[Martin Taylor 2010.12.08.11.28]
[From Kenny Kitzke (2010.12.08.8:45EST)]
In a message dated 12/7/2010 11:48:08 P.M. Eastern Standard
Kenny Kitzke (2010.12.07)]
It is essential to distinguish between earnings from
labor and wealth. I recall that Martin T. was questioning
Martin L. about his definition of wealth. I think you and
Martin T. should also define wealth and how the charts you
have been presenting relate to wealth.
I don't see why you ask me to provide a definition of
wealth. I’ve been asking for a definition, because I don’t
think I know of a satisfactory one. Is wealth related to
money at all, completely, or partially? I give my answer at
the end of this message.
I guess I misunderstood your own words when you showed how
the same wealth disparity has occurred in Canada that Rick
says has incurred in the USA.
I accept your criticism, and offer an exculpatory statement.
In saying the same thing has happened in Canada, I considered the
same kind of money-based statistics usually used when discussing
such matters. However, when I asked Martin L what he meant by
wealth, I thought he must be meaning something else because of some
of his statements about it. When you asked me what I meant by
wealth, I had to think what I would mean by it, and came up with the
thought that real wealth refers to the range of perceptions one can
control, the range of disturbances against which one can control
them, and the accuracy with which one can control them.
In a highly industiralized society, but not in a rural agrarian
society, this concept of wealth seems to correlate strongly with
one’s ability to direct the use of large sums of money. The quote
ascribed to somebody in the early 20th century goes something like
“You aren’t rich if you have a million dollars; you are rich if you
owe a million dollars.” Why would he say that? I think it was
because if you have a million dollars, you can spend up to that
limit, but if you owe a million dollars, you know people trust you
to spend that, and more if you need to, because they think that what
you do with it will be useful to them. So I don’t really go along
with subtracting liabilities from assets as a measure of wealth,
even though when we use government statistics, they are mostly
stated in such terms, so that’s all we have to work with.
That's why I have some sympathy with Martin L. when he talks about
the wealth of having a good family and a pleasant place to live, and
so forth. But on the other hand, in a society so interdependently
connected as ours, the freedom associated with great wealth and the
lack of freedom associated with great poverty strikes me as being in
only a small part connected with differences in ability or of value
to other people. So, ethically, it seems to me quite wrong that the
range of wealth/freedom should be so variable, and that so many
people should have so little freedom while so few have so much. In a
rural, self-sufficient society (if any such exist), I would not find
such disparities unethical. Here, I do. But I guess that’s just me.
I would spout off about the negative impacts of population
disparity in income or weath, either morally or economically, and
what governmental policy and actions should be, I’d want to have
clearly defined meanings and not to treat them as similar, which
is still what Rick speculates. Speculation is fun but it is full
of risks for what we perceive as the real world. From your words
below, you seem to understand this in a similar way. I have no
hope there will be an agreement on this CSGNet or from PCT as to
what behavior is moral. Indeed, what is moral is not the same as
what is ethical. I prefer what is ethical.
One whit, I suspect you mean. But I'm not at all sure you
are right. All those people who would add a little to their
disposable income might create demand, which creates jobs,
which would regenerate the “wealth” taken from the rich in
taxes. At least that’s a plausible outcome, even if we have
no way to tell whether you are right, this alternative is
right, or something else entirely would happen.
Come on, get with it Martin. Are you not on Twitter? It’s
No, I've never jointed Twitter (or Facebook, for that matter). But
why do you ask?
The idea that redistributing income from the rich to the
poor will drive up the economy, demand, jobs and the economy
because the poor will spend it has a fly in the ointment. The
rich also spend their income. I know of no rich people that
have their $ sitting under their pillow. They invest it for a
greater return down the road. And, that produces a gain in
income and wealth whereas a trip to Disney World is a short
term consumption expenditure that produces no return and no
growth and increase in the economy. I think having rich
people in our nation is a positive element in the economic
growth for the nation.
Your view is just as much specualtion as mine. When a family goes to
Disney World, quite a lot happens. For one thing, Disney world might
hire another Mickey Mouse character, or decide to develop another
animatronic attraction. The family is happier than they would have
been had they wanted to go but not been able to afford it, and happy
people often are more energetic than sad, hopeless people, so they
might themselves contribute more to the economy. Come on. Let’s
speculate to our heart’s content about what might or might not
happen. It doesn’t mean anything apart from our social interaction,
Anyway, if you want my answer to "what is wealth", I have to
give a very crude first approximation to an answer: that
wealth is the ability to control your perceptions and the
power to do so. The more perceptions you are able to
control, the wealthier you are. This answer correlates
strongly in an industrialized country with the ability to
get one’s hands on money, but it intrinisically incorporates
Martin L’s hedonic variables. As an answer, I’m sure it
needs a lot of refinement, but it will have to do for a
start. If my answer comes anywhere near being useful, then
wealth is indistinguishable from freedom, since freedom is
explicitly the ability to control one’s perceptions.
That is too abtuse for me. In the parlance of economics,
personal net worth is monetary measure of wealth. That is net
assets less net liabilities. What is wrong with that? Isn’t
it easy to understand?
Could it be that "easy to understand" is what is wrong with it? "Why
are you looking for your keys underthat lamppost when you dropped
them over there?" “I can see better over here.”
I don't see what is abstruse about acknowledging that in an
industrialized society nobody can do very much without relying on
all the structures and cultural patterns involving many other
people. There’s no sense in which anyone can claim that “I earned
all this by my own efforts alone”.
Actually, it is often used for companies, states and even
nations. On that basis, the USA is becoming less wealthy as
liabilities are outstripping assets by terribly high and
increasing deficits in income. Check how the deficits have
increased in the last two years and are expected to continue
to increase in the years ahead.
Looking back over history, this seems to matter only because pundits
to whom politicians (and the public) listen say it matters. Pundits
generate fear (and enhance their own wealth thereby). Fear, as
Roosevelt said, is what we should fear. Not deficits. Whether
deficits are bad depends a lot on circumstances such as who owns the
debt, and whether they use that freedom in such a way as to reduce
one’s own freedom.
I suspect that most people, whether you call them socialist,
conservative, libertarian, or whatever, would agree that
more freedom for more people is a good thing. The only ones
I would expect to differ would be those who already have
great freedom – the rich, the dictators, the power-brokers.
All most of us disagree on is what kind of social structure
leads to more freedom for more people. But I suspect we
agree on the objective.
I sure like the freedom in the USA but not the freedom that
can be used to harm other people. I don’t think the yacht my
rich friends have, or their second and third homes, harm me
one bit. And, I don’t covet what they have that I don’t
have. I think that is wrong…ethically.
I agree. I don't think I have said anything, ever, that I expected
to be interpreted as disagreeing with that.
You are a good thinker Martin and I appreciate how you can
keep the ridicule out of your posts here.
Sometimes it’s hard, and I don’t always manage it. But I try.