Guest Post: What Marx Got Right

Tyler Durden's picture

Submitted by Charles Hugh-Smith of OfTwoMinds blog,

The crisis of capitalism has not been resolved; it's simply been papered over.

 
First, a disclaimer: this is an interpretive discussion of some aspects of Marx's analysis (which was based on the capitalism he observed in the late 19th century) applied to present-day cartel-state capitalism. It is not a scholarly or academic presentation.
 
The discussion covers a lot of ground, though, so please refill your beverage container and strap in....
 
That Marx's prescription for a socialist/Communist alternative to capitalism failed does not necessarily negate his critique of capitalism. Marx spent hundreds of pages analyzing capital and capitalism and relatively few sketching out a pie-in-the-sky alternative that was not grounded in historical examples or working models.
 
So it is no surprise that his prescriptive work is an occasionally risible historical curiosity while his critique stands as a systemic analysis.
 
Marx got a number of things right, one of which appears to be playing out on a global scale. You probably know that Marx expected capitalism to experience a series of ever-larger boom-bust cycles that would eventually precipitate revolution and overthrow of the existing financial-political order.
 
One driver of these cycles was the interplay of increasing production and declining labor costs. In broad-brush, Marx recognized that industrial capital (as opposed tofinance capital) could only increase profits and accumulate more capital by raising production and/or establishing a price-fixing cartel or monopoly.
 
Mechanization characterized industrial capitalism in the late 19th century, and Marx observed that as mechanization increased productivity, the marginal value of labor decreased on a per unit basis.
 
Here is a real-world example. When I first visited China in 2000, there was a massive glut of television production: the capacity to manufacture TVs had expanded far beyond China's domestic demand for TVs. To wring out a profit in a highly competitive industry, manufacturers had to ramp up production while lowering the unit cost of labor and the unit cost of each TV to undercut the competition.
 
If an assembly line of 100 workers could produce 1,000 TVs a day, the only way to lower the price of the TV is to either lower the wages paid to the workers or invest capital in machinery that enables the same 100 workers to produce 2,000 TVs a day.
 
At 2,000 TVs a day, the per unit labor cost falls in half. For example, at 1,000 TVs a day, the labor cost per TV might be $40. At 2,000 TVs per day assembled by the same 100 workers, the labor cost per unit drops to $20.
 
The key point here is that labor's share of the total production cost declines. If workers had taken home $1 million in pay to make 100,000 TVs at the old production rate of 1,000 TVs/day, they now take home $500,000 to make 100,000 TVs at the new production rate.
 
In other words, labor's share of value creation constantly declines as mechanization boosts productivity. Marx described the impact of another factor: oversupply of labor. As rural agricultural workers flooded into cities for jobs that paid cash, there was an abundance of factory labor. Competition for jobs pushes wages lower, so workers faced a double-whammy: their share of production relentlessly declined as productivity rose, and the pressure on wages constantly rose as per unit labor costs declined.
 
The competition to outproduce industrial rivals with cheaper per-unit production costs and labor's competition for jobs both generate a structural crisis in capitalism: as production of goods rises, both the cost per unit and the number of workers earning enough to buy the goods declines.
 
Lowering the cost of the TV no longer sells units if there are not enough workers with jobs to buy them. If you think this is only a 19th century or developing-world phenomenon, please examine this chart:
 
 
This chart shows that labor's share of the economic output is declining sharply.The reasons? The same two Marx identified: a surplus of labor and declining per unit labor cost. In effect, the economy produces more goods and services with less labor. Since the demand for labor is declining while the supply of workers increases, competition drives wages lower.
 
The crisis Marx foresaw appeared to unfold in the 1930s, but the expansive central state became a Savior State, marshalling its ability borrow huge sums of money to create demand by fiat.
 
In the postwar boom, the low-productivity service sector expanded as labor shared the bounty of cheap energy and rising industrial productivity.
 
Increasing cost of energy and marginal returns pushed capitalism back into crisis in the 1970s, but three forces emerged to increase labor's purchasing power:
 
1. The discovery of supergiant oil fields in Alaska, the North Sea and Africa.
 
2. Computerization improved the productivity of the service sector.
 
3. Financialization of the developed economies artificially boosted the purchasing power of labor and finance capital via highly leveraged debt and declining interest rates.
 
All those forces have been spent. No new supergiant fields have been discovered in the past 20 years, and while improving technology is extracting more oil from existing fields, that is maintaining global production rather than ramping it up by 25%-50%.
 
Digital technologies, software and automation have reached the point that capital is able to replace or reduce service labor in virtually all sectors of the economy. What happened to assembly-line jobs in the 1960s-70s is now happening to service-sector jobs.
 
Financialization has reached diminishing returns: interest rates are near zero and stagnant incomes cannot service more debt. Leveraged debt and phantom collateral have created shadow banking systems which are largely outside state control and vulnerable to systemic shock.
 
 
In effect, the Marxist crisis in capitalism has re-emerged. The "fixes" of declining energy costs, more service jobs and leveraging debt have run their course.
 
Though Marx didn't use the term rentier skimming operation, he described the mechanism in other terminology. Finance capital also plays a role in the emerging crisis of capitalism, as finance capital (aided immensely by the Federal Reserve /central banks and the Federal government /central states) uses its access to nearly-free credit to buy assets that generate rents without having to produce any goods or services.
 
By way of example, consider the recent purchase of thousands of rental homes by institutional investors. Finance capital buys 10,000 homes and rents them to people who earn their income from their labor. Finance capital is not producing any good or service; is collecting rent from labor, i.e. a rentier skimming operation.
 
Cartels are also rentier skimming operations, as the cartel price reflects the cartel's pricing power rather than the market value of the good or service. What is the market value of healthcare in the U.S.? Since healthcare is dominated by cartels, market pricing is purely for show: if you want to buy health insurance, there are only a few providers, and the price is roughly the same.
 
ObamaCare simply institutionalizes the healthcare cartels.
 
What is the value of a top-line fighter aircraft? Since there are only two producers left in the U.S., the price is understandably sky-high from either provider.
 
Care to guess the market value of TV/Internet service in areas served by one corporation? There is no competition, so the market price is undiscoverable. What's provided is priced by the cartel or monopoly.
 
The key feature of cartel-state capitalism is that increases in price do not reflect an increase in value provided, they only reflect an increase in rentier skimming. In effect, eliminating competition is the only sure way to maintain profits and accumulate capital. The best way to accomplish this is to influence the state to impose or support one's cartel.
 
This further squeezes those with jobs, as rentier skimming transfers more of their dwindling earned income to cartels. Since the State acts as the bagman for cartels, rising taxes are simply another form of rentier skimming.
 
You see the crisis brewing: earned income is under pressure and labor is in structural decline. The only way the system can maintain demand for goods and services is either cash transfers from the Central State or loans extended to those with enough earned income to service more debt.
 
Once their ability to service more debt vanishes, so does demand for goods and services.
The rentier skimming of finance capital and the increasing productivity /decreasing need for labor both crush small business. When a rentier skimming operator buys commercial property, rents for small businesses instantly rise, driving out all but chain stores and stores catering to high-margin luxury markets. As the number of workers with discretionary income declines, labor's support of small businesses also drops.
 
Once a niche market becomes profitable, a high-volume corporation will step in and either buy up the small suppliers or source lower-cost goods from its global supply chain and undercut the small producers.
 
This dynamic is clearly visible in the erosion of self-employment and small business:
 
 
This is the result of competitive squeeze and finance capital's access to limitless cheap credit:
 
 
All this creates a problem for the Savior State, which must provide incomes to unemployed labor and protect politically powerful cartels. The only way the State can placate labor, industrial capital and finance capital is to keep interest rates very low and borrow $1 trillion a year to fill the structural gap between tax receipts (based largely on earned income, which is in relative decline) and State spending, which must rise as labor's share of the economy dwindles and the demands of banks and other cartels constantly expand.
 
 
This state solution to capitalism's structural crisis only works if interest rates remain low and the buyers of state debt believe their capital will be returned to them at maturity. Once it become clear that their capital cannot be returned (or the money returned to them will be heavily depreciated), the only marginal buyers of state bonds will be central banks which can print money to buy state debt.
 
This "solution" doesn't resolve either the crisis of capitalism or the state's structural deficits; it simply papers over these crises with financial legerdemain.

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I am Jobe's picture

Ah the clusterfuck times .

alphamentalist's picture

the opposite of Suntory times

flacon's picture

"applied to present-day cartel-state capitalism"

 

Why does capitalism always get a bad rap? Do we say "crony virgins" when referring to prostitutes? Why do some authors INSIST on smearing capitalism with feces?

 

First rule of Capitalism: If there is a CENTRAL BANK then it ISN'T CAPITALISM. 

James_Cole's picture

If people actually bother to read this article rather than let their American brainwashing induce the predictable knee-jerk reaction (Marx was an evil commie!!) it's a surprisingly good introduction to some of Marx's concepts. 

This expands on some of Hugh-Smith's "rentier" points:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rent-seeking

Meremortal's picture

I don't give a damn if Marx's system is the best ever.

I want to live in freedom.

Messy, imperfect, and unorganized as possible...freedom.

 

 

James_Cole's picture

Speaking of irrationality…

First, worth noting that Marx never proposed a specific system, he had proposals he thought might lead to a better economic system but did not believe in force justifying ends. 

But as far as if he had a system and even if you acknolwedged it was 'the best ever' logic dictates that it would be worth adopting yet you would reject it out of hand. Logically, doesn't make any sense. 

It's equivalent to saying: apples are my favorite thing to eat, even if a food comes along that tastes better, is healthier for me, is cheaper and easier to aquire and ultimately I'd prefer eating I'd still stick to apples. 

Probably some of the issue arises from the language, people never define anything. Did you stop to consider what your definition of freedom is? Not in the abstract 'personal liberty' and other vague nonsense, what does freedom actually mean to you? 

Broad concepts which are supposedly obvious, simple or straightforward usually aren't. 

macholatte's picture

Broad concepts which are supposedly obvious, simple or straightforward usually aren't.

 

 

Marxism is an economic philosophy.

Communism is the political application of Marxism

 

The college professor was a Marxist.  The President is a Communist.  

Obvious??

WarriorClass's picture

The Bankster cartel obviously thought communism was the way to go, they financed the communist revolutions in both Russia and China, as well as Central and South America.  A permanent slave class works out quit well for them.

http://americandictators.blogspot.com/2013/07/the-zimmerman-trial-and-wa...

 

Meremortal's picture

I'm not interested in writing you an essay about my concept of freedom.

In a nutshell, I want to live in a country with a government, not the reverse.

GernB's picture

What doesn't make logical sense is to want someone else to impose their idea of how they should earn and spend money on them. Capitalism, in it's ideal form is freedom. People contolling thier own economic destinay. If I like apples I should be able to eat appels, but if I don't then I don't want someone else force feeding them to me because they are the best fruit ever. What people have been brainwashed into thinking is that just because an idea or system is good and most people like it, it justifies forcing those who don't to bend to your will, or even worse it is worth enslaving your fellow citizens to enact it. What is wrong with people that they just cannot accept the concept of live and let live.  Why is it so hard to buy the idea that people have a right not to be told how to earn money or have it stolen from them to pay for someone elses "dream world."

James_Cole's picture

What is wrong with people that they just cannot accept the concept of live and let live. 

I think it's that people understand there is no such thing as 'live and let live.'

Freedom is only the given choices in any particular circumstance. The choices offered are far more important than the person's decision regarding the options. 

That's why a lot of people focus on the choices offered as it's more important & subversive. 

treasurefish's picture

Yes, you have the choice not to file taxes (not freedom), and go to jail (not freedom).  You have the choice to not mow your lawn (not freedom), and be fined by your HOA (not freedom).  You have the choice to speed through mainstreet (not freedom), and be forced to pay a traffic ticket (not freedom).

There may not be such a thing as 'live and let live,' but there is such a thing as 'live and let die."  What ever happened to the right to be left alone?  If you actually injure someone else through your actions, don't honor your agreement, or be dishonorable in some other way, then Common Law dictates that you will pay.  That is the natural order of things.  But, what if you don't injure someone?  What if you are honorable?  In today's America, you can still be thrown in prison and fined.  THAT IS NOT FREEDOM, and there is no choice but NO FREEDOM (not a choice).

There is no such thing as individual accountability if there is no freedom and no choices.  Why should there be?

James_Cole's picture

Your choices will always be constrained, the goal of a society imo should be to offer as many options to as many people as possible rather than focus on the individual's 'freedom' to choose among a narrow range of possibilities.

Americans seem to accept that 'freedom' is the ability to choose bettween a wide array of combinations within a very narrow range - see wal-mart and then pretend their options are limitless.

http://www.condenaststore.com/-sp/You-can-be-anything-you-want-to-be-no-...

DestituteYetJovial's picture

And you can supply those many options to those many people by employing a hands-off approach form of government. Simply by having a 'goal of a society' you're taking a trip to failure-town.

If an option is desired and unavailable, people will work to make it so that it is available, naturally. There's no reason to subsidize it.

James_Cole's picture

Simply by having a 'goal of a society' you're taking a trip to failure-town.

Since societies inevitably exist wherever humans exist goals of societies form naturally. Over the course of human history different societies have coalesced around different principles.

As the industrial changes into a post-industrial society there's the obvious question of what our societies will form around. 

In the past personal freedom has been extremely limited but due to technological and social evolution that no longer needs to be the case. I was giving my opinion that I think a goal of a post-industrial society should be to offer as many options to as many people as possible. 

The reason being for the first time it is possible to distribute the totality of human knowledge & technology on a highly distributed model which greatly increases the likelihood of further scientific breakthrough. The more people you have independently working on a problem the better. 

If an option is desired and unavailable, people will work to make it so that it is available, naturally. 

People make choices based on available data and more importantly available options, desire has little to do with the majority of people's choices. Think about how many decisions you make day to day and consider how many were based on a fixed set of options and how many were based purely on desire. 

Anusocracy's picture

Blue Ribbon Winner.

Control benefits the controller, not the controlled. An unpleasant reality that is often downplayed by those seeking control.

Anusocracy's picture

My idea of freedom is the ability to reject or accept anybody or everybody else's idea of freedom.

Not to be a forced subject of other's belief systems.

 

Lebensphilosoph's picture

Logic dictates no such thing. It is not possible to deduce imperatives from facts. That is an is ought fallacy. "Worth" always presupposes an IRRATIONALY presumed value, and his evidently differs from yours in this regard. That does not make him "illogical". Get over yourself, you halwitted buffoon.

James_Cole's picture

Let me try this again for the brain-dead crowd. 

Logic dictates no such thing. It is not possible to deduce imperatives from facts. 

He said if it were true that Marx's system were the best ever, which means in his estimation he had become convinced it was the best system ever -- it has nothing to do with facts -- he would still prefer something that in his own estimation was inferior.

This is very basic irrationality. 

I made no opinion on it either way as factually he was incorrect from the start considering Marx never proposed any specific 'system' so whatever he's referring to only exists subjectively in his mind and no one here could know what he's talking about.  

FreedomGuy's picture

Yeah, except for the fact they never get past broad concepts like "the dictatorship of the proletariat". Those proletariat leaders have a single name like Stalin, Lenin, Castro, Kim, Mao, etc. the practical application seems to be bad for the health of entire populations starting paradoxically with their own countrymen.

Has anyone ever noted that one very unique characteristic of communist dictatorships is the wholesale enslavement, imprisonment and murder of their own populations first? Generally speaking, while autocrats are no fun for anyone besides the autocrat you did not hear about the mass destruction of Romans by Rome, Mongols by Genghis, Persians by Darius, or even Americans by King George. It is a unique characteristic of the 20th century leftists.

So, you can keep all that communist-Marxist theory to yourself and shove it firmly where it belongs. I will take the imperfections of liberty and no autocrats.

Matt's picture

You did not read the article, did you?

Marx's works can be seperated into two halves:

1) Analysis of the challenges facing capitalism over time

2) His proposed solution (World Socialism)

You can throw out part 2 completely, and still appreciate the valid points in part 1.

Reven's picture

So is the solution libertarianism?

xtop23's picture

I REALLY want to know why in the FUCK anyone would down vote that statement.

So the option is a perfect society, where you are told where and when to wipe, how much pressure to apply, how many ply the tissue must be, and what trees are appropriate to sacrifice for the maintenance of your rectal health?

Well fuck you very much.

I'll use steel wool to wipe with if I have to become a slave for option A. 

----------------

edit; I did however enjoy the read and a lot of Marx is intellectually satisfying. 

The problem is human beings are involved. I cringe at the thought of how ideas that are intellectually pristine, become sheer madness in real world application.

 

 

 

 

Reven's picture

Simple really, many people are scared of freedom, to rise or fall based on merit alone can be a frightening concept, like a child who is suddenly told he must grow up now because his parents are dead.  That may not be the best analogy but you get the idea.

xtop23's picture

I hear ya. Yet another reason, of many, that prove the entitlement / nanny state is quickly destroying the last vestiges of personal responsibility left in our nation.

It seems to me we're at the point, where the only thing that will work to wake people up to the cold hard realities of the world, is a complete and utter collapse of everything they've known.

Sad, but I'm getting to the point where I actually welcome it. 

Bring it on, Darwin.

 

Reven's picture

That which is inevitable should not be feared.  It is what it is as the kids say now.

giggler123's picture

You've been brainwashed in the belief that your democratic vote buys you freedom, something you feel only capitalism will give you when in truth your as free as bird in a cage.  Looking at alternative systems should not be considered as a fight against your freedom, when this thing blows up they'll be needing alternatives.

Reven's picture

It can be effectively argued what we have today is not capitalism.  Declining real wages for labor should lead to deflation, which will collapse the debt superstructure the Fed has built with constantly pushing inflation into the system.  Real interest rates will actually rise under this free-market scenario as the risk that your principal will be returned to you will increase dramatically the longer you loan money out to anyone.  Imagine a scenario where the 10-year is at 7.5%, when deflation is running at 2.5-5%.  The artificial price structure the rentier class has built (excessive asset prices) will collapse, and people will be able to eventually to afford to pay cash for homes again and hold zero debt (and therefore pay nothing to the rentier banking class).  This is what sound money can provide for the free-market.

But the accumulation of false signals to the economy must inevitable lead to an earthquake or collapse.  This is where we are today as we hit zero on the keynesian multiplier.  Deflation means the end of our 'modern' banking system as we know it, which makes hyperinflation inevitable.

Shooting Shark's picture

It is right and good to knee-jerk the ridiculous, unsound, discredited observations and theories from Marx.  Knee-jerk reactions have evolved to protect us, as has capitalism, unlike the sustained assault of Marxism.  The only brainwashed fool here is you.  

For a real education, pick up a BOOK, such as Thomas Sowell's _Marxism_.

DogOfSinope's picture

Because it doesn't work?

Or, if there is a dictator in a socialist state then it isn't socialism?

See the problem?
If we relabel things to preserve dogma -> consequences of dogma stay.

optionsman's picture

most people around the world consider American system as the best embodiment of Capitalism as a notion. So when people say capitalism they mostly mean what anyone experiences in the US.

In theory and of course what you see and live in the US is not capitalism at all.

The article is spot on!

someone is going to ask- when is it going to change? while interesting question, for a real change to happen it would be equivalent to what Taleb calls a black swan ;) unpredictable. but i would say not any time soon. there has to be a long period of popular economic suffering which has not even started in the US .....

just saying

Cheese Potpourri's picture

The people around the world only consider our system best because we have all the stuff, because we took more than our fair share by force.  Of course everyone wants to live here = we have a disproportionate share of the world's resources.  Also, the political spectrum is a circle, not a line.  You will notice that National Socialism had quite a bit in common with the modern Communist states and even our Crony Capitalist state - it is merely a matter of branding and who is in charge and gets all the perks.  All systems are the same until we evolve. 

 

"If men are good, you don't need government; if men are evil or ambivalent, you don't dare have one." – Robert LeFevre

Shooting Shark's picture

First, we didn't "take.  We built.  Second, it wasn't "us", it was those who went before, so show some respect to those who delivered freedom to your cheetoh-smeared lap.  Third, into what shall we evolve?

NOTaREALmerican's picture

Re:  First rule of Capitalism

First rule of any fantasy ISM - including Capitalism.

There are no smart-n-savvy people hiring sociopaths to create bullshit to manipulate the dumbasses out of their money.

Capitalism is just as much a fantasy as socialism or Marxism is.

McMolotov's picture

For relaxing times... quite possibly the best opening scene in film history:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g_g5wwMND0M

EDIT: What kind of sick bastard down-votes Scarlett Johansson's ass?!? I was responding to alphamentalist above, who was referencing "Lost In Translation." And besides, no matter what the discussion is, Scarlett Johansson's ass is always on-topic.

true brain's picture

What Marx and modern thinkers don't take account of is human tendency to corruption. Moral entropy. It takes a lot of hard work to be morally courageous and righteous. Wherever or whenever there is a chance to corrupt the system for selfish gain, human beings will do. This has occurred in communism, capitalsm, religion, etc. Communism would work had it not been for moral entropy, same as capitalism. So it's not the system, any system, it's the human beings. Fix thyself first.

James_Cole's picture

Communism would work had it not been for moral entropy, same as capitalism. So it's not the system, any system, it's the human beings. Fix thyself first.

Human nature is completely inflexible, it's in our DNA. The only way to truly change human nature is to evolve (which takes quite a while last I checked). 

The best cure for the ills of human nature is to not let any individuals have very much power over the group. Wisdom of crowds is far more reliable than leaders and the herd. The idea that human beings are fundamentally rational agents who simply need to be guided to find their centre is itself totally irrational. 

Biases that we face within ourselves are often impossible (literally it's in the wiring) to overcome, which is why we need other people..

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

http://www.ted.com/talks/laurie_santos.html

^ funny about human stupidity

PiratePawpaw's picture

"wisdom of crowds is more reliable"?!? You must hang out with different crowds than the ones I see. 

People can be just as stupid collectively as they can i dividually. The crowd just magnifies the effect.

James_Cole's picture

"wisdom of crowds is more reliable"?!? You must hang out with different crowds than the ones I see. 

I meant the specific cognitive concept: 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wisdom_of_the_crowd

At a 1906 country fair in Plymouth, eight hundred people participated in a contest to estimate the weight of a slaughtered and dressed ox. Statistician Francis Galton observed that the median guess, 1207 pounds, was accurate within 1% of the true weight of 1198 pounds.[4] This has contributed to the insight in cognitive science that a crowd's individual judgments can be modeled as a probability distribution of responses with the mean centered near the true mean of the quantity to be estimated.

...

Wisdom-of-the-crowds research routinely attributes the superiority of crowd averages over individual judgments to the elimination of individual noise,[5] an explanation that assumes independence of the individual judgments from each other.[3][6] Thus the crowd tends to make its best decisions if it is made up of diverse opinions and ideologies.

PiratePawpaw's picture

That is statistical averaging, which does eliminate the errors of the extremes. It is however, not an accurate model of crowd behavior. The "anonymity" of being in a crowd tends to elicit more extreme behavior, and the crowd follows along. (herd mentality).

James_Cole's picture

I think you're getting hung up on the words, it isn't referrencing a literal 'group' crowd. Specifically wisdom of crowds refers to a bunch of individuals as opposed to a collective group or as you say 'herd.' 

There are obvious problems you bring up but these relate to the methods not the concept. It's basically separating the signal from the noise in a way that doesn't pollute the results. 

Matt's picture

The wisdom of the crowd works until someone opens their mouth. So, we need a Direct Democracy where no one is allowed to discuss politics, EVER. If there is a bill (or proposition) to be voted on, anyone discussing that topic must be publicly flogged and both the contaminater and the contaminated must not be allowed to vote on that bill / proposition.

malek's picture

"wisdom of crowds" is just another euphemism for Tyranny Of The Majority.

TrulyBelieving's picture

JC, You said it yourself 'funny about human stupidity' and it applies quite well to your logic. First, Human nature, though it is evil and inflexible, can be overcome, just don't depend on evolution to do it for you. Second, You say 'the best cure for the ills of human nature is to not let any individuals have very much power over the group. Wisdom of crowds is far more reliable than leaders and the herd'. Is not the herd 'the crowd' and an individual a member of the crowd?  Just Laws are what keep the ills of human nature at bay, not the consensus of the crowd. The consensus of the crowd can and does change, but a just and right law will never change, as truth and rightousness is inflexible and eternal. Now stack up your own fallacies against what is eternal, and make the adjustments.

James_Cole's picture

First, Human nature, though it is evil and inflexible, can be overcome, just don't depend on evolution to do it for you. 

Human nature is simply the way the brain is wired. If you watch that TED video it compares human reasoning to monkeys and there are abundant similarities, has nothing to do with 'good' or 'evil.'

People like to pretend the brain is some mystical magic device unsusceptible to the failings of the rest of the body yet in reality it's actually far more vulnerable. 

Is not the herd 'the crowd' and an individual a member of the crowd?  Just Laws are what keep the ills of human nature at bay, not the consensus of the crowd

A lot of people on here don't seem to understand the difference between "widsom of crowds" and "herd mentality." If I were to get 40 people into a room and poll their opinion on something the results will be far less accurate than if I were to take the same 40 people on an individual basis outside of a group context and ask the same question and then statistically compile the results. 

This is the basic difference. 

The consensus of the crowd can and does change, but a just and right law will never change, as truth and rightousness is inflexible and eternal.

This is simply a faith-based belief and has nothing to with what I was talking about.

If you look at marketing for instance it's now mostly done based on the principles from wisdom of crowds (recurring focus group statistical analysis done on an individual basis) and the results are far more accurate in determining what consumers want. 

Acet's picture

Well, it's all about Society.

My personal experience of having lived in several places is that Societies where "take how it affects those around you in account when making a decision" is the standard have a lot less moral corruption.

In all Societies, there are always individuals which are more towards the sociopathic side of the spectrum. The difference of outcomes between Societies is how easy it is to hide that one is a sociopath, how easy is to act as a sociopath without standing out and how hard are you punished if caught.

My impression is that Societies that celebrate pure greed, where wealth is the top measure of the worth of an individual and where people live on appearences are the ones were sociopaths prosper.

DogOfSinope's picture

Good thinking!
Only one small correction: replace the term Society with the term Culture and you'll be spot on.

Muppetrage's picture

bingo! Technology is also rapidly making human labor and intellect obsolete, with an ever expanding population. Good times ahead.

GeezerGeek's picture

So can we come to this conclusion: is human society at an advanced technological level simply unsustainable?

I wonder if anyone ever figured out what most people would be doing if all the technology of the various versions of Star Trek were available. 

Muppetrage's picture

I think Capitalism as we know it may be unsustainable. Technology may offer ways to make energy and agriculture free to everyone. how we get to that point is a completely different story. Cartels. monopolies, governments, and oligarchs would lose power., but at some point people will have no means to compete with technology and then there will be no money to be made from them.