Capitalism and Poverty

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Do you agree with the idea that capitalism encourages people to overlook and demonize the poor?

Yes
60
52%
No
56
48%
 
Total votes: 116

Lemminkainen
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Re: Capitalism and Poverty

Postby Lemminkainen » Sat Feb 07, 2009 1:27 am UTC

I don't really think that demonization of poverty is really all that common in most capitalist countries. Consider how archetypical capitalist country the United States has a number of government-supported schemes to feed poor people (food stamps), treat their illnesses (Medicaid), and help them find homes (subsidized housing). If capitalism really lead people to hold the poor completely accountable for their situation, then these programs would probably not exist.

That said, in a competetive labor market, both wages and employment for people of a given profession is correlated with their productivity and the demand for their product-- in short, the value of the goods they produce. Of course, it frequently isn't the fault of poor people that they either lack the ability to be more productive. People in poor countries frequently lack access to capital to finance more efficient methods of making goods, and those in wealthy countries tend not to have access to the training that they need to become more productive. Of course, this is an argument for facilitating investment in capital in poor countries and subsidizing education (as thanks to their increased productivity, educated workers bring positive externalities to society that on average outweigh their costs) than for abolishing capitalism, which has, in pure or in market failure-correcting modified forms, outperformed its rival economic systems.

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Re: Capitalism and Poverty

Postby clintonius » Sat Feb 07, 2009 5:33 pm UTC

Drunken: you need to provide support for the sweeping claims you're making. I don't want this thread to turn into another "nuh uh!" "yes huh!" battle.

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Re: Capitalism and Poverty

Postby drunken » Tue Feb 10, 2009 11:18 am UTC

Sorry Clintonius, here is some support.

My claim that poor US citizens don't work as hard as they could was mainly made as a reply to earlier comments like:
VorpalSword wrote:Capitalism does set up a system where some people have to be on the poor end;
qbg wrote:The fact that it isn't too uncommon to hear that the poor are either lazy, stupid, etc
Izawwlgood wrote:Gotta cow? Wanna sell it? Go for it! Got two hands and some tools? Wanna fix my roof? Heres some money! Capitalism doesn't mean 'someone loses',


I was merely claiming that there are some people this may be true for. I know a few of these people personally (people that are poor becuase they are just lazy) so I know that they exist. The comment is however not important to the point I was making and may be stricken from the record. Such people are an insignificant minority in a world view of economics.

The main point was about global capitalism causing a rich/poor divide between nations. Specific examples include carribean nations like cuba and jamaica, central/south american countries like guatemala, costa rica, columbia etc. as well as many asian countries like indonesia. The best sources I can use to support this claim are documentaries about the economic situation in these countries. These are long to watch if you simply want to argue against me in a thread but we are talking about complex issues here so that is unavoidable.

http://freedocumentaries.org/film.php?id=175 Indonesia and globalisation in general
http://freedocumentaries.org/film.php?id=91 Jamaica
http://freedocumentaries.org/film.php?id=108 Nicaragua

as a few examples. There are many economic documentaries on that website for people that want to learn more. I have to go to work now so I don't have time to find internet text references and I will be busy the next couple of days but I will try to come back and edit this post with some later this week.
***This post is my own opinion and no claim is being made that it is in any way scientific nor intended to be construed as such by any reader***

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Re: Capitalism and Poverty

Postby mewshi » Wed Feb 11, 2009 3:10 pm UTC

The problem with using anecdotal evidence about poor people is that hard-working poor people are ashamed, and afraid of being lumped in with the lazy poor people, so they hide it as well as they can. In other words, the hard-working poor exist much more significantly than you think - you just don't know they're poor.

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Re: Capitalism and Poverty

Postby Izawwlgood » Wed Feb 11, 2009 4:39 pm UTC

mewshi wrote:The problem with using anecdotal evidence about poor people is that hard-working poor people are ashamed, and afraid of being lumped in with the lazy poor people, so they hide it as well as they can. In other words, the hard-working poor exist much more significantly than you think - you just don't know they're poor.


Isn't this pretty anecdotal?
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Re: Capitalism and Poverty

Postby Lemminkainen » Thu Feb 12, 2009 1:55 am UTC

mewshi wrote:The problem with using anecdotal evidence about poor people is that hard-working poor people are ashamed, and afraid of being lumped in with the lazy poor people, so they hide it as well as they can. In other words, the hard-working poor exist much more significantly than you think - you just don't know they're poor.

I don't even think that he/she was claiming that all poor people were lazy, but just gave examples of some who are.

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Re: Capitalism and Poverty

Postby Vaniver » Thu Feb 12, 2009 3:33 am UTC

Um. What?

Of the economic systems that the world has seen, capitalism is the kindest towards the poor. At least they own themselves! That cannot be said in traditional economies (in which you are owned by your family or your tribe), or feudal economies (in which you are owned by your lord), or in communist economies (in which you are owned by your neighbors). Of all the social systems the world has seen, capitalism is perhaps not the kindest- but it's pretty high up there. The person who is born poor and raises himself up actually raises himself up- nobody cares who your parents were once you're rich.


So, capitalism offers the poor the most hope. But there is the flip side of that coin, where now everyone who is still poor is still poor, instead of just being poor- and so it could be that poisons people's perceptions of the poor. But I'd say the social benefits to the poor far outweigh the social costs; and economically they're clearly better off under capitalism.
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Re: Capitalism and Poverty

Postby Izawwlgood » Thu Feb 12, 2009 4:11 am UTC

Hope or actualized practice aside, if you look at the links I provided earlier, you will see that America, capitalist, is the most charitable nation. Please explain that before saying we 'demonize' the poor.
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Re: Capitalism and Poverty

Postby WaywardAngel » Thu Feb 12, 2009 11:31 pm UTC

Vaniver wrote:Um. What?
Of the economic systems that the world has seen, capitalism is the kindest towards the poor. At least they own themselves! That cannot be said in traditional economies (in which you are owned by your family or your tribe), or feudal economies (in which you are owned by your lord), or in communist economies (in which you are owned by your neighbors).


I take issue with the idea that you're 'owned' by your neighbours in a communist society. If you bear in mind Marx's Hegelian roots, he thinks of most things in dialectical terms, including the ideal of communism (genuine human emancipation). The upshot of the dialectical approach in this case is that every individual is fully autonomous, and at the same time a social being. Each person cannot be understood outside of their social context, and is part of an intrinsically valuable community, but is still perfectly capable of developing their individual talents. This is because labour ceases to be alienating, and instead becomes the engine of human self-expression. Whether this is remotely achievable is another discussion entirely.

If you changed your statement to 'the poor are generally better off in capitalist societies than they were in Stalinist Russia' or something similar, I would agree.

Vaniver wrote:But there is the flip side of that coin, where now everyone who is still poor is still poor, instead of just being poor- and so it could be that poisons people's perceptions of the poor.


Agreed.

More directly on-topic, how are we defining 'poor'? Do we mean people who are homeless and starving within our own countries, or in war-torn parts of Africa (for example)? Anecdotally, I've found that attitudes towards the two groups tend to be starkly different, though 'demonised' would be the wrong term in either case.

Or do we mean those who work hard at jobs they hate for their entire lives to sustain a basic standard of living, with little hope of improvement? I would say that capitalist ideologies tend to approve of the latter, declaring them to be the 'backbone of society' and so on. Hence, I vote no.

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Re: Capitalism and Poverty

Postby Ixtellor » Fri Feb 13, 2009 7:16 pm UTC

To the OP,

I voted yes. The fact that we all essentially have the same opportunities to succeed in life (yes its debatable, but I believe to be mostly true in the USA) means that if you are "poor" part of that blame is going to fall on your shoulders. Everyone tells you to get an education and lots of people don't listen.

I think it can be stated as fact that SOME people are poor because of their own actions.

HOWEVER:
The problem is when people make the assumption that all people are poor because they were lazy or dumb. There are lots of poor people, and many of them got their through a large variety of different routes. Lots of smart, hard working people can end up in poverty. (see Cancer and scumbag insurance companies) (Another example: People with 100% home insurance in Lousiana who were denied their claim through many bogus loopholes)

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Re: Capitalism and Poverty

Postby Musicing87 » Sat Feb 14, 2009 7:20 pm UTC

I had to read Upton Sinclair's The Jungle over the summer for school, and he did have a point about the Capitalism of his time. The Gilded Age was filled with some terrible human atrocities, but movements like the Populist movement made it a lot better. Today's Capitalism is not the Capitalism of the late 19th/early 20th century. In a true Capitalist economy, it is extremely hard for the poor to move up in the world due to the big-guns like Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller buying out smaller business. However, our economy today is definitely a mixed economy which I think is the most successful kind.

Upton Sinclair had a point about Capitalism, but we don't need to convert all the way over to Socialism. That would just create more problems.

The best thing about Capitalism is that it fuels competition. Things like penicillin or cars might not even be around today were it not for the competition that fuels our economy. If people have no reason to work hard, they won't. But it is pretty bad for the working class in a true Capitalistic system so a mixed is definitely better.

And that's my story.

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Re: Capitalism and Poverty

Postby Izawwlgood » Sat Feb 14, 2009 8:48 pm UTC

The conditions outlined in the Jungle were arguably not very capitalist, they were closer to some horrible feudal system. Indentured servitude of that calibre that makes one think of kidnapping and slavery. But hey, the book raised awareness (eventually) of workers rights, so as awful as those conditions were, we made some progress for having made the mistake.
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Re: Capitalism and Poverty

Postby Mabus_Zero » Sun Feb 15, 2009 3:03 am UTC

With Izawwlgood, I'd like to point out that in no way, shape or form do the current system or its predecessors represent real, free-market capitalism. Capitalism via free-market involves striving for a balance of competition and cooperation that guarantees freedom and justice for all involved, while simultaneously upholding obligations agreed upon by these individuals. The problem arises in that, again, free-market capitalism never exists in this pure form simply because some people would rather use deceit or force to furnish themselves with some sort of advantage or another then use their wits and drive to turn a profit on their investment and labor.

One could also argue that the use of deceit and force are viable strategies, with obvious conclusions. I do, and forsee a maximum of what the disenfranchised will fall for and/or tolerate in any given system of societal interaction, before they, in turn, respond with violence, deceit, or a mix of the two.
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Re: Capitalism and Poverty

Postby MarshyMarsh » Sun Feb 15, 2009 7:04 pm UTC

Izawwlgood wrote:
drunken wrote:In the first world our wealth comes from the sweat and blood of poorer nations and international freemarket capitalism is largely to blame for it. Ever heard of a sweatshop? It's a place where very poor people work harder than any of us ever have 7 days a week on 14 hour shifts.


As pointed out earlier in this thread, sweatshops do not force people to work there, and while the conditions in sweatshops are horrible, and the secondary effects of disrupting an agrarian lifestyle is culturally damaging, theres a reason people from surrounding countries will flock to sweatshops for work. Stop assuming that the 'first world' doesn't want the luxuries of 'our world', like antibiotics and full meals. You forget that large swaths of the world treat reproduction as a means for increasing the number of laborers on your farm, and that with things like sweatshops, many people are able to send their children to school instead.


Wait what? Are you implying having sweat shops is a good thing because it allows people to send their children to school?

The UNs major contributors are Capitilistic countries, the US being a very big player. If you talk about a 3rd world sweat shop offering the chance for parents to work so that their children can go to school, you argue against one of the principle human rights.

The first of the 4 As of Right to Education is:

"Availability[9] – that education is free and government-funded and that there is adequate infrastructure and trained teachers able to support education delivery." http://www.right-to-education.org/node/232

If the capitilist countries are happy to deny the children a FREE education, in return for luxuries, then it further argues that a Capitilistic society does make a poor class. There is no "Rags to Riches" tale of sweatshop workers, or of their children (time will tell on that one though).

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Re: Capitalism and Poverty

Postby Lemminkainen » Sun Feb 15, 2009 8:22 pm UTC

The thing is, in rural areas in many countries, parents cannot afford to send their children to school because they need the extra income that the children could earn from working. A sweatshop worker, while still poor, still will make a considerably higher income than his or her peer in the countryside, so they can afford to pay for their children rather than making them work in the fields. You can observe this in China-- poor, underproductive farmers moved en masse to the cities to work in manufacturing, and are now sending their children to schools and founding companies of their own, which is how the Chinese middle-income grouping has octupled in size to 800 billion in the past fifteen years.

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Re: Capitalism and Poverty

Postby mrandrewv » Sun Feb 15, 2009 11:03 pm UTC

The original question was: does capitalism serve to demonise the poor ("demonise" understood to mean something like "promote a generally negative image of") and I think the thread has effectively expressed the idea that it does. Numerous players on this thread have carried forth the idea that the system is fair, and that thus poor people are poor because of their own fault. In this post I will be attacking this idea through numerous attempts to show that the system is actually not fair.

[A]
Capitalism has never been fair and can never be fair for the following reason: the battle for money between the wealthy and the not-so-wealthy is, big surprise, a competition. The business owners battle to pay the workers as little as possible, and the workers battle to be paid as much as possible. These contests involves legal battles, strikes, activism etc. and all of these forms of conflict have one thing in common: they require money.

So who is going to win this contest that requires money, the rich or the poor? Gosh. What a hard question.

[B]
Vaniver said: "Of the economic systems that the world has seen, capitalism is the kindest towards the poor."
No dude, the socialist democracies have a higher standard of living than the US, and have done so for decades. We've debated the reasons for this ad nauseum, but the FACT of it has never been contested. They have a higher literacy rate, lower unemployment, longer life expectancy and higher reports of general happiness. Some of them even have more money per capita than the US, which is hardly surprising since 80% of the US's wealth is in the hands of 10% of the population.

[C]
Sadly I still don't know anything about economics but I have been reading "Game Theory for Complete Nooblets Who Can't do Maths" and the "stag hunt" game is a particularly pertinent explanation of why capitalism will very rarely benefit the consumer, and is unlikely to result in class mobility.

I shall explain the Stag Hunt game, for those who don't want to google it, in the following way:
Let’s say there is a company called 'Widgetco', that makes ‘widgets’ and sells them for $100. After a few years 'Fidgetco' comes along. They make ‘fidgets’ that are just as good as widgets and can be made alot cheaper.

Fidgetco has a choice to make:
1) Offer a superior product by selling fidgets for less than $100, force a price war and battle for market share.
2) Sell fidgets for $100 too, and spend millions on a marketing campaign that CONVINCES people that fidgets are a superior product, even if it isn’t true.

Now here’s the kicker: even if Fidgetco decides to go with option 1) they will STILL have to spend millions on a marketing campaign to convince people that fidgets are better than widgets.

So the only logical choice is 2). Thus while the two companies will still battle to the death over market share they will NOT drop the price of the product (isn't this what John Nash was talking about with his "hot blond in the bar" example? Go watch 'A Beautiful Mind' ; )

If I am right about this then it is relevant to the discussion at hand because it is another example of the fairness of the system being nullified by people who play the game too well.

[D]
Let me point to another reason why the idea of social mobility is complete nonesense: African Americans.

/me points at them.

African Americans are disproportionatly on the bottom of the SES scale in the US.
If the system was fair, and if the ability to work hard, and be successful was normally distributed (which it must be, since that's what "normal distribution MEANS") then one would expect the population to stratify in a way that reflects the bell curve, and for this stratification to occur independently of race.

This means that in the working life of a single person (I shall be nice and say 50 years) that roughly 68% of those in poverty would rise to middle class status, roughly 15% of them would rise to "wealthy" status and (and this is important) roughly 68% of the people who were born RICH would fall, and end up poor, or middle class by the end of their working lives.

Now this transparently doesn't happen. African Americans in the US are disproportionately poor. So either the system is flawed, or African Americans are just "less worthy" of success than white people, and since racism has been comprehensively punch-fisted into the ground by legitimate science I think this question is a no-brainer.

[E]
The sytem is further flawed because it assumes that everyone who is born is given an equal chance to succeed. And I'm not even talking about genetic advantages, just social ones. If 2 boys are born genetically identical, one to wealthy parents and one to impoverished parents you would be an idiot to say that they have equal chances of success. This is especially true in the US where the children of poor parents receive an education that is inferior to that received by the children of rich parents. And I'm not even ranting about private school, I'm talking about government school.

We can argue about whether the education the poor receives is adequate or not but that question is actually irrelevant. As has been pointed out numerous times: capitalism is a competition. The quality of your education is irrelevant compared to how COMPETITIVE your education is, in other words it doesn't just need to be 'good', it needs to be better than that of the next guy, and the fact that the richer your parents are the better your education is means that the children of poor parents will always get an uncompetitive education, and thus be unfairly disadvantaged. Unless of course you think that being disadvantaged because your parents screwed up is 'fair'.

[F]
In South Africa, well, things are pretty bad. In fact they are horrible. But here in the Western Cape we have finally worked out a way that is having positive results: Poor schools get MORE from the government than middle class and rich schools.
This makes perfect sense for 2 reasons:
1) rich schools are able to engage in private fundraising that allows them to still end up with more money, and better facilities, which they do.
2) your success in life is not dependent on any one thing, it is a complex mix of push factors and pull factors, and poverty is the biggest pull factor of them all. Thus it is logical to assume that poor kids will require more educational, emotional, social and psychological support than rich kids. The research on this worldwide is so large, and so unanimous that I shall be deeply hurt if anyone asks me for a reference.

This doesn't mean that the wealthy kids are not receiving support, that would be even worse! But it does mean that more resources are being allocated to poor areas.

You see guys South Africa is also a capitalist society, and the government has many initiatives in place to reward entrepreneurship, but if you think that people are going to drag themselves out of poverty through hard work alone then you are living in a dream world. I live in a country where millions of township residents awake at 4AM so that they can make the 2 hour journey into the city, so that they can work doing manual labour for about 40 US CENTS an HOUR. It's an 8 hour day after which they make the 2 hour journey back to the township.

Now if you are capitalism fanboy then you honestly believe that people who work 8 hours doing manual labour are trapped in poverty because they "aren't working HARD ENOUGH."

Yeah...but Paris Hilton receives $50 000 dollars just for arriving at a party. Wow, she must be working her ASS off! Either that or the way the market values things has nothing to do with the actual 'hardness' of the work.

Let's extend this question to the US. There are single mothers who hold down 3 jobs to make ends meet. You really think these people need to work "harder"? The fact is how "hard" you work has almost nothing to do with how successful you are. When you speak about working "hard" you are actually talking about working in a way that is valued by the market. Those two are not the same, and never have been. Teachers and nurses work harder than pretty much everybody else, but neither of them will ever get rich because their skills are inexplicably undervalued by society.

[G]
But even if I'm wrong about everything I've said the system still doesn't make sense. I mean if the system is fair and social factors are not serving to trap people in poverty then the people who are stuck on the bottom of the social scale are not there because of any fault of their own. They are there because they are just not as talented as other people. It isn’t their fault, it’s just the way things have ended up.

Well if that’s the case then WHY DO THEY GET TREATED LIKE SHIT?
It's pretty obvious that people who believe this nonesense have no respect at all for those individuals on the bottom of the social scale. I shall prove this with a simple thought-experiment:
Do you treat the janitor with the same respect as someone who runs a successful business?

I do, and it really isn't anything to be proud of, it is simply logical.

[H]
Capitalism is not an economic system, it is an economic-socio-political system, and it's only method of measuring value is in monetary terms (rather than things that actually matter like happiness, moral awareness, sustainability etc.). Thus it is hardly surprising that people who have less money are treated as if they are inferior, even though this behaviour is illogical.

So yes, Capitalism definitely does "demonise" the poor because it creates the idea that money is the only way to measure both success and social value, and thus it implies that those who are poor are inferior. But I must ask: in what way are they inferior? Just having less money doesn't mean you are of less value as a person, at least not to anyone sane. I would have thought that results of this foolish greed would be obvious to anyone who has been watching the new over the past few months.

P.S.: my favorite part of this thread was the purple bits.

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Re: Capitalism and Poverty

Postby Izawwlgood » Mon Feb 16, 2009 12:27 am UTC

mrandrewv wrote:The original question was: does capitalism serve to demonise the poor ("demonise" understood to mean something like "promote a generally negative image of") and I think the thread has effectively expressed the idea that it does.


I disagree. This is a discussion. So long as there are people who disagree with you and are expressing valid points, I don't think you can make a claim one way or the other.

You put up a lot of interesting points, and I don't have time right now to address them all, but this stood out:

Your comparison of a South African sweatshop laborer and Paris Hilton is hardly fair to the discussion at hand. A corollary counter point that could be made would be that of an American laborer toiling away for a set, but comparatively low hourly wage, to that of a South American politician. My point being everywhere in the world you have celebrity styled money makers, individuals who have somehow worked their ways into the system and sucked from it what they can without doing a 'days work'.

But make no mistake, rural farmers aren't flocking to sweatshops so they can be exploited, their doing it because for a variety of reasons, admittedly, some of them not 'fair', doing so allows them the money to provide a better option for their children.
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Re: Capitalism and Poverty

Postby Maddo » Mon Feb 16, 2009 1:46 am UTC

Except that wealth, (though not physical cash) IS created.

Assume the barter system.

Say there is $10 is circulation (in objects). This consists of ten chairs.
And then someone creates (out of stuff too worthless to mention) a table, and sells it for five chairs - worth $5.
"Ahh, now I see, there's $15 worth of stuff".

Under monetary system (not barter), $5 is given for the table.
"Whoa... but now, there's $15 (old dollars) worth of stuff, but since nobody printed any dollars there's still only ten dollar notes?

But, with those ten dollar notes, you'd be able to buy ten chairs and a table, instead of just ten chairs.
That means, because there is MORE STUFF, but still the SAME AMOUNT OF MONEY, MONEY can buy MORE STUFF. That $5 everyone else is left with can still buy the equivalent of ten chairs.

When someone creates something and sells it, THE REST OF SOCIETY DO NOT LOSE ANYTHING. Sure, the rest of society (collectively) have less dollar notes, but since it can buy more stuff, it's worth the same as what they had before they bought it (assuming it was a fair transaction; he didn't point a gun at them or anything).

Didn't understand the above? (if you disagree with it's logic, you didn't understand it)

Nobody has to interact with you. You don't have to interact with anyone. What happens to you is not their problem, you're not entitled to a share of what they make.

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Re: Capitalism and Poverty

Postby Azrael » Mon Feb 16, 2009 3:01 am UTC

Don't let this thread turn bitchy.

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Re: Capitalism and Poverty

Postby Izawwlgood » Mon Feb 16, 2009 8:23 am UTC

Maddo wrote:When someone creates something and sells it, THE REST OF SOCIETY DO NOT LOSE ANYTHING.


I don't consider myself stupid, but I'm having trouble following your point. First of all, you forget that the value of an object is never concrete; that is, it depends entirely upon supply and demand, and more importantly, whatever someone will pay for it. Second of all, while production and commerce create wealth, wealth can just as easily be 'lost', as obvious form a number of scenarios, but most apparently, the worlds current situation.
So, I'm just going to ask you to explain your point a bit more succinctly.

mrandrewv wrote:The business owners battle to pay the workers as little as possible, and the workers battle to be paid as much as possible.


One could make many an argument that a content employee works harder. You also forget that in the instance of capitalism (i.e., not a state sponsored job), presumably there are other companies to go work for. IBM not paying well? See if Apple is hiring.

mrandrewv wrote:No dude, the socialist democracies have a higher standard of living than the US, and have done so for decades. We've debated the reasons for this ad nauseum, but the FACT of it has never been contested. They have a higher literacy rate, lower unemployment, longer life expectancy and higher reports of general happiness. Some of them even have more money per capita than the US, which is hardly surprising since 80% of the US's wealth is in the hands of 10% of the population.


Citation needed. Wikipedia seems to disagree with you.

mrandrewv wrote:African Americans in the US are disproportionately poor. So either the system is flawed, or African Americans are just "less worthy" of success than white people, and since racism has been comprehensively punch-fisted into the ground by legitimate science I think this question is a no-brainer.


I'm no expert, and admittedly have never researched this in depth, but my first thought on your comment is that there is huge historical barriers resulting in the extremely disadvantageous prospect of trying to rise economically being black in America. Far be it from me to claim that racism has been eradicated, and far be it from me to claim that the system is NOT flawed. But race and religion doesn't seem really that OT pertaining to capitalism. Yes, the system is flawed, and a series of racist tendencies prevent minorities from economic advancement in the US. I fail to see how that is a result of capitalism.

mrandrewv wrote:If 2 boys are born genetically identical, one to wealthy parents and one to impoverished parents you would be an idiot to say that they have equal chances of success. This is especially true in the US where the children of poor parents receive an education that is inferior to that received by the children of rich parents. And I'm not even ranting about private school, I'm talking about government school.


Again, I don't see how that is a result of capitalism. Sure, if you leveled EVERYTHING and lived under a true socialist system (like a Kibbutz for example), perhaps you could make claims about equal opportunities (except for you know, advancement). But children born into wealth everywhere the world over, from small agrarian villages to sprawling metropolises, have an advantage over the poor. This is inevitable. The answer to alleviating suffering in my opinion, isn't to ensure that everyone experiences it the same, but to allow some to advance (you know, with things like free trade and intelligent business decisions), thus elevating the 'standard' for everyone. Has capitalism done that? Yes, I think so. Is it perfect? Absolutely not.

But hey, to be as OT as I possibly can: The original question was "does capitalism demonize the poor" and I responded with no, and posted information about how capitalism results in more charity per capita. I think that answers the question as to whether or not capitalists wish to see the poor suffer. A secondary question was asked as to whether or not capitalism 'produces poverty'. I responded with no, and point you to the wiki on poverty. Of interest is the notion that yes, while the US has an upsettingly high ranking on the HPI, other capitalist countries score quite low, and a number of socialized countries scored quite high.
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Re: Capitalism and Poverty

Postby mrandrewv » Mon Feb 16, 2009 9:41 am UTC

Hi Izawwlgood.

Firstly: my Paris Hilton comment was intended to illustrate that what one gets paid has nothing to do with how hard one works. It was a comment on how the market values certain things above others so saying that the poor are poor because they aren't working "hard" enough is misguided, and I stand by that point.

About the socialist democracies: I was speaking specifically about the European Socialist Democracies: Holland, Belgium, Sweden, Norway etc. I am unwilling to start this debate again because we had a mega-thread on it a little while ago. I've also read what I thought was wikipedia's socialist democracy page and it didn't say anything about standard of living, maybe it's been updated? If you could furnish me with a link I would be very greatful.

The African American thing: yes you are absolutely right, historical factors play a massive role in keeping a disproportionate number in poverty. But that kinda supports my point.

Look if the current version of Capitalism espoused by the US was fair, or even slightly fair, I would view it more favourably, but it isn't. Your argument seems to be that historical factors are working to undo the good that capitalism is providing. I heartily agree. But what you are offering is a theoretical position. You are in effect saying "if things were different, and these historical factors were not in play, then the system would be fair." Well that's true. But things aren't different, and at the moment the current instantiation of Capitalism is horribly unfair.You can blame it on racism and history, and rightfully so, but that doesn't change the fact that right now, here, in the really-real world Capitalism is not even remotely fair.

So if we agree that it is historical factors that have caused the system to become unfair then we must agree that the system is in fact unfair. Thus the poor cannot be entirely blamed for their own situation, and thus the bad treatment of the poor is unfair. This supports my claim that the current incarnation of capitalism does serve to demonise the poor, or if we disagree on the meaning of the word "demonise" then let's just say: creates an unfair negative image of the poor.

About the 2 boys thing: I agree, unfairness will always exist, thus when people make claims about the system being "fair" they are wrong.

This part of my rant was specifically focussed on how economic inequalities are made worse by the fact that poor areas in the 'states receive less money for education. In effect your country is taking a group of children who are already less priviledged due to their parents' situation, and you are giving them an inferior education that is only going to make the inequalities greater.

The system is weakening the children's education because of their PARENTS' financial sitation. That isn't fair, and it isn't even capitalism, it's just stupid.

BTW: I really enjoyed that link to Wikipedia's poverty page because it supported alot of the things I was saying about the socialist democracies having a higher standard of living than the US ;)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poverty_in ... erty_index

Although it does seem I was partly wrong about unemployment, at least until the bubble burst. I suppose we shall wait until March when the next batch of US unemployment stats are released (i think....).

To summarise my problem with capitalism is twofold:
1) It's unfair, but capitalism's fanboys pretend that it isn't, and blame people for social pull factors that aren't their fault.
2) The economic system feeds directly into the society's concept of value, and as a result poor people in rabidly capitalist countries are treated like crap. I contrast this with Holland where everyone who has a job is treated with respect. Surely that makes a bit more sense then treating janitors and steetsweepers as if they've done something wrong with their lives?
It's all very interesting...

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Re: Capitalism and Poverty

Postby Maddo » Mon Feb 16, 2009 12:37 pm UTC

Izawwlgood wrote:
Maddo wrote:When someone creates something and sells it, THE REST OF SOCIETY DO NOT LOSE ANYTHING.


I don't consider myself stupid, but I'm having trouble following your point. First of all, you forget that the value of an object is never concrete; that is, it depends entirely upon supply and demand, and more importantly, whatever someone will pay for it. Second of all, while production and commerce create wealth, wealth can just as easily be 'lost', as obvious form a number of scenarios, but most apparently, the worlds current situation.
So, I'm just going to ask you to explain your point a bit more succinctly.


Yes, the value (in $) of an object isn't concrete, but the reason it changes is because how useful it is changes. If tables become more fashionable, tables become more expensive since you're getting the added use of being cool, as well as having somewhere to put things.

And wealth is not lost. Televisions, chairs, desk fans, do not disappear. Someone has them.
The only way wealth is "lost" is when it expires, is physically destroyed, or is coerced (someone points a gun at you and forces you to give/sell it to them.)

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Re: Capitalism and Poverty

Postby Lemminkainen » Mon Feb 16, 2009 3:50 pm UTC

mrandrewv, you neglect to realize that in the majority of transactions, Nordic socialist democracies are capitalist. Many of them (like Denmark) provide less regulation and more economic freedoms to their citizens than the United States does. Taxation is a little higher, but the role of government in the nordic social democracies consists of providing public goods, not controlling the economy. The locus of control for economic decision-making is in the hands of private citizens, not the government.

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Re: Capitalism and Poverty

Postby Izawwlgood » Mon Feb 16, 2009 4:42 pm UTC

Maddo wrote:And wealth is not lost. Televisions, chairs, desk fans, do not disappear. Someone has them.


I point you to the housing bubble collapse. If you invest 100 dollars in a home, and over the next five years the value of the home goes down to say, 50 dollars, and you try and sell the house, where has that extra 50 dollars gone? Wealth, assets, money, value, all can most absolutely, certainly be lost. If you have 10 chairs worth a buck a piece, and suddenly chairs are stupid and beanbags are the new chair, you do NOT have 10 dollars worth of assets anymore.
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Re: Capitalism and Poverty

Postby mrandrewv » Mon Feb 16, 2009 6:30 pm UTC

To Lemmin: actually I did know that. But the way many hardcore capitalists react to any suggestion that the government should take care of its citizens is to cry "socialism!"

Their bad, not mine ;)

This is actually why I think their system is the best in the world. It allows one to reap the financial rewards of hard work, but it also provides a framework to protect the citizens.

What do you think?
It's all very interesting...

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Re: Capitalism and Poverty

Postby mewshi » Mon Feb 16, 2009 8:41 pm UTC

mrandrewv wrote:To Lemmin: actually I did know that. But the way many hardcore capitalists react to any suggestion that the government should take care of its citizens is to cry "socialism!"

Their bad, not mine ;)

This is actually why I think their system is the best in the world. It allows one to reap the financial rewards of hard work, but it also provides a framework to protect the citizens.

What do you think?


Agreed - Essentially, I've long liked the idea of giving everyone (within reason - someone who can't even be bothered to get a job out of laziness shouldn't be included) the essentials to live. Give them the bare minimum to survive. If they want steak instead of spam, they can work for it. If they want a bigger house, they can pay for it. But everyone has at least the same basic needs met - they get food, shelter, education.

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Re: Capitalism and Poverty

Postby MarshyMarsh » Mon Feb 16, 2009 9:00 pm UTC

This is quickly turning into a rant about everyones ideals. Can I ask a moderator to lock this as I am fed up of reading through many long posts and only seeing peoples opinions. I would like more sources!!!

Sources are good, but, uh, locking threads is not your call to make.

~CM


Given our current economic crisis, I would like to just say that Capitalism is a failed system as if the Rich fall the poor suffer accordingly, they become dependant on the trickle down effect. I recommend you read this article before you start shouting your opinions at me, there are some good facts and figures here.

http://www.bestwaytoinvest.com/stories/ ... d-more-gov

This is not to say that the poor are demonized, as Idealistically our society has no classes as we should all be equals (people with larger wealth tend not to see it this way).

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Re: Capitalism and Poverty

Postby Lemminkainen » Mon Feb 16, 2009 9:12 pm UTC

MarshyMarsh, I would hardly consider it fair to hold the wealthy entirely accountable for the current crisis. Who fueled the housing bubble by continuing to expand and purchase houses on debt? Who rang up massive amounts of internal debt through credit card use? Who voted politicians who have pursued a heady inflationary fiscal and monetary policy in Britain and the United States? Poor and middle class people have a share in the responsibility too.

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Re: Capitalism and Poverty

Postby Izawwlgood » Mon Feb 16, 2009 10:02 pm UTC

mrandrewv wrote:so saying that the poor are poor because they aren't working "hard" enough is misguided, and I stand by that point.


I agree with it, I don't think anyone in this thread has claimed that the poor are poor because they're lazy.

mrandrewv wrote:The African American thing: yes you are absolutely right, historical factors play a massive role in keeping a disproportionate number in poverty. But that kinda supports my point.


I dunno, your arguing that capitalism holds blacks in poverty, but we both agree that there are other factors in place, that capitalism is not the reason black people in America (or hell, minorities in general) are disproportionately more proverty stricken.

mrandrewv wrote:::stuff:: This supports my claim that the current incarnation of capitalism does serve to demonise the poor, or if we disagree on the meaning of the word "demonise" then let's just say: creates an unfair negative image of the poor.


I disagree. Pointing to problems in the system does not mean that capitalism generates poverty or demonizes the poor. Besides, issues with socialist and communist practices suffer from the same issues. Are you honestly going to claim that Cuba or Venezuela are problem free? or that America is a pure and true capitalism, completely sans of any social welfare?
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Re: Capitalism and Poverty

Postby mewshi » Mon Feb 16, 2009 11:46 pm UTC

I should clarify - I was asking if capitalism gives people a moral justification for hating and blaming the poor. That's what I meant to ask.

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Re: Capitalism and Poverty

Postby Lemminkainen » Tue Feb 17, 2009 4:19 am UTC

mewshi wrote:I should clarify - I was asking if capitalism gives people a moral justification for hating and blaming the poor. That's what I meant to ask.

Not at all. According to modern economics, poor people are poor because they aren't able to produce high-value goods or services. Frequently, this is through no fault of their own-- they simply happen to have had a poor education or be born in a country where there are few capital resources. Really, there is no general basis in capitalism for considering the poor all shiftless or lazy.

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Re: Capitalism and Poverty

Postby Iori_Yagami » Wed Feb 18, 2009 11:41 am UTC

Not really much of a question. Of course, it does. At every single corner. Because every system has to have its convenient easily distinguishable scapegoat-enemies. Shifting the blame has never been some comfortable. Get 10 people. Organize them so they produce only 2 chickens. Throw 1 chicken at them and take the other for yourself, the noble leader. The jumpiest one gets it, and the rest are left blinking and staring. Clap and praise the jumpiest one, who has attained a rate of 1 chicken/person income. Blame the others for their failure and be so kind to let them to shuffle in leftovers. Enjoy your system!
So yeah, it does...
And anyone who says otherwise, well, well... you know who they are... :roll:
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Re: Capitalism and Poverty

Postby Izawwlgood » Wed Feb 18, 2009 4:18 pm UTC

Iori, the scenario you outlined isn't really a demonstration of capitalism, it's feudalism. No market system on Earth would allow 10 people with two chickens the ability to survive, so outlining prospects of resource shortage and saying that it's capitalism's fault is a straw man at best.

mewshi wrote:I should clarify - I was asking if capitalism gives people a moral justification for hating and blaming the poor. That's what I meant to ask.


No. Because as I pointed out earlier, capitalism breeds charity, and people don't give money to people they hate and blame. If anything, individuals in a socialist or communist system are more likely to hate and blame the poor; afterall, it's YOUR efforts that are paying for them!
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Re: Capitalism and Poverty

Postby MarshyMarsh » Wed Feb 18, 2009 5:41 pm UTC

But in a Communist society there is no need for charity as the resources are split evenly.

In a Capitalist society, Charity does serve to demonise the poor. Typically Aid Charities, the higlight that the poor are 'un-able to sustain themselves' 'YOU can Help' 'YOU can make a difference'. They place the emphasise on your being important, and the poor being almost 'sub-human'.

I can personally see no difference in the language and advertising style used in a African Aid charity or a Save the Donkeys. Both portray those in need in very similar cases. If a charity raised money for the poor, I think it would Demonize them in advertising, by taking away theirr dignity.

Capitalist does allow people who want to help to give, but also people to refuse to give, to refuse to help, to hoard their own money ... just skip the tirade. -Az (I have no source to back that argument up, so is not a valid point)

I would like to point out in a Socialist or Communist society, the Upper-Class, who are defined by inheriting wealth/land. Are demonized by the government. By extension I would argue the opposite, a very right wing/Capitalist government, would demonize the poor. Particularly the un-employed, those on social benefits and those who cannot afford housing. (there would be no social benefits in a a wholly right wing society)

I mean, all of us will agree that in a Capitalist society, everyone is given the EQUAL chance, whereas in a Communist society everyone is EQUAL. If you are poor it is YOUR fault you are poor, it is interesting though that in a Capitalist society the Upper-Class are not AT FAULT for being rich, people who gain money from their parents have not EARNED it (as you should in a Capitalist society, you are given the EQUAL chance to make your own wealth). Abolish Inheritance, Abolish the Upper-Class. Leaving the Working and Upper Middle Classes. After all, the Rich Business owners in Upper-Middle provide alot of the jobs for those in Lower-Working.

I would just like someone to clarify how those in the US class 'classes'. There are very few land owners in the US, as after Independance there was no inherant Autocracy.

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Re: Capitalism and Poverty

Postby Azrael » Wed Feb 18, 2009 5:49 pm UTC

MarshyMarsh wrote:There are very few land owners in the US, as after Independance there was no inherant Autocracy.

Wait ... what are you trying to say? Because there are lots of landowners in the US.

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Re: Capitalism and Poverty

Postby MarshyMarsh » Wed Feb 18, 2009 6:03 pm UTC

Hmm, there are land owners, but not in the same typical European fasion. The British, French, Germans, Spanish, Polish, Russians, Bulgarians, Greeks, Italians ...etc... all had a 'superior' class, the autocracy who owned the land which the working class tilled (basic feudalism). With the introduction of moss production, and enteprise. A new UPPER (key word)- middle class rose. Business men who are wealthier than the Upper Class. Bill Gates is not Upper Class, he is Upper Middle Class.

In US history, there was never an Upper Class, who had the (normally God Given) right to land. Most of the land in the US belongs to the state or individuals, but there is no land which can only be owned by the Upper Class. Land and assets is how the Upper Class survive, that is where there wealth lies. However the Upper Class slowly lose their money through poor investments and/or selling of land. As a class they are dying out.

I can not think of an example of a US upper class family. I can think of rich families, but no upper-class citizens.

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Re: Capitalism and Poverty

Postby Azrael » Wed Feb 18, 2009 6:05 pm UTC

The word you want is Aristocracy. And no, there isn't one in the US.

"Classes" in the US (i.e. middle class) are based entirely on income bands. So, yes, Bill Gates (being an American) is in the upper class [wealthy, rich, adjective of your choice etc].

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Re: Capitalism and Poverty

Postby phonon266737 » Wed Feb 18, 2009 6:17 pm UTC

Marshy Marsh, are you saying that rather than the federal govt taking 20% of my grandfather's buisness [that he began in the 70s] when he passed away (nearly every liquid dollar, which made it quite difficult to continue doing buisness), they should take everything and my father should have to purchase the entire buisness, land ,building, etc from the US government?

I mean, it's a car dealership. So a whole lot of new cars, a nice building, some land, that's like inheriting a couple million dollars. We really should just sell it all and split the money amongst the poor. Who needs jobs anyway?
Last edited by phonon266737 on Wed Feb 18, 2009 6:22 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Capitalism and Poverty

Postby Izawwlgood » Wed Feb 18, 2009 6:20 pm UTC

MarshyMarsh wrote:But in a Communist society there is no need for charity as the resources are split evenly.


People are all up in arms at the concept of inequality in capitalism, but no one feels like pointing out the reverse inequalities are true in socialism. In a Communist society resources may be split evenly, but labor certainly is not.

MarshyMarsh wrote:Charity does serve to demonise the poor.


I vehemently disagree. I think charity if anything, serves to demonize the rich. It says Look at you who can afford your absurd lifestyle when someone is dying of malnutrition. You can pay for this person in their entirety if you give just this small fraction of your income. So... You give just that small fraction? Why don't you give more?

European nations are statistically not as charitable as America, I believe, solely because of the differences in the socialized systems in place. Americans (well, historically anyway, I dunno about now) did not rely on governmental institutions to care for them and their communities, and as such, we are the most charitable country on Earth. I'm not making any comments about our ability to care for our own impoverished, or whether or not money would be better spent via socialized systems, I simply disagree with the notion that capitalism intrinsically demonizes the poor.

If you want to make arguments about capitalisms widening wealth gap, or how the upper class commands the majority of the wealth, fine, those are legitimate arguments and discussion can follow. But I have posted statistics about Americans generosity, and it seems to indicate that the poor are NOT demonized, they are cared for. EDIT: Well, if not cared for, the effort is there)
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Re: Capitalism and Poverty

Postby Indon » Wed Feb 18, 2009 6:23 pm UTC

I think that people who are not poor encourage others to overlook and demonize the poor.

It's human nature to internalize your successes and externalize your failures, while internalizing others' failures and externalizing their successes (no ready link to demonstrate this part, but it does somewhat follow from the others).

This basically leads to someone wealthy thinking that they earned their wealth while they think someone poor just isn't working hard enough, while the poor think they're getting screwed by the man and the rich just got lucky in some way.

Those attitudes don't have anything to do with capitalism (or, for that matter, any circumstance, or reality - they're almost wholly generated by our own psychological dispositions). And frankly, the only reason anyone who isn't rich might be convinced of the same attitude as someone rich is because people who are rich are more able to propagate their ideas (because wealth largely correlates to power). Even then, the 'poor' views manage to propagate to a degree as well (perhaps because they would be held by a far greater quantity of people to begin with).

Vaniver wrote:Um. What?

Of the economic systems that the world has seen, capitalism is the kindest towards the poor. At least they own themselves!

Only because of regulation - history implies that 'purer' capitalism features debt imprisonment/slavery to a significant degree. So I would hesitate to say capitalism allows you to own yourself.
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