Still no good--what counts as external coercion? Suppose I am Joseph Stalin, and I keep food shipments from reaching a particular region of Siberia. Now, people are working there because I decided that was a good place for a factory, but I've since decided it would be better if those people weren't a burden on the Soviet State any longer. I'm not preventing them from eating anything--they can eat each other, or pine bark, or whatever. Am I engaging in any external coercion?Originally Posted by Diogenes
If you answer yes to this, how do you avoid also thinking that workers in our society are coerced, since the means of production are all owned? Land is the primary resource, and there isn't a single piece of land anywhere that isn't owned by someone. Those owners determine what resources will be developed on their land, and more particularly, how much is paid to those who develop those resources. This last, for two reasons: first, because it's just true. As Adam Smith points out, the "masters" will always collude on wages. This is partly facilitated by government, and partly by associations such as chambers-of-commerce, or institutions like Robert Half, which publishes a "wage guide" to businesses every year. Second, because the owners of resources are privileged to decide not to develop a resource, even if that resource is needed by the community.
Why is that the only way to make this work? Seems like it could simply be legislated into reality: whatever the factory owner sells the barrel for determines how much the wages are for the barrel-maker. The owners expenses are deducted, and a determined profit, and the rest is remitted back to the barrel maker.Originally Posted by Diogenes
The point I was making is that we would have to provide such a guarantee. I'm trying to be sensitive to, and sensible about, the fact that a person with capital risks it to start a business.Originally Posted by Diogenes
In combination with an overhaul of how money works, as I have suggested, there wouldn't be any real loss to doing this. Suppose I start a business under such a system and fail miserably. I'm just no good at business. Still, I get bailed out--I get all my capital back because that's what the law says should happen. In fact, taxpayers are paying me, but the money I lost still went back into the economy somehow. Where I lose, someone else wins (perhaps I was selling barrels below my costs; either others now have barrels that can sell for a profit, or my materials suppliers have more money).
I think perhaps I haven't been clear: I'm proposing that to acheive any measure of social justice, we will have to completely overhaul our economic system at a basic level. Capitalism, as currently practiced, does not work. Neither does socialism. Purely or mostly competetive models of commerce are unbalanced one direction, and purely or mostly cooperative models are unbalanced in a different direction. But if these don't work (as I think they do not), what does?Originally Posted by Diogenes
I never said otherwise, but the gold standard is really no better. Instead of manipulating the currency, you just manipulate the gold market, and still end up with essentially the same bad consequences.Originally Posted by Diogenes
Again, I'm willing to jettison just about any idea about such things as ownership, money, markets, or the like, provided there is a good reason for it. So, your assertion that after-tax wealth belongs to the person who owns it is neither true nor false under such a framework. I'm asking whether such things should be the case, not whether they are or are not the case.Originally Posted by Diogenes
That said, despite the other overhauls I've suggested, there remains the problem of attractors. As more and more money accumulates in some container, the rate of accumulation for that container also increases. This is a problem for the rest of society when wealth is finite (as it must be).
I think a good case can be made that when we're trying to figure out ownership, society qua society has a seat at the table. To see why, just try this thought experiment: take any wealthy individual--doesn't matter who--rewind the clock on them so that they're young again, and place them smack in the middle of Summeria in 2500 B.C. How likely are they to amass the same kind of wealth as they currently enjoy? Even assuming they know the language and customs, and can blend in like a native, I think the obvious answer is that they simply will not accrue such wealth. Bill Gates will not start up microsoft, Warren Buffet will not get Berkshire Hathaway going again, and so on. But why not? The only difference is that societies have changed. This must imply a direct role that society has in the accumulation of wealth, and therefore in ownership.