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

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Capitalism and Poverty

Postby mewshi » Wed Feb 04, 2009 1:12 am UTC

I've been reading this book, "The Undeserving Poor". It claims that capitalism allowed the demonization of poverty, allowing people to claim the poor are "inferior". What do you think of this?

The book makes the claim because, as we should all know from civics/economics classes, capitalism is essentially economic darwinism - the "inferior" will be toward the bottom - in other words, impoverished.
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Re: Capitalism and Poverty

Postby slow2learn » Wed Feb 04, 2009 1:57 am UTC

mewshi wrote:I've been reading this book, "The Undeserving Poor". It claims that capitalism allowed the demonization of poverty, allowing people to claim the poor are "inferior". What do you think of this?

The book makes the claim because, as we should all know from civics/economics classes, capitalism is essentially economic darwinism - the "inferior" will be toward the bottom - in other words, impoverished.


I think demonize is too strong a word. The poor are not viewed as satanic. From a capitalistic viewpoint they are viewed as responsible for their own state. Emphasis on not 'my' fault, yours! (neener neener). Id suggest more people see the devil in the rich blaming the poor for their own predicaments, than anyone would ever see the poor as demonic.
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Re: Capitalism and Poverty

Postby Mabus_Zero » Wed Feb 04, 2009 2:01 am UTC

slow2learn wrote:I think demonize is too strong a word. The poor are not viewed as satanic. From a capitalistic viewpoint they are viewed as responsible for their own state. Emphasis on not 'my' fault, yours! (neener neener). Id suggest more people see the devil in the rich blaming the poor for their own predicaments, than anyone would ever see the poor as demonic.


Agreed, and I would like to add that while it may not be entirely in the long term best interest for the well off, for any reason, to marginalize anything from a group to a person, they are well within their rights to try to do so. They get to bare the natural consequences that will arise from it. That's capitalism. You rise and fall on account of your circumstances and choices.
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Re: Capitalism and Poverty

Postby mewshi » Wed Feb 04, 2009 2:12 am UTC

This is fascinating book, especially for me. I'm an economics major, because the economics of poverty fascinates me.

This isn't even that far into it, but it's discussing the rise of the notion that poor people are poor because of something that is their fault. "Let me repeat it, the causes of poverty are looked for, and found in him or her who suffers it." -- Walter Channing

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Re: Capitalism and Poverty

Postby The Mad Scientist » Wed Feb 04, 2009 3:31 am UTC

I'd still vote "No", and here's my reasoning: far from overlooking or demonizing the poor, the culture that tends to accompany a capitalist economy is filled with "rags to riches" stories that, if anything, glorify the poor and lead people to believe that the poor can do anything they want. In a sense, this could lead one to believe that anyone who is born poor and remains poor is simply not trying hard enough, but most people are smart enough to realize that it usually takes a very smart, dedicated person to go from "rags to riches" without outside help.

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Re: Capitalism and Poverty

Postby Allenr » Wed Feb 04, 2009 5:00 pm UTC

I do like how capitalism is described as a darwin approch.

Those in poverty are usually people who do not work. I wouldnt say these people are bad people, but if dealing only with their ability to make money, they are obviously inferior in that aspect.
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Re: Capitalism and Poverty

Postby Gunfingers » Wed Feb 04, 2009 6:14 pm UTC

There's really nothing darwinian about it. Poor people still reproduce. More so, if i remember correctly.

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Re: Capitalism and Poverty

Postby The Mad Scientist » Wed Feb 04, 2009 6:31 pm UTC

It seems almost self-contradictory to say that a group can be demonized and overlooked at the same time.

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Re: Capitalism and Poverty

Postby Izawwlgood » Wed Feb 04, 2009 6:47 pm UTC

I don't really buy the notion of capitalism being economic Darwinism to start with. I think the 'system' (whatever you want to call it) is stacked in such a way to effectively encourage perpetuity; The rich stay rich, the poor stay poor, and everyone tends to drift upward. If it were true Darwinism, a rich person who was bad with money would become poor (i.e., a successful lion giving birth to a mutated cub shouldn't be surprised when the cub dies, a failed hunter), but that's not what we tend to see.

What's that glib quote, goes something like:
Capitalism is unequal distribution of wealth, Socialism is equal distribution of poverty


Frankly, the OP seems to be suggesting that Capitalism is somehow responsible for poverty, or the negative perception of the poor. Capitalist societies, particularly, cultures or regions with higher concentrations of wealth (like cities, as opposed to township sprawls or low population density states) are more charitable per capita, which flies in the face of this.

I don't think Capitalism demonizes the poor, I think other forms of economic organization glorify, while concomitantly scapegoating, the poor.
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Re: Capitalism and Poverty

Postby segmentation fault » Wed Feb 04, 2009 7:37 pm UTC

Izawwlgood wrote:Frankly, the OP seems to be suggesting that Capitalism is somehow responsible for poverty, or the negative perception of the poor.


it sounds like the latter is more the topic here, which i disagree with, but the inherent nature of capitalism will always have a short end of the bell curve while prices of goods and services seem to be more ahead of the curve.
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Re: Capitalism and Poverty

Postby Izawwlgood » Wed Feb 04, 2009 7:42 pm UTC

Well, no, I respectfully disagree. The initial quote I'm mining here:
mewshi wrote:The book makes the claim because, as we should all know from civics/economics classes, capitalism is essentially economic darwinism - the "inferior" will be toward the bottom - in other words, impoverished.

Which to me, indicates that because of it's nature, capitalism creates the poor (which incidentally, poor !=impoverished). I interpret that to imply that a different system would NOT create a class 'toward the bottom', i.e., the poor. Is that an incorrect interpretation of the quotes meaning?
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Re: Capitalism and Poverty

Postby segmentation fault » Wed Feb 04, 2009 8:07 pm UTC

but are you saying there is no other system which wouldnt create poverty? surely if there isnt one out there, theres one we didnt think of yet.

but my argument against capitalism stems from the fact that labor has to be exploited in order to keep costs low. either wages are as low as possible, jobs are automated out of existence, or they are outsourced to places where wage is low.

we all cant be our own CEO. there is no such "american dream." we rely on a working class to be productive. only thing is we are not interested in giving this working class too much money.
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Re: Capitalism and Poverty

Postby Gunfingers » Wed Feb 04, 2009 8:09 pm UTC

My dad did contracting work. He was a worker and a CEO. Of himself. American dream, available to anyone. Bam.

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Re: Capitalism and Poverty

Postby Izawwlgood » Wed Feb 04, 2009 8:18 pm UTC

segmentation fault wrote:but are you saying there is no other system which wouldnt create poverty?

I think you meant that to ask "Is capitalism the only system that creates poverty?". If that is incorrect, then sorry, my misunderstanding. But in reply to that question:
No, and I think the issue is the swapping of the word 'poverty' with 'poor'. Capitalism certainly results in a 'poor' class, as there has to be someone doing the work and has to be someone telling workers what to do, i.e., theres going to be a gradient. But, poor != poverty! Every single system of market organization I can think of can (and will! and HAS!) resulted in not just a 'poor' class, but a class stricken by poverty!
The argument that capitalism produces the poor because of a requirement for the exploitation of labor is also, in my opinion, a false one. In an ideal system (yeah, I know, /end discussion), we'd somehow eliminate 'poverty', and thus be able to set a true minimum for which laborers are willing to work. Under a truly equal, global market labor exploitation wouldn't be possible ("I want to make these shoes for 1 cent a pair! Anyone willing to make them for 1 cent for me? Anyone? Anyone? Helloooooo?") because the demand for workers wouldn't be in surplus.

And I dunno Seg, this is SB, can you cite some examples of American laborers having worse conditions then other countries laborers?
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Re: Capitalism and Poverty

Postby The Mad Scientist » Wed Feb 04, 2009 9:01 pm UTC

segmentation fault wrote:but my argument against capitalism stems from the fact that labor has to be exploited in order to keep costs low. either wages are as low as possible, jobs are automated out of existence, or they are outsourced to places where wage is low.

we all cant be our own CEO. there is no such "american dream." we rely on a working class to be productive. only thing is we are not interested in giving this working class too much money.


Process automation and outsourcing are both good things.

If jobs were never "automated out of existence", we'd all be independent farmers working twelve hours a day to survive. You seem to think that if someone's job is automated, they'll never be able to find a new job, and will die of starvation. This is absurd, since 99% of the jobs that people did two hundred years ago are now totally automated, and yet the unemployment rates in most developed countries are quite low.

If jobs were never outsourced, undeveloped and underdeveloped nations would find it harder to industrialize. Whenever someone laments outsourcing it always strikes me as uncaring. What makes people in developed nations more deserving of a decent job than people in third-world countries? I can't even wrap my head around the belief that corporations which employ people in third-world countries are doing something evil; they generally pay wages higher than could be earned otherwise. So-called "sweatshops" have done more to help the third-world than anything else. (Of course, this is only true if the corporation doesn't force people to work for it. Obviously that's just slavery.)

Veering back on topic, what do you mean when you say that labor "has to be exploited" to keep costs down? What is your definition of exploitation? The dictionary definition is selfish use for one's own ends. Why, then, couldn't one say that workers exploit their employers? Surely they are using their jobs selfishly, i.e., just for a wage.

You say that "we are not interested in giving the working class too much money"--who are "we"? Society? Why should society as a whole determine who gets how much money? What makes you think that a society which determined democratically who gets what wouldn't result in universal poverty?

To tie my points back to the original topic:

- the claim that capitalism "overlooks and demonizes" the poor because it allows process automation makes no sense, because people whose jobs become obsolete just wind up with easier jobs

- the claim that capitalism "overlooks and demonizes" the poor because jobs may be outsourced in a capitalist economy is absurd, because by outsourcing jobs employers are in fact providing opportunities to people who are actually impoverished

- the claim that capitalism "overlooks and demonizes" the poor because workers are "exploited" is vague, and requires some special definition of exploitation to even potentially be valid (since, going by the dictionary definition, employees exploit their employers just as much as they are exploited by them)

- the claim that capitalism "overlooks and demonizes" the poor because the working class are not "given enough money" assumes that society should democratically decide who gets what, and overlooks the very real (and likely, given even a cursory glance at history) possibility that such a scheme would result not in the elimination of poverty, but rather in universal poverty
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Re: Capitalism and Poverty

Postby MarshyMarsh » Wed Feb 04, 2009 9:13 pm UTC

Hmmm, my idea of a true Capitilistic State (not just an economy), is that there ideally should be no tax as everyone is given the Equal chance to do well in life.

However I agree that Capitalism demonises the poor, by this I do not mean that the poor are demonic, I believe that they have constantly been given a poor start in life. A child in a rich family is given better food, a better health, a better education because money grants you those priveleges. The poor are then demonized by not being able to afford the basics. A typical example is that at the moment minimmum wage in most capitilistic countries is not enough to support a FAMILY. A man who lives alone can survive on £250 a week. But a family of 4 cannot, they have to eat into government benefits to live. They are not sustaining themselves but instead being sustained by the other members of society. Ultimately the only people who profit out of a situation like this is the big rich companies.

Izawwlgood wrote:but are you saying there is no other system which wouldnt create poverty? surely if there isnt one out there, theres one we didnt think of yet.


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Izawwlgood wrote:I don't really buy the notion of capitalism being economic Darwinism to start with. I think the 'system' (whatever you want to call it) is stacked in such a way to effectively encourage perpetuity; The rich stay rich, the poor stay poor, and everyone tends to drift upward. If it were true Darwinism, a rich person who was bad with money would become poor (i.e., a successful lion giving birth to a mutated cub shouldn't be surprised when the cub dies, a failed hunter), but that's not what we tend to see.


I disagree, if you look at the situation of the Richest class (Upper) in an autocratic country. Those who were not wise to invest their money (Like the succesful business Middle Class), had to sell their land to make revenue, ultimately the Upper Class has dwindled (In Darwinistic style) and shrunk in number. While those from the lower middle classes who seized industrialism have worked their way to the top (via exploiting the working class).

I think the title should be changed, demonized implies it is the poors fault. Do you mean the poll question? -Az

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Re: Capitalism and Poverty

Postby The Mad Scientist » Wed Feb 04, 2009 9:28 pm UTC

MarshyMarsh wrote:A man who lives alone can survive on £250 a week. But a family of 4 cannot...


According to this website, it's possible to cover food and rent for a family of four on about 200 pounds a week. Sure, that's bare minimum, but it's disingenuous to claim that a family of four cannot survive on such an amount.

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Re: Capitalism and Poverty

Postby VorpalSword » Wed Feb 04, 2009 11:14 pm UTC

What the question means depends on how you are defining poor and poverty.

Capitalism does set up a system where some people have to be on the poor end; its a competition based process so someone as to lose out. But capitalism has historically worked out to both improve economic efficiency as well as result in a better standard of living all around. So while capitalism does guarantee a lower class, it is also most likely to have the highest standard of living and is set up fluidly enough that classes aren't fixed and social upward progress is easy ( as compared to say, feudalism, or communism where theoretically there are no social class differences).

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Re: Capitalism and Poverty

Postby Izawwlgood » Thu Feb 05, 2009 12:40 am UTC

VorpalSword wrote:Capitalism does set up a system where some people have to be on the poor end; its a competition based process so someone as to lose out.


That is just not true at all. Capitalism is free market. That means minimal to no interference from higher powers to interfere with your economic whims. 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', as the competition of markets can be a deciding factor in what you decide to sell. Potentially, everyone in the game can win and live the life they choose to live. The farmer can hire people to help him, who make enough money to buy the cigarettes from the company they choose, which has enough profits to open another factory, which is built by contractors who get paid, who can afford to send their children to private school, who grow up and learn to love freedom (fuuuuck yea!)
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Re: Capitalism and Poverty

Postby qbg » Thu Feb 05, 2009 1:36 am UTC

The fact that it isn't too uncommon to hear that the poor are either lazy, stupid, etc. from the biggest believers in free market capitalism to me points to a kind of ideological demonization of the poor. Now true, that doesn't necessarily mean that it is capitalism per se, but I view that it can be viewed as an effect of capitalism as exposure of the unjustified plight of those in poverty is against prominent interests in Capitalist societies as such exposure can be a catalyst for implementing social safety nets and wealth redistribution.

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Re: Capitalism and Poverty

Postby The Mad Scientist » Thu Feb 05, 2009 1:41 am UTC

I believe that what VorpalSword is saying is that although capitalism may make everyone wealthier, the actual money in the system is probably not going to be evenly distributed (in fact, it will probably be distributed along a bell curve). So one person may have $10,000,000,000 and another person may have $1,000 or be living paycheck to paycheck. This doesn't mean that everyone can't become wealthier, just that some are going to have more money than others.

(No, money and wealth are not the same thing. Try this thought experiment: would you rather live in 1909 with a net worth of $5,000,000 (in 1909 dollars) or in 2009 with a net worth of $1,000,000 (in 2009 dollars)? Hint: your first guess is wrong.)

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Re: Capitalism and Poverty

Postby scwizard » Thu Feb 05, 2009 1:46 am UTC

I voted yes, but I still believe that capitalism augmented by a democratic government is the best system we have.

Forward response to the incoming capitalism v socialism debate:
Why not let the people's vote decide? That's how it works in the US, if the people want socialized healthcare, they'll vote for congressmen who'll socialize the healthcare system.
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Re: Capitalism and Poverty

Postby Timequake » Thu Feb 05, 2009 2:01 am UTC

It's first important to make the distinction between the different kinds of "Darwinism". The form to which OP is referring is probably the philosophy of Social Darwinism, which claims that the poor suffer only because of their own inferiority, while the rich enjoy comfort due to superiority. Calling this "Social Darwinism" is inaccurate anyways, since it supports a self-preserving social order rather than a fluid order that displays something similar to the process of natural selection. The OP is probably not referring to Darwin's theory of Evolution by Natural Selection, which doesn't apply to economics because while there are power-relations in nature, i.e. between predator and prey, they exist because the organisms involved in those relations are biologically adapted for their roles. Humans don't have so much intraspecies variation that they are genetically predisposed toward being in one social class or another.

Capitalism, like the mercantilism from which it was born, is a zero-sum game. In capitalistic competition between two entities, one must lose for the other to win. This applies to both competition between rival businesses and competition between laborers and employers. For most of the early industrialized history of the US, the government either turned a blind eye when business used force to win conflicts with laborers, or actually helped to suppress discontented workers. This type of action is a result of the upper class's belief that the poor are inferior and can (and should) therefore be exploited, and the government's idea (fueled by fears about the rise of socialism and communism in the early 20th century) that the poor are "dangerous", and need to be suppressed. This tendency to favor the upper class, however, has decreased significantly since the New Deal policies of the 1930's began to tip the scales in laborers' favor. As the US government has been adopting, over the past 70 years or so, a policy that infuses a small amount of slightly socialistic policy into the pure capitalism of early industrialized America, the gap between rich and poor that is created by capitalism has begun to close a bit, with conditions of abject poverty growing less common for the working class, the poor. When a government follows capitalism absolutely, leaving economic matters entirely to the free market, it not only causes the prevalence of poverty as in the early 20th century, but can also lead to the financial crashes that stem from unregulated, incautious periods like the 1920's. Capitalism, in the strictest sense of the word, does indeed encourage poverty and the notion that the poor are inferior, dangerous, or something else of that manner.

There have also popped up several times in this thread arguments claiming that "rags to riches" or "American dream" stories defeat OP's point. Real examples of such stories are few and far between, especially when compared to the amount of people who are unable to better their lot in life, through no fault of their own (or at least not primarily due to their own actions). The idea that anyone who works hard can become rich was perpetuated by, more than anyone else, Horatio Alger Jr. Alger wrote a lengthy series of formulaic rags-to-riches stories about young poor boys becoming rich and successful by virtue of hard work. While such themes have been absorbed into the general consciousness, any serious reading of his works must take into account one thing: those kind of things just don't happen in real life (not often, anyways). Upward mobility is mostly dependent on one's opportunities, which are often scarce for the poor. The prevalence of this American Myth has generally served to pacify the poor and to make the rich feel superior. Such an idea, rather than explaining how people move up in society, actually prevents them from doing so if it is accepted by the general populace! Occasionally an example of a rags-to-riches story will pop up, but outside of Alger's fantasies they are the exception, not the rule.
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Re: Capitalism and Poverty

Postby scwizard » Thu Feb 05, 2009 3:03 am UTC

Timequake wrote:Capitalism, like the mercantilism from which it was born, is a zero-sum game.

I strongly disagree here. If capitalism was a zero sum game, then we'd still be at the same standard of living we were at thousands of years ago.
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Re: Capitalism and Poverty

Postby Timequake » Thu Feb 05, 2009 3:30 am UTC

scwizard wrote:
Timequake wrote:Capitalism, like the mercantilism from which it was born, is a zero-sum game.

I strongly disagree here. If capitalism was a zero sum game, then we'd still be at the same standard of living we were at thousands of years ago.

It's a zero-sum game in that whenever anyone competes within capitalism, someone wins and someone loses. The only ones who benefit are the winners and occasionally a third party who doesn't compete, and therefore isn't part of the "game". Capitalism is based on the idea that the best will rise to the top while the worst will sink to the bottom.
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Re: Capitalism and Poverty

Postby scwizard » Thu Feb 05, 2009 3:36 am UTC

I see, thanks for the clarification.

That's why it's good to mix capitalism and socialism. Because that way the best can get rewarded for their efforts, and the losers can still have a roof over their heads.
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Re: Capitalism and Poverty

Postby The Mad Scientist » Thu Feb 05, 2009 3:59 am UTC

scwizard, see my distinction between money and wealth.

Timequake, I referred to "rags to riches" stories not because they're necessarily plausible, but because I don't think that the stories themselves serve to demonize the poor.

As for the horrors of unregulated capitalism, all I can say is that the assertion that the Great Depression was an inevitable result of an unregulated market is contested. Not only have some analyses argued that government intervention prolonged the depression, you also have to realize that not only was the system in place during the 1920s not pure free market capitalism, but there were many unjust practices and laws that aren't inherent to capitalism. The belief that the poor can and should be forced to work is not part of capitalism; racial segregation is not a part of capitalism; a lack of (true) universal suffrage is not a part of capitalism; patent law is not a part of capitalism according to some theories; et cetera. It's naive to point at a particular time and place where there was suffering, make note of the (supposed) economic ideology adhered to, and conclude that the ideology itself caused all of the suffering.

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Re: Capitalism and Poverty

Postby Izawwlgood » Thu Feb 05, 2009 6:14 am UTC

Timequake wrote:It's a zero-sum game in that whenever anyone competes within capitalism, someone wins and someone loses. The only ones who benefit are the winners and occasionally a third party who doesn't compete, and therefore isn't part of the "game". Capitalism is based on the idea that the best will rise to the top while the worst will sink to the bottom.


You've just repeated what someone earlier stated, and disagreements were already made. To reiterate:
Capitalism does not imply competition. It implies a free market, i.e., the right to conduct economic transactions without outside interference.
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Re: Capitalism and Poverty

Postby scwizard » Thu Feb 05, 2009 6:19 am UTC

I think a free market inevitably leads to competition.
And of course this is a good thing. Everyone runs faster when it's a race.
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Re: Capitalism and Poverty

Postby Bubbles McCoy » Thu Feb 05, 2009 6:20 am UTC

Timequake wrote:It's a zero-sum game in that whenever anyone competes within capitalism, someone wins and someone loses. The only ones who benefit are the winners and occasionally a third party who doesn't compete, and therefore isn't part of the "game". Capitalism is based on the idea that the best will rise to the top while the worst will sink to the bottom.

I suppose I'd have to still disagree. The general [demonstrated] principle of capitalism is that competition does lead to losers, as even in defeat you can continue and win to some degree. Yes, occasionally a business will go under, but for the most part the loser still has marketable skills even in failure (even if their pay might be somewhat diminished), but more importantly society as a whole gains from having cheaper, superior goods available to them as a result of someone being able to overtake the old company. Individuals will at times lose their business or their employment, but society as a whole will continue to produce more and they can still reintegrate into the system.

Anyway, we've probably had enough Capitalism v Socialism cage matches, but the former's central flaw is not that it creates "losers" through economic competition; that would be its strength.

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Re: Capitalism and Poverty

Postby phonon266737 » Thu Feb 05, 2009 6:44 am UTC

It has always seemed to me, that having "poor" and "rich" is unavoidable. The resources people need and want are limited in supply. If everyone can afford everything they want, then the suppliers are not charging enough. Because the intrinsic value of a product does not change, by raising the price, the supplier is essentially moving some people into "poor"

Apply this to all products subject to supply and demand, and it becomes very difficult to eliminate having a "poor" class. If you were to issue a flat tax and give them all money, prices for things they want would increase (both to offset the profits lost to the tax, and because of increased deman) Some of the poor would benefit, but nowhere near all of them. How could society possibly eliminate having the "poor" - would not prices simply increase faster than wages?
It's like end effects in an eletric field. There isn't an infinite distribution of wealth - it has hard maximum and minima.

Interestingly enough, many who are considered "not poor" in capitalism have far less money than a poor person - mucho negative wealth! How do these people recover - I assume they don't become poor.

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Re: Capitalism and Poverty

Postby Azrael » Thu Feb 05, 2009 1:26 pm UTC

An improvement of the discourse in this thread is required. Posts deleted.

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Re: Capitalism and Poverty

Postby janusx » Thu Feb 05, 2009 4:05 pm UTC

Capitalism is not zero-sum game. Wealth is generated all the time. Invention and innovation are some of the driving forces behind this. If a new method of generating electricity is discovered called "Xergy" from raw material X, then wealth is created rapidly: The company supplying X has an increase in sales, the company supplying Xergy converts X to Xergy, increasing it's value, and then sells it off to consumers.

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Re: Capitalism and Poverty

Postby segmentation fault » Thu Feb 05, 2009 4:57 pm UTC

...and what happens to all other electricity producers? oh right they sink.
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Re: Capitalism and Poverty

Postby Izawwlgood » Thu Feb 05, 2009 6:03 pm UTC

And that sinking != the immediate creation of monopolies. There are LOTS of energy providers in the US! Just because one company does better then another, does NOT mean the other immediately crashes and burns and everyone invested in it has to beg on the corner.

Saying that Capitalism produces only winners and losers is simply incorrect.
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Re: Capitalism and Poverty

Postby Weezer » Thu Feb 05, 2009 11:22 pm UTC

I think that capitalism allows people to blame the poor for their predicament, claiming that they "didn't work hard enough" and that seems like that is what many people in this believe. While this is true in many or even most cases there are also times where the rich/wealthy use their control or power to manipulate the working class, holding them in their place. I personally believe that this is a necessary evil to keep capitalism working, there needs to be a working class that can provide manual or unskilled labor for cheap enough that the middle class can afford the produced goods. Often this leads to poverty, not necessarily the choices of the impoverished.

But as a reflection of this those who are impoverished idolize the idea of 'rags to riches' stories and create such fallacies as the American Dream to give themselves hope that they can better themselves.
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Re: Capitalism and Poverty

Postby Faranya » Thu Feb 05, 2009 11:49 pm UTC

Of course it does. There is a feeling perpetuated that those who are poor are so because they are lazy or they lack some set of morals that the 'rest of us' have. How often have you heard someone say of the panhandler "He only wants the money for drugs/booze/etc" There is also the idea in capitalistic society that the poor are just this teeming mass of immoral people who if given the chance will rise up and steal the hard earned assets from the rich.

Normally I'd be all up in your shit for movie allegories in SB, but ... zombies. -Az

Take a look at the allegory of zombie films. There is this massive horde of violent, godless,poor villains who will wreak havoc on those who have and turn them into another part of the horde. The poor will come and steal from the rich. The panhandler on the corner will come to your home in the night and make off with everything you have worked for. People do not want to even appear to be lacking monetarily. Bargain or secondhand stores are filled with three kinds of people. There are those who come in with an obvious air of superiority, to sift through the racks to find a good bargain. Then there are those who can only afford to shop there. Then there is the largest group: Those who can only afford to shop there but pretend to only be there to look for bargains. It isn't hard to see. Even to people you don't know, will never know, and likely never see again, you do not want to appear to be in want. Why? Because poor people are a blight of society, of course. We've learned it from youth. Religious folk will preach aid to the poor. Most people will say they want to help, will organize or participate in food drives and the like, but few will ever actually talk to the desperately in need. They help not because they genuinely care, but because they love the feeling of self righteousness.

We are supposed to view the poor with mistrust and skeptical pity. "Oh it's a shame that he won't work like a normal person." We are supposed to think that it is their fault for lack of motivation, because in capitalism, everyone is supposed to be able to get ahead through hard work. But that just isn't true. Capitalism is built on the backs of the poor. Not the desperately poor, the working poor. Those masses who try to pretend they have plenty when they have not nearly enough. If they would all stand up and plead for help than the system would be shown to be flawed. So they are made to feel that being poor is an evil, unnatural state, and that they merely have to put in more hours at inadequate wages to finally claw their way up. The only way that will get ahead is when the new crop of workers pushes them up from below. And those of us not there are supposed to see that it is their fault. If only they budgeted their money better.

Yes, the entire system is geared to work like that. You are always working harder to get ahead, but really you are barely moving, and in the mean time, you are generating far more work than you are consuming resources.
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Re: Capitalism and Poverty

Postby Izawwlgood » Fri Feb 06, 2009 2:11 am UTC

Because capitalists, particularly Americans are so selfish? (Americans give more to charity per capita then any other nation)

Or is because governments are so good at donating?(Americans donated more money then did the US government, which despite donating less in terms of a %'age of it's gross domestic income,, donates more then triple the next most charitable country)

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EDIT: Sorry, the notion that Americans are more charitable then a handful of other nations is not relevent? The notion that Americans donated 50% MORE then the US government did is not relevent?

Although I recognize the second link is pretty massive. Edited to reflect content.
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Re: Capitalism and Poverty

Postby drunken » Fri Feb 06, 2009 11:46 pm UTC

The question in the OP was not about the US, it was about people in general. The cheerleaders for capitalism here seem to have totally forgotten that we live in a global economy. While it is true that most US citizens that are poor don't work as hard as they could and probably have themselves to blame, this is a result of the wealth of the nation. People in the US who aren't citizens are often impoverished and have no way of changing that. In addition the US is mostly rich because of economic exploitation of poorer countries. The poverty of other nations is not solely becuase of US economic policy but it plays a huge role and in many countires it is the biggest cause. People who praise the fairness of the current system are like a bunch of slave owners pointing out how capitalism is great because no one is really poor. 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. I sit at my computer and play games and I am much richer than them. The argument that capitalism is fair is ridiculous.

I dare anyone to suggest that people in third world countries with starving children are poor because they are lazy or stupid.

edit: changed a phrase which was unnecessarily inflammatory and also untrue. Apologies.
Last edited by drunken on Sun Feb 15, 2009 6:51 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.
***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 Izawwlgood » Sat Feb 07, 2009 12:03 am UTC

drunken wrote:The question in the OP was not about the US, it was about people in general.


And because attacks on capitalism go hand in hand with attacks on American economics, pointing out tenants of America's economy serve a nice platform which to argue against the OPs claims/questions.

drunken wrote:While it is true that most US citizens that are poor don't work as hard as they could and probably have themselves to blame, this is a result of the wealth of the nation. People in the US who aren't citizens are often impoverished and have no way of changing that.


Citation needed, on both claims. No one who is pro-Capitalist on this thread believes that the poor are poor because they don't work. I'm of the persuasion the poor are poor because they have poor money management skills (i.e., lack of education pertaining to money), or lack of higher demand skills (i.e., lack of education pertaining to scholastics/training). Neither of these issues can be pinned to capitalism.
Secondly, if you look at the second linked article I posted in my last post, the vast majority of US immigrants send between half and 3/4ths their income back to their country of origin. That != impoverished, and that != selfish, but it IS made possible because of capitalism.

drunken wrote:In addition the US is mostly rich because of economic exploitation of poorer countries.


I vehemently disagree, and would go so far as to claim that the majority of the world is wealthy now as a result of capitalist initiative supplying industry and technology.

drunken wrote:You guys are like a bunch of slave owners pointing out how capitalism is great because no one is really poor.


Hardly. No one here is claiming that there isn't a significant wealth divide and that the current incarnation of the worlds market is corrupt. That however doesn't mean capitalism is at fault.

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.

drunken wrote:The argument that capitalism is fair is ridiculous.

As I quoted earlier:
Izawwlgood wrote:Capitalism is unequal distribution of wealth, Socialism is equal distribution of poverty
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