Tag Archives: opinion

Trying to figure out Marxism, page by page…


DiaMyHegel

Video by video, podcast by podcast, and even pretension, by irritating pretension. Before we get too far, do I really understand the works of Marx? Nope I’m still neck deep in working it out, but recently my head crested the surface after something like 2 months of on and off reading, watching and general research.

So if you read some of my other posts on philosophy you may have noticed me mention I do not like it when anyone uses over complicated and difficult to understand terms to describe their work. Especially when it is an introductory piece. There no need for it, and regardless of how fashionable being hard to understand is if you goal is to create something to be use to improve the world, it will need to be able to apeal to people not steeped in your field already.

Now Marx was writing in a different time, and in many ways a climate where deep intellectual materials where simply the norm, so he writing would have been easier to digest. Yet there has been over a century of time dividing his work from us, and while plenty of people exist to carry on his work. Marxist still can’t explain what the fuck Material Dialectics are. There’s this expectation you need to read Hegel, and Marx, and sometime Lenin to really understand what Marxism is. Though I’m here to tell you, in my experience whenever someone has said that, “only x y or z can explain that,” to me it’s been bullshit. I think the real problem is many Marxism either worship the shrine of Marx, hoping to get the long dead man’s approval, or simply don’t really get the methods and just parrot what they know, because it’s confusing and that’s the only thing they know how to do.

That itself is of course an over simplification of what Marxists are doing, an abstraction if you will *wink wink*, but my frustration is real. So what have I been trying to accomplish since late September? To understand the basic of what Marxism are, so I can begin to both discuss and explain wtf it is to my own satisfaction. Because I firmly beilive that if you can’t explain the basics of a concept to a high school student in under 30 minutes, you don’t understand it yourself.

Now I wouldn’t have made is post if I was completely confused still, indeed I would have written much sooner if I had better luck in my search, but I got lucky, and decided to backtrack from Marx and figure out that “Dialectics” are in the Hegelian sense, which was much of the basis of Marx. The Luck Really kicked in when I found this lovely video series outlining the basics of Hegel’s Dialectics.

Not to be confused with the Dialectical Method of Socratic fame.

The Long and the short of it is as follows, Dialectics are not a formula for thinking, they are a method very much akin to the scientific methods. Not a single paths, but a basic system of thought that allows you to critically analyze concepts and physical processes. From what I’ve deduced and inferred from my readings. Material Dialectics, and Hegel’s Dialectics  are in turn a scientific method itself, and almost a scientific method, but still holding on to  the idealism (Think platonic if you aren’t familiar with what idealism entails) present in much of early a pre-enlightenment thinking.

So what is Marx Method? Well he died before he ever laid one out explicitly… THANKS MARX. However, Hegel was more kind, and laid the following three steps which should apply well to Marx with some tweaking. Thanks Hegel!

1 Abstraction, 2 Negation, 3 Concrete.

1. The Abstraction: This is the first step in what is a cyclical cycle. Fairly analogous to Hypothesis and experimental design in the common description of the scientific method. The Material Dialectic, when you begin to attempt to understand anything, first you must begin to make an abstract of it you must deconstruct how you think it work. Determine what it’s parts are, the inputs, the outputs, followed later by how that parts relate to one another.

2. Now like a good materialist as good scientist you must destroy what you’ve made. Now it is time for Negation! You now get to see if your abstraction can survive when it come into contract with the real world, or at least can withstand logical bombardment, in Socratic Method sense, as you and ideally some critics attempt to find its weak points.

3. Concrete is a bad name, but basically once you’ve done your best to negate the abstraction, you should be left either with nothing as your idea was wrong and completely unsalvageable (return to step one) or you should have helped move your abstraction closer to the real (material) world, and can use it to better describe the world. In essence you start with the simple abstraction, and through negation to bring it’s abstracted parts at least partially back together in a way that effectively describes, and ideally helps predicts the world.

4. Same as step one, but you take your idea from step 3 and feed it back though, in an endless cycle as you attempt to approach a perfectly accurate description of reality.

Is that all correct and accurate? Probably not, but if not I can certainly run in it back through the system, because the funny thing was, if I’m even close to being right, I have been doing material dialectics all along.

Questions and comments are more than welcome. If you know a fair bit about Marxism even better, but regardless I’ll keep up my investigations, and share again when I have something of interest.

Withteeth

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Quick Question: Would you be willing to…


Would you be willing to pay more taxes to help pay for cost of immigrants moving to your country, making sure they had a fair chance to make a life for themselves. Lets also assume that these immigrant are emigrating from their home country due to serve social and economic instability.

I’ve left it fairly vague so feel free to leave your deeper rational, and what qualifiers are informant for you.

 

Withteeth


I’m At a Loss


I’ve been finding it difficult to come up with ideas for blog posts, which is why this blog hasn’t been very active lately. As such, I’d like to leave it up to the readers: what would you like us to write about? Would you like to know something specific about our atheism? Do you have an argument that you’d like us to address? Would you like us to discuss a particular book? Do you have any questions about Philosophy, Biology, or History? Would you like to know our stance on a particular feminist issue? Is there something else you’d like us to write on? Let us know in the comment section.


Absolutes claims, and why they should be avoided.


Absolute claims. Every thing, everyone, all, without exception. These are terms I’ve grown to dislike, and are terms I try to eliminate from my vocabulary. Why I do this is because I am not willing to say things are absolutely true, with a few exceptions. The certainty granted by these kinds of absolute statements are a powerful thing. Both when you talk with others and powerful in how it makes you think.

When we talk in certainties we not only run into the problem of misleading those we are talking too, but we can, in the long run, end up tricking ourselves into thinking that we are more certain then we actually have any right to be. There is some truth to those saying which go along the line of: Say something enough and it’ll become true. At least in our own minds that is. When we talk in unwarranted certainties we modify the dialogue we create a culture where where generalizations are true, where the complex is made to look simple, models (think economics) are instead facts of reality, and should it go on long enough soon lies and misconceptions become difficult to pull from the nuggets of wisdom. I’m not going to say this is 100% fact either, but it is how I see things to some extent. My solution is the try to strip much of the excess certainty out of my words as I can. Now I am certain of some thing things, and for those few things I and willing to claim certainly, but if I am unsure or can think of exceptions I think it is important to voice those as caveats in my language. Degrees of certainty are perfectly alright, but complete certainty is rarely warranted.

If I use terms like all, or every I better mean it, otherwise fundamentally I’m being unintentionally misleading at best, or outright lying at worst. I’ll grant a caveat to (obvious) hyperbole, and although it has a place it still shouldn’t be over used. I find by saying just a few extra words we not only become more truthful, but we can more easily open the door to discussion and the complexities which underlie the world we live on. Well that and just become better communicators, you can get yourself into all kinds of trouble with a careless statement. Particularly when grouping people together.

A small and related exercise I regularly do is just to think about the possibility space surrounding an issue. The most practical one is to try to come up with a wide variety of reasons for why a person do an action. For example for us drivers, if some one cuts your off or otherwise drives by erratically. While It’s perfectly normal to think they are insane or morons, or otherwise incompetent in the area of operating motor vehicles. However, don’t stop there, start thinking about more nuanced reasons for why they drove like they did. Perhaps they we’re tired, or distracted, think about reasons what they could be distracted or tired or what have you. Not only do you build your empathy muscles doing this, but you also get good at thinking about the sorts of possibles that exist, and the ways an outcome can arrive from many dissimilar sources. It helps us move away from our human tendencies towards black and white thinking, and otherwise over simplifying the world around us.

So what do you think about absolute statements, and the use of certainty in language? Leave a comment down below!


Anxiety Does Not Make For an Easy Life


Lately I’ve been struggling quite a bit with my anxiety. I barely made it out of school with my sanity. I haven’t been able to care about much, because everything is just too intense. But that’s what anxiety is.

Anxiety is the need to do everything, but the sense of being overwhelmed with everything that causes you to do nothing. Anxiety is the deep rooted fear that something is terribly wrong even though you know that nothing is wrong. Anxiety is the fear that success is impossible for you no matter how hard you try. Anxiety is the feeling that people don’t actually like you regardless of what they say or do. Anxiety is the fear that everything you do is somehow wrong. And on top of all that, anxiety is the knowledge that you fears are irrational and the inability to stop them. People with anxiety know that their feelings aren’t based in reality, and telling us this doesn’t help. In fact, it just feeds our fear that we aren’t liked or are thought to be stupid. But anxiety isn’t built on rationality or logic. It is a malfunction of the brain. Reason can’t stop anxiety. I wish I could just reason my way out of an anxiety attack.

My anxiety has gotten worse. It’s bad enough that I have to go get blood work done to see if it has any physical causes. It’s bad enough that I get to discuss medication options with my doctor after the blood work is done. It’s bad enough that I actually look forward to the zombie-like feelings that come with most anxiety like medications. I look forward to it because I can’t function. I want to blog, but when I think about writing a post I think of everything else I need to do and I get overwhelmed until I do nothing. I want to write, but I can’t find the motivation or the words to say. I want to get a job, but that’s overwhelming to people who don’t have anxiety. So instead I binge watch T.V. shows because that doesn’t overwhelm me.

Anxiety is a crippling mental illness. One that I wish people would take more seriously. One that I wish wasn’t so stigmatized. Sometimes it feels like I’m expected to put a band-aid on a broken leg and just walk it off.


Why the Rich ought to pay more.


(We’ve not being posting lately! don’t worry it’s just the end of the semester and we are swamped/exhausted our regular posting seclude will be back as soon as possible)

While this will not be growing into a series on our blog I have a few more opinions and ideas about taxation and what a fair society look like that I would like to share.

People will often cry unfair when they first learn about progressive taxing, suggesting flat taxes are more fair. On the face of thing this would seem patently true. Everyone has to pay the same amount in taxes proportional to their earning so that must be the fairest option. Right? Well here I’ll be arguing against this simple but common idea and explain why raising taxes on the richest of us impact them less then it does the when we raise taxes on poorest, and how the rich tend to reap more benefits from society than those with out as much capital.

So why does raising taxes affect the rich less severely than the poor?

To help me explain why first I’ll draw upon the reasons why I think flat taxes are not in fact as fair as they seem. Lets assume we have a flat tax of 10% like we have here in Alberta. Lets also introduce you to three people. Person A, B and C. Person A makes $10’000 a year, B Makes 100’000, and C makes 1’000’000. Because of the flat tax that means they each are actually earning 9’000, 90’000 and 900’000 a year after taxes. Of these three people who is most likely going to see a quality of life change due to paying 10% of there income. The point is 10% affect the lowest incomes far more then the highest incomes. 1000 means lot when all you have in 9000 dollars to work with, but 10’000 when you still have 90’000? That jump in pay is much easier to swallow.

People do not proportionally increase spending in line with their income. Humans can only consume so much, and after meeting you basic needs, then your desires for luxury goods, you can and generally will only spend so much on other things. This along with the fact most people who have become wealthy do not actively try to impoverish themselves it’s unavoidable that the wealthy are going to have a considerable amount of free capital with which they can use for any variety of purposes including increasing their own personal wealth. Where the poorer you are the more of you income will be spent on basic needs and luxury consumption with very little left to save or invest. As well those stats provided by NPR above, which classes the rich as anyone making over $150’000 a year. I suspect you can further break the rich into further brackets and while I lack numbers I wouldn’t be surprised to find the proportions of consumption in the extremely rich continue a downward trend while saving and investments go up disproportionately when compared to other groups.

This is also a part of why sales taxes hit the middle class harder. Why because they are the largest consumers by far have a good deal of disposable income. Even if the middle class consumes a sixth that the rich do per person the middle class out number the rich by far more then that, so a sale tax is going to generally be a burden on the largest consumers base ie. the middle class.

I’m not saying that saving, or having lots of money makes people bad, that not the issue here. The issue is that flat taxes, particularly sales taxes, tax the poor and middle class hardest, and if the poor have government supplements then most or all of that burden then gets shuffled to the middle class, while the rich who consume proportionally less and put those savings to work allowing them to make even more money.

The rich are best able to avoid the rat race and to avoid expenses out pacing income, hence this is part why I think it’s perfectly fair to expect that they put more back. They can avoid over spending easier. They have more time and resources, so raising taxes on the rich isn’t likely going to affect their quality of life. Though even if it does affect quality of life it’s effects are generally going to be miniscule so long as the tax rate are completely outrageous (though even if they are outrageous it’s not like it’s going to knock the rich into poverty if the change is gradual).

That said I can understand how that will sound unfair to some, so here’s why I think the rich benefit more from society and as such ought to pay more into the systems they derive their income.

Most of the things which we take for granted in the west are largely impossible, or would lack the inter connectivity and resilience with out a government. Gas, electricity, internet, water, roads, mail… To work efficiently and to reach many people you need society working together pooling resources to make everything consistent. That stability helps further stabilize and make it easier and easier keep thing in order, people expect it and people will put up with a great deal to maintain these convinces. Why? Because one we use to them and are adverse to change, but two because these systems benefit us. Though we don’t all benefit equally. Sure we all benefit from roads and the goods, but business and industry owners personally benefit considerably more. The same with the internet, electronic banking in general. These thing benefit us all as well. The speedy and safe exchange of funds makes life much simpler and remove a great deal of stress, but the average person does not draw much further benefit from these system other then, mostly government run, retirement and saving plans. Even then there tends to be far more restrictions on these plans and if done wrong which is not a rare event can cost the person more money then if they had just put the money in the bank. The wealthy on the other hand tend to have the resources and time to properly take advantage of existing systems (and influence politics in order to change those systems). This isn’t because they are over all smarter, it’s just they are in the know and are better able to hire others to do the work for them, or take the time away from their career necessary to get these tasks done.

I’m not willing to say that the rich benefiting more is a bad thing, but I don’t think you can make a compelling argument that the rich do not benefit more by these system and institutions. Though this increase benefit along with the simple fact that the wealthy can afford to pay more without it harming the quality of their lives form most the foundation for why I think they ought to pay more. It won’t hurt ’em and they get more out of anyway, but there is one other thing which I hold to be true. This final point is that it’s in our interest to improve the lives of those around us.

Consumption, innovation, progress. These thing are not things only done, or even primarily done, by the rich. Innovation and progress are pushed by human struggle, and consumption requiers a consumer base with enough income to support a consumer economy. As such you can not have a modern economy without a healthy middle class, and innovation often comes from the middle class in the form of researchers and engineers, who typically are in turn funded by the government in one way or another either directly through grants, or indirectly though education funding. Not to mention society is a much nicer place with a highly educated citizenry. Disease is reduced, violence goes down.

Healthy educated citizens make society safer and more efficient for everyone. They increase the overall healthy and productivity of society in a way a few extremely well off upper class could never do. Such a population is better able to rise to the challenges presented by the unknown and are often more resilient to disaster. The best way of doing these things as far as my experience can attest is universal education and healthcare of some manner, and you need taxes  for that. And for the reasons presented before the wealthy are in the best position to give back more to society.

To briefly recap I think the rich ought to pay more for three primary reasons. First because increasing taxes on the rich, particularly the mega rich, affects them the least. Second because the rich benefit more from the majority of social structures like the legal system and even including the basic infrastructure that ties people together. Third because it is in everyone’s best interest to improve the lives of those around them as doing so will over all improve there lives.

By no means is this a complete look into why I think these things, but that is the basic premise.

 


Taxes are not evil. The Rant


Taxes are not evil, taxes are not bad, taxes are not good either. Taxes are a necessary part of being a member of a larger community. Taxes and tithes have existed throughout the ages and, in more recent history, have normally been collected through some form of currency. But there have always been some expectations that you will give back to your community. As our connections to our larger communities have grown more abstract, as a result of our communities swelling into massive cities, and it became simpler to connect with people all over the world, our sense of allegiance and to whom we feel indebted too also changed, as it becomes harder to appreciate how the work of the rest of our community impacts our lives. The most common place this occurs, in my experience, is in how people talk about taxes. “I don’t want no government stealing my money” is an attitude I regularly encounter both in my personal discussions about social policy and all the time on the internet. It’s as though taxes get taken and you never gain any benefit from them.

Now, before anyone bursts out, I understand that for any given system of taxation and the levels of corruption in a system you going to see different effects, and yes, I’m sure there are a few examples scattered around (the most obvious being certain aboriginal communities in North America) where people really don’t see any benefits from paying taxes. Accepting those exceptions doesn’t change a thing as I’m speaking in generalities. We as individuals benefit immeasurably from the social structures around us. With the dawn of enlightenment and the rise of concept of individualism, also came with a disconnection from more communal thinking. So while many benefits arose from that way of thinking (and we still get many benefits) it makes people more willing to think that they are “self made” and have not real conception of the benefits wright from a stable society as they are just assumed. The costs forgotten.

Yet the benefits wrought by a stable society cost a lot of resources and time. Though that cost is nothing compared to if every person had to handle themselves.

For example lets look at roads. Could you imagine a world where every person had to look over their own section of road? Could you imagine every single person having to organize and pay for the little section of road in font of their home to be paved? Assuming everyone on your street were willing to pave theirs? You’d still probably end up with a patch work of roads of various qualities and outside your immediate area you might lack plausible routes, and whole sections of road decay as no one maintains it. And there might be road taxes where people set up tolls to make their money for the roads directly from commuters. Now, of course market effects can take place, and some people will die out and others will succeed, but monopolies, and the resulting extortion, would run rampant and different groups would be able to control great swaths of road, allowing them to charge whatever they like for the use of their roads.

Now imagine that for every utility, water, gas, electricity, you could have any of it or you’d end up getting it from some Baron who has massive control over your area. Sure, you might collectivize to control your own local resources, but then you’re back to having a government. Sure it’s a small government, but you’re probably subsisting whomever runs the community’s organizational effort. You can’t escape the sort of efficiencies you get from controlling and organizing large amounts of resources from the single governing body, and, given human history, that generally means you either have some sort of democracy of changing leaders, or some kind of totalitarian government run by a single person and their immediate power base or some kind of council.

What’s the point of all this rambling? One way or another, unless you go live out in the mountains completely off the grid, you’re going to have to give up some of your resources back to the community you live in. That isn’t a bad thing, that’s the responsible thing to do. Most of you reading this will also lie in democratic countries with something like freedom of speech and the ability to have your voice heard. So if you don’t like something that’s being done in your local government, or you don’t think tax money is being used correctly, well, you’ll need to do something about it. Make some phone calls, and send some letters. Talk with some other people and convince them to do the same. The answer will never really be as simple a raising or lowering taxes, and getting rid of taxes is utterly impossible without dissolving society as we know it.

So next time you hear someone talk about how they don’t like paying taxes or complain about how their tax dollars don’t work exclusively for them, remind them they are not the center of the universe. Remind them that society is not made just for them. Remind them that they gain far more in benefits then they are forced to pay back (thankfully we are not playing a 0 sum game here). So if they don’t like taxes, they would go live out in the wilderness where the fruits of there labour can be hoarded without the “threat” of taxation.

Taxes are not Satan. Although, unlike Satan, taxes do exist.

Withteeth


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