Relative vs absolute wealth

Author: rbelivb ,

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  • rbelivb
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    If given the choice to:
    • reduce the gap and make various groups in society have a more even amount of influence and wealth, or
    • increase the absolute level of wealth in society,
    It is better in my opinion to even out the gap rather than increasing the absolute level.

    Even if someone's absolute level of comfort is quite high, their life will feel meaningless if they have no influence socially.

    What do you think?
  • HistoryBuff
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    --> @rbelivb
    I think the kind of wealth gap that exists now is extremely dangerous. There is a group of people that simply do not have the rules apply to them and have massively outsized influence. A politician is always (in most cases) going to take the call of a wealthy donor over the call of a poor person. Wealth isn't just some abstract thing that certain people have. It is power. If you create a society where a few dozen people have more wealth than hundreds of millions of their fellow countrymen, you create a system where the people become powerless. All the power rests in the hands a relatively few oligarchs. Bloomberg is trying to leverage that wealth right now to seize power and protect his interests. 

    The wider this gap gets the bigger the threat. Billionaires are a threat to democracy. 
  • Alec
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    --> @rbelivb
    I'd rather increase the absolute level of wealth in society.  If $10,000 went randomly out to 100 people, assuming no inflation, they are more likely to go to the poor than the rich.  The way to get rich isn't by making the rich poor.  It's by getting the poor richer.

  • bmdrocks21
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    I think the goal should be to make everyone better off than they were before. I don’t understand why we should consider how envious the poor may be of the rich people’s wealth.

    If I can provide for my needs and some wants, why should I care that Bill Gates, a man much more innovative and ambitious than myself, is much more successful than me?
  • rbelivb
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    --> @Alec
    If $10,000 went randomly out to 100 people, assuming no inflation, they are more likely to go to the poor than the rich.
    I don't get it, if anything wouldn't giving $10,000 to 100 random people even out the wealth, rather than widening the gap?

    The way to get rich isn't by making the rich poor.  It's by getting the poor richer.
    It's about how people feel meaning based upon how much influence and power they have in their own decisions and how socially valued they are. Many people would sleep in a less comfortable bed, eat less tasty food, and so on, if it meant they could live a more meaningful life. If a small group of billionaires have such an outsized influence that the ideas and decisions of the poorer group are ultimately inconsequential, then their lives will start to seem pointless whatever their absolute level of wealth is.
  • Alec
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    --> @rbelivb
    I don't get it, if anything wouldn't giving $10,000 to 100 random people even out the wealth, rather than widening the gap?
    No.  It supplies everyone with $10,000 extra dollars if they are lucky enough.  Why do people say income inequality is bad?  If John has $1 and Mike has $3, that's better off than if both people had 50 cents because there is more overall wealth.

    It's about how people feel meaning based upon how much influence and power they have in their own decisions and how socially valued they are.
    I'm pretty sure poor people don't want money to get more influence and power in society.  They want to survive.  

    If a small group of billionaires have such an outsized influence that the ideas and decisions of the poorer group are ultimately inconsequential, then their lives will start to seem pointless whatever their absolute level of wealth is.
    I don't see this happening.  Poor people still value their lives.  Everyone who is not suicidal values their lives.
  • rbelivb
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    --> @bmdrocks21
    If I can provide for my needs and some wants, why should I care that Bill Gates, a man much more innovative and ambitious than myself, is much more successful than me?
    Because beyond mere survival, most of people's needs and wants are based on their ability to meaningfully contribute to and influence the society they live within. Maybe you had an idea for a tech product, but Microsoft has so much leverage in that industry that they can price you out of the market, even though their product is less innovative. So instead you need to get a job sweeping the floors of a building owned by Microsoft. Maybe you can still provide your needs and some wants, and maybe your life is even more stable and comfortable than it would have been as an entrepeneur, but your life would be much less meaningful.
  • Greyparrot
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    Tell that to Epstein and Harvey Weinstein.
  • HistoryBuff
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    Tell that to Epstein and Harvey Weinstein.
    they abused women and children for decades. Government agencies chose to look the other way for them on many occasions before the evidence became so obvious they couldn't avoid it.

    No one without large amounts of money and influence could have gotten away with those crimes for so long. 


  • HistoryBuff
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    oh, and also, neither one of them was a billionaire. who knows what kind of preferential treatment they could have bought with just a bit more money. 
  • TheDredPriateRoberts
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    --> @rbelivb
    talk about power and influence, not so much about the money.  People like Gates, Oprah few others don't use their power as a sword, not to any real extent that I know of, yet they have lots of money.  Blaming the money is like blaming the gun.  Imagine if Gates had been taxed to some lower level, would he then paid for all those vaccines for children?  maybe not.  I very much dislike the influence the powerful have over the rest of us.  Influence peddling has been a huge problem and I don't see it ever ending.  In this current culture if you aren't a protected class you are nothing which if obvious if you see the sickening pandering that is constanting broadcasted.

    what I find a bit concerning, since this influencing IS a problem (huge) why would people want more government control?  Just doesn't make sense does it?  Whomever candidate you think is immune to this influence won't be president forever so why even risk it?

    Putting all your eggs in one basket knowing the fox is right outside the door....well that's just stupid.

  • Greyparrot
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    Rich people come and go, but government control is eternal.
  • Tradesecret
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    --> @rbelivb
    If given the choice to:
    • reduce the gap and make various groups in society have a more even amount of influence and wealth, or
    • increase the absolute level of wealth in society,
    It is better in my opinion to even out the gap rather than increasing the absolute level.

    Even if someone's absolute level of comfort is quite high, their life will feel meaningless if they have no influence socially.

    What do you think?

    I agree with the second choice. I don't hold to the view that the disparity between rich and poor is such a bad thing. I agree that more wealth may well provide  more  influence and therefore power. Again I don't think that a disparity between influence and less influence is a bad thing. Also, I disagree with the notion that ALL people find meaning in influence. People find meaning in all sorts of things: family, religion, politics, altruism, education, recreation, nature, their own work. I think to suggest that people who find meaning in influence, especially if it arises by how much wealth you have, is the same thing as suggesting that money is the root of all happiness. I can't in good conscience subscribe to that position. 

    Increasing wealth altogether increases the wealth of all. The alternative to this leads only to the increase of wealth for the State and therefore even more influence by the State. I am a believer in small government. I think we should reduce the wealth of the State to reduce its influence. Currently the State is the wealthiest person in this country. And the disparity between the State and the next richest person or company is so large and so wide it makes the wealth of someone like Bill Gates pale into insignificance.  
  • TheDredPriateRoberts
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    --> @Greyparrot
    very astute, can anyone think of something the government gave up control over?  anyone?  anyone?  Bueller?
  • bmdrocks21
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    --> @rbelivb
    Because beyond mere survival, most of people's needs and wants are based on their ability to meaningfully contribute to and influence the society they live within. Maybe you had an idea for a tech product, but Microsoft has so much leverage in that industry that they can price you out of the market, even though their product is less innovative. So instead you need to get a job sweeping the floors of a building owned by Microsoft. Maybe you can still provide your needs and some wants, and maybe your life is even more stable and comfortable than it would have been as an entrepeneur, but your life would be much less meaningful.

    I support anti-trust laws, so........ yeah.

    This is why we have banks: to loan entrepreneurs money. If you have a bad idea or bad credit history, you aren't likely to get money. Otherwise, you can. Also, those dastardly rich people you are complaining about engage in a nice little thing called venture capital, where they invest in startups. Middle class people cannot do that, but the rich can. If you get rid of the rich/big firms, which is obviously what you intend to do, venture capital may cease to exist.

  • rbelivb
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    --> @bmdrocks21
    This is why we have banks: to loan entrepreneurs money. If you have a bad idea or bad credit history, you aren't likely to get money. Otherwise, you can. Also, those dastardly rich people you are complaining about engage in a nice little thing called venture capital, where they invest in startups. Middle class people cannot do that, but the rich can. If you get rid of the rich/big firms, which is obviously what you intend to do, venture capital may cease to exist.
    This would mean that their ability to act on their ideas depends upon the bankers or investors who ultimately make the decision. This ultimately limits the range of companies which can be started versus if individuals had enough resources to invest in their own ideas.
  • bmdrocks21
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    --> @rbelivb
    So, you want to steal money from people that earned it in order to subsidize their competition? Nice, bro!

    Banks want to make money. They will loan money to people with good ideas that will likely make that money back. Also, you are completely ignoring the fact that not everyone can be Bill Gates.

    If only they had some more money! They wouldn't waste it on the newest iPhone or a pair of Jordan's. Their bad saving habits and other bad life choices like not finishing high school obviously have nothing to do with their impoverished conditions, correct? It is those nasty, innovative entrepreneurs that offer cheaper, better products/services who are keeping them down!

  • rbelivb
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    So, you want to steal money from people that earned it in order to subsidize their competition?
    If a company like Microsoft has cooperated with mass surveillance or any privacy breach of their customers, then some means may be needed that go beyond taxation. For something like Faceboook, legislation could force them to make their code fully open source, and their copyright ownership could be revoked. Also, to make the internet more equitable overall, peering connections could be made illegal for any firm connected in any way to the state.

    Banks want to make money. They will loan money to people with good ideas that will likely make that money back. Also, you are completely ignoring the fact that not everyone can be Bill Gates.
    It is a question what we trust more: the judgment of some individual, or the free market. An individual investor naturally has a bias against risk: a very different, innovative idea might have a higher potential payoff, but it is a riskier investment than a derivative, predictable idea. They also have a bias against any company which would directly compete with their own company, or those they are affiliated with.

    If only they had some more money! They wouldn't waste it on the newest iPhone or a pair of Jordan's. Their bad saving habits and other bad life choices like not finishing high school obviously have nothing to do with their impoverished conditions, correct? It is those nasty, innovative entrepreneurs that offer cheaper, better products/services who are keeping them down!
    First, it is a misconception to claim that, simply because someone's bad outcomes follow from their decisions, then we should not try to improve their condition. Much of the time, people under worse conditions will also make worse decisions. If you are deep in debt, you live in a bad neighbourhood, and so on, you will be more likely to be depressed, which will make you more likely to waste money, and so on. People's decisions are conditioned by their circumstances.

    Second, the current economy is hardly characterised by an abundance of innovative entrepeneurship. The "cheaper" products and services (Facebook, Google etc) are often "free" on the surface, but are really paid for by the data they harvest, which allows them to funnel customers into a narrow range of products and services and solidify their monopolies.

    No one is different from another person! Everyone has the exact same IQ/critical thinking abilities, creativity, and ambition! How could I have forgotten this?!?
    IQ is generally only a useful measure of someone's ability to succeed in following pre-established (and culturally conditioned) rulesets, but does not very accurately predict innovation, creativity and entrepeneurship. For instance, an IQ test might establish how well someone will perform when hired to work for someone else at a conventional job, but it is not at all established to predict their ability to run their own business or work independently as an entrepeneur.
  • rbelivb
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    --> @Alec
    No.  It supplies everyone with $10,000 extra dollars if they are lucky enough.  Why do people say income inequality is bad?  If John has $1 and Mike has $3, that's better off than if both people had 50 cents because there is more overall wealth.
    If John and Mike were the only two people in the world, then inflation would make the 50c as valuable as the dollar.

    I'm pretty sure poor people don't want money to get more influence and power in society.  They want to survive.  
    This is another example of the effects of being poor. If a poor person is employed by a more powerful company, then their wellbeing and decisions are predicated upon the judgment of that company. Then they need constantly to worry about survival and cannot make decisions for themselves.

    I don't see this happening.  Poor people still value their lives.  Everyone who is not suicidal values their lives.
    If everything you contribute to the world is dictated by someone else, and all you can focus on is survival, would that not feel like a pretty meaningless life?
  • Alec
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    If John and Mike were the only two people in the world, then inflation would make the 50c as valuable as the dollar.

    Assuming no inflation.  Basicly, if 2 people's lives get better, with one person benefiting more since they earned it by contributing to society significantly, or neither person getting a better life.  I'd pick the former situation.

    If a poor person is employed by a more powerful company, then their wellbeing and decisions are predicated upon the judgment of that company. 
    The poor person is probably fine with that, otherwise they would switch jobs to something that pays them better or start their own business so they can hire other people.  There should be less regulations so this is easier to do for businesses.

    If everything you contribute to the world is dictated by someone else, and all you can focus on is survival, would that not feel like a pretty meaningless life?
    I doubt it.  Low income people have lives outside of work, so they can use that to hang out with friends.  They also can start their own business if they wanted.  I would encourage them to do that to create more jobs and to reduce unemployment.
  • bmdrocks21
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    --> @rbelivb
    If a company like Microsoft has cooperated with mass surveillance or any privacy breach of their customers, then some means may be needed that go beyond taxation. For something like Faceboook, legislation could force them to make their code fully open source, and their copyright ownership could be revoked. Also, to make the internet more equitable overall, peering connections could be made illegal for any firm connected in any way to the state.



    In what world is it a good idea to force companies to license out their intellectual property?

    It is a question what we trust more: the judgment of some individual, or the free market. An individual investor naturally has a bias against risk: a very different, innovative idea might have a higher potential payoff, but it is a riskier investment than a derivative, predictable idea. They also have a bias against any company which would directly compete with their own company, or those they are affiliated with.

    Sorry, bro, but banks are part of the market. "One individual" is a gross mischaracterization of banking. You think that the one person listening to the entrepreneur's idea is the only one with bearing on the situation at that bank? Additionally, do you really think that there is only one bank to go to? You said "one individual" as though this person isn't an employee of a company that wants to turn a profit and that they have one option. Kinda silly.

    You also completely ignored the venture capital point. Multiple investors (investing is a huge part of the MARKET) come together and fund large projects. People invest in crazy projects all the time with huge profit potential. They invested in Ventria, which put human proteins in rice to cure diharrea. I would be shocked if you considered that a "predictable" idea with little risk.

    First, it is a misconception to claim that, simply because someone's bad outcomes follow from their decisions, then we should not try to improve their condition. Much of the time, people under worse conditions will also make worse decisions. If you are deep in debt, you live in a bad neighbourhood, and so on, you will be more likely to be depressed, which will make you more likely to waste money, and so on. People's decisions are conditioned by their circumstances.

    Second, the current economy is hardly characterised by an abundance of innovative entrepeneurship. The "cheaper" products and services (Facebook, Google etc) are often "free" on the surface, but are really paid for by the data they harvest, which allows them to funnel customers into a narrow range of products and services and solidify their monopolies.
    You are very unlikely to end up in poverty if you: finish high school, have kids AFTER marriage, and you have a full-time job. If you cannot do those three easy things for yourself, no amount of stealing from the rich and redistributing wealth could ever fix your predicament. My point isn't that we shouldn't attempt to help these people's positions. We should work to bring jobs that give them the ability to climb out of their position. I don't think that giving them blank checks that they didn't earn is a good way to do that. My point is also that wealth inequality is permanent because people are different, and that any attempt to handicap successful people and give it to poor decision-makers is a terrible plan.

    So, you think that Google and Facebook are just able to manipulate people into buying their products? People aren't capable of shopping around and buy anything they see an ad for? Sure there are plenty of dumb people, but to make such a broad statement is quite foolish.

    IQ is generally only a useful measure of someone's ability to succeed in following pre-established (and culturally conditioned) rulesets, but does not very accurately predict innovation, creativity and entrepeneurship. For instance, an IQ test might establish how well someone will perform when hired to work for someone else at a conventional job, but it is not at all established to predict their ability to run their own business or work independently as an entrepeneur.


    And I mentioned other measures such as ambition and creativity. As soon as you realize that not everyone who paints a lot can be the next Michelangelo and every computer geek cannot become Bill Gates simply because not everyone is that intelligent and market savy, you will understand how untenable your position really is. 
  • rbelivb
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    --> @bmdrocks21
    In what world is it a good idea to force companies to license out their intellectual property?
    In the world in which they formed a monopoly and then cooperated with domestic surveillance programs to use that property to invade the privacy of users against their will.

    Sorry, bro, but banks are part of the market.
    It would be missing a big part of the picture to say "banks are part of the market" and therefore equate deliberations by banks as equivalent to purchasing decisions subject to the normal supply and demand fluctuations which would occur in other markets. Sure, even states are "part of the market" in a sense, but their decisions are not subject to market forces in the same way as an independent private firm or individual. The position of banks in the market is largely determined by state intervention.

    Insurance companies are "part of the market" too, but would you argue that their incentives to maximise profits are well aligned with the best interests of their customers?

    You are very unlikely to end up in poverty if you: finish high school, have kids AFTER marriage, and you have a full-time job. If you cannot do those three easy things for yourself, no amount of stealing from the rich and redistributing wealth could ever fix your predicament. My point isn't that we shouldn't attempt to help these people's positions. We should work to bring jobs that give them the ability to climb out of their position. I don't think that giving them blank checks that they didn't earn is a good way to do that.
    It is ironic that you don't see these as related: you resent those who would take welfare, yet you defend the same system that produces welfare dependency in the first place. In other words, you defend the majority of jobs being reduced to rote tasks under the employment of some supposed genius CEO - jobs that are easily automated or replaced subject to the judgments of management. You say in the same paragraph that they should "do those things for themselves" yet also imply that the jobs don't exist for them to "climb" into.

    So, you think that Google and Facebook are just able to manipulate people into buying their products? People aren't capable of shopping around and buy anything they see an ad for? Sure there are plenty of dumb people, but to make such a broad statement is quite foolish.
    It's not just that they hypnotise people into randomly buying their product. Rather, they invest heavily into data harvesting which allows them to precisely target users and gain an edge which is almost impossible for the competition to overcome. They then share this information with whatever government agencies request it.

    For example:

    And I mentioned other measures such as ambition and creativity. As soon as you realize that not everyone who paints a lot can be the next Michelangelo and every computer geek cannot become Bill Gates simply because not everyone is that intelligent and market savy, you will understand how untenable your position really is. 
    If you were to argue that differences in wealth should be only proportionally as wide as differences in measures of competence such as IQ, this gap would be orders of magnitude smaller than the gap between today's elite and the majority of ordinary people. Even the highest IQ genius is not 125 billion times more competent and capable of discerning innovative, good ideas, than the average person.
  • Outplayz
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    --> @rbelivb
    I think if anything... no one deserves to be a wage slave. If someone is working for you for 40 hours (or more) of their life, they deserve at the very least enough money to be able to take care of themselves. 

    Now this is nuanced and subject to some arguments, but overall that's my view. I look at it as a future human. What would humans in 100 or little more years look back and think we were crazy about and/or immoral... i think wage slavery will be one of those things. Possibly to the same effect of actual slavery.  
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    Well said. 
  • bmdrocks21
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    --> @rbelivb
    In the world in which they formed a monopoly and then cooperated with domestic surveillance programs to use that property to invade the privacy of users against their will.


    We agree that monopolies and private companies colluding with government surveillance agencies is bad. That should all be rectified, but I have yet to see how essentially providing "reparations" will in any way help the problem.

    It would be missing a big part of the picture to say "banks are part of the market" and therefore equate deliberations by banks as equivalent to purchasing decisions subject to the normal supply and demand fluctuations which would occur in other markets. Sure, even states are "part of the market" in a sense, but their decisions are not subject to market forces in the same way as an independent private firm or individual. The position of banks in the market is largely determined by state intervention.

    Insurance companies are "part of the market" too, but would you argue that their incentives to maximise profits are well aligned with the best interests of their customers?
    Maximizing profits in no way inherently a bad thing. It can lead to bad results. Insurance companies in their states essentially have monopolies over large regions, which is why the incentive to profit is going unchecked and leading to bad results. If there was competition, they would have to rely on getting more customers to gain a larger market share. How do you steal market share from competitors? You either lower prices or raise the quality of your product/service. So, in terms of monopolies, profit maximization can be bad. In a competitive market, it is an amazing incentive that works for consumers.

    And the reason banks aren't subjected to as many market forces wouldn't generally be on the hands of conservatives. You have FDR to thank for that. Many small banks that aren't "too big to fail" are, though, as they will face harsh consequences for mismanagement of assets and won't receive bailouts.

    It is ironic that you don't see these as related: you resent those who would take welfare, yet you defend the same system that produces welfare dependency in the first place. In other words, you defend the majority of jobs being reduced to rote tasks under the employment of some supposed genius CEO - jobs that are easily automated or replaced subject to the judgments of management. You say in the same paragraph that they should "do those things for themselves" yet also imply that the jobs don't exist for them to "climb" into.

    I am saying that graduating, working, and not having kids out of wedlock are very important and currently they will help you escape poverty. However, I think it is important to also fight job-killing regulations and high taxes that limit the availability of said full-time jobs.

    It's not just that they hypnotise people into randomly buying their product. Rather, they invest heavily into data harvesting which allows them to precisely target users and gain an edge which is almost impossible for the competition to overcome. They then share this information with whatever government agencies request it.

    Well, if they are using data to find something that will satisfy a want or need of a consumer, that isn't necessarily a bad thing. However, if the price is too high, they will still shop around and look at competitor's products if they have an inkling of intelligence in them. I'm assuming that people don't just buy a computer or car just because one got advertised to them once on the internet, but I could be wrong. Still against government invasion of privacy.

    If you were to argue that differences in wealth should be only proportionally as wide as differences in measures of competence such as IQ, this gap would be orders of magnitude smaller than the gap between today's elite and the majority of ordinary people. Even the highest IQ genius is not 125 billion times more competent and capable of discerning innovative, good ideas, than the average person.

    You are focusing way too hard on the whole "IQ" thing. Everyone is unique. Just because you have a high IQ doesn't mean you deserve more money or less money. There are many different ways to compare people. If you aren't the smartest guy, but you are very creative and ambitious, you could still make a lot of money. You should be given more or less money based on how well you use the skills that you are given, not based purely on what skills you possess. It is just that, generally speaking, those with higher IQ's will be able to take on more difficult tasks that pay more because of the value they create.