Re: One humanity, all in the same boat

From: Samantha Atkins (
Date: Sun Jan 13 2002 - 15:32:15 MST

Chris Hibbert wrote:

> Samantha Atkins wrote (responding to me):
>>As I have asked many times here and
>>haven't really been answered, what happens when there is no
>>market due to automation and continually more sophisticated
>>technology, for anyone with less than a certain amount of
>>general intelligence and a fair amount of training?
>>[...] The "job" paradigm may be
>>increasingly obsolete as may be some old economic models based
>>in more scarcity and less high technology.
> I don't see any problem with this. One of the things I think I said is
> sometimes when buggy whips go out of style, the people involved have to figure
> out for themselves a way to be productive. Sitting around waiting for someone
> else to invent a new industry and employ you won't solve the problem. Until
> everyone is happy, there will always be something to do. Why should it be otherwise?

This, again, is simply an assertion that there is no such
problem. If you turn out to be wrong and there is no job at all
for a significant part of the population, what then? Should we
just allow them to die and hope that we never end up one of them?

>>Increasingly it may not be
>>economically feasible to hire and train people in many
>>companies, at least not people below a certain intelligence and
>>level of training. What then for these people who are no longer
> [I assume "companies" is a typo for "countries".]

Why would you assume that? It does not follow.

> One of the charities I give to (as I've mentioned before) is Trickle Up. They
> loan $100 to the poorest of the poor in the poorest countries to start very
> simple businesses. weaving baskets, repacking foods, watching other people's
> children. These people then hire others. (aside:) Having read de Soto's "The
> Mystery of Capital", I now believe that in many of these countries one of the
> biggest problems is that the poor can't get a loan on their home, even though
> they are the undisputed owner of the property. This is their biggest obstacle
> to getting the small amount of capital that is required to start very simple
> service businesses that contribute in substantial ways to their own and their
> neighbor's lifestyles.

This is commendable. But the question remains of what happens
when these measures prove inadequate.

>>>When [immigrants] start a
>>>family, they'll yearn for the same comforts for their children as the
>>>rest of us, and work as hard as it takes to make it.
>>Personally, I still think the US can do a lot worse than provide
>>some reasonable stipend in the form of a grant (say 12,000/yr)
>>to every capable adult who wishes to continue his/her
>>education. The need is great to get a more educated population
>>and workforce and we can't wait for "trickle-down" to have it.
> I'm not sure this is good incentive engineering. (Not that I disagree with
> the goal, only with whether this is the most effective way to reach it.) When
> people want an education (for themselves or their children) enough to work
> overtime to get it, they value what they get and manage it wisely. If

I know from personal experience just how extremely difficult it
is to work fulltime and attend college. Saying we should have
people suffer more, many beyond their means to do so, so they
will value it more is very uncaring imho. Valuing something
does not require having to work double-time (or more) to acheive
it. Putting up or allowing a barrier where some of those with
the intelligence and desire to gain greater technical competence
cannot do so or have an unnecessarily difficult time doing so
does not seem to me to be in our interest at all.

> education is a gift or a right, many will squander it and not realize until
> they finally are on their own that their choices make a difference. That

In a society utterly dependent on an educated population, all
should have access to as much education as they can profitably
learn from. Anything less cheats all of us.

> said, I do believe that education is important. But my and my significant
> other's plan for our nieces and nephews is that we will save money (in our
> name, not in a trust account that we don't really control) that we will give
> them as a match for whatever they earn themselves. This multiplies their

Wonderful. What of those others who have no aunts and uncles,
parents or other benefactors in such a position and with such
generosity? Are we to say it is ok to lose those minds, minds
that may have been of great benefit?

> The best the government could do would be to allow any tax payer to take a
> deduction for any contribution to anyone's education. Doesn't matter whether
> the student is related or not. Same for corporations. More education is good
> for all of us, but making it an entitlement is bad for all of us.

I don't agree it is bad for all of us. As these things go it is
one of the few entitlements that I believe makes sense. I would
limit it in that those who take advantage of it must keep
certain academic standards.

>>>The statistics (according to Julian Simon, of course) show that in most
>>? I am not altogether sure I can trust Julian Simon for such
> Please, use any source of statistics you desire, or show any attacks on
> Simon's work that provide better statistics, rather than attacking his
> motivation. Do you have any sources that disagree that the gap keeps getting
> smaller? I think Simon's opponents are driven by envy, and think Simon's
> claims are irrelevant. If there's still a gap, then they will continue to be
> unhappy. Is this how you feel?

No. I am unhappy because I personally know a great number of
bright minds that are wasted and I recognize they are the tip of
the iceberg. I am unhappy because I personally know people
working two jobs just to have ends beginning to me. I
personally know people who fell though the cracks of our society
through no particular fault of their own. So I am not awfully
impressed when I see fine graphs saying everything is getting
better. I do not personally believe it. I don't have the
statistics to back it up but my gut says something is damn fishy.

>>>cases, as technology advances, the rich do keep getting richer, but the
>>>gap keeps getting proportionately smaller. Those who worry about the
>>>have-nots, when they have statistics always show the ones that show that
>>>some people are still behind, and don't check to see whether they are
>>>catching up. We can argue about gradualism again, but since we agree on
>>>the outcome, there's no need to do so here.
>>I do not find the above tenable. Especially not now when even a
>>lot of very highly trained and motivated friends of mine are out
>>of work and have been for months. Our system is not working all
>>that smoothly right now. And I would also question relative
>>purchase power figures when it takes two wage earners in more
>>and more households today to just break reasonably even, even
>>without a lot of consumerist over-spending, than it did in my
>>parent's generation. It also takes longer in many parts of the
>>country and is accessible to fewer levels of income, to own a
>>home of one's own.
> I'm not sure what the complaint is here. There is a recession. Do you think
> someone is unfairly targeting the poor and middle class to take the brunt of
> it? I also have trouble figuring out how your "very highly trained" friends,
> presumably here in Silicon Valley, could be among the have-nots that some
> people are worried about. I must be missing the point of this paragraph.

And where do you think the recession came from? Is it an act of
Nature? The point is that even the highly-trained are very
vulnerable and it is difficult to believe "everything is getting
better" when even the best of us are that vulnerable.

- samantha

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