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Member since: Tue Nov 16, 2004, 03:14 PM
Number of posts: 7,215

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On Greed

We often blame the excesses of capitalism on greed, or excessive greed. The first thing we should note is that the capitalist system is motivated by greed. Capitalism is legalized greed. Capitalists perceive a need or a desire for various goods and services: oil and its byproducts, clothing, food, food served in restaurants, trinkets and gadgets, means of communication. They then set about producing them as cheaply as possible, and selling them for the maximum price the market will bear. And we buy: as much as we need, and, urged on by advertising, as much as we can afford, and sometimes more. As these processes play out, the capitalist, the “owner,” may make some very handsome profits indeed. But they couldn’t make the profits without the market to buy their products. In America, our cultural norms tolerate all these desires, for profits by the owners, and goods by the buyers, as the norm, the best available economic system.

Greed, then, is a normal part of our economic system. Capitalism works in part by channeling everybody’s natural desire for more than they have or need into orderly processes. There are stores, warehouses, catalogs and websites to display the goods, there are delivery services to get them to the buyers, and banking services to handle the payments. What our understanding of capitalism doesn’t provide us with is a measure for deciding when a lot becomes too much. At what point does the need to keep a business running become destructive? When profits exceed 2%, or 5%, or 30% or 45%? Economists don’t hold these discussions, because they have made it their business to discuss economic systems as though they were natural phenomena, like bird migrations, or the mating habits of whales, or the component planets in our solar system. Greed, as it is used these days, seems to be a moral accusation: those who are greedy have a vice, and they need to curb their desires for more for the good of their souls, and society at large.

There is an analogy with the controversy over abortion: the pro-life party accuses the women who seek abortions of being morally cruel to the innocent life they bear. Abortion seekers are really killing babies, seems to be their judgment. The problems arise when the pro-life party tries to control abortion by making it illegal. As soon as they try that, all the messy other realities of child bearing are exposed, and the laws don’t work to save innocent lives. Anti-abortion legislation, doesn’t work, but the pro-life party gets to enjoy their own moral superiority over the abortion seekers.

All of us capitalists get to feel morally superior to the owners, or at least the “big” owners: Big Oil, Big Pharma, Walmart, Big anything, when we call them greedy. But we don’t ask for a change in the system, or even to control the system as it’s now practiced. It may be that we could keep the main components of capitalism, while legally controlling profit levels, or at least executive salaries. You will have noticed that any discussion of controlling profits is immediately labeled as redistribution of wealth and socialism, and the moral outrage turns to moral panic. And Ronald Reagan is elected President.

I would like to see Pres. Biden, Sen. Sanders, and of course Sen. Warren, develop a plan to curb some of the excesses of unfettered capitalism, just to prove that discussion is possible, and even healthy. The hard line capitalists like to pretend that any restriction of capitalism at all brings on Armageddon. What if it doesn’t spell doom, but salvation?

An English major considers loan forgiveness

Following are economic thoughts from an English major, so you can judge how many academic credits in economic subjects I have: none. Still, I listen to NPR reporting on economics all the time, and have life experiences too. So, here's my take on how loan forgiveness will affect the economy.

First, I'd like to point out that when most of us say we own a car or a house, what we mean is that the bank owns the house and the financing company owns the car. This is only fair: if we encounter financial difficulties, the financer can repo the car and the bank can foreclose on the house. When we use our credit cards, there's often less tangible stuff to repossess. How is the bank going to repossess the restaurant meal we charged to our card, or the vacation in Acapulco? The bank could try repossessing the stuff we bought, but the bank wants our washer even less than they want the house or the car. The banks' profits sink like a stone when they have to repossess something. What they really want is for us to pay off the loan at the interest rate we agreed to. That will make them happy. Or perhaps they want to sell our active loan and make a profit from that. The only thing I'm confident of here is that banks and financing companies do nothing that's not profitable.

Now, What does all this have to do with student loans? Student loans are used to pay for education. Just try repossessing somebody's education, and see how far you get. Banks are taking a bigger risk with financing education loans, because we really can't pick people's brains. That's only a metaphor for voluntarily sharing your thoughts. Meanwhile, to the economy at large, the average person is of primary importance, because 70% of our economy is powered by consumers. What this means is that the Economy needs us to spend as much money as we can possibly afford, so that all their industries will thrive and grow. When we hear it reported that the Economy "grew" by X percent, that means lots of us spent money on things we needed or wanted, and our noses are still above the flood waters of insolvency. So, it is our economic duty to spend as much disposable income as we can for the greater glory of Capitalism and Our Country.

Perhaps you can see where I'm headed with this: when we forgive educational debt, we boost the economy. A fellow DUer mentions that their son may be able to get married now with his lingering education debt forgiven. Wedding industry, take note! Mortgage industry and child product industries, celebrate! I am assuming here that Pres. Biden is going to pay off the students' debtors, the banks, from tax revenues. If this happens, truly everybody wins, especially the overstocked retailers who need to sell some stuff pronto.

On the nonexistence of a justification for patriarchy, Part II

Thank you for your patience, anyone who has been exercising it.

This is my idea: we can start a Petition for the Redress of Grievances to the American Patriarchy from American women and their friends. This would be sent to all three branches of the American government, i.e., the President, the Congress, and the Supreme Court. We request that this petition be printed out on paper and mailed via first class postage to each of the governmental entities addressed. Those of you who are familiar with the Declaration of Independence will note that I have stolen the name of the document directly from the DofI. This was quite deliberate, as the DofI was the informal opening of the Revolutionary War, and laid out in polite but clear terms, the number and kind of insults the American colonists had suffered at the hands of George III of England. Without redress.

My petition will be meant to put the government on notice that further action might be taken, but is not being threatened in this document. The only deviltry I envision for this document is the request that it be printed on paper, signed, and those pieces of paper mailed to the three branches of government. If the total outlay is three first class stamps, it will be a cheap Petition, but if enough people mail their envelopes, this will really clog up constituent mail desks in Washington.

The technology involved is deliberately low: anyone can copy, paste, and print the one paragraph that will comprise the Petition and the rest of the single page, and anyone can print off one copy, copy it, and distribute it to friends. Addresses of Congress, White House, and SCOTUS will appear at the bottom of the petition.

Democrats and Independents, who may be familiar with both the Declaration and The Constitution, may take notice of it. Republicans will not understand it at all, but they can probably get someone to explain it to them. I feel that at this stage, we should not threaten the formation of a political party or a voting bloc. If enough people sign on, the potential ramifications will be obvious.

Alrighty. I’m going to start drafting the Petition. Anyone with an idea of what they would like to see included in it should speak right up.

On the nonexistence of a justification for patriarchy

In a previous post, (https://www.democraticunderground.com/?com=view_post&forum=1002&pid=16673543) I mentioned this fact: that there has been no serious rebuttal to the feminist analysis of social structure on this planet. I can only conclude that there is none. Women exist as a caste, a social class, in all known societies, and there is no reason why this should be so. Preachers to slave holders in the American south used to justify slavery with various snippets from the Old Testament. Since we are supposed to be a secular society, Christian biblical misreadings aren’t available to prop up sexism.

So, on the premise that there is no justification for sexism, I would like to point out that women have enormous power that they have never used. Some women seem to think that the institution of marriage will fall if they vote differently from their husbands. To the contrary, the institution of marriage only stands because women assent to it. Children are born because women are willing to bear them. Infants are cared for, children schooled, and houses kept because women do this work willingly. Our current economy also cannot function without them. And I have not mentioned the political power women gained with the vote, which has existed potentially since then, but not yet in reality.

Women are the majority of the population, although they have not yet coalesced into a voting bloc. They could. Women are not yet convinced that their sheer numbers constitute decisive power in a democracy. Without their willing participation in the economy, the economy is crippled. Without their willing participation in civilization, there is no civilization.

I think it is time, and past time, for women to put the patriarchy on notice that women are aware, they are watching, and they are displeased with the progress being made on the legality of abortion, on bringing our economy to a skittering skid if not a halt, so we can save a faltering climate. Nature is like women; it’s not a voting bloc. But it definitely needs one.

I have one idea for how to get this effort under way, which I will suggest in another post.

A Women's Bill of Rights

I. Women shall have the undiluted right to bear, or not bear, any particular child. Women shall have an undiluted right to bear no children at all.

II. Any woman who bars a child shall have a primary right to medical and financial support for herself and her child or children from the outset of pregnancy until the youngest child reaches adulthood. Delivery of these services shall be a primary responsibility of the United States and every state into which children are born.

III. Neither the United States nor any state may compel any person to engage in a “war” without the support of a public plebiscite on the particular instance of “war.” The votes of women shall count as 1.5 votes.

IV. Only well-regulated militias maintained by the United States or any state for defense against aggression by any other state or nation shall have the right to keep and maintain arms. All applicants for private arms licenses shall demonstrate need, completion of a thorough safety course, and sufficient good character to use firearms responsibly.

V. Women shall have the undiluted right to finish what she was saying in any public setting without interruption by any man or woman. She shall signify that she has finished speaking by using any commonly accepted phrase, e.g., “I yield the floor to Mr. Jefferson,” or “I yield the floor to any interested person.”

VI. All women employed by a private or public entity shall be paid the same rate as any man performing the same duties. In cases of dissimilar duties, pay for all jobs will be determined by the level of importance they have in a humane society, e.g., child care, health care, elder care, truck driving, vehicle maintenance, and plumbing and heating repair all occupy a high level of importance.

VII. Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United states or any state on account of sex. The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.

Please excuse the uneven formatting--I used an old version of Word that I have never been able to talk to authoritatively.

Zelensky's chance: how he can shorten his war, and maybe start world peace

The war in Ukraine is the most lopsided war imaginable, with the exception of the Viet Nam and Afghan conflicts, in which the power and might of the U.S. armed forces attempted to defeat a bunch of economically deprived guerillas, and were themselves beaten. Still, if this were a tennis match, Ukraine would be seeded 22nd and Russia seeded 2nd or so. And the outcome to this war in progress has been equally lopsided: in the PR arena, Pres. Zelensky has wiped the floor several times with his opponent, Mr. Putin. The entire world now (except for a couple of ayatollahs) thinks Zelensky is a hero and Putin a monster. I'm not saying these are inaccurate judgments; I'm saying Zelensky has a chance to win a much greater victory for the world than merely driving Russians out of his country somewhere down the line. Zelensky has a chance to make the very idea of war so ridiculous that no country will ever again engage in it for the sake of mere vanity. While he's waiting for enough planes to establish air cover for his country, Zelensky can be the first leader in history to defeat an army not by killing them, but by keeping them alive.

When the Russian army entered Ukraine, they were already half demoralized, on account of the number of lies they had already been told by their own superiors. Once they got into the country, many experienced the horrible sensation of being asked to kill people who were indistinguishable from themselves--people who could be brothers or cousins. And if these Russian soldiers are getting any information from the outside world, they have realized they are becoming more deeply involved in war crimes with every shot they fire. So, the average Russian soldier has few choices, none of them palatable. If he deserts, he'll be killed by his own government; if he deserts and doesn't get caught, he's still a war criminal, and sneaking out through Finland gets dangerous; and if he fights on, he just gets to hate himself more. Here's where Pres. Zelensky can offer these soldiers a better deal than they can get from their own country.

Zelensky, a savvy netizen, can get the word out that surrendering to Ukraine offers better benefits than they can hope for now from their own country. He can promise them that if they lay down their arms, he will not repatriate them until it's safe for them to go home. He can promise to negotiate for them at the peace talks, which will inevitably take place fairly soon after Mr. Putin is removed by his own government. Zelensky can ask for a complete withdrawal of all remaining Russian troops from the country of Ukraine, and amnesty for all Russian prisoners of war. He can give them work starting to clean up the rubble of apartment buildings and hospitals they have turned into rubble, and promise them comfortable living conditions as soon as they get the water and power on again in Mariupol. He can offer them the occasional dinner by Chef Jose Andres. Pres. Zelensky will know what to say.

This war, like many others, demonstrates how insane war actually is. Pres. Zelensky has a chance to speak directly to the army trying to occupy his country, and convince them to lay down their arms for a better future for all concerned. This hasn't been tried before, but if anyone can make this work, it's Volodymyr Zelensky.
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