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October 16, 2011

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I went to Ireland about two years ago. When I came back it was a shock to see how shabby, poor, and neglected my own nation looked.

Roads in bad shape. Towns of dead store fronts. People living in run down trailers, unpainted houses, dead cars everywhere.

I don't live in an impoverished area. Or I should say that isn't the collective self-image of this county. This is classic Rethug base county: full of people on Medicare, Social Security, Medicaid, vet's benefits or subsidized jobs exploiting public owned resources. Actually the biggest employer (and nnearly the onloy one that pays a living wage) is the state. Nethertheless Rightwing policians who bitch about big government and socialism and promise tax cuts find a majority here--even though the tax cuts never arrive for most of the voters. But job losses because of tax cuts have definitely arrived. Not that the base has managed to connect the dots yet. Anyway in this county of budget cuts, high unemployment, meth labs, and forclosures the survivors stil thinnk they are middle class and stil think that tax cuts will solve everything ad eveerythig is the fault of the immigrants. Well "think" isn't the right word. Believe. They believe without thinking.

I'd figure it was all karma and my fellow citizens were just screwing themselves with their rightwing anti-reality self hypnosis except they are harming the animals too. We lost our county animal shelter and animal control officer due to budget cuts. There are stray dogs everywhere. There are small scale puppy mills everywhere. Dog fighting is spreading. Volunteers now have to do extralegal confiscations to save dogs from abuse and/or neglect. Sucks.

But you know what? You can't get somethig for nothing.You can't get a decent civil society without a sufficient tax base to pay for it. And wealth does not trickle down.

Figure 2 in the article is one of Eleven charts that explain what's wrong with America, per Mother Jones.

The MJ article is titled "It's the Inequality, Stupid". I don't like that title because it makes me think uncomfortable thoughts about cause and effect: does stupidity lead to inequality, or the other way around, in the good ole USA?

--TP

Laura,

I concur. I'm a European and have visited US several times, and lived there for a time. And it's a sad thing to say that "Grand Theft Auto San Andreas" gives a realistic portrayal of what many Californian neighbourhoods look like, although the level of crime is, naturally, exaggerated.

I just realized that I used "bitch" as a verb. I used it to mean intellectually dishonest griping, which is not a behavior I associate with either gender. However by using a word that refers only to women...I suppose "bitch" turned into a verb as a way of belittling complaints from women and then spread to be used generally.

Anyway I will have to learn how to spellthat British word which means dishonest griping with overtones of whining: "whingeing"?

This is not a new theme. The picture, I suspect, is incomplete. What percentage of the lower 4 quintile's own their own home? Have two cars, the usual household appliances, etc? Put differently--back out the assets of the top quintile and compare the assets of the bottom 4 quintiles with comparable societies in terms of population size. Also, control for immigration status. What percentage of the bottom quintile is made up of recent arrivals who are behind educationally, linguistically etc and how many comparable societies include this mix? There is more here than meet's they eye.

The picture, I suspect, is incomplete.

I'll see what I can dig up for you McK.

Before I dive in, I just want to ask what it would actually take for you to believe that the distribution of wealth in this country is wacked.

Because yes, this point has been raised, and discussed at length, and information aplenty has been put on the table.

No answer needed, just a question for you to ponder.

What does "back out the assets of the top quintile" mean?

However different our notions of fairness may be, McKinney, we ought to be able to agree on simple arithmetic. So for example, we ought to be able to agree that a person (whatever quintile he's in) who "owns" a home worth $200K with $180K left on the mortgage figures into the statistics as having a net asset of $20K. Same goes for cars and car loans, appliances and credit card balances. If it makes any sense to "back out" the assets of the top quintiles, then it only makes sense to "back out" the liabilities of the lower quintiles.

What's "not a new theme" is the perennial notion that average Americans ought to compare their material well-being to that of people in other societies, and be content -- rather than looking at the distribution of wealth in the good ole USA and asking "WTF?"

--TP

No answer needed, just a question for you to ponder.

I would want to know the answer McKinney asks for. If disparity leads to the bottom having more that it would otherwise have, disparity is a good thing, no? I'm not sold on that being the case and the disparity is always shocking to see graphically. But I'd want to know. I look forward to your digging, Russell.

What percentage of the lower 4 quintile's own their own home? Have two cars, the usual household appliances, etc?

I wish I could find the link to the piece I read a couple of weeks ago, in which the writer went into great depth about how the powers-that-be in this country spent decades extending credit to poor people so they could buy cheap TVs and microwaves and refrigerators, and now tut-tuts them for calling themselves poor because they have electricity and appliances.

How many of these cars and appliances we're talking about are one breakdown away from needing a replacement that the owners can no longer afford? How many of these homes are essentially coffins, inasmuch as the "owners" will die long before the home is paid off?

compare the assets of the bottom 4 quintiles with comparable societies in terms of population size

Ooooh, let's do that with the top quintile, too. I think you'll find that that quintile is disproportionately wealthy in our society in a way that they are not in others.

And why should "population size" be a controlling factor? Shouldn't cultural and demographic similarity be more relevant?

(Don't answer, it's rhetorical. I know why you want it to be the controlling factor.)

So for example, we ought to be able to agree that a person (whatever quintile he's in) who "owns" a home worth $200K with $180K left on the mortgage figures into the statistics as having a net asset of $20K.

No, we don't agree, because (1) that person acquires equity with every monthly payment and (2) that person lives in a 200K home. Is that comparable to any other country, in the aggregate?

How many of these cars and appliances we're talking about are one breakdown away from needing a replacement that the owners can no longer afford? How many of these homes are essentially coffins, inasmuch as the "owners" will die long before the home is paid off?

Assuming this bleak scenario holds true across the board, what other countries present populations who are young, living in nice homes with the full range of conventional appliances, TV's, computers, food etc.

Ooooh, let's do that with the top quintile, too. I think you'll find that that quintile is disproportionately wealthy in our society in a way that they are not in others.

Which is why I am asking about the bottom 4 quintiles.

No, we don't agree, because (1) that person acquires equity with every monthly payment and (2) that person lives in a 200K home. Is that comparable to any other country, in the aggregate?

Wow. "Acquires equity with every monthly payment"?!? Is that supposed to be some kind of distinction between a schoolteacher in Des Moines and a Donald making monthly payments on a Trump Tower? Do you really not understand that a balance sheet is a snapshot in either case?

As for "lives in a $200K home", where to even begin? What kind of home do you imagine the average Swede lives in?

If the average American lived three times better than the average Swede thanks to twice as much wealth inequality in the US compared to Sweden, you might begin to stand a remote chance of persuading me that the average American should be grateful to live in the same country as the Koch brothers. I'm no world traveler, McKinney, but I think you're seriously underestimating the material comforts available to the average citizens of European socialist hellholes with their stultifyingly low levels of wealth disparity. One of us, at any rate, should get out of the country more.

--TP

"There is more here than meet's they eye."

Simply take the Amtrack from New York to Washington DC. Sit by a window. Do not read a book. Do not nap. Do not pull the shade. Gaze at the passing scenery in wonderment and awe.

Your eye will see plenty.

I was under the impression, that Capitalism, left to its own rules, will always have inequalities…and the pro-capitalist folks used to argue, that that was a good thing. The whole social democratic movement (New Deal, Progressive Movement, etc) was about dulling Capitalism’s rough edges, but saving it from socialism. It seems to be a very recent phenomenon, wherein right-wing Capitalist folks seem to be arguing, that Capitalism can cure inequalities.

Assuming this bleak scenario holds true across the board, what other countries present populations who are young, living in nice homes with the full range of conventional appliances, TV's, computers, food etc.

Velocity and position are two different things. Velocity tells you how fast you are going and in what direction. Position tells you where you are at a given moment in time.

We may not have lost all the ground we've gained, but that doesn't mean we aren't losing ground and that we won't continue to lose ground if something doesn't change the direction in which we are going. The middle class is shrinking, even if it isn't gone. Broad-based prosperity is getting less broad, even if some of it is still there.

The trend is not good.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gini_coefficient

The gini coefficient is deemed a reliable metric for assessing income inequality (usually in a country). Go the link. It explains the concept and shows comparisons of the coefficient across a number of developed countries, including sweden and the USA.

If we're going to consider net equity in homes when comparing Americans to other countries, we ought to do one other thing. Look at comparable size homes, not just comparably priced ones. I suspect American home prices are still divorced from reality. Whether that is, on balance, higher (because cheap credit ran up prices) or lower (because there is more land, and therefore tht part of the price of a home is cheaper) remains to be seen.

One of us, at any rate, should get out of the country more.

Well, FWIW, I've been to Stockholm. It seemed rather new, compared to say, Paris or Rome, and neither terribly upscale nor particularly mundane. I didn't price real estate there, but I have looked at prices in Provence and Tuscany (not because we thought about buying, but out of curiosity). Rural, single family homes with modest acreage (less than 10 acres) are typically smaller than what I've seen in the US, less decked out and pricier by a long shot than comparable homes here. Urbanites tend to live in apartments.

My wife's family is well off by any objective standard. They live in Madrid and Barcelona. My daughter studied in Madrid and my wife is from there. Those reasonably well off live in smaller apartments and pay a lot for them, as in NYC.

So, I have a bit of observational knowledge about Europe and even Sweden. Not definitive, just anecdotal. On average, my strong sense is that we pay less and get a good deal more here than those similarly situated in Europe. Which is why I think we should compare apples to apples. What does it matter if the top 20% own X if 20% of X is still, comparatively, not a bad life?

I've also spent a fair amount of time in rural Mexico, Argentina and Costa Rica and I lived in the Philippines for two years. In context, a modest living in the US is high living in those countries. You may look at a not-new 2 BR apartment with 6 or 7 people living there and think, that's not so good. Compared to homes built out of scrap wood and cardboard, with no running water or plumbing and cooking over a wood fire, well, there is a reason why people walk over 300 miles of south Texas brush country to wash dishes in Houston or San Antonio. It's a much better world here than there, even if it doesn't look like much for those who grew up here.

Id that the Republican vision of the American Dream? A nation where most of thepeople live from paycheck to inadequate paycheck, always on the brick of falling into debt for essentials like medical care, with decaying infrastructure, depleted public services, lack of opportuity to better oneself but its all good because we aren't as bad off as the poeple of a third world nation?

BTW on the island where i live there are people who survive o thier Social Security because they live in homemade shacks with rainwater to drink, one car that runs and three more they canibalize for parts, heat with wood, and use kerosine lanterns for lights. But hey! maybe Social Security can be privatized and they can lose their tiny life support in the next stock market crash!

Why should the twenty somethings of America complain about facing a lower standard of living than their parents had if the top two percent are better off than ever?

I would be curious to know how many of the upper management of Fortune 500 corporations live in Sweden. How many are headqurtered there and mostly, do you think we could find a segregated 4.4 million people in this country whose numbers look similar to those for Sweden. It is always interesting to me that we use a country where the total workforce is smaller than the government unionized employee workforce in the US to compare to.

OK, first a few comments off the cuff, then I will try to put some concrete information out there.

Last first: the point of the comparison to Sweden is not that the US should be like Sweden. The point of the comparison the Sweden is that *without knowing that they were, in fact, looking at the distribution of wealth in Sweden*, Americans across a wide demographic spectrum preferred that distribution to what we have.

And as an aside, wrt both CCDG's comments and McK's, I'm really just not getting the relevance of the size of the population. Sweden is small, and they have a relatively even distribution of wealth. Other countries are small, and have miserable kleptocratic distributions of wealth.

What's your point?

IMO the relevant comparison is with countries with similar economies and political and social institutions. So, broadly, OECD nations, and more specifically Western Europe and Canada.

Regarding the number of Fortune 500 corps that are headquartered in Sweden, I assume your point is that a relatively high population of Fortune 500 CEOs will skew the income distribution upwards somewhat dramatically.

If that's your point, you're making mine.

And for the record, there are actually a ton of extraordinarily successful international corporations founded and/or headquartered in Sweden.

As far as stuff like TVs, washer/dryers, one or two cars, it's nice that relatively low income people in the US can still afford to have basic appliances and a car.

But those don't constitute wealth in any meaningful sense. If you get sick, or encounter some kind of financial hardship, or want to send your kids to school, or want to find some liquid cash to invest in some business opportunity, or any of the 1,000 other things that wealth can do for you, your TV washer/dryer or beater automobile are not going to make that happen.

In fact, in the case of something like a car, it can actually net out negatively. In other words, it may cost folks more to own and operate their car than they could sell it for. They lose money every day they drive it. But they have to have one in order to function in any context other than large-ish cities, where functional public transportation is generally available.

Having a car can actually have a negative effect on your standard of living, whether measured in numbers or in more subjective ways.

Onward.

From the US Census.

Note that these are all ca. 2004, the value of and the rate of ownership of real property in particular will have declined significantly since then for a lot of people.

Ca. 2004, about 44% in the lowest quintile owned their own home. About 2/3 of the middle quintile did.

The median equity held in a home by the lowest quintile *if they owned one* was about $70K. The middle quintile, about $75K.

The median value of a 401K held by someone in the lowest quintile was about $8K. Middle quintile, $10K.

Amazingly (to me), ca. 2004 15.6% of households had a zero or negative total net worth. Almost 30% had a total net worth of less than $10K.

Total net worth, including the value of their home and any and all possessions and savings. Including their vehicles.

That's on a basis of almost 113M households. So, not quite 35 million households with a total net worth of less than $10K.

And that is before the market and real estate disasters of '08.

Total home ownership, across the board, in the US is about 66% now.

As of last spring, about 23% of those homeowners were underwater. Meaning that their home was a net negative as far as their net worth.

Some of them will be able to wait it out and maybe net out even. Some might even make money.

Millions will lose a hell of a lot of money.

Among OECD nations, we are middling as far as home ownership as a percent of the population.

We are also more or less middling as regards percentage of the population that is foreign born. At least, ca. 2005.

We're 12.81%.
Germany, 12.31%.
Canada, 18.76%.
UK, 8.9%.

Spain, 10.79%, Australia, 19.93%, Italy, 4.3%, Switzerland, 22.89%.

Sweden, 12.3%.

So, I'm not seeing a meaningful correlation there between percentage foreign born and income distro.

"It's a much better world here than there..."

Yes. And the sun rises in the east. Who'da' thought?

Last but not least, per the DOE:

Virtually everybody has a fridge, a stove, and a color TV.

Large screen TV, not so much. Cable, most folks have.

Only about 1/2 the lowest quintile have a stereo (meaning any stereo, including boom boxes). About 3/4 of the middle quintile do.

57% of lowest quintile have a washer, 45% have a dryer. 82% and 79%, respectively, for the middle quintile.

Dishwasher and second fridge is *strongly* correlated to income.

Not a lot of poor folks with ice water dispensers.

This is all ca. 2001, so adjust as you wish.

I think that touches on most of your points.

Long story short, the distribution of wealth in this country is wacked. By which I mean, a small number of people have EXTRAORDINARILY more than most everyone else, and the folks from the middle on down don't have much at all.

A hell of a lot of folks, maybe more folks than not, can be utterly wiped out by a single semi-serious illness.

That's a precarious place to be.

Income disparity in the USA is tied with China as third highest. Mexico is second highest and Brazil is the worst.

The European countries run at about 25% to 35% less disparity than the USA.

But hey, we are still better than Mexico.

Sorry, one more.

Per capita income, by country.

Of the countries you mentioned in your 6:07:

US $33K per capita
Sweden $25K
France $22.75K
Italy $19.2K
Mexico $5.17K
Argentina $6.57K
Costa Rica $3.9K
Phillipines $920. No K, just $920.

The US is the fifth richest country in the world, measured as gross national income per capita. Luxembourg, Switzerland, Japan, and Norway are richer.

If you want to compare home ownership or average level of household bling between the US and one of those countries, OK.

I'm not sure it's all that helpful to note that sure, 20% of folks here hold 80% of the wealth, but at least we're not living in the Phillipines.

We generate, per capita, about 35 times the wealth that the Phillipines does. I would by God hope that the average person has a somewhat higher standard of living than the average Fillipino.

Nothing against the Phillipines.

I'm really not that interested in whether a poor person in the US has a better car than a poor person in Guadalajara. What concerns me is the 30% of households in this country who are $10K away from being on the street.

One bad day will eat $10K like a snack.

The US economy throws off a stupendous amount of wealth. Most of it goes to a fairly small number of people. A hell of a lot of it goes to a very, very, very small number of people indeed.

That is, simply, wrong.

But hey, we are still better than Mexico.

Hey, look at the bright side!

To be clear about all of this, I have no problem with people getting rich. I have no problem with people investing their money and making more. I have no problem with a market-based, as opposed to command, economy.

No problem, no problem, no problem.

I have a problem with an absurdly disproportionate amount of the wealth created by the US economy going to a very small number of people.

Not because I hate rich people, but because (a) it is, on the face of it, unfair, because it doesn't align with how the value is created and by whom, and (b) it is enormously corrosive to our public life and public institutions.

Large concentrations of wealth are actually dangerous to good public order. Not because the 'have-nots' get pissy and resentful. But because the folks with the gelt apply it to further their own interests, at the expense of others.

This is not a novel insight on my part.

Besides the idea that cutting income taxes, capital gains taxes, or inheritance taxes for rthe weatlhiest will translate (one of the causes of our disparity) into job creation is stupid. It isn't even a market-based notion to "improve" the economy with tax cuts. I don't think that the Repubican advocates of tax cuts for the wealthiest understand capitalism. They just understand using their power to serve themselves at everyone else's expense.

We already have had tax cuts. Taxes are currently historically extremely low, measured both as marginal rates and as percent of GDP.

Jobs have not been created.

QED.

I'm happy to extend an assumption of good faith, and not presume that all calls for tax cuts are purely motivated by self-interest and nothing else.

Plainly, many are. But some, perhaps not.

But as far as job creation goes, tax cuts demonstrably do not make a dent.

That dog does not hunt. That emperor has no clothes. Insert whatever folksy metaphor you like.

Tax cuts do not create jobs. If they did, we would not be looking at almost 10% official unemployment, with de facto unemployment more like upper middle teens.

Call it one in six people who would like to work, or work more, but cannot find work to do.

On a workforce of 150M, that's 25 million people sitting on their hands, some or all of the time. Mostly all.

What a freaking waste. It's a tsunami of potential human effort pissed away, never to be recovered.

You can make money back, but you never get time back.

Equal time.

Thomas Garrett, speaking for the St Louis Fed, notes that folks move between income quintiles quite a bit.

So, when viewed over time, the distribution of income is not quite so stratified.

A good point, however I suspect wealth distribution is a bit stickier.

it doesn't align with how the value is created and by whom

Just as an abstract point: value is in the eye of the beholder. In matters of money, the beholder is the market. For laborers, the market is your employer, and for companies building a product, the market is the marketplace.

If the marketplace is such that you can make a decent profit on your goods, then you make as much as you can. If the labor market is such that what one worker can do is not really all that special compared with what another can do, and there's no shortage of laborers to be had, wages will drop. That's the value of labor: the extent to which what you do and how you do it is worth more to your employer than the work of some random stranger.

I honestly don't know how that's going to change in any major way. I can completely see making some of the legislative changes that you, russell, have suggested in the past, but those laws will effect very slow change in the balance of things, IMO.

Which is not to say that some of them aren't worth doing, mind you.

I'm not attempting to contradict you, here, just air my view of things, which is basically that there isn't anything that's going to change for anyone in the near future until the economy gets going again. But I think having the government as a motivating force in the economy is just not going to work even in the short run, because I think most people are aware that there can only be a short run of trying to kickstart the economy. After that, it's got to run along on its own, and for that to work people have to be building things not funded by the government.

Again, this is just opinionation.

The above is mostly an explication as to why I think the Occupiers are not going to see much in the way of success, because they're Occupying the wrong places. The engine of change is Congress. Also: SCOTUS, but they're not motivated by having to keep themselves in office by being popular; I don't see any leverage on SCOTUS available at all. It's fine to demonstrate where they are, but the arrows should be drawn decisively at Congress. With specifics. The demands for better politicians is something they can fix themselves, ostensibly, but certainly not something inept politicians are going to do if they're, for instance, puppets of big corporations.

Wall Street isn't going to change its behavior because it's not in its collective best interest to do so. Wall Street isn't where big corporations live; it's where traders of stock in big corporations live. The traders are going to maximize their return. They're in it to make money for themselves and their clients, and they'll continue doing that as long as there's money there to be made.

I'm sure that most of us have seen this. I think this is how traders look at things. If he paints an accurate picture, Wall Street doesn't care. They're just waiting for that next moneymaking opportunity, and if the Occupiers are going to effect change, then they'll gladly make some money from that.

"Tax cuts do not create jobs. If they did, we would not be looking at almost 10% official unemployment, with de facto unemployment more like upper middle teens"

Interesting that when people talk about stimulus not creating jobs the answer is jobs saved, and look how bad it would be if we hadn't done that. But for tax cuts there is never any assumption that things could have been worse.

Just a thought.

Yes, Slart, I saw the interview with the trader.

All true. If sharks could speak, they would explain the same basic principles to the bucket of chum being thrown overboard.

But I'll give you that traders, and entrepreneurs, well, most everyone, will exploit the next money-making opportunity, even if change is effected through normal diplomatic channels in the direction of Occupy Wall Street's demands.

But I wonder, now, with the ideological rigidity and the deliberate accompanying destruction of the national discourse, if this:

"The engine of change is Congress"

.... holds true at this time in history. It seems to me Lincoln thought Congress should be the engine of change, too, and then he met an ideological shark named John Calhoun, among others, if I'm not mistaken.

I mean, it's one thing for a Wall Street trader to look forward to the misery of a recession or worse (after all, he's front-running his own fantasies), but when Eric Cantor and EVERY Republican in the House and the Senate lay awake at night saying a little prayer in favor of cratering the American economy for ideological, Galtian, and partisan purity, well .... maybe we're dealing with a shark of a different color.

I'd be interested in seeing the difference in reactions to the trader's wet dreams between a Tea Party demonstration and an Occupy Wall Street demonstration.

I'd like to hope the reactions would be somewhat similar in the negative direction (Wall Street's nightmare), but I have grave doubts.

Would the Tea Party hold the trader's opinion of devastation for Americans (let's remember, they are the true Americans; the rest of us Others, not so much) as an unpatriotic statement?

Then this:

"Wall Street isn't going to change its behavior because it's not in its collective best interest to do so."

Maybe if it is read to them very slowly by cheerful people, it might.

http://vimeo.com/30649196

(hat tip - Sullivan)

But I doubt it.

Maybe through a bullhorn by Boris Karloff.

Or George Carlin.

I doubt that too.

Maybe Pavel Strelnikov from Doctor Zhivago.

Not that Victor Komarovsky would ever stop trying to screw Lara.

Wall St. is there to make $$ regardless of the rules. Which is fine, but when they start making (or paying for) their own rules, then they should be held up to the light.

Slarti,

Just as an abstract point: value is in the eye of the beholder. In matters of money, the beholder is the market. For laborers, the market is your employer, and for companies building a product, the market is the marketplace.

A big part of the problem is the belief that income levels, for some, far exceed the value generated. Why does this happen? I don't know. I suspect it has to do with power to begin with, with proximity to money (When there's billions floating around nearby it's easy to grab off a hundred million or two without anyone noticing you really didn't earn it), and with the complexity of our financial system, which lets it be gamed by those willing and able to work out the details.

If someone can show me the value added by all those traders I'll accept that they earned their money. But you have to really show me, not explain the theory, which after all is no good without empirical validation.

If someone can explain exactly how CEO's add value justifying their pay I'll buy that too. Make sure to include the mediocrities as well as the stars.

The fact is, I just don't think anyone can show those things.

Part of what I was trying to point out, bernard, was that value is a subjective thing.

I have no idea why some people are, as you say, overcompensated. You'd have to ask who they work for. I'm sure that you have some specific people that you think are highly overcompensated, but that kind of question has to go to the people who would know the answers.

When there's billions floating around nearby it's easy to grab off a hundred million or two without anyone noticing you really didn't earn it

Maybe the act of grabbing that hundred million (or two) was something that was worth a lot of money to someone.

Anyway, back to markets: I don't think that my claim was that the market is always right. Without the job market, who decides the value of an employee?

FWIW, I don't have any problem at all with the idea of changing the way executive compensation is determined in public corporations, if that's what you're getting at.

If the marketplace is such that you can make a decent profit on your goods, then you make as much as you can.

The question is whether the marketplace is fair, open and competitive - the things that make a market "free," as opposed to "free from regulation." Regulation is (or should be, when done right) one thing that keeps a market free, in the "fair, open and competitive" sense, rather than free in the "I, John D. Rockefeller, can control the railroads and pipelines so no one else can ship oil" sense of being free from regulation.

Markets can be very inefficient in the real world due to asymetries of information - sometimes to the point of outright fraud, moral hazards, collusion, monopolies, duopolies, oligopolies and what have you. Sometimes some of these things are unavoidable, but can still be addressed in such ways as to mitigate their bad effects.

Wall Street certainly won't take those things on, since Wall Street exploits them so well, but that's the point, isn't it? OWS focuses attention on Wall Street to get Washington to notice that people are upset about what goes on on Wall Street (not that the broader movement isn't also at work in DC, and lots of other places).

Interesting that when people talk about stimulus not creating jobs the answer is jobs saved, and look how bad it would be if we hadn't done that. But for tax cuts there is never any assumption that things could have been worse.

Just a thought.

You have a point, to a point. I think the issue is that tax cuts have a very limited job-creating effect, particularly when they are already very low and when they aren't sufficiently targeted to those most likely to respond by spending more.

Yes, things may have been worse, but it's a question of how much worse and whether or not some other "expenditure" (considering a reduction in taxation as a form of spending) of government financial resources would do more to improve things. Spending directly on jobs does more to, um, create or save jobs than feeding further savings by savers, for instance (i.e. Let's cut taxes so people can buy bonds, directly or by proxy, to cover the reduced revenue! - huh?).

"You have a point, to a point. I think the issue is that tax cuts have a very limited job-creating effect, particularly when they are already very low and when they aren't sufficiently targeted to those most likely to respond by spending more."

I agree to a point, partcularly at this point. However, it is also harder to "count" the jobs that tax cuts either saved or created as it is indirect. So the argument is a little tilted because the spending can point to someone directly getting a paycheck, count a job, whether that job would certainly have been lost or not saved by other means.

Where we probably agree is that NOW there needs to be perhaps some other mechanisms to allow government to spend and to strongly encourage business to spend, because everyone is saving every dollar they don't have to spend.

But for tax cuts there is never any assumption that things could have been worse.

My assumption is that interventions by the government to stave off contractions of the economy are band-aids, whether they take the form of tax breaks, hiring people to do stuff, or just handing out money.

I don't think any of them create net new jobs. At most, they defer job losses, or perhaps replace lost jobs with public ones for a period of time.

They are temporary measures, intended to mitigate economic contraction.

What creates net new jobs is economic growth. And I don't see a lot of evidence that tax cuts, per se, make that happen.

My overall point upthread was not so much to do with any kind of stimulative initiative from the government. It had more to do with the fact that we've had, not a couple of years of stimulative tax cuts, but a decade of tax cuts, and the employment picture during that time has been anything but robust.

IIRC it's been flat at best, if not slightly negative.

And if I look at the historical tax rates and compare that to the performance of the economy at basically any period, I'm not seeing any kind of clear, or even sort of fuzzy, correlation between tax cuts and economic performance.

We should have a tax regime that raises enough revenue to do what we want the government to do. Some Keynsian fiddling is probably appropriate at times of economic hardship, but it should be understood to be a stopgap.

IMVHO.

For laborers, the market is your employer

And so we come to the heart of the issue.

The factors of production are generally considered to be capital, labor, and perhaps some raw, unmanufactured material like land.

But basically, capital and labor.

If I understand it correctly, the capitalist model is that contributing capital confers ownership, and profit flows to ownership.

Labor, while an equally essential factor of production, is essentially considered to be an expense. It's a cost of production.

I think this understanding is profoundly broken. If it ever worked, it no longer does.

And it is not essential to a free, market-based economy.

It happens to be the way we organize ourselves, but it is not the only possible way, nor is it particularly the best way.

I'm not interested in capital being more 'generous' with profits, I'm not interested in redistributive schemes sponsored by kind-hearted liberal government initiatives.

I would like to see people whose contribution to the economy is their labor be treated with consideration equal to that granted to folks whose contribution is capital.

Period.

I don't expect to see this in my lifetime, frankly, and I doubt we will ever see it in this country. It would take not just a change in the law, but a profound change in our culture.

But cultures do change. It takes time, generations, but they change. And what we have isn't really working for a hell of a lot of people.

Actually, it straight up sucks for a lot of people. And by 'a lot' I mean a big huge slice of the population. Like maybe half, maybe more.

I'm going to be 55 in a couple of weeks. I have a good job, in a fairly robust industry, in an area where the market for what I do is pretty strong. My wife and I have reasonable equity in our home, and have a pretty good nest egg.

So, I personally am *probably* OK. You never really know. But we'll probably end up OK.

If I were 20, or even 10, years younger - certainly if I were a young person starting out - I would be looking for ways to detach myself from the US money economy.

Don't borrow money, grow your own food, barter where you can, find a trade that is portable, generally useful, and which doesn't require a lot of capital to get started.

And this is not some weird moonbat will-o-the-wisp from some odd corner of the mind of russell. A lot of people are already in the process of doing this. Not weird loser hippies, successful competent people.

Get out of the money economy as far as you can, because it's a freaking shark tank. It's a money jungle, and it's going to be that way for a while.

Maybe forever. Not everywhere, some places are less toxic, but certainly here.

Up above, I made some noises about my hopes regarding commonality between Occupy Wall Street and the, uh, Tea Party, with a grave doubts as well.

Scratch the hope altogether.

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2011/10/18/1027737/-Tea-Party-Nation-asks-businesses-to-stop-hiring-as-expression-of-tea-party%C2%A0solidarity?via=blog_1

The Tea Party and the hedge fund traders have their wet dreams and I have mine.

Mine: Strelnikov, from "Doctor Zhivago", a scar slashed across his face, standing on the back of a train surveying the smoking ruins of the Tea Party to which he and his army just laid waste.

These aren't Americans.

They are the enemy.

F8ck em. Destroy them.

Don't borrow money

I'm with you here.

grow your own food

Never a bad idea.

barter where you can

Not sure this is necessary at this point

find a trade that is portable, generally useful, and which doesn't require a lot of capital to get started.

Also, a great idea as a back-up plan.

But giving up on American society is a little extreme. Maybe I'm naive (and obviously the people here are skeptical in the extreme) but I still believe that we, the people, can change American government for the better.

Recalling the thread on education: young people today are amazing. They're not dull, ridiculous robots who emerge from too many tests in the public schools. They're competent; they care about the world; and they're going to be running it soon. The people who are currently in favor of doing most of the damage are going to be dead relatively soon.

My hope for the older people is that rather than investing all of our efforts in opting out, we should take back the political system so that younger people don't have to start from scratch. We still have the power to vote, especially for President and for statewide offices (Senators and Governors). Growing our own food is a very poor substitute for electing a liberal Democrat as President for the next 12 years so that we can make a decisive change in the Supreme Court. That's two branches of government. If we get that, we'll probably also get a more liberal Congress, because we probably stand a better chance of getting money out of politics. We're irresponsible to give up on our country's institutions in favor of living on deer meat.

Not that there's anything wrong with living on deer meat. It's just not the answer.

But giving up on American society is a little extreme.

American society != the money economy, for lack of a better word.

Growing our own food is a very poor substitute for electing a liberal Democrat as President for the next 12 years

These are not mutually exclusive options.

First of all, I'm not talking about living on deer meat in any kind of wacky survivalist sense. Although if you happen to hunt and like deer meat, live it up. It's good eating, and good for you.

What I'm talking about is voting with your feet and being deliberate and intentional in how you participate in an economy that has become, frankly, highly predatory.

That doesn't mean "don't participate in any economy". It means don't participate in an economy that is inclined to screw you over.

None of this has anything to do with voting, or political participation.

It has to do with investing in yourself, and your community, and in institutions that demonstrate an interest in you and your community.

We need better institutions, that are more responsive to the people that they claim to serve. I'm talking about very, very simple stuff.

Bank at a credit union. Buy food at a co-op or a CSA if those are available to you, instead of some big box grocery.

Set up barter exchanges. You're looking down at barter, but barter is a great way to get what you need without having to go into debt or burn cash reserves.

This isn't wacky survivalist crap, it's just normal human life. It's what people have done for hundreds and thousands of years.

There was a life before MasterCard.

And I'm completely unclear on how learning a pragmatic and marketable trade is only valid as a "back-up plan", or is "giving up on American society" in any form.

I'm not sure what it is you think I'm suggesting. I'm not talking about being a hermit. I'm talking, at most, about not putting your trust in institutions that have demonstrated, in spades, that they do not deserve it.

Build your own institutions. That's how cultures change.

American society != the money economy

The "money economy" is a good thing. It has existed for millenia, not just in America, but in the world. I enjoyed, appreciated and agreed with your comment in a different thread regarding German, Italian, and Basque business models. That's a matter of power being reallocated, not the abolition of money, or investment. What's wrong with this society is that people who earn their living manipulating money have become overcompensated. That's because of underregulation, which is a result of electing the wrong people.

Because of our sophisticated economy, if money is properly allocated, we can support a high standard of living for a large number of people with various skills, including but not limited to growing food and fixing plumbing. Arguably, the problem is that we're too efficient. We don't need all of the crap that the world makes. Although we could definitely benefit from better, more sustainable (and perhaps less efficient) practices in growing food and making products, this doesn't mean we have to do it all ourselves, each of us. It means we have to regulate how it's done.

I'm completely unclear on how learning a pragmatic and marketable trade is only valid as a "back-up plan", or is "giving up on American society" in any form.

Nothing wrong with learning a pragmatic and marketable trade, I agree. What is that trade, by the way - that marketable trade, the one that will still be reliably marketable after we learn it? Plumbers, electricians, carpenters, etc. - those are all trades that are affected by the economy, by the construction industry, etc. The fact is, we only need so many people who do specialized "trades." What trades are going to be "marketable" in ten years? What if we build better toilets (or India does, with its engineering genius)? We'll need fewer plumbers. What are you talking about here?

How many people do you know personally who grow their own food and barter? I know people who do that to a certain degree. Most of them own land. In other words, they started out with money. They grow stuff, and I do it too (and we share), so I'm certainly not criticizing the practice of growing food to eat and trading it, but what does it do to the economy? It takes money away from local farmers. Which is fine, because we enjoy it and it's healthy, but it's not the answer.

Some of these self-sustaining people also home school. That's fine - their kids are great. I'm not criticizing their choice, because people make their own choices and these people's kids are lovely. But what does it do to the school system to opt out?

Building alternative institutions may be a good idea, but the effect of doing it may be exacerbating the problems for people who can't participate. That's why I don't trust the DIY movement as a political catalyst, although it's fine as a personal lifestyle choice.

A lot of the people (not all, but many) who are actively doing what you suggest, russell, are libertarians (at least in the area where I live). People who are building their own institutions here don't believe in government. In fact, the "Wall Street occupation" where I live is a handful of people, some of whom seem to be totally anti-government. (I took a little walk-around today, to see whether I would feel comfortable joining them. I didn't. At least, not yet.)

if money is properly allocated, we can support a high standard of living

If a lot of improbable things, a lot of other improbable things.

You are being silly.

The "money economy" is a good thing.

For "money economy" feel free to substitute "credit economy", or "consumer economy", or any other way you want to characterize it.

I know a number of people who barter. Chefs, bakers, fisherpeople, computer techs, an herbalist, a massage therapist, tradesmen. They do not rely on barter for everything they do, nor do they live totally without using money. But barter allows them to have access to things they need without having to (a) work extra hours for somebody else to come up with the cash or (b) borrow it.

They're not wacky people, they have successful businesses and practices. Some of them, in fact, are wealthy by any meaningful measure. Some are libertarian and some are not, some are suspicious of government and some are flaming full-on bleeding heart liberals. Bartering simply gives them access to stuff they need, directly, without going through an intermediary whose role in the transaction is to extract some $$$ for themselves.

I don't see how that is anything but a good thing.

IN MY VERY HUMBLE OPINION, the corporate culture in the US, and especially the financial sector, has become predatory. By which I mean they operate with no sense of responsibility or accountability to the broader society and culture that they operate in.

They consider their sole responsibility to make as much money as they possibly can, by whatever means is legally available to them, or even illegally if they can get away with it.

They will steal your face and smile.

So I say, screw them. To the degree you can avoid doing so, don't give them access to your money, your time, your belongings, your anything. Consider them to be wolves circling your door, because that is how they present themselves.

As you note, other places organize themselves differently. We could, too, but we don't, and we are not likely to any time soon. Cultural, legal, and social changes of the order of magnitude we're talking about here take generations.

In the meantime, if you know what's good for you you will watch your back. Barter is a very simple way to do that, as is doing stuff for yourself, as is patronizing locally owned and operated stores even if it costs you an extra nickel for stuff.

What trades are going to be "marketable" in ten years?

The same trades that have been marketable for the last 50, or 100, or 1,000 years.

We only need "so many" of anything you can name. We only need so many lawyers, financial analysts, C level executives, doctors, middle level managers, and assistant postmaster generals.

So what?

We only need so many people who ply useful trades, and "so many" is more than zero.

You can go to school for four years, graduate with 50K or more in debt, and then start looking for a job that might not exist. Or you could buy a couple hundred dollars worth of gear and apprentice yourself to a roofer, a house painter, a plasterer, or an electrician, and after four years you'll have no debt, some money in the bank, and enough experience to start bidding your own jobs.

That is something I would think about if I were a young person. Just saying.

The magical Indian toilet is not going to make plumbers obsolete. Somebody still has to install it.

The magical Indian toilet is not going to make plumbers obsolete. Somebody still has to install it.

One person does. Once. Not to say that you don't need that one person. But I'm not sure you need 100 either. In my community, when people need a plumber, they can find one easily. It costs a bit of money (or chickens, or whatever), but they deserve it because plumbing doesn't seem like that much fun. But the availability of plumbers tells me that my community probably has a good number of plumbers, and if there were too many more, the wealth would then have to be shared among a lot more plumbers.

I'm not arguing that everyone needs to go to college, or that trades are a bad thing. But transforming our economy into one that everyone works with their hands, and trades goods and services, is a lot more unrealistic than, say, letting the tax cuts expire, and regulating the financial industry. If the 99% would start focussing on that, it would happen.

I don't have anything against community cooperatives and those kinds of initiatives, or in putting your money as directly as possible into the pockets of those who produce things. And, as I earlier agreed, it's generally smart not to borrow money, depending on what someone is borrowing for. For many people, college is well worth it. For many, a home (or a farm) is still an excellent investment, even with a mortgage. I wouldn't encourage college-eligible kids to drop those ideas and go into roofing. Not unless they really wanted to do that on their own.

I know a number of people who barter. Chefs, bakers, fisherpeople, computer techs, an herbalist, a massage therapist, tradesmen. They do not rely on barter for everything they do, nor do they live totally without using money. But barter allows them to have access to things they need without having to (a) work extra hours for somebody else to come up with the cash or (b) borrow it.

Hopefully they are reporting their barter income to the IRS.

1.Americans have no clue about the level of wealth inequality in the US

Right.

If Occupy Wall Street merely changes this, it will have done something worthwhile.

But transforming our economy into one that everyone works with their hands, and trades goods and services, is a lot more unrealistic than, say, letting the tax cuts expire, and regulating the financial industry.

Again, Russell didn't say anything about transforming the economy. He was basically saying 'make sure you know where the exit is'

If the 99% would start focussing on that, it would happen.

Remember, 'We are the 99%' is to make the point that almost everyone is affected by the current screwy wealth distribution. It is not a notion that 99% of the people will be able to (or even can!) all move as one. At this point, one should remember the 27% Crazification factor, which means that if you are depending on 99% of the people to do something, you may have a very very long wait.

But the availability of plumbers tells me that my community probably has a good number of plumbers, and if there were too many more, the wealth would then have to be shared among a lot more plumbers.

Then, in your community, plumber would be a bad choice.

How's the job market for entry level white collar jobs in your community?

But transforming our economy into one that everyone works with their hands, and trades goods and services, is a lot more unrealistic than, say, letting the tax cuts expire, and regulating the financial industry.

Fine, let the tax cuts expire and reform financial sector regulation.

I believe you will find some pushback on that agenda, and you will be swimming upstream against a tsunami of political money dedicated to making sure those things do not happen. So the first item on your agenda as a private individual seeking to counter that should be to budget as much money and time as you can afford to counter that.

Like, hundreds or thousands of dollars if you can afford it. Because the other side will be bringing their best game.

I'm signed up for that. I've already started making contributions for the next cycle. Everybody should, because money is the grease that makes things happen.

And in the meantime, if I were a young person starting out, I would consider living my life in a way that minimizes my dependence on credit and a 9-5 job working for some large enterprise.

Which have been characteristic features of American middle-class life for quite a while.

I would consider some other path, because those things are no longer reliable. And making them reliable is going to take a hell of a lot of work. People need to live their lives in the meantime.

If the existing institutions are broken, make new ones. Or, in this case, use other existing ones.

I don't have anything against community cooperatives and those kinds of initiatives, or in putting your money as directly as possible into the pockets of those who produce things. And, as I earlier agreed, it's generally smart not to borrow money, depending on what someone is borrowing for.

It sounds like we are basically in agreement.

I wouldn't encourage college-eligible kids to drop those ideas and go into roofing.

If I knew a kid who was college-eligible but whose inclinations were in no specific direction - the kind of kid who is going to be a generic liberal arts major - but who demonstrated the initiative and capacity for sheer physical work required by a building trade, I would counsel them to consider a career as a tradesman.

If a kid has some specific ambition that requires college, different story. But there are a lot of kids that don't fit that profile, they just go to college because you "need a BA to get any kind of job".

Well, you don't need a BA to get any kind of job. You need a BA to get a 9-5 job working for somebody else.

There are other options.

And seriously, what the hell is wrong with roofing? I've done it. Roofs are good things. The money is not bad, you just have to be willing to work your @ss off.

Hopefully they are reporting their barter income to the IRS.

Couldn't say for sure, but I imagine that they are not.

I have an idea - let's encourage people to report barter value by offering them a highly preferential tax rate. Say, five percent on the estimated value of the good or service. Anything less than $20K in a single year is exempt.

It will bring those barter scofflaws into the fold, generate some revenue, and encourage people to do stuff for themselves.

The upside for the barter-ers is that they would get credit for the value of their barter transactions for any of the things where you need to demonstrate income.

Need to borrow to get a house? Suddenly you can claim the $15K worth of stuff you exchanged as barter. What's wrong with that?

Seriously, the system is broken. It is failing people, in large numbers, in profound ways. By 'large numbers' I mean 'millions', and by 'profound ways' I mean utter financial ruin.

Dig?

People should take matters into their own hands to the degree that they can, because there is by god nobody else putting their best interests first.

Fine, let's change that, but in the meantime people are going to do what they need to do. And they *should* do what they need to do.

System is screwing you over? Vote with your franchise, *and* vote with your money and your feet.

He was basically saying 'make sure you know where the exit is'

I'm not even going that far.

I'm saying be aware of what your options are, and make wise use of them.

russell - sorry, I wasn't criticizing the idea of bartering, just noting that if you're exchanging a service for another service and/or good, you almost certainly have income in the IRS's view and it needs to reported and taxes paid. Indeed, there was a pretty big crackdown in the late 70s/early 80s on barter-exchanges (IIRC), where individuals thought that if they, e.g., exchanged X hours of legal advice for medical procedure Y, no income was realized on either side and no tax was due.

Probably a minor issue in your overall point, which I'm not sure I have too much disagreement with.

"I'm saying be aware of what your options are, and make wise use of them."

Good advice. What else can a person do?

Here's Esquire's Charles Pierce (hat tip to Balloon Juice) eviscerating David Brooks portrayal of the "options" so many Americans face as a morality tale:

http://www.esquire.com/blogs/politics/david-brooks-great-restoration-6518155

Brooks looks at the wreckage of the economy by various deliberate means, all of which he viewed over the past thirty years as somehow "rational", and now rewards the victims and the schmucks and the suckers with a pat on the head, as if to say, "we wrecked EVERYTHING to give all of you an opportunity to be moral once again. Your welcome."

Back when all of this crap was gathering steam Bill Bennett pontificated incessantly through overfed jowls about "virtue".

All very well, I guess, but I always had the feeling the reward for virtuous behavior was going to be austerity for the many and trips to Vegas and cushy media gigs for Bennett and the few.

David Brooks

AKA "King Tut-tut".

if money is properly allocated, we can support a high standard of living

Not agreeing with Duff Clarity's pithy response, here, but I just wanted to comment a bit on this notion of proper allocation. Proper is itself a value judgement, which means that some set of people you agree with are either going to be making allocation decisions, or making policy decisions (rules, legislation, what have you) that are aimed at achieving their (and presumably, your) notion of proper allocation.

I assume this, I admit. But the comment to which I responded seems to be saying that money is not currently being allocated properly. Whatever that means; I have no idea. So, in your opinion (again, it would seem) change is in order.

Well and good. So: who decides? The majority? Just the people who agree with you? Leaders of the people who survive the bloody revolution?

My point is just that what you regard as proper and what other people regard as proper almost certainly don't overlay 100%. Some people, for instance, don't want any part of anything that might look like reallocation. Some people (like me) are amenable to some degree of change in the way things are done in the world of business that might result in something that looks more equitable to you, but I don't know to what degree that will suffice.

I think:

Movements are not very good at extracting anything of value unless very focused. I remember clearly the vast difference in the effectiveness of anti war marches and Free love marches.

I believe that Occupy Wall Street would be better served trying to explicitly impact the Wall Street policies a that have provided the big banks, translate proprietary trading divisions and hedge funds, a way to slowly extract the value of middle clas 401k's.

Demand the end of high frequency trading, reinstitute the uptick rule for shorting stocks, outlaw ETF's, demand higher margin requirements on leveraged investments. Get those and you have limited the ability of the wealthy to continue to make their money by betting on the pass and don't pass lines at the same time. It reall limits peoples ability to just bet the don't pass and count on everyone losing while they win.

Then Occupy Washington for the rest of their agenda.

Occupying something for almost purely cultural change is ineffective, no one will occupy wall street for the next generation or so.

I remember clearly the vast difference in the effectiveness of anti war marches and Free love marches.

Are you saying you didn't get any free love after (during?) the free love marches? I'm thinking that free love marches worked out fabulously well in the near term for a good number of the people who participated in them, even if they didn't do much for anyone else. You may have misunderstood the goals of the organizers. In that regard, I would think the anti-war marches were relatively fruitless, with everyone being kind of angry and not so much "in the mood."

Where does a guy have to march to get some some high-frequency free love?

My point is just that what you regard as proper and what other people regard as proper almost certainly don't overlay 100%.

I never quite know what to do with these kinds of comments. Does it mean that one person's opinion shouldn't be expressed, or even held, because not everyone agrees with that opinion, and because that one person doesn't get to decide things? Probably not. But, then, what?

I mean, should people refrain from advocating their positions if they aren't already widely held, accepted and being implemented?

I can understand a criticism based on vagueness, but not on "who gets to decide?" or "not everyone agrees with you." I guess we could all keep our mouths shut until the great mass-epiphany comes to tell us that we all agree and can therefore decide collectively and in unanimity on what is right.

Or are we each potentially directing the universe with these blog comments, possibly subjecting everyone to our will without their consent?

I believe that Occupy Wall Street would be better served....

IMVHO, an outstanding menu of recommendations. Thanks CCDG.

Occupying something for almost purely cultural change is ineffective, no one will occupy wall street for the next generation or so.

In general I agree with this. But I do see value in the 'Occupy' actions.

It's helpful to people to understand that they're not alone.

Quixotic actions sometimes lead to more effective ones.

Does it mean that one person's opinion shouldn't be expressed, or even held, because not everyone agrees with that opinion, and because that one person doesn't get to decide things? Probably not. But, then, what?

Of course not. I didn't say anything even resembling that. I'm so baffled as to how you'd come to that conclusion that I really don't even know where to start clarifying. I have absolutely no problem with people having opinions; it's where those opinions come to the point of implementation that concern me. And, as I said: who gets to do the implementing.

I can understand a criticism based on vagueness, but not on "who gets to decide?"

I'm ok with you not understanding. As I said, I don't expect widespread agreement, and I'm probably doing a poor job of making my point, as usual.

if money is properly allocated

Well and good. So: who decides?

I'd like to follow up on this as well, but perhaps from a different point of view from slarti.

I'm curious to know more about what sapient had in mind when he spoke about 'allocating money' such that we could support a high standard of living for lots of different kinds of people.

I agree that, in an economy as robust as ours, a high standard of living, or at least a reasonably good one, can and should be accessible to almost anyone who is interested in that.

But I'm unclear on what the 'allocation of money' that makes that happen looks like, in practice.

To me, economic activity is more or less like the weather. It's a huge, naturally occurring complex system, that operates on billions (literally) of atomic decisions made by billions (literally) of individual actors, every day.

I absolutely affirm the need for rules, but I'm not sure if it's possible to engineer something that large and complex to make certain outcomes happen.

Maybe I'm misunderstanding what you're arguing for. Could you possibly expand?

Where does a guy have to march to get some some high-frequency free love?

It's just before you get to the fountain of youth and and to the immediate left of the golden egg laying goose.

Of course not. I didn't say anything even resembling that. I'm so baffled as to how you'd come to that conclusion that I really don't even know where to start clarifying.

I don't want to go too far down the meta rabbit hole, BUT (see how I did that?) I didn't come to that conclusion. If I had, I wouldn't have written the comment I did.

I wrote what I wrote because I considered it highly unlikely that you were attempting to deny sapient his opinion. I just don't know what to do with responses of the form "but not everyone agrees with you." What does that do to the person's argument if the argument doesn't hinge on everyone's agreement? (And it would be weird if it did hinge on everyone's agreement, because you would have no reason to argue if everyone agreed with you.)

And it's not about you, Slart. I see this form or reasoning fairly regularly, and I don't know how it's supposed to function.

Acknowledged, hsh. Thanks for clarifying.

Still: I'm not saying that absolutely everyone has to agree in order for rules to get made. I'm just pointing out (once again) that "proper" is by nature subjective, and because it's subjective it's never going to happen.

Sapient's idea of "proper" might happen. Probably not, but it might. I'm not even sure what sapient's idea of "proper" is, to be honest, or how he imagines we might get there.

Start coming up with numbers for "proper", and an implementation plan, and we can discuss specific parts of those specific ideas. Otherwise we're just thrashing. Much like hsh and I are doing with this exchange.

Which is not meant as a slight to hsh, or even to sapient.

Lastly, I'm not trying to be rude, or short. I'm actually trying NOT to be those things. But failing, I am sorry to say.

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