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9/19/12 questions and discussion

From: Jon A.
Sent on: Thursday, September 20, 2012 4:54 PM

John Peloquin and I have made a date to meet one hour early next Tuesday (9/25) to discuss and debate the issues of middle class income stagnation and the growing income inequality between the middle and upper economic classes in America. All who wish to attend are welcome. In fact, the more who attend, the better!


9/19/12 questions and discussion

1-is abundance a good thing?7/6
2-are we doomed to repeat our mistakes?7/5
3-is life a zero sum game?7/3
4-is it better to criticize poor performance or to praise good performance?6
5-overall what is the best thing to do when one meets a panhandler?3
6-why are middle and lower class voters so stupid?3
7-is war ever justified?3
8-why is transparency so difficult?5


is abundance a good thing?

Eric: in the West we're all about build build build. We've created an abundance. Oprah once advocated intention on her show as essential to making the world into what we want it to be. No one is starving here. 

Lorelei/Mike T.: 1/6 children in America are "food challenged" and it's gotten worse the past few years. 

Lucy: the Children's Defense Fund says poverty in America has increased over the last 3 years.

Eric: we're now debating what starving is. 

Mike: is that part of understanding abundance?

Eric: we're talking extremes here, we digress. We're also the first place where obesity is a problem for the impoverished.

Sean: are you talking about the west vs. the impoverished nations?

Eric: right, we're talking about different understandings of poverty. Are people who seek abundance really happier, or are we creating narcissists? Are we really building community via our unique American abundance?

Bob: there are a lot of kinds of abundance; there's material abundance, an abundance of good judgement. How did our ancestors who had abundance behave? 

Rick: there's a factor of money involved. Abundance has always been a problem. It used to be spoils, leftovers from conquer. Or, we overproduced. Money was a way to keep us from spoilage: one could exchange one's abundance for money before it spoiled.  Abundance is therefore a really old problem. As to the impoverished fat people with color TVs and microwaves; a side effect of that is there are people who are unfamiliar with the historical abundance problem and how it has traditionally been solved.  We've become abundant faster than some of us here can adapt. So abundance is not a good thing. Abundanced produced a solution that led to more problems.

Lorelei: I find abundance impossible without lack. it's balance. 

Jon: each individual should add and subtract? Add to their lack, subtract from their abundance?

Lorelei: we can have too much of something without having too little of something else. That's not how it is now.

Eric: leading to superficial relationships?

Lorelei: right!

Mike: abundance is a good thing. If it's more than one needs then one then has needed resources for creativity and problem solving. An abundance of good judgment plus an abundance of money is a very good thing. Resources equal opportunity.

Eric: are Warren Buffet, Bill Gates examples of this?

Mike: yeah

Sean: it seems the opposite of abundance is poverty. In some circles -- like monastics -- poverty is a good/preferred because then one is free of the burdens of ownership. One could not expect more than a specific group to live that way.

Jon: Monks live off the abundance of their societies.

Bob: monks were famous for making beer, it was essential!

Sean: trying to force the issue, saying "ok, we have an abundance and we're going to turn it into equality," the result becomes poverty; Communism. If abundance is organic it's possible for sharing it to work. What does it mean for me to live sustainably? What's objectionable is gluttony. Warren Buffet tries to live in a sustainable way, perhaps in spite of his wealth. It's ironic that his insight/lifestyle only seems to work when the wealthy realize this for themselves: it's clearly wise, but it can't be successfully forced upon them. I would never wish poverty on someone, but how to manage poverty's solution is very tricky.

Lucy: are the consumers in wasteful societies part of the problem with abundance? We used to darn our socks, now we just throw them away! Lots of food is thrown away while still edible. David Brooks' recent column was about Romneys 47% (his campaign declaration that 47% of Americans pay no taxes). He seems to advocate deprivation as the best motivator towards success. People are motivated best when they feel competent, not when they are deprived. Opportunity trumps poverty. Deprivation is not always a motivator. It also depends on the kind of deprivation. We need an abundance of opportunity. There are degrees of wastefulness. "Freecycle" online is a way to donate. I love it. 

Rick: my technical point is that static abundance is a bad thing. Abundance that isn't acted upon. If one sits on their money, it's a problem. When we look around, have relationships, we want abundance than means "I want to believe you're doing for me what I would do for you."

Lorelei: for me, sometime too many options is bad.

Mike M.: we can agree abundance is synonymous with surplus. Anthropologists say it's what has enabled our species to build great things like the pyramids. Rotting extra apples is not an abundance problem it's a problem of distribution. Forbes Top 400 List has Bill Gates at #1 and Buffet at #2. Buffet has no need for his billions and has no problem telling every other rich person to pay taxes. He supposedly gives a lot to charity but it doesn't move him down the list!

Mike T: isn' t his money his work?

Mike M.: that's my point; the use of abundance is doing things with it. Investment. Buffet is a good example of everything. As to the poor; it's also been measured how much people need for their subsidization. The real problem is the recipients too often don't spend the money their given wisely. We don't want to fix the poor we just want to maintain them. The idea of the disenfranchised, the hopeless is fairly recent in America. There are Depression photos of men in suits, with college degrees, willing to beg for work. People willing to do that are not disenfranchised or hopeless.

Jon: isn't there a qualitative difference between what Buffet does with his money, or what Bill Gates does with his money and the majority of what wealthy Americans do with their money?

Siva: there is nothing wrong with abundance unless it's the result of theft. Someone who owns an oil company, goes to Somalia or some other impoverished place,  exploits their oil, that's theft. European settlers stole this content from the natives. a lot of the abundance, therefore, is the result of theft. It's not genuine abundance. Our wealthy control the message and conceal that their wealth is theft-based. If a drug dealer goes to Mexico kidnaps someone, asks for ransom money he's called a criminal. The wealth and power establishment considers that bad. But both they and that drug boss are criminals.

Rick: is productivity acceptable?

Siva: yes absolutely. 

Mike T.: I'd like us to go in a different direction. If we as a species were wise we'd be reducing earth's population to 2 billion as fast as we can. Then, those remaining would likely have abundance. We now have too many people for abundance to be legitimately shared by all. Overabundance of people is not good.

Bob: this is good. Many different frames of reference have been demonstrated tonight. Abundance and diversity is a great asset. If I live somewhere where I don't need to be rich to survive, this allows freedom of expression and productivity. This is a rare societal dynamic in human history. Humans have always pursued abundance.  But everything depends on one's frame of reference. Diversity is a boon for us. 

David: I think we're asking the wrong question. It's really about social justice. Equality is impossible to define. It's about social justice: what do you deserve.

Bob: if someone decides to write poetry and the collective decides he can't is that good? If the society decides too much for us, how do we thrive? People are truly suppressed in some places but we still have more diversity now than ever before.

Eric: zero sum game. Diversity is a payoff. With abundance we can use everything we have to improve our lives together. Without it we can't. We sometimes choose badly when we focus in the wrong direction. That poet can do whatever he/she wants if they've saved up enough resources to provide for themselves.

Bob: are we not free to make a bad choices?

Eric: only if they don't harm others in so doing. Is freedom always a good thing?

Bob; we have evolved governments to insure freedom (although not so much lately).

Eric: some thing should be abundant. others not. We can and do miss on the things that can contribute to effective seeking of abundance. Via Public Relations too many of us find ourselves with false abundances. Abundances that do not move us in the correct directions.

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