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I'd like to hear some responses before i share my opinion, so I think the title says it all.

Please discuss.

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Comments (291)

  • mxc's picture

    You mean you want us to do your homework.

  • Capitalist's picture

    The main problem of shifting towards a more capitalist society is that inequality increases but freedom and living standards increase for everyone.

  • econ's picture

    Also, keep in mind some of the reasons that the (measured) income inequality in the US has increased:

    1. We take a tremendous amount of immigrants that start off at the bottom of the income ladder. They make much more than they did in their home country, but they're still poor by our standards. As a thought experiment, imagine what would happen to inequality in a country of 1M if you added 100K people who had incomes in the (previous) bottom quintile. Obviously, measured inequality would go up, but when you look behind the data you realize no one was getting rich at the expense of anyone else.

    2. Women used to be "barefoot and pregnant." They didn't get college degrees and they didn't work. These days, that's no longer the case. Since, "birds of a feather flock together," men and women with similar education backgrounds and incomes (or expected incomes when young) often marry one another. That is, highly educated and productive people tend to marry one another, further increasing the gap between rich and poor.

    Below are some other random thoughts on the topic:

    1. Inequality says nothing about mobility. Maybe there's a certain gap between rich and poor, but people move along quintiles a lot. And maybe there is a relationship (positive or negative) between inequality and mobility. In other words, even if measured income inequality has increased, you actually can't draw the conclusion that "the rich are getting richer." Check the Economics Group income inequality post, I put up a video that explains this point. (Statistical groups are not flesh and blood human beings that remain fixed/constant over time, and should not be treated as such.)

    2. Sometimes the studies look at household income inequality, without controlling for household size and the fact that family size among various groups has changed over time. So, maybe in 1950 the bottom quintile and top quintile both had the same average number of children. And maybe today, the bottom quintile has a lower number of people on average. Maybe it turns out that "rich families" are rich because they are often comprised of two working parents. And poor families are more likely to be comprised of single, recent college grads, or households with only one working parent due to divorce.

    3. Is "correcting" income inequality (even to a modest degree) achievable? And if so, what sorts of unintended consequences will result?

    What's my point? You can't just look at some statistical artifact and draw a lot of conclusions that people try to draw. Data and the studies that analyze them are complicated, sometimes confusing, and often leave a lot to be desired.

  • What-to-do-What-to-do's picture

    dude do your own homework

  • In reply to econ
    prinmemo's picture

    econ:
    Also, keep in mind some of the reasons that the (measured) income inequality in the US has increased:

    1. We take a tremendous amount of immigrants that start off at the bottom of the income ladder. They make much more than they did in their home country, but they're still poor by our standards. As a thought experiment, imagine what would happen to inequality in a country of 1M if you added 100K people who had incomes in the (previous) bottom quintile. Obviously, measured inequality would go up, but when you look behind the data you realize no one was getting rich at the expense of anyone else.

    2. Women used to be "barefoot and pregnant." They didn't get college degrees and they didn't work. These days, that's no longer the case. Since, "birds of a feather flock together," men and women with similar education backgrounds and incomes (or expected incomes when young) often marry one another. That is, highly educated and productive people tend to marry one another, further increasing the gap between rich and poor.

    Below are some other random thoughts on the topic:

    1. Inequality says nothing about mobility. Maybe there's a certain gap between rich and poor, but people move along quintiles a lot. And maybe there is a relationship (positive or negative) between inequality and mobility. In other words, even if measured income inequality has increased, you actually can't draw the conclusion that "the rich are getting richer." Check the Economics Group income inequality post, I put up a video that explains this point. (Statistical groups are not flesh and blood human beings that remain fixed/constant over time, and should not be treated as such.)

    2. Sometimes the studies look at household income inequality, without controlling for household size and the fact that family size among various groups has changed over time. So, maybe in 1950 the bottom quintile and top quintile both had the same average number of children. And maybe today, the bottom quintile has a lower number of people on average. Maybe it turns out that "rich families" are rich because they are often comprised of two working parents. And poor families are more likely to be comprised of single, recent college grads, or households with only one working parent due to divorce.

    3. Is "correcting" income inequality (even to a modest degree) achievable? And if so, what sorts of unintended consequences will result?

    What's my point? You can't just look at some statistical artifact and draw a lot of conclusions that people try to draw. Data and the studies that analyze them are complicated, sometimes confusing, and often leave a lot to be desired.

    I agree that we need to look beyond the raw statistics. Nevertheless, I've seen in various places that the top 400 earners in the U.S. together earned more than the bottom 50% combined. You don't need to look too much into those numbers to come up with some hard conclusions. Obviously this is happening for a reason, but we should not dismiss it out of hand like so many libertarians and conservatives do.

  • prinmemo's picture

    Dude, take a chill pill. If you read what I wrote closely you'd realize I admitted that the reasons for this disparity could be legit. The issue I take is not that the rich make so much money but that the bottom half struggle so much to keep up. It's not about taking aim at the rich, but rather addressing what ails those at the bottom.

    Also, are you saying I am jelous? Are you saying that if I think this isn't ideal it means I am jelous?

    Again, chill. And don't assume so much.

  • In reply to prinmemo
    econ's picture

    prinmemo:
    I agree that we need to look beyond the raw statistics. Nevertheless, I've seen in various places that the top 400 earners in the U.S. together earned more than the bottom 50% combined. You don't need to look too much into those numbers to come up with some hard conclusions. Obviously this is happening for a reason, but we should not dismiss it out of hand like so many libertarians and conservatives do.

    So, why does it matter if the top 400 earners are wealthier than the bottom 50% combined? Also, that wouldn't even necessarily mean income inequality has increased, since that's just some small percentage of the population.

  • prinmemo's picture

    Smitty, why do you always insult people if they disagree with you? I don't think inequality is necessarily a bad thing, and I don't think most liberals do, either. As long as everyone is better off I am okay with it.

  • In reply to econ
    prinmemo's picture

    econ:
    prinmemo:
    I agree that we need to look beyond the raw statistics. Nevertheless, I've seen in various places that the top 400 earners in the U.S. together earned more than the bottom 50% combined. You don't need to look too much into those numbers to come up with some hard conclusions. Obviously this is happening for a reason, but we should not dismiss it out of hand like so many libertarians and conservatives do.

    So, why does it matter if the top 400 earners are wealthier than the bottom 50% combined? Also, that wouldn't even necessarily mean income inequality has increased, since that's just some small percentage of the population.

    I think we take different views on how to analyze this issue. It seems that you really don't care about the causes and/or consequences of this inequality from an economics and/or political perspective. If one guy owns 99% of all wealth in a country you really have zero problem with that. Am I understanding you correctly?

    All I am saying is that we need to look deep into the numbers and figure out whether we are seeing this large income disparity because those at the top are just killing it or because those at the bottom are falling seriously behind. If those at the top are killing it then I really have no issues with it. If it's because those at the bottom are falling seriously behind then we need to figure out why that is. Is it because our public schools are severely underperforming and not giving kids a fair shot at making it? Or is it because we have other severe social problems that are making an aggregate impact on some kinds of people?

    From my perspective, it is worth looking into this. From your perspective, it doesn't matter.

    I will tell you that I am originally from a country that doesn't care about this stuff and income inequality there is belligerently high (higher than the U.S.). The result is strong political polarization, high crime, and really a lack of a merit based system, since only those with money can ever really afford a good enough education to get the good jobs, produce, etc. Now, I am not comparing the U.S. to my native country, but I would hate to see this country move in that direction.

  • In reply to prinmemo
    econ's picture

    prinmemo:
    econ:
    prinmemo:
    I agree that we need to look beyond the raw statistics. Nevertheless, I've seen in various places that the top 400 earners in the U.S. together earned more than the bottom 50% combined. You don't need to look too much into those numbers to come up with some hard conclusions. Obviously this is happening for a reason, but we should not dismiss it out of hand like so many libertarians and conservatives do.

    So, why does it matter if the top 400 earners are wealthier than the bottom 50% combined? Also, that wouldn't even necessarily mean income inequality has increased, since that's just some small percentage of the population.

    I think we take different views on how to analyze this issue. It seems that you really don't care about the causes and/or consequences of this inequality from an economics and/or political perspective. If one guy owns 99% of all wealth in a country you really have zero problem with that. Am I understanding you correctly?

    You are not understanding me correctly. You assume I don't care about the causes, when in fact, I do. Unless he is allowed to use coercion, I realize that one guy can only get 99% of the wealth in a country if he provides a tremendous amount of benefit to everyone else. That's how wealth happens under voluntary exchange. Econ 101 logic implies that an exchange was mutually beneficial (assuming the exchange was voluntary) because otherwise it would not have taken place.

    Furthermore, even if we could all agree that a certain level of income inequality is undesirable, does that mean we should use coercion to rearrange the income distribution produced by voluntary decisions/actions? If I earn $X voluntarily, why should you and other voters be allowed to coercively take it away? Is that consistent with individual liberty and property rights? Lastly, you might not even be able to get the levels of equality you hope for, even after decreasing the levels of freedom and production. As Thomas Sowell explains in the debate portion of the "Free to Choose" episode on inequality:

    SOWELL: I think we're talking at cross purposes. On the one hand we're talking about results that we're hoping for. On the other hand we're talking about processes that we're setting in motion. You're saying, should we hope for certain kinds of lessening of inequality and so on. The real question, the political question is: shall we set in motion certain processes because we hope for that and do those processes enhance or reduce freedom? And I think the argument that Milton is making and certainly the argument that I would make is that the attempt at doing these things __ and it doesn't really matter, it's a complete strawman to talk about absolute inequality if you're __

    JAY: This is the strawman.

    SOWELL: __ no, no not at all.

    JAY: Yes it is. Absolutely throughout the film this is the strawman he brings up in order to say how ridiculous to have absolute equality. And then he goes on to say __

    SOWELL: No.

    JAY: __ how ridiculous to have __

    SOWELL: My whole point is __ as a result, you see, that you set up processes and the end result may not be any more or less inequality that exists now, but the question of it is, those processes may indeed reduce freedom greatly. I would go beyond the question of equality and put it more generally that any process to ascribe any status to any group of people, equality, inferiority, superiority, must necessarily reduce freedom because whatever the government wishes to ascribe to any group, whatever place, to use the phrase that was very common in the south that blacks should have their place, whatever place the government is going to assign to people. That place will not coincide __ wait __ that place will not coincide either with what all those people are doing or with how others perceive all those people because there's too much diversity among human beings to maintain any system of ascribed status from the top is going to mean reducing people's freedom across the spectrum. That's the point.

  • prinmemo's picture

    You keep on harping on coercion. I haven't advocated higher taxes anywhere. Rather, I prefer to increase investments designed to make those at the bottom more competitive if that is the cause of higher inequality. To pay for this, I advocate lower spending elsewhere, such as the military. If higher inequality is a result of the top doing better and not because those in the bottom half are doing poorly, I have zero problem with inequality.

  • In reply to prinmemo
    econ's picture

    prinmemo:
    You keep on harping on coercion. I haven't advocated higher taxes anywhere. Rather, I prefer to increase investments designed to make those at the bottom more competitive if that is the cause of higher inequality. To pay for this, I advocate lower spending elsewhere, such as the military. If higher inequality is a result of the top doing better and not because those in the bottom half are doing poorly, I have zero problem with inequality.

    First, even if you're just redirecting government funds, the principle still holds -- should we be allowed to use governmental funds (which is always taken coercively) to aim for certain levels of equality. The issues of freedom, liberty, and coercion don't disappear just because we're talking about money that has already been taken coercively and is currently being spent elsewhere.

    Second, what kind of investments are you talking about specifically? And are those investment decisions being made voluntarily (either via markets, charity, or non-profits) or are those decisions being made politically (which is necessarily coercive)?

    Third, I think it's ridiculous to think you could actually figure out whether the inequality comes from the bottom half "doing poorly" or not. It's a very subjective question and even if you could try and come up with some more objective question, it'd still be hard to measure. If you see that over time, the top 10% earn more and the bottom 10% earn less, it's far from clear "the rich" have benefited at the expense of "the poor." And, if it comes about through voluntary actions, why should anyone stop it?

  • LIBOR's picture

    QE2 allows the rich to benefit at the expense of the poor. 92% of financial wealth in this country is owned by the top 20% of earners. QE2's stated aim is to keep equity prices higher (see Bernanke on 60 minutes or read the Fed's press releases). Meanwhile, CPI (with Food and Energy) will be increasing as this new money finds itself in commodity funds, pushing up prices on gas and food. Thus, in a way, QE2 increases the cost of living for the poor, and increases the value of equity holdings for the rich, making it an enormous transfer of wealth.

    The rest of the above topic was discussed at length about a month ago.

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  • In reply to econ
    prinmemo's picture

    econ:
    prinmemo:
    You keep on harping on coercion. I haven't advocated higher taxes anywhere. Rather, I prefer to increase investments designed to make those at the bottom more competitive if that is the cause of higher inequality. To pay for this, I advocate lower spending elsewhere, such as the military. If higher inequality is a result of the top doing better and not because those in the bottom half are doing poorly, I have zero problem with inequality.

    First, even if you're just redirecting government funds, the principle still holds -- should we be allowed to use governmental funds (which is always taken coercively) to aim for certain levels of equality. The issues of freedom, liberty, and coercion don't disappear just because we're talking about money that has already been taken coercively and is currently being spent elsewhere.

    Second, what kind of investments are you talking about specifically? And are those investment decisions being made voluntarily (either via markets, charity, or non-profits) or are those decisions being made politically (which is necessarily coercive)?

    Third, I think it's ridiculous to think you could actually figure out whether the inequality comes from the bottom half "doing poorly" or not. It's a very subjective question and even if you could try and come up with some more objective question, it'd still be hard to measure. If you see that over time, the top 10% earn more and the bottom 10% earn less, it's far from clear "the rich" have benefited at the expense of "the poor." And, if it comes about through voluntary actions, why should anyone stop it?

    You want to have a society where no one pays any taxes and we have no government. Anything the government does to you is coercive (which is true, as Mr. Leviathan says hello, creates order, and makes sure some neanderthal doesn't just walk into your house, kills you and your children, and takes your wife and gets away with it). Let's get back to the real world and discuss things that can actually occur. Robert Nozick's Anarchy, State, and Utopia is a nice read and I agree with many things in there, but it will never be reality in a modern country. Milton Friedman's Capitalism and Freedom is also incredible, but some of the stuff in there is just impractical. Theory is nice and all, but it's not reality.

    I bet you are against any and all kinds of taxes. Puts you at the extreme. Even Milton Friedman was okay with certain taxes, such as the carbon tax.

  • In reply to LIBOR
    econ's picture

    <a href=http://www.wallstreetoasis.com/finance-dictionary/what-is-london-interbank-offer-rate-libor rel=nofollow>LIBOR</a>:
    QE2 allows the rich to benefit at the expense of the poor. 92% of financial wealth in this country is owned by the top 20% of earners. QE2's stated aim is to keep equity prices higher (see Bernanke on 60 minutes or read the Fed's press releases). Meanwhile, CPI (with Food and Energy) will be increasing as this new money finds itself in commodity funds, pushing up prices on gas and food. Thus, in a way, QE2 increases the cost of living for the poor, and increases the value of equity holdings for the rich, making it an enormous transfer of wealth.

    The rest of the above topic was discussed at length about a month ago.

    I don't disagree. I would refer to my Sowell quote above, and say that the government shouldn't be trying to ascribe status, wealth, or anything like that to any group.... rich or poor....

  • In reply to prinmemo
    econ's picture

    prinmemo:
    You want to have a society where no one pays any taxes and we have no government. Anything the government does to you is coercive (which is true, as Mr. Leviathan says hello, creates order, and makes sure some neanderthal doesn't just walk into your house, kills you and your children, and takes your wife and gets away with it). Let's get back to the real world and discuss things that can actually occur. Robert Nozick's Anarchy, State, and Utopia is a nice read and I agree with many things in there, but it will never be reality in a modern country. Milton Friedman's Capitalism and Freedom is also incredible, but some of the stuff in there is just impractical. Theory is nice and all, but it's not reality.

    I bet you are against any and all kinds of taxes. Puts you at the extreme. Even Milton Friedman was okay with certain taxes, such as the carbon tax.

    I never said I want zero taxes. What I'm saying, and what I believe, is that all forms of taxation are coercive. Maybe it's a necessary evil, so we should keep it at bay and allow the government to do a limited number of functions. Friedman lays out his view on what they should be at the beginning of Capitalism and Freedom and I wouldn't call that an impractical list, at all. You could also take it in another direction, such as that laid out by Frederic Bastiat in "The Law." Basically, Bastiat says that human beings are born with certain inalienable rights and have the right to protect those rights via force. Furthermore, since people have the right to use force to protect certain rights, they can also allow the government to protect those rights. Another distinction that is often made, is that of negative vs. positive rights. I imagine you're already aware of this distinction, but I'll state it briefly, in case you aren't. There's a fundamental difference between saying that nobody has the right to take someone else's life, and saying that some people have the right to take the money/property of others because they're significantly wealthier.

  • In reply to econ
    monkeysama's picture

    econ:
    prinmemo:
    You want to have a society where no one pays any taxes and we have no government. Anything the government does to you is coercive (which is true, as Mr. Leviathan says hello, creates order, and makes sure some neanderthal doesn't just walk into your house, kills you and your children, and takes your wife and gets away with it). Let's get back to the real world and discuss things that can actually occur. Robert Nozick's Anarchy, State, and Utopia is a nice read and I agree with many things in there, but it will never be reality in a modern country. Milton Friedman's Capitalism and Freedom is also incredible, but some of the stuff in there is just impractical. Theory is nice and all, but it's not reality.

    I bet you are against any and all kinds of taxes. Puts you at the extreme. Even Milton Friedman was okay with certain taxes, such as the carbon tax.

    I never said I want zero taxes. What I'm saying, and what I believe, is that all forms of taxation are coercive. Maybe it's a necessary evil, so we should keep it at bay and allow the government to do a limited number of functions. Friedman lays out his view on what they should be at the beginning of Capitalism and Freedom and I wouldn't call that an impractical list, at all. You could also take it in another direction, such as that laid out by Frederic Bastiat in "The Law." Basically, Bastiat says that human beings are born with certain inalienable rights and have the right to protect those rights via force. Furthermore, since people have the right to use force to protect certain rights, they can also allow the government to protect those rights. Another distinction that is often made, is that of negative vs. positive rights. I imagine you're already aware of this distinction, but I'll state it briefly, in case you aren't. There's a fundamental difference between saying that nobody has the right to take someone else's life, and saying that some people have the right to take the money/property of others because they're significantly wealthier.

    Yes, all forms of taxation are coercive. Monopolies that control the cost of primary goods and corporations that collectively bargain against a disorganized labor force are also coercive.

    I really don't care if I get fucked by the government or fucked by an aristocrat, it's still a pain in the ass. Pass the lube.

  • monkeysama's picture

    Also econ, I like the talk. Thanks!

  • In reply to monkeysama
    econ's picture

    monkeysama:
    Monopolies that control the cost of primary goods and corporations that collectively bargain against a disorganized labor force are also coercive.

    Not really, since they are interacting with one another in a voluntary way. Keep the proper dichotomy in mind, voluntary action versus coercion...

    Not to mention, monopolies are often the result of special privileges granted by government, but I digress...

  • leveredarb's picture

    right so poor people just settle for worse universities? great idea.

    The UK had oxbridge tuiton fees of 4500 dollars per year(yes this will change now).

    The other major european countries mainly have negligible tuition fees(of the order of up to 1500 dollars per year). Yes there are much more expensive private universities in europe, but those are shit for the most part, and on par with state universities in very few cases.

    you still seem to be the most expensive anywhere to me :X

  • prinmemo's picture

    As for the educational costs question, at the undergraduate level the best universities provide incredibly good financial aid for students from low income families. At Princeton (and I know at other similar schools) a poor kid basically gets to go for free and doesn't need to get any loans. I know of several examples of this. In fact, I know the university goes out of its way to ensure that no one doesn't choose not to attend on account of money.

    The biggest challenge to low income students, IMO, is getting a good enough education at the pre-university level to compete effectively. If they manage to do it and get into a top school, money should never be an issue.

  • leveredarb's picture

    how vital is it to go to private school before college in the states? Is it matter of you essentially being screwed if you dont like in the UK?

    Id say another big challenge is the fact that poorer students can't do unpaid summer internships simply becaus they can't afford to.

    Also I am not saying college education is prohibitively expensive, I am just saying arguing the US college system is most likely the priciest in the world.

  • In reply to econ
    monkeysama's picture

    econ:
    monkeysama:
    Monopolies that control the cost of primary goods and corporations that collectively bargain against a disorganized labor force are also coercive.

    Not really, since they are interacting with one another in a voluntary way. Keep the proper dichotomy in mind, voluntary action versus coercion...

    Not to mention, monopolies are often the result of special privileges granted by government, but I digress...

    You have an interesting definition of voluntary. Voluntarily accepting lower wages so you can eat and voluntarily being crushed into debt by rising prices doesn't seem so voluntary to me when that's your only option.

    Please try and keep the proper dichotomy in mind.

  • In reply to monkeysama
    econ's picture

    monkeysama:
    You have an interesting definition of voluntary. Voluntarily accepting lower wages so you can eat and voluntarily being crushed into debt by rising prices doesn't seem so voluntary to me when that's your only option.

    Please try and keep the proper dichotomy in mind.

    Nope, you missed the whole point, once again... voluntary in the sense that you do not have the right to coercively take my property because you feel you have "too low a wage," "not enough food," or "too much debt." You can persuade me to pay you a higher wage, give you some money, give you some food, or help relieve your debt, either through charity or through offering to trade something in return, but you can not just have whatever you want. Sure, you might not want your current wage, but if nobody wants to pay you any more than that, it means you can't come up with some sort of voluntary exchange. Notice that voluntary exchanges only take place when both parties stand to benefit, in other words it's a positive-sum situation. When you use coercion, one person benefits at the expense of someone else, which is usually a negative-sum situation (under the best case scenario, it's zero-sum).

    Even if you only have one option, what gives you the right to use force to create more options, and therefore reducing the choices (and liberty) of others? (And, I'm even putting aside the fact that there are seldom cases in which you really only have a single option.)

  • In reply to econ
    monkeysama's picture

    econ:
    monkeysama:
    You have an interesting definition of voluntary. Voluntarily accepting lower wages so you can eat and voluntarily being crushed into debt by rising prices doesn't seem so voluntary to me when that's your only option.

    Please try and keep the proper dichotomy in mind.

    Nope, you missed the whole point, once again... voluntary in the sense that you do not have the right to coercively take my property because you feel you have "too low a wage," "not enough food," or "too much debt." You can persuade me to pay you a higher wage, give you some money, give you some food, or help relieve your debt, either through charity or through offering to trade something in return, but you can not just have whatever you want. Sure, you might not want your current wage. But, if nobody wants to pay you any more than that, you can't come up with some sort of voluntary exchange. Notice that voluntary exchanges only take place when both parties stand to benefit, in other words it's a positive-sum situation. When you use coercion, one person benefits at the expense of someone else which is often a negative-sum situation (under the best case scenario, it's zero-sum).

    Even if you only have one option, what gives you the right to use force to create more options, and therefore reducing the choices (and liberty) of others?

    And you've entirely missed mine. If a man is dying of thirst in the desert he'll do anything for a sip of water. Such is the condition of many of today's working class - it has nothing to do with a "voluntary" transaction.

    Rights have got nothing to do with it. If enough people are starving then they'll rise up and take your food from you. Sure you might not want your property stripped from you as people ransack your home or kidnap your children (as they do in countries with very high income inequality, countries that the US is currently trying to emulate). But I guess that's just too bad isn't it?

    I take it my far subtler point wasn't made in my last point, but using lots of words with italics in them doesn't help to make your point, but it sure does prove how much of a pedantic jackass you are.

  • monkeysama's picture

    Not to mention you're ignoring a shit ton of stuff. Probably most important would be the effect of positional goods. I bet that the education I can get from Arizona State today is leagues above Harvard in 1910, but it doesn't matter. If you're from a nontarget school then you're chance of getting a high paying job in Big Finance is essentially zero. The size of the pie has increased - how the hell does that help me?

  • In reply to monkeysama
    econ's picture

    monkeysama:
    And you've entirely missed mine. If a man is dying of thirst in the desert he'll do anything for a sip of water. Such is the condition of many of today's working class - it has nothing to do with a "voluntary" transaction.

    Rights have got nothing to do with it. If enough people are starving then they'll rise up and take your food from you. Sure you might not want your property stripped from you as people ransack your home or kidnap your children (as they do in countries with very high income inequality, countries that the US is currently trying to emulate). But I guess that's just too bad isn't it?

    I take it my far subtler point wasn't made in my last point, but using lots of words with italics in them doesn't help to make your point, but it sure does prove how much of a pedantic jackass you are.

    Inequality has nothing do to with dying of thirst. The poor in the US are far from dying of hunger and thirst. The poor in the US are among the richest people in the world. You should keep in mind the difference between inequality and poverty. Even in your statement of "countries the US is trying to emulate" you should realize that you might not be controlling for wealth, i.e., the fact that people are robbing others for food is more a function of poverty than inequality (or in other cases, a failed legal system which secures the rights I'm referring to). Maybe even more importantly, is how that inequality comes about, whether it's through coercion or voluntary exchange. Richard Epstein discusses this eloquently here: http://www.econtalk.org/archives/2008/11/richard_e...

    Lastly, you shouldn't dismiss the rights issue, as few issues are as important. The moment you allow too much coercion and encourage people to benefit themselves at the expense of others, as opposed to appealing to them in a voluntary manner, you will crush a lot of the wealth that was created in the first place -- potentially giving you a great deal of equality, in the form of everyone being pretty poor. Epstein also discusses this issue quite eloquently in the podcast above.

    P.S. Yeah, you might as well call me a jackass because you're failing at arguing against any of my points. I guess you might as well reduce yourself to name calling when you can't win via logic and argumentation...

  • In reply to econ
    monkeysama's picture

    econ:
    monkeysama:
    And you've entirely missed mine. If a man is dying of thirst in the desert he'll do anything for a sip of water. Such is the condition of many of today's working class - it has nothing to do with a "voluntary" transaction.

    Rights have got nothing to do with it. If enough people are starving then they'll rise up and take your food from you. Sure you might not want your property stripped from you as people ransack your home or kidnap your children (as they do in countries with very high income inequality, countries that the US is currently trying to emulate). But I guess that's just too bad isn't it?

    I take it my far subtler point wasn't made in my last point, but using lots of words with italics in them doesn't help to make your point, but it sure does prove how much of a pedantic jackass you are.

    Inequality has nothing do to with dying of thirst. The poor in the US are far from dying of hunger and thirst. The poor in the US are among the richest people in the world. You should keep in mind the difference between inequality and poverty. Even in your statement of "countries the US is trying to emulate" you should realize that you might not be controlling for wealth, i.e., the fact that people are robbing others for food is more a function of poverty than inequality (or in other cases, a failed legal system which secures the rights I'm referring to). Maybe even more importantly, is how that inequality comes about, whether it's through coercion or voluntary exchange. Richard Epstein discusses this eloquently here: http://www.econtalk.org/archives/2008/11/richard_e...

    Lastly, you shouldn't dismiss the rights issue, as few issues are as important. The moment you allow too much coercion and encourage people to benefit themselves at the expense of others, as opposed to appealing to them in a voluntary manner, you will crush a lot of the wealth that was created in the first place -- potentially giving you a great deal of equality, in the form of everyone being pretty poor. Epstein also discusses this issue quite eloquently in the podcast above.

    P.S. Yeah, you might as well call me a jackass because you're failing at arguing against any of my points. I guess you might as well reduce yourself to name calling when you can't win via logic and argumentation...

    I respond to holier than thou pedagogy with name calling - so sue me.

    You keep saying voluntary, but I don't think that you know what the word means. Government sponsored monopolies are not voluntary. Bank bailouts are not voluntary. Cushy defense contracts are not voluntary. A private for profit prison system is not voluntary. The systematic destruction of union bargaining rights is not voluntary. The taxing of capital gains at rates 20 percent below income is not voluntary. The skyrocketing costs of
    healthcare and higher education is not voluntary.

    Here's Merriam-Webster's take on voluntary.
    Definition of VOLUNTARY

    1
    : proceeding from the will or from one's own choice or consent
    2
    : unconstrained by interference : self-determining
    3
    : done by design or intention : intentional
    4
    : of, relating to, subject to, or regulated by the will
    5
    : having power of free choice
    6
    : provided or supported by voluntary action
    7
    : acting or done of one's own free will without valuable consideration or legal obligation
    -- vol*un*tar*i*ly adverb
    -- vol*un*tar*i*ness noun
    See voluntary defined for English-language learners >>

    I don't consent to any of what I have mentioned. I don't freely choose for teachers to be stripped of their contracts while the Koch brother's get a tax write off. It is not my will that the median wage in this country has been stagnant for thirty years while buying power has fallen. It is not my design that jobs are being shipped off to India.

  • happypantsmcgee's picture

    Significantly changed your tune in the last few months Monkeysama

    If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses - Henry Ford

  • monkeysama's picture

    I'm getting bitter.

  • monkeysama's picture

    Also I can't stand this Randian nonsense - that people can sneer at those who are less fortunate than them and point to how all their gains are through their hard work and personal brilliance is simply astounding given the last 2 years.

    99 percent of the people who've made it got lucky. Not saying hard work wasn't involved, but people don't know how easy it is to fall from their pedestal.

  • In reply to monkeysama
    econ's picture

    monkeysama:
    You keep saying voluntary, but I don't think that you know what the word means. Government sponsored monopolies are not voluntary. Bank bailouts are not voluntary. Cushy defense contracts are not voluntary. A private for profit prison system is not voluntary. The systematic destruction of union bargaining rights is not voluntary. The taxing of capital gains at rates 20 percent below income is not voluntary. The skyrocketing costs of healthcare and higher education is not voluntary.

    Sigh... I find it hard to believe you didn't realize I was talking about voluntary exchange and voluntary interaction. That is, if I want a BMW, a $100K salary, or a girlfriend, I have to find someone who is willing to enter into that exchange or relationship with me...

    monkeysama:
    I don't consent to any of what I have mentioned. I don't freely choose for teachers to be stripped of their contracts while the Koch brother's get a tax write off. It is not my will that the median wage in this country has been stagnant for thirty years while buying power has fallen. It is not my design that jobs are being shipped off to India.

    Again, I would argue that you're missing the point.... I don't consent to the fact that I'm currently unemployed, but that doesn't deny that it came out of a process of voluntary exchange/interaction. Furthermore, just because I don't consent, doesn't give me the right to force someone else to accommodate me and my wants/needs. It doesn't matter if you consent or not to Bill Gates salary or the fact that Susie Q doesn't want to blow you, it is voluntary in the sense that the outcome came about through voluntary exchange/interaction.

    By the way, your examples in this quote are peculiar because they seem to prove my point. The Kock brothers tax write off, teachers contracts, and median wage buying power should not be decided coercively and centrally... they should be decided via voluntary exchange/interaction...

  • In reply to monkeysama
    econ's picture

    monkeysama:
    Also I can't stand this Randian nonsense - that people can sneer at those who are less fortunate than them and point to how all their gains are through their hard work and personal brilliance is simply astounding given the last 2 years.

    99 percent of the people who've made it got lucky. Not saying hard work wasn't involved, but people don't know how easy it is to fall from their pedestal.

    That's irrelevant for the conversation at hand, as far as I'm concerned. We'll never know how much it is luck, skill, or anything else. More importantly, it doesn't matter in my opinion -- even if it is luck, why does that give someone the right to forcefully take someone else's property?

  • monkeysama's picture

    There is no difference between being forced to play in a rigged labor market and "involuntary". Bribing the government with money and lobbyists to change the rules of the market is only different from a military state by degree but not by kind.

  • In reply to econ
    econ's picture

    econ:
    monkeysama:
    Also I can't stand this Randian nonsense - that people can sneer at those who are less fortunate than them and point to how all their gains are through their hard work and personal brilliance is simply astounding given the last 2 years.

    99 percent of the people who've made it got lucky. Not saying hard work wasn't involved, but people don't know how easy it is to fall from their pedestal.

    That's irrelevant for the conversation at hand, as far as I'm concerned. We'll never know how much it is luck, skill, or anything else. More importantly, it doesn't matter in my opinion -- even if it is luck, why does that give someone the right to forcefully take someone else's property?

    And, nobody is sneering at people less fortunate than themselves... I feel sorry for many people and would love to help them out through buying their product/service or giving them money. The question is whether I should be forced to do so. I say, no. I should be allowed to help people in the way and to the degree that I choose.

  • In reply to monkeysama
    econ's picture

    monkeysama:
    There is no difference between being forced to play in a rigged labor market and force. Bribing the government with money and lobbyists to change the rules of the market is only different from a military state by degree but not by kind.

    Why do you keep assuming I am for bribing the government with money/lobbyists? I've said a million times in this thread that I don't agree with that use of force/government, neither for corporations, nor for anyone else. Nice attempt at a strawman though...

  • monkeysama's picture

    It's not helping them if the game is already set up so they can't help but lose. It's evening the odds.

  • In reply to monkeysama
    econ's picture

    monkeysama:
    It's not helping them if the game is already set up so they can't help but lose. It's evening the odds.

    How is the game already set up so that "they" lose? Also, who is the "they" you're referring to here?

    And, why don't we just stop letting "them" rig the game, instead of trying to allow other people to rig it too?

  • prinmemo's picture

    My main concern with your argument is that you assume that coercion can only be accomplished directly or indirectly through government. That is an assumption I do not accept. Furthermore, your definition of voluntary is too theoretical.

  • happypantsmcgee's picture

    If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses - Henry Ford

  • In reply to econ
    monkeysama's picture

    econ:
    monkeysama:
    There is no difference between being forced to play in a rigged labor market and force. Bribing the government with money and lobbyists to change the rules of the market is only different from a military state by degree but not by kind.

    Why do you keep assuming I am for bribing the government with money/lobbyists? I've said a million times in this thread that I don't agree with that use of force/government, neither for corporations, nor for anyone else. Nice attempt at a strawman though...

    Not a strawman. The natural endpoint of libertarian idealism is that wealth is concentrated in the hands of the few. Moneyed interests will seek to keep and enlarge their power and so buy legislation and representatives that will give them monopoly rights, tax writeoffs, environmental permits for pollution, anti-union bills et cetera.

    I'm not attacking a position you have not made. I'm attacking the end result of your philosophical stance as untenable to basic human decency and using that as an example of why you are wrong.

  • In reply to prinmemo
    econ's picture

    prinmemo:
    My main concern with your argument is that you assume that coercion can only be accomplished directly or indirectly through government. That is an assumption I do not accept. Furthermore, your definition of voluntary is too theoretical.

    I do not assume that coercion can only be accomplished through government. People are raped, robbed, and killed by individuals daily. We should not allow people to do this to one another, and we should not allow the government to do it either.

    I could easily get more practical, but we're still debating the elementary points, so it's not an issue yet.

  • In reply to monkeysama
    econ's picture

    monkeysama:
    The natural endpoint of libertarian idealism is that wealth is concentrated in the hands of the few.

    I completely disagree, but let's not go there...

  • In reply to econ
    monkeysama's picture

    econ:
    monkeysama:
    It's not helping them if the game is already set up so they can't help but lose. It's evening the odds.

    How is the game already set up so that "they" lose? Also, who is the "they" you're referring to here?

    And, why don't we just stop letting "them" rig the game, instead of trying to allow other people to rig it too?

    Don't play stupid. It's beneath you. The "they" in this case are the less fortunate and the "them" in this case are moneyed interests, which is clear if you review the thread. If you want hard numbers how about we take the "they" to be anyone who is making less than 99 percent of the population and the "them" as the richest 1 percent.

  • prinmemo's picture

    I was referring to non violent coercion. Those would be some obvious examples, so I did not feel the need to mention them.

  • prinmemo's picture

    Also, should the government protect us against coercion?

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