What is wrong with this world...

Discussion in 'Science & Society' started by cosmictotem, Nov 21, 2014.

  1. Aqueous Id flat Earth skeptic Valued Senior Member

    Ad even US goods.. Some examples: automobiles (beginning with Datsun, Mazda and esp. Honda); stereo equipment (beginning, say, with Pioneer) and even musical instruments (for example, the Yamaha grand piano began to replace the Steinway). Of course this is just a smattering.

    Hey thanks for that. Really amazing, how the (as I imagine it) "heuristic" approach to driving down prices could wreak havoc on suppliers. There were several predecessor chains in my area which had really cheap stuff (one of them carried a pretty complete line of hobby chemistry supplies) and they died quickly after Target opened, and WalMart began to expand.

    Yes, although I had to pause for a moment to contemplate, say, a Manchurian manufacturer of Kosher pickles (just kidding, I think) but things like this do also bring focus to the somewhat arbitrary nature of brand identification. It traditionally has been the mainstay of products that tout fashion, style and stuff that wealthy people like to have, and the rest of folks therefore often presume is high quality. But Kosher is Kosher (I guess) which kind of got me thinking of a few ways brands can foster loyalty which are maybe less ephemeral than the wave of designer goods.
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  3. cosmictotem Registered Senior Member

    And what will you do when there are none to very little jobs that can't be automated? There are only a finite number of activities humans need to perform to support their comfort and existence.
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  5. cosmictotem Registered Senior Member

    How would you do it? How would you fix the need for loans, since loans are a sign that workers are not getting enough of a return for their work in order to provide basic needs such as shelter and transportation for themselves? Loans are help and a system where people need help, is not working. How would you get rid of even the charging of interest on debt that doesn't even really exist? Thanks to the invention of interest, there is more moneyed owned that currently exists in the world.

    How would you fix a system where the overwhelming majority of the population have to look to banks and insurance companies to pay their way through life? Where do you even begin?
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  7. joepistole Deacon Blues Valued Senior Member

    You begin by asking questions but you have to do more than that. Capitalism is great however it isn't without problems and one of those problems is the excessive accumulation of capital. So the solution is twofold, one, capital must be redistributed through the state by taxing excessive accumulation of capital and investing in infrastructure and tax credits for those who earn less income. Two, we need political reform which nullifies the old "he who has the gold makes the rules" paradigm. One of the reasons we have so much wealth inequality today is because the rich folk write the rules. Wealthy special interests have much more influence over government than your average Joe does. The problem cannot be fixed unless we do both. We don't need to scrap capitalism. We just need a little more political and economic fairness.
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  8. Billy T Use Sugar Cane Alcohol car Fuel Valued Senior Member

    Nice to be able to completely agree with JOE (post 144 anyway) but I will add a "defense of interest."

    Workers in any sustainable society must save during their working years for when they can not work (or have relatively few years left and thus demand higher rate of pay to give up their time, doing what some one else wants done - IE much younger people don't value each remaining hour as much as they do so will work for less.)

    This "savings" generates "capital." Capital is not the invention of the devil, but a natural consequence of human mortality. Capital can be invested and naturally grow (or sometimes be lost, if poorly invested.) All societies have some capital, perhaps only the land and natural resources they control, but wealthier societies have "currencies" which can store capital.

    If the society is not "sick and dying," time must not erode the value of this capital. IE the average rate of "risk adjusted" interest on invested capital must be no less than the inflation rate; but that is not the only justification for interest. Interest helps allocate capital to various potential applications.

    The owner of capital naturally wants to get the highest risk adjusted rate of interest he can. If a borrower of capital, A, wants it to build store S and borrower B wants it to make a new newspaper, P, most would expect, especially in this internet age, that S would be able to pay higher interest than P.

    Thus, interest in an open market directs capital investments towards those application that most judge more likely to be profitable (generate more income per dollar invested). One only has to look at the history of all centrally directed societies to understand that, on average, this "interest allocates system" is very much better than any select group of public capital managers.
  9. cosmictotem Registered Senior Member

    So you want to keep people's need to possess and accumulate money but remove its influence and power? That's probably impossible. Not only will you have the wealthy forever pushing back against you but the need for people to possess and accumulate wealth implies its power and influence over them which the wealthy can, again, exploit. If it has power and influence over them, prices can be negotiated up and basic necessities such as healthy food, housing and transportation made out of reach of many without resorting to loans and credit.

    The current system is designed to require a lot of unnecessary exchanges and third party relationships created only to build more wealth for the people who created them, not facilitate ease of efficient access to resources, which a proper economy would do. How is it in any way efficient to have people pay for the use of other's money they should be making enough of themselves in the first place? And most of us have been sold such a bag of goods we can't even see the bizarreness of it anymore.

    What we need is an on-demand society where our collective energies (not stock piles of wealth) are applied on an as-needed basis without the fear of citizens being subjected to runaway prices.
    Last edited: Sep 28, 2015
  10. joepistole Deacon Blues Valued Senior Member

    Actually, no. I don't assume people will stop acting like people. You apparently do, which is the exact same mistake communist leaders made. People will always make mistakes and people will always act according to their nature. There is no magic wand or magic alexor which will change human behavior which has evolved over many thousands of years. People will always covet. People will always strive for status. It's in our breeding.

    What we can do, is similar to what has been done in business. We can establish processes which minimize our faults and that is what needs to be done.

    The wealthy are going to pushback under any system and you are not going to eliminate the wealthy either. Russia, Cuba, and China tried it, we can see how well that worked out. They wrecked their economics and the wealthy and powerful were unchecked. What can be done, is what I recommended. Government can and should act to redistribute wealth and keep the economy competitive. But to do that there must be egalitarian representation in government and sadly that doesn't exist in the US. It exists elsewhere, but not in the US.

    And you think that makes sense? Use of another's property be it a house, apartment, car, truck or money has a cost associated with it and it is not in any way unreasonable for those costs to be paid by those who use that property. It is efficient is costs are borne by those who use the resources.

    And what hell is an "on demand" economy? Are you saying we don't have on demand production? I guess you missed the 90's when on demand production was the rage and continues to be he backbone of most industries.

    "Stockpiles of wealth" what does that mean exactly? That wealth isn't sitting in a huge warehouse. It's in land, buildings, manufacturing and shipping facilities. It's being used. To imply that it isn't makes for some nice demagoguery but little else. The real issue is how it is being used and who is benefiting from its use.
    Last edited: Sep 28, 2015
  11. cosmictotem Registered Senior Member

    The point is the current system is unsustainable and is already coming undone whether I or anybody else wants to undermine it or not.

    It is technology and technological advancement that is undermining it.

    The current system requires employment to sustain consumption and automation and robotics are on track to undermine employment.

    3D printing, hydroponic farming, open source technology, renewable energy and various DIY movements are simultaneously undermining consumption.

    You and BillyT are trying to hold on to a system that is phasing itself out.

    And something must replace it so you better start getting comfortable with thinking about non-monetary alternatives.
    Last edited: Sep 28, 2015
  12. joepistole Deacon Blues Valued Senior Member

    And what would lead you to that conclusion? What makes you think the current "system" is unsustainable? The economy has done very well. Though it could have done better if Republicans in congress hadn't vociferously opposed appropriate fiscal policies, and threatened to cause a deb default and shut down the government on multiple occasions.

    Technology isn't undermining it at this point, but there will come a time when automation and AI render human labor essentially worthless and the economy will transition from a labor based economy to an ownership based economy. That doesn't eliminate competition or then need for free markets markets. People still need good and services and they still need a mechanism to distribute resources. But that doesn't mean the end of capitalism.

    If those tax credits I previously mentioned are not implemented, then laborers might be unable to purchase as many goods and services. It's a "might" because in a free market economy the elimination of labor will cause prices to fall across the board. So while workers may earn less, costs will be less as well.

    Those technologies you have referenced make the production processes less expensive and more reliable. But it doesn't eliminate the need to ration scarce resources and that is what capitalism does. And as long as there is a need to ration limited or scarce resources, capitalism and our monetary system will be viable and needed. In order to get to where you want to be, you will need to solve the basic economic function of scarcity. Now some day, that might become possible if we all become bits inside a computer and lived our lives inside a computer with multiple backups. But that ain't where we are today. Maybe in another half century or more, but not now.

    So yeah, I have thought about it. Ultimately communism might prevail, but that will only occur if and when the fundamental economic problem of scarcity is solved. As long as scarcity exists, there will be a need to distribute those scarce resources. Man has never known a time in which resources were not scarce. Our whole being has been focused around procuring scarce resources. The real question is how will man adapt to a world in which scarcity doesn't exist? When I was a small child of about 5 years old, my mother use tell me that Heaven was a wonderful place where all needs and wants were fulfilled. It was happiness all day long every day, and I remember thinking to myself, Heaven must be a really boring place. Is man really ready for the elimination of scarcity?
  13. cosmictotem Registered Senior Member

    What do you mean by "scarcity still exists"? Do you mean it by the way of mismanagement of basic resources or an actual lack of enough resources to go around?

    There are obviously several areas we can draw from that imply it is mismanagement.

    I don't have the stats at hand but I'm pretty sure the world produces enough food for its population but it is produced in quantity enough in select places and a lot of it ends up being wasted. Add vertical hydroponic farming to the mix and we're in even better shape.

    Furthermore, I also believe land is not scarce, as the entire population of the planet can fit in an area the size of Texas. Not only that, but humans have a unique ability of taking unlivable land and turning it into an oasis. In addition, we are even capable of constructing artificial islands.

    If we convert to renewables such as solar it would be very difficult to argue that the energy output of our sun would result in energy scarcity.

    It seems the only thing we are legitimately scarce of and which will continue to increase in scarcity, are jobs, a central component of the free market. And the infrastructure to efficiently distribute our abundance and energy saving technology to the rest of the world.
  14. Billy T Use Sugar Cane Alcohol car Fuel Valued Senior Member

    No I'm not. Nor do I assume some "demand economy" can or will replace it.

    I assume life styles will decline for those with the best now as global populations continue to be much larger than can be sustained at even half the material wealth of the average American. What is "phasing itself out" in American and Europe is the "middle class" while those in India and China are rapidly growing (to mention only the largest two).

    Technology and automation has made producing items for consumption cheaper with many materials, like whale oil, no longer needed as much as they once were; but there is a limit to this cheaping and substitution process.

    For example, food production, while getting cheaper in US and some less well off societies, has steadily needed more limited energy per calorie produced, and many less fortunate than most still starve.

    Climate change will exacerbate this. Already water shortage where half of the US's vegetable and fruits are produced now have raising their prices. The "jet stream" is wandering much more and bringing un-expected freezes to the deep south of US. Ever more erratic weather is and will increasing wreck havoc with food production. Oceans are becoming too acidic to produce as they once did (as well as "over fished").

    In the long run, if they exist at all, human populations must be greatly reduced. AI robots, which only need to "eat" sunlight and whose material bodies can be nearly 100% re-cycled may become the dominate population. Then "scarcity," which has limited man since before hominoids existed, and built a war-like nature into man, may cease to function and your "demand economy" might be able to function without "price" allocating the scarce materials.
  15. cosmictotem Registered Senior Member

    Every phasing out implies a phasing in and the middle class will have to phase into to something and it won't be sweatshop labor. People are not stupid. They are going to demand more than returning to the exploitative relationships of the past.

    China is generating much of the new technology driving the transition and its exploited people will be aware of the labor-freeing potential.
  16. joepistole Deacon Blues Valued Senior Member

    No, it has nothing to do with mismanagement. It means simply, human needs and wants exceed resources.

    "The economic problem—sometimes called the basic, central, or fundamental economic problem—is one of the fundamental economic theoretical principles in the operation of any economy.[citation needed] It asserts that there is scarcity; that is, that the finite resources available are insufficient to satisfy all human wants and needs. The question then becomes how to determine what is to be produced, and how the factors of production (such as capital and labor) are to be allocated. Economics revolves around methods and possibilities of solving this fundamental economic problem.

    The economic problem arises mainly due to two facts: human wants are unlimited, but the means to satisfy human wants are scarce." https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Economic_problem

    There will always be mismanagement. It's kind of like evolution. The inept get weeded out in free markets. But not all markets are free and excessive capital accumulation leads to monopolization which is inherently inefficient if left unregulated. That is why, with the exception of legal monopolies (e.g. utilities) monopolies are at least nominally illegal. However, with big money and the influence it buys in our government, legal monopolies have been allowed to form for the sole purpose of quelling competition (e.g. sports leagues, American Medical Association, etc.) and are protected by the government.

    Well food scarcity in certain regions isn't so much an economic problem as it is a political problem. Corruption runs wild in many of those countries. Political leaders often steal from people who are suppose to receive food assistance. It gets back to the problem of corruption I mentioned previously.

    Well land is scarce in the sense that not everyone who wants land has land or can obtain land and there is relatively little unused land. If you took all the people in the world and stuck them in Texas, could they sit down? As for your assertion everyone in the world could fit into Texas you are ignoring the fact that much of Texas is uninhabitable dessert. One of the problems with your assertion is it assumes all land is inhabitable and it isn't.

    The total land surface area of Earth is about 57,308,738 square miles, of which about 24% is mountainous and about 33% is desert. Subtracting this uninhabitable 57% (32,665,981 mi2) from the total land area leaves 24,642,757 square miles or 15.77 billion acres of habitable land.

    "Divide this figure by the current human population of 7 billion (that's 7,000 million people!) and you get just under one hectare (2.3 acres) per person. If all the habitable land on Earth were equally distributed among all human beings present on Earth, this is the per capita share of good land per person. Again, however, we have not allowed for any nice amenities such as roads, schools, hospitals, shopping malls, rivers, lakes, reservoirs, parks, golf courses, etc. Even so, could you live on 2.3 acres?

    Efforts have been made to estimate the amount of land needed to sustain an average individual human (link). A person living the lifestyle of an average American requires almost 24 acres, ten times the world per capita share."


    Yeah, land is scarce and some people use land more effectively and efficiently for a variety of reasons. As mentioned, people would have to use their 2.3 acres to produce their electricity, build their electrical appliances, roads, sewage, etc. And if you had to do all those things on your 2.3 acres of land it would be terribly inefficient.

    Well it would be great if we could just say we are going to get our energy needs satisfied by harnessing the Sun. But it takes more than just saying you are going to harness the energy of the Sun. You need solar cell and batteries and labor to install them and then you need many days of sunshine and maintenance and replacement as parts wear out and become damaged. So unfortunately, harnessed energy from the Sun is scarce. Because the equipment, land, and labor needed to construct devices to capture and use solar energy are scarce and expensive. So while the Sun produces "free" energy, the devices needed to capture and use that energy are not free and they are not as reliable as energy from other sources.

    Except, that isn't true. There is a huge gap between human needs and wants and our ability to satisfy those needs and wants and that is the fundamental economic problem, and you can't have your communist nirvana unless and until that fundamental problem is solved. Because until it is, people will always compete for those resources and if competition is allowed, there will always be some who have more and some will have less. It's a competition for scarce resources. It's why millions of people roll out of bed every day and go to work. People compete for scarce resources. It is what motivates them.
    Last edited: Sep 29, 2015
  17. Billy T Use Sugar Cane Alcohol car Fuel Valued Senior Member

    People did not work in sweatshops, because they were stupid! Smart people will work there if that is the only place they can compete with machines, as unlike machines, they need to buy food, pay rent, etc.

    The US middle class is shrinking mainly by "bottom leaking." - The lower class is expanding. Many without any job for so long they are no longer actively looking for one, or have just a part time one; so they are counted by BLS as if they were fully employed - i.e. not counted as "unemployed." A large part of why the "labor force participation rate" is at an all time low. It at least counts those who could work but don't, for various reasons, including their own choice.

    An honest BLS should count everyone who would like to work 40 hour weeks but can not find such a job a "unemployed." If that were done, then the US unemployment rate would be in double digits.

    PS: I notice as usual, you ignore points in post 151, you don't like. For example climate change's effects on food prices, and probability that life styles for next generation will be lower, not better by some "demand economy" which is only an untested dream.

    Your posts are mainly pointing to imperfections in the current system, not any supporting evidence that the Demand Economy could even function. For an analogy example:

    True 5+6+7 is not 18 in some imperfectly done calculations, but that is not proof it is 44 either. That 44 is like your argument that current system is not perfectly done so the demand economy must be the correct answer (44, no proof required).
    Last edited: Sep 29, 2015
  18. cosmictotem Registered Senior Member

    Bill, you need to calm down. You're not thinking rationally.

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    People are not going to tolerate returning to working in sweatshops with all this technology around us.

    And I'm not ignoring climate change. You're ignoring indoor vertical hydroponic farming.

    Okay. Forget about the demand economy. Why do people need to work as much with all this self-sufficient technology around us? I can spend a little money and generate my own electricity for my needs. And I can modify my electricity needs to need even less money. Why do I need as much money and employment as in the past if I can power indoor plant lights with my solar technology and combine that with indoor hydroponic farming technology to create an edible produce garden in my own home? So I've already eliminated recurring monthly payments for electricity and food. And why buy a car and pay insurance? I can get an electric bicycle to get around my local city or neighborhood town or, if I'm lucky find an online job. And I can rent a car for longer trips. Again, I don't have to work as much to pay off that car loan or insurance premium. Check. And why will I need to do any work myself at all in the future when I can just buy a robot and rent its labour out to pay whatever few bills I have left by then?

    So capitalism is losing workers and people are losing jobs not only because companies are automating. But because increasingly more automated, self-sufficient technology is coming online and being made available to the consumer.

    Eventually, we will hit the singularity where payment for basic necessities of life will not make any sense anymore because no human will be working to provide them. Capitalism will have naturally out paced its necessity and phased itself out.

    Now my whole point is, we can speed that process up with planning and government investments toward moving in that direction. But people, such as yourself, are putting fear into people's heads by saying it's "communism", "it's already been tried and failed spectacularly", etc...

    So because of all the fear mongering, we basically have to slowly and haphazardly drift in the direction we're moving in anyway at a snail's pace thanks to people who want to preserve money exchange.

    And YOU have never answered ME as to why we will need money or jobs when every life-supporting task is automated?
    Last edited: Sep 29, 2015
  19. cosmictotem Registered Senior Member

    What happened to you, Billy T? Have you finally thrown your hands up in disgust?

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  20. river

    We are being generally dumbed down.

    And this dumbing down of people is evident in social apps. And TV. programs.

    We have become so extremely social that we have become blind to the physical post in front of us all.

    Our intellect is based on social intellect. Not science intellect.

    We have an unbalanced intellect; generally speaking.
    Last edited: Jan 1, 2016
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  21. Waiter_2001 Registered Senior Member

    We have sciforums. Have you tried other channels? Welcome to all new sciforumers! I promise not to secularize you!

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  22. paddoboy Valued Senior Member

    F%$#!!! Coffee on the screen again!

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    I often talk about delusions on this forum: river sees himself as the epitome of the above.

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  23. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    I don't find the average person today to be significantly less intelligent, educated or wise than his counterpart in the 1950s when I finished high school.

    But what has been noted by sociologists and demographers is that the major demographic group in the USA (middle-aged people of European ancestry) is experiencing a reduction in longevity. And it has nothing to do with pollution, random shootings, or unaffordable medical care. The primary causes are alcoholism, overdosing on today's powerful drugs, and suicide--including suicidal behavior such as drunk driving.

    These are the people who, as children, were taught to assume that the future would be Disneyland without the long lines. Instead, except for those of us who took school seriously, then went to college, and ended up in high-paying jobs, they're no better off than their parents were, and in fact on the average they're worse off. Their jobs have been offshore-outsourced to China, their mortgages are underwater, their aging parents are squeezing them for cash to make up for their pensions shrunken by inflation, and on top of that, their own children are living in their basements, increasing the food budget that they were already trying to economize on and, if they even have jobs, their contribution to the family budget is paltry.

    It's no wonder that these people don't see a future worth living in. So they do the same thing they did as adolescents: stop taking life seriously, and take drugs that make them happier for the moment. They don't care about the future, so if it can be erased by the right drugs, they'll happily trade it for a slightly less somber present.

    At first it seems a little odd that our immigrants and other demographics such as the grandchildren of the Jim Crow generation, don't share this attitude at all. They go to work, learn how to get by on what little money they bring home, and do their best to get a good education for their children. The reason for this has been identified as strictly attitude: people in the Third World and Afro-Americans were never promised a bright future! For them, just being able to get by is a victory. If you live in a place with a lot of Third-World refugees, watch their eyes light up at the mere sight of an electric stove or a flush toilet, and stay to watch them gasp in shock when they discover that even on their meager salary they can afford a home that has those appliances! These people think they're in heaven, while so many of our own people think they're in the other place.

    Most of our SciForums members are well-educated and can expect to have prosperous lives, so you'll probably take care of yourselves and live a long time. But you'll probably notice, as you get older, that a larger and larger percentage of your peers are not of American ancestry. Everyday conversations with people from different backgrounds will make for a spirited retirement!

    However, I can't imagine how this will affect politics in the USA, so you'll have to figure that out for yourselves. I'd guess that there will be a resurgence of religion and other socially-conservative relics of the Bronze Age. If you're gay, you might want to learn a new language and emigrate to Europe.

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    Last edited: Jan 2, 2016
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