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DonJoe

Where is more poverty: Russia or the United States

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The old witch should have said, stop making so many babies. Stop making so many more poor people who cant then support themselves.

 

She would be right.

 

This makes me angry.

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If the graph is a measure of ALL productivity attributable to labor AND technological progress - which is what you have just said it is - and thank goodness you have.... then why should (labor) wages have to correlate with it? There is absolutely no reason to expect a correlation. After all, it is not just labor that is responsible for the productivity but labor AND technology.

 

There is no reason to expect a correlation except for the political structures that seem to influence how national income is distributed.
The "productivity" of labor has always been inseparable from the productivity of the tools labor used. It's Sraffa again: commodities producing commodities producing commodities. Production is social, not "marginal", and always has been.
Yet we do see a correlation between productivity and wages for the first half of the chart, for the reasons I've been explaining: that the level of wages is actually due to power imbalances between workers and employers.
I would actually posit that the government's abandonment of full employment policy was probably the most important cause of this opening gap.
But, its NOT what you are saying, or have been saying. You have been saying productivity is "measured" in terms of money prices, which is patently false. OUTPUT is denominated in dollars/money. PRODUCTIVITY is output over worked hours.

 

 

It isn't patently false, at all.

 

If it were not calculated (if you prefer that over "measured") in money-prices it would have to be measured in terms of services rendered and things produced.

 

It isn't. The fact that productivity is calculated using a measure of, essentially, what things cost in terms of money, means logically that the value generated by workers using technology (the two are inseparable, which has been my entire point) is not being returned to them via wages.

 

I suppose you are right that the gap on the chart doesn't disprove marginal productivity theory, because marginal productivity theory can't account for anything we see on that chart.

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Sure, I agree with you here. There are important differences between slavery and wage labor and the right of exit from wage labor is one of them.

But this is a difference that in many cases only exists in theory. What are the actual consequences for people of "exiting the wage labor contract?" You seem to have been lucky enough to be able to easily bear a wait while finding another job. But lots of people don't share that luxury. They have rent to pay, family members to support...you get the idea.

 

But once more I believe the reason you don't see any connection between wage labor and slavery is that you're living in a time and place such that you've benefited tremendously from the struggle of previous generations of wage workers to secure some rights and improvements in their condition.

 

The past is, well...past. Let it be. Let's talk about now and what we want to happen differently in the future. I don't think we're in any immediate danger of returning to slavery or indentured servitude.

 

On quitting jobs... Some folks make lots of commitments that they can only meet by uninterrupted earnings. <skip the rest of this paragraph if you don't want to read a personal example> I wasn't always financially secure. As a young man earning about $10k per year, I voluntarily over-committed myself with a family to support. As a result, I no doubt paid a price, at least in the short term, by staying with the same employer for fear that I wouldn't find another job quickly. That was a situation of my own choosing. I took on a wife and children, rent, and car payments with a low-paying job and a bank account in constant danger of being overdrawn.

 

It's too much of a stretch to say that commitments create some variation on slavery. Choices create conditions that influence other choices. The negative consequences for quitting a job are self-imposed. These conditions aren't created by bad laws or 'the system' or unscrupulous employers. Choices and consequences are just the nature of life. You can over-commit whether your salary is $20k or $200k.

 

Perhaps we could come up with some recommendation to make quitting easier for workers who are financially over-committed? I see this as a plus for the market because it should increase competition for those workers.

 

No. Robert Owen, all the way back in 1816, wrote:

 

He was right then and he was right now, but of course "ignorance" has a very formidable power, and while we've taken leaps and bounds to realizing Owen's dream we aren't there yet. Our institutions--states and economies--are essentially the instruments of war, and they have not really been turned to the business of peace yet.

 

My theories are just that--theories. In real-life history, it's been messier, and of course actions have broken the law in the pursuit of justice. But I believe (and I think you'll agree) that breaking an unjust law cannot be an unjust act.

 

Isn't justice a subjective term? What you consider just, I might consider unjust.

 

I'm still not clear why you can't have 'democratic ownership' today. If it's not against the law, then what? Is it just that folks don't want it (perhaps because they don't understand)? Surely there are enough like-minded people out there to try this out?

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The past is, well...past. Let it be. Let's talk about now and what we want to happen differently in the future. I don't think we're in any immediate danger of returning to slavery or indentured servitude.

 

On quitting jobs... Some folks make lots of commitments that they can only meet by uninterrupted earnings. <skip the rest of this paragraph if you don't want to read a personal example> I wasn't always financially secure. As a young man earning about $10k per year, I voluntarily over-committed myself with a family to support. As a result, I no doubt paid a price, at least in the short term, by staying with the same employer for fear that I wouldn't find another job quickly. That was a situation of my own choosing. I took on a wife and children, rent, and car payments with a low-paying job and a bank account in constant danger of being overdrawn.

 

...

I think we are in danger of returning to slavery or indentured servitude. Some folks make commitments like, I want to be able to obtain food, and shelter, and perhaps health care. The only way to pay for these things is by being exceedingly wealthy. Unless you have millions in the bank (a bad place for your money) and you become unemployed how can you pay for health care, or shelter, or food?

 

Is your recommendation that only the very rich should be allowed to have families? Is your recommendation that only the very rich should be allowed to own homes?

 

For many people I don't believe these things are really choices. Yes, you can walk away from a job, but then what? Without huge reserves, how do you pay your bills? I know very few people rich enough to support a family for more than a year without working.

 

Often times jobs are scarce, with thousands of competitors, and low pay, even for highly educated people. I know many engineers who after decades in engineering, have to take huge reductions to take menial jobs which do not pay the rent. I don't find any security in the job market, particularly when the government policy is to simultaneously destroy jobs and flood the amount of available workers. It is designed to create insecurity, while lowering wages and eliminating benefits. Why would we want our government acting this way? We don't. But the rich can afford to buy enough politicians to make it happen, and they did. Look at how much of our wealth they got to put in their pockets after this happened? It is no wonder that the rich are getting much much richer and the middle class is going down, while technology creates more wealth. That wealth instead of helping everyone, only helps the very very rich.

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This makes me angry.

 

My apologies, I did it for the thrill lol

 

 

.... and also to offset the propaganda from the cartoon

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There is no reason to expect a correlation except for the political structures that seem to influence how national income is distributed.

 

There is no reason to expect correlation because labor wages shouldn't have to correlate with Productivity, when productivity is labor productivity AND technological productivity.

 

I just finished saying this in my last post, and what do you do? You neither accept or deny it, you just pull another rabbit out of your hat. You just declare that the correlation shouldn't be expected because of the political structures that seem to bla bla bla.

 

Don't you find your methodology at least somewhat funny?

 

The "productivity" of labor has always been inseparable from the productivity of the tools labor used. It's Sraffa again: commodities producing commodities producing commodities. Production is social, not "marginal", and always has been.

 

The productivity of Labor, yes. But we weren't talking about the productivity of labor. We were talking about ALL productivity: labor and technology. Remember?
Again, don't you find your methodology at least a weee bit funny? It's like you can't do a single post without switching the object of discussion.
As for Sraffa.... he was politically a communist, no surprise, then he learned some Keynes and began getting more "liberal"..... all the while writing critiques of classical lib economics... uh huh.
Ask yourself this: is the poor laborer required to purchase the technology that he uses on the job for the job? And I'm talking about the caricature of the poor wage laborer here that Sraffa would love to invoke.... not contract workers and the self employed, so don't go into dodge mode on this.

Yet we do see a correlation between productivity and wages for the first half of the chart, for the reasons I've been explaining: that the level of wages is actually due to power imbalances between workers and employers. I would actually posit that the government's abandonment of full employment policy was probably the most important cause of this opening gap.

 

Nope, sorry, no cigar. Full employment act was in effect throughout the 1970s.
Try this.... what happened in 1974?????? That is when the two graphs begin to go their separate ways :)

It isn't patently false, at all.

 

If it were not calculated (if you prefer that over "measured") in money-prices it would have to be measured in terms of services rendered and things produced.

 

The reason productivity is expressed in dollars, is because output is gaged in dollars/money. After you divide output with hours worked, you get dollars per hour worked. The shorthand for this is just dollars, because the hour worked goes without saying. That is all. Noobs look at Productivity being expressed in a dollar amount and figure productivity is measured in dollars. They then write tall tales.

 

Productivity is NOT MEASURED OR CALCULATED IN DOLLARS. Output is. Learn something today.

 

 

If not you then who? If not now then when?? :D

 

 

I suppose you are right that the gap on the chart doesn't disprove marginal productivity theory, because marginal productivity theory can't account for anything we see on that chart.

 

You're getting there, kicking and screaming, but you're getting there :)

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I think we are in danger of returning to slavery or indentured servitude. Some folks make commitments like, I want to be able to obtain food, and shelter, and perhaps health care. The only way to pay for these things is by being exceedingly wealthy. Unless you have millions in the bank (a bad place for your money) and you become unemployed how can you pay for health care, or shelter, or food?

 

Savings. I doesn't take "millions in the bank". A person should always be looking for their next job. Most of the folks I know change jobs without missing a day of work. Those that do miss time are often in dual-income families that can partially rely on their partner's income for a while. Even if the need for a new job comes suddenly and unexpectedly, a single-income household should be OK if they can go a few months without a paycheck. If a family typically spends $50k per year and the sole wage-earner needs to miss 6 months of work (a long time, in my opinion) they would only need savings of $25k. That's not "millions" and you don't need to be "exceedingly wealthy" to save money. If you save just 15% of your earnings, you can build a 6-month cushion in about 3 years.

 

You might say 'they can't spare 15%'. I disagree. You can always spare 15%. No matter how little you earn, there's always someone who is making 15% less than you and surviving. Live like them and save the extra cash.

 

I think part of the problem is that no one wants to save money. The minute they've got $500 in the bank, they want new shoes or a new TV or tickets to a basketball game. People buy the biggest/newest/most that they can afford and save nothing. One survey (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/most-americans-have-less-than-1000-in-savings-2015-10-06) found that 61% of Americans have less than $1,000 in their savings account. There's no excuse for that. Sure, there are going to be some people in extreme situations that can't save or that have their savings wiped out by calamity, but not 61% of all Americans. No savings leads to high-interest loans and an even worse financial situation when the next unexpected expense arrives.

 

Is your recommendation that only the very rich should be allowed to have families? Is your recommendation that only the very rich should be allowed to own homes?

 

Not at all. I'm recommending that people who are about to start families understand that this will limit their flexibility in the future. If you're going to support a family on one tiny income (as I was), then you need to understand that you won't be able to support that family, even for a short period of time, without that income. Your future choices and options are going to suffer because of your commitments. The same applies to house and car payments. So long as you know and understand that up front, there's nothing wrong with making the commitment. It's a free choice.

 

For many people I don't believe these things are really choices. Yes, you can walk away from a job, but then what? Without huge reserves, how do you pay your bills? I know very few people rich enough to support a family for more than a year without working.

 

Why should it take a year? There are lots of job openings out there. The ratio of job seekers to openings is currently quite favorable. Become a free agent and test the market. I'm hopeful that wages will rise now that the labor market is tightening up.

 

joltsu3715.jpg

 

Often times jobs are scarce, with thousands of competitors, and low pay, even for highly educated people. I know many engineers who after decades in engineering, have to take huge reductions to take menial jobs which do not pay the rent.

 

I don't have any engineers in my family. Some of us are in burger-flipping, machinery repair, management, IT, sales, nursing, daycare, and cosmetology. Out of my closest twenty wage-earning family members, I can't remember a single time (and I'm over 50) when any one of them was unemployed for more than 2 months. That's with no two people working for the same employer and considers people of varying ethnicity working many years in all economic conditions in several states. Individual incomes range from minimum wage to $200k. We just don't do unemployment.

 

Does it pay the rent? Well, if it didn't, we would find a new place to live. One of Dad's favorite sayings was "The world doesn't owe you anything". What he meant was, 'Take care of yourself and don't expect someone else to do it'. That philosophy may not be enlightened, compassionate, or just, but it's certainly effective.

 

If I wanted to make more money, I would learn a new skill, go back to school, take a new job, move to a different area, work harder, take on a part-time job, or something similar. In fact, I've done all of those things. I wouldn't complain to Washington that some poor guy in Indonesia (who's worse off than I am) took my job. That wouldn't be any more effective than praying for money to fall out of the sky.

 

Maybe we have somehow been very lucky. However, my personal bias leads me to think we're just normal people who go out and find jobs. My friends and the people I work with seem to have similar experiences. I really don't know a single person who has experienced involuntary long-term unemployment. Intellectually, I know that long-term unemployment exists. But, I have a hard time understanding why it exists and relating to those who go through it. I don't think these are bad people, but I don't understand why they can't find work.

 

This experience means I have a blind spot. Please don't be too hard on me. I know I have problems relating. As a result, I tend to focus on how to build an efficient system rather than any individual's personal difficulties. OK, I shared too much, but I don't feel like deleting.

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This experience means I have a blind spot. Please don't be too hard on me. I know I have problems relating. As a result, I tend to focus on how to build an efficient system rather than any individual's personal difficulties. OK, I shared too much, but I don't feel like deleting.

1 - You have the strength to see it in yourself. Many people would try to rationalize it away.
2 - Most people would not have the personal integrity (guts) to openly acknowledge it.

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There is no reason to expect correlation because labor wages shouldn't have to correlate with Productivity, when productivity is labor productivity AND technological productivity.

I just finished saying this in my last post, and what do you do? You neither accept or deny it, you just pull another rabbit out of your hat. You just declare that the correlation shouldn't be expected because of the political structures that seem to bla bla bla.

Don't you find your methodology at least somewhat funny?

 

 

*sigh* I already said you were right that the chart does not disprove marginal productivity theory.

 

The chart, however, shows that wages kept pace with productivity increases until ca 1973. I am curious as to how you explain this observed correlation. Coincidence? Did technology only suddenly start playing a role in productivity increases in the early 1970s?

 

Ask yourself this: is the poor laborer required to purchase the technology that he uses on the job for the job? And I'm talking about the caricature of the poor wage laborer here that Sraffa would love to invoke.... not contract workers and the self employed, so don't go into dodge mode on this.

 

 

 

Typically no (though, often US employees are required to buy their own safety equipment and such in violation of the law, but that is another topic).

 

This has, however, nothing to do with Sraffa's point about marginal productivity theory.

 

The productivity of Labor, yes. But we weren't talking about the productivity of labor. We were talking about ALL productivity: labor and technology. Remember?

The reason productivity is expressed in dollars, is because output is gaged in dollars/money. After you divide output with hours worked, you get dollars per hour worked. The shorthand for this is just dollars, because the hour worked goes without saying. That is all. Noobs look at Productivity being expressed in a dollar amount and figure productivity is measured in dollars. They then write tall tales.

 

Productivity is NOT MEASURED OR CALCULATED IN DOLLARS. Output is. Learn something today.

 

 

 

Would you prefer "using" to "in"? How much time are you going to waste on irrelevant semantic quibbles? The point is the use of a monetary (not real) measure of output to calculate productivity. Since you seem to agree that output is not denominated in, say, hamburgers, or Xboxes, I think we can move on...

 

Nope, sorry, no cigar. Full employment act was in effect throughout the 1970s.

 

 

 

Well, in fact the government is still statutorily committed to full employment to this day! But of course that means nothing since the "full employment" was replaced with "non-accelerating inflation rate of unemployment" back at about the time we see the values in the chart begin to diverge...

 

The past is, well...past. Let it be. Let's talk about now and what we want to happen differently in the future. I don't think we're in any immediate danger of returning to slavery or indentured servitude.

 

Typical Market Fundamentalist/racist trope: the past is over! So you know, this "logic" is typically used by racist apologists to deny that racism needs to be addressed in the present, since it's now "over."

 

 

On quitting jobs... Some folks make lots of commitments that they can only meet by uninterrupted earnings.

 

 

 

And most people have commitments that have nothing whatever to do with personal choice. For example, many poor people are actually helping to support the previous generations (parents, grandparents, etc) rather than a new family they have started. I suppose you could argue that people choose to assume these obligations but that would seem a little ridiculous...if the choice is between paying some money every month and seeing Grandma get evicted from her home there is no real choice.

Another aspect of commitments that people have is of course health-related. My younger brother for example has several health conditions that require him to take 3 or 4 pills daily...these health conditions are primarily genetic and have nothing whatever to do with his personal choices. There are lots more people like my younger brother out there (I feel no problem with using this as a personal example because it's the kind of thing that can be verified quite easily, not in specific cases but generally).

 

It's too much of a stretch to say that commitments create some variation on slavery. Choices create conditions that influence other choices. The negative consequences for quitting a job are self-imposed. These conditions aren't created by bad laws or 'the system' or unscrupulous employers. Choices and consequences are just the nature of life. You can over-commit whether your salary is $20k or $200k.

 

 

 

But, in fact, they ARE created by bad laws and greedy employers, as is easily demonstrable from the fact that other countries (Norway, Sweden, Denmark) have systems in place that greatly reduce the dependence of people on the wage system.

 

As we have seen, we don't choose all our commitments. And even those like your children that are ostensibly a result of personal choice--well, what does the fact that you chose to have children matter once you have them? Should people's children be made to suffer for their choices?

 

As for a "stretch" to say that commitment create some variations on slavery...well, of course it isn't. A situation where someone has to accept being treated like shit at his job because he had a kid or two and can't afford to quit is not ameliorated by you pointing out that having kids was a choice. One could just as easily argue that Africans who were captured "chose" to be slaves by putting themselves in circumstances that led to their capture.

 

I suppose this segues nicely into the real problem I have with this personal choice idea, which is that it ultimately is a philosophy which is incapable of taking a critical view of any social structure. It defaults into blaming the victim.

 

I mean, to put it slightly different, back in the days when wage workers were commonly whipped, sometimes chained to machines, and faced starvation as the alternative to toiling away for 14 or 16 hours a day, people applied the exact same arguments as you're applying now to show that the system really wasn't problematic at all and everyone had free choice so therefore all outcomes were perfectly fair.

 

I mean, you're really verging on straight social darwinism, and from what you've already said it is apparent you agree with Ashley that the real problem is the poor reproduce too much.

 

The basic idea with which I'm approaching this question, is that the happiness, fulfillment and flourishing of people is the ultimate goal of the social system. You appear to see it the opposite way: that the ultimate goal for all people should be to obey the dictates of the social system.

 

Quite aside from all this there have been hundreds of slave labor cases in the US in recent years (mostly involving undocumented immigrants). Slavery continues to exist in the present, though in peripheral and largely extralegal forms.

 

Perhaps we could come up with some recommendation to make quitting easier for workers who are financially over-committed? I see this as a plus for the market because it should increase competition for those workers.

 

We should work to reduce the dependence of people on the wage system for survival as much as possible.

 

I'm still not clear why you can't have 'democratic ownership' today. If it's not against the law, then what? Is it just that folks don't want it (perhaps because they don't understand)? Surely there are enough like-minded people out there to try this out?

 

 

 

Well, it certainly is against the law to expropriate the property of capitalists. But I agree with Robert Owen that the only thing intervening is ignorance to prevent this from catching on.

 

People, BTW, are trying it out--just not on a particularly large scale because financing is not available (though efforts are underway to change that).

I'm hopeful that wages will rise now that the labor market is tightening up.

 

 

At last, a testable prediction!

 

Something tells me, however, that if wages don't rise you will not reevaluate any of the assumptions that led you to that belief....

 

As a result, I tend to focus on how to build an efficient system rather than any individual's personal difficulties.

 

 

From my point of view it is the opposite, you tend to focus on individuals to the exclusion of the systemic factors that operate to constrain people's choices (or to constrain their KNOWLEDGE or UNDERSTANDING of the choices available to them, which is effectively the same thing).

 

You don't need to keep people in chains if you can fool them into putting the chains on themselves.

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Typical Market Fundamentalist/racist trope: the past is over! So you know, this "logic" is typically used by racist apologists to deny that racism needs to be addressed in the present, since it's now "over."

 

How is it that everything you don't agree with gets equated to racism?

 

 

As for a "stretch" to say that commitment create some variations on slavery...well, of course it isn't. A situation where someone has to accept being treated like shit at his job because he had a kid or two and can't afford to quit is not ameliorated by you pointing out that having kids was a choice. One could just as easily argue that Africans who were captured "chose" to be slaves by putting themselves in circumstances that led to their capture.

 

I don't appreciate the way you trivialize real racism and real slavery with your casual and inappropriate comparisons. You should understand that "being treated like shit" by your boss is in no way comparable to what real slaves endured.

 

 

Another aspect of commitments that people have is of course health-related. My younger brother for example has several health conditions that require him to take 3 or 4 pills daily...these health conditions are primarily genetic and have nothing whatever to do with his personal choices. There are lots more people like my younger brother out there (I feel no problem with using this as a personal example because it's the kind of thing that can be verified quite easily, not in specific cases but generally).

 

If you had been paying attention, you would know that I support a strong safety net. I'm ready to help pay for your brother's medical care.

 

 

Well, it certainly is against the law to expropriate the property of capitalists. But I agree with Robert Owen that the only thing intervening is ignorance to prevent this from catching on.

People, BTW, are trying it out--just not on a particularly large scale because financing is not available (though efforts are underway to change that).

 

I'm glad we got that settled. The rich have not outlawed democratic ownership. There's nothing stopping us but ourselves.

 

As for financing... Didn't employees buy United Airlines? That had to cost hundreds of millions of dollars. That sort of thing creates a lot of debt, though. A better approach would be to start small and build up. If the model works, the company should be successful and grow easily.

 

 

I mean, you're really verging on straight social darwinism, and from what you've already said it is apparent you agree with Ashley that the real problem is the poor reproduce too much.

 

Why would you say that?

 

One of the biggest differences in our worldviews is that I see poverty as a temporary condition, not a permanent part of our DNA. It's like the flu...you can recover. 'Rich' and 'poor' are not like 'tall' and 'short'. Some things you can never change, but your economic 'class' is not one of them. That's why I'll never buy into class warfare. It would be like declaring war on myself. I don't have a side. At one point in my life, I'm 'poor'...later, I'm 'rich'. I didn't get money by being evil and greedy. I wasn't poor because I was lazy and stupid. The caricatures are all wrong. We are being pitted against ourselves by the political parties.

 

I see the poor as future professionals and business owners with upper middle class incomes. I see the middle class as potential entrepreneurs who may become genuinely rich. I see the rich as future paupers if they blow it all on gambling, drugs, and yachts. I know that upward mobility isn't what it once was. But, it's still pretty good and the opportunities are still there.

 

In my opinion, a great way to improve that mobility would be to offer top shelf education for every child that's capable, regardless of their parents' income. Children have yet to make any choices, yet they're burdened with the success or failure of their parents' decisions. That's something we could improve upon (but never completely eliminate).

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How is it that everything you don't agree with gets equated to racism?

 

AFAIK I've brought up racism a total of once in this thread. I am also not equating anything you've said with racism, merely with the ahistorical worlview often taken by racist apologists (who have in some cases used exactly the same words you used to explain to me why racism is not something we should be worried about in the present).
The point of bringing up the past is not to say that the past isn't "over" but merely to gain some historical perspective. We cannot understand the present without knowing the past, after all...

I don't appreciate the way you trivialize real racism and real slavery with your casual and inappropriate comparisons. You should understand that "being treated like shit" by your boss is in no way comparable to what real slaves endured.

 

Well, if you notice I don't in fact draw a comparison between my hypothetical scenario and slavery...I think that there are wage-labor conditions that are about as bad as slavery, but again they are not particularly common in the contemporary West. This has largely been thanks to workers' movements that have struggled for better treatment and conditions. You can read contemporary descriptions of labor conditions from the early 19th century and judge for yourself how similar it was to slavery.

If you had been paying attention, you would know that I support a strong safety net. I'm ready to help pay for your brother's medical care.

 

Yes, I'm aware of that, but what you're "willing" to do doesn't really help out all the people with "commitments." Whereas the stuff you're peddling about how these are best viewed as "choices" for which a worker is responsible is, I think, demonstrably harmful.
As for financing... Didn't employees buy United Airlines? That had to cost hundreds of millions of dollars. That sort of thing creates a lot of debt, though. A better approach would be to start small and build up. If the model works, the company should be successful and grow easily.

 

 

This is, of course, not really true. There are many reasons why a successful company might not end up "growing easily." Indeed, the 100% employee-controlled and owned model appears to work best for smaller firms with a few dozen workers. Worker control has rarely been tried at scale, for reasons that you hint at here: there are financing concerns and so forth that need to be addressed. And it is regrettable but true that the conventional banking system is often unwilling to finance democratic firms regardless of the underlying business prospects.

 

 

Why would you say that?

 

 

Because it follows from what I have read of your philosophical framework. Your notion of "free choice" necessitates holding people responsible for their choices, as you have said in so many words. You have claimed inequality is desirable, even necessary, in order to reward virtue and punish (for lack of a better term) sin.
As far as I can tell this ultimately derives from the ideas of Malthus, who claimed that suffering was necessary to maintain nature's balances.
You also stated that "the negative consequences of quitting a job are self-imposed"! One wonders why you might say something like that, knowing full well we are talking about people who have kids to feed and can't quit their jobs, unless you believe that the problem is not that people are paid too little, but that they reproduce more than they can afford!
You appear to be far more civilized than the typical social Darwinist, and obviously have rejected the more sadistic forms of "market discipline," but you should at least be aware and honest of where your ideas come from, and where they can lead.
One of the biggest differences in our worldviews is that I see poverty as a temporary condition, not a permanent part of our DNA. It's like the flu...you can recover. 'Rich' and 'poor' are not like 'tall' and 'short'.

 

 

What on Earth gives you this idea? My opinion of poverty is that it is entirely unnecessary and purely the result of social arrangements. Rich and poor are categories that only make sense in the context of human social systems.

I mean, you didn't get that from the Robert Owen quote?

 

Some things you can never change, but your economic 'class' is not one of them.

 

 

 

Most people cannot change their class. Even if everyone could, not everyone can be upper class. Class systems don't work that way.

 

That's why I'll never buy into class warfare.

 

 

That's unfortunate: "class warfare", specifically working-class militancy, is largely responsible for the advances we've made to make wage labor better than slavery.
It would be like declaring war on myself. I don't have a side. At one point in my life, I'm 'poor'...later, I'm 'rich'.

 

 

A very stereotypically American thing to say. A quote, often attributed to John Steinbeck (though wikiquote lists it as "disputed") addresses this issue quite well:
Socialism never took root in America because the poor see themselves not as an exploited proletariat, but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires.
I didn't get money by being evil and greedy. I wasn't poor because I was lazy and stupid. The caricatures are all wrong. We are being pitted against ourselves by the political parties.

 

 

This is, ironically, a caricature of MY views (though not the views of many doctrinaire Marxists and evangelical Leftists floating around college campuses and such). I do think you drastically understate the amount of greed and cruelty among the rich; regrettably we live in a system where the easiest way to get ahead is to act like a sociopath.
I see the poor as future professionals and business owners with upper middle class incomes.

 

 

And my response would be: this is a delusion, at least under current circumstances. Indeed part of the reason I demand economic democracy and more socialism is to make these kinds of visions a reality.

 

http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2015/07/america-social-mobility-parents-income/399311/

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This makes me angry.

Renegade, to expand a bit on this:

 

This is, ironically, a caricature of MY views (though not the views of many doctrinaire Marxists and evangelical Leftists floating around college campuses and such). I do think you drastically understate the amount of greed and cruelty among the rich; regrettably we live in a system where the easiest way to get ahead is to act like a sociopath.

Note how I reverse what you said. I don't think that the rich are all evil and greedy or anywhere close to it.

And I also believe that in a sense we are all guilty for society's wrongs.

 

In a sense, the system of neoliberal capitalism demands that CEOs act like sociopaths. It becomes impossible to compete with people who flout the system when the government stops enforcing the rules. So in the normal run of things, CEOs who do not cut wages, lay people off, pollute the environment (often literally poisoning people), make things cheaply with quasi-slave labor in Pakistan or Vietnam, etc. It demands that quarterly returns to investors be the single biggest focus of large-scale enterprise.

 

This is obviously a serious problem. It also leads to things like the frauds that caused the economic crisis, because as an honest lender you can't compete with fraudulent banks and suborned accountants and auditors. It makes problems systemic rather than the result of "individual choice" per se.

 

Also, to claim that political conflicts are caused by politicians "pitting people against each other" is simply wrong. It's true in the trivial sense that politicians often find it advantageous to stir up enmity and play on fear, but without conflict there is no "politics"--since politics is, fundamentally, the ongoing peaceful or violent resolution of conflicts over power, status, and resources.

 

So the political process, like campaigns and voting and such, is just the outward manifestation of these fundamental conflicts that are part of human existence. Of course, since in the US the terms of political discourse are particularly far from reality it is easy to see why you can imagine that the politicians are just stirring up trouble.

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AFAIK I've brought up racism a total of once in this thread.

 

I checked and you are correct. It's only the slavery references that are excessive.

 

Yes, I'm aware of that, but what you're "willing" to do doesn't really help out all the people with "commitments." Whereas the stuff you're peddling about how these are best viewed as "choices" for which a worker is responsible is, I think, demonstrably harmful.

 

Please demonstrate.

 

 

Socialism never took root in America because the poor see themselves not as an exploited proletariat, but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires.

 

I don't know about the "embarrassed" part, but the general idea is correct. That's exactly what I was trying to get across in some of my previous posts. Americans generally don't see the world the same way you do. When I was poor, I wasn't "exploited", I was thankful to have the opportunity to learn skills and earn money with which to further my education. I was in fact a future member of the upper middle class (though not at all embarrassed about my current situation).

 

How might my life have gone differently if I had bought into the lie that upward mobility is a "delusion"? If I had met someone like you when I was 20 and swallowed the whole shtick about how the poor have no opportunities, where would I be today? In my opinion, this is the "demonstrably harmful" result of your negativity.

 

 

Because it follows from what I have read of your philosophical framework. Your notion of "free choice" necessitates holding people responsible for their choices, as you have said in so many words. You have claimed inequality is desirable, even necessary, in order to reward virtue and punish (for lack of a better term) sin.

 

You're only partway correct. The part you've got wrong is that I have no interest whatsoever in holding people accountable for their choices. Their choices are none of my business. I don't want to punish or reward anyone. In fact, that's exactly what I don't want to do.

 

The part you have right is that I believe people should not be completely insulated from the natural consequences of their choices. A person who makes wise choices that lead to positive outcomes should be allowed to enjoy those outcomes. And, those who ignore all warnings and insist on self-destructive behavior should be allowed to feel at least some of that pain.

 

If we want to eliminate the pain that comes from poor decisions, we have two possible courses. We could stop people from making 'bad' choices in the first place, but that's an unacceptable (to me) restriction on freedom. Or, we could allow individuals to make 'bad' choices and then mitigate their pain by spreading the cost across all of society. Understand that the pain that results from poor decisions can not be made go away...it can only be shifted onto other people.

 

My concern is that when people are completely insulated from the consequences of their choices (either good or bad), they won't act responsibly. If you know that your choices will neither help nor hurt your lot in life, you're not going to spend much time worrying about them. When too many people are irresponsible, the cost of too many 'bad' choices becomes a detriment to all of society.

 

You've locked in on the choice to have children, but that's a single tree in the forest. What house should I buy? What car? Should I take a night class or buy a Playstation? Alcohol or vegetables? Condom or bare? Computer Science or Sociology? Work hard or goof off? Respectful or hateful? Sleep late or be on time? Run the red light or stop? You make hundreds of choices every day and together they define who you are. I also believe they have a great deal to do with your outcome in life and I'm OK with that...

 

...up to a point. We all make mistakes. There are disasters beyond our control. We are compassionate and care about our fellow human beings. Because of this, we insist on a safety net to catch those who would fall too far.

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Americans generally don't see the world the same way you do.

 

 

FYI I am a United Statesian.

 

I checked and you are correct. It's only the slavery references that are excessive.

 

So nothing about how I'm explicitly not trying to compare the modern-day situation of most wage laborers to the condition of slavery?
I mean, your argument essentially amounts to "oh you mentioned slavery therefore your argument is invalid.
Please demonstrate.

 

 

It's fairly easy to figure out: when you view the problems that people are having as the result of their own stupid behavior, are you more or less likely to support policies that help those people out?

 

When I was poor, I wasn't "exploited", I was thankful to have the opportunity to learn skills and earn money with which to further my education. I was in fact a future member of the upper middle class (though not at all embarrassed about my current situation).

 

You didn't see yourself as being exploited, but we've already seen in this thread how many ruling-class myths you wholeheartedly embrace.

 

How might my life have gone differently if I had bought into the lie that upward mobility is a "delusion"? If I had met someone like you when I was 20 and swallowed the whole shtick about how the poor have no opportunities, where would I be today? In my opinion, this is the "demonstrably harmful" result of your negativity.

 

 

You can look up the social mobility numbers yourself. I guess your explanation would be too much "negativity" and too many people buying the "whole shtick about how the poor have no opportunities"...

 

I mean, do you know literally anything about the history of working class activism and class struggle, anywhere in the world? The idea that leftists who point out injustice in the world are holding people back is simply asinine. Just to give an example of something I've done that I'm most proud of, I volunteered with a worker center called New Labor. The most important thing they do (IMO) is action (litigation and protesting) to recover wages that are stolen from undocumented immigrants in central New Jersey. Typically it is very empowering and it sets people on a positive path when they realize that the problems facing them are of a systemic nature (not that I'm saying all problems that hold people back are like this--people hold themselves back plenty too).

 

The likelier consequence of your "meeting someone like me" when you were 20 would be your participation in activism and collective action with the potential to benefit millions of people instead of just yourself.

 

The idea that injustice can be fought by ignoring it....is silly. But no sillier than plenty of other things you've said up in here. I mean, imagine if the people who participated in the Civil Rights movement in the 1950s and 60s had taken your attitude: we'd very likely still be living with segregation to this day.

 

You're only partway correct. The part you've got wrong is that I have no interest whatsoever in holding people accountable for their choices. Their choices are none of my business. I don't want to punish or reward anyone. In fact, that's exactly what I don't want to do.

Semantic quibbling, irrelevant to the point. You want the universe to hold people accountable.

The part you have right is that I believe people should not be completely insulated from the natural consequences of their choices. A person who makes wise choices that lead to positive outcomes should be allowed to enjoy those outcomes. And, those who ignore all warnings and insist on self-destructive behavior should be allowed to feel at least some of that pain.

 

 

I don't disagree with this as an abstract principle. I just disagree with your idea that the only way to determine who made "wise" choices is through real-world success. When you're rich it's very easy to be insulated from the bad consequences of your stupid or criminal behavior, but it's not so easy when you're poor.

I mean, one example of this is the bankers who committed literally thousands of felonies during the housing bubble. Their behavior turned out to be quite wise, since Obama granted them a de facto immunity from prosecution, instead prosecuting many victims of fraud.

This actually segues nicely into the next point that whether someone's behavior is "wise" should not be the whole equation. I think you will agree that virtue is important too. Take El Chapo, who I'm sure you will agree is an extremely capable and competent businessman. Should he be allowed to "enjoy the outcomes" his wise behavior has created?

I mean, to put this more generally, if someone murders all his competitors and gets rich, does he deserve reward even if what he did was incredibly smart? I think not.

 

If we want to eliminate the pain that comes from poor decisions, we have two possible courses. We could stop people from making 'bad' choices in the first place, but that's an unacceptable (to me) restriction on freedom. Or, we could allow individuals to make 'bad' choices and then mitigate their pain by spreading the cost across all of society. Understand that the pain that results from poor decisions can not be made go away...it can only be shifted onto other people.

 

 

I think this view is almost absurdly simplistic. I think the best approach is creating conditions such that people are encouraged to make good choices. I mean, you have clearly benefited from some basic level of education, which probably stopped you from making any number of bad choices that you might have made otherwise. Was compulsory education, preventing you from making bad choices, an unacceptable restriction on your freedom?

 

My concern is that when people are completely insulated from the consequences of their choices (either good or bad), they won't act responsibly.

 

 

I don't think people would act responsibly even where they are perfectly exposed to the consequences of their choices. You give humans too much credit for rational and lucid thought. You also seem to assume that the choices and their consequences have a much more straightforward and obvious relationship than exists in reality.

 

BTW, another problem with your market doctrine is precisely that it assumes people all have access to all relevant information when making market decisions, which is obviously not true...

 

You've locked in on the choice to have children, but that's a single tree in the forest.

 

 

 

 

 

It's the most important one though since it represents enormous 'fixed' costs.

 

In any case, I've just gotten finished saying I don't think it makes much sense to view having children in this way. Some people make a conscious choice to have children, but many people have children by accident (and before you say that just means they chose not to use contraception, there is no contraceptive method with 100% of success, and in any case this gets back to my point that it's fucking counterproductive to blame people for having children). While you have stated your support for safety nets and public goods, many many other people oppose them on the grounds that people need to suffer for their bad choices (like having too many children). How this makes sense when it's children suffering for the bad choices of their parents, I don't know, but I don't buy into any of this barbarous nonsense, so...

 

It's a lot easier to blame the poor for "living beyond their means" than it is to fix an economic system where real wages just aren't high enough, of course.

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There is no reason to expect a correlation except for the political structures that seem to influence how national income is distributed.

The "productivity" of labor has always been inseparable from the productivity of the tools labor used. It's Sraffa again

 

There is no reason to expect correlation because labor wages shouldn't have to correlate with Productivity, when productivity is labor productivity AND technological productivity.

 

I just finished saying this in my last post, and what do you do? You neither accept or deny it, you just pull another rabbit out of your hat. You just declare that the correlation shouldn't be expected because of the political structures that seem to bla bla bla.

 

*sigh* I already said you were right that the chart does not disprove marginal productivity theory.

 

Yes you agreed about the chart and MPT later in your post. And for the right reason this time. Problem is, yet again, this exchange ^^^ was not about MPT and the chart. This exchange was about productivity in the chart. First you pull a rabbit out of your hat, talking about political structures, then you get in a word about Straffa who could possibly help your case, and when that doesnt work, you just sigh and say, oh I already agreed with you about "MPT".

 

Riiiight.

 

 

As for Sraffa.... he was politically a communist, no surprise, then he learned some Keynes and began getting more "liberal"..... all the while writing critiques of classical lib economics... uh huh.

Ask yourself this: is the poor laborer required to purchase the technology that he uses on the job for the job? And I'm talking about the caricature of the poor wage laborer here that Sraffa would love to invoke.... not contract workers and the self employed, so don't go into dodge mode on this.

 

Typically no (though, often US employees are required to buy their own safety equipment and such in violation of the law, but that is another topic).

 

This has, however, nothing to do with Sraffa's point about marginal productivity theory.

 

You introduced Sraffa when we were talking about "all" PRODUCTIVITY. Now that you have switched the object from productivity to marginal theory, you're telling me my question has nothing to do with Sraffa and marginal theory. Of course it doesn't, you introduced an object and made a switch.

 

.... it keeps happening, again and again, see?

 

 

 

The reason productivity is expressed in dollars, is because output is gaged in dollars/money. After you divide output with hours worked, you get dollars per hour worked. The shorthand for this is just dollars, because the hour worked goes without saying. That is all. Noobs look at Productivity being expressed in a dollar amount and figure productivity is measured in dollars. They then write tall tales.

 

Productivity is NOT MEASURED OR CALCULATED IN DOLLARS. Output is. Learn something today.

 

Would you prefer "using" to "in"? How much time are you going to waste on irrelevant semantic quibbles? The point is the use of a monetary (not real) measure of output to calculate productivity. Since you seem to agree that output is not denominated in, say, hamburgers, or Xboxes, I think we can move on...

 

What word do I prefer?? I prefer the fact of the matter. You prefer to talk around things until there's no where left to go, then you just agree and tell me I'm engaged in time wasting! Lol

 

Yes output is valuated in dollars, so simple. You talked about end sale price, and you introduced real output vs monetized output some posts ago because this is another feature of your method: "oh they don't agree with us because they don't understand the complexities of real hamburgers or xboxes"

 

 

 

I'm absolutely not wasting time. My interest here is illustrating the method of the far left... dodging, obfuscating, switching, pulling rabbits.... this is your method. The only time-consuming part about all of this is having to go back and forth quoting each post to keep the record in order.

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But now that we are finally clear that the chart has not in fact "destroyed" Renegade's claim on page 1 of this thread... thanks to my "time wasting" lol...... let's look to your very next claim in this thread.

..... There is no difference in economic terms between "productivity" and value added to the company, because by definition productivity is the end sale price of the company's product divided by the worker-hours (labor hour per person) it took to produce the product.

When wages fall below productivity, it means, by definition, that workers are not being compensated for the value they bring to the process.

 

Your claim goes like this:

 

Argument 1: Productivity = selling price of a company's product divided by labor hours. Therefore, Productivity = value added to the company. (<<< this is why I have been engaged in the "semantics" for so long)

 

Argument 2: When wages fall below productivity, workers are not being compensated fairly anymore.

 

 

Argument 1 is jibberish. "Value added" is a term applied to goods and services, not companies. Why would you pick those words to use in such an argument about a company's value, save for the fact that marxists do it? The value in a company comes from many things other than it's wage labor productivity: forethought, design, planning, risk taking, talent retention, RnD... etc.... even "acts of god" can be a factor in bringing value to a company.

 

Argument 2 fails to include anything in "productivity" other than wage labor productivity. This is because Argument 2 comes from the 19th century, as does marx and his ilk like Sraffa. As we have just finished deliberating in the last ten posts.... productivity is labor AND technological. Wages do not need to correlate with productivity, when productivity isn't only labor productivity.

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Savings. I doesn't take "millions in the bank". A person should always be looking for their next job. Most of the folks I know change jobs without missing a day of work. Those that do miss time are often in dual-income families that can partially rely on their partner's income for a while. Even if the need for a new job comes suddenly and unexpectedly, a single-income household should be OK if they can go a few months without a paycheck. If a family typically spends $50k per year and the sole wage-earner needs to miss 6 months of work (a long time, in my opinion) they would only need savings of $25k. That's not "millions" and you don't need to be "exceedingly wealthy" to save money. If you save just 15% of your earnings, you can build a 6-month cushion in about 3 years.

 

You might say 'they can't spare 15%'. I disagree. You can always spare 15%. No matter how little you earn, there's always someone who is making 15% less than you and surviving. Live like them and save the extra cash.

 

I think part of the problem is that no one wants to save money. The minute they've got $500 in the bank, they want new shoes or a new TV or tickets to a basketball game. People buy the biggest/newest/most that they can afford and save nothing. One survey (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/most-americans-have-less-than-1000-in-savings-2015-10-06) found that 61% of Americans have less than $1,000 in their savings account. There's no excuse for that. Sure, there are going to be some people in extreme situations that can't save or that have their savings wiped out by calamity, but not 61% of all Americans. No savings leads to high-interest loans and an even worse financial situation when the next unexpected expense arrives.

 

 

Not at all. I'm recommending that people who are about to start families understand that this will limit their flexibility in the future. If you're going to support a family on one tiny income (as I was), then you need to understand that you won't be able to support that family, even for a short period of time, without that income. Your future choices and options are going to suffer because of your commitments. The same applies to house and car payments. So long as you know and understand that up front, there's nothing wrong with making the commitment. It's a free choice.

 

 

Why should it take a year? There are lots of job openings out there. The ratio of job seekers to openings is currently quite favorable. Become a free agent and test the market. I'm hopeful that wages will rise now that the labor market is tightening up.

 

joltsu3715.jpg

 

 

I don't have any engineers in my family. Some of us are in burger-flipping, machinery repair, management, IT, sales, nursing, daycare, and cosmetology. Out of my closest twenty wage-earning family members, I can't remember a single time (and I'm over 50) when any one of them was unemployed for more than 2 months. That's with no two people working for the same employer and considers people of varying ethnicity working many years in all economic conditions in several states. Individual incomes range from minimum wage to $200k. We just don't do unemployment.

 

Does it pay the rent? Well, if it didn't, we would find a new place to live. One of Dad's favorite sayings was "The world doesn't owe you anything". What he meant was, 'Take care of yourself and don't expect someone else to do it'. That philosophy may not be enlightened, compassionate, or just, but it's certainly effective.

 

If I wanted to make more money, I would learn a new skill, go back to school, take a new job, move to a different area, work harder, take on a part-time job, or something similar. In fact, I've done all of those things. I wouldn't complain to Washington that some poor guy in Indonesia (who's worse off than I am) took my job. That wouldn't be any more effective than praying for money to fall out of the sky.

 

Maybe we have somehow been very lucky. However, my personal bias leads me to think we're just normal people who go out and find jobs. My friends and the people I work with seem to have similar experiences. I really don't know a single person who has experienced involuntary long-term unemployment. Intellectually, I know that long-term unemployment exists. But, I have a hard time understanding why it exists and relating to those who go through it. I don't think these are bad people, but I don't understand why they can't find work.

 

This experience means I have a blind spot. Please don't be too hard on me. I know I have problems relating. As a result, I tend to focus on how to build an efficient system rather than any individual's personal difficulties. OK, I shared too much, but I don't feel like deleting.

 

 

I don't know how to relate to your experience. In some sense if jobs were available, this might make some sense. But jobs are not generally available. I don't know anyone baby boomers and younger who have not had significant periods of time when their job was to find a job.

 

Since Reagan was in office, the labor pool has been flooded with too many people and not nearly enough jobs. I remember the day when Reagan took on the "unemployment" problem. He told his government to change the way it calculated unemployment and in one day it went from 8% to 6%. Reagan then announced problem solved. That joke continues. We now have approaching 50% of our population who have dropped out of the market for jobs. The GOP takes pride in claiming 47% don't pay taxes (because they don't make enough money to pay taxes) somehow believing this is a good thing.

 

I know there are government statistics to make just about any claim, and it depends upon which ones you consider to have more credibility.

 

I taught high school for a while. I got the state average for a first year teacher. I taught math with 7 classes per day with about 20 students per class. I assigned homework every day; so I had to grade 140 papers every night prior to preparing for the next day. Counting all the hours I was working, it paid less than minimum wage. I worked other jobs, none with any security. After being laid off, as a direct result of government policy, and finding no jobs available I went back to school for a second degree, this time in engineering. I worked for one company who struggled to stay afloat, then for a big engineering company. The division went from 2200 employees to about 365, with massive layoffs. I continued working there for 15 years, avoiding layoffs by working 12 to 14 hours per day. The threat of layoffs were frequent. I went to a well funded startup, who couldn't figure out what they wanted to do. Soon the layoffs followed, and they got rid of everyone. I went to a new big company and the openly admitted the design group was dysfunctional. They had had 18 layoffs in the previous 15 years, so no-one would tell anyone else what they did. Layoffs again. Then another startup, who kept running out of investor money to pay salaries. During this time, I investigated starting my own companies, and to date, it has become very clear that the venture capitalists don't invest. This is not just my opinion, I have been told that by several venture capital companies.

 

So I have dealt with many people that I worked with who became unemployed. It is rare that anyone found a job within a few months of being laid off. Many went for years between jobs. Even those who saw the writing on the wall and starting looking months before the axe fell still had long periods of no jobs.

 

Those are the industries I have been personally involved in. I have watched family members in other industries go through the same thing. No one of my family and friends is making as much as they made in 2000. Wages have fallen across every industry I have seen.

 

I have seen many people who considered going to school to earn more, and they look at the cost of the education and can't justify the cost for the chance at a job, which has a low likelihood of being there when they get out of school. I know some who considered culinary school. It was very expensive, and would get you a min wage job when you get out.

 

The real problem is that you don't seem to understand that there is a system in the United States for distribution of wealth. That system is set up so that when you work at a given job, you get a certain portion of the wealth you create. You might consider it is the supply and demand of labor. If your labor is in short supply, your job gets more, if there are many who can do your job, you get less. Then the government steps in and reduces the number of jobs, by paying corporations to relocate overseas, and floods the remaining jobs by allowing millions of illegals and a great many legals to further lower wages and eliminate benefits. When the economy improves, it should improve for everyone, but clearly it does not. The middle class is disappearing, not because the people somehow became to lazy to work, but by government policy.

 

Your father was right, but that doesn't mean you should sit idly by while you are being robbed. The rich owners of corporations have banded together to purchase legislation and action by "our" government to actively reduce our wages, so more of the wealth created goes to those rich people. There is a claim that the economy of the US has grown and improved in the past 35 years, however, most people are much worse off. If there is a gain, why don't most people see any of it?

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So nothing about how I'm explicitly not trying to compare the modern-day situation of most wage laborers to the condition of slavery?

 

No. I did get the impression you were making that comparison. Otherwise, why should it even come up? If I brought Venezuela into the discussion, would you not think I was comparing your policies to those of the Chavistas?

 

It's fairly easy to figure out: when you view the problems that people are having as the result of their own stupid behavior, are you more or less likely to support policies that help those people out?

 

Even if no help whatsoever is offered (certainly not my position) that would still not be "demonstrably harmful". Doing harm usually means making people worse off. Failing to help does not make them worse off.

 

You didn't see yourself as being exploited, but we've already seen in this thread how many ruling-class myths you wholeheartedly embrace.

 

Let's just say we still have different ideas about who believes in myths.

 

Semantic quibbling, irrelevant to the point. You want the universe to hold people accountable.

 

I'd be extremely happy if there weren't any consequences for bad behavior. If that was the case, no one would have to bear the burden. I certainly don't want to see people suffer. However, whenever actions do have consequences, I want those consequences mostly allocated to the folks who triggered them.

 

As much as it's terrible and painful to see someone suffer from their ill-considered actions, it's even worse to see that suffering transferred to someone who didn't make the mistake.

 

I don't disagree with this as an abstract principle. I just disagree with your idea that the only way to determine who made "wise" choices is through real-world success. When you're rich it's very easy to be insulated from the bad consequences of your stupid or criminal behavior, but it's not so easy when you're poor.

 

I do see what you're saying. If Carl Icahn screws up and loses a few million dollars on a failed investment, it might cause him some mental anguish, but it doesn't affect his lifestyle in the least. On the other hand, if my nephew who works for minimum wage screws up and loses 40 dollars, he's going to have to make immediate adjustments.

 

On the other hand, it seems like you're looking at a snapshot instead of a motion picture. If Mr. Icahn had made life choices like my nephew, I'm 99% certain he wouldn't be a billionaire today. He wasn't just plopped into life as an 80 year old billionaire.

 

Yes, I know some people are plopped into life as billionaires. But, for the most part, that doesn't happen. I also know that some people are born into terrible circumstances that make it extremely unlikely they will ever be wealthy. These people, I'd like to help with completely free education. I want to give them an opportunity so they can succeed, if they do their part.

 

This actually segues nicely into the next point that whether someone's behavior is "wise" should not be the whole equation. I think you will agree that virtue is important too. Take El Chapo, who I'm sure you will agree is an extremely capable and competent businessman. Should he be allowed to "enjoy the outcomes" his wise behavior has created?

I mean, to put this more generally, if someone murders all his competitors and gets rich, does he deserve reward even if what he did was incredibly smart? I think not.

 

We already have laws, police, and courts dedicated to this. There doesn't seem to be much disagreement on whether or not murder should be allowed as a business tactic. El Chapo knew his actions were illegal and he knew the punishment he would receive when caught. He did the crime, now he'll do the time. He is about to receive some (additional) consequences of his actions. Laws should always be enforced. If the law is wrong, change it. But, until you change it, it still needs to be enforced.

 

I think the best approach is creating conditions such that people are encouraged to make good choices. I mean, you have clearly benefited from some basic level of education, which probably stopped you from making any number of bad choices that you might have made otherwise. Was compulsory education, preventing you from making bad choices, an unacceptable restriction on your freedom?

 

Agreed. I think one way you encourage good choices is to help people understand what happens when they make bad choices. If they see there are no consequences, then there is no encouragement. You can ask them nicely to 'do the right thing', but without the potential for consequences, many will ignore you.

 

It's similar to the 'tragedy of the commons' situation we use in environmental discussions. It's like allowing a chemical plant to pollute the river and then taxing everyone to help clean it up. We agree that makes no sense. Make the chemical plant take responsibility for their own mess. That will help discourage similar actions in the future. When individual bad actions create pain for a lot of other people, but none for the individual, the individual isn't likely to control that behavior.

 

Education doesn't prevent bad choices. It only equips us with the information we need to make good choices. Society has a clear need to ensure that all children are educated. In general, I think the value of compulsory education exceeds the cost to freedom. Deciding exactly what it is that the children will be taught...that's the tricky part.

 

I don't think people would act responsibly even where they are perfectly exposed to the consequences of their choices. You give humans too much credit for rational and lucid thought. You also seem to assume that the choices and their consequences have a much more straightforward and obvious relationship than exists in reality.

 

That's a fair criticism. I do tend to focus on that fictional 'rational' person and humans aren't robots.

 

Even though we all make irrational decisions from time to time, I believe that we also (occasionally) make rational decisions. I see the irrational decisions as 'noise' that can't be influenced. Therefore, I focus on influencing those decisions that are rational, even if there aren't as many of them as I would like.

 

While you have stated your support for safety nets and public goods, many many other people oppose them

 

I'll help you work on those other people.

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I don't know how to relate to your experience....

 

Well said. If I had walked in your shoes, I'm sure I'd see some things differently. I can relate to the difficulty you had finding investors to back your start-up company. My brother had an outstanding plan for a company and never could get it funded.

 

There is a claim that the economy of the US has grown and improved in the past 35 years, however, most people are much worse off. If there is a gain, why don't most people see any of it?

 

I believe the most of the causes are external. For example, bringing billions of new workers into the 21st century world economy is massively expensive and disruptive. It's very interesting that our income growth flattened at about the same time China decided to rejoin the world. In the long run, we will all be much better off when places like China are economically comparable to those in the OECD, but getting there isn't easy.

 

Another external problem is that all nations need to cooperate on taxing the multi-nationals. Our current tax laws are driving huge sums of money away from the USA. This is a point that even Trump seems to understand.

 

Within the USA, we could use a few tweaks like a simplified tax code, better education, less military and more infrastructure, but nothing earth-shaking. I agree with Bernie that any bank (or other business) that's too big to fail should either be publicly owned or broken up. Overall, our system works extremely well.

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Well said. If I had walked in your shoes, I'm sure I'd see some things differently. I can relate to the difficulty you had finding investors to back your start-up company. My brother had an outstanding plan for a company and never could get it funded.

 

 

I believe the most of the causes are external. For example, bringing billions of new workers into the 21st century world economy is massively expensive and disruptive. It's very interesting that our income growth flattened at about the same time China decided to rejoin the world. In the long run, we will all be much better off when places like China are economically comparable to those in the OECD, but getting there isn't easy.

 

Another external problem is that all nations need to cooperate on taxing the multi-nationals. Our current tax laws are driving huge sums of money away from the USA. This is a point that even Trump seems to understand.

 

Within the USA, we could use a few tweaks like a simplified tax code, better education, less military and more infrastructure, but nothing earth-shaking. I agree with Bernie that any bank (or other business) that's too big to fail should either be publicly owned or broken up. Overall, our system works extremely well.

Part of our economic problem is that as a nation we are not protecting ourselves from unfair economic practices, like China's manipulation of currency, which essentially steals millions of jobs from the US, and most of the rest of the world.

 

I don't buy the argument that it is tax laws that are driving huge sums of money away. With about 1/4 of corporations not paying any tax, it certainly isn't too high. For those with the means, it is a simple IQ test. They have the opportunity to ask for lower taxes and the means to purchase the media so they can push for their argument. Would you like lower taxes, even if you pay zero? Of course, a nice subsidy would be great.

 

Within the USA, I would argue we need a simplified tax code, but it needs to be fair, not like the many proposals to eliminate taxes for the rich and put the entire burden on the shrinking middle class. I am always for more and better education; strongly in favor of Bernie's proposal for free higher education for all. That is an investment that more than pays for itself in a relatively short time. The military is way too large and needs to be pulled way back in. I do favor investment in the infrastructure, again it is an investment that pays more than for just itself. I suggest we do need Earth Shattering changes. I don't agree that "our" system works well overall. There is way too much corruption in government and our trajectory is a downward spiral, ending in poverty and desperation for most Americans.

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Overall, our system works extremely well.

 

Standard of living should be the primary criteria used to measure whether the system is succeeding or failing. Obviously, increasing numbers of people are seeing their living standard drop:--

The system is working against them.

 

The system allows a small few to illegally stash their cash where it can't be taxed, in overseas banks. Their incomes are up and taxes are down. For the tiny number of recipients of the great upward wealth transfer of the beginning of this century:--

The system is working in their favor.

 

In both cases, the system works. But the important thing is how? The system now indulges a small segment of the population while depleting the rest. The system is working extremely well at re-distributing wealth upward.

 

These change in fortunes of a whole nation can't be explained by a lack of moral character or laziness on the part of the losers. It is systemic. Newly legalized corruption has been used to remove and replace laws which changes the system. The newly altered system needs drastic revision so it can work for the people again. Not just a tiny few.

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