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Thread: Should Billionaires exist

  1. #1

    Default Should Billionaires exist

    Previously on The World Forgotten. Loki had just posted a graph showing the 1% lose more during the 2008 crash in support of the claim that a recession hits everyone. And now the conclusion:

    Loki. Little math puzzle for you. If one person has a monthly cost of living of 1500 credits, and an monthly income of 1999 credits and another person has a monthly cost of living of 15000 credits and a monthly income of 9999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999 million billion credits, and then there's a crash and first persons income falls by 25% and the second person's falls by 50%, who is worse off?

    Extra credit: Can Person B still afford donations to political candidates who will keep taxes low and cut welfare programs instead, as well as block any attempts at regulation? Do they sill own controlling stake in powerful employers who keep wages frozen in exchange for more returns for investors? Do they still own major media outlets who employ Very Serious People as pundits who'll say any mildly left wing policy that threatens their position is Insane Communism and Not Serious which will destroy the economy, even though they themselves just destroyed the economy thanks their own monomanicial persuit of profit at the expense of literally everything including their own medium term interests, like some kind of mad AI from an Eliezer Yudkowsky fever dream?


    P.S. this is an entirely math base puzzle
    Last edited by Steely Glint; 03-09-2020 at 06:36 PM.
    Take the suffering and plague away now, let the madness become the truth, cause it's never too late for mercy when the red tides rise to you
    As power tends towards violent ends, I'll choose to give up nothing, cause it's too late to be the hero, and it's too late to see the truth
    I'm exempt of absolution
    But it's never too late for you

  2. #2
    Quote Originally Posted by Steely Glint View Post
    P.S. this is an entirely math base puzzle
    Does Low-key make a million credits for disagreeing with you? Check-mate, lieberal
    In the future, the Berlin wall will be a mile high, and made of steel. You too will be made to crawl, to lick children's blood from jackboots. There will be no creativity, only productivity. Instead of love there will be fear and distrust, instead of surrender there will be submission. Contact will be replaced with isolation, and joy with shame. Hope will cease to exist as a concept. The Earth will be covered with steel and concrete. There will be an electronic policeman in every head. Your children will be born in chains, live only to serve, and die in anguish and ignorance.
    The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference.

  3. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by Loki View Post
    Global growth forecasts are way down. There's already an impact on logistics chains for some major US corporations. Whether or not the US enters a recession by November (even money as this point), there are going to be obvious effects on the labor market (and probably the stock market).
    I'm really not sure that you're right. I wouldn't be surprised to see some contraction, but I think most businesses see this as an idiosyncratic event that isn't tied to the broader business cycle. I question whether we'll see mass layoffs or bankruptcies unless things get really bad. And if equity markets are just so-so, I'm not convinced people will pay all that much attention.

    I think there's a lot of downside risk to the economy and I'm not optimistic about it in the medium term. But right now employment is very good as are profits. If aggregate demand is seriously depressed for a prolonged period, we might start to see serious cracks emerge. But if covid-19's effects end up being relatively modest, I'm not convinced we'll see enough macroeconomic effects that people seriously start to notice.

    Quote Originally Posted by Steely
    Loki. Little math puzzle for you. If one person has a monthly cost of living of 1500 credits, and an monthly income of 1999 credits and another person has a monthly cost of living of 15000 credits and a monthly income of 9999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999 million billion credits, and then there's a crash and first persons income falls by 25% and the second person's falls by 50%, who is worse off?


    Extra credit: Can Person B still afford donations to political candidates who will keep taxes low and cut welfare programs instead, as well as block any attempts at regulation? Do they sill own controlling stake in powerful employers who keep wages frozen in exchange for more returns for investors? Do they still own major media outlets who employ Very Serious People as pundits who'll say any mildly left wing policy that threatens their position is Insane Communism and Not Serious which will destroy the economy, even though they themselves just destroyed the economy thanks their own monomanicial persuit of profit at the expense of literally everything including their own medium term interests, like some kind of mad AI from an Eliezer Yudkowsky fever dream?


    P.S. this is an entirely math base puzzle
    You know, Steely, I don't really get your animosity towards the wealthy. I don't like plenty of rich people because of their opinions or actions, but I don't have a problem with being rich in general. It's kinda like the way that I don't get when people bang on about how small business are so great and big businesses are awful. The reason small businesses are great is that a small proportion of them will become big businesses and really add a lot of value to the world. This isn't to say I like every big business or every rich person, but I see them (broadly) as a sign of success, not a sign of something being fundamentally broken in our society.

    I'd note that pretty much all of the richest people in the United States did not, in fact, inherit dynastic wealth. I'm not a huge fan of those who have accumulated wealth by being born wealthy or engaging in shady business practices (including a certain President we all know). But while there's plenty to criticize about every large company that has grown in the US in the last century - including Google, Facebook, Microscoft, Apple, Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway, Oracle, Bloomberg, and Koch Industries - they have by and large provided remarkable innovation and value to their customers and fundamentally changed the world. I don't begrudge their owners the riches they have accumulated.

    That isn't to say that additional income and wealth redistribution shouldn't be considered - I think inequality is a big problem and that it's reasonable to expect the mega-wealthy to chip in. But I don't agree with your basic premise that being wealthy is Wrong and that everything a wealthy person does is Evil. Yes, there are the cartoonishly stereotypical libertarians like the Kochs, but I'd bet you good money that even they weren't pushing their policies from a place of pure self-interest - rather, they had convinced themselves that the deregulated marketplace they were advocating for would be best for the US economy. But the likes of Bloomberg and Bezos simply don't seem to fall in that category, even if they do own media properties. And Gates and Buffett seem to actively promote policies that are not in their self-interest.

    Finally, I'd like to highlight that despite the truly astonishing amount of money that Bloomberg spent, it got him precisely one win. In American Samoa. I think that while the influence of money in American politics is indeed problematic, its actual effect on voters may be overblown. Certainly Clinton had way more money behind her than Trump, and it's likely that Biden/Sanders will be similarly buttressed with cash - yet they all would push for policies that are 'worse' for the wealthy than Trump's... and in Clinton's case, it didn't end up helping her win.

    (As an addendum, I'm always amused when people mention Eli... he's certainly a bit of an oddball, but hardly as crazy as people seem to think. He's not as unreasonable in person.)
    "When I meet God, I am going to ask him two questions: Why relativity? And why turbulence? I really believe he will have an answer for the first." - Werner Heisenberg (maybe)

  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by wiggin View Post
    But I don't agree with your basic premise that being wealthy is Wrong and that everything a wealthy person does is Evil.
    Why yes, I can rattle off the top of my head a dozen cartoonishly evil wealthy people, but that does not mean they're all like that. I mean, I socialize with some wealthy people, and I do not wish to consider myself an immoral person, and therefore I must vomit up these lame platitudes on the internet to excuse, well, frankly engaging in morally suspect behaviour myself.
    In the future, the Berlin wall will be a mile high, and made of steel. You too will be made to crawl, to lick children's blood from jackboots. There will be no creativity, only productivity. Instead of love there will be fear and distrust, instead of surrender there will be submission. Contact will be replaced with isolation, and joy with shame. Hope will cease to exist as a concept. The Earth will be covered with steel and concrete. There will be an electronic policeman in every head. Your children will be born in chains, live only to serve, and die in anguish and ignorance.
    The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference.

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by wiggin View Post
    You know, Steely, I don't really get your animosity towards the wealthy.
    Imagine, if you will, a world with a seemingly chronic shortage of shoes. In this world, one third of people have no shoes and have to hobble everywhere barefoot. Another third have one pair of shoes, if they get holes in them or something they have to hold onto them for a long time before they can afford to replace them. And then third of people have what we would consider a normal number of shoes today. But, look closer and you realise that a tiny number of people in the population have like 500 billion pairs of shoes each, almost all of which they (obviously) never wear, so they're just kept in an air condition warehouse somewhere.

    But still, these people feel they do not have enough shoes. There is no such thing as enough shoes. Much of the industrial capacity of the world is dedicated to producing shoes, but every time a shoe factory produces another batch of shoes, the Shoe People immediately buy up like 95% of them and put them in a warehouse. They have standing orders with all the major shoe factories. Hospitals, Fire Stations and schools, all are brought and turned into shoe factories, so there can be more shoes. The Shoe Harvest will go on forever, without pause, hesitation or toilet breaks.

    Some people want to make this practice illegal, but everyone calls them madmen and cranks, because if the Shoe People didn't buy up all those shoes, the shoe factories would go out of business and then no one would have any shoes, and everyone would be out of work, and the economy would crash. And then no one would have any shoes. And, look, the Shoe People aren't bad at all they occasionally give away some or all of their shoes in a fit of magnanimity, what more do you want.

    As an outsider, I think you might come to the conclusion that the Shoe People are ill. In the head.

    I'd note that pretty much all of the richest people in the United States did not, in fact, inherit dynastic wealth. I'm not a huge fan of those who have accumulated wealth by being born wealthy or engaging in shady business practices (including a certain President we all know). But while there's plenty to criticize about every large company that has grown in the US in the last century - including Google, Facebook, Microscoft, Apple, Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway, Oracle, Bloomberg, and Koch Industries - they have by and large provided remarkable innovation and value to their customers and fundamentally changed the world. I don't begrudge their owners the riches they have accumulated.
    I wouldn't begrudge, say, Bill Gates having a few 100 million (to be clear, this is a huge amount of money) to play with, he did pretty well with Microsoft. But if he did have that much money, he'd still be closer to you or in terms of wealth than the Bill Gates of the Prime Timeline.

    Bezos simply don't seem to fall in that category
    Report: Amazon Workers Have to Process 300 Packages an Hour and Pee in Bottles

    Workers “lived in fear of being *disciplined over ‘idle time’ and *losing their jobs just because they needed the loo,” Bloodworth wrote.
    They claimed the company’s targets are unreachable and compared the work to slavery.
    Fifty-five percent of employees said they were criticized for taking sick days. Some female workers even claimed they were penalized for taking time off during pregnancies.
    Employees were also forced to work 80 hours a week and stay online constantly–bosses often emailed workers past midnight, and then texted them if they didn’t get a response right away.
    They work for the richest man in the world.

    But I guess 112 billion just wasn't enough for ole Jeff.

    Also Amazon pays like no taxes.

    (As an addendum, I'm always amused when people mention Eli... he's certainly a bit of an oddball, but hardly as crazy as people seem to think. He's not as unreasonable in person.)
    I don't really have a problem with him, he has some valid ideas. But you have to agree his focus is very... singular.
    Take the suffering and plague away now, let the madness become the truth, cause it's never too late for mercy when the red tides rise to you
    As power tends towards violent ends, I'll choose to give up nothing, cause it's too late to be the hero, and it's too late to see the truth
    I'm exempt of absolution
    But it's never too late for you

  6. #6
    Why would you begrudge a man for having his healthy load of shoes? Furthermore, is not the man with shoes prepared to offer a shoe or two to anyone who would write an article for the New York Times extolling the virtues of someone with a stockpile of shoes? Would it not, indeed, be in the interests of someone not quite yet possessing this load of shoes to speak in benefit of anyone with those shoes, for surely this person aspires as well to one day be the shoe holder?
    In the future, the Berlin wall will be a mile high, and made of steel. You too will be made to crawl, to lick children's blood from jackboots. There will be no creativity, only productivity. Instead of love there will be fear and distrust, instead of surrender there will be submission. Contact will be replaced with isolation, and joy with shame. Hope will cease to exist as a concept. The Earth will be covered with steel and concrete. There will be an electronic policeman in every head. Your children will be born in chains, live only to serve, and die in anguish and ignorance.
    The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference.

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by Nessus View Post
    I am somewhat curious how the 2020 democratic primaries thread is about Brexit now
    Same reason it turned into a debate about the economy and the wealthy: politics.

    OK, so Loki is right that downturns hit everyone. But context matters, and the wealthy don't suffer like the poor or middle classes do, and they recover quicker.
    You can't eat an iPad.

    wiggin, I think you're wrong in saying there's a hatred (or envy) toward the uber-wealthy or big business. It's clear that money=power, and concentrated money=concentrated power. Both have tentacles in politics, and everything is political these days. You acknowledge that income inequality is a *real* problem, but don't see how it got that way?

  8. #8
    Indeed. Innumeracy is a great problem and explains why otherwise intelligent people think that taxing a few billionaires until they flee the country can pay for hundreds of millions of people.
    Quote Originally Posted by Ominous Gamer View Post
    Being upset is understandable, but be upset at yourself for poor planning, not at the world by acting like a spoiled bitch during an interview.

  9. #9
    I rag on these billionaires, but what I don't understand is that with enough hard work and ingenuity, I too may some day be able to make my employees pee in a bottle.

    That's the American dream.
    Last edited by Steely Glint; 03-07-2020 at 03:19 PM.
    Take the suffering and plague away now, let the madness become the truth, cause it's never too late for mercy when the red tides rise to you
    As power tends towards violent ends, I'll choose to give up nothing, cause it's too late to be the hero, and it's too late to see the truth
    I'm exempt of absolution
    But it's never too late for you

  10. #10
    Steely, I'm going to respond in detail, but a preface: I think that income inequality is a problem, and that part of the solution is going to be increased redistribution of income (and, in some manner, wealth). My comments to follow are an elaboration on why I think that many of the mega-wealthy in America are a symptom but not the primary cause of the issue. In fact in many of their cases I think that they came by their wealth relatively honestly and aren't all that stingy about parting with it.

    Quote Originally Posted by Steely Glint View Post
    Imagine, if you will, a world with a seemingly chronic shortage of shoes. In this world, one third of people have no shoes and have to hobble everywhere barefoot. Another third have one pair of shoes, if they get holes in them or something they have to hold onto them for a long time before they can afford to replace them. And then third of people have what we would consider a normal number of shoes today. But, look closer and you realise that a tiny number of people in the population have like 500 billion pairs of shoes each, almost all of which they (obviously) never wear, so they're just kept in an air condition warehouse somewhere.

    But still, these people feel they do not have enough shoes. There is no such thing as enough shoes. Much of the industrial capacity of the world is dedicated to producing shoes, but every time a shoe factory produces another batch of shoes, the Shoe People immediately buy up like 95% of them and put them in a warehouse. They have standing orders with all the major shoe factories. Hospitals, Fire Stations and schools, all are brought and turned into shoe factories, so there can be more shoes. The Shoe Harvest will go on forever, without pause, hesitation or toilet breaks.
    Capital is not the same as shoes. The capital of the mega-wealthy is not sitting in neat stacks of $100 bills somewhere; it's mostly tied up in ownership stakes of the companies that the wealthy founded or built into the behemoths they are today. In fact, liquidating all of that capital would likely devalue it substantially. Bezos is the richest man on the world, at least on paper, but his liquid wealth is much more modest (though still enormous by any normal standard). Gates has been steadily divesting himself of Microsoft for years (and giving away crazy sums of money), but he continues to be near the top of the rankings because his underlying capital has appreciated so much. This is not a bad thing.

    My point is that the capital is working. It's not sitting unused somewhere; if a billionaire had massive cash or gold reserves, I would agree with you, but most of them simply don't. And that capital, as it works, throws off returns that the wealthy can and do use for good. This isn't a blanket statement - there's plenty of conspicuous consumption and political shenanigans that I don't approve of. But the Giving Pledge isn't just words, and the culture of philanthropy in America extends from the poorest all the way up to the mega-wealthy. I'm proud of the fact that so many of our billionaires are taking on major societal issues on both a local and a global level. I don't always agree with their priorities, but I think much of their giving is public-spirited.

    I wouldn't begrudge, say, Bill Gates having a few 100 million (to be clear, this is a huge amount of money) to play with, he did pretty well with Microsoft. But if he did have that much money, he'd still be closer to you or in terms of wealth than the Bill Gates of the Prime Timeline.
    How do you decide what an 'acceptable' level of wealth is? Bill Gates built one of the most valuable companies of all time, and the products he helped invent power literally our entire digital economy. I have zero problem with someone reaping the rewards - of any degree - from their entrepreneurship and innovation.

    I do think an argument could be made - and has been made - that Gates' wealth only game about because of monopolistic practices on the part of his company. And there's some truth to that (though I think that without a doubt he would still be a very wealthy man); you can find something to criticize in any sufficiently large or successful venture. But by and large he has complied with the law (including when his practices were ruled to be monopolistic) and has come by his money honestly. I don't believe it's fair to set an arbitrary ceiling on wealth.

    I think it's entirely fair, however, to sharply limit the generational transfer of massive wealth, and I have no quibbles with confiscating much of that fortune when he and his spouse pass away; his children haven't earned that money, and it's not in society's best interests to have very large dynastic wealth.

    They work for the richest man in the world.

    But I guess 112 billion just wasn't enough for ole Jeff.

    Also Amazon pays like no taxes.
    My comment about Bezos 'not falling into that category' had to do with your allegation that the mega-wealthy are buying our system by advocating against 'mildly leftist policies' using their media outlets. Bezos' biggest play in this arena is the Washington Post, which is hardly a right wing publication championing deregulation and lower taxes. Maybe it's not left wing enough for you, but Bezos simply isn't the Kochs.

    I was not trying to suggest that there aren't valid criticisms to be levied against Amazon or Bezos, just that he (and other billionaires) are not part of some shadowy cabal controlling the media and our government to further their interests.

    I don't really have a problem with him, he has some valid ideas. But you have to agree his focus is very... singular.
    That's his professional focus, yes. But in reality his interests are quite broad and varied. I've always found him an interesting and engaging person to talk to, even if he is a bit odd. And I don't buy into any of that transhumanist/extropian/etc. stuff.

    Quote Originally Posted by Nessus View Post
    Why yes, I can rattle off the top of my head a dozen cartoonishly evil wealthy people, but that does not mean they're all like that. I mean, I socialize with some wealthy people, and I do not wish to consider myself an immoral person, and therefore I must vomit up these lame platitudes on the internet to excuse, well, frankly engaging in morally suspect behaviour myself.
    Nessie, I know you're just being Nessie, but I'm going to address this seriously. You're right, I do currently live in a community with a great deal of affluence (even if my personal level of affluence is relatively modest at the moment). But I reject your contention (implied?) that massive wealth automatically makes you evil or immoral; as if one must immediately share all of your wealth with others in order to be a Good Person (a la Peter Singer). There's all sorts of complexity here, but some case studies might be valuable:

    My guess is the wealthiest people I know are a family that probably has assets in the range of $500 million. They came by the money honestly, building a family shoe business into a massive empire that had as a core value a focus on sustainability and treating their employees well. They sold the company (when the third generation was running it) and the former CEO has now dedicated the remainder of his life to philanthropy. His kids (one of which is a friend) obviously grew up with privilege, but they now work in normal professional jobs. I'm sure they have some opportunities and cushion I don't have, but they're not living like the Kardashians; mostly they just didn't need to save for a downpayment on a house, take slightly nicer vacations, and don't get financial aid on their tuition.

    The second (probably?) wealthiest people I know are probably worth in the low 9 digits; call it $200 million at a guess. He got his graduate degree at CSAIL at MIT in the 90s, found a massive gap in existing technology for how a part of commerce worked, and built a company from scratch to fill in the gap. It became wildly successful and pretty much took over the entire business; he built the company over about 15 years until he sold it to Google for a tidy sum. Now his wife is a full-time philanthropist (now that their kids are nearly grown) and he has recently quit Google to focus on other projects, including some educational work trying to bridge the gap between CS and big data in healthcare and helping students he sponsors complete some truly ambitious projects. He probably works 70 or 80 hours a week and gives freely of his time and money. What I find most entertaining about them is that they bought a big and reasonably expensive house but clearly have no idea how to 'be' rich; the decor includes some old ratty couches that my kids think are way more fun than their fancy furniture.

    I'm starting to guess about order here, but let's start with number 3, also in the 9 digit territory. His father was an engineer who co-founded a healthcare information systems firm decades ago that became very successful; he then branched out into real estate development. Most of the fortune now resides in the family foundation that the son administers. Their passion project is advocating for the needs of disabled people and addressing the ways they are portrayed in our media.

    Then there's the nonagenarian businessman in my community who, when the factory run by his family business burnt down in a fire, spent tens of millions to continue to pay his workers' salaries while the factory was rebuilt - and continues extensive philanthropy to this day.

    My point is that literally none of the wealthy people I know - whether they are just run of the mill wealthy or truly exceptionally wealthy - are engaged in the kind of hoarding or malign political activity Steely is describing. Through a combination of extraordinary skill, hard work, and very good luck, they have reaped remarkable rewards from their business ventures. And now, they are broadly focused on pursuing laudable causes and giving back their riches. I would challenge anyone to successfully make a case that these upstanding members of society are behaving in an immoral or unethical way. This isn't to say that there aren't unethical rich people, or rich people who I disagree with strongly as to their priorities. But I am adamantly opposed to the rhetoric that demonizes wealth as a moral failing.
    "When I meet God, I am going to ask him two questions: Why relativity? And why turbulence? I really believe he will have an answer for the first." - Werner Heisenberg (maybe)

  11. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by wiggin View Post
    Steely, I'm going to respond in detail, but a preface: I think that income inequality is a problem, and that part of the solution is going to be increased redistribution of income (and, in some manner, wealth).
    OK, but your main priority in deciding who to vote for was to stop one or both of the candidates who were actually going to attempt something like that.

    I agree that billionaires are a symptom, not the problem, but hey, we also treat symptoms.

    My point is that the capital is working.
    Ah, but working to do what? In the case of these behemoths what it do is make more capital, for their owners and investors. Obviously, at some point in the past these huge companies like Amazon, Google, Microsoft did produce something which was genuinely useful and a net contribution to society but those days are now gone. By the time they reach that stage in their life-cycle, they are profit extraction machines (there's a reason I brought up Yudkowsky and his AI's. there is a reason for everything) and nothing more, controlled by investors and compelled by them to maximize returns to investors and do so at an ever increasing rate, which given that they are the size they are already they can only do at the expense of their customers and employees. I believe this is a major cause of the current period of frozen wages, though I can't prove it.

    Shareholder payouts and dividends have increased at a rate 6 times faster than wages since 2014.



    It's not sitting unused somewhere; if a billionaire had massive cash or gold reserves, I would agree with you, but most of them simply don't. And that capital, as it works, throws off returns that the wealthy can and do use for good. This isn't a blanket statement - there's plenty of conspicuous consumption and political shenanigans that I don't approve of. But the Giving Pledge isn't just words, and the culture of philanthropy in America extends from the poorest all the way up to the mega-wealthy. I'm proud of the fact that so many of our billionaires are taking on major societal issues on both a local and a global level. I don't always agree with their priorities, but I think much of their giving is public-spirited.
    Click to view the full version

    Caveats: it's not comparing yearly giving with yearly income. For example, Bill Gates annual income is about 12 billion so he's actually donating about 20% of his annual income rather than 2%, which is quite literally alright I guess until you remember that he could probably double or triple that and still not even notice whereas if any of us tried to give away 60% of what we earned yearly we'd be homeless inside 6 months, or maybe longer if you have good savings. I also have reason to believe that some forms of giving may have been excluded from this data due to being hard to document, which may double or triple some of the numbers on the list. Unfortunately, if you triple 0.1 you still only have 0.3%. Billionaire philanthropy is a joke, especially if the billionaire in question isn't name Gates or Buffet.

    However, let's assume that's wrong. Maybe we live in an alternate timeline with more generous billionaires, maybe that chart is far more misleading than I have assumed so far. Billionaire philanthropy is still a joke. Think about it. You want to keep a system where an increasingly large proportion of the wealth society generates is accumulated in the hands of fewer and fewer people, and your plan to address this is to simply hope they give some of it back? Less than they should be paying in taxes or to the employees of the companies they own if they paid fair wages, certainly. That doesn't seem very efficient or democratic: "They need all this money so they can give some of it back"

    How do you decide what an 'acceptable' level of wealth is?
    If you need scientific notation to say how much money you have, you've gone to far.

    Bill Gates built one of the most valuable companies of all time, and the products he helped invent power literally our entire digital economy.
    Do you think he built it on his own? What about the people who did, conservatively, 99% of the actual work that made Microsoft what it is today? Also, only about a third to half of his fortune is Microsoft stock, he has other investments in other companies, this is simply getting money by having money.

    his children haven't earned that money
    He didn't earn it, either.

    My comment about Bezos 'not falling into that category' had to do with your allegation that the mega-wealthy are buying our system by advocating against 'mildly leftist policies' using their media outlets. Bezos' biggest play in this arena is the Washington Post, which is hardly a right wing publication championing deregulation and lower taxes. Maybe it's not left wing enough for you, but Bezos simply isn't the Kochs.
    If that's your criteria, they all donate to politicians of both parties and Jeff Bezos is no different.
    Take the suffering and plague away now, let the madness become the truth, cause it's never too late for mercy when the red tides rise to you
    As power tends towards violent ends, I'll choose to give up nothing, cause it's too late to be the hero, and it's too late to see the truth
    I'm exempt of absolution
    But it's never too late for you

  12. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by Steely Glint View Post
    OK, but your main priority in deciding who to vote for was to stop one or both of the candidates who were actually going to attempt something like that.
    I didn't like Sanders because he is a dick who never gets anything done, is entirely uncompromising, and has wildly unworkable policy proposals (if we could even call them policy). I don't like Warren (among other reasons) because her preferred method of getting money from billionaires was complex, overly optimistic in its assumptions, probably punitive, and wouldn't even raise the money she needed. I also didn't like the rhetoric that she (similar to you) aimed at 'millionaires and billionaires' in her words. In general all of the Democratic field favors increased burden sharing by the wealthy, including a more progressive tax system with fewer loopholes. Just because they're not radical enough for you doesn't mean that their ideas are opposed to methods of reducing wealth and income inequality.

    More broadly, I think the issue of inequality is brought into relief by mega-wealth, but the big issue isn't the 0.01% but more like the 10%. I vaguely recall starting a thread about this a while back, but at least in America the issue has more to do with being able to move between deciles or quintiles or income/wealth, not the ability to move into the rarefied echelon of billionaires. The upper class/upper middle class writ large has entrenched their position - not necessarily by doing anything wrong on an individual level, but in aggregate it results in a closing down on opportunities for economic advancement for those coming from more modest means. I think that any thoughtful approach to inequality in the United States needs to think about this in a much more sophisticated manner than blaming the 'millionaires and billionaires' of the world. It requires a lot of small but consequential changes - and some major shifts - to move the needle here.

    Ah, but working to do what? In the case of these behemoths what it do is make more capital, for their owners and investors. Obviously, at some point in the past these huge companies like Amazon, Google, Microsoft did produce something which was genuinely useful and a net contribution to society but those days are now gone. By the time they reach that stage in their life-cycle, they are profit extraction machines (there's a reason I brought up Yudkowsky and his AI's. there is a reason for everything) and nothing more, controlled by investors and compelled by them to maximize returns to investors and do so at an ever increasing rate, which given that they are the size they are already they can only do at the expense of their customers and employees. I believe this is a major cause of the current period of frozen wages, though I can't prove it.
    Do you honestly believe that Amazon, Google, and Microsoft don't produce anything of value? If that's what you think, I'm not sure there's much point continuing this conversation. And all of these companies are still valued as 'growth' companies - if their only method of increasing profits was by cutting costs or increasing prices, that would be a very odd way to value them. Certainly their revenue growth seems to suggest that your analysis is wrong. Lastly, I'll agree that Amazon's workforce (and contractors) includes whole bunch of relatively low wage workers, but Google and Microsoft would never be accused of underpaying their employees. Median wages at Amazon are something like $30k but at MS/Alphabet it's closer to $200k.

    Shareholder payouts and dividends have increased at a rate 6 times faster than wages since 2014.

    I don't find 6 years of data to be meaningful, especially given the unique economic circumstances we've been living in post-Great Recession and with the massive bump to corporate balance sheets provided by the Trump tax cuts. You'd be more compelling if you made a case from Piketty's or Saez's work. There's some reasonable arguments to be had about the historical return on capital vs. labor, which should be higher, and whether trends we're seeing are reversible. I'm broadly in favor of putting in brakes on the buildup of very large wealth, though my favorite way to do so is through limiting intergenerational transfers.


    Caveats: it's not comparing yearly giving with yearly income. For example, Bill Gates annual income is about 12 billion so he's actually donating about 20% of his annual income rather than 2%, which is quite literally alright I guess until you remember that he could probably double or triple that and still not even notice whereas if any of us tried to give away 60% of what we earned yearly we'd be homeless inside 6 months, or maybe longer if you have good savings. I also have reason to believe that some forms of giving may have been excluded from this data due to being hard to document, which may double or triple some of the numbers on the list. Unfortunately, if you triple 0.1 you still only have 0.3%. Billionaire philanthropy is a joke, especially if the billionaire in question isn't name Gates or Buffet.
    That caveat is really important. I'm pretty young, and my household's wealth is in excess of twice our annual income, despite income that has been growing at a very rapid clip as we exit training and gain experience. I wouldn't be at all surprised if our (high) income was only a tenth of our wealth by ten years from now, so if we gave 10% of our income to charity it would look like less than 1%. More importantly, how are you measuring income for a billionaire? Most of their increase in wealth is unrealized capital gains appreciation, not cash in hand; for reasons that I have enumerated before, people who are still working in running their firms can't just liquidate their holdings at a whim. Those people who do give more as a percentage of income are in the philanthropic phase of their career, where their capital is invested in more diverse assets and they have more flexibility.

    I'm not lauding all billionaires as paragons of virtue, but I also note that a whole bunch of people on that list have committed to giving away most of their fortunes before they die. That's a big deal, and the most recent target of your ire - Bloomberg - does better than most on this regard.

    However, let's assume that's wrong. Maybe we live in an alternate timeline with more generous billionaires, maybe that chart is far more misleading than I have assumed so far. Billionaire philanthropy is still a joke. Think about it. You want to keep a system where an increasingly large proportion of the wealth society generates is accumulated in the hands of fewer and fewer people, and your plan to address this is to simply hope they give some of it back? Less than they should be paying in taxes or to the employees of the companies they own if they paid fair wages, certainly. That doesn't seem very efficient or democratic: "They need all this money so they can give some of it back"
    My plan is to enact a whole bunch of thoughtful policies that improve economic and social mobility, increase the progressiveness of the tax code (including on capital gains), and limit the intergenerational transfer of wealth. My plan does not, however think that someone doing fantastically well in business is guilty of a moral failing.

    If you need scientific notation to say how much money you have, you've gone to far.
    I know this is hyperbole, but I'm going to challenge this. What is a 'fair' maximum limit on wealth? Give me a number and justify it. You seem comfortable with, say, $100 million in today's dollars. What about $500 million? $5 billion? Where do you draw the line and why?

    Do you think he built it on his own? What about the people who did, conservatively, 99% of the actual work that made Microsoft what it is today? Also, only about a third to half of his fortune is Microsoft stock, he has other investments in other companies, this is simply getting money by having money.
    I think that Bill Gates was critical to making Microsoft what it was today. Indeed, there were other people who were also very important to that effort - and they have also become very wealthy people. Gates' outsized chunk of that is because (a) it was his leadership that made it happen; I doubt Microsoft would be Microsoft without Gates, (b) he took on more risk, and (c) he didn't cash out early.

    I work in a startup where I was the fourth employee. I own a very tiny fraction of the company; I have no doubt that the two co-founders and our CEO own a much bigger chunk, and their reward will be commensurately greater if we are ever sold. But you know what? I'm just risking my job security by working here; meanwhile, I'm getting valuable experience and a decent paycheck. They put in years of unpaid (and highly valuable) work getting the company up and running, are taking little/no salary compared to what they'd make at a large company, and put a decent chunk of their own money in as seed capital. I don't begrudge them their potential future earnings given how much skin in the game they have. That's even when I'm one of ~5 people in the company who've actually turned the technology into something viable.

    If that's your criteria, they all donate to politicians of both parties and Jeff Bezos is no different.
    No, that wasn't my criteria. I was specifically responding to your claims about them buying up media properties where Very Serious Pundits advocate against policies that would hurt them. I was arguing that Bloomberg and Bezos are falsifying examples.
    "When I meet God, I am going to ask him two questions: Why relativity? And why turbulence? I really believe he will have an answer for the first." - Werner Heisenberg (maybe)

  13. #13
    This fucker needs subheadings. wiggin: Sorry I can't give your stuff on Sanders and Warren a reply at this time. I'm sure it will come up again.

    Are enormous companies good?

    Do you honestly believe that Amazon, Google, and Microsoft don't produce anything of value?
    No, I think it would be better if the economic niches they currently fulfill and dominate were filled by other companies that weren't as aggressive, amoral and ruthless. Online shopping, search and operating systems would still exist if it wasn't for those three monsters. Indeed even by capitalism's own logic it would be better if those three markets weren't completely dominated by one huge organisation each, but in this world of unfettered capitalism the tendency towards monopoly is what you get.

    Lastly, I'll agree that Amazon's workforce (and contractors) includes whole bunch of relatively low wage workers, but Google and Microsoft would never be accused of underpaying their employees. Median wages at Amazon are something like $30k but at MS/Alphabet it's closer to $200k.
    I think you'll probably find that most companies in the fortune 500 tend towards Amazon's model. Google/MS are in a somewhat different situation because, due to the nature of their business, they employ a low number of 'highly skilled' (scare quotes there not to disparage their employees, but to avoid the implication that people doing low paid work aren't skilled) people who can demand high wages, i.e programmers. I also think if you look at their supply chains, you're going to find exactly the same kind of ruthless exploitation we see at Amazon's warehouses.

    I don't find 6 years of data to be meaningful, especially given the unique economic circumstances we've been living in post-Great Recession and with the massive bump to corporate balance sheets provided by the Trump tax cuts.
    a) Trump's tax didn't come until the very end of 2017, they do not effect the period the graph pertains too.
    b) We're still living 'post-great recession'? It's been 10 years, if you can believe it, and some people are saying we're due for another one.

    Billionaire philanthropy

    That caveat is really important. I'm pretty young, and my household's wealth is in excess of twice our annual income, despite income that has been growing at a very rapid clip as we exit training and gain experience. I wouldn't be at all surprised if our (high) income was only a tenth of our wealth by ten years from now, so if we gave 10% of our income to charity it would look like less than 1%.
    It is not a valid comparison. People's material needs and wants stay the same no matter how much money they have, and even if you are relatively affluent you cannot compare how you make use of that wealth with someone who has so much than any conceivable material need or want they might have cannot account for anything more than a tiny percentage of what they have available.

    I am not using your personal finances as an example in this discussion because a) it's not right and b) you kind of have the advantage of knowledge. So I'm just going to speak in abstract.

    Most of the average person's net worth is going to be tied up in their home, if they're lucky enough to own it. You cannot liquidate your home and give 60% of it to charity, you need it to actually live in. Likewise other assets you might have; cars or whatever. You need that money or the thing money is tied up in, or if you don't need it you can at least actually use it. When you're a billionaire, this is not the case. Even if you have an fantastically extravagant home or several, it's going to struggle to be worth more than a few hundred million and on the scale of wealth we're talking about here this is absolute chump change. Like, if Bill Gates found $250 million in the pocket of his other jacket it'd be like me finding £10. Less so, I'd actually use that money to go out and buy something I wouldn't otherwise.

    More importantly, how are you measuring income for a billionaire? Most of their increase in wealth is unrealized capital gains appreciation, not cash in hand; for reasons that I have enumerated before, people who are still working in running their firms can't just liquidate their holdings at a whim. Those people who do give more as a percentage of income are in the philanthropic phase of their career, where their capital is invested in more diverse assets and they have more flexibility.
    It is wrong to suggest that the holdings of a billionaire CEO are all going to be tied up in their firm. Gates has like 60% of his wealth in stocks and considers this above average, other options like real estate (itself a morally iffy way to make money) are available and could be liquidated if the billionaire in question so chose.

    This is kind of beside the point though, if a defense of billionaires involves their charitable giving and the counter-argument is that very few of them actually give significant sums to charity, it doesn't actually matter whether it's a case of can't or won't.

    I'm not lauding all billionaires as paragons of virtue, but I also note that a whole bunch of people on that list have committed to giving away most of their fortunes before they die.
    So, the Giving Pledge is not legally binding, nor does it contain any specific commitments so I'm not going to be very surprised if a lot of people on that list, you know, don't end up doing it. Like, what you gonna do when they die before giving most of the fortune away, raise them from the dead to tell them off? I wouldn't recommend that because they're just gonna be like "I didn't know I was about to die", and to be honest, they've got you there.

    I wonder how many of them even remember they signed it.

    But, assume that's needlessly pessimistic. What does this represent, really? It's the brain child of one man, who woke up one day and realized he had far more money than he actually needed and decided to convince some of his fellow billionaires of the same thing, it's not a systematic fix, it's specific to this time and place, the next generation of billionaires (who will almost certainly be worse) aren't going to sign it.

    Do they deserve all that money?

    I know this is hyperbole, but I'm going to challenge this. What is a 'fair' maximum limit on wealth? Give me a number and justify it. You seem comfortable with, say, $100 million in today's dollars. What about $500 million? $5 billion? Where do you draw the line and why?
    Accumulating more wealth than you can possibly spend in a life time is immoral, and if you do it I'm going to think you're an asshole who should pay more tax.

    I think that Bill Gates was critical to making Microsoft what it was today. Indeed, there were other people who were also very important to that effort - and they have also become very wealthy people. Gates' outsized chunk of that is because (a) it was his leadership that made it happen; I doubt Microsoft would be Microsoft without Gates, (b) he took on more risk, and (c) he didn't cash out early.
    The people who sat down and wrote the code for MS-DOS and then Windows made it happen. It is probably true that Gates' leadership was important (though great things have been achieved by teams in-spite of the leadership not because of it, so who really knows, unless you were there) and I would say he does deserve to be rewarded over and above what the guy who wrote MS-Paint got. But not like a gazillion times more, and also not repeatedly well after the fact.

    I do not believe in infinite rewards for finite risk and effort. I don't believe in infinite anything for finite anything.

    In general, in order to make stuff happen we need leadership and investment, but we also need labour. The fact that rewards for one of those things is vastly, vastly larger than the other is a product of who gets to make the decisions about who sees the rewards rather than their intrinsic value, and yet most people have internalized it as normal and fine. Including you.

    Billionaire political activity

    No, that wasn't my criteria. I was specifically responding to your claims about them buying up media properties where Very Serious Pundits advocate against policies that would hurt them. I was arguing that Bloomberg and Bezos are falsifying examples.
    Bezos owns the Washington Post and Bloomberg owns, erm, Bloomberg so I dunno why you would think that was a thing. The sums they give to politicians are part of the same basic strategy.

    No 'cabal' necessary, just people making individual decisions out of intelligent self-interest. The idea that people behave in this way is axiomic to the whole theory of capitalism, so I don't know why people who are pro-capitalism are so insistent that it's not a thing.

    Anyway,

    Papers Owned By Oligarchs Unsurprisingly Oppose a Wealth Tax

    The Campaign of the Super Wealthy to Kill the Estate Tax (alright this one kinda sorta is a cabal)
    Take the suffering and plague away now, let the madness become the truth, cause it's never too late for mercy when the red tides rise to you
    As power tends towards violent ends, I'll choose to give up nothing, cause it's too late to be the hero, and it's too late to see the truth
    I'm exempt of absolution
    But it's never too late for you

  14. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by wiggin View Post
    In general all of the Democratic field favors increased burden sharing by the wealthy, including a more progressive tax system with fewer loopholes. Just because they're not radical enough for you doesn't mean that their ideas are opposed to methods of reducing wealth and income inequality.
    That's still treating the symptoms of inequality and doesn't address underlying causes. Fewer loopholes in the tax code won't matter much -- since the uber wealthy can hire tax attorneys to exploit any loophole, and/or move money to off-shore tax shelters, and/or give money to lobbyists to influence lawmakers.

    More broadly, I think the issue of inequality is brought into relief by mega-wealth, but the big issue isn't the 0.01% but more like the 10%. I vaguely recall starting a thread about this a while back, but at least in America the issue has more to do with being able to move between deciles or quintiles or income/wealth, not the ability to move into the rarefied echelon of billionaires. The upper class/upper middle class writ large has entrenched their position - not necessarily by doing anything wrong on an individual level, but in aggregate it results in a closing down on opportunities for economic advancement for those coming from more modest means. I think that any thoughtful approach to inequality in the United States needs to think about this in a much more sophisticated manner than blaming the 'millionaires and billionaires' of the world. It requires a lot of small but consequential changes - and some major shifts - to move the needle here.
    Right, in aggregate the top 10% have "entrenched" their positions and closed down opportunities for others "below" them. It's great you can admit that, but small changes won't be consequential without the major shifts.

    We've been debating income/wealth inequality and barriers to upward mobility for years. (I think you started that thread?) It's almost always framed by people who already have privilege or wealth and want to keep it -- rarely from those who are struggling to keep up or want to move up. Perhaps that should be our first major shift?

    My plan is to enact a whole bunch of thoughtful policies that improve economic and social mobility, increase the progressiveness of the tax code (including on capital gains), and limit the intergenerational transfer of wealth. My plan does not, however think that someone doing fantastically well in business is guilty of a moral failing.
    OK, so what are your plans for universal healthcare (arguably the first step in improving economic and social mobility) when it's been monetized and securitized for the profits of executives and shareholders, at the expense of peoples' lives, and society at large?

    Big Pharma is just one example that a business can make fantastic money, while also improving the lives of millions, but also be guilty of a moral failing. That can't be fixed with changes in the tax code.


    Steely made good points about enormous companies, billionaire philanthropy, and their political activity. IMO it's their *monopoly* on power and influence that's the problem. When they build a hospital wing, or fund R&D, or start a new NGO (all conveniently tax-deductible), that just reinforces the myth that governmental agencies (and tax dollars) aren't really a necessary part of society.


    edit: has it been so long that people forget the tech industry began with NASA?
    Last edited by GGT; 03-10-2020 at 01:03 AM.

  15. #15
    PS, remember when Goldman Sachs employees got first dibs on the N1H1 vaccine when it was in short supply, before hospitals? Yeah, that's what's wrong with monied influence-- it can literally buy health and life, at the expense of others.

  16. #16
    Quote Originally Posted by Nessus View Post
    I socialize with some wealthy people
    Gross

    Quote Originally Posted by GGT View Post
    PS, remember when Goldman Sachs employees got first dibs on the N1H1 vaccine when it was in short supply, before hospitals? Yeah, that's what's wrong with monied influence-- it can literally buy health and life, at the expense of others.
    The CDC set rules for hospitals to distribute to area companies who were believed to a concentration of high-risk individuals. Several companies across a few industries (not just the Zionist bankers) were given vaccines. May be a debatable policy, but it wasn't just the Zionists who got vaccines. Plus it helped keep those filthy bankers out of the People's Hospitals.

  17. #17
    That CDC policy let "providers" (physicians) decide who got the vaccine first. Several companies in a few powerful industries got ahead of the line, not because they were "high-risk" individuals, but because they had high-wealth group insurance policies with paid physicians.

    Yeah, that's a debatable policy, but what's your obsession with Zionists?


    edit: Oklahoma could test ~ 100 people per day for covid19, yet some 58 members of their NBA team and associates were tested after one (1) player from their opposing team tested positive. So don't try to pretend that those with power, wealth, or influence don't get preferential treatment in our healthcare system.
    Last edited by GGT; 03-14-2020 at 06:16 AM.

  18. #18
    Let sleeping tigers lie Khendraja'aro's Avatar
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    Here's a novel idea, though: If a CEO declares mass layoffs then his whole bonus will be redistributed among those he just laid off. He still gets his regular salary.

    I'm not seeing why those jokers should be rewarded for putting people out of a job.
    When the stars threw down their spears
    And watered heaven with their tears:
    Did he smile his work to see?
    Did he who made the lamb make thee?

  19. #19
    Take the suffering and plague away now, let the madness become the truth, cause it's never too late for mercy when the red tides rise to you
    As power tends towards violent ends, I'll choose to give up nothing, cause it's too late to be the hero, and it's too late to see the truth
    I'm exempt of absolution
    But it's never too late for you

  20. #20
    Quote Originally Posted by Dreadnaught View Post
    Gross
    I honestly can't remember if the st. mark's smilie exonerates you from the basic whoosh that just happened there, let's call it a wash since you're Jewish, huh?
    In the future, the Berlin wall will be a mile high, and made of steel. You too will be made to crawl, to lick children's blood from jackboots. There will be no creativity, only productivity. Instead of love there will be fear and distrust, instead of surrender there will be submission. Contact will be replaced with isolation, and joy with shame. Hope will cease to exist as a concept. The Earth will be covered with steel and concrete. There will be an electronic policeman in every head. Your children will be born in chains, live only to serve, and die in anguish and ignorance.
    The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference.

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