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20 November 2011


Russ Steele


In 1995 I worked for TRW Automotive Electronics Division, Advance Product Development Group, with offices in Framington Hills Michigan, which is a suburb of Detroit. The annual auto show every January was in Cobo Hall in down town Detroit.
and we often had to go from Framington Hills to down town Detroit. My advance development partner, the engineering that developed the keyless entry system for TRW, was a native of the area and to avoid freeway traffic he drove through the neighborhoods. It was some of the most scary drives through an urban area I have ever taken, boarded up buildings, burned out buildings and groups of angry looking people standing around on the sidewalks in commercial areas. During the Auto Show we were warned not to go out at night, to take the shuttle from Cobo Center to and from our hotel and stay inside after dark. It was one scary place


I lived in Ann Arbor, an hour's drive west of Detroit in the 1970's, while Democrat Coleman Young was mayor of Detroit. There wasn't a day without a story in the Detroit newspapers about corruption in Young's socialistic administration. His handpicked police chief was finally indicted and convicted years later on corruption charges. Black gangs were allowed to run unchecked. Detroit became the murder and arson capital of the world. Families and businesses left town to the suburbs or other states. His 20 years as mayor and his legacy of socialism carries on today as shown in George's photos. Coleman Young was a model Democrat politician pandering to his self interests and voter base much like today's Democrat Socialistic Party. Sure am glad it's almost 2012!

Michael Rogers

So, do you view anything owned collaboratively as "collectivism". Are the Green Bay Packers collectivism? -- they are owned by the community of Green Bay. A corporation is a form of collaborative or collective ownership where there are "shareholders" who get to vote for the board of directors.

What if the government had told GM, "OK, you messed up. The market is king. We are buying you for pennies on the dollar (not the artificially subsidized price that was paid but a tough negotiated price that a VC would pay). We own you now, but government shouldn't own businesses so we are going to make a loan to all of the workers of GM to buy back the company. They can sell shares to outside investors too, that is up to them if they need more capital. But nobody gets paid until the payments on the loan are made -- just like a business person has to do. Oh yeah, and the unions are disbanded because when working partners elect the executive management there is no need for unions. Good luck. If you want 'universal health care', earn it. If you want higher wages, earn it. If you want social justice, earn it."

An approach like this has the possibility of getting government out of Detroit. There is no need to tax the rich, in fact the rich can get richer buying the tax free bonds used to fund effort. Progressives will have to get to work if they want to see the world they imagine. Would this be the dreaded collectivism you fear?

George Rebane

Collectivism - term usually applied to forms of governance that value the collective (purposely joined individuals) over the individual. A tolerable discussion is found here - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Collectivism .

Todd Juvinall

If anyone is familiar with the sci-fi movies called Robocop, you will see they had the future foretold of Detroit a long time ago.

Bob W

I am confused. I know all you LIBS love that! But anyway can Michael or anyone else, clue me in hear on how the government was involved with the "community" owning the Green Bay Packers? If you are born in Green Bay does that mean you automatically have a share in the Green Bay Packers?

Mikey McD

Collectivism is a culture of entitlement through slavery/force.

Brad Croul

"In the United States we started with a thriving metropolis and world class industrial center that could be matched nowhere on this Earth. It annually produced millions of the finest motor vehicles, and supported a war effort by making thousands of B-24s in the largest facility on the planet." - That was a half a century ago. Detroit has not made "the finest" of much of anything since the mid-1960s. Recently, American vehicles are starting to gain on the foreign "jobs" like Porsche, Mercedes, BMW, Toyota, Honda, etc.

Michael Rogers

Here is what Wikipedia says about the Green Bay Packers about the for profit corporation formed to own the team --

"There are 112,015 people, representing 4,750,934 shares, that can lay claim to a franchise ownership interest. Shares of stock include voting rights, but the redemption price is minimal, no dividends are ever paid, the stock cannot appreciate in value (though private sales often exceed the face value of the stock), and stock ownership brings no season ticket privileges. No shareholder may own over 200,000 shares, a safeguard to ensure that no individual can assume control of the club. To run the corporation, a board of directors is elected by the stockholders."

Michael Rogers

So, George. In your opinion does collectivism only apply to governments or would a corporation of "purposely joined individuals" be collectivism. Wouldn't that make Exxon a Collectivist enterprise? Wouldn't anything that wasn't one man in the woods forging a living for himself be collectivism?

Mikey McD

Collectivism exists by force (gun to your head), ownership in the Green Bay Packers via Common stock or franchise interest is voluntary (by choice, free of compulsion).

Michael Rogers, check out the Mises.org blog, read some Bastiat, Mises, Hayek. It will make the distinction about the definition of collectivism clear.

Michael Rogers

Mikey McD, thanks for the reference. I will educate myself.

I personally am an original Confederalist, not to be confused with the Confederation of Southern States which quickly adopted a Federalist system and ultimately vested complete authority in Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee. I am a Confederalist in the sense of the Articles of Confederation. A confederation is an "alliance of autonomous individual entities".

So, I guess my question for this forum is -- if a group of autonomous individuals voluntarily entered into an economic, social, or political alliance and managed it so that the autonomy of each individual was respected however "big picture" coordination was achieved, then would this be in danger of being the collectivism you wish to avoid? And if so, what would your specific concerns be?

George Rebane

MichaelR 911am - I second MikeyMcD's advice. Collectivism is indeed any enterprise that seeks to reward the individual through the success of a co-operating and cohesive collection of people of which the individual is a member. That does include businesses in addition to forms of governance. It is in the latter sense that we use it here on RR in our discussions and debates.

A collective becomes pernicious when it gets into the business of determining the reward of individual efforts, and redistributing the wealth of its individual members. In other words when through force it begins implementing 'From each according to his abilities; to each according to his needs.' The natural destination of all such collectives is tyranny.

Mikey McD

MichaelR 9:53am- Great question. Autonomy through the voluntary actions of individuals morally serves the collective and should be praised/encouraged. Force driven collectivism (i.e. re-distribution of wealth /progressive tax system) immorally attempts to serve the collective through the defecation of individual liberty (personal property).

p.s. I was sincere on my referral to Mises.org. It has been instrumental in my personal eduction on all things economic.

Michael Rogers

George, so a corporation that rewards their CEO based on the NOI of the enterprise is engaged in collectivism? I am not trying to be snide, I am really trying to understand the philosophy as you understand it.

George Rebane

MichaelR 546pm - Usually the CEO gets rewarded on performance measured a bit below the NOI on the cashflow sheet. I have already answered how I understand and use 'collectivism' on RR. I use it according to its standard understanding by political scientists and millions of well-read people in the world. I don't know you, but from your writing it appears that you are bright enough to fully comprehend what is the intended sense of collectivism on these pages. Others of your ideology have had no problem with that for several years now. Your curious pursuit of attempting to tie the semantic of collectivism in some confusing or confounding sense to a business enterprise bespeaks of another agenda.

Michael Rogers

Akio Morita, the Founder of Sony said "Nations are a dying industry, corporations are the structures of the future". I believe this to be true. I am sincerely trying to understand how your philosophy applies to the realities of the world as I see it. I fully understand the use of collectivism in terms of Soviet collective farms and I share your feeling that these are instruments of tyranny, where individual initiative and reward is expected to be subordinated to some vague "common good" -- which in practice tends to be the good of a faceless bureaucrat who uses collective rhetoric to rise to the rank of tyrant. However, I believe there are intellectual inconsistencies as the concepts of Individualism are applied to economic concerns.

The imperatives of economies of scale and the power of division of labor mean that collaboration is required to compete in the modern marketplace. I have to believe that issues you raise have some sort of applicability to business, but I am not seeing past a vague assertion that some people are allowed to collaborate (standard corporations and their share holders) and some people should be prohibited from voluntarily entering into alliances (partnerships where "any enterprise that seeks to reward the individual through the success of a co-operating and cohesive collection of people") because they are pernicious.

I apologize if I have tried your patience. However, under the norms of Aristotelian debate your last post could be taken as a concession to the rhetorical points I was making.

Mikey McD

Collectivism, as it is used on this blog, applies to The State sponsored means toward 'equality' which requires (through force) sacrifices to individual liberty.

Individual voluntary action = progress/freedom/liberty

Government forced equality through redistribution of wealth enslaves the individual (both the victim and intended beneficiary) to the 'common good'; as determined by some elitist central planner.

In short, where there is voluntary action (choice) there is no collectivism.

Michael Rogers

Thank you. That seems more consistent to me, but does not seem to be shared by Mr. Rebane as illustrated in his comment "Collectivism is indeed any enterprise that seeks to reward the individual through the success of a co-operating and cohesive collection of people of which the individual is a member. That does include businesses in addition to forms of governance."

I believe that in a true free market I should have the right to organize myself by any means that I might deem best to pursue my self-interests -- so long as there is no coercion for anyone else to have to participate with me against their will.

George Rebane

OK MichaelR (715pm), well put. It looks like you have a serious point after all. My apologies for not having picked up on it earlier.

In my conventional use of collective, it has been limited to serving as the overarching (taxonomic superior) to various forms of collective governance that range between soft socialism (as in America), through the more full-fledged socialistic regimes found in the EU, passing on to communism, and devolving into autocracy in its many forms. Various discussions of socialism, the most popular form of collective governance today, are found in these pages – e.g. http://rebaneruminations.typepad.com/rebanes_ruminations/2010/07/who-is-a-socialist.html

I sincerely hope that Morita’s future does not come to pass, for it portends a global government which is the handmaiden of large worldwide business ventures whose interests it primarily serves. Such a marketplace will quickly degrade into regionally denominated oligopolies that snuff competition, and truly bring us to a state that liberals erroneously lament is already here.

Large corporations bolstered by government’s guns are no better than any bureaucracy (i.e. collective) run by governments. Humans operate both, and in both their social structures the same mechanisms of centralized (‘open loop’) control are quickly established and work to the detriment of all ‘outsiders’. Capitalism has a good and a bad part, and they are identical in that capitalist organizations will game any system in which they find themselves. What keeps capitalism honest is the judiciously and minimally regulated free market, and to the extent that the market is mangled by collusion or managed by government, capitalism becomes corrupt.

I have never stated or implied that certain kinds of collectives should be “allowed” and others should not. As a conservetarian, I believe that people should be free to form or join in any kind of collective they desire. If the scope of such a collective begins to impact on the established liberties, security, and/or property (cf Bastiat Triangle) of other people, then the collective will have to make its case in order to survive, exert influence, and/or grow. That does not mean that I view or accept all collectives equally for they are not created equal, and all should be viewed with a gimlet eye when first encountered. In the field of governance, IMHO a collective is guilty until proven innocent because they have ability to beguile the innocent and mentally infirm, and quietly metastasize into something quite unstable (as we are now seeing in the EU and too soon on these shores).

MikeyM’s 746pm “In short, where there is voluntary action (choice) there is no collectivism.” is correct as far as he develops it. However, your serious expansion of scope does invite study of collectives based also on individual choice and voluntary action. Most of these will most likely be extra-governmental.

Welcome to RR Michael Rogers.

Michael Rogers

So George, does that mean I can keep engaging in the dialectic on this forum without trying your patience?

I really am trying to work on a common sense strategy that respects the views of both sides of the political divide. I understand that some might have no desire for any compromise ever, however I fear for our republic if we do not reclaim the prosperity that our nation has historically enjoyed. The one thing both sides can seem to agree upon is that that prosperity is in decline.

One company that is founded on what they call "Industrial Democracy" is the John Lewis Partnership -- http://www.johnlewispartnership.co.uk/about/the-partnership.html. This is a company with $13.26 Billion in annual sales and over 76,500 partners and I would be very interested in a conservative analysis of what they have done from anyone on this forum with the time and/or inclination.

I think the conservative appeal of this model would be the ability to say to progressives "If you want universal healthcare, earn it. If you want a cozy retirement, earn it. Stop whining and get to work creating wealth and then you will have the right to redistribute it any way you want -- because you earned it. Don't look to government to redress your grievances. Get to work and build the just society you want to see with no need to take anything from anyone else in the form of excessive taxation or marshaling the coercive power of government."

Thanks again to those who are taking the time to engage my questions. Really, no hidden motive other than to find the truth.

Michael Rogers

George, thank you very much for teaching me the term "open loop controller". I pulled it up on Wikipedia and now I have great new language for tyranny which perfectly illustrates the exact problem of what I call Advance Stage Capitalism (where they become so powerful that they can use government to avoid the feedback of the market) and of the Socialistic tyrannies that similarly try to avoid the judgment of the market. The only solace I take is that ultimately feedback has a way of demanding attention eventually.

George Rebane

MichaelR - Tight feedback systems (of ALL kinds) are the most stable in any given environment, but also the most complex to design or set up. My big concern as a technologist is the realization that autocracy cum tyranny has always been the most stable (enduring) form of governance, and a technology augmented tyranny becomes very stable.

I did look at the John Lewis Partnership and am most intrigued by 1) its apparent longtime success, and 2) why it is not copied by workers all over the world. For example, members of an auto workers union should be able to use that model to set up their own car company instead of dickering with the management of, say, Chrysler. I have challenged our liberal pro-union readers with this alternative for years, and the answer has always been silence.

Reading the JLP 'constitution' raised more questions than it answered. A lot of power is vested in the Partnership Committee.

Michael Rogers

[MichaelR's extended comment has been posted as 'A New Corporate Vision - the Constitutional Partnership Corporation'

I invite this discussion thread to continue under that post.]

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