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    Wow, tough crowd. They didn’t seem to get it at all.

    Then again it felt like Morozov was speaking at the lion’s den.

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      I’ve noticed, since about 2007, that people from the Former Soviet Union (including East Germany) have always had a lot more insight into what is going on with modern techno-corporate capitalism than anyone else.

      The ways in which the corporate elites abuse their power and access are surprising to people who grew up in the suburbs and can believe that “meritocracy” exists in Silicon Valley. They’re not surprising at all to people who experienced the collapse of the Soviet experiment.

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        The mythology of the end of history is an extraordinarily powerful dream; teleological fairy tales are much easier to swallow when crafted to elevate your particular circumstance to something more than the contingent.

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          East Germans would object to GDR being called a part of USSR. Warsaw Pact, please.

          It’s quite surprising, actually, that there aren’t more “dissidents” in the US who point out the downsides of the capitalist pseudo-“meritocratic” system. Pre-collapse (1980s') USSR was full of people skeptical about the communist system. Why are there no counterparts in the States?

          There are such people in Europe, though these days many of them seem to be as brainwashed by Putinist propaganda as Soviet dissidents were by Radio Freedom (see also my comment downthread). Which is quite understandable: it’s easier to recognize inaccurate information about your own society. So I can’t advocate for such mindset, but it does make me wonder why USA seems to have less “dissidents” questioning the basis of the system than even Putin’s Russia.

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            East Germans would object to GDR being called a part of USSR. Warsaw Pact, please.

            I apologize.

            It’s quite surprising, actually, that there aren’t more “dissidents” in the US who point out the downsides of the capitalist pseudo-“meritocratic” system. Pre-collapse (1980s') USSR was full of people skeptical about the communist system. Why are there no counterparts in the States?

            I think that the picture is changing in that direction. In the 1990s, saying that corporations were run by idiots or psychopaths put you in the “crazy far left” bucket and branded you a hater or a loser. In 2016, people generally agree (on left and right) that our corporate elite is detrimental; we just haven’t figured out what to do about it. The irony is that both the right-wing movements and the left-wing movements hate “the corporate elite”– it’s just that the right-wing populists think that the corporate elite is liberal.

            60-70 percent of the people are against the corporate system. The problem is that the corporate system is great at divide-and-conquer shenanigans. It doesn’t help that this country still has a lot of racism and sexism– although not as much as it once did.

            Further, I think there’s a lack of a competing system. In East Germany, you could see that an established system, capitalism, was better in many ways than authoritarian socialism. The alternative already existed.

            In our case, the problem isn’t capitalism but corporate capitalism, which is (as noted) an adverse synthesis between capitalism and socialism… but there isn’t an obvious alternative out there. In the ideological framework we have, the problem is more complicated and therefore it’s not clear what the solution should be.

            In 2005, a lot of us were saying that it was time to be “more like Europe”, because they’d clearly figured out healthcare and because Europeans were better educated and had 20-35 days of vacation per year. However, over the past few years, Europe has been in its own kind of mess (economic stagnation, xenophobic/right-wing backlash, lack of innovation, high unemployment, low wages for technology people) and so it’s hard to call “more like Europe” the obvious right answer. The challenge that we’re facing (automation and the first signs of a need to move to a post-job society) is like nothing we’ve encountered yet.

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            What a roundabout way to say that dogmatic application of the central planning sucked. :-)

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              There’s more to it, though.

              I tend to think of corporate capitalism as an adverse synthesis. A well-connected social elite (“the 1 percent”) has built up a system that combines the best of two systems (socialism and capitalism) for them and leaves the downsides to the rest. For example, when we fly on airlines, we get the service that we’d expect in the Soviet Union from bored bureaucrats, but we get the price volatility/uncertainty (“our algorithm detected a high need to fly, so your fare goes up 5x”) of capitalism.

              This adverse synthesis also makes it easy for the elite to divide the poors along faux-ideological lines. Hence, half of the proles get caught up in xenophobic rage-gasms against a perceived liberal “cultural elite”, and this only strengthens the economic elite that is screwing these people (and everyone else) over.

              I don’t actually think that central planning is inherently bad. You need a market economy and you need the right for private business to compete with the government, to keep the latter in check, but there are a lot of problems that are best solved by central planning: public infrastructure, healthcare, and research funding, for just a few examples.

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                A former-East-German friend of mine likes to say that East Germans are twice burned: the Soviet bloc turned out to be worse than they thought, and the American bloc turned out to be worse than they thought, too. He honestly is more surprised about the latter, which leads to a certain critical view of modern capitalism for an odd variety of reasons.

                Most critical-thinking people in East Germany assumed the official newspapers were greatly exaggerating when they criticized the West, of course, so it was no surprise when some criticisms turned out to be false. But what surprised quite a few dissidents is that some of the criticisms were true! For example, my friend really believed that the East German propaganda about millions of people in the USA not being able to see doctors was just made up, or at best exaggerating a handful of edge cases. The same with propaganda about large homeless populations in the USA. The assumption he had was that: 1) it is probably true that inequality is much higher in the USA, but 2) since the capitalist system is overall so much more prosperous than the state-socialist one, even poor people in the USA are probably prosperous in relative terms, more like working-class people in the GDR. So it was an actual surprise to find that large numbers of Americans were much poorer than he had assumed, which has led him to be much more critical of the capitalist system than he would have ever expected when he was an East German dissident. It’s an odd situation because he does not think East Germany was run well either, so he is left in the situation of: that was bad, and this here, is also bad.

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                  I was moved from the Soviet Union to “the West” at the age of 14, and yes, it surprised me how much of Soviet anti-capitalist propaganda was actually true (roughly the same percentage as in western anti-Soviet propaganda, I would say). And this seems to be the experience of many others who made the same journey around the same age without really being asked if they wanted it.

                  But what surprises me even more are former Soviet dissidents who emigrated to the USA and became hardcore libertarian gun-totting American patriots. They resisted Soviet propaganda quite well and then swallowed western propaganda hook, line and sinker.

                  East Germans generally are more skeptical, as you describe. Perhaps it’s because they had a fully functional western system thrust upon them (though, make no mistake, they were fighting for it), like I have, while Soviet dissident emigrants joined it out of their own free will and are reluctant to admit their mistakes.

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                    I watched a 2015/6-era Chinese propaganda video and, in that particular one, what was notable was that, while it was misleading, there weren’t any lies. About half of it focused on our healthcare/insurance system, which doesn’t need to be exaggerated to make a case against us, and on the racial tensions of the past few years. It seems that, at least these days, the most lasting propaganda isn’t lies (although fake news, which usually is lies, might argue against that) so much as misleading anecdotes that might have you thinking, say, that every American is a gun freak or that fatal police brutality is a common occurrence, when neither is true. For example, there was an interview with a computer programmer who’d become homeless and was begging for change on Michigan Avenue. I do know people who’ve had that career evolution, but it’s (perhaps obviously) very rare.

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                  Oh yeah, it merges two systems. It’s called a plutonomy. Let Citigroups advisors to the elite investors explain it all to you in memos you weren’t meant to see:


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                      How is the US healthcare system centrally planned? I think we may have different definitions of central planning.

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                The guy is very intelligent and I have to agree with him. The problem is with the individualism. And frankly, advocating commons to rich people is always hard.

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                I don’t want to watch a video right now, so I found this review of his 2013 book with a similar subtitle. Maybe someone else in my situation can be helped by it:


                If you did see the clip, is the speech anything like what the book seems to be like?

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                  I haven’t read the book but read the review and watched the video. The review seems to focus on the author’s conclusions in his book but doesn’t tell us how he arrived at his conclusions, which is typically more interesting iMO for this sort of thing. Some of the themes are shared between the video and the review. However the main points presented in the video don’t appear in the review, except in very oblique form.

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                    If you did see the clip, is the speech anything like what the book seems to be like?

                    Not sure how to compare. Please watch the video.

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                      Thanks. Unfortunately the video isn’t subtitled, and quite long, so it would be prohibitive for me to compare. It does look interesting and I’ll report back if I get anywhere in it.

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                        I neither watched the video nor read that review. The book is good though, and people should read it.