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william clegg

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Should we view wealth hoarding as dysfunctional as any other form of hoarding?

We tend to view those who acquire and accumulate "stuff" endlessly as hoarders who are dysfunctional and requiring health care assistance. Therefore, those whose lives are an endless accumulation of wealth and who use that wealth for little more than acquiring ever more "stuff" and/or endlessly stimulating as many pleasure centers as they can as often as then can seem to fall into that dysfunctional category.

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Closing Statement from william clegg

We had quite a lively debate ensued on this topic. The majority of comments suggest that hoarding wealth is, in fact, dysfunctional and many offered insightful ways in which they saw that dysfunction being played out in the real world. They also point out that the harm caused by a wealth hoarder is generally imposed upon their community while for other forms of hoarding it is the hoarder themselves who bears the brunt of that behaviour.

There were a few who were opposed to the hoarding label and who appeared to have no problem with the endless accumulation of wealth, largely because they seem to believe that the wealth was still being invested but offered no validation of this premise. As well that seems to be a rather specious argument if all the investing does is acquire more wealth.

It was pointed out a number of times that hoarding can have very real health issues involved, both psychological and physical. However, whether those health issues are as problematic for the wealth hoarder who has estates with lots of gates, security and staff to hide behind as they are in the poor and middle class who are far more visible is uncertain. Although the number of wealthy celebrities who have overdosed on drugs and/or alcohol abuse may be one indicator.

But the most humorous comments appeared to take real umbrage with the mere suggestion that wealth was being hoarded and even employed old 20th century commie fear mongering to make their - rather dull - point. .

It seems that for the majority of contributors hoarding is hoarding and as such is as dysfunctional as other forms of hoarding but that we all experience the consequences of that dysfunction. .

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  • Oct 22 2013: interesting question! it's been clear for some time that we are missing out on many benefits by not having a 'salary cap'. every dollar that a person earns is a dollar someone else can't earn, so when someone already has more than they could possibly ever use, all they're really doing is blocking other people from also becoming wealthy. also when someone has that much money they can't really do much with it but keep it in stocks, gold, or whatever else, all of which effectively keeps that money out of the economy, meaning reduced sales and therefore profits world-wide from money being hoarded by people protecting their wealth. a good historical example is benjamin franklin. after becoming very rich through his very successful printing business, he retired and spent his time inventing, giving all his inventions to the world, patent-free.

    the same thing is true for patents and copyrights. i'm a teacher, and i learned a number of years ago that current teenage students have no idea what star wars is. around the same time i read a story in a newspaper about a guy who wanted to build a life-size at-at walker in his backyard for people to come and see, and george lucas protected his copyright, telling the man not to do it, and thereby completely shooting off his own foot. think of how many dads would've brought their kids to see it, and how many of those would've then wanted to know more about star wars, and how many new star wars fans would've emerged. there's a point where a movie, game, or product has made most of the money it's ever going to, and by protecting copyright we are actually blocking people who might have great ideas for spinoffs and sequels. as long as the law gives original creators a share of whatever these new works based on their ideas make (say 10%?) then why should copyright owners be able to block follow-on works even 10 years or more after their creation?

    by 'protecting' wealth, by failing to give way, we actually make less wealth.
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      Oct 22 2013: thanks Ben for your excellent response and insightful analogy. Anyone remember the brothers - Bunk? - in Texas who tried to hoard the world's silver supply?

      I also like the analogy of the town's apple tree. The tree is capable of producing enough apples for everyone to have some for themselves, but if one person takes half the apples the rest of the townsfolk will suffer as a result.
      • Oct 22 2013: good point with the apple tree. there are those that say well if he earned half the apples then it's not fair to prevent him from claiming them, to which i'd say what was he doing continuing to work after he'd earned a tenth of the apples?
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          Oct 22 2013: Of course, there would be no way one person could 'earn' half the apples if it is a community resource. At least, not without corrupting the community standards.

          However we are taking about wealth hoarding and there are countless billionaires and multi-millionaires who never "earned" a cent of the money. They either inherited it or scammed it in some boondoggle or crime.

          Consider the relatively recent U.S. financial fiasco where plunderers made off with trillions and taxpayers where left with the subsequent losses? Or the billions that criminal enterprises have netted over the years dealing in guns, drugs and slavery.

          Then there is the very real fact that a true Capitalist does not toil, their money toils for them through the enterprises they own. Sure they may put in time making deals here and there, but the wealth invariably flows from the enterprises and those who toil for them in those enterprises. This is their 'capital' and it is the minions that toil in those enterprises who create - but keep little of - the wealth which is part and parcel of that capital.

          So, have they truly "earned" the wealth?
      • Oct 22 2013: yes it depends entirely on how we define 'earn'. say someone owned all of the land in the village and 'earned' half the apples by allowing all residents to live on his land. less insightful people would probably call that a fair trade, because without this deal they wouldn't have anywhere to live. it's the same as the ridiculous suggestion that people should be grateful to their employer for paying them, because "without the employer you wouldn't even have a job!"

        a cap on income would pretty much solve this hoarding. there'd be no point buying more land to rent out because you couldn't earn any more from it, you couldn't pay employees less to fill the director's bonuses because they're already at the maximum, etc.
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          Oct 23 2013: I think a great start would be to stop treating the wealthy as if they were celebrities and according them special privileges. Personally I think trying to tax the income of the wealthy is a waste of time. there are just too many ways in which they can hide their money.

          But what about a 100^ luxury tax? Got a private jet or 150ft+ yacht or exotic automobile you want to land or operate in this country? Pay a premium for the privilege. Want that $50k pice of bling? its now #100k. And since so many wealthy love to brag about and/or flaunt the cost of their 'stuff' as a status symbol, such a tax would simply be supporting them in that process :)
      • Oct 23 2013: we actually have something like that in australia, a 25% luxury tax on anything over $50k. what happens is the companies that sell these more expensive goods then reduce their staff levels and pay them less, compared to cheaper competitors, and claim that they "have to" for their goods to remain competitive with those priced slightly cheaper. if we added a 100% luxury tax it'dbe handing the wealthy an excuse to pay their employees less: "because our cost of living just doubled!" this is why i think the only way round it is an income cap. and even that would be difficult.
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          Oct 23 2013: agreed, income inequality is becoming more and more of a problem especially since there are far more people than there are jobs for them. There is a movement afoot in a number of nations to implement a Basic and Guaranteed Income to ensure everyone has enough income to ensure they have food shelter and a modicum of comfort. Here is one I am familiar with
          http://www.basicincome.org/bien/
          Here is an interview with one of our senior senators on the subject
          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UoIJKTQ3U4A

          Because of the kind of predatory, small minded profiteering you describe above it is time to view poverty and income inequality as threats to our basic freedoms. ,
      • Oct 24 2013: sure i agree with a minimum income, to which people can aspire to increase by working harder and smarter, but is that enough? what's to stop people from keeping employees on this minimum income even though their benefit to the company is much higher, just so they can keep more of the profit for themselves? over the last few decades productivity has increased as with new technology workers are able to make more in the same time, yet average wages have risen much less than this, and wealth at the top has increased many hundreds of times more than this. it's clear where the money earned from the workers producing more has gone. what will a minimum wage / guaranteed income do to address this?
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          Oct 24 2013: well, for me the main purpose of a min-com is to provide a citizen greater freedom of choice. unlike today an employee would not be completely at the mercy of such employers. The min-com could allow that person the freedom to leave the job if being mistreated or disrespected and to find something better. It would also allow a person the freedom to look after a sick or dying relative, to have as much time as they wish for grieving, to expand upon their education and training desires as a few examples.

          Of course all that would be dependent upon the structure and focus of the min-com legislation and the government in power at the time, but freedom can become a very contagious experience and not many politicians can long denying a freedom the people are clamouring for :).
      • Oct 24 2013: that's true, but it's still not a solution. people leaving a job where they're never offered a fair raise or a chance to get into the upper tiers because they're already occupied or soon filled by someone else who's already rich for a job where exactly the same thing happens isn't solving anything.

        a lot of people these days say well leaving a company to find a better one is great, but there aren't any better companies. there can't possibly be, because if there were that company's higher costs associated with giving their employees a fair go would put them at a competitive disadvantage. take america for example, you've got all those people claiming to be patriots and all about how great america is, but they'll fire their american countrymen at the drop of a hat if the opportunity to employ someone in another country for less is there. even if someone really did want to do the right thing they'd get voted out of the director's chair for not maximising profits and stock returns.
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          Oct 24 2013: Of course a min-com is but one form of greater economic freedom. But once the concept of freedom to choose how to spend your limited time on this planet catches hold others will figure out the rest of the pieces required for that freedom.

          In fact, there are already have a number of nations. albeit with smaller populations, where the nation's wealth pays for everything and every citizen shares in that largesse from health care and education to gas and housing.. That means that tens of millions already know and live freedom from the coercive "jobs" mantra. The seeds are planted. All they need is care and nurturing to blossom elsewhere :)

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