Maximum Wage and a Free Market

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Discussion by: kampinkarl48

When it comes to economics, one of the greatest tragedies of our modern era is the ludicrous amounts of income inequality deemed necessary as "incentive" to work hard. Somebody earning more money for doing a more difficult task isn't unreasonable, in fact it's quite beneficial to society. However, giving ever-increasing wealth to a small set of people is the most damaging thing possible to the economy, our democracy, and our societal progress.

My hypothesis is this, if a maximum wage was implemented, people would still have incentive to work hard to achieve greater things, while not having incentive to pay their employees sub par wages.

The maximum wage doesn't have to be anything small either. If you say you want to be able to earn ten times the minimum wage, I believe that is more than suitable. But the minimum wage should still pay for all of an individual's wants and needs. 

Quite simply, the goal of an economy is to get people the goods and services they need. Giving near unlimited access to some people and no access to others is simply unethical. Our society is producing more than enough goods and services for everyone, so not distributing them is simply a sign of a dysfunctional system.

You could very well make the arguement, "But what of artists and athletes who dont work all their lives?". I very simply counter with you set up a retirement fund for these individuals and spread the excess income elsewhere to those who need it.

You could also say ten times the income of the lowest earners isn't enough incentive to work hard. To that I say either you are quite lazy, or you fail to realize that having the cash for a ten times larger house, a ten times larger family, and ten times as many luxury items is a hell of a lot better than having equal to the lowest earner.

The argument could also be made that the lowest income isn't very high and that basing maximum income on that is foolhardy. If that is the case the  minimum wage should be raised then, shouldn't it?

Any way you slice it, earning unlimited capital gives an individual vast power over others and tramples on economic functionality and social equality. Setting fair minimum and maximum wages puts balance in our society, taking us away from the state of near feudalism we live in while still keeping us far away form the dangers of socialism. It's a happy middle ground, what America has always strived for, and what our country (and others similar to it) desperately need to establish a more equal and just society.

77 COMMENTS

  1. Well, this wouldn’t fix the problem. The super wealthy don’t make there money via salary. It’s from “money breeding money”.

    In the case of top artists and athletes I have no problem with them making millions. Everyone can see they earned it the hard way, in particular the athletes. If you play football in the Premier League you earned it.

    In fact I believe it would be better to start fighting income inequality the other way around: An unconditional basic income that would give poor people – indeed all of us – the option to refuse lousy work for a lousy salary.

  2. The day a country tries to cap my earning potential (or taxes me in a manner I deem grossly unfair) is the day I move to another one. If you cap the earning potential of skilled people to 10x the average then those capable of earning much more than that will simply leave. You’ll lose all the best and the brightest to countries that are willing to pay them.

    I’d say I do my bit when it comes to charitable works, giving away money / assets and helping causes I find worthy. I certainly give away much, much more than the average person – not just in actual value but as a percentage of income. Not only that, I can target my assistance much quicker and much more effectively than the government can. There’s no wastage on my part, I’m not paying anyone salaries to administer the funds, to debate for an hour in a pointless meeting in an oak panelled room in an expensive city centre office about whether it goes to the Cancer Research Trust or the Researching Cancer Trust. If I choose to aid a cause that’s come to my attention, it doesn’t take weeks of bureaucracy before any money is released, I simply make a call and wire the funds.

    If the government were to tax me (or cream off my income anything above X) the equivalent of what I donate (for example), then how much would actually make it to worthy causes? How much would be lost in the aforementioned red tape, the paperwork, administration, salaries etc? And not only that, what about my say in where all this wealth that I’ve generated goes? I don’t want it being launched at people in sandy countries, used to build mosques or sunk into providing homeopathic remedies for black, lesbian, disabled donkeys just because that’s the government’s current poster campaign.

    Additionally, and this is normally the contentious point, why would I want it spent to raise the income of people who’ve chosen to have kids and chosen to have one stay at home parent? I work 16 hours a day, 7 days a week. I’ve built up my companies through hard work over many years. I’ve sacrificed relationships with partners, friendships and – in some cases – my health pursuing what I decided my priorities were. Others might consider my priorities wrong but they don’t know me, don’t know why I’ve chosen this path and I’ve no interest in their opinion on the subject. The salient point is that – up until now, at any rate – I’ve chosen the pursuit of wealth in the same way that others have chosen the pursuit of family life. Suggesting that the income streams that I’ve built up be capped and handed over to others will elicit the same kind of response from me as it would from others if I suggested that there should be a ‘family life’ cap and I want one of that guy’s kids and his wife two nights a week.

    Anyway, I appear to have ranted somewhat so I’ll boil it down for those crying TL;DR:

    No, stupid idea.

    • In reply to #3 by BenS:

      The day a country tries to cap my earning potential (or taxes me in a manner I deem grossly unfair) is the day I move to another one. If you cap the earning potential of skilled people to 10x the average then those capable of earning much more than that will simply leave. You’ll lose all the best an…

      Would you leave a liberal democracy for a country like Saudi Arabia if they gave you a better salary? Just saying…

      I live in tiny social democracy with very high taxes. Every so often business leaders threaten to move abroad if we don’t lower the taxes for corporations. So far though, I can’t recall a single Finnish company moving it’s headquarters abroad. Production, yes. But R&D and the headquarters, no so often.

      Yes, of course taxes matters. But, only if a society can provide a stable, safe and open society with lower taxes. So far, USA has managed to do that. But, with the growing income inequality I’m pretty sure it’s just a matter of time before that changes. When you reach a point where the rich have to live in segregated communities and large portions of the country is polluted or ghettos I think people might reconsider whether they want their kids to grow up in such an environment.

      As it stands, the most functional and pleasant countries to live in for the time being tend to be countries with a quite high taxation. Yes, there are a few tax havens but they really are very small and specialized. Until we find a better way to finance our economies we are stuck with taxes. Whether we like them or not.

      • In reply to #7 by Nunbeliever:

        Would you leave a liberal democracy for a country like Saudi Arabia if they gave you a better salary? Just saying…

        Well, I did say ‘another one’ not ‘the shittest rabid theocracy I could find’. The country I’d move to would have to support (or, at least, tolerate) my obscene fatcat lifestyle of hookers and blackjack…

        • In reply to #9 by BenS:

          Well, I did say ‘another one’ not ‘the shittest rabid theocracy I could find’. The country I’d move to would have to support (or, at least, tolerate)…

          Haha, I know. I just could not help myself :D

    • In reply to #3 by BenS:

      The day a country tries to cap my earning potential (or taxes me in a manner I deem grossly unfair) is the day I move to another one. If you cap the earning potential of skilled people to 10x the average then those capable of earning much more than that will simply leave. You’ll lose all the best and brightest…

      Some of our wealthiest may be among the brightest. But we may also lose all the greediest, most money-motivated members of society. I hope you enjoy your new country.

      • In reply to #64 by Palema:

        Some of our wealthiest may be among the brightest. But we may also lose all the greediest, most money-motivated members of society. I hope you enjoy your new country.

        What does it matter if someone is money motivated, as long as they’re benefiting society as a whole. If someone is already contributing more to the economy than you are… why would you want to get rid of them? They’re subsiding you. Maybe they are greedy, but they were still paying taxes here until you ran them off by waving punitive tax measures around. Now instead of getting 20% of their 3m a year profits, you’re getting nothing. And yet.. you’re happier, because you’ve got rid of a ‘greedy’ person. A ‘greedy’ person who never used the NHS because they always went private, never used public transport because they were chauffered around, never claimed benefits because they were wealthy but whose taxes went to pay for all those things.

        Some people get so caught up in despising the wealthy they don’t realise that the wealthy DO actually pay some taxes – and even though it’s not as much as some people would like, it’s normally still far more than those complaining contribute themselves.

        • In reply to #65 by BenS:

          . never used public transport because they were chauffered around,

          You say that as if it were a good thing! Pity this Person X wouldn’t deign to use public transport like ordinary mortals, thus saving the added burden to our air supply.

          In Australia our latest crop of billionaires acquired their wealth by mining. Granted they have have invested millions, possibly billions into their businesses and they provide employment for a large number of workers. They’re not doing this out of the goodness of their hearts. They make huge profits from these endeavours. If it were possible for them to get workers prepared to work for less, they would do this. ( these sentiments are on record).

          The state government owns any minerals found above and below the ground. A prospective miner has to get a mining lease from the government and pay royalties once the minerals start to be mined. This differs from the US system where the landowners own the minerals above and below the ground.( think Jed Clampet in “Beverly Hillbillies”). As result of this system, it’s possible for the state to gather a great deal in revenues.

          So far it all sounds well and good for the population of mining states, and it is. However, mining magnates still manage to make huge profits! Enormous profits! The minerals are a finite resource and will eventually run out. Is it fair that a small number of people are able to benefit to this extent from what belongs to the population as a whole? BTW by employing some measures of creative accounting it’s possible to appear to be making very little.

  3. No sorry I can’t agree with this, and at no point, even in my profoundly unproductive youth, would I have agreed with this.

    Yes, there are those talks about motivation and reward, and how you might me more productive even if you were earning less. But that stuff is aimed at corporates who like to justify the strategies they use to pay their staff as little as possible, even though the value that they produce should be aligned to higher salaries.

    All you end up with in that scenario are corporates who still reap all the rewards of more productive employees, but now instead of spreading the wealth the profits reside within the corporation, and applying a maximum wage would just aggravate the problem.

    There is still going to be someone controlling this system, who will have access to ever more vast resources as legislation caps what can be re-distributed to workers. The machine doesn’t have a conscience and isn’t going to suddenly redistribute this to staff who add minimal value and are easily replaceable. You would then have to go and create a whole bunch of legislation to deal with the profit created by all of this surplus wealth, and it seems that it would be almost impossible to contrive a system that would be better than the free market.

    But I stand to be corrected. You would have to start with a complete revamp of corporate law that requires it to act like a caring community, rather than front for deferring responsibility.

  4. You assume the source of income inequality has to do with gaps in wages or salaries. I would say that’s not true. Wealthy people tend to gather their wealth not by receiving huge salaries, but by owning stocks and property or by other means that are not directly related to your salary or wages. I can’t really see how you could prevent people from getting wealthy by implementing maximum wages.

    That said, I think you are right when you point out that it’s ridiculous to assume that income is the only incentive for people to work hard or be creative and innovative. SagaTheCat’s video, for example, shows that. But, even if it was true that a higher income is the sole motivator I don’t think our economies function in such a way. Salaries are usually quite hierarchical. In other words, there is very little you can do to radically influence your own salary. If you work as a janitor it does not matter how hard you work or how innovative or creative you are. You still will not earn even close to a very lazy physician. The salaries might be a motivator when people choose their profession, but even in these cases I’m convinced the salary is not anywhere as important as many economists seem to think. But even if we ignore that fact we can’t ignore that income is a very bad motivator in general. Why? Because you need to raise the salaries exponentially in order to gain the same effect. If you work at McDonald’s a hundred bucks might make a huge difference. But, if you are a lawyer at a top law firm you need to raise the salary with thousands of dollars to achieve the same effect. My point is that the higher up the food chain you get the harder it is to motivate people by raising their salaries. Or, from a cost benefit analysis it does not make sense to raise their salaries. This shows the double standard in our society. When dealing with workers salaries are used as motivators. If you don’t do your job you won’t get paid. But, when dealing with highly educated individuals or business leaders it’s not about motivation but entitlement. It’s not about how well you perform, but how much you can squeeze out of the system. Have you ever seen a cost benefit analysis with regard to highly educated people or business leaders? I haven’t. At least not one that is taken seriously.

  5. I’ve scarcely been a day alive without hearing the old saw that the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. But is it true?

    The first thing to note is that you rarely see a full statistical breakdown of this phenomenon. Rather the figures are chosen and partially quoted to fit the sentiment. First you have to decide how to measure wealth – income or capital or both or some other measure. Then having divided your population into say percentiles, then you must wait until next year and repeat the process exactly. Then the magic of manipulation can begin. You can choose to compare say the top 1% with the bottom 1% or the top 10% with the bottom 25% or the top 50% with the bottom 50%. Whatever you fancy and you will inevitably find a comparison to suit your bias and provide your headline.

    But it doesn’t end there. Because the people who make up your target groups are not the same each year. “The Rich” have become a different set of people, as have “The Poor”. So even though your chosen statistic may show the top 20% have got richer than the bottom the 20%, there will be lots of people from the original top 20% who have slipped out of the ratings and they may not have “got richer” that those who were in the bottom 20% who have prospered.

    It is obvious that the rich/poor divide is far less than it was 100 years ago. There are no longer the landed gentry living in rich houses by their dozens and the poor in their hovels by the millions. The long term trend is to equality. Whether or not there has been a reversal in the last few years, I wouldn’t like to say – I’m sure I’ll be told there has been. What I do know is that in recent times, on average, everyone has got richer – generally because greedy capitalist who look to maximise profits, produce better products at cheaper prices.

    • In reply to #6 by GPWC:

      I’ve scarcely been a day alive without hearing the old saw that the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. But is it true?

      The first thing to note is that you rarely see a full statistical breakdown of this phenomenon. Rather the figures are chosen and partially quoted to fit the…

      Yes, statistics can be misused but that does not mean that proper statistician can’t make sense of the data. By your logic we should discard most of the research done on climate change as nonsense. I mean, statistics can be misused, and much of the research rely on statistics. Your argument would have been much more convincing if you would have shown a few concrete examples of how statistics are being distorted or misused in this regard. As it stands, it seems more likely that you just don’t want to hear about income equality and make up some lame excuse to rationalize your ignorance.

    • In reply to #6 by GPWC:

      The first thing to note is that you rarely see a full statistical breakdown of this phenomenon. Rather the figures are chosen and partially quoted to fit the sentiment.

      If you haven’t seen a full statistical breakdown, it is because you haven’t been looking. They are everywhere.

      Then the magic of manipulation can begin. You can choose to compare say the top 1% with the bottom 1% or the top 10% with the bottom 25% or the top 50% with the bottom 50%. Whatever you fancy and you will inevitably find a comparison to suit your bias and provide your headline.

      While it is possible to present the data in different ways, the point is that you should be looking at trends over time. And the trend has been towards greater inequality for decades now.

      But it doesn’t end there. Because the people who make up your target groups are not the same each year. “The Rich” have become a different set of people, as have “The Poor”. So even though your chosen statistic may show the top 20% have got richer than the bottom the 20%, there will be lots of people from the original top 20% who have slipped out of the ratings and they may not have “got richer” that those who were in the bottom 20% who have prospered.

      That isn’t equality, that is mobility. Mobility is still relatively high, but it too has been decreasing. The problem isn’t that the rich can become poor and the poor can become rich, the problem is the relative distribution of assets and the ability of the rich to change the system to protect their assets and even multiply them.

      It is obvious that the rich/poor divide is far less than it was 100 years ago. There are no longer the landed gentry living in rich houses by their dozens and the poor in their hovels by the millions. The long term trend is to equality.

      Not so. The inequality has now surpassed the inequality of the “Gilded Age” of 100 years ago and continues to increase.

    • In reply to #6 by GPWC:

      I’ve scarcely been a day alive without hearing the old saw that the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. But is it true?

      The first thing to note is that you rarely see a full statistical breakdown of this phenomenon. Rather the figures are chosen and partially quoted to fit the…

      The rich are getting richer at an accelerating rate while the poor are improving their lot at a steady pace, and the middle class are slowly sliding backwards (in the USA).

      The concentration of wealth in a few hands is at its highest ratio since the time of the oil barons of the 20′s, in the USA the middle class’s wealth and average wages has fallen since the 1970′s (especially for blue collar workers), and social mobility is reduced compared to the 60′s and 70′s.

      The gap between rich and poor is increasing. Many experts see this rising inequality as a long term problem that will promote unrest.

  6. I’m perfectly happy to have greater income equality. If you looked abstractly at the effort people make in their jobs, I’m sure you would find that most people put in about the same work and get paid about the same. Some people may make more of an effort or are more productive, but it is hard to imagine they are 10 times as productive to account for their 10 times salary, let alone 20 times. I think it would be very hard to justify a salary of say £500,000.

    Leaving that aside, my point is that I’m not sure the rich are getting richer. Every so often you see articles like this one which interpret figures in another way. Or you could watch this video.

    • In reply to #10 by GPWC:

      I’m perfectly happy to have greater income equality. If you looked abstractly at the effort people make in their jobs, I’m sure you would find that most people put in about the same work and get paid about the same. Some people may make more of an effort or are more productive, but it is hard to ima…

      I hear what you are saying and you are of course right that we should always be skeptical. That said I think the evidence is overwhelming that the current income inequality in USA is unprecedented (unless you go back to the great depression). With evidence I mean studies by real scientists. The numbers and figures that politicians use are almost always distorted or misleading…

      • In reply to #12 by Nunbeliever:

        In reply to #10 by GPWC:

        That said I think the evidence is overwhelming that the current income inequality in USA is unprecedented

        Well, now you are being as bad as me – making statements but giving no evidence!

        Consider this example – you have a classic income curve starting with £0 and going up to £10m. Most people are on £25,000. Then the richest 5 people increase their wealth by some effort or chance to £squillions each. The rest of the top 10% find their income reduced and the other 90% have stayed the same. Now has the gap between rich and poor increased or not? I would argue the gap has reduced because it is true apart from the 5 people. Maybe some would see it differently – the facts are there, but it is a matter of opinion how you interpret them.

        Also, you and I make up the top 1% of wealthy people in the class (we are “The Rich”). Next year our wealth remains the same, but the 2 people below us overtake us. At the bottom, the previous bottom 1% (“The Poor”) have a better year and move up 1%. Regardless of what the new 1% at the top and bottom are doing, you have to conclude that the gap between The Rich (us) and The Poor has reduced – though that is not how it would be reported.

        • In reply to #14 by GPWC:

          Well, now you are being as bad as me – making statements but giving no evidence!

          Well just take this one study from Stanford University (http://www.stanford.edu/group/scspi/sotu/SOTU_2014_CPI.pdf)

          It’s a quite extensive study, but just look at the graph on page 31. It measures household income for the last 40 years. The authors have divided the population into quintiles (which is standard practice). Until 1980 these five groups pretty much were straight lines. In other words, growth in household income was evenly distributed between different socioeconomic groups. But then something interesting happens. The lines go in different directions. The one fifth of the households that have the highest income in 2012 have increased their income by 20 percent in comparison to the richest households in 1980, while the one fifth of households that have the lowest income in 2012 have decreased their income by 40 percent in comparison to 1980. In fact, only the highest quintile of households have increased their income.

          Is it possible that some of the households that were among the richest in 1980 are now among the poorest in 2012? Sure, but it does not matter. What this graph shows, is that the gap between rich and poor households has increased dramatically. The income of the richest one fifth of all households have increased by 20 percent while the income of all other households have decreased. With regard to 60 percent of all households the decrease is significant. As I said before, the income of the poorest one fifth of all households have decreased by 40 percent since 1980. I really don’t know how to illustrate increasing income inequality better than this graph.

          We can argue about what the reasons for this trend are. I think it’s quite obvious that it has a lot to do with the trend of deregulation of the financial sector that begun in the late 70s. But, there might be other variables as well. What we can’t argue about is the fact that income equality has increased dramatically.

          • In reply to #18 by Nunbeliever:

            >

            I’m interested in this report, but can’t make the link work. Any thoughts?

            Also once you start talking about households you have to adjust for the (changing) numbers per household in each quintile. So, from the article I linked the other day, Robert Bennett points out that many more retired people are living alone with one income who are now in the bottom quintile. This skews the results dramatically as you can imagine. He also points out that the retired single person doesn’t have a need to spend money, so they probably don’t feel that poor.

            In other words, if you adjust the figures to per capita income per household, you get a different but just as valid result.

          • In reply to #20 by Nunbeliever:
            >

            Strange. I will try again 2014 report

            Thanks – the new link works; and despite its title The Poverty and Inequality Report which is enough to put any right-leaning capitalist off his porridge in the morning, I’ll give it a go.

            Geoff

          • In reply to #20 by Nunbeliever:

            I thought I’d get back on to this before the thread goes cold. I’ve forgotten what a struggle it is to force yourself to read this sort of academic report. However, it was well set out and in fact easy enough to read.

            So, in the Poverty and Inequality Report there are sections on health and education which I haven’t read as I was only talking about money/assets. When you look at the money/assets sections, you find a huge amount of statistics which you really need to study and talk about in depth. Not all of the figures suggest there is growing inequality. For example:

            “Figure 4 shows trends in the share of income received by the top one percent of income using three different data sources with different income definitions. The top line in Figure 4, drawn from the research of Emmanuel Saez, relies on Internal Revenue Service (IRS) tax statistics. It shows that, after rising over most of the preceding three decades, the taxable income share (including capital gains) of the richest one-per cent declined from 23.5 percent in 2007 to 18.1 percent in 2009. As the economy and the stock market recovered, top income shares have rebounded, rising to 22.5 percent in 2012″.

            Note it still not as high as in 2007.

            Or this:

            “Perhaps somewhat surprisingly, the Great Recession witnessed a rather sharp contraction in income inequality. The Gini coefficient fell from 0.57 in 2007 to 0.55 in 2010. One of the puzzles we have to contend with is that wealth inequality rose sharply over the Great Recession while income inequality contracted, at least according to the Survey of Consumer Finances used here”.

            The reason wealth inequality went up was that the middle class suffered through a decline in house prices which was their chief asset. The poor who don’t own assets generally didn’t suffer. So the rich got rich and the medium rich got poorer. The poor remained the same.

            There are loads of stats in there which people can cherry pick (as I have). But my basic point is that when you hear a news report about the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer, people see a picture of evil, Scrooge-like capitalists exploiting the poor and laughing all the way to the bank. What’s more no one stops to consider that these people change over time and that plenty of rich people become poor and vice versa.

            So I never doubted it was possible on some figures to claim the rich are getting richer and the poor getting poorer. But I am distrustful of the why and how some statistics are put together (eg the Poverty Index) and I am also distrustful of the media who are by and large arts graduates with a natural inclination to the left, and who take it as a fact that the rich are getting richer at the expense of the poor and, I believe, they fall prey to confirmation bias as much as anyone else.

          • In reply to #31 by GPWC:

            Sorry that I have not responded to your comment. Yes, I hear what you are saying. I praise you for actually looking at the study. There are way too many out there on both sides who are just arguing from an ideological standpoint. As I said this is a complex issue. It’s easy to cherry pick in a way that fits whatever point you are trying to make. Especially when you look at short periods of time. My point is that when you look how things have changed since the 70s it’s inevitable that the gap between rich and poor is rising. Especially when you look at the top 1%. There has been a quite substantial accumulation of wealth. I’m not particularly interested in what has happened in the last few years since there are too many variables to take into account. What I’m talking about is the long term trend.

            In a sense it was perhaps wrong of me to concentrate so much on income equality since that’s not really what we are concerned with after all. Wealth inequality is the real problem. As it stands the top one percent accounts for more than a third of the total wealth in USA, and the top ten percent 75 percent of all the wealth. And these numbers have been on the rise since at least the beginning of the 80s. So, there is an increasing gap between the rich and the poor. How big is this increase? Well, I don’t think that’s the most important issue. It’s not like the rich have “hijacked” USA overnight. This is a slow but very clear trend. The thing that should make our jaws drop is how wide the gap actually is today. The rich own pretty much the whole country. This is a huge problem both from a humanistic and a financial perspective.

          • In reply to #38 by Nunbeliever:

            And they perpetuate their priveliged status via the propaganda machine that keeps pumping out right wing rhetoric to ordinary people.

          • In reply to #19 by GPWC:

            With regard to retired people the percentage of people aged 65 years or older has increased from 11% in 1980 to 14% in 2012. The reason I focus on this time period is because this is where the lines on the graph begin to diverge. Does Robert Bennett actually think an increase of merely three percentage points in thirty years can account for the dramatic increase of the gap between rich and poor households, Worldbank? Besides, this trend does not begin in 1980. This age group has been proportionally growing since at least the beginning of the last century. It’s been growing with roughly one percentage point per decade, Administration of Aging. If the increased gap between rich and poor households can be accounted for by a growing number of retired people, the increase should be an even one stemming back to the great depression. But, that is not what the graph shows.

            Of course another variable could be that the size of households has decreased. In other words, there are more single people today. In fact the number of single households have increased quite significantly since 1940 Population Reference Bureau. But again, this trend does not correlate with the increased gap between rich and poor households. In fact, the biggest increase of single households happened between 1960 and 1980. After 1980 the increase is not that remarkable anymore.

            The graph that shows a dramatic increase of the gap between rich and poor households is not perfect. No graph is perfect. The authors of the study in fact point out that there are limitations and that it might understate or overstate the situation of certain households. But, these limitations are still quite insignificant when you take into account the magnitude of the increase of the gap between households. But, this is of course the reasons why this study encompasses a range of variables and looks at this topic from many different angles. Way to many to summarize in a comment here. You just have to read it yourself. In fact the conclusions they make are quite nuanced. This is a complex topic and there are many variable to take into account. That said, at the end of the day it seems all but obvious that the gap between rich and poor is getting wider and wider in USA.

          • In reply to #19 by GPWC:

            With regard to Diane Furchtgott-Roths’ argument that we should look at spending power rather than household income. She claims that spending power has not changed significantly during the last 25 years. In fact she claims that there has been a narrowing rather than expansion of inequality from this perspective. I have not been able to find any details about her “research”, if she has indeed done any real research. Nonetheless I’m quite critical with regard to using spending power as the main variable for finding out whether inequality is on the rise or not. The reason why income per household is so often used is because it’s a clear cut way to crystallize long term trends within the vastly complex world of economics. Yes, there is always a risk of over-simplifying. That’s why household income is mostly used for identifying long term trends.

            That said, I made a short analysis of the data she used. I don’t think the findings are as clear cut as he portrays them to be. She’s right that the aggregate spending power of the lowest and the highest quintile seems to be largely the same in 2012 as in 1989. Although, if you look at specific forms of expenditure the picture becomes somewhat different. For example with regard to health care the lowest quintile spent three percentage points (as a proportion health care spending as a whole) less while the highest quintile spent almost four percentage points more. With regard to education the difference is even bigger. The lowest quintile spent over 5 percentage points less on education while the highest quintile spent almost 10 percentage points more. With regard to salaries the highest quintile also gets a bigger portion now than in 1989. An interesting observation is that income the highest quintile also has increased its share of income related to interest and dividends by almost 8 percentage points.

            Yes, these numbers deal with households that Furchtgott-Roth despises so much. But, I don’t think she has been able to show that this variable is as bad as she thinks it is. As I pointed out before the argument that a large portion of the lowest quintile are retired people just does not make sense. At the very least, it can’t account for the alleged increased income inequality that a wide range of studies have revealed. My point is, as said, that spending power is a very complicated variable. If you think that household net income is misleading I would say that this variable has a much greater potential of being misleading.

  7. The problem is politicians who are in the pocket of the rogue wealthy. Silly levels of payment could be curbed by progressive taxation, but governments let themselves be played off against each other with standards for citizens taking a race to the bottom!

    There really is no good reason why a banker who is paid half a million a year should be given another 100% or 200% for turning up and actually doing a good job of the work they are being paid for – let alone being paid this sort of bonus when they have messed up!

    The weakness of political supervision, essentially means that the nearer the short term money, the bigger the share! Bankers and sales executives help them selves from the cash-flow – research workers and producers such as farmers who take risks and a long term career view, so get ripped off.

  8. I am no economist, but don’t people who have amassed large amounts of money also sometimes start businesses with that money, who can then employ people? Would a limit on max income also reduce income tax contributions? (I admit this depends on the rich not avoiding their taxes in the first place). The rich also purchase luxury goods and VAT on those goods also goes back into the pot.

    Hey I am all for lifting the poorest in our society up to levels where they can afford a decent standard of living, but a max limit may be counter-productive.

    I am open to debate, but are there any societies that have implemented such a system (Cuba?) and how does it turn out?

  9. Progressive taxation works well for the northern European economies, especially when high standards for service delivery halve the rip off of American service delivery. Why do we need anything else?

    This is stuffed with data all pointing the same way (badly for middle income and poorer Americans). The two graphs for the change in Senator responsiveness into the noughties to the interests of the different income groups is simply shocking.

    What is clear is the golden age of US wealth creation and dominance of the global economy emerged from the decades of most progressive taxation building a wealthy, stable and competitive home market for its own products and creating leviathan and cost efficient businesses to carry them around the world.

    These people have the evidence for why sufficient income equality works to the benefit of all.

    • In reply to #16 by phil rimmer:

      The days when companies needed well paid employees to buy their products, have probably passed. With the global economy it’s possible to pay workers peanuts and export the goods to wealthier places. It’s in this situation that I think we need governments to step in and redress the balance.

      An educated population was probably only deemed a necessity insofar as the workers well able to operate machinery and follow written instructions and orders. I suppose the major players in the business world hold the opinion that we’re all way too educated for our own good!

      • In reply to #17 by Nitya:

        In reply to #16 by phil rimmer:

        The days when companies needed well paid employees to buy their products, have probably passed.

        I’m not so sure, though you make an excellent point about the absence of national allegiance of global corporations. Local content requirement both formal and informal (the latter from advertised appeals to consumers) could repair some of this and is being attempted.

        Open to governments is the route of raising internal standards. This is a good way to apply a virtuous protectionism as many parts of US business are hugely innovative. The main reason this has failed in the recent past is the vested interests of the old industries and their preference to buy their way out of changing.

        I am currently working on some some circular economy projects (recycling, re-engineering and re-use). These reduce imports of manufactured products, create the need for local value adding services, and open the way to local, market specific innovation. Government mandating/preferencing of modular products that facilitate this,via duty or taxation or standards means, can help repatriate profitable work at the expense of imports.

        Interestingly, as China’s supply of peasants dwindle’s and their population of educated middle class folk maxes out, their ability to win new exported manufacturing business is falling. They will sell increasingly and safely into their own internal enriched and huge market. Ultimately the economic playing fields of the world will level up.

        In the interim, free markets must somehow be managed so that companies that merely sell imports to a national market pay sufficiently for the privilege of that market access and its future maintenance. Duties as offsettable “value-added” taxation fix the problem in a fair way for those that export, too, though non exported internal wealth creation needs to be accounted for as well somehow.

  10. One problem with your idea of a maximum wage is that there would be all kinds of ways to get around it. For starters the largest companies are global, depending on how you write the law they can find ways around local laws. Ever wonder why so many large US corporations have their HQ in Delaware? It’s because Delaware has very business friendly laws for corporations so many companies do their incorporation there, similar things could be done to get around this law.

    A bigger problem is that for CEO’s and other highly compensated executives a lot, often the majority, of their income doesn’t come from wages. Service firms like consultants and lawyers establish partnerships so the company doesn’t have to be public (so they get around disclosing things they don’t want to disclose) but as a partner you don’t get paid a salary, you get, actually it get’s really complicated but I’ll just leave it at that, it’s not wages.

    Of course the largest corporations like Exxon can’t be partnerships because they want to sell stock to the public and that is the other major flaw here, it’s not all that uncommon for CEOs to take minimal salaries and to get most of their compensation from stock options. Especially since as a CEO you have inside information (which technically is illegal to take advantage of but people do it all the time) if you can figure out when to sell your stock at the right time you can make orders of magnitude more money that way than via wages and it can be much better for tax purposes also.

  11. I don’t think a maximum wage would work, or be fair, but others have suggested having a maximum ratio of wages in a single company, for example the highest paid person cannot make more than 100 times the lowest paid person.The Swiss actually voted on this a few months ago, but it was rejected.

    I agree that some CEO, commercial banks, financial traders, and other such positions pay much,much, much more than the work is worth. I’m not sure how you fix this while still respecting everyone’s rights.Progressive taxation, or a minimum income maybe? Changing and better regulating financial institutions so that not so much money is made from manipulating markets.

    I do think it is unconscionable that companies like Walmart pay so little to low level employees that they give their full time employees seminars on how to sign up for food-stamps and other government programs for the poor. They abuse middle managers by forcing unpaid overtime. Some labour laws not so badly tilted in favour of the employer would help. Strengthen union laws, only allow being fired for cause after 6 months, a reasonable minimum wage, better rules on vacation and sick days.

  12. @pink

    Why don’t we let the ID community have 10% of the time in our science classrooms. It would only be fair.

    Sheesh, there is only one thing that irks me more than people telling me what I should think and that is people telling me how much money I should make.
    Did we not learn anything from the October 1917 Revolution? People are sheep and if you start feeding them this crap then we will have another 100 years of Red Darkness.
    Please, kindly keep your socialist paws off other peoples wallets. Thank you.

    But if you want to help these people, that natural selection is trying to eliminate, then educate them, there is no such thing as the educated poor. You don’t need to steal from the rich.

  13. Wealth is relative, without the poor nobody is rich. It’s just the way it is. George Carlin said something about there being people in control “and it ain’t you.” He said it isn’t a conspiracy, its just that these people all know each other.

    I don’t have a problem with individuals acquiring wealth, in fact it can be rather admirable. I have never had that skill myself though! What I find alarming is the amount of control over society that is being claimed. There is no “common good” anymore; public education, libraries, public health are all being decimated by campaigns conducted by those with the largest wallets. I believe they call it “starving the beast.”

    If the only money being contributed is going to the pet projects of those with the resources, what becomes of the common good? The common good is neutral regarding participation. It is being replaced by charities with agendas including thought control and moral policing.

    I don’t think I’m alone in finding it undesirable to have the Koch brothers running my country. But are they doing anything different than those who say they don’t want to pay taxes because they don’t like how their money is being used?

  14. In part reply to #3 Ben S
    Definitely some good points in that post but I would just like to put my thoughts in the mix.
    I’m going to take it that the original topic was pertaining to the UK as that’s my home and is my initial concern from a personal perspective. We have certainly got it wrong, if not least on a moral standing in this country and before I get any comeback on that issue I’m fully aware that moral parameters are very subjective. However, I’d like to think that there is some common moral interface between the decent hardworking folk of this island and indeed other countries. On that premise I firmly believe that we need to address some fundamental cock-ups that are clearly and continue to be the catalyst for social dis-harmony in British society.

    The first is that our benefit system does not encourage people toward a work ethic and should be available to only those who have genuinely worked previously and then found themselves unable to work, for reasons other that ‘Can’t be arsed’!! In relation to that I do think that a reasonable minimum wage is something that should be continually looked at as there has to be a starting level that any young and / or unskilled worker must be able to live off. At no point should benefits be the easier option than getting ‘off ones arse’ and doing a hard days work.

    People have proved time and again that it is possible to work their way up through different areas of work to be successful and in certain circumstances accrue wealth. It is often the case that success if a product of hard work along with some luck and fortune maybe. Genuine hard work should be rewarded with success and in addition monetary reward as that is what fuels our economy. You can not put a cap of salaries or wages covering all aspects of industry or business, it would ruin the dynamics of decent Capitalism!

    On the other hand I absolutely believe that footballers wages should be capped at something like £50.000 pa as that is definitely as much as any of them are worth. That should be law!!

    • In reply to #33 by Fixator:

      Definitely some good points in that post

      Thanks. I think you were the only person who read it!

      I’m going to take it that the original topic was pertaining to the UK as that’s my home and is my initial concern from a personal perspective.

      I tried to assume non-country specifics but I think the OP was referring specifically to America and so do a few other posters. The policy of ‘starving the beast’ doesn’t exist in the UK, to my knowledge; far as I’m aware trying to cut the government down to a toothless skeleton is a purely American ‘dream’.

      I should also state that I’m in the UK so my responses are biased towards my experience here.

      The first is that our benefit system does not encourage people toward a work ethic and should be available to only those who have genuinely worked previously and then found themselves unable to work, for reasons other that ‘Can’t be arsed’!!

      From what I’ve seen, whenever a clamp down has been done on this, the number of people claiming disability allowances surges. This is opinion, though, I don’t have figures to back it up and it’s just my impression. Anecdote, really. The other problem is if those benefits aren’t available to the lazy, then they’ll either go criminal, clog up the hospitals with their starving children or clog up the streets with their carcasses. It’s not like the bad old days where if you couldn’t get a job, you quietly starved to death – these days, if you’re starving, you can simply make a media circus out of it. No government could withstand that kind of opprobium for long and get re-elected.

      I’d favour something like removing the option of giving those without employment money and simply give them food, heat and shelter. They wouldn’t then be able to go and buy a huge TV on credit which they later default on, nor would they be able to forsake proper clothes for their kids so they can load up on Special Brew. In practice, however, I can see this being fraught with problems. Likely an illegal black market barter economy would spring up whereby the food and clothes provided by the government would be traded for less than their value in cash and no-one would be any better off (except for the criminal element).

      We need a solution for the unemployed. A final solution….*

      In relation to that I do think that a reasonable minimum wage is something that should be continually looked at as there has to be a starting level that any young and / or unskilled worker must be able to live off.

      The problem is the minimum wage is already difficult for businesses. I employ a number of people on the minimum wage and… this might sound nasty, but I’m being serious… but it’s difficult to find people who are worth even that. Some of the people who attend the interviews make me weep for humanity – and those are the ones who actually got to interview stage. I can’t even run my eyes over the CVs submitted lest I lose hope and douse myself in kerosene.

      I realise the above has probably made me sound like an arse, but I’m saying it as I see it – and just about every business owner who speaks candidly will agree. On the flip side, no-one who works at one of my companies is limited to just the minimum wage. Every minimum wage job has a bonus scheme available of up to £2 an hour and everyone is the higher minimum wage rate (£6.31ph) regardless of their age. It seems immoral to me to pay a 17 year old less than a 27 year old when they’re both doing exactly the same job. Same job, same pay, in my view.

      At no point should benefits be the easier option than getting ‘off ones arse’ and doing a hard days work.

      I concur.

      On the other hand I absolutely believe that footballers wages should be capped at something like £50.000 pa as that is definitely as much as any of them are worth. That should be law!!

      I’m going to assume you were joking there. :p

      But what people don’t realise with these wage caps is that often, those on huge salaries ARE worth the extra. Take, for example, a hypothetical warehouse employee – just one of 120 people in several warehouses. They can pack 40 items an hour with a <0.5% defect rate. Then there’s a good one who can pack 80 an hour with a <0.25% defect rate. Easy to quantify, you can do the maths and work out exactly how much more one is worth than another. This is what people seem to be hinting at when they say (as in post 10) that it’s hard to imagine being 10 times as productive to warrant 10 times the salary.

      For me, it’s pretty easy to imagine that. Given the scenario above, take a new employee who comes in. He doesn’t pack anything. However, he implements new procedures, reworks the stock in the warehouse and improves picking methods. All the warehouse staff take a jump in their performance of at least 10% and defects decrease as well. The average staff member now packs at 45 items an hour with a defect rate of <0.3% and the good ones are even faster and more accurate. This new employee hasn’t packed a damn thing but he’s instantly worth more than 10 times a single packer because the benefits he brought to the business across the board bear it out. A 10% increase in speed in 120 employees, for example.

      I really need to type less.

      …………..

      • Yes, yes. If anyone doesn’t like my black humour then tough.
  15. The vast disparities in welfare that we see do not result so much from the labor market as from capitalism itselt. Great wealth typically does not originate in accumulated wages but from return on investment.

    Therefore, how wages should be determined is somewhat peripheral. The larger and much more important question is how investment is to be determined. (By this I mean not financial investment, which is actually a form of savings, but the creation of new capital equipment such as machines and buildings.) What distinguishes capitalism is that capital equipment is private property, and investment is determined by the quest for profit. What distinguishes a socialism is that capital equipment is public property, and that investment is determined on some sort of political basis. (Contrary to what many people suppose, generous social welfare programs are neither necessary nor sufficient for socialaism.) In Western society today, we have predominantly capitalism but within that, we have a socialist system for roads, bridges, and some utilities. “Socialized medicine” would not merely consist of the single-payer system that we find in some European countries, but of hospitals, medical schools, pharmaceutical production and research, and the allocation of medical personnel to given communities all planned and managed by the state.

    Now capitalism does not work if you place any sort of caps on the possible income of capital. That would tend to destroy the incentive for making any sort of investment. Whether the lump of weath necessary to support some investment is owned by one person or many, that investment is not going to be made under capitalism if the reward is not commensurate with the time cost of money and the risk of loss. Where the risk of loss is very great, as with drilling an oil well or researching a new drug, the prospective return in case of success must be great also. Place a cap on that and, so long as investment is private in origin, you wind up with too little investment and too little innovation.

    Captialism does also tend strongly to push wages down to the minimum necessary to get people to come to work and do their jobs. So in that sense, low wages for workers can be seen to be a natural outcome of capitalism.

    Now even if extremely disparate wages were permitted under some socialist regime, the distribution of wealth would become much more equitable, because every citizen, at least in theory, would have essentially the same stake in the current capital stock and an equal say in investment decisions and wage policy. The main problem with socialism is, how to make innovation come about? The Soviet Union instituted a kind of socialism that proved quite successful in regulating investment so as to maximize growth, but only so long as this involved established technologies. Outside of some specialized military and space projects, Soviet socialism proved less capable of developing new technologies.

    I do not say that socialism is not a good idea. In point of fact I am a socialist myself. But socialists have to confront that innovation may present some very special problems if all investment is to be public. I also think that no transformation to socialism, or for that matter to some funny system of caps on income under capitalism, is likely to come about except as the result of political struggle, and in the world as I understand it, that means class struggle. Utopian schemes are mostly useless; it all comes down to the struggle of class against class.

  16. We seem to highlight the obvious trends within different class systems whenever elements of their economic or political doctrines are discussed. For example the last post by Markovich surely shouts out to all reading, that there are elements of both socialist and capitalist economies that are workable and have proved workable, in countries such as Russia and Cuba, in terms of communism and America and say Britain in terms of Capitalism. It could be argued that in the UK, we have a healthy mix of some of these social mechanisms, that being a free market for trade and industry on the one hand and the continuing, but somewhat thwarted NHS on the other. Surely then, despite the human need to be successful and improve our standard of living, despite the drive to do so, we clearly have a natural tendency to a capitalistic environment. By human evolutionary markers, our history is riddled with Darwinist motivation to better ourself and in some cases with no care for the consequences particularly for other humans around us.

    It’s all a matter of degree however, we will always get the greedy and callous amongst us and it those people that ruin the civil ‘happy medium’ that most of us would be content with. Unfortunately we are currently well short of that social and economical goal because we are, as a race, unable to achieve the balance of reasonable achievement and acceptance as it is considered natural and acceptable to strive for more. The ideal scenario intimated to above, could be construed as some kind of Utopia that will never be found and for many completely unwelcome.

    Personally, I aspire to the more capitalist doctrines of private enterprise and independent motivation, yet I’m more than willing to support anyone who makes an effort. We have far too many young British people who have no aspiration or self discipline to get up and get working, even for low wages, thinking this country owes them something. Unfortunately for them it doesn’t and waiting for Utopia is not a realistic five year plan!!

  17. It is a strange form of hypocrisy, that those who shout loudest about a “free-market” when it comes to wages and conditions of a workforce, are usually the first to call for political intervention and resort to litigation, when their trademarks or patents are pirated!

    • In reply to #37 by Alan4discussion:

      It is a strange form of hypocrisy, that those who shout loudest about a “free-market” when it comes to wages and conditions of a workforce, are usually the first to call for political intervention and resort to litigation, when their trademarks or patents are pirated!

      I think how the oil and car industry has treated Tesla is a good example of how there are no real proponents of a “free-market”. It’s just an ideal. But, this is not how humans an corporations behave. Corporations do anything to survive. They are by definition amoral. In the world of corporations there’s no such thing as dirty money, only revenue. I find it hilarious that libertarians think that the big corporations would starve to death without a big government to support them.

    • In reply to #37 by Alan4discussion:

      It is a strange form of hypocrisy, that those who shout loudest about a “free-market” when it comes to wages and conditions of a workforce, are usually the first to call for political intervention and resort to litigation, when their trademarks or patents are pirated!

      That’s not quite the same thing. That’s like saying that the people who shout the loudest for personal freedoms are the first to call for the police when someone steals their car.

      Trademarks and patents are like property. Corporations (or, indeed, people) have invested time and effort into building them in a way similar to building a house. It’s just as annoying to have spent 5 years building a brand and have someone come along and start using it without your permission as it is to spend 5 years building a house and have someone move in without your permission.

      I don’t see why it’s hypocritcal to call for a free market that applies to everyone and also be annoyed when someone steals your property.

      • In reply to #55 by BenS:

        In reply to #37 by Alan4discussion:

        It is a strange form of hypocrisy, that those who shout loudest about a “free-market” when it comes to wages and conditions of a workforce, are usually the first to call for political intervention and resort to litigation, when their trademarks or patents are pirated!

        That’s not quite the same thing. That’s like saying that the people who shout the loudest for personal freedoms are the first to call for the police when someone steals their car.

        I would see little difference in sponsoring corrupt politicians to permit and shout about the “freedom” to irresponsibly exploit of people and resources, and stealing property. Those who are profiteering from polluting the planet for example, are stealing from future generations. In third-world countries many elite friends of governments are exercising the “freedom” to steal the land and resources from the local people. In the Amazon, armed illegal loggers do yell “murder”, when the tribes whose land they are pillaging, kill some of them!

        Trademarks and patents are like property. Corporations (or, indeed, people) have invested time and effort into building them in a way similar to building a house.

        Trademarks and patents are legally REGULATED trade. The opposite of a totally FREE” market!

        It’s just as annoying to have spent 5 years building a brand and have someone come along and start using it without your permission as it is to spend 5 years building a house and have someone move in without your permission.

        Likewise, when a monopoly corporation, abuses and under-pays people who have spent years developing skills, I would see this as similar to exercising the “freedom” to pirate patent and copyright material. Unsurprisingly it is often those in multinational corporations who who are shouting loudest about “freedom”, while at the same time fighting other corporations over patent rights, or trying to fight off governments over anti-competitive monopolies and cartels!

        I don’t see why it’s hypocritcal to call for a free market that applies to everyone and also be annoyed when someone steals your property.

        The argument is over what exactly is whose personal property, and to what extent they respect the property, inputs and rights of others.
        All to often , what is called for, is the “freedom” to help themselves to whatever they can, BUT with the law protecting them from others helping themselves to what they see as theirs.
        Wherever there are joint efforts involving a division of effort there will be arguments about the division of benefits derived from those efforts. Individual parties are seldom free to please themselves at the expense of others, except in corrupt or repressive regimes where the negotiating positions are heavily unequal.

        A totally “free” unregulated market was operated by the pirates of old. – Take what you can grab or rob by force or deception, sell to whoever will pay, and cheat anyone you can! In fact, this sort of “free market”, still operates in some failed states where there is no effective regulation or law enforcement to protect the ordinary citizens.

        It is indeed hypocrisy, to howl against regulation protecting other peoples interests, while relying on regulation to protect your own property, patents and copyright!

  18. I’ve locked you in your room and I am going to make everything in your room grow at 2% compound. How long before you are dead?

    There is a fundamental rule of nature as basic as the speed of light limit and quantum uncertainty, “You cannot have exponential growth forever in a closed system.” A closed system has limits, just like the locked room you are sitting in. When you try to exceed the limits there are consequences.

    Bacteria in a Petri dish. Sheep in a paddock. Fish in a dam. Wilde beast on the Serengeti plain. Try and put a thousand sheep on your back lawn??

    The earth is a closed system. It has limits. Free market / capitalism ideology must have growth for its equations to function. If your country doesn’t have a growing economy, everyone is up in arms. No one will vote for you if you promise a -2% recession. The world economic system shuddered when China’s growth dropped from 9% to 7%. Roll the video tape forward with everything on the planet growing exponentially, just like in your locked room. Population, resource extraction, pollution et al. We only have one planet, and that is a closed system, what is going to happen when like your locked room, you hit the wall.

    This is why capitalism is a failed ideology. This is why we need to replace capitalism with a new economic paradigm. Steady state economics. If there are any economists out there reading this and they would like their name to be recorded with Keynes, Friedman and Smith, they need to write the theory of steady state economics. A Nobel Prize for sure.

    p.s. Can anyone think of a better name than ‘Steady State Economics”. Reminds me of Hubble’s failed cosmological model.

      • In reply to #45 by Nunbeliever:

        In reply to #41 by David R Allen:

        Exactly! Capitalism can pretty much be described as driving away from a Tornado that is chasing you, hoping that you will never run out of gas.

        A closed system is a closed system. It’s not a closed system that is open despite Phil’s optimism. It’s closed. It is one bucket that can contain one litre of water. If you put more water in, it overflows. It has a finite limit. To understand this does not require high intelligence or PHD’s in maths. It is just commonsense. Every responsible farmer on the planet already puts this limit into practice with stocking limits on their properties. If they overstock the paddock, they will kill their future.

        In my former employment we had an expression. “It’s common dog @#$%”

        So if the concept of one planet, Earth, is impossible for the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the Governor’s of the Reserve Banks of the world, every left and right wing politician on the planet, every banker and financier, in fact, almost everyone on the planet cannot see this simple truth. This simple common dog @#$$ truth. Am I mad. How come this retired pensioner can work this out but Christine Le Garde cannot. Beats me.

  19. p.s. Can anyone think of a better name than ‘Steady State Economics”.

    “Sustainable economies” or “sustainable industries”. These would work like balanced ecosystems, rather than like invasive species.

    That is, – there would be new growth, but this would be replacing obsolete and dying enterprises, while recycling limited resources.

    .- A bit like the modernisation using the “green energy systems” the carbonaceous Luddites are opposing, but without the ridiculous unsustainable human explosion in population and consumption!

  20. I am a firm advocate of sustainable living and as much equality as we can stand and we feel is good for us. I’m a capitalist, anarchist, believer in a large state offering extensive services. To add to that weird mix I see no problem with anticipating endless growth.
    Wealth for me is generated (value is added) when problems are solved. Our capacity to solve problems and find new ones shows no signs of being bounded.

    If your view of wealth is Professor Soddy’s, that of energy usage, we are a very long way from spending our planets intercepted solar flux. A Dyson Sphere beckons after that, with deuterium and tritium fusion mined from Enceladus to bridge the gap. Then onward and outward.

    I see unlimited wealth generation. Happiness and levels of satisfaction should remain unchanged, if we are lucky, though.

    • In reply to #46 by phil rimmer:

      I am a firm advocate of sustainable living and as much equality as we can stand and we feel is good for us. I’m a capitalist, anarchist, believer in a large state offering extensive services. To add to that weird mix I see no problem with anticipating endless growth.
      Wealth for me is generated (valu…

      Your enthusiasm is almost infectious. The problem you face is homo sapien. Communism fails because our altruism is limited to near genetic relatives or to an authority figure, chief, shaman, that you think it is wise to suck up to and grease the palm of, in the hope of benefit for your near genetic relatives. We won’t share. Why your vision is glorious, what hope of achievement given the rolling stock you have to work with, homo sapien, is evolutionary greedy short term psychopathic capitalist that can’t look over it’s shoulder let alone over the horizon.

      But don’t despair my vision of a steady state economic system will fail for the same reasons above.

      Nunbeliever’s lucid analogy to a Tornado chasing a car with one tank of petrol is the prediction of our future. We won’t stop. We will go to the limits of our closed system and crash. My grandchildren are likely to be part of that crash so I am not happy. My altruism gene is feeling quite militant. I am hoping planet earth will experience a non extinction slap in the face, to give us a chance of parking Nunbeliever’s car out of reach of the Tornado. Something like half of Greenland’s ice sheet slipping into the Atlantic.

      I would choose a steady state world with a high standard of living for everyone, living well within the sustainable limits of the planet, with room for Borneo Orangutan, the Serengeti plains and us. Why would we go to the very brink of growth limits, and peer over into the abyss. Why don’t we do a Pascal’s Wager and stop now.

      • In reply to #47 by David R Allen:

        In reply to #46 by phil rimmer:

        Communism fails because our altruism is limited to near genetic relatives or to an authority figure, chief, shaman, that you think it is wise to suck up to and grease the palm of, in the hope of benefit for your near genetic relatives. We won’t share. Why your vision is glorious, what hope of achievement given the rolling stock you have to work with, homo sapien, is evolutionary greedy short term psychopathic capitalist that can’t look over it’s shoulder let alone over the horizon.

        I’m not arguing for communism but your argument against it is clearly wrong, in fact clearly doubly wrong. First of all you don’t understand the science of biological altruism. Organisms, including but not at all limited to humans are not just altruistic to kin and authority figures.  Reciprocal altruism was first defined by Robert Trivers in a classic paper. Trivers shows how altruism among non kin, in fact even between different species makes perfect sense from the standpoint of selfish genes under the right circumstances. He then gives several examples such as fish that swim into the mouths of other fish to clean their parasites and never get eaten and primates grooming each other that are well supported by empirical data. 

        So to start your description of biological altruism is wrong. But even if it were right I  (and people such as Harris, Dawkins, and Pinker) would still say  that it’s wrong to argue that because “X is natural” that “X is moral”. It’s an ethical fallacy known as, well it’s probably obvious the naturalistic fallacy. In intro to the Selfish Gene Dawkins argues strongly against the naturalistic fallacy and the tendency that social darwinists had to use such reasoning. Harris also argues against the naturalistic fallacy in The Moral Landscape where he says that if we were to use what is natural as the metric for what is moral than rape would be moral

        • In reply to #50 by Red Dog:

          I apologise for intruding into your discussion, but wouldn’t altruistic human behaviour operate on a sliding scale of kinship in most cases? I was thinking of the example of kidney donation. We are much more likely to donate a kidney if the recipient is closely related to us and less likely the further we go down the line. SOME people will donate a kidney to a person who does not share any genes at all and may not even live in the same country. These people are very rare, though it does happen occasionally. Doesn’t that make humans a special case.

          I am genuinely curious, not just making a case.

          • In reply to #51 by Nitya:

            In reply to #50 by Red Dog:

            I apologise for intruding into your discussion, 

            No apology needed, the discussions are all free form, besides I intrude all the time 

            but wouldn’t altruistic human behaviour operate on a sliding scale of kinship in most cases? 

            Trivers actually talks about kin selection and hypothesizes that there is probably an interplay between the two. I.e., organisms will be less likely to punish cheaters (organisms that receive altruism but don’t give it back or who give back significantly less than they received) if cheaters are kin. 

            But he makes it clear that reciprocal altruism is a distinct kind of behavior from kin selection behavior, it’s a completely different mathematical model and at least in the basic model relatedness (what percentage of genes are shared) is not even a variable where as of course it is a critical variable in kin selection.

            I was thinking of the example of kidney donation. We are much more likely to donate a kidney if the recipient is closely related to us and less likely the further we go down the line. SOME people will donate a kidney to a person who does not share any genes at all and may not even live in the same country. 

            Dawkins wrote a great overview paper a long time ago on biological altruism. In it he said something like “looking at human behavior and making direct causal links to biological drives is like looking at a circus animal and wondering about the survival value to a bear of learning to ride a bicycle. ” His point is that the many complex societal influences on human behavior mean that it will usually be impossible to make direct causal links from evolutionary drives such as kin selection or reciprocal altruism and behaviors such as donating kidneys. 

            I do agree completely though that kin selection would likely be an important driver in understanding why someone would donate a kidney and that they would be more likely to donate to kin for that reason. Just pointing out that for most human behavior it’s not going to be possible to say “that was due to kin selection and only kin selection” (or of course to reciprocal altruism or any other single biological drive)

            These people are very rare, though it does happen occasionally. Doesn’t that make humans a special case.

            I agree. I think in many cases when we talk about things like altruism we will find that humans are a special case. BTW, that doesn’t mean they are somehow morally superior or anything it’s just that humans have the capability to make inferences and plans that are more complex than other animals. 

          • In reply to #52 by Red Dog:

            In reply to #51 by Nitya:

            In reply to #50 by Red Dog:

            Thank you very much. That was exactly what I wanted to know. I could have read and in some cases re-read the suggested references, but this was a lot quicker.

        • In reply to #50 by Red Dog:

          Organisms, including but not at all limited to humans are not just altruistic to kin and authority figures. Reciprocal altruism was first defined by Robert Trivers in a classic paper.

          I have read and “Liked” enough of your posts to know that you are technically correct in what you say. But I am correct in my uneducated attempts to define that property of homo sapien, that intrinsic instinct that prevents us acting together, for a common good, that is way over the horizon. I liken it to our altruism, or lack of, as it doesn’t extend to the whole planet. While Tiver can show that altruism even exists between species, that is not going to save humanity from the exponential growth curve that will likely see a catastrophic civilization collapse. Not good for my grand children. So maybe the technical term I used is not technically correct, but the problem remains. How can we limit growth to such an extent that we can live sustainably for the next 1000 years.

          I put up my idea of closed system has limits. Phil Rimmer suggests we will do an Asimov and escape the planet to form a Foundation. I think we are both wrong, because of that property of humanity, that I defined as lack of altruism, that so dominates our second by second decision making, that we will continue on like a runaway train towards the broken ravine bridge.

          I think we lack a property that I call Common Dog @##$ (CDF) It doesn’t matter what Harris, Dawkins, and Pinker et al say. They are arguing technical scientific terms. None of that matters when the problem is to kill off exponential growth. The solution to that will come from CDF, which I hope we will voluntarily agreed to act to put limits on growth, but I suspect it will be imposed when the earth breathes it’s last gasp and starts to kill us off.

          This is why I pose this question. Closed systems have limits. It is obvious CDF that we can’t continue with exponential growth forever in a closed system. It just can’t happen. I also toyed with this idea in the discussion subject “Global Societal Delusions and the Drinking of Wine”. I was trying to distill down this lethal flaw in humanity which means we act as a stupid mass, instead of rational individuals.

          that it’s wrong to argue that because “X is natural” that “X is moral”

          This type of argument is fun, and technically correct. But it won’t save us. If Homo Sapien has an “X is natural” species trait, that is likely to kill us off, then what do I call it, if it is not lack of altruism. I have never studied philosophy. I can’t mount a technical argument. But that irresponsible property of Homo Sapien, the “X” Factor is real, and obvious. I don’t particularly know what to call it , but I can see our downfall as a result of it. Do you, RedDog have any suggestions as to what this defect should be called, and how can we get the total of humanity to act with CDF.

          • In reply to #54 by David R Allen:

            In reply to #50 by Red Dog:

            Organisms, including but not at all limited to humans are not just altruistic to kin and authority figures. Reciprocal altruism was first defined by Robert Trivers in a classic paper.

            I think now you are making a different argument. It seemed like what you were saying before, or perhaps I just misunderstood your firsts post, anyway what I thought you meant was that given our natural drives a system like communism won’t work. That we can see from biology that altruism only applies in certain kinds of situations (kin and deference to dominant tribe members) that a system based on a broader concept of altruism simply can’t work. 

            So my reply was that first that model of altruism is wrong and second even if it was correct it doesn’t necessarily mean that we can’t rise above nature. BTW, in retrospect I think I was a bit wrong myself to bring up the naturalistic fallacy because you weren’t saying communal sharing is immoral just that it couldn’t work. 

            Now it seems you are making a completely different argument. That we are doomed because of exponential growth and because due to the basic selfish nature of humans we are clearly incapable of dealing with exponential growth short of famine, wars, etc. 

            I agree exponential growth is a major problem. It’s insane that as a species we still hold up people who have more than two children as exemplary individuals. 

            But I don’t agree that we are necessarily doomed due to our biological drives. It’s analogous to our relation to food, we have a biological predisposition to crave sugar and fat but that doesn’t mean we are all doomed to be obese. For every example you can find that says humans are selfish jerks I could find examples of people working together and sacrificing, sometimes at great risk for virtually no reward. 

            I just finished a great little book called The Burglary about some people who on the surface were very ordinary, no activity outside the law except a couple of minor cases of civil disobedience. They broke into an FBI office in the 70′s and stole all the files they could find and then released them to the press. The results shocked the US, it was clear that the FBI was engaging in activities most Americans thought were only done by the KGB or other totalitarian secret police forces. The fascinating thing to me about the book was reading their recollections of what went through their minds as they decided to do it. The ideals about a free society and the kind of nation the US should be, well I’m a sucker for that kind of stuff but it was really inspiring.  And you can find examples of that kind of behavior through the history of the peace and civil rights movements. 

            I think one of the worst things to happen to American society is how cynical so many people have become.  Marx talked about alienation and how capitalism tends to make us all view each other as commodities and while I think Marxism is pseudoscience, just as Freud had some impressive insight into human behavior I think Marx did as well. Seem to have wandered off on a tangent and have to go for now, more later. 

            I have read and “Liked” enough of your posts to know that you are technically correct…

          • In reply to #62 by Red Dog:

            So my reply was that first that model of altruism is wrong

            No you are right. I used a scientific term, “Altruism”, which has the definition you ascribe, when there is probably an as yet an uninvented word for the property of humans I am trying to define.

            The problem is like that mass of the universe. We try to measure it. If it is too little, we will continue to expand to a meaningless void. If it is too small we will collapse back to a big crunch. What is the critical mass.

            For the world to survive, there needs to be more rational white hats than greedy black hats. There needs to be a critical mass of thinkers who can move the world, via rational decisions to a perpetually sustainable future. I find great wisdom in Bertrand Russell’s quote, “Most people would rather die than think. And most people do.” In my career, I had to deal with people. From Prime Ministers to pauper. Papists and protestants. The stunning and the stupid. I found my self constantly as an aside during these dealings, asking people questions out of curiosity, just to see where they stand. I still do it today down at the golf course. Most people are evidence that Russell has made a perceptive comment on humanity. Occasionally, you are surprised by someone with a bit of intellectual depth, but that was the surprise, not the norm. I guess around 10% of humanity.

            I also follow the TV ratings. To me it is a measure of the Gross Domestic Intellect of a population. The vast majority of Australians watch cooking shows, crudely designed to be an hour long advert for the sponsoring supermarket. Your Countries Got Talent. Fox New. Infotainment called current affairs. Magazine shows. Celebrity shows. Comedy entirely based on put down humour. Crime shows where everyone is a pneumatic blond or a six pack male. I look for the programs I watch and give myself a high five when they rate below 1%.

            So take the 7 billion people on earth and do the bell curve. Who passes Russell’s algorithm. Without any scientific support, I try to quantify that as yet unnamed property of humanity that I wrongly called altruism, that will allow us to become a sustainable, civilized and rational world. The critical mass of Russell’s thinkers has to outnumber the black hats, the capitalists, growth, short term greed, global warming denier, religious fundamentalists. I think the white hats are vastly outnumbered by the black hats. Hence my pessimism that we will need to go through a crisis, the global slap in the face before the white hats sit in the white house. I should also add that the vast majority of humanity will flow with the tide. There is just more black hats on the right of the bell curve that white hats on the left.

            That the majority of the people in charge of the world believe that unlimited exponential growth through capitalism is possible in a closed box, suggests we are being run by non Russell thinkers.

            The end of the world is nigh. Repent ye irrationals. Repent and be saved.

          • In reply to #68 by David R Allen:

            Hence my pessimism that we will need to go through a crisis, the global slap in the face before the white hats sit in the white house.

            The big problem is that in a crisis, it’s always the leader types who rise to the top. Normally far quicker and with far broader powers than would be possible in times of tranquility. In crisis situations, it’s not the intellectuals people turn to – it’s those who can lead. The two are rarely the same.

          • In reply to #70 by BenS:

            In reply to #68 by David R Allen:

            Hence my pessimism that we will need to go through a crisis, the global slap in the face before the white hats sit in the white house.

            The big problem is that in a crisis, it’s always the leader types who rise to the top. Normally far quicker and with far broader…

            You are exactly right. In a crisis, the masses will follow the first person they hear to makes any sense. That is why the change required in the way the planet is run, must occur before any crisis. A critical mass of rational thinkers gain the reins over the capitalists. That is what is required. I vote according accordingly.

          • In reply to #68 by David R Allen:

            I also follow the TV ratings. To me it is a measure of the Gross Domestic Intellect of a population. The vast majority of Australians watch cooking shows, crudely designed to be an hour long advert for the sponsoring supermarket. Your Countries Got Talent. Fox New. Infotainment called current affairs. Magazine shows. Celebrity shows. Comedy entirely based on put down humour. Crime shows where everyone is a pneumatic blond or a six pack male. I look for the programs I watch and give myself a high five when they rate below 1%.

            As an aside, this morning’s newspaper headline states that our uber conservative PM intends to slash the budget of our ABC network. This is one of two TV stations that provides programs of interest to those with an IQ above 80. The other channels provide a steady stream of mindless drivel for the most part.

      • *In reply to #47 by David R Allen:

        Just to be clear to all (and sundry). The only game in town now and for the (sensibly) foreseeable future is sustainable living, which is not only the chief guide to my political thinking but is also the basis of my job.

        I don’t judge growth as necessarily being hobbled by this as I see problem finding and solving as wealth creation. Life extension, harm amelioration, cultural enrichment need not be particularly consumptive nor its increase unsustainable.

        The other (untapped energy) approach to wealth is just a thought experiment, but quite capable of being eased into. Ten cents worth of metalised plastic film can intercept ten kilowatts of power indefinitely situated at Lagrange points L4 and L5 on the Earth’s orbit around the sun.

        In truth the universe as far as we know is for us a one off and terminal. It is also energy seemingly going to waste. There is a theoretical limit to growth but its an insanely high limit.

        This use of harvestable energy will, however, be the only way to to take out an insurance policy on our existence. The only way we can insure the future of our race and its adventure is to have arbitrarily large amounts of energy available to manage, avert or ameliorate natural catastrophes. Intellectual wealth has, at times, need to be backed up by muscle.

        We can be happy and simply passively take our chances or we can be (considerately) rapacious and extend those chances.

    • In reply to #46 by phil rimmer:

      I see unlimited wealth generation. Happiness and levels of satisfaction should remain unchanged, if we are lucky, though

      Wow, you have a really ambitious outlook! The potential of Enceladus has only just been brought to light and you’re already mining it! :-)

      I think things are going to get a lot worse before they get better. I see us as the frog in a pot unable to sense the rising temperature. It appears to me that the disparity in income is going to grow more pronounced. Eventually people will be unable to ignore the extremes and I even suspect the middle class will fade to memory in the fullness of time. By then it will be too late to change the status quo without resorting to a revolution. No-one wants that. ( though I guess it depends on whether you are the anarchist you claim to be).

      Throw climate change in for good measure and we have a pretty potent cocktail. I hope this will just be our non-extinction slap in the face

      • In reply to #49 by Nitya:

        In reply to #46 by phil rimmer:

        I see unlimited wealth generation. Happiness and levels of satisfaction should remain unchanged, if we are lucky, though

        Wow, you have a really ambitious outlook! The potential of Enceladus has only just been brought to light and you’re already mining it! :-)

        I am afflicted by inventionitis. Imagining solutions is almost a pathological condition for me. This is why I count myself an anarchist. If its not broken, break it and make it better.

        As far as Enceladus was concerned, I was mining it for heavy water to feed fusion reactors months ago in these columns. This stuff is the ultimate fossil fuel (made once in the Big Bang). I counseled we shouldn’t use it up whilst solar flux is going to waste. It could be the fuel for Asimovian interstellar adventures.

  21. In reply to #41 by David R Allen:

    The earth is a closed system.

    You know, we (atheists in general) are pretty quick to point out that it isn’t when YECs throw their ‘laws of thermodynamics’ argument around against evolution. So, I’m going to have to do the same here.

    The Earth isn’t a closed system. It’s even ‘less closed’ (if that makes sense) now humanity is taking its first tentative steps toward the stars. Won’t be long before we’re harvesting asteroids, the atmosphere of gas giants and even more of the sun.

    We have a whole universe full of resources… and we’re already taking steps to reach for them. Incidentally, steps taken by private corporations, not government agencies. When it becomes cheaper to mine resources from space than to mine from the Earth, you can bet that’s where corporations will be investing their money.

  22. There is a cult movie in Australia called The Castle. Lots of Australian humour and colloquialisms so it might be a bit impenetrable to those OS. The father has a famous line that is used frequently throughout the movie. “Tell’im he’s dreaming.” This link gives you a taste.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dik_wnOE4dk

    Sorry BenS, Phil. Your dreaming. While a tiny number of humans over the next 100 years may explore parts of the solar system, it won’t be a solution to the 7 billion and exponentially rising, that infect our planet today, or the 9 – 12 billion that are likely to exist at the time we hit the wall. I’m after solutions, political acceptable and implementable solutions that will give us a chance to live for the next 1000 years. CDF solutions. I closely follow studies that estimate the sustainable population for the planet and while there is variability, a rough rule of thumb is that the planet can sustainably support around a billion people if they all lead a fully recyclable renewable energy lifestyle. If they lead an American lifestyle the planet can only support around 300 million. Currently, to support 7 billion, we are rapidly using up tomorrows resources. We are borrowing from the future denizens of this planet, my grand children, to live the lifestyle we lead today. Morality?? Ethics?? This is mostly fueled by capitalism, that must have growth, which is impossible in a closed system.

    So BenS, Phil, RedDog et al, give me a few dot points on a political regime that must bring the population of the planet down to 1 billion by 2100. Roughly 1 women in 11 can be permitted to bear a child. Your political solution must also include the cessation of the use of most of the fossil fuels with all of the economic and political consequences. Old growth forest logging. Mining. Fresh water usage. Education of all third world women to rapidly increase their standard of living. The men are mostly a waste of space. The cessation of tribalism / nationalism when it really is only one planet.

    So when someone says to me everything is sweetness and light, and we are in for a glorious future, I say to him, “Tell’im he’s dreaming.”

    • In reply to #59 by David R Allen:

      I’m after solutions, political acceptable and implementable solutions that will give us a chance to live for the next 1000 years.

      Yep that sounds about the time scale I have in mind for a period of concerted sustainability (Well 200 to 1000 years for a progressive change). This (implementing sustainability), as I say, is the stuff of my day job. I am the very last to say anything against it.

      I have, however, altered my views on the numbers of people we should sustain on the planet. I’m very happy to have more problem solving minds around at the moment and I have had my eyes opened to the messy and inefficient and polluting methods of conventional agriculture (only a little better than pre-modern methods). We already can do much better than currently. (This is fifty year timescale stuff but drops water and land usage by 90%, works with carbon capture schemes and sits next to cities eliminating transport costs. Japan China and Scandiwegia are investigating it currently)

      To return to the issue of intellectual wealth increase. By increasing productivity through investment and further eliminating unrewarding jobs we may start to see minds freed up from trivial drudgery to devote more time to training, education and the ability to problem solve. If this intellectual wealth is accrued I think it safe to see a ramp down in population.

      Low population levels may be less robust in managing those natural catastrophes that are not of our making. Those content with a bucolic, pastoral existence may unwittingly be choosing against the interests of their descendents. The answers are not as clear as you may think.

    • Sorry BenS, Phil. Your dreaming.

      Glad to hear it. It’s the dreamers that solve the problems, not those who look only inwards.

      While a tiny number of humans over the next 100 years… solutions that will give us a chance to live for the next 1000 years

      Why are you flicking around with timescales like this? And do you actually have any grasp of just how long 100 years actually is?

      I’ll give you this bit of a reminder, from Michael Crichton.

      https://notes.utk.edu/bio/greenberg.nsf/f5b2cbf2a827c0198525624b00057d30/e109d972d75e2e2a85257833005cb16c?OpenDocument

      You only need the first four paragraphs.

      And, not only that, you’ve then expanded it to 1000 years. You really believe that one thousand years from now, mankind will still be grubbing around solely on this planet? I’d say we’d be all over the solar system and I’m almost certain that estimate will be woefully shy of where humanity actually will be; I simply can’t grasp where we’d be with my simple monkey brain.

      Morality?? Ethics?? This is mostly fueled by capitalism, that must have growth, which is impossible in a closed system.

      I refer you again to the Earth not being a closed system.

      So BenS, Phil, RedDog et al, give me a few dot points on a political regime that must bring the population of the planet down to 1 billion by 2100.

      How about… no. How about I stick with MY goal of expanding outside the sphere of this gravity well and let you consider your plans for genocide, eugenics and whatever from your yurt. By all means, you sit there knitting socks out of your beard trimmings and filtering your urine through sheep’s earwax; I’ll look forward to a future where the sun’s energy is properly harvested, energy can be converted to matter and we all live in an abundance economy, wear tight fitting uniforms and drink Romulan Ale.

      So when someone says to me everything is sweetness and light, and we are in for a glorious future, I say to him, “Tell’im he’s dreaming.”

      I don’t think anyone here is saying everything is sweetness and light although I would certainly hope for (and can easily envisage) a glorious future.

  23. A “cap” on the maximum sounds like a bad idea. I am not an economics major but it seems a minimum would be a better idea if any limits are imposed on income.

    How would that affect investments? Stock market?

  24. You say that as if it were a good thing! Pity this Person X wouldn’t deign to use public transport like ordinary mortals, thus saving the added burden to our air supply.

    Economically, it is – and we were talking about economics. Being chauffered around involves buying a car (good for the economy), spending more on fuel (good for the economy), employing a chauffeur (good for the economy), etc.

    But your point about the ecological impact is noted and – in the case of this person X (a real person, obviously), they also buy random parcels of land around the UK which is set aside to be little carbon sinks to offset their carbon footprint. Some are left as scrubland or little nature pockets, others are used so that local primary schools can each do practical projects to plant trees and mess around with ponds and learn about the environment and how to tend it from an early age.

    Person X has a higher carbon footprint than the average bear – but they also offset it in a way that people who just earn an average wage cannot.

    …..

    Interesting reading about how mining works in Australia. I’ll have to go and look that up. It’s incredible the things you learn on here. :)

  25. “Money is a formal token of delayed reciprocal altruism.” – Richard Dawkins

    Happy Easter! I made the following video to analyze the loss of purchasing power by the poor and middle class in the US relative to their productivity over the past 40+ years from two premises: that altruistic behavior must be rewarded with returned altruistic behavior in order to be sustainable, and that wealth in a capitalist society is meant to be a symbol of how much altruistic behavior a person deserves based on their previous altruism vs their previous needs (and if wealth isn’t distributed in that way, the system may have a problem). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rPh2MgNPL5s

    I think Dawkins fans would enjoy learning a bit about the economy from an evolutionist point of view, and maybe appreciate the tongue in cheek depiction of a great mythological altruist.

  26. There is, here, (near enough) the Earth and the Sun. ‘Wealth Creators’ would be persons who could create earths and suns. I have not met one. Mammals inherit different merits, so a meritocacy would be unjust.

    Ants are a much more successful species. They specialize as per Mr. Smith, and they redistribute as per Mr. Marx. It is all done by a trivial algorithm.

    What is evolution, but gene economics?

    • In reply to #76 by bendigeidfran:

      ‘Wealth Creators’ would be persons who could create earths and suns. I have not met one.

      Not yet, but some have plans. Arthur C. Clarke imagined igniting Jupiter. I think planting a little black hole galaxy seed to catch more swirly hydrogen should be doable, though the wait might be tedious…..

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