Wealth Disparity

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Re: Wealth Disparity

Postby Packbat » Fri Dec 27, 2013 2:59 pm

MysticWav wrote:Wealth Disparity itself isn't the problem. If you can magically engineer a system where person A has infinite wealth earned or unearned, and persons B-J have wealth adequate to their needs and efforts, that's not a problem. But we don't live in such a state currently. There are a finite number of dollars within a given system, and for person A to have more dollars, person's B-J must have less dollars. Right-wing economists like to pretend it isn't a zero-sum game, but it is.

I would think that it was obviously not a zero-sum game - if I do more and/or better work, then more value is created to be distributed. That's the idea behind granting intellectual property rights: by letting the inventor have (or sell) a short-term monopoly on a new product, we make invention profitable - and therefore live in a world with more inventions.

Merle wrote:The real problem is that we have no upper limits on wealth concentration, but money doesn't work well when it's stagnant - it's like water on a wheel, in that the economy works best when money flows freely and the wheel spins at a steady pace.

Aside from that, what's really important is making sure that there's a minimum limit on wealth - nobody should suffer in poverty, in any sort of reasonable society. Any civilization where children go to bed hungry or someone can't keep their apartment because they can't afford the gas to keep a job has some serious issues to work out.

I agree with this entire post.
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Re: Wealth Disparity

Postby MysticWav » Fri Dec 27, 2013 3:20 pm

I would think that it was obviously not a zero-sum game


Not so. The measure of wealth is dollars or other assets. Dollars, which your work cannot print, land which your work cannot raise from the sea, minerals which your work cannot put in your lands. Your services don't count except in that it might cause someone to give you wealth instead of giving it to someone else or holding onto it themselves, but after that is transaction is done there will be no greater total of said items than before. If you do more/better work it is likely you will get more wealth, but it's wealth that someone else will not be getting as a result. (There are obviously edge cases where this isn't true. I mean someone /has/ to be getting paid to print money, and you can with a great deal of effort push back the ocean, but in general you know what I mean. :))

Now obviously we do invent things which makes each unit of wealth exchangeable for an ever expanding variety of services and goods, but in terms of how many tokens are available for people to exchange goods with, it's zero sum. For me to have more tokens, someone has to have less until such a time as we as a society arbitrarily create more tokens (which is economically dangerous until such a time as you also have more real world long term tangibles for them to represent). For me to have one million dollars more than I do now, that literally means everyone else in aggregate has to have one million dollars less than they do now. Which isn't a problem if I toss the back right away for reuse, but if I hold onto them, I have long-term impoverished the rest of society.
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Re: Wealth Disparity

Postby RyukaTana » Fri Dec 27, 2013 11:11 pm

More notably, since money is just a meaningless 'token', a voucher for goods or services rendered, there are only so many resources and hours in a day. Only so many workers, particularly those with the skills you desire for any given purpose. So yes, there's a limit, but sadly, it's much much much much much much much bigger than the pool we actually draw from.
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Re: Wealth Disparity

Postby Packbat » Fri Dec 27, 2013 11:42 pm

MysticWav wrote:
I would think that it was obviously not a zero-sum game


Not so. The measure of wealth is dollars or other assets.

I think this is where we disagree. The wealth which I care about relates to happiness, freedom, satisfaction, and the like, not to bank balances. The reason that someone with an annual income of a million dollars is wealthier than someone with an annual income of ten thousand dollars is chiefly that the former person can indulge desires that the latter cannot.
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Re: Wealth Disparity

Postby crayzz » Sat Dec 28, 2013 12:22 am

There are a finite number of dollars within a given system, and for person A to have more dollars, person's B-J must have less dollars. Right-wing economists like to pretend it isn't a zero-sum game, but it is.


Well, not necessarily, largely because "gain" and "utility" in economics don't only describe money.
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Re: Wealth Disparity

Postby crayzz » Mon Dec 30, 2013 6:23 pm

This video was always interesting to me. I havent gone down the rabbit hole of sources to verify anything, but it's interesting all the same.
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Re: Wealth Disparity

Postby Deepbluediver » Mon Jan 06, 2014 2:21 pm

Answering the question depends on how you define a couple of terms, I think, such are what level poverty starts at and how much wealth is to much (or even, what wealth is).

I believe that assisting people in need (foodstamps), or even just to have a better opportunities (publicly funded education) are valuable services because they enrich society as a whole. I don't believe that taking resources from one group and giving them to another just because you don't like that one person has more accomplishes this. The biggest issues that communistic societies face is that they tend to destroy the incentives people have for generating wealth in the first place. It's not absolute, but it doesn't really work on a broad scale. You know where the "all labor as hard as they can, and distribute according to their needs" works best? Religious or cult movements. Not the kind of thing you really want to try and enforce in a free society. The Soviet Union attempted to make a religion out of the state, and we see how that worked out in the end. (please don't make me go fetch links, its depressing)

The other major problem that must be addressed if you think that disparity is a major issue is how do you control it? If you create a worse problem than the one you are trying to solve you haven't achieved much. Think about taxing income- if you are aiming for equality, they requiring everyone to pay the same flat amount (American Citizenship costs 10 grand per year, for example) or the same percentage amount (10% of all income, no matter the sources, etc) would both be more equitable methods than the arbitrary system of having people at different levels pay different amounts.
Some people will always just be smarter or stronger or more motivated, and income-equality tends to infringe heavily on property rights. If I make money, am I not entitled to spend it however I choose? Are we going to deny people the ability to inherit from their parents? Is it really a good thing to have a society entirely based on spending every penny in the here and now, rather than accumulating wealth?


Ultimately, extreme wealth disparity may generate some problems, but in the real world I have yet to see a system which works better. It's kind of like the whole quote about democracy being terribly, except for all those other forms of government being worse.
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