If I had a clear vision about how socialism would address these issues, I
wouldn't have "quizzed the class," as you put it.

 I have been thinking about these things for a long time and don't have any
clear answers, which is why I was interested in what others think. The one
thing I am sure of is that state monopoly solutions, such as in the former
Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, have been tried and failed miserably. For
socialism to work, there must be some way of combining the principle of
egalitarianism with a spirit of innovation and individual initiative,
otherwise we end up right back in the same totalitarian soup that has
discredited socialism worldwide.

So, under socialism, would there be only one, government-owned Skype or
Google? Would the state be allowed to license internet phone service to more
than one outfit and let them compete for customers, with some modest
incentives for the employees of the company that does better? Or would be
want a mixed economy? (even Cuba is now allowing small businesses; was it
necessary for the shoe shine guy or the corner grocer to be state-owned?
Does socialism require that?)

The one thing I do think is that state monopolies are not the answer,
because they lead inevitably to bureaucracy, suppression of innovation and
imagination, and all the things we have seen in the past. But perhaps there
are those here who still think that state ownership and control of
everything is the way go? If so, perhaps they could provide their own
analysis of the Soviet experience (or the Chinese) and what it tells us.

I see very little discussion of these issues in socialist publications, but
perhaps I am reading the wrong ones. If so I would be grateful for guidance
from others. But the one thing I am sure of is that a socialism that
controls everyone's lives from above, or from a central committee, is not a
socialism that anyone is going to accept, and those who believe in socialism
still have a long way to go to convince the people of the world (let alone
Americans) that there is a viable alternative to capitalism that still
respects those individual freedoms that should be respected (such as freedom
of speech, thought, and political action; freedom to get rich and oppress
others is not on the socialist menu, of course, rightly so.)


On Sun, Jan 2, 2011 at 6:45 AM, Larry Romsted
<[log in to unmask]>wrote:

>  Michael:
> Instead of quizzing the class, why don’t you give us your perspective on
> how your vision of socialism would address these issues.  That might start
> an interesting discussion.
> Larry
> On 12/31/10 11:28 PM, "Michael Balter" <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> How do we imagine the socialism that we talk about, in the field of
> telecommunications? Would the state/government have a monopoly on all of it?
> Would everything that is now privately run in this sphere be nationalized?
> Would there be choices between services and service providers? What would be
> the incentive for new technologies to develop?
> Just some idle thoughts on an Australian New Year's day.
> MB
> December 30, 2010
> *China to Go After Internet Phone Services
> Filed at 10:10 a.m. EST
> *
> BEIJING (AP) — China is going after Internet phone services such as Skype <
>  in a move to protect the country's state-owned telephone companies, causing
> alarm among consumers who rely on cheap Internet calls.
> A notice by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology on its
> website this month says it's working to fight "illegal Internet phone
> services" but doesn't specify any actions.
> Experts say companies like Skype operate in a legal gray area and that the
> notice is a warning to them not to grow too big or to challenge the
> state-owned telecoms.
> China, which on Thursday announced its number of Internet users rose to 450
> million this year, also has a strong interest in exercising tight control
> over information, and Skype has been a popular tool with activists and
> others who want to share information relatively freely.
>  The ministry's move, however, also has business in mind. China has said
> only state-owned telecoms China Telecom and China Unicom <
>  have the right to offer Internet phone services for calls that link
> telephones and computers.
> But few do. The country's major telecoms have been offering Internet phone
> services only on a trial basis in four cities, according to Kan Kaili, a
> director of China VoIP & Digital Telecom Inc. <
> , a company that has offered Internet phone services. That leaves the market
> to the hundreds of small-scale companies have sprung up.
> "This notice is actually protecting the telecoms' traditional voice
> services," said Kan, who is also a professor at the Beijing University of
> Post and Telecommunications. It's "obviously a wrong thing, absolutely
> wrong."
> The ministry's move is a warning to Skype and similar companies not to
> expand too much in China, said Wang Yuquan, chief consultant for research
> firm Frost and Sullivan in Beijing.
> "If the ministry hadn't made this announcement, I think Skype would have
> offered its services in a very large scale. Now, with the announcement, it
> can't," he said.
> Skype did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Telephones at
> the ministry rang unanswered Thursday evening.
> China's number of Internet phone users is not known, but a commentary in
> the Beijing News on Thursday estimated it at 15 million.

Michael Balter
Contributing Correspondent, Science
Adjunct Professor of Journalism,
New York University

Email:  [log in to unmask]

"When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor
have no food, they call me a Communist." -- Hélder Pessoa Câmara