the state has a strong role to play in regulating markets and in providing a strong safety net.

[quote author=“Barry”]PS: Your comparison of Parecon or non-capitalistic economics (though you seem to think that all economies need to be capitalistic???) to Creationism and other fantasies shows both your hardline, cynical, comfirmation bias and a severe lack of an ability to ‘think outside the (capitalistic) box.’ 

I prefer just to call myself “skeptical” ...

:wink:

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Posted: 29 July 2006 11:40 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 17 ]
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All we have here are pipedreams. What proof do you have that parecon is actually as beneficial as you propose? How do you know even trying to build such an economy wouldn’t simply collapse upon itself? How would we even begin to get to that system from capitalism? You stress all these perks of parecon and all the downfalls of capitalism, but have you looked at the downfalls of the system you’re pushing?

Here’s a wager.. create a company that employs the principles of parecon within itself and see how it fairs.. if that’s impossible due to external factors, try to come up with an intermediary system that tests the basics of parecon. If it works anywhere near as well as you propose, then any time and money you invest will be secure. In other words, put your money where your mouth is and come back when you’ve got some solid data to support your claims.

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Posted: 30 July 2006 11:04 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 18 ]
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[quote author=“Arkaro”]Here’s a wager.. create a company that employs the principles of parecon within itself and see how it fairs..

That’s a very interesting idea!

Along those lines, in terms of internal governing principles, how would you describe the philisophical apporach of most of the worlds largest corporations?

Capitalist or Communist?

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Posted: 30 July 2006 07:12 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 19 ]
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Ya know.. I really have no idea. I’d imagine the little things are dealt with on a capitalistic perspective, but the major plans and budgeting might be issued in a socialist manner. I’m really not sure. It might vary in degrees depending on the corporation.

What does it even matter to this thread though? If a system works on a large national scale, why would a smaller business model be out of the question?  Seems like you’d have greater success proving the worth of a smaller-scale version of your system.

Besides.. it seems as though most of the benefits of parecon are more philosophical in nature than necessarily effective. Let’s face it, it’s much quicker to get things done when one person (or group of personel) makes all the decisions instead of trying to get everyone to collaboratively hash out every decision the business makes. It might be more fair, but the response time in a democracy is extremely slow. Much too slow for virtually any business model trying to compete in today’s market.

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Posted: 01 August 2006 05:54 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 20 ]
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Cynics reign?

Seems like the cynics reign in response to Parecon; are the recent posts merely from atheists and skeptics?  Are no humanists willing to post?

PS:  I am reading Ted Honderich’s new book, “Right and Wrong,” and it responds nicely to Churchill’s comments about democracy (before it too offers a better example for humanity) - mainly that though it may seem that democracies by definition are better than totalitarian governments, dictatorships, Communist governments or Theocracies, in practice they are not so much better, certainly not worth bragging about and feeling satisfied with.  Churchill did not let western humanity off the hook.

Honderich shows how democracies can only offer what is claimed they do offer if there really was equality and freedom for every person in a democracy - which is clearly not the case.  He makes very stong arguments which show that though an individual may have more of a chance to say what we believes in England or the US for instance, than in the other governments aforementioned, arguements against non-democracies (Palestine, Iraq, etc) are not automatically wrong because they are made by people living in democracies because democracies are not automatically better in some way.  Isreal is a good example of a democracy acting worse in the world than many non-democracies such as Cuba.

Hence:

“I grant that there remains a lot of point in comparing our democracies favourably to dictatorships and the like.  I’d rather live here, (Honderich is English), under the dim leader of a dim government.  But there is at least as much point in comparing our democracies to democracies that are non hierarchic…  The general idea we have been considering (in this chapter) is that our democracy gets things right or less wrong or is in the right or more in the right because of the equality in it… (But) our democracies, in plain English, are democracies of inequality, democracies of gross inequality… And that because of the (so-called) equality in it, it gets things right about Palestine, 9/11, Iraq and 7/7.  That is a nonsense.  Anyway, the premise is a nonsense.

“(And) just as there is no real or strong argument for the good judgement of our democracy based on the supposed equality of it, so there is no real argument that can be based on the supposed freedom of it.

“(What do we mean by freedom?)  ...Freedoms may have to be something like equal, really something like equal, in order to be freedoms at all.  You have to ask about any freedom or freedom so called, before you are sold it by a salesman for democracy as a guide to right and wrong, what degree of equality or inequality it involves.  This freedom and the good of it is a function of how equally it is shared.  (Our) freedoms or freedoms so called, like any other ones, shade off into unfreedoms.  They shade off into constraint, impotence or oppression as the degree of equality lessons.

“...democracy has been running for quite a while.  There is everything to be said for a direct report on the product.  (The salesman for democracy) could have explained, I guess, how it is that our democractic governments have made more contribution than any other government (over all this time) to a loss of twenty million years of living time by a sample of Africans now still alive.”


Barry F Seidman

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Posted: 02 August 2006 12:16 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 21 ]
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Re: Cynics reign?

[quote author=“Barry”]Seems like the cynics reign in response to Parecon; are the recent posts merely from atheists and skeptics?  Are no humanists willing to post?

Hi Barry. I admittedly don’t have much to add to the conversation - as it’s been a long time since I dabbled with economic theory and all that. However,  I’m a huge Chomsky fan, and have read a ton of Albert’s non-parecon stuff (mostly in Z Magazine).  Here in Massachusetts, it’s very hard to come across the capitalist atheist. Most people (including myself) that I have met seem to have come to their atheism by the type of distrust for authority. They are generally not people to support top-down, unaccountable institutions of any kind. These are libertarians in that they seek out forms of authority and attempt to justify their existence, shedding those forms when there is no justification. Traditional libertarianism/anarchism. We’re talking Bakunin “God and the State” and the like.

How this plays out, however, in their practical life is another story. For me, I don’t have the time to read theory and imagine revolution, etc. I know it’s probably just an excuse, but I believe that change that can be realistically brought about is a moral goal. In fact, to not act to bring about change - as small as that change is - may be unacceptable. What I’m saying is that I believe we must work within the existing system to bring about change that will minimize suffering and injustice.

I have friends who won’t even vote because electoral politics is not effective enough. They think that anything short of anarcho-syndicalist revolution is merely a delusional, evil act.  I may be short-sighted, but fighting against neo-conservatives in their attempts to create a free-market theocracy is a good thing.

Anyway, I don’t know what the best economic structure would look like. I do know that capitalism works for some people, and pretty much sucks for the rest of the world, so it is incompatible with humanism. However, if we can restrain free-market capitalism enough (some would say, “destroy” it), it may be something I would feel comfortable with.

/rambling, incoherent post.

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Posted: 02 August 2006 01:46 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 22 ]
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I think I’m with Tom on this one, and you’re absolutely right, Barry: capitalistic democracies aren’t inherently good, moral, or equal. It all depends on the values of the population. If you have a population of male supremicists (including females of the same mindset), then the institution is naturally going to reflect and promote that trait in its actions. Through the art of diplomacy, they may even pretend they’re not supremicist at all if faced with opposition from other nations.

The problem here really seems to be education. It’s not enough to change the format of the government. The people must collectively be ‘good’ enough to be reflected in the policies of their government. Parecon would also prove to be immoral under the control of a population with evil goals in mind as well. What’s the point of being “equal” when a population equally wishes to impose themselves and their own views upon their neighbor states?

I really don’t see how the structure of the government itself is at fault. There would be no problem at all with a communist dictatorship if the government did it’s very best to eliminate harm and injustice of both its own people as well as others. The range of blame is, however, dispersed in a capitalist democracy but the resulting harm may very well be the same or worse than that of the communist government.

However, one perk in a democracy is the relatively quick prospect for change, which is what our focus should be at the moment. If you can educate the people and change their minds about who they want to lead a country, then they have the power to completely shift the government’s focus every few years. The only concern is whether or not the majority of the population, that still trusts in the system enough to vote, is horrified with the current administration.

How does an administration maintain their seat of power? Well, that’s very simple. Simply misinform the public about the severity of their actions and/or infuse a sense of political helplessness via either confusing themselves with any opposition administration or projecting the image that absolutely anyone else in the same position would behave similarly. A population that has learned political helplessness are less likely to vote. The last thing that a horrible administration wants is for good people to actually feel like their vote will make a difference.

Being an optimist (not necessarily opposite from skepticism), I agree with Tom in that the change for a better government can happen with our current system. It may not be absolutely perfect on those terms, but I doubt whether ideals are even possible in our modern world. If you can reach the public and find creative ways to inform them on the error of their mindset, then and only then will their government begin to reflect a significant change for the better no matter the structure of their governement.

All that being said.. how do you change the mindset of someone with dogmatic beliefs? Ah, now we come to the core issue. To show someone that “believes” their actions are good despite the facts is possibly the greatest obstacle to world peace. We shouldn’t be delving into alternate forms of government to save our planet. Instead, we should pick up media that helps us promote science and reason while denouncing dogma in our society. Such seems to be the goal of Sam Harris with his book, “The End of Faith” or with Richard Dawkins’ television documentary, “The Root of all Evil”. 

Educating the population on the truth and dispelling the myths and lies are the keys to solving the problems of which you speak, Barry. Think about it. Your solution might work in your head or on paper, but would it really be so effective when the population goes against the very principles you’re striving to uphold in the first place? Government is simply a tool for projecting the will of the people in control. If you change the tool but not the hearts of the people, have you really helped the human condition at all?

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Posted: 02 August 2006 02:23 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 23 ]
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Certainly agreed that democracies aren’t inherently moral. That’s basically the thrust of Churchill’s statement. And indeed it’s entirely what we’d expect, since even in the ideal, democracies are supposed to be directed by the will of the people, and people are (to put it mildly) not always moral.

What well-functioning democracies do have is freedom of the press, freedom of speech, freedom to investigate wrongdoings, where nobody is above the law. Thus wrongdoings are often caught and corrected ... though of course far from all of them, since as we have already said, people are not always moral, and far from perfect.

The real enemy of humanism is totalitarianism , as witnessed in states that lack the sorts of freedoms outlined in our ten amendments:  freedom of speech, of the press, of religious observance (or non-observance), of right to fair trial, etc., etc.

(And of course, states can be more or less totalitarian. In some ways, the present US is uncomfortably close to totalitarianism in certain respects. One example with the present government seems to be the divine right of the President to break whatever laws he sees fit, without effective oversight).

My fundamental problem with theoretical sorts of political structures such as parecon or varieties of communism or anarchism is that they will all end up in one version or another of totalitarianism. This is because, at base, they all implicitly assume the abiding good will and morality of the population (in the case of anarchism) or of the ruling Soviet (in the case of communism or—as it appears to me—parecon).

Since, in the case of anarchism, the population will, as a matter of fact, not be made up of people of good will, but instead of actual real humans, power structures will be immediately set up and anarchism will devolve into chaos as strong-men vie for power. This is what we see in any quasi-anarchy today, e.g., in war-torn areas of Africa. So as a matter of fact, anarchism is perhaps the worst idea for a form of political organization.

In the case of communism or parecon, the population and the ruling Soviet will both be made up of actual real humans, so in order to get goods and services priced the way the rulers believe is most fair, societal control will have to be very extensive indeed. We saw what happened to state communism in the USSR, Maoist China, Cambodia and Eastern Europe—total disaster, as it turned out that the supposedly infallible Soviet was, in actual fact, completely incompetent at controlling the economy. Goods were mispriced, leading to shortages. Services were mispriced, leading to uncompetitive industry and grinding, inhuman state bureaocracies.

So in the final analysis, to claim that one has to be a follower of parecon or something similar in order to be a humanist, strikes me as arguably entirely backwards. In practice, parecon is more likely to end up totalitarian than humanist. And frankly the root problem is allowing romantic notions of human or societal perfectibility to rule one’s notions of politics.

Humanism must take humans as they actually are, not as one would wish them to be.

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Posted: 02 August 2006 08:54 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 24 ]
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Replys to Tom, Arkaro, and Doug

Tom
Yes, Chomsky is one of the best.  Indeed, he wrote a blurb for Honderich’s new book, and they plan to do a few speaking enagements together - one should be in Boston.

And I agree that we have to fight the Neo-Cons and Christo-Fascists even if that means backing the Rockafeller Rupublicans we call Democrats today (DLC) - we need more Dennis Kucinich’s! 

But I don’t think anyone would ever restrain capitalism enough because captialism provides power to an elite few by its very nature, and this kind of power currupts.  No one with this kind of power will accept the sort of restraining of capitalism that would be needed to humanise it (which I think would indeed destroy it alltogether.)

Arkaro:
Yes, education is important but a good education first has to be one which is free.  That is, so as long as the American education system is meant to teach American kids what to think rather than how to think, we will never raise the “good” in us because good is based on truth.  But truth, if it goes against the power elite, is not to be taught.  Facts are that most education systems are meant to teach the bare minimal to our kids so that they can grow up and work for the capitalistic system as wage slaves.  In fact, when too many folks were finally becomming better educated - in the 60’s & 70’s - the powers that be dumbed down the system, and now its all about standardized testing and no learning.

As for voting, it is not just that people feel its hopeless (though with two stolen presidential elections, it certainly FEELS hopeless), but that they are not given any real options.  Our supposed democracy puts up two parties of elitists - most of whom are corporate slaves and so heirarchal that they are very much removed from the rest of us - and asks us to choose every 4 years between two anti-humanists.  Third or more parties are so attacked by the two main parties, that no true democratic humanism can ever be chosen by the elite to run, never mind have the money to win. 

A proper government and economic system - maybe Participatory Democracy and Participatory Economics - will force the sort of humanistic situation we need which can lead to the sort of education and participation of the masses… indeed, without such changes, not very much else will make things better as you hope things get.  You are putting the horse before the cart.

PS: I do not think Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins are helping matters because they assume that they can reason the religious out of their beliefs and they do so as arrogant, angry atheists; but the relgious are often so because of the quality of life they live - like in the American South or Arab nations - under unequal, minimal freedom-based capitalism and representative democracy.

Doug:
American democracy is not by the will of the people.  The freedoms you claim are not apparent in reality. Anarchism or libertarian-socialism leading to totalitarianism is nonsense, and only a claim capitalistic governments make against other forms of societies… But this is only possible when we are talking about State Governments, which is not what I am talking about.  Your using communism in the same sentence as parecon shows how little you have read about parecon or anarchism.

Africa’s problems have as much if not more to do with the West than with any sort of anarchism, and I do not see parecon there.

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Posted: 05 August 2006 03:48 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 25 ]
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To get back to the original topic, I find Free Inquiry to be about secular humanism, yes. As someone who is relatively new to all of this myself (I just started getting involved about a year ago) I must say that reading Free Inquiry has done a lot to help me explore ethics without religion, and godless goodness, etc. Humanism is not just atheism, and its not just ethics. It is both, and Free Inquiry does a good job expounding those things.

(And yes, despite its problems with graphic design, lol)

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Posted: 07 August 2006 08:05 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 26 ]
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Back to arguement…

To get back to the original topic, I find Free Inquiry to be about secular humanism, yes. As someone who is relatively new to all of this myself (I just started getting involved about a year ago) I must say that reading Free Inquiry has done a lot to help me explore ethics without religion, and godless goodness, etc. Humanism is not just atheism, and its not just ethics. It is both, and Free Inquiry does a good job expounding those things.

(And yes, despite its problems with graphic design, lol)
============

Tom:

Briefly, I do not think the graphic design of Free Iinquiry is bad!  Indeed it is very good (not counting the awfull front cover of the current issue). I think I said this earlier. 

And I’d agree that Free Inquiry is a great intro magazine to atheism, secularism, and even ethics (though that can be debatable from author to author); but FI, for a while now, does not extend itself much at all - if at all - past atheism and secularism; and when it does delve into ethics, it too often publishes right-wing ethics like those of Chris Hitchens, Ibn Warraq (when his essays are not pure Koranic criticism), and Tibor Machan. 

As for covering the whole of humanism beyond some of its parts (atheism & secularism), Free Inquiry falls dramatically short almost all the time.  This is because, it seems to me, of the abundence of Right-Libertarians, Centrist-Libertarians, pseudo-Liberals, Republicans, and atheist-avengers on staff of CFI, when Humanists are much more likely to have qualities of Classical Liberalism mixed with Left-Libertarianism and democratic socialism ... And where atheism is NOT the most important ism-ingredient.

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