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March 29, 2015


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Evolution has put the eyes in your head. What is it that would make anyone think that it is incapable of putting the thoughts there too?

This is an essay on the nature of tyranny and freedom and the human condition.


Here in the early part of the 21st century, the preceding several decades of full speed ahead globalisation, driven by the forces of economics and wealth creation, have mixed culture replicators like never before. Those economic forces have been raising the materially impoverished out of material poverty, but take little to no account of cultural differences beyond those which affect the P&L, why should they, they are not coded to. Economies and financial markets are coded to grow and when they can no longer grow by creating wealth via innovation and investment they evolve alternative ways to grow, such as through speculation driven by ‘quantitative easing,’ negative interest rates, currency devaluation and so on. Those alternative ways may be absurd and destructive for society but until new code evolves grow is all they are coded to do and the peril for society is of no concern to the code until such concern is evolved into the code.

Peter Dorman

So as not to repeat myself, here is the link to a post from three years ago that addresses the issue of whether labor markets correctly “price” bad working conditions like physical risk, alienation and harassment: http://econospeak.blogspot.com/2012/07/pay-for-oppression-do-workers-in-fairer.html

Luis Enrique

I fear you're going to think this trite, but how much happier were workers in the soviet bloc? My point is merely an objection to your habit of assigning to capitalism things that apply more broadly, and capitalism isn't even always the worst offender


Luis, the Soviet Union was well known for its very relaxed and egalitarian work conditions. It was part of the social contract that kept the Party in power.


Luis, the USSR didn't have worker control; instead everything was controlled by government mangers so a better comparison would be average firms with worker co-opts or unionized workplaces.

Luis Enrique

the point remains - alienated and/or otherwise miserable workers is not the exclusive preserve of capitalism. David I have read a little about working conditions in the USSR. "Relaxed and egalitarian" is not the impression I was left with.

Jö Miller

You're probably going to find this trite, Luis, but aren't you committing the tu quoque fallacy (as you often do)?

Luis Enrique


um, not sure. Don't think so. (and what's with the "as you often do"?)

I don't think I am responding to Chris by accusing him of hypocrisy. I am saying he is wrong to attribute to capitalism something that also happens under other economic systems.

I don't see any fallacy there. For example, suppose you are in 1970s Tanzania and you attribute corruption to high levels of state control, you might (erroneously as it turned out) think that economic liberalization might reduce corruption. If somebody came along and said er hang on you also get corruption in free market economies, would you call that tu quoque?

gastro george

@David - as an antidote to glamorised views of Soviet Bloc workers, you could well watch the works of Andrzej Wajda - in particular "Man of Marble" and sequels.

Igor Belanov

'Glamorised' or not, in countries like the DDR work discipline was lighter because unemployment was non-existent and the regimes made at least some attempt to fulfil their role as the 'embodiment' of the working class.

gastro george

I'd agree Igor. I was only countering the idea of "very relaxed and egalitarian work conditions", which appears somewhat glamorised.

Do Not Contradict Me

I think the unemployed would be much happier if the pay was better. Unemployed lottery winners are generally happier than call centre workers!

An Alien Visitor

Luis Enrique is doing his normal job as the perfectly constructed apologist for capitalism.

I doubt being a worker in the Soviet Union was much better than being one in the West, and at least the West had bright colours. But the point is that Marx painstakingly argued why capitalism alienates man, it was a deep theoretical argument. This is what is being tested, not whether system x, y or z also alienates. If you don't think capitaism alienates man argue why.

What we can say is that within this theory Marx gives his closest hint at how a society free of alienation would look. That would be another interesting debate i think.


Luis Enrique is actually doing a perfectly sensible job of asking that although there are negative aspects of capitalism, is there any evidence of a significantly better alternative?

Luis Enrique

thanks nick. I think my point is also that if you want to understand why workers get alienated, it matters for your explanation if alienation happens under different economic systems.

Just like if you are trying to understand link between diet and disease, it would matter if heart attacks are common under latin american, anglo-saxon and central asian diets. It would be odd if you kept just confined your painstaking deep theorising to latin american diets. If you wanted to avoid heart attacks, saying: avoid the latin american diet is not enough.

I am quite prepared to believe that less worker-alienating systems may exist, but if they do, there's going to be more to it than simply being not-capitalist.

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