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Social Inequality and Capitalism

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My Buddy Posted: Sat, Oct 27 2012 3:54 PM

Right, so I've got an "official" debate, and the topic is "Is Social Inequality an inevitable consequence of Capitalism". We have to be able to argue both sides officially, but I'm willing to bet (considering where I live) that most teams would pick the "Yes" side.

This is a very structured debate with an intro, rebuttal and conclusion, so I can't just argue off the top of my head (even though I probably could). So, does anyone have sources, etc for me to go to to make a general outline of arguments for either side?

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Well, first of all, how do you define "social inequality"?

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Anenome replied on Sat, Oct 27 2012 5:48 PM

You might look at some of the stuff from Elias - The Civilizing Process, or the classic, Banfield - The Unheavenly City, which goes into the causes and effects of high-time preference and low-time preference cultures and the resulting wealth and culture disparities. Not exactly perfectly on topic tho, since it approaches it more from the standpoint of 'this is what intellectuals and government have fostered (high time preference) in X group via these policies, resulting in Y poverty, whereas left alone capitalism would produce low-time preference individuals naturally."

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Wheylous replied on Sun, Oct 28 2012 11:26 AM

Here is some stuff on the AnCap plan to reduce poverty (a project I decided to start a few weeks ago):

http://www.reddit.com/r/Anarcho_Capitalism/comments/11b4x0/project_the_ancap_plan_to_reduce_poverty/

Also, essentially the entire argument for libertarianism is applicable to this debate. Fed, drug laws, minimum wage, corporatism, bootleggers and baptists, war, etc, etc, etc, etc, etc.

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My Buddy replied on Sun, Oct 28 2012 11:49 AM

We have to provide definitions in the introduction. Besides that, I'd imagine "social inequality" is something along the lines of http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_inequality

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If one takes the definition from Wikipedia literally, then only prison inmates are truly socially equal. Well, even in their case there is some inequality in access to various stuff (e.g., by using stuff they get from outside to trade for various favors), but this is just imperfect realisation, and can be improved given enough resources and determination, for sure ;)

The Voluntaryist Reader - read, comment, post your own.
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Anenome replied on Sun, Oct 28 2012 1:54 PM

Young Sowell does look a bit like Ayoade, check this out ^_^

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My Buddy:
We have to provide definitions in the introduction. Besides that, I'd imagine "social inequality" is something along the lines of http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_inequality

Sounds like you have it easy.  Jobs with different social roles and values exist under any economic system, and in fact predate the recognition of economic systems.  The reason is that it is not the economic system that determines the value of the job but the people who utilize its goods/services.  The fact that some economic systems pretend no job is more important than any other job does not mean that the people within those systems value those jobs the same way.

So, no, social inequality is no more a consequence of capitalism than of any other economic system, and that is all while making no judgments about the rightness or wrongness of "social inequality".

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Albert replied on Mon, Oct 29 2012 9:18 AM

OK I'll take a bite at this.

Yes the argument is going to hinge on the definition af "social injustice" There can be no narrow definition of oit nor can there ever be an accurate measurement of it.

The anti capitalists at the end of the day mean that under capitalism some people make more money than others. They call it many names. They call it exploitation, they call it racism, they call it greed, they call it inhumane, they call it cruelty etc. the list is endless.

What they mean is they read in the paper that person A (like Bill Gates or Donald Trump) made a kazillion dollars last year- and he seems healthy, gets to travel, lives in a crime free neighborhood, has great medical care and is not hungry.

Then they see in the news media, reports of hungry people or people that live in crime rich areas or of people who die of insanitary conditions or AIDS and cannot afford medicine. Mentally they calculate that there is a huge "gap" between these two groups. It does not take into account the millions of people in the middle or the people that were at the bottom but have an opportunity to get to the top.

And then very strange conclusions are made, like : the person at the bottom suffers "social injustice" because of the person at the top, and therefore the only convenient explanation is capitalism.

There are too many fallacies in that argument to try and counter it with evidence for or against "social injustice " in capitalist societies.

In the same vein it can be said that education or practicing a sport or a skill inevitably "leads to social injustice". Therefore we should create a system where people are banned from getting "ahead" of others in ANY fashion and those that do, should somehow be punished.

On ANY scale including income, there will ALWAYS be a low end.

So for instance quadriplegics will never become soccer champions and people in a coma will never solve the worlds mathematical problems.

In the same vein, there will always be a low end on the income scale. But as a society evolves and improves and gets more efficient and grows more wealthy, the upper level will forever go higher and higher. Therefore the supposed "gap" will always increase in a free society.

That is why new records are being broken at the Olympic games every time. It is not because the system involving "practice" or "coaching" leads to social injustice.

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@Wheylous

I'm not on Reddit, so I'll just post my ideas about your project here. Don't forget about:

rent control/public housing (surprizingly even Krugman has criticized rent controls; Sowell is a good resource for this), regulations on businesses (here's a neat Reason video with Drew Carey at a city council meeting in Cleveland talking about scrapping a lot of silly regulations [edit: that I guess are more plentiful in poorer areas where there are more desperate politicians]: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nJ-vLM0mK1Q), and how the NAP would affect specifically family and social life (how many poor kids steal things/get into fist fights, etc.).

Also, not sure how far you want to go in your article (and I wouldn't recommend going here unless you think you've got the audience right where you want them) but law enforcement is known for being ineffective in low-income areas. As the rap duo Public Enemy attests, law enforcement is often late to react. "They're never there when you need them." When they are there, there are no market incentives for them to treat people with respect. Competition in the marketplace would make living in poor areas safer.

Here is a resource you could use for that ("9-1-1 Is A Joke"): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NnwGC7oDYIY

Good luck.

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Oh, man. As I'm reading the lyrics now, it's so obvious how the free market could handle Flava Flav's grievances:

Now I dialed 911 a long time ago
Don't you see how late they're reactin'
They only come and they come when they wanna
So get the morgue embalm the goner
They don't care 'cause they stay paid anyway
They teach ya like an ace they can't be betrayed

I know you stumble with no use people
If your life is on the line they you're dead today
Late comings with the late comin' stretcher...
 
I call a cab 'cause a cab will come quicker (!!!!!)


More lyrics: http://www.lyricsmode.com/lyrics/p/public_enemy/#share


More lyrics: http://www.lyricsmode.com/lyrics/p/public_enemy/#share

 

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The answer to the question you posed is a definitive, "Yes."   You have to understand that most criticisms of capitalism are well-justified.   The only relevant question is "Is there an alternative?"   

 

 

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