Equality: A fourth ‘E’ for the Crash Course?

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Equality: A fourth ‘E’ for the Crash Course?

Hello,

 

I've written a blog post on why I think 'Equality' is a fourth 'E' for the crash course :) Here's the link:

Equality: A fourth ‘E’ for the Crash Course?

It's fairly long, but hopefully of interest to people.

Comments and feedback actively encouraged!

 

cheers

 

Tomsk

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Here's a little executive

Here's a little executive summary:

My argument is that high levels of debt (government, corporate and personal) are not due to financial mismanagement or due to people "living beyond their means". Rather I argue that the levels of debt are an almost inevitable consequence of the high levels of financial inequality. Since investments are always made at interest the debt will always grow exponentially.

The debt cannot be repaid in real terms no matter what austerity measures are introduced. The only way the debt can be repaid would be to correct the underlying financial inequality.

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debts cannot be repaid

How can you say "The debt cannot be repaid in real terms" AND "The only way the debt can be repaid" in one paragraph?

The debts cannot indeed ever be repaid, because they always grow faster than he GDP due to interest.  The debt hockeystick must always be steeper than the one for economic growth.  That is the inevitable consequence of a debt based financial and monetary system.

"To correct the underlying financial inequality", there is only one solution:  cancel all the debts, and start again with a brand new sustainable economy.......  Now THAT, the financial institutions would love! ;-)

Mike

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I stand by my statement

I stand by my statement although I agree it's a little confusing at first sight :)

Every debt can be repaid in financial terms, if you think creatively enough. For example, the government could print huge wads of cash and give it to all the poor people. They could then repay all their debts, in financial terms at least. This would also rebalance the financial inequality. This is a hyper-inflation scenario.

However, this wouldn't be repaying the debt *in real terms*. All that's happened is that the currency has been devalued so much the debt is worthless. It's essentially just the same defaulting on the debt, only legally speaking the debt has been paid.

All this is talked about in more detail in the full article.

I entirely agree with you that ultimately the only answer is that the debt must be cancelled one way other another, and the financial institutions are not going to like it one bit ;)

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Fourth E

While I don't think anyone would argue that a drastic economic gradient is a good thing, I would hesitate to say it's what is causing excessive lending.

I suppose the argument could be made and well supported that the increase in inequality exacerbates the need to take on additional debt to improve ones' financial wellbeing/social status, but it seems to me as if the debt came long after the inequality.

The robber barons were sharply more wealthy than the bottom social tier of their time, but the debt held steady until Keynsian economic policy took solid root after WWII. The money system literally uses debt to define the wealth or vigor of an economy, so it's easy to see that the disparity in lifestyles exists autonomous of an economic policy.

To highlight this even further, we can examine the disparity of social standards in other economic systems; such as Communism in the U.S.S.R., or China, and we see indelibly that the population is always going to have a component that bears the burden of the societies labor. Fiscal equality is a good and noble goal - but too shallow of a gradient (such as was present in the U.S.S.R.) leaves little room for individual motivation/prosperity.

Either way, we need to strike a balance. Personally, I don't see the need for a 4th E, but you raise good talking points.
Cheers,

Aaron

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"To correct the underlying

"To correct the underlying financial inequality", there is only one solution:  cancel all the debts, and start again with a brand new sustainable economy.......  Now THAT, the financial institutions would love! ;-)

Great idea,  I would love it and I dont even have any debt.

Rich

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Indeed it is obviously more

Indeed it is obviously more of a talking point than an actual request to add an actual fourth 'E' :)

None the less I think the role of inequality is critical. As I describe in the full article. It is not so much that inequality is the cause of excessive debt, it is that it requires excessive debt. A society that has very high levels of financial inequality simply cannot function without also having very high levels of debt. I'm not so much arguing whether inequality came first or debt came first. Instead I'm arguing that this is in fact a socio-economic law: if you have high inequality you must also have high debt.

Now to my mind if this is true it has some radical consequences for how our policy makers need to respond to the current debt crisis. If we understand that the current distribution of wealth needs very high level of indebtedness then it means we cannot solve the crisis by austerity. The debt cannot be repaid without correcting the financial inequality, and any effort to do so will be entirely futile.

It would also have very important consequences for how we avoid being in this situation again in the future. 

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Thoughts
Quote:

I'm not so much arguing whether inequality came first or debt came first. Instead I'm arguing that this is in fact a socio-economic law: if you have high inequality you must also have high debt.

This I completely disagree with.
Generally, any statement that has "must", "always", "never" or other such absolutes are very hard to substantiate, and very easy to discredit.
It could be said that many ancient societies had absolutely no debt, and have a backbreaking disparity in wealth - Ancient Egypt comes to mind. In more contemporary terms we can look at nations that are relatively uniform in terms of wealth (Spain) and have enormous amounts of debt, or we could look from the other angle and talk about societies with great disparities in wealth and relatively low debt, like Russia.

I don't mean to be harsh towards your concept, but I'd submit debt is autonomous of ideology, general wealth, cultural considerations and economic stuctures.

It's a demand placed upon modern societies by the central banks, and will infect any and all who come in contact with it.
The central banks are, in essence, the disease - while societies with disparate wealth gradients are just one of the many host types.

Cheers,

Aaron 

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It is a must in the same

It is a 'must' in the same sense as Chris's statement that our economy must grow to service our ever expanding money supply. 

To be more precise my statement would be that any society that has high enough levels of  financial inequality, and where the rich lend money as an investment, must have high levels of debt.

The argument for this is rather lengthy so rather than laying it out here, I refer you to the discussion in my article. 

 

 

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But...

I've just cited examples where it does not exist.

So, it's not a "must". You're showing a relationship, but not a causual relationship - which, unless I'm misunderstanding, is your intent.
Because societies where the rich do not lend or rates are very low also suffer from inequality; the Saudi example comes to mind.

In short, no agreement.
Cheers,

Aaron

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I do not imagine that in

I do not imagine that in Ancient Egypt the wealthy made their primary income by investing their money at interest. 

Spain does not have a very equal in wealth distribution. According to this report the top 10% of the population own 70% of the financial wealth. Even then saying that high inequality requires high debt does not mean you cannot have high debt without high inequality.

Russia's has low government debt but it's total corporate and personal debt is rather higher (71% GDP). It's certainly lower than the United States total debt, but I definitely wouldn't call it "low" by any stretch of the imagination.

I would argue breaking the picture up country by country looking for counter examples is not necessarily a logical approach. The reason is the picture is very heavily muddied by the rich holding assets in other currencies. For example, I expect many Russian billionares hold a large percentage of their wealth in US dollars, and actually do a lot of their investment in the US. Therefore for the purposes of this analysis they actually count as US citizens, not Russian ones. Because in many ways they have a greater effect on the US economy than on the Russian economy.

In any case this is interesting feedback, thanks :) 

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  A good article, thanks

 

A good article, thanks for posting.

I think there is some validity in your premise, but I would submit that linking growing debt with growing inequality is simply conflating two associated symptoms which are joined by an “unseen” intrinsic cause.

You are quite right to focus on wealth inequality as a pertinent symptom of the relative health of our democracy. I use the word democracy and not economy deliberately, as I shall make the point that the wealth inequality has deeper ramifications that just our financial economy.

Much is made on this forum and in the Crash Course on the importance of debt, and by extension, money creation as a central cause of what ails us. I think this is a very effective way to present the criticality of our current situation, and is a call to arms that is presented in absence of political bias, which allows the largest possible audience. The three E’s represent a self affirming non deterministic “death spiral” if you don’t think the debt will get us first, the environment will, if you don’t think the environment is in danger of giving out, than the energy resources will. In this sense, the decline of modern economy is in effect covered by three bases, any one of which is sufficient to sink the ship. Said another way, pick your poison. I think this is a great method of presentation, as it is a secular construct.

I believe the creators of this material know full well these conclusions extend beyond the confines of these three subjects, and in fact extend deeply into the fabric of our political economy, to the core of our democracy. Wisely, these conclusions are left to the discovery of the individual, and are not admonished in dogmatic fashion. You can see what you want to see, or perhaps more succinctly what you are ready to see.

The subject of wealth inequality is one of the “bread crumbs” that is presented by this forum, as Dr. Martenson has published numerous examples in chart format of the massive wealth mal-distribution and income inequality among wage earners. As to causation, how this is interpreted is up to the individual reader, but this provides grist for the mill and ample direction for the reader to do his or her own investigation as to what this means and why it is occurring.

The initial premise of Adam Smith’s treatise “Wealth of Nations” was in fact a conversion away from mercantilism and feudalism, displacing these means of political economy from the landed nobility for one specific and overriding reason- equality. “Wealth of Nations” laid the groundwork for the emergence of market capitalism and defined a close dependency between “lassiez-faire” capitalism and democracy. With the benefit of over 200 years of historical record, we can see both the wisdom and the fallacy in this initial premise:

Democracy in America is tied intimately to equality. Free-market capitalism is the organizing mechanism for its economy, as it is for every stable democracy which exists today. Democracy and free-market capitalism, although symbiotic up to a point, are in conflict because free-market capitalism, as a result of its guiding principles (self-interest), has a strong tendency towards (economic) inequality. In this antagonistic relationship between democracy and free-market capitalism, America has chosen to err on the side of free-market “efficiency” and chosen to characterize government attempts to modify the resulting inequality as “evil”. This has resulted in the evisceration of what was once a large and vibrant middle class and the rise of a large caste poor un- and underemployed, who have virtually no input to the political process.

 

From the beginning, the ink was barely dry on the Declaration Independence when one could make the reasonable observation that America had many things, but equality among men was not one of them. Equality in this context takes different dimensions, Robert Dahls’ book “On Democracy” makes some of these distinctions:

 “Effective Participation: Before a policy is adopted...,all members must have equal and effective opportunities for making their views known ...as to what the policy should be.

Voting equality: When the moment arrives at which the decision about the policy will finally be made every member must have an equal and effective opportunity to vote, and all votes must be counted equal.

Enlightened understanding: Within reasonable limits as to time, each member must have equal and effective opportunities for learning about the relevant alternative policies and their likely consequences.

Control of the Agenda: The members must have ... the opportunity to decide... what matters are to be placed on the agenda.

Inclusion of adults: All adult... permanent residents should have the full rights of citizens”.

 

When Dahl turns his attention from “ideal” democracy to real large scale democracy, he defines the following “political institutions” as being vital to a functioning democracy:

 

Elected officials: all modern large scale democracies are representative.

Free, fair, and frequent elections, comparatively free of coercion.

Freedom of expression, including criticism of the socioeconomic order and prevailing ideology

Access to alternative sources of information

Associational Autonomy, including the ability to form and join new political parties and interest groups

Inclusive citizenship

Robert Machesney goes further: (emphasis mine)

Meaningful participatory democracy requires three interrelated things:

Rough equality in wealth, income, and property ownership, since large class and socioeconomic disparities undercut the ability of citizens to act as equals and confer disproportionate political, policy, and cultural influence on those with superior resources

 

A sense of community between individuals - a sense that each individual's well-being is positively connected to the common good.

 

An  effective system of communications that accurately informs and engages the citizenry, encouraging their intelligent participation in political life.

 

Returning to Dahl, he points out that representative democracy (the only kind feasible for large groupings such as a nation state) has a potentially fatal flaw: citizens need to delegate authority to their elected representatives, and the delegated authority is virtually all inclusive between election cycles. This requires a huge reliance on and trust in the integrity and reliability of those we elect to be our representatives -- the politicians.

Despite the evidence of inequality, (for example in voting rights and citizenship, slavery, et al) what was notable was the directionality of America, e.g., progress. And things- with respect to equality among men, were getting better. Consider Alexis de Toqueville’s remarks of the day as recalled and excerpted by “Death of Democracy”:

One of the early observers of American democracy in action was the Frenchman Alexis de Tocqueville. Writing in the early 19th century (1835-1840), his observations are still amazingly relevant today. He observed American democracy against the history of it’s evolution from European Enlightenment and the French Revolution and contrasted it to the European feudal system from which it evolved. De Tocqueville comes right to the point at the beginning of his Introduction

“Among the new things that attracted my attention during my stay in the United States, none struck me more forcefully than the equality of conditions”.

Thus, the first distinguishing characteristic of American democracy to keep in mind is equality. In practice, of course, equality is constantly evolving. It is stated as an absolute guiding principle in the Declaration of Independence, and it was obviously noticeable to de Tocqueville that the people of America are more equal than his contemporaries in Europe, even after the French Revolution. 

As a philosophical concept equality, as in “...all men are created equal...” is very simple and appealing(4). However, there are many dimensions of equality and not all of these are accepted on an equal basis (pun intended): political equality, equality before the law, equal opportunity, equality of outcome or (economic) condition, gender equality, racial equality and so on. 

In early America equality was not equal along all of these dimensions. Even in the dimension of political equality not all people in America were able to participate in the political process, certainly not women and certainly not slaves, not even propertyless men. However, one of the distinguishing characteristics of American democracy which made it the model for and the envy of most of the rest of the world was its steady progress towards more and more equality in most, if not all of these dimensions. 

De Tocqueville seems to have anticipated this inexorable progressions towards more and more equality:

“I quickly recognized that the influence of this same fact [equality of condition] extends well beyond political mores and laws and that it holds no less sway over civil society than over government. It creates opinions, engenders feelings, suggests customs and modifies everything it does not produce”. [my emphasis]

Very quickly the vote was given to all men. Not so quickly, and with much resistance, women were given equal political rights. Although the Civil War in theory freed the slaves (and thus made them “equal”), their actual attainment of political and legal equality took much longer, and had to overcome tremendous opposition. More recently legal equality has been extended to other minority groups who were explicitly or implicitly discriminated against; just recently the “don’t ask don’t tell” policy in the armed forces was repealed.

Interestingly, and to me tellingly, the one dimension of equality, equality of outcome or (economic) condition, has not continued to advance over the years, actually reversing its trend to less equality in the past 30 or more years. 

Referring again to Dahl’s On Democracy, he notes the interesting empirical fact that “... all modern democracies have market economies...”. A few paragraphs further Dahl states that 

“Yet if the affiliation between democracy and market economies had advantages for both, we cannot overlook an important cost that market economies impose on democracy. Because a market economy generates economic inequality, it can also diminish the prospects for attaining full political equality among the citizens of a democratic country”.

 

The drift here is toward a critical examination of the effects of the market economy on the principles of democracy- as seen through the glass of wealth equality (or inequality as it were)

As Dahl points out, this suggests that American politics and society at large has become much too focused on its market economy at the expense if its democracy. He goes on to say that there exists “... a kind of antagonistic symbiosis” between democracy and market-capitalism. He points out that 

“[Representative(8)] democracy has endured only in countries with a predominantly market-capitalist economy; and it has never endured in a country with a predominantly non-market economy”.

Dahl argues that the non-centralized “egalitarian” nature in which market-capitalism is organized (a multitude of individual entities - tiny to huge companies, farms, and individuals, “...guided solely by self-interested incentives”) reinforces the egalitarian and individualistic characteristics of democracy. 

He also argues that market-capitalism has, as a rule led to economic growth, initially reducing extreme poverty and increasing living standards, which in turn reduces social and political conflict. Market-capitalism has, in the past, also contributed to the creation of “...a large middling stratum of property owners who typically seek education, autonomy, personal freedom, property rights, the rule of law and participation in government” -- the “middle class” so near and dear to all politicians, at least in their rhetoric.

And market-capitalism benefits form exactly the environment which a stable democracy fosters: personal freedom, property rights and the rule of law. It has been amply documented that free-market capitalism could not survive without the laws and regulations that governments enact and enforce.

However, Dahl also points out 

“Yet if the affiliation between democracy and market economies had advantages for both, we cannot overlook an important cost that market economies impose on democracy. Because a market economy generates economic inequality, it can also diminish the prospects for attaining full political equality among the citizens of a democratic country” [my emphases].

Left to its own devices, market capitalism, by definition, will attempt to concentrate more and more wealth and power (both economic and political) in the hands of fewer and fewer individuals (a natural tendency towards monopolies) without any regard to the damage it does on the way. To quote the fictional Gordon Gekko in the original movie Wall Street, “greed is good”, or the even more disturbing quote from the (unfortunately non-fictional) Alan Greenspan:

”Those of us who have looked to the self-interest of lending institutions to protect shareholder’s equity (myself especially) are in a state of shocked disbelief.”

The popular myth that “markets are self-regulating” (in anything except perhaps prices) and that the self-interest of market-capitalism will prevent it from killing the goose which lays the golden eggs (a large, healthy middle class) are demonstrably wrong.

 

And to let Dahl wrap it up:

 

And as Dahl points out, left to its own devices, not maliciously, but by definition, market-capitalism will work to destroy democracy, the fundamental premise of the Constitution.

So what is the reason for this dramatic shift in public discourse away from a natural and necessary ongoing discussion of the proper balance between naturally antagonistic democracy and free-market capitalism, towards an unquestioning acceptance of free-market capitalism and a reviling of the “evils of government”? The free-enterprise dominated media have succeeded in excluding the general public from setting the agenda for political discourse (see the fourth of Dahl’s criteria for a functioning democracy), instead restricting the agenda-setting rights to a new oligarchy(10), characterized by wealth and power. For more on the role of the media in killing democracy in America, see the next chapter.

In spite of what Robert Dahl has proposed as requirements for democracy, there has always been a discussion(11) (generally in the background away from public scrutiny) of whether the “ignorance and stupidity [of]... the masses” need to by guided by an “intelligent minority”. Madison assumed this intelligent minority to be composed of “pure and noble” men, each an “enlightened statesman” and “benevolent philosopher”. 

So one might speculate that the increased power of the free-enterprise capitalist oligarchy is a natural development in this direction. Not so, for it has become painfully obvious by the financial meltdown of 2008/09, that this minority is not intelligent, nor enlightened, nor benevolent.

The economic and political “elite” (actually one and the same), unquestionably does have virtually all the power in today’s America. It would be much more honest to come out and proclaim their beliefs that only they, the elite, are capable of actually making the needed decisions, rather than hide behind the propaganda mind control veneer of “protecting the Constitution”. In that sense we have taken a huge step backwards from the monarchies of pre-Enlightenment Europe: at least the old monarchs had the courage to be honest about their belief that they had the “divine power” to rule.

So much for Adam Smith.

While it may be interesting and clever to compare different cultures and historically based societies as demonstrating differing degrees of equality, we have to remember for the most part, few, if any, of these cultures was based on capitalism or free market economies. In fact, taken in context of the timeline of human economies, we have been active under free market capitalism for only about 1% of the total.

While there is validity in citing symptoms such as excessive debt, the effects of compound interest, lack of morals and personal responsibility among our citizens, etc., none of these factors in and of themselves adequately explain our current malaise, and embracing singular instances of any of these is just deterministic thinking called by another name.

We must consider that indeed all of these factors do contribute, but we must not overlook any intrinsic limitations of our political economy- and the affects these conditions have on our democracy.

Link to "Death Of Demcracy"

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Thanks Darbikrash
darbikrash wrote:

I think there is some validity in your premise, but I would submit that linking growing debt with growing inequality is simply conflating two associated symptoms which are joined by an “unseen” intrinsic cause.

You are quite right to focus on wealth inequality as a pertinent symptom of the relative health of our democracy. I use the word democracy and not economy deliberately, as I shall make the point that the wealth inequality has deeper ramifications that just our financial economy.

<Long discourse follows>

Darbikrash

You have an established record of posts that are insightful and enlightening, but I think this time you topped yourself.  You cogently presented ideas that do a marvelous job of filling in the blanks about why our circumstances have changed so much over the last three decades, and where we are heading. 

darbikrash wrote:

Robert Machesney goes further: (emphasis mine)

Meaningful participatory democracy requires three interrelated things:

Rough equality in wealth, income, and property ownership, since large class and socioeconomic disparities undercut the ability of citizens to act as equals and confer disproportionate political, policy, and cultural influence on those with superior resources

A sense of community between individuals - a sense that each individual's well-being is positively connected to the common good.

An  effective system of communications that accurately informs and engages the citizenry, encouraging their intelligent participation in political life.

Returning to Dahl, he points out that representative democracy (the only kind feasible for large groupings such as a nation state) has a potentially fatal flaw: citizens need to delegate authority to their elected representatives, and the delegated authority is virtually all inclusive between election cycles. This requires a huge reliance on and trust in the integrity and reliability of those we elect to be our representatives -- the politicians.

Your quote of Machesney is a key insight that explains much of the deterioration I have witnessed in my lifetime.  The growing inequality and ruthlessness of the economy have largely destroyed the sense of community, trust, and common good.  This is reinforced by the morphing of the media and news outlets into a diversion of “bread and circuses”.

Your thoughts below really struck me. (My emphasis)

darbikrash wrote:

Much is made on this forum and in the Crash Course on the importance of debt, and by extension, money creation as a central cause of what ails us. I think this is a very effective way to present the criticality of our current situation, and is a call to arms that is presented in absence of political bias, which allows the largest possible audience. <snip>

I believe the creators of this material know full well these conclusions extend beyond the confines of these three subjects, and in fact extend deeply into the fabric of our political economy, to the core of our democracy. Wisely, these conclusions are left to the discovery of the individual, and are not admonished in dogmatic fashion. You can see what you want to see, or perhaps more succinctly what you are ready to see.

What a great insight!  I found this site while trying to get information about what was really happening economically, so I could make better decisions about investments and my life.  It has become a fascinating journey delving ever deeper into the larger issues of how people organize themselves to cope with all the issues of living.  Its like slowly peeling the layers of an onion.  I don’t know if anyone ever gets to the center, but we can certainly get closer.

I know how much effort it takes to make posts like yours.  I’m sure I’m not the only one who appreciates what you do.  Thanks.

Travlin

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Thanks for your really

Thanks for your really detailed reply :) I'm glad to know you found the article interesting.

It's interesting in the article I was trying to point out the link between inequality and debt more from an economic point of view. Without too much analysis of whether I think inequality is a good thing or not. Or whether it is avoidable or not. Simply that this level of inequality had unavoidable economic consequences. As such I would say that it is also a secular construct :)

But I am also interested in the political angle which you've described. I like your quotes they tell a lot of important truths I think. However, I think my view on democracy is summed up best by Edward Gibbon, in "The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire".

In the end, more than they wanted freedom, they wanted security. They wanted a comfortable life and they lost it all — security, comfort, and freedom’¦

When the Athenians finally wanted not to give to society but for society to give to them, when the freedom they wished for most was freedom from responsibility then Athens ceased to be free.

It is my belief that we could have equality and true democracy if we wanted it. But that such a condition requires a lot of work. A constant need to question and to understand how the world is working at a very deep level. I believe that is possible for everyone, but I don't think it's easy for anyone. Instead we want it easy.

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Interesting

Tomsk

Your article is very interesting and started a good discussion.  I hope we see more from you.

Travlin 

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Nope...

Nope, it does not work that way.  The reason we have a lot more inequality than we used to is we allowed corporations to outsource our manufacturing base.  The size and nature of this relocation is stunning.  The result is what used to be the middle class, people who had good jobs working in manufacturing, has been destroyed.  I know a guy right now who is 24 and works in a srew factory - don't laugh - he is the only guy I know that works in a real factory.  He makes about 20 dollars an hour and has a half decent benefit package.  He has a wife and a little kid.  He is smart but did not go to college.  He is not in a union.  He has a decent apartment and a new Dodge Caliber.  He is not doing to bad for a 24 year old without a college education.  The screw factory makes money.  They make good screws.  In the 50's, 60's and 70's there were literally millions of people like him.  That is all gone and as far as I can tell will never be back.

The result of the failure of the education system to teach the right fundamental beliefs, the erosion of the manufacturing base and subsequent hollowing out of the middle class, and out of control government spending is going to be devastating.  When you combine that with increasing energy prices into the future, it all starts to look very bad indeed.  I suppose I am a dooms day person.  I did not used to be.  Up until recently I had a pretty good point of view as I believed that the 2010 mid-term election was going to usher in change in DC and America would be able to control spending.  I was wrong.  People on this site and others told me this but I did not believe them.  The 2012 election is a year and a half away.  That is a long time.  A lot of stuff is going to go down in the next year and a half - most of it bad.

There has never been nor will there ever be equality.  That is a myth and unachievable.  The best that can be hoped for is at least it will be fair.  Not everyone is the same.  Some are more motivated than others.  Some are smarter than others.  Some have defective value systems.  People are all different.  Only through tyranny can you establish equality - and even then some will be more equal than others. 

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dshields wrote: Nope, it
dshields wrote:

Nope, it does not work that way.  The reason we have a lot more inequality than we used to is we allowed corporations to outsource our manufacturing base.  The size and nature of this relocation is stunning.  The result is what used to be the middle class, people who had good jobs working in manufacturing, has been destroyed.  I know a guy right now who is 24 and works in a srew factory - don't laugh - he is the only guy I know that works in a real factory.  He makes about 20 dollars an hour and has a half decent benefit package.  He has a wife and a little kid.  He is smart but did not go to college.  He is not in a union.  He has a decent apartment and a new Dodge Caliber.  He is not doing to bad for a 24 year old without a college education.  The screw factory makes money.  They make good screws.  In the 50's, 60's and 70's there were literally millions of people like him.  That is all gone and as far as I can tell will never be back.

The result of the failure of the education system to teach the right fundamental beliefs, the erosion of the manufacturing base and subsequent hollowing out of the middle class, and out of control government spending is going to be devastating.  When you combine that with increasing energy prices into the future, it all starts to look very bad indeed.  I suppose I am a dooms day person.  I did not used to be.  Up until recently I had a pretty good point of view as I believed that the 2010 mid-term election was going to usher in change in DC and America would be able to control spending.  I was wrong.  People on this site and others told me this but I did not believe them.  The 2012 election is a year and a half away.  That is a long time.  A lot of stuff is going to go down in the next year and a half - most of it bad.

There has never been nor will there ever be equality.  That is a myth and unachievable.  The best that can be hoped for is at least it will be fair.  Not everyone is the same.  Some are more motivated than others.  Some are smarter than others.  Some have defective value systems.  People are all different.  Only through tyranny can you establish equality - and even then some will be more equal than others. 

Dshields,

    Offshoring is what happens in laissez-faire capitalism. The corporations are free to do what they need to do to compete in a global capitalist economy. If the corporations are not acting in their own best interest (increasing profits), then what are you proposing? I thought you were a stalwart free-market advocate? Capitalism has no allegiance to country or people, only to the bottom line - profit and competitiveness.

 

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good point

xraymike79 - Good point.  I was such a capitalist for many many years.  it seemed to be working.  People were getting what they needed and wanted and all was well in America-land.  Only it was not well - it just looked well.  Nixon took us off the gold standard and the floodgates of government spending opened up.  The Fed Res, major banks, and major corporations started to take advantage and things got out of control.  Now we are where we are now.  It is not a good place.  It worked as long as there was:

1) vast amounts of cheap energy

2) people willing to work hard for their money and willing to live within their means

3) a government that kept spending under control,

4) a place where credit was reined in

5) and risk was assessed in a responsible manner by people, institutions, and government

We are now in failure mode in all those categories of things.  The old model eventually failed when it was not sold and constrained properly.  I honestly do not know what the new model is.  There is one thing you can take down to what is left of your bank and deposit - the new model will be less.  A lot less.  The problem is how you sell people who believe the correct model is more, a model that is less.  They are not going to buy it.  It is had to imagine what will happen as people start to actually figure out that the new normal is less.  I think there is going to be a lot ot trouble.  The new model is not going to sit well with the class of dependency - which is roughly half the population.

At some point there is the people.  We as a nation have to decide what we are willing to do to the people.  The people do actually count.

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good point continued

Actually, capitalism works pretty good when you have your act together.  We just don't have our act together.  We used to but then we got lazy, greedy, and above all stupid.  We don't have to work hard we can get food stamps and section 8 housing.  We don't have to save for retirement, the government will ltake care of us.  We can borrow more than we can pay back - the government will take care of it.  We can make crazy loans and the government will save us.  We don't have to grow what the market needs, the government will pay us to not do it.  We can take crazy risks and tell lies and sell pure crap to old people - no problem - the government will protect us.  We can start crazy wars.  We can do basically anything and the government will take care of it.  It all adds up to we do not have our act together at all and that is what went wrong.  It does not make any difference what capitalism can or can't do if you do not have your act together to start with.  It is always easy to find something to blame other than ourselves.  We did this to ourselves.  It was not capitalism - it was us.  We screwed up and now we are going to pay the price.

 

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Posts: 1982
no, not a 4th E

Welcome, Tomsk. I respectfully disagree, but mainly since this topic will get contentious and has been rehashed several times before. Try looking at the archives if you think I am overstating this. We have socialists and conservatives and everything in between on this site. While I understand the need to build something better from the wreckage after the coming crash, I find the constant harping from both sides by those who are sure that their solution is the RIGHT solution to be a distraction from prepping. Tempers have flared and people have gotten banned from the site over this issue.

I'm not saying do not discuss this, I am merely disagreeing with the idea of it as a fourth "E".  There are many valuable members of this community whose politics are diametrically opposed to mine. I treasure their input and enjoy the fact that they are actually speaking to the "other side," and I to them, to find solutions that work. I feel that we all have a piece of the puzzle, and we need to have a dialogue.

Safewrite

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xraymike79
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Posts: 2040
dshields wrote:Actually,
dshields wrote:

Actually, capitalism works pretty good when you have your act together.  We just don't have our act together.  We used to but then we got lazy, greedy, and above all stupid.  We don't have to work hard we can get food stamps and section 8 housing.  We don't have to save for retirement, the government will ltake care of us.  We can borrow more than we can pay back - the government will take care of it.  We can make crazy loans and the government will save us.  We don't have to grow what the market needs, the government will pay us to not do it.  We can take crazy risks and tell lies and sell pure crap to old people - no problem - the government will protect us.  We can start crazy wars.  We can do basically anything and the government will take care of it.  It all adds up to we do not have our act together at all and that is what went wrong.  It does not make any difference what capitalism can or can't do if you do not have your act together to start with.  It is always easy to find something to blame other than ourselves.  We did this to ourselves.  It was not capitalism - it was us.  We screwed up and now we are going to pay the price.

Actually, it is capitalism which is at the root of the problem. Capitalism, by definition, is the accumulation of profit by whatever means necessay - regulatory and political capture, redefining or abolishing laws (which includes stripping environmental and worker protection laws), resource wars, reduction of the 4th estate to a corporate mouth piece, and so on. Take for instance Hydrofracking. 

Capitalism even forms social attitudes/beliefs in it's quest for profit:

The attitudes and mores needed for the smooth functioning of such a system, as well as for people to thrive as members of society—greed, individualism, competitiveness, exploitation of others, and “consumerism” (the drive to purchase more and more stuff, unrelated to needs and even to happiness)—are inculcated into people by schools, the media, and the workplace. - Fred Magdoff

  As we've seen, capitalism acts to reshape all parts of society, including science, to promote its interests and goals.

Last I checked, Americans work longer hours than any other industrialized country in the world. Is that laziness?

So while real wages stagnated/declined in the face of growing overall corporate profits over the last four decades, the banks/corporations masked this with the introduction of easy credit, home-equity loans etc. As the concentration of wealth increased, new rules had to be enacted to allow the lower quartiles of social denizens to remain above poverty. But it was only an illusion.

Could it be that more Americans are on food stamps because of offshoring and cost-cutting by corporations and not because of laziness or greed?

Could it be that the "gob'mint" serves corporate interests above all else? The evidence of corporate money overwhelming the political process would certainly indicate so.

Could it be that we abandoned the growth constraints of a gold standard in order to create the petrodollar, thereby helping to satisfy capitalism's inherent need for rapacious global expansion and exploitation?

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For all those who haven't

For all those who haven't read this yet(just discovered it now), DK did a superb, iron-clad job of explaining that what we have truly is unfettered capitalism and nothing else. Calling it corporatism or crony capitalism is simply superfluous. Those inclined to call our present state of affairs Socialism are a testament to the powers of corporate mass media obfuscation and propaganda. Capitalism, unrestrained by any sort of social justice speed bumps, invariable devolves into the system we now see before our eyes:

Wed, 06/08/2011 - 14:39 #4

Really? The US is not Capitalistic? It’s just hilarious listening to the sincere protestations that what we really need is more Capitalism in America, because you know, what just happened to us in 2008, you see, this had nothing to do with Capitalism.

And here is where the tut-tut-tut and finger wagging starts, the hands begin waving and gesticulating widely, and  pronouncements are held forth that what we are seeing is not capitalism at all, no, it is (insert –ism of choice, preferably as a pejorative).

Now, a reasonably competent 8th grade civics student could discern that what passes for political economy in our country has about as much in common with Adam Smith’s version of Wealth of Nations as the William Burroughs’ Naked Lunch, but the reasons why this is so requires us to be informed by history, which tells us clearly, and unequivocally that Capitalism:

-         Inherently, and unavoidably ALWAYS results in centralization and consolidation of capital and other resources, providing fewer choices and reduced freedom to the consumer.

-         Resorts to coercive laws of competition, which ALWAYS requires a growth imperative in order to sustain itself. ONE of symptoms which manifests is the creation of money through convenient quasi corporate/government mergers such as the Federal Reserve Bank, to create a reliable, unfettered supply of CAPTIAL to guess who- the Capitalists.

-         Requires ceaseless expansion of markets to maintain the aforementioned growth imperative using military means if necessary,

-         Requires ceaseless expansion of labor markets to bias surplus value away from the domestic worker, usually presented as a response to regulatory overhang which serves two purposes; a.) It creates a pressure point to reduce domestic regulation of capitalist endeavor, and b.) Provides a plausible excuse as to why all the jobs are disappearing and the ones that remain are at McDonalds.

-         Requires ceaseless expansion in the pursuit of raw materials and other essential resources, using military means if necessary.

-         When consolidated capital reaches a critical mass of assemblage, the target elevates to Government entities, resulting in regulatory and legislative capture, all in pursuit of an unfair playing field to further the profitability of the multi-nationals.

-         Capture of the mainstream media to propagandize the messaging in support of initiatives, ideologies, and political candidates sympathetic to the corporatist agenda.

-         Structural and pathological inability to act a priori with respect to resource allocation, proper regulatory oversight for dangerous for-profit activities, and irresponsible deferral of even basic human rights in pursuit of a profit motive.

Roll all of this up (and more)  and wrap it with a popular culture based entirely on narcissism and Objectivist fiction, and you net out a belief system in the populace that tries, in vain, to support this monstrosity by:

-         Insisting that the only obstacle to getting yours is hard work and honest behavior, which will overcome all adversity.

-         Trying to use inappropriate deduction reasoning methods to deduce why it’s all going wrong.

-         Refusing to recognize even the most obvious of all observations, that the decline of capitalism is intrinsic, and is not caused by external forces, nuances of monetary systems, or governmental overreach. Rather, and here it comes, naively conflating cause with effect, e.g. government policies (some quite destructive) which  are a RESPONSE (and NOT a CAUSE) to an unstable and wilding gyrating free market system that is perpetually on the verge of catastrophic collapse, and left unfettered, will in fact collapse, and catastrophically, EVERY TIME.

-         Valorizing the use of capital, elevating those that exploit others successfully to rock star status, and hold forth those as a shining example of what to aspire to.

-         Denying any effects of global warming or climate change because to do so would recognize an expansion limit, and capital abides no limits. Note the ENTIRE elected field of Republican Representatives and Senators has taken the position against global warming and climate change. Every one.

-         Denying any meaningful environmental consideration, see reasons above.

-         Demonizing the underclass as slovenly, lazy, and undeserving of any middle class existence.

And last, but certainly not least, the compete denial that the sequential assembly of the aforementioned factors leads us from Adam Smith’s 1776 writing to exactly where we are today, every single time.

But other than those minor quibbles- it’s a great system.

This needs to be framed in gold.

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goes211
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Posts: 1114
I think not
xraymike79 wrote:

For all those who haven't read this yet(just discovered it now), DK did a superb, iron-clad job of explaining that what we have truly is unfettered capitalism and nothing else. Calling it corporatism or crony capitalism is simply superfluous. Those inclined to call our present state of affairs Socialism are a testament to the powers of corporate mass media obfuscation and propaganda. Capitalism, unrestrained by any sort of social justice speed bumps, invariable devolves into the system we now see before our eyes:

Wed, 06/08/2011 - 14:39 #4

Really? The US is not Capitalistic? It’s just hilarious listening to the sincere protestations that what we really need is more Capitalism in America, because you know, what just happened to us in 2008, you see, this had nothing to do with Capitalism.

And here is where the tut-tut-tut and finger wagging starts, the hands begin waving and gesticulating widely, and  pronouncements are held forth that what we are seeing is not capitalism at all, no, it is (insert –ism of choice, preferably as a pejorative).

Now, a reasonably competent 8th grade civics student could discern that what passes for political economy in our country has about as much in common with Adam Smith’s version of Wealth of Nations as the William Burroughs’ Naked Lunch, but the reasons why this is so requires us to be informed by history, which tells us clearly, and unequivocally that Capitalism:

-         Inherently, and unavoidably ALWAYS results in centralization and consolidation of capital and other resources, providing fewer choices and reduced freedom to the consumer.

-         Resorts to coercive laws of competition, which ALWAYS requires a growth imperative in order to sustain itself. ONE of symptoms which manifests is the creation of money through convenient quasi corporate/government mergers such as the Federal Reserve Bank, to create a reliable, unfettered supply of CAPTIAL to guess who- the Capitalists.

-         Requires ceaseless expansion of markets to maintain the aforementioned growth imperative using military means if necessary,

-         Requires ceaseless expansion of labor markets to bias surplus value away from the domestic worker, usually presented as a response to regulatory overhang which serves two purposes; a.) It creates a pressure point to reduce domestic regulation of capitalist endeavor, and b.) Provides a plausible excuse as to why all the jobs are disappearing and the ones that remain are at McDonalds.

-         Requires ceaseless expansion in the pursuit of raw materials and other essential resources, using military means if necessary.

-         When consolidated capital reaches a critical mass of assemblage, the target elevates to Government entities, resulting in regulatory and legislative capture, all in pursuit of an unfair playing field to further the profitability of the multi-nationals.

-         Capture of the mainstream media to propagandize the messaging in support of initiatives, ideologies, and political candidates sympathetic to the corporatist agenda.

-         Structural and pathological inability to act a priori with respect to resource allocation, proper regulatory oversight for dangerous for-profit activities, and irresponsible deferral of even basic human rights in pursuit of a profit motive.

Roll all of this up (and more)  and wrap it with a popular culture based entirely on narcissism and Objectivist fiction, and you net out a belief system in the populace that tries, in vain, to support this monstrosity by:

-         Insisting that the only obstacle to getting yours is hard work and honest behavior, which will overcome all adversity.

-         Trying to use inappropriate deduction reasoning methods to deduce why it’s all going wrong.

-         Refusing to recognize even the most obvious of all observations, that the decline of capitalism is intrinsic, and is not caused by external forces, nuances of monetary systems, or governmental overreach. Rather, and here it comes, naively conflating cause with effect, e.g. government policies (some quite destructive) which  are a RESPONSE (and NOT a CAUSE) to an unstable and wilding gyrating free market system that is perpetually on the verge of catastrophic collapse, and left unfettered, will in fact collapse, and catastrophically, EVERY TIME.

-         Valorizing the use of capital, elevating those that exploit others successfully to rock star status, and hold forth those as a shining example of what to aspire to.

-         Denying any effects of global warming or climate change because to do so would recognize an expansion limit, and capital abides no limits. Note the ENTIRE elected field of Republican Representatives and Senators has taken the position against global warming and climate change. Every one.

-         Denying any meaningful environmental consideration, see reasons above.

-         Demonizing the underclass as slovenly, lazy, and undeserving of any middle class existence.

And last, but certainly not least, the compete denial that the sequential assembly of the aforementioned factors leads us from Adam Smith’s 1776 writing to exactly where we are today, every single time.

But other than those minor quibbles- it’s a great system.

This needs to be framed in gold.

Your right Mike, because an anonymous poster on a website posted his coherent economic opionion, and that opionion agrees with your beliefs, the debate is over and now we all need to all fall in line.

On second thought I think safewrite might have the right idea.

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xraymike79
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Posts: 2040
goes211 wrote: Your right
goes211 wrote:

Your right Mike, because an anonymous poster on a website posted his coherent economic opionion, and that opionion agrees with your beliefs, the debate is over and now we all need to all fall in line.

On second thought I think safewrite might have the right idea.

 

I forgot. Capitalism is a cult. You can't refute the evidence, so just ignore it and keep on proselytizing.

goes211's picture
goes211
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Joined: Aug 18 2008
Posts: 1114
pot meet kettle
xraymike79 wrote:
goes211 wrote:

Your right Mike, because an anonymous poster on a website posted his coherent economic opionion, and that opionion agrees with your beliefs, the debate is over and now we all need to all fall in line.

On second thought I think safewrite might have the right idea.

I forgot. Capitalism is a cult. You can't refute the evidence, so just ignore it and keep on proselytizing.

Please show me how I believe in "capitalism" and how I am treating it like my "cult"?  As for proselytizing, I am not the one with my own personal vanity thread, posting multiple topics per day, pushing an agenda.

For that you might want to look in the mirror.

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xraymike79
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Posts: 2040
goes211 wrote:xraymike79
goes211 wrote:
xraymike79 wrote:
goes211 wrote:

Your right Mike, because an anonymous poster on a website posted his coherent economic opionion, and that opionion agrees with your beliefs, the debate is over and now we all need to all fall in line.

On second thought I think safewrite might have the right idea.

I forgot. Capitalism is a cult. You can't refute the evidence, so just ignore it and keep on proselytizing.

Please show me how I believe in "capitalism" and how I am treating it like my "cult"?  As for proselytizing, I am not the one with my own personal vanity thread, posting multiple topics per day, pushing an agenda.

For that you might want to look in the mirror.

 

Oh no, don't give a decent rebutle to these posts #20 and #21, just whine. Do you care to debate?

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A. M.
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Posts: 2367
For what public opinions

For what public opinions worth,

I completely agree with GOES. The Timeline for Collapse thread is an obnoxious and attention grabbing, pushes a message that often strays from credibility and treads into conspiratorial and has no place in the "open" forums, as it's almost entirely made of CT posts.

If that's what constitutes "evidence" and rebuttal, it has no worth outside of the bubble being created by Xraymike.

Cheers,
Aaron

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xraymike79
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Posts: 2040
Alpha Mike wrote:For what
Alpha Mike wrote:

For what public opinions worth,

I completely agree with GOES. The Timeline for Collapse thread is an obnoxious and attention grabbing, pushes a message that often strays from credibility and treads into conspiratorial and has no place in the "open" forums, as it's almost entirely made of CT posts.

Inflammatory language and hyperbole is also a huge part of any discussion with XRayMike. Speaking of which, where's the ignore button?

Cheers,
Aaron

Please hit your ignore button. I have learned zilch from you in the last three years. Shouldn't you be posting on your massive guns thread?

Cheers,

XRM

 

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goes211
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Posts: 1114
A few things...
  1. I am at work (and out of the country right now) so time is not something I have in excess at this moment.
  2. The post you seem to want a response to was not even your own nor in this thread.  It was a post from elsewhere.
  3. Have you posted a rebuttal for every free market thread on this site?  If not, why should I feel obligated to respond to yours?
  4. What I took issue with was not DK's post.  It was well thought out and I have heard him make that case many times.  I might disagree but I am not a scholar and have no doubt that he is better read on the subject than I, so I will leave that to others with more time and knowledge.  What I took issue with was the arrogance of your "that is it, this is the definative answer on the topic" attitude.  It does not help that your avatar looks like Moses bringing us our daily 10 commandments.
  5. As I tried to allude to, I really think safewrite is on to something with her post.

Welcome, Tomsk. I respectfully disagree, but mainly since this topic will get contentious and has been rehashed several times before. Try looking at the archives if you think I am overstating this. We have socialists and conservatives and everything in between on this site. While I understand the need to build something better from the wreckage after the coming crash, I find the constant harping from both sides by those who are sure that their solution is the RIGHT solution to be a distraction from prepping. Tempers have flared and people have gotten banned from the site over this issue.

I'm not saying do not discuss this, I am merely disagreeing with the idea of it as a fourth "E".  There are many valuable members of this community whose politics are diametrically opposed to mine. I treasure their input and enjoy the fact that they are actually speaking to the "other side," and I to them, to find solutions that work. I feel that we all have a piece of the puzzle, and we need to have a dialogue.

I have really tried to be less argumentative over the past couple of months.  I know that I have been largely unsucessful in this effort and for that I apologize to everyone.   I still have a problem seeing things posted unchallenged with which I disagree.  I just hate to leave these alone for fear that other readers will see this and think that their is no disagreement amoung members on the subject. 

The classic example is ThomasH with his constant pushing for wealth money.  It is clear that any response to Thomas at this point is not actually an attempt to change his mind, but merely to influence the hearts and minds of others.

I also think safewrite is probably correct in that this discussion is probably just a distraction to preping.  Unfortunately due to my current family situation, I don't feel that their is much I can do other than mentally prepare for the future.  For that reason, at least for me, at this point this site primarily acts as a form of therapy.

Sorry but I just don't have much more to say.

A. M.'s picture
A. M.
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Oct 22 2008
Posts: 2367
Hmmm quite

XRayMike79 said:

Quote:

Please hit your ignore button. I have learned zilch from you in the last three years. Shouldn't you be posting on your massive guns thread?

Cheers,

XRM

You know, maybe I should...
Or the Definitive Tactics thread, which as of now has over 20 pages of dialog.

Or the Definitive Ag/permaculture thread that had over 850 replies, (most of which aren't my own, in case you want to contrast our works).

Or the three primers I wrote for the WSID project.

I know I'm not one of the most qualified, accomplished or intelligent posters here, and I'm ready to admit that other people have ideas that are easily as good as mine. Perhaps you should consider your "overall" roll here. It may not be that different.

Also, guns belong on ships.
Ignorance, can be cure'd "xraymike", but you're smart enough to know that.
So pardon me for inviting dialog, and solutions, rather than regurgitating articles that are of little practical value and serve only to heighten people's fears and anxieties.

And, of coruse, Cheers,

Aaron

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xraymike79
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Aug 24 2008
Posts: 2040
goes211 wrote:I am at work
goes211 wrote:
  1. I am at work (and out of the country right now) so time is not something I have in excess at this moment.
  2. The post you seem to want a response to was not even your own nor in this thread.  It was a post from elsewhere.
  3. Have you posted a rebuttal for every free market thread on this site?  If not, why should I feel obligated to respond to yours?
  4. What I took issue with was not DK's post.  It was well thought out and I have heard him make that case many times.  I might disagree but I am not a scholar and have no doubt that he is better read on the subject than I, so I will leave that to others with more time and knowledge.  What I took issue with was the arrogance of your "that is it, this is the definative answer on the topic" attitude.  It does not help that your avatar looks like Moses bringing us our daily 10 commandments.
  5. As I tried to allude to, I really think safewrite is on to something with her post.

Welcome, Tomsk. I respectfully disagree, but mainly since this topic will get contentious and has been rehashed several times before. Try looking at the archives if you think I am overstating this. We have socialists and conservatives and everything in between on this site. While I understand the need to build something better from the wreckage after the coming crash, I find the constant harping from both sides by those who are sure that their solution is the RIGHT solution to be a distraction from prepping. Tempers have flared and people have gotten banned from the site over this issue.

I'm not saying do not discuss this, I am merely disagreeing with the idea of it as a fourth "E".  There are many valuable members of this community whose politics are diametrically opposed to mine. I treasure their input and enjoy the fact that they are actually speaking to the "other side," and I to them, to find solutions that work. I feel that we all have a piece of the puzzle, and we need to have a dialogue.

I have really tried to be less argumentative over the past couple of months.  I know that I have been largely unsucessful in this effort and for that I apologize to everyone.   I still have a problem seeing things posted unchallenged with which I disagree.  I just hate to leave these alone for fear that other readers will see this and think that their is no disagreement amoung members on the subject. 

The classic example is ThomasH with his constant pushing for wealth money.  It is clear that any response to Thomas at this point is not actually an attempt to change his mind, but merely to influence the hearts and minds of others.

I also think safewrite is probably correct in that this discussion is probably just a distraction to preping.  Unfortunately due to my current family situation, I don't feel that their is much I can do other than mentally prepare for the future.  For that reason, at least for me, at this point this site primarily acts as a form of therapy.

Sorry but I just don't have much more to say.

Goes211,

Actually post #20 is mine. And post #21 was from DK on the 'Growth' forum. But that's OK. Nothing here to learn from you, although I'd love to actually see an intelligent response from your end.

 I'm open to learning.

Let's move on from this silly spat. And it really is silly.

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