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Wealth Distribution: For The Many Or The Few?

TheLoveBandit

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Getting to the point ...
I'd much prefer a system where one's life and livelihood doesn't require slaving away to enrich others while only receiving a tiny fraction of the wealth produced by their labor as compensation
You've described communism. Capitalism allows people to rise above their starting point. One could argue it's only the 'belief' that they can and the system won't actually allow them to, but I've seen too many people 'make it' to believe otherwise.


= = = = =

You (plural general) speak of capitalism as slavery. It's not. There is a choice involved. I'd concede western civilization builds cultures that ingrain certain beliefs that maintain the rat race, but there are alternatives available. Though, that's not really part of the impeachment discussion.
 

tathra

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Capitalism allows people to rise above their starting point
free markets allow for upward mobility, its not anything inherent or exclusive to capitalism, and for capitalism to allow upward mobility, regulation is essential, without it you quickly get monopolies using their wealth to buy laws and use the system to crush everyone else and prevent anyone from rising above the class they were born into, which is exactly what's been going on now for quite a while

this is quite harmful to people too

Despite a well-established social gradient for many mental disorders, evidence suggests that individuals near the middle of the social hierarchy suffer higher rates of depression and anxiety than those at the top or bottom. Although prevailing indicators of socioeconomic stratification (e.g., SES) cannot detect or easily explain such patterns, relational theories of social class, which emphasise political-economic processes and dimensions of power, might. We test whether the relational construct of contradictory class location, which embodies aspects of both ownership and labour, can explain this nonlinear pattern. Data on full-time workers from the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (N=21,859) show that occupants of contradictory class locations have higher prevalence and odds of depression and anxiety than occupants of non-contradictory class locations. These findings suggest that the effects of class relations on depression and anxiety extend beyond those of SES, pointing to under-studied mechanisms in social epidemiology, e.g., domination and exploitation.
There is a choice involved.
coerced choices and decisions made under duress are not free choices. you have the illusion of freedom but no actual freedom since it's entirely dependent upon one's wealth. only the tiny handful of people at the top have any freedom or choice, the overwhelming majority are forced to slave away while most of the value produced by their labor is stolen by parasites who do absolutely nothing and provide no value or services, they were just lucky enough to win the birth lottery


I think we should be in agreement that authoritarianism and centralization of power is the real problem, yes?
 

JessFR

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You've described communism. Capitalism allows people to rise above their starting point. One could argue it's only the 'belief' that they can and the system won't actually allow them to, but I've seen too many people 'make it' to believe otherwise.


= = = = =

You (plural general) speak of capitalism as slavery. It's not. There is a choice involved. I'd concede western civilization builds cultures that ingrain certain beliefs that maintain the rat race, but there are alternatives available. Though, that's not really part of the impeachment discussion.
I agree with you that capitalism is not inherently bad, and I'd much sooner live in a capitalist system than a communist one. But the specific flavor and implementation of capitalism in America is very flawed IMO and unjustifiable and, more to the point, unnecessarily unfair.

Worse still, its flaws lead many to what I believe to be a very destructive grass is always greener outlook of socialism and communism (to the extent that its ever existed).

Humanity has a habit of jumping back and forth between extremes. I'd prefer to fix capitalism before it risks driving too many people down to the even worse extreme of heavily socialist systems again.

You're right though this isn't exactly on topic.
 

TheLoveBandit

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Getting to the point ...
free markets allow for upward mobility, its not anything inherent or exclusive to capitalism, and for capitalism to allow upward mobility, regulation is essential, without it you quickly get monopolies using their wealth to buy laws and use the system to crush everyone else and prevent anyone from rising above the class they were born into, which is exactly what's been going on now for quite a while
Excellent clarification. I fully agree.

coerced choices and decisions made under duress are not free choices. you have the illusion of freedom but no actual freedom since it's entirely dependent upon one's wealth. only the tiny handful of people at the top have any freedom or choice, the overwhelming majority are forced to slave away while most of the value produced by their labor is stolen by parasites who do absolutely nothing and provide no value or services, they were just lucky enough to win the birth lottery
It's a hard argument to make either way (forgive me, I've already started down a tangent) but we all go to the same public schools and have the same opportunities in that sense, no? Those who won the money lottery at birth get advantages, certainly. Those given athletic or intellectual gifts by genetics or birth also are winning a lottery of sorts in that they get an advantage in certain aspects. My point being, there are winners and losers (poor term, but ok) at birth and that cannot be helped. But of those, do we not have the same opportunities to apply whatever dis/advantages we are born with, and the opportunity to overcome those disadvantages (or squander our advantages)?

My point being, if I took a kid born into an illiterate family that didn't encourage education, that child is still able to grow to graduate college and create a multi-million dollar business. The opportunity exists. It's much harder for some than it is for others, but but the path still exists - if one chooses that path (wealth) to self-perceived happiness. The alternative exists to live on a farm or commune and be self-reliant, without such capitalist trappings, or even to a whole different country and set of rules altogether. The opportunities exists, what one chooses to pursue, and their path to it (easy/hard) will vary.

I'll jump back to the "their labor is stolen by parasites who do absolutely nothing and provide no value or services". Do you apply that to persons who DO build their own business, get rich from it, then retire collecting money from what they created? Even if they no longer put in labor or effort?

I think we should be in agreement that authoritarianism and centralization of power is the real problem, yes?
Yes, I can also agree with this.
 

tathra

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but we all go to the same public schools and have the same opportunities in that sense, no? Those who won the money lottery at birth get advantages, certainly. Those given athletic or intellectual gifts by genetics or birth also are winning a lottery of sorts in that they get an advantage in certain aspects. My point being, there are winners and losers (poor term, but ok) at birth and that cannot be helped. But of those, do we not have the same opportunities to apply whatever dis/advantages we are born with, and the opportunity to overcome those disadvantages (or squander our advantages)?
we don't all start the same or have the same opportunities and resources available though. inner city schools are severely underfunded, whereas the wealthy buy their children into private schools and top-ranked universities. even at the bare minimum, working class and poverty-stricken families can't move to better areas with better schools like middle class families can

and that's just the start. being born into wealth gives lots of huge advantages that the less fortunate can't get. I'm sure you see that luck and not hard work is what makes people successful and wealthy. take away the wealth advantage that grows larger and larger as it continues to be passed down generation after generation and then we might finally be able to move closer to an actual meritocracy instead of the luck based class system we have now
 

Wilson Wilson

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I can't speak specifically for American capitalism, but I've seen people close to me go from poverty to having careers that netted them six figures without any university education at all let alone a top one. This was not done through government provided benefits or anything run by the state. It was done through the market. If you have a track record of working hard and working well, and you have at least a reasonable amount of intelligence, you can do well.

Now look at what happens in socialist countries. They are hardly booming economies of equally wealthy people. In fact they're often very unequal societies where the people at the top of the government have all the wealth while the average citizen is left to starve (e.g. the USSR) and just look at Venezuela right now... socialism is sure doing them well...



I would bet all these people advocating for socialism have never in their lives actually lived under socialism.

Remember: socialist countries have to build walls to keep people in, capitalist countries have to build walls to keep people out!
 

TheLoveBandit

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Getting to the point ...
we don't all start the same or have the same opportunities and resources available though. inner city schools are severely underfunded, whereas the wealthy buy their children into private schools and top-ranked universities. even at the bare minimum, working class and poverty-stricken families can't move to better areas with better schools like middle class families can

and that's just the start. being born into wealth gives lots of huge advantages that the less fortunate can't get. I'm sure you see that luck and not hard work is what makes people successful and wealthy. take away the wealth advantage that grows larger and larger as it continues to be passed down generation after generation and then we might finally be able to move closer to an actual meritocracy instead of the luck based class system we have now
Thanks for continuing this, as I'm pretty sure we've gone around on it once before as I just had a deja vu moment of where I'm getting tripped up in the logic flow.

We don't all start the same - fully agree. But you write it in terms of being rich or poor, and that determines everything, at least in how I read your words. My thinking goes beyond just being born into wealth. There is luck of birth that plays into what color your skin is, what religion you are taught (if any), what country you are in and the associated laws-resources-etc. There is luck of birth that says you are intelligent, athletic, fat, tall, talkative, introverted, etc. All of these also play a role in what opportunities you have, and what advantages you have to succeed (putting aside the definition of 'success' being relative).

Perhaps your words appear to focus on wealth as the fulcrum for success because that's the point of the thread. But I don't see that as the only factor, and that's where I'm trying to think thru this with you.

I'm sure you see that luck and not hard work is what makes people successful and wealthy.
There are instances of this, yes. But it is not the only factor. The lottery is a prime example - it proves your point that pure luck brings such an individual wealth, and yet the vast majority of such persons are quickly poor again shortly thereafter. How may professional athletes make multi-million dollar careers, only to be broke a few years removed from the league. Their children are no better off than had their parents not won the lottery or been a pro athlete. (I think I'm a bit off the mark with this in that my point may appear to be 'wealth doesn't ensure success' whereas your point is it makes the chances of success much higher; though my intent is that luck and wealth do occur, but also fail whilst hard work can succeed which you don't appear to acknowledge).

As WW points out, there are a lot of people are successful and wealthy by hard work. I think of some distant relatives I have who are each fairly well off based on the patriarch starting a business and growing it. The hard work earned him a global business, and yes, his now wealthy family are in a better position, but HE earned it for them. Moreover, the knowledge and drive to succeed in the business was taught to his kids who continue to business today. I could see you argue for luck in that his business succeeded where others had not, but it goes against the common saying that 'you make your own luck' by working hard, learning, applying yourself, and earning the chance to succeed in the right opportunity.


take away the wealth advantage that grows larger and larger as it continues to be passed down generation after generation and then we might finally be able to move closer to an actual meritocracy instead of the luck based class system we have now
I agree that a lack of wealth overall (point of the thread, TLB, focus my man) would flatten the opportunities - to your point meritocracy (what are you capable of achieving on your own merit) should become the norm. And removing capitalism (self feeding system of labor for limited gain should you work for others....though also unlimited gain if you work for yourself, mind you!), would remove a culture and infrastructure that inhibits such a meritocritous mindset. But I think this becomes a theoretical exercise, in that to remove capitalism, you have to replace it with something, and I'm not sure there is a system that operates as you might desire. Is there?

How sustainable is it after initiation? If one person's merit earns them wealth and success, do they NOT share that with their children? Do they NOT teach them the skills they themselves learned to get ahead? Passing down of hard work ethic, determination, and a willingness to fail in order to later succeed...these are not wealth, but are personality traits that point heavily to success. Are they then removed somehow as well? Again, I see myself blending in other success factors beyond wealth, but I'm still trying to fully understand your 'perfect world'.
 

tathra

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Perhaps your words appear to focus on wealth as the fulcrum for success because that's the point of the thread. But I don't see that as the only factor, and that's where I'm trying to think thru this with you.
it's definitely not the only factor, but the only one relevant for this thread. the way you fix problems is not by attacking the whole mess as one large problem but by taking care of each individual issue one at a time, one after another
 

tathra

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Not surprisingly, American billionaires have dismissed recent wealth-tax proposals as an affront to the entrepreneurial spirit to which they attribute their massive wealth. But the ultra-rich never would have their great wealth without legal subsidies from the state and reliable enforcement by the courts.


Economic inequality has moved to the top of the political agenda in many countries, including free-market poster children like the United States and the United Kingdom. The issue is mobilizing the left and causing headaches on the right, where wealth has long been viewed as worthy of celebration, not as demanding justification.

But today’s concentrations of wealth do demand justification. In 2018, Forbes listed three billionaires among its top ten most powerful people in the world. Next to the heads of states of Chinese President Xi Jinping, Russian President Vladimir Putin, US President Donald Trump, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, one finds not only the Pope, but also Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, and Google co-founder Larry Page. All three owe their power not to public position or spiritual influence but to private wealth.

As contenders in the Democratic primary for the 2020 US presidential election, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts have promised to impose new taxes on the super-wealthy. Warren’s wealth-tax proposal – a levy of 2% on every dollar of net worth above $50 million, rising to 6% for fortunes greater than $1 billion – has ruffled billionaires’ feathers. According to Gates, he has paid more in taxes than almost anybody – some $10 billion. And while he would consider it “fine” if that figure had been doubled to $20 billion, he believes a much higher tax would threaten the incentive system that led him (and others) to invest in the first place.

For his part, Michael Bloomberg, the founder of the Bloomberg news empire, a former mayor of New York City, and now a Democratic presidential contender himself, argues that a wealth tax might be unconstitutional, and that it would turn the US into the likes of Venezuela. And not to be outdone, Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg has suggested that taxing billionaires’ wealth would lead to worse outcomes than leaving it where it is, implying that the ultra-wealthy know better than the peoples’ elected representatives how tax revenues should be spent.

Note the sense of entitlement underlying each of these reactions. Each man’s billions, we are told, belong to him; he earned the money and should therefore get to decide how to spend it, be it on philanthropic projects, taxes, or neither. The billionaires tell us that they are willing to pay a fair share of taxes, but that there is some undefined threshold where the incentives to innovate and invest will be thrown into reverse. At that point, apparently, the ultra-wealthy will go on strike, leaving the rest of us worse off.

But this perspective ignores the fact that accumulated wealth is largely a product of law, and by implication of the state and the people who constitute it. As economist Thomas Piketty demonstrates in his 2014 book, Capital in the Twenty-First Century, the rich today hold most of their wealth in financial assets, which are simply legally protected promises to receive future cash flows. Take away legal enforceability, and all that remains is hope, not a secure asset.

Moreover, the private empires over which today’s billionaires preside are organized as legally chartered corporations, which makes them creatures of the law, not of nature. The corporate form shields the personal wealth of the founders and other shareholders from the corporation’s creditors. It also facilitates the diversification of risk within a company, by allowing discrete pools of assets to be created, each with its own set of creditors who are barred from making claims on another asset pool, even though the parent company’s management controls all of them.
Further, the company’s own shares can be used as currency when acquiring other companies. When Facebook bought WhatsApp, it covered $12 billion of the $16 billion purchase price with its own shares, paying only $4 billion in cash. And, as with Facebook, corporate law can be used to cement control by founders and their affiliates through dual-class share structures that grant them more votes than everyone else. As such, they need not fear elections or takeovers of any kind.

Finally, companies whose assets take the form of intellectual property (IP) and other intangibles tend to rely even more on the helping hand of the law. As of 2018, 84% of the market capitalization of the S&P 500 was held in such intangible assets. It takes a legal intervention to turn ideas, skills, and knowhow – which are free to be shared by anybody – into exclusive property rights that are enforced by the full power of the state. And in recent years, Microsoft and other US tech companies have boosted their earning power significantly by promoting US-style IP rules around the world through the World Trade Organization’s body for Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS).

To be sure, there are good reasons for states to adopt laws that empower private agents to reap the rewards of organizing businesses and developing new products and services. But let’s call a spade a spade and a (legal) subsidy a subsidy. While Bezos, Bloomberg, Gates, and Zuckerberg may well be savvy entrepreneurs, they also have benefited on a massive scale from the helping hand of legislatures and courts around the world. This hand is more contingent than the invisible one immortalized by Adam Smith, because its vitality depends on a widely shared belief in the rule of law. The erosion of that belief, not a tax, poses the greatest threat to billionaires’ wealth.
 

Infernal

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Not surprisingly, American billionaires have dismissed recent wealth-tax proposals as an affront to the entrepreneurial spirit to which they attribute their massive wealth. But the ultra-rich never would have their great wealth without legal subsidies from the state and reliable enforcement by the courts.
I really wish that article would go further and state it plainly. Wealth concentration cannot exist without the enforcement of a huge oppressive state. There is no form of capitalism without a large state so the notion of "free market" is always a clever fantasy or a tacit misunderstanding of Adam Smith.
 

Xorkoth

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Of course, without that structure, we would be back to the days of warlords, where the most violent and physically powerful, or those with the most weapons and least empathy, would dominate everyone else.
 

Wilson Wilson

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that right there is the dream for ancaps
And if socialists took down the state they'd just... be nice to everyone? Somehow enforce everyone get exactly equal without also creating a big state of their own? :unsure:
 

tathra

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And if socialists took down the state they'd just... be nice to everyone? Somehow enforce everyone get exactly equal without also creating a big state of their own? :unsure:
you're conflating socialism with authoritarianism. until you actually learn what socialism is and start making your arguments in good faith there's no point in responding. no point in wasting time on your strawmen and red herrings
 

Wilson Wilson

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you're conflating socialism with authoritarianism. until you actually learn what socialism is and start making your arguments in good faith there's no point in responding. no point in wasting time on your strawmen and red herrings
So you're throwing buzzwords at me without being able to explain how your socialist utopia would actually work? What a surprise.

The point I was making is you simply cannot have a socialist country without a large state. The authoritarianism is required to enforce the socialist ideals. They go hand in hand.

That's not a strawman it's just history.
 

Wilson Wilson

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why would I bother wasting time and effort on someone clearly acting in bad faith?
"I don't have a response so I'll just accuse you of something as an excuse to not engage."

Lefties are so predicable. Can't even answer simple questions like "how would your socialist state actually work?" There's a reason for that: because it never will.

P.S. Also very ironic you are accusing me of acting in bad faith when in the other thread you just threw a bunch of ad homs at me then stormed off 😂
 
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Infernal

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Of course, without that structure, we would be back to the days of warlords, where the most violent and physically powerful, or those with the most weapons and least empathy, would dominate everyone else.
Or alternatively, a system where what is currently thought of as private property, the means of production, is instead held Democratically. The notion of "held by your own force" as a distributive instead of an individual is an entirely different can of beans.
 

Infernal

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And if socialists took down the state they'd just... be nice to everyone? Somehow enforce everyone get exactly equal without also creating a big state of their own? :unsure:
Good gravy no. Most realistic models tend to posit a segment of rights that are held in kind by everyone, namely things like food, healthcare, shelter, water, and education. Anything beyond that is "each according to his ability" as the old line goes. A skilled doctor is going to have more labor value for a number of reasons based on skill, demand, level of education, etc that say a skilled office manager. That's not to degrade the skilled office manager either, that's just a realistic assessment of labor value. And yes, I think a system where everyone has their basic needs met as a starting point is going to gain enough support so that the population as a whole enforces it reflexively rather than risk losing it. Beyond that, its up to the individual to achieve through their own wants and desires which doesn't happen in the current capitalist form of economics. Yes, sure, there are your "bootstrap" stories but they aren't, aren't a whole, as cut and dried as people make them out to be, rather a large portion of those stories are based on things like desirable starting education, stable homes, hereditary income, etc.
 
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