Ask a Marxist?

Anonymous (@) 8 years, 10 months ago

If you have any questions about Marxism? Shoot. Or if you want to discuss some aspect of it. It is good to be knowledgeable so at least your criticisms have validity.

January 28, 2013 at 7:42 pm
Samuel (28) (@iamdrugs) 8 years, 10 months ago ago

@imhotep, Is Marxism at all possible in its pure form? I have a basic understanding of the concept, and from what I know of history, Marxism doesn’t really work. Can you explain how Marxism is actually possible in the modern world?

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Anonymous (170) (@) 8 years, 10 months ago ago

@iamdrugs, First all good questions. Marxism is not in itself an alternative economic configuration. It is in fact a critical study of capitalism, using a methodology known as historical materialism, which is a adaptation of the famous German philosopher Hegel’s Dialectical materialism. It is important to realize that Marx himself did not speculate about an alternative economic system, he thought this would be trying to predict the future.

In his initial study of history to develop his critique of capitalism Marx developed what is know as the Labor Theory of Value. His realization was that every society has producers and non producers. For instance, if your a farmer in a small village long ago, it may be beneficial for some of the village men to guard the fields from possible marauders, these men in themselves do not produce, nor do the elderly or children. This means that the producer are producing surplus in order to support the non producers. From this realization comes the labor theory of value in which Marx categorizes societies based on who is responsible for allocating and distributing resources.

There are two broad categories, one in which those who produce decide how to distribute and allocate the products, and one in which those who do not produce decide how to distribute and allocate products. The latter system he refers to as exploitative. The first category is split up into two types: the first being the producers directly decide how to distribute and allocate products this type is known as Communist (this is the only time Marx refers to Communism). The second type within the first category is where an individual producer (a family farmer for instance), decides how to distribute an allocate his products. The exploitative category has three types slavery, serfdom, and capitalism. In slavery the slave owns known of what he produces, it is immediately the property of the owner, as is he himself. The slave only gets the fruits of his necessary labor (enough to keep him/her alive and producing). All the surplus labor is left to the slave owner to allocate and distribute. In serfdom, serfs are given small plots of land in exchange for them working the land of the Lord for four days of the week, which leaves three days to produce your own products. In this system surplus labor is being taking in exchange for the opportunity to produce ones own necessary labor. In capitalism it is a contract between the boss and the worker, in which the worker agrees to give up his surplus labor in order to receive the opportunity to acquire his/her necessary labor. From this second category comes the Marxist conception of class, in which there is producing class, and a class which does not produce but ultimately owns all surplus labor. It is from this Labor Theory of Value, that Marx begins his critique of capitalism.

The popular conclusion among marxists is the best alternative system would be that the working class would vote democratically on what needs to be produced and plan the economy according to the result of this democratic determination of need. Thus effectively producing for human need and not for profit. This is known as the dictatorship of proletariat (proletariat means working class). Since all democracies are a dictatorship of the 51% over the 49%, and since the working class is in population density the largest class any true democracy would be a dictatorship of the proletariat. As you can see this is a very broad definition of a system, so there are many possible ways it can be implemented. Many ways that have not been attempted. The method I personally ascribe to is Troskyist method. I personally think that Marxism is possible, but you have to keep in mind what Lenin said, the capitalist revolution was a result of productive capacity and historical climate, so in some respects it was inevitable, yet the socialist revolution is a revolution of class consciousness so it is not inevitable. Marxism remains the only methodology we have to form the basis for an alternative system, which today is crucial considering all the ecological and social repercussion we have seen from capitalism.

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ryan34 (24) (@ryan34) 8 years, 10 months ago ago

@imhotep, Do you personally agree with Marx’s critique of capitalism? If so, why? If not, Why? Just curious.

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Anonymous (170) (@) 8 years, 10 months ago ago

@ryan34, I do personally agree Marx’s critique of capitalism. Mainly because his predictions of capitalism has been proven to be accurate. Instead of giving you a full abstraction of Marxist critiques (which would take quite awhile) I’ll give you a critique I wrote using historical materialism, the labor theory of value, the Declining wage scale concept he pioneered:

Capitalism it seems, is productively inefficient, as evidenced by the fact that we throw away half the food we produce. Also do to the fact that commodities are purposeful engineered not to last in order to get consumers to more quickly need a replacement, and thus improving profit margins. Capitalism is also energy inefficient (energy is the true physical measure of value), because raw materials are shipped by barge thousands of miles to regions where cheap labor can be acquired, in order to produce products. This is done to offset the true inflationary price, in order for western consumers to able to afford the products. In essence, the cheap laborer is directly paying a large portion of the price of our products, in order for us to not have to pay the inflationary price (which the vast majority would not be able to due since wages are not raised proportionally to inflation). Due to the fact that capitalism utilizes a system in which labor of some is exploited for the benefit of others, we cannot say it is ethical. Ultimately under capitalism you do not have to be productively efficient, energy efficient, or ethical, to be profitable. But they say this is the best system humanity can conceive of and apply. I disagree.

If you have any specific questions about any aspect of this analysis feel free to ask.

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ryan34 (24) (@ryan34) 8 years, 10 months ago ago

@imhotep, hmmm, interesting. I can’t disagree with some of the points you made, but not all. You can’t really say that Marx’s predictions of capitalism are true as we have never really had pure capitalism.
Coming from my point of view, government’s sole purpose is to preserve liberty, let the free-market work it out. I do not believe that the government should have any influence on consumers nor producers, nor should they subsidize any product or even energy source.
Would marxism work well in a small community? sure, I don’t see why not (well, maybe). Perhaps you could enlighten me. I am very libertarian so this idea seems quite foreign to me. Although I am aware that marx believes government would become obsolete or unnecessary.

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Anonymous (170) (@) 8 years, 10 months ago ago

@ryan34, The Marxist position I hold is that laissez faire capitalism has never existed for very long, it always has been quickly usurped by Oligopolistic capitalism, or as some may know it Monopolistic capitalism. This necessarily happens because a laissez faire market is highly tumultuous (to those who own the means of production), so any pragmatic business men form, let’s call it, profit collaboration, where they agree on a set profit margin for said industry. Meaning that they quit competing with each other and in so doing they ensure they will not be out competed, they are then free to expand profit margins in other realms. So from my take on the Marxist analysis there is no such thing as pure capitalism, Oligopoly necessarily arises, and it occasionally fluctuates back to laissez faire market (but only for short periods of time). This is evidenced by U.S. history, where Andrew Jackson dismantled the original national banking institutions, but they arose once again around the turn of the century in the form of the federal reserve. This is why many Marxists view libertarianism or even anarchism as simply setting back the clock, it doesn’t solve the problem, because the Oligopolized market will inevitably remerge, at the very least it can only give you breathing room. If you set parameter on the business men so they don’t Oligopolize then you are in effect controlling the market and it is no longer laissez faire.

Socialism or Communism is an economic system, not a governance system (you also have to realize a capitalist welfare state is not a Socialist/Communist entity, as some propaganda would have you believe). You are producing based on human need, not living the way others tell you. In fact, Marx emphatically believed in the rights for nations self determination, he also was against the disarmament of the working class under any pretext.

Communism/Socialism can work well in a large or small community, only if it is self sufficient or global in scale, because if you interact with the market then you have to produce for market pressure, thus your not producing for human need and so you do not have a Socialist/Communist economy.

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Anonymous (364) (@) 8 years, 10 months ago ago

@imhotep, In 5 bullet points can you describe the basic ideas/ideologies of Marxism? (If so please do)

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Anonymous (170) (@) 8 years, 10 months ago ago

@piptherational, I’ll give it a shot, but if you’ll bear with me, it will have to be tomorrow. As my bed is calling me. Thanks for all the great questions guys.

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Ray Butler (1,423)M (@trek79) 8 years, 10 months ago ago

@imhotep, So the Marxist definition of Communism could not be more different from the Stalinistic style definition that we have all been spoon fed and fear conditioned by?
I see what you are getting at, 51% over 49%, but that is not how our democracy works. We have a Republican style government, the only Democratic factor is that we elect representatives.
The Democracy you are talking about is full on Democracy, where everyone places a vote on every issue, that system is far too time consuming to be practical, even the Occupy Movement proved that just recently. It becomes all beaurocratical, you end up voting on which issues you should vote on.
The other thing is that most people do not have the time, interest or understanding to be involved or make objective judgements, this just adds more time to the process, while people get up to speed to make informed decisions, or you end up missing a huge chunk of the vote, or people vote impulsively and recklessly.

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Ty (35) (@tymr) 8 years, 10 months ago ago

I think Marxism was extremely relevant and important in the era in which it was produced, given the absolutely horrid conditions for so many workers in the early industrial age. And in that context, I don’t see how any morally minded person would disagree with it’s premise and it’s appeal. But much has changed since that time, and I think we can come up with new manifesto’s based on new, progressive principles, that are more relevant to our time. At least as far as the First World goes.

But something else about Marxism that many people misunderstand, ( @ryan34 mentioned marxism as opposed to libertarianism) is that in it’s final form, Marxism is supposed to be a STATELESS society. It is supposed to be a form of anarchy, or of libertarianism. Libertarianism and Marxism both aspire to those ideals, in which people act fairly towards each other, according to certain principles, and there is no outside entity that has any authority over anyone. Some “marxists” call themselves “socialist libertarians.” True communism is not a society in which the government forcibly redistributes wealth to equalize the playing field. True communism just means that the workers own the means of production, and control the fruits of their own labor, collectively and fairly. It just rejects what it perceives to be exploitation.

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Ray Butler (1,423)M (@trek79) 8 years, 10 months ago ago

@imhotep, Things can’t get done that way for this simple example: Climate change, the people for action to counter it come up with an 8000 page essay detailing everything about it, the science that confirms it all the way to the best solutions, every person has to not only read this but also understand it. A person who is against action on climate change only needs to say 3 simple words “BIG NEW TAX” and everyone runs scared, votes NAY!

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Ray Butler (1,423)M (@trek79) 8 years, 10 months ago ago

@imhotep, But our system already works a certain way, if more people petition for something than the people who are against it, then within reason, it come into effect. There is that government website where they attained enough petition signatures to build the Star-Wars Death-Star, if a weapon for blowing up planets wasn’t such a wasteful enterprise then we would be in phase one.
This system has plenty of draw backs about it, but it is not as hopeless as you may believe, we are working on problems with it everyday, we have been for some time now, and we are making real progress. Just as @tymr, said, Marx drew up that philosophy over 100 years ago, or there abouts, and Capitalism was phenomenally different back then.
It was created by Adam Smith who made a bunch of suggestions on how to avoid poverty, National debt, recession/depression and a range of other crap things, but that model was ultimately ignored, as Aristocracts/Oligarchies installed the system, they cherrypicked it to their custom.
Now people are not just screaming bloody murder, they are actually hard at work straitening the mess out and they are making headway, if you stop living in 2 centuries ago and paid attention, you may see what genuine constructive progress is achieving.

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Anonymous (170) (@) 8 years, 10 months ago ago

@trek79, First of all great observation about the limits of traditional democracy. This gets into Leninism, which is a branch of Marxism, considering he was using historical materialism and built off of Marx’s ideas. First of all it’s important to understand the Dictatorship of the Proletariat as a concept ultimately has two ramifications the first being that by right of sheer population the working class should have the power of economic determination, the second is by right of being the producers in society they have the right of economic determination. It does not necessarily state that it has to be done through the traditional Athenian style of democracy, it simply states that the right of economic determination lies with the working class.

If you will recall the USSR stands for the Union of Socialist Soviet Republics. Lenin was the architect of the first socialist economy, what he created was an organization of Soviets (we know them as unions), that plan the economy in tandem. The democratic process takes place within the unions, and these unions send delegates forward to the Labor party (which is the tip of the economic spear), from with in the labor party the different delegates representing the needs of their soviets vote on what needs to be produced. So in essence it is an economic republic. The only difference being in many cases these Soviets had much more autonomy than there American counterparts.

So the actually voting would be in the style of a republic, because it is more efficient. Also when you are producing for human need it is necessary that ecological concerns be factored in, because economic longevity is an important factor in human need.

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Anonymous (170) (@) 8 years, 10 months ago ago

@tymr, Marxism is still relevant because capitalism is unstable and prone to collapse. Not to mention in the third world workers are still experiencing the same atrocious conditions which existed in Marx’s time. So saying it does not apply to everyone, does not mean it is not relevant and doesn’t apply to others. Go to South America, Haiti, Africa, Myanmar, or Cambodia, is you want to see the realities of capitalism which we are shielded from, and directly benefit off of. Not to mention that once there is no cheap labor to exploit capitalism will necessarily begin to collapse. Because those cheap laborers pay a large percentage of the inflationary price, that we in the first world could not afford to pay. So either things will get to expensive for people to buy, and the economy would collapse. Or people would demand pay raises, which would reduce profit margins, and in so doing kill the monetary incentive of the capitalist. Because profit drives the market, if there is no profit, there is no economy.

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Anonymous (170) (@) 8 years, 10 months ago ago

@piptherational, I honestly do not want to butcher Marx’s critique of capitalism by reducing it to bullet points. I will try to give an abstraction however.

After conceiving of the Labor Theory of Value, Marx set about on his critique of capitalism. He first started by studying the economic device of capitalism, which is profit. The premise of profit being it is an economic devise for the movement of products, which has credibility in that it does succeed but in a limited capacity as Marx saw it. The premise is if someone somewhere needs something, and someone somewhere has that thing, then there is profit to had by the person who has the needed things, so he/she has incentive to take the thing from point a to point b. Marx looked at the historical climate, and had a realization, that since the world is unevenly developed, the person who has the needed things can get more for it in a more developed market than in a less developed market. The ramification of this is, the person has more incentive to sell their products at the developed market, and to design and create products specifically for the more developed markets. This means they have no incentive to help develop those areas. This is how you can have starving populations in Africa, South America, and Asia, but you have people selling hundred dollar colognes in Europe and America. He called this phenomenal commodity fetishism (this concept leads to the profitability of war, and so to the military industrial complex).

Since profit is the device for economic movement, and profit is derived from both the worker ( the capitalist is selling the workers surplus labor), and the consumer. This leads to the necessity of getting the maximum amount of profit from both parties, since the more profit you have, ultimately that means you have moved more products, so economic growth is proportional to the amount of profit. There is a limit however to the amount of profit you can squeeze out of the consumer, considering the consumer only has a limited amount they can pay. This leads to the necessity of profit being taken from the workers labor. If this isn’t unethical enough there are further ramifications. Since the inceptions of Labor laws, the incentive has existed to move labor to other countries, yet another monetary incentive for keeping countries underdeveloped. This is unavoidable because of inflation, as the market grows so does inflation. Which means ultimately things become more expensive to produce and to buy, so that means more value needs to me taken either from the worker or the consumer. If capitalism isn’t to collapse then the inflationary price must be offset. This is done through cheap labor, and cheap acquisition of resources, either from the underdeveloped countries, or as we are seeing today from developed countries where whole local industries are being dismantled or absorbed in order for the process to continue ( I’m referring to Greece and other Eurozone nations that have gone bankrupt). So as the capitalist economy grows the more unstable it becomes simply because it becomes more difficult to find profit. This is how the whole world can be broke at the same time. Also as the third world slowly develops itself ( in most cases through unions, or socialist systems of some sort), that means there are less ways to offset the inflationary price, since workers in more developed countries usually demand certain labor rights (which they should). The moment the inflationary price cannot be offset by the laborer, is the point where the prices for the consumer shoots sky high, since the consumer usually won’t be able to pay the inflationary price (because the majority aren’t paid proportionally to inflation), they won’t be able to buy anything. When that happens there is no profit left to be had, and so the economy dies.

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Almeida (304) (@xetado) 8 years, 10 months ago ago

I don’t know much about it, but just wondering, how Marxism deals with the merit thing? I mean, the effort given by many people are extremely different, thus some times certain people deserve more reward than others. Of course, this is not 100% true in every case, as football players, models, etc. receive more income. Wouldn’t it be just better to show people better virtues, that value the merit of each individual? It’s a little bit more complex, I know, but until now, just that. Thanks :)

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Ray Butler (1,423)M (@trek79) 8 years, 10 months ago ago

@imhotep, Like I said, the reason Capitalism is so bad is because it has been misused, same reason why Communism got so bad under Stalin, simple misuse of the principles. Lenin died before he could iron out all the issues, but in the case of Capitalism, Smith had already ironed out all the issues, but those measures were just simply ignored by the people who launched the system.
It sounds to me that Marxism has a principle of fairness and criticizes Capitalism according to that standard, but in reality the original vision of Smith is basically the mathematical and social organizing factor that Marxism lacks. If we are to disolve this mutation of a system that we have and replace it, logically it would be replaced with Smiths original blueprint to the letter.

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Ray Butler (1,423)M (@trek79) 8 years, 10 months ago ago

@imhotep, If you study Adam Smith, the work and the man, you will see he had all the same concerns about fairness and equality that Marx did.

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E.C.F. Doyle (346) (@chekovchameleon) 8 years, 10 months ago ago

@xetado, Just going to jump in here as a fellow marxist.

Marx explains the main reasons for capitalism being so effective (not efficient, by the way) as two fold; commodity fetishism and Ideological hegemony. Commodity fetishism is the idea that people have a belief that abstract commodities have an intrinsic value and that the relationships between men are mainly based on commodities in the capitalist system. This goes to explaining the why footballers and models are payed so much, because these are in fact commodities themselves, and the population apply this intrinsic value to models/footballers, as I’m sure you know yourself.
Ideological hegemony will explain, perhaps, how this could occur. This is the idea that a capitalist society presents a reality to the population that is very beneficial to keeping the society. That is major companies, or the ruling class/bourgeoisie, promote ideas that justify the current economic system. Distraction is also considered a major part of this. Marx said religion was the opiate of the people, in other words, they were so distracted with religion to care about anything else, either consciously or unconsciously. Many modern marxists believe that sport is now in fact the opiate of the people.
Now to directly answer your question, my apologies for in long winded forward.

Marx used the slogan “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need”.
In other words, one would add to the labour force what his abilities could grant and in return he would be compensated according to his needs. So essentially the idea of merit goes out the window, well that which equates to a monetary value anyway. So as an example, If a single man living on his own works the same job as a man with a family complete with children. the work the same hours and have the same duties. The man with a family will be further compensated to accommodate his family who must be fed. This would apply across the board, so this man with his family will be compensated the same or similarly as all men in the same or similar situation to him.

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Almeida (304) (@xetado) 7 years, 9 months ago ago

@chekovchameleon, Foremost, sorry for bumping this such old thread, I was searching for some Marxist threads here in HE :)
As to the last example you gave (the single man and the man with a family), who is to judge what the family or the single man needs and which parameters are going to be used? And what exactly does the concept of ‘accommodate’ encompass? Human species needs more than food and water to have a nice life, right? Thanks, fellow Marxist :P

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Ray Butler (1,423)M (@trek79) 8 years, 10 months ago ago

@chekovchameleon, “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need” That would be a wasteful system on its own, because the collective abilities of humanity vastly outweigh the collective needs of humanity.
But in principle it makes sense, the abilities of any one person would only be called upon when needed, the rest of the time they are idle or indulging recreation, like watching sport.
However, we can’t all have a uniform method like this. Doctors, for example, are huge contributers to society, they are vital and constantly on demand. The little time they actually have to enjoy off work, they deserve a value equivalent to not only their occupation, but to people who have plenty of time off to enjoy recreation. One guy gets to watch sport 6 days a week, the doctor only gets time off for 1 day and guess what? He only gets to watch sport.
That is completely exploitative, far worse than Capitalism, certainly far worse than the original Smith blueprint for Capitalism. Again I say, study Smith, all this waste and bias of the current Capitalist system, even the Capitalist system Marx criticizes, these are nothing like Smiths original intention, but a mutated monster shadow of his genius.

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E.C.F. Doyle (346) (@chekovchameleon) 8 years, 10 months ago ago

@trek79, Yes that would be extremely wasteful, and exploiting of human resources and general resources. But you are looking at the roles as they stand currently. The work load would be evenly distributed. Let’s take the example of doctors. Currently doctors have strenuous hours, however, in a communistic society the amount of doctors would be increased to even out the work load. In the case of these Idle people, the amount of people occupying their role would be significantly reduced and the remainder would be redistributed to other roles.

It is important to say, I think, that Marxism is, in general, not about implementing the conditions of a communistic society as Marx has predicted it might look, but is in fact about using Marx’s critiques of capitalism to improve it and insure that the future of it is progressive. Similar to the way enthusiasts (not the word I wanted, but lacked a better one) of smith would.

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Ray Butler (1,423)M (@trek79) 8 years, 10 months ago ago

Here is what I think:
If you have a system that only produces the needs of the people, a Spartan Society if you will, then this guarantees that some people will have to work constantly while a huge chunk of society will never have to work at all. As there is no specialty rewards for those who work constantly, then effectively they are punished for contributing.
The way I see it, you produce what everyone needs and they get it as standard, food, home, education. Then you have a bunch of free non-essentials, these are easy to make and completely renewable with virtually no carbon footprint. Anyone can have these.
But then you have everything else, let’s call them Luxury Items, these range from moderate to difficult to produce as do they have a moderate to substancial footprint. The prices of attaining these things are relative to those two factors, and the price also considers these Luxury Items as what affords the standard society factors, ie: The Luxury Items subsidize the general items, these things are made free, and the people who make them are paid from the capital aquired from the Luxury market.
That would be the most logical way to set up society, with the value (paycheck) of every occupation defined by some regulation that weighs difficulty of task, how vital the task is and how much time is consumed performing the task.

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Ray Butler (1,423)M (@trek79) 8 years, 10 months ago ago

That is the big flaw I see in modern Capitalism, it is currently trending in the wrong direction to this last suggestion I made^^: Here in Australia, the basic needs, rent, utilities, food, these are all going up in cost while the whole market of unnecessary indulgences are getting cheaper to aquire by the day. This is because it costs so much just to survive that people can’t afford the Luxury stuff, so the companies drop their prices, soon they will be dead all together as the cost of production outweighs any retail price they could hope to ask for.

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E.C.F. Doyle (346) (@chekovchameleon) 8 years, 10 months ago ago

@trek79, Hmm.. It is a very sensible system you put forward, it is in many regards very similar to a communistic society in the sense that the state owns everything so therefore nobody is capitalizing. I would agree with all the conditions of pay bar the vitality of the work. This would mean that the workers for the general items and services would be acquiring more income than the producers of luxury ones, which creates imbalance.

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Ray Butler (1,423)M (@trek79) 8 years, 10 months ago ago

@chekovchameleon, Noted about the vitality, technically a garbage man has one of the most vital jobs and anyone can do it. But yes, time and difficulty may be a sufficient measure, but as I said, one of the factors that constitutes what a luxury item is happens to be difficulty of production, this is counter-balanced by my inclusion of how vital the work is, Luxuries are deemed non-vital so the difficulty of producing them is off-set by the vitality factor.
Another thing is: I would not say that it is owned by the state so much as laws and regulations define the value of contribution of CEOs, Owners and Bosses, they are paid on a similar reasoning to what everyone else is paid on, rather than by profit margins. This system of CEOs, Owners and Bosses being paid according to profit margins is what directly and indirectly are causing most of the issues to begin with.

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