Democrats & Liberals Archives

The Egalitarian Ideal

Is egalitarianism an unattainable, and thus naive, pointless abstraction, or is it a principle central to the American ideal? Politics always involves an interplay between philosophical abstractions and pragmatic concessions to reality. That is as it should be. We err terribly if a recognition of non-attainability leads to the abandonment of ideals.

In our personal lives, horizons are necessarily limited, and lofty goals often must be scaled back or altered in order to set new goals which are indeed attainable. Sadly for some, that means abandoning not only the unattainable goal, but also the worthy ideal which buttressed it. But for others it means balancing the ideals with realism, and achieving something that can make a difference, rather than overreaching and achieving nothing, or giving up and substituting lofty goals with cynical opportunistic ends.

Our nation's history serves as a testament to the worthiness of the egalitarian ideal, boldly written into our Declaration of Independence, but incrementally approached as two centuries saw the extension of the vote to non-land owners, then an end to slavery, then women's suffrage, and further progress in the mid-twentieth century in the rights of minorities. As Martin Luther King Jr, who participated in creating that progress noted in 1967, "the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice." Formalization of an ideal, such as that written into the Declaration of Independence can have a lasting influence in moving toward that ideal, however unattainable the ultimate manifestation of the ideal can be.

Of course, there will always be inequities. There is wisdom in the oft heard counsel that "life isn't fair" and we do well to recognize that early. But that does not mean that fairness should be thrown away as a value, nor does it justify mistreatment of our fellow human beings, just because absolute equality is unattainable. No matter how much someone may buy into the notion that making things fair is a hopeless proposition, it always seems they will still be acutely aware when they are not dealt a fair hand.

The egalitarian ideal has been held up by people of various political stripes throughout America's history, and adopted broadly in many parts of the world as a worthy goal. No philosophy or party has the market cornered on it, nor do I wish for that, but for much of the last century Democrats have been more consistent than Republicans in holding it up as central to the American dream, and it is largely due to that emphasis that my own identification has remained that of a Democrat throughout my adult life. My party's candidates stumble and fail frequently enough, but the egalitarian ideal remains an American ideal to which I hope the Democrats can hold fast as we approach the future.

And let us all, Democrats, Republicans, Independents, and others alike, continue to hold ideals and vision as a beacon to guide our policy and politics as we grapple with the realities in our imperfect world.

Happy New Year!

Posted by Walker Willingham at December 30, 2006 10:20 PM
Comments
Comment #200937

equality under the law is essential to democracy. Inequality of results is essential to liberty.

Life is not fair, but it is fairer than we sometimes think. The proof that life is fair is that inequality continues to exist.

So we need to be very careful how we use that equality concept. Law - yes. Society - No.

Posted by: Jack at December 30, 2006 11:07 PM
Comment #200950

Walker, one need not shrink for great and lofty goals. One need only break the path to the top of Mt. Everest into short daily jaunts, and be willing to risk the fear of failing by resolving to pass the task to others if one comes up short of the summit.

Posted by: David R. Remer at December 31, 2006 8:30 AM
Comment #200951

Jack said in typical Republican style: “Inequality of results is essential to liberty.”

Tell that to our returning amputees from Iraq, Jack, who prove you Republicans wrong every day by running marathons and kayaking the Snake River after overcoming the depression brought on by “Inequality of results is essential to liberty”. They adapt, they overcome, and though unequal in the loss of near half their body, with the help of others, they recapture live the liberty they thought they’d lost.

Question the authority of your assumptions and beliefs Jack. There you will find truth that can set us all free to become far more then we ever thought we could be.

Egalitarianism requires only will and the responsibility to accept no less.

Posted by: David R. Remer at December 31, 2006 8:37 AM
Comment #200953

How far do you want to take egalitarianism? Should the person who dropped out of school at age 16 to hang with his friends on the corner enjoy the same income as person who works his ass off and goes deeply in debt to earn a degree? Should Mom and Pop’s grocery on the corner make equal profit as the dreaded Wal-Mart? Should we do away with premium brands to make things more equal?

I don’t want equality throughout life. Only at the beginning and I don’t know how to achieve that.

Life isn’t a journey in which you should arrive at your final destination looking your best, instead you should slide in on two wheels with a drink in one hand and a fine cigar in the other yelling WOO! hOO! WHAT A RIDE.

Posted by: tomd at December 31, 2006 9:16 AM
Comment #200954

tomd,

“Should Mom and Pop’s grocery on the corner make equal profit as the dreaded Wal-Mart?”

I find it curious that the Republicans would favor the minimum wage, balls to the wall, take no prisoners, profit at any cost, capitalism of a WalMart, over the family friendly, family oriented, mom and pop business.

I suppose that is what America has come to.

Oh irony, how you mock us.

Posted by: Rocky at December 31, 2006 10:23 AM
Comment #200956

Who said I was a republican? I’m not mocking anyone. I’m asking a serious question which you didn’t bother to answer.

Posted by: tomd at December 31, 2006 10:44 AM
Comment #200957

Good point Rocky. And to add to it Walmart is successful because of cheap communist labor is being pitted against our own workers who are held to higher regulatory, safety, benefit and environmental standards.

It is also successful because huge corporations were able to break down trade barriers and push in treaties like NAFTA and GATT because our society and government gives them greater access (is non-egalitarian) to politicians and greater influence on the laws they make.

Jack writes, “equality under the law is essential to democracy. Inequality of results is essential to liberty.”

I think we might all agree to this but we don’t have equality under the law…..and democracy is undermined by money influences.

This is the salient point of our disagreements with guys like Jack.

They consistently put democracy subservient to money interest not realizing they need to be separated and that money is not free speech.

Money’s influence in politics results in a suppression of free speech.

Really what it comes down to is that these guys just don’t want democracy (insert silly “we live in a republic not a democracy” reply here) and they don’t want egalitarian society.

In an egalitarian society the wealthy would have no more access to power then the common man.

Posted by: muirgeo at December 31, 2006 10:58 AM
Comment #200958

David

I do not accept egalitarianism. I do not want it. If I could make it so merely by saying the word, I would remain silent. I hope that I am making this clear that I do not think inequality is unavoidable, but also undesirable.

You are using the misery argument which is generally invalid and particularly inappropriate to this case. An amputee coming back from anywhere has absolutely nothing to do with an argument about inequality. For the record, I think it is a great thing if they kayak on the snake river or run marathons. In both these things, they are doing more than I or most Americans can do. Certainly, this is not an argument FOR equality. In the bizzaro egalitarian world, we would make them all sit around all day and be equal to most Americans.

I advocate helping people who can be helped. I advocate a strong safety net. I advocate people receiving rewards in relation to the useful things they do, so even in theory inequality is desirable.

I do not like ostentatious shows of wealth, but that is a matter of my taste. If I could build this whole world exactly the way I wanted, there would be no super rich celebrities, people would not have billions of dollars and nobody would bother making luxury cars or high end jewelry, but there would still be lots of inequality.

BTW - my ideal world would certainly be too boring for the average person today.

Dimensions of equality

We are also talking about only one aspect of equality.

I have stipulated that I believe in equality under the law. I do not believe in economic equality and other sorts of equality are impossible.

I am follicle challenged (i.e. bald). Should we require everybody to have short hair so that I feel more equal? What about generally good looking people? They get better treatment wherever they go. What about intelligence? About half of that is genetic. Athletic talent?

In fact, if you DID succeed in eliminating the effects of economic & social inequality and random chance, you would be left entirely with genetic inequality. The smart, good looking and healthy people would really have it made. BTW -these characteristics often go together. Nature doesn’t believe in equality either.

Striving for (although never achieving) equal opportunity is a noble goal. Demanding equality under the law is imperative. Setting up mechanisms to protect people from their own stupid decisions or bad luck is good policy. Seeking egalitarian outcomes is a pernicious nightmare, undesirable in theory, fortunately unattainable in practice.

Posted by: Jack at December 31, 2006 11:08 AM
Comment #200959

tomd,

Aren’t you taking yourself just a bit too seriously?

Yes, in a perfect world, “Mom and Pop” stores should be able to compete.
Why, though, would they want the headaches that come with “equal” profit?

Your question can only be assumed rhetorical, and therein lies the irony.

Posted by: Rocky at December 31, 2006 11:15 AM
Comment #200960

I don’t want equality throughout life. Only at the beginning and I don’t know how to achieve that.

Posted by: tomd

Some suggestions;

First realize the wealthy pay most of the taxes because they make most of the money because the system is tilted in favor of those who already have a lot NOT simply because they work harder then the rest of us thus;

Instead of tax cuts for the wealthy;

-establish a trade school system for those not likely to succeed in traditional education.

-properly fund and teach family planning instead of letting people’s religion guide the policy.

-Declare the war on drugs a failure reproach the issue with more proven methods

-support even more intense head start programs

-set up universal health (a single single payer system)

-walk out of NAFTA, GATT and set up improved tariffs

-crack down on all companies hiring illegal aliens

There’s lots more.

Posted by: muirgeo at December 31, 2006 11:16 AM
Comment #200961

Tomd, that 16 year old has an obligation to society whether they acknowledge it or not. And the society has an obligation to that 16 year old.

If that 16 year old chooses to quit school or fails to pass, society should give them a choice, 1) take and keep a job, 2) take remedial courses to get back into school or agree to enter vocational training where the state deems there is a vocational need, or 3) sign a waiver relinquishing entitlements to safety net programs until such time as they become legally fulltime gainfully employed. And if the 16 year old chooses 3), should they be busted and convicted of illegal activity their sentence shall double. It was afterall, their choice.

This arrangement permits both the 16 year old and the state to take the responsibility for each other which both are obligated to by egalitarian principles. Egalitarian DOES NOT mean free giveaways to shirkers. It does mean options and choices to succeed or, abdicating benefits should the individual fail their responsibility by choice.

Posted by: David R. Remer at December 31, 2006 11:16 AM
Comment #200964

Questions for Jack.

In an egalitarian society do lobbyist from PhARMA get to basically write the medicare drug bill so obviously favoring their profits to the detriment of the tax payers, the supposed beneficiaries and our country?

In an egalitarian society should a wealthy heiress (Let’s say like Paris Hilton) have to only pay a 15% rate on taxes while hard working productive Americans pay 28 to 35%?

In an Egalitarian society would George Bush ever have gone to Yale, would he ever have been owner of a baseball team? an oil company? President of these United States?

Posted by: muirgeo at December 31, 2006 11:26 AM
Comment #200973

Muirego

Pharma - The problem of lobbying is a different subject. In our democracy we all have the right to petition our government. Pharma knows more about the issue than others. Politicians have the duty to decide. They should take in the information from pharma and from other sources.

If you do not like the political outcome, change the politicians. Now that the Dems are in, can we expect great changes?

Whether or not you like lobbying depends on who is doing it. I support lobbying in forestry, for example, in order to keep stupid rich city folks from regulating my land to fit their aesthetic preferences.

Usually the people who dislike business lobbying have no trouble with labor lobbying. If you go to the U.S. Capitol, take a look at buildings nearby. One of the biggest most beautiful building says AFL - CIO. I do not think it is mere coincidence that they chose that location.

Re Capital gains

I suppose you are talking about the tax rate on capital gains. I support the lower rate on capital gains. The fact that Paris Hilton is benefiting does not bother me. I bet I like people like Paris Hilton less than you do, but if you want to go after her, you need to change the Constitution to get rid of the bill of attainder thing. I would not change a good policy because I dislike some of the collateral beneficiaries.

Re legacy admissions

I have written in another post that I oppose all forms of affirmative action including legacy admissions. Neither George Bush nor John Kerry would have gotten into Yale. My solution is very fair and even leans to the egalitarian side.

Posted by: Jack at December 31, 2006 11:50 AM
Comment #200974

“Tomd, that 16 year old has an obligation to society whether they acknowledge it or not. And the society has an obligation to that 16 year old.

If that 16 year old chooses to quit school or fails to pass, society should give them a choice, 1) take and keep a job, 2) take remedial courses to get back into school or agree to enter vocational training where the state deems there is a vocational need, or 3) sign a waiver relinquishing entitlements to safety net programs until such time as they become legally fulltime gainfully employed. And if the 16 year old chooses 3), should they be busted and convicted of illegal activity their sentence shall double. It was afterall, their choice.

This arrangement permits both the 16 year old and the state to take the responsibility for each other which both are obligated to by egalitarian principles. Egalitarian DOES NOT mean free giveaways to shirkers. It does mean options and choices to succeed or, abdicating benefits should the individual fail their responsibility by choice.

Posted by: David R. Remer at December 31, 2006 11:16 AM”

Not much is different than what we have now David.

1) take and keep a job….they have that option now if although finding one that pays as much as a college grad might be hard.

2) take remedial courses to get back into school or agree to enter vocational training where the state deems there is a vocational need…They have that option now too. I am concerned though with your use of the term “state deems there is a vocational need”. I think he should have the right to choose.

3) sign a waiver relinquishing entitlements to safety net programs until such time as they become legally fulltime gainfully employed. Besides the fact that a 16 year old can’t legally sign a waiver, one isn’t necessary.

Sounds an awful lot like our current system except for the last part “And if the 16 year old chooses 3), should they be busted and convicted of illegal activity their sentence shall double. It was afterall, their choice.” This obviously doesn’t make sense.


Posted by: tomd at December 31, 2006 12:09 PM
Comment #200976

muirgeo,
I won’t go over each recommendation that you offer at this time, but I fail to see how some of your suggestions would put everyone at an even starting point, and others would obviously take away honestly earned assets from others. I won’t support that.

Posted by: tomd at December 31, 2006 12:17 PM
Comment #200977

David

I do not accept egalitarianism.

Posted by: Jack


egal·i·tar·i·an·ism
Pronunciation: -E-&-“ni-z&m
Function: noun
1 : a belief in human equality especially with respect to social, political, and economic rights and privilege


Might this just be an issue of definition? Again….I’d think we’d all agree on equal rights and equal privileges and not necessarily equal outcomes….but ideally MORE equal outcomes.


So again I’d argue the Pharmaceutical CEO has more rights and privileges with regards to the ultimate details of things like the Medicare Drug bill compared to the average citizen. That’s wrong IMO and easy to fix. Lobbying is paid coercion/bribery with a huge helping of conflict of interest. It should be illegal for teacher unions and pharmacy CEO’s to pay lobbyist to represent them. Lobbying like whoring should be illegal….wait just make make lobbying illegal. Of course whoring too will require regulatory oversight. I’ll volunteer as an inspector to save cost. Sorry getting off topic…

Posted by: muirgeo at December 31, 2006 12:39 PM
Comment #200978

Jack said: “I advocate helping people who can be helped. I advocate a strong safety net.”

I call those egalitarian policies, Jack.

Posted by: David R. Remer at December 31, 2006 12:57 PM
Comment #200979

muirgeo,
I won’t go over each recommendation that you offer at this time, but I fail to see how some of your suggestions would put everyone at an even starting point, and others would obviously take away honestly earned assets from others. I won’t support that.

Posted by: tomd

They wouldn’t be at an even starting point. It’s impossible as Jack said but best to get as fair as can be…..the main theme of this thread.

Bottom line is we can choose how the pie is split by the rules we democratically choose for business and society.

We can choose rules that favor concentration of power and wealth generally by choosing less government interference which IMOis representative of countries like Mexico and other Banana Republics. Ultimately these governments are not democratic as the ruling elite has unequal power.

Or we can choose to go more the way of the social democracies of Europe which are more democratic, have stronger middle classes, less poverty and still have plenty of wealthy people.


The hurdle to get over is the simplistic idea that all transfers of wealth are from the rich and deserving to the poor and undeserving.

Indeed democracy is ALL about transfers of wealth. The wealthy would not enjoy their wealth with out rules allowing corporations, the judicial system, trademark laws ect….so when we decide a progressive tax structure equitably splits the pie its an unfair cry to shout “transfer of wealth”.

Posted by: muirgeo at December 31, 2006 1:01 PM
Comment #200980

Tomd, the last part you said doesn’t make sense, does. It makes sense because if the 16 year refuses options 1 and 2, they are choosing the high risk option of moving into criminal activity. Knowing that is the case and choosing it anyway, should entitle them to double the sentence. They made the wrong choice and were told before hand what the consequences would be.

Positive and negative reinforcements attached to the decision making process almost invariably results in better decisions, Tomd.

Posted by: David R. Remer at December 31, 2006 1:04 PM
Comment #200984

David

It depends, I suppose, on what you call egalitarian. I do not believe in equal outcomes. Those laying on the safety net will not be as comfortable as those who take care of themselves and presumably different talents, work and random chance will produce vastly different results.

Muirego

Some transfer of income is necessary in any government. That is the nature of government. We need to set up rules before hand and then follow them.

European countries also have market economies. They are developing some very good policies. For example, the corporate tax rate in almost all European countries is lower than ours. Some have almost no tax on capital gains.

If you want to make the U.S. more like Europe, that is something you can advocate. But you might want to get to know Europe a little better first. There are lots of social, political and historical factors at work. Some of them we cannot duplicate in the U.S. Others we might not want to. In the thirty years, the U.S. has created millions of net jobs. Europe as a whole has not. You can cherry pick from among European countries and find some that have done well, but not the whole (which is the operative comparison to the U.S.)

The grass may look greener on the other side of the ocean, but you should recall that the net movement of people is still FROM Europe to the U.S. and we tend to get many of the most gifted people.

Within the community of market democracies, there are many permutations. We should always try to pick the best from each. But each has its up and downsides. For example, the welfare state tends to discourage integration of immigrants, which is why it is harder for Europe than America to assimilate newcomers.

Posted by: Jack at December 31, 2006 1:22 PM
Comment #200987

I think it’s time for a definition:

One dictionary says that egalitarianism is a belief in human equality, espececially with respect to social, political, and economic rights and privileges.

Another stops short before referring to rights and privileges, whose inclusion is important to my sense of the egalitarian ideal. The ideal is NOT that everyone ends up with equal shares of wealth, health, ability, etc. - what Jack might call equality of results, but that everyone begin with the same rights, privileges, and opportunities.

I’m perfectly willing to stipulate that even that ideal cannot be legislated through government action, but government AND society AND organizations AND individuals can all make a difference in moving toward such a goal, if they choose to.

There are powerful forces at work, however, which have decidedly ANTI-egalitarian goals — goals which aim to secure the wealth and privilege of those who already have far more wealth and privilege that “their share”. Those with such goals very likely have no intent to hurt anyone, just to protect what is theirs, but people do hurt and suffer because of SOME of the successes of the wealthy and privileged to protect their interests. We can argue (and we probably will) about which policies which protect the interests of the powerful and wealthy truly hurt those who are not so privileged, but there is no doubt that SOME of those policies, often promulgated by Republicans in the last 25 years, do.

Jack, I would actually agree with you that massive government intervention to redistribute wealth on a large scale from the wealthy to the poor, can have disastrous effects. What I have seen though, especially over the last six years, and actually extending into the Clinton years as well, is a combination of government policy as well as inaction which has resulted in a fairly massive shift of wealth from the middle class to the upper class, which has left more people in poverty, and a lot more people working too many hours to stay out of poverty.

Meanwhile the truly poor are no closer to the upward mobility so vital to their retention of hope. I do think the Democrats will do better.

Posted by: Walker Willingham at December 31, 2006 2:08 PM
Comment #200988

Egalitarianism is of course a very tricky subject. It seems that a lot of people feel a moral obligation to ensure that nobody is left behind. I think that I, however, would tend to agree with Jack in regards to this very broad issue.

I think that when we talk about egalitarianism, we should try to focus more on egalitarianism under the law not in society. Jack is dead on in saying that “inequality of results is essential to liberty.” In the capitalist democracy we live in, our society should emphasize providing every individual with freedom to make his or her own choices. Capitalism is a system in and of itself that promotes innovation because it gives the power to individuals and says, “you have the freedom to improve your situation as best as you can.” We should have a government whose job is to uphold the laws in place that guarantee these choices to all of its citizens. Of course there are still forces present in society and all over the world that are preventing such egalitarianism under the law. However, we should not fault capitalism for those misfortunes. Where to place the blame for these misfortunes is a somewhat difficult thing to do. Sometimes a tyrannical government is to blame, sometimes it’s discrimination, but other times it can simply be attributed to individual choices. For this final case we cannot force the wealthy or privileged or whatever you want to call them to carry the weight and burden of those who simply made bad choices.

I would agree that not everyone begins life on a level playing field. There are those (like Paris Hilton) who are born into better circumstances than others. But this of course leads to the classic question: if someone intentionally left a 100 dollar bill on the side of the road for someone to find, and if you are walking down the street with a friend and you luckily spot the 100 dollar bill by chance, is it your obligation to share that 100 dollar bill with his friend? Such a question should be left to the individual who found the money, but he should by no means be obligated to share the money. There is no logical reason why the wealthy should be forced to redistribute their wealth to the poor by means of taxation. Taxing the wealthy and using those revenues to fund social programs designed to help those with lower incomes is a limiting mechanism of freedom.

This past November Milton Friedman, one of the 20th centuries greatest thinkers past away. We should not forget that what Friedman stressed as most important in a truly free society was the “freedom to choose”, we need a society where the amount of choices available to a person are maximized. While this does not ensure equality of results, it does ensure equality of fundamental human rights.

Posted by: Charles at December 31, 2006 2:17 PM
Comment #200989

Jack
Sounds like you are making excuses. Facts are we have much to learn from Western Europe as far as healtcare delivery and other life quaility issues like vacation time etc. Evidence? Higher life expectancy,lower ,much lower,infant mortality rates,higher literacy etc. These are nothing to dismiss. Nor is there any reason that we cannot do the same typs of things they do and get similar results. GDP is not the best measure of an economy. Nor is the number of crummy jobs created. Economically The European stock market is doing better than the US. I know this because my portfolio shows it. Large cap European funds are doing about twice what my US funds are doing.

Posted by: BillS at December 31, 2006 2:29 PM
Comment #200990

Walker wrote:
“for much of the last century Democrats have been more consistent than Republicans in holding it up as central to the American dream, and it is largely due to that emphasis that my own identification has remained that of a Democrat throughout my adult life.”

Absolutely. Same here.

“My party’s candidates stumble and fail frequently enough, but the egalitarian ideal remains an American ideal to which I hope the Democrats can hold fast as we approach the future.”

I think we can’t just hope for it, we’ve really got to DEMAND they hold fast to that ideal. This is why I am completely against allowing the “New Democrats” aka “DLC Democrats” to keep too many of the leadership positions within our party. A good rule of thumb for lefties might be to look at exactly who voted to go along with the credit card company-written legislation of the Bankruptcy Bill. Those politicians aren’t the ones who Dems should trust to support egalitarian ideas as we approach the future, because they’re clearly not holding onto them at present.

“And let us all, Democrats, Republicans, Independents, and others alike, continue to hold ideals and vision as a beacon to guide our policy and politics as we grapple with the realities in our imperfect world.”

Yes, indeed.

“Happy New Year!”

And to you, Walker! Excellent article.

Muirego, David, great responses.

Rocky:
“I find it curious that the Republicans would favor the minimum wage, balls to the wall, take no prisoners, profit at any cost, capitalism of a WalMart, over the family friendly, family oriented, mom and pop business.

I suppose that is what America has come to.”

I find it totally tragic the way people cheerfully waving on this nations demise because they’ve bought so completely into the rhetoric of the GOP.

“Oh irony, how you mock us.”

:^)

Posted by: Adrienne at December 31, 2006 2:29 PM
Comment #200993

Charles
The wealthy should pay more because they get more. As Teddy Rosevelt put it,”If it were not for the constant minstrations of the constabulary,the wealthy would not be able to sleep in their own beds at night.”
As for you side of the road anology,who built the road the two are walking on?

Posted by: BillS at December 31, 2006 3:01 PM
Comment #200994

” It makes sense because if the 16 year refuses options 1 and 2, they are choosing the high risk option of moving into criminal activity. Knowing that is the case and choosing it anyway, should entitle them to double the sentence. They made the wrong choice and were told before hand what the consequences would be.” Would that be punishing the 16yo more for choosing criminal activity more or letting the 40yo college grad, who does the same crime and gets a lighter sentence, off easier? They both chose the activity. As I said, It doesn’t make sense.

Posted by: tomd at December 31, 2006 3:10 PM
Comment #200995

Walker said: “Jack, I would actually agree with you that massive government intervention to redistribute wealth on a large scale from the wealthy to the poor, can have disastrous effects.”

Perhaps not as disastrous as if the people themselves take matters into their own hands, as may happen if and when a recession hits as Soc. Sec. benefits are cut 25% and Medicare/Medicaid is ended for the sake of stimulating a recessionary economy. At that point, millions of American families who paid in to the insurance against poverty will watch aging parents suffer horribly and die without medical aid and their own finances crumble as millions of jobs are lost.

We already see 100’s of thousands of Americans taking matters into their own hands through gangs and underground black market economies and the accompanying rises in murder rates taking place across the country. LA saw a 53% rise the largest of all the metro areas.

Of course the answer is for voters to continue to vote out incumbents until the vast majority of politicians replacing them get the message that responsible management of our tax dollars and spending and safety net programs toward the end of making them sustainable and affordable while maintaining a modest growing economy is job #1.

But that answer is only just in its infancy and time is running out. Every year we delay, the cost of correction goes up precipitously, and in just a couple years, no amount of action will be sufficient to save the economy and the safety net programs simultaneously, at which point the fate of poverty and suffering for millions will have been passed without return.

Posted by: David R. Remer at December 31, 2006 3:18 PM
Comment #201000

Great article Walker.

It’s hard to decide which example of inequality to address. On one hand I’m tempted to point to New Orleans and ask if a predominately white community would have faired better with government assistance.

OTOH there are any number of examples of economic disparity that I could
jump on. Take your pick here at EPI:
http://www.stateofworkingamerica.org/excerpt.html
EPI spells out many of the disparities quite well in this PDF file:
http://www.stateofworkingamerica.org/swa06-ch05-wealth.pdf

But the real “gorilla in the room” for me is the increasing disparity in military enlistment. I quote from:
http://www.infozine.com/news/stories/op/storiesView/sid/17567/

“The under-representation of Army recruits from wealthy neighborhoods speaks volumes about the Americans who are paying the price of the Iraq War,” said executive director Greg Speeter. “As long as this war continues unabated, we should acknowledge who is being asked to make sacrifices.”

FYI Greg Speeter’s is the executive director of National Priorities Project. You can read more from them here:
http://www.nationalpriorities.org/militaryrecruits06

This IS America’s war isn’t it? I think Charlie Rangel is right:
“If this war is the threat to our national security that the Bush Administration insists it is, then the President should issue a call for all Americans to sacrifice for the nation’s defense. If there must be a sacrifice, then the burden must be shared fairly.”
http://www.house.gov/apps/list/press/ny15_rangel/PR112006.html

Posted by: KansasDem at December 31, 2006 3:37 PM
Comment #201002

Walker:

You started a fine discussion with a fine post.

Although he keeps arguing with you, it appears that Jack actually agrees. Here is what he said:

“Striving for (although never achieving) equal opportunity is a noble goal. Demanding equality under the law is imperative. Setting up mechanisms to protect people from their own stupid decisions or bad luck is good policy. Seeking egalitarian outcomes is a pernicious nightmare, undesirable in theory, fortunately unattainable in practice.”

He is for equal opportunity for all. He even goes so far as saying we should help the poor and unfortunate. The only thing he is against is “seeking egalitarian outcomes.” I can’t believe it but he sounds like a good Democrat!

Posted by: Paul Siegel at December 31, 2006 3:51 PM
Comment #201004

BillS

I lived in Europe for 12 of the last 20 years and I still get over there twice a year. I like Europe and find it very pleasant. I think that the best of Europe is great. But there are other considerations. One is that Europe and the U.S. have had a symbiotic relationship. One example is the very famous price of pharmaceuticals and health care. Most of the innovations in health care are developed in the U.S. market. We pay the big bucks. European health system can benefit from developed methods at cheaper prices. If the U.S. lowered what we pay, Europeans would pay more and there would be less innovation generally. As an American, I can object to the European free rider status. On the other hand, we brain drain from Europe. We Americans win more Nobel prizes in the Sciences than anybody else. Many of these people come from Europe. We get a lot of the best and brightest from Europe who do not want to be fettered by their welfare states. As an American I am happy to ride free on some of their skills. I could go on.

As an established person, I like Europe. But it is a lot like living in an established U.S. area. There are fewer opportunities.

Some Euro social indicators have little to do with the system. They are more cultural and ethnic. Compare Europe to states like Minnesota or N. Dakota that have settled populations. Now look like a place like France, which is becoming more diverse. Crime is increasing and social indicators are declining.

The other challenge for Europe is the future. Europe has not had to grapple with immigration on a large scale. It does now. You also have the problems of population aging. Check into it a little more. Both the U.S. and Europe have a lot going for them. Europeans sometimes complain about the Americanization of their countries. What they mean is that traditional social and economic relationships are no longer working.

Congratulations on your portfolio. The U.S. market returned around 16% this year. If you are making 32% a year, it won’t take long before you are so rich that maybe your fellow liberals will want to redistribute your income come the revolution.

David

I can just picture all those old folks storming the Bastille behind their walkers as SS cuts come through. We will solve the SS problem when it becomes a crisis through a combination of benefit cuts, means testing and private accounts. I do not think the geriatric revolution will need to come to pass.

One thing the predictors of revolution fail to understand is the profound paradigm shift we have seen in our lifetimes. In our lifetimes, our society has become so much richer that the luxuries of the wealthy (cars, TV, air conditioning, home ownership etc) have become the common experience of almost everybody. The other shift has occurred in who does the work. In the old days, the rich had leisure and the poor worked from sun to sun. Today the richest 5% of the population works more hours than the bottom 20%. In fact, labor INCREASES with income. If the poor half of the population rises up and destroyed the richest half, who is going to do all the important work? Leaf blowing and part time work probably won’t cut it.

Posted by: Jack at December 31, 2006 4:07 PM
Comment #201005

“I can’t believe it but he sounds like a good Democrat!”

Paul,

That was hilarious. We are the “big tent” party.

Welcome aboard Jack.

Posted by: KansasDem at December 31, 2006 4:12 PM
Comment #201008

Paul & Kansas

You sound like nice guys, but you would not want me in your club. The devil is in the details.

Look at the AEI webpage and look up some of the thing Newt Gingrich writes. Put it in general terms and I bet you agree with him too.

Few Americans believe in no government intervention and even fewer believe in total government control. Few Americans believe that people should have special privleges because of who they are, but not many think all men should remain equal after they are created. We disagree about where to draw the lines.

Posted by: Jack at December 31, 2006 4:25 PM
Comment #201011

David:
“We already see 100’s of thousands of Americans taking matters into their own hands through gangs and underground black market economies”

Also the “Fringe Economy” has been booming for a long time. Check out this article on the subject.

Posted by: Adrienne at December 31, 2006 4:45 PM
Comment #201012

Jack
My European funds are in a tax defered 401 k. They are paying about 30% . As to the rich working so hard,hogwash. Sitting around schemeing about how to get more money is not working,even if you think very,very hard.
Indicators like infant mortality and life expectancy ARE directly related to healthcare distribution policies. We should be able to come up with a system that does not leave 40-50 million without all but emergency access. Yes it will look more like the European system than what we have but not entirely.Something like single payer which is not socialist. The Healthcare workers and facilities would stay mostly private.Getting insurance companies,that do not actually provide healthcare,out of the picture would help and reasonable price controls should improve things.
Seniors may not storm the Bastille but we will storm the ballot box if the unjust solutions you propose for SS are put forward. Personally I hope you Reps keep it up. Make my day.
You mentioned equality under the law. That is largely a myth in this country. If you look at the shockingly latge prison population you will find very few inmates from the middle class and even fewer from the rich. They are the children of the poor. Are you going to tell me that middleclass and rich kids do not break the law as much. Fact is they get caught less and have better lawyers when they do. I must say I was amused at the OJ Simpson trial. Now there was a quandery for our justice system. He was black so he was guilty but he was rich so he was innocent. We saw what was more important,now ,didn’t we?

Posted by: BillS at December 31, 2006 4:47 PM
Comment #201014

Jack,

You do a marvelous job of mixing truth with fiction. When I wrote about the recent massive shift of wealth to the already wealthy and the increase in poverty, I did so knowing that there was a parallel truth that today’s poor in America do have access to technological marvels in spite of their struggles to make ends meet. I expected to hear about this, because there is no denying it. But TVs and gadgets don’t feed people, and there are far too many people who are working long hours and HARD hours, who have little leisure to enjoy their gadgets.

So when you write “the luxuries of the wealthy [of a few decades ago] have become the common experience of almost everybody” I will not argue with you, but when you write:

In the old days, the rich had leisure and the poor worked from sun to sun. Today the richest 5% of the population works more hours than the bottom 20%. In fact, labor INCREASES with income.
I say you are sorely deluded. I don’t know if you are familiar with Barbara Ehrenreich’s “Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America”. She lays to rest many of the myths which you so dearly cherish.

Labor statistics do a poor job of quantifying work hours of individuals or of families, let alone the nature of those hours. Yes there are many upwardly mobile corporate climbers who put in many overtime hours, and many of them have very stressful jobs. And there are a few union blue collar jobs remaining where the work is low stress and the hours reasonable. We can anecdote each other to death and neither of us will win the argument.

But consider what percentage of stay-at-home moms come from poor families. Consider how few (zero?) corporate climbers are moonlighting just to keep their families fed. The disgrace of the Republican revolution is not unemployment - it is the necessity of overemployment for so many. It is the working poor.

The working poor deserve a voice in our political system and their obsolescence should be front and center as an obtainable goal toward the egalitarian ideal, which Paul rightly points out that you Jack and many Republicans share. And Adrienne is right, that we Democrats should DEMAND that our leaders hold fast to such egalitarian goals.

Again the egalitarian ideal is at the heart of our Nation’s founding. Let me explicitly quote the Declaration of Independence to which I alluded:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal”.

And yes, of course, we now include women.

Not equal as in equivalent.
Equal in rights, privilege, and opportunity.
It remains a worthy goal in our third century as a nation; it remains a worthy goal across the globe.

Posted by: Walker at December 31, 2006 4:56 PM
Comment #201018

There is no logical reason why the wealthy should be forced to redistribute their wealth to the poor by means of taxation. Taxing the wealthy and using those revenues to fund social programs designed to help those with lower incomes is a limiting mechanism of freedom.


Posted by: Charles


Charles I disagree. It’s very easy to take your position and make it seem unfair to tax the wealthy.

But the question is do you want a democracy or do you want to return to an Aristocracy or Feudal system?

Allowing large accumulations of wealth will ultimately result in the formation of a ruling elite and the end of democracy and that’s the Catch22.

Posted by: muirgeo at December 31, 2006 5:18 PM
Comment #201019

Adrienne,

My daughter fell prey to the “fringe economy” a couple of years ago. Arrrrrrrrrrrgh. I bailed her out, but the “payday” loan sytem sux.

Joy, my daughter, was caught up in a typical SNAFU between active duty pay and disability pay. I’m sure she wasn’t alone. IMO these predatory lenders should be shut down. They ADVERTISE to lure folks in!

It’s usury plain and simple. The fact that they also target members of the military makes it especially grievous.

Posted by: KansasDem at December 31, 2006 5:34 PM
Comment #201020

Jack,

The devil is indeed in the details. The only problem with Newt is he never does what he says. He is slick enough to always leave outs and “minor” facts that contradict him. He makes a great professor and a lousy statesman.

Posted by: gergle at December 31, 2006 5:34 PM
Comment #201024


We, in this nation, have allowed a very small percentage of our citizens to determine how our economy will be operated. This small minority is also the ones who benefit the most from the economy as it is currently be operated. The argument for this is that, while it is true that the few accrue more wealth than more than half of the population, everyone benefits to some degree.

These few do not, nor could they get by with hoarding all the wealth to themselves. They are waging a full scale assult on the wages and incentives of the lower and middle class. They are splitting the middle class into the upperly mobile and the downwardly mobile. Many of those workers, especially the upper middle class have become staunch supporters of the system and those who control it.

On a recent thread, I heard it argued that a $7 per hour job is not that bad and indeed if there are two breadwinners in a family making that wage it amounts to nearly $25,000 per year. At that wage and with a few management skills, that family need not worry about their family living in poverty, unless, of course, one of them would loose their job for an extended period of time. I have also heard like minded people argue that the $7 wage is a governmentally contrived, artificial wage that should be $4 or less because of the benefit to society that the job produces.

The system is doing everything possible to drive down the wages and incentives for low income workers while at the same time many argue that those workers are at fault for being less than enthusiastic about participating in the system.

The ultimate goal of the corporations is to create a Corporate World Government in which the decision making powers that affect us all will reside in the corporations. Each of us will have to decide wheither we think this will be a good or bad thing for us.

In a democratic society, the decision making power resides with the people. It is We the People that have to rise to the challenge and create, not a finacially equitable society, but a more equitable society that recognizes that we are all in this boat together.

In this, the 21st century, we desperately need to remake our economy into one that is self sustaining without compromising our way of live other than getting control of the massive consumption of natural resources. This would be an achievement that we can sell to the world and prove that we are indeed the greatest nation that has ever existed. It could also be a way that human society can finally get a grip on many of the social ills that have plagued mankind since the begining of our existance.

A world society in which the vast majority of people are working, providing for their families and that are basically satisfied with their lot in live is one that isn’t interested in and won’t tollerate famine, war or despotism. Such a society can not and will not tollerate one, two or three percent of us to own and control 50% of the wealth that all of us have a hand in creating. However, it will be a society that does not begruge a higher percentage of the wealth going to those of us who have the ability and drive to be our leaders, entrepreneurs and creaters.

Posted by: jlw at December 31, 2006 5:54 PM
Comment #201026

“Allowing large accumulations of wealth will ultimately result in the formation of a ruling elite”

muirgeo,

Hasn’t it already?

Posted by: KansasDem at December 31, 2006 6:21 PM
Comment #201028

Charles in quotes;

In the capitalist democracy we live in, our society should emphasize providing every individual with freedom to make his or her own choices.

I think in a democracy we should emphasize democracy. That means setting ground rules for how society functions.

I would argue that in some cases unbridled capitalism leads to fewer choices. Want to ride public transit in California…sorry it was all brought up and destroy in a collusion between Goodyear, GM and standard oil.


Capitalism is a system in and of itself that promotes innovation because it gives the power to individuals and says, you have the freedom to improve your situation as best as you can.

And sometimes it stymies invention. Watch the movie, Who Killed the Electric Automobile

However, we should not fault capitalism for those misfortunes.

So who do we blame for the industry funded and written corporate welfare fiasco that is the Medicare Drug Bill?

Posted by: muirgeo at December 31, 2006 6:27 PM
Comment #201029

Walker:

Your 4:56 post was outstanding. Thanks. Kudos to Adrienne, David, jlw, KansasDem.

An interesting read.

Posted by: Tim Crow at December 31, 2006 6:37 PM
Comment #201030


Adrienne: Speaking of the underground economy, I have always thought that those who pay under the table are for the most part, small time contractors who do building or remodeling jobs and pay themselves and their help under the table to avoid taxes and workers comp. etc.

Yesterday, I learned of a way of doing business that I didn’t know existed. Recently , I talked about a young friend who had told me that he had gotten a job at a pallet factory for $6 per hr. Yesterday, while visiting the family, he told me that he had gotten a job at the pallet factory for $7 per hr. I remarked that the job wasn’t new news but the $7 vs $6 was. He said, oh no that was the little pallet factory, 10 miles out in the boonies that pays $6 under the table and hires mostly illegal immigrants. Welfare won’t help his family if he workes under the table so, he had to work there a couple weeks until there was an opening in the larger factory 2 and 1/2 miles down the road in a small village. Every body working there is American and they take out taxes.

Still not understanding, I asked, why would a pallet factory that playes by the rules tollerate one just 10 miles away that doesn’t? The answer, both are owned by the same family. The production at one plant is hidden by overstating the productivity at the larger one.

Posted by: jlw at December 31, 2006 6:51 PM
Comment #201032

“Allowing large accumulations of wealth will ultimately result in the formation of a ruling elite”

muirgeo,

Hasn’t it already?

Posted by: KansasDem

Absolutely it has….but at least maybe we can still avoid a full-out revolution this time if we can just persuade some of these Conservatives Torry Loyalist to this “King” George of his ill ways.

Posted by: muirgeo at December 31, 2006 6:56 PM
Comment #201035

BillS

Even better. You see how easy it is to make money and save for your retirement? Tax deferred? Don’t you want to share that with Uncle Sam so that he can give to the worthy poor who can certainly spend it better. Of course, why bother saving when you can depend on your elected officials to rob future workers to pay for you.

If you want a more recent miscarriage of justice, consider the Duke rape case. The rich white kids are the victims of a nutty black woman and the DA is complicit. It REALLY doesn’t fit the story line.

Walker
Have you ever known an important corporate official who worked less than 40 hours a week? I know the stats are probably skewed by lowest 10% who really do not work at all.

I do not know how to fight the statistic battle to your satisfaction. Most people work. Work hours increase with income. I understand the work is different. But the idea that the rich are doing nothing and the poor are working all the time is just outdated.

You probably are a fan of Robert Reich. Me too. I love his books and I really get into his analysis. Of course, we part company when the goes from description to prescription. I recall his book “the Future of Success”. He talks about how rich and successful people are victims of their own skills. Their time is worth so much, they keep on trying to find ways to employ more of it. Blackberrys etc keep them attached to the office.

If you are poor and your time is worth only $8 an hour you might be encouraged to sell less of it.

BTW All men are created equal, but not everyone makes the most of his talents after that.

Kansas

Payday loans and those tax refund loans being advertised now are bad news. A little bit of self discipline would stop most of that. I agree that those purveying those loans are crooks, but if they weren’t around the loan sharks would be taking their place.


Re ruling elite

The world is too complicated for a small ruling elite. We have lots of elites. The Hollywood elite is not the same as the financial elite or the industrial elite. The elites tend to be rich but it is not clear which direction runs causality. If you are really good at what you do and it is something that requires management, risk taking etc you will probably get rich. Our society rewards talent with money. It gets to be a virtuous circle. Talent brings money, money brings skills etc.

The only way to make the word more equal is to make it less fair. If I play basketball with Shaquille O’Neil. He will win ALL the time. The only way I will win even SOME of the time is if somebody cheats.

Posted by: Jack at December 31, 2006 7:40 PM
Comment #201037

“I agree that those purveying those loans are crooks, but if they weren’t around the loan sharks would be taking their place.”

Jack,

That’s the same excuse every drug dealer gives: “if I don’t do it someone else will”!

I say it’s ridiculous that we even let them operate. Google “payday loan military”.

Check out the “roo” here:
http://speedycash.reachlocal.com/coupon/?scid=117067&cid=46385&tc=06123117023662390&dynamic_proxy=1&primary_serv=speedycash.reachlocal.net
These a$$hole$ have guys in kangaroo suits standing out on the streetcorners.

And they do target the military! If I had my way I’d shanghia every one of them. They’re predators that have no useful purpose in society.

Posted by: KansasDem at December 31, 2006 8:48 PM
Comment #201038

I’m really surprised that no one commented about my “egalitarian military” message. I can only assume that most of us are perfectly satisfied with the current recruiting standards of the military.

Posted by: KansasDem at December 31, 2006 9:01 PM
Comment #201039

Jack
Work is that stuff you get callases from. Maybe your grandfather told about them.

Posted by: BillS at December 31, 2006 9:01 PM
Comment #201043

BillS

I have done and still do such work. I can throw those 100 lb rocks all day, but my productivity is low as is the productivity of anybody whose work still produces calluses.

Work is NOT only or even primarily physical these days. One very strong man working very hard can load 16 ton of #9 coal in a day. One man running a sophisticated machine can do that in minutes. One smart guy can design a better machine to make it unnecessary.

Progress comes from mostly brain not braun.

Posted by: Jack at December 31, 2006 9:54 PM
Comment #201044

Jack
I know I oversimplified but with a point. Work these days is still physical,just not in your world. Bean counting and brainstorming have their place but they are meaningless without physically manipulated solid objects. It takes brains to build a roof or fix a truck or bring in the crop also and often that work is not as well rewarded as it should be.

Posted by: BillS at December 31, 2006 10:08 PM
Comment #201053

BillS

The guy running the big machine that brings in most of the crop is paid well. We use a lot of capital leverage in our country.

We also leverage human capital. Very good mechanics and engineers are well paid. They actually move things in the physical world, but we pay them because they know where to move them.

You maybe recall the joke about the guy whose sink is plugged up. He calls the plumber who tells him he can solve the problem, but it will cost $50. The plumber comes, looks it over and gives the pipe a wack. Problem solved.

The guy feels ripped off. He says, $50? All you did was wack it. I want an itemized bill.” He gets it. The bill says:

wacking the pipe - 5 cents
knowing how and where to wack - $49.95

The joke is funny, but it makes a point. The work is only worth a nickel. If you were paying an unskilled worker, that is what you would pay him. The boss and the firm would get the $49.95.

What we do not value is low value added low skill work, even though that tends to be unpleasant and hard. If anyone can more or less do the job after a couple hours, we do not pay much for it.

Much of this hard work just is not worth that much either. I mentioned my rock moving. I spread rip rap on our stream beds. I do myself and make my sons do by hand. It is VERY hard work, but I would not pay anybody to do it. Much of it we do for the aesthetics and the “fun” of making. For the parts that I really need, I would just hire a machine to do the work of ten men.

In other words, if all you bring to the world of work is strong arms, you are out of luck. If the government steps in to command a higher value for that sort of work, it just will not be done at all.

Posted by: Jack at December 31, 2006 11:39 PM
Comment #201054


” The world is to complicated for a small ruling elite.”

Nearly every country on this planet is ruled by a small elite group of people. The communist party in China is the largest political party on Earth, with 70 million members. From the lowly village party member to the top party members, they rule China. 70 million people is roughly 5% of the population of China. Corporations, representing for the most part, the wealthy elite in many countries, are doing their part to turn the communist party into wealthy elites.

With the aid of loyalists, a strong state police apparatus and technology, the wealthy elite can and will rule this planet. If the majority of us are not willing to take matters into our own hands and do something about it before it is to late, the takeover which is well underway is inevitable.

Soon, technological advances will allow the electronic surveillance of every citizen nearly every minute of every day. Once this technology is wide spread and in the controlling hands ( homeland security ) of those who can use it, every potential dissident, every potential leader of a resistance movement can be identified. Once identified, the police apparatus ( homeland security ) can pick them up and make them disappear.

“Progress comes from mostly brain not braun.”

What prey tell would the brain’s progressive ideas be without the braun to build it. Brain thinks he has it all over braun, but brain can’t drag the chopping block to the village square. Braun can.

Here is a tune from Rush that I think has more than one meaning.

The Trees

There is unrest in the forest
There is trouble with the trees
For the maples want more sunlight
And the oaks ignore their pleas

The trouble with the maples
And their quite convinced their right
They say the oaks are just to lucky
And they grab up all the light

But the oaks can’t help their feelings
If they like the way their made
And they wonder why the maples
Can’t be happy in their shade

There is trouble in the forest
And the creatures all have fled
As the maples scream oppression
And the oaks just shake their heads

So the maples formed a union
And demanded equal rights
The oaks are just to greedy
We will make them give us light

Now there’s no more old oppression
For they passed a noble law
And the trees are all kept equal
By hatchet, ax and saw.

Posted by: jlw at December 31, 2006 11:52 PM
Comment #201057

jlw

A sugar maple requires a lot less light than an oak. That is why over time on a site suitable to maples, the oaks will gradually be displaced. But the maples cannot grow on the open sites the oaks can do.

I guess Rush didn’t know much about trees.

Posted by: Jack at January 1, 2007 12:00 AM
Comment #201058


HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYBODY

Posted by: jlw at January 1, 2007 12:01 AM
Comment #201089

Jack
I guess it has much to do with life experiences. I once was working a historical restoration project. One of the task was to replace a stone wall about 100 ft. long. Two stone masons were brought in. Watching them work was a wonder. They could walk up to a rock pile and pick just the right stone to fill a gap EVERY time. Alittle clink here, a little tap there…they had a rythem going. The end result was gorgous and perfectly aligned. They were also well paid for it.
I am a journeyman carpenter,usually working heavy construction,bridges etc. The laborers are a key element on those jobs. A good experienced crew makes all the difference in the world and yes,they are paid pretty good on government jobs as are we. Davis/Bacon prevailing rate laws see to that. In CA the wages are about the highest in the country for federaly funded highway jobs,for example. Result? CA lays down a mile of highway at less expense than any other state,even those that pay a low rate.Has to do with productivity.
We still have a risidual respect for honest labor in this country. It is waneing but still exist thankfully. Something to do with our roots,perhaps. This should be cherished and respected. It is of great value. Losing it why it is near impossible to get Americans to do farm labor for example.

Posted by: BillS at January 1, 2007 1:33 PM
Comment #201095

BillS

You are not disagreeing with me nor I with you. You have proved my point. These guys have skills. They are not productive because of their hard work, but because of their skills. Did you read my plumber joke? Most of the plumber’s value comes from his skills.

The reason my rock piling is not so valuable is because (1) I do not have the skills of the mason AND (2) the job would not require the skills of a mason. Fine masonry would be wasted on holding up my mud walls.

Posted by: Jack at January 1, 2007 2:00 PM
Comment #201112

Jack
We are not disagreeing in particular but I seem to be unable to get my point across. It has much to do with the original topic.
I think we can agree that educating our children is a very important job for our society. However the financial rewards for being a professional teacher do not match the importance of the task. Without the oft maligned teachers unions teachers would not even enjoy modest incomes and benefits.There are plenty of other examples where the market does not reflect the real need and value of ones work. We can also probably agree that a good cook benefits society more than a crooked CEO etc. If all of a sudden there were no more doctors,say,civilization would go on. It would be rough but would go on. Can you say the same if there were no more plumbers?
My wife is a Philipine national. On her immigration the RP government issued her a guide book explaining some of the differences to ease her transition. Some of their observences are amuzing. They talk about Americans having a near religious respect for traffic signals for example. Another difference they point out is that work,any work,is more respected here than there. Made me proud especially after looking at the Philippine economy. A very small middle class,an even smaller very wealthy ruling elite. Everyone else is dirt poor many in abject poverty. There is a cause and effect at work here.
One reason we have at least some respect for work here is because of independant trade unions. This is often ignored or disparaged by the right these past few years but should be recognized as important to a balanced society with a strong middle class as a stableizing factor.We are Americans. We do not have 500 years of colonial repression to keep us in check like the Philipines. Faced with a social structure like they have there would be constant major turmoil.

Posted by: BillS at January 1, 2007 5:07 PM
Comment #201113

Jack
And oh yes. Happy New Year and thanks for doing such a great job as Arch Nemises.

Posted by: BillS at January 1, 2007 5:14 PM
Comment #201114

BillS

Much of the work ethic is cultural. The Phillipines inherited many of the Spanish colonial ideas toward work. Suffice to say, they are not favorable to development. The Anglo-American attitudes are different. It is not the influence of unions, because it predates unions.

Think of someone like Ben Franklin - a working hero. He laid out some basic American truths. Work is honorable and try to work smarter. Both these are important.

The U.S. was so successful because we more than most cultures, empower people to make decisions. That makes them innovate and work harder. But it also creates a market for labor where it is worth what somebody will pay for it.

I think it is mostly plus, but consider the pressure on U.S. workers to update their skills. They know that they may be out of work otherwise.

Posted by: Jack at January 1, 2007 5:26 PM
Comment #201123

Jack
Predates unions but not guilds,which served many of the same functions.Unions have certainly helped build the strong middle class we have by influceing market forces to reward work. They continue to do so even in their diminshed capacity. Sure there are worts but this is out wieghed by the benefits in my opinion.Even our new treasury secretary points out dangers in to great an imbalance. Woth pondering.

Posted by: BillS at January 1, 2007 6:07 PM
Comment #201126

BillS

The guild demonstrates exactly the cost & benefits of things such as unions. Guilds trained workers in the crafts and ensured high wages. They also limited entry and competition. New products were discouraged. New innovations resisted.

Unions and guilds are great for those already established. They are not so good for those trying to break in. They are by their nature coercive and limiting freedom.

Generally such arrangements are good when conditions change only slowly and innovation is not favored.

There are always places for the guild type arrangements and sometimes we are willing to pay the price. Law and medicine are like that. We limit entry, create licensing requirements and prevent others from entering the business. Lawyers and doctors make the big bucks because of this. Maybe there is good reason. People on the inside always think they do.

Posted by: Jack at January 1, 2007 7:30 PM
Comment #201127

Jack
My own union for example,has a large and excellent training program nationaly.This is funded by employer contributions as part of the collective bargainning agreement and administered jointly by management and the union. We also encourage new membership. We have learned that the more carpenters we have as members the more clout we have at the barginning table.Many unions take the same tack. As to being coercive we are no more coersive than the threat to withold our labor. That is an excercise of freedom,not a limitation. It evens up the power relationship somwhat that exist in any negotiation and a lobor agreement either individually or collectively involves a negotiation. There have been some great Rep presidents that recognized the importance of this. It has gone on out consideration on the right to the detriment of the nation. Perhaps this is because unions usually back Dems. The reason for that is simple. Dems have overall been better on worker issues. My union backed Pombo in Ca. this last time because he moved to give us some support of certain issues.

Posted by: BillS at January 1, 2007 8:02 PM
Comment #201164

saying,

“Rocky you can not blame walmart for the decline in mom and pop stores.You can however blame mom and pop for selling out dated food and product at twice the cost of fresh goods purchased from walmart.I’m sure a man of you caliber never shops at walmart.”

That’s just a load of crap.

No I don’t shop at Walmart. I don’t go to Home Depot often either.

Both of these chain stores, and others have hastened the demise of the “mom and pop” business. The small stores can’t begin to compete with the monolithic mega-stores.

Walmart sells cheap Chinese junk at competitive prices, and pays minimum wage, and Home Depot doesn’t sell hardware any more.
And the customer service at your cheap “mega stores” blows.

Wake up and smell the pavement, pal.

Republicans are all for the small businessman, right?

Posted by: Rocky at January 2, 2007 12:12 PM
Comment #201172

Bills

“This is funded by employer contributions as part of the collective bargainning agreement”

This is not coersive?

Posted by: Keith at January 2, 2007 12:56 PM
Comment #201176

Keith,

Aren’t all contracts coersive?

Posted by: Rocky at January 2, 2007 1:10 PM
Comment #201217

Kieth
No it is not coersive nor do our employers consider it that way. It is very good employee traing they get for a bargain. They have a hand in designing the programs to fit their current and future needs.

Posted by: BillS at January 2, 2007 7:54 PM
Comment #212718

Generally all the aging people feel depression. Make them aware about the beautiful nature. Engage them in new skills with smaller children. WBR LeoP

Posted by: Online pharmacy at March 19, 2007 3:29 PM
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