Everything is Just Fine

and this in no way represents part of the same attack on the family as abortion and divorce culture. There is no relationship at all between our Ruling Class’ systematic looting and impoverishment of the average American’s ability to support a family and that family’s disintegration and breakdown. Suggesting there is is nothing but Komminiss propaganda.

HT: Caelum et Terra

  • Erik

    When talking about the “impoverishment of the average American’s ability to support a family”, I would like to see more about what the average American is earning and less about how much the rich are earning. The switching between bottom 99%, bottom 90% and bottom 40% gives the strong impression that these numbers are propaganda, not information. If not Communist propaganda, the graphic is at least a distraction that the Communists would approve of. If the average American is earning too little to buy bread, bandages and a Bible (broadly speaking), please, discuss what the average American is earning relative to the cost of bread, bandages and a Bible, not the below-average American’s savings relative to the remainder’s savings.

    • Ted Seeber

      Bread and a Bible yes. Bandages and shelter, no.

  • JoFro

    I agree with Erik. Can we send this graphic to be vetted? Heck, those lines of people standing and waiting to buy the latest iPhone tell me another story!

  • http://natewinchester.wordpress.com/ Nate Winchester

    *looks at chart*

    There is no relationship at all between our Ruling Class’ systematic looting and impoverishment of the average American’s ability to support a family and that family’s disintegration and breakdown.

    Did the world go upside down and capitalism become a zero-sum game in the last decade? (well that would invalidate the 4th “fact” listed) Let’s quote Sowell again:

    The turnover of people is substantial in all brackets — and is huge in the top 1 percent. Most people in that bracket are there for only one year in a decade.

    Suggesting there is is nothing but Komminiss propaganda.

    No, but it appears to be encouraging envy and covetousness (possibly greed too). Aren’t those like… deadly sins?

    • Andy

      Actually to me the chart does not speak of covetousness – it does speak of greed of the 1%, but it also speaks to worship of mammon and what mammon can bring. It speaks to opulence that is not necessary and it speaks to a lack of following the words of Jesus to rich man “Sell all that you have and follow me” and the “rich man wept”

      • http://natewinchester.wordpress.com/ Nate Winchester

        So “to you” means you see the mote in other eyes before spotting the timber in your own? So what if they are greedy? (as well as prideful, lustful, etc etc) If they are a servant of the Lord then it is not my place to judge, only by his master does he stand or fall. If they aren’t this chart isn’t going to do a damn thing to convert them (especially since I don’t see one mention of Jesus in it).

        This isn’t attempting to bring the rich to repentance, this is preaching to the choir to stir up the pharisee’s gratitude of “thank you Lord for not making me like them”.

        Also, think about the logic a moment: “Sell all that you have.” Ok, that would include the private jet in the next to last panel then, right? (as well as art, alcohol and yachts) Alright, sell to who? Someone else buys it, then they are not following Jesus’ words. The chart speaks in the general and you speak in the general, so it would seem that you are complaining in the aggregate, meaning that you (and the chart) would prefer a 100% rate of non opulence, serving Jesus, etc.

        Ok… how? IF the rich donate their jets, yachts, art, etc to the poor, then the poor now have jets, yachts, art, etc so now they are the ones who are opulent (etc) – so you’re just having one person give up their sin by foisting it onto another. Seems to me someone needs to re-familiarize themselves with the lessons of Dennis Moore.

        • Andy

          Actually Nate I know there are timbers in my eye – given your comments you are missing the forest in you own. A quite logical explanation of what Jesus said – the rich young man had put a false god in the place of God – that false god is money. Since Jesus was addressing the false god and that is what I see in this chart – how can these folks be servants of the Lord? THe hidden part of the message of Jesus was to put away the false god of money and embrace the Lord. I would guess that Jesus did not really intend for the rich man to sell wall that he had, but he did expect him to follow the ways of the Lord.
          Perhaps a quick primer in Catholic Social Teaching:
          347. A truly competitive market is an effective instrument for attaining important objectives of justice: moderating the excessive profits of individual businesses, responding to consumers’ demands, bringing about a more efficient use and conservation of resources, rewarding entrepreneurship and innovation, making information available so that it is really possible to compare and purchase products in an atmosphere of healthy competition. Given the level of control by the oligarchy in the US today there is not a sense of healthy competition- thus the false god of “worship of the market”

          348. The individual profit of an economic enterprise, although legitimate, must never become the sole objective. Together with this objective there is another, equally fundamental but of a higher order: social usefulness, which must be brought about not in contrast to but in keeping with the logic of the market. When the free market carries out the important functions mentioned above it becomes a service to the common good and to integral human development. The inversion of the relationship between means and ends, however, can make it degenerate into an inhuman and alienating institution, with uncontrollable repercussions. Opulence, which unnecessary does cause this inversion and does little for human development as does the amassing of great amounts of wealth. The worship of mammon.
          As to selling jets, art whatever – I really don’t care – I am more concerned that the accumulation of such objects does not enhance the lives of most people. You ascribe that people are envious of those who are rich – I see no proof of that in any document – that is a canard raised by many conservatives and as JK Galbraith said “The modern conservative is engaged in one of man’s oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness. ” It seems that is what you are protecting.

          • http://natewinchester.wordpress.com/ Nate Winchester

            Actually Nate I know there are timbers in my eye – given your comments you are missing the forest in you own. A quite logical explanation of what Jesus said – the rich young man had put a false god in the place of God – that false god is money. Since Jesus was addressing the false god and that is what I see in this chart – how can these folks be servants of the Lord?

            Maybe they’re not servants of the Lord, I can’t know since I don’t know who these people are, their names, whatever. And? Should I praise God “thank you for not making me like these others”? Or should I worry about my own failings? Did Paul worry about the false gods elsewhere in the world or did he concentrate on fighting those who were in his neighborhood? What’s joke about the definition of a Puritan? “Someone, somewhere, doing something you don’t like.”

            THe hidden part of the message of Jesus was to put away the false god of money and embrace the Lord. I would guess that Jesus did not really intend for the rich man to sell wall that he had, but he did expect him to follow the ways of the Lord.

            And this chart is helping them do that… how?

            As to selling jets, art whatever – I really don’t care – I am more concerned that the accumulation of such objects does not enhance the lives of most people.

            How are you defining enhance? Like would that cover the jobs of those who manufacture the jets, yachts, etc and/or staff them?

            You ascribe that people are envious of those who are rich – I see no proof of that in any document

            Quote from the chart: “66% of jet owners do not open their own mail and only 19% pay their own bills”. What is the point of this “fact” other than to stoke envy?

            – that is a canard raised by many conservatives and as JK Galbraith said “The modern conservative is engaged in one of man’s oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness. ” It seems that is what you are protecting.

            Ah yes, clarifying facts, fighting dehumanization of a group of people and warning about the seduction of sin is “justification for selfishness”. Since you are providing a “superior moral justification” for envy and coveting, I guess that makes us even. ;)

            • Andy

              First Nate – I would hazard a guess the vast majority of people don’t care who opens mail. I am more concerned about the disparity that is represented by the chart. I have yet to provide a justification for envy, because there is no justification for envy – you have not proven nor provided a justification that it exists based on this chart. As much you are “witty” writer and carefully select what you want to respond to, you did not respond to my basic content that this chart demonstrates a worship of mammon. If you want to interpret it as a chart of envy enjoy, but for me it is a chart of a false god.

              • http://creativefidelity.wordpress.com Dan F.

                Except that the chart doesn’t actually demonstrate the worship of mammon. It certainly suggests it but demonstrates requires more particular proof as well as the ability to judge hearts.

                I do think that the problem is primarily crony capitalism – that our system is based primarily on the ability of major companies to get government perks (see agriculture giveaways, oil giveaways, GE making $100B and not paying any tax etc.) That of course is a symptom of the lack of accountability “We the People” give to our elected representatives. For a different take go read Public Catholic’s Monday series: http://tinyurl.com/9mnol5t

                • http://natewinchester.wordpress.com/ Nate Winchester

                  What Dan F mostly said. (and thanks for the link, that looks interesting)

                  And I mean… how can you, Andy, say that there’s “no justification for envy from the chart” even though said chart cites a statistic which you admit, the vast majority of people don’t care about? What’s the point of bringing up details about your neighbor’s (or anyone’s) lifestyle but to stir up envy?

                  Maybe they do worship a false god, but I can’t know their hearts or actions since the chart doesn’t tell me anything about the names and identities of these people, I’m in no position to judge.

    • Ted Seeber

      As long as we live on a finite planet, capitalism (as well as any other economic system) is a zero sum game. No amount of work will give me an infinite supply of gold (or any other given commodity in scarcity).

      The only way capitalism is not a zero sum game, is when you consider RELATIVE VALUE instead of ABSOLUTE VALUE.

      • http://natewinchester.wordpress.com/ Nate Winchester

        Well… yeah, but that’s only because absolute value doesn’t really have much meaning. Historically, oil was just a pollutant that ruined lands. It wasn’t until humans found a use for it that it became valuable and then people started wanting it. Your statement is meaningless.

      • http://natewinchester.wordpress.com/ Nate Winchester

        Addendum: I should also say, one reason I’m not comfortable with the “absolute value” metric is that… well by that, life is also a zero-sum game. (People aren’t created from nothing, but existing matter, etc) Referencing it too much gives a huge foothold to the culture of death because hey, “We need to kill all those babies and foreigners to free up their matter for the rest of us!” – know what I’m saying?

        • Ted Seeber

          Yes, life itself is a zero sum game. You can’t escape the laws of physics (Natural Law). The correct answer to the culture of death is this:
          http://persquaremile.com/2012/08/08/if-the-worlds-population-lived-like/

          We’ve got plenty of space if we’d all just learn to share. The only reason life being a zero-sum game should end in claims of overpopulation is if we’re all greedy.

  • Andy

    I just did a quick Google on most of the above and according to the great all knowing search engine they are essentially true – at least in terms of the dollars cited. I couldn’t find anything about opening mail, but it is probably somewhere. In 2010 the average income in America was 41,673.83. In the county I live in – our family is two adults and three children the cost of living is $43,328. I would guess that the folks who bought the new iPhone were young, and had in their minds greater disposable income – lack of dependents and the like. I do not know however if I would use that as a measure of anything other than a creative and powerful advertising campaign.
    This graphic is reminder of what the Gilded Age was like and how we are slipping or running headlong into the Gilded Age. 1. Rapid economic growth generated vast wealth during the Gilded Age for only a few, with the “idea” that by your bootstraps you could be another Andrew Carnegie.
    2. New technologies that middle-class saw as improving quality of life – however, it depended/depends on how middle class was/is defined.
    3. Blue collar and farm workers did not share in the increase wealth – today the span now includes those who are not at least at the upper middle management level.
    4. Politicians in the Gilded Age were essentially corrupt or ineffectual or both – need I say more?
    5. Americans wanted change in the political and social sphere, but couldn’t/can’t agree about what is needed.

    This from Henry George’s book – “Progress and Poverty”:”So long as all the increased wealth which modern progress brings goes but to build up great fortunes, to increase luxury and make sharper the contrast between the House of Have and the House of Want, progress is not real and cannot be permanent.” The above graphic reinforces what George was writing about – the incredible disparity of wealth and how many of those at the top end of the disparity were quick to say that it was the fault of the folks who were poor for being poor. They were quick to say that many who were poor did not want to work to climb to the top rung – and as George posits the social darwinistic lens is destructive to all concerned. I guess we haven’t learned from history.

    • http://natewinchester.wordpress.com/ Nate Winchester

      This graphic is reminder of what the Gilded Age was like and how we are slipping or running headlong into the Gilded Age. 1. Rapid economic growth generated vast wealth during the Gilded Age for only a few, with the “idea” that by your bootstraps you could be another Andrew Carnegie.

      Except Carnegie WAS up by his bootstraps. He started out as an immigrant working in a factory. And… how can rapid econ growth generate wealth for only a few? That’s like saying “a great flood only got 2 people wet”. The very statement is nonsensical. Per capita GDP soared during the “Gilded Age”.

      2. New technologies that middle-class saw as improving quality of life – however, it depended/depends on how middle class was/is defined.

      Which invalidates your point 1. And the part after your dash reeks of “however I’m in favor of defining middle class in the manner that suits my point”.

      3. Blue collar and farm workers did not share in the increase wealth – today the span now includes those who are not at least at the upper middle management level.

      Impossible. Let’s look at the economic definition of wealth:
      (from a friend that teaches econ) “Wealth: Having what you value. Example: If I have a TV and I value a TV, I have wealth.”
      Need we start breaking down car, tv, cable, computer, video game, etc sales? Yes, if people value the “latest and best” item, then only “upper management” has access to it just because of the laws of development. But just because they can’t afford one today, doesn’t mean they won’t be able to tomorrow. (ex. How today you can buy a really cheap, low end car that has more features in it than any high-end luxury vehicle from 20 years ago)

      4. Politicians in the Gilded Age were essentially corrupt or ineffectual or both – need I say more?

      How’s that different from politicians in any age?

      This from Henry George’s book – “Progress and Poverty”:”So long as all the increased wealth which modern progress brings goes but to build up great fortunes, to increase luxury and make sharper the contrast between the House of Have and the House of Want, progress is not real and cannot be permanent.”

      How are you defining progress? Today a kid can work a summer job and get a phone that does more (and has more power) than a computer that only the super-rich could buy in the 60s or 70s. Heck those things have cameras and video recorders in them for less than you could have gotten a camera/vid alone in the 80s. Henry George seems to be a poor historian.

      The above graphic reinforces what George was writing about – the incredible disparity of wealth and how many of those at the top end of the disparity were quick to say that it was the fault of the folks who were poor for being poor.

      Citation needed. Were you thinking of maybe Robert Harris, president of the Chicago, Burlington, and Quincy Railroad? After all he said: “As a general proposition, it seems ot me that the strong should help the weak, now by one course and now by another; and in exercising authority to do it as we should wish it done to ourselves.” Or… maybe not. Maybe you were thinking of Andrew Carnegie who said “[T]he amassing of wealth is one of the worst species of idolatry – no idol more debasing than the worship of money.” No, that can’t be right…

      They were quick to say that many who were poor did not want to work to climb to the top rung – and as George posits the social darwinistic lens is destructive to all concerned. I guess we haven’t learned from history.

      See above, there was no social-darwinistic thought among the “robber-barons” back in the day. Go to a bookstore, find Jonah Goldberg’s Tyranny of Cliches, and just read the chapter on Social Darwinism. Or start on page 4 of this link. Or here.

      You’re right, a lot haven’t learned from history. Many myths are still propagate.

      • Andy

        You are right – people haven’t learned from the past – you are one of them. For every Carnegie there the was a Jay Gould, for every Harris there was a Jim Fisk or a Russell Sage. Cherry picking names does little to support your basic antagonism towards a fairer society – a society that does not worship mammon, a society that calls out those who worship mammon and are defended by those who say this is a sign of envy.
        Your economics teaching friend uses a definition of wealth is unique – from the economics glossary -The net ownership of material possessions and productive resources. In other words, the difference between physical and financial assets that you own and the liabilities that you owe. Wealth includes all of the tangible consumer stuff that you possess, like cars, houses, clothes, jewelry, etc.; any financial assets, like stocks, bonds, bank accounts, that you lay claim to; and your ownership of resources, including labor, capital, and natural resources. Of course, you must deduct any debts you owe.

        To suggest that wealth is based on what you value as you did means that the rich value money and possessions far more than other things and – as I said worship mammon.

        • Jay

          Just to chime in, I’m finding Nate’s side of this debate a lot more persuasive.

          Yeah there are a lot of problems in our economy. Yeah maybe the huge income disparity is one of them. But from what I see, this *is* envy-promoting, class-warfare type stuff that’s serving only to stir up enmity and obscure the real sources of the problems.

          • Ted Seeber

            What about the class warfare in the other direction? After all, capitalism IS a zero sum game- we haven’t the ability to transmute atoms out of energy yet.

            • http://natewinchester.wordpress.com/ Nate Winchester

              Yes and no. Obviously, matter is finite. However, our imagination and ingenuity is not. See here: http://www.tektonics.org/guest/bhcap03.htm and note his reasons on how we’re not actually running out of anything:

              1. When we run out, we go look for more.
              2. Better technology allows us to access reserves previously thought unreachable or unusable.
              3. Improving technology helps us develop substitutes, or ways to use less.

              Otherwise, wealth would have stopped being produced long ago, and we wouldn’t have ordinary middle class folks with greater riches than even Solomon had. (after all, I’m sure he would have traded all his gold for some indoor plumbing and air conditioning on those hot Israeli days)

              • Ted Seeber

                No matter how much you imagine, no matter how much ingenuity you have, you are not God and never will be. Why try to live like God?

                I do not believe wealth is being produced anywhere but in the imagination. I have even less proof for the existence of wealth than I do for the existence of God.

                • Mike Petrik

                  Then why worry about its distribution?

          • Richard Johnson

            “But from what I see, this *is* envy-promoting, class-warfare type stuff that’s serving only to stir up enmity and obscure the real sources of the problems.”

            Which as we all know are the welfare queens, lazy poor, immigrants, and folks in the other tribe. But otherwise, your class-warfare meme is right on the mark.

            • Jay

              Since you just put a bunch of words in my mouth and then refuted those words, not gonna bother rebutting you.

          • http://www.likelierthings.com Jon W

            Just to chime in, I’m not finding Nate’s side of this debate a lot more persuasive.

            The kind of wealth we’re seeing here is not merely the recompense for good ol’ fashioned hard work and laudatory risk-taking by bold, innovative pioneers. There’s plenty gaming of a broken system and taking advantage of other people’s ignorance and vice in here as well. I don’t know the percentages (bootstrappin’ hard work vs our daddies are lawyers and we were roommates at Harvard), but no one else does either, and we have absolutely no reason to suppose the rich in our society are any more virtuous than the poor. (Other than, you know, they’re rich, so they must be better since God obviously likes them more or else why would they be rich?)

            And besides, wealth is power. It is real, significant power in a society, and you don’t allow people to wield that much power without demanding that they shoulder an equivalent proportion of the responsibility for society. Do we want to go back to living in a responsible aristocracy like in the Middle Ages? Or would we rather have a decadent aristocracy, like in France after Louis XIV? Or wouldn’t we rather have some sort of a democratic republic?

            • http://natewinchester.wordpress.com/ Nate Winchester

              The kind of wealth we’re seeing here is not merely the recompense for good ol’ fashioned hard work and laudatory risk-taking by bold, innovative pioneers. There’s plenty gaming of a broken system and taking advantage of other people’s ignorance and vice in here as well. I don’t know the percentages (bootstrappin’ hard work vs our daddies are lawyers and we were roommates at Harvard), but no one else does either, and we have absolutely no reason to suppose the rich in our society are any more virtuous than the poor. (Other than, you know, they’re rich, so they must be better since God obviously likes them more or else why would they be rich?)

              And do we have any reason to suppose the rich in our society are any more wicked than the poor? (Other than, you know, they’re rich so they must be evil since God obviously hates them more or else why would they be rich?)

              I think you actually had a pretty good point, right up until you had to start invoking the strawmen. You’re right, we do have a broken system. You know why? Because it’s run by broken people!

              Looks like most of the debate is to fix what’s broken, or try and limit the damage. Since even the “repair guys” are as broken as the system, I only have faith in limiting the damage this side of eternity.

          • Andy

            I am not suggeting envy as a root cause of the disparity – rather I think that envy is not the cause – being housing insecure, food insecure, health care insecure is the problem. If a person is worried about those issues and sees the disparity I do not think it is envy it is despair – maybe it is Nate who is stirring the pot for the class warfare meme in an effort to deflect what is clearly a worship by a percentage of people of mammon.

            • Jay

              My income is below the poverty line and I manage to live a lifestyle that would make medieval kings green with envy. Even the poor in our society have access to everything necessary to have a historically mind-boggling standard of living. And we’re up in arms because some people have private jets? And a bunch of other stuff of very little practical value? In a society with layer upon layer of safety nets. The actual quality-of-life difference between the rich and the poor is incredibly negligible compared to the difference in “wealth.” And I’m saying that as one of the “poor,” currently making about $15k/year, typing this on my spiffy laptop in my warm room with my full refrigerator and functioning vehicle for personal transportation. Where’s the perspective in all this?

              I’m not saying there’s not a problem here, but to me, the way you guys are making your case is abysmally bad. Massive wealth disparity is just a symptom of deeper problems. Focus on those instead of crying about people’s jets.

              • Mike Petrik

                Jay’s right. By any fair measure the standard of living of both the poor and middle class in this country continue to rise, even if their share of wealth might currently be declining. It makes no sense to say that abortion and divorce are caused by these rising standards of living because the standard of living of the rich is rising even faster. Such a proposition is just envy pure and simple. This is not to say that once cannot argue that the system is rigged unfairly in a way that exacerbates wealth disparity — but even if that is true it can not explain the rise in divorces or aborted children. In my view the relationship is likely quite the opposite. The breakdown of the family and social morality generally causes increased economic hardship. The vast majority of our “poor” live in single parent households. It is more likely that their social choices are affecting their economic condition than the reverse.

      • http://www.anabundantworld.com James White

        I tend to agree with Nate’s view of the Gilded Age. I’m actually doing some research on it right now and would argue that focusing on the Robber Barons serves no useful purpose when considering living conditions for all. Unlike today’s policy-makers who do their best to de-value the $, the Gilded Age started with a strong $ that seems to have encouraged investment. Indeed, the 1870s are a remarkable period in economic history with only the current investment boom in China being remotely similar. In the 1870s there was an enormous investment in infrastructure that opened up the mid-west. The result was an agricultural and industrial boom. It created problems, farmers in the north-east lost their jobs, but the result was strong real economic growth with prices declining 3-4% per annum for over a decade. This dramatically increased the living standards of Americans, though it came at the cost of making some as rich as Croesus. The Gilded Age was coined in 1873 and I feel does terrible injustice to a period when remarkable welfare improvements were enjoyed by all Americans: more food at much lower prices and more resources could be allocated to manufacturing.

        More broadly income and wealth need to stop being mixed up, so often they are not analogous. Who wouldn’t prefer to earn a $100k income from $2m in capital (dividends) instead of 60 hour weeks?

  • David Agnew

    So many people confuse the sin of envy (or jealousy, depending upon how it is translated) as if anyone complains about the success of another it is envy. This is not the case. The CE points out:

    “Regret at another’s success is not always jealousy. The motive has to be scrutinized. If, for instance, I feel sorrow at the news of another’s promotion or rise to wealth, either because I know that he does not deserve his accession of good fortune, or because I have founded reason to fear he will use it to injure me or others, my attitude, provided that there is no excess in my sentiment, is entirely rational.”

    Envy or jealousy is not had if someone is complaining about injustice. Lazarus was not envious of the rich man, though clearly the rhetoric we see from some would have to lead us to believe he was. This is the trick of the devil to oppose justice in society.

    • http://natewinchester.wordpress.com/ Nate Winchester

      I like your quote. Although… it seems really applicable on an individual level. The chart & post paint a broad brush of a group of people. So… you know every individual that would fall under the chart up there doesn’t deserve their good fortune (although doesn’t God cause the sun and the rain to fall on the righteous and the wicked both?) or will use it to injure people? I’m not even Catholic and it seems like you’re misusing the CE here translating it from an application to individual to a group & class. After all, what if you applied it to any other group distinguished by say… race or sex or religion?

      Oh, and you keep using the word “justice”, I do not think it means what you think it means.

      • David Agnew

        My, what a funny, self-contradictory response. You want your cake and to eat it too. So the charts are broad and generalizations. Good. We can agree there. But what does that have to do with the charge of “envy” being used for large groups of people? That is exactly what happens, and that is exactly the problem. Just because someone says “This is an unjust situation” does not mean they are envious, but that is exactly the claimed used to dismiss their observations.

        The state’s role is in the promotion of justice. When people get rich through all kinds of unjust means, and through it, prohibit the free and universal destination of goods, it is not envy to call them out, nor is it envy to say that clog needs to be removed.

        See, generalizations are often used against those who promote justice — but if someone points out the error, you act like that makes your point. Seriously? That was the point. This over-generalization with the term “envy” is in error.

        Often people try to pit justice against charity. They say “if you work for a just state, there will be no charity.” Note time and time again this is how justice is perverted. Charity is about love for the other. True charity will want true justice as a foundation for charity. It will not see justice as preventing charity. It is like saying, “Laws which prevent the beating up of people on the streets prevents charity, because it makes sure there are less people needing medical aid.” That is exactly the foolishness of the argument of those who say “the state should not be involved in charity, therefore, should not be involved in welfare and other social programs.” Laws are all based upon theories of social justice, and it is not seen as a an attack on charity if you prevent the need for charity. Again, true charity would desire no need for lower forms of charity so that higher, greater, more spiritual forms can be the focus. But those forms are not able to be put in focus if justice is hindered.

      • Ted Seeber

        “Oh, and you keep using the word “justice”, I do not think it means what you think it means.”

        This may indeed be the problem. What do you think the word “justice” means?

        • http://www.likelierthings.com Jon W

          Seriously. I want to hear an account of justice. I want to hear people interacting with the Republic and not just Wealth of Nations.

        • http://natewinchester.wordpress.com/ Nate Winchester

          I like what I’ve read of FA Hayek’s “Mirage of Social Justice”.

          [O]nly situations that have been created by human will can be called just or unjust. … Social justice does not belong to the category of effort but that of nonsense, like the term ‘a moral stone’.

          Example:
          Justice creates a claim on others, yes? So, if we take something like… unemployment, who is being unjust? The employers who cannot afford more workers? The consumers who refuse to create enough demand to justify more workers? The government for not taxing innocent parties to pay for labor that isn’t needed that they did not vote for?

          Justice involves identifying a guilty party and bringing said party to apply recompense to the party that was wronged. Bernie Madoff’s prosecution was justice (he lied to others). I see no specific names listed in charts like these of people who have done specific wrongs and the victims they must repay. Until then, it has all the trappings of a witch-hunt (which are almost never just).

          • David Agnew

            I will keep this as simple as possible. There are many places where I can go to discuss justice, but I will use only a few sources. The first is Aquinas:

            First, we have Summa Theologica discussions on justice:

            “I answer that, It is proper to justice, as compared with the other virtues, to direct man in his relations with others: because it denotes a kind of equality, as its very name implies; indeed we are wont to say that things are adjusted when they are made equal, for equality is in reference of one thing to some other. On the other hand the other virtues perfect man in those matters only which befit him in relation to himself. Accordingly that which is right in the works of the other virtues, and to which the intention of the virtue tends as to its proper object, depends on its relation to the agent only, whereas the right in a work of justice, besides its relation to the agent, is set up by its relation to others. Because a man’s work is said to be just when it is related to some other by way of some kind of equality, for instance the payment of the wage due for a service rendered. And so a thing is said to be just, as having the rectitude of justice, when it is the term of an act of justice, without taking into account the way in which it is done by the agent: whereas in the other virtues nothing is declared to be right unless it is done in a certain way by the agent. For this reason justice has its own special proper object over and above the other virtues, and this object is called the just, which is the same as “right.” Hence it is evident that right is the object of justice.” (ST II-II.57.1).

            Justice, you see, is about equality, giving the proper end to a given act. It is not random, nor based upon “What I can get out of you,” but the actual value of an act being given. It is, also, relational. This means it is not just based upon one individual. Thus, justice ends up being social as well as personal, because persons are social beings, and justice is found in relationships, even if it is one person relating to society, or several persons relating to several other persons. The right relationship, balance, end for a given act should be promoted — by persons and society as a whole. To deny social justice is to deny society as a whole, and to make an every man for himself attitude (which runs contrary to the teachings of Scripture).

            In this way, Aquinas says:
            “I answer that, Justice, as stated above (Article 2) directs man in his relations with other men. Now this may happen in two ways: first as regards his relation with individuals, secondly as regards his relations with others in general, in so far as a man who serves a community, serves all those who are included in that community. Accordingly justice in its proper acceptation can be directed to another in both these senses. Now it is evident that all who are included in a community, stand in relation to that community as parts to a whole; while a part, as such, belongs to a whole, so that whatever is the good of a part can be directed to the good of the whole. It follows therefore that the good of any virtue, whether such virtue direct man in relation to himself, or in relation to certain other individual persons, is referable to the common good, to which justice directs: so that all acts of virtue can pertain to justice, in so far as it directs man to the common good. It is in this sense that justice is called a general virtue. And since it belongs to the law to direct to the common good, as stated above (I-II, 90, 2), it follows that the justice which is in this way styled general, is called “legal justice,” because thereby man is in harmony with the law which directs the acts of all the virtues to the common good. ” (ST II-II-58.5).

            Yes, justice is social, not just individualistic. This is why you will find social demands of justice throughout Scripture. The cries of the prophets against Israel often came from the lack of social justice — the kind God demanded in his covenant. Thus, the cry was for the widow, the orphan, the stranger being mistreated.

            The Catechism of the Catholic Church follows Aquinas, but makes it easier for the ordinary person to understand:

            “Justice is the moral virtue that consists in the constant and firm will to give their due to God and neighbor. Justice toward God is called the “virtue of religion.” Justice toward men disposes one to respect the rights of each and to establish in human relationships the harmony that promotes equity with regard to persons and to the common good. The just man, often mentioned in the Sacred Scriptures, is distinguished by habitual right thinking and the uprightness of his conduct toward his neighbor. “You shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great, but in righteousness shall you judge your neighbor.”68 “Masters, treat your slaves justly and fairly, knowing that you also have a Master in heaven.”69 CCC 1807

            You can see justice is related to the two greatest commandments — to love God and to love our neighbor. We are expected to have our neighbor get their proper due. This is not what is due based upon the will to power (military might, economic might, for example, forcing agreements doesn’t mean the agreement has to be followed — this is where a lot of contracts in the modern state ends up being morally null and void). It is based upon right order, right due, proper equity, not based upon tricks or misrepresentation to get people to sign away their lives to give more and less from it.

            What this all means is that one must be pro-life, not just saying the person should not be killed, but their life dignified and respected. Thus, to end this post, the Compendium of Social Doctrine says:

            ” 81. The object of the Church’s social doctrine is essentially the same that constitutes the reason for its existence: the human person called to salvation, and as such entrusted by Christ to the Church’s care and responsibility[117]. By means of her social doctrine, the Church shows her concern for human life in society, aware that the quality of social life — that is, of the relationships of justice and love that form the fabric of society — depends in a decisive manner on the protection and promotion of the human person, for whom every community comes into existence. In fact, at play in society are the dignity and rights of the person, and peace in the relationships between persons and between communities of persons. These are goods that the social community must pursue and guarantee. In this perspective, the Church’s social doctrine has the task of proclamation, but also of denunciation.

            In the first place it is the proclamation of what the Church possesses as proper to herself: “a view of man and of human affairs in their totality”[118]. This is done not only on the level of principles but also in practice. The Church’s social doctrine, in fact, offers not only meaning, value and criteria of judgment, but also the norms and directives of action that arise from these[119]. With her social doctrine the Church does not attempt to structure or organize society, but to appeal to, guide and form consciences.

            This social doctrine also entails a duty to denounce, when sin is present: the sin of injustice and violence that in different ways moves through society and is embodied in it[120]. By denunciation, the Church’s social doctrine becomes judge and defender of unrecognized and violated rights, especially those of the poor, the least and the weak[121]. The more these rights are ignored or trampled, the greater becomes the extent of violence and injustice, involving entire categories of people and large geographical areas of the world, thus giving rise to social questions, that is, to abuses and imbalances that lead to social upheaval. A large part of the Church’s social teaching is solicited and determined by important social questions, to which social justice is the proper answer.”

            • http://natewinchester.wordpress.com/ Nate Winchester

              As one blogger said:

              For 30 years you [Catholics] have been playing your social justice games here and abroad. The communist policies of the current administration are the natural progress of your own progressive policies all over the world. Chickens. Roosting.

              You know what, I agree 100% with Shea when he said:

              Part of the reason American conservative culture is so terrible at answering the arguments for gay “marriage” is that it is deeply complicit in the libertarian mindset of atomized individualism that undergirds it.

              But then, I would RATHER the debate take place on the grounds of individualism and limited government. Catholics like you start the debate with the Left from the position of “the government should do good things without limit” and then wonder how you end up in a country with the HHS mandate. It’s like you guys never figured that someone might twist your own arguments against you. (no, really, five seconds on google bam! birth control = social justice) Well congrats, you sharpened Leviathan’s teeth with “social justice” and then act shocked when it bites you.

          • Marthe Lépine

            “employers who cannot afford more workers” – right, some are in that position. But others just ship the jobs overseas in order to make more money. Maybe a way to see justice would be to consider rich people as having responsibilities to their countries and their countrymen and women. Jesus said somewhere that those who are given more are in turn expected to do more. Maybe, just maybe, some billionaires could look a little further than their own – and only their own – bottom line and sacrifice a higher profit, when they themselves have more than enough wealth to have a very good life, in order to create jobs for their brothers and sisters in their own country, in the present case the US…
            “Consumers who do not create enough demand to justify more workers” There are a lot of unmet needs that could be met by creating jobs, but not all of those may promise higher and higher profits. Again, maybe some billionaires, instead of claiming that they give to charity, could create non-profit organizations to meet such needs? This might be part of what is expected from those who have been given more resources.
            And a bit about usury: There is nothing wrong, maybe, with making money by putting to work one’s savings. However many people do not make enough money to put much money aside. Again, those who can afford to invest often do so because their higher incomes allow them to do so; once again, maybe they have more social responsibilities in supporting the creation of jobs, just because they have been given more…

            • http://natewinchester.wordpress.com/ Nate Winchester

              right, some are in that position. But others just ship the jobs overseas in order to make more money. Maybe a way to see justice would be to consider rich people as having responsibilities to their countries and their countrymen and women. Jesus said somewhere that those who are given more are in turn expected to do more. Maybe, just maybe, some billionaires could look a little further than their own – and only their own – bottom line and sacrifice a higher profit, when they themselves have more than enough wealth to have a very good life, in order to create jobs for their brothers and sisters in their own country, in the present case the US…

              But in the US the poor here are better off then the poor in other countries, so you’re thinking Jesus wants us to help countrymen first, instead of those who are the worst off? That seems… odd.

              There are a lot of unmet needs that could be met by creating jobs, but not all of those may promise higher and higher profits. Again, maybe some billionaires, instead of claiming that they give to charity, could create non-profit organizations to meet such needs? This might be part of what is expected from those who have been given more resources.

              But think about it a minute. Let’s put it on a small scale so maybe you can grasp it. Billionaires all over give up most of their profits so they become just “hundred-thousandaires” (every single one of them). As a consequence, they no longer buy jets.

              What then happens to those who work in jet factories? What about those who work as crew on jets? What about those who operate airfields? In other words, you’re not solving anything, you’re just moving the problems around, saying (essentially) that some people shouldn’t have this job, they should have that job.

              • Marthe Lépine

                Well… The French have a saying: “Charité bien ordonnée commence par soi-mème.” (or: Deal with your own problems first before dealing with other’s problems. It is not a good argument, IMHO, to say that the poor in the US have more than the poor in developing countries, therefore it is OK to ship the jobs there. I think it is morally reprehensible to use workers who will work for pennies a day in developing countries. If your argument was legitimate, employers should give Chinese workers at least the equivalent of the minimum wage in the US. Otherwise, it is purely and simply exploitation: because some people are poorer than the poor in the US, we can give them a pittance in order to purchase their valuable work. In fact, many Chinese workers are still poorer than poor people in the US even after receiving their meagre pay. And another fact is that many workers in developing countries gather in cities because large international corporations take away the lands on which they were at least able to make subsistence living.
                And billionaires could still be able to purchase jets is they were merely billionaires, not multi-billionaires. And, let me give another argument that is not so limited to the world’s way of thinking: It is not impossible that the Lord would multiply blessings on a billionaire who tries to do the right thing towards both his brothers and sisters in the US and his brothers and sisters in developing countries…
                In addition, with fewer poor people in the US, consumer demand might in fact increase. At the moment, as I have read in the NY times a few weeks ago, there is a glut of consumer goods within China because their workers cannot yet afford to purchase them: would it be reasonable to assume that it is because many Chinese workers are still kept in poverty?

                • http://natewinchester.wordpress.com/ Nate Winchester

                  Well… The French have a saying: “Charité bien ordonnée commence par soi-mème.” (or: Deal with your own problems first before dealing with other’s problems. It is not a good argument, IMHO, to say that the poor in the US have more than the poor in developing countries, therefore it is OK to ship the jobs there.

                  No, it is merely a cost/benefit analysis for Catholics to consider: that you’re letting the poor of one place be worse off to help the “relative” poor of another (who if you compare to the former poor, would actually come out rich). Besides, how are you going to keep those companies from leaving? Build a wall? (I hear the one in Berlin was well built…)

                  I think it is morally reprehensible to use workers who will work for pennies a day in developing countries. If your argument was legitimate, employers should give Chinese workers at least the equivalent of the minimum wage in the US.

                  What if the penny has more purchasing power in the developing country? Oh let’s see…

                  Otherwise, it is purely and simply exploitation: because some people are poorer than the poor in the US, we can give them a pittance in order to purchase their valuable work.

                  Yeah, and if we just paid everyone a million dollars, nobody would poor at all!

                  Wait a sec… I hear the sound of economists laughing. Please, go learn how the basics work (supply, demand, pricing, etc) then come back and stop making a fool of yourself.

                  In fact, many Chinese workers are still poorer than poor people in the US even after receiving their meagre pay. And another fact is that many workers in developing countries gather in cities because large international corporations take away the lands on which they were at least able to make subsistence living.

                  Besides the regular econ failing you continue to demonstrate, let me get this straight: you’re now complaining that the companies aren’t coming here taking away US land to force people into cities?

                  And billionaires could still be able to purchase jets is they were merely billionaires, not multi-billionaires. And, let me give another argument that is not so limited to the world’s way of thinking: It is not impossible that the Lord would multiply blessings on a billionaire who tries to do the right thing towards both his brothers and sisters in the US and his brothers and sisters in developing countries…

                  And you know a billionaire out there isn’t doing the right thing… how? See, this is what happens when you go heavy on assertions, light on facts (at least the chart had facts); you end up saying something silly like “no billionaire anywhere is doing the right thing”.

                  In addition, with fewer poor people in the US, consumer demand might in fact increase.

                  Oh, more of that “let’s pay everyone a million” nonsense. (not to mention, again, how are you going to keep the company here?) Sorry I wasted my time with you.

                  At the moment, as I have read in the NY times a few weeks ago, there is a glut of consumer goods within China because their workers cannot yet afford to purchase them: would it be reasonable to assume that it is because many Chinese workers are still kept in poverty?

                  In a communist system? NAW! And yet, so much of your post reeks of a subtext endorsing their system. Oh but why am I surprised by someone quoting the French.

                  • Marthe Lépine

                    Thanks for the ethnic slur! By the way, I am an economist myself but I do not subscribe to the same school of thought because I attended a Catholic university that included “Rerum Norarum” among its textbooks… And you are putting words in my mouth in order to refute them! The moment I mentioned that if there were fewer poor people, the demand for consumer goods would be stronger, you claim that it’s about giving a million to everybody. What about just a living wage, to start with? That would go a long way to improve the ec0nomy. And the article about a glut in consumer goods in the US was from the NYTimes… Give me a minute and I will go to my e-mail and retrieve the link.

                  • Marthe Lépine

                    Here’s the link to the article, with the short summary given in the e-mailed headlines:

                    From: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/24/business/global/chinas-economy-besieged-by-buildup-of-unsold-goods.html?_r=1&nl=todaysheadlines&emc=tha2_20120824

                    China Confronts Mounting Piles of Unsold Goods
                    By KEITH BRADSHER
                    Published: August 23, 2012
                    GUANGZHOU, China — After three decades of torrid growth, China is encountering an unfamiliar problem with its newly struggling economy: a huge buildup of unsold goods that is cluttering shop floors, clogging car dealerships and filling factory warehouses.
                    And I would also suggest that you read an old encyclical letter by Pope Leo XIII on American exceptionalism… Here’s a link:
                    http://www.ewtn.com/library/PAPALDOC/L13TESTE.HTM
                    with the heading: TESTEM BENEVOLENTIAE NOSTRAE
                    Concerning New Opinions, Virtue, Nature And Grace, With Regard To Americanism
                    There are other ways to look at economics than the right-leaning US economists…

                  • Marthe Lépine

                    And… I never said that there was no good billionaire, just made comments about possibilities that some billionaires could consider… I meant “billionaires” in a general way, there most probably are good people among them, some give millions to causes such as contraceptives for African women… Again, you put words in my mouth (or under my fingers on the keyboard) in order to refute them.

                    • http://natewinchester.wordpress.com/ Nate Winchester

                      Yes, that’s frustrating isn’t it. May you learn from this and not do it yourself in the future.

                      And again, if you’re an economist (doubt it), then you should see the fault of “living wage” (however that’s defined this week). Again, the amount won’t matter because of the way economic forces work. Whether you give everyone $50 an hour or a million an hour, you’re going to run into the same problem. And someone that has studied economics shouldn’t have to be told that.

                      There are other ways to look at economics than the right-leaning US economists…

                      Sort of like how there’s other ways of looking at math? So many of those “right-leaning” economists keep making the same predictions that keep coming true but no, they’re wrong because…? I’m not sure what world you come from that has free lunches and everyone gets to have their cake even after eating it, but over here, in reality, life is about trade-offs and the only things one can get for nothing is love, forgiveness and Jesus.

                      (thanks for the Chain link – though I note I didn’t argue with you about it)

          • Ted Seeber

            Justice does not create the claim. The claim already exists, Justice *addresses* the claim. It is true you can’t have justice without society- because it is only society and civilization that rises us up above the level of animals to begin with.

            It is civilization which creates the claim, not justice. Justice is just a tool for civilization to avoid rebellion.

  • victor

    That settles it. We need to outlaw private jets and CEOs. Problem solved!

    • http://natewinchester.wordpress.com/ Nate Winchester

      Don’t forget wine, art and yachts!

  • Mark S. (not for Shea)

    I would like to get back to the good old-fashioned meaning of the word “EARN.”

    The fact is that the super wealthy earned almost none of their wealth. NONE. They made that money through returns on investments and interest. They didn’t EARN anything because they didn’t make anything. They didn’t produce anything. That is usury, which every faith and philosphy from Moses to the Greeks to the Church has condemned as sin.

    The fact is that the system is rigged in favor of the wealthy. The poor are not poor simply because they are lazy and stupid. The wealthy are not wealthy because they just work so gosh darn hard. The poor are getting poorer and the rich getting richer because the system is rigged.

    I apologize in advance to Confederate Papist for quoting Lincoln, but in this case, he spoke truly:

    “Labor is prior to, and independent of, capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration. ”

    The fact is that our system tossed that out the window.

    • ivan_the_mad

      “That is usury, which every faith and philosphy from Moses to the Greeks to the Church has condemned as sin.” Exactly! The Church not stopped teaching that usury is a sin.

      If you haven’t already read it, I think you’d enjoy Belloc’s “The Servile State”. At the very beginning, he defines things such as capital and labor marvellously.

      • Mark S. (not for Shea)

        Agreed. As a philosopher, I love Belloc. As a writer … I honestly find him a colossal bore. Chesterton took a lot of Belloc’s ideas and made them readable.

    • Peggy R

      Oh, my! The first capital earned is often the fruit of the capitalist’s own labor…and he figures out how to increase that if he’s smart. No one stole any income or property from the poor for gosh sake.

      • Ted Seeber

        What capitalist started with NO venture capital at all?

        • Peggy R

          The guy in your neighborhood who started painting and/or wiring houses in town. He had his own truck; he bought supplies at Home Depot, maybe on some cash or some credit. (Maybe he saved money while he worked for some one else until he thought he saved enough. Maybe the wife is earning wages to keep them afloat early on too.) Then his clientele and company grew. He hired more people. He went to the bank to borrow money to buy more trucks, ladders, paint supplies, etc. Often his wife does the books. They often obtain pretty nice homes and family cars too–over time. I’ve seen a family take a decade or two to improve their financial lot as they toil away doing what they love. Are they charitable? Depends on the individual of course.
          Why is venture capital a must?

          • Marthe Lépine

            Peggy, you are living in a dream world. I have 2 university degrees and have been self-employed for over 35 years – and was forced to start with not even a line of credit. My 2 university degrees are in business and economics by the way, as well as an IQ in the 99.9 percentile. And in my own experience, and what I have observed about my colleagues, is that the reality for most small entrepreneurs relying only on the work of their hands – or minds – is unavoidable bankruptcy because there are simply not enough hours in the day to get enough work done. Working days of 26 hours – and I am not joking, I have often had to do it to meet a deadline – eventually destroy one’s health and ability to continue to work. It is not a matter of “if” one goes bankrupt, but a matter of “when”! To go on quoting the few exceptions, that do manage to keep afloat, or quoting some imaginary cases that you only have heard about, is to continue to approve of an increasingly deteriorating social order. It is easy to claim that those who did not succeed did not work hard or well enough – if you have not tried it yourself.

            • http://natewinchester.wordpress.com/ Nate Winchester

              And in my own experience, and what I have observed about my colleagues, is that the reality for most small entrepreneurs relying only on the work of their hands – or minds – is unavoidable bankruptcy because there are simply not enough hours in the day to get enough work done. … To go on quoting the few exceptions, that do manage to keep afloat, or quoting some imaginary cases that you only have heard about, is to continue to approve of an increasingly deteriorating social order.

              I don’t think changing the social order is going to add any more hours to the day. But then things like government regulations can add hours to the work that needs to be done. Hm… I think there was a political side/movement that was wanting to eliminate a lot of them.

            • Peggy R

              I have 3 university degrees and worked in public and private sector, including a small consulting firm where I was a partner. I have never taken an IQ test. The firm I was in did go out of business as the senior members neared retirement. I elected a relocation and putting my young special needs children first. I substitute teach these days.

              I guess you haven’t met the many men who work as their own bosses in various lines of contracting and construction work. Several of my brothers in law and neighbors fit the profile I outlined. They are real people. None have college degrees, but they have skills and work hard. Many are self-educated about the things that matter. They’re still in business. One sister’s family run shop took a couple 2 decades to get off the ground. They are booming in the past several years. Maybe the businesses will die when they retire. That’s not important to the story; they made it work while they worked it. You are Canadian. I live in the midwestern US. I have met several independent contractor businessmen in other parts of the country, too.

              I guess if a man doesn’t make it on his own after a while, he may go back to working for some one else. No shame in that. Good on him for trying.

              • Peggy R

                PS My degrees are in Economics, French and Business… I won’t claim French fluency off the cuff without review these days. It’s been a while.

                I think most people here are educated professionals, so no need to put any one down or brag about one’s credentials unless you wish to demonstrate expertise on a particular subject. We’ve sparred previously here. I know who you are.

            • Mike Petrik

              Well I have an IQ in the 99.9999 percentile and I think your wrong. So there.

          • Ted Seeber

            I consider those people to be Entrapreneurs, not Capitalists. Venture capital is a must to reach the next level; where one gains money without working. What you are talking about is mercantilism, not capitalism; and it is based in hard work rather than usury.

            But you’ll NEVER get rich that way. You *might* get to the point where you are earning $1.65/hr profit while working 70 hour weeks. But without the large influx of capital needed to hire armies of over 1000 workers, there is no way to get from one to the other.

            • Peggy R

              Such pessimism. I don’t know. I know plenty of “entrepreneurs” doing very nicely for themselves as I did in my day. Of course, investments or loans are needed at times of expansion. Is that a problem? And sometimes a large investor or firm might buy out a small business that’s grown too big for the small businessman to handle. Again, so what? Why would that be bad? The small businessman may relax and enjoy the return on sale or may pick up and try something new again with those proceeds. Or a private company may hold an IPO for an influx of capital to finance new growth, thereby dispersing and creating wealth among many new investors of a variety of income levels.

              The problem that many commenters seem to have is not really with capitalism as money, but with technology that requires large scale investments to produce large scale output to meet large scale demand. That’s a problem of technology, not of money, markets or “capitalism” itself.

            • Marthe Lépine

              “But you’ll NEVER get rich that way. You *might* get to the point where you are earning $1.65/hr profit while working 70 hour weeks. But without the large influx of capital needed to hire armies of over 1000 workers, there is no way to get from one to the other.” Exactly! For some, it is possible to have access to “Venture capital”, but not for others. If, for example, someone like myself is a single woman with no family ties and no steady job, the simplest of loans is often near impossible to get. I have often noticed that when I could have used support as a small business, I was considered just as an unemployed single woman, therefore a bad risk. And when I tried to get a loan as a person, I suddenly became a “business” with few rights and a lot of heavy responsibilities. In between the two extremes is a deep crack to fall through. You might reply that I am just complaining… but I have also seen what happened to other people in my situation. The current tendency to “outsource” by many organizations, private and public, in my country at least, creates an “underclass” of workers who are expected to work with no job security, no capital, and to compete with each other with ever decreasing rates of payment. In my country alone, there are some 2,8 million self-employed workers, many of whom share the same kinds of struggles.

      • Hezekiah Garrett

        “No one stole any income or property from the poor for gosh sake.”

        This is the most shockingly anti-christian sentiment I have heard in days, and I spent 40 minutes locked in the back of a truck tonight with a guy ranting about Jesus and the Devil being one and the same.

        Peggy, meet St Basil the Great! http://bekkos.wordpress.com/2009/10/08/st-basil-on-stealing-from-the-poor/

        • Peggy R

          I understand St. Basi l to refer to the lack of charitable deeds and giving to the poor and hungry as the problem. It’s not merely that a rich man has a coat, but that he does not use his wealth to buy a coat for a poor man as well. But, no, when a man starts a business and sells a good or service that people want or need, then he is not stealing money from others. They are paying for the good or service. There has always been some exchange like this, whether with bartering or some currency involved.

          Now, if a man manages to steal a truck or laptops to use in his business or gets another man’s property condemned and acquires it by unethical legal procedures and the like, or if his product is not what he says it was, yeah, those activities would be sinful and stealing. Now, if you can find that some one did that, then you’d have a point. Perhaps you think liquor and tobacco companies “steal” from those who buy their goods, especially the poor and uneducated. Maybe…

    • http://natewinchester.wordpress.com/ Nate Winchester

      Can someone clear something up for me, but is “venture capital” considered usury? Also, is usury still condemned even if the borrower offers or insists upon it? (perhaps as a bid to win your money for use)

      i.e. two friends come up to me. Andy says, “Dude, loan me five bucks, I’ll pay you back Tuesday.” Bob says, “Dude, loan me five bucks and I’ll give you seven back on Tuesday.” Obviously (assuming that I know both friends equally well and find their claims equally trustworthy) I would probably pick Bob so I can get 2 extra bucks. (but notice I didn’t pressure to tell him that he had to pay me the 2 extra)

      Is that still condemned?

      • Marthe Lépine

        Well, maybe it is not “condemned” but… What about the respective needs of those two friends? It might be much more charitable to lend to the one who can only repay $5… And even more just: what if one wanted some luxury while the other was in need of food for his kids? Your use of the word “obviously” in this case says more about you than about the justice of the matter! In fact, it might even be more just, considering your resources and the needs of your friends, to lend to the one who can only repay $5 but might even turn out to be unable to repay anything at all…

        • http://natewinchester.wordpress.com/ Nate Winchester

          *sigh* When I said: “(assuming that I know both friends equally well and find their claims equally trustworthy)” I meant also that the claims were equal. Obviously if Andy was feeding his kid and Bob was getting a luxury item that would weigh the decision.

          Your use of the word “obviously” in this case says more about you than about the justice of the matter!

          No, it doesn’t. The point of the claim (and the parenthesis) was that the claims were completely equal EXCEPT FOR the payback. (when did this society get to be so bad at mental exercises) Everything is equal between them (need, likelihood of following through on promise, etc), and I only have $5, I can’t loan money to both of them.

      • Ted Seeber

        Maybe not by the church, but here I get to use my credentials. I’m in software engineering. And *every* time I’ve worked for a company that has gone under, it has been the acceptance of venture capital that started the downfall.

        And the reason is “return on investment”, which is a form of usury. Once you give up control to a group of investors, or even don’t quite give up control but switch your business from providing for customers to feeding investors, in my experience that is a death knell for everything your business was originally created to do. The extra money has to come from somewhere- and it will come from one of three (or some combination of the three) places: R&D, labor, customers. Those are the only three places it CAN come from.

  • John H.

    What this chart doesn’t show is how much these “greedy,” “evil” rich people spend on charity and philanthropic endeavors. How can you call them greedy until you see how they spend all of that “untaxed” money? Do they invest it back in their companies creating more jobs? Do they create foundations to feed and care for the less fortunate? Would you rather your money go to the government to pay for more abortions, contraception, and unjust wars? Really?! Do we have a moral obligation to tax people to equal status? Government won’t fix our problems, and history has proved that giving it more money doesn’t help. Do we have a moral obligation to tax the rich above 20%, 30%, 50%?! Until you see the big picture, this chart is precisely propaganda. Mark Shea, you have lost any sense of objectivity. How do you think your books get published? How do you think Patheos stays online? “It’s those derned rich people, who like invest in your work, in your time, and talents. But by golly, they are greedy sunsaguns, and we should tax the heck outa’ ‘em, because they make more than me.”

    • http://natewinchester.wordpress.com/ Nate Winchester

      Well I think you’re being a little hard on Mr Shea, but a toast to a lot of your post up there. I think Sowell’s latest post is also relevant as it uses a book analogy that I think Mark would appreciate. ;)

    • Marthe Lépine

      OK, many rich people are philanthropists. Like Ms Gates who finances contraception for the poor in Africa… She does give millions, after all! And a lot of philanthropy goes to finance other things than creating jobs or helping the poor. It might even go to think tanks designed to push one way of thinking that just happens to support one political party over another… There is nothing wrong with creating foundations to finance museums and philarmonic orchestras, for example, or even educational and political aims such as the work done by some research organizations, both on the right and the left. But when we compare only the dollar amount of donations and say that the rich give more, we often compare apples and oranges – both are nourishing, but they both do not meet the same kinds of needs. We should compare what is being given to different causes and find out, for example, what actually goes to help the poor.

      • Ted Seeber

        I see what the Gates Foundation is doing to be investment, not charity. If it was charity, they’d bother to ask if a starving child needs a condom instead of food.

        • Marthe Lépine

          Maybe you see it like an investment, and I think you are correct. But in all likelihood it is included in the statistics on philanthropy that people on the “right” like to throw around to prove that they are better than people on the “left”…

  • Peggy R

    I don’t know what to say about propaganda like this. There are myriad reasons why some people’s income grows at a higher rate than others. Folks who take great risks, invest lots of time, effort and money in a skill or a business, are going to have higher growth in income over time than those who are less committed. Yes, inherited wealth, well-managed will continue to grow at stable or higher rates depending on the decisions made. At the other end of the scale, we have people who don’t or can’t work and are dependent upon government sources of income to meet their subsistence needs. These folks will have about zero growth in income over time. They have no way to make any sizable additional income or acquire any assets. In between the greatest risk takers and the most dependent folks, are various gradations of financial and skill investments and returns and growth in income. Mathematically, is completely understandable that over time, the folks with highest income growth rates will dramatically outpace lower income growth folks in income and assets. The incomes diverge more and more over time if one were to graph it. The lowest earning (dependent) folks will have a flat line, while the few 1% will have a line with a very steep slope. Most of us are in between at various income growth rates. So, yes, over time, much wealth and income will accrue to those who invest and risk the most.

    One has to do something to get higher income growth. One can’t sit and wait for the check. One can’t plant the check and wait for it to grow leaves of dollar bills. One has to work at something. No one took any income away from the poor.

    • Peggy R

      P.S. As more and more Americans, including retirees, are dependent upon regulated government incomes, we will see an increasingly bifurcated society–the fewer and fewer who are independent and risk-takers and the increasingly large dependent population whose income remains flat. Yes, the graph will look bad. Government wealth redistribution and dependency cause that elimination of a middle class and creation of only 2 extreme classes. The bad economy and low interest rates have hurt retirees’ income gravely, by the way. Oh, also, it is found that the people who are the 1% changes in any given year. Fortunes are won and lost over time. There is mobility for folks that take chances. A guy who was a 1% in 2000, may be in the streets by 2006.

      Capitalism doesn’t lead to a consolidation of wealth and power. In a free economy any one can go out and obtain rewards commensurate with their efforts. Cronyism with the government consolidates wealth and power–so do communism and other forms of dictatorship and statism. Cronyism has lead to regulations that large businesses can absorb, but shut out small guys. I agree with Michaelus below on that point. Government dependency takes away a variety of middle income opportunities and relegates people to just enough income to meet their needs, flat screen tvs and cellphones included.

  • Michaelus

    The data posted by Mark are simply the facts. The wealth disparity is because there are fewer members of the elite running fewer, larger companies. This is not communist propaganda. It it the reason communism started in the 19th century. If you had 20 medium sized companies making cell phones the CEOs of each one would not command the salary of Tim Rice. Capitalism leads to consolidation of wealth and power. Innovation and new company star ups must offset this – but when the Government creates huge barriers to competition for smaller companies you get what we have today – a fascist plutocracy.

    • John H.

      And what is wrong with Tim Rice making that much money if he spends it wisely: investing it in his company, creating more jobs, doing charitable and philanthropic work? Go ahead, tax him more. Let the government spend Tim’s money on foreign tyrannies like Egypt and Turkey, let them provide for abortions and contraceptions at home and abroad. Let them engage in more nation building and unjust wars. I would much rather Tim keep his money and have a chance of it being spent responsibly, than give it to our government where I know it will be wasted and abused.

    • http://chicagoboyz.net TMLutas

      The reason why we are starting fewer companies is that we put in so many rules “adjusting” the free market that only the big companies can afford the legal and compliance departments to stay competitive. Self-serving companies send lobbyists to put a nice fine gloss on the hidden little laws and regulations that tilt the economic playing field towards them.
      It is incredibly hard to be right all the time. This is why in a normal economy companies have a lifecycle. They are born, grow, peak, and die. If we were starting more companies and having more successes, we would not have “fewer members of the elite running fewer, larger companies” as they would be regularly taken down by new entrants much as Pan Am was taken down.

  • http://ohnimus.wordpress.com Christian Ohnimus

    I actually just recently wrote on this. The widening chasm between the super rich and everyone else is a symptom and redistribution is a band-aid approach that in the long run only makes the problem worse. The important thing is that people maintain their economic mobility: that is, the ability to freely move from one income bracket or “class” to another. When we stop looking at abstract income brackets and actually look at flesh and blood people over time we find that this is indeed the case. Most poor people are young people with little to no experience and few assets but almost all of them rise out of the lower class as they gain “human capital” (skills, experience, etc.) and then the next generation takes their place. That’s why the richest people are all old and the poorest are young.

    Eventually the poor youth of today will be the rich elderly of tomorrow. However, this mobility has been severely limited by a massive welfare state in which over half of all Americans have been made at least partially dependent on the state. This often effectively locks them into their current income bracket, making them and their future offspring into permanent wards of the state. At the same time Washington is bailing out everyone “too big to fail” and writing up thousands of regulations that favor Big Business and choke small to medium businesses. The net result of all this is the concentration of wealth among fewer and fewer people at the top. Redistribution of wealth will only result in further impoverishment as it does not solve the underlying problem but it does act as a deterrent to anyone who ever thought about being financially successful. Instead, we must “redistribute” human capital (meaning the skills, experience etc. that people possess not the people themselves – man is not capital) because it represents a scarce but potentially infinite resource (Scarce because not everyone has it and infinite because you don’t have to take the skills away from one person to teach them to another). In this way we can increase the productive capacity of state dependents as well as offer them opportunities to employ these new skills and get them off of the benevolence programs of the state. After all, that’s what the goal of government welfare is supposed to be (even though today it is not. Instead we are a nation of able-bodied men and women who believe that we will never walk without crutches.) isn’t it? To help people temporarily until they can support themselves.

    http://ohnimus.wordpress.com/2012/10/01/the-american-class-war/

    • Peggy R

      Christian O. As I said above. People need to understand what has caused this gap to increase. Excellent analysis from you.

  • http://chicagoboyz.net TMLutas

    One of the reasons that 42% of the millionaires do not feel wealthy is that they are frugal. They may be socking away huge amounts of money but they buy the same cars that their neighbors do, perhaps holding onto theirs a little longer and buying them second hand for cash. Their houses are generally in good neighborhoods but not in flashy McMansions. They can spend money but they choose not to. Try reading the millionaire next door to get a grasp of the phenomenon and you’ll be surprised at the gap between media presentations of the rich and reality.

    • Hezekiah Garrett

      So no one gets to enjoy the average millionaire’s wealth? That is so sad!

      I have always contented myself, at the end of a day’s toil, with the knowledge that I contributed to someone, somewhere, getting to enjoy being a millionaire. Not merely enjoying the knowledge that it’s tucked away. What a waste.

      Frankly, I make my decisions on a similar basis, actually, and that is what is so astounding about this discussion to me. I honestly don’t know what I’d be worth if I saved all that excess up, but I haven’t. I haven’t gotten to enjoy any of it, or hardly. But I have enjoyed mightily the knowledge that it’s gone.

      • Hezekiah Garrett

        Well, there are economies of scale involved, I admit. I pay cash for motorcycles 3rd or 4th hand and buy my clothes second hand. But the same principles there. I understand the value of being frugal.

    • Marthe Lépine

      There is a name for that kind of frugality: in French it is “avarice”, something like a strong attachment to one’s money. (Sorry, I don’t have my dictionaries at hand right now and the terminology data banks I regularly use in my work are too specialized to contain such words in general use.) In French, this word is connected to the mortal sin of “greed”… I do not imply here that people should spend all their money in unreasonable ways just because they have it. But rather that maybe they should not always be concerned about higher and higher profits, there are other values in life.

  • http://industrialblog.powerblogs.com IB Bill

    I really wish we’d make this argument in terms of moral hazard than class envy and class warfare. (i am commenting on the initial post.) The reason to raise taxes on the very rich is because it encourages speculation and bubble-blowing, instead of creating real wealth by building businesses slowly.

    • http://ohnimus.wordpress.com Christian Ohnimus

      actually we have the central banking system and bailouts to thank for bubble-blowing. As for taxes: if you’re talking about taxing income then this will hit the “frugal millionaires” mentioned by TMLutas above but will barely even scratch the ultra-rich who accrue their wealth in other ways. The unscrupulous banksters at the top won’t even be touched and even if they were they could just compensate with a nice million dollar bonus the next time the government bails them out for being “too big to fail.”

      • http://natewinchester.wordpress.com/ Nate Winchester

        Now I’ll gladly get on board any “end bailout” movements we’re starting up around here. Let companies fail!

        • http://ohnimus.wordpress.com Christian Ohnimus

          Agreed. Any economist can tell you that loss is just as important to a well-functioning economy as is profit but businessmen and politicians don’t like to be reminded of that so we hear all about “societal risk”, about how when a large, politically connected company is at risk of going under its actually all of civilized society which is at risk and we must give them billions of dollars to “keep the lights on.” Societal risk however is a myth, a political tool with no legitimacy in economics that serves only to hold the public hostage and make them pay for the mistakes of their “betters.” Let them fail. There are plenty of little guys with lots of potential to take their place – and not at my expense.

  • Andy

    Just another piece of information – read all of the graphs before making comments – it is instructive http://www.businessinsider.com/whats-wrong-with-economy-charts-2012-10?op=1

    • http://natewinchester.wordpress.com/ Nate Winchester

      Hold on a sec…

      Let’s have fun with the charts’ own quotes.

      The problem with inequality, by the way, is not just the sense of unfairness. It also hurts the economy–because “the 90%” spends a lot more than “the 10%,” and the 90% is hurting.

      Ok, so if the 90% spend a lot more then how come:

      Profits are at an all-time high, wages at an all-time low. Wages simply have to go up.
      And wages as a percent of the economy have hit an all-time low.
      Big companies are making more profit per dollar of sales than they ever have before.

      So the majority of spenders are worse off by profits are at record highs? How does that math even work?

      Households borrowed like crazy.

      Well ok, that’s fair enough some people should have spending discipline, but that’s the fault of parents, nothing much we can do about that except raise our own kids right. Although…

      Two big reasons. First, “globalization” opened up a vast new labor pool–3 billion people who were willing to work for a lot less than Americans.

      Yes! How dare we open up opportunities for the poor in other countries to gain wealth. How is that fair to the world? We need to keep those poor foreigners poor! /sarc

      This, plus the decline of labor unions, put pressure on wages. Average hourly earnings (adjusting for inflation) haven’t changed much in 50 years.

      Hourly earnings don’t matter as much if cost of living has decreased. Didn’t see a chart on that.

      Also, let’s think about this a moment. Everyone stops spending so… the record profits go away, right? Then what are the workers going to be paid with to increase their wages?

      • Ted Seeber

        Globalization does not make foreign workers rich. It merely drags down the wage average for everybody as companies seek the country with the lowest cost of production. As soon as the cost of production begins to rise, they’ll close the factories and be off to the next country with a lower cost of production, in an eternal downward spiral to slavery.

        • http://natewinchester.wordpress.com/ Nate Winchester

          Citation needed since… well just about every record shows that globalization increased the GDP of developing nations they came to. (also, how can the downward spiral to slavery be eternal if there’s not an infinite number of countries?)

          I recommend:
          http://www.iie.com/publications/papers/paper.cfm?ResearchID=388
          And:
          http://www.tektonics.org/guest/bhcapital00.html

          • Ted Seeber

            The downward spiral becomes circular when American minimum wage becomes less than many countries in Africa.

            We aren’t there yet. But already capitalists are fleeing China and India due to rising labor costs:
            http://www.supplychaindigital.com/outsourcing/india-no-longer-the-cheapest-outsourcing-location

            • Marthe Lépine

              And when we get there, the bubble will explode: workers and consumers are one and the same. When all the workers are poor, consumer spending will necessarily slow down considerably. The only way the current system can work is if there are somewhere some consumers left…

          • Marthe Lépine

            GDP is not necessarily a reliable indicator. It might rise even if only very few individuals – often close to the circles of government – develop huge fortunes in some developing countries while the people at the other end of the scale are still starving.

            • http://natewinchester.wordpress.com/ Nate Winchester

              Assertions, no evidence provided. Sorry for your loss this round, but we do have some great consolation prizes.

              • Hezekiah Garrett

                No evidence is needed. This is QED stuff, but I will try to explain.

                GDP is an acronym meaning Gross Domestic Product, that is the total wealth of an entire nation of peoples. If Warren Buffett took all his wealth to Papua New Guinea, what do you think would happen to the GDP of PNG, even if Warren held onto every last dime, and absolutely no change was accrued in the finances of any citizen of Papua New Guinea.

                Therefore, citing GDP doesn’t do anything to back up your baseless and unsupported assertion that globalisation increases the wealth of third world people. I thought righties were all big on how 3rd world despots soak up all this wealth and aid causing all the starvation and suffering we saw in Ethiopia, for example? But now, you need someone to CITE such things?

                What a mad, mad folk Americans are.

                • Marthe Lépine

                  That’s a very good example.

            • Marthe Lépine

              And I have a consolation prize for you too:
              http://www.jesuitforum.ca/content/rich-and-rest

          • Hezekiah Garrett

            GDP?

            You have no room to criticise anyone’s ignorance of economics, buddy.

            • http://natewinchester.wordpress.com/ Nate Winchester

              Oh gee, that must be why people use GDP per capita (and/or the gini coefficient).

              Tell you what, pick a country (maybe one of those despot ones) that we have a free trade agreement and we’ll check it’s GDP per capita over time.

              (of course I’m no fan of despots and wish all people could be free and possess private property, sensible governments, etc, and I do wish this nation would treat friends like friends and enemies as enemies sometimes, but I’m also not going to deny that such actions taken won’t have a cost. The question you have to ask yourself, is that the cost you want to pay? And what will you do if it fails?)

        • Peggy R

          The average wages of developed nations may be pushed down by globalization, but the incomes in the developing nations will rise. The incomes in developed nations are also hurt by high immigration, skilled and unskilled–legal and illegal immigrants. For example, there is an influx of H1B tech workers that has pushed down wages for American citizens in the private sector. More experienced Americans have had to gravitate toward national security jobs where foreigners are not often eligible to obtain security clearances to work.

  • Kirt Higdon

    Hard to see how poverty is such a big problem when so many people are trying to one up on the latest electronic toy and the main health problem in the country, especially among the “poor” is obesity. How did our parents and ancestors, who were much poorer than we are, manage to maintain intact marriages and large families? Right now, we are undergoing economic stagnation and relative decline compared to some other countries and I don’t see it changing very soon, but it’s not a disaster. Japan is now into its third lost decade and is still quite prosperous. I’m sorry for anyone who’s main goal in life is the accumulation of material goods. This applies to some rich and relatively poor alike, but you also find very generous rich people. For the last few years, I’ve had to make do with less and I expect that trend to continue. I actually think it has improved the quality of my life.

  • Peggy R

    Actually, there is a link between poverty and morality, and it’s not that all successful business men are Bernie Madoffs. Some are generous and compassionate like Mitt Romney. (Do the research on that)

    The fact that we need to speak about is that a huge percent of babies are born out of wedlock in America. That means single young women and their children living in poverty dependent upon the state and federal social welfare programs. Nationwide, and in my state of IL I noted, about 40% of babies for quite a few years now, are born out of wedlock. It is a moral, social, economic, and fiscal disaster. If men and women wait until marriage to have (sex, thus) children, they’d not be poor likely. There was a conservative group study about that a few years back: finish high school, get a job, then marry and while maybe not rich, you won’t be dirt poor.

    http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/329432/latest-statistics-illegitimate-births-roger-clegg

    • Ted Seeber

      If Mitt Romney was truly generous, he’d be living like St. Katherine Drexel did.

      • Peggy R

        Never happy, are we, Ted. I didn’t say Mitt was a saint.

        • Hezekiah Garrett

          No, you called him generous and compassionate. I saw the numbers crunched. He didn’t come close to my level of giving in the last decade, adjusted for scale. Surely, you’ll now tell everyone how generous and compassionate I am? I have at least made what pass for difficult sacrifices in this country in order to divest myself of a full nickel of every dime Uncle Sugar let’s me keep.

          But we both know while I may be generous, nobody is gonna call me compassionate. And frankly, compared to the average Mormon bishop, neither is Romney. But then, if you can rationalise Basil the Great, you can probably do anything!

    • Marthe Lépine

      That old saw about people being poor because they are sinners! That is not really Catholic, don’t you know? Would you rather that those 40 % babies to unwed mothers be aborted? It is easy to say “If men and women wait until marriage to have (sex, thus) children, they’d not be poor likely.” “If” they did… but they do not, and their children suffer and are less and less likely to live a really moral life themselves. I have read somewhere a long time ago that poverty itself could make it difficult to live a deeply moral life. Sometimes it may be better to first help people get out of poverty, for example by promoting jobs with living wages, and then later to evangelize them…

      • Peggy R

        Wow. So, you don’t think that unwed mothers are often poor? And you don’t believe that unwed mothers and their children are typically dependent upon social safety nets? You don’t think women and children are better off if there is no sex or children until marriage? I guess it’s just some accident of events that, when a baby is born out of wedlock the woman and child often live in poverty, abandoned by the father. The man doesn’t suffer that way the woman and child do in illegitimacy. And his sins are worse in such cases. He does have the unmarried sex, but he abandons the child and the woman with whom he created that child…and often moves on to the next one. “Sexual liberation” has been a disaster for women and children. Men are off the hook.

        Not all sin leads to poverty. Some people get rich by sinning too, of course, as many here are happy to note. Sin usually doesn’t work well for us, one way or the other. We will feel the pain of our sin. I don’t have a view as to what order the prescriptions should come in. I don’t know if we could appeal to such folks morally at first, but certainly the practical consequences of their life choices ought to be made clear to them, and we ought to help them get on a path to stability. We do help the poor and unwed mothers greatly in the U.S. as a society and through our governments. Many have argued that it has resulted in a culture of dependence and enables this harmful lifestyle. I am sure you have many fine ideas too.

        • Marthe Lépine

          On the other hand, if economic opportunities for women were improved, maybe there would not be so many poor single women… Things such as full-time jobs with a living wage instead of part-time McJobs at the minimum wage, combined with better day care facilities – that’s just one example among many, but since in my country about 2/3 of people earning only minimum wage are women, about 2/3 of part-time workers are women, and with equal qualifications at the university level, women earn on average 2/3 of what men earn, there is a lot of room for improvement… And even Mark commented in his post above that it is just possible that poverty contributes to broken families….

        • Peggy R

          Yes, there are many causes of poverty and poverty leads to more social problems, including family breakdown. Causality can go in both directions and might need to be examined in each case, I suppose. I have just read that national suicide rates are up and deaths from suicide in the US exceed deaths from auto accidents. I don’t know the general or immediate causes in every case. But I wonder if we have a generation of young adults raised on self-esteem who can’t handle disappointments in life. Secondly, it is speculated that the national economic picture is contributing to despair and leading to these suicides–and sometimes murder of the family as well.

          Back to unwed mothers. Certainly, many pro-life apostolates as well as other supporters in a young woman’s/teen’s life seek to help her become self-supporting in spite of the circumstances of raising a child without his father. If she doesn’t have that kind of help or her own determination, she will have difficulty rising up from the alternative of dependence on public aid. As a general matter, I am not aware of any shortage of professional opportunities to women in the US. They outnumber men in universities these days, I understand.

  • http://ohnimus.wordpress.com Christian Ohnimus

    Someone above commented that because the graphic is factually true therefore it is not propaganda. That’s not necessarily true: numbers can be very misleading and can be manipulated to fit a certain conclusion, depending largely on how they are gathered and how things like “income” are defined. Now, I’m not saying that the above graphic is meant to be propaganda but what I am saying is that, while the graphic does indicate a very real problem, it does not reveal the full nature of that problem. More is needed for that than mere numbers. Economist Thomas Sowell provides a nice, succinct analysis on income disparity that is well-worth listening to in this video on economic vs. political decision making:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KeXtjnjO2tE&feature=BFa&list=UUmhrSpM3ZeJJFm_MssuueYA

    (beginning – 8:15 mark)

  • Blog Goliard

    This graphic identifies a real problem, and its numbers are generally sound.

    But the one howler I see–and really, if anyone understands anything at all about economics and tax policy it has to be counted as blatant dishonesty rather than innocent error–is the conflation of tax rates and the amount of tax paid.

    Pulling some recent CBO numbers, from 2009: the top 1% claimed 13.4% of all (pre-tax) income that year, but bore 22.3% of all Federal tax liabilities. The highest quintile earned 50.8% of all income, and bore 67.9% of the Federal tax burden. By contrast, the lowest quintile earned 5.1% of income and paid 0.3% of Federal taxes collected.

    The share of federal taxes paid by the top quintile has grown significantly, and the share paid by the bottom half has declined significantly, since the early 1980s.

    No one seems to want to make the case that these numbers must keep shifting further–to advocate that justice demands that the top quintile bear 80% or 90% instead of 67.9%, for instance. So instead they divert attention to the tax rates, identify a few outliers who pay little or no taxes (generally because they’re earning interest and dividends on investments that they purchased with money that had already been taxed, but nevermind that for now), muddy the waters a bit more by mixing measures of wealth with measures of income, and bray that the rich aren’t paying their fair share and we should soak them.

    Also, there’s a problem with the implicit presumption that categories like the “top 1%” and “bottom 10%” are static. They’re not.

    • Blog Goliard

      Regarding that last point, a few numbers from the Treasury Department, comparing tax years 1996 and 2005.

      Almost half (45.6%) of those who were in the top 5% in 1996 were in a lower income group by 2005. Around 39

      57.4% of those who were in the top 1% in 1996 had moved to a lower income group nine years later in 2005. 45.6% of those in the top 5%, and 38.9% of those in the top 10%, had also dropped to a lower income group.

      • http://natewinchester.wordpress.com/ Nate Winchester

        Yeah, I emailed Mark a WSJ article pointing out a lot of similar stats and said he should attach it to here in fairness to the “whole story”. We’ll see.

      • Blog Goliard

        Wow…I would swear that when I posted that last bit, it didn’t come out garbled. Oops.

  • http://disputations.blogspot.com Tom K.

    Considering his position on jocose lies, what would St. Thomas have said about people who quote statistics?

    • Hezekiah Garrett

      wasn’t his position on jocose lies that they are still lies and one shouldn’t utter them? I don’t think he objected to quoting jocose lies, but telling them initially. Otherwise, how many of his biographers are gonna be in the soup with him? Chesterton and de Wohl, for starters. And de Wohl isn’t even a biographers per se, but a novelist.

      So I do not think we can judge his opinion on quoting statistics from his opinion on jocose lies themselves.

      But he’d sure damn statisticians.

      • Hezekiah Garrett

        ugh, so many typos…

      • http://disputations.blogspot.com Tom K.

        I think you’ve got it almost precisely backwards.

        Statistics themselves are empirical facts. It’s the quoting of them that adds implied meaning.

        • Andy, Bad Person

          This. I have no idea as to the accuracy or meaning of the above graphic, but I’ve learned that whenever information is not presented as hard numbers, but as percentages, something is trying to be exaggerated or manipulated.

  • Hezekiah Garrett

    Dearest Lord, may you deliver your judgment of America and her people soon. Withhold from them no reward to which they are entitled for their ethos and acts. Protect Your own, whom you know, from the tumult of justice will pour forth. As you did with Israel, so too here, bring this people back to you, with the might and chains of Persian despots. Or whatever you think best.

    Amen.

  • Peggy R

    A couple of observations about this blog. Mark is a fine Catholic man, but some things are jumping out to me here this week.
    1. Allocation of votes for candidates is apparently not a zero sum game, but wealth creation and acquisition are zero sum.
    2. Capitalism is merely mercantilism or entrepreneurship that requires large investments because of technology. Technology causes centralization, not capitalism. Do those who fault capitalism also fault those who go to market and demand compensation for goods or services they provide? For this has always gone on. How do the critics of capitalism and its “unequal” distribution of wealth view feudalism, where property rights and the ability to engage in trade were limited to certain classes? Why had the Church never condemned feudalism as a system?

  • Hezekiah Garrett

    For one, even under abject total feudalism, the huge chasm between King and Serf would hardly move the needle today.

    For the second, as has been explained to you before, a Lord had as much obligation to his vassal as vice versa.

    The Highland Clearances are a great example of what happens when you move fro feudalism to capitalism. Once his duties to his people were abrogated, he either had to exploit them or be swallowed by bankers.

    No more a familial relationship, but one where he who has the gold makes the rules.

    You’d know this possibly if you put your mind to something beyond lucre, and encouraging the multiplication of sterile things.

    • Peggy R

      ***You’d know this possibly if you put your mind to something beyond lucre, and encouraging the multiplication of sterile things.***

      Meeeowwww!

      Yes, I think of lucre night and day, before the Blessed Sacrament, as I study with my children, as I shop in 2nd hand or discount stores for our needs. Yep. That’s me. You nailed me man.

      The Church approves of the right of man to improve his lot and acquire property. She does not favor the ownership of man, as a serf was to his Lord. Yes, I am aware of the ideal familial relationship and paternalism, but it wasn’t really that way for many. No man had a chance to better himself. No man belonged to himself. I’m pretty sure vassals would not enjoy cell phones or flat sceen tele’s if we remained in feudalism today. The serfs would not have the means; and such devices would not have been invented under feudalism. The freedom of man from his earthly masters unleashed much creativity and invention.

  • Hezekiah Garrett

    Your historical ignorance as evidenced by previous hysterical claims against fuedalism ought to be open for criticism.

    But yes, the Church has condemned communism in theory, criticised socialism and capitalism in practice, and remained silent on fuedalism.

    What kind of hermanuetic sees that as a mark against the Church?

  • Hezekiah Garrett

    Telephone and television.

    Thanks for proving the point about wasting humanity pursuing the multiplication of sterile things. I didn’t expect you to make this even easier.

    • Peggy R

      Obviously tele’s and cell phones are not important. I mock the poor’s owning of such frivolities. The fact that the American poor have such things is hardly a condemnation of the wealthy, though it may condemn the values of society in general. Those inventions, however unimportant, came from prior more vital inventions that have greatly aided mankind. Such inventions would not have occurred under feudalism. It is more important to note that we’d still be staying warm by fire and working by candlelight. We would not likely be reading any good books as serfs. We’d not own our small spartan homes. (I don’t want to discuss human waste issues of those days.) We’d not have an opportunity to choose any trade we want. We would not be able to choose or encourage any kind of life for our children. There would be no income to save to send our children to any university. We would have no chance to change our lot in life, nor our children’s. We’d not argue who’s morally superior here on the Internet; that’s for sure. No cars or trains. Nowhere to go unless you’re landed gentry or a servant accompanying them. We might be content in our small lives as we don’t know anything else, but those lives would belong to our earthly Lords and Masters.

  • Elaine S.

    “I mock the poor’s owning of such frivolities”
    Well, I don’t know that I’d classify a cell phone as a “frivolity”. It’s not an absolute necessity in the sense that food, clothing, and shelter are; but neither is it a completely useless indulgence like having the latest video game, collecting stuff like Beanie Babies or Pokemon cards, etc. A cell phone comes in handy in an emergency (especially now that pay telephone booths are going the way of the dinosaur), and in the case of pre-paid “dumb phones” that just make calls, can actually be cheaper than paying for a landline phone. There are certain advances in technology and communications that the poor may have to keep up with if they are to attain much hope of getting a job or freelance work that will help them to no longer be poor. (Especially now that more employers take applications by e-mail or online or expect you to be reachable 24/7.)

    • Peggy R

      Well, yes, that is a valid point, hence Lifeline since the divestiture of the Bell System in 1984, extended to mobile phones for reasons of “competitive neutrality” among technologies.

  • Hezekiah Garrett

    So name these vital advances, since you realise the futility of your former position and abandoned it.

    Elaine has handled how out of touch you are, far more charitably than I could.

    So name these vital technologies and explain the inherent limitations of fuedalism which make them impossible. I personally doubt you can name technologies more vital than your civilisation’s 2 most common means of communication. I am also willing to wager you cant explain the inherent limitations of a fuedal society in producing said technology.

    But your Pangloss impression is spot-on! Rich Little couldnt have done better.

    • Peggy R

      Well. You are a person who will not be pleased or agreed with on any point, it seems clear.

      You first mock telephones as “sterile things,” now you champion them for benefits that may accrue to the poor. Who’s changing positions now? You seem to be all over the map yourself. I don’t claim any authority on feudalism, though I think its limits on the rights of man and the implications for technological progress are rather clear as I articulated. I guess we can’t bridge the divide in our civilizations–whatever yours is. Yet, you don’t seem to mind some things about mine as you operate in this world you seem to despise. You seem to see yourself as possessing some moral superiority of which some of us could never be worthy. How dare I support a man’s right to property and to better his lot in life. Shame on me. God bless you Saint Hezekiah. I shall venerate you henceforth.

    • http://ohnimus.wordpress.com Christian Ohnimus

      It is my understanding that one of the limitations of feudalism is that each local community is self-sufficient. That sounds nice and I believe that it is one of the primary reasons that people are attracted to it but what this means is that a drastically smaller pool of resources and people are available for making everything that the given community could want or need – division of labor and the cooperation of the marketplace are severely limited. The result is that an economy of scale can never be reached in order to achieve an optimal level of efficiency in producing any one good (because of the lack of specialization on a greater scale whether it be regional, national or even global). This puts a cap on the size that self-sufficient communities can grow to before being unable to meet everyone’s needs – a cap that many economists believe is drastically lower than the current human population. Now, I’m not an economist so I haven’t done the math but the economists who have done the math claim that if we were to switch back to a feudalist system that millions would starve even in rich countries like the United States as the feudal economy simply would not be able to sustain such a large population. Frankly, that’s a risk I’m not willing to take for the sake of some Romantic vision of self-sufficient agrarian communities living off the fruits of their own labor and land – no matter how nice it may sound.

      Another point, brought up by Ludwig von Mises, is that self-sufficiency is often a prerequisite for war. The first thing that nations do when they are preparing for war is to make themselves as self-sufficient as possible, they impose sanctions and tariffs and other protectionist policies in order to cut off all economic exchange between themselves and their enemy (think Iran and the US today or our politicians’ cries to “end our dependence on foreign oil”) and all of this makes the path to war easier. One of the main reasons, I think, that we are in constant war in the Middle East but not at war with China despite our differences is because China and the US are so interdependent upon each other that any kind of confrontation would be economic disaster for both countries. Meanwhile, economic interdependency between the US and the Middle East is severely limited and the only thing that we are really dependent on them for is oil. The result, unfortunately, has been decades of war in the Middle East as we attempt to annex their oil supply and prop up pro-US puppet dictators in order to establish total energy self-sufficiency. The life-cycle of war generally looks something like this: cut off trade and start pillaging in order to establish self-sufficiency; become increasingly self-sufficient; pillage some more; continue pillaging and expanding until an impasse is reached.

      In contrast, a global market and free trade make nations and communities more and more dependent on one another, encouraging them to cooperate on friendly terms with their neighbors or suffer a loss of prosperity if they don’t.

      What we have is a trade-off between self-sufficiency which has the advantage of, well, self-sufficiency but the disadvantages of inefficiency and isolation of interests. A free market model, on the other hand, has the disadvantage of dependency but the advantages of increased efficiency with more effective division of labor, specialization, and economies of scale (to name a few) and of vested interests between communities, regions and nations. Ultimately, I consider the free market system to be the more social economic system, doing a much better job at encouraging cooperation and positive interaction between people, and therefore I prefer that over feudalism.

  • Hezekiah Garrett

    Not my fault you cited GDP rather than GDP per capita.

    Which still doesn’t demonstrate your point. In the example I gave GDP per capita would still rise, dramatically, with no change in the lives of Papuan New Guineans ( except, of course, they now live near an old white dude with more money than Davy Crockett).

    Really, youve no room to lecture anyone on economics.

    • http://natewinchester.wordpress.com/ Nate Winchester

      In other words, there no possible way to gather evidence to satisfy you. At which point, we’re back at assertions. Either pick a country and measurement so we can examine the claim once and for all, or get down off your high horse.

      I’d rather be an ignorant man willing to check the facts than be one too prideful in his beliefs to ever bother seeing if he’s right or wrong.

      Against such, discussion is pointless. Good bye.

  • Jack

    Did it ever occur to anyone the reason you’re so poor is because you sit here bitching about how others took the initiative to dominate while you complain about being lazy? Stop typing, stop getting degrees in outdated or overcrowded jobs, and quit bitching about equality when it is a concept that doesn’t exist in reality or fantasy…

    • Mark Shea

      I’m not poor. But thank you for that social Darwinist refutation of the beatitudes. Very Republican.


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