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Protect the Poor from the Rich

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Joined: 20 Mar 2006
Posts: 1273
Location: Kent (East Hill), WA

PostPosted: Mon Jun 05, 2006 1:45 pm    Post subject: Protect the Poor from the Rich Reply with quote

I heard an old saw that went "the job of the politician is to get money from the rich, and votes from the poor, by promising to protect the one from the other".

In many ways it is true. The poor must be sheltered and the middle class as well, from the rich. It in some sense sums up my viewpoint. I would want to be rich for one and only one reason and that is that it seems to convey power, the power for people to listen to you. For myself, I wouldnt care if a person were dirt poor and he had the best idea in all of physics. In fact, I would be more suspicious of a person with money because I think he might be using it to platform his ideas beyond what they were ideas.

So, I think of it like ecology. There are ants. There anteaters. There are elephants. The elephants can step on the ants and the anteaters can eat them. But only through accident and hunger. Most ants will escape and live as ants. Then, the ants can gang up like army ants and eviscerate square miles and engulf even anteaters and elephants.

So, there is a balance. I dont care if a guy wants to buy a $1M dollar car, so long as I can buy a $10K car. What I fear is that the $1M dollar car guy will buy up all the $10K cars so that he will have the only car.
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Joined: 17 Mar 2006
Posts: 712
Location: Oregon

PostPosted: Fri Jun 09, 2006 1:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

You could almost make a syllogism out of your statements about
being rich. I guess the remaining question is whether the power of
wealth to increase your ability to disseminate your ideas would
overcome the effects of others' suspicions that your ideas weren't
so worthy.

I mainly, though, wanted to discuss your anteater example. When
I was teaching computer science, I gave my class a problem in
population dynamics. In our case it was wolves and rabbits.
It's a fascinating simulation. Depending on formulas for birth
rates, longevity, etc. you could simulate the population levels on,
say, an isolated island, of wolves and rabbits and watch how the
populations varied over time. A typical result was that population
levels went through wild gyrations which damped down to a relatively
stable level as time went on. I believe it is either this ending
stability, or the ability of the system as a whole to move from
imbalance to counterbalance that you are referring to when you
say that the system is in balance.

Ultimately, the allegory of the anteater is an argument for inaction.

Why meddle? Why pick sides? Why take action? After all, if we
do something to help some poor anteaters, aren't we only increasing
the ability of their predators to increase with the larger food supply,
thereby reducing the number of anteaters until the pendulum swings
the other way and balance is restored?

I can think of several reasons where meddling can be justified. One
of these is that we may have farmers on the island, and that rabbits
eat the farmers' plants. It is not much help to a farmer whose crop
is decimated to know that next year there will be fewer rabbits
because the wolf population is increasing. It would be reasonable
for farmers to seek ways of controlling the rabbit population, even if
it meant "wolf welfare" to keep the wolf population up in lean years
(years with few rabbits).

Another reason is that reality (and even the simulations) do not always
end with the kind of balance you mention. In some cases, the pendulum
swings so wildly that the entire population of rabbits, say, is killed off
and the wolves subsequently starve, leaving no life. A kind of balance,
I'll grant, but as humans, we might have a stake in preserving the
existence of animal life on that isolated island, even if we have no
stake in what balance, if any, is struck.

I'm not certain I've done justice to your anteater example, but I think
my point is pretty clear: the mere fact that we are enmeshed in
systems (political systems for example) that behave like these
population models (a swing to a liberal court that causes a reaction
to increase penalties for crimes, as one kind of example) is not
sufficient argument for us to remain uninvolved.

What is missing from the allegory, and what I think needs to be stated
explicitly whenever it is invoked in this way (as a "call to inaction" Confused )
is the idea that we, individually, and as part of political structures
actually do have a stake in the argument. It matters how many
rabbits and wolves their are because those population levels affect
us directly or indirectly.

Will the level and intrusiveness of unwarranted domestic eavesdropping
reach a point where it will cause a reaction and lead to new laws
and better enforcement restricting illegal wiretapping? Maybe. But
if where on the spectrum we are matters to me, then the idea that
it might come into balance years or decades from now is not a
justification for inaction.


Finally, I like your idea of the wealthy buying million dollar cars.
I'm very pleased that there are such luxury goods that I put little
value in that wealthy people can purchase. This allows me a slightly
higher standard of living than otherwise would be the case.

I have a feeling, though, the example you give, of million dollar cars,
might not be such a good one. The millionaire owning 100 $10,000
cars is absurd, as the marginal utility of each next car is greatly
reduced. Land might be a better example. There, our millionaire
would not be seen as so eccentric, and his purchase might well keep
you from buying property for yourself.

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