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sugarkang
07-05-2011, 07:16 PM
This thread is intended to be a sort of Apollo Diavlog in text form and thus intended as a conversation between two people. I’ve wanted to engage operative on a number of issues, but have been unable to for a variety of reasons. Therefore, I thought it would be helpful to test new waters. I'd like to see where our dividing lines exist and my hope is that I can learn something from our exchange. There may or may not be another one of these in the future and no guarantee that this one will progress or even conclude in some timely manner. If we’re already on your ignore list, then there’s nothing to worry about. I will write in layman's terms not because I want to, but because I am not an intellectual and this isn't my job.

I. IS INCOME INEQUALITY A PROBLEM?

A topic that’s been on my mind is income inequality. Liberals, particularly in the past few years and in light of our Great Recession, have been drawing a lot of attention to the great inequality trend since the 1970s. And because I consider myself a liberal, broadly speaking, this issue concerns me as well. However, because I like to approach matters from a Hume type of skepticism, I’d like to present what I consider to be some strong arguments against addressing income inequality as some sort of intrinsic evil or a problem per se. Ultimately, I must reject these arguments, at least partially, and find myself siding with redistributionists.

II. INEQUALITY IS GOOD

Philosophical: I'm a layman who has studied philosophy only informally. However, it seems that Nozick has been accepted as a valid criticism to Rawls' redistribution ethics. At a minimum, it seems foolish to discuss one without the other. We should not discuss Marx without Hayek; Keynes without Friedman. However, I have still not read Anarchy, State and Utopia and hadn't heard of it until the Slate piece. After all, I'm not a philosopher. I do, however, have philosophical questions.

For me, the inequality question is resolved as a basic matter in the form of fundamental dualities. Hot cannot exist without cold, rich ceases to have meaning without poor, ad infinitum. So, in the case of temperature, a we can feel or perceive warmth or coolness when the temperature moves. If it's chilly outside, when one enters the home, there is a nice rush of warmth. However, when the body reaches equilibrium with the home environment, there is no longer an awareness of temperature. Coldness and warmth simultaneously cease to exist. If one extrapolates these dualities to all of our forms of life, the basic question to ask is if you would prefer to live in a world where these dichotomies do not exist?

So, if we all agree that we like inequality, or that without inequality we would not have the basic varieties of life, then the issue becomes, "How much?"

Economic: Nozick used Wilt Chamberlain to drive his point about voluntary, fair and desirable inequality. One could point to a more modern example like LeBron James or Tiger Woods and the outcome might be the same.

However, I'd like to think about a real "capitalist," particularly because that is one of the criticisms that Metcalf lays out in his Slate piece. In addition, Metcalf's race card pulling is disgusting, but de rigueur for modern politics and not necessarily a blight on Slate, the magazine. Nevertheless, it's a red herring and in the interest of clarity, it might be better to point to a modern day capitalist like Bill Gates, or Larry Page and Sergey Brin. But whether it's the former founder of the anti-trust monopoly Microsoft or the tyrannical anti-net-neutrality founders of Google, the Chamberlain results are the same. If anything, the results are more compelling in favor of inequality, not less. Over the past decade, I have not paid a single dime to Google. However, I use their services daily. Some of their services, like Earth, Gmail, Maps and many others, have no equivalent substitute. Therefore, if Google did not exist, much of my computing power would not exist. The same is true of Microsoft. Imagine a world without just these two companies. I would write my documents in Word Perfect and search the internet with Alta Vista. I shudder at the thought of going back to the internet Stone Age.

So, unlike the Chamberlain example where people pay to see a basketball star, Google charges nothing. And unlike Chamberlain where we may not own shares in his personhood or his work product, any person can become a partial owner of Microsoft or Google by buying common stock on the open market.

But here, I am only speaking for myself. I believe that Microsoft and Google have been the primary drivers of great 21st century inequality. Is there a person who believes that we would be better off without Microsoft and Google? This is an earnest question that each individual should ask, even if one can guess what my own answer might be.

Still, this is not a sufficient answer; more income equality is needed.

III. INEQUALITY IS BAD

Scientific: Perhaps principles of fairness are built into animals, genetically. Dogs Frown on Unfair Rewards (http://scienceblogs.com/notrocketscience/2008/12/dogs_frown_on_unfair_rewards.php).

I am not creating a straw man, or at least, I am not trying to. The dogs in this scenario may frown because of the implicit unfairness. This is not the case of libertarianism where transactions are voluntary, but lead to inequality. However, I want to draw attention to our basic genetic awareness of fairness. I am arguing that the truth or falsity of fairness is not required for the debate. Rather, the fact that other, non-human, animals can perceive fairness, criteria notwithstanding, we must first acknowledge that feelings of unfairness exist and transcend animal species.

Therefore, it seems wrong to point to people's jealous desires as the cause of all their ills. We are all implicitly envious, whether by God's design as born sinners or through evolutionary biology. Therefore, the criteria for evaluating that unhappiness, even in Nozickian terms, valid or invalid, is not relevant for addressing the fact that people feel unhappy because of the inequality. We can certainly continue to discuss whether people should or should not feel the way they do. However, we cannot ignore that inequality makes people unhappy per se.

I do not believe that income inequality is a burden to my life, personally. Skeptics will just have to believe me when I say that I'm not an affluent person in the ordinary sense. I live a somewhat spartan life and my progressive/liberal friends are much more successful if the IRS were the judge. However, I cannot ignore that it is a major source of unhappiness for many people who do not think the way I do. Therefore, I must reject the call for everyone to act against their own jealous impulses. It seems just as immoral to ask people to adhere to sexual fidelity in the face of such long life spans. Our social models must adapt in accordance to our surrounding environment; and our environment is evolving more quickly than ever.

IV. REAL CONCERNS

The recent attempted takedown in Slate of Robert Nozick’s Anarchy, State and Utopia was interesting for a very particular reason. Metcalf, the writer, is obviously versed in basic philosophical questions: Nozick vs. Marx, Nozick vs. Rawls, Nozick vs. Academia. If you follow the back and forth between Metcalf and critics, it's quite clear that Metcalf only misunderstood a technical portion of ASU and therefore drew some incorrect conclusions. Metcalf, himself has admitted it, albeit in the most twisted form of grammatical jujitsu I’ve ever seen: “let me conclude by acknowledging… (http://www.slate.com/id/2297590/pagenum/2)”

However, it's not important that Metcalf was wrong or that he was a total cock in admitting to it.

Rather, what I find implausible that Metcalf, a beautiful writer, could understand the basic philosophical arguments, but could not get the tiniest, easiest and most significant detail of his piece correct: that Nozick had renounced libertarianism (proven false (http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/NozickInterview.htm)) and that it was motivated by some sort of intentional scam.

Whether this animus is driven by Metcalf, the individual, or Slate, the organization, is not my concern. I am concerned that liberals spend so much negative energy on libertarians. Whether this is justified or not, is not my concern as a broad matter. Libertarians must, however, acknowledge that the issues exist, address them properly and work toward a meaningful resolution.

graz
07-05-2011, 07:25 PM
[I]This thread is intended to be a sort of Apollo Diavlog in text form and thus intended as a conversation between two people.

You're infringing on the copyright. I know the Koch's will back you to the hilt if it sees litigation, but still. The conversation you crave is played ad nauseam in the pages of Reason.com everyday. Do you need the url?

look
07-05-2011, 07:40 PM
This thread is intended to be a sort of Apollo Diavlog in text form and thus intended as a conversation between two people. I’ve wanted to engage operative on a number of issues, but have been unable to for a variety of reasons. Therefore, I thought it would be helpful to test new waters. I'd like to see where our dividing lines exist and my hope is that I can learn something from our exchange. There may or may not be another one of these in the future and no guarantee that this one will progress or even conclude in some timely manner. If we’re already on your ignore list, then there’s nothing to worry about. I will write in layman's terms not because I want to, but because I am not an intellectual and this isn't my job.

I. IS INCOME INEQUALITY A PROBLEM?

A topic that’s been on my mind is income inequality. Liberals, particularly in the past few years and in light of our Great Recession, have been drawing a lot of attention to the great inequality trend since the 1970s. And because I consider myself a liberal, broadly speaking, this issue concerns me as well. However, because I like to approach matters from a Hume type of skepticism, I’d like to present what I consider to be some strong arguments against addressing income inequality as some sort of intrinsic evil or a problem per se. Ultimately, I must reject these arguments, at least partially, and find myself siding with redistributionists.

II. INEQUALITY IS GOOD

Philosophical: I'm a layman who has studied philosophy only informally. However, it seems that Nozick has been accepted as a valid criticism to Rawls' redistribution ethics. At a minimum, it seems foolish to discuss one without the other. We should not discuss Marx without Hayek; Keynes without Friedman. However, I have still not read Anarchy, State and Utopia and hadn't heard of it until the Slate piece. After all, I'm not a philosopher. I do, however, have philosophical questions.

For me, the inequality question is resolved as a basic matter in the form of fundamental dualities. Hot cannot exist without cold, rich ceases to have meaning without poor, ad infinitum. So, in the case of temperature, a we can feel or perceive warmth or coolness when the temperature moves. If it's chilly outside, when one enters the home, there is a nice rush of warmth. However, when the body reaches equilibrium with the home environment, there is no longer an awareness of temperature. Coldness and warmth simultaneously cease to exist. If one extrapolates these dualities to all of our forms of life, the basic question to ask is if you would prefer to live in a world where these dichotomies do not exist?

So, if we all agree that we like inequality, or that without inequality we would not have the basic varieties of life, then the issue becomes, "How much?"

Economic: Nozick used Wilt Chamberlain to drive his point about voluntary, fair and desirable inequality. One could point to a more modern example like LeBron James or Tiger Woods and the outcome might be the same.

However, I'd like to think about a real "capitalist," particularly because that is one of the criticisms that Metcalf lays out in his Slate piece. In addition, Metcalf's race card pulling is disgusting, but de rigueur for modern politics and not necessarily a blight on Slate, the magazine. Nevertheless, it's a red herring and in the interest of clarity, it might be better to point to a modern day capitalist like Bill Gates, or Larry Page and Sergey Brin. But whether it's the former founder of the anti-trust monopoly Microsoft or the tyrannical anti-net-neutrality founders of Google, the Chamberlain results are the same. If anything, the results are more compelling in favor of inequality, not less. Over the past decade, I have not paid a single dime to Google. However, I use their services daily. Some of their services, like Earth, Gmail, Maps and many others, have no equivalent substitute. Therefore, if Google did not exist, much of my computing power would not exist. The same is true of Microsoft. Imagine a world without just these two companies. I would write my documents in Word Perfect and search the internet with Alta Vista. I shudder at the thought of going back to the internet Stone Age.

So, unlike the Chamberlain example where people pay to see a basketball star, Google charges nothing. And unlike Chamberlain where we may not own shares in his personhood or his work product, any person can become a partial owner of Microsoft or Google by buying common stock on the open market.

But here, I am only speaking for myself. I believe that Microsoft and Google have been the primary drivers of great 21st century inequality. Is there a person who believes that we would be better off without Microsoft and Google? This is an earnest question that each individual should ask, even if one can guess what my own answer might be.

Still, this is not a sufficient answer; more income equality is needed.

III. INEQUALITY IS BAD

Scientific: Perhaps principles of fairness are built into animals, genetically. Dogs Frown on Unfair Rewards (http://scienceblogs.com/notrocketscience/2008/12/dogs_frown_on_unfair_rewards.php).

I am not creating a straw man, or at least, I am not trying to. The dogs in this scenario may frown because of the implicit unfairness. This is not the case of libertarianism where transactions are voluntary, but lead to inequality. However, I want to draw attention to our basic genetic awareness of fairness. I am arguing that the truth or falsity of fairness is not required for the debate. Rather, the fact that other, non-human, animals can perceive fairness, criteria notwithstanding, we must first acknowledge that feelings of unfairness exist and transcend animal species.

Therefore, it seems wrong to point to people's jealous desires as the cause of all their ills. We are all implicitly envious, whether by God's design as born sinners or through evolutionary biology. Therefore, the criteria for evaluating that unhappiness, even in Nozickian terms, valid or invalid, is not relevant for addressing the fact that people feel unhappy because of the inequality. We can certainly continue to discuss whether people should or should not feel the way they do. However, we cannot ignore that inequality makes people unhappy per se.

I do not believe that income inequality is a burden to my life, personally. Skeptics will just have to believe me when I say that I'm not an affluent person in the ordinary sense. I live a somewhat spartan life and my progressive/liberal friends are much more successful if the IRS were the judge. However, I cannot ignore that it is a major source of unhappiness for many people who do not think the way I do. Therefore, I must reject the call for everyone to act against their own jealous impulses. It seems just as immoral to ask people to adhere to sexual fidelity in the face of such long life spans. Our social models must adapt in accordance to our surrounding environment; and our environment is evolving more quickly than ever.

IV. REAL CONCERNS

The recent attempted takedown in Slate of Robert Nozick’s Anarchy, State and Utopia was interesting for a very particular reason. Metcalf, the writer, is obviously versed in basic philosophical questions: Nozick vs. Marx, Nozick vs. Rawls, Nozick vs. Academia. If you follow the back and forth between Metcalf and critics, it's quite clear that Metcalf only misunderstood a technical portion of ASU and therefore drew some incorrect conclusions. Metcalf, himself has admitted it, albeit in the most twisted form of grammatical jujitsu I’ve ever seen: “let me conclude by acknowledging… (http://www.slate.com/id/2297590/pagenum/2)”

However, it's not important that Metcalf was wrong or that he was a total cock in admitting to it.

Rather, what I find implausible that Metcalf, a beautiful writer, could understand the basic philosophical arguments, but could not get the tiniest, easiest and most significant detail of his piece correct: that Nozick had renounced libertarianism (proven false (http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/NozickInterview.htm)) and that it was motivated by some sort of intentional scam.

Whether this animus is driven by Metcalf, the individual, or Slate, the organization, is not my concern. I am concerned that liberals spend so much negative energy on libertarians. Whether this is justified or not, is not my concern as a broad matter. Libertarians must, however, acknowledge that the issues exist, address them properly and work toward a meaningful resolution.Between melting and freezing the soul's sap quivers.

Thanks, Kang, I'd been wanting something along these lines: an actual debate. Like high school debate team stuff.

graz
07-05-2011, 08:00 PM
... Thanks, Kang ...

music to your ears (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rJPgxEi2BM8)

miceelf
07-05-2011, 09:25 PM
Thanks for laying this out, kang. I will point out one thing- you have used google and microsoft a couple of times as examples of drivers of inequality and also the common good. I think I agree that they are on balance good- I am not sure one way or the other about driving inequality, as I suspect it's complicated.

But- the examples are all of things that add real value to many people's lives, but there are also a lot of drivers of inequality that don't seem to add value, or at least don't add value in as obvious a way. Given recent events, the various financial manouverings that led to the meltdown would seem to be an obvious example of a case that is not as beneficial generally.

I also think that the issue of taxation is lurking there behind the scenes and this is what is actually driving a lot of the discussion.

sugarkang
07-06-2011, 05:23 PM
I will point out one thing- you have used google and microsoft a couple of times as examples of drivers of inequality and also the common good. I think I agree that they are on balance good- I am not sure one way or the other about driving inequality, as I suspect it's complicated.

Oh, the inequality I'm referring to is really specific to the Nozick example, to the extent that I've understood it. In the Chamberlain example, we are supposed to imagine some "fair" starting point of distribution. Most liberals like a bell curve, I think. Nozick is saying that people pay 25 cents to see Wilt Chamberlain play. Everyone is slightly poorer and Wilt is richer. Purely voluntary transactions lead to inequality just by themselves.

I didn't mean it as "social inequality" as a general matter for everyday life. Matt Yglesias and Julian Sanchez had a recent diavlog on the issue. And obviously there's even more to this conversation; Sanchez' discussion about the "harmless torturers" being just one example. And I haven't read any of this stuff, btw.


But- the examples are all of things that add real value to many people's lives, but there are also a lot of drivers of inequality that don't seem to add value, or at least don't add value in as obvious a way. Given recent events, the various financial manouverings that led to the meltdown would seem to be an obvious example of a case that is not as beneficial generally.

Right, so with regard to the Nozick example, the argument isn't that capitalism is perfect or that capitalism can prevent bad actors and bad outcomes. There are bad actors in every system. The Nozick example was just to show that voluntary transactions can lead to outcomes that we like and also lead to inequality.

This is Marx's great criticism of capitalism. I mean he goes even further than you do to assert that capitalism creates ennui and unhappiness. (I wonder if he started the phrase "money is the root of all evil") I think this is true. But that doesn't mean we should use another political/economic system. After all, the fundamental question is what takes the place of the price mechanism? How do you live in a world of exchanging goods and services without price? Until we can solve that question, we'll have to put up with things and people that don't add real value to our lives.

I don't watch sports. But, it's not really up to me to decide that you shouldn't buy a basketball ticket to watch Wilt Chamberlain, either.

miceelf
07-06-2011, 06:17 PM
This is Marx's great criticism of capitalism. I mean he goes even further than you do to assert that capitalism creates ennui and unhappiness. (I wonder if he started the phrase "money is the root of all evil") I think this is true. But that doesn't mean we should use another political/economic system.

Well, it's certainly an understatement that Marx "goes even further than me" in his critique of capitalism, given that I am pretty happy with capitalism, in general, through most of the modern era. (i.e., during the period of the cold war, when we were the bastion of capitalism and our main opponent was the bastion of communism). I don't like what's happened in the past 15-20 years, but that's got much less to do with capitalism, IMHO, than with specific decisions regarding tax policy and a concerted effort to make the tax system less progressive.

My working assumption is that this conversation is taking place in the context of capitalism and that we are discussing a: whether income inequality has costs and/or benefits, b: how to weight said costs/benefits, and c: what to do about the conclusion of a and/or b, if the conclusion isn't satisfactory. I didn't think "replace capitalism with something else" was even on the table in this discussion, and I don't think most of the people who want a slightly more progressive (and historically usual) taxation system are against capitalism per se.

stephanie
07-06-2011, 06:32 PM
I wonder if he started the phrase "money is the root of all evil"

It's just a misquote of the Bible: "the love of money is the root of all evil."

So what do you intend from this thread? A debate between you and operative?

sugarkang
07-06-2011, 07:37 PM
Well, it's certainly an understatement that Marx "goes even further than me" in his critique of capitalism, given that I am pretty happy with capitalism, in general, through most of the modern era.
In the interest of clarity, I didn't mean much by the above. I just meant that I agree with you because I also agree with Marx; and he goes a lot further than you do.

I didn't think "replace capitalism with something else" was even on the table in this discussion, and I don't think most of the people who want a slightly more progressive (and historically usual) taxation system are against capitalism per se.

That was my fault for not really being clear as mentioned above. I didn't think you ever advocated a Marxist system.



So what do you intend from this thread? A debate between you and operative?

Yes, I want to know what he thinks about the details. He never gets to explain anything because he's always fighting liberals on basic premises. Here, he and I should have a basic framework of understanding. I hope that I can learn something from the exchange.

He's mentioned that he's under some time constraints, so this thread may not see a lot of action.

rfrobison
07-07-2011, 04:58 AM
It's just a misquote of the Bible: "the love of money is the root of all evil."

So what do you intend from this thread? A debate between you and operative?

As far as I know, the bastardized version of 1 Timothy 6:10 comes not from Marx, but from Pink Floyd:

Money/So they say/Is the root of all evil today...

For my money Paul had it right and the Floyds had it wrong, but it's still a good tune!

miceelf
07-07-2011, 06:43 AM
As I understand it, Louisa May Alcott was probably the first to do the bastardization of the quote.

http://whatscookingamerica.net/History/PotatoHistory.htm

"Money is the root of all evil, and yet it is such a useful root that we cannot get on without it any more than we can without potatoes."

Ocean
07-07-2011, 07:21 AM
As far as I know, the bastardized version of 1 Timothy 6:10 comes not from Marx, but from Pink Floyd:

Money/So they say/Is the root of all evil today...

For my money Paul had it right and the Floyds had it wrong, but it's still a good tune!

Evil, evil and more evil. And, don't forget... (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SMwZsFKIXa8)

rfrobison
07-07-2011, 08:08 AM
As I understand it, Louisa May Alcott was probably the first to do the bastardization of the quote.

http://whatscookingamerica.net/History/PotatoHistory.htm

"Money is the root of all evil, and yet it is such a useful root that we cannot get on without it any more than we can without potatoes."

Interesting! How much do I owe you for that little tidbit? ;)

Florian
07-07-2011, 09:59 AM
Interesting! How much do I owe you for that little tidbit? ;)

How greedy are you?

Actually, the Latin translation of the Biblical saying is "radix malorum est cupiditas." Cupiditas in classical Latin means greed, longing, ardent desire, ambition, party spirit.

To say that the love of money is the root of all evils is a rather narrow provincial understanding of evil, it seems to me. However, the Latin is a translation of New Testament Greek, which did say "love of money." Now the question is: What did Timothy really mean?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radix_malorum_est_cupiditas

stephanie
07-07-2011, 11:05 AM
As far as I know, the bastardized version of 1 Timothy 6:10 comes not from Marx, but from Pink Floyd:

Money/So they say/Is the root of all evil today...

For my money Paul had it right and the Floyds had it wrong, but it's still a good tune!

The misquote is older than Pink Floyd. I found a NYT opinion piece, perhaps by the William Safire of the day, bitching about the misquote and saying it is commonly used and appears in a work of Anthony Trollope's, etc., as well as a quote from Louisa May Alcott using that version and various claims for commonness in English back into the Dark Ages which I'm more skeptical about, but I'm sure you could find it earlier than the 19th century. [Edit: oh, miceelf already cited to Louisa May. I do think it's older still and she was repeating a common saying.]

Sayings that drew populist messages from the Bible were common enough in the Middle Ages. "When Adam delved and Eve span, who was then the gentleman," for example.

There is also plenty in the Bible from which one could draw the message that those with money (perhaps facing the greater temptation toward the love of money, after all) may have a harder time. Most famously "it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God," of course, but also the Sermon on the Plain's: "Blessed are you who are poor, for the kingdom of God is yours.... But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation." Obviously, the Sermon on the Mount puts this somewhat differently.

Anyway, I agree with you about the theology in that I would defend the 1 Timothy claim over the misquoted version, and argue that the misquote is really just a short form way of saying the same thing, not a claim that money without more is evil.

eeeeeeeli
07-08-2011, 01:33 PM
The misquote is older than Pink Floyd. I found a NYT opinion piece, perhaps by the William Safire of the day, bitching about the misquote and saying it is commonly used and appears in a work of Anthony Trollope's, etc., as well as a quote from Louisa May Alcott using that version and various claims for commonness in English back into the Dark Ages which I'm more skeptical about, but I'm sure you could find it earlier than the 19th century. [Edit: oh, miceelf already cited to Louisa May. I do think it's older still and she was repeating a common saying.]

Sayings that drew populist messages from the Bible were common enough in the Middle Ages. "When Adam delved and Eve span, who was then the gentleman," for example.

There is also plenty in the Bible from which one could draw the message that those with money (perhaps facing the greater temptation toward the love of money, after all) may have a harder time. Most famously "it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God," of course, but also the Sermon on the Plain's: "Blessed are you who are poor, for the kingdom of God is yours.... But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation." Obviously, the Sermon on the Mount puts this somewhat differently.

Anyway, I agree with you about the theology in that I would defend the 1 Timothy claim over the misquoted version, and argue that the misquote is really just a short form way of saying the same thing, not a claim that money without more is evil.

Or maybe, "it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a defense of inequality to be predicated on the interpretation of Timothy 6:10 as merely being about greed and not not about a larger social truth."

I'm reminded of badhat's critique of my perspective: "Sometimes when I read you commentary I think you live in a zero sum game world, where the more the rich have, the less others have. I just don't see the world that way."

What would Timothy have said to this? I suppose the beauty of religious teaching is that it is ultimately about moral authority, as in doing what is right. The individual is asked to look within himself and find an integrity between his actions and his beliefs.

Of course, we are all flawed, "sinners" (in my atheistic sense), who regularly choose the less righteous path. Peter Singer speaks very well on the ethics of distance, in that saving a dying man directly before you is obvious, where as a man across an ocean is not. There is a direct correlation between concern for those less fortunate and physical proximity to their suffering.

I've seen no better illustration of this that the scene in Schindler's List, in which he, realizing that the lives of Jews had literally come down to payments rendered, looks down at his gold ring and realizes that he could have saved just one more.

I suppose this is why I cringe when calls for the rich to pay their "fair" share are so frequently reduced to mere expressions of jealousy or resentment. I think there are plenty of principled reasons why one might prefer that the rich not have their wealth taken from them in the form of taxation - government is inefficient, some programs are counter-productive, etc. I find those positions variously wrongheaded or mistaken, but they are at least only political or philosophical judgements.

The real question that the wealthy need to ask themselves is what is the point of life here on Earth? As an atheist, it may be easier for me to slide into selfish materialism, with no regard for my fellow man. But where some would say God created us in his image, and thus compels us to sacrifice for the less fortunate, I simply believe that evolution - both biologically and culturally - gave us the ability to empathize and feel compassion for fellow man.

Thus, the dying man before me is in stark contrast with my feelings of solidarity with him, and my ability to help him. Therefore morally, I am required to act. So whether I pay my taxes so that the sick may be healed, or invest all extra moneys into business, or charity, I am bounded morally to every man woman or child alive - each of their consciousnesses floating around in each of their skulls - not yet able to realize the potential that I realize in myself.

As I said before, we are all "sinners". With my $1500 how much good could I have done? The emotional, behavioral and psychological calculations we do are complex. Does the happiness the TV brings me allow more to be more productive? Did striving to have it in the first place make me work harder? In this way, do I get to consider my luxury night out a charitable contribution, in the form of future productivity. My, how we could rationalize ourselves into oblivion there!

So, I suppose, let us make these determinations individually. But let us do it within reason. I would argue that the return on investment, the ratio of productivity for monetary gain to productivity for other reasons (sense of accomplishment, security, enjoyment, etc.) bends rather limply towards personal excess. Does the man who makes an extra million for a personal yacht really need that yacht to work hard? We must remember that the wealthy have long since passed the point of needing to worry about enjoying the simple things in life. There is a reason for the term "luxury".

And again, this is discussion is twofold: it asks a moral question of the individual, but it asks a moral question of society as well. We must, as citizens of a democratic government, ask ourselves what we think is fair for our members to contribute to our vision of the common good - whether military, roads, schools, etc. It is certainly a question that requires looking at individuals and their wealth, and making a judgement as to what is fair for them to contribute, and thus what is fair for them to possess.

We cannot refrain from making that determination. As voting citizens, we are by definition responsible for judging our neighbors. As long as it is our duty to uphold the welfare of our state, a welfare that depends on the actions of its citizenry, we take a position by merely living within the state. We can decide to completely leave them alone, and to demand no taxes from them, but that is just as moral a position as demanding 100% of their wealth. Both have direct impact upon the state we share.

Returning to Timothy's claim, the individual morality cannot but imply a social morality. Each individual must decide for himself what is right, in terms of his brief life on this planet. But, as a citizen of a democratic state, he now must apply that morality to his neighbor, to the extent that it directly affects the business of the state.

Am I OK with my lifestyle, and the degree to which I care for my fellow man? Maybe, maybe not. That is an issue of integrity, and by no means an easy question. It is one that is asked and answered with every decision we make - or do not make - every second of the day. Yet because of the realities of governing, we must try and find our best moral position when we enter the voting booth.

And so if I, as a human, sinning man, sometimes find it difficult to act with integrity to my moral values, what effect should this have on my voting? Should I vote my morality, or my reality? For instance, I think it is wrong to make animals suffer before they die. I try and buy humane meats and dairy (http://www.certifiedhumane.org/). But sometimes I find it hard to resist. So how should I vote? Should my voting reflect my lack of integrity, or should it reflect my aspirations?

And so when I see others living in ways in which I know - were I them - could be better spent reducing suffering and promoting liberty, should I cast judgement upon them at the ballot box? Do I have a right to hold them accountable to my own moral principles? To not do so would seem to be an expression of a lack of integrity just as profound as were I to be in their position. In my perfect world, they would either be paying taxes to government programs that guarantee access to services I deem important, or at least giving that money to charities or invest it in job-creating businesses.

But I know that doesn't happen. They do not act in accordance with my moral beliefs, with how I believe it is right to act in our state, and that all citizens ought to act in order to ensure my vision of the common good. If I have the right to ask them to be taxed at all, I ought to have the right to have them taxed at an amount I deem morally correct. Like Timothy, I can ask them to pass judgement on themselves. But as a citizen, I must pass judgement on them myself.

sugarkang
07-08-2011, 02:37 PM
eli, have you read Nietzsche?

And is anyone going to criticize me in my thread created for the purpose of criticism?

stephanie
07-08-2011, 03:08 PM
eli, have you read Nietzsche?

And is anyone going to criticize me in my thread created for the purpose of criticism?

I thought it was for you and operative to argue. I was respecting that.

sugarkang
07-08-2011, 03:20 PM
I thought it was for you and operative to argue. I was respecting that.

Appreciated. Now I'm getting bored. Though, I've already taken the redistribution side of the argument. You're not getting another dime outta me.

stephanie
07-08-2011, 03:23 PM
Or maybe, "it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a defense of inequality to be predicated on the interpretation of Timothy 6:10 as merely being about greed and not not about a larger social truth."

We should probably move to another thread if this is more than a short diversion, but I'm curious what "being merely about greed and not a larger social truth" means to you, especially in light of the language about love of money. I have some thoughts about that (I wouldn't have said it was "merely about greed"), given some other contemporaneous and earlier writings which likely reflect similar influences, and mention some below. I'm not sure I'm following your point, though, since I don't think anyone was asserting 1 Timothy as a defense of inequality or pointing out that "money is the root of all evil" is a misquote in an effort to do the same. I don't think it's about inequality, although principles relating to it could certainly go to an argument about what justice requires.

I'm reminded of badhat's critique of my perspective: "Sometimes when I read you commentary I think you live in a zero sum game world, where the more the rich have, the less others have. I just don't see the world that way."

I hope you aren't reminded of this by anything I said, because then we definitely would be talking past each other. I think one can certainly find criticism of the rich for failing to consider the needs of and specifically for getting rich at the expense of the poor among the influences on the author of 1 Timothy, sure. So I wouldn't bring up the "not a zero sum game" thing as a particularly relevant argument. (As an aside, although traditionally attributed to St. Paul, it's generally believed that Timothy and the other Pastoral Epistles had another author and are later writings than St. Paul's letters.)

I suppose this is why I cringe when calls for the rich to pay their "fair" share are so frequently reduced to mere expressions of jealousy or resentment.

Yes, I would agree with you here. I think that's an inaccurate characterization of the argument. I also agree with many of your comments that I am not responding to.

Returning to Timothy's claim, the individual morality cannot but imply a social morality. Each individual must decide for himself what is right, in terms of his brief life on this planet. But, as a citizen of a democratic state, he now must apply that morality to his neighbor, to the extent that it directly affects the business of the state.

Yes, I think this is consistent with the statement in 1 Timothy. Generally, I think it goes to how one orders things, what is one concerned. A focus on money, as opposed to love of God and neighbor, is putting one's focus on the wrong things. Elsewhere it is compared to idolatry, to putting faith in things other than God. It is also elsewhere shown to compete with following God's commandments, to morality, since there is the temptation to act at the expense of others.

miceelf
07-08-2011, 03:23 PM
Appreciated. Now I'm getting bored. Though, I've already taken the redistribution side of the argument. You're not getting another dime outta me.

I thought you were on the lower end of the economic scale. Aren't we supposed to be putting dimes INTO you?

sugarkang
07-08-2011, 03:37 PM
I thought you were on the lower end of the economic scale. Aren't we supposed to be putting dimes INTO you?

Paypal donations accepted.

look
07-08-2011, 04:32 PM
Or maybe, "it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a defense of inequality to be predicated on the interpretation of Timothy 6:10 as merely being about greed and not not about a larger social truth."

I'm reminded of badhat's critique of my perspective: "Sometimes when I read you commentary I think you live in a zero sum game world, where the more the rich have, the less others have. I just don't see the world that way."

What would Timothy have said to this? I suppose the beauty of religious teaching is that it is ultimately about moral authority, as in doing what is right. The individual is asked to look within himself and find an integrity between his actions and his beliefs.

Of course, we are all flawed, "sinners" (in my atheistic sense), who regularly choose the less righteous path. Peter Singer speaks very well on the ethics of distance, in that saving a dying man directly before you is obvious, where as a man across an ocean is not. There is a direct correlation between concern for those less fortunate and physical proximity to their suffering.

I've seen no better illustration of this that the scene in Schindler's List, in which he, realizing that the lives of Jews had literally come down to payments rendered, looks down at his gold ring and realizes that he could have saved just one more.

I suppose this is why I cringe when calls for the rich to pay their "fair" share are so frequently reduced to mere expressions of jealousy or resentment. I think there are plenty of principled reasons why one might prefer that the rich not have their wealth taken from them in the form of taxation - government is inefficient, some programs are counter-productive, etc. I find those positions variously wrongheaded or mistaken, but they are at least only political or philosophical judgements.

The real question that the wealthy need to ask themselves is what is the point of life here on Earth? As an atheist, it may be easier for me to slide into selfish materialism, with no regard for my fellow man. But where some would say God created us in his image, and thus compels us to sacrifice for the less fortunate, I simply believe that evolution - both biologically and culturally - gave us the ability to empathize and feel compassion for fellow man.

Thus, the dying man before me is in stark contrast with my feelings of solidarity with him, and my ability to help him. Therefore morally, I am required to act. So whether I pay my taxes so that the sick may be healed, or invest all extra moneys into business, or charity, I am bounded morally to every man woman or child alive - each of their consciousnesses floating around in each of their skulls - not yet able to realize the potential that I realize in myself.

As I said before, we are all "sinners". With my $1500 how much good could I have done? The emotional, behavioral and psychological calculations we do are complex. Does the happiness the TV brings me allow more to be more productive? Did striving to have it in the first place make me work harder? In this way, do I get to consider my luxury night out a charitable contribution, in the form of future productivity. My, how we could rationalize ourselves into oblivion there!

So, I suppose, let us make these determinations individually. But let us do it within reason. I would argue that the return on investment, the ratio of productivity for monetary gain to productivity for other reasons (sense of accomplishment, security, enjoyment, etc.) bends rather limply towards personal excess. Does the man who makes an extra million for a personal yacht really need that yacht to work hard? We must remember that the wealthy have long since passed the point of needing to worry about enjoying the simple things in life. There is a reason for the term "luxury".

And again, this is discussion is twofold: it asks a moral question of the individual, but it asks a moral question of society as well. We must, as citizens of a democratic government, ask ourselves what we think is fair for our members to contribute to our vision of the common good - whether military, roads, schools, etc. It is certainly a question that requires looking at individuals and their wealth, and making a judgement as to what is fair for them to contribute, and thus what is fair for them to possess.

We cannot refrain from making that determination. As voting citizens, we are by definition responsible for judging our neighbors. As long as it is our duty to uphold the welfare of our state, a welfare that depends on the actions of its citizenry, we take a position by merely living within the state. We can decide to completely leave them alone, and to demand no taxes from them, but that is just as moral a position as demanding 100% of their wealth. Both have direct impact upon the state we share.

Returning to Timothy's claim, the individual morality cannot but imply a social morality. Each individual must decide for himself what is right, in terms of his brief life on this planet. But, as a citizen of a democratic state, he now must apply that morality to his neighbor, to the extent that it directly affects the business of the state.

Am I OK with my lifestyle, and the degree to which I care for my fellow man? Maybe, maybe not. That is an issue of integrity, and by no means an easy question. It is one that is asked and answered with every decision we make - or do not make - every second of the day. Yet because of the realities of governing, we must try and find our best moral position when we enter the voting booth.

And so if I, as a human, sinning man, sometimes find it difficult to act with integrity to my moral values, what effect should this have on my voting? Should I vote my morality, or my reality? For instance, I think it is wrong to make animals suffer before they die. I try and buy humane meats and dairy (http://www.certifiedhumane.org/). But sometimes I find it hard to resist. So how should I vote? Should my voting reflect my lack of integrity, or should it reflect my aspirations?

And so when I see others living in ways in which I know - were I them - could be better spent reducing suffering and promoting liberty, should I cast judgement upon them at the ballot box? Do I have a right to hold them accountable to my own moral principles? To not do so would seem to be an expression of a lack of integrity just as profound as were I to be in their position. In my perfect world, they would either be paying taxes to government programs that guarantee access to services I deem important, or at least giving that money to charities or invest it in job-creating businesses.

But I know that doesn't happen. They do not act in accordance with my moral beliefs, with how I believe it is right to act in our state, and that all citizens ought to act in order to ensure my vision of the common good. If I have the right to ask them to be taxed at all, I ought to have the right to have them taxed at an amount I deem morally correct. Like Timothy, I can ask them to pass judgement on themselves. But as a citizen, I must pass judgement on them myself.Something I find frustrating lately is the assumption of 'bad faith' by some, here in the comments.

I think you gloss over the inefficient use of taxes, etc. My best example of soft bigotry is that in the 2009 budget or TARP, can't remember, was the roll back of welfare reform. As I understand it, and maybe you can set me straight, it was a success in the '90s to expect people on welfare to find jobs, because they did find them. I read somewhere that some of the reforms included required trips to the unemployment office, which had the effect of perking people with low self esteem by just getting them out of the house, and then some were pleasantly surprised when they found a job. Taxes are too often used as campaign tools by ensuring votes, etc.

I more or less subscribe to group selection, in that that's what you'd expect the Dems to do...and they did it :) No real complaints, because it really is a dialogue/compromise between interested parties, isn't it? I certainly appreciate your good faith arguments.

rfrobison
07-08-2011, 08:52 PM
Or maybe, "it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a defense of inequality to be predicated on the interpretation of Timothy 6:10 as merely being about greed and not not about a larger social truth."

I'm reminded of badhat's critique of my perspective: "Sometimes when I read you commentary I think you live in a zero sum game world, where the more the rich have, the less others have. I just don't see the world that way."

What would Timothy have said to this? I suppose the beauty of religious teaching is that it is ultimately about moral authority, as in doing what is right. The individual is asked to look within himself and find an integrity between his actions and his beliefs.

Of course, we are all flawed, "sinners" (in my atheistic sense), who regularly choose the less righteous path. Peter Singer speaks very well on the ethics of distance, in that saving a dying man directly before you is obvious, where as a man across an ocean is not. There is a direct correlation between concern for those less fortunate and physical proximity to their suffering.

I've seen no better illustration of this that the scene in Schindler's List, in which he, realizing that the lives of Jews had literally come down to payments rendered, looks down at his gold ring and realizes that he could have saved just one more.

I suppose this is why I cringe when calls for the rich to pay their "fair" share are so frequently reduced to mere expressions of jealousy or resentment. I think there are plenty of principled reasons why one might prefer that the rich not have their wealth taken from them in the form of taxation - government is inefficient, some programs are counter-productive, etc. I find those positions variously wrongheaded or mistaken, but they are at least only political or philosophical judgements.

The real question that the wealthy need to ask themselves is what is the point of life here on Earth? As an atheist, it may be easier for me to slide into selfish materialism, with no regard for my fellow man. But where some would say God created us in his image, and thus compels us to sacrifice for the less fortunate, I simply believe that evolution - both biologically and culturally - gave us the ability to empathize and feel compassion for fellow man.

Thus, the dying man before me is in stark contrast with my feelings of solidarity with him, and my ability to help him. Therefore morally, I am required to act. So whether I pay my taxes so that the sick may be healed, or invest all extra moneys into business, or charity, I am bounded morally to every man woman or child alive - each of their consciousnesses floating around in each of their skulls - not yet able to realize the potential that I realize in myself.

As I said before, we are all "sinners". With my $1500 how much good could I have done? The emotional, behavioral and psychological calculations we do are complex. Does the happiness the TV brings me allow more to be more productive? Did striving to have it in the first place make me work harder? In this way, do I get to consider my luxury night out a charitable contribution, in the form of future productivity. My, how we could rationalize ourselves into oblivion there!

So, I suppose, let us make these determinations individually. But let us do it within reason. I would argue that the return on investment, the ratio of productivity for monetary gain to productivity for other reasons (sense of accomplishment, security, enjoyment, etc.) bends rather limply towards personal excess. Does the man who makes an extra million for a personal yacht really need that yacht to work hard? We must remember that the wealthy have long since passed the point of needing to worry about enjoying the simple things in life. There is a reason for the term "luxury".

And again, this is discussion is twofold: it asks a moral question of the individual, but it asks a moral question of society as well. We must, as citizens of a democratic government, ask ourselves what we think is fair for our members to contribute to our vision of the common good - whether military, roads, schools, etc. It is certainly a question that requires looking at individuals and their wealth, and making a judgement as to what is fair for them to contribute, and thus what is fair for them to possess.

We cannot refrain from making that determination. As voting citizens, we are by definition responsible for judging our neighbors. As long as it is our duty to uphold the welfare of our state, a welfare that depends on the actions of its citizenry, we take a position by merely living within the state. We can decide to completely leave them alone, and to demand no taxes from them, but that is just as moral a position as demanding 100% of their wealth. Both have direct impact upon the state we share.

Returning to Timothy's claim, the individual morality cannot but imply a social morality. Each individual must decide for himself what is right, in terms of his brief life on this planet. But, as a citizen of a democratic state, he now must apply that morality to his neighbor, to the extent that it directly affects the business of the state.

Am I OK with my lifestyle, and the degree to which I care for my fellow man? Maybe, maybe not. That is an issue of integrity, and by no means an easy question. It is one that is asked and answered with every decision we make - or do not make - every second of the day. Yet because of the realities of governing, we must try and find our best moral position when we enter the voting booth.

And so if I, as a human, sinning man, sometimes find it difficult to act with integrity to my moral values, what effect should this have on my voting? Should I vote my morality, or my reality? For instance, I think it is wrong to make animals suffer before they die. I try and buy humane meats and dairy (http://www.certifiedhumane.org/). But sometimes I find it hard to resist. So how should I vote? Should my voting reflect my lack of integrity, or should it reflect my aspirations?

And so when I see others living in ways in which I know - were I them - could be better spent reducing suffering and promoting liberty, should I cast judgement upon them at the ballot box? Do I have a right to hold them accountable to my own moral principles? To not do so would seem to be an expression of a lack of integrity just as profound as were I to be in their position. In my perfect world, they would either be paying taxes to government programs that guarantee access to services I deem important, or at least giving that money to charities or invest it in job-creating businesses.

But I know that doesn't happen. They do not act in accordance with my moral beliefs, with how I believe it is right to act in our state, and that all citizens ought to act in order to ensure my vision of the common good. If I have the right to ask them to be taxed at all, I ought to have the right to have them taxed at an amount I deem morally correct. Like Timothy, I can ask them to pass judgement on themselves. But as a citizen, I must pass judgement on them myself.

Minor, nitpicky point: The quote from the Bible is from 1 Timothy. The Apostle Paul is generally accepted as the author. The book is a letter addressed to Timothy, Paul's protege, not a book written by Timothy. The letter is considered a template of sorts; a practical guide for young leaders in the church.

As to the substance of your post, you've raised some interesting points. If I can summon the energy later, I'll try to respond.

rfrobison
07-08-2011, 09:43 PM
I agree with Stephanie on the suggestion to move this mini-discussion to another thread, as it seems peripheral to Kang's desire to discuss the libertarian perspective on income inequality. [Carry on, libertines! I'm an associate member of your club, at best, but I'll check in once in a while to see how you're getting on.]

E (nth)li, Steph and anyone else who's interested in the question of God and Mammon, I invite to join me on the eponymous thread here (http://bloggingheads.tv/forum/showthread.php?p=215970#post215970).

sugarkang
07-08-2011, 10:22 PM
I'm not kicking anyone out, in case anyone felt as if they were intruding.

Ocean
07-08-2011, 10:37 PM
E (nth)li,

Ex7li.

eeeeeeeli
07-08-2011, 11:35 PM
I'm not kicking anyone out, in case anyone felt as if they were intruding.
No, I completely went off your topic! I apologize. I guess I just kind of got on one of those rolls and went with it. I was actually really impressed by your layout of the debate in this this thread. So I'll be looking forward to commenting on topic.

miceelf
07-10-2011, 01:21 PM
This will be brief because I am between church and a movie, but some threads in response to this. Feel free to pull on any of them and we can discuss further:

1. An old and (IMHO) useful distinction is often made between equality of opportunity and equality of outcome. The argument has traditionally been that communism and the like demand equality of outcome, whereas the beauty of the US is equality of opportunity. I assume (??) that equality of opportunity, at least broadly, is seen as desireable by most on both sides. But what is sometimes downplayed by the right is the sticky link between inequality of outcome and inequality of opportunity. For obvious reasons, real equality of opportunity lasts for exactly one generation, and absent any efforts on its behalf, diminishes over time, under the legitimate exchanges noted. This doesn't call for a truly confiscatory system, but does suggest a value in working to ensure that those born into situations that mitigate against opportunity have at least some experience of opportunity that approaches equality.

2. I think you also may be missing some of the various reasons why inequality is discussed- not simply as a completely independent issue, but as it relates to: a) a perceived baseline- what has people fired up is the change in inequality, and if the argument is that inequality represents fairness, is the claim that the world has gotten fairersince the fifties, when the truly smart and productive were heavily oppressed, or if somehow there has been an explosive evolution in the intelligence or productivity of the small set of people. It would seem that people who want to argue for how fair inequality is, might have at least some explanation for the change in inequality; b) counter-evidence to the claim that inequality would correct itself- the notion that if we shower enough rewards on the already wealthy they will in turn shower decent jobs on the rest of us and so the tide will rise all boats- this turns out not to have happened and the inequality is evidence of this- a variant on this theme of course is the record profits that many companies are experiencing even as they shed jobs; at some point, the pragmatic argument that if we keep giving companies money, they'll eventually give us jobs seems a bit hollow, especially coming from those who criticize the Obama stimulus as inefficient- inefficient it may be but its not nearly as efficient as the GOP stimulus program of showering money on stockholders and hoping that magically this will translate into jobs.

3. magnitude of moral harms. You noted somewhere else I think that there's not a huge difference in happiness between Bill Gates and lower income members of society, but this argument cuts both ways. If true, a redistribution scheme that reduced his income in the direction of lower income members of society would be a relatively trivial, if abstractly valid, moral harm. This gets even more trivial when one consider the magnitude of the proposed tax increases, which dwarfs a great deal, and makes statements about "eating the rich" and tyranny and the like amazingly unserious (not that you make such claims, but some do, and they have purchase among many who call themselves libertarians and conservatives.


Others may come to me, but these are my initial reactions.

sugarkang
07-10-2011, 03:08 PM
1. An old and (IMHO) useful distinction is often made between equality of opportunity and equality of outcome.
This goes back to the Nozick argument. If you start with the fairest distribution of income that you can think of, say a bell curve, the distance between rich and poor is not that great. At this imaginary starting point, the poor have equality of opportunity and equality of outcome. Yet, through a series of voluntary transactions, some people will get richer and some will get poorer. No one is coerced or exploited. Everyone buys and sells what they want. How does one resolve the resulting inequality after many, many transactions?


2. I think you also may be missing some of the various reasons why inequality is discussed- not simply as a completely independent issue, but as it relates to: a) a perceived baseline- what has people fired up is the change in inequality, ... It would seem that people who want to argue for how fair inequality is, might have at least some explanation for the change in inequality;
Nozick's explanation relates to this; or I don't follow what you're saying?


b) counter-evidence to the claim that inequality would correct itself- the notion that if we shower enough rewards on the already wealthy they will in turn shower decent jobs on the rest of us and so the tide will rise all boats-
You might be referring to trickle down economics, though I'm not sure. Trickle down doesn't work to create more income equality, but it works to raise the standards of living for everyone. So, the rich may become really filthy rich, but the lowest quintile of society will be raised out of grinding poverty. "That is, the typical person in the bottom 5 percent of the American income distribution is still richer than 68 percent of the world’s inhabitants. (http://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/01/31/the-haves-and-the-have-nots/)"


3. magnitude of moral harms. You noted somewhere else I think that there's not a huge difference in happiness between Bill Gates and lower income members of society, but this argument cuts both ways.
I don't think I said this, but my thought in the original post sort of addresses this. So, as Google, Microsoft, Lady GaGa, Tiger Woods get richer and richer, the rest of us become relatively poorer. But even if the relative inequality is greater, our standard of living is greater in absolute terms. These rich people have provided something that had not existed in the world prior to their inventions.

So, the question is if relative inequality is bad, then how much do you want to interfere with what rich people do with their money (increased taxes)? Should Apple and Google use their billions of dollars to feed the world's poor for several years until all of the money is gone, or should they continue to develop new technologies as they have always done?
...
I guess I'm taking the evil, inequality side? ;)

graz
07-10-2011, 03:16 PM
This goes back to the Nozick argument ...


Nozick's explanation relates to this;

This is a bummer about Nozick because I haven't read him and so I haven't had anything to say about him.
.

sugarkang
07-10-2011, 03:31 PM
I haven't read the book, but I understand the Wilt Chamberlain argument. I understand the argument because it's basic Milton Friedman and not some crazy Nozick theory.

I will not be able to talk about more nuanced theories in Anarchy, State and Utopia because, like you quote, I have not read the book.

eeeeeeeli
07-10-2011, 04:52 PM
This goes back to the Nozick argument. If you start with the fairest distribution of income that you can think of, say a bell curve, the distance between rich and poor is not that great. At this imaginary starting point, the poor have equality of opportunity and equality of outcome. Yet, through a series of voluntary transactions, some people will get richer and some will get poorer. No one is coerced or exploited. Everyone buys and sells what they want. How does one resolve the resulting inequality after many, many transactions?

I think you're conflating differences in capital. If we take your starting point, with relative income equality, we're still left with differences in human and non-monetary social capital. These two are highly related, as humans develop human capital within environments that can largely be defined by access to social capital. (I'm not so interested in the genetic elements of human capital, as they just aren't very consequential in terms of the general public).

So, the question is if relative inequality is bad, then how much do you want to interfere with what rich people do with their money (increased taxes)? Should Apple and Google use their billions of dollars to feed the world's poor for several years until all of the money is gone, or should they continue to develop new technologies as they have always done?


So, I would go with a third option: require that the rich pay billions in taxes to increase access social capital for all. This could be in the form of a generalized good, such as a library, or something specifically means-tested, such as education, job training, health services, etc.

There will always be a segment of society that will not be able to help themselves, and require a more literal safety net - but I see no reason why this can't be tied into a project of larger social capital building. I like to think of human agency on a spectrum, as we do with biological cognitive capacity. Retarded or schizophrenic people have severe disabilities, and will always require a certain safety net, and have a ceiling on human capital potential. In a similar way, people can have had life experiences that are as much, or even more debilitating. They might be very bright in certain areas, but in others be less mature than people with physical disabilities. These individuals will also require a safety net. However there is more room to move them upwards in human capital. The diagnosis here is crucial in determining the level of human capital, and directing a course of care. (I'm trying to think of an awesome Norwegian movie I saw recently - Elling (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0279064/)- about two men in the care of the state who are asked to share an apartment, and a caseworker who helps them be more independent.)

Anyway, I've been involved in social services work for so long, and seen so many gaps in funding, and opportunities for impact missed.

I'm just so skeptical of the idea that a rising tide will lift all boats when I see so many so comfortable with so much going undone. There is just so so much dissembling and rationalizing, scapegoating, etc. that I wonder whether they are clearly analyzing their own faith that boats are indeed being lifted (I have to wonder how much contact they have had with those in need). Other countries seem to be able to do so much more. What good is growth if poverty is so high, and more importantly, there is such gaps in access to the social and human capital that gives man true freedom?

sugarkang
07-10-2011, 05:19 PM
I think you're conflating differences in capital. I haven't. The discussion in this thread has always been about "income" only. We could talk about social capital, but that's just a different topic. I agree that it's related to this one, but again, it's outside the scope of this specific debate.


So, I would go with a third option: require that the rich pay billions in taxes to increase access social capital for all.
Have you considered my "Two Warren Buffetts" argument?


There will always be a segment of society that will not be able to help themselves, and require a more literal safety net...

Okay, but that's largely a Christian based ethics. And I agree that we should help the poor, but it's worth noting that some reasonable people, that are not you and I, do not agree. My guess is that someone like operative wouldn't want to help the poor, and have valid reasons for this. I don't want to put words in his mouth because I don't know. However, there's a Malthusian argument (global warming), but also a population ethics problem:

The Repugnant Conclusion. (http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/repugnant-conclusion/)

Starwatcher162536
07-10-2011, 05:39 PM
The only reason any of us scrape by at more then subsistence is because of a highly interdependent network (Society) in which we all voluntarily participate in. No one is stopping some wanna be Galt from moving to a forest and actually living by the fruits of his labor in truth. The fee for partaking in the aforementioned network is whatever the cumulative will of the network wants it to be as expressed through elections. There is no right answer. It's all just opinion.

graz
07-10-2011, 05:54 PM
My guess is that someone like operative wouldn't want to help the poor, and have valid reasons for this. I don't want to put words in his mouth because I don't know.

Where did he go? You set up this thread for a mutual libertarian love-fest. What happened? So not helping those less fortunate than you is valid? I know your avoiding putting words in his mouth, but you're willing to extend credence to the concept? Why?

sugarkang
07-10-2011, 05:58 PM
So not helping those less fortunate than you is valid? I know your avoiding putting words in his mouth, but you're willing to extend credence to the concept? Why?

Malthus, Parfit. See above.

miceelf
07-10-2011, 06:23 PM
This goes back to the Nozick argument. If you start with the fairest distribution of income that you can think of, say a bell curve, the distance between rich and poor is not that great. At this imaginary starting point, the poor have equality of opportunity and equality of outcome. Yet, through a series of voluntary transactions, some people will get richer and some will get poorer. No one is coerced or exploited. Everyone buys and sells what they want. How does one resolve the resulting inequality after many, many transactions?



Well, that's not exactly my point. Most of us think that two children, born at the same time, should have roughly equal chances of having a good life, contingent on their abilities and choices.

But, given the natural inclination of parents to want their children to get ahead, this equality isn't going to last.

Now, you can point to the fairness of the transactions that led to this, but that doesn't change anything for the child born to a poor family. They still have a much lower chance of a good life than a child born to a wealthy family (of equal morality, intelligence and ambition), absent some kind of intervention. Do you agree or disagree?

Do we just say to someone in 2200 who is born to a very poor family, and with no access to education whatsover, "sorry, your great great great grandfather wasn't as smart as this other guy's great great great great grandfather, so you aren't going to be able to be anything but poor. Sucks to be you"?

(this is the logic behind public education, or at least publically funded education. It seems a completely reasonable interest, but you may disagree).



You might be referring to trickle down economics, though I'm not sure. Trickle down doesn't work to create more income equality, but it works to raise the standards of living for everyone. So, the rich may become really filthy rich, but the lowest quintile of society will be raised out of grinding poverty. "That is, the typical person in the bottom 5 percent of the American income distribution is still richer than 68 percent of the world’s inhabitants. (http://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/01/31/the-haves-and-the-have-nots/)"



Fair enough, but let me ask a more modest question. Was it part of the marketing of trickle down economics that it would increase inequality over time?


Perhaps I wasn't clear, but you didn't respond to what I was most hoping you would respond to.

What is your theory as to why inequality has increased dramatically in the last 30 years. Is life fairer now than it was then? or was it always going to asymptote as dramatically as it did. How hellish was life under Reagan for the wealthy, that even modestly moving toward the rates from that time are presented as some kind of massive subjugation of human freedom?

I will also point out that you focused on wealthy people who have contributed something, and ignored those who haven't but have gotten just as proportionately wealthier. Think of Paris Hilton (in a world where she didn't have a reality show, where she could theoretically be argued to at least be entertaining)- what value was she adding to the world that was at all proportional to her wealth? Or worse, those who actively harmed everyone else: John Thain or Richard Fuld.

Ocean
07-10-2011, 06:31 PM
Not to mention, that wealth gives access to power. Through power societal conditions can be manipulated so that more wealth is directed to the already wealthy and less to the poor. This redistribution isn't due to talent or extraordinary creativity or sheer hard work and determination. It's due to power in the hands of the greedy. And that's what most of us object to.

Sorry for interrupting your discussion.

sugarkang
07-10-2011, 06:47 PM
Now, you can point to the fairness of the transactions that led to this, but that doesn't change anything for the child born to a poor family. They still have a much lower chance of a good life than a child born to a wealthy family (of equal morality, intelligence and ambition), absent some kind of intervention. Do you agree or disagree?

I totally agree, unequivocally. In fact, this is the basic Rawls argument. And again, I will remind you that I'm on your side of things (not that you forgot, but because there are angry liberals waiting to take me out of context).

But apply Nozick again to inherited intelligence. Do you reject the premise that intelligent people seek to procreate with other intelligent people? That intelligence is the greatest wealth to be "inherited" from parents? And if there's a great correlation between intelligence and earned incomes, over several generations, greater inequalities are inevitable. On average, greater intelligence = greater incomes = greater ability to save and invest = greater estate transfers upon death.

Do you reject this? If not, can you still justify redistribution? I have an argument for redistribution in spite of this, but I'm interested to hear how you or anyone gets out of this problem.


Fair enough, but let me ask a more modest question. Was it part of the marketing of trickle down economics that it would increase inequality over time?
I don't know. But for the sake of argument, say that I agree that trickle down proponents purposely "duped" the people into accepting it, have they made your life worse?


What is your theory as to why inequality has increased dramatically in the last 30 years.
I guess I answered this above. I answered the why, but not the "should it be."


Is life fairer now than it was then? or was it always going to asymptote as dramatically as it did. How hellish was life under Reagan for the wealthy, that even modestly moving toward the rates from that time are presented as some kind of massive subjugation of human freedom?

A big reason we feel poorer now is because everything that we should consider unbelievably amazing (technology) is completely taken for granted by virtue of the fact that it is ubiquitous. So, even our underclass are able to afford mobile phones with computing power in their pockets. This is the bottom rung of our society. So, even though they have access to amazing stuff, they feel poor because they are the poorest in America.

But that's the duping of globalized economics. The people that actually make these amazing gadgets for slave labor wages (China) are thousands of miles away, barely living above subsistence. If we could see the people that make this stuff for us; if the Chinese that actually made the stuff lived among us, the US poor would instantly feel like they were part of the middle class.

So, our bottom 5% is richer than the rest of the world's 68%. Our bottom 5% feel poor because the rest of the world's 68% are unseen in our daily lives. It's a trickery of the mind.


I will also point out that you focused on wealthy people who have contributed something, and ignored those who haven't but have gotten just as proportionately wealthier. Think of Paris Hilton ...

I actually addressed this earlier. Maybe it was with eeeeeeeli? I can't remember. Anyway, I said that I personally don't watch basketball. Basketball has zero value add for my life. But millions of people watch basketball and will pay a lot of money to be a part of that culture. Should I make a value judgment and just ban basketball?

I also agree that Paris Hilton is human trash and is a horrible role model. She creates perverse incentives. But people like to watch her and they love to hate her. Should we stop people from spending their money on her? Should we just ban her existence? Then, there's a cognitive bias regarding the people we see on TV. You're a church goer, right? Do you think Christians portrayed on TV are the average sort of mild mannered, law abiding Christians or are they totally bat shit insane? Mild mannered Christians don't get air time because they aren't interesting to watch. Ned Flanders is a good neighbor, not newsworthy. So, people have a cognitive bias that what they see is more prevalent than it really is.

Therefore, atheists think all Christians are insane.
Middle class people think that rich people just swim in money and live like Lindsay Lohan.
The reality is that the people you see on TV are the exceptions, not the rule.

graz
07-10-2011, 07:10 PM
So, our bottom 5% is richer than the rest of the world's 60%. Our bottom 5% feel poor because the rest of the world's 60% are unseen in our daily lives. It's a trickery of the mind.

And if we only give them math flash cards they could appreciate your logic and not allow their hunger pangs to distract them from their relative bounty. Forget pie, they can eat their smartphones ... And they have them too ... Because you say so!

sugarkang
07-10-2011, 07:18 PM
Forget pie, they can eat their smartphones ... And they have them too ... Because you say so!

Poor people tend to be obese (http://yourlife.usatoday.com/fitness-food/diet-nutrition/story/2011/07/Southerners-poor-have-highest-rates-of-obesity/49173468/1). It's not access to food that's the problem. Do you want to perpetually ignore the evidence provided and throw insults? Well, go ahead. But you're just wallowing in ignorance and justifying it based on your own anger which is in turn caused by your willful ignorance.

graz
07-10-2011, 07:19 PM
Poor people tend to be obese. It's not access to food that's the problem. Do you want to perpetually ignore the evidence provided and throw insults? Well, go ahead. But you're just wallowing in ignorance and justifying it based on your own anger which is in turn caused by your willful ignorance.

I'm sorry, where is the evidence?

sugarkang
07-10-2011, 07:23 PM
I'm sorry, where is the evidence?

Be specific.

graz
07-10-2011, 07:34 PM
Be specific.


So, even our underclass are able to afford mobile phones with computing power in their pockets. This is the bottom rung of our society. So, even though they have access to amazing stuff, they feel poor because they are the poorest in America.
Prove it.

sugarkang
07-10-2011, 07:40 PM
Prove it.

American Prospect: Poor People and Cell Phones (http://prospect.org/csnc/blogs/tapped_archive?month=04&year=2011&base_name=poor_people_and_cell_phones)

graz
07-10-2011, 07:45 PM
American Prospect: Poor People and Cell Phones (http://prospect.org/csnc/blogs/tapped_archive?month=04&year=2011&base_name=poor_people_and_cell_phones)

Which in no way fully supports your grandiose claim. Look, I understand that you and McMegan saw some suspect characters in line while waiting for your iPhones, but that doesn't prove that the "underclass" have disposable income.

sugarkang
07-10-2011, 07:48 PM
Which in no way fully supports your grandiose claim. Look, I understand that you and McMegan saw some suspect characters in line while waiting for your iPhones, but that doesn't prove that the "underclass" have disposable income.

I didn't say that they have disposable incomes. Obviously, they aren't putting money into 401K plans. THEY ARE POOR. Even so, how poor is poor? They have access to basic food and clothing and shelter. I said that these basics are a shit ton better than what most people get in the rest of the world.

And the only reason that poor people have shitty lives is because the War on Drugs plagues the inner cities with gang violence and the filth associated.

I have shit to do now.

graz
07-10-2011, 07:49 PM
I didn't say that they have disposable incomes. Obviously, they aren't putting money into 401K plans. THEY ARE POOR. Even so, how poor is poor? They have access to basic food and clothing and shelter. I said that these basics are a shit ton better than what most people get in the rest of the world.

And the only reason that poor people have shitty lives is because the War on Drugs plagues the inner cities with gang violence and the filth associated.

I have shit to do now.

Se ya in two weeks?

sugarkang
07-10-2011, 07:54 PM
Se ya in two weeks?

No, I just won't be answering your stupidity, for now.

graz
07-10-2011, 08:03 PM
No ...

... I'm going to have to spend less time on these forums. I mean I understand tribalism, but this shit is ridiculous. See ya guys. (I'll be back in like two weeks).

miceelf
07-10-2011, 08:34 PM
But apply Nozick again to inherited intelligence. Do you reject the premise that intelligent people seek to procreate with other intelligent people? That intelligence is the greatest wealth to be "inherited" from parents? And if there's a great correlation between intelligence and earned incomes, over several generations, greater inequalities are inevitable. On average, greater intelligence = greater incomes = greater ability to save and invest = greater estate transfers upon death.

Do you reject this? If not, can you still justify redistribution?


Well, reject is strong, but there are some elements that I don't agree with.

Specifically, let me point out that intelligence is only the greatest wealth to be inherited in a meritocratic or roughly meritocratic system, and there is a pressure against meritocracy for the reasons I cited. I also think the "great correlation between intelligence and earned incomes" is something that is assumed much more than it's demonstrated.

I am also not convinced that intelligence is the main driver of income; it's relatively impotent absent opportunities to apply it (to take an extreme example, imagine a genius level child born to a peasant in 12th century England- a superior intelligence isn't very likely to significantly influence his/her life outcomes at all; I realise this is an extreme example, but not an irrelevant one, I think). Income is driven by a variety of things beyond genetically influenced intelligence; some are morally salutory but not clearly genetic (hard work, creativity), some are morally neutral (luck), and some are the result of behavior of other people (education/al opportunities, "connections").


I don't know. But for the sake of argument, say that I agree that trickle down proponents purposely "duped" the people into accepting it, have they made your life worse?


Well, i wasn't assuming duping necessarily, just that the promise of trickle down was always that the lower level and middle level would be raised. Many people would not have assumed that it would mean that they would raise modestly (and, in terms of income, at best keeping up to inflation), while others would raise exponentially more than has ever been the case in human history.

The additional harm has to do with politics and the like. Income inequality necessarily translates into political inequality, and the two tend to reinforce each other; one worries that this becomes a spiral, and in my pessimistic moments I worry that this happens. Whatever the merits of the recent decisions around campaign finance and money as speech, it's hard to see how they benefit those at the lower end of the income spectrum. And relative power is especially important in politics.

I also agree that Paris Hilton is human trash and is a horrible role model. She creates perverse incentives. But people like to watch her and they love to hate her. Should we stop people from spending their money on her?


no, remember, I was imagining an alternate universe in which she didn't have any shows, so wasn't doing what you said above. Her income would come in that scenario, from what it did before there was an paris hilton on television- gifts from her parents and possibly nominal and well-remunerated "consulting" positions in some company or other. The "value" she is adding is that she exists and shares genes with her parents. I understand the fair process argument, but that's not the same as saying that one is always rewarded in proportion to the value one adds to society.

I will also point out that Google and Facebook are just as exceptional among large corporations as Lindsay Lohan is among the rich.

sugarkang
07-10-2011, 09:08 PM
Well, reject is strong, but there are some elements that I don't agree with.

Specifically, let me point out that intelligence is only the greatest wealth to be inherited in a meritocratic or roughly meritocratic system, and there is a pressure against meritocracy for the reasons I cited. I also think the "great correlation between intelligence and earned incomes" is something that is assumed much more than it's demonstrated.
Right, but you'd agree that we should keep the debate within a meritocratic realm. After all, I don't see a constituency arguing to go back to feudalism. And this relates to...

I am also not convinced that intelligence is the main driver of income; it's relatively impotent absent opportunities to apply it (to take an extreme example, imagine a genius level child born to a peasant in 12th century England- a superior intelligence isn't very likely to significantly influence his/her life outcomes at all; I realise this is an extreme example, but not an irrelevant one, I think). Income is driven by a variety of things beyond genetically influenced intelligence; some are morally salutory but not clearly genetic (hard work, creativity), some are morally neutral (luck), and some are the result of behavior of other people (education/al opportunities, "connections").

I think you're about to hit on, but haven't said explicitly, why I'd want more redistribution. However, before I get into that, I'd like to argue for Team Evil. So, whether it's more intelligence, more beauty, more athletic ability, more musical ability, these things will all tend to translate into higher incomes. These people with the greatest gifts will tend to intermarry and breed and have children and pass on genetic gifts, cultural norms and inherited wealth. Thus, inequality becomes a greater and greater problem with each succeeding generation.


Well, i wasn't assuming duping necessarily, just that the promise of trickle down was always that the lower level and middle level would be raised. Many people would not have assumed that it would mean that they would raise modestly (and, in terms of income, at best keeping up to inflation), while others would raise exponentially more than has ever been the case in human history.
But as mentioned before, our bottom 5% is higher than the world's 68%. I'm sure our bottom 5% is much, much richer than the world, say 50 years ago. And even within our own country, would you rather be a young Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1918, part of the American elite or an average, young American in 2011 earning $50K annually? How about in 1921 when FDR contracts polio?


The additional harm has to do with politics and the like. Income inequality necessarily translates into political inequality, and the two tend to reinforce each other; one worries that this becomes a spiral, and in my pessimistic moments I worry that this happens. Whatever the merits of the recent decisions around campaign finance and money as speech, it's hard to see how they benefit those at the lower end of the income spectrum. And relative power is especially important in politics.

I tend to agree with you, although, it's hard to argue that there's no marketplace of ideas when we have a free and open internet. It's easier to connect with like-minded people more than ever.


... paris hilton ... The "value" she is adding is that she exists and shares genes with her parents. I understand the fair process argument, but that's not the same as saying that one is always rewarded in proportion to the value one adds to society.
I agree, but value is a normative judgment. Price is our best approximation of value, but is not the same thing. And while many people are unjustly rewarded for the stupidest things, should we live in a world without luck? (I actually think we should, in the case of punitive damage awards in tort law).

Imagine the net worth of Bill Gates before Microsoft and after. Price doesn't tell you what Bill Gates was worth before Microsoft. So, billions of people in the world are worth more than their bank accounts reflect. Wealth in dollars is only our best approximation of what we know about them now. The other benefit to the price mechanism is that it allocates wealth blindly. There is no puppet master dictating how dollars flow (unless we're talking about government). So, back to square one. If you can create a system to allocate goods and services more efficiently than price, then we should do so.

eeeeeeeli
07-10-2011, 09:45 PM
I haven't. The discussion in this thread has always been about "income" only. We could talk about social capital, but that's just a different topic. I agree that it's related to this one, but again, it's outside the scope of this specific debate.
I'm not so sure. I suppose you could try to limit the question to purely income inequality, but that seems an awfully fragile line to draw. As it is, if you look at what I was responding to, equality of opportunity was assumed to be tied to, if not directly driven by income equality.

"If you start with the fairest distribution of income that you can think of, say a bell curve, the distance between rich and poor is not that great. At this imaginary starting point, the poor have equality of opportunity and equality of outcome."

In many ways, I think that is actually generally true - but certainly not in all.

Going back to your original statement on the philosophical aspects of inequality, that equality is defined by inequality, income capital and social or human capital are quite different in this regard. Because if social/human capital are required for personal freedom, they can exist quite objectively. For instance, whether I know how to resist an impulse has nothing to do with whether or not my neighbor can.

Have you considered my "Two Warren Buffetts" argument? Was that in this thread - I'll look again.



Okay, but that's largely a Christian based ethics.
Caring for the poor being based in Christian ethics? I must be misreading you!

sugarkang
07-10-2011, 10:03 PM
"If you start with the fairest distribution of income that you can think of, say a bell curve, the distance between rich and poor is not that great. At this imaginary starting point, the poor have equality of opportunity and equality of outcome."

In many ways, I think that is actually generally true - but certainly not in all.

Well, we could even start everybody with the same amount of money. Inequality would still result.


Going back to your original statement on the philosophical aspects of inequality, that equality is defined by inequality, income capital and social or human capital are quite different in this regard. Because if social/human capital are required for personal freedom, they can exist quite objectively. For instance, whether I know how to resist an impulse has nothing to do with whether or not my neighbor can.

This is interesting, but I'm not sure if I've understood you. Could you elaborate a bit?


Was that in this thread - I'll look again.

Two Warren Buffetts (http://bloggingheads.tv/forum/showthread.php?t=6879). See post #21. Then check Two Apples.

miceelf
07-10-2011, 11:00 PM
Right, but you'd agree that we should keep the debate within a meritocratic realm. After all, I don't see a constituency arguing to go back to feudalism. And this relates to...


well, not explicitly. But to the extent to which decent education is out of reach for very poor children, it deviates from meritocracy in a very relevant way. And, to be honest, it's kind of getting there.



I think you're about to hit on, but haven't said explicitly, why I'd want more redistribution. However, before I get into that, I'd like to argue for Team Evil. So, whether it's more intelligence, more beauty, more athletic ability, more musical ability, these things will all tend to translate into higher incomes. These people with the greatest gifts will tend to intermarry and breed and have children and pass on genetic gifts, cultural norms and inherited wealth. Thus, inequality becomes a greater and greater problem with each succeeding generation.


I suppose, although I am skeptical as to how much of the stuff that would matter in a meritocracy is genetic in this sense. But in any case, I think most people are more concerned with social rather than genetic inequality. To the extent to which the process you describe is what drives inequality (rather than the choices wealthier people make to advantage themsevles and their offspring), it would raise, rather than lower the stakes of the other. The two are so intertwined, however, it's ahrd to separate them.


I tend to agree with you, although, it's hard to argue that there's no marketplace of ideas when we have a free and open internet. It's easier to connect with like-minded people more than ever.


I don't think there's no marketplace of ideas. I think there's a marketplace of ideas that is disproportionately (but by no means comletely) influenced by the wealthy- usually corporations rather than individuals, but this is worse, not better. In their modern iterations, corporations seem primarily to be a way of preventing people from acting on their moral impulses, in a way that the elite have typically done in a way that tends to reduce inequality. But that's a whole nother topic.



I agree, but value is a normative judgment. Price is our best approximation of value, but is not the same thing. And while many people are unjustly rewarded for the stupidest things, should we live in a world without luck? (I actually think we should, in the case of punitive damage awards in tort law).


I agree, and I am not arguing for eliminating luck, just acknowledging its influence. Acknowleging that price is an approximation rather than a reflection of luck would, it would seem, imply that there's something very exaggerated about the sturm und drang about the unfairness of having some people pay a slightly higher rate of taxes than other people. In that scenario, Paris Hilton isn't a moral titan, who is being dragged down and enslaved (or "eaten" to use another turn of phrase) if she pays 39% rather than 36% income tax on the money she makes more than $250 K a year.

sugarkang
07-10-2011, 11:22 PM
well, not explicitly. But to the extent to which decent education is out of reach for very poor children, it deviates from meritocracy in a very relevant way. And, to be honest, it's kind of getting there.

I totally agree in this regard. Though, I think we'd disagree on the specific policy to improve this. I'd want to break government monopoly and allow for charter schools to compete. They can't do this in a lot of areas.


I suppose, although I am skeptical as to how much of the stuff that would matter in a meritocracy is genetic in this sense. But in any case, I think most people are more concerned with social rather than genetic inequality.
What I mean by genetics, though, is not limited to intelligence. I'm talking about beauty, musical talent, athletic, artistic, ad infinitum. Rich people tend to see the value of excellence in any of these traits, right? So, people who are blessed with these gifts will marry with rich people who are lacking in the genetic area. They will combine to have offspring that furthers genetic and income inequality.


To the extent to which the process you describe is what drives inequality (rather than the choices wealthier people make to advantage themsevles and their offspring), it would raise, rather than lower the stakes of the other. The two are so intertwined, however, it's ahrd to separate them.
Not sure I follow...


I don't think there's no marketplace of ideas. I think there's a marketplace of ideas that is disproportionately (but by no means comletely) influenced by the wealthy- usually corporations rather than individuals, but this is worse, not better. In their modern iterations, corporations seem primarily to be a way of preventing people from acting on their moral impulses, in a way that the elite have typically done in a way that tends to reduce inequality. But that's a whole nother topic.
I just meant that corporations having too much money would've been a much bigger problem before the internet. So, today it's still a problem, but money to fund TV commercials will not be a problem in 10 years because TV will be obsolete.

In that scenario, Paris Hilton isn't a moral titan, who is being dragged down and enslaved (or "eaten" to use another turn of phrase) if she pays 39% rather than 36% income tax on the money she makes more than $250 K a year.

Remember, I was actually on your side of the argument this whole time. I actually want to keep $250-500K at 36%, but move 500K-1M to 40%, 1M+ to 43%. I'm more progressive. How's that? :)

miceelf
07-10-2011, 11:50 PM
I totally agree in this regard. Though, I think we'd disagree on the specific policy to improve this. I'd want to break government monopoly and allow for charter schools to compete. They can't do this in a lot of areas.


I am NOT attributing this to you, but one of the reasons for resistance to the approaches that get proposed like this is that many are concerned that this is just a backdoor way of ensuring that more resources get spent on non-poor kids and less on poor kids. Given the comfort some on the right (again, not you!!) have with inequality, and the general trend of favored policies to moving resources upward rather than downward, this isn't a completely crazy and paranoid reaction.



What I mean by genetics, though, is not limited to intelligence. I'm talking about beauty, musical talent, athletic, artistic, ad infinitum. Rich people tend to see the value of excellence in any of these traits, right? So, people who are blessed with these gifts will marry with rich people who are lacking in the genetic area. They will combine to have offspring that furthers genetic and income inequality.


I know, I thought I had acknowledged that genetics is broader than intelligence. What I was trying to say was to the degree to which nature pushes against equality of opportunity in the way you describe, it makes it even more fragile and thus more needful of support, if it's something we want to have to some degree.


Remember, I was actually on your side of the argument this whole time. I actually want to keep $250-500K at 36%, but move 500K-1M to 40%, 1M+ to 43%. I'm more progressive. How's that? :)

Yeah, I think one of the unspoken problems is that the tax brackets haven't expanded with inflation. Although good luck getting anyone to listen to you.

sugarkang
07-10-2011, 11:56 PM
I am NOT attributing this to you, but one of the reasons for resistance to the approaches that get proposed like this is that many are concerned that this is just a backdoor way of ensuring that more resources get spent on non-poor kids and less on poor kids. Given the comfort some on the right (again, not you!!) have with inequality, and the general trend of favored policies to moving resources upward rather than downward, this isn't a completely crazy and paranoid reaction.
I understand the skepticism, but for the reasons discussed, I think inequality is inevitable. So, even if charter schools help the poor more than public schools, they'll end up as a scapegoat for teacher's unions to blame as the cause of inequality. I'm not saying we should replace the entire public school system. I'm saying public and private should be able to coexist and the best model should sta (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gjjQ6fFFyZI)y.


I know, I thought I had acknowledged that genetics is broader than intelligence. What I was trying to say was to the degree to which nature pushes against equality of opportunity in the way you describe, it makes it even more fragile and thus more needful of support, if it's something we want to have to some degree.
But that's back to question one. You and I both want more income equality. Why? How can you justify it if you've understood all the points I've made?


Yeah, I think one of the unspoken problems is that the tax brackets haven't expanded with inflation. Although good luck getting anyone to listen to you.
Agreed.

miceelf
07-11-2011, 06:34 AM
But that's back to question one. You and I both want more income equality. Why? How can you justify it if you've understood all the points I've made?



Well, I think for me a big part of it is equality of opportunity.

sugarkang
07-11-2011, 09:51 AM
Well, I think for me a big part of it is equality of opportunity.

I don't think you really want this. Meritocracies create more inequality because the overachieving groups tend to take the most advantage of "better access."

miceelf
07-11-2011, 09:54 AM
I don't think you really want this. Meritocracies create more inequality because the overachieving groups tend to take the most advantage of "better access."

I should clarify. I want ongoing access to opportunity that approaches equality. You are right that equality of opportunity is very fragile, absent intervention.

sugarkang
07-11-2011, 02:25 PM
I should clarify. I want ongoing access to opportunity that approaches equality.

So do I. But there hasn't been a satisfactory justification for it besides the desire to have it. I think that should feel at least a bit troublesome.

miceelf
07-11-2011, 02:56 PM
So do I. But there hasn't been a satisfactory justification for it besides the desire to have it. I think that should feel at least a bit troublesome.

It's kind of hard to justify first principles, I think.

What's the justification for private property?

badhatharry
07-11-2011, 03:07 PM
So do I. But there hasn't been a satisfactory justification for it besides the desire to have it. I think that should feel at least a bit troublesome.

it's good for society

sugarkang
07-11-2011, 03:36 PM
It's kind of hard to justify first principles, I think.

What's the justification for private property?

Well, unlike the veil of ignorance, which asks us to reflect upon a hypothetical situation, each one of us is born into our own bodies as a matter of reality. If one doesn't own his own body and his creations, I suppose there is no justification. But I don't believe that. I have to think that each one of us is inviolable, that only the soul inhabiting the body owns it, and that ownership is inalienable. If not, how does one justify human rights?

TwinSwords
07-11-2011, 09:35 PM
I wonder, do any of the libertarians have any idea what causes inequality? Or has that already been explained in this thread somewhere? I've read a third to a half the posts in this thread, and I saw sugarkang's statement (IIR) that Microsoft and Google have caused a rise in inequality, though I missed his clarification of how, exactly, they did so.

I also saw, IIR, sugarkang's declaration that inequality is a function of intelligence -- that smart people can accumulate wealth more ably than dumb people. But I doubt sugarkang would seriously contend that the rapid rise in inequality over the last 30 years is a function of or corresponds to a rapid rise in intelligence among the top 1% of the population. That would be ridiculous. (Which raises the question why he made the point to begin with. Was it a diversion? Or does he actually have no real idea what has caused the rapid increase in inequality in recent decades?)

If we're going to have a conversation about inequality, and whether it's just or not, it seems we should start with an examination of the question of what caused it. If it was caused by, say, armed robbery, or imposition of slavery, then it would be easy to conclude it was unjust. If it was caused, rather, by people paying Wilt Chamberlain to play basketball, it's easy to conclude that it's just.

But I'm just curious. You hear libertarians talk so much about inequality, but I don't get the feeling that any of them have any idea what caused it to rise so rapidly in the last decades in this country. Why is that? Don't they know?

Don Zeko
07-11-2011, 10:18 PM
I wonder, do any of the libertarians have any idea what causes inequality? Or has that already been explained in this thread somewhere? I've read a third to a half the posts in this thread, and I saw sugarkang's statement (IIR) that Microsoft and Google have caused a rise in inequality, though I missed his clarification of how, exactly, they did so.

I also saw, IIR, sugarkang's declaration that inequality is a function of intelligence -- that smart people can accumulate wealth more ably than dumb people. But I doubt sugarkang would seriously contend that the rapid rise in inequality over the last 30 years is a function of or corresponds to a rapid rise in intelligence among the top 1% of the population. That would be ridiculous. (Which raises the question why he made the point to begin with. Was it a diversion? Or does he actually have no real idea what has caused the rapid increase in inequality in recent decades?)

If we're going to have a conversation about inequality, and whether it's just or not, it seems we should start with an examination of the question of what caused it. If it was caused by, say, armed robbery, or imposition of slavery, then it would be easy to conclude it was unjust. If it was caused, rather, by people paying Wilt Chamberlain to play basketball, it's easy to conclude that it's just.

But I'm just curious. You hear libertarians talk so much about inequality, but I don't get the feeling that any of them have any idea what caused it to rise so rapidly in the last decades in this country. Why is that? Don't they know?

Good question, but we'd have to first move the discussion away from the orgy of strawman-burning elsewhere in the thread. For the record, absolutely no one in this thread or in this forum is going to think that complete equality, either of opportunity or of outcomes, is possible or desirable. The more interesting question is how much inequality should we tolerate, as well as the evidence-based discussion of what is actually driving inequality that you're pointing towards.

miceelf
07-11-2011, 11:03 PM
I also saw, IIR, sugarkang's declaration that inequality is a function of intelligence -- that smart people can accumulate wealth more ably than dumb people. But I doubt sugarkang would seriously contend that the rapid rise in inequality over the last 30 years is a function of or corresponds to a rapid rise in intelligence among the top 1% of the population. That would be ridiculous. (Which raises the question why he made the point to begin with. Was it a diversion? Or does he actually have no real idea what has caused the rapid increase in inequality in recent decades?)


I think he was focused on inequality more generally. I feel like I have heard the following from somone conservative and/or libertarian, but not sure exactly where. PLEASE note that it is not my argument, as I am skeptical about both elements of it

Two forces:
1. it's essentially the intelligence causes inequality (and this inequality slowly but inevitablly rises over time, as assortative mating and the exercise of the advantages of wealthy for educational outcomes, combine to increase the distance between the offspring of more intelligent and less intelligent people and this difference gets exaggerateds over generations

2. the increasing (and the argument goes exponentially increasing) intellectual demands of modern life, the rapid technological advances that demand intelligence and education, which will have a corresponding exponential effect on inequality.

sugarkang
07-12-2011, 01:10 AM
Two forces:


Sort of. Intelligence is one way that makes some people more affluent. But, I'm sure we're all also aware that more affluent people, paradoxically, aren't having as many children as less affluent people.

These gifts don't have to be genetic and that should de-emphasized because I'm not interested in being accused of racism or pointlessly devolving the conversation to that level of stupidity. But, I think one cannot deny the cultural mores and standards that overachievers have that lead directly to their status in life.

Genetic or not, these gifts are passed from parent to child, whether they are musical, athletic, artistic or other, these forms of social wealth are also social capital, readily traded for cash. How else is it plausible that the blue blood Kate Winslet can have a relationship with the proletariat Leonardo DiCaprio? It's only his potential as an artist that puts him in the same league.

If anyone is following this conversation, one should not mistake my position to be that meritocracies reward those who deserve to be rewarded. No. Rather, our meritocracy is a new arbitrary nature of our own making that renders our lives nasty, brutish and long.

miceelf
07-12-2011, 06:49 AM
I have to admit, Sugar, curiosity is slowly eating me alive. You mentioned earlier that you opposed gross inequality, and I am looking forward to your own take. you can pretend graz is operative if it makes it easier for you.

sugarkang
07-12-2011, 07:05 AM
I have to admit, Sugar, curiosity is slowly eating me alive. You mentioned earlier that you opposed gross inequality, and I am looking forward to your own take. you can pretend graz is operative if it makes it easier for you.

Well, I have two explanations that I consider compelling reasons for myself, though, not necessarily convincing for anyone else. Before we get to that, you didn't reply to my answer about the justification of human rights and thus private property.

miceelf
07-12-2011, 09:08 AM
Well, I have two explanations that I consider compelling reasons for myself, though, not necessarily convincing for anyone else. Before we get to that, you didn't reply to my answer about the justification of human rights and thus private property.

Sorry, I wasn't sure what response there could be. One could in turn ask for support for your rationales for private property and question the link between ownership of one's body and ownership of things external to the self, but honestly, it starts to get less interesting for me at that point.

sugarkang
07-12-2011, 09:17 AM
Sorry, I wasn't sure what response there could be. One could in turn ask for support for your rationales for private property and question the link between ownership of one's body and ownership of things external to the self, but honestly, it starts to get less interesting for me at that point.

But now it gets interesting for me. So, do you believe in human rights or no? Private property or no? And to what extent?

Does it get less interesting to know what I think? Because I'd agree. I don't want to know what I think. Or does it get less interesting for you to think/talk about? Because I'm curious.

graz
07-12-2011, 09:24 AM
Does it get less interesting to know what I think?
Yes, and that has been the case for weeks.

I don't want to know what I think.
Nor does most anyone else.

badhatharry
07-12-2011, 09:49 AM
Between melting and freezing the soul's sap quivers.

Thanks, Kang, I'd been wanting something along these lines: an actual debate. Like high school debate team stuff.

So I guess the debate never materialized.

I wasn't sure where to put this but I think someone might find it interesting. (http://dailycaller.com/2011/06/09/how-libertarianism-helps-the-poor/)...or not. what do I care?

miceelf
07-12-2011, 10:01 AM
But now it gets interesting for me. So, do you believe in human rights or no? Private property or no? And to what extent?


Yes. I believe in those things. I took it as an example of my point, which that it's hard to "prove" or come up with a rationale for them. So that was the source of my question, not a real substantive questioning. It was an example.

I am *very* interested in what you think of the topic at hand. We both pretty clearly agree on private property rights, I just think it's difficult to articulate the rationale for them, but this isn't because I doubt my belief in it.

I am less interested in this particular line because we both pretty much completely agree, it's non-controversial, and any possible disagreement (such as about whether the rationale for our shared belief is communicable) is kind of meta for my tastes.

miceelf
07-12-2011, 10:09 AM
So I guess the debate never materialized.

I wasn't sure where to put this but I think someone might find it interesting. (http://dailycaller.com/2011/06/09/how-libertarianism-helps-the-poor/)...or not. what do I care?

Given that libertarians like to claim that their ideas have never ever been tried, a more reasonable title would be "how libertarians *would* help the poor.

As well, his point 1 is misleading, as he picks particular small bore items and ignore the truly massive improvement in the life of the poor that has resulted from things like Medicaid and Social Security. (the silence about social security is telling, given that it's something that many on the right want to eliminate or rejigger into unrecognizability, but you can't pretend that it doesn't help the poor and middle class in its current form). he mentions medicare as something captured by special interests, but in fact it disproportionately improves the lot of the poor elderly, who would be unable to afford care otherwise (and their families, who would without medicare have to choose between bankrupting themselves to care for infirm parents and grandparents or cutting them loose). So not even clear what he means by special interest in that case.

This ignoring of social security colors his second point as well, where the results of social security in terms of life expectancy and income security and quality of life are clear to anyone who looks at the data.

The third is probably true of real libertarians, but the elements of libertarianism that have been picked up by the GOP do, in fact, focus almost exclusively on regulation/taxation; the tea party is no more libertarian socially than is the rest of the GOP.

But you don't care. And it's probably another thread.
Kang may care, though, in which case, he can do what he wants with this.

sugarkang
07-12-2011, 10:11 AM
So I guess the debate never materialized.

I wasn't sure where to put this but I think someone might find it interesting. (http://dailycaller.com/2011/06/09/how-libertarianism-helps-the-poor/)...or not. what do I care?

Yeah, this is his home, home (http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/).


I am less interested in this particular line because we both pretty much completely agree, it's non-controversial, and any possible disagreement (such as about whether the rationale for our shared belief is communicable) is kind of meta for my tastes.

Aww, boo. So, right. The liberal justification. Here's a succinct way of putting it:
Hayek regarding the hubris of rationality (central planning).
Durkheim on the idea that crime is not only to be tolerated, but is absolutely necessary for the proper functioning of society.

When I think of those two concepts together, in conjunction with our past history with slavery it makes sense. However, if new problems arise, this may cease to be a valid justification.

miceelf
07-12-2011, 10:15 AM
The liberal justification. Here's a succinct way of putting it:
Hayek regarding the hubris of rationality (central planning).
Durkheim on the idea that crime is not only to be tolerated, but is absolutely necessary for the proper functioning of society.



Hmmm. Could you put it slightly less succinctly? I am having trouble connecting the dots in terms of how this justifies a concern with inequality. I think I read a chapter of Hayek years ago, but I am not clear on how hubris of rationality bears on a concern with inequality.

sugarkang
07-12-2011, 10:32 AM
Hmmm. Could you put it slightly less succinctly? I am having trouble connecting the dots in terms of how this justifies a concern with inequality. I think I read a chapter of Hayek years ago, but I am not clear on how hubris of rationality bears on a concern with inequality.

Hayek's anti-rationalism and insight into spontaneous order is key. He rejected planned economies, so he would absolutely hate our government now. Though, from what I understand he also said we should take care of the poor. I haven't read anything specific regarding that, but it might be in Why I'm Not a Conservative. Regardless of what he thought on redistribution, it has no bearing on my own justification.

Durkheim's concept of crime was that there was a balance of order regarding criminality. Too much is bad, too little is also bad. For if it's too little and without regulation, it's because it's self-evident. But if it's too little because of tight regulation, then we ought to re-think our restrictions on it. When abolitionists protested slavery and worked to liberate property (slaves), this was a crime. It was outright theft or conversion.

If you accept the crime idea as valid, then one might consider extrapolating that to the bottom quintile of our society as well. This has nothing to do with enslavement. Rather, this is to reject the hubris of rationality. That is, it's overly arrogant to believe that only intelligent people should breed and all other defects should be killed off. If one accepts the theory of evolution, it is often a defective gene that ends up being a beneficial trait. One can see this in human beings as well, particularly in the case of autism and milder forms like Asperger's syndrome.

Nazi Germany may have eliminated these defects from their gene pool, but it could very well be that they are the next Ubermensch.

badhatharry
07-12-2011, 10:38 AM
As well, his point 1 is misleading, as he picks particular small bore items and ignore the truly massive improvement in the life of the poor that has resulted from things like Medicaid and Social Security.

I don't see that he ignored medicare and social security. The point is that we have no idea how much better things could be without these entrenched systems that probably aren't the miracles they are thought to be for the reasons he gave. But they can't be changed or improved or made to be more efficient because that kind of effort is inevitably characterized as throwing some helpless person under the bus.

An aside... We were told that our private health insurance system is all fucked up and one of the big stories that got told over and over is that Obama's mother had to fight with her insurance company when she was seriously ill. Looks like that was a big lie. (http://nation.foxnews.com/president-obama/2011/07/12/obamas-tale-about-his-mother-being-denied-health-insurance-debunked) It's hard to believe Obama would lie to advance his agenda, eh?

...A dozen years later, her son turned her ordeal into a campaign pitch for national health care. But the story Obama told, Scott writes, was "abbreviated" -- the abbreviation was to leave out the fact that Ann Dunham had health insurance that paid for her treatment. "Though he often suggested that she was denied health coverage because of a pre-existing condition," Scott writes, "it appears from her correspondence that she was only denied disability coverage."

eeeeeeeli
07-12-2011, 11:12 AM
So, even if charter schools help the poor more than public schools, they'll end up as a scapegoat for teacher's unions to blame as the cause of inequality.
Sorry, but I had to jump in here. Feel free to not respond because it's astray.

"Even if charter schools help more" - so far they don't, on average. This plus selection issues.

"scapegoat for teacher's unions" - no one is saying that teaching can't get better. The controversy is in how much it can get better, given the empirical reality that inequality makes the job of teaching poor kids much more difficult, and so far this isn't reflected in resources spent (there's huge inequality in neighborhoods, but near equality in resource allocation).

miceelf
07-12-2011, 11:14 AM
I don't see that he ignored medicare and social security. The point is that we have no idea how much better things could be without these entrenched systems that probably aren't the miracles they are thought to be for the reasons he gave.

irrelevant, we know how much worse things were without them. The argument he made wasn't that government interventions have less than perfect effectiveness in improving the lives of the poor; it was that government interventions don't improve the lives of the poor.

If the claim is that because they are improvable, they have no salutory effect on the lives of the poor at all, then this is a really silly line of reasoning.

miceelf
07-12-2011, 11:14 AM
I wil have to think more about this. I am still having trouble following the thinking, but that may be a receiver problem. Competing demands today.

sugarkang
07-12-2011, 11:21 AM
"Even if charter schools help more" - so far they don't, on average. This plus selection issues.

"scapegoat for teacher's unions" - no one is saying that teaching can't get better. The controversy is in how much it can get better, given the empirical reality that inequality makes the job of teaching poor kids much more difficult, and so far this isn't reflected in resources spent (there's huge inequality in neighborhoods, but near equality in resource allocation).

Okay, let's be clear. I think charters will do better in the long run, so that's my bias. However, that's not what I'm advocating. I want to see co-existence where public unions do not block charters from forming. They do this in some areas. if public schools are better then there shouldn't be a problem. I'm pretty sure you said that you weren't against charters forming, so I think we're in agreement.

As for charter performance, there are some that are showing really good results and some really poor. So, the idea would be that the poor ones die off while the good ones duplicate themselves and innovate from there. It's not fair to evaluate charters only a few years into existence. The public school system has been around forever.

It's not that I think charters will be successful for sure. It's that innovation should not be stifled.

Oh, and I don't really think public schools have bad teachers. They're usually fine in the suburbs. But the inner cities might have different needs. Chief among them, I think, is the ability to have long school hours to substitute for daycare for single mothers. A lot of public schools don't have after school programs to do the babysitting necessary. They might not have the flexibility to get the performance that some of the best charters get. There's nothing stopping public schools from duplicating charter success, either.

badhatharry
07-12-2011, 11:25 AM
irrelevant, we know how much worse things were without them. The argument he made wasn't that government interventions have less than perfect effectiveness in improving the lives of the poor; it was that government interventions don't improve the lives of the poor.

If the claim is that because they are improvable, they have no salutory effect on the lives of the poor at all, then this is a really silly line of reasoning.

That the lives of the poor were so much worse without the government is certainly a belief that many hold and that's what keeps these programs going and growing. The mistake is to think that government is the best and only way to improve those lives. I think that what the author is saying is that the lives of the poor may have been better if the government was not such a big part of their lives. (http://tpmmuckraker.talkingpointsmemo.com/2011/03/stossel_no_group_has_had_more_govt_help_than_ameri _1.php) But some just can't even consider that possibility, so on we go. I don't see any prospect of this ever changing.

miceelf
07-12-2011, 11:38 AM
That the lives of the poor were so much worse without the government is certainly a belief that many hold and that's what keeps these programs going and growing. [/URL]

http://www.csom.umn.edu/Assets/2677.pdf
http://www.bepress.com/fhep/5/3/

eeeeeeeli
07-12-2011, 11:50 AM
Well, we could even start everybody with the same amount of money. Inequality would still result.
Right. I would argue this is because of inequality in human and social capital. I don't think genetics plays much of a role. In other words, if a child has enough social capital, it will largely make up for any deficits in genes - which, anyways tend to be dispersed through a variety of intelligences, whether intellectual, social, athletic, artistic, etc. and be highly dependent on environment for expression.

The question is how much we as a society can influence social capital development. It certainly remains to be seen. But there is a lot of evidence for specific interventions, and then of course more broadly infrastructure which lubricates its independent growth.

This is interesting, but I'm not sure if I've understood you. Could you elaborate a bit?

Imagine two Warren Buffetts in the year 1960. They both start out with $1,000,000.
Buffett A: taxed at 50% per year
Buffett B: taxed at 0% per year

Fast forward to the year 2010, both Buffetts announce that they will give away most of their money to philanthropy (Bill Gates Foundation). Which Buffett has done more to help the poor?
Interesting question. First, I'm in favor of requiring the rich to pay what is fair. If you hadn't noticed, not all rich people are as generous as Gates and Buffet.

As to whether Buffet's money would have been more productive in his hands rather than the government - that would require a sophisticated analysis of where his investments went, as well as an analysis of where his money would have went were it to have been used by the government.

Seeing as the Gates foundation is entirely devoted to reducing inequality and helping the poor, while the government has a number of other priorities, many of which I agree with, many I don't, I'd probably prefer his money to go to the Gates foundation. However, if the Gates foundation was responsible for running the American government - and as a democracy no less!, its priorities would no doubt change.

Which actually gets to something fascinating about charity: its fundamentally undemocratic. In other words, if you take the view that wealth creation is largely a product of society at large, much in the way the production of honey by bees is the result of the relative capacities of the hive, and that honey can be said to owe its existence to the hive, there ought to be a strong collective claim on it.

Now, people are not bees (actually, that's a philosophical debate for another time!), but they do have complex capacities for individual wealth creation that work in profoundly dynamic interaction with society (the invisible hand), and the economy is much more complex, certainly more so than can be run by the state. But in a real sense, we can make an empirical argument for wealth being, like honey, the product of society more than the product of an individual. (To go even deeper, I would regard not only the creation of wealth as a social product, but the creation of social and human capital as well - the way we raise our kids, our cultural interests, our capacities for citizenship, etc.)

So when a government is designed democratically to provide services its citizens request, it is directing wealth democratically. Charity is the opposite - it is the direction of wealth completely undemocratically. Now, there are no doubt market forces at work in charity as well, and an invisible hand that will do no small good. But it also has its limits. A charity that provides shelter for the homeless or pet rescue in Cleveland is operating with wealth that was created* by a much more vast and diffuse public.

*I realize this notion may require more explanation, and as you may guess it involves theories of social /human capital.

badhatharry
07-12-2011, 12:06 PM
http://www.csom.umn.edu/Assets/2677.pdf
http://www.bepress.com/fhep/5/3/

This says nothing about the possibility that there may have been a better system than medicare and says nothing about the rising cost of medical care becuse of medicare's existence.

sugarkang
07-12-2011, 12:16 PM
The question is how much we as a society can influence social capital development. It certainly remains to be seen. But there is a lot of evidence for specific interventions, and then of course more broadly infrastructure which lubricates its independent growth.

I didn't mean to say it's solely genetic. That's why I lumped it in with cultural norms and inheritance as well. Social services can't take the place of a work ethic. The only thing that comes close is charter schools, that I've seen. Some of them are run like boot camps and they just instill old school discipline. When you talk about society influencing social capital development, I think that's best left to the private sector. If you get into the business of choosing which values to instill, then you're getting into choosing specific moral stances for government to take. That's a slippery slope into separation of church and state, as well.


Interesting question. First, I'm in favor of requiring the rich to pay what is fair. If you hadn't noticed, not all rich people are as generous as Gates and Buffet.

Just as a mathematical equation, if Buffett had paid 50% taxes, then he would have made hundreds of times less than if he had paid zero taxes. The question is if the government would have gotten much use through the 50% taxes to justify the hundreds of times that Buffett could have earned, only to give it all away at the end.

Then there's a question of fair. I think about this, but I also think about the utility of money, itself. If I think that rich people can create investments better than poor people can spend it, then I'd prefer the rich have it. You have to wonder why Cuban Americans are Republicans. I think it comes down to the fact that nobody knows how to spend your money more efficiently than you do. When people talk about what's fair and speak for the have nots, people tend to look up to what they don't have, instead of down, to see what they take for granted.



Which actually gets to something fascinating about charity: its fundamentally undemocratic. In other words, if you take the view that wealth creation is largely a product of society at large, much in the way the production of honey by bees is the result of the relative capacities of the hive, and that honey can be said to owe its existence to the hive, there ought to be a strong collective claim on it.
I don't take that view. I think that Google was created by Larry Page and Sergey Brin. Even over a decade later, no search engine works like theirs. It belongs to them and any American that was willing to buy their stock. Does there need to be a collective claim when anyone was free to invest in it?

miceelf
07-12-2011, 12:55 PM
This says nothing about the possibility that there may have been a better system than medicare and says nothing about the rising cost of medical care becuse of medicare's existence.

Again, not relevant to his claim. His claim wasn't that there is a better system out there than medicare, but that government programs (like medicare) don't benefit the poor.

eeeeeeeli
07-12-2011, 06:14 PM
I didn't mean to say it's solely genetic. That's why I lumped it in with cultural norms and inheritance as well. Social services can't take the place of a work ethic. The only thing that comes close is charter schools, that I've seen. Some of them are run like boot camps and they just instill old school discipline.
You mean some charter schools. Evidence shows them to marginally better, if at all. I would then point to some public schools.

Social services aren't designed to take the place of a work ethic. besides, what do you think goes into a "work ethic"? Social services can provide exactly the kind of help that allows people to develop a work ethic, as well as other things that they might need besides a work ethic. Like daycare.


When you talk about society influencing social capital development, I think that's best left to the private sector. If you get into the business of choosing which values to instill, then you're getting into choosing specific moral stances for government to take. That's a slippery slope into separation of church and state, as well.
Whoa there, you're going off the rails on the libertarian train a bit there! Examples of things offered only by the state* that qualify as social capital-building: schools, community colleges, libraries, parks, environmental regulations, job training, recreational activities, housing assistance.

*Most of these are actually offered by the private sector, but they are often exclusionary. As public goods, they offer lower-income people access that they otherwise would not be in a position of utilizing.

By offering people a good, clean library, or a free, well-kept park, a subsidized tuition, fitness classes, etc. you are indeed making a value judgement. These things are good! It is good to read books, exercise and live in a safe environment! Twisting this into some kind of state-as-church slippery slope is nonsense (as well as a fallacy, btw).



Just as a mathematical equation, if Buffett had paid 50% taxes, then he would have made hundreds of times less than if he had paid zero taxes. The question is if the government would have gotten much use through the 50% taxes to justify the hundreds of times that Buffett could have earned, only to give it all away at the end.

Then there's a question of fair. I think about this, but I also think about the utility of money, itself. If I think that rich people can create investments better than poor people can spend it, then I'd prefer the rich have it. You have to wonder why Cuban Americans are Republicans. I think it comes down to the fact that nobody knows how to spend your money more efficiently than you do. When people talk about what's fair and speak for the have nots, people tend to look up to what they don't have, instead of down, to see what they take for granted.
But we're not talking about rich people vs. poor people, we're talking about rich people vs. everyone. You picked Buffet, but what about all the failing businesses and poor decisions? The public isn't interested in investing money for profit, they do things that build civilization. As a libertarian, you must have imagined what the world would look like without government investing in its citizenry. How many children has Buffet educated, how many rivers kept clean, streets policed, food inspected, etc.?



I don't take that view. I think that Google was created by Larry Page and Sergey Brin. Even over a decade later, no search engine works like theirs. It belongs to them and any American that was willing to buy their stock. Does there need to be a collective claim when anyone was free to invest in it?
This one is easy. Who created Larry Page and Sergey Brin? ;)

sugarkang
07-12-2011, 06:43 PM
Social services aren't designed to take the place of a work ethic. besides, what do you think goes into a "work ethic"? Social services can provide exactly the kind of help that allows people to develop a work ethic, as well as other things that they might need besides a work ethic. Like daycare.
I think we agree, although you're biased in favor of public and I'm biased in favor of private. As long as public doesn't preclude the existence of charters and vice-versa, I don't see a problem.


Whoa there, you're going off the rails on the libertarian train a bit there! Examples of things offered only by the state* that qualify as social capital-building: schools, community colleges, libraries, parks, environmental regulations, job training, recreational activities, housing assistance.

By offering people a good, clean library, or a free, well-kept park, a subsidized tuition, fitness classes, etc. you are indeed making a value judgement. These things are good! It is good to read books, exercise and live in a safe environment!

Well that's the thing. I'd like all of these programs to stay if they are shown to be effective. I'd like them to be closed if they are not. More of the above doesn't mean that money is used efficiently. I mean the goal is to actually help people and not waste money, right? There's also a case of everyone paying for the interests of the few. I think this should be minimized as much as possible. I'm going to guess you like parks and forests and such. I think that those people who enjoy these things should have the burden of paying for them. Plus, there's no reason why you couldn't grant a long term lease to private business to take these money draining endeavors off the backs of the taxpayers.

If there's a time to save money, it's now.


But we're not talking about rich people vs. poor people, we're talking about rich people vs. everyone. You picked Buffet, but what about all the failing businesses and poor decisions? The public isn't interested in investing money for profit, they do things that build civilization. As a libertarian, you must have imagined what the world would look like without government investing in its citizenry. How many children has Buffet educated, how many rivers kept clean, streets policed, food inspected, etc.?

We ought to set the parameters of the debate. I've mentioned on many occasions that I'm not for zero government. My position has always been that government is necessary, but it should be kept as small as possible. That doesn't mean it has to be small. I mean it should justify its size. If it needs to be big, then it should be big.

Then there's an issue concerning the burdened and the beneficiaries. When we talk about police, firemen, post office, etc., these are all things that we enjoy more or less equally. When you get into things like state and local park maintenance or beach maintenance or state colleges and universities, you are benefiting some on the backs of others. We should reconsider these.


This one is easy. Who created Larry Page and Sergey Brin? ;)
I'm guessing you're kidding about this; or do you believe there's a collective claim on Google and all other publicly listed companies?

graz
07-12-2011, 07:10 PM
Nazi Germany may have eliminated these defects from their gene pool, but it could very well be that they are the next Ubermensch.

No, it's clearly the libertarians. (http://exiledonline.com/radicals-imbeciles-fbi-stooges-from-jerry-rubin-to-rich-fink-weve-reached-rock-bottom-baby/)So now those strange FBI’s instructions ordering their spies to lay off the “libertarian anarchists” make sense. These “anarcho-capitalist” libertarians are the stuff of the old J Edgar Hoover’s wet dreams–“radical” youths who threaten radicals, not the capitalist system. “Anarchists” who suck the air out of anarchism’s threat to capitalism, and replace it with a fierce defense of capitalism; anarchists who grovel for a pat on the head from sleazy old Republicans like Charlton Heston—in J Edgar Hoover’s wildest dreams, could he ever have imagined it? (Actually, to be fair to the folks in the FBI, they must’ve despised these libertarian suck-ups as degenerate scum. Harmless scum, and useful scum, but scum nonetheless.)

This is just another reason why libertarianism is so goddamn offensive. They’ve even managed to turn “radical” into a harmless, meaningless, anti-radical brand—they’ve sucked out everything that was dangerous, and replaced it with its every opposite, the most shameless pro-capitalist, pro-bootlicking ideology imaginable. All they kept from the hippies was the very worst, most imbecilic, self-absorbed, childish nonsense that you can find in that Jerry Rubin manifesto: the whining about teachers, the whining about wanting to smoke pot and grow out his hair.

It’s the worst of all worlds—so naturally, the FBI did everything to coddle and protect it, and make sure it alone emerged unscathed from the counter-revolution crackdown in the 1970s and early 1980s.

A perfect example of this is Rich Fink. You may not know his name, but every libertarian does, from Master Charles Koch at the top, all the way down to the lowliest George Mason University maggot. Everyone owes it all to Fink, who ranks as probably the Kochs’ (and libertarianism’s) top operative over the past four decades: Fink co-founded Americans for Prosperity, set up the outfit (Citizens for a Sound Economy) that became FreedomWorks; Fink founded the Mercatus Center at George Mason U, which you can thank for all the Republican Party deregulation and privatization policies over the past decade or two; Fink is also a board member at Koch Industries, a board member of the Kochs’ youth-recruitment libertarian outfit the Institute for Humane Studies…Fink even edits Koch Industries’ insane Bircher newsletter, which made its way into my article for The Nation on how the Kochs manipulate their employees’ voting habits.

But one thing you didn’t know about Rich Fink is this: He’s a really radical dude, in a libertarian, anarcho-capitalist radical sort of way.

eeeeeeeli
07-12-2011, 11:31 PM
I'm guessing you're kidding about this; or do you believe there's a collective claim on Google and all other publicly listed companies?

Hah! Not at all. I'm saying there is a collective claim on everyone. Mind you, I don't believe in contra-causal free will. I believe we are all caused by either genes or society, down to every decision we think we are making.

I don't see this as making anything like communism viable, or compatible with our collective or individual interests. But in as much as there is an empirical reality that everything we are and do - like any other thing or organization of things in the known universe - is determined entirely by natural law, then yes, we are created by, and owe everything we are to, society. You simply can't have an original thought that is not the direct product of the preceding eons of evolution and cultural, biological interaction.

This is weird, but say you had a tabletop covered in clay. This clay acquired sentience, and began doing and thinking. Although every thought and action was composed of clay. For the piece of clay to claim ownership of anything he did would be silly. He and the clay are one.

I think it just so happens that a system of property rights and human liberties we have agreed upon granting each other work pretty well - much of the time. At least better than any other arrangement we have tried on this scale. But on a purely metaphysical level, we don't own a damn thing.

So, the devil is in the details of how we structure our agreements. We give each other "rights". We give each other "property". And we have given the founders of Google certain rights and privileges. I think it makes sense for them to be enormously rich. However "enormously" to me means a relatively lower figure. I'm not sure what it is. But I am perfectly fine with it being dramatically lower, at least while there are other areas of society that deserve help. And I think we as citizens, not the founders of Google ought to be able to determine that.

sugarkang
07-12-2011, 11:57 PM
And we have given the founders of Google certain rights and privileges. I think it makes sense for them to be enormously rich. However "enormously" to me means a relatively lower figure. I'm not sure what it is. But I am perfectly fine with it being dramatically lower, at least while there are other areas of society that deserve help. And I think we as citizens, not the founders of Google ought to be able to determine that.

I can understand your theory on a philosophical level, but I don't think it would work on a pragmatic level. So, let's say that whatever level of income you're earning now is in the top 1% in America. Say the middle class earns about $4,000 a year and the bottom 10% earn some $400. I assume you'd be okay if everyone voted to divide your income for the good of society?

eeeeeeeli
07-13-2011, 09:40 AM
yes

sugarkang
07-13-2011, 02:37 PM
yes

Well, at least you get points for consistency. There's a word for that kind of social order. And I think it works for families and small communities, but not beyond that. There's a basic logistics issue that cannot be resolved.

If you read Hayek, perhaps we could have an interesting discussion about it.

look
07-19-2011, 02:01 AM
So I guess the debate never materialized.

I wasn't sure where to put this but I think someone might find it interesting. (http://dailycaller.com/2011/06/09/how-libertarianism-helps-the-poor/)...or not. what do I care?Thanks for the article. I did look askance at these two parts:


Good intentions often produce unintended consequences. Increased safety regulations at airports lead more families to travel by the much more dangerous method of driving and so lead to a larger number of deaths.

Read more: http://dailycaller.com/2011/06/09/how-libertarianism-helps-the-poor/#ixzz1SWmfOb5J

oppose workplace safety regulations

I'm a chronically negative person, so I tend to think safety regulations are very important :)

bjkeefe
07-19-2011, 02:04 AM
I'm a chronically negative person ...

Noted for the record.

look
07-19-2011, 02:09 AM
yesHeh. Here's an interesting podcast:

Dan Klein, of George Mason University, talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about Adam Smith's lesser-known masterpiece, The Theory of Moral Sentiments, on the 250th anniversary of its initial publication. Klein highlights key passages and concepts of the book including its relation to The Wealth of Nations, Smith's willingness to accept "vague, loose, and indeterminate" rules rather than precise ones, Smith's criteria for assessing what is moral and what is not, and Smith's conception of justice.

http://www.econtalk.org/archives/2009/04/klein_on_the_th.html#