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31 May 2011

Comments

Russ Steele

Ellen and I raised and educated four daughters who are making signiicant contributions to society, in the legal, medical, marketing and educational fields. We have been justly compensated for our effort, with a big bonus of four bright and intelligent grand children. We did out job and now they are doing theirs, contrubuting to society and generating wealth for future generations. We could not ask for a better payoff from our investment in time and effort.

Russ Steele

Should read "did our job"

Paul Emery

Thanks to all of you for the respectful conversation

Okay let me take this discussion to the future world we will reach probably after I'm pushing daisies and could care less.

In my view we are on a collision course with consumptive capitalism munching away on this planets finite resources so that within 20 years we will face critical shortages of essential raw products that today are packaged and sold as consumer goodies to anyone who can afford them. This includes petroleum based food products particularly animal products that are dependent on oil based fertilizers for feed crops. Look at the rapidly dying oceans as another example. Yes, global warming is real and I will not argue that because we'll just get into a battle of stats and opinions and besides that's only part of the problem. Just accept that for the sake of my support of Caring Economics.

When this tipping point occurs capitalism in order to survive will have to place a value on the three most important jobs we will have. Raising children, care for the sick and elderly and care for the Earth. The survival of capitalism will depend on this transition.

Mikey McD

#1.) God will provide
#2.)Necessity is the mother of invention.
#3.) Global warming is making more earth accessible to farming and drilling.

Todd Juvinall

I couldn't disagree more Paul. I am an optimist about the planet and the life-forms living here. I am glad to see you think there is life after death though, since you say when you are gone you could care less which seems to imply a belief in an afterlife. So, if you think there is another system out there that does not place a value on the things you have listed, please enlighten us. My guess, there is no form of human congregation which does not have a system to exchange things or money for for things. But I am all ears.

When I watched "Scrooge" make his statement to the the two men asking him for a donation on Christmas Eve and he rebuked them with his statement about "decreasing the earths surface population" I took it as a mean old businessman (capitalist today), a tightwad who could care less about people and their progeny. I was wrong. It is the "progressives" who are the true Scrooges.

stevenfrisch

We must internalize the externalities.

Paul Emery

Todd

As an example of your optimism can you tell me some good news about how the ocean is going to be restored for future generations?

Account Deleted

Let's start with Paul's comment "One of the problems with capitalism as it is heralded by the self described conservatives is that it places no value on the work being done, only on whether it turns a profit." This is factually untrue. I'm trying hard to understand where in the world he obtained this idea. In a free market, the only way you can turn a profit is by providing a service or product that has been found valuable by consumers. Does Paul seek out and pay money to folks who do things or provide a service in which he finds no value? This, in fact gets exactly to the point of a free market vs a govt directed market. The govt will take my money and give it to those that it finds to be providing a value to me. In fact, the opposite is taking place. The govt has no clue (outside of it's Constitutional mandates) what is valuable to me. The more of my earned money that I can keep and spend means that there is a far more honest appraisal of what is truly valuable. If Paul is really concerned as he claims to be about wasted resources, the govt should be the number one target. Most of the privately built housing stock is still in use where as almost every govt insta-slum of all shapes and sizes are torn down within 2 decades of their construction. What remains standing is foul and unhealthy for the most part. Govt regs waste an incredible amount of capital and resources that Paul claims he is against. A good example locally would be the example of citizens being barred from using local and renewable resources to construct a home. Every home now constructed must use imported and treated lumber at great waste of fuel and chemicals. The result will not prevent any forest fires (actually might cause more as there will be less timber harvest and clean up) and only a handful of homes might be saved as a result. Buy local? Just a simple minded slogan by libs to justify a very selective reading of that quickly forgotten creedo. His next howler stands up well along side the famous "God himself could not sink that ship" I don't know how old Paul is, but if he is near my age he might clear away a few cobwebs in his mind to find that this very exact view was held as the gospel truth back in the 60's 70's and onward. We were all going to die. Sorry Paul, you and the others were and are simply wrong. But hopes for mass destruction via starvation caused by wealthy capitalists springs eternal, so off you go.
The bottom line is, if you want to cut back on waste (and I do) go to the source of most of it, not work around the edge where your prejudices and religion lead you. Can structures and vehicles be built and operated at a very reduced cost and waste of resources? Absolutely! And who stands squarely in the way? The govt - every time. We agree on the problem, (waste) but only the conservatives place it at higher ranking than a govt run society.

D. King

Paul,

Your post reads like a Grimm’s fairy tale.
Not so much gloom and doom my friend!
One sea-change in how we produce energy and everything bad thing in your post will be solved.

This will happen Paul.


Todd Juvinall

Paul, so you believe the oceans are rising and they are getting acidic?

D. King

every bad thing...

Sorry.

Paul Emery

Scott

I am going to use tobacco merchants as my example in this discussion. Capitalism is indifferent to the consequences of it's products. So I contend there is good work and bad work. With that in mind it seems to be an injustice that a care giver for an elderly person is paid a very small wage and the marketers and product designers of tobacco products are highly paid. There is no profit in care giving only a meager wage because the source of income does not come from a profitable product. A successful tobacco product designer can become wealthy by producing a product that causes death and illness.

The reason we have resorted to poorly run government social welfare systems is because the work of caring and care giving, which includes raising children and care of the earth does not carry an exchangeable value which is the essence of capitalism. Purchasing cigarettes does. Establishing a value for this work is the basics of Caring Economics.

Paul Emery

Todd

Many fish populations have depleted to the point where they may reached the point of no return without drastic international action.
You can start here
http://www.helium.com/items/1357093-ocean-oxygen-depletion

and here
http://www.aquaculture.co.il/Markets/deterioration.html

Account Deleted

Paul - you seem to run all over the map. First you claim one thing and then switch to something different. Being "indifferent" is not at all the same as "not placing value". A major problem with your criticism of capitalism is you have no understanding of what capitalism is. It is a tool. A hammer is a tool and operates quite well at bashing sculls as well as driving nails. We can somehow fabricate a hammer that will fail to function if used on anything but nails, but the cost will go up astronomically as well as becoming an extremely cumbersome and inefficient tool. The money paid to producers of tobacco products is directly related (in a free market) to the value the users of tobacco products place on what they do. There are many people that can give care to elderly folk with very little training outside of common sense and rudimentary life skills. Furthermore, the expenditure of time tends to be very high especially in a one on one situation. A person that makes a lot of money on producing tobacco products (outside of the govt - they make more than anyone) is a very small number of people. Their time is now paid for by millions of tobacco users. The tobacco users pay a very tiny amount of money per year directly to these small number of highly paid tobacco executives and product designers, while an elderly person must pay a great percentage or all of a care givers salary and benefits every year. Capitalism does not establish values. It is an efficient tool to allow the exchange of things of established value between willing buyers and sellers. I'm sorry the world doesn't line up exactly with your values. Instead of blaming capitalism, why don't you try explaining to the world your beliefs - and if they aren't accepted, then it's just too bad. As soon as we allow the govt to decide what is of value, we will descend into an economic collapse. Why should you have the right to decide for me what is of value and yet tell me I have no right to decide for you? You can not artificially create a high value for a job or profession and then try to print enough money to cover that added cost. Would you be happy to pay the same for a flimsy poorly made shoe as you would for a well made one? Of course not. But why should I be forced to pay some one more than what I value their labor for? It has never worked and never will.

Todd Juvinall

Paul do you classify a person growing and selling marijuana as a capitalist?

I asked you on the oceans question if you believe they are rising from global warming and if they are becoming acidic. You gave links to ocean dead zones written by Debbie Luyo who is not even a scientist but simply a exercise and food writer of no renown.

The other link appears to be a aquaculture company, maybe even a capitalistic company, selling their wares. I don't think they carry much weight in the science community.

Mikey McD

Paul, take heart that the cigarettes are only valuable because folks enjoy a smoke and are willing to pay for it. It comes down to values (it always does) on 2 levels. One is the economic definition of value which George included in his post. Another is what the value system of the adults in the population (self reliant? communal? environmentalists? conservationists? etc).

The anti-smoking industry makes good money (paid via profit or tax payer funded) attempting to change our value structure. It is slowly working in the US but losing mightily over seas. I also see care givers charging between $300-600/day for care; they are doing just fine (Obama line) and they don't have the heavy conscience a tobacco salesman might.

Paul Emery

Thanks Scott for the thoughtful comment, there is little to dispute in what you writs. I am not opposed to Capitalism I am just advocating for it;s expansion to include proper value for the most important work we do. How you achieve that is the question that even Eisler struggles with but that doesn't mean the idea isn't right. Soon we will be in the position of having to reinvent capitalism and then the question will be faced

Todd
MJ farming is probably the purest form of capitalism we have and should please the most libertarian of the group. No taxes, value based on supply and demand also risk and quality. It is probably our biggest industry locally. It also employs local law enforcement workers as well as legions from the justice and incarceration industry. The price per pound,which has been declining the last couple of years, is the single biggest factor that will determine money in the streets for our local businesses, . Our laws and legal system contribute to the value by providing a manageable risk that keeps prices high enabling a tidy profit for farmers and distributors.

Yes, of course. pure capitalism


My reference in this post to the oceans had to do mainly with the economic impact of the depletion of the ocean as a food producer and economic provider and environmental stabalizer. I thought a link to a commercial site would be appropriate since you don't trust government of UN sponsored research. The other is a pretty good essay about the overall situation. Either you agree or you don't with the premise that the ocean is in serious trouble. Where do you stand on that question?

wmartin

"There is no profit in care giving only a meager wage because the source of income does not come from a profitable product."...

Honestly, it's probably more a matter of supply and demand.

It's always rather difficult to pay well for direct labor of any kind since there's no multiplier here. A designer can effect millions of a given product (and their owners), a ditch digger can only dig that one ditch.

Assuming that some people are underpaid, and the irony of them being interested in the same profit as the tobacco demons is not lost on me, how would you go about determining fair wages? A People's Pay Committee? Random number generator? Is part of the plan to pay housewives a wage, paid for via public money, for rearing children?

Wage and price controls seem to distort the system in all kinds of marvelous ways. The most wondrous examples I've heard of tend to come from the old Soviet Union which, interestingly enough, had about the biggest income disparity the world has ever seen.

Mikey McD

wmartin: We already do that "to pay housewives a wage, paid for via public money, for rearing children?" Welfare payments go up for each child born.

Mikey McD

Paul, the value system in the US (world) is out of whack. I had an acquaintance whine and complain to me on repeated occasions for having to pay $8,000 for a new stint to his heart. The $8k simply saved his life. My response to him was "I think you are worth $8k"- he laughed, I was serious.

The same fellow gladly paid $10k for a camper trailer 3 years ago that he has used twice.

What the !?!

Bob W

Paul,
When you state,
"True capitalism would place a value on work that is being done that currently has no compensation."
"we need to look at new and expansive definitions of the true value of work and labor and just compensation for that work."
Am I to assume that you support the idea that people be individually compensated for their efforts in varying and disparate degrees based on the value of the effort?
Please clarify.

Paul Emery

I propose that the true value of work has to do not with it's commercial exchange labor value but the importance it has to make this a better world by laboring to ease suffering, raising children in a healthy way and helping to maintain the earth so that it will be healthy and provide for the future. There is plenty of work that needs to be done. We just have to find a way to pay for it. Compensation for workers need not be extravagant, just adequate for a comfortable and stable live so they don't have to be dependent on government assistance. This concept may seem difficult but right now we have a huge unemployed workforce and lots of work that needs to be done so we must put the two together and still preserve fee enterprise capitalism. Solving this problem is the key to the future.

George Rebane

Eisler does not appear to understand the function of Price in an economy.

Price is what the Buyer pays the Seller for a good or service. Except for barter economies, it is always in the form of recognized money. In an open market, an agreed upon price between buyer and seller communicates many important attributes about what is being sold to other members in the market.

To begin, in price lies the ability to draw compensation/reward for taking the risk to bring the product/service to market (to the customer). Others can then gauge from price how they may or not be able to use their resources to also supply such product/service and receive such reward.

To suppliers the current price can be compared with former price(s) in order to communicate any change in demand, since prices in a free market are sensitive to supply relative to demand. Therefore price will induce timely increase or decrease in supply thereby allowing capital to flow to its most productive uses.

From these we see that price also provides the information of how to allocate scarce resources, thereby causing an economy to respond in the most timely and effective manner to provide the so-called Pareto optimal (the best for the most) quality of life in a society.

And finally, price has been found to be the most ‘fair’ method of allocating scarce products/services.

Price is a natural artifact of human behavior within the realities of the real world. It has its own level and can only be manipulated for a while through force or the secreting of information. If the government mandated prices are wrong in an economy, black and gray markets will immediately arise wherein the correct prices prevail to serve the above described functions.

Whenever prices have been manipulated by the government’s gun, shortages and wasteful excesses have been the result and people have suffered. Extended periods of enforced price controls have always ruined economies and even brought down empires.

As an historical aside, all communist governments have controlled prices. And all such governments – e.g. USSR, Red China, Cuba, … - have enslaved their populations and ruined their economies as a result, while still allowing various forms of black and gray markets to exist in order to keep the peace and prolong the nominal public order. As a counter, all nation-states that have eased government control of markets and economies have enjoyed the blessings brought by individual freedoms and freer markets in which prices again are allowed to communicate the realities in order to increase the quality of people’s lives.

Bob W

Paul,
The only part of your answer that I interpret addresses my question is your statement, "Compensation for workers need not be extravagant". Please understand that my question was purposely kept simple and concise. It had to do with compensation amounts. While your answer is not direct it implies to me that you do not believe that people should be compensated in disparate degrees. Is my interpretation of your answer correct or incorrect ?
Now don't go wishy washy on me. And don't tell me you were just making it up again.

Mikey McD

Compensation boils down to the following:

Do we as a society trust people to decide on compensation or government?

The best vote an American has is with his wallet. Don't like a product or the pay of the products CEO; don't buy the product.

Paul Emery

I do believe that different tasks will receive different compensation depending on the situation. It's really very simple. This is essential work that needs to and in some cases is being done without wages that deserves compensation in a just society. If capitalism cannot rise to the occasion than where do we go from here?

George

I'm talking about the future here. This may not be a comfortable speculation on my part but I truly believe capitalism has to encompass these human and environmental needs or we will fall into the type of government welfare state that you so distrust. If there is no employment for people and there's lots of work that needs to be done we have a problem. I don't want to get into the Golden Age of Capitalism regurgitation but you are pushing me there. We are not going back to the 1880's. There is no free land and resources. We're on our own to figure this out or it will be computed for us.

Bob W

Paul,
I am sorry to have to say it but you ARE getting wishy washy on me. "will"? What the H-- does that mean? Do you think people should be compensated in disparate degrees or not? I can't make this question any clearer. This isn't some trick question but it goes straight to your premise and implication. Ether you are ready to stand behind your beliefs or not. Again, try to buck up and don't go wishy washy.

Paul Emery

Oh yes
True Capitalism.

That's my moniker for profit, compensation, whatever based on doing something actually useful and necessary. For example, a baker yes, a commodity speculator, no.

Paul Emery

I'm on the road to SF so I'll catch up when I can. Thanks for the thoughtful conversation.

Bob W

Paul,
OK, it was difficult but now we can go on. So we have established that yes indeed you do believe that it is appropriate that people be compensated in a disparate manner for the value of their efforts. Now what do you believe should determine the disparate manner of this compensation? You have jumped the gun a little by making some distinction between a baker and a commodity speculator but I will try to keep from letting you divert the subject. This issue of some kind of relationship or lack between a baker and commodity speculator is a different subject so we will have to deal with that on its own.
So I reiterate, the question now is what do you believe should determine the disparate manner of this compensation? Like the first question, very simple and concise. Please try to stay on subject and just answer the question reflecting what you believe in. No wishy washy or going down some other path. If you want to comment on some other subject you can just post it separately.

Todd Juvinall

Paul, who defines what is useful? Would we elect those people to make a law saying a particular profession is useful? Regarding capitalism. If there are two musicians who play a guitar and they are hired by a saloon to entertain the folks, one draws many people and one doesn't, should they be paid the same? Should we determine a subcategory of a desired position such as maybe how good that person is at that trade?

Bob W

Hold on Todd. Don't get ahead. I'm trying to keep him on task. I know, as simple as it may seem, he hasn't been down this road before. We will need to lead him by hand.

Greg Goodknight

Paul Emery writes

"Capitalism is indifferent to the consequences of it's products. So I contend there is good work and bad work."

OK Paul, so let's say we decide to pay parents to raise their own kids. How do you get this money back if they create a lousy product, either due to bad DNA or bad parenting?

George Rebane

Gentlemen - I detect a gross misunderstanding in this thread.

Compensation = Price

Price is not some unique artifact of 'capitalism' or any other system of exchanging goods/services for consideration. Price is an artifact of basic human nature and of the realities (cost of materials, labor, production, distribution, delivery, ...) of the existential world. And prices will behave and affect commerce exactly as I have described, no matter whether they are set by Andrew Carnegie, FDR, Stalin, Castro, Eisler, or 'the invisible hand'.

Greg Goodknight

Going further, Paul, how do we judge the value of the kids these subsidized parents create? Does a child who goes on to work subsistence jobs an getting food stamps while volunteering at the local loony left radio station get as many points as a child who ends up studying at Harvard or CalTech for a Ph.D. in chemistry or physics? Or does the value of being a poor community radio jock outweigh academic prowess?

Just wondering.

wmartin

"How do you get this money back if they create a lousy product"?...

I guess you could always backend load the payment.

Maybe it would make sense, at say, age 17, to measure the product.

Build some sort of formula based on SAT score, body fat index, good basic physiognomy, subtract out genetic illnesses, juvenile hall, poor eyesight. Stir twice. And out pops a payment (or perhaps a fine) for the mother.

Any similarity between Mr Emery's plan with eugenics is purely a coincidence. OTOH, I suppose you could argue that the mother is paid regardless of whether or not she does a good job, kinda like crop subsidies.

Todd Juvinall

wmartin is really on to something. I say though perhaps we should go back further, before the birth of the child, or before the conception of the child. The potential parents should give the state a deposit, say $25,000 which the state will keep in trust until the 18th birthday. Then an analysis will be made off of a state approved chart of "useful" endeavors. If the check marks add up to $0, the parents get the money back or a portion thereof. If the child was bad, then there would possibly be an additional charge to the initial $25k which the state would keep.

Bob W

I don't see what kind of a misunderstanding could be involved with "what do you believe should determine the disparate manner of this compensation?" It has nothing to do with price. Price comes in after the factors that determine the disparateness in the compensation. Let's get those factors established first. I think we may have no basis for argument when we discover what factors Paul believes should determine the disparateness in the compensation. That is why it was so essential to first get him to commit to disparateness in compensation. Don't forget, after we find out what factors determine the disparateness we need to find out who he thinks should evaluate those factors before we get to price. Please remember, in order to have a productive discussion we must first take into account if the person has ever actually tried to analyze the issue.

wmartin

" Please remember, in order to have a productive discussion we must first take into account if the person has ever actually tried to analyze the issue."...

Actually, I can think of a couple of better precursors for one of them productive discussions.

. Whether it is arguably a good idea or not.
. That the people discussing it have a bit of power to determine the outcome.

But then, I'd make a really bad member of the Thread Police.

Bob W

I only mentioned "productive discussion" in the context of who we were supposedly discussing with.

Account Deleted

Commodity speculators perform a vital function that is necessary to our world economy. They are risking their money on the correct information about the value of what ever they are speculating on. The idea that speculators can cause an increase in the price of something is blather. If they push the price of something up higher than is supported by reality, some one else will undercut their price and they will be left on the hook with their now over priced load of whatever. Yes, they can make a lot of money bidding something like oil futures up on bad news, but they can and do loose a lot if they bid too high. Removing them from the economic system would instantly drive all commodities prices bonkers as the producers and consumers of said commodities would have no idea of the true value of what they are trading. The first thing to happen would be all producers of the commodities would hold off of the market and then jack their prices up. The buyers would then have to find the commodity brokers and hire them to perform the same function as before. But with Paul's dictate that they not be paid very much, I doubt many will do anything close to as good a job as before. I can always spot a person with no understanding of our economic system when they start running down speculators as useless (or worse) leeches in the system.

wmartin

LOL.

OK, I'll sum up.

. Tobacco marketeers make more $$$ than single mothers.
. Some book, which likely no one here has read, sez something about markets and payments for service and the like, but I'm not sure exactly what.
. The oceans are dying.
. The oceans are not dying.
. It's for the children.

Ben Emery

I brushed over the entire thread but not once did I see the definition of wealth being addressed. There is monetary wealth created from labor but the real wealth is in the products that labor created. If there is a piece of wood on the ground there really is no value until labor is put towards it to make it practical or of use for something. Without that labor the axe handle doesn't exist.

There is intellectual and physical labor, we have exported our decent paying physical labor jobs and imported intellectual labor to drive down wages in America. This created a wage/ productivity gap that was filled with easy debt/credit. The debt/ credit is tapped out and we will not see our productive economy recover until we bring back those jobs and stop the exploitation of H1 visas/ illegal immigration.

Mikey McD

Ben, how would you rate our public education system?

Are tax payers getting a good value on the product produced (are we educating good entrepreneurs, employees, laborers, etc?)?

Paul, who would lead the new capitalism mentality Riane Eisler is selling? Where does such a revolution begin/evolve? Is it an ideology pushed down through the department of education, PBS, NPR, Sat morning cartoons?

Ben Emery

Mickey,

Our preK -12 education system has been steadily on the downslide for decades, especially in California since the late early to mid 70's.

We are teaching to the test instead of critical thinking or trade skills. Text books and predetermined tests have never taught, teachers do. Teachers inspire students to want to learn with their own passion but that passion is extinguished by the idea of merit pay and funding according to these corporate test results. No Child Left Behind has exacerbated the problem making the private education industry very rich with tax dollar money while dumbing down American students. It also allows for specific ideas to be taught in a centralized fashion. Don't score well on specific curriculum and don't receive funding.

Higher education level is high but students leave college with so much debt it creates the incentive to enter into finance instead of field where their passion lies. In 2009 around 1/3 third of all income in the US came from the financial sector. Pushing money around and betting on financial markets produces zero wealth for the nation.

George Rebane

Actually BenE, there is nothing we can do in the long term to pay anyone in America a wage (price of service) that is significantly higher than what a third world worker is willing to accept to deliver the same product. It is simply not sustainable in a world where goods and services easily cross borders.

Mikey McD

Do you assign any blame to the various teacher unions?

Ben Emery

George,
We could go back to trade policies instead of a monetary policies with our so called trade agreements. I went to the McClintock rep meeting at the Rood Center and a man used a very interesting analogy to show what a good business model looked like, it was Toyota. The thing the man didn't realize is that Japan totally protected Toyota with import tariffs and subsides from those tariffs creating a strong market for the company. We did the same thing for 200 years and China does the same thing today along with devaluing their currency creating an unfair advantage for goods being manufactured in oppressive human right violator communist China. The other thing about this scenario is that nearly half of our so called foreign trade is done through intercompany trading/ transaction; HP of China trades with HP of US. This isn't trade at all but is a way around paying US living wages and increasing profits. That sounds good if you own stock in HP but really sucks if your job leaves the country along with all the small business you supported with that living wage. It is basically throwing US workers out in the cold. How is this good for a vast majority of America?

George Rebane

BenE, I'm not sure what policy you are advocating. As China, we don't have an overwhelming mass of semi-literate workers whose labor we can sell at a world dicount. As Japan, we don't want to emulate their economic policies as a developed nation that has now led to over two decades of no growth, and has put the nation on a path to an economic catastrophe as its workforce ages and its proetectionist policies come home to roost.

In the final analysis we have to remember two principles. First, that foreign trade is a global zero sum game. For it to benefit a country, it must be able to specialize in something that gives best value globally. Second, history has shown that if goods don't cross borders, then armies will.

The only way we can maintain a labor based imbalance in our trade account is to export something that we efficiently take out of the ground and sell at a competitive world price so that we can pay for our imports. So far we haven't been able to do that, and given our wants/expectations, the future looks even bleaker.

Russ Steele

George,

Your wrote" The only way we can maintain a labor based imbalance in our trade account is to export something that we efficiently take out of the ground and sell at a competitive world price so that we can pay for our imports. Would that include the 3-6 billion dollars of gold under Grass Valley yet to be mined and sold in global markets?

Greg Goodknight

Ben E wrote

Our preK -12 education system has been steadily on the downslide for decades, especially in California since the late early to mid 70's.

We are teaching to the test instead of critical thinking or trade skills. Text books and predetermined tests have never taught, teachers do.

BS. For one thing, the lower the SAT of a college grad, the higher the chance they are a K-12 teacher 10 years after graduation. In other words, more than half the K-12 teaching corps are below average. All too many are way below average, and the profession hasn't done a great job of purging their ranks of the worst of the worst.

Second, text books have taught. It just takes a good text and a reader with a clue how to read for understanding.

To summarize, a good book beats the average K-12 teacher any day of the week.

Great teachers are another thing entirely, but the unions don't make it easy to treat them better than the lousy ones.

George Rebane

Russ, the answer is an emphatic YES.

Good point GregG. For years I have taught students in my universtiy classes (and now in high school TechTest seminars) that it takes only two things for a motivated poor third world young person to change his life and grow up to compete with American workers - a math book and a candle. Invariably the class gets real quiet as that thought sinks in.

Mikey McD

Ben, what are your 'trade imbalance' solutions? How will your solutions change our foreign policy?

Ben Emery

George,
You are making the claim that American workers need to compete with third world nations.

I moment of clarity just hit me. I am not saying this in a negative context at all but a statement of reality. You seemed to be very comfortable with your positions and are honest.

A global labor market is a perfect way to create laissez-faire/ Ayn Rand style capitalism. All labor will be competing for bottom end wages/ benefits.
Is this the idea? The makers and takers social dichotomy.

Ben Emery

Mickey,
I will be writing a piece on the failure of Free Trade and what the solutions are to reverse the devastating policies to the American workforce. I will let you know when it is ready.

George Rebane

BenE - I am indeed making that claim about American workers as long as we must import the stuff that maintains an acceptable quality of life for us.

I am reminded that we will be no richer - indeed, we will be poorer - if we attempt to create wealth by sealing our borders, and then mandate that a person emptying bed pans will be paid the same as an engineer designing a new medical scanning system.

Returning to Eisler's Caring Economics: her ideas were presaged by B.F. Skinner (father of behaviourism and operant conditioning) in his 'Walden Two' published soon after WW2. It's a good read, and not too long.

Please let me know when your work on Free Trade becomes available. Perhaps you would then like to write a piece for RR in which the reader may download a pdf of it.

Greg Goodknight

Ben, US workers are already competing with 3rd world labor, you just haven't noticed where all the stuff you're buying has been made.

Ben Emery

My mom grew up in NY City during the depression WWII era. They were taught with the classics and absent of any real textbook curriculum. It was the teachers who loved what they were teaching not a textbook telling them what to teach. My mom and many relatives/ friends are teachers from pre-school to professors at universities and they would almost unanimously agree with the proposal I put forward earlier. It is teachers who create excitement for learning not the textbook, the latter is exactly what we have turned towards over the past 3 or 4 decades.

Another factor I didn't mention earlier that connects the two issues of US wages and academic achievement is the SES and support at home. When parents are to tired, stressed out, or not there at all the achievement levels drop.

I think you might like my next statement, it is the PCing of America that has destroyed much of the desire of high standards and goals.

George as you saw my son did not get a PC upbringing by me and neither did his sister. What I have tried to instill into them is; If you put good effort in you get good out, you put bad effort in you get bad out.

Paul Emery

Hey there

I was following this conversation precisely several hours ago awhile riding on Amtrack to Sf and sent an absolutely brilliant response only to have it disappear into cyperspace. I'll see what I can do to recreate it but not now.

Greg Goodknight

Ben, in the realm of math, physical science and technology, to a great extent the textbooks are the great classics until one gets into grad school, and even then texts are still quite common.

However, even in the liberal arts, you don't need a teacher telling you to read the great classics of literature and philosophy. Just check them out of the library, or download one of the 33,000 that are free for the asking from Project Gutenberg.


Ben Emery

Hate to break it to you but there are other subjects that matter. I am a soft science and history guy. Finding commonalities and correlations in the natural world, on issues, and on policies that affect our daily lives.

The point on texts are those with agenda's want to strip the teachings of civics, science, arts, and history from the curriculum of our future generations. This will be done through standardize testing from text books funded and written by the oligarchs at the top. Testing only what they deem important such as Supply Side economics is a viable economic theory when all evidence shows it is only viable to the top 1%. Or that many of the prominent founders weren't Christian but Deist and our nation was founded with the idea that we could govern ourselves. Not as individualists but as representatives of our own government instead of the super elites dictating to the rest of the us what the rules of the nation shall be.

Ben Emery

George,
I find that opinion fascinating. I know you're an intelligent man who I think was a first generation citizen. I also know you served in the military, I believe you said Air Force or was that someone else? Do you think the GI Bill had a great impact on the era of engineers, scientists, and generally strong economy of the 50's through the 70's? I do. I think without the ability for all those soldiers to get a higher education we wouldn't of sustained such a long period of strong economic and super power growth. The further we move away from such policies the worse our economy gets for average Americans and the more we become a economically rigid society. We rate 33 or 34 out of 34 OECD nations in income inequality and social mobility. How is that fulfilling the American dream?

Ben Emery

That is supposed to be income equality not inequality.

Greg Goodknight

Hard science, history and music, here.

Hate to break it to you, but the testing didn't drive schools into the mud. Locally, there was no testing for years, and the Grass Valley School District had half their kids in the bottom quartile for the very first test sitting circa '98, and it was accurate. No teaching to the test and they were failing miserably in math and language. Actually having an objective measure forced upon them was long in coming and sorely needed.

The architects of that failure, Superintendent Jon Byerrum and Hennessey Principal and later Ass't Super Linda Brown, have since retired to a cushy pension. Their math crippled students are still going through the system but the worst has passed.

I'm not sure it's worth trying to make sense of your last three sentences.

Todd Juvinall

Reading BenE's words scares the crap oot of me. How can a intelligent person actually believe what he is writing? We all went through schools and we, those of us in our 50's and 60's were the generation after WW2 that were the beneficiaries of success. We then watched as unions and trial lawyers took over and the PC police were passing judgement on everyone with common sense. The steel industry in the 60's was the first one I paid attention too and if I recall, the Japanese and South Koreans started competing with ours and soon ours was kaput. Labor costs and their countries protectionist policies started the demise.

The cost of labor is the problem. We Americans built a great country on smarts and hard work. When we allowed the left to take over our educational systems and the legal system, that began the demise of us. Someone used Toyota as an example here. Toyota and all of Japan have been in economic stagnation since 1990. They don't even make enough babies to sustain their race! Toyota started opening plants here in the South mainly and guess what the difference with their compatriots in Detroit is? Unions! Same with Walmart, the largest consumer goods seller on the planet. So, BenE needs to simply realize his ideas are what have actually led to the demise of America and the educational system, not the solution to a rebirth. We have to change the disastrous policies implemented by the left and return to our successful roots.

Mikey McD

I am pleased that TJ brought up labor unions so I did not have to :). Look at how many jobs Walmart and Toyota created over the past few decades and compare that to GM or Ford.

And my earlier question regarding public education:
Do you assign any blame to the various teacher unions?

And, speaking of classics- check out this education revolution in our backyard... http://www.johnadamsacademy.com/

Account Deleted

Careful, Ben - "What I have tried to instill into them is; If you put good effort in you get good out, you put bad effort in you get bad out."
Sounds like a free market to me.
What about the ones that don't put in a good effort? We mandate a good outcome anyway.
So you teach your kids one thing and advocate another.
At least your kids got the better deal.

George Rebane

BenE - my bio is available under my picture (left column), and more experiences are collecting under 'My Story' (right column).

Our schooling system in the humanities is pretty much defunct now. I'll post more on this later today. But getting an education in science and technology does not mean that the graduate comes out ignorant of history, literature, economics, ... . But the problem comes when the humanities student wants to sell his labor. The buyers are no longer that plentiful in our economy (save government), and they are non-existent overseas (save teaching English).

The OECD survey results are suspect on inferring that QoL depends on their measure of income inequality, and totally off on social mobility in America. Probably more needs to be said here about that.

J Cutter

Mikey - As they say, don't hate the player, hate the game. At their genesis, teacher's unions, or all unions in general, took what they could in an effort to represent their constituency. The educational system is flawed, that's for sure, but by attacking the hands-on educators and not addressing the administrative and private industry-provider contracts to the system, it sounds like yet another offense to the worker. You cannot slash and burn without impacting the teachers compensation, so how do you get there?
And Walmart and Toyota are great examples of how a lack of worker's representation contributes to our societal inequities (not to mention their exploitation of tariff-free, free trade laws). Their 'gains' came it a great expense to our national health.
And as for your John Adams Academy 'revolution'!?! Are you serious in endorsing an LDS/Mormon view of the world? This is your solution to what ails us? I have been around the 'church' all my life, and I can assure you this will not fly in the eyes of most the world with which we must engage & compete, or with the majority of the true American middle if they were aware of the guiding principles. Their adoption of 'Patriot' cover just reinforces my point that there is a dangerous melding of extremist views into the tea party mentality.

Ben Emery

George,
Here is a great book on income inequality. In the book they breakdown the US by states and the social ills that come along with income inequality.

http://www.equalitytrust.org.uk/why/evidence

George Rebane

Regarding govt subsidized education and income inequality. My experience as a systems engineer, then scientist, on the bleeding edge was pretty typical of a large class of technical workers, and therefore worth noting. Coming off active duty (Army Artillery) in 1965, I re-entered the workforce as an junior engineer with a big aerospace company. ALL technology companies urged their technical staffs to increase their educational levels. They did this through compensating the worker for tuition and school materials (books) at the conclusion of a successfully completed course. Hourly workers were even given time off with pay to attend classes. I was a salaried worker and received no such consideration, we were expected to get our advanced degrees while carrying a full project load.

As a veteran I also got on the GI Bill and got a small (pittance) check from the government. But as a young married with kids, every bit helped. Nevertheless, the big goad and help was that my capitalist employers saw me as someone of greater value to them with more advanced technical degrees under my belt. And they rewarded me incrementally and well as I made progress in grad school. Enabled by the new things I was constantly learning, I rewarded them well by inventing, designing, and building stuff that let them compete, sell, and make a profit. And this exchange was industry wide as we knew by constantly being hustled and interviewed by other aerospace companies. None of us took time off to go to school; we worked our jobs to fullest, and busted our butts studying in every spare moment and well into the night.

This went on for years – and again, I and my peers, we all did it. By the time Reagan invited Gorbachev’s and his general staff to visit our aerospace companies in the early eighties, they saw a technology development Goliath unknown in the world, building newer and more capable systems by the day for commerce and war. They went home, noodled on what they saw, and decided it was time to throw in the towel.

But that was then, when America was still populated by workers untainted by the new educational programs ushered in by the Great Society. In the eighties this began to change as Americans began taking easier paths to riches and glory through biz and law schools, and grade schoolers began to study self-esteem. The slack in technical schools and jobs was picked up by foreigners who came from countries where a ‘math book and candle’ was still the ticket to a good life. And with the freedoms of America rolled in, their advent on these shores was also the stepping stone to riches. Talk about being a socially mobile country.

Teaching to a test. Never denigrate this new condemnation by the teachers’ unions. Arguably the most successful large educational programs are run by the US military, all branches. They have always taken in young people from all walks of life and with a wide range of mental assets. And very quickly they have turned these people into highly qualified operators and maintainers of the most sophisticated systems and equipments on earth. Their secret is an extremely formalized (algorithmic) method of training the hallmark of which is ‘teaching to a test’. (All commissioned and non-commissioned officers are taught the methodology.) And contrary to socialist propaganda, such an approach does not turn out automatons and one-trick ponies, but capable and confident graduates who have a solid productive knowledge base that serves as a launch pad for American ingenuity while in the military, and later in civilian life.

It was this kind of education, first ‘mass produced’ during WW2, that turned out young people by the millions with the guts and gumption to hit the trade schools and colleges after the war, and make themselves into the envied workforce that they became. But the bottom line was that they learned skills which employers were willing to buy. Working together, both made money and built a country in an era that Americans of all ages now celebrate with nostalgia and longing. That may explain why current government schools do their best to revise and revile the history of that epoch.

Income inequality: In an economy the most popular measure of this is the Gini Index which the UN now regularly compiles for all nations. It is also cited by organizations like OECD, in the process shedding more heat than light. I have explained how this works here
http://rebaneruminations.typepad.com/rebanes_ruminations/2009/03/our-new-course-is-declared.html
The problem with rating countries on the Gini Index is that the index is double valued. Both high and low values of the index lead to very little wealth creation (GDP) and a low QoL. And in the mid-range there is poor correlation between Gini Index and QoL. In short, the index is technically correct, but using it as feedback for public policy does not work too well.

Finally, here is a short blurb I wrote on ‘Income Inequality and Education’ that explains the mechanisms of income evolution which separates the educated from the mis-educated with the passing of the years. http://rebaneruminations.typepad.com/files/income-inequality-and-education2.pdf

Ben Emery

Scott,
Like many people we all don't fit neatly into a single box. As an individual and family man I am very conservative but socially I am a populist/ progressive.

I wouldn't characterize working hard as a conservative free market idea at all.

What is being missed here is the exploitation of workers. The labor movement was about work conditions, a fair days wage for a fair days labor, and economic policies that benefited the vast majority of the population not just a small few at the top. Like any large institutions labor unions became corrupt and unaccountable. Unions do more good than harm but need to tweak how they operate to match the 21st century. A 6 to 7% unionized private (public is about the same %) work force has little to do with our current economic woes.

It has much to do with the deregulation (CDO, derivative market) of the banks and the dismantling of the firewall between commercial and lending banks- Glass Steagall.

George Rebane

BenE, you might be interested that US Govt's Bureau of Labor Statistics corroborates what we all have witnessed across the country. Yes, about 6.9% of the private sector workers are unionized, but that percentage jumps five times to 36.2% for government workers. As I have endlessly recounted on these pages, therein lies a large part our national fiscal problem.
http://www.bls.gov/news.release/union2.nr0.htm

Ben Emery

Mickey,
Walmart is the #1 American employer and its key labor policy is to keep people just under the hour threshold to receive benefits and they then advocate for their workers to apply for government assistance. Where is the accountability?

Todd Juvinall

Who set the "hours" threshold? Now you see part of the problem.

Mikey McD

Do the employees of Walmart have a choice? YES.

Walmart's policy on keeping people just under the hour threshold to receive benefits actually provides more jobs; something I assume even the labor unions are for.

Mikey McD

jcutter: please do not construe my critique of the Teachers Union as a critique on the teachers. I would venture to say that I have more teachers in my family tree than you and I consider their work to be a high calling.

Teacher Union Facts:
Excellent teachers are paid the same as crappy teachers.
You can't get rid of a crappy teacher.
Teachers are forced to join the union (with 'opt-out' privileges).
Kids and education are not even mentioned in CTA's mission statement "Who We Are"!

Opinion: why is higher compensation ('greed'?) a virtuous characteristic for Union members and not for Wall St. Bankers?

I am glad that our education discussion gave you a stage to vent your hatred of LDS, Mormons, and the Tea Party. Feel better now?

Ben Emery

Mickey,
When a walmart moves to an area it undercuts the local businesses and puts them out of business, it can do this with all the subsides/ tax exemptions given to the company to build and move to a community and with profits from a totally different region. Over 150 local business on average go under with in the first two years. So the answer is "NO" they really don't have much choice. If we changed our trade policies and import tariffs would walmart have the choice of doing business within the US or not? Yes. If they chose to stay workers wages would rise due to the fact they are not competing with powerless oppressed labor and the productive economy would recover. If they chose to leave local business would fill the gap of the absence of the one stop superstore, creating a more multiplier effect productive economy. The only entities that profit from our free trade agreements are transnational corporations, international banks, and the trade organizations themselves.

Ben Emery

Todd,
The people set the hour threshold. We all know you dislike and distrust the American workers.

Gorge Amigo

Isn't Todd an American worker?

George Rebane

Here's a piece and reference on a more true picture of what happens when Walmart moves in.
http://rebaneruminations.typepad.com/rebanes_ruminations/2008/07/big-box-buy-loc.html

Todd Juvinall

Again BenE is not making any sense. I am a American worker Ben, in the private sector. Are you? Walmart hires people up to a certain hourly number just like the County and the City does. Because once they pass the threshold set by your buddies in government, the rules all change and become enormously complicated. There becomes a mountain of paperwork and companies don't like that as you can guess. So, our position is get rid of these thresholds and leave business and labor alone. Let them work out there own contracts and keep the government out. You would see millions of full time jobs created if this was done.

Also, BenE, if the businessman did not create the business which needed a employee, then what would these people do? I suppose you never delved in to that have you?

Ben Emery

George,
In the military do they take a persons aptitude and move them in that direction? Or do they say they have a position to fill despite the ability of an individual person? I am talking about the development of individual soldiers not during emergency situations.

Like most families mine has had many people in the military, right now I have at least 6 nieces/ nephews and many more second cousins I remember being born serving in the military. My father in law was career air force and worked as an engineer with the Star War program. My Dad is air force and uncles were army, and navy. One of my uncles received a silver star in WWII. I was thinking about joining the marines in my early 20's and went to my elders for advice and every single one of them encouraged me to stay out of the military unless our country needed me, I think that was sound advice. I have given my son and daughter the same advice.

Mikey McD

"The only entities that profit from our free trade agreements are transnational corporations, international banks, and the trade organizations themselves."

You left a few more entities off your "who profits from our free trade agreements list" -specific to Walmart: "every family that shops at Walmart saving thousands a year, the other stores/services that every family can 'hire' with their savings from Walmart, every employee of Walmart, every shareholder of Walmart, every pension recipient who owns Walmart, the countless producers (here and abroad) who wholesale/supply Walmart with goods, local government agencies who receive sales tax revenues from Walmart, etc etc.

To claim that employees of Walmart don't have a choice is irrational. Walmart isn't a North Korea Gulag.

Ben Emery

Before Walmart existed at the level it does today, what did people do? How did they survive? They worked and shopped at locally owned business that had an interest in their employee's well being, lives, and commmunities. The money stayed in their communities instead of going to headquarters in Arkansas. Bob's soccer shop owners owned a home in our neighborhood. They spent their money at local owned business's recirculating the money and actually cared about its costumers outside of profit, they were helping raise the youth in our community. The Waltons and Walmart shareholders only care about the next quarter numbers not whether little Johnny is doing well this soccer season.

Todd Juvinall

The other side of this argument is kind of interesting. BenE wails about employees getting the shaft by the big bad business ogres of America yet he has no recognition for the Chinese worker. I would suggest the Walmart purchases from China has elevated their peasantry to a higher and better lifestyle and we will soon the removal of the commies and a change to democracy. The transfer payments we Americans make when we purchase the Chinese made hula-hoop or Gettysburg coffee mug is actually accomplishing through trade what BenE hasn't even thought of. LOL

Ben Emery

The point about Bob's Soccer shop (which was a real place) it went out of business due stores like Walmart who cover everything in what they sale. Their soccer gear is subsidized by the profit of the gold watches or vice versa depending on the items the store wants to push that particular year. This puts local small businesses under because they don't have the ability to take a loss on their specialized product but instead fall victim to inexpensive inferior quality oppressed labor made goods from China. At the same time our decent paying manufacturing jobs, which allowed us to purchase goods at the local specialized shops, are gone to the very same place.

Todd Juvinall

How do you explain all the empty store fronts in Nevada City BenE? Walmart is not around here.

Ben Emery

Todd,
Your time frame seems to be a little off. We switch to our current day policies starting in the late 70's but really it was in the 1980's and picking up steam ever since. I will take the economic policies from the thirty years prior of the 1980's vs the 1980's to present day.

http://z.about.com/d/uspolitics/1/0/m/G/096.png

D. King

Not a cheerleader for them, but...

http://walmartstores.com/pressroom/news/6361.aspx

Corporate giving at Wal-Mart is governed by a philosophy that was instituted by the company’s founder, the late Sam Walton: operate globally and give back locally. The majority of the company’s giving occurs at the local level as each Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club location is empowered to support the issues and causes that are important to their neighborhoods. This grassroots style of philanthropy encompasses the small things, such as sponsoring a local sports team, and the big things, like funding college scholarships, helping The Salvation Army raise more than $30 million through its Red Kettle campaign, and assisting emergency responders in times of disaster.

Mikey McD

Ben, I sincerely feel for you. It must be devastating to believe corps like Walmart, MacDonalds, Safeway, Quickstop, Chevron, are evil and out to get us.

Rather than regulations, taxes, tariffs or other heavy handed government micromanagement wouldn't a change in our culture's value system be more 'freedom based?' In other words, couldn't the current 'organic' movement evolve into shop local- where free choice feeds the change you are looking for... or is more heavy handed government the only answer?

Ben Emery

No Todd you are wrong again. China is still Communist but have an edge in the capitalistic world due to their ability to trample over the people and own all the land. Please don't conflate democracy and capitalism, one is a system of governance and the other is a economic system.

Ben Emery

Mickey,
Where did I say they were out to get us? Once we get passed consuming their products they don't care about us, there is a big difference.

D.King- Walmart motto was once Made in a America but those days are long gone.

D. King

How about invented in America?

http://inventionideasblog.com/2010/07/how-to-get-your-invention-into-wal-mart/

Yeah, you have to work hard!

Todd Juvinall

BenE you are simply incorrect and I am glad your economic and political leanings are being rebuked here in America. You seem to have a bias against capitalism and freedom here and I am curious as to why? Have you ever met a payroll as a businessman?

J Cutter

re: Posted by: Mikey McD | 02 June 2011 at 11:25 AM

jcutter: please do not construe my critique of the Teachers Union as a critique on the teachers. I would venture to say that I have more teachers in my family tree than you and I consider their work to be a high calling. A self serving and ignorant presumption, as I do not believe we know each other. Smacks of condescension without a factual basis.

Teacher Union Facts:
Excellent teachers are paid the same as crappy teachers. 'Crappy' teachers should not make it through probation. Prevailing/tiered wage jobs exist in every sector (including military).
You can't get rid of a crappy teacher. Evidently, poor teachers are not granted tenure! or are sacked (at a ~2% yearly rate in CA for tenured, per the most conservative of studies)
Teachers are forced to join the union (with 'opt-out' privileges).
Kids and education are not even mentioned in CTA's mission statement "Who We Are"! They are not representing the kids, but the educators. The care for the children is implied by the very concept.

Opinion: why is higher compensation ('greed'?) a virtuous characteristic for Union members and not for Wall St. Bankers? You see the current comp levels of any union member as 'greedy' compared to WS?!? No matter how it is spun, even the dreaded UAW member compensation accounts for less than 10% of an autos retail. The problem goes back to supply chain profiteering - created largely by our reliance on WS.

I am glad that our education discussion gave you a stage to vent your hatred of LDS, Mormons, and the Tea Party. Feel better now?
This is where you absolutely lose it. YOU are the one that posted the link, and I posed a valid rebuttal. I count many church members, and people identifying with the tea party, among my peers, clients, friends and family - so your assertion is insulting and inflammatory. That said, I have major problems with turning over my keys to anyone with what I perceive to be half-baked agendas either religious or political.

D. King

LOL!

"This went on for years – and again, I and my peers, we all did it. By the time Reagan invited Gorbachev’s and his general staff to visit our aerospace companies in the early eighties, they saw a technology development Goliath unknown in the world, building newer and more capable systems by the day for commerce and war. They went home, noodled on what they saw, and decided it was time to throw in the towel."

So true George, with lines for T.P. and bread, they must have been overwhelmed!

wmartin

"Your time frame seems to be a little off. We switch to our current day policies starting in the late 70's but really it was in the 1980's and picking up steam ever since. I will take the economic policies from the thirty years prior of the 1980's vs the 1980's to present day."

Hey, me too. Eyeballing some charts, government share of GDP in 1950 was a bit over 20% as oppose to over 40% today. It seems to me that military spending was a much higher proportion and welfare a much lower proportion of total budget. The Federal Reserve in the mid 1950's was super worried about inflation, unlike the modern one which seems to have installed a hotline between Goldman Sachs and the White House, but then, look where the campaign money came from this time around.

One minus to that era was how dominant large companies where. There really is no modern analog to a 1950's and early 1960's General Motors, IBM, etc., so there is that downside.

Ben Emery

I will leave this thread with this thought for you to chew on.

My outrage and frustration isn't with Big Business but with our government. The American Revolution was fought to allow us to govern ourselves. A government with citizens legislatures representing the people not the elite at the top. We have corporate/ wealthy reps instead of representatives of the people today. Hence the tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires and signing more free trade agreements while cutting social programs for the people.

The US government has been corrupted so much we (average Americans) no longer have representation in our government. We now have two major political parties so beholden to big money special interest that they hold a majority in Washington DC and "We the People" are left out in the cold.


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