In this case, we are going to look at the three fundamental angles of wheel alignment: For a better handle on where we're going, we need to start with the most basic of basics:
Red Plenty, a semi-fictionalized account of the history of socialist economic planning, seemed like a natural follow-up. Marx had drawn a nightmare picture of what happened to human life under capitalism, when everything was produced only in order to be exchanged; when true qualities and uses dropped away, and the human power of making and doing itself became only an object to be traded.
Then the makers and the things made turned alike into commodities, and the motion of society turned into a kind of zombie dance, a grim cavorting whirl in which objects and people blurred together till the objects were half alive and the people were half dead. Stock-market prices acted back upon the world as if they were independent powers, requiring factories to be opened or closed, real human beings to work or rest, hurry or dawdle; and they, having given the transfusion that made the stock prices come alive, felt their flesh go cold and impersonal on them, mere mechanisms for chunking out the man-hours.
Living money and dying humans, metal as tender as skin and skin as hard as metal, taking hands, and dancing round, and round, and round, with no way ever of stopping; the quickened and the deadened, whirling on. And what would be the alternative?
The consciously arranged alternative? A dance of another nature. A dance to the music of use, where every step fulfilled some real need, did some tangible good, and no matter how fast the dancers spun, they moved easily, because they moved to a human measure, intelligible to all, chosen by all.
Needless to say, this is Relevant To My Interests, which include among them poetic allegories for coordination problems. And I was not disappointed. Strange as it may seem, the gray, oppressive USSR was founded on a fairy tale. And just for a little while, in the heady years of the late s, the magic seemed to be working.
Red Plenty is about that moment in history, and how it came, and how it went away; about the brief era when, under the rash leadership of Khrushchev, the Soviet Union looked forward to a future of rich communists and envious capitalists, when Moscow would out-glitter Manhattan and every Lada would be better engineered than a Porsche.
And this was the first interesting thing I learned. Capitalism is good at growing the economy and making countries rich. Communism is good at caring for the poor and promoting equality. So your choice between capitalism and communism is a trade-off between those two things.
But for at least the first fifty years of the Cold War, the Soviets would not have come close to granting you that these are the premises on which the battle must be fought. They were officially quite certain that any day now Communism was going to prove itself better at economic growth, better at making people rich quickly, than capitalism.
Even unofficially, most of their leaders and economists were pretty certain of it. And for a little while, even their capitalist enemies secretly worried they were right. The arguments are easy to understand. Under capitalism, plutocrats use the profits of industry to buy giant yachts for themselves.
Under communism, the profits can be reinvested back into the industry to build more factories or to make production more efficient, increasing growth rate. Under capitalism, everyone is competing with each other, and much of your budget is spent on zero-sum games like advertising and marketing and sales to give you a leg up over your competition.
Under communism, there is no need to play these zero-sum games and that part of the budget can be reinvested to grow the industry more quickly.
Under capitalism, everyone is working against everyone else. Under communism, everyone is working together, so if one car-manufacturing collective discovers a new technique they send their blueprints to all the other car-manufacturing collectives in order to help them out.
So in capitalism, each companies will possess a few individual advances, but under communism every collective will have every advance, and so be more productive. These arguments make a lot of sense to me, and they definitely made sense to the Communists of the first half of the 20th century.
As a result, they were confident of overtaking capitalism. The great Russian advances of the 50s — Sputnik, Gagarin, etc — were seen as evidence that this was already starting to come true in certain fields.
And then it all went wrong. Grant that communism really does have the above advantages over capitalism. What advantage does capitalism have? The classic answer is that during communism no one wants to work hard. Later, when the state became less murder-happy, the threat of death faded to threats of demotions, ruined careers, and transfer to backwater provinces.Brand Managment Porsche Case.
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