A small, specific question about libertarianism

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webzter_again
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Re: A small, specific question about libertarianism

Postby webzter_again » Thu Aug 23, 2012 6:39 pm UTC

HungryHobo wrote:If you're born in the top 20% what are your chances of ending up in the top 80%?
If you're born in the bottom 20% what are your chances of ending up in the top 80%?

[...]

you don't seem to realise than when you "adjust for parents income" or other similar adjustments you're adjusting for luck. luck in who you were born to.

in the above you're even implicitly adjusting for luck.
you're treating moving from dirt poor to slightly less dirt poor as the same as moving from filthy rich to ultra rich.


http://www.jmooneyham.com/your-true-cha ... rence.html

Honestly, I haven't read through it closely enough to come to any conclusion... although, at first blush, it does seem that he's playing fast and loose with the numbers... but it appears, statistically, that your best bet for being wealthy is to be born into a rich family or to be a crime lord. Or, ideally, have your parents do the dirty crime lord work and then inherit it from them.

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Re: A small, specific question about libertarianism

Postby Tyndmyr » Thu Aug 23, 2012 7:06 pm UTC

webzter_again wrote:http://www.jmooneyham.com/your-true-cha ... rence.html

Honestly, I haven't read through it closely enough to come to any conclusion... although, at first blush, it does seem that he's playing fast and loose with the numbers... but it appears, statistically, that your best bet for being wealthy is to be born into a rich family or to be a crime lord. Or, ideally, have your parents do the dirty crime lord work and then inherit it from them.


That site makes my eyes bleed. Leaving aside the poor sourcing and such entirely, any site that is basically one giant wall of text(plus, of course, ads), with repeated use of terribly contrasting red font, randomly changing background areas, and pretty random font size changes...can mostly be ignored safely.

Seriously though, let's look at the ten richest people in america:

#1. Bill Gates. His parents had some money, sure. He made a giant pile more. Kid crushed it in early life, and had solid academic achievement, hit up college, etc. So, you could look at him as "he didn't start out dirt poor", but you could also look at the academic success as a predictor for future achievement. Certainly, his money was primarily earned, not inherited.
#2. Warren Buffet. Dad had a bit of money. Not a ton. However, note that dad started his life in public schools with a lack of anything describable as wealth. So, over two generations, we have a pretty solid rags to riches story. Again, we have early, early indicators of drive and achievement, with education being a focus.
#3. Larry Ellison. Born to a single mom. Given up for adoption. Adoptive parents lost all wealth in great depression, so...no wealth there either. Went to multiple colleges briefly, demonstrating some motivation to be successful, and went on to crush it in business. Very straightforward rags to riches story.
#4. Charles Koch. Parents had a bit of money. Owned a newspaper. We're not talking super-wealthy here, but not dirt poverty either. Dad was an immigrant, though, so we once again have complete rags to riches over two generations. Koch, again, hit up school nice and hard. Double masters. Went on to crush it in business.
#5. David Koch. Same parents as above. Same basic tale, including academic excellence.
#6. Kristy Walton. The first on our list who mostly got their money from their parents. However, Sam Walton, the dad, did go from farm to riches, so, we still have rags to riches in two generations. Interesting. Note that Kristy doesn't seem to have any particular academic accomplishments, and her dad occupied the #1 spot, so she's sinking off the list, relatively speaking.
#7. George Soros. Fled war. Poor student. Worked all manner of crap jobs and relied on charity, but got a degree anyway. So, straight rags to riches.
#8. Sheldon Adelson. Dad was a cabbie. Rags to riches, did some college, yadda, yadda. Holy god, do we have a pattern.
#9. Jim Walton. See the entry for Kristy. However, did go to college.
#10. Alice Walton. See the entry for Kristy. However, did go to college.

So, we've basically got 9 for 10 on attending college, most of which got degrees. Many, multiple degrees or other notable achievements. We actually have a pretty high rags to riches quota too...The big exception is the Walton family, and their dad, who got all the money, did take the traditional rags to riches path. So, we've got 3/10 who are where they are primarily due to daddy's money. The other 7/10 are where they are primarily due to their own actions.

Conclusion: Even at the very highest levels of wealth, education is damned important, and birth is a lot less so.

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Zamfir
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Re: A small, specific question about libertarianism

Postby Zamfir » Thu Aug 23, 2012 7:17 pm UTC

As you note, college is not particular hard work. So why use it as a proxy for hard work?

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Re: A small, specific question about libertarianism

Postby Tyndmyr » Thu Aug 23, 2012 7:22 pm UTC

Zamfir wrote:As you note, college is not particular hard work. So why use it as a proxy for hard work?


It shows motivation. Additionally, I said that getting to "some college" is not particularly hard work. Achieving a double master's is a significantly higher bar. Even within college, there's a range of hard work, and as we see from the richest people, they are very skewed towards the ones that put in quite a lot of work toward college indeed.

Additionally, it's not *just* hard work. It shows decision making ability, and education obviously prepares you to be successful, so there's some causality involved.

The point isn't just "work hard", it's that your actions are a larger factor on your economic outcome than random chance of birth is.

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Re: A small, specific question about libertarianism

Postby morriswalters » Thu Aug 23, 2012 7:26 pm UTC

Actually immigration is a perfect example of what I am saying. Why do they come here? If hard work was all it took, then somehow they would have made it where they were. But my point is not that hard work won't get you ahead, it's that how your hard work will turn out depends on drawing a good ticket in the genetic lottery. Being born in the one of the richer countries on earth. Tell me something. You quoted some Treasury figures earlier. How does the split of wealth change? By that I mean does the population of the poor ever shrink to zero as wealth increases. Will the economy ever produce enough jobs or opportunities to make the poor go away? And if not what do we do?

Tyndmyr wrote:Additionally, if making good choices was something that any random branch of humanity was entirely incapable of, they would have died out years ago. Very, very few people are entirely incapable of making any good decision. So, yeah, it's pretty innate. We learn what constitutes a good decision by watching those around us. If the caveman next to you goes into a certain cave, and gets eaten by a tiger...you probably avoid the hell out of that cave.
How do you teach that. The cave is easy, most anytime something tries to kill you, you learn or die. But that's not the problem in this case. The problem is how do you teach a child to defer gratification, when they have no role models to show them what that means. When none of your peers have that skill. Much less their parents. A lot of the people I saw crawl out from under had mentors. They were lucky enough to find people to show them. Good parenting skills make it much easier. All which are in short supply in the environments I have seen.

webzter_again
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Re: A small, specific question about libertarianism

Postby webzter_again » Thu Aug 23, 2012 7:32 pm UTC

Tyndmyr wrote:Conclusion: Even at the very highest levels of wealth, education is damned important, and birth is a lot less so.


Gates - college dropout
Ellison - college dropout
Jobs - college dropout (obviously not on current list due to being dead and all, but worth mentioning)
Christy Walton (note spelling) - never attended college, married into money (to John Walton, college dropout)
Sheldon Adelson - college dropout

inherited money:
Christy Walton
Jim Walton
Alice Walton

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Re: A small, specific question about libertarianism

Postby sam_i_am » Thu Aug 23, 2012 7:38 pm UTC

webzter_again wrote:
Tyndmyr wrote:Conclusion: Even at the very highest levels of wealth, education is damned important, and birth is a lot less so.


Gates - college dropout
Ellison - college dropout
Jobs - college dropout (obviously not on current list due to being dead and all, but worth mentioning)
Christy Walton (note spelling) - never attended college, married into money (to John Walton, college dropout)
Sheldon Adelson - college dropout

inherited money:
Christy Walton
Jim Walton
Alice Walton


From a nation of 300 million, you found 5 people who were successful without college.

Strong evidence this is.

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oxoiron
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Re: A small, specific question about libertarianism

Postby oxoiron » Thu Aug 23, 2012 7:40 pm UTC

Tyndmyr wrote:
oxoiron wrote:I noticed everyone is conveniently ignoring my point about being born in the right place. Some of you talk about how you chose to work hard and focus and go to college, which completely misses the point. It doesn't matter how hard you work or how smart you are if you are not given those opportunities. Do you think if Einstein had been born in a rice paddy in southeast Asia (or pick some other similarly undeveloped spot in 1879) that everyone would know he is?

And as far as genetics go, some people are just physically or mentally incapable of certain things and no amount of effort or willpower will change that.
So? If I'd been born to a poorer family in a crappier place, I'd likely have a crappier life, yes. If a richer family in a better place, possibly a better one. Meh. There are always opportunities to better yourself. Bettering yourself may mean "having a better rice farm than my dad did", true. So, what?

Are we going to send all our nation's wealth to those who live in terrible countries? Is that the goal of this? Do you think that's what a government should do? What sort of outcome do you think that would lead to?
I'm not offering a solution or even advocating charity (although, a little would be nice now and then); I'm trying to get people to grasp the simple concept that they haven't earned most of what they have. They were handed it by circumstance, as you seem to admit in the part I bolded when quoting you. I'm just tired of people acting like anyone who hasn't succeeded, failed of his own volition. And I'm really tired of people saying they owe others nothing, because "we all have the same opportunities". That is bullshit. I'm not saying hard work and perseverance are meaningless, but it is disingenuous, if not outright arrogant, for me to claim that I succeeded on my own.

I believe that if you (general "you", this is not addressed to a specific person in this discussion) aren't harming someone or someone else's property, you should be able to do whatever the fuck you want. If doing whatever the fuck you want means shitting all over the society that allowed you to succeed, I wholeheartedly support your right to do so. I also think you are a narrow-minded, short-sighted asshole and I hope the gods of irony are taking note and decide to give you a taste of failure due to circumstances outside your control. Sadly, this is the only way some people will learn.
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Re: A small, specific question about libertarianism

Postby Tyndmyr » Thu Aug 23, 2012 7:42 pm UTC

morriswalters wrote:Actually immigration is a perfect example of what I am saying. Why do they come here? If hard work was all it took, then somehow they would have made it where they were. But my point is not that hard work won't get you ahead, it's that how your hard work will turn out depends on drawing a good ticket in the genetic lottery. Being born in the one of the richer countries on earth. Tell me something. You quoted some Treasury figures earlier. How does the split of wealth change? By that I mean does the population of the poor ever shrink to zero as wealth increases. Will the economy ever produce enough jobs or opportunities to make the poor go away? And if not what do we do?


The point was never "hard work is all you need". The point is that your actions matter more than chance. If opportunity was roughly equal everywhere, that would support the chance hypothesis, not the personal choice one. The "hard work is all you need" is a strawman people attack instead of libertarianism.

It's measured in quartiles, so those stats are not the stats you want to rely on for that. That said, over time, yes, even the bottom quartile gets richer in absolute terms. If you're not into figures, this is trivially provable by the fact that it's a lot better to be poor in America now than it was, say, in the industrial age. You will live a better life, a longer life, and have more stuff. Yes, even the poor are richer and better off.

Tyndmyr wrote:
morriswalters wrote:Additionally, if making good choices was something that any random branch of humanity was entirely incapable of, they would have died out years ago. Very, very few people are entirely incapable of making any good decision. So, yeah, it's pretty innate. We learn what constitutes a good decision by watching those around us. If the caveman next to you goes into a certain cave, and gets eaten by a tiger...you probably avoid the hell out of that cave.
How do you teach that. The cave is easy, most anytime something tries to kill you, you learn or die. But that's not the problem in this case. The problem is how do you teach a child to defer gratification, when they have no role models to show them what that means. When none of your peers have that skill. Much less their parents. A lot of the people I saw crawl out from under had mentors. They were lucky enough to find people to show them. Good parenting skills make it much easier. All which are in short supply in the environments I have seen.


You can learn from bad examples as well as good ones. That's exactly what the cave example illustrates. I mean, sure, it's safer to be told about the tiger, but watching works pretty effectively for teaching a lesson. Replace the tiger with any modern example you wish. I realized at a pretty young age that people who acted in certain ways tended to end up in pretty similar situations. No mentor was required for this. Watching the kids older than me make choices was plenty.

webzter_again wrote:
Tyndmyr wrote:Conclusion: Even at the very highest levels of wealth, education is damned important, and birth is a lot less so.


Gates - college dropout
Ellison - college dropout
Jobs - college dropout (obviously not on current list due to being dead and all, but worth mentioning)
Christy Walton (note spelling) - never attended college, married into money (to John Walton, college dropout)
Sheldon Adelson - college dropout

inherited money:
Christy Walton
Jim Walton
Alice Walton


Remember back when I said that being a college dropout had a pretty huge effect on lifetime income? Yes. Even going to college and bailing is vastly better than just high school education. It's about as large as the difference between finishing high school and not. This SUPPORTS that.

Additionally, tossing in Jobs is kind of seeking to skew the stats a bit, don't you think? Picking and choosing additional examples is pretty obvious cherry picking.

oxoiron wrote:I'm not offering a solution or even advocating charity (although, a little would be nice now and then); I'm trying to get people to grasp the simple concept that they haven't earned most of what they have. They were handed it by circumstance, as you seem to admit in the part I bolded when quoting you. I'm just tired of people acting like anyone who hasn't succeeded, failed of his own volition. And I'm really tired of people saying they owe others nothing, because "we all have the same opportunities". That is bullshit. I'm not saying hard work and perseverance are meaningless, but it is disingenuous, if not outright arrogant, for me to claim that I succeeded on my own.


No. I owe random poor person #37 absolutely nothing for a much simpler reason. He did not lend me money. Therefore, there is no debt.

The frequent use of the word "owe" in contexts where no debt could reasonably exist is the real disingenuousness(hmm, disingenuousness? Disingenuity? Damn, awkward, but I feel like a word for this should exist).

Avoid the double and triple posting in the future, please.

- Az

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Re: A small, specific question about libertarianism

Postby oxoiron » Thu Aug 23, 2012 7:55 pm UTC

All debt is not monetary.
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Re: A small, specific question about libertarianism

Postby sam_i_am » Thu Aug 23, 2012 8:02 pm UTC

oxoiron wrote:All debt is not monetary.



IT is all contractually bound, though.

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Re: A small, specific question about libertarianism

Postby Tyndmyr » Thu Aug 23, 2012 8:08 pm UTC

oxoiron wrote:All debt is not monetary.


So, explain what sort of possible debt that I owe to random poor person #37. Let's call her jane. Furthermore, let's assume I've never met jane, as is statistically likely. She happens to make less money than I do. How does that incur a debt from me to her?

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Re: A small, specific question about libertarianism

Postby Zamfir » Thu Aug 23, 2012 8:51 pm UTC

Just in an economic sense:

If she's older than you, she was helping to run the world around you when you were a kid. If she's younger, she'll do so when you are old. Even if she's the same age, there are many common efforts that you can only benefit from because people like her are sharing part of the load.

Obviously, public goods that are paid by both of your taxes. But don't forget, this is a world of mass production. Nearly every object around you, including those in your ownership, could only be made because many people besides you paid a share of its fixed costs. She surely bought some products that you also bought, and she therefore helped pay for them. Or the same thing from the other side: it's a world of massive specialization, whose prosperity only exists because millions upon millions of people (including you and her) are providing a little cog of the machine. Without them, you would be desparately poor.

Of course, this goes in both directions. You do the same for her, roughly. You owe each other, and you cannot cancel that out. Society is not a fiction, it's the reality you live in.

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Re: A small, specific question about libertarianism

Postby capefeather » Thu Aug 23, 2012 9:23 pm UTC

There's really no point to this anymore. Tyndmyr is running on an entirely different metric from those who are arguing against him, and the only thing we can try to get past that is to establish that, no matter how much Tyndmyr insists (directly or implied) that we're the ideologues and his position is objectively superior given the evidence, there is a point where we simply disagree on what the purpose of society should be. Everything else boils down to "if we don't focus on increasing overall wealth, we will be worse at increasing overall wealth", which is pretty much begging the question. I think it's time we just say we disagree and just move on for everyone's sake.

But as one last attempt to get any kind of mutual understanding out of this topic, which I think I will likely regret but whatever:

Discussion on how to improve society isn't about picking things to min-max and ignoring things that are less desirable to min-max. What I think most of us are going for when talking about taxes and/or social programs is something like the following:

I want to become the Hulk. Obviously, I cannot become the Hulk. However, suppose someone else has a serum that can transform its consumer into the Hulk. Said person does not particularly want to be the Hulk, nor does he require that ability to do anything he would like to do. I meet the person with the serum and ask for it. Should he comply, or maybe ask a price that I can afford? What does he gain from refusing or making a counter-offer I can't accept? Maybe he has an obsession with maximizing the number of options he has. But what good does that do him, or me, or anyone, for that matter?

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Re: A small, specific question about libertarianism

Postby sam_i_am » Thu Aug 23, 2012 9:45 pm UTC

capefeather wrote:There's really no point to this anymore. Tyndmyr is running on an entirely different metric from those who are arguing against him, and the only thing we can try to get past that is to establish that, no matter how much Tyndmyr insists (directly or implied) that we're the ideologues and his position is objectively superior given the evidence, there is a point where we simply disagree on what the purpose of society should be. Everything else boils down to "if we don't focus on increasing overall wealth, we will be worse at increasing overall wealth", which is pretty much begging the question. I think it's time we just say we disagree and just move on for everyone's sake.

But as one last attempt to get any kind of mutual understanding out of this topic, which I think I will likely regret but whatever:

Discussion on how to improve society isn't about picking things to min-max and ignoring things that are less desirable to min-max. What I think most of us are going for when talking about taxes and/or social programs is something like the following:

I want to become the Hulk. Obviously, I cannot become the Hulk. However, suppose someone else has a serum that can transform its consumer into the Hulk. Said person does not particularly want to be the Hulk, nor does he require that ability to do anything he would like to do. I meet the person with the serum and ask for it. Should he comply, or maybe ask a price that I can afford? What does he gain from refusing or making a counter-offer I can't accept? Maybe he has an obsession with maximizing the number of options he has. But what good does that do him, or me, or anyone, for that matter?



the general point is that Freedom and Equality aren't the same thing, in fact they're often at odds with each-other.

Unless you want a full blown communist system, It must always be harder to be poor than to be rich. If it's not, then Nobody really has too much of a motivation to succeed. Yes, there is a lot of luck involved, but in a world without chance, you can hardly have any freedom.

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Re: A small, specific question about libertarianism

Postby morriswalters » Fri Aug 24, 2012 12:06 am UTC

Tyndmyr wrote:You can learn from bad examples as well as good ones. That's exactly what the cave example illustrates. I mean, sure, it's safer to be told about the tiger, but watching works pretty effectively for teaching a lesson. Replace the tiger with any modern example you wish. I realized at a pretty young age that people who acted in certain ways tended to end up in pretty similar situations. No mentor was required for this. Watching the kids older than me make choices was plenty.
Really? Exactly what are you talking about? The ability to make good decisions, requires you to see good decisions being made. I get the feeling that we are talking about different things. In the neighborhoods where I was raised there were no role models to see. I dislike bringing my personal life to bear but I'm not sure how to describe what it is that I see, without doing so. I went to 6 different elementary schools and lived in 15 different houses before my sixteenth birthday. I never lived in any place longer than a year or so. Why this happened is not important. What it does though, is prevent you from having stable situations where you can learn anything. Perhaps my family moved around more than usual, but I don't think so. But when the primary bread earner is erratically employed and unreliable, then then your income stream is so erratic that you can't pay the rent. And when that happens you move on. What ends up happening is that you raise yourself. You learn negative lessons. Worse yet you don't get those good habits ingrained into you at a young enough age that they become second nature. You can't teach yourself those kind of skills that you need. The best you can do is to make up things that you think might be smart. You guess. And I was lucky. Today it's worse. I never had to deal with drugs and gangs, they didn't exist in the way they do now. Drug money and everything that goes with it makes it much worse.

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Re: A small, specific question about libertarianism

Postby Adavistic Puma » Fri Aug 24, 2012 1:35 am UTC

sam_i_am wrote:the general point is that Freedom and Equality aren't the same thing, in fact they're often at odds with each-other.

Unless you want a full blown communist system, It must always be harder to be poor than to be rich. If it's not, then Nobody really has too much of a motivation to succeed. Yes, there is a lot of luck involved, but in a world without chance, you can hardly have any freedom.


Which Equality? Equality of outcome or Equality of opportunity? They aren't the same thing.

So it's funny to me that you chose to link to a story, Harrison Bergeron, which many people actually view as a satire on anti-communist hysteria, and on the inability to distinguish the two equalities. After all, the author Kurt Vonnegut was a proponent of socialism.

As far as motivation goes, I think we need to separate the desires for wanting to not be poor (without basic needs) from wanting to be rich. The idea of wealth per se as the best primary motivator, is a claim that I think is not at all settled.

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Re: A small, specific question about libertarianism

Postby webzter_again » Fri Aug 24, 2012 3:50 am UTC

sam_i_am wrote:From a nation of 300 million, you found 5 people who were successful without college.

Strong evidence this is.


I was given a list of the ten richest americans and told that "Even at the very highest levels of wealth, education is damned important, and birth is a lot less so." I fail to see how the data bears this out. Of the top 10 richest americans, 3 dropped out of college, 3 inherited the money (1 married into money and then inherited from spouse). 0 have PhDs and 3 have masters degrees.

I do suspect that if we looked at the entire Forbes 400 list, we would find a much healthier weighting in favor of completing college. I suspect we'd find a healthier weighting in favor of earning versus inheriting as well.

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Re: A small, specific question about libertarianism

Postby leady » Fri Aug 24, 2012 12:20 pm UTC

I want to become the Hulk. Obviously, I cannot become the Hulk. However, suppose someone else has a serum that can transform its consumer into the Hulk. Said person does not particularly want to be the Hulk, nor does he require that ability to do anything he would like to do. I meet the person with the serum and ask for it. Should he comply, or maybe ask a price that I can afford? What does he gain from refusing or making a counter-offer I can't accept? Maybe he has an obsession with maximizing the number of options he has. But what good does that do him, or me, or anyone, for that matter?


Under libertaranism he can give it you, sell it at cost, sell at market value, throw it in the bin - namely whatever he wants to do with his property that doesnt impact someone else.

None of that hulk example though covers how the state operates. The state would have grabbed half his serum by force and given it to whichever voting group moans the loudest for hulk serum.

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Re: A small, specific question about libertarianism

Postby iamspen » Fri Aug 24, 2012 12:32 pm UTC

No, the state would take a small portion of his profit from the Hulk serum and distribute it to the poor so they can begin building enough personal wealth that they, too might someday purchase a small amount of Hulk serum and begin smashing, if only just a bit.

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Re: A small, specific question about libertarianism

Postby Tyndmyr » Fri Aug 24, 2012 12:56 pm UTC

capefeather wrote:There's really no point to this anymore. Tyndmyr is running on an entirely different metric from those who are arguing against him, and the only thing we can try to get past that is to establish that, no matter how much Tyndmyr insists (directly or implied) that we're the ideologues and his position is objectively superior given the evidence, there is a point where we simply disagree on what the purpose of society should be. Everything else boils down to "if we don't focus on increasing overall wealth, we will be worse at increasing overall wealth", which is pretty much begging the question. I think it's time we just say we disagree and just move on for everyone's sake.


That isn't the only point...it's that increasing overall wealth increases the wealth for all parts of society. So, we're demonstrating the desirability of focusing on overall wealth.

But as one last attempt to get any kind of mutual understanding out of this topic, which I think I will likely regret but whatever:

Discussion on how to improve society isn't about picking things to min-max and ignoring things that are less desirable to min-max. What I think most of us are going for when talking about taxes and/or social programs is something like the following:


Why not? Should not social constructs like government focus on doing more desirable things in a more optimal fashion? Why would you want anything else? Sure, we may disagree as to what those things are, but I imagine very few people are actually in favor of a less effective, efficient government.

I want to become the Hulk. Obviously, I cannot become the Hulk. However, suppose someone else has a serum that can transform its consumer into the Hulk. Said person does not particularly want to be the Hulk, nor does he require that ability to do anything he would like to do. I meet the person with the serum and ask for it. Should he comply, or maybe ask a price that I can afford? What does he gain from refusing or making a counter-offer I can't accept? Maybe he has an obsession with maximizing the number of options he has. But what good does that do him, or me, or anyone, for that matter?


I'm not sure I see the applicability. However, if he's made something you want and he doesn't, him offering to sell the thing to you(or whoever the highest bidder is) seems like a reasonable course of action.

Zamfir wrote:Just in an economic sense:

If she's older than you, she was helping to run the world around you when you were a kid. If she's younger, she'll do so when you are old. Even if she's the same age, there are many common efforts that you can only benefit from because people like her are sharing part of the load.


This seems statistically unlikely. The people who are significantly poorer than me were not typically in positions of leadership, or in fact, running anything, let alone the world, or anything I benefited from.

Obviously, public goods that are paid by both of your taxes. But don't forget, this is a world of mass production. Nearly every object around you, including those in your ownership, could only be made because many people besides you paid a share of its fixed costs. She surely bought some products that you also bought, and she therefore helped pay for them. Or the same thing from the other side: it's a world of massive specialization, whose prosperity only exists because millions upon millions of people (including you and her) are providing a little cog of the machine. Without them, you would be desparately poor.


If Jane had not existed, I would never have noticed. Society would have just been marginally smaller. Look, the birth rate in industrialized countries drops off, yes? Does this make us "desperately poor"? No. Not at all. Wealth is not created by a sheer mass of bodies.

Her merely buying the same product as me cannot reasonably create a debt from one to the other. You do not owe me anything because both of us happened to buy chicken nuggets once. Moreover, if we owe people in accordance with what they have bought, then surely you owe the rich vastly more than the poor, yes?

And, in paying them money in support, you allow them to buy more things, thus creating more debt. Surely, this cyclical fashion results in any attempt to repay any debt running into an immediate infinite regression problem. You can't meaningfully deal with things as debts in such a system.

Of course, this goes in both directions. You do the same for her, roughly. You owe each other, and you cannot cancel that out. Society is not a fiction, it's the reality you live in.


Owe each other? So, why would that not cancel out? And if it is indeed literally impossible to cancel out this infinite debt...why should she not also be paying me? Why should anyone even try to pay off an infinite debt that cannot be repaid, enumerated, or cancelled out?

In fact, why do you call this thing a "debt" at all, since it does not in any way behave like one?

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Re: A small, specific question about libertarianism

Postby morriswalters » Fri Aug 24, 2012 1:32 pm UTC

Debt can be a social obligation, having nothing to do with money. If I do a favor for you then I expect reciprocity. At no times does money change hands and in point of fact nothing substantive or real may be exchanged. This can involve multiple layers and be indirect. This can be seen most often in the political process or in any process where individuals exchange obligations to advance ideas or goals. If you don't understand this type of thing, then good luck. One of the major problems I have with the current political process is that this has become something to be avoided.

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Re: A small, specific question about libertarianism

Postby Tyndmyr » Fri Aug 24, 2012 1:34 pm UTC

morriswalters wrote:Debt can be a social obligation, having nothing to do with money. If I do a favor for you then I expect reciprocity. At no times does money change hands and in point of fact nothing substantive or real may be exchanged. This can involve multiple layers and be indirect. This can be seen most often in the political process or in any process where individuals exchange obligations to advance ideas or goals. If you don't understand this type of thing, then good luck. One of the major problems I have with the current political process is that this has become something to be avoided.


Sure, there's such a thing as a informal social debt, yeah. But those can be paid off, sure. The "I owe you for that" language people use for this is perfectly reasonable.

And I fail to understand how such a thing can exist with someone so socially distant from me that we have literally never met, and who if they never existed, I would never have noticed.

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Re: A small, specific question about libertarianism

Postby sam_i_am » Fri Aug 24, 2012 2:02 pm UTC

morriswalters wrote:Debt can be a social obligation, having nothing to do with money. If I do a favor for you then I expect reciprocity. At no times does money change hands and in point of fact nothing substantive or real may be exchanged. This can involve multiple layers and be indirect. This can be seen most often in the political process or in any process where individuals exchange obligations to advance ideas or goals. If you don't understand this type of thing, then good luck. One of the major problems I have with the current political process is that this has become something to be avoided.


A virtuous sentiment that is.

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Re: A small, specific question about libertarianism

Postby Tyndmyr » Fri Aug 24, 2012 2:07 pm UTC

sam_i_am wrote:A virtuous sentiment that is.


I won't argue that this can exist. Sometimes, both parties acknowledge that a favor has been done, and the other person will attempt to respond in kind.

I wouldn't categorize all social interactions as debts, though. I mean, if I meet a stranger while we're bored and in line and have a nice conversation, both of us are better off(less bored), and nobody is reasonably in debt to the other.

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Re: A small, specific question about libertarianism

Postby morriswalters » Fri Aug 24, 2012 2:40 pm UTC

I'll respond to sam_i_am. Yeah I'm a pillar of virtue. However I like to get things done when I'm working. To do that I use a web of obligations. A large part of this is based on a fairly large assumption. That is that the people I deal with have the connections to accomplish what I need to do and that I can return those favors in some form of currency we can both use. And that these connections will do what it is I need them to do in a timely fashion. There is no whip to crack, no stick for all those people remote from me whom I will never meet. Money weaves in and out along with these "favors". For instance I'm on a tight deadline and need to make sure that a task I need to accomplish gets done before yours. I need to bump you and make you wait. The money is not something I control, but the social obligations are. We trade favors and you end up waiting instead of me. These connections for a fairly simple project can connect hundreds of people. For society in general it is much more diffuse, but is no less real. The common desire to keep order is what makes the machine run, the law just paves over the rough spots. That's how I see it.

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Re: A small, specific question about libertarianism

Postby leady » Fri Aug 24, 2012 6:04 pm UTC

For society in general it is much more diffuse, but is no less real


I'm sorry but there is no way in which I have any debt to someone I've never met. In any event society is a completely arbitrary concept with no basis in the real world. If I "owe" random people in the UK I just as much owe every other person in the world

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Re: A small, specific question about libertarianism

Postby Azrael » Fri Aug 24, 2012 6:31 pm UTC

leady wrote:In any event society is a completely arbitrary concept with no basis in the real world.

I think you may have a bit of a communication failure here.

If society is arbitrary has has no basis in the real world, what do you call the collection of people acting under (as an example) a single government?

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Re: A small, specific question about libertarianism

Postby Tyndmyr » Fri Aug 24, 2012 6:48 pm UTC

Azrael wrote:
leady wrote:In any event society is a completely arbitrary concept with no basis in the real world.

I think you may have a bit of a communication failure here.

If society is arbitrary has has no basis in the real world, what do you call the collection of people acting under (as an example) a single government?


Society in the sense others have been using it here has been someone abstract. "debt to society" type stuff. Now, the idea of a real, physical debt to an actual government is quite real and tangible(ie, I didn't pay my taxes, IRS wants it's money). But some folks have been using the abstract idea of society as if it were tangible, when it's not.

At least...I think that may be what he's getting at.

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Re: A small, specific question about libertarianism

Postby morriswalters » Fri Aug 24, 2012 8:40 pm UTC

I'm not sure that I should waste my time with this since my vocabulary may not be up to the challenge, but one final time. I tried to relate this to the workplace, but I guess it was too abstract. When you have a conversation with a stranger you have achieved something that would have been impossible in a hunter gatherer society. It was able to take place because of the common society, and I don't mean Government. The framework that you conversed in exists because we believe it does. You have each given something and received something. You have each given the other the right of safe passage. And you will do this time and time again every time you walk down the street. This happens thousands of time every day. Look at a street scene anywhere. Let somebody not agree to this obligation and you have a criminal. These micro social transactions happen all day long in hundreds of ways. I hope that you didn't think that the police kept the peace. My interests lie in keeping that stability. Just so we're clear, you get opted in by being born a citizen, there are two ways to opt out. Immigrate or rebel.

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Re: A small, specific question about libertarianism

Postby sam_i_am » Fri Aug 24, 2012 8:59 pm UTC

morriswalters wrote:I'm not sure that I should waste my time with this since my vocabulary may not be up to the challenge, but one final time. I tried to relate this to the workplace, but I guess it was too abstract. When you have a conversation with a stranger you have achieved something that would have been impossible in a hunter gatherer society. It was able to take place because of the common society, and I don't mean Government. The framework that you conversed in exists because we believe it does. You have each given something and received something. You have each given the other the right of safe passage. And you will do this time and time again every time you walk down the street. This happens thousands of time every day. Look at a street scene anywhere. Let somebody not agree to this obligation and you have a criminal. These micro social transactions happen all day long in hundreds of ways. I hope that you didn't think that the police kept the peace. My interests lie in keeping that stability. Just so we're clear, you get opted in by being born a citizen, there are two ways to opt out. Immigrate or rebel.


In a purely libertarian society, you would not be required to give back as much to society as you had benefited from it. You would be free to give back as much or as little as you want.

Now, Of course most realistic libertarians will still support compulsory taxes toward public goods and services such as public roads, public courts, public police.

Many will go as far as supporting or at least tolerating goods and services that have a lot of overhead for private purposes such as public schools, parks, emergency services, post service, etc.

But if you receive help in life from a mentor, partner, family member, or other person, no obligation is set upon you.

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Re: A small, specific question about libertarianism

Postby leady » Fri Aug 24, 2012 9:01 pm UTC

Azrael wrote:
leady wrote:In any event society is a completely arbitrary concept with no basis in the real world.

I think you may have a bit of a communication failure here.

If society is arbitrary has has no basis in the real world, what do you call the collection of people acting under (as an example) a single government?


A large self deluded mob?

A accident of history?

but even going for the normal description of "country", even that doesn't map in any meaningful sense to what people mean by society. Hell the UK is tiny, and the cultural differences between the regions is dramatic. I share no more society with Wales than I do with spain. Hell I visit Spain more and buy more spanish goods.

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Re: A small, specific question about libertarianism

Postby Zamfir » Fri Aug 24, 2012 9:02 pm UTC

Society in the sense others have been using it here has been someone abstract. "debt to society" type stuff. Now, the idea of a real, physical debt to an actual government is quite real and tangible(ie, I didn't pay my taxes, IRS wants it's money). But some folks have been using the abstract idea of society as if it were tangible, when it's not.

Yeah, it's important to keep those separate. It's a claim of modern states that they are the most appropriate organization to act on behalf of the people as a society. And that therefore a moral obligation from you to the people around you translates to a moral obligation to pay taxes, to be used by the state in the perceived greater good.

I think you can be deeply skeptical about that claim (and about the related claim that societies mostly coincide with non-overlapping countries), while still believing that you are in a meaningful way part of a wider society, and that you have some obligations towards other people simply as part of that.

Outside of money, such mutual obligations seem hardly controversial. I keep my noise down and the entry building clean, and my neighbours do the same. In another equilibrium we all do what we want, and the net result would be worse. It's a simple example of a mutual obligation that doesn't cancel out: we all owe each other quietude in return for the quietude we receive, and we don't want this to cancel out to a net zero. There are a zillion little norms like this. That's clear if you go to a different place, or even a different social circle. You find yourself constantly on guard not to break too much expectations, and also annoyed because others don't stick to yours.

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Re: A small, specific question about libertarianism

Postby morriswalters » Fri Aug 24, 2012 10:18 pm UTC

sam_i_am wrote:In a purely libertarian society, you would not be required to give back as much to society as you had benefited from it. You would be free to give back as much or as little as you want.
It would be impossible for you to do so. Society as we know it is a cumulative effect, an entity with a long life span with accumulated wealth. You couldn't return the value that has been handed you if your life depended on it. Part of your debt is to increase that wealth, not pay it back.

Modern states, no matter what you think about them, serve a purpose. They are the instrumentality by which society operates. They are pretty piss poor, when you come down to it. But you can't avoid having them. Imagine for a second 7 billion rugged individualists running around trying to take care of number one.

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Re: A small, specific question about libertarianism

Postby Trasvi » Sat Aug 25, 2012 2:59 am UTC

I just want to chip in here and say... not all college dropouts are equal.
Bill Gates, for example, had wealthy parents and a functional family. He scored 1590/1600 on the SAT, had numerous jobs with computers before college, attended Harvard, and 'dropped out' of college to form a company.
Compare that to the other, more common type of college dropout, who attends college because they scraped together enough marks to do an Arts + Communications course, has no idea what this entails, fails multiple units and then leaves because its never going to take them anywhere.

I think what people are trying to say is that, as a *sweeping generalisation*, people born into disadvantageous situations are unlikely to develop the skills or outlook on life necessary to move far beyond the socio-economic class they are born to. Being born to parents who are young, addicts, abusive, uneducated and/or on welfare, would seriously effect the outlook the child has to having children young, taking drugs/alcohol, to their education, etc. This is a general thing, and there are cases of people 'getting out', but I think you'll find that the large majority of people in highly paid jobs now had parents who were at least middle-class.

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Re: A small, specific question about libertarianism

Postby capefeather » Mon Aug 27, 2012 3:12 am UTC

sam_i_am wrote:Unless you want a full blown communist system


Why is it that whenever anyone brings up any kind of wealth redistribution, it's automatically communist? Are we really doing this? Really? The whole point of my silly example was that the person with the serum loses nothing by giving it away. There's literally no reason not to do it, other than some worry that I will somehow not strive for productive goals just because someone gave me the means to become the Hulk or whatever I happened to want.

Distribution of work for a team project works in much the same way. People are assigned jobs that they are good at to cover the deficiencies of others, who, consequently, are assigned jobs that THEY are good at. You don't get an effective project by judging people for their deficiencies and firing people who may have simply been mistakenly assigned. That is what I'm going for in the end: a society that embraces understanding and solutions that benefit more people, not the kind of ham-fisted judgmental systems that people try to pass off as "meritocracy".

This does not translate to "I want to force everyone to have the same wealth". I value the benefits of competition, and measures commonly supported by libertarianism are often good for society. Hell, I'm not even adverse to the idea, in itself, of drastically modifying how the government handles social programs. However, sometimes people just can't "play the game" for whatever reason, and sometimes people are in a position to fix what they can. Each person just does what he/she can to improve society bit by bit. There is no endgame, just constant improvement as people realize what society needs is neither naive freedom nor over-cynical regulation, but just something a bit better than what was before.

And btw, by "what they can" I include willpower as a (set of) finite resource(s) that people do or do not have enough of even if they do have the other resources. I think most people can afford to donate to charities but they just don't have the appropriate willpower. Such is the fickleness of human will.

leady wrote:None of that hulk example though covers how the state operates. The state would have grabbed half his serum by force and given it to whichever voting group moans the loudest for hulk serum.


...
Okay man, THE STATE is EVIL and the rest of us are GOOD! YEAH! I mean, sure, part of what makes us so retarded is that we handle political power rather, uh, poorly, to say the least. But eh, that could just as easily apply to any powerful entity, not just THE STATE.

Tyndmyr wrote:it's that increasing overall wealth increases the wealth for all parts of society


Now this is just silly. You said yourself that a section of people would be worse off under your propositions, which people have pointed out could be quite a significant proportion of the total population. Or are we only counting people who "matter"? Humans have grown more and more prosperous over time, ever since it even had a concept of prosperity. You don't need any kind of freedom or democracy or whatever to achieve that. Every era thought it was the best era and everything was known and what they had would be the closest to utopia that would ever happen. Nowadays, we at least have proof in various degrees that we don't know shit.

Should not social constructs like government focus on doing more desirable things in a more optimal fashion?


Are you repeating the same circlejerk on purpose to troll or is this a serious question?

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Re: A small, specific question about libertarianism

Postby CorruptUser » Mon Aug 27, 2012 3:55 am UTC

capefeather wrote:
Tyndmyr wrote:it's that increasing overall wealth increases the wealth for all parts of society


Now this is just silly. You said yourself that a section of people would be worse off under your propositions, which people have pointed out could be quite a significant proportion of the total population. Or are we only counting people who "matter"? Humans have grown more and more prosperous over time, ever since it even had a concept of prosperity. You don't need any kind of freedom or democracy or whatever to achieve that. Every era thought it was the best era and everything was known and what they had would be the closest to utopia that would ever happen. Nowadays, we at least have proof in various degrees that we don't know shit.


Erm, we don't currently feel we are in the best possible era, nor do we believe we know everything. That's kind of why we are funding science, because while we don;t know everything, we want to.

The only era that thought it was the best era was The Greatest GenerationTM, a generation so full of shit they gave themselves that name.

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Re: A small, specific question about libertarianism

Postby morriswalters » Mon Aug 27, 2012 4:04 am UTC

I don't think that generation thought of themselves that way any more than than you think that way. Those tags are applied after the fact. People mostly are to busy living to do that much self analysis.

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Re: A small, specific question about libertarianism

Postby CorruptUser » Mon Aug 27, 2012 4:09 am UTC

Yeah, just looked it up. They started calling themselves that in 1998.

To me, my generation will always be the Millenials. Because I'll be damned if we are remembered as the "Occupy Wall Street Generation".

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Re: A small, specific question about libertarianism

Postby Tyndmyr » Mon Aug 27, 2012 2:59 pm UTC

Zamfir wrote:
Society in the sense others have been using it here has been someone abstract. "debt to society" type stuff. Now, the idea of a real, physical debt to an actual government is quite real and tangible(ie, I didn't pay my taxes, IRS wants it's money). But some folks have been using the abstract idea of society as if it were tangible, when it's not.

Yeah, it's important to keep those separate. It's a claim of modern states that they are the most appropriate organization to act on behalf of the people as a society. And that therefore a moral obligation from you to the people around you translates to a moral obligation to pay taxes, to be used by the state in the perceived greater good.

I think you can be deeply skeptical about that claim (and about the related claim that societies mostly coincide with non-overlapping countries), while still believing that you are in a meaningful way part of a wider society, and that you have some obligations towards other people simply as part of that.

Outside of money, such mutual obligations seem hardly controversial. I keep my noise down and the entry building clean, and my neighbours do the same. In another equilibrium we all do what we want, and the net result would be worse. It's a simple example of a mutual obligation that doesn't cancel out: we all owe each other quietude in return for the quietude we receive, and we don't want this to cancel out to a net zero. There are a zillion little norms like this. That's clear if you go to a different place, or even a different social circle. You find yourself constantly on guard not to break too much expectations, and also annoyed because others don't stick to yours.


Yeah, game theory entirely answers most of these sorts of social things. They'll mostly happen in any government regardless of laws unless the laws actively empower someone over the rest. Being a jackass to people results in them doing the same back. A mutual agreement to all be not jerks to each other is extremely reasonable, and isn't really a creation of government. Even the most remote tribe is going to have social norms toward each other like this.

morriswalters wrote:
sam_i_am wrote:In a purely libertarian society, you would not be required to give back as much to society as you had benefited from it. You would be free to give back as much or as little as you want.
It would be impossible for you to do so. Society as we know it is a cumulative effect, an entity with a long life span with accumulated wealth. You couldn't return the value that has been handed you if your life depended on it. Part of your debt is to increase that wealth, not pay it back.


Again, you're using the word "debt" to describe something that isn't acting like a debt at all. If it isn't something you need to repay, the word "debt" should not be used.

Trasvi wrote:I just want to chip in here and say... not all college dropouts are equal.
Bill Gates, for example, had wealthy parents and a functional family. He scored 1590/1600 on the SAT, had numerous jobs with computers before college, attended Harvard, and 'dropped out' of college to form a company.
Compare that to the other, more common type of college dropout, who attends college because they scraped together enough marks to do an Arts + Communications course, has no idea what this entails, fails multiple units and then leaves because its never going to take them anywhere.


Gates was the wealthiest dropout on that list. Most of the others dropped out to form a company, yes...but started with no particular advantage. What this should tell us is that college is still valuable, and an indicator of success...but merely focusing on the degree aspect misses a lot of what college offers. There's the educational aspects. There's the social networking aspects. Sure, graduates statistically do better than dropouts...but dropouts do statistically a lot better than high school grads. Both steps are of roughly similar magnitude(as is graduating high school instead of dropping out). It's fairly easy to conclude that most people who did fairly poorly on the educational scale could have achieved more than they did.

I think what people are trying to say is that, as a *sweeping generalisation*, people born into disadvantageous situations are unlikely to develop the skills or outlook on life necessary to move far beyond the socio-economic class they are born to. Being born to parents who are young, addicts, abusive, uneducated and/or on welfare, would seriously effect the outlook the child has to having children young, taking drugs/alcohol, to their education, etc. This is a general thing, and there are cases of people 'getting out', but I think you'll find that the large majority of people in highly paid jobs now had parents who were at least middle-class.


And yet, people born to parents in the bottom quintile are highly likely to leave this quintile themselves. Therefore, yes, it's not only possible for you to overcome your upbringing...it's currently statistically probable.

capefeather wrote:
Tyndmyr wrote:it's that increasing overall wealth increases the wealth for all parts of society


Now this is just silly. You said yourself that a section of people would be worse off under your propositions, which people have pointed out could be quite a significant proportion of the total population. Or are we only counting people who "matter"? Humans have grown more and more prosperous over time, ever since it even had a concept of prosperity. You don't need any kind of freedom or democracy or whatever to achieve that. Every era thought it was the best era and everything was known and what they had would be the closest to utopia that would ever happen. Nowadays, we at least have proof in various degrees that we don't know shit.


No, I said that a certain section of people would be worse off in the short term. It is basically impossible to propose any major shift from the status quo that would not disadvantage anyone even in the short term. This does not mean that the status quo is ideal, merely that change has a cost.

And no, I don't think "everything is known". This is obviously, trivially false. It basically always has been. We do, however, know a lot more than we did, and we definitely can and should build our society to continue learning and growing better.


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