Tag Archives: economic inequality

On contemporary humanity:

We’ve seen a lot in 2017 so far, from wars to Despacito, what a Trump presidency looks like to China pivoting to a leader in environmental regulation. We live in interesting and exciting times to be sure, but today’s post is going to be a downer, while there are countless positive things going on right now, and the overall course of human history is on path I ( generally) agree with, as the song goes: “There’s so much trouble in the world”…

The trouble of which I speak can be traced back to a basic lack of empathy, it’s expressed by selfishness, fear and anger (Humanity’s oldest frenemys). (While I have harped on this prior it bears repeating) Hunger and homelessness are at this point 100% caused by too many people sucking too hard at sharing. Now there is much that can be debated when trying to answer why that is the case, but my base assertion stands fairly strong: 2017 FAO report has food prices remaining flat for the next 10 years, we have complicity to feed everyone, we (humanity) have had this power for decades. Yet hunger remains a daily part of life for millions, we’ve made progress to be sure, but 1 involuntarily starving person is too many (and here’s why).

Let’s take all the geo-political bs out for a second and look at the problem via analogy: your next door neighbor is in a bad situation, their home was blown up when their meth lab blew. They have both an immediate need (for food and shelter) and a long term need (without the meth lab they have no income). You can ignore them, but it takes a truly evil person to watch a neighbor starve while enjoying an excess of food. SO you invite them in, and solve their acute need for food and shelter. However, wanting to protect your own house from ending in the same way as their old house, you prevent them from going back to their old job. As a compromise you offer them entry level work at your place of employment, the hrs. are long and pay is low, but it’s what you went through to get where you are and is the best you are willing to do. Eventually you ask your neighbor to start buying their own food and get their own place so they can go on with their lives.

That’s kind of the model the developed world has taken with the developing world, and on the surface it appears kind enough (you did not let them starve to death remember). But the devil is in the details, and there are lots of them when it comes to how the developed world “helps” developing nations. 1st the house did not really blow up in an explosion, but was blown up. (Indigenous peoples by and large produce their own food, it’s not until they switch to producing commercial crops that they find themselves relying on outside forces for food.)  2nd the time you let your neighbor live in your house and eat your food, they have to pay for that ( with interest): The developed world is not really interested in giving things away, even when those things are knowledge of how to feed people. Loans for infrastructure projects are expected to be paid back, and beyond the funding the World Bank has (in the past) required privatization of entire sectors of public works. Lastly, that entry level job you got them as their very own path to self-sufficiently, that just puts them working for the exact same people who blew up their home in the 1st place.

I ask this, imagine you are across a table from someone who has starved in a corner of the world you don’t care about. They see how you live, what you care about (and they know that it takes about 1-3$ a day to feed a person), do they have a right to be angry? As I see it, not only are we in the developed world hording all the stuff, all the knowledge of how to make and get stuff, we are also very slowly selling that knowledge as we figure out better stuff. We operate under the guise of “helping” but really it’s exploitation, of the developing world’s ignorance, natural resources and very people. What’s stopping every person with over $10k in the bank from donating everything else? It’s not desire to help I can tell you that.

And that leads us to why hunger will be solved, why at some point the only people who starve will be those who freely chose to: It offends a very basic sense of fairness to horde when there is need elsewhere, and while those without are ignorant of the fact they have only their suffering to motivate them, however when the millions of people that are starving now ( most children) get wise to the fact that the only reason they are starving is because most of the developed world is hyper greedy, they will be motivated to change that power structure… Very motivated.

And all of us in the developed world have no moral leg to stand on, we allow people to spend billions on yachts and get-aways that benefit an extremely select few. That kind of individual extravagance needs to be eliminated immediately, and can be re-introduced in a scaled down form when we solve hunger and housing. Right now we are being wasteful with stolen goods, and their owners may not be wise to the scam yet, but they will be soon enough.

Getting back to the topic, Humanity is not being good to itself, we are exploiting the week for the pleasure of the few. While I have deep moral objections to the practice, it’s on the grounds of basic self-preservation I implore us to cut it the fuck out: The people we exploit today will remember it tomorrow, the nation’s we bankrupt and rape of limited natural rescores will remember as well. There will come a time when those same people and nations are across a table from us, and we’ll need their help and when that time comes the outcome will hinge on whether exploitation is standard practice for all humanity ( like it is now) or if exploitation has been relegated to our dark past.

On GAAP

For those not in the know GAAP is known by some as generally accepted accounting principles, it’s basically the rules that public (and most private) companies use to report their financial data, and it’s use is required by law in most western countries (Europe uses IFRS) I’ll skip the specifics and just say GAAP is CRAP because of how it treats payroll.

According to GAAP payroll is an expense, the antithesis to profit, something to be minimized. While it is true that monies paid in payroll are not available for other uses by the business, they are in effect a part measure of how much that company is supporting the public good. While a board room may simile upon paying the least to people and maximizing their profits, that mentality is a force for inequality. How can businesses determine a fair rate of pay? Clearly there is not enough money to pay everyone CEO rates, how can we (more) fairly determine how much money a person gets?

Time! By and large we are all equal in the # of hours we have in a day. All non-government pay should be based on hrs. Service and little or nothing else. This ensures that the person in the mail room or the executives in the board room are on an even playing field. They both have 24 hrs. in a day, and should be compensated for the # they spend working.  Ideally, the hr. rate (how much money 1 hr. earns) would be level across all enterprises and industries, but (especially during the transition) indristires that the government would like more people in can have their hr. rate given a premium.  (NOTE: this is counter intuitive as a main advantage to the universal hr. rate would be compensation would NOT be a consideration in selection of work. People would work where they want to.)

Now to address the naysayers who would undoubtedly claim that the most skilled among us would not work (or at least not be utilized to their max benefit) in such a system. Good! Humanity as a whole has seldom if ever needed the best, the best is overrated, it’s costly, transient and on the whole hard to re-produce. We need good happy people doing good work. Anyone who’s main motivation is $$ will never do as good a job as someone who cares about what they are doing directly, not merely as a means to an end.

Getting back to GAAP, it’s an example of institutional, government required economic inequality. It is a set of rules that treat income as an externality, a cost, something to be minimized (and the people it applies to likewise marginalized). A better accounting system would require tracking the # of hours and how equitably the value earned from those hours are distributed in society. Instead we have GAAP, forcing all business to report payroll as a cost, with no mention of the hours involved. The human cost that each employee pays to keep the enterprise alive. Its codified repression, entrenched economic discrimination, part of the body of law that implies it’s ok to buy and sell people, as long as you call them “jobs”.

On Equality of access

The impact of access (or lack thereof) is immense. Being able to directly interact, command the time and attention of an individual can be a catalyst for change, a source of information or even a life line. It’s importance is hard to understate, to illustrate take an example of building a fence:

A fairly simple process as far as land development activities go. Like everything else money comes first, then finding a contractor, then building. Every step of that process can be eased by access to the right people:

Money: Anyone who knows me has access to 1$ (that’s about all I’m good for most days), but there are a select few who know people with FAR greater amounts of money, and far greater complicity to dole it out. Not that people are usually appreciate of being hit up for cash, but it happens all the time. People who have access to billionaires don’t go to the bank for 10k loans, indeed people who know the .001% are usually others in the .001%. For those of us who don’t have access to someone like that, the next step would be a bank (or community organization). Even there access is key, I assure you meeting the owner of a bank for a loan (when the meeting was setup by your billionaire friend) is a decided different experience that meeting with the loan officer at the local branch. Who you deal with is as important as what is being dealt.

Contractor: The CEO of a major company generally do not take orders or work with a single customer (when there are millions of customers there is not enough time). Major clients can usually get face time with the PIC though. The difference is service is staggering (think call center customer service vs concierge)

From getting a zoning variance to getting a transplant, who you have access to is critical, and (took a while, but getting to the point) in government we need to have equal access! All our public officials’ time should be handled by a lottery type system, having the .001 % and those they hire command the attention of our most powerful leaders is detrimental to a fair democratic process. What we get is just another facet of corruption.  (Spending time with the ultra-rich to the determent of the rest of us is a corrupt practice in my opinion)  Should our officials be free to spend their time with whoever they like? NO! Hell no!  They are given power by the masses for the betterment of the masses, in accepting power far beyond that of a normal citizen they should likewise accept limitations on their freedom far in excess of a normal person.

There are some simple things we can do to turn the tide: Make all communication of elected officials public, have all campaigns publicly funded, Prohibit political ads.  Looking further out: Rework entire legal system to eliminate legalese, have easy to understand laws (and just a few of them), add a boat load of government employees.

The old adage “it’s not what you know, but who you know” is as true today as when it was first uttered. Sadly with the common practice of “closed door” meetings, the insanely disproportionate involvement of the super wealthy in government and a few thousand years of history, I don’t think this is an issue that will resolve itself.

On why the wealthy should not fear re-distribution:

I tend to be unabashed in expression my opinion that we should all (more or less) be operating on the same economic level, by that I mean differences in income should be as little as necessary for survival of the specials, not a continuation of a (literally centuries long) system of exploitation of the many by the few. However the transition from barbaric winner takes most economic systems to a we’re all in this together style need not be cause for alarm, or really event concern and here’s why:

First: This transition would be good for everyone wealthy and poor alike. I reference it a lot, but the spirit level outlines fairly well the negative effects of in-equality on societies, not poverty mind you, but wealth/income inequality. We are social creatures and less “I’m better than you” in our social interaction makes for an all around more pleasant place for us all to live. Now I am sure there are social niches in society that quite enjoy having or at least proceeding themselves to have an air of superiority. While I doubt near universal economic in-equality will completely eradicate this it should at least relegate it matters that are not life and death importance. If you’re one of the un-fortunate few who currently derive pleasure from pretending you are better than everyone else the transition from inequality to equality will provide fertile soil for personal growth. Moreover sustainability will play a much larger role in economic policies from local to global, when we stop chasing profits it will be much harder to rationalize our insane consumption of fossil fuels. To cite just one example shipping cargo containers from one country to another: the expenditure of fossil fuels just moving things from Asia to the U.S. and vice versa is insanely unnecessary if we’re not perpetuating a profit based economy. Transmitting the information necessary to construct goods has a cost that is orders of magnitude less than transmitting physical goods across the world, the drawback being telling someone across the world how to make your product there is not profitable.

Second: Economic equality will lead to better (although probably) less stuff. With us all operating on the same economic level the focus of our leaders will be the same as the focus of the people they lead. This will naturally cause a transition from producing things that people will buy, too producing things that people need. This might be the hardest pill for today’s wealthy to swallow, an economically equal society will have little use for personal yachts and private aircraft, until such things can be produced in quantities were all want them can have them. However I wish to make a clear distinction here I do not recommend nor do I really see it possible that the unwashed masses rise up and sees such things, rather we just stop producing them. Eventually they will take on a new role as relics of an era when mankind was cruel to his brother, and the desire to own them will fade. Now as for the better stuff: technological advancement will continue, however our current system of competition can be truly detrimental to technological advancement. Think about how our academic progress would be stunted if each institution did not share its findings, or even went so far as to pursue legal recourse against others who tried to use their findings. We have many bright people working in many different companies who could benefit immensely from cooperation, indeed humanity as a species could benefit greatly from cooperation, equality will help lead to that. The kind of progress humanity could make if we’re aligned in a single direction staggers the imagination, it rises to the level of power necessary to force a god to act. (tower of babel reference).

Third:    It’s going to happen. While inequality might have thousands of years of history on its side, so dose progress in one form or another. While the slow march to economic equality has seen many setbacks we stand on a technological presupposes that will hopefully demonstrate the need for humanity to look critically at our economic systems (and our governmental systems). The current global socioeconomic systems as we have in place are ill equipped to deal with a world where each citizen has an un-told power at his fingertips. As we become more connected with one another hopefully our understanding of each other’s suffering will force us to make more empathetic decisions. As this plays out over the next two or three decades and will be a slow and pleasant transition, and certainly nothing to fear.

On why the wealthy should not fear re-distribution:

I tend to be unabashed in expression my opinion that we should all (more or less) be operating on the same economic level, by that I mean differences in income should be as little as necessary for survival of the specials, not a continuation of a (literally centuries long) system of exploitation of the many by the few. However the transition from barbaric winner takes most economic systems to a we’re all in this together style need not be cause for alarm, or really event concern and here’s why:

First: This transition would be good for everyone wealthy and poor alike. I reference it a lot, but the spirit level outlines fairly well the negative effects of in-equality on societies, not poverty mind you, but wealth/income inequality. We are social creatures and less “I’m better than you” in our social interaction makes for an all around more pleasant place for us all to live. Now I am sure there are social niches in society that quite enjoy having or at least proceeding themselves to have an air of superiority. While I doubt near universal economic in-equality will completely eradicate this it should at least relegate it matters that are not life and death importance. If you’re one of the un-fortunate few who currently derive pleasure from pretending you are better than everyone else the transition from inequality to equality will provide fertile soil for personal growth. Moreover sustainability will play a much larger role in economic policies from local to global, when we stop chasing profits it will be much harder to rationalize our insane consumption of fossil fuels. To cite just one example shipping cargo containers from one country to another: the expenditure of fossil fuels just moving things from Asia to the U.S. and vice versa is insanely unnecessary if we’re not perpetuating a profit based economy. Transmitting the information necessary to construct goods has a cost that is orders of magnitude less than transmitting physical goods across the world, the drawback being telling someone across the world how to make your product there is not profitable.

Second: Economic equality will lead to better (although probably) less stuff. With us all operating on the same economic level the focus of our leaders will be the same as the focus of the people they lead. This will naturally cause a transition from producing things that people will buy, too producing things that people need. This might be the hardest pill for today’s wealthy to swallow, an economically equal society will have little use for personal yachts and private aircraft, until such things can be produced in quantities were all want them can have them. However I wish to make a clear distinction here I do not recommend nor do I really see it possible that the unwashed masses rise up and sees such things, rather we just stop producing them. Eventually they will take on a new role as relics of an era when mankind was cruel to his brother, and the desire to own them will fade. Now as for the better stuff: technological advancement will continue, however our current system of competition can be truly detrimental to technological advancement. Think about how our academic progress would be stunted if each institution did not share its findings, or even went so far as to pursue legal recourse against others who tried to use their findings. We have many bright people working in many different companies who could benefit immensely from cooperation, indeed humanity as a species could benefit greatly from cooperation, equality will help lead to that. The kind of progress humanity could make if we’re aligned in a single direction staggers the imagination, it rises to the level of power necessary to force a god to act. (tower of Babel refrance).

Third:    It’s going to happen. While inequality might have thousands of years of history on its side, so dose progress in one form or another. While the slow march to economic equality has seen many setbacks we stand on a technological presupposes that will hopefully demonstrate the need for humanity to look critically at our economic systems (and our governmental systems). The current global socioeconomic systems as we have in place are ill equipped to deal with a world where each citizen has an un-told power at his fingertips. As we become more connected with one another hopefully our understanding of each others suffering will force us to make more empathetic decisions. As this plays out over the next two or three decades and will be a slow and pleasant transition, and certainly nothing to fear.