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Utilitarianism

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    (Original post by Drapetomanic)
    It's important to note that profit is calculated differently under economic democracy. For a capitalist firm, labor is counted as a cost. For a worker-run enterprise it is not. Labor is not another "factor of production" on par with land and capital. Labor is the residual claimant I.E. the person(s) who gets the net income after the other stuff (like tax) has been deducted. This is completely different to investing a small proportion of your wage into your capitalist firm because the return you're getting is significantly higher as the residual claimant.

    As for changes in profits, the simple fact of the matter is that if a company loses money, the company shouldn't be existing. I could imagine 'wages' could be decided by the workers based on projected profits, with money being kept and put into a redundancy 'pot'. For short term fluctuations and if the firm went bankrupt. In any case the amount your average worker would receive would be superior to the majority of today's workers.
    These is nothing to stop this system. Infact what you descibe is essentially a partnership. The problem is these firms cannot grow to a larger size unless they start employing people, who might otherwise not care.



    When I say 'economic democracy', I'm referring to workers owning enterprises and democratically electing managers. When I say political democracy, instead of a elite minority representing the public, I mean a series of nested councils that vote on policy, although their economic influence in the market for goods and services is limited, the exception being the capital asset tax.
    I love this councils argument. That would never work. The councils would disagree and be uncoordinated. Springing from that would be a desire to centralise power into the hands of a strong man when ever disagreement occurs.

    People can only express their needs through the choices available to them on the market, if you're born into the wrong end of the capitalist system the choices you have are extremely limited in comparison to people at the other end. If your viewpoint doesn't transcend the capitalist system, then it could appear that people are completely free do do as they please and express their wants accordingly. Looking beyond that, if the capitalist class is removed, it's possible to have a system in which there are only small differences in 'pulling power' and the people who were on the wrong end of the system (the majority) could have many more choices available to them.
    The system where the people at the bottom have the best chance of improving their state is capitalism. If men are freed of regulations and control then even humble beginnings can lead to great wealth. Poor people do badly under democracy. They do badly under state education. The best method for helping the poor is really to let the compete in the market place.
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    Utilitarianism is not a social or political philosophy. It is an ethical one. It says that the moral value of actions (whether good or bad) is based on whether they create greater or lesser utility. Obviously, government can use utilitarian arguments such as "instituting a minimum price for alcohol will stop binge drinking".
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    (Original post by Classical Liberal)
    These is nothing to stop this system. Infact what you descibe is essentially a partnership. The problem is these firms cannot grow to a larger size unless they start employing people, who might otherwise not care.
    Not really sure what you mean here. When you say employ do you mean take on more worker-owners? Because firms would be able to grow as much as need be, but there is no incentive to grow exponentially.

    I love this councils argument. That would never work. The councils would disagree and be uncoordinated. Springing from that would be a desire to centralise power into the hands of a strong man when ever disagreement occurs.
    I disagree. It's not difficult to imagine a system of nested councils starting with 35 or so people who deliberate and then vote on some issue. The council then sends delegates to a higher tier, say with 35 other delegates. They then do the same, deliberate and vote. If you do this 5 times and the country's population could be represented. You could also have a human rights court to oversee the proceedings. It's no more far-fetched or complicated than the current system of representative democracy. Only more people are represented, and there's no opportunity for higher councils to override the decision of lower councils.

    The system where the people at the bottom have the best chance of improving their state is capitalism. If men are freed of regulations and control then even humble beginnings can lead to great wealth. Poor people do badly under democracy. They do badly under state education. The best method for helping the poor is really to let the compete in the market place.
    Oh lord. I think it's this is one of the must destructive political/economic arguments anyone can make. And the key word is in bold; 'can' should be replaced with 'almost certainly won't'. You don't have to be a sociologist to understand that the socioeconomic conditions in which a person is raised will influence their potential earning more than anything else. Yes, a person from a poor background with good parenting who keeps them away from bad role models and teaches the value of hard work, who helps them through their shoddy education; could in theory get lucky and make some money.

    The fact is the vast majority of poor people will be turned away from any sort of success by the poor role models, poor education, poor parenting and crime. They'll be driven into the same poverty cycle that their parents fell into. The only way the poorest in society will ever seriously change this is revolution. Whether that be voting in a economically democratic party, or by forcibly taking control of their workplaces I don't know. The notion that if you remove government control and subject people to the magical hand of the capitalist market they'll somehow do better is idiotic and definitely not based in any sort of empiricism.
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    (Original post by Drapetomanic)

    Not to mention worldwide poverty, vast inequality, reoccurring economic crisis', environmental degradation and toxic consumerism.

    .
    I will tackle this tomorow.

    Theme: That is not the fault of the free market or capitalism as intended, it is the fauly of crony capitalism via the government, or vice versa.
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    (Original post by D.R.E)
    Utilitarianism is not a social or political philosophy. It is an ethical one. It says that the moral value of actions (whether good or bad) is based on whether they create greater or lesser utility. Obviously, government can use utilitarian arguments such as "instituting a minimum price for alcohol will stop binge drinking".
    I know it says that in wikipedia.

    But it seems it does have a implicit philosophical aspect because it reduces society initially to the individual who 'naturally' wants to seeks his/her own utility/happiness. Then says society is a sum of these individuals.

    ...and then by making utility a 'categorical imperative' it defines a role for the state so is implicitly political.
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    (Original post by Classical Liberal)
    I think ads can be a useful tool to tell consumers about new things. And I have objection to firms adding value by giving certain goods an image which the consumer buys into.

    Advertising goes wrong when it becomes lying. And this is a very vague area that I do not really have the expertise to comment on.
    No most advertising is not just listing, it is a kind of manipulation using marketing techniques. Just watch an advert break on TV and tell me all you are seeing is a 'list' of products.

    Like I said if the market existed to satisfy the 'utility' of consumers why are we seeing this 'manipulation' of consumer choose? Either we accept that consumers are irrational and need 'guiding' to find their own happiness (which makes people irrational actors unable to seek their own happiness on their own and destroys liberalism), or we accept that the market is not their just to serve consumers (in some teleological sense).
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    (Original post by Drapetomanic)
    It's no more centrally planned than what we have at the moment. Enterprises would make the stuff and trade on the market, consumers choose what they want these choices are relayed back to the producers via a price mechanism. Everything that needs to be produced in society is determined by a market.

    Investment is another matter, investment would be similar to what we currently do only instead of rich individuals investing in businesses, we take it from the enterprises through an assets tax, like I said.

    The money goes to the different regions on a per-capita basis, and then to public banks in those regions based on how successful the banks are. The banks perform the function of rich investors and private banks by investing in profitable business proposals. Other money would also be given to local democratic councils who decide what social projects to invest in.

    None of this is particularly centrally planned.
    You can call it what you like but you are still using autonomous centers of power to allocate Capital. It's de facto central planning.

    What happens to profit the banks make BTW?
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    (Original post by snozzle)
    You can call it what you like but you are still using autonomous centers of power to allocate Capital. It's de facto central planning.

    What happens to profit the banks make BTW?
    OK, I will concede that local banks investing in local enterprises, could be considered a form of central planning. However, the enterprises themselves compete in a relatively free market. Furthermore allocation of funds to social projects are controlled by local councils that are democratically ran. This is a form of decentralised planning.

    The bank operatives earn their living according to how well they judge both the profitability and employment creation potential of prospective investment plans presented to them. But the banks themselves don't operate for a profit, they give out grants rather than loans; also there's no stocks or bonds so credit is essentially abolished.
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    (Original post by snozzle)
    I know it says that in wikipedia.

    But it seems it does have a implicit philosophical aspect because it reduces society initially to the individual who 'naturally' wants to seeks his/her own utility/happiness. Then says society is a sum of these individuals.

    ...and then by making utility a 'categorical imperative' it defines a role for the state so is implicitly political.
    Utilitarianism does the first part, but not the second. Yes, utility can only be defined or identified on an individual level. And yes, society is a sum of these individuals, but this isn't a utilitarian viewpoint per se; and neither does utilitarianism define the role of the state in reality. It's just that people use utilitarian arguments to justify whatever form of government they wish to have.


    Saying the government's role in society is to 'maximise utility' is quite empty and meaningless really. Accepting that premise doesn't lead to any concrete proposals, and that exact statement can be used by a radical communist, or an anarcho-capitalist without it being controversial in any sense. Utilitarianism is not a political philosophy, but it is the dominant ethical system, which is why people use it so much to justify their political views.
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    (Original post by D.R.E)
    Utilitarianism does the first part, but not the second. Yes, utility can only be defined or identified on an individual level. And yes, society is a sum of these individuals, but this isn't a utilitarian viewpoint per se; and neither does utilitarianism define the role of the state in reality. It's just that people use utilitarian arguments to justify whatever form of government they wish to have.
    Utilitarianism is explicitly individualistic is my point. It is not 'just' an ethic since it is based upon what you might call a series of social or philosophical 'assumptions' or a priori 'beliefs'.

    Well ok it defines rules for judging what are good and bad actions regarding the state. I suppose it is not a theory of the state per se, but it would seem to rule out collectivism though which would put the 'utility' of an abstract 'collective' over the utility of a sum of individuals though I think? The state is always an entity which should maximise aggregate or average utility of individuals.

    You might be right about it being able to justify any action of the state (or form of government) but I think some of that comes down to the difficulty in measuring utility/happiness or even really defining what they are.
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    (Original post by Classical Liberal)
    I love this councils argument. That would never work. The councils would disagree and be uncoordinated. Springing from that would be a desire to centralise power into the hands of a strong man when ever disagreement occurs.
    On that basis everything would end up centralised regardless. But we don't have things like a European Central Train Co-ordinator or anything like that, so why would it be different for what Drapetomanic mentioned.
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    (Original post by snozzle)
    Utilitarianism is explicitly individualistic is my point. It is not 'just' an ethic since it is based upon what you might call a series of social or philosophical 'assumptions' or a priori 'beliefs'.
    I'm not sure where you are getting this stuff to be honest. Everything is based on certain 'assumptions', so what about it? You don't have to believe in anything that is 'a priori' to be a utilitarian.

    Well ok it defines rules for judging what are good and bad actions regarding the state. I suppose it is not a theory of the state per se, but it would seem to rule out collectivism though which would put the 'utility' of an abstract 'collective' over the utility of a sum of individuals though I think? The state is always an entity which should maximise aggregate or average utility of individuals.
    Firstly, utilitarian theory says nothing about states. It just tries to answer general ethical questions for example: is it morally right to kill another person; or is it morally wrong to lie? Also, don't you see the apparent contradiction in saying that we can't calculate the utility of a collective and then going on to say that the state should maximise 'aggregate or average' utility?

    You might be right about it being able to justify any action of the state (or form of government) but I think some of that comes down to the difficulty in measuring utility/happiness or even really defining what they are.
    No, it just stems from a misuse or misunderstanding (as you are exhibiting right now) of what utilitarianism is and how it can be applied. Utility is an ordinal value so forget about 'measuring' it.
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    (Original post by D.R.E)
    I'm not sure where you are getting this stuff to be honest. Everything is based on certain 'assumptions', so what about it? You don't have to believe in anything that is 'a priori' to be a utilitarian.
    Sure it uses ontological assumptions, but fundamentally like I said it is individualistic and uses 'naturalistic' 'beliefs' about human nature; one being that individuals attempt to seek their own happiness in a natural state, and that the individual exists before society. No utilitarian would put the utility of something (collective?) which could represent society from one POV - such as religion - over the aggregate or average utility of individuals.

    (Original post by D.R.E)
    Firstly, utilitarian theory says nothing about states. It just tries to answer general ethical questions for example: is it morally right to kill another person; or is it morally wrong to lie? Also, don't you see the apparent contradiction in saying that we can't calculate the utility of a collective and then going on to say that the state should maximise 'aggregate or average' utility?
    Well the state would be an actor in society whose actions are subject to utilitarian ethical tests, so it implicitly defines a role for the state which is to maximise utility (average or total).

    Yep the point in bold was not my assertion, I was following a line of argument extending from utilitarianism, probably I did not take enough care to show that.

    (Original post by D.R.E)
    No, it just stems from a misuse or misunderstanding (as you are exhibiting right now) of what utilitarianism is and how it can be applied. Utility is an ordinal value so forget about 'measuring' it.
    That still begs the question of how one knows if one outcome is better or worse than another from a utility POV. I see you tried to dodge that issue but I see your trick.
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    (Original post by snozzle)
    Sure it uses ontological assumptions, but fundamentally like I said it is individualistic and uses 'naturalistic' 'beliefs' about human nature; one being that individuals attempt to seek their own happiness in a natural state, and that the individual exists before society. No utilitarian would put the utility of something (collective?) which could represent society from one POV - such as religion - over the aggregate or average utility of individuals.
    But as I said, so what? None of this precludes someone from being a collectivist in the economic sense, and also a believer in utilitarian ethics. All that is required is that you think that a collectivist economic system creates greater individual utility.


    Well the state would be an actor in society whose actions are subject to utilitarian ethical tests, so it implicitly defines a role for the state which is to maximise utility (average or total).

    Yep the point in bold was not my assertion, I was following a line of argument extending from utilitarianism, probably I did not take enough care to show that.
    As I said previously, saying the state's role is to maximise utility is just an empty statement. One person could say it would do this by removing all private ownership of the means of production, and one could also say that the state can maximise utility by privatising the army. Whether or not this is truly the case is not a question of utilitarian principle, but a question of fact.


    That still begs the question of how one knows if one outcome is better or worse than another from a utility POV. I see you tried to dodge that issue but I see your trick.
    There was no dodge there. I told you: utility is a subjective ordinal value. Only individuals can value things, and they are the only ones who can know which outcomes satisfy those values and gives them the greatest amount of utility. Getting kicked in the balls hurts, but for some crazies out there, it satisfies their utility.
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    (Original post by D.R.E)
    But as I said, so what? None of this precludes someone from being a collectivist in the economic sense, and also a believer in utilitarian ethics. All that is required is that you think that a collectivist economic system creates greater individual utility.
    Ok I concede that point. I would still define that person as a individualist from a philosophical POV, just one who would advocate common ownership of the means of production from a pragmatic utilitarian POV.

    No collectivist from a philosophical POV would care about individual utility I think though, since to them they deny the importance of the individual...only the abstract entity (class, religious group etc) matters...is 'real'.

    (Original post by D.R.E)
    As I said previously, saying the state's role is to maximise utility is just an empty statement. One person could say it would do this by removing all private ownership of the means of production, and one could also say that the state can maximise utility by privatising the army. Whether or not this is truly the case is not a question of utilitarian principle, but a question of fact.
    Well no it would be a meaningful premise, just the conclusion is uncertain.

    (Original post by D.R.E)
    There was no dodge there. I told you: utility is a subjective ordinal value. Only individuals can value things, and they are the only ones who can know which outcomes satisfy those values and gives them the greatest amount of utility. Getting kicked in the balls hurts, but for some crazies out there, it satisfies their utility.
    You never said it was subjective initially, but if it is then it renders the ethic useless as one can never know the effect of one's actions on another persons utility, as that utility only manifests itself as a subjective ordinal value which is axiomatically impossible to predict prior to the action.

    Anyway I do doubt the individualistic philosophy your statement implies, as clearly tastes, wants etc are controlled by society to some degree. I think it as Durkheim who was on about 'social facts'. Say for example religion can put a brake on peoples material wants or modify or sublimate them. Similarly in our modern society advertising techniques can manipulate or incite material wants to some extent. So even in economics the individual, I do not believe, is the sovereign master of their own criteria for utility. If it anything it is historicist not subjective.
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    (Original post by anarchism101)
    Says who?

    I know that often in political terminology, 'democratic socialism' means reformist, moderate socialism, but who said anything about 'central planning'?
    Any form of socialism, be it moderate or far left relies on a large centralised state, even under New Labour which was a centrist party increased the size of the state
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    (Original post by snozzle)
    No most advertising is not just listing, it is a kind of manipulation using marketing techniques. Just watch an advert break on TV and tell me all you are seeing is a 'list' of products.
    I don't think the public are a bunch of idiots and that advertisers are compulsive liars. The greatest liars. The greatest people are not delivering.Is the government, hands down. The greatest fraudsters in the world. What firms do by comparison in the exercise of lying is quite frankly pathetic.

    That is not to say advertisers never lie. And if they do lie then the law should punish them for doing so.

    The greatest example of Madison avenue salesman ship was performed by the government when national insurance was introduced. The reformer had a stroke of genius of linking up a regressive income tax with a regressive welfare system and bundling up as if it were one and selling it to the public. What brilliance on their part.
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    (Original post by Classical Liberal)
    I don't think the public are a bunch of idiots and that advertisers are compulsive liars. The greatest liars. The greatest people are not delivering.Is the government, hands down. The greatest fraudsters in the world. What firms do by comparison in the exercise of lying is quite frankly pathetic.

    That is not to say advertisers never lie. And if they do lie then the law should punish them for doing so.

    The greatest example of Madison avenue salesman ship was performed by the government when national insurance was introduced. The reformer had a stroke of genius of linking up a regressive income tax with a regressive welfare system and bundling up as if it were one and selling it to the public. What brilliance on their part.
    I think I am criticising the liberalist idea that the individual is a 'free' rational actor able to determine the economic utility of a good or service themselves.

    Like I said you have a vast advertisting industry which uses techniques to incite or promote demand/want, and this is well proven.

    I was reading about Durkheim and he was saying that religion was a system which was able to successfully moderate, or control peoples material wants and expectations, so people in traditional-religious societies were often happier and more content.

    So I see advertising as a kind of reverse of that, with an agenda to promote and incite wants.

    So clearly the 'utility' of a good or service is defined by social forces as well as the individual.

    Look at 'crazes' for products etc Apple might be a great example there. How about the housing market the last few years?
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    (Original post by snozzle)
    I was reading about Durkheim and he was saying that religion was a system which was able to successfully moderate, or control peoples material wants and expectations, so people in traditional-religious societies were often happier and more content.
    That might be true, seems unlikely though.

    Look at 'crazes' for products etc Apple might be a great example there. How about the housing market the last few years?
    The housing market was caused in no small part by loose monetary policy and speculation that derived from that. From that there developed a frenzy of house buying. I think this had little or nothing to do with 'advertising'. Advertisers have not manufactured the demand to have a home, that is almost innate, and they have not manufactured the demand to make money by doing nothing by releasing positive equity.

    Apple is not a good example. Apple consistently sell the best computers and music players money can buy. Their products are high quality and look much more elegant than any competitor.
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    (Original post by Classical Liberal)
    That might be true, seems unlikely though.
    Well he used suicide rates to show there were less suicides in more traditional-religious societies. Industralism and Capitalism seems to increase suicide rates even though it makes us richer.


    (Original post by Classical Liberal)
    The housing market was caused in no small part by loose monetary policy and speculation that derived from that. From that there developed a frenzy of house buying. I think this had little or nothing to do with 'advertising'. Advertisers have not manufactured the demand to have a home, that is almost innate, and they have not manufactured the demand to make money by doing nothing by releasing positive equity.

    Apple is not a good example. Apple consistently sell the best computers and music players money can buy. Their products are high quality and look much more elegant than any competitor.
    You're doing my work for me. It's hard to take the classic liberal model of the individual without criticism.

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