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The Titanic, 100 Years Later

April 13, 2012

“The very rich are different from you and me,” F. Scott Fitzgerald famously quipped to his fellow scribe and drinking pal Ernest Hemingway… to which Hemingway just as famously replied, “Yes, they have more money.”

Both men came from solid middle-class Midwestern stock. But Fitzgerald had gone to school with the rich boys and knew them intimately: the sporty banter, the careless air of inherited privilege, the ineffable (to use a favorite Fitzgeraldian word) assumption that life’s jigsaw puzzle would magically assemble itself for them while the middle-class boys sweated over hundreds of disjointed pieces. As for the working class and poor, nobody even thought to give them a puzzle.

Back in 1912, when Fitzgerald was growing up, many upper-class Americans still rolled their R’s when they spoke. They were almost uniformly Anglo-Saxon, solid of character, starchy of manner and supremely confident of their own worthiness to lead.

The Gilded Age was already giving way to the Progressivism championed by the likes of Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson, but you’d never know it from gazing upon the lifestyles of the rich and the hardships of the poor. In terms of class distinctions, America was giving the Mother Country a run for her money.

The Titanic lives on as the embodiment of all that was magnificent, unfair and ill-fated about the world that produced her. More colossal than any other manmade moving object in history up to that time, she measured 882 feet from bow to stern. If stood on end, the Titanic would have topped New York’s Metropolitan Life Insurance Tower (the world’s tallest building in 1912) by almost 200 feet.

First-class passengers aboard the Titanic paid up to $120,000 in today’s money for a one-way ticket on the maiden voyage that April. They’d revel in luxuries comparable to those of the finest Gilded Age hotels: a Turkish bath, squash courts, a swimming pool, a lending library, and impossibly sumptuous ten-course dinners — each course accompanied by a different wine or spirit. (No wonder the rich were stouter then… and undoubtedly a little tipsier.) The lavishly crafted mahogany furniture and marble toilets gave them bragging rights over the plain folks in second class (with their ordinary porcelain toilets) and the poor proletarians in steerage (cold cast iron — and only two bathrooms for the lot of them).

The Titanic was designed to be virtually unsinkable, of course. The mighty White Star liner would stay afloat even if four of her 16 watertight compartments were somehow breached simultaneously… an almost impossible scenario, everyone agreed.

But, as we all know, the unthinkable happened: a lone iceberg lurking like a mugger in the night… a last-minute sighting from the crow’s nest… the desperate attempt to avoid a collision… the sickening sound of ice ripping a 300-foot gash along the pristine ship’s starboard hull… the flooding of five watertight compartments and the fatal chain reaction that ensued… the frigid water lapping over the bow and creeping ever higher… the helter-skelter deployment of half-empty lifeboats… doomed men saying goodbye to their wives and children (and the heartrending last glimpses as the lifeboats pulled away)… the ship’s gallant eight-man orchestra playing calmly amid the screams and panic… acts of heroism, kindness, cruelty and cowardice… the groaning and cracking of the hull as its contents rolled and crashed inside… hundreds of glittering lights suddenly going black… the surreal sight of the great stern and its three gargantuan propellers pointing straight into the air… the final, terrifying plunge beneath the North Atlantic to a final resting place twelve thousand feet below.

And of course, more than fifteen hundred lives lost — the rich and powerful along with the poor and meek (but mostly the poor and meek).

So many “if-onlies” to be contemplated: If only the crew had spotted the iceberg half a minute sooner… or had managed to steer clear of it with seconds to go… or had let the knife-edge of the bow crash into it. If only the gash had extended along four compartments instead of five… if only there had been enough lifeboats for everyone on board… if only the SS Californian, which was close enough to see the Titanic’s distress flares, hadn’t been so clueless and had gone straight to the rescue.

Change a single one of those variables and few if any lives would have been lost. But only science fiction writers can tamper with history. Too late now.

As a multipurpose metaphor, the Titanic has few rivals. No wonder her story still holds us spellbound… no wonder we still feel so intimately connected with her a century later.

I probably won’t be the first or the last writer to compare the Titanic with the state of America in our time, but the comparison is irresistible.

A great republic, certain of its greatness and convinced of its invincibility, suddenly begins to look sinkable. One compartment after another is being breached: our once-thriving middle class, now endangered by corporate downsizing and outsourcing… our sturdy old working class, now bereft of manufacturing jobs and cut off from obscenely expensive higher education… our legions of poor people, held down by a lethal combination of prejudice, drug addiction, crime, illiteracy, paternal abandonment and general despair… and perhaps most ominously of all, our national unity – once the source of our greatness — now reduced to a sad and motley patchwork of bickering political factions and narcissistic special-interest “communities.” 

That makes four compartments already breached, and we don’t know how many it will take for the United States to founder. But if it does, all those comfortable first-class passengers in the upper decks will be forced out of their accommodations and into the bitter night air. Of course, they also get first crack at the lifeboats.

In our angry, fragmented, severely compromised republic, the extremes now dominate the discourse: free-market apologists and Occupy Wall Streeters, fanatical fundamentalists and snarky atheists, white racists and black race-card players. Even the middle is growing tainted: instead of open-minded thinkers intent on reforming a corrupt system that caters to special interests and big money, we have Mitt Romney facing Barack Obama — two political and financial insiders intent on perpetuating the system for other political and financial insiders (though at least Obama makes a few feeble overtures toward our dispossessed 99-percenters).

As the great Irish bard W. B. Yeats wrote, with a little too much clairvoyance, in The Second Coming:

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Yeats was writing in 1919 – the year after the Great War ended, and seven years after the sinking of the Titanic. But his words should haunt us the way the Titanic still does, a century after that magnificent ship went down.

The last known photograph of the Titanic before the sinking, taken as she steamed out of Queenstown, Ireland

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47 Comments leave one →
  1. April 14, 2012 1:04 pm

    The Titanic disaster is a fascinating and mythical event. It marks a dramatic shift in our view of ourselves and the world. It is a seminal event like Pearl Harbor or 9/11. An end of some form of innocence.

    Like many myths it involves numerous mis-perceptions – nearly half of third class women survived, less than 1/3 of first class men. Proximity to the Deck was a factor and that correlates with class – and in one hundred years that has not changed. Whether it is the Titanic or the Costa Concordia, the lower your quarters are the less likely you are to survive.

    White star had carried over two million passengers across the Atlanic in the preceding 10years. Until the Titanic they had only 2 deaths. that is a safety record that modern cars and Planes do not match.

    The Titanic turned at the last minute to avoid the iceberg – it would have survived other wise. A few additional seconds of warning or subtle alterations in steering and she still would have barely missed.

    There was no 300 ft gash in the side of the ship. The ships plates buckled due to the glancing blow, rivets snapping and opening seams at 6 narrow locations – the total opening smaller than the size of a door.

    Deliberate flooding of rear compartments would have maintained an even keel making it much easier to launch all lifeboats and rafts as well as delaying the sinking by a factor of two or three. The ship sank so fast because allowing her to bow to go under and raising her stern caused the keel to snap.

    .

    • April 18, 2012 10:42 am

      Dave: You make a lot of good points here. Yes, it was definitely the end of an era. And you’re right about more third-class women than first-class men surviving. (Chalk that up to chivalry.) I knew about the buckling plates, though I had no idea that the total area was smaller than the size of a door. That only adds to the tragic irony of an “unsinkable” ship running up against an almost supernatural combination of factors that brought it down.

      The notion of deliberate flooding to maintain a level ship is intriguing… does it really (pardon the figure of speech) hold water? I guess the Titanic’s bulkheads were high enough so that the flooding wouldn’t breach them. Another one of those “if onlies.”

  2. AMAC permalink
    April 14, 2012 10:18 pm

    Jack Grimm, a deceased wealthy oilman from my hometown, is one of the handful of men who claim to be the first to discover the wreckage in the Atlantic. His family is putting on some type of convention with some of his original photographs and films from ’80 or ’81 of the site. I plan to visit and try to educate myself a little better on the Titanic and circumstances involved. I know very little, honestly. I love reading about history, but have never really been that interested in this specific topic. I should be as it is a constant metaphor for the hubris of the United States in so many articles I come across.

    • April 15, 2012 3:17 am

      The actual story of the Titanic is incredibly fascinating. As are the many myths, and the new discoveries we are still making.

      Though the sinking of the Titanic had an impact on the US, it was a built in ireland, registered in liverpool, and owned by the british with a british crew, among its passengers were 306 americans, of who 177 survived

    • April 18, 2012 10:52 am

      That oilman should have publicized his discovery if he really was first… I wonder what held him back. And yes, the ship is a great metaphor for the hubris of the powerful… though it’s also packed with dozens of great human interest stories. There’s the class division angle, too… though the Johnstown Flood is more of a pure example of the rich literally dumping on the poor. (It would make a great epic disaster flim… I’m surprised it hasn’t been done.) On the Titanic, rich and poor died together… even though the rich had first crack at the lifeboats.

  3. Pat Riot permalink
    April 14, 2012 10:41 pm

    Rick, you did a good job with the Titanic metaphor.

    Yes, If only we will do certain things NOW and in the near future–such as protecting freedoms, allowing innovations, re-creating communities, communicating better & deeper, rewarding good behavior, planning ahead, averting troubles where we can…then the prosoperous, good elements of our Great Republic can withstand the damages and we and our children can have a future that is wonderful. We could, but we’re not coordinated enough yet—a “… patchwork of bickering political factions and narcissistic special-interest “communities,” as you say.

    The gashes are already in the side of our Great Republic. Now what are the most important things to do right now?

    • April 15, 2012 3:34 am

      Utopia would be wonderful wouldn’t it. But the divides among our politicians are mostly simplifications of the divides among us as people.

      I see the best standard of living achievable for the least well off as well as the rest of us. The ends I desire are little different from those of the most ardent leftist. But we vastly and honestly disagree on the means. I see the means of the left as both immoral and harmful to the ends we both seek.

      Nor is this so simple as right vs. left. Rick Santorum has an entirely different view – he is quite sincere about it, and honestly believes it is best for the country – and I see his policies as no less offense than that of the left.

      The designers of the “Great Republic” deliberately intended that special interests and partisan bickering thwart government power – except in those rare instances where there was near universal agreement.

      Our modern divisiveness is not particularly new. It is inherently american. It has been with us through our successes and failures.

      Our greatness as a nation results solely from our commitment to one value – freedom.
      It is our good fortune that that value has all your other wishes and more as a consequence.

    • April 15, 2012 4:13 am

      A study on the ability of conservatives and liberals to understand each others positions.

      http://faculty.virginia.edu/haidtlab/articles/manuscripts/graham.nosek.submitted.moral-stereotypes-of-libs-and-cons.pub601.pdf

    • April 18, 2012 11:08 am

      Pat: Thanks… The four “compartments” I mentioned in this piece didn’t begin to cover the threats to our ship of state. In my darker moments, I really don’t hold out much hope for our country’s future. The middle class is gradually being squeezed out of existence, and we’ve been importing too many immigrants who will be drawing funds from the public till. Most black communities are still disaster areas, with no sign of improvement. People are living longer than ever, yet companies have pretty much stopped hiring anyone over 50.

      How is a country without a thriving middle class going to subsidize all our poor people? I see us eventually turning into a Latin American republic with a small upper class and legions of peasants. Educated Asians are already fleeing back to Asia for jobs. Once the brain drain starts picking up momentum, there’s really no hope.

      On the other hand, maybe our decline will force Americans to appreciate the little things in life instead of worshipping success the way we do now.

  4. April 15, 2012 3:48 am

    Politically we are engaged in a divisive struggle over the tax code.

    Here is a web tool to allow you to play with the tax code and see the results.

    http://splitwise.com/taxes/#/brackets/0|197|354|432|480|545/9.8|14.9|25.3|28.4|33.0|35.1/params/1|1|1|0|1|15/name/Current%20tax%20code%20%282012%29

    The methodology is weak – there are is not accounting for economic impact.
    Regardless, it suggests that most of the tax increases proposed are pointless. Even in the fairy tale world were taxes do not have economic consequences, we can not tax our way out of the mess we are in.

  5. Anonymous permalink
    April 15, 2012 10:42 am

    The list of things We The People need to do NOW and in the near future to not only stay afloat but to prosper and continue to prosper…

    The first item up for voting is: “less government and more freedom, including ‘economic freedom’”

    I vote a loud and clamorous YES. I agree we need less government and more freedom, including ‘economic freedom”” We could refine and define what that means and how to achieve it, but does anyone out there think we need MORE goverment than we have now or less freedome than we have now? I would be very surprised if anyone (except powerful government bureacrats, oligarchs, and haters of United States sovereignty) thinks we need MORE government or LESS freedom. Some nice citizens might have an idea of a “more efficient” goverment to help save our ship, or a different “style” or “approach” of government, etc., but I doubt anyone except members of “the administration” or select “captains of global industry” or, say Dr. Evil, would want MORE government and LESS freedom.

    Anyone out there in this corner of cyberspace want MORE government and/or LESS freedom than we have now?

    • April 15, 2012 3:58 pm

      There are plenty of forces seeking more government and less freedom, beyond your list i would note that most business, particularly big business, actually seeks regulation.

      The left and moderates should keep this in mind as they protest the the money business puts into the political process. Business will always seek to bend government power to its wishes. Nor is business particularly big business a foe of regulation. Regulation increases the cost of a produce uniformly. It is more harmful to small competitors than market giants. Big Business often seeks regulation in order to create barriers to entry. Trade regulation, and subsidies only being the most visible.

      It is no accident that those legislators most strongly favoring big government regulation are those receiving the most corporate contributions. Business contributes to pro-regulation politicians to put in place impediments for competition – particularly small business. It seeks to prevent regulation that would actually harm it, and it seeks to craft regulation that would help it.

      Nothing is more desirable for most corporate giants than to become essentially a public utility – to have a government guaranteed monopoly on a given market, to have a government guarantee of profits.

      In a free market regulation is imposed by competition and the rule of law – if you deliberately or negligently cause harm you are responsible for the cost of that harm.

      Regulation is like prior restraint on free speech, It broadly proscribes something prior to any actual harm, or in the future in response to a past event. The cost is unmeasurable. We can not know the value of what does not get created because of prior restraints.
      We have a near universal prohibition against prior restraint in first amendment matters – we grasp how evil and destructive prior restraint is. What we do not grasp is that as important as speech is, its characteristic are not unique. Government prior restraint on commerce is as destructive as that on speech and religion.

    • April 18, 2012 11:16 am

      Anonymous: Sorry… I think we need more government to curb the recklessness of Wall Street and the excessive power of corporate lobbies. Not a bigger government, but a more assertive government that represents the majority of the people instead of moneyed interests. The big question is… who will govern our representatives so that they no longer wind up in the pockets of the lobbyists?

  6. Pat Riot permalink
    April 15, 2012 7:55 pm

    Ah, Asmith, you are quite correct about businesses often being desirous of regulation in order to create barriers to entry! It helps keeps out the competition. And yes they buy / leverage government to tweak the rules. That’s a big aggregate force for more government and less freedom. Add that to the list. It’s another one of those double-standards out there: businesses despise regulations that slow them down and hurt production, etc, unless of course they are regulations that they themselves are pushing that can strangle the competition!! Just as American citizens want to slash wasteful gov’t programs, but not the programs from which they are directly benefitting!!

    Nonetheless, I still say that the vast majority of the conscious, sane portion of Americans want smaller goverment and more freedom, don’t you think?

    • April 16, 2012 12:20 pm

      I think there are plenty of polls demonstrating the majority of americans want smaller government.

      I think there is plenty of proof that all of us – particularly the least well off will do better with less government. Precisely where the “sweet spot” is another question – but there is strong data demonstrating that is is below 22% of GDP, and probably below 15% – that is ALL government spending, state, local, federal. In the 19th century we averaged atleast a full percent greater growth than the 20th century with government between 3% and 8% (during the Civil War) of GDP. 1%/year growth for a century is a staggering gain in the standard of living for EVERYONE. During the same time we absorbed a unbeleivable number of immigrants. I am not trying to claim the 19th century was trouble free or better than today, just that the improvement from begining to end was greater than the improvement beginning to end in the 20th.

      Separately, Small business despises regulation, Market leaders are less concerned and frequently favor it. There are complexities – businesses that have to operate across many countries are more likely to oppose regulation.
      But given that a regulatory burden applies to anyone producing or selling inside their entire market, the costs of regulation including effects on production are passed on to the consumer. One must remember that the primary and legitimate objective of every business is the profit of its owners – just as that of its employees is to maximize their wages. Being productive is the normal means not the ends. We constantly forget that high burdens of anykind favor market leaders – and they know it.
      it is not an accident that the Health Insurance industry supported ObamaCare – so long as the parts they needed. The insurance industry does not care if healthcare costs rise – so long as those costs can be passed on. But they do care about compelling a larger number of people to by insurance.

      One of the reasons that government regulation of price ALWAYS fails, is that even though the natural trajectory for all prices is down, there are always compelling justifications for price increases.

      If you are essentially a public utility, do you care if you produce cost effectively ?, Innovatively ? Quickly ? No, the only thing you care about is that you can convince your regulators to guarantee you a selling price higher than your production costs.

      Put this in a different context, you are the sole provider for your family. If your job is not secure what do you do – whatever it takes to demonstrate your value.

      What if you are guaranteed that if you lose your job you and your family will be supported at your current income until you can find other work. Are you still motivated to demonstrate your value ? If you lose your job, are you motivated to get another quickly ?

      If you lose your job and have no “safety net”, are you going to do whatever is necessary to support your family – including taking a crappier, lower paying job that requires you to work harder ?

      Business is no different – except that there is not USUALLY a “social safety net” for business. Failure is death.

      Competition inexorably drives prices down. It is the engine of all innovation which happens rarely without it.

      Increased productivity is what drives standards of living up. And that too requires competition.

      Regardless, there is NO OTHER WAY to improve standards of living than to increase productivity. Government and charity can atbest increase that of one group at the expense of another, and absent perfect efficiency, they always do so at a net loss to everyone. The only way to increase the average standard of living is to increase productivity.

      • Pat Riot permalink
        April 16, 2012 10:00 pm

        There are terrible gashes in the side of our Great Republic (outlandish national debt, high unemployment…plenty of gashes to choose from) to the point that our country is not sustainable unless we act appropriately. I’m surprised more folks aren’t posting here on this Titanic topic–it’s the topic of our lives–our country’s future, at the very least our standard of living, is in jeopardy. So far we’ve got 1) less government and more freedom on our list of what to do.

        How about citizens concentrating/focused in new ways on getting rid of their own debt? Which country is better off: a country whose citizens are in debt and worried and desperate, or a country whose citizens have their “house in order” and are somewhat self-sufficient enought to ride out downturns in the economy? I say one of the ways to minimize goverment control/over-reach is to not need government so much. Not just more freedom, but also more independence. I’m not talking about isolationism at all. I’m talking about individuals and families and communities not living so close to the edge, about having some resources in reserve, about having back-up plans ready.

        I have a list of what I think American ciitizens, businesses, and goverment should be doing to stop America from sinking, but I want to hear what others have to say. Where is everybody, watching American Idol and baseball?

  7. Pat Riot permalink
    April 16, 2012 10:43 pm

    Asmith, I was with you for about the first half of your last post, but then you went to more of those “absolutes.” You said: “…there is NO OTHER WAY to improve standards of living than to increase productivity.”

    I think you are looking at the world primarily through the lens of macroeconomics, i.e. prices, wages, GDP, etc.

    I like to look at the world creatively in MICROeconomic ways and then multiply the scenarios up to scale. There are so many ways that our standard of living can be raised just be better choices, better coordination, better ideas. For example a dynamic person can go into a depressed area where the people are teetering on the edge of slipping further into a listless funk, and that dynamic person can rally the people around an event or a cause and get the ball rolling…suddenly people are animated, smiling, passionate again. This isn’t some Pollyanna pie-in-the-sky crap I’m talking about. People’s physical health improves. Wasteful, hurtful activities are replaced by worthwhile activities. People are then getting more LIFE for the bucks they already have. Then we can have productivity increases as you are talking about on top of those social improvements, and then we are getting somewhere.

    THERE ARE SO MANY THINGS WE COULD BE DOING SOCIALLY TO IMPROVE OUR STANDARD OF LIVING THAT WE ARE NOT DOING!!!

    • dhlii permalink
      April 17, 2012 1:08 am

      This is not about Macro vs. Micro economics.

      It is about math. Standard of living is the wealth we produce each year divided by the number of us consuming it.

      That is just what it is. If we do not produce it we can not consume it.

      All those “other” things you are talking about, are fine, but they do not translate into an improved standard of living for everyone unless more is produced by someone.

      All the other things are either:

      Improving things for one group at the expense of another. Even if they actually correct a real problem, they still do not improve overall standard of living, they improve that of some at the expense of others – and necessarily in a less than net positive way.

      Alternately they cause someone to be more productive – to get a job, to create something of value, in which case they make rather than refute my argument.

      This is not about whether what you are talking about is pie in the sky or not.

      There are still only two things you can do with respect to standard of living.

      Transfers which are less than zero sum,

      or produce.

      But there is some room for common ground.

      To increase standard of living what you must produce is wealth.
      Wealth is – what we need and want.
      It is measured in money, but money is just the conveyor transforming the wealth we produce into the wealth we consume.

      Weath can be balloon rides, dinners with your spouse, dancing, vacations, free time with your kids, early retirement. It is whatever you want and need. Wealth for you and wealth for me need not be the same thing. But we all arquire wealth in the same way – by producing something that someone else wants or needs and trading for what we want or need.

      Ultimately there is nothing that you can do socially to improve our net standard of living that does is not producing more. Even improving the standard of living of a few must either be an act of production or come at the expense of someone else.

      There is no other way.

      My guess is that some of what infuriates you about what I am saying is actually semantic differences – though semantics with meaning.

      You and I may have different wants and needs. So long as each of us is willing to produce something that someone else wants in order to get what we want, it is not important that our wants and needs are different.
      If what you want is to spend your free time doing drug counciling at the local Y, that’s great. You or someone else still had to produce something someone else wanted in order for you to have the free time to do that. Further, should your drug councilling result in somebody cleaning up their life, getting a job, …. then it too was a productive act.

      And we each decide what everything we want and need is worth, by the amount of what we produce we are willing to exchange for it.
      So if you do not think Micheal Jordan, or Madonna or Robert Igor should get paid as well as they do, then don’t buy their sneakers, CD’s or DVD’s.

      Regardless, you are free to determine your own needs and wants for yourself if you value it then whoever provides it is productive – to the extent that you value it and are willing to trade some of what you produce for it.

      So long as it is done freely it is irrelevant whether you and I share values.

      But when you or anyone else decides to take from me or anyone else, for some purported benefit to a third, it is theft, it is destructive not productive, it is inefficient, it lowers the standard of living of most everyone in the hope (usually false) or raising it for a few.

      And finally it is actually morally destructive, because there is no possible moral value to something done under compulsion.

      • valdobiade permalink
        April 17, 2012 3:48 pm

        dhlii wrote: “There are still only two things you can do with respect to standard of living.Transfers which are less than zero sum,or produce.”
        ===========

        I think there’s too much burden placed on rich people to make up for empty areas in life.

        - Do you think about improving this standard of empty living situation?
        - What transfer or producing is required in this situation?

  8. Pat Riot permalink
    April 18, 2012 6:08 pm

    “Standard of living” and “increased standard of living” are phrases consisting of words. An “increased standard of living” can be “translated” simply as a “higher level of living..”

    Your definition, Asmith, is an economist’s definition, but not the sole definition. b

    People in two neighborhoods with the same median household income, let’s say, to bring some math into it, can have much different standards of living depending upon infrastructure and institutions present, personal habits, relationships/coordination or lack thereof—what the people are doing with their time—the past and present choices of the people—that influence how much they can enjoy for the same amount of wealth or income or money, wherever you want to focus on what “power” they have available to them to get what they want and need.

    In one neighborhood there might be much to enjoy for free, such as clean parks, stream or lake full of fish, good selection of stores on Main Street, whereas in the other neighborhood there may only be “amenities” available after a long drive in a car.

    I think we are not only dealing with semantics here, but with “apples and oranges” in approaches. Yes, I understand and see the value of economists applying theoretical and imperfect measurements such as Consumer Price Index, GDP, Median Household Income, et cetera. Those are sometimes helpful measurements/ways of looking at things to try to get a grasp of complex reality in order to try to predict future events.

    I haven’t been infuriated by anything on TNM lately, by you or anyone, though I don’t agree with some of your fast-held tenets, especially the one in which some people are always losing while others are gaining, the idea that there are either trasnfers or production and nothing else. I don’t know if I’ll be able to knock you out of your orbit no matter how many examples I come up with of “win-win” situations where nobody lost and nothing new was produced. Let me know if you want me to try or I’ll just let you orgit happily! Respectfully, Pat

    • April 18, 2012 11:09 pm

      You are not going to be able to knock me out of orbit. That would require repealing the laws of gravity.

      But just because many things are complicate, because humans are complicated, does not mean everything is complicated.

      2 + 2 is still 4 even though pi is irrational.evens + evens will always be even – as will odds odds, even though division by zero is undefined.

      “The Wealth of Nations” was not written by an economist. It was written by a moral philosopher. It is a study of why the people of some nations are better off than others, and how to make things better for all of us. Wealth is “what we need and want” whatever that may be. We define it. We produce (wealth) in order to consume (wealth).
      It is entirely about making our own lives and those of everyone around us better.
      The more we produce the better off everyone is.

      Current political discourse fixates on “the buffet rule”.
      yet Bill Gates and Warren Buffet are responsible not only for enriching themselves, but in numerous ways those of the rest of us every day.
      Their combined total wealth would not cover the US deficit for a month.
      Yet tens of thousands of us have jobs, and enjoy things made possible by them.

      Sure if they gave all their money to government tomorrow someone else would step in.
      But if they did not that someone else would likely do something else productive.

      We produce in order to consume, and it is the only way that the aggregate quality of our lives improves.

      I am not claiming some people are always losing and others always gaining.
      In fact absent transfers most people win most of the time. It is NOT a zero sum game.
      Transfers on the other hand are at best a small negative sum game.

      the things that go together to make up “standard of living” are apples, oranges, pears, bananas, and billions of other things, they are different for each of us. Nor do they have the same value for each of us.

      BUT each of us assigns each element of standard of living a value – though we may not do it consciously.

      And we each secure for ourselves those parts we need, and want based on our personal set of values.

      And finally we acquire as much of them as we can by producing things other people want.

      We can not perfectly measure what each person wants and needs. We probably can not do it very well imperfectly.

      But we can measure – reasonably well, what we produce, and we can measure the value of what is produced by what people pay for it.

      Aside from things like air that really are free, what is produced is what we want and need. Maybe not EXACTLY what we want and need, but far closer than can be determined by any other means.

      I can not see how your examples disprove anything.

      There is nothing on earth that we can enjoy for free – atleast not for very long.
      With few exceptions such as air, none of the things we need or want are magically available to us.

      Even prehistoric gatherers – still had to go out and work to get fruits and berries.

      Even experiencing beautiful views or music still requires that we produce enough to remain alive to do so – not to mention that few of us have everything we need and desire sitting in our back yard just waiting for us to pick it up.

      But even if we presume there is some body of things that make up “standard of living” that are completely free, unless that increases in size magically on its own without any outside input, you still have to produce in order to increase it or add to it.

      And yes I still think we are dealing with Semantics. I think your definition of what constitutes produce and what constitutes consume are too small.

      Essentially we are back to the wealth and money are not the same thing argument.
      At best money is a way of measuring wealth or something we can transform into wealth. But wealth is anything that we want or need, and the way we get wealth is either by producing what we want or need or by producing what someone else wants or needs and trading. The alternative is transfers – either someone voluntarily gives us some of what they have produced, or if the exchange is not voluntary, then we call it theft – unless the government is involved.

      You can also argue that we have made poor choices as to what we want and need – and you may well be right, but there are only two ways to address that – persuasion, and force.

      You are free to try to persuade me to place more value on books, than cars, or TV, or ….

      But when you change from telling me what I should to telling me what I must, when you use compulsion, force, government to deprive me of my own choices and substitute your own – except in the instance my choices are actually harming others, then you are immoral.

  9. Pat Riot permalink
    April 19, 2012 7:59 am

    The economic relationship between production and standard of living that you see and understand is true. It’s very easy to come up with examples in which increased production not only raises the standard of living of those directly involved but also raise the standard of living of many others indirectly.

    So I’m not saying that relationship isn’t true, but I am saying that it is not the whole truth and that it is NOT true in certain contexts. For example, if five factories increase production dramatically and create 500 new jobs, but the products they are making contain a noxious carcinogen that damages the health of millions of people, then in the long run that increase in production only seemed to raise the standard of living through job creation but overall, in reality, dragged humanity down more than it moved it forward. The marcellus shale endeavors ramping up in PA for example: will the benifits outweigh the costs to the environment and to humanity in the long run, such as well water and streams and lakes being contaminated? That depends on the amount of damage. We only have one Earth. People don’t necessarily have to drive in cars and fly in planes, but people have to drink clean water.

    • Anonymous permalink
      April 20, 2012 12:38 pm

      There is not a relationship between standard of living and production (or more accurately wealth), they are essentially the same thing.

      Each individual’s standard of living is the extent to which their wants and needs are met.
      Wealth is meeting our wants and needs. Production is the means to wealth.

      It is not only true. It is the WHOLE truth.
      If you come up with a “counter example” that actually improves one persons standard of living without harming others, then somewhere in that “counter example” additional wealth is produced.

      I have no problem with your factory example.Almost everything involves cost benefit analysis. Though we do have to be careful to measure real benefits and real costs not pie in the sky benefits an fictitious future costs.

      If the value of whatever the factory produces is less than the harm any carcinogens it releases may cause – then the net is not the creation of wealth but its destruction.

      Cars and airplanes may or may not be necescary, but energy and production are not.

      Our standard of living – as individuals, as americans, as humans on the planet is a entirely dependent on what we produce – if you need to discount for actual harm, I am fine with that. If we produce less our standard of living declines – that has very real consequences – in much of the world that may mean hunger , death, reduced health, shorter lifespans.

      A factory in the US that produces a Billion dollars of wealth, but reduces the life span of 100,000 people by a year on average, may be a poor economic choice.
      In much of the world that may well be a major win – because the Billion dollars ow wealth will increase lifespan more than the carcinogens reduce it.

      Do not forget that prior to the capitalist modern era life spans were below 40 years.
      It is not harm to take away from people something they never would have.

      The earth will still be here 4billion years from now. It is nearly certain that we will not – atleast not in our current form.

      Energy (which is just a form of Wealth) is even more significant.
      We use energy more efficiently all the time – but we also use more and more at the same time. And that process is likely to continue as long as humanity continues.

      No form of wealth is more important to human standard of living than energy.
      If you reduce energy production – you are literally killing people. Malthus was actually right about some things – 18th century agrarian life was only capable of sustaining (badly) a tiny fraction of the worlds population.

      Certainly we need to minimize our impact on our environment – the benefits should (and do) far outweigh the costs. I have no problem with expecting that Marcellus and other ventures have a low impact. But if all we were talking about was cost/benefits, The Marcellus projects could justify the destruction of the entirety of the Pennsylvania watershed, and a significant reduction in the life expectancy of Pennsylvania residents – and I live in Pennsylvania.

      Water is a nearly infinite renewable resource. Cheap water at a specific place is different. Most of the country (excluding the west) has a sustainable water system. Yes we have to deal with local problems, but nothing unmanageable.

      • Anonymous permalink
        April 20, 2012 2:32 pm

        Since bullshit can be produced verbally, it costs nothing to manufacture and can be generated (potentially) in vast quantities. However, bullshit is costly because it derives its value as a medium of exchange. It is divisible, fungible, has a near-constant exchange rate, and readily lends itself to a wide array of industrial and commercial uses. Thus, bullshit is the most widely traded commodity in existence.

        Bullshit comes from authorized bullshitters – or from bullshitters who pretend to be authorized – who can produce as much as they deem necessary. Excessive bullshit can result in inflation; too much bullshit will begin to decline in value, and the producer loses credibility. Thus all producers must distribute their currency prudently, lest the weight of their bullshit cause its value to plummet.

  10. Pat Riot permalink
    April 19, 2012 8:02 am

    And so if more cars are produced and more people have more money, but we can’t drink the water or breathe the air, have we really increased our standard of living?

    • April 20, 2012 12:53 pm

      Through the peak of the industrial revolution when cities like London were polluted beyond belief – Life expectancy was rising.

      We should certainly strive to minimize harm. And in the extremely rare instances where harm outweighs benefits we should cease whatever we are doing.

      regardless, I will be happy to agree that we must measure things like production, and government as net rather than gross values.

    • Pat Riot permalink
      April 21, 2012 7:43 pm

      Ian is that you up there talking about bullshit flooding the market and causing the value of bullshit to drop?? :-) hahaha I think it is. Quite a display going on here again. Someone said: “The Marcellus projects could possibly justify the destruction of the entirety of the Pennsylvania watershed, and a significant reduction in the life expectancy of PA residents.” Hey, at least it’s not “politically correct drabness”here I tell myself !

  11. Pat Riot permalink
    April 19, 2012 8:06 am

    to keep the Titanic afloat to get it repaired and running even better than before we certainly need some increases in production, but increases in the production of things that are good for us, not just production for production sake, no matter how much silly people thank they want or need those things. With over 3 billion people and expanding, the game is changing.Different game; different rules.

    • April 20, 2012 1:22 pm

      Production is driven by what people want and need. The fact that something is produced and sold is proof that sufficient people want or need it that it is not “silly”.

      The world population was 3B when i was born, It has more than doubled since then – at the same time average individual wealth, health, food intake, have all doubled. Life expectancy has increased by almost 20 years.

      More people means more brains, more labor, larger markets.
      Just in the area of health, a prosperous china means that orphan drugs that can not be profitably developed for the US market suddenly become viable in a market of 1B people.

      Population growth does nto come without problems – but like Marcellus Shale, the benefits have thus far dramatically outwieghed the cost.

      For most of the past century starvation has been political rather than based on limited resources. This is even more true today. Further with the largest population ever, both hunger and starvation have been steadily declining – both as a percent of population and in real numbers during my entire lifetime. Though the recent worldwide economic crisis has caused an increase – but not relative to say the 60′s.

      Most of the developed world has passed the inflection point and have declining populations. As life spans increase birth rates decline. The US and most of Europe have a difficult period of aging population to get through before reaching sustainable stable populations. The developing world is following the same curve – but they are a few decades behind.

      China’s growth rate peaked at 3.5% and is down to .5% and declining. India is down to a bit over 1%.

      The game is not any different,

      Malthusian predictions of the end of the world are centuries old.
      Ehrlich the father of modern population malthusianism predicted massive global starvation – commencing in 1975.

      There is no actual evidence that the earth or humans are suffering from over population.
      Nearly everything for nearly everyone has gotten better.

  12. Pat Riot permalink
    April 19, 2012 8:12 am

    Another thing we need for our Great Republic is: increased capabilities. If two men each have 50,000 dollars, but one of the men is a skilled engineer, plumber, and father and husband and Boy Scout leader, let’s day, and the other guy is a selfish, lazy bum who got the money from a dead Uncle, which guy is gonna raise our standard of living year in and year out? Eventually the selfish, lazy guy will spend his money and go back to being a drain on civilization.

    Titanic needs 1) increased production of healthy things 2) increased capabilities of people

    what else do we need to Save Our Ship??

    • April 20, 2012 1:27 pm

      you are making my argument.

      The productive person contributes to both himself and the world, the non-productive one does not.

      I try not to use words like Selfish and Lazy.

      To often we call people who produce more than others today selfish.
      Maybe they are – if so that is a good thing because the produce more than they need, the rest of us benefit.

      The problem with discussions of what we need, is that left on our own all but a tiny fraction of us will make better choices for ourselves than anyone else can possibly make for us.

      • Pat Riot permalink
        April 20, 2012 2:55 pm

        See above I was talking about the selfish, lazy type, the type who spends all their money quickly on themselves and then is back in trouble and being a burden on society. I wasn’t talking about the selfish entrepreneur or selfish hard worker or selfish capable chap. Of course a moderate amount of selfishness keeps the world varied and going round.

        I’m not making your argument about productivity at all. I showed that I understand the role of productivity–both when it helps us and also when it hurts us. We need not argue about it. You have shot your arrows at the target and I have shot mine. Others can judge who is surrounding the bullseye and who has overshot the target! Although everyone else must be either scrambiling for the lifeboats or perhaps still dining below decks unaware the Great Republic is taking on water…

      • April 21, 2012 12:46 am

        Regardless of the meaning of selfish, you are still making my argument.

        The productive person in your scenario makes the world better for himself and others, the one who produces nothing makes it worse for himself and others.

        Beyond that I still avoid selfish – everyone is sure what it means, but the meaning is highly variable even when used by the same person.

        If you acquire whatever you need and want – wealth, without using force or deceit – without depriving someone else of what is their against their will, then regardless of what you call it, it is good, and the world is a better place. If you do so with great gusto, beyond anything you could personally need – then the rest of us actually benefit more than you do – something Adam Smith noted more than two centuries ago, that is actually more true today.

  13. Pat Riot permalink
    April 19, 2012 8:12 am

    oops: let’s say, not let’s day. Sorry. off to work now…

  14. Pat Riot permalink
    April 21, 2012 7:57 pm

    Wow! Asmith Devotee Dave, it is consistently evident that your mental picture of the benefits of production are quite clear and strong in your head. Unfortunately you address too much at once in your posts. You’ve thrown out a scattering of insightful, er, I mean incite-full comments and circular definitions, but it would take too much time to address all of them. I wish I had the time. You are not dull.

    You said: “Cars and airplanes may or may not be necescary (sic*), but energy and production are not.”

    Hey now that’s just some deceptive parlor trick there with double and a half negatives, and not fair!! .

    newly minted word: nece-SCARY. I like it.

    • April 21, 2012 10:59 pm

      I will be happy to take whatever blame you wish to heap on my for typo’s etc.
      Regardless of typos. Production drives standard of living – because standard of living is the consumption of what we have produced. You can not consume it (atleast not for long) if you do not produce it.

      debate over the relative value of different things that are produced is a proxy for imposing ones values on others. In a truly free market the value of anything is our value of that thing.

  15. Pat Riot permalink
    April 21, 2012 8:27 pm

    There was a man named Sid who drove 67 miles each way to work (oh the gas consumption!) for ten hours of work per day, Monday through Saturday. He said he needed to provide for his family. He said he needed to produce more so that his family could have more wealth to get the things they wanted and needed.

    Sid’s wife, Alexa Love Turbo, was miserable, partly because she had to do everything around the house herself in Sid’s absence. Not only that, but also she was struggling at her part time job because of stress and was on the edge of losing it altogether.

    Sid improved his standard of living tremendously by working less and being there for keeping the house organized (no transfer or production there) and for moral support for Alexa Love Turbo. They are now both working less, producing less, bringing in less income, but their standard of living is higher because of finding the right balance, because of MODERATION.

    “Shucks! I didn’t stop producing altogether,” Sid said, “but I found PRODUCING LESS actually allowed me to be healthier and to get the things I really wanted and needed.”

    THIS HAS BEEN A PUBLIC SERVICE MESSAGE FOR THOSE SUFFERING FROM CSE (CAPITALISM SOLVES EVERYTHING) SYNDROME. For examples 2 through 456, log on to dontbestuck.org

    • April 21, 2012 11:23 pm

      What they have done is altered their values. They have not MODERATED anything, they have chosen to value some things more highly than others – something they are only able to do to the extent that the market is free.

      I do not know based on your description whether Sid’s standard of living increased. I also do not know whether his productivity actually increased or decreased.
      Nor do we know the impact on society as a whole of Sid’s decisions.

      Regardless you have constructed a hypothetical and then argued that it is reality.
      I am sure there are plenty of people who have deliberately chosen to shift from more lucrative endeavors to ones that better suit their values – I have done so myself. I have also done the opposite based on the needs of my family. What makes you happy does not make you very happy if it does not feed your family or pay the mortgage.
      And you are implicitly confusing money and wealth. The fact that Sid and Alexa are making less money says nothing about whether they are more or less productive.
      At best it says that their employers consider them less productive.
      Wealth is whatever we need and want – you keep ignoring that.

      You also confuse standard of living with happiness. That is probably reasonable – we have no other accurate quantitative means of measuring happiness. Standard of living is what we need and want. Accepting your hypothetical as accurate, Sid and Alexa lowered their standard of living in order to increase their happiness. I suspect – from personal experience in the real world that reality is far more complex, but even so at the very best you have demonstrated that in atleast some instances people can be happier with a lower standard of living. Lets assume not only that that is true, but that it is universally true, do we as society have the right to force Sid to quit driving 67miles each way everyday for his and Alexa’s own good ? Or is that a decision that only they can make for themselves.

      Capitolism does not solve everything. But free people able to make their own choices provably results in far better (not perfect) results then any other system ever conceived.

    • April 21, 2012 11:46 pm

      I would hope it was apparent from my remarks, but the core value I advocate is not captiolism – it is freedom. Capitolism is just the monetary facet of freedom.

      Maximizing Standard of Living is important – our entire political debate at the moment is fixated on it. The standard of living of the nation as a whole, can only be increased through increased production – even if Sid and Alexa have achieved nirvana by becoming less productive.

      But Standard of living is an even more derived value than Capitolism.
      Standard of living is a sort of negative freedom, it is freedom from need and want.
      It is the only freedom progressives care about and one they can not deliver.

      Real Freedom, includes the freedom to act against your own self-interest. It means being able to set your own values as you wish – even different from others. It does not include the right to impose your values, your choices, or your self sacrifice on others.

      • valdobiade permalink
        April 23, 2012 2:25 pm

        You are making me scream every time you write “Capitolism” instead of “Capitalism”.

        “Capitolism” is an ironic reference to an economy in which market forces are subsumed to political interests in Washington. The term is derived from Karl Marx’s term for a private enterprise-based economy, Capitalism, and the name of the building in which the U.S. Congress meets, the Capitol.

        Similar to crony capitalism, “capitolism” isn’t capitalism and it isn’t quite socialism, but combines some of the worst aspects of both systems. A business that makes decisions based on what will earn it subsidies from Washington, rather than supply and demand, is capitolist.

        An example of using “capitolism”:To avoid bankruptcy, General Motors must make business decisions based not on the market, but on the tens of billions of dollars in subsidies it seeks from Washington. Once a prominent example of capitalism it is now one of capitolism.

  16. Anonymous permalink
    April 21, 2012 9:03 pm

  17. dhlii permalink
    April 22, 2012 3:35 pm

    The continuing saga of Sid and Alexa.

    Sid and Alexa have made their choice, they have foregone whatever benefits they might have gotten from Sid working 10 hours a day and driving atleast another 3. Presumably that work paid significantly better than whatever Sid is doing now.

    But Sid and Alexa have voted – with their wallets, saying they have sufficient for their needs and wants, and the cost in other things they value for more is higher than they wish to pay.

    What if we doubled what Sid was being paid ? Quadrupled ? In creased it by 1000 fold ?

    It is possible that Sid might change his mind. It is possible that higher pay might allow Sid and Alexa to restructure their lives in a way that was better than before, maybe even better than with Sid at home helping Alexa.

    Regardless, most all of us in this country today easily meet our needs, and most of our effort is directed to attaining what we want not what we need.

    Further, though most of us dream occasionally about winning the lottery, even the overwhelming majority of our wants can be met with wealth that is at worst not very far outside our grasp.

    If you won the lottery, after you bought the fancy cars, fancy homes, rewarded your friends, and spent on yourself until you were sated – what would you do with all the rest ?

    It is outside of the ability of even Bill Gates to consume $80B dollars solely for his own benefit in his lifetime. The left implicitly makes that argument when they claim correctly that increasing taxes on the top 1% will cause them no harm. more than two centuries ago Adam Smith grasped that the top 1% had more wealth than they could possibly consume.

    Unlike modern progressives he grasped that if you produce more wealth than you can consume, that someone else is benefiting from it.

    Whether it is Bill Gates or Oprah Winfrey, or your local neurosurgeon, if one does not personally enjoy the benefits of what one produces then someone else does

    Those avaricious greedy bastards in the top 1% produce almost entirely for the rest o us. Even if they are fixated on accumulating as much money as possible – so long as they do not transform than money into personal wealth – its primary beneficiaries are the rest of us.

    While it is or should be easy to see that Bill Gates could maintain his current lifestyle on a fraction of the interest from 1% of his money, people with far less money than bill Gates can not or atleast do not consume most of the wealth they produce.

    Someone earning 10 times what Sid is could live on half that with little or no impact on their lifestyle. Again something the left points out all the time. What they fail to grasp is that if the 1% are not the beneficiaries of the wealth they create – then the rest of us must be – in multiple ways. The 1% already have little incentive to be as productive as they are. Exactly like Sid and Alexa, they can easily say I have had enough of the rat Race, I am getting off. But unlike Sid and Alexa they can forego 25, 50, 90% of the wealth they create at no personal cost at all.

    While this is most pronounced at the extremes – it requires no proof to grasp that Bill Gates can not possibly consume much of the wealth he creates.
    It is true to a lessor extent through almost every level of income.

    Far more than the top 1% could produce substantially less than they do with little or no personal cost. Even Sid an Alexa are able to live well while producing substantially less wealth – the primary losers are not Sid an Alexa, but those whose livelyhoods do depend on the wealth that Bill Gates – or Sid and Alexa produce.

    In case you have not been paying attention, this is why transfers – even if somehow accomplished without loss, will still harm those they are intended to benefit.
    When you transfer money from the rich to the poor, you transform it from growing wealth benefiting all of us into something that is spent and gone.

  18. April 22, 2012 3:49 pm

    The fare for the two Titanic Parlour Suites was approximately half the fares paid by all 706 third class passengers. Total 1st class fares dwarfed the sum of all other fares many times over.

    Isador Straus, Ben Gugenheim, and John Jacob Astor the three richest passengers – all multi-millionaires, all billionaires in todays terms, all died.

  19. valdobiade permalink
    April 23, 2012 2:15 pm

    asmith about A. Smith: “Unlike modern progressives he grasped that if you produce more wealth than you can consume, that someone else is benefiting from it.”

    This “grasping” does not show in the modern capitalism. A lot of products are destroyed so their prices won’t go lower if profit cannot be gained by the wealthy. I remember about times when milk was dumped in sewers because the price of milk went down. Nowadays, if the output of oil is bigger than the demand, artificial political crisis is created by the wealthy so the price goes higher and bigger stocking reservoirs are created. There are a lot of methods of the wealthy to destroy competition and have monopoly so not everybody get benefits.

    The wealthy will never rise the level of overall wealth when they have more than enough for them. A modernization, or a little rise in overall well being of masses happens not because the rich are benevolent, but because if they don’t throw a bone to the masses, they will be destroyed.

    This is bullshit that wealthy will help the poor when the rich have an “overflow” of wealth. The history shows wealth from the rich benefits the poor only when a government slap them or by population uprisings.

    • April 26, 2012 6:56 pm

      Please provide a real world instance where a producer has destroyed otherwise good product rather than attempt to sell it without being compelled to do so by government.

      What is an “artificial political crisis” – do you really believe that the wealthy are actively trying to destabilize the mideast ? And how is it you think they profit ? Increases in the price of crude primarily benefit the oil cartel – governments.

      If “the wealthy will never rise the overall weatlh when they have more than enough for them” how do you explain anyone earning more than 100,000/year ? 1,000,000 ?
      Oprah, Gates, Buffet, ….. ? How many G7′s can one own before one has enough ?
      Even if we disagree on where that occurs, it is obvious that at some level of income, it is no longer possible to spend for your own enjoyment. Once you have sufficient income to afford everything you could possibly need or want, what do you do with the rest and who benefits from it ?

      It is progressives that are trying to argue that everyone should find some way to be satisified with less – not the wealthy. You do not get to have it both ways. You can not claim that a lower purportedly more sustainable standard of living is something good, and then argue that the wealthy are actively suppressing everyone else’s standard of living and that is bad.

      Please look at history. We have been here 150,000 years. During that entire time, there has been no appreciable increase in our standard of living except during the few centuries of somewhat free markets. For 99.99% of human history there were two classes – the .001% of rulers – whose standard of living was worse than that of the poor today, and everyone else who lived in near abject poverty.

      i will absolutely agree that business, particularly big businesses seek to destroy competition, and achieve a monopoly,, and drive up profits. But absent government in the real world it just does not happen. Standard oil spent decades growing its share of the market. In 1865 when Rockefeller started Standard oil the price of Kerosene was $2/gal. By the time Standard oil controlled 90% of the market nearly 4 decades later the price was .06/gal. By 1907 – 4 years before the government broke up standard oil its market share had dropped more than 25% The breakup of standard oil caused a dramatic increase in its stock price. This is generally considered the epitomy of the robber Barron monopoly, yet the evidence is that standard oil’s drive to monopoly drove prices down – dramatically, and that having achieved control of 90% of the market – it was unable to maintain it.

      What businesses want, and what they can actually accomplish are completely different. Adam Smith had a very poor opinion of the motivations of business. What he grasped was it did not matter, whatever their motives the results were nearly universally beneficial.

      Average return on investment is less than 9%. In case you do not grasp it, that means the “rich” must give others the benefits of more than 90% of anything they invest in order to get back less than 1/10 of that each year. If you are making 1,000,000/year on your investments – that means you have 10,000,000 out there creating jobs and opportunities for other people. Generally an investment that returns $1M in profits/year employees about 200 people per year. That means the rich investor is getting back about 5,000 per year per job he has created. That also means that for each additional 5,000 you take from them in taxes, you are likely to lose 1 job.

      What history are you reading ? Where is this successful example of a government “punishing” the rich, and benefiting the poor ? This has been beaten to death – even here. More government means a lower standard of living (or atleast slower increase in standard of living).

  20. Anonymous permalink
    April 24, 2012 7:50 am

    How to keep the titanic from sinking:
    a partial list:
    1. A healthier economy with less government and more freedom, including increased production of things we need
    2. Capable / wiser people: people able to adapt / able to do the jobs that need to be done to move us forward
    3. New infrastructure to fit modern needs. How important were the roads, bridges, and public transportation systems of the 1920s and 1950s to our past prosperity? What do we need now?

  21. April 26, 2012 8:48 pm

    The meme of Titanic exposes our souls.

    It is indisputable that their was a strong correlation between wealth and survival – particularly for 1st class women and children. From this at the time and to this date we see malevolence without evidence. Lifeboats on the Titanic had a capacity of almost 1200. There were just over 700 survivors. and 1500 deaths. These numbers should have been nearly reversed. There were only 325 First class passengers, every single one could have survived as well as an additional 400 from 2nd and third class. Though loading the lifeboats was not well organized and several early boats left with far less than their capacity, there are few if any stories of panic, or fighting. There are several stories of wealthy women giving up seats to 2nd or third class passengers or chosing to remain with their husbands. chivalry was far more evident in the distinction between the survivors and the dead – the odds of a first class male getting a seat in a life boat were lower than that of a third class women. Aside from chivalry the predominant factor effecting survival was proximity to the deck. More male crew members survived than males of all other classes combined. Less than 20% of all men survived, more than 75% of all women. 32% of first class men survived (57 – less than 1 lifeboat full) – a significantly lower percent than women or children of any class.

    Yet titanic is painted as a story of class prejudice. The wealthy not only did better, but in some way they were evil.

    It is that last aspect that constantly pollutes our discourse. It is what raises my hackles regarding progressives, and it is why I am so certain this site is not truly moderate.

    On issue after issue, we do not just disagree, we are not just blind to actual facts, but most importantly we characterize our opponents as evil, vile, repugnant.

    The debate over Norquist was not about the merits of his views, but read as how could someone so clearly vile be entitled to an opinion. We do not talk about the rich, or businessmen without remarking on their greed, All republicans are corporate shills – yet democrats who receive far more money from big business, are champions of the people.

    The tendency to ad hominem attacks is not confined to one side of almost any debate. But it is far more common from the left than from the right. Progressives are so blind to the possibility that there might be another credible view than their own that anything that deviates from their views – no matter how internally inconsistent their views might be must be evil.

    Even here at a so called moderate site, arguing that government is too big, that freedom is paramount, that everyone – especially the poor will benefit from greater freedom and less government is taken as proof that one is devoid of empathy, The Black Knight, or afflicted with aspburgers. It is not sufficient that those who disagree are labeled as wrong, they must be labeled as evil, or defective.

    On occaison I have labeled specific views as evil. I beleive progressivism is inherently evil – it sacrifices just and fair means for any good ends and ultimately acheives neither.
    but i do not consider Al Gore, Barney Frank, Ralph Nador, George Sorros or any other champions of progressivism themself evil. Most are ordinary people or politicians, some are genuinely extremely decent people – though they are still wrong.

    But for the left and far too many moderates, it is not enough to place pejorative labels on the ideas of their opponents, it is necessary to attach them to the people themselves.

    Whenever I encounter argument that impugnes the person rather than what they say, or that features who is purportedly behind them more than the merits of their arguments, it leads me to wonder about the weakness of the arguments against them.

    We ask “Who is afraid of Grover Norquist ?” not “who is afraid of smaller government ?”.

    If you believe that you must defame your opponent to win an argument – maybe you should take a very hard look at your argument.

    http://www.anesi.com/titanic5.gif

    Otherwise you are likely substituting the story you want to believe for truth.

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