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poverty and protective services


mtomom
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I think our sons are about the same age. I am not encouraging my son to make as much money as possible. In fact we have had many conversations about this topic. His dad is encouraging that, but not me. I am encouraging him to determine how much money he needs to live a life of dignity and then find a way to make that much money without his entire life being all about money and wealth.

 

It is a different way of thinking about things that is for sure.

 

But I don't think wealthy people are evil. Or even greedy. Wealth comes to people through all sorts of means and ways.

I do agree that a person's entire life shouldn't be about money and wealth. I think that would be an empty life.

 

The thing is, though, that it's impossible to know how much it will cost our sons to live dignified lives. There are so many unknowns. One injury, one sick family member, or one of any other unexpected crises can change everything. I just want my son to have enough money to cover the expenses of those things, and I also hope he's able to leave something behind for his own children and grandchildren to help make their lives a little easier. I would also hope that if he has enough money, he will be able to help others in need.

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Yes life is very precarious and uncertain. You will never have enough money to cover every possible scenario of what might go wrong. And striving after the most you can gather will lead to frustration. And it often does lead to greed and materialism.

 

I strive for balance. I am trying very hard , against the grain of current society, to instill balance in my son.

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I think there is a difference in how you and bluegoat interpret profit. It sounds like for you profit is anything above your costs (and in that case you would be in trouble if your business didn't generate any profits). Bluegoat I think considers the money you get (or maybe more exactly the money you should get) as a cost. So let's say you earn 100 and have costs (computer, advertising, employees etc.) of 75. Let's also say with your abilities etc. you could reasonably expect to get a job that pays 15 (as an employee for someone else) and let's add on another 5 because you are taking on more risk etc. So the "cost" of your work would be 20. Total cost (including you) would be 95. Then 5 would be the extra profit.

 

Personally, I think there is nothing wrong with you getting that extra 5 BUT if you didn't because you just charged 95 you'd not go broke and be just fine.

If this return is higher than that of other equivalent business opportunities, it will encourage more owners into the industry.  If this return is lower than that of other business opportunities, the owner will exit the industry, taking the resources to another industry or working for someone else (still making the $15 in your example but not having the added risk or capital tied up).  It is not a question of being just fine; return to the owners of business help allocate resources to industries where they are most desirable by the people purchasing goods and services.  If the owner truly is earning $5 more than what would be a reasonable return for his risk and capital, more people become business owners in the industry and compete that extra $5 away.

 

There is a problem when moving from the idea of what you describe to real world examples.  If we trust the marketplace to tell us what a worker would get at a job, then that input price is determined by supply and demand.  What would be the logic behind saying that is the "correct" price but that the return owners are getting (determined by supply and demand in the marketplace) is not the correct price?  If, in theory, I was trying to get at a true value for each resource if there were no profits, then I would have to make sure that any market I was using to determine a "correct" price would be free of the distortion of profits in those businesses.  Or, we would need some authority telling us what all of these prices "should" be.

 

I think this can quickly turn into "I think Mr. X could make $15 as an employee and only deserves to charge $95--that greedy man; look at how bad profits are; he is so wealthy with his extra $5"  While another person says, "I think Mr. X could make $20 a an employee and deserves to charge $100; he is getting just the right amount."   

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But again, who determines the owner's salary? Who determines the definition of "a reasonable expense of the business?" And if I own the business, why should someone else get to tell me how much of my business's profits I'm allowed to keep?

 

My idea. My business. My time. My effort. My money.

 

I'm wondering if you think people should be allowed to be millionaires or billionaires or if they should only ever be permitted to keep a certain amount of money.

 

I feel like I'm misunderstanding you, and I apologize for that. I'm not trying to be argumentative; I'm trying to figure out what you mean. :)

 

There isn't some kind of one size fits all formula for exact amounts.

 

I mean, we don't have that now.  We would probably all say that we should pay someone a fair salary, but we don't have some kind of way to give us an exact dollar amount.  And we have a sense of the difference between a fair price and price gouging, but it's not a exact calculation.  There are usually a variety of factors we think about to try and get a sense of what is appropriate in both cases.

 

An expense of the business is again, something we already think about.  Cost of materials?  Sure!  Cost of pension plans?  Sure!  Lots of trips for the manager to exotic places?  Well, maybe, but maybe not.  

 

As far as why someone should be able to tell you what you can keep - I think that really misses the point.  The question is how we think about what is right - including the business owner.  In his own mind, what does he think about when deciding  how he charges people, or pays employees?  How will the people in the community think about his business practices, if he doesn't himself?  It is possible that might be something that also becomes regulatory in some way.  We have minimum wages, designed to make sure owners don't exploit workers.  In some sectors there can be price controls as well, set by government or the industry itself - the latter was quite common at one time.

 

There have been times in the past when people thought of profit as immoral, because it was seen as stealing, and that is how they ran there economy.  Business did not wither away as people seem to be thinking it would - people still needed to earn a living, wanted to accomplish something, needed goods and services they would pay for.

 

 It might have been your business, it still wasn't considered to be your right to charge more than a fair price - if you did, it was stealing from the buyer.  Of course, unless it was a case where a price was regulated, there wasn't some hard and fast price - the issue would be what people thought of you, and what you thought of yourself, and perhaps what God thought of you.

 

I actually find it really odd that so many can think of taxes as reaching into your pocket and stealing, but over-charging for goods isn't stealing as well.

 

As far as amounts people can keep - I think it makes more sense to say - in a fair economic system, will we really see some people as billionaire while others have nothing?  Maybe, but right now our system tends to siphon money to those who already own business capital, and away from worker-consumers.  Both through the extra profits that come from profits, exploiting workers' productivity, and exploiting the environment, as well as returns on capital itself.  All the indications we have are that in a less weighted system, there would be less of an extreme wealth distribution.

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If this return is higher than that of other equivalent business opportunities, it will encourage more owners into the industry.  If this return is lower than that of other business opportunities, the owner will exit the industry, taking the resources to another industry or working for someone else (still making the $15 in your example but not having the added risk or capital tied up).  It is not a question of being just fine; return to the owners of business help allocate resources to industries where they are most desirable by the people purchasing goods and services.  If the owner truly is earning $5 more than what would be a reasonable return for his risk and capital, more people become business owners in the industry and compete that extra $5 away.

 

There is a problem when moving from the idea of what you describe to real world examples.  If we trust the marketplace to tell us what a worker would get at a job, then that input price is determined by supply and demand.  What would be the logic behind saying that is the "correct" price but that the return owners are getting (determined by supply and demand in the marketplace) is not the correct price?  If, in theory, I was trying to get at a true value for each resource if there were no profits, then I would have to make sure that any market I was using to determine a "correct" price would be free of the distortion of profits in those businesses.  Or, we would need some authority telling us what all of these prices "should" be.

 

I think this can quickly turn into "I think Mr. X could make $15 as an employee and only deserves to charge $95--that greedy man; look at how bad profits are; he is so wealthy with his extra $5"  While another person says, "I think Mr. X could make $20 a an employee and deserves to charge $100; he is getting just the right amount."   

 

If the really worked, we wouldn't see the kind of effects of price and wages that we do.  Nor would we have people justifying immoral behaviour by business, or fighting regulations that are meant to make sure the economy is working for the good of the people, by saying the purpose of business is to make a profit.

 

Which is how we got into this question through UBI.  Business owners determine the shape of the economy.  If they decide to automate to save money, and put say, 60% of the workforce out of jobs with no intention of creating more jobs, they can do that if the only purpose of economic activity is profit for owners.  Thus as a society we have to find some other solution to prod incomes for workers.

 

We already have this to some extent - in a capitalist economy there is always some level of unemployment - it's even desirable. If that is built into the system we have chosen to use, it creates a moral duty to help those affected by that unemployment.

 

In any case - I think it's ridiculous on the face of it to say the sole purpose of economic activity is to provide profit, or even income, for business owners. The most basic and fundamental point of economic activity is to provide the necessities of life.  That's why hunter-gatherers work, that''s why agrarian societies work, and that is why we all work.

 

ETA - what I am suggesting is that if people dislike the idea of UBI, perhaps they should consider it is the outcome of a system that takes a very narrow vision of economics.  Another possible approach would be to make that focus less narrow..

 

I think it's a rather interesting thing that those who oppose UBI also seem to oppose an economic model that would be an alternative.

Edited by Bluegoat
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If the really worked, we wouldn't see the kind of effects of price and wages that we do.  Nor would we have people justifying immoral behaviour by business, or fighting regulations that are meant to make sure the economy is working for the good of the people, by saying the purpose of business is to make a profit.

 

Which is how we got into this question through UBI.  Business owners determine the shape of the economy.  If they decide to automate to save money, and put say, 60% of the workforce out of jobs with no intention of creating more jobs, they can do that if the only purpose of economic activity is profit for owners.  Thus as a society we have to find some other solution to prod incomes for workers.

 

We already have this to some extent - in a capitalist economy there is always some level of unemployment - it's even desirable. If that is built into the system we have chosen to use, it creates a moral duty to help those affected by that unemployment.

 

In any case - I think it's ridiculous on the face of it to say the sole purpose of economic activity is to provide profit, or even income, for business owners. The most basic and fundamental point of economic activity is to provide the necessities of life.  That's why hunter-gatherers work, that''s why agrarian societies work, and that is why we all work.

 

ETA - what I am suggesting is that if people dislike the idea of UBI, perhaps they should consider it is the outcome of a system that takes a very narrow vision of economics.  Another possible approach would be to make that focus less narrow..

 

I think it's a rather interesting thing that those who oppose UBI also seem to oppose an economic model that would be an alternative.

I am not seeing the connection of how profits encouraging movement of resources to industries where the resources are most desirable by consumers leads to people justifying immoral behavior by business.  (I think there will be people who justify immoral behavior by individuals, businesses, and governments, but that is not caused by or unique to the profit motive).  

 

There is a difference in stating that the purpose of economic activity is profit for owners and the purpose of a business is profit (or utility maximization) for owners.  

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If the really worked, we wouldn't see the kind of effects of price and wages that we do. Nor would we have people justifying immoral behaviour by business, or fighting regulations that are meant to make sure the economy is working for the good of the people, by saying the purpose of business is to make a profit.

 

Which is how we got into this question through UBI. Business owners determine the shape of the economy. If they decide to automate to save money, and put say, 60% of the workforce out of jobs with no intention of creating more jobs, they can do that if the only purpose of economic activity is profit for owners. Thus as a society we have to find some other solution to prod incomes for workers.

 

We already have this to some extent - in a capitalist economy there is always some level of unemployment - it's even desirable. If that is built into the system we have chosen to use, it creates a moral duty to help those affected by that unemployment.

 

In any case - I think it's ridiculous on the face of it to say the sole purpose of economic activity is to provide profit, or even income, for business owners. The most basic and fundamental point of economic activity is to provide the necessities of life. That's why hunter-gatherers work, that''s why agrarian societies work, and that is why we all work.

 

ETA - what I am suggesting is that if people dislike the idea of UBI, perhaps they should consider it is the outcome of a system that takes a very narrow vision of economics. Another possible approach would be to make that focus less narrow..

 

I think it's a rather interesting thing that those who oppose UBI also seem to oppose an economic model that would be an alternative.

Thanks for the detailed explanation -- I appreciate it. :)

 

Another question (sorry if this is getting tedious!!!)...

 

Let's say I own a manufacturing business (I don't, but let's just say I do :D) and it's fair and ethical. Employees are fairly compensated, and the items are high quality and reasonably priced. But let's also say that I'm selling millions and millions of my products and my profits are very high. Do I still get to keep those profits, even though they would qualify me as a billionaire? (I'm thinking big in my pretend business!)

 

I'm assuming that since I'm a decent person, I would use a lot of that money to help others, but to keep it simple, let's not consider what I would do of my own volition.

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I am not seeing the connection of how profits encouraging movement of resources to industries where the resources are most desirable by consumers leads to people justifying immoral behavior by business.  (I think there will be people who justify immoral behavior by individuals, businesses, and governments, but that is not caused by or unique to the profit motive).  

 

There is a difference in stating that the purpose of economic activity is profit for owners and the purpose of a business is profit (or utility maximization) for owners.  

 

You really don't need extra profit to have the market signals you are talking about.  People still need to make a living. If there are too many people making shoes, they will not be able to make enough for the business to be sustainable, and presumably some will find something else to do.

 

And if there are too few shoes, it will be an opportunity for someone to potentially make a living.

 

People operated this way in the past, and didn't stop making shoes or opening cobbler shops, or flail about wondering how much to charge.  

 

If every individual business sees as its purpose maximization of profit, in the aggregate that is what will drive economic activity. Human beings aren't simply atomic individuals - our economic activities can't be compartmentalized that way, either in terms of our own lives as citizens or moral beings, or natural being, nor in terms of being somehow separate from the rest of the economy, or it's basic purposes.

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Thanks for the detailed explanation -- I appreciate it. :)

 

Another question (sorry if this is getting tedious!!!)...

 

Let's say I own a manufacturing business (I don't, but let's just say I do :D) and it's fair and ethical. Employees are fairly compensated, and the items are high quality and reasonably priced. But let's also say that I'm selling millions and millions of my products and my profits are very high. Do I still get to keep those profits, even though they would qualify me as a billionaire? (I'm thinking big in my pretend business!)

 

I'm assuming that since I'm a decent person, I would use a lot of that money to help others, but to keep it simple, let's not consider what I would do of my own volition.

 

I think this really gets into other issues.

 

But one thing to think about is that if there actually were no real profits, though you might live very comfortably, it's a question whether it is likely that your business would get that large in the first place.  Perhaps there simply wouldn't be any billionaires.

 

One effect might be that since you and your employees would both be compensated in relation to your productivity, they would be keeping a higher proportion of the money made.  perhaps some of them would use that to set up rival businesses - instead of one giant factory, there would be a few smaller ones.

 

There might be a tendency to create a lower growth, more diverse market.  The lower growth thing might bother some but I think that is actually something we are going to have to face - from a natural resources POV, and environmental perspective, we simply cannot continue with the level of growth that we have become accustomed to over the last few hundred years.  We're like Hungry Mungry - maybe we start out by eating our dinner but in the end we'll consume everything.

 

The question - would we allow people to keep that wealth - is the wrong question.  The idea really is that in a just economic system, wealth would be distributed more appropriately through the way the economic system operated.  There would not be this tendency for it to consolidate to a greater and greater degree over time into a few hands.

 

A lot of the reason we end up in a situation where we have to talk about redistributing wealth - progressive taxes, things like UBI, whatever - is because our system has a tendency to consolidate wealth over time in that way - what some people calls the trickle-up effect.  This is totally independent of anyone being a better business person, or a harder worker - it's a feature of the system.  People who begin to become wealthy may have those characteristics, but once they have wealth (or inherited) our economy is structured in such a way that they will tend to accrue wealth in ways the non-wealthy cannot, and at a greater rate.

 

It's a bit like if you imagine the period when wealth really came very directly from land.  The aristocracy who controlled, (and later managed to legally fuddle the system so they owned) that land could become very rich.  They could farm it directly, mine its resources, collect rents from tenants.  They could then acquire more land, and on it would go.  On the other hand, the tenant on the land had nothing that was really his own that he could live off, part of his work kept going to pay the landowner, and every time he wants to use the infrastructure provided by the landlord (use his mill, cu t don a tree, use the quarry.) The chance that he might be able to buy something of his own was very small indeed, because he could never save the money.  His work - the same amount of work - can never return as much to him as the owners work will for him.

 

That is very similar to the situation today, except the landowners are equivalent to capitalists - the people who own productive capital, businesses, can employ others and pay for their labour.  The tenants are the workers.  They never have the opportunity to build wealth in the same efficient way, because receiving a wage is different than owning capital.  And all the more so when the capital itself creates a profit, like you see now in the banking sector, where productivity might not be a factor much at all.

Edited by Bluegoat
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If this return is higher than that of other equivalent business opportunities, it will encourage more owners into the industry.  If this return is lower than that of other business opportunities, the owner will exit the industry, taking the resources to another industry or working for someone else (still making the $15 in your example but not having the added risk or capital tied up).  It is not a question of being just fine; return to the owners of business help allocate resources to industries where they are most desirable by the people purchasing goods and services.  If the owner truly is earning $5 more than what would be a reasonable return for his risk and capital, more people become business owners in the industry and compete that extra $5 away.

 

There is a problem when moving from the idea of what you describe to real world examples.  If we trust the marketplace to tell us what a worker would get at a job, then that input price is determined by supply and demand.  What would be the logic behind saying that is the "correct" price but that the return owners are getting (determined by supply and demand in the marketplace) is not the correct price?  If, in theory, I was trying to get at a true value for each resource if there were no profits, then I would have to make sure that any market I was using to determine a "correct" price would be free of the distortion of profits in those businesses.  Or, we would need some authority telling us what all of these prices "should" be.

 

I think this can quickly turn into "I think Mr. X could make $15 as an employee and only deserves to charge $95--that greedy man; look at how bad profits are; he is so wealthy with his extra $5"  While another person says, "I think Mr. X could make $20 a an employee and deserves to charge $100; he is getting just the right amount."   

 

I do agree with what you wrote above for the most part (there are instances in which market barriers are too high to make it easy to allocate according to demand) - my explanation wasn't what I think does/should happen but what I think bluegoat meant as people had different ideas what "profit" meant.

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I actually find it really odd that so many can think of taxes as reaching into your pocket and stealing, but over-charging for goods isn't stealing as well.

 

 

 

I don't really have an issue with taxes (well, I hate them but philosophically I am fine with them) but I don't think you can successfully over-charge for goods in a proper market. There are markets that by their nature or by circumstance do not function well and in those cases I do think the government needs to intervene.

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You are taking this discussion very personally.  I have no idea how much you charge your clients, how much you ought to charge then, and in any case it isn't really possible for one person to just decide to use a totally different economic model than everyone else in the entire world, and I wouldn't expect that.

 

The question is, as a society even as a people on a planet, is this way of thinking fair, sustainable, does it have the best outcomes?

 

It's not the only way to think about the question - it has been thought about in other ways.  If we changed the way we thought about it, to better reflect what is true and just, what would that look like?

 

As far as your starting up other businesses with your profits.  That is really just a small version of what happens at a larger scale - the so called promise of trickle down economics.  We let the capital owners are these profits and supposedly they invest it in new business ventures that improve life for everyone.  Well, we all know how that looked in the end - it did not make things better, it increased inequality and bad conditions for workers.  It was, really, trickle-up economics - where the capital owners took the "profits" which rightfully belonged to the customers and used them for their own benefit.  

 

It seems much more humane a small scale, but the mechanism is the same.

 

Seems like we need to agree to disagree here.

 

The average outcome of a capitalist society is a bigger pie and nearly everyone having more than they had before, and more than their counterparts in non-capitalist countries have.  I'd rather have a less-fancy phone than to have my only access to a phone be blocks away, decades old, and shared with the whole town.  Whether someone somewhere has much more or better stuff is not my concern.

 

This is why even communist countries are trying to use capitalist principles to undo the damage done over the majority of the past century.

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I don't really have an issue with taxes (well, I hate them but philosophically I am fine with them) but I don't think you can successfully over-charge for goods in a proper market. There are markets that by their nature or by circumstance do not function well and in those cases I do think the government needs to intervene.

 

I guess it might depend what a "proper market" is.

 

But - I think actually it's often not over-charging the is the issue in practice.  The price charged is about what it should be - or even artificially low, and you get the Walmart effect, which has its own problems.

 

But what happens is that the profit for owners is carved out of other areas - like salaries for workers, or benefits, or sustainability, or eliminating positions.  

 

Now, if  automation if it goes the way we think, is going to be a serious problem for the economy as a whole.  Ultimately, having large numbers of people out of work won't even benefit those who are in business, as they won't be good consumers.  

 

But an individual company can justify automation because their purpose is supposed to be to maximize profits - and they will compete against other businesses who have the same idea, so even if they think that is a flawed choice, they will not be able to compete if they don't follow that trend.

 

Well, that is not the kind of thinking we want instantiated in the managing of the economy as a whole.  So that seems to leave two options:  

 

We can leave the part of making an economy that serves us as a society to government - which is going to mean giving them a strong hard in terms of regulation and shaping business.  The government will be the regulatory, collective balance against the individualistic focus off the business owners.

 

Or if we don't want to do that, if we want to leave as much as possible to individuals, we need to take that larger focus of the whole economy and somehow make it intrinsic and effective on an individual level - so business owners, and investors, and workers, all are seeing their choices as not only for their own benefit but as a way to pursue the common good.  And that means having a vision of the purpose of business, and a business morality, that includes those other vales - like providing products we need to live, or jobs.

 

What I find very odd is that people agree mostly that the economy as a whole should work for society as a whole.  But some people want to limit interference of government and leave as much as possible up to individual decisions, but also want to say that those decisions are only made to maximize utility to the individual.  

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For starters, everyone gets it regardless of income. No stigma. Secondly, it is actually enough to live off of. No hoops to jump through. No separate food stamps/section 8 housing/heating help/etc. Just money to cover the basics. This would of course need to be paired with excellent mental health, drug addiction counseling, etc.

 

Another option is just to actually have safe, available housing for low income. Not a waiting list that is years long. Housing first has been shown to help more than making people jump through hoops in order to "earn" housing. Maybe even a set up where there is someone that lives in the apartments or what not to provide help finding other assistance, etc.

 

I'd love to see set ups with apartments where one of the apartments is used for tutoring/daycare/parenting classes/cooking classes/money management classes/resume help/job search help/etc. And you could stay there for one year or 6 months or whatever AFTER getting a job, so no worries that you would be kicked out before building up a safety net. Could charge a small percentage of income as rent, but not enough to disincentive working or keep them from saving up money.

Where will this money come from?
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We live near a large resettlement area. The ones that come here absolutely have to pay back the government for their plane tickets here. They are given 3 months rent that they don't pay back, but after that, they are expected to be self supporting.

 

We have chicken processing plants about 1.5 hours from here. It's hard for them to find workers, so they send vans to the largest apartment complexes. They are big employers for our refugee community.

Gross. Come to a new country and work in a factory farm. :/ What must they think of us.
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I think this really gets into other issues.

 

But one thing to think about is that if there actually were no real profits, though you might live very comfortably, it's a question whether it is likely that your business would get that large in the first place. Perhaps there simply wouldn't be any billionaires.

 

One effect might be that since you and your employees would both be compensated in relation to your productivity, they would be keeping a higher proportion of the money made. perhaps some of them would use that to set up rival businesses - instead of one giant factory, there would be a few smaller ones.

 

There might be a tendency to create a lower growth, more diverse market. The lower growth thing might bother some but I think that is actually something we are going to have to face - from a natural resources POV, and environmental perspective, we simply cannot continue with the level of growth that we have become accustomed to over the last few hundred years. We're like Hungry Mungry - maybe we start out by eating our dinner but in the end we'll consume everything.

 

The question - would we allow people to keep that wealth - is the wrong question. The idea really is that in a just economic system, wealth would be distributed more appropriately through the way the economic system operated. There would not be this tendency for it to consolidate to a greater and greater degree over time into a few hands.

 

A lot of the reason we end up in a situation where we have to talk about redistributing wealth - progressive taxes, things like UBI, whatever - is because our system has a tendency to consolidate wealth over time in that way - what some people calls the trickle-up effect. This is totally independent of anyone being a better business person, or a harder worker - it's a feature of the system. People who begin to become wealthy may have those characteristics, but once they have wealth (or inherited) our economy is structured in such a way that they will tend to accrue wealth in ways the non-wealthy cannot, and at a greater rate.

 

It's a bit like if you imagine the period when wealth really came very directly from land. The aristocracy who controlled, (and later managed to legally fuddle the system so they owned) that land could become very rich. They could farm it directly, mine its resources, collect rents from tenants. They could then acquire more land, and on it would go. On the other hand, the tenant on the land had nothing that was really his own that he could live off, part of his work kept going to pay the landowner, and every time he wants to use the infrastructure provided by the landlord (use his mill, cu t don a tree, use the quarry.) The chance that he might be able to buy something of his own was very small indeed, because he could never save the money. His work - the same amount of work - can never return as much to him as the owners work will for him.

 

That is very similar to the situation today, except the landowners are equivalent to capitalists - the people who own productive capital, businesses, can employ others and pay for their labour. The tenants are the workers. They never have the opportunity to build wealth in the same efficient way, because receiving a wage is different than owning capital. And all the more so when the capital itself creates a profit, like you see now in the banking sector, where productivity might not be a factor much at all.

I have a feeling that we won't agree on this issue, because I can't fathom the idea of starting a business without wanting it to be as financially profitable as possible for me, the owner of that business.

 

Without the possibility of substantial profits that would afford my family a better lifestyle and allow us to save for the future, I would personally have no incentive for starting that business. Business ownership is difficult and stressful, and can also be very expensive, so why would I put myself through all that hard work and stress and take that financial risk if, in the end, my business isn't supposed to make a profit? Why wouldn't I just go out and get a job somewhere instead of starting that business?

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Over a decade ago, my community built a prototype homeless shelter that included everything from dormitory style beds to transitional apartments for families. All of the services are provided in a centralized location--drug counseling, money management lessons, nutrition classes, child care, tutoring, job training....

 

It seems to have been highly successful in meeting the needs of some and a total failure at meeting the needs of others. As part of this plan, churches in the area were strongly encouraged to stop many programs. The idea was that the homeless would be forced to go to the shelter if there weren't alternatives. Laws were passed, for example, that made it illegal to give anyone who is homeless anything on the street. This law meant that I could be arrested for giving a homeless person a granola bar, but I could give Bill Gates $1000 if he were on the street. (The law was that it was illegal to give a HOMELESS person something--you could give things to other people) All types of food regulations were passed making it extremely difficult for churches to run a soup kitchen.

I used to work with Food Not Bombs, but the police hassled us so much for handing out food to hungry people without a permit that we had to stop.
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Yes life is very precarious and uncertain. You will never have enough money to cover every possible scenario of what might go wrong. And striving after the most you can gather will lead to frustration. And it often does lead to greed and materialism.

 

I strive for balance. I am trying very hard , against the grain of current society, to instill balance in my son.

I think we will have to agree to disagree. Striving for financial success doesn't have to lead to frustration. A person can be ambitious and hardworking without it being all-consuming.

 

Also, I'm not sure a degree of materialism is such a terrible thing. I don't think it's a sin to want better, nicer things. I don't think it's good to want nicer things if you're only doing it because you want to show off to other people; that's obnoxious. But if you truly enjoy those nicer things, I don't see why you shouldn't strive to afford them.

 

As far as never being able to have enough money for any possible scenario, well, that's true to an extent, but I would much prefer my son to be the person who has a few million dollars socked away for an emergency than to only have a few hundred dollars socked away for that same emergency.

 

 

(Edited because I can't type today -- and I can't even blame the typos on my iPad!)

Edited by Catwoman
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You are taking this discussion very personally. I have no idea how much you charge your clients, how much you ought to charge then, and in any case it isn't really possible for one person to just decide to use a totally different economic model than everyone else in the entire world, and I wouldn't expect that.

 

The question is, as a society even as a people on a planet, is this way of thinking fair, sustainable, does it have the best outcomes?

 

It's not the only way to think about the question - it has been thought about in other ways. If we changed the way we thought about it, to better reflect what is true and just, what would that look like?

 

As far as your starting up other businesses with your profits. That is really just a small version of what happens at a larger scale - the so called promise of trickle down economics. We let the capital owners are these profits and supposedly they invest it in new business ventures that improve life for everyone. Well, we all know how that looked in the end - it did not make things better, it increased inequality and bad conditions for workers. It was, really, trickle-up economics - where the capital owners took the "profits" which rightfully belonged to the customers and used them for their own benefit.

 

It seems much more humane a small scale, but the mechanism is the same.

My question about the bolded part of your post is... why do you think the owners' profits "rightfully belonged to the customers?"

 

If the business owner is charging the price the market will bear for a quality product, why should his profits be given back to the customers? Why shouldn't the owner use the profits for his own benefit?

 

(Edited for clarity -- I hope! :) )

Edited by Catwoman
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But - I think actually it's often not over-charging the is the issue in practice.  The price charged is about what it should be - or even artificially low, and you get the Walmart effect, which has its own problems.

 

But what happens is that the profit for owners is carved out of other areas - like salaries for workers, or benefits, or sustainability, or eliminating positions.  

 

Now, if  automation if it goes the way we think, is going to be a serious problem for the economy as a whole.  Ultimately, having large numbers of people out of work won't even benefit those who are in business, as they won't be good consumers.  

 

To me there seems to be an assumption that a business is starting the a "correct" number of positions, resulting in eliminating a position being a bad, immoral decision.  I don't see how far we can back up this argument.  If I argue that a company should not automate the delivery of the shirt it produces because it will eliminate a truck driver's position, should I also argue that the company should get rid of its sewing machines because it would hire more people if the shirts were sown by hand?  And should the company not use a cotton gin because it would have more position in the gathering of the cotton to make the shirts?  

 

It seems odd to see automation and increased productivity as bad.  Do we view inventors as people who damage society?  Or, is it just the company that adopts the invention?

 

For generations, we have had increases in capital that have changed the way we work.  I don't see that leading to serious problems for the economy--change in the economy--but not serious problems.  If we have automated delivery of goods, eliminating the need for some people to spend their day as a truck driver, it will free up their labor resources to paint, write a novel, read with a child, or care for the elderly.  

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I don't even care about "things."  It was funny being called "materialistic" earlier in the thread.  Nearly everything I use was procured second-hand and/or shared with multiple other people.

 

I was brought up to believe that we should try to make a positive difference in the world if we can.  Well, it turns out I can, so I do.  Owning the means to do good things requires that I earn a profit in my business. 

 

No, taking the profit and dispersing it among the people who need the help is not going to have similar benefits.  I mean at some point, we have to get real.

 

Edited by SKL
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Taxes are mandatory with threat of a fine; buying something is voluntary.  People who own businesses should be allowed to make as much profit as they like; they should be allowed to be greedy if that's how they wish to run their business.

There isn't some kind of one size fits all formula for exact amounts.

 

I mean, we don't have that now.  We would probably all say that we should pay someone a fair salary, but we don't have some kind of way to give us an exact dollar amount.  And we have a sense of the difference between a fair price and price gouging, but it's not a exact calculation.  There are usually a variety of factors we think about to try and get a sense of what is appropriate in both cases.

 

An expense of the business is again, something we already think about.  Cost of materials?  Sure!  Cost of pension plans?  Sure!  Lots of trips for the manager to exotic places?  Well, maybe, but maybe not.  

 

As far as why someone should be able to tell you what you can keep - I think that really misses the point.  The question is how we think about what is right - including the business owner.  In his own mind, what does he think about when deciding  how he charges people, or pays employees?  How will the people in the community think about his business practices, if he doesn't himself?  It is possible that might be something that also becomes regulatory in some way.  We have minimum wages, designed to make sure owners don't exploit workers.  In some sectors there can be price controls as well, set by government or the industry itself - the latter was quite common at one time.

 

There have been times in the past when people thought of profit as immoral, because it was seen as stealing, and that is how they ran there economy.  Business did not wither away as people seem to be thinking it would - people still needed to earn a living, wanted to accomplish something, needed goods and services they would pay for.

 

 It might have been your business, it still wasn't considered to be your right to charge more than a fair price - if you did, it was stealing from the buyer.  Of course, unless it was a case where a price was regulated, there wasn't some hard and fast price - the issue would be what people thought of you, and what you thought of yourself, and perhaps what God thought of you.

 

I actually find it really odd that so many can think of taxes as reaching into your pocket and stealing, but over-charging for goods isn't stealing as well.

 

As far as amounts people can keep - I think it makes more sense to say - in a fair economic system, will we really see some people as billionaire while others have nothing?  Maybe, but right now our system tends to siphon money to those who already own business capital, and away from worker-consumers.  Both through the extra profits that come from profits, exploiting workers' productivity, and exploiting the environment, as well as returns on capital itself.  All the indications we have are that in a less weighted system, there would be less of an extreme wealth distribution.

 

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I actually find it really odd that so many can think of taxes as reaching into your pocket and stealing, but over-charging for goods isn't stealing as well.

 

Personally, I would not equate taxes and stealing, but taxes and charging a price for a good or service are two different things.  I have no choice to pay the taxes that are levied (or face jail).  I have a choice when I buy a good or service.  If I think the supplier is over-charging, I have a choice not to purchase.  I find it difficult to label someone as over-charging for a good.  If a business charges $10 for a widget and it is worth $5 to me, I think they are overcharging and I don't buy it.  Bobby thinks a widget is worth $10 and buys a widget.  Sally thinks a widget is worth $15 and buys a widget---she traded $10 for a widget worth $15--in her mind she got more than she gave up.  Is Sally stealing $5 worth of a widget?

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I've thought a little bit on universal income. I think there are some ways that it would be more efficient and give more freedom to those with low income to really make it work for them but it won't solve the major problems plaguing the majority of the lower middle class or low income families. Run away housing, healthcare, and education costs will eat through any UI you hand out like it's not there.

 

It wouldn't cause inflation as it would be redistributing money not specifically increasing the money supply but as lower income people must have certain things it could shift the demand curve of those specific things. In Alaska we have the closest thing to a UI as anything in the US I believe. Every single person gets a check from the government in October. You will find a bump in the housing market in the fall that is not found in other states. It is really too small to change people's longterm living conditions but they will suddenly have enough for a down payment if they are a family of 6 or 8. (even children get a check). The problem is it doesn't change the actual supply of housing so it simply shifts demand for a month or two. It's not a big enough payment for long term shift and it's not a huge temporary shift either since the checks are so small but it is a clue.

 

Since we do not have capitalist systems in place (at least for health care and education) we have to do something about the runaway costs or we aren't really doing any good for the majority at least by just putting more money in the system.

 

I believe there is huge amounts of work needing to be done in the service sector but who can afford paying for any help when every penny you earn is going towards heath, housing, and education costs. Who can afford to do any job that doesn't have health care benefits? Who can afford to start your own business with the high cost of providing them any kind of benefits? I think these costs are binding up our economy. A UI may help with food costs for the poorest of the poor but only if you are still providing them free or subsidized health care and education. Then the lower middle class is still stuck with all their money going for continuous rising costs of the big three and they will still feel in a futile situation.

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Personally, I would not equate taxes and stealing, but taxes and charging a price for a good or service are two different things. I have no choice to pay the taxes that are levied (or face jail). I have a choice when I buy a good or service. If I think the supplier is over-charging, I have a choice not to purchase. I find it difficult to label someone as over-charging for a good. If a business charges $10 for a widget and it is worth $5 to me, I think they are overcharging and I don't buy it. Bobby thinks a widget is worth $10 and buys a widget. Sally thinks a widget is worth $15 and buys a widget---she traded $10 for a widget worth $15--in her mind she got more than she gave up. Is Sally stealing $5 worth of a widget?

I have no choice about buying insulin unless you think just letting Dh die is a valid choice.

I have no choice about educating my children unless you think illiteracy and unemployment are valid choices.

I have no choice about my Dh having a smart phone if I want him to get a job or keep a job bc it's expected and those who don't don't get work.

I have no genuine choice about buying many things, and those things eat up all of my income.

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The percentage of people who are such hard case addicts is much lower than the percentage of people who are labeled as such.

I am not happy with my money going to support the armed forces, build roads through areas of natural beauty, allow wealthy ex MPs to get travel perks etc etc. The percentage of people who choose to do things we don't approve of is usually low and could one day include someone we love. If someone wants to live on the UBI and watch TV all day that doesn't harm us, if they spend it on drugs it only harms us if they cause other problems. But once it has been PSID in tax it isn't my hard earned money and I have no more say over what is done with than I do over what my landlord or supermarket do with the money I give them.

 

Eta. Meant to quote the post this quote was in response to.

Edited by kiwik
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I'm a little late to the thread - TBH, it was a little intimidating because this stuff tends to go right over my head, but several pages ago, the UBI of 30-40K was thrown around.  Seems like a pipe dream; DS and I live on half that now.  Just maybe, with a bit of cushion, we might be healthier, less stressed, eat better, be able to chip away at debt, pay the doctors on time, etc.  And I don't think I'm the only person in poverty who would rather do those things than sit around Netflixing all day.

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I have no choice about buying insulin unless you think just letting Dh die is a valid choice.

I have no choice about educating my children unless you think illiteracy and unemployment are valid choices.

I have no choice about my Dh having a smart phone if I want him to get a job or keep a job bc it's expected and those who don't don't get work.

I have no genuine choice about buying many things, and those things eat up all of my income.

Insulin is a special case; it is probably the best example of a good with a perfectly inelastic demand.

 

You are not told that you must turn over $X to X person to educate your children or go to jail.  You may not think illiteracy and unemployment are valid choices, but that is different than being threatened with jail if you don't pay for them.  

 

I know that it is becoming the norm to have a smart phone, but I do know people who do not have them that get work.  You have more than one choice of whom to buy a smart phone from.  

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I think we will have to agree to disagree. Striving for financial success doesn't have to lead to frustration. A person can be ambitious and hardworking without it being all-consuming.

 

Also, I'm not sure a degree of materialism is such a terrible thing. I don't think it's a sin to want better, nicer things. I don't think it's good to want nicer things if you're only doing it because you want to show off to other people; that's obnoxious. But if you truly enjoy those nicer things, I don't see why you shouldn't strive to afford them.

 

As far as never being able to have enough money for any possible scenario, well, that's true to an extent, but I would much prefer my son to be the person who has a few million dollars socked away for an emergency than to only have a few hundred dollars socked away for that same emergency.

 

 

(Edited because I can't type today -- and I can't even blame the typos on my iPad!)

We will have to agree to disagree . Materialism is a very specific way of looking at things. Being focused on the material things in life rather than the spiritual.

 

We encourage Ds to be self sufficient and modest in his goals for material things.

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I'm a little late to the thread - TBH, it was a little intimidating because this stuff tends to go right over my head, but several pages ago, the UBI of 30-40K was thrown around. Seems like a pipe dream; DS and I live on half that now. Just maybe, with a bit of cushion, we might be healthier, less stressed, eat better, be able to chip away at debt, pay the doctors on time, etc. And I don't think I'm the only person in poverty who would rather do those things than sit around Netflixing all day.

Idk why anyone used 30/40k for UI. I sincerely doubt that is likely. It was not a number based on any actually UI projections.

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We will have to agree to disagree . Materialism is a very specific way of looking at things. Being focused on the material things in life rather than the spiritual.

 

We encourage Ds to be self sufficient and modest in his goals for material things.

Ok, but I'm not sure we disagree as much as you think we do. :)

 

People can focus on spiritual things and still drive a BMW or wish they had a nicer house. I don't think the two are mutually exclusive.

 

Also, your son could start his own business and hope it will be a modest success, but it could end up being massively successful. Your son sounds like a very intelligent young man, so that could happen. That wouldn't be a bad thing, would it? He could live a great lifestyle (he wouldn't have to be extravagant,) save money for his family's future, and still have lots of money left over to donate to his church and other charities, as well as to help local families in need.

 

Or is the specific goal to not be wealthy? (I'm not being snarky -- I hope I'm not coming across that way! I'm just trying to understand the mindset.)

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Interesting, my mom was raised as a Jehovah's Witness and she was advised to quit school on her 16th birthday since an education was a materialistic goal.

 

Personally, my definition of "focus on material things" is not limited to wanting more money or stuff.  It also includes a focus on minimizing or avoiding stuff, or being annoyed that someone else has stuff, or blaming material things for human or spiritual problems.

 

I don't advise my kids to aspire to have or not have stuff, but to aspire to develop and use their talents in meaningful ways.  I really don't care how much money they die with.  I hope they will always have food to eat and a roof over their heads.  I hope they never think they are defined by what kind of roof that happens to be.

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Interesting, my mom was raised as a Jehovah's Witness and she was advised to quit school on her 16th birthday since an education was a materialistic goal.

 

Personally, my definition of "focus on material things" is not limited to wanting more money or stuff. It also includes a focus on minimizing or avoiding stuff, or being annoyed that someone else has stuff, or blaming material things for human or spiritual problems.

 

I don't advise my kids to aspire to have or not have stuff, but to aspire to develop and use their talents in meaningful ways. I really don't care how much money they die with. I hope they will always have food to eat and a roof over their heads. I hope they never think they are defined by what kind of roof that happens to be.

Been a JW my entire life and the whole idea of quitting school at 16 is not normal for us. So I can't speak for your mom but that is nothing I have ever been taught or taught my son.

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Ok, but I'm not sure we disagree as much as you think we do. :)

 

People can focus on spiritual things and still drive a BMW or wish they had a nicer house. I don't think the two are mutually exclusive.

 

Also, your son could start his own business and hope it will be a modest success, but it could end up being massively successful. Your son sounds like a very intelligent young man, so that could happen. That wouldn't be a bad thing, would it? He could live a great lifestyle (he wouldn't have to be extravagant,) save money for his family's future, and still have lots of money left over to donate to his church and other charities, as well as to help local families in need.

 

Or is the specific goal to not be wealthy? (I'm not being snarky -- I hope I'm not coming across that way! I'm just trying to understand the mindset.)

I have seen a lot of things play out in my life Cat. Sometimes people just end up with a lot of money without having put much effort toward it. More often than not people with a lot of money also have a string of bad things behind them. They get wealthy but the price has been high to their personal life and to their spirituality.

 

And no the goal is not to avoid being wealthy.

 

Materialism has to do with a focus. You can be wealthy and non materialistic and you can be dirt poor and be materialistic.

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I have seen a lot of things play out in my life Cat. Sometimes people just end up with a lot of money without having put much effort toward it. More often than not people with a lot of money also have a string of bad things behind them. They get wealthy but the price has been high to their personal life and to their spirituality.

 

And no the goal is not to avoid being wealthy.

 

Materialism has to do with a focus. You can be wealthy and non materialistic and you can be dirt poor and be materialistic.

Ok, that makes sense! Thanks! :)

 

My experiences have been much different than yours, as I haven't seen a difference between wealthy and non-wealthy people in terms of bad things in their lives, and the wealthy people I know seem to be generally happier than the people who are always worrying about whether or not they will be able to pay the bills or afford things like medical care.

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Ok, that makes sense! Thanks! :)

 

My experiences have been much different than yours, as I haven't seen a difference between wealthy and non-wealthy people in terms of bad things in their lives, and the wealthy people I know seem to be generally happier than the people who are always worrying about whether or not they will be able to pay the bills or afford things like medical care.

I agree unwealthy people can be very unhappy. But I know many many unwealthy happy people who have made spirituality and a life of service their goal and focus.

 

I can see how our life experiences would be vastly different.

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Personally, I would not equate taxes and stealing, but taxes and charging a price for a good or service are two different things.  I have no choice to pay the taxes that are levied (or face jail).  I have a choice when I buy a good or service.  If I think the supplier is over-charging, I have a choice not to purchase.  I find it difficult to label someone as over-charging for a good.  If a business charges $10 for a widget and it is worth $5 to me, I think they are overcharging and I don't buy it.  Bobby thinks a widget is worth $10 and buys a widget.  Sally thinks a widget is worth $15 and buys a widget---she traded $10 for a widget worth $15--in her mind she got more than she gave up.  Is Sally stealing $5 worth of a widget?

 

Before anything else, I want to say that I absolutely believe that taxes need to be spent more responsibly and efficiently.  So there's that.

And I know that tax provided services require buying widgets all the time, and they should be purchased at a fair but reasonable price.  And corruption does indeed rob us all, whether our dollars put in or the reduction in services due to waste. But taxes are inanimate and politicians are citizens voted in by citizens, so it's a people problem that, at it's root, starts with "what's in it for me".

 

So, my whole area is undergoing road work.  There's been very little "real" paving, with most municipalities choosing oil and chip patching everywhere.  It's ugly and gross and messy, and everyone's complaining about the lack of "real" paving.  Including me.  But no one wants to pay more in taxes for higher quality road maintenance.

 

This is representative of what I see in almost every area of tax spending.  I want, but don't make me pay.  

 

Beyond widgets themselves, there's human labor in tax paid services, and the "market" has determined its value to be so low that parents will actually push their children away from the careers needed to keep our society functioning.  And I know it's not just in tax paid services, but in just about anything we don't personally use or notice on a regular basis.

 

One of my daughters dreams of a career in firefighting.  She wants to risk her life trying to save others and protecting their property.  As a side note, she's willing to face and fight discrimination in order to do so.  The hours suck, the danger is great, and anyone might need her at any moment.  But the fire service is aging rapidly, and we're ALL in trouble if we continue losing young people who are willing, but would rather make more money.

 

My region is almost all volunteer fire companies, and it drives me insane that they have to fundraise to keep afloat.  In addition to working their paid jobs, training for fire and rescue, and then going out whenever, wherever to help people, they're spending enormous amounts of time and labor hustling for funds... on top of buying higher quality widgets out of their own individual pockets (however tax deductible.)  Everyone wants their automatic fire alarm checked at 2am, but don't force them to pay for more gas in the truck! Get other people to go play Bingo or eat chicken.

 

Safety nets are just as important. And I have no desire to see waste in whatever programs we've had, do have, or may have one day.  But the answer to waste isn't to eliminate services.  If it were, we should expand that to include road maintenance, fire service, the garbage, water, and sewer services, parks and rec, emergency management, police forces, health clinics, libraries, and about 10,000 other things that haven't come to me before my second cup of coffee.  Just reduce or even get rid of them all because a few people here and there might be making a few extra bucks, or because people are choosing not to patch the road themselves, fight their own fire, drill their own well, or buy their own books.  What motivation do they have to provide for themselves if others keep doing it for them?

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I have a feeling that we won't agree on this issue, because I can't fathom the idea of starting a business without wanting it to be as financially profitable as possible for me, the owner of that business.

 

Without the possibility of substantial profits that would afford my family a better lifestyle and allow us to save for the future, I would personally have no incentive for starting that business. Business ownership is difficult and stressful, and can also be very expensive, so why would I put myself through all that hard work and stress and take that financial risk if, in the end, my business isn't supposed to make a profit? Why wouldn't I just go out and get a job somewhere instead of starting that business?

 

I doubt that's true - would you be willing, say as a small business owner, to exploit your workers, or pollute the river next to your shop, even if there were no laws around those things?

 

Because both of those will affect the bottom line.

 

By the logic you are outlining here, unless you are allowed to do these things with impunity, there is no point in starting a business, you aren't making as much money as you could.

 

Interestingly, in the past when thinking of profit this way was common, more people had a small business, and fewer were employees.  Ultimately, if no one does have a business, there will be no jobs for employees, and everyone will have to work for themselves.  So again - a different kind of economic landscape.

 

There still would be advantages though to owning - you would have a chunk of capital you could sell or pass down at the end.  You would have a kind of autonomy and ability to define your own work.  You wouldn't be dependent on others providing a position for you.

 

All those supposedly cherished free-market values, that we actually don't see much interest in in our culture.

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People seem to be missing that UBI doesn't go away if you work. You get that, PLUS your wages. So working is incentivised. 

 

The model I looked at had a cap.  So, if you make X amount (it did not state specifically, just said "the wealthier"), you don't get the UBI.

 

Basically it said, the poor get more.  The median income get a little bit, and the wealthier get nothing.

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I have seen a lot of things play out in my life Cat. Sometimes people just end up with a lot of money without having put much effort toward it. More often than not people with a lot of money also have a string of bad things behind them. They get wealthy but the price has been high to their personal life and to their spirituality.

 

And no the goal is not to avoid being wealthy.

 

Materialism has to do with a focus. You can be wealthy and non materialistic and you can be dirt poor and be materialistic.

 

Are we defining terms like wealthy here or just making comments?  I don't mean YOU specifically, but this thread overall.  

 

And I don't think everyone poor, moderate, or wealthy has a string of bad things or decisions behind them.  I just don't.  Many people live lives of relatively well, without major issues.

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My question about the bolded part of your post is... why do you think the owners' profits "rightfully belonged to the customers?"

 

If the business owner is charging the price the market will bear for a quality product, why should his profits be given back to the customers? Why shouldn't the owner use the profits for his own benefit?

 

(Edited for clarity -- I hope! :) )

 

Again, this comes to overcharging.

 

Think in terms of price gouging.  Why do we think it's wrong?  It isn't just that we think it is mean.

 

If the "correct" price is always what the market will bear, if it is impossible to over-charge, why would that be illegal?  

 

The right price is not always what the price will bear, and it isn't necessarily primarily defined by that, though it may be a good signal when it's working properly.

 

If the price being charged is inappropriate, the seller in that case is essentially stealing from the customer

 

What I am suggesting is that the correct price is more closely related to productivity.  The price of the product reflects the costs involved in producing it, and the productivity of the workers and owners.  There is no extra 5 or 10% or whatever is normative for the industry tacked on top of that.  (Availability in the market is a signal that can be useful - if a product is hard to find it may be because of difficulties related to resources, production, or transport.  But it isn't always a clear signal - there are confounding factors and it can be manipulated.)

 

I can see that people are having difficulty imagining this. If you scale it down, how would it look.  Say you live in a town where people produce a variety of products and services that people need or want.  You charge your customers the costs associated with your products and what you require to support yourself in whatever is seen as a decent lifestyle.  Therefore your customers are getting this product from you at a very fair price.  In their turn, they charge you for various products you need too, which you are also getting for a fair price, and they earn a livelihood.  What happens when one or all of those people decides to charge more than that - as much as they can get out of the customers?  How does that make the system better?  It seems to me that it begins to create a lot of confounding factors.

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Ok, that makes sense! Thanks! :)

 

My experiences have been much different than yours, as I haven't seen a difference between wealthy and non-wealthy people in terms of bad things in their lives, and the wealthy people I know seem to be generally happier than the people who are always worrying about whether or not they will be able to pay the bills or afford things like medical care.

Disclaimer: it's been a while since I've researched this so I may be stating incorrectly--

 

There are studies showing happiness related to income. In general, our happiness increases to a point with income, until our needs have been met to reduce stress. Needs meaning: reliable housing, food, heat, clothes, healthcare, etc.

 

After that, increase in income/material goods is thought to lead to the hedonic treadmill. You are happy for a "new tv", but for a very limited time, then your happiness goes back to "normal", your basic needs level of happiness.

 

You're not at a higher level of happiness except for a short period of time. And some on the treadmill look for the next thing to get, "new car", etc. Once they achieve it, back they go to the old happiness level.

 

I think most people here understand this. It's a reason to also strive for goals that are not material.

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Again, this comes to overcharging.

 

Think in terms of price gouging.  Why do we think it's wrong?  It isn't just that we think it is mean.

 

If the "correct" price is always what the market will bear, if it is impossible to over-charge, why would that be illegal?  

 

The right price is not always what the price will bear, and it isn't necessarily primarily defined by that, though it may be a good signal when it's working properly.

 

If the price being charged is inappropriate, the seller in that case is essentially stealing from the customer

 

 

 

No, it is not. 

 

I may not like the increase or buy the product anymore, but it isn't stealing.

Edited by DawnM
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To me there seems to be an assumption that a business is starting the a "correct" number of positions, resulting in eliminating a position being a bad, immoral decision.  I don't see how far we can back up this argument.  If I argue that a company should not automate the delivery of the shirt it produces because it will eliminate a truck driver's position, should I also argue that the company should get rid of its sewing machines because it would hire more people if the shirts were sown by hand?  And should the company not use a cotton gin because it would have more position in the gathering of the cotton to make the shirts?  

 

It seems odd to see automation and increased productivity as bad.  Do we view inventors as people who damage society?  Or, is it just the company that adopts the invention?

 

For generations, we have had increases in capital that have changed the way we work.  I don't see that leading to serious problems for the economy--change in the economy--but not serious problems.  If we have automated delivery of goods, eliminating the need for some people to spend their day as a truck driver, it will free up their labor resources to paint, write a novel, read with a child, or care for the elderly.  

 

Not bad - but only one important factor.

 

I find it totally bizarre that saying that making money is not the ONLY purpose of business or economic activity is being interpreted as it is NOT AT ALL a purpose.

 

When you see a new innovation - a sewing machine - I would say that there are a large number of questions that ought to be asked when deciding whether to use it in a specific instance.

 

Will it increase productivity - and do we need that increase?  How will that affect price, and is that something we need or would it be negative?  Will it make a better product?  Will we need more or fewer workers, and is that good or bad in this instance?  How does it affect the quality of the work for the workers - does it make the work less satisfying, or more dangerous, or does it improve an unpleasant task?

 

All of these things are real and important questions about how we produce and work.

 

One thing I would say in terms of productivity - we are living in a world where increased productivity means we've filled the ocean with plastic and are on the way to poisoning our atmosphere to where it will no longer support us.  In light of that, it should be more clear than ever that increased productivity is not an unmitigated good.  

 

On the contrary, we might actually need to figure out ways to slow it down.  Or all that extra profit is going to end up being directed to overcoming the problems we've created.

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Personally, I would not equate taxes and stealing, but taxes and charging a price for a good or service are two different things.  I have no choice to pay the taxes that are levied (or face jail).  I have a choice when I buy a good or service.  If I think the supplier is over-charging, I have a choice not to purchase.  I find it difficult to label someone as over-charging for a good.  If a business charges $10 for a widget and it is worth $5 to me, I think they are overcharging and I don't buy it.  Bobby thinks a widget is worth $10 and buys a widget.  Sally thinks a widget is worth $15 and buys a widget---she traded $10 for a widget worth $15--in her mind she got more than she gave up.  Is Sally stealing $5 worth of a widget?

 

I don't think taxes are stealing either, but many do, even if they get a benefit.  And I think most people think taxes could be inappropriately levied, in which case it would be characterized as stealing even if legal technically.

 

My point was that if it is the case that charging an extra % over the real costs of production is inappropriate, charging more is a form of stealing.  As in price gouging.

 

The fact that people pay in that case - say because everyone is doing it or it is an item they need  - isn't really the point.  Asking people for more can be cheating them.

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Are we defining terms like wealthy here or just making comments? I don't mean YOU specifically, but this thread overall.

 

And I don't think everyone poor, moderate, or wealthy has a string of bad things or decisions behind them. I just don't. Many people live lives of relatively well, without major issues.

I think my religious cultural views these things differently. So I probably should not even be in the discussion. It is the focus to us that is important. We teach our kids to find respectable work to provide for their material needs but to focus on their spiritual well being. As is true of everyone some people naturally end up making more money. Some get big inheritances. But their focus can still be on things other than material asssets.

 

And when I say people who have not done this have a string of bad things behind them.....I am thinking of how focusing on material things or making the most money they can make leads them away from a spiritual life....which often results in broken families and or a seperation from their faith. So for instance in the case of my own son I would not consider it a success if he has several millions in the bank but left his faith. Cat says they can do both. That has not been my experience,

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I think my religious cultural views these things differently. So I probably should not even be in the discussion. It is the focus to us that is important. We teach our kids to find respectable work to provide for their material needs but to focus on their spiritual well being. As is true of everyone some people naturally end up making more money. Some get big inheritances. But their focus can still be on things other than material asssets.

 

And when I say people who have not done this have a string of bad things behind them.....I am thinking of how focusing on material things or making the most money they can make leads them away from a spiritual life....which often results in broken families and or a seperation from their faith. So for instance in the case of my own son I would not consider it a success if he has several millions in the bank but left his faith. Cat says they can do both. That has not been my experience,

  

I didn't realize the JW's were so against higher education.  This is beginning to make more sense now.

 

https://www.jwfacts.com/watchtower/higher-education-university.php

 

and an interesting listen for those of us not as familiar with JW beliefs on this subject:

 

http://www.npr.org/2017/02/19/510585965/poor-education-leads-to-lost-dreams-and-low-income-for-many-jehovahs-witnesses

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