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Blame Rich, Overeducated Elites as Our Society Frays (bloomberg.com)
152 points by irishjohnnie on Nov 20, 2013 | hide | past | favorite | 187 comments



While this was a decent article highlighting an interesting point about the impending collapse of the US, this part was obviously classist:

> There was a wave of terrorism by labor radicals and anarchists.

Yes. Terrorism gave us the 40 hour workweek, and in my country of Canada, single payer healthcare...


I don't see the "obvious classism". Author isn't talking about demonstrations or protests, author is talking about extremists blowing things up: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1919_United_States_anarchist_bo...

And more: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wall_Street_bombing

I don't think calling bombings in public spaces "terrorism" is really straining the definition of the word. In fact it seems pretty on-the-nose.

And far from driving any sort of positive change, these bombings derived zero concessions from the government. Their only long-term effect was the further marginalization of the political left in the USA, as they became associated with violence. This is a legacy that is still here in the US today, where words like "socialist" are still being used as obvious pejoratives.

It's interesting that you bring up single payer health care in Canada. The first real implementation of public health care in Canada was in Saskatchewan, under premier Tommy Douglas, who was IIRC voted a few years ago as the Greatest Canada Who Ever Lived. Public health care was achieved in Saskatchewan not by hostage-taking, bombing, or shooting anyone, but by persistent demonstration and political participation. Not a shot was fired to win single payer health care in Canada.

Terrorism gave us nothing except fear, violence, and death. In every place it has shown up it has actively worked against the causes it purports to advance (see: OWS and rioting). It is in spite of violent extremists that these causes have succeeded, it should get zero credit.


It's certainly terrorism, but there is a real asymmetry between how we treat the State and the individual.

The State engaged in plenty of mass indiscriminate violence against nonviolent people in the same period. The incidents you mention killed two people (one of whom, as a historical irony, was a working class security officer, and the other was an anarchist himself.)

But when the government comes in and kills dozens if not hundreds of people in various labor incidents (or turned a blind eye to corporations doing the same), it's just establishing "law and order" (read: used violent force to ensure the continued functioning of and economic profits of capital).

There's also the elephant in the room, since we're talking about the 1910s, of some unspecified but very widespread government violence and big explosions in public squares. Though that was more a competition among elites, it was still borne disproportionately by the non-elite.


I agree with you about the state being given a free pass on violence and coercion, as well as some corporations having done the same. What you failed to mention is that unions have abused many of their members, used violence against replacement workers, and destroyed the property of their employers.

This is not an issue of unions vs. corporations vs. states; it is the fundamental problem with collectivism, which frequently uses coercion as a means to achieve power or theft.


I agree with you, except for one part. I'd correct your closing sentence to

"It is a fundamental problem with humanity, which frequently uses coercion as a means to achieve power."

Collectivism is a slippery concept and seems to amount to "individuals working together to achieve some aim." So long as you have systems of interacting individuals, organizations will arise to achieve economies of scale, and violence will inherently be part of it because of the components that make up the system.


Based on your definition of collectivism, I would agree with you, but I think the definition is too broad.

From the Wikipedia article on Collectivism: "Collectivist orientations stress the importance of cohesion within social groups... and in some cases, the priority of group goals over individual goals"

You can have individualists "working together to achieve the same aim", for example in a firm (or corporation), but they may place no importance on cohesion or group goals (when they are different from individual goals).


> I don't see the "obvious classism". Author isn't talking about demonstrations or protests, author is talking about extremists blowing things...

Don't try and dismiss entire movements with the acts of but a few extremists. Without the movement, you don't have May Day in 1919: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_Red_Scare#May_Day_1919

Also, without context, you're argument seems reasonable, however WITH context, it does not. During class warfare, your poor and disenfranchised are AT WAR with the rich and wealthy. Of course these people have no recourse for representation from the elite, nor do they have police protection. After years of struggles with police and politicians, I find it insulting to claim that any engagements are terrorism, and that all of it is under the pretense of war. Just look at the locations of these events...

> Their only long-term effect was the further marginalization of the political left in the USA, as they became associated with violence.

Actually the labour movements had gotten the most concessions out of government between 1918 and 1940. If you disagree, again, feel free to explain how labour laws inhibit society from being truly free/prosperous.

> Terrorism gave us nothing except fear, violence, and death. In every place it has shown up it has actively worked against the causes it purports to advance (see: OWS and rioting).

OWS are terrorists? Now I know you're a shill. People should really take note of these type of subtle propoganda, and get informed. http://www.iww.org/


> "Don't try and dismiss entire movements with the acts of but a few extremists."

You're mistaking my argument for my political stance. I am quite far on the left, thanks. The violent actors that are attracted to just about any cause do not represent the cause, but they are an easy scapegoat to be used by the opposition, and this scapegoating works.

Short of changing human nature, this is the limitation we have to work with. Every violent act in the name of some cause directly works against said cause, even if its perpetrators are themselves a minority. A single violent actor in your midst cancels out the credibility of hundreds, if not thousands, of peaceful participants.

We can whine all day about how unfair this is, but tough, this is the way public perception works. This is why as supporters of whatever cause you believe in, it's of critical importance to root out the violent elements within your group.

> "OWS are terrorists? Now I know you're a shill. People should really take note of these type of subtle propoganda, and get informed."

Jesus, go back to /r/conspiracy already. Look at my posting history, you think I get paid to write this shit? This is what I hate about talking to people like you, I express one thing you find disagreeable, but no, I can't possibly hold that opinion in good faith, I must be paid, I must be a planted agitator.

OWS aren't terrorists, but their protests around the country (outside of NYC itself, which remained relatively peaceful) were mired with rioting, looting, and violence. It made the movement completely toxic to any support from political moderates. Over time it became largely associated with crackpots and extremists, and they never gained the support of the undecided everyman. OWS died because of its violent internal elements.

You think people didn't identify with OWS? Nearly everyone I know identifies with the core complaints of OWS, but very few ever participated in their protests, because they were known to be violent, because nobody wanted to be in the same crowd as black bloc assholes smashing windows. There is a reason why MLK Jr. preached heavily for non-violence, because every window smashed, every store looted, erases the hard work of many, many more people.

> "During class warfare, your poor and disenfranchised are AT WAR with the rich and wealthy. Of course these people have no recourse for representation from the elite, nor do they have police protection."

Really? Really? That's the best you can come up with, after bringing up single-payer health care in Canada? One of the greatest (if not the greatest) achievements in Canadian history? The one that was won without a single bullet or a single bomb? The one that was hard-fought by people in the political process, by shrewd leaders?

You brought that up and now you're saying that there is no recourse other than violence? No recourse for the everyman except to take up arms?

Jesus.


Well you've changed my mind. I definitely don't think you're a shill.

> OWS aren't terrorists, but ... were mired with rioting, looting, and violence. It made the movement completely toxic to any support ... Over time it became largely associated with crackpots and extremists ... they never gained the support of the undecided everyman. OWS died because of its violent internal elements.

You're a sheep. You preach non violence and think that any protest with elements of violence as illegitimate. The main message of OWS was of solidarity, hence the whole complexity of the group. You missed that point entirely, even though you say most people you know identifies with their grievances.

So in summary, you don't believe in protests, as you don't believe in outliers or subverters as being separate from the core grievances of the whole movement. Because of this, you dismiss any movements or protests you or others may find hopeful, because others who share different philosophical underpinnings, are also involved in the narrative.

> Jesus, go back to /r/conspiracy already.

Absolutely. Here's something to mull over while you beg the government to reform itself: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Northwoods

It's extremely easy to shout terrorist and praise pacifism and trust your government. The hard thing to do is become outcasted by sheeple like you who think this massively powerful set of institutions has your interests at heart. I'd much rather go to /r/conspiracy then be told me someone like you that terrorism is the biggest problem towards social change and not government central planning of socio-economic development....

Excerpt: "Operation Northwoods proposals included hijackings and bombings followed by the introduction of phony evidence that would implicate the Cuban government.

Several other proposals were included within Operation Northwoods, including real or simulated actions against various U.S. military and civilian targets. The plan was drafted by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, signed by Chairman Lyman Lemnitzer and sent to the Secretary of Defense."

TLRD: You need to seriously rethink your sheepest trust in institutions based from Monarchy, and governed mostly be the elite. You need to stop dismissing theories and actions against oppression as negative and opposed to progress, as that pretty much enforces the belief that the government (US specifically) isn't the one creating/causing/permitting an enormous amount of negative events globally for special interest group gains. The War on Drugs, The War on Minorities (Prison System), The War on the Internet, and The War on Terror, are all legitimized by your sheepest trust in their creators continued success....

Oh Look... : https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=6771306

Trust them. Be peaceful. People like me are the problem. Definitely not the ones with the money supply and army...


I find it weird how socialists latch on to every source of violence and claim it as their own, even when it's very obvious it's something else.

Most leftist terrorism, in Greece for example, was directed and controlled from within the Soviet Union, and had the goal of military conquest behind it. That is very well understood now. It had nothing to do with what Greece's populace wanted.

The irony of the article is that it attempts to use today's terrorist actions and claim them for collectivism. In fact al qaeda started by bombing soviets, because they were collectivist. They got help from the US (because collectivist systems hated religion up to two decades ago. Marx hated religion, as is very well known).

As if that wasn't proof enough you have the "arab spring" and what it was really pushing. That's pretty clear at this point. In Egypt, Lybia, ... and it wasn't collectivism. It wasn't equality. It was the very opposite of that. It was pushing an extreme view of repressive, very capitalist religion. One that espouses a slave-based economy, and a form of society that has a reputation across the planet for being by far the worst society for a slave to live under. A religion that pushes selling humans. A religion that praises trading, pillaging the earth, and all you seem to hate, to a far greater extent than our capitalist system does. 9/11 and related bombings were executed by people associated with this system, not with collectivism of any kind.

Another massive self-deception is that most of these collectivists, at least the ones discussing it in European cafes where I live, are universally part of this "elite". But they themselves are innocent, see, because they "try to help". Not by working, obviously. It "somehow" escapes their attention that most people in the cafe nextdoor, the cafe that used to be filled with car mechanics, drivers and ... and now is filled with call center employees, hate them for this. And they hate them because they can effectively do nothing and discuss collectivism all day.

To me, the article reads like another intellectual looking at society, and seeing exactly what he thought was going on all along. Like with the Egypt "revolution" for democracy. Hah ! In reality US society is fraying in hundred different small ways, mostly due to pressures coming from the outside. But the basic problem is this :

We have 7 billion people on this planet, and we only need ~1 billion or so for the economy. That 1 billion figure is dropping fast, and we've reached the point where the US's 300 million are not isolated from it any more. But you know what ? Historically, that's only strange if you look at the last 100 years. If you look at the last 1000 years, that's merely the status-quo.


One could argue that it's at least a bit of cherry-picking. Furthermore I would not agree with the statement that those incidents is a major contributor to the stigmatization of the political left - the socialist. That I would think is caused by massive propaganda and scare mongering throughout the 20th century.


They also forgot to mention that at that time, the government branding them terrorists were killing them and their compatriots at many of the labour sit ins.

Usually it's the elite that's quick to justify thousands of death for security, so I'd argue that while deplorable in a moral sense, the acts themselves when taken in context are understandable, as it was war.


Indeed.

This, among many other things, can add a bit of a context of the period: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Immigration_Act_of_1918


I think there's more ambiguity to a lot of events in that era. I mean take stuff like the Bisbee deportation... I doubt it gets called terrorism most of the time.


It's worth noting that you reached back to 1919. Even though the Occupy movement was based in anarchist principles. From David Graeber's _The Democracy Project_ (an inside view into Occupy):

"It may well be the most nonviolent movement of its size in American history, and this despite the absence of peace codes, marshals, or official peace police. In the fall, there were at least five hundred occupations, with participants representing remarkably diverse philosophies, from evangelical Christians to revolutionary anarchists, and thousands of marches and actions—and yet the most "violent" acts attributed to protesters were four of five acts of window-breaking, basically less than one might expect in the wake of one not particularly rowdy Canadian hockey game. [...] there was virtually no discussion of the first OWS-associated window-breaking in New York itself, which occurred on March 17 [...] broken by an NYPD officer, using an activist's head."

If you don't feel like reading the book, you can read this article, where Occupy anarchists were more criticized for "all this anarchist nonsense - the consensus, the sparkly fingers..." (http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2011/11/20111128728...)

(I mean, one must be honest about violence within anarchist history; there exist hawkish people who call themselves anarchists, as no one owns the term. But the image of anarchist bombers is propaganda, made by hyper-violent countries which bomb all the time.)


The quote in question was from the article: where the author claimed that there was a rash of anarchist terrorism in the 1919-1921 time frame, and using it as an example of the instability central to the article's thesis.

I'm specifically referencing the events author was alluding to, since tokenizer seems to regard this statement as an unfair coloring, where in fact the specific referenced events were bombings, some of which targeted the public, which makes "terrorism" an apt label.


Mea culpa; I rarely visit HN recently, and broke my own rule against commenting before closely reading the article.

The media is obviously hypocritical on who they call "terrorists." (That is, they ignore the far greater terrorism on their own side.) But that aside, I clearly didn't read closely. Best to stop posting...


Are you saying that the political left would be more effective if it never used violence ever?


Of course they are. Look at theire final paragraph tying OWS with terrorism. This person is a shill who's rewriting history.

The IWW and other mass union labour movements engaged in war with business elite, which was backed/run by the government. The concessions we were given were temporary, but amazing in terms of prosperity.

But they are right. Collections of Working Class people didn't die as heroes who ushered in an era of labour laws and minimum wages, but are rather terrorists who had ZERO effect on the world... /s


But there was a wave of terrorism.

I am very partial to late 19th century anarchists, but 'propaganda by the deed' included both assassinations (which could be ethically justified as part of a larger war) and a small number of random acts of violence against the general public (which I see no serious ethical justification for (x)). While such acts were a fairly small part of 'Propaganda of the Deed', they are an early example of what would be later labeled terrorism (that is, NGOs using indiscriminate violence against civil populations for political ends).

For example: "February 12, 1894 – Émile Henry, intending to avenge Auguste Vaillant, sets off a bomb in Café Terminus (a café near the Gare Saint-Lazare train station in Paris), killing one and injuring twenty. During his trial, when asked why he wanted to harm so many innocent people, he declared, "There is no innocent bourgeois." This act is one of the rare exceptions to the rule that propaganda of the deed targets only specific powerful individuals. Henry is convicted and executed by guillotine on May 21." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Propaganda_of_the_deed

The small number of acts of terror carried out by anarchists likely didn't give us the 40 year work week (xx), anarchists and other radicals organizing did.

x - The fact that these acts of terror were carried out in reprisal for far worse state terror is no excuse. The ends do not justify the means.

xx - The value of assassination is debatable but clearly terrorism was both counter-productive and unethically unjustifiable.


If you're arguing for syntactical purity than yes, they are terrorists.

Semantically, terrorism is violence against the state/privileged public, and "the legitimate use of force" is violence by the state, to the individual/disenfranchised public.

Are poor mostly black neighborhoods not under the duress of terror from the "Stop and Frisk" police in NY? What about Operation Northwood? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Northwoods

Also, just because you find certain actions morally reprehensible, doesn't mean they are. I'm sure we're all missing TONS of context. Also, to quote Nietzsche:

"Battle not with monsters, lest ye become a monster, and if you gaze into the abyss, the abyss gazes also into you."

If you can come up with a method for countering oppression that doesn't use force, but DOESN'T involve begging your oppressors, please let me in on the tactic.

Also, revolutionary anarchism is but a branch. You have many forms of anarchism. Most of which advocate peaceful coexistence without the use of force over individuals or communities.

I'd argue that dividing force into subsets of classifications is futile. You have force, you have coercion, and you have power. Anarchists inately believe that force/coercion is corrupting, which gives you a point, but many would agree that, "The war to end all wars is worth it."

So while the end may not justify the mean, The end that justifies all meaning - is something else entirely to look into.


Ah, yes, terrorism.

Terrorism is what we call punching up.

Law & order what we call punching down. Stuff like locking workers inside burning buildings, using thugs, cops, and soldiers to crack labor heads, forcibly deporting undesirables.

I'm finally starting to get the hang of this. Now I am learning.


Exactly. People put the ownness for grassroot movements to legitimize their use of force, AND that of their loose affiliates, but point to the government and question it's actions, and "that's different" /s.

The article makes one great point thought: Many people die, INCLUDING rich people in collapses. They're either extremely confident about this time, or extremely ignorant with how revolutions and power structures usually mix.


FDR said something like "I'll either be the greatest American President, or the last". So he knew the stakes.

I've characterized the New Deal as a) labor gets living wages and in return b) the plutocrats get to keep their heads.

On paper, it's the creation of the middle class in exchange for the chicken hawks profiteering from the forever war.


> There was a wave of terrorism by labor radicals and anarchists.

A small observation,a little off-topic: The author need to study a little bit more about what anarchism really are, to not get confused with terrorism; or equalizing it with the destruction of the current rule order.. this is chaos, not anarchism

Anarchism has to do with individual freedom.. the natural one we all born with, and no force can take that freedom from you.. its the ultimate freedom..

The anarchism is the most advanced form of politics(by not imposing any particular policy by the use of force), but it need a very sophisticated type of human being.. (we can find nowadays but are very few proportionally speaking).. So its not feasible in the current social reality.. (so i dont think is a good idea to try to put it to work right now :))

To get a real taste of anarchism, its imperative the know the works of Bakunin, Proudhon, Thoureau, Nietzsche, Freud and Foucault (I can even dare to say Jesus Christ was one too)

Anyone that says that anarchism is the same as blow up things and mess with "the established order" (as sampled in the Fight Club movie), dont know what they are talking about

Edit: Also the people that do awful things, and call themselves as anarchists (i guess unabomber had this image of himself) are also wrong.. and are making a diservice to the real concept, the same way people misuse the concept of "hacker"..

I just fell the need to also make justice to the concept of anarchism, the same way i would do with the concept of hacker


Interesting article. I have not seen a lot of quantitative studies on society in general (that is probably personal bias, however).

Is it wrong to say that a lot of the root cause of this is from capitalism? Is socialism a better solution for more complicated societies like the ones we have today?


For such a statement to be true or not, you've got to be more precise about what you mean by capitalism.

At it's heart, capitalism is about 1) private ownership of the factors of production through limited liability and tradeable claims; and 2) a separation of management of the firm from ownership of the firm.

I don't see that being replaced anytime soon. The idea that a top-down technocratic solution (of which I would consider socialism an enlightened example) would result in greater human thriving has not been borne out empirically, and in theory has problems that the information and feedback processes driving decision making are less efficient.


Why is socialism a top-down technocratic solution? What is top-down about the abolition of private property and workers owning the means of production?

Also, what is “human thriving”? I find that capitalists use vague terms like this to mean “good”, and when you push them for a definition, they give you a contrived one which makes capitalism look good, but no satisfying justification or explanation for why this is should be what the structure of society should be optimised for.


Abolition of property rights is usually down through coercive means by some agent of the state, hence it is top-down.

"Human thriving" can be defined any number of ways, including wealth, health, liberty (positive or negative), freedom, happiness, environmental factors, etc. Most capitalists define thriving as improvement in some or all of these areas. You are correct that a vague definition of "thriving" can be self-serving, but it is hard to find any factor which socialist countries have made more progress in than less socialist countries. Even a socialist country (i.e. China or India) which frees its markets and creates property rights sees a substantial gain in the rate of improvement of the lives of its citizens in almost every aspect.


> Abolition of property rights is usually down through coercive means by some agent of the state, hence it is top-down.

No it's not? Property rights themselves can only be enforced through some agent of the state, hence they are top down. Abolition of private property means abolition of the state.

I mentioned this in another post in this thread, but take the example of a house you rent from a landlord. Under capitalism, it's not your house, even though you use it. It's the landlord's, because ultimately the landlord can use the coercive power of the state to remove you if you stop paying rent. If you abolish the state, then it simply becomes your house, and the landlord can no longer claim ownership over that which they do not use.


> If you abolish the state, then it simply becomes your house, and the landlord can no longer claim ownership over that which they do not use.

If you abolish the state, anyone can claim ownership over anything they want, they'll just have to muster their own force to enforce the claim since there is no state to impose force on behalf of any claimant.


This isn't borne out, though, by actual experience.

Plenty of economic goods are not secured by codified property rights, defined and enforced from above. Communities are able to self-organize to define a reasonable set of behavioral norms. Local knowledge can be leveraged to generate better outcomes, and locality allows different communities to experiment with what actually works best, making the system as a whole more fault tolerant.

See the work of Elinor Ostrom for several deeply investigated examples of this kind of organizing.


It actually is. While plenty of economic goods may not be secured by codified property rights and instead are secured through the application of community norms, when those norms are challenged community does have to apply force.

See: the majority of human history, particularly Pythagoras' attempt at community, every war for conquest, anarchic systems created in early Iceland/Scandinavia, normal people's experiences with bullies, etc.


> This isn't borne out, though, by actual experience.

Yes, actually, the fact that, in the absence of a state (and, in fact, even in the presence of a de jure state but the absence of an effective state), people are free to claim whatever, but their ability to enforce a claim is dependent on their ability to muster force to press it is well established by experience.

> Plenty of economic goods are not secured by codified property rights, defined and enforced from above.

I don't disagree with that, but its not relevant to anything I said.

> Communities are able to self-organize to define a reasonable set of behavioral norms.

Again, I don't disagree (in fact, that's what a democratic state is.)

> Local knowledge can be leveraged to generate better outcomes, and locality allows different communities to experiment with what actually works best, making the system as a whole more fault tolerant.

And, yet again, I don't necessarily disagree with that in general (though I do think it is an overgeneralization), and, again, it doesn't contradict anything I said.

>


> Abolition of property rights is usually down through coercive means by some agent of the state, hence it is top-down.

Creation of property rights is always done through coercive means by the State. In the absence of such action, there are no property rights.


This is not necessarily the case, and depends on your view of rights. If you believe in natural, self evident rights, (such as owning one's self,) then property rights can be derived in a number of ways. This is only one example, as there are a number of ways to establish property rights, some of which involve state coercion, and some of which do not.


> If you believe in natural, self evident rights, (such as owning one's self,) then property rights can be derived in a number of ways.

Whether or not you believe in such rights, they are different kind of thing than legal rights and (notably) cannot be abolished. Confusing natural (i.e., moral) rights and legal rights is the fallacy of equivocation (and is equivalent to conflating a fact proposition with a value proposition.)

Creation of legal property rights is always a top-down action by the State. It may be justified by a belief in certain inherent, unalterable moral rights (as, equally, can the abolition of legal property rights -- which is simply the State declining to continue to impose coercive means to uphold certain property rights), but that doesn't change that the mechanism by which they imposed is top-down, coercive action by the State.


It's not really the fallacy of equivocation, since legal rights follow natural rights and he's not confusing the two.

Property rights are not necessarily externally applied. As you can apply use to the area around you, you can use your natural rights in order to claim property and protect it through force. In this way you are innately a sovereign. When you join in a community, you give up some of your natural rights to the state, particularly as regards the application of force.


> legal rights follow natural rights

Legal rights, as I said previously, may be motivated by beliefs about natural/moral rights, but they are, purely and simply, a decision by the State to use coercive measures to exclude some actions. And they may also not be motivated by any belief about "natural rights". Natural rights, except as a rhetorical device to claim the moral high ground in arguments about what decisions the State should make in terms of imposing coercive power on behalf of one or the other conflicting claimants in a class of actual or hypothetical disputes, don't actually have any direct bearing on, really, anything.

> As you can apply use to the area around you, you can use your natural rights in order to claim property and protect it through force.

You can use your physical capacity to exclude people from actions (whether or not they relate to an entity in which you claim a property right, and whether or not any "natural rights" exist or have any bearing on the situation). You belief about the existence and scope of natural rights might have an impact on where you choose to exercise that physical capacity, but, again, that's pretty much beside the point.

> When you join in a community, you give up some of your natural rights to the state

That's a rather controversial claim; many of those who believe in the existence of "natural rights" also believe that a fundamental distinguishing feature of "natural rights" is that they are inalienable -- that is, they cannot be transferred or surrendered.


>Natural rights, except as a rhetorical device to claim the moral high ground in arguments about what decisions the State should make in terms of imposing coercive power on behalf of one or the other conflicting claimants in a class of actual or hypothetical disputes, don't actually have any direct bearing on, really, anything

And where, precisely, does the State come from? From where does it come by its power? What is the State? If there was no community, would a state still exist? Sort of; each of us would retain individual sovereignty, and most likely, begin to group together again for security of both our persons and our property.

The idea of the state of nature and natural rights is not to create said rights, but instead to illuminate the rights each of us already possesses.

>whether or not they relate to an entity in which you claim a property right

I don't know what this means. My point was pretty simple; if I pick a bunch of apples and you try to take them from me, I can say 'those are mine' and hit you. In effect, I am thereby claiming property and enforcing my right to said property through force.

>many of those who believe in the existence of "natural rights" also believe that a fundamental distinguishing feature of "natural rights" is that they are inalienable -- that is, they cannot be transferred or surrendered.

It's not that controversial. Only some natural rights are inalienable, not all. The right to enter into the state of war, for example, is both a natural right and one which a person may give up to the state or community.


I did not confuse anything, you left the type of right undefined. I assumed that the undefined right could be either moral or legal, whereas you interpret "right" to mean "legal right" unless explicitly stated otherwise. This has been an unfortunate misunderstanding.


> you left the type of right undefined

No, the post I responded to was about the abolition of rights, which restricts it to the class of rights (legal, not moral) for which that phrase is meaningful.

Context matters.

> whereas you interpret "right" to mean "legal right" unless explicitly stated otherwise.

No, I interpret it to mean "legal right" when it is used in a context in which what is being discussed is only meaningful for legal rights.


If I hold something in my hand, it's practically my property. The state doesn't have to come in and say "that which you hold in your hand is yours", it's pretty much a given fact.


That's not accurate. Absent a state, I can still create property rights, and enforce them through the personal application of force.


> What is top-down about the abolition of private property and workers owning the means of production?

What isn't? How could you get individuals to give up their property without the use of force, which would most likely come from the state?


I would say that the enforcement of private property is what requires the top-down approach. Not the abolishment of private property.

e.g: If I would build my house at someones former vast private property (land). The property owner would somehow have to enforce he's or her's private property. Today this is done through the state.


And without the state I couldn't just have a few of my employees or friends burn your house down?

This whole argument of whether property rights or lack of property rights is due to a State is fundamentally misguided. The State is just force, and whether that force creates property rights or destroys common understanding of property rights depends upon how that force is applied.


Of course. I agree with you, hence the "Today" in the last sentence. Tomorrow it might be other kinds of states or similar entities. The first sentence was however badly formulated.

So it's true that a stateless society would need to defend against groups of thugs or similar just as we do today. This would probably be done in a decentralized manner rather than a paid centralized institution like today. The idea is to build a society that people would want to defend.

So hopefully people would organise against thugs that claim private property rights, or also risk being exposed to them themselves.


You have it completely backwards. Private property itself can't exist without the use of force and the state. If you abolish the state, you abolish private property.

Let's say you're renting a house from some landlord. You live in this house, so it should be yours, right? The landlord already has another house that they live in. But it's not yours, it's the landlord's. Why is it the landlord's? Because if you stop paying rent, they can kick you out. How? Ultimately, by using the force of the state to remove you. If you get abolish private property (i.e., the state), then there is no “force” that makes the house the landlord's. It simply becomes your house.

Abolishing private property doesn't mean getting individuals to “give up” their property, it means people can no longer use force to claim ownership over that which they do not use.


>> Private property itself can't exist without the use of force and the state. If you abolish the state, you abolish private property.

Really now? If the State ceased to exist tomorrow, do you think you and everyone you know would go on a killing spree, because no one would have "the right to live" anymore?

Without the State, would you and your friends go forcefully take everyone else's (non-)property because property rights would cease to exist? Or would everyone perhaps willingly part with all their belongings because they believed their property rights had vanished with the State?

Would you and your friends go rape all the women you could get your hands on, purely because without the State, people would no longer have the right to control their own bodies?

.. See what I'm getting at here? Perhaps you'd like to reconsider who's got it completely backwards?


Of course not many people will go on a rampage. But the right to life is an entirely different beast than the right to property. It seems obvious to me that private property (the "right" to sole use of property) exists merely by decree of laws and without it, it simply doesn't exist. In the natural state one can only own what they can successfully defend. The concept of private property outsources that defense to the state and thus one ends up capable of accumulating far more property than one could defend in the natural state.

>Without the State, would you and your friends go forcefully take everyone else's (non-)property because property rights would cease to exist

No, but in a scenario where a bank was attempting to evict me from my home and I had nowhere else to go, I would defend my claim to said property.


>> But the right to life is an entirely different beast than the right to property. It seems obvious to me that private property (the "right" to sole use of property) exists merely by decree of laws and without it, it simply doesn't exist

Do you need a law to tell you you're allowed to defend yourself if someone attacks you? .. Do you not have that "right" by virtue of being a human being?

Are you only allowed to defend your property if there's a government that says you have property rights?

>> in a scenario where a bank was attempting to evict me from my home and I had nowhere else to go, I would defend my claim to said property

Presumably, you'd have voluntarily signed a contract with the bank, and voluntary assumed the risks involved in it, yes? If your contract with the bank says they get your home if you can't pay back your loan, then it's no longer your property after the clause has been triggered.

If you did forcefully defend "your claim to said property" even when it's no longer your property, that would be a job for some kind of "dispute resolution organization".


The talk of 'rights' are muddying the issue. A 'right' necessarily entails responsibilities onto other entities. These responsibilities must be agreed upon beforehand for a 'right' to be said to exist. I know, it is common for discussions of natural rights as in collective responsibility that exists outside of any agreed upon framework. But careful examination of such a claim reveals it to be impotent. I have no reason to acknowledge your right to the sole use of 1M acres of land unless there was some mutually agreed upon framework beforehand. Once we reach the level of mutual agreement (and some enforcement clause) we have just invented government.

The only 'natural right' I agree with is the right to life and non-interference. Everything else requires an agreed upon framework and thus are purely by decree.


> If the State ceased to exist tomorrow, do you think you and everyone you know would go on a killing spree, because no one would have "the right to live" anymore?

You not having a right to something doesn't mean I don't have better uses for my time and effort than taking it from you.


Government not existing wouldn't mean you don't have rights.


You're confusing and wildy mixing basic human morality with politically/economically motivated laws.


And he wasn't? :p

To be more accurate, I'm simply pointing out that we all have the exact same rights regardless of what a government does/says, or whether one even exists at all.

Our rights manifest themselves in the way people naturally behave.


"... the way people naturally behave."

How is it that people "naturally" behave, exactly? Keep in mind that the way we behave in civilized society is a product of having been raised in civilized society. We have internalized social norms that have been codified into laws, and behave accordingly.

If you look at history, or at any place where the consequences of behavior are removed (e.g. the behavior of people to whom laws don't typically apply), you will find that for the most part, people often behave extremely poorly to each other. Indeed, you'll find that game theory and selfishness best predicts how people treat each other. Law of the jungle, and all that.


Technically, we give up some of our rights to the state; the right to enter into a state of war, for example. There are notable exceptions to this but it's really dependent on community norms in those cases.


>> Technically, we give up some of our rights to the state; the right to enter into a state of war, for example

No one ever asked me, and no one ever asked you either. Is it reasonable to think you've agreed to "give up" some of your rights when no one ever asked you? What about taxes? Can you be considered to have consented to taxation when no one ever asked you, and when you're taxed by force anyway - it's as if no one wanted to be taxed!

Not only that, but can you give up your rights?

Can you give up your right to own property? -How would that work? Would you solemnly swear never to have any belongings anymore? Never to hold anything in your possession? Never to oppose anyone taking something from you?


Yes, it is totally reasonable to have given up your rights when no-one ever asked you. But maybe you made it explicit anyway; have you ever said the pledge of allegiance?

No, you cannot give up your right to property, because you own your person.


>> Yes, it is totally reasonable to have given up your rights when no-one ever asked you.

Well, I guess you'll start sending say, 15% of all your income my way then? I never asked you, you never consented, but this "contract" is obviously binding anyway! That's how this stuff works, right? .. or do I need to have some kind of badge, wig, or uniform to make this "agreement" binding?

Naturally, I'll show up at your door and take my "fair share" by force, if necessary.

>> No, you cannot give up your right to property, because you own your person.

You're certainly on to something there!


But the thing is, you did consent to be a part of your community and thus bound by the social contract. If you don't like it, that's fine, commit a felony. It's just that by doing something like that, you will no longer possess all the rights and protections a normal citizen does. But you'll have all your rights.


>> But the thing is, you did consent to be a part of your community and thus bound by the social contract.

Nope. Never asked. Never consented. Not. Binding.

This is exactly what I tried to illuminate earlier. It simply makes no sense to think that A and B can, among themselves, whip up a "contract" that binds C - let alone that A alone can impose a binding "contract" on B without B ever being aware of it.

Of course, I'm bound by the fact that if I don't pay taxes, violence will be inflicted on me. In fact, no one wants to pay taxes, but everyone knows that's how it works: don't pay --> go to jail. The idea of "the social contract" is meant to mask this reality of extortion on the ultimate scale.

>> If you don't like it, that's fine, commit a felony

Ooooh.. a felony! Sounds scary, doesn't it?

>> It's just that by doing something like that, you will no longer possess all the rights and protections a normal citizen does. But you'll have all your rights.

So I won't have all the rights but I will have all my rights, huh? How does that work?


You don't necessarily have to be asked to consent to something. Your not objecting to action for a certain period of time and in specific circumstances can be read as consent.

The social contract is not about A and B binding C to something. It's a contract between you and your community. What this actually means varies, but in the US it's pretty explicit.

Have you ever voted? If so, you've consented to being a part of this contract, as you even helped create its terms.

More specifically, the communal rights you are accorded will be removed, but your personal rights will be restored. You'll once more be your own sovereign. This means that you can do whatever you want, though you will have to bear the brunt of the consequences your actions bring.


>> You don't necessarily have to be asked to consent to something. Your not objecting to action for a certain period of time and in specific circumstances can be read as consent.

Bullshit. We grow up not having the faintest fucking clue that we're all tax-slaves. We're all brainwashed into believing in the system, and just accepting everything at face value.

If someone questions something, he's told he should just appreciate the services he's "using" and getting in exchange for paying taxes, as if paying taxes was voluntary and as if you wouldn't want to choose the service providers yourself.

Since everyone is brainwashed into "The Matrix" (!), what you said is comparable to raping someone who's in a coma and declaring that he consented to it because he didn't object.

>> More specifically, the communal rights you are accorded will be removed, but your personal rights will be restored. You'll once more be your own sovereign. This means that you can do whatever you want, though you will have to bear the brunt of the consequences your actions bring.

I have no idea what you're talking about there, but if you're (once again) referring to the consequences of disobeying the State, it's worth pointing out that punishing someone for not wanting to be a slave is kind of unreasonable.


We're not tax-slaves. All this stuff IS voluntary. You can choose not to do whatever you want.

The state of nature and any other system is not inherently better. Think about it. You're alone, you have no community ties, who protects you or your food when you sleep? What happens when someone bigger and stronger than you wants to take what you have, or hurt you?

If you have problems with the system in which you live, then change it. If you can't change it because you're in the far minority, then sorry, but the system we have is more about majority representation and minority protection than minority rule.

>I have no idea what you're talking about there, but if you're (once again) referring to the consequences of disobeying the State, it's worth pointing out that punishing someone for not wanting to be a slave is kind of unreasonable.

I'm saying that if you decide to leave the protection of the state, you sacrifice exactly that, protection. I'm not a slave, and I'd venture to guess you aren't either, but if you feel that way, then be free. Nobody is really stopping you but you.


>> We're not tax-slaves. All this stuff IS voluntary. You can choose not to do whatever you want.

There's a really easy way to find out whether taxation is voluntary: stop paying taxes and see what happens. But you already know what would happen: you would be hauled to jail, and tased, beaten or even shot if you resisted. Everyone knows this.

Next, don't tell me it's voluntary because I can just leave the country. So what? Exchanging one "prison" for another does not mean you're free. Extortion by Mafia B is no more moral than extortion by Mafia A. This is obvious too. The only question is whether you're capable of accepting the reality you actually live in.

>> The state of nature and any other system is not inherently better. Think about it.

Oh believe me, I have :p You know, we're all brainwashed into believing that the State is necessary to protect us, to maintain order in society, and to keep us safe against say, terrorists, foreign nations, evil corporations and so on.

>> You're alone, you have no community ties, who protects you or your food when you sleep? What happens when someone bigger and stronger than you wants to take what you have, or hurt you?

This is your brainwashing talking. Do you think everyone you know would go on a rampage if the State ceased to exist tomorrow?

Of course not. You'd still have your friends and family to lean on, just like before. But that was an extreme example.

The vast majority of people would just go on making a living just like before. Companies would not cease to sell their products and services to customers, and employees would not stop working for companies, and so on. In other words, people would still want (and need) to make money, to get by and to buy whatever they happen to want.

Do you think the only reason McDonald's isn't forcing people to "buy" its burgers is that there's a State and a police force preventing it? Well no, of course not. So why would that change without a government? In fact, it's the government that is actually forcing you to "buy" its services, like healthcare, "protection" and "education".

When I was in the process of letting go of the belief that governments should exist at all, the last straw of my brainwashing I kept clutching on to was this idea that governments keep us safe. But then I realized that even now, if someone wants to physically hurt me, a police officer will not materialize between me and my assailant and prevent him from harming me.

If someone wants to hurt me, it's already just a matter of evaluating the risks vs the "rewards" - if he thinks it's unlikely enough that he'd suffer any negative consequences, he'll just happily punch me in the face or whatever.

In other words, the only thing preventing someone from hurting me are whatever unpleasant consequences he might suffer as a result. But there's no reason why a free society could not arrange unpleasant consequences to those who harm others too, and much more efficiently than the current system to boot. For example, do you think police officers and judges (overall) actually give a flying fuck about you or whether you get justice? What about locking people up in a rape-cage for a decade for having a certain plant in their pockets? -Is that justice?

>> If you have problems with the system in which you live, then change it

You can't. Governments are full of sociopaths, and they are perfectly happy with the way things are going - they went there to exploit and manipulate other people after all. The whole system is based on the belief in authority - the belief that someone "has the right" to make decisions for millions of others and then enforce them. It's simply insane, but people believe it because they've been brainwashed all their lives.

>> I'm not a slave, and I'd venture to guess you aren't either

Nope. We're all slaves. Sure, there are some nuances, but think of it this way: someone else takes 100% of the fruits of a slave's labour. That's a full-on slave, right?

But what about if someone else takes 50% of the fruits of your labour? -Well, then you're a "50% slave". But does it really make a difference? -For example, can you rape a woman "only a little"? 50%-rape a woman? Well no, you either rape someone or you do not, and you either enslave someone or you do not.

Then there's the clear-cut slavery scenario of compulsory military service. In Finland we've got three options:

    1) Slave-camp where you do as you're told, or you get punished.
    2) Civil service, just another way to arrange forced-labour.
    3) Jail.
They can't really make our slavery any more obvious than that, without too many people waking up from their programming.

But yeah, we are tax-slaves. The red pill is seriously fucking hard to swallow, but after you do, you're in a much better position to take care of yourself and to improve your own life. For example, you'll start thinking for yourself, figuring out what's really going on and why, protecting your assets and yourself, and so on.

If you live in the US, it's high time to get the fuck out - staying in an oppressive police state can fuck up decades of your life. There are plenty of examples in history, and since the problem was always the State existing at all, new oppressive regimes will keep coming and going as long as the problem persists.


Here's an easier way to see if something is voluntary; can you stop doing it at all?

There has only been one real society that I know of that succeeded in maintaining an anarchic system, and that was the vikings. However, there was a hell of a lot of death there; in a society like that, if you screw someone, they may kill you.

Why would capitalism be the default system with no state regulation? Wouldn't it be easier for the people with larger resources to take advantage of their new lack of regulation to actually enslave people, or force them to be serfs? It works pretty well for the people at the top.

What do I think would change without a government? Money and trade would be first. We use fiat currencies, so many people would begin producing their own. Lot's more people would lie about their product's efficiency, particularly in the pharmaceutical industry.

Some people would seize all the valuable land and resources; see what's going on in the CAR for a good example of all this.

In a slave scenario, I not only take 100% of the product of a slave's labor, but I also choose what they labor upon, if they can marry or have relationships, what they read or watch, where they can go and what they can do. I can also beat them without anyone saying anything.

If you feel that this is what your government does to you, then get the hell out.


I didn't really expect you to wake up this easily.

>> Here's an easier way to see if something is voluntary; can you stop doing it at all?

What I said still stands. If you want to claim taxation is voluntary, stop paying taxes and see how voluntary it actually is. But as mentioned before, you already know full well it's not.

>> However, there was a hell of a lot of death there; in a society like that, if you screw someone, they may kill you.

You may have noticed the vast majority of people not being savage animals? Why would this be any different without a government?

>> Why would capitalism be the default system with no state regulation?

The word "Capitalism" has been tainted by Marxism/government propaganda, but what it actually entails is property rights combined with people making voluntary exchanges, agreements and investments. That's it. It's important to realize that capitalism is not some kind of "system" that would be imposed on people - it's what we do in any case.

Saving and investment is the basis of all human wealth, because without savings, there can be no productivity improvements. Higher productivity means it's just that much easier to save more, and the virtuous cycle continues.

( http://www.youtube.com/user/misesmedia/videos for more information )

>> Wouldn't it be easier for the people with larger resources to take advantage of their new lack of regulation to actually enslave people, or force them to be serfs?

Well, how would they enslave people? Money alone is not a problem, even if someone has shitloads of it. People can be enslaved only through coercion, through the initiation of force. You need to threaten someone with violence if he doesn't obey you. Sure, you may be able to hire an army of mercenaries to help you force people to do something, but then people can just organize against you and kill you, if necessary.

Even if you've got ten trillion dollars in your bank account, you still don't want to die, right? Your actions have consequences, and one of them might be your own personal death, so you'll want to avoid making that choice.

>> It works pretty well for the people at the top.

Huh? Enslaving other people works well for the people at the top? As in, the sociopaths in government who went there for that specific purpose? Well yeah, that's about right.

>> We use fiat currencies, so many people would begin producing their own.

People wouldn't use fiat currencies anymore, they'd use a currency that can't be manipulated by anyone, and that would be great for everyone. Have you got any idea how much of the dollar's purchasing power has evaporated during your lifetime? That shit wouldn't happen in a free market. Who does inflation hurt the most? -The poor, of course.

>> Lot's more people would lie about their product's efficiency, particularly in the pharmaceutical industry.

There would be independent, third party quality assurance services, and so on. And they'd all be responsible to their customers, unlike government agencies. The government is not responsible to anyone for what they do, and that's a massive factor in how fucked up everything is.

>> Some people would seize all the valuable land and resources

Or not? That's just a scaremongering assumption, like just about everything else you're saying. But even if that were true, would it be better to have a group of sociopaths (=government) seize anything and everything at will?

>> In a slave scenario, I not only take 100% of the product of a slave's labor, but I also choose what they labor upon, if they can marry or have relationships, what they read or watch, where they can go and what they can do. I can also beat them without anyone saying anything.

Right. Well, the most productive slave is one who thinks he's free: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=Xbp...

>> If you feel that this is what your government does to you, then get the hell out.

Tell that to someone in North-Korea. Doesn't seem all that convincing in that context, huh? Well, it's just another government, just another tax farm.

Here's the main difference between North-Korea and a democratic country of your choice: in North-Korea, the enslavement system is held together by fear, but in a democracy it's held together through propaganda.

See, the only thing the sociopaths in charge care about, is maintaining their own power and their ability to loot the general populace. In other words, the only thing they care about is maintaining their tax farm. Any time there's a threat to this model, they do everything they can to neutralize it. If a specific regime completely loses its credibility and "legitimacy" in the eyes of their tax cattle, then they have a choice: 1) step down, or 2) set up torture camps etc and rule by sheer terror.

But we've been through your pseudo-argument already. Being able to switch slave-masters does not mean you're free.


>>Voluntary

See, we clearly have different conceptions of what is and is not voluntary. Let's say you voluntarily decide to kick a glass window. It breaks, as a consequence of that action, and you are hurt. Does that mean not kicking in windows is involuntary, simply because it sets of a series of reactions?

Now, if you decide that it isn't worth it to you to do something because the consequences of an action are worse than the rewards you would gain, it doesn't mean that taking or not taking this action is involuntary, it means you're probably rational.

>>You may have noticed the vast majority of people not being savage animals? Why would this be any different without a government?

I'm not sure what you're saying here; are you disputing that there was more violence, saying that's not bad, or saying that this won't happen?

>>The word "Capitalism" has been tainted by Marxism/government propaganda, but what it actually entails is property rights combined with people making voluntary exchanges, agreements and investments. That's it.

It's actually not. Capitalism is associated with a religious calling, as in the 19th century it was common for Calvinists/some Baptists to equate hard work with being more likely to go to heaven, and more money as the proof of God's grace and favor. That's where the shift to capitalism really started, particularly as an influence on people's day-to-day lives.

>> Well, how would they enslave people? Money alone is not a problem, even if someone has shitloads of it. People can be enslaved only through coercion, through the initiation of force. You need to threaten someone with violence if he doesn't obey you. Sure, you may be able to hire an army of mercenaries to help you force people to do something, but then people can just organize against you and kill you, if necessary. Even if you've got ten trillion dollars in your bank account, you still don't want to die, right? Your actions have consequences, and one of them might be your own personal death, so you'll want to avoid making that choice.

This would be totally valid if people didn't consistently make this choice, throughout history and today, and it's actually extremely rare for the people to rise up and successfully rebel against it. It's more likely that other powerful people want your power and attempt to take it from you, but the situation doesn't change much for normal people.

>>North Korea

Actually, the main difference is a combined lack of freedom and widespread starvation.

By the way, I don't think I have a slave-master. I pay taxes, this is true, but I get a lot out of that. Should there be tax reform? Sure. Does the existence of taxation make you automatically enslaved? I don't think so.

I'm not sure we're living in the same systems; in my experience, the government has trouble seizing anything at all, let alone whatever it wants for any reason. I think it's really funny that you talk about corporations being more responsible to their customers than the government because you mention that anyone taking power has a risk of being overthrown; do you think that doesn't apply to government?


Is your point that private-property is in line with how people naturally behave?

I'm not really sure what is meant by rights. It's surely so subjective that it loses it's purpose.


There's no need for a law that says "don't take someone else's stuff" - it's common sense, and everyone intuitively understands that it's forbidden.

If you want an "academic" investigation into this idea, check out "natural rights": http://mises.org/rothbard/ethics/four.asp


That holds true for possessions, but not private-property. I think it's necessary to recognize the difference between private-property (e.g land, industry etc) and possesions (e.g one's house, car etc.).

I'm familiar with the concept of natural rights and it's claim to be some kind of objective rights, but I think it's fairly obvious that such a fought over topic is not even close to being objective.


>> I think it's necessary to recognize the difference between private-property (e.g land, industry etc) and possesions (e.g one's house, car etc.).

There are several sensible ways to define "property". One is that it's a representation of value that you want exclusive control over. This value can be in the form of an apple in your hand, or a factory under your control, even if it's a building.

The bottom line is, people produce value in order to benefit from it, and the "right" to control that value is required - otherwise people wouldn't produce anything.

But there's no need for a government here. As I said, everyone knows you can't just take someone else's stuff.

>> I'm familiar with the concept of natural rights and it's claim to be some kind of objective rights, but I think it's fairly obvious that such a fought over topic is not even close to being objective

Here's something objective: Treat others as you'd like them to treat you. This includes not taking control of their property, no matter what form it's in. Rights are just an idea, and "natural rights" are a version of it that aligns perfectly with The Golden Rule, and people's intuitive "common sense morality". Typically, your conscience tells you when you're doing something you shouldn't do.

Oh, and as for "objective", do you think a group of sociopaths ruling over everyone else is objective?


Why can't you come to terms with the obvious difference between those kinds of property? For some reasons it's basically impossible to get a straight answer from a property advocate on this.

It's not the same in any moral sense. That you seem to find it rational for one person to own vast amounts of land is what I would see as a pathological frame of mind. It's just aint just. I can't see how it's in any way morally more natural to uphold that persons property rights rather than abolishing such a concept and letting those who use the land own what they use.

"Treat others as you'd like them to treat you" for me is for example to not claim private-property rights of things that can be used to exploit others. You can't do that with your car, thus a possession. But in the case of land ownership you obviously can, thus property.


Well, strictly speaking, abolishing the state does not prevent the use of force - it simply removes a single arbitrator of force. If the state were abolished, then the landlord is free to use his own force to attempt to remove you. If this works or not / is a good idea or not for the landlord depends on the situation (ie does he believe that you can come back and retaliate with more force than he himself can muster).


yeah we tried that in the middle ages. It was called feudalism :)


> What is top-down about the abolition of private property and workers owning the means of production?

Inherently? Nothing. But that's the goal, and socialism is more than the goal, its the means: if you do that through the State, its "socialism". If you do part or all of it within a community by non-state means, its something else (anarcho-syndicalism, for instance.)

Since capitalist states tend to impose structural disincentives or barriers to effectively altering relationships in this way, it may in practice to make changes through the State to achieve to goals even if those seeking them are not in favor of State action as an ideal (e.g., you can, within a community subject to a State with a capitalist view of property rights, perhaps restrict the impact of private property rights between members of the group, e.g., by contract, but you cannot force the State to withdraw from imposing certain models of property without exercising power through the State to make the change.)


It's top-down, because to engage in any endeavor of size requires some sort of organization 1) to actually direct the organization and 2) to amass the necessary physical capital necessary for the enterprise.

Capitalism solves those two problems through the modern corporation which by selling tradeable claims on the profits (through shares) and the owners (shareholders) through an elected board hiring of directors hiring managers.

Other systems which we have seen through history solve those problems through taxation and either appointment from the political class or professional bureaucracy. That is why it's top down.

(While the latter system may seem appealing, it's feedback and informational characteristics are even worse than that for capitalist managers.)


My take is that it's all a continuum. more capitalist is probably better in fast growing/developing areas (note: not just countries) with a move toward more socialist as things equilibrate. The end-state of capitalism, barring major disruptions, is monopoly, which is essentially the economic equivalent of dictatorship. Also, things that didn't exist 3 decades ago might start to become more like a utility (internet), which to me indicates it should be treated more like a social good.


The end-state of capitalism is monopoly?


In any specific area, as a general rule? I think so (there will be exceptions). Why is that supposition so strange?


Disagree. Absent large barriers to entry like economies of scale, network effects, or legal/regulatory hurdles, monopolies are fairly unstable in a capitalist system. The excessive profits that they bring in (monopoly rents) are a ripe target for new firms, who are easily able to enter the market and compete on price. Or technological change renders monopolies irrelevant from the outside.


One of the best strategies for creating long-term competitive advantage is to use the profits from your early lead to do something that is expensive to replicate.

Here's an example close to my heart (and please note that I'm just a cog and this is not a statement on official strategy -- just my personal observation): In Google Chrome, we decided to do native beautiful polished UI on every platform - Windows, OS X, iOS, Android -- even Linux!! This is a very expensive way to build a piece of client-side software, and some might say the result is only a few percent better than what could be achieved using a cross-platform UI toolkit. But it's a very expensive couple percent to duplicate.

Same thing with multiprocess. Only makes the software a little bit better, but again, extremely difficult to replicate.

If you look closely, I believe you will see this strategy being used by the leaders of many industries that would at first glance appear to have low barriers to entry.


It's interesting you mention this. The polished UI and tab isolation are the only reasons I haven't switched back to firefox at this point. Firefox has mostly fixed their bloat and stability issues (not to mention chrome is far more 'bloated' on purely a ram utilization scale), but its just so damned ugly and lacks the security benefits of process isolation.

Btw, the reasons I want to move away from chrome are the "sign in to chrome" movement, I'm assuming this is an end-run around the movement to block internet tracking, and the lack of a strong extension model.


As an excercise - pick a random company out of fortune500, assume you have solid industry expertise (say - you've got a team of a couple of top guys who worked in that industry) in their area and also a couple million dollars, and think how likely you are to create a company that can compete with them. I'd say, that for a big fraction of fortune 500 (which is itself a large fraction of global economy), you need even more than the experise and a couple millions, which makes them fairly safe in their current positions.


I think there are few areas where the barriers you mention do not exist. I also mention the scenario where technological change renders monopolies irrelevant and address it by stating that smart winners spend a lot of time dealing with these threats.


"Absent large barriers to entry like economies of scale, network effects, or legal/regulatory hurdles"

Key supposition there. Because of the economic profits enabled by monopoly, corporations and individuals will disproportionately attempt to lodge themselves into niches where there are economies of scale, network effects, and legal/regulatory hurdles. Or lobby to legislate them, or create products that generate network effects and economies of scale.

Of course, not all markets are susceptible to any of those threats. But as a result they're open to competition, which quickly eliminates economic profit and makes companies occupying those niches much poorer and much less powerful.


It's not?


Monopolies can arise, but typically are sustainable only when supported by governmental regulation and authorization.


Well, for one nothing lasts forever and there's no such thing as "the long run", so it's true that monopolies can't be sustainable. But the idea that they need a government to prop them up seems to lack a factual basis. De Beers seems to have lasted a pretty long time -- did they need the government in order to last as long as they have? Does the fact that they will collapse "eventually" (which, of course, all things must) make acceptable the massive rent that they've taken?

Power is power. As soon as one actor gets it in one domain, it spreads to another domain. Even if we had some completely laissez-faire economy in which there were no monopolies, as soon as one arose it would begin to get the laws changed to favor its persistence. It would then look as though it was government regulation that was propping it up, but the causal force was the monopolist, not the government.

The way to prevent this is to maximize the control of the people over the government, and make sure that no unaccountable-to-the-people entity gets too much power. I.e., the people must take an aggressive stance against rent-seeking monopolists in order to maximize competition, progress, and the overall growth of wealth.


From Rothbard's Making Economic Sense:

"How could DeBeers maintain such a flourishing, century-long cartel on the free market?

The answer is simple: the market has not been really free. In particular, in South Africa, the major center of world diamond production, there has been no free enterprise in diamond mining. The government long ago nationalized all diamond mines, and anyone who finds a diamond mine on his property discovers that the mine immediately becomes government property. The South African government then licenses mine operators who lease the mines from the government and, it so happened, that lo and behold!, the only licensees turned out to be either DeBeers itself or other firms who were willing to play ball with the DeBeers cartel. In short: the international diamond cartel was only maintained and has only prospered because it was enforced by the South African government."

http://mises.org/Econsense/ch91.asp


>> The way to prevent this is to maximize the control of the people over the government

Oh? How do we do that? We all know a civilized discussion is much more persuasive than cursing and raging, right? -I guess we need to write respectful, eloquent letters to our "representatives", and ask them to pretty-please be less corrupt and keep their campaign promises?

>> make sure that no unaccountable-to-the-people entity gets too much power

An entity that's not accountable to the people, huh? -Such as, the government itself? Or how much sway do you hold over the secret FISA "courts"? What about how your tax money is spent?

>> the people must take an aggressive stance against rent-seeking monopolists

Oh? What about the ultimate monopoly, the government? Or is there some other entity that decides what happens in a country, what's allowed and what's forbidden?


Let's see: what do we have in the world, in actual reality, when considering your comments? What do we know (from actual examples of things that really happen) when it comes to the potential for a government to be accountable to its citizens?

In the actual world that we live in, do we have democracies that function pretty darn well? Yes (all of Scandinavia, Iceland, Switzerland).

In other parts of the world, do we have corporate monopolies (or near-monopolies) with noxious outsized influence? Most definitely yes (e.g., retroactive copyright extensions in the U.S.).

If you were to pick a country to be born into, where your household was picked completely at random, would you rather be born in the U.S. or in a country in Scandinavia? In which country do you believe you would find yourself most empowered viz. society and its governance?


>> What do we know (from actual examples of things that really happen) when it comes to the potential for a government to be accountable to its citizens?

Well, we know from the history of the human race that people have pretty much always been ruled by some evil scumbags. Today is no exception. The scumbags come and go, but rule remains.

As for accountability.. I'm not sure even revolutions really count. How many times has been some insane, evil dictator been forcefully de-throned, only to get replaced by someone just as shitty, or even worse?

How accountable was Stalin to "his" citizens? -Hitler? Mao? Pol Pot? .. and so on. History is full of monsters and genocides, and even if some dictator gets killed in a revolution after he's tortured people for, say, 20 - 70 years, so fucking what? Is that "accountability"?

>> In the actual world that we live in, do we have democracies that function pretty darn well? Yes (all of Scandinavia, Iceland, Switzerland).

You have to realize that there's corruption and secret dealings behind the scenes everywhere. In every country. I'm Finnish myself, and Finland is no exception. The corruption here is not as blatant as in Mexico or whatever, but it's there.

>> would you rather be born in the U.S. or in a country in Scandinavia? In which country do you believe you would find yourself most empowered viz. society and its governance?

I'm not empowered by "governance" - I'm enslaved by it, just like everyone else on earth.


how naive. were it not for government, in the end monopolies would just resort to threats of violence to achieve the same result. as distasteful (and perhaps inevitable) regulatory capture is, at least it provides a non-violent outlet to squash the competition... until the revolution that is.


Explain Google.


Google is not a monopoly. It has numerous competitors and only really remains in the lead because it is perceived to be the highest in quality.


Power law distribution in search engine market share. It also explains why Coca Cola is the dominant cola to name another example.

I particularly like Peter Thiel's explanation of the power law, used in relation to VCs fund performance: http://blakemasters.com/post/21869934240/peter-thiels-cs183-...


Socialism and free market capitalism are extremes on a scale. Most Western societies these days include significant elements of both socialism and market-shaping forces.

In terms of organising a society the extreme forms of socialism imply very strong central planning. Which run into significant problems because the central planners are never going to know the needs of the people as well as the people themselves, nor are they going to have the information available on all the industries that they're trying to oversee.


Fun fact, central planning isn't necessarily less efficient:

http://econweb.umd.edu/~murrell/Articles/Can%20Neoclassical%...

> One doubt about the evidence might lie in the comparability of estimates obtained from separate studies, although Table 1 addresses this issue by matching studies with similar methodologies. One study, Koopman (1989b), employs observations on both centrally planned and market economies, thus providing direct comparability. He uses observations for 1960-79 for Soviet republics and a matched sample of Canadian provinces, U.S. states, and Finland, and employs a translog functional form that allows for differences in technology between Soviet and non-Soviet regions. The average level of technical efficiency in Soviet agriculture is estimated at 93 percent, while it is 92 percent for agriculture in the market economies.


I forget the sci-fi author and books, but a central theme was that AI results in a de-facto centrally planned economy, even though the AIs themselves are using free-market like behaviors.


Competent central planning would be great! However that would never work in real life...


You'd be happy with a "competent" planner telling you where you could work, what you could earn, where you could live, how many kids you could have, etc?


And that doesn't happen now in the US? Your boss does all of these things. Sure, you can quit, but there goes your health insurance and good luck finding another job unless you're in the Hacker News demographic.


I don't know about you, but my boss has no say in how many kids I have or specifically where I live, and any effort he makes to impact these things is not enforced by the state.


Central planning does not require micro-management and one could easily imagine a system where central planning provides a person with more options than what a free market provides a lower income individual.


Actually. Yes (on average).

Since people tend to want more, and since we're all subject to boundary conditions posed by nature, compromises need to be made in certain cases. A good example is the driving situations in Japan/China where if you have an even numbered license plate you can only drive on certain days.

Also, central planning != micro management. Just general guidelines similar to things like building codes. But really, not sure how it would really work.


More to the point, is your neighbor going to be happy? Is the new immigrant going to be happy? Are your children going to be happy?

Many people might think they can say yes to that question as their personal opinion, but I think it's easier to understand how it's hard for people to answer "yes" in general. For one thing, everybody always thinks they deserve more. It matters very little how much they already have.


Qualifications, minimum wage, property laws... 3 out of 4 of those things at the moment have government bounds on them in some sense or another, and that with fairly questionable planning.

Edit: Oh right, yeah, duh: minimum age before you can decide for yourself whether you have an abortion or not.


Nothing grows forever: http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2010/05/peter-victor-def... and http://physics.ucsd.edu/do-the-math/2012/04/economist-meets-...

I agree with you, I think capitalism is a transitional phase and the end-game will be something that can be sustained in perpetuity and with more humanity than capitalism.


No system is perfect, because humans are not perfect, but capitalism has produced more and created a higher standard of living for more people than any other system we've tried. Socialism/communism has produced most of the worst humanitarian and economic situations that people have lived under.

Edit: spelling


So why Scandanavia is doing so well, both economically and socially? Happier population, more innovation, more equality (race and gender).


The problem with these types of discussions is that everyone has a different idea of what "socialism" and "capitalism" mean. Scandinavia can be very capitalistic. For example, they perform quite well on the Heritage Foundation's Index of Economic Freedom[1]. I consider this is a reasonable metric for how capitalistic a society is.

Some people, as I believe you did, use socialism to describe strong social safety nets and social programs -- essentially strong wealth redistribution. That is separate from the capitalism I mentioned above; with these definitions, capitalism and socialism can work hand-in-hand, whereas they could not if you take socialism to mean what I would call "communism."

[1] http://www.heritage.org/index/ranking


Social democracy isn't the same as socialism[1].

It's an interesting problem to grapple with: can you have a dynamic economy with a vibrant entrepreneurial sector, that encourages innovation and growth, and yet have a social floor below which no citizen will fall, therefore avoiding extreme inequality with people living in poverty?

"...when you damp oscillations, you lose the high points as well as the low" [2]

[1] http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Social_democracy

[2] PG in his essay Hackers and Painters, referring to big companies being conservative in designing products http://www.paulgraham.com/hp.html


For the most part, successful entrepreneurs are those who had the luxury of experiencing the failure of a business and then still had enough left over to try again. If the worst that can happen is that you hit the socialist rock bottom of only being able to house and feed your family and provide them with last year's models of smartphone, you are more apt to take risks, like starting businesses, or even quitting exploitative labor arrangements.


I really fail to see how capitalism played any role in the advancement of civic liberties and rights, for instance.

If you really equate socialism with communism you have some political history books to hit.


It should be pretty obvious by now that capitalism is not sustainable in the long term, because it encourages, or even forces the ever growing consumption of natural resources and the increasing environmental destruction. Products have limited lifetimes and little effort is made to recycle because it is (still) cheaper to obtain most raw materials. This will not be the case for our descendants in N generations, because we will have wasted a significant amount of the accessible natural resources. (And it will require a huge increase in energy use to recycle, which will probably come from more nuclear power as it is more Capitalist - renewable solutions can't be monopolized.)

The increase in wealth over the past few centuries can be put mainly down to the discovery of natural resources, although some wealth is generated by human labour. Both of these are finite, so it's impossible to have infinite growth forever. Which brings us to the point that, for the wealth of an individual to grow in an economy with a finite amount of wealth, either more wealth must be created by increased human labour, or some people will lose wealth.

My view is that while Capitalism does improve our lifestyles, it functions by taking loans from the earth, and passing the debt to our descendants. They have improved lifestyles in some areas, but certainly not all (Increased consumption doesn't increase happiness, overuse of antibiotics does not solve the problem of bacteria, and more pollution does not improve health, etc).

It's hard to say whether socialism would work, because it hasn't been properly tried yet. Whatever system we come up with to organize people, it needs to be based around sustainability rather than "wealth creation".

Perhaps we need to redefine what wealth really is. IMO, it's not "I own more than you", but is something internal - real happiness and physical health. We'll only be truly wealthy when all of us (and our descendants) are.

Capitalism is not the root cause, because it's just an idea created by humans. The problem is us, and the solution is to change ourselves. Here's a recent keynote given by Alan Kay on the subject: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e0R0tAOf7KI


Natural resources? As in Japan, Switzerland, Iceland, Britain, Hong Kong, Singapore? Have you ever read 'The Wealth of Nations' by Adam Smith. Seems not.


> It should be pretty obvious by now that capitalism is not sustainable in the long term, because it encourages, or even forces the ever growing consumption of natural resources and the increasing environmental destruction.

The same is true of the universe and evolution. Especially evolution has the exact same problem. In practice though :

1) 4.1 billion years and counting

2) it has overcome every obstacle either humanity or anything else has thrown at it (same can be said for capitalism, and the same cannot be said for any form of collectivism, unless you want to call organisations like Christianity collectivist, which they sort-of are. Christianity is a lot younger than capitalism though)

3) it is always using exponential growth and competition everywhere

> (And it will require a huge increase in energy use to recycle, which will probably come from more nuclear power as it is more Capitalist - renewable solutions can't be monopolized.)

Aside from being "more capitalist" (?) nuclear power is also just plain "more". Furthermore, I'd argue that nuclear power plants are much more communist. They're the sort of thing where everything will be hammered down by regulation, including monopolies for the companies.

And the argument about which is more sustainable renewable or nuclear, is not settled. Due to oil-based production of renewable generators, for which renewable power provides no alternative at all, consumption of non-renewable resources is going up, not down.

> It's hard to say whether socialism would work, because it hasn't been properly tried yet. Whatever system we come up with to organize people, it needs to be based around sustainability rather than "wealth creation".

No offence, but the last few attempts at socialism weren't exactly environmentally friendly, or sustainable. Nor were they anywhere near equal. Why would this time be different ?


The problem far predates capitalism. At various times wannabe elites in elite-saturated societies used to very often die in duels, or very stupid little wars for glory.


Yeah but those are all driven by competition, which is something that capitalism promotes. Is there something that promotes competition but also collaboration?

I think another sibling comment is right, there needs to be a mix of both and is all down to trade offs.


Socialism says nothing about competition in the realm politics/power. Elites don't go after the money for the money, they go after the money as a means to power. You can add all the socialistic elements to society you want, as long as there are limited positions of meaningful power, you will likely get people competing over them.

And at some point you've added as much socialism as you can, and now you're at communism. And now you have "from each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs", and now you have people squabbling over who the hell is best at high-influence, high-prestige positions, cause they're all pretty sure that they are the best.

And remember, capitalism -does- promote collaboration. A corporation is nothing but a huge collaboration. A collaboration that looks actually hilariously socialistic/communistic.


Human nature abhors a power vacuum?


From /Nationalism/ by Elie Kedourie http://www.amazon.com/Nationalism-Elie-Kedourie/dp/063118885... http://www.worldcat.org/title/nationalism/oclc/27812918 :

"The writers who invented and elaborated the post-Kantian theory of the state belonged to a caste which was relatively low on the social scale. They were, most of them, the sons of pastors, artisans, or small farmers. They somehow managed to become university students, most often in the faculty of theology, and last out the duration of their course on minute grants, private lessons, and similar makeshifts. When they graduated they found that their knowledge opened no doors, that they were still in the same social class, looked down upon by a nobility which was stupid, unlettered, and which engrossed the public employments they felt themselves so capable of filling. These students and ex-students felt in them the power to do great things, they had culture, knowledge, ability, they yearned for the life of action, its excitements and rewards, and yet there they were, doomed to spend heartbreaking years as indigent curates waiting to be appointed pastors, or as tutors in some noble household, where they were little better than superior domestics, or as famished writers dependent on the goodwill of an editor or a publisher."

This group produced colourful people like Karl Sand https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karl_Ludwig_Sand , and of course an ideology which was eventually to burn Europe down at least a couple of times. Substitute engineering for theology and you have a pretty accurate description of many of the angry young men of the present-day Middle East too.


"Overeducated" =/= lawyers. Society isn't "fraying," either — it is a time of accelerated change brought on by a number of factors such as globalism, the Internet, and so on.

Distribution of wealth and the purchase of politics are serious problems, but this article doesn't seem very on the mark.


Why? High education and underutilization might be big multipliers for social unrest. I can't think of a group that might be more pissed as they realize just how large a role luck and birth can play in "success".


Indeed. US Society is about as "unfrayed" as it's ever been.


  The roots of the current American predicament go back 
  to the 1970s, when wages of workers stopped keeping 
  pace with their productivity. 
* head explode *

So this has been going on for the past 40 years and we have stopped questioning it?

What if you were Black or a woman in the 70's? Did wages ever keep up with productivity in the first place?


YES! This.

This graph tells all: http://i.imgur.com/ZxBWh.png

And yes, we've simply learned to ignore it.

The gap of productivity and wealth that is no longer being earned by the working/middle class is being systematically extracted from the market by the powerful corporate class.

The craziest part of this I've heard is that one of the main methods of this market extraction is via the broad use of credit by the working/middle class, who, now that they aren't making enough money to afford basic life, need to borrow to afford it. They borrow from the upper class/bankers and pay interest, thereby funneling even more money into the top echelon of society, even though we're already being systematically squeezed out. All just because they can. Because it is possible to take the money, so they do, each individual entity at each point of decision chooses this lopsided power-extreme optimum, and it causes this extreme imbalance in turn.

And we act like this is all a normal part of society. Because we've been told so.

Why there is not extreme uproar about this is beyond me, but I think it has to do with the fact that the media is also owned by the powerful corporate class, as is the government.

It is sickening if you think about it hard enough. But we don't, because we're told we're powerless to change the society we're in. Which makes it even worse.


Thanks to media consolidation, the uproar is swept under the rug in such a way that it does not spread. Occupy Wall Street was covered as front-page headline news for a very short time in relation to its actual duration. It went practically unacknowledged for the size of the event.

And people saw New Orleans after Katrina, and Boston after the marathon bombing. They didn't yell. They just went out and bought their first gun. Or they bought a camera or smartphone live-streaming app and started randomly recording police encounters.

So now "prepping" by such means as stockpiling food and ammunition is a normal part of society. This, despite blog and television portrayals of such people as wingnuts. People are quietly preparing for surviving a civil war, under the guise of disaster preparedness.

Once the watershed event occurs, whatever it may be, it will not be pretty. If even 0.1% of the population are just waiting for the camel's back to break before firing one shot, that's still a lot of bullets in the air.


Yes. Our current social spaghetti has nothing to do with an overeducated populace or anything like it; it's simply a wealth divide that is self-propagating. It has to end sometime and it ain't gonna be pretty.


Maybe the author meant "The roots of the current [White Middle Class] American predicament..."

But regardless, when you look at graphs of wealth inequality, business regulation, the militarization of police, and incarceration rates, they all start going rapidly in the wrong direction starting at about 1970.


well, unmentioned in the article is that this was partially offset by falling prices which allowed quality of life to continue improving. the ability for this offsetting to compensate may no longer be enough though.


Look at the graph the article presents for US political violence. It's actually at or near an all time low, they just added a new "category" of terrorism to inflate recent numbers. The cycle may or may not actually exist, but if it does we're almost as far away from a spike as you can get.


Yeah they should have left out that graphic because it completely undermines his thesis.


I hope that this article is a witty attempt at self satire!


What do you mean? You're saying that because it was published by Bloomberg?


I think he's saying it was written by a rich, overeducated elite.


Even as a libertarian, I agree that too much inequality in a society is a bad thing. However, I find myself quite suspicious of the solutions that are generally proposed, even here on HN, which are generally of the form "Give the elite more power", usually as "give the government more centralized power".

I agree that our elites are a problem, but I find it a bit sad/amusing that so many people are so ready to solve the problem in exactly the way the elite want you to want it solved.


Why would you think that inequality is a bad thing?


"Too much" inequality. Admittedly, phrased that way it's tautological, but I'm not willing to stuff a precise definition into an HN message. I'm certainly willing to tolerate more than than your average liberal or communist, but no, I don't think a society divided into plutocrats and plebians is a good idea either, as it's actually bad for the market. Indeed, one of the major reasons I'm a libertarian and not an anarchist is that I believe one of the governments main duties is monopoly busting. Anything that gets too big should be sliced into pieces, government or corporation. (And yes, again, "too big" is itself tautological, but again, HN comment.) I believe that people who are only willing to accept one side of that statement don't realize that that "too bigness" will flock to where ever it is tolerated and in the end there's not that much practical difference between "too big" corporations and "too big" government.


When you talk about inequality, you're talking about the Gini coefficient (you may prefer a different definition, but let's just use that because it's well known and simple). There is no reason to think that a Gini of, say, .7 leads to plutocrats or monopolies any more/less so than a Gini of .4.

Plutocrats derive power from their wealth. The Pluto Problem (haha, couldn't resist) is not due to society wide inequality levels, but rather to a political system which enables them to derive said power. Finally, if you look at the richest people in the US such as Gates, Buffet and the Waltons, I don't think that you'll find they have political power even remotely similar to plutocrats such as Berlusconi. Point being that, in my opinion, Plutocrats don't exist in the US. Are there rich, politically powerful people in the US? Yes. Are there people who derive immense political power solely through said wealth? I would say no. It's more likely to work the other way around (political power leads to wealth - as in the case of the Clintons and now Obama).

People may discuss examples such as Romeny et al, but he's only worth $250 million. If it only takes $250m to get political power (and does Romney even have any political power today?), then I'd see your concern!

Regarding your concern over monopolies generally, I am reminded of a wonderful Friedman response to the question 'When have you ever been wrong': "I used to believe that some anti trust activity had merit."


'Regarding your concern over monopolies generally, I am reminded of a wonderful Friedman response to the question 'When have you ever been wrong': "I used to believe that some anti trust activity had merit."'

I consider it a good and proper task for the government to ensure nothing, including itself, gets too large. That is not to say that our government today can do it. I'm not sure what to do once you pass a certain event horizon of concentrated power... well, actually, I'm pretty confident the only answer is to wait for the concentration to inevitably collapse and take some percent of society with it (historically, at times approaching 100%), but I don't know how to reliably make that safe, let alone painless. I'm not sure there is a way. I'm more interested in building robust societies that can survive disruptions than in trying to prevent them; there's pretty good mathematical reasons to believe that's simply impossible. To say this puts me out of the political mainstream would be putting it lightly.

Anyhow, it's not news to me that my preferred politics doesn't produce Utopia... I would be much happier if everybody else realized that neither do theirs.


I enjoy our exchange :)

Unfortunately I do not share your confidence that concentrated power is inherently unstable or self destructing. What evidence is there of such a claim?

Even the most extreme concentrations of power, such as North Korea, in fact contain complex webs of mutual support within them when viewed up close.

To get back to the original topic, though, I just don't see how any non-extreme (below .9 Gini) distribution of income can be considered unstable or problematic in any way. It's not as if someone is simply doling out wealth and income; this stuff is created and earned!


There are essentially three types of equality discussed in politics. Equality before the law, equality in opportunity, and equality in results (aka income/wealth equality). Equality before the law is liked by most, but few would say affirmative action wasn't just when it was enacted. Equality in opportunity is liked by most, but few people would say it's unjust to allow people to send their kids to private school. The problem I think most people have with gross wealth inequality is that it definitely leads to inequality in opportunity (by most peoples' definitions of opportunity) and some would argue even inequality in law (bankers get their congressmen buddies to bail them out).


Overeducated? What is the optimal level of education?


In the specific case of a law degree, for most people the sole purpose of the degree is to get a job as a lawyer, so if they are not able to find such a job then they receive no utility from their level of education and so are overeducated.

In general I dislike the concept, as it's usually used to decry education that the author sees as pointless, rather than the recipient of the education.


"...for most people the sole purpose of the degree is to get a job as a lawyer, so if they are not able to find such a job then they receive no utility from their level of education..."

Might the system as a whole benefit from some selection of those with law degrees (minimum criterion) for best fit to available jobs?


By overeducated the author means that there are many more being educated then there are positions to fill.


Yeah,that's why US businesses spend their time outsourcing engineering positions or recruting foreigners or demanding immigration reforms... because US citizens are over educated...yeah right.


I may be wrong but I think the author specifically referred to an overproduction of Law Degrees? Not seeing too many of those being outsourced..


No, they often do so because they don't want to pay the rates demanded by US-educated engineers. The education bubble affects more than just the people that take on the debt. Their demands for a salary that can maintain and pay off that debt affects US businesses. It's a competitiveness issue.

Often the reason a firm will outsource the position is to save money and have a level of labor control that would be illegal in most states if the worker were a citizen and employee instead of foreign contractor.


over-entitled, maybe


I think it's poorly worded. It's saying that that level of education has enough people employed. Anybody continues to pursuit that career (lawyers according to the article) is therefore "overeducated".


It reads better than "underjobbed".


It's more accurate than 'overqualified'.


9000


"Increasing inequality leads not only to the growth of top fortunes; it also results in greater numbers of wealth-holders. The “1 percent” becomes “2 percent.” Or even more."

So, a larger percentage of wealthy people in society is a product of _more_ inequality? My brain has a bit of trouble with that statement.


I had trouble parsing that statement as well. I think at heart it comes down to how inequality is a very slippery if not vacuous concept, but here's the most plausible explanatory mental model I could come up with:

Let's define the elite as people who have, say, 10 times the income/wealth/power as the median person. As inequality increases, the cutoff point for people who have 10x what the median person has decreases from 99th percentile to 98th percentile (or whatever).

This is workable numerically if you think of income as falling along a Pareto distribution. I'm not sure it's workable as a definition of the elite, though: why would the 98th percentile have more access to power with more inequality? Although they outstrip the median fine, they'd be even further away from the 99th or 99.9th percentile.


Well, sure. If you think about inequality in terms of variance from the mean income, an increase in the size of the very wealthy class (an "outlier class") increases the variance in the same way that an increase in the size of the extremely poor class (another, less extreme "outlier class") does.


It could be because there is a disappearing middle, with little gradation between super rich and fucked.




Keep in mind the problem aren't the elites, their success in reproduction which causes the imbalance between their numbers and the number of (suitable) positions available to them.

After all, a core tenet of The American Dream™ states one must do better - in terms of social status - than one's forebears.

And when was the last time you heard a college professor brag about having a mechanic for a son? Not that there's anything wrong with either profession when they act honestly.

I kind of dig the analysis, as it resembles Asimov's psychohistory, but it's still a bit haphazard because the analyst assumes some kind of periodicity to the phenomenon.

This kind of work lends itself to other questions, such as whether one can increase its' predictive power by analyzing social artifacts such as music, books or visual arts.


I dug into the professor's work a little deeper and he does not assume periodicity for his observations in general but goes on to say they have periodic tendencies.


It is kind of a property owned by Michael Bloomberg to warn us off rich elites.


Our society is fraying because folks like Mitt Romney think it's OK to not pay taxes for 10 years, and then run for President.


Can you explain this a bit further? I'm not a fan of Mitt Romney, but I've never understood the outrage at his tax returns. It was my understanding that the low tax rate was due to 1) donations and 2) the fact that most of his income comes from capital gains. Do you think people considering running for president should go out of their way to pay more taxes?


He kept several years of tax returns hidden, had shady offshore accounts in the Cayman Islands and Switzerland, and while I don't expect him to pay more taxes than legally required, it would be nice if he acknowledged or addressed as a policy issue that he made orders of magnitudes more money than a middle class person yet paid a quarter of their effective tax rate. Capital gains taxes are bad, but so are income taxes, and I don't think it's coincidence we keep the ones that is largely shouldered by the middle class high.


There was also the issue of the balance in his retirement savings account. If I recall correctly, it was far beyond what the maximum amount expected from an "ordinary" person, contributing the maximum amounts allowable from even a 7-figure CEO salary for 50 continuous years--ten times as much, or more, in one third the time. The whole business simultaneously screamed "tax avoidance loophole" and "elite privilege".


This is a much better argument. Do you happen to have a source for his using Cayman Island and Switzerland offshore accounts?

Edit: http://www.vanityfair.com/politics/2012/08/investigating-mit...


Let's not forget his IRA stuffing where he put deliberately undervalued shares into his IRA to take advantage of no taxes on any capital gains inside an IRA (until the funds are removed).

And if anyone challenges the notion of whether or not Mitt took part in IRA stuffing, just look at the annual returns of his IRA versus the annual returns of any investment product offered by Bain.

http://open.salon.com/blog/steve_klingaman/2012/07/25/romney...


The point is, the people who benefit from those tax laws and the people who made those tax laws are, to a first approximation, the same people.


It's really simple.

Most people pay a lot more taxes because they don't have entire tax firms to leverage against their yearly tax return. Most people make a lot less money than politicians. Politicians often say that we need to pay for our public services in taxes. Politicians are often to take advantage of the social services of a society without contributing back with taxes, and people see that as taking advantage of the good will of people. Then when such people run for public office, people are disinterested to vote for someone who demonstrates no care for the social system that allowed them to employ workers and build a business.

This isn't a question of what people should do to garner public support. That's a red herring. Asking such a question is pointless. It's pretty much saying "well if I fed a poor person while I was ripping off hard working everyday people, would you vote for me then?"

Well.. no most people wouldn't, but it does tell us a lot about you when you ask that question.


These rich, overeducated elites seem to all be Ivy League style Frankfurt School liberals.

Just sayin'


Of course, let's blame the elite's for all our societal woes. Humans are rather good at blaming everyone for problems but themselves.


Did you read the article, or just the title?


OK. Let's blame people who can't use apostrophes instead.


Inequality is actually down, but hey - believe whatever you want.

http://www.overcomingbias.com/2013/11/world-inequality-is-do...


These data refer to worldwide inequality, while the article speaks to American inequality. The former is significantly skewed by the rural-to-urban migration of India and China as they rapidly modernize.


According to your link, world inequality as a whole is down. This article is about how inequality within a political system (say the USA) affects social stability. Within this context, it matters not whether or not millions of Chinese and Indians have been lifted out of absolute poverty, because those people are not part of our political system.

It's actually a pretty interesting article, you should read it, rather than dismissing it because of your political bias.


Globally, yes.

This article was about the US. Things aren't going in the same direction globally as in first world countries.


Like others have said, this article is strictly about American inequality - as you can see, all the examples given, and all the points discussed, were purely American.

The reduction in global inequality actually relates to the rise in American inequality, as industries that previously drove the growth of the American middle class have off-shored and are now contributing to the growth of the middle class elsewhere.

Stagnant industries that used to be the bread and butter across the US are now major growth factors in China and India.


The article mentions "U.S." nine times and "world" only once in "World War II". I'm confused as to how you could have interpreted it to be about world inequality.




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