Socialism Versus Capitalism: The Cooperative Model

I have two favorite coffee-shops. One, is located around the corner from where I lived in Baltimore and it’s very special to me because I loved living in that city and still cherish all of its memories. This coffee-shop is run as a collective and its self-proclaimed goal is to “subvert the logic of capitalism.” A cooperative means that the people who work there own the place. This is a small cafe, which means that it only has a few owners.

This coffee-shop is very quaint and special. There are a few things you start noticing over time, though. The floors and the tables are always far from being clean. The service is extremely slow and the snacks are not very carefully prepared. The baristas / owners have a tendency to condescend. The cafe doubles as a progressive bookstore, which is great. However, the baristas enjoy making snarky comments about the books one tries to buy from them. (“Pshhh! This is totally old. Are you just discovering it now?”) They also tend to throw out customers who don’t look like they belong ideologically. N. and I were asked to leave when a public screening of a popular progressive documentary started. We were in the middle of our drinks and had to pack up and leave (I was also blogging) under the collective glares and loud comments about “those Russians.” I attribute this to the fact that N. had gone there straight from work and was wearing a business suit and a tie. There was also a general dislike of the “Russians” that, as far as I have been able to gather, stems from the Russian-speakers’ visceral dislike of the word “Communist.”**

The other coffee-shop I love is a capitalist enterprise. The owner, a.k.a a vicious capitalist who squeezes out profits from his employees, is a gentleman in his sixties who started decades ago as a waiter and saved up to open a business of his own. He now lives and breathes his cafe. He is always there, serving drinks, cleaning up, mopping the floor, talking to customers. The place is spotless, the service is extremely fast, the owner knows every customer by name and greets us even after we’ve been away for months like we are his long-lost relatives.

Mind you, the cooperative cafe I described is only owned by a few people. Just imagine this collective ownership model extended to a large enterprise. You think this system makes the workers happy? No, it doesn’t. Happy workers aren’t mean to customers and have no need to bicker endlessly about whose turn it is to serve clients.

This has been my experience with collectively owned businesses every single time. As we all knew only too well in the Soviet Union, if something belongs to everybody, it really belongs to no one. If you believe in the cooperative business model, be prepared to see the quality of goods and services plummet. If you are ready to make that sacrifice for the sake of “subverting the logic of capitalism”, you are definitely entitled to that preference. I, however, have to admit that I after spending the first 22 years of my life in a country with horribly scarce and low-quality products and abysmally poor service, I’m kind of over that. (The last years of the Soviet Union saw an explosion of cooperatives, as you probably know. This model was abandoned as soon as it became legally possible because – surprise, surprise! – it does not work.)

As somebody who possesses no entrepreneurial spirit whatsoever, I really admire people who start their own businesses, work hard and enrich themselves as a result while providing me with stuff I need. Undoubtedly, the capitalist system has a multitude of defects. The collective ownership of the means of production, though, (i.e. socialism) is nothing but one huge defect. I’ve seen it fail miserably time and again in different countries and in different economic and cultural environments.

I know that after I publish this post and come to work, colleagues will grab me by the arm and whisper, “You don’t really mean you like capitalism, right?” And then a passionate lecture on the evils of colonialism will ensue. People love lecturing me, a colonial subject, on how colonialism is not a good thing. Which makes as much sense as me telling a gay person in a hectoring voice, “Have you thought about the plight of gay people? Because I read a book about it. . .” But I’ve seen what I’ve seen and I know what I know. I can’t pretend otherwise because this is not a popular point of view.

** I want to remind everybody that the Communist genocide claimed lives of about 11 million Ukrainians in 1931-32. I think, as a result of that, Ukrainians can be excused for disliking Communism as much as the Jewish people abhor Nazism.

113 thoughts on “Socialism Versus Capitalism: The Cooperative Model”

  1. And now you are living in the USA a good portion of the high quality goods that you don’t have to queue for such as your laptop and kindle are made in China a part communist country.

    With the size of the Chinese economy predicted to overtake that of that of the US in the next 4 or 5 years perhaps people will take a serious look at the free market model.

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      1. The standard of living of the people in China is improving whereas the standard of living of the people in the US is decreasing.

        So if the idea is to have a system that improves peoples lives then the system in China works better.

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        1. Are you aware that most people in China are living at the bare subsistence level? I mean, is there anybody here who wants to move to China?

          I find it very weird that there could be anybody in the world who doesn’t understand how horrible life in China is. Yes, the shit people are fed is getting a bit more plentiful. They must really been doing so much better than the poor miserable Americans.

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  2. I was having similar thoughts to David. Food co-ops tend to work fairly well.

    Overall, I do like capitalism for it’s ability to connect us globally. What I don’t like is the type of capitalism we have in the U.S. Unregulated, the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer.

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    1. @Rachel

      I would point out that you have too much regulation. It is in the regulation of everything(government control) that it seems capitalism isnt even possible for most people. The more I see the supposed free world the less freedom’s I encounter.

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      1. But at this point, there are a lot of people who don’t reap the benefits of capitalism because of a lack of any kind of regulation. I’m not saying that the government needs to take over free enterprise. What I’m saying is that I believe it’s possible for all people to reap the benefits of a free market. However, only a small percentage of people are actually reaping the benefits.

        Further, I don’t think that any government is necessarily the right body to regulate free enterprise. However, I do feel that some regulation by someone is needed.

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      2. Actually Rachel, if you look around you you will see that capitalism isnt really being practised. If it was then you would let those big corporations go bust due to their terrible capitalistic practices. Unfortunately the bailouts(which are not capitalism) wouldnt allow that. In the end the same people get the money but NOT because of capitalism. Many rich people in the world have figured out how to get money and the vehicle they use is definately is not Capitalism.

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        1. I agree with Tit-for-Tat completely. For the capitalist model to work, the concept of competition is crucial. You fail, you go out of business. This is what provides for the constant improvement of goods and services. The moment we get the government prop up failed businesses, the free competition is over. They are free to continue doing a horrible job because they know there is no chance of going bust anyways.

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      3. Actually we have far less regulation than what Adam Smith (you know, that Adam Smith aka the father of capitalism) proposed and thought it was required for a capitalist society to function properly.

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      4. It makes you wonder if someone has intentionally set the system up that way, hmmm, it really does make you wonder?? Nah, that would be to much of a conspiracy theory(nuts), or would it? 😉

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  3. Wait a minute, aren’t those people who operate the collective coffee shop using the word ‘capitalism’ as a ‘swear’ word, like those people you mentioned in an earlier post who used ‘socialism’ as a ‘swear’ word?

    Presumably, the folks operating the collective coffee shop were taking advantage of freedom of enterprise and using their capital( money, tangible assets, and labor), to make a profit. How is that ‘subverting the logic of capitalism’? Isn’t that capitalism in practice?

    And aren’t co-operatives just corporations writ small?

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  4. I agree with David. Our local food co-op comes to mind; it works extremely well, the food is cheaper than the local chain, and extremely fresh. The staff are nice too.
    One of my favorite pizza places is also a co-op. They bake only one type of pizza each day, but the pizza is cheap and better than any pizza I have ever had anywhere, their cheeses are delicious and the service is wonderful. They also have a huge customer base — the line to order in front of the store usually goes around the block every lunchtime.

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    1. Have you read the post you are responding to? I especially refer you to that part about the explosion of cooperatives in the last years of the Soviet Union. My father started a cooperative. All of his friends did. It was a huge, mass-scale phenomenon with which I have become deeply familiar and not through articles on Wikipedia, either.

      Why is it that people think it is a smart thing to do to post endless links to Wikipedia in response to a post they have never even read? Do you have trouble processing texts that are as long as my post, James? Or is reading simply not your thing?

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      1. bloggerclarissa :
        Have you read the post you are responding to? I especially refer you to that part about the explosion of cooperatives in the last years of the Soviet Union. My father started a cooperative. All of his friends did. It was a huge, mass-scale phenomenon with which I have become deeply familiar and not through articles on Wikipedia, either.
        Why is it that people think it is a smart thing to do to post endless links to Wikipedia in response to a post they have never even read? Do you have trouble processing texts that are as long as my post, James? Or is reading simply not your thing?

        Soviet system was not cooperative… Gorbachev tried to move in those directions but the greedy pigs wanted to take our parents and grandparents work for themselves. Had the cooperative taken off as a true form and not a front for capitalism it would have been the greatest thing done since 1917…. But alas it was too late and we thoughtby killing the system we’d get to keep all of our accomplishments ANDget Levi’s jeans. We were stupid. But the КПСС kept us stupid and in the dark and outside the power to participate. you are intentionally mixing your metaphors i think.

        Communist “genocide” in the Ukraine makes zero sense historically. That’s myth-making. There are hunger and famine all over the world– look at Russia during the civil war and before… Surely the tyrant Stalin made thins worse but to paint this as a genocide is propaganda. The sad truth still to be acknowledged is that many many Ukrainians were agents in the Actual genocide…. murdering Jewish neighbors… In fact the same people who talk “holdomor” are the ones who celebrate the Ukrainian fascists.

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        1. “Communist “genocide” in the Ukraine makes zero sense historically. That’s myth-making. There are hunger and famine all over the world– look at Russia during the civil war and before… Surely the tyrant Stalin made thins worse but to paint this as a genocide is propaganda. ”

          – Ah, I have a crazed Russian nationalist on the blog. How cute. Buddy, you are irredeemably stupid. Stalin never referred to what HE did in Ukraine as genocide. he never allowed the information about it to be mentioned at all, you silly silly idiot.

          As for famine all over the world, read some sources, you stupid jerk. Take up a history book, watch a documentary, but just stop spouting rubbish. Ukraine has the most fertile land in Europe. It is so fertile that foreigners have been buying the top soil to take it back to their countries forever. There can be no famine in Ukraine and there wouldn’t have been hadn’t the dirt poor Russians come in to steal all the food by force.

          In Russia, as you probably don’t know, you jerk, the collective ownership of land is a historic tradition. This is why Russians kept having one famine after another. In Ukraine, where we traditionally had private ownership of land, it never did.

          ” In fact the same people who talk “holdomor” are the ones who celebrate the Ukrainian fascists.”

          – I’m a Jew, you freak. Which doesn’t blind me to the fact that Holodomor existed.

          The only fascist here is you. My regular readers know that I don’t use the word fascist lightly. But anybody who denies Holodomor is a fascist and is no different from the Holocaust denier.

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  5. Ah, yes, because post Soviet Russia is a perfect analogue to western societies. And having given up the co-operative model, they have a wonderful economy, with great standards of living for all. I did read it. It was just a mass of generalisations based on limited data. And the only actual examples you referred to were two coffee shops. You then went on to speak about how co-operatives will lead to bad service, despite examples to the contrary, and lead to unhappy employees, despite examples to the contrary.

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    1. “Ah, yes, because post Soviet Russia is a perfect analogue to western societies.”

      – You are being careless once again. Who the hell is talking about Russia, post Soviet or not?

      “And having given up the co-operative model, they have a wonderful economy, with great standards of living for all. ”

      – Who are “they”? The Russians? Or the inhabitants of the other 14 republics of the former Soviet Union? Or do you lump all of these very different countries under the category of “they”?

      I’m also wondering what your sources of information on the standard of living in “post Soviet Russia” are. Wikipedia again?

      I’m sorry, buddy, you still need to spend a whole lot of time in the classroom before you can discuss anything on the level we have here. People who equate Soviet Union with Russia are no different from people who think that the language spoken in Latin America is Latin.

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  6. My only real contact with a Co-op was my use of my mother’s Moosewood cookbooks, them being the product of a restaurant collective in Ithaca. My mother’s old Moosewood cookbooks had such tasty recipes that I briefly considered going to Cornell, so I could attend Carl Sagan’s Alma Mater and eat at the restaurant. But then I saw the new editions, and it looks like whoever runs the collective now has some rather tragic ideas about what constitutes “good” food; all of the recipes in my mother’s edition which were delicious and derived their flavour from good, natural animal fats like eggs, butter, milk and cream, were replaced by vegan versions which taste like sucking onions through an ash tray and are loaded with vegetable oil.
    I know this could happen at -any- restaurant responding to the growing paranoia about fat and wanting to cash in on the health food craze, but damn was it disappointing.

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    1. @nominatissima I will definitely quote you on this “vegan versions which taste like sucking onions through an ash tray and are loaded with vegetable oil” and this “-any- restaurant responding to the growing paranoia about fat and wanting to cash in on the health food craze”

      They encapsulate exactly how I feel about this.

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  7. The food co-op where I buy most of my food has been in business since 1975. It is chaotic, sometimes, but it has good, fresh food. Often it has varieties of food I cannot find anywhere else. I shop at co-ops when I am away from home when I can. I am writing from personal experience.

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    1. The only grocery store I had access to in Ithaca was a co-op. That was not a good experience for me. It felt like a little cult and I kept feeling very different from people there. Everybody kept staring in a tight-lipped judgmental way. I haven’t felt this out of place even among the Amish people. But I don’t blame this particular debacle on the store being a co-op. It was mostly a political rejection of me that was going on. At least, that’s what I think.

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    1. ” It referred to you as Russians.”

      – Who’s “it”? I was ridiculing stupid people at the co-op who generalize about others. Just like you just did.

      “Co-operatives never work. The ones that doe work don’t really exist.”

      – You really don’t see the difference between your clumsy translation of my words and my statement that “the cooperative ownership model does not work”? I’m now wondering where it is that you are a student because that level of analysis is scary. This is a very short piece and you don’t manage to process it at all.

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  8. “We were in the middle of our drinks and had to pack up and leave (I was also blogging) under the collective glares and loud comments about “those Russians.” ” – That looks to me a lot like you are the Russians in question. There is no indication otherwise in the text.

    “Just imagine this collective ownership model extended to a large enterprise.” – No need to imagine. I have first hand experience of it.

    “If you believe in the cooperative business model, be prepared to see the quality of goods and services plummet” – Except when it doesn’t.

    “You think this system makes the workers happy? No, it doesn’t.” – Except when it does.

    But, you are welcome to your hasty generalisations, and I will weep into my beer when I think how much I care about your opinion of me.

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    1. ““We were in the middle of our drinks and had to pack up and leave (I was also blogging) under the collective glares and loud comments about “those Russians.” ” – That looks to me a lot like you are the Russians in question. There is no indication otherwise in the text.”

      – The inverted commas (used in this text twice to mark the word “Russians”) are employed in the English language to:

      a) quote somebody else’s words;
      b) signal that you dissociate yourself from the statement or term used by others.

      I feel like I’m teaching third-graders.

      “But, you are welcome to your hasty generalisations, and I will weep into my beer when I think how much I care about your opinion of me.”

      – I don’t know you from Adam and have no opinion about you. I have an opinion about your poor reading and analytical skills.

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  9. “I know that after I publish this post and come to work, colleagues will grab me by the arm and whisper, “You don’t really mean you like capitalism, right?” And then a passionate lecture on the evils of colonialism will ensue. People love lecturing me, a colonial subject, on how colonialism is not a good thing.”

    You do feel my hand grabing you arm, right? 🙂

    Seriously, I have been living in a co-op for 12 years now and I cannot be happier. It provided us with a wonderful safety net when my wife and were students because the rent was based on our income (this is not like that in every co-op). All the inhabitants keep the place extremely clean. Not every co-op functions well but neither every enterprises. The place I live is wonderful and it makes me happy.

    We pay $550 a month for a three bedroom apt. in Montreal. As students, we paid as little as $90 a month. Yes.

    In the US, the only way to buy fresh vegetables at a reasonalbe price in my [very desolate]geographical area is going to the food co-op. It is sometimes chaotic but it is was less depressing than Wal-Mart of the grocery store.

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    1. “You do feel my hand grabing you arm, right? ”

      – You wouldn’t lecture me on imperialism, my friend, and I know it. 🙂

      “In the US, the only way to buy fresh vegetables at a reasonalbe price in my [very desolate]geographical area is going to the food co-op.”

      – The one in Ithaca was the exact opposite. Is this because it’s near an expensive school? It was extremely expensive and everything that was fresh had ruinous prices.

      It’s true that housing prices in Montreal are sky-rocketing. We need another referendum on independence to bring them down!

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      1. Oh… always agree with the idea of having another referendum of independence! Then the housing prices in Montreal will decrease because as you know, Quebec without Canada is like a third-world country and the [anglo]capital will move away to Toronto… and at last people will stop envying me for living is such a wonderful, inexpensive, and well-run co-op. 🙂

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        1. I’m not worried about what Quebec will be without Canada. What Canada will be without Quebec is a much more pressing question. I’d say a mini-copy of the US (mini because of the population size.) Harper is working hard on that already. Imagine if the Francophone crowd takes itself out of the equation. Scary.

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  10. Yes, I realise that you were quoting. I am sorry I did not use my psychic powers to know you were distancing yourself from them. If I was ever planning to read another your poorly written generalisations again, I would be sure to utilise my magical powers.

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    1. “Yes, I realise that you were quoting. I am sorry I did not use my psychic powers to know you were distancing yourself from them.”

      – I have good news for you, my friend: learning to read a simple text requires no magical or psychic powers. All you need is practice. Maybe a couple of lit courses, too.

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  11. Ugh, I get so confused when discussing things like this because no-one ever seems to mean the same thing by the same word. My idea of a model co-operative/collective is as linked to above, something like John Lewis / Waitrose in the UK. They are worker owned but function very well in a very competitive retail market which is filled with plenty of classic ‘capitalist’ companies.
    Where collectives go wrong is if there is no / not enough pressure to be efficient/provide a good service; either there’s no effective market, or not enough regulation. Which is to my mind, a lot like the problems with capitalist free markets. So I would never argue co-operatives are the only solution, in exactly the same way that I would not agree that capitalist structures are the only solution. A sensible system to me, has a mix of state, collective and capitalist organisations, each serving the needs of the areas they are best suited to.

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    1. So there will be no answer to the question about Italy? It’s the conversation you tried to start, by the way.

      Just compare your inane comments to the insightful statements offered by FD. See any differences? You screech, churn out exclamation signs by the dozen and fill in the holes in your arguments with impotent retelling of what other people said, while FD analyzes.

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  12. I respond to stupid generalisations with specific examples that refute the claim. Then I get insulted. You are welcome to actually look at the data for yourself if you like. I posted the first article I could link to that everyone could read without a subscription to the relevant journals. The article very clearly refutes your claim that worker co-operatives do not lead to happy workers. But then, you know about a coffee shop, so that beats actual empirical data on the subject doesnt it?If you want to pretend that the Italian economy collapsed due to the existence of co-operatives, then please find the supporting data yourself.

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    1. “No.. you discussed one coffee shop.”

      – Can you count to two? 🙂 There were 2 coffee-shops in this post. 🙂

      This is getting too funny. 🙂

      And do I need to remind once again about the widely adopted cooperative ownership model in my country and what happened to it?

      What is this, short-memory loss?

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      1. Lol.. Yes the cooperative economy was the great failure of the soviet system?? not the command economy. It was the fact we were all participating too much in a democratic cooperative economy and we had too much of a say in the system?? Therussian workers would’ve died and gone to been in heaven having as much of a say as these liberal hippies you describe! The only cooperative was the kolkhoz and that was about as cooperative as stalins central committee…

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  13. You can remind me all you like. I have not seen you present any actual evidence for it. And what happened to the economy of your country (where ever that is) since then? Have they also been hit by the global economic crisis, or is that only relevant to Italy?

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    1. “And what happened to the economy of your country (where ever that is) since then? Have they also been hit by the global economic crisis, or is that only relevant to Italy?”

      – Now this is a good and interesting question. Russian-speaking countries were not significantly hit by the global crisis per se. Ukraine’s economy is in the toilet, just like it has been for the past 20 years, no change there. Russia, however, is doing extremely well in the face of the global crisis. Even the wave of recent mass protests (the next one will take place on February 4, by the way) is the opposite of what we have been seeing in Western countries: it’s the protest movement of the well-fed and economically comfortable who are fine with the economy but are angry about the politics. So while in Western countries we see an erosion of the middle-class, in Russia we see its strengthening. And this is all happening right in the middle of the global recession.

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  14. And sorry, I missed the word “co-operative” from a sentence. Obviously that ruins everything.

    you discussed one CO-OPERATIVE coffee shop. – Better?

    But its OK.. I know you are wrong. Workers co-operatives can and do work. I have first hand experience of working/owning AND shopping in one. So do tens of thousands of people. But never mind. You can go on believing that they lead to unhappy workers and low quality goods if you like. I am shaking the dust from my feet and moving on.

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    1. “I’m pretty sure the internet’s primary purpose is to achieve critical density of all the goofy cat pictures that ever existed or will exist.”

      – Oh yes. 🙂 I had no idea people were SO into cats. It’s a mystery. I mean, hamsters are so much cuter.

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  15. Socialism, Capitalism and many other Isms have become cuss words or words of approbation and little more. Many who disparage and many who praise them have little realistic conception of what the words mean let alone what their implementation has caused. That’s what often passes for debate.

    Leaving aside the meaning of such words, does el Presidente Chavez in Venezuela, for example, have any conception of what’s going on in the states he so greatly admires? The workers’ paradises of Iran? Cuba? China? North Korea?

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  16. Sure, communism is a pretty crappy system, but does that mean that capitalism is good? There’s more to economic systems than the capitalism-communism spectrum.

    And another thing: why does every economic system use money? It seems to me like money is rewarding in and of itself, thus leading to greed.

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    1. “Sure, communism is a pretty crappy system, but does that mean that capitalism is good”

      – It is simply the best there is.

      “And another thing: why does every economic system use money?”

      – To save time and make things easier. Barter economies keep people extremely poor and impede progress.

      “It seems to me like money is rewarding in and of itself, thus leading to greed.”

      – Do you really think that there were no greedy people in primitive societies? I mean, I knew I had bouts of greediness when I was so small that I didn’t yet know money existed.

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      1. I suppose greed exists because there is innate pleasure in getting things. But money exacerbates this problem because it detaches the reward from any intrinsic value the thing has.

        In any case, I wasn’t referring to a barter economy, but some sort of post-scarcity economy, where there’s so much stuff that people don’t need to trade, they can just pull something out of the metaphorical pile.

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  17. One of the most successful mutual fund companies in the United States, Vanguard, is a customer-owned cooperative. They are successful by embracing a notion that their goal is to make more money for their customers by making their fees as low as possible.

    Land-O-Lakes and Organic Valley are farmer-owned cooperatives. The farmers operate their farms as capitalist businesses, and they use the cooperative to market their goods. At the grocery store, the products from these two cooperatives are indistinguishable from the products from strictly capitalist businesses.

    On average, credit unions in the United States pay higher interest on their accounts and charge lower rates on their loans than banks. I’ve done my banking with both kinds of businesses, and the customer service was about the same for both of them.

    How many more examples of successful cooperatives will satisfy you that cooperatives shouldn’t be painted with such a broad brush?

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    1. I just Googled Land-O-Lakes, and they have more hired employees than “producers-members”. A lot more. This is only a cooperative in name. I could continue Googling but I’m bored already.

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  18. bloggerclarissa :
    Are you aware that most people in China are living at the bare subsistence level? I mean, is there anybody here who wants to move to China?
    I find it very weird that there could be anybody in the world who doesn’t understand how horrible life in China is. Yes, the shit people are fed is getting a bit more plentiful. They must really been doing so much better than the poor miserable Americans.

    China is a developing country, so according to the laws of capitalist economics, it is growing and much of its wealth is filtering to its people, even though this is very gradual. America is a developed country, so its industries are no longer growing but decreasing or being sent offshore. This means that the wealth is moving offshore to countries like China and India that are still developing. The consequences are that Chinese citizens will gradually increase in wealth, whereas US citizens will tend to have their middle and lower classes hollowed out.

    Talking about this process in terms of capitalist versus socialist ideologies is rather limiting.

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    1. I wouldn’t draw any parallels between China and India. India, indeed, is developing rapidly. China, however, is a miserably poor totalitarian country that will need about another billion years to get where the US is in any sense of the world. Besides, China never was socialist. It’s a Communist country which only manages to produce enough wealth to keep its corrupt leaders rich by exploiting the hundreds of millions of starving people.

      Do you know how huge the immigration from China to Russia is? Humongous. And do you know any people from the US who consider that moving to Russia will improve their lives? I can’t imagine that.

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      1. China is a very interesting place — one to watch. Japan is heavily invested in China right now, due to Japan’s saturated market and the tsunami which ruined a number of automotive bases. Go to Vanuatu or consider Zimbabwean politics and you will see how much influence China has. And, of course, they have the US bucks.

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        1. Of course, China has influence but that’s not what we are discussing here. We are talking about the standard of living which is maybe improving from one cup of rice a day to one cup and a half. Regular people who flee the country like crazy

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        2. Of course, it has influence but that’s not what we are discussing here. We are discussing the standard of living that for people in China is maybe improving from one cup of rice a day to a cup and a half. So many people in China do all they can to flee even to horribly racist countries like Russia because even that is better than what they have at home. What does this tell us about their standard of living?

          The only reason why we are not hearing stories of starvation in China is censorship. I’ve had visitors from every country in the world on my blog except China. That happens because the country is excluded from global online space.

          And then there is femicide. Do you know of a widespread situation in the US where impoverished Americans kill their newborn daughters because they are unlikely to be as productive economically as sons?

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  19. Jennifer Frances Armstrong :
    China is a very interesting place — one to watch. Japan is heavily invested in China right now, due to Japan’s saturated market and the tsunami which ruined a number of automotive bases. Go to Vanuatu or consider Zimbabwean politics and you will see how much influence China has. And, of course, they have the US bucks.

    Or at least US debt.

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  20. bloggerclarissa :
    Of course, China has influence but that’s not what we are discussing here. We are talking about the standard of living which is maybe improving from one cup of rice a day to one cup and a half. Regular people who flee the country like crazy

    Yes, it’s still industrialising. My point was that China is quite capitalist and has a global outlook.

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  21. bloggerclarissa :
    Of course, it has influence but that’s not what we are discussing here. We are discussing the standard of living that for people in China is maybe improving from one cup of rice a day to a cup and a half. So many people in China do all they can to flee even to horribly racist countries like Russia because even that is better than what they have at home. What does this tell us about their standard of living?
    The only reason why we are not hearing stories of starvation in China is censorship. I’ve had visitors from every country in the world on my blog except China. That happens because the country is excluded from global online space.
    And then there is femicide. Do you know of a widespread situation in the US where impoverished Americans kill their newborn daughters because they are unlikely to be as productive economically as sons?

    Oh, I fully believe horrible things are going on in China. They resort to extreme measures, like the baby food scandal, where industrial agents were used and sold as baby formula. Many babies died. There is also the more recent situation of selling plastic as rice. China is hardly a happy place in many respects.

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  22. bloggerclarissa :
    How much time do you think China will need to give its poorest citizens the same living standard as the poorest Us citizens have?

    Honestly, and scientifically, as long as the US took to industrialize. There may be some disadvantages if it cannot find cheap resources or cheap labour — but it seems to have plenty of those.

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    1. “Honestly, and scientifically, as long as the US took to industrialize.”

      – Never. As we know from the example of the USSR, industrializing a poor, agrarian, Communist country requires the slaughter of a significant percentage of population. I’m not seeing a new Chairman Mao capable of that in China.

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  23. Max :I wasn’t referring to a barter economy, but some sort of post-scarcity economy, where there’s so much stuff that people don’t need to trade, they can just pull something out of the metaphorical pile.

    We’ll be just so lousy with neurosurgeons [and literary scholars ;)] we won’t need health insurance. We’ll just barter for brain surgery [and poststructuralist analysis] with squirrel pelts.

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  24. bloggerclarissa :
    “Honestly, and scientifically, as long as the US took to industrialize.”
    – Never. As we know from the example of the USSR, industrializing a poor, agrarian, Communist country requires the slaughter of a significant percentage of population. I’m not seeing a new Chairman Mao capable of that in China.

    Certainly a lot of the Chinese population is under pressure although not to the extent of being directly slaughtered. The Chinese are profoundly capitalist, though, make no mistake. I know many Japanese who deal with them directly. Their most common statement is: “Chinese is very aggressive person”. Chinese industrialism plays fast and loose. They’re so determined to make a buck they cut corners at every opportunity. The products are often shoddy — but make a buck they do. In Zimbabwe, Chinese products are referred to in a derogatory manner as Zhing-Zhing, implying that they are cheap and nasty. A lot of cheap Chinese products are flowing into Zimbabwe. There’s already a lot of capitalist entrepreneurship that assures this. The Chinese government is also very keen to ingratiate itself with different African countries in order to exploit their mineral wealth. China is not short on capitalist ambition.

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    1. Also, even the the Chinese regime makes it sometimes difficult to set up businesses in China, many overseas countries have no choice other than to do business with China. It’s a developing market that can’t be ignored. So other countries are already exploiting Chinese labour and hoping to sell their goods and expertise to China. Improvement — although bumpy and uneven — is pretty much assured.

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  25. This blog if you are familiar with the experience behind the iron curtain as they say is based on a lie…. Under communism, nothing was run in a cooperative manner! I wish it was… If it had been maybe we would’ve done more than shrug when it went down! …. To the average worker, we felt bossed around and like we had no say in what the party told us to do. Even knowing how crappythings were back then a lot of us miss the free education guarenreed employment health care sports entertainmnet… As someone whos seen both, I would prefer a system where we were all owners and entrepeneurs than one in which only the rich are or the party-state is. As crappy as customer service is as this particular coop we all know morale sucks at the private businesses and we just have to smile or theyll fire our ass

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    1. “This blog if you are familiar with the experience behind the iron curtain as they say is based on a lie…. Under communism, nothing was run in a cooperative manner! I wish it was…”

      – So you are denying that during the perestroika years (starting around 1988) there was an explosion of cooperatives in the USSR? Have you ever heard of the following facts:

      “The Law on Cooperatives, enacted in May 1988,[5] was perhaps the most radical of the economic reforms during the early part of the Gorbachev era. For the first time since Vladimir Lenin’s New Economic Policy, the law permitted private ownership of businesses in the services, manufacturing, and foreign-trade sectors. The law initially imposed high taxes and employment restrictions, but it later revised these to avoid discouraging private-sector activity. Under this provision, cooperative restaurants, shops, and manufacturers became part of the Soviet scene. . . The most significant of Gorbachev’s reforms in the foreign economic sector allowed foreigners to invest in the Soviet Union in the form of joint ventures with Soviet ministries, state enterprises, and cooperatives. The original version of the Soviet Joint Venture Law, which went into effect in June 1987, limited foreign shares of a Soviet venture to 49 percent and required that Soviet citizens occupy the positions of chairman and general manager. After potential Western partners complained, the government revised the regulations to allow majority foreign ownership and control. Under the terms of the Joint Venture Law, the Soviet partner supplied labor, infrastructure, and a potentially large domestic market. The foreign partner supplied capital, technology, entrepreneurial expertise, and, in many cases, products and services of world competitive quality.”

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Perestroika

      I expect an apology from you for calling me a liar when I was simply quoting well-known facts.

      “Even knowing how crappythings were back then a lot of us miss the free education guarenreed employment health care sports entertainmnet”

      – I don’t know which country of the Soviet bloc you are from, but there was no education in the USSR. And the healthcare was barbaric. As for “employment”, you consider a system where a man with a PhD and a stack of publications on his name makes 110 rubles per month BEFORE taxes employment??? This doesn’t even rise to the level of unemployment benefit.

      Sport?? Who is preventing you from doing sports? You need the government to help you to play soccer or run or play chess? really?? What made you so helpless?

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  26. bloggerclarissa :
    “Communist “genocide” in the Ukraine makes zero sense historically. That’s myth-making. There are hunger and famine all over the world– look at Russia during the civil war and before… Surely the tyrant Stalin made thins worse but to paint this as a genocide is propaganda. ”
    – Ah, I have a crazed Russian nationalist on the blog. How cute. Buddy, you are irredeemably stupid. Stalin never referred to what HE did in Ukraine as genocide. he never allowed the information about it to be mentioned at all, you silly silly idiot.
    As for famine all over the world, read some sources, you stupid jerk. Take up a history book, watch a documentary, but just stop spouting rubbish. Ukraine has the most fertile land in Europe. It is so fertile that foreigners have been buying the top soil to take it back to their countries forever. There can be no famine in Ukraine and there wouldn’t have been hadn’t the dirt poor Russians come in to steal all the food by force.
    In Russia, as you probably don’t know, you jerk, the collective ownership of land is a historic tradition. This is why Russians kept having one famine after another. In Ukraine, where we traditionally had private ownership of land, it never did.
    ” In fact the same people who talk “holdomor” are the ones who celebrate the Ukrainian fascists.”
    – I’m a Jew, you freak. Which doesn’t blind me to the fact that Holodomor existed.
    The only fascist here is you. My regular readers know that I don’t use the word fascist lightly. But anybody who denies Holodomor is a fascist and is no different from the Holocaust denier.

    I don’t think I’m a jerk.. And definitely not a fascist— there were and are many REAL fascists in the Ukraine though. and in Russia too of course…I’m no nationalist… Please read Fraud Fascism and Famine the Ukrainian Genocide myth by Douglas Tottle and then we can continue the conversation.

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    1. ” Please read Fraud Fascism and Famine the Ukrainian Genocide myth by Douglas Tottle and then we can continue the conversation.”

      – Would you react well to a suggestion that you read some books by Holocaust-deniers?

      Like

      1. ““Please read this discredited book by this wackjob conspiracy theorist before I will entertain the findings of the International Commission of Inquiry into the 1932-33 Famine in Ukraine”

        – Exactly.

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  27. Yes this of course is true but it was a huge flop. This was not the essence of this system and you know it…I for one don’t hategorby I think he was trying to improve a bad system with ideas like this one.. But all of our ignorance and years of being forced to be mutes meant the whole thing exploded in his and our face. The people who knew better… The kommosol and the nomenklatura didn’t believe in collectives or social market economy theybelieved I taking everything for themselves. The origin of the oligarchs!
    If you don’t understand what I meant by sport you need to study how our country won so many gold medals,how many young people were given the opportunity to become world class athletes who would’ve been living in some Mir or shetl if it wasn’t forthe soviet state. Not to ignore the criminality of the regime but in terms of equality of opportunity and social mobility there was much much more under the Marxist Leninist dictatorship than under the dictatorships and “democracies” that followed… Trustme I hated the regime and do not want to defend it… But one must’ve honest about its accomplish,nets as wellas it’s failures

    Also even though you insulted me personally as a jerk and a fascist ( the first maybe true the second never in a million years) I appreciate that you respond personally to your comments on your blog.
    Pa pa!

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    1. “Yes this of course is true but it was a huge flop.”

      – And that was the entire point of my post. The cooperative system is always a flop.

      “The kommosol and the nomenklatura didn’t believe in collectives or social market economy theybelieved I taking everything for themselves. ”

      – I really doubt you are from the Soviet Union. The Komsomol leaders were strongly on the side of the cooperatives. The cooperative system allowed them to transfer the assets of the Party into their own hands legally. This is why all post-perestroika millionaires are from the ranks of the Komsomol and the Communist party. I happen to know exactly how the money was laundered by the Komsomol through cooperatives, so maybe you shouldn;t argue with me on this.

      “If you don’t understand what I meant by sport you need to study how our country won so many gold medals,how many young people were given the opportunity to become world class athletes ”

      – And your knowledge of the Soviet athletics is also very flawed. These people got all those Olympic victories and gold medals because they were driven like cattle by horribly cruel coaches. After the age of 30-35, these athletes became destitute invalids.

      “Also even though you insulted me personally as a jerk and a fascist ( the first maybe true the second never in a million years) I appreciate that you respond personally to your comments on your blog.”

      – Everybody who wants to participate on my blog has first to withstand a barrage of insults from me. This is our rite of passage. 🙂 🙂

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      1. Yes we both agree. Cooperatives were a stepping stone to capitalism and oligarchy… They were not the essence of the system

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  28. Take a look at Taugers work too… Historians are scared to touch this issue bc someone will call them Stalin apologists… But it is NOT a comparable event to the holocaust of the Jews. Some citations…
    Mark B. Tauger, “The 1932 Harvest and the Soviet Famine of 1932-1933,” Slavic Review v. 50 No. 1, Spring 1991;
    Tauger, R.W. Davies, and S. G. Wheatcroft, “Stalin, Grain Stocks, and the Famine of 1932-1933,” Slavic Review v. 54 No. 3, Fall 1995;
    Tauger, “Natural Disaster and Human Action in the Soviet Famine of 1931-1933,” The Carl Beck Papers in Russian and East European Studies, University of Pittsburgh, No. 1506, 2001 (65pp); (412) 648
    Tauger, “Grain Crisis or Famine? The Ukrainian State Commission for Aid to Crop Failure Victims and the Ukrainian Famine of 1928-1929,” in Donald Raleigh, ed., “Provincial Landscapes: Local Dimensions of Soviet Power,” 1917-1953, University of Pittsburgh Press, 2001.

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  29. bloggerclarissa :
    ” Please read Fraud Fascism and Famine the Ukrainian Genocide myth by Douglas Tottle and then we can continue the conversation.”
    – Would you react well to a suggestion that you read some books by Holocaust-deniers?

    Bad comparison. Is anyone denying that millions of people died in the cccp and Ukraine in that period? Anyone who would make such a statement is a bastard. But none of these historians are doing so… They’re debating the causes for which like I said stalin and the soviet leadership have horrible blame… but: There is a real academic debate over the events in Ukraine and why they occurred….the events involved economic and natural causes as well as political ones. I can respect arguments on both sides… No one is denying the loss of life, simply debating to call it an intentional genocide…. Evidence is more important than myth making. … The genocide of the Jews on the other hand had no natural causes it was murder of a particular race and was the official policy of a state.

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    1. “The genocide of the Jews on the other hand had no natural causes it was murder of a particular race and was the official policy of a state.”

      – Just like the genocide of Ukrainians. Why do you think Putin is introducing legislation to prevent people in his country from even mentioning the Holodomor? Who do you think pays for all this “scholarship” that disputed the organized and deliberate nature of the genocide?

      As for “natural” causes, dying of hunger in Ukraine is about as natural as dying from a heat stroke on the North Pole.

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  30. Soviet communism was also a totalitarian regime. True communism is like a commune. China no longer has a communist economic sytem…they have a capitalist economy with a totalitarian regime. Collectivism and cooperatism are not the same. Most major US farmers work in cooperatives to market their goods, while Soviet collectism was ownership & workers as one in the same. Pure collectivism & pure capitalism have major defects…WHAT THE WORLD NEEDS IS A COOPERATIVE-COMPETITIVISM SYSTEM THAT TAKES ONLY THE BEST OF BOTH & NONE OF THE WORSE…whereby there is individual competitiveness/merit intertwinned with society ooperativeness for the greater good..
    there is no system like that today

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    1. “Soviet communism was also a totalitarian regime.”

      – Yes, I’m aware. Do you know why it slipped into totalitarianism? Because a commune doesn’t work until you make sure by brute force that nobody even considers trying to escape it.

      Like

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