# 1:1 Clashing Perspectives: Keep what you worked for or keep what you need more?

Discussion in 'Science & Society' started by garbonzo, Mar 16, 2013.

1. ### RJBeeryNatural PhilosopherValued Senior Member

Messages:
4,222
Insightful post, Dinosaur. The economy is not a zero-sum game. The problem is that some people judge what they have relative to others (and ONLY by that metric!), regardless of the absolute standard of living of society. In other words, the taking is more important than the having; they would rather we all have much less...as long as no one has much more! The typical American welfare recipient's standard of living FAR EXCEEDS that of King Henry VIII!

to hide all adverts.
3. ### cosmictotemRegistered Senior Member

Messages:
748
Okay both of you. This is a science forum. Please read up on the latest in the evolution of egalitarianism. A standard of living doesn't make inequitable resource distribution acceptable. We are a group species and as such have unified for the benefit and health of the group, not for a few "alpha" members. The whole progress of human evolution moves toward finer and finer organization of cooperative behavior, until we get to large city states and revert back to a watered down version of our own primal competitiveness. The next stage of resource management refinement will only happen with the development of new technology that will introduce a new economic system. Old ones like capitalism can help create that technology but they will ultimately have to be phased out for the new system if we are to advance.

to hide all adverts.
5. ### RJBeeryNatural PhilosopherValued Senior Member

Messages:
4,222
The "latest in the evolution of egalitarianism" is meaningless. It's a theory; a speculation in an attempt to rationalize taking things from people who you deem to be more powerful than yourself. People making a wikipedia entry for it doesn't somehow make it a trendy new scientific endeavour worthy of everyone's attention. And I'm sorry but you announcing that we're a "group species" does not make it so; we are a "local group species" certainly; I will help my neighbor before I will help some random guy in another state, but that doesn't mean that there is a magic formula to extend my caring to all humans across the world (without authoritarian imposition, which is not really "caring" now, is it??)

One of the very staples of anti-capitalist, anti-consumer economic theories is the subjugation of the pursuit of money; that the desire to acquire more money than you need for a minimal existence is a vice rather than a virtue. However, from wikipedia's entry on "egalitarianism":
Ahhh! No mention of money. But how are we measuring the level of success of our "egalitarianistic ideals"? By the distribution of wealth! The theory presumes that a person's fundamental worth is determined by their bank account! It's a sham, a farce, and a retread of Socialism. If we are truly all of equal fundamental worth then why is money an issue? I bump elbows with extremely wealthy people occasionally...am I obsessed over their worth? No I am not, because I am silently comfortable in my own fundamental worth.

And "social status"? Hah! I never hear a Socialist clamor for the elimination of social statuses when it comes to any liberal (non-wealth based) metrics. Why should the identity of who authored a book be relevant? Or the names of Nobel Prize winners? Or the names of artists and musicians? In a truly egalitarian society these people should simply provide us with their work and remain anonymous for the sake of our philosophical ideals. Why do we have GPAs? The only thing GPAs do is make those who are less fortunate in academia feel bad about themselves. Clearly we need to do away with such artificial constructs designed to stratify society and cause resentment...

OK, rant over.

Please Register or Log in to view the hidden image!

to hide all adverts.
7. ### cosmictotemRegistered Senior Member

Messages:
748
A theory is more than a speculation.

I am not here to argue the entire edifices of socialism and capitalism, though I could. But I don't want my point to be lost in all the self stroking to which your unsolicited defense of capitalism has diverted the discussion.

What I am saying is that, due to an ancient social contract, there are situations where you or I are NOT entitled to the full production of our "effort" regardless of how much we worked for it or how little others were involved in their acquisition. There is a reason humans have evolved in groups and it's not so some can amass a pile of resources hundreds to thousands of times more than 90% of the population. If the free market made good sense it could be extended to its fullest application where it would still be a workable system. But if you were to extend the principle of the greatest reward to those of only the greatest effort to its fullest and unfettered extent, resource allocation and distribution would be so lopsided that any group cohesion that existed beforehand would slowly erode away. That's because those with the greatest resources have the most power and those with the most power use it to keep more resources for themselves unless a social ethos, backed by a government, enforces a degree of regulation and restraint. You can't have a private water company so big that they monopolize a nation's entire water supply and threaten to cut off some people to what should be a basic right unless they pay more. You can't say that, after thousands of years of drinking relatively clean water for free, capitalism and the industrial revolution have improved the situation by making us now pay for water we have to filter ourselves before we drink it. The reason capitalism fails without some socialism governing it is because, try as you might, you can't monopolize Life. People will need basic necessities like food, water, land and shelter regardless of how much you worked for it and they didn't. That is an undeniable fact of life. And if you think the fact that YOU gathered that resource is your trump card for denying people access to it because they didn't, that battle was already fought and won by numerous group species through history, including humans who advanced it to unheard of degrees. Egalitarianism won and, despite a temporary resurgence of hierarchical competitiveness in the form of capitalism, Egalitarianism will go on winning. It can only win in the future because the battle was decided long ago. The first Alpha hunter who decided he was going to keep his kill all to himself because the others in the group didn't "earn" it got the rule of nature "explained" to him. And that rule is, no matter how much effort you exerted and others didn't, no matter how elaborate the rules of conduct you lay out, no matter the threats and punishments you assign for disobedience, no one, in a group, is going to put up with starving just because you say so. It's either sharing or chaos. It's a Law of Nature. That first Alpha hunter chose to share. It was to his survival benefit to voluntarily share a little rather than have the whole meal taken away from him. That's how cooperation evolved. Egalitarianism is deeply rooted in our evolutionary make up.

Good Night.

8. ### RJBeeryNatural PhilosopherValued Senior Member

Messages:
4,222
What "ancient social contract"? You mean the one prior to which the strongest caveman got ALL the women and the weak ones were left on their own? The only reason we've pulled away from that extreme form of pack society is because a more tempered one, where men and women tended to pair off together, has proven to be more prolific and survivable; probably due to the social cohesion and less resentment that you're talking about. Does this extend to money? I don't know, but simply arguing that we're bound to egalitarianism by this "social contract" is silly. If Socialist economies are more prolific and survivable then they will defeat Capitalism...but good luck with that!

9. ### cosmictotemRegistered Senior Member

Messages:
748
Despite giving the appearance you have not kept up with our understanding of group selection from an evolutionary standpoint for the last 13 years, I will try to continue this discussion.

The first half of your above paragraph seems to explicitly reject my conclusion while at the same time implicitly (and I might say, unconsciously) ends in accepting it. Exactly my point: More cooperative social-political groups evolved because that group structure had more survival benefit to bopping someone over the head for what you wanted.

And of course, it extends to money. Money represents resources, doesn't it? Our relationship with money today is almost directly analogous to our pre-egalitarian ancestor's relationship to resources. We are still fighting over money. "Competition" is even advanced by free market advocates as "... one of the key things that makes capitalism work." And what do you think that means? It's trying to put your competitor out of business by denying them as much resources as you can and collecting more and more for yourself. Free market advocates even openly praise it as something positive and an integral part of the free market! But, ultimately, what's the difference between that and bopping another ape over the head for a banana? Nothing. You're still trying to knock the other one out of the picture, instead of managing resources, whoever in the group may have acquired them, to the benefit of all in the group. The CEO of Apple might as well just bop the CEO of Microsoft over the head rather than out compete him in the market. It's the same thing, just a softer, kinder, more round-about way of saying "I'm trying to make you starve to death."

By "social contract" I mean it is a genetically ingrained behavior evolved over thousands (even millions if you count our inherited traits from our non-human ancestors) of years. Primates that didn't fight over territory were less likely to die as thus lived to reproduce, just as primates that didn't fight over food were less likely to die and thus lived to reproduce. The primates that did fight over these resources, likely died fighting over them (especially when beta members of a species ganged up on them in the mutual quest for nutrition) and thus their aggressive, competitive genes did not reproduce. Instead, they died in the gutter like a fair ground fish. The genes of primates that were better adapted to cooperate and share were favored and that opens the door to egalitarianism, our innately primal sense of fairness, group morality, etc...

I think what confuses the issue for many people is their failure to identify the difference between a sort of individual economics and group economics dynamic that is operating behind the scenes. There is a shift in what qualifies as a functional economy depending on whether you are just an individual, solitary species collecting resources from nature apart from a cohesive group by yourself and as opposed to a member of a group that is cooperating over a swath of activities. A member of a group cooperating for survival seems to be instinctively aware of this, even to the point of being indignant over being "short changed", as if it knows the group owes it something by its very inclusion in the group.

Here is a video illustrating this sense of fairness in a Capuchin monkey:

Take note that the monkey not only displays an understanding of what is fair but it actually displays, with extreme prejudice, that it expects another to voluntarily provide a more agreeable solution and participate in rectifying the perceived unfairness. This is most likely a strong indication of how built-in our sense of obligation to each other is when in a group.

As a contrast, a solitary species member doesn't recognize that claim from or project that claim onto other members of its species to any large degree, hence why it is a solitary species. (Very often, even its mating behavior is fraught with danger and resistance.) It is too busy competing over basic resources to cooperate within a group.

Last edited: Apr 23, 2013
10. ### iceauraValued Senior Member

Messages:
30,994
There are no recorded or documented (anthropological, archeological, or paleontological) examples of human beings living like that anywhere. The closest might be something like the aftermath of the collapse of the Easter Island or Mayan civilizations. Most evolutionary theorists have pointed to the absence of fighting canines, cryptic fertility, and certain other physical characteristics, in concluding that humans have lived in what we would now label socialist communes with significantly egalitarian mating systems as long as humans have existed on this planet.
I'm not sure you really intend the implications of that - I think you are assuming capitalism will oppose tyranny for some reason, that the rich and powerful will behave rationally for the greater good of strangers as if guided by an invisible hand of decency and wisdom, so the victorious State your imagination supplies will not resemble the capitalist dominated coal company towns of West Virginia, say, or the cotton, banana, rubber, and sugar plantations of capitalism in so many places, but will maintain the social values and institutions and personal freedoms and civil liberties you prefer.

Why would it bother?

The Third Reich was a capitalist State, as was Mussolini's Italy. Current examples of the workings of capitalism include Haiti and Somalia, Egypt, Afghanistan, Iraq, Russia, Mexico, and a good many countries formerly referred to - in honor of their capitalist arrangements, not their specific resources which varied - as "banana republics".

Piles of capital are not human beings, and will not act in the interests of human beings except by coincidence and/or forcible regulation.

That's not true. Nobody here views capitalist economies as zero sum setups.

The efforts of some of us to reduce the influence of the Feudalist precursors of current US society - the varied aftermath of slavery, the institutionalizing of inherited land and property, etc - have met considerable opposition from those who proclaim themselves capitalist. We see terms like "death tax", for even the most basic attempts to limit the consequences of feudalistic arrangements, coming from self-described "capitalists". Go figure.

Between 1750 and 1820 the US economy was dominated by slavery, indentured servitude, trade guilds, communally organized colonies, land grants and other heavy commercial regulation by monarchy, military conflict, and the military capture or discovery of phenomenal resources not purchased or paid for on any market.

Between 1890 and 1915 the US was dominated by the aftermath of the Civil War and Reconstruction , the huge government influence of the Homestead Act, Panama Canal, establishment of postal service and watershed infrastructure and railroads, purchase of Alaska, etc etc etc. Here's the Republican Party platform for 1890 - the sections on Monopoly and Tariffs and the Philippines and the concerns about banking problems are all worth pondering: http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=29633

The claim that there was little or no government regulation of the US economy in those years is ignorance of a degree that appears willful.

The notion that those years, above all others, showed an increase in the ordinary person's standard of living, carries that ignorance into the realm of ethical culpability.

11. ### RJBeeryNatural PhilosopherValued Senior Member

Messages:
4,222
But this isn't a morality issue. I'm not killing my competitors, I'm out-competing them in a socially acceptable manner. Do you want to know why it's socially acceptable? Because it maximizes the benefits to society! We lay down a safety net for those that fail (social programs, welfare, food stamps, the option of bankruptcy, etc) then we throw everyone in the ring and "let the best (wo)man win". There are NO starving people (in America or Europe) due to lack of resources or safety-net programs; if anyone is starving it's because they aren't willing to access or aren't capable of accessing those resources as they should (e.g. perhaps their parents are drug addicts, or they have mental health issues).

Hypothetical A: a society in which every citizen got $10k a year in FREE money for doing nothing (but being a citizen). If they wanted to work for any reason, they could, at basically any job they chose...but without pay. Do you think the above society would thrive? Hypothetical B: the same society as the one above, but now everyone makes$15k a year in FREE money...additionally, a select 1% make \$15,000,000 a year in FREE money.
Presuming that both societies would thrive in perpetuity (which I do not grant, but we will accept for the sake of argument), do you find Hypothetical B to be more or less preferable than Hypothetical A as a whole?

12. ### RJBeeryNatural PhilosopherValued Senior Member

Messages:
4,222
Uhh my ass. I believe what you meant to say is that in addition to HUGE economic growth and average household incomes over this period, "slavery, indentured servitude, trade guilds, communally organized colonies, land grants and other heavy commercial regulation by monarchy, military conflict, and the military capture or discovery of phenomenal resources not purchased or paid for on any market" was put to an end, thereby increasing the quality of life for those affected.

13. ### cosmictotemRegistered Senior Member

Messages:
748
Other than a really warped and twisted game show, when is it acceptable to out-compete other humans for resources necessary for their survival? Apparently, the answer is under a free market economy. A sort of Boxing match mentality seems to be your analogy of choice, I see. You know, where we can all duke it out in the civilized fashion of the free market boxing ring. That's the, um, civilized way to manage resources.

And really? Everyone lacking resources in America is lacking them because they aren't willing to access those resources or it's their parents fault or they have mental issues? Really? Nobody's being discriminated against? Nobody's being denied quality education? Our society just welcomes everyone with open arms, eh? Or let's say, if I decide I don't want to work for anyone, I can support myself off the land? Nobody's getting in the way of that? Not the monetary system that perpetuates the tax system? No? The housing market won't have anything to say if I decide to pitch a tipi somewhere and live off wild edibles? And if you got family abuse and neglect problems, well, the whole village just steps in and runs to your aid for free, huh?

Neither hypothetical above is realistic. I chose Hypothetical C: Everyone is free to gather as much resources as they can to the extent of their abilities but can only keep enough for a basic level of comfort for themselves. The rest gets divided (by law, not by voluntary exchange) evenly amongst the population of the group for an equally basic level of comfort for them as well. The more resources some members of the group collect, the more the basic comfort level of the group rises. This hypothetical still rewards work because the more resources you collect, the more everyone as a whole, not you as an individual, gets to keep. Rising waters lift all boats. There might be some that will want to take advantage of the system, i.e, collect the free money without contributing anything in energy back but, people will be more inspired to contribute their energy if an adequate level of comfort is guaranteed by a government enforced social contract than if they are required to work for wages inadequate to support a minimal level of security and comfort. If I'm in no danger of starving or being thrown out of my house or apartment or of getting my water or electricity shut off, I'm going to be more enthusiastic about doing my part in supplying my energy to support my fellow citizen. I am going to have less mental issues because I will have less family conflicts over lack of resources. And I am going to be less likely to turn to drugs because I have less problems to escape from.

14. ### RJBeeryNatural PhilosopherValued Senior Member

Messages:
4,222
We aren't discussing resources "necessary for their survivial". Those resources have already been provided via the social safety net that we mentioned.
I didn't ask you if they were realistic; I asked you if you thought they would thrive as societies; unless you mean that they would fail as societies, which is why they are unrealistic. In that case, I agree with you. Please note that with a proper social safety net those at the very bottom would continue to have "enough for a basic level of comfort for themselves".
There is no social contract when it MUST be enforced by government with the point of a gun! This...is where I unsubscribe from the thread. What you just wrote is so contrary to human nature...so contrary to rational thought in fact...that it's clear we will never be able to have a discussion on this topic.

15. ### iceauraValued Senior Member

Messages:
30,994
No, I tend to stick to, y'know, physical reality - or something at least plausible, and not obviously stupid as soon as it's typed.

(Military conflict was put to an end in 1750, or was it 1890? the huge benefits of resource capture and land grants ceased to be enjoyed in those years? government subsidy of railroads and roads and post offices and shipping canals and tariffs and Uncle Tom Cobbley and all went on pause for those magic couple of decades?

What explains someone typing stuff like that right in front of their own face, on an internet forum with Google at their fingertips?)

Unless you really do mean to assert that in one or both of those time frames (you don't bother to specify) all that stuff actually happened. The only possible ghost of validity for any of that is the increase in standard of living enjoyed by free white men during both of those two otherwise quite different intervals - and there was nothing aberrant about that, white men all over the planet (at least the ones that survived the plagues) on average enjoyed dramatic rises in living standards all through the centuries of the Columbian Exchange, and especially on the NA continent. Everybody agrees about that. Why pick out those twenty years as anything special?

On the one hand, you assert that uncurbed generation of inequality "maximizes the benefits to society", on the other you admit that the best you can actually claim for the current US system is that in the year 2013 the only seriously malnourished people are children with inadequate parents.There are lot of them, of course, but apparently there's nothing to be done.

That's a pretty low bar. Barring temporary disasters like the Dust Bowl, starvation hasn't been a major problem among white people in NA north of the Rio Grande for something like 300 years now.

Meanwhile, as inequality grows in the US since 1980 or so, living standards for the lower 2/3 of the economy - a majority of the population, and especially a majority of the children - have declined. Granted they haven't been rolled all the way back to Dickens's London under early stage less regulated capitalism, but the prognosis is kind of grim if current trends continue, no?

Of course there is. No society can survive freeloaders and thieves and cheats uncurbed and unpunished. Dealing with defaulters on the social contract is exactly the role of government.

16. ### cosmictotemRegistered Senior Member

Messages:
748
Really, it's okay to broaden your perspective beyond a Randian view of economics and politics. I'm sure you have no problem with government stepping in and enforcing prohibitions against all sorts of things like murder. You continue to be uncompromising on individual property rights, in effect, proclaiming it is sacrosaint and above question. Yet I can continue punching holes in it. Not only do you have to reject your own claim in order to collect the resources that you regard as wholly "your property" - mainly, that it was gathered by your own effort so you deserve it in whole, ignoring that the animal and vegetable proteins and minerals that fuel your effort were taken from entities that exerted work just as you did to process those resources - you also have to contend with the observable genetic behavior pattern, unless you want to deny evolution? It is clear, the government is acting in the same capacity a group ethos does in egalitarian hunter-gathers. That egalitarian ethos has been shown to be an evolutionary adaptation and is also backed by the threat of force. But it is not some arbitrary reaction. Fact: Our ancestral alpha hunters who shared resources tended to survive better because they tended to not get ganged up on and killed for resources by nutritionally deprived beta coalition members. The most nuanced examples of group resource distribution evolved out of that ancient conflict repeated and refined over generations of humans. Contrary to human nature? It evolved precisely because of human nature. The free market is hardly the best and most civilized example of resource management of which humans are capable.

17. ### cosmictotemRegistered Senior Member

Messages:
748
I wish the board provided a way to rec this whole post.

Please Register or Log in to view the hidden image!