In Response to “6 Things Rich People Need to Stop Saying”

A Response to http://www.cracked.com/blog/6-things-rich-people-need-to-stop-saying/

Liberalism is in retreat, and nowhere is this more evident than in the contrast between the Occupiers and the Tea Party. The truth is that the 99 percenters identify themselves more with Tea Partiers than with the Occupiers. There has been a massive shift to the right, and most liberals of the 1960’s have grown up and become more conservative. Those few we find who still cling to their old and tired cliches are few and far between. Occasionally, however, we can still find good writers from the left. They somehow flourish still in outlets like Huffington Post. And then there’s Cracked.com. I haven’t heard of this outlet until now, when a friend sent me a link to Mr. David Wong’s article. The article has been viewed more than a million times, which is about a million more viewers than I can claim who will view this response. Nevertheless, for every Mr. Wong there are thousands of bloggers like me.

With regards to the last two things in his list (first two here), Mr. David Wong has simply dressed up Marx’s old ideas about which is more valuable to society: labor or capital. Marx declared that labor is more valuable, and we have seen the results of that idea. The question and our answer to it presupposes both a moral(ethical) and economic dimension. Answering it from a purely economic viewpoint misses the more important ethical point, and Marx was wrong on both counts.

Marx’s mumbo-jumbo about capital exploiting labor results from his error on how the capitalist-labor relationship creates surplus value. The fact is that ANY transaction can create surplus value. When a transaction occurs, both seller and buyer benefits, and the surplus is created by the fact that before the transaction, the seller valued less the commodity being sold than the amount of money it can exchange for (its price), while the buyer valued less the amount of money than the commodity itself. At the instant an exchange occurs (a sale), surplus value is created by as much as the sum of the differences in those valuations. The commodity is now in the hands of buyer who has real use for it and therefore values it more than its pre-exchange value, while the money is now in the hands of the seller who can now use it for other exchanges that create even more value. Likewise, in the capital-labor relationship, surplus value is created when the capitalist buys a persons time and effort to build a product.

If we can agree that the wealth of a nation does not consist of tax revenues and government buildings and parks and monuments, but rather consists of the wealth of its citizens, then capital in the aggregate means people’s capital. When I deposit money in the bank, I am contributing to the wealth of our nation. That money gets used by somebody else, in a thousand possible activities I can’t even begin to fathom, including starting a business. In this sense, capital is also people as much as labor is.

Taken in the above context, an amateur writer like me can now respond to Mr. Wong’s blog point by point.

I respond in the reverse order than that presented by Mr. Wong:

#1 – Stop Asking for Handouts! I Never Got Help from Anybody!

Liberals do not like to hear this because, by simply living in society, they argue, rich people benefit from the institutions of that society. So they should give up at least part of their wealth in return for that benefit they are getting. Give up to whom? The government, of course.

Never mind the fact that wealthy people are among the most philantrophic people around, and that therefore “Stop Asking for Handouts” is something that I don’t hear much from the wealthy. It is true that the rich do not get help from anybody in the sense that nobody helps them for free.  Every help that the rich person gets is paid for. What about the police that protects his properties, or the help he gets from judges who enforces the contracts he signs? He also pays for these by way of taxes.

While it is true that a rich person’s money is worthless outside of the society he lives in, he does contribute to the overall wealth of that society much more than the average person. His businesses earn him money precisely because people like his products and buy from him, and so his wealth is a measure, however imperfect, of his value to society.

If rephrased as follows, I like hearing this from the rich: “Stop Asking for Higher Taxes! I Never Got Help from Anybody for Free!”

#2 – You Shouldn’t be Punishing the Very People Who Make This Country Work!
Liberals think that
a. We don’t owe our jobs to rich people any more than we owe it to poorer members of society; and
b. Higher taxes (pitching in) does not harm the rich as much as it harms us, so the rich should pay higher taxes.

Is labor really more valuable to society than capital? Or are these two really one and the same thing? If labor is more valuable to progress and to society, then we must find ways to redistribute capital. We must tax the rich to give to the less fortunate among us. The fact is that a number of countries have done this to varying degrees, and the verdict is in: it does not work. The more you redistribute, the poorer everybody becomes. The word “punish” is apt in this sense. If you set a level by which people can be rich, beyond which taxes can be very high, it simply means you are discouraging (“punishing”) those who get to that level. The result is, naturally, you get less people striving to reach that level. That’s my response to point 2b. My response to point 2a follows from that for 2b as follows: if you discourage people from getting richer beyond a certain level, people who are already near that level, will tend to not invest their wealth to gain more wealth. Less investments from the rich means less capital for business. Less business means less people employed. Ergo, we do owe our jobs to rich people. If you force the issue and demand that wealthy people invest anyway, unless you really want to become a dictator the wealthy people will oblige, but only sparingly (because of the tax disincentive). If you really insist and turn yourself into a dictator, the wealthy will just move to another country, and your country will be much poorer, plus your sweet pretensions to “freedom” and “social justice” will sound hollow.

No problem here. I say the rich should keep saying this.

#3 – You’re Just Jealous Because I Made It and You Didn’t!
Yes it’s all about envy. All that the liberals can say about this is that it’s not true. Is it envy that drives the Occupiers? I would say that, based on their pronouncements and their placards most Occupiers do have this feeling of envy in them.

Mr. Wong then talks about how the 99 percenters feel: they only feel adoration for the rich, so therefore it is not envy that drives the 99 percenters either. Yes, I agree. The 99% of us have more common sense than the Occupiers.

In fact Mr. Wong’s tone himself reveals seething envy and hatred dressed as antagonism against those who “refuse to acknowledge that their power brings with it any responsibility” and against “bullies and dictators and supervillains”. This is crazy because a majority of the 1% probably agree with him. In fact, not just Warren Buffet, but also a large number of millionaires have come up to U.S. Congress asking to be taxed more. America is a free country: they don’t have to ask Congress to enact another law, they can simply give up their wealth and hand those to the government!

The defenders of the rich are ordinary people like me, and we do so only because it is, in fact, good for any country to welcome the rich and not punish them.

If you are rich, please keep saying this, specially to liberals. It hurts because it’s true.

 #4 – If I Can Do It, So Can You!
This one I agree that rich people should do away with.  Of course, it is NOT true that whatever rich people do we can all do. It’s obvious: people have different skills, personal qualities, habits, and virtues. Even looks can be different :-). This is just a form of encouragement, usually given by successful sales people to fellow sales people. It doesn’t really mean much as written, and people who say this usually qualify the words of encouragement. So yes,  Mr. Wong, I agree with you that rich people should stop saying this.

 #5 – Hey I Worked Hard to Get What I Have!
We understand what this means: you’ll never get to where you want to be unless you work hard. However, although working hard is a requirement, it is not sufficient to be successful. In other words, you can work really hard, even harder than Manny Pacquiao himself, to be a champion boxer; but if you are missing an arm, chances are you’ll never be one. However, you can work hard to excel in something else, say a symphony conductor.

I therefore urge the wealthy to keep saying this because it’s true.

 #6 – Well, $500,000 a Year Might Sound Like a Lot, but I’m Hardly Rich
Another way of saying this: no matter how high you’ve climbed the wealth ladder there’s always somebody wealthier than you are. Unless you are at the very top, which only very very people aspire for anyway.

If there is such a thing as a theory of relativity of wealth, even that person at the top will only feel the richest if those right below him are too far below to reach him. So he struggles to get higher still. The only way he can do this in a free market system is to invest and take risks, activities that only makes life easier for everybody else.

At what level does it make sense for society to impose a limit? A trillion? A billion maybe? How about a million? Well, we know what happens when we impose a limit: the market gets distorted like a car race that imposes a speed limit, and capital becomes poorly allocated. Everybody is worse off.

In America, the Alternative Minimum Tax law was enacted in the early 1970’s that originally targeted the very rich. It has since evolved and now affects practically all the middle class. When liberals cry “Tax the Rich!” they actually mean you and I, in more senses than one.

Here’s Richard Epstein on a related topic.

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About ctapang

I am a Software Design Engineer. I have just abandoned the huge army organized to make .Net programming the one dominant programming system. I now program in Typescript which (surprise) is also from Microsoft. Aside from my day job as a programmer, I am also involved in a movement (http://correctphilippines.org) to correct the Philippine constitution. It's an ambitious undertaking in itself, and there's no guarantee that improving our constitution will improve things. However, one thing is certain: if we don't establish a rational constitution, we will continue on our path of self-destruction. What kind of government is best? For me the best government is that which governs the least. We need the government not because it can provide for us but because it keeps us from running into each other. The proper function of government is that of a traffic light: it prevents us from bumping each other, but it does not tell us where to go.
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15 Responses to In Response to “6 Things Rich People Need to Stop Saying”

  1. Garrett says:

    #1:

    “He does contribute to the overall wealth of that society much more than the average person”

    But his business would still be utterly useless without his clients/customers and those beneath him to help keep it running, and his value to society would be zero. In fact, that’s entirely the point Wong is making, so when someone says “I never got a job from a poor person”, where that may be true, they wouldn’t have been able to get a job at all without the people who keep it running.

    The fact is that both labour and capitol are important, and Wong implies it is that it isn’t JUST riches that keep society running, not that labour has higher value. Unfortunately, rich people imply otherwise when they say that people “shouldn’t be punishing those who run the country”. That’s why Wong calls them out.

    “Never mind the fact that wealthy people are among the most philantrophic people around, and that therefore “Stop Asking for Handouts” is something that I don’t hear much from the wealthy.”

    But there are some who are corrupt, and there are some make these statements. Though it may be a minority, there are enough saying this stupid shit to justify calling them out on it. And by “rich people”, of course he means “some rich people”. It’s hardly the point.

    #2:

    It’s not about forcing the rich to give to the poor. It’s about those who are asked to chip in with projects when they are the ONLY ONES WHO HAVE THE RESOURCES (and still end up wealthy after their contribution), and yes, it’s VERY lame when you complain and accuse the people asking for the resources of punishing you. As the article says, it reads “I have to pay more taxes than my gardener baaawwww!”. It’s painfully lame.

    I thought that point was made clear so I don’t know how you missed it.

    #3:

    “Mr. Wong then talks about how the 99 percenters feel: they only feel adoration for the rich, so therefore it is not envy that drives the 99 percenters either”

    No, he says that a lot of the “99 percenters” worship heroes, many who could only become heroes because they were rich (Batman, Sir Charles Xavier to name a couple). How did you conflate that to worshipping all rich people?

    “This is crazy because a majority of the 1% probably agree with him.”

    Unfortunately, there are genuine assholes (as well as some who don’t realise it) who don’t agree with him, and do get away with doing bad things due to their riches (which obviously gives them power), and we have to show our outrage because it’s the only thing that keeps them in check. The very fact that Mitt Romney’s campaign (or a part of it) is based on these stupid statements and that he has many supporters makes it all the more important to call them out.

    So when we are angry at the rich who are genuinely shitty, it’s because they are shitty, NOT because we’re jealous.

    “It hurts because it’s true.”

    No, it’s infuriating because it is absolutely not true, and says to me that it’s just an excuse to justify your own shittiness and dismiss those who criticise you, when in reality, they are keeping you in check with good reason.

    By now, I’m getting the impression that you didn’t read the article propertly.

    #5:

    Unfortunately, there are many people under the delusion that the only reason those in poverty are in their position is exclusively because they don’t work hard enough, so when the rich say “I worked hard to get where I am”, it DOES imply that the poor people don’t, which is why it’s insulting. It’s the nuance of what they say, even if it’s true that there are many wealthy folks who DO work their arses off.

    #6:

    At risk if making it sound like I’m just repeating Wong by now, I’ll provide a quick pointer to “What we hear when a rich person says that”, because though these people are probably being ignorant as they become less aware of their conveniences, it’s still infuriating. Yes, these people end up with less money BECAUSE THEY SPEND IT and have the means to do so.

  2. ctapang says:

    Garrett, sorry it has taken me some time to respond to you. Thanks for giving this a thought. The only point I want to make in this response is that, in any society, there are those who end at the top, and those who end at the bottom. Any system conceived to remedy this is a solution that is worse than the “problem”, and it may not even be a problem. Intellectuals like you focus too much on the measure of inequality of results. I think we should rather look at upward mobility. Systems that exhibit good measures of upward mobility are the good systems. Systems that focus on equality of outcome are bad.

    From this standpoint, disparaging the accomplishments of the wealthy is like complaining that somebody is a better vocalist and being resentful of the rewards that go along with that. We each have our own talents, and wealth accumulation is only one of them. A system that allows the wealthy to accumulate money because they are good at allocating capital, is a system that puts the right people at the top, and with the right talent and lots of hard work, those at the bottom have a good shot at the top. Nobody is barred from reaching the top. Your only limit is your abilities.

  3. Adrian says:

    ” A system that allows the wealthy to accumulate money because they are good at allocating capital, is a system that puts the right people at the top, and with the right talent and lots of hard work, those at the bottom have a good shot at the top. Nobody is barred from reaching the top. Your only limit is your abilities.”

    Actually, I wouldn’t be quick to agree with that, especially on using the word “right”. “The right people” is a very relative term. How can we decide whether or not the people at the top are the right ones? Simply because they got at the top? Often times, success in life is less about skill and more about conjuncture i.e “being the right person at the right place at the right time”. Warren Buffet said it himself in Wong’s article. There is no knowing that there wasn’t someone at least as equally good at allocating capital but, due to unfortunate circumstances, didn’t have the same chances. Life isn’t fair, and neither is society. Not everybody has equal opportunities. Does everyone have the same access to education? The same chances of getting a degree? How can you be so certain that the offspring of someone at the bottom wouldn’t have been better at allocating capital? Even within the system you speak of? Granted, you can retort that if they were that good, they would have received a scholarship. But there have already been many famous cases of great scientists (like Einstein) who were under-appreciated and thought to never amount to much, and who knows how many other similar, yet unsuccessful cases there have been?

    Also, what are the “right talents”? Right talents as in what? This is exactly what it said in the article: that how useful a talent is is very time and place dependent. Let’s take playing StarCraft, for instance: in my country (as in many others), this skill is only useful for self-entertainment, and it’s useless for anything else; in South Korea, it is a highly valued skill, almost like a sport. Think of Ronaldinho’s football skills: had he been born in another country like Afghanistan, chances are he never would have been noticed and given the chance to reach such a high level. For each talented football player sighted by scouts, there may well be five others like him who didn’t get the same chance or had a bad day. The value of an asset is never the same and depends on historical and geographical circumstances. I tend to believe the same about people’s abilities. Moreover, there are people who simply appear on magazine covers and earn more than doctors, professors or firefighters. Surely, the skills of the latter three categories – healing, teaching and saving lives – are more beneficent for society than those of the former.

    As per the article itself, Wong makes a few interesting points. #6 is simply him pointing out rich people’s ignorance towards the hardship of others. Agreed on the relativity of wealth, but the fact is that $500,000 a years ensures a superior living standard compared to an income of $30,000/year. Furthermore, people who earn low incomes tend to struggle with needs at the bottom layer of Maslow’s pyramid of needs, while people with higher incomes have already moved higher up the scale. #5 is a point I’ve addressed in the paragraph above, and I don’t agree that you could train yourself to become a symphony conductor (especially at age 25 or 30, unless you have solid training in music, and it’s still too late), or any other profession that easily. It’s not that simple. Could you see Manny Pacquiao putting the gloves and jersey away in exchange for a wand and a suit? Things would be so much easier if labor was perfectly mobile, but it isn’t. The more dramatic situations are those when you train to perform a certain job, and then there’s a crash on that market or it simply fades out of the grid, and you find yourself with a set of skills that you can’t now put to great use. So, even if Pacquiao could train himself in the ways of a conductor, he’d never be as successful as a boxer. Like you said yourself at #4 (with which I also agree), people are different. I doubt Mozart, for all his genius, would have been a great financier.

    #3 Isn’t about Wong’s envy. It’s about the fact that wealth brings about power: social power, political power, economic power, which can very easily be used to skew the rules of the game against others, as people and institutions are easily corrupted, which is why people pay close attention to those who wield such power. In Wong’s example, more wealth means better lawyers, but there’s also the fact that a lawsuit is time and money-consuming: a wealthy person has the resources to go through a lengthy trial or even influence its outcome, compared to a person earning less money. Also, a group of rich people can influence the laws themselves via political lobby, laws that affect not only them, but the rest of society as well, which is why people keep a closer eye on them.

    #2 and #1 are related to the very reason why there exist societies and economic systems: the fact that, whether we like it or not, we depend upon each other, and we need each other. This is the very reason of economic trade: that you can’t get everything on you own, and even if you can, there’s someone who can give it to you for a lower cost. Tying it in with the above points of the relative value of skills and assets, whatever you can do or own won’t bring you anything if it weren’t for people to offer something in exchange. So, our prosperity depends on other people. Employees depend on employers for their salaries, the latter depend on the former in order to maintain their positions on the market and their prosperity, and both ultimately depend on their clients – average Joes to purchase the results of their labor and keep them in business.

    As far as taxing goes, it is evil indeed, but a necessary evil, the result of us agreeing to live together in a society (though not to the extent of charging an income tax of 70%, as is the case in France). Without taxes, how could we fund public institutions supplying us with public goods like security, health or education? The alternative would be to massively privatize these sectors, but with what results? Privatizing the army would lead to it becoming no longer a force to protect a nation, but a collection of PMCs acting as either bodyguards or mercenaries. Health would become a commodity for people who can afford it leaving those who can’t out, education would suffer a similar fate, justice would turn into a more refined form of extortion and so on. An alternative would be a unique income tax. The result would be that society would become even further polarized, there would be no middle class or if there were, it would be very thin, leading to vulnerabilities similar to those that triggered the crisis in Eastern European Countries, as well as many social convulsions.

    To conclude, these are just my opinions. I just wanted to point out that, while the points David Wong makes aren’t perfect, he’s not entirely wrong either. I entirely concur that people don’t have to bash the rich just for being rich, but I believe that the wealthy mustn’t ignore issues outside their own lives and underestimate or oversimplify the dynamics of society (after all, this is what Wong’s article was about).

    • ctapang says:

      Thanks for your very thoughtful comments, Ady. I agree that capitalism is not perfect, and any general statement we make can have exceptions. But all else being equal, I am comfortable with the statement that says people who have abilities and who USE those abilities can be successful in a capitalist society. The key for me is freedom: we have more freedom in a capitalist society than in any other system invented so far. I am free to make agreements or sign contracts, and such contract is enforced by government itself. If I make a mistake and sign a contract or buy something that turned out to be not what I need, then tough luck. However, if I buy something and it is defective, then I have the right to complain. Or if I sign a contract and the other party did not follow the terms of the contract, then I can also complain.

      Mr. Wong has written another article about our personal struggles in the system, and I agree with it wholeheartedly. You should also read it (if you haven’t yet) because it is enlightening.

    • A Critic says:

      “As far as taxing goes, it is evil indeed, but a necessary evil, the result of us agreeing to live together in a society”

      Evil is never ever necessary. That’s just a pathetically lame excuse used by the evil psychopaths and their masses of foolish followers to justify their unjust actions.

      • Adrian says:

        Oh yeah, I’m an evil psychopath. Please, don’t flatter me. I really hate blushing; it ruins the evil dictator face I’ve been working on for when I take over the world. By the way, have you tried reading the rest of the comment before flinging adjectives like “pathetically lame”?

        If you really want to go more in depth with the discussion, we can renounce any usage of “good” and “evil” since they are indeed relative terms and we can then use wordplay to twist morality all we want and easily reach some very interesting conclusions that would shatter previously held beliefs on rather sensitive societal topics that aren’t necessarily related to wealth.

        That said, I used the term “necessary evil” to highlight that it is something none of us likes to do, but has to. We are a society, which necessarily implies a compromise; there’s goods which all of us are entitled to like health, security, justice or education (do I still sound like an evil psychopath?) and they can’t be (completely) carried over to the private sector, which is why we pay taxes in order to fund the institutions that provide them and make sure we all have the right to it.

        And as long as there’s more than one of us living on this planet, there’s always going to be a compromise, however small. For instance, in some of his books, Isaac Asimov describes a society on a planet called “Solaria” where everyone ruled over vast estates and keenly avoided contact with each other, even being physically in close proximity, preferring to “view” each other via holograms, all in order to maximize and preserve their freedom while eliminating the risk of disputes. With strict population control, no central government, and robots handling all the manual labor, the Solarians were free to do whatever they pleased. Or so they liked to claim, as in the end they admitted that contact with foreign travelers was completely forbidden among them. So, even with nigh-absolute freedom, there’s still going to be issues that call for compromise.

        As for why taxation is a “necessary evil”, as I called it, please reread the 7th paragraph of my original comment, as I’m fairly certain you haven’t.

  4. Adrian says:

    Thank you for your quick reply :D. Indeed, I agree that freedom is essential to make a society work, and capitalism has proven to be more effective; the whole point is to make sure everyone benefits from the same freedom and that nobody uses theirs to limit the freedom of others.
    Also, a big thanks for the article linked! It is perhaps one of the best articles on Cracked.com, and it instantly became one of my personal favorites (it’s odd, though, to find such thoughtful articles on a comedy site). 🙂

  5. sinistar99 says:

    “liberalism is on the retreat?” Really Try to get gay married a decade ago and see what happens Or try to buy pot at a legal dispensary in any state… Maybe you missed the last 2 major elections?

    http://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/politics/general_politics/january_2013/just_8_now_say_they_are_tea_party_members

    The truth IS only 30% of likely voters even have a favorable view of the Tea Party and Only 8% consider themselves “members.” And that has been going down steadily since the last election. If anyone is on the “retreat” it’s conservatives who are frantically “examining their message” when they should be examining their ideology and policies.

    “Marx declared that labor is more valuable, and we have seen the results of that idea.

    Yes we have seen it in Australia, The Netherlands, Switzerland, Sweden, etc. In Australia minimum wage is around 16 American dollars an hour, they have universal health care, and manditory vacation time… and they have a modest 5.6% unemployment. The global recession didn’t even touch them. So much for “job killing labor laws.” And pretty much everything else conservatives have been saying about the economy…ever.

    Turns out Marx was right about a lot of things–and continues to be proven right every time his ideas are actually implemented (without some power mad nutbags and a bunch of wars in the mix).

    But Forget Marx, Abraham Lincoln said it even better:

    “Labor is prior to, and independent of, capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration.”

    But Abe Lincoln would be run out of town as a commie pinko leftie by todays ultra-reactionary conservatives who have somehow convinced you all our problems are because poor rich people have to pay taxes.

    I like to call it “tax envy.”

    The Great Depression, happened after 3 conservative supply-side Republican administrations in a row ending with Herbert Hoover. Please tell us again which “Marxist” policies led up to robber barons crashing wal street with no social safety net to protect the most vulnerable from the fallout.

    “Never mind the fact that wealthy people are among the most philantrophic people around…” Well we should Never mind that because it’s absolutely false. Sorry. Bzzzz try again.

    While households that make at least $100,000 per year give an average 4.2 percent of their discretionary income to charity, those that make between $50,000 to $75,000 per year give an average 7.6 percent of their discretionary income to charity, according to The Chronicle of Philanthropy.

    http://philanthropy.com/article/America-s-Generosity-Divide/133775/

    Where taxpayers make more than $200,000 per year, residents give an average 2.8 percent of their discretionary income to charity.

    In other words the more wealth that is hoarded by a single household… the less of that goes to charity. 10 people making 100,000 a year give much more than 1 person making a million.

    So no, they’re not “the most philanthropic people around.”

    In fact, It has also been proven, according to Scientific American that the rich actually have less empathy than the rest of us, and actually are kind of assholes.

    http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=how-wealth-reduces-compassion

    Your response is wrong on pretty much every level and the premises you base it on are easily debunked with just a little bit of research. But then when you actually do research and back up your opinion with facts instead of feelings… you become what they call “liberal.”

    • ctapang says:

      Thanks for the thoughtful comment, and sorry for the late reply. Here’s my response to each of your points:

      Yes, indeed, Obama has won twice, but I am still of the opinion that the conservatives are ahead, at least in the intellectual battle. Obama’s second win is largely due to the fact that liberals have quadrupled the number of people dependent on entitlements. Those people will continue to vote Democrat, and they will be completely dependent on government handouts. Obama’s win is not due to intellectual resurgence of the left.

      I think you are mistaken about minimum wage laws in at least two countries you mentioned. Wikipedia states that “In the European Union 18 out of 27 member states currently have national minimum wages.[25] Many countries, such as Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Italy, and Cyprus have no minimum wage laws but rely on employer groups and trade unions to set minimum earnings through collective bargaining.” (See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minimum_wage_law#Minimum_wage_law_by_country) You are correct about Australia in terms of the minimum wage, but you forget to mention that Australia is not union friendly. (See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Australian_labour_law)

      If you still believe that Marx was right that labor is a more important factor in economics than capital, how many countries do you think practice this particular Marxian doctrine? Countries that drive away capital remain poor. Without capital you can’t have jobs, unless slave-level wages is OK with you.

      You are wrong about the Great Depression. Like Obama now, FDR caused a lengthening of the depression. You can’t blame a recession or depression on previous leaders. The current leader always has the most influence on current economy.

      As for philanthropy of the wealthy, I don’t dispute the findings of the Scientific American report on a research done at the University of California in Berkeley. However, I think a distinction between wealth creators and family members who are riders on their relative’s wealth would be meaningful. Wealth creators got their wealth by understanding fully the market that they serve. They are compassionate in understanding the problems encountered by users of their products. Their single-minded devotion to their product and its market has rewarded them so much, and that is just the nature of markets.

      • lorcanbonda says:

        FWIW — I have to say that you are right about the Great Depression. FDR did lengthen; however, that doesn’t mean that he was completely misguided in his policies. The problem is that the added debt became a drag on the economy.

        The policies did more than just lengthen the Depression. They also kept people from starving and reduced the “Tramp” class of wandering workers to a minimum. Yes, it would have been faster to let 20% of the population starve like in 1877 — but I prefer FDR’s approach.

        All that being said, the ultimate strategy which was most successful at eliminating the downturns is one that few people understand. After WWII, the government laid off 4 million people and cut defense spending by 85% and increasing taxes. These changes should have driven us back into a Depression, but they did not. That is because most people don’t understand economics — they come up with wrong answers like
        1) “No other countries had manufacturing capability, so we increased exports” — this is wrong. No other countries had manufacturing capability, but they also did not have any money.
        or
        2) “There was all sorts of pent up demand which was released by the end of the war” — this is just nonsense.

        The truth is that the government raised taxes on incremental income for corporations and the wealthy few to 90+% on income. This meant that the available Capital was used efficiently in creating good jobs without adding to the nation’s debt burden. There was still an economic incentive to earn more money for the wealthy elite because incremental taxes were not 100%. In fact, it kept the wealthy few from resting on their laurels after a few good years (like Bill Gates.)

        The main reason is because we have a demand driven economy. The only way to improve it is to ensure that the available money increases demand. Much worse uses are through financial manipulation and government welfare for the rich programs.

      • ctapang says:

        Demand driven for me means higher minimum wages and a progressive tax: your reward mediocrity and punish success. It seemed to me that you were against redistribution in your previous comment, but now I see what your viewpoint really is: you are a progressive-tax neo-liberal. I can imagine you voting for Bernie Sanders. Am I mistaken?

  6. Gabriel says:

    Do you remember the episode of Family Guy where Carter Pewterschmidt puts on a hat and wig and calls himself Joe Workingman in an effort to manipulate stupid poor people into essentially making him the Emperor of the American Northeast? You remind me a lot of that premise.

    • ctapang says:

      Sorry I have no time to watch Family Guy or any TV sitcom. Sometimes I spend time with my daughter watching programs she likes, but in general I don’t enjoy watching stories acted out in a screenplay. May be if you reply back with a link to a video recording (as in YouTube) of the episode, I will watch it patiently just so I can reply to your comment.

  7. lorcanbonda says:

    You didn’t actually read the article, did you? You read the headlines and stopped before you tried to understand his content. It is a very interesting article to give you perspective, not an absolute truth.

    The entire premise of the article is not that rich people are wrong and poor people are right, it is that these statements made by rich people tend to sound very ignorant to others. In each case, he gives you an interpretation of what rich people believe they are saying, then he gives an interpretation of how poor people interpret them. Then he provides a more nuanced explanation as to some truth in between.

    You also have a difficult time distinguishing between “Capital” and “Greed”. Ayn Rand is no more correct than Karl Marx was. “Capital” is good; whereas redistribution of Capital to achieve some external objective will always reduce competition, however it is worse when the government uses its influence to drive money out of your pocket and into the wealthy.

    So, when the Koch brothers give money to the Tea Party candidates, they expect something in return — for instance, regulations which reduce competition in the oil industry. That’s what other people see which you seem to miss — we need the government to ensure free and fair competition, but redirecting money into the hands of the 1% because of political donations is a mess.

    • ctapang says:

      Thanks for your comment. I did read the article (a long time ago because this response to the article was written four years ago). I may remember only a few things in it by now, but the fact is that I read it and was in fact fascinated by it.

      Let me propose to you that the entire premise of my response is NOT that the wealthy are always right. What I am against is the viewpoint of most people (including you) that looks at the problems we are having, and readily blame the capitalist system. I see your view that ‘it is worse when the government uses its influence to drive money out of your pocket and into the wealthy’: this is what is going on right now under the Obama regime. Look at all the “renewable resource” companies that Obama has favored (with the exception of Tesla Motors – who by the way have repaid all the loans they took from the federal government). A lot of people have gotten rich, at the expense of us taxpayers. I have to agree with you that government has been driving “money out of your pocket and into the wealthy” in the past seven plus years. It is in fact you who get confused about what “Capital” is, and how “Greed” has nothing to do with it. Bad “Capital” can only be earned with the help of government, a government that is premised on socialist ideas. In a capitalist system like existed in the U.S. during Reagan and other similar leaders, it is difficult to accumulate capital with the help of government.

      I invite you to read Charles G. Koch’s “Good Profit”. The Koch brothers happen to be my kind of super-rich. I work for Bill Gates, but he’s not my ideal super-rich.

      You have so much to learn.

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