Put-Our-Rich-in-Check Global Emporium

#1

Think of this as a corollary to Wanderthread. The rich are ignorant, raised wrong, and use totalitarian contract law as a substitute for being innovative, actually knowing things, and existing among people they don’t control.

We’ve been propagandized to not talk about such things in polite company. Until The Rump. Go nuts.

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#2

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#3

I could drop anticapitalist memes all over this thread for weeks, but if you want actual discussion we need some hooks. :wink:

Here’s some:

  1. Communism vs socialism. What’s the difference, where are the boundaries?

  2. Anarchists and socialists. Where is the common ground, where are the differences, are the differences reconcilable?

  3. Scary socialist terminology, what does it mean in modern reality? “Dictatorship of the proletariat”, “opiate of the masses”, etc.

  4. Class: what is it, where are the boundaries, is it defined by occupation or wealth, does our understanding of class require updating?

  5. Race, gender and class. How do they relate, to what extent are they separate, to what extent are they connected?

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#5

Not actual morality, but its stand-in: signalling one’s desired reputation.

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#6

The two sides of Paul Krugman:

https://mobile.nytimes.com/blogs/krugman/2017/10/15/subsidies-spite-and-supply-chains/

Krugman knows the current state of the art of macroeconomics inside and out. He doesn’t lack empathy. He thinks he’s a warrior in the rhetorical war we’re in with the plutocratic elite… and yet he’s a technocrat who attacked Sanders and has never committed to the global war on terrorist rent-seekers.

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#7

The rich of the arts I:

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#8

II:

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#9

III:

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#10

Ironically one of the main points of Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations, a book often twisted to support unbridled capitalism, was that local ownership was more efficient than remote ownership – a farmer who owned their own field not only knows it far better than a landlord would, they’re far more motivated to make improvements, know what improvements would work best, etc. Which should be obvious: one can tell at a glance whether a residential street is dominated by homeowners or renters by the general level of upkeep.

At the time, 1776, the ignorant landlords were the landed nobility, so he had to argue for private ownership and against government ownership. But he couldn’t quite get around to “workers should own the means of production” because the concept of huge corporations or vast, non-gentry, private wealth, were not yet available to him. That took until Marx’s time. Capital Volume 1 is a highly readable book still today – I can’t say quite the same for Wealth of Nations, a product of a very different time.

But to the point: in this vein, income from wealth will always be far less efficient than income from labor. A country actually seeking efficiency should nudge the means of production into the hands of the workers, which it could even do gently by simply taxing income from wealth at a higher rate than labor. The United States practice of, basically doing the complete reverse of that, is, in addition to being immoral, also highly inefficient, leading to massive malinvestments which can’t help but lead to regular bubbles and recessions.

Egality: not only the right thing to do, it’s the efficient thing :slight_smile:

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#11

They know Roberts Rules.

If you want to beat the rich, beat them with Roberts Rules.

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#12

This might be fruitful. The idea one gets from the Communist Manifesto, and socialist memes in general, is a pretty clear-cut world of suits vs. blue-collar workers. It doesn’t really take into account, for instance, the relationship between Uber and its drivers (who do own the means of production, and that is a large part of what makes them exploitable). Or between Buzzfeed (etc.) and its writers. It was written in a time before Silicon Valley, pharma bros, UBI, or even a significant middle class.

There’s often an emphasis on workers rather than people that I sometimes find a bit disturbing, and an assumption that for every worker there is a job. What about retirees, the disabled, or those whose jobs have been automated away or who simply aren’t needed? Given productivity advances and population, there is less work to do than there are people to do it – and that’s probably more true if we eliminate some of the gross inefficiencies of capitalism as practiced today (artificial scarcity, planned obsolence, some of the waste resulting from competition). I’m ready to reject the idea that people must work if they want to live.

I think of myself as a socialist in general, but perhaps not in specific. I’m also no economist, though.

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#13

To add to that… that’s already how rentiers operate. Some of them do “work” of some kind in order to increase their wealth, but really, once one has a certain amount of capital that’s not necessary.

Supposdly, income at that point is the reward from “risk”, but what they risk is the possibility of not being a rentier anymore and falling into the middle/working class… hmm.

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#14

Oh this will be a good thread. I am keeping on eye on this.

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#15

I suspect a gradually rising UBI would reveal the degree to which work as a completely optional pursuit is already possible considering modern tech and human motivations. Quite likely it’s already possible, given that human motivation is largely based on pursuit of relative status rather than absolute, so most people will want to do at least some work to improve their lot anyway.

But supposing it isn’t yet possible, it honestly seems like the kind of thing deserving a moonshot effort.

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#16

There’s a lot in this paragraph I want to unpack, but I’ll start with how I define wealth and excess wealth without making it about workers-vs-non. Puff pieces tell us the “happiness” threshold (beyond which more money does not improve self-reported well-being) is an income of 75-85k$/yr. How income at that level becomes assets is messy but the savings rate and accumulation of equity on your wages approximates a profit margin. For many individuals, profit margin is near zero, especially below the minimal middle class level.

At a point, though, personal income becomes a much less important a measure of wealth, replaced by assets. Capital is just assets that give a person more control over their business (physical and intellectual property or just a giant wad of cash to allow one to operate at a loss until one shoves out one’s competitors). As with wage income, profit margin on revenue goes to security and investment, though maybe not investment in the generating business.

People who don’t want to work who get to this level invest as much as possible to grow their portfolio. An investment portfolio doesn’t require much work to run, so a probably stressful or uninteresting business is easily disposed of to fund a long retirement. Interestingly, this conservative kind of greed limits the possibilities for really great wealth and carries also the rejection of creative enterprise.

Depending on your lifestyle and what you do for work, wealth beyond that happiness sweet spot needn’t be a simple matter of greed. It may not make people happy but it does allow people to use what talents they have to their fullest. Ambition for craft and commercial accomplishment—again, apart from naked greed—can drive people on even when a desire for happiness is ignored. This level of operation is harder to pin down and its possibilities are restricted depending on the industry. I can imagine a driven individual driving themselves to burnout at some hands-on, everyday work at revenue levels of 30k$—or extending to as much as 30M$. Imagine a pro athlete or the owner-operator of a ship.

Still, there’s a level at which non-greed-based ambition also fails. A management team is hired to replace the owner, who moves on to other things. A passion maybe; a second project, what’s called a lateral move. Assuming their brain hasn’t turned to pudding from spending too long running a company or taking concussions on the playing field. A second or third project can be successful. After the work of building a business to a high level is done, the only trade the very wealthy can excel at is contract law. Apart from that, the supposed genius of an owner is useless. There’s too much detailed technical work, too much technically-savvy management of many teams of technically able people. There’s no room for being there if you aren’t really in it.

They simply do not have enough time in the day to manage their wealth.

In an analogy to stellar evolution, the only step up for this incompressible neutron-person (or a lazy, greedy person at a much smaller mass money level) is to collapse in a splash and go to a very dark realm.

Some wealthy are born in this dark place. They are sent to college for business management to prove that they aren’t unstable at low masses—possibly after a stint in military school. If they fail they’re thrown to the finance apprenticeships. If they succeed they know the value of professions like contract law and promotion but mostly they move on and up by taking on lawyers, managers, and industry fixers in ever-tighter webs of loyalty until, one by one, the minions are spaghettified by their proximity and velocity without ever really meeting the cipher at the core of their life.

The nice thing for these menacing masses of wealth is that at that level, profit margins can be increased without much attention or any knowledge… except where the contracts and copies of contracts are kept under lock and key. Effort is not an issue, just the loyalty of a certain minimum ratio of minions. Of course, these dark stars in the middle of tortured clouds of minions desire as close to 100% loyalty as possible—anything less is a insult.

Beyond those entrained by one of these beasts, superclusters of these blob-lords have created a situation where an ability in contract law is the most important trait for becoming powerful. The collective has powerful protections for abusive contracts, powerful laws against democratic control of trade, powerful bylaws within political parties. Application of that power results in a denigration of every other form and level of wealth: skills, knowledge, satisfaction in a living wage—comfortable but not extravagant. Wealth based on a moderate understanding of what wealth is good for, trading standards based on customer trust and quality, even the fundamental understanding of the place of business in society, all that is destroyed by the ever-sucking palatial egos of the very rich.

tldr: There are different kinds of wealth. Beyond a certain level, there is only one kind, the bad kind.

*sorry for the wall

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#17

A wealth of ambition that didn’t result in a wealthy monster:

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#19

From Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States

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#20

Caputo’s piece was more about the ambition for a warrior to remain in war, to revel in it for its own sake without necessarily promoting war. He didn’t become Eric Prince.

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#21

Yeah; that’s why I shifted my post to the general thread instead of a specific reply once I read it more carefully.

Good piece by Caputo, though.

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#22

Until the 1850s, in fact, by far the most popular and dominant form of social measurement in 19th-century America (as in Europe) were a collection of social indicators known then as “moral statistics,” which quantified such phenomena as prostitution, incarceration, literacy, crime, education, insanity, pauperism, life expectancy, and disease. While these moral statistics were laden with paternalism, they nevertheless focused squarely on the physical, social, spiritual, and mental condition of the American people. For better or for worse, they placed human beings at the center of their calculating vision. Their unit of measure was bodies and minds, never dollars and cents.

Yet around the middle of the century, money-based economic indicators began to gain prominence, eventually supplanting moral statistics as the leading benchmarks of American prosperity. This epochal shift can be seen in the national debates over slavery. In the earlier parts of the 19th century, Americans in the North and South wielded moral statistics in order to prove that their society was the more advanced and successful one. In the North, abolitionist newspapers like the Liberty Almanac pointed to the fact that the North had far more students, scholars, libraries, and colleges. In the South, politicians like John Calhoun used dubious data to argue that freedom was bad for black people. The proportion of Northern blacks “who are deaf and dumb, blind, idiots, insane, paupers and in prison,” Calhoun claimed in 1844, was “one out of every six,” while in the South it was “one of every one hundred and fifty-four.”

By the late 1850s, however, most Northern and Southern politicians and businessmen had abandoned such moral statistics in favor of economic metrics. In the opening chapter of his best-selling 1857 book against slavery, the author Hinton Helper measured the “progress and prosperity” of the North and the South by tabulating the cash value of agricultural produce that both regions had extracted from the earth. In so doing, he calculated that in 1850 the North was clearly the more advanced society, for it had produced $351,709,703 of goods and the South only $306,927,067. Speaking the language of productivity, Helper’s book became a hit with Northern businessmen, turning many men of capital to the antislavery cause.

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