Is income inequality unjust, and if so, where is the injustice?

Necronic

Staff member
Not to turn this into a relationships thread, but... can't you tell your girlfriend you hate her coworker's boyfriend and are more likely to stab him the longer you are put in close proximity?
They are in a graduate program together. I rarely have to spend time with this guy, and it's really important that my gf maintains a good working relationship with the girl. Also sooner or later he will die of old age.
 

GasBandit

Staff member
If you don't think net neutrality being abolished won't effect the independent business market on the internet, you're wearing blinders.
No no, my quote supports your opinion. It's Adam Smith, the grand patriarch of Capitalism, saying you can't trust business not to collude.
 

GasBandit

Staff member
Sorry, I was just used to you disagreeing with me ;)
Well, that's an understandable mistake.

But, in any case, I'd like to think I've got a consistent message going where I do believe there is a legitimate role for government in regulating the economy, and that most important role is in enforcing competition and fair competitive practices.

In the case of net neutrality, that really means that until there is an acceptable level of private competition in the Broadband ISP markets of the vast majority of American cities, we have to consider broadband internet access to be de facto civil infrastructure, and regulate it accordingly, same as we would roads and highways, ensuring equal and equitable access for all. (IE, Net Neutrality.)
 
The forces of market capitalism exert a downward pressure on wages. As more wealth is controlled by the upper classes, the more of a scarcity of wealth (a vacuum) exists in the lower classes, and therefore the greater demand from those lower classes. This means that, as wealth is conveyed upwards, that scarcity lowers the lower classes' breakpoint, and makes those lower classes more willing (desperate, really) to work for lower and lower wages, just because they want to have any sort of wages at all. They are therefore in no position to really demand anything, and, as time goes on, what demands they could make become less and less, until you literally* get workers who are willing to work at (or below!) subsistence level...and beyond (i.e., slavery).
When there's more supply of labor than there are available jobs in a given sector, sure, wages are subject to downward pressure in a free market. But to what extent is society responsible for ameliorating the effects of the free decisions of it's members, really? If they have nothing interesting to sell (their labor), then whose fault is it when nobody wants to buy?
You do realise that you're actively arguing in favor of a worker's uprising and revolution for the laborers to "take back" their share of the wealth, right? In a completely free market, that's their right too. The market will force prices down until they're untenable and the workers will have to use "their bargaining position" - i.e. "there's plenty of us and we can stop your plants and you can't shoot us all".
What do you mean by "their share" of wealth? They are entitled to the fruits of their own labors, and as I see it no civilized society should have it's members dying on the streets of starvation and exposure, but otherwise their own financial standing is up for them to manage. I don't think they should be able to lay claim to pretty much anything more by the virtue of just being born.

If you live on government handouts, okay, you are most likely entitled to them. But I'm not sure I quite understand people who claim that those who have done better than you are somehow cheating you out of your fair share of the wealth of your society.
No no, my quote supports your opinion. It's Adam Smith, the grand patriarch of Capitalism, saying you can't trust business not to collude.
I think about the only thing you can trust business to do is to act according to what they believe to be their own interest. I believe that's fair enough, as long as things stay within the limits of the law. It is up to society to influence that cost-benefit calculation to what they deem to provide the most benefit to society at large, as business does not and should not have such a requierment.
 
I think about the only thing you can trust business to do is to act according to what they believe to be their own interest. I believe that's fair enough, as long as things stay within the limits of the law. It is up to society to influence that cost-benefit calculation to what they deem to provide the most benefit to society at large, as business does not and should not have such a requierment.
That paragraph screamed for one of those little cause/effect cycle charts:

It is up to society to influence that cost-benefit calculation --> create laws --> business ... stay within the limits of the law --> provide the most benefit to society at large --> It is up to society to influence that cost-benefit calculation --> ...
 
They are in a graduate program together. I rarely have to spend time with this guy, and it's really important that my gf maintains a good working relationship with the girl. Also sooner or later he will die of old age.
You're not talking about me? are you?
 
When there's more supply of labor than there are available jobs in a given sector, sure, wages are subject to downward pressure in a free market. But to what extent is society responsible for ameliorating the effects of the free decisions of it's members, really? If they have nothing interesting to sell (their labor), then whose fault is it when nobody wants to buy?
I think you are confusing "Society" with "The Wealthy," unless you are suggesting that The Wealthy should speak for all of Society, despite making up such a small percentage of it.
...which is kinda the problem we had in the first place.

Even people who don't contribute their labor via employment are still enriching the system via their consumption. The Wealthy would not be able to achieve such a degree of wealth without such a large Society to feed them, whether directly (labor) or indirectly (consumption).

--Patrick
 

Necronic

Staff member
And if so (even if you aren't the guy), isn't that a bit weird?

I hate lopsided power dynamics in my relationships. That is definitely a lopsided dynamic.
 

GasBandit

Staff member
And if so (even if you aren't the guy), isn't that a bit weird?

I hate lopsided power dynamics in my relationships. That is definitely a lopsided dynamic.
Depends on what you want out of the relationship, I suppose. But it does break the x/2+7 rule.
 
I think you are confusing "Society" with "The Wealthy," unless you are suggesting that The Wealthy should speak for all of Society, despite making up such a small percentage of it.

...which is kinda the problem we had in the first place.
I am certainly not suggesting anything of the kind. I believe not only The Wealthy but also all members of society have some form of duty towards those who are less fortunate, whether through their own actions or force of circumstance. In most western societies that duty is discharged through various forms of government welfare, though you can of course debate what is a reasonable limit.

The Wealthy, even though they may carry a particularly heavy burden of financing social expenditure through taxes, do not make up for the whole society. But as far as justice is concerned, I believe one must take into account the actions of a particular individual that led to whatever the circumstances may be. That particular individual does bear primary responsibility over their own circumstances in most if not almost all cases, I think, and it should not be the case that those who are better off are automatically obligated to finance the difference between their means and lifestyle.
Even people who don't contribute their labor via employment are still enriching the system via their consumption. The Wealthy would not be able to achieve such a degree of wealth without such a large Society to feed them, whether directly (labor) or indirectly (consumption).
Based on your description there, their financial contribution is derived from government welfare. They personally provide no added value, and their consumption is financed through taxes on others, who will not be able to spend/invest those funds. Short of what is required for subsistance, the government could put those tax dollars/euros/whatever into roads, schools, hospitals, or other things that actually improve society. Or not spend it at all and lower taxes, allowing the taxpayers to enjoy a bigger cut of the fruits of the sweat of their brow. But no, you have the downshifters, the lifestyle artists, and the plain old lazy folks who just draw welfare year-in year-out without giving anything in return.

That may have come off as a bit harsh. Let me clarify by saying that I have no problem with people who are content with less material possessions; indeed, concentrating on other aspects can often lead to a happier life with less stress. Just as long as they earn their own keep, instead of being a burden on others.
 
The Wealthy, even though they may carry a particularly heavy burden of financing social expenditure through taxes, do not make up for the whole society. But as far as justice is concerned, I believe one must take into account the actions of a particular individual that led to whatever the circumstances may be. That particular individual does bear primary responsibility over their own circumstances in most if not almost all cases, I think, and it should not be the case that those who are better off are automatically obligated to finance the difference between their means and lifestyle.
From a "fairness" point of view, I certainly can't argue that a person must suffer the results of his or her (in)actions. People who continue to make unwise choices should have incentive to improve. However, this line of thinking is entirely inapplicable if everyone is not offered the same set of choices. If I slide my front-wheel drive car into a Minnesota* ditch during Snowmageddon, you could certainly retort, "Stupid Minnesotan should have known better and gotten something with all-wheel drive, then this wouldn't have happened." However true that might be, if I had only managed to save up $2000 by the time I purchased that vehicle, that 4x4 choice would not have been available for me, no matter how much I personally may have wanted to do what made more sense.
From a "for the benefit of Society as a whole" point of view, it strikes me as irresponsible that every human is not receiving some minimum base level of quality of life, if not through the actions of Government, then through social pressure or even outright generosity. As I mentioned previously, there are times when the need to sacrifice sufficient resources and time merely in order to accumulate enough money to survive has the (presumably) unintended side effect of smothering the ability for an individual to really make a difference under his/her own power. I don't believe that those who are better off are automatically obligated to finance the difference between their lifestyle and that of the disadvantaged, instead I believe they are obligated to finance the difference at least up to sufficiency. The Wealthy can go on being wealthy, I'm sure they've earned it, but they should never be able (or allowed!) to sit idly by atop their stockpiles while people go unfed, unclothed, unsheltered, etc. This sort of willful ignorance/turning a blind eye is flat out reprehensible, in my opinion. As you yourself say:
Short of what is required for subsistance, the government could put those tax dollars/euros/whatever into roads, schools, hospitals, or other things that actually improve society.
Why does a government get some sort of guaranteed subsistence stipend but not extend that same privilege to its constituents? Shouldn't the health and welfare of its constituents be any successful government's first priority? Why would you not make sure your foundation is sound before trying to build anything atop it? Why do so many decisions made by an entity (person/business/government) always seem to be driven primarily by how they will affect himself/itself rather than how they will effect everybody?

I would love to go on, but my designated meal period is over, and I must return to work.

--Patrick
*I do not actually live in Minnesota. Just work with me, here.
 
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Perhaps I was not entirely clear on my meaning. Permit me to clarify
However, this line of thinking is entirely inapplicable if everyone is not offered the same set of choices. If I slide my front-wheel drive car into a Minnesota* ditch during Snowmageddon, you could certainly retort, "Stupid Minnesotan should have known better and gotten something with all-wheel drive, then this wouldn't have happened." However true that might be, if I had only managed to save up $2000 by the time I purchased that vehicle, that 4x4 choice would not have been available for me, no matter how much I personally may have wanted to do what made more sense.
With this I disagree. One lives within one's means, and if one can't afford something or chooses to prioritise other things, then one needs to live without it. And deal with the consequences.
I don't believe that those who are better off are automatically obligated to finance the difference between their lifestyle and that of the disadvantaged, instead I believe they are obligated to finance the difference at least up to sufficiency.
As I believe I've said previously, I agree with this, though one can always debate what constitutes "sufficiency". Perhaps the necessities for basic physical survival is a baseline, with people having different ideas of how far above that society should go.
Why does a government get some sort of guaranteed subsistence stipend but not extend that same privilege to its constituents? Shouldn't the health and welfare of its constituents be any successful government's first priority? Why would you not make sure your foundation is sound before trying to build anything atop it?
I meant subsistence as to what the government is, in my opinion, obligated to guarantee to it's people.
Why do so many decisions made by an entity (person/business/government) always seem to be driven primarily by how they will affect himself/itself rather than how they will effect everybody?
I think they've done studies on this. I don't know myself, but it might have something to do with the idea that a person is primarily responsible for themselves and those immediately around them, and the rest of society comes quite a bit further behind, while the rest of the world merits a fleeting thought and a shaking of head when you hear about it on the evening news.
 
With [the car thing] I disagree. One lives within one's means, and if one can't afford something or chooses to prioritise other things, then one needs to live without it. And deal with the consequences.
This is the difference in our viewpoints, I think. When one's means are not sufficient to survive, then that is when something should be making up that "sufficiencies" shortfall. In a northern climate, a 4x4 might be more likely to be seen as a necessity. There is a difference between necessities and luxuries, of course, and trying to establish fair and honest guidelines would be quite a task (as well as an encouragement to a large number of rules lawyers who would no doubt try to game the system for their own benefit). Necessities you get, luxuries you have to work for. I have no problem with everyone automatically getting a soylent subsidy, but if you want cake and pie (or Reese's Cups), you have to work for it.
I meant subsistence as to what the government is, in my opinion, obligated to guarantee to it's people.
Again, I see the general welfare of its constituency as the non-discriminatory primary function of any government, with any and all other functions subordinate to that. If the entire constituency is not receiving some sort of significant benefit from its government (in one way or another), then that government is not doing its job.
I think they've done studies on this. I don't know myself, but it might have something to do with the idea that a person is primarily responsible for themselves and those immediately around them, and the rest of society comes quite a bit further behind, while the rest of the world merits a fleeting thought and a shaking of head when you hear about it on the evening news.
You are probably thinking of Dunbar's Number, which is an approximation of the number of other people a given individual can be expected to legitimately care about. It has also more amusingly (and impactfully) been labeled the Monkeysphere. All that I meant by my question is that I have no qualm with people prioritizing themselves (or their friends) when it comes to things like where to party, which movie to see, or who gets on the Christmas list ("small" things), but I don't understand how anyone who claims to act "for the good of (presumably all) the people" could justify such things as pork barrel politics, insider trading, or all of that obfuscation sheltering that goes on.

It could also be that I'm just really sick of seeing so many people who act like they're trying to "win" at life, like it's some sort of competition of them against The World, where everyone who isn't on your team must be The Enemy and therefore what happens to them doesn't matter. This whole attitude of "if you didn't catch me then it must not be wrong" is one of the few things that can make me instantly hate a person.

--Patrick
 
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This is the difference in our viewpoints, I think. When one's means are not sufficient to survive, then that is when something should be making up that "sufficiencies" shortfall. In a northern climate, a 4x4 might be more likely to be seen as a necessity. There is a difference between necessities and luxuries, of course, and trying to establish fair and honest guidelines would be quite a task (as well as an encouragement to a large number of rules lawyers who would no doubt try to game the system for their own benefit). Necessities you get, luxuries you have to work for. I have no problem with everyone automatically getting a soylent subsidy, but if you want cake and pie (or Reese's Cups), you have to work for it.
I think we are in agreement as to the general principle, but we disagree on the application. But as you said, establishing guidelines on what constitutes 'necessities' would be a monumental task. Though I still think a vehicle, to say nothing of a particular kind of vehicle such as a 4x4, falls very much towards the luxuries on the scale, not the necessities. It's something you buy if you can afford it, but at the end of the day it is non-essential and therefore not something the government is obligated to arrange for you.
Again, I see the general welfare of its constituency as the non-discriminatory primary function of any government, with any and all other functions subordinate to that. If the entire constituency is not receiving some sort of significant benefit from its government (in one way or another), then that government is not doing its job.
I agree up to a point. I believe the primary task of a government is to manage public and common goods, arrange for rule of law, and such things. All members of society benefit from a government taking good care of these things, even without a government handing a private citizen a wad of cash and telling them to go out and buy what they need. So I'm not sure I'd personally put social welfare up as a yardstick to measure whether or not a government is doing a good job in promoting general welfare. I personally think certain forms of social welfare, and a government providing other private goods to the citizenry in excess of what is absolutely necessary, are a good idea, and if there were people dying on the streets, I would definitely agree that something is wrong and needs to be fixed. But above the bare necessities of physical survival, social welfare is not, in my opinion, the only or even a notably significant test of whether the government is fulfilling it's responsibilities.
 
I still think a vehicle, to say nothing of a particular kind of vehicle such as a 4x4, falls very much towards the luxuries on the scale, not the necessities.
I would be in agreement with you, if only there were some sort of minimum requirement for public transportation out there. As it is, unless you live in a city with a million or more people in the US, you're lucky to get more than a handful of irregular buses to move around the carless folks.

--Patrick
 
You might want to consider whether living where you want to live is a luxury. Living in an area that has public transportation and all other necessities within that area is possible, so why should the government bankroll those who prefer, but don't need, to live outside an urban area?

Just to throw something else on the vehicle consideration.
 
You might want to consider whether living where you want to live is a luxury. Living in an area that has public transportation and all other necessities within that area is possible, so why should the government bankroll those who prefer, but don't need, to live outside an urban area?

Just to throw something else on the vehicle consideration.
Because, since we're talking about poor and needy, living in the city is umpteen times more expensive.

Also, I expected that Soylent link to go to a Wiki about the movie. What the hey? it's real?
 
Because, since we're talking about poor and needy, living in the city is umpteen times more expensive.
The city's transportation system typically travels far enough outside the financial center that the costs are less than the cost of a car 30 miles further. Of course, the math is different in Europe which appears to me to be more heavily urbanized than the US.
 
You might want to consider whether living where you want to live is a luxury. Living in an area that has public transportation and all other necessities within that area is possible, so why should the government bankroll those who prefer, but don't need, to live outside an urban area?
If you could get everything you need locally, why would you want to? I'm sure there would still be introverts, but I almost see them starting their own little seed colonies.

I'm sure that, building atop Dunbar's Number, there comes a level of population density when it becomes necessary to start pushing people apart before they reach some sort of critical mass that would start to negatively impact the local society. At that population point, some form of individual vehicular transportation might be cheaper than building out public infrastructure until the rural population density makes the public transportation option more economically advantageous.

--Patrick
 
The city's transportation system typically travels far enough outside the financial center that the costs are less than the cost of a car 30 miles further. Of course, the math is different in Europe which appears to me to be more heavily urbanized than the US.
Public transportation in the US typically sucks outside of ether very new, rich, or important cities. You can get around New York City easily, but Columbus, OH cuts off it's bus routes well within it's commercial district so it's impossible for anyone living outside the city proper to get a bus that GOES anywhere. We have fucking park-and-ride bus routes at the edge of the line because apparently the city planners seem to think making people drive to a bus stop is a good idea.
 
The city's transportation system typically travels far enough outside the financial center that the costs are less than the cost of a car 30 miles further. Of course, the math is different in Europe which appears to me to be more heavily urbanized than the US.
I'd like to know where you're getting the typicality of this? It doesn't mesh with my experience outside of Chicago or NY.
 

GasBandit

Staff member
That was the most roundabout way I've ever heard somebody say "maybe, maybe not."
 
There is one thing that he does get wrong. From a purely clinical viewpoint, it doesn't matter if unskilled labor is more productive in their jobs because in this economy the supply of unskilled labor exceeds the need to keep employees productive. It's unskilled labor, so retraining is minimal. That's why there are so many places out there who will literally hire anybody and pay them boarderline slave wages. There's no incentive for them not to.
 
That was the most roundabout way I've ever heard somebody say "maybe, maybe not."
What I got out of that was "We probably should, because it's the cheapest way to get SOME people out of poverty, but it's not the cure-all we all want it to be."
 

GasBandit

Staff member
What I got out of that was "We probably should, because it's the cheapest way to get SOME people out of poverty, but it's not the cure-all we all want it to be."
He kinda glossed over the "oh yeah and there's some other studies that disagree with the one I gushed over." And he mentioned the fact that higher minimum wages mean higher product prices, but stopped short of pointing out that those higher prices hurt most those the higher minimum wage is supposed to help.

At least he admits it isn't a sure thing. That's a start. After all, if all you have to do to fight poverty is raise the minimum wage, why not make it $20 an hour? Why not $50/hr?

The fact of the matter is not every job is supposed to be a lifestyle (much less family) -supporting "living wage" lifetime career, and it's insane to try to assert you should have to pay busboys and other part-time unskilled labor a full living wage "because feelings."
 
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Necronic

Staff member
I think he was pretty positive about it, and I liked the reference.

Here's my view. ~25% of people earn less than 10$/hour (correct me if I am wrong). Lets assume we brought all of them up to 10$/ hour, which works out to 20k/year. And lets assume we are talking about what, 70% of the country (excluding children, elderly, etc.). So that's 55 million people brought up to 20k/year, a total cost of 1.1 Billion Dollars. Being conservative lets say we brought all of these people up from 6$/hour. So that's a change in cost of 660 million.

660 million dollars brings up everyone earning minimum wage to 10$/hr.

The US GDP is 16,244,600 million dollars/year. Let's take the rough estimate that labor is 25% of your operating costs. That (and some more rounding) leaves us with 4,000,000 million dollars/year spent on labor in the US.

That means that the added labor cost of bringing up all people to 10$/hr relative to toal US labor costs is

drumroll please

0.0165%

This is an oversimplification, but its also an important oversimplification. When I was in college my first chemistry professor taught us to math in our heads. No calculators allowed on tests. But he also gave full credit if you were within 10%. His thought was that you need to be able to do a cursory check of your math on your own before you delve into the deep analytical stuff just to make sure you aren't completely out of the ballpark. People talk about raising the minimum wage like it would be some kind of economy collapsing thing. A 0.0165% in national labor costs should not cause the economy to collapse. It's a blip on the national radar. Ballpark math shows you how ridiculous that is.

Will certain businesses be hit harder than others? Sure. Will it cause some prices to increase? Sure. But our economy has absorbed larger costs than this in a single oil spill or rogue trader.
 

GasBandit

Staff member
I think he was pretty positive about it, and I liked the reference.

Here's my view. ~25% of people earn less than 10$/hour (correct me if I am wrong). Lets assume we brought all of them up to 10$/ hour, which works out to 20k/year. And lets assume we are talking about what, 70% of the country (excluding children, elderly, etc.). So that's 55 million people brought up to 20k/year, a total cost of 1.1 Billion Dollars. Being conservative lets say we brought all of these people up from 6$/hour. So that's a change in cost of 660 million.

660 million dollars brings up everyone earning minimum wage to 10$/hr.

The US GDP is 16,244,600 million dollars/year. Let's take the rough estimate that labor is 25% of your operating costs. That (and some more rounding) leaves us with 4,000,000 million dollars/year spent on labor in the US.

That means that the added labor cost of bringing up all people to 10$/hr relative to toal US labor costs is

drumroll please

0.0165%

This is an oversimplification, but its also an important oversimplification. When I was in college my first chemistry professor taught us to math in our heads. No calculators allowed on tests. But he also gave full credit if you were within 10%. His thought was that you need to be able to do a cursory check of your math on your own before you delve into the deep analytical stuff just to make sure you aren't completely out of the ballpark. People talk about raising the minimum wage like it would be some kind of economy collapsing thing. A 0.0165% in national labor costs should not cause the economy to collapse. It's a blip on the national radar. Ballpark math shows you how ridiculous that is.

Will certain businesses be hit harder than others? Sure. Will it cause some prices to increase? Sure. But our economy has absorbed larger costs than this in a single oil spill or rogue trader.
I can name 5 people where I work just off the top of my head who would be immediately let go if we were required to pay them $10 an hour.
 
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