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  • Building off a question raised for me in the Wal-Mart thread

    This is not speaking directly to the changing economic model involved in the success and flourishing of Wal-Mart, so I started a new post.

    After the second world war, Jacques Maritain, a French philosopher in the tradition of Catholic thought, wrote extensively on the nature of human dignity and related it directly to the dignity of work. His basic thesis was that people derive their dignity as human beings from their direct participation in shaping the world in which we all live and being recognized for doing so through our work, i.e. our work as professionals but also our work as members of families and community organizations. His view was that receiving a just wage for one's work was important because the real aim of everyone involved in the "economy" was to create a political environment in which labor unions and individual citizens could actively participate in the way our shared experience as a human community was being grown. The "real thing" of which we are all a part is not the "economy" but the human community. Because capital drives a system in which dignity is replaced by status, he proposed that we should re-think our commitment to captialism. He did all this, as I mentioned, from a basic Christian principles of respecting the dignity in each human being.

    I'd like to hear a good argument for the excellence of captialism, that it respects what makes us human and allows us to live life in a way that could be fulfilling.

    DISCLAIMER - I'm not a Catholic, and I don't think you would have to be Catholic (or French) to be compelled by Maritain's point.

  • #2
    Re: Building off a question raised for me in the Wal-Mart thread

    Wow, this is quite a discussion topic. I'm not sure how to start answering, because the framework is pretty broad. Capitalism by definition is not concerned with human dignity on one side or the other - that is to say, it is neutral as to whether human dignity is to be promoted or exploited.

    I would suggest that rather than applying this line of thought to an entire economic system, apply the concept to the idea of the corporation - that a group of individual investors can create an incorporated entity that essentially has the legal rights and benefits of an individual person, but with none of the responsibilities or concerns, such as dignity.

    I wouldn't qualify myself to answer this question thoroughly, though.

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    • #3
      Re: Building off a question raised for me in the Wal-Mart thread

      Originally posted by AMosely
      I would suggest that rather than applying this line of thought to an entire economic system, apply the concept to the idea of the corporation - that a group of individual investors can create an incorporated entity that essentially has the legal rights and benefits of an individual person, but with none of the responsibilities or concerns, such as dignity.
      Great point. May I recommend a documentary for the ones who havent seen it yet: The Corporation

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      • #4
        Re: Building off a question raised for me in the Wal-Mart thread

        Yeah John, I was going to bring up "The Corporation" but thought some folks might find it inflammatory because it does pretty much denounce not only corporations but the governmening bodies that seem to be aiding their growth. I personally enjoyed it (medically comparing Corporations, as individuals, to psychopaths), but a true documentary should avoid drawing obvious conclusions like that. Similar to "Wal Mart: The High Cost of Low Price," I would consider it more of an activist film than a documentary. It's biased. It's good, but it's clearly biased. Our right-wing conservative friends would not enjoy it.

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        • #5
          Re: Building off a question raised for me in the Wal-Mart thread

          I'm don't know if I can do justice to either of those questions, and I have an MBA. Ethics was an elective, you know? :row__577:

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          • #6
            Re: Building off a question raised for me in the Wal-Mart thread

            capitalist societies, unlike tee-ball and communism, have winners and loosers.... It's a zero-sum game: there's only so much money on the table, so for some person/business/country to get more, someone else has to have less. Now then - how much a person's/business'/country's "ruthless dial" should be cranked up to become/stay a 'winner' is a different story...


            <insert endless left/right discussion here>



            also - not to hijack the thread, but I'd highly recommend check out this book: A Whole New Mind. (<-- link to 1 page excerpt.) I mention it because it's got some incredible insights about who the 'winners' will be in the very near future... for those of you yet to declare a major, those of you with kids, and those of you bored with your job, it is a must read!
            "Lawyers. Accountants. Radiologists. Software engineers. That's what our parents encouraged us to become when we grew up. But Mom and Dad were wrong. The future belongs to a very different kind of person with a very different kind of mind. The era of "left brain" dominance, and the Information Age that it engendered, are giving way to a new world in which "right brain" qualities-inventiveness, empathy, meaning-predominate. That's the argument at the center of this provocative and original book, which uses the two sides of our brains as a metaphor for understanding the contours of our times."

            It sounds like a touchy-feely-self-help book, but it couldn't be farther from that... it's down to earth and fact based.. he just connects the dots in a way that makes you slap your forehead, laugh out loud and go holy-crap, he's right!!

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            • #7
              Re: Building off a question raised for me in the Wal-Mart thread

              Originally posted by AMosely
              [...] a group of individual investors can create an incorporated entity that essentially has the legal rights and benefits of an individual person, but with none of the responsibilities or concerns, such as dignity.
              I often hear this assertion from the (for lack of a better term) left-wing but nobody has told me what is the basis in law for the idea that a corporation has the legal rights and benefits of an individual? Of course members of a corporation at all levels are still individual people. Should they have less rights while in the employment of "a corporation"?

              Originally posted by WhiskeySix
              capitalist societies, unlike tee-ball and communism, have winners and loosers.... It's a zero-sum game: there's only so much money on the table, so for some person/business/country to get more, someone else has to have less.
              I couldn't disagree more. There is more wealth in the world today than there was before. Compare the sum of what we have today to ten years ago and to one hundred years ago.

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              • #8
                Re: Building off a question raised for me in the Wal-Mart thread

                Originally posted by RandomGuy
                I couldn't disagree more. There is more wealth in the world today than there was before. Compare the sum of what we have today to ten years ago and to one hundred years ago.
                hmm.. yeah, you're right in the sense that the planet's net-worth increases over time... I guess this is because raw materials (and now IP) are constantly being refined and converted from "nothing" to "something"? i.e. Silicon (sand) isn't expensive per Kg, but if I make it into a "computer chip", you'd pay me money for it. So you're right - it's possible to go from a "have-not" to a "have" by making something out of nothing. (obviously i'm being overly simplistic here... i'm not an economist - just laying it down so i can wrap my head around it)

                I guess I was more generally speaking (global financial growth and inflation aside).

                My point is just that capitalism is competitive. When you buy something from someone, you don't buy it from someone else. When you got hired for your job, someone else got bad news.

                Does it then make sense that for a person/business/country to be "rich", that another person/business/country must be "poor" (or if there's trouble with that word, "less rich")?

                Like I said, I'm not an economist - but this passes my logic test... I'd be happy if someone explained (in simple terms) why I'm wrong...

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                • #9
                  Re: Building off a question raised for me in the Wal-Mart thread

                  Originally posted by WhiskeySix
                  hmm.. yeah, you're right in the sense that the planet's net-worth increases over time... I guess this is because raw materials (and now IP) are constantly being refined and converted from "nothing" to "something"? i.e. Silicon (sand) isn't expensive per Kg, but if I make it into a "computer chip", you'd pay me money for it. So you're right - it's possible to go from a "have-not" to a "have" by making something out of nothing. (obviously i'm being overly simplistic here... i'm not an economist - just laying it down so i can wrap my head around it)

                  I guess I was more generally speaking (global financial growth and inflation aside).

                  My point is just that capitalism is competitive. When you buy something from someone, you don't buy it from someone else. When you got hired for your job, someone else got bad news.

                  Does it then make sense that for a person/business/country to be "rich", that another person/business/country must be "poor" (or if there's trouble with that word, "less rich")?

                  Like I said, I'm not an economist - but this passes my logic test... I'd be happy if someone explained (in simple terms) why I'm wrong...
                  You're wrong because goods aren't the only part of an economy. Ignoring material wealth, let's say that two men are stuck on an island. One enjoys fishing and hates cooking. The other loves cooking and hates fishing. So, they decide to trade services and one does the cooking and the other does the fishing. Aren't they both "wealthier" since they're both striving to do their best at their jobs and are no longer forced to do a job they don't like?

                  Capitalism is the same way. When people strive to do their best, it influences the economy. It's more complex than the scenario I described, but wealth can be made without any introduction of new goods. Our currency is merely a way to make exchanging goods and services more convenient.
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                  • #10
                    Re: Building off a question raised for me in the Wal-Mart thread

                    Originally posted by CingularDuality
                    You're wrong because goods aren't the only part of an economy. Ignoring material wealth, let's say that two men are stuck on an island. One enjoys fishing and hates cooking. The other loves cooking and hates fishing. So, they decide to trade services and one does the cooking and the other does the fishing. Aren't they both "wealthier" since they're both striving to do their best at their jobs and are no longer forced to do a job they don't like?

                    Capitalism is the same way. When people strive to do their best, it influences the economy. It's more complex than the scenario I described, but wealth can be made without any introduction of new goods. Our currency is merely a way to make exchanging goods and services more convenient.
                    How can you ignore material wealth with regard to Capitalism? I think that plays directly into the original question. No?
                    Iím not racists, I have republican friends. Radio show host.
                    - "The essence of tyranny is the denial of complexity". -Jacob Burkhardt
                    - "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds" - Emerson
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                    - If software were as unreliable as economic theory, there wouldn't be a plane made of anything other than paper that could get off the ground. Jim Fawcette
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                    • #11
                      Re: Building off a question raised for me in the Wal-Mart thread

                      Originally posted by CingularDuality
                      You're wrong because goods aren't the only part of an economy. Ignoring material wealth, let's say that two men are stuck on an island. One enjoys fishing and hates cooking. The other loves cooking and hates fishing. So, they decide to trade services and one does the cooking and the other does the fishing. Aren't they both "wealthier" since they're both striving to do their best at their jobs and are no longer forced to do a job they don't like?
                      hmm... appreciate the analogy, but maybe you could expand it a little? I think what you just described isn't capitalism.. it seems closer to (my shalow understanding of) communism, where the goal is for everyone to have equal 'wealth'.

                      Also.. I think a key assumption I'm making is that "wealth" is a relative thing. It's how much value you have compared to everyone else... compared to "the average".... compared to your friends, family, coworkers, neighbors, etc... compared to yourself last year.


                      Would this be more like capitalism?: There's a cook and two fishermen... The cook says he'll cook for whomever agrees to share more of their fish with him. One fisherman catches a fat fish, and offers more... so he kicks gets to relax and have his fishkabob made for him('winner'). (The chef also wins since he gets a big portion of fish he didn't have to catch.) The other guy however, is stuck w/ a dinky little fish and has to cook it himself ('looser').


                      Our currency is merely a way to make exchanging goods and services more convenient.

                      hmm... so for arguments sake here, lets just say wealth = more currency... more ability to acquire goods and services. How does one increase their wealth/currency? Doesn't someone else have to relinquish it? I mean, you can't just print dollar bills.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Re: Building off a question raised for me in the Wal-Mart thread

                        Originally posted by WhiskeySix
                        Does it then make sense that for a person/business/country to be "rich", that another person/business/country must be "poor" (or if there's trouble with that word, "less rich")?
                        No. In fact the opposite happens.

                        Originally posted by WhiskeySix
                        Like I said, I'm not an economist - but this passes my logic test... I'd be happy if someone explained (in simple terms) why I'm wrong...
                        Well I'm happy to oblige.

                        Originally posted by WhiskeySix
                        so for arguments sake here, lets just say wealth = more currency
                        In this discussion, let's keep our definitions a bit more precise insofar as they relate to capitalist economies.

                        Wealth = income producing assets
                        • corporations
                        • real estate
                        • ownership in public corporations (aka stock)
                        • money in a bank account accruing interest


                        Goods = assets which don't produce wealth
                        • cars
                        • currency
                        • all consumer goods


                        The private citizen's ability to acquire wealth is one of capitalism's major distinguishing factors.

                        Edit: Spelling
                        Last edited by Nikolas; 03-03-2006, 11:25 AM.
                        A policy of freedom for the individual is the only truly progressive policy. -F.A. Hayek

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                        • #13
                          Re: Building off a question raised for me in the Wal-Mart thread

                          Originally posted by El_Gringo_Grande
                          How can you ignore material wealth with regard to Capitalism? I think that plays directly into the original question. No?
                          No.
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                          • #14
                            Re: Building off a question raised for me in the Wal-Mart thread

                            Originally posted by WhiskeySix
                            hmm... appreciate the analogy, but maybe you could expand it a little? I think what you just described isn't capitalism.. it seems closer to (my shalow understanding of) communism, where the goal is for everyone to have equal 'wealth'.
                            Hehe... I wasn't trying to show an entire economic system with that little scenario. I was showing you how two people that have no currency can still exchange services and become "wealthier". There doesn't have to be a loser.

                            And my scenario is too simple to differentiate between capitalism and communism. It could develop into either model.
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                            • #15
                              Re: Building off a question raised for me in the Wal-Mart thread

                              Originally posted by RandomGuy
                              I often hear this assertion from the (for lack of a better term) left-wing but nobody has told me what is the basis in law for the idea that a corporation has the legal rights and benefits of an individual? Of course members of a corporation at all levels are still individual people. Should they have less rights while in the employment of "a corporation"?
                              RandomGuy, the corporation as a legal 'person' was created in the Securities act of 1933:

                              The law treats a corporation as a legal "person" that has standing to sue and be sued, distinct from its stockholders. The legal independence of a corporation prevents shareholders from being personally liable for corporate debts. It also allows stockholders to sue the corporation through a derivative suit and makes ownership in the company (shares) easily transferable. The legal "person" status of corporations gives the business perpetual life; deaths of officials or stockholdersdo not alter the corporation's structure.

                              http://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/index.php/Corporations

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