John Locke

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Is it the right of humanity to protect it's best interest at the expense of a select few?

If it is in society's best interest to redistribute wealth from billionaires in order to feed millions of starving children, if it is in society's best interest to lower the price of a cure to a fatal disease the kills millions at the expense of the people who created the cure, if it is in society's best interest to move a select few people away from their homeland because oil has been discovered, does society have the right to do so?

In other words, if a large group of people can benefit at the expense of a few innocent individuals, should the select individuals be expected to or be forced to comply in whatever way necessary in order to help a huge amount of people EVEN IF the select few do not want to?

  • Apr 8 2013: A very very hard question. "All people are created equal" is a pretty fundamental axiom of most modern social ideas. So if they're equal, let's do the math. More people on one side = better. Majority rule. Too bad for the few. But then you get things like Rwanda, the Holocaust, with the few getting trampled by the majority. So we have government to protect the few. Because all are equal, we can't let some people get trampled on because they're just as good as anybody else. It would be unfair.

    I honestly think it's a case-by-case thing. The best thing in my mind is for these people to have an open dialogue and work out some kind of compromise that is the least harmful for everyone. Does this actually happen? Rarely. If as in your description they don't want to compromise, both parties will have to appeal to a higher authority, like a judge. If they don't accept that authority, you're pretty hosed.

    Also, is your screen name a Ender's Game reference? If it is you win :)
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      Apr 11 2013: Hahaha John Locke is a famous philosopher of the 1600s. But, yes my name was based off of the character in Ender's Game which is an EXCELLENT book! To anyone reading this, please read Ender's Game, it is worth the time.

      Now, back to the topic. So, are you saying that if both sides are unwilling to "compromise" and if they are unwilling to respect a third party authority which most likely is unrelated to the issue in order to remain unbiased, then there can be no peaceful solution?
      • Apr 11 2013: I can't think of one. I mean, what else can you do? They won't compromise or find a solution and they won't accept mediation. All that's left is for the stronger one to take what they want by force, and since we're talking about majority vs. minority here, that's the majority every time. It's really in the best interest of the few to compromise because otherwise they'll lose.
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          Apr 11 2013: But, is it fair for them to take that wealth and resources from the minority? Is it fair the minority has no choice but to either compromise, fight, or lose their wealth? My opinion is that it is not, but then again, if the masses are so poor while the minority is so extremely wealthy, is it fair for a social redistribution not to occur?
      • Apr 11 2013: Aha, you're getting into issues of right and wrong here. I don't think we can decide that. We don't have enough information. I started a conversation about objective vs. subjective right and wrong a while ago, and how there's only objective right and wrong if there's a God who can judge because He knows everything. Most people in reply to that seemed to be just fine with subjective morality, or humans working out what's fair or right. Or, to put it into context, humans working out compromises with no appeal to God as a third-party judge. Problem is that there's so many situations we just don't know about, like this one. It's going to depend heavily on the environment. Are the wealthy few getting their money dishonestly or honestly? Do the masses really need the social redistribution? Too many factors that often aren't very well-known. There's arguments for both sides and no clear method that will prove one is better than the other. I've been saying for a while now that this is a problem, that our society is getting progressively more and more gridlocked precisely because nobody has any moral authority any more.
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    Apr 7 2013: How does it work to be a "billionaire"? Isn't your money employing people, giving people jobs, and thus preventing starving children? That's what I think.
    • Apr 7 2013: You are miss guided. The 100 most wealthy people in the world could end world poverty 4 times over. They require scarecity as a control mechanism. Without scarecity the value of commodities decreases and the whole system does not work. The West wastes enough food to feed all the starving people, but the starving can't afford the food. When the current fiat monetry system collapses, and it will, we will see how abundant food etc. really is.
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        Apr 7 2013: I'm thinking they could not end it, Lee, because if they simply gave all their money away to poor people then they would have no money to employ people, keep businesses running, and so on. So the business world would collapse or take a major hit.

        Rather than encouraging scarcity, I think rich people work really hard and reduce scarcity, without rich, hard-working people you would have more scarcity, not less. The human race needs leaders, and rich people are leaders, they lead through hard work and risk-taking, they work harder and take more risks than others, and they do also get more rewards.

        Are you jealous of rich people?
        • Apr 8 2013: Firstly, I am not suggesting that the wealthy elite are going to give their money away, they will not.

          However, they have accumulated their wealth through inheritance and build on it by buying assets that ordinary people can not afford to buy. Then, they earn interest on their accumulated assets and use tax havens to avoid paying their share of taxes. This does not involve any hard work or the employment of people.

          Because of this, the richest one per cent has increased its income by 60 per cent in the last 20 years with the financial crisis accelerating rather than slowing the process.

          Concentration of resources in the hands of the top one per cent depresses economic activity and makes life harder for everyone else – particularly those at the bottom of the economic ladder.

          In a world where even basic resources such as land and water are increasingly scarce, we cannot afford to concentrate assets in the hands of a few and leave the many to struggle over what’s left.

          From tax havens to weak employment laws, the richest benefit from a global economic system which is rigged in their favour.

          For instance, closing tax havens – which hold as much as $32 trillion or a third of all global wealth – could yield an additional $189bn in additional tax revenues.

          I am simply suggesting that It's time our leaders reformed the system so that it works in the interests of the whole of humanity rather than a global elite.

          In addition, what risks do the banking elite take for example. They fail in their business and then are bailed out by their government cronies. Then the poor people have to pay for their failure through higher taxes, reduces state funding.

          With regards to scarecity, it's a myth. Many nations can’t realize their full food production potential because of corruption and the gross inefficiencies caused by inequitable ownership of resources.

          Am I jealous of rich people ? No, I am Buddhist, I live a comfortable and content life without over-indulgence.
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        Apr 9 2013: Well, I don't know if the large majority inherited their wealth. I would think many people work hard and simply raise themselves. My parents started out with nothing, worked very hard, and ended up in the "1%." But you know, Mr. Park, if you inherit some money and then start buying more assets, that is not effortless. Buying assets is hard, you have to do the research, possibly move money around or borrow money if the asset is large enough, manage whatever current assets you have plus whatever new ones you acquire, and when you buy new assets take the risk that they may fail. All of this entails much work, and risk-taking. Even if you never buy new assets, simply managing the old ones successfully takes a lot of work as well. Inheritance is not a magic key to living in effortless luxury. And the things you do as you manage an inheritance do employ people, in many cases lots of people.
        • Apr 9 2013: I'm pleased for your parents and for you.

          However, at least $21tn is hidden from taxman by global elite - as much as the American and Japanese GDPs put together. This is a conservative figure, some sources say it could be $32tn or higher.

          For many developing countries the cumulative value of the capital that has flowed out of their economies through corruption and tax avoidance since the 1970s would be more than enough to pay off their debts to the rest of the world.

          The problem here is that the assets of these countries are held by a small number of wealthy individuals while the debts are shouldered by the ordinary people of these countries through their governments.

          £6.3tn of assets is owned by only 92,000 people, or 0.001% of the world's population – a tiny class of the mega-rich.

          Countries around the world are under intense pressure to reduce their deficits and governments cannot afford to let so much wealth slip past into tax havens.

          Closing down the tax loopholes exploited by multinationals and the super-rich to avoid paying their fair share will reduce the deficit. This way the government can focus on stimulating the economy, rather than squeezing the life out of it with cuts and tax rises for the 99% of people who aren't rich enough to avoid paying their taxes.

          Assuming the £13tn mountain of assets earned an average 3% a year for its owners, and governments were able to tax that income at 30%, it would generate a bumper £121bn in revenues – more than rich countries spend on aid to the developing world each year.

          Leaders of G20 countries have repeatedly pledged to close down tax havens since the financial crisis of 2008, when the secrecy shrouding parts of the banking system was widely seen as exacerbating instability.

          I do not have much more space left so I shall ask for a response to this issue before moving on.

          Is this not corrupt? Is this not greed? Is this not contributing to scarecity and poverty?
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          Apr 11 2013: You raise some good points but I would easily say that many people would much rather simply retain their wealth as benefactors of wealthy relatives than work at minimum wage jobs to support their 5 children on meager wages and food stamps.
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      Apr 11 2013: It seems obvious that you are a believer of the "trickle-down-effect" and while your argument has some validity to it, there is extremely large amounts of evidence that supports the idea that wealth and resources are much more useful and maximized in the hands of many compared to the hands of few. Yes, billionaires run businesses, but a millionaire can run just as great of a business, is there really a reason to provide them with that extremity of wealth while it could go to many more people who would certainly need it more?
      • Apr 11 2013: I am not a believer in the trickle down effect, I strongly advocate consigning money to the history books.

        People do not want money, they want access to clean water, food, shelter, education etc.

        Our financial system is not an economy. It's a system of control based on fiat money and debt slavery that requires unlimited growth from finite resources.

        When the system has used up all the resources, polluted all the water, destroyed all the arable land, destroyed all the rain forests, eliminated most living species on earth and wiped out nations through wars over diminishing resources, what value will fiat money hold then.

        This financial system is just a game. That's all it ever has been. It's a game the elite play with us for their own amusement.

        The only currency that has any real value is gold and silver.

        For instance. If every pound in the UK economy went towards paying off the nations debt, we'd still owe the banks £308bn. And I believe it's worse for Americans.

        The money doesn't even exist. We're all slaves to the banks now.
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          Apr 11 2013: This was directed towards Greg, sorry for the confusion but thank you for your ideas.
  • Apr 7 2013: Yes it is right.

    However, most people no so little about how the world really works and are so distracted by trivialities such as sport, popular music, T.V shows etc, and are so busy working their butt off to support their materialistic life styles that I'm not sure it will happen for some years to come.

    In addition, those in power will not give up their power easilly. Taking it by force will be difficult. The best way to redistribute wealth is for the masses to opt out of the consumerist life style the wealthy elite want us to participate in.

    Remember, the reason why the rich get richer and to poor get poorer is:

    The rich buy assets.
    The poor buy stuff.
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    Apr 13 2013: OK, the answer is cannibalism. It figures. Back in the day, they would starve a bunch of mice except a few and let those get fat. Well, it didn't take long before the fatties got eaten. But then the funny thing happened, the skinny ones started to turn on each other.
  • Apr 9 2013: Closing tax havens so that the wealthy elite cannot hide in excess of $21tn would help.
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    Apr 8 2013: I like this question and this reminds me of a similar calculation I have thought about. The U.S. spent a trillion dollars on the Iraq war. Mathematically, a trillion equals a million times a million. What could the U.S. have done instead, if it funded one million start up businesses, each with a million dollars? To put that into comparison, the total net worth of all U.S. households and non-profit corporations is significantly under 100 billion [source: Federal Reserve].

    That is the kind of thing I think we can change to improve the lives of all people, while preserving wealth as an incentive for working hard. I do not believe we would have a cure for a fatal disease in the first place, as presumed in your question, without the incentive of potential wealth as a reward.

    To create the outcome you desire would require a world wide cultural shift that would redefine the concept of wealth, or perhaps even make it an anachronism.
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      Apr 11 2013: You bring up an interesting point with the Iraq War example.

      I do have one question. You mentioned that wealth should still be preserved as an incentive for working hard. But what happens when that wealth is passed down to the hard worker's grandkids who have never worked in their life? That wealth will keep accumulating because of compound interest. So, we end up with a very wealthy set of people who haven't worked for their money while at the same time there are people who are starving, homeless. poor, sick, etc. that could use that money to provide essentials to live instead of a new sports car.

      Also, do you think it is fair for us to essentially steal from the wealthy to provide for the masses?
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        Apr 11 2013: Those are some great questions and thanks for asking. I have sometimes seen that those who inherit wealth no longer have wealth attainment as a motivation. Unless they find something else - perhaps a deeper motivation - they may not do very much with their lives. But I think the same thing can happen within the welfare system. Every individual is different of course, but there are generalizations one can make. I've also seen wealthy people feeling like they never have enough, needing greater and greater levels of wealth.

        I think our economy is structured around the very concept of always having partial unemployment at some level. That is, we simply can not have everyone employed because our system does not work that way. We designed a system in which some percentage of people simply can not have a job.

        This is compounded by the fact that for a wealthy class of people to exist, the way our economy works, there must exist poor people as well.

        Since our system forces the existence of poor, unemployed people, not necessarily by their fault, I think those who have jobs and/or wealth owe it to the poor to provide the basic necessities of life such as food and shelter. This is because those wealthy employed people simply could not be wealthy and employed in our current system without the existence of unemployed poor - our system is just designed that way at present.

        As far as weather it is fair to steal from wealthy people with the intention of preventing those poor people around them from dying in the streets, I think that is essentially balanced out by the way wealthy people steal from the poor through mechanisms such as the U.S. Federal Reserve System, and the way poor people's tax money bailed out our wealthy bankers. Some would argue that wealthy people are actually stealing more from the poor, than the other way around. I haven't seen actual evidence one way or the other so I don't know. Great questions!
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    Apr 7 2013: The correct question is not "is it right" but "will it work."

    There are 1210 billionaires in the world, if we stole all there billions and redistributed it evenly to everyone else, everyone would get about $175. In exchange, we would lose all the jobs and economic stimuli there investments provide.
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      Apr 11 2013: Well, why can't the roughly 1.5 trillion dollars be spent on government projects and public goods that can be enjoyed for many years and by everyone? Also, $175 is half a year's income for a large portion of people in the world. And, I would like to say that not every cent of their wealth has to be taken away.
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        Apr 11 2013: These billionaires employ several hundred million people, and those paychecks are used to buy things which in turn provides employment for more tens of millions, as well as pay taxes for public works. How short-sighted you are to think of only using their wealth once, when as it is we get to use it over and over again on each payday.
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          Apr 11 2013: This is a public forum where all ideas are encourage so please refrain from usin insults and making personal attacks. Now, I am quite knowledgable about economic and I know that wealth will still be circulated and used just as much if not more in the hands I many than in the hands of few. Why should a CEO be a billionaire when they could do just as well of a job as a millionaire. When wealth is divided among more people it is used more and more investment is created which in turn creates more jobs. Please use valid facts and logical arguments before you insult someone next time.
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    Apr 7 2013: Are we speaking of legal interpretation such as majority rule or are we discussing cannibalism?
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    • Apr 7 2013: We are starting to see the question differently, and a mass global political awakening is in process. The current civilization is doomed to collapse like all others before... only this time we have the Internet which provides an instant method for the masses to communicate. The current fiat monetry system will soon collapse and with it the scarecity myth.
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      Apr 11 2013: Well Carolyn,

      Not necessarily all of the wealth and or resources have to be taken away from the select few. In fact, if they were to be evenly divided among the masses or were to be invested in public goods that could benefit a large portion of people, this would be sharing the wealth. However, from the past position, one group (the wealthy few) loses significant wealth and the other group (the masses) gains wealth because of the public goods.

      Now, I am not sure if this is what you meant by sharing, but it brings up the point that because resources are unequally divided, sharing them even close to equally would dramatically affect certain people.
  • Apr 7 2013: Seems like a type of eminent domain extended to food, health, and energy. So, where are the boundaries?

    If government does not provide individuals with the right for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, then civil behavior will breakdown and anarchy will ensue. Without laws and a police force to protect the rights of the wealthy, there will be a redistribution of wealth caused by the law of the jungle. So the rich need government to enforce laws.

    No one will want to give up their property. Protecting your property from people trying to take it from you is a pretty basic thing, and the rich usually are very good at it.

    If I were in the legislative branch, I would prepare laws that ensured all citizens were provided the right of life liberty and the pursuit of happiness. I would also make sure that the poorest of the poor citizens had a way to survive with food, shelter, clothing, safety, security, good health, and respect. If we do not provide for these basics, then these citizens may believe the government is not concerned with their survival and choose to live outside of its laws.

    If I were working in the Judicial branch and asked to decide how these government laws should be applied, I would permit the use taxes, fees, or other means to redistribute the wealth of the few to make sure that the basic rights of the many were met. I would always provide a means for the rich to argue their side of the legality of these taxes, etc. and try and compensate for any lost property or wealth as equitably as possible.

    A government has to protect its citizens, all its citizens, if it is to remain in power. We should expect the rich to comply with the laws, but fight to protect their property. We should expect the laws to protect all the citizens.

    The right to acquire and keep wealth is a basic tenant. It should be protected. The ends of the wealth spectrum define when a correction to the system is needed.
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      Apr 11 2013: Well, many of your ideas are already implemented at least in the United States of America. However, the problems arise when you actually try to create laws that "make sure that the poorest of the poor citizens had a way to survive with food, shelter, clothing, safety, security, good health, and respect.". How would you go about solving all of these issues?

      I can imagine that any group of wealthy individuals would fight to keep their wealth, but the question arises as to is it fair to let them keep it? Is it fair to let starving children die of hunger while wealthy people eat fillet and drink 100 year old wine?
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    Apr 7 2013: G'day John

    I don't believe so, how many times have American Indians been moved from their land & it's still happening today & the same with the Australian aboriginals, would we ourselves like to be moved around like this & have our house & land either taken from us?

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      Apr 7 2013: Well Mathew,
      I don't believe anyone would ever want to see their wealth disappear or to be moved from their homeland. This being said, if redistributing wealth from a few can benefit the larger whole, wouldn't it be selfish not to redistribute the wealth?