• R H
  • Chicago, IL
  • United States

This conversation is closed.

Why do we NOT invest effectively in the poor and marginalized so they can participate in the global economy?

Nearly half of the world's population cannot effectively participate or contribute to the global economy. Basic economic theory holds that each 'participant' in the economy is a 'unit of productivity' providing a return on investment. In other words, it's more profitable to have people working and consuming than not. Yet nations continue to allow and accept that the poor and marginalized are - to borrow from another popular phrase - 'too big to succeed'.

In my view, the (relatively) small investment in infrastructure, education, and basic healthcare in the poor and marginalized will be more than made up by their increased productivity and spending. The rich think they're rich now, just imagine the wealth created by having 3 billion more people buying their stuff? I know there are obvious problems with this: corruption, unified effort, immediate ROI, etc. - but why is this such a 'tough sell' to national leadership? They're always looking for ways to increase the tax base.

3+ billion people now contribute to the world gross productivity. What if that were doubled? To me, this is the next threshold of economic growth -bringing in those who have been left out. Yet, we don't even talk about it. What do you think?

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    Nov 2 2012: I think there is a limiting factor in all things. If the ranks of the poor swell to unmanageable proportions, then the rich will find a way to reduce their numbers. When fuel was cheap and industry young and strong it was easy to do by starting a war. Now, wars cost money and few nations can afford them. War is becoming unfashionable as it becomes unaffordable, so to speak.

    If the ruling class can develop methods of preventing the poor resorting to crime to increase their lot, we would expect to see a decrease in crimes of theft, muggins, etc. even as the number of poor increase. This is exactly what we are seeing. The controlling class is utilizing the products of technology to deter crime and it is working. The more violent crimes, where people give up and explode, are increasing. This is a testament to the effectiveness of preventing lesser crimes.

    It's hard to judge, really. Humans are can become self-reliant pretty fast and they can organize easily if they are hungry enough. They can take simple tools and use them to their advantage. I've seen this in the way the Occupy movement dealt with the issue of lack of cell phones, cell towers being shut down and laws against load speakers being enforced.

    We can be sure of one thing. People will not simply sit around and watch each other die of hunger or disease. They will revolt. How the ruling class deals with this when it happens will be the guiding principle behind how the war between the rulers and the poor will unfold.

    As long as we are divided into camps of the haves and have nots, there will always be a revolution. What amazes me is that this can happen in our modern times. We expect to see this sort of thing when reading history about kings and queens and peasants, but to see it growing here in our modern times is amazing.
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      R H

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      Nov 2 2012: Thanks John for responding. I too believe in incentive-based motivation as the most formidable. People will do what it takes for their own self-interests. This, to me, is what makes for effective change and improvement. Change the incentives and you change the results. In my opinion, the costs of NOT investing in the poor and marginalized (crime and the required judicial system investment, lack of productivity on a massive scale, multitudes of humanitarian relief and welfare, etc) have come to far outweigh the investment necessary to equalize opportunity (education, basic healthcare, basic infrastructure, etc). We seem to, and your examples point out, that we respond to adversity only to the point of an 'equilibrium', but never get to the point of evolution. Can we evolve our 'requirements' from "how do we eliminate our dangers" to "how do we create our ideals"?
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        Nov 2 2012: What you've said I've heard for over 50 years. The results are worse now then they were 50 years ago.

        How do you explain people not taking sound advice? If the trend is towards a bad situation, shouldn't those of us who are aware make preparations?

        Incentive based motivation presupposes you have incentives to offer. No incentives, no effective change and improvement.

        Idealize is not an obtainable goal. Realism is obtainable. I suggest we start by being real. First we access the problem (that has already been done many times over) then we get to the solution (that cost money and takes us away from our comfort zone) so not taking the solutions and applying them only exacerbates the problem and makes it grow larger (which it has).

        So, the solution becomes clear: First we form a coalition of people who favor solving the problem, not matter what it takes. Second, we determine the resources we need to accomplish the goal. We obtain the resources organize ourselves into a team and implement the course of action to solve the problem. Those who are not part of the solution become part of the problem and are lumped in with those who are the problem.

        We could do this on the large scale or piece at the time. It doesn't matter as long as our progression is towards the goal.

        If we reduced the population in the US. by 25 percent within 10 years, we wouldn't have a poverty problem because everyone would be employed. If at the same time we implemented population control by controlling the number of kids a couple can have, we will meet our goal.

        The question is how do we reduce the population. I'm sure those who rule the world are considering the very question as we write. What do you think some of their scenarios will be. I say "will be" because they will implement some sort of solution. Does anyone really think that they will take the money they got from everyone else and give it back? That would be foolish.
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          R H

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          Nov 2 2012: Thanks again John. You had me until 'population control'. In your, and many other's, efforts to be realistic, popu control is viewed as an obvious solution - until the discussion turns to applying to their parents. Also the logic that a 25% reduction would lead to full employment must take into account a minimuml 25% reduction in purchasing which would lead to massive structural and income reductions in a contracting economy. Limiting citizen's ability to reproduce flies in the face of a free society and can cause various psychosis issues which are hugely expensive to the society. So although we are in agreement about the need to organize around the years of research that have been devoted to this subject and take action, I'm afraid I would disagree with your primary method of approach. All the best.
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    Gail .

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    Oct 25 2012: We do not do so because the uber wealthy like their status. Our economy was invented by the uber wealthy.

    Begin with John Locke's Treatises of Government: The canonical text for economic, political, & legal understanding of how an effective government works. 1st he introduces the rights of private property ownership with these 3 rational provisos:

    There must be enough left over
    You must not let it spoil (allow waste)
    You must mix your labor with it.

    Then he shows that with the introduction of $, along with men's tacit agreement to put value on it, all the provisos are no longer applicable.

    1. Now you no longer have to mix your labor with your property. Now you can buy labor and profit from money itself.
    2. There is no longer a consideration of spoilage, because money cannot spoil.
    3. There is no longer a consideration for whether there is $ left over for others, because ownership of $ is not a basic human right. And if money can buy land, without leaving enough for others, then access to land (for food/clothing/shelter) is no longer a basic human right. Which is how you force the excessive poor to die.

    Then comes Adam Smith, (Wealth of Nations - another canonical text). He says this is natural law. (the invisible hand).

    Within natural law, he says, the scantiness of subsistence, that's caused by not enough money in the hands of the poor, puts natural limits on the "RACE of laborers". He states that the greater number of THEIR children MUST die in the name of the economic system, and the free market will take care of THAT by virtue of the existence of his definition of natural law.

    Our current economic model is not created to benefit you or the needy. It was created to enslave you for as long as you don't demand much. The neediest are the incentive that the rich want you to see so that you don't upset the apple cart. They need to poor to scare you into submission.

    It's working
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      Oct 25 2012: Very much so.

      Economy works like electricity the higher the potential difference how faster the current.
      Rich need poor to keep the value coming and become more rich at cost of ever more poverty.

      I can illustrate this with a piece of history (4 centuries in 3 sentences).

      As the Dutch took Indonesia as their colony, people were forced to work as their lands were taken away and they were indoctrinated with the Gospels that learned how suffering on earth would be paid off in heaven.

      This went well, for riches poured into our land as those indigenous people suffered more and more. Then someone said (E. Douwes Dekker), how sad they are they need education and have to be treated with dignity. The result was they became unhappy and unwilling, they hoped for an opportunity to revolt and as they did they knew no other way than to copy their former masters, for that was all they knew.

      As Europe had to abolish their colonies multinational (read US) Corporations took over. This system is threatened if people learn, inquire too much, if democracy works as it was intended.
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        R H

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        Oct 25 2012: Hello Frans. Please see the response to Ted lover...
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      R H

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      Oct 25 2012: Dear Ted lover & Frans, in regards to your historical summation of our economic history, I would ask you to indulge me a bit and 'read' me out: I'm going to suggest that your points are 'side effects'. Remember, not only did we have misery and exploitation, but also shipping, buildings and roads, medical advances, manufacturing explosion, manifold research discoveries, colossal food production, artistic explosion, scientific wonders, interstellar travel, and now new technological abilities that can help us determine our universe, redefine ourselves, and are already bringing us closer to one another. We have always had the unscrupulous who, in their weakness of character, sought the 'easy way out' and manipulated and transcended the intentions of progressive efforts for their own ends. Then, the uneducated and ignorant would rally behind them, again for their own ends, and we'd have mania en masse resulting in societal, regional, then national conflict. This then is the 'side-effect' of our progressive exhuberence. The advancement and the progress of humanity is the focus, the vile and the corrupt are a side-bar to be dealt with - albeit a significant one that we continue to endure. So in regards to effective investing in the poor and marginalized now for growth and improved returns, can we throw off our methods of the past, take what we've learned, and re-invent our prosperity?
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        Gail .

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        Oct 26 2012: What you say is true, IN PART, but it is very incomplete.

        I agree (I think) that all of our social ills are symptoms, but I believe that they are symptoms of a corrupt and cruel economic model that enslaves the few for the benefit of the money.

        You think that money is essential to all of the wonderful things that we have, but I disagree. Freedom of thought and the opportunity to work for self-fulfillment has been shown to be a better motivator when it comes to inventing new things.

        This being said, we cannot reinvent our prosperity unless we first throw away the unworkable capitalist model that cannot survive without poor people. Notice on these videos how money is not an efficient motivator unless you use it as a reward for simple mechanical skills. It is the opposite of a positive motivator when it is applied to the creative thinking that is required to bring us the advances that make our lives so comfortable.

        I encourage you to watch the following TED talks.
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          R H

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          Oct 27 2012: Ok, and thank you. I will review those talks and respond.
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    Nov 3 2012: Recent experience here in Brazil shows this thought can be controversial, depending on who is this “we”, how the “investment” is done, and what is “participate in the global economy”. Effectiveness and fairness in income distribution is a priority, indeed. But the problem is who conducts it, as well as how the sacrifices to reach it are attributed. About global economy, it seems there is a conceptual misunderstanding, on purpose, taking consumption instead of participation.
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      R H

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      Nov 5 2012: Thanks Edelcio, for responding with such a balanced macro view. If you could, would you please briefly describe the 'controversial recent experience' you're referring to? Your experience may further help in understanding application issues. Also, if you have time and care to, please elaborate on 'the conceptual misunderstanding of consumption vs. participation'.
  • Nov 2 2012: Too bad. The great thing about the net is that we don't have to be locked in the same space at the same time for a conversation or dialogue to be spread or negotiated to some useful, if not at least edcuational terms. So, I take it that either you just aren't interest all that much, want easy answers that fit your preconception, or just don't want to risk having someone else know your e-mail address--which is understandable. I have invited people into loose conversations before an they proved so far afield, I had o block them. No harm done though. I'm not here to embarrass anyone or win knowledge game--I'm here for the sheer joy of sharing knowledge that might help an already open mind find good cause to stay open and keep at it until priorities change. With the non-linear nature of the Internet where we can answer or initiate at out own time, the old excuses of not having time or buy "busy" don't work any more because Like most people I'm busy too and it is tacitly insulting to have someone else imply they are and you must be not. I MAKE TIME for the things that offer intellectual engagement I can't get anywhere else--especially on jobs where everyone is indeed locked in the same space at the same time with the bosses agenda is imperative uno. Just be aware how this relates to your TED question--how do we engage all echelons of society in productive economy without do anything more than staying anonymous and floating questions on a TED forum? Take care.
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      R H

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      Nov 3 2012: Hahaha! Well, I guess you've got me pegged, huh James? I'm not sure how such an 'open mind' can lead to such conclusions about someone they've never met, but hey, I guess that just fits another one of 'my preconceptions'. Yup, TED is, as far as I know, about building bridges between people through ideas. Looks like you and I have a long way to go.
      • Nov 3 2012: No, you have a long way to go. You're just not interested in puting in any time. I've already given 22 years to the cause of finding out how or why we as a society can't or won't change priorities to take advanatge of vast untapped pools of labor and innovation to build a rapibly progressing world instead of continuing to throw god money after bad on preparing for the next war. The answer is not a coincidence and might take a few hours to get a few new cues on. But I'll let you go, your're surely too busy. No offense. Your wish..
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          Nov 3 2012: James, for what it is worth, I don't think RH meant to suggest that she is busy and you are not.

          This may be THE big issue to which you dedicate huge energy every day. For all you or I know, RH may, rather, be working long hours every day saving lives in a big city emergency room and coming home every night late, drained and falling into bed.

          Not being able to find time in the moment, or even in the month of November, doesn't fairly mean "just not interested in putting in any time."

          Different people are 'at the front line' on different issues and working at a variety of worthwhile ends.
  • Oct 29 2012: Hi RH,

    We agree with you. here's an extract from our business plan:

    "Dealing with poverty is nothing new. The question became ‘how does poverty still exist in a world with sufficient resources for a decent quality of life for everyone?’ The answer was that we have yet to develop any economic system capable redistributing finite resources in a way that everyone has at minimum enough for a decent life: food, decent housing, transportation, clothing, health care, and education. The problem has not been lack of resources, but adequate distribution of resources. Capitalism is the most powerful economic engine ever devised, yet it came up short with its classical, inherent profit-motive as being presumed to be the driving force. Under that presumption, all is good in the name of profit became the prevailing winds of international economies — thereby giving carte blanche to the notion that greed is good because it is what has driven capitalism. The 1996 paper merely took exception with the assumption that personal profit, greed, and the desire to amass as much money and property on a personal level as possible are inherent and therefore necessary aspects of any capitalist endeavour. While it is in fact very normal for that to be the case, it simply does not follow that it must be the case.

    Profits can be set aside in part to address social needs, and often have been by way of small percentages of annual profits set aside for charitable and philanthropic causes by corporations. This need not necessarily be a small percentage. In fact, there is no reason why an enterprise cannot exist for the primary purpose of generating profit for social needs — i.e., a P-CED, or social, enterprise. This was seen to be the potential solution toward correcting the traditional model of capitalism, even if only in small-scale enterprises on an experimental basis."

    • Oct 29 2012: This is an excellent contribution Jeff!

      RH mentioned "the ghost of racism" being a barrier to investment in the poor/humanity. I think that we can point also to its close relative, "the spirit of classism." Both are fed by greed and it's parent: fear.

      The interesting thing is that in the pursuit of wealth and power, many people find themselves tangled up in what becomes their own bondage of debt and in their grasping for more, even when it is clearly not more of what they need. Their hands become so full of material things that they can never reach out to find true happiness. And so it seems that their greed not only deprives others of "the basic minimum needed to live a decent life" but it , essentially, deprives themselves of this as well. Greedy people have little inner peace which is true wealth.

      On Ted, We talk a lot about technology and I feel that the issues of justice, equality require a development of peace technology which is involves new ideologies that look at ways to share (finite) resources so that all people may have a higher quality of life.

      Here at TED, we discuss so many amazing innovation in science and medicine. What you are talking about with economics4humanty is social science that could lead to innovations equal to these.

      When we have the ability to destroy the Earth many times over, might we need to look more closely at what barriers divide us, what walls we are fighting to tear down, what walls we are building and who is n the other side? It is time to seriously invest in solutions so that we may live more equitably and harmoniously.

      Some may cal this "communism" but look at what they call "freedom."

      This change ... this revolution begins within. It requires a personal shift in awareness and a peaceful surrender that brings freedom and empowerment to all.

      Sounds kind of crazy .. well, so did the idea of splitting the atom. But maybe this technology can bring us together instead of tear us apart.
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      R H

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      Oct 30 2012: Thanks Jeff for your response and your reference. I read the paper and would like to clarify some fine points. I don't see capitalism creating greedy people. I see greedy people usurping capitalism. Incentive-based capitalism is, as you pointed out, the most effective wealth creating engine of all time. But because of its forthrightness, it's easily corrupted by the unscrupulous. I agree that our economic methods need to evolve, but I'm not a proponent of 're-distributing' the current wealth creation. What I'm seeking with this question is whether, by getting the half of the world that's not participating in the economic world productivity to participate, we can get so much wealth created that everybody gets more. Many of the responders have suggested that there are not enough resources to go around for such wealth creation. Many have suggested that such wealth can only be created if there are substantial losses borne by a significant portion of the participants. Others have suggested that megalopolies will never allow such a distribution. This is where, for me, the 'evolution' comes in. We have got to begin to see that we all benefit - substantially - if everybody is winning. I see it as a possible line grading scale. For example: If we consider, worldwide, the current poor and marginalized with a grade of FFF, the average wage earner as a C, and the uber-wealthy as an A; then by investing in the 3 billion poor and marginalized and increasing their participation in the world economy raises them up to a C, the average wage earner moves up to A because of the massive increase in wealth, and the uber's wildly explode to AAA. This is not on a curve. These are standards. We have created more for everybody. We do not have to re-distribute. I can hear all of the nay-sayers already. And they are right. It is why we are currently NOT investing in the poor and marginalized, because we know why it can't be done. We just don't know how is could be done - yet.
      • Oct 30 2012: RH, Yes it's really about making wealth creators of others rather than distributing the wealth already created. The initial project in Russia sourced a community micrifinance bank in the Tomsk region and led to creation of 10,000 micro enterprises. after which it was replicated by USAID in several other cities.

        In the 2004 business plan above we describe how the social business apporach can yield funds for community re-investment through local CDFIs and beging the process of onward re-investment in community economic development

        A year earlier, it had been a proposal to deploy this approach which brought US government to the table in plans to tackle poverty in the Tatar community of Crimea


        A more comprehensive stratefy combining microfinance , childcare reforn, affordable broadband and social enterprise is set out in a later proposal for a natonal scale initiative with a nil overall cost approach:

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          R H

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          Oct 31 2012: Thanks Jeff for the excellent references and continuing to participate in this conversation. I think I'm understanding the question I proposed more fully. Since this issue was recognized as far back (at least) as 1947 and continuously re-affirmed by world leaders and other professionals and interested parties in a post-modern world, we then can say that 'this question' has been approached for better than 65 years - or 2/3's of a century. Yet we still have nearly half of the world living in abject poverty and not participating in the economy, and more in number than we did back then. I still ask the question why that is? The fine, dedicated, effective efforts of so many since that time to eradicate this issue have not been able to 'gain traction' for wide-spread investment and development. I would think that maybe we'd be down to only 1/4 in poverty by now by all of the efforts cited. Is it folly to consider it possible? Do the ultra-rich and powerful see no incentive to invest in such a market? Is it cultural bias? Is the problem too big to succeed? Do we just really not care that much because it doesn't effect us? Are we just short-sighted? etc. By the way, I will also add that I too often observe some of the ultra-rich seemingly unaffected by the plight of the poor, but I observe it from my nice warm home with great furnishings while on my computer drinking imported coffee wondering whether I'll drive my new car to the great school on the new highway or take the high-speed train - which is only available to me because of such incentives to become ultra-rich. Humanity, in my opinion, has unlimited capacity for self interest and expression. Maybe we can use that to our advantage in investing in the poor and marginalized somehow.
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    Oct 29 2012: A good investment will be in rural restaurants for poor. http://www.nariphaltan.org/ruralrestaurants.pdf

    Also tremendous innovations are necessary in bringing technologies for rural poor. They do not have less neurons than us and have the same aspirations as rest of the world. http://www.nariphaltan.org/langmuirrural.pdf

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      R H

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      Oct 30 2012: For me, this observation is most profound - that the poor and marginalized have no less 'neurons' than the rest of us, and possess the same aspirations. This is absolutely the most significant understanding. It's just the arena of opportunity we find ourselves in that determines how much we can flourish. There is an untapped market of 3 billion participants with the same aspirations and fundamental capabilities as the developed world. Can we create the arenas necessary for them to flourish, creating trillions and trillions of new and additional wealth for the whole world to enjoy? We don't have time for the old ways, the old bickering, the old methods. There's too much to gain by acting on the possibilities and dismissing the negative - too many new technologies and brilliant, educated, and experienced minds bursting to contribute to raise the bar for all. Yes, I paint with a wide brush. Thank you Anil for your insight.
  • Oct 29 2012: "Why do we NOT invest effectively in the poor and marginalized so they can participate in the global economy?"

    "We" do invest in them somewhat, but even if the economic system was not as rotten as it is then you'd still be be subject to physical constraints: there simply are not enough natural resources to allow for a sudden increase in global productivity and consumption, it takes times for technology to allow us to use the same amount of natural resources more efficiently.
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    Oct 28 2012: I just have to say... "Too big to succeed" should become a meme used for describing the way most leadership views the poor. It's tragic, and funny at the same time. If that's your line, it's a brilliant literary flourish.

    Unfortunately I'll explain the whole problem to you though. The earth can not afford to have 3 billion more consumers of oil. Period. That's what it all comes down to. We don't know what we're going to replace oil with in the developing world long term.

    Basically, if the world follows our example, we're all in trouble, but it's not about consumption, it's about consumption of oil. Untill we invent our way out of the oil crisis, there isn't enough energy to fix the poverty crisis, and it's not because we can't create the jobs, it's we can't pay people enough to buy oil. The solution is to create numerous local grass roots green technology companies and replace our transportation infrastructure, creating a bunch of construction and manufacturing jobs, which are many poor peoples leg up into the middle class. That goes up against the oil lobbies, monsanto, and numerous other interests that have strong control over our politicians.

    We could give people 40 hour a week jobs, if they road electric bikes built locally to work every day. Most people who work hard want big sexy cars nowadays, that requires more innovation. Education, food, and medical care are the easiest sells though. If you get those things, and you aren't producing something, it is kinda your own fault, honestly, or there is something severely broken in your system.

    Not to pick on Barack Obama, but he recently said something akin to "those jobs aren't coming back. Unskilled labor jobs are gone, I want to bring high skill labor jobs into this country"... In general, he's better for most middle class folks, but... that statement, is horrible for them. Unskilled labor, is how you maintain stability, while you become skilled, and get into the middle class.
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      Oct 28 2012: I am reminded, on reading your last paragraph as well as Juniper's response below, that one of the academics in my state, in commenting on the disparity between the sorts of jobs being created and the results of education here, recently commented, "We are making great jobs for other people's children." Local employers cannot meet their demand for highly skilled employees from the pickings they have in this state and so must import them from other states and countries while local unemployment remains high.

      Beyond this, I am fearful when those discussing education at a policy level sometimes claim that people are over-investing in higher levels of education. While in a sense this could be true, the people making these claims are typically those who mean it may not be a good investment for other people's children. They intend for their own to seek higher education, of course.
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        Oct 28 2012: "Beyond this, I am fearful when those discussing education at a policy level sometimes claim that people are over-investing in higher levels of education. While in a sense this could be true, the people making these claims are typically those who mean it may not be a good investment for other people's children. They intend for their own to seek higher education, of course. "

        Very well put... They want higher education for their children, and when push comes to shove they vote almost unanimously against even trade skill programs for other peoples. Most modern neocons, really want a class system.

        I think I can say something to you that might help put things into perspective a bit, and be a good answer to the initial question though. When teachers, are willing to fight for a pension program, and living wage, for the farmers that feed them... Farmers will side with teachers over conservatives on taxes. When teachers make 60k a year with pensions, and the men who work 8 hours a day on heavy machinery in the sun to feed them, make minimum wage with no health insurance... It's really hard for the "working class" to unite, or feel like a cohesive unit.

        Every time a teacher goes on strike a hundred farmers turn into anti tax conservatives, lol.
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          Oct 28 2012: This is one of those things that is very different in different places. In my state and in the only district where I have ever taught in k12, a ten year veteran of the classroom with a PhD would make maybe $40,000, and I don't remember a teacher's strike here in the last twenty years.
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          R H

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          Oct 29 2012: I think this stream of responses are a great window into answering the question. The practical concerns shown here (and elsewhere in the many responses so far) are significant and concrete. It's becoming plain to me that the reason we're not investing substantially (I'm referring very 'macroly') in the poor and marginalized market of 3 billion potential economic contributors is that we're just not ready to structurally and socially. We have so many legacy issues, histories, methods, concerns, (etc.) rooted in pre- 21st century methods of living on the planet that we just can't envision the possibility of it. We can see why we can't, but not how we could. So for me, the question has been answered as to why we are NOT investing. Possibly someone would ask how we could make it a viable effort. Thanks so much, everyone, for participating.
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        Oct 29 2012: I think you misunderstand me a little bit. In your town, teachers may be paid quite fairly, that actually sounds perfectly reasonable... In your town however, at least 20% of the 30-40 year old men and women have a job, that, to some extent amounts to "do this action, over, and over, and over", and to them, 40k a year with a pension sounds so tasty.

        I'm not defending the perception held by the average farm hand, warehouse person, or factory worker, merely expressing how they get suckered in. I think most teachers don't realize that to a good chunk of people, they're "rich"... Lots of people especially in big cities... Will never own a home, most teachers leave a paid off one to their children, in the nice part of town.

        In California 60k, isn't wonderful, but it can buy you a house if you don't waste it, especially if you marry a teacher... 9$ an hour, will never, and if you get a raise, without a degree for management, watch out, because you're getting too expensive for a laborer. This is how many poor people even here still get suckered into the whole, "taxes are too high, they don't get it, and they don't respect us". In reality, wages of working class people are too low, but that used to be a liberal cause... and it's really not anymore, because government workers, and educated people rarely feel the pinch anymore.

        In many ways the liberals have become the party of "robots will do our labor, so we don't have to worry about you"... But, the robots aren't here yet, so the workers are getting wrestless.

        Your district doesn't have to strike, they just have to see a strike, anywhere in the country on Faux News... the only source of information that doesn't make them scared that atheists have taken over America. Suddenly a couple hundred lumberjacks are thinkin "Those elitist, lazy, pricks... We should cut their funding..."
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          Oct 29 2012: This again may differ by location. I do not think your claim is necessarily correct that most teachers can leave paid off homes in a nice part of town to their kids. It depends where they live and the income of their spouses.

          It would not be true where I live. It certainly would not be true where my sister lives.

          Maybe it is true where you live.
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          Oct 29 2012: I absolutely understand that many people, and the unemployed in particular, are much worse off financially than teachers. I make no argument there.

          I think only that you- and all too many others- may have a distorted view of teachers' lifestyles nationwide. I don't know any teachers with boats or jetskis or who can on a teacher's salary buy a home in the nice part of town, as I think you put it.

          I am not saying that there are no such people but only that the popular idea of public school teachers as being coddled, overpaid for easy work, and so forth is more a bias than an accurate picture.
      • Oct 29 2012: Yes ... I agree with you Fritzie and thank you for explaining this idea better than I was able to. I feel like the old saying "Let the best man win" could be adapted in this context to say: "Let the best man win as long as he is my son."
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        Oct 29 2012: First off... I disagree... I don't know where you live, that two people can't buy a house with a household income of 80k a year... You could do it in California now that houses are worthless.

        Yeah, if you want to also own a boat, or a jet ski, or a big gas guzzling SUV, or luxury, as quite a few teachers I've met have... Then you can't buy a house with 40k a year per person. Or, if you have 4 kids... Those are incredibly luxurious decisions though, that some teachers, but more often administrators, just see as "perks". The SUV and 4 kids are the most common over reach.

        The average child costs 250 thousand dollars to raise, and the world is overpopulated... but many teachers don't see having children as a luxury.

        Even if these are not things you've seen in your community... Still, you must understand, that even if you cannot buy a house, for some reason on a teachers salary. It is important to care as much about the people making even less than that... and that's who the Republicans pretend to care about.

        My point was very simple, when you make less than half what a teacher does, for much more miserable labor, it's easy to get angyr when you hear about a teacher strike. It's an emotional response, not a rational one, but it is very predictable, and it does occur.
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        Oct 30 2012: "I am not saying that there are no such people but only that the popular idea of public school teachers as being coddled, overpaid for easy work, and so forth is more a bias than an accurate picture"

        And I'm saying, this is the horror of the liberal bubble... It is very difficult to be fired from a public school, almost no one on the planet has the job security, of any public sector employee, and you will never earn below a living wage... 90% of human beings on the planet, have absolutely no conception of what it is to live that good for one week of their life.

        You are, dramatically overpaid, for a very healthy and comfortable work load and two months off. There is not a single teacher on the planet, who would rather go pick cotton or strawberries, even if the pay was competitive. The average man lives an excruciating portion of his life in physically uncomfortable, abject misery, that you will never understand, for whatever minimum wage is.

        The people who make your phone, do the same thing for two dollars a day... because 8 bucks an hour to an American... was too much. Not only do people in institutions of government, often funded by the left, make more money than anyone in the private sector, and still feel like they have a right to strike... but they refuse to pay people minimum wage for the products they buy. "Teachers deserve more money, and when you give it to us, there is no reason we should spend it here creating jobs, that's protectionism"
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          Oct 30 2012: I know well how wedded you are to your beliefs, so there is no further point for me in responding.
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        Oct 31 2012: Numbers don't reflect beliefs, they reflect reality... Calling this a belief is immoral and dishonest. Refusing to accept reality, is not a valid perspective for argument

        Numbers don't lie... and by the numbers, teaching has become one of the most lucrative professions in the country as labor has been eviscerated. We can disagree on whether or not that is a good investment, in fact, ultimately we would probably both agree it is a good investment. We cannot disagree on reality.

        From the BLS 2010 median agriculture pay 18,000. http://www.bls.gov/ooh/farming-fishing-and-forestry/agricultural-workers.htm

        Kindergarten teachers in 2010 48,800... not including benefits and pensions... http://www.bls.gov/ooh/Education-Training-and-Library/Kindergarten-and-elementary-school-teachers.htm

        High school teachers in 2010 53,000.... http://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/high-school-teachers.htm

        Average human being?... 1,225 dollars.... I lied about teachers being in the top 10% worldwide... It's actually the 1%... along with everyone here who makes more than 34,000 dollars a year. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2082385/We-1--You-need-34k-income-global-elite--half-worlds-richest-live-U-S.html

        @ James Kelly... Again... I'm not on team conservative, I think both sides of this argument are stupid, irrational, and emotional in nature, and they are degrading to the intellect of the average human being... However, what you have just expressed, is exactly what emotionally manipulates, and angers conservatives into thinking all liberals are evil communists...

        Your first two complaints, are both absolute nonsense. "a debt of over 35k"... Agriculture worker, 18,800, high school teacher, 53,000... In one year, a high school teacher makes enough more than an agriculture worker, to pay back the entire debt. Every year, you make enough more than a farmer, to buy him/her a 4 year degree. Buying an overpriced house is your own fault.
        • Oct 31 2012: Above the poverty line or not, did your most unfortunate strawberry picker go to college with a debt of over 35k, 1k/month mortgage on a house that is not worth it's original cost? We've kept our "other" credit debt to a minimum (ie credit cards and loans) while helping with 50% of our son's college expenses out of pocket. Perhaps these phone factory workers who make $2 a day do not have the same opportunities? There will always be slightly sadder stories down this "whose got a worse off story" conga line. We have a household take home of 60k/yr with pension. Sure I'd love to go on an exotic whirlwind tour of Europe's landmarks. I'm happy with a once a year trip to places like the Grand Canyon and trips to see her parents in San Diego and my parents in Boston. Numbers do in fact lie out of context. You speak of reality but how much of reality does one need to see that the very people who educate and by all sense of the word "raise" the next generation of would be taxpayers and policy makers and thinkers and laborers and so on, do in fact need to be paid more. Instead you and others are more than willing to have the audacity to say that they are getting paid well enough and in fact "dramatically overpaid"! She brings work home so it's not just a 8 hour job and keep in touch with students over the years to see their progress. We are at weddings and college gradations over the summers of former students, so the 2 months she gets off is not like we are spending it on elaborate vacations or just laying around. One last thing - every year the budget for education spending have been cut - who do you suppose is paying for the classroom decorations including seasonal and permanent fixtures? Out of pocket every year my wife spends over $400 for decorations, $100 towards kids lunches who forgot their lunch money/lunch bag. $200 on gardening supplies until just 2 years ago when the school decided to help fund her garden project to name a few.
    • Oct 29 2012: @David Hamilton

      "Basically, if the world follows our example, we're all in trouble, but it's not about consumption, it's about consumption of oil. Untill we invent our way out of the oil crisis, there isn't enough energy to fix the poverty crisis, and it's not because we can't create the jobs, it's we can't pay people enough to buy oil"

      Yes, that's the core of the problem.

      "Not to pick on Barack Obama, but he recently said something akin to "those jobs aren't coming back. Unskilled labor jobs are gone,"

      "Unskilled labor, is how you maintain stability, while you become skilled, and get into the middle class."

      The world has less and less need for unskilled labor, this is an irreversible fact of life. If your system requires lots of unskilled labor for its stability then it's time to start thinking about changing your system. Fortunately though there's this thing called education that can transform citizens from kids to skilled employees without them having to perform many years of unskilled labor.
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        Oct 29 2012: I'm sorry, but this "The world has less and less need for unskilled labor, this is an irreversible fact of life. If your system requires lots of unskilled labor for its stability then it's time to start thinking about changing your system" is fantasy world stuff.

        More unskilled labor is employed than ever before... Foxconn employs literally millions of people predominantly supplying for American demand. Everything you buy requires unskilled labor, we just don't do it here anymore. I call farming your labor to other countries, abuse... I think it shows that we are lazy, and expect that we deserve to manage the world, rather than work together to create it.

        "Fortunately though there's this thing called education that can transform citizens from kids to skilled employees without them having to perform many years of unskilled labor."

        Unfortunately, there's a thing called stupid people... and when you stop employing them... They don't stop eating. They lose their sense of purpose, and sit around getting angry... becoming easy to pick off by various right wing, or crazy organizations. They cling to religion. America still requires boat loads of unskilled labor to stay afloat, it just refuses to employ its own children doing that work, instead, it wants to pay children in a poor country 2 dollars a day. It's a moral issue.

        PS, the education system here is horrific, and it obviously hasn't created informed adult citizens, nor does it even focus on job skills.
        • Oct 29 2012: "More unskilled labor is employed than ever before... Foxconn employs literally millions of people predominantly supplying for American demand."

          Even including the Chinese the percentage of the world population employed in unskilled labor is declining, has been doing so for decades and will continue to do so in the future. In fact many people in third world countries are performing unskilled work that could be replaced by robots for pennies more, in China robots are starting to become cheaper than people now and that trend is irreversible.

          "Unfortunately, there's a thing called stupid people... and when you stop employing them... They don't stop eating."

          "Skilled" labor is not always that difficult, remember that the definition of unskilled labor is that you don't need any education past primary/elementary school (meaning you have to be able to read and write and know what 10+12 equals), anything above that is skilled labor. If you do find yourself having a surplus of unemployed, but employable people and wish to spread the burde then the proper response is to make each person work less hours, as has been done many times in the past (retirement age, K12 and higher education, 40 hour workweek, paid vacations, etc...)
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        Oct 30 2012: You ignore the thrust of my argument. The United States of America, currently employs most of the unskilled labor in the world... but it no longer does most of the unskilled labor... That makes us lazy jerks, who expect other people to do our work. There is no escaping that.

        Every time you shop at Wal Mart, you are making the decision conscious or not "human labor is only worth 2 dollars a day". it is fundamentally evil for someone paid 20 dollars an hour in air conditioning, to shop at Wal Mart, or Apple... etc. and most people do it anyway. Demand sets the price for labor. If people demanded that their products be made by people who earn a fair wage, products would be made by people who make a fair wage.

        "If you do find yourself having a surplus of unemployed, but employable people and wish to spread the burde then the proper response is to make each person work less hours, as has been done many times in the past (retirement age, K12 and higher education, 40 hour workweek, paid vacations, etc...)"

        This is the situation labor has been in for 40 years in America... and wages have dropped in relation to inflation, and no "liberals" have any legitimate plan to raise minimum wage or shrink the work week... So yes... that's great in theory.... How come none of our leaders understand it?

        When you say "in China robots are starting to become cheaper than people now and that trend is irreversible"... what you're really saying without knowing it... Is "American business can finally buy robots cheaper than they buy Chinese people... So we're leaving.". It's a horrific moral code, the endgame of which, seems to be to starve to death any human being not capable of designing and building robots... or entertaining rich people.
        • Oct 30 2012: "Every time you shop at Wal Mart, you are making the decision conscious or not "human labor is only worth 2 dollars a day""

          This is a chicken and egg story: to buy "developed world only" products people need more money which they won't get without more people buying like that. I do have to add that this would probably result in the Chinese losing their jobs because if China could have raised domestic demand so much that they could pay people more than $2 per hour they would have done so. Also, in Europe people consider American labor almost the same way Americans consider Chinese labor.

          "and no "liberals" have any legitimate plan to raise minimum wage or shrink the work week... So yes... that's great in theory.... How come none of our leaders understand it?"

          Because it requires international cooperation and more economic equality on a global scale.

          "It's a horrific moral code, the endgame of which, seems to be to starve to death any human being not capable of designing and building robots... or entertaining rich people."

          What you describe is a likely outcome, but once you look beyond modern day capitalism there are other possible outcomes (such as automatization being used to shorten people's work weeks without losing pay, social dividend, etc...)
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        Oct 31 2012: It's not a chicken or the egg... You're on team 6 dollars an hour, or team 2 dollars a day. Wal Mart took over back when there was a middle class that could spend the extra thirty cents to shop locally... They chose not to. It's a predatory business model we chose to embrace.

        "Because it requires international cooperation and more economic equality on a global scale."

        That is the opposite of a reason liberals aren't talking about this problem... If we need international cooperation, then this conversation better get going quickly...

        "What you describe is a likely outcome, but once you look beyond modern day capitalism there are other possible outcomes (such as automatization being used to shorten people's work weeks without losing pay, social dividend, etc...) "

        Not if both the left, and right refuse to talk about it. The problem is... the only solution, is to go back to "actual capitalism" which works... and the liberals certainly don't want to suggest that as a solution... Meanwhile the "conservatives, suggest that solution all the time... Then they get elected, hehe.
        • Nov 1 2012: "It's not a chicken or the egg... You're on team 6 dollars an hour, or team 2 dollars a day. Wal Mart took over back when there was a middle class that could spend the extra thirty cents to shop locally... They chose not to. It's a predatory business model we chose to embrace."

          It was a choice back then, but not any longer, we can't easily undo choices consumers made 20 years ago.

          "That is the opposite of a reason liberals aren't talking about this problem... If we need international cooperation, then this conversation better get going quickly..."

          It would take getting most advanced nations (including developing, but technologically advanced ones like China) to a similar standard of living, that's still decades off. That or massive trade wars between countries, remember that German and Swedish workers see their American counterparts as cheap labor that often is not unionized and gets few benefits and is out to steal their jobs, so it won't be a solid block of Western countries vs. China and India.

          "The problem is... the only solution, is to go back to "actual capitalism" which works... "

          You have a romantic notion of "true capitalism", yet the concentration of wealth you talked about earlier is a direct result of true capitalism, as even its earliest proponents (even Adam Smith) admitted. What you really want is a return to the 1945-1980 period when america ws doing great economically, even the workers, but that economy was actually highly unionized, had high taxes and loads more financial regulation and was really just lucky the third world did not yet have facilities to "steal" even unskilled American work while large coporations had only recently started to assimilate the lifeless husks of small businesses they killed off, really a far cry from "true capitalism" and basically also very lucky time-period wise.
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        Nov 1 2012: I still disagree with you quite a bit here, but you make some good points.

        To "You have a romantic notion of "true capitalism", yet the concentration of wealth you talked about earlier is a direct result of true capitalism, as even its earliest proponents (even Adam Smith) admitted." No, I'm not a Tea Party guy... I loosely identify libertarian, because of all the movements in this nation with any ground game, they are the most visciously anti war, pro freedom of speech, and anti drug war I can find. When the Green Party gets charismatic, I'll probably switch.

        When I say "actual capitalism"... I mean the freedom for wal mart employees to unionize... Private labor unions are a fundament of capitalism. Where you and I disagree... are on public labor unions... I think government employees have forgotten that they are public servants. The United States Government is the worlds largest not for profit corporation... and it needs to start acting like it.

        Public labor unions, are not a fundament of capitalism, they are the antithesis of it... especially when paired with sending in the police to break up Wal Mart strikes. If you have signed up to help people, pay should not be a concern. When people who call themselves "public servants", make 40-80k a year, and have pensions, while farmers make 18k, and don't... They no longer have the right to call themselves that.

        This is where the liberals lose the working class vote. Not only does the farmer, or construction worker, or waitress, have to listen to how hard it is, to make 3 times as much as they do... They have to hear how altruistic school teachers are, and how they don't do it for themselves, it's all for the kids... not the 60k a year (times two if they retire on time).

        That is an aside however. When I say, "actual capitalism", I don't mean the government can't implement any social programs, that's what the supermajorities are for... I mean they have to pay for them.
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        Nov 1 2012: We have a right to implement social programs at both the state and federal level, but we need a large broad concensus... That means getting farmers, construction, unemployed... etc, to vote in representatives that actually care about these issues and are willing to tell us how much tax they will cost to pay for with modern life expectancy.

        How do we pay for social security? End the cap... Every independent economist says the same thing... Stop letting rich people pay a lower percent than poor people... That would people popular among representatives that actually represented the people.

        I'm for progressive taxes as well. I wouldn't suggest I love 45-80 though... because I hate the military industrial complex, and I think we need much stricter codes of ethics regarding warfare, the time period you describe is when things started to get weird.

        In the 50's we put god on our money... Jefferson wrote a secular bible, and we're founded on religious freedom because our various religions were treated poorly in most of Europe.

        We elected Richard Nixon twice... Once over McGovern, who recently died, may he rest in peace... One of the last true "doves". We began the war on drugs... Horrific mistake.

        I don't have a romantic notion of our history... I have a romantic notion for what great men, and women, envisioned a country of free people, could choose to be.

        "The tragedy of all this is that George McGovern, for all his mistakes and all his imprecise talk about "new politics" and "honesty in government", is one of the few men who've run for President of the United States in this century who really understands what a fantastic monument to all the best instincts of the human race this country might have been, if we could have kept it out of the hands of greedy little hustlers like Richard Nixon."

        Hunter S Thompson

        PS I am a sucker for Jimmy Carter... so 1980 wasn't a bad place to end the number though.
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        Nov 1 2012: Finally, when I say "actual capitalism"... I mean the fed doesn't give 0% interest loans to companies that then use them to crush small business, or sell poison, ie Monsanto, Mcdonalds, etc. Liberals never talk about the federal reserve, because most of them don't understand how it works or what we can do about it : p

        @ Bob "You're a moron"... Is not the way an intelligent person starts a debate. Nothing in my ideas are utopian... They are simple, sane, and incentive based. They also reflect almost entirely the opinions of Adam Smith. I apologize if you never learned to read, and can't look that up.
        • Nov 2 2012: David you're a moron, historical capitalism is nothing like what you want, your ideas are utopian.
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      Oct 29 2012: Thanks David for participating in this question. Please see my response to Fritzie's reply in this stream. Thanks again.
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        Oct 29 2012: Green tech, and a unification of the working class, would be my solution : )

        Solar concentration. Desalination. Gyroscopic stable electric motorcycles, preferably self driving.
        • Oct 31 2012: I do think that we are heading in the right direction when we invest sustainable energy solutions. If we can make "more out of less," that is helpful, especially with a growing population. We need more solutions for clean water and sustainable housing as well. These innovations are needed across the board.

          And that brings us back to education .... How many brilliant scientists and other innovators will never have a chance to help to solve these problems without education and opportunity?
  • Oct 25 2012: I think the answer to your primary question is simply - ignorance.

    As Fritzie pointed out below, there are efforts to help bring the poor and marginalised into economic participation, in fact on a very large scale. Untold billions of dollars are given to Africa in direct aid every year. However it is quite clear from the level of poverty still prevalent in Africa that this money has not been effectively invested, hence my answer to your question.

    There is, however, a growing understanding that this is the case. There are now increasing efforts to encourage business into and within poorer regions. For example, http://www.aecfafrica.org/, this largely government funded organisation is encouraging, or rather investing in, companies that are looking to invest in Africa in a manner that will be profitable but also help the community. A great example of such a company is http://www.kickstart.org/.

    I think one of the factors holding people back from this approach for so long has been the idea that making money from these people is somehow wrong. This story gives a great example of why this is not so: http://www.admittingfailure.com/failure/anthony/. However, if governments were* seen to be funding businesses that profit from such poor communities they would have* received very bad press.
    * perhaps, sadly, these should be in the present tense.

    I say that there is a growing understanding that what you propose is true but i do appreciate it is still a tiny minority and, at this point, smart investment is very far from adequate.
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      Oct 25 2012: I think that's my point. As I replied to Fritzie below, the tactics used to date have been more of a 'repair' to an imbalanced economic structure - with dismal return results. As you refer to, the professional 'spin' demonizing the efforts by gov'ts to provide incentives to invest in the poor and marginalized (yes, there are those who would seek to take advantage in a destructive way) only thwarts progressive efforts. These efforts are extremely delicate, need close oversight, and require a certain amount of finesse. We're very good with finesse and oversight with technology - following ever step of progress with precision, adjustment, acceptance of failure, and re-investment. But when it comes to social investing, the first sign of "suspected" diminished returns we abandon the effort - I'm referring to macro scale efforts, not the efforts of individual programs. I believe that if we begin to use the language of long-term and massive returns we may get better buy-in from the various participants in the effort. Thank you very much for your response Qab.
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        Oct 25 2012: Are you wanting to look more closely at why businesses are not seeing things the way you are seeing them, or are you suggesting that a change in language would garner more popular support?

        I can think of a few ideas connected to the first of those questions. One is that the claim that "at the first sign of suspected diminishing returns we abandon the effort" may need real empirical verification. Qab writes about untold billions in aid to Africa over a long period. I think many who have studied this not very short-lived effort have concluded that such money has had a way of getting siphoned off into unintended uses. [Feyisayo, who was born in Africa and continues to live there, described this in another thread]. So from an investment standpoint, investors might after a point decide that they haven't enough control over where the money goes for them to continue to think of that use of money as an investment. They may still contribute money for other reasons but not as an economic investment of the kind I think you have in mind.

        Another possible factor when we think of investment is that businesses aim to invest in things that allow them to capture the return. You mentioned that business could think of investing in people so that those people will "buy their stuff." But who is to say that they would buy THEIR stuff? Why wouldn't they buy someone else's stuff?

        This explains also why businesses are sometimes reluctant to train people in expensive ways. A business could incur the training cost only to see the employee once trained hired away by another firm.

        All that said, I thought I read that Microsoft in the last month made a commitment to train hundreds of thousands of young people to be computer engineers, because jobs in that field are so hard to fill. Typically the return on investment will be highest if they train people who already have the math and science background to hit the ground running. I don't know the details of their plan.
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    Oct 25 2012: Great question/discussion and I believe to a large degree that the WHY falls somewhere between innovation and time. I don't think expendable funds is the entire issue here. (Even though I did just read that for ever dollar the USA brings in - it's exhausted into 3 key areas of investment - and the rest is borrowed to cover all other investments)...BUT...besides that...without time you cannot innovate what is necessary to improve this situation - and even if you could innovate smart solutions (and by you I am speaking of those with MEANS to do this) --- without the time to make it happen, it simply doesn't.

    An example that comes to mind for me about how innovation and time/dedication HAS provided a great solution for the poor and marginalized - is a non-profit called Quest. There is a lot more to the organization than I will explain here but basically, through grants, corporate sponsorships, food donations from local restaurants and grocers and community crowd funding they have purchased a warehouse, turned it into a "healthy" grocery store - that is only accessible by invitation only (to the poor and marginalized). The shelves are stocked with all sorts of healthy foods, diet specific foods and better options than lets say a food bank (even though they work WITH the food banks).

    Anyhow they require all "shoppers" to participate in the operation somehow in order to earn grocery credits. Some might stock shelves, some might clean, some might do cash, bag or greet others. In turn they can shop the warehouse for their own foods and improve their lives. No cash is exchanged with these individuals, but skills development and work ethics DOES result in higher moral --- and for some the desire to do more with their lives. My understanding is that some of their shoppers have since gotten jobs - well paid ones and STILL come back to volunteer at Quest. It's life changing. And only one example. But effective.
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      Oct 25 2012: Thanks Cijaye for a fine example. Maybe this approach is the most practical. Nothing succeeds like success, and if there are demonstrated concrete efforts that show great results (such as Quest) then these efforts will grow into being attractive to larger scale players. They will begin to see that there is a tremendous market that is ripe for growth, and the investments in basic sustenance needs for the poor and marginalized will not only be seen as humanitarian, but also a potential for extreme profitability - which can breed further investment and research. We'll omit the negative side of profits for now.
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    Oct 24 2012: One answer is that people have widely varied views as to which strategies and investments are most beneficial. Everyone agrees universal education and basic infrastructure are (sanitation, transportation, utilities), but there are varied views as to whether supply side or demand side approaches are most effective beyond this. That is, for example, is increasing skills via things like publicly funded training programs viable relative to improving business environments so that businesses hire and train on the job?
    Both are typically underway, along with the aforementionned investments, but the mix depends on what people think is most promising in the moment.
    I am curious when you say "Yet, we don't even talk about it." Take, as a case, Chicago, which I take because you live there. Do people in city government, in the non-profit sector, in the media, in the local private sector, or in the creative community not talk about the plight, problems, and strategies to improve the lives and prospects of your urban poor? My perception that this is a pressing concern of large numbers of people across sectors may be skewed, because I have always worked and volunteered in this area along with many, many others engaged in this effort professionally and personally. But in today's mail I got a magazine from a leading university with the lead article "Children in crisis: Rescuing the World's Dispossessed."

    I would have said this subject is discussed all the time.
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      Oct 25 2012: Thanks for responding Fritzie. Ok, I would certainly agree. There are many heroic efforts, and much research, going on for decades, to improve the plight of the poor and marginalized - those left behind by the aggressive 'survival of the fittest' wealth generating economy that has evolved since the Middle Ages. I think it's the focus though, that I'm questioning. Those efforts that you referred to I have been involved with also. I consider the current and past approaches to the situation as a 'repair'. Humanitarian efforts exist because, in my opinion, the system is unbalanced and - let me be so bold - primitive. Those who seek to equalize the opportunity and participation of the poor and marginalized in the economy are funded by 'donations' and 'grants'. The successful of the world must turn their attention from the wealth generation that they're good at to an obligatory 'payment' in either taxes (which they abhor) or a foundation that demonstrates concern for society while they decimate their competitors. Approaching the situation from an economic opportunity viewpoint rather than a humanitarian relief one changes the onus from 'another' undesirable payment/bill/tax to an investment opportunity for massive returns. I do believe though that you are correct and that many people 'on the ground' are actively seeking ways to bring the poor and marginalized into full economic participation. My hope is that more cooperation at the int'l gov't level, along with private interests, will create new economic tools for such an expansion. I see such 'social' and 'policy' efforts lagging behind, or merely and afterthought from, our technological accomplishments, efforts, and advances..
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        Oct 26 2012: Just an observation, but to me it seems like you are more concerned with where the money comes from for the improvement rather than the money itself. Bill Gates set up a foundation and contributed $30+ Billion of his own wealth to it to try and accomplish many of the things you say need to be done to achieve the same results you are aiming for. Would the $30+ Billion he donated to the foundation have been more effective if he paid it in income taxes to the government first, then they used it? Would it even have been used by the government in the same way?

        And $30+ Billion for Gates was over 50% of his total individual wealth. Would you expect every average middle class worker to donate over 50% of their individual wealth to help solve the problem(s)?

        People who end up establishing those foundations or funds became able to do so BECAUSE they used (your quote from above), "an investment opportunity for massive returns." That's how they got "rich" and had the opportunity to establish the foundations/funds in the first place.

        I'm confused by the sentence in your topic narrative that states, "The rich think they're rich now, just imagine the wealth created by having 3 billion more people buying their stuff?" Well, if that happens, aren't the rich just going to keep getting richer? Seems OK to me if they do as long as they keep establishing those foundations and funds to try to help the not-so-rich...err, I mean the poor.

        You also stated you view current efforts as a "repair" attempt, because the "system" is unbalanced. The system is always going to be unbalanced with 7 billion people on the planet. If you started off right now with everybody having an equal amount of everything, it would become unbalanced as soon as anyone traded something to somebody else, whether it be actual goods or money for goods or services. In a very short time you would be able to start categorizing people into different "wealth groups" again.
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          Oct 27 2012: Thanks Rick for responding. Let me see if I can give better clarity to my approach. Such complex issues are a struggle for me to put into language that wholly represents the idea. I believe the current economic system can evolve into a more inclusive system yielding greater returns. Just like we're evolving our lifestyles and mastering our physical universe through technology, we can evolve our economic system to be more productive. I don't believe we'll accomplish that by redistributing the wealth currently created. That would be a dis-incentive to the creators of that wealth, and has proven to be a target for corruption. My question raises the idea of an alternate approach to the poor and marginalized from a donation/rescue/cost approach to an investment/high-returns one. I'm attempting to parallel the developed world's investment in education, safety, infrastructure, and healthcare for 'the half' that can participate in the economy and 'transplant' that approach towards productivity to the other half that currently doesn't participate fully - or at all. I posed this question/approach to the TED community to see if it has any merit whatsoever. The fact that so many have given so much over such a long period of time with such marginal results has brought me to this point. Another reality that keeps presenting itself to me is that for those of us in the developed world (the participating half), where would we be, how would our lives be, if we were born in the other half? So it is not individuals (ultimately) that succeed solely through their efforts, it is the arena of opportunity they get to play in that allows them to flourish. Hopefully that clarify's somewhat. Thanks again and let's continue if you care to...
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    Nov 7 2012: You said: "...Limiting citizen's ability to reproduce flies in the face of a free society and can cause various psychosis issues which are hugely expensive to the society. .."

    You are correct in this statement RH, but --flip the coin.
    Too many people and too much activity can fie in the face of a society trying to organize effectively to support personal freedoms, while providing health care, food and shelter. The various psychosis issues will become part of the range of problems, if you do or if you don't, implement population controls. I think sever controls would only be implemented under sever circumstances, but, the boundaries will be reached eventual. Likewise, as resources decrease, the ceiling of that boundary can slide down to meet us. This is seen in the approach that was chosen in China in their efforts to reduce their population figures. Evidence indicates that there were sever psychosis issues before population controls, supporting my assertion, and the controls helped to reduce those psychosis's.

    Whether we would reach such limits in a modern western culture are debatable, but the psychosis needs for a certian degree of liberty within our surroundings could be impinged upon even with a lesser population. Of course the variables here are population growth and degrees of freedom (liberties afforded to the individuals).
  • Nov 3 2012: May I suggest trying not to be the TED defender. Your opinion can go either way. Sorry but it just kills me when people ask how do we change the world and and then say they don't have time to talk about it. I pointed out that the Internet frees us from HAVING to TALK about it in the traditional ways people find taxing.--like being on the telephone at the same time or being in a room at the same time. But so what. I wasn't proposing a dissertation, an pesky dialogue for as long as i takes for us to see things the same way, and I assumed this person a male, so I didn't expect to propose marriage either. Just offered to get out of these confining boxes on this forum which are limited not only in number of characters, but in point size. I can just assume he or she isn't interested in the subject enough or just not interested enough in my offer--or anything I have to say--without an interpreter or avenger. I just for one would like TED to not be so "one way"--we can all ask questions, but if no one listens, what is it all for? All I pointed out was that "being busy" doesn't work on the net for such a small offer--we can answer a week later and no love lost.
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      Nov 5 2012: Ok James. In the spirit of TED, and at the risk of appearing as a "TED defender", I'll try one more time. You mention 'TED defender', 'dissertation', 'pesky dialogue', 'propose marriage', 'interpreter or avenger'. All I said was I'm not willing to do email at this time. You then made it personal. So again, in camaraderie, I will offer one personal note: TED is all I'm willing to do right now, and I have my reasons for it. So let's stick with the subject, or we can move on to different conversations.
      • Nov 6 2012: I think you read the wrong response. All of that stuff you quoted was to the third party with the bulldog avatar that felt they had to assume you female and defends you as a she and explain to me that there may be a "side" to it I wasn't seeing. I was addressing that person when I said words to the effect of "what? are you the TED avenger?"

        You see how crapped up these things get because the forum is so poorly designed and seems to frankly not expect much in the way of promoting real synergy between members. I think you probably have some accidental misconceptions now that would be a job to unbais. Because you took a post addressed to someone else and applied it to your self. And you've probably put more into this already than taking me up on the offer to free ourselves from this miserable microscopic interface to see if there is any way I could help without obligation. Being as confused as it is, I have other things to do that I'd just best get to. You weren't interested at the time--bottom line. No big deal. There's an election on--go Obama four more years.
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          Nov 6 2012: Gender is irrelevant. My only point was that saying someone (RH in this case) doesn't care enough about the issue just because she/he chose not to proceed in private discussion with you was not fair and likely an inaccurate interpretation.
          It has nothing to do with defending or avenging TED.
          People will listen to someone better who doesn't accuse people he doesn't even know of not caring enough.
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    Nov 3 2012: My latest theory is this. I think an empire system is the way to go in our current situation, as people are unwilling to fight for a direct democracy, in others words REAL democracy. I would learn more about the Athenian Democracy if I get the time etc.

    So empire, and it seems to me that in an empire the Kaiser/Emperor, his advisors and the lords etc. That they basically decide over the subjects. So in the sense of the poor and marginalized that are barely participating in the global economy. Offer them 'relocations' where they can actually produce something.

    My personal will is to be allowed to live in Iran. No matter what they would do to me there, I feel a strong urge to be with them.

    BTW 'R H' can you possibly extend the time to comment here? Also do you use facebook?
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      Nov 3 2012: Hi Hartog!

      So you want a feudal system and relocate to Iran?
      Also you don't care about your human rights?

      I'll assume you are trolling...


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      Nov 4 2012: Just re-ask the question in your own way.
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      Nov 7 2012: It depends on what you mean by "people are unwilling". While there is always a large group who don't get involved, the core group that is involved is the ones we should be polling. We can forget the rest. They will end up with whatever the core group decides. The core group is not, all, empire decided. There are many more (IMO) who support democracy as core political framework. I might add that empire implies that we might encroach on the boundaries of other countries. You can't really have an empire if you don't go stepping on cultural toes in other parts of the world.

      So, in the home base, political situation, I don't see a sense of Empire building up anyway among the core group.
  • Nov 2 2012: a wonderful idea. but you should persuade investors first.
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      Nov 2 2012: Agreed. Now, how do we do that? What could make this an attractive investment?
  • Nov 1 2012: Hi again, R H. Are you familiar with Basic Income Guarantee? It's a program that could eliminate poverty and move innovation beyond traditional employment thus increasing economic activity. http://www.basicincome.org/bien/aboutbasicincome.html

    Research from Namibia revealed that the introduction of a Basic Income Guarantee (BIG) led to an increase in economic activity. The proportion of those who could get a job or become self-employed has increased from 44 to 55%, and there was an increase of non-citizen BIG per capita from N $ 118 to N $ 152, which indicates a nascent economic growth cycle. BIG enabled recipients to increase their work for income, profit or for their family and as self-employed. BIG enabled recipients to increase their productive income, particularly through starting their own small business, including the manufacture of bricks, baking of bread and custom operations. BIG also contributed to the creation of a local market by increasing households' purchasing power. This finding contradicts critics' claims that the BIG will lead to laziness and dependency. http://www.bignam.org
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      Nov 2 2012: That's a great example of a current effort. I am concerned though about the breadth of BIG's influence. On a 'small' scale, and for a beginning, I see it's merits. But I can't see how this particular incentive can produce a long term, widespread increase in productivity and living standard. But again, the question is 'why are we not investing...', and you have provided an example of how we are. Thanks.
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    Nov 1 2012: Basically, it is because that they dont have competitive advantage which is the leverage for them to participate without being squeezing by other stronger economies.
    To make their way out of jungles and deserts, they firstly should possess sth values to other countries, such as the low-priced labor, land and other resources. Only after trading or sacrificing sth can they have more to trade and participate in the world's economic operation.
    Maybe it is a little pessimistic, but in my view: each countries' developmental history is full of being exploited and exploiting others, to some extent.
    Let' s hope that in the future, we will have some more eco-friendly way for being exploited.
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      Nov 2 2012: Thanks Linda for responding to this conversation. I believe what you're saying is that the poor and marginalized have not 'positioned' themselves for competitiveness and being attractive to investors, and that our histories demonstrate the tenet of exploitation. I would certainly agree with such a pragmatic view. But, our histories have also demonstrated racism, women as 2nd class, slavery, worker exploitation, child labor, and other maladies that we have (in the developed world, to a large extent but not completely) nearly eradicated. There were obvious social incentives for these efforts. Can we find similar incentives for investing here? Rather than exploitation, can we create building blocks towards and inclusive and wealthy future for all?
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        Nov 4 2012: i hope that there will be a way to do so. maybe the open-source education is such a way.
        what do you say?
  • Oct 31 2012: R H, It was a homeless man, fasting for economic rights in Chapel Hill NC who drew me into this fight. I offered him a lifeline but in the end, his determination to fulfil a vision of placing a nation's abandoned chidren in family homes would lead to his own death in poverty.

    His own account identifies leading oligarchs as the primary cause of the problem, i.e:

    “Excuses won’t work, particularly in light of a handful of oligarchs in Ukraine having been allowed to loot Ukraine’s economy for tens of billions of dollars. I point specifically to Akhmetov, Pinchuk, Poroshenko, and Kuchma, and this is certainly not an exhaustive list. These people can single-handedly finance 100% of all that will ever be needed to save Ukraine’s orphans. None of them evidently bother to think past their bank accounts, and seem to have at least tacit blessings at this point from the new regime to keep their loot while no one wants to consider Ukraine’s death camps, and the widespread poverty that produced them..”

    Over the years, there was much being said about business addressing social problems and as and when I saw opportunity to seek support, I made contact. One example was UK billionaire Sir Richard Branson, who seemed to be singing from the same hymn book. :


    The cost to us overall was 12 man years effort and our founder's life. Looking back, our experience was to be constantly brushed aside by more influential players and ultimately hijacked by a consortium of our own governments and their corporate partners.

    I wrote recently to my MP who is also UK immigration minister, pointing out to him that we won't address the problems caused by organised crime, if government behaves with the same dihonesty,

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      Oct 31 2012: Thanks again Jeff. What you cite is exactly what I meant when I referred to the 'usurper's of capitalism', those who are so weak of character that they interpret the ability to debauch as the right to. They are criminals in my opinion. If you don't kill a man but take away his ability to live, are you any less guilty? Maybe slightly, but not much so. Yet we have sacrificed this human consideration, our humanity, for the 'holy grail' of individual initiative, productivity, and political (in the classic sense - not necessarilty gov't) reward - with a lot of luck thrown in the pot. But I refuse to see it anymore as an 'unfortunate problem', a 'situation to be dealt with'. I am refocusing to this issue as an untapped resource. Anil said it best below when he said that the poor and marginalized have the same 'neurons' and the same aspirations as those in the developed world. Therefore there is tremendous talent, creativity, understanding, and more to be contributed to an impossible vision. How can we cook with no fire or heat? How can we be on the other side of the world by nightfall? How can a small pebble of material in the palm of our hand save us from death? This was done by (virtually) half of the population. Just imagine when the other half gets activated.
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    Oct 31 2012: ... continuation from the previous post ...

    So which wealthy country do you think is ready to concede to such an altruistic gesture? I think none. It would probably be the most unpopular political measurement a party could ever take: "If you elect us, we promise to give your money and jobs to the guys in the other country. We know you'll be poor, but you be noble :)". Sorry but I could not resist.... It is impossible, unfortunately, under current economic models.

    The other solution would be to consider updating our economic models, which in my opinion is the right course of action, but not at all easier. If we considered human beings and the skills and knowledge they poses as economic values and could somehow model this into our current economy, for example: print money when a person is born and give it to the person (not physically but use it for it's education and upbringing), print money when a person graduates university and again, somehow make that person beneficiary of that sum, what you suggest could be possible. The hundreds of millions of people that live int those poor countries would suddenly worth a lot of money (they would be value in by themselves) which I personally think they actually are, of course in the beginning due to lack of education they could not be assigned a lot of value (sorry for being prejudicious but the reality is that our economy requires a lot of skills to be competitive) but still it would be a start and a path for progress which could gradually accumulate. Of course such a measurement has many implications and is not as easy as I put it but it would be a way out of the current status quo.
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      Oct 31 2012: Wow. Thanks for your insights, and I agree wholeheartedly with an economic evolution that would be similar in effort as we are providing for our technological evolution. I would like to ask a couple of questions just so I'm clear: If it's a 'zero sum game', why do we keep printing more money, and adding cash to the money supply so there's more of it? and, What do you mean by 'altruistic gesture' to invest in the poor and marginalized for a high return? Thanks again.
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        Oct 31 2012: By 'altruistic gesture' I meant to invest in the poor and marginalized not for high return but at the expense of their wealth.

        For the other question, it is important to understand that our economy was not modeled after a zero-sum game. It has developed on its own a lot earlier than the models were discovered but it happens that it closely resembles a zero-sum game and so this is a good model for the economy. To make an analogy, water does not freeze because we invented temperature, WE developed this measurement system to describe ITS behavior.

        That being said, We print money for various, usually wrong reasons:
        - sometimes to compensate for deficit, this usually creates inflation, because new money enters the market, money that does not have coverage (coverage according to current value systems, ex gold in the national treasury)
        - wealthy powerful countries sometimes print money to pay the debt to other countries after they took a loan. Personally I think this is totally immoral and devastating to the economy globally.

        There are other reasons too, but it really comes down to the fact that money is printed when it cannot be acquired the legitimate way (save for the initial printing stage and the refreshing of bills on the market) and this almost always negatively impacts the economic environment, exactly because the system is not designed to handle such a process.
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    Oct 31 2012: Hi RH,

    Excellent point. This topic ties very nicely into another discussion: http://www.ted.com/conversations/14360/debate_our_culture_isn_t_ada.html, in fact, doing what you suggest here would be a gigantic leap in our cultural evolution, but I think the matter you brought up is one of the most difficult problems to solve:

    Our economy is modeled very closely around what in game theory is called a "zero-sum game" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zero-sum_game). In such a game the sum of all the participants' gains is exactly equal to the sum of all the participants' loses. Simply put, if one gains 10 dollars, a total of 10 dollars are lost by the other participants in the game. So given this economic model, what you are suggesting, although really cool and I am for it, is totally impossible.

    In order to bring those poor countries to a higher economic level, those countries need to export goods, to acquire trade suprlus (money enters the country). However, in order for them to be able to export, some other country needs to import those goods, which translates into trade defficit (money leaves the country). So as the country that exports gets richer the other countries get a little poorer therefore in this current economy every country struggles to export. Everything depends on it. Lones don't work either, because if you calculate it over the entire lifetime of the loan, it actually equates an process of import (money comes in, it is being used, meney goes back to to lender with interest). So no matter how much we shuffle it and turn it on its head, when we consider the closed system (the entire world) the end result must be zero.
  • Oct 28 2012: Are you familiar with WiFli? A fairly new project done by students from Singularity University, quote: "Focusing on the unconnected four billion, WiFli enables people to realize their economic and intellectual potential by providing greater access to information and knowledge work."

    WiFli website: http://www.wifliglobal.com/
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      Oct 29 2012: I am not with WiFli, but I am somewhat with Singularity U. I saw on TED Peter Diamandis (?) speak about it and I looked up their website. The quote you provided seems exactly directed towards this question. Thanks Mats.
  • Oct 27 2012: iI agree with you that it makes more sense to empower underprivileged groups so that they may have greater financial influence .. all would gain more wealth but it seems that many who hold the majority of the wealth ( at least in the U.S.) are unwilling to make a serious investment to help the poor. The rich seem to see this as a "risky" investment and i think that this is in part, because of a fear of re-distribution of wealth and power .. and an underlying fear of subjugation.

    I agree with you that all could prosper more if we invest in opportunities for the poor to contribute more to the economy and it is perplexing to me that not more is done to support this possibility.

    What do you think the root obstacles are in facilitating more equality and upwardly mobile financial opportunity for all based on this perspective?

    I think that there are people in my community who want their future Doctor to be a younger relative or at least neighbor and they are fen with their future maid coming form the town next door. In fact, they prefer it. They would feel uneasy (or even feel threatened) if this was to happen in reverse and would not like to invest in the chances of that happening (even if it did make the "overall pocket-book" a little fuller.) I think that this is probably a natural human tendency ... most people want their kid to be the next Doctor not the next maid.

    I think every kid should have a chance to do what they want in life and to contribute financially, and in other ways to their communities. We seem to be on the same page with this (but not everyone is comfortable with how [and how much] this should happen.)
  • Oct 27 2012: I think you are right. Education is a big key to ending poverty. Education in Money is what is needed. It needs to begin as early as first grade. Watch children in the stores and how they want to shop and understand the value of money. Educate the young about investing and saving so that by the time children leave high schooll they have an excellent grasp on how to manage their financial lives. Where do the next generation of the poor learn how to get out of the poverty cycle? More often than not the children of parents on the low economic scale live around and socialize with other people on the low economic scale. There is no where to learn how to make the money they earn work for them.
    • Oct 29 2012: How does this work in countries where people earn $2 a day?

      How does this work in the U.S. where a person can work full time and earn $2,000 a month ( or less) but have to pay $1,200 month for a basic apartment (and health care costs $500 per month?) And if that person has children?

      Are poor people blowing their money on luxuries like food, shelter and medical expenses?

      It is hard to "make your money work for you" when you have no money to begin with.
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    Oct 27 2012: I'm going to propose something heretical. Giving money to those without money does not help anything. Those without money do not have a resource by which to include themselves as players (they've got no ante, if you will). By giving money to those without, you are satisfying their need of income while diverting your own. This gets society no where and ultimately taxes those who give while supporting faulty producers.

    In William Sumner's(1883) "What Social Classes Owe to Each Other," society is painted at exactly the same dynamic we see it today. "The danger of minding other people's business is twofold. First, there is the danger that a man may leave his own business unattended to; and, second, there is the danger of an impertinent interference with another's affairs." Now while the latter is merely an assertion of Sumner's values, the first is a critical reason why we cannot lend our money to those who haven't made it for themselves. "-that the state cannot get a cent for any man without taking it from some other man, and this latter must be a man who has produced and saved it. This latter is the Forgotten Man."

    Sumner goes on,
    "There is a beautiful notion afloat in our literature and in the minds of our people that men are born to certain "natural rights." If that were true, there would be something on earth which was got for nothing, and this world would not be the place it is at all. The fact is, that there is no right whatever inherited by man which has not an equivalent and corresponding duty by the side of it, as the price of it. ... Such is the actual interpretation in practice of natural rights - claims which some people have by prerogative on other people." He eventually goes on to talk of the "Forgotten Man" which is essentially the middle classes. This, on the whole, is a compelling piece and I urge you all to read it. Its relevance abounds.

    On a simpler note, and to quote P.J. O'Rourke, "You can't get rid of poverty by giving people money."
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      Oct 27 2012: Thanks Bristol for participating in this discussion. I think your proposition is valid. The old Chinese proverb "give a man a fish..." parallels this notion. But the notion of "impertinent interference with another's affairs", while seemingly efficient and noble on the surface, for me can also be interpreted as 'all potential victims are fair game', and can be a foundation for exploitation. And let me clarify as I have done with other responders: I'm not, in any way, suggesting re-distributing current wealth production. My question alludes to whether further investment in an unproductive market can yield massive returns so everyone gets more. Thank you again and let's continue if you care to.
      • Oct 29 2012: RH, By coindence it is that same parable which was used to make the point about business for social purpose in a 2003 proposal:


        It began in 1996 when the concept of business for social purpose targetiing global poverty was pitched to Bill Clinton. In an interview from 2004, the author said:

        "At first, the idea seemed heresy - but not for long, simply because it made sense and it didn't step on the toes of any existing enterprises that were in business to enrich relatively few people. None of them were asked to change anything, but it left open the possibility of more forward-thinking people to step in and do business differently. "
    • Oct 28 2012: On a simpler note, and to quote P.J. O'Rourke, "You can't get rid of poverty by giving people money."

      But you can most certainly increase poverty levels by denying people reasonable access to quality education.
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      Oct 28 2012: Sumner goes on,
      "There is a beautiful notion afloat in our literature and in the minds of our people that men are born to certain "natural rights." If that were true, there would be something on earth which was got for nothing, and this world would not be the place it is at all."

      I actually disagree with this on a fundamental level, and I think this is one of the big lies, often perpetrated by modern conservatives. There is a reason a human beings have "natural rights", which are fundamental, regardless of country, religion, or creed, that is rational, and fact based. We are the kings of the jungle.

      For all the fear and anxiety forced on us in modern society, the average man or woman, is completely capable of surviving, harvesting food, and even enjoying life, alone in the wilderness, for most of a natural life. With the access to information we have today, especially, even through millenia old very cheap traditions such as libraries, you could take a few books out and wander into a national park, and get lost for the rest of your life, without ever regreting it.

      That is why your participation in society, should not be seen as a given, but as a gift, you choose to give the people around you, which should be rewarded. You should get as much as you give to a society. If you do not, you should wander off. You have the born in, natural right, to freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and even food... because you could do that without us. In order to have a society worth participating in, you must respect, at a bare minimum, the natural rights.

      At the same time... In the wild, one would have to work for food, and I see no reason that wealth redistribution, and taxation, cannot be tied to learning skills and participating in volunteer duties. I agree with the principle that giving poor people money doesn't eliminate poverty. I would only go one step farther, rich people love to give poor people money, because poor people spend it, on the cheapest product
  • Oct 26 2012: Great question RH,

    I think that it comes down to a privileged group wishing to hold on to power, and ultimately, a type of fear-based greed. A thought process that may resemble this: If the poor are empowered, might they rise up and subjugate those who have held wealth and power for so long? What then??!!

    I don't think that the exchange and sharing of power needs to displace/subjugate anyone ... I think that it is possible to find a balance where people can co-exist peacefully and share power. Material wealth will shift as it is more equally distributed but I feel that certain liberties can be gained by all in the process.

    Then .. there is history ... we must find a method of peace technology to support equality in the future.

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      Oct 27 2012: Thanks so much Juniper for responding. I agree with your observations, but there is a fine line I would like to clarify if you allow me. I'm not referring to 're-distributing' current wealth creation, I'm questioning if we can increase wealth creation by investing in the poor and marginalized so that everybody gets more. In this, I believe the displacement/subjugation of power becomes less 'fear-based' and more of a focus on talent and quality for a fuller view of overall societal returns. Thanks again.
      • Oct 27 2012: Yes ... Let me clarify how I think that we are still on the same page with is:

        I think that "leveling the playing field" would involve things like making quality schools available and access to affordable higher education. Individuals who had previously had few opportunities, would then have more access to more equal opportunity.

        There seems to be a reluctance to provide adequate structural/institutional support and I feel that the root so this problem is the idea that the wealth will be "taken" from the "rich" and "given" to the "poor" if changes are made like making quality education affordable and accessible to all.

        This is what I mean that there is an underlying fear of "subjugation."

        I have heard people talk of not wanting to allow kids to bus in from other areas at our local grammar school. There is this idea that the kids form a poorer neighborhood are a burden to the school.

        I am sure that families would prefer to have their children go to the local school in their immediate community but such schools are underfunded, run down, dangerous and offer little support for academic excellence.

        The lower income neighborhood has a much smaller tax base and the children who grow up in these areas live with violence in their communities and schools and few resources to improve their lives.

        With the system as it is, these kids are more likely to grow up to be maids in the neighboring communities, gang members, very low income workers, unemployed or join the military without having a viable opportunity to obtain a college degree. (Statistically) few will rise above their hardship to escape their present level of poverty.

        So, it is unlikely that the youth form the poor community will be able to pursue a well paid vocation with the same confidence that the youth in the more privileged neighborhood may. And form some of the signs I saw and conversation is heard, many people in the neighborhood prefer this. Few see that we are one interconnected community.
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          Oct 29 2012: Hello Juniper. Thanks again for continuing to respond. Schools are, to me, a big part of the equation this question presents. But I believe it's a big jump from affluent people not wanting their kids to 'mix' with poorer kids to fear of economic subjugation. The 'attitude' that people seem to be carrying that you present so accurately though is, I feel, is a primitive carry-over that needs to be dispelled for the world to move forward to inclusiveness. Also, there is a 'fear of limits' in that many people believe there just isn't enough to go around, so they hoard and seem somewhat antagonistic when others succeed - especially if the 'other' is 'a minority'. For me, this is the ghost of racism and permeates many of the defensive postures taken.
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    Oct 25 2012: You are welcome RH. I am sure there are plenty of other opportunities out there, but this one appeals greatly to me because it provides people with their most basic needs - which would otherwise require money they may not have; it keeps them and their families from being hungry IF NOTHING ELSE and it gives them the opportunity to earn this while being incredibly supported and motivated to do so. I find this model incredibly empowering. Now if only there was a a way for housing, utilities and other necessities could be funded/provided in this way too - no ONE organization or individual gives up everything, everyone feels pride in what they are doing and our neighbors are taken care of. This alone would probably reduce crime too. Great conversation.
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      Oct 27 2012: Marcus Aurelius is credited with saying: Poverty is the mother of crime. This effort you refer to, and so many others, are seemingly effective in providing a foundation for economic growth for the poor and marginalized. But I want more. I'm seeking structural evolution of investment for wide-spread opportunity and the resulting massive returns so everybody gets more. I'm wondering if it's possible.
      • Oct 28 2012: YES! it is possible! Some good examples are micro-loans through organizations like OXFAM or Woman To Woman and some Fair Trade Cooperative programs. The returns on such loans are outstanding and this benefits not only the loan recipient/small business but the investors and the general community.

        Heifer International is also a good example of a program that works. A poor family will receive a goat ( for example). The family is able to start a micro-business selling the milk, cheese or other products made from the goat's milk etc. Also, the family gives a female goat to a neighbor and they give a goat in turn to another neighbor. Everyone prospers from sharing the animals.

        More generally, a pathway to quality education gives a young person the tools to earn a good living and the ability to spend money in their community, and give to charitable causes. Crime and birth rates are lower as well when youth have access to quality education and all of this benefits society as once under-priviledged groups become empowered to give more to their communities and to the general economy and tax base.
  • Oct 25 2012: I recommend that you do research on the "Earth Summit" held in 1992 and the document it produced called "Agenda 21". The world got together after the Cold War ended and asked pretty much the same question. Instead of America getting out in front and leading, America's military industrialists and right wing paranoids did everything to kill the movement--the "sustainable development movement". It is still alive around the world and in the mind of some in the know in the US like yours truly, but there are military industrialists who depend on lack of social and progress and the conflict it tends to produce.
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      Oct 27 2012: The United States is a signatory country to Agenda 21, but because Agenda 21 is not a treaty, the Senate was unable to hold a formal debate or vote on it, nor was it ratified in any way by the executive branch. Several congressmen and senators, however, have spoken in Congress in support of Agenda 21; these include Representative Nancy Pelosi, Senator John Kerry, and Senator Harry Reid. Locally across the United States, over 528 cities are members of ICLEI, an international sustainability organization that broadly helps implement the Agenda 21 and Local Agenda 21 concepts across the world. The United States boasts nearly half of the ICLEI's global membership of 1,200 cities promoting sustainable development at a local level. As a first-world country, the United States features one of the most comprehensively documented Agenda 21 status reports.

      Perhaps you may have been misinformed on this issue.

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        Oct 27 2012: Thanks gentlemen for revealing and researching this effort of Agenda 21. (I assume '21' means 21st century). I take your response to indicate that there ARE efforts being made to invest in the poor & marginalized from the point of view of a possible productivity enhancement, and that this is not new. That's very encouraging for this question, but I wonder what the 'stumbling blocks' are. Is it int'l cooperation, matching gov't grants, unified focus, apathy, cultural barriers? Are there economist's researching the viability of such an investment/productivity approach to the poor and marginalized? I would like to find a research paper or read an economist's perspective on what would make this approach successful. I see this as an economic frontier with tremendous returns - on a very macro basis. I see the world getting richer - a 'rising tide raises all boats' kind of vision - with getting participation from the other half that currently can't participate. I get mired in misery, struggle, and defeat. The ability to ask such questions in this way that TED provides allows me an oasis of possibility. Thank you for participating.
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          Oct 27 2012: Agenda 21 ostensibly seeks to promote “sustainability” (environmentalism). “Sustainability” is an amorphous concept that can be interpreted to an extreme degree that would regulate and restrict many parts of our lives. When will the level of carbon emissions be low enough? How much must we reduce our consumption of fossil fuels? Preserving the environment is a dubious science, and what steps are really necessary to protect the environment are anyone’s guess. Agenda 21 goes well beyond environmentalism. Other broad goals include combating poverty, changing consumption patterns, promoting health, and reducing private property ownership, single-family homes, private car ownership, and privately owned farms. It seeks to cram people into small livable areas and institute population control. There is a plan for “social justice” that will redistribute wealth.

          The Obama administration has implemented much of this behind Congress' back through Executive Orders. Cap and Trade, which was defeated in Congress is now a EPA order and will shut down coal fired power plants throughout the US, many of the restrictive clauses in the Obamacare law reflect the Agenda 21 philosophy of control over the population.

          They are having great success convincing local governments in the U.S. to adopt their socialist and extreme environmentalist programs under the guise of feel-good buzz words. Left wing billionaire George Soros’s Open Society has provided $2,147,415 to ICLEI. Father of One Word Government.

          Obama signed Executive Order 13575 earlier this month, establishing a “White House Rural Council” prescribed by Agenda 21. The amount of government Obama has directed to administer this is staggering. Obama committed thousands of federal employees in 25 federal agencies to promote sustainability in rural areas, completely bypassing Congressional approval. Again.

          Have you heard about this on the news ... no way. Media control for the election.

          We are in trouble. Out of space. Bob.
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          Oct 27 2012: RH, the area of economic research you seek is called, or at least used to be called Human Capital. It is part of a broader field of scholarship called Labor Economics.
        • Oct 27 2012: I commend your heartfulness. Trouble is, heartlessness is becoming more and more powerful these days. Surely you must know of the "Occupy Wall Street" movement and they idea of wealth falling to 1% of the population while 99% struggle. That, I'm afraid, is the ugly destination of free market capitalism as a "TOTALITY".

          The impulses you feel to want to improve the standards of living and productivity of the poor I think represent a yearning that is part of human spirituality. It's where ideas like "communism" come from. The trouble is that idealism to change the world almost always defaults back to "winner take all" with 1% winners and 99% losers--and the cycles of resentment and revolution just repeat themselves.

          I believe that we can sustain change now through technology without it being an artificial redistribution of wealth where some overlord takes from some people and gives to others. Any hint of that kind of "redistribution or wealth" will be met with megaresistance. President Obama is on the right track in asserting that all echelons of society will be enriched if we stimulate the "middle class"--but look how vilified he is when all he is asking for is 4% more tax on people making over a quarter million.

          IMO there needs to be not just new jobs or new industries but new models of economy in which there is no need for faith or trust in a government administration because there are too many hateful ideologues around today with too much media power. I have ideas and vision on how to create new economy that "sells itself" but I am not a person of renown who can get the audience I need. Someone has to want to share my vision and accept that it's a business venture that involves risk. But there's no hocus pocus to it where I would ask anyone to suspend their disbelief while I work some magic. There are just some truths about technology and human capacity that are not being optimized and when addressed with engineering can create economy. Ask if interested.
      • Oct 27 2012: You didn't have to imply I'm "misinformed"--it's just that my history goes back way further than the players & numbers you talked about. You do not know everything just as I don't know everything. But try looking up Agenda 21 on searches today or go to YouTube and do searches. You will find way more wackos painting it as the nefarious "one world order" than you will find simple unbiased histories of it's evolution since 1992 or where and how to find some sort of "center" for the sustainable developmenent movement that common folk can tap into and support. I suggest even watching the last PBS airing of Frontline where you will see the depth and breadth of global warming deniers--you won't see their donors but suffice it to say that all these people didn't wake up with the same "mad on" for Al Gore and science at the same time. There have been camouflaged campaigns to undermine the sustainable development movement since its begininngs and your own siting shows only names associated with America's left. There is reason why there is nobody on your list from the right--but you'd have to throw yourself into the media world they have developed since 1994 and the "Republican Revolution" where as I tried to make clear is a flash point where American history split into at leat two compartments--one heavily filtered and biased by the right where science itself is portrayed as questionable theory if not worse, and the other either a somewhat neutral center or an MSNBC which is more a reaction to FOX than a station with a left wing agenda of its own.

        We both have knowledge or at least experience and that takes time to impart. I find no reason to imply that you are "mis" informed. You're apparently otherwise informed than I am--but I can say that I was at the prep-conferences for the Earth Summit as a journalist and I got to see Al Gore's presentation at the UN General Assembly in person. Putting myself there was my Idea so I deserve a little lattitude if not respect.
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          Oct 29 2012: Hello James. In response to: "...commend your heartfulness" & "...new models of economy". In response to the first one you mention the word 'communism'. I sincerely hope you don't suspect me of supporting, or even alluding, to such an utterly dismal method of social structure. I believe I have only referred to 'everyone getting richer' through an incentive based, investment and returns model towards the poor and marginalized, so that this 'half' of the world's population can participate for their own well-being, and contribute for everybody elses, therefore growing the world's productivity and the ensuing increase in broad-based wealth. My question is direct in asking why we are not investing in this 'challenged' market. 'Idealism', I believe - if I may -, is where the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights come from too. Regarding the second one, that is precisely what I'm seeking and supporting. New methods are required. My favorite analogy is that just as we cannot build or repair a super-computer with a hammer, we cannot use old methods of political infighting or wealth re-distribution with this new approach to an age-old issue. Thanks for your informed and impassioned participation.
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      Oct 27 2012: Thanks James. Please see response to Robert's reply.
      • Oct 30 2012: RH. This TED form of conversation has its limits. I don't usually do this but I offer you my e-mail address if you'd like to talk this out a little moe free form and less restrictive. You don't have to post your's here--jutt contact me through my address if you want to engage. No obligation.

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          Nov 2 2012: Thanks James. That's very generous. And believe me, if I wasn't working full time and had more time to devote to discussing this issue, I would love to. I did not expect so much response. I am also very grateful for the depth of info and experience that has been given. But I don't feel there's much more I can do with this subject at this point. Thanks for the offer.
  • Oct 25 2012: What has been written here is right.
    So, we need to get rid of the monetary system.

    Wait for it. It's coming.
    All the guffaws, scorn, mocking, dismissals for such an idea.
    Some others should show up soon.
    • Oct 25 2012: Since you use the word "need" i assume that you have an alternative that is both preferable (to the majority) and practicable. To get rid of the monetary system without an alternative would literally bring the world (of men) to a standstill, and i cannot see how or why we would need that.

      So i am curious, what is the alternative?
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      Oct 25 2012: Maybe, though, in this thread we should keep our focus on RH's specific question, which was why society under-invests in increasing the labor force participation of marginalized populations.

      There are many other threads about the monetary system that are ideal for that conversation.
  • Oct 25 2012: Which set. My first reaction was in country. Some do not want to even help their own countrymen Others are even less interested in not wanting to help others. Blending widely different viewpoints sometime does not work really way. In America we have some really selfish people who do not want us to help anyone anywhere. It is not that hard to control public opinion if one has the resources.
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      Oct 25 2012: Oh yea. But why do people find it so hard to share? I think it's fear based. Fear that they won't have enough, that what they have they'll lose, that those they help are just 'scamming' them and 'don't want to work' as some of our political participants explain. But I'm not talking about sharing or assisting or relief. I'm wondering about curing through a huge potential market approach. Thanks for responding.
  • Oct 24 2012: Let me start this conversation with the obvious.

    Because we are selfish and shortsighted and want to invest our resources in stuff that will maximize our own well being. Like chocolate.
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      Oct 25 2012: I had to laugh. Thanks Barry. It is this very self-centeredness that I'm counting on will motivate us to recognize the potential here. And maybe it's already begun as Fritzie has pointed out... Thanks again.