Utopia has never been tried!

I was having a discussion with a utopian communist, one of those fellows who insists real communism has never been tried. (As if Stalin were somehow different from what Engels angry rhetoric did not amply and clearly imply all along).

His comment:

“The trouble is, market forces encourage mainly looking out for number one.”

I pointed out that my employers give to charity, and this is done out of the very community spirit he supposes will animate all human interaction in the Utopia, once the state withers away of its own accord. My comment:

Do you know how much money the huge, faceless, corporation for which I work gives out to charity? Do you have any idea to what lengths huge, faceless corporations will go to secure the good will of the community?

It is exactly that good will that is absent from the dull, sterile faces of every bored bureaucrat at the DMV you meet, who has lost your file and won’t look it up. The state does not need your good will.

The conversation had been polite up until that point. Then, of course, he has to sneer at my company. His comment again:

“How much money does your corporation give out to charity? And why exactly would they want to secure the good will of the community? I doubt it’s due to their love of humanity. Rather, I suspect it is to encourage the community to keep spending its money buying things from said corporation.

and I do not equate communism with a bigger state. In my view, the state would get shrunk as much as possible, and the bureaucrats disbanded. More citizen participation, less remote government bureaucracy.
” (italics mine).

My comment here:

Ahh…. I see.

Son, I would wager that you have never even talked to these people, much less discovered how to read their minds.

The motivation, for a number of them, is both simpler and less mercenary than you suspect: it is bad publicity to lack community spirit. These men, at least a sizable number of them, are grateful for the wealth bestowed on them, and they want to share their largess in worthy causes.

If they are doing it merely as advertising, a simple cost-benefit analysis would show the same amount of money would yield more customers if spent on advertising.

Marxism is simplistic. It reduces all the complexities of life into simple cartoony black-and-white issues. Capitalists look like Rich Uncle Pennybags from the Monopoly Game, and they are always badguys, but badguys with less personality than the average comic book villain. You do not even attribute to Uncle Pennybags the complex motivations of Magneto the Mutant. Goodguy are always poor, helpless, exploited victims, and never poor but honest laborers who understand the value of an honest day’s work, and are grateful for their wages.

Marxism is a world composed of two groups: Scrooge in a silk top hat and Tiny Tim in rags. There is no such thing as an honest hand, a good foreman, an honest boss, a self-made man, a guy who working in his basement invented something (like a computer operating system) that everyone wants, and which did not exist on the planet before him. Because the two groups that exist in Marxism do not exist in America, because we never see them or meet them, Marxism has never caught on here.

A Utopian Marxist think society can endure without specialization of labor, or the price system; unlike a Statist Marxist, (someone who has read and understood what Marx and Engels were really after) the Utopian believes the ballyhoo and hooey, and thinks one can run a nation without private ownership of property, private responsibilities, but also without coercion and without government. In real life, one cannot even run a factory on those terms; one might be able to run a lemonade stand, but only if a kindly mother provided the lemons and the stand.

Imagine two hundred men being dropped into the middle of Robinson Crusoe’s island. There are immediate tasks to be done and resourceson which human labor must be expended if any are to survive. Even if the men at first are tableau rasa, they will develop different useful skills in a short time: one man will angle for fish in the lagoon while another climbs trees for coconuts, and learn tricks of their trade that it simply takes too long to tell or teach another man. One man will discover a simpler way of doing tasks than another. One man will work harder than another. So each man’s skills will develop an area where, quite possibly, he will have something his neighbors want, and they will each have things he wants. In a rational and moral universe (under conditions of liberty) they trade, each swap being voluntary on both sides, and each gaining what that man in his own estimation, considers the best option given the circumstances.

Now imagine this band of two hundred trying to organize even a simple effort without government, without a tribal hetman, without private property, without laws, without even the unwritten laws or ‘taboos’ of hunter-gatherers. Who would clean up and bury the dung? Who digs the latrine?

Let us suppose they gather from all over the island (at great pains, the remote fishermen making the journey inland) an sit in a huge circle, all talking at once. Do they have a chairman? Do they vote? No, for these things would be freedom; instead, in Utopia, they come to a magical unity of priorities by magical means. Maybe the dialectic of history descends from heaven on a cloud in the shape of  a dove or something. Let us suppose that ten of the two hundred men are members of some despised minority, cannibals or pederasts or Christian Evangelists or Jews. You cannot tell me the one hundred ninety will for some reason spare the Jews from hatred and contempt: if there is one constant in human history, it is that the goyim will always turn on the Chosen People whenever things are bad. How are our Two Hundred going to share everything in prelapsarian peace and love when they hate each other? You can work for a man  you hate (people do that more often than not) because he pays a wage. You may not like the boss but you like the wage. But why would you share everything with a man you hate?

Let us make the hypothetical more interesting. There is lame man among them who knows how to nap flint into spearheads. In conditions of liberty, he can swap his flints, which are useful to the others, for food, which his lameness prevents him from getting without great pain and discomfort.  Suppose the lame man makes an agreement with the fisherman to swap, and one cheats the other, what then? Do you have no way to enforce the exchanges? I would say without an elder or leader or chief to enforce a simple rule of keeping one’s word, even a tribe a tribe of honest men would soon disintegrate.

But in Utopia, what happens? Do you have officers called “sharers” who gather both flints and food and pass out each according to the (limited) information of the sharers? Even if they are not deliberately corrupt, how would they know who needs flints of various qualities and quantities and why? (I assume the paramours and children of the sharers get nicer things than the others.) Any one the sharer thinks unworthy of a fish or a yam that day, he goes hungry, even if he caught the fish. In that case, the state is the de facto owner of the man’s work: he is slave in all but name.
 
If two hundred is too small a number, if you think that the families involved could, by some effort of saintliness, cooperate without barter, and without laws or customs, without leaders, let us imagine scaling the operation up: imagine now a large island of two thousand men, or two hundred thousand, or two million. How do you gather for meetings then? How do you distribute the flints? How do you stop the cheaters and shirkers then?

Which man on the island would take the trouble to plant yams all spring, just to see his lazier neighbors descend on his fields like locusts that fall?

What if one man wants the whole community to build a fishing fleet of canoes and another wants the whole community to spend that same number of man-hours catching and domesticating wild sheep? In the communist paradise, where there is no leader, and no money and no market, how do the two men with two different (and mutually exclusive) ideas of what to do with the island’s resources decide the issue?

My reading of Marx does not answer this question. Marx says that the ideas and opinions of the islanders are molded by their means of production. If they live in primitive times, without tools, they have no means of production. How, then, are they conditioned?

Marx goes on to say that primitive tribal life creates and gives way to feudalism. So, if all these men are Marxists, the quickest way to go from primitive castaways to Socialism Paradise, would be to enter the feudal state as quickly as possible, isn’t it? The first thing real Marxists would do if stranded on an island is anoint a divine king, right? Or did I misunderstand the Marxist theory of how each historical stage evolves? 

Indeed, the only societies in history that practiced anything like a community of goods were monks or religious zealots in the new world. The Utopian experimental communities always failed in a generation. The monkish orders, I note, are still around, but this is precisely because their motivation is to live in holy poverty, and to neglect and eschew the lovely traps and baited snares of the material world. I note that a materialist socialist, someone who says (as Marx does) that socialism is more productive and more efficient in industry than capitalism, would never join a society of monks. His motives are the opposite: he thinks dismantling the price system will make all goods free. This is no more realistic than the daydream that in the land of Cockaigne the fountains run with wine and apple pies will fall from the sky. We might as well admit that Marxism is a violent millennial religion: it promises that, once all the exploiters are sacrificed in blood on the altar of Envy, the clouds will part, the historical dialectic will descend, and the streets of New Jerusalem will be paved with gold. All our tears will be wiped away, and men bend their swords into ploughshares. There will be no night and no day, and the Glory of Marx will cover the earth as waters cover the sea.

No, Marxism is a daydream meant only for industrialized societies, where the products of the labor of hard-working men is already at hand to loot and to share. There is no provision in Marxism for investment, even so much as the investment of a farmer in his next year’s crop. You will not believe that anyone who calls himself an economist can make such a glaring, bone-headed, elephantine mistake: but there it is. In the communist system, there is no such thing as seedcorn; no investment; no capital; no division of goods according to their time value, such that we do not consume something now that we might get more of something later. There are no trade-offs. There is no talk of economizing. In the communist Utopia, there is no dis utility of labor and no price system and no barter. There is nothing but a wishful hope that everything will simply spontaneously be abundant. In short, there is no economics at all in DAS KAPITAL. It is not a book that deals with the topic of economics. It is religious tract of a failed and deadly heresy, the most murderous in history.

It has had its chance: tens of millions and thousands of millions of corpses piled up in stinking pyramids across the black pages of history attest to its chance. It has been tried. Utopia is not an option.

When real community spirit is present, such as in the minds of industrialists (like Carnegy) who give unstintingly to charity, a Marxism must scoff and slander their motives. But why assume this community spirit will somehow allow a society so large thatnot every members knows each other member by sight — something over 200 men — to cooperate in perfect unity of goals, means, and priorities?

To answer your question, the Northrop Grumman Foundation, which is the charitable arm of Northrop Grumman announced a grant of $100,000 to the 57th annual California State Science Fair; donated $300,000 to the Jamestown-Yorktown foundation; $125,000 to the San Diego Futures foundation, and on and on. This foundation donates annually $35,841,600 to various charitable causes.

How much of your income do you give to charity? If it is less than a tenth, you are not even as charitable and community spirited as your average Christian who tithes in secret.

UPDATE:
My company just send around a notice telling us of blooddrives and children’s charities the employees can help out with. That was today, 7/29/08. Someone explain this to me in terms of the “Corporations are Heartless Dragons” theory. The theory does not fit the facts in evidence.

150 Comments

  1. Comment by marycatelli:

    American Exceptionalism

    Ironically enough, Marx admitted that the US wasn’t exhibiting the traits he described as determining other nations.

    He blamed the frontier.

  2. Comment by marycatelli:

    Holy poverty?

    I think the monks have something else going for them beside their poverty. After all, sad to say, there have been times when the monks in a good number of orders have not lived in poverty.

    But even then, reform was always possible, because to poverty and obedience, the monks add a vow of celibacy. They do not attempt to recruit their own children. They recruit their spiritual children, those who want to live by their vision.

  3. Comment by gillen:

    We never piled the corpses in pyramids, John. That would just look silly.

      • Comment by gillen:

        1. I think you’ll find the ossuaries for Khmer Rouge victims were set up long after the fact.

        2. I know the right loves to reference the Khmer Rouge in its hysterical commentaries on Communism, but it’s no more meaningful than citing the behaviour of the Ugandan Lord’s Army as a critique of Christianity.

        • Comment by superversive:

          So it’s ‘hysterical’ to point out that a Communist regime slaughters people by the million? Goodness gracious me, we must remember to have a measured response to such atrocities. Why, if we didn’t, we might think that such paragons of Communist virtue as Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Ho Chi Minh, and Kim Il Sung had also committed atrocities.

          As for the ‘Lord’s Army’, it is a risibly small guerrilla movement with not over 3,000 men in arms by the most generous estimate; it has neither seized control of a state nor seriously threatened to do so; and it pursues its grisly methods in a country where politics are normally carried on by such means. Or have you forgotten Idi Amin in your unseemly haste to find a Christian villain in the murderous squalor of Ugandan politics?

          • Comment by gillen:

            “So it’s ‘hysterical’ to point out that a Communist regime slaughters people by the million?”

            It’s hysterical to place the blame for those actions against the system of government.

            As much as I may despise it as an ideology, and despite the fact that I’m more than willing to point the finger and shout “j’accuse!” in order to win cheap points in an argument, I don’t seriously believe that Nationalism qua Nationalism is responsible for the muder of six million jews, even though those murders were perpetrated by nationalists at the behest of a nationalist government. Are to believe that Communism equates necessarily to mass murder? Must we then believe that Tito or Castro or Brezhnev have left behind vast fields of hundreds of thousands of undiscovered corpses somewhere?

            To borrow from the NRA, ideologies don’t kill people, people kill people.

            • Comment by superversive:

              Brezhnev didn’t dismantle the Gulag Archipelago, you know; political imprisonment, and the deaths of political prisoners in the camps, continued right until Gorbachev’s time. Castro had a lively system of prison camps of his own. As for Tito, his options were rather limited by the necessity of good PR to keep his status as a hero of the non-Communist Left. Would he have gone further given a free hand? Quite likely; he had been a member of Stalin’s NKVD and had participated in purges of the Yugoslavian Communist Party before WWII.

              In any case Pol Pot comes closer to being a typical Communist dictator than Tito, by a very wide margin. It takes longer to list the Communist regimes that committed mass atrocities than those that did not.

              • Comment by gillen:

                “Brezhnev didn’t dismantle the Gulag Archipelago, you know; political imprisonment, and the deaths of political prisoners in the camps, continued right until Gorbachev’s time.”

                What do you call Abu Ghraib? Guantanamo Bay? Every government has prisons and laws which, if violated, will land you in them. But it’s nice to know we’ve dispensed with the whole “millions of dead” arguments and are down to quibbling over the comparative justice in punishing crimes against the state.

                “Pol Pot comes closer to being a typical Communist dictator than Tito”

                Since you seem to have a caricature in mind, care to flesh out its qualities and how is is that in your mind Pol Pot fits that norm than the historically far greater numbers of non-genocidal Communist leaders?

        • Comment by oscillon:

          I wouldn’t describe myself as from the Right. I’m more or less off on the z-axis of the political spectrum. I think it is pretty obvious though that communism has resulted in disaster just about everywhere it’s been tried.

          • Comment by gillen:

            I would disagree, so I suspect that it’s not as obvious as you might think and more of an ideological position.

            • Comment by superversive:

              The U.S.S.R.: a minimum of 20 million dead as a direct result of Communist policies up to Stalin’s death in 1953, and many more afterwards.

              Communist China: tens of millions dead in prison camps, famines (the Great Leap Forward and other occasions), purges (the Cultural Revolution and others), etc., etc.

              Communist satellite regimes in Europe: mass murders in Poland (1956 and 1980), Hungary (1956), Czechoslovakia (1968), East Germany (passim, but especially the period of the Berlin Airlift and the casualties among those who tried to cross the Berlin Wall), Romania (whenever Ceausescu felt like a bloodbath).

              Communist Vietnam: enormous numbers killed in the aftermath of the Hanoi regime’s annexation of South Vietnam, plus endless bloodshed in the process of military conquest leading up to that annexation.

              Cambodia: over one million dead in the infamous ‘Killing Fields’, plus a great many more casualties when a Vietnamese-backed Communist regime ousted the Khmer Rouge.

              This is an ideological position?

              • Comment by gillen:

                “The U.S.S.R.: a minimum of 20 million dead as a direct result of Communist policies up to Stalin’s death in 1953, and many more afterwards.”

                Assuming that we count the civil war, the economic conversion, the famine of the 1930s (which non-collectivized farming would not have prevented, though I’ll grant you I shouldn’t have wanted to be a Ukrainian farmer holding out against the state under Papa Joe), WWII, the captured collaborators, fascists and prisoners of war, the Party purges and everyone who dropped dead of anything at all while away from their native soil during the Soviet regime then multiply by a random factor, sure… why not.

                And then we start just listing every revolution and revolt and blaming Communism for the fact that people died during it. What you seem to object to is violent political change and the effort to effect that change in the face of varying degrees of opposition. The fact is that the 20th century was characterized mostly by revolutions against the old colonial regimes. Many of these were Communist, presenting the starkest possible contrast both politically and economically to the previous regime. The greater the contrast, the greater the weight against change, the more force is required to secure that change and the greater the upheaval caused by doing so. Does that make Communism necessarily a harbinger of death?

                Yes, I call your selective citations and their linking to a political system an ideological position.

                • Comment by howling_wolf:

                  You’re not making any sense. First of all, the previous post did not list every revolution and attribute it to Communism. It used specifically Communist revolutions.

                  Second, the fact that “more force is required to secure that change” does not make for a good rationalization. Where is the example of the peaceful Communist takeover? Even democratic socialist countries like Italy resisted Communism. Heck, Germany, the supposed motherland of Communist thought, resisted Communism. Only where it got brutally violent was it able to succeed. So yeah, Communism as a harbinger of death is quite plausible.

                  I suspect your denial of even your so-called selective facts is the more ideological position.

                  • Comment by gillen:

                    “Where is the example of the peaceful Communist takeover?”

                    As I said, the greater the contrast, the greater the weight against change, the more force is required to secure that change and the greater the upheaval caused by doing so. However, I’d argue that the transfer of power from Lenin to Stalin was a peaceful Communist takeover. Insofar as it was a takeover of a communist regime by a differently-focused communist regime it was comparatively bloodless, and largely for the reasons I just cited.

                    “Germany, the supposed motherland of Communist thought, resisted Communism.”

                    With concentration camps and a declaration of war, as I recall.

                    • Comment by howling_wolf:

                      Communism taking over Communism was bloodless? Sure, since its one similar regime overtaking another. Kinda like how Democrats and Republicans often change places. Although, I do not recall Bush having Clinton men assassinated when he took over the White House.

                      “With concentration camps and a declaration of war, as I recall.”

                      Communism brings out the worst even in its enemies.

                      As for “weight against change”, considering how inhuman Communism is, I wouldn’t be surprised that it would face massive opposition.

                • Comment by sun_stealer:

                  So all those people had it coming and they would have died anyway, where have I heard those arguments before.

    • Comment by John C Wright:

      You mock the dead? You make light of how many MILLIONS the Reds have killed? You are a vermin, Gillen.

      When Marx calls for violent revolution, do you think he is contemplating a peaceful change?

      When he calls for a dictatorship of the proletarian, do you think he has in mind a peaceful democratic-republican form of government to hold sway during the years before the gradual dissolution of government into anarchist utopia?

      You are a fool. Stalin read Marx and understood him completely. He was a realist, who understood what Marx called for and what it meant. You are one of the ‘useful idiots’ who have a superficial reading of Marx, who have blinded yourself to the real, raw, painful and hideous reality of what world revolution entails.

      • Comment by gillen:

        No, I mock your hyperbolic rhetoric. “Thousands of millions of corpses piled up in stinking pyramids” certainly leaves one some room for justly-earned ribbing. Are we crediting casualties into the billions now? Perhaps we need to rethink ‘Liquor Run Fridays’ at the Hoover Institution.

        Marx spends most of his time theorizing rather than exhorting, and at any rate believed (incorrectly, I’ll grant you, and far from the last misunderstanding of the implications and proper pursuit of his economic theories) that any revolution would be premature before the political education of the working classes. So I should think that he certainly contemplates a more peaceful transition than successful revolutions have seen, but I don’t agree with him, nor do I identify as Marxist due to that label’s association with academic utopians.

        I’m a statist, not an anarchist, and a proponent of single ideologically-based party rule. I know academic democratic utopian communists. I know anarchists who think that they’re communists and pull the “real communism has never been tried” line. I probably have even less tolerance of them than you do, though for quite different reasons. Democracy, IMNSHO, is the surest way of determining the least useful and poorest-informed answer to any given question – with the added bonus that one may be sure it will not be in ideological synch with any other answer that it may provide, lest one fear that one might inadvertantly progress through its implementation. It is a bad idea generator, useful only if one can convince one’s enemy to adopt it.

        As for anarchy, the less spoken of it the better. No, really. ::attempts a menacing glower::

        Stalin read Marx and understood completely the problems with him, that I’ll grant you. I think you give far too much credit to Marx and not nearly enough to the Bolsheviks. By your lights, I should expect Lenin and Stalin to earn far more venom than kindly and optimistic old Karl.

        I am hardly blind, I’m simply a cynic who has too much self-esteem to fake moral outrage simply to gain public approval. Were I to weep and drag my family before you, etc etc. Yes, in the history of revolutionary uprisings many things could probably have been done more neatly by more competent people who had fewer personal neuroses, but to borrow from Rumsfeld (who I once had a rather awkward chat with, by the way) you have to go to the barricades with the revolutionaries that you have, not the revolutionaries that you wish you had.

        As for the rest, I don’t hear often from you about the real, raw, painful and hideous reality of what unbridled capitalism entails, or the poor victims of the Inquisition, or the innocents slain over centuries of monarchist wars, or carping on much at all other than on Communism, which is an odd drum to bang these days given that there’s so few communist states left and little threat of a revival on the horizon. Then again, I suppose that’s what makes it such a good whipping boy. One is much less likely to meet with disapproval or even correction that it’s an easy few points for the taking.

        • Comment by marycatelli:

          Have you considered the possibility that people don’t show up in the comments, arguing for the reinstitution of the Inquisition?

          • Comment by gillen:

            So he posts in order to pre-emptively counter my somehow-anticipated rare retort?

            Clever, but I think you’ll find I’m the only commie in the closet here, and I almost never allow myself to get dragged into the political discussions. Not that I wouldn’t enjoy the fight. John’s a far more intelligent and engaging opponent to bloody one’s knuckles on than the mouth-breathers in , but I do think there is some distinction to be preserved between an open community and one’s personal journal, even when one might be said to be inviting comment, and he often seems to take his positions a bit more personally than I do and have a less morbid sense of humour. So I try to keep what I anticipate would be my least appreciated commentary (yes, this is me being restrained, believe it or not) to myself.

            But sometimes, as Dr. Horrible says (okay, sings), “A man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do.”

        • Comment by John C Wright:

          Ah, you may justly mock my math. I meant hundreds of millions, of course. Forgive the error. These large numbers of human lives piled up on the altars of your particular Moloch tend to daze me. Here are the figures:

          U.S.S.R (Russia’s Soviet Block) – from 1917 to 1987 – 54,769,000
          P.R.C. (China) – from 1949 to 1987 – 35,236,000
          Khmer Rouge (Cambodia) – from 1975 to 1979 – 2,000,000
          North Korea – from 1948 to 1987- 1,293,000
          Vietnam (Communist) – from 1945 to 1987 – 944,000

          Under Communist Governments’ (from 1956 to 1986), domestic democide totaled to 101,897,000.

          That is just the domestic figure for part of the reign of Communism.

          “Marx spends most of his time theorizing rather than exhorting, and at any rate believed that any revolution would be premature before the political education of the working classes.”

          Irrelevant. My claim was that he called for violent revolution, that is, mass-murder, mass-expropriation, war, bloodshed. That is exactly what came from the application of his theories by men as pragmatic as Lenin and Stalin.

          “I am hardly blind, I’m simply a cynic who has too much self-esteem to fake moral outrage simply to gain public approval.”

          Irrelevant and ad hominem. The motives you attribute to me either must be in evidence, or must be attributed to every critique of Socialism. I have often noticed that Socialist have nothing aside from ad hominem for their arguments.

          “As for the rest, I don’t hear often from you about the real, raw, painful and hideous reality of what unbridled capitalism entails, or the poor victims of the Inquisition, or the innocents slain over centuries of monarchist wars…”

          China is left: 1,322,000,000 people in chains.

          In what way would the crime of the slaughter of hundred of millions of innocent people killed by your vile ideology be excused or ameliorated if I were to carp on the two thousand or so killed by the Spanish Inquisition?

          As for the ‘hideous reality of what unbrindled capitalism entails’ the evidence I have seen so far convinces me that the free market is a blessing to those lucky enough to live under it.

          I have in this journal complained of the excesses of Monarchy, and hurled scorn at the one Monarchist who dared to imply that some men are born with the right to rule others.

          “Then again, I suppose that’s what makes it such a good whipping boy. One is much less likely to meet with disapproval or even correction that it’s an easy few points for the taking.”

          Again, irrelevant ad hominem. I disapprove of socialism because its philosophical influence has not diminished with the passing of the Soviet Union.

          You also make the assumption that I should or ought speak of all evils in the world in an evenhanded way, and that it is somehow unfair of me to single out the one massive evil that held the whole world under the shadow of atomic thermonuclear destruction for all my youth and young adult life?

          Every day, I learn of some new excess or enormity or dishonesty done in the East and defended by intellectuals in the West. Whenever I think I have heard the worst, I hear more. It seems the floor of hell has no bottom. The issue seems living to me.

          Since the number of deaths under Communism does not have any parallel in history, and since the philosophy is still regarded as legitimate in many quarters, it merely sounds like puling and whining on your part when your sacred cows are gored by the truth of things.

          You are an apologist for the most vile, most inhuman, most cruel, most hypocritical, most murderous, most dishonest, most illogical and most economically illiterate regimes in history. If all you can do in defense of this nakedly power-mad, insolent, and moronic evil is make vague and groundless sneers of my motives, don’t bother to speak.

          When there is blood on your hands, it does no good to point to someone else and accuse him of shoplifting or jaywalking. Their guilt does not excuse or mitigate yours. Since you defend and applaud these crimes of history, you are, in spirit at least, an accomplice.

          • Comment by gillen:

            “Here are the figures:”

            They are figures, to be sure. To say that they are “the” figures is to grant not only validity to the methodology of the count, but also meaning to the act of summation itself in its rather propagandistic application against a political system. So I will give them the attention they have earned and simply move on.

            “Irrelevant. My claim was that he called for violent revolution”

            Leading in to my earlier point that many don’t seem to object to Communism qua Communism nearly as much as the notion of revolution itself – as if there were some innate moral virtue to the status quo or vice in the act of opposing it if doing so incurred any cost whatsoever.

            “Irrelevant and ad hominem. The motives you attribute to me either must…”

            I wasn’t saying that your outrage is faked, but that *I* wasn’t going to fall into the trap of agreeing with your rhetoric only to end up forced a few paragraphs later into tortuous defenses for sake of self-consistency. I’ll take my losses early on with the admission that I do not share the moral compass of my interregator or audience rather than be dragged by purely emotional appeal into conceding ground that I need not.

            “China is left. 1,322,000,000 people in chains.”

            There we agree. Talk about a country that could really use a Communist revolution right about now…

            “I disapprove of socialism because its philosophical influence has not diminished with the passing of the Soviet Union.”

            If only that were true, I at least would get a great deal more enjoyment from this world.

            “evil that held the whole world under the shadow of atomic thermonuclear destruction for all my youth and young adult life?”

            I would remind you that it was not the Communists who knowingly dodged surrender entreaties in order to rain nuclear death down upon not just one, but two cities full of people, and held (and continues to hold) the developing world as hostage with its arsenal.

            But somehow I doubt that you see it that way.

            “Every day, I learn of some new excess or enormity or dishonesty done in the East and defended by intellectuals in the West. Whenever I think I have heard the worst, I hear more. It seems the floor of hell has no bottom. The issue seems living to me.”

            Oh, don’t tell me you’re jumping on the conservative American anti-intellectual bandwagon. Are we truly to believe that our society’s problems come from those with an excess of intelligence and that we’d be better off led by the flag-wavers who have only “guts and heart”?

            Even if you won’t concede the hyperbole, I should think that you would have to agree that these are emotional arguments, which is why I tend to suspect, counselor, that (heartfelt as your sympathies may be) by expressing them in this manner you’re either playing to the gallery or avoiding the minefield posed by a strictly rational attack.

            • Comment by John C Wright:

              Those with an excess of intelligence?

              “Oh, don’t tell me you’re jumping on the conservative American anti-intellectual bandwagon. Are we truly to believe that our society’s problems come from those with an excess of intelligence and that we’d be better off led by the flag-wavers who have only “guts and heart”?”

              Ad hominem and an oddly reversed ad populem. Merely because a truth is popular, does not make it false. It does not even make opposition to it a sign of bravery or intellect.

              Those with an excess of Intelligence? Oh, dear me.

              OK, intellectual, explain this to me with your giant intellect: when all the means of production are controlled by a central planning board, and all resources distributed and production goals set by quota, how will various lines of production be economized? How will you have a price system once everything is done by quota? How will economic calculation take place without a price system? How will you invest in new lines of production without capital? If you do have capital, how will you calculate return on investment without a price system, without interest, and without a money economy? If there is no return on investment, how will you know which lines of production are wasting the People’s Resources and which are productive?

              I do not mean to be cruel, but, why are you (and all socialists) unable to answer these questions? Could it be because you are less intelligent rather than more intelligent than the people you criticize?

              Don’t tell me you don’t want to kill us and take our stuff because you are immune from loser envy. You are a loser, and you envy and hate the winners, people smarter than you. You could never run a business, never succeed. And so you have adopted am error-ridden and feverishly emotional and preposterous political philosophy to justify the black crimes you contemplate. You cast the halo of sanctity around envy, and tell yourself you are more enlightened than people who have actually studied this topic.

              The prime sign of stupidity is the unwillingness to change your inputs when you keep getting the same output. Communism, so far in history, has never even managed to run an economy that breaks even, never managed to run a state without brutal repressions, gulags, and purges.

              Your theory, your stupid, stupid theory, says that communism will be MORE productive than capitalism, will outstrip it, and they the people in a communist economy will have more factories, more cars, more wealth, more goods, LESS INEQUALITY OF WEALTH (!!!!) more and better health care, more innovation, more of everything, than the capitalist system.

              OK, smart guy, since you are so smart compared to someone who actually studies his material: clue me in! Tell me what the next communist revolution will do to achieve a different result from the last century of communists revolutions. More purges? More gulags? More regulations? More mass killings? More mass starvation? More show trials? More whips, more chains, more bombs?

              Stalin and Mao followed the program outlined by Marx and Engels to a T. What is going to be different this next time?

              If you expect a different result when no causal factors have changed, you are stupid.

            • Comment by John C Wright:

              Dialog with a Liar

              “To say that they are “the” figures is to grant … meaning to the act of summation itself in its rather propagandistic application against a political system.”

              In other words, if we add up all the people killed by Communist regimes in the pursuit of Communist policies, you will dismiss the evidence as a deliberate attempt to dishonor Communism. “Your Honor, I would like the prosecution’s evidence thrown out on the grounds that it comes from the prosecution.”

              This is astonishingly intellectually dishonest on your part. You cannot face that fact that you promote and defend a bloodthirsty political dogma, one that calls for violent death in mass numbers.

              “Leading in to my earlier point that many don’t seem to object to Communism qua Communism nearly as much as the notion of revolution itself – as if there were some innate moral virtue to the status quo or vice in the act of opposing it if doing so incurred any cost whatsoever.”

              And here is the admission that you are bloodthirsty. Those costs you speak of are human lives and their life’s work of real people.

              I object to socialism for several reasons (1) it is illogical: economic nonsense, a mere wishing-away of the price mechanism (2) it is false: the doctrine of the labor theory of value is false, the doctrine of the progressive immiseration of the masses is false, the prediction of monopolization is false, the iron law of wages is false, the analysis of human behavior by so-called class (by which Marx means economic analytical categories) interests is false, the characterization of history as passing through evolutionary stages via materialistic dialectic is false, need I go on? (3) It is evil. Communists, including you, dream of stealing from your betters and taking their stuff, killing them. When you do not actually dream of killing, you excuse killing, you mock the dead, the minimize and explain away the human suffering, you laugh off the falsehoods told, the lives destroyed, the HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS who have been murdered as a deliberate political policy advocated and supported by you. You are, simply put, a monster like Grendel, an enemy of mankind.

              So, I object to poseurs who claim to be Communists who have not read enough Marx to know that he calls for violent revolution on the grounds that they are speaking falsely; I object to honest Marxists who admit their craving for mass murder on the grounds that they are evil; I object to you on both grounds, since you are too craven to come out and admit what your bloody daydreams are, but are willing to make snarky comments supporting genocide and democide.

              Are we clear?

              “I wasn’t saying that your outrage is faked, but that *I* wasn’t going to fall into the trap of agreeing with your rhetoric…”

              In that case, I misunderstood you. My apologies.

              “There we agree. Talk about a country that could really use a Communist revolution right about now…”

              I have never met a socialist yet who was honest with words. You know what the word “Communist” means. Beside, you do not object to the chains, you object to the weakening of those chains created by trade.

              “I would remind you that it was not the Communists who knowingly dodged surrender entreaties in order to rain nuclear death down upon not just one, but two cities full of people, and held (and continues to hold) the developing world as hostage with its arsenal.”

              Liar. Do I need to actually rebut this madhouse revision of history?

              Hypocrite. As if there were some innate moral virtue to overthrowing the status quo or vice in the act of defending it if doing so incurred any cost whatsoever. This includes the cost of nuking cities? After all, comrade, we don’t select the revolutionary with whom we man the barricades, right?

  4. Comment by robert_mitchell:

    You just need to complete the sentence Mr. Wright. The trouble is, market forces encourage mainly looking out for number one, and Marxist forces encourage mainly tripping up the people doing better then you. Achievement vs. Envy. Pretty Black and White after all……

  5. Comment by carbonelle:

    Speaking of pure Marxism

    The Cambodians were pretty darn pure and uncorrupted in their Marxism and their Authority managed to kill nearly 1/7th of the entire populations in the effort to create a perfect communist utopia.

    Marxism is indeed “a violent millennial religion.”

    Speaking of which (and digressing madly) one of the great literary disappointments of the early 21st Century was discovering that Mr. Philip Pullman had not ever heard of the Cambodian Authority.

    His The Golden Compass was just such a tease in that regard, with its inhuman Authority and their vile Stalinist experiments on little children designed to remove any ungoodthink from the unregenerate little gusanos. Then one learns that Pullman was going to do a topsy-turvy Paradise Lost with the devil as the hero.

    Imagine what might have been, with the God of that “universe” the embodiment of Marxism, what its fallen angels must have been. Maybe he might’ve managed to make dark matter something cool, rather than ridiculous (and a bit sickening)…

  6. Comment by arielstarshadow:

    As someone who works in the non-profit world and has dealt with these CEOs and upper management you’re talking about, I can say that very few of them exhibit that “community spirit” you’re talking about up there.

    Are there some who are genuinely interested in helping their communities? No doubt, and I’ve been fortunate enough to meet some of them. Are they in the majority? …Probably not.

    Your friend’s statement about market forces encouraging looking out for number one may perhaps be a little simplistic, but that doesn’t make it wrong. Looking at the gap between the wealthiest and the poorest in our nation, it’s not hard to see that despite all of the charitable giving going on, there’s not a lot of people actually being helped out of their situation.

    It’s not just about how much money you give in terms of $$ or percentages. It gets into standard of living. If there’s a person living on a net income of $12,000 a year, they live a very different life than the person who lives on a net income of $12,000,000 a year – and that person who lives on $12,000,000 may very well have paid a large amount in taxes (though likely not, as most of the wealthy have a great many tax shelters and estate plans that keep them from actually paying the…I think it’s 39.?% in income taxes) and may also have donated several hundred thousand dollars to charity. But what does that really equate to?

    It comes down to this – how much money does anyone really need to live? How much money is too much when you can look around you and see people going hungry, not getting the medical services they need, living under a bridge?

    I don’t know, but maybe it’s time we start thinking in terms of that, instead of simply thinking in terms of “Well, Person X gave $100,000 to charity!” and “Company Z gave $3,000,000 to charity!”

    • Comment by robert_mitchell:

      Ah, the not-profit world… Good money to be made there. And how much more then the $3500 a year you need to be rich do you make off the poor? I don’t mean to be flippant, but if you are going to be lecturing us poor eaters of dust, you should be making more of an effort not to be one. The saints are not posting on message boards, they are tending to the poor and needy, each waking hour. I am no Saint, and you are no Saint. So here we are. “Person X gave $100,000 to charity” is an achievement. “How much money does anyone really need to live” is statement of envy. I want people to achieve, and for them to be laded for doing so, and I think this will build a better world then one built on envy.
      Market forces reward those who help their communities. The better people are doing, the more they can buy. Self interest and group interest work together in this case. The caring and compassionate people, and the government do better for themselves when the community suffers. They get more donations and more power. These people may want to do well, but their self interest leads them along a different path. This may be why the secular charities devolve into big, beautiful headquarters and large, large salaries for the staff. The only groups who seem to “stay the course” are the religious ones, the Catholics, the Salvation Army.
      The second point is “how much money does anyone really need to live?” works both ways. If all the money I get goes to T-bird, then how much money do I need? All the charity in the world will not help until I am ready to be helped, and that will probably be sooner freezing under a bridge then comfortable drunk in a heated hotel room some charitable soul got me. You can help someone drink T-bird in luxury for forty years, but you can’t tell me that it will help him or the community. So, how many people need to live just above the poverty line so you can feel better about catering to the bottomless hole that so many of the “poor” are?

      • Comment by arielstarshadow:

        chuckle

        Your post made a lot of assumptions about me that were incorrect, probably because you were judging me based on yourself and your own perceptions of people. Maybe not, but that’s usually the case when I see posts such as yours.

        First, I wasn’t lecturing anyone.

        Second, I can assure you that this low-woman-on-the-totem-pole isn’t making any money off the poor.

        Third, I never claimed to be a saint.

        Fourth, “how much money does anyone really need to live” wasn’t a statement of envy (at least, not on my part). It was an observation and a question – a true question.

        Fifth, I am a Catholic, and yes the Church does a lot of good work – but the Church is also quite wealthy and just as prone to misuse and mismanagement of money as the non-profits and corporations. Basically, don’t fool yourself into thinking that the religious organizations are any better than the nonprofits – they aren’t.

        Sixth, if you think the Executive Directors and CEOs of various Salvation Army offices aren’t making good money, think again.

        Seventh, I think part of your perception stems from the frustration many of us in the nonprofit world are feeling as well: that there’s a lot of money being spent on band-aids, and not as much spent on actually solving the problem. I say this because of the example you use at the end of your post. There are nonprofits out there that are genuinely interested in finding and implementing actual solutions to problems (even knowing that if it works, they will be out of a job), and the numbers seem to be growing. Here’s hoping the trend continues.

        Lastly, I believe that we as human beings have a responsibility to take care of each other, and that includes even those drunks you talk about. It includes those lost who will never be fully recovered. There are many people in need who are desperate for a chance to achieve self-sufficiency, and there are those who aren’t. I believe that we have a responsibility to take care of even those people to at least some sort of minimum standard of living. Should they live like kings? Of course not. But should they be left to go hungry and have no bed to sleep in? I don’t personally think so.

        • Comment by robert_mitchell:

          Thanks for your thoughts! I will try to answer your points.

          First, of course you are lecturing. That is the format of Live Journal. Not much we can do about it, but it’s not a point of shame either.

          Second, unless you are working for free, of course you are making money off the poor. All that is needed in the U.S. to be rich is $3500, and it’s not legal to pay anyone that low a salary. And, of course, the low person on the totem pole is the one being helped, yes?

          Third, I never claimed or implied you were coming off as a saint. Just(and this ties in with point four) that if you are not a saint, “rich” seems to mean to most people, “someone who makes more then I do”. Unless you establish a baseline, talking about how much money people “need” to live is going to come off as envy that someone is making more then you are. It comes back to “lecturing your neighbor about the splinter in his eye while ignoring the beam in yours”. Again, my baseline is $3500 for America. What is rich for you? What is your baseline and can you defend it?

          Fifth, no organization made and staffed by Man is pure, but the religious organizations do a better job on “staying the course”. Every time I have looked, they have been better.

          Sixth, I think that anyone making more then $3500 a year is making good money, so this is really not an issue.

          Seventh, and Last, no, my frustration comes more because I am a “Live Free or Die!” person in my instincts. I feel we have too much charity, and the charity we have is too kind, to the point of smothering many with a pillow of kindness. It’s one thing to stand and watch a man drink himself into a early grave, it’s a whole new level to give him the money to do it, and then feel good about “caring for each other”. It takes Mom and Dad. Yes, sometimes you should go hungry, sometimes you should have no bed to sleep in. The current system “protects” too many people from the reactions to their actions, and gives them enough rope to hang themselves. I think it is criminal how many people have been turning into animals because of the “Caring and Compassionate” people. I would like to see less, and harsher.

          Again, thanks for reading, and for writing back. Thanks!

    • Comment by m_francis:

      Blood From Stones

      that person who lives on $12,000,000 may very well have paid a large amount in taxes (though likely not, as most of the wealthy have a great many tax shelters and estate plans that keep them from actually paying the…I think it’s 39.?% in income taxes) and may also have donated several hundred thousand dollars to charity. But what does that really equate to?

      That someone earning 12 million/year lives a better life than one earning 12 thousand a year comes as a terrible shock to the system. Likewise, the 12 thousand-earner will live higher on the hog than the 12 hundred earner; that is, better than most of the people in history or indeed of today.

      But the question about how much tax is paid by the person in the highest tax bracket of 35% can be answered. The tables are accessible on-line.

      First keep in mind that the marginal tax rates apply to the portion of income within the bracket. For illustration: suppose income between $0 and $100 is not taxed at all, but income above $100 is taxed at 10%. Now suppose you earned $200. You would pay nothing on the first hundred and $10 on the second hundred. So your effective tax rate would be 5%.

      Now, in 2006 there were about one million returns filed in which some part of income fell in the 35% bracket. In the same year, there were 22 million returns that reached the 25% bracket and 26 million returns reaching the 10% bracket. Comparing these three brackets [there are others, but these will do for illustration.]

      The 35% Bracket–1% of all returns filed
      They earned 17% of all adjusted gross income in the country.
      They paid 33% of all the federal income taxes in the country.
      This tax amounted to about a quarter of their adjusted gross income (25.3%)

      The 25% Bracket–21% of all returns filed
      They earned 26% of all adjusted gross income in the country.
      They paid 24% of all the federal income taxes in the country.
      This tax amounted to about one eighth of their adjusted gross income (12.2%)

      The 10% Bracket–24% of all returns filed
      They earned 7% of all adjusted gross income in the country.
      They paid 1% of all the federal income taxes in the country.
      This tax amounted to about one hundredth of their adjusted gross income (1.4%)

      The 5% Bracket–1% of all returns filed
      They earned 0% of all adjusted gross income in the country.
      They paid 0% of all the federal income taxes in the country.
      This tax amounted to about one hundredth of their adjusted gross income (1.4%)

      • Comment by arielstarshadow:

        Re: Blood From Stones

        Thanks for looking up the tax tables! The thing that strikes me is that those people up in the 35% tax bracket – despite the large chunk of income taxes they pay in relation to their income, at the end of the day (and end of the year), their standard of living is still mountains higher than those in that 5% tax bracket.

        In other words, it shouldn’t be just about the total $$ someone pays, or what % of their income it is – what also matters is how much is left over, and what sort of standard of living that net amount provides.

        • Comment by headnoises:

          Re: Blood From Stones

          So…it’s not fair for folks who worked hard to enjoy the fruit of their labors?

          Thank goodness life ain’t fair.

          • Comment by arielstarshadow:

            Re: Blood From Stones

            Nowhere did I say that.

            But I also believe that there is a line that needs to be drawn, a line that says “This is ridiculous, no one needs this much money.”

            How many houses, cars, airplanes, etc. does anyone need? You can only live in one house at a time (unless someone has developed a way to split themselves into multiples), you can only wear one necklace at a time, one pair of shoes…you get the idea.

            Do I believe everyone should only have one house, one pair of shoes…no. But I do believe, again, that there is a point where it’s too much.

            I don’t believe that everyone should make the same amount of money. But I do believe that there should be a minimum standard of living – a standard that we make sure everyone has. Those who have more – good for them!

            No one wants to hear it, but there really does come a point where it comes down to personal greed and selfishness. A point where a person has so much money, they can’t even come close to spending it all, unless they simply want to waste it on things they have no use for.

            • Comment by headnoises:

              Re: Blood From Stones

              In other words, it shouldn’t be just about the total $$ someone pays, or what % of their income it is – what also matters is how much is left over, and what sort of standard of living that net amount provides.

              This says “It doesn’t matter if they earned it, they don’t deserve their own money.”

              Who are you to say how good it’s allowable for someone to live?

              Do you realize that if people are only allowed to earn up to, say, a new car and a house payment on a home with no more than 1.5 rooms per person, they won’t work after that?

              By what authority do you try to enforce your idea of what is selfish or greedy?

              • Comment by arielstarshadow:

                Re: Blood From Stones

                Do you realize that if people are only allowed to earn up to, say, a new car and a house payment on a home with no more than 1.5 rooms per person, they won’t work after that?

                Which is why I said…” I don’t believe that everyone should make the same amount of money. But I do believe that there should be a minimum standard of living – a standard that we make sure everyone has. Those who have more – good for them!”

                To go further – so long as everyone can have that minimum standard – then if there are those living way above it, awesome.

                • Comment by headnoises:

                  Re: Blood From Stones

                  Which is why I said…” I don’t believe that everyone should make the same amount of money.

                  I never claimed you did; I pointed out that you said that folks shouldn’t be allowed to make *more* than X level of living.

                  But I also believe that there is a line that needs to be drawn, a line that says “This is ridiculous, no one needs this much money.”

                  Who are you to judge this?

                  Yes, folks should have enough food to keep them healthy, a safe place to sleep and warm clothes to wear. Problem being, “poverty” in America is far and above this:
                  http://pursuingholiness.com/2008/07/18/what-do-you-mean-he-dont-eat-no-meat-oh-thats-okay-i-make-lamb/
                  Has a nice graph of what “poverty” means today.

                  • Comment by arielstarshadow:

                    Re: Blood From Stones

                    Do you really think it would hurt someone’s standard of living to have to deal with:

                    “Hey, 30 million a year is more than enough for a family. The rest should go to charity.”

                    I sure don’t. But that’s me, I guess.

                    • Comment by headnoises:

                      Re: Blood From Stones

                      Yes, I think that stealing someone’s money just because they made a lot would be harmful. That’s not why I object: I object because it’s wrong.

                    • Comment by superversive:

                      Re: Blood From Stones

                      Steve Jobs had $30 million a year decades ago. If he had not been allowed to earn more money, Apple would not exist today; I would not have the computer I’m using to type this on; thousands of Apple employees would not have jobs and would not be able to earn a living; hundreds of thousands of Apple shareholders would be poorer; tens of millions of people would be worse off because they would not have the use of the products that Apple manufactures.

                      Shame on you to insist that millions of people must have a lower standard of living so that you can prevent one man from having more money than you think he should.

            • Comment by John C Wright:

              Re: Blood From Stones

              But I also believe that there is a line that needs to be drawn, a line that says “This is ridiculous, no one needs this much money.”

              Restrain your envy. It is their money, they earned it, and they may do with it what they will. Envy is a bottomless hole, and an endless demand. Suppose the rich man gives a tenth or a half of his money to the poor or to the taxman, and still has money left over to buy a yacht: will your envy shut its mouth then, or will you still complain that no one should buy a yacht until and unless every beggar has shoes?

              In real life, when a luxury tax was put on yachts, all that happened was that the poor but honest workmen who made yachts in Maine were put out of business.

          • Comment by dejarnjc:

            Re: Blood From Stones

            Why do you assume that those who are wealthy have acquired it by working hard?

            What of the single mother with three children working two jobs. Doesn’t she work hard too? Where’s her wealth?

            • Comment by superversive:

              Re: Blood From Stones

              There’s a good reason, at least in North America, to assume that those who are wealthy acquired it by working hard: that’s because most of them did. You might try looking up the statistics some time. Inherited wealth on the scale that allows people to live without working is fairly rare, and even many of those who have inherited wealth choose to go on working for reasons other than economic necessity.

              Where’s her wealth? Flushed down the bottomless pit of single parenthood. If (like many single mothers) she deliberately chose to bring up her brood without a father, she has ensured that they will grow up in poverty, and frankly, she’s an irresponsible idiot. If (like many others) she got that way through widowhood or divorce, she has my sympathy — except that in the case of divorce, it’s quite likely that her divorce lawyer sold her a bill of goods on how she could expect to get rid of her husband without having her standard of living go down. It doesn’t work that way, for sufficiently obvious reasons.

              • Comment by dejarnjc:

                Re: Blood From Stones

                Wow, so much I want to say but I’ll refrain. I just don’t understand how people like you seem to feel such disgust for the unfortunate rather than pity.

                “There’s a good reason, at least in North America, to assume that those who are wealthy acquired it by working hard”

                Poor people work just as hard as the wealthy. The wealthy are just generally just more intelligent, better connected and more imaginative. Working hard does help of course.

                • Comment by superversive:

                  Re: Blood From Stones

                  I just don’t understand how people like you seem to feel such disgust for the unfortunate rather than pity.

                  Define ‘people like you’, please. I think you’ll find that virtually every assumption you choose to make in lumping me in with this group is blatantly false and blitheringly idiotic. You don’t know me, you don’t know what kind of person I am, or why I think the way I do. But you would much rather accuse me of base motives than actually find out something that might upset your smug sense of superiority.

                  • Comment by dejarnjc:

                    Re: Blood From Stones

                    “Define ‘people like you’, please.”
                    Why people who hold the same opinions as you of course.

                    Well that’s why I used the word ‘seem’. Just semantics? Nahhh.
                    I don’t know you but judging by what you wrote opinions and assumptions form naturally in my head. Point being that from my ‘blitheringly idiotic’ perspecitve it seems (there’s that word again!) that you hold contempt for the poor. And I’ll just end here with an apology because I don’t want this to degenerate into name calling. I am truly sorry, so so sorry that I don’t understand how or why you hold your opinions but please at least entitle me to mine.

                • Comment by headnoises:

                  Re: Blood From Stones

                  Poor people work just as hard as the wealthy.

                  Actually, not true:

                  Low levels of parental work are a major cause of child poverty. In good economic times or bad, the typical poor family with children is supported by only 800 hours of adult work during a year, according to the Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey. That amounts to 16 hours of work per week. If work in each family were raised to 2,000 hours per year—the equivalent of one adult working 40 hours per week through the year—nearly 75 percent of poor children would be lifted out of official poverty.

                  • Comment by dejarnjc:

                    Re: Blood From Stones

                    Hmm if this is true then I’ll concede the point. I was thinking more about the working poor and trying to make a point about the difference between working hard stocking shelves at Walmart all your life and working hard at a prestigous law firm.

                    • Comment by headnoises:

                      Re: Blood From Stones

                      You’re thinking poor, like the folks that are *actually* poor–not the folks who just qualify as in “poverty.” Only about 1/3 of the folks in “poverty” ever go hungry, OR can’t make bills, OR can’t afford medical care at any point in a year.

                      Shoot, the Obamas even had trouble making their bills!

                • Comment by marycatelli:

                  Re: Blood From Stones

                  I realize that this may be a surprise to you, but having children is a consequence of certain acts, and it is common knowledge that such acts results in the birth of children. Therefore, it’s a little hard to see why having children while unmarried — the commonest cause of single motherhood — is unfortunate.

                  • Comment by dejarnjc:

                    Re: Blood From Stones

                    Having intercourse can result in having babies!! No way! haha

                    That’s true. But, my point was about the fact that they work hard just to survive and their income is not indicative of how hard they struggle. Also, what are we as a society to do in such a situation? Allow them to freeze during the winter because they can’t pay gas bills? Let the children suffer because of the mother’s mistakes? It’s a tough situation no matter what but I’d rather give them my charity than watch them suffer.

            • Comment by marycatelli:

              Re: Blood From Stones

              I work hard on my writing.

              Does this mean I’m being wronged if I don’t get paid for it?

              Of course not, and a good thing, or I’d never find anything worth reading.

        • Comment by superversive:

          Re: Blood From Stones

          Why is it your business how much someone has left over? Who appointed you to judge when someone has ‘too much’?

          • Comment by arielstarshadow:

            Re: Blood From Stones

            No one appointed anyone – but perhaps someone should.

            • Comment by superversive:

              Re: Blood From Stones

              If you appoint someone to be a busybody and tell people with millions how they should spend their money and how much money they are allowed to have, why, that busybody will also concern himself with telling the same to people with barely enough to live on — like me, for instance. I have a lot less power to fight back with.

              What you are calling for is tyranny over people like me so that you can exercise your sense of moral superiority over the rich.

              • Comment by arielstarshadow:

                Re: Blood From Stones

                Why is the assumption always one of “moral superiority?” Why is it that we have such a hard time contemplating that we should be taking care of each other?

                • Comment by superversive:

                  Re: Blood From Stones

                  The assumption is of ‘moral superiority’ because you are telling people what they should do. Your inability to perceive this is somewhere between laughable and pathetic.

                  I have the honour to call attention to your last sentence:

                  Why is it that we have such a hard time contemplating that we should be taking care of each other?

                  By using the word should, you are making a moral prescription. By complaining about the existing structure of society, you are saying that this prescription is not being fulfilled. By saying that people should do this and should do that to remedy what you see as an undesirable situation, you are setting yourself up as the judge of their moral behaviour. Nobody appointed you such a judge, and God willing, nobody ever shall.

                  • Comment by dejarnjc:

                    Re: Blood From Stones

                    Well jeez there’s no need to be rude

                    Would it make you feel better if she had said, “we should take of each other for the benefit of society”?

                    There’s nothing moral about it, it’s about survival. Humans take care of each other because we’re inherrantly tribal creatures and we’ve advanced by sticking together and caring for each other.

                    • Comment by superversive:

                      Re: Blood From Stones

                      Any statement about human behaviour containing the word ‘should’ is a prescriptive statement in the domain of morality.

                      Humans take care of each other because we’re inherrantly tribal creatures

                      If that is so, then there is no need to criticize human beings for not behaving that way, or for not behaving enough that way (for some arbitrary value of ‘enough’). If it’s simply a matter of survival, there is no scope for the word ‘should’ to be used at all.

                    • Comment by dejarnjc:

                      Re: Blood From Stones

                      “Any statement about human behaviour containing the word ‘should’ is a prescriptive statement in the domain of morality.”

                      That doesn’t seem true to me. I “should” do my laundry when I get home because I have no more clean clothes. What’s moral or immoral about that?

                      “If it’s simply a matter of survival, there is no scope for the word ‘should’ to be used at all.”

                      I’m afraid that I don’t understand why the word ‘should’ wouldn’t apply to matters of survival.

                    • Comment by marycatelli:

                      Re: Blood From Stones

                      Because you convince of it as an obligation to go dressed and in clean clothing.

                    • Comment by dejarnjc:

                      Re: Blood From Stones

                      But I don’t see it as an obligation. I see it has the most obvious, logical path to increasing my quality of life. I in fact didn’t do my laundry last night as I ‘should’ have. And now I regret that as I am wearing dirty socks (ew).

                  • Comment by arielstarshadow:

                    Re: Blood From Stones

                    I don’t see it as “superiority” – I see it as morality, period.

                    As I said below:

                    I don’t see anyone else offering up alternative solutions – unless perhaps “let them starve” is considered a solution, which is the only thing I’m left to assume when people, instead of saying “I don’t think your idea is a good one, but how about this instead?”, do nothing except throw out attacks.

                    Offer up another way to ensure that all people are cared for. I’m being quite serious. I’d love for people to stop attacking one another and start brainstorming solutions.

                    • Comment by arielstarshadow:

                      Re: Blood From Stones

                      Ugh, comma outside of quotation mark…how I despise thee!

                    • Comment by dejarnjc:

                      Re: Blood From Stones

                      Problem is that some people probably would just say “let them starve” and leave it at that.

                    • Comment by superversive:

                      Re: Blood From Stones

                      I don’t see it as “superiority” – I see it as morality, period.

                      If you take it upon yourself to judge other people as wanting, and to tell them what they should and should not do, you are professing to occupy a position morally superior to theirs. That is what I mean by ‘moral superiority’, and it is exactly what you are doing.

                      I don’t see anyone else offering up alternative solutions – unless perhaps “let them starve” is considered a solution, which is the only thing I’m left to assume when people, instead of saying “I don’t think your idea is a good one, but how about this instead?”, do nothing except throw out attacks.

                      The only suggestion you have made is that people should be prohibited from becoming rich. This will do nothing to help the poor; it will only guarantee that when people have all the money they are allowed to make, they will do no further work unless they happen to be motivated by pure philanthropy.

                      Offer up another way to ensure that all people are cared for.

                      You have not offered up even one way to ensure that all people are cared for. All you have done is to say that people should be stopped from keeping the fruit of their own labours beyond an arbitrary point.

                      I’d love for people to stop attacking one another and start brainstorming solutions.

                      I am not going to join you in ‘brainstorming solutions’ to the ‘problem’ that some people are richer than you think they ought to be. I happen to be poor myself; I happen to be persistently poor, unlike most of the people I have known who were poor at one time or another in the past, and are poor no longer. I see no benefit for me, or for anyone like me, in arbitrarily forbidding rich people to create wealth. In fact, the less they are permitted to create wealth, the less wealth there will be that can be used to alleviate poverty.

                      The dwelling that I live in was built by a company owned by rich men, which employed tradesmen all of whom were better off than I am. The furnace in that dwelling was built by a large and rich corporation; another series of large and rich corporations produced the natural gas that fuels it. I am not such an idiot as to want to freeze to death in winter simply because someone is making more money out of the housing and heating business than I happen to have. Nor am I stupid enough to tell them they should now go out of business simply because they have enough money to keep them and their families; I still need the housing and the gas.

                      You might argue that the government ought to take over the business of building houses and supplying people with fuel. I shall answer, in that case, that it has been often tried, with the result that everybody goes short of housing, except for those with the political connections to secure superior service for themselves, and people spend great parts of their lives queuing up for an inadequate supply of fuel.

                    • Comment by arielstarshadow:

                      Re: Blood From Stones

                      I am not going to join you in ‘brainstorming solutions’ to the ‘problem’ that some people are richer than you think they ought to be.

                      That’s not the problem.

                      The only suggestion you have made is that people should be prohibited from becoming rich.

                      See, you did know the actual problem.

                      As for your statement, no I didn’t. I chose $30 million to have an actual number as an example (and frankly, if such a cap in net income existed and said cap was $30 million per year, how that could be considered preventing anyone from becoming rich is beyond me).

                      We’ll have to agree to disagree on the “superiority” angle. I’ve told you I feel no moral superiority to anyone – the feeling I have when getting into discussions such as these is mostly sadness.

                    • Comment by superversive:

                      Re: Blood From Stones

                      I chose $30 million to have an actual number as an example (and frankly, if such a cap in net income existed and said cap was $30 million per year, how that could be considered preventing anyone from becoming rich is beyond me).

                      To build a modern automobile manufacturing plant requires capital in the billions. To build a modern microprocessor fabricating plant (and the research infrastructure to develop products for it) requires capital in the tens of billions.

                      There are all kinds of things that one simply cannot do on $30 million a year, and most of the central activities of modern industry are in that class. If that industry were to cease, billions of people would be plunged not merely into the kind of relative ‘poverty’ exemplified by those who happen to find themselves in the bottom quintile of incomes in the U.S. in any given year, but into life-threatening want, including homelessness and starvation.

                      From your arguments, you appear to have a very narrow and foolish idea of what rich people commonly use their riches for.

                      We’ll have to agree to disagree on the “superiority” angle. I’ve told you I feel no moral superiority to anyone – the feeling I have when getting into discussions such as these is mostly sadness.

                      Your feelings are not germane to the issue. It is the position you take, as of being entitled to tell other people that they should do this and should not do that, that exhibits your assumption of superiority.

                    • Comment by arielstarshadow:

                      Re: Blood From Stones

                      To build a modern automobile manufacturing plant requires capital in the billions. To build a modern microprocessor fabricating plant (and the research infrastructure to develop products for it) requires capital in the tens of billions.

                      Now we’re talking about some of the subtle (and not-so-subtle) differences between individuals and corporations, not to mention the difference between net income and capital. No “individual” is going to build any of the above (not if they are smart anyway because no individual wants that kind of liability) – they are going to form a corporation, they are going to find investors, and likely take out business loans (any yes, their net income will affect how much money a bank is willing to lend them).

                      I’ve never said the idea of capping wealth is perfect, either, or even where a cap should be, in order to be equitable and not cause the capitalist economy to collapse (which no one wants). The one thing I can say is the gulf between those who are wealthy and those who are poor is enormous. The fact that the gulf continues to widen, and that one of the richest countries in the world has people who can’t meet their basic needs tells me something is wrong in the system.

                      Your feelings are not germane to the issue. It is the position you take, as of being entitled to tell other people that they should do this and should not do that, that exhibits your assumption of superiority.

                      My feelings are absolutely germane, as moral superiority is something one feels. As for telling people what they should or should not do and how horrendous that is – we all spend our entire lives with various people telling us not only what we should/should not do, but also what we can/can not do. It’s part of life. If anything, when I say “We should take care of each other” it’s me pleading with humanity, not looking down my nose at it.

                    • Comment by superversive:

                      Re: Blood From Stones

                      The one thing I can say is the gulf between those who are wealthy and those who are poor is enormous. The fact that the gulf continues to widen, and that one of the richest countries in the world has people who can’t meet their basic needs tells me something is wrong in the system.

                      Something is wrong, all right, but it isn’t what you think it is. The fact is, whenever you try to set up a ‘system’ to prevent the strong from taking advantage of the weak, you have the undesirable side-effect of preventing the weak from taking care of themselves. I don’t mean the usual nonsense about undermining self-reliance; I mean that the regulatory barriers that prevent the rich from doing business in exploitive ways are often sufficiently burdensome to prevent the poor from doing business at all. And the rich can hire lawyers and accountants to help them find loopholes, which the poor can’t.

                      If anything, when I say “We should take care of each other” it’s me pleading with humanity, not looking down my nose at it.

                      But that is not what you have been saying. You have been saying that the rich should stop making money because, in your opinion, they have too much already. That does not help the poor; it will not help me, for instance, one iota; it will only hurt me, because if you forbid the rich to run businesses lest they should make a profit, they will shut down those businesses rather than risk their capital for no possible gain; and likewise, those who are investors rather than principals will pull their capital out if they cannot see a return for their risk.

                      Unless you have a way to remove all the risks of doing business, you have neither the right nor the power to insist that people shall do business without being rewarded by a profit.

                    • Comment by arielstarshadow:

                      Re: Blood From Stones

                      You have been saying that the rich should stop making money because, in your opinion, they have too much already
                      people shall do business without being rewarded by a profit

                      Except I didn’t say either of those things. What I said (and continue to say) is that there is a point where profit becomes, for lack of a better term coming to mind, gluttony. People should be allowed to make a profit. Businesses should be allowed to make a profit. Meaning that after all expenses are paid (whatever form they may take), there should be money left over. :)

                      The fact is, whenever you try to set up a ‘system’ to prevent the strong from taking advantage of the weak, you have the undesirable side-effect of preventing the weak from taking care of themselves.

                      Maybe the two don’t always have to go hand-in-hand. Perhaps it’s time to come up with some new ideas.

                    • Comment by superversive:

                      Re: Blood From Stones

                      What I said (and continue to say) is that there is a point where profit becomes, for lack of a better term coming to mind, gluttony. People should be allowed to make a profit. Businesses should be allowed to make a profit. Meaning that after all expenses are paid (whatever form they may take), there should be money left over. :)

                      Except that’s not what you said. You said that after a certain point, it’s excessive and should be stopped. The best that can ever do is turn productive capital into useless capital, by taking away all incentive to keep it invested in risky enterprises.

                      Maybe the two don’t always have to go hand-in-hand. Perhaps it’s time to come up with some new ideas.

                      ‘Outlaw the rich’ is not a new idea. It’s as old as envy itself.

                      The fact is, and I speak as a person who has been ‘poor’, by statistical terms, nearly all his adult life, that the rich are not my enemies; they are not even a nuisance to me; they are a positive help in many cases, because I need the things that they got rich by providing, and those things would not have been provided if the businesses whose owners are now rich had not been allowed to make a profit. I am in the same game as the rich; I am trying to make money and better myself materially; and if you try to fix the rules so that they, who have every advantage, cannot win the game, then I cannot possibly win it either.

                      You may say that at least you will keep me alive by charity, so that I don’t suffer the material hardships of poverty. I answer that I have lived enough on charity, and know that a life lived in that way, with no hope of escape or improvement, is no better than a living death.

                    • Comment by marycatelli:

                      Re: Blood From Stones

                      There’s not even any guarantee that she will keep you alive. You can’t feed on good intentions.

                    • Comment by marycatelli:

                      Re: Blood From Stones

                      Your “new ideas” are a variation on some ideas that got extensive putting into practice in the twentieth century.

                      They didn’t keep them from going hand-in-hand. They did kill a lot of people in very unpleasant ways.

                    • Comment by marycatelli:

                      Re: Blood From Stones

                      Why shouldn’t an individual build any of the above if he wants? Who are you to stop him? It’s not your liability.

                    • Comment by marycatelli:

                      Re: Blood From Stones

                      My feelings are absolutely germane, as moral superiority is something one feels.

                      A person who feels great terror but acts bravely is courageous; a person who feels none but avoids any danger at all costs is a coward.

                      By the same token, moral superiority also lies in the will, not the feelings.

                    • Comment by marycatelli:

                      Re: Blood From Stones

                      The only suggestion you have made is that people should be prohibited from becoming rich.

                      See, you did know the actual problem.

                      OK, now that’s clear, I do have an alternative solution.

                      You get over your sense of entitlement and realize that your dislike of something in society does not justify your demanding its removal.

                    • Comment by marycatelli:

                      Re: Blood From Stones

                      I’ve told you I feel no moral superiority to anyone -

                      We’re not talking about your feelings but what your behavior clearly evinces.

                      the feeling I have when getting into discussions such as these is mostly sadness.

                      That is not the wisest thing to say to clear yourself of charges of moral superiority.

                      In fact, I would say it falls into the category of keeping on digging when you find yourself in a hole.

                    • Comment by marycatelli:

                      Re: Blood From Stones

                      I don’t see it as “superiority” – I see it as morality, period.

                      To disagree with you is to lack moral principle and yet you claim that you are not claiming superiority?

                • Comment by noahdoyle:

                  Re: Blood From Stones

                  I’ll shorten Superversive’s statement, so that there’s less room for you to dodge:

                  What you are calling for is tyranny.

                  • Comment by arielstarshadow:

                    Re: Blood From Stones

                    If that’s what you want to call it – but I don’t see anyone else offering up alternative solutions – unless perhaps “let them starve” is considered a solution, which is the only thing I’m left to assume when people, instead of saying “I don’t think your idea is a good one, but how about this instead?”, do nothing except throw out attacks.

                    Offer up another way to ensure that all people are cared for. I’m being quite serious.

                    • Comment by headnoises:

                      Re: Blood From Stones

                      You haven’t even shown that folks *are* starving, nor that there is no way for them to get food anyways.

                    • Comment by marycatelli:

                      Re: Blood From Stones

                      Why shouldn’t we call it tyranny? In what manner does it differ from tyranny?

                      “Alternative solutions”? To what problem?

                      Your melodrama about “let them starve” is belied by the actual condition of the poor in this country: poor people are more likely to be fat than rich ones. A journalist described meeting a boy in a third-world country who wanted to come to the USA to see such a marvel.

                      My alternative solution is the alternative solution that I would offer if a doctor suggested a painful, expensive, and frequently fatal operation for a minor physical ailment: do nothing. Live with the fact that there are very rich people in this country.

                • Comment by marycatelli:

                  Re: Blood From Stones

                  Why do you have such a hard time contemplating that disagreeing with your authoritarian proposal to take money from people who have too much in your eyes — does not mean rejecting the notion of taking care of each other?

            • Comment by marycatelli:

              Re: Blood From Stones

              Who is this “someone” and why is he entitled to do so?

        • Comment by m_francis:

          Re: Blood From Stones

          Thanks for looking up the tax tables! The thing that strikes me is that those people up in the 35% tax bracket – despite the large chunk of income taxes they pay in relation to their income, at the end of the day (and end of the year), their standard of living is still mountains higher than those in that 5% tax bracket.

          In other words, it shouldn’t be just about the total $$ someone pays, or what % of their income it is – what also matters is how much is left over, and what sort of standard of living that net amount provides.

          Indeed it should! It is the prospect of having something left over that motivates people to work hard and move up the income ladder! Without it, effort would cease, even maintenance would cease, and the vault of the ages would come tumbling down.

          • Comment by dezconhecido:

            Re: Blood From Stones

            Do you think Bill Gates or Steve Jobs current motivation is how much money they will personally make?

            I’m not sure I agree with arielstarshadow that we should limit the money very rich people earn, but I’m sure that “more money to themselves” is a lesser motivation when you are that rich. It really does not make that much difference to them, some more millions.

            The sense of achievement, the sense of success and public recognition, that is in my opinion much more important.

            • Comment by m_francis:

              Re: Blood From Stones

              I’m not sure I agree with arielstarshadow that we should limit the money very rich people earn, but I’m sure that “more money to themselves” is a lesser motivation when you are that rich. It really does not make that much difference to them, some more millions.

              I’ll let you know after my first couple million whether the next million means that much to me. Meanwhile, there are those who live in holy poverty, and they seem to get some satisfaction from it. After all, as someone once said, if the parable of the camel and the needle’s eye means anything at all, no matter how large the needle or how small the camel, it is this: that those who sit their arse on satin pillows and dine at groaning tables are not likely to be moral instructors for the rest of us. But we should ever remember that it is the man, and not the gold; and many an open-handed lord has been poorer in spirit than a mean and greedy villein. But the glitter of the gold dazzles the eyes so that it is harder for the rich man to see clearly.

              Or something like that.

    • Comment by headnoises:

      I seem to remember that most of the folks in the bottom 10% now will not be there in five years–although the only link I could find shows that:
      The poverty population is quite dynamic_people move in and out
      of poverty every year. About one-fifth of those who were poor
      in 1992 were out of poverty by the following year, according a
      Census Bureau survey. Only 5 percent were poor for all of
      1992 and 1993.

      http://www.un.org/popin/popis/journals/poptoday/today1096.html

      That would seem to indicate that charity *does* work.

      Given how extreme the US version of “poverty” is, this isn’t surprising. How much anyone else has shouldn’t matter.

      • Comment by arielstarshadow:

        There is fluidity – but I suspect a lot of the people who move up are the ones who end up sliding back down. The numbers remain relatively unchanged overall

        I went to the Census Bureau site:
        http://www.census.gov/hhes/www/poverty/poverty.html

        -In 2006, 36.5 million people were in poverty, not statistically different from 2005

        Also important to remember are those who are just over the edge – the ones who struggle because they don’t qualify for a lot of social services, but often have to make choices about paying rent or buying groceries.

        Our local soup kitchen serves far more meals to the working poor than they do to the homeless. A number of our local basic needs organizations report that a large number of their clients are members of this group.

        • Comment by headnoises:

          The other thing to keep in mind is that I grew up well below the “poverty line.”

          We took no social services, not even the free lunch program. We had three cars, DishTV, good internet connection, and all three of us kids did sports.

          My folks worked a lot– and still do– and we didn’t do many family vacations, but “poverty” ain’t what it use to be.

          For that matter, several of the folks who’ve worked with my folks do the food kitchen thing, too–just because someone is willing to take something that’s free doesn’t mean they really *need* it.

        • Comment by superversive:

          There is fluidity – but I suspect a lot of the people who move up are the ones who end up sliding back down

          You need something more than ‘I suspect’ to back that case. I’ve looked into it myself, and it isn’t true. A great many people go through a period of earning sub-poverty-line incomes early in life (the clichéd ‘starving student’ period), and the normal trend of their incomes is up thereafter. Some people remain poor all their lives; these, however, are a minority of those who are poor at any given time. Some people are ‘poor’, as measured solely by income, because of temporary unemployment, or even because they take temporary sabbaticals — or because their income does not come in conveniently regular instalments. A writer who spends three years on a book may earn no income at all in the first two years, only to earn enough in the third year to pay his living expenses for the entire period. Your kind of jackleg economic analysis would pretend that this person was a lifelong member of ‘the poor’ for the first two years, and a lifelong member of ‘the rich’ the third year.

          • Comment by arielstarshadow:

            From the same report mentioned above:

            “Finally, many of the poor who move off welfare through employment will simply become part of the’”working poor.’”

            I talked very briefly about this up above – the working poor are in as much difficulty as those who are actually classified as “poor” because they moved up the ladder just enough to no longer qualify for the same level of social services as they were receiving before.

            “Another study, which followed 5,000 families for more than 20 years, found that 12 percent of the poor remained in poverty for five or more consecutive years. More than half of the poverty spells [my emphasis] experienced by people in the study between 1968 and 1987 lasted one year or less.”

            Note the word “spells” in that paragraph up above – that indicates that a percentage of these families experienced multiple periods of time when they were considered living in poverty. So while it’s great that they moved up slightly, they were sliding back down as well. This gets back to the part up above (again, from the same report) which talks about how most of the people moving out of poverty aren’t moving all that much at all – they are becoming part of the working poor, which makes it very easy to slip back down.

            Also, my “analysis” wouldn’t make that author a member of the poor if his standard of living allowed him to continue to pay rent/mortgage, feed himself and his family, and so forth while he was writing for those two years.

            • Comment by superversive:

              I talked very briefly about this up above – the working poor are in as much difficulty as those who are actually classified as “poor” because they moved up the ladder just enough to no longer qualify for the same level of social services as they were receiving before.

              If you think it’s necessary to lecture me about that, perhaps you’d better take the trouble to find out whom you’re lecturing first.

              “Another study, which followed 5,000 families for more than 20 years, found that 12 percent of the poor remained in poverty for five or more consecutive years. More than half of the poverty spells [my emphasis] experienced by people in the study between 1968 and 1987 lasted one year or less.”

              Meaning that 88 percent of the poor did NOT remain in poverty for five or more consecutive years.

              Your interpretation of ‘spells’ to mean ‘periods of poverty suffered by people all of whom suffered more than one such period’ is yours entirely, and not at all implied by the language used. If a person is poor only once in their life, that counts as a ‘spell’. If Cousin Jed invites you up on the verandah to ‘set a spell’, that does not of itself prove that you have ever sat there before or will ever sit there again. Nothing about the word ‘spell’ implies repetition or periodicity.

              I personally know very few people who were not in poverty, as measured solely by income levels (which is what you and the studies you cite insist upon doing), in their early twenties; and precious few of those people are in poverty now.

              Also, my “analysis” wouldn’t make that author a member of the poor if his standard of living allowed him to continue to pay rent/mortgage, feed himself and his family, and so forth while he was writing for those two years.

              In so far as your analysis relies upon the income figures reported by the various tax and census authorities, it does indeed. You have been counting people as ‘poor’ because the IRS says they have incomes below a certain threshold. The IRS does not count people’s income from last year, and it does not even pretend to predict their incomes for next year; the statistics cited are instant figures, i.e. figures for one year only, and say nothing about the persistence and repeatability of either high or low incomes.

              • Comment by arielstarshadow:

                Poverty “Spells”
                http://www.census.gov/hhes/www/poverty/dynamics01/pdf/PovertyDynamics.pdf

                The entire report is really interesting, but page 12 deals with multiple spells of poverty.

                “almost 30% of people with a spell of poverty experienced two or more spells during the 36 month panel. About 48.8% of spells lasted 2 to 4 months, and 19.2% lasted 5 to 8 months.”

                You’ll also want to take a look at page 16, which shows the % of people who were in poverty in one year, but not two years later. Some things are difficult to extrapolate – the criteria for being considered no longer in poverty being one of them. Did these people move up to “working poor” status, or higher? We don’t know.

                • Comment by superversive:

                  “almost 30% of people with a spell of poverty experienced two or more spells during the 36 month panel. About 48.8% of spells lasted 2 to 4 months, and 19.2% lasted 5 to 8 months.”

                  Again: This means that over 70% did not experience multiple ‘spells’. This contradicts your earlier claim that the use of the word ‘spells’ indicates the existence of multiple periods of poverty in any given individual.

                  Did these people move up to “working poor” status, or higher? We don’t know.

                  But you nevertheless assume that they fell back down into poverty.

                  Have the courtesy, please, to admit that the report you are citing does not constitute evidence for your view. Then you might want to go on and examine some of the abundant research on the variation of income and asset levels with age. You’ll find a very different picture of ‘the poor’ from the one you are trying to peddle here.

                  • Comment by arielstarshadow:

                    Again: This means that over 70% did not experience multiple ‘spells’. This contradicts your earlier claim that the use of the word ‘spells’ indicates the existence of multiple periods of poverty in any given individual.

                    LOL Are you kidding me? I think we’ll have to just leave it at that.

                    And no, I’m not assuming that the families listed in the table on page 16 fell back down – I’m assuming that they are the ones that didn’t. They are the ones (again, this is a guess because the table doesn’t say) who permanently made the shift out of poverty.

                    I’m concerned about the percentage that weren’t a part of that table – the ones that didn’t move up.

                    • Comment by superversive:

                      LOL Are you kidding me? I think we’ll have to just leave it at that.

                      I am not kidding you. If 30% of the people who were poor at some point during the span of the study were poor for more than one period, then logically 70% were not poor for more than one period. This is elementary arithmetic. If 30% of X are Y, then 70% of X are not Y. Your assertion that 30% of X are Y does not support your claim that most X are Y.

                      I’m concerned about the percentage that weren’t a part of that table – the ones that didn’t move up.

                      You do not do them any good by assuming that they are the norm and the others a rare exception. That some people remain poor all their lives, I knew already. How many of them there are, and how likely any given person is to remain poor, cannot be determined from the data you cite. You cannot prove any conclusion by irrelevant data.

                    • Comment by headnoises:

                      Page five: “Poor 36 months: 2.4%”

                      So, 2.4% stayed poor, even by the gov’t standards.

                    • Comment by arielstarshadow:

                      Yep – those are the chronically poor.

                    • Comment by headnoises:

                      And that’s only by the gov’ts standards–which, as pointed out earlier, means they’ve got a pretty good chance of owning two cars, a color TV with cable or even their own home.

                    • Comment by superversive:

                      Indeed. And if one can procure those things for oneself, one has no call to complain about going hungry.

                    • Comment by superversive:

                      How many of those were poor three years after the conclusion of that 36-month period?

                      I know many people who were ‘poor’, as defined by income levels, for three consecutive years, who have since ceased to be poor.

                      I repeat, your underlying assumption that ‘the poor’ are a permanent underclass, and that they are therefore in need of additional charity to provide them with a decent standard of living, remains unsupported by evidence. When 97.6% of the poor, by your own admission, will not be poor three years from now, it becomes a very difficult and dangerous business to try to identify which kind of poor people need the help you are talking about.

                      In any case, forbidding the rich to grow richer will not help the poor one iota.

                    • Comment by arielstarshadow:

                      Permanent underclass? Though yes there is indeed a percentage of people who will remain poor all their lives, I’m not talking about a “class” at all – I’m talking about people who are poor, whether that be for two months or six months, or off-and-on for the next year/two years/ten years. I’m saying that when someone falls below a minimum standard of living, they deserve to be helped (perhaps “deserve” will be less offensive to you than “should”) until they are at that minimum standard of living again and are able to maintain it.

                      Hopefully that clarifies things.

                    • Comment by superversive:

                      Very well: you can start in Africa. Homeless people in America often live at a higher material standard than the average African.

                      But since you insist upon defining poverty purely in parochial terms, by the number of people in your own country who happen to be below a certain percentile in the distribution of incomes, you completely fail to make a case that should excite anyone’s sympathy. A ‘poor’ person who has a car, a house, a TV and DVD player, a washing machine, a refrigerator, central heating, and quite possibly air conditioning, has very little claim on anyone’s sympathy on account of their poverty. A person who has these things, not by his own efforts, but because of the charity of others, may reasonably have the sympathy of others if he wishes to earn his keep and live in a more dignified and productive way; but no amount of charity can procure that for him.

                    • Comment by arielstarshadow:

                      I donate to charities that help those in Africa. So I guess in effect I do start in Africa.

                      And I don’t think anyone would be silly enough to try and say that what the poor here in America experience is anywhere near the suffering experienced by those in other countries. Even our poor are fortunate. But that doesn’t mean they don’t deserve help, too.

                      If I’m hurting because someone punched me in the face, and you’re hurting because someone cut off your finger, it doesn’t negate my pain, nor does it invalidate it.

                    • Comment by superversive:

                      Even our poor are fortunate. But that doesn’t mean they don’t deserve help, too.

                      But you have to choose whom to help. If you choose to withhold help from those in greater need so as to help those whose need is less, how do you justify that?

                      If I’m hurting because someone punched me in the face, and you’re hurting because someone cut off your finger, it doesn’t negate my pain, nor does it invalidate it.

                      No, but if I go to the hospital with my cut-off finger, and they refuse to treat me because they are busy treating your punched face, that is just flat out wrong. Hospital emergency rooms have triage procedures for exactly that reason.

                    • Comment by marycatelli:

                      What do they need help for?

                • Comment by rlbell:

                  working poor

                  I have experienced multiple spells of poverty, only one which ended before my unemployment benefits. I only gained reliable, serial employment when I shelved my hopes of using my university education, bought a pair steel-shod work boots, and offered to lift fifty pound objects in exchange for what turned out to be enough money to both support and extend my family.

                  Poverty does not seem to hurt as much as it used to, and based on benefits to the working poor (in Canada), I still count, despite earning $40,000 last year.

                  I have since moved to a location where rampant capitalism and rich people looking out for themselves (combined with a labor shortage) has made a mockery of the term ‘minimum wage’. The difference between the legal minimum wage and the market driven minimum wage is $4.00/hr + benefits. Even noted labour exploiter, Wal-Mart, offers the market driven minimum wage. Overnight shelf-stockers can earn $15.40+. My ‘heartless capitalist overlord’ ‘took advantage’ of the victims of a plant closing in Monterey, Mexico (company in same market went under), by finding sponsors to help them emigrate here, and find housing. I could have collected a bonus, if I had a spare room. Calgary does have the difficult problem of people who earn $30k/yr and are still homeless.

                  Henry Ford, not generally known for being kind to his workers, was forced by market pressures to pay his workers enough to buy his cars.

                  Capitalists will do the right things, even if for totally selfish reasons.

    • Comment by juliet_winters:

      how much money does anyone really need to live?

      I don’t think it’s up to you to tell me how much money I need to live, comrade.

      I make a -decent- amount of money. Not great, just decent. But my kids have had medical expenses way beyond the norm which have knocked the wind out of any economic sails we might have set.
      National health insurance would not have solved my problem. It’s a question of coverage above and beyond what is deemed normal or average. I want more options. Expensive options. Not for a car or a trip or clothing or jewels or a mansion but for my kids’ health.
      Had I great gobs of money, I certainly would be inclined to share with the less fortunate. In fact, to the extent that I can, I do.
      However, you are not to tell me how much economic cushion makes me feel safe from destitution. I have to consider that it is entirely possible I may need to support my kids for the rest of their lives. I hope not! But it’s possible.
      If by some chance I do wind up with gazillions of dollars, it is not your place to tell me my moral obligations. I have an excellent reference Book for that and for just about every other matter of conscience.

    • Comment by John C Wright:

      “Your friend’s statement about market forces encouraging looking out for number one may perhaps be a little simplistic, but that doesn’t make it wrong. Looking at the gap between the wealthiest and the poorest in our nation, it’s not hard to see that despite all of the charitable giving going on, there’s not a lot of people actually being helped out of their situation.”

      This is a non sequitur. In order to show, not merely that people look out for number one in a free market, but that “market forces” encourages this behavior, you would have to show a cause and effect link between the one and the other. If the same people are selfish under socialism as are selfish under capitalism, you cannot blame the capitalism for their selfishness.

      The inequality of income is not due to a lack of public-spiritedness among successful entrepreneurs. The inequality of income is due to an inequality of services rendered, of talent and opportunity, and in some cases to blind luck: or else is due to those regulations hindering the operation of the market which would otherwise reward the services and talents.

      The corporate charity and the private charity in America is the greatest in the world: capitalism produces more charitable giving than any other system. You are simply mistaken if you think that poor can be made unpoor by giving them money. Money is a side-effect of behavior, a reward for productive work, not a cause of wealth.

      “It comes down to this – how much money does anyone really need to live?”

      To live and eat, or to live and build a factory and distribute goods in a worldwide market so that I can get a job in a factory?

      No offense, but this is merely a doctrine of envy.

    • Comment by sun_stealer:

      Our poor are considered rich by world standards.

  7. Comment by arhyalon:

    I also used to think that communism has not been tried (which is really not true, because there have been so many communes. Most failed, but not all.)

    But the biggest lesson I learned about this was from a brother and sister who came from Vietnam and were now working here. They hated Communism. I figured that this meant that they hated the particular boogy-man who haunted their country.

    No. They hated the communistic system. One of them summed it up so well by saing: Those who are lazy get paid the same as those who work hard…so why work hard? Everyone becomes lazy.

    • Comment by juliet_winters:

      Communes such as a kibbutz, founded with good intentions in the heat of political drama, worked reasonably well. For a while:
      http://www.csmonitor.com/2007/0301/p01s04-wome.html?page=1

      Then “human nature” kicked in. Sad. When I was 20, I, too, was that idealistic.

      • Comment by michaelgr:

        The Kibbutz is an interesting example

        But it is not state-run communism. Each single Kibbutz was founded by a group of volounteers who believed in communism, and therefore the initial population was pre-selected to make the Kibbutz successful at first. Also, each Kibbutz still competed as a single unit in the free market, so there was competition of some sort going on. In a small enough commune, you can’t slack off like you can when there are 100 million other schmoes to pick up the slack for you.
        But then came the second generation. They were not predisposed in favor of communism. they had full information of what it was like outside in the free market – and they could leave whenever they wanted. So if the Kibbutz is not doing very well, the bright ones who felt they had a chance outside left, and the stupid ones who were afraid of the competition in the free market stayed, and the whole thing went quickly down the tubes.

        What can we learn from that? we learn that some limited form of communism IS possible if it is mixed with a free market at some scale. I ought to mention here that my uncle lived in a Kibbutz and became a worker and then management in one of his Kibbutz’ rather successful businesses. I visited his Kibbutz often – it is a very nice place to live in.

        We also learn that once it becomes not as successful as the outside it is highly unstable and will collapse. A good friend of mine grew in another Kibbutz and he tells of cliques and infighting and brain drain (he left the Kibbutz and became a software developer). In a modern society there can never be an equality of effort – so if the night guard gets the same monthly allowance a highly skilled programmer gets, the programmer is not going to stay for long. Randian Feelings of being exploited are inevitable in those people who could get payd more in the free market.

        By the way, I also don’t think communist Russia was really communist in the original sense of the word. the most important factor in “True communism” – you will agree with me, I hope – was that the worker class should be in control of the means of production. In marxist-Leninist Russia it was the upper echelons of the communist party who held power and can be said to have controlled the state-run factories and companies. These were apparatchiks, white collar bureaucrats. The actual Workers held no power.

        • Comment by juliet_winters:

          Re: The Kibbutz is an interesting example

          I’m sure it was a nice place to visit and in some cases still would be.
          Again, the human factor–if not that generation then the next which naturally wants to rebel against what they perceive to be a closed system.

          As to Russia, I am uncertain as to how the Workers can manage without Managers…and how the Managers can, on the whole, resist the temptation to corruption.
          How can the Workers control the means of production? Practically, in a factory of 1,000 workers, who decides what must be done in what fashion and when?
          There must be managers. How will they be chosen? Who will decide?

    • Comment by missjeanevil:

      When I was reading philosophy, I cracked up to read Nietzche’s assessment that the common denominator among ALL people was laziness. :)

  8. Comment by mrmandias:

    No, human nature mainly encourages looking out for number 1. The free market is an attempt to harness that fact for the common good. Marxism is an attempt to make that fact go away through the power of putting your fingers in your ears and chanting la-la-la.

  9. Comment by oscillon:

    Corporate charity

    I am unsure exactly of your point regarding charity on the part of corporations. If it is that charitable motivations (common sense definition human charitable motivations) lie behind corporate acts of charity, then I would take issue. To head off any unproductive tangents here, I am talking about common stock corporations, not sole proprietorships. Corporate charitable donations fall into two categories: those that are rationalized on the basis of profit, and those that are breaches of fiduciary duty on the part of misguided individuals.
    The first are obviously not motivated by ethics or morality by definition. These are actions like donating local playground equipment to raise the chance that the zoning board will be more lenient towards the company in the future.
    The second are malfunctions in the corporate machine similar to a manager hiring his friend instead of the best qualified person. This may sound a bit coldhearted but it is not. The assets of the company are the private property of the shareholders. I do not think I need to spend time defending the value of the privatization of property with you. I can only assume that either I have misread your post (not the first time), or that you haven’t thought through in detail the implications of employees of a company handing out their assets for altruistic purposes.
    There is an excellent essay on this by Milton Friedman (link below). It is well worth a read whether you like capitalism or not. It is an accurate picture of what actually goes on in the boardroom with rare exception in my experience. It is not that the directors are greedy skinflints; it is that they have sworn a duty and are acting honorably. If they do otherwise, they should be removed.

    The Social Responsibility of Business is to Increase its Profits
    by Milton Friedman
    The New York Times Magazine, September 13, 1970. Copyright @ 1970 by The New York Times Company.
    http://www.colorado.edu/studentgroups/libertarians/issues/friedman-soc-resp-business.html

    Corporations are not human, they act with only one motive and that is profit. The entire system depends on that. They have no loyalty, no mercy, and no honor. They have benefited us economically more than any other invention but they are scary beasts.

    • Comment by superversive:

      Re: Corporate charity

      Corporations are not human, they act with only one motive and that is profit. The entire system depends on that. They have no loyalty, no mercy, and no honor. They have benefited us economically more than any other invention but they are scary beasts.

      I’ve made the case that corporations are the real-life equivalent of dragons: cold-blooded, predatory, motivated solely by greed, and very very dangerous. Their great redeeming quality is that they have no existence of their own, but require the active participation of real live human beings in order to do anything for either good or ill.

      • Comment by oscillon:

        Re: Corporate charity

        “real-life equivalent of dragons”
        Exactly, I like it.

      • Comment by arielstarshadow:

        Re: Corporate charity

        I like it. :)

        • Comment by superversive:

          Re: Corporate charity

          The thing is, that last point vitiates all the rest. It is humans who make the choices of behaviour that corporations exhibit; it is humans who pass the laws that corporations are obliged to obey. And it is humans, individual human beings, who must put up the capital that corporations use to carry on their businesses. (Or whatever other functions they carry on: remember, governments and non-profits are corporations too.)

          If you tell investors that they aren’t allowed to make any more money because they already have ‘too much’, they will stop investing, that is all. That does nobody any kind of good.

          • Comment by oscillon:

            Re: Corporate charity

            “It is humans who make the choices of behaviour that corporations exhibit;”
            “And it is humans, individual human beings, who must put up the capital that corporations use to carry on their businesses.”
            Not sure about that. More and more now, the individual is divorced from direct ownership. Mutual funds, retirement funds, investment banks, etc. Do you have any idea what companies you are capitalizing? I don’t.

            “it is humans who pass the laws that corporations are obliged to obey.”
            This is true. It is one reason why I can’t understand the desire for complete laissez-faire capitalism. The laws and regulations are the only thing that restrains them. Politics is our defense. This is also why I’m not thrilled about corporations being able to influence politics (donations, etc).

            • Comment by superversive:

              Re: Corporate charity

              Not sure about that. More and more now, the individual is divorced from direct ownership. Mutual funds, retirement funds, investment banks, etc. Do you have any idea what companies you are capitalizing? I don’t.

              That doesn’t mean that the decisions are not being made by human beings. It just means that you are delegating the decisions to human beings whom you don’t know even by name — which is dangerous. That’s one of many reasons why I have never invested money in mutual funds.

            • Comment by howling_wolf:

              Re: Corporate charity

              “This is also why I’m not thrilled about corporations being able to influence politics (donations, etc).”

              That comes with a free system. After all, it is the humans within the corporations that make the decision to donate.

              • Comment by marycatelli:

                Re: Corporate charity

                And the reason why they donate is that the politicians can capriciously ruin their livelihoods and those of everyone who works for you.

                Limit the power of the government to micromanage business in this country and the donations would dry up.

              • Comment by oscillon:

                Re: Corporate charity

                “After all, it is the humans within the corporations that make the decision to donate”

                The issue here is that when those humans make those decisions, they are not acting out of “human” motivations. They are representing the corporation’s motives (if they are doing their job correctly). The motivation of the company is simple, maximize profit. This leaves no room for any other moral consideration unless they happen to align with the profit motive.
                The company directors are expected to act within the law, they must be honest in dealing with the shareholders. That’s about it. You do not have to be honest with external entities; you are not supposed to take into consideration any damage your actions will do externally unless they affect the profit. The law of fiduciary duty actually makes this a legal obligation of the director. If you do otherwise, you would be held personally liable for the damages.

                Somewhat hypothetical example (based on a real instance).
                A paint company knows (it has done studies) that lead paint poisons people.
                There is no regulation of lead paint.
                They donate large sums of money to politicians who will avoid any public study or regulation of lead in paint.
                They do not pull lead paint off the shelves because it would cost them money.
                70 years go by and millions of homes are painted with lead paint.
                Millions of kids are poisoned and seriously brain damaged by lead paint.

                There is nothing in this series of events that you could point to and say the directors of the paint company should have pulled lead paint off the shelves. They did nothing illegal. The only action the individuals might have done to express their moral qualms is quit working there. They would be replaced on nothing would change.
                If they send the internal study to the press for example, they are breaching their legal fiduciary duty.

                • Comment by howling_wolf:

                  Re: Corporate charity

                  “The issue here is that when those humans make those decisions, they are not acting out of “human” motivations. They are representing the corporation’s motives (if they are doing their job correctly). The motivation of the company is simple, maximize profit. This leaves no room for any other moral consideration unless they happen to align with the profit motive.”

                  I would say that making profit is a human motive as well. A motive shared by a whole bunch of human beings who make up a corporation. Hey, if one chooses the good of a particular collective over the good of others, it is still a human choice.

    • Comment by John C Wright:

      They are doing more to help than you or I

      “I am unsure exactly of your point regarding charity on the part of corporations. If it is that charitable motivations (common sense definition human charitable motivations) lie behind corporate acts of charity, then I would take issue.”

      Except that I am speaking from personal experience. Their motivation is community spirit: they want the community to look favorably upon them rather than with envy and hostility. Some of it is advertising, but it is less efficient than real advertising. Some of it is because worthy causes ask for fund, and the CEO’s find the cause worthy, and sell the idea to the board. Some of it is because other companies are doing it, and they don’t want to look bad by contrast.

      I am not saying their motives are pure: all I am saying is that their motives are not simple. They are looking out for Number One, yes, to a degree. That is not their only motivation. Some of these men feel grateful to the community for the wonderful opportunity they have been given. Some of them LIKE THEIR CUSTOMERS. Some of them have a religious motive, even, or they seek to look, in the eyes of their peers, like generous men.

      My point is that abolishing their freedom (via some sort of crackpot socialist millennialism or crocodile-teared tyranny) will not make them more generous, but less.

      So all your talk of the inhumanity of corporations is beside the point: they are still made of human beings, and those human beings are still free, in a capitalist system, to give to charity: and some do.

      Northrop Grumman gave more to charity last year than I make in a year. They have a large-scale nonprofit institute set aside for that purpose. Go ahead: scoff at their motivations– but the fact is, they are doing more to help worthy causes than you or I or (I wager) anyone on this list.

      How many tens of thousands did you give to charity last year?

      • Comment by oscillon:

        Re: They are doing more to help than you or I

        I think you may be misinterpreting my tone. I’m not scoffing at their motivations; I’m just trying to explain a basic premise of corporate operation.
        If a CEO decides to take corporate money and donate it to his favorite cause, he is in effect stealing other people’s money. The shareholders may or may not agree with his priorities about charity, they have not agreed to have him give away THIER money. The only viable justification for such action is that it will bring back returns higher than the cost. How would you feel if you owned stock in Northrop Grummond and they decided to give away serious money to support N.O.W.?
        In the real world, many instances of charity by corporation occur without this formal justification. Usually they are de minimis and nobody takes issue. These are in effect petty theft. Others are done with fuzzy logic and again no one usually cares if they are small relative to the whole.
        Again, I am not telling you that the directors are cold-hearted, they have to act in this manner by law and by thier word.
        My description is not of thier motives being impure, if they do otherwise it is arguably from impure motives or just ignorance of thier responsibility.

        “and those human beings are still free, in a capitalist system, to give to charity: and some do.”
        Yes, absolutely, as individuals they can give to charity for noble human reasons. They cannot give away corporate money for that reason.
        Also, my point is not in support of socialism or any other point other than to clarify why corporations act the way they do. The are designed specifically to remove any consideration other than profit. That is the bargain between stockholders and management.
        A whole raft of corporate behaviour that many people look at and think is malicious can be explained by this underlying fact of the system.
        I’m not even saying it should be changed; I don’t know of a better system.

        • Comment by John C Wright:

          Re: They are doing more to help than you or I

          Except that some of the shareholders, even a majority, LIKE giving money to charity, both because of the goodwill it creates, and because of the community spirit that animates them. The business community does not disapprove of corporate charity: it is an expected part of business.

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