What's Wrong With America?

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What's Wrong With America?

Post by BlueLogic on Tue Mar 19, 2013 8:37 pm

I'm posting this topic in response to an ongoing discussion I've occasionally been a part of in the main thread. I've tried to pull the relevant portions of the discussion from the archives and present them here for the sake of continuity. As a result, portions I deemed irrelevant have been removed. Relevance is, of course, in the eye of the beholder, so please let me know if I left out something important.

Here's the conversation so far:

IronicParticle wrote:Also guys you forget something, or may not know being in another country: Right now, the vast majority in America is POOR. We are so poor, most of the middle class is just slightly less poor than poor. The statistics show the 1% has a majority of the wealth all to themselves. When the majority of Americans are forced to get by on government help+low ass pay, game companies should be happy a good portion of people can even buy games anymore.

BlueLogic wrote:...Seriously? Poor?? LOL
The average poor American (as defined by the census bureau) lives well relative to most people in the rest of the world. Consider this analysis of 2010 census data. It shows that nearly 2/3 of "poor" Americans has a color TV, one in three have a widescreen HDTV, 80% have air conditioning, 92% have a microwave, half have a PC, and my personal favorite: "more than half of poor families with children have a videogame system such as an XBox or Playstation". Besides, the vast majority of the wealthy in America earned their wealth, rather than inherited it (source). Of the people who began working in the bottom 20%, more of them eventually make it into the top 20% than stay in the bottom 20% (source). If you want to understand why the poor in America are poor, perhaps cast your gaze toward welfare programs that pay people to have children and remain unemployed. Also, inflationary monetary policy makes it pretty tough to build wealth.

IronicParticle wrote:You should see this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rGDVjYQj-wo

His sources are in the description FYI.

BlueLogic wrote:The problem with his argument is his notion that there is a set amount of wealth to be had. Wealth is created and destroyed. It's created when someone puts time and effort into some work that is valued by someone such as when a carpenter crafts raw materials into furniture. The furniture is worth more than the raw materials were. Therefore, value and wealth have been created. If he'd taken that beautiful cedar wood and thrown it into a wood chipper, he would have created something less valuable than the raw materials, and therefore wealth would have been destroyed. However, "TheAmazingAthiest" in this video seems to think that wealth is static, and the rich people got rich by swindling the poor out of their fair share of the money. This is just a fundamentally flawed vision of economics. I'll stop my critique here as I could go on and on (ad nauseum, no doubt).

IronicParticle wrote:I find it hilarious, you live in America and you are saying the 1% earned their money fair and square? That's a load of horse shit. THEY SELL YOU BOTTLED WATER! America is a perfect example of corrupt capitalism, you are lying to claim otherwise. You'd be lying to say they've earned their money.

you wanna know how they got it? By making the masses ignorant, so we'd buy a quadruplet bacon cheese burger and puff on cancer additively spending shitloads of cash on killing ourselves. Also as he said, it should never be let to get this far out of control, where 1% literally owns the country itself. Your opinion on this matter is irrelevant, the poor are in poverty because of the greed of a few. Nothing you are saying changes the fact that most people can't afford games.

It's like you are trying to convince yourself America isn't corrupt down to every detail. This country is built on unjust bloodshed, and some politicians wanted that removed from the textbooks because it makes 'Merica look bad.

BlueLogic wrote:I'm well aware of the elements of our society and government that I consider "corrupt". Yes, this country has perpetrated violence, persecution, discrimination, and other evils on individuals and whole peoples at times. However, this country has also been a greater force for freedom, both for its own citizens, and for people across the globe than any other in history. If you disagree, please do avail me of the nation that has done more for the good of humanity.

IronicParticle wrote:I just thought I'd share this with you, since you didn't believe me it was that bad: https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=QPKKQnijnsM#!

It's a different vid, this guy goes to explain exactly how serious the issue is.
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Re: What's Wrong With America?

Post by estebanus on Tue Mar 19, 2013 10:11 pm


BlueLogic wrote:I'm well aware of the elements of our society and government that I consider "corrupt". Yes, this country has perpetrated violence, persecution, discrimination, and other evils on individuals and whole peoples at times. However, this country has also been a greater force for freedom, both for its own citizens, and for people across the globe than any other in history. If you disagree, please do avail me of the nation that has done more for the good of humanity.

[/quote]Could not agree more with that.

While people may like it or not, the USA is pretty much the soul reason we don't all either speak russian or german at this point. That's how simple it is. Europe would never havse survived against the russians if it hadn't been for the US. Germany would never have recovered from WW2, leaving it in chaos and rubble, if it hadn't been for the marshall plan. Berlin would have been taken by Stalin without problem if it hadn't been for the american/british air bridge.

Like it or not, the only reason there is peace in Europe, a mostly working democracy in each country, is because the US decided not to simply say "fuck it", and leave Europe alone against the soviet union.

Of course, let's not forget the balkan and kosovo war, where Europe was too incompetent to stop the serbs from comitting genocide on the albanians and croatians, and where in the end, Bill Clinton moved in with american soldiers and stopped all the bloodshed.
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Re: What's Wrong With America?

Post by Terramine on Tue Mar 19, 2013 10:27 pm

estebanus wrote:Could not agree more with that.

While people may like it or not, the USA is pretty much the soul reason we don't all either speak russian or german at this point. That's how simple it is. Europe would never havse survived against the russians if it hadn't been for the US. Germany would never have recovered from WW2, leaving it in chaos and rubble, if it hadn't been for the marshall plan. Berlin would have been taken by Stalin without problem if it hadn't been for the american/british air bridge.

Like it or not, the only reason there is peace in Europe, a mostly working democracy in each country, is because the US decided not to simply say "fuck it", and leave Europe alone against the soviet union.

Of course, let's not forget the balkan and kosovo war, where Europe was too incompetent to stop the serbs from comitting genocide on the albanians and croatians, and where in the end, Bill Clinton moved in with american soldiers and stopped all the bloodshed.
Being better off than elsewhere is not an argument. having a little good does not erase the bad. If the entire world is shit, and 1 place is a little less shit than the rest of the world, that hardly changes anything. There is very specific standards that need to be met for a place to be acceptable, PERIOD. As you can see in the video, the poor are in poverty and the middle class are the new poor. As well the rich are almost the new middle class now, and the 1 percent is the new rich. The 1% owns 40% of the wealth, you can't "disagree" because this is the facts.

Nor can you think it's rightfully earned if they get it from selling cancer and obesity, spread piracy, etc. As well they divide and conquer by spreading conflicts among minorities like Racism, Sexism, Bigotry, etc, etc.

Furthermore, if they earned it fairly then why is the east of the world doing so shitty? The only people who think they'd earn it fairly, think the majority of the poor are just lazy idiots. Which ironically, the majority is uneducated because those in power have intentionally dumbed the masses down by tampering with text books, indoctrinating with Religion, etc, etc. As well, they sell you a quadruplet bacon grease burger, being the cause of obesity in America.

I agree America has done some good, as well the ideals behind it(freedom and Equality) are beyond agreeable. But you cannot say the poor is not in poverty, nor can you say America doesn't need to get it's shit together.

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Re: What's Wrong With America?

Post by estebanus on Tue Mar 19, 2013 10:33 pm

IronicParticle wrote:
estebanus wrote:Could not agree more with that.

While people may like it or not, the USA is pretty much the soul reason we don't all either speak russian or german at this point. That's how simple it is. Europe would never havse survived against the russians if it hadn't been for the US. Germany would never have recovered from WW2, leaving it in chaos and rubble, if it hadn't been for the marshall plan. Berlin would have been taken by Stalin without problem if it hadn't been for the american/british air bridge.

Like it or not, the only reason there is peace in Europe, a mostly working democracy in each country, is because the US decided not to simply say "fuck it", and leave Europe alone against the soviet union.

Of course, let's not forget the balkan and kosovo war, where Europe was too incompetent to stop the serbs from comitting genocide on the albanians and croatians, and where in the end, Bill Clinton moved in with american soldiers and stopped all the bloodshed.
Being better off than elsewhere is not an argument. having a little good does not erase the bad. If the entire world is shit, and 1 place is a little less shit than the rest of the world, that hardly changes anything. There is very specific standards that need to be met for a place to be acceptable, PERIOD. As you can see in the video, the poor are in poverty and the middle class are the new poor. As well the rich are almost the new middle class now, and the 1 percent is the new rich. The 1% owns 40% of the wealth, you can't "disagree" because this is the facts.

Nor can you think it's rightfully earned if they get it from selling cancer and obesity, spread piracy, etc. As well they divide and conquer by spreading conflicts among minorities like Racism, Sexism, Bigotry, etc, etc.

Furthermore, if they earned it fairly then why is the east of the world doing so shitty? The only people who think they'd earn it fairly, think the majority of the poor are just lazy idiots. Which ironically, the majority is uneducated because those in power have intentionally dumbed the masses down by tampering with text books, indoctrinating with Religion, etc, etc. As well, they sell you a quadruplet bacon grease burger, being the cause of obesity in America.

I agree America has done some good, as well the ideals behind it(freedom and Equality) are beyond agreeable. But you cannot say the poor is not in poverty, nor can you say America doesn't need to get it's shit together.
Neither have I ever said that. The US is royally fucked up, no question about that. The entire political system is completely screwed up, and it NEEDS to be changed, and soon. it is utterly moronic to have 2 equally strong parties that do nothing but BLOCK each other every single time, and that both hate each other so much, that they let a spending cut happen that had the entire PURPOSE of making both parties work together in order to avoid it happening.
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Re: What's Wrong With America?

Post by Terramine on Tue Mar 19, 2013 10:38 pm

Also FYI, I agree that since this topic is about what's wrong with America. What you see above is all that's relevant. HOWEVER to BlueLogic:

Our original conversation was about Piracy, I claimed this: "Right now, the vast majority in America is POOR."

The current studies about Piracy show that the vast majority of pirates are people who cannot afford to buy the games they pirate, so it's not a lost sale because the people wouldn't buy it anyways, because they can't. The only exceptions seem to be people who get screwed over by DRM, which DRM is all part of the corruption in the Gaming industry.

"If you want to understand why the poor in America are poor, perhaps cast your gaze toward welfare programs that pay people to have children and remain unemployed."

I just want to mention how wrong and offensive this is. Sorry but anyone saying "get off your lazy ass and get a job" has no idea what the fuck their talking about. Me and my family are not poor to get welfare, we get welfare because we are poor. We don't intentionally stay poor just to keep our welfare, that would defeat the whole purpose of welfare.


Last edited by IronicParticle on Tue Mar 19, 2013 11:09 pm; edited 1 time in total

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Re: What's Wrong With America?

Post by Terramine on Tue Mar 19, 2013 10:45 pm

estebanus wrote:Neither have I ever said that. The US is royally fucked up, no question about that. The entire political system is completely screwed up, and it NEEDS to be changed, and soon. it is utterly moronic to have 2 equally strong parties that do nothing but BLOCK each other every single time, and that both hate each other so much, that they let a spending cut happen that had the entire PURPOSE of making both parties work together in order to avoid it happening.
Then we are on the same page. I'm not usually the one to point out the flaws of America, usually I'm like you guys and I argue the good points... that America has done good throughout history and exists for motivations that are absolutely right... namely, freedom and equality. But in order for any of this to mean anything, things need to be set straight.

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Re: What's Wrong With America?

Post by Hrothdane on Tue Mar 19, 2013 11:28 pm

All things in their natural state should produce a "normal" statistical distribution, what people commonly call the "bell curve." Income never does this and always produces a highly skewed distribution with a huge lump way at the bottom. This is mathematical fact.

You can see this fact in the way the data is reported as well. If it was normally distributed, then statisticians would use the mean income as measure of central tendency, but no one that has the slightest idea how to do their job uses the mean. It's always median income, and you only use the median with interval or ratio data like income when the distribution is highly skewed. Even partisan economists use median income.

Nobody is saying that everyone should make the same amount of money, but the wealth should be normally distributed. The main obstacle to this lies in unchecked corporate power. One of the weaknesses of capitalism (as many merits as capitalism has, every system has weaknesses) is that people tend to pursue short terms gains with no respect to how they affect the economy as a whole. EA is a perfect example of pursuit of short term profits with no concern for long term economic success; they milk their customers and the system for whatever they can get right now. Businesses pursue subsidies and special treatment because they have the power to, not because they need them. Whenever a business uses a tax shelter or exploits a loophole to get a few million dollars more, it's "smart business," but if an individual was to do the exact same thing so they can make ends meet, they would get treated like a slimeball.

Economies can only grow infinitely in a theoretical sense. There are practical real world limits to how much new wealth can be generated in a given time period in a closed system. Natural resources are finite. Population is finite. Capital goods are finite. The top business people have a huge advantage over everyone else not just because they have the starting capital to produce more wealth, but because most people are never educated on the way the economic system actually works. Everyone should be taught economics from an early age in a market system if the current fiction of the informed, rational consumer is to ever become real. You will never get equality of result, nor should anyone want that, but equality of opportunity is utterly necessary if you want to have a true meritocracy, as capitalism is supposed to be.

Economist Milton Friedman of the Chicago School (highly non-interventionist btw) suggested a negative income tax instead of a minimum wage, which would theoretically eliminate the natural unemployment caused by a minimum wage while providing the same benefit. The same people that supported him when he criticized the misuse of Keynsian economics just cried "redistribution of wealth!" and blew him off because nobody besides a few economists actually treat economics like a science instead of ideology. We get all these economists saying "Oh, the 'Invisible Hand' will take care of everything. Don't even bother trying to control anything in the economy" who are equivalent to the intelligent design "scientists" that would rather believe in magic than try to understand how something works. Tell me, is there ANY matter of human endeavor outside of religion in which "oh, we will just never figure it all out, so we should stop trying" is an acceptable answer? Humans learn how things work so that we can control them. That's how we roll, baby. Why the hell is that not good enough for economics?

That's the problem in general though; people care more about ideology than facts and practical solutions. The conservatives have become dominated by far right extremist dominionists and anarcho-capitalists instead of the practical, skeptical conservatives of old. America has the most conservative "liberal" party in the world because these extremists have used the Golden Mean Fallacy/Overton Window to pull the entire American political system to the right. Ideally, a liberal and conservative party should be necessary for each other; the liberals push for reform and the conservatives temper the spirit of reform with practical considerations, but that system has broken down. I am most certainly liberal, but I'm not so arrogant or consumed by ideology to think that we don't need conservatives.

/end rant

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Re: What's Wrong With America?

Post by BlueLogic on Wed Mar 20, 2013 3:46 am

Thoughtful compelling responses! My faith in the IT community is rewarded :)
I was going to try responding to the video that IronicParticle posted, but I will have to wait a little longer until I can devote sufficient time to it.

estebanus wrote:
BlueLogic wrote:I'm well aware of the elements of our society and government that I consider "corrupt". Yes, this country has perpetrated violence, persecution, discrimination, and other evils on individuals and whole peoples at times. However, this country has also been a greater force for freedom, both for its own citizens, and for people across the globe than any other in history. If you disagree, please do avail me of the nation that has done more for the good of humanity.

Could not agree more with that.

While people may like it or not, the USA is pretty much the soul reason we don't all either speak russian or german at this point. That's how simple it is. Europe would never havse survived against the russians if it hadn't been for the US. Germany would never have recovered from WW2, leaving it in chaos and rubble, if it hadn't been for the marshall plan. Berlin would have been taken by Stalin without problem if it hadn't been for the american/british air bridge.

Like it or not, the only reason there is peace in Europe, a mostly working democracy in each country, is because the US decided not to simply say "fuck it", and leave Europe alone against the soviet union.

Of course, let's not forget the balkan and kosovo war, where Europe was too incompetent to stop the serbs from comitting genocide on the albanians and croatians, and where in the end, Bill Clinton moved in with american soldiers and stopped all the bloodshed.
Indeed. I just hope in the future we (Americans) will have the political will, moral clarity, and economic means to do what's needed. Looking rather bleak currently I'm sad to say.

IronicParticle wrote:Being better off than elsewhere is not an argument. having a little good does not erase the bad. If the entire world is shit, and 1 place is a little less shit than the rest of the world, that hardly changes anything.
Actually that's the only relevant measure unless you're speaking in purely theoretical terms.
IronicParticle wrote:There is very specific standards that need to be met for a place to be acceptable, PERIOD.
And if the U.S., the (paraphrasing) "least shittiest" place in the world, fails to meet this acceptability standard set forth, then no place on Earth is acceptable. I'd argue that, if that is indeed your assertion, no place in history has ever been acceptable against your standard. Perhaps the standard cannot be realistically applied to the subject (humanity).

IronicParticle wrote:As you can see in the video, the poor are in poverty and the middle class are the new poor. As well the rich are almost the new middle class now, and the 1 percent is the new rich. The 1% owns 40% of the wealth, you can't "disagree" because this is the facts.
I don't disagree. They are the facts. I disagree that this necessarily indicates a flaw in the Capitalist system. I'll elaborate in response to a portion of Hrothdane's post quoted below.

IronicParticle wrote:Nor can you think it's rightfully earned if they get it from selling cancer and obesity, spread piracy, etc.
Money is rightfully earned in any legal and free exchange of goods and services. In a proper free market, a business cannot survive selling unwanted goods. If a company sells legal goods or services that you dislike, or in a way you disapprove of, call them out on it; Protest them; By all means, persuade others to do the same. Don't claim that their earnings are not rightfully theirs.

IronicParticle wrote:As well they divide and conquer by spreading conflicts among minorities like Racism, Sexism, Bigotry, etc, etc.
I'm not aware of a single corporation or business that profits or even engages in this behavior. The only people who profit from an increase in discrimination and general ill feelings between groups of people are politicians who think they can win elections by 1) convincing a group that another group is hurting them in some way, and 2) convincing the group that they, the politician, are on their side and will punish the opposing group.

IronicParticle wrote:Furthermore, if they earned it fairly then why is the east of the world doing so shitty?
Great question, and one worthy of a detailed answer. I'll try to provide one ASAP.

IronicParticle wrote:The only people who think they'd earn it fairly, think the majority of the poor are just lazy idiots.
I don't pretend to know what other people think. The poor are not necessarily lazy. There is a vast multitude of reasons why people are in their current economic situation. In a perfectly fair world, all of these reasons would boil down to their own decisions. However, bad things happen to good people. Governments often intervene in an attempt to help, but in a way which has the exact opposite effect. The world in which we live is far from perfect or fair.

IronicParticle wrote:Which ironically, the majority is uneducated because those in power have intentionally dumbed the masses down
This deserves it's own post in response. I hope to get to that.

IronicParticle wrote:I agree America has done some good, as well the ideals behind it(freedom and Equality) are beyond agreeable. But you cannot say the poor is not in poverty, nor can you say America doesn't need to get it's shit together.
I agree with one caveat: The ideals are freedom and equality before the law. "Equality", in many other contexts, is highly overrated.

IronicParticle wrote:Also FYI, I agree that since this topic is about what's wrong with America. What you see above is all that's relevant. HOWEVER to BlueLogic:

Our original conversation was about Piracy, I claimed this: "Right now, the vast majority in America is POOR."

The current studies about Piracy show that the vast majority of pirates are people who cannot afford to buy the games they pirate, so it's not a lost sale because the people wouldn't buy it anyways, because they can't.
I'll accept your premise for the sake of argument. However, it is only a lost sale in the short term. If someone really wants something, they should save up the money and buy it when they can afford it. While pirating software is not the same as stealing a...baseball (random), due to the obviously unique nature of software, it is still depriving the developer/publisher of the money they would have earned from a sale (in the distant future or otherwise). It is stealing.

IronicParticle wrote:The only exceptions seem to be people who get screwed over by DRM, which DRM is all part of the corruption in the Gaming industry.
Aside from the annoyance DRM imposes on legitimate customers, what's the big deal? If piracy wasn't actually a problem, what benefit would DRM give a developer or publisher?

IronicParticle wrote:
BlueLogic wrote:If you want to understand why the poor in America are poor, perhaps cast your gaze toward welfare programs that pay people to have children and remain unemployed.

I just want to mention how wrong and offensive this is. Sorry but anyone saying "get off your lazy ass and get a job" has no idea what the fuck their talking about. Me and my family are not poor to get welfare, we get welfare because we are poor. We don't intentionally stay poor just to keep our welfare, that would defeat the whole purpose of welfare.
I never said "get off your lazy ass and get a job", nor was that at all what I was implying. It is not the people on welfare that I was attacking, rather it is the perverted incentives of a dangerously flawed welfare system. How can I fault someone who, facing what is essentially a pay cut for getting a job, decides to remain unemployed and collect welfare? If I was told that I could get a pay raise, and stay home with my daughter every day, I would be very very tempted to quit my job. See the negative income tax Hrothdane mentions in his post for a vastly better system of ensuring welfare without disincentivizing employment and success.

Hrothdane wrote:All things in their natural state should produce a "normal" statistical distribution, what people commonly call the "bell curve." Income never does this and always produces a highly skewed distribution with a huge lump way at the bottom. This is mathematical fact.

You can see this fact in the way the data is reported as well. If it was normally distributed, then statisticians would use the mean income as measure of central tendency, but no one that has the slightest idea how to do their job uses the mean. It's always median income, and you only use the median with interval or ratio data like income when the distribution is highly skewed. Even partisan economists use median income.

Nobody is saying that everyone should make the same amount of money, but the wealth should be normally distributed.
What is the "natural state" with regard to economics? I'd argue the fact that one never sees "normal statistical distribution" with regard to income, or even wealth, points to the answer. Economics, and human behavior in general, does not lend itself to prediction or definitions of "normal". Why is it that "wealth should be normally distributed" (which I infer you to additionally mean "fairly distributed")? Is it not more important that it be fairly acquired? It's far more important, in my mind at least, that economic freedom be established, rather than a normal distribution of wealth. When operating in conditions of economic freedom, a person's income, and eventually their wealth, is determined by their ability to harness their talent, their discipline in allocating their earnings, and luck. Under those conditions, fairness is guaranteed without regard to the distribution of the total because the distribution is decided by the individual to the maximum degree possible. To see what I mean by "economic freedom", read this (sans the section on the socialist conception of the phrase).

Hrothdane wrote:The main obstacle to this lies in unchecked corporate power. One of the weaknesses of capitalism (as many merits as capitalism has, every system has weaknesses) is that people tend to pursue short terms gains with no respect to how they affect the economy as a whole. EA is a perfect example of pursuit of short term profits with no concern for long term economic success; they milk their customers and the system for whatever they can get right now.
Why should anyone concern themselves with how their activity will affect the "economy as a whole"? As a moral matter, I suppose it's obviously a valid concern for the few individuals and institutions who's influence is so great that they can even have such an effect. Companies and individuals who pursue short term gains at the expense of the long term will inevitably be punished (when operating under conditions of economic freedom). The problem occurs when corporations and individuals collaborate with politicians and bureaucrats to undermine economic freedom to gain an unfair advantage, either to avoid the consequences of their shortsightedness, or gain an advantage over the competition. This is, in my mind, where the corruption in America lies.

Hrothdane wrote:Businesses pursue subsidies and special treatment because they have the power to, not because they need them. Whenever a business uses a tax shelter or exploits a loophole to get a few million dollars more, it's "smart business," but if an individual was to do the exact same thing so they can make ends meet, they would get treated like a slimeball.
They do it because they can. If they didn't, they should assume, their competition would. The problem is the availability of subsidies and special treatment.

Hrothdane wrote:Economies can only grow infinitely in a theoretical sense. There are practical real world limits to how much new wealth can be generated in a given time period in a closed system. Natural resources are finite. Population is finite. Capital goods are finite.
If by "closed system", you mean "no unpredictable variables or interactions from outside sources", then yes, all of those things are finite. However, the ingenuity of free people tends to push the limits of supposedly "finite" resources and capital in a "given time period". Obviously this cannot be predicted, or accurately accounted for, but it should at least temper the confidence with which those who discount it proclaim their predictions.

Hrothdane wrote:The top business people have a huge advantage over everyone else not just because they have the starting capital to produce more wealth, but because most people are never educated on the way the economic system actually works. Everyone should be taught economics from an early age in a market system if the current fiction of the informed, rational consumer is to ever become real. You will never get equality of result, nor should anyone want that, but equality of opportunity is utterly necessary if you want to have a true meritocracy, as capitalism is supposed to be.
*applauds* How true!!

Hrothdane wrote:Economist Milton Friedman of the Chicago School (highly non-interventionist btw) suggested a negative income tax instead of a minimum wage, which would theoretically eliminate the natural unemployment caused by a minimum wage while providing the same benefit.
Milton Friedman was an intellectual giant. As for the negative income tax, it was, and still is, an amazingly simple yet effective idea.

Hrothdane wrote:The same people that supported him when he criticized the misuse of Keynsian economics just cried "redistribution of wealth!" and blew him off because nobody besides a few economists actually treat economics like a science instead of ideology. We get all these economists saying "Oh, the 'Invisible Hand' will take care of everything. Don't even bother trying to control anything in the economy" who are equivalent to the intelligent design "scientists" that would rather believe in magic than try to understand how something works. Tell me, is there ANY matter of human endeavor outside of religion in which "oh, we will just never figure it all out, so we should stop trying" is an acceptable answer? Humans learn how things work so that we can control them. That's how we roll, baby. Why the hell is that not good enough for economics?
"We will just never figure it all out, so we should stop trying" is not an acceptable answer with regard to any matter of human endeavor, religion included. Why would it be? Those who put faith in Adam Smith's "invisible hand" are not trusting in some magical force. "The invisible hand" is the force of self interest. It's people working to better their own condition. I realize, having brought up the matter yourself, you are likely aware of this meaning, but I have to conclude based on your subsequent comments that you don't think it effective in managing economic matters. Milton Friedman himself would be the first to disagree with you. I'm not sure how you transitioned from supporting the idea of a negative income tax to dismissing the notion of self interest as the most powerful economic motivator and regulator. Economic crisis most often closely follows an instance when government fails (or feels no need) to "understand how things work" and decides to take control away from people. Ronald Reagan had it exactly right when he said this in his epic speech A Time for Choosing.
Ronald Reagan wrote:The Founding Fathers knew a government can't control the economy without controlling people. And they knew when a government sets out to do that, it must use force and coercion to achieve its purpose. They also knew, those Founding Fathers, that outside of its legitimate functions, government does nothing as well or as economically as the private sector of the economy.

Hrothdane wrote:That's the problem in general though; people care more about ideology than facts and practical solutions.
Ideology is important. Facts often paint an incomplete picture, especially when trying to understand a complex system (a free economy being an extremely complex system). People fall back on ideology to fill in the gaps left by incomplete data, and truly, who can claim to have a complete understanding of a free economy such that, if only they were given complete control, they could better the lives of everyone? I'd submit there is no such person.

Hrothdane wrote:The conservatives have become dominated by far right extremist dominionists and anarcho-capitalists instead of the practical, skeptical conservatives of old.
We need more people in power who are skeptical of government growth, intrusion, and control. That's about all I can agree with there.

Hrothdane wrote:America has the most conservative "liberal" party in the world because these extremists have used the Golden Mean Fallacy/Overton Window to pull the entire American political system to the right.
Not really sure what that means, and too tired to look it up presently.

Hrothdane wrote:Ideally, a liberal and conservative party should be necessary for each other; the liberals push for reform and the conservatives temper the spirit of reform with practical considerations, but that system has broken down.
It's broken down in recent years because, while the goal remains similar (namely peace and prosperity), the proposed means to achieve the goal are diametrically opposed. Liberals want to solve X by doing Y because Y is the only way to get it done and not doing Y will undo all efforts to solve X. Conservatives want to solve X by doing the exact opposite of Y because that's the only way to get it done and doing Y will undo all efforts to solve X. There can be no agreement in such a matter.

For example: gun violence. Many liberals contend the solution is stricter gun control. Restrict weapon sales to some degree, make it illegal to carry a concealed weapon in certain areas (or in general), in total make it more difficult for bad guys to get guns. Their reasoning is sound and totally understandable. Conservatives, on the other hand, argue that the restrictions and other measures proposed by liberals will have the effect of disarming lawful citizens rather than criminals or the mentally disturbed (who will ignore the restrictions and obtain and carry weapons regardless of the law). They argue that only measures that enable lawful citizens to be armed and affect an unfolding tragedy will be effective in preventing innocent deaths at the hands of madmen. I tend to agree, but more to the point, the competing proposals are completely at odds with each other. In these situations (and I contend they are legion), compromise is not an option; One side must win, whether that be a showing of support by the people, or ultimately an election, for the country to move in any direction other than sideways.

Hrothdane wrote:I am most certainly liberal, but I'm not so arrogant or consumed by ideology to think that we don't need conservatives.

/end rant
I appreciate that :)

...Wow. I'm tired of writing now. Thanks again for the thoughtful responses!


Last edited by BlueLogic on Wed Mar 20, 2013 5:32 am; edited 3 times in total
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Re: What's Wrong With America?

Post by Terramine on Wed Mar 20, 2013 3:52 am

Hrothdane wrote:*snip*
I randomly want to point out, that people only detest to equal distribution BECAUSE everything is finite. If you have a finite amount of something, how do you distribute it? Obviously, you do it based on who is most "deserving". My point? Well, if everything was to become infinite.. then what justification do you have for a lack of equal distribution? You may not like that some guy is a lazy good for nothing(the majority is not), but that becomes irrelevant once everything doesn't run out, he deserves the same as you at that point.

Of course this is contradicted with digital media, you put in the effort for 1 copy but you can sell infinite copies without any extra effort. It's inherently unfair IMHO, it at least makes vastly more sense to make paying for your "art" optional, aka up to donations. Which works greatly, look at minecraft.

It is inevitable that there will be "practical" infinities... and by practical, I essentially mean that no true infinities will exist, but that there will be technologies that will make resources, products, etc for all intents and purposes, never run out. In which case it becomes absurd, to charge someone for clothes, food, water, etc, etc. In fact most scientists who made great inventions, like electricity for example, did it so eventually everyone could have FREE energy.

Ultimately my point is that right now it only makes sense to have unequal distribution, however that is not how things should always forever remain. The goal is to make it so it makes vastly more sense to have equal distribution in the future.

Which means: Everyone should want equal distribution, but not JUST that... they should want a world, where that would make the most sense. Namely, a world with practically infinite everything. Until that is the world we live in, which it inevitably will be if we don't blow ourselves up, unequal distribution is how things should be.

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Re: What's Wrong With America?

Post by Terramine on Wed Mar 20, 2013 4:48 am

BlueLogic: "Don't claim that their earnings are not rightfully theirs."

I will claim it. You acknowledged the game is not fair, protesting doesn't do shit when the 1% breaks the law right in front of the police and they don't get in trouble, but when a protestor does the same thing... shoot him, beat him, pepper spray him, consider him a terrorist...

You cannot logically say the tobacco industry is fair and moral, same for the fast food ordeal. Their preying on people, not fairly servicing them. how many people WANT to smoke cigarettes? Everyone i know, would quite in a heartbeat if it was more practical. Cigarettes are designed to be most efficient at making you addicted. As well, there is a link between bad hygiene/health and intelligence. The more intelligent you are, the more you know easy ways to stay healthy... Einstein wouldn't eat no quadruplet bacon cheese grease burger. Yet as I said before... corporations... dumbing masses down... etc.

BlueLogic: "I'm not aware of a single corporation or business that profits or even engages in this behavior. The only people who profit from an increase in discrimination and general ill feelings between groups of people are politicians who think they can win elections by 1) convincing a group that another group is hurting them in some way, and 2) convincing the group that they, the politician, are on their side and will punish the opposing group."

But... you know, the game is rigged. Money buys who the president is. Remember, corporations are ran by CEOs, etc. Essentially the 1%. which the 1% is usually filled with a bunch of bigots, sexists, etc.

BlueLogic: "Equality", in many other contexts, is highly overrated."

As long as you agree that equality in Human rights are a necessity. you know... Gender, Race, Gender preference, Gender identity, Right over ones own body, etc. Oh and, that we all only get a say over our own selves... we cannot control other people's lives.

BlueLogic: "Aside from the annoyance DRM imposes on legitimate customers, what's the big deal? If piracy wasn't actually a problem, what benefit would DRM give a developer or publisher?"

Piracy isn't a problem FYI -_-

To adress your question, I'd point out this probably goes hand in hand with big businesses promoting torrents before they were that well known. The more pirates there are, the more they can increase the levy, or heck they can sue your ass. I don't really know or care what their motives exactly are, but factually they have promoted piracy as per:

DRM does not stop piracy AT ALL, hackers hack every DRM there is, and in fact DRM INCREASES piracy.

BlueLogic: "I don't disagree. They are the facts. I disagree that this necessarily indicates a flaw in the Capitalist system. I'll elaborate in response to a portion of Hrothdane's post quoted below."

Did I say that? It's still wrong, 1% cannot morally and ethically own 40% of the wealth. I don't have the words to describe the evil. Do you know what happens when you're rich? You become like bill gates, make loads of donations and spend shitloads of money to make the world better. NOT take all the money and keep it to yourself.

Don't worry, I'm not blaming the capitalist system. I'm blaming the rich bastards. It's not a flaw with the capitalist system, but it shouldn't be how things are.

BlueLogic: "Actually that's the only relevant measure unless you're speaking in purely theoretical terms."

Relevant, but still not good enough. The good needs to outweigh the bad.

BlueLogic: "And if the U.S., the (paraphrasing) "least shittiest" place in the world, fails to meet this acceptability standard set forth, then no place on Earth is acceptable. I'd argue that, if that is indeed your assertion, no place in history has ever been acceptable against your standard. Perhaps the standard cannot be realistically applied to the subject (humanity)."

I don't think the world MUST be evil, do you? What about a lack of pointless suffering, is unrealistic? The world is broken, you cannot look at the millions that pointlessly die and suffer, and argue otherwise by the definition of POINTLESS -_-

BlueLogic: "See the negative income tax Hrothdane mentions in his post for a vastly better system of ensuring welfare without disincentivizing employment and success."

This wouldn't solve the problem though, the vast majority DO NOT abuse the current system. I agree that if the system you propose is better, then it should be implemented. But even if we did that right now, you would see no real change in the statistics. The majority would be poor and in poverty...

BlueLogic: "If someone really wants something, they should save up the money and buy it when they can afford it."

That makes no sense, when the poor hardly have pocket change, and the middle class has bills to worry about. The middle class, I could see it as practical after a year of setting aside a small amount... but the poor would starve to death or would be homeless if they were saving their pocket change for a video game -_-

BlueLogic: "due to the obviously unique nature of software, it is still depriving the developer/publisher of the money they would have earned from a sale"

Developers are payed before the game comes out, similar to how a book writer does. The pay is unaffected by how well the games do. This is what every game developer has ever said, every time I've heard them talk about it. It actually makes sense, what if the game did absolutely terrible? They'd get practically nothing if not nothing. The distributors pay them, before the game releases.

Besides, I already consider this business as valid as selling bottled water except even worse than that. They work, on 1 copy... that's the effort they put in. Yet they can sell infinite copies? Ehm... no.

Now, if they did a good job I'd care to support them. But I can't know that BEFORE I try the game. Whenever someone buys a painting, they know what it looks like if you catch my drift. In essence, it'd make vastly more sense to either leave it up to donations... OR, actually SUPPORT piracy. Minecraft has become multibillion, or multimillion... I forget, and yet notch supported the pirating of it.

...Whew, talk about tired of typing LOL

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Re: What's Wrong With America?

Post by Hrothdane on Wed Mar 20, 2013 6:01 am

BlueLogic wrote:
What is the "natural state" with regard to economics? I'd argue the fact that one never sees "normal statistical distribution" with regard to income, or even wealth, points to the answer. Economics, and human behavior in general, does not lend itself to prediction or definitions of "normal". Why is it that "wealth should be normally distributed" (which I infer you to additionally mean "fairly distributed")? It is not more important that it be fairly acquired? It's far more important, in my mind at least, that economic freedom be established, rather than a normal distribution of wealth. When operating in conditions of economic freedom, a person's income, and eventually their wealth, is determined by their ability to harness their talent, their discipline in allocating their earnings, and luck. Under those conditions, fairness is guaranteed without regard to the distribution of the total because the distribution is decided by the individual to the maximum degree possible. To see what I mean by "economic freedom", read this (sans the section on the socialist conception of the phrase).


Freedom is a great buzzword to throw out, but people have to start from somewhere, and nobody starts out at the same place. "Freedom is what you do with what has been done to you." -- Jean-Paul Sartre, and everyone has had different things "done" to them. Economic standing at birth, the qualities of one's parents, the local economic environment, race, gender, sexuality, and education opportunites are all different for each person. Even Jean-Paul Sartre, Mr. Condemnded to be Free, said that one is not responsible for such things. If a person's economic success is supposed to be derived directly from their character traits and intelligence, then some allowances must be made.

BlueLogic wrote:
Why should anyone concern themselves with how their activity will affect the "economy as a whole"? As a moral matter, I suppose it's obviously a valid concern for the few individuals and institutions who's influence is so great that they can even have such an effect. Companies and individuals who pursue short term gains at the expense of the long term will inevitably be punished (when operating under conditions of economic freedom). The problem occurs when corporations and individuals collaborate with politicians and bureaucrats to undermine economic freedom to gain an unfair advantage, either to avoid the consequences of their shortsightedness, or gain an advantage over the competition. This is, in my mind, where the corruption in America lies.

"Inevitably" doesn't change how people live their lives. The universe will "inevitably" end, but that doesn't mean people have to give a damn about it now. A corporation does not get punished for short term thinking except in the long run, which may be generations after the current people running the business are dead. Not only that, but if the government--and all its collective PhDs and businessmen--is incapable of predicting long term effects accurately as you might claim, then why do you expect anyone else to do so? Besides, even if someone KNOWS that this is a bubble and it will pop, they are willing to risk it all for a chance at short-term success. The stock broker that told people that this is a bubble and to invest accordingly gets rewarded "in the long run" when it finally pops and people realize he was right, but in the short run, the stock broker loses all his clients to the dozens of brokers claiming that the market will never go down again and that the clients will make millions.

Corporations and individuals will always attempt to manipulate the system to their own advantage. People follow incentives, usually short-term incentives, and if they have incentive to stack the system in their favor, they will. It's the same principle that motivates hackers, sports dopers, etc....

BlueLogic wrote:They do it because they can. If they didn't, they should assume, their competition would. The problem is the availability of subsidies and special treatment.

They will always be available in a system where unlimited corporate money goes to politician's campaigns and career politicians have to run for reelection constantly, thus needing constant money.

BlueLogic wrote:If by "closed system", you mean "no unpredictable variables or interactions from outside sources", then yes, all of those things are finite. However, the ingenuity of free people tends to push the limits of supposedly "finite" resources and capital in a "given time period". Obviously this cannot be predicted, or accurately accounted for, but it should at least temper the confidence with which predictions discounting it proclaim their findings.

"Ingenuity of free people" is a nice sounding phrase, but it doesn't mean much. An ingenious idea means nothing without the means to pursue it in terms of capital or time. Also, ingenious ideas are not conveniently labeled as such.

BlueLogic wrote:*applauds* How true!!

I'm glad you agree :)

BlueLogic wrote:Milton Friedman was an intellectual giant. As for the negative income tax, it was, and still is, an amazingly simple yet effective idea.
A good idea that no one talks about, sadly.

BlueLogic wrote:"We will just never figure it all out, so we should stop trying" is not an acceptable answer with regard to any matter of human endeavor, religion included. Why would it be? Those who put faith in Adam Smith's "invisible hand" are not trusting in some magical force. "The invisible hand" is the force of self interest. It's people working to better their own condition. I realize, having brought up the matter yourself, you are likely aware of this meaning, but I have to conclude based on your subsequent comments that you don't think it effective in managing economic matters. Milton Friedman himself would be the first to disagree with you. I'm not sure how you transitioned from supporting the idea of a negative income tax to dismissing the notion of self interest as the most powerful economic motivator and regulator. Economic crisis most often closely follows an instance when government fails (or feels no need) to "understand how things work" and decides to take control away from people. Ronald Reagan had it exactly right when he said this in his epic speech A Time for Choosing.
Ronald Reagan wrote:The Founding Fathers knew a government can't control the economy without controlling people. And they knew when a government sets out to do that, it must use force and coercion to achieve its purpose.

I'm not denying that self-interest works to provide for the public benefit in some ways, but it doesn't solve everything. The problem is that people are assumed to be rational, informed consumers that know what is truly in the best interest, which is ridiculous to anyone that has spent any amount of time with people (or the BSN). People are usually pseudo-rational at best, and they have to work off of incomplete, contradictory, or even false information. When money is power, and the media are owned by the same corporations that provide the services and products, how are people supposed to get unbiased and trustworthy information? When people DO get unbiased and trustworthy information, how can they know that it is such? That's not to say that all corporate owned media is evil, but they have an incentive and means to abuse their power.

As for economic crisis, they tend to follow periods of deregulation which tend to produce inflationary gaps and bubbles. Growth beyond the means to sustain it can be just as bad as recession, which is why economists agree that ALL economic gaps are to be avoided. Bad policy decisions from the government will cause problems sometimes too, of course, and there have been plenty of cases of government mismanagement. However, automatic stabilizers such as the progressive income tax and welfare programs (both government programs) are key to smoothing out gaps. Even my non-interventionist econ professor was a huge fan of automatic stabilizers. The key is not no policy, but smart policy. That may seem like an oxymoron to you, and under the current way the American system is setup I think that it probably is, but I think it is possible and worth striving for.

We have one of the older modern democracies (don't forget the Dutch!), and we have barely updated our government's structure and functionality since, largely because the amendment system is ludicrously cumbersome. Cutting down on the number of representatives and taking away congress's ability to restructure congressional districts would be good steps. I'm a big fan of the German system because it manages to funnel the extremists off into minor parties via proportional representation while providing more stability than the typical parliamentary system and allowing people to vote for specific candidates. It's not perfect either, naturally, but it is more sophisticated than ours and it gives a better picture of the public mandate than our ludicruously split presidential elections. Rousseau would have declared our social contract illegitimate 150 years ago.

BlueLogic wrote:Ideology is important. Facts often paint an incomplete picture, especially when trying to understand a complex system (a free economy being an extremely complex system). People fall back on ideology to fill in the gaps left by incomplete data, and truly, who can claim to have a complete understanding of a free economy such that, if only they were given complete control, they could better the lives of everyone? I'd submit there is no such person.

I'm not saying anyone should have complete control over the economy. I'm a social democrat like Bernie Sanders or one of the center-left European parties, not a democratic socialist. The government should only get involved when necessary. Ideology is important, but it cannot be the sole determinant of anything. We need both ideology and practicality, but people usually just pick one because it's easier.

BlueLogic wrote:We need more people in power who are skeptical of government growth, intrusion, and control. That's about all I can agree with there.

That's what a conservative party should do.

BlueLogic wrote:Not really sure what that means, and too tired to look it up presently.

The Golden Mean Fallacy is a logical fallacy that occurs when someone just assumes the mean of two opposing views is the correct answer. The Overton Window is a technique to exploit the tendency towards that fallacy by pulling your side of the argument so far to the extreme, that the mean of your position and your opponenet's is closer to what you actually want.

BlueLogic wrote:It's broken down in recent years because, while the goal remains similar (namely peace and prosperity), the proposed means to achieve the goal are diametrically opposed. Liberals want to solve X by doing Y because Y is the only way to get it done and not doing Y will undo all efforts to solve X. Conservatives want to solve X by doing the exact opposite of Y because that's the only way to get it done and doing Y will undo all efforts to solve X. There can be no agreement in such a matter.

For example: gun violence. Many liberals contend the solution is stricter gun control. Restrict weapon sales to some degree, make it illegal to carry a concealed weapon in certain areas (or in general), in total make it more difficult for bad guys to get guns. Their reasoning is sound and totally understandable. Conservatives, on the other hand, argue that the restrictions and other measures proposed by liberals will have the effect of disarming lawful citizens rather than criminals or the mentally disturbed (who will ignore the restrictions and obtain and carry weapons regardless of the law). They argue that only measures that enable lawful citizens to be armed and affect an unfolding tragedy will be effective in preventing innocent deaths at the hands of madmen. I tend to agree, but more to the point, the competing proposals are completely at odds with each other. In these situations (and I contend they are legion), compromise is not an option; One side must win, whether that be a showing of support by the people, or ultimately an election, for the country to move in any direction other than sideways.

How is that different from any other place or time in history though? Pretty much every political debate throughout history had mutually exclusive opinions and a clear "winner." My point is not that it's wrong that one side should "win." My point is that there should be a shared sense betwen parties that they are both working towards the same goal via different means, the "loyal opposition" as it were. I cannot help but have at least a little respect for someone that is worried by the same problems I am, even if they wish to pursue different means.

BlueLogic wrote:I appreciate that :)

I appreciate that you appreciate that :)

Thank you for the thoughtful response.

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Re: What's Wrong With America?

Post by BlueLogic on Thu Mar 21, 2013 2:43 pm

Hrothdane wrote:
BlueLogic wrote:
...Why is it that "wealth should be normally distributed" (which I infer you to additionally mean "fairly distributed")? It is not more important that it be fairly acquired? It's far more important, in my mind at least, that economic freedom be established, rather than a normal distribution of wealth. When operating in conditions of economic freedom, a person's income, and eventually their wealth, is determined by their ability to harness their talent, their discipline in allocating their earnings, and luck. Under those conditions, fairness is guaranteed without regard to the distribution of the total because the distribution is decided by the individual to the maximum degree possible. To see what I mean by "economic freedom", read this (sans the section on the socialist conception of the phrase).


Freedom is a great buzzword to throw out, but people have to start from somewhere, and nobody starts out at the same place. "Freedom is what you do with what has been done to you." -- Jean-Paul Sartre, and everyone has had different things "done" to them. Economic standing at birth, the qualities of one's parents, the local economic environment, race, gender, sexuality, and education opportunites are all different for each person. Even Jean-Paul Sartre, Mr. Condemnded to be Free, said that one is not responsible for such things. If a person's economic success is supposed to be derived directly from their character traits and intelligence, then some allowances must be made.

I'm hardly throwing out a buzzword. Freedom is the issue. People who are free to choose what work they will engage in and what they will spend their earnings on are motivated by self interest to achieve as much as their ambition drives them to and their talent will allow. Take away either component of that freedom, and the motivation evaporates along with prosperity. That's the key, the cornerstone, that freedom provides that no other incentive or enticement can: inspiration. This is the critical fault in centrally planned economies and in any economy that limits the freedom of the people to a degree proportional with such limitation.

With that out of the way, I understand your point to mean that fairness cannot be achieved purely through freedom because life. That's certainly true. That's why, in addition to talent and discipline, I added luck as a factor in determining an individual's success in conditions of economic freedom. Nothing is so far out of our control as the conditions into which we are born. That's also why, when I stated "Under those conditions [economic freedom], fairness is guaranteed without regard to the distribution of the total because the distribution is decided by the individual", I added "to the maximum degree possible".

Any policy I've encountered, and any I can imagine, that attempts to compensate those adversely affected by such factors beyond their control do so at the expense of others. Is it fairer then to be adversely affected by the conditions someone else is born into?

Politicians seem to think so. Regardless of their thoughts, it's certainly easier to rally sympathy for someone born into a disadvantageous situation, than for someone's who's taxes are increased as a result. Who's champion is more likely to win election?

I'm not arguing for an end to aid to the poor, don't misunderstand my intentions. I'm simply arguing that those who's money is taken are not, and should not be construed as, villains. They are the injured in this transaction.

No, aid to the poor is necessary and proper. Replacement of the current welfare system and its counterproductive incentives is critical, in my view, to breaking the generational cycle of poverty that traps many in our inner cities and beyond. Adopting a plan similar to the negative income tax you mention would be an excellent first step.

Hrothdane wrote:
BlueLogic wrote:..,Companies and individuals who pursue short term gains at the expense of the long term will inevitably be punished (when operating under conditions of economic freedom). The problem occurs when corporations and individuals collaborate with politicians and bureaucrats to undermine economic freedom to gain an unfair advantage, either to avoid the consequences of their shortsightedness, or gain an advantage over the competition. This is, in my mind, where the corruption in America lies.

"Inevitably" doesn't change how people live their lives. The universe will "inevitably" end, but that doesn't mean people have to give a damn about it now. A corporation does not get punished for short term thinking except in the long run, which may be generations after the current people running the business are dead. Not only that, but if the government--and all its collective PhDs and businessmen--is incapable of predicting long term effects accurately as you might claim, then why do you expect anyone else to do so? Besides, even if someone KNOWS that this is a bubble and it will pop, they are willing to risk it all for a chance at short-term success. The stock broker that told people that this is a bubble and to invest accordingly gets rewarded "in the long run" when it finally pops and people realize he was right, but in the short run, the stock broker loses all his clients to the dozens of brokers claiming that the market will never go down again and that the clients will make millions.
You're right that "inevitably" doesn't change how some people live their lives. Only the wise look to the long term (though, "generations", as you say, is a bit too long for anyone to take into account). "Inevitable" used to carry more weight in a time when companies were actually allowed to go bankrupt. These days companies are protected from their own bad decisions (as are individuals in many areas of life). People are smart (contrary to what many seem to believe). If they know they will not suffer from their failures, but will be rewarded for success, they will engage in extremely risky behavior. What is the incentive not to?

Hrothdane wrote:Corporations and individuals will always attempt to manipulate the system to their own advantage. People follow incentives, usually short-term incentives, and if they have incentive to stack the system in their favor, they will. It's the same principle that motivates hackers, sports dopers, etc...
It's perfectly natural to want to take every advantage available. So long as the law and enforcement are sufficient to make unfair behavior prohibitively risky, fair competition should thrive. The problem, of course, is when it is those who write or enforce the law that are doing the stacking.

Hrothdane wrote:
BlueLogic wrote:They do it because they can. If they didn't, they should assume, their competition would. The problem is the availability of subsidies and special treatment.

They will always be available in a system where unlimited corporate money goes to politician's campaigns and career politicians have to run for reelection constantly, thus needing constant money.
Honestly, I don't know what to do with campaign finance reform short of infringing on the First Amendment. Of course, McCain-Feingold infringed all over it, and that hasn't helped a thing. I'm open to suggestions :)

Hrothdane wrote:
BlueLogic wrote:If by "closed system", you mean "no unpredictable variables or interactions from outside sources", then yes, all of those things are finite. However, the ingenuity of free people tends to push the limits of supposedly "finite" resources and capital in a "given time period". Obviously this cannot be predicted, or accurately accounted for, but it should at least temper the confidence with which predictions discounting it proclaim their findings.

"Ingenuity of free people" is a nice sounding phrase, but it doesn't mean much. An ingenious idea means nothing without the means to pursue it in terms of capital or time. Also, ingenious ideas are not conveniently labeled as such.
It does sound nice; I like it. Of course, "ingenious ideas" are a dime a dozen. That's why it's critical that people be free to invest their capital in ideas they think are most likely to succeed. When government invests tax payer money, investments often tend to be made for reasons far divorced from the merit of the idea itself.

Hrothdane wrote:
BlueLogic wrote:"We will just never figure it all out, so we should stop trying" is not an acceptable answer with regard to any matter of human endeavor, religion included. Why would it be? Those who put faith in Adam Smith's "invisible hand" are not trusting in some magical force. "The invisible hand" is the force of self interest. It's people working to better their own condition. I realize, having brought up the matter yourself, you are likely aware of this meaning, but I have to conclude based on your subsequent comments that you don't think it effective in managing economic matters. Milton Friedman himself would be the first to disagree with you. I'm not sure how you transitioned from supporting the idea of a negative income tax to dismissing the notion of self interest as the most powerful economic motivator and regulator. Economic crisis most often closely follows an instance when government fails (or feels no need) to "understand how things work" and decides to take control away from people. Ronald Reagan had it exactly right when he said this in his epic speech A Time for Choosing.
Ronald Reagan wrote:The Founding Fathers knew a government can't control the economy without controlling people. And they knew when a government sets out to do that, it must use force and coercion to achieve its purpose. They also knew, those Founding Fathers, that outside of its legitimate functions, government does nothing as well or as economically as the private sector of the economy.

I'm not denying that self-interest works to provide for the public benefit in some ways, but it doesn't solve everything. The problem is that people are assumed to be rational, informed consumers that know what is truly in the best interest, which is ridiculous to anyone that has spent any amount of time with people (or the BSN). People are usually pseudo-rational at best, and they have to work off of incomplete, contradictory, or even false information.
Who is better equipped to make decisions for the benefit of an individual than themselves? What's the point of life if not to learn, make decisions, and act for the benefit of ourselves, our family, and others? Are we even alive if all of our decisions are made for us? I've heard some argue, "Well, there are some decisions too important to be left to individuals". Ah, so we can make our own decisions, but only in matters of little consequence. Disgusting.

Just a few paragraphs earlier you made the point that there are unfortunately some circumstances beyond the control of individuals such as the situation into which they are born. Should we then add all the consequences of these decisions that have been taken away to the list? How does that make life fairer for anyone? I'd rather live with the consequences of my own decisions than with those given to me by some faceless bureaucrat I've never met, whether for better or worse.

Hrothdane wrote:When money is power, and the media are owned by the same corporations that provide the services and products, how are people supposed to get unbiased and trustworthy information? When people DO get unbiased and trustworthy information, how can they know that it is such? That's not to say that all corporate owned media is evil, but they have an incentive and means to abuse their power.
It is a constant struggle, that's true. Of course, no one said the search for truth would be easy. Even if everyone in the news media was giving their honest opinion, there's no guarantee they're correct. Eventually people develop a sense of the world (an ideology perhaps) that can help them decide the likely truth. Of course, if they have the wrong sense, then one falsehood could simply reinforce the next. I think only real life experience can help. Once you learn what has worked, you can better determine what will work. Once you know something to be true for certain (because you've lived it, or seen it), then you have something to build on.

Hrothdane wrote:As for economic crisis, they tend to follow periods of deregulation which tend to produce inflationary gaps and bubbles. Growth beyond the means to sustain it can be just as bad as recession, which is why economists agree that ALL economic gaps are to be avoided. Bad policy decisions from the government will cause problems sometimes too, of course, and there have been plenty of cases of government mismanagement. However, automatic stabilizers such as the progressive income tax and welfare programs (both government programs) are key to smoothing out gaps. Even my non-interventionist econ professor was a huge fan of automatic stabilizers.
I have less of a problem with stabilizers, and more of a problem with the government pushing a policy agenda through regulation. The fair housing act is my case in point.

Hrothdane wrote:The key is not no policy, but smart policy. That may seem like an oxymoron to you, and under the current way the American system is setup I think that it probably is, but I think it is possible and worth striving for.
No, I think you're exactly right. No policy is basically lawlessness. Smart, concise, consistent, and understandable regulation and policy is essential for a free economy to thrive.

Hrothdane wrote:We have one of the older modern democracies (don't forget the Dutch!), and we have barely updated our government's structure and functionality since, largely because the amendment system is ludicrously cumbersome. Cutting down on the number of representatives and taking away congress's ability to restructure congressional districts would be good steps. I'm a big fan of the German system because it manages to funnel the extremists off into minor parties via proportional representation while providing more stability than the typical parliamentary system and allowing people to vote for specific candidates. It's not perfect either, naturally, but it is more sophisticated than ours and it gives a better picture of the public mandate than our ludicruously split presidential elections.
That's an interesting comparison. If I were to change anything about our structure, I'd repeal the 17th amendment and return the power to elect Senators to the state legislatures. That would help slow the centralization of power in Washington and perhaps even reverse it.
Hrothdane wrote:Rousseau would have declared our social contract illegitimate 150 years ago.
Then I'm thankful he wasn't in charge.

Hrothdane wrote:
BlueLogic wrote:Not really sure what that means, and too tired to look it up presently.

The Golden Mean Fallacy is a logical fallacy that occurs when someone just assumes the mean of two opposing views is the correct answer. The Overton Window is a technique to exploit the tendency towards that fallacy by pulling your side of the argument so far to the extreme, that the mean of your position and your opponenet's is closer to what you actually want.
Ahh, I see what you mean now. Were you to replace "Republican" with "Democrat" and "right" with "left", I may agree heheh. Hardly a surprise coming from someone on the other side of course. ;)

Whew! Ok, so I tried posting this yesterday, but for some reason it was lost. Had to retype it all from memory. Sorry for the delay. I plan to get around to responding to you too IP!


Last edited by BlueLogic on Thu Mar 21, 2013 4:18 pm; edited 4 times in total (Reason for editing : counterproductive is one word lol)
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Re: What's Wrong With America?

Post by Hrothdane on Fri Mar 22, 2013 1:51 am

BlueLogic wrote:
I'm hardly throwing out a buzzword. Freedom is the issue. People who are free to choose what work they will engage in and what they will spend their earnings on are motivated by self interest to achieve as much as their ambition drives them to and their talent will allow. Take away either component of that freedom, and the motivation evaporates along with prosperity. That's the key, the cornerstone, that freedom provides that no other incentive or enticement can: inspiration. This is the critical fault in centrally planned economies and in any economy that limits the freedom of the people to a degree proportional with such limitation.

With that out of the way, I understand your point to mean that fairness cannot be achieved purely through freedom because life. That's certainly true. That's why, in addition to talent and discipline, I added luck as a factor in determining an individual's success in conditions of economic freedom. Nothing is so far out of our control as the conditions into which we are born. That's also why, when I stated "Under those conditions [economic freedom], fairness is guaranteed without regard to the distribution of the total because the distribution is decided by the individual", I added "to the maximum degree possible".

Any policy I've encountered, and any I can imagine, that attempts to compensate those adversely affected by such factors beyond their control do so at the expense of others. Is it fairer then to be adversely affected by the conditions someone else is born into?

Politicians seem to think so. Regardless of their thoughts, it's certainly easier to rally sympathy for someone born into a disadvantageous situation, than for someone's who's taxes are increased as a result. Who's champion is more likely to win election?

I'm not arguing for an end to aid to the poor, don't misunderstand my intentions. I'm simply arguing that those who's money is taken are not, and should not be construed as, villains. They are the injured in this transaction.

No, aid to the poor is necessary and proper. Replacement of the current welfare system and its counterproductive incentives is critical, in my view, to breaking the generational cycle of poverty that traps many in our inner cities and beyond. Adopting a plan similar to the negative income tax you mention would be an excellent first step.

As long as people have rights relative to each other, freedom of action is not unlimited. We have all heard variants on the sentiment "Your right to make a fist ends where my face begins." Shouting "fire" in a crowded movie theater is another common anecdote. John Stuart Mill, one of the most influential political and ethical theorists in America post-revolution, believed the same thing, and the Supreme Court has operated and interpreted the Constitution under his philosophy for over a hundred years. Each person is a limiting factor upon the freedom of others. When you choose for someone to represent you, you are delegating decisions to them. If you refuse to listen to them, why are you electing people? If you are in the minority, you plead your case as strongly as you can. If you do that and a strong majority still disagrees with you, then you step back and accept it for the time being, just as you would expect them to do when you are in the majority and are sure that you are right and they are wrong. You can't always get what you want, so sometimes you just have to suck it up and carry on. Now, if you are consistently marginalized, the system needs to be adjusted, or you need to leave. That's not perfect, but that's how a republic works, and it's the best we've got right now. If that isn't good enough, then we should find something better.

As for luck, it is antithesis to skill and merit. Having to rely on luck is the exact opposite of having to rely on personal responsibility. Nobody wants games to be won purely by luck, so why should we be okay with anything being won purely by luck? The purpose of policy, just as with good game design, should be to minimize the effect of luck.

The rich shouldn't be villified wholesale, but they shouldn't be treated like victims either. They pay more because they get more out of the system, the people, economic system, and government that provided the environment that led to their success. Not only that, but it is also in their interest to pay back into the system so that it produces better workers, business people, etc.... Besides, most of the top 1% don't even pay income taxes; they make all their money through capital gains and investment, which are taxed far lower, not to mention tax shelters. If they are generous and give money to charities as they choose, they can reduce or eliminate their tax burden, too. I don't consider it a "punishment" to help other people because they have had poor circumstances and I have done well. Even in a game, I prefer to have as even a playing field as possible. The market's health, stability, and growth are directly related to how diverse the marketplace is. The easiest way to raise the quality of the average worker is to start from the bottom because a little investment gives the greatest return, and a bad investment is a small loss.

BlueLogic wrote:
You're right that "inevitably" doesn't change how some people live their lives. Only the wise look to the long term (though, "generations", as you say, is a bit too long for anyone to take into account). "Inevitable" used to carry more weight in a time when companies were actually allowed to go bankrupt. These days companies are protected from their own bad decisions (as are individuals in many areas of life). People are smart (contrary to what many seem to believe). If they know they will not suffer from their failures, but will be rewarded for success, they will engage in extremely risky behavior. What is the incentive not to?

People are not quite as stupid as common knowledge would have us believe, nor were our predecessors any better, but people still are pretty stupid in general. 48% of Americans believe in Creationism. 20% are not fully literate. The sad thing is, this is still an improvement over before. Even when people aren't stupid, they are usually ignorant because of incomplete information, willful self-deception, or deception from outside sources. The average person is half-smart about a couple of subject they have personal experience and interest in, and assume that they know everything. They don't do proper research even on major purchases, and if they do, they have not be trained by the market or the school system to find good sources. If the school system needed reform before, the internet age has made the need more necessary than ever.

I've been middle to lower-middle class my whole life thus far, and I have never felt protected from a bad decision. The free education I'm getting here in California has given me the free time to work on my career and buliding my portfolio instead of working crappy jobs. I've worked full-time for 4 years, with an additional part time job for three of those, so I know what it's like to work. Our house got foreclosed on a couple years ago because my mom divorced my abusive father finally but couldn't find a job despite having a masters degree in economics, all because nobody wanted to hire someone that hadn't worked for 15+ years. At no point did any of us feel as though it was okay to sit on our asses and do nothing. The idea that all people down on their luck either deserve it or are just looking for handouts disgusts me, and has never proven true in any of my experience or studies. You will always get some people that abuse the system, but I could just as easily say the same of the rich, and when a billionaire cheats the system, he usually gets away with a lot more money than the guy milking a few hundred bucks a month out of welfare.

If people are to pursue the "ingenious" ideas that you mentioned, they have to be free to take risks. Getting a new job is a risk. Moving is a risk. Every venture is a risk, and there is no way to guarantee success ahead of time. Moving from hunter-gathering to farming is such a key advancement because it gives people the free time and capability to pursue ideas and develop them. Many people are stuck living paycheck-to-paycheck and can't get to the point that they can pursue risks. Many of the most successful business people have had to declare bankruptcy multiple times and had lots of false starts.

BlueLogic wrote:
Honestly, I don't know what to do with campaign finance reform short of infringing on the First Amendment. Of course, McCain-Feingold infringed all over it, and that hasn't helped a thing. I'm open to suggestions :)

I don't propose to know the answer either. I leave that for the experts, since they have comparative advantage in that area.

BlueLogic wrote:
It does sound nice; I like it. Of course, "ingenious ideas" are a dime a dozen. That's why it's critical that people be free to invest their capital in ideas they think are most likely to succeed. When government invests tax payer money, investments often tend to be made for reasons far divorced from the merit of the idea itself.

I find little difference in how the government invests its money and how the average person does. Have you ever watched any of those shows like Restaurant: Impossible or such where a successful industry professional goes to help out failing businesses? The people make the most ridiculous decisions, don't even keep the books, don't use even the most basic industry standards like cleanliness, and then wonder why their business is failing. Many times they had a few good ideas that were drowned out by all the bad. A good idea with no knowledge on how to implement it properly is worthless. Presumably, we elect people to represent us because we think they are better at handling something than we are. If they aren't, then we should elect better people. If a company's leadership performs poorly, they fire them and get new ones. They don't say "boards of directors are inherently bad and we shouldn't let them do anything anymore." I always hear conservatives saying we should run government like a business.

BlueLogic wrote:
Who is better equipped to make decisions for the benefit of an individual than themselves? What's the point of life if not to learn, make decisions, and act for the benefit of ourselves, our family, and others? Are we even alive if all of our decisions are made for us? I've heard some argue, "Well, there are some decisions too important to be left to individuals". Ah, so we can make our own decisions, but only in matters of little consequence. Disgusting.

Just a few paragraphs earlier you made the point that there are unfortunately some circumstances beyond the control of individuals such as the situation into which they are born. Should we then add all the consequences of these decisions that have been taken away to the list? How does that make life fairer for anyone? I'd rather live with the consequences of my own decisions than with those given to me by some faceless bureaucrat I've never met, whether for better or worse.

"The most common lie is that which one lies to himself; lying to others is relatively an exception." --Nietzsche

Jean-Paul Sarte would agree as well. We deceive ourselves out of our freedom to choose more often than any outside force ever does.

Most people are actually quite terrible at knowing what they actually want. In fact, most people are successful purely because they had the clarity to know what they wanted early on and they had the means to get it. When people DO know what they want, they often have no idea how to actually get it, or take the most short-sighted path to grabbing it. It's easier to convince oneself of lies than to see the truth. We should all know of this first hand from what we see from the control and synthesis people. To a lesser extent, the people that have convinced themselves that they don't need any more content for IT, or that the EC and Citadel were "enough" have convinced themselves of something that is not true. I'm one of the lucky ones and have reached the point in my life where I know exactly who I am and what I want, though not so lucky in how I had to go about it.

I make my decisions knowing that I'm fully responsible for all of them, and that's good enough for me. As long as the world has existed, people have had to rely on other people, and we have gotten on pretty well so far. Government takes care of a lot of the things I would rather not care about and gives me time to focus on the things I do. If I occasionally have to do something I don't particularly like, it's only fair. Don't we elect people to represent us in order for them to make decisions that we are not as informed on? If the government makes a particularly bad decision or several in a row, then they should be held accountable and replaced. All we can do is figure out better ways to do that. As I said before, if that isn't good enough, then the very concept of a republic is not good enough for us on the most basic level and we should transition to become a direct democracy.

As long as we live in a system that is not an anarchy, there will be some degree coercion and heirarchies. That is the consensus of political philosophers. The only choice is in which group in the system is doing the coercing and how much relative power they have. I would prefer that power lying with a government, not perhaps the current government system as much, but a government nonetheless.

I find it perplexing that some people are more willing to allow their lives to be controlled by the decisions of faceless businessmen--who are just pursuing self-interest--than a faceless official, who is elected to work for the public good. Somehow, the people that only work for self-interest are believed to have the public good at heart, but the people that are supposed to have the public good at heart are just working for self-interest. If we are to take the principle that certain people are just more capable at certain tasks than others to heart, shouldn't the people that have chosen careers and studied law, politics, and economics have a greater control of those areas over people that didn't?

BlueLogic wrote:
It is a constant struggle, that's true. Of course, no one said the search for truth would be easy. Even if everyone in the news media was giving their honest opinion, there's no guarantee they're correct. Eventually people develop a sense of the world (an ideology perhaps) that can help them decide the likely truth. Of course, if they have the wrong sense, then one falsehood could simply reinforce the next. I think only real life experience can help. Once you learn what has worked, you can better determine what will work. Once you know something to be true for certain (because you've lived it, or seen it), then you have something to build on.

It's not a struggle if one side doesn't even realize there is a war going on; that's a slaughter. People don't even spend the minimum amount of time checking sources. I've debunked tons of information that friends, liberal and conservative, have reported as true because they didn't take two minutes to type something into Google and check Snopes on the first link. What is actually IN bills presented doesn't matter because the media can report whatever they want, even though the bills are posted publicly for anyone to check. The average person probably has no idea what metacritic bombing or astroturfing is.

Learning from experience--Heuristic learning--is faster and more effective in a micro, homogenous environment, but it has serious flaws on a macro scale. We can fall back on past experiences when we can count on the variables of our environment to be stable and predictable, and for most of human history that was the case. In a globalized world, something more objective and universal has to take hold.

BlueLogic wrote:I have less of a problem with stabilizers, and more of a problem with the government pushing a policy agenda through regulation. The fair housing act is my case in point.

I'm glad we agree on stabilizers. I can't comment on the fair housing act since I haven't read it, and after the fiasco with the reporting on the healthcare bill, I don't discuss bills I haven't read.

BlueLogic wrote:No, I think you're exactly right. No policy is basically lawlessness. Smart, concise, consistent, and understandable regulation and policy is essential for a free economy to thrive.

Point of agreement. w00t! Adam Smith said something similar.

BlueLogic wrote:That's an interesting comparison. If I were to change anything about our structure, I'd repeal the 17th amendment and return the power to elect Senators to the state legislatures. That would help slow the centralization of power in Washington and perhaps even reverse it.

Comparative politics is one of the best courses I ever took, and I highly recommend it. I don't know about repealing that amendment. I think the bigger issue with Congress is term limits and length of terms. As it is now, Congressmen/women get elected and then have to spend their whole term worrying about getting reelected. People staying in congress their whole adult lives helps encourage backroom deals and it motivates corporations to "invest" in politicians more.

Hrothdane wrote:Rousseau would have declared our social contract illegitimate 150 years ago.
BlueLogic wrote:Then I'm thankful he wasn't in charge.

The constitution and declaration were written based off his ideas, so in a way he was. My point is that he said a government is only legitimate if it represents the general will, and us electing people by 2-3% margins means that 47-48% of people aren't feeling represented, which doesn't sound like a "general will" to me.

I also sometimes wonder if everyone would have been happier on both sides of the political spectrum if Lincoln had just let the South leave.

BlueLogic wrote:
Ahh, I see what you mean now. Were you to replace "Republican" with "Democrat" and "right" with "left", I may agree heheh. Hardly a surprise coming from someone on the other side of course. ;)

I say Repulican and Democrat because the Democrats aren't exactly very liberal. http://www.politicalcompass.org/uselection2012

BlueLogic wrote:Whew! Ok, so I tried posting this yesterday, but for some reason it was lost. Had to retype it all from memory. Sorry for the delay. I plan to get around to responding to you too IP!

No worries. I know how it goes. I only have enough time to write such lengthy posts at the moment because I'm on spring break.

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Re: What's Wrong With America?

Post by Terramine on Fri Mar 22, 2013 9:55 am

Can I just say... how funny it is that this topic is STILL on page 1? Look at how long these posts are lol

You guys are creating some interesting stuff to read, I just thought I'd point this out because it's kind of funny.

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Re: What's Wrong With America?

Post by BlueLogic on Fri Mar 22, 2013 7:50 pm

Hrothdane wrote:
BlueLogic wrote:
I'm hardly throwing out a buzzword. Freedom is the issue. People who are free to choose what work they will engage in and what they will spend their earnings on are motivated by self interest to achieve as much as their ambition drives them to and their talent will allow. Take away either component of that freedom, and the motivation evaporates along with prosperity. That's the key, the cornerstone, that freedom provides that no other incentive or enticement can: inspiration. This is the critical fault in centrally planned economies and in any economy that limits the freedom of the people to a degree proportional with such limitation.

With that out of the way, I understand your point to mean that fairness cannot be achieved purely through freedom because life. That's certainly true. That's why, in addition to talent and discipline, I added luck as a factor in determining an individual's success in conditions of economic freedom. Nothing is so far out of our control as the conditions into which we are born. That's also why, when I stated "Under those conditions [economic freedom], fairness is guaranteed without regard to the distribution of the total because the distribution is decided by the individual", I added "to the maximum degree possible".

Any policy I've encountered, and any I can imagine, that attempts to compensate those adversely affected by such factors beyond their control do so at the expense of others. Is it fairer then to be adversely affected by the conditions someone else is born into?

Politicians seem to think so. Regardless of their thoughts, it's certainly easier to rally sympathy for someone born into a disadvantageous situation, than for someone's who's taxes are increased as a result. Who's champion is more likely to win election?

I'm not arguing for an end to aid to the poor, don't misunderstand my intentions. I'm simply arguing that those who's money is taken are not, and should not be construed as, villains. They are the injured in this transaction.

No, aid to the poor is necessary and proper. Replacement of the current welfare system and its counterproductive incentives is critical, in my view, to breaking the generational cycle of poverty that traps many in our inner cities and beyond. Adopting a plan similar to the negative income tax you mention would be an excellent first step.

As long as people have rights relative to each other, freedom of action is not unlimited. We have all heard variants on the sentiment "Your right to make a fist ends where my face begins." Shouting "fire" in a crowded movie theater is another common anecdote. John Stuart Mill, one of the most influential political and ethical theorists in America post-revolution, believed the same thing, and the Supreme Court has operated and interpreted the Constitution under his philosophy for over a hundred years.
I don't disagree.

Hrothdane wrote:Each person is a limiting factor upon the freedom of others.
True, but only to the extent your actions would affect others. I'm not sure how this relates to the question of fairness I posed above.


Hrothdane wrote:When you choose for someone to represent you, you are delegating decisions to them. If you refuse to listen to them, why are you electing people? If you are in the minority, you plead your case as strongly as you can. If you do that and a strong majority still disagrees with you, then you step back and accept it for the time being, just as you would expect them to do when you are in the majority and are sure that you are right and they are wrong. You can't always get what you want, so sometimes you just have to suck it up and carry on. Now, if you are consistently marginalized, the system needs to be adjusted, or you need to leave. That's not perfect, but that's how a republic works, and it's the best we've got right now. If that isn't good enough, then we should find something better.
I fully understand and embrace the idea of the Republic which you've presented here.

Hrothdane wrote:As for luck, it is antithesis to skill and merit. Having to rely on luck is the exact opposite of having to rely on personal responsibility. Nobody wants games to be won purely by luck, so why should we be okay with anything being won purely by luck? The purpose of policy, just as with good game design, should be to minimize the effect of luck.
I totally agree up until the point you suggest the purpose of policy should be to minimize the effect of luck. As I mentioned earlier, the only way a policy can do this is at the expense of others. Is it more fair that you are injured by someone else's misfortune? I'm sympathetic to the desire to correct for the circumstances of someone's birth or childhood, and I support the idea of a smart welfare or safety net program, but beyond that the government should avoid attempts to minimize the effects of luck on peoples' lives. It should be the policy of the individual to minimize the effects of luck on their own lives. Consider people who live in a flood plain and decide not to pay for flood insurance on their home. If misfortune strikes and a storm damages their home, should it be the purpose of government policy to minimize the effects of this tragedy on these people?
This may not be the line of argument you intended with that sentence, but it struck me as a general endorsement of government action in the lives of people for their benefit (at the expense of others). If I misunderstood or overgeneralized, I apologize that you had to read all that. :)

Hrothdane wrote:The rich shouldn't be villified wholesale, but they shouldn't be treated like victims either. They pay more because they get more out of the system, the people, economic system, and government that provided the environment that led to their success.
The phrase "get more out of the system" evokes an image of someone taking from a common supply. Firstly, they are not taking anything, and secondly, there is no common supply of wealth. Wealth is created (and sometimes destroyed) through human activity. (To avoid implying you don't already understand how wealth is created, and to provide a barely competent explanation for those who are curious, spolier tags have been added):
Spoiler:
When you get your paycheck, you aren't taking money from your employer. They are giving it freely to you in exchange for something they find more valuable than what they're giving, namely your time and effort. You work there, ostensibly, because you value the money they're offering more than the portion of your time and effort they're asking for. It's a voluntary exchange for both parties, both consider themselves better off afterward, and wealth has been created in the process. It's not immediately obvious that this has happened since a single amount of money was involved, but the reason your employer values your time and effort more than the money they gave you is because with that time and effort they will make more money than they paid you due to whatever value they or their business adds to the product or service you help deliver. Customers buy the product or service your employer provides because they value it more than the money. Again value and wealth is created for both parties involved in the transaction. That's my (basic, questionable, tenuous) understanding of how wealth is created.
So people (can and often do) become wealthy without injuring anyone else. In fact, in conditions of economic freedom (going to have to start using some acronymn for that phrase lol), wealth is created in proportion to how many of these "win-win" situations you enable. In otherwords, the more benefit you provide to others, the more wealth you create for yourself, and for everyone. Therefore, I'd disagree with those who view the rich as having "taken" more out of "the system", implying somehow they owe a debt to society. Unless you know a person has ill gotten wealth, you shouldn't assume they earned their riches in any way other than providing people what they wanted.

Hrothdane wrote:Not only that, but it is also in their interest to pay back into the system so that it produces better workers, business people, etc...
I'm sure the rich are acutely interested in knowing what is in their own personal best interest to do (as are people of any economic standing). I would caution against assuming to know what's best for anyone. If your assumption proves correct, then I'm sure plenty of rich people can and will reinvest in "the system" in whatever way they believe will result in the maximum benefit to themselves (and perhaps even others if their purpose is charity).

Hrothdane wrote:Besides, most of the top 1% don't even pay income taxes; they make all their money through capital gains and investment, which are taxed far lower...
Capital investment is taxed lower in large part to encourage investors to make their money available for loans which encourages business growth. Investment is also one of the best ways for people to build wealth and transition between economic "classes" over time. So, it's not all for the benefit of those already wealthy, but also for those hoping to be one day.

Hrothdane wrote:...not to mention tax shelters. If they are generous and give money to charities as they choose, they can reduce or eliminate their tax burden, too. I don't consider it a "punishment" to help other people because they have had poor circumstances and I have done well.
It's not a punishment to help people voluntarily. It is most certainly a punishment to have money taken away from you. The punishment is only mitigated by the value of its use in the eyes of its former owner. Which is why I say I'm personally not against smart welfare and a safety net. That, and selfishly, obviously, because I may need it myself one day.

Hrothdane wrote:Even in a game, I prefer to have as even a playing field as possible.
Comparing life to a game is a troubled analogy for several reasons. Firstly, there is no way make everyone start in the same place. Would you purposefully neglect to develop a talent because someone else you know is not as talented? I would certainly hope not. More importantly, there doesn't have to be any losers in life. What does it mean for you to succeed in life? I guarantee there is someone else with a different answer. A person's success can be measured in two ways: 1) against their own idea of success, 2) against someone else's idea. Therefore, if you don't base your success on how you're doing relative to others, then the fair (see above) success of others will not negatively affect you. Too often people incorrectly judge the success of an individual against the success of others declaring one a winner. That is a recipe for envy and unhappiness.
Tangent alert...return to topic Angry Er, my bad.

Hrothdane wrote:The market's health, stability, and growth are directly related to how diverse the marketplace is.
What kind of diversity are you referring to? I'm not quite understanding your meaning.


Hrothdane wrote:
BlueLogic wrote:
You're right that "inevitably" doesn't change how some people live their lives. Only the wise look to the long term (though, "generations", as you say, is a bit too long for anyone to take into account). "Inevitable" used to carry more weight in a time when companies were actually allowed to go bankrupt. These days companies are protected from their own bad decisions (as are individuals in many areas of life). People are smart (contrary to what many seem to believe). If they know they will not suffer from their failures, but will be rewarded for success, they will engage in extremely risky behavior. What is the incentive not to?

People are not quite as stupid as common knowledge would have us believe, nor were our predecessors any better, but people still are pretty stupid in general. 48% of Americans believe in Creationism. 20% are not fully literate. The sad thing is, this is still an improvement over before. Even when people aren't stupid, they are usually ignorant because of incomplete information, willful self-deception, or deception from outside sources. The average person is half-smart about a couple of subject they have personal experience and interest in, and assume that they know everything. They don't do proper research even on major purchases, and if they do, they have not be trained by the market or the school system to find good sources.
I won't argue the premise here; My argument doesn't rely on the general intelligence of the people, but I would add that people do have one major factor in their favor that, in my mind, enables them to make better decisions for themselves than an agent of the government (or anyone in a position of power): motive. One doesn't have to rely on the benevolence of the decision maker if they are deciding for themselves. All of that is beside the point however. A person is free only to the degree that they can make decisions that affect their own lives. The ultimate purpose of our government is to protect the freedom of its citizens. Whenever our government takes on the additional responsibility of deciding how we should live our lives, it is undermining the very purpose for which it was created.

Hrothdane wrote:If the school system needed reform before, the internet age has made the need more necessary than ever.
I totally agree. A focus on critical thinking is desperately needed to help kids sift through the torrent of garbage we're all exposed to.

Hrothdane wrote:I've been middle to lower-middle class my whole life thus far, and I have never felt protected from a bad decision. The free education I'm getting here in California has given me the free time to work on my career and buliding my portfolio instead of working crappy jobs. I've worked full-time for 4 years, with an additional part time job for three of those, so I know what it's like to work. Our house got foreclosed on a couple years ago because my mom divorced my abusive father finally but couldn't find a job despite having a masters degree in economics, all because nobody wanted to hire someone that hadn't worked for 15+ years. At no point did any of us feel as though it was okay to sit on our asses and do nothing. The idea that all people down on their luck either deserve it or are just looking for handouts disgusts me, and has never proven true in any of my experience or studies.
I'm sorry to hear things have been so rough for you and your mom. People down on their luck, by definition, do not deserve what they've gotten. Bad things happen to good people.
Hrothdane wrote:You will always get some people that abuse the system, but I could just as easily say the same of the rich, and when a billionaire cheats the system, he usually gets away with a lot more money than the guy milking a few hundred bucks a month out of welfare.
This is absolutely true.

Hrothdane wrote:
BlueLogic wrote:
It does sound nice; I like it. Of course, "ingenious ideas" are a dime a dozen. That's why it's critical that people be free to invest their capital in ideas they think are most likely to succeed. When government invests tax payer money, investments often tend to be made for reasons far divorced from the merit of the idea itself.

I find little difference in how the government invests its money and how the average person does. Have you ever watched any of those shows like Restaurant: Impossible or such where a successful industry professional goes to help out failing businesses? The people make the most ridiculous decisions, don't even keep the books, don't use even the most basic industry standards like cleanliness, and then wonder why their business is failing. Many times they had a few good ideas that were drowned out by all the bad. A good idea with no knowledge on how to implement it properly is worthless.
All true, however, the big difference between individual investors and government is that individuals often have an amount of capital proportional to their ability to invest it. If a person is not a wise investor, they will quickly be separated from their money. The government takes enormous amounts of money in the form of taxes, and those responsible for investing it are often appointed bureaucrats who, while hopefully experts in the field related to their investment area, have less to lose if the investment proves a failure than an individual investing their own money. Government has another advantage over individuals in that they can acquire additional funding from the people if and when an investment fails. Also, as I said before, those in power are often pressured or tempted to make decisions based on factors totally separate from the merits of the investment.

Hrothdane wrote:Presumably, we elect people to represent us because we think they are better at handling something than we are. If they aren't, then we should elect better people. If a company's leadership performs poorly, they fire them and get new ones. They don't say "boards of directors are inherently bad and we shouldn't let them do anything anymore." I always hear conservatives saying we should run government like a business.
The problem isn't with whom we elect, or even what decisions they make. It is more what those we elect decide they should grant themselves the power to decide. Why should the mayor of New York have the power to make it illegal in his city to sell people soda in a cup of a certain size?

Hrothdane wrote:
BlueLogic wrote:
Who is better equipped to make decisions for the benefit of an individual than themselves? What's the point of life if not to learn, make decisions, and act for the benefit of ourselves, our family, and others? Are we even alive if all of our decisions are made for us? I've heard some argue, "Well, there are some decisions too important to be left to individuals". Ah, so we can make our own decisions, but only in matters of little consequence. Disgusting.

Just a few paragraphs earlier you made the point that there are unfortunately some circumstances beyond the control of individuals such as the situation into which they are born. Should we then add all the consequences of these decisions that have been taken away to the list? How does that make life fairer for anyone? I'd rather live with the consequences of my own decisions than with those given to me by some faceless bureaucrat I've never met, whether for better or worse.

"The most common lie is that which one lies to himself; lying to others is relatively an exception." --Nietzsche

Jean-Paul Sarte would agree as well. We deceive ourselves out of our freedom to choose more often than any outside force ever does.

Most people are actually quite terrible at knowing what they actually want.
According to whom? For argument's sake I'll assume that a reputable survey was conducted which revealed that the vast majority of people answered that they didn't know what they actually wanted. I'd be willing to bet they wouldn't admit that to someone who intends to decide for them what they should want. Are human beings, who are so incapable of knowing their own heart, then better equipped to know someone else's? Regardless of the answer, no amount of evidence indicating "the people" to be wholly incapable of making the "right decision" (due to self deception or any other reason) should be construed to mean that the right to make decisions should be removed from them.

Hrothdane wrote:In fact, most people are successful purely because they had the clarity to know what they wanted early on and they had the means to get it. When people DO know what they want, they often have no idea how to actually get it, or take the most short-sighted path to grabbing it. It's easier to convince oneself of lies than to see the truth. We should all know of this first hand from what we see from the control and synthesis people. To a lesser extent, the people that have convinced themselves that they don't need any more content for IT, or that the EC and Citadel were "enough" have convinced themselves of something that is not true. I'm one of the lucky ones and have reached the point in my life where I know exactly who I am and what I want, though not so lucky in how I had to go about it.

I make my decisions knowing that I'm fully responsible for all of them, and that's good enough for me. As long as the world has existed, people have had to rely on other people, and we have gotten on pretty well so far.
I agree with all of that, however, relying on "other people" is not at all the same as relying on government. Relying on other people is what people did before government decided to relieve us of that "burden". In many respects they've relieved us of that option.

Hrothdane wrote:Government takes care of a lot of the things I would rather not care about and gives me time to focus on the things I do. If I occasionally have to do something I don't particularly like, it's only fair.
Such as? I mean, I would rather not deal with defending my home from invasion by a foreign power, or issuing currency for use in trade, so I can sympathize, but I'm curious what you're referring to.

Hrothdane wrote:Don't we elect people to represent us in order for them to make decisions that we are not as informed on?
Only on those matters which they've been specifically authorized to render a decision.

Hrothdane wrote:If the government makes a particularly bad decision or several in a row, then they should be held accountable and replaced. All we can do is figure out better ways to do that. As I said before, if that isn't good enough, then the very concept of a republic is not good enough for us on the most basic level and we should transition to become a direct democracy.
Like I said, I appreciate the virtues of representative government. It's the expansion of the purview of government that I would like reversed.

Hrothdane wrote:As long as we live in a system that is not an anarchy, there will be some degree coercion and heirarchies. That is the consensus of political philosophers. The only choice is in which group in the system is doing the coercing and how much relative power they have. I would prefer that power lying with a government, not perhaps the current government system as much, but a government nonetheless.
I totally agree.

Hrothdane wrote:I find it perplexing that some people are more willing to allow their lives to be controlled by the decisions of faceless businessmen--who are just pursuing self-interest--than a faceless official, who is elected to work for the public good. Somehow, the people that only work for self-interest are believed to have the public good at heart, but the people that are supposed to have the public good at heart are just working for self-interest. If we are to take the principle that certain people are just more capable at certain tasks than others to heart, shouldn't the people that have chosen careers and studied law, politics, and economics have a greater control of those areas over people that didn't?
While you make an excellent point about the difference in the nature of those two "fields" and what kind of people may be drawn into them, I wouldn't make a generalization of the motivations of businessmen versus those of public servants. It's largely beside the point. I'm far more suspicious of those in government because they don't have to persuade me to part with my money.

Hrothdane wrote:
BlueLogic wrote:
It is a constant struggle, that's true. Of course, no one said the search for truth would be easy. Even if everyone in the news media was giving their honest opinion, there's no guarantee they're correct. Eventually people develop a sense of the world (an ideology perhaps) that can help them decide the likely truth. Of course, if they have the wrong sense, then one falsehood could simply reinforce the next. I think only real life experience can help. Once you learn what has worked, you can better determine what will work. Once you know something to be true for certain (because you've lived it, or seen it), then you have something to build on.

It's not a struggle if one side doesn't even realize there is a war going on; that's a slaughter.
I'm not sure what your meaning is here.

Hrothdane wrote:People don't even spend the minimum amount of time checking sources. I've debunked tons of information that friends, liberal and conservative, have reported as true because they didn't take two minutes to type something into Google and check Snopes on the first link. What is actually IN bills presented doesn't matter because the media can report whatever they want, even though the bills are posted publicly for anyone to check. The average person probably has no idea what metacritic bombing or astroturfing is.

Learning from experience--Heuristic learning--is faster and more effective in a micro, homogenous environment, but it has serious flaws on a macro scale. We can fall back on past experiences when we can count on the variables of our environment to be stable and predictable, and for most of human history that was the case. In a globalized world, something more objective and universal has to take hold.
I largely agree, but so long as the capacity and motivation to lie remains part of the human condition, I can't imagine there will ever be "something more objective and universal".

Hrothdane wrote:
BlueLogic wrote:No, I think you're exactly right. No policy is basically lawlessness. Smart, concise, consistent, and understandable regulation and policy is essential for a free economy to thrive.

Point of agreement. w00t! Adam Smith said something similar.
*fist pumps in the air*

Hrothdane wrote:
BlueLogic wrote:That's an interesting comparison. If I were to change anything about our structure, I'd repeal the 17th amendment and return the power to elect Senators to the state legislatures. That would help slow the centralization of power in Washington and perhaps even reverse it.

Comparative politics is one of the best courses I ever took, and I highly recommend it. I don't know about repealing that amendment. I think the bigger issue with Congress is term limits and length of terms. As it is now, Congressmen/women get elected and then have to spend their whole term worrying about getting reelected. People staying in congress their whole adult lives helps encourage backroom deals and it motivates corporations to "invest" in politicians more.
Good point. It does seem like campaign "season" is improperly named.

Hrothdane wrote:
BlueLogic wrote:
Hrothdane wrote:Rousseau would have declared our social contract illegitimate 150 years ago.
Then I'm thankful he wasn't in charge.

The constitution and declaration were written based off his ideas, so in a way he was. My point is that he said a government is only legitimate if it represents the general will, and us electing people by 2-3% margins means that 47-48% of people aren't feeling represented, which doesn't sound like a "general will" to me.
It is a major problem. I think if we moved many of the critical decisions the federal government has taken upon itself to decide back to the states (or the people for that matter), then we would have far less of a problem. Basically, the less you decide, the easier it is to get more people to agree with you. If the federal government was just in charge of defense, monetary policy, actual "inter" state trade (as opposed to the expanded definition currently in operation), and a few other obvious things I'm forgetting (lol), then people would look at presidential candidates (and other federal elected officials) in a whole new light. They wouldn't be asking themselves, "Am I going to lose my health insurance", "is this guy going to try and end legal abortion", "how will by business be affected", or a host of other things. It would be something closer to "will this candidate protect our country from its enemies", and "are they going to make our deficit and debt problem any better". The rest would vary by state, just like it is supposed to. Then people can vote with their feet and move if they don't like what their state is doing. States would get the message when they start losing people and make adjustments. The federal government isn't subject to that kind of feedback. Instead, they get election results like you mentioned.

Hrothdane wrote:I also sometimes wonder if everyone would have been happier on both sides of the political spectrum if Lincoln had just let the South leave.
Aside from the fact that the liberal vs. conservative divide hardly mirrors the geographic divide of the Civil War, that would have been a world changing disaster. First of all, the federal government was created largely in an effort to maintain peace amongst the individual states. There is little reason to think that, had the South simply seceded from the union, war would not have inevitably broken out anyway in the future. Then, had the United States and the Confederacy been left as separate entities, who's to say how the world wide conflicts of the twentieth century would have played out differently. Then there's the matter of slavery. One would hope that it would have been abolished eventually in the Confederacy, but how much longer would people have had to live in bondage? No, there is no measure of political homogeny that would come close to justifying the loss of the United States as we know it.

Hrothdane wrote:No worries. I know how it goes. I only have enough time to write such lengthy posts at the moment because I'm on spring break.

Well thanks for spending so much of your spring break discussing politics with us! :)

IronicParticle wrote:Can I just say... how funny it is that this topic is STILL on page 1? Look at how long these posts are lol

You guys are creating some interesting stuff to read, I just thought I'd point this out because it's kind of funny.

LOL, yeah I think we may be pushing a record for longest first page here guys. :)
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BlueLogic
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Re: What's Wrong With America?

Post by Hrothdane on Sat Mar 23, 2013 3:49 am

BlueLogic wrote:I fully understand and embrace the idea of the Republic which you've presented here.

Do you? What's the point in delegating responsibility to a representative if you don't want them to have any agency to act as they see fit? If I'm choosing someone to do a job, I have to actually let them do it. Stronger oversight and disincentivizing abuse of power are the answers, not making the government incapable of doing anything.

BlueLogic wrote:I totally agree up until the point you suggest the purpose of policy should be to minimize the effect of luck. As I mentioned earlier, the only way a policy can do this is at the expense of others. Is it more fair that you are injured by someone else's misfortune?

I don't consider that an injury. I do not consider it an injury to myself if someone I love has a car accident and they needed my help, so why would I should I think differently if it was any other?

BlueLogic wrote:I'm sympathetic to the desire to correct for the circumstances of someone's birth or childhood, and I support the idea of a smart welfare or safety net program, but beyond that the government should avoid attempts to minimize the effects of luck on peoples' lives. It should be the policy of the individual to minimize the effects of luck on their own lives. Consider people who live in a flood plain and decide not to pay for flood insurance on their home. If misfortune strikes and a storm damages their home, should it be the purpose of government policy to minimize the effects of this tragedy on these people?
This may not be the line of argument you intended with that sentence, but it struck me as a general endorsement of government action in the lives of people for their benefit (at the expense of others). If I misunderstood or overgeneralized, I apologize that you had to read all that. :)

It has to come from both directions. There are many kinds of luck, some of which the individual is more capable of handling, and some the government is more capable of.

BlueLogic wrote:The phrase "get more out of the system" evokes an image of someone taking from a common supply. Firstly, they are not taking anything, and secondly, there is no common supply of wealth. Wealth is created (and sometimes destroyed) through human activity. (To avoid implying you don't already understand how wealth is created, and to provide a barely competent explanation for those who are curious, spolier tags have been added):
Spoiler:
When you get your paycheck, you aren't taking money from your employer. They are giving it freely to you in exchange for something they find more valuable than what they're giving, namely your time and effort. You work there, ostensibly, because you value the money they're offering more than the portion of your time and effort they're asking for. It's a voluntary exchange for both parties, both consider themselves better off afterward, and wealth has been created in the process. It's not immediately obvious that this has happened since a single amount of money was involved, but the reason your employer values your time and effort more than the money they gave you is because with that time and effort they will make more money than they paid you due to whatever value they or their business adds to the product or service you help deliver. Customers buy the product or service your employer provides because they value it more than the money. Again value and wealth is created for both parties involved in the transaction. That's my (basic, questionable, tenuous) understanding of how wealth is created.

So people (can and often do) become wealthy without injuring anyone else. In fact, in conditions of economic freedom (going to have to start using some acronymn for that phrase lol), wealth is created in proportion to how many of these "win-win" situations you enable. In otherwords, the more benefit you provide to others, the more wealth you create for yourself, and for everyone. Therefore, I'd disagree with those who view the rich as having "taken" more out of "the system", implying somehow they owe a debt to society. Unless you know a person has ill gotten wealth, you shouldn't assume they earned their riches in any way other than providing people what they wanted.

I'm not talking about wealth. I'm talking about social and political benefits. A rich individual has, almost by definition, more social and political power and capability than a poor person. I can't have a lobbyist, but Donald Trump and Warren Buffet can. The less rich have control and influence over local communities and have more capability to mold policy just by the fact that they are prominent and bring money to the community. The most rich determine how the economy's capital is invested. These are all benefits that the normal person probably never sees. The rich have more control over their lives than the poor do. Since they have more control of their own lives and the lives of others, they essentially have more rights than a poor person. While you might say "well, theoretically, the rich have the same rights as the poor. The poor just have to get rich to get them," I could say "well, theoretically a feudal noble has the same rights as a peasant. The peasant just has to become a noble." The poor getting raised to knighthood or nobility certainly happened, and there mechanism was built into the social and political system.

BlueLogic wrote:I'm sure the rich are acutely interested in knowing what is in their own personal best interest to do (as are people of any economic standing). I would caution against assuming to know what's best for anyone. If your assumption proves correct, then I'm sure plenty of rich people can and will reinvest in "the system" in whatever way they believe will result in the maximum benefit to themselves (and perhaps even others if their purpose is charity).

We are both making educated guesses as to what is best for everyone and anyone. Everyone does that because it is the best anyone can do.

BlueLogic wrote:Capital investment is taxed lower in large part to encourage investors to make their money available for loans which encourages business growth. Investment is also one of the best ways for people to build wealth and transition between economic "classes" over time. So, it's not all for the benefit of those already wealthy, but also for those hoping to be one day.

That is missing the point entirely. I'm aware of how investment works. Conservatives often show off the income tax rates on the rich, but neglect to mention that they don't usually have to pay them. It's one of the ways they try to make people feel like they have been victimized.

BlueLogic wrote:It's not a punishment to help people voluntarily. It is most certainly a punishment to have money taken away from you. The punishment is only mitigated by the value of its use in the eyes of its former owner. Which is why I say I'm personally not against smart welfare and a safety net. That, and selfishly, obviously, because I may need it myself one day.

Personally, I don't consider a punishment as long as I know the rules when I started playing the game. You do, obviously, and I don't see how we can reach an agreement on this issue, so I'm going to drop it for now.

BlueLogic wrote:Comparing life to a game is a troubled analogy for several reasons. Firstly, there is no way make everyone start in the same place. Would you purposefully neglect to develop a talent because someone else you know is not as talented? I would certainly hope not. More importantly, there doesn't have to be any losers in life. What does it mean for you to succeed in life? I guarantee there is someone else with a different answer. A person's success can be measured in two ways: 1) against their own idea of success, 2) against someone else's idea. Therefore, if you don't base your success on how you're doing relative to others, then the fair (see above) success of others will not negatively affect you. Too often people incorrectly judge the success of an individual against the success of others declaring one a winner. That is a recipe for envy and unhappiness.
Tangent alert...return to topic Angry Er, my bad.

Everything that occurs between two or more people is a "game"; that's what game theory is about. Economics and game theory are linked on a basic level.

You can't make everyone start at the same place, even in a game, but that doesn't mean you can't balance things. Prussia and the Ottoman Empire in Empire: Total War start with vastly different starting circumstances in terms of territory, goals, enemies, infrastructure, technology, religion, trade opportunities, etc...yet they are very well balanced and have a similar difficulty level.

Allowing someone else to become a little more competetive is not the same as not developing my own skills, especially if you are operating under the premise that wealth creation is not a zero-sum game.

While I'm all for measuring success on a personal level instead of in comparison to others, a free market economy undermines that. In practical terms, success in a capitalist economy is measured in an absolute and universal value: money. Personal feelings of wealth do not reliably produce positive effects for the economy on the same scale as plain ol' resource acquisition. A drug dealer might feel that he is "wealthy" by his personaly standard, but is he successful? When asked, a troubling amount of students choose their careers and majors based on what the market values, not on what skills they personally have. People quote the average financial return on a specific degree instead of looking at what field they actually have a comparative advantage in.

Certain people are equipped to handle certain tasks and excel at them better, no? However, not all jobs are valued the same because they all produce different amounts of money. Thus, certain people, if they follow their personal skills, will always have less economic power than other people that did the exact same thing because different businesses have different levels they can grow to because the economy values services and products at different levels. A chef that wants to actually cook food can be the best damn chef in history, but he will never have as much economic power as a Walmart executive of less skill, training, and drive. To bring back the earlier example, this essentially means that I'm locked out of the rights of the very rich because my personal skills do not conform to the market. I don't propose to know a solution to this at the moment, as it is a problem inherent to systems themselves, but it is nevertheless an issue worthy of concern.

BlueLogic wrote:What kind of diversity are you referring to? I'm not quite understanding your meaning.

Employee diversity. If more employees of different backgrounds and skills have opportunities to enter the higher levels of the workforce, the employee market becomes more competetive. More competition is supposed to be a good thing, correct?

BlueLogic wrote:
I won't argue the premise here; My argument doesn't rely on the general intelligence of the people,

Oh, you may not realize it, but the entire argument that a free market is not exploitative is based upon the idea that people are generally intelligent and hard to deceive. The entire premise of "freedom" in a totally free market is that the consumers will be able to stop exploitative practices on their own without outside help. The second you cannot prove that premise, the system breaks down. The direct incentive to businesses then becomes "what can I get people to buy?" instead of "what can I make that people will need?"

People follow incentives, to the exclusion of anything else. If you incentivize the acquisition of wealth, people will acquire wealth. Our elections incentivize electability, so the most electable people win. There are correlative factors that go along with such behaviors that might be more of what you are actually looking for, such as how electable people tend to have charisma and leadership qualities. However, it's the incentivized traits that always wins out in the end because the people that can maximize them will always be stronger in the system than people without them.

Adam Smith wrote Wealth of Nations when game theory did not exist, and he was writing under the presumption of a system of agents working in a system with perfect competition. Under that premise, he is correct. However, perfect competition requires that firms face no costs of entry or exit into markets, there are no economies of scale, and that no agents' actions have unintended side-effects on other agents' well-being. You can't have perfect competition though.

To quote the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy entry on Game Theory:
"Economists always recognized that this set of assumptions is purely an idealization for purposes of analysis, not a possible state of affairs anyone could try (or should want to try) to attain. But until the mathematics of game theory matured near the end of the 1970s, economists had to hope that the more closely a market approximates perfect competition, the more efficient it will be. No such hope, however, can be mathematically or logically justified in general; indeed, as a strict generalization the assumption was shown to be false as far back as the 1950s."

BlueLogic wrote:but I would add that people do have one major factor in their favor that, in my mind, enables them to make better decisions for themselves than an agent of the government (or anyone in a position of power): motive. One doesn't have to rely on the benevolence of the decision maker if they are deciding for themselves. All of that is beside the point however. A person is free only to the degree that they can make decisions that affect their own lives. The ultimate purpose of our government is to protect the freedom of its citizens. Whenever our government takes on the additional responsibility of deciding how we should live our lives, it is undermining the very purpose for which it was created.

Once again, if you aren't giving representatives the power to actually decide anything in their fields of expertise, then why are we electing them? If my representative is just supposed to be exactly like me, then why do I need a representative? If I'm a CEO and I put someone in charge of a department and then never listen to him or let him use his expert judgment, why do I have a department head?

Hrothdane wrote:If the school system needed reform before, the internet age has made the need more necessary than ever.
BlueLogic wrote:I totally agree. A focus on critical thinking is desperately needed to help kids sift through the torrent of garbage we're all exposed to.

More agreement. Most excellent. Mwahahahaha

BlueLogic wrote:I'm sorry to hear things have been so rough for you and your mom. People down on their luck, by definition, do not deserve what they've gotten. Bad things happen to good people.

Your sympathy is appreciated, but I was not looking for it. I merely wanted to ground my explanation in something concrete from real life experience.

Hrothdane wrote:You will always get some people that abuse the system, but I could just as easily say the same of the rich, and when a billionaire cheats the system, he usually gets away with a lot more money than the guy milking a few hundred bucks a month out of welfare.
BlueLogic wrote:This is absolutely true.

That's why I think a government with a little bit of teeth is necessary. Individuals do not have the expertise or power to deal with corporations, and unions should be unnecessary.

BlueLogic wrote:
All true, however, the big difference between individual investors and government is that individuals often have an amount of capital proportional to their ability to invest it. If a person is not a wise investor, they will quickly be separated from their money. The government takes enormous amounts of money in the form of taxes, and those responsible for investing it are often appointed bureaucrats who, while hopefully experts in the field related to their investment area, have less to lose if the investment proves a failure than an individual investing their own money. Government has another advantage over individuals in that they can acquire additional funding from the people if and when an investment fails. Also, as I said before, those in power are often pressured or tempted to make decisions based on factors totally separate from the merits of the investment.

Politicians do have skin in the game, though. If you are properly giving oversight and removing people from office that make bad decisions, then they have plenty of incentive to perform well. Poor use of money is almost always brought up in elections and is often a reason that people will refuse to vote for a candidate. It's little different from a CEO who makes investments using the company and investors' money, except that the general public has power over his job instead of the board of directors.

Besides, individuals are often pressured or tempted to make decisions based on factors totally separate from the merits of the investment as well.

BlueLogic wrote:The problem isn't with whom we elect, or even what decisions they make. It is more what those we elect decide they should grant themselves the power to decide. Why should the mayor of New York have the power to make it illegal in his city to sell people soda in a cup of a certain size?


If someone does something they don't have powers to do, then government oversight is not strong enough, or we are not being clear enough on what powers people are actually supposed to have. If they have enough autonomy to actually do anything useful, we have to accept that they will occasionally do something stupid like the drink thing. Just like you can't expect individuals to never make mistakes, you can't expect government to never make them either. Granted, their mistakes have much larger consequences, but that's the reason we have to have a selective process for picking them and strong oversight. All you can do is tweak things as they come along and try to prevent the same mistakes from reoccurring.

BlueLogic wrote:
According to whom? For argument's sake I'll assume that a reputable survey was conducted which revealed that the vast majority of people answered that they didn't know what they actually wanted. I'd be willing to bet they wouldn't admit that to someone who intends to decide for them what they should want. Are human beings, who are so incapable of knowing their own heart, then better equipped to know someone else's? Regardless of the answer, no amount of evidence indicating "the people" to be wholly incapable of making the "right decision" (due to self deception or any other reason) should be construed to mean that the right to make decisions should be removed from them.

I'll drop the issue of self-knowledge for the moment because it's more of a discussion of philosophy, and I don't have the space or time to go into it properly.

To address one of your complaints though, what is good for an individual and what is good in general are two different things. The former is subjective and elusive, and the latter is objective (using the pragmatic standard of truth) and concrete. Principles of general good are easier to work with, though naturally subject to debate. That's why you debate them.


BlueLogic wrote:I agree with all of that, however, relying on "other people" is not at all the same as relying on government. Relying on other people is what people did before government decided to relieve us of that "burden". In many respects they've relieved us of that option.

I'm pretty sure the government is made up of people, unless something has changed recently. I would rather rely on people that I picked to rely on than just hope that someone is generous and vigilant enough to know whenever I need help and provide exactly what I need.

BlueLogic wrote:Such as? I mean, I would rather not deal with defending my home from invasion by a foreign power, or issuing currency for use in trade, so I can sympathize, but I'm curious what you're referring to.

Inter-state administration and bureacracy, schools, emergency relief, hospitals, garbage, law enforcement, proper corporate policing so I don't have to constantly check into these things myself, etc.... Honestly, I don't really want an increase in government power, just a restructuring and reapplication. In fact, in many areas I would like less.

Hrothdane wrote:If the government makes a particularly bad decision or several in a row, then they should be held accountable and replaced. All we can do is figure out better ways to do that. As I said before, if that isn't good enough, then the very concept of a republic is not good enough for us on the most basic level and we should transition to become a direct democracy.

BlueLogic wrote:Like I said, I appreciate the virtues of representative government. It's the expansion of the purview of government that I would like reversed.

I would prefer something more like Germany or the Scandinavian countries.

BlueLogic wrote:While you make an excellent point about the difference in the nature of those two "fields" and what kind of people may be drawn into them, I wouldn't make a generalization of the motivations of businessmen versus those of public servants. It's largely beside the point. I'm far more suspicious of those in government because they don't have to persuade me to part with my money.

I'm not in principle because I actually have some input on government elections, but I don't on corporations. Also, I'm more suspicious of people that are trying to persuade me because they are trying to persuade me.

BlueLogic wrote: [quote="Hrothdane]
It's not a struggle if one side doesn't even realize there is a war going on; that's a slaughter.
I'm not sure what your meaning is here.[/quote][/quote]

People can't struggle for truth if they don't realize they have to struggle for it. People generally trust what they are told as long as it corresponds to their preexisting beliefs.

BlueLogic wrote:I largely agree, but so long as the capacity and motivation to lie remains part of the human condition, I can't imagine there will ever be "something more objective and universal".

That's why I said more objective and universal. Perhaps a better explanation would be to use Hume's principle of proportioning belief to evidence and rely upon what has the most evidence. Principles of logic, science, and universal experience are superior evidence to anecdotes.

BlueLogic wrote:
*fist pumps in the air*

:D

BlueLogic wrote:
It does seem like campaign "season" is improperly named.

It most certainly is.

BlueLogic wrote:
It is a major problem. I think if we moved many of the critical decisions the federal government has taken upon itself to decide back to the states (or the people for that matter), then we would have far less of a problem. Basically, the less you decide, the easier it is to get more people to agree with you. If the federal government was just in charge of defense, monetary policy, actual "inter" state trade (as opposed to the expanded definition currently in operation), and a few other obvious things I'm forgetting (lol), then people would look at presidential candidates (and other federal elected officials) in a whole new light. They wouldn't be asking themselves, "Am I going to lose my health insurance", "is this guy going to try and end legal abortion", "how will by business be affected", or a host of other things. It would be something closer to "will this candidate protect our country from its enemies", and "are they going to make our deficit and debt problem any better". The rest would vary by state, just like it is supposed to. Then people can vote with their feet and move if they don't like what their state is doing. States would get the message when they start losing people and make adjustments. The federal government isn't subject to that kind of feedback. Instead, they get election results like you mentioned.

You would just trade power to the corporations. Walmart's revenue last fiscal year was twenty billion dollars more than the entire gross state product of Virginia, one of the most economically successful states in the country, and Walmart wasn't even number one on corporate revenue. We already have 90% of American media controlled by 232 executives split between six companies. Most rural states are in the red financially already and thus open control by people with money. You have to have a government large enough and powerful enough to check corporate power, and independant enough to not be complicit in it.

BlueLogic wrote:Aside from the fact that the liberal vs. conservative divide hardly mirrors the geographic divide of the Civil War, that would have been a world changing disaster. First of all, the federal government was created largely in an effort to maintain peace amongst the individual states. There is little reason to think that, had the South simply seceded from the union, war would not have inevitably broken out anyway in the future. Then, had the United States and the Confederacy been left as separate entities, who's to say how the world wide conflicts of the twentieth century would have played out differently. Then there's the matter of slavery. One would hope that it would have been abolished eventually in the Confederacy, but how much longer would people have had to live in bondage? No, there is no measure of political homogeny that would come close to justifying the loss of the United States as we know it.

Like I said, I merely ponder the issue at times; I have no definite opinion yet. I was actually referring more to the size of the country, not differences in political views. If Reconstruction had been allowed to finish, we might have less of an issue. The Confederacy was a police state under perpetual martial law for its entire existence, and would have likely remained so, so believe me, I have no fondness of it.

As a side note, political party affiliation historically has been primarily based upon geography, with the ideology being just what the people in a certain region favored. Only in the latter half of the twentieth century did ideology supplant geography as the primary determinant of party affliation.

BlueLogic wrote:Well thanks for spending so much of your spring break discussing politics with us! :)

It's been a pleasure. I feel we may be reaching the point that we might just have to agree to disagree on a number of subjects, but it is an amiable disagreement thus far, and I could ask for little more.

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Hrothdane
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Re: What's Wrong With America?

Post by BlueLogic on Sat Mar 23, 2013 4:20 am

Hrothdane wrote:
BlueLogic wrote:Well thanks for spending so much of your spring break discussing politics with us!
It's been a pleasure. I feel we may be reaching the point that we might just have to agree to disagree on a number of subjects, but it is an amiable disagreement thus far, and I could ask for little more.
Indeed. I feel the same way. It's great to hear a thoughtful reasoned argument. Nothing is better for developing one's own ideas than to have to examine, explain, and defend them. Thanks again Happy
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Re: What's Wrong With America?

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