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Billionaires, making the world a better place (for them)

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On 4/9/2019 at 9:36 AM, Spring Bass said:

You could apply that criticism to any NGO or charity effort. An NGO funded by one billionaire isn't any less accountable to the broader democratic government than a charity funded by ten thousand donors giving a couple grand each. It's just setting an arbitrary standard about what an "acceptable" level of personal influence is in society. 

I think there is some huge criticisms that could be aimed at charities.  For example, whether the spread of research funding across cancer types is anywhere near optimal.  But you always run into the headache that if you regulated/controlled them .... would you get anywhere near the number of volunteers as currently spend time on a whole range of activities?

Its a tough one. 

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Posted (edited)
17 hours ago, Khaleesi did nothing wrong said:

I agree with that. As an American you are probably used to dealing with people who are much more hardcore capitalist than I am.

I'll put it this way. There is a prominent and influential American economist, Robert Lucas, who is associated with the U. of Chicago, and who has even won a noble prize that basically made the comment that the study of inequality isn't a legitimate field of study for economics.

Here is the quote:

"Of the tendencies that are harmful to sound economics, the most seductive, and in my opinion the most poisonous, is to focus on questions of distribution."

My reaction to reading that is who in the fuck died and made you the economics discussion obersturmfuhrer there Lucas?

Think about that. A prominent economist basically saying that the study of inequality and distribution is "seductive and poisonous".  Does that have any logical basis? No, I would think not. It has to come from bias, likely influenced by cultural attitudes, at least to some extent.

Fortunately, there are a few smart people that have rightly ignored Lucas' opinion on this matter and are trying to seriously study these matters.

Edited by OldGimletEye

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59 minutes ago, OldGimletEye said:

I'll put this way. There is a prominent and influential American economist, Robert Lucas, who is associated with the U. of Chicago, and who has even won a noble prize that basically made the comment that the study of inequality isn't a legitimate field of study for economics.

Here is the quote:

"Of the tendencies that are harmful to sound economics, the most seductive, and in my opinion the most poisonous, is to focus on questions of distribution."

My reaction to reading that is who in the fuck died and made you the economics discussion obersturmfuhrer there Lucas?

Think about that. A prominent economist basically saying that the study of inequality and distribution is "seductive and poisonous".  Does that have any logical basis? No, I would think not. It has to come from bias, likely influenced by cultural attitudes, at least to some extent.

Fortunately, there are a few smart people that have rightly ignored Lucas' opinion on this matter and are trying to seriously study these matters.

You could have stopped at the bolded lets be honest

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2 minutes ago, HelenaExMachina said:

You could have stopped at the bolded lets be honest

I know. But, not everyone knows the drivel that comes from there, particularly those not from the US.

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10 minutes ago, OldGimletEye said:

I know. But, not everyone knows the drivel that comes from there, particularly those not from the US.

I wouldn't be so sure. I've associated "U of Chicago" with "bullshit economics" for quite a while now, and all the people I know who have some knowledge of economics too.
When I read about the Virginia school not long ago I was surprised to find out some of my friends had known all about it for decades...

If anything, this guy Lucas is interesting because he pushes the bullshit to its logical conclusion and is honest about not caring about inequalities, or fairness, or the poor, or anything vaguely humane. He's the type of guy that can easily be used to show how full of shit these pseudo-economists are. So in a sense, I like him. I'll try to find something he wrote and have my students read it.

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4 minutes ago, Rippounet said:

 So in a sense, I like him. I'll try to find something he wrote and have my students read it.

There is so much to rant about, it's hard to know where even to begin. LOL.

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25 minutes ago, Rippounet said:

I wouldn't be so sure. I've associated "U of Chicago" with "bullshit economics" for quite a while now, and all the people I know who have some knowledge of economics too.

Well that is good. Just as a reminder. Back in the day, the likes of Cochrane and Fama were arguing the economy works according to MV = Py in order to stop those wild eyed liberals from doing something stupid.

And I wonder where are the opinion pieces in the WSJ, reminding Trump, Cain, and Moore that the economy works according to MV = Py. 

Hmm.

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Economics might be dismal, but I am not sure it is a science. Today I heard in the radio that some council for the German ministry of economics "corrected" the prediction of the 2019 growth rate to 0.5 %. In january or so they were at 1.0 % (or whatever, I am not looking this up, you get the message). In any natural science people would be laughed out of the lab or the lecture hall if they expected to get paid for memoranda and predictions they had to "correct" by a factor of two within  two months. In economics that's just par for the course. I am not saying that it is useless but their pretention to be like physics are insufferable.

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3 minutes ago, Jo498 said:

Economics might be dismal, but I am not sure it is a science. Today I heard in the radio that some council for the German ministry of economics "corrected" the prediction of the 2019 growth rate to 0.5 %. In january or so they were at 1.0 % (or whatever, I am not looking this up, you get the message). In any natural science people would be laughed out of the lab or the lecture hall if they expected to get paid for memoranda and predictions they had to "correct" by a factor of two within  two months. In economics that's just par for the course. I am not saying that it is useless but their pretention to be like physics are insufferable.

The disadvantage that economics has with respect to many of the natural sciences is that most of the empirical work can't be done in the lab. We have to rely on observational data. And whole host of issues can crop up like endogeneity and so forth. So that means there is going to be a lot more uncertainty.

That said it shouldn't become an exercise in anything goesism. I'm pretty certain that MV = Py isn't a good description of the economy.

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Here is the quote:

"Of the tendencies that are harmful to sound economics, the most seductive, and in my opinion the most poisonous, is to focus on questions of distribution."

cool.  a conceptual darwin award laureate that yields the debate to the other side.  am accordingly anticipating a day when bataille's analysis of general economy monopolizes the question.

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That's one tough question. The problem of (in)equality and fair distribution of wealth is one humanity has been struggling with for a long time now.

One one hand, some people (usually on the conservative end of specter) will claim that society is made out of individuals who differ in ability, intelligence or industriousness. Thus, smarter, more talented or hard working individuals will naturally rise to the top and earn more thanks to their ability. To take away their legitimately earned wealth would be downright unfair. And not only unfair; for since society should promote and reward excellence in its individuals – it would also be downright regressive. And these are some fine points.

To this, other people (usually on the left) will counter that such meritocracy is purely imaginary i.e. nonexistent in reality. They'll point out that the system can be inherently flawed and rigged in favour of the rich. Rich will bribe and lobby with the politicians, pay their workers less than they deserve, launder their money and cheat on taxes – and use their power and influence to get away with it all. Thus, left will argue, we need some sort of control (whether it's government control of the market, progressive taxes, independent media, legally required minimal wage...) so that the system is not abused, and to make sure that people at the bottom of the totem pole don't get chewed and mistreated by the people at the top. All of these are, as well, legitimate points.

Society we know today tries to dance carefully between these two sides. Both freedom on one end and equality on the other are important values we all hold dear, and it's clear there has to be some kind of compromise between them. And what compromise it is and how to achieve it is pretty much anyone's guess. USA, for example, leers more towards former, while Scandinavian states gravitate towards latter (with countless layers between them) and each is trying its best to balance between the two. Correct trade-off is difficult to find.

With that in mind, I'm very wary of answers such as let's just get rid of all rich. Overly simplistic answer which proposes to solve quite an complex and multi-layered problem with one simple fix. Moreover, I find that whole idea that – if someone is rich: it automatically means he obtained his wealth by malice, oppression or deception and should thus be punished for it – very dangerous. Dangerous and potentially leading to a political, economical and humanistic disaster; and I say this as someone who has considered himself as leftist since he was old enough to think.

And to end on an optimistic note – I'm less inclined to deal with ultra-rich as a problem, as long as we're doing fine on the other end of the spectrum. And for now, we're doing much better than ever before, in fact, we're doing great. Rate of absolute poverty is quickly diminishing. Less and less people are dying from starvation. Life expectancy is increasing. It would seem that overall growth in world's wealth is pouring into the pockets of people who need it the most at least to some degree, and that's an awesome thing.

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Posted (edited)

Well, if you want to consider 'great' 3 superpowers (russia sorta) with autocratic to dictatorship governments and actors purposefully increasing wealth inequality on those to sub-second world levels to create instability for further looting and nazism and genocide all over the world, all while a global and extremely dangerous climate crisis that was ignored for more than 50 years by those commercial interests and is *still* being maliciously ignored and that will kill at least 5 to 20% of the 'people who need it the most'...

Yeah, things are 'great', sarcasm end. You're seriously brainwashed there. Enjoy goose stepping i guess. Meanwhile, i hope Iran gets some nukes to protect itself from these clearly deranged and evil rogue state actors that are engaged in multiple multilevel conspiracies against humanity and justice. Fair is fair, Saudi Arabia was just gifted nuke plans by the corrupt USA government, so it's a matter of time before they're nuked by Riyhad (genocidal rogue state of which 'we' are currently ignoring a major genocide again in Yemen because they pay Trump).

In fact, with the way things are going all countries with a bit of army security should get at least some nukes. Makes nazi governments think twice 'what if i didn't get all of them?'.

Sure bro, capitalism is doing super nice, just as it's in general entering automation is cutting of real salaries and will eventually plunge the 'developing world' and the 'lower and mid classes' in the developed world into tremendous poverty again, only with the 'promise' of global warming and no way to compete on production or indeed any foreign money, except to be pillaged for rare earth resources by foreign interests, and oh, these governments appear to be nazi mafias with less than zero respect for life or self determination (or with minimal differences in the case of the red army). WTF, take off your blinders.

Edited by Serious Callers Only

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Why is it so hard to respond to one post politely and without ad-hominems?

I didn't say we've solved all our problems or things are perfect, I said things are getting better. And I gave three pieces of data: that rate of poverty is getting lower , that malnutrition is decreasing, and that life expectancy is increasing. All of these, it's important to note, relate directly to the issue we're discussing here: the one of wealth distribution.

You've rebutted none of these; instead going completely off tangent with climate change and nuclear warheads (which, btw, Iran is the last country you'd want them to get. Being enemy of your "enemies" doesn't make them swell). These are major problems, I agree, but utterly unrelated to this thread topic - and hence I didn't mention them. If you're interested in discussion, maybe make a separate thread.

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Posted (edited)

Oh wow, a obvious malicious conspiracy for oil profits that will beggar and turn fucking inhabitable the majority of Africa, and part south america (and Australia and the Philippines i guess) has 'nothing to do with wealth inequality'. I'm done. You've convinced me with your flawless logic of detached analysis of variables in isolation.

Poverty and hunger are decreasing... so it will continue to decrease as countries get inhabitable and genocide happens. Just capitalist extrapolations.

I think Iran is exactly who should get nukes, not because i'm some sort of Islamist, but because if you want to perserve peace on the region you probablllly don't want Saudi Arabia to nuke Tehran at the behest of the united states or get the United States invading for oil.

These are obvious things. Tehran gets a few nukes, Iran doesn't get invaded, millions of people don't die for the greed and megalomania of a few fucking morons. (including certain US generals and the unfortunate President). (Though, i wouldn't be surprised if Russia had already sold them in secret for oil).

Edited by Serious Callers Only

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3 hours ago, Knight Of Winter said:

One one hand, some people (usually on the conservative end of specter) will claim that society is made out of individuals who differ in ability, intelligence or industriousness. Thus, smarter, more talented or hard working individuals will naturally rise to the top and earn more thanks to their ability. To take away their legitimately earned wealth would be downright unfair. And not only unfair; for since society should promote and reward excellence in its individuals – it would also be downright regressive. And these are some fine points.

Not really, because wealth is mostly inherited. It was technically proven anew by Piketty in recent times, but it's something that's obvious once you think about it. Which means that inequalities generally speaking are also inherited.

There's a lot of energy spent convincing us that the rich are people who deserve their wealth because they are smarter, more industrious, or more talented when in actuality it's just access to better education and better standards of living. And then, more often than not, even the best educations can't compensate for the fact that the rich are, on average, as smart, industrious, or talented as anyone else. In fact, there's even a growing body of research showing that people who are born into wealth are worse than average at managing wealth, which is also something fairly obvious when you think about it.

The reason we live in unequal societies is because everyone wants to bequeath whatever they earned (or own) in their lifetime to their children - it's human. However there's no valid reason not to tax the shit out of inheritance, as long as the tax is progressive.

And this is is just scratching the surface. Of course, the ideology saying the rich deserve their wealth is another way of saying the poor deserve their poverty, which can be linked either to a twisted vision of socio-economic factors or to silly religious notions of predestination/divine justice, both of which are probably as old as humanity itself. Fact is, there is no reason to be rich at birth whatsoever so the rich have always worked hard to invent reasons to convince everyone else to let them keep inherited wealth. Basically it's genuine meritocracy versus class warfare, and class warfare wins more often than not.

Anyway, it's perfectly possible to have a meritocracy without having inherited wealth. The two are completely unrelated. In fact, there are many reasons to think that meritocracy is hindered by inherited wealth in tons of ways. Expensive education being the most obvious one.

2 hours ago, Knight Of Winter said:

I didn't say we've solved all our problems or things are perfect, I said things are getting better. And I gave three pieces of data: that rate of poverty is getting lower , that malnutrition is decreasing, and that life expectancy is increasing. All of these, it's important to note, relate directly to the issue we're discussing here: the one of wealth distribution.

Is it though? You'd have to show that these good news are actually linked to the topic at hand. There are many reasons to think that the rate of poverty is getting lower in spite of a fundamentally unfair socio-economic system, not thanks to it. Same goes for malnutrition and life expectancy: to say that the good news are due to capitalism is a dubious proposition at best, though of course it depends one what means by "capitalism" exactly.
At any rate, that the existence of billionaires is a cause for the fact that things are indeed getting slightly better is in my eyes an extraordinary proposition that would warrant some kind of proof. In other words, from where I'm sitting it's not up to people to rebut these points unless you first show that they are actually linked in the first place.

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5 hours ago, Knight Of Winter said:

I find that whole idea that – if someone is rich: it automatically means he obtained his wealth by malice, oppression or deception and should thus be punished for it – very dangerous.

Punished? Saying "you can only have ten times as much wealth as the rest of us" would hardly be considered much of a punishment in any other context! And people who suggest guillotining the lot of them are almost always joking, not making a serious demand that needs to be argued against.

5 hours ago, Knight Of Winter said:

And to end on an optimistic note – I'm less inclined to deal with ultra-rich as a problem, as long as we're doing fine on the other end of the spectrum. And for now, we're doing much better than ever before, in fact, we're doing great. Rate of absolute poverty is quickly diminishing. Less and less people are dying from starvation.

People are still literally starving to death, and that's "doing great"??? Personally I consider it to be horrific that it happens at all, even if it's happening at a lower rate than it used to. I'd argue that the ultra-rich are a huge weight greatly slowing our progress towards eliminating poverty, and we have the resources to end starvation virtually overnight if we made it our priority. And relative poverty is also a serious problem, if not as severe as absolute poverty.

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44 minutes ago, Rippounet said:

Not really, because wealth is mostly inherited. It was technically proven anew by Piketty in recent times, but it's something that's obvious once you think about it. Which means that inequalities generally speaking are also inherited.

There's a lot of energy spent convincing us that the rich are people who deserve their wealth because they are smarter, more industrious, or more talented when in actuality it's just access to better education and better standards of living. And then, more often than not, even the best educations can't compensate for the fact that the rich are, on average, as smart, industrious, or talented as anyone else. In fact, there's even a growing body of research showing that people who are born into wealth are worse than average at managing wealth, which is also something fairly obvious when you think about it.

My point was - even in most equal society with everyone starting with equal wealth and equal opportunities - some people will rise to the (economic) top thanks to competence, ability or at least sheer luck. Society with equal outcome for everyone would thus be deeply unfair.

Other than that, I pretty much concur with this part of your post. Yeah, it is "undeserved" that some people are enjoying a luxurious life through inheritance rather than doing anything productive, but I don't see any good way to fix this.

 

59 minutes ago, Rippounet said:

And this is is just scratching the surface. Of course, the ideology saying the rich deserve their wealth is another way of saying the poor deserve their poverty, which can be linked either to a twisted vision of socio-economic factors or to silly religious notions of predestination/divine justice, both of which are probably as old as humanity itself. Fact is, there is no reason to be rich at birth whatsoever so the rich have always worked hard to invent reasons to convince everyone else to let them keep inherited wealth. Basically it's genuine meritocracy versus class warfare, and class warfare wins more often than not.

You're arguing against social darwinism here, which is not the ideology I either support or think anyone should be implementing.  Just as I think there's bound to be inequality in any society, no matter how just or fair, I'm also aware that these inequalities are (partially) fault of rigged system. If there's anything I'm arguing against - these are oversimplifications of the problem of social (in)equality and naive solutions that people propose. Lots of people here seem to think that taxing the shit out of rich at every opportunity is the magic wand that will make all things better, which is, IMO, gross oversimplification.
 

1 hour ago, Rippounet said:

Anyway, it's perfectly possible to have a meritocracy without having inherited wealth. The two are completely unrelated. In fact, there are many reasons to think that meritocracy is hindered by inherited wealth in tons of ways. Expensive education being the most obvious one. 

If it's possible, when are where was it achieved - in which country and in what time period? I'm not being facetious here - I'd genuinely like to know.
 

1 hour ago, Rippounet said:

Is it though? You'd have to show that these good news are actually linked to the topic at hand. There are many reasons to think that the rate of poverty is getting lower in spite of a fundamentally unfair socio-economic system, not thanks to it. Same goes for malnutrition and life expectancy: to say that the good news are due to capitalism is a dubious proposition at best, though of course it depends one what means by "capitalism" exactly.

Lots of legitimate criticisms can be thrown out before capitalism: that it cares more for abstract concept of money rather than people, that it exploits, that it alienates the worker from his work etc. However, it has at least one thing going for it: sheer productivity. It always produces more resources than either feudalism or communism or any other economic system.

Since we're talking about malnutrition, do you know when was the last time western country (as apotheoses of capitalism) was struck by a natural famine? Sweden, in 1869. What was the last time communist or non-capitalist country in general was struck? Much more recent, and with much higher death toll: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_famines .I find it very hard to argue that socioeconomic system has nothing to do with it.

One could also argue that advances in science and technology had something to do with it, that new scientific discoveries and technological advancement improved quality of life for everyday people, and that reflected in less poverty, longer life expectancy, less malnutrition and other similar stuff. But then again, which countries made most technological and economical advances advances  in the last few centuries - capitalist or non-capitalist? Which countries invented/discovered electricity, steam energy, trains, cars, radio internet, market stock or most vaccines?

Like you, I also think capitalism is full of flaws. I'm not defending it because I think it's great, but because I think all the other systems we tried are much worse. Nowdays, in the 21st century, pretty much every person that posts here is living in a capitalist system with some socialist elements. Personally, I think that this combination works better than anything else and that we should contunue investing in it - if nothing else, for the lack of better alternatives. If you have a different opinion, I'm eager for a discussion.

 

17 minutes ago, felice said:

People are still literally starving to death, and that's "doing great"??? Personally I consider it to be horrific that it happens at all, even if it's happening at a lower rate than it used to. I'd argue that the ultra-rich are a huge weight greatly slowing our progress towards eliminating poverty, and we have the resources to end starvation virtually overnight if we made it our priority. And relative poverty is also a serious problem, if not as severe as absolute poverty.

Yes, I'm calling it great, because it's way way better than anything we had in the last 10,000 years. Teleport yourself to pretty much any country during any period of human history and you'd see what I'm talking about. You'd encounter widespread poverty. Constant wars. People getting killed literally in millions by diseases today eradicated. You'd face slavery pretty much everywhere. You'd see most children dying before the age of 15, if they managed to survive than long at all. To not call today's world "great" would be deeply dishonest in my mind. And all of this is not a reasons for complacency and self-pride, but rather a somber call to improve even further and eradicate poverty and diseases once and for all, to enable people all around the world lives worthy of human beings.

And if you're worried about "we have the resources to end starvation virtually overnight", consider that this is probably the first time in history that we can make such a claim. Before people were starving not just because of uneven distribution, but for simple lack of resources. That we even have enough to feed all the people is a huge step forward.

As I noted, if we're more concerned about the poor that about the rich, let's consider the fact that being poor nowdays is much better than being poor 100 or 1000 years ago. It would mean that we're at least doing something right regards to distribution of our resources :)

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5 minutes ago, Knight Of Winter said:

Society with equal outcome for everyone would thus be deeply unfair.

Except I never said anything about equal outcome. Quite the contrary in fact.

Careful, this is a mistake when discussing such issues. It's too often assumed that leftists think in terms of equal outcome. I certainly don't. Equality of outcome is a disaster. What I'm talking about is equality of opportunity.

5 minutes ago, Knight Of Winter said:

Lots of legitimate criticisms can be thrown out before capitalism: that it cares more for abstract concept of money rather than people, that it exploits, that it alienates the worker from his work etc. However, it has at least one thing going for it: sheer productivity.

Yes, but as I said, it depends what one means by "capitalism."

The thing about capitalism is that we all think in terms of private capital. We even think in terms of monetary creation coming from the private sector these days. But that capital be private isn't a necessity, and even if you support private capital there's still many variations of that.
In a nutshell, one could imagine capitalism without the capitalists. You keep the injection of funds and the incentives for hard-work and innovation (for private enterprises), but you don't have people profiting from the injection of funds itself.
Funnily enough, I do believe that *has* been tried, and has been *very* successful.

13 minutes ago, Knight Of Winter said:

If it's possible, when are where was it achieved - in which country and in what time period? I'm not being facetious here - I'd genuinely like to know.

You don't need to look for a perfect meritocracy (I really need to go to bed, so I can't bother to dig that deep tbh). You just need to study how free quality education correlates with greater social mobility. There's tons of data about that.

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The suggestion that things are too inequal does not and should not mean 'so everyone should be equal', and any argument along that lines can be obviously dismissed as not being in good faith. Humans, like all other ape families, have a genetic predisposition to hierarchies and leadership roles, and with those roles comes added importance and wealth. 

And humans, like apes (and monkeys), tend to rebel when something is obviously and too heavily unfair. 

 

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2 hours ago, Kalbear said:

The suggestion that things are too inequal does not and should not mean 'so everyone should be equal', and any argument along that lines can be obviously dismissed as not being in good faith. Humans, like all other ape families, have a genetic predisposition to hierarchies and leadership roles, and with those roles comes added importance and wealth. 

And humans, like apes (and monkeys), tend to rebel when something is obviously and too heavily unfair. 

 

And they respond pretty strongly when presented with a family of orange chimpanzee aristocrats and told they got where they are due to merit.

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