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Was Marx Right About Capitalism?


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The important bit is not collectivism, or the absence thereof, rather how collectivism is bought about: By the voluntary interactions of individuals via the market and trade, or by the coercive dictat of government.

In politics, collectivism only ever means the latter.

Of course. Presumably then, the only thing wrong with capitalism is the diktat of 'regulation' ?

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That doesn't mean anything, it's not measureable.

The measureable and common parameters of all collectivist systems is the method of distribution and who savings, capital and production belong to (or are controlled by).

By logical extension it means that communism, fascism, and feudalism are all forms of collectivism, I am not sure what you think it has to do with the cold war or Senator McCarthy, only observeable facts.

The bank bail outs are the actions of those that would be most closely associated with fascist collectivists.

The rest of your argument is ad-hominem.

* EDIT * May I ask what your definition of capitalism is?

Also, do you think the bank bail outs were a voluntary transaction between two parties, bailer and bailee (a capitalist transaction)? Or a mandatory transaction, involving three parties where one party of authority chose who would receieve and who would give (a collectivist transaction)?

Isn't that some sort of basic logical error from philosophy 1.01 ? Collectivism=coercion, bank bail out = coercion, therefore bank bail out = collectivism lol !

But let me try a different tack.

Privatise the gains and privatise the losses:

Not a complete description of capitalism, but a nice 'in a nutshell formula''. A free market working beautifully.

Collectivise the gains and collectivise the losses:

Ditto for collectivism. And we could substitute socialism. But, so the (20C) argument goes people don't like sharing so it involves 'diktat' aka 'collectivised will' So far so good.

Collectivise the gains, privatise the losses.

I don't know what the hell that is - to be fair though I just made it up. I imagine though its some sort of extremist collectivist. Very noble to think about the 'collective' but picking on the nasty private sector to make your collective seem better, well there's a certain hypocracy to it whatever the 'ends' you desire.

Privatise the gains socialise/collectivise the losses.

Can you work out where I'm going here ?

Now don't get me wrong, hippocracy wasn't quite what Alistair Darling intended. He was looking to protect the private interests of the masses, the mass capitalist system not offload harm onto the 'collective'.

Nevertheless the moral hazard is clear, and calling it 'collectivism' is simply adding insult to injury. it's a sort of communists wet dream of the evils of capitalism, where the crazy extremist capitalists are even prepared to 'socialise'/outsource the blame on to collectivism !

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That isn't a problem and no one is saying is is.

It's a big problem for those who claim that the only reason that capitalism is rigged is because the state allows those with wealth and influence to rig it.

If capitalism cannot exist without a state and if the existence of a state inevitably leads to a rigged market then we must conclude that a rigged market is the natural state of capitalism.

Which makes perfect sense since the objective of the capitalist is to get rich, not support some idealised form of the market in which his ability to rig things in his favour is constrained by some ideological fantasy regarding the nature of that free market.

As ever the confusion arises from that word 'free'. Free in this context means that the capitalist is free to pursue profit using any and all means possible-including influence peddling to attempt to rig the market- and that's all it means.

It's ironic that the free market fan club regard themselves as the ultimate in economic realpolitik- in contrast- they would claim- to the wooley minded idealism of the socialists- yet scratch the surface of these people and you will discover that their near worship of the market is just as much a fantasy as the wildest collectivist visions of the left.

We do not have a stable monetary system and therefore our economy is going to be governed by those who control the money supply. It has nothing to do with capitalism.

Again the same problem arises- if we can't have capitalism without the state and the state inevitably corrupts capitalism then the idealised form of capitalism you recommend is just as much a fantasy as the idealised socialist states promoted by the left.

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for your position to hold true you must assume no new jobs are created, theres is nothing left for mankind to do, no new products, no new services, no new ideas. as though today is the peak of society. what you describe should have happened in the industrial revolution. in fact i believe many labourer thought thats what would happen at the time.

there billions of things that can be done that arent being done. people in 50 years will look at the jobs being done today and say what a waste of time.

no ones saying you cant help other people. there are 65 million people in the UK but only 31 million people in work, so not everyone is working to get stuff even today. theres lots of elderly and young not working.

however by making food cheaper its easier to give away free food. by making computers cheaper it makes it easier for someone on low income to buy a a computer.

keeping costs high is not in the interests of society. in order to advance people have to lose their jobs. you cant do new things because youre busy doing what youre currently doing.

My position is not that no new jobs will ever be created in the future- what I am saying is that a primary objective of the free market is to eliminate as many jobs as possible as long as this maintains or increases profits.

Put crudely we humans have invented a system that views us as an irritant- from the viewpoint of the free market labour is an infestation- a cost- one to be rooted out and eliminated.

And this process of elimination is backed by the combined wit and intelligence of the smartest minds on the planet- every day all over the world clever people are working as hard as they can to put you out of work. Do you doubt their ability to succeed?

Imagine what humans could achieve if we all came together to work on a single great project- well the good news is that we have one such project up and running even as we speak.

The bad news is that the project in question is to design the technology that will put you and millions like you out of a job.

Edited by wonderpup
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I have nothing against free trade, it's a good idea. It just isn't a stable basis for a society, not on its own.

As utopian dreams Communism doesn't work for the same reasons capitalism doesn't work, they are unstable and lead to some form of hierarchical feudal system.

The only thing that has a chance of working is a messy pluralism, where mutually assured destruction holds all forms of power in check. Taken to its limit that leads to a stateless society, although not you might not recognise it as such.

Basically if you support any political or economic hierarchy, and you arent at the top, then youre a patsy.

Absolutely.

I often interchange free trade with free association, as the latter implies the former. However, free association also implies people cooperating and working together, which would perhaps not be considered as direct 'trades'.

TBH, as long as using aggression isn't considered an acceptable way for anyone to get what they want, I'm not much bothered how people organise themselves.

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It doesn't matter who the target of resources are (be it the rich or the poor), Collectivism is collectivism, whereby a third party decides where capital and savings are distributed.

In a capitalist society individuals get to keep their capital and decide what to do with it.

The current banks are responsible for manufacturing a form of government designated means of exchange, and the government actively took ownership and control of these organisations during the bailouts.

If the bank bailouts were in any way the result of capitalism, people would have been asked by the failing banks if they wanted trade their savings for the goal of keep these organisations solvent i.e. asked if they wished to participate in an exchange.

Sure, but this isn't mutual exclusive to people working in teams for a common goal.

Voluntarily giving up some individuality, in exchange for mutual support from a community, may well be a good thing for most/many. The voluntary part is absolutely key though, of course.

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My position is not that no new jobs will ever be created in the future- what I am saying is that a primary objective of the free market is to eliminate as many jobs as possible as long as this maintains or increases profits.

Put crudely we humans have invented a system that views us as an irritant- from the viewpoint of the free market labour is an infestation- a cost- one to be rooted out and eliminated.

And this process of elimination is backed by the combined wit and intelligence of the smartest minds on the planet- every day all over the world clever people are working as hard as they can to put you out of work. Do you doubt their ability to succeed?

Imagine what humans could achieve if we all came together to work on a single great project- well the good news is that we have one such project up and running even as we speak.

The bad news is that the project in question is to design the technology that will put you and millions like you out of a job.

Humans aren't the irritant - labouring is the irritant. Less toil and more goods is what the market drives to deliver.

If there is an army of robots doing everything, so that humans don't have to, that is progress.

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Humans aren't the irritant - labouring is the irritant. Less toil and more goods is what the market drives to deliver.

If there is an army of robots doing everything, so that humans don't have to, that is progress.

Unfortunately, these statists cant tell the difference. Its not as subtle as the classical Keynesian stimulus as 'paying a man to dig a hole, then another man to fill it in', but its still there, on a vast scale, people paid to do nothing other than 'have a job'

Edited by Executive Sadman
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No it's a straw man. Although it does make an interesting comparison.

Science is robust against fraud (nothing is perfect of course, but that's OT), because of replication of results and that sort of thing.

Capitalism is not robust against cheating. That's kind of obvious, but if you want experimental proof look around you, read some history.

This is the exact same flaw as communism, and all utopian systems, they assume a non cheating rule that either has to be enforced, or the rule get changed and your utopia is gone anyway.

Its not a straw man. Its closely analogous.

With respect you should pony up a proper counter.rather than pull the straw man card without cause. It weakens your argument significantly.

Also with respect both you and to a greater degree the OP are in a logical dead end, looking down the wrong end of the semantic telescope.

Your reasoning as you expound it s: The current economic "system" is capitalist and therefore any activity that takes place within it is capitalism. But as people more able than me have pointed out on the board before to be a capitalist is the description of acts you undertake.

Science is not what scientists do, scientists are people who do science.

Capitalism is not what capitalists do, capitalists are people who do capitalism.

I can sit on my sofa and proclaim to be a fisherman while never catching a fish, I AM NOT A FISHERMAN.

But to take it one level further like some on this thread and say that if I declare myself a fisherman then keep cats in intolerable cruelty in my house both fisherman and the act of fishing are immoral etc.

IS JUST BONKERS!

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Isn't that some sort of basic logical error from philosophy 1.01 ? Collectivism=coercion, bank bail out = coercion, therefore bank bail out = collectivism lol !

Of course not, we have to define various economic systems by measurement of their methods, not the desired distributive outcome, which is of course distinctly difficult to measure and compare.

There is an unequivocal difference between the methods of capitalism and the various forms of collectivism.

Capitalism relies on a pricing system and the voluntary actions and trades of individuals to determine where resources are distributed.

Collectivism relies on a committee, dictator, council, monarch, or even referrendum (that possibly gives mandate to a committee to oversee distribution) to centrally plan quite precisely where resources should be distributed (A shall get X, and B shall get Y, and so on) in accordance with an economic blue print (this sort of economic management is undeniably present in fascism, feudalism, and socialism, the desired outcomes may vary, but the method is the same, and thus each system can be termed a form of collectivism).

As for discussing Alistair Darling and the bank bail outs when trying to define capitalism, we can only conclude (given the previous definition) that it is not a capitalist transaction in any shape or form, as the action involved central planning by the state, further the capital for the bail outs was forcibly expropriated from those providing it, again by the government.

The bail outs were undeniably a collectivist action.

Those subscribing to various forms of collectivist ideology might disagree because the resulting outcome of the bailouts did not match the distributive goals of the form collectivism which they champion, however the method or action was without doubt collectivist.

Edited by GradualCringe
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Sure, but this isn't mutual exclusive to people working in teams for a common goal.

Voluntarily giving up some individuality, in exchange for mutual support from a community, may well be a good thing for most/many. The voluntary part is absolutely key though, of course.

Of course it is not mutually exclusive, collectives can exist within a capitalist system, if a group of like minded people wish to pool and distribute their resources according to a mutually agreed economic plan or contract, then so be it, however, the decision to join, or to leave, should be completely voluntary. Upon leaving people should also be able to exit with their savings intact too.

Edited by GradualCringe
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Either it expects someone with no money to accept their lot in life, for the good of society. Or It requires those rules to be enforced by someone, who you might like to call a state.

You are defining capitalism and collectivism based on distributive outcome, not the methods.

I believe it was Trotsky who 1917 said that the "End may justify the means, as long as there is something that justifies the end" (of which your comments are vaguely reminiscent), it's a shame he wasn't able to compare the methods of the Bolsheviks with those of the 3rd Reich, and also the final outcome of such ideologies.

As I explained in a previous post, collectivism and capitalism are distinctly different in their methods, and very easy to distinguish.

The bank bailouts can in no way be termed capitalist.

Edited by GradualCringe
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My position is not that no new jobs will ever be created in the future- what I am saying is that a primary objective of the free market is to eliminate as many jobs as possible as long as this maintains or increases profits.

Put crudely we humans have invented a system that views us as an irritant- from the viewpoint of the free market labour is an infestation- a cost- one to be rooted out and eliminated.

And this process of elimination is backed by the combined wit and intelligence of the smartest minds on the planet- every day all over the world clever people are working as hard as they can to put you out of work. Do you doubt their ability to succeed?

Imagine what humans could achieve if we all came together to work on a single great project- well the good news is that we have one such project up and running even as we speak.

The bad news is that the project in question is to design the technology that will put you and millions like you out of a job.

but you are putting yourself out of work everyday. once you finish a piece of work, you have one less thing to do.

if i build a house for someone, thats 1 less house that needs building tomorrow. thats the nature of work. your job is to get something, an activity, or a project, finished.

this process is also the driver of society. if it didnt happen we would be doing the same things we were doing in 1000 AD.

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And this process of elimination is backed by the combined wit and intelligence of the smartest minds on the planet- every day all over the world clever people are working as hard as they can to put you out of work. Do you doubt their ability to succeed?

You cant pick and choose which sort of technological improvements you allow. Would you rather have full employment and say no access to cancer treatment ?.

Edited by goldbug9999
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The only possible solution in the long run is less people.

The liquidation is begun.

My thoughts exactly on reading the entirely logical first few posts. If less labour is required and that labour cannot afford to pay for the stuff it needs / wants / has been conned into formulating a desire for, then the only logical option is much less, more highly effieicent and automated, more intelligent and flexible labour.

The lack of global availability of adequate health care, combined with the progressive withdrawal and increasing expense of high class health care in mature economies will ensure that each and every pandemic will take out all the lowest value labour. In extremis, it will also make access to resources less expensive - wars will be easier against denuded oppostition.

Maleria, dengue fever, cholera and the rest are not really making a big enough dent in this requirement, so further steps will need to be taken if the New World Order are to be provided only with valuable labour, and not with all those pesky billions of hangers on to contend with.

I was listening to a Radio 4 programme on Wednesday about the possibility to engineer super pathogens just for the sake of swapping a few genes. It's been tried and done with ferrets. Some deranged psycho can't be far behind with financing an easily transmittable human lethel pathogen, complete of course, with a prepared cure for those intended to survive. What could possibly go wrong?

Anyone seen the film Twelve Monkeys?

Edited by Stainless Sam
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My thoughts exactly on reading the entirely logical first few posts. If less labour is required and that labour cannot afford to pay for the stuff it needs / wants / has been conned into formulating a desire for, then the only logical option is much less, more highly effieicent and automated, more intelligent and flexible labour.

The lack of global availability of adequate health care, combined with the progressive withdrawal and increasing expense of high class health care in mature economies will ensure that each and every pandemic will take out all the lowest value labour. In extremis, it will also make access to resources less expensive - wars will be easier against denuded oppostition.

Maleria, dengue fever, cholera and the rest are not really making a big enough dent in this requirement, so further steps will need to be taken if the New World Order are to be provided only with valuable labour, and not with all those pesky billions of hangers on to contend with.

I was listening to a Radio 4 programme on Wednesday about the possibility to engineer super pathogens just for the sake of swapping a few genes. It's been tried and done with ferrets. Some deranged psycho can't be far behind with financing an easily transmittable human lethel pathogen, complete of course, with a prepared cure for those intended to survive. What could possibly go wrong?

Anyone seen the film Twelve Monkeys?

Though superficially appealing the arguments proposed against capitalism in this thread rely on a fool's logic.

We can discount much just based on historical precedent. Despite all the incredible advances in productivity since the industrial revolution billions more people are alive and productive (whether that be in employment or self employed) than ever in the history of our species.

Wonderpup's tiresome argument is merely a neoluddite response to a process that has happily improved the lives of humans for millennia.

Had he been around for the invention of the wheel he'd have been standing at the side shouting "what about the people that used to carry this stuff by hand! It's the end of employment!"

The only moderately innovative twist to this line of thought is the idea that at some point zero human input is needed to produce every current and future need of every human on the planet. Even if we enter this ludicrous thought experiment where self replicating machines can design, create and deliver every human want including art, science, philosophy etc. we can see that the "problem" of a lack of wages to aquire these goods is solved by the market.

We will never reach this ultimate point at which the bounty of capitalism suddenly becomes a curse, as the market won't be able to create a demand side to support it.

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Guest eight

We will never reach this ultimate point at which the bounty of capitalism suddenly becomes a curse, as the market won't be able to create a demand side to support it.

Er, isn't that exactly what WP was saying in his OP?

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Er, isn't that exactly what WP was saying in his OP?

The article that WP posted originally talks about over production of televisions, the author even hints at this in the first sentence and then rambles on at a tangent.

Over production happens all the time (usually during a credit bubble), and in the end these organisations go bankrupt and econonmic activity picks up elsewhere, it doesn't mean the end point of capitalism, automation, or that human beings have become too clever for their own good (I did mention this in the first post I made back on page 1, but some seemed to have picked up on Marx and the nature of the bank bail outs).

The idea that human beings have become "so advanced" that central planning is an inescapable reality, is actually a very old argument in favour of such things. I believe Mussolini was quoted as having said something similar back in the 1930s.

I would also that add over production can be even worse in a centrally planned economy, take for example the "Great Leap Forward" that began in the People's Republic Of China, in 1958.

The plan was to rapidly industrialise the economy, and to also boost agricultural production. All manner of resources were thrown at these projects, for example peasants de-forested entire areas, used old furniture, tools and doors to feed furnaces, all manner of scrap iron was found to make new high quality steel, that included old tools, pots pans, etc., all to satisfy the central plan of boosting steel production. Man power was also diverted from agriculture, schools, and hospitals to achieve this single goal.

The plan was a total failure, the steel produced was useless and brittle, people were left without tools, and everday necessities, children hadn't been schooled, harvests were neglected (on top the disaster of the collectivisation of agriculture), the result was a famine that killed between 20 and 40 million people, and the quality of life and economic progress was put back by decades.

I have posted regarding opportunity cost before, however this a lurid and poignant example of the point I have tried to make, and the more resources that are diverted (by fiat or decree) to such undertakings the worse the opportunity cost can be.

The same can also be said for Germany's plans to become a military power, for example rationing was in progress in Germany long before the outset of World War II (at the close of World War II economic output was back to levels found in 1880).

The point is that economic resources are scarce and must be used carefully, that and over production of televisions in China does not signal the end of automation or capitalism.

Edited by GradualCringe
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Guest eight

The article that WP posted originally talks about over production of televisions, the author even hints at this in the first sentence and then rambles on at a tangent.

Over production happens all the time (usually during a credit bubble), and in the end these organisations go bankrupt and econonmic activity picks up elsewhere, it doesn't mean the end point of capitalism, automation, or that human beings have become too clever for their own good (I did mention this in the first post I made back on page 1, but some seemed to have picked up on Marx and the nature of the bank bail outs).

The idea that human beings have become "so advanced" that central planning is an inescapable reality, is actually a very old argument in favour of such things. I believe Mussolini was quoted as having said something similar back in the 1930s.

I would also that add over production can be even worse in a centrally planned economy, take for example the "Great Leap Forward" that began in the People's Republic Of China, in 1958.

The plan was to rapidly industrialise the economy, and to also boost agricultural production. All manner of resources were thrown at these projects, for example peasants de-forested entire areas, used old furniture, tools and doors to feed furnaces, all manner of scrap iron was found to make new high quality steel, that included old tools, pots pans, etc., all to satisfy the central plan of boosting steel production. Man power was also diverted from agriculture, schools, and hospitals to achieve this single goal.

The plan was a total failure, the steel produced was useless and brittle, people were left without tools, and everday necessities, children hadn't been schooled, harvests were neglected (on top the disaster of the collectivisation of agriculture), the result was a famine that killed between 20 and 40 million people, and the quality of life and economic progress was put back by decades.

I have posted regarding opportunity cost before, however this a lurid and poignant example of the point I have tried to make, and the more resources that are diverted (by fiat or decree) to such undertakings the worse the opportunity cost can be.

The same can also be said for Germany's plans to become a military power, for example rationing was in progress in Germany long before the outset of World War II (at the close of World War II economic output was back to levels found in 1880).

The point is that economic resources are scarce and must be used carefully, that and over production of televisions in China does not signal the end of automation or capitalism.

Not disagreeing with anything you say, but I can't see any connection between Nazi Germany or the Great Leap Forward and capitalism's inherent drive to eliminate or at least diminish the amount of human labour deployed in the economy.

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Not disagreeing with anything you say, but I can't see any connection between Nazi Germany or the Great Leap Forward and capitalism's inherent drive to eliminate or at least diminish the amount of human labour deployed in the economy.

I don't mind debating, it's one of the attractions of HPC.

The article that WP first posted is really about over production, not the end point reached by too much automation.

I expanded the point a little when I mentioned that an argument for central planning in the past has been "because advanced societies need such things" (automation is something associated with an advanced industrial economy, and an interesting variation on an argument that is much, much, older, some of the first arguments made by various collectivists).

It has been an interesting debate, don't you think?

Edited by GradualCringe
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Though superficially appealing the arguments proposed against capitalism in this thread rely on a fool's logic.

We can discount much just based on historical precedent. ............................

.......... We will never reach this ultimate point at which the bounty of capitalism suddenly becomes a curse, as the market won't be able to create a demand side to support it.

Agreed. There is always the possibility to create more demand, simply be creating more "middle class" consumers.

Your bias in favour of the great bounty of capitalism ignores the increasingly obvious fact that we are resource limited and as more consumers are created the situation becomes ever more apparent. Even if you are blind to global warming, eschew the predictions of peak oil and ignore the tightening of water availability, there's no denying that basic industrial resources are becoming more difficult to extract and have to travel further. Technology and productivity can't offset this problem.

The industrial revolution happened because coal and iron were easy to dig out, long distance transport became possible and there was a massive technological opportunity which allowed us to leverage labour productivity for 200 years or more. Population was low compared with the availabilty of resources and we rode the wave all the way up to bursting point. The balance of resource availability versus consumer demand has now swung firmly in the other direction.

Given this situation, the great bounty of capitalism cannot continue to beat the odds forever.

Edited by Stainless Sam
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Agreed. There is always the possibility to create more demand, simply be creating more "middle class" consumers.

Your bias in favour of the great bounty of capitalism ignores the increasingly obvious fact that we are resource limited and as more consumers are created the situation becomes ever more apparent. Even if you are blind to global warming, eschew the predictions of peak oil and ignore the tightening of water availability, there's no denying that basic industrial resources are becoming more difficult to extract and have to travel further. Technology and productivity can't offset this problem.

The industrial revolution happened because coal and iron were easy to dig out, long distance transport became possible and there was a massive technological opportunity which allowed us to leverage labour productivity for 200 years or more. Population was low compared with the availabilty of resources and we rode the wave all the way up to bursting point. The balance of resource availability versus consumer demand has now swung firmly in the other direction.

Given this situation, the great bounty of capitalism cannot continue to beat the odds forever.

The inevitable collapse of capitalism is always just about to happen, yet it survives and thrives, with the odd wobble here and there.

Capitalism and trade have made us rich, healthy and happy. Socialist theory suggests that wages will inevitably be driven downwards, as pe the OP on Chinese television manufacturers. But that appeared to be a theoretical argument which assumed Marxist theory to be correct. The reality shows that workers tend to get richer not poorer.

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Humans aren't the irritant - labouring is the irritant. Less toil and more goods is what the market drives to deliver.

If there is an army of robots doing everything, so that humans don't have to, that is progress.

From the point of view of an efficient market humans are an irritant- they are expensive and unreliable when compared to a machine that can do the same job both cheaper and more reliably.

Progress is nice- but not if you don't get to share in it. At the moment we see rising productivity and stagnating wages- a trend that implies that the 'progress' you speak of will be enjoyed by fewer and fewer people as time goes on.

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