Re: virus: Rich and Poor

James Veverka (
Thu, 27 May 1999 18:25:18 -0400 (EDT)

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Prof Tim.....I'll take that under advisement!!

I still can't see that, so beat it into me. In a market economy there will necessarily be a wide spread, all the way up to outlandish incomes due to the very nature of the system. So within our system there are huge differences between incomes. But almost all incomes are liveable. For the most part the "poor" in market economies live like kings compared to the poor elsewhere. In many of those nations there are just the rich and just the really poor. There is also a sufficient safety net for the disabled, the unemployed and the ill due to the prosperity inherant in the system.

Compare the bottom tier of wage earners around the world and we see huge differences in their standard of living at the bottom. So what is the big deal about disparate incomes in free societies if almost all are satisfactory. Freethinking, free markets give us all diverse choices and manifold chances to improve our lot. That can't be said elsewhere. Chances, not. Choices, same.

Living in a non-democratic market system anywhere must be hell at the bottom. One is pretty much stuck there. So, at this point I still see democratic and market reforms worldwide as a necessary component in raising the standard of living where it sucks. Freethinking and freemarkets can fix quite a lot at this point in our history. Imagine the globe suffering only the problems that plaguing or countries.

This doesn't make sense?

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Message-ID: <00c601bea88c$756fc6a0$e0a0bfce@proftim> From: "Tim Rhodes" <> To: <>
Subject: Re: virus: Rich and Poor
Date: Thu, 27 May 1999 15:00:53 -0700
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James Veverka wrote:

> Being a political junkie, I am always looking for the political
> consequences possible in any ideology or philosophy. This
> bit about the poorer getting poorer and the richer getting richer,
> thereby widening the nonsense. What seems to be implied
> by some is that the rich get richer always at the poor's expense.

The "bit about the rich getting richer" isn't a comparison between countries, but rather a comparison of classes within a country. If, for instance, the personal assets of the wealthiest 5% of a given nation grow a rate of 15% annually while those of the remaining 95% of the population only grow at a rate of 5% a year, it doesn't take long for a nations wealth to become concentrated in the hands a very few.

The poor are still better off than they were before (5% a year better, in this example), but nevertheless 95% of the population quickly falls below the mean in this situation. And if "dollars=speech" (as the Supreme Court has ruled in the case political free speech) then it is easy to see how the voice of the majority can effectively become drowned out by the thundering roar from the rich in this situation.

Not that all this hasn't happened in the USA before or that it must be all bad. The last time this concentration of wealth occurred did it was called "the Golden Age". (Or "the Age of the Robber-Barons" depending on your context.) The only really worrying part is that as the robber-barons of the 1920's (Carnegie, Rockefeller, Vanderbilt, Mellon, etc.) grew older and reached their late 40's/early 50's, they turned into the nations greatest philanthropists. We owe most of our greatest public library systems, arts centers, museums and endowments to them.

Unfortunately, this example of how to return a nations wealth to its people through public works has yet to be followed by this generation's passel of robber-barons at anything like the same scale. Hopefully this will change as they grow older.

(But for the moment, I have very little base this hope on other than simple wishful thinking and/or blind optimism on my part--this generation's elite seem much less inclined toward social redistribution than those of the past. Maybe because they lack the "rewards in heaven" carrot and "easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle..." stick that might have motivated such acts of generosity in the past.)

-Prof. Tim

(For the Seattle locals: This is why a "Safeco Stadium" ballpark--built using public moneys--is so distressing at a time when one is hard pressed to find a "Yamauchi Center for the Arts", "C. Larson Public Library", "Howard Lincoln Opera Hall", or "Minoru Arakawa Museum of Science" anywhere on the streets of Seattle. Regardless of whether one loves baseball or not.)