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View Diary: This week in science: billions and billionaires (107 comments)

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  •  maybe the rich really are scared of global warming (0+ / 0-)

    And they've figured out they've got less than 100 years to build Palm Springs on Mars to save their Mini-Mes ... I mean their grandchildren.  Hence the rush and the willingness to forgo their otherwise sacred right to profit that justifies everything they do to everyone else.

    •  Why is being rich a sin? nt (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      cyberpuggy

      notext

      •  you can only get rich by making others poor (0+ / 0-)

        There's only so much money out there.  There's only so much land and there are only so many factories.  Someone who wants to own a lot of them can only do so by making sure that other people cannot own any of them.  Diverting resources to luxuries and vanity projects means fewer resources available to meet the basic needs of regular people.  Squeezing employees to keep profits up - not least because it's just not as profitable to make a better product: stockholders (some of whom are also company executives) demand their quarterly dividends - really does "trickle down" through the whole economy, and as sales decline, everyone has to squeeze that much harder.  The entire conservative political platform works to protect and expand established wealth by depriving everyone else not just of pay and benefits, but of a voice and of control over their own destiny.  Supposedly there are more physicists and mathematicians working for Wall Street building their market models and trading algorithms than there are working in traditional science.

        Profit means getting out more than you put in, and that's unsustainable.  Eventually your consumer base will be too poor to support you anymore.  Marx figured that out 150 years ago.  Poor people are too poor for Wal-Mart and McDonalds anymore.  Yet corporate profits are back at all-time highs and you wouldn't know it unless you live in the billionaire bubble.  I read an article just last night about how the Japanese culture industry is in steep decline because its middle-class consumer base has been hugely eroded by 20 years of "lost decade" malaise; the poor don't have disposable income and the rich are too few.

        •  I don't agree that (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          TexasTom, Noodles, JBNathan85

          we don't live in a zero-sum game world.  And money isn't really a fundamental resource we care about (unlike time, or energy, or minerals, etc).  Money is merely how we try and measure the efficiency of how we use resources,

          There are a lot of untapped resources out there, that we can use.  

        •  I'm calling BS... (4+ / 0-)

          ...on this assertion.

          There is a type of wealth that comes entirely from making other people poorer, and the primary examples of that come from the Wall Street financiers who just manipulate and move money around.  Since they don't actually create anything, their wealth is inherently coming from someone else.

          But any time someone invents a new product or process, or brings something new and creative into the world, then the pie does indeed become bigger.  While I would not endorse everything that these guys did, I think we could make a pretty fair argument that both Bill Gates and Steve Jobs ultimately made the world as a whole wealthier, even while they also lined their own pockets.

          And I don't have a problem with that in the same way that I have a problem with some arrogant hedge fund SOB who brings home a half billion each year and acts like the world owes him everything for the fact that he's making a pile of money.

          Political Compass: -6.75, -3.08

          by TexasTom on Sat Mar 02, 2013 at 08:31:28 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Apple, Microsoft coders made world wealthier (0+ / 0-)

            If anyone made the world as a whole wealthier, it was thousands and thousands of no-name employees who did the actual work of making Apple's and Microsoft's products.  I find it very hard to believe that Bill Gates and Steve Jobs did tens of billions of dollars worth of software design, electrical engineering, etc. ... much less work 16 hour days at Foxconn's assembly plant.  IMO Gates and Jobs really aren't any different than the hedge funders: they got rich because they thought it was their due as CEOs - as "owners" - despite other people doing 99.999% of the work ... and society agreed with them.

    •  The danger in this = feeding the fantasies (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Happy Ones, TiaRachel

      Even Stephen Hawking is part of this -- that the solution to poisoning, polluting, over-populating, and generally messing up this entire planet is to start over somewhere else. It's the 21st century version of the European push to colonize the Americas, Africa, and parts of Asia, which they fantasized were either unoccupied by other humans or occupied by people with a lesser entitlement.

      I am not in favor of anything that feeds this fantasy -- and burns up gazillions of gallons of fossil fuel in pursuit of its goal, which hastens the day when Earth will no longer support human life.

      •  Please explain (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        JBNathan85

        why you are assuming that space development and space settlement presupposes not restoring Earth?  

        •  restoring Earth won't happen regardless of space (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Happy Ones

          The rich have zero incentive to curb consumption of resources and cut their profit margins by cleaning up their acts.  Ergo, so long as they're calling the shots, environmental catastrophe is inevitable whether we colonize other planets or not.  Opening up new resources in space isn't going to do anything to protect Earth, not least because the space-based resources will be more expensive, but because again in a capitalist system there's no incentive to use less of anything.  All consumption - whether it's clean or dirty, necessary or frivolous - makes a profit for someone.  The closest the market wants to get is to use the same huge and constantly growing amount of resources more efficiently: in other words, more profitably.  Minerals mined from asteroids and solar power beamed from space-based arrays will join fossil fuels and terrestrial strip mining to kick the consumption orgy up to the next level.

          Space boosterism is less a conscious decision to abandon Earth to its fate than the logical conclusion for people who either see "gold in them thar hills" and/or take it for granted that the Earth (and anyone left behind) is screwed.

          •  Sorry, but you are ALL over the map (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            JBNathan85

            You are applying a strict assumption about how the system works, that isn't fundamentally true.  

            As for space boosterism - just because someone sees resources offered by space does not lead to the logical conclusion of abandon earth.  I don't see it.  

            •  I'm assuming based on what I see (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Happy Ones

              Nothing I see suggests that humanity is interested in anything but BAU: more consumption, more pollution, more profit ... glory be to Mammon in the highest!  If things change, it will be because change is forced upon us, most likely as blowback in the form of catastrophic ecosphere failure.  We're not just going off the cliff, we're doing it with grim determination because we think we have to.  As far as the rich are concerned, the environmentalist utopia is functionally equivalent to straight-up economic suicide.  Fewer people consuming fewer resources?!  Why don't we just blow our greedy wad and end up just as poor a century later after a really awesome party?  It really doesn't help that these are the kind of people who'd rather reign in hell than serve in heaven; the kind of people who'd rather be buried in pyramids in a climate changed wasteland surrounded by their treasures and the bodies of their wretched slaves ... than be mulch for a tree growing in a park in a sustainable utopia.

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