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I know I'm replying super late but just remembered this thread.

I'd point to life expectancy metrics:
Russia pre WWI/revolution was 33 (number from 1915)
by 1965 it was 68
China pre revolution was 40 (number from 1950)
by 1990 it was 69

Some of the biggest accomplishments of the 20th century IMO.

Re: China, especially now, it's definitely not communism or socialism by any strict definition (more like state capitalism).  Socialism requires the abolition of privately owned productive property (raw materials, real estate, machinery, infrastructure).  The point being that instead of getting "one dollar one vote" shaping the economy, you get "one person one vote" shaping the economy.  The socialist vision is about continuously reshaping institutions to reinforce democracy, using that democracy to prune out projects people don't want, then reaping the benefits of an economy more aligned with human will.  The revolution can't stop, it's a continuous process of challenge that must be actively pursued, humanity in dialogue with itself.

In any case, whatever China is doing is working better than the American model.  They win on many objective metrics (lifespan, infrastructure, homelessness, violent crime, prison population, killing people/exploiting other countries, etc.)  There are some scary policies, but I can't help but wonder what it would feel like to live in a country where things are actually getting better around you.

Answer by abner_doon70

Capitalism naturally sorts humans into two categories:
-those who have to sell their labor to survive
-those who own capital and extract profit from surplus value.

Every worker generates some amount of value (v) for a capitalist, which is by definition greater than the labor cost (l).  The quantity v-l is profit for the capitalist, who invests it into their own portfolio.  Portfolios compete with each other as little AIs that run this code:

-use human mind to calculate returns
-use human mind to sell/buy/invest to maximize profit

Bad portfolios die off or merge with bigger ones and the result is a wild, scrambling, alien orgy of profit seeking that pools more and more wealth into fewer and fewer hands.

I stole some of this from this essay if you're interested (it makes the case that capital is a real god that acts in the world):

Re: communism/socialism:
Ideally, democracy would use everyone's desires, weighted equally, to determine how to change the world.  Clearly, a system where all the buildings/factories/land/technology/intellectual property are owned by a shrinking number of people who make all of the decisions and a growing number of people who make none of the decisions isn't democratic.

Businesses are basically mini-dictatorships run by capitalists who always have the upper hand because the worker always has the threat of destitution hanging over them.  People can choose their private tyrannies to submit to, but there's no guarantee they won't lose everything with a little bad luck.

Socialists want:
-nationalized industries for human needs.  profit has no place in healthcare.  (socialists also want universal free housing, free education, food programs, etc.)
-democratic workplaces (for example: you could vote your boss out if your teammates wanted someone else)
-eventually abolishing private ownership of the means of production.  everything that capitalists used to use to extract surplus value is now democratically controlled by society
-communism is the ideal to strive for, basically using the power of people to construct systems that foster participation, monitor for power-feedback loops and stop them, and shape society to deliver for people according to their needs.

The main power workers have to wrestle power from capitalists is the strike.  Socialists see organized labor as a key building block in a successful movement.  As the connective tissue between workers gets strengthened, they can strike exponentially more effectively until general strikes are possible.  General strikes bring capital to its knees and force concessions that the workers can use to make life better for even more workers, who will join up, etc.

Socialists are frustrated with technocratic liberals like lesswrong folk, who generally think something like "if we just had the right smart people in the right places we can fix this" or "we just need to program a genie to magic the problems away".  But the truth is capitalism itself is already a superintelligent misaligned AI (or, more accurately, a bunch of AIs) and we can't get ourselves out of the problems it causes without directly opposing it.

Even the technocratic world I used to imagine -- a bunch of super smart policy wonks work out details in back rooms and give us good outcomes -- is completely undemocratic and would fail for the sheer reason it's not representative.  AI projects will fail the same way.  Experts don't have the same experiences or problems as the people they're supposed to represent and can't possibly counteract the biases that introduces.  Participation is the only way to determine CEV.