This conversation is closed.

What is wrong with the 1%?

My assumption is that we all benefit from wealth creation. How do we encourage its creation if we cast those who accumulate it in a negative light? Is it not societies reward mechanism for entrepreneurship, innovation and good management? Would it be fair to suggest the issue raised by the 99% is more one related to the ostentatious display of wealth and the lack of transparency as to how it was earned? Is this a reflection of consumer versus societal values? Should wealth be confiscated or should society encourage it is used in a manner that does not cause social unrest? If so how?

Closing Statement from Thor Hempel

I would like to thank everyone for their contributions. One of the findings that surprised me was how much our responses are possibly influenced by moral issues such as covetousness and greed. The current global economic issues beg for solutions to resolve the conflict between the 99% and the 1%. What surprised me when doing some research were the wise words from the past. Tragic lessons unheeded?
"Of all forms of tyranny the least attractive and the most vulgar is the tyranny of mere wealth." Theodore Roosevelt

"An imbalance between rich and poor is the oldest and most fatal ailment of all Republics." Plutarch

"Of all the potential perils to the new American republic, the prospect of concentrated power . . troubled the intellectual leaders of the Revolutionary generation. Familiar as the founders were with old Europe . . they understood why the accumulation of inherited wealth led to inequities and imbalances that inevitably corrupted any system of government." J. Conason

"Market forces have no intrinsically moral direction, which is why, before he wrote The Wealth of Nations, Adam Smith wrote The Theory of Moral Sentiments. Ethics should precede economics. But it doesn't have to. . . We know this because we've seen the results of capitalism without conscience: the pollution of the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the food we eat; the endangerment of workers; and the sale of dangerous products - from cars to toys to drugs. All in pursuit of ever-greater profits." A. Huffington

"The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little." F. D. Roosevelt

"Of course I believe in free enterprise but in my system of free enterprise, the democratic principle is that there never was, never has been, never will be, room for the ruthless exploitation of the many for the benefit of the few." H Truman

"If there are men in this country big enough to own the government of the United States, they are going to own it." Woodrow Wilson

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    Jan 9 2012: The issue is not the 1%. The issue is the fact that there has been a trend started in the last 30 years of transfer of wealth from the 99% to the 1%.

    I don’t know the data well from the rest of the world, but some issues are identifiable in the US which appear to also be prevalent in other parts of the world. This is a trend which must eventually be reversed. The sooner the better.

    Between the end of the depression and the 1970s progress was made in the middle class. More people were able to live with less work. Salaries rose. Living standards improved. Most families did well with only one working spouse. Vacation time increased. Work weeks decreased. This occurred during a period of highly aggressive income taxes. The richest 1% lost their percentage of total wealth and the rest gained.

    In the 1970s/1980s laissez-faire economic theory (typified by Milton Friedman’s TV series “Free to Choose”) took hold in response to the economic shock and stagflation caused by the Arab Oil Embargo. Since then the rich have gotten richer while the rest have stagnated despite the fact that worker productivity has doubled in that time period due to automation. Most families now have two full-time working spouses. Most work more the 40 hours a week and are lucky to have two weeks of vacation. It is well documented that the upper 1% have gained while the rest have either broke even or declined in income.

    It is not about demonizing the 1%. It is about sharing the gains of the economy among the remaining 99%.
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      Jan 10 2012: I agree Tim. How can taxes which provide a healthy society ever be considered 'envy' and 'stealing'? As you say Friedmans policies took hold or were imprinted during a time of stress (see Naomi Klines 'The Shock Doctrine, its about that), and have been refined since to blindside the general populace in order to facilitate the transfer of wealth that has been occuring since.

      I have heard a social system likened to the Titanic, where the first class passengers drowned alongside the poorest. Even the 1% are not immune from the rising crime rate, and all the problems associated with an increasingly impoverished underclass.
      • Jan 10 2012: Joanne, at one time collecting water from your roof and yard from rainfall was considered theft from the privatized water utility in Bolivia.
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          Jan 10 2012: I believe that Thor. Would you consider sending your child on a student exchange to Bolivia? Why not? The crime and desparation of the poor underclass make it too dangerous. Welcome to the sinking ship.
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      Jan 10 2012: Tim, it is not clear to me how being replaced by automation has the effect of doubling worker productivity. Please explain to a non-economist.
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        Jan 10 2012: If it used to take 2 workers to produce X, but now it takes only one worker, then per worker productivity has doubled.

        But your apparent point that the unemployed worker is not very productive is well taken.

        You do keep me on my toes Ed.
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          Jan 10 2012: When it gets to zero workers the math, and many other things, goes awry.
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    Jan 10 2012: I would say that lack of transparency is the primary issue. It is easy to look at someone and not understand how they got to be the way there are. It is easy to make assumptions. It is easy to presume that someone else has it easy, while you have it hard. You cannot look at a person who you think is rich and automatically see who they are, how they behave, or how hard they may or may not have worked. The problem lies in the ignorance of assumption without evidence.

    The secondary issue is in a general lack of education and conscientiousness in regard to how to effectively budget whatever capital you control. This is partly the result of people being creatures of habit, and when you get acclimated to spending a certain amount in a certain way, it is easy to continue to do so at your own future detriment.

    A tertiary issue lies in ethics and morality. Too often do people see something shiny, and want it, only because it is shiny, and for no other reason. Other times, they believe having something will make them popular or chic, and they may often begin to dwell on it and lust over it, especially if it is unattainable. At some point, they may no longer seek to actively work to attain possession, but will do whatever is necessary in order to obtain it. Money is a good example of this. Too many people are slaves to their desires for a piece of paper that has merely been blessed by the treasury department.

    There is an expression which, if considered and followed to its logical conclusion, may be taken as a partial remedy to all of these issues: "Libraries will get you through times of no money better than money will get you through times of no libraries."

    The problem is not with the "1%", but with the probably 1% who decided there was a problem with a different 1% and deign to speak for the other 98.
  • Jan 9 2012: Hi Thor,

    I've been fortunate enough to know quite a few people whom I believe are in the top 1% of all US earners. They're decent, hard working, and caring people. Meaning, they're just like everyone else that I know. The difference is that they've been successful. For that they get the privilege of paying about 36% of the total US Federal income tax, and being vilified bya few people who claim to speak for the "99%" of us.

    No doubt you can find examples of very rich people who behave badly. There are after all, over 3 million in the US alone. And guess what? That makes them just like the rest of us.

    Best wishes,
    Doug Bell
    • Jan 9 2012: Hi Douglas,
      I have been unfortunate to know some 1% and in my opinion most of them are not like the 99%. It is not in the human nature to have that kind of power without being affected. Some more than others. The tax issue you bring up is a bit of a straw horse but that is another issue in my opinion. One could argue that entrepreneurs sometimes create and distribute more wealth than cronyism and government. Often it is not in our interest to tax them excessively. How do we decide? As Tim pointed out maybe success should be measured more by how the 99% benefited?
      cheers
      Thor
      • Jan 9 2012: Hi Thor,

        I'm sorry to hear of your experiences.

        I'm not sure that being in the top 1% of tax returns is a particulaly powerful position. It means that you had over about $350,000 in income. Not too big a stretch for, for instance, two married doctors.

        I did not bring up the taxes to distract, rather to make a point. We ask these people to pay for all of our social programs, then complain that they're not paying their "fair" share. While it's fair (no pun intended) to debate how taxes should be assigned we should recognize that a small number of people are paying all the bills.

        Best wishes,
        Doug

        *A well done on starting great discussion by the way.
        • Jan 10 2012: Doug, I'm sorry to have put my anguish on you. Based on your income figures the problem has been reduced substantially. Thank you. I had been thinking net incomes in excess of a million per year or with assets in excess of 10 million just to be able to join the club. What percent would that be?
          Regards
          Thor
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          Jan 10 2012: Lets make it the top .5% then. Its business which should be the target, not private individuals. It is business which profits from social infrastructure, the pool of consumers that generate income, and the worker who is part of production, so it follows they/we should pay the correct tariff for the privilege. I would like to add, I am a business owner myself, and fully support business friendly policies, but not at the cost of society as a whole.
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      Jan 9 2012: Douglas: Is a fair system one which increases the wealth of the upper 1% while the lower 80% stagnate? That is the state of our current economic system. This after 30 years of incredible productivity gains through automation. Ideally a democratic society would adjust the imbalance through progressive taxation. But our current political system is bought and owned by the upper 1%.
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        Jan 9 2012: what do you mean by "the system" increases the wealth of the upper 1%? shouldn't we be a little more specific? who does that? and how?

        should we answer these questions, we might find out a better way to fix a problem, if there is, than simply "correcting" the bad result by taking some loot, and handing it out to people.
        • Jan 10 2012: I thought it was the invisible hand that did that. From where are we taking the loot? I thought we were printing it. To what extent is handing out loot to pensioners, students, disabled and low income people maintaining the consumer base needed to sustain an advanced economy?
          To what extent would excluding them result in higher levels of crime and all the related costs associated with social unrest?
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          Jan 10 2012: Krisztian: It seems that others have already answered your questions, but I’ll add a bit.

          It has been long recognized that power has a tendency to become concentrated - no matter what the system. In biblical times they came up with one solution to adjust the balance periodically - every seven years debts would be forgiven. But the most effective proven system of balance has been the progressive income tax. It has worked. It has greatly increased middle class.
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          Jan 22 2012: I don,t think that taking loot is the idea, I would support an inheritance tax that encouraged the breaking down of huge fortunes, say a 50% tax on any person who inherited more than 100,000,000 dollars who could really complain about that? a billionaire would have to find 10 people to divide their wealth between and poor bill gates would have to find almost 400 benefactors. I still feel that this is ample , and that this would increase the chance that some members of the inheritance group would reinvest in the economy in creative and innovative ways supporting new ideas , more in fact than a single more conservative multi billionaire investor.
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        Jan 10 2012: I agree Thor, and with you too, Tim. Its the system which creates imbalance, not individuals. As has been said, they may even try to correct the problems themselves through charity, although it is well documented how fruitless this is, and can only ever represent 'a drop in the bucket' of the real problems.

        High crime, high unemployment, high poverty, all signs a system is not functioning well. In every society where the solution (put forward by the 1% or those who are so pathalogically insecure they worship them) is to make the 1% even richer, chronic economic instability always follows. We are likely to see big catastrophic events in highly economically split societies, for example big sudden economic crashes, runaway black market crime cartels, and even revolutions.

        It is simply responsible to opt for a well regulated democratically socialist or democratically capitalist (they are the same thing by the way, please don't have a kitten at the word 'socialist') system. Just as in a two stroke engine, the oil and the petrol have to be mixed just right, in order for the machine to run smoothly, so it is with a social system. Too much enterprise and the ugly effects of poverty, too much waste pollution, crime, etc start to rear their ugly heads. Too much welfare, and enterprise begins to stagnate. Where do we draw the line? People come first, that is why it is called a society. Everyone has to share it.
        • Jan 11 2012: In my opinion, stagnation is usually not due to excessive welfare as much as underfunded education and investment in community services.
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        Jan 10 2012: "It has been long recognized that power has a tendency to become concentrated"

        tim, i have to very strongly make my point again: it does not matter what happened in the past. we need to identify the causes of any wealth concentration. why is it important?

        because it is not self evident that concentration of wealth is a problem. if it comes about through perfectly ethical and legal means, we simply have no moral basis to interfere. if it is created with fraud, crime or other shenanigans, i'm all for fixing it. but we need to see the way, not the result.

        side remark: we are not talking about "power" here. in a normal world, wealth does not grant you power. there is only one way you can use wealth to gain power in our world: bribe politicians. stop corruption, and the problem is solved.

        in case anyone still feels that big corporations are to be feared: if you get a mail from mcdonalds or walmart, how do you feel before opening it? and if you get a letter from the police, the IRS or any other government organization, how do you feel?
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          Jan 10 2012: I thought this was a good explanation of the problem of inequality:

          http://www.ted.com/talks/richard_wilkinson.html

          More crime, worst health, higher infant mortality, more mental health problems. Inequality hurts societies. I don't really view it as a moral issue (although you might say that less inequality is "good"). Are we interested in the common-wealth or not?
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        Jan 10 2012: tim, my observations on that talk is in the comment section there. in short: bollocks.

        i'm not interested in the "common" wealth. i'm interested in the wealth of each and every people. i don't buy collectivism in any form.
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          Jan 10 2012: Kirsztian, you haven't presented a valid argument why collectivism in ANY form is a bad thing. I can understand why you might argue that collectivism in SOME forms, are bad but the absolute-ness of your standpoint makes it difficult to take seriously.

          'Bollocks' is not an argument. It only shows the Wilkinson talk must have been persuasive enough, and presented enough irrefutable data, to annoy you.
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          Jan 10 2012: Show me a place with no public parks and I'll show you a place were you don't want to be.
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          Jan 13 2012: I actually had no intention of interacting on this thread being that there are many people on here with similar ideas as to my own but Krisztian comment about collectivism got me intrigued

          Anyhow Krisztian, as Joanne stated, you have not presented a valid argument as to why collectivism is a bad thing, so I suggest you read Peter Kropotkin book called "Mutual Aid". Its overall assertion states that mutual aid (or in other words collectivism) has and will continue to have an influential impact on humanity and that this is far better than individualism (which I actually do not buy).

          In case you think that I am trying to advocate for anarchism, any anthropologist would also state that collectivism/mutual aid has occurred throughout the vicissitudes of human history..(For the record.Kropotkin was a well known anthropologist).

          Just some food for thought
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        Jan 10 2012: tim, please
        • Jan 13 2012: I am new to the TED community and therefore unaware as to many of the cultural and technical issues. Can someone explain the deleted comments in the threads?
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          Jan 17 2012: At Thor: Well to explain the missing comments; Kristian and I got a bit carried away, so the moderators clipped some of our comments out, and requested that we stay on topic a bit more.

          If you feel someone has been rude to you or is too far off topic, you can click the little flag button on the side, and a moderator will take a look and make a judgement call. You can see the parameters upon which they decide, on the TED terms and conditions.
        • Jan 18 2012: Thank You Joanne.
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        Jan 13 2012: orlando, i did explain why collectivism is bad, but it god deleted.

        collectivism does not mean people cooperate. we don't need a term for that, it is natural for all group animals. collectivism means treating groups of humans as an entity. for example talking about the nation's interest as opposed to the people's interest.

        a collectivist view is either an opinion, in which case we don't need to care except argue. or it can be a policy, in which case it means oppressing rights in the name of some collective. it is wrong.

        you didn't ask, but as of the current half-deleted state of this thread, it also seems like i neglected to reply to the "bollocks is not argument" statement. i did reply to it, but it is now deleted too. so to be clear on that: my reply can be found in the comment section of the cited talk. as i explained in my post.
    • Jan 10 2012: Hi Douglas,

      Yes 1% is like rest of the people so some of them are honest and hard working and others are not.

      "We ask these people to pay for all of our social programs, then complain..."

      I think it is much more complicated. The money that the 1% earns is not made in vacuum. We all pay for infrastructure, government, military , school and other items that 1% depends on to make money. They also depend on the past centuries of progress our society made and the democarcy we have.

      It is also fact that rich people have more ways to minimize their taxes through various loopholes.

      I have also seen that taxes for each has been lower than last few decades.

      I think what we want is fair tax system where top 1% is rewwarded well for their hard work but not to the point where they accumulate excessive amounts of money (what is excessive is another question). Why do we even have tax breaks for rich?

      I think your salary example represent combined rather than individual income?

      cheers
      • Jan 10 2012: Hi Zdenek,
        I think many of the tax breaks were intended to encourage the rich to invest in ventures considered socially progressive or economically beneficial as compared to the funds being spent on a five story yacht anchored in Monte Carlo.
        cheers
        Thor
      • Jan 10 2012: Unfortunately not. The tax cuts you mentioned were not conditional on any socially responsible investments. The infamous trickle down theory would generate sufficient returns.
      • Jan 11 2012: Hi Zdenek

        Making the tax rates more or less progressive would be a great debate, but it probably deserves it's own thread.

        My point for this discussion is to recognize that, loopholes and all, the vast majority of US taxes are paid by earners in the top few percent of returns. Off of the top of my head, the numbers are: top 1% of filers pay about 36% of income tax, and the top 25% pay about two thirds. Almost half of filers have no income tax liability at all. To say that a tax break benefits the wealthy is almost an oxymoron. It doesn't do anyone any good to say that a reduction saved Bobby Rich $50,000 but didn't save Johnny Broke anything.

        A better argument in, in terms of this thread, is "Why is this discrepency so large?"

        You're right in that my numbers are for returns, and treats joint returns as a single entity. I think that's as accurate as anything, and probably has much more accurate statistics.

        Best wishes,
        Doug
        • Jan 12 2012: Doug, I think that your query as to why such a large discrepancy possibly suggests an imbalance that resorts to income taxes for correction. When one considers property sales and other taxes are the discrepancies as large?
        • Jan 13 2012: Hi Douglas,

          "... the vast majority of US taxes are paid by earners in the top few percent of returns. "

          I think it is not relevant what percentage of total tax returns the top 1% pays. I think what is really important is that these rich people earn fair amount of money based on their contributions to the society rather than getting whatever they can.

          In general money bring influence and power. The very rich are more able to promote their interests in politics, legal and financial system, more likely making the system suitable for their goal of making even more money. (this is generalization and many exceptions apply).

          Meanwhile the middle and lower class has fewer means to do so unless they collectively pursue their goals (which sometimes they do with success and sometimes with failure like the Wall Street movement).

          What I see is that over the last few decades the top 1% substantially increased their wealth when compared to the rest of the society. I also see businesses pushing their agenda of making their owners and shareholders even richer by lobbying congress to help them. I see how corrupt and incapable some of bankers, hedge funds managers and politicians are, creating financial chaos while in pursuit of more riches. They usually face little or no consequences and many times they receive huge bonuses while doing so.

          In business monopolies exist that allow owners of companies to abuse the market to their advantage. CEOs salaries and bonuses also keep going up substantially.

          Now we do need to award well people that spend huge amount of effort and ingenuity in their businesses and other work. However they did not create the infrastructure, technological and social advances for the last century they depend on but rather the society as a whole made this progress. I think we need to keep this in mind.

          What I think needs to happen is that we separate business interests from politics, distribute wealth fairly and make leaders more accountable?

          cheers
      • Jan 13 2012: Hi Thor,

        I don't have any numbers for property and other taxes. My not very educated guess is that they wouldn't change the argument to any great degree. Also, property taxes in the US are strictly local taxes, not federal.

        A concern that I do have is the sense that most of the contributors here feel the way to correct the imbalance is to bring the higher earners down. I would rather put our efforts into the much harder task of bringing the lower earners up.

        Best wishes,
        Doug
        • Jan 21 2012: Hi Doug,
          Just read this today and thought of your comments regarding tax revenues
          ...millions of Americans who do not pay federal income taxes pay federal payroll taxes.
          In 1950, payroll and other federal retirement contributions constituted 10.9 percent of all federal revenues; by 2007, the last "normal" economic year before federal revenues began falling, they made up 33.9 percent. By contrast, corporate income taxes were 26.4 percent of federal revenues in 1950; by 2007, they had fallen to 14.4 percent. source ....http://www.alternet.org/story/153738/have_the_super_wealthy_already_seceded_from_the_united_states?akid=8115.81676.dTUVOQ&rd=1&t=18
  • Jan 16 2012: Four years before the Great Collapse of 2008 – the editors of The Economist warned:

    A growing body of evidence suggests that the meritocratic ideal is in trouble in America. Income inequality is growing to levels not seen since the (first) Gilded Age. But social mobility is not increasing at anything like the same pace….Everywhere you look in modern America – in the Hollywood Hills or the canyons of Wall Street, in the Nashville recording studios or the clapboard houses of Cambridge, Massachusetts – you see elites mastering the art of perpetuating themselves. America is increasingly looking like imperial Britain, with dynastic ties proliferating, social circles interlocking, mechanisms of social exclusion strengthening, and a gap widening between the people who make decisions and shape the culture and the vast majority of working stiffs.
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      Jan 16 2012: those learned doctors could have also pointed out the alarming increase in housing, without any fundamentals behind it. alas, we had to wait months after the collapse for most economists to realize it. maybe we need someone with better track record.
  • Jan 9 2012: My problem with the 1% is that much of the money they have is obtained in a manner that hurts others and they don't seem to care. The banks have raided our retirement funds or at least skimmed off of them. (Look at BNY Mellon) They harm the environment to get their gas and oil, land which I love. They buy and manipulate our politicians so that they no longer represent us they represent the corporations. They make billions selling weapons to kill people I care about. They are totally out of touch with the realities of the working class and fail to us the credit due for carrying this country. Without us they would not be rich and manipulating the stock market. All they care about is themselves regardless of who suffers at their hands, like overseas sweatshops and human rights violations. They will buy cheap and sell high regardless of what it is while we struggle to keep food on the table. getting the 1% to pay their fare share is a drop in the bucket, to me it's a matter of them owning our politicians. Private money should not be allowed to be used for campaigns, then they owe and they do pay back with favorable contracts and the like. They need to get some morals, they are not people but corporations and corporations are not people until Texas hangs one.
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    Jan 10 2012: The Average CEO in the USA earns in one day 35,000 dollars which is the average income of a family in the USA and over twice the poverty level. That is that the income of one CEO could raise 730 families per year from no income to the poverty level Taking only the Fortune 500's CEO's (and assuming that their average income is as low as above) 365,000 families could go from 0 income to poverty level. If Bill Gates were to disperse his 59 000 000 000 dollars evenly to the 400 000 000 people man woman and child of all ages in the USA, his fortune alone, would be 147.50 dollars each. That is more than some people are earning this week. The size of these fortunes is easy to forget.

    Now before you go berzerk, I am not calling for the redistribution of wealth by such draconian means. I am just trying to get across the vast size of the fortunes we are talking about.
    • Jan 10 2012: American CEOs are paid excessively compared to foreign CEOs..Billion dollar packages have become the new gold standard. 80% of Americans agreed that CEOs are paid too much.(Bloomberg poll) The Wall Street Journals recent study found that the top .01% or 14,000 American families hold 22.2% of wealth, and the bottom 90%, or over 133 million families, just 4% of the nation's wealth. Internal Revenue Service figures show the 1% have tripled their share in one generation.
      It seems an area that needs restructuring in the same manner so many average people have had to downsize and deal with in the past few years. Sorry we had to let you go but our restructured company can offer you 20% of your former salary and you had better smile and say Thank You if you want to keep the job. We should insist our pensions and investments and government boycott those companies that have excessive executive compensation They should be rated by we the standard and poor as not investment grade.
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    Jan 10 2012: Thor I am not pleased with being described as the envious. I can't recall a single time I have said that the monies controlled by the 1% were in someway mine. I simply maintain that past a certain point the concentration of wealth stops having its encouraging benefit and instead makes it less possible for new development to take place. Every comment of yours I read is argumentative and not really very innovative. How much wealth do you have and how much do you think makes you one of the 1%?
    • Jan 10 2012: I think that Kriztian reinforced that envy is not an emotion to blame on others. That there may be causal links does not defend acting on them. For the purposes of this discussion I am glad that he clarified envy in the way he did. It helps keep us on guard against those that instigate actions or manipulate the feelings of others by stoking such emotions. Russell, I am not sure where I described you as being envious but if construed that way I do apologize.
    • Jan 10 2012: Based on more recent numbers I posted it would seem that many of the people that the media via ows vilify as 1% are only junior members allowed within the castle gates. Power and wealth have accumulated into a billionaire class that is probably more like .01% . It suggests a return of an aristocracy. Or have they always been around but not so ostentatious as the current culture encourages?
      I consider myself fortunate in that I have experienced living in every strata of class society including the top 10% of 1%.. For that reason I am most enamored by those societies that maintain egalitarian values ( not communism ) nor (everyone should get the same) I believe a focus on bottom up mobility leads to a strong middle class and a co-operative society that can accomplish great things.
    • Jan 10 2012: I sympathize with occupy wall street but feel the approach is dated and wrong. It is for that reason I tried to instigate a conversation here on TED.
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        Jan 10 2012: Its a hot issue, and a few seasoned battlers turn up from both sides turn to talk about it, whenever anyone puts up questions about economic issues. It is important that we talk about it, and I hope it does not cause anyone undue stress, because we must as a human community, find some solutions to some of the problems we are going to face of the next couple of decades. Dialogue is good.

        Thanks for putting up the question.
  • Jan 10 2012: We are competitive where I work also, we give to the charity of our choice and have 100% participation every year. But we are not billionaires or a large corporation. The examples you gave are great but that is the 99% giving, we are not the wealthy. It is a known fact that the poor give more than the wealthy to charity. Our team here at work wins an award every year but can only do so much, if all corperations and wealthy did this it would make a difference. I have nothing against the 1%, just the corperations.
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    Jan 10 2012: Thor, you assume that we all benefit from wealth creation.
    Why do you think so, can you clear that to me?
    • Jan 10 2012: It seems everyone wants a piece of the pie. The bigger the pie the more to potentially be spread around. Some places do not even have the ingredients ability or knowledge as to how to make a pie. Others suggest "let them eat cake" I think we are fortunate to have an economy that can afford to create an infrastructure that includes some social safety nets and enables us to better ourselves.
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        Jan 10 2012: Quote: "It seems everyone wants a piece of the pie."

        To me this seems like an old fashion mafia mentality.
        By my experience most people like to live in peace with enough provision to have food and shelter.
        Civilization is a community that includes the wellbeing of every citizen.
        The pursuit of personal wealth is a bit primitive a compensation for the spiritual poor.
        • Jan 10 2012: Yes! How do we recreate a time when people were focused on bettering themselves and their community versus materialism and power. What happened to aspiring to being respected, honored and benevolent? How do we champion these people as examples while ostracizing those who's values have become tainted with greed. Do we start in the schools?
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        Jan 10 2012: What people sometimes fail to consider, is that there are a group of people out there, who are dead against 'the wellbeing' of every citizen. A well fed, well informed work force means a labour force that is not so easy to exploit.

        With the decline of religion, the ability to manipulate through the church has declined, and the abolition of slavery, ( in the legitimate economy at least), combined with our western labour laws mean barons of industry often have to make their products in countries where life is less expensive.

        The last thing some of these people want, is an informed, mobile, educated and spiritually satisfied workforce/consumer base. Who would work in the factories? Who would buy the products?

        I don't disagree with you Frans, I just see this as the perenial conflict of interest, inherent in the problem we continually discuss.
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    Jan 9 2012: I like the idea of people with wealth who can invest in new ideas, and I don't believe that the accumulation of wealth by a minority can ever be entirely stopped. I do think that it would be better if to avoid a stiff inheritance tax the wealthy families had to create say 1000 millionaires instead of one billionaire, it improves the chances that some of the money will be invested and invested creatively. I could even see the sense of making it 100 million dollars before a stiff tax hit inheritance, but in a world where the one percent have in their ranks multi billionaires it is not possible to accept that they have personally accumulated that wealth.
    • Jan 9 2012: Maybe we could start by getting rid of those mega million dollar lotteries and returning to win a million?
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        Jan 10 2012: I agree with this too. Even Bill Gates described the effect of too much money on his children as 'confusing'. It actually creates a climate where we lose perspective on wealth and the kinds of tasks money can actually perform for us.
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        Jan 10 2012: How is this reply even Germaine to my comment? How except as an insult should I take it? Dis you actually read my point of view? you think that the effect of dividing 400 fortunes from 1.9 billion to 59 billion , a group of people who the aggregate fortune of the top 20 is 500 billion dollars, as in one half of one trillion dollars , can be compared to a lottery? the lowest net worth on forbes top 400 list was 1.9 billion dollars.... lets say that you could only pass on to a decedent 100 000 000 dollars without tax the poorest on the forbes list would create 19 such multi milionaire, which I maintain would increase the chance and the motivation of investment in new ideas and industries.

        the top 20 I mentioned would create 500 000 000 000 divided by 100 000 000 hmmmm 5000 or so? 20 to 5000 is a significant difference. Again what was your point in mentioning lotteries? do you imagine that these fortunes were won for a dollar ticket? Or do you want to present the lottery as the way that the regular worker can become wealthy? Wouldn't the position that only by such luck could wealth be created in the 99% prove to be a counter argument to wealth's accumulation as an incentive? My father worker as a professional on highly technical projects of national security importance. He was very close to being a "paper millionaire" when the stock market folded post 9/11 and again a few years ago.... understand that a million dollars earned and amassed over a life time of valuable work would have made him just barley lower middle class by the way wealth is divided in this country.

        I do not have wealth which is fine I have not earned it. I have chosen a simpler life where I raise apples and spend time with my family and online. It is a shame that I have wasted so much time with you.
    • Jan 10 2012: I am sorry to have offended you. I mentioned the lottery in the context of how meaningless a million dollar win has become in our society. Twenty years ago that was not the case. Inflation has not grown anywhere near the amount that is now needed to be considered wealthy. The divide consequently grows. My own personal view is that shows such as lifestyles of the rich and famous together with mega lotteries and the media and marketing have created a new gilded age. Considering the suffering in the world I am alarmed by such social inequity as it usually results in social upheaval or totalitarianism. That you propose some method to dismantle the billionaire inheritances is to be commended. Thank You.
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        Jan 10 2012: I am sorry i if I over reacted, I think that everyone here agrees that those who create more and contribute more should be compensated more. And that the position of government today is to act as a check and balance to capitalism by insuring certain minimum services.We may not all agree on what those services should be, but I think that the rights under the constitution are an example of services that are guaranteed us by government that in other times we would have had to have been able to afford. I am currently trying to arrange a system where fruit that I sell at very litle profit to juice or baby food manufactures i might be able to donate to Haiti, following a documentary where i saw children eating pies made of lard salt and mud, hundreds maybe thousands of them. How in a world like this with such great wealth's and powerful technologies can children be forced to eat dirt?
        I believe that the first step to reducing the developing aristocracy is to pass a very strong inheritance tax and to find a way that the people who are vulnerable to this tax are unable to move the money to shelter it. Maybe freeze the assets a day before the new tax law and compel the assets to be either divided now or tax paid.
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          Jan 10 2012: Actually Russell, I admire people like you, who have a solid perspective on wealth, and value other things highly, such as growing apples and spending time with family, over a five storey yacht.

          I cannot understand, with so many good people in the U.S. how a greedy and irresponsible minority have come to dominate, culturally and economically. More power to you.
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    Jan 23 2012: yes if the inheritance is larger than 10,000,000 dollars. I think that is reasonable. The billion dollars becomes 10 units of 100,000,000 and that creates the incentive to invest it more aggressively. The desire to amass a greater fortune. Plus the odds are 10 to 1 in favor of the money being invested more and or spent more that way than if the funds were controled by one person, and a say 10% tax on inheritance over 100,000,000, so if some one decides to leave the entire fortune to one person the 1,000,000,000 dollars becomes 900,000,000 dollars which is still quite a fortune. Of course one hopes that the government responds to the peoples needs and the countries interests. Funding a socal program here, and bailing out a bank there as needs be. What is the incentive to invest in the markets today except the desire to amass wealth or to develop a new industry or both?
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      Jan 23 2012: listen, this is our conversation so far:

      you: "I would support an inheritance tax "

      me: "so you say: here is a huge sum of money there. if we could lay a hand on some of it, it would be so cool. let's devise methods to get a portion of that money."

      you: "no! just that an incentive"

      me: "incentive? not tax?"

      you: "yes ... 10% tax on inheritance"

      so let me ask again. this is the proposal?:

      "it is a huge sum! we could take some of it, and it would be good for us."

      that is your point?
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    Jan 23 2012: I just opened this topic and thought that the people on this thread would be likely to contribute useful ideas.
    Inheritance tax
    please look it up if you have an opinion pro or con and let me know it thank you
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    Jan 22 2012: what people miss is the size of the top 400 wealthiest Americans fortunes, the smallest of the top 400 is 1.9 billion to 39 billion. Billion with a b. I know billion and million are hard to mentally differentiate

    1,900,000,000 dollars imagine 2000 dollars in 20 dollar bills put the 100 bills in front of you now put 950000 twenty dollar bills on top of each of those twenties, thats 1.9 billion dollars

    thats a huge amount of money for a single individual to inherit

    why is the so called death tax which would effect people with assets in excess of those held by 80 % of the country so strongly opposed?

    I would support an inheritance tax that encouraged the breaking down of huge fortunes, say a 50% tax on any person who inherited more than 100,000,000 dollars who could really complain about that? a billionaire would have to find 10 people to divide their wealth between and poor bill gates would have to find almost 400 benefactors. I still feel that this is ample , and that this would increase the chance that some members of the inheritance group would reinvest in the economy in creative and innovative ways supporting new ideas , more in fact than a single more conservative multi billionaire investor.
    • Jan 23 2012: Thanks Russell
      "Despite the rhetoric about property rights that has dominated the current debate, the real question is whether we should allow the children of the super rich the status of nobles by inheriting their parents' wealth and the social and political privileges that wealth confers. The movement to repeal estate taxes is in reality nothing less than an effort to establish an American aristocracy." Mr.Neem History News Service. Jefferson wrote that "the earth belongs in usufruct to the living" and "the dead have neither powers nor rights over it" http://hnn.us/articles/28102.html
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        Jan 23 2012: I would assume then that you have a view on such a tax? please post on my debate on the topic,
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      Jan 23 2012: so the argument is as follows:

      there is a huge sum of money there. if we could lay a hand on some of it, it would be so cool. let's devise methods to get a portion of that money.

      am i right? this is your point?
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        Jan 23 2012: No.
        My point is that wealth that accumulates in such large amounts tends to be come more conservative in its investments. It is my position that if an estate of 1,000,000,000 dollars were to be willed as a lump to one or even 2 people it would do little to re introduce capitol to the economy for investing or by having it spent on goods or services. If however, the government was going to take a percentage of any inheritance over 10,000,000 or even 100,000,000 dollars the result would most likely be that 10 or 100 multi millionaires would be created, each with the motivation to invest that money in emerging tech or other potentially high yield markets with the goal of becoming truly wealthy. I am not interested in saying that the government should actually lay hands on a dime, just that an incentive exist to make it more likely and just the odds make it more likely that the inherited money will reenter the economy more actively than it has traditionally.

        I dont think you give me enough credit, you seem to assume everyone is looking at very short range quick fixes or pseudo fixes.
  • Jan 22 2012: Hi Thor,

    Sorry for the quoting. we seem to have reached the limit of the TED threading.

    Just read this today and thought of your comments regarding tax revenues
    ...millions of Americans who do not pay federal income taxes pay federal payroll taxes.
    In 1950, payroll and other federal retirement contributions constituted 10.9 percent of all federal revenues; by 2007, the last "normal" economic year before federal revenues began falling, they made up 33.9 percent. By contrast, corporate income taxes were 26.4 percent of federal revenues in 1950; by 2007, they had fallen to 14.4 percent. source ....http://www.alternet.org/story/153738/have_the_super_wealthy_already_seceded_from_the_united_states?akid=8115.81676.dTUVOQ&rd=1&t=18

    As I read it, what they mean by payroll tax is what is collected for the US social security and Medicare systems. In theory, these aren't used to support anything except the social security and medicare system. In practice, they've been pretty much co-opted. It's supposed to be a self-funded retirement / disability / health care system. What you get out at retirement depends on what you put in. That's the plan at least.

    This tax is about 7% from the employee and a matching 7% from the employer. Unless of course you're self-employed, then you get to enjoy paying both sides for a total of 14%. It's collected for all wages up to about $115,000. A ceiling that goes up regularly. As such it's regressive for income earners over the cap.

    One can make a case that corporations should not be taxed at all. The point being that you are just indirectly taxing the shareholders and/or customers. The argument is that anyone getting income from an investment is paying taxes twice, once by the corporation and once on their personal return. Occasionally proposals surface to eliminated corporate income tax, but individually tax dividends and capital gains at the personal tax rate. They have not been successful.

    Best wishes,
    Doug
    • Jan 23 2012: Thanks Doug for your input.
      I took the article to be more about Income streams not subject to payroll deductions and the use of capital gains to reduce taxes. The 115K salary earned by the self employed compared to the billionaire class could be considered an example of the upper middle class being squeezed while those far above his status earn and pay a relative pittance. I do think there are valid points as to eliminating corporate taxes if 1) The profits retained by the business are reinvested in the business (not passive investments) In theory this should benefit the overall economy 2) Distributions to shareholders and executive compensation in whatever form are taxed as if they were payroll distributions 3) Eliminate corporate Personhood to justify exempting them from the taxpaying public 4) Insure rules and controls are in place to prevent oligopolies and maintain competitive markets. 5) Recognize that multinationals have so many options available to avoid tax that rather than pursuing this avenue it would be better for the world to pursue innovative means of global corporate governorship.
      Regards
      Thor
  • Jan 16 2012: I found what I thought an answer to my question but not a solution

    The full piece is a good read but in summary


    http://muccings.blogspot.com/2011/11/i-was-thumbing-through-forbes-and-smart.html

    Moral failures on both sides

    This situation can best be described as a two-sided moral failure headed for a collision. On the side of the wealthy, the moral failure is their material greed and their flaunting thereof. On the side of the OWS/sympathizers is the moral failure of envy, jealousy, and covetousness.

    The morally healthy person on either side of this divide would not act as they do. The wealthy would not flaunt. The non-wealthy would not covet. Sure, government could force a redistribution, but that would not cure the moral conflict. Redistribution would have equally bad, if not worse consequences, by reducing incentive to be productive (among both the “have mores” and the “have lesses”) and create a collective poverty.

    Bottom line: The confrontation we are seeing is not so much an economic problem; not even so much a political problem. It is a moral problem.
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      Jan 16 2012: you call simple people and top earners "both" sides. what about the government? aren't they a third side here?
      • Jan 16 2012: Simple people? Many top earners have little ability beyond putting a ball in a hoop , making fools of themselves for reality TV or withering away a previous generations fortune. What exactly do you mean by simple? The government is suppose to represent all of us and not act in its own interests. One of the problems with a duopoly is that it becomes easy to do so.
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          Jan 16 2012: try not to dwell too much on the term. tell me how to call them, and i fix my comment. concentrate on the essence, if i can ask.
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    Jan 11 2012: Hello,

    I do not think there is anything wrong with the 1%. To me, there is something wrong with the 5 or 10 percent of the people that are corrupt, greedy, or power hungry. If someone in the 1% is holding people down, suppressing, oppressing, and continuing to be corrupt, then there is something wrong.

    I wish someone would donate 10 million dollars to me, so that I could feel like what it was like to be in the 1%. What would I do? What kind of person would I become? I don't think I would buy a 5000 dollar shower curtain, but I don't know what it feels like to be in the 1%.

    Thank You! I love conversations about economic equality!
    • Jan 12 2012: “A new study by American psychologists has found that cash and popularity do not bring nirvana. Experts say that excessive wealth, particularly for people unaccustomed to it, such as lottery winners, can actually cause unhappiness. There is evidence that there are very wealthy people who are very unhappy, particularly people who were not born to wealth like lottery winners.”
      Source: BBC News
  • Jan 10 2012: I don't know Krisztian tell me?
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      Jan 10 2012: they both donated more to different causes like education, research and charity than most people earns in a lifetime. rockefeller donated 10% of his income to his church only, plus many other things. gates supports a long list of stuff from nuclear research to disease eradication.

      the greedy rich is a myth. greed and wealth does not have much to do with each other.

      PS: i mentioned these names exactly with the intent to show the contrast between truth and common belief. both guys are icons of evil greed in the public opinion. can't be farther from the truth.
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        Jan 10 2012: Does it seem that Thor dismiss's your points or is it only to me he seems arrogant ?
  • Jan 10 2012: I am not sure how we get the rest to follow the others examples, it would be nice if they would somehow feel competitive about giving.
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      Jan 10 2012: we are competitive. look at teams at kiva. or look at the charity competitions among internet groups, like reddit and such.
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    Jan 10 2012: can't answer in the thread, so make it a root one:

    "I thought it was the invisible hand that did that."

    how do you know? we have the "invisible hand" but we also have a powerful state that regulates and redistributes. which one is responsible?

    "From where are we taking the loot? I thought we were printing it."

    tim was talking about progressive taxation to eliminate 1% incomes (inequality, that is).

    "To what extent is handing out loot to pensioners, students, disabled and low income people maintaining the consumer base needed to sustain an advanced economy? "

    in no extent. it is intellectual sloth to say any solution is needed, necessary, unavoidable. it is a choice between two solutions we need to explore and contemplate. what if a solution is given by the state, what if the solution is given by the free market. simply dismissing the free market solution without carefully evaluating it is not very intellectual.

    "To what extent would excluding them result in higher levels of crime and all the related costs associated with social unrest?"

    we need to consider the alternatives, not just compare state solution with zero solution. however, we digress. i was not talking about taxation in general. i was talking about anti-1% tax proposals. whether we need to address the actual problem, if any, or simply "fix" the situation by confiscating.
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      Jan 11 2012: Hey Krisztian. Just discovered your new thread. Good idea to start afresh.

      Just a trivial point before people start labeling me “the guy who wants to eliminate the 1%”. The idea is silly. There will always be an upper 1%. The issue is the level of inequality (we can discuss gini coefficients, if necessary).

      So you seem to be making the claim that level of inequality in a society is immaterial. And that egalitarianism is not even worth aiming for. Is that correct?
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        Jan 11 2012: kind of yes. i'm saying that i see no reason how and why would it be a problem if the top earners earn hundred billion times more than the bottom earners.

        i would, on the other hand, like to see what is behind the alarming trend that in the US, top earners skyrocketed in the last decades. it is not necessarily bad, but suspicious. we need to look into that. and if we can find some problems, fix it.

        but i would strongly advise against "redistributing" any justly acquired wealth, no matter how big it is.
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          Jan 11 2012: Are you in favor of a legal system which treats all people as equals?
        • Jan 12 2012: Given that money is a social construct and the maintenance of it mostly a social construct (legal system) then to what extent do those that have amassed wealth have a responsibility to the rest of society? The alternative might be redistribution by conquer. I wonder if the looting and pillaging Vikings felt remorse towards the wealthy? Gini coefficients and such strongly indicate a breakdown in social structures with ever increasing amounts of wealth diverted to the prison and protection industries. Costa Rica abolished its army because the upper classes felt it was cheaper and made for a more civil society to be inclusive rather than exclusive. A unique example within the turmoil of Central America. The velocity of money turnover has also shown causal impacts on a vibrant economy. Hoarding wealth and monopolies seem to run counter to the best interests of our mutual economic interests.
          Rather than focusing on those that have accumulated great wealth I am still left pondering if the issue is not more what they do with it? If they gained it in a manner which society encouraged and condoned then it may be in our interest to let them continue to manage it. The biggest issue seems to be transparency.
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        Jan 11 2012: it is kind of a tricky question, because i don't support nation-wide legal system. but sure, any legal system is good if it treats all people equally.
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          Jan 13 2012: So, I think we can agree that absolute equality, even in the legal system is impossible to achieve. But still it is a worthy goal to aim for.

          Why wouldn’t the same be true of our political/economic system? That is, we accept that we will never achieve perfect equality, but there is value in aiming in that direction.
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        Jan 12 2012: thor, money being a "social construct" does not change much. money has its properties and functions, and it is nothing else than facilitating exchange.

        the responsibility of anyone wealthy is a moral/social one, and thus it is personal and not enforceable. one can think that inventing is the best way. one can think that science needs money the most. the thing is: if some has money, it means that he already served society with something. he does not owe anything else. but since we are humans, most wealthy people still care, and they give anyway.

        tell me how the gini index indicates any breakdown. also tell me what is that "velocity of money turnover". and how monopolies emerge on a free market.
        • Jan 12 2012: Should the poor and unfortunate care about the legal protections and safety of the wealthy any more than the wealthy should care about the welfare of those less fortunate. What is moral versus enforceable and why? What bargain has been made that I should fight the Vikings on your behalf given they have little interest in my meager possessions? Not skipping your other questions but will have to respond later.
          cheers
          Thor
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        Jan 13 2012: thor, what do you mean by should? nobody has to care about the legal protection of anyone. i'm not required to care about my neighbor. not caring is not a crime. but it would be nice to do so, and most humans do care.

        you fight the vikings if: 1, they attack you or someone else and 2, you want to. if you don't want to on your own, and i want you to, i can ask you, pay you, offer you anything i can. that's it. i don't exactly see where are we going with it though.
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        Jan 13 2012: tim, there should be equality in all areas. everyone should have the same right to start a company, same right to run for a political position, same right to buy a piece of land, etc. abolish all tariffs, quotas, customs, subsidies, stupid regulations etc. let trade be free.

        i still don't see where we are getting at. so far we were talking about equality in having stuff. the word is the same, but the meaning is completely different. i don't want people having the same amount of stuff. i want them to have the same rights to have it, if they can get it.
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          Jan 13 2012: Krisztian:

          To get back to your comment:

          “i would, on the other hand, like to see what is behind the alarming trend that in the US, top earners skyrocketed in the last decades. it is not necessarily bad, but suspicious. we need to look into that. and if we can find some problems, fix it.”

          What if the problem is laissez-faire capitalism? Is it possible that you (and those who share your belief system) are so dogmatic in your thinking that you couldn’t recognize it?
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    Jan 10 2012: in the very wealthy in america the next generation does philanthropy in some cases this creates innovation and job creation
    but this does not create innovation in the poor or educate them to take these high tech jobs................
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    Jan 10 2012: I was drawn here by the conversation :)
    my idea is that a carbon tax would grow future new born childrens sovereign wealth fund
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    Jan 9 2012: Create or inherit?
    • Jan 9 2012: Hi Gisela,

      Reminds me of the joke, "He earned his money the old fashioned way....he inherited it."

      I would point out though that not everyone who inherits money is able to maintain it. There are lots of examples of children who destroyed a family's fortune.

      On the flip side, Many times a family fortune exists because one generation was able to continue the work of the previous generation. Being able to extend a business'es 10% growth rate for 50 years instead of 25 makes a huge difference.

      Best wishes,
      Doug
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        Jan 9 2012: Having what I jokingly refer to as "noveau pauvre" origins, I understand how this works. Generation A makes the money, then either decides that:

        1. the kids shouldn't have to work, in which case the money gets split over the number of kids, generation by generation; or

        2. one or more goes into the business and does exactly what you describe.

        (Option 3 is that the kids take the inheritance and grow it in their own area of expertise/interest, but that is fairly similar to 2.)

        A combination of daughters (being raised not to work), larger families, and death duties explains what happened to my fair share ;-)

        Smaller families and less of an attitude about women working should prevent this from happening now. On the other hand, I am not sure that people should just have everything handed to them.
        • Jan 10 2012: Not everything Gisela.
          But where do we start and who is included? Who gets cable while others wait for water? How relevant is the wealth of the community?
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        Jan 10 2012: Heya, Thor.

        I wasn't really talking about whether it was right or wrong - just how money handed down can dissipate or grow.
        • Jan 10 2012: Would it matter to you how much someone inherited or more what they subsequently did with it?
  • Jan 9 2012: James, although we have numerous examples of those with wealth acting in a manner you described is it fair to cast all in the same light? Your comment "they need to get morals" touches more on what I think is the underlying problem. There are numerous people of wealth that are altruistic focused on leaving a legacy or earning the respect of their community rather than flaunting power and material possessions. Some consider wealth a responsibility to be managed in a manner that advances civilization. Unfortunately those values seem to have eroded. Why and what can be done about it?
    • Jan 10 2012: Hi ThorNo it is not fair to cast all in the same light and I thank you for pointing that out. I have a good friend in the 1% and she is very fair and giving both of herself and her money. If we had more like her setting an example maybe things would change. I guess it's the corporations that really get me and not so much the individuals. Thank you for your thoughts on this and for asking the question.
      • Jan 10 2012: How do we get more people like your friend to set a good example? How do we champion those who deserve recognition and ostracize those who's behavior is considered morally wrong? I recall a neighbor to a wealthy gated community that thought that it was OK for them to close their gates to the community at large but suggested additional gates be put in on the public property immediately in front. As the privileged exited they would have to pay a toll to re enter public space.
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    Jan 9 2012: one widespread opinion is that you can't get into the one percent without crime. more specifically, stealing public money. that has some truth to it, but rather blunt a statement. in the 1%, lurking many actors, producers, artists, athletes and such. there are many technologists, like gates. and there are also brokers and similar figures who didn't receive bailout money in any form, and earned money by serving the people, managing their savings well. so the picture is a bit more complicated.

    another view is that just the fact that someone is rich means we can confiscate some of his money, since he does not need it anyway. this is nothing but pure envy, and should be disdained. but some people managed to dress it up like "social" or "ethical", so envious losers are allowed to utter such sentiments without being ashamed of themselves.
    • Jan 9 2012: Are the envious as cognizant of their thoughts as you suggest? Should they be envious of wealth considering how many unhappy people are rich? To what extent does flaunting cause envy? At what point are you not a loser?
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        Jan 9 2012: i didn't suggest those people would be cognizant of anything except that paul allen has a 5 story yacht, and they want such a thing too. i deny the notion that any behavior would "cause" feelings in another person. there is no direct causal relationship between displaying wealth, and envy of other people. just as i refuse the notion that wearing a mini skirt has anything to do with rape. i don't doubt that in some people's heads, that link actually exists. but we learned or at least have to learn to control such feelings. yes, i'm sad too that i'm not such a genius or not as determined as some people. but i don't allow that feeling to turn into hostility toward those people. and that is the point where i'm not a loser. losers misidentify their lack of success, imagine themselves as movie heroes, and resort to violence to ease their misery.
        • Jan 10 2012: Dr. Zeuss's book " I Wish That I Had Duck Feet" deals with the issue of envy in a similar manner but unfortunately not all learned its lessons. There is far more literature exploring the causal relations between ostentatiousness and suffering, arrogance, dishonesty, shame and envy. Unless its emulative envy which Aristotle identified as a good envy I would agree that it is a feeling that should be stuffed back in its bottle. Should we ignore all the issues related to ostentatiousness in the same manner?
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        Jan 10 2012: thor, i would like to draw your attention again to my parallel of sexy clothing. would it be acceptable to explore the causal relations between wearing a mini skirt and rape? would anyone suggest condemning such clothing let alone banning/controlling such behavior? what about suggesting that men who had no sex in two years have the right to have sex with women in mini skirts against their will? even the thought is completely outrageous and ridiculous.

        so what is the fundamental difference? how can the result be the opposite in the two situations?

        i don't need that we need any more on that. what could possibly fill those literatures that adds anything else valuable? i feel that if you elaborate on it any more, it can be nothing but muddying the waters. you know, when someone dwells too much on the question whether killing a neighbor for loud music is acceptable, we can almost be sure he is looking for excuses.
        • Jan 10 2012: Kriztian, Valid points but .. can't put my finger on it. Causal affects exist whether they should or not. Business actions have a causal impact on profits. I feel you are taking me down the libertarian path. Ironically I sympathize with many socialist libertarians. Many find that a hard one to grasp. The central issue is whether to confiscate wealth from the 1% or find other methods that increase velocity and distribution. I would prefer that society has far more input as to defining what are profitable actions and that externalities are properly factored into the accounting. In theory we do but there is far to little transparency to prevent cronyism. nepotism and criminal activity.
        • Jan 10 2012: Right wingers and left wingers are playing the politics of the industrial age, In a post industrial age it is about open and closed. Within this emerging conflict lie many of the answers to todays problems. Transparency and collaborative the trend. Sopa, patent laws .labor restrictions and so on the defenses to keep the old guard entrenched.
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        Jan 10 2012: “The modern right winger is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness.”
        - J.K. Gailbraith
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          Jan 10 2012: one, that's a wonderful quote. look, how easy to fix:

          “The modern left winger is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for envy.”
      • Comment deleted

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          Jan 10 2012: perhaps you should start to put arguments forward instead of second guessing my motivation.

          it is okay to care. it is in fact good to care. you can encourage anyone to care. you can call out those who don't care. you can organize boycotts, you can publicly humiliate those who don't care.

          but you can not point a gun to their heads. it is not allowed in any moral systems. it is not allowed in christianity. it is not allowed in islam. but if you know any moral that actually calls for forcefully confiscating money to give to causes you think or the majority thinks is right, tell me.

          i want to be in a humane world. in which nobody is robbed at gunpoint, not even if the majority applauds it.
    • Comment deleted

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        Jan 10 2012: you formulated it so nicely. "forced to comply with the law". i'm slowly getting used to such cloudy phrasing. not comply with what we decided you have to do, but comply with the law. it gives it some sacred, unquestionable quality. we don't confiscate, we tax. we don't force, we have majority opinion. we don't violate rights, we have the social "contract". this is nothing but muddying the waters. it would be honest to come out of the closet, and say, yes, we do put a gun at your head. we do take your wealth because we are more in numbers, and we decided that way. you can disagree in the way or the extent of your contribution to our cause. but you can not deny to give up the money, because we take it anyway. that's a honest opinion, at least.

        referring to what always was does not constitute as a valid argument. slavery always existed before its abolishment. woman rights were routinely violated throughout many centuries before we stopped it. if we can just refer to past times in order to discredit an idea, we effectively stopped any sort of progress. in fact, as civilizations got more sophisticated, the idea of freedom was born. that was a very obvious tendency since the beginning of the european culture to the late 19th century. unfortunately, the tide has turned at that point. but i hope it is just temporary.

        ownership and power has nothing to do with each other. in an ideal society, if you own something, it allows you to fully control it. but there is the flipside: if you don't own something, you have no control over it. you can not use power to get anything. and you can not gain power over others by having property. it is very different in coercive societies. the state can lay a hand on more property using power. the mob can too. and officials can be bribed.
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          Jan 11 2012: Since we cannot seem to agree on what 'ownership' or 'theft' means, we do not have a basis for discussion.

          Re coercion 'the gun to the head' thing, you cannot pin that one one me, no matter how many times you say it. As I said, more collective systems do not have a monopoly on human rights abuses. I think you know I do not advocate a system which violates human rights.

          Re precedent (your comment regarding history): we frequently use precedents when designing new things. We look at the old model, tweak it to improve it, then move on. That IS in fact, progress.

          You seem to have a problem with my rationale, and I too, do not think your reasoning follows the laws of logic. It could just be because of cultural differences between us, or perhaps you are deliberately trying to misunderstand, to avoid accepting a point when it is well made.
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