Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.
Display:
I think your description of American poverty is a microcosm of global poverty: the ever-increasing gap between rich and poor, an increasing many for whom the world system doesn't work. We refuse to admit how our affluent societies climbed to their lofty heights. The deregulation of the global system for the benefit of our corporations mimics the debasing of our social safety nets at home. The EU castle is lovely but there is an impoverished mob trying to cross the moat. The world economic system also doesn't work without the poor.

Here is the problem: we've all heard about the complementarity of inflation and unemployment. The problem is that policy analysis may look good on paper, but when you look up from the paper you realize you are making conscious decisions about allowing more actual people to become unemployed, or allowing actual people's savings to become devalued. And there is no way out from the moral quandary. There are indications that the economic system works most efficiently when a small fraction of the population is allowed to slip through the cracks. The problem is that noone likes to be the one slipping through the cracks. The analysis looks good on paper, but then you realize you're talking about actual people.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Oct 11th, 2005 at 06:59:15 PM EST
I think your description of American poverty is a microcosm of global poverty

Damn!  You caught me.

And, actually, I haven't heard about the complementarity of inflation and unemployment.  I understand the economy the way a trailer park resident understands tornados, but I'll take your word for it that there's some sort of correlation or rationale.

I've also done enough reading to get a basic grasp of the arguments, so I understand there has to be a balance.  You say to be efficient a small percentage have to slip through the cracks, but it seems to me we've passed "small percentage" although perhaps not in the EU?

And why is there no way out of the moral quandry?  I think this bears some exploration.  It seems to me some countries are doing quite nicely -- how are they making it work and why can't we all do it?  I mean, I understand if we had things even somewhat fair, we wouldn't be able to build empires and dynasties and whatever the corporate equivalent of those are, but do we really need those things?

Maybe we can eventually make language a complete impediment to understanding. -Hobbes

by Izzy (izzy at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Oct 11th, 2005 at 07:46:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
...because it is a rare situation where you can make a policy decision that makes everyone be better off, or that improves all indicators. So there is no way out of the quandary. And at the end of the day you are dealing with actual people, so the quandary is a moral one.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Oct 11th, 2005 at 08:23:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, I'm way out of my depth here, but why let that stop me?  I can see your point perfectly about quandaries being moral when any action is going to hurt someone.  That makes sense.

But, when the arguments become that x cannot be done because it cuts into y's profit margin, then I'm not so sure.

For instance, I see our healthcare system as immoral and don't understand really where the quandary part comes in.  We can afford a national health plan.  People are dying.  It's somewhat of an emergency if you look at that fact and the rising infant mortality rate.

We can afford a national health plan.  It would benefit a majority of the people.  It would save taxpayer money since we already pay so much per capita by having a two tiered system.  It would benefit doctors who are drowning in paperwork and insurance.  It would benefit many businesses who are paying exhorbitant insurance rates.

A national health plan seems win-win to me.  Who would lose?  The HMOs, and Insurance companies.  I say fine, cut out the middlemen and let them find useful work.  I suppose the pharmacuetical companies would suffer a bit of profit loss as well.  Again, I don't see that as a bad thing.  I don't think medicine should be the road to wealth beyond imagining.  I think the current CEO salaries and stockholder profits are grotestque.  

So in this scenario, I don't see a quandary.  I see something that's simply the right, the moral, thing to do.  I see leaving the system as is to be immoral.  So, is there a downside I'm unaware of?


Maybe we can eventually make language a complete impediment to understanding. -Hobbes

by Izzy (izzy at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Oct 12th, 2005 at 12:56:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
So, is there a downside I'm unaware of?

Nope.

by btower on Fri Oct 21st, 2005 at 12:47:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
And it requires moral decisions that are reasonably obvious unless you obfuscate them with dodgy economic philosophies.

People will fall through the cracks as a result of the way the system is set-up. It's not primarily their fault. That's why we should be ready to catch them, support them and at least stop them hitting bottom. Make sure they have adequate shelter, adequate health care and adequate food. Ensure that they have the material resources to maintain some self-respect in a society that equates material wealth with moral rectitude.

Blaming the people who fall through inevitable cracks in the system is stupid and evil: maybe some of their choices did help them fall, but if they hadn't it would be someone else. Maybe you.

The key difference between the US and European models seems to me to be a general acceptance in the EU that the people at the bottom should be supported while from over here it looks like that  in the US the consensus seems to be "to hell with them, it's their own fault".

That's what you get for letting Puritans found a country.

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed Oct 12th, 2005 at 02:18:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Here is the thing: if you get the people to identify with the wealthy or the ruling classes, you've won, because it will be political suicide to suggest (say) higher taxes for the wealthy in order to support a safety net or a way to bring back up the people who fall through the cracks.

So, the class war has been won by the wealthy by conditioning everyone to think of themselves not as they are or have been but as they might be in the future if they are hard-working, lucky and successful.

That people in the middle class and even the lower class identify most strongly with the wealthy is the only explanation I can muster for the average American's ideas about social justice, poverty, taxation, etc.

This identification with the wealthy is reinforced by the "American Dream" myth of the self-made man who pulled himself by his bootstraps out of a disadvantaged background and became wealthy (the only definition of "successful" that Americans accept). American politicians and business leaders will go out of their way to present themselves as "from the people".

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Oct 12th, 2005 at 07:51:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]

the class war has been won by the wealthy by conditioning everyone to think of themselves not as they are or have been but as they might be in the future if they are hard-working, lucky and successful.

This is a fundamental point. I read a poll that stated that something like 10 or 20% of the population thought they were in the top 1% earners. Yes, everybody in the USA can make it rich, so laws that could be detrimental to me then, even if it would be good to me now, have more trouble being sold.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Wed Oct 12th, 2005 at 03:18:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
something like 10 or 20% of the [US] population thought they were in the top 1% earners.

Jérôme, you must be joking. (Sadly, I know you are not).

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Oct 12th, 2005 at 05:59:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Radio Host Garrison Keillor has an imaginary town he reports on each week. One of its properties:

"All the children are above average"

Policies not Politics
---- Daily Landscape

by rdf (robert.feinman@gmail.com) on Wed Oct 12th, 2005 at 06:51:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I actually think that's quite funny.  I think the whole thing is "Where the women are strong, the men are good looking, and the children all above average."

Now if you want to hear something that's not funny, some school districts have actually made it a requirement for graduation that you have an above average GPA.  In other words, they're dictating that our children will be above average.  It's so absurd and I thought of Keillor when I read it.

Maybe we can eventually make language a complete impediment to understanding. -Hobbes

by Izzy (izzy at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Oct 13th, 2005 at 06:26:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Prairie Home Companion is quite funny. It airs on NPR, and if you follow the link to "Archive" in the program's homepage you can download an audio stream of past shows. I recommend it, it's really poetic as well as entertaining.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Oct 13th, 2005 at 06:44:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]

Display: