Fog Creek Software
Discussion Board




DOUBLE STANDARDS

Business Week: "Well, let's start with the simple hypocrisy. If you want to complain about corporations, I want to see your stock portfolio and mutual funds. If you want to complain about immigration, I want to see your family tree. If you want to complain about the government, I want to know what you've done as an activist. And for tech workers in particular, if you're going to complain about being rendered obsolete by your employers, I'd like to know what you said to all the American workers who complained about losing their jobs to automation." ...

http://www.businessweek.com/smallbiz/content/may2003/sb20030512_8534.htm

Ms. Hypocrite
Wednesday, May 14, 2003

I didn't read the article.

What point are you trying to make?

Are you trying to say that you believe that most techies love to complain and aren't willing to do anything else beyond complaining?

One Programmer's Opinion
Wednesday, May 14, 2003

I hate complaining about complaining.

trollbooth
Wednesday, May 14, 2003

trollbooth:

very post-modern.

erik lickerman
Wednesday, May 14, 2003

He pulled a paragraph from the article. 

"I'd like to know what you said to all the American workers who complained about losing their jobs to automation"

The same thing I say today, it is not a double standard to say we made a mistake and should not continue.  Is it because it is "my job."  Not really.  To be honest off-sourcing has had little impact on my business for a variety of reasons, most having to do with language and time zones. 

However, it is misleading to imply that India or Costa Rica or any such country is competing on an even basis.  Consider India, where a middle class worker lives on $10/day US.  Now is it there fault they can live so cheap?  Not really, but there is also little I can do except move to India.  But their immigration laws would prevent me. 

Unfortunately, the writer has a simplistic view on the situation.  If I did not complain about the company employing overseas workers, how can I now complain its impact on my job?  I can because one is of awareness and one is of intent. 

Here is my solution.  If you are going to employ overseas workers, feel free.  However, you must pay them the prevailing US wage.  Regardless of how we want to look at it, an American worker cannot live on $10/day.  So the solution is to pay everyone the same.  If I lose a contract, or position, or account to an off shore company because they had the expertise, people, or experience, I am ok with that.  Competition is why I started my company.

If however, I lose because I cannot possibly employ US workers and bid competitively, then the process is corrupt. As corrupt as moving textiles to Mexico where we have a country of near slave wages, no environmental controls, and no labor laws.  It would be similar to having to compete with prisoners because they only get paid $.10/hour while incarcerated.  But, I am sure that will be happening soon too.

Mike Gamerland
Wednesday, May 14, 2003

Mike, if we paid them the same, would we be competing on an even level, with our far better client proximities, infrastructure and energy prices?

Are you willing to make a complicated equation taking into account all these things, so we can pay them fairly?  And what if the equation prices everything just about the same as now?

sleepy
Wednesday, May 14, 2003

I just did a Google search and found that this person has written several articles on this topic. When I have time, I plan on reading them and perhaps commenting on them.

Below, is the Google search I used to find his articles.

http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&lr=&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&q=%22KENTON%27S+CORNER%22+By+Christopher+Kenton+site%3Awww.businessweek.com

One Programmer's Opinion
Wednesday, May 14, 2003

"Competition is why I started my company"

So get ready to compete :)

its not your place to chose the arena of competition, it is the place of your competitors and yourself to find an 'edge'

Programmers in india have an edge when it comes to cost, all else being equal (experience, skill etc etc) a programmer based in india has an edge over a programmer based in america.

Welcome to the global economy :)

Placing tariffs etc are not a solution, they are a short term advantage which in the long term will only delay the process, not stop it.
Why?
Because its very easy for a company to become international these days.  So if american companies are not allowed to outsource their work while based in america they will shift overseas and outsource their work from there. 
So now we have lost the programming jobs *and* various management and admin jobs.
Solution?  refuse to allow companies that are not based in america and bound by our laws to sell anything at all here.
Problem? competition drops, prices in america increase, america becomes its own little sandbox, outside countries refuse to allow american companies to sell to them in retaliation, american companies are selling to americans who are working for american companies, inflation slowly spirals out of control and the economy crashes.

The basic problem is that in a capitalist country, an economy which is not growing, is dying.
In a closed system there are fundamentally 2 ways to 'grow', increase efficiency or increase the size of the market.

FullNameRequired
Wednesday, May 14, 2003

"I'd like to know what you told all the factory workers"

Actually I do remember what we told them. We told them that there was nothing to worry about because we were replacing their boring lowpay drudgery work with exciting high-pay knowledge worker jobs that would be a promising long term career they could really use to make something of themselves.

Anyone remember telling them something differently?

Dennis Atkins
Wednesday, May 14, 2003

One really has to wonder how sustainable the outsourcing of everything can be.  Low-paying manufacturing jobs got replaced by equal or better paying service and knowledge jobs.  The problem now is that there is no indication of anything equal or better that will replace the jobs being lost in this latest wave of outsourcing.  With fewer people left in the country who are employed and with decent wages, who will buy the products and services so these corporations can make profits?

It is a tragedy of the commons.  Each individual corporation sees that they can cut costs by outsourcing whatever they can.  But when all of them do it, they end up with an impoverished and underemployed customer base who can't afford their products in sufficient quantities to create sustainable profits.

Another problem is that freedom of movement of goods without free movement of labor isn't really a free market.    One of the main reasons why Indian and Chinese salaries are so low is that they aren't free to work in any country they want.  (Yes, some of them do get visas to go to higher paying countries like England or the USA, but that's only a minority of the millions who would like to leave.)

The lack of freedom of movement of labor means that many foreign salaries are held artifically low. If they could work anywhere they wanted, their local companies would have to pay them higher to stop them from leaving, and they would often become too expensive to use cheapness as a selling point - they'd have to compete on actual merit.

T. Norman
Wednesday, May 14, 2003

competition drops, prices in america increase, america becomes its own little sandbox, outside countries refuse to allow american companies to sell to them in retaliation, american companies are selling to americans who are working for american companies, inflation slowly spirals out of control and the economy crashes.

ummm.... that is bad analysis, there is plenty of competition within america itself.

Daniel Shchyokin
Wednesday, May 14, 2003

"ummm.... that is bad analysis, there is plenty of competition within america itself. "

LOL

no shit?  Im a computer programmer....you expect me to be able to come up with a _good_ economic analysis?

But my (badly made) point was that america operating as a private sandbox is an unsustainable economic model.

People crying out for legislation to stop outsourcing are behaving similarly to the RIAA (and other luddites) IMO, they are blindly trying to use legislation to stop a natural evolution because it appears to be working against them.

Regardless of the rights & wrongs of outsourcing its going to become more and more common, and any attempts to made it a less good way of doing things are going to fail and/or cause undesirable sideeffects.

The trick is to take advantages of the opportunities offered, rather than fighting to keep things as they were.

For instance, you can now hire a computer programmer to create that killer application youve been thinking about for less than $10/hour :)

Dont fight the river, go with it.  You may not end up where you thought you wanted to be, but you will likely find yourself somewhere interesting.

FullNameRequired
Wednesday, May 14, 2003

Kenton provides a good analysis. However pointing to other problems in earlier times does not negate the current problem nor the possibility of fixing.

Nor are the victims of the current problems the ones responsible for those earlier problems.

Kenton's analysis of failures in suggestions put to him by critics is interesting, but fails to take account of underlying truths and possibilities in those suggestions.

For example, it is naive to call for trade barriers, but that's not what's needed. All that's needed is enforcement of the country's traditional immigration schemes, instead of the current arrangements, which give special concessions to corporates.

analyst
Wednesday, May 14, 2003

Well, it appears some have taken me to task so let me run down the points:
- "Am I willing to entertain a complicated equation?"  Bring it on.  Consider the cost equation of a developer in Los Angeles supporting a company in Buffalo and a developer in India doing the same.  I am not concerned that the price will be the same because, it will not be.  The largest cost in an outsourcing agreement is people.

- "So get ready to compete.  its not your place to chose the arena of competition, it is the place of your competitors and yourself to find an 'edge' and Welcome to the global economy."  Bring it on.  Yours was actually a response I predicted to my partner.  That a some point "global economy" would be tossed out there as an "ends justifies the means" assault on common sense. 

Competition is not an arbitrary existence. I do not get to burn down your business, threaten your family or kill your customers.  It is naive to assume that you can excuse away variances in life with "welcome to the global economy", and "then compete".  This is not medieval England where we invoke "Droit de seigneur" on a population merely because we can.

Using your logic I should be making deals with China's gulags,  ensure that Mexico removes any form of pollution legislation and create an environment of indentured servitude for my employees.    Then when I have pounded them into a barren life of slavery I can be thankful that I was able to compete.  What a pathetic existence.

- T.Norman is correct.  History has shown that what we end up with is "an impoverished and underemployed customer base who can't afford their products in sufficient quantities to create sustainable profits."  Henry Ford and Milton Hershey knew this and paid workers accordingly.  And, as anti-union as people are today, they forget that many companies paid the white-collar worker consummate with the union to ensure an executive union never formed. 

- "For instance, you can now hire a computer programmer to create that killer application you've been thinking about for less than $10/hour :)"  Incorrect, I can do it for $10/day and by doing so I ensure the economy which sustains my existence begins to fail.  An analogy:  I go to the local hardware store when I need something, in most cases.  Why? Because I want him to be there.  But couldn't I save $.20 on a bolt going to a large home center?  Yes.  But as a human being, citizen and local businessman, I see the bigger picture.  It is a cooperative pact with my fellows to ensure that we continue to provide success for each other.  Supporting predatory capitalism is fatalistic in that I win you lose and in the end we all do.

This was summarized elegantly by "analyst" with:All that's needed is enforcement of the country's traditional immigration schemes, instead of the current arrangements, which give special concessions to corporates.

Competition is a beautiful thing.  To assume, "anything is fair to meet the bottom line" is chaos not competition, and again a pathetic existence.

Mike Gamerland
Wednesday, May 14, 2003

Mike, you touch on one of the most powerful points in this debate: the argument that 1. globalisation in this sense is inevitable and that 2. therefore we must accede to it.

If we lived by that credo, we would allow all our forests to be cut down because it's profitable, and our seaside areas to be devasted by high-rise developments because it's profitable.

It seems to have become a popualr argument of business managements that offshoring is inevitable, so get used to it. What they're really saying is that it's profitable for them, and they want to continue doing it. That's no argument for inevitability at all.

Another interesting aspect is that this debate is often framed as a competition between programmers of different countries. It's not. It's between greedy entrepreneurs and professional people.

analyst
Wednesday, May 14, 2003

"That a some point "global economy" would be tossed out there as an "ends justifies the means" assault on common sense.  "

?? I wasn't justifying anything.  Im a contract developer competing for work, and my business faces the same threat you do.

The global economy is not, IMO, necessarily something to be welcomed.  But it *is* something to be accepted.
Screaming and whinging about how unfair it is that someone else can live more cheaply than you is the most pointless exercise I can imagine.

"It is naive to assume that you can excuse away variances in life with "welcome to the global economy"
variances in life exist.  America consumes something like 40% of the resources used each year.  If the rest of the world had the same lifestyle we do, the thing wouldn't last another decade.

India, China, Pakistan, Argentina, etc etc, these countries are *not* the exception, they are the rule.  America is the exception.  *and* america is living an unsustainable lifestyle.

"Incorrect, I can do it for $10/day and by doing so I ensure the economy which sustains my existence begins to fail"

No, the economy merely changes.  In a world where programmers can be hired for <$10 an hour, those who wish to earn more than that must change jobs.

Bottom line is that if I can create an application that sells for $1 and is paid for and used by 0.00001% of people who own a computer I will be outrageously, stupidly rich for life.

IMO this means that there is no lack of opportunity out there for those who are "ready to compete" :)


"It is a cooperative pact with my fellows to ensure that we continue to provide success for each other"

by which you mean "we give charity to each other"
Purchasing an item off someone for more than that item if worth is not 'providing success for each other' it is 'pointlessly wasting money'.  Looked at another way, the money you could have saved by buying that item more cheaply could have been donated to save the whales, cure cancer or done something equally useful.

Jobs change, opportunities change,  lifestyles change and people change.  America is not going to be able to sustain its current lifestyle except at the cost of lifestyles of people in other countries.
Is that what you mean by 'ensuring success for each other'?


"To assume, "anything is fair to meet the bottom line" is chaos not competition"

There is a biiiig step between competing on price and assuming "anything is fair to meet the bottom line".

To say "Its not fair to compete with me in that area because I cant win" is childish.

FullNameRequired
Thursday, May 15, 2003

Good points being made by analyst and Mike Gamerland, and applicable elsewhere in the protectionist vs. free market debate, but seeing as programmers don't tend to emit toxic wastes on beaches or cut down trees, and as far as I know there's not many programmers for hire in China's gulags, I don't really the objection to offshoring tech jobs.  There's nothing inherently immoral with incorporation, or  making a profit, or looking out for one's own enlightened self-interest; none of these necessarily infringe on the rights of others.

To co-opt Mike's analogy, offshoring development work to other countries benefits THEIR economies, increases THEIR consumer base, and in the very long run, benefits all of humanity indirectly as citizens of other countries are now wealthy enough to purchase our goods and services from US (provided, of course, that our products are even worth being bought when compared with the world market).

If it's true that American goods and services are overvalued, then self-interest would demand protectionist policies, but it's morally bankrupt and moreover senseless to prevent inevitable trend of competing against the rest of the world on a level playing field, to discriminate against foreign workers merely on the basis that they live outside our borders.

Alyosha`
Thursday, May 15, 2003

"If we lived by that credo, we would allow all our forests to be cut down because it's profitable, and our seaside areas to be devasted by high-rise developments because it's profitable."

what a load of old bollocks :)

There is no reason that the world economy requires that.  Greedy, stupid companies require that.
My point is that we should pick the battles.  Stopping a company from hacking down trees which can never be replaced is one thing, whinging about companies hiring people who live outside america is another.


"It seems to have become a popualr argument of business managements that offshoring is inevitable, so get used to it. "
As I said earlier, Im a contract developer who writes software for a living.  Potentially my livelihood is under threat as much as yours is.
Is it possible that offshoring is inevitable, and that is why everyone keeps saying it is?
Its inevitable because its cheaper and provides for greater profit. (exactly as you suggested).
Will offshoring mean the end of the economy?  I doubt it.



"Another interesting aspect is that this debate is often framed as a competition between programmers of different countries. It's not. It's between greedy entrepreneurs and professional people."

LOL
The programming professionals who are screaming in pain because other programming professionals are charging less than they are could also be accused of greed IMO.

Those living offshore who are doing this work are programming professionals with a lower standard of living than you. 
This is not (necessarily) because they are oppressed working crushed under the iron hooves of a vicious and immoral corporate ruler.  It is because they have lower expectations.  They dont expect to be able to live in a fancy apartment with silk sheets and a $4000 television and sound equipment.  They can live eat well for $20USD/week.

Its fine to feel threatened...perfectly reasonable in fact (I know I do).
But its hypocritical to pretend to be outraged on their behalf, they need the work and can afford to charge less. 

We need the work too, and have to charge more because of where we live.
Whats the solution?  watch the market, work smarter and know when to switch careers :)

FullNameRequired
Thursday, May 15, 2003

Actually you were justifying it.  You want to claim that Americans cannot compete with India, China, etc. because
the market has changed.  Or as you said "To say "Its not fair to compete with me in that area because I cant win" is childish. "

I agree.  However, to presume you can do nothing about it so you may as well be as parasitic as a competitor is, well pathetic.  This is the mentality of "Bob robs banks, I only embezzle so its not as bad." 

As for America consuming 40% of the resources each year, what is the point?  That we utilize resources because we are a more advanced nation.  Instead of trying to push us back to the stone age, I prefer to look at other countries as needing help being brought into today.  As for Americans living an "unsustainable lifestyle", it sounds like you are not begrudging success.

As for providing charity, it is not charity to use a local resource.  It follows the same premise of Ford and Hershey that a man (or woman) working is a country's best asset.  If they cannot afford the goods and services they produce, it will not be long before no one can afford anything and what good is that?  While it may be personally beneficial to have a tunnelled view of the world, it does not benefit us as a country or society.

I do not wring my hands over global competition, I see it as competition.  But I also expect it to conform to the norms of competition.  One of those norms is to prevent slave labor.  Not only because it is bad for the slaves, it is bad for business and society. 

As for whether it is a "biiig step" from assuming anything is fair to competing on price, we need only look at one of the biggest examples gone astray--- Enron. In the win at any cost, the lied, colluded, created a false energy crisis in California, embezzled and broke several laws. Hearing them discuss it, they were just competing in the tough energy market.  It wasn't a big step at all, that's the problem, it is a bunch of tiny steps.  Heck, look at Microsoft, to this day they don't think they did or are doing anything wrong.  Tiny steps to stay competitive.

Suffice it to say, I believe we will just have to agree to disagree.

Mike Gamerland
Thursday, May 15, 2003

Hi Mike,
"Suffice it to say, I believe we will just have to agree to disagree."

I did get carried away there, throwing moderately insulting terms around ;(  my apologies for that.
<g> If its any excuse Ive just spent 4 hours explaining to a client why adding features w,x,y and z to a database 2 days before it goes live is actually *not* a brilliant idea.

FullNameRequired
Thursday, May 15, 2003

The Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act of June 1930 raised U.S. tariffs to historically high levels and made a recession into "The Great Depression."

"[While] the tariff might not have caused the Depression, it certainly did not make it any better. It provoked a storm of foreign retaliatory measures and came to stand as a symbol of the 'beggar-thy-neighbor' policies (policies designed to improve one's own lot at the expense of that of others) of the 1930s. Such policies contributed to a drastic decline in international trade. For example, U.S. imports from Europe declined from a 1929 high of $1,334 million to just $390 million in 1932, while U.S. exports to Europe fell from $2,341 million in 1929 to $784 million in 1932. Overall, world trade declined by some 66% between 1929 and 1934. More generally, Smoot-Hawley did nothing to foster trust and cooperation among nations in either the political or economic realm during a perilous era in international relations." http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ho/time/id/17606.htm

Those who forget history will be condemed to repeat it.

Chi Lambda
Thursday, May 15, 2003

There's a persistent theme in this debate that suddenly global competition has caught up to programmers, who must meekly say OK, and accept massive pay cuts and unemployment.

Have any of you proponents of that view asked why this change mostly affects programmers, and not other occupations in our modern economy? India has stacks of managers, journalists, teachers, doctors, lawyers and chief executives.

Why is it that global competition reduces our pay, but magically causes the pay of senior executives to increase? The reason basically comes down to the fact that most programmers accept it. Nothing more than that.

analyst
Thursday, May 15, 2003

Chi Lambda, trade tariffs are not something being proposed by me or by other thinkers on this subject. Fair, free competition within the economy as it exists is all we want.

Offshoring is largely facilitated by the visa rackets that grew in the late 90's, and is of course a close sibling of the H1-B racket.

The provision of these special provisions for business effectively represent a tariff for business to protect them against having to compete in the economy for programmers.

The results of this virtual tariff were the dot com boom, since it gave all sorts of dead beats an easy access to programmers. The virtual tariff continues to distort company prospects, while enriching CEO's in the short term, and will eventually cause more serious problems.

analyst
Thursday, May 15, 2003

Full Name .. it's not actually programmers in other countries who are charging less, it's entrepreneurs from those countries, and also from America. That's my point.

Those entrepreneurs charge 10 percent less in America, then pay hardly anything to their staff, and pocket small fortunes. It's like the drug business.

analyst
Thursday, May 15, 2003

I have no problem with competing with fellow programmers anywhere in the world.

But only if that competition is fair.

Here in the UK, contract programmers are subject to tax law IR35 levied on "disguised employees" whose rules makes them the most heavily taxed section of the population.

But if we haven't any work, despite paying double employment taxes we suddenly become "self-employed" and ineligible for social security benefits.

Meanwhile, foreign IT workers have until very recently had an automatic right of entry to compete with us.

In short, I have no problems with fair competition - with the emphasis on FAIR.

David Basil Wildgoose
Thursday, May 15, 2003

"But it seems to me an all-too-convenient catharsis to shake our fists at Enron and Worldcom, while we continue gorging ourselves on an orgy of products and petty entertainments, and doing so with no regard for the consequences of our short-term self-gratification -- until, of course, we have to pay the bill. Our culture is a mirror image of the greed at the top, and we worship it too much to ever examine ourselves and our complicity in the system. The main difference I see between us and the CEOs we've come to hate is one of scale and opportunity.
"

Hey I like this character already.

Just me (Sir to you)
Thursday, May 15, 2003

T. Norman seems to hit the nails on the head. Ultra capitalism can never prevent a "tragedy of the commons scenario", as that requires the sort term relinquishing of individual profit for the benefit of the whole.
Game theory shows that to prevent the decline of the commons you need a rather sofisticated social organisation that is in direct conflict with the "individualism" preached in our "free" society.
Another point which I also have argued before, and that T. puts very well is that H1B is advantages to the american programmer, since at least it places the "cheap" workers in conditions that require a higher wage demand for those making the move, and creates a better negotiation position for those staying at home.

Just me (Sir to you)
Thursday, May 15, 2003

As I have posted here before, it is amazing how Americans are all in favour of capitalism and free trade until it burns them at which point they cry "Unfair!". Oh dear. How sad. Never mind.


Thursday, May 15, 2003

When I wake up in the morning, I listen to BBC radio, over the weekends I even watch the CNN.  I board  a Japanese taxi that fuels in a BP (British) petrol Station.  When I arrive at work, I use a HP laptop - and you guessed right Microsoft software.  I have not been complaining.

My compatriots produce coffee and tea and sell it at throw-away prices.  Farmers have to compete against highly subsidised US/European produce. Still Not complaining.

I have a world class qualification in software development.  I'm employed in Nairobi and earn about $ 1,000 a month working for an offshore company.  Still not complaining.

What makes me rather unhappy is the fact that we have huge trade imbalances that are not addressed by the current WTO agreements.  Setting up a software development house is not a very capital intensive undertaking especially in city like Nairobi or Bombay.  Countries with lower costs of living can certainly produce software at lower costs than Western countries.  Sorry to all the programmers out there in the west, you cannot change this fact.  You can deny me H1B visa to US, but can you stop me from getting contracts from US companies?

Ling
Thursday, May 15, 2003

If they're gonna globalize the goods, they should also globalize the labor.  Indians, Chinese, etc. should be free to work in any country that allows the mass importation of their products, and citizens of the countries who buy their products should be free to live and work in India or China.

Tariffs hurt trade by making prices artificially high, but restrictions on the movement of labor makes the price of labor artificially low by taking advantage of a captive workforce.

In most cases, other countries can produce goods cheaper than the US not because they are more efficient on an output produced per person per day basis, but only because they can get more output produced per dollar as a result of a low paid captive workforce.

T. Norman
Thursday, May 15, 2003

So do all you programmers who complain about cheap programming jobs in India also take care to buy only expensive home-made goods such as clothes, or do you rely on cheap Chinese or Mexican products whenever it doesn't affect you directly?

Chris Nahr
Thursday, May 15, 2003

The desire by companies to get the most value out of the cheapest product means that India and alike will only remain favoured countries for outsourcing of software for "x" years. Here in the UK, companies are outsourcing call centres to India, away from the previously cheap North of England/Scotland base. ex-Textile workers, ex-miners and ex-shipbuilders provided a low cost workforce for these places, but now have become too costly, and so the companies are now moving on. In this case "x" = 10~15.

The same will happen to some software markets, and you just have to accept the fact that is how captalisim works. It sucks unless your a stock market analyst or a CEO, when it really works (until you get caught).

Larry
Thursday, May 15, 2003

"In short, I have no problems with fair competition - with the emphasis on FAIR. "

Fair competition is an oxymoron that only pertains to board and card games... and some sports.  Get over it. 

Joe AA
Thursday, May 15, 2003

Hi  Norman,

It seems that you are of the opinion that offshore development offices are "slaving" sweat shops just  bent  on exploiting the poor labourers.  While this may be true of companies that manufacture shoes, clothes e.t.c.  It is not necessarily true for companies that deal with software.  Most companies pay just as well as the indegenous companies if not slightly higher.  Infact, the mere existence of off-shore companies causes the average salaries to rise (law of demand and supply remember).

Regarding efficiency, you can reproduce exactly the same results in Argentina, India, China and even US provided you provide the same environment, training and resources to the developers.  Now you have another problem in your hands, the developers in these nations are not only cheaper than in the West, but they are just as efficient as any programmer can be.

Ling
Thursday, May 15, 2003

About the article:  I've thought about this a lot and am actually happy there's such a worldwide infusion of programmers.  It reduces the prices one can charge, but things keep pointing to a golden age of computing. 

So many old intro books are being released for free, like Hoare's CSP, and the list is stretching on...  It's not hard to meet someone who knows formerly arcane topics.

I'd like to be convinced this is a terrible threat, but mainly I don't see how we expect other nations to be reliable software consumers without many of them being employed by the software industry.

Tj
Thursday, May 15, 2003

Welcome to the wonderful world of globalisation.

The arguments are both pro and con. Pro is the following: obscenely rich people (by world standards) in obscenely rich countries like the US and Europe will get less money, while poor people in the thirld world will get more. That's the good. For those people getting 300$ extra per month will have a totally different value then it would have for the average western worker. So, with globalisation, it may be possible eventually to distribute the riches better and to lift the rest of the word to higher standards of living.

Con: the problem is that the countries where companies choose to work are in a very weak position against the companies. They cannot ask for better working conditions, better environmental control, and so on, because for them, the money involved is huge, and if they start making noises, the companies will go somewhere else. No labor unions. No protection. Hence the deforrestation. It's not happening because the companies are stupid, but because they can. They would love to do it in the US as well, but there they can't.

Another problem with this may be (I don't know if it is so) that maybe the world economy is not yet capable of sustaining a high level of life for _all_ its population. Look at it this way: the western world has a very high standard of living, and the rest of the world contributes to it in no small measure. If we want to have the same standard of living all over the world, who will make the cheap sneakers? Until recently, west has been protected from this by crass protectionist policies. These start solwly to go away. How will it be? Will we all settle for a lower standard, with the advantage that it is shared by the rest of the world? (the advantage would then be that you could travel mostly anywhere without fear of something going "bang")

Interesting and important quetions. Now what about some coffee? Ah, and about "why does it happen with programmers and not with lawyers/journalists/etc". That's a stupid question. Programming is least dependent of context, that's why it happens. Indian law is different from us law. Journalism?! You have to be there, you know. And so on.

Dimitri.
Thursday, May 15, 2003

"Environment, training and resources" are big ingredients in what creates efficiency! So saying that they could be just as efficient if they had those things, is like saying that if I had the genetics, training and determination of Michael Jordan I would be a world-famous basketball player.

How much cheaper would the developer in Argentina or Kenya or China be if they could freely work in any country in the world?  Yes, they would be somewhat cheaper, but if they were truly providing equal or better value for equal time, it would be irrational of them to continue to accept drastically lower salaries than Americans.

If they lacked the "environment, training and resources" to produce as efficiently as Americans, their lower salary would be primarily from their lower efficiency and not the result of being part of a captive workforce.

T. Norman
Thursday, May 15, 2003

"the world economy is not yet capable of sustaining a high level of life for _all_ its population"

Can it ever be? Suppose you reach this point at some point in time, what would keep the world population from expanding?
Worldwide enforced restricted reproduction rights?

Just me (Sir to you)
Thursday, May 15, 2003

"Fair competition is an oxymoron" - actually, no, not in this context.  "Fair" means working to the same rules.  I accept that this isn't currently possible when competing against programmers in a different country, my objection is when the rules are stacked against me when competing as a native in my *own* country.

Of course, there have also been many good points about fair trade in general, and this is something I support wholeheartedly.  If we in the developed nations dropped our unfair trade barriers against the developing nations in many of their principal exports then the whole world would be better off.

Agriculture is a case in point.  We would have cheaper food, (no more European Common Agricultural Policy and the U.S. equivalents), and they would have more monies to spend on health, education and the like.

Britons know this to be true, we experienced it when the Corn Laws were abolished in the nineteenth century.  Now we just need everyone else to learn the lessons of history.

The problem is that there are Double Standards right across the board.

David Basil Wildgoose
Thursday, May 15, 2003

"it would be irrational of them to continue to accept drastically lower salaries than Americans"

Why? There is no restriction on the movement of programmers inside the US borders, and yet there are substantial differences in the averge wages for developers between New York and Alabama. This supposed "free flow" has not evened out these differences.
Now I am not saying that there will not be a substantial movement, but there is more to the economy than just the IT sector, and the geography of this sector is embedded in the rest of the geo-economic landscape.
The way we are going is that with the new technologies, it becomes more and more feasible in IT to "delocalise" your geographical presence. The nescessary technical infrastructure for a lone IT consultant riding his horse in Tenessee to offer development consultancy services to a NYC firm  are improving in quality every day. If this is more true for IT than for other economic sectors, than that Tenessee consultant can afford to charge less than the average NYC consultant, and still have  a living standard that is substantialy better than the NYC would have had on the higher hourly rate.
Given the same resultant abilities, it therefore would be more interesting for a company to off-source this type of work to average lower wage regions, and the deveopers there would be substantialy better of than there more expensive location resident competition.
It is not the salaries evening out, but the living standards. Since one dollar buys you more living standards in some regions than others, while costing the same to the person having to pay for that dollar, it should therefore rationaly follow that relocatable IT services (such as large parts of development) will flow to "cheap" regions, or if you prefer too look at the other side of the same equation, that providing relocatable IT services in "expensive" geographical locations will only offer a comparably lower living standard.

Just me (Sir to you)
Thursday, May 15, 2003

"There is no restriction on the movement of programmers inside the US borders, and yet there are substantial differences in the averge wages for developers between New York and Alabama."

There are differences in developer salaries within the US, but not *drastic* differences of 5X and 10X as is the case when you compare US programmers to those in India and China.  If foreign programmers are free to work anywhere, AND are capable of providing the same value as American programmers, they won't continue to accept just 10-20% of what American programmers make.

T. Norman
Thursday, May 15, 2003

Well, a quick scan of http://www.homefair.com/homefair/servlet/ActionServlet?pid=199 already reveals factor 3 differences for living expenses between American cities.

Just me (Sir to you)
Thursday, May 15, 2003

A localized difference in the cost of living or the cost of production does not necessarily translate into a comparable difference in wages.

Somewhere like New York may be 3X as expensive as Kentucky, but that doesn't translate into salaries being 3X as high.

T. Norman
Thursday, May 15, 2003

Let's think of labour as a commodity, even if it's just for a minute.  We are all selling this commodity in a free market where any entrepreneur can buy as many units as he wants and he can buy from anybody he wants.  Let us suppose further that I can produce the labour at a fraction of your cost (say 25%) and that it's of good enough quality to satisfy the entrepreneur.  What motivation would I have in charging the same amount as you are charging?  If I charged as much as you do, I would not be able to compete with you because you are in a more favourable geographic location (assuming the entrepreneur is American).  He would also favour you because you are of the same nationality.  However, when he sees the economic sense in buying from me, it won't matter.  I will win hands down.

Ling
Thursday, May 15, 2003

This topic has certainly fired up a few bellies.

Personally, I'm a capitalist - not an 'American capitalist' who supports the value of the individual, when it's just themselves, or supports free markets only when they win in the short term - but one who fundamentally believes in the power and right of the individual, every individual across the globe, and believes in free markets.

What I'm hearing from some people in this newsgroup is just moaning - people who didn't see this threat early enough and are now running scared from the competition. I say bring it on. If you can't take the heat, get out of the kitchen.

Whether it's fair or not is irrelevant, what's relevant is that we, as the techie industry, has not built on all the experience and knowledge we have to protect ourselves against this threat in the only way we can - by differentiating ourselves and making ourselves better.

Bottom line - after 40 yrs or so of IT projects the majority of large IT projects are either deemed a failure or are canned. That's rubbish and all of our faults. Up until now we've been allowed to get away with that because we've all been rubbish. Maybe that's about to change as we face down this competition - it can only be good for the techie industry as a whole.

So lets focus on our strengths, differentiate ourselves and find a new way in the world where we can be successful and where we can be outsourced. Alternatively you can all stay on here moaning how unfair it all is and how wonderful you all are.

Life changes all the time, we all have to grow and adapt to the new challenges - you can't fight globalization  (not that I would want to - it'll enrich all our lives in the long run if you can see past the end of your noses) so lets tackle it head on and stop running scared.

Yanwoo
Thursday, May 15, 2003

Correction (and quite an important one!!):

>>and where we can NOT be outsourced.

Yanwoo
Thursday, May 15, 2003

these are old debates.....

a lot of folk here need to read http://bastiat.org/en/protectionism.html

This was published in 1847, is very short (about 5 minutes reading), and begins

...
Paul:  My dear colleagues, every day large quantities of wood enter Paris, and as a result large sums of money leave the city. At this rate we shall all be ruined in three years, and then what will become of the poor? [Cheers.] Let us ban all foreign wood. It is not on my behalf that I am speaking, because all the wood I own would not make one toothpick. Hence, I am completely free from any personal interests in regard to this question. [Hear! Hear!] But Peter here has a grove of trees and will guarantee to supply fuel for our fellow citizens, who will no longer be dependent upon charcoal sellers of the Yonne.7 Has it ever occurred to you that we run the danger of dying of cold if the owners of the foreign forests took it into their heads not to deliver wood to Paris any longer? Therefore, let us ban their wood. By this means we shall prevent the draining away of our money, create a domestic woodcutting industry and open to our workers a new source of employment and income. [Applause]

John:  I support this proposal by the distinguished previous speaker, who is so humanitarian, and, as he himself said, so completely disinterested. It is high time we put a stop to this brazen laissez passer, which has brought unbridled competition into our market, so that there is not one province whose situation is at all advantageous for the production of any commodity whatsoever that does not flood us with it, undersell us, and destroy Parisian industry. It is the duty of the government to equalize the conditions of production by the imposition of judiciously selected duties, to admit only goods that cost more outside Paris than they do within the city, and in this way to extricate us from an unequal contest. How, for instance, can we be expected to produce milk and butter in Paris in competition with Brittany and Normandy? Just remember, gentlemen, that it costs the Bretons less for their land, their fodder, and their labor. Is it not only common sense to equalize opportunities by a protective town tariff: I demand that the duty on milk and butter be raised to 1000%, and higher if need be. Breakfast may cost the people a little more on that account, but how their wages will go up as well! We shall see barns and dairies rising, creameries multiply, new industries established. It is not that I stand to profit in the least from the adoption of my proposal. I am not a cowherd, nor do I wish to be one. My only desire is to be helpful to the toiling masses. [Cheers and applause.]

I totally recommend it, and another essay http://bastiat.org/en/petition.html (1845) to all.

tapiwa
Thursday, May 15, 2003

Someone asked why there aren't a whole slew of off-shore lawyers and doctors from India.  I forget what the other examples are, but these are primarily service industries where you expect to be able to go and visit your service provider.  This is especially true in the case of doctors.  Remote diagnosis is still a second choice and requires expensive equipment.  So you can't simply outsource your medical treatment to India.  Furthermore, in the case of lawyers, the rules are different.  Living in Ontario, I wouldn't hire a BC lawyer to represent me unless the case was in BC or at a federal level.  In terms of why we don't have an influx of doctors and lawyers coming to North America a la H1B or whatever, actually it is my understanding that we do.  However, their credentials are often not recognized, and many end up underemployed.  (This whole policy is actually under debate in Canada right now, with a few of the federal election campaigns talking about it, since we have such a doctor shortage)

Actually, this whole thread reminds me of an interesting conversation I once had with a guy from Namibia who thought I should be hiring his employees (who were part of some special program to get out of poverty).

Anyway, my point was that there are lots of people here in Canada that I could hire and since those people were physically here it would be easier to work with them.  I also mentioned how I didn't feel right about paying so much less to his employees since I would be taking advantage of them.  I was pretty smug and felt very morally superior about the whole thing. 

He told me that here in Canada, we don't understand how lucky we really are.  Forget about all the "starving kids in <undevelopped/underdevelopped country>", and just think about the difference in technology access. For instance, at the time, I had more bandwidth going to my house than the entire country, and their internet connections were often interrupted by people stealing the copper in the lines to make things with to sell.  He said that there are many countries with far fewer resources than we have, and it seemed to him that it is far from being greedy and opportunistic to give struggling countries a chance.  He couldn't understand why someone would claim moral superiority over an essentially selfish and discriminatory act.

Then I asked: "what about the fact that it is so much cheaper?  Isn't it immoral to take away some one else's ability to compete here?"

I've never forgotten his response.  He said that there is nothing immoral about paying someone a living wage, even if that amount would not be a living wage in a different country.  After all, if you were to pay full pop, you would be instantly elevating the offshore employee to great riches, possibly even millionaire status.  That has its own set of ethical implications...  Furthermore, some projects actually need face-time (as we've all discussed here).  So the difference in salaries is really a premium for the convenience of having someone on site, same time zone, same cultural background etc etc.

The real problem is that there are only so many jobs in technology to go around (if that bothers you, get out there and innovate!).  The question is: is it morally right to hoard all those jobs within your country?  Should your country of origin really have anything to do with the opportunities you can access throughout life?  (We've asked this question before in the form of "Should your gender/race/religion/etc really have anything to do with opportunities available"...). 

This conversation really opened my eyes.  I'm still uncomfortable with the whole thing, but I'm very aware that the whole issue is not nearly as black and white as the participants on this thread are making it out to be.

Phibian
Thursday, May 15, 2003

Brillant tapiwa. Great story.

It's got me thinking, over in the UK our car industry has died - there are now no mainstream car manufacturers who are British owned. Why? we couldn't compete - we weren't good enough.

What's happened? some short term pain in job losses, we still have a reasonable of foreign car makers on our shores, we've realised that this is just something we couldn't do as well as others so we either had to fight and get better or pull out. We pulled out.

What's the long term consequence? We're not stuck doing something we weren't very good at, we still have cars and slowly prices are coming down to match other parts of the world and we're free to focus more on stuff that we can compete in.

No great shakes. The world moves on and deals with the changes - it's just some individuals in this forum that can't see the bigger long term picture.

Yanwoo
Thursday, May 15, 2003

Good points, well made, Phibian.

I was reading the other day, during the May day riots, how perhaps some of these protestors were mis-guided protesting against capiatlism.

As you said, one of the points of the article was that although the wages and conditions in western companies based in developing world countries are poor by our standards - by there standards they are often very good. So many of us have this western arrogance and enforce our views and paradigms of the world on others. Who are we to decide for them??

In summary, the article's conclusion was that the best way for any country to reduce poverty is to embrace capitalism. Something like 40 years ago South Korea GDPs was half the of Namibia, but since it embraced capiatlism it's GDP has been doubling every 11 years or so. I don't think any statistics are needed to compare the levels of poverty in South Korea as against Namibia now do we?!

There are lots of examples where capitalism has been embraced and GDP has gone through the roof - and there are many more (unfortunately) which are ruled by dictators or communist states where this is not the case. Even China is now beginnging to adopt certain elements of the free market - and they have already reaped some of the rewards.

But hey lets protest against one of the best ways to reduce poverty. Genius.

Yanwoo
Thursday, May 15, 2003

"What's happened? some short term pain in job losses, we still have a reasonable of foreign car makers on our shores"

I am sure the people who  lost those jobs were just as upbeat about it as you.
BTW: Get ready to have the rest of your car production delocated any day now, unless you are prepaired to lay-out another round of billions in subsidies from taxpayers money for keeping them onboard for another term.

Just me (Sir to you)
Thursday, May 15, 2003

"What motivation would I have in charging the same amount as you are charging?  If I charged as much as you do, I would not be able to compete with you because you are in a more favourable geographic location (assuming the entrepreneur is American)."

You would charge up the value that your clients place on your services.  That value may be diminished by your distance, so your price will be lower by some factor to compensate, but not significantly lower than that.

If distance does not diminish the value of what you produce, clients would be willing to close to what they would pay for local production.  If the value *is* decreased significantly by the distance, clients will be receiving less value for their money, in which case they aren't really gaining much by sending work thousands of miles away even though it is "cheaper".

But the glitch here is that foreign programmer salaries are held artificially low because they are a captive workforce.  If they are providing equal value after accounting for distance, they couldn't be held to such low salaries if they were legally as free to move around the world as the software they produced.

T. Norman
Thursday, May 15, 2003

...but the reason they can't move around the world freely is down to social security.

In the developed world it is unacceptable to see people starving in the street.  We have social security systems intended to prevent that.  But if we allow free entry to all people, then people will come, and some will fail, thus making use of social security.  And of course, many others may come solely to take advantage of (relatively) generous welfare.

At what point does the system break down?

And how can we have a system that is fair to *all* people?

After all, there's only ONE human race.

David Basil Wildgoose
Thursday, May 15, 2003

Hi T. Norman, you mention captive programmers... does that mean the INS should be a lot more open to immigrants?

anonymous
Thursday, May 15, 2003

There are also examples where countries have adopted capitalist policies and come out of it very badly. Argentina is a case in point.

David Clayworth
Thursday, May 15, 2003

If only the US opened its borders and did it suddenly, there would be definite social problems. But if every country in the world did it, and did so gradually, it's not so likely that everybody would flood into the US.

T. Norman
Thursday, May 15, 2003

I'd like to come back to the original question about hypocrisy. I put it to you that if you support a policy that has bad effects on people because you think a better good is coming out of it, and then change your mind when those bad effects start to be on you, you are hypocritical. It actually doesn't matter whether you were right or wrong about the policy originally, you are still hypocritical, one way or the other.

What are the consequences of this? Well, you owe the people who had the bad effects originally a big, big apology. Second you have to start asking yourself "Am I the kind of person who only notices the downside when it affects me?". If the answer is yes, then do something about it, very quickly. Third you have to look very closely at any policies you currently agree with that have a downside for other people, and ask youself if you would continue to support them if you were the one being affected.

David Clayworth
Thursday, May 15, 2003

David,
You articulate the very nature of the fact perfectly and I couldn't have put it better my self.  This is an extremely complex equation to life in the working world and I doubt that there is a fair solution to pleasing everyone.  With the pace of technology shrinking our world and bringing everything closer, quicker, and smarter; it is inevitable that society and business will be forced to adapt to these drastic changes.

Being selfish and hypocritical is just part of humanity.  Our survival instincts  kick in when being threatened and it is our will to protect our own self interests and well being.  Everyone would do the same things given equal opportunities.  And ultimate power corrupts ultimately.  In the end, those who fail to adapt and resist the change, are most likely to be destroyed.  And once again, the fittest survive.

Life's tough.  Deal with it.

sedwo
Thursday, May 15, 2003

David, very valid points... great stuff.

Yanwoo, I would call the folk you described "fair weather capitalists"

one more thing I recommend, is that people read "The Law" by Frederic Bastiat .... http://bastiat.org/en/the_law.html

Basically talks about the extent to which the law is used to plunder...  "Now, legal plunder can be committed in an infinite number of ways. Thus we have an infinite number of plans for organizing it: tariffs, protection, benefits, subsidies, encouragements, progressive taxation, public schools, guaranteed jobs, guaranteed profits, minimum wages, a right to relief, a right to the tools of labor, free credit, and so on, and so on. All these plans as a whole — with their common aim of legal plunder — constitute socialism. "

tapiwa
Thursday, May 15, 2003

> All these plans as a whole — with their common aim of
> legal plunder — constitute socialism.

The alternative being...?

It's a moot discussion. Both capitalism and socialism have positive points. And they share the same problem - human nature. Both are abusable. And if tomorrow someone comes up with the wave of the future, whateverism, the problem will remain.

The problem is not in the system (capitalism, socialism, whatever-ism) specification, but rather in how we implement it. So far, capitalism has scaled better than the rest; however, the number of users (that's us) keep growing.

On a final note, if we can all agree that "going global" is a good thing, and that some unpleasant side effects are unavoidable, then we should all agree also that some of the "plans" mentioned above (namely, protection, benefits, subsidies, encouragements, progressive taxation, public schools, minimum wages, a right to relief, a right to the tools of labor) are a good thing, and that some unpleasant side effects (aka, abuse) are unavoidable.

--
"Suravye ninto manshima taishite (Peace favor your sword)" (Shienaran salute)
"Life is a dream from which we all must wake before we can dream again" (Amys, Aiel Wise One)

Paulo Caetano
Thursday, May 15, 2003

Paulo, more Bastiat. from the same text.

"But when the law, by means of its necessary agent, force, imposes upon men a regulation of labor, a method or a subject of education, a religious faith or creed — then the law is no longer negative; it acts positively upon people. It substitutes the will of the legislator for their own wills; the initiative of the legislator for their own initiatives. When this happens, the people no longer need to discuss, to compare, to plan ahead; the law does all this for them. Intelligence becomes a useless prop for the people; they cease to be men; they lose their personality, their liberty, their property. "

tapiwa
Thursday, May 15, 2003

Paulo, more in response to your question

"Present-day writers — especially those of the socialist school of thought — base their various theories upon one common hypothesis: They divide mankind into two parts. People in general — with the exception of the writer himself — form the first group. The writer, all alone, forms the second and most important group. Surely this is the weirdest and most conceited notion that ever entered a human brain! ....

They have thought that persons, under the impulse of these two gifts (the principle of action in a man's heart, and a principle of discernment in his intellect), and , would fatally tend to ruin themselves. They assume that if the legislators left persons free to follow their own inclinations, they would arrive at atheism instead of religion, ignorance instead of knowledge, poverty instead of production and exchange.

According to these writers, it is indeed fortunate that Heaven has bestowed upon certain men — governors and legislators — the exact opposite inclinations, not only for their own sake but also for the sake of the rest of the world! While mankind tends toward evil, the legislators yearn for good; while mankind advances toward darkness, the legislators aspire for enlightenment; while mankind is drawn toward vice, the legislators are attracted toward virtue. Since they have decided that this is the true state of affairs, they then demand the use of force [police] in order to substitute their own inclinations for those of the human race. "

I really recommend that you read the entire text, whether you agree with the man or not.

http://bastiat.org/en/the_law.html

tapiwa
Thursday, May 15, 2003

> I really recommend that you read the entire text, whether
> you agree with the man or not.

I will, but my point was not to assume that legislators or rulers are wiser than the rest of the population. Nor do I place myself as the only-enlightened owner of the truth :)

My point was that I see nothing wrong in the principle behind minimum wage, or progressive taxation, or public schools, nor in many of the socialist principles that are present in various legislations, esp. in Europe.

IOW:
- I like the fact that wellfare will pay me something when I get sick, and have to stay home for, say, 2 weeks. I hate it that dishonest people get declarations from dishonest doctors, and abuse this privilege.
- I like the fact that the state provides an education for a symbolic fee. I hate the fact that the state has to support students who fail several years in a row, and make no attempts at improving.
- I like the fact that a woman is allowed several months at home after giving birth, to spend with her newborn. And, actually, I've never seen reports of this one being abused.

If we eliminate the socialist component from these legislatures, we'l be handing a well-deserved punishment to some (not all) of the system parasites, but we will also be unfairly punishing those that actually need a push. And those that, thanks to that push, actually improve their lives.

Finally, this paragraph:
"While mankind tends toward evil, the legislators yearn for good; while mankind advances toward darkness, the legislators aspire for enlightenment; while mankind is drawn toward vice, the legislators are attracted toward virtue. "

shows why I believe we will never have a good political/economic system - the legislators (aka, those in power) are just like every other human being. And every system has the premiss that some positions should be occupied by extraordinary human beings, capable of putting the interests of the system (and, therefore, of society) before their own greed. This will never happen. Mankind is drawn toward vice, and so are the legislators - after all, they're only human ;)

"Suravye ninto manshima taishite (Peace favor your sword)" (Shienaran salute)
"Life is a dream from which we all must wake before we can dream again" (Amys, Aiel Wise One)

Paulo Caetano
Thursday, May 15, 2003

Paulo, yet some more Bastiat ....

"You say: "There are persons who lack education," and you turn to the law. But the law is not, in itself, a torch of learning which shines its light abroad. The law extends over a society where some persons have knowledge and others do not; where some citizens need to learn, and others can teach. In this matter of education, the law has only two alternatives: It can permit this transaction of teaching-and-learning to operate freely and without the use of force, or it can force human wills in this matter by taking from some of them enough to pay the teachers who are appointed by government to instruct others, without charge. But in this second case, the law commits legal plunder by violating liberty and property......

It would seem that socialists, however self-complacent, could not avoid seeing this monstrous legal plunder that results from such systems and such efforts. But what do the socialists do? They cleverly disguise this legal plunder from others - and even from themselves - under the seductive names of fraternity, unity, organization, and association.

... because we ask so little from the law - only justice - the socialists thereby assume that we reject fraternity, unity, organization, and association. The socialists brand us with the name individualist.

But we assure the socialists that we repudiate only forced organization, not natural organization ....

Socialism, like the ancient ideas from which it springs, confuses the distinction between government and society. As a result of this, every time we object to a thing being done by government, the socialists conclude that we object to its being done at all.

We disapprove of state education. Then the socialists say that we are opposed to any education. We object to a state religion. Then the socialists say that we want no religion at all. We object to a state-enforced equality. Then they say that we are against equality. And so on, and so on. It is as if the socialists were to accuse us of not wanting persons to eat because we do not want the state to raise grain. "

tapiwa
Thursday, May 15, 2003

tapiwa, do you actually have a brain of your own, or are you only capable of regurgitating what someone else says?

Black Adder: "Try to have an independent thought. I think thinking is so important. What do you think Baldrick?"
Baldrick: "I think thinking is so important, my lord!"

And the horse you rode in on
Thursday, May 15, 2003

Horse, the answer is no - we've been here before. Ask him to think his arguments through and he'll just ignore you. In that sense, I'm sure he's Bella in disguise.

Baldrick
Friday, May 16, 2003

> You say: "There are persons who lack education," and
> you turn to the law. But the law is not, in itself, a torch of
> learning which shines its light abroad (...)"

Let's analyze the two principles in conflict here:
1. Everyone is entitled to a minimal education, in order to provide the basis for his self-support. The state shall provide it for those whose families cannot afford it.
2. The state is not responsible for its citizens' education. Education is a private matter of each family. Those who cannot afford it must go without it, or hope that some private individual or organization provides it for them.

Sorry, but I will never agree with the second.

You mention "natural organization". Does that mean it's OK to leave the sick and the old to die, because they can't pull their own weight anymore? That's a pattern in nature. I just don't happen to agree with it.

> "(...)We disapprove of state education. Then the socialists > say that we are opposed to any education. (...)"

Apparently, what you're suggesting is that there is no need for state-funded education, because we, society, as whole will provide for those in need. Unfortunately, history shows we have a miserable track record in this area.

I don't defend state control. But I approve of state support to those who need it. And this is where the system shows its weakness - it's easily exploitable by those that don't actually need it.

Still, that happens with other systems. Capitalism is a good thing - individual initiative, competition making sure the best one wins and everyone benefits, etc. Well, guess what? The system shows its weakness - it's easily exploitable by those that reach a place of power.

Also, for the record, I believe the best we can have is a balance between capitalism and socialism (as economic systems), under democracy (as political system). Unfortunately, IMHO,the best we've been able to make, so far, is a mockery of it all.

On a side note, in my previous post I mentioned the "wisdom and enlightnment of the rulers". Apparently, someone made a study about the workload of those elected for parlament in each EU country. I'm "proud" to announce that my country, Portugal, has the lowest average of the lot. Our "deputados" (what's the english word for the people elected for parlament?) work, on average, 87 days per year.

--
"Suravye ninto manshima taishite (Peace favor your sword)" (Shienaran salute)
"Life is a dream from which we all must wake before we can dream again" (Amys, Aiel Wise One)

Paulo Caetano
Friday, May 16, 2003

Paulo,
            I am not sure of the dates but I doubt Bastiat was not saying that the state should not provide education for those that could not get it any other way. He was saying that he was opposed to compulsory state education. The question was a matter of fierce debate in 19th century France.

          Now I am all in favour of reusing code, but shouldn't we only be doing it where it is needed in the target program? Tapiwa's literary equivalent of "rape and paste" is resulting in a bloated and sluggish line of argument.

Stephen Jones
Friday, May 16, 2003

> I am not sure of the dates but I doubt Bastiat was not
> saying that the state should not provide education for
> those that could not get it any other way. He was saying
> that he was opposed to compulsory state education. The
> question was a matter of fierce debate in 19th century
> France.

Oops. My bad, then.

I haven't read the text, yet. I'm hoping to do it over the weekend.

I think I understand why the debate should be fierce - on the one hand, one wants to respect the individual's right not to have an education; OTOH, one wonders what reason there could be for such a decision.

Add to that the fact that it's usually the parents deciding about their children education (as opposed to the individual deciding his own fate), and you have a pretty complex issue. Never really thought about it.

So, to clarify my position - I approve of state support and regulation, to prevent the support from being abused. I don't aprove of state enforcement, although I admit there are some cases where I can't present a reasonable argument either way - e.g., should the parents be allowed to decide that their children will not go to any school, public or otherwise, therefore potentially jeopardizing the kids' chance to earn a living? Naturally, there's no objection about the parents saying "My kids will not go to public school, I'll put them in a private school".

--
"Suravye ninto manshima taishite (Peace favor your sword)" (Shienaran salute)
"Life is a dream from which we all must wake before we can dream again" (Amys, Aiel Wise One)

Paulo Caetano
Friday, May 16, 2003

Hmmm confusing society and government.

Its in society's interest that every member is educated to the level that they can manage and that that education is fair and well organised.  It also happens to coincide with the individual's interest.

Modern Government is for the provision of managing resources it  should not be about preserving the powers of the few or the economically advantaged.

Having a well educated populace in a society where resources are controlled using the currency of taxation according to income and consumption it is as much to the advantage of those that are rich as it is to those that are materially poor.

Having a poor or restricted education system competing with an indepentant education system perpetuates a class system.  Having an education system which doesn't educate fairly and to the best of its resources cripples that society from  developing.

If you want a selfish proto-capitalist reason for educating everyone then consider that the higher the proportion of educated and employed members of society the lower the proportion of tax that the higher earning members will pay (under current systems).

Simon Lucy
Friday, May 16, 2003

Two other things popped up at me.

1.  The British Car Industry failed because it wasn't good enough.

To a degree this was true, though the reasons for the failure were more about management and investment than they were people going on strike.  By and large the strikes of the 60's and 70's were all of the 'compensate us for a crap working environment and for lousy targets'.  The Japanese imports were actually just as bad as the local cars at the equivalent model level.  We ended up with too much choice and the local management failed partly because of anti-competitive practices in the way cars were supplied (still are).

2.  The Southern Korean economy blossomed because it embraced capitalism.

Well kind of, but its a very particular form of capitalism.  Much as Japanese post war rebuilding was around the same mercantile families as before the war, so Korea built its economy around the chaebol families.  There are a great many other companies around them but they are all enmeshed in a subordinate web.

Korean capitalism has been less about competition than price rigging between the chaebol.  That has changed over time and things are less certain now (jailing members of the families in the numerous political funding scandals  of the 90's for example).  Samsung stepped out of line when it began selling RAM cheap at the beginning of the 90's the other families refused to talk and cooperate for a while after that.

There ain't no one system of anything.

Simon Lucy
Friday, May 16, 2003

The reasons for the collapse of the British car industry are various, but I can tell you that "not good enough" was the reason for the collapse of the British Motorcycle industry.

This "not good enough" was not the result of workers or management not caring; it was the result of them not caring about the right things.

First of all the market; the motorcycle was in the 50's the skilled working classes mode of transportation; they were ton up boys as teenagers, had the girlfriend/wife as pillion later on, and then got a sidecar for the kids. Increased prosperity by the 60's meant that many of them could afford cars.

So the old market was dying but the market that replaced it was that of young kids and students. And they either were into bikes and wanted the fastest which were Japanese two-strokes, or weren't into bikes and just wanted cheap transport, which they got initially from Italian scooters and later from Japanese small bikes.

Now the Britiish motorcycle industry turned up their nose at this market. They remarked that the scooters were toys and that the Japanese two-strokes were as stable as a jelly on meths. And the only bikes in the running in racing were British or Italian. True, but they failed twice over.

The kid on a provisional license didn't care how fast the machines that won the TT were; he could only drive a machine up to 250 c.c. and the British machines at that category were only fit for mowing the lawn.

The secretary going to the office, or the student going to college did not want to spend three evenings a week taking the engine apart in the back yard. He just wanted to go from A to B with no problem, and that was precisely what the Honda 50, Honda 90, and Honda 175CT allowed him to do. And the reputation that Honda built up from that meant that people started to buy the larger Hondas when they came out because they wouldn't be in the worshop five months a year, as the last Triumph Bonnevilles and Norton's were after they increased the bore to try and get more speed than the design was capable of.

(One good thing incidentally about the implosion of the British motorcycle industry in the mid- 70's was that the redundant designers were all snapped up by Japanese firms so that in a few years the Jap bikes were handling as well as the British bikes ever did).

To sum this up more generally, the Japanese succeed because they build what the customer wants, the Germans  succeed because the customer wants what they build, and the British failed because they built what the engineers or directors  wanted.

Stephen Jones
Friday, May 16, 2003

::the Apology::

Stephen::  "am not sure of the dates but I doubt Bastiat was not saying that the state should not provide education for those that could not get it any other way."

That is exactly what he was saying. He was totally opposed to the state provision of anything, including education. Before you accuse me of 'rape and paste', I suggest that you read a couple of works by Bastiat.

Horse:: "do you actually have a brain of your own, or are you only capable of regurgitating what someone else says?"

I do have a brain of my own. I could have summed up the arguments in my own words. Hell, I would have approached the debate from a different angle. One thing I wanted to highlight though, was the fact that this really is an old discussion. Folk have been arguing for and against protectionism for centuries. The texts I quoted were written over 150 years ago. Even then, industries argued for protection, using the same arguments that Techies are using today.... labour cheaper in XYZ country. Not fair. Can't compete. Impose tarriffs for the good of the country. YEAH RIGHT!

Baldrick:: "Ask him to think his arguments through and he'll just ignore you. "

So far, all of you have attacked my posts, not my logic. Please show some error in my assumptions or the logic leading me to the conclusions I make.

Paulo:: Everyone is entitled to a minimal education, in order to provide the basis for his self-support. The state shall provide it for those whose families cannot afford it.

Two questions arise here.
1. What is minimal education? Who determines what it is. 3rd Grade? 7th Grade? High school diploma? University?
2. Where is the state going to get the money to pay for this? Taxes? This is the state taking my money, via taxes, at gunpoint, and deciding what is in the best interests  of society. What gives them that right.


Paulo:: "Does that mean it's OK to leave the sick and the old to die, because they can't pull their own weight anymore?"

Not at all. There are those who are more compassionate than others. They will take care of the elderly. I was born in Africa. I still have elderly family there. With no STATE social service, they are still taken care of. Have faith in the power of the extended family, and in man's compassion.

Simon:: "If you want a selfish proto-capitalist reason for educating everyone then consider that the higher the proportion of educated and employed members of society the lower the proportion of tax that the higher earning members will pay"

I am not convinced that there is a link between the number of taxpayers, their incomes, and the overall tax burden. Your assumption is that it costs X to run government, where X is a fixed number. I would argue that Govt tends to expand to fill the available tax resources, and then some. Taxes today are higher, both in $$ amount, but also proportionately than they were 50  years ago, despite a widening tax base, and higher incomes.

I am personally convinced that education is a good thing. However, it is not the only thing. Zimbabwe has the most educated population in Africa, but look at them now. Having said that, companies have been investing in education programs in Africa for years, and funding scholarships to study abroad, because (1)they see the value of an educated population and (2)those benefits accrue directly to them via increase productivity etc. Just don't make me pay for it (via taxes) if I don't see the value in it.

Tapiwa's argument in a nutshell.....

If we as individuals decide to specialize and trade our speciality for all the other goods we need, what right has government to impose a tax on our transacting with individuals who live in a different geographic region?

Taxes or tarriffs of any sort, is basically the government telling society that they can take societies money, and spend it better on society than society can spend it on itself. Now I have a problem with this. I think I alone know what is best for me. Sometimes I learn the hard way, but the feedback is immediate, and so is my ability to change.

Forcing people to pay for my next Big Idea as a politician is wrong. No industry has a right to survival. No firm has a right to eternal profit. Each must earn their keep by providing value to customers. We cannot have some politician deciding what industries should be supported against foreign or indeed Technical competition.

Just imagine how different the world would be if congress had passed a law, adding a tax on cars, to create a fairer competition with the horse buggy industry. Hell, decree that no car can have an engine greater than 8h.p. Why?? To protect the jobs of all those involved in the buggy making, and horse maintenance industry.

</rant>

tapiwa
Friday, May 16, 2003

Ummm well tapiwa you seem to proving the point that if there's an alternate view you'll ignore it anyway.

The US tax system is probably unique and probably the strangest that's ever existed and I admit it wasn't the US system of which I was thinking.

The US system suffers from having a multiply tiered tax system with a proportionately low means of controlling those that  create the taxes.  Its a federal system which  sets one state up against another and its a system which outwardly revolts against 'socialism' (though not one tenth of one percent of the population could give a definition of it), yet maintains a last resource welfare system which is more expensive and less effective than any 'socialised' alternative.

Tax is not about the 'government' knowing more than you about spending your own money.  The government is not separate to you, you are part of it.  If you don't feel that you belong to society then you naturally enough are able to leave it, not contributing to it if you remain though seems churlish.

Simon Lucy
Friday, May 16, 2003

> Two questions arise here.
> 1. What is minimal education? Who determines what it is.
> 3rd Grade? 7th Grade? High school diploma? University?

I guess a good indicator would be to look at the job market's most common requirements, and then start working from there.

> 2. Where is the state going to get the money to pay for
> this? Taxes? This is the state taking my money, via taxes,
> at gunpoint, and deciding what is in the best interests  of
> society. What gives them that right.

I believe Simon's last paragraph sums up my opinion quite nicely :)

> Have faith in the power of the extended family, and in
> man's compassion.

Maybe this is one of the main differences between us - I have very little faith in man's compassion.

In Portugal, we have quite a few villages with less than 10-20 people, all of them elderly, most of them with extremely low income. The younger ones left for other places, and often other countries. A few years ago, the public bus company (picture a state-run Greyhound) went private. A few months later, the first thing the new owners did was shut down the unprofitable routes. Perfect business sense, naturally. Of course, now some of these villages are truly isolated, with no means of transport other than calling a taxi, which is prohibitively expensive for the majority.

What is the solution here? I don't know. But I do know that I wouldn't mind if some of my taxes would go to make sure these people could have some decent mobility.

Mind you, the train company, which is still state-owned, has been doing exactly the same thing, with the same disregard for people's needs. So much for the state's social awareness.

> No industry has a right to survival. No firm has a right to
> eternal profit.

Another portuguese example. The state builds bridges, and highways. However, the state does not wish to manage them, preferring to make deals with private companies, who are then responsible for said management (e.g., repairs), and receive the income from tolls.

However, all the contracts include a minimum traffic clause. IOW, if the bridge/highway doesn't have minimum traffic of x cars per year, the state pays the difference. I don't know how it happens in other countries, but this is common practice in Portugal. And is seen a normal procedure. Well, if this is a normal procedure, and if it's a sensible measure, then I'd like some of that guaranteed minimum profit, too, if you don't mind.

My point is the guaranteed eternal profit won't go away, because the states and some corporations have an extremely cozy relationship. And you can liberalize as much as you want - nothing will make this relationship go.

--
"Suravye ninto manshima taishite (Peace favor your sword)" (Shienaran salute)
"Life is a dream from which we all must wake before we can dream again" (Amys, Aiel Wise One)

Paulo Caetano
Friday, May 16, 2003

Think of a society as a superorganism that regulates the individuals to collectively transcend the local optimum of individual maximisation.
Just as your body is composed of individual cells, the collective is capable of more than the constituants.

How does your unbound capitalist anarchy prevent a total pilage and burn decline of the commons scenario?

Just me (Sir to you)
Friday, May 16, 2003

"churlish" is the right word. Just like a particularly precocious spoilt child:

"Waah, why can't I have sweets, I want sweets, what gives you the right to tell me not to eat sweets? It's not fair! The big boys say I should be allowed more sweets!"

"Waah, I don't like paying tax. What gives you the right to take my money. It's not fair! Bastiat says I can have more sweets!"

Grow up already.

Baldrick
Friday, May 16, 2003

"My point is the guaranteed eternal profit won't go away, because the states and some corporations have an extremely cozy relationship. "
-- We can't give up the fight. Many things/ideas that seemed insurmountable have now been condemned to the anals of history.

"Just like a particularly precocious spoilt child: "
-- Baldrik, what is your attitude towards drugs. And pornography?  Do you think some middle aged white men in a house on a hill should determine for you and the other 250m Americans what you can and cannot smoke/drink??

"Think of a society as a superorganism that regulates the individuals to collectively transcend the local optimum of individual maximisation. "
-- how big is this society?? Is it just me, myself and I? Is it the good old US of A? Is it the entire planet?  In this said superorganism, who is supposed to be the brain? Dubya??

"The government is not separate to you, you are part of it. "
-- What is the government? How many folk here truly identify with their governments.  Government is the great fiction through which everybody endeavors to live at the expense of everybody else.

"If you don't feel that you belong to society then you naturally enough are able to leave it,"
-- I can't leave. Immigration policies serve governments. You can either put up with their shit, or put up with their shit. Why do you think it was so difficult to travel outside the Soviet Union during the height of communism? I personally that the one way to get rid of despotic regimes is to allow free movement of capital, Human Capital. Don't give countries a monopoly on their citizens.

-- I can't refuse to pay taxes and forfeit state privileges. They do me in for tax evasion. The IRS has so much power it is scary. The US and UK are always putting pressure on tax havens to shut down, or make it more difficult for folk to 'not pay taxes'.

"job market's most common requirements"
-- you have got to do better than this. This is so vague, as to allow any interpretation. I could get into power and decree, that as long as one can talk, then one is educated enough. Next dude would decree that every man woman and child shall earn a Phd.....

Back to the original question...
If we are all part of one society, why should we need protection from programmers in India or China? Does our society only extend as far as the continental US? Why?

tapiwa
Friday, May 16, 2003

Of course you can leave, tapiwa. If you can get a job, immigrating to Canada is easy. I'd be very surprised if Saudi, India, Korea, most of Latin America or Africa turned away a computer prefessional with a job. How about the Caymens? Indonesia? Or a hundred other places where professionals are in demand?

Or is it possible that our current from of government is the worst, except for all the others?

David Clayworth
Friday, May 16, 2003

Tapiwa,
            The reason I am acccusing you of  rape and paste, is that your wholesale quotes from Bastiat actually obscure what your argument is.

              Indeed I think you are trying to argue at least three different propositions. Arguing against tariffs as a protectionist measure you then go on to argue against them as a fiscal measure, which is a very different matter.

              You can be quite against protectionism but in favour of indirect taxation on consumer goods. You can even be in favour of import tariffs when they are a way of stopping much needed foreign exchange from leaving the country. This, and not the protection of the Bangladeshi computer industry, was the reason P. J. O'Rourke had so much trouble bringing in his laptop to Bangla Desh a few years back.

              Now the passion behind your attack against taxationt reminds me of your passion against lawyers in an earlier post. Could it be that you lost your hundred grand in lawyers fees fighting the Inland Revenue?

Stephen Jones
Friday, May 16, 2003

tapiwa, to answer your question, I think pornography is great. It seems like a lot of the population here (the UK, since you ask) think so too, because about three years ago US-style 'hardcore' - as certified R18 over here - was legalised in licensed outlets. Why? Well, maybe it was popular opinion - that society thing, deciding what is acceptable.

You see, those nasty men who conspire to stop you doing just what you want occasionally let you, as 'tapiwa the one conspired against by the evils of tax and government', do what you want to.

So grow up. Maybe when they make sugar-free health giving sweets, us grownups will let you have some.

Baldrick
Friday, May 16, 2003

Stephen Jones is right when he points out that tapiwa is arguing three different propositions.  I agree with his first proposition -- that tariffs are a bad idea -- but for completely different reasons. 

Tapiwa (as far as I can tell) argues that tariffs are bad because taxation in general is an evil -- as he says, "This is the state taking my money, via taxes, at gunpoint, and deciding what is in the best interests  of society. What gives them that right?"  This is the second proposition -- the libertarian, minarchist, or anarchist position, that taxation is theft.

I disagree with this proposition.

The third proposition is related to the second, moving from property to human liberty -- hence the question about drugs, pornography, and other paternalistic regulations governments tend to impose on their citizens.  But this is only related tangentally, so I'll ignore it.

Back to the second proposition -- so, what gives government the right of taxation?  Forgive me for a moment if I bring up a FOURTH point -- and that is that the world's best minds have yet to agree where "rights" ultimately arise.  Liberal philosophers of several centuries ago stated that rights stem from the fact of being a human; before them the clerics and the Church argued that man's rights are given by God himself.  Nihilists will say that rights are a fiction, and socialists would say that rights are granted by government according to the will and consent of the majority of the governed.

Seeing as the greatest minds cannot agree on this more basic question, I doubt I could convince a devoted libertarian or anarchist of the legitimacy of taxation, but I'll try.

One might say that because I earned a dollar today, this dollar entire belongs to me and no one else.  But this is naive.  After all, who coins money in the first place?  Government does.  Who regulates the production of new currency?  Government does.  Who ensures that the dollar today will be worth the same tomorrow?  Government does.  Who provides the infrastructure to enforce legal contracts made between private parties, so that trade can continue in a fair and equitable manner?  Government does.  Who has the authority to regulate powerful corporations so that they cannot overrun the rights of the private individual?  Once again, government does.

The very fact that there exists an economic system that allows you to earn a dollar in the first place, is due to government.  I would much rather earn a dollar and keep 60 cents of it than earn a nickel and keep all of it.  Without [good] government this is exactly what will happen.

Another function of government is to distribute the cost of items which everyone benefits from but no one actually "buys".  Even if you don't have kids, it makes sense for you to contribute to the education of your neighbor's children, that in the future a more well-educated populace will be more law-abiding, more industrious and provide a better economy which will in the long run be to your benefit.  Similarly with gas taxes, which fund roads and public transportation, and income taxes which fund the common defense from foreign aggressors.  It is churlish -- as others have pointed out -- to refuse to pay for these simply because, "I never consented to it, don't ask me to pay for it".

And what about welfare?  "Have faith in man's compassion".  I got a good chuckle out of that one, tapiwa.  Those that are compassionate are already compassionate.  Those that aren't compassionate are demanding that the State stop robbing them of their hard-earned money and spending it on someone else's geriatric grandma.  I swear there must be a huge delusion that as soon as Big Government stops making us take care of the elderly and sick, there will suddenly be a lot more money available for taking care of the elderly and sick.

I do not claim that our current government is perfect, and there isn't waste and misspent dollars -- but I will never say that the government has no right taxing me.

Alyosha`
Friday, May 16, 2003

Stephen... I agree with you, this discussion has ended up with me arguing on many fronts.

Having said that, the central argument remains. Govt, and by extention, the law, is just the "collective organisation of the individual's right to defence". This being defence of the the self, and one's property.

My problem is when this collective, which we have empowered with the use of violence (police/prisons/fines etc) begins to make other decisions on our behalf.

- Why should govt decide who trades or does not? (licences)
- Why should govt decide who receives free money? (welfare)
- Why should govt decide what forms of entertainment we should be allowed? (censorship)
- Why should govt decide which countries we can buy our goods (protectionism and tarriffs)
- Why should govt decide which industries survive despite their cost being greater than their benefit to society? (subsidies)
...  I could go on.

You call me a libertarian anarchist. You do not have faith in man's ability to organize himself without coercion. Yet you profess the utmost faith in a bunch of men's ability to make all these far reaching decisions for you.

I would rather take my chances with the neighbours than with the govt.

We all have different values and morals. Plato argued for all kids to be raised by the state, and their career paths decided for them. We laugh at this, but we ourselves are not too far off. In the UK, they lock up parents of truant kids!

In some societies, the youngest child is obligated to never leave, but stay at home and look after the parents. We say this is barbaric, or uncultured, but then complain about the lonely elderly in our communities.

In some societies, kids are given alcohol from an early age. (red wine anyone). In the US, you are not trusted to drink until you are 21. You can vote for a govt though. And you can die for your country. You are even allowed to drive, but no, you can't drink.

A friend of mine listed what the 'basics' of any household should be. ('twas a discussion about what at a minimum, the govt should provide single mothers with in a council flat). Amongst the things which she listed, were a microwave, and a radio(tuner). I have neither. Not because I can't afford them, but because I have no need for them.

That is my biggest fear regarding big govt. They really do not know best. I am not convinced they have my interests at heart either.

Govt for example, decides that marriage is a good thing, so they tax married couples less. They decide that kids are a good thing, so you get child tax credits. They also decide that buying KFC is good, as long as you eat it at home, so KFC pays no VAT on takeaway (basic foodstuff), but as soon as you eat it on the premises it becomes a luxury, so KFC must pay VAT. Govt also decides that Castro is a bad person, so you are not allowed to smoke Cuban cigars. They also decide that there are too many cabs in pick-a-city, and so you can't just buy a cab and start working. You need a licence, join the queue.

Essentially, all I am saying is that we all have different ideas on what constitutes an ideal society.
- Does the fact that the majority think it is one way give us the right to impose that will on all. (moral legislation)
- Furthermore, does our desire for the next-big-art-fad give us a right to get the entire populace to pay for a museum via taxes? (pork barrelling)
- Does our desire for guaranteed employment and profits give us the right to demand that the rest pay for it? (tarriffs and subsidies).

I am not convinced this is so. So no, I do not support protectionsm. And no, I am not a fair weather capitalist. No I do not trust the govt. Yes I do have faith in man.

The govt after all is composed of men. The fact that they have this govt moniker, does not give them some wisdom beyond all others. If you do not trust man, how then can you not only make an exception with these legislators, but also empower them to use physical violence to enforce their decisions?

tapiwa
Saturday, May 17, 2003

Tapiwa,
            Very clear and much better without the long passages from Bastiat.

              What people disagree with is your initial premise: ---"This being defence of the the self, and one's property." ----

                You are presuming that property is a right prior to social organization and its extensions, government and law, and this is very far from being universally agreed.

                    You may have heard that Americans have a constituional right to "the pursuit of happiness". It is often said that this is an early example of American hedonism but in fact the inclusion was the result of a long debate: a debate over whether private property should be a constitutional right. This was strongly opposed in many quarters and the "pursuit of happiness" was included as a compromise, on the grounds that the destitute are not normally very happy.

                      To take a more modern example in the Spanish Constituion of 1978 the right to propery is dependent on its social purpose.

                        Now there is one other thing I would like to say and that is that by presenting an extreme view you are alienating many potential supporters. There is an old saying that politics is like a train; some people may want to get off earlier in the journey than you do, but you don't charter separate trains if you are all going in the same direction.

                      Plenty of us are of the opinion that government restirictions are often unjustified, and that regulation all to often has exactly the opposite effect to the intended, but do not share your eighteenth century view of the sanctity of property and the evil of governance.

Stephen Jones
Saturday, May 17, 2003

Suppose we dismantle government and revoke all laws. You think you'll have any more freedom in the long run?

Sooner or later, a group will sieze power and impose themselves as a government.  And they will extract taxes from you, in the form of labor, goods or cash, whether you like it or not.

If a government does not use tools of enforcement such as prisons and police, it very soon will no longer exist, and will be replaced by someone else who will sieze power and enforce their wills in perhaps more vicious ways.

Government and taxation is an inescapable condition of human society, whether you are in a billion-person nation or a tiny Pacific island. Even a 50-person tribe living in the Amazon jungle will have established its own rules of behavior, taxation, and punishment.

Government is inevitable, so our only option is to do what we can to establish the best government available, including aiming to select those who do have better wisdom than the common man to serve in governmental positions.  Unfortunately, one of the reasons why we still get morons in government is that there are many morons voting them into power.

T. Norman
Saturday, May 17, 2003

T. Norman

don't get me wrong. I am not advocating for the dismantlement of this institution called govt. I agree, you probably need someone to enforce contracts, prevent/punish theft/injury to property and the self.

I am however saying that I am opposed to the tendency of special interest groups to use this instrument of the law to support their pet cause, or to protect their industry or even to impose their sense of morality and their values on the rest of the population.

The very same folk, the sunshine capitalists, who argue for tarriffs, or controls to the numbers of HB1 visas, are the first to rally for the call to fight against Communism. Ironic huh? This is where the the whole double standards thread came. ps. they are probably ranting on a made in Taiwan laptop, and drive a car that burn arab or nigerian fuel. Their clothes were probably made in Malaysia. They reap the benefits of trade, but when it seems to threaten their little niche, they want to turn to the law for protection.

I think this is a natural human tendency, and the only way to prevent it is to limit the extent to which the law can be applied. Today we said everyone with a gun should register it. Tomorrow some senator wants to limit the availabilty of digital tools that allow you to crack protection. The day after that, they will say you need a special permit to own a computer that can generate code. All in the name of protecting us from ourselves.

tapiwa
Saturday, May 17, 2003

Not being funny tapiwa, but you have just backtracked quite a bit in that post. You'd make a great politicain - I'd go so far as to say you're the next Tony.

Baldrick
Saturday, May 17, 2003

baldrik explain. Not sure where I am supposed to have backtracked.

I am still against paying taxes to support the single mothers, or the elderly or any other 'poor' part of society.

I am still opposed to govt education and govt health services.

I am still opposed to favoured industries.

I still believe that man is born with his rights, and they are not a result of a generous govt.

I could go on ...

tapiwa
Saturday, May 17, 2003

"A wise and frugal government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, which shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government, and this is necessary to close the circle of our felicity."
-- Thomas Jefferson, 1801

"A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of  government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves money from the Public Treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidate promising the most benefits from the Public Treasury with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy always followed by dictatorship."
-- Alexander Fraser Tyler The Decline and Fall of the Athenian Republic

tapiwa
Saturday, May 17, 2003

Tapiwa, I can't figure out if you have faith in the common man or not.  You say you do, but then you quote such cynical passages which indicate that the common man, if left to his own devices, will eventually vote more and more money for himself out of the public treasury ...

As Churchill said, democracy is the absolute worst form of government -- with the possible exception of all the other forms of government that have ever been tried.

To answer your question, tapiwa -- no, I don't have much faith in the common man.  I believe leadership is necessary in government.  Not everyone can be a good, wise, and just leader.

There is still a lot of common ground between us -- although I hardly see providing for the general welfare (as in supporting the elderly, disabled, and impoverished) or the education of the populace as an "unnecessary" part of government -- I too oppose wasteful spending when it occurs.  In general, though, the US does pretty well -- it has one of the lowest tax rates of any industrialized nation expressed as a percentage of its GDP.  But ask me some time about Sound Transit here in Seattle, or the waste that occurs in the defense sector, or the national deficit, or the fiscal irresponsibility of the tax-cut-and-spend "conservatives" of the current administration, and you'll hear an earful from me.

Alyosha`
Saturday, May 17, 2003

Are you sure about the low tax rate in the US?

I thought this was only because a large a proportion of tax came from State taxes and tney were not taken into the equation.

If you reckon that health care has to be paid for separately in the States, whereas in most of the industrial nations it is free, then I am not at all sure that the US is a low tax economy.

Stephen Jones
Saturday, May 17, 2003

That's correct ... I was referring just to taxation on the  federal level.  Here in Washington, we don't have a state income tax although we have a fairly high (by US standards) sales tax to make up for it.  In Oregon the situation is reversed -- no sales tax, but an income tax.  Sales and state income taxes are usually a fraction of the federal income tax paid each year by the average citizen, however.

The US is a low-tax country in part because it doesn't have a universal health care system, although Social Security and Medicare consume about two-fifths of the US federal budget between them (another fifth goes to the military, a third is split among a whole list of discretionary programs, and about 10% to pay down the interest on the debt).

Alyosha`
Saturday, May 17, 2003

tapiwa, I gather you still have a right to get cancer.  Because you can. Don't expect us to help you.

Baldrick
Saturday, May 17, 2003

Actually, Alyosha, I think you'll find the US has one of the highest personal tax regimes in the industrialised world, depends a little on the State, but on average its higher than even somewhere like Germany.

As for inalienable human rights.

It is one of the ironies that people claim that any human being has a set of rights that they inherit simply because they are born.  There's a lot of pushing and tugging because one set of individuals in this or that country is perceived by some in another as having those rights trammeled or suppressed.

In truth though we have whatever rights we have by virtue of the society we live within.  There is a set of Human Rights codified but of all the signatories only Sweden and Denmark (I think) actually accept the entire screed without exception.

Even such constitutions as the US has, defined its rights in terms of a citizenship evidenced by property and in the first place gender.  There is no absolute set of rights to which anyone could lay claim.

Simon Lucy
Sunday, May 18, 2003

What Stephen was pointing out is that Americans pay so much for health care, that it is an illusion that Americans pay lower taxes than other developed countries.

A good health plan in America for a single person typically costs about $5000/year.  Normally employers pay most of that cost, not including it in your salary -- 80% seems to be a common proportion.

So let's take somebody with a salary listed as $40K.  Employer pays $4000 and the person pays $1000 for the health plan.  So effectively they have a $44K compensation package (assuming no other benefits and bonuses), with $39K left after paying for health care, from which state and federal taxes will be deducted.

The health care amounts to 5/44 = 11.4% of their compensation.  Add that to what they pay in federal and state tax, and they may be paying as high a percentage as they do in European countries with nationalized health care. The difference being that in America if you're unemployed or your employer doesn't provide health benefits, you're screwed.

This is not to say that a nationalized health care system is better ... I am just making a pure dollars and cents comparison regarding taxation.

T. Norman
Sunday, May 18, 2003

"It is one of the ironies that people claim that any human being has a set of rights that they inherit simply because they are born."

I don't find it ironic that there are rights that are endowed upon birth.  Certainly being born is sufficient to have the right not to have your eyes gouged out, and the right not to be raped.

The debate comes from some rights that are granted by the state but are spoken of as natural rights.

T. Norman
Sunday, May 18, 2003

T. Norman:: "Tapiwa, I can't figure out if you have faith in the common man or not.  You say you do, but then you quote such cynical passages which indicate that the common man, if left to his own devices, will eventually vote more and more money for himself out of the public treasury ..."

I am with you on this one. There is a tendency in man to better himself at the expense of others, if he can get away with it. Nations do the same too. So we have the law says you cannot steal from T. Norman. If you do, then we shall throw you in prison.

Armed with these instruments of violence though, the legislators go on to 'steal' from you and I, to pay for the latest pork barrell project in pick-a-state. The very instrument that is supposed to protect me from fellow man is used by other men to 'steal' from me, or by the same men to impose their moral values on me. What recourse do I have?

"Sometimes it is said that man cannot be trusted with the government of himself. Can he, then, be trusted with the government of others? Or have we found angels in the forms of kings to govern him? Let history answer this question."
-- Thomas Jefferson, First Inaugural Address


"People who relieve others of their money with guns are called robbers. It does not alter the immorality of the act when the income transfer is carried out by government."
-- Cal Thomas

"If evangelical Christians demand that Playboy magazines be removed from store shelves, that is not censorship. Others are free to demand, just as forcefully that Playboy be kept on the shelves. And merchants can reject the evangelical's demands. But when a government sends in police to close down bookstores, arrest musicians, artists and photographers, burn video tapes, or shut down computer networks, that is censorship."
-- Jarret B Wolstein

tapiwa
Sunday, May 18, 2003

Tapiwa: It wasn't me who said that part about "you quote such cynical passages," it was Alyosha...

T. Norman
Sunday, May 18, 2003

T. Norman. My bad. I apologize. Should double check my sources :)

tapiwa
Sunday, May 18, 2003

Well it looks like this thread died another death of a thousand tapiwas, but I'll resurrect it for a small rant.

If tax is wrong, how about rent? Why does a landlord have a right to collect money? Does he really own the land, I mean, sure, he has a deed, but who says the deed means anything? Another landlord!

And why does my employer get to keep part of the profit I generate for the company? Surely I should pocket the full amount of value that I've added to the raw materials? Shouldn't I? After all, every dollar I *earn* is mine, right? And my employer has no right to decide what I earn, no more than the government.

It's just not fair...


Friday, May 23, 2003

*  Recent Topics

*  Fog Creek Home