Traveller's review of Perdido Street Station (Bas-Lag, #1) > Likes and Comments

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message 1: by Dergrossest (new)

Dergrossest This is one of the greatest books ever. "Dreamshit" - what a concept.


message 2: by Traveller (new)

Traveller Frederick wrote: "This is one of the greatest books ever. "Dreamshit" - what a concept."

Yes, isn't it? I've already got nostalgia for it- it's so immersive, and consequently i've procured The Scar to read soon.

..but this is a hard review to write - i'm afraid i've stalled with it...


message 3: by Dergrossest (new)

Dergrossest I did not catch the reference to Mieville's "RL opinions" - what are you referring to?


message 4: by Traveller (new)

Traveller Frederick wrote: "I did not catch the reference to Mieville's "RL opinions" - what are you referring to?"

Oh, sorry, that would be real life. His political views and so forth as expressed in real life, also his critique of other writers. (As opposed to what can be inferred from the text of Perdido Street Station and only the text)


message 5: by Dergrossest (new)

Dergrossest I am not familiar with his personal politics. Anyway, I found Embassytown to be a little disappointing, so buyer beware.


message 6: by Traveller (last edited Sep 18, 2012 10:38AM) (new)

Traveller Frederick wrote: "I am not familiar with his personal politics. Anyway, I found Embassytown to be a little disappointing, so buyer beware."

Oh thanks for the warning. I'd lined up The City and the City before I decided to pre-empt it with The Scar, because The Scar is basically set in the same story world as Perdido Street S.

Yes, he's very much a Marxist (which to me is a little naive), and he backs Michael Moorcock in scorning the likes of Tolkien, Peake, Dunsany, E.E.Nesbit, and any like-minded authors who "cherish a nostalgic dream of rural idyll," which according to him is not progressive enough, and doesn't support urbanisation; - basically he wants hard-nosed, urban, nitty gritty stuff.

Personally i like floating around in the pleasant, sunny escapism of rural idylls, so...

ETA: I erroneously included Peake in the 'scorned' list. Mieville actually sees Peake as one of his influences, so apologies for that...


message 7: by Ian (new)

Ian [Paganus de] Graye T, this review has so much happening in it that I can't wait to read the book and return.

Please suggest a different forum if you think this is inappropriate, but I would like to better understand your view about the naivete of Marxism.

I can understand what you seem to be saying about the idea that the State would wither away under Communism (though a hell of a lot had to happen before Socialism reached that stage of development).

Are you also saying that it was naive in the sense that it didn't recognise that individuals would want to attain and retain power (although that's not what you seem to be saying about Mieville personally).

Conservatism has always believed that other ideologies don't adequately acknowledge the reality of human nature, warts and all, frailties included.

We are not good enough to ever be perfect. Therefore, we need conservatism to shelter us from perfectionist ideologies.


message 8: by s.penkevich (new)

s.penkevich This is really wonderful and addresses a fair and honest assessment of Mievelle. I remember loving this book, but then thinking back on it (when I joined GR) and giving it a lukewarm rating. I think it was from not quite following what he was satirizing and what he was actually promoting


message 9: by Jim (new)

Jim What a fascinating review, Traveller! I loved your thoughtful analysis, and look forward to the further discussion.;)


message 10: by Magdelanye (new)

Magdelanye Mieville is brilliant at getting under your skin.He can be so irritating. But he's god!Even as I was totally absorbed in reading it,my os was wondering if this was a healthy obsession.

Loved these graphics! Sent me right back to the mood of this book, which I adored beyond reason. I got to reading other peoples reviews and particularly enjoyed Nataliyas http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/...


message 11: by knig (new)

knig Brilliant review, Traveller.


message 12: by Traveller (last edited Jul 03, 2012 10:30AM) (new)

Traveller Ian wrote: "T, this review has so much happening in it that I can't wait to read the book and return.

Please suggest a different forum if you think this is inappropriate, but I would like to better understand..."


I think the kind of "pure" Marxism that Mievile espouses is the anarchist kind, the kind that believes we don't need government, that people will simply do what is needed when it is needed, but clearly that is a naive idea, i feel, if even just from the point of view of logistics.

I do feel that we need a justice system and some kind of central organizing unit that will direct what needs to be done when and where.

I've also become rather sceptical of the idea that all people are equal in the sense of ability and personality. I do of course believe in equal rights for all humans, but i don't think all humans are alike, and it is important to recognize that what each individual can or will give back to society will be different.

I think i'll stop there for now, but i'm quite happy to debate the issues with you in more detail if you'd like, but i just quickly want to apply what we've said to this specific book:
It would seem that Mieville is depicting a democratic government, because he talks about parliament; but it's not a very socialist one, or a very free one, because there are strikes that are violently suppressed, and their are also subversive (I assume leftist) newspapers who are suppressed by the government. The government is also the typical kind that connives to gain more power and that keeps info under the rug.

So Mievilles' attitude towards government is pretty overtly hostile; though to give him some credit re that, I don't imagine you find many governments in which at least some of that kind of thing doesn't go on, though of course most governments in the free world don't have the power to suppress info legally. (Which doesn't mean they don't attempt to do it illegally, ha ha)
Also, usually people do have a right to strike as long as it remains peaceful and as long as, of course, it doesn't totally disrupt essential services in a way which could be life-threatening to the citizens of the state in question.


message 13: by Jeffrey (new)

Jeffrey Keeten What a way to start my day with a cup of coffee and a wonderful review from Traveller. This is truly a complex book and I can understand the struggle to review it, but no worries, you hit it out of the park.


message 14: by Traveller (new)

Traveller s.penkevich wrote: "This is really wonderful and addresses a fair and honest assessment of Mievelle. I remember loving this book, but then thinking back on it (when I joined GR) and giving it a lukewarm rating. I thin..."

Thanks, Penk, i must admit i also loved reading it, but then found myself hesitating to give it a 5 because of a lot of aspects which are hard to formulate in words. But i think you understand.
..and i find myself still wanting to edit and fiddle with the review, ha ha.


message 15: by Traveller (last edited Jul 03, 2012 08:29AM) (new)

Traveller Jim wrote: "What a fascinating review, Traveller! I loved your thoughtful analysis, and look forward to the further discussion.;)"

Thanks, Jim, i've been busily editing and chipping away and adding pieces.. so i hope you got to read a fairly 'finished' version. The problem is that when you're doing pictures in the review, that in itself tends to require a lot of fiddling, and so you find your self still fiddling with such a review while online already; - i should really make use of the "preview" function more fully.

In any case, i'd be quite curious to see what you thought of this book, not sure if you think it would be your cup of tea- it has rather 'overrealistic' pieces, in that he enjoys describing the grimmer aspects of urban life, like the snotty, slimy, grimy bits, which i find ironic and rather hilarious, because Mieville has been very outspoken against more poetic writers like Lord Dunsany and E.E. Nesbit and Tolkien and so on.

Still, at least Mieville's depictions are realistic, for what it's worth, i suppose.

As much as i don't particularly enjoy the overrealism regarding the, er.. unpleasant physical and less hygienic aspects of a densely populated urban area, there were enough other things to like that overall i think the good parts overshadowed the bad parts.


message 16: by Traveller (new)

Traveller Magdelanye wrote: "Mieville is brilliant at getting under your skin.He can be so irritating. But he's god!Even as I was totally absorbed in reading it,my os was wondering if this was a healthy obsession.

Loved these..."


Yes, his works do seem pretty immersive, don't they, Magdelanye? Also, while i was reading, i found it pretty fun to look up allusions he makes to see if i could find real-world counterparts to what he was referring to.

And his characters definitely crawl under your skin. I'm still missing Isaac and Lin and Yagharek, and even Dherkan - i wish he'd do a sequel with those same characters, but, i guess part of what made the novel good is how they'd changed by the end of it.

I'll simply have to start on The Scar soon. :)

Oh, yes, i also love Nataliya's review- she snagged one of my favorite pics of New Cruzobon for hers - the one with Yagharek on the rooftop. :)


message 17: by Traveller (last edited Jul 03, 2012 06:01AM) (new)

Traveller @ Knig and Jefferey: Thanks for your kind words, friends, you are dears! (and make me blush so early in the day) (not that i mind, you understand :D )


message 18: by Dergrossest (last edited Jul 03, 2012 06:02AM) (new)

Dergrossest I just don't know how you can fairly give this book less than 5 stars. While they may not all be fully developed or coherent, this book has more mind-blowing ideas than a dozen LSD trips. The characters are well-developed and compelling, the monsters are truly monstrous, the plot is a page-burner and the setting was completely immersive.

And I am no Mieville slappy either, having been disappointed with a couple of his subsequent books. I just think that this individual work is one of the best trips down the rabbit hole which I have ever taken, regardless of the author’s political bent.

ps. Ian states that: “Therefore, we need conservatism to shelter us from perfectionist ideologies.” Huh? I am certainly no Marxist, but it seems to me that history has shown that Conservatism is all about preserving the perfection of the status quo, regardless of the misery and suffering it imposes upon 99% of the population.


message 19: by Riku (new)

Riku Sayuj *applause*


message 20: by s.penkevich (new)

s.penkevich Traveller wrote: "s.penkevich wrote: "This is really wonderful and addresses a fair and honest assessment of Mievelle. I remember loving this book, but then thinking back on it (when I joined GR) and giving it a luk..."

Ha, edit away. It takes me days before I'm ever satisfied with anything I post. I get what your saying though, and i think it is really fun how you made this a marxist-criticism review. I had a class once about different types of lit criticism, and always thought it was cool that marxist analysis was something done enough to have its own category.


message 21: by Traveller (last edited Jul 03, 2012 06:44AM) (new)

Traveller Frederick wrote: "I just don't know how you can fairly give this book less than 5 stars. While they may not all be fully developed or coherent, this book has more mind-blowing ideas than a dozen LSD trips. The cha..."

I think what Ian possibly might have meant (I hesitate to speak for him, but i think he's gone to bed by now)is that ideologies like Marxism and Humanism assume that human beings are inherently "good" and if you'd just simply leave them alone and let them do their own thing, they'd automatically behave in an unselfish way that is beneficial to other human beings and society at large.

I disagree, because we humans aren't ants or bees. The latter have behavioural hardware hardwired into their genes that 'forces' them to act for the good of the nest or hive, even if it is to their own personal detriment, but i think humans generally tend to act more selfishly, and behavior in humans also tends to express itself on a wide scale of possibilities, dependent on context and the personality of the individual.

This is why anarchic Marxism just can't work, in my opinion. I'm not against socialism, but i don't feel humans are perfect, neither do i believe they are 'bad', either. I do believe that since we are all so different, we need a vehicle of consensus as to what would be in the common good.

Oh, and re not giving 5 stars? Wee-l-l... like i said, i think he throws in too many undeveloped ideas and tropes. I could have done with less of them, but better developed. It's not hard to think up new ideas, but it takes a lot of self-discipline to let some go (he could save some for other books) so that your end-product makes a sensible, cohesive whole. :)


message 22: by Traveller (new)

Traveller Riku wrote: "*applause*"

Thanks Riku! Your reviews all get applause from me, they're all pretty damn good!


message 23: by Traveller (last edited Jul 03, 2012 06:47AM) (new)

Traveller s.penkevich wrote: "i think it is really fun how you made this a marxist-criticism review. I had a class once about different types of lit criticism, and always thought it was cool that marxist analysis was something done enough to have its own category. "

Yes, Mieville's real life views give an interesting dimension to his fiction, i think.


message 24: by s.penkevich (new)

s.penkevich Have you read much of him? I hear wonderful things.


message 25: by Traveller (new)

Traveller s.penkevich wrote: "Have you read much of him? I hear wonderful things."

No, but i'm rearing to go with more. Just need to clear some stuff off the "currently reading" first.

..which reminds me.. I might finally have got hold of a copy of that book with notes on GR...


message 26: by s.penkevich (new)

s.penkevich So many books, too little time I always say. I hear Kraken is good by him, but there is a lot of stuff in queue.

Nice. notes would be very helpful. Good luck on it. I'm excited to hear your thoughts.


Richard Reviles Censorship Always in All Ways So in my view, thinking that we can dispense with all forms of government and live happily ever after in some kind of anarchic hippie commune, just won't work. (Not unless everyone is put on drugs from an early age, anyway..)

There, in a nutshell, is also the argument against libertarianism.


message 28: by Traveller (new)

Traveller Richard wrote: " So in my view, thinking that we can dispense with all forms of government and live happily ever after in some kind of anarchic hippie commune, just won't work. (Not unless everyone is put on drugs..."

According to conservative people, I'm a raging liberal, and according to liberals, i'm too conservative for their tastes.

As for myself, i see myself as a realist. I'm quite happy for social experiments to happen; in fact i think they're a very good thing. But i also think that one should recognize when they don't work, and be prepared to move on.

In fact, in some respects, you could say that clinging to any specific aging ideology is 'conservative' since 'conservatism' in the narrow meaning of the word, clings to the old, is afraid of the new, afraid to experiment.

So yeah, i sometimes find it hard to express/explain my exact position regarding these issues. I prefer a path of cautious experimentation. Some might call this fence-sitting, but it's more a case of that i don't adopt any ideology or credo completely and uncritically. For me an eclectic, practical mix of ideologies might be the best way to go.


Richard Reviles Censorship Always in All Ways I call it "pragmatic Epicureanism" and espouse it wholeheartedly.


message 30: by Traveller (new)

Traveller Richard wrote: "I call it "pragmatic Epicureanism" and espouse it wholeheartedly."

Ah, yes, i think you discussed it in one of your reviews, IIRC. Thanks for the reminder. :)


message 31: by Steve (last edited Jul 03, 2012 12:35PM) (new)

Steve I know nothing of the way it might work in New Crobuzon (or in Tuvalu for that matter), but the rough rule of thumb I always use is that one's disillusionment with the power-seekers in government varies inversely with the distance of political separation between that person and those in charge.


message 32: by Riku (new)

Riku Sayuj hey i thought the author was a girl :(


message 33: by Ian (last edited Jul 03, 2012 02:44PM) (new)

Ian [Paganus de] Graye Traveller wrote: "I think what Ian possibly might have meant (I hesitate to speak for him, but i think he's gone to bed by now)is that ideologies like Marxism and Humanism assume that human beings are inherently "good" and if you'd just simply leave them alone and let them do their own thing, they'd automatically behave in an unselfish way that is beneficial to other human beings and society at large."

Marx didn't have a lot to say about the withering away of the State and the true nature of the highest form of Communism. Engels and Lenin did most of the extrapolation.

They used the word State (rather than the term "Government"), in the sense of an apparatus that allowed one class to subjugate another and pursue its class interests.

The first step of Communism (what I call Socialism) sees State ownership of the means of production and everybody (including former capitalists) becomes an employee.

The State is still needed.

The second stage is much harder to define and much more idealistic, and neither Engels or Lenin would speculate on its timing.

However, in the words of Marx:

"In a higher phase of communist society, after the enslaving subordination of the individual to the division of labor, and with it also the antithesis between mental and physical labor, has vanished, after labor has become not only a livelihood but life's prime want, after the productive forces have increased with the all-round development of the individual, and all the springs of co-operative wealth flow more abundantly--only then can the narrow horizon of bourgeois law be left behind in its entirety and society inscribe on its banners: From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs!"

In the later words of Engels:

"State interference in social relations becomes, in one domain after another, superfluous, and then dies out of itself; the government of persons is replaced by the administration of things, and by the conduct of processes of production."

The State as we know it would cease, but this doesn't mean that some system of social or public management or administration wouldn't still exist. It wouldn't be idealistic anarchy.

Presumably, the administration of justice would need to continue, although a lot of the conflict would have ceased under this utopia.

I guess my original question is about whether this higher stage of communism could never occur, because of human nature.

The "realism" of conservative capitalism says no.

It says that people will always crave wealth and power and difference, and that they might do good and bad things in the pursuit of their own interests (but that they should be left to their own devices), and that any attempt to impose social control over the economy and society will therefore fail. It is the "road to serfdom".

In a Biblical sense, we are "fallen creatures living in a fallen world."

In a comment on Hayek, a Christian commentator says:

"He recognized that human beings did have a noble side influenced by rationality, compassion, and even altruism. But he also understood that human beings also are limited in their perception of the world and subject to character flaws."

If this view of human nature was right, then the second idealistic and utopian stage of Communism could never occur.

However, politically, this leaves the possibility of the first stage, Socialism.

In it, the State controls everything. But it can become a tool for the corrupt, and it can be oppressive.

Modern-day Capitalism questions whether the Socialist State had the wherewithal to manage and administer a large and complex economy in the public interest. (Capitalism does it by everybody making their own personal decisions.)

The fall of Russia and Eastern Europe suggests no. But then perhaps China, for the moment, suggests yes.

Interestingly, Russia essentially fell before it had sufficient computer power to manage and administer.

I would love to know the role of computers in Chinese Socialism.

Computers have kept Socialism alive for the moment, but will human nature defeat it?

What is this human nature anyway?


message 34: by Ian (new)

Ian [Paganus de] Graye You can detect that I have awoken.


message 35: by Jim (new)

Jim Traveller wrote: "Thanks, Jim, i've been busily editing and chipping away and adding pieces.. so i hope you got to read a fairly 'finished' version.
In any case, i'd be quite curious to see what you thought of this book, not sure if you think it would be your cup of tea- it has rather 'overrealistic' pieces, in that he enjoys describing the grimmer aspects of urban life, like the snotty, slimy, grimy bits, which i find ironic and rather hilarious, because Mieville has been very outspoken against more poetic writers like Lord Dunsany and E.E. Nesbit and Tolkien and so on.
"


Thanks for the detailed comments, Traveller! This has been a day of heavy distractions for me - still going - so I will get back later to the details, and to reading the fascinating commentary that followed! Such great discussions on your review threads.:)

For now - I do think that I will enjoy Mieville greatly. Nataliya and Catie have been reading most of the collection, and have written a series of outstanding reviews that got me very interested in his work. I need to get past some of the current life issues before tacking his complexity, but I certainly look forward to it.

More later - I love this discussion of political ideologies!


message 36: by Magdelanye (new)

Magdelanye Frederick wrote: "I just don't know how you can fairly give this book less than 5 stars. While they may not all be fully developed or coherent, this book has more mind-blowing ideas than a dozen LSD trips. ..."

this brings me back to the whole issue of 5 star ratings.To me, it seems inadaquate, I think 7 stars gives a way more accurate picture. We might even be able to agree that PSS is a 6...taking into consideration Travellers reasoning that denied it a 5.
But what book is perfect?
For that matter, what person is perfect?
What no one has directly stated so far, is that any system, no matter how idealistic in theory, is subject to corruption. Totalitarianism is the true enemy, along with fear and insecurity.


message 37: by Traveller (last edited Jul 04, 2012 04:01AM) (new)

Traveller Magdelanye wrote: "this brings me back to the whole issue of 5 star ratings.To me, it seems inadaquate, I think 7 stars gives a way more accurate picture. We might even be able to agree that PSS is a 6...taking into consideration Travellers reasoning that denied it a 5.
But what book is perfect?
For that matter, what person is perfect?
What no one has directly stated so far, is that any system, no matter how idealistic in theory, is subject to corruption. Totalitarianism is the true enemy, along with fear and insecurity. ."


I absolutely agree 100% with every single word of this post. :)
Absolutely agreed on the potential for corruption, and on totalitarianism being a bad, bad thing.

Agreed about the GR stars as well. So yes, if GR had allowed for 7 stars, i would have given PSS 6,5 stars.

Sometimes i read a book that is so perfectly put together (like Chronicle of a Death Foretold, that i feel that simply no-one could have done it better, and those are the 7 star books.

Sure, PSS is brimming and overflowing with stuff and ideas, but that's the problem with it, too -sometimes it seems like the author just unrestrainedly tried to cram all the ideas he currently had at that time in his life all into one volume. If he'd used a more self-disciplined approach, he could certainly have jotted a lot of them down and saved them for later books, and this book would have been a more streamlined and elegant thing.


message 38: by Traveller (new)

Traveller Ian wrote: "You can detect that I have awoken."
Will reply to you last, ok? You require longer replies... :P


message 39: by Traveller (new)

Traveller Jim wrote: "Traveller wrote: "Thanks, Jim, i've been busily editing and chipping away and adding pieces.. so i hope you got to read a fairly 'finished' version.
In any case, i'd be quite curious to see what y..."


Ha ha, i had a bit of verbal diarrhea when replying to posts in this thread yesterday, but as long as you can grab bits and pieces of the fun here and there, Jim, all is good! We could always catch you again once you get around to reading and reviewing this. ^_^


message 40: by Traveller (last edited Jul 04, 2012 04:04AM) (new)

Traveller Ian wrote: "Traveller wrote: "I think what Ian possibly might have meant (I hesitate to speak for him, but i think he's gone to bed by now)is that ideologies like Marxism and Humanism assume that human beings ..."

Yes, I meant Marxism inasmuch as Engels contributed to it as well, and if you go back, you'll see that i meant the so-called 'anarchic' aspect, the aspect that believes humans can be 'trained' to be docile, selfless creatures.

Don't whitewash Chinese communism too much. Millions have died because of it. Just saying. ..at least they seem to at least have learnt and grown through the process.

To me the best and most positive examples of socialist communism is the Israeli kibbutz.

..but still. One of my most basic beliefs is that individuals of almost all species are different - this is not just a human phenomenon; randomness is everywhere; and i guess thank heaven for it.

There would be no interest for me in a perfectly mathematically 'closed' universe in which randomness wasn't a factor at all. A universe where everything is a perfect clone of everything else.

I wouldn't want humans to be docile, robotic clones, i don't think, so i don't want Marx and Engels's utopia - you'd have to catch me and drug me first...

Yes, yes, ok, the doctrine of :" From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs!" Yes, that's all very lovely in theory, but how are you going to quantify what each one's abilities and each person's needs are? Are we going to have IQ and ability tests for everyone? Those are very flawed, you know- remember the case of Einstein?
..and what about how people's needs and abilities change along with their circumstances and with how they grow?

I much prefer freedom of choice and for letting the individual find hiser own self. More personal freedom is possible when you have a democratic, secular judiciary in place, too, and a democratic system in place to decide on laws and rules, but with the proviso that the protection of human rights and the rights of minorities have priority when lawmaking takes place.

If you have a 'state' running things, no matter how decentralized that state is, unless you have every single member of the populace participating on an equal level, you are still going to have jostling for places in the ranks of that state and favoritism, and feelings of power by those who are allowed to participate in the ranks of :"those who decide".

Like Magdelyanye rightly said, there is almost no conceivable system that doesn't carry the potential for corruption. Even if every single member had an equal part in government, i'll bet you anything that some will be less interested or able than others, and the ambitious will find a way to 'buy' the votes of those less interested in participating.


message 41: by Ian (new)

Ian [Paganus de] Graye I think we're overproducing and overconsuming, trying to satisfy false needs. It's a kind of addiction that assumes that natural resources will be available forever. One day we'll all wake up and realise there are no trees left on the island, like Easter Island.


message 42: by Traveller (new)

Traveller Ian wrote: "I think we're overproducing and overconsuming, trying to satisfy false needs. It's a kind of addiction that assumes that natural resources will be available forever. One day we'll all wake up and r..."

Yes, all that you say there is very true. I find it very sad that people seem so blind to all this. ..and sadly that in itself is an indictment of how blind and imperfect people are, if simply left to their own devices, how people simply don't seem to care about humanity as a whole and the future of humanity and the planet. :(


message 43: by Robert (new)

Robert Delikat I can be a hard grader and only gave this one 4 stars too but there were times reading it that I thought it was worth 5. Your review is sure worth that. Thanks.


message 44: by Traveller (new)

Traveller Robert wrote: "I can be a hard grader and only gave this one 4 stars too but there were times reading it that I thought it was worth 5. Your review is sure worth that. Thanks."

Thanks, Robert!

Guys, there's a problem going on with Goodreads, and it's no use i post anything about it on my profile page, because nobody can see my profile page, including myself!

It's seems that a few of us http://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/9... cannot access our own shelves, and our previously 'public' profiles have now been set to 'private' .

If this is happening to you, won't you please also post about it in the relevant GR feedback thread i linked to above, so that we can get GR to give some attention to this problem pronto?


message 45: by Sarah (Warning: Potentially Off-Topic) (last edited Jul 04, 2012 08:22AM) (new)

Sarah (Warning: Potentially Off-Topic) Traveller wrote: "I much prefer freedom of choice and for letting the individual find hiser own self. More personal freedom is possible when you have a democratic, secular judiciary in place, too, and a democratic system in place to decide on laws and rules, but with the proviso that the protection of human rights and the rights of minorities have priority when lawmaking takes place.

Great review, Traveller, and I'm really enjoying the discussion you and Ian have been having. I just read a line today that I liked from a review of George Orwell's about a book called Communism and Man:

"It is obvious that any economic system would work equitably if men could be trusted to behave themselves but long experience has shown that in matters of property only a tiny minority of men will behave any better than they are compelled to do."

While this is a criticism you often hear about communism, Orwell (a dedicated socialist) is actually talking about capitalism, and I think it applies equally well. The current US financial crisis has many of its roots in capitalism run amok, with financial institutions that took irresponsible gambles, knowing that they were "too big to fail" and that government would save them (and maybe that's then socialism run amok?). I don't know whether more regulation would have made things better or worse, but the state of things currently is not good. I think what you say above gets at a key point, that democracy is one of the main safeguards against the flaws of both capitalism and socialism.


message 46: by Traveller (last edited Jul 04, 2012 08:37AM) (new)

Traveller Sarah wrote: ""It is obvious that any economic system would work equitably if men could be trusted to behave themselves but long experience has shown that in matters of property only a tiny minority of men will behave any better than they are compelled to do."

George Orwell was a wise man. :)

Yes, before the Wall Street fiasco i was pretty enthusiastic about capitalism, believing that democracy would iron out the social injustices and potential for exploitation in the system. However, what's been happening in the US shows us that when politics becomes too embroiled with the financial system, and stakeholders in the financial system get leverage in influencing government, you get a monopolist type closed circle that seems very hard to break, ..and voting for either side of the party spectrum doesn't seem to help either...

Maybe time to start looking at re-inventing the system, and this time one with safeguards that are more open to democracy. (And i know that democracy itself has it own inherent flaws) ..but it's a huge headache, i know, and i know there are no easy answers. :(

The problem is that the US financial system HAD safeguards that if they had been kept in place, would have prevented this whole damn bubble fiasco in happening, and the problem is that pressure by interest groups was exerted well enough for those safeguards to be removed.

So yeah, the fact that the system actually became "free-er" is what crashed it in the end, and i think Orwell very nicely coined the reason why it did.


Sarah (Warning: Potentially Off-Topic) Traveller wrote: "George Orwell was a wise man. :)"

Indeed. I think it's this very simple observation about human nature that explains why capitalism unchecked tends towards fascism and socialism unchecked tends towards Stalinism (putting it in 1930s terms), and why in many ways those two systems seem more alike than different in their extreme forms.

"The problem is that the US financial system HAD safeguards that if they had been kept in place, would have prevented this whole damn bubble fiasco in happening, and the problem is that pressure by interest groups was exerted well enough for those safeguards to be removed."

I agree with that. I also think that some of what's going on in the financial industry is now so far from a basic, Keynesian, free market economy that it's hard to even think of it in those terms. This latest crash came because of financial institutions gambling on complicated financial instruments (that involved the housing market, but could have been something else). It seems like the ones doing the gambling didn't even completely understand what they were doing, leading them to make what in retrospect seem like obviously idiotic decisions, overwhelmingly betting on the dumb side of the bet. I agree regulation seems to have been lax, and politics certainly played a role, but then I'm not sure the regulators would have even had it figured out when the financial institutions didn't themselves. They didn't want to lose billions on credit default swaps, but unlike a player who makes a bad bet in a casino, they could count on the government stepping in to save them from their own stupidity.

I read a good book about this, The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine. I haven't felt up to trying to review it coherently, but it is interesting how all of this went down. What makes me mad is that it doesn't seem like there have been any real steps taken to prevent it happening again.


message 48: by Magdelanye (new)

Magdelanye Traveller wrote: "Sarah wrote: ""It is obvious that any economic system would work equitably if men could be trusted to behave themselves but long experience has shown that in matters of property ..."

and Trav said: Maybe time to start looking at re-inventing the system, and this time one with safeguards that are more open to democracy. (And i know that democracy itself has it own inherent flaws) .

a system so deeply flawed as to allow some to profit over the suffering of others can only produce flawed individuals. Ownership of property is another cornerstone...the idea of 'real estate" needs to be challenged and some way devised that no one is left out in the rain. The main thing to overcome is the idea that some peoples shit is worth more than others.


Sarah (Warning: Potentially Off-Topic) Magdelanye wrote: "a system so deeply flawed as to allow some to profit over the suffering of others can only produce flawed individuals."

So do you think it's bad systems that create bad actions by people? I wasn't thinking of it that way, but I can see that point, because people will respond to the incentives they are given. But I also agree very strongly with your earlier point that any system, even one with the best of intentions, is subject to corruption. I guess it becomes a chicken/egg problem.


message 50: by Magdelanye (new)

Magdelanye what we need is a flexible system that serves the needs of people...not people/units/fodder to feed the system.

I wish I didnt have to go to work right now! I will have a few more things to say this evening :->


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