Question 2: Imbalance of Wealth

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AuthorTopic: Question 2: Imbalance of Wealth
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2) How can we address the imbalance of wealth throughout the world? Should we?

Good work on the last question. This one is a bit more difficult and controversial, but let's see if we can provide some ideas. Go! :P

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It's all very well to talk about what "we" can do, or about what world leaders can do, but the only person whose actions you have control over is yourself. So the question is: what can you, personally, do about poverty?

Well, the best thing you can do is sell everything you own, donate the proceeds to charity, buy a plane ticket to a poor country and spend the rest of your life as an aid worker.

If you're not willing to do that, stop tut-tutting about poverty and get used to being part of the problem. Thousands of people die every day as a direct result of living in poor economic conditions; unless you are spending every waking hour of your day working against poverty, you have absolutely no right to complain about others not doing enough.

[ Friday, April 28, 2006 19:47: Message edited by: Thuryl ]

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Hang on a second.

If I spend only 75% of my time working against poverty, I have no right to complain about others not doing enough? Even if they're doing nothing?

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Personally, I think everyone should just donate at least a dollar. It would help a lot.

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Is there inbalance of wealth? Where is the cosmic scale that specifies that net worth has to be equal between two people/groups/countries/etc.??

I'm not so sure that this isn't more of a perceived problem than an actual issue that can or should be addressed.

The real question, IMHO, is how to address the flow of money between rich and poor (again, people/groups/countries/etc.) It seems evident that money tends to flow from the poor to the rich, yet the poor generally still retain enough money to send more in the next go-around. I don't know the answer to this one, but I think it makes a heck of a lot more interesting question than the other one. Sorry stareye....

Edit - Putting the bee back in the but.

[ Friday, April 28, 2006 20:00: Message edited by: Jumpin' Salmon ]

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The figure I've heard is that 0.7% of GDP from industrialized nations is what's needed. Not sure how accurate that is.

EDIT: And yes, "Mass poverty" is the issue, not "imbalance of wealth".

[ Friday, April 28, 2006 20:05: Message edited by: Ash Lael ]

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Thuryl -- Perhaps, but I think you are being too absolutist. I could reach this about any issue and say, "if you don't spend every waking hour combating [insert social problem here] then you have no right to complain about what others should do". Why is poverty different from any other major issue such as crime, drugs, environment, war, etc?

Are we part of the problem? Probably, although the issue is more complicated than just individuals. However, does that revoke our right to ponder solutions, of course not! Ideas have to start somewhere, and the unrealistic solution of everyone giving away all their things lest they dare not ponder the problem does not really help.

[ Friday, April 28, 2006 20:07: Message edited by: *i ]

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And Thuryl, I'd say that defeatism/sarcasm is a primary source of the "enlightened" portions of first-world's failure to pitch in and save humanity.

[ Friday, April 28, 2006 20:11: Message edited by: Butt Paladin ]

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This particular stat sticks in my mind, I don't remember where I picked it up. That is, 80 percent of the world's wealth is controlled by 20 percent of world's population. Pretty disturbing.

Many of these severely poor countries have histories of corrupt/innefective governments, I personally think that the most effective way to combat poverty would be effective governments in the suffering countries. Having rich countries send money to impoverished ones is a decent short term solution, but money can't simply be siphoned off forever. Eventually these countries need to industrialized and get back on their feet, this needs to come from local governments. Hopefully Iraq can prove that this is possible (this is not an invitation to start discussing Iraq.)

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quote:
Many of these severely poor countries have histories of corrupt/innefective governments, I personally think that the most effective way to combat poverty would be effective governments in the suffering countries.
Are you blaming the poor for not accepting our generosity?

Although I think it's nice that you mention this, since it does make this US defense of not doling out national aid rather hypocritical, considering that we are directly responsible for most of the repressive regimes out there.

quote:
Having rich countries send money to impoverished ones is a decent short term solution, but money can't simply be siphoned off forever.
Wait, didn't you just get done saying that 20% of the world controls 80% of the wealth? Given that statistic, I think we very much can distribute wealth ad infinitum.

Furthermore, encouraging self-sufficiency isn't going to do it this time: After all, if your ultimate argument is, "stand on your own two feet," then doesn't that support the venture capitalists who are doing the actual resource extraction?

quote:
Hopefully Iraq can prove that this is possible (this is not an invitation to start discussing Iraq.)
Are you kidding me? Are you literally taking a crap as you type this? Iraq is a direct contradiction to your arguments: Under Saddam, there was an "indigenous" infrastructure. Under Bremer et al, Iraq was transformed into a resource mine for western interests overnight. Our intervention has destroyed meritocracy in Iraq, not championed it.

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quote:
Originally written by Lazarus.:

This particular stat sticks in my mind, I don't remember where I picked it up. That is, 80 percent of the world's wealth is controlled by 20 percent of world's population. Pretty disturbing.
wait a minute... Are you saying that every idiot, everypoor selfish soul should have his say? If that would happen, I will pack my suitcases and go on a one-way trip to Mars, thank you.

Really, that's how its in every country. Every country (I'll take Holland as an example) will have a leading character: in Holland the pri-minister: Jan Peter Balkenende. Then there is "de Eerste Kamer" (literally "de first room"), in which the ministers and secretaries of the ministers have their say. then you also have "de Tweede Kamer" (literally "de second room") in which the actual parliament debates. now all these people are what? Less than 1% of the total population of Holland? Still they control 16 million people. Anything wrong about that? no. it works. Its the same in all other countries (well, except for China and other countries in which the communisme is the main political stream).

So basically I don't understand what your point is about these stats. As my Dutch teacher put democracy: "democracy is a dictatorship of the majority." Pity that the majority often consists of idiots.

TM: he is not blaming the poor, he is blaming their leaders, and I agree with that. How much money was spent, trying to do something for these countries. These countries could have been more civilized by now, if only the governments wouldn't have been giving themselves a healthy salary, paid by the US' and Europe's friendly "help-the-poor" donations.

Personally, I think that, if we want to help these people in any way, we will have to give money and people. What i mean is this: first collect money, then send people with the money to these countries, and see to it that these people who are there to give aid, spend the money efficiently.

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quote:
Originally written by Mc 'mini' Thralni:

Personally, I think that, if we want to help these people in any way, we will have to give money and people. What i mean is this: first collect money, then send people with the money to these countries, and see to it that these people who are there to give aid, spend the money efficiently.
I'm glad to hear that at least one person agrees with me.

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quote:
Originally written by Thuryl:

It's all very well to talk about what "we" can do, or about what world leaders can do, but the only person whose actions you have control over is yourself. So the question is: what can you, personally, do about poverty?

Well, the best thing you can do is sell everything you own, donate the proceeds to charity, buy a plane ticket to a poor country and spend the rest of your life as an aid worker.

If you're not willing to do that, stop tut-tutting about poverty and get used to being part of the problem. Thousands of people die every day as a direct result of living in poor economic conditions; unless you are spending every waking hour of your day working against poverty, you have absolutely no right to complain about others not doing enough.

Bull.

quote:
Originally written by Spring:

Personally, I think everyone should just donate at least a dollar. It would help a lot.
It's doubtful that'd be enough; the maldistribution of wealth is pretty harrowing.

quote:
Originally written by Ash Lael:

EDIT: And yes, "Mass poverty" is the issue, not "imbalance of wealth".
They're one and the same. An imbalance of wealth implies that there are too many people on the bottom for the number of people that exist on the top.

The phrase 'imbalance of wealth', specifically contrasted against 'mass poverty', conveys that there's no magical fairy wand we can wave to fix the problem - poverty and affluence are two parts of the same coin. It's a zero-sum game, and making the poor less poor is going to take the rich being made - or becoming, by attrition - less rich. Period. End of discussion.

quote:
Originally written by Mc 'mini' Thralni:

These countries could have been more civilized by now, if only the governments wouldn't have been giving themselves a healthy salary, paid by the US' and Europe's friendly "help-the-poor" donations.

Personally, I think that, if we want to help these people in any way, we will have to give money and people. What i mean is this: first collect money, then send people with the money to these countries, and see to it that these people who are there to give aid, spend the money efficiently.

I've never seen someone make a good point in a more despicable, patronizing way. Congratulations, I suppose.

[ Friday, April 28, 2006 23:39: Message edited by: The Worst Man Ever ]
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quote:
Originally written by The Worst Man Ever:

It's a zero-sum game, and making the poor less poor is going to take the rich being made - or becoming, by attrition - less rich.
Yes, but that would involve a lesser imbalance as a means to an end, not an end in itself. That's an important distinction.

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As far as I can see, the only imbalance is the initial people who recieve wealth, such as a fwe leaders who'd rather spend the money on their own militairy and the original problem is still there.

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quote:
Originally written by The Worst Man Ever:

quote:
Originally written by Mc 'mini' Thralni:

These countries could have been more civilized by now, if only the governments wouldn't have been giving themselves a healthy salary, paid by the US' and Europe's friendly "help-the-poor" donations.

Personally, I think that, if we want to help these people in any way, we will have to give money and people. What i mean is this: first collect money, then send people with the money to these countries, and see to it that these people who are there to give aid, spend the money efficiently.

I've never seen someone make a good point in a more despicable, patronizing way. Congratulations, I suppose.

personally, I don't see what's so despicable or partonizing about what I said.

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quote:
Originally written by *i:

2) How can we address the imbalance of wealth throughout the world? Should we?

Good work on the last question. This one is a bit more difficult and controversial, but let's see if we can provide some ideas. Go! :P

If you're talking about the existence of poverty at all, then blame the capatilist system. It inherently creates top and bottom classes, seeing as it's very, very hard for everyone to get rich. For every CEO, there's a bunch of maids to clean his house. There's really no way around it.

However, if we're talking about entire countries that are poor as a result of revolution, foreign invasion, etc., then I think the best way is to work with the government, not just throwing money. Given the widespread corruption, aid workers actually going in and building houses is probably going to do more good than sending the country money to build houses.

Another problem is distribution. The U.S, if it's farm potential was fully tapped, could provide enough food for the entire world. But it's very hard to get any of that to every starving boy in Africa. The entire world organizing an effective distribution system would help the most, I think.

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quote:
Originally written by Ash Lael:

quote:
Originally written by The Worst Man Ever:

It's a zero-sum game, and making the poor less poor is going to take the rich being made - or becoming, by attrition - less rich.
Yes, but that would involve a lesser imbalance as a means to an end, not an end in itself. That's an important distinction.

No, not at all. The desired end is a less skewed distribution of wealth.

As long as we have billionaires - or the equivalent of billionaires - we will have starving children. There's no real way around that, I don't suspect.

Consider increasing the wealth-base: a good, solid way of making everyone better off.

Increase it by 100%, and the majority of that ten trillion or so increase is going to go to people who already have more money than they will ever find a use for. In poorer areas of the globe - let's say, for instance, Malawi - this increase will mean everything and nothing. They will be most grateful for the extra money, but *you* could as easily have given them that money - and still be able to afford a nice enough car. We're talking around $600 per annum.

Increase it by 1000%. You're looking at personal fortunes in the hundreds of billions. The average annual income in Malawi? Too little to support both a balanced diet and modern healthcare.

Increase it by 50,000%. Bill Gates's personal fortune is around equal to that of the US before all of this mess.

The average Malawian will be making about what the average American was at square one.

Can you kind of begin to see the inherent problem at work here? What the hell use does a person have for their second million, let alone their hundredth or their five thousandth? For that matter, consider the hypothetical - what in God's name could Bill Gates do with 2 trillion dollars? And if your only good answer is 'charity', why the hell should the rich have that money in the first place? Better the eventual beneficiaries of that charity receive the money from the word go without affording them the opportunity to piss it on baseball teams and Lear jets.

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quote:
Originally written by Cairo Jim:

As far as I can see, the only imbalance is the initial people who recieve wealth, such as a fwe leaders who'd rather spend the money on their own militairy and the original problem is still there.
What the hell is your problem? Seriously, does your understanding of the world come principally from bumper stickers? The most transparent, democratic government on Earth is surprisingly unhelpful when a man is counted rich in your country if he owns a telephone.

Further, 'foreign aid' isn't just a piss-off grant of money. It generally goes directly to certain programs or commodities, directly supervised by the aiding party.

It takes a genuine lunatic to violate the trust of the beneficiaries - especially considering, from a dictator's perspective, that money foreign powers give to your people is money you don't have to divert from your absurd defense budget.

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quote:
Originally written by Mc 'mini' Thralni:

quote:
Originally written by The Worst Man Ever:

quote:
Originally written by Mc 'mini' Thralni:

These countries could have been more civilized by now, if only the governments wouldn't have been giving themselves a healthy salary, paid by the US' and Europe's friendly "help-the-poor" donations.

Personally, I think that, if we want to help these people in any way, we will have to give money and people. What i mean is this: first collect money, then send people with the money to these countries, and see to it that these people who are there to give aid, spend the money efficiently.

I've never seen someone make a good point in a more despicable, patronizing way. Congratulations, I suppose.

personally, I don't see what's so despicable or partonizing about what I said.

'Civilized'? The 'government's healthy salary' (which includes, say, payrolls for state-owned mines and factories, right? Of course it does. Good marketroid.), supported by the well-meaning efforts of the West. Oh, the poor, long-suffering rich!

I especially like the implication in this:

What i mean is this: first collect money, then send people with the money to these countries, and see to it that these people who are there to give aid, spend the money efficiently.

As it should, of course, be immediately apparent to anyone with a whit of sense how very poor those addle-brained wogs are at organizing anything.

I would like to form a bit of a parable here:

You see a man on the street. He has nothing. In what you feel is a grand act of generosity, you hand him a crisp Euro.

There are exactly two things you can buy with a crisp Euro: cheap food or cheaper alcohol. The man on the street isn't hungry right now, so he gets himself a bottle of Mad Dog and enjoys a brief respite from his terrible life.

You would hire a consultant to ensure that Euro gets spent on a Big Mac - or whatever they call it in Holland. The consultant, even if working for free, will run up expenses greater than E1. What will the bum do for food tomorrow? Who knows. But you helped!

Now, yes, I acknowledge that giving a homeless man money and having him spend it on mind-numbers instead of actual food - that's unfortunate. Something that ought to be avoided. But the basic problem isn't that he has no money for food; it's that he's COMPLETELY PROSTRATE. He needs to turn his life around, and that crisp euro isn't going to do that one way or another.

He's going to need a hell of a lot more time and money than you're probably willing to give. You want to hire a consultant then? Fine. Probably a good idea, because you've got an actual investment in the man being a functioning part of society.

But don't whine about him mismanaging your grand act of charity if that grand act is impossible to manage meaningfully positively.

[ Saturday, April 29, 2006 01:56: Message edited by: The Worst Man Ever ]
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quote:
Originally written by Mc 'mini' Thralni:

quote:
Originally written by The Worst Man Ever:

quote:
Originally written by Mc 'mini' Thralni:

These countries could have been more civilized by now, if only the governments wouldn't have been giving themselves a healthy salary, paid by the US' and Europe's friendly "help-the-poor" donations.

Personally, I think that, if we want to help these people in any way, we will have to give money and people. What i mean is this: first collect money, then send people with the money to these countries, and see to it that these people who are there to give aid, spend the money efficiently.

I've never seen someone make a good point in a more despicable, patronizing way. Congratulations, I suppose.

personally, I don't see what's so despicable or partonizing about what I said.

Thralni, it's quite true that a lot of the money sent by well-meaning rich countries to poorer countries is used in a bad way. There you make a good point. It would be great to somehow ensure that all of this aid money was put into sustainable development - education, health care, stable economy etc - but that is VERY difficult to do. Sending people from rich countries along with the money, as you suggested, is very risky because it is more or less neocolonialism. The counries receiving aid need to be independent enough to use it in whatever way they see fit. Of course that doesn't mean richer countries should keep sending money to fund wars, corruption and oppression; the international community can give advice and support on rebuilding an economy, working via the UN (ideally). But neocolonialism can only and does only create more and more problems. The rich/poor divide in the world today is a direct result of European colonialism.

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Nah. European colonialism helped it along globally, but at the same time it's the reason that divide is no longer as big in Europe. The culprit is the market; reverence for it is making things worse by the day.
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The market keeps divide the way it is, but colonialism allowed (many of) today's rich countries to get rich and get control in the first place. Sure, the rich/poor divide isn't as big in Europe any more, but the vast majority do not live in Europe. I don't know the stats, but the 'poor' people of this world outnumber the rich by a staggering amount. However much equality has improved in Europe, it has worsened much, much more in most of the rest of the world.

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We can return the distribution of wealth to more equitable values by several means.

The most important specific demand of such a program would be gouging out international finance's eyes. The IMF is widely, and more or less correctly, viewed as a murderous vampire by the third world; its policies are driven by an economics of numbers rather than people, and it playing a large role in securing the lives of marginalized people is, in a word, retarded.

Second, and more importantly, it is necessary to re-evaluate our very worldview before continuing with any such efforts. In this discussion, even I have resorted to numbers as an index of prosperity. The problem with those numbers is that they are meaningless. Brazil, by numbers like per-capita GDP and economic growth alone, has a booming economy, and is in a good position. However, this utterly ignores the fact that millions of people in Brazil have next to nothing - live in filth and poverty and ignorance their entire lives.

And the favelas are a territory of fortune compared to some places in Africa or Asia. Yet the numbers gloss over them - it takes thousands of favelados to counterweigh one good, rich Brazilian, after all.

In an economic system of international affairs, the maldistribution of wealth is meaningless; it is simply a symptom of a growing industrial economy, and is, if anything, a good thing. A humanistic system recognizes that the only product of it is misery for billions.

In concrete objectives:

1. Measure the success of a country by quality of life standards (infant mortality, literacy, disease rates, nutrition, etc.) rather than econometric ones.

2. Force national policy to focus on the poor abroad as well as at home. The slums are the midwives of evil; a man won't fight a revolution on a full stomach.

3. Understand that extreme wealth is as much a problem as extreme poverty, and the two are related. Nobody should be making so much money they have to do ridiculous things like buying islands or stadiums to actually spend all of it; that the government actually subsidizes that kind of nonsense rather than putting a stop to it shows that our priorities have taken a turn for the insane.

4. The most comprehensive policy for the elimination of poverty is, intriguingly, the one that the major religion of the West backs.
Pay attention to the least among you. First and foremost. Tailor policy to the rich at your peril; they can take care of themselves. The poor? They got nobody looking out for them but God.

A nation should not count itself fortunate that has a dozen men worth billions of dollars - and millions without work, homes, proper education. It should be scarlet with shame.
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quote:
Originally written by The Worst Man Ever:

No, not at all. The desired end is a less skewed distribution of wealth.
If that's the aim, it might be easiest to do it by bringing everyone down the can't-afford-food level. I wouldn't say that was better than the way it is now, though.

It absolutely isn't a zero-sum game. For it to be, not only would the amount of stuff/capacity to make stuff have to be immutable, but an extra box of food would have to be as useful to Bill Gates as to your Malawian.

quote:
Increase it by 50,000%. Bill Gates's personal fortune is around equal to that of the US before all of this mess.

The average Malawian will be making about what the average American was at square one.

So everyone's better off except for the people who have enough but are jealous of the people who have more.

quote:
What the hell use does a person have for their second million, let alone their hundredth or their five thousandth? For that matter, consider the hypothetical - what in God's name could Bill Gates do with 2 trillion dollars?
Nothing he can't do with $50bn, fortunately.
It's not distribution of money that matters, it's distribution of stuff and ability to get the stuff you need/want. Bill Gates with 100 times more money won't use up 100 times more resources.

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quote:
Originally written by The Worst Man Ever:

Now, yes, I acknowledge that giving a homeless man money and having him spend it on mind-numbers instead of actual food - that's unfortunate. Something that ought to be avoided. But the basic problem isn't that he has no money for food; it's that he's COMPLETELY PROSTRATE. He needs to turn his life around, and that crisp euro isn't going to do that one way or another.

So what is? I agree that money's not the only solution, but it's one of many. As you pointed out, just money likely isn't good. Just a consultant, though, is equally useless: if the man could have lifted himself out of the rut he's in without outside funding, it's likely he would have.

Giving money to a government can help get that government on its feet, which boosts the economy, which creates more jobs, which help improve the lives of people like that homeless man. Money isn't the only answer, but it's far from worthless.

Just out of curiosity, Stareye, what are these questions for? Just general debate topics? Or part of an evil plan?

[ Saturday, April 29, 2006 02:27: Message edited by: I Would Have Been Your Daddy ]

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Khoth: Point of exercise isn't just B.G. having $2 trillion; that's inflation, and silly. Rather, the point of exercise is that $2 trillion representing actual resources.

Right now, about a hundred Westerners have more resources than many entire countries. I don't understand why anyone can think of this as a good thing, especially considering how awful things are going down there.

To extend the parable a little: you aren't going to fix homelessness by cleaning the one guy up. Just throwing money at the problem and saying 'Here, you aren't poor any more' won't work; it is necessary to address the distribution of wealth as an inherent problem, rather than just one that happens to be doing harm now.
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