Half a croissant, on a plate, with a sign in front of it saying '50c'
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The First Truly Civil War

And the Establishment is running scared
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Over here in the good old US of A, we are having a truly civil war, frequently referred to as "the Occupy Wall Street movement".

I just think it needs to be formally recognized as what it actually is. Note that the police have already lost a few engagements, due to acting uncivilly. But they won some others, acting civilly.

The outcome remains in doubt. I tend to think, however, that if this conflict is formally recognized as a Civil War, then the chances of a victory by the protesters will increase significantly.

Vernon, Jan 23 2012

Income Inequality and the Resultant Harm to Society http://www.ted.com/...hard_wilkinson.html
Thoughts? [RayfordSteele, Jan 25 2012]


       If the protesters win do we get our very own rat infested tent city and a cop car to crap on? If that ain't Utopia, I don't know what is...
Grogster, Jan 23 2012

       I thought it had already been declared class warfare.
DIYMatt, Jan 23 2012

       + I have sent an occupied bun for your thought on this...
xandram, Jan 23 2012

       Do the protesters have muskets? Because we have muskets, and we think the protesters are very silly people who should go get jobs instead of standing around whining about not having any money. I wonder how they pay for their smartphones and their wi-fi and their laptops and their Sharpie markers and posterboard? Where do they get the money for those things if, as they claim, only rich people have money?   

       Fortunately, there is currently no Occupy Rural Maine movement. Fortunate for the protesters, that is.
Alterother, Jan 23 2012

       [Alterother], don't tell stupid lies. The protesters are not claiming that only the rich have money. But they ARE saying that the rich have most of the money (too much, anyway).   

       By the way, haven't you heard the well-verified fact that Too Much Of Any Good Thing Is Always A Bad Thing?
Vernon, Jan 23 2012

       It's not a Civil War, it's simply hippies in Hoovervilles.
RayfordSteele, Jan 23 2012

       I agree with the protesters on a lot of things (corporate personhood should be severly limited) and I disagree with them on a lot of things (corporate personhood does serve a purpose and should not be eradicated). Find me one coherent statement of policy, however, and I will tell you whether I support them. You can't win if there isn't an actual goal.   

       Regardless, [marked-for-deletion] no idea.
MechE, Jan 23 2012

       // But they ARE saying that the rich have most of the money //   

       Well, to be fair, "the people with most of the money" is a fairly unambiguous definition of the "rich" so that's hardly breaking new ground.   

       Maybe they should be known as the "Stating The Obvious" movement ?
8th of 7, Jan 23 2012

       [Alterother] Maybe there is no "Occupy Rural Maine", I cannot attest. There may be excellent reasons, such as: Maine got it right all along.   

       There is, however, an "Occupy Rural SC" as well as an "Occupy Rural FL", as recent glitter bomb demonstrations versus Rick Sant., R demonstrate. So much for "Any publicity is good publicity.", no? If I have in any way besmirched the citizens of rural Maine, it's prozacbly in my best interests to apologize to you as a proxy for all right thinking Mainers. :d
reensure, Jan 23 2012

       I wasn't telling "stupid lies," only exaggerating, which I'm well-known and universally forgiven for doing. I just think that there's an awful lot of hypocracy and ignorance in the Occupy "movement," and that preventing (or trying to prevent) people from doing their jobs is not going to fix anything, nor will despoiling public parks and tying up the courts with asenine First Amendment cases.   

       Obviously, I have a slight bias.
Alterother, Jan 23 2012

       [Alterother], a stupid lie, different from an ordinary lie, is a lie that is OBVIOUSLY false; no research is required to prove it is a lie. So, to claim that leather grows on trees would be to state a stupid lie.   

       There is an awful lot of hypocrisy and ignorance among the rich, also. For example, I've encountered the claims made by various business that they lose money whenever it happens that their profits go down (but not to the point of becoming an actual on-the-books loss). They seem to think they automatically deserve the maximum possible profits, all the time, and so to make less than that maximum is to "lose" money. Idiots! GREEDY Idiots!   

       They are the same greedy idiots who close down perfectly good businesses just because the amount of profit being made (and I'm talking about actual genuine profit) isn't enough to satisfy their greed. They care not at all about the people that become unemployed thereby.   

       They are the same greedy idiots who move businesses overseas, thinking to take advantage of cheap labor, and to sell foreign-made goods here, without considering the fact that if the people here become unemployed because their jobs were out-sourced, how can that imported stuff be afforded? (Or mortgages get paid?)   

       Then there is the fact that the largest fortunes tend to get larger simply because of the interest paid on investments. I suspect it may be possible to prove that The Fundamental Cause of Inflation is Bank Interest --it adds cost to goods without adding any tangible value.   

       And it is CERTAINLY true that the mis-use of Credit is the fundamental cause of the last several recessions, and the Great Depression, as well. Yet ignorance of such facts abounds among the rich (BOTH kinds of "ignorance": the "not-knowing" kind and the "ignoring" kind) who strive to maintain the status quo (duh, because they get richer that way!) regardless of how it affects others.
Vernon, Jan 24 2012

       Looking at the USA from a distance, I don't see much of a civil war going on. Asking people to stop being horrible, which is how I see the Occupy movement, is not the same thing as taking control away from the people who are being horrible.
DrBob, Jan 24 2012

       [DrBob] There is no other (real) way to make a point. If the people in control, control everything, then something has to be done that they can't control...
xandram, Jan 24 2012

       Well, if this is all just about making a point then a nice letter writing campaign would have been just as effective and a lot more civil.
DrBob, Jan 24 2012

       Don't you know how this country operates? He who screams loudest is right!
Alterother, Jan 24 2012

       Thought this idea was going to be about procedures for a really considerate and polite war.
JesusHChrist, Jan 25 2012

       I thought that was what it _was_ about - a civil civil war.   

       What [xandram] seems to be implying is that merely politely stating one's views is a bit like politely explaining to the school bully that he/she is unfairly exploiting others' lunch money, and asking that they kindly desist - i.e., pointless.   

       Many business practices really are vicious and predatory. Their practitioners know this, but continue, because it's in their interests to do so. The only way to change things is to make such practices impossible, or at least non-profitable. If governments, courts, and police won't take action, and the practices are pervasive, then it's quite reasonable for ordinary citizens to revolt.
spidermother, Jan 25 2012

       A war requires violent and destructive conflict. Clearly this is not, as yet, a war.
WcW, Jan 25 2012

       Unless its a cold war; but that would imply at least the threat of violence.
spidermother, Jan 25 2012

       //the rich have most of the money//   

       I knew you had the capacity for long statements, but previously, I had not realized that you were so gifted at stating the obvious. I'd suggest watching a few David Mamet films, as he said, "that's why they call it money".   

       Aside from religious mythology, the biggest lie ever told is that it is possible to improve upon the allocation of capital resulting from everyone trying to get as big a piece of the pie as possible -- in fact, to pretend that any such attempt, disguised as it may be as either a law or a revolution, is anything but simply a manifestation of the same greed, is the height of ostrichness.
theircompetitor, Jan 25 2012

       Would be interested in getting your reaction to the talk in my link, [tc].
RayfordSteele, Jan 25 2012

       ah, well, in the end, The Diamond Age will make all these discussions obsolete
theircompetitor, Jan 25 2012

       not the book, [bigsleep] the coming singularity and abolition of material scarcity :)   

       Sorry for deleting the anno, I'm finding I don't have the stamina today for a long explanation about why charging people to make money is not a good way to go.
theircompetitor, Jan 26 2012

       //Aside from religious mythology, the biggest lie ever told is that it is possible to improve upon the allocation of capital resulting from everyone trying to get as big a piece of the pie as possible -- in fact, to pretend that any such attempt, disguised as it may be as either a law or a revolution, is anything but simply a manifestation of the same greed, is the height of ostrichness.//   

       That's fine, but human society (such as it is) is largely built on a concept of fairness. It's important to distinguish between wealth obtained through talent, hard work, or luck, and that obtained through cheating, manipulation, or violence. It's very human, and proper, to want to oppose the latter.
spidermother, Jan 26 2012

       fairness is: Taxes = (Budget / # of citizens) * # of people in household   

       Once there are rules that everyone must live by, they should certainly be enforced, equally, as the Constitution guarantees.
theircompetitor, Jan 26 2012

       To some extent it doesn't matter what degree of "class conflict" currently exists. The simple fact is, the conflict has a particular cause which is not being addressed. And so long as that cause is not addressed, the currently-existing degree of class conflict will INEVITABLY, INEXORABLY, rise toward a maximum.   

       Anyone of the Republican persuasion is not going to like certain aspects of the following explanation one bit. But facts are facts, and politics is more often based on opinions than facts.   

       Anyone knowledge-able about economics should have a decent understanding of the Law of Supply and Demand. However, it is possible that the average such knowledge-able person hasn't noticed how thoroughly it explains the origin of the current class conflict...and how that Law, left to itself, will only cause the class conflict to get worse with time.   

       Start with a very simple "model" economic system, in which there is no unemployment, and where everyone has a decent living-situation. Such a model cannot exist without a steady supply of "resources" --a general label for a long list of things, which includes energy, metals, food, and so on, and which typically are converted into "goods" by the employed population.   

       Now consider a scenario in which we add some people to that model, WITHOUT simultaneously increasing the supply of resources. Per the Law of Supply and Demand, the extra people will count as competition for employment positions. The natural result is that the price of labor should go down a bit. Meanwhile, the extra people also need resources/goods. Since it was stipulated that their Supply was not increased, it logically follows that the prices of goods will go up a bit.   

       Does anyone benefit? Yes --the employers who hire people to convert resources into goods; the business owners benefit both from the lower wages and from the higher prices.   

       Note that the same results can be obtained not by increasing the population, but also by simply reducing the available Supply of resources for a fixed population. Because one side-effect is that some of the employed will no longer be needed to process those fewer resources into goods. Therefore they can be "let go", to become competition that lowers wages....   

       IN GENERAL, whenever ANY population/resource ratio increases, the net long-term result is that the rich get richer while the poor get poorer. And, whenever that ratio decreases --resources are increased faster than the population-- as happened when North America was opened up by Europeans, the poor get rich faster than the rich --which is how the "middle class" began to exist in the first place.   

       Well, actually the origin of the middle class traces to the Black Death, which killed about 1/3 the population of Europe. It lowered the population/resources ratio just as thoroughly as if resources had instead been increased --that is, the Black Death left 3/3 the wealth of Europe in the hands of 2/3 of its population.   

       In today's world, the population has been exploding FAR faster than the global supply of resources has been increased. Even in the USA the the effects of that have been apparent --just look at, say, the 1950s, when one man's wage was enough to support a family, and nowadays even the incomes of both parents barely suffices.   

       Republican political philosophy was formed in the 1800s, when resources were still plentiful enough to seem unlimited. Well, IF resources were ACTUALLY unlimited, then why is the State of Montana, which in the 1800s was extremely productive of resources, now one of the poorest States in the Union? Why did the USA experience an Energy Crisis when OPEC decided to embargo oil? Why is the price of copper now so high that thieves are cutting down power-line poles with chainsaws, for easier access to the wires? And why ARE two incomes barely sufficient to afford the resources needed to raise children?   

       It is well known that many Republicans have roots in the Business world. It is well known that many businesses strive to put each other OUT of business. It is also well known that even when one business buys another, the result is typically a restriction on the overall supply of resources, and an increase in both prices and the number of unemployed. (Study the history that led to the formation of the "diamond cartel".)   

       Finally, it is also well known that many Republicans oppose abortion. After all, in the long run, requiring more people to be born increases the labor force, which increases competition for jobs and "lowers" wages (okay, they don't "inflate" as fast as the prices of resources). Because business people know all about the Law of Supply and Demand, and how the rich can get richer using it.   

       It can't last, however. NO culture can last in the long run, if it keeps making people faster than it can support them (see history of Easter Island --and remember that Island Earth is simply bigger, but still totally finite/limited).   

       Basically, Republican philosophy is TOTALLY WRONG about the notion of unlimited resources, and all policies that are fundamentally based on that notion are just as fundamentally flawed, IF the overall goal is to enhance Democracy in America.   

       So, as long as Republicans pursue Business As Usual, the population of the USA will continue to grow faster than the supply of resources, and the rich will continue to get richer while the poor get poorer, and eventually the middle class will disappear entirely. And the class conflict of that time will be far FAR worse than it is today. That is, if the goal of Republicans is to turn 99%+ of Americans into debt-slaves, they are on the right track!   

       Facts are facts...and the Law of Supply and Demand has NEVER been invalidated.
Vernon, Jan 26 2012

       I would only add to that that during the post war period, up to about the end of the 1980s, there arguably was an increase in per capita resource availability (obviously, those resources were finite, and many were non-renewable, so it had to come to an end). Also, part of the equation is an increase in aspiration, which has an effect equivalent to a decrease in supply.
spidermother, Jan 26 2012

       //It's important to distinguish between wealth obtained through talent, hard work, or luck, and that obtained through cheating, manipulation, or violence. It's very human, and proper, to want to oppose the latter.//

It's also very human to carry out the latter and game theory would suggest that it's also proper. Which is the preferable model is not a question of 'humanity' but of morals and social pressure.
DrBob, Jan 26 2012

       Vernon, I'm not sure I understand the charge here. Are you suggesting the whole problem is family planning? Or trying to rehash the Population Bomb?   

       I would argue that relative wealth is a factor, but it's not the key factor -- and the obsession with it is driven by envy.   

       In our society, many can afford to go on vacation once a year -- but only a few can afford to fly first class, even fewer fly private airplanes, and just a handful can consider building a spaceship. But the purchasing power of those that can merely go on vacation has never been higher (as a plurality, in historic terms). Nor has their education level ever been higher. Nor has their life expectancy. They have never had more options as to what to do for a living. Or where to live. Or how and with whom to live. Their angst is borne in expectations and a sense of entitlement, not out of realistic analysis.   

       Now, as to finite or infinite resources: while the recent shale discoveries are a good example why "running out of oil" is largely a game for those who trade oil, the real issue is that the creation of wealth is DECOUPLING from natural resources, and has been for some time. That is why the rich are getting richer -- because it is easier than ever to get rich. Read it again -- IT IS EASIER THAN IT HAS EVER BEEN TO GET RICH. It could be because you can source work or manufacturing in China. Or because you can record a song on YouTube and don't need an agent. Or because you can drop out of college and develop Facebook, or the latest coolest app. Or even because you have enough of a business sense to deal, rather than use.   

       So the rich are getting richer because they have been enabled, so their opportunities are being magnified. Anecdotally, people have been saying for some time that the reason teachers are not as good now is because the best and smartest women used to be teachers -- and now other professions are open to them. Not sure if that's provable statistically, but you get the idea -- the better able, the more ambitious used to just have good careers -- and now they are much more likely to be independent. And many are richer than they ever could be before.   

       So, what's the problem? The problem is that our open and transparent culture focuses on the most superficial elements of that success, and lets us know that genuine, "fuck you" success is all around us, and in fact, it's being achieved by people who don't appear to be much different than us. And it is annoying -- Jersey Shore -- really?   

       Let's take for a second the outrage over the banking bailout. The banks got bailed out, the story goes, by us. What have they done for us in return. Let's examine the notion.   

       As we all know, half the country does not pay income tax. Sure, they pay payroll taxes -- but those are used to in effect populate savings accounts that are going back to them (social security, medicare, unemployment insurance). The better to do, middle class and rich, pay all the income tax.   

       The top 1% pays about 20% of all taxes. Read that again -- fun to attack them on rates -- but 20%. So in fact, the rich bailed themselves out -- no big surprise there -- they would argue finally they got fair use out of their own money. Regardless, the poor didn't pay for it. And the middle class didn't pay for it (or roughly paid to bail themselves out, in the same proportion, especially those of those with more than 100K in the bank).   

       It goes on. The reality is the opportunities in front of the average citizen have never been higher. The child born today might become rich enough to build spaceships. Might live forever. Or might waste his parents education money sitting outside in tents and disrupting people trying to go to work. The fact the he or she has the option is a great testament to the wealth of our society.   

       Now, as to the Law of Supply and Demand, and the repeal of scarcity.   

       Scarcity has already been repealed for digital goods -- see what's happened to the media industry as a result. I am a firm believer that the same trend for physical resources, over a much longer period of time, will occur as material science advances. The resulting disruption of the economy, which will make the current disruption in the media industry pale in comparison, is going to be the most fascinating story of (possibly) this century. Education and healthcare are ripe for disruption, too.   

       Now, the essence of the TED talk, is that we are rich enough, as a society, to do better by all of our members. And I don't disagree with that notion. But it is telling that two of the richest people on the planet, Buffett and Gates, chose to primarily channel their wealth into helping directly -- as opposed to through the government.   

       Stubborn opposition aside, Monsanto GM foods can do more to solve world hunger than any food stamp or anti poverty program ever can. No doubt making Monsanto much richer. And so it goes.
theircompetitor, Jan 26 2012

       [DrBob] My working hypothesis is that a sense of fairness, and a tendency to object when others are egregiously (in the literal sense of the word) unfair, is very human. Nearly everyone cheats and deceives to some extent, but only sociopaths and psychopaths are entirely ungoverned by fair play, and play the game ruthlessly.
spidermother, Jan 26 2012

       //But it is telling that two of the richest people on the planet, Buffett and Gates, chose to primarily channel their wealth into helping directly -- as opposed to through the government.//   

       Yes, that's telling you that they've been advised by their tax advisor that setting up a charitable organisation, can save them from being taxed a lot more than if they didn't.   

       e.g. Say I want a stately home to gad about in, but it's quite expensive. What I could do is buy it with cash tied up in the company I own, but to do that, I need to pay tax, once on converting the company money into personal money, and then again during the house purchase transaction. What I could do instead is set up a charity, one that perhaps needs some small office space in some suitable building, a building that could entertain guests, and, on occasion provide living quarters for myself and my family, who of course could also be employed and paid a salary as administrators and the like of my charitable organisation. Channelling the money from my business operation into such a structure means I have a little more freedom on how and where I can spend the money that my company has earnt over the years, plus I get to look pretty good in the papers, and I get to look after my family by supporting them through employment in the charity. Oh and I also get to help the kids etc.   

       N.B. I'm not saying that Gates et al are bad for doing this, just that it may well be the case that their motivations weren't 100% altruistic. And there's nothing wrong with that either.
zen_tom, Jan 26 2012

       [theircompetitor], the "charge" is simply that the cause of the class conflict is the increasing population/resources ratio.   

       In the long run, the most important resource is food, since people can't live without it, while they certainly can live without spaceships or web apps or petrol. And no matter how much you have, of most acknowledged forms of wealth, you can't eat it.   

       The preceding means that one of the most important (and still finite!) resources is simple sunlight. Green plants need it to make the oxygen we breathe. And some of them need it to make the food we eat.   

       So it is extremely simple, that if we cover the world with people --even wealthy people!-- we will be cutting our own throats as we cut down green plants to make room for those people.   

       And no, you can't replace plants with factories that make food, because of another finite resource, the rate at which the Earth can radiate heat into Space at night. All those factories will need to be powered with Energy, and all that energy eventually "degrades to heat" per the Laws of Thermodynamics.   

       For the Earth's surface to maintain any particular AVERAGE temperature, it needs to lose heat as fast as energy arrives. Some arrives by sunlight; some arrives from the core of the planet; some arrives by humans burning fossil fuels or running nuclear reactors. If we build "solar satellites" to pump more energy to human civilization on Earth, then that will be heat the Earth's surface needs to eventually get rid of, also, to maintain some particular average temperature.   

       And the ONLY ways the Earth gets rid of heat are (1) storing some arriving energy in form of complex chemical compounds (the origin of fossil fuels) and (2) radiating it into Space, mostly by the planet's night-side.   

       Some of that night-time radiation gets reflected back to the Earth, by various things in the atmosphere. The three biggest "reflectors", to the best of my knowledge, are (in order of decreasing potency) methane, carbon dioxide, and water vapor. All three have been increasing in recent centuries, as a result of human activities.   

       The biggest source of methane is cattle, so the more cattle the world can afford to raise, the more heat gets reflected back to Earth's surface at night. There is something of a limit to how much methane can exist in an atmosphere that is 1/5 oxygen, since various things (like lightning) cause them to chemically react with each other (producing, incidentally, both carbon dioxide and water vapor).   

       I need not detail how the burning of fossil fuels also adds carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, since this has been in the news for decades.   

       One thing that is seldom mentioned, however, is that NONE of those fossil fuels consist of pure carbon. All of them have some hydrogen content, too. To the extent that you hear people talking about "cleaner" fuels, what they are almost always talking about are fuels with a higher ratio of hydrogen to carbon, than other fuels. The fossil fuel with the highest such ratio is methane (natural gas)....   

       And when you burn hydrogen, you get water vapor. Which forms clouds that reflect significant amounts of radiant heat at night, back down to the Earth's surface, instead of letting it escape to Space.   

       I recognize that there is another limit here, since water vapor in the atmosphere tends to become rain or snow that falls out of the atmosphere. However, note that the amount of water vapor that the atmosphere can hold is related to the temperature of the air --the warmer, the more....   

       Global Warming has been the result of the increase of those three things in the Earth's atmosphere. In the long run, water vapor may be the worst of the three, as far as humanity is concerned, since so much of the planet is covered with water, and the more the atmosphere warms, the more evaporated water the air can hold, to reflect heat back down to the ground, allowing the air to become warmer still....   

       More specifically, Global Warming is the result of the increasing ratio of the human population to one particular resource, the ability of the Earth to radiate heat from its night-side.   

       And all the wealth in the world isn't going to change the Laws Of Physics In Action.
Vernon, Jan 26 2012

       //The three biggest "reflectors", to the best of my knowledge, are (in order of decreasing potency) methane, carbon dioxide, and water vapor//   

       sp. "absorbers".
FlyingToaster, Jan 26 2012


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