Re: virus: Rich and Poor

Tim Rhodes (
Thu, 27 May 1999 17:38:52 -0700

James Veverka wrote:

>I still can't see that, so beat it into me.

Sorry, that's not my Kink-o'the-Week at this time. Check back with me later...

>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.

I would suggest that check the statistics on how "wide" that spread has been historically over the years. It is hardly a constant. There is great fluctuation over time and the different levels of inequity can be seen as having effects on the functioning of the economies in which they take place. (The Age of the Robber-Barons was followed quickly by the Great Depression, as a fer-instance.)

When people speak negatively of "the rich getting richer" they are not saying that the rich shouldn't be wealthier than the poor. It is rather a question of degrees--of _how much_ richer is healthy for the body politic. As in biology, growth is good and necessary. But, too much or uncontrolled growth in only a small group of cells is not. When that happens we call it "cancer".

>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.

Free markets are not freethinking. (And I find your linking of the two quite curious.) If all the slaves could get fed and well housed would you be in favor of slavery?

In the "free market" (which is more of a mythic idea than any about God could ever hope to be) money buys a voice. The more money the more voice. This is not "freethought" by any understanding of the term I know. "Coke or Pepsi" does not constitute free choice.

If you want to see how this process of "dollars=speech" plays itself out, work for a political campaign for a time. A poorly funded woman with good ideas is nothing against an opponant with deep pockets. If you check the data from the last election you'll find that in 9 out of 10 races the canidate who spent more won the election. It really is as simple as that. This is the way the "free market" of ideas _really_ operates. There is very little "free" about it.

>Living in a non-democratic market system anywhere must
>be hell at the bottom.

Which systems would those be, BTW? I would much rather be poor in China than in Mexico any day of the week. Are you really making valid comparisions? If so, what are they?

>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.

And once it no longer "sucks"? Are you then willing to address the relative rates of inequity among classes and the cultural and economic effects these inequities may have on the society? Isn't it time to do that here and now?

>Freethinking and freemarkets can fix quite a lot at this point in our
history. >Imagine the globe suffering only the problems that plaguing our countries.

As I said before, "freethinking" and "freemarkets" are not linked and are seldom found together. If you feel otherwise you'll need to explain to me--in detail--how one can beget the other.

I know it would be easier to frame the "rich getting richer" problem as a black and white question of pro-freemarket or anti-, but that simply isn't how it is. It is rather a question of, since we have a marketplace (and all that entails), which of its impacts are we willing to accept and which will we limit, as is best for the society in which the market is a part?"

The market should be tool for the growth of society, not the other way around.

-Prof. Tim