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May 03, 2021

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@jack lecou: Add Robert Mercer (from wikipedia):

By January 2016 Mercer was the biggest single donor in the 2016 U.S. presidential race.[7] In June 2016, he was ranked the #1 donor to federal candidates in the 2016 election cycle as he had donated $2 million to John R. Bolton's super PAC and $668,000 to the Republican National Committee.[23] Mercer was a major financial supporter of the 2016 presidential campaign of Ted Cruz,[36] contributing $11 million to a super PAC associated with the candidate.[37] Mercer was a major supporter of Donald Trump's 2016 campaign for president.[8] Mercer and his daughter Rebekah helped to obtain senior roles in the Trump campaign for Steve Bannon and Kellyanne Conway.[29] Rebekah worked with Conway on the Cruz Super-PAC Keep the Promise in the 2016 Republican primaries.[11] Mercer also financed a Super PAC, Make America Number One, which supported Trump's campaign.[29] Nick Patterson, a former colleague of Mercer's said in 2017 that Trump would not have been elected without Mercer's support.[15]

Is there a reasonably well known person who is recognized by the Progressive Left as a good faith critic of Progressive Left policies, viewpoints, etc?

That's a nonsense question, since neither of those things are monolithic.

If you want a stupid answer to a stupid question though, the "Progressive Left" itself is by far the harshest critic of the "Progressive Left".

It's famously kind of a problem, in fact.

me: McKinney's rules. Not sorry, not playing.

Especially when the rule would muzzle me from reacting to russell (in effect) being called "pissy" and "jealous."

JFC.

You can't have it both ways. You can't call people names and then expect everyone else to shut up and be polite until you can get your revised story together.

Also also:

There's the power people like Jeff Bezos have over the people who work for them. Places like Amazon and Facebook (and almost every other non-unionized, non-collectivized workplace in this country, for that matter) are literally a type of authoritarian regime.

(It's amazing how the cultural blinders work on workplace power dynamics. I *know* this is a potent kind of power, and yet it's still an afterthought if I'm asked about it...)

i really don't need a response.

the characterization of people who think taxes are just a way for lazy liberal losers to spitefully punish the titans of capitalism (whom they should rightfully be admiring!) is a classic. hear it all the time.

i thought jack's response was a good response in general to that characterization.

Also also also:

It's weird that the idea that "money is power" should require concrete examples. This is the year 2021. It's hardly a new or, AFAIK, controversial idea. Money is literally the power to buy a quart of milk. Or an election.

There is, after all, not really any point in having money otherwise. Certainly not billions of dollars of it.

We've put some limits on that power over the centuries, like removing the power to buy people, or buy your way out of a criminal conviction (at least outright). Those restrictions are widely (though not universally [shudder]) regarded as good things.

What I'm saying here is that there's still a lot more to do. I suspect the more we can make money a thing that's only good for buying milk -- a quart at a time, not the whole dairy case -- and the less useful it is for buying people or elections, the better off we'll all be.

the Inca civilization, at its peak bigger than Genghis Khan's or Alexander's, didn't use money. power was power.

somehow it survived.

well, it survived until it met smallpox.

well, it survived until it met smallpox.

If they'd had money, maybe they could have offered it a bribe.

The jobs thing gets me. It's as though you start with a fixed number of jobs in a given category or industry. If those particular jobs go away, that's that. The people who would otherwise have worked those jobs are now out of work ... forever. Doing something else just isn't a thing, without respect to the time frame in question.

There are so many unmet needs in the world and in this country, but people need to build yachts (or whatever, let's not get fixated!) for us to have a healthy economy. We probably shouldn't fill in potholes so people can work making tires and doing front-end alignments, I guess. Let's promote smoking so people can work making cigarettes ... and as oncologists!

Of course, only the "free market" can sort this all out properly, so don't intervene or, god forbid, distort.

Back to taxes: put a luxury tax on yachts and watch yacht buyers go the the Netherlands for their next purchase while everyone employed making yachts in the US is out of work.

the yacht under discussion is being built... in the Netherlands.

just saying.

due to where I live, I'm in proximity to minor-league yachting communities. those folks do spend a lot of money, it generates income. all good.

if you were to compare half a billion dollars spent on one boat, or 100 boats, or probably 1,000 boats, and included all of the ancillary follow-on spending, and compared that to similar sums spent in other, less conspicuous consumption ways, I think you'd find that the net positive impact on the economy was greater in the latter case.

half a billion is 50,000 bathroom remodels, or 20,000 new cars, or 5 million dinners for two, or 20 million haircuts. It's a thousand or more new houses. It's half a million round trip airfares from NYC to London.

or, one boat, with a crew when underway, and related fuel, docking and maintenance fees.

which makes a bigger impact?

in Bezos' case, specifically, the 'job creator' argument is kind of sketchy, because a lot of the jobs he creates suck. he treats his employees like shit, and unless they're on the tech R&D side they don't get paid particularly well, either.

so screw him and his money.

I don't really care if people are rich. Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, the guy that the company I work for, all billionaires. They got that way by creating value for somebody.

Bezos too, he's rich because it's worth somebody's while to use the stuff his company provides.

It's just absurd to me that people like that pay taxes at a lower effective rate than a school librarian. And it's absurd to me that anybody feels the need to defend their right to spend half a freaking billion dollars on a boat.

First, nobody is going to stop anybody from buying a boat. Second, a yacht that comes with a second yacht is an absurd luxury. If we want to think about this stuff in terms of traditional values, it's at least three of the seven deadly sins rolled up into one big ridiculous purchase. Anyone who (a) has those kinds of resources and (b) chooses to spend them in that way doesn't have a lot of basis for bitching about tax rates, and really should consider paying their people better and treating them better.

pls provide three examples of a uber rich person having "concentrations of power beyond almost anyone's wildest dreams" in the US.

Sheldon Adelson
the Koch brothers
Robert and Rebekah Mercer

The people who would otherwise have worked those jobs are now out of work ... forever. Doing something else just isn't a thing, without respect to the time frame in question.

Yep. It's not even like you'd need job retraining in most cases. Like, as many shipwrights and naval architects as it took to build Bezos' latest monstrosity, I'm pretty sure just as many -- if not more -- could have been gainfully employed building a few thousand nice little cruisers or daysailers for middle class families to enjoy. If only warehouse jobs paid a little better...

Freddie DeBoer found a niche deconstructing liberal certainties and while that can get on my nerves, his consistent anti-war position seems genuine and is much needed in contemporary discourse.

Incidentally, I am currently reading the second volume of Elena Ferrante's friendship tetralogy (well, actually she admitted it was split into four parts for obvious commercial reasons) and am enjoying it very much.

At first I couldn't get into it, then I watched the SKY TV series first (it covers the first two volumes so far) and now I can concentrate on the characters rather than the plot and admire the writing.

The downside is that I have the images already in my head, but since it's been shot very beautifully it's not so bad.

Anyone care to answer my first question?

Noam Chomsky
Bernie Sanders
Chris Hedges
Lawrence Lessig
Pretty much everybody at LGM
Pretty much everybody at Jacobin

all for various meanings of 'well known' and 'good faith'. and, with criticism flowing in both, or all, directions.

it's kind of a shooting-fish-in-a-barrel scenario. 'the left' is famously fractious.

SPLITTERS!!!!

Meth dealers employ people and have customers. Some of them make a lot of money at it. What's not to like?

Meth dealers employ people and have customers. Some of them make a lot of money at it.

Or Purdue Pharmaceuticals. Just job creation all the way down on that one.

The people who worked for the luxury yacht builder in my home town either moved to take on a similar position in a similar industry (some are now working for private jet maufacturers), or they took their skills and went into their own business (experienced finish carpentry). They'd all be better off if the overall economy of the area were stronger and the little people there could afford more. Instead they keep investing in tourism projects, trying to attract more rich people.

My home town, like much of the rural midwest, has basically turned into a cargo cult as corporations come in to hollow it out (farming, real estate, luxury brands).

To see this writ larger, I recommend Billionaire Wilderness and its discussion of the super rich and jobs and philanthropy and sustainability in Teton County, Wyoming.

nous -- just for the record, your 12:59 was useful and thought-provoking, even if that strand of conversation is petering out for now.

The people who would otherwise have worked those jobs are now out of work ... forever. Doing something else just isn't a thing, without respect to the time frame in question.

What gets me on the argument is the implicit belief that, if their taxes went up, these folks couldn't afford (and therefore wouldn't buy) superyachts. Let's get real! We could tax Bezos, for example, at 95% on his income (including capital gains) over $1 million a year from now on out, and he wouldn't even notice the decrease. (Unless his accountant made a point of mentioning it.) It's not like he has time to spend it.

wrs @ 02.27 above. Apart from that:

Also, I don't really know: does anyone think that if you knew nothing about the life of Picasso or Wagner, you would eventually see evidence of the abuser or the anti-semite once you had contemplated their art and music for a long enough time?

I don't really think so, but then my receptivity to both visual art and music is markedly inferior to my receptivity to anything involving language (i.e. poetry and prose). In the case of writers, it seems a bit more likely, but frankly I'm not sure even then. However, further to the general discussion, revelations about Larkin's opinions and private self were unedifying and gave me pause, but some of the poems were always sublime, and remain so.

I firmly believe that it is permissible to like problematic things, so long as one does not attempt to minimize or whitewash the things that are problematic about the object of one's love, so I feel no need to purge my music collection.

I pretty much agree with this, as it relates to the makers of the problematic things. Where it gets more difficult is if the things (i.e. the works of art) contain problematic elements in themselves (as for example if the metal songs contained overtly racist or sexist lyrics obviously not deployed ironically).

If you want a stupid answer to a stupid question though, the "Progressive Left" itself is by far the harshest critic of the "Progressive Left".

LOL. But this is very true, as well as a very funny answer.

Other than these disparate comments, the only thing left for me to add is this comment by Hume, which I read for the first time (how appropriate) today:

"Truth springs from argument amongst friends"


We probably shouldn't fill in potholes so people can work making tires and doing front-end alignments, I guess. Let's promote smoking so people can work making cigarettes ... and as oncologists!

why used car prices shot up.

tl;dr:
* COVID slowed production of microchips, which has slowed new car production. understandable.

* covid interrupted the dealer -> rental car company -> used car pipeline.

rental car companies were getting fewer rentals last year, so they sold off big chunks of their fleets all at once. but now, that has created a scarcity of rental cars now that people are starting to travel again. so the rental car companies are quickly buying new cars to replace those they sold last year. which is sucking up new car inventory. and, since they have so many new cars, those rental car companies aren't putting cars into the used car market.

* even more fun... thanks to the stimulus, people aren't defaulting on car loans (down 50% this year!). so their cars aren't being repossessed. and those cars aren't going into the used car market, either.

Glad I bought my 2017 Jetta last July!

Cleek and JanieM, a request: give me a chance to respond to a challenge before taking your shots.

Also, speaking only for myself and not cleek, I quoted jack lecou, but my comment (or "shot") was a direct response to your "pissy" and "jealous" vocabulary, and did not depend on jack lecou's "challenge" or your potential response to it.

What, only one of us is allowed to respond to you at a time? What rock have you been living under?

3:40 directed at McK, not that it shouldn't be clear enough.

Ok, I'm back from lunch.

Jack writes:

That list is mainly about how economic power can be translated to political power, but that's only part of the story.

There's also the problem of concentrated economic power distorting markets in and of itself. One person's or small group's preference literally get far more economic "votes" than everyone else's.

And then there's other kinds of soft power. Cultural influence, etc.

And then he adds:


Money is literally the power to buy a quart of milk. Or an election.

There is, after all, not really any point in having money otherwise. Certainly not billions of dollars of it.

Ok, rich people have influence that others don't have with politicians. I think that's largely a fair statement. Some use it, like the Koch Brothers. I'm not aware of Gates or Bezos being particularly political, but I could be missing something. No one mentioned Soros, which is kind of interesting but not surprising. I don't begrudge him his money either. I also don't object to rich people (or famous, or popular or good looking or influential) twisting politicians' arms, but I do object to politicians sticking their arms out to be twisted instead of telling Koch or Soros to take a hike. I view this as a bipartisan situation.

The power, or influence, that bothers you is, to use a popular formulation around here, "baked in" to pretty much any human endeavor, particularly where large and diverse populations are concerned.

A byproduct of mass produced, affordable and desirable goods is that someone is going to sit at the top of the organization that manages to find a given product that meets with widespread consumer desire. Telling people they ought to buy green beans when they want Budweiser isn't going to work. People want what they want and are willing to pay for it if they can.

Bigger organizations produce economies of scale that make life better for people with modest means.

Russell says:

in Bezos' case, specifically, the 'job creator' argument is kind of sketchy, because a lot of the jobs he creates suck. he treats his employees like shit, and unless they're on the tech R&D side they don't get paid particularly well, either.

so screw him and his money.

HSH says:

The jobs thing gets me. It's as though you start with a fixed number of jobs in a given category or industry. If those particular jobs go away, that's that. The people who would otherwise have worked those jobs are now out of work ... forever. Doing something else just isn't a thing, without respect to the time frame in question.

One of these statements is wrong. Either Amazon is able to hire 798,000 (per Google) people for shit jobs because the job market is super shitty and they don't have any other, better opportunities OR it's not a big deal for the grunts in the yacht building business (and the hundreds of sub-contractors and sub-suppliers) when the indignant decide super yachts consumers are grotesque and should be denied the object of their desire because they can just go do something else awesome and there are so many awesome things that can be done.

I think both are wrong. If it sucks that bad to be at Amazon, why didn't it go union? Why do people still try to get on there?

If there are so many other great opportunities for great employment, where are they specifically?

The fact is, there is plenty of money around looking for a good investment. The jobs you think are there for the picking come into existence when someone spots a potential market, is able to raise the capital, provides the good or service and either it sells or it doesn't. But, unless there is a going concern with openings of similar kind and quality, the idea that you can shut down a morally undesirable business like super yachts and not get economic blow back that hurts a lot of the very people you think you are helping by keeping those uber wealthy peeps from living their gauche, grossly overdone lifestyles.

There is nothing attractive about conspicuous consumption. However, it has an upside: instead of sitting on their money, the uber rich are spending it. Good. Keep doing that.

Despite the antipathy here for the free market (unfree markets are the best!--really?), it is more efficient and does more for more people than any other economic system (except possibly the system the Frankfurt School would impose if it could just find a place that would turn itself over to them).

I sometimes feel that much of the commentariat here read Babbit in the 9th grade and never got over it.

It's just absurd to me that people like that pay taxes at a lower effective rate than a school librarian. And it's absurd to me that anybody feels the need to defend their right to spend half a freaking billion dollars on a boat.

Ok, I think the first sentence is probably overblown. There is no way to not pay taxes on *earned* income. There is no way to not pay taxes on *realized, net capital gains*.

Unrealized capital gains--which is most of the non-real estate assets held by investors, whether uber rich or not--is simply the value of a security at a given point in time. You can't spend it, but you can borrow against it. The loan has to be paid back or the security is sold and tax is paid at that time.

I am sympathetic to the idea that a one year holding period to qualify for cap gains income tax treatment either needs to be extended or that there should be different rates applied to capital assets held 1, 3, 5+ years to encourage long term investment, not day trading. Gains on stock held less than a year are taxed as earned income. Stock losses can only be offset against stock gains, not earned income (actually, you can deduct 3K a year against earned income).

As for defending the douche with the big yacht, no, I'm not defending him/her so much as I am defending against those people who think they know and have the right to tell others how much they should be allowed to have and that they have the right to tell people how to spend their money.


Noam Chomsky
Bernie Sanders
Chris Hedges
Lawrence Lessig
Pretty much everybody at LGM
Pretty much everybody at Jacobin

Ok, let me narrow the question: is there anyone to the right of center who the headliners or commentariat here believe make good faith arguments in favor of his/her positions and/or opposed to lefty policies/viewpoints etc?

Or Purdue Pharmaceuticals. Just job creation all the way down on that one.

Of Pfizer. Or Johnson and Johnson. Let me note that it was the private sector that came up with vaccines, not Cuba or any of the social democracies in Europe.

Yes, McKinney! We all know deep down in the abject depths of our pitiful envy that rich people have no more power or influence than any randomly selected peon you would care to pull aside and interview.

I would elaborate a bit more, but neverending screeching matches with objectively awful Trotskyites is taking up all my time.

Have a good day.

Money is literally the power to buy a quart of milk. Or an election.

There is, after all, not really any point in having money otherwise. Certainly not billions of dollars of it.

I meant to address this and did not. I think you may be over-using power a bit. Money is a medium of exchange. You can't use it to make someone do something they don't want to do (in most cases, I'm sure someone could construct a hypo that proves this wrong). The point of having money for some people is influence. It isn't power. The uber rich cannot compel a politician to be dishonest. The politician on the take was dishonest to begin with. Reducing the amount of money a person can have will not effect the corruption equation--it will simply take less to influence the already corrupt politician. All you do is scale down the cost of the influence.

I'm not aware of Gates or Bezos being particularly political, but I could be missing something.

Clearly you have not absorbed the far right thesis that Bezos' ownership of the Washington Post is why it is publishing stuff that is attached to reality. I.e., stuff that is not Trump-favoring delusional. And, reality being political these days....

I pretty much agree with this, as it relates to the makers of the problematic things. Where it gets more difficult is if the things (i.e. the works of art) contain problematic elements in themselves (as for example if the metal songs contained overtly racist or sexist lyrics obviously not deployed ironically).

Or Ezra Pound.

Here's some food for thought:

https://slate.com/culture/2019/05/under-my-thumb-rolling-stones-romantic-songs-patriarchy.html

The project was called Romantic Songs of the Patriarchy, and it took place in the Mission District of San Francisco in the Women’s Building, a provider of health, social, and legal services to women.

It was by an Icelandic artist named Ragnar Kjartansson and it worked like this: Female musicians were positioned throughout the building on three consecutive days, and each one of them was assigned to sing one song that might sound romantic but which actually is pretty misogynistic.

Of course I look at that list of songs that Kjartanson has assembled and quibble about things like putting Nine Inch Nails' "Closer" on the list, since it really never struck me as being patriarchal or even necessarily gendered.

Money is a medium of exchange. You can't use it to make someone do something they don't want to do (in most cases, I'm sure someone could construct a hypo that proves this wrong).

This rather flies in the face of the entire principle behind advertising. And money is what allows you to convince people to want something -- whether it is a brand of automobile or of toothpaste or of politician.

I'm not aware of Gates or Bezos being particularly political,

I wouldn't stick to a narrow definition of either "political" or "power."

Charitable giving also gives these people enormous leverage in deciding what social priorities should be funded, priorities that some of us might think would be better decided democratically.

OT but perhaps interesting to some

The science now says no masks for vaccinated people: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/05/13/health/cdc-masks-guidance.html#click=https://t.co/lPLgMvJX3O">https://t.co/lPLgMvJX3O">https://www.nytimes.com/2021/05/13/health/cdc-masks-guidance.html#click=https://t.co/lPLgMvJX3O

Tangentially, for GftNC, I have spent a few weeks and a few tests to find that the standard tests say I have antibodies from having Covid(IGM) but no discernable spike protein antibodies(Igg) from being vaccinated.

Both of my doctors say that there is no reliable way to test for immunity, my RA doctor is more knowledgeable on infectious diseases, his advice was to discuss it at our next appointment, as for now I am safe and the CDC may have more data in three months.

People who are significantly immunocompromised(transplant patients etc.) are at much greater risk of this than I was.


Clearly you have not absorbed the far right thesis that Bezos' ownership of the Washington Post is why it is publishing stuff that is attached to reality. I.e., stuff that is not Trump-favoring delusional. And, reality being political these days....

I'm not sure how this illustrates Bezos being a political player.

This rather flies in the face of the entire principle behind advertising. And money is what allows you to convince people to want something -- whether it is a brand of automobile or of toothpaste or of politician.

No, it does not. People cannot be forced to do something by an advertisement. Persuaded, duped, led by the nose, whatever, depending on degree of gullibility, yes. Forced, compelled against their will, no.

Most of us can see an advertisement and size up for ourselves whether, forex, State Farm is really on our side or not. (spoiler: it is not).
Charitable giving also gives these people enormous leverage in deciding what social priorities should be funded, priorities that some of us might think would be better decided democratically.

Would you mind giving me an example of where your concern lies?

And is the potential harm so great that it justifies limiting how much money people can accumulate or give away?

Despite the antipathy here for the free market (unfree markets are the best!--really?)

Non-worship is not the same as antipathy. And the idea that there's such a thing as a truly free market is dubious. What is a free market, exactly? Free of fraud, monopolization, price-fixing? Or free of whatever mechanisms are in place in an attempt to prevent those things?

I don't think a single person here is advocating for abolishing market forces or free enterprise in the economy. I don't think anyone is suggesting that the government confiscate the means of production. Or to outlaw super-yachts (Let's not get fixated!), for that matter.

For myself, and I would guess others, it's a matter of pushing back on the idea that the government should be almost (or not even almost) completely hands off when it comes to the economy. Neither the market nor the government are the solution to the vast majority of economic problems.

From another angle, I would say that we've reached a point where we have to question the idea that (at least non-disabled) people must work to avoid a life of hellish desperation. You want to hop on a plane to spend a week on a tropical island? You better get a job unless you're lucky enough to be independently wealthy. You want to eat nourishing food and not die of exposure? Well, okay. Sit out of the work force if you're good with that. There are plenty of people willing to work for things beyond basic necessities.

"You want to eat nourishing food and not die of exposure? Well, okay. Sit out of the work force if you're good with that.:

This is really what we have today, fragmented, sometimes hard to navigate but I know a non-trivial number of people who just don't work.

The discussion is really what is an acceptable floor, and how do you ensure people don't squander that and still become homeless. Then perhaps making the support more streamlined makes sense.

I will offer only this one example, because a McK Rules point-scoring debate is not my cup of tea.

The power, or influence, that bothers you is, to use a popular formulation around here, "baked in" to pretty much any human endeavor, particularly where large and diverse populations are concerned.

To the extent that this is true, it's just a naturalistic fallacy.

There certainly *is* a fundamental tendency in the system for wealth and power to concentrate. The Matthew Effect. Money and power have gravity. Monopoly is the best business to be in. Etc.

But that's simultaneously an argument against the idea that most of that wealth is "earned" in any meaningful way, an argument for actively correcting that tendency.

Just like we treat our natural lack of fur by wearing clothes, or our natural lack of wings by building airplanes, one of the treatments for this particular undesirable natural condition is extremely high taxes on wealth.

A byproduct of mass produced, affordable and desirable goods is that someone is going to sit at the top of the organization that manages to find a given product that meets with widespread consumer desire.

It's incredibly naive to think that this is the way firms like Google or Facebook actually work. There's a spark of truth to that framework when novel firms are just getting started, perhaps, but it utterly fails to account for the ways in which firms accelerate and maintain dominance once they have it. (Which isn't done malevolently, per se, a lot of it is just various manifestations of the Matthew Effect again. But we still don't need to let it happen.)

It's also an error to treat "consumer desire" as an exogenous factor. Consumer desire is so path dependent, not to mention heavily constructed and manipulated by advertising, that it's largely impossible to determine what, if anything, might be fundamental.

Bigger organizations produce economies of scale that make life better for people with modest means.

I don't think there's any reason to believe that most corporations reach peak economies of scale and then stop to let other competitors in.

In the absence of effective regulatory limits on size, we should expect most firms to have grown to sizes far beyond what they'd need just to maximize scale efficiencies. (In fact, there's probably a case to be made that a lot of firms are too big, and are somewhat less efficient on net. Remember the old adage about how firms are little islands of central planning in a free market sea. And some modern firms are more like continents.)

There's also no reason to accept big autocratic organizations. In the case of natural monopolies, or industries that need huge monolithic organizations to reach acceptable economies of scale, we can require that they operate as cooperatives, or public benefit corporations, or outright public utilities (or all three).

One of these statements is wrong. Either Amazon is able to hire 798,000 (per Google) people for shit jobs because the job market is super shitty and they don't have any other, better opportunities OR it's not a big deal for the grunts in the yacht building business (and the hundreds of sub-contractors and sub-suppliers) when the indignant decide super yachts consumers are grotesque

Or *both* are right. Maybe the job market is shitty because people are systematically kept in a state of fragility to maintain low wages and maximize returns to capital. Which profit takers use to buy yachts.

But in a world where the job market wasn't shitty, people working in Amazon warehouses would be earning decent wages, and have disposable income to buy lots of houses or fine furniture or (smaller) boats, etc.

I am defending against those people who think they know and have the right to tell others how much they should be allowed to have and that they have the right to tell people how to spend their money.

In what world does society not have that right?

There are no billionaires living alone in the wilderness. Zero. The very idea of being a billionaire depends on having millions of consumers to sell your product to and investors to trade your stock with. It depends on having a society that recognizes the concept of money and often extremely abstract forms of property "rights". Being a billionaire is entirely a social construct. Tip to toe.

As a society we have every right to re-imagine and re-negotiate that social construct.

how do you ensure people don't squander that and still become homeless

Slightly aside from the minimum income question, I would also ask how you ensure that people in need are treated with some level of basic dignity.

Knowing someone who is likely to need the disability system eventually, and wildly unlikely to get approved for it [long story, not mine to tell], I have some familiarity with what people have to go through to get assistance, and how often they fail, despite the need.

I don't think a single person here is advocating for abolishing market forces or free enterprise in the economy. I don't think anyone is suggesting that the government confiscate the means of production. Or to outlaw super-yachts (Let's not get fixated!), for that matter.

I suspect there are several here who would do much of the above. And, the discussion is very much about how much people should be allowed to accumulate and what they should be allowed to do with what they have.

For myself, and I would guess others, it's a matter of pushing back on the idea that the government should be almost (or not even almost) completely hands off when it comes to the economy. Neither the market nor the government are the solution to the vast majority of economic problems.

I can assure the gov't is not hands off. Courtesy of the Dept of Labor, my firm's 401K document is over 300 pages long. It's all bullshit, but it's there. Every year my CPA does a K-1 for me and my partner. It runs over 75 pages when it is plain as day how much income we have and what our expenses are.

There are a crap ton of direct gov't interventions in the market and in the economy, many of which I support--OSHA, 40 hour work week, time and half, Social Security, Medicare/Medicaid, EPA and a ton of other stuff.

A free market, to answer another of your questions cannot be defined with complete precision any more than the 'rule of law' has a handy, one-size-fits all definition, but it does have some clear markers: (1) first of all, known, predictable and enforced rules (everything from driving rules to a federal constitution much like ours with a Bill of Rights much like ours), (2) a strong presumption that any legal enterprise (as opposed to drug dealing or pimping or murder for hire) operating within the "rules" has a right to operate, to grow, to expand etc without government hindrance and without being voted out of business by people who disapprove of success beyond a certain point, (3) the right to challenge illegal interference in one's enterprise by third party actors, including gov't actors and, my personal favorite, (4) access to a court system that is reasonably fair and impartial.

From another angle, I would say that we've reached a point where we have to question the idea that (at least non-disabled) people must work to avoid a life of hellish desperation.

Am I reading this right? Are you saying that able-bodied people should have the right to not work yet be supported by their fellow citizens? My view: not only no, but hell no. Life has never given free riders a pass. There is no good reason to start now.

It's also an error to treat "consumer desire" as an exogenous factor. Consumer desire is so path dependent, not to mention heavily constructed and manipulated by advertising, that it's largely impossible to determine what, if anything, might be fundamental.

Or as Jared Diamond wrote, "Invention is the mother of necessity."

Life has never given free riders a pass. There is no good reason to start now.

Except that the need for human labor is insufficient to require full employment.

I am defending against those people who think they know and have the right to tell others how much they should be allowed to have and that they have the right to tell people how to spend their money.

I am defending against those people who think they have the right to grab orders of magnitude more than their share of the goods of the earth, while other people starve, literally and figuratively.

McKinney's philosophy, under all the obfuscating layers, says that whatever you can grab is yours, and no one else has the right to tell you otherwise. If you're good at grabbing, by god go for it.

I will offer only this one example, because a McK Rules point-scoring debate is not my cup of tea.

Ok, thanks for responding. Would you be ok if the Gates' spent the same amount of money promoting women's rights in the Third World?

In what world does society not have that right?

The one I live in, at least up until now. You could pass a law saying citizens can only own X amount of property or assets or whatever but it would be stricken down. You could pass a law saying citizens cannot buy hoolahoops or rowboats, but it would likely be stricken down as well. Currently, Americans can go as far in life as their efforts will take them. I like it that way. Or, putting it differently, I like it a lot better than I like a world in which people I disagree with can hem me in with their rules because they have the power of the state to enforce their will.

Marty, thanks for update on immunity info. Fingers crossed.

Or Ezra Pound

Another excellent example, as I believe (although to a lesser extent) was T S Eliot.

McKinney, I think your definitions are (not for the first time) overly narrow. Murdoch is without question a political player, and to the extent that Bezos has ever influenced the direction of the WaPo, so is he (although I don't know if he has chosen to do so).

I was interested in your inclusion of Soros with the likes of the Kochs and the Mercers. I was not aware that he had interfered as much politically (particularly in the US) as they have, despite the rabid and fairly openly antisemitic attempts to demonise him by various rightwingers and rightwing media outlets, but I freely admit I may have missed information to the contrary. Is there much/any?

McKinney's philosophy, under all the obfuscating layers, says that whatever you can grab is yours, and no one else has the right to tell you otherwise. If you're good at grabbing, by god go for it.

Grab? Hmmm. Well, now that you put it that way, I've changed my mind. Let's put the right-thinking, good people in charge and let them direct the rest of us in how to produce the food, goods and services its takes to feed, cloth and house 330 million people.

I meant to address this and did not. I think you may be over-using power a bit. Money is a medium of exchange. You can't use it to make someone do something they don't want to do (in most cases, I'm sure someone could construct a hypo that proves this wrong). The point of having money for some people is influence. It isn't power.

I am simplifying a little. I do not mean to imply that money and other kinds of power are perfectly fungible. In fact, that's precisely the point: we can alter the system to make them even less fungible. Influence is another kind of power.

As to making someone do something they don't want to do, well, Google says there are about 3 billion wage earners in the world right now. I'll let you tell me how many of them you think want to do whatever it is they do all day.

The uber rich cannot compel a politician to be dishonest. The politician on the take was dishonest to begin with. Reducing the amount of money a person can have will not effect the corruption equation--it will simply take less to influence the already corrupt politician. All you do is scale down the cost of the influence.

This is exactly backwards. If 10,000 people can afford to give $100 each, and 1 guy can afford to give $1,000,000, guess who gets listened to? The latter guy doesn't even need to give the whole million -- $10,000 or so will be plenty to get him sorted straight to the top of the donor list and earn a personal phone call or two.

If you take away the second guy's millions, knock him down to the level of everyone else, you largely solve the problem. You can have a closer approximation of democracy, at least.

Except that the need for human labor is insufficient to require full employment.

Can you demonstrate this?

Would you be ok if the Gates' spent the same amount of money promoting women's rights in the Third World?

You mean the Gateses?

And I said I wasn't responding to any more of your clever debating points, but one more:

I am not okay with the Gateses having that amount of money in the first place. [In other words, I'm "pissy," "jealous" (no way, I wouldn't take it on a platter), "indignant" -- and I forget all the other pejorative adjectives Mr. "Stop Ad Hom-ing Me" has applied those who hold more or less the same position I do].

So, no. Since you apparently can't extend the logic, my ideas of social priorities are no more "democratic" than those of Bill and Melinda. How to use such vast resources should be a collective decision, not an individual one, even if the individual is me. Or to say it yet again, the vast resources the earth provides belong to all of us, not to a handful of the grabbiest. The decisions about their allocation should also belong to all of us.

I sometimes feel that much of the commentariat here read Babbit in the 9th grade and never got over it.

and i feel like conservative economics is based around the unproven assumption that The Market not only knows best but is best and will work for us all, if we just let it. but that's simply dogma.

the market is us. we can do what we want to with it. there is no invisible hand. the hand is us and it's only invisible if you close your eyes.

Courtesy of the Dept of Labor, my firm's 401K document is over 300 pages long. It's all bullshit, but it's there. Every year my CPA does a K-1 for me and my partner. It runs over 75 pages when it is plain as day how much income we have and what our expenses are.

Thus the Dept. of Labor assures gainful employment for CPAs. Obviously, just like with builders of superyachts, we need to avoid changing this, lest we create unemployment.

Let's put the right-thinking, good people in charge and let them direct the rest of us in how to produce the food, goods and services its takes to feed, cloth and house 330 million people.

What an asshole.

So, no. Since you apparently can't extend the logic, my ideas of social priorities are no more "democratic" than those of Bill and Melinda. How to use such vast resources should be a collective decision, not an individual one, even if the individual is me. Or to say it yet again, the vast resources the earth provides belong to all of us, not to a handful of the grabbiest. The decisions about their allocation should also belong to all of us.

+1 million

By the way McKinney, when you have a minute I am particularly interested in the answer to my Soros question, as a genuine quest for information. The multiple mad accusations made against him by Fox and GOP politicians notwithstanding, I suppose it is perfectly possible he has intervened in the US in ways of which I am unaware, and I would be interested to know if that is so.

The one I live in, at least up until now. You could pass a law saying citizens can only own X amount of property or assets or whatever but it would be stricken down. You could pass a law saying citizens cannot buy hoolahoops or rowboats, but it would likely be stricken down as well.

That's nonsense on at least a couple of levels.

One, I don't think it's true even given current law and jurisprudence. There's no constitutional prohibition on raising income, property and estate taxes to effectively confiscatory levels. I don't think it'd make it through the current Congress, obviously, but AFAIK it's not prima facie illegal or unconstitutional. Ditto bans on hula hoops and rowboats. (You might have to come up with some nominal reason to do so, but "hula hoops can cause back injuries" would probably suffice. And there are plenty of ways to restrict things without outright bans. Oar taxes, say, or rowboat operation licenses.)

Two, even if these things were somehow currently unconstitutional, the Constitution itself can be changed. As a democratic polity we can decide to make that happen.

Three, I wasn't talking about written laws or constitutions there anyway. I'm responding to the idea that telling a billionaire what they are and aren't permitted to do with money is somehow unjustified or immoral on a deeply fundamental level. And it's not. It's just society.

Let me note that it was the private sector that came up with vaccines

Barney Graham would be interested to hear this.

Grab? Hmmm. Well, now that you put it that way, I've changed my mind. Let's put the right-thinking, good people in charge and let them direct the rest of us in how to produce the food, goods and services its takes to feed, cloth and house 330 million people.

I'd like to introduce you to my friend Excluded Middle. I think you two could really hit it off.

No one mentioned Soros, which is kind of interesting but not surprising.

I thought of Soros, but I'm actually not sure he is the political player that he is portrayed to be.

In the last couple of cycles, at least, I'd say Bloomberg's money made a bigger dent.

But yes, it is a bipartisan thing.

To touch on some of your other points:

I'm not sure anybody here is saying Bezos shouldn't be allowed to buy a yacht. Or ten yachts.

If I'm not mistaken, what people are saying here is (a) that is a freaking obscene amount of money to pay for a boat, and (b) conspicuous consumption at that level makes it hard to argue against raising taxes on the very wealthy.

And, I would argue that a luxury tax on things like half-billion-dollar yachts is unlikely to have a negative effect on the well-being of anybody, including the people who buy them.

If you want to argue that a luxury tax on yachts is going to cripple the yachting industry, I think you have your work cut out for you. If you want to argue that a dip in yacht sales is going to have a serious negative effect on the economy as a whole, even more so.

One of these statements is wrong.

The two things are not commensurate.

Shipbuilding in the US as a whole employs about 137K people. Most of the shipbuilding-specific jobs involved are somewhere between skilled trades work up through highly skilled and specialized engineering. A lot of the jobs are common manufacturing industry jobs - IT, marketing, management.

'Ship building' encompasses everything from yachts to naval craft to working boats of all types to the kinds of recreational boats that the non-billionaires of the world buy and enjoy. The global shipbuilding market is worth about $130 billion, yacht building specifically is worth about $8 billion. Most of the luxury yacht business is not in the US.

If fewer yachts were sold, the folks who make them would... make other kinds of ships. There would be less work for the folks who do luxury fitments. What percent they make up of the 137K folks employed in shipbuilding isn't that clear, but it's probably not very many.

Grunt work at Amazon is mostly order picking and other kinds of warehouse work. It's not particularly skilled work.

They are really, really different employment scenarios.

Ok, let me narrow the question

I think you're actually asking a different question.

People I'm aware of on the right who I consider to be good-faith spokespeople for their point of view:

Gary Johnson
Evan McMullin
John Kasich
Daniel Larison
Ben Wittes

Wittes is arguably conservative but not 'on the right', but I'm including him anyway.

I disagree profoundly with all of the above, would prefer that none of them hold any level of political power, but I don't think any of them engage in bad faith, at least in general.

The science now says no masks for vaccinated people

Yes, saw that, and hip hip hooray. Still limited clearance for live music here in MA, but it's on its way. We can see it from here.

I'm not sure I personally will be headed for the bar right away but I think this guidance opens the door folks who want to.

Am I reading this right? Are you saying that able-bodied people should have the right to not work yet be supported by their fellow citizens? My view: not only no, but hell no. Life has never given free riders a pass. There is no good reason to start now.

I agree with McKTx that we should abolish inherited wealth now.

Life has never given free riders a pass.

mandatory C19 vaccines it is, then!

In the absence of any info so far on Soros, I went looking. Apart from supporting HRC, and some reformist DA candidates, his interference in US politics looks mostly confined (for the last 25 years or so) to a series of serious, fairly highbrow, centre-left books on macro-economic matters and global political philosophy. Hmmm. Seems like a far cry from the Kochs, Mercers and Murdochs of this world, who apart from their rightwing ideologies are all, and perfectly obviously, out to further enrich themselves.

https://www.theguardian.com/news/2018/jul/06/the-george-soros-philosophy-and-its-fatal-flaw

GFTNC, here is a link that is an example of what I'm referring to:

https://www.politico.com/story/2016/08/george-soros-criminal-justice-reform-227519

I'm responding to the idea that telling a billionaire what they are and aren't permitted to do with money is somehow unjustified or immoral on a deeply fundamental level. And it's not. It's just society.

If what the billionaire is doing is legal and you are treating that person differently simply because of his/her wealth, yes that is unjustified, immoral and no it is not "just society." It may be the world you'd like to see, but it is the opposite of my world.

If I'm not mistaken, what people are saying here is (a) that is a freaking obscene amount of money to pay for a boat, and (b) conspicuous consumption at that level makes it hard to argue against raising taxes on the very wealthy.

I would use 'stupid' where you use 'obscene'. My view, as I stated above, I'd rather they spend their money on stuff that is made by people who can support themselves with their jobs. I agree with the (b) part as well but I'd max out at 50% of earned income (over 2M adjusted for inflation) . I would leave cap gains at 20% for assets held 5yrs +, 25% for 3yrs + and 30% for >1 yr but <3yrs.

I agree with McKTx that we should abolish inherited wealth now.

I think you know that's not what I said. Free riders do not have the right to call on their fellow citizens for support. If their families are dumb enough to support them, that's their own business.

Am I reading this right? Are you saying that able-bodied people should have the right to not work yet be supported by their fellow citizens? My view: not only no, but hell no. Life has never given free riders a pass. There is no good reason to start now.

I feel pretty good about saying no, you're not reading that right.

There is big, wide, cosmic gulf between "free rider" and "lives in a society wealthy enough to allow its members the freedom to find their own fulfilling ways to contribute".

I'd also gently suggest that maybe the way you're leaping straight from "no more hellish desperation" to "zomg, what about the rotten freeloaders" might say more about you than it does about humanity.

(This takes us back a couple of pages, but I'd say humanity has always been about taking care of each other, to the greatest extent we can. That ability to cooperate socially is kind of our thing. There are hundred thousand year old neanderthal remains showing clear evidence of a society that takes care of individuals even when they can't contribute themselves.)

Back to this again: Grab? Hmmm. Well, now that you put it that way, I've changed my mind. Let's put the right-thinking, good people in charge and let them direct the rest of us in how to produce the food, goods and services its takes to feed, cloth and house 330 million people.

Leaving aside the sneering condescension toward ... practically everyone ...

The inputs to this process include natural resources – provided by the earth, in my cosmology belonging to all of us – and the labor (of many kinds, mental and physical) of a significant number of the adults in the country.

The outputs include the products and the profits (and the pollutants, another whole related topic). The products are to some extent shared by the people whose labor was contributed as an input, and also, to some extent, by those who are unable to provide labor (children, the elderly, the chronically ill or disabled).

The profits, though, are funneled to a very small number of “captains of industry,” the sainted, irreplaceable, “job creators,” who, McKinney apparently thinks, are some supernatural kind of snowflakey being who couldn’t possibly be replaced by a significant percentage of the rest of the population.

These special people somehow “deserve” obscene wealth as a reward for their outsized “talents” (which also, let’s remember, came from…somewhere, like the deity, or the universe, or Lady Luck). But it’s kind of suspicious that there are a lot of other people – scientists come to mind, e.g., the people who actually dreamed up mRNA vaccines; or Einstein, or I dunno, Tim Berners-Lee – with outsized talents who somehow, quite suspiciously, don’t end up billionnaires, and don’t mind.

One might almost be forgiven for thinking there’s a talent for grabbiness, and that our economic system has been designed by and for people who have it.

*****

If what the billionaire is doing is legal...

What is legal ... is not cast in stone. I asked McK a question about this ten years ago and he disappeared without answering. (An old trick.) But: if tax rates are determined by law, then you can't talk about what's "yours" (aka what you've grabbed, in some cases) without taking into account the taxes you're legally obligated to pay. If you believe in the rule of law, then you can try to get the law changed, but as long as it's in force, the amount you have to pay in taxes was never yours in the first place.

McKinney, thanks for the link, which is very interesting.

His money has supported African-American and Hispanic candidates for these powerful local [DA] roles, all of whom ran on platforms sharing major goals of Soros’, like reducing racial disparities in sentencing and directing some drug offenders to diversion programs instead of to trial.

***

The Florida Safety and Justice group just poured nearly $1.4 million — all of which came from Soros and his 527 group — into a previously low-budget Democratic primary for state attorney in Central Florida before Tuesday’s vote. The group is backing Aramis Ayala, a former public defender and prosecutor, in her campaign against incumbent Jeff Ashton, whose jurisdiction covers over 1.6 million people across two counties in metro Orlando.

One TV ad from Florida Safety and Justice boosts Ayala, touting her “plan to remove bias so defendants charged with the same crime receive the same treatment, no matter their background or race.” The Soros-funded group is also attacking Ashton with ads saying he “got rid of protections that helped ensure equal treatment regardless of background or race. ... Take two similar traffic incidents that happened on the same night. A white man got off with a slap on the wrist, while the black man faces prison.”

***

“I’m sure there are plenty of people out there who think prison is too nice and we need to spend more on it,” Colom continued. “But it seems like a large majority of people out there get it and realize there have to be priorities. Just because a fella commits a crime doesn’t mean the best outcome is sending them to jail. ... As much as possible, I want to take people from being tax burdens to taxpayers.”

As I said upthread, where you and I cross-posted McKinney, these outrageous aims seem very different to the interventions of the Kochs, Mercers and Murdochs, to name just a few.

Let me note that it was the private sector that came up with vaccines, not Cuba or any of the social democracies in Europe.

The so called "Pfizer vaccine" was developed by a German company called Biontech, whose research would not exist if it hadn't been funded by the German state.

Similarly, the so called "AstraZeneca vaccine" was developed at the University of Oxford with public funding.

And I'm sure most involved with vaccine development will have seen the inside of a university for quite a few years, which will have been fully or partially funded by the public purse.

a couple of questions:

is 'free market' the same as 'efficient market'? for the latter, at least, there are fairly clear definitions. 'free market' mostly gets used as an antonym for 'command economy'. I'm not hearing anybody here argue for a command economy. I also doubt there are many here - left or right - who would argue against the public sector establishing the conditions for an efficient market.

would anyone object to Amazon being disassembled? i.e., split the online retail business from the web services business, and separate both from Whole Foods and maybe some of the other 100+ companies Amazon owns.

similar question for Facebook, who currently are Facebook, but also Instagram and WhatsApp and a couple dozen other companies.

similar question for Google, who currently are Google, but also Adsense and Google Maps and Chrome and YouTube and a couple dozen other companies.

how does that kind of concentration of ownership and domination of a given market(s) fit with the idea of a 'free market'? or with the idea of an 'efficient market'?

Soros is suspect since he has partnered with Charles Koch to create and fund a think tank...

When it comes to spending obscene amounts of money on boats, Bezos is greatly outclassed by the federal government...

There is big, wide, cosmic gulf between "free rider" and "lives in a society wealthy enough to allow its members the freedom to find their own fulfilling ways to contribute".

And if that uniquely fulfilling way to contribute is spending the day getting high and eating mac & cheese, society pays?

but I'd say humanity has always been about taking care of each other, to the greatest extent we can. That ability to cooperate socially is kind of our thing. There are hundred thousand year old neanderthal remains showing clear evidence of a society that takes care of individuals even when they can't contribute themselves.

I'd say that would be the history of the "Land That Wasn't and Never Will Be". Tribal/communal living works, sort of, in Neolithic conditions, and we know this from the archeological record. I do not consider Neolithic lifestyle to be optimal.

And, yes, there is one example of a disfigured/bone-diseased or damaged Neanderthal male, but there are more examples of Neanderthal cannibalism as well as inbreeding. Neanderthal's outcome is not a strong argument for the communal lifestyle (ok, I fully get that that tribalism was not the reason Neanderthal died out).

More complex societies require a hierarchy of some kind, division of labor and so on. From there, all kinds of societies have grown up and died over the millennia. Very few (actually, I suspect 'none' is closer to right) had universal income, or something like that, as a constituent element of of the societal ethic.

If what the billionaire is doing is legal and you are treating that person differently simply because of his/her wealth, yes that is unjustified, immoral and no it is not "just society."

do you think that people are not treated differently based on how much money they have?

Life has never given free riders a pass.

First, there are a crap-ton of free riders who get a pass, each and every day. They don't tend to be poor.

There is also a lot of daylight between paying 'free riders' to sit around and do nothing, and giving some relief to people whose jobs suck and who don't get paid enough to live on.

There are major employers in this country whose business model is predicated on paying people the lowest wage they can get away with. If some minimal level of public support gives those people an option - a lever to use against exploitative employers - I have no objection.

I'm sure there are people who, given the choice, are just gonna stay home. I'm happy to call that a rounding error and move on.

If we're gonna talk about societies we don't want to live in, a society based on the principle of 'root hog or die' is one I don't want to live in.

If we're gonna talk about societies we don't want to live in, a society based on the principle of 'root hog or die' is one I don't want to live in.

When are you emigrating? ;-)

If what the billionaire is doing is legal and you are treating that person differently simply because of his/her wealth, yes that is unjustified, immoral and no it is not "just society." It may be the world you'd like to see, but it is the opposite of my world.

You've got all kinds of things mashed up here.

First, there's our friend excluded middle popping in again. "It's legal therefore you can't criticize me for it" is a non-starter. We can't and shouldn't make everything that's rude or antisocial or nasty illegal. It'd be clutzy and draconian. Which means there is, and will always be, a whole spectrum of stuff that's entirely "legal" but not "good". Like buying up all the steaks at the supermarket. Or leaving a nasty note instead of a tip at a restaurant. Or laying off half your company two weeks before Christmas. Or buying a stupidly ginormous yacht. Or taking the writings of Ayn Rand seriously.

We can and should criticize the hell out of that shit, and make it real clear that you shouldn't do it willy nilly just because it's technically not prohibited by law.

Second, that "treating people differently because of their wealth" thing is a pretty weird construction. You're sort of writing that like being wealthy is like race or gender, and its wrong to treat people differently because of it.

But a) it's not at all like those things. Progressive income taxes, for example, fall more heavily on the rich, discriminate against them, if you like. And yet that is, in my and I think most people's book, absolutely moral. And b) hypothetically prohibiting (or criticizing, or taxing) the purchase of 300 meter yachts discriminates against the rich and the poor completely equally as far as I can tell.

I say it's "just society" because this kind of thing -- having and enforcing opinions about what other people what they should and shouldn't do -- is what society does all the time. It's foundational to the whole concept of living together. Clearly we can and do disagree about exactly what society we want to see, but the basic idea that society itself exists and sets those rules isn't debatable.

I'm sure there are people who, given the choice, are just gonna stay home. I'm happy to call that a rounding error and move on.

As usual, thank you. Or: wrs. (I am also grateful to jack lecou for a reminder about the excluded middle, along with every other jack comment on this thread.)

The so called "Pfizer vaccine" was developed by a German company called Biontech, whose research would not exist if it hadn't been funded by the German state.

Ok, but if Pfizer hadn't *been there*, all the German or US dollars in the world weren't going to conjure up a vaccine out of thin air. That is the point: the private economy has the wherewithal to get stuff like a vaccine done. State-controlled economies don't get anything done--or much of anything.

I asked McK a question about this ten years ago and he disappeared without answering. (An old trick.) But: if tax rates are determined by law, then you can't talk about what's "yours" (aka what you've grabbed, in some cases) without taking into account the taxes you're legally obligated to pay. If you believe in the rule of law, then you can try to get the law changed, but as long as it's in force, the amount you have to pay in taxes was never yours in the first place.

I can't respond to everyone, every time. However, I will respond to the statement above: I agree, up to a point. I would take out the "in the first place", because, 'in the first place' you don't know until the end of the year what your off-setting deductions will be and to the extent you have offsetting deductions, that money remains yours. But, that's a technical point. As a practical matter, I mentally adjust everything I make by multiplying by .6 and considering the product to be *mine*. I wind up over-withheld, which is the plan.

is 'free market' the same as 'efficient market'?

No. A free market has, by definition, inefficiencies. Business fail all the time.

would anyone object to Amazon being disassembled? i.e., split the online retail business from the web services business, and separate both from Whole Foods and maybe some of the other 100+ companies Amazon owns.

In principle and at first blush, I would object. We have anti-trust laws and whatnot and per se size-limits are problematic IMO. That said, I can imagine--at science fiction levels of imagination-- a conglomerate so massive, so out-sized and so domineering that it could be, in effect, *the* market with all matters of commerce subordinate to it. Basically, a private sector dictatorship as opposed to a governmental dictatorship.

So far, we haven't seen that happen in real life. Governments, yes. A world in which everything is a wholly owned subsidiary of Amazon, Google & Microsoft LLC? I think that's a bit of a stretch.

hypothetically prohibiting (or criticizing, or taxing) the purchase of 300 meter yachts discriminates against the rich and the poor completely equally as far as I can tell.

And discrimination is good? If a gov't can prohibit the purchase of yachts, then why not condoms? Or tomatoes? Or Korans? Screwing with people because you don't care for their otherwise lawful conduct or their wealth or whatever is, in the final analysis, mob rule. If the mob doesn't like non-Catholics, then it's Inquisition time.

You assume that society acts reasonably, rationally and in its members' best interests. I have a crap ton of historical examples that will prove otherwise.

More complex societies require a hierarchy of some kind, division of labor and so on.

Hierarchy and division of labor are not at all the same thing.

As far as being necessary for a complex society, I think I would grant the second, but not the first.

I think this is actually something of an unjustified assumption in archaeology itself. See a complex city, assume there *must* have been a hierarchy. It's not an unnatural assumption, but I think its rooted at least as much in the prejudices of loyal Victorian gentleman antiquarians as it is in the facts in the ground.

As we covered up thread, there are some notable examples of complex societies from the deep past without apparent evidence of hierarchy. I remain hopeful that we might come up with something like that in the future.

Or taking the writings of Ayn Rand seriously.

To add to the jack lecou thanks, this made me laugh.

And so to bed. Good night, all.

p.s. What is this crap ton of which so many of you speak? It sounds most unpleasant.

As we covered up thread, there are some notable examples of complex societies from the deep past without apparent evidence of hierarchy. I remain hopeful that we might come up with something like that in the future.

And I read that with interest, although I think "complex" is doing a lot of lifting if we are talking about the same thing: pre-Indo-European widespread agricultural/pastoral semi-nirvana vs chariots and pyramids and whatnot? The pre-Indo-Europeans were not complex in their physical leavings, unlike their conquerors. I kind of lean toward a time (in Europe anyway) of pre-Indo European peace and quiet. The cave painters in Spain/France seem to have been stable for something like 3000 years, painting away for their own mysterious reasons, yet doing so in a way that will capture imaginations for eons to come. I can't envision that kind of stability with warfare being any meaningful part of how people lived.

The problem with the lion laying down with the lamb lifestyle is that not every lion gets the memo and then its lamb stew until all the lambs are dead.

And discrimination is good?

No. There's no discrimination in banning yachts, is the point.

If a gov't can prohibit the purchase of yachts, then why not condoms? Or tomatoes?

Or red currants. Or high explosives. Or incandescent light bulbs. Or marijuana. Or thorium-infused "ion therapy" wrist bands. Or...

What the heck is your point? Governments can absolutely prohibit the production or purchase of things. They do it all the time. Sometimes it's a good idea, sometimes it's not. But it's absolutely indisputably a thing.

Or Korans? Screwing with people because you don't care for their otherwise lawful conduct or their wealth or whatever is, in the final analysis, mob rule. If the mob doesn't like non-Catholics, then it's Inquisition time.

So yachts are religious articles now? Is this supposed to be a convincing argument?

You assume that society acts reasonably, rationally and in its members' best interests. I have a crap ton of historical examples that will prove otherwise.

No I do not assume that. Some stuff societies do is pretty awful and stupid.

Nevertheless, a society does have the right and responsibility to regulate the behavior and responsibilities of its members. It's kind of the whole idea of having one.

GFTNC--I'm out too. It's been fun but I've got to return to my own fulfilling way of making things fulfilling. Adios.

Ok, but if Pfizer hadn't *been there*, all the German or US dollars in the world weren't going to conjure up a vaccine out of thin air. That is the point: the private economy has the wherewithal to get stuff like a vaccine done. State-controlled economies don't get anything done--or much of anything.

This seems, absent a more nuanced explication, to misunderstand (or misconceive in a massively understated way) the role of public/private research partnerships and governmental grants in bioscience. The private economy that you imagine leading the way here could not exist without the contributions of the public institutions with which they collaborate.

I say this as someone who has worked a job paid for by grant money whose entire job was to go to all the various public and private research partners on particular grants to get all of the necessary signatures. And one of my HS friend's entire job is finding ways to develop his university's research IP through public/private partnerships.

Not a single pharmaceutical company could sustain itself as a private entity absent governmental investment in both research and in education.

Pfizer was *almost there* because a bunch of scientists and politicians all agreed that we needed to prepare for another SARS emergency and made sure that the research was supported and prioritized.

And discrimination is good?

Also, in general, discrimination is actually good. Or at least neutral. Discrimination literally just means "telling things apart". When they're actually different -- and the differences matter -- it's a perfectly appropriate thing to do.

Discriminating against an unqualified job applicant in favor of a qualified one, for example, is perfectly fine and just and lawful.

Discriminating against a jerk-o in your circle of friends who never pays his share of the dinner bill is fine and just and lawful.

Etc.

It's not discrimination that's bad. It's unjustified prejudice.

And when I say that Jeff Bezos is bad for busting unions and buying a giant yacht, I'm not prejudging him. I'm just plain judging him. For his, you know, actual actions.

(I am also grateful to jack lecou for a reminder about the excluded middle, along with every other jack comment on this thread.)
To add to the jack lecou thanks, this made me laugh.

[blush]

p.s. What is this crap ton of which so many of you speak? It sounds most unpleasant.

It's shit ton's younger sibling.

I can't envision that kind of stability with warfare being any meaningful part of how people lived.

The problem with the lion laying down with the lamb lifestyle is that not every lion gets the memo and then its lamb stew until all the lambs are dead.

Yes, that's the problem isn't it? The instability and erosion of trust that happens when a few sociopaths ignore the social contract and start taking advantage grabbing everything that's not nailed down, or not made explicitly illegal.

Bronze age warfare. Supermarket meat raids. Private equity takeovers.

All stuff that's fleetingly beneficial to certain members of the hierarchy (on the winning side, anyway), which is why it happens, but an even bigger long-term net negative for everyone else.

Of course, we're not lions and lambs, are we? We're all one species. The "lions" here are actually cannibals. Maybe what we need to do is figure out what's wrong with the cannibalistic lambs and fix them. Or at least stop putting them at the top of our hierarchies.

there are a lot of other people – scientists come to mind, e.g., the people who actually dreamed up mRNA vaccines; or Einstein, or I dunno, Tim Berners-Lee – with outsized talents who somehow, quite suspiciously, don’t end up billionnaires, and don’t mind.

I have a sense that, in order to become a billionaire, you have to have a burning desire to become one. (Or, I suppose, be particularly lucky and have parents who were.) If you have other interests, pretty much any other interests beyond becoming ultra rich, you simply won't. You may start a company, and create thousands of jobs, but if you were in it for anything but raw money-making, you didn't get that rich.

pre-Indo-European widespread agricultural/pastoral semi-nirvana vs chariots and pyramids and whatnot? The pre-Indo-Europeans were not complex in their physical leavings, unlike their conquerors.

always good to keep up with the research
Mentioned earlier at ObWi
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/G%C3%B6bekli_Tepe

Amazonian basin
https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2017/03/its-now-clear-that-ancient-humans-helped-enrich-the-amazon/518439/

Central America
https://slate.com/technology/2018/04/teotihuacn-the-ancient-city-upending-archaeologists-assumptions-about-wealth-inequality.html

Golden age of Chinese archaeology
https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/2021/05/11/chinese-archaeology-egyptian-bias-sanxingdui/

Egalitarianism in the Last Glacial Age
https://sites.lsa.umich.edu/wp-content/uploads/sites/62/2014/03/Schultziner_etal_2010_Biol_Philos.pdf

There's some interesting discussion about Neolithic egalitarianism revolving around a comparison between the remains found and their assumed distribution in the population. Of course, if you think Western Civilization started in August 1945, you may miss the subtleties of the conversation.

Stepping back a bit and considering that humanity now has the collective ability to ensure that everyone on the planet has sufficient nutrition, but that millions upon millions are still starving, one must conclude that there is a problem with the system of global resource distribution. This problem exists even within the richest nation on earth, though to a lesser degree. But it also happens in starker contrast, considering the wealth possessed. I don’t think this outcome can possibly be morally right. What do we do about it? I have to think something other than letting the free market work it out, which is just a fancy way of saying “nothing.”

Goodnight, friends.

Let's put the right-thinking, good people in charge and let them direct the rest of us in how to produce the food, goods and services its takes to feed, cloth and house 330 million people.

Once again back to this, and setting aside the implied sneer...

The other implication is that the people who run the production systems for some mysterious reason deserve to amass millions of times the wealth not of the poorest among us -- division by zero is undefined -- but of ordinary people.

Who sez? It's apparently an obvious law of the universe to McK, but I don't remember any stone tablets laying down that law.

It's the excluded middle again (or the excluded kaleidoscope of possibilities): "right-thinking and good" people (don't forget the sneer) can't possibly be smart enough to run a factory or a farm. And no one with the right skillset to run such operations can possibly be . . . right-thinking or good?

McK does love him some post hoc reasoning.

McK's out, but I'll ask nonetheless.

State-controlled economies don't get anything done--or much of anything.

How do you explain China?

No. A free market has, by definition, inefficiencies. Business fail all the time.

I don't think a business failing is incompatible with an efficient market. Not everyone is a good businessperson, in an efficient market inept businesspeople will fail.

I'm just trying to understand what people mean when they say 'free market'. It's right at the top of the list of right-wing buzzwords, so we're obliged to discuss it. That being so, some clarity about what we're talking about would be helpful.

Mostly it appears to mean 'not a command economy', and sometimes but not always it means 'minimal state intervention in the economy except where it helps'. I'm not sure anyone is arguing for a command economy, so 'where it helps' seems to be the issue in question.

Maybe jack would argue for no big boats, maybe bobbyp would argue for no rich people at all. Most of us are just looking for some basic fairness.

A guy spending half a billion bucks on a yacht-and-a-half while paying people less than a living wage to work in unsafe and often dangerous conditions falls short of basic fairness.

You can be a billionaire and not be a dick. Bezos fails to meet that standard. Some extremely wealthy people really are greedy pathological jerks. They're worth calling out.

Who sez? It's apparently an obvious law of the universe to McK, but I don't remember any stone tablets laying down that law.

Not a law, but it's very difficult to overcome the Pareto principle and make it stick. The Soviet Union tried and just ended up with different people in the distribution.

The average entry level pay at Amazon is15 hr. Does this make you question your basic premise? Sorry for brevity. IPad and late.

Does this make you question your basic premise?

Oh, the zingers, they burn.

*****

15*40 = 600/week

Where in this country can you have a minimally decent life on $600 a week? Even by yourself, never mind if you have a family.

And if that's "average," then some people make less. It's also gross pay, so social security would be taken out, at the very least.

Food, rent, the cheapest possible phone plus other utilities, a junk car or public T, health care costs (even if you have company-paid insurance, there will be some), clothing from the Goodwill, a computer and internet access so your kid can go to school via Zoom during a pandemic?

These people don't know how good they have it.

On the zinger front: I guess we're supposed to marvel at how dumb we were not to realize how lavish a life you can live on $15/hour.

Amazon workers were not complaining about pay. They were complaining about horrible working conditions such that they have 109% turnover rates and extremely high rates of injury compared to other warehouse jobs. That much turnover when the pay is better than other warehouse jobs points to a deep problem.

As for them voting against unionizing, it's really hard to get any sort of organizing done when such a huge percentage of the workforce is turning over. And that's not even getting into the scare tactics that it used to intimidate workers ahead of the vote or the ways that they tried to undermine the anonymity of the vote.

How do you explain China?

The low-hanging fruit of starting from near the bottom and using, often stealing, everyone else's IP.

China's economic growth started almost by accident. In the rural areas, farmers secretly agreed to split up farmland among themselves and start private markets for any production beyond government quotas. The government didn't stamp it out and later allowed economic zones where foreign investors could set up manufacturing plants and other businesses.

I'm just trying to understand what people mean when they say 'free market'.

In the simplest sense, a free market is a market that had no third-party interventions in transactions. This does not preclude a rule of law to act against fraud and enforce contracts.

Where in this country can you have a minimally decent life on $600 a week?

Where I am in Texas, I could be pretty comfortable on that and have money left over to put into savings. But it wouldn't leave a lot of room for unexpected large expenses.

CharlesWT, does that include just yourself? I.e. no kids, no partner...? (You don't have to answer, obviously, but it obviously makes a big difference budget-wise. E.g., how much child care can you afford on $600/week? Never mind groceries, kids' clothes...etc.)

Would your comfort on $600 a week include $ for the occasional movie? A modest vacation every few years? Birthday gifts for friends and family? (This latter was one of my mother's obsessions in her last year of life. Toward the end, when she couldn't remember what you said five minutes ago, or string a very coherent sentence together, she still knew the birthdays of her kids and grandkids.)

Does this make you question your basic premise?

No.

As noted by Janie, $15 is $600/week or about $30k/year, gross. That is not actually a lot of money in most places. And Amazon warehouse work is a dangerous stultifying b*tch.

In 2020, Amazon was the fourth largest company in the world by market cap. It’s not like they can’t afford to pay people more. Or at least make their workplaces safe and mentally tolerable.

Sorry for brevity.

No worries, I appreciate the reply.

The low-hanging fruit of starting from near the bottom and using, often stealing, everyone else's IP.

That’s pretty much where everyone starts out. It’s where we started out, including the stolen IP part.

My question was about how to explain the advances China has made in the context of a largely centrally directed economy. The claim was that that had never been done, I think China is a counter example.

Where I am in Texas, I could be pretty comfortable on that and have money left over to put into savings.

A) good for you
B) do you school age kids at home? Do you own your home, and if so when did get into the housing market?

a free market is a market that had no third-party interventions in transactions

Thank you, that is crisp, concise, and seems pretty accurate.

CharlesWT, does that include just yourself? I.e. no kids, no partner...?

Just me.

I could be comfortable but would have to be frugal. Such as rarely eating out and eating take-out. The lease and fees for my current apartment are about $960 a month. There would be room for some discretionary spending depending on how much was going into savings.

The claim was that that had never been done, I think China is a counter example.

Some pundits use to claim that there couldn't be economic freedom without political freedom. The Chinese people seem to have made the bargain with the government that they can do without political freedom as long as they can make money and have the hope of an improving lifestyle. This could all be out the window if the economy crashes or the housing bubble burst.

This could all be out the window if the economy crashes or the housing bubble burst.

Also true of western democracies. Desperation is the enemy of all, and an ethical society's main job should be to keep that as far away from most people as is sustainable. Personal agency is one of those things that keeps desperation at bay, but it is not the only thing.

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