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Author Topic: Wealth - a zero sum game or an open-ended one?
Psychwarlord
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Babbler # 2021

posted 27 June 2002 10:16 AM      Profile for Psychwarlord        Edit/Delete Post
Horace Mann in one of his essays:

"The main idea set forth in the creeds of some reformers...is, that some people are poor because others are rich...But the benificent power of education would not be exhausted, even though it should peacefully abolish all the miseries that spring from the co-exisence, side by side, of enormous wealth and squalid want. It has a higher function. Beyond the power of diffusing old wealth, it has the prerogative of creating new creating newcreating new (emphasis mine)...Education creates or develops new treasures, - treasures not before possessed or dreamed of by anyone."

from "Intellectual Education as a Means of Removing Poverty and Securing Abundance" (1849)

Doesn't one's politico-economic attitude really stem from the idea that wealth is either 1) a closed system, where one only gains wealth by taking from another (Mark Twain's idea from "The War Prayer") or 2) an open-ended one, where the continuing creation of wealth does not have to take away from others?


From: New England, USofA | Registered: Jan 2002  |  IP: Logged
nonsuch
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posted 27 June 2002 10:38 AM      Profile for nonsuch     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
It's got to come from somewhere.
Created out of what? Even God needed chaos out of which to make a world.
The world is finite.
The planet is small and its stored resources, shrinking; the human population is large and its demands, growing. What has created the raw material for wealth: water, oxygen, carbon, dinasaurs, diatoms, trees... have become, or are becoming, extinct. Just where is the new wealth supposed to come from?
There is no new source available... unless the new wealth is in some form other than material goods - like knowledge or love or contenment or wonder.

From: coming and going | Registered: Sep 2001  |  IP: Logged
Slick Willy
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posted 27 June 2002 11:31 AM      Profile for Slick Willy     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Created out of what?

What ever you like. Take some ground beef, put it on a bun. People run to try the newest thing. The Hamburger.

You are not limited by what you have, only what you do with what you have. Like music, all the notes have been played and all the words have been sung, but there are endless combinations some good some bad.


From: Hog Heaven | Registered: Apr 2001  |  IP: Logged
nonsuch
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posted 27 June 2002 01:59 PM      Profile for nonsuch     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Notes can be reused, because they're imaginary. Cows can't, because they're real.
If you don't think you're limited by what you have, try giving that hamburger to a family of six for dinner.

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Zatamon
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posted 27 June 2002 02:06 PM      Profile for Zatamon     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post

From: where hope for 'hope' is contemplated | Registered: Sep 2001  |  IP: Logged
Psychwarlord
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posted 27 June 2002 02:41 PM      Profile for Psychwarlord        Edit/Delete Post
You don't think new ideas can create new value and products where there were none before?

Have wealthy pop musicians stolen the food from the mouths of others because their concerts sold out and CDs made them rich? Because the money could have been spent on famine relief instead? (And is that why many of them spend some of the money they took in on famine relief anway?)

If you write a book and it sells, are you stealing the food from the mouths of others?

If you get a raise at your miserable job, are you stealing the food from the mouths of others?

In other words, is your good fortune always at the expense of another's, and therefore the desired result is for all to be at the world mean of wealth (equally diffused)? Or do we really have a world where poverty is not in inverse proportion to the number who are relatively wealthy, and therefore the increasing wealth of some does not cause the increasing poverty of others?


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Briguy
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posted 27 June 2002 03:39 PM      Profile for Briguy     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
It depends on how your wealth is derived. If you are getting wealthy because you own a business which uses slave labour or slowly decimates a renewable resource, then you are getting wealthy at the expense of others (either your workers or future generations who will be denied the resource).

If your wealth is the result of a creative effort (art, a creative innovation, etc.) then your wealth is doesn't necessarily make someone or some group poor. You are essentially making an already wealthy group slightly less wealthy by asking them to pay you for your efforts. Presumably that group has a disposable income (and thus can be considered "wealthy") and isn't harmed by your wealth. If they were, they wouldn't pay you for your creativity.

Of course, my little dichotomy above begs the question "But isn't all wealth resource-based at it's root?". I dunno, money and wealth are such abstract concepts that maybe the answer to that question is no.


From: No one is arguing that we should run the space program based on Physics 101. | Registered: Nov 2001  |  IP: Logged
nonsuch
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posted 27 June 2002 03:39 PM      Profile for nonsuch     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
YES

Often it's stealing; sometimes it isn't, but it always,always, always has to come from somewhere.

When you think in terms of money, moving wealth from one pocket to another sounds innocent. Why shouldn't some guy 'make' a couple of mil by shaking his hair at people?
But then, he doesn't just take the money: he spends it. He buys cars and houses and parties. This is all great for the economy, right? But the metal, the building materials, the gas, the rye, the poppies all come from somewhere.

You don't notice the cost, because it's indirect and complicated. You don't notice, until the miners go on strike and have to be shot down in the street, or it becomes necessary to bomb the hell out some people who would rather grow their own food than the rock-star's coke; who would rather live on their land than build a pipeline for his oil.

No matter how clever your accountant, there is no way to make 2+2=5, unless somebody else can barely stretch it to 3.


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Doug
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posted 28 June 2002 12:25 AM      Profile for Doug   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
The creation of wealth doesn't have to take from others at all, but it often does, moreover, the distribution of the wealth created doesn't often reflect the relative contribution of the people whose work created it.
From: Toronto, Canada | Registered: Apr 2001  |  IP: Logged
nonsuch
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posted 28 June 2002 12:38 AM      Profile for nonsuch     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Of course it doesn't fuggin reflect the contribution of the people who made it! But how can it be 'created' at all? It's not created: it's made. From stuff that already existed before we did, by work we add, with the aid of energy we partly control but can't replenish.

You don't always have to take it from other people , but you have to take it. From the original stores, from the substance of the only M-class planet we can reach, from the galaxy, from other species, and - least noticeably and most frequently - from our great-grandchildren (who aren't people, because they don't exist yet).

We've been making a big to-do about national debt; how we shouldn't burden our children with interest payments. Shit, that's just money! We've been using up their water and air, ferchrissakes!

[ June 28, 2002: Message edited by: nonesuch ]


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DrConway
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posted 28 June 2002 02:17 AM      Profile for DrConway     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
You can always print more money but you can't print oil or natural gas.
From: You shall not side with the great against the powerless. | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
hibachi
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posted 28 June 2002 08:56 AM      Profile for hibachi   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Some used to believe wealth came from labour. Surplus wealth came from exploited labour. Now it is recognized that planetary resources are part of the equation. If the Earth is the property of all of us, resources are being expropriated for individuals using an entrenched property rights system we call the 'common law'. Both resources and labour are components of wealth, which is now determined by currency units.

As a kid in the 1960s, I asked an econometricist why the US government didn't send a rocketship up every week. The way I saw it in my 8-year old mind, All of this money that the US government spent on the space program would come back to them through taxes on the workers in the space program, and on taxes on the companies that contracted with them. I even saw that with the chain of supply there were people (and companies) who were being taxed all the way down the line.

The econometricist said that didn't work because sending a rocketship into space every week would use up too many resources.

Old-style USSR communism seemed to have as cavalier a disregard for the value of Planetary resources as capitalism. Environmentalists would be deemed as reactionaries who would preserve rural idiocy. Indeed, the USSR had a jump on the US in the Space Race. Watching the first-run episodes of the original Star Trek series, I thought it was only logical that we were trying to leave this planet as soon as possible. Growing up during the Nuclear Arms Race, I believed there was a good possibility the planet would soon be rendered uninhabitable. We could always leave.

Well, then, where is the account for our resources as an asset on the grand National General Ledger? Take all of the unexploited resources in Canada, for example. These should be national Assets, not just in the hands of a few. Sure, we want to make enterprise using these resources, but the Planet (or the Nation, our piece of it) should have its due. Alberta charges oil royalties and manages to sell at the world price. What they do with the money is another question, yet it would make sense to reinvest it in the land, so it can produce more for our children. Cleaning up earth, water, and air pollution and investing in biomass/geothermal/solar might be possible.

Yet we see in the current system the government giving away the farm every time a company wants to come in and drill for oil or mine for gold.

I watched some Wall St. business zomby say that Gold was the 'only asset which was nobody else's liability'. I know for a fact there is a real planetary liability for gold mining. Gold is everyone else's liability. Yet our monetary system does not reflect that. The braniacs say that it could. If it did, many of the companies listed on the Canadian equity capital markets would not be profitable, considering the proliferation of resource extraction issues.

Now we see Canada bragging about being one of the cheapest places in which to open up a business. Thus not only are our resources being given away for a song called 'While Irish Eyes are Smiling', but so is our labour.

Our labour is being exploited for the sake of it, and we are being paid nothing for the resources that are being pulled out of the ground by corporations.

This is why I strongly feel that we should push for an increase in wages in this country. This, at the very least, is the way that human beings, who are by nature part owners of this Planet, can extract some toll for what the capitalists are doing to it, and to them. It is not just the price we are paid for our labour, but rent for our planet. I am not sure how much good can come of a monetary system, yet while we live under it, I believe we should be demanding more currency units for those who are in poverty.

As far as zero sum is concerned, every year we dig up more resources and perform more labour. So long as we do that, we will create more wealth. The problem is that the only way we have of measuring it is the end cost of goods and services. In the world, that is some $32 trillion US every year.


From: Toronto, Ont. | Registered: Jul 2001  |  IP: Logged
Apemantus
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posted 28 June 2002 10:50 AM      Profile for Apemantus        Edit/Delete Post
Ignoring the redistribution arguments (people's true worth properly reflected in the current system?), and ignoring the fact that if one looks back at the foundations of much wealth today, it was founded on slave labour (so, for instance, many German companies' success was built on experiments done on Jews, and many US companies wealth was founded on slave labour), what is clear is that humanity IS capable of getting more from less - that is the nature of advancement (or whatever word one would wish to use).

Sure, much wealth is built on exploitation of resources and people, but the more technologically advanced we get, the more we can do with less. Think of it like the replicator in Star Trek - manipulation of atoms can reproduce some tasty drinks and food! Indeed, one of the reasons many want the US to 'get environmental' is that their innovation will find new ways of providing energy etc... Indeed, it is plausible that at some point in the future harmless weapons will be found - if only one of the main arms manufacturers would get on the case and develop that long range treacle missile that sticks the enemy rigid to the ground without harming them...

Sorry, went off topic there - basically, wealth is blatantly an open-ended game, but most wealthy people are too shortsighted and too greedy to play by that games rules, and tend to think that the quickest way to get rich (and it is at present true) is to exploit others and take their wealth (or labour or land).

But in a few hundred years, most of the problems we fret about now will be gone...

As long as we didn't go first.


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Psychwarlord
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posted 28 June 2002 04:30 PM      Profile for Psychwarlord        Edit/Delete Post
Speaking of Star Trek, there's an episode where Captain Picard tells some 20th century American types that "we don't worry about money anymore. We are all engaged in improving ourselves."
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nonsuch
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posted 28 June 2002 05:55 PM      Profile for nonsuch     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
And, boy, was that guy ticked-off!
There are always some people who want to amass more stuff than other people have - just for its own sake.
If they do it by robbing banks - stealing wealth that's already been accumulated - we don't have any problem identifying that as a crime and punishing them. If they do it by land speculation, we applaud them. The second kind does a lot more harm to a lot more people, but he's 'creating' wealth by stealing from the poor, and that's okay.

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frandroid_atreides
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posted 28 June 2002 09:16 PM      Profile for frandroid_atreides   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
You do need "stuff" to create "wealth". However, we are producing far, far, far less wealth than is currently possible with the same amount of "stuff" and the same human beings. We have made huge leaps ahead in terms of efficiency, but we still have much road ahead. I mean, before the atom bomb, who could have imagined that we could produce so much energy with so little matter? Imagine if cold fusion becomes a reality? What if we gave every poor person around the world meaningful work? I think that socialism has a very useful role in bringing a poor nation forward, like communism has done in Cuba. Now Cuba needs to take a new step ahead, and I don't believe that it all depends on the lifting of the American embargo. Cubans will have to take matters in their own hands. Or maybe they can use some heavy dose of imagination to make communism into a self-sustaining spiral that can start growing again?

I think that we still have immense possibilities ahead of us, enough to feed the entire Earth and bring all to a level of life we in Canada currently enjoy. But we do need to be creative about how to get there, because it will not happen with capitalism.


From: Toronto, Arrakis | Registered: Apr 2002  |  IP: Logged

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