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Author Topic:   Unjust Deserts - Gar Alperovitz & Lew Daly
Jon
Inactive Member


Message 1 of 53 (723375)
03-31-2014 4:46 PM


In Unjust Deserts: How the Rich are Taking our Common Inheritance, Gar Alperovitz and Lew Daly present the argument that the wealth of the modern worldheld largely by a small percentage of the populationis almost entirely attributable to the history of human civilization and philosophical and technological innovation.

From the invention of the wheel to the development of current information technologies and infrastructures, the fundamental underpinnings of modern progress owe their existence not the the efforts of those in the modern world but to the efforts of those in the past. In this sense, the wealth derived through use of these essential components of development is 'unearned' by anyone living today.

The contributions to wealth creation of each generation are small compared to the contribution of the past taken as a whole, and so the percentage of any individual's income that can be said to have been earned is exceptionally small. Instead, Alperovitz and Daly argue, the wealth that comes through the use of technologies and institutions developed in the past represents a "common inheritance", unearned by anyone living today though bestowed on our generation as a free gift from the past.

Thus, it is only equitable that this common inheritance be commonly shared by all members of society equally. The modern entrepreneur played no role in the development of the alphabet, the printing press, the adding machine, and most of the other technologies that form the backbone of his inventions and thus the wealth they bring. All the wealth attributable to these developments is unearned by himas, indeed, it is unearned by anyone living today. What then, other than injustice, entitles him to sole enjoyment of this wealth in the stead of millions of others who worked just as hard not earning it?

This is the topic at the center of Unjust Deserts. Though lacking in original ideasthe work is essentially (and ironically) a drawn-out book reviewthe author's deserve due credit for their effort in bringing the important ideas they discuss to the access of the general public. It's worth a read for anyone living with the delusion of the self-made man; the authors make it clear that most of what makes the man the man did not make.

Jon


Love your enemies!

Replies to this message:
 Message 2 by New Cat's Eye, posted 03-31-2014 5:03 PM Jon has responded
 Message 4 by Taq, posted 03-31-2014 8:49 PM Jon has responded

  
New Cat's Eye
Member
Posts: 11578
From: near St. Louis
Joined: 01-27-2005
Member Rating: 2.5


Message 2 of 53 (723379)
03-31-2014 5:03 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by Jon
03-31-2014 4:46 PM


The modern entrepreneur played no role in the development of the alphabet, the printing press, the adding machine, and most of the other technologies that form the backbone of his inventions and thus the wealth they bring. All the wealth attributable to these developments is unearned by himas, indeed, it is unearned by anyone living today. What then, other than injustice, entitles him to sole enjoyment of this wealth in the stead of millions of others who worked just as hard not earning it?

The ability to apply technology in a way that will successfully provide him with more wealth.

Its not entitlement. Its going out and doing what you need to do in order to obtain what you want.

the authors make it clear that most of what makes the man the man did not make.

But we're all in that boat. Some people do better in it than others. Not everyone has the same privileges and opportunities, though, as life is just not fair.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 1 by Jon, posted 03-31-2014 4:46 PM Jon has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 3 by Taq, posted 03-31-2014 7:30 PM New Cat's Eye has responded
 Message 6 by Jon, posted 04-01-2014 12:11 AM New Cat's Eye has responded
 Message 9 by ringo, posted 04-01-2014 11:45 AM New Cat's Eye has responded

  
Taq
Member
Posts: 6849
Joined: 03-06-2009
Member Rating: 3.9


(2)
Message 3 of 53 (723380)
03-31-2014 7:30 PM
Reply to: Message 2 by New Cat's Eye
03-31-2014 5:03 PM


But we're all in that boat. Some people do better in it than others. Not everyone has the same privileges and opportunities, though, as life is just not fair.

The problem is that people are going out of their way to make it unfair. While middle class families are paying around 30% income tax, the uber-rich are paying 10 to 15%. The rich also spend money on politicians that reduce public spending, resulting in fewer educational and employment opportunities for the middle class. The rich spend money on politicians that bust unions, leading directly to the depression of middle class incomes and putting more money in the pockets of the the people who own the companies.


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 Message 2 by New Cat's Eye, posted 03-31-2014 5:03 PM New Cat's Eye has responded

Replies to this message:
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Taq
Member
Posts: 6849
Joined: 03-06-2009
Member Rating: 3.9


Message 4 of 53 (723382)
03-31-2014 8:49 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by Jon
03-31-2014 4:46 PM


Thus, it is only equitable that this common inheritance be commonly shared by all members of society equally. The modern entrepreneur played no role in the development of the alphabet, the printing press, the adding machine, and most of the other technologies that form the backbone of his inventions and thus the wealth they bring. All the wealth attributable to these developments is unearned by himas, indeed, it is unearned by anyone living today. What then, other than injustice, entitles him to sole enjoyment of this wealth in the stead of millions of others who worked just as hard not earning it?

My initial question is how can we have fair profits while keeping incentives in place to encourage innovation?

Also, we do put expiration dates on copyrights and patents. However, I have heard that loopholes and questionable justifications have taken the teeth out of this process. If so, are there reforms that need to be put in place?


This message is a reply to:
 Message 1 by Jon, posted 03-31-2014 4:46 PM Jon has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 5 by Jon, posted 04-01-2014 12:09 AM Taq has responded

  
Jon
Inactive Member


Message 5 of 53 (723394)
04-01-2014 12:09 AM
Reply to: Message 4 by Taq
03-31-2014 8:49 PM


My initial question is how can we have fair profits while keeping incentives in place to encourage innovation?

And that's a good question. I still have the last several pages to read. I hope the authors address the question there; so far the book has just been a discussion of previous writings on the topic.

A couple proposals not originating with the authors are cited:

quote:
Unjust Deserts:

A forward-looking proposal that also alters ownership (and echoes ideas of some of the nineteenth-century theorists reviewed in chapter 6) has recently been put forward by Yale law professors Bruce Ackerman and Anne Alstott. This would allocate a "capital stake" of $80,000 to every citizen on reaching adulthoodto be used for any purpose an individual chose (in most cases, probably, for college education). The program would initially be financed by a 2 percent annual wealth tax, thus simultaneously challenging the top beneficiaries of the current system with a strategy that could provide large numbers with the means of acquiring knowledge. The capital stake would be recouped at death through an inheritance tax. (p. 148)


quote:
Unjust Deserts:

Huet did not flinch from the logical implications or from the technical challenges his position inevitably created. One first had to focus upon (and in principle disentangle) that which a person, today, actually could be said to have contributed and "earned" himselfthe person's unique contribution. Then it was both necessary and possible to estimate the share that logically came from nature and from past historical contributions. Huet then proposed differentiating the first type of wealth in a twofold system of inheritance: first, any wealth actually acquired by an individual's labor during his lifetime could be freely transferred in bequest or gift to another person, or heir. The recipient could enjoy this gift or bequest as she saw fit. On the other hand, Huet held there could be no moral rationale for this second person passing on to the next generation that which she had done nothing to earn during her lifetime. Accordingly, Huet proposed a tax on subsequent gifts and inheritance equal to 100 percent of the amount the person originally inherited, so that all wealth received through such transfers would revert into a common fund upon the death of the recipient:

Constantly fed by an inexhaustible spring, the general patrimony would be made up, at a given moment, of the old patrimonial assets and of all capital goods, accumulated in each generation which, being capable of gratuitous transfer only once, would join the mass of the first upon the death of the donees.
(pp. 121122)

A few other proposals are cited, but these seem to be the theme of most of them.

Also, we do put expiration dates on copyrights and patents.

But the expiration dates are ridiculous. Roughly two generations (in addition to the original author) can benefit from the copyright or patent despite having done absolutely nothing to earn that benefit.

And that is just the crux of the argument in Unjust Deserts: the current system is highly biased toward rewarding non-contributors and rewarding them far too handsomely.


Love your enemies!

This message is a reply to:
 Message 4 by Taq, posted 03-31-2014 8:49 PM Taq has responded

Replies to this message:
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Jon
Inactive Member


Message 6 of 53 (723395)
04-01-2014 12:11 AM
Reply to: Message 2 by New Cat's Eye
03-31-2014 5:03 PM


The ability to apply technology in a way that will successfully provide him with more wealth.

Knowing how to get rich is not the same as deserving to be rich.


Love your enemies!

This message is a reply to:
 Message 2 by New Cat's Eye, posted 03-31-2014 5:03 PM New Cat's Eye has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 8 by New Cat's Eye, posted 04-01-2014 10:33 AM Jon has responded

  
New Cat's Eye
Member
Posts: 11578
From: near St. Louis
Joined: 01-27-2005
Member Rating: 2.5


Message 7 of 53 (723405)
04-01-2014 10:29 AM
Reply to: Message 3 by Taq
03-31-2014 7:30 PM


The problem is that people are going out of their way to make it unfair.

Got an example?

While middle class families are paying around 30% income tax, the uber-rich are paying 10 to 15%.

According to the Congressional Budget Office:

quote:
The average federal tax rate for all households in 2010- that is, tax liabilities divided by income (including government transfer payments) before taxes-was 18.1 percent. To examine the effect of taxes on households with different amounts of income, CBO divided the nation's households into five groups of equal size, arrayed by before-tax income. In 2010, the federal tax rate for the bottom quintile of the income distribution was 1.5 percent and that for the top quintile was 24.0 percent (see Figure 1). The top 1 percent of all households in the United States had an average federal tax rate of 29.4 percent in 2010.

Higher-income households pay much more in federal taxes than do their lower-income counterparts: They have a much greater share of the nation's before-tax income, and they pay a much larger proportion of that income in taxes. Households in the top quintile (including the top percentile) paid 68.8 percent of all federal taxes, households in the middle quintile paid 9.1 percent, and those in the bottom quintile paid 0.4 percent of federal taxes.


Where did you get your numbers?

The rich also spend money on politicians...

Politics has always been about money. That's really the only thing it is about.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 3 by Taq, posted 03-31-2014 7:30 PM Taq has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 17 by Taq, posted 04-01-2014 3:16 PM New Cat's Eye has not yet responded

  
New Cat's Eye
Member
Posts: 11578
From: near St. Louis
Joined: 01-27-2005
Member Rating: 2.5


Message 8 of 53 (723406)
04-01-2014 10:33 AM
Reply to: Message 6 by Jon
04-01-2014 12:11 AM


Knowing how to get rich is not the same as deserving to be rich.

Deserving? That's not even a factor that is in the equation.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 6 by Jon, posted 04-01-2014 12:11 AM Jon has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 21 by Jon, posted 04-02-2014 5:20 PM New Cat's Eye has not yet responded

  
ringo
Member
Posts: 13332
From: frozen wasteland
Joined: 03-23-2005
Member Rating: 3.1


Message 9 of 53 (723418)
04-01-2014 11:45 AM
Reply to: Message 2 by New Cat's Eye
03-31-2014 5:03 PM


Catholic Scientist writes:

Its going out and doing what you need to do in order to obtain what you want.


Dillinger did that.
This message is a reply to:
 Message 2 by New Cat's Eye, posted 03-31-2014 5:03 PM New Cat's Eye has responded

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New Cat's Eye
Member
Posts: 11578
From: near St. Louis
Joined: 01-27-2005
Member Rating: 2.5


Message 10 of 53 (723420)
04-01-2014 12:05 PM
Reply to: Message 9 by ringo
04-01-2014 11:45 AM


Catholic Scientist writes:

Its going out and doing what you need to do in order to obtain what you want.


Dillinger did that.

Sure, and he obtained some wealth. But since it was obtained illegally, the FBI hunted him down.

Edited by Catholic Scientist, : syntax error


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 Message 9 by ringo, posted 04-01-2014 11:45 AM ringo has responded

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ringo
Member
Posts: 13332
From: frozen wasteland
Joined: 03-23-2005
Member Rating: 3.1


(1)
Message 11 of 53 (723421)
04-01-2014 12:08 PM
Reply to: Message 10 by New Cat's Eye
04-01-2014 12:05 PM


Catholic Scientist writes:

But since it was obtained illegally, the FBI hunted him down.


Isn't that what the OP is advocating? Making it illegal to steal more than your share?
This message is a reply to:
 Message 10 by New Cat's Eye, posted 04-01-2014 12:05 PM New Cat's Eye has responded

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New Cat's Eye
Member
Posts: 11578
From: near St. Louis
Joined: 01-27-2005
Member Rating: 2.5


Message 12 of 53 (723423)
04-01-2014 12:16 PM
Reply to: Message 11 by ringo
04-01-2014 12:08 PM


Isn't that what the OP is advocating? Making it illegal to steal more than your share?

I didn't see it. It says that since we all are riding on the coat tails of past invented technology, then people who have utilized that technology to obtain wealth don't really deserve it. I didn't see any mention of making anything illegal.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 11 by ringo, posted 04-01-2014 12:08 PM ringo has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 13 by ringo, posted 04-01-2014 12:35 PM New Cat's Eye has responded

  
ringo
Member
Posts: 13332
From: frozen wasteland
Joined: 03-23-2005
Member Rating: 3.1


Message 13 of 53 (723424)
04-01-2014 12:35 PM
Reply to: Message 12 by New Cat's Eye
04-01-2014 12:16 PM


Catholic Scientist writes:

I didn't see any mention of making anything illegal.


Well, you quoted this from the OP:
quote:
What then, other than injustice, entitles him to sole enjoyment of this wealth in the stead of millions of others who worked just as hard not earning it?

Notice the word "injustice"? Doesn't changing injustice to justice suggest changing the law?

I'm just saying that Dillinger used technology for his own ends in the same way that entrepreneurs use technology for their own ends. The only difference is a legal technicality.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 12 by New Cat's Eye, posted 04-01-2014 12:16 PM New Cat's Eye has responded

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New Cat's Eye
Member
Posts: 11578
From: near St. Louis
Joined: 01-27-2005
Member Rating: 2.5


Message 14 of 53 (723425)
04-01-2014 12:47 PM
Reply to: Message 13 by ringo
04-01-2014 12:35 PM


Notice the word "injustice"? Doesn't changing injustice to justice suggest changing the law?

I suppose it could. I didn't really read it that way, and they don't really offer any suggestions.

Its an injustice that some poor kid had to be born into a starving family in Africa while I get to sit here eating cheese and grapes.

Recognizing that as an injustice doesn't mean I'm suggesting that we make some law about it.

But I do see how you read it that way.

I'm just saying that Dillinger used technology for his own ends in the same way that entrepreneurs use technology for their own ends. The only difference is a legal technicality.

Yeah, I get that. That's how our world works. That's what I was saying; nobody is going to give you anything, regardless of what is deserved, you have to go out and get what you want.

If you want to do that illegally, then you may face the legal consequences. If you do it legally, you can obtain wealth and live your life.

But sitting around calling it an injustice and saying the people who have obtained wealth don't deserve it doesn't really accomplish anything.

If you want there to be changes, you have to go out and make changes. Us sitting around discussing how unfair life is, is a waste of time.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 13 by ringo, posted 04-01-2014 12:35 PM ringo has responded

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 Message 15 by ringo, posted 04-01-2014 12:59 PM New Cat's Eye has responded
 Message 19 by Jon, posted 04-02-2014 3:15 AM New Cat's Eye has not yet responded

  
ringo
Member
Posts: 13332
From: frozen wasteland
Joined: 03-23-2005
Member Rating: 3.1


Message 15 of 53 (723428)
04-01-2014 12:59 PM
Reply to: Message 14 by New Cat's Eye
04-01-2014 12:47 PM


Catholic Scientist writes:

Its an injustice that some poor kid had to be born into a starving family in Africa while I get to sit here eating cheese and grapes.


That may be a philosophical injustice but the OP talks about entitlement, which is a more concrete legal injustice.

Catholic Scientist writes:

But sitting around calling it an injustice and saying the people who have obtained wealth don't deserve it doesn't really accomplish anything.


It does if it's the first step in doing something about it. The intention of the OP (and the book) seems to be to increase awareness that the rich are not morally entitled to their riches even if they are legally entitled.

Catholic Scientist writes:

Us sitting around discussing how unfair life is, is a waste of time.


Well, I'm trying to increase the awareness of the right-wing nuts on the forum.
This message is a reply to:
 Message 14 by New Cat's Eye, posted 04-01-2014 12:47 PM New Cat's Eye has responded

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