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The Sixty-Four-Thousand Dollar Question

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hush
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50 posted 08-27-2004 01:27 AM       View Profile for hush   Email hush   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for hush

The funny thing about choice is this: go to any store. Start checking tags. Made in china. Made in India. Made in India, Singapore, Bangldesh.

I wonder who made my jeans. Did they have running water at home? Are they children with needle scars and missing fingers?

It's so rare to see "Made in the USA." Or even Canada, Europe, etc.

So where's the choice NOT to participate in this? It takes so much effort to even find a tag of clothing made in a developed country, and who knows, even then it could be some california or new mexico sweatshop for illegals.

And I'm sure if I called the company up and asked "Yeah, was my pair of jeans that were made in bangladesh made by well-paid workers in a safe environment?" I know what the answer would be.

So what choice?

It becomes a choice of buy or don't buy, not what to buy.

It'll be easy to motivate a consumer base to do that in order to enact change. *rolls eyes*

Sorry, I'm tired and in a bad mood.
Ron
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51 posted 08-27-2004 12:13 PM       View Profile for Ron   Email Ron   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Ron's Home Page   View IP for Ron

Sad stories, Reb. Truly heart wrenching. But I'm not entirely sure what they have to do with this discussion? Does the exchange of thirty pieces of silver make the New Testament a tale of capitalism?

People have been mistreating and enslaving others for millennia, certainly long before Smith came on the scene. Do you really think socialism or communism is going to change that overnight? These sad children are not victims of capitalism, but rather of cruelty. Give them free food, clean clothing and plastic tinker toys, and everything will simply be stolen by the same people exploiting them today. That's not the failure of an economic system.

That's the failure of justice.
Local Rebel
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52 posted 08-27-2004 07:06 PM       View Profile for Local Rebel   Email Local Rebel   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Local Rebel

It has everything to do with this discussion Ron.  This discussion is about the inherent morality of employing a system that intentionally creates losers.  It's also about what our responsibilities are as a consequence of agreeing to and enabling the process.  

I know that it isn't a comfortable subject.

What it is not about is communism or socialism.  Why have we been conditioned to think that any criticism of the faults of Smith's theories immediately implies a leap to socialism or  communism?  One of the clear shortcomings of Smithean theory is the power of the wealthy to take advantage of the poor.  

Here we have a case of capitalism at work -- pushing a market to its lowest possible cost.  Whether or not the methods employed in so doing it is a crime doesn't separate it from its economic theory.  It is capitalism.  We put limits on capitalism because people can and do abuse it.  But, it is capitalism.  Somewhere in our common dialog emerges the moral judgment of what the good and bad is.

Our price satisfaction deployment urges us to feel that the lowest price for comparable goods and services is the good price without regard to the overall impact of taking the lowest bid.

But we at last agree.  It is about justice.  Justice is fairness.

Is it fair?

quote:

Give them free food, clean clothing and plastic tinker toys, and everything will simply be stolen by the same people exploiting them today.



So then obviously that is a dilemma.  What would the world look like today though without the Marshal plan?  What would America look like without the WPA?  TVA?  We're almost ready to start talking about Keynes.  But first we have to talk about a paradigm shift and Constraint Theory.

We're conditioned to think these are un-solvable problems.  As long as we think that -- they are.  
-----------------------------
Amy,

There are always options.

Not every import from Asia is a product of child or slave labor -- but -- they are all tainted by it.  It's not something we want to know about though.  We're big on denial.  So, let me help.

Americans are good people for the most part.  But, some of us wake up in the morning and see the world divided into weak people and strong people.  The ones who view the world that way have conditioned our thinking because they have a unique ability to make PROFIT for corporations.  By only thinking in terms of strength and weakness instead of right and wrong, good and bad -- these people are at liberty to take advantage of the weak with impunity.  The rest of us wind up trying to impress these people because they have the power to effect our income in the form of promotions and raises.  In those leadership positions they have set the tone and standard for how business works in America -- which is unfortunate because it has lead us to this point.

There is a difference between being responsible for a consequence and being guilty of the action that leads to it.  But we have responsibility -- and my saying it makes people uncomfortable and me unpopular -- but -- so be it.  I worked on this problem for a decade but I've been silent about it for the last five years -- I gave up -- but -- no more.

-------------------------------
Blazey,

You're getting there.  But we don't have to teach people how to love.  They can already do that.  Americans are good people.

We just have to get them to think.

Hey -- Liberal aint so bad kid -- Ron thinks I'm a Communist!!  

Local Rebel
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53 posted 08-27-2004 07:54 PM       View Profile for Local Rebel   Email Local Rebel   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Local Rebel

quote:

these people are at liberty to take advantage of the weak with impunity



Let me clarify Amy -- they are taking advantage of the American consumer (you) just as much as they are the child laborer.  But when we become aware of it -- from that point on we're responsible -- we're naked, and we know it.  

Ron
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54 posted 08-28-2004 01:24 AM       View Profile for Ron   Email Ron   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Ron's Home Page   View IP for Ron

quote:
We're conditioned to think these are un-solvable problems.  As long as we think that -- they are.  

While "conditioned" is a loaded word, I would essentially agree that most believe the problems are without solution. I also agree that thinking there is no solution will typically prevent us from ever finding one, with the caveat that the obverse isn't necessarily true -- believing there is an answer doesn't make it so. In my opinion, the conditions you describe won't ever be adequately addressed by any ism because the underlying causes are not the result of social structure. The underlying causes are a reflection of human nature.

I will, however, keep my skepticism in tight rein until I hear more. I sincerely hope to be proven wrong.
Stephanos
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55 posted 08-28-2004 10:51 AM       View Profile for Stephanos   Email Stephanos   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Stephanos's Home Page   View IP for Stephanos

I tend to agree with Ron here ... Capitalism, socialism, communism are all forms of government which have failed to prevent some kind of class oppression.  In a land of "equal opportunities" capitalism has seen brother against brother.  Communism, seeing this inevitable class struggle sought to create a utopian "classless" society, but ended pitting the fathers against sons (rulers against the ruled).  There's much boasting I know about the success of America, but we've only been around a little over 200 years ... a mere drop in the bucket of history.


I think the solution is going to be much more radical (even eschatological) ... because when it comes to our governmental schemes, there's a hundred ways to slice a pie, but when you taste it, it's still pie.  Understand that I don't think that means we are to do nothing about injustice or oppression.  


Anyway, enjoying reading all of the ideas everyone is offering.


Stephen.
Local Rebel
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56 posted 08-29-2004 08:56 PM       View Profile for Local Rebel   Email Local Rebel   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Local Rebel

Ron, Stephan --

I think there is a case to be made that addresses the morality of this issue based on religious grounds, anthropological grounds, economic grounds, political grounds, and business grounds.  Let me start off with the first.

quote:

And he who earns wages,
Earns wages to put into a bag with holes."

Thus says the Lord of hosts: "Consider your ways!

--Haggai 1:6-7



One minister sports a Rolex and says God has been good to him.  A Cardinal wants to withhold communion if a person votes for a candidate that supports abortion rights.  The mendacity of this must seem like strange contradictions to a Catholic who must then vote instead for a candidate who supports capital punishment -- which is equally against the Catholic faith, or to a Christian who reads that it's very difficult for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Evolution and Intelligent Design dominate our religious and philosophical discourse while Paris Hilton, Janet Jackson's nipple ring, Rupert's all-too-nice bid to win a million, and Donald Trump eclipse the pop culture.  Our national attention is focused on gay marriage, under God, the Ten Commandments on courthouse lawns, spectacular courtroom drama, and purple hearts.

We don't particularly like our candidates but we sure as hell know which ones we don't like.

Our ways are considerably diverse and Americans are doing what they do -- pursuing life, liberty, and happiness.  This is not a bad thing.  But it is fantastically distracting.

If we look at the current economic picture the indicators seem even more stunningly divided.  The stock market and home ownership are up, but the ranks of poverty swelled by another 1.3 million and those without medical insurance are equally on the rise. One fiscal quarter heats up.  The next cools down.  Productivity is up, but so is the trade deficit (imports). And job creation lags at an abysmal rate, while we're going hand over fist to see who can export the most jobs to the Pacific Rim or reward workers who come across the border illegally.  The national debt is up, and so are the personal debts of the vast majority of middle and lower-income workers, while personal savings are down. Greenspan warns us sternly, again, that Social Security is in deep doo-doo while CEO compensation is up. They call it the jobless recovery. Economists scratch their heads. I think they're lying when they say they don't understand why.

Our mixed bag is full of holes.

Is it just possible that life, liberty, and happiness are in a different direction from a fat 401k and a new Escalade?  Poverty in America is not an economic problem -- it is a moral problem as Pope John Paul points out:

quote:

The alleviation of the suffering of some of the poor in the ministry of Jesus is a sure sign that the Good News of the reign of God is being proclaimed to all the poor of history. It is a proclamation through liberating words and liberating actions. The Gospel is proclaimed to the poor by means of concrete deeds. When Jesus made human beings see and walk and hear and, in short, gave them life, he was giving an example for that time and mandate to the Christian community throughout history. This is what is meant by "remembering the poor" and it is something we should be "eager to do" (Gal. 2:10). There is no authentic evangelization that is not accompanied by action in behalf of the poor.---Pope JohnPaul II ,



The prophet Haggai opens his treatise chastising Israel for not getting the Lord's house built -- they're off building up their own houses doing their own thing being comfortable instead.  He points out to them that what they're working for is nothing because it just comes and goes and no matter how much they have they will never have enough.  To the modern Christian who follows the one who would say that 'if you do it unto the least of these you've done it unto me' it may be an appropriate admonishment that 36 million of the least, a third of whom are children, go to bed tonight in poverty while the rest of us polish our cars, eat pizza, and order a movie on pay-per-view.

The Pope's words don't get much play in the United States though, nor, I doubt do they get much attention elsewhere on this matter.  But if the subject is Abortion or Gay Rights -- hey -- we can cover that.  Or if he just wants to talk about watching football games on Sunday -- hey -- which candidate is going to come out against that?

Christmas time probably wasn't a really popular platform for us to hear these words either, but it's a good transition point for us to start talking about a paradigm shift in America:

quote:

VATICAN CITY, DEC. 15, 2003 (Zenit.org).- The law of the market and globalization does not guarantee justice, so there must be solidarity to give people precedence over profits, says John Paul II.

The Pope made this point today when he received the letters of credence of Carlos Rafael Conrad Marion-Landaus Castillo, the new ambassador of the Dominican Republic to the Holy See.

"In today's world, it is not enough to limit oneself to the law of the market and its globalization," the Holy Father said. "Solidarity must be fomented, avoiding the evils that stem from capitalism, which put profit above the person and make [the latter] the victim of so many injustices."

"A development model that does not take into account and address these inequalities cannot prosper in any way," he said.

"Those who always suffer most in the crises are the poor. This is why they must be the special object of the vigilance and attention of the state," the Pope continued.

"The struggle against poverty must not be reduced simply to improving their conditions of life, but to removing them from this situation creating sources of employment and adopting their cause as one's own," he added.

To achieve this, the Pope stressed "the importance of education and formation as elements in the struggle against poverty, as well as respect for fundamental rights, which cannot be sacrificed for the sake of other objectives, as this would strike against the real dignity of the human being."

In his address, the Pope responded implicitly to those who think that the Church should not speak out on economic or political issues.

"Although in her service to society it is not the Church's role to propose solutions of a political or technical order, nevertheless she must and wants to point out the motivations and orientations that come from the Gospel to enlighten the search for answers and solutions," he said.

"At the root of peoples' social, economic and political ills is usually the rejection or neglect of real ethical, spiritual and transcendental values," he added. "It is the mission of the Church to recall, defend and consolidate them."

"In the solution of these problems, it must not be forgotten that the common good is the objective to attain, for which the Church, without claiming competencies that are foreign to her mission, lends her collaboration to the government and to society," he concluded.



hush
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Ohio, USA


57 posted 08-29-2004 10:44 PM       View Profile for hush   Email hush   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for hush

Reb-

"There is a difference between being responsible for a consequence and being guilty of the action that leads to it.  But we have responsibility -- and my saying it makes people uncomfortable and me unpopular -- but -- so be it.  I worked on this problem for a decade but I've been silent about it for the last five years -- I gave up -- but -- no more."

No, I totally agree with you. Of course it makes us unpopular... nobody wants to believe that they are wearing something that was made by someone who will never be able to afford it- in fact, they're lucky if they afford running water. Yet we buy our kids Nikes made by kids their age who are starving... but really, what can we do?

I'm not asking out of futility, but out of honesty.

I shop as often as I can at Salvation Army... first off, because I'm broke, but second off... I don't feel as bad about buying clothes of an unknown origin if the proceeds are at least going to feed the hungry instead of lining the pockets of companies who are just enjoying a higher profit margin by getting cheaper labor.

But the female behind is a fickle creature, and there aren't racks the sort jeans into sizes there... it's one big unisex free-for-all.

So, are there "safe" products at Penney's and Sears?

Or, if I want to absolve myself of responsibility (which I accept, and guilt over) should I just buy a sewing machine?

But where was the sewing machine made, and by whom? And do they go to bed hungry at night?

"The Pope's words don't get much play in the United States though, nor, I doubt do they get much attention elsewhere on this matter.  But if the subject is Abortion or Gay Rights -- hey -- we can cover that.  Or if he just wants to talk about watching football games on Sunday -- hey -- which candidate is going to come out against that?"

Y'know, it's funny, being raised fairly secularly, but knowing Catholics and Christians my entire life, I was actually suprised to learn how hard Jesus pushed generosity, and giving... because none of my Christian friends seemed to give a hoot.

It seems we use our religion in convenient times of political strife and debate, but when it comes to sacrifice, we smile, pass the collection plate, and go on with our week.

(I mean this collectively, as a nation- I'm just as guilty, and I'm not even religious.)

"Our ways are considerably diverse and Americans are doing what they do -- pursuing life, liberty, and happiness.  This is not a bad thing.  But it is fantastically distracting."

Well, it's easier that way.

Is it a matter of an economic system being fair? Or is it just the people? As long as we can go to bed with the warm milk of reality shows that assure us everyone is financially secure and owns a plasma-screen TV... we can continue to focus on our own rent, our own car payments, our own saturday night date, without caring about the poor.

A lot of us are close enough to poor to justify that, though.
Ron
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58 posted 08-30-2004 02:19 AM       View Profile for Ron   Email Ron   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Ron's Home Page   View IP for Ron

quote:
Yet we buy our kids Nikes made by kids their age who are starving... but really, what can we do?

If you refuse to buy the Nikes, Amy, you don't give those kids more to eat. On the contrary, by effectively boycotting "their" products you only insure they WILL starve to death. To us, it may seem like a really lousy job at criminal rates. To them, it's the best thing, and often the only thing, available.

It would be really great if we could bequeath our American working conditions to the rest of the third-world countries. We tend to forget, however, that those conditions didn't evolve overnight. It took decades, and while we can hope for faster development after setting the precedents here, it still won't happen as quickly as most of us would like. But it WILL happen if capitalism is allowed to run its course along the sides of the river, Justice. We need to constrain the capitalist's greed when it endangers children, yes, but we also need to encourage that greed when it leads to growth. Only through economic growth for everyone will the workers gain the leverage and power to better their conditions.

They don't have much, I know, but do we really want to take away what little they do have? That's what will happen if everyone refuses to buy the products they produce.

quote:
Our mixed bag is full of holes.

Reb, I think you're mixing your metaphors here (charity is no longer charity when free will is denied), but I'm going to withhold comment until you get past the "we got a problem" stage and move into the "here's what I propose" stage. We all know there are problems and injustice in the world.

Churchill wisely said that "democracy is the worst form of government except for all those others that have been tried." Much the same can be said of capitalism. It totally sucks, but everything else seems to suck more. I'm waiting for you to show us something better.
Brad
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59 posted 08-30-2004 09:24 PM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

I'm waiting too. While I think Ron's comments are best described as complacent, the simple fact is that I don't have anything better to offer than than bad, bad word socialism (suitably liberalized of course).

What you got?
hush
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60 posted 08-30-2004 11:11 PM       View Profile for hush   Email hush   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for hush

So was it wrong for people in Montgomery to boycott busses? After all, those bus drivers might not get to feed their kids if they've got no one to cart around...

Granted, those workers aren't part of an oppressive system, but part of the opressed...

but doesn't Nike want you to say "Well, there's nothing I can do about it, and besides, my purchase will get them a scrap of bread..." while forking over $100 bucks for some shoes?
Local Rebel
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61 posted 08-30-2004 11:51 PM       View Profile for Local Rebel   Email Local Rebel   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Local Rebel

Ladies and Gentlemen: Patience,  patience.  (that's a clue)

You know that I can't set up an argument without a premise. Consider the dynamic of this thread.  If I win... you win.  Feel free to help me along the way.

While I'm not particularly concerned about the metaphor Ron (since I don't know what it is you think I'm mixing) I will just say that it has nothing to do with charity and everything to do with 'our ways'.

We are a nation of people pursuing our own enrichment, beliefs, and desires.  All of which are not particularly focused on building anything lasting.  Our bag has holes.

quote:

If you refuse to buy the Nikes, Amy, you don't give those kids more to eat. On the contrary, by effectively boycotting "their" products you only insure they WILL starve to death. To us, it may seem like a really lousy job at criminal rates. To them, it's the best thing, and often the only thing, available.



While this could be a technically correct statement -- the same could be said to justify patronizing prostitution or your local dope dealer.  The law of demand and supply are still in effect.  The invisible hand should dictate that if we don't buy their product they're supposed to merely find a better way magically -- just like the labor force in the U.S. they displaced.  

Hopefully, we've established in the first 50 or so posts that Capitalism isn't 'good', or even amoral.  It does, however, work to generate wealth in the macro (in some cultures which is to be discussed on the near horizon)  and I'm in almost kinda sorta agreement with Churchill -- at least on Democracy -- but on Capitalism -- there are some people who have tried things that have worked but we probably may not judge them as 'successful' using the same criteria, but in terms of cultural viability and survivability they have endured much longer than we.

I'm not rejecting capitalism.  It is my contention though that if we are agreeing to the application of a system that has an inherent immoral component then, that obligates us to operate it with utmost care to mitigate the consequences.  That is not charity.  It is fairness.

Slavery and child labor were both staples of early Western capitalism and we placed limits on them not because they didn't create wealth but because there was an overlapping consensus that these practices were barbaric and immoral.  

more to come

(Brad -- it starts with an 'S')  
(but not socialism)

[This message has been edited by Local Rebel (08-31-2004 12:34 AM).]

Local Rebel
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62 posted 08-31-2004 12:34 AM       View Profile for Local Rebel   Email Local Rebel   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Local Rebel

Anthropolgy and Economics Part I

World-renowned economist Jeremy Rifkin in his new book, The European Dream, contends that the American dream is waning.  Sit down over a beer with a European and you will be asked 'Where are you from?'.  Contrast this with the standard American question 'What do you do?'.  He thinks the European dream may be a better bet for engaging a global economy.

The European Union is now the largest economy in the world.  Their productivity has outstripped ours for the past 50 years.  61 of the top 150 Fortune 500 companies are EU corporations.  Only 50 U.S. companies can make that claim.  They outlive us, their children fare better in school, and they get six weeks paid vacation to boot.  

Here he talks about what he thinks is at the root of the difference.

quote:

Two Dreams, One Past

Though historians seldom allude to it, the American Dream is largely a European creation transported to American soil and frozen in time. The American Dream was born in the early modern era -- a period that saw the flowering of the individual, the development of a sophisticated private property regime, the invention of market capitalism, and the creation of the nation-state. The Protestant Reformation and the Enlightenment idea of science as the relentless pursuit and exploitation of nature's secrets had begun to take hold in Europe. While much of Europe eventually tempered its religious fervor, its scientific zeal, and its enthusiasm for unbridled market capitalism, preferring a compromise in the form of democratic socialism, America did not. Instead, successive generations chose to live out those older traditions in their purest forms, making us the most devoutly Protestant people on Earth and the most committed to scientific pursuits, private property, capitalism, and the nation-state.

That difference is reflected in the American and European Dreams, which at their core are about two diametrically opposed ideas about freedom and security. For Americans, freedom has long been associated with autonomy. An autonomous person is not dependent on others or vulnerable to circumstances beyond his or her control. To be autonomous one needs to be propertied. The more wealth one amasses, the more independent one is in the world. One is free by becoming self-reliant and an island unto oneself. With wealth comes exclusivity, and with exclusivity comes security.

The new European Dream is based on different assumptions about what constitutes freedom and security. For Europeans, freedom is found not in autonomy but in embeddedness. To be free is to have access to many interdependent relationships. The more communities one has access to, the more options one has for living a full and meaningful life. It is inclusivity that brings security -- belonging, not belongings.

The American Dream emphasizes economic growth, personal wealth, and independence. The new European Dream focuses more on sustainable development, quality of life, and interdependence. The American Dream pays homage to the work ethic. The European Dream is more attuned to leisure and "deep play." The American Dream is inseparable from the country's religious heritage and deep spiritual faith. The European Dream is secular to the core. The American Dream depends on assimilation: We associate success with shedding our former ethnic ties and becoming free agents in the great American melting pot. The European Dream, by contrast, is based on preserving one's cultural identity and living in a multicultural world. The American Dream is wedded to love of country and patriotism. The European Dream is more cosmopolitan and less territorial.

Americans are more willing to employ military force to protect what we perceive to be our vital self-interests. Europeans are more reluctant to use military force and instead favor diplomacy, economic assistance, and aid to avert conflict and favor peacekeeping operations to maintain order. Americans tend to think locally while Europeans' loyalties are more divided and stretch from the local to the global. The American Dream is deeply personal and little concerned with the rest of humanity. The European Dream is more expansive and systemic, and therefore more bound to the welfare of the planet.

That isn't to say that Europe has suddenly become a utopia. For all of its talk about preserving cultural identity, Europeans have become increasingly hostile toward newly arrived immigrants and asylum seekers. Ethnic strife and religious intolerance continue to flare up in pockets across Europe. Anti-Semitism is on the rise again, as is discrimination against Muslims and other religious minorities. While Europe's people and countries berate American military hegemony and what they regard as a trigger-happy foreign policy, they are more than willing, on occasion, to let the U.S. armed forces safeguard European security interests. Meanwhile, both supporters and critics say that the European Union's governing machinery, based in Brussels, is a maze of bureaucratic red tape. Its officials are often accused of being aloof and unresponsive to the needs of the European citizens they supposedly serve.

The point, however, is not whether the Europeans are living up to their dream. We Americans have never fully lived up to ours. Rather, what's important is that Europe has articulated a new vision for the future that differs from our own in fundamental ways. These basic differences are crucial to understanding the dynamic that has begun to unfold between the early 21st century's two great superpowers.

--Jeremy Rifkin, The European Dream
http://www.utne.com/pub/2004_125/promo/11349-1.html
http://www.foet.org/JeremyRifkin.htm





Local Rebel
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63 posted 08-31-2004 10:02 PM       View Profile for Local Rebel   Email Local Rebel   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Local Rebel

Anthropology and Economics Part II

My initial reaction to Rifkin was to be taken aback. I wasn't sure I agreed with his definition of the American Dream. I wasn't, and am not at all sure that there is 'A' American Dream, but I positively recognize the portrait he paints and can clearly see Clint Eastwood challenging the world to 'make his day' as did our magnificent Reagan. But my thoughts settled more on George Bailey, Atticus Finch, or Andy Taylor. Certainly these men fit the 'European Dream' he speaks of -- connectedness, belonging, but, interdependent? No. Andy, George, or Atticus could equally find their way into 'make my day' lore regardless how embedded in their communities they seemed. Certainly Barney wanted the dream Rifkin speaks of. And it was the fact that even these community-minded men's main attraction by their fellowships was that they did exhibit the independent streak of the vanguard. American's flock to it.

What of the contention then, that interdependence is a strength? Didn't we spend the 90's trying to not be co-dependent? Unquestionably the family is an example of the strength of interdependence and, it's not an entirely strange thing to the USA. Maybe Rifkin should spend some time in the south. Where I grew up around Virgil's store we certainly had a sense of belonging and inclusivity. But that multicultural part might not have been so prevalent. We only really had one culture -- it may have been that the blacks and whites got along so well because we'd both assimilated to each other pretty much.

He speaks of a sense of deep-play in the European dream and points out that even in the Constitution being drafted "promises everyone preventive health care, daily and weekly rest periods, an annual period of paid leave, maternity and parental leave, social and housing assistance, and environmental protection." All that sounds like a bunch of loafing and big expensive government. Mind you, this is their Constitution. Can it really be producing an economic updraft?

In his new book Culture and Prosperity: The Truth About Markets - Why Some Nations Are Rich but Most Remain Poor economist John Kay demonstrates that opportunism and unrestrained greed lead to poor countries, not rich ones. Culture and economic theory intersect. Cultural norms can either provide a freeing or confining aspect to the prosperity of a particular society. In America, he contends, it is not free markets or materialism that have made us a wealthy nation, but rather it is the diverse institutions we have in place. He says this in part explains why many nations that have tried to emulate American Economics have failed. He would also seem to warn that supplanting another successful economic model that works in another culture wouldn't necessarily work here.

The first common requisite that Kay asserts for a prospering economy is a government whose members are not bent on personal enrichment. As an example he points to Zaire and Joseph Mobutu a very rich nation in terms of natural resources but totally bankrupted under a corrupt regime. In fact most of the Sub-Saharan nations could fall into that class to the point that Tom Friedman states, "Come to Africa- its a freshman Republicans paradise. Yes, sir, nobody in Liberia pays taxes. Theres no gun control in Angola. Theres no welfare as we know it in Burundi, and no big government to interfere in the market in Rwanda. But a lot of their people sure wish there were." In looking at these examples it can be seen that free markets are not the answer. The freest markets on the planet are there, where thugs reign by hijacking the mining and selling to the highest bidder.

Kay's conclusions for the conditions that lead to a country being prosperous are the following:

* Stable, honest government.

* Laws that clearly define property rights and that are enforced in an even-handed way.


* A sense of community, where people do not blindly follow the path of personal self-interest.


* A spirit of innovation, where new ideas are constantly generated, tried in small experiments and then only executed in the large when they have passed the initial tests.

The argument that all will be well if only free markets and democracy take hold is a facile fallacy as Kay demonstrates that societies and cultures are extremely complex. One thing he is sure of though -- in the new global economy rich nations will not only stay rich -- they will get richer, and it will be a long haul for developing nations even though they will eventually fare better. But as that process accelerates the wealthy in the wealthiest nations will gain more advantage while the less well off will continue to lose ground. The divide between the haves and have nots in both developed and developing nations will be deep.

(more on anthropology to come)

[This message has been edited by Local Rebel (08-31-2004 10:55 PM).]

Brad
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64 posted 09-05-2004 02:46 AM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

So how did George, Atticus, and Andy turn into Andy Siphowitz, Al Bundy, and Homer Simpson?

Local Rebel
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65 posted 09-06-2004 02:50 PM       View Profile for Local Rebel   Email Local Rebel   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Local Rebel

Anthropology and Economics Part III
quote:
'While it is unlikely that Smith actually held the views popularly attributed to him, speculation about what he actually did think is not helpful in arriving at the truth about markets.  Our purpose now is to explain economic systems that Smith could not have possibly imagined.  And that is why the Wealth of Nations holds only the limited interest for us today that the works of Newton have for the modern physicist or engineer.  '  -- John Kay, Culture and Prosperity


As a practitioner of Neoclassical Economics Kay could easily adapt the famous Rutherford aphorism 'All science is either physics or stamp collecting' to his own cause. With relative disdain for the talking heads at Bloomberg who forecast exchange rates, Kay explains that he is not that kind of economist.  What he does encompasses how economies work which involves anthropology, sociology, psychology, history, and economic theory.  Human behavior cannot be separated from economics.    If I say Rawl's question is a moral problem, and Ron says it is an economic problem, or later -- that the underlying problems are a reflection of human nature -- Kay would be inclined to agree with us both -- with the caveat that he would replace human nature with behavior.
  
Kay attempts to approach the issues from the idyllic Keynsian view that economics should be a science like dentistry -- geared toward solving specific problems and not laden with ideology.  To that end he is necessarily dispassionate toward the plight of the least wealthy nations, or individuals, and isn't particularly prescriptive, but endeavors to be descriptive of how things came to be.   Mainly, markets are embedded within the social, political, and economic institutions that coevolved with them.  And in examining this interdependency between markets and their cultures it becomes readily apparent that the planned economics of Marxism and Socialism are equally as facile as the American Business Model. (ABM)

A clear view of this could be easily gained by the examination of post WWII Europe's development both East and West of the Iron curtain.  He dramatizes the difference by examining brothers, both trained as engineers in Germany, who wound up on opposite sides of the Berlin Wall.  (Although he leaves out the benefit of the Marshall plan and the economic assistance of the US).  Another example is the intense contrast between North and South Korea.

The ABM he references is proffered mostly by Milton Friedman who views government as 'referee'.  The specific claims of the American Business Model are;


self-interest rules --self-regarding materialism governs our economic lives

market fundamentalism -- markets should operate freely, and attempts to regulate them by social or political action are almost always undesirable.

the minimal state -- the economic role of government should not extend much beyond the enforcement of contracts and private property rights.  Government itself should not provide goods and services, or own productive assets.

low taxation -- while taxation is necesary to finance these basic functions of the minimal state, tax rates should be as low as possible and the tax system should not seek to bring about redistribution of income and wealth



Kay compares how simply replacing Marxism with the  ABM (American Business Model) has translated into post-Communist Russia with blending it into still Communist China's institutions in this Forbes interview:

quote:
What do you see happening in Russia? Can American-style free market policies eventually triumph in the land that invented central planning?

Probably not. Russia is one of the more extreme examples of our attempt to export a too-simple model of how it is that market economies function.

What about China? What will happen with its hybrid model of communist-led capitalism?

I think China is unstoppable, but with its own particular development of evolving economic, social and political institutions. For me, one of the great unresolved questions of economic history is why economic growth took off 200 years ago in Western Europe and not in southeast China, where so many of the objective conditions for development seemed to be in place. A problem for economists is less that of explaining why China is growing so rapidly now as of explaining why it was so economically unsuccessful for so long. This is made all the more striking by the successes of Chinese people in promoting businesses outside China itself.  


In the book Kay demonstrates how a deliberate-literal interpretation of the ABM, which began its ascent globally in the early 1980's, has nearly destroyed New Zealand -- a once rich nation that had a per-head income in the range of 125% of other rich nations in 1960 to only about 60% now.  The move towards deregulation and privatization, and rolling back the redistributive function of government had devastating effects -- not the least of which was the total failure of the power grid of the unregulated Mercury Energy which left Auckland without power for seven weeks.   While the U.S. was able to withstand this problem during the Reagan Presidency and the Repbulican revolution in 1994-96 it was able to do so because of a system of checks and balances which were non-existent in New Zealand.  It's unicameral parliament and overly powerful executive ran completely amok.  What makes economies work is what he calls 'disciplined pluralism' -- that of liberal experimentation but cutting off failed experiments quickly while rapidly deploying successful solutions.

quote:
-- globalization is adverse to poor people in rich countries. Unless we manage the social consequences of that, we risk growing opposition to globalization. --John Kay


(next up Ruth Benedict and Synergy)
Brad
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66 posted 09-11-2004 12:23 AM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

Sounds like pragmatism to me.

Local Rebel
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67 posted 09-11-2004 01:21 AM       View Profile for Local Rebel   Email Local Rebel   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Local Rebel

What aspect Brad?  

I'm going to post a couple of more sections this weekend but, discussion is welcome anytime.
Ron
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68 posted 09-11-2004 10:13 AM       View Profile for Ron   Email Ron   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Ron's Home Page   View IP for Ron

I'm still waiting, but can't help wondering how Brad sees anything remotely pragmatic about expecting people to follow any path except one of self-interest? (Recognizing that Reb's use of "blindly" as a modifier for "following" makes his point too vague to be useful, of course.)
Local Rebel
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69 posted 09-12-2004 10:02 PM       View Profile for Local Rebel   Email Local Rebel   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Local Rebel

I was hoping for a bit more input from Brad on what he meant by pragmatism -- whether he just thought Kay's conclusions made sense and were practical or if he meant the classical definition of pragmatism in philosophy. Of course I know he reads Rorty too -- so I just wasn't sure of the aspect.  But it is notable that Kay thinks like a pragmatist in that he holds that a theory is only valid if it actually has consequences for someone -- and focuses, as a neoclassicist should, on microeconomics, looking at the actual differences between individuals from one economy to another to gain a broader picture.

Of course if Ron is offended by the term 'blindly' I'm more than willing to replace it with the synonym of his choice; narrowly, egocentrically, small-mindedly, any of them might work but none of them are as succinct as the word 'blindly' -- because that's what it is to be without vision.  Without any knowledge or understanding of the repercussion from actions that impact others and eventually self as well.  The only real purpose of belief is that it is a template for action, and actions have consequences.  It isn't intellectual masturbation to have a discussion with the ends in mind that actions may be modified to improve the living conditions of millions of individual lives.  I am not a fatalist.  I am not resigned to the notion that things will always be as they've always been or that things are only getting worse.  Beliefs and actions have changed before -- they will continue to change.  It wasn't that long ago that there was no such thing as a no-smoking section in a restaurant.  Now we have no-smoking cities and no-smoking states.  'Blindly' must be used to modify 'following self interest' because there can be no system where the organic self can be expected to not act in its own best interest -- but that's why the next topic is Synergy.

And if we can put things together in such a way so that it makes sense to a poet -- then a poet can make it make sense to the world.  I have no fear of the argument that what I may present may not be new.  In fact -- I wouldn't present anything new because the argument would be that it is without precedent and would be too risky.  No, I'm looking at why we believe what we believe and questioning the validity of some claims and proposing that we superimpose some slightly different ideas in place of some particularly bad ones before it gets to be too much later.  

Hopefully people are having some time to digest the source material too -- but let's move on shall we?
Juju
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70 posted 10-22-2004 09:58 PM       View Profile for Juju   Email Juju   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Juju's Home Page   View IP for Juju

This what I would do:
As human beings we are to be accountable for are neighbors. If they are hungry and thirst, give them food and drink. On the other hand, putting aside the wasting food, they diserve to enjoy their works pay.

So is this a Moral question? It's simple free will. If these poeple have more then they need let them chose them selves whether to share with there neibors and lets see if they are their neighbors keeper. I say each indivisual has the right to chose whether to help the begger or to binge and waste. For to force this is oppression and steals the one gift we have as humans.

Sorry for being different Rebel
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