Confusing Taxes with Charity: a barrier to Community

Wendy S. Delmater
By Wendy S. Delmater on Wed, Jul 31, 2013 - 6:52am

If there's one issue that defines an ideological divide in our centralized society, it's taxes. One side--claiming to be on the side of the angels because they are helping the poor and helping families--says we are not paying enough in taxes. The other--claiming to be on the side of the angels because they are trying to help the main creator of jobs for the poor, small businesses--says taxes are too high and are hurting families. Both are sincere.

Both would do well to consider not letting our centralized government do all the work of charity. When our way of life implodes due to resource depletion/economic catastrophe, tax (and debt)-funded government transfer payments may not be there any more, or if they are inflation could render them inadequate.

People who currently either look down on fellow human beings as "not hard working enough" or use charity-through-taxation as a (perhaps unconscious) buffer between them and real people in real need are in for a rude awakening. The "poor" are your neighbors. As things get worse, economically, those who are your near neighbors and economically disadvantaged will need you to step up and try and help them fill the gap transfer payments will no longer cover. Of course, one has to be aware that there are scam artists and lazy people in this world. But, that being said, there are also elderly people with no relatives in need whose only reason for poverty is old age. There are abandonded mothers with hungry children who cannot quite make ends meet. There are hard-working, honest men who have been laid off and cannot find a job in this economic downturn. Some of them might live on your street. Do you know who they are? When someone new moves into your neighborhood, do you come over with a gift and a welcome?

We had a new neighbor move in who is going through hard times: these brothers and their best friend with one of their wives and a child are all living on one income, rent-free in a home that belongs to their mother. It doen't take a rocket scientist to see that they need help. There are ways to do that with respect and dignity. They were white. Another neighbor was a black grandmother supporting three generations in her newly-rented home. We showed up with the same welcome gift and have been able to help them with computer repair, wifi, water, the offer of a small summer job for a teen...and they've watched our house when we were away. After two years, we are the kinds of neighbors that wave and smile when we see each other. And, moslty on their own but at with some help from us, their situtation is better now.

I've worked intimately with people in need. I've been in need, and I can honestly say that I received more assitance from individuals than from government programs. If you are confortable and want to mitigate future civil unrest, don't just pay taxes - work in a food pantry. If you genuinely care about "the poor" as individuals (and not a 'class' that's beneath you) help them with resumes, fix their cars, offer them rides, offer to watch their children in an emergency. Gestures of kindness, done with the respect of equals, are far more powerful community builders than taxes sent to a distant goverment, filtered back through disinterested bureaucrats.

Note: If you're reading this and are not yet a member of Peak Prosperity's Community Building Group, please consider joining it now. It's where our active communityshares best practices, insights and knowledge for successfully building community realtionships in your local area and beyond. Simply go here and click the "Join Today" button.

39 Comments

Amanda Witman's picture
Amanda Witman
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I agree with you, Wendy

Building community is key in helping people who are struggling.  I think there is a place for social services, but they will not meet everyone's needs.  There is also a place for organized charity, but again, that is only a piece in what needs to be a mosaic of solutions. 

We are "new" to our neighborhood...we've been here less than a year.  I'm the kind of person who would organize something if it was needed, but even before I moved in, I was invited to "the annual neighborhood potluck" and told (by the sellers) that the neighbors were looking forward to meeting me.  It was tremendously encouraging.

You bring up a good point about how to offer help in a way that upholds the dignity of the recipient.  I think this merits much more discussion, and I'd like to hear what others have done or experienced, as givers and receivers.  I will share some ideas here.

As you may remember, I became a single mom quite unexpectedly about 2 years ago.  Here are a few things others have done for us:

Someone unknown in my life persistently purchases grocery gift cards and has them held for me at the front desk, where they then call me to inform me that one is waiting for me to pick up.  The frequency is not regular, but it's been roughly 1-2x/month, and it has been a huge help to my family.  The amounts have varied (and I think at the beginning they must have come from multiple people). 

We've been offered garden and orchard surplus from friends who said they were happy to see it go to good use if we wanted it.  It was framed in such a way that it felt like we were doing them a favor by taking it off their hands.  Two bushels of corn and a bushel of pears came one fall, and an "extra" CSA box came from a nearby farm a few times, along with the usual zukes and cukes, etc.

When friends and family come to visit and a meal is involved, I confess I'm always thrilled when they leave the leftovers behind for us to enjoy.  It's often something more interesting than our usual simple fare.  If I'm visiting someone who could use a pantry boost, I try to bring a very generous amount of whatever I'm bringing to share, and then I leave it behind so they can enjoy it -- all the while letting them know that I'm not interested in taking leftovers home and I'm happy they will eat it up.  I love it when guests bring a bottle of wine or anything else that is a luxury on a tight budget.

"I have an extra bicycle -- would your son be able to use it?" 

"My husband just cleaned out his closet and he has a lot of good things that look like they might fit your son; would you like to look through them?"

"My granddaughter just outgrew a ton of clothes, and I was wondering if your girls could use them?  You'd be doing my daughter a favor -- she wants them to go to good use but doesn't know anyone the right size to give them to.  If you can't use all of them, you can pass the extra on to someone else." 

A couple of carpenter/handyman friends have said "I have a day without work; can I come over and keep myself busy at your house?  What do you need fixed?"

A Jewish family welcomed us with a fresh loaf of challah bread our first Friday in the new house.  They said they bake an extra loaf weekly to give it to someone, and they chose us that week.  If you enjoy baking, why not routinely overbake and share the surplus?

The retired math teacher across the street learned that my homeschooled teen son was keenly interested in Calculus and invited him over to work on math problems.  What a relief!  I am not a "math person" and it's so helpful to have someone else who can do that with him.

"I'm headed out for a hike with my dog -- would your girls want to come along?"  (Oh, yes, please!)  And now the girls walk the dog when the neighbor is out late, and she gives them pocket change, and they visit, and it's a win-win.  Once she took them mini-golfing and out for ice cream.  I'm not able to do that sort of thing regularly with my kids, and she is retired and happy for company, so we all benefit.

The next-door neighbor has a neglected garden patch that borders my property. She proposed rehabbing and planting it together.  I have only a very very small yard, so this would be a great benefit to my family, to have more ground to plant with food.  It's going to take some work, but I'm excited by the possibilities (she has a large yard with room for more gardens as well).

Several of the neighbors have co-purchased a snowblower, and I've been offered a share in it.  I haven't bought in yet, but I am thinking of it, and I love the cooperative spirit.  Other neighbors have come by without a word to help shovel the driveway and stack my wood. 

When neighbors have noticed that my kids are away, I get calls of, "Got dinner plans?  Want to come over?"  There are a number of single adults on our street who sometimes gather informally to share company and food.

On the flip side, when I've heard that friends were having trouble filling their pantries, it has been a good incentive for me to clean out mine and see if they can use whatever I can't (and otherwise it goes to the food pantry).  I agree with Wendy that it's important to support the food pantries.  Some people grow extra food in their garden for the local soup kitchen.  I love that idea.

Remember that giving money directly is such a tricky thing -- if it's possible for you and you want to do it, it's wonderful, but I think it's important to give anonymously lest it cause imbalance in the friendship, and I think it likely will.  I think anonymous gift cards are a great way to help someone financially if that is something you can do, or anonymously contacting their utilities companies and asking if a deposit could be made on their account to help with future bills.  

A former neighbor once paid the music school a sum to help with my bills there.  It's my opinion that this sort of thing can be done anonymously if you have a clue where the person's bills are.  It's always best to not put the recipient in a position of feeling they must repeatedly thank you, so if they do not know who you are, it avoids that awkwardness.

One adult in my life routinely and quietly hands me some cash when he leaves after a visit, and will not hear anything but "thank you."  He tells me it's his way of honoring his mother, who was also a single mom to four kids, and he asks me to allow him to do it in her memory.  How can I say no to that?  He's framed it so I'm doing him a favor.

Another good thing to remember is that people find it easier to accept a generous gift if they feel they have already given significantly in their own way.  So if you can, prime the relationship by humbly asking the person if they would do something for you, if you can think of something to ask for that would not be a hardship for them, it makes it easier for them to feel they can accept help without knocking the relationship out of balance.

Sometimes the most important gift we can give our neighbors, friends, and family is the boost of knowing that someone cares enough to want to spend time with you.  People who are struggling -- with poverty, old age, disability, despair, whatever -- may benefit most from help with building emotional strength and resilience.  Knowing someone cares about you, is looking out for you, is interested in knowing what's going on in your life, can be like a sort of infusion of emotional resilience.  There are too many lonely, stressed, and/or downtrodden people out there -- friendly neighbors can help mitigate these conditions.

I hope these insights are helpful.  I look forward to responses from others!

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treemagnet
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Churches.

Let the churches do the charitible giving, run the food pantries, etc.  Generational poverty is all government run support breeds - and it places incentives on not working and 'learning the family business'.   My neighbor is a social worker.  I asked her straight up, do they ever get off assistance?  She said in all her years, once.  I asked her if that was frustrating, she said 'oh hell yeah', and who could blame her?  She started this social worker gig thinking she was going to make a difference only to learn she was just a cog in a giant waste machine....my words.   This is a career that requires a college degree?....really? 

Churches know who needs help, more help, and then some more.  No?, then explain Detroit and the rest of the large urban sh**holes....but Detroit alone should be enough.  Maybe a better argument frame would be which yields less grief and human suffering.  I'd argue that my suggestion makes today worse and tomorrow better (thats 'hopeful' to me) and vice versa for any gubmint run boondoggle (thats depressing to me).  So I'm back to the old 'give a man a fish, feed him for a day....teach him how to fish, feed him for a lifetime' thing.   I'd like to know, within a $100K, how much it costs to run a small/er/ish towns county/state/federal social programs - all of it, every salary (including pensions, benefits, etc.), offices, maint., travel, vehicles,  seminars and conferences, overhead, oversight - including a pro rate amount for the entire layer after layer after layer of hierarchy......all of it, annually.  Then, I'd like to compare that figure to the actual dispersement made by the same institution - and remember, even if those numbers are available, they'll come from a government that doesn't count 90+% of its debt as debt!   If the least cost provider of a given service can offer competency, how would you even begin to compete with good hearted, knowledgable, hard working (for free or damn near) church going folk?  A families home burnt to the ground here recently, before the sun set they had a vehicle to use, a furnished home, and more clothes, toiletries, supplies, etc. than they could use - they had to refuse people...they were just overrun with help.  Their employer covered for them for a while, the kids friends parents helped, all churches....ALL churches came together to help, the Sons of Norway (yes, they exist), Knights of Columbus (them too), VFW, and ...? (I forgot which) held dinners, feeds, etc. to raise cash.  Meanwhile, back at the gubmint office ...... well it wouldn't have mattered, they wouldn't have qualified!  (Did I mention they lost everything...they were renters by the way).

So, I say churches.

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dschroeder01
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Churches? How? Are there

Churches? How? Are there churches hoarding money just waiting for government to get out the way so they can start charity work? Fewer and fewer belong to/attend church. Many are stretched to the max as is. Try again.

Community is great, but that is a small scale operation one area at a time requiring cooperation. It's definitely the way things should be, but it seems like the solution that will only become apparent to most after it's obvious.

IMO, the culprit is wealth inequality. We need to incentivize labor through the pay scale. Wages haven't kept up with inflation and wealth has gradually been siphoned upwards. You can work hard and likely still not escape the poverty spiral. Strong middle class wages are what made capitalism work. People are saying why sacrifice hard work for a wage that doesn't get you out of poverty?

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treemagnet
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Try again?

Lets start today!  Churches act like a local charity - at least they used to.  Personally, I wish mine would quit sending money to Africa....whats with this save Africa thing anyway?    Before the gubmint rolled into town - before paid social services, the community took care of its own - as we'll soon find out how to do again, imho.   When I say churches, I mean food pantry and more - as much as each can handle.  Personally, I think this loss of direct contact with needy folks is one of the larger reasons for declining enrollments, as in, a subset of the 3rd Turning 'unraveling' events we've so clearly experienced as a society.  The needy don't see God's work and the church members largely don't see the problem at all, so....what problem?!

The culprit is lost opportunity - and that loss is traced to a credit based economy puffed up with a fractional reserve banking system.....inflation.  Throw in a madman at the helm and its on like donkey kong!  Inflation is the loss of purchasing power, it is theft.  The dollar has lost about 95 percent of its original purchasing power.  Odd ain't it, that the year the Fed was created we suddenly had an income tax....?    I think you'd see another angle if you read about that, the petrodollar, and exactly why the world belongs to central bankers.  Pay scale?  If you mean, raise the minimum wage....you're just flat incorrect.  But you didn't say that, so I don't want to put words in your mouth.   You could make the case that the entire social welfare program of food stamps/EBT, etc is the largest corporate welfare program around with the sole beneficiaries being large food conglomerates, not the least of which is McDonald's et al - well, them and ole Jamie Dimon who runs the whole EBT card program....I think the last I heard JPMorgan brought in about $5,000,000,000 last year to run that little beauty - nice work if you can get it. 

Businesses can't pay better if the customer can't buy.  At least real businesses - not power co-ops, hospitals, government, etc. where its all 'cost-plus' budgeting.  While I see your take, its like a link in a chain blaming the next link for the problem.  Lets take a look who's yanking our collective chain before we start the blame game.  I really liked the first post too (Amanda was it?)!  Really good comments/thoughts.  The local support - besides my churches thing - neighborly kindness, community building, thats the ticket. 

Wendy S. Delmater's picture
Wendy S. Delmater
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dschroeder01, a response

dschroeder01, a response

Can churches make a dent in the problem of poverty? To some extent; it depends where you live. Churches are a viable option that I have depended on, even when I used to live in NY: churches worked okay up there but there was more need and less church participation. I now live in the Bible Belt and it would work just fine here.

But let me strike at the root of your "solution."  You suggested "incentivizing labor through the pay scale."  A higher minimum wage would be one way to do that, and that has two problems you'd best look hard at the Crash Course to understand.

  1. Money has become something that bankers (that incudes the Fed and World Bank) pull out of a rabbit's hat at will, with no collateral, instead of a medium of exchange that is equal to a certain amount of work or products. Our money is no longer "proof that you have served your fellow man." Relentless inflation is proof that what we now call money is worth less, and less. If our money becomes worthless due to debt saturation of governments and the banks that deficit-fund them, a equal distribution of worthless pay is...not helpful.
  2. If hyperinflation occurs, even equalized wages will not be able to keep up with needs. Convesely, if severe deflation (depression) occurs, it destroys jobs. And a government so awash in debt as ours is severely limited in the "make-work" jobs they can create: see the well-paid census workers of 2010 - a drop in the bucket, all financed via federal debt. (My personal opinion is that we will see catastrophic inflation in necessities and a deflation in luxuries.)

Equal pay is a Big Government solution. Both large-scale capitalism (American democracy) and state socialism require large government structures; worldwide those large structures are about to implode due to resource scarcity and government and bank debt. Local solutions will be all we have left. We won't have a choice.

In this country, we do have wealthy, corrupt people siphoning off the cream of the "thin air" created money by the Fed. I am not going to get into the mechanics of how that works - it's complex, and there are various threads/articles here at Peak Prosperity about the corrupt, parsitic banks and their obscene lending practices (and manipulation of world markets in gold, silver commodities, etc). Suffice it to say that when the world realizes that there is nowhere near the promised amount of gold in the world's gold vaults, when the world realizes that they cannot get their cash out of the bank since it has been used as collateral for loans at up to one hundred times the amount of their deposits, when the world wakes up and sees we are stuck with $10/gal gasoline, when governments lose the faith of their people because pensions evaporate...local will be all we will have.

We're surely no worse off practicing for that inevitable day now, in our own communities. And churches used to handle this burden as little as a hundred years ago. Churches are not hoarding cash, but when things fall apart their individual members will no longer be taxed to death by a distant central govenrment. That should free up some local resources for individuals in churchs or community organizations to use.

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Poet
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A Savior Isn't Always A Savior

All well and good, but do note that Not everyone belongs to a church or synagogue.

And with the way that some religious judge and discriminate with much hatred and malice, I fear having people at the mercy of a local discriminatory religious organizations would lead to sad and horrible situations just as much as leaving people to indifferent secular institutions.

Poet

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Yes Poet, but

Yes Poet, but first of all there are non-church resources. There always have been. Our big local food bank in Columbia, SC, and the main food bank on Long Island NY--which was run Harry Chapin's brother-- are not chuch related. Neither is Meals on Wheels, Doctors Without Borders, Toys for Tots, The Red Cross...

Second of all, in my experience at least there was no prejudice encountered by charities run by other faiths.  As a Protestant I once got money for an expensive medicine from Catholic Chartiies. When I was abandoned as a young mother, Federation Employment Guidance (F.E.G.S.) --a Jewish charity--provided me with vocational testing and help choosing a new career through their "Displaced Homemaker Program."

Gays and lesbians and those seeking abortions have their own charity networks, and they are the only groups I can imagine being "discriminated against" due to some religious faiths' policies.

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no matter what

there will be pain - but I doubt at the end of the day, after whats coming has come, that even those pious zealots will still be so hard hearted.  The pain, measured each way, won't be equal - and relying on the very same dollar based social programs will fail badly - resulting much more pain... personal pain and tragedy, than any other alternative.  Its my opinion that the only reason social programs exist in and up till now in our 'stable' economy - until it folds up like a cheap tent, is purely and solely based on maintaining social order, buying off the desperate from acting out on their desperation.  They'll print accordingly, dole out the same, buying votes into the abyss.  When 'it' ends, it'll be past caring for them - the Fed, the moneyed.....So, to me, if one of the best reasons out there for denying these assholes their fiat dreams is to opt out of their fiat world, churches or other seem like a nice, logical, caring, and meaningful step in the right direction. 

I think - or believe, for the same reasons 'there are no aetheists in foxholes', that religion will rise again in the daily importance to people.  Throughout history, people desperate lean on a higher power only to release those convictions (generationally) as economic conditions improve.  The Third Turnings, the unravelings, are about as bad for religion as they can get - I'd say, with no proof other than my own thoughts, that 3rd Turnings are the religious communities 4th Turning.  I'd bet on a strong return to religion - but thats just me, I believe in circular time, and really, really despise the techno-based linear thinking that has permeated our society...how 'bout you?

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Amanda, Wendy

Thanks for your posts here on neighbors helping neighbors. I found your stories inspiring.

I live in a smallish town and our home is in a development with mostly older retired people. We have an HOA to organize things and independently, a men's breakfast every month and a women's lunch every month at local restaurants that a certain percentage attend regularly. I've often wondered what will happen when the economy collapses - how will our neighborhood react? I'm sure many receive Social Security and Medicare. Many also rely on the stock market for income. When all of that disappears, we will have to rely on each other. Fortunately, people here tend to look out for one another. We also all live on at least one acre of land that is primarily grass right now. A few have small vegetable gardens but no outbuildings like greenhouses or chicken coops are allowed. (I have a feeling that will change.) The problem is the average age is pretty high and that means fewer able-bodied people to help the rest. I worry about those who are diabetic and/or reliant on medication. Of course, the advantage is in life expereince and various types of expertise. My next door neighbor and I are talking about starting vegetable gardens next year and trying to promote that with others who can do the physical work involved. There are a number of farms and orchards in the area, so getting to know them better is a priority. My neighbor is on the board and recently brought up the need to stop using Round Up on our common grounds. Blank stares. Fortunately, we have a stream running through the neighborhood and a little damn that creates a pond which has been stocked with fish. So there are pluses and minuses just as there are anywhere.

What I like is that when someone has been in need, others rush to help. Whether it's illness or a death, help is offered. One of our neighbors is in a wheelchair and couldn't get to his backyard. Some of the men decided to help out by making a path he can use with his wheelchair. I can only hope such acts of kindness will survive the collapse. As I prep, I try to consider the needs of those around me as well.

Churches do a spectacular job of helping. But where will the money come from once collapse hits? It's up to each one of us to look around and see where we can offer help, even if it's just a hand to hold. There is going to be a lot of loss and grief ahead. Anything we can do to establish connection now is important. So reaching out with compassion and concern for one another is "money in the bank" so to speak. I suspect government will be no help, or minimal help at best. We all, always, have a choice in how we respond.

Good luck to us all.

Joyce

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oops

dam, not damn!

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westcoastjan
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there are many parts to the equation

Providing care/support for others in society can be likened to an equation with several distinct values, each of which adds up to the sum total, which we could call “success.” This can be viewed much as the calculation used for GDP.

My equation to produce a more egalitarian society would look like this: G + CSR + (C + C) + P, where the values stand for Government + Corporate Social Responsibility + (Churches + Charity) + People.

At present, and as treemagnet pointed out, there is a seriously heavy overweight to the G component. CSR is laggard and not nearly enough considering the profit levels of many corporations; Churches and Charities try to help, but not always in an effective or efficient way, and People, like Wendy and Amanda, are trying hard to help plug the many gaps. The values are so out of whack that it no longer adds up to success.

My work on the finance/budget side of social services gives me a unique insight into the G side of the equation. I concur that funding of most social services is like a big black hole in which good money is thrown after bad, resulting in a system that enables dependency as opposed to independence and self-sufficiency. Like the healthcare system, there is little in the way of cost-benefit analyses, nor are there adequate performance measures in place on an ongoing basis to assess spending effectiveness. Many people start careers in the “helping others” sector. They start with the best of intentions, the sincere desire to help others. Their formal training does not necessarily include any finance or budget management education, with the end result being that many who started out as social workers (for example) way back when, have, over time, moved up the career ladder and are now in positions of power overseeing large budgets. Without any finance background, and having a “social worker” mindset, all too often programs are created and implemented without any real thought as to how those programs are actually going to be funded. There remains a significant number of people who somehow think there is money for everything they can conceive to help others. Their heart is in the right place, but their mind cannot grasp the limitations of budgetary constraints.

As to other parts of the equation, there is no question that greed in the corporate world is prevalent and to the detriment of wider society. How much profit is enough? How much is too much? Where do we draw the line of acceptability, especially when corporate actions result in shifting the responsibility over to the G side of the equation? The corporate world needs to do more. It is that simple. If they do not, they will be the first to experience the social unrest.

Some churches and charities do great work, others not so. I personally see tremendous potential in church institutions from the viewpoint that many churches sit on prime real estate, all too often with manicured lawns and flower gardens. It is a gardening resource just waiting to be tapped by the congregation/community, who, by converting those grounds to vegetable gardens and planting fruit trees, can further contribute to those who are in need.

Furthermore, and as has been mentioned elsewhere, schoolyards are another under-utilized resource. In terms of prioritizing societal needs, when there are dire problems to be addressed, and massive poverty IS a dire problem, it is my perspective that work should come before play. So sorry sports fans, but the huge bucks that are diverted to luxuries such as football/baseball/soccer programs could be instead used to turn some of those fields into gardens to benefit both the school and the community. Kids would be taught valuable life skills, including helping others, and as a bonus, there would be little need for funding for things like school breakfast or lunch programs. With fruit and veggies abundant, no child need go to school hungry.

The People component – of which there are wonderful examples like Wendy and Amanda – are representative of what I would call the Church of Human Decency. We can all belong to this “church” regardless of religious affiliation, race, colour, creed, or sexual orientation. It needs no supreme leader or deity, no physical place of worship, and no rigid doctrine. All that is required for this “church” to thrive and grow is for each of us to embrace it as a philosophy and find space to live this philosophy in our day-to-day lives. Doing so will remove some of the demands placed on the G component of our equation. It will never eliminate it, for there truly are social problems that only the government can adequately deal with, such as extreme disabilities. As always, we have a vested interest. By focusing efforts on the P, we will might be able to reduce the demand that leads to wasteful social spending. This is something within our control that we can do something about if we choose to.

Thanks, Wendy for raising this issue for discussion.

Jan

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formatting went to hell on that...

copy and paste obviously has its limitations... sad

[Jan: I took a crack at cleaning things up. Hope that's OK ~ Adam]

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many thanks Adam!

It looks much better cheeky

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Be compassionate or I'll kill you
westcoastjan wrote:

As to other parts of the equation, there is no question that greed in the corporate world is prevalent and to the detriment of wider society. How much profit is enough? How much is too much? Where do we draw the line of acceptability, especially when corporate actions result in shifting the responsibility over to the G side of the equation? The corporate world needs to do more. It is that simple. If they do not, they will be the first to experience the social unrest.

Who gets to decide.  As a business owner I find this line of thinking common among those who had never run a business.  It's easy to point and say look at those evil corporate people. I can tell you running a business is tough, it's a regulatory and legal minefield.  So how much money should you make, should I get to determine that or should it instead be an agreement between you and your employer? 

Want responsibility not to be passed to the government, then get the government out of business.  No bailouts, no free money, no subsidies.  Let business owners have responsibility and the freedom to run businesses and customers have the freedom to choose whom to do business with.  Do you not realize that all the regulation we have for businesses is how the large business gain power?  If you help to eliminate the competition from smaller players through regulation, you get exactly what we have now.

westcoastjan wrote:

There remains a significant number of people who somehow think there is money for everything they can conceive to help others.

It's easy to have this attitude when you don't have to "earn" the money, or have it given voluntarily.  It's easy when you can send thugs with guns to collect it from those citizens who don't want to contribute.  You want me to contribute to those things, then stop stealing from me and ask me/convince me to contribute.

westcoastjan wrote:

It will never eliminate it, for there truly are social problems that only the government can adequately deal with, such as extreme disabilities.

Why?  You advocate community and membership in the "Church of Human Decency" but then declare that those same people would not show compassion and must be forced via threat of violence to be decent? Do you have to be forced to contribute or do you just view that others have to be? Because what you are saying in that statement is: 

I'm good, but other are not and have to be forced (at the end of a gun) to contribute to what I believe is necessary.

westcoastjan wrote:

By focusing efforts on the P, we will might be able to reduce the demand that leads to wasteful social spending. This is something within our control that we can do something about if we choose to.

You right - we can choose to focus on people.  The first thing to do is stop stealing from them.  It goes a long way to building a community of trust and compassion.  I urge you to think about how you are stealing via proxy and advocating violence anytime you push for government involvement (ie. social spending) in anything.

Jan, I want you to understand I'm not picking on you as a person.  I truly believe you are a good person and want the same things we all do, but it's so easy to fall into the trap of using force via proxy of government.  After all, your not the one holding the gun on the person who doesn't want to contribute. Your far removed from the violence being committed - the money just magically shows up without you having to see it being forcibly taken from someone else.

An article I often reference because it conveys this so well: Button, Button

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gillbilly
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Good and Evil

Wendy,

Thank you for this thread. The posts have been great. I have to be honest that I have never really considered my taxes to be charity. I have seen them to be necessary payments to keep essential public services going. I think of roads, bridges, disaster relief, unemployment, welfare, public bathrooms, etc. as being what we need to keep things going.  There are some things that just don't work in the private sector (i.e. private for pay bathrooms...not a good idea, roads and bridges...also hard to do...who pays?) Are there a lot of nonessential services that might be done away with? Absolutely. Are we paying more for some of these services than we would in the private sector?  Yes. But the baby is not going to be thrown out with the bath water. I grew up in the church (my father being a minister) and Jan is right there are many good churches, and also some bad ones. There are some very compassionate people within any particular church, and then there are a few bad eggs as well. One bad egg can wreak havoc on a church full of good people. All the suggestions I've read above are really wonderful, and I would like to add that it's important to understand that there is the potential for good and evil in any organization, so that shouldn't be a reason not to give or participate in any of them. Even our local governments need a lot of help. They need people to show up to open forums and voice their opinions. They need people to volunteer to sit on committees and boards. Many of these public employees work long hours for little pay and are struggling to get people to participate.

Rhare,

I hear what your saying but to me it comes down to the fact that there is good and evil, pro and con, in all organizations, whether they be institutions, corporations, government, churches, or simply in the minds of the collective. On one hand there is the perspective of force by proxy, on the other there is the acceptance of an agreement that the vote of the majority shall be binding. Which is it? If ten people agree ahead of time that a decision will be made by majority vote, then the majority speaks (six vote for one side), does the minority (the other four) that agreed to the original contract be allowed to cry foul and claim that they are being forced? Should we not have any collective voting at all and leave all decisions up to individuals?

I'm just not sure how that would work? Let's say we don't have any city ordinances and you decide to build a 40 foot monument of a clown in your front yard (another representation of "force"), would it be up to me as your neighbor to convince you to take it down because it's severely impacting the value of my property? Wouldn't the surrounding community "organize" and come knocking on your door to demand that it be taken down anyway? Another example... we all agree that public bathrooms are necessary and should be paid for by all, should the person who disagrees with this be allowed not to pay?... but still be allowed to use the bathroom since it's "public?" I guess what I'm saying is that regulation and taxes are not a gun to your head, but rather social contracts that are supposed to be enforced for the good of the majority. Sometimes you may be a part of the majority in a decision/vote, and sometimes not. 

I do agree that when the regulations are corrupted to benefit the few at the expense of the majority, we are out of balance. To me, this is where we are now. The "force" we are feeling is that of consolidating power in reaction to the fear and realization of limited resources. This is why I think Jan's question..."how much wealth is too much?" is relevant. Since the birth of capitalism, the narrative has been that there is a limitless amount of wealth/individual potential. And early on when the impact on the planet was neglegible this narrative was all well and good. Today, we are pathologically polluting the earth, mining every last resource, and still over a billion people live on $2 a day. We are out of balance and the narrative I mentioned above that goes with the "free market" has hit its limit. I don't know what the answer is, but it is one complex predicament isn't it?

Sorry for the digression...charity...I think giving locally in any shape or form can help restore the balance we desperately seek.

Thanks again Wendy for thread!

 

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darbikrash
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Well it just wouldn’t be a

 

 

Well it just wouldn’t be a complete thread without a missive from our resident anarcho-capitalist, Rhare, true to form with all the requisite finger wagging and stentorial voice that only the true believers can muster.

 

This is where a few $49 online courses at Mises.org takes you.

 

But he is right about one thing, the government is the handmaiden of capitalism and vice-versa. Speaking as a business owner myself for more than 25 years now, virtually every thing else in the post is not only fantasy, but absolutely wrong. The central premise that removing government from capitalism, and replacing it with a laissez faire free market system is completely and utterly preposterous.

 

Unraveling this nonsense layer by layer reduces the arguments of anarcho-capitalism and the central theme of government force to a post adolescent perspective akin to shouting, “we don’t need no stinking badges” and Mom, I’m NOT doing my homework.

 

To start with first principles, libertarian Robert Nozick famously published his seminal book “Anarchy, State, Utopia”, and while still maintaining some libertarian principles, completely takes apart Rhare’s arguments for anarcho-capitalism and debunks the fanciful and preposterous notion that society can operate without a State, in fact, after much intellectual hand wringing, he (Nozick) concludes that any society without (at least a minarchist State) is impossible, and in fact, the State must govern by monopoly of force, a direct and academically correct rebuttal to Rhare’s position that society can operate without “the force of a gun” or without a monopoly State. It cannot, and the reasons can be demonstrated fairly easily.

 

Never mind that in the history of modernity there has never been a society operated in such a fashion-and never will be.

 

To the original topic, many good comments have been made, I especially liked Amanda’s remarks that the continuum of social services is a ‘mosaic’, which I think says it well.  Westcoastjan goes further, and indicates a proportional relationship between the various modalities of social services, which I also think is right.

 

And Wendy’s original post is well written and thoughtful.

 

I do however, have an issue in the perception of such theories of charity, and that perception might come across as them being a more substantive solution than they really are. To be sure, one has to look to him (or her) self first, than family, than community rather than any government provided social services, and in that order.

 

But the focus on charity might lead some to believe that all societies’ problems can be resolved with charity, and this is just not so. Interpreted incorrectly, such well meaning (and obviously true) charitable philosophies can quickly morph into a Randian world where the needy are dismissed with vague and abstract platitudes that someone’s (not exactly sure who’s) charitable contributions will extract the poor from their dilemma, while elsewhere it’s “every man for himself”. I realize this has not been overtly said, but again, it’s a perception.

 

The problem is one of proportion.

 

At the turn of the last century, the majority of Americans were self-employed (about 70% were small farmers). This system relied heavily on family, and community to provide for those unable to provide for themselves. This system of churches, families and communities was highly effective, but we are not in Kansas anymore. The 20th century change to a wage labor economy fundamentally shifted the game in ways that I do not think are appreciated by those that present charitable giving as a substantive contributor.

 

One of the keys to giving is having enough to give. Many, and I mean a great many, do not have enough for themselves, so supporting another family for anything other than intermittent giving is not really possible for many that struggle to feed themselves.

 

I have posted this before, but I think this article by Mark Thoma is a very good summary of the issues:

 

Economic systems differ in their ability to provide goods and services and in the level of economic risk faced by a typical household. Socialism is a low mean, low variance economic system. With a planned economy, cycles in unemployment do not occur unless mandated by planners. Worker income, though low, is not subject to substantial variation over time. Other economic risks, such as access to housing and risks related to healthcare are also very low since these services are provided by the state. Economic risks for workers are low in such a system, but so is average income.

Under capitalism the average level of income is much higher, but economic risk is higher as well. In a capitalist system, workers can be involuntarily displaced as new products are invented, new production techniques are implemented, production moves outside the country, or inevitable business cycle variation occurs. These are shocks that affect workers independent of their own behavior. A worker who has shown up to work every day and worked hard to support a family can be suddenly unemployed for reasons unrelated to anything connected to his or her own behavior.

As the U.S. entered the 20th century, important social changes arising from industrialization were becoming increasingly evident, and these changes exposed the high degree of economic risk under a capitalist system. Migration to cities and the resulting breakup of the extended family, reliance on wage income as a primary means of support, and increasing life expectancy resulted in increased economic risk for the typical worker relative to the more agrarian economy that existed prior to industrialization.

In an agrarian economy, economic security is provided by extended family relationships coupled with the largely self-sufficient nature of farms. On a farm, a recession is a bad harvest, but it generally does not mean a total lack of income. Times can be tough, food can be very scarce and there can be hunger, but generating a subsistence level of income from the farm is usually possible even in the worst of years. For a worker dependent solely upon wage income, the consequences of a recession are much more severe. A recession means a total lack of income, not just hard times. Without the help of others or the existence of some type of social insurance program, abject poverty is a real possibility (see Life After the Great Depression for descriptions of the misery that followed the Great Depression).

Retirement also takes on a different character. On the farm, retirement meant gradually, if often reluctantly, letting the children take over responsibility for the farm, but it did not mean a total loss of income. Children provided for parents. But an aging worker in a city, perhaps disconnected geographically from their children, faces a different circumstance upon retirement. Such a worker may face a complete loss of income, and disability from age is not always an event that occurs according to plan. Even a worker who has diligently saved for retirement can suddenly become impoverished due to events such unexpected health costs, or even a much longer life than expected.

As industrialization progressed, 1920 marks a benchmark year where, for the first time, more than half of the population lived in cities. When the Great Depression hit around a decade later, the social changes the U.S. was experiencing and the need for new ideas regarding the government’s responsibility for the economic security of its citizens became clear. The Great Depression made it evident that in a capitalist system, where the whimsies of the marketplace can wreak havoc on people’s lives, the government has an obligation to provide economic security. It was also evident that the private sector did not provide the needed level of insurance and that government intervention was required to overcome this problem (due to both moral hazard and asymmetric information problems in the private insurance market).

It is important that the economy be allowed to change with new technology and changing preferences, but the consequences for innocent workers affected by such changes is a social responsibility that needs to be addressed. In addition, as extended family relationships are hindered by geography and the social contract between parents and children breaks down, the elderly need a way to avoid poverty. Programs such as Unemployment Compensation, Medicare, and Social Security arose as a means to mitigate these economic risks under capitalism using the least amount of society’s valuable resources.

Drawing a rough analogy, socialism is like investing in T-Bills. Low risk, but low return. Capitalism is like the stock market. There is a higher average return accompanied by higher risk. Financial theory tells how to insure against such risks and there is no reason why this cannot be applied in the social insurance arena to smooth variations in income.

There is a need for social insurance under capitalism.

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westcoastjan
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yes, but

Rhare,

Of course I know you are not picking on me - it's a discussion, and a valid one at that.

I find that whenever a question arises as to how much profit businesses should be allowed to make, generally speaking, business owners get ruffled feathers and argue it is their right to reap what they have made through their hard work and efforts. I agree with this, up to a point, and that point is when the actions of a business cause harm and cost to society.

I come from a family of very successful entrepreneurs, one of whom is a self-made millionaire, and I do not begrudge him that at all. I watched him grow his business over 25 years, all the long hours, the financial risks, the ups and downs and all the efforts he made to do right by his staff and his community. His is a an example of all that is good and right with the capitalist system.

But right around the corner from the business from heaven there are also the businesses from hell. I recently posted on the daily digest an article related to a business man in Ontario who had the money to fix the roof of the shopping mall he owned but out of personal greed chose not to, resulting in the deaths of many people, the destruction of many businesses, the livelihoods of many people, significant costs to emergency services equipment and personnel needed to deal with the emergency, significant costs to the health care system to help all the injured, and now significant costs to the judicial system to prosecute the business man. So tell me, who is inflicting violence on who?

What about the small business here in my city whose driver, with load of home heating oil, drove recklessly and overturned into a river in a signifcant watershed and a prime salmon spawning stream. Any fine that might have been levied cannot come near mitigating the long term damage done.

How about the BP blow out in the Gulf? Does that corporation have the right to earn untold profits at the expense of the ecosystems in which they operate? Do they not have any responsibilties to the gulf region and all that that implies? Or am I to interpret what you are saying that they, as business, should be allowed to operate as they see fit, without any oversight or regulation?

As to community caring for absolutely everyone, let's use a hypothical example. A small community has a resident who has severe physical and neurological problems requiring them to be in a specialized wheelchair and require care 24/7/365. The community has rallied around the family to support them, chipping in to help in the care to give other family members a break, each and every day. However, this person needs to go to the hospital twice a week for dialysis, requiring a specialized vehicle to transport them, as well as a building that has made all the necessary accomodations to allow passage of the specialized wheelchair, as well as the the kidney dialysis machine, the technician to run it, the nurses to assist, the administrators to do the paperwork, the janitors to maintain cleanliness, and so on. Is it your contention that the family pay for all of this themselves? What is wrong with the idea of the wider community collectively chipping in to help pay for this? After all, as Gillbilly said, we chose not to throw the baby out with the bathwater, so given that, we have a moral obligation to take care of the person.

My understanding of your viewpoints is that you advocate for a completely laissez faire system. In a perfect world that embraced integrity it would work. But this is not a perfect world, and because there are businesses that choose to operate in a way that can bring real harm to society, then the price that must be paid, brought on by the irresponsible few, is regulation. And because we are a civilized, humane society that values human rights, we must collectively contribute to the care of those whose needs are beyond the ability of the immediate family to provide.

I agree with you that the regulatory system as it is now is wildly out of control, overbearing and stiffling in many ways. But it evolved for good reason - a rape an pillage mindset evolved in capitalism, resulting in greed of incredible proportions. It is not the good and decent small businesses like my brother's, and perhaps yours that are destroying the planet. Just as many good and decent people are being blindsided by the often illegal financial tactics being forced upon us (is that not a form of violence too - taking pensions from people who have contributed all their lives...) so too are many good business destroyed as collateral damage to societal collapse. If yours was a business dependent on consumer demand, would you not be a tad pissed off that you have to close down because the economy tanked because of all the greed and illegal/immoral tactics of other businesses? How would you feel if you business was located in the mall that had the roof collapse, and as a result, your business and livelihood is toast? Did the mall owner not commit violence against you?

As long as we as a species choose to live in collective manner, there will always be a need for some level of regulation because of the need to share resources, such as infrastructure. Whether we want it or not, this requires us to have a system that is a blend of socialism and capitalism, right/left, whatever you want to call it. It is neither right nor wrong. It just is.

Jan

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rhare
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westcoastjan wrote: But right
westcoastjan wrote:

But right around the corner from the business from heaven there are also the businesses from hell. I recently posted on the daily digest an article related to a business man in Ontario who had the money to fix the roof of the shopping mall he owned but out of personal greed chose not to, resulting in the deaths of many people, the destruction of many businesses, the livelihoods of many people, significant costs to emergency services equipment and personnel needed to deal with the emergency, significant costs to the health care system to help all the injured, and now significant costs to the judicial system to prosecute the business man. So tell me, who is inflicting violence on who?

What about the small business here in my city whose driver, with load of home heating oil, drove recklessly and overturned into a river in a significant watershed and a prime salmon spawning stream. Any fine that might have been levied cannot come near mitigating the long term damage done.

In both these instances, we have a myriad of laws regulations and yet this still happened.  Stupidity and greed will always happen.   What could you have done differently in either of these cases?  And even more important, what could have been done that wouldn't have made your entrepreneur in the family no longer successful?  I can tell you that since starting a business back in 1990's things have become dramatically complex and expensive - too the point that it's almost impossible to make a small business profitable.

That is the point.  There will be greedy people, cheaters, and frauds - this is just human nature.   So when you give individuals power over others (ie. government), where do you think those evil people end up?  The worst thing you can do is give those frauds and cheats sanctioned power to carry out their deeds.  To give them the ability to skew the odds in their favor via regulation.  To give them power to steal to benefit themselves and their buddies at the cost of others.

I don't believe this.  I don't see it in everyday life.  I assume you collaborate with others on a voluntary basis all the time.  Are you forced to collaborate?  Without regulation would you be a lone wolf doing everything on your own?  I'm gussing not.  So why do you think you must force people to comply?  People are quite good at organizing to mutual benefit without having a choosen few using guns to get their way.

 

 

 

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rhare
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Try #2.

My last post was mangled because I left out an end quote tag and it left out most of the material.  Unfortunately I hit save and didn't get back to it before the time limit ran out. I flagged my own post to try and get it fixed, but it hasn't so I recreated it. cool

westcoastjan wrote:

But right around the corner from the business from heaven there are also the businesses from hell. I recently posted on the daily digest an article related to a business man in Ontario who had the money to fix the roof of the shopping mall he owned but out of personal greed chose not to, resulting in the deaths of many people, the destruction of many businesses, the livelihoods of many people, significant costs to emergency services equipment and personnel needed to deal with the emergency, significant costs to the health care system to help all the injured, and now significant costs to the judicial system to prosecute the business man. So tell me, who is inflicting violence on who?

What about the small business here in my city whose driver, with load of home heating oil, drove recklessly and overturned into a river in a significant watershed and a prime salmon spawning stream. Any fine that might have been levied cannot come near mitigating the long term damage done.

In both these instances, we have a myriad of laws regulations and yet this still happened.  Stupidity and greed will always happen.   What could you have done differently in either of these cases?  And even more important, what could have been done that wouldn't have made your entrepreneur in the family no longer successful?  I can tell you that since starting a business back in 1990's things have become dramatically complex and expensive - too the point that it's almost impossible to make a small business profitable.

That is the point.  There will be greedy people, cheaters, and frauds - this is just human nature.   So when you give individuals power over others (ie. government), where do you think those evil people end up?  The worst thing you can do is give those frauds and cheats sanctioned power to carry out their deeds.  To give them the ability to skew the odds in their favor via regulation.  To give them power to steal to benefit themselves and their buddies at the cost of others.

westcoastjan wrote:

How about the BP blow out in the Gulf? Does that corporation have the right to earn untold profits at the expense of the ecosystems in which they operate? Do they not have any responsibility to the gulf region and all that that implies? Or am I to interpret what you are saying that they, as business, should be allowed to operate as they see fit, without any oversight or regulation?

That is a great example of how screwed up legislation can get.  Yes, BP should have been sued out of existence by all the injured parties.  They should have had to pay for the massive cleanup. They should have been incentivized by the massive costs to make sure their subcontractors were not cutting corners, but they weren't.  Why, because all that regulation led to the "Oil Pollution Act of 1990".  That act limits the liability of oil companies.  Why is there a limit?  Just like much of the other legislation designed to protect us from those evil companies, it's causes moral hazard by removing or limiting responsibility of those were being protected from.

westcoastjan wrote:

A small community has a resident who has severe physical and neurological problems ...

Is it your contention that the family pay for all of this themselves? What is wrong with the idea of the wider community collectively chipping in to help pay for this?

I have absolutely no problem with the community collectively chipping in to help pay for it, as long as it's voluntary.  What I have a problem with is stealing from others and forcing them to chip in.  In addition, your deciding that the government and it's bureaucracy (filled with those people looking to line their own pockets) is the best way of deciding how that care should be given.

westcoastjan wrote:

My understanding of your viewpoints is that you advocate for a completely laissez faire system. In a perfect world that embraced integrity it would work. But this is not a perfect world, and because there are businesses that choose to operate in a way that can bring real harm to society, then the price that must be paid, brought on by the irresponsible few, is regulation.

No, this is not my view.   I believe that most people in the world are essentially good due to our communal nature. However, there is also the innate drive to seek out advantages.  So the goal is to encourage more communal spirit (but not require integrity to do so).  The way to do that is to give the community the distributed power to reward or punish behavior that is beneficial to the community without giving anyone in the community undo power over others.   Just as you do in choosing friends, you reward or punish behavior by the amount you are willing to interact with a person, the same occurs in a business fashion.  You use your purchasing power to buy from those who provide or act as you feel is appropriate.

For really egregious behavior you must have a system that strongly protects individual property rights.  The legal system then allows you to recoup losses, providing stronger feedback to the individual or business when simple purchasing power is not enough.

Right now we have the opposite in many cases.  We have regulation that protects businesses from liability, provides undo advantages, or even forces consumers to do business with them (Obamacare).  We force people to subsidize big banks, war, corrupt bureaucracies, etc.

westcoastjan wrote:

But it evolved for good reason - a rape an pillage mindset evolved in capitalism, resulting in greed of incredible proportions.

Have you considered that the reason we have this problem is due to the regulation?  We have a monetary system that we are forced to use (legal tender laws, high taxes on gold and other money).  We have regulation that benefits the large players over small (Monsanto protection act, all the insurance regulation).  I would contend that without special assistance by the government in the way of free money and protection from competition, we would not see the problems we have today.  If you look back through history, all the large monopolies were directly setup or greatly aided by government.

westcoastjan wrote:

Just as many good and decent people are being blindsided by the often illegal financial tactics being forced upon us (is that not a form of violence too - taking pensions from people who have contributed all their lives...) so too are many good business destroyed as collateral damage to societal collapse. If yours was a business dependent on consumer demand, would you not be a tad pissed off that you have to close down because the economy tanked because of all the greed and illegal/immoral tactics of other businesses?

Again, who is doing the forcing? A large business doesn't force me to do business with them.  There is only one entity that can force you to comply.  So yes, I'm not just a tad bit pissed.  I want to be able to offer my consumers good quality products, but I'm strangled by regulations set up by larger competitors.  Why do you think so much of the legislation is written by the big businesses in an industry?  Do you think they are looking out for your well being?  How many small businesses have been crushed by big government support for the big players?  Why compete when you can have government crush your opposition, bail you with taxpayer money, or force people to use your products.

westcoastjan wrote:

As long as we as a species choose to live in collective manner, there will always be a need for some level of regulation because of the need to share resources, such as infrastructure.

I don't believe this.  I don't see it in everyday life.  I assume you collaborate with others on a voluntary basis all the time.  Are you force to collaborate, give to charity, or build community?  Why do you think other's must be forced to comply?  People are quite good at organizing to mutual benefit without having a chosen few using guns to get their way.

 

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treemagnet
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Posts: 344
I agree rhare

I really agree.  Do people really believe folks who own and operate a business do it to employ people?  To donate to every charity and cause?  To fix the world....?  Really?   This 'businesses are going to have to step up' schtick is getting old.  Now, remember - business to me is not business to others.  I'm talking small business, not some multi-national.

The most efficient organizations of giving (churches and so forth) have long been muscled out of business by the gubmint, leaving nothing but a wasteland in their wake.  Everybody's for tough choices until someone they love qualifies for every program social services offers - now they don't have to do it, and everybody else is forced 'to do the right thing'....meaning paying taxes is now 'right' and advocating something less is 'wrong'.  Meanwhile, the handicapped loved ones have their guilt relieved, their expenses spared, and all is right with world because it apparently 'takes a village' for this one too, or at least a villages tax base. 

Last week I was eating a sandwich watching this GIANT handicapped bus poorly navigate a parking lot, after jumping two curbs and a near miss with a stroller the beast was parked.  Out come two people as ramps/liftgates get extended as they extricate two very, very, severly handicapped middle aged individuals.  The goal was not sustenance but.....wait for it...... ice cream!  And really, who doesn't like ice cream?  But we're gonna have to get reacquainted with the concept of warehousing people, 'cause the social services show I witnessed just doesn't have legs.  I'm speaking of a humane yet cost efficient way that radically alters from past injustices but still brings the goal in and on budget.  Just think of the time, money, vehicles, training, equipment, fuel - holy crap, just.....all of it,....medical, housing, 24 hour a day care for life....for life!.... for expensive boutique ice cream that I don't/refuse to pay for.  Amazingly, one of you will label me 'mean guy' or such for not praising the broken system......but we're broke!  Go ahead and hate on me, many with such handicapped people in their lives are likely shaking with anger, fumbling with rage as they hammer out a response, but we're broke - why rely on a busted fiat system?  Why tax the hell out of businesses that operate in a busted fiat system?  In the end, we've basically all lived well past our means by letting the world finance our very over-extended daily way of life - but the party is just about over, and now its time to argue about the tab we've run up.  This one post is just a 1/1000 of the social service dilemma thats all hinging on the same tired funding solution.  So, the problem is still going to be ours but the answer on how to deliver that solution will change and not to our liking, any non-fiat based solutions now have the floor.

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westcoastjan
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Bingo

Treemagnet, you have described perfectly how a system that started out right has run amok. Absolutely a disabled (fyi handicapped has been one of those terms relegated to the politically incorrect bin, which I know you hate...) person has the right to enjoy an ice cream. The key is how do we get them the ice cream? As you observed, we have a system out of control, trying to do everything for everyone, with nary a thought as to where the money will come from. To put two handicapped people in a vehicle that likely costs a couple hundred thousand bucks, to take them out for ice cream is irresponsible, to put it politely. But this is where the un-enlightened enter stage left - they do not have have a clue about the financial realities to the degree that say readers of this site have, or, as to how completely ludicrous it is to go for ice cream in this manner. Talk about a lack of cost/benefit analysis... And yes, overbearing regulations in this type of scenario. I am no expert, but I understand that the Americans with Disabilties Act is very strong, and thus they would have "the right" to go out for ice cream. What is missing is the common sense thought that maybe mom/dad/brother/sister,husband/wife, whoever, would bring the ice cream to them! Eureka! What an idea!

This is one of those "difficult discussions/subjects" that must be addressed but most people would rather not enter these waters. I have no issue with it because I want these stupid things to be addressed! We cannot do all and be all for everyone and everything. End of story. And I say this as a disabled person myself. While I have needs that are by and large un-met in society, I also accept that to have many roll over for one is not always the way to go. In a utopian land where money was no object, sure, let's go for it. But that is not our reality.

I still advocate strongly for proportional contributions from people, businesses and the government in order to find a balance for well being of all in society. I do draw a distinction though between small businesses and multi-nationals/global corporations. To expect a small business owner to contribute in the same manner as a multi-national who has received subsidies and tax breaks is not realistic. It is generally recognized that small business is the driver of most 1st world economies, and that will be even more important going forward with the shift to "local economies". My experience is that most small business owners do things voluntarily, (a la` rhare), because they are responsible members of their communities, and, it is good for business. I personally have much higher expectations of large corporations in my environs - especially those who are operating with advantage due to to having made the right contribution to the right party at the right time. So I expect payback - they better do right from a social responsibilty perspective or they will find themselves duking it out with locals on a regular basis (hello pipeline industry).

Rhare, I see where you are coming from, I just don't necessarily agree with you, and in that, I have to say that post #16 from darbikrash resonated strongly with me. You have your views and I have mine. There is some common ground in some areas, but in others the gulf is wider. To each unto his/her own.

Jan

 

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Exactly!
westcoastjan wrote:

 My experience is that most small business owners do things voluntarily, (a la` rhare), because they are responsible members of their communities, and, it is good for business. I personally have much higher expectations of large corporations in my environs - especially those who are operating with advantage due to to having made the right contribution to the right party at the right time. So I expect payback - they better do right from a social responsibilty perspective or they will find themselves duking it out with locals on a regular basis (hello pipeline industry).

This exemplifies my point. At which point does a business grow enough to suddenly be evil? Why not expect the same from small and big businesses. 

As you said the problem is that we have set up a system to give the big guys advantages because they contribute to the right party at the right time.  My whole point of this discussion, is that we need to stop giving them the advantages.  Those advantages are because we allow government to interfere and create those advantages via regulation.  Get rid of the regulation, you get rid of the advantages the large companies gain over smaller competitors and you then get much better behavior because then they have to compete and keep their customers happy in order to remain profitable.

I still don't understand how people can see this play out across the board and still advocate for more government.  Just look at our money, banking, energy, health care, and food production systems and you can see government locking in profits for the big players and stripping the power from the consumer via regulation.  What does it take to wake people up to the one common denominator here?  Government enforces cartels in all these areas and many more to keep you the consumer/citizen controlled and forced to use products and services at elevated prices and often poorer quality.  They limit your ability to vote with your wallet to force better behavior. Why do people have this notion that government is looking out for them with all this evidence to the contrary?

I certainly thought when people started seeing their choices in food  radically curtailed to benefit the likes of Monsanto they would wake up, but nope, people are still asleep and just hoping that the right people will come to power and save them from all this evil in the world.  I guess they just need a little more power, a little more of your money, and limit your choices a bit more to make it all better....crying  

To bring this back to Wendy's original commentary.  The government disconnects us from our fellow human beings, we are being kept safe, don't have to worry about people in need, don't need to worry about how businesses are acting - regulations,  laws and taxes keep it all under control.  Do you honestly believe this?  Do you really want more or is it time to maybe question some of these beliefs?

 

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Ignore lists - a great addition
westcoastjan wrote:

I have to say that post #16 from darbikrash resonated strongly with me.

I hadn't read Darbikrash's posting because he is on my ignorelist and I have a lot less heartburn if I just resist opening them.  It takes a lot for me to put someone on my ignore list because I don't mind debating the issues, but when people are rude, condescending, and use ad-hominem attacks, I just don't need it.

So what do I find in the first paragraph:

darbikrash wrote:

Well it just wouldn’t be a complete thread without a missive from our resident anarcho-capitalist, Rhare, true to form with all the requisite finger wagging and stentorial voice that only the true believers can muster.

This is where a few $49 online courses at Mises.org takes you.

Nope, same old darbikrash. Not reading any more.

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Funding community without force
gillbilly wrote:

I hear what your saying but to me it comes down to the fact that there is good and evil, pro and con, in all organizations, whether they be institutions, corporations, government, churches, or simply in the minds of the collective. On one hand there is the perspective of force by proxy, on the other there is the acceptance of an agreement that the vote of the majority shall be binding. Which is it?

There is one difference between all those other entities you listed an government.  I can choose to leave a church or not participate and they can't force me to continue.  A government routinely uses force if you choose not to comply.

gillbilly wrote:

If ten people agree ahead of time that a decision will be made by majority vote, then the majority speaks (six vote for one side), does the minority (the other four) that agreed to the original contract be allowed to cry foul and claim that they are being forced? Should we not have any collective voting at all and leave all decisions up to individuals?

You can have collective decisions, voting and all that.  I actually have no problem with contracts that people enter into being enforced.  The problem with government is you are forced into contracts you may never have consented too.  Being a majority vote does not make it right either.  If our government decides to commit genocide and it's supported by 51.1% of the people does that mean it's okay? 

gillbilly wrote:

I'm just not sure how that would work? Let's say we don't have any city ordinances and you decide to build a 40 foot monument of a clown in your front yard (another representation of "force"), would it be up to me as your neighbor to convince you to take it down because it's severely impacting the value of my property? Wouldn't the surrounding community "organize" and come knocking on your door to demand that it be taken down anyway?

I would say you give the benefit of the doubt to the property owner unless they are directly impacting another person's property right, so yes, the person can have the clown.  If your neighbors think it's so horrific, then you should be able to convince the individual to take it down or buy him out.  Note, this doesn't mean you can't choose to buy into land that has covenants based on contract law (ie. homeowners organizations) if you want to have protection against that type of thing.  But it's not governments job.

gillbilly wrote:

Another example... we all agree that public bathrooms are necessary and should be paid for by all, should the person who disagrees with this be allowed not to pay?... but still be allowed to use the bathroom since it's "public?

How is this any different than what we have today with a large chunk of the population not paying taxes?

You can always get a bunch of your fellow citizens to speak with their dollars and put up the money for public bathrooms, parks, etc.  If it's a great idea of benefit to the community then you shouldn't have any problem at all raising the money.  Then it's voluntary - not forced.  With the recent successes of crowd funding programs (Kickstarter, Indigogo) I think it's easy to see that voluntary contributions work.  How much more could be done if 60% of your labor wasn't confiscated?

gillbilly wrote:

I guess what I'm saying is that regulation and taxes are not a gun to your head, but rather social contracts that are supposed to be enforced for the good of the majority.

Try not paying your taxes and then tell me a gun is not to your head!  If something is good for the majority, then the majority will support and fund it and it will get done.  Is it really necessary to force those that don't agree to comply?  We seem to have a lot of "its for the common good" things happening....

gillbilly wrote:

I do agree that when the regulations are corrupted to benefit the few at the expense of the majority, we are out of balance. To me, this is where we are now.

How do you expect next time to be different?  Why can people keep proposing forced participation by government as a solution?  If you had voluntary participation you could decide not to contribute.  Not to be part of this problem, but your trapped now by what the majority has voted for in the past.

gillbilly wrote:

Sorry for the digression...charity...I think giving locally in any shape or form can help restore the balance we desperately seek.

You have to have money or time to give.  With so much being taken, how much more do people have left?

Don't get me wrong, I don't believe we will be moving to a voluntary based society anytime in the near future, but as Wendy brought up the discussion of charity versus taxes, I think we all need to be thinking about other solutions and methodologies, and hopefuly think about the fact, that government/taxes is forced compliance.

gillbilly wrote:

Since the birth of capitalism, the narrative has been that there is a limitless amount of wealth/individual potential.

I don't see what we have now as capitalism.  Capitalism is a way to allocate scarce resources based on perceived need.  Via force of government we have corrupted markets to make the unsustainable seem reasonable - primarily via money manipulation.   Without all that intervention I don't think we could ever have gotten this out of whack, but your right we are in quite the predicament.

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competition - a digression

rhare -

Let me digress for a moment.  There is something I've always been curious about the (more or less) libertarian philosophy and I would like to see how it plays out in an arena I'm familiar with.

In libertarian philosophy, competition is critical to achieving the sort of capitalist nirvana of "reasonably good" economic efficiency - best use of capital, scarce resources, etc.  Yet natural selection in a competitive environment often results in the best business model at that moment reigning supreme for decades past its expiration date, which ends up limiting consumer choice and competition over the longer term.  Microsoft is a prime [but so 10 years ago] example.  Sure we can all choose not to use Office, but in the background Microsoft's vicious business strategy unit is busy ensuring that no competition will survive.  Regulation isn't at fault - its natural capitalist selection that has bred the 900 pound gorrilla that suddenly has the market power to crush all competition before it can evolve.  And as the end result, we as consumers end up in a world with exactly one choice.  How can that happen under capitalism?

I'd venture to say that in the high tech world, we really do have something approaching pure capitalism.  VC firms funding good ideas, strong competition, little in the way of regulation to hinder business in any meaningful way - because technology tends to move faster than legislation.   So its really awesome right up until Microsoft wins.  Or whomever.  At which point, competition ends, because they buy out and kill competing ideas, or otherwise manipulate prices to put the competitors out of business.

How do we fix this?  Or is this just one of the expected end points of capitalism we just have to deal with, kind of like "the company store" - sucks if you are a mine worker with no other reasonable choice, but its just part of the system we have all come to know and love.  "In the long run it will all work out fine" when the iPad comes along and eat's Microsoft's lunch...13 years later.

My question rephrased is - how do we keep true competition alive when big players who have evolved through truly successful innovation end up using their positions to restrict competition through their dominating market position?

My philosophy is to use regulation as to size in order to assure competition: banks need to remain banks [no owning aluminum warehouses, for instance] and they need to have less than 5% of total national deposits.  Participants in the futures markets need to have position sizes less than 5% of total open interest, so they don't end up dominating the market.

BTW I totally agree that many regulations currently in place afford absurd advantages for the cartels.  I believe that regulatory complexity is all about killing off small competitors that can't hope to follow along.  And yet the attraction of going back to a simpler day, Glass-Stegall for instance, has a very strong appeal to me.  32 pages, and it worked great for 50 years.  Restraining the size of the players in the marketplace ends up diluting their influence over politics, and over the marketplace as well.

To me, regulation would seem to have its place.

I'm interested to hear your reply.

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treemagnet

I have a problem with your one time observation of a large handicapped bus taking two people out for ice cream.  You don't know the specifics of the case, you just make a bunch of assumptions.  You don't know if those people are in a daycare situation, living with family the rest of the time; if they are living in a group home setting; if they are living in an institutional setting (increasingly unlikely since the de-institutionalization craze started in the 70s); or how many people that bus generally carries.  You also don't know whether the organization is privately or publicly funded.

Would it make more financial sense for the organization to have a large bus to carry a lot of people around and a small vehicle for occasionally transporting a small number; or would one large bus that occasionally carries a small number make more sense?  Unless we are crunching the numbers, we just don't know.  So, second guessing a situation which you have no personal knowledge of seems a bit presumptuous.

These discussions really need to be a bit more fact based.

Doug

(edited to change treebeard to treemagnet, too many trees around here)

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Hey Doug,

Treebeards sittin this one out.  Its not a one-time observation, going out for ice cream......is pretty much going out for ice cream......anyway you look at it.  It was a public funded program, I see 'em around town quite regularly - family living?  Maybe?...Maybe not?...Does it matter as it relates to what I saw?  Its a large bus, but not huge - could handle more, but really, size of the bus is really not important - another ten feet or twenty is not mechanical, just a longer drive shaft and a little more frame.  I don't think you can apply fiscal sense to the bus program because as you've pointed out, it'll involve assumptions, but since the math won't add up regardless I doubt it matters really.  My post is pretty clear and so is yours - I get that you don't care for my musings on the situtation and thats cool.  These discussions don't need to be more fact based - most things that strike people as wrong, not right, flawed, etc.....well, you don't need a weatherman to tell you which way the wind blows right?   Do you actually mean to convey you don't pass judgement - or at least form a gut opinion - when you see something with your own eyes, absent of facts?....Really?  C'mon.  I'll bet when YOU see something its real to you...I'll bet you, like me, trusts their own eyes more than the words of a fellow poster on some blog on the interweb.  What I saw you see.  Don't you ever wonder how much monetary grease it takes to make those wheels turn? 

Totally off topic, I was told by an older physician that before there were insurance programs to send the bill to, many obviously ( insert word ) newborns were often allowed to expire while the mother was cared for.  Now, thats what he said - I didn't ask for proof and documentation, but it seems plausible that with the advent of an issuer to bill the clarion call of life is to be saved 'at all costs' became a bit more salient than it might be in say, a developing nation.  I get what your saying, but what I think you're trying to say is something altogether different. 

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Quote: going out for ice
Quote:

 going out for ice cream......is pretty much going out for ice cream......anyway you look at it.

Assumptions.  They could have been on their way from one place to another and stopped for ice cream along the way.  Would that change your calculations?

The point I tried to make is that it is frequently misleading to make assumptions without the necessary data to understand the system.  I, too, have immediate reactions when I see something like that, but I try very hard not to make possibly faulty assumptions about the situation or to state those assumptions as if they were fact.  I have personal experience with one very big system that is frequently castigated in these forums as well as other places based on faulty assumptions.  So, perhaps I'm a bit sensitive on the issue.  I more or less reflexively question assumptions that are not supported by data because I see so many biases and prejudices spread thanks to faulty understandings.  All I'm asking is for people to try to get the facts before transmitting faulty info.

"Totally off topic" I don't doubt in the least that things like you cite happened and were probably considered very humanitarian given the lack of financing or institutions to deal with severely incapacitated babies.  In a world before health insurance and sophisticated medical treatments such treatment was probably normal.  Those kind of decisions will have to be made again if we evolve the way Jim Howard Kunstler speculates we might go.  A much simpler world may well require much harder choices.  It's called triage.

Doug

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Determine Levels First

I just saw this thread and read the comments. I see the debate centering around who (which entity) should provide welfare. Private charity favors the lovable. Government rules favor those who know how to game the system.

Shouldn't we step back a bit and try to determine what an appropriate level is before trying to determine who should provide it? When I look at the "needs" out there, I see levels much higher than they should be. Food stamp usage is at all time highs, unemployment numbers are dropping (mostly due to people dropping out of unemployment insurance,) and the stock markets are near all time nominal highs. Do these data points seem incongrous to anyone else?

Is it just greed at the top driving this dynamic? They don't care who they trample upon as long as they "get ahead." So, why should they care? I mean, really, WHY should they care? Are these people important to them or their goals? Would anything change for the "rich" if the downtrodden just died? Aren't they just throwing some bones to the dogs with their charity causes? They crawled all over the people being helped to get where they are. Now, they're supplying a pittance of what they made to assuage their conscience.

So, why do you (personally) care about charity? Are you doing it to feel better about yourself? Do you want to think that someone (like you) will be there if you need help? Is it so your god will look more favorably upon you? Perhaps you'll get a seat closer to JC at the great after-life party.

Can the world support 7+ billion people? What happens if available energy decreases and economic depression occurs? The sustainability level is a moving target. As it increases (as it has in the last century+) humans respond by increasing population. How will population respond when there simply isn't enough to sustain the multitudes? The reversal likely won't be as orderly.

So, what will happen to all those folks who you nourished through the good times (through taxes or charitable donations) ... when there just isn't enough? Are you going to let them die ... or are you going to keep sharing, knowing that you and your loved ones will suffer and die? After you die, who will care for the needy who have grown to depend on you?

I am admittedly selfish. I help those in my local community because I can see that they may be able to help me in the future. (It goes deeper than that, but I wouldn't get involved if they weren't local to begin with.) When I have extra food, I share with them. I hire their kids to help me do chores (till the garden, rake the leaves, paint, etc.) I don't need the help, but it is a good excuse to talk and offer advice. I always overpay the kids. Then, I tell them to save some of it for a rainy day.

Bottom line: Figure out what is an appropriate charity level before arguing who should be responsible. Giving false hope is akin to a pension promise that can't be honored.

Grover

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Good conversation

Rhare, I think your heart is in the right place (I love that you're going to "Burning Man" I've been involved with creating installation art for decades), but I feel you just don't want to see the entire picture. I've owned a business for over 20 years, but I was also a local politician for three years (yes I had to be elected...a humbling experience), which changed my perspective on those who work in government. The community “organization” you describe is how government is created. A government is really just that…an organization (or technology – a means to an end). Have you ever worked in government? I don't disagree with many of your complaints, but I don’t think you understand that what you’re complaining about comes from exactly what you are advocating.  I'll explain below.  So many here complain about government, and for very good reasons, but I rarely see anyone who speaks from the experience of working in government, and in particular, an elected position.

I agree with Darbikrash that capitalism has to have a government in place for it to work. The government is, among other things, an extension of the division of labor, a release valve for the externalities that are pushed out of the capitalist's profit and loss. I think Galbraith was correct in his view that the beauracratic technostructure (created during "mature" capitalism by corporations and the private sector) was a way to externalize as much of the real market as possible. As corporations became larger (because larger is always better right?), they realize(d) that the only way to survive is/was to externalize as much of the real market (disability, poverty, environment, crime, etc.) as possible.

What is disturbing to me is that what we define as "large" corporations/trans-nationals do not necessarily equate to "large" amounts of people or even real things. Capitalization has become something financialized/obfuscated/abstracted, and therefore, we really have no idea what this capitalization, or size, represents.

Grover’s point on appropriate size is well-taken. How much of anything do we need, and how do we act on that?  How large or at what level of capitalization does your business have to grow for it to become one of these “large” organizations? Where’s the line? If you understand the division of labor, then you’ll understand why government/organization is required.  What’s worse is when you really understand it, you understand that every new field/specialization requires more government…I’ll say it again…every new innovation/invention/field!…and most of the old ones don’t go away, at tleast, not right away.

Private businesses absolutely force us to buy their products in this wage/labor relationship… if we want to survive in this "system" (oil being a big one). DaveF’s Microsoft example is a good one, but I would disagree with him in thinking the tech industry is a purer form of capitalism. Dave is explaining system lock-in, which Jaron Lanier (developer of Web 2.0 and AI) describes in detail in regard to Web 2.0. System lock-in is a problem in all markets, technology included…just think of the embedded software/hardware that we can’t get rid of because there are too many markets relying on it (java, binary code, midi, etc)…just think of the financial algorithms controlling our financial markets.

And yes, private businesses need government to help make that happen. As Darbikrash points out, for the system to continue, there needs to be a social insurance to keep this status quo, otherwise the real economy will step in and create major upheavals. Doug’s point regarding context is important in this case. For example, the context is completely different for someone who has made a small fortune in the financial sector, but then comes to her senses and sees the corruption in it, quits her career (keeping what she earned of course) and starts yelling for a “system reset” or “let’s get rid of the entire thing.” Easy to say when you’ve made your fortune already off the system.  The context of this is different from the person who is making a low wage struggling in a field of work that is, let’s say, fighting that corrupted system (doing what we consider good work) and would rather not see a reset since she hasn’t got her financial ducks in a row in the current (corrupted) system. It really depends on your individual story, context, and time.

The over-regulation that many on this site complain about is the result of the ever-increasing division of labor (specialization), and is tied directly to this concept within capitalism. I think it's important that when we talk about being resilient, that we are talking about being less capitalistic, or being less reliant on the division of labor.  This is what Darbikrash speaks of when he mentions the more agrarian economies of the past…they were less capitalistic. There was more balance. Yes there is still the concept of land ownership (another conversation), but division of labor is the major part. I’m not saying that capitalism is all bad, and if you’ve read my posts in the past, you know this, but I think it has its limits that we are all currently experiencing.

Darbikrash's proportionality is something to consider in all areas society in conjunction with Grover’s ideas being expanded outward as well, which gets us back to Jan’s original question of “how much of anything?” So when we give to charity, I think all the opinions above about balance, how much, priority, etc. are all appropriate questions to ask and consider.

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local taxes; local charities

If I can try to re-center this discussion (I started it, after all) I was sort of hoping we'd acknowledge how unsustainable large, centrally-planned socities can be, and mainly focus on how we will be forced by circumstances to make our institutions and charities local.

This has not quite degenerated into a "capitalism vs. socialism" thread, but it's getting close and that, frankly, has been done here at Peak Properity so often as to merit a yawn. Let me state what wrong with large-scale democratic capitalism AND large-scale socialism one last time and then let's start talking about local solutions, okay?

Whether your tax dollars go to Washington or Brazillia, Chicago or Bejing, they have several things in common. (As Dimitri Orlov states, the fallen government of the USSR and the current government of the USA have more in common than they'd care to admit.) Any current social programs are (a) being funded with fiat dollars by governments that are so in debt as to be insolvent and (b) any social programs are being strained through huge bureaucracies that skim off much of the cash/resources meant for those who are served by the programs. The end result of social programs run by large, centrally-planned governments is the same: this is not sustainable. To tout the relative merits of these rival large systems and their potential to ease poverty and want is tempting, but the reason this site exists is we all see 'the handwriting on the wall' that big, unsustainable systems are about to fail. Trying to theoretically decide which centrally-planned, fiat-money, insolvent big government solution will work best in "a world made by hand," locally, is even worse than trying to rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic.

We should all be trying to get on to the remaining life boats rather than arguing if the sinking HMS Socialism is better than the sinking USS Big Capitalism. They are both sinking.

The solutions to social problems will become local. Things will spring up like locally-funded, all-volunteer hospices. Elderly parents will have to live with their families, and get less and less high-tech care. Local famers and gardeners will have to "plant an extra row" for the poor, and allow gleaners into their fields. We will have less clothes and will have to take better care of them, clothes made of non-petrochemical fabrics (cedar closets and chests will make a comeback) so clothing donations will really mean something.

Again, as we make this transition let's not confuse paying our taxes with helping the poor. Paying taxes is an impersonal, centrally-planned solution. And as my younger friends use the phrase, that's so twencent (20th century, the age of cheap oil and abundant social programs.) What have you, you personally done THIS WEEK to help another human being, a neighbor? Like my neighbor Betty who takes dinners to the handicapped woman nextdoor, we will increasingly have to take responsibilty for helping our less fortunate neighbors.

I'm not looking for compliments, in fact my personal religious beliefs say I lose any rewards if I brag, but this week (I am trying to be an example here) I helped an ill neighbor move some heavy furniture, helped an unemployed person with a new resume, brought flowers to a neighbor invalid while I checked up on her, and helped a new 78-year-old neighbor find a local resident who does elder care for his 98-year-old mother. I tried to set up two unemployed people with a place to sell their crafts. With two other people I provided a small church supper that fed some lonely, elderly retirees and gave them a chance to socialize. I don't even want to hear what a "good person" I am - what are you doing to foster community and ease local pain? The days of being able to ousource that societal function are coming to a close, whether we like it or not. Charity, now more than ever, begins at home and will increasingly radiate out from there, not from central planning.

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Kind of how all these threads

develop isn't it? Start with one topic, then someone takes a different tangent or tries to take a larger view, others respond, and before you know it...well, the original poster has to step in to bring it back to square one. In the end, most of it is fruitful.

Thanks Wendy!

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The Grange

A couple of additional thoughts on the charity theme. Of course, any localized community based solutions are important and deserve to be brought forward as a priority, no one argues a counterfactual against this notion.

 

I do not wish to be confrontational, but I think it may add value to the discussion to expand the point of perception I mentioned earlier- perhaps more emphatically. When I see statements that suggest that any future governance can only exist as localized solutions, and, ergo, the source of our problems is entirely due to fiat money and “centrally planned” government, I take issue with these conclusions.

 

Further, the logic then extends to solutions that imply focusing only on your garden, what crops you can successfully grow, and how many baked goods you can give to the needy in your local community. All good stuff, but let’s be realistic here, this is not a solution at all.

 

I would make the comment that this isolationist approach is a complete capitulation of citizenship- which I simply cannot accept.

Just because you grow your own snap peas does not mean you get to forego the tough discussions about political economy, and yes, how, and in what, our centralized government conducts its business. This is what it means to be a citizen, it is the very definition of civic responsibility.

 

Clearly, our monetary system and system of governance are dysfunctional, no one is arguing the opposite case, but I don’t necessarily see any theme of socialism versus capitalism on this thread.

 

However uncomfortable it may be, it is critical to understand that the wage labor economy we are all immersed in is not analogous in any way to the agrarian economy of the past. Having a vegetable garden does not change this reality. This is not a debate of capitalism vs. socialism, it is simply stating the circumstances as they exist- for each and every one of us.

 

It is instructive to go back and look at one aspect of how the agrarian political economy actually worked in the late 19th century and early 20th century.

 

As mentioned, these farms where heavily dependent on community, specifically family, churches, and often (and prominently) Grange halls. These social relations were highly effective, and we can learn from them as to what they did that made them so successful- and – autonomous of centralized government.

 

Let’s set the stage by looking at who they were and what they did:

 

The Grange, officially referred to as The National Grange of the Order of Patrons of Husbandry, is a fraternal organization in the United States which encourages families to band together to promote the economic and political well-being of the community and agriculture. The Grange, founded after the Civil War in 1867, is the oldest American agricultural advocacy group with a national scope. Major accomplishments credited to Grange advocacy include passage of the Granger Laws and the establishment of rural free mail delivery.

 

The Grange was a collective and consortium of community farmers, no shrinking violets, they organzied (often nightly) to advance both community and larger political issues. National political issues. The protocol was to discuss and determine local community issues, resolve disputes among local farmers, elect local governance, and, notably, advance candidates to regional, State, and Federal levels that understood the values of the local community and carried these values to the national stage. In addition, they advocated for not just issues of governance, but on economic and social relations as well.

 

 

Many of the state and local granges adopted non-partisan political resolutions, especially regarding the regulation of railroad transportation costs. The organization was unusual at this time because women and any teen old enough to draw a plow were encouraged to participate. The importance of women was reinforced by requiring that four of the elected positions could only be held by women.[4]

Rapid growth infused the national organization with money from dues, and many local granges established consumer cooperatives, initially supplied by the wholesaler Aaron Montgomery Ward.

 

 

The name Montgomery Ward should look familiar, he went on to found the massive retail empire bearing his name.

 

The Granger movement succeeded in regulating the railroads and grain warehouses. The birth of the Cooperative Extension ServiceRural Free Delivery, and the Farm Credit System were largely due to Grange lobbying. The peak of their political power was marked by their success in Munn v. Illinois (1877), which held that the grain warehouses were a "private utility in the public interest", and therefore could be regulated by public law.

 

(…)

 

Other significant Grange causes included temperance, the direct election of Senators and women's suffrage. (Susan B. Anthony's last public appearance was at the National Grange Convention in 1903.) [6] During the Progressive Era of the 1890s to the 1920s political parties took up Grange causes. Consequently, local Granges focused more on community service, although the State and National Granges remain a political force.

 

The organizational hierarchy is instructive as well:

 

The Grange is a hierarchical organization ranging from local communities to the National Grange organization. At the local level are community Granges, otherwise known as "subordinate Granges". All members are affiliated with at least one subordinate. In most states, multiple subordinate Granges are grouped together to form "Pomona Granges". Typically, Pomona Granges are made up of all the subordinates in a county. Next in the order come State Granges, which is where the Grange begins to be especially active in the political process. State Masters (Presidents) are responsible for supervising the administration of Subordinate and Pomona Granges. Together, thirty-six State Granges, as well as Potomac Grange #1 in Washington, D.C., form the National Grange. The National Grange represents the interests of all Grangers in lobbying activities similar to the state, but on a much larger scale. In addition, the National Grange oversees the Grange ritual. The Grange is a grassroots organization; virtually all policy originates at the subordinate level.

The motto of the Grange is: "In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity." Indeed, the word "grange" itself comes from a Latin word for grain, and is related to a "granary" or, generically, a farm.

 

This is a far cry from the notion that simply growing things is sufficient justification to ignore the larger political economy, rather, it is a concrete example of how a grass roots organization in an agrarian economy mobilized to provide meaningful contributions to not only local governance, but national centralized government as well. These farmers knew full well that focusing only on the local community was foolhardy, they understood that Federal and State politics affected them in profound ways, and they addressed these matters head on.

A key attribute to this success was in the sheer level of participation by the Grange members which included most of the community’s farmers, and their wives as well. They met frequently, often nightly at purpose built Grange Halls located in each community. They farmed all day, hard work to be sure, and in the evenings, they met for long hours late in the evenings to manage and debate critical issues. They were not afraid to challenge either corporate or government forces, they (successfully) took on the railroads in the late 19th century, arguably one of the strongest forces of the time, and lobbied (and got) substantive concessions from robber barons not inclined to recognize a bunch of farmers. They also had a significant effect on Federal politics.

 

Fast forward to our current wage labor economy and I believe similar tactics would prove useful. Note the long hours that the Grange farmers put in debating political issues and social relations. This is exactly the opposite of the notion of simply just growing things and letting the world “sort itself out”. I find it pure folly to criticize centrally planned government in this age of global connectedness. Like it or not, it is here to stay, at least in my lifetime. Consider also that in the commercial sector, centrally planned organizations are not only highly efficient and successful, they are the preferred hierarchy. Let’s use the much maligned example of Walmart as an example. With nearly 2 million global employees, they are a de facto State, and their highly effective centrally planned actions affect all of us- and profoundly so. As any (now defunct) local retail store in Small Town USA will tell you, they were no match for the centrally planned leviathan.

 

Challenging the tenets of capitalism is not the same as advocating socialism. We as a society have got move past these counterproductive memes and be willing to educate ourselves, to ask the tough questions, and to shout down the nonsensical ideologies that constrain us from making good decisions.

 

The Grange would have not had it any other way.

Wendy S. Delmater's picture
Wendy S. Delmater
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Dec 13 2009
Posts: 1982
a realist

I did not know that fact about the origin of Cooperative Extensions services. Thanks. But Granges were and are, to a VERY large extent, local. My parents retired to Plainfield, NH, and the Plainfield Grange is still there, serving local farmers.

I'm not an isolationist, but rather a realist. Of course there will still be helping organizations during a long emergency, and one thing different from the 1800s (unless there is an EMP or Carrington Event)  is that we have computers to facilitate local solutions. If we have time, which is a big if, modern technology might help local things.  Crowdsourcing can be and is used for charity fundraising, for example.

Since the 80s the trend has been toward mass customization; Makerbots--the computerized machines that can print matter in 3-D--are merely the latest "local solution" helping 3rd World poor but everything is in the process of getting decentralized. Instead of mainframe computers we have invididual machines, first PCs with towers and now as small as our phones - all of which can be linked up (client-server, or distributued computing like for SETI or [email protected]) Instead of landline phones, we have cell phones, and internet phones - some developing countries never laid a phone wire and went right to the digital age, which saved them costs on infrastructure. Instead of large power plants we will eventually move to grid-tied distbuted solar (or other alternative).power - Germany is aleady pretty far along that path. These solutions are brought to us by individuals and technology trends rather than by large central governments. Mostly, central governments get things wrong (Solyndra, anyone?)

If there is not enough time to switch over to localized charity solutions and there is a huge and sudden crash, when the dust settles we can think about other-than-local solutions. I assume that those living under a dark-age monarchy would not have been able to envision a republic or a socialist state. What form of governement comes after a crash may be just as unexpected to us, and I for one am not about to suggest what it might be. But in time for the initial crash we'd better get to know our neighbors to survive, especially if we want to get to the other side and start buildng whatever new world there will be. The old social safety net structures are about to crash, and in some places (Greece) already have crashed. Taxes wil no longer be a substitute for local goodwill and charity when governments or currencies implode.

 

Grover's picture
Grover
Status: Platinum Member (Offline)
Joined: Feb 16 2011
Posts: 800
A Broken Circle

Wendy,

I've been thinking about the circle of charity. Those who have ... should share willingly with those who need. (Notice that I said "need" rather than "want.") I give freely when I detect a real need. I'm more prone to jump in after an immediate disaster - car accident, fire, sudden illness, etc. The needs are obvious and the time frame is limited. On the other hand, I turn a deaf ear to someone who complains about being poor while smoking a cigarette and swilling a can of beer.

I'm drawn to the tribal life of the Native Americans. Those tribes were essentially self sufficient. They traded and warred with neighboring tribes, but generally the tribe succeeded or failed as a unit. Everyone went through the same rites of passage so there weren't any generational differences. The old and infirmed were given care by the rest of the tribe, just as they provided care for prior elders. At some point, the elders knew it was time to end the charity. Of course, the harsh lifestyle, brutal weather conditions, and aching joints helped to influence the decision. It was considered honorable to face death on your own terms. At some point, the needs of the tribe exceeded the needs of the individual.

There needs to be an understanding that charity/welfare is a zero sum game (from a monetary aspect.) Anything that is received must be first given. The giver has to receive something or giving won't be important. That something can be a genuine "Thankyou" or just the thought that I (the giver) am a better person for doing this. I see that link being broken in the welfare system. Why be thankful if you are entitled to the benefit? If it comes from very deep pockets (the faceless government,) is there any appreciable cost to the giver? If there isn't any cost, what is there to be grateful for?

That dynamic is broken with the welfare mentality. More is never enough. As we slide down the backside of the Peak Oil curve, more won't be an option - at least, generally speaking. Is it fair to raise the expectations of the recipients? From my personal experience, it is much easier to slowly wean from an addiction than to go cold turkey.

I know you don't want kudos for what you do with your community. You are doing it for selfish reasons that are important to you; otherwise, you wouldn't do it. I do it for similarly selfish reasons. More power to you!

Grover

rhare's picture
rhare
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Mar 30 2009
Posts: 1323
I support freedom in Software - Microsoft is not an example
davefairtex wrote:

Let me digress for a moment.  There is something I've always been curious about the (more or less) libertarian philosophy and I would like to see how it plays out in an arena I'm familiar with.

Sorry for the delayed response, I wanted to get back to you on this and just haven't had enough hours in a day.

davefairtex wrote:

Yet natural selection in a competitive environment often results in the best business model at that moment reigning supreme for decades past its expiration date, which ends up limiting consumer choice and competition over the longer term.  Microsoft is a prime [but so 10 years ago] example.  Sure we can all choose not to use Office, but in the background Microsoft's vicious business strategy unit is busy ensuring that no competition will survive.  Regulation isn't at fault - its natural capitalist selection that has bred the 900 pound gorrilla that suddenly has the market power to crush all competition before it can evolve.  And as the end result, we as consumers end up in a world with exactly one choice.  How can that happen under capitalism?

First, let me say there has always been choices.  I ran a business from 1990-2000 or so with nearly no Microsoft products.  We finally had to keep a box around to deal with people sending us various Office documents. angry FYI - we were entirely BSD/Linux based.

So my first thought is that it Microsoft was substantially aided by government in several ways, so they are not a natural monopoly.  The first is the use of government to protect "Intellectual Property"  (aka Intellectual Protectionism) primarily via copyright and patent laws - in particular software and business process patents.  The patent office isses many many questionable patents, and once obtained, even if invalid can kill off any competitor simply due to the cost to defend or work to overturn a patent.  You can read about this issue from EFF.

Built on top of this is that government picked Microsoft as the winner long ago when they decided to use Microsoft products internally and support a closed proprietary format for information exchange (ie. Word, Excel, Visio, Powerpoint).   Until web based technologies and mark up languages (XML) became widely used, and open standard formats were demanded by governments (not the US)  this was a huge competitive advantage for Microsoft. If you needed to work with government, you also had to use those formats.

Next we also have wide spread support for Microsoft via government schools.  If your a school and choose to support Microsoft over other competitors, who do you think students will use outside of schools?

Don't get me wrong, businesses other than Microsoft led greatly to their dominance at their expense.  If you pick to use a closed proprietary format for your work, then you have fallen into vendor lock-in.   This is what led to much of Microsoft's success.  If you have thousands of documents that can only be opened by a particular vendors software, you have pretty much given that vendor a monopoly over your business, even if they don't have a monopoly in the common sense - but whats the difference?  As a business it's wise to avoid vendor lock-in as much as possible, it's why we resisted the Microsoft trap in our business, well other than the fact that Windows was a really crappy/poor performance/buggy/insecure server environment. wink

davefairtex wrote:

In the long run it will all work out fine" when the iPad comes along and eat's Microsoft's lunch...13 years later.

Apple isn't what eating their lunch, Open Source, Linux/*BSD, Open protocols are what's eating both Apple and Microsoft's lunch.   Apple is even worse than Microsoft at playing the patent game.  They have actually bought a president to prevent others from playing the same game they have been using to kill off competition.

Want to see what open protocols, open source can do, just look at Android.  You can download the source, change it, put it on different devices, etc.   While I really don't trust Google (different kind of evil), they don't play the protectionist game like Apple and Microsoft and look how well they have done.

Note, this is not just a Software issue, look at all the protectionism provided via legisilation to the Music and Movie industries (ie. DMCA).

davefairtex wrote:

My question rephrased is - how do we keep true competition alive when big players who have evolved through truly successful innovation end up using their positions to restrict competition through their dominating market position?

There are very very few products by any of the big players that are truly innovative - something that was not stolen or bought from smaller players or academia (paid for by you and I) polished, and then marketed.

davefairtex wrote:

Restraining the size of the players in the marketplace ends up diluting their influence over politics, and over the marketplace as well.

I think legislation like Glass-Steagall are just band-aids on problems created by previous legislation.  Like limiting competition in money, or providing government guarantees on loans, FDIC insurance, etc. All these regulations have unintended consequences, and we are seeing those bubbling to the surface.

ptwisewoman's picture
ptwisewoman
Status: Bronze Member (Offline)
Joined: Nov 18 2008
Posts: 56
Assumptions, All Being Right and the Usual Dichotomous Argument

I just joined and managed to wind my way through this post.  Good questions and observations in almost all posts.  Just to put my comments in perspective.  I have run a successful business, worked for local government and spent a lot of time interacting with communities to try to solve problems.  There is an old saying about assuming circumstances from brief observations and we are all guilty of it at times.  Fighting the desire to be judgmental is an ongoing fight for nearly everyone I know, including me.

I agree that people need to be open more to seeing need and helping to solve that as respectful equals, not as a hand-out and not expecting our taxes to handle it all.  But if there is no government and no social contract/safety net what happens to the family with legitimate needs that doesn't have observant neighbors or ones who are willing to help?  Or that don't live near a church that actually still does charitable work and isn't a member of one that only focuses on member need.

The issue of need comes from a capitalized/monetized society structure, as someone has already mentioned.  The Native American societies of old had welfare and it was a tribal/chiefdom responsibility with large responsibilities for family/clan.  The old, the infirmed, the young and those who were experiencing a short term crisis were cared for from the tribal bounty, that was contributed to by all who had a good harvest and distributed by the chief.  Family members were expected to do their part, as was the clan.  If the chief did not care for all the tribe, he likely found myself no longer chief at the next election.  And most of the eastern tribes did elect chiefs, they were not necessarily hereditary though sometimes they came from the same clan. Sounds somewhat like the small amount of taxes we spend for social safety net programs (not all taxes) though the one-size fits all and little real assistance in problem solving makes our existing programs less than effective.  And I will point out the entire tax structure needs major revision, as in start over, and no I don't believe voluntary taxes is the way forward so I'm not going to have that discussion.

The problem comes from nearly every activity of life being monetized, the "job" market not big enough for the pool of applicants (assuming the skills are there for the jobs that are available), "wages" not able to cover costs, too many overlapping and illogical regulations meant to decrease competition not ensure it, too many folks totally ignorant of how to do for themselves other than having a job, the expectation that our taxes should and does take care of the problem (disconnection due to size and a self-centered mind-set), the increasing and destructive belief that individualism should be a religion that trumps community and the incessant need to make every discussion into an ideological moment.  If we are to solve these problems for the societies that stumble out of the upcoming mess, we will need to be able to discuss without making everything into two opposing "solutions" neither of which see the whole elephant.  No government means governance by mob, then by large corporations or by another government.  Vacuums always get filled.  Anarchy isn't nirvana (whether on the left or right political spectrum) and as has been already pointed out, has never existed in history for long and certainly not intentionally.  Tribal societies had government, it was just different and scaled for the tribe.  A strong free market system needs an effective, not bought form of government that is managed by an active citizenry that gets involved and votes!  As complex technology falters as we slide down the peak oil slope, I suspect large nations will become smaller nations and possibly active participation will be much easier.

Before the usual question from some about who decides does its usual surfacing, I'll address it simply and clearly.  All of us decide.  If it is a democracy it is called majority rule for a reason.  If you are in the minority you will need to be willing to compromise, dialogue, maybe change some minds and accept the outcome and move on.

And I will mention that joining the Grange and the Masons and other groups who work to address community issues and care for their members when in need, needs to be re-discovered as one of many solutions to this problem.  And it will need many solutions.  Not one or two but many.  Because there will be lots of need in the future as we enter this period of collapse.

And one last observation.  We must get past our fear.  In the U.S. fear is consuming us.  It is everywhere.  When we are afraid we are easily manipulated, very angry, very judgmental, willing to trade personal freedom for security, willing to let the "experts" decide for us, find it easy to shoot someone on our doorstep in need because we assumed they were dangerous, unable to actually listen to opposing viewpoints because we just want a solution that stops the pain or that confirms how right we think we are, easily distracted and generally really poor citizens of a representative democracy.

rhare's picture
rhare
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Mar 30 2009
Posts: 1323
As long as the mob decides, it's okay...
ptwisewoman wrote:

But if there is no government and no social contract/safety net what happens to the family with legitimate needs that doesn't have observant neighbors or ones who are willing to help?  Or that don't live near a church that actually still does charitable work and isn't a member of one that only focuses on member need.

I believe you are making some assumptions:

  • That government will step up and help?  Do you really think government is going to be observant that someone is is need when a neighbor doesn't?    If a person in need doesn't seek out help they need, government is certainly not going to come to their door and say, hey you look troubled, where you at least have that chance with a neighbor.
  • If you think charitable actions by non-governments have waned, why?  Perhaps because the money is their for people to be charitable because a high percentage of income goes to support government?  Would you be more charitable if you had say 43% more income?
  • Then there is the final assumption.  You are assuming that while you are good and would help, others would not.  Why?  How can we build a world based on cooperation when there is this moral arrogance floating around.  I'm good, but others are not so we need to steal from people (taxes) to insure everyone is taken care of.
ptwisewoman wrote:

The Native American societies of old had welfare and it was a tribal/chiefdom responsibility with large responsibilities for family/clan.

...

And I will point out the entire tax structure needs major revision, as in start over, and no I don't believe voluntary taxes is the way forward so I'm not going to have that discussion.

Yes, there has most often been a ruling class. It doesn't matter if it the chief of a tribe or a modern day politician.  If you think tribal leaders are benevolent, then you are really buying into the storybook illusion, just look at the massive amount of corruption within modern Indian politics. Anytime you have a ruling class, they will abuse those they rule over - now and in the past.

Isn't that making a really big assumption if you don't consider voluntary activity.  If you start with the assumption that you will use violence to make your world better?  It's all well and good to talk about how we need to be more compassionate but it seems highly hypocritical when you decide you are going to take from others using a gun as a starting point.

ptwisewoman wrote:

No government means governance by mob, then by large corporations or by another government.  Vacuums always get filled.

I think you are making another assumption here.  Just because you make something voluntary doesn't mean it won't exist.  You can easily have a government that is voluntary.  Just as you choose to join any organization.  Do you belong to any clubs/organizations?  Do they collect dues?  Do any of those clubs provide services?  If yes, then you are seeing voluntary governance with voluntary taxes.  Take many churches for example, they collect money voluntary, (they don't go to your house with a gun and take from you), and provide services to members and non-members alike (charity). 

How much more responsive do you think a government would be if it had to actually please the citizenry in order to persuade them to give money, versus the current scenario where they can take what they want?  Think we would be bombing other countries?  Giving special favors to large corporations?

ptwisewoman wrote:

Before the usual question from some about who decides does its usual surfacing, I'll address it simply and clearly.  All of us decide.  If it is a democracy it is called majority rule for a reason.  If you are in the minority you will need to be willing to compromise, dialogue, maybe change some minds and accept the outcome and move on.

So if a group decides it is fine to rob others, kill them, then just because the majority decided it's okay?  So let's take a look at something up your alley.  The Indian tribes got what they deserved.  The majority said, kill them, take the land, put them on reservations.  All good and okay since the majority decided?  I guess they just didn't vote or "change minds".   My guess is you can only hold this attitude if you have been on the "abusing" (winning/majority) side most of the time.  Just because a group votes to do something doesn't make it right.

ptwisewoman wrote:

And one last observation.  We must get past our fear.  In the U.S. fear is consuming us.  It is everywhere.  When we are afraid we are easily manipulated, very angry, very judgmental, willing to trade personal freedom for security, willing to let the "experts" decide for us, find it easy to shoot someone on our doorstep in need because we assumed they were dangerous, unable to actually listen to opposing viewpoints because we just want a solution that stops the pain or that confirms how right we think we are, easily distracted and generally really poor citizens of a representative democracy.

First we are not supposed to be "representative democracy", rather a "constitutional republic".  While the later is better in my opinion it still suffers from many of the same issues.  So who is promoting the fear?  Who keeps telling us to be fearful of our neighbors.  Sure looks like its our government producing boogymen everywhere so they have a reason to take away more of our freedoms.

Hmm:

ptwisewoman wrote:

unable to actually listen to opposing viewpoints because we just want a solution that stops the pain

and no I don't believe voluntary taxes is the way forward so I'm not going to have that discussion.

If it is a democracy it is called majority rule for a reason.  If you are in the minority you will need to be willing to compromise, dialogue, maybe change some minds and accept the outcome and move on.

I'll leave you with some Larkin Rose - while talking about how to handle problems, I think it equally applies here:


 

 

elvismik's picture
elvismik
Status: Member (Offline)
Joined: Mar 11 2015
Posts: 1
Challah you say

When you say challah, I say Zomick's Challah Bakery

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