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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.


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 28 2013: Hi William,

    Great question! I think it's imnportant at this time.

    To get any addition to the comments below, I think the concepts of wealth and hoarding need to be totally stripped down to their functional meanings. I'll have a go at that, and try to get some idea at the basic level:

    1. Hoarding. Lets assume that "hoarding" is simply to acquire a store of potential consumption.
    Why would you do that?
    The easiest answer is: to overcome a time where no acquisition is possible - for instance laying away a store of food for winter.
    In that light it's an act of expanding adaptability to encompass variability - e.g. seasonal.
    Not all variability is seasonal - for instance one might hoard food to survive the passing of war, or one might put-away money "for a rainy-day".
    2. Wealth might be described as the measure of acquired adaptability.

    Nothing can be said to be wealth if it is not potentially consumable. Marx called this "use value".

    However, there is also exchange value - and this can be hoarded as convertible wealth - same principle in practice, but exchange value is prone to speculation regardless of utility.

    The next question that needs to be answered is "wealth for who?".
    If the answer is a single individual, then it cannot be sustained by the community the individual inhabits. When personal wealth is hoarded, it is at the expense of the adaptability of the community.

    Then there is family hoarding or hoarding on behalf of any other subset of the community.

    All hoarding done by an individual or sub-community is at the expense of the community and should be viewed as dysfunctional by the community.

    And there we hit problems. IN this age in western culture, there is no such thing as a community. We live in artificial definitions such as suburbs, cities, towns, states and nations - none of these are real and all of them are dysfunctional.

    The measure of dysfunction is if it impacts community or not .. And you need a real community to know that.
    • Oct 28 2013: Mitch, it's not that there's no more communities, there's actually more communities then before (just not as tight-nit as before),

      global community, country community, state community, ...

      I'd say this particular dysfunction occurs in pretty much all of the top community concepts
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        Oct 28 2013: Hi Borna,

        Yes, I think you are spot-on there.

        We have lost the functional definition of community.
        Most of us participate in many disjunct partially functional ghost-communities in order to each cobble-together a fully functional life.

        I would define a tight community as one that caters to the entire needs-list of its members and can operate autonomously, but is enhanced by inter-community trade in surplus.

        Only the deeply tribal enjoy this level of community at the moment. We demonise such lifestyles, but I think they have lessons we should learn.

        Adding those lessons to our current knowledge might yield a far better social base by which to measure such issues as dysfunctional hoarding and social balance.

        It is my opinion that we have drifted too far from our default community forms - too far to use default community to grapple with our major modern dysfunctions - problems. that have been under control for hundreds of thousands of years - and only recently becoming species-threatening imbalance. I think that over-crowding communities has caused this - too much reliance on political/military strength over human values. There are better ways to do it.
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      Oct 28 2013: Thanks for fine job of defining hoarding and its variations. Your absolutely right about sustainability being central to the concept as well. Methinks this is where the real disconnect lies.
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        Oct 28 2013: Thanks William.
        I think the discussion gets mired in political assumption and in-between-line-reading of stuff that is not there.
        Hoarding is only dysfunctional if it harms others.
        As I say - it's an obvious method for gaining a wide margin of adaptability in the face of large variability of change. When resources are committed to infrastructure, they pass from adaptability to adapted - like when you build a house - it is built to the current range of variability - wind, rain, sun, flood, fire etc - and if the variability exceeds it, then it cannot adapt.
        There is a temporal factor to it - if you try to adapt to too-wide a period, then the range of adaptability will be enormous - and exceed any amount of committed resource .. Taleb describes this as fragility. WHereas a hoarded store of resource can be deployed in a finer, more adaptable measure for the shorter period. So the deployment of a hoard also affects the issue.

        Not sure if any of that makes sense.

        After the measuring-stick of the community, you also have to consider ecological services from the bio-diversity .. the community measure is somewhat vague, but it's better than the infinitely open measure of fractured humanity - and I think we get exploited via that deficit.
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          Oct 28 2013: The disconnect seems to be in whether the community has any input into the fate of its resources. While this might have been the case in the past, today politicians and political parties who can be bought and sold like trading cards along with companies that have absolutely no interest in communities other than as a labour resource and improving profit margins get to decide the fate of the community's resources.

          There used to be lots of small logging communities on the this Pacific west coast that had their own vibrant economies and practiced sustainable logging that would have guaranteed jobs for generations to come. Then the multi nationals moved in and recruited political support for clear cutting which became the norm and within a decade or two the forests were depleted, all the accessible premium wood was gone and then the mills and finally the towns shut down one after the other.
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        Oct 28 2013: Hi William,

        Yes - that's how it works when you shift governance from the community to the merchant.
        Mercantile processes are necessarily external to a community.
        If the community is functional, it only uses commodity trade outside of the community - trade in surpluses.
        Most functional communities don't even use money because they have an existing "strength-in-numbers" which is defended by unity. In fact, money is the chief instrument by which communities are fractured. Then, once money is established, armies can be paid.
        There is a non-monetary model that Genghis Kahn invented to unite the Mongol communities - plunder. But he did not try to fracture the tribes - they were maintained through the Kahn system of leadership.
        So there's the second instrument of fracture - warlord-chiefs.
        Once you have money and non-democratic leadership, you have the end of community - it bloats out like the big chicken-liver they kept in-vitro .. never stops growing .. but never becomes a chicken. Cancer does that as well.
        Community will self-maintain if the carcinogens are controlled.
        What we need is some kind of community immune response.
        If we don't develop one, the cancer of mercantilism will decide for us in the big collapse.
        Detroit is a good example of what happens in the collapse.
        I think it helps to keep communities small enough for everyone to know everyone - when they get too big, one is forced to tolerate strangers, and strangers cannot be trusted.
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          Oct 28 2013: I see online referendums helping to balance those agents of power and control you mentioned.

          i wonder if the online community is the new frontier? I live in a small community of 4,000 or so people and we have the local watering holes, market, community hall and 2 papers plus a very active gossip tree, so there is a lot of involvement in local issues.

          But it is Ted that gives me the opportunity to explore a better cross section of diverse observations and attitudes on a variety of issues. Something that would problematic to create and maintain with such a small population never mind on one's own in the real world.

          Both depend upon the sharing of ideas and opinions in aid of our never ending quest to understand. .
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        Oct 29 2013: Hi William,

        I think the internet is a new thing that we don't really understand yet.
        It has opportunities and dangers.
        But I think that if we get our physical communities strong, most of the dangers go away.
        Online democracy sounds like a great idea, but my experience in the computer industry gives me pause .. the technology is punctuated by layers of unaccountable techno-priesthoods - the programming languages are 3 or 4 layers above the truly opaque technologies of hardware and micro-code - and it is there that security is a joke - in amongst the registers and machine-codes, things can be done that no one will ever find-out.
        Every fortune-500 company has a skilled hacker on huge money with access to the top levels.. and even those guys can see only so much.
        Whenever there is motive to exploit, it will be exploited.
        So you address the motives.
        A community where everyone is known cannot be blind-sided. The rest just takes care of itself.

        I would hate to lose the amassed knowledge of the internet .. but I think of the library at Alexandria.

        We get the almost magical opportunity in TED and other such curators, to gain an overview never before possible - it is the task now to codify it all so it cannot be so easily lost.
        Community is the bedrock foundation and knowledge will be re-built from there .. but it takes thousands of years to recover from general collapse. The codification will shorten that period considerably - if community survives enough to host it.
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          Oct 29 2013: Yet it is the best alternative I have seen being offered as an alternative to the existing failed multi party, representative - that's a laugh - system.
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        Oct 29 2013: Imagine this form of democracy:
        There are no political parties - only civil projects.
        Online vote is by allocation of a mandatory flat-tax to projects at the voter's discretion.
        The tax works as a percentage of income - it is diverted to the tax-account upon input to an income account.
        No citizen can have any other account except the income account and the tax account.
        Voting is real-time - so there are no elections.
        Funds that remain in the tax account longer than a year are cancelled - destroyed, so they do not create a floating pool for corrupt exploitation. This also prevents inflation.
        Politicians then become project managers - the projects are presented online with full cost/benefit statements - these proposed projects are valid only for a year and have to be re-costed if target funding is not achieved.
        The voter is presented with a list of proposed projects, and can split funding over the list - in this way, only things important to the voter get funded.
        Any essential infrastructure project will remain on the list, and re-costed until the community decides the priority has become urgent.
        All citizens receive a mandatory payment for intangible services - this forms the entire social safety-net .. and it's just a number in an account that happens every week. Those who are called to produce above and beyond that do so for social prestige - not military might.
        The military is a project, as are all social institutions - re-costed every year.

        That is how I see online-democracy. It would be very technically easy to implement if you got the community to assent to it - it's cheap to do this.
        Debt is promises - a community will know what can and cannot be promised. Best to not commit further than a year, humans are inept beyond the base cycles of life. Maybe have a volcano fund if there's one nearby.
        Everything not covered by the civil deployment of tax is catered for through default reciprocity - we all have that .. it's a mistake to legislate it.

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