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Conspicuous and flagrant wealth vs secretive and embarrassed wealth

 
unsmoked
 
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unsmoked
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12 September 2017 11:19
 

There are super-rich who like to display and show off their wealth.  However, when you read this article, do you get the impression most super-rich people are embarrassed by the disparity of wealth distribution in the world?

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/08/opinion/sunday/what-the-rich-wont-tell-you.html

http://www.kansascity.com/news/business/biz-columns-blogs/talking-business/article344527/Wealth-inequality-and-the-collapse-of-civilizations.html

 
 
Igawa
 
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Igawa
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12 September 2017 13:39
 

The first article really bothered me and I think it summed up why in these two paragraphs.

These efforts respond to widespread judgments of the individual behaviors of wealthy people as morally meritorious or not. Yet what’s crucial to see is that such judgments distract us from any possibility of thinking about redistribution. When we evaluate people’s moral worth on the basis of where and how they live and work, we reinforce the idea that what matters is what people do, not what they have. With every such judgment, we reproduce a system in which being astronomically wealthy is acceptable as long as wealthy people are morally good.

Is the society we want one in which it is acceptable for some people to have tens of millions or billions of dollars as long as they are hardworking, generous, not materialistic and down to earth? Or should there be some other moral rubric, that would strive for a society in which such high levels of inequality were morally unacceptable, regardless of how nice or moderate its beneficiaries are?

Redistribution huh? It’s really disgusting how much a free pass communism gets in our institutions and media.

 

 

 
hannahtoo
 
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hannahtoo
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12 September 2017 14:32
 

Well, it makes sense that some wealthy people try to keep their worth under wraps because there is much demonization of the upper 1%.  Contrary to popular wisdom, these people are not anywhere near Trump’s category.  They make between $300-400,000 per year.  No, this is definitely not chump change.  But it’s not of the caliber of Hollywood stars and professional sports players, nor the scions of industry and finance.  So, if they live in a nice, but not exclusive, area of Seattle or New York City, all their neighbors are getting the kids ready for school, driving to work, and taking a couple of weeks of vacation per year.  It doesn’t seem sensational…unless they contemplate that the median income is 1/10 of this, and take the time to imagine what that would be like.

In many ways, these people are helping the economy by buying goods and services.  But I suppose many of their investments might just be circulating within the financial system, enriching the rich.  So probably higher taxes are an acceptable solution?  Are there enough guilt-ridden (or generous or compassionate) wealthy folks to support this sort of change?  Or possibly greater levels of philanthropy could become the new exculpation?

The second article ends with this recommendation:  Reduce economic inequality so that resources are shared more fairly, rely more on renewable resources and hold down population growth.  I’m all for development of a more sustainable way of living, with tax dollars funding the change-over, and assuming more contribution from the wealthy.  “Holding down” population growth is not really the purview of the upper class.  It is the lower classes who have the largest families.  Population “control” is considered to be, at best paternalistic, and at worst racist.  Studies have shown, however, that when people feel secure about the future, and birth control is accessible and affordable, family size decreases without the need for draconian measures.

 
SkepticX
 
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12 September 2017 15:09
 
Igawa - 12 September 2017 01:39 PM

Redistribution huh? It’s really disgusting how much a free pass communism gets in our institutions and media.


It’s especially hard to understand reality when you develop and protect filters that allow you to avoid seeing what you don’t want to see.

 
 
Jefe
 
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Jefe
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12 September 2017 16:34
 

There never seems to be arguments against wealth redistribution from the middle class to the wealthy through programs of jerrymandering, demonization of unions, corporations as legal entities, and billionaire meddling with class stratification in the US via organizations like the John Birch society (and the Koch Brothers).

 
 
Igawa
 
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Igawa
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12 September 2017 17:18
 
Jefe - 12 September 2017 04:34 PM

There never seems to be arguments against wealth redistribution from the middle class to the wealthy through programs of jerrymandering, demonization of unions, corporations as legal entities, and billionaire meddling with class stratification in the US via organizations like the John Birch society (and the Koch Brothers).

There’s plenty of arguments against those things, and I’m happy to hear them. It’s immoral for the people at the top to rig the game so it’s even harder for the rest of us to play. Yes, fine, tax the rich, tax the corporations. I’m fine with figuring out how much the rich need to give back to society. However, that is NOT what we’re dealing with here.

The insanity of the first article is that they’re trying to argue that how much wealth you accumulate has something to say about your morality as a person. That recognizing your privilege and being humble in the face of it is not enough. You must give up that privilege to someone that didn’t earn it. And if you cling to it, you’re an immoral person.

Just wait till you get called a Kulak too, Rachel Sherman. It’s a shame there isn’t a Hell for you to go to after you starve in the gulag.

 
GAD
 
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12 September 2017 19:20
 

I’m not rich but if I were I would feel about as embarrassed as I do being white, which is not the least tiny bit.

 
 
EN
 
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EN
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13 September 2017 08:09
 
GAD - 12 September 2017 07:20 PM

I’m not rich but if I were I would feel about as embarrassed as I do being white, which is not the least tiny bit.

Same here.  I see no reason to be either embarrassed or flagrant.  Secretive?  Maybe - it’s nobody else’s business.

 
GAD
 
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GAD
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13 September 2017 08:20
 
EN - 13 September 2017 08:09 AM
GAD - 12 September 2017 07:20 PM

I’m not rich but if I were I would feel about as embarrassed as I do being white, which is not the least tiny bit.

Same here.  I see no reason to be either embarrassed or flagrant.  Secretive?  Maybe - it’s nobody else’s business.

Yeah, wealth isn’t evil, people are, and the people who say it is evil are the ones without it.

 
 
bigredfutbol
 
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bigredfutbol
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13 September 2017 08:49
 

Early American republicanism was suspicious of conspicuous wealth and luxury. Even the upper-class of the Founding generation felt compelled to pay deference to “Republican simplicity” and avoid ostentatious display of material acquisition.

The tension between republicanism and democratic capitalism underlies a lot of American history up into the 20th century.

(Pardon the digression!)

 
 
EN
 
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EN
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13 September 2017 09:01
 
bigredfutbol - 13 September 2017 08:49 AM

Early American republicanism was suspicious of conspicuous wealth and luxury. Even the upper-class of the Founding generation felt compelled to pay deference to “Republican simplicity” and avoid ostentatious display of material acquisition.

The tension between republicanism and democratic capitalism underlies a lot of American history up into the 20th century.

(Pardon the digression!)

A bit of Puritanism/Calvinism exerting its influence, no doubt.

 
unsmoked
 
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13 September 2017 10:40
 
GAD - 13 September 2017 08:20 AM
EN - 13 September 2017 08:09 AM
GAD - 12 September 2017 07:20 PM

I’m not rich but if I were I would feel about as embarrassed as I do being white, which is not the least tiny bit.

Same here.  I see no reason to be either embarrassed or flagrant.  Secretive?  Maybe - it’s nobody else’s business.

Yeah, wealth isn’t evil, people are, and the people who say it is evil are the ones without it.

Do any of you think the U.S. deteriorating infrastructure and this topic are related?  I heard mayors of Florida towns and cities saying they had been doing everything possible to prepare for hurricanes like Irma.  They said this even though they had toxic superfund sites moldering in their backyard - ready to leak and spill if there was a disaster.  I mentioned this to a friend who was watching the news with me but they didn’t know what I was talking about.  “That’s not what the mayor is talking about,” my friend said.  There’s toxic rubbish in your backyard, no money or public demand, or political will to clean it up, and your claiming to have done everything possible to prepare for flooding and 130 mph wind?

Do you think the rich living in pleasant surroundings and the poor living next door to factory hog farms, oil refineries, coal-fired power plants etc. have anything to do with the embarrassment of many ‘trust-fund babies’?

I agree, many are not in the least embarrassed.  http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3303819/Inside-Donald-Trump-s-100m-penthouse-lots-marble-gold-rimmed-cups-son-s-toy-personalized-Mercedes-15-000-book-risqu-statues.html

Not everyone living below the poverty line envies the super-rich.  Several thousand years ago the emperor of China heard about the growing fame of a farmer philosopher who lived out in the sticks raising pumpkins and pigs.  The emperor sent a courier with a bag of gold and a fabulous embroidered suit of clothes and an invitation for the farmer to come and live in the palace as the royal tutor.  The farmer said to the courier, “If you were a turtle, would you rather live in a farm pond or be embalmed in a glass case in the palace?

Courier:  A pond, of course.

Farmer:  Go back and tell that to the emperor.

https://www.forbes.com/sites/chasewithorn/2017/05/03/donald-trump-has-been-lying-about-the-size-of-his-penthouse/#783f9ad11ef8

Wealth for all - bring the jobs back home!  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lKseBx1YPgo

 

[ Edited: 13 September 2017 10:54 by unsmoked]
 
 
MARTIN_UK
 
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13 September 2017 10:58
 

I have hidden my wealth from you all…

 
hannahtoo
 
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hannahtoo
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13 September 2017 11:07
 

The story about the emperor and the pig farmer is typical of cultures where class disparity is entrenched.  Yes, rich people have hearts, have compassion.  Stories like this, or like many in the Bible have been told to remind people of their obligations to those less fortunate. 

From a parable in Luke:  To whomever much is given, of him will much be required; and to whom much was entrusted, of him more will be asked.

Many people who are wealthy give a lot to charities as well as giving of their time.  Any large, diverse, prosperous society will have people who are wealthier than others.  Often much more so.  It is not sinful to be wealthy, but it is bad for society to dehumanize of take advantage of others.  So a successful builder who employs many workers on projects of quality is a boon to the community.  But a plantation owner who lives off the backs of slaves is not.

In the modern world, the rich and poor are often separated.  So the newly engaged young woman does not know of the terrible conditions required of the miners in South Africa to unearth the diamond in her new ring.  The buyer of a sweater does not know of the sweatshop conditions endured by the seamstress in Asia.  The mother, cutting up strawberries for her son, doesn’t know of the exploitation of the farm workers.  Often, when abuses are made public, the consumers may boycott a company or a product.  But sometimes, it feels all too overwhelming, and people throw up their hands and say, “What can we do?  Everything is associated with a problem!”

 
Jan_CAN
 
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13 September 2017 15:49
 
hannahtoo - 13 September 2017 11:07 AM

The story about the emperor and the pig farmer is typical of cultures where class disparity is entrenched.  Yes, rich people have hearts, have compassion.  Stories like this, or like many in the Bible have been told to remind people of their obligations to those less fortunate. 

From a parable in Luke:  To whomever much is given, of him will much be required; and to whom much was entrusted, of him more will be asked.

Many people who are wealthy give a lot to charities as well as giving of their time.  Any large, diverse, prosperous society will have people who are wealthier than others.  Often much more so.  It is not sinful to be wealthy, but it is bad for society to dehumanize of take advantage of others.  So a successful builder who employs many workers on projects of quality is a boon to the community.  But a plantation owner who lives off the backs of slaves is not.

In the modern world, the rich and poor are often separated.  So the newly engaged young woman does not know of the terrible conditions required of the miners in South Africa to unearth the diamond in her new ring.  The buyer of a sweater does not know of the sweatshop conditions endured by the seamstress in Asia.  The mother, cutting up strawberries for her son, doesn’t know of the exploitation of the farm workers.  Often, when abuses are made public, the consumers may boycott a company or a product.  But sometimes, it feels all too overwhelming, and people throw up their hands and say, “What can we do?  Everything is associated with a problem!”

I agree with all in the above post.

Although it is not ‘sinful’ to be wealthy, I do find that even as a lower middle class person I sometimes feel guilty or at least feel the injustice of it that I am comfortable and have more than enough while others live in poverty.  I think it would be difficult for anyone with a conscience to see someone suffering or struggling in their midst and not feel something akin to guilt.  If a wealthy employer, who knows her maid is struggling to save enough money to buy a home or send a child to college, feels a twinge of guilt because that same maid has just spent the afternoon cleaning her employer’s collection of thousand-dollar shoes, perhaps this is a good thing.  This type of employer is more likely to treat their staff fairly, support charities, etc.  Guilt can be a positive thing.

In many cases, the very wealthy do seem to live in their own world, separated from the unpleasantness of poverty or even us ‘regular’ people.  In this way, they can avoid thinking about any kind of unfairness or injustice.

The injustice is not that some have too much, but that others live in poverty and despair.  If the poorest in a society still had enough and at least a hope for a better future, it would be a more just and stable society.  A large and strong middle class creates stability; however, the (lower) middle class is shrinking and becoming poorer.

Although we cannot always know how our actions will affect others less fortunate, we can try to do the best we can.  We can support unions, boycott products from unethical manufacturers or sweatshops, buy only ‘conflict-free’ diamonds (a major issue for me, haha), invest our savings in ‘ethical stocks’, etc.  I think it’s encouraging that people have become more aware and concerned about these issues.

 

[ Edited: 13 September 2017 16:02 by Jan_CAN]
 
 
EN
 
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13 September 2017 16:02
 
unsmoked - 13 September 2017 10:40 AM

Do any of you think the U.S. deteriorating infrastructure and this topic are related?

No.

unsmoked - 13 September 2017 10:40 AM

Do you think the rich living in pleasant surroundings and the poor living next door to factory hog farms, oil refineries, coal-fired power plants etc. have anything to do with the embarrassment of many ‘trust-fund babies’?

Jb8989 is a trust fund baby, and he does not appear to be embarrassed at all.


Look, we need to have a tax structure in place that assures that the government has enough money to make things work properly.  Then the government needs to spend the money wisely and not waste it.  As long as we have enough tax revenue and the money is spent wisely, we should be able to have rich people and also great infrastructure and government services. It can work, it’s just that we keep doing stupid stuff like fighting unnecessary wars, giving away money to people who should be working, and mismanaging what we have.

 
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