Rich Man, Poor Man

HOW TO MAKE CAPITALISM WORK IN THREE EASY STEPS

SYNOPSIS

The expression, “The rich get richer and the poor get poorer,” all too accurately reflects the economic truth in many countries around the world today including, unfortunately, the United States.  The traditional way to ameliorate the disparity that results from the relentless exercise of this rule is by means of governmental income redistribution and/or progressive tax rates both of which have yielded results that have been  questionable at best, disastrous at worst.  This essay posits an alternative nongovernmental, three-prong strategy.  Advantages claimed for the approach are its promise of humanitarian accomplishments; perceived fairness; mechanistic self-governing operation; retention of individual free-enterprise initiative; independence from bureaucratic manipulation; improved relations and increased mobility between social classes; and stabilization of society.  In short, a better deal for rich man, poor man alike.

A GAME OF BRIDGE

Imagine, for a moment, that the reader is privileged to be a fly-on-the-wall observer at the moment Warren Buffet and Bill Gates have just finished a game of bridge in which, it is said, they occasionally engage.  You hear them chatting amicably as they discuss matters of common interest.  Do you hear them  conniving as to how to garner greater wealth as each rubs his palms together in spasms of greed?  Or do they josh each other over whose private yacht has the greater length?  I would guess not.  More probably what you would overhear is an exchange of views on their respective philanthropic endeavors.  Since neither is the boastful type, the conversation would, more likely, focus primarily on their future charities rather than their past accomplishments.  But both could, had they the mind, list much to be proud of: the eradication of diseases that had plagued African nations, the saving of the lives of millions of underprivileged children, the sponsorship of medical research destined to improve the lives of everyone, and so on.  In short, you would have every reason to conclude that these two good men have, in playing by the rules governing our capitalistic system, acquired fortunes and then used the bulk of their gains to create a better world.

And yet, for all their good works, Warren Buffet and Bill Gates are emblematic of a grave defect in our society.  Despite their best efforts and those of other well-intentioned individuals, “the system” has produced a grossly inequitable division of wealth.  According to the March, 2010 issue of Forbes Magazine, the combined net worth of the two gentlemen is one-hundred billion dollars. My guess is that most of us have a hard time visualizing the buying power of one billion dollars let alone a hundred of them.  So allow me to hypothesize a slice of history considerably revised for the purpose of illustration.  A bit of Wikipedia research reveals that the largest Egyptian structure, the Great Pyramid of Giza, involved about 200,000 men laboring over a twenty-year period for a total, let’s say, of four-million man-years.  Now let us imagine that the reigning Pharaoh, out of the goodness of his heart, paid each laborer ten-thousand dollars a year-roughly the annual earnings of a migrant farm worker in the U.S.  Thus his total outlay for labor on the pyramid would come to forty billion dollars.  Thus had the Pharaoh the combined wealth of our two bridge players, he could have comfortably afforded two such edifices even after knocking off a half-pyramid for incidentals (pyramid workers, for example, drank a lot of beer.)  My point being, if it has escaped the reader, is that one-hundred billion is a lot of money.

Returning to today’s world, according to the Survey of Consumer Finances, sponsored by the Federal Reserve Board, in 2004 the wealthiest one percent of families owned 34 percent of the nation’s net worth, the top ten percent owned 71 percent, whereas the  bottom 40 percent could only lay claim to less than one percent.

Nor have things improved since 2004.  According to the October 4, 2010 issue of Business Week Magazine, “the gap between rich and poor in the U.S. is the widest on record, according to the latest data released by the U.S. Census Bureau.  The data, collected in 2009 and early 2010, show the broad impact of the recession, from falling household income and rising poverty levels to reduced birth rates and delayed marriage…Now 43.6 million Americans are living in poverty, the most in the 51 years the Census estimates have been published.”

Yes, most everybody is playing by the rules.  Nevertheless, the case can be made that there is something seriously wrong with the rules.

IN DEFENSE OF THE NUMBERS

Several arguments can be raised in defense of the status quo.  Among these are:

  • a. The statistics cited simply confirm the workings of a capitalistic system-proof, if you will, that everything is in order. There will always be poor among us. This is the way things have to be so we might as well get used to it.
  • b. Statistics do not take into account the mobility between classes. There is a wealth of anecdotal evidence regarding men and women, born into the humblest of circumstances, who have overcome their disadvantages and risen to the top of the heap in every profession. It takes pluck and perseverance, but it can be done.
  • c. Government entitlements, typically ignored by the bean counters, have narrowed the income gap between the rich and poor.
  • d. In many cases, capitalism has had the virtue of creating a large, and generally affluent, middle class at the same time it has enshrined poverty.
  • e. Pools of excess wealth in the hands of the rich have often been put to beneficial use in funding commercially dubious but socially useful projects. These have included research in rare diseases, underwriting unpopular but righteous causes, defending minority rights, and providing seed money for specialized problems that would otherwise go unmet.
  • f. Time and time again, capitalism has convincingly demonstrated its superiority over its only competitor, socialism.

THE DOWNSIDE

But as valid as the above arguments might be, they do not dispel the gorilla in the room-i.e. the downtrodden mass of poor people essentially trapped in wretched circumstances.  Even an incomplete catalogue of these circumstances does not make easy reading: livelihoods obtained from hard, often unhealthy, labor; substandard housing; inadequate education and medical care; dangerous neighborhoods; sometimes usurious but, in any case, inescapable indebtedness; and lives perennially preoccupied by finding the wherewithal to meet the next demand for cash.  No doubt there are indolent among the poor as there are among the rich, but the notion that the wealthy deserve their position on account of their greater effort is ludicrous.  I would suggest that anyone making that claim test its validity by trading places for a day with a”working stiff.”

Whereas I would hesitate to portray the American rich as also being “disadvantaged” by the system, the lifestyle it provides them is not altogether a bed of roses.  Indeed, the bed at times can become a bit lumpy.  Setting aside whatever moral discomfiture they might feel by the contrast between their lives and those of their impoverished fellow beings, the system obliges the rich to fend off confiscatory taxation, prejudicial legislation, lawsuits from every direction, and other robin-hood-inspired attacks against their property and persons.  More worrisome, for the more thoughtful, is the disorder they observe when they look over their shoulders.  At any given time, somewhere around the globe, they cannot fail to notice that the poor have lost patience.  How that exasperation expresses itself varies, of course, but rioting, pillage, kidnapping, and assault are among its common elements.  Thus even the least imaginative among them must consider the possibility that, somewhere along the line, the rich-man-poor-man hotspot will find its way to their own suburban tree-lined lanes.

As M. Antoine S. is said to have mused on his way to the guillotine, “the trouble with peasants-aside from their incessant demands for something to eat and their stubborn resistance to forced labor­-is their unpredictability.”

GOVERNMENT TO THE RESCUE?

Needless to say, the disparity in living standards between the rich and the poor has not gone unnoticed by governments that, to one extent or another, are forced to take into account public opinion.  And, as a result, a plethora of public programs have been created to help redress the inequity.  Unfortunately, one cannot summon government to do anything without also inviting the participation of a number of its goon-like bedfellows: the imposition of force, bureaucratic controls, political influence, favoritism, arbitrariness, and, not least of all, corruption.  Not surprisingly then, governmental income redistribution has run into problems:

a. In democratic countries, public demand for ever greater handouts to an ever growing population of recipients has led, after a series of cycles, to an overextension of handouts beyond the capacity of government to pay out of current income. It has been all to easy then for cynical politicians to maintain unrealistic levels of payouts by resorting to irresponsible, and ultimately ruinous, indebtedness.

b. Quite naturally, the wealthy have resisted governmental confiscation of their property by every means possible such as moving it out of the country, protecting it in trusts, and spreading it among family members subject to lower rates.

c. On the receiving end, free handouts have encouraged the poor to look to government as their main source of livelihood. Understandably, if standing in a line at a government agency is better rewarded than disemboweling chickens on an assembly line, this is what people will do. Unfortunately, whereas such choices may benefit a number of individuals, it damages the society as a whole. There has been, then, a consequent decline in the social norms that hold free enterprise systems together: ambition, educational attainment, the work ethic, family unity, and so on.

d. The recipients of government largesse find that it comes with strings attached. How, when, where, and for whom the money is spent is subject to the whim of deskbound regulators with but a poor knowledge of the effect of their decisions. In effect, the recipient is forced to pay for his handout by surrendering a portion of his personal freedom.

e. The inevitable growth of governmental entitlement programs has required the expansion of the bureaucracy to administer them. Society is thus burdened not only by the cost of the entitlements alone but by the not-inconsiderable cost of government workers to distribute them.

In short, the tradeoff between government imposed income distribution and the negative consequences that are certain to follow is not a particularly attractive one.  If one could be found, a nongovernmental solution would seem to be worth looking into.

A FRESH LOOK AT THE ISSUES

Before considering ways in which the problem of wealth inequity might be addressed, it would be a good idea to consider how it arises in the first place.  The statistics already cited leave no doubt that money rises up the social ladder as naturally as air bubbles rise to the surface of a body of water.  One is led to inquire then as to what activates this phenomenon of dollars bills floating upward away from denser populations into the hands of more rarified groups.  Is it some anti-gravity property of the bills themselves or some built-in propulsion mechanism?  No.  Dollar bills don’t move on their own accord.  One has to conclude, then, that we are not dealing with a physical law of nature and that the image of dollars bills floating upward is an optical illusion.  The fact is they are pulled upward by two fundamental forces designed by human beings-more specifically, by rich human beings-taking advantage, as is their right, of the golden rule that he who owns the gold makes the rules.

Rule One:  The residual profits from exchange-traded corporations are to be transferred to the shareholders of those enterprises notwithstanding the fact that the shareholders have made no contribution whatsoever to the profit being distributed other than their passive investment in the corporation.  As Gilbert and Sullivan might observe, that’s a heidy-do!  By any rational analysis, the distant owners are totally undeserving and the on-site employees, whose efforts created the profits, fully deserving.

Karl Marx characterized the practice as “exploitive,” and that, to me, is as good a description as any.  Some might wince at the notion that Old-bushy-face was right about anything, but, when one considers that, for a time, something like half the world’s population bought at least part of his argument, one has to grant that something about it was compelling.  So compelling, in fact, that they unthinkingly bought the entire package, some ninety percent of which turned out to be badly misguided.

Rule Two:  Money extracted from the fertile commercial areas shall not only accrue to the benefit of shareholders, it shall automatically keep begetting more and more money thanks to the mechanism of compound interest.  In a sense, this skewed rule is even more outrageous than the first.  Once they have achieved a point-of-no-return-to-work, the wealthy need only perform the one activity they are universally well-practiced at, sitting in place.

MODIFYING THE STATUS QUO

The reader is again gently reminded that the monetary rules described above are of mortal origin and are thus amenable to change by other mortals.  Below are three possible changes that might help to rectify the imbalances previously noted.

1. THE WORKER AS A CAPITALIST

As a first step, common sense would seem to indicate that the ownership of productive resources ought to be in the hands of the producers.  And there is, of course, nothing new in the concept.  Employee Stock Ownership Plans (ESOP’s) have been around since the 1980’s and there are some 11,500 in place today covering ten million workers.  For the most part, however, these plans have been enacted in small and medium size unlisted companies.  As things stand now, there is virtually no prospect that the bulk of the labor force in the United States could be benefited by this form of employee empowerment in the foreseeable future because of the inordinately large funding involved.  I believe an alternative approach is required.

Obviously, a major change in stock ownership would deserve a great deal of study before it were undertaken.  Congress would have to pass enabling legislation and the public be educated as to its aims.  On the other hand, the shift need not be as disruptive as it might first appear.  Consider how this preliminary scenario might unfold:

1. Instead of the dividends being distributed among outside shareholders, all profitable public companies would be required to contribute at least 25% of earnings into an account owned by the company’s employees and administered by a third-party trustee.

2. Industry-wide labor unions would be replaced by local company unions run by elected unpaid volunteers.

3. Each year company employees would contribute to the aforementioned trustee account a fixed sum roughly equal to the union dues they paid previously-say $700 a year per person.

4. Once the trustee account’s annual receipts were in, its cash balance would be used to buy the company’s common stock on the open market over a period of 60 days. Optionally, the trustee might adopt a form of Dutch auction in which it declared the amount it had to spend and requested offers to sell from existing stockholders.

5. Regardless of position, every employee’s account in the trusteeship would then be credited with his or hers pro rata share of the company stock thereby growing their stake year by year. Upon leaving the company, employees would be required to sell their entire holdings to the company at book value.

6. After a vesting period, employees could withdraw a portion of their holdings and sell it on the open market; however, such withdrawals would be limited to ensure that the bulk of their savings would be available when they left the company.

7. Throughout the transition to this new form of ownership, good leadership would be as important as ever. Given their special interests, neither the private shareholders nor the workers could be trusted to select the right person-the former too interested in short-term gains and the latter too interested in worker compensation. Instead, third-party, professional consultants having no ties-financial or otherwise-with the company, would be entrusted to select experienced managers devoted to the best interest of the company itself. Presumably a number of such consultants would arise each touting its expertise and transparent track record. Biyearly stockholder meetings would be empowered to replace poorly-performing management and/or the consultants who recommended them.

On the positive side, the above procedure would be evolutionary leaving the company, its current investors, and its labor force largely intact.  Whereas it would take decades for the plan to fully play out, its overall impact would be, from the first, a more productive, equitable, harmonious, and prosperous society.

Workers would be turned into newfound capitalists devoted at least as much as management to the success of their company.  Assuming all went well and the workers reasonably frugal, long term employment should reward them with a comfortable retirement.

Unlike the present labor-management rivalry, the objectives of company unions would naturally be closely aligned with management.  Their position would naturally prevent them from affiliating themselves with other unions, initiating work stoppages of any kind, and spending union funds on anything other than improving their members’ working environment.

Companies would be discouraged from mass layoffs because of the resultant drain upon their cash flow and/or the necessity that would arise for borrowing heavily.

The inability of companies to issue more stock plus the requirement to retire worker-owned shares would undoubtedly crimp their more audacious undertakings.  Hence there might well be fewer mergers, acquisitions, and other possibly overly ambitious ventures.  Indeed, the entire economy might proceed on a somewhat more restrained, conservative course-not necessarily an undesirable outcome.

It would not be amiss, in the opinion of the author, if the long term result of the plan offered were the total elimination of publicly-owned shares and the institutions that feed on them including investment houses, the hedge funds, mutual funds, and all the rest-in a word, “Wall Street.”  I see them as parasites living off the flow of capital, producing  nothing and consuming everything they can get their hands on.  To again quote the immortal words of Gilbert and Sullivan, “they’d none of them be missed.”

On the negative side, the property rights of outside investors would suffer a loss due to the drain on company earnings into the employee trustee account and the practice could be challenged in the courts.  Conceivably, these investors would be eventually compensated by a more profitable company thanks to a better motivated work force.

2. THE WEALTH TAX

I believe it is fair to say that no one likes the current federal tax system for reasons too well known to be reiterated here.  Numerous alternative systems have been proposed any one of which would no doubt represent an improvement on the grounds it couldn’t be worse than the one we have now.  Despite the number of these proposals, there is, I contend, room for one more.

Setting aside the details as to how things are taxed, there are a finite number of taxable entities: income, profits, dividends, consumption, services, transportation, telecommunications, commercial assets, and personal assets.  Of these, only the last does not inhibit, one way or another, the optimum operation of the free market.  If for that reason alone, a tax on personal assets-hereafter referred to as “wealth”–deserves a second look as the sole means of taxation.  Given that second look, other advantages of taxing wealth commend themselves.

It may come as a shock to some, but a poor man having trouble making payments on his used jalopy must, at least occasionally, find it galling that a rich man has no problem affording his luxury SUV.  One might characterize such envy as invidious, uncharitable, un-American, uninformed-even un-Christian-nevertheless I strongly suspect it is not uncommon.  However, were he aware that the street on which they both rode had been paid for by the rich driver, his feelings would be at least partially mollified-the point being that a tax on wealth goes a long way toward reducing class friction.

Further reflection on the advantages of a wealth tax indicates that, properly administered, it could be the simplest, most direct, least arbitrary, most automatic, and most efficient way the government could have of raising money.

The only fly in the ointment is that wealth does not like to be taxed.  Trying to do so under our existing body of law would be a hopeless endeavor.  A taxman entering a country club would find it as deserted as a speakeasy invaded by feds during the prohibition.

However, with a few, fairly straightforward, modifications of the law, the doors to the country club could be made to swing wide open allowing the taxman to enter, find all the members at their accustomed place at the bar, and, within the limits of the law, empty their pockets without provoking anything more than an occasional demur:

1. The institution of a foolproof, birth-to-grave national identification system. Severe penalties would be handed out to anyone trying to cheat the system.

2. Associated with every identification number would be a single bank account through which individuals would be expected to conduct literally all their transactions.

3. Also associated with every identification number would be a government-maintained file containing a list of all the assets owned by the individual-every asset accompanied by its own depreciation schedule. Assets would include foreign holdings, real estate, art, jewelry, stocks, bonds, annuities, cars, and anything else of tangible value. Once such a list was compiled, future additions would be automatically captured at time of sale at which time the buyer’s identification number would be input.

4. Every month, the government would levy a universal tax on every individual’s bank account and asset file balances. Emphasis is placed on the words “universal” and “every.” From a tax standpoint, it would, therefore, be purposeless for a would-be tax evader to spread his assets among family members or trusted associates.

5. The tax rate would be determined by the statutory requirement that it produce enough income to meet all governmental outlays-i.e., indebtedness could not be incurred.

6. Eventually, cash would disappear in favor of electronic transactions that would be more convenient and transparent.

Before concluding that these changes would represent too drastic a change, the reader is reminded of what is not taxed: income, business operations, corporate funds, sales, and all the other sources our inventive tax authorities have uncovered.  It should be apparent that the latter is the less efficient, more open to evasion, more time consuming, more invasive, and the more convoluted of the two choices.

One might question what incentives a citizen might have to pursue his financial goals if whatever savings he acquires is constantly eroded by the relentless taxing authorities.  The answer, of course, is that he is bound to be more motivated than ever.  No longer will it be as easy to live off of savings acquired by inheritance or by earlier endeavors.  The only sure way for the wealthy to maintain a luxurious standard of living would be to nurture a successful company with good long term prospects from which they could draw a dependable income.  Thus the ambition of entrepreneurs would be fully in accord with the best interest of the economy as a whole and the whole country would prosper.

Another positive feature of the proposed system is the boost it gives to the economy.  Untaxed corporations would be more likely to flourish and grow.  Transactions of all kind would be simpler if businesses did not have to serve as governmental bookkeepers and tax collectors. Private businesses would remain better financed because their owners would tend to extract only enough capital to meet their current needs leaving the bulk in their firms where it would remain untaxed and able to contribute to growth.

The only real losers would be government and its hangers on.  Legislators would lose their power to favor rent-seeking groups in return for political support.  They would likewise be deprived of the opportunity to finagle legislation so as to advantage friends and encumbrance enemies.  The Internal Revenue Service could relieve nine out of ten of its staff and still handle its job more effectively than before.  Lobbyists would have to find other employment, and so on.  Most handicapped of all, perhaps, would be the administration for suddenly the flow of dollars that fed its sprawling empire would be determined by one, and only one, very public spigot-the tax rate applied to wealth.  Administrations that opened that spigot further would run the risk of backlash from every taxpayer in the country-that is to say, virtually the entire population.  On the other hand, administrations that tightened the spigot would curry universal favor and presumably extended longevity.

3. MINERAL RIGHTS AND WRONGS

There is general agreement that national parks belong to the public and that they be open for its enjoyment.  Imagine the outcry if such scenic treasures were turned into gated compounds in which only a handful of the privileged were permitted entry.  Yet, without meaning to appear too cynical on the matter, I strongly suspect that the only reason that common agreement can be reached on the “distribution” of beauty is that it is not readily merchantable.  In support of this suspicion, I would point to the fact that everything that is merchantable-let’s say iron ore or oil deposits-is firmly in private hands.

And yet, theoretically at least, the argument for allowing beauty to remain public property could just as well be applied to the rest of bounty that nature has seen fit to bestow upon this country.  Where is it ordained that Massey Energy has the right to profit from our coal deposits or Anadarko our oil reserves?  It is another example of dollar bills slipping out of our hands and landing in the commodious pockets of the rule makers.  Those lucky and wealthy enough to lay claim to our natural resources are presumed to be entitled to plunder them at will.  And true to form, government colludes in this travesty by pretending to speak for us all when it endorses the exploitation of our natural resources-as though all it takes to make God, and presumably his obedient flock, happy with the arrangement is  ceremoniously saying grace before the shovels begin to slake their appetite.

In a just world, private developers would have to compensate the public for treasures they extract from natural treasury.  They would have to bid on resources in terms of so many dollars for every ton of coal, every cubic meter of natural gas, every acre of forest, and so on based on their allocation by some sort of certifiably “unbribeable” public service authority.

Such a policy would no doubt yield a tidy profit and the question would naturally arise as to its use.  Here is my suggestion.  I would give it all to our kids.  With conditions attached.  More specifically, every child, regardless of family circumstances, would, at the age of sixteen, begin to receive an annual stipend that would continue to the age of twenty-five.  To qualify for the stipend, kids would have to keep their noses clean.  Penalties would be attached to any apprehension for drug use, gang affiliation, dropping out of school, painting graffiti, vandalism, and/or all the other anti-social acts youngsters are so good at inventing.  The first instance of the above would initiate a warning and a week’s guidance session.  After that, a three-strikes-and-you’re-out rule would seem reasonable–each occurence wiping out one-third of the kid’s anticipated income.

As part of such a program, elementary school children would be encouraged to fantasize how they would spend their stipend and to share their dreams with their classmates.  Teachers would be expected to widen their students’ horizon by describing the benefits awaiting them whether it be paying for college tuition, buying an automobile, traveling the world, beginning a nest egg, starting a business and so on.  Hopefully, children would thus be inculcated with the notion that society offered rewards for those who played by the rules and they were on track to taste some of them.

I would not be so Pollyannaish as to assume that delinquency would completely disappear under such a regimen, but it would certainly be diminished.  By shepherding kids past the age in which revolt, poor judgment, and plain stupidity are most likely to strike, society would benefit by lower policing, juridical, and incarceration costs not to mention the enjoyment of a more civil society.

In response to those who would object to such a plan on the basis of their general  abhorrence of all governmental redistribution programs, I would point out that, in this case, distribution not REdistribution was involved-distributing the people’s wealth in such a way as to be most socially effective-i.e., to nurture its most vulnerable segment.

*    *    *

If the above suggestions at first strike the reader as too radical to have any practical application, he might try to imagine how an observer from a foreign planet would characterize our existing situation.  Presuming his homeland was rational (how else could he have arrived?) might he not regard our existing system as already scandalously radicalized by an entrenched minority and in wont of fundamental normalization?  And, if so, might he not find these suggestions agreeable to the ear.

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Comments

4 Responses to “Rich Man, Poor Man”
  1. Paul A. Alter says:

    I make no judgement as to the quality of the proposal. It may very well be excellent, but that does not matter to me. What matters to me is that it ignores the basic issue we must face before we can address the issues herein.

    According to U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon at the World Economic Forum Davos, Switzerland, January 2011, We mined our way to growth. We burned our way to prosperity. We believed in consumption without consequences. These days are gone.”

    In other words, we have imposed great destruction upon our planet and we are now on the verge of the point of no return. Perhaps we can avert or partially avert total destruction of the Earth, but that would require us to take action immediately. We would have to create an economy that is not based on manufacture and consumption, which is in turn based on depletion of natural resources and pollution of the environment.

    But we will not take such action because the Republican party is making it impossible through a strategy of perpetual ruckuses to distract us from the real issues. The fiscal cliff, Benghazi, sequestration, the budget ceiling, Obamacare . . . one ruckus after another to prevent the unaware citizenry from realizing that this may be the last century of our existence as a civilization.

    Wendell Curry has advanced some proposals which I respect but do not consider feasible. Others are focusing on it. But, for the most part, even bringing up the problem invokes widespread ridicule and, of course, the unavoidable refutation, “We need not worry, God will provide.” But we do need to worry and creating a new economy must be, once again quoting Gilbert & Sullivan, our “object all sublime.”

  2. Sidney Hurwitz says:

    Labor has rarely sought ongoing management responsibility and why should they considering the hazards of ownership: laying off staff when production declines, reducing pay if necessary, bankruptcy , and declining value of shares? Who needs it? Monied people can take risks. People without capital can’t. Marx urged that the basis of labor’s rewards be “need.” (“to each according to need”) That, to me, essentially defines governmental responsibility, to ensure by law that laborers all get what they must have to live on. Period. That’s possible to define. Management must come up with the scratch. The standard of living goes way up and the differential between top and bottom becomes much more in balance.

  3. tom finn says:

    I like the ideas there [Jan-Mar blog] a lot, and we should try to implement them. There’s the rub. I’m beginning to think that we do not have free will in all respects, and so the left and right are different genetically, and are not capable of mutual solutions. The big problem is the US Congress. In my opinion it has become, in effect, one of the most corrupt institutions in the world. I won’t get bogged down in that mess, except to refer to an interesting article in the Oct 18 New Yorker by Adam Gopnik about Adam Smith’s remedy for a system gone awry.
    With the unlikelihood of Congress’ passing any help soon, I propose we start out on our own, right now. This means starting, or joining existing businesses owned by the employees themselves, a la Karl Marx. See esopassociation.org and nceo.org. I’m looking around SE Mich for an esop manufacturer to no avail so far.
    What with the net, it might turn out that many people are interested in doing things themselves to improve their lives. Areas might be various insurances (auto,house, ) , health care, education, agriculture, for a few. We don’t have anything to lose but our debts.

  4. Phil Zwart says:

    I enjoyed this article very much. The ideas resonate with my own feelings about fairness and the need for change.
    I found the article easy to read and understand and a bit exciting. I hope that such concepts can somehow influence our government/non-government system.
    Thank you for writing such a fine article.

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