Question for strident capitalists...

Discussion in 'Business & Economics' started by cosmictotem, Apr 5, 2015.

  1. cosmictotem Registered Senior Member

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    If the world granted all the concessions you wanted toward your ideal form of Capitalism and everyone behaved, within the best of their personal ability, like the good little capitalist you wanted them to be, do you think poverty and starvation would disappear?

    And if not, what further actions (if any) would you implement to rescue the remaining population still living in poverty and under the threat of starvation?

    Thank you.
     
    Last edited: Apr 5, 2015
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  3. Seattle Valued Senior Member

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    Is there less poverty and starvation under other systems (in reality)?
     
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  5. cosmictotem Registered Senior Member

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    There may be some systems that are worse for poverty and mortality percentages than capitalism. And there are other cases where it's hard to tell because, so often, economies are mixed and so forth.

    However, I'm postulating your ideal circumstances and obedient practitioners for your brand of Capitalism. Do you think there would be people left over with poverty and resource access issues that your ideal brand of capitalism alone could not address? And what would be your additional solution, if any?
     
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  7. Seattle Valued Senior Member

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    I think if the will is there any system can address poverty. Capitalism keeps the source of production in private hands. There is still a government to tax and redistribute income somewhat.

    Additionally, capitalists are still people

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    . There has always been charity and when there was less government and communities were smaller charity more or less filled many of the roles that government fills today.

    If there were less ongoing war spending (speaking of the US) and the same funds were directed to dealing with poverty there would be less of it.

    However, I think there are probably less truly hunger people in the US than in most countries regardless of their form of government or economy.

    Do you disagree?
     
  8. exchemist Valued Senior Member

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    Yes, there is no reason to suppose that any purely economic system could abolish "poverty" or even starvation. (I put poverty in quotes because it is a rather tendentious term with no agreed definition.)

    It seems to me that the principal causes of poverty and starvation are defective legal systems and corruption. If one could correct the first and eliminate the second, then I think a capitalist system with appropriate oversight regimes is demonstrably the best system.

    I mention oversight regimes because capitalism is like nuclear fission: it has tremendous power but has to be channelled into appropriate directions. An obvious example is the need to prevent the natural tendency of capitalism towards monopolies, but there are numerous other tendencies that also have to be controlled in modern society.
     
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  9. GeoffP Caput gerat lupinum Valued Senior Member

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    There would be no end to it. The soul of the free-market system is constant increases in gains. By way of demonstration, this has been taken up by corporations - and now government departments - that proudly announce wars on waste, or the abolition of waste. In the case of the corporation, this will help satisfy customers who buy the product, and share-holders who demand increasing returns - or else their money gets taken elsewhere, which is a dire threat to capital. In the case of the government department, wars on waste will satisfy the clods who decry this waste - real or otherwise; the actuality of it matters not - and possibly (though probably not) get them more votes in the next election, because as everyone knows all Americans and other people change their political stance on the big issues several times in a lifetime, or at least once every four years. That's why wooing them is so important. (/sarc)

    But their goal is unachievable. All systems will have some waste. No operation nor reaction achieves perfect transformation of services or goods or products. There will always be waste - but by the very existence of such outputs, there will also exist room in which to cut services or outputs in the name of hypothetical increases in efficiency or 'reductions in waste'. What a corporation can do is to chop assets, and most especially jobs - because while assets preserve their actual or theoretic value, workers do not, much as it was better to farm sheep than peasants in Northern England and Scotland from the late 15th century onward.

    And so there will always be poverty, and corruption, and starvation, and suffering in a capitalist system, which preys on the unfortunate as happily as the weak. No capitalism system has demonstrated compete equity in the distribution of wealth, and none ever will, because like the absentee landlord, it does not behoove those in power to do so. So why should they? (One could argue they're just human beings like all of us, but this would seem unconvincing for several reasons.)
     
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  10. cosmictotem Registered Senior Member

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    No, but I think we must remember in the U.S. it is a mixed economy. And many strident capitalists would rather government not direct wealth distribution.

    The trouble is what is the intention or reason for a systematically applied economic system or theory? It's a set of rules to follow legally adopted by governments to apply to a broad population in order that they may best manage their resources to the mutual benefit of its citizens. So why is the governance of some resource activities of Capitalism allowed to be guaranteed and enforced by government legislation but other activities, equally as important to a vulnerable population, are relegated to the chances and haphazard undulations of charity? Is the procurement of resources more vital to the survival of those who work for it than for those who cannot through no fault of their own?
     
  11. cosmictotem Registered Senior Member

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    Well, if I understand you correctly, I'm glad to hear you think poverty should be addressed by laws and "channeled" and not left to the emotional whims of citizens through private charity.

    I am not entirely against Capitalism if its industries and business owners would allow themselves to be regulated instead of fighting every attempt to manage our economy and resources to the benefit of our population as a whole.
     
  12. billvon Valued Senior Member

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    You can leave it to the emotional whims of citizens or the emotional whims of government. Neither is perfect - but both have their place.
    Fortunately they are regulated.
     
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  13. exchemist Valued Senior Member

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    You seem to be at least partly misunderstanding me. I emphatically do not advocate directly addressing poverty by means of laws drafted for that purpose. I think that is pretty futile. What I am saying is that the countries with the worst poverty and hunger are almost always those in which the legal system does not work properly and/or in which there is rampant corruption. The legal defects are often simple things such as commercial and property law. Businesses cannot function without this - except by resorting to corruptly influencing the governing group. Corruption is the worst influence by far, in my view, because it destroys all incentives to behave in a socially responsible way - both for businesses and for individuals.

    And you are putting words in my mouth by claiming I think that addressing poverty should not be left to emotional whims and private charity. I have expressed no opinion on those points at all, as your OP did not ask about them. You asked about an ideal capitalist system, not about the efficacy of charity.

    As for your characterisation of industries and business owners as "fighting every attempt to manage our economy and resources to the benefit of our population as a whole", I think that is a silly caricature. I spent over thirty years of my life working in a large corporation and I can tell you there was total acceptance that a condition of operating in any society is that companies abide by regulations that makes them socially responsible. Just think of health and safety regulation, employment law, environmental controls and the prohibitions against anti-competitive practices. All such things are fully accepted as necessary by business in the world today. They do gripe from time to time when new restrictions come in, but that is only natural. In fact a challenge process is healthy, to stop governments saddling business with controls that stifle wealth creation or have unintended consequences.
     
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  14. cosmictotem Registered Senior Member

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    Fair enough. I didn't mean to give you the impression I didn't realize there were many companies accepting and even supportive of regulations.

    As for mischaracterizing your position on addressing poverty, I welcome you to clear up my mischaracterization and state your true position on how an ideal economic system or society would address poverty.

    Thanks.
     
  15. Seattle Valued Senior Member

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    There is not an ideal system as addressing poverty can not be done without having other consequences. You can however guarantee that everyone either has a job or receives some minimal level of public support.

    The grey area is where you pay people to not work and too many people decide that not working pays better than working. Many jobs that are necessary and that do pay well require a level of education and experience that people may not pursue if the ultimate job doesn't pay more than those that anyone can fill.

    It's the same with starting businesses if they can't pass those business along to their children. Social welfare usually ultimately comes with other disincentives that aren't helpful to the end goal of prosperity for everyone.

    On the other hand we do have to be realistic. If there aren't enough jobs for everyone then you can't really blame that percentage that don't have jobs. Even if it's the less resourceful among us who don't have a job it doesn't really matter if in fact there aren't enough jobs for everyone.
     
    Last edited: Apr 6, 2015
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  16. exchemist Valued Senior Member

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    OK I'm glad we understand one another's positions a little better - it is always difficult in web discussions.

    On the question of how I would address poverty, I do not have a ready-made solution. To start with, as I said before, there seems to be no agreed definition of what constitutes poverty. It seems to me that the richer a society is, the more tolerable disparities in wealth should be. For instance, we hear a lot about poverty in the UK today, but a moment's examination of how lots of people lived in the 1930s makes one realise that even the poorest now live a great deal better than they did.

    Most definitions seem to be based on plotting a bell curve of income and then defining the low end tail, in terms of standard deviations from the mean or % of the population. On definitions such as this, it is mathematically impossible to get rid of poverty, since it is simply the tail of a distribution curve and whatever one does, there will always be a distribution of income.

    I would be tempted instead to adopt an absolute definition, measured by things such as access to good healthcare, education, healthy housing and diet. I think addressing poverty in these terms is already what our welfare state does and I support taxation linked to income as a way of funding that.

    In short, I think the way we already go about it is the right way, and the inevitable arguments are therefore about priorities and the degree of assistance that a society can agree to provide.
     
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  17. cosmictotem Registered Senior Member

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    Couple of things:

    #1: Are you saying that poverty is more massive than any existing economic system can handle or solve? What does that say about how we are managing our societies? To me, that suggests we are doing something wrong that needs to be fixed, not that poverty is a natural and unavoidable consequence of our existence.

    And #2: We must remember Employment is a fairly new phenomenon to society. For most of humanity's history, we existed without even the concept of employment. So to suggest more employment in the service of others is the sole solution for assuring the material comfort of humanity is an era-centric view.

    In other areas, you make good points that I need to either accept or develop answers that can adequately refute your conclusions. I admit for the moment, paying healthy people who have no ambition to up their skill set and contribute back to society is a bit of a conundrum for me. However, I do think people, under the right circumstances, have an instinctive thirst for knowledge that if enough obstacles to higher achievement are eliminated they would choose to learn and better themselves and contribute back to the society that removes those obstacles rather than sit around and do nothing but wait for a pay check. I don't think people want to be and do nothing with their lives. I think it's the obstacles and fears of discrimination and insincerity from their fellow citizens that makes people lazy and taps their will to achieve bigger things.

    If you don't trust the people who stand along the path you need to take to achieve and up your skill set, you are not going to be motivated to even try. So I think we need to address the corrupt social and political obstacles that we allow to be put before our citizenry before we can make accusations of "laziness". You can't deny society is not the tight-knit tribe you can always put your faith and trust in. Corruption, discrimination, favoritism and betrayal can run unchecked. Our views and commitment to any solid morality are too varied and flexible.
     
    Last edited: Apr 6, 2015
  18. cosmictotem Registered Senior Member

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    Hmm. I tend to agree with your assessment. At this point, it is a matter of finding the optimal degree of assistance. Although, I do leave open the prospect of questioning the superiority of a monetary-based society. While there are many benefits to mass employment, there are many aspects of it, such as overuse of resources, placing your life and trust in the hands of a powerful employer and breaking our eco-system that are a looming threat.
     
    Last edited: Apr 6, 2015
  19. cosmictotem Registered Senior Member

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    What if poverty is not strictly, solely or primarily defined as decreased access to material resources?

    What if poverty and wealth differences are partly defined as the extent of an individual's self-sufficiency and dependence on another for their existence?

    This changes the dynamic of what we view as poverty. Subservience to another for our survival can be an extremely limiting and, in some cases, a worse condition than actual material lack because, despite whatever material comforts you might be gaining from the relationship, it might still be a relationship you would not choose, if other means to support yourself were more practical and available. The very act of submitting to the directions of another based on the unspoken threat of poverty, homeless, etc is a poverty in itself. A poverty of freedom. And there are certain artificial conditions society has put in place that make choosing freedom over subservience more difficult. Many people work for others not because they want to, but because they feel they have to because the alternative is too threatening a prospect. They say the best armies are all voluntary. What does it say about a workforce that feels compelled to go into work every day? What is going on here?
     
  20. GeoffP Caput gerat lupinum Valued Senior Member

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    Very interesting discussion here. Definite food for thought.
     
  21. exchemist Valued Senior Member

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    I don't follow this. Every living organism has to struggle to survive: to find food, shelter and a mate, at the most basic. Human beings are not magically immune from these needs. So every human has to work, in some shape or form, to obtain the means of survival. (By "work" in this context I suppose I mean doing something out of necessity rather than choice.)

    I really do not see a fundamental distinction between doing something for another person or group of people who value your work enough to reward you for it, and being "free", as you put it. I think it is largely an illusory distinction. What does "freedom" mean in this context? If I had resigned and become a consultant, for example, I would have been "self-employed" and my tax return would have looked different, but in the end I'd still need to get out of bed and go and do things to earn money, when I might have rather been singing or rowing, or seducing some bird. Plus, I'd have had the background insecurity of wondering where the next contract would come from. I'd just have traded one employer for a series of short-term "employers", one after another.

    I also think one can make too much of "subservience". An employment relationship is mutual dependence. I've interviewed enough job candidates, and been stuck with the consequences of enough bad employment decisions, to know how vital it is from an employer's viewpoint to engage the right person. Managers spend most of their time worrying about the people who work for them. It's by far the most taxing part of what they do.

    More generally, human interdependence is the hallmark of civilisation. We grow richer by specialising and relying on each other for the increasingly complex things we use to function. I pay the fishmonger - who pays the fisherman - rather than going to sea to catch my own fish. We depend on each other.

    If you think there are artificial barriers to freedom erected by society, I'd like you to give some examples. Because I think we, in general, have more autonomy as individuals now than people have had in most of recorded history.

    (I realise I'm slightly casting myself in the role of Devil's Advocate here, but I think some of your assumptions deserve to be challenged.)
     
  22. billvon Valued Senior Member

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    Excellent point.

    Poverty will never be eliminated. At best we can provide the opportunities for people to succeed, as well as assistance for the worst off among us. However, there's no such thing as a one-way door - just as some people at the low end of the curve can rise out of it, some people will drop back into that from the middle.

    That is a very politically incorrect way of looking at things, since those standards have been rising continuously (with a few setbacks, but the net trend has been positive) for thousands of years now.
     
  23. exchemist Valued Senior Member

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    You are right of course. And in reality you can say that my "absolute" standards are nothing of the kind, since society's view of what constitutes acceptably good health access, for instance, or life expectancy, is continually advancing. But I do think we have to get away from self-defeating bell curve definitions, somehow.
     

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