What does it mean to be rich?

28 posts / 0 new
Last post
Cloudfire's picture
Cloudfire
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Sep 29 2008
Posts: 1813
What does it mean to be rich?

In the wake of several threads addressing the gap between the “rich” and the “poor”, the loss of the middle class, and the role of government in providing support for the unfortunate, I find myself reflecting on what it means to be “rich” . . . . . Or, for that matter, what does it mean to be “poor”?

I often use memories of my childhood as a sort of touchstone, partly because my mind had not yet been subjected to indoctrination by the media and formal education.  In reflecting on what it means to be wealthy, I am remembering a conversation that I had with my father, at the age of seven, and yet I remember it clearly, to this day . . . . The year was 1961 . . . . Over “Easter” vacation, my family, having the advantages of a breadwinner who flew for a major airline, went on a tropical vacation . . . . This was long before winter escapes were common for Americans . . . . . but I was too young and naïve to anticipate that having a winter tan might be a status symbol . . . . It was just what happened when you went surfing in March . . . .

Anyway, on return to school, I was greeted by my classmates with “Where have you been?”, and when told of my vacation, one of my classmates asked, “Hawaii?  Are you rich?”  Not having ever having considered that airline travel was a privilege (It was commonplace for us), nor ever having thought of my family as being particularly privileged, I uncertainly answered, “I don’t think so”. . . . . Not to be evasive, but given my classmates’ awe of world travel, I really wasn’t sure . . . . I had always thought of us as rather ordinary, financially speaking . . . . I had truly never given the question of “class” any thought.

To put this in context, I guess I should mention that I grew up in a wonderfully eclectic community of Chicago escapees  . . . . . A lakeside community where the engineer lived next to the fireman, who, in turn, lived next to the factory worker.  In those days, we all got by with one breadwinner . . . . Working moms were rare, and considered a bit scandalous.  As young children, we were blind to class . . . . My friends’ fathers were developers and engineers, pilots and factory workers, farmers and farm hands . . . . .

So, to hear this question, “Are you rich?” . . . . . startled me a bit . . . . . I truly didn’t know how to answer.  So, not having the advantage of Google to ask the question, I went to my father, and asked, “Dad . . . . Are we rich?”  He looked at me with much the same reaction that I must have displayed in response to my school mates . . . . To his credit, without even asking why I needed to know such a thing, he said, “Yes . . . . . I love your mother, all of my children are healthy, and we have good food on the table . . . . . We are indeed very rich.  And with equal wisdom, he left it at that.

Tears come to my eyes in memory of this simple, precious gift of wisdom.  I have little doubt of the impression that brief moment made on the rest of my life.  It was there, deeply embedded in my mind, every time I had to choose between greed or love, a lucrative job or integrity, sharing or hoarding.  Indeed, I am still fabulously wealthy . . . . . I had the gift of a father who instilled in me the meaning of wealth; I have love in my home, good health, and homegrown food on the table . . . . . You can’t get any richer than that . . . . .

radishcake's picture
radishcake
Status: Bronze Member (Offline)
Joined: Jun 11 2009
Posts: 38
Re: What does it mean to be rich?

EXCERPT:

During the age that is coming to an end, the billion or so of us who have lived in the industrial world have enjoyed comforts and opportunities that our species had never known before and almost certainly will never know again. Those could never have been anything but temporary, they were distributed no more fairly than anything else passed around by human hands, and a wiser species would likely have had more common sense than to launch itself on the trajectory we followed, but it's as distorting to dismiss the extraordinary achievements of our age as it would be to ignore the terrible cost for those achievements that will be paid by us and our descendants.

LINK:  A terrible Ambivalence

Kurosawa's picture
Kurosawa
Status: Bronze Member (Offline)
Joined: Jul 2 2008
Posts: 43
Re: What does it mean to be rich?

A little piece of advice like that can go a long way. I enjoyed the story.

It all really applies to what aspect of rich is the most important to us.  In our image oriented society being rich may make us feel good during peak moments of attention but ultimately doesn't fill us.  Being rich in strong family ties and health is worth much more.

Cloudfire's picture
Cloudfire
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Sep 29 2008
Posts: 1813
What does it mean to be rich? . . . . On a societal level

I owe credit to Damnthematrix for these finds (He posted them elsewhere) . . . . Rushkoff crystalizes the very concepts I described in my original post, at the societal economic level:

 

The video:  Life, Inc.

 

From the book:

The financial meltdown may not be punishment for our sins, but it is at least in part the result of our widespread obsession with financial value over values of any other sort. We disconnected ourselves from what matters to us, and grew dependent on a business scheme that was never intended to serve us as people. But by adopting the ethos of this speculative, abstract economic model as our own, we have disabled the mechanisms through which we might address and correct the collapse of the real economy operating alongside it.

Even now, as we attempt to dig ourselves out of a financial mess caused in large part by this very mentality and behavior, we turn to the corporate sphere, its central banks, and shortsighted metrics to gauge our progress back to health. It’s as if we believe we’ll find the answer in the stream of trades and futures on one of the cable- TV finance channels instead of out in the physical world. Our real investment in the fabric of our neighborhoods and our quality of life takes a backseat to asking prices for houses like our own in the newspaper’s misnamed “real estate” section. We look to the Dow Jones average as if it were the one true vital sign of our society’s health, and the exchange rate of our currency as a measure of our wealth as a nation or worth as a people.

This, in turn, only distracts us further from the real- world ideas and activities through which we might actually re-create some value ourselves. Instead of fixing the problem, and reclaiming our ability to generate wealth directly with one another, we seek to prop up institutions whose very purpose remains to usurp this ability from us. We try to repair our economy by bolstering the same institutions that sapped it. In the very best years, corporatism worked by extracting value from the periphery and redirecting it to the center—away from people and toward corporate monopolies. Now, even though that wellspring of prosperity has run dry, we continue to dig deeper into the ground for resources to keep the errant system running.

So as our corporations crumble, taking our jobs with them, we bail them out to preserve our prospects for employment—knowing full well that their business models are unsustainable. As banks’ credit schemes fail, we authorize our treasuries to print more money on their behalf, at our own expense and that of our children. We then get to borrow this money back from them, at interest. We know of no other way. Having for too long outsourced our own savings and investing to Wall Street, we are clueless about how to invest in the real world of people and things. We identify with the plight of abstract corporations more than that of flesh-and-blood human beings. We engage with corporations as role models and saviors, while we engage with our fellow humans as competitors to be beaten or resources to be exploited....

And while the growth of corporations and a preponderance of corporate activity have allowed them to permeate most every aspect of our awareness and activity, these entities are not solely responsible for the predicament in which we have found ourselves.

Rather, it is corporatism itself: a logic we have internalized into our very being, a lens through which we view the world around us, and an ethos with which we justify our behaviors. Making matters worse, we accept its dominance over us as preexisting—as a given circumstance of the human condition. It just is.

But it isn’t.

Corporatism didn’t evolve naturally. The landscape on which we are living—the operating system on which we are now running our social software—was invented by people, sold to us as a better way of life, supported by myths, and ultimately allowed to develop into a self- sustaining reality. It is a map that has replaced the territory.

Its basic laws were set in motion as far back as the Renaissance; it was accelerated by the Industrial Age; and it was sold to us as a better way of life by a determined generation of corporate leaders who believed they had our best interests at heart and who ultimately succeeded in their dream of controlling the masses from above.

We have succumbed to an ideology that has the same intellectual underpinnings and assumptions about human nature as—dare we say it—mid- twentieth-century fascism. Given how the word has been misapplied to everyone from police officers to communists, we might best refrain from resorting to what has become a feature of cheap polemic. But in this case it’s accurate, and that we’re forced to dance around this “F word” today would certainly have pleased Goebbels greatly.

The current situation resembles the managed capitalism of Mussolini’s Italy, in particular. It shares a common intellectual heritage (in disappointed progressives who wanted to order society on a scientific understanding of human nature), the same political alliance (the collaboration of the state and the corporate sector), and some of the same techniques for securing consent (through public relations and propaganda). Above all, it shares with fascism the same deep suspicion of free humans.

And, as with any absolutist narrative, calling attention to the inherent injustice and destructiveness of the system is understood as an attempt to undermine our collective welfare. The whistleblower is worse than just a spoilsport; he is an enemy of the people.

Unlike Europe’s fascist dictatorships, this state of affairs came about rather bloodlessly—at least on the domestic front. Indeed, the real lesson of the twentieth century is that the battle for total social control would be waged and won not through war and overt repression, but through culture and commerce. Instead of depending on a paternal dictator or nationalist ideology, today’s system of control depends on a society fastidiously cultivated to see the corporation and its logic as central to its welfare, value, and very identity.

That’s why it’s no longer Big Brother who should frighten us—however much corporate lobbies still seek to vilify anything to do with government beyond their own bailouts. Sure, democracy may be the quaint artifact of an earlier era, but what has taken its place? Suspension of habeas corpus, surveillance of citizens, and the occasional repression of voting notwithstanding, this mess is not the fault of a particular administration or political party, but of a culture, economy, and belief system that places market priorities above life itself. It’s not the fault of a government or a corporation, the news media or the entertainment industry, but the merging of all these entities into a single, highly centralized authority with the ability to write laws, issue money, and promote its expansion into our world...

...

This is the landscape of corporatism: a world not merely dominated by corporations, but one inhabited by people who have internalized corporate values as our own.

---- Doug Rushkoff  May 11, 2009

Life Inc. pt 1: Your Money or Your Life: A Lesson on the Front Stoop

 

 

Cloudfire's picture
Cloudfire
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Sep 29 2008
Posts: 1813
Re: What does it mean to be rich?

After viewing Rushkoff speaking, in the video, I can only describe him as a visionary . . . . He has an extraordinarily clear-eyed view of our society and economy . . . . . It has made my day to discover his work . . . . . Thanks again, DTM!

 

goes211's picture
goes211
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Aug 18 2008
Posts: 1114
Re: What does it mean to be rich?

I found that video very interesting.  I largely agree with what he says about corporations, banks, consumerism, central banking, ... but don't agree with his collectivist views.  I don't understand why is it that he feels that individuals must give up their rights for some nebulus collective good. 

I would rather come together as equals, trading goods and services freely in ways that benefit both parties.  We can then form voluntary communities, where our social capital can also be accumulated and spent in ways that benefit all parties.

Cloudfire's picture
Cloudfire
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Sep 29 2008
Posts: 1813
Re: What does it mean to be rich?
goes211 wrote:

I found that video very interesting.  I largely agree with what he says about corporations, banks, consumerism, central banking, ... but don't agree with his collectivist views.  I don't understand why is it that he feels that individuals must give up their rights for some nebulus collective good. 

I would rather come together as equals, trading goods and services freely in ways that benefit both parties.  We can then form voluntary communities, where our social capital can also be accumulated and spent in ways that benefit all parties.

Hiya, Goes;

I didn't catch any collectivist drift in the movie . . . . But I admit that I just discovered this man's work . . . . Can you steer me to evidence of his collectivist views?  I was taken with his assessment of how we got here, but I'm generally not enamored of collectivism . . . .

goes211's picture
goes211
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Aug 18 2008
Posts: 1114
Re: What does it mean to be rich?

C1oudfire,

Maybe I am reading more into it than is really there.  At 4:45 he talks about the "cult of the individual".  At 6:40 he decries us "acting as individual actors in competition with each other" as opposed to what?  Maybe I don't understand what alternative he is proposing but that sort of talk just rubs me the wrong way.

I don't want to be a serf living under a benevolent king.  I want to be a free man and for there to be no kings.

idoctor's picture
idoctor
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Oct 4 2008
Posts: 1731
Re: What does it mean to be rich?

To be happy is to be rich.

Cloudfire's picture
Cloudfire
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Sep 29 2008
Posts: 1813
Re: What does it mean to be rich?
goes211 wrote:

C1oudfire,

Maybe I am reading more into it than is really there.  At 4:45 he talks about the "cult of the individual".  At 6:40 he decries us "acting as individual actors in competition with each other" as opposed to what?  Maybe I don't understand what alternative he is proposing but that sort of talk just rubs me the wrong way.

I don't want to be a serf living under a benevolent king.  I want to be a free man and for there to be no kings.

Hi, Goes;

I see what you mean . . . It's wise to listen for what I call "code words" that have deeper ideological meanings  . . . . I ordered a couple of his books . . . . I'll let you know what I find, once I get into his head a bit more . . . . In the video, he does have the starry-eyed look of an idealist . . . . scratch an idealist, and you sometimes find an ideologue hiding underneath . . . .

 

Cloudfire's picture
Cloudfire
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Sep 29 2008
Posts: 1813
Rushkoff and Complimentary and bottom-up currencies

 

Wall Street Journal covers novel local/digital currencies and Rushkoff's film, Life, Inc.

Complimentary and bottom-up currencies, Last third on Life Inc, the movie  (video on page)

 

Digital currencies that exchange skills and personal qualities . . . . . It seems that Rushkoff's not the only one who's noticed that there's a different way of viewing wealth than the corporate model, which is deeply embedded into our psyches, whether we realize it, or not . . . .

I've yet to read his books, but more and more, I'm seeing Rushkoff as a voice for the original concept of this thread . . . . Mental liberation from "corporate thinking".  Just as there is no one so hopelessly enslaved as those who think they are free, there is no one more hopelessly enslaved than those who have been convinced to be their own jailors . . . . Rushkoff shows us how we are prisoners of our own minds . . . . minds whose framework has been built, over generations, by an aristocracy that fears the classes "below" them . . . .

 

 

Cloudfire's picture
Cloudfire
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Sep 29 2008
Posts: 1813
Review of Life, Inc. (Rushkoff)

Review of Rushkoff's book, Life, Inc.

Excerpt:  That corporations seize and control our very sense of what's real, bend it to their will, driven by greed and focused on profitability above all else. The remedy, he suggests, is "the slow subordination of corporate activity to social activity, and corporate behavior to human behavior." We can use the Internet effectively to "connect those looking to reinforce their sense of hope and connection to others," he says, and "by restoring our connections to real people, places and values, we'll be less likely to depend on the symbols and brands that have come to substitute for human relationships."

Closing line:  And as Rushkoff suggests, we can hopefully learn to put the statistics aside for now and be "real people doing real things for one another - without expectations" again.

Doug Rushkoff on Life, Inc.

Cloudfire's picture
Cloudfire
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Sep 29 2008
Posts: 1813
Economics Is Not a Natural Science

Rushkoff, On the Edge:

Economics Is Not a Natural Science

Excerpts:

The economy in which we operate is not a natural system, but a set of rules developed in the Late Middle Ages in order to prevent the unchecked rise of a merchant class that was creating and exchanging value with impunity. This was what we might today call a peer-to-peer economy, and did not depend on central employers or even central currency.

People brought grain in from the fields, had it weighed at a grain store, and left with a receipt — usually stamped into a thin piece of foil. The foil could be torn into smaller pieces and used as currency in town. Each piece represented a specific amount of grain. The money was quite literally earned into existence — and the total amount in circulation reflected the abundance of the crop.

Now the interesting thing about this money is that it lost value over time. The grain store had to be paid, some of the grain was lost to rats and spoilage. So each year, the grain store would reissue the money for any grain that hadn't actually been claimed. This meant that the money was biased towards transactions — towards circulation, rather than hording. People wanted to spend it. And the more money circulates (to a point) the better and more bountiful the economy. Preventative maintenance on machinery, research and development on new windmills and water wheels, was at a high.

Many towns became so prosperous that they invested in long-term projects, like cathedrals. The "Age of Cathedrals" of this pre-Renaissance period was not funded by the Vatican, but by the bottom-up activity of vibrant local economies. The work week got shorter, people got taller, and life expectancy increased.

Feudal lords, early kings, and the aristocracy were not participating in this wealth creation. Their families hadn't created value in centuries, and they needed a mechanism through which to maintain their own stature in the face of a rising middle class. The two ideas they came up with are still with us today in essentially the same form, and have become so embedded in commerce that we mistake them for pre-existing laws of economic activity.

The first innovation was to centralize currency. What better way for the already rich to maintain their wealth than to make money scarce? Monarchs forcibly made abundant local currencies illegal, and required people to exchange value through artificially scarce central currencies, instead. Not only was centrally issued money easier to tax, but it gave central banks an easy way to extract value through debasement (removing gold content). The bias of scarce currency, however, was towards hoarding. Those with access to the treasury could accrue wealth by lending or investing passively in value creation by others. Prosperity on the periphery quickly diminished as value was drawn toward the center. Within a few decades of the establishment of central currency in France came local poverty, an end to subsistence farming, and the plague. (The economy we now celebrate as the happy result of these Renaissance innovations only took effect after Europe had lost half of its population.)

As it's currently practiced, the issuance of currency — a public utility, really — is still controlled in much the same manner by central banks. They issue the currency in the form of a loan to a bank, which in turn loans it a business. Each borrower must pay back more then he has acquired, necessitating competition — and more borrowing. An economy with a strictly enforced central currency must expand at the rate of debt; it is no longer ruled principally by the laws of supply and demand, but the debt structures of its lenders and borrowers. Those who can't grow organically must acquire businesses in order to grow artificially. Even though nearly 80% of mergers and acquisitions fail to create value for either party, the rules of a debt-based economy — and the shareholders it was developed to favor — insist on growth at the expense of long-term value.

The second great innovation was the chartered monopoly, through which kings could grant exclusive control over a sector or region to a favored company in return for an investment in the enterprise. This gave rise to monopoly markets, such as the British East India Trading Company's exclusive right to trade in the American Colonies. Colonists who grew cotton were not permitted to sell it to other people or, worse, fabricate clothes. These activities would have generated value from the bottom up, in a way that could not have been extracted by a central authority. Instead, colonists were required to sell cotton to the Company, at fixed prices, who shipped it back to England where it was fabricated into clothes by another chartered monopoly, and then shipped to back to America for sale to the colonists. It was not more efficient; it was simply more extractive.

The resulting economy encouraged — and often forced — people to accept employment from chartered corporations rather than create value for themselves. When natives of the Indies began making rope to sell to the Dutch East India Trading Company, the Company sought and won laws making rope fabrication in the Indies illegal for anyone except the Company itself. Former rope-makers had to close their workshops, and work instead for lower wages as employees of the company.

We ended up with an economy based in scarcity and competition rather than abundance and collaboration; an economy that requires growth and eschews sustainable business models. It may or may not better reflect the laws of nature — and that it is a conversation we really should have — but it is certainly not the result of entirely natural set of principles in action. It is a system designed by certain people at a certain moment in history, with very specific interests.

Like artists of the Renaissance, who were required to find patrons to support their work, most scientists, mathematicians, theorists, and technologists today must find support from either the public or private sectors to carry on their work. This support is not won by calling attention to the Monopoly board most of us mistake for the real economy. It is won by applying insights to the techniques through which their patrons can better play the game.

This has biased their observations and their conclusions. Like John Nash, who carried out game theory experiments for RAND in the 1950's, these business consultants see competition and self-interest where there is none, and reject all evidence to the contrary. Although he later recanted his conclusions, Nash and his colleagues couldn't believe that their subjects would choose a collaborative course of action when presented with the "prisoner's dilemma," and simply ignored their initial results.

Likewise, the proponents of today's digital libertarianism exploit any evidence they can find of evolutionary principles that reflect the fundamental competitiveness of human beings and other life forms, while ignoring the much more rigorously gathered evidence of cooperation as a primary human social skill. The late archeologist Glynn Isaac, for one, demonstrated how food sharing, labor distribution, social networking and other collaborative activities are what gave our evolutionary forefathers the ability to survive. Harvard biologist Ian Gilby's research on hunting among bats and chimps demonstrates advanced forms of cooperation, collective action, and sharing of meat disproportional to the risks taken to kill it.

Instead, it is more popular to focus on the self-interested battle for survival of the fittest . . . .

 

It doesn't take a genius or a scientist to understand how the rules of the economic game as it is currently played reflect neither human values nor the laws of physics. The market cannot expand infinitely like the redshifts in Hubble's universe. How many other species attempt to store up enough fat during their productive years so that they can simply "retire" on their horded resources? How could a metric like the GNP accurately reflect the health of the real economy when toxic spills and disease epidemics alike actually count as short-term booms? . . . .

 

Conclusion:

We must stop perpetuating the fiction that existence itself is dictated by the immutable laws of economics. These so-called laws are, in actuality, the economic mechanisms of 13th Century monarchs. Some of us analyzing digital culture and its impact on business must reveal economics as the artificial construction it really is. Although it may be subjected to the scientific method and mathematical scrutiny, it is not a natural science; it is game theory, with a set of underlying assumptions that have little to do with anything resembling genetics, neurology, evolution, or natural systems.

The scientific tradition exposed the unpopular astronomical fact that the earth was not at the center of the universe. This stance challenged the social order, and its proponents were met with less than a welcoming reception. Today, science has a similar opportunity: to expose the fallacies underlying our economic model instead of producing short-term strategies for mitigating the effects of inventions and discoveries that threaten this inherited market hallucination.

The economic model has broken, for good. It's time to stop pretending it describes our world.

 

 

Yes, I'll be following this Rushkoff fellow's work . . . . He has a clear-eyed perception of how corporatism works, without worshipping it as the source of all blessings [and curses]. 

Cloudfire's picture
Cloudfire
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Sep 29 2008
Posts: 1813
The Wealth of Nature

John Michael Greer, author of The Long Descent, holds forth about:

The Wealth of Nature

Greer notes that contrary to modern economic theory, that natural resources, not labor, is the primary source from which value arises . . . and dovetails this observation into the futile struggle to maintain our current standard of living in the face of dwindling natural resources . . . .

 

Excerpt:

We have become so used to thinking of economics as a matter of human labor that it’s probably best to point out that what are sometimes called “primary industries” – farming, mining, and the like – belong to the secondary economy, not the primary one. The primary economy consists wholly of those nonhuman processes that yield economic goods to human beings. Thus a farm and the crops grown on it are part of the secondary economy, while the soil, water, sun, and genetic potential in the seed stock that make the farm and its crops possible are part of the primary economy. In the same way, a mine is part of the secondary economy, while the slow geological processes that put ore in the ground where it can be mined are part of the primary economy. If you examine any human economic activity, you’ll find behind it natural processes that make that activity possible; those processes are the inputs from the primary economy that make the secondary economy possible.

Thus Adam Smith’s dictum cited earlier badly needs reformulation. The product of the natural environment of every nation is the fund which originally supplies it with all the necessities and conveniences of life; the annual human labor is simply the energy input required to turn some of that product into forms useful for human beings. The wealth of nations, it turns out, is ultimately the wealth of nature, and the sooner the value of natural cycles and primary goods is taken into account, the better chance our descendants will have of avoiding the self-defeating habits that are pushing modern industrial system down the long road to collapse.

 

goes211's picture
goes211
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Aug 18 2008
Posts: 1114
Re: Rushkoff and Complimentary and bottom-up currencies

Wall Street Journal covers novel local/digital currencies and Rushkoff's film, Life, Inc.

Complimentary and bottom-up currencies, Last third on Life Inc, the movie  (video on page)

C1oudfire,

That is a great video.  I initally watched it about a week ago but I did not post it because I was not sure what thread to put it in.  These sort of ideas can be major step forward for humanity.  The only problem is that governments HATE this stuff because it takes away their central control.  How can they tax these transactions?   How can they finance their warfare/wellfare states if people have an alternative to their centralized control?

The coming crisis can be a opportunity to create a new system that is fair and just.  Unfortuantely I believe it is far more likely to be used to extract greater control over 99% of the worlds population for the benefit of the top 1%.

Cloudfire's picture
Cloudfire
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Sep 29 2008
Posts: 1813
Re: What does it mean to be rich?

Once again, DTM has found a jewel . . . . . Bobby Kennedy explores the meaning of wealth:

Redefining the GNP

 

Cloudfire's picture
Cloudfire
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Sep 29 2008
Posts: 1813
Re: What does it mean to be rich?

Related to the question of what it means to be rich, is the question of the difference between money and wealth.  No one, to my knowledge, has illuminated this subject more eruditely than John Michael Greer, author of The Long Descent.  I revel in his essays, as he has that rare quality of being able to think simultaneously with his right (creative) brain, and his left (analytical) brain.  This practice not only results in more satisfactory conclusions, it also makes for sneezily good reading . . . Greer often says what's on my mind (not a typo), only better . . . .  We've got a member with some Greerness (Don't trip over that coinage too quickly) about him, here on CM:  Machinehead, by name.  In both cases, I'll find myself deeply involved in groking the author's well-conceived assertions, when "pop!", they hit me with a turn of phrase that makes me laugh out loud, for sheer joy of linguistics.  This phenomenon is evident in Greer's follow-up article, The Metastasis of Money: 

"If you remember anything at all about the economics textbook you did your level best not to read back in your school days, it’s probably that bit of rhetoric; it can be found in the canned explanation for why we use money, somewhere around page 6. It runs something like this: there’s a plumber and a pig farmer who want to do business with one another, see, but the plumber’s Jewish and the pig farmer has nothing to trade but pork. Add money, and voila! The farmer sells his pork to other people and uses the proceeds to pay the plumber, who uses it to buy gefilte fish and matzoh meal. Everyone’s happy except, presumably, the pigs."

But, don't let that witty little snippet distract you . . . There's real substance here, too:

"The sort of bad logic that treats quantitative measurements as the only things that really exist is pervasive in the sciences, but its grip is even tighter on those fields of study that want to claim the prestige of science but can’t quite pass muster. Economics could be the poster child for this noxious effect. Down through the generations, against the sound advice of its best practitioners, economists have consistently treated the one thing in their field that can easily and consistently be measured with numbers – money – as though it was the one thing that matters. It’s easy to see how seductive this habit can be, since it seems to allow everything to be measured on a common scale; the problem, of course, is that everything that can’t be flattened out into that common scale gets mislaid, and as often as not these mislaid factors prove to be decisive."

"In The Wealth of Nations, Adam Smith criticizes the notion – as common in his time as in ours – that money is the same thing as wealth. The wealth of a country, he points out, consists of the product of its natural resources and collective labor: in modern terms, it’s the sum total of the goods and services produced by a nation’s ecosystems and economy. In another place, though, he defines wealth as anything that can be valued in money. These definitions do not conflict with one another; rather, they make the crucial point that money is not wealth but the yardstick by which modern cultures measure wealth. This ought to be the first thing we teach children about money, though of course it isn’t."

Now, that sort of talk may cause graphophiles and statheads to shriek in horror, but it's music to the ears of those who find myopic statistical analysis of the economy, shall we say, unsatisfyingly incomplete.

britinbe's picture
britinbe
Status: Gold Member (Offline)
Joined: Dec 28 2008
Posts: 381
Re: What does it mean to be rich?
Cloudfire wrote:
goes211 wrote:

C1oudfire,

Maybe I am reading more into it than is really there.  At 4:45 he talks about the "cult of the individual".  At 6:40 he decries us "acting as individual actors in competition with each other" as opposed to what?  Maybe I don't understand what alternative he is proposing but that sort of talk just rubs me the wrong way.

I don't want to be a serf living under a benevolent king.  I want to be a free man and for there to be no kings.

Hi, Goes;

I see what you mean . . . It's wise to listen for what I call "code words" that have deeper ideological meanings  . . . . I ordered a couple of his books . . . . I'll let you know what I find, once I get into his head a bit more . . . . In the video, he does have the starry-eyed look of an idealist . . . . scratch an idealist, and you sometimes find an ideologue hiding underneath . . . .

 

Adam Curtis has some stuff on game theory, you can find his films on google video.  It may exlain the comments in the Life Inc vid.

goes211's picture
goes211
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Aug 18 2008
Posts: 1114
Re: What does it mean to be rich?

Adam Curtis has some stuff on game theory, you can find his films on google video.  It may exlain the comments in the Life Inc vid.

I have watched "The Trap" in the past and I was NOT IMPRESSED.  I did not realize that Life Inc was related to Adam Curtis but at least now I know that my adverse reaction was justified to his collectivist views.

agitating prop's picture
agitating prop
Status: Platinum Member (Offline)
Joined: May 28 2009
Posts: 863
Re: What does it mean to be rich?
goes211 wrote:

Adam Curtis has some stuff on game theory, you can find his films on google video.  It may exlain the comments in the Life Inc vid.

I have watched "The Trap" in the past and I was NOT IMPRESSED.  I did not realize that Life Inc was related to Adam Curtis but at least now I know that my adverse reaction was justified to his collectivist views.

The collectivism you refer to and Curtis espouses seems to be just the opposite. Oligarchies practise a kind of collectivism that discourages or crowds out smaller more local operations.  Local businesses are more sensitive to all stake holders, not just share holders. They  have to be sensitive to their customers, their competition, the local natural environment (as they are living in it). It's not a Utopian quick fix, as human beings are involved, but it beats the ham handed nature of the multinational, like Walmart, rolling into town and taking out entire downtown cores.  Rural areas, once rich in small town entrepeneurs, now  turned into worker bee employers of a mega retailer, have become Stalinist, by their very nature. All they are missing is the exact same ideological underpinnings. It's all about the individual being subsumed by an overarching overweaning ideology, stripped of the means to make effective change.

agitating prop's picture
agitating prop
Status: Platinum Member (Offline)
Joined: May 28 2009
Posts: 863
Re: What does it mean to be rich?

redundant

britinbe's picture
britinbe
Status: Gold Member (Offline)
Joined: Dec 28 2008
Posts: 381
Re: What does it mean to be rich?
goes211 wrote:

Adam Curtis has some stuff on game theory, you can find his films on google video.  It may exlain the comments in the Life Inc vid.

I have watched "The Trap" in the past and I was NOT IMPRESSED.  I did not realize that Life Inc was related to Adam Curtis but at least now I know that my adverse reaction was justified to his collectivist views.

Hi goes211,

There is no link as far as I am aware, I just make the point that Adam Curtis introduces some of the phscology that is used in the Life Inc video

goes211's picture
goes211
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Aug 18 2008
Posts: 1114
Re: What does it mean to be rich?
goes211 wrote:

Adam Curtis has some stuff on game theory, you can find his films on google video.  It may exlain the comments in the Life Inc vid.

I have watched "The Trap" in the past and I was NOT IMPRESSED.  I did not realize that Life Inc was related to Adam Curtis but at least now I know that my adverse reaction was justified to his collectivist views.

The collectivism you refer to and Curtis espouses seems to be just the opposite. Oligarchies practise a kind of collectivism that discourages or crowds out smaller more local operations.  Local businesses are more sensitive to all stake holders, not just share holders. They  have to be sensitive to their customers, their competition, the local natural environment (as they are living in it). It's not a Utopian quick fix, as human beings are involved, but it beats the ham handed nature of the multinational, like Walmart, rolling into town and taking out entire downtown cores.  Rural areas, once rich in small town entrepeneurs, now  turned into worker bee employers of a mega retailer, have become Stalinist, by their very nature. All they are missing is the exact same ideological underpinnings. It's all about the individual being subsumed by an overarching overweaning ideology, stripped of the means to make effective change.

Maybe I am being to harsh on Mr. Curtis.  I did find "The Trap" an interesting take on our situation but I disagreed with his conclusions.  If I remember correctly he attacked Ms. Thatcher and many libertarian leaning politicians for rolling back the welfare state.  I agree that some of these politicians  favored large corporate interests over the poor and less fortunate but that did not make the rollback the wrong thing to do, only the implementation.  Mr Curtis seems to think that the state acts benevolently but corporate interests always work against the people.

It is my feelings that BOTH the state and corporate world will work against me and for their own interests.  For this reason neither are inherently my friend and will need to be judged by their actions, like all individuals, to determine if they are working to my own and societies benefit.  In general I will be far more critical of government's abuses because only government has a monopoly on the use of force in society.  In general corporations need to provide me value for my business unless they get governmental or regulatorial backing to become abusive to the same extent.

overtheillusion's picture
overtheillusion
Status: Member (Offline)
Joined: Sep 25 2009
Posts: 24
Re: What does it mean to be rich?
goes211 wrote:

Maybe I am reading more into it than is really there.  At 4:45 he talks about the "cult of the individual".  At 6:40 he decries us "acting as individual actors in competition with each other" as opposed to what?  Maybe I don't understand what alternative he is proposing but that sort of talk just rubs me the wrong way.

I don't want to be a serf living under a benevolent king.  I want to be a free man and for there to be no kings.

The opposite is individual actors in cooperation with each other. That is non-dualism.

It is an illusion that we are, and can ever be, truly individual actors. If I take a resource from the environment I effect other humans in that environment. In competition, each of those individuals trys to be the king, always fearing that thier stash will be taken away. Capitalism is authoritative, and one will always be at risk of being a serf under capitalism.

We can still act as individuals, but in cooperation. No kings are required, just compassion.We are free in that we have no fear.

So, I would rather live half as long with my fellow man then twice as long alone.

 

Full Moon's picture
Full Moon
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Oct 14 2008
Posts: 1258
Re: What does it mean to be rich?/ different view true story .

  I personally  have never felt richer .   This month our small  community was busy pitching in to raise $20k  to help a young family with expenses related to the momma  having an on going battle with cancer.   So busy in fact that my own  11 year old son  forgot it was his very  own birthday .  This let the rest of us off the hook for not remembering .   When I finally ask him what he wanted   he told me he really needed a new pair of Muck Boots and could not think of any  wants.  

    After  my grandson heard  that his uncle did not have a birthday  he said  "  Uncle Caleb can have my present because it is not fair that I got a birthday and he didn't  ."          A Blessing it was to me all the way around ....  when I was so concerned that  the whole world was going to hell in a handbasket  and my  family  were getting  caught up in  selfish, worldly  wants . 

  You  just can't beat the richness of giving and of family  .

Cloudfire's picture
Cloudfire
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Sep 29 2008
Posts: 1813
Re: What does it mean to be rich?/ different view true ...
Full Moon wrote:

  I personally  have never felt richer .   This month our small  community was busy pitching in to raise $20k  to help a young family with expenses related to the momma  having an on going battle with cancer.   So busy in fact that my own  11 year old son  forgot it was his very  own birthday .  This let the rest of us off the hook for not remembering .   When I finally ask him what he wanted   he told me he really needed a new pair of Muck Boots and could not think of any  wants.  

    After  my grandson heard  that his uncle did not have a birthday  he said  "  Uncle Caleb can have my present because it is not fair that I got a birthday and he didn't  ."          A Blessing it was to me all the way around ....  when I was so concerned that  the whole world was going to hell in a handbasket  and my  family  were getting  caught up in  selfish, worldly  wants . 

  You  just can't beat the richness of giving and of family  .

Great post, Harvest Moon . . . Thanks . . .

Full Moon's picture
Full Moon
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Oct 14 2008
Posts: 1258
Re: What does it mean to be rich?

 Ps .   we got the birthday celebrated and he got new Carharts with his muck boots .  He is a happy little man Laughing!

Cloudfire's picture
Cloudfire
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Sep 29 2008
Posts: 1813
Re: What does it mean to be rich?
Full Moon wrote:

 Ps .   we got the birthday celebrated and he got new Carharts with his muck boots .  He is a happy little man Laughing!

Thanks for the smile, Moon . . .

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
Login or Register to post comments