The ethics of the 1%

The ethics of the 1%
GregS
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Posted Mar 15, 2012 - 7:28 AM:

I don't know if this helps, because I do see things in class terms, which means it would not be too difficult to find exceptions.

First wealth is NOT the problem, it is the ownership-control of it.

I am not splitting hairs here. I care little about the equitable distribution of wealth, but in the nature of what wealth is, and therefore ho]w it should be used. Simply sharing it is an option, but a pretty dumb one in my books -- the only thing dumbing is to have 1% of the most useless people on earth in control of it, but that is another aspect.

Wealth, that is stuff above and beyond immediate consumption, falls into two broad camps, one is just surplus, and the other is asset capital, wealth in property that is somehow being used productively. The latter gives rise to the former -- but in the case of the 1% the scale of wealth means that both are effectively compounded.

Think about the meaning of that, in terms of reality. To be wealthy is to own and control property, but to be so wealthy means that there is simply no way of distinguishing idle wealth from productive wealth -- in short both are equated. Surplus is also invested, maybe not productively, but still returning value, often at higher rates than productive capital that has all sorts of risks and costs associated with it.

We have a lot of wealth, that is a higher proportion of what is available is not used in immediate consumption. And that wealth represents real power, the power to get things done, the power to change how we do things and the power to provide more things for less -- if it is properly employed. On top of that we live in a time where the technical horizon has been opened up unimaginatively. And to top that off the problems of this world seem to be also compounding, we are getting poorer as species and our environment is rotting due to our neglect.

These things are not disconnected.

The problem is not the individual or even the collective behaviour of the 1%, they simply reflect their mode of wealth taking (ie piratical and fraudulent for the most part). It is that they use our wealth so badly, so inexpertly, so destructively. It is as if the solution lies in one hand and the problem in the other but the brain in-between is unwilling and unable to bring the two together.

The problem is that wealth takers have turned out to be diabolically incapable of husbanding that wealth. They have taken our commonwealth, sequestrated to themselves and then like Scrooge hoarded it for no purpose.

That is the problem the appropriators need to be appropriated, and their wealth returned to commonwealth not to be necessarily redistributed but to be better employed.

ciceronianus
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Posted Mar 15, 2012 - 8:24 AM:

Ideally, the gluttons and hoarders who largely make up the 1% would strive to control themselves and recognize that they have far more than any reasonable person would require for comfort. But as that won't happen, and as there is no rational basis of which I'm aware for the claim they should have far more than anyone else, while there is a rational basis for the claim that government should benefit the citizens of a nation, I think something should be done along the lines noted by GregS. I'm not certain what--greater taxation come most easily to mind. I find it astonishing that the Republican Party manages to convince people that this would be unjust.

Veritas Vincit
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Posted Mar 15, 2012 - 10:00 AM:

ciceronianus wrote:
Ideally, the gluttons and hoarders who largely make up the 1% would strive to control themselves and recognize that they have far more than any reasonable person would require for comfort. But as that won't happen, and as there is no rational basis of which I'm aware for the claim they should have far more than anyone else, while there is a rational basis for the claim that government should benefit the citizens of a nation, I think something should be done along the lines noted by GregS. I'm not certain what--greater taxation come most easily to mind. I find it astonishing that the Republican Party manages to convince people that this would be unjust.
Shock! Sputter! Heresy! shocked

It would undermine the profit principle, don't you know? The 1% would pick up all their marbles and retire to a floating island in the Pacific. We'd all be out of work!
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Posted Mar 15, 2012 - 10:23 AM:

ciceronianus wrote:
I find it astonishing that the Republican Party manages to convince people that this would be unjust.


It's actually a great success on their part- think of it, they've managed to make benefitting a tiny minority at the expensive of the vast majority a popular policy- what a coup!
ciceronianus
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Posted Mar 15, 2012 - 11:42 AM:

Veritas Vincit wrote:
Shock! Sputter! Heresy! shocked

It would undermine the profit principle, don't you know? The 1% would pick up all their marbles and retire to a floating island in the Pacific. We'd all be out of work!


It would be a very Randian response of their part, at least. But I find the claim that the very wealthy generate jobs to be as questionable, and unhelpful, as the claim that God generates grace.
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Posted Mar 15, 2012 - 2:34 PM:

ciceronianus wrote:


It would be a very Randian response of their part, at least. But I find the claim that the very wealthy generate jobs to be as questionable, and unhelpful, as the claim that God generates grace.
The problem with the very wealthy is that they don't spend much of their income. They don't spend that much more money on cappuccinos and the other essentials of daily life than does the average bloke.

In the end, one can only own so many summer homes, bankroll so many racehorses and maintain so many mistresses. What the very wealthy do with the rest of their wealth is invest it. That doesn't in itself generate employment for the rest of us.
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Posted Mar 15, 2012 - 5:05 PM:

This is more upon the same lines. In so far as we can distinguish a surplus, in the form of pure profit (above and beyond future reasonable expansion, and the cycle of money for productive use) I have no real objection to this being paid out to the 1% as a form of rent. In fact for social peace I would much rather pay them off.

As far as I am concerned other than reasonable and fair taxes, and staying clear of fraudulent activities such rent can be theirs for eternity, I really don't care, so long as we can rationally tackle the many problems before us. Their wealth in this definition hardly matters.

However, here the commonwealth interst must hold, especially in banking and finance. Plus in the control of major infrastructure and major supplying industries (such as forestry, and mining, heavy industry, etc., where social husbandry really counts), the regulation of the food market where it is important to support good farming practises and decent income for farmers and give people reasonable access to good food.

All these things are already done in terms of regulatory law, as they have been problems since the late 19th Century. The regulations themselves need fixing and enforcing, and in some cases like banking and finance they need to simply nationalisied.

That is the actual changes are not great, indeed it could be argued that just taking the fraud out of the system would more or less deliver just what I am suggesting.

Then, of course, we would need a state that actually reflected our interests as members of a commonwealth, rather than the interests of the 1%. And that is the real crunch, as I believe that the state as directed by the wealthy has exhausted itself and just become pure corruption without the semblance of governorship.

And there is the problem, we have already bought the banks and financial system with our bailouts (which appears an ongoing process by the way) why did we give up on ownership? Why did we give so much welfare support to the 1% -- there is in this an unconscionable act; a blue thread of corruption, which is also a legally legitimate basis for dealing with state representatives who neglected their oaths of office.

We already have bought the financial system, but the deeds have been left with the 1% -- that needs to be resolved, and we should not pay twice.

As for the rest, some regulations have to rewritten, new parts added, but the right to do so is already legally established -- then we have to police companies. We can also direct their activities, at least in general by the same measure. The mix of sovereign power, threats and rewards is how capitalism has always worked, is it not about time that the people's interests mobilised the same instrument.

Then if we did get things running well, we also would have divided company directorship from majority share-holding by effectively regulating company behaviour. The 1% could buy and sell, their rights to profit dividends like before, but they could not use shares to dissolve assets, and negate the very basis of incorporation.

Then the 1% would remain wealthy, but also isolated from power over the economy. They could use their wealth to initiate new enterprises, but they could not control things unless they directly managed them themselves. Let them have their rent, let them remain wealthy, but let them enjoy only a citizen's right and no more.

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Posted Mar 16, 2012 - 5:06 PM:

I'm a bit nervous about calls to increase taxes on the 1%. On the surface, you are calling for the top 1% to give more money to the government, which then gives most of the tax money to subsidies and military industrial complex, which ends up back in the pockets of the 1%, while giving their bottom-line a lift, (as business is good), making them even more money. Beneath the surface, they can also avoid taxes, by giving to their favorite charities, which may or may not make the world better, depending on their preferences. A logically self-interested wealthy person would give to the election campaign of whatever politician can promises to reduce taxes or favor their businesses even more.

Maybe a more efficient plan would be just to take a percentage of whatever people think is fair from the top 1% and burn/delete it. The economy shrinks and everyone's wealth increases in value.

I remember a study in Malaysia, (apparently one of many with the same outcome), where they divided up some area of land into equal plots and handed them out to local farmers to tend. Within a few years, there were only a few land owners. So many farmers got into debt by not controlling their spending, borrowed money against their farms from those who saved their money, lost their farms or ended up working all the land to pay their debts. One thing I think I've figured out, from knowing a few wealthy people and a lot of poor people -- money doesn't reward producers or workers, it rewards the people who know how to manipulate people and "the game". I don't agree that the 1% are useless. In fact, it seems like a logical contradiction. If people with a lot of money are useless, than money, on its own, doesn't have any utility, so it doesn't matter who has it. Isn't it really who owns the means of production, property, rights for resources, etc?
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Posted Mar 16, 2012 - 6:28 PM:

swstephe wrote:
I remember a study in Malaysia, (apparently one of many with the same outcome), where they divided up some area of land into equal plots and handed them out to local farmers to tend. Within a few years, there were only a few land owners. So many farmers got into debt by not controlling their spending, borrowed money against their farms from those who saved their money, lost their farms or ended up working all the land to pay their debts. One thing I think I've figured out, from knowing a few wealthy people and a lot of poor people -- money doesn't reward producers or workers, it rewards the people who know how to manipulate people and "the game". I don't agree that the 1% are useless. In fact, it seems like a logical contradiction. If people with a lot of money are useless, than money, on its own, doesn't have any utility, so it doesn't matter who has it. Isn't it really who owns the means of production, property, rights for resources, etc?

swstephe as a descendant of those given too little land and having too little capital to make it productive, simply dividing the land simply reproduces the unequal distribution that existed beforehand (I am descended from Australian convicts and "free-settlers", Ned Kelly was my great grandparents neighbour).]

The resource without capital is to have no resource except to sell off in bits and pieces. The practical element is the control and application of previous labour in the form of capital.

If the 1% aren't useless how the hell did we end up in this mess, socially, economically and environmentally? They controlled the capital, they had it within their power and they squandered its potential. They have got us into a hell of a mess.

They are not just useless; they are the problem itself.

Money is useless, it is just a token, but capital as a call on labour is magnificent. What we put where, how we deploy it and why we do so is all important. Too important to leave in the hands of people who think ownership equals status; success equals wealth; and power equals worth. These people, as a whole, in any sane society, would for the most part, be judged mentally inadequate and morally delinquent.



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Posted Mar 16, 2012 - 7:26 PM:

GregS wrote:
swstephe as a descendant of those given too little land and having too little capital to make it productive, simply dividing the land simply reproduces the unequal distribution that existed beforehand (I am descended from Australian convicts and "free-settlers", Ned Kelly was my great grandparents neighbour).]

The resource without capital is to have no resource except to sell off in bits and pieces. The practical element is the control and application of previous labour in the form of capital.

If the 1% aren't useless how the hell did we end up in this mess, socially, economically and environmentally? They controlled the capital, they had it within their power and they squandered its potential. They have got us into a hell of a mess.

They are not just useless; they are the problem itself.

Money is useless, it is just a token, but capital as a call on labour is magnificent. What we put where, how we deploy it and why we do so is all important. Too important to leave in the hands of people who think ownership equals status; success equals wealth; and power equals worth. These people, as a whole, in any sane society, would for the most part, be judged mentally inadequate and morally delinquent.


Damn, you should start writing poetry. I hear a southern US accent when you write so eloquently. The King is dead! Long live the king!

Not that it matters. Its time to storm the palace once again as famine sets in. People can come up with all the justifications for why we are in the present predicament and all the reasons for why we should spare the kings, but they knew going in what the risk of failure meant. They saw what was coming and even made preparations to defend themselves. No amount of moralizing or rationalizing can change the tide.
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