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Can anyone spot the flaw with this argument?


Capitalism is completely ill equipped to provide for the basic needs of society in ordinary times, never mind when dealing with a disaster.

At the same time as Hurricane Harvey was wreaking havoc on Texas, and Irma was laying its trail of destruction through the Caribbean, another crisis was unfolding across South Asia. The region has been hit with one of the most severe monsoon seasons in the past 30 years. 1,400 have been killed in the floods; millions of livelihoods are threatened.

Extreme weather events like these are occurring at six times the rate they were in 1980, according to an analysis by insurer Munich Re. If the current warming trend continues, we can expect this to increase even further in the years and decades ahead.

The danger posed by this situation doesn’t lie just in the direct impact of the events themselves, but in the way they are used by those in power to further their extreme economic agenda at the cost of workers and the poor. As Naomi Klein put it in an article for the Intercept:

“The right will waste no time exploiting Harvey … to peddle ruinous false solutions, such as militarised police, more oil and gas infrastructure, and privatised services. Which means there is a moral imperative for informed, caring people to name the real root cause behind this crisis – connecting the dots between climate pollution, systemic racism, underfunding of social services, and overfunding of police.”

In addition to connecting the dots, we need to offer an alternative. The alternative is socialism – a system built on human need, not private profit, in which our collective resources could be fully mobilised not only to respond to disasters like this, but to build a society on the basis of genuine democracy, equality and sustainability.

56 thoughts on “Can anyone spot the flaw with this argument?”

  1. Under socialism, the collective resources would indeed be mobilised, but far from “fully mobilised”. Capitalism is far better at efficiently exploiting resources.

  2. Compare and contrast with Great Galveston Hurricane Sept 8 1900, estimated death 6000-12000 out of a very much smaller population vs a handful so far from Irma.

  3. The case seems to rest on the premise Socialism = good, the Right = evil.

    Strangely, every case of socialism (yes, even National Socialism) results in soldiers having to keep the citizens in their Utopia.

  4. Capitalist countries are always and everywhere richer than non capitalist ones (barring the possession of valuable natural resources)- so the first paragraph is flat out wrong.
    Storms are getting more common, according to a capitalist corporation with an interest in saying so.
    There is more than a suspicion that she seeks to use the storms to further her own political agenda.
    Socialism is a system based on human need as determined by socialists. Actual humans can and usually do view their needs differently.

  5. Few–indeed I can’t think of even one save possibly epidemics–natural disasters have made it anywhere near the 150 million deaths caused by socialism.

    Lets make it clearer.

    Death by natural disaster =Act of God. Literally or symbolically depending on your belief. Useless to rage against nature.

    Death by socialism =MURDER.

    This “James Plested” (Plastered more like) should change his name to James Pisstake.

  6. — “socialism – a system built on human need, not private profit, …to build a society on the basis of genuine democracy, equality and sustainability.”

    I think what he meant to say was that socialism in the last century was “mobilised” to murder 100 million people, and enslave, imprison, torture and destroy the lives of hundreds of millions more.

    I also think he meant to day that socialist states raped the land and despoiled the environment to an obscene degree and that by contrast the free West has been a bastion of greenness and sustainability.

    And surely he also meant to say “Naomi Klein will waste no time exploiting Harvey to peddle more of her infantile books.”

  7. Socialism always kills people, usually millions at a time.

    Capitalism has lifted 2 billion people out of absolute poverty (i.e. starvation) in the last 20 years alone.

    They dont even really make an argument, just an assumption.

  8. Mr Ecks, the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918 comes close to Socialism in terms of number of attributable deaths, whilst The Black Death in the 1300s killed close to 200 million people.

    I think we can safely say that like its viral counterparts Socialism is on par with pestilence in terms of mortality rates.

  9. If Socialism is better equipped to deal with the aftermath of these hurricanes let’s compare the recovery rates in Florida compared to Cuba.

  10. “Can anyone spot the flaw with this argument?”

    All of the words, and the order in which they have been arranged.

  11. “Extreme weather events like these are occurring at six times the rate they were in 1980, according to an analysis by insurer Munich Re.”

    Presumably, Insurance companies measure severity by the cost of the damage done? I seem to remember reading that the reasons for this are:

    1) There are more people.
    2) They have more stuff.

  12. “Climate scientists have been warning for decades that a warming climate will bring an increase in the intensity of extreme weather events such as hurricanes.”
    Whereas in the real world the frequency of hurricanes has decreased.

  13. There is no link to Munich Re. That may be because the only relevant Munich Re report that I could find shows 1980 having hurricanes, more than 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016 or 2017 to date.
    Six times the 1980 rate would be 30 hurricanes.
    Facts – who cares about facts if you want to attack capitalism?

  14. Who needs socialism when you have Theresaism already :

    “Offshore windfarms will be built for a record low price in the UK early next decade, after developers bid far more aggressively than expected for a multimillion-pound pot of government subsidies.” (Adam Vaughan, Guardian)

    As a Guardian journo, he cannot be expected to see the mind-blasting insanity of this

  15. Natural disasters kill more people in poor countries. Got that.

    As a matter of interest, the police that NK is referring to are overfunded for one simple reason. In the USA, like most other public servants, they are unionised.

  16. The right will waste no time exploiting Harvey

    From the people who engaged in mass gloating over it hitting an area which voted Trump even though, ironically, the hardest hit urban areas on Houston voted Clinton. They can’t even get the gloating right.

  17. “Capitalism is completely ill equipped to provide for the basic needs of society in ordinary times…”

    Except it does a very good job of it, much better than any actually existin….. ohhhh, he’s talking about fairy dust and unicorns mythical socialism again…

    Which has provided for exactly zero people ever, due to the simple fact that it does not exist.

  18. Andrew WS has it. There isn’t actually an argument here at all. Merely a set of squawks, unfounded assertions and flat out rubbish.

  19. If an individual in a Socialist society is actually benefitting, then surely that is private profit.
    So either Socialism produces private profit or it makes people poorer.
    And please note my criticism of Socialism assumes that the actual Socialists doing the governing are honest. By the time that has been tested it’s too late to remove them. I note Senior Chavez bequeathed $6 bn to his daughter- he must have saved really hard!

  20. DocBud: Natural disasters have killed more English people than socialism.

    Are you including the NHS under “socialism”?

  21. It’s the ‘genuine democracy’ which gets me – it seems to keep producing governments with broadly sensible people that want different sorts of mixed economies.
    Which is why we need to give EU nationals who have lived under socialism the vote, to reduce the small risk of price controlling lunatics ( Corbyn, Maduro ) winning elections.

  22. “The alternative is socialism – a system built on human need”

    Not really James. Under social ownership all the resources its true are at the command of the state but there’s no self adjusting mechanism of determining where the need is and what priority it gets.
    All you’re left with is delegating the decision to a human, and if this is contested (when it is rather), pretty much you have to resort to raw do it because i said so, and hence your “real democracy” is going to be rather hard to achieve.

    So perhaps you can say ‘we’ll have the market system, then to make those need decisions based on price signals’. Well you haven’t really changed much in terms of martialling the communcal resources,,, they’re following the price signals no longer directed by a single consciousness.

    So perhaps youthen say “we’ll have a bit of both price mechanism…with state intervention” Well i’d say haven’t we got that already? All you’re left with is arguing whether the resources at the state’s disposal should be 50% of what’s produced rather than the current 35% or whatever it is.

  23. I tried to work out as a Gedankenexperiment how something as simple as e.g. food distribution would work under fully centralised planning.

    It starts with everyone being weighed and measured to work out in theory how many calories they need, and goes downhill from there, inevitably resulting in some being overfed and some underfed with insufficient reactivity to fix it. Also, a thriving black market in food when those issued too many calories sell them to those who are issued too few.

  24. An argument for socialism

    It has boosted the profits of washing powder manufacturers in Venezuela due to increased need for skid mark removal as a consequence of the total lack of bog paper there.

  25. The Munich Re report involved Pielke Jr, from memory what it showed was that the number of storms went down, but the cost of each went up, because rich fat Westerners liked living by the sea and it cost lots when their homes were washed / blown away.

  26. ‘The alternative is socialism – a system built on human need, not private profit, in which our collective resources could be fully mobilised’

    Once the ‘collective resources’ have been used, there will be no more. Socialism is a system for distributing output, but kills production. It’s fair because no one gets toilet paper. Except the commissars.

  27. ‘Capitalism is completely ill equipped to provide for the basic needs of society in ordinary times, never mind when dealing with a disaster.’

    Nor does capitalism explain gravity. Nor the origin of life.

    ‘Capitalism is completely ill equipped’

    A reification fallacy. Not only is capitalism not concrete, it’s not an entity. It is Marx’s pejorative for free enterprise. But here is the first thing wrong with the article: free enterprise does indeed spring into action to bring quick remedy to problems. The free market quickly adjusts, meeting the needs of people.

    If you want to wait for the state to provide water, you will die.

  28. I see the flaw. Plagiarism.
    Every word in the article has already been published in a dictionary.

    Seriously, the rabid lunatics will seize on any excuse to claim capitalism is bad and socialism good.

  29. 1. False assumption that a capitalist economy cannot work because people are selfish.

    2. False assumption that a socialist economy can work because people aren’t selfish.

    3. False assumption that production in socialist economy will be equal to or greater than production in a socialist economy.

    4. False assumption that distribution of production in a socialist economy will be more nearly optimal than in a capitalistic economy.

    There’s more, but so what?

  30. @ Andy
    Thanks – that is plausible. So Mr Plested is trying a sleight-of-hand, quoting an increase in insured cost as being an increase in frequency? Then he avoids linking in the hope that people won’t check and some will remember the massive cost increase.

  31. Yes- the rejection of “militarised police, more oil and gas infrastructure”- all part of the good kind of socialism.

  32. Capitalism is completely ill equipped to provide for the basic needs of society in ordinary times, never mind when dealing with a disaster.

    Next week: Big Food is forcing poor people to become obese.

  33. According to the Mail. the death toll from supposedly Armageddon-level Irma is five. That will no doubt rise, but it’s still remarkable. What’s the average when a typhoon hits Bangladesh or some other place unburdened by the evils of capitalism?

  34. Posit 1 seems to be that global warming will increase the frequency and severity of extreme weather events. I don’t believe scientists are claiming that. But it is a red herring. We have extreme weather events, however they are caused.
    Posit 2 is that capitalism has no solutions. It’s demonstrably nonsense, given that capitalism has led to a significant reduction in poverty in the 20 century, and reduction in poverty equates to a much improved probability of survival from such events. Empirically!
    It is a poor rant. Makes assumptions with no effort to substantiate. Gets lost in it’s own polemic.

  35. Extreme weather events like these are occurring at six times the rate they were in 1980

    2016, the latest year we have full data for say total accumulated cyclone energy, saw an Atlantic hurricane season that was roughly 4% weaker than 1980. The current estimate is that 2017 will be 15-20% weaker than 1980. 1980 just happens to be the midpoint in a multiyear period when Atlantic hurricane seasons were at or below what we expect in an average year. Even the year with the highest ACE, 2005, only had 60% more total energy than 1980.

    Shifting to the Pacific, we see that 1980 was a below average year. 2016 had a total ACE of roughly 2.5 times 1980. 2017 is projected to have a total ACE that is roughly 10% higher. 1992’s ACE, the highest recorded, was 3.8 times that of 1980.

    In case anyone wants to accuse me of cherry-picking years, 30% of the top ten highest Atlantic ACEs have occurred since 1999. The data starts in 1950 so we should expect 25% of the highest ACEs to have occurred during this millennium. Pacific data starts in 1970. Only 20% of the top ten years occurred after 1999.

    My guess is the six times figure refers to damage payouts. This doesn’t tell us anything useful about total storm severity so I nominate this as the flaw you wanted found.

    There is also the stuff about socialism although any regular reader will find those flaws easily.

  36. I saw a NatGeo from the late-80’s or early 90’s about Magnitogorsk and the pollution there. I wish I could find it back to shove in the face of the socialism=enviro idiots.

    But then that won’t have been socialism, or it’ll have been the fault of the evil Capitalist west by some contorted excuse for logic.

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