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View Diary: Lower the Ceiling and Raise the Floor (203 comments)

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  •  Great post. Is no "reward" too much? (13+ / 0-)

    We need economic separation of powers, just like we (are supposed to) have political ones. Money is just a placeholder for things of value. Money is freedom, but it is also power. No one person should be able to accumulate so much power over us.

    A functioning economy should absolutely reward those who, through their talents and efforts, create products that improve people's well-being and enjoyment. I believe a free-market economy to be as natural a concept as inalienable rights. Beyond some millions of dollars, though, it's not as much about reward anymore. Why did Microsoft squash or gobble up smaller software rivals? Why did Standard Oil corner the market? To some degree it's that maximizing profit with a certain formula is all these organizations are built for. Anyone who has taken a good math class on optimization problems knows that the answer often lies at the extreme. But it's also straight-up greed, and it harms us all. Maybe their founders wouldn't have to be such big philanthropists if there were more smaller companies out there, providing good jobs with more responsibility, room for creative improvement, localized sensibility and character, and many other aspects that make civilized life more enjoyable.

    So, what are the economic checks and balances to enact separation of powers? Stronger pro-competitive regulaton, environmental and labor protection, of course. But that doesn't resolve the issue sufficiently, and it's complicated enough to be corruptible, as we've seen. 90% taxation on wealth over 100 times that of the average citizen? Seems like if you're worth two orders of magnitude of average Joes, that ought to be plenty. And if that means no one individual can afford a Boeing Business Jet for himself, well, good.

    They wil not give up that power willingly. And globalization makes the struggle very hard to conceptualize.

    Government and laws are the agreement we all make to secure everyone's freedom.

    by Simplify on Sat Dec 08, 2012 at 09:26:20 AM PST

    •  You're right that money (3+ / 0-)

      is just a placeholder for things of value. But on a societal level 'things of value' boil down to real property and labor dedicated to an enterprise.

      Problem is that our monetary system must continually 'grow' the money supply - as the 'cost' of moving the chits around. Meanwhile, the actual value of real property and labor goes down and down the more the inflated chits are amassed and moved around. Remember Doctor Evil's "One MILLION Dollars" attempt at extortion when the world was dealing in billions? Now we're supposed to think in terms of TRILLIONS, while the value of our property and labor sinks ever lower. Hence we are subjected to the devaluation of our properties as well as our labor and for too many, the arbitrary removal of the small hope for a decent day's pay for a decent day's work.

    •  Read Graeber's book (13+ / 0-)

      Debt: The First 5,000 Years.

      He destroys the myth that free markets are "natural" and that money and markets come from a barter system, and the myth that barter existed in communities as a principle basis to economy, which in turn led to the creation of money and the modern capitalistic market.

      He also destroys the myth that "free markets" exist separately from the state. In fact, it is through the state that money and markets are created

      These myths were invented. And through these myths, we're all taught that all exchange is quantifiable to the exact dollar amount, and that all unreciprocated exchange not met with exacting payment creates exacting debts. Doing this impersonalizes debt and goods, to the point that credits and debits are all summed up and exactly accounted for, separate from the real human needs of the people, which enables cruelties and violence of debt slavery.  Competition and adversity are inextricably woven into such a system.

      And yet these are not the universal natural tendencies of society, as we've been led to believe.

      As Graeber points out, more fundamental to human society is a communal sharing. Even the most zealous conservative free market capitalist will tend to share with friends and neighbors without thinking of return. It is assumed between friends and family that mutual aid will prevail over time, without the need for exact measurements of the value of each and every transaction.

      There is nothing inherently natural about free market economies.

      "In times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

      by ZhenRen on Sat Dec 08, 2012 at 11:29:51 AM PST

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      •  We've seen communalism play out (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        joanneleon, Only Needs a Beat

        in places like '60-70s communes in the USA and kibbutzim in Israel. Some people love it, but there are artificial dynamics there too, and it's not for everyone. Of course we've also seen it play out at the national level in the Soviet Union etc.

        Full communalism is fine if it's strictly voluntary, but when the state gets involved it's not.

        Also, it may be that there are just too many people and that no one economic model should prevail. Somewhat relatedly, I've long thought that it's perfectly fitting for urban areas to have a more socialist style of governance and for rural areas to be more libertarian.

        Government and laws are the agreement we all make to secure everyone's freedom.

        by Simplify on Sat Dec 08, 2012 at 11:41:25 AM PST

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        •  I agree that the state fucks up communal living (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          JesseCW, RJDixon74135, blueoasis

          By definition, communism is always voluntary. The USSR, for example, never achieved communism, and in fact it was corrupted.

          Anarchism is unforced communal living. It is libertarian socialism. It was Marx who asserted that socialism needed to be forced by a central authority.

          Humans are by nature social and when left to their own natural impulses, tend to resort to mutual aid with their communities.

          But fundamentally, I don't agree that private ownership of resources, land, and other items used to produce goods is acceptable or is a right, since such private ownership always comes at the expense of deliberate exclusion of others, and almost always comes about through violence and force. It is theft. It is deliberate economic slavery.

          And it isn't voluntary, speaking of which.

          "In times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

          by ZhenRen on Sat Dec 08, 2012 at 11:53:44 AM PST

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        •  ?? (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          ZhenRen

          Only hunter-gatherer societies tend to be more truly communalist than agricultural societies, left to their own devices.

          This place needs a PVP server.

          by JesseCW on Sat Dec 08, 2012 at 01:46:19 PM PST

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          •  I remember (5+ / 0-)

            the account of Australian aborigines who had left the traditional tribal environment and went to work in the city. Researchers did a study in which a group of them were asked to go back to the old ways, living off the land.

            Of those in the study, the levels of physical energy expended, as well as psychological well being, levels of stress, and so forth, were monitored and compared between modern city dwelling and the natural hunter gatherer lifestyle.

            The results of the study surprised the researchers. These individuals extended less energy, were less stressed and happier in the hunter gatherer lifestyle than living in modern industrialized city with the so-called higher standard of living. Of course, these were people who had become adapted to either way of life.

            "In times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

            by ZhenRen on Sat Dec 08, 2012 at 02:18:18 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

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