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Forum Post: "The Wealth"

Posted 2 years ago on March 25, 2012, 2:01 p.m. EST by shield (222)
This content is user submitted and not an official statement

I hear so much talk about "The Wealth" being concentrated, as if there were some static amount of wealth and once humans came on the scene, they started "allocating" it amongst each other. My question is this: What is meant by "The Wealth"? And please don't say "Federal Reserve Notes". Everyone (should) know(s) that they represent debt, not wealth.



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[-] 1 points by francismjenkins (3713) 2 years ago

I understand the premise of your argument, in theory, wealth accumulation is not a zero sum game. However, practically speaking, wealth is the difference between the value of labor, and what the products of that labor are worth on the open market. This may be viewed as oversimplifying. For instance, to what extent does capital investment in machinery add to the value of labor inputs? However, machinery is also produced by labor, so ultimately, it's not an oversimplification to say wealth = the value of labor - the market value of the products of labor.

Therefore, the capitalist system, as it's been contrived, necessarily results in the undervaluation of labor. You might also say there's some function and value that capital adds to the formulation. After all, bosses also work. However, capital generally doesn't originate with managers. Therefore, the only value that capital adds is incurring risk.

Okay ... that's one technical argument describing what wealth means, but what does this really say? I think the only relevant way to analyze this question is to look at the opportunity cost.

If a worker owned and managed enterprise can produce goods and innovate at least as well as conventional enterprises, then the opportunity cost lost by workers = the wealth gained by owners. In this sense, the modern variant of capitalism, results in wealth redistribution from workers to owners.

This doesn't imply that command and control Marxism is a better model (indeed, this form of economic structure has failed miserably), but it does make a theoretical case for libertarian socialism.

[-] 1 points by shield (222) 2 years ago

I would only disagree slightly. I would suggest that wealth is the goods that are produced themselves, regardless of their value on the market. It is only the value of that wealth to others that the market decides. Someone can be said to be wealthy when they possess a great deal of goods which are of high value to the one performing the evaluation.

The main problem I have with the way the phrase "redistribution of wealth" is used is that it is applied in such contexts that make it seem as though people have a right to take the property of their employers, simply because those people have more money than the "workers" do. I am not at all against new and innovative business models, what I am against is theft and I think that is what most using this term are advocating. I prefer whatever method makes the things that I need and want more available to me, so long as no one's rights are being violated.

[-] 2 points by francismjenkins (3713) 2 years ago

Right, ergo marginal utility theory. However, "price" (as in the price goods fetch on the open market) determines value, the market determines price, and the market is merely a collection of people. So pure capitalism is, in theory, reflective of the demands of people. But even anarchists like Noam Chomsky point out (quite effectively I might add) that we don't have real capitalism in this country. Crony capitalism is not capitalism, it's just socialism for the 1%.

Nevertheless, given that less than purely democratic systems seem to inevitably result in the 1% manipulating the playing field, and distorting pure market capitalism, is it possible that a different approach might serve society better?

[-] 1 points by brochomsky (208) from Brooklyn, NY 2 years ago

I think at this point in time "Wealth" more or less represents social influence. This comes across as in influence through media (NBC has more "Wealth" or influence than a Community Cable Station) or through ownership in land (so that Texas has more influence than Rhode Island). Monsanto has more influence than an independent seed producer.

[-] 1 points by shield (222) 2 years ago

That is an interesting observation. I would say that the term "concentration of wealth", in that context, is a very real and detrimental reality. I find it interesting that most people use that term to refer to material wealth (goods) and it has always perplexed me why one would assume that another's possessions are a threat to them. In the context of political power, however, it is indeed deplorable that the influence is in the hands of so few. It has, however, been that way for much of human history. I am neither apologizing for it nor approving of it, nor am I proposing that it is a hopeless situation. I think your identification of a proper application of the term presents a significant talking point for those opposing tyrannical rule -- that being the fact that (and I'm meshing your point with my own views here) if politicians are given the power to do x, y, and z, there will be people who will use their influence to engineer x, y, and z to their benefit.

It is my opinion that the constitution was meant to limit the power of the lawful government to only the exercise of the rights possessed by human beings, and only those rights (or powers, in the context of government) which the people allowed the government to exercise (while still securing those rights to themselves). American Law was supposed to be the means by which the rights of the people were formally protected, rather than the means by which they are annihilated. And the court system was meant to replace arbitrary revenge which might take place in a lawless society (if such a situation can even be referred to as a society). Instead, these institutions were instantly perverted by those wielding influence (or "wealth") and the American people (both early settlers and those of today) let it happen because they did not realize that the American system of government existed solely to protect their rights. I find that too many people reject the concept of natural rights outright, implicitly (and even explicitly) giving the government the authority (somehow [after all, how could they give government power which they claim they do not possess?]) to equate the concept of rights with that of privileges, which government alone (whether it be a democracy or autocracy) has the authority to grant or deny...

[-] 1 points by elf3 (2045) 2 years ago

Very good point but I believe land is the catalyst behind that: http://occupywallst.org/forum/real-estate-4-ransom-global-property-speculation-a/

[-] 0 points by flip (5037) 2 years ago

good question - for sure money is not wealth but it does represent wealth (in our society anyway) - seems to me that our wealth is built on easy to get fossil fuels and they are going away - by the way, money is debt - read graeber on the subject - he is really good

[-] 0 points by Variant2 (4) 2 years ago

Federal Reserve Notes do represent wealth though, so long as other people desire them. The only thing that makes gold valuable is that other people desire it. Same with other shiny rocks, and land, and bat shit. So long as other people desire your pieces of paper, they constitute wealth.

[-] 1 points by shield (222) 2 years ago

They do not represent wealth held by the bearer of the note, though. That note must be returned to its issuer (the Fed) plus interest. Whoever holds a FRN must return it at some point, plus interest. It represents a debt which must be collected, unless the Fed falls first which is unlikely... It's just a game of hot potato until it comes time for that note to be returned. Whoever gets left holding the bag, so to speak, must pay the debt. The game is to exchange the notes for goods as fast as possible and devise a way to hold onto the goods while still having currency to use in the marketplace.


[-] 0 points by elf3 (2045) 2 years ago

I have this for you: I call it Canary Logic:

IS the system working for you? Well - It's not working for US- How does this effect you - ?SIMPLE - we're the canary in the coal mine and we're here to warn you that Wall Street is only starting with us. We are the voice of reason and logic. One percent of the world's population is hording the planet's natural abundance for themselves, creating scarcity and driving a false sense of demand for the rest of the entire population as well as paying off world governments to carry forth their plans and protect them and propagandize on their behalf. We want to stop this:. Is it so hard to believe? We want to prevent Wall Street from creating an anarchic breakdown of our entire planet's financial systems and causing death and destruction in the process; as we have already seen in the third worlds and communistic totalitarian regimes as well as the beginnings in America with downsizing and outsourcing, and land grabs. We are here because we care about you and your family. We are the voice of reason, trust, truth and stability. Wall Street is coming for you so don't count your money - the dollar won't be worth the paper it's written on and when the country is thrown into utter desperation and despair by Wall Street’s actions; gold won't mean much either when people are running around searching for food -gold will be a shiny rock. . The movement is about awareness for the system that WILL break us all - if we don't protest it. This movement has achieved the goal of making people aware they are subservient to a system which works against them; they are waking them up from Wall Street’s anesthesia. If you truly want to break Free then you must break the system. But first you must SEE it. We can't force that; we can only let you know about all the canaries tweeting loudly - you are next .. you will be next …

[-] 1 points by shield (222) 2 years ago

Do you just post this blurb on every thread or did you interpret the intention of my thread to be a place to post your political campaign platform?

[-] 1 points by elf3 (2045) 2 years ago

You know what I hate ? Posts that lead of with a question ready to lead someone down your supposed path of knowledge because the only courage or level of intelligence you have is to back people into corners that are clearly designed so you can say "ah ha see everything fits into my square box because you couldn't avoid it". It is the most supremely cowardly dumb tactic ever - stand by your convictions much? And yes this site is for a platform - if you don't stand by it then what are you doing here? Someone who loves debates even though he is to much of a coward to say what he means ? You're not part of this movement - but you certainly have noticed it and just can't seem to peel your eyes away - aww bad day at the office and need to feel superior? stocks fell a bit and feeling a little shaken? I stand by my convictions and my words and I know what I believe in. Your post leaves you a lot of room to back track - my post hit a nerve shield? Shield what do you do for a living (the tax payers aren't paying your salary by chance are they? (just making sure)

[-] 1 points by shield (222) 2 years ago

lol, just wanted to see if you wanted to talk about what this thread was about. Don't freak out.

[-] 0 points by jph (2652) 2 years ago

we are ALL risen from the dust of this rock. naked and penniless. we live now thanks to many living creatures that came before.
this planet has limited matter.
a very few individuals/families claim to 'own' the vast majority of the planet that gives me life. I disagree.

[-] 1 points by shield (222) 2 years ago

Matter is merely a form of energy. Matter is "created" (more like brought forth) in this universe and destroyed (returned to its unobserved time-energy state) all the time. There are several well-known physical processes in which these things occur, and some less well known processes (including cold fusion). So I have to disagree with you on the facts there.

Ownership is the right to the use and disposal of something. By essentially stating that ownership is an invalid concept, you provide no alternative reason why you (or anyone else) have/has the right to make use of any of the external world's resources. Now, it is true that there are those (governments and shadow governments) who claim to own things that they do not (and what I mean is that they do not have the right to the use and disposal of those things), so in that light your point is valid.

Your answer to my question then, is that the natural resources of the earth are wealth? I would not disagree. I would add, however, that until humans figure out how to make use of them and actually do make use of them, they are of no value to anyone, only potential value and therefore are only potential wealth. And this brings up an interesting question. By what principle can one claim the right to use those resources?

[-] 1 points by jph (2652) 2 years ago

In a universe where mater and energy can freely exchange, perhaps it would make no difference HOW MUCH matter/energy one individual claimed to own as their own personal 'wealth', however we don't live in such a circumstance. Where does the 'right' to own anything come from? Saying 'I claim ownership of this oil field, as I payed for a deed from this guy over here.' is just a link in a chain of control. We can only truly own that which we create with our own will. The rest is parlor games, smoke and mirrors, and standing armies.

The wealth is not the natural resources, 'the wealth' is the claim to them. I dispute the claim.

I do not see the value in a 0.01% of people controlling the majority of my planet. Had they done 'good' and made the world a better place, perhaps we would not be having this conversation, but this is where we are. A VERY FEW have had 'ownership' of A VERY LOT for far too long. We have seen that road, endless human suffering under wars, repression, and artificial scarcity, with those few owners doing well. Lets flip the script, lets reverse the concentration of ownership and level the field. Lets create a consensus based democracy, with systems designed to keep the power evenly distributed. This does not mean that there can be no great and influential people, good ideas should always spread. We need a culture that strives for balance not wealth.

[-] 1 points by shield (222) 2 years ago

I define ownership as the right to the use and disposal of that which is owned. One certainly has the right to the use and disposal of one's own body and mind (this is erroneously referred to as a right to life, which creates problems when that right is used as a logical stepping stone). One's ownership of things external to oneself comes from the incorporation of oneself (through one's efforts) into something external, transforming it into something it was not prior to the interaction. This is the method by which original ownership can be established. For instance, a farmer comes across an unused, untilled stretch of arable land. He builds a house on that land and cultivates it, raises livestock, etc. Thus, he comes into legitimate possession of the land he has cultivated. From that point on, that land can only be owned by others if the original owner dies, agrees to the transfer, or is conquered by invaders.

My problem with many of the would-be revolutionaries in this movement is that they seem to want to do away with the concept of ownership entirely and replace it with "democratic consensus". Wherein before taking any action, the majority would have to decide whether or not you were allowed to take that action.

Furthermore, matter and energy do freely exchange. Things do not travel in space, but only in spacetime. Every observation removes what is observed from time, creating a "snapshot" of whatever was observed. Nothing that can be observed can be said to continuously exist, and therefore cannot, itself, travel through space. It is only the pre-observed entities which can be said to travel, but those entities cannot be separated from their time component, hence things can only persist in spacetime. Every moment, the countless interactions occurring in the vacuum are "summed up" into a result, which may or may not result in an observable phenomena. But what is observed is not the causal interactions, only their result. At every point in observable space where matter exists, there is some process which transduces the energy from the time domain into either observed energy (which we commonly refer to simply as energy) or matter (which can be expressed as energy). Matter is merely a particular form of non-observable energy interactions, as is observable energy. The conservation of energy principle states that no new energy (and therefore mass) can be created or destroyed, which is true. But it refers to the entire system of reality, not just the observed. I theorize that it will be possible to generate any amount of matter once the technology is sufficiently developed. There are already phenomena which exhibit the creation of "excess" particles which were not present at the beginning of the experiment (cold fusion and black holes are two examples that come to mind). Until then, however, we must continue to find ways to deal with each other and obtain what each and every one of us needs in order to do whatever it is that we wish to do. The only fair and just way to do this that I can see is through trade, which requires the concept of property.

[-] 1 points by Variant2 (4) 2 years ago

Your notion of property can certainly be practical, and your idea of trade can easily be fair. But the notion of private property, is, I think, chemically, biologically, and physically indefensible. Was the farmer around when the atoms composing his area of land and house were ejected from the center of a distant dying star? And, if so, what right had he to claim said atoms. It seems inescapable that, knowing the origins of ourselves and our home, that we have one planet and we own it in common (that would be in common with other species too, even if the notion sounds absurd, but that's where argument begins and not ends, for sure). Not that we should dismantle all private property rights simply on this principle, but it is inescapable and we should not be afraid of this knowledge.

[-] 1 points by shield (222) 2 years ago

Hence the qualifier that a man comes into original ownership of only what he transforms from its "natural state".

[-] 1 points by Variant2 (4) 2 years ago

Why not go ahead and answer the question you're begging? If I come into your backyard, chop down a tree, dig a foundation, and build a little hut, do I not then own that portion of your backyard by virtue of my "transforming" labor? And the corollary: If our hypothetical farmer finds out later that someone did indeed already own the land he worked, is he no longer entitled to the house and field of his transformation?

[-] 1 points by jph (2652) 2 years ago

"a farmer comes across an unused, untilled stretch of arable land" really? where did she come across this land? There exist no land that is not already claimed and held by some one. Your ownership theory impoverishes all new people for the benefit of the first to arrive, thus you are pushing a pyramid/ponzi system. I do not know the answer to the question of property/ownership, I find it a puzzling concept that many just take for granted. I do not believe it is 'granted', I see it as a meme that is indoctrinated into people from birth. This mind-prison meme benefits those claiming ownership of every part of the world, and makes slaves to the owners of the rest of humanity.

As it sits, our model of ownership seem rather broken to me. It is a childish system of 'calling dibs' on resources that an individual has not actual right to. How do you justify this in you concept of ownership? How for example does a British Oil corporation get to own the oil under the Gulf of Mexico? should that resource not benefit the local population, or are they only there for BP to then take money from for the use of the resource that is nowhere near Britain??

You mater/energy ideas are interesting however they are more metaphysics than physics. Sure all matter is made from energy and vice versa, however we are talking about practical reality not theoretical physics. Until and unless you have some working examples of the free energy/free matter technology it remains science-fiction, or theoretical concepts and has absolutely no use in practical planning or organisation of people living in the world as it is today.

[-] 1 points by shield (222) 2 years ago

If you go back and read my example of the farmer, you will see that one must transform what one wishes to own from its natural state in order to claim legitimate ownership under this theory. One cannot simply "claim" a stretch of land and consider it legitimate ownership -- one must work it, thereby transforming it into wealth, which the one who did the work would own. And there are still unused stretches of land, even in the United States, particularly in the south. A while back I heard of some states (I forget which) reinstating homesteading laws, which function differently from my proposed concept of original ownership but are similar.

Regarding BP, much of its possessions are the result of legislation, rather than legitimate ownership according to the concept I presented above. I do not know the specifics of any of the deals, but I do know that they and many other corporations use government military and law to accomplish their goals, rather than principles of laissez-faire.

[-] 1 points by jph (2652) 2 years ago

I just recently read a post by someone who actually did look and they found that there are no homesteading opportunities in america anywhere currently. You may be living in a skewed recollection from a few decades back, nothing like homesteading exists.

'Unused' land or land in left wild, has great value. How dose this value get measured in your market? Not at all, me thinks, and that is major flaw with that system.

So tell me, how does you favored 'free' market fix those issues I have already raised? Resource destruction, externalized cost foisted of on the community, etc.?

No mater what the system and it will inevitably be a mix of open markets, and community ownership, we will always have regulations (gov.) for community standards. What is open to debate is how that system is created and controlled. The current corrupted representative republic or a real community based democracy.

[-] 1 points by shield (222) 2 years ago

If by cash you mean Federal Reserve Notes, I will point out that they are not wealth in and of themselves, and that they do not represent wealth held by the bearer, but debt. They are lent at interest to banks and governments and must be repaid with additional interest. Since that interest cannot take the form of FRNs, it must take the form of wealth or something which can be exchanged for wealth, which brings us to your second example: resources.

But what is meant by the concentration of ownership of resources? And what are those resources? Who owns them and how did they come into the possession of those owners?

[-] 0 points by FriendlyObserverB (1871) 2 years ago

mankind has produced a tremendous amount of goods [wealth] .. the concentration of ownership is in the hands of a few ..

[-] 1 points by shield (222) 2 years ago

I would then ask how those few came into possession of that wealth and what prevents people from creating more wealth? And since you have properly identified the fact that people create wealth, why is the fact that some people possess a great deal of it a threat to anyone else?

[-] 2 points by brochomsky (208) from Brooklyn, NY 2 years ago

I think that's an interesting point and I think this is a valuable discussion you've started. In a Capitalist society, wealth is antagonistic towards other wealth and potential wealth. That's what the premise of competition is based on. Capitalism presumes competitors will be in constant battle with each other (therefore creating better and better products and selling them for a cheaper price--as the theory goes).

What prevents people from creating more wealth is that wealth already exists. Bill Gates could rise to power with Microsoft because the competition hadn't yet been built up. But now that Windows and OSX are such efficient systems with robust multinational corporations backing them, can you imagine a new competitor entering the marketplace? Microsoft is also a good example of antagonistic wealth: surely you're aware of the monopolistic practices that drew the company criticism during the 90's. It wasn't until they were threatened with an anti-trust lawsuit that they bought shares in Apple and saved their biggest competitor.

Basically, as the giant gets bigger, everyone else gets smaller. Monsanto, having a significant amount of wealth, can force independent soy farmers out of business with unfounded lawsuits. It's simply impossible for independent farmers to pay the legal fees to simply keep up with the discovery process in a lawsuit, while Monsanto can bear the temporary legal expenditure even though Monsanto may not have a valid case.

[-] -1 points by shield (222) 2 years ago

I disagree with the notion that one man's wealth is a detriment to another in a Capitalist society (which the phrase "antagonistic towards other wealth" seems to indicate). It's true that competitors will try to produce better products and force the others out of the market. But as they compete, both are making profit (one loses when he can no longer make a profit). Both are growing their wealth, meanwhile the product gets more and more affordable for those who wish to buy it. The one who "loses" has what wealth he generated, as well as the knowledge gained from the experience. Furthermore, he can purchase what he previously produced at a much lower rate than before their competition began and he is free to start a new company, work for his competitor, or whatever he chooses to do with the wealth and knowledge he has gained.

Regarding Microsoft, as I recall they got in trouble for making deals with OEMs that stated that if those manufacturers wanted to sell their products with windows installed, they had to also include internet explorer as part of the installation. I see nothing morally wrong with requiring someone who wishes to resell your product to resell your product as you would like it to be sold. If that manufacturer chooses to accept the deal, it is their right to do so. If they wish to reject it, they have that right as well. Regarding new competitors entering the marketplace, hundreds of variants of linux are available (most of them free) and widely used, especially in server environments.

And Monsanto's activities do not represent faults in capitalism, but in American Law (which is extremely convoluted and highly irrational) and in people's understanding of it. Regarding one of the most well-known controversies Monsanto is involved in -- that of patenting DNA -- it is strange that they would even want to, since it does not legally protect their product. A plant is not identically its DNA, and that DNA could and likely will mutate even within the life cycle of a single plant. It is only the failure of the defendants in these cases to recognize this fact that has allowed Monsanto to get away with what they have. A person does not have to have a lawyer represent them. They need only learn the law, which is something we should all do. The greatest threat to mankind is government. We must all know how to protect ourselves against it. It was, after all, the purpose of the constitution to protect men from their governments. But when men fail to realize this and do not learn the law, that paper is of no value.

[-] 2 points by brochomsky (208) from Brooklyn, NY 2 years ago

The purpose of the Constitution was to protect the citizenry against tyranny. Do you disagree that tyranny can take more forms than just governmental? There is largely a private tyranny as well.

How does someone enter a saturated marketplace? Linux has been having troubling entering into the marketplace as a viable operating system for years despite being a very capable sytem. For example, Asus once upon a time offered a significant lineup of natively running linux netbooks. However, many sources indicate that the pressures for Microsoft made Asus rethink bundling their hardware with Linux OS's.

Additionally, Microsoft buying shares in Apple (and therefore saving the otherwise doomed company from implosion) was all about not becoming a monopoly. Had Apple sunk, Microsoft would have been attacked with all sorts of antitrust suits that would have forced Microsoft to more than likely split the company up. The Internet Explorer case you cited wasn't the one I was referencing, but is a good example of private tyranny.

[-] 1 points by FriendlyObserverB (1871) 2 years ago

What you really should be asking , " how do we distribute the wealth evenly and fairly.

[-] 0 points by shield (222) 2 years ago

In response I'll ask you these questions. Who are "we"? Are "we" everyone or are we only a portion of the population? what wealth do "we" own? And which of "us" has the authority to "distribute" which parts of it? And to whom? If "we" are the entire population, then don't we already own what we need? What "distribution" needs to take place?

[-] 1 points by FriendlyObserverB (1871) 2 years ago

We are the people.

[-] 1 points by shield (222) 2 years ago

"We are the people." I will interpret this to mean that the word "we" refers to every human being alive. Clearly then, the wealth owned by "us" is the all of the wealth that exists. But if this is the case, then don't "we" already own everything we need? What "distribution" needs to take place? And the answers to the other questions?

[-] 1 points by GeoffH (214) from Jacksonville, FL 2 years ago

HUH? So your whole argument is that if there is only one bushel of apples and 1 of 10 people has all the apples it is okay because the group has a bushel of apples? That's pretty stupid, if you ask me.

[-] 1 points by shield (222) 2 years ago

What argument? I asked you a series of questions. Do you have answers to them or is "We are the people" as far as your reasoning goes?

[-] 1 points by GeoffH (214) from Jacksonville, FL 2 years ago

As much as I like a spirited debate. I can see this one is devolving into a discussion of semantics and rhetoric. You obviously know what the answer to your questions are. Why don't you try to make your point rather than argue inane points? You can not possibly get to this forum without knowing who "We the People" are nor what the basics of the grievance 'We' have with the control of our government by a minority of thee population that only serves itself.

[-] 1 points by FriendlyObserverB (1871) 2 years ago

Thanks GeoffH.

Shield is a website bully. Do whatever you want to him.

[-] -2 points by Dell (-168) 2 years ago

great post. This is what the lefties don't understand. It is not a zero sum game as the communists want you to believe. Wealth is created and the economy grows. When the economy grows your slice of the pie grows too. Stop worrying about other peoples slice of pie. It is the act of a child.

[+] -4 points by DKAtoday (33128) from Coon Rapids, MN 2 years ago

" Wealth is created " and the " Economy grows "

Only if the wealth is distributed fairly and not hoarded.

Hoarding is what is happening and what we have is a failing economy.