Wealth and Inequality: Rationalizations From the Mount

Monday, April 09, 2007 at 09:02 PM

Everyone has heard that the gap between rich and poor is rapidly growing in this country. Alan Greenspan of all people has said that the very nature of democratic society is threatened by the phenomenon. So what would the wealthy, those winners in the inequality sweepstakes, do to combat the potential backlash from the vast majority of Americans who are the losers in this sweepstakes? Rationalize, of course; rationalize, rationalize, defend, defend and deny.

On the "old" Watching the Watchers, I described Neil Cavuto's ode to the rich, titled "Eat the Rich?", and Rich Lowry's paean to those brave and noble CEOs who take down such large chunks of money, "Leave the CEOs Alone." Certainly if any groups need protection, it would be the very wealthy and corporate CEOs, so hats off to Cavuto and Lowry.

But now the brave and lonely stand of those two paragons of courage is, at least, less lonely. They got company folks, and the company is growing fast.

For example, Jon Markman at MSN recently penned a piece titled "The superrich are doing you a favor." It's probably a testament to Markman's skill at offering up facts with tongue sunk in cheek that I really can't quite tell if the title and piece are roasting or toasting the megarich. Witness this excerpt:

In fact, the superrich spend so much more of their mountains of money, according to a new line of thinking among academics, that they may provide a public service by smoothing out the little dents and valleys in the global economy. As scads of Russians, Chinese, Indians and South Americans have joined the billionaires club due to the rise of emerging markets' industrial might, worldwide recessions have become much fewer in number and far slighter in severity than in past decades.

This makes sense, even if it doesn't make you feel better. For just when many average people in the United States or Europe are slowing down their consumption of goods and services due to the loss of a job or pending home foreclosure, there are an increasing number of superrich worldwide to fill in the spending gap. It's sort of a perverse fulfillment of the trickle-down theory.

In any case, the piece offers up a bowl full of interesting facts on the super rich, including:

  • The wealthiest one million people in the world account for as much spending as 60 million other households
  • Russian natural resources has helped create at least two dozen Russian billionaires and thousands more multimillionaires
  • China is now home to 500,000 millionaires
  • Business Week reports 83,000 millionaires in India

Man, just reading about all this wealth, all this vibrant and humming economic activity in so many places around the globe makes you want to salute these capital captains, doesn't it? Soldiers of solvency, controllers of their own, and everyone else's, destiny.

But the capstone in the defensive ring around the rich has to be the piece by Peter Schwartz, of the Ayn Rand Institute, who launched an impassioned defense titled In Defense of Income Inequality. Schwartz goes further than pointing out that the rich pay more taxes, or that CEOs have a tough, tough job. He frankly doesn't care about that. It's all a matter of philosophical principle to him: if you even look to how much the rich have accumulated in deciding that inequality is an injustice, then you are guilty of "us[ing] a perverse standard of evaluation."

He begins with this:

Income inequality, in a free market, represents something good; the campaign against it rests on the egalitarian view that the most able should not be permitted to surpass the least able.

The issue of income inequality reveals one of the ugliest aspects of today's culture. The ugliness stems not from the existence of income inequality -- but from the motives of those who denounce it.

Income inequality used to be a rabble-rousing issue of the left. Now it is being raised by mainstream figures, from the head of the Federal Reserve to President Bush, who are apologetically trying to offer solutions.

In the course of his attack on those who attack inequality, he freely admits:

... that while the bottom tier enjoyed a 4 percent rise in income, the top tier enjoyed a 34 percent increase ... that over the past 25 years, the share of income of the top fifth of households climbed from 42 percent to 50 percent, while that of the bottom fifth fell from 7 percent to 5 percent.

But, he says, the actual problem is certainly "not a growth in poverty," not given that "between 1979 and 2006 -- the period during which income inequality has supposedly become more acute -- real wages for the median worker rose 11.5 percent. Even workers in the lowest tenth percentile had an increase of 4 percent."

The real problem for him is that those who attack inequality are "egalitarians," and:

They are motivated by what Ayn Rand called "hatred of the good": if they lack something of value, they want to make sure nobody else has it either.

If I understand him (and I have enough of a headache to think that I do), he thinks that someone unable to pay the medical bills for a sick relative wants not to be able to pay the bills, but to prevent other, wealthier people from being able to the bills for their relatives. Which is total crap. And obviously so. And, I suspect, a knowing offer of crap in order to push an agenda.

You can start that analysis with his choice of time periods: "between 1979 and 2006." Well, inequality may well have grown during the earlier part of that period, but certainly not at the incredible pace it has grown since 2000.

Then there's the claim that poverty isn't rising. That's not what the statistic say. A McClatchy Newspapers analysis of 2005 census figures found:

... that the number of severely poor Americans grew by 26 percent from 2000 to 2005. That's 56 percent faster than the overall poverty population grew in the same period. McClatchy's review also found statistically significant increases in the percentage of the population in severe poverty in 65 of 215 large U.S. counties, and similar increases in 28 states.

And, as I've noted before, the very thresholds used to determine poverty are laughable. The poverty threshold for a single person in 2005 was $ 9,973 -- less than federal minimum wage.

Of course, it's easy for the Ayn Randers to declare poverty not to be a problem. After all, Rand is dead and of little need for money. Schwartz is, presumably, paid by the Ayn Rand Institute well enough to avoid poverty. And it's safe to assume that all or most of the Institute's supporters aren't exactly living out of a shopping cart. Cavuto's doing okay, as is Lowry, and the CEOs of major corporations, and the large stockholders in those corporations, and certainly the Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld families.

But there aren't enough people doing really well, and the Rich know it. Greenspan knew it, for God's sake! So the rich and their throne tenders need to keep up the pretense, they need to say this nonsense over and over, they need to back the nonsense up with quasi-analysis based on semi-facts, and they need to disseminate the nonsense as widely as they can manage.

All the rest of us can do is point out the nonsense, whenever and wherever we can. And eventually, the 21st century's mimicry of the 19th century robber barons will come to a close. Eventually.

Comments

I think that in the media they in fact label the issue as "Income Inequality." I think it means that the difference in incomes is unfair; therefore if you produce a lot and make a lot of money, it is somehow unfair. While if you produce little and make very little, that is also somehow unfair. But where will the money come from to bandage the income inequality? Well, the rich have too much, they got it unfairly, probably by taking it from the poor, while the poor have too little, and it's the fault of the rich; so the money is obviously going to go from the rich and into the hands of the poor. To do that ignores that the ones who are rich earned it, so it's being taken away, unjustly so, because they did nothing wrong; what is the net effect? You are taking from the rich for being rich, for being able to earn more than the poor. I also got a headache from reading Schwartz's article, but I think that's what he's trying to point out. So it comes out as being: the poor can't understand how someone got so rich, but because they aren't themselves rich, they don't want the rich to be rich either. I'm a student who supports himself. I have seen those who complain about the rich and never do any work themselves. But it's a fact that values and wealth have to be produced; that requires action on the part of each individual, to take the elements and produce values. In modern day society, you produce those values indirectly by specializing in a specific field. Instead of building your own house, shed, chopping trees, hunting for food, you can do it easily by sweeping a floor, sitting at a desk, or racing a car. And that's the benefit of living in an advanced society; it makes everyone richer.

"But there aren't enough people doing really well, and the Rich know it. Greenspan knew it, for God's sake! So the rich and their throne tenders need to keep up the pretense, they need to say this nonsense over and over, they need to back the nonsense up with quasi-analysis based on semi-facts, and they need to disseminate the nonsense as widely as they can manage."

You'll never be one of those "throne tenders," will you? Why even the thought of being 'fair minded' to the rich is disgusting -- right? How dare they take advantage of our capitalist society and advance their incomes beyond those of the proletariat! Surely, they are the epitomy, the very exemplar of evil in our world, today?

I'm sure that with your help, and the help of other Leftist leaning patriots, that we can change the USA into a hotbed of social resentment and finally get these scurrilous misers, these rapists of capitalism, and have their head's in our communist basket ... eh? ... right?

Then, the poor will inherit the Earth and utopia will commence, forthwith ... Marx and Engles said so, and those Germans were smart!

With this kind of propaganda being spread by Democratics, too, it won't be long before we can have George Soros' head under the blade and followed by those rich guys Al Gore and Edwards, Kennedys and Kerrys, along with Feinsteins husband ... not to mention all the Republican rich ... independents ... anyone with more than, say, $100k a year!!!

Off with their heads!

Long live Communism!! Once again an attack against that which is true. What is the solution offered? None. Because the solution is not acceptable. Free enterprise. Freedom. Capitalism.

Long Live Lady Liberty. I am a poor Capitalist and proud. I have the chance to be one of those greedy rich guys. Amen.

May the rich get richer and the poor get richer.

You guys (previous anonymous commenters) wouldn't be partisan trolls would you?

Is there any degree of inequality that would bother you?

And what makes you think the rich need protecting? That's the mind boggling part--they already pretty much control the government, the media, and the money. AND they still need protecting against those nasty poor?

You sure you aren't trolls?

I mean...you sure you aren't trolls?

"You'll never be one of those "throne tenders," will you?"

I sure hope not. Do you actually think that being a trrone tender is a good thing?

"Why even the thought of being 'fair minded' to the rich is disgusting -- right? How dare they take advantage of our capitalist society and advance their incomes beyond those of the proletariat! Surely, they are the epitomy, the very exemplar of evil in our world, today?"

This isn't about being "fair minded" to the rich, as I'm sure you actually know. Gross inequality has an unfortunate tendency to breed mass resentment, and that tends to breed violence and revoultion. Is that what you want?

And I'm just curious--why do you think people like Greenspan are concerned by levels of inequality approaching, or even surpassing, those seen in the 19th century? Are you trying to paint Alan Greenspan as some kind of commie pinko?

--Lee Russ

No level of inequality bothers me, save an inequality in legal rights, that's it.
I make less than 25k per year, but I know that through the effort of my mind and my body, I'll be wealthy soon enough. And if not, then it's my own damn fault. Every person chooses where they are in life, whether consciously or not. The poor choose to be poor, the rich choose to be rich, Communist assholes choose to be communist assholes. That's the way the world works, plain and simple. You can understand that principle and use it. Or deny it and be used by it.

"No level of inequality bothers me, save an inequality in legal rights, that's it.....The poor choose to be poor...
You can understand that principle and use it. Or deny it and be used by it."

At least you're honest. But very shortsighted and, ultimately, not right. The poor do not choose to be poor, and many of the rich are not rich because of their own efforts.

But you are typical of a particular mindset that has held sway in this country since around the time Reagan was elected. That mindset will lead to where that mindset always leads--misery, grief, and, eventually, violence. Unfortunatly, I see America as well on its way to those bad consequences of selfishness and greed.

And leave the "communist" label in your drawer; this isn't about communism, it's about society. Too many people learn that the hard way.

As for either understanding your principle or being used by it--option three is thinking you understand it, and being used by those who convinced you of it.

The previous commenter used no arguments; he only used ad-homonyms and skepticism to deny a claim.

Being poor is the lack of having wealth.
Wealth is created...one must act to create wealth...one must choose to act to create wealth...if you are not acting to create wealth what are you doing? You are defaulting on the task and you remain poor. You choose to be poor.

It is true that some people are not as smart as others, but that only changes their task. Those who are not smart must work to acquire knowledge in order to produce wealth. Those who are smart must apply their knowledge to create it.

Some may never develop their mind enough to get out of the slums but does that somehow give them command over those who have created wealth? Does that allow them to enslave?

Honest people are happy with what they can produce and don't envy what others can produce. Those who recognize it and say "good job, I will work to do the same" are honest. Those who recognize it but say "that's not fair, give it to me" are dishonest. The first recognizes the effort and time needed to produce; the second does too but doesn't want to exert that effort.

Others are born into wealth; but what does that change? Nothing, they still need to work to keep it. The inheritance is a recognition of property, the property of the one who created, and his right to do as he pleases with it. Imagine it's the 1800's and you built a log cabin. You die and pass it off to your son and his wife. According those who say it's unfair to inherit wealth, it is unfair that your son has inherited your log cabin. What should be done? Should it be dismantled and the pieces given away fairly among the world citizens? That would be ridiculous, and it would be a negation of property rights.

The previous commenter is long on abstract ideas and very short on the real world. Those who inherit their wealth have to "work" to keep it? You think that this level of work, in a capitalist society, is even close to the work required of someone born into poverty?

Nor are the laws equal for rich and poor. Why in the world is income from capital gains usually taxed at a higher rate than income from personal labor? Why has the Supreme Court created "free speech" and other rights for corporations that allow them to lobby for the rights of the rich and still deduct those funds as business expenses? Why do corporations so often pay smaller percentages of income tax than wage earners? And on and on.

Your story of the 19th century cabin is relevant to what? If you know anything about inheritance laws, you know the cabin is in no danger of being lost to inheritence taxes. If you are honest and aware, you know that the vast majority of American estates pay no inheritence taxes at all, and the ones that do are huge.

And none of that addresses the real issue here: what kind of society, and what kind of future, do you create by embracing rules that encourage incredible inequality between the top and bottom? Especially as fewer and fewer people are in the middle (more falling to the bottom than rising to the top)?

Why exactly do you think that Greenspan was worried about the consequences of inequality? Why did one of the original Mellon millionaires (Thomas? I'm not sure) warn against the effect of inherited wealth on the character and well being of those who inherited it?

You may indeed want to go back to the 19th century "anything goes" economics. Certainly the Ayn Randers do (are you a member of the Ayn Rand Institute?). Most of the country does not.

That's why there is the deliberate attempt by Cavuto, Lowry, et. al. to drum up public admiration for the rich. That's why I posted this piece in the first place.

So if you're a Rander, or just in sympathy with them, you'll disagree. But you are in the minority.

--Lee Russ

Just came across this, and couldn't resist:

If you want to know what God thinks of money, look at the people he gives it to.

Old Irish Saying, according to Philip Greenspun

--Lee Russ

A previous poster brought up the issue of inheritance, " ... and many of the rich are not rich because of their own efforts."

Q: "The previous commenter is long on abstract ideas and very short on the real world."
A: Abstract ideas, if not grounded in reality, are pointless. Why would anyone make up some arbitrary assertions and then try to apply them to reality? They wouldn't because it serves no purpose and therefore it is irrational. But you seem to think that people commonly do this on purpose; that abstraction is a waste of time. That is why you think that I'm not dealing with the real world.

Q: "Those who inherit their wealth have to "work" to keep it? You think that this level of work, in a capitalist society, is even close to the work required of someone born into poverty?"
A: How do you measure level of work? You cannot and it's irrelevant. But if you want to talk about equal work and wealth, why stop at the borders of America? It isn't fair how much wealth we have in America and how easy it is for us to maintain it unlike those Africans and North Koreans; they should be taking part of your paycheck and possessions. You see how your argument boils down to collectivism? You defined your collective (group) as the poor in America, and you want to take advantage of the wealthy. It could have been the handicapped, the blind, a race, etc ... Either way, it's one group, arbitrarily defined, trying to take advantage of another (advantage of the one with the things the first group wants.)

But you bring up the issue that A) size gives right, majorities should rule; I'm the minority so what I think doesn't matter. B) And you also said that rights are privileges.

A)"So if you're a Rander, or just in sympathy with them, you'll disagree. But you are in the minority."
B) "Why has the Supreme Court created "free speech" and other rights for corporations that allow them to lobby for the rights of the rich and still deduct those funds as business expenses?"

With your point A) you justify slavery, if the majority wants slavery that's too bad for the minority.
With your point B) you said that "rights" are privileges; that is a contradiction. You claim courts created the right of free speech. In fact, your kind of people created these arbitrary laws in the first place, so it's no wonder why there are different laws for different people. Imagine what would happen if poor people had to pay thirty or more percent in income taxes.

What would be equality in law? That would be a system of law that advocates the exact same for everyone. The founding fathers proposed such a system. Everyone has a right to Life, Liberty, Property, and the Pursuit of Happiness. It may be too abstract for Lee Russ, but these four define the proper relationship among people in a society. What happens if I steal from Lee? That's fraud, I am taking his property away, and therefore I am violating his rights. I will be punished. But this fraudulent act also violates all the other rights indirectly.

So why can't Lee Russ leave people alone to pursue their own Life, Liberty, Property and Happiness? Because he wants your money. Observe that if someone had thousands of acres of deserted land Lee wouldn't want it. He wouldn't say "that's not fair, you have more deserted land than me" He specifically goes after that which is required to live, which is the hardest and most important thing to go after; wealth. He wants to live outside his means and at the same time he doesn't want anyone to live differently than him. He is in fact scared of that and that's why he seeks to control it. That simply boils down to insecurity. ...But if oil were discovered in that land, he would be the first one to yell "that's not fair."

How ever Bill Gates got his money, as Lee brought up by linking to Philip Greenspun's page, Bill Gates has it and not through fraud. What does his wealth have to do with you Lee? Obviously you think it does and therefore you are ignoring what wealth is, it is a creation. No matter how much wealth Bill Gates creates you can still create your own wealth, and he's made it easier for you to do so. You can only profit from other peoples productiveness, you have nothing to fear. But I advise that you figure out what wealth is, how it is created, and get rid of the notion that there is some fixed amount of wealth and somehow Bill Gates got control of a large chunk. That's ridiculous, if it were true, then you are saying cavemen were rich. After all, wealth is fixed, therefore it has existed as long as the earth has.

Wealth is a car, a house, a calculator, tylenol, anything created. Elements taken from the ground and put together to serve the individual who created it.

You attacked some statements I made, but you ignored the reasons I gave for them. Then you made assertions without giving reasons. I wonder if you are actually reading Lee?

You disgust me.

I'm actually reading, close enough to know that you misinterperet just about everything I said. If you think that pointing out that you are in the minority on the issue of inequality is the logical equivalent of supporting slavery, you need to study logic.

You've done the same on many other points.

Your response to the recently created corporate rights to free speech is incomprehensible. And your statement that "You claim courts created the right of free speech. In fact, your kind of people created these arbitrary laws in the first place" boggles my mind. "My kind of people" must be the drafters of the Bill of Rights, since that's where free speech is made a right (for people, not corporations). And free speech is an example of an "arbitrary" law?

"So why can't Lee Russ leave people alone to pursue their own Life, Liberty, Property and Happiness? Because he wants your money."

Really? More tremendous logic.

And you have studiously ignored a very important question. If being concerned about inequality means that I'm some money grabbin' commie, how do you explain the fact that Greenspan and a whole bunch of other devoted capitalists are concerned about it?

Even more importantly, how do you explain the connection between inequality and bloodshed throughout history? You simply keep repeating your ideas about wealth creation as if that's the entire story. What about the consequences of the inequality? Irrelevant to you?

If you're so proud of your beliefs, how come you sign off as "anonymous?"

If you don't have anything reasonable to say, this will be my last response to you.

--Lee Russ

"You claim courts created the right of free speech. In fact, your kind of people created these arbitrary laws in the first place"

Should have read:

You claim courts created the right of free speech [when in fact rights are not an arbitrary invention. Therefore courts only protect that right, they don't create it.] In fact, your kind of people created [the] arbitrary laws [that you speak of and complain of] in the first place [such as tax breaks; but before they did that they implemented taxes.]

Capitalism is one thing: a political system based on individual rights, where the government's only proper function is to protect those rights. Any variance from that is no longer capitalism.
I'm not too familiar with Greenspan, only that he helps the government in its role as oppressor. Based on that I wouldn't call Greenspan a defender of capitalism.

Inequality: an injustice based on/made possible by a double standard. (That's the definition I came up with.)

Inequality can only happen in one way: violation of rights; therefore, inequality in rights. Summed up that would be: "You're not allowed to act in a certain way while I am and I'm going to stop you from acting in that way." A good example of this is slavery, which brought about bloodshed. When Kings or Tyrants are running a country, of course there will be bloodshed; it is an inseparable consequence. When someone interferes with your ability to act on your judgment, to live your life, they are attacking you, they threaten your existence; in most cases the only way to retaliate is through violence because the oppressor is not open to reason.
Bill Gates having 6300000 times the amount of money that I have doesn't interfere with my ability to act on my judgment. There is no relationship between he and I; he is not violating my rights. His existence doesn't take anything away from mine. I summed that point up in my previous posts.

The way you have been using "inequality" is as if there is some kind of injustice in the fact that Bill Gates has earned more money than me. How is that injustice and where is the double standard? Slavery does have an injustice based on a double standard; whites have rights and blacks don't. That's a double standard because rights belong to individuals, white and black people are individuals; in America the latter was negated.

In your first sentence Lee, in your last post you are dropping context. You are asserting that because I am a minority my opinion doesn't matter. Here's what you said:
"So if you're a Rander, or just in sympathy with them, you'll disagree. But you are in the minority." ... [so I don't have to listen to you.] --that's how the sentence finishes logically and that's why it is the equivalent of slavery. It is the epitome of collectivism.

This will be my last post because it has become evident that you are not willing to address ideas, rather you resort to attacking me by use of ad-hominems. I have taken the time and effort to explain my ideas while you haven't; all you have done is ask a lot of rhetorical questions and have given no answers or explanations. That is how you evade the issues at hand.

I was under the impression that where it asks me to insert my name, when writing a post, that it would be posted. For anyone interested, my other posts were:

Posted by visitor at 2007-04-10 02:44 AM


Posted by visitor at 2007-04-10 06:06 PM


Posted by visitor at 2007-04-10 10:15 PM


- Conrad

I mention: You'll never be one of those "throne tenders," will you?

Lee answers: "I sure hope not. Do you actually think that being a trrone[sic] tender is a good thing?"

Of course, the question was rhetorical. It required no response, because the leftist, envious faith in the correctness of the propaganda asserted was apparent, obvious. The rich have no 'thrones' to tend, much less those who do so tend them. The phrase used is hyperbolic and literally untrue, and used to mislead, or rather to lead in a specific direction your bellwether comment indicates.

The reality is one of capitalistic philosophy opposed by communistic idealism, and which in the case of communism, ultimately resents any independent means to become wealthier than others; only the state is allowed to so discriminate in favor of permitting individual wealth. Which, of course, infers that there is no right to anything called: personal wealth, fortune.

Lee continues: "This isn't about being 'fair minded' to the rich, as I'm sure you actually know."

Of course it isn't about being 'fair minded!' It is an elevation of envy to mob stature against INDIVIDUALS! There isn't any *class* of rich in America -- it is a FEW individuals, a handfull of Americans being opposed by another handfull organized into a mob of envy and spiteful revenge for ... what? Being more successful than the mob!!! Having more counters in the bank than you (AS AN INDIVIDUAL) do ... so you militate to be in the vanguard of revolution, eh?

A communist revolution of the proletariat against the titled rich!

Only, in America the poor are a VAST MINORITY!!! The 'proletariat' are the Middle Class and won't be marching in the streets out of envy and communistic resentment for ancient history when the rich were the nobility, and those who sow envy and resentment to remove their chance for riches will not be listened to, but rather thought of as fools.

"Gross inequality has an unfortunate tendency to breed mass resentment, and that tends to breed violence and revoultion. Is that what you want?"

No, but we can certainly tell what it is that YOU WANT!

"And I'm just curious--why do you think people like Greenspan are concerned by levels of inequality approaching, or even surpassing, those seen in the 19th century? Are you trying to paint Alan Greenspan as some kind of commie pinko?"

They actually think that communism has some chance of revival through the propagandistic efforts of you members of the 'international.' They are old and fear the ability of callous, machiavellian tactics using envy and resentment to build revolution, and take control of the means of production -- like you seem to be doing.

However, and as I mentioned, the poor are a vanishingly small minority in the USA. They are poor because they are, in the main, mentally handicapped and literally cannot work their way out of poverty. Or, perhaps they are the institutional poor which has been created out of other minorities and which have been suborned by welfare into becoming generation after generation of those who do not work and remain destitute ...

Are they the ones you are counting on to becoming your 'revolution?' Your weltanshauung for the future?

I think we're losing sight of the issue here, which is simply that "income inequality" just isn't an important thing to be concerned about. All that matters to a person is their level of wealth, and that's not affected by his neighbor's level of wealth. If my income level allows me to rent but not to buy an apartment, why is it important that someone else is able to buy? And if I'm struggling to pay the rent, then isn't THAT what I should care about?

Now this does raise the question of why people care about "income inequality." I think it's hard to prove this in this space, but I do think you see the ugly but still dominant face of Marxism and its premise that wealth is not created, only distributed. Hence, if someone is rich, he necessarily took it from someone who is poor.

So chew on that, and if you really want to grapple with Rand's ideas, read her Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal.

I think the comments in this thread speak for themselves. If you want to know the mindset of the people who advocate completely uncontrolled capitalism regardless of inequality, read the comments of those who objected to the original post. That's whole bunch of anger, a whole bunch of extremism, a whole bunch of labels thrown around as reasoning.

I leave it to less rabid readers: is the original post a Maciavellian attempt to take control of the machinery?

--LR

For the record, the post preceding yours (the one saying that wealth is what a person should be worried about, not inequality) was written by a different person (namely me) than any of the others. I feel no anger on this issue but rather a desire to present a point of view as clearly as possible. I don't think there is any label-calling in my post either.

I do not speak for anyone else writing on this forum and hope you take my argument on its own merits. If you still think that I am an angry name-caller who has no interest in reason, then I guess that's that.

Randal

L.R. says, "I think the comments in this thread speak for themselves. If you want to know the mindset of the people who advocate completely uncontrolled capitalism regardless of inequality, read the comments of those who objected to the original post..."

I've read the thread, top to bottom again, but can't find anyone who has advocated uncontrolled capitalism. Could you point that slimey post out to me?

As for objecting to the conclusion that I am some sort of 'loser' because I am not rich? What 'mindset' casts me, and the vast majority of Americans, in that light? Why shouldn't I object to such rank efforts to exploit my envy, my cupidity, my stupidity if I believed you?

"That's whole bunch of anger, a whole bunch of extremism, a whole bunch of labels thrown around as reasoning."

Yeah, you started out badly with the 'loser' label, and that's for sure! It seems, from your very subjective comments, that you refuse to take responsiblity for them, and attempt to blame those who might reply with objection and rebuttal.

"I leave it to less rabid readers: is the original post a Maciavellian attempt to take control of the machinery?"

Why are you attempting to revile and discredit the rich? Why are you including the 'vast majority of Americans' as those who are losers in some 'race' you invent? Why are you sowing greed, envy, cupidity and hatred? What crop can you reap with such propaganda?

What political philosophy advocates causing such divisions in capitalist societies? Is that what the Democratic party is all about? Ideal, utopian socialism? Are Republicans the agents of repression of the 'losers,' those losers who are the vast majority of Americans?

Does the French Revolution ring a bell?

Probably not, right? I mean, why bother studying history, it doesn't matter anyway. And they were FRENCH, of all things.

I think the posters that are against your article, Lee, are trying to say that each should make their own way in the world. Thing is, I think we all agree with that.

The only problem with that is when the rich get enough money to not have to do it on their own anymore, and they buy a government or two to ease the way for them. That's my issue, is that the super-rich didn't get to super rich without buying off public officials in the US, people normal folks would never even be able to speak to, but the rich get their ear, and the guys on K street do an awful lot of spreading money around to increase the power of their clientele.

It all seems a little, I dunno, stupid. We have people here defending the right of the super rich to bribe our government into making them more money. That's not just wrong, it's repugnant. That's not a free society, folks, that's class-caste in the making.

~A!

A!,

If I understand correctly, what you are against is money in politics. Rand would strongly agree. The chief villains of Atlas Shrugged are such "super-rich" people who make their living not through production but through the buying and selling of political pull. Rand argues in "Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal" that such political pull is only possible (and is actually inevitable) under socialized governments, where the government has control over the economic realm. Under capitalism, the government exists only to protect against individual rights violations and all the money in the world can't change a thing.

For the record, I do disagree with you characterization of how the "super-rich" make their money. Unfortunately, under today's semi-socialized system, some are able to buy the use of government force to hobble the competition. But the majority are honest, hard-working business people who get rich because they created valuable products. It's just unfair to slander them.

We still live in a country where smart work can pay off. That will not be the case if the socialism continues to spread. If you are for justice, then check out "Capitalism" and consider Rand's arguments. If you think she is wrong, then at least you then have a well-informed opinion.

Randal

Randal,

You said:


For the record, I do disagree with you characterization of how the "super-rich" make their money. Unfortunately, under today's semi-socialized system, some are able to buy the use of government force to hobble the competition. But the majority are honest, hard-working business people who get rich because they created valuable products. It's just unfair to slander them.

1. I never said anything about how they get it, I made a characterization of how people tend to behave after they are super rich. I did not, in point of fact, slander anyone.

2. The "majority" of the super rich, as you say, is actually a super-minority segment of the population. You say "majority" as if the super rich are lounging about in droves.

3. It is clear to me that only by repeating Rand will I earn an "informed" opinion. According to your very narrow worldview inspired by your chosen cult of personality, Rand has a monopoly on truth in this realm. I would disagree, and strongly so.

4. In another point of fact, I am very well read, and have in no way excluded Rand from my reading list.

5. Please do take a second look at my first comment, Randal. You will find I have slandered no one, although it has become one of those terms people bandy about for no good reason. Here's a hint: It's called Libel if it's in print. Reading something other than what big bear at the Ayn Rand cult tells you to would inform your opinion, sir.

~A!

~A! backs in, "Does the French Revolution ring a bell? Probably not, right? I mean, why bother studying history, it doesn't matter anyway. And they were FRENCH, of all things."

Apples and oranges. The age was different, the motivations different and the structure of society was different. Fomenting revolution against the rich was a movement of history which underscored the end of the aristocracy and the rise of the middle class -- the poor remained the poor.

Indeed, the entire "Russian revolution" was an echo of this effort to end the patronization of Noblesse oblige more than it was a success of socialism. The results for the Soviet Union was to lose the expansion of the middle classes. Those which brought France, Spain, England and the United States to economic leadership of the world in the years following their revolutions.

"The only problem with that is when the rich get enough money to not have to do it on their own anymore, and they buy a government or two to ease the way for them. That's my issue, is that the super-rich didn't get to super rich without buying off public officials in the US..."

That's a problem with whom we vote for, and not with the system, per se. However, it is in the best interests of a government in a capitalist society to assist business to gain success; to provide jobs; to support their local, state and federal governments with taxes and charitable works ... and for the most part, US businesses do such perform such useful social functions. The 'vast majority' do NOT steal from their customers or lord-it-over-them. Promoting divisiveness over an invented 'race' between the rich and the 'vast majority' is an attempt to subvert that which has made our nation a success and provided us with the highest standard of living in the world.

"It all seems a little, I dunno, stupid. We have people here defending the right of the super rich to bribe our government into making them more money. That's not just wrong, it's repugnant. That's not a free society, folks, that's class-caste in the making."

That isn't true, at all! Ney has been convicted of receiving bribes -- how about Jefferson, Feinstein, Reid???

Halliburton is *obviously* one of the evil 'rich,' while Feinstein's husband's companies are not -- otherwise, why wouldn't the appearance of conflict of interests over billions of dollars be investigated? Bush is an 'evil' rich guy, but Gore is not. Rupert Murdoch is one of the 'evil' rich, while George Soros is a hero of progressives ...

Not only is the polarization intended to cause class divisiveness, but also to revile and sow hatred for political rivals, as well ...

You are just too close to the 'history' to see it for what it is. Your heuristic understanding(s) stand as trees in your way ...

You don't need me, you seem to be more than capable of making up what I think and then berating me for it. Have fun debating yourself.

~A!

A!,

"1. I never said anything about how they get it, I made a characterization of how people tend to behave after they are super rich. I did not, in point of fact, slander anyone."

I was reacting to the comment: "That's my issue, is that the super-rich didn't get to super rich without buying off public officials in the US." I checked the dictionary to make sure I wasn't misusing the word, and I do think I said what I wanted to. I think you are characterizing a group of people unfairly.

As to: "3. It is clear to me that only by repeating Rand will I earn an "informed" opinion. According to your very narrow worldview inspired by your chosen cult of personality, Rand has a monopoly on truth in this realm. I would disagree, and strongly so.

4. In another point of fact, I am very well read, and have in no way excluded Rand from my reading list. "

I think you misread my tone. I'm not saying you're ignorant, and I'm explicitly not saying that you have to repeat Rand. I'm encouraging you to read "Capitalism: the Unknown Ideal." If you already have, good for you. It's not the most popular of her books.

Guess I'm done with this thread.

Randal

Randal:

No I wasn't including you in my statement about the anger etc. in the comments.

I am aware that there has long been a debate about whether poverty should be measured in absolute or relative terms, and whether relative poverty is (a) bad, or (b) as bad a s absolute poverty.

In my experiece, and I think this is the reason that Greenspan and friends worry about the growing inequality, people who are only relatively poor, but have adequate food, clothing & shelter, still feel poor. This feeling breeds resentment and a feeling of exclusion from the society around them.

In any case, it seems to me that the relative poverty debte is rapidly becoming academic, because the U.S. is slipping backward when it comes to poverty. A substantial chunk of people have slipped below any realistic poverty line, and an even larger chunk is managing to stay above that line only through the magic of consumer credit.

The feeling that "we're all in this together" in the U.S. is fading fast. I've seen various polls supporting that, and I see it all over the small town I now live in, and the medium sized city I used to live in. It seems to me that we are approaching the social structure and attitudes that prevailed during the late 19th and early 20th centuries which, if you've read any history outside of the sanitized school textbooks, was not a good time.

I've read several Rand books, but not the one you recommend to A~. Your statement that "Unfortunately, under today's semi-socialized system, some are able to buy the use of government force to hobble the competition" indicates to me that you think there was, or could be, a government system that is immune to this corruption. I don't believe that's true. Do you know of one?

Lee,

I had intended to be done here, but I was impressed by the earnestness of your last post.

I'm busy now but will respond some time this weekend.

Randal

Well, I did take the time to read all the comments back and forth and it is clear to me that those offering argument for wealth as a product of active effort on the part of the individual sound far more reasonable than the original article and those agreeing with the article.

The observation that some people have more wealth than others is not, in and of itself, an argument for anything.

And the pejorative reference to "uncontrolled capitalism" compels me to point out that the uncontrolled comment really refers the legal freedom of action that individuals (all of us) have by our nature as living beings and the capitalism part refers to the limited government needed only to protect that freedom from those that seek to restrain it. That freedom can only be taken away by force - such as taking wealth earned by one individual and giving it to another that has not earned it. The capitalist government's role is to try to prevent such force and to act to rectify it when it unpreventable. I fail to see why this comment was given with such disdain.

Michael

ps I don't feel rabid at all.

Dammit, Lee. I was trying to work, and my mind kept turning to your questions. I wrote a lot, but I do think it's all pretty necessary. Politics is not an easy subject, and the answers are not obvious.

I want to preface this by saying that I don't think I'm going to be able to convince you of anything in this space. My aim is to pique your interest enough to go to Rand's material. While I have come to endorse her views after a long process of thought and examining the alternatives (ie I'm not just taking them on authority), she's going to do a much better job of presenting them than I will. She was a professional philosopher; I am not.

Lee wrote: "Your statement that Unfortunately, under today's semi-socialized system, some are able to buy the use of government force to hobble the competition' indicates to me that you think there was, or could be, a government system that is immune to this corruption. I don't believe that's true. Do you know of one?"

I'm going to start by giving an example of government force in the economic sphere, then describe the mechanism by which that is possible, which will give context for my explanation of which government has been most immune to corruption.

Currently, in Hoboken, entrepreneurs are trying to start pedicab operations and have been pursuing government approval. Taxi companies are not happy about this and have been lobbying to have pedicabs banned from the city. At the present, they have been successful. I would claim that this is a horrible injustice to the pedicab entrepreneurs, caused by corruption in government. Politicians are being bought, and the pedicab entrepreneurs are suffering.

So here's the question: why does the government have any say at all over whether pedicabs operate in Hoboken? If they didn't, would the taxi lobbies have any mechanism by which to perpetrate this injustice? It is only the fact that the government has the ability to use force in the realm of transportation that allows for destruction of the relatively little guy by the more powerful.

Rand's basic point in regards to politics is that the proper function of a government is to protect its citizens against force. That means that it runs the police, the courts, and the military, and that's about it. Any intrusion into the economic realm, the private lives of its citizens, etc, (ie "statism") can only result in destruction, injustice, corruption.

So which governments have fit Rand's standards? The closest is America in its founding years. We were called the Land of Liberty/ the Land of Opportunity for a good reason; we were. However, the Constitution contains a clause allowing states to regulate interstate trade, and this was used as a wedge to grow the government's power past its proper limits. This decay did not happen overnight, and it did not happen in all areas of life at once. America was more or less free through the 19th century. Around the mid-19th century, statism became popular among America's intellectuals, and by the late 19th century, the government's power over the economy was growing rapidly. The rapid growth continued through WWII, at which point statism lost its drive. Since then, things have continued to get worse though at a much slower pace.

Some areas of American life are still largely unregulated, particularly the newer ones, such as the computer industry. In those areas, corruption is hard to pull off, and you still see significant growth as the norm. In other areas--such as transportation, energy, medicine, agriculture, large businesses, and more--there is a large body of regulations in place by which governments can intrude in peoples' affairs. In those areas, you see corruption regularly. (BTW, the destructive consequences of statism are in no way limited to corruption; that's just the topic we're discussing right now.)

Does this mean that early 19th century America was incorruptible? No, it had some statist laws, but most areas of life were pretty well-protected. Even in a perfect government, would corruption be impossible? No, the government by its very purpose wields force, and that means there is potential for misuse of that force. "Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty." Any sign of corruption must be exposed and dealt with. But the taxi industry couldn't hobble the Hoboken pedicab industry in 1800 (yes, I know that cars hadn't been invented yet; indulge my fantasy for a second). Even the most corrupt of politicians wouldn't have the political machinery available.

Back to your original question: which countries tend to be better? To my knowledge, no other country in history approaches Founding America, but I understand that Ireland and Scotland are heading in a good direction, as is Poland. Others have said that 19th century Britain was pretty good, but I cannot speak to that.

So, hopefully I've intrigued you enough. If you do read "Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal," I recommend starting with the appendix essays "Man's Rights" and "The Nature of Government", which are important context for "What is Capitalism?," the main essay of the book.

Randal

PS As to your comment about the relative poor still feeling poor, you just can't base governmental policy on emotion. You have to base it on existential fact, especially when the cost of statism is so dire and can only result in greater amounts of >actual< poverty.

Randal opines, "So, hopefully I've intrigued you enough."

You won't be replied to, because you haven't provided anything they can turn into a personal attack to use as their rebuttal, and the vast leftwing majority is too lazy to research any such responses (not that the lazy rightwing is much better.)

I'll try though on one factor from, above:

You assume that pedicabs are of benefit to a city filled with cars, trucks and buses ...

I've lived in Vietnam and Thailand and know that they are a blight on a city's traffic congestion. Indeed, they fit themselves into such congestion and making it far worse than it may already have been. They provide passengers with more exposure to accidents and where there is next to no protection from trauma.

However, it does get the 'sisters' with whom you can have a good time off the streets to a greater extent... but without exhaust control, the pedicab drivers produce much more CO2 than a car in getting there for the short-time ...

Randal (ignoring the intervening partisan "visitor's" nonsense input):

My problem with the basic theory you describe is that it ony looks at one side of what is necessarily a balance bteween two or more interests.

Does government power produce government corruption and overreaching? Sure.

Does individual power produce individual corruption and overreaching? Just as surely.

As you might have guessed from other things I've written here, I view the 19th century--which you point to as reasonable examples of a better time--as being the exact opposite: individual (and corporate) power was allowed to reign unchecked and produced a sciety that was misery for the vast majority. One small example is railroads, which routinely required employees to perform very dangerous tasks that caused many deaths and amputations, simply because the deaths and amputations did not cost the railroad any money; the workers or their families had no legal recourse for compensation of any kind. All this despite the fact that safety improvements were very cheap, and once they were mandated by the government due to pubic pressure, drastically reduced the deaths and injuries.

That doesn't mean that all government regulation is good, but bad regulation is not a reason to abandon all regulation, it's a reason to look for better regulation.

Where you end up on this issue usually reflects where you began your analysis. If the initial assumption is that individual economic rights are sacrosanct, beyond the reach of all regulation no matter the consequences of having no regulation, you will end up with Rand. If you start with the assumption that the nation is more than the economic sphere, that it is, in fact, a society, where individual safety and well being are important aspects of individual freedom regardless of how much money or potential for wealth you might have, you end up at a very different place.

I know of no one who wants to unduly hamper the ability of business people to conduct business, start ventures, etc. The key is "unduly." Where do we draw the line between economic rights of individuals, and safety/well being rights of individuals? I think it is crucial, for example, that the government protect us from the short term economic incentive that a corporation might have to leave extremely toxic chemicals among the populace. There is no other entity that can undertake that protection.

And once we undertake the protection, we need to wath both the government to ensure that it does not go too far, and the business, to ensure that it does not go too far and/orsubvert the government oversight.

You and I obviously draw our lines of reasonableness in different places, and I have no more hope of converting you to my belief than you have of converting me to yours. But the above is, I think, the real debate. The troll comments attempting to divert the issue over to sheer partisanship, are nothng more than obstacles to what the country as a whole needs to consider and decide.

Harking back to my original post, contrary to all the troll attempts to distort it, I merely made fun of the idea that the really rich need to be protected from people like me in a capitalist nation, by means of paeans and odes from people like Lowry and Cavuto. Where do you stand on that?

Lee,

I'm going to want to leave this thread soon for time reasons. There's a lot I could react to in this post, but I will restrict myself to your most fundamental question and then look at the example of the railroad workers.

"That doesn't mean that all government regulation is good, but bad regulation is not a reason to abandon all regulation, it's a reason to look for better regulation."

Agreed. Rand is not an anarchist; anarchy would be hell to live in. Rather, she is someone who asks the question of what the difference is between the good and bad. The answer she comes to--through an examination of the evidence--is that laws that use government force against citizen force and fraud are the ones that are good and life-sustaining; laws that use government force outside of this definition are that ones that are bad and destructive. The execution of this division is hard, which is why we need competent lawmakers and judges, but that's the essential.

"If you start with the assumption that the nation is more than the economic sphere, that it is, in fact, a society, where individual safety and well being are important aspects of individual freedom regardless of how much money or potential for wealth you might have, you end up at a very different place."

Keep in mind, and this is important, that Rand's fundamental political principle is not the right to economic freedom. Rather, her fundamental principle is that your well-being is dependent on your having the right to control your own life. In countries that mostly respect peoples' right to their lives (such as 19th century America), people are mostly able to as productive as their minds allow, and consequently, there is a rapid increase in the well-being of the populace. In countries that don't (as in socialized countries like modern Cuba and Venezuela or the old USSR), you see a deterioration of the well-being of the populace. As a quick example, Cuba's medical care has deteriorated to the point that Castro's recent health problems required him to seek a doctor outside his own country. He could have forced anyone to treat him, and he decided not to.

Where does economic freedom come in? The right to life implies derivative rights. In order to control your life, you need to be able to control your property and do what you want with it, including creating a pedicab business (the right to economic freedom). You need to be protected against the only things that can stop your control over your life/pursuit of well-being: force and fraud (hence, the necessity of a police force, court system, and a body of laws defining when the police should step into a situation). You need to be able to advocate for ideas that protect and sustain life (right to free speech). And so on.
This is all to say that Rand's political principles are meant to safe-guard against both violations of freedom and violations of personal safety and well-being. They are two derivative aspects of the same basic right.

Now how does this apply to your example of railroad workers? Well, the thing you have to keep in mind is that no country can >guarantee< your or anyone else's safety. That's just impossible. Life is risky. [Though, in fact, the freer countries are the safer countries. Conditions in the USSR deteriorated to the point where Gorbachev needed to reintroduce some measure of capitalism. Conditions in America have fairly steadily improved, with some statism-caused regressions.]

What a country needs to protect is your ability to >choose< the best environment you can find and to affect its conditions to make them the best possible. A railroad worker needs the ability to choose to quit working for a dangerous railroad company and instead work for one with a better track record of safety. That is possible in 19th century America, not in socialist USSR, where you don't actually have a choice of where you work. You actually don't have real choice in what kind of work you do either, but that's another story.

The fact of that choice has positive effects in America. Smart businesspeople recognize the choice of employment facing their workers and go well out of their way to protect the well-being of their employees. I don't know the history of the railroad particularly well, but I can tell you in the automotive industry that Ford was notorious for offering twice the salary of the competition and investing in far safer factories than anyone else. The result? He got the best workers, which (along with other factors) allowed him to create the best product and make a windfall. The same thing can be seen at modern companies like Google, which offer unbelievable benefits and hence gain the best employees.

What does that say about your unsafe railroad owners? Perhaps that there is more to this story than you or I know or perhaps that this was an area where the owners were not particularly good at their jobs. Ford >was< a major innovator in the realm of employee safety and benefits; I don't know how big. It's possible that 19th century business people didn't really understand the connection between worker well-being and productivity yet. Keep in mind, also, that freedom includes the freedom of a businessperson to solve the problems of safety the best way they know how. In a semi-free country like America, safety can improve. Most of the dangerous work that was done by hand in the 19th century is now done by machine, machines that would have been impossible without economic freedom.

Incidentally, I believe that the railroads were one of the first areas of American life to become heavily socialized and that there was significant government involvement as early as the mid-19th century. I remember hearing something about actual government-created monopolies, where regulations forbid new entrants into certain territories. This may be a late-19th century thing, though. As to your claim that government involvement improved the safety for rail workers at the time, I'll have to give you the benefit of the doubt; I don't know the history.

Government involvement >can< create better conditions for certain people in certain conditions. However, 1) it always comes at the cost of immediate destruction and damage elsewhere, and 2) it necessarily comes at the cost of increasing the ability of the government to interfere with its citizens' liberty. Using Hoboken as an example again (I'm thinking of moving to the area, which is why I've done all this research), there is a public demand for parks along the riverfront. But some of the riverfront is private property. So the local government is considering forcing the sale of that private property using eminent domain. So on the one hand, the citizens would get parks. On the other, people would be forced to sell their homes and businesses, and the government will have established precedent to use eminent domain under another condition: parks trump private property.

Randal

PS And the length of this post is exactly why I need to stop writing.

PPS Yes, absolutely. The rich are under attack in America. The financial industry, for example, is seeing a lot of early retirements recently because everyone is scared of violating one of the limitless regulations and going to jail. They figure that they've made enough money, and it's not worth the risk to continue their work of finding promising companies to support. In Rand's terms, the financial industry is "shrugging."

In corporations, you have to deal now with the hell that is Sarbanes-Oxley. I read an article recently on how London is replacing New York as the investment center of the world, and S-O was cited by investors as the primary for staying away from America.

Anti-trust laws can cripple a business solely on the basis of success. That's been true for the last century, but Bush has been more aggressive about it than Clinton was.

On the income inequality issue, the proposed solution is typically greater taxation of the rich--i.e. taking away even more of their money by force. There's more, but I think these are the big ones.

I understand that things are much better than they were in the 70s, but the word from the field if you talk to professionals is that they have been getting worse in the 21st century. Interestingly enough, Bush has been a worse statist than Clinton ever was. Republicans can get away with more because everyone thinks they are the protectors of the free market. [I do not agree with that assessment.]

PPPS If you want to read something that specifically deals a lot with the history of the economy and addressing the typical statist interpretations, I'd also recommend "The Capitalist Manifesto" by Dr. Andrew Bernstein.

Randal says, "PS And the length of this post is exactly why I need to stop writing."

So? I don't deserve a reply. Was it because of this gratuitous comment?

Randal (ignoring the intervening partisan "visitor's" nonsense input)...

Or, was it because your specific incident used to support your abstract comment isn't as ironclad as you may have inferred? Too facetious to deserve any reasonable response? A combination of all three? Some other, more arcane motive?

Just curious ...

"Randal says, "PS And the length of this post is exactly why I need to stop writing."

So? I don't deserve a reply. Was it because of this gratuitous comment?

Randal (ignoring the intervening partisan "visitor's" nonsense input)...

Or, was it because your specific incident used to support your abstract comment isn't as ironclad as you may have inferred? Too facetious to deserve any reasonable response? A combination of all three? Some other, more arcane motive?

Just curious ..."

No, it was just my desire to leave this post and that I specifically wanted to address Lee. I'm trying not to get sucked into other threads.

But anyway...

To address the issue quickly, the primary reason cited for the decision against the pedicabs was "unfair competition" against the taxi industry. The essential of this situation is that the government used its force to create a monopoly. It was a bad day for freedom and a clear example of corruption. Pedicabs could be the worst blight the city's ever seen, but that just doesn't affect the issue.

Randal

"Randal says, "PS And the length of this post is exactly why I need to stop writing."

So? I don't deserve a reply. Was it because of this gratuitous comment?

Randal (ignoring the intervening partisan "visitor's" nonsense input)...

Or, was it because your specific incident used to support your abstract comment isn't as ironclad as you may have inferred? Too facetious to deserve any reasonable response? A combination of all three? Some other, more arcane motive?

Just curious ..."

No, it was just my desire to leave this post and that I specifically wanted to address Lee. I'm trying not to get sucked into other threads.

To address the issue quickly, the primary reason cited for the decision against the pedicabs was "unfair competition" against the taxi industry. The essential of this situation is that the government used its force to create a monopoly. It was a bad day for freedom and a clear example of corruption. Pedicabs could be the worst blight the city's ever seen, but that just doesn't affect the issue.

Randal

In words of James Madison, the truth of our democracy is revealed.

"Political power, he explained, must be in the hands of "the wealth of the nation," men who can be trusted to "secure the permanent interests of the country"--the rights of the propertied--and to defend these interests against the "leveling spirit" of the general public. If the public were allowed to participate freely in elections, Madison warned his colleagues, their "leveling spirit" might lead to measures to improve the conditions of those who "labor under all the hardships of life, and secretly sigh for a more equal distribution of its blessings."
Agrarian reform was the primary threat that Madison perceived.

So, I think Noam Chomsky sums it best when he says And I qoute

"Democracy is to be construed as the right to choose among commodities. Business leaders explain the need to impose on the population a "philosophy of futility" and "lack of purpose in life," to "concentrate human attention on the more superficial things that comprise much of fashionable consumption." People may then accept and even welcome their meaningless and subordinate lives, and forget ridiculous ideas about managing their own affairs. They will abandon their fate to the responsible people, the self-described "intelligent minorities" who serve and administer power --which of course lies elsewhere, a hidden but crucial premise.

From this perspective, conventional in elite opinion, the latest elections do not reveal a flaw of American democracy, but rather its triumph.

A visitor notices, "From this perspective, conventional in elite opinion, the latest elections do not reveal a flaw of American democracy, but rather its triumph."

So, Noam was incorrect and the communist effort to vility "business leaders" is specious ... just another effort to lie socialism into prominence and leadership.

Would everyone mind signing their first name or a screen name at the bottom of their posts? I don't know which posts are part of a continuing thread and which are first posts by new visitors. It makes it hard to have a discussion.

Randal

Randal:

If we were to continue going back and forth, I think we'd end up at loggerheads over: (1) how we assume that people--all people, but especially the wealthy & powerful--act when their actions are unfettered and have no personal consequences; and (2) our view of the ability of the average working person to simply pick up and move to better employers.

In the 19th century railroad example I used, the workers couldn't avoid the unsafe working conditions by switching to other employers. First, all the railroads were unsafe. Second, most of the railroad workers--people barely earning enough to stay alive--could not have picked up and moved across country even if there were better employers there.

As to the behavior of the wealthy and powerful--and of corporations in particular--I think all of history has shown that they do not often volunteer to look out for the safety and/or well being of those below them in the pecking order. There are countless other examples of how businesses operated when they had the discretion to operate as they pleased: the Triangle Shirt Company fire, God knows how many mining disasters, 80 to 100 hour workweeks, refusal to spend $1 on safety equipment that could save life and limb as long as there was an adequate supply of replacement workers, child labor---all the practices that gave rise to today's role of the federal government.

Business ethics towrds investors and the general public have also been atrocious for an awfully long time (I'd say forever, but how could I know?). In recent times in this country alone we have the Enron/Global Crossing/Etc. debacles, the still simmering executive stock option scandals, various retailers returning to the practice of locking their employees in at the workplace, a series of aviation crashes in which skipped and falsified maintenance appear to have played a role, countless medical devices and pharmaceuticals deliberately marketed despite the manufacturers' knowledge of serious dangers to the public, and many others.

As I said in my preceding post, I think society requires a balancing of interests between those at the top and the middle and the bottom, and there is no entity to perform this other than the government. And yes, we sure as hell do need to keep a close eye on the government while it performs this function because it certainly does have a tendency to overreach.

I don't think there's any way out of it. The ultimate harm to the society is greater when government does not serve it's buffer role than when it does.

As I said, I don't expect to convince you.

The people who worked in the dangerous railroads did not have to work there, they were not coerced and it was no secret how dangerous it was to work for railroads. But "where will they work if not for the railroads?" Anywhere else. "What if there is no where else to work?" Would you commit suicide for money? Me neither, and that's why working for a dangerous railroad is no option for me. But you will find that if more people make the same rational decision the railroad will soon make safety upgrades or go out of business; more than likely it would choose to make the upgrades. That's an example of capitalism, the market regulates itself, and there is no need for government intervention. The only thing it relies on is rationality, and that is precisely what separates us from all other animals; man is defined "the rational animal."

Minimum wage laws are the cause of unemployment. When you set a minimum wage you are pricing people out of the market; those who are willing to work for less. At $10 I can afford to hire one person, at less I can afford to hire more. There is no shortage of jobs when a market is left unregulated (left without minimum wage laws) because there is always a businessman looking for cheap labor. Also note that taxes, minimum wage, and inflation raise prices above what they would be under a free market, therefore there would be no problem for a person working for less than minimum wage to establish himself. In any case, the unemployed are so only temporarily and it's not a big issue.

It's true that not all businessmen can see the forest through the trees, not make good decision such as making those safety upgrades. But you will find that those businessmen soon fail. An example of workers being treated very well is Wal-Mart when it started; treat your workers bad and they will go to your competitor. A similar issue is "equal opportunity" laws. The free market handles those issues too; if a smart black women and a dumb white guy apply for a job at a firm and the dumb white guy gets the job, what happens to the smart black woman? The firm's competitors will pick her up and the dumb white guy will help to destroy the firm he's in. "What if everybody boycotts black women?" We can't even agree on rights so what make you think that everyone will refuse black women? It doesn't happen, but given a worst case scenario: the very worst firm who struggles with its competition will pick up the smart black women because no one else will want to work for this low rung firm. But again, that's a worst case scenario; there are plenty of rational people who would hire black women, especially if their alternative is dumb whites. I would hire them, Randal probably would, and I'm sure the author of this article would, being so concerned about equality; so there's no problem. Capitalism prevails.

"That doesn't mean that all government regulation is good, but bad regulation is not a reason to abandon all regulation, it's a reason to look for better regulation."

That doesn't mean that all corporate decisions are good, but bad corporate decisions are not a good reason to abandon all corporate decision making, it's a reason to look for better corporations (that make better corporate decisions.)
Why not phrase it that way?
But more fundamentally: regulation is the abolition of all rights. To say that rights have to be regulated is to say that rights lead to destruction and are therefore inherently bad. I believe in individual rights (life, liberty, property, pursuit of happiness,) for a government to step in and tell someone that they can no longer follow these rights is to say that they are bad/invalid rights. If you follow individual rights properly there can be no overlap with anyone else, that is to say, if you follow these rights you cannot come into conflict with anyone else following them. But if you do not follow them properly then conflict will arise but then the government steps in and protects the person whose rights are being violated. So there's no problem again. Capitalism prevails.

If you are going to live in a society there is always the possibility of someone violating your rights, one could easily walk up to someone and punch them (the only solution to that would be to totally separate everyone) but when people understand rights, and value their lives, they don't commit such acts. They act rationally.

Capitalism does not contradict "individual safety" and "well being." To leave/dump toxic waste where it could harm people is the violation of the rights of those people being harmed. That is fraud and the government steps in and punishes the violators. In the end it would not be an economic incentive of any kind, these violators would go to jail. That is also the best deterrent, proper punishment. People will know that if they commit fraud they will punished, and those actually willing to commit fraud will think twice.

"Harking back to my original post ... I merely made fun of the idea that the really rich need to be protected from people like me in a capitalist nation, by means of ... people like Lowry and Cavuto. Where do you stand on that?"

To that I say that I think rights always need to be protected, whether you are rich, black, a businessman, a parent etc ... It's true that the rich can lobby to have less of their money taken from them, but the fact that they need to do that is why they need to be stood up for, their rights are already being violated and no matter how unliked they are, we need to protect individual rights in all cases, no double standards. And they do need to be "protected from people like" you, the proof of that is that they still are lobbying.

It's exactly the rich that need to be protected; they are the only ones who are being violated on large scale. The rich are the heavily taxed, not the poor. The original article did not demonstrate how the poor were being taken advantage of; it merely asserted that it's a laughing matter that the "rich" need to be defended. The effect of writing such an article serves to smear the wealthy.

Randal,

You are dropping context of the entirety of the original article and the subsequent posts. Right now you are legitimizing everything Lee Russ is saying by continuing the discussion with him. He has made it clear by several of his comments that he is not open to reason but you have ignored that. The most explicit is "I have no more hope of converting you to my belief than you have of converting me to yours." This is a statement that follows from the belief that reason is futile. It displays his unwillingness to consider the content of any arguments. Another thing he does is call defenders of the rich "rationaliz[ers] from the mount." He groups the mount together with the robber barons (whom he has identified as the enemy) and anyone who defends the rich, thereby identifying who he is against. He then says that anything they say can be disregarded because it's a lie; thus the "rationalizations from the mount." Lee puts it that way to smear any statement and/or anybody that defends the rich. "They're just trying to take advantage of you like the robber barons did" is the assertion. But it is a smear because he does not validate the notion.

Again Randal, you are sanctioning him because he has already stated that he is not open to argument and by continuing to converse with him you grant him the status of honest person and thereby legitimize everything he says. I exposed him for what he is earlier, and that's why he latched on to you to try to erase how he was responding previously.
You need only re-read his article and his early posts to see it.

Quotes:
"The previous commenter is long on abstract ideas and very short on the real world."
"I don't expect to convince you."
"So if you're a Rander, or just in sympathy with them, you'll disagree. But you are in the minority."

-Conrad

Randal wonders, "Would everyone mind signing their first name or a screen name at the bottom of their posts? I don't know which posts are part of a continuing thread and which are first posts by new visitors. It makes it hard to have a discussion."

Those who 'quote' identify their positions, and which is the point of discussion; not the personality doing so. It is sufficient to note, on this self-proclaimed 'liberal' blog, that those on the Left muckrake, and those on the Right are 'trolls.'

Would everyone mind signing their first name or a screen name at the bottom of their posts?

Anyone who wants to sign their post should create an account and sign in. I fixed the bug last week that prevented that from working.

Rogers indicates, "Anyone who wants to sign their post should create an account and sign in."

Then, the personality contest can really begin. It makes collecting intelligence/statistics easier in identifiable folders and provides an opportunity to more easily remove posts and restrict posting privileges; censor and ban.

Having had both experiences on sites published by this 'corporation,' I can testify to the proclivity with which this will occur ...

Of course, it is perfectly within the right of the publisher to edit and choose which comments will appear in their 'paper.' However, in doing so, they must abandon the idea that they might be 'journalists,' or that negative comments don't affect them, at all ...

Randal repeats, "... the primary reason cited for the decision against the pedicabs was "unfair competition" against the taxi industry. The essential of this situation is that the government used its force to create a monopoly."

A pedicab would probably cost around $4-5K or so, once government got through with regulating it, while a cab costs about $25K, or more considering government regulation. The pedicab has a very low overhead in comparison with the cabs. The pedicabs have not invested in the infrastructure which the city, state and federal government has collected from cabs. It IS unfair competition; even in providing public safety, anti-pollution and any number of other incidental charges they escape but are mandatory for cabs.

However, and as I mentioned, the pedicab is an additional cause of city traffic congestion; even a major one due to their relative lack of 'speed' and maneuverability. That also endangers pedicab passengers, in which vehicle they have no, zero protection from motor vehicles in busy city conditions.

... Where will people park when pedicabs add to that problem?

Employment is not denied any of these entrepreneurs because they can purchase equipment, at the approximate same cost, which can provide them with an equivalent profit in sales/service; e.g., hot dog, popcorn, cookie, flowers, coffee/tea, etc., and sell either inside or outside. And, under safer conditions. Even those insistent upon becoming pedicab pushers, and for whatever motives, can practice their American right to move to a city which would probably allow pedicabs ... maybe Savannah, Ga., or even New Orleans ... cities with less traffic congestion and a layed-back attitude, life-style.

"It was a bad day for freedom and a clear example of corruption. Pedicabs could be the worst blight the city's ever seen, but that just doesn't affect the issue."

Come on! 'Freedom' is the wrong term to use, in this case, and since there is no such thing in the face of the majority's best interests, and under the laws necessary to restrict the individual's 'freedom' to harm it, in whatever aspect that may be. You have the 'freedom' to take a gun in hand and shoot someone, but are still subject to the laws and regulations surrounding such exercise of it.

I can't say whether any corruption was involved, but I do know that the 1st reason given is a sure and certainly correct view of the reality of the situation. I can say, with some assurance, that there were discussions, both governmental and public, which took place to decide the issue. I'm sure that the problems I've listed were part of that consideration and decision. So, I think your use of this case is insufficient to prove your point. Not that that point is wrong, I might add.

Re: the pedicab conversation. We disagree at a very fundamental level if you think "there is no such thing as freedom in the face of the majority's best interests." If you are interested in the topic, I have indicated good resources.

I will leave this debate by repeating the fundamental importance of freedom to man's ability to survive. Historically, you can see that the degree of freedom equals the degree of growth in prosperity for everyone. For examples, compare West and East Berlin, America vs. USSR or Cuba. Etc. If you want to know more, read Rand's "Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal" or Dr. Bernstein's "The Capitalist Manifesto."

Goodbye,
Randal

PS I'm sorry that I am not answering the open questions addressed to me. I just have to cut this off at some point, and I think you can figure out what my answer would be anyway.

PS I'm sorry that I am not answering the open questions addressed to me. I just think I've made my case, and I have to cut this off at some point.

PS I'm sorry that I am not answering the open questions addressed to me. I just think I've made my case, and I have to cut this off at some point.

In a Capitalist society roads and infrastucture are owned privately. Therefore, it is up to its owners to decide whether they want pedicaps congesting their streets or not.