Warren Buffett’s son is almost completely wrong about charity

I first encountered this article by Warren Buffett’s son Peter Buffett in a pair of tweets by Mistress Matisse, complaining about the implication that making condoms available is a bad thing. But it wasn’t until I saw the article linked by Leiter that it registered with me just how bad the article was.

I’m going to go through this article paragraph by paragraph, pointing out the flaws.

I HAD spent much of my life writing music for commercials, film and television and knew little about the world of philanthropy as practiced by the very wealthy until what I call the big bang happened in 2006. That year, my father, Warren Buffett, made good on his commitment to give nearly all of his accumulated wealth back to society. In addition to making several large donations, he added generously to the three foundations that my parents had created years earlier, one for each of their children to run.

Early on in our philanthropic journey, my wife and I became aware of something I started to call Philanthropic Colonialism. I noticed that a donor had the urge to “save the day” in some fashion. People (including me) who had very little knowledge of a particular place would think that they could solve a local problem. Whether it involved farming methods, education practices, job training or business development, over and over I would hear people discuss transplanting what worked in one setting directly into another with little regard for culture, geography or societal norms.

I’d agree with this, if the point were that before giving or planning the project, people need to do the research to figure out what will most actually help. That’s the message of the effective altruism movement. But that’s not where Buffett is going with this.

Often the results of our decisions had unintended consequences; distributing condoms to stop the spread of AIDS in a brothel area ended up creating a higher price for unprotected sex.

That’s the line Matisse complained about. The problem is that a higher price for unprotected sex isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Theoretically it could be if what happened here is that freely available condoms made unprotected sex seem more attractive to clients, leading to more unprotected sex.

But I suspect what actually happened is that freely available condoms made sex workers less willing to have unprotected sex, raising the price by standard supply and demand, and meaning that probably less unprotected sex was happening. Yes, you’d prefer to eliminate the harm, but when you can’t eliminate a harm then harm reduction is a very good thing.

But now I think something even more damaging is going on.

Because of who my father is, I’ve been able to occupy some seats I never expected to sit in. Inside any important philanthropy meeting, you witness heads of state meeting with investment managers and corporate leaders. All are searching for answers with their right hand to problems that others in the room have created with their left.

Really? I’m willing to accept the premise that some of the world’s problems are caused by “investment managers and corporate leaders.” But a lot of the world’s problems are caused by “things have always been that way, and they’ve only started to get better relativeply recently.”

A century ago, there were no antibiotics, no vaccines for measles or polio. On the whole people were much poorer, even people in countries like Britain or the US could be at risk of hunger if they lost their jobs. The world was also a much more violent place.

None of that excuses anyone adding to the harm, it doesn’t even excuse inaction, but it does make it pretty implausible that most of the world’s problems can be blamed on anyone alive today, corporate leader or otherwise.

There are plenty of statistics that tell us that inequality is continually rising.

Actually, this is a gross oversimplification at best, but let’s accept the premise for the sake of argument. If inequality were increasing, what would it mean?

I don’t want to give the impression that inequality is all hunky dory. More inequality tends to mean more of society’s resources being wasted on whatever nonsense rich people are doing to make themselves feel important, resources that could be going to basics like food, shelter, health care, and education. And maybe inequality has some other indirect downsides.

But that said, I’d like to state for the record that inequality in itself is not as big of a problem as having polio. Or measles. Or starving to death. Or dying in the trenches. Or… you get the idea. Increasing inequality would be more shocking if it were bringing with it increases in those other problems, but in reality those other problems are being solved.

If the size of the pie where fixed, and it were simply a matter of deciding how to slice the pie up, this would be impossible. The reason life has gotten so much better over the last century, and can do so even if inequality is increasing, is that the size of the pie has grown a lot (even on a per capita basis).

At the same time, according to the Urban Institute, the nonprofit sector has been steadily growing. Between 2001 and 2011, the number of nonprofits increased 25 percent. Their growth rate now exceeds that of both the business and government sectors. It’s a massive business, with approximately $316 billion given away in 2012 in the United States alone and more than 9.4 million employed.

Philanthropy has become the “it” vehicle to level the playing field and has generated a growing number of gatherings, workshops and affinity groups.

As more lives and communities are destroyed by the system that creates vast amounts of wealth for the few, the more heroic it sounds to “give back.”

Even if some corporate bosses are guilty of destroying some lives, the “more” raises the question: More than what? More than used to get destroyed? That seems implausible, when you look at how much things have improved since a century ago.

It’s what I would call “conscience laundering” — feeling better about accumulating more than any one person could possibly need to live on by sprinkling a little around as an act of charity.

I don’t think “sprinkling a little around as an act of charity” is anything to be applauded, but it’s odd to see Warren Buffett’s son, of all people, talk about philanthropists only in those terms, when his father has not just “sprinkled a little around” but pledged to donate 99 percent of his considerable fortune to charity.

And Warren Buffett isn’t from the “get my name on a bunch of buildings” school of “charity” either. From what I can tell the things he’s donated to are, if not maximally efficient do-gooding, then still likely to do a great deal of good. (Granted, Peter is managing to make giving himself control of a good chunk of the money look like a mistake.) People like Warren Buffett are heroes, make no mistake about it. For his son not to acknowledge that is odd.

But this just keeps the existing structure of inequality in place. The rich sleep better at night, while others get just enough to keep the pot from boiling over. Nearly every time someone feels better by doing good, on the other side of the world (or street), someone else is further locked into a system that will not allow the true flourishing of his or her nature or the opportunity to live a joyful and fulfilled life.

It just keeps existing inequality in place? No, I’m pretty sure that sometimes, at least sometimes, it also does things like prevent people from getting malaria, which is kind of important.

And with more business-minded folks getting into the act, business principles are trumpeted as an important element to add to the philanthropic sector. I now hear people ask, “what’s the R.O.I.?” when it comes to alleviating human suffering, as if return on investment were the only measure of success.

Now I’m not sure about this, because I don’t know for sure who these people are who are talking in terms of R.O.I…

But if they’re effective altruism people what they mean is “how can we do the most good with our money?” And yes, when you’re trying to do good, how you can do the most good should be the measure of your success.

Microlending and financial literacy (now I’m going to upset people who are wonderful folks and a few dear friends) — what is this really about? People will certainly learn how to integrate into our system of debt and repayment with interest. People will rise above making $2 a day to enter our world of goods and services so they can buy more. But doesn’t all this just feed the beast?

Holy. Fucking. Shit. Words fail to describe how wrong this is. Do I call it callous? Out of touch? Offensive? None of those words do it justice.

Does Peter Buffett have any fucking idea what it’s like to live on $2 a day? Normally I wouldn’t claim to, but he must have even less of an idea. Please, everybody, go read this article on Cambodian factory workers who survive on 25 cent orders of noodle soup and talk about how great it would be if their employers would just raise their wages to $100 a month.

You see, until recently the Cambodian minimum wage was $61 a month. In recent talks with the government, a Cambodian trade union initially asked that the minimum wage be raised to $120 a month, but then said they’d be okay with $100 a month. So far, they’ve only been able to get the government to agree to $75 a month plus $5 for health care.

When I was in Cambodia back in February, I heard a story about a Cambodian girl who’d grown up outside the country. When she came back, everyone thought she was South Korean, because she was too tall. Because in Cambodia, everyone grows up with their growth stunted by malnutrition.

So Buffet’s dismissive phrase “so they can buy more,” what that really means is, “more than 25 cent noodles.” More food for your children, so that maybe, just maybe, they’ll grow up to be as tall as a South Korean. It’s basic fucking necessities like that that Buffett is dismissing as “just feeding the beast.”

I’m really not calling for an end to capitalism; I’m calling for humanism.

At this point, I’m pretty sure Buffett has no idea what he’s trying to “call for.”

Often I hear people say, “if only they had what we have” (clean water, access to health products and free markets, better education, safer living conditions). Yes, these are all important. But no “charitable” (I hate that word) intervention can solve any of these issues. It can only kick the can down the road.

Yeah, it can only kick the can down the road. That, and save a few people from dying of malaria.

Really, $10 billion dollars goes fast when you’re trying to deal with problems that afflict entire regions of the globe, so you’re probably not going to make them go away overnight, but that’s a terrible reason to be dismissive of people’s efforts to do what they can to help.

My wife and I know we don’t have the answers, but we do know how to listen. As we learn, we will continue to support conditions for systemic change.

It’s time for a new operating system. Not a 2.0 or a 3.0, but something built from the ground up. New code.

What we have is a crisis of imagination. Albert Einstein said that you cannot solve a problem with the same mind-set that created it. Foundation dollars should be the best “risk capital” out there.

What does any of this even mean?

There are people working hard at showing examples of other ways to live in a functioning society that truly creates greater prosperity for all (and I don’t mean more people getting to have more stuff).

Right. More prosperity, by which he doesn’t mean starving people getting to have more food. Because food is just stuff, after all.

Money should be spent trying out concepts that shatter current structures and systems that have turned much of the world into one vast market.

Why? Will that actually help people? Or just make Peter Buffett feel better?

Is progress really Wi-Fi on every street corner? No. It’s when no 13-year-old girl on the planet gets sold for sex.

Okay…

But as long as most folks are patting themselves on the back for charitable acts, we’ve got a perpetual poverty machine.

This is empirically false; poverty is falling globally in spite of whatever back patting is going on.

It’s an old story; we really need a new one.

Again, why? To make Peter Buffett feel better?

The first two paragraphs end up being a perfect description of what Buffett does in the entire rest of the article. He wants to save the day, but he has very little knowledge of the problem. So his solution is railing against the evils of buying stuff, because he personally finds buying stuff icky.

  • http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ VinnyJH

    I think that when Peter Buffet refers to investment managers and corporate leaders “searching for answers with their right hand to problems that others in the room have created with their left,” he is referring to situations like the underpaid Cambodians. It is those investment managers and corporate leaders who are responsible for the corporations that buy the goods from the Cambodian factories.

    I think you have completely missed the boat on this one Chris.

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/hallq/ Chris Hallquist

      Except they didn’t create the problem of poverty in Cambodia. If anyone did, Pol Pot did. It’s not like Cambodia would be made any better off by foreign companies pulling out of the country.

      Edit: I should say, Pol Pot or Richard Nixon.

      • http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ VinnyJH

        That strikes me as a rather facile response, Chris. Why stop with Nixon? Why not Johnson, Kennedy, or Eisenhower? Why not Truman who chose to support France’s attempts to reassert control in Indochina after World War II. Why not DeGaulle who made reestablishment of France’s empire a priority. Frankly, I cannot see the point in trying to fix responsibility for a problem like poverty on specific actors unless, of course, it is to exonerate others.

        On the other hand, if we want to look at the problem of third world factory workers living in poverty, we have to look at the economic system in which the factory operates. We need to look at the corporations that buy the factory’s products. Maybe we even need to look at the consumer culture that drives the demand for ever more and ever cheaper imported goods. If that wasn’t Peter Buffet’s point, it should have been.

        While it may be true that foreign corporations abandoning Cambodia wouldn’t be a solution, that strikes me as a rather facile observation as well. Low wages may be better than no wages, but sometimes refusing to accept low wages is the only way to obtain higher wages.

        • MNb

          Because Cambodja was undeniably less poor before Nixon began bombing the country and before Pol Pot took over.
          I’m absolutely no fan of international companies – I have been boycotting Shell for 30 years because of what they do in Nigeria – but it CH’s remark is just correct. You simply can’t blame those companies for something they are not responsible for.

          • http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ VinnyJH

            As I said, I don’t see the point in trying to assign blame to individual actors. However, neither Pol Pot nor Richard Nixon were writing on a blank slate.

    • UWIR

      Have the investment managers created the problem of Cambodians being underpaid? Yes or no?

      • http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ VinnyJH

        Go fish.

  • Unreal X

    Buffett:
    [snip] All are searching for answers with their right hand to
    problems that others in the room have created with their left.

    Chris:
    I’m willing to accept the premise that some of the world’s
    problems are caused by “investment managers and corporate leaders.”
    [snip] A century ago, there were no antibiotics, no vaccines for
    measles or polio. On the whole people were much poorer, even people
    in countries like Britain or the US could be at risk of hunger if
    they lost their jobs.

    Unreal
    X: This shows a bit of naivety about Britain and the US to assume
    this never happens in the modern age! Else why would food banks
    exist? http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2013/jul/11/food-bank-rise-welfare-changes

    Chris:
    [snip] it does make it pretty implausible that most of the world’s
    problems can be blamed on anyone alive today, corporate leader or
    otherwise.

    Unreal X: On the problems of pointing to individuals as primarily responsible for
    the problems in the rest of the world, I agree that this is
    problematic because of the role of systemic factors. In the case of
    the modern world the main systemic factor involved is the capitalist
    system, rather than individual bankers or industrial capitalists. At
    the end of the day the capitalists are trying to realise the highest
    rate of profit possible, and if they do not they will be outcompeted
    by other capitalists. Cambodia was mentioned as an example of the low
    wages paid by capitalists; this happens because it reduces wages and
    therefore increases the rate of profit (higher wages decrease the
    rate of profit). The individuals involved, though they may of course
    be personally reprehensible, are mainly acting within the dictates of
    capitalism. I know that this is an oversimplification but
    nevertheless. Now I agree that all history is essentially barbarism,
    and I’m not a romantic hankering for the past, but that in of itself
    does not vindicate capitalism from the issues it creates.

    Buffett:
    There are plenty of statistics that tell us that inequality is
    continually rising.

    Chris:
    [snip] I don’t want to give the impression that inequality is all
    hunky dory. More inequality tends to mean more of society’s
    resources being wasted on whatever nonsense rich people are doing to
    make themselves feel important, resources that could be going to
    basics like food, shelter, health care, and education. And maybe
    inequality has some other indirect downsides.

    Unreal
    X: Earlier on in your review you cite Steven Pinker, well even Pinker
    (and he seems pretty right-wing in at least some respects) concedes
    that high levels of inequality in a society ceteris paribus leads to
    more violence in said society. With your comment that “resources
    that could be going to basics like food, shelter, health care, and
    education” – this is exactly the problem. If everyone in the world
    had a decent standard of living you might
    be able to attempt to justify the rich’s luxury (not that I would
    necessarily be convinced). But in a world where poverty exists I
    don’t think opulence is morally justifiable.

    Chris:
    But that said, I’d like to state for the record that inequality in
    itself is not as big of a problem as having polio. Or
    measles. Or starving to death. Or dying in the trenches. Or… you
    get the idea. Increasing inequality would be more shocking if it were
    bringing with it increases in those other problems, but in reality
    those other problems are being solved.

    Unreal X:
    Okay, so your argument is that inequality is at least, acceptable,
    because scientists have fixed the issue of polio and therefore things
    are improving? In itself, to say “but X is worse!” is not a
    logical argument against anything. That’s like someone complaining
    about, say, McCarthyite witch hunts and someone responding “yeah,
    but Salem was worse” as a defence of McCarthy.

    Dying in trenches isn’t really a problem that was “solved” per se, rather
    we kill each other with different weapons now…Also starvation is
    still an issue for a lot of people today.

    Buffett:
    [snip] As more lives and communities are destroyed by the system that
    creates vast amounts of wealth for the few, the more heroic it sounds
    to “give back.”

    Chris:
    Even if some corporate bosses are guilty of destroying some lives,
    the “more” raises the question: More than what? More than used to
    get destroyed? That seems implausible, when you look at how much
    things have improved since a century ago.

    Unreal X: The “more” I think in this sort of context is actually rather obvious
    (the reference to rise in inequality is a dead giveaway) – what
    they mean is the decline of Social Democracy and the rise of
    Neoliberalism, Thatcherism and Reaganism. Essentially capitalism
    becoming more and more exploitative and expanding across the world to
    the third world & ex-Soviet states (globalisation). Their
    comparison point then, is not in this context 100 years ago,
    but the era between 1945 and 1973, the Keynesian era or the Golden
    Age of Capitalism. Now of course if you liked you could favourably
    compare the modern age, with the Keynesian age. Or point out the
    faults in the Keynesian age. But that’s not the same argument as
    “things have gotten better over the past 100 years”.

    Buffett:
    Microlending and financial literacy (now I’m going to upset people
    who are wonderful folks and a few dear friends) — what is this
    really about? People will certainly learn how to integrate into our
    system of debt and repayment with interest. People will rise above
    making $2 a day to enter our world of goods and services so they can
    buy more. But doesn’t all this just feed the beast?

    Chris:
    Holy. Fucking. Shit. Words fail to describe how wrong this is. Do I
    call it callous? Out of touch? Offensive? None of those words do it
    justice. [snip on living standards in Cambodia] So Buffet’s
    dismissive phrase “so they can buy more,” what that really means
    is, “more than 25 cent noodles.” [snip] It’s basic fucking necessities like that that Buffett is dismissing as “just feeding the beast.”

    Unreal X: I
    agree that commenting that “People will rise above making $2 a day
    to enter our world of goods and services so they can buy more” is
    at best a crass way of putting an argument. I think what
    Buffett means, however, when he says feeding the beast is
    the beast of the financial system, though I can’t be sure; it’s the
    phrase “integrate into our system of debt and repayment with
    interest” that makes me think this. It’s fashionable nowadays to
    criticise the financial system as somehow a parasite on “healthy
    capitalism”. That said, there are legitimate critiques that have
    been made of microlending. See Ha Joon Chang, “23 Things They Don’t
    Tell You About Capitalism”.

    Buffett:
    Often I hear people say, “if only they had what we have” [snip]
    Yes, these are all important. But no “charitable” (I hate that
    word) intervention can solve any of these issues. It can only kick
    the can down the road.

    Chris:
    Yeah, it can only kick the can down the road. That, and save a few
    people from dying of malaria.

    Unreal X:
    There’s a distinction here, between in the short run and in
    the long run. Yes, sometimes charity may be able to help
    individuals in the short run. However, if the problems of society are
    systemic (ie. If the system *creates* poverty for example)
    then no charitable intervention is actually going to work and solve
    the issue long term; on this point I agree with Buffett, even if we
    have different ideas of the systemic change necessary. If you think
    that charity can actually solve these long term issues, then I think
    you have to justify that.

    Buffett:
    My wife and I know we don’t have the answers, but we do know how to
    listen. As we learn, we will continue to support conditions for
    systemic change.

    It’s
    time for a new operating system. Not a 2.0 or a 3.0, but something
    built from the ground up. New code.

    What
    we have is a crisis of imagination. Albert Einstein said that you
    cannot solve a problem with the same mind-set that created it.
    Foundation dollars should be the best “risk capital” out there.

    Chris:
    What does any of this even mean?

    Unreal X: I
    agree that what Buffett is saying here is vague. What I think he
    means by “Foundation dollars should be the best “risk capital”
    out there” is that we should live in a world where helping
    people is a great investment for one’s capital, which personally I
    think is nonsense – we have to look at how capitalism actually
    works rather than what we want to be the case.

    Buffett:
    There are people working hard at showing examples of other ways to
    live in a functioning society that truly creates greater prosperity
    for all (and I don’t mean more people getting to have more stuff).

    Chris:
    Right. More prosperity, by which he doesn’t mean starving people
    getting to have more food. Because food is just stuff, after all.

    Unreal X: What he means is “unending consumerism is not the way to
    happiness”. The worst criticism of this is that its banal.

    Buffett:
    Money should be spent trying out concepts that shatter current
    structures and systems that have turned much of the world into one
    vast market.

    Chris:
    Why? Will that actually help people? Or just make Peter Buffett feel
    better?

    Unreal X:
    What Buffett is saying here is utopian. I generally dislike using the
    word “utopian” because of course calling something “utopian”
    in of itself is not a critique. What I mean by utopian here is more
    utopian in the classical sense (that of C19th Utopian Socialism),
    that is, of attempting to set up one’s “Little Icaria” of
    communes and so forth. I agree that such a strategy is not
    appropriate to actually change the world.

    Buffett:
    Is progress really Wi-Fi on every street corner? No. It’s when no
    13-year-old girl on the planet gets sold for sex.

    Chris:
    Okay…

    Unreal X:
    This is a legitimate point that you have brushed over. That’s the
    uncritical assumption in out society that technology always equals
    progress. I know you will point to the gains caused by technology as
    reason to believe that it is progress. To make 100% clear, I am NOT
    saying that technology CANNOT be progress. I am saying that
    Technology BY DEFINITION is not progress, or that it is not
    NECESSARILY progress. In this society we often do see progress
    as represented by technology, rather than things that actually
    represent more of an improvement in people’s lives. A book worth
    reading on the issue of technology and politics is Langdon Winner,
    “The Whale and the Reactor” that addresses this among other
    things. He discusses the introduction of in his case milk cartons for
    old fashioned milk, and how people uncritically accepted it because
    “you can’t stop progress”.

    Chris:
    This is empirically false; poverty is falling globally in spite of
    whatever back patting is going on.

    Unreal X:
    Link?

    • Chris

      Chris:
      This is empirically false; poverty is falling globally in spite of
      whatever back patting is going on.

      Unreal X:
      Link?

      The internet habit of immediately challenging for a link to easily googleable information is a little odd. But if you want, you could try here

      WASHINGTON, April 17, 2013—The number of people living on less than $1.25 per day has decreased dramatically in the past three decades, from half the citizens in the developing world in 1981 to 21 percent in 2010, despite a 59 percent increase in the developing world population.

      But more importantly, it’s pretty odd to see anyone even challenging the idea that global poverty has fallen. Frankly, it’s a very well-known fact about the global economy and much more empirically obvious than things like “inequality in the United States has risen”, which nobody really denies either. I don’t want to sound combative or rude, but if you aren’t familiar with pretty basic factual information about the economy, maybe you should rethink how combative and self-assured you should be about proclamations about how economics should work.

      • Unreal X

        I asked for a link because there was a link to his other claims. I thought it was odd that thrre was no source. As for my personal knowledge on the economy, yes I am not an expert but I do know some stuff about economic theory such as the ideas of Ricardo (theory of comparative advantage), Marx (TRPF, overproduction), the classical margianlists (Alfred Marshall etc), Keynes and monetarily effective demand and so on.

        I thimk the global economy shoukd work in such a way that ensures a decent standard of living for everyone and is ecologically sustainable – which I believe requires socialism, not capitalism.
        I’ll leave it there since there’s no actual real argument in your post other than calling me uninformed -which of course, is not innitself an argument why I’m wrong.

        I apologise if I seemed rude however that reallt wasn’t my intention

      • http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ VinnyJH

        That’s an interesting statistic Chris. I would note that given the increase in population, the raw number of people living on less that $1.25 has only dropped by 1/3. Moreover, if that drop has been achieved primarily by virtue of the kind of factory work that is so frequently found in developing nations, then I’m not sure that it really undermines anything that Buffett is saying. Working in a factory for $2 a day still sucks.

    • UWIR

      When your comment is as long as the original blog post, it might be too long. Also, this sentence is just a mess:

      “this happens because it reduces wages and therefore increases the rate of profit (higher wages decrease the rate of profit).”

      You’re throwing pronouns around left and right, leaving it to the reader to figure out what they refer to, and you’ve equivocating as to what the wages are being decreased from. They aren’t being decreased relative to what they would be without capitalism. Rather, they’re being reduced relative to what they would be if we lived in some sort of utopia. This isn’t an honest argument.

      • Unreal X

        You’re actually wrong about my argument. My comparison point for wages was actually not socialism, in this context. Maybe I should have been more obvious in what I was referring to which is the phemonema of moving industry to poor countries in order to pay lower wages, which then increases the rate of profit ceteris paribus, because less labour costs equals more profit. So actually wages of workers in the west was my comparison point. Nothing to do with ‘utopia’.

        • Unreal X

          Sorry to respnd again, but I think you’re making two arguments here, and you’ve mixed them up a bit. Firstly, you’re attempting to critique my use of the rate of profit. Now, as explained above the wages in context refer to the wages *relative to the rate of profit* and this is not in reference to any form of socialism, but in reference to a capitalist paying high wages vs a capitalist paying low wages. A capitalist , ceteris paribus, will always prefer to pay a lower wage, at least up to the point of biological subsistence.
          The second argument you are making is that of ‘well they are better off under capitalism even if its awful’ which I think is problematic. Firstly,you can apply that argument to anything. Secondly, by this sort of logic moral critique of a society is illegitimate. Eg. A. ‘The lack of gay marriage is a problem’, B. ‘Don’t complain, it could be like the 1950s, where gays were being psychiatrily treated’.

        • UWIR

          I’m confused. Are you saying that your issue is that it decreases wages in the West? Or are you saying that it causes wages in Cambodia to be lower than they are in the West? If you are saying the latter, then that doesn’t make sense; wages would not be as high as in the West without the factories, so the factories are not causes wages to be lower than they are in the West.

          As for your following post, I don’t understand the first part, and the second misrepresents my argument:

          “Secondly, by this sort of logic moral critique of a society is illegitimate. Eg. A. ‘The lack of gay marriage is a problem’, B. ‘Don’t complain, it could be like the 1950s, where gays were being psychiatrily treated’.”
          My argument isn’t “Don’t complain about capitalism because there are possible alternatives that are even worse”. My argument is “The actual alternative is worse”. If the factories left Cambodia, the wages there would get worse. If we got rid of SSM, gay people would no be worse off. So I really don’t see how you think they are at all analogous.

  • UWIR

    Wow, this guy is confused about basic economic concepts.

    “That year, my father, Warren Buffett, made good on his commitment to give nearly all of his accumulated wealth back to society. ”

    He gave money back to society. He didn’t give wealth.

    “There are plenty of statistics that tell us that inequality is continually rising.”

    Inequality of what?

    “As more lives and communities are destroyed by the system that creates vast amounts of wealth for the few”

    How are lives and communities destroyed by the creation of wealth?

    • Unreal X

      Are you familiar with the Lauderdale Paradox? Public wealth can be destroyed when it is given over to make private wealth.

      “For example, if one could monopolize water that had previously been freely available by placing a fee on wells, the measured riches of the nation would be increased at the expense of the growing thirst of the population.” – Foster and McChesney, ‘The Internet’s unholy marriage to capitalism’, http://monthlyreview.org/2011/03/01/the-internets-unholy-marriage-to-capitalism

      This is a clear theoretical example of the possibility of lives being destroyed by (capitalist) wealth. All that has to be done is the appropriation of the commons in order to make money out of it. Happened enough times in history, I should say.

      • UWIR

        “All that has to be done is the appropriation of the commons in order to make money out of it. ”
        But that wasn’t the claim. The claim was not that making money can destroy lives, the claim was that making wealth can destroy lives. That was one of my main points: Buffet is confusing money and wealth. A person who monopolized water makes money, but does not make wealth.

  • Anonymous

    “Is progress really Wi-Fi on every street corner? No. It’s when no 13-year-old girl on the planet gets sold for sex.”

    13-year-old girls should decide for themselves if they sell sex or not.

    And even if you run out of poor 13-year-olds who support themselves this way, by making them all richer, you can always create even more 13-year-olds who would rather exist and sell sex than not exist.

    As long as life is voluntary and wanted, the repugnant conclusion is not repugnant. As long as prostitution is voluntary and better for the prostitutes than its absence, it should be accepted as a means to an end.

    (Before you vote this post down, at least think it through)

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