RE: capitalist religion (was: NANO: _Forbes_ cover story)

From: Barbara Lamar (
Date: Sun Jul 22 2001 - 15:26:03 MDT

 Lee Corbin wrote:

>> Sometimes a person can have a run of bad luck (such as being born to a
>> parent who can't take proper care of herself, let alone a child;

>You are changing the meaning of my the question :-) You had used yourself
>as an illustration, and now you're back to talking about other people.

Oh, okay. I'll use myself. In the mid-1980's the U.S. Internal Revenue Code
was amended so that real estate went from being a tax-favored investment to
being slightly tax-disadvantaged relative to other investments. At the same
time, the price of oil dropped drastically, which had a significant negative
impact on the economy of Texas. Prior to the mid-1980's I had a very healthy
net worth which I'd mostly accumulated by buying run-down single and
multi-family dwellings and restoring or remodeling them (I began with a $700
downpayment, which I got by saving the tips I earned working as a waitress
and night auditor at the Hyatt Regency Houston). The change in the tax law,
together with the drop in oil prices, caused the $-value of real estate to
plummet to half or less of its former $-value. Properties went on the market
cheap, often for no money down. As a result, rents fell by 50% or more.
Meanwhile, costs for taxes, insurance, maintenance, and interest remained at
their former levels (it took a while for various prices to adjust to the new
situation). Many people withdrew as much money from their businesses as
possible and then filed for protection under the bankruptcy laws. I put most
of my personal money into my business, trying to honor my company's
obligations. As a result, I ended up pretty much flat broke at the end of
the 80's.
        Meanwhile, my husband's girlfriend got pregnant and he decided he wanted a
divorce so he could move in with her. Their kid was born with severe health
problems and my ex-husband had to deal with that and really didn't have many
resources left over for me and our daughter. The girlfriend was apparently
abusing our daughter when she stayed at her dad's house, so I had to take
full responsibility for raising her.
        Working 60-80 hours per week in my law office (luckily I had a law degree
to fall back on when my business went down the tubes)--trying to pay off old
debts and support me and my daughter--took it's toll on my health, and in
1991 I became very ill with bilateral pneumonia and came very close to
dying. It took over six months for me to fully recover my health, during
which period I couldn't work full time. I had to let all but two of my
employees go and scale my law practice way back.
        As it happened, I didn't choose to accept help from the government.
Instead, I decided to build a house and grow my own food so I could live
without much money. My daughter and I lived in a shed in my cousin's back
yard for a while. I believe this would probably qualify us as "homeless."
This was not by choice, I assure you (although I have to admit, it was kinda
interesting, living in a shed). It surely would have been nice to have the
safety net of a guaranteed minimum income at that time.
        So I built a house in the woods and hauled water from the pond in a bucket
until I got enough money to buy a pump and pvc to pipe water to the house. I
used a water heater I found in someone's trash and set it on bricks over a
wood fire for hot water until I had enough money to buy 2nd hand solar water
heating panels and a backup propane heater. And so forth.
        I was one of the LUCKY single parents in that I happened to have a law
degree that allowed me to make pretty good money for each hour I worked. So
I was able to get by with very limited part-time work. Also, I knew how to
use tools on account of the work I'd done remodeling and restoring houses,
and I'd been a gardener since I was a kid (and had also raised chickens and
other birds), so I knew how to grow food. Also, I tend to be somewhat
fearless with respect to taking leaps into uncertainty, which was a great
help. But I was close to the edge more than once--my story could have had a
more tragic ending, as many people's do.

> You might favor a world government
>that would rectify this situation.

Not at all. See my other post where I discuss the conditions under which I
think a guaranteed minimum income would work.

> Can you not suppose that I too, and many other people with whom you
>disagree, are extreme opponents of suffering?

Sure, I can. And if you say you're an opponent of suffering, I have no
reason not to believe you.

> You even go so far
>as to imply (by comparison) that other people do consider suffering
>"beautiful or noble".

I think some people do. "No gain without pain" and so forth.

> If you are really serious about what should
>be done about suffering, please read David Pearce's "The Hedonistic
>Imerative" (don't be put off by the title) at

Thank you for the reference. I've read it and found it interesting.

>So would we all. It's frankly a question of how high a price
>we have to pay, whether it would work, and whose rights we have
>to trample on to get there.

I agree. BTW, I don't recall writing anywhere that I desire to trample
anyone's rights (I don't believe I even implied this). I either failed to
make my meaning clear, or you read something into what I wrote that wasn't
there. I arrange my own financial affairs so that I pay the least taxes
possible, and as a tax lawyer and accountant I help other people do
likewise, not only because I think the tax system is unfair, but also
because I don't approve of the way most of the money is used.


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