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[P]
The Consumer Society

By Imperator in News
Wed Jun 07, 2000 at 08:53:32 AM EST
Tags: Culture (all tags)
Culture

Here's a thought I'm developing further, but which I wouldn't mind feedback on as it is. This is a very broad summary, and as such makes many broad generalizations. It's also rather idealistic, by which I mean unlikely to happen.

A long time ago in river valleys far, far away, our ancestors figured out that if you take a seed and put it in the ground, you can come back to it a few months later and it will feed your tribe. Ever since, the population that can be supported on a unit of land has slowly (and usually) steadily increased. The familiar story is that of diversification of labor: person alpha specializes in metallurgy and keeps the tribe safe, person beta appeases the gods and reminds people to plant, while persons gamma through omega are feeding them...


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But then comes industrialization, electronics, and computers. People only need a certain amount of material goods to be happy, and theoretically working hours in the richer countries should have decreased. But an interesting phenomena occurs: instead of working less, people spend more money on useless things. Where previously people knew what they needed and what they wanted, in the modern world advertising encourages people to want things they don't need and otherwise wouldn't have wanted. Consumerism generates more demand for products that keep blue-collar workers working. Of course, in a capitalist economy, each worker on the assembly line means a higher bottom line. This system ensures that those with wealth or ambition continue to profit from the blue-collar workers.

Workers in countries without traditions of popular government are less likely to enforce reasonable wage regulations, so the unskilled labor moves to the third world. Unemployed workers in the consumer countries find jobs in the service industries, most of which rely on consumerism to survive. It is no longer important that they provide any valuable goods or services to society: so long as they're willing to purchase goods produced cheaply in the poor countries, they can afford to be paid to not do anything for humanity. They buy goods, profit from the purchase of those goods returns to their country, and there's plenty of money flowing. Companies that produce no goods, and instead rely on consumerism. (For an example, consider your local beauty parlor, not your local grocery store.)

To put it more bluntly, the populace of the rich countries need not live at subsistence levels. The rest of the world can do that instead.

My recommendations:

  1. End the consumer society. The average consumer of the rich countries would be happier with far fewer material expenditures. There is much the government can do: place heavy tariffs on goods made by underpaid workers, reform the legal system (e.g. remove corporations' rights as individuals), increase taxes on wealth and the wealthy (less discretionary income to waste on luxury cars), democratize media and spectra allocations, etc.
  2. Focus on education. Drastically increase teacher salaries. Lengthen the school day, week, and year. (Schools can run until 5 PM, can run into July, on 24 December, on Saturday, and many other days.) Offer education (both academic and technical) to adults. Make all public education (including colleges) free.
  3. Fund basic science. Private industry has a profit incentive to develop technology, but science is still expensive. Without it, we'd be killing each with bronze swords. So far as the future of the species is concerned, science will remain for the foreseeable future the wisest possible investment.
  4. Fund the people. Not just domestically, but internationally. Fight hunger, disease, poverty, ignorance, and dictators. Political, economic, and social inequality have great momentum. War has been present since prehistory. Reforming the rich countries will help, but their wealth has the potential to do far more than help themselves. Helping the third world isn't just the ethical, humanitarian course; it's necessary to maintain world trade and prosperity without the current reliance on cheap labor.

Anyway, that's my rant. Feedback would be highly appreciated. Is it realistic? Can popular support for such drastic change be obtained? Assuming popular support was not a problem, what else could be done?

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The Consumer Society | 57 comments (57 topical, editorial, 0 hidden)
Interesting thoughts, and possibly ... (1.00 / 1) (#8)
by gandalf_grey on Tue Jun 06, 2000 at 11:21:13 PM EST

gandalf_grey voted -1 on this story.

Interesting thoughts, and possibly a great discussion, but a little off topic I think.

Normally I try not to let me opinio... (1.33 / 3) (#10)
by DemiGodez on Tue Jun 06, 2000 at 11:47:06 PM EST

DemiGodez voted -1 on this story.

Normally I try not to let me opinion of the subject matter itself affect my vote on the story. However, in this case I find the opinion expressed to be so repugnant and downright socialist that I simply cannot advocating putting it on the front page. I'm not accusing the author of being malicious in any way. I think instead s/he just has a very flawed view of the way our country works. Forget for a moment capitalism, which you clearly don't support. Our country was founded on the basic premise of individual autonomy. In the US the indidivual is very important and rights such as liberty and justice are paramount. Certianly, there are contradictions within the system, but this is the underlying principal. Given that the rights of the individual must be protected, much of what you advocate is completely antithetical to this. For example, you might think the world would be better if people bought less stuff. You have an absolute right to buy less stuff yourself and even to advocate it for others. However, as a public policy issue the government has absolutely no right to limit my right within the law to buy anything I want. The argument that advertising somehow violates my free will is ludicrous. Rather than address this point by point, let me say that since you clearly are concerned with the exploitation of people (in other cultures), I have no problem with your recomendation to heavily tax good made by explouted individuals. However, to advocate taxing the rich is so unbelievable arrogant it astounds me. The people we're talking about here are the people who are currently making a lot of money (income tax is irrelevant for people who are "old money"). These people work very hard for their income. They poor their sweat and their soul into their work. They are in many ways no different from s person working a blue collar job except for one thing. They are more successful. Do you really want to live in a world where there is a penalty for success enforced by the governmwnt? If people work hard don't they deserve what they earn? What if i decided to take half your income because I decideyou make too much money. That is simply not my decision. If you have frustration with corrupt corporations or rich people, then the answer is to enforce the laws and punish them. NOT to punish everyone for success.

Re: Normally I try not to let me opinio... (4.50 / 2) (#30)
by mattc on Wed Jun 07, 2000 at 11:14:29 AM EST

You have an absolute right to buy less stuff yourself and even to advocate it for others. However, as a public policy issue the government has absolutely no right to limit my right within the law to buy anything I want.

Maybe you haven't been paying attention, but there are MANY things you can't buy. Either because they are pollutants, dangerous, hazardous to health, or restricted in some other way.

However, to advocate taxing the rich is so unbelievable arrogant it astounds me. The people we're talking about here are the people who are currently making a lot of money (income tax is irrelevant for people who are "old money"). These people work very hard for their income. They poor their sweat and their soul into their work. They are in many ways no different from s person working a blue collar job except for one thing. They are more successful. Do you really want to live in a world where there is a penalty for success enforced by the governmwnt?

The only time the rich ever "pour their sweat" is on the golf course on a sunny day. If you think the rich work as hard as the blue collar worker, you're living in a dreamworld... The reason the rich pay more taxes than the poor is because they benefit more from society.

[ Parent ]

Re: Normally I try not to let me opinio... (none / 0) (#49)
by Shelling IT on Wed Jun 07, 2000 at 05:01:47 PM EST

The only time the rich ever "pour their sweat" is on the golf course on a sunny day. If you think the rich work as hard as the blue collar worker, you're living in a dreamworld... The reason the rich pay more taxes than the poor is because they benefit more from society.

I was skeptical of your response at first, so I cell phoned a rich friend of mine. He said he'd get back to me after his putt. Then I looked into the dictionary, and sure enough, next to the word "rich" was pictured a man playing golf. I also went to my Liberal's Encyclopedia and looked up the word "Taxes", for which it included the definition "user fees paid by the rich to the government."

All joking aside, do you have any intuitive idea about the term "rich" other than "undeserving person possessing more wealth and free time than needed"? Go ahead -- try to define the word, quantitatively or qualitatively. Marx once asked "what is profit for?" In his analysis, he stumbled upon an amazingly deft conclusion: profit, based on value, is simply dependent on a person's labor. More precisely, physical labor. Is that how you see the world? Profit is the fruit of a person's physical labor? Let me ask you a question then: What's more profitable? Shoveling piles of shit, or piles of gold?

[ Parent ]

Re: Normally I try not to let me opinio... (none / 0) (#53)
by DemiGodez on Wed Jun 07, 2000 at 08:07:36 PM EST

Maybe you haven't been paying attention, but there are MANY things you can't buy. Either because they are pollutants, dangerous, hazardous to health, or restricted in some other way.

You're right. The government always has the right to pass laws to protect us. My point that given that something is legally for sale, no one has the right to restrict me from buying it just because they think I might be happier without it.

The only time the rich ever "pour their sweat" is on the golf course on a sunny day. If you think the rich work as hard as the blue collar worker, you're living in a dreamworld... The reason the rich pay more taxes than the poor is because they benefit more from society.

That is the most arrogant comment I have heard in a long time. Who gets welfare? Food stamps? All *my* tax money in the form of social programs? Not the rich. The poor feed off society while the rich contribute to it. I do think we have a responsibility to provide for the poor, but not by penalizing the rich. Rich people will always pay more taxes anyway since it is (and should be) based on percent. The problem is that people resent success and try to penalize those who make a lot of money by making their percentage higher.

I grant you on an average day, a guy in construction works a hell of a lot harder than an executive - physically at least. But people who are successful are usually smarter and have at least worked hard to get to where they are. If it's so easy to be rich, why isn't everyone rich? They did something you or I didn't and they don't deserve to be punished because you're pissy they figured it out and you didn't.

[ Parent ]

Hm. So, um, "communism", you're say... (none / 0) (#1)
by rusty on Tue Jun 06, 2000 at 11:59:34 PM EST

rusty voted 1 on this story.

Hm. So, um, "communism", you're saying? Not in so many words, but the goals and overall program...

I have some thoughts on this, but I'll hang on and see what the survey says first. :-)

____
Not the real rusty

Re: Hm. So, um, (5.00 / 1) (#19)
by Imperator on Wed Jun 07, 2000 at 09:06:25 AM EST

Um, not quite communism. Not even true socialism (though it would blur the line). IMHO the private sector should remain the private sector; regulated capitalism is generally very efficient. (It's what the US and Western Europe, along with their satellites, have been using since WWII.) Private enterprise, along with written and guaranteed personal freedoms, are an important check on government power. Socialist policies in other areas are worth implementing, even in a capitalist economy. (Face it, libertarians: the only true "free-market" economies left are offshore tax havens. Personal freedoms and corporate freedoms are separate.)

[ Parent ]
Hey I am a socialist How could I vo... (none / 0) (#14)
by nevyn on Wed Jun 07, 2000 at 12:26:21 AM EST

nevyn voted 1 on this story.

Hey I am a socialist How could I vote no :)

Well I'd disagree almost completely... (4.00 / 1) (#18)
by abe1x on Wed Jun 07, 2000 at 01:40:02 AM EST

abe1x voted 1 on this story.

Well I'd disagree almost completely with this, but interesting none the less. Why try and implement all this change through government? Sounds like the worst possible thing to do. Government by its very nature is unfair. No matter what good intentions people force governments to have, its basic premise is repulsive. The simple fact that you are born and live somewhere forces you to pay tribute to a governmental structure that has jurisdiction over vast amounts of land. Government is a structure created by people, there is no reason we can't create other structures to exactly what we now expect governments to do for us. I'm all for improving the world, I just rather not rely on organizations that are direct evolutionary decendents of school yard bullies taxing everyone for their lunch money.

Re: Well I'd disagree almost completely... (none / 0) (#20)
by Imperator on Wed Jun 07, 2000 at 09:10:17 AM EST

While I sympathize with your distrust of the institution, I challenge you to describe a better one. (I'm not quite sure that anarchy, no matter how ideologically attractive, would work in a world with >6e9 people.) What are these "other structures" you allude to? Would they be something other than government by another name?

[ Parent ]
This is never going to take off, it... (none / 0) (#13)
by feline on Wed Jun 07, 2000 at 02:01:32 AM EST

feline voted 1 on this story.

This is never going to take off, it sounds a bit like communism if you ask me

"End the consumer society. The average consumer of the rich countries would be happier with far fewer material expenditures."

I sure wouldn't be happier without my computer and television, these are both material things that aren't really necessary to live, we just make them out that way because k5 is so nifty.

"Focus on education... (Schools can run until 5 PM, can run into July, on 24 December, on Saturday, and many other days.) Offer education (both academic and technical) to adults. Make all public education (including colleges) free."

You've got to be kidding, extend school, even to christmas eve, you've got to be fucking nuts. I do agree with free public education for all, but that'd be just _way_ to hard to set up and maintain.

"Fund the people. Not just domestically, but internationally. Fight hunger, disease, poverty, ignorance, and dictators."

This is what we have private organizations and philanthropists for, the government's not set up to help other countries, and to change it would require a change in everything. The government contains thousands of people making decidsions, and for all of them to agree on what to do and who to do it for would be just impossible. Besides, we've got enough problems in our own coutry (U.S, I'm just speaking for my own nation) to deal with: the inner-city kids who don't eat on a regular basis. I think we might wanna deal with that first seeing as we have to look them in the face everyday.

Some of this stuff in your plan is just bullshit, and quite a bit is cliche' and bullshit.
------------------------------------------

'Hello sir, you don't look like someone who satisfies his wife.'

Re: This is never going to take off, it... (none / 0) (#21)
by Imperator on Wed Jun 07, 2000 at 09:21:36 AM EST

I sure wouldn't be happier without my computer and television, these are both material things that aren't really necessary to live, we just make them out that way because k5 is so nifty.
Did I mention computers, or even televisions? (Actually, the only mention I made to either was in a positive light.) Just be sensible about purchases. A new 56" TV every two years, or the latest video card every six months, is IMHO excessive. Owning a car is fine; owning three cars with consoles and TVs for the back seat when you only have two adults in the house is almost always a sign of excess discretionary income.
You've got to be kidding, extend school, even to christmas eve, you've got to be fucking nuts. I do agree with free public education for all, but that'd be just _way_ to hard to set up and maintain.
Not sure I see why it would be difficult at all. There's nothing complicated about keeping a building open. Give a 90 minute lunchbreak and an additional break to teachers (who work harder), and they won't have trouble. The old "students need time in the afternoon to do homework" argument is nonsense. Extra class time displaces the need for homework. Each hour less they have to work at home is an extra hour they have to work with a teacher present.

[ Parent ]
Closing your italic tag for you (none / 0) (#38)
by pretzelgod on Wed Jun 07, 2000 at 01:47:58 PM EST

In the message i'm replying to, the author left an <i> tag unclosed, and this screwed up the rest of the page. I put that closing tag at the beginning of this message. Hopefully this will fix it.

feline, please learn to check your HTML yourself in addition to previewing.


-- 
Ever heard of the School of the Americas?


[ Parent ]
Re: Closing your italic tag for you (none / 0) (#44)
by feline on Wed Jun 07, 2000 at 02:55:07 PM EST

sorry, sorry, sorry, the kb I was using sucks, and I missed the / in the tag, I probably should have previewd, I just got a bit too over-confidant.

When I posted the comment, I scrolled down to read what I'd written and saw what I had done, which made me feel guilty all nite. Thank you for fixing this!
------------------------------------------

'Hello sir, you don't look like someone who satisfies his wife.'
[ Parent ]

Good discussion topic. ... (3.00 / 1) (#6)
by inspire on Wed Jun 07, 2000 at 02:14:17 AM EST

inspire voted 1 on this story.

Good discussion topic.

What you're proposing is unrealistic, though. As a consumer myself, I would object to any increased taxes -- the liberal view of it is that if you can't afford it, you shouldnt have it.

Of course, there are some fairly major holes in that argument. Thats why the concept of "fairness as justice" has evolved - guarantee a minimum standard of living that can appease most people. Hence we have welfare and other assistance programs.

I spent 14 weeks learning about this junk in relation to health care systems around the world as part of my course :)
--
What is the helix?

Interesting, but I have to disagree... (none / 0) (#2)
by Inoshiro on Wed Jun 07, 2000 at 02:24:54 AM EST

Inoshiro voted 1 on this story.

Interesting, but I have to disagree abit with your assertations about education.

Quantity is not quality. There are good teachers now, and they do hit problems (in Physics and math, and the other sciences here at least) in that they don't have enough time to completely cover all the topics in their area. Classes such as English, which has no real facts to learn, tend to be more like free periods. Perhaps we should alter the schedule so that the classes which facts have more time, whereas the more acedemic "thinking-style" classes have (if not less time) the chance to be taken at a different pace, which I'm guessing would help more people reach a nice level of intelligence in that area.

All subjects are not equal, yet we schedule them as if they were. You should be able to learn something at your own speed. Failure to do this causes much of the strife in our schools. We have the technology and funding to allow ourselves to have properly paced and thorough educations for all of our population.



--
[ イノシロ ]
Naive simplification of life's main... (4.00 / 1) (#15)
by palou on Wed Jun 07, 2000 at 04:02:04 AM EST

palou voted -1 on this story.

Naive simplification of life's main issues.

Ahh. a un-republican utopia full of... (none / 0) (#7)
by dieman on Wed Jun 07, 2000 at 04:04:40 AM EST

dieman voted 1 on this story.

Ahh. a un-republican utopia full of non-atonominity. I don't think this is in the spirit of many nations.
---
blah

It's somewhat contradicting. Points... (3.00 / 1) (#11)
by farlukar on Wed Jun 07, 2000 at 04:39:53 AM EST

farlukar voted 1 on this story.

It's somewhat contradicting. Points 2-4 are about sharing the current wealth of rich countries, but that wealth is for a large part based on consumer industry. So to realise the first recommendation (would be nice) could make the other three hard to do.

Besides that, sharing wealth (read: money) with the "third world" will probably get the few rich there even richer, as people are somewhat greedy by nature and rich people are in the best position to collect more money. As for war and dictatorship: there were great efforts to kick the butts of Saddam Hussein and Milosevic, with known results.

I think it should be possible to switch to fair trade without entirely dumping consumerism.
______________________
$ make install not war

Re: It's somewhat contradicting. Points... (none / 0) (#23)
by Imperator on Wed Jun 07, 2000 at 09:27:09 AM EST

Right, I realize that a sudden collapse of the consumer economy would be disastrous. That's why I emphasized aiding the economies of the third world as soon as possible, not just for humanitarian reasons, but to offset the economoic loss caused by a decline in consumerism.

As to your other point, I don't think either of the two dictators was the subject of a concerted attempt by a foreign power to oust him. Bush stopped short because we were slaughtering too many soldiers, and Clinton never intended to engage in a land battle or pursue Milosevic's government. When the US or USSR wanted to, they've never had any trouble overthrowing a foreign dictator. (They also grew adept at overthrowing foreign republics, particularly the US's attacks on legitimate left-wing governments.)

[ Parent ]

hm. interesting recommendations; i'... (2.50 / 2) (#4)
by sayke on Wed Jun 07, 2000 at 04:43:36 AM EST

sayke voted 1 on this story.

hm. interesting recommendations; i've nothing against people outlining their opinions regarding what would make for positive social change... more power to em. i say outline away. but... i question the doability of yours. pragmatism, man! you don't, for example, seem to outline exactly how you would increase teacher saleries; where would the money come from? a bunch of the stuff you propose is truly, mindboggelingly expensive. goals are always nice, but... in a word, i don't think your being realistic at all. heh. and wtf do you mean by democratizing media? spectra i can understand, but shit, man, a lot of people WANT their "news" neatly packaged into bite-sized cocoa-puff chunks... and remember: "waste" is a very subjective concept; a lot of people think they've EARNED their beemers and SUVs, garshdarnit, and who are you to tell them they didn'tt? shrug. then there's some things i just don't get... take your "The average consumer of the rich countries would be happier with far fewer material expenditures" line, por exemplo... d00d. i have no idea how you could began to support that statement. i think many people (including the mythical "average consumer", in fact) live their lives based on the unspoken idea that they will be happier iff they have more stuff... and so their lives disagree with you. [sociobiology-esque rant] the current trend of happiness-through-material-good-hoarding is, i think, somewhat hardwired into us, and i think that for many people the concept that "gee, maybe i have more shit laying around here then i'll ever use, so perhaps i should stop obtaining said shit, and maybe even trim down my current shit collection" requires a major cognitive leap. i see no reason to expect millions of people to make that leap anytime soon. many people honestly seem to feel better about themselves when they pick up their nice new coffee table in the shape of the yin-yang... heh. my stabs in the recommendation direction are as follows: 1) legalize pot, and promptly tax the fuck out of it. (the tax bit may sound strange coming from an anarco-capitalist, but hey, we currently have a gumment; gotta work with what we've got, etc... doable? i think so.) 2) at a minimum, decrimnalize the other 'victimless crimes' (i've always thought that was a contradiction in terms...) and attempt to legalize them. (the above 2 will allow a massive reduction in law enforcement budgets. doable? yup. much resistance from cops and friends, though... too fookin' bad. much $ will be saved.) 3) decrease the size of the army, but keep the air force and navy around. the air force and navy are defensive; the army isn't, nuff said. (doable; lotta resistance from various big-money quarters, though, of course. all the better. more $ saved) (side note: THAAD is the shit. we need to design em, make em, and sell em to EVERYBODY, asap.) 4) open the means of communication to more then just the usual megacorps. i mean radio spectra, namespaces (i wanna see a decently set up .sux TLD, dammit (and reduce ICANN to the technical coordination group it was meant to be!)), cryptography, etc... (quite doable. much megacorp lobbying against it, of course. shrug. not too many $ saved here... but none lost either, and this is a Good Thing for more then just initial economic reasons, methinks) ~5) play with alternative school systems, for example: make all schools private and give parents vouchers (not the shitty detroit version, dammit... the real thing) with which to pay the school of their choice. this would create a market in which schools competed for students (aka, the approval of the student's parents) in order to survive. go invisable hand! (i don't know how doable this is, or how much money it would save, but i think this would trend towards violently increasing the quality of education) ~6) give a big fat finger to the whole million moms, and the paranoid appeal-to-emotion-fed fallicy of a zietgiest they represent. gee zus christ, its like they've never thought about mugging someone or something... heh. ARE MUGGERS AFRAID OF GETTING SHOT? FUCK YEA! it would well and truly suck to be running off with some suit's wallet, thinkin ya got it made, when lo and behold, the mild-mannered suit pulls a .45 outa somewhere in his pants and puts ya in a wheelchair for life. a more effective way to reduce violent crime (aka physical agentive coercion) i cannot imagine. (doable? i dunno, give the current political climate. but worth it? i really think so) ~7) what was 7 again? hm... oh yea. everything else. reduce the power of corporations (make individuals accountable for their on-the-record decisions, dammit), reform the patent office (hell, any change for the better would be dug upon, although if they decided that the only intellectual proprety was a trade secret, i'd cheer), reform the prison-industrial complex (it won't be long before we have 1% of our population in prison. heh. fear), reform the IRS (gimme a nice curve tax any day), promote the use of alternative fuels (...), promote the existance of co-ops (food co-ops, information co-ops, etc...), fund basic science (...), and privatize space (NASA, although putting forth heroic effort in some areas, has become bloated. to elimanate bloat, introduce competition). are these doable? shrug. some more so, some less so... whatever. i'm tired. maybe one of these days i'll throw my plan for an anarco-captialistic social structure (i refuse to call it a "government" because it isn't one) up here for you guys to shoot down ;) wow. this has been long. aw well. thats all for now.
sayke, v2.3.1 /* i am the middle finger of the invisible hand */

It's always easy to get on a soapbo... (3.30 / 3) (#12)
by PresJPolk on Wed Jun 07, 2000 at 04:46:36 AM EST

PresJPolk voted 1 on this story.

It's always easy to get on a soapbox, and preach about stealing your neighbor's money.

The downfall of democracy is the day when the people realize they can vote themselves a windfall.



Re: It's always easy to get on a soapbo... (5.00 / 1) (#24)
by Imperator on Wed Jun 07, 2000 at 09:33:27 AM EST

How so? Generally, democracies (of which only Switzerland and Belize would remotely qualify in today's world, but I assume you really meant republics) fail when the people stop realizing they have a say, or stop wanting to have one.

[ Parent ]
Re: It's always easy to get on a soapbo... (none / 0) (#46)
by PresJPolk on Wed Jun 07, 2000 at 04:04:51 PM EST

First, I don't claim credit for that expression. I don't remember who said it, and I can't remember the exact words, so I don't feel like searching for it. :-)

If I had been clever enough to think of that, I'd have said "popular sovereign governments," or something like that, to cover republics, democracies, and parliamentary democracies (which give the instability of democracy, and the mis-representation of a republic!)

I personally believe that apathy isn't really that harmful. If 9 out of 10 people don't care enough to vote, then you can still run the government from that 10%. In fact, that 10% may run things even better, since voting is correlated with knowledge of the issues.

What's dangerous, is if you get 5 out of 10 people voting, but with only 25% knowing the issues. Suddenly, a sizable portion has little to go by, but 30-second television advertisements, paid "voting guides," and party affilitation. In lean years, such people are easily swayed by talk of fattening their pocketbooks, and in good years, they get swayed by talk of increasing services.

Redistributionist fiscal policy is much easier to sell to people who haven't thought out the issues.

Look at France. One of these days, there's going to be a lot of people hurt or killed, due to the "gimmie gimmie gimmie" sentiment, fueled by the Socialist government there. Strike after strike, protest after protest, "I wanna work less for the same pay," "You promised you'd give me free money".

Ever seen the Simpsons? Bart and Lisa go to Marge, palms up, saying "ding ding ding ding ding!"

[ Parent ]
mmm... communism... (1.00 / 1) (#9)
by bgp4 on Wed Jun 07, 2000 at 06:43:46 AM EST

bgp4 voted 1 on this story.

mmm... communism
May all your salads be eaten out of black hats

This could degenerate into a flame ... (3.00 / 1) (#17)
by markbark on Wed Jun 07, 2000 at 06:55:47 AM EST

markbark voted 0 on this story.

This could degenerate into a flame war. After all it's the same old argument: "The Industrial world has 5% of the world's population, but uses 90% of the world's resources" DUH! OF COURSE the industrialized world uses resources.... IT MAKES THINGS!

Increase taxes on the wealthy? Sigh... (4.00 / 2) (#3)
by Pelorat on Wed Jun 07, 2000 at 08:07:13 AM EST

Pelorat voted 1 on this story.

Increase taxes on the wealthy? Sigh. Do you know what 'rich' people do with their money (when the government doesn't confiscate it all)? Hint: they don't put it in sacks and keep it in a big vault and go swimming in it like Uncle Scrooge; they invest it back into the economy (yes, even when they buy luxury cars - some blue-collar got paid to assemble it), which ultimately helps pay salaries of people like you and me and funds that science research you would 'allow' to continue, among other things.

Yeah, it'd be interesting if everyone was a null-A and could actually make a vision like this function, but it's just not going to happen.

Re: Increase taxes on the wealthy? Sigh... (none / 0) (#25)
by Imperator on Wed Jun 07, 2000 at 09:35:50 AM EST

And who makes profit from that luxury car? It's not the blue-collar worker; he'd be making just as much money assembling a non-luxury car. The extra margin goes back to the stockholders, the vast majority of which are the top n%. It keeps money flowing to the blue-collar worker, but when he buys a car it goes back up to the companies and their owners again.

[ Parent ]
And your point is? (none / 0) (#35)
by Pelorat on Wed Jun 07, 2000 at 12:11:34 PM EST

The profit rightly goes to the company that risked its resources to design and produce the car in the first place. And then the car company can make more cars, and hire more people to assemble them. That's how businesses grow. They hire more people to keep up with demand for their product. That benefits your proletariats as well as the stockholders and owners and such.

Profit isn't evil. And it's not lighter than air; it doesn't puddle in the corners of the top floor penthouse company office where the Mr. Burns'es of the world sit around and plot how to squeeze their employees to death. It gets recycled. It gets used to hire more people, to research better, safer, cleaner, newer (and whatever else) products. It gets put back into the economy. It pays the salaries of the people who work there. It doesn't stagnate. It's not stuffed under somebody's mattress.

What the hell business is it of yours that some people have more money than you? Geez, it's like living anywhere above subsistence level is a crime in your eyes. If you're lucky or talented enough not to be one of the downtrodden masses, you must be punished, right?

The answer: it *isn't* any of your business. These are private companies that benefit the economy and their employees no matter how much you want to believe their workers are getting fucked; almost all of them were created by people who grew their businesses from tiny operations, risking financial ruin in the process. The first few that come to mind - Apple, Microsoft, Dell, Gateway. Big megacorporations don't just spring out of the ground fully formed and operating at full bore. They're run by people who started out just like you did. They just made more of their opportunities.

Do you have a job? Ask yourself if you'd be making the same amount of money or even have the job, if your policies went into effect.

And an example - what does it matter that Chrysler might make $5000 on the sale of a LeBaron, or $15000? $20000? So? So they make more profit, their workforce increases, their shareholders are happy (the vast majority of whom are in fact your proletariats, btw, if they are smart enough to have a 401k or other mutual fund), and some rich guy has less 'disposable income' which is a good thing as far as you're concerned. How is that a Bad Thing? I bet I know how, it's cos that puts said luxury item out of *your* budget. The plot thickens.

Redistribution of wealth is a crock of shit. It is a scheme to get something for nothing. It plays on a nonexistent concept of 'fairness'. Is it fair that I've got a $100 bill in my wallet if you don't? Is it fair that I can sell my technical services for $85 an hour, while you might only be able to command $65? Or it might even be the other way around; is it fair that you can bill at $90 an hour while I'm stuck in a crappy repair shop pulling $17.50 per? Redistribute some of that my way, then. Start with your own money before you start grubbing for someone else's. I'll give you my address - a check for a fourth of your annual salary will be fine. When it clears I'll publicly apologise to you.

No? Don't wanna redistribute some cash my way? Why? Cos it's *yours* and you *earned* it, right? Well, so did Michael Dell...

[ Parent ]
Re: Increase taxes on the wealthy? Sigh... (none / 0) (#50)
by billyoblivion on Wed Jun 07, 2000 at 06:53:49 PM EST

And who makes profit from that luxury car? It's not the blue-collar worker; he'd be making just as much money assembling a non-luxury car.

I think you'd find that those workers on the luxury car lines tend to be better paid and better skilled at their jobs. After all, luxury cars are luxury cars because of things like fit and finish more than just the label on them.

The extra margin goes back to the stockholders, the vast majority of which are the top n%.

For values of n that are at least 50%. These days everybody who has access to a 401k and is investing puts money in mutual funds. Guess what mutual funds contain?

It keeps money flowing to the blue-collar worker, but when he buys a car it goes back up to the companies and their owners again.

And they use that money to buy things, or to invest. As long as the money isn't being buried in a coffee can in the back yard, it still flows.


-- billy oblivion, living in the damaged worlds since 1992
[ Parent ]
Tax the rich. Feed the poor. (none / 0) (#37)
by marlowe on Wed Jun 07, 2000 at 12:18:38 PM EST

`Till there ain't no rich no more (and everyone's poor).

Wait a minute. I've got a better idea. It involves stealing lupins...

--- I will insist on my right to question ---
-- The Americans are the Jews of the 21st century. Only we won't go as quietly to the gas chambers. --
[ Parent ]
Not that I agree or anything, but a... (none / 0) (#16)
by Logan on Wed Jun 07, 2000 at 08:25:36 AM EST

Logan voted 1 on this story.

Not that I agree or anything, but at least it's thought provoking.

Hasn't this been tried, and failed?... (2.00 / 1) (#5)
by HiRes on Wed Jun 07, 2000 at 08:53:32 AM EST

HiRes voted 1 on this story.

Hasn't this been tried, and failed?
--
wcb
wait! before you rate, read.

Yeees, but.... (4.70 / 3) (#22)
by HiQ on Wed Jun 07, 2000 at 09:27:00 AM EST

Nice thoughts, but highly unrealistic.
 
  • You cannot end the consumer society, because this is what society wants (democracy remember?). People would *not* be happier with fewer material expenditures. This society is completely focussed on money, and that has been the case since the dawn of the human race (they used shells then :)
  • More education; again, nice thought, but IMHO most people don't *want* to be educated. As long as they have something to eat & someting to spend (see 1), they're perfectly happy. The majority of people are not interested in science & education, they see it as boring and a drag!
  • Fund basic science - I would love too see that, but society nowaday is a little shortsighted: all too often only those projects are funded that promise a 'result', or 'technology' within a short period: it has to be benificial. Projects that are started out of pure curiousity will almost never get funded (although these project yield the best results!)
  • Fund the people - Nobel goals, but see 1. Most people & countries are rather selfish, and first make sure that they are wealthy, and have everything they need & more. People are not willing to give much away, for lots of people posession = power & status!

How to make a sig
without having an idea
just made a HiQ
Re: Yeees, but.... (4.00 / 2) (#36)
by FFFish on Wed Jun 07, 2000 at 12:15:02 PM EST

* You're not in a democracy. You're in a republic. There's very little that's democratic about the United States: do a quick search for "America not democracy" and learn.

More importantly, you are not ruled by the will of the people. Your laws and rules and ideals are being set by powerful, vested interests: typically, big business and special interest groups. "Joe Average" is *not* represented by the politicians.

I don't believe the problem is that people "don't want fewer material expenditures" -- I think it's that they don't realize they can choose to spend less. Sheep to slaughter, they're doing what they've been raised to do unthinkingly.

* Perhaps "most people" in the USA don't want education. France has publicly-funded post-secondary education, and it's quite popular. And even in the USA, there is an abundance of post-secondary institutions: if people didn't want education, wouldn't these be empty?

There are any number of well-paying jobs that don't require a significant post-secondary education. When you consider that in the time it takes to get a post-sec diploma, a construction worker could sock a hundred grand into an retirement investment plan, that four-year lag results in a hefty retirement fund differential.

The construction guy kicks in $1000/mo for thirty years into his retirement fund -- it grows to $14 million. The educated guy needs four years to get a diploma and two more to pay off the loans. Then he kicks in $2000/mo for the remaining twenty-four years. He ends up with $9 million.

That six year hiatus from earning and saving money hurts like hell. That's a 50% difference in wealth--and it goes to the construction worker!

Education is not necessarily a "nice thought." Sometimes it's a kick in the balls.

* Science is *heavily* funded. It's part of the JFK/Russians-in-space legacy. Go read the education thread we had the other day. We emphasise basic science too much, and practical skills too little.

* You need to get out more: America is the exception, not the rule; most first-world nations are far more socialist than you seem to believe. "Fund the people" is common and is arguably the norm.

The original authors thoughts are nice and unrealistic, but for completely different reasons than you've presented.

[ Parent ]
Yes Yes Yeees, but.... (none / 0) (#45)
by farlukar on Wed Jun 07, 2000 at 03:10:09 PM EST

* You're not in a democracy. You're in a republic....
* Perhaps "most people" in the USA .....
* You need to get out more: America is ....
.... just what in particular makes you think everyone posting here is from the USA?
______________________
$ make install not war

[ Parent ]
Wouldn't it be nice...? (4.00 / 2) (#26)
by judyhell on Wed Jun 07, 2000 at 10:07:49 AM EST

I agree completely with the spirit of what you're suggesting. The current emphasis on accumulating wealth, rather than accumulating knowledge is the main thing that is wrong with our society.

There is such a selfish attitude inherent in what passes for culture/society in western countries. I'm not suggesting that people who work hard shouldn't be rewarded for what they do, but you have to consider *how* they got into the position of being able to earn that money. So long as access to education is barred by financial constraints (and that includes not being able to afford to live in the areas where the good schools are, not being able to afford to go to university, and that's only a few factors that apply in "rich" countries...) then the system is NOT fair. People are still being rewarded for their status in society, not how hard they've worked.

Education needs to be accessible for everyone. Most country's education systems need a complete overhaul. It is difficult to make access to high quality education available to everyone, but part of the problem is the fact that society does not put enough value on it in the first place. Consumer society teaches kids that it's far more important to have the latest toys/fashionable clothes etc, than to understand the world we live in. Schools don't even encourage the bright kids... in fact more often than not they are the ones who feel like they are somehow abnormal for actually wanting to learn. Until society as a whole starts to value knowledge we won't get anywhere.

People don't even go to university to learn. They want to be able to get a good job that will earn them enough money to buy the expensive clothes. nice cars etc. that they want. A degree is simply the easiest way of getting there. If students actually wanted to learn about their subject, then free education for all would be extremely valuable for society. But first the attitude needs to be changed so that knowledge is valued of itself, rather than just as a route to more money... There are so many interesting things to study, and yet people would rather spend hours clothes shopping or watching awful films that brainwash us into thinking that they pass for culture.

I sound like I'm advocating all work & no play... :> I'm not saying that people shouldn't be allowed to do what they want in their leisure time, but when money is considered more important than knowledge, I feel there is something seriously wrong. I don't know if there is anything that *can* be done about this... It's the attitude of 99% of the population that seems to be the problem. And I haven't even started on the social issues. How anyone can justify some of the luxuries that we consider normal when there are people in other countries suffering, I can't quite understand. But I'm just as guilty as anyone else. Where do you draw the line? I own a computer. That's a huge luxury. Should I have donated that money to a worthwhile cause instead? I don't know. I feel that it helps me increase my knowledge (by getting involved in discussions like this), which is a selfish goal, but still more justifiable than if I owned dresses that cost several hundred pounds... At least I think so.

Indeed you have hit some good points (5.00 / 1) (#27)
by Alhazred on Wed Jun 07, 2000 at 10:28:44 AM EST

I might make a few observations however:

Our society is the way it is largely because it WORKS that way. That is to say other systems were displaced by the current one. Not because it is in any sense "better" but simply because it is well adapted to perpetuating itself. IE, it will be very difficult to bring about major change in certain core institutions of society.

I think at least in this little monolog you haven't even scratched the surface of the economic organization of the world and its relationship to capitalism and politics.

Capitalism only works when there is a wealth differential which can be exploited. Very poor or uniformly wealthy societies cannot organize themselves as finance capitalist economies. Either there is simply not enough capital available for competition to take hold (poor society) or there is little incentive for people to work for each other (uniformly wealthy society). We see this happening in Europe, where most nations are fairly socialistic. Sure there are wealth disparities still, but they have shrunk greatly since the 19th century. Eventually everyone becomes an owner of the means of production. Only high rates of economic growth and great wealth disparity can support the classic capitalist/worker division.

How does this relate to the world as a whole? Since the end of the WW II the US has had essentially undisputed economic hegemony in the world. For most of the past 50 years the citizenry of this country has gradually become rich enough that classic finance capitalism simply doesn't work here anymore. At least not without access to cheap overseas labor. The current system evolved as a way for the US and western Europe to maintain a large disparity of wealth between themselves and the rest of the world.

At this point our resource utilization is so high that in order to provide a better standard of living in the "3rd world" requires a corresponding reduction here at home. By using its leadership position we in the US have insured that political and economic conditions in the rest of the world remain such that little real wealth can be accumulated outside this country. Increases in resource and worker efficiency HAVE made the 3rd world somewhat richer, but fundamentally the model is that their people work at starvation wages and we consume the product of their labor. A pair of shoes costs $90 here, of which $1.00 goes to the wages of the works who produce them.

The endless spiral of consumerism is both another way in which the system stabilizes itself (by absorbing increases in productivity without dispersing wealth further) and as a mechanism of political and social control. The focus on consumption distracts people from exploring ways in which real gains in quality of life for all might be achieved. Those gains would imply changes to the existing order which would be highly destabilizing. Societies naturally tend to incorporate mechanisms to control such influences, or the collapse and are replaced.

Witness the vociferous rejection of your principles by many of the posters here. They represent the social forces binding society together in its present relatively stable configuration. Note the general way in which people express themselves. "Oh, people are too greedy and evil to change.", "We little people have no control over the system, it can't be changed, all we can do is go along with the status quo."

These are just ways for people to both support a system which is fundamentally exploitative and at the same time disavow their own participation IN that system. Unfortunately most people lack the moral courage and conviction to even recognize these facts, and I predict that I will be heartily flamed for this post by many of them :o).

As for ending the consumer society, don't look to government to do that. Government is a reflection of the wishes of the governed. Despite the assertions of most Americans that their government is outside their control, the fact remains that the system operates only by their tacit consent and passive cooperation. The battle is for the hearts and minds of the people. Only there can social justice truely be advanced. As Sartre I believe once said "The world's problems will only be solved when each and every individual acknowledges their personal responsibility for ALL of the world's ills." I think that day is still to come.

Point 4 is also HIGHLY unlikely. Improving the lot of poor people around the world would poison the entire system. Those people would become wealthy enough to take control of their own economic destinies and would not then be dependent on the developed nations for their meager supplies of capital. Political leaders here will never be allowed to let that happen.

Instead we have an ever increasing spiral of consumption as the system continues to try to maintain the necessary wealth disparities, demanding ever more consumption and creating ever more "make work" jobs for the wealthier people in order to both occupy their time and insure that their cash remains in that part of the community. (IE, if people that do unnecessary jobs were to say go over seas and help people out over there by maybe building some water systems and roads for them pretty soon the system would break down).

Tragically I think in order for changes as profound as you would like to see to come to pass will require that first the limits of the present system become apparent to all, and that is only likely to happen when the current system's ability to maintain the conditions necessary to its survival is exhausted.
That is not dead which may eternal lie And with strange aeons death itself may die.
Re: Indeed you have hit some good points (none / 0) (#41)
by Imperator on Wed Jun 07, 2000 at 02:30:44 PM EST

Point 4 is also HIGHLY unlikely. Improving the lot of poor people around the world would poison the entire system. Those people would become wealthy enough to take control of their own economic destinies and would not then be dependent on the developed nations for their meager supplies of capital. Political leaders here will never be allowed to let that happen.
Ultimately, so long as elections are fair, political leaders will do whatever the people want. Sure, our current politicians are unlikely to do things which offend their rich patrons, but in the future things might change.

One system that intrigues me is that by which the Scottish, Welsh, and Ulster parliaments are elected. In brief, districts elect representatives, but then a certain number of seats are divided based on the overall popular vote.

Say that Party A and Party B each earn 40% of the overall vote, while Party C and Party D each earn 10%. However, in each district, a candidate from Party A or Party B won the plurality. The majority of the remaining seats would go to parties C and D, so as to ensure that the popular vote is represented.

This system gives people representatives which are directly responsible to them, so they will oppose the toxic dump being placed in their district. But it also allows people to vote for whichever party they support, without fear of throwing their vote away. America is unlikely to adopt such a system in the near future because most Americans think of her Constitution as the Revealed Word of the Most Wise Founding Fathers. But maybe the idea will become popular in Europe, where two-party systems like that of the US are uncommon.

[ Parent ]

Fight Club (2.00 / 1) (#28)
by Anonymous Hero on Wed Jun 07, 2000 at 10:56:07 AM EST

Anybody else notice the strong similarities between this article and Fight Club?

A long time ago in river valleys far, far away, our ancestors figured out that if you take a seed and put it in the ground, you can come back to it a few months later and it will feed your tribe.

"The ancient people discovered that if they washed their clothes in a certain spot in the river, they would get much cleaner" - Fight Club (paraphrased, since I don't have a copy of the movie with me)

End the consumer society

This is pretty much the theme of Fight Club.

Not that there is really anything wrong with this... it was a great movie, and it may have inspired Imperator to think objectively about our place in society. That's never a bad thing.

Re: Fight Club (none / 0) (#39)
by Imperator on Wed Jun 07, 2000 at 02:03:53 PM EST

Never seen that movie, actually. Generally the only movies I see any more are those that get positive reviews on That Other Place. :) The first part of the sentence comes from the prelogue to Star Wars ("A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away...").

[ Parent ]
Re: Fight Club (none / 0) (#55)
by Anonymous Hero on Thu Jun 08, 2000 at 10:54:23 AM EST

I guess that just makes the similarities cooler :)

[ Parent ]
school (4.50 / 2) (#29)
by Inferno on Wed Jun 07, 2000 at 10:57:41 AM EST

I agree with your ideas, but you seem to have forgotten how school operates. Being in school, I am reminded everyday. More time in school would not necessarily be benificial, the more important things are keeping students interested in the material, hiring competent teachers, and offering a wider range of courses for a more specialized education. There is very little time well spent in school. Most of the day involves sitting in class, waiting for the teacher or other students to shut up so that you may begin your work. Also, much of the work assigned is little more than busywork. Far too much time is spent on one topic, and topics are delt with one at a time, so that you forget information after the test. In addition, there is the attitude that working is more important than learning. In nearly all high school classses, homework has a much larger effect on your grade than do tests. In other words, learning the material isn't necessary if you're willing to spend hours on homework. The educational system does need to be reformed, but extra hours is something that it does not need, unless they are to be used effectively.

evil $$ (3.30 / 3) (#31)
by rob on Wed Jun 07, 2000 at 11:15:22 AM EST

Isn't money evil? It makes us treat people bad, (foreign blue collar workers) ruin our enviroment, (ever been to Northwest Indiana and smelled the air?) and it consumes our lives, all so we can attain the goal of living in a upper middle class subdivision enjoying high quality products and services, such as lawn tractors, new oldsmobiles, landscape services, etc.... This is what we want, we don't merely want to consume, we want to conspicuously consume, have that shiny BMW or SUV in the yard. From blue collar workers to white collar workers. This is why people work. Its a feedback loop, the more $$ people make the more they consume and the more demand there is for products and services. But everyone knows this, its ECON 101. As long as this country is a democracy, life will go on this way, people working hard because of the hope that they can attain always a better standard of living. If people didn't have the chance to attain this, we wouldn't go to work, wouldn't be productive, creative or ambitous. Why would we be interested in science and technology if it didn't eventually pay out in real $$? Why would people spend many years in school, if it wasn't going to allow them to make $$? Why does everyone want all this money? To consume of course! Science and Technology and Education allow people to develop more products and services. More products and services, more blue collar workers! Its an endless cycle that won't end with increasing taxes on rich people and boosting up education. I'm not trying to shoot down any ideas here, but changing society is a lot more complex than you outlined. Changing it in the way you describe isn't possible at this time. What I'm trying to say isn't a problem with your ideas,it is more of a problem intrinsic to human nature.

Money is evil! Destroy all money! (none / 0) (#34)
by marlowe on Wed Jun 07, 2000 at 12:11:25 PM EST

Go ahead. Yours first.

--- I will insist on my right to question ---
-- The Americans are the Jews of the 21st century. Only we won't go as quietly to the gas chambers. --
[ Parent ]
Stuffings! (4.00 / 2) (#32)
by Anonymous Hero on Wed Jun 07, 2000 at 11:38:35 AM EST

Okay, firstly this reminds me of a book a friend of mine was telling me about. The alpha's are the intelligent dudes (probably most k5ers would fit that) who do research etc, the beta's are like bank managers and stuff, gammas are shop assistants .... etc etc, and everybody is given a job according to their ability and they are totally happy.

there's one guy who is actually an EPSILON MINUS, and his sole duty in life is to operate a lift. When some alpha gets on the lift and asks to go to the roof, he pulls the lever, and when they get there, the E- guy is so happy he's going like "roof! roof! ROOF!!!"

Anyway, getting back to your points ... school 6 days a week? man, you are one sick individual. Having had 6-day weeks myself from age 11 to 19 (included 1st year of uni) I have to agree that they are possible, but would be extremely harsh on your average kid. Most people can't cope with the length of school as it is already, making it longer would be very stressful. Okay, so I could cope, but I'm an effing workaholic. Damn, hate my life. Do agree with the shorter hols tho.

Tax the wealthy even more ... great move, they're already well taxed in this country, I think the figures were something like the top 5% of the country pays 30% of the taxes or something like that. But what incentive do people have if all they can work for is nothing much? Why, we would have less IPOs for a start. Hmm.

I hope you never get into power anywhere, cos sounds like life under you would be stressful, unrewarding and hard work! We need some freedom somewhere!!!

Re: Stuffings! (none / 0) (#40)
by Imperator on Wed Jun 07, 2000 at 02:14:15 PM EST

Most people can't cope with the length of school as it is already, making it longer would be very stressful.
No reason you wouldn't be able to take that into account. Young children need shorter days, teenagers need to sleep in, etc. This is all well-known information.
Tax the wealthy even more ... great move, they're already well taxed in this country, I think the figures were something like the top 5% of the country pays 30% of the taxes or something like that. But what incentive do people have if all they can work for is nothing much? Why, we would have less IPOs for a start. Hmm.
I don't buy that argument. As long as the taxes stay below ~80% (remember that at that level of income 20% is many millions of US$) or so and people value money, they'll still work hard to earn more of it. The only way that high taxes would actually discourage people from earning more money is if they reached 100% or more. (I believe the UK had this problem in the past.) If you make US$10m from a sale of stock, and you only keep 20%, you're still making US$2m, which is nothing at which to laugh. (Unless you're Bill Gates.)

[ Parent ]
Re: Stuffings! (none / 0) (#42)
by Anonymous Hero on Wed Jun 07, 2000 at 02:39:04 PM EST

Okay dude, better just point out that I'm British (and the original poster, yeah that's right ... the original ;-) )

huh, so you tax all these people making lots of dosh ... and then what do you do with it? i wouldn't trust our government (note: i didn't vote for them) to spend the money correctly (they're labour, which is left-wing). I read over the weekend that the prime minister has spent £1 billion pounds on spin doctors (private firms of "expert" advisors) - ref: the sunday mirror newspaper (so its a tabloid ... so its also pro-labour).

not only that, but they have received a ridiculous "windfall" of £££billions from auctioning off various frequency bands for 3rd generation mobile licences. let's watch them spend that well. new labour is all about hype, much less doing things right. someone tell me something that this government has actually achieved? (not to do with inflation/employment figures cos the latter are all fiddles anyway)

tony blair's election message was "education education, education!" and now he wants to abolish grammar schools (selective schools where you don't have to pay) and gordon brown is attacking oxbridge for being "elite" because they take the best pupils.

labour has abolished student grants and in one swoop introduced tuition fees at £1000 per year per student. The amount of money it took to set the administration for collecting the money is roughly equivalent to the amount of money they are receiving off the students. and then there's student loans, which you have to pay off over 5 years.

*They* (Labour) are the ones making it elitist, where only students who can afford to pay this new fee plus their way in university can go. Okay, so in America you have "college funds" ... but you start saving up for them day 0 when the child is born, in England we had about a year's notice. What about families with children born close together, gonna cough up £6000 from somewhere? Get me a mortgage, man....

anyway, i'm probably going offtopic here with a rant about our government ... oh yes, let's quickly not forget the RIP bill they want to introduce, which businesses can kindly foot the bill for ... but my point is, that no government getting all that amount of money could be trusted to spend it wisely.

going back to an earlier point that you made, that people who have nothing to hope for are happy ... eh??? no way, if there was no competition, no meaning in my life, nothing to define the boundaries, then what is the point? it would be well boring. taking away things to hope for takes away the best things in life ... ever been to a football (soccer) game? ever heard thousands and thousands of people singing in unison ...

Walk on ...
Walk on ...
With hope ... in your heart ...
And you'll never ... walk ... alone ......
You'll *never* walk ... alone ..........................



[ Parent ]

Re: Stuffings! (none / 0) (#43)
by Anonymous Hero on Wed Jun 07, 2000 at 02:53:05 PM EST

better just clarify the 'original' comment ... just playing about with the word (the original jeans, the original crisp, the original coke ... yeah, like i'm the original poster ... not!)

[ Parent ]
To each their own. (4.50 / 4) (#33)
by Anonymous Hero on Wed Jun 07, 2000 at 12:06:20 PM EST

I have no money, no resources, no hopes. I am the happiest man alive.

Henry Miller may like that condition (Tropic of Cancer), but I don't. Limiting the consumerist twist is good, but it must still be there. Another poster's comments on the wealth differential help explain some of this, but that doesn't mean we can't hold back ourselves. Go volunteer your shopping time at a local, state, or national park. Get a part-time job at a small farm. See if there's something you can do at a local school. Do your part rather than simply exhorting that everyone else should be forced to do theirs.

And the rich are already taxed heavily. Go check the average taxes paid per year at $10k, $100k, $1M, $10M, etc. I think you'll be surprised. Science is funded. That's how I'm paid. There has to be competition in the funding market as well. The high-profile projects that have been chopped resulted in extra funding for many, many smaller ones. That's why they were chopped... And the cheap labor is how some countries make their money at all. If they weren't cheap, they would have no means for competing with larger countries. I'm not saying that the slave wages being paid in many places are good enough, but rather that it's ok for workers in countries with lower costs of living and standards to be paid less.

And so on, and so on. No offense, but I'm guessing you're 18-23, middle class, white, etc. You'll find many people to agree with you where you hang out. Try going someplace completely new. It's good to do that at least once a month, if not more. Talk to other people. Get ideas. You'll be wrong. They'll be wrong. You'll both learn.

...Must have an earnest desire to save the world. (1.00 / 1) (#47)
by Anonymous Hero on Wed Jun 07, 2000 at 04:38:23 PM EST

Looks like you might want to check out "Ishmael" by Daniel Quinn: www.ishmael.com

"With man gone, will there be hope for gorilla?"


You wanted feedback... (3.00 / 2) (#52)
by Shelling IT on Wed Jun 07, 2000 at 07:22:36 PM EST

Welcome to world or politics, economics, metaphysics, psychology, esthetics all rolled into one.

I commend you for taking a bite into a very juicy subject. I hope to communicate to you, though, that you've just taken your first tenuous bite, and I sincerely hope that you will take many more.

First, a study in metaphysics. Humans have needs. Humans can make decisions and act upon decisions to fulfill those needs however they see fit. Humans are complex both in their needs and in their ability to fulfill them. Humans have the capability of communicating with other humans; they often communicate for a variety of need-fulfilling tasks.

Now for government. Humans have known for a long time that forming groups of humans aids in need-fulfilling ventures, such as feeding your family, punishing non-collabaritive bullies, and defending your group against a much bigger foe. Eventually, as individuals grew more and more autonomous (in response to a need to feel autonomous), the marketplace more and more displaced government in humans search for need-fulfilling ventures such as feeding your family. But the roles of justice and group-defense continued to be held only by the government.

Now a study in economics. Humans have discovered a wonderful abstraction -- the concept of value -- which facilitates humans' communication in their need-fulfilling activities. Humans also discovered they can concretize this concept of value in a civil and peaceful way: money. Money is much preferred to, say, expressing your value by hitting someone over the head with a club. When humans engage in the exchange of money -- and therefore value -- it is called a "market". When they are freely allowed to do so, it is called a "free market".

Humans then discovered they can do interesting things with money in a free market: they can borrow it, lend it, keep it in excess of current need deficits, aggregate it, invest it. Aggregating and investing together is what humans do to form corporations. These corportations allow individual humans to leverage their hard-earned money in conjunction with other like humans.

A few things about a free market. Since value is subjective, all participants in an exchange of value will receive more than they gave. If I'm hungry enough, my five sheckles will be worth less at the time than your freshly caught fish. My 20 pounds of gold are useless in a desert unless I can use them to buy some water. And don't even try to sell an ice cube to an Eskimo.

Marginal Utility is possible because some people are just better at some things than others. I can plow better than you, but you're better at cooking, so you stay and cook while I plow. My friend Kim is a PhD so she's more qualified to do research while I'm an experienced programmer; who do you pay more to write a program?

Utility is multi-faceted and so we have "convenience stores" and "supermarkets" at every corner. It's why we have "fast food" joints, which close at 11pm, adjacent to all-night diners. Temporal and spatial utility are just two of the kinds of utilities that a service or product can offer as a competitive advantage. And be a cause in a higher price.

Economies of scale mean that often bigger is better. It's simply more efficient, meaning less waste, to make 10,000 widgets than to make just 1. Or 5,000.

Supply and demand of course means that wise money-spenders realize that all utilities being equal, the easier a product is to get or manufacture or supply, the lower its cost can be. And suppliers know that the more demand they can create for a product, the higher a price those people are willing to pay.

Except for a few periods in history, governments were more concerned with fulfilling human needs of safety and food than with creating an environment where individuality and autonomy can thrive. The few periods in which these have thrived have often had elements of direct or indirect popular representation, a concept today often mistaken for "democracy". Please note that "democracy" and the free market are not intrisically linked, though they may be psychologically and historically intertwined. Many historians and philosophers have noted that a free market is more cruicial to an individual's autonomy and free expression than the particular form of government.

In the field of modern pyschology, we study human behavior. Usually, we ascribe such behavior to cognitive activities and "states of mind", but of course, physiological responses are just as important. By studying psychology, we gain insights into how humans act. And by studying how humans act, we gain insights into what humans need. What about wants? It's difficult both psychologically and philosophically to make a distinction between wants and needs. Both needs and wants can always be expressed in the context of another need or want. With the exception of existence itself.

The concept of esthetics creeps in soon after an individual can rest from asking the quesiton "What do I need to live another day", and may begins to ask "How can I fulfill my need for beauty." I'm talking Sex. Art. Programming. Poetry. Math. Science. Knowledge. Joy.

So my feedback to you begins by noting there is a contradiction in your desire for a well-educated society and a well-taxed society. Who will pay to feed my thirst for water or for my thirst for knowledge? "The government?" "Our society?" What good will that knowledge do me, when I am told that 40% or 80% or whatever % of my free time is to be spent feeding someone else?

Consumerism is Natural and Good. Consumerism means that we humans are fully engaged in the act of need-fulfilling activities, and that we are getting really really good at it. We consume by purchasing CD systems and buying CD's; we consume by buying homes and remodeling them to feel at peace; we consume by buying cars that we hope will impress members of the opposite gender and increase our likelihood of gene proliferation; we consume by buying more expensive, but healthier, less fatty foods than by buying cheap, and fattening foods. We should be praising consumerism, not disparaging it.

Nothing sacred about my wealth. If my ancestors were able to self-organize from poor, uneducated, farmers, why can't the multitiude of "poor, uneducated, starving" self-organize? If wealth is merely a benefit of the already wealthy, where did this wealth come from? The poor? The wealthy? Which is it? Money isn't a zero-sum game, just as the three laws of thermodynamics do not apply to the earth. The sun's energy heats up the planet, allows us to be fed with a relative minimum of effort. Thus, I can make a profit -- at no one's expense -- by selling my excess produce.

You don't know and cannot appreciates every person's true needs and desires. I have been told women are really fascinated by shoes. They buy them, they collect them, they talk about them, they chose to date guys based on them, etc. I'm not with the women on that. In fact, I think it's quite frivolous to worry excessively about shoes. In fact, I am certain no one needs more than exactly one pair of shoes. Wouldn't you agree?

  • No one needs to drive more than 5 miles to work.
  • No one needs to have their hair cut. Not really.
  • No one needs a computer.
  • No one needs a human species.

We all need the human species of course, for otherwise, none of us would be around. But are considerations of the species in the year 2100 more important than considerations of the individual in the year 2000? What about in the species in the year 3000? Or the year 10000?

In close, I cannot stress enough the vital role a free market has on our personal lives. It's not just a thing to be tolerated, but a thing to be worshipped. A truly free market exists for the free exchange of values. What else could be more valuable?

Money is good. Capitalism is good. Just not good (none / 0) (#54)
by Dr. Zowie on Thu Jun 08, 2000 at 12:12:03 AM EST

Wow -- it's terrific to see the age-old socialism/capitalism fight coming out here in k5. Comments are all over the board!

Society is split between capitalists and socialists because of the chimaeric nature of capitalism and a free-market economy.

Capitalism has improved and transformed our lives more than any other invention ever, principally by allowing people to aggregate and invest wealth and, most importantly, by allowing the people who are most able to invent wealth to control the system. It is an enormous selection game that winnows the successful, rapacious, go-getter industrialists and puts them on top where they can control ever-larger portions of the economy.

Capitalism has also been responsible for more suffering, environmental harm, and grief than any other invention ever, principally because the monetary system does not -- and, probably, cannot -- do more than approximate real values. Capitalism's distributed selection model doesn't really maximize the amount of value in the system; it only maximizes the amount of money, at the expense of everything else. External things like art, science, public education, common parks, clean air, pure water, good food, and even quiet contemplation and security are simply not accounted for and hence are sacrificed in the process. Socialism is much better at addressing these values and, to the extent that money doesn't map to value, socialism is here to stay. Much taxation is in fact an attempt to map external values to the monetary system.

Even if money could map exactly to real value, the system wouldn't work quite right. Remember, the most successful businessmen rise to the top. In the endgame, when the industrialists get really big, it only maximizes the amount of money in the industrialists' pockets. The presence of inheritance and other forms of dynasty-building breaks the system too: successful businessmen often have kids who are dumber than posts.

The history of macroeconomic policy is the history of a series of compromises intended alternately to empower the inustrialists enough to improve our lot, and to prevent them from getting so big that they dominate the whole system and start draining value from it. The fundamental problem here is again one of a mismatch between the heuristic and the actual value: people who are good at accumulating wealth tend also to be good at generating wealth; but the very best ones (who eventually end up on top) tend to be more focused on accumulating wealth than on shepherding large portions of society.

So, yes, Imperator's comments are good ones. The problem is how to set up the rules of the game so that they happen. Legislating that the nice things should happen works for a while -- but without a sufficient change to the overall rules of the economy, corruption and deal-making will weaken the legislation until it's ineffective. (e.g. farm subsidies intended for homesteaders were sucked up by huge corporations starting as soon as the New Deal was announced; and, ever since public education was started in this country, it's been slowly dying the death of a million, billion cuts).

The problem is, no-one's come up with a set of rules that works nearly as well as a kind of weakly tempered capitalism, in terms of voracious, tenacious spread, in terms of individual perceived happiness, or in terms of virtually any kind of material gratification. Please do -- I'd love to see it!

Re: Money is good. Capitalism is good. Just not (none / 0) (#56)
by Shelling IT on Thu Jun 08, 2000 at 11:25:07 AM EST

What do you mean by "actual value"? From what perspective -- and do you agree that you must choose a perspective -- do you evaluate "actual" value from "perceived" value?

I agreed with you on this:

The history of macroeconomic policy is the history of a series of compromises intended alternately to empower the inustrialists enough to improve our lot, and to prevent them from getting so big that they dominate the whole system and start draining value from it.

But in the remainder of that paragrpah, you underscore your assumption that people such as industrialists are or should be obligated to improve society. To which I ask, what ethic are you basing this on?

Capitalism has also been responsible for more suffering, environmental harm, and grief than any other invention ever

Uh, what book did you get this from? Ok, ok, so in your book, does any good system provide for the freedom from pain?

Capitalism's distributed selection model doesn't really maximize the amount of value in the system; it only maximizes the amount of money, at the expense of everything else.

Quite the contrary. A Free Market is the only system which gives each individual the opportunity to maximize value! But if you think that the concept of value is fixed to a certain frame of reference, I can see where you'd have trouble appreciating this point. I can also see where you'd have trouble if your aim is to look at the system, rather than what is afforded every individual. A two person system, a slave owner and slave, can have an enourmous amount of value!

Remember, the most successful businessmen rise to the top.

What's to remember about a tautology?

. External things like art, science, public education, common parks, clean air, pure water, good food, and even quiet contemplation and security are simply not accounted for and hence are sacrificed in the process.

The socialists in our governments have done such a thorough job of convincing you that only They are capable of providing you these things, that you now believe that capitalism doesn't value these things. Not only does it value these things, but it values them much more highly than centrally controlled systems have, historically speaking. Consider the obvious:

  • Quiet contemplation you can find on a boat, a desert, your own home.
  • Art can be found in every radio station, Blockbuster and TV. People need art so much so, that some of the best, most eyepleasing art can be found in the most successfull businesses. Next time you go to a really nice restaraunt, check out the artwork.
  • Common parks are what make Disney World such a huge success. Yes, it costs a lot of money, but thanks to an ever increasingly successful economy, more and more people each year can afford the luxuries Disney has to offer. If by "common" you mean "free", then what you really mean is "taxpayer supported" as opposed to "user supported". If everyone valued the park service, then those two would be equivalient. If not, then some people are paying for a service they do not value!
  • Science was doing quite well on its own in private universities throughout western europe and the states in the 1800's and early 1900's. Today's repressive governments have offered more and more disincentives for private businesses
  • Clean Air and Water are good to have, and so is food. Of these three, certainly food is the scarcer resource, and it is production and distribution of food which the free market has done so well in economizing. And in my home, I have an expensive, commercial air filtration system, and a cheap water filtration system. If the government enforced pollution laws as well as they enforce property laws, I might not need the air filter system. But as most water systems in the U.S. are publically controlled or heavily regulated monopolies, all blame for unclean water should be place on the governments. Indeed, as we've seen in the most socialist governments, clean air and water and bountiful food were nonexistent.

    Surely, I haven't turned you into an industrialist. But perhaps I've given you enough to evaluate some of your underlying assumptions.

    [ Parent ]

Re: Money is good. Capitalism is good. Just not (none / 0) (#57)
by Dr. Zowie on Thu Jun 08, 2000 at 12:51:55 PM EST

Hi, ShellingIT,

You have good comments. Here are some responses...

Actually, I'm aware of the problem of relative values -- you pointed out (indirectly) that there is no single set of absolute values, at least that anyone's discovered, that appears to be absolute. I deliberately glossed over that in such a short essay, but the value that we as a society want to optimize is something like total human happiness (whatever that is). Are you familiar with the concept of "pareto-optimality"? A system is pareto-optimal if nobody in it can be made any happier by any possible trade-off of resources. Of course, circular preference loops exist (Fred would rather swap his Coke for a 7-up, but he prefers Pepsi to 7-up and, given the choice, he'll take Coke over Pepsi...). But a society that aims toward pareto-optimality won't be steering too far wrong.

You asked me what book I took my statement about capitalism and pain from. No offense taken about the implied plagiarism, thanks :-) but I can't actually put my finger on a particular source for that idea. The signs of *problems* with capitalism are all around you, if you want to see them. Check out our polluted rivers, our massive numbers of useless water-control projects that silt up streams and kill wildlife (and then read Reisner's "Cadillac Desert" for a treatise on how they all got built), our sweatshops, our inner cities, our horribly exploitative foreign policy, the cruel, cruel things that are done to the native peoples of this continent (whose entire indigenous culture is outside the monetary system), yadda, yadda yadda.

Don't get me wrong, I think Capitalism is a kick-ass system and it works very well at what it does. The chief problem is that folks get mesmerized by the things it does well (one of which is propagandize) and forget that there are plenty of things it does poorly.

You ran down a few of the "external" values that I listed, and tried to point out how a free-market system provides them. I'll run down 'em again, responding to your points.

  • Quiet contemplation can in some sense be found anywhere -- but why should you have to go somewhere to get it?
  • Common parks Disney World is not a park. Disney World is a factory that manufactures a quantity called "entertainment". It does not edify its visitors. You get on the rides, the lights flash, the little mannikins move, and when you finish you're right where you started. Disney world is a good example of what corporatism and capitalism do well, and it is certainly a good thing for what it is. But there is also a need for things like Glen Canyon (now drowned, alas), and capitalism and corporatism are not so good at preserving those.
  • Science was indeed doing quite well "on its own" in private universities in the 1800s and early 1900s -- but what private university could afford to develop spaceflight, or semiconductors, or particle accelerators?
  • Clean air and water and food are two things that most people in this country had 200 years ago, 150 years ago, and 100 years ago. I'm sorry that you have to filter your air and water. Before blaming the government for not enforcing the pollution laws, please stop to think why they're even necessary!

I said: "Remember, the most successful businessmen rise to the top.", and you said "What's to remember about a tautology?". Actually, it's a false tautology, if you think a little deeper. The "top" in this case is the political top; the positions held by Plato's philosopher kings, or by an aristocracy. And, yes, the people who control the bulk of the resources really should have the good of the society as a whole at heart.

Finally, you said "A free market is the only system that allows each individual to maximize value!", to which I can only reply that it's my turn to ask about books. Been reading much Milton Freedman lately? Free markets allow each individual to maximize value on the margin; but in practice, there are many ways in which free markets limit individuals to make non-optimal choices. They're left as an exercise to the reader.

For the record, I don't think that pure socialism is a good way to go, either. It doesn't have the powerful positive feedback that capitalism has. It's not an either-or question.

Sorry for the terseness of this reply; it's a busy day and I only had a few minutes to rattle off answers.

Cheers,
Dr. Zowie

[ Parent ]

a thought on corporations (none / 0) (#58)
by Arkady on Thu Jun 08, 2000 at 01:40:07 PM EST

Corporations could be required to follow the laws of the jurisdiction in which they are incorporated, wherever their operations are. This would, for example, force American corporations to pay reasonable wages worldwide because they'd be bound by the workers' rights laws in the US as well as, say, Indonesia, when dealing with workers.

One problem, of course, is that with the massive currency valuation differences, this could destroy the local economy with a massive capital influx. They could, instead, be required to pay a reasonably calculated local-currency equivalent of the required salary and donate the remainder to projects working to improve conditions in the local community to the point where it's currency can be linked 1-1 with the corporation's home currency.

This change would at least require that the corps treat all workers equally and build up funding for improving the lot of the third-world workers on whose backs the corporate profit is made.

-robin

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere Anarchy is loosed upon the world.


Not enough energy (none / 0) (#59)
by bill_mcgonigle on Fri Jun 09, 2000 at 09:09:48 AM EST

Your utopian goals are limited by our ability to produce enough energy cheaply and efficiently. When we develop an infinite energy source (fusion, most likely, hot or cold) then you can start to think about your goals, but instead of reducing everybody to subsistence living, you'll be elevating everybody to comfortable living. Isn't that better? Think about it for a minute, then get to work on it.

The Consumer Society | 57 comments (57 topical, 0 editorial, 0 hidden)
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