- New essay -
Copyright: Julian Edney 2007
by Julian Edney
Cheating and corruption widespread and widely accepted
today. Mandeville’s theory, inspiration for Adam Smith, argued crime and
corruption are good for the economy. Is a society ever under control?
Ferguson’s theory: societies cannot be steered; but greed and love of luxury
always predict national decline. Malthus’s essay, with contempt. Inspiration
for Darwin, it established the suffering of the poor as a good. The modern
disappearance of the common good: Ayn Rand in our crosshairs. She
vigorously campaigned for selfishness and for the demolition of the common
good, and her ideology saturates modern policy making. Materialism:
research establishes its threat to family values and to the individual. The
zero-sum debate. An American theory explaining how the wealthy enrich
themselves at the expense of the poor: Henry George explained how progress
produces poverty. Recent research shows that social inequality kills. In
cities or nations with marked social inequality, there is less happiness,
more violence, shorter life expectancies. The discovery of a class living
sub-poverty. The rich now retreating into gated communities.
After thirty years of deregulation,
cutting back social programs and promoting free market ways, elements of a
frontier-style economy are reappearing in America. The profit line, and
uncertainty, rule. This, according to Peter Gosselin, is the result of
laissez-faire ideal which has been promoted since the 1970s and was
accelerated under President Reagan
(1). Its drive to privatize and to
lighten government has been so effective as to change the way we earn our
living. Americans now find their personal finances going through wild
swings. Work has become precarious.
More Americans find they cannot rely
on their employers. Some, even executives, suffer layoffs in cycles. To stay
employed, many have to change their line of work four or five times in a
lifetime. At the same time support and retraining programs have been scaled
back, and the worker has to dig into his own pocket to finance these
layoffs. In the past he might appeal to his union for support, but union
power is at low ebb. There is little security and even less sympathy for
today’s workers, with fewer companies paying medical insurance, and no honor
for time served. Pensions are a crap shoot.
Free marketers proudly point: there
is freedom in this new volatility. It is a more open system so each person
can rise on his merit. But these personal boom-and-bust cycles leave less in
the bank. Caught in a downdraft, with rent or mortgage still due, the worker
must borrow. Across the nation, personal debt is up.
This unpredictability breeds anxiety;
survival means a short-term mindset.
Grab what you can, while you can.
We are a punitive society. We use
the death penalty and routinely issue long prison terms for drug offenses.
Three-strike policies can mean a life sentence for a petty crime. We make a
lot of moral talk about pedophilia, drug use, teen pregnancy and welfare
dependency. But nobody talks about the epidemic of cheating.
David Callahan, in his book The
Cheating Culture, says everybody’s doing it: job applicants, brokers,
golfers, reporters, taxpayers, lawyers, insurance payers, employees,
athletes, salesmen, students. A cheating culture has emerged
Cheating has always occurred, but
Callahan traces a marked increase since 1970s. He says it’s connected to the
free market ethic. It jumped after President Reagan was elected in 1980 and
in the subsequent hands-off policy, led by the belief ‘business knows best,’
it has infected all sectors. Now there is a kind of lawlessness in economic
It’s not just erasing inconvenient
numbers on a tax form. Callahan cites evidence that eighty percent of high
school students with A averages admit to some kind of academic cheating. And
a fifth [!] of all job applicants’ resumes contain fictional college
It’s odd. Organized crime is down, and
drunk driving down, but now everybody is cutting corners to get ahead. And
this, he says, represents a profound moral crisis.
Rot at the top
What are the causes? We face
ever-rising costs of living. Anxiety about money is rife. If the average
person sees everybody else doing it, and getting away with it, temptation is
Also the average person is especially
likely to imitate the “winning classes.” So when lawyers’ overbilling
becomes routine, when accountants, who are supposed to be strictly
impartial, make money as consultants showing companies bookkeeping
strategies, when doctors get caught up in pyramid schemes and pressure
patients into buying extra medications, and when high profile athletics
coaches cheat, the public copies. It’s trickle-down corruption.
Among our middle social ranks, extra
pressure is on because doing the right thing just doesn’t pay the mortgage
anymore. The middle class, once famous for its stability and work ethic, is
turning to every man for himself, sinking into dog-eat-dog ways.
All this, Callahan says, is daily
stirred by the intense visual imagery of television which breeds a
“grotesque materialism” which has overrun our morality.
Callahan says cheating is now
“normalized.” We have a new national moral standard: ‘whatever it takes.’
And we have a vast betrayal of the public trust. It is eating up our famous
social contract (3).
If we are trying to fix a society long
fueled by greed, we should be aware of the immensity of our task. We are up
against a national ideology. It sits on top of some theories which are
This third essay rounds out our tour of
landmark theories which aid and abet greed.
At the end of this book is a separate
list of practical remedies. Necessarily, the remedies break custom because
our current ways are leading us into jeopardy.
This essay includes a couple of
historical giants, and I revisit Darwinism to build my argument that it is
more than a scientific theory. It serves our national ideology. Both
Darwinism and its half-brother Social Darwinism are partly political
theories, derived from Malthus’s opinions. Malthus’s essay greatly satisfied
the wealthy because it takes the blame off the wealthy for poverty, and cast
the poor as having only themselves to blame. Secondly, and immorally, theses
theories imply nothing should be done.
Biological science contributes hugely to
technological advances and to health support. But it has never supported the
struggle for justice.
This essay also dismantles the zero-sum
argument. A zero-sum exchange is when one person wins what another person
loses; the win and the loss sum to zero. Capitalists rabidly insist our
economy is not zero-sum because that would mean the rich are getting richer
at the expense of the poor. Instead, capitalists offer trickle down theory.
This essay argues trickle down theory is fairy dust. If it ever did apply,
in small and slow communities, it is now overwhelmed by the modern
winner-take-all theory, working in the opposite direction.
This essay defoliates Ayn Rand. Rand,
I argue, is no spent force. She spent most of her life spreading propaganda
which has helped corrupt popular thinking. Her prescriptions still inspire
the young, damage public morality, and contaminate America’s economic
The free market system, which
generates great wealth, is running on a clutter of bizarre contradictions.
Our nation is touted as a nation of abundance, and it is a nation in which
scarcities are common, and man-made, because scarcity creates value. It is a
nation united, and the country is cleft. Everybody benefits from America’s
business, but the poor are paying the price of the success at the top. It is
a nation founded on the notion of happiness, and anxiety abounds. A nation
in which teamwork is urged and individual competition is urged. A nation
which ships out surplus food, and has hungry people. It is a nation which
touts itself as cultured and humane, in which ruthlessness and winning is
openly prized. In a nation which claims to be given over to democracy, half
the working population spends its days in business workplaces which are
dreaded and sickening little dictatorships.
Compared with our bright founding
papers, this is a foul outcome.
The greatest casualty is justice. The
nation now runs less on justice than on wealth.
A second grievous casualty is the
national intelligence. To placidly accept all these contradictions, and not
be all-day nauseous that something is horribly askew, requires that we stop
thinking. Actually, that possibility is not extreme. If we watch copious
television, if we immerse in shopping, we swim in the new materialism and
the new self-centeredness, we will not notice.
A main point in this essay is that
these contradictions are possible if we are educated into certain theories.
We routinely teach them in our schools. And they are possible if we
scrupulously avoid certain other theories.
These essays sometimes present digests
of some thick, forgotten books; they all bear on the problem of greed.
First, a theory that is hardly ever
It may help to glance back at our
A basic puzzle, as philosophers see it:
how do we reconcile the selfish nature of people with the good of society?
Small hordes of writers have filled
books trying out solutions that involve economics, biology, God, sociology
and politics. It turns out, there is no simple answer. But writers keep
trying, because the implications of no answer are dire. The absence of an
answer implies humans cannot live in societies.
The history of this problem contains
some bold attempts. The next answer we visit is so original that the author
was hauled before a judge. This is also a theory which modern economics
would prefer remain buried. So I will winch it up out of the mud.
Poetry and economics rarely meet, but
they did in England in the spring of 1723. One Bernard de Mandeville was
circulating a piece of verse so scandalous, he was hustled into court to be
censored as a public nuisance. He was delighted. People were finally paying
Mandeville was a Dutch-born physician
who augmented his professional fees by writing erotica. He remained obscure
until old age (then 53) when his legal problems with the poem suddenly
pushed him into the big time. This was 36 years before Adam Smith started
publishing. Smith read the poem, and acknowledged Mandeville’s influence.
(Adam Smith’s theory could not have existed without Mandeville).
The poem rippled through the literate
population of England. For three generations it was snickered over in clubs
and savaged in drawing rooms. It was satire, in easy English, a sketch of
the way society really works. It pulled the covers off the right
hypocrisies. It was scandal, yes, but it provided later Enlightenment
thinkers (Smith, Hume, Kant, Ferguson) with a gem of an idea.
The court deliberated, and declined to
censor. But Puritan clerics, the religious police of the time, started
putting his name about as “Man-Devil.” They called his morality mutinous.
The focus of all this was The Fable
of the Bees (4).
It is twelve pages of rhyming
couplets with a heavy metrical swat. It sounds quite old fashioned but the
topic is entirely modern. How does corruption, covert viciousness and crime
mesh with a vibrant economy, society’s opulence, and its growth? Mandeville:
there is no contradiction, they are a match.
Immorality, crime and wrongdoing all
translate into business energy - exactly what a free economy needs to
flourish. See that rascal selling stolen goods? See that tradesman cheating?
See that flatterer ply his lies for gain? They all work so industriously.
See that lawyer splitting cases to create more work and more enmity? It’s
all business. It’s all good for the economy.
Mandeville saw society as an energetic
hive of bees. Bees were thought to be selfish and gluttons for sweet nectar.
So the more their industrious selfishness, the more the hive grew.
The hive contains the grubbing poor,
“wretches” who slave for a living and who are unintelligent and who only
want small pleasures and who are easy to exploit. And a higher class, the
more intelligent, who manipulate appearances, flatter, know how to use
vanity and deception to become opulent. They rich browbeat the poor into
making them believe their poverty is sinful.
Paradoxes are everywhere. There is a
great show of Christian goodness which is never practiced. Observe the
Bishop who pontificates on Christian humility. His own humility must be very
ponderous if it needs that big coach and six horses to pull it around. Or
the nanny who pretends to love a child she despises so she can keep her job.
Thieves were even useful because they kept locksmiths employed.
Mandeville said, it is not civic
commitment nor social pleasures that welds a community together, but the
vices. Civilized man has need for esteem, power and carnal satisfaction, and
he covets what others have. It is as much envy and competition that keeps
people together - and keeps them busy.
And what about the final arbiter,
Justice herself, fam’d for fair Dealing,
blindness had not lost her Feeling;
Her left hand, which the scales should hold,
Had often dropt ‘em, bribed with gold.
In sum, a vibrant economy is driven by
sin. Vice is given a social place.
The poem fits quite comfortably over
modern times. What if we were a community of people so well behaved on the
streets there were no accidents? – the auto insurance industry would fall
apart. What if everybody got along without quarrelling? – lawyers would go
A harmonious community is not a driven
community. Its economy would falter and wilt.
We can hardly teach this to our
Adam Smith was a generation behind
Mandeville. Smith’s theory follows the same principle. He just watered it
down. Instead of listing forms of licentiousness, instead of glorifying
fraud, Smith said gently, let people do whatever they want, it is somehow
all for the common good. By making Mandeville’s theory genteel, it pegged
Smith a place in history.
Big ideas seem to come in clusters and
there are periods in history when genius flows, and there are fallow
periods. Adam Smith happened to live and write at the same time as several
other great minds, a cluster of geniuses who made up the Scottish
Enlightenment which lasted a few decades each side of 1760
It included Hutcheson, Smith, Reid, Hume, and
Ferguson, and it happened a lot around Edinburgh.
These men knew each other, argued, and
borrowed ideas. Creative surges imply tolerance, but the Enlightenment was
partly a rebellion against an intolerant Church. The ideas that humans were
capable of independent reason (as opposed to going to the Bible for all
answers), followed their own motives (were not all instruments of God), were
created alike (equality), and were relatively free, enraged church censors
because all those ideas put control back in the hands of man,. It allowed an
escape from religious terrors, and the Church’s control over eternal
But if you invent the idea that humans
are in charge of their own lives, then you have to follow through and come
up with explanations for how they live together in nonreligious terms. So
this period saw an outpouring of big theories about man-in-society. They
filled the vacuum where everything was previously God’s will.
Making new philosophy was actually risky
in those days. Smith, Bentham, Mill (the original utilitarians), Hume and
Ferguson were all narrowly skirting charges of heresy. But they were
provocative and interesting, and a lot of people jumped in. The
Enlightenment expanded into a public battleground of ideas
Following is another bold attempt on
the original question. How does the natural selfishness of humans reconciles
with the good of society? Ferguson was one of these philosopher-rebels and
his original opinion, in his Essay on the History of Civil Society,
is that they don’t reconcile for long
(7). In simple: humans need
society in order to survive. But then they always screw it up. Materialism
and greed get the upper hand.
Adam Smith, Ferguson’s contemporary,
was saying, people want pleasure. They work hard, and they continually try
out new methods and improve things, for their own benefit. Those
improvements spread through communities. So, people chasing after personal
pleasure, through the mechanism of the marketplace, eventually adds up to an
improving community. There, we have a cause and an effect.
But Ferguson’s point was unique:
people don’t cause anything in a lawful way. They most you can say is,
people play bit parts in an awesome, unfolding drama of the rise and fall of
nations, which is both mysterious and never ending. This is not
God-inspired, but it is nature.
Ferguson said: nature is a mystery. New
societies start, springing up like the wind. And each society’s history is a
train of events from savage and crude beginnings all the way up to
refinement. It always looks like civilization is the goal; but in fact
there is no goal, no guaranteed path to an elevated happiness. Because
history is open-ended; anything can happen.
That is the Scottish theory of
unintended consequences. It is one of the original ideas from the
Enlightenment. It says, there is no cause and effect. Nature is too big to
reduce to principles that simple. So, Ferguson said, no matter how hard you
try to control things, or steer a society, things will backfire on you.
Societies are afflicted by a kind of cosmic Murphy’s Law, and you cannot
govern (cause) to produce progress (effect). If progress happens, it is
accidental. So Ferguson scoffs at Adam Smith’s ‘invisible hand’ causally
linking selfishness to the group’s good. If the group does benefit, that is
an accident. And there is no ‘forward’
we can rely on.
there is no reconciliation between selfishness and the well-being of
Ferguson also said, there is only one
regular pattern in the life of all civilizations. They rise, then they fall.
And they do not fall because bigger civilizations step on them, but because
internal events bring them down. What looks like a spontaneous return to
savagery is a predictable collapse, due to flaws within. (And we should
concede to Ferguson the historical fact that all civilizations have died,
except the present.)
Here is the repeating cycle.
First, a small clan appears. It is the
start. It is ‘rude’ and vigorous as it fights for a foothold. Whether it
battles the elements, or takes new ground against neighbors, it is full of
common purpose and it is tough, Spartan and scrappy. The people value
courage above all. They will not submit to anything and they are naturally
egalitarian. In fact, they are contemptuous of wealth and possessions, which
slow you down. In these early times, ability is a virtue.
If the clan survives, it digs in. It
starts to apply its energy to farming and building. Keeping weapons close,
everybody pitches in to lay out fields and to plant. Then harvests come, so
people have possessions. This is a free and equal group. If the group
thrives, and if they stay this way, all seems to point toward democracy.
But over time, personal fortunes
grow. There maybe excess. Some people become wealthy. They can relax. Wealth
catches the people’s eye.
Later, subtly, it is not bravery but
possessions that attract attention.
Excess is admired. Ornament creeps
in. Subtly the standards shift and whereas hard work was everything, now
repose is admired.
Social rank appears – it is connected
to possessions. So people do work for possessions, but they also learn
tricks at the market. Buying and selling increases, commerce grows. People
seem to have ever-growing appetites for possessions.
But not everybody advances. Jealousy
stirs. Laws are devised to protect possessions.
The community swells. It will be a
big commercial society. It will become a republic. It will become wide and
picturesque, eventually it may become flamboyant.
And at this advanced stage, nobody
admires hard work any more. The society takes pride in being polished.
People dress conspicuously and imitate certain ways of expression.
It is the beginning of the end, say
The next stage is both unplanned and
Now the citizen rarely thinks about
the whole. He becomes concerned with himself and where he stands. A certain
despair settles among those who have been left behind. Now inequality is
conspicuous and everywhere. And the poor come to depend on the rich, which
is not freedom.
Now, all is social rank, for which
people become avaricious. Sometimes they are willing to trespass on the
rights of others, even become corrupt. Luxury draws attention to trifles, to
delicacy, to languor: luxury excites people to be excessive and vicious. The
right appearances are desperately sought. Luxury itself is the source of
corruption. It takes the market, which turns into a system of impositions,
snares and traps.
Now in a continual state of suspense
and anxiety over their positions, people both hope to climb, and fear losing
what they have. They become careful. Vanity is everywhere. To maintain
popularity men become craven and anxious, and this eventually “infect[s] all
orders of men with venality, servility and cowardness”(8).
Moral decay has begun; it spreads
Now where is vigor, where is vibrancy?
Instead, everybody admires flaccid wealth. People “flatter imbecility under
the name of politeness.”
Fascination with material possessions
has undermined this community. Generations of this, and society effectively
So when a despot pounces, the people
are so self absorbed and anxious, they are helpless.
The trade of soldier has been
neglected, the people cannot fight back. The next inevitable step is
dictatorship; and the despot rules with cruelty.
There are no virtues now, only force
What eventually comes is a return to
greater chaos than the beginning – a spontaneous return to obscurity, and
weakness, under an ever more erratic, harsh and corrupt government.
The very last stage is riots.
Between Adam Smith and Ferguson,
Smith’s theory was the clear winner. It was optimistic and it said you can
steer things, and that sells more copy. Today nobody talks about Ferguson
and his ideas that the wealth at the top of a society does not benefit all,
and that actually the rich begin the decline, and that no matter what you
do, luxury, then radically unequal distribution of wealth, will eventually
topple the republic.
The theory of unintended consequences
still lives. It plagues economists. It means their attempts to steer society
sometimes have the wrong effect. It sometimes makes their policies perverse.
This essay describes one of the
biggest blunders in two hundred years, a result of economists trying to
control things, a result of continually promoting the free market system, a
blunder of dimensions so large it will hard to reverse. One of the products
of capitalism is inequality. Inequality is valued by capitalists. It is now
coming to light that inequality is a killer.
In both Mandeville’s and Ferguson’s
work, corruption is directly connected to the pursuit of possessions and
Materialism is an integral part of our
economy. Is materialism natural? Is it good?
According to most major religions, a
focus on material goods is unnatural. It creates a loss of balance, and
blocks spiritual growth.
Analyst Arvid Straube says that at this
point in America, all of us are driven by this culture’s materialism. It has
risen to the point of idolatry (9).
Colloquially, if you frequently glance
at the things you own, to validate you – house, new car, expensive
appliances – you have found where your soul is located.
This society has long been
materialistic. Materialism is also a growing trend.
This will not reverse soon.
Psychologist Jean Twenge, in her recent book Generation Me, reports
on the generation of Americans currently growing up, and now in schools and
colleges. She does a thorough job cataloguing the new generation’s
qualities. The young generation is confident, assertive and independent. It
puts self first, puts personal happiness before the group, and before duty.
People in this age group do what will make them feel happy. They are
nonpolitical, they don’t follow the news, they don’t want to vote.
Unconcerned with developing a personal philosophy of life, they seem
primarily concerned with making money. They are materialistic(10)
(and this is from an insider;
Twenge is young enough to include herself as a member of the generation).
Materialists act as if happiness lies
in possessions, particularly money. The belief that money can solve all
problems, and the equating of money and self esteem, are two facets.
It goes further. In this society money
defines friendship patterns. Commentator Sean Mitchell says choosing your
house and car have become self-defining moments in America because they
determine who you will be, and who you will be associating with. Money and
material possessions are bigger than all of us. They override our education,
our heritage. Families are split because some members are wealthier than
others. But this is never talked about in polite conversation
At the same time psychologist Jean
Twenge finds the new generation is more anxious and depressed
I’ll break sequence of the historical
landmark theories for some recent research on materialism, and the
What research evidence is there?
Psychologist Tim Kasser, in The
High Price of Materialism (13),
studied the type of person who puts high income and prestige above close
friends and marriage, and who makes commodities his friends – the
materialist. This research is not pretty.
It emerges that materialists are
forever focused on self, trying to maximize their own status at the expense
of empathy and mutuality. This draws deformities in personal relationships,
and materialistic values are generally correlated with shorter, and more
negative, relationships. Materialists generally are likely to flee from
intimacy, and on personality tests they score as more antisocial. In dating
relationships they are more conflictual and aggressive.
Further, he found materialists to be
chronically dissatisfied with themselves. They constantly compare themselves
with the lush, brilliant imagery on TV and come off worse. They have more
problems with anxiety, depression and alcohol. They have more dreams
involving death (14).
The things materialists acquire are
never enough. It is a fundamental point of greed that he more you have, the
more you want. They may be driven, but they are like greyhounds chasing a
metal rabbit they will never catch.
The connection between money and
happiness is being promoted in every minute of commercial television, and
Kasser found that materialists watch copious amounts of TV.
Because it interferes with personal
relationships, materialism conflicts with the stuff of community. Kasser: “When materialistic values dominate
our society, we move farther and father from what makes us civilized ”
Yale’s Robert Lane has also weighed in
on this problem. It’s not just that some people get focused on money at the
expense of relationships; it’s that in general, materialism and
companionship are opposed.
Lane’s points: humans naturally get
their happiness from family and companionship, not from money. Companionship
naturally involves trust. But business is indifferent to people. It erodes
trust. If you mix friendship and money, friendship loses.
In the larger scope, the market and
happiness are opposed to begin with. So on the other side of this society’s
ever-mounting wealth, we are not surprised to find a rising tide of distrust
And it’s not just friendships that
suffers. Money corrupts marriages too (independent statistics show money
arguments are the second biggest cause of divorce after adultery
and Kasser also reports materialists
having higher divorce rates (17).)
So materialism is opposed to family
values. Lane puts it this way in his book Loss of Happiness in Market
Democracies: as the nation’s wealth grows there is a “titanic conflict
between the oldest institution and the newest – the market.” And the family
is losing (18).
This essay now returns to time line. We now
open one of the darkest theories in the history of ideas.
Twenty-two years after Smith
published Wealth of Nations, another man had a go at the original
question, can we fit together the selfishness of people with the good of
Malthus’s essay is part of the grand
academic sequence of ideas supporting modern capitalism.
Rev. Thomas Malthus published An
Essay on the Principle of Population in 1798. It achieved immediate
Unlike Adam Smith, who was a seasoned
philosopher before he penned Wealth of Nations, and unlike Darwin
whose theory resulted from years of travel and painstaking observations in
remote parts, Malthus’s essay was dreamed up at an English fireside one
evening, in a moment of opportunity.
At the time, an idealist named Godwin
was riding around English towns as a popular circuit speaker. Godwin was
afire, inspired by the recent French Revolution. People crowded to hear him
because Britain seemed to be a similar predicament, it had a teeming,
starving peasant class, and Godwin’s oratory reached desperate ears. He said
that the suffering of the poor came directly from oppressive treatment by
the ruling classes.
Malthus was young, a recent Oxford
graduate, and he loved debate. He saw an opportunity to pull Godwin off his
Malthus’s argument: why do the poor
always suffer? It is not from mistreatment or oppression. It is from
overpopulation. The poor breed so fast they outrun their own food supplies,
and now they starve. So they bring it on themselves. The wealthy are not to
Malthus started his essay with two
points he says are self-evident truths (not only applying to humans, but all
forms of life). First, populations, if unchecked, naturally reproduce so as
to double themselves every generation – a geometric expansion. But the food
they eat reproduces at a slower rate – at best, arithmetic. Very soon, a
population finds itself in dire want. Its numbers outrun its food.
We may not see starvation everywhere
because other things also cut away a populations: war and disease, so that
the population growth is checked before it reaches the point of total
famine. Among humans, moral restraint, vice and misery also discourage
people from breeding, and the population restrains itself. But the bottom
line is that for any living species, populations always press the limits of
their food. It is a severe struggle for existence. It is a constant source
of misery, in which death is the punishment of defeat, life the prize of
In this timeless drama, the weakest
fall first, leaving the strongest. The remaining people are also goaded to
extra effort to avoid misery. This effort promotes the general good.
All of this is natural, said Malthus.
It is divinely ordained.
Next: why does this misery always fall
unevenly on a community? Because some people are more productive,
self-restraining and prudent than others.
Malthus says, there may very well be a
surplus food at the top and want at the bottom, but that is better than
feeding all who are hungry, equally, because the want of the poor is endless
and their demands would drain the community. In practice, inequality of
distribution preserves the whole.
So, he said, we should not provide
welfare. If we support the poor, it encourages the weak, and promotes
dependency. Rather than protecting indigents, we should protect property
rights. The people with real estate and wealth should be supported by the
He goes on: the civilized state depends
on self-love; it is one of the things that motivates people. And the other
thing is pain, which goads people from their sluggish and slothful nature.
Since the evil of want prods people to industry, evil turns into good, and
“moral evil is probably necessary to the production of moral excellence”(20).
And this was all God’s will.
Malthus’s essay established social
inequality as good. The good of society includes suffering. And there is
nothing wrong with selfish greed. Wealth is self-justifying.
It is obvious why this theory was so
popular with the landed gentry. But if you are interested in justice being
part of how people live in society, Malthus’s theory really twists things
up. The word justice does not even appear in the index to Malthus’s book.
Today, Malthusian principles are
beyond dispute. But at publication time, Malthus was widely rejected. His
biographer, James Bonar, documents that for the first thirty years it rained
The three main reasons: first, the essay is saturated in moralisms (such as
prudence and self-restraint against vice and sloth; at one point Malthus
says “poverty ought to be held disgraceful”
Second, the essay was obviously political.
But the third reason is fatal. It is
Malthus’s two mathematical ratios. They are figures of speech. They are
fantasy. Malthus drew evidence for his ‘geometrical’ increase from the rate
at which human population in the new America was spreading, but he fails to
mention that the large part of that was not reproduction, but immigration.
And his ‘arithmetical’ increase of food is nowhere explained or justified,
nor supported with any data. It was a fireside dream.
His argument confronts elementary
logic, because in the world of living things, many species are both
populations and food at the same time. They form food chains. Insects are a
small bird’s food, at the same time the bird is food for larger birds. So
the small bird is both population and food – how can its population increase
at two different mathematical ratios?
These flaws were known. So why did the
essay find eventual acceptance?
Because the writing was immensely
reassuring. It seemed to weave the terrors of starvation, war and disease
into a grand system, and to give them a predictable place. Pain is not what
it seems, because God’s will is not misery, it is actually the larger good.
It also meant the heat was off the
And importantly, the theory meant
people didn’t have to do anything.
This is intellectual stuff. We pause
here to adjust our burden, and to glance at the path ahead.
The major point ahead is that Smith’s,
Malthus’s and Darwin’s theories are not lights hanging in isolation. Darwin
acknowledged Malthus as the influence for his theory of natural selection
But Malthus’s theory also complements Adam
Smith’s, with the idea of a society thriving on selfishness. The three
theories form an arch.
Malthus’s argument is contemptible.
Not only because he passed off a mathematical metaphor as fact, but also
because he spun evil into good. He was a religious authority using divine
will to explain inequity and injustice.
Henry George (following) had the
insight that Malthus’s theory is the keystone keeping that arch intact, with
economics on one side, natural selection on the other
Our textbooks educate us into the
understanding of a well-ordered society in a way that use Malthus’s opinions
as a truth. That understanding is an edifice which sanctifies a
contradiction: an enlightened, humane, advanced society which breeds
overflowing wealth, sitting on top of suffering.
Malthus’s justifications created both
an intellectual and a moral tragedy. They excuse policy that means the
continued infliction of pain.
If you knocked that keystone out, it
would threaten an intellectual dislocation in two academic disciplines.
The scenery ahead takes a more familiar
coloring: the next theories are American.
Here is a hundred-year break in
historical sequence, and the next landmark is Henry George.
An American, George was on the other
side of the political fence. He put his work together with utter lack of
support. He was self-educated, in poverty at the time of writing, and he was
without academic backing. He became nationally known in his lifetime, but he
is now not remembered – perhaps because he was just an intellectual upstart,
perhaps because there was no rioting nor bloodshed after his book
In 1879 George was a young and unknown
San Francisco printer. Seeking his fortune, he traveled to New
York City. Walking around, he was stunned by the sight of juxtaposed riches
and poverty, by “such heaped wealth interlocked with such deep debasing
the sight of starving people shuffling on streets built in towering
magnificence. He eventually came to the idea that advancing wealth and
deepening poverty were connected.
In his time, the Gilded Age, the
America’s wealth was rapidly expanding, and in the biggest cities opulence
and extravagance were flaunted by those who had it, and the have-nots
suffered on the street. George pondered: but why is labor always struggling
at the fringes of existence, barely able to make ends meet, even as the
nation’s productive power was going up and capital growing?
George read everything he could find on
economics in the public libraries. He wanted an explanation for what he saw
with his own eyes: the rich were getting richer, yes, but the poorer were
falling further behind. He was looking for a specific mechanism. He read
Smith, Ricardo, articles by contemporary professors, documents from foreign
countries and government reports. Received economics said: wages are paid
from capital; the growing capital trickles down, feeding everybody, making
workers wealthier. The money made by the rich is good for everybody.
George reflected. Then he turned on it
all with ferocity. The basics of classical economics were all wrong.
He wrote a book Progress and Poverty
and published at his own expense. The book is lucidly written
(unlike the constipated prose of trained economists).
In summary: it is a fallacy that
the free market system drives a wedge under society, lifting all. It drives
a wedge through society.
George started by contradicting known
principles, point by point. To begin with, he said, wages do not come from
capital, they are taken from the fruits of labor. In practice, labor is
always paid at the end of a work period (week or month) when the employer
has already sold the product. So labor pays for itself.
Growing capital is not given back to
labor. It is invested in more equipment, but primarily in land. There is a
vigorous competition to own land, and not for any use, but for a rise
(speculation). Money can also be made if you charge labor to use the land.
The ownership of land is a waste. Land
by itself does not make anything. Land does not do anything except excite
competition, and as population grows, the landlord can charge more and more
rent. Labor always needs a place to work, so they have to pay rent. As the
value of the land goes up, so rents are raised. In fact, rents are always
raised to keep pace with land value and profits.
But the laborer’s wages are not raised.
Rent is always charged in advance. So
in practice, the laborer has whatever is left over to spend on food and
necessities, an amount that decreases as rents rise. Over time he must work
harder and harder to make ends meet. So production goes up, profits go up,
and at the end of the month he is poorer.
Rent unlocks the puzzle.
“The increase in land values is always
at the expense of the value of labor… rent swallows up the whole gain and
pauperism accompanies progress”(25).
If rent is the pivot, we should
scrutinize. Exactly what is rent?
Actually, Adam Smith had drawn the
first definition. It is as crisp as it is indifferent, and it survives
today. Rent is the money left over after a producer sells his product and
subtracts his costs of production and the costs of his existence, and his
landlord can claim it. So if you are a farmer, or if you have a workshop
where you manufacture things, all the money you make, minus your costs, can
be claimed by your landlord. That seems like a lot. But we remember that the
landlord has the power to shut down your operation: he can evict you.
According to Adam Smith’s definition,
then, rent can keep you in poverty.
Subsequent economists added to his
definition. If the land is good, tenants will pay more for it, and the
landlord can calculate what would be the highest and best use of the
property. Ricardo pointed out, however, that if a landlord owns all of the
land in town he will jack up his rents, just because he can. Tenant is now
paying the price of monopoly. Even if there is no monopoly, individual
landlords watch each other and raise their rents in concert, and the effect
is the same: the tenant has to pay.
Note that by Smith’s original
definition, rent is calculated at the end of a production period, so it
should go down and up, depending on how good the farmer’s season. No, said
George. Since rents are pegged to land values, they do not go down and up,
they go up and up.
Rent is the intimate connection between
wealth and poverty.
In George’s view, “Rent is robbery.”
But this robbery “is not like the robbery of a horse or a sum of money, that
ceases with the act. It is a fresh and continuous robbery, that goes on
every day and every hour…it debases, and embrutes, and embitters.” “Fortunes
are necessarily made at the expense of labor”(26)
and rent-produced poverty is an open mouthed,
relentless hell that yawns beneath civilized society. As this inequality
grows, he said, there will ultimately be de facto enslavement of those who
have to live on land owned by others, and a general subjection of the many
to the few.
So George gave rent a moral value.
And is private property the foundation
of civilization, as other philosophers asserted? The reverse, said George.
It is the source of its worst injustices.
Henry George did not advocate the
abolition of private property. He believed the solution was to tax
land-values so heavily as to make land ownership unattractive (in fact, he
advocated that land-value taxes should be the only taxes.)
Nowadays, the idea that rents should be
controlled is so disreputable that rent control is usually the first example
given in economics textbooks on how to disrupt the magic of laissez-faire.
Any connection between rent and poverty are seldom made.
But a recent Los
Angeles Times article
makes this connection, arguing that an increase in child poverty in the city
should be blamed on housing costs
Currently in California, while living costs are spiking,
real wages are down. The asking rent for Southern California residential
units now average $1,413 per month, far above the reach of a working class
family. To keep a roof over their heads, many families are moving to unsafe
neighborhoods like Central- and South Los Angeles, working multiple jobs to
pay rent, and living in badly overcrowded units. The children are suffering
This has been going on for years. Indeed, South Los Angeles
demographics now resemble those of a third world country. Poverty rates are
over 30% in some zip codes. Our national child poverty rate has been
reported variously at 17% and at 20.3%, but in Los Angeles County it is
South Central, where rents are lower, the children's schools are abysmal,
child disease rates are high, and violent crime rates are high
Fear, poor nutrition and bad education are all childhood experiences that
all ripple forward into adulthood. And that perpetuates the poverty.
everywhere in America. 61% of Los Angeles families are renters. Los Angeles
rents have jumped 82% in the last 10 years.
But if you try to bring
this connection up in casual conversation, you will see the fog roll in and
somebody raises the
liberal line that nobody really understands the causes of poverty. We point
elsewhere: it’s part of a national problem, and you can always see more
expensive rentals in New York, or worse health sinks in New Orleans.
But from the point of view of the working class, it’s very
clear. You work and work and work, and then the landlord reaches in and
says, that’s my money.
I suspect that among people who benefit from this silence
are some landlords who consider themselves sensitive to social issues. They
do not want to talk about rents.
next landmark on this tour is some written work which crosses the line
between theory and propaganda. This crossing is important to watch. A few
Any national system is a mixture of actions and ideas. My
theme is that this nation, too, has a hoisted scenery of big ideas. This
ideology justifies, and directs, our customs and our ways.
Scenery is a word from the theater. Scenery is enclosing.
These ideas surround us. They work as a kind of prompt, reminding us which
play we are acting out, and the lines we are supposed to say. These ideas
are carefully taught from childhood, and now they immerse the average adult
mind to the point we go about our days believing in this theater. We are so
immersed, we no longer aware that these ideas are ideas, any more than a
fish in the middle of the ocean realizes that its environment is wet. Part
of our amazement when visiting another country is realizing that a different
set of scenery can work just as well.
These big ideas come in different styles. If they are real
theories, they are worded dryly and correctly. If they are dogma, they are
worded stridently (religions are theories, of course, so they function like
idea-scenery too) and rhetoric replaces logic. If the ideas are faith, they
come with the assertion that the theory is true even if the evidence shows
it is false; those ideas are presented by authority and we are not allowed
to question the authority. Further, if the ideas are propaganda, the wording
is strident, not scientific, and it is still a big idea, but it uses
motivating drama with an obvious push to convert people. Propaganda is set
of ideas used by some people to gain rapid power. Propaganda appears
whenever a group, or community, or nation’s aim is to expand fast.
When a large power keeps growing and
growing, it sometimes develops messianic tones. Nations: all nations
encourage patriotism, and that is not bad, and it is nice to have love of
home and country. But if a country develops and swells and grows again it
may decide that its success is because it is ‘chosen.’ It may next decide
its methods should be applied other countries. And then people start talking
their ideas in an especially driven way; they may become fanatic. Fanaticism
has a few symptoms. One is the drive to put everything under “one” (leader,
truth or principle). Plus, there is rhetoric about saving the world for its
own good. At the same time, dissent is squashed; and there is righteous
punishment for anyone who says different. This is a special treatment of
ideas. Humans work themselves into these moods now and again, and sometimes
the end results are horrific slaughter. Another examples of these ‘large
powers’ are religious organizations.
I argue, massive corporations are
another example. Some corporations are now big enough to be communities.
Some have more money than some national economies. They are responsible to
nobody but their shareholders. They moving mighty amounts of capital around,
and that is their power. Increasingly, they call the shots for governments.
Watching the largest corporations, we
are anxious that they don’t at some point take the next step in the growth
of power, developing shadowy propaganda about saving the world, and about
bringing benefits to reluctant cultures which are still too backward to
understand. Because this is also the language of control. When we watch
television commercials accompanied by deep, powerful music which explain
that a corporation’s reason for existence is to solve the world’s problems,
or to shape the future, we can be nervous.
All ideologies select some ideas and
omit others. We hear what corporate ideology always contains: profits and
expansion. And we note what it always omits. While it claims it will expand
freedom, perhaps democracy in the world, it never includes building
(Perhaps we should be grateful that
so far, none of the big corporations have sprouted private militias.)
As Lord Acton observed, power
corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
The next landmark theory shows how
power becomes its own justification in a business environment. It is filled
with propaganda-like language. It is another attempt to answer the question
how the selfishness of individuals reconciles with the good of society. But
the historical timing of this theory is important. It preceded the explosive
expansion of American corporate power we are witnessing today.
Ayn Rand carried the torch for
laissez-faire capitalism in America from the 1930s to the 1980s. She
published two books of essays, Capitalism and The Virtue of
Selfishness. She roiled the public’s imagination with two novels, The
Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged
Many American baby boomers have copies of her books on their bookshelves.
Rand actually sold over three million books in America, more than any
philosopher. One of her biographers estimates books written by her and her
followers are still selling at 400,000 a year worldwide
Rand was short, argumentative,
vitriolic and charismatic. She was militantly capitalistic. Her works are
saturated in Social Darwinism (35).
She influenced some major government policy-makers (the Reagan
Administration was largely Randian). Alan Greenspan, ex-Chief of the Federal
Treasury, was one of her followers (he contributed three essays to
Capitalism). Over the years Rand’s books have influenced in the
life, and faith, of millions of readers. Some of these books are now taught
in schools and universities.
Rand excoriated communism, which deeply
satisfied America of the ‘40s and ‘50s.
But some of her shouted-up public speeches
were beyond antisocial, they were quite poisonous – in general, she urged
against compromise, because it was a sign of weakness.
With her public rhetoric she scrambled to
establish herself as a philosopher with a work she called Objectivism.
Philosophers have rejected her. Economists have not.
Her work endlessly promotes
selfishness. “It is only on the basis of
selfishness . . . that men can live together in. . . . society”(36).
indefatigably puts down altruism as a vice.
Rand imported her ideas from Friedrich
Nietzsche, a European who was obsessed with will power. Nietzsche divided
humans into two categories: rare, superior personalities who are born
leaders, this includes military conquerors, captains of industry, and
geniuses; through history they have lead mankind’s advances. And the rest:
bumbling, average people.
Nietzschean values are war-like.
Nietzsche was openly contemptuous of the average masses, they are like
sheep, they exist to be exploited for the dreams of Supermen. Supermen play
by different rules and they are above the law. What they do is not really
right or wrong, it is just awesome. But average people drag. They are
teeming, petty, judgmental, and they are scared of change, and in their
small-minded large numbers, they try to smother progress with bureaucracy
and democracy and laws. Helping the teeming masses is counterproductive,
said Neitzsche. It weakens the culture; and altruism in the form of welfare
only encourages people who stumble around bleating Christian virtues.
Rand’s world copies this. It is a world
of strong versus weak. She pulls all this together as a moral defense of
capitalism. Personal freedom must be undiluted to allow super-talent to
surge. Anything that subsumes the individual to the group is wrong because
it hinders personal freedom. So, collectives are wrong, as are community
spirit, taxation, conscription – they all have rules which drag super-talent
down. The ‘common good’ likewise; it should be abolished. In fact there
should be no such thing as ‘society.’ It is an inhibiting collective.
Altruism is opposed to individual
rights and is the enemy of advancing civilization.
laissez-faire was Rand’s ideal, with no government constraint on business
and no assistance to the poor. Only glorious liberty.
In Rand’s work, society and altruism
seem to originate together, and she puts them both through her meat grinder.
this, she said, is also rational.
Malthus’s theme runs through both
Neitszche’s work and though Rand’s rhetoric.
Writers like these three, who describe the world as a drama of remorseless
forces of survival and extinction, of grand powers and dark conflicts,
always justify their work by saying it is just a depiction of reality. An
important difference is that Ayn Rand is prescriptive. She said, that is the
way things should be.
Rand’s work is perniciously
inegalitarian and profoundly undemocratic. It contradicts all major
religions which hold selfishness to be evil, and which promote selflessness,
charity and self sacrifice as the highest virtues.
Her biographer, Jeff Walker,
researching her personal journals, found an entry written when she was 30. “
One puts oneself above all and crushes everything in one’s way to get the
best for oneself. Fine!” (37).
All this toxicity in the pursuit of
Rand thought of her
own work as propaganda (38).
It is incendiary in parts. Walker has
done a painstaking word count in Atlas Shrugged and found the phrase
“shock to the system” nearly every eight pages, the word “zap” 130 times.
The word “evil” appears on the average every 4.9 pages - more than in the
Some critics dismiss Rand as a
historical footnote, since she was trained in film school and worked as a
scriptwriter. But she was an effective
demagogue (40). The damage Rand has done to
this society, I argue, may be enormous. Following her demolitions, we have
in fact witnessed, over the last 30 years, the disappearance of the concept
of the common good. Nobody talks about it any more. Modern
Libertarians embrace her
Modern Americans now care less about morality, more about strength. And many
young readers still find her message inspiring.
I believe we can throw Objectivism under
Secession of wealth
We are marching toward greater
inequality, therefore further from democracy (democracy has two prime
values: freedom and equality.)
Free market capitalism does two
things. It grows wealth, and it grows inequality. So people in a society
based on market principles will, over time, find themselves becoming
increasingly disconnected. And not just individuals. Differences between
groups will also grow.
The next point is that disconnection
Step by step, inequality breeds
competition. In his Scientific American article, Robert Sapolsky puts
this in economists’ terms (42).
He says the more unequal two groups are, the less inclined is the stronger
group to help the common good. Spending money on universal health care,
public transportation, and public schools would help raise the quality of
life for the average person. But the less the wealthy identify with those
below, the less they use those amenities. It benefits them not to pay taxes
but spend on their own private schools, private transportation and private
medical systems. So “the more unequal the income is in a community, the
incentive the wealthy will have to oppose public expenditures benefiting the
health of the community”(43).
In effect, the rich wield immense means to subjugate the poor.
And inequality is not self-curing.
Social psychologists have long known
how easily competition easily slides into open conflict. This process is
hard to reverse ( 44).
So while trickle-down theorists
strut around, grin and give the thumbs-up, we should look a little closer.
The underlying issues are hot. We
suspect the experts try to smuggle ideas under thickets of their special
jargon. We would like to see.
Inequality and competition are the
The core question: Is this a society
in which for one person to rise, another person must fall?
Social scientists have a way of
talking about these things. They describe a little exchange between two
people: if you and I compete, and what you win is exactly what I lose, the
sum is zero. An exchange has happened in which we have just moved the goods
around. It is called a zero-sum exchange, and it results in pure inequality
(the ‘have’ over the ‘have-not’). And notice, nothing extra is produced by
A true zero-sum exchange produces a
perfect hierarchy. A winner and a loser.
But if in the exchange we both gain
something, or if you gain, while I suffer some loss and some gain, then the
sum is not zero. It looks like we both gain, at least something. It is
called a non-zero-sum exchange; and you could look at it this way and say
that since it is better than zero, perhaps something extra is generated by
the exchange. (And it might have created an inequality, but less
From the math to real examples: if
two people are competing for a dollar, or a pencil, one will get it and one
won’t. A zero-sum outcome will occur, but it is not serious. But if two
people are competing for a place on a crowded lifeboat, the outcome can
produce emotion, perhaps panic or fury.
It gets a little more realistic if
this exchange is played over and over. Day after day, a person has to
compete with another to get a seat on a bus. A person is trying for housing
in a tight market, and every time he tries, he loses to another person.
Those examples involve two people.
Now we can think of several people, exchanging at the same time. This might
mean several people trying to get one item, or it might be two subgroups,
and the gain of one group equals the loss of the other.
Dog-eat-dog competition is an example
of zero-sum. Only one is going to win.
When the stakes are high, zero-sum
can be exciting (ball games) or humiliating and despairing (two transplant
patients waiting, but there is only one liver).
In theory we also start with the
assumption all parties are equal. But in the real world one party often
starts with an advantage: larger physical size, or extra wealth. Then the
win/loss can be predicted ahead, which breeds cynicism (legal contests
between rich and a poor) and over time these contests are degrading.
And if these events are repeated
over and over, trust is destroyed. In the long run, zero-sum exchanges are
toxic because they prevent future cooperation. Applied to a society, they
lead to worsening divisions. The people see that justice is replaced by
might. And it destroys the common good.
Competition is not good for all.
Whether our economy is zero-sum is
rabidly argued. The stakes are so high. It may attract little attention when
two people compete for something. But if two groups, or two levels of
society get into a win-loss, that could later lead to a whole section of
society coming back and looking for justice.
The free marketer’s argument takes a
different tack. It insists, freedom comes first. It claims that exchanges
must be good for both parties so long as the parties are free. If everyone
is free, people wouldn’t get into exchanges unless they both got something
out of it. Example if you give me a dollar, I give you shoelaces. We are
both satisfied, so the exchange is a win-win. It is non-zero-sum because we
both feel better off.
There may be a side competition,
capitalists say, when two shoelace manufacturers vie for your business. That
prods both into inventing better shoelaces, they say, and that is good for
A lot of the time, free market
capitalism is explained using those petty little examples.
In fact, those points may be true
when a person freely buys shoelaces or pencils.
But to be more realistic, other
money exchanges (rent, or wages, or medical services, or insurance) are
never so free. We are seduced, or partly coerced, into an exchange, either
numbed by fear of consequences if we don’t, or eased in by a contract with a
small debt which later grows snowballing interest, which require us to keep
paying and paying long after we realize the exchange was a bad idea. A lot
of salesmanship uses a win-win teaser; later we realize it is much more like
a win-loss, but we are out of choices.
Another real world example: the item
is a house. A freely-acting buyer and seller may both feel improved by the
exchange. But if two house sellers are competing for one buyer, somebody is
going to get hurt: supposing the losing seller needs the money to prevent
foreclosure, then that example is still the machinery of free market, but
not everyone will benefit. There will be despair.
No matter what Adam Smith said, it is
not good for all.
How do economists deal with that
inconvenience? By denial. Economists generally will not talk about the fear,
despair or greed, or other feelings in these exchanges, referring to
emotions as “externalities.” (And if there was any choice, they deny any
So we get a feel for what is being smuggled through here.
Above all we want to preserve a veneer
of civilization. So free-market supporters endlessly talk about freedom, and
deny that the economy is zero-sum. They muscularly stack the tables with
economics books filled with little trade examples which are non-zero-sum.
They shut out the sighs of the debt-burdened, they omit the stares of the
frightened. They will not talk about exploitation.
But Ayn Rand’s ideology is saturated in
zero-sum. She reveled in that. And destroyed large parts of morality with
Competition cannot be good for all. If
you have a boat with people rowing toward a goal, progress is made if they
all cooperate, but the boat will stop in the water if the rowers fall to
fighting with each other, like a small dog-eat-dog society.
Free market economists insist our
economy benefits everybody. And we wonder about all this professional
terminology. What about exchanges between management and workers? What about
landlord and tenant, or rich and poor?
Fundamentally, all we
want to know: is the exchange just?
Next, any economist who steps in on the other
side, and challenges win-win faith, will attract risky attention.
Continuing our historical sequence, the
next author bluntly attacks free market dogma.
Robert Frank argues in Luxury Fever
that belief, rather than actual evidence, is running our economic
policies (45). He says there is a small cluster of unshakable free market beliefs.
First: the core doctrine: inequality benefits the system. Second, the belief
that the top people in the hierarchy are the producers and taxing them would
stifle effort and risk, and third, the belief that they do everybody good
when their wealth trickles down.
But, Frank says, Adam Smith’s
invisible hand can only work for noncompetitive choices only, where a person
thinks only of himself, not about others, it is “valid only in the special
case in which each individuals rewards are completely independent of the
choices made by others” (46).
Adam Smith intended his argument to be
about farmers and small manufacturers who are simply minding their own
affairs. Their efforts sum up, and are good for all.
But in a dog-eat-dog, status-seeking,
rivalrous world the focus is on producing an inequality. The deliberate goal
is zero-sum. Says Frank, that produces no invisible hand.
And we are awash. In fact, we have a
particularly virulent form of zero-sum which is not just a two-person, but a
multiple person variation. One person takes the pot and everybody else gets
virtually nothing. Publishing, entertainment, and corporations are like that
now: the very top writers, film stars, and CEOs are earning lottery-like
money, but the middle level performers are just getting by. This type of
market is spreading through society, so in broader terms, the middle class
is getting hit and the poor are getting hit worse, while the few at the top
are overflowing in riches. This change has been marked over the last three
decades. It is a winner-take-all exchange, and it breeds stark inequalities
and a relentless drive to come out on top.
(You can also see winner-take-all
behavior in microcosm, in small group games such as the Nuts Game).
Instead of the these stark inequalities
helping, they are damaging the economy. Because there is a “burgeoning
empirical literature”…showing a “negative correlation between income
inequality and economic growth.”
Winner-take-all is the opposite of
trickle down. And compare the power: trickling is languid and passive;
winner-take-all is combative. Frank says, “the fundamental premise of
trickle down theory is not merely wrong. Rather it has matters precisely
In The Winner Take All Society,
Frank and Cook say the appearance of this type of market in America is the
largest shift any society has endured without a revolution or military
The second contemporary economist
weighing in to this dispute is Juliet Schor. In The Overspent American,
she says large parts of the economy looks zero-sum
She continues: we are trained to be
consumers. We ingest commercials from the age we can first watch television,
and the end result is that our lives are about consuming. We learn to
express ourselves by shopping. These are economic choices, but because of
the way products are advertised, consuming has little to do with rational
choices. They come from “postional concerns” – which is all about comparing
ourselves with other people, and the struggle to rise, and the fear of
Products are sold in the media by
showing owners as better people. The owner of this year’s car, mortgage or
exotic vacation will be one-up, the envy of his coworkers. Appearances are
everything. So people spend money on things that will make them look good by
comparison. (It has no nutritional value, but Americans spend $2.5 billion a
year on bottled water. In 1995 alone Americans spent $7.6 million on
residential lawn care (50)).
Advertising, Shor says, is deliberately
designed to stir competitive inequality. Far from being good for everybody,
consumers are making exchanges precisely because they know other people
cannot afford the item. Once we get started, we push ever upward, wanting to
buy things we know others can’t have. And acquiring the product never solves
the problem because there are always others above us.
Schor names the emotions. The concept
of zero-sum, of course, is dispassionate. But the long-term experience of
zero-sum is never so. “At some level a structure of inequality injects
insecurity and fear into our psyches”(51).
And it is not for the common good. Not
one dollar of this is going for keeping up the streets or for public
Positional concerns divide us against
each other. They are anti-social. And the
advertising industry is trying to make consuming zero-sum as hard and fast
as it can.
Stuff of struggle
This culture breathes competition.
Competition fills films, fantasy, and people’s dreams. It washes the roots
of beauty pageants, careers, higher education, the arts, sports and fashion.
Indeed, conflict and competition are the heart of all narrative plot in this
The stuff of struggle is still what
feeds our ideas of virtue: bravery, courage, persistence.
Once upon a time, a winner was also a
morally good individual. But these days goodness is no longer required. We
have a mutant morality in which nobody asks a winner how he made his
fortune. The only remaining moral imperative is never to be caught a
Consequently our culture breathes
Western civilization’s three most
powerful theories about society have made inequality quite acceptable. Adam
Smith’s, Malthus’s and Darwin’s work all have similar coloring. And in
self-styled democracies which loudly announces that all men are created
equal, these three are largely unquestioned.
In Darwin’s theory, species also
struggle mightily against natural forces. Plague and disease was everywhere,
pests, droughts and other destructive weather and acts of God all made life
temporary and terrifying. These forces separated the fit and the unfit.
Nature usually won.
That was man against nature, but
Darwin’s theory adds this facet: the animal kingdom is made up of predators
and prey. Look for the strong to exploit the weak, it is what they usually
do, and that is natural; so don’t cry about injustice.
Importantly, these theories name
original causes which are beyond man’s reach. Smith’s ‘invisible fist’ was
God, or something mystical. The death which befalls the prey, the misery
which visits the weak - these are the peculiar ways of God, or ruthless
Nature, or the gusts of Fate - under which we are powerless. It is therefore
senseless to try to do anything. These theories bring a kind of fatalism.
I argue that these theories serve a
political purpose. They discourage action. They tell the reader it is futile
to try to change things.
They help us to justify continuing
policies that create pain.
Continuing a theme I started in the
second essay, I now focus on Darwin’s theory, with its political meaning,
because his part of the arch (from Smith to Malthus to Darwin) is already
beginning to slip. Darwin’s theory, blaming misery and injustice on hostile
natural forces, is in a predicament.
The days of hostile natural forces
are passing. Improvements in science, technology and medicine over the last
century have eradicated most of the diseases that routinely decimated. Most
of the crop-easting pestilences which could bring a nation to starvation in
a single season are now under control. Agriculture is exponentially more
efficient. Cloud-seeding even hints at weather control; wild animals are no
longer a danger. We build protective buildings so weather extremes don’t
kill us. Of course we still suffer earthquakes and tornadoes. But our
personal biology is so well protected by new hygiene, nutrition and
medications, that we no longer expect to die before our forties.
In short, many of the routine
environmental dangers are in check. What does that leave?
Biologist R.D. Alexander in The
Biology of Moral Systems says it means “… humans have become their own
principle hostile force of nature. Most of the evolution of human social
life, and I will argue the evolution of the human psyche, has occurred in
the context of within – and between – group competition, the former
resulting from the latter”(52)
and “The most pervasive hostile force that remains, for any human
individual or group, is other members or groups of the human species
itself,” and there is “an unprecedented level of group-against-group
within species competition. It is this competition that draws us towards
strange and ominous consequences”(53).
We are our own most hostile force.
That is not a new idea. Richard Dawkin’s book The Selfish Gene, loved
by many a laissez-faire businessman, explains that we have serious
problems with each other (54).
But we should understand that politically, Dawkins is in the same camp as
Ayn Rand. We’re going to eat each other alive, and now there’s a genetic
Today some of the best minds in biology
are treading oh-so-cautiously around here. The academic stakes are large.
Morality is made from how people treat
one another. And politics is that social morality writ large. What we’re
approaching is a genetic justification for one side of politics or the other
- with the same implication: we can’t do much about it. We will see more
articles on the genetics of morality (one article has appeared justifying
conspicuous wastefulness through the human evolution
If we see more writing justifying predators, if sociobiologists write that
democracy is not in our genes, we should understand we are in dangerous
We should keep a careful eye on these
I selected R.D. Alexander for his
radical tack. If selfishness if the problem, what is the solution?
Trust. It is the social cement.
Alexander says “In humans, the cement of
social structures is reciprocity. This requires honesty, sincerity, trust”(56).
Those would also be evolved.
His argument: there’s competition
between groups and between communities. (A minority of biologists are
arguing the group-selection way – heirs of V.C. Wynn-Edwards
Obviously the group that has reciprocity and trust will do a better. It has
teamwork. The group that is riddled with selfishness and competition will be
divided and weak. So trust will be selected for, selfishness will selected
out, and groups are fit or less fit, depending on how well their members
support each other.
Trust is the core.
Without trust, no well-ordered
Biological theory and conservative politics have been sharing the same
bed for a long time. Natural selection, as a theory, provides the powerful
classes with what they want to hear.
But we have progressed. We have
improved. We have shown our ingenuity taming the hostile environment, which
is to say, we are getting Nature off our backs. But inequality and injustice
are still marked, so we are still looking for causes. With our attention
taken off Nature (or Providence or God), it must come back on ourselves.
Malthus’s theory is the pivot. If it is
false, then it is not the poor who are the problem.
If Malthus’s Divine explanations are
gone, if Darwin’s hostile forces fade, we are left looking at each other.
The rich are, once again, part of the problem.
And without Fate to blame it on, we are
again face to face with the realization that we can, and should do
Our terrors will be back.
How inequality kills
Next, human communities (including
cities, states and nations) can be compared with each other by how unequal
their members are. Some are egalitarian. Some are hierarchical. And this
comparison is not a curiosity. It reveals a killer.
I am going to describe some research
that has been accumulating over the last 20 years, produced by many
epidemiologists and health researchers. The findings have been replicated
internationally and it has full scientific credibility. It is roundly and
profoundly ignored in our commercial media. This research will be the
scourge of free market theory.
It all started with a 1977 article in
the New England Journal of Medicine describing a district in Boston
where life expectancy was so low and infant mortality so high, the numbers
looked like rural Bangladesh (58).
Another high mortality pocket was found in Harlem
These pits were astonishing for being in the world’s wealthiest nation.
Health researchers began digging
through masses of health data, trying for explanations. Eventually they
stumbled on an odd correlation. The researchers’ surprise is evident in
their early publications; they almost didn’t believe their own results and
stood waiting to see if anybody else found the same thing. The replications
trickled in. What they found was that people in hierarchical communities
were unhealthier and living shorter lives than people in more egalitarian
Researchers use different ways to
measure social inequality. One is the Gini Index. It runs on a scale from 0
(perfect equality) to 1 (perfect inequality) and in the U.S. it has been
increasing steadily, and stood at 0.47 in 2005
If it gets big, the Gini Index predicts social unrest
Another measure is the Robin Hood
Index. This asks, how much money would you have to take from the rich give
to the poor in a community and keep doing that until everyone was equal? In
communities that are mostly equal, not much. In unequal communities, a lot
Then you can correlate this index with anything else.
So Bruce Kennedy and his colleagues
calculated the Robin Hood Index for each of the 50 states. They vary
considerably, with Louisiana the most unequal, New Hampshire the most
egalitarian. Next they compared the index with mortality rates. A clear
correlation jumped out. By knowing the state’s degree of social inequality,
you could accurately guess its mortality rates.
Social inequality shortens lives. It
also predicts other health problems, and it predicts crime rates.
George Kaplan and his associates, went through the archives and found income
inequality correlated with all of the following: low birth weight, homicide,
violent crime, work disability, expenditures for medical care and police
protection, rates of smoking, unemployment rates, food stamps, and
And this inequality is separate from the effects of poverty
Next, John Lynch and
his co-workers analyzed 282 US cities. They found if you add the ravages of
poverty to the life-shortening effect of social inequality, the combination
is “comparable to the combined loss of life from lung cancer, diabetes,
motor vehicle crashes, HIV infections, suicides and homicides”
Is this because sick people fall to the
bottom of society, causing deeper inequality? No, analysis shows the
reverse. The path is from inequality to bad health.
And if you compare nations, Robert
Sapolksy shows in his Scientific American article
richer nations don't have the longer life expectancies; egalitarian nations
And the damage
affects people at all levels of a society.
It just seems
nobody tried these correlations before.
Researchers are now looking at the inner workings. Their
conclusions so far:
What keeps people alive and healthy is friendships and
social contacts. People immersed in stable relationships develop cohesive
communities, and they seem to
experience better health and less violence
These relationships involve an easy reciprocity, they also involve trust.
These groups and communities are also egalitarian.
That should not be a total surprise.
Plato once observed that equality and friendship go together.
On the other hand, the researchers
say, people living in hierarchical relationships aren’t so friendly. The
inequality destroys it. And their communities are untrusting. The more
vertical a relationship, the more the people are concerned about
superiority/inferiority. People don’t talk to each other because they are
constantly watching themselves in relation to others; they focus on who has
control, and on disrespect. Mutuality and reciprocity is replaced by anxiety
about status and dominance. And this chronically raises our stress
hormones. (This happens in animal groups as well as humans
The chronic stress in dominance hierarchies is what eventually leads to
breakdown, disease, and earlier deaths. A remarkable piece of research done
by Michael Marmot in British government offices shows this even applies to
hierarchy in the workplace (69).
Researchers say high trust, cohesive
groups and communities have high ‘social capital’
They are the egalitarian, healthier ones. The unequal, distrusting
communities have low social capital. Richard Wilkinson’s book The Impact
of Inequality details these points
(A separate published collection of reports
contains the basic research.)
Since free market practices regularly
grow inequality, the free market is steadily ruining the quality of our
relationships, taking away our happiness, dissolving trust, alienating us
from each other and harming our health – a stunning record.
The lateness of this research in our
history, I presume, is because these researchers, besides being scientists,
are also regular people swept up in a national enthusiasm that the free
market system is the best that any society has produced.
Nobody ever thought to look for these
If this damage had been inflicted on us
by a foreign power, it would be called an act of war.
All this takes the heat off the environment and puts it back on us.
There are plenty of
theories to explain person-in-society. We ignore many. We teach in our
schools a selection of classical ideas which justify injustice and enable
greed. In particular we ignore any theory with outrage at man’s exploitation
of man. Formal education leaves us with select beliefs.
These points are worth the
In this society the rich
get richer and the poor are getting poorer and this is not a coincidence.
The rich depend for their existence on the poor; the poor often pay the
price of other people’s success.
That sets up a national
contradiction. We want to know ourselves as an advanced, humane society
which offers all its members the best of world conditions.
We are taught from a very
early age to accept many contradictions. In school, in their morning biology
class schoolchildren learn that life is about predators and prey;
biological science explains how the continual
misery of some is for the common good. In the
afternoon class they learn we are a nation all about justice and equality.
Being educated into
opposites is not just an oddity; it leads deep into the foundation practices
of this society. If we are strong and good and happy and humane democracy,
why do we have epidemic suicide rates among the young, small armies of
homeless, and legions of people filling our prisons?
It is never said in the textbooks, but
the truth is, injustice haunts us.
contradictions will not cure themselves. Removing them is the first order of
business, because they are dishonesties and without basic honesty, we have
They stand in the way of our
fight for future justice.
The news media is
complicit. What is news is partly a matter of fashion and controversial
events, but the media is selective in very predictable ways. They lionize
the rich. They avoid the poor. It is a rare
news item which notes that while America is
the biggest exporter of food,,
hungry people walk here (74-77).
America is not alone in this feature:
many countries have great wealth next to hunger. But America prefers to see
this as a technological problem. In fact, neither science nor technology
will fix this (78).
It is a political problem of unequal distribution. It is a political problem
because hungry people are not free
people. Underneath is a set of moral
dilemmas, so the solution is moral.
Next, this is an ownership society.
We are accustomed to think our basic freedoms are guaranteed what we possess
– material goods, particularly money and land.
We are saturated in materialism.
Materialism is psychologically unhealthy, according to research, and of
course the major religions warn against it. It interferes with healthy
relationships, it breeds self-centered attitudes. It also discourages
abstract thinking. After two centuries of growing materialism we can
understand why have subsided into a paralysis of debate. Our loss of
intellectual edge, including our ability to see contradictions, can partly
be blamed on it. Intellectually, we submit to wealth.
Possessiveness also erodes community.
should be educating against materialism. But again here our schools are
silent. Consumer spending is about 70% of the economy. If you could erase
materialism, you would stop the economy.
Poverty grows as the natural shadow of
capitalism. It is futile to try to cure poverty with more capitalism.
And if this is a nation founded on
the pursuit of happiness it is perverse to use anxiety among the poor to
work harder to advance profits. But this practice will spread because a
virulent business ideology, Social Darwinism, is on the rise. We hear
energetic political speeches on freedom, but there is also a visceral
hostility against protecting the weak and poor – indeed the attitude is
common that the poor need more discipline.
That does not sound like trickle down
benefits. And it does not build trust.
A critical sequence applies to personal
relationships, work groups, communities, and social classes alike: greed
destroys trust. So it drags down morality, which is a set of understandings
that our neighbor will behave cooperatively and predictably. Erich Fromm’s
dictum was: greed precludes peace
Greed is destructive because it is dog eat
dog. It rips the common good.
has little to add to countries with healthy democracies. It damages a true
democratic structure because it creates inequality. Ferguson’s theory
(above) shows how this happens.
Inequality slows down
economic growth. Free market economists are desperate to refute that point.
But where theory and empirical evidence do not match, one has to go. Kang
Park’s cross-national study with a sample of 65 countries not only
demonstrates it empirically, but finds a two-step sequence. It happens this
way: the greater the inequality in a country, the greater the level of
political violence. The greater the political violence, the slower the
economic progress (80).
The free market is also toxic because
its advance depends on, and creates, indifference. A democracy cannot run
on indifference. Switch our focus to the well-being of persons, and the free
market has to suffer.
is fragile. We have heard relentless warnings in the media that our
democracy is being threatened by foreign forces. But if we want to build
democracy, we must grow it from within.
We recognize this toxin: get a typical
job, and find that you have no freedom and no say; that the day is all
orders and bosses and sometimes insults and all-day strain. If you work in a
profit-making business, the guiding principle is not democracy, but profit.
That does not teach justice.
So the shadow of battle looms between
humane democracy, with equality and free choices, the way the nation is
defined, versus the ways of the workplace, where we spend most of our time.
As the corporate style grows – with no equality and your freedom taken for a
wage – will its dictatorial ways infect the rest of the nation, or will
democracy overtake the ways of the workplace?
Here we have an opportunity to make
changes, and make our nation immeasurably stronger. But the outlook does not
look healthy at the rate the raw power ideology is taking priority. If, year
after year, we do not see democracy in the workplace, we will not notice
when it is missing in our society.
Detachment will not help. Neither will
positive thinking. We want changes.
Instead of wealth being the highest
value of this society, we want justice.
We want our morality back.
Inevitability of inequality
Is inequality “natural?” Is it
While there are no human societies
that are without some social differences, there are in fact many egalitarian
societies. Some are small, some are larger, complex hunter-gatherer
societies. They are not industrial societies. But they should not be
dismissed on that point. It was Rousseau’s original argument that only
primitive communities can give us a glimpse of our ‘state of nature’ – our
original way before we were corrupted by civilization
Anthropologist Christopher Boehm has
published a remarkable study of 48 egalitarian societies from all continents
including Hottentots, Navajo, Ngukurr Aboriginies and Cayapo
His first conclusion is that these
societies are deliberately shaped by their members. Equality takes work, and
it can be maintained.
Members show ‘leveling’ behaviors
towards people who try to act dominant, grab control, or who start giving
out orders. This includes criticism and ridicule of bossy people, and
shouting down a leader who becomes overassertive. Sometimes a leader is
simply ignored or disobeyed. The !Kung have been reported to terminate
extremely aggressive individuals. Other societies ostracize very dominant
personalities. Among the Iban, a strongly assertive chief is simply
All of these behaviors are conscious.
All of the societies intend equality.
Hierarchy is not rigid and inevitable;
it is plastic.
And people in those communities,
uneducated in Malthus or Darwin, are doing something about it.
I argued earlier that large amounts of
denial keep the free market system afloat. Periodic ‘discoveries’ illustrate
For years, our own celebrated
poverty experts have been jetting to far-away Africa to investigate, say,
pitiful sub-Saharan conditions, and write about them, and loudly demand
American attention and action (83).
Meanwhile, third world-like poverty
pockets in America are ignored
Now there is a discovery, in America,
of extreme impoverishment, a “deep poverty” class. An article in the
American Journal of Preventive Medicine finds about 16 million Americans
now live lower than half the official poverty line (meaning a person
surviving on less than $5,080 per year) and this group has jumped 26% from
2000 to 2005 – faster than any other segment of society – and this in a
period of economic expansion. This is an economic sinkhole. It is extremely
difficult to get out, because a person’s efforts are all spent in trying to
survive. This group faces “enormous difficulties in meeting the most basic
human needs”: food, clothing, housing
The authors of this article say they
could find no references to severe poverty or deep poverty in the
If our celebrated poverty experts could
first show their ability to eliminate deep poverty problems in America, we
might be more willing to give donations to their foreign causes.
Americans are “forting up”(85).
City planners E.J. Blakely and M.G.
Snyder estimate there are over 20,000 walled and gated communities in
Building big, long walls is very expensive, so they are largely the mark of
the upper classes. Among the very wealthy, these enclaves more likely to be
fitted with video surveillance, walking guards with dogs, and manned entry
points to harden the exclusion. These walls have one goal: control.
The authors state this architecture
is about fear. It is about the level of trust in our society.
Anxiety rules. People have become
preoccupied with violent crime, and the thinking inside these communities is
a fortress mentality. With their surveillance cameras and concrete
perimeters people want private control against the democratic “all” of the
Throughout history, the throwing up
of walls always meant trouble is expected. Examples are the stone castles in
Europe, the Great Wall of China, and the great wood-walled forts of early
America. They were all built when danger was imminent.
Are the very wealthy expecting
Of course, there are differences. In
mediaeval times in event of attack, the lord of the castle would gather his
commoners into the castle for protection. In event of social unrest here, I
doubt that the rest of us we will be invited in.
Blakely and Snyder point out that the
setting of boundaries is always a political act. In America, gated
communities mean economic and social segregation. It means a splitting of
the ideology of the shared American Dream into us vs. them. The gated-in
have theirs, and they don’t want to be part of any larger destiny.
Or perhaps the gated-in have read
an ancient tract describing the ways of the world. In one chapter Aristotle
described the great variety of revolutions, political struggles and changes.
He finds “the general motive is always a passion for some conception of
equality, which is held to be involved in the very idea of justice”(87).
Building walled communities is not
civic behavior. We are losing wholeness. With communities fragmented and
pitted against each other, socially and economically, it is another stress
on our original social contract. Divided we fall
Court moves backwards
Earlier I made the
general point that American capitalism is just getting started on its second
Big Bang, an expand-or-die wave, spreading loans, sometimes wars, and then
contractors across foreign nations, which is all turned into an exponential
boost to profits as our industry rebuilds those distant countries – and all
in the American image.
Capitalism’s expansion has a new dimension,
more frightening for the lack of media attention.
Currently the Supreme Court is
retreating from enforcement of anti-trust laws. It is retreating from bars
against monopolies and price-fixing.
Trust-busting was born a century ago in
the Gilded Age, which was the first time America experienced radial economic
In the late 19th century
people became afraid of unchecked corporate power. The courts began
punishing conspiracies between business to
fix prices. Since then, we have enjoyed
protection against monopolies. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandies led
these improvements. Brandeis feared big business. From 1893 until his death
in 1941 he waged a loud and persistent war from the bench against businesses
which were colluding to reduce competition that was injurious to the
consumer and to the public interest. He opined that union power was not
enough to restrain corporations, and that government had to move in. He
attacked other lawyers who became tools of corporations. At various points
in his opinions, Brandeis declared that big business and democracy are
As late as 1975 President Ford
signed into law a renewed ban on price fixing.
But with a push from the current
Administration, all that is being reversed.
The Supreme Court now seems to be
following free market theory (particularly the Chicago School) that the
markets rarely fail. Federal law is being brought in line with thinking that
regulation of business is bad (90).
This is a remarkable shift.
A decision relaxing a bar on a joint
venture between Texaco and Shell, another decision allowing lumber giant
Weyerhauser to buy up raw materials to put a competing mill out of business,
another allowing a manufacturer of leather products to fix prices with
retailers, are all examples that would have Justice Brandeis turning in his
grave. But today’s court sees Brandeis’s standards as outdated.
Mark Cooper, of the Consumer Federation
of America, says “Antitrust is in a sad state in America”(91).
The corporations never ask the public’s
opinions, and these moves are not publicly advertised in advance.
If business behemoths are allowed to
build coalitions, they become entities too huge for anybody to influence.
Historically, unions were the classic counter, but union power is now
weakened to a low mark.
These court decisions will shape the
future. There are now few barriers to the growth of corporations.
One thing is assured by these
decisions: more inequality.
1. Gosselin P.G. “If America is richer, why are its families so
much less secure?” Los
Angeles Times (Ventura County edition) 10/10/04. P. A
2. Callahan, D. The
Cheating Culture 2004. NY: Harcourt Inc. Pp.13-14.
3. Ibid. p. 278.
4. Mandeville, B. (1723) The fable of the
bees, and other writings. E.J.Hundert, (Ed.)
Indianapolis, IN: Hackett Publishing Co.
5. Broadie, A. The Scottish
enlightenment. Edinburgh: Birlinn Ltd.
6. Ibid. p. 142.
7. Ferguson, A. (1767) Essay on the
history of civil society. Oz-Salzberger, F.(Ed).
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
8. Ibid. P 242
9. Straub, A.
Interviewed in S. Mitchell, “Hemmed in by the thin greed line.” Los
10. Twenge, J.M. Generation me. NY: Free Press 2006.
11. Mitchell, S. “Hemmed in by the thin greed line.” Los Angeles
Times 9/25/05 P. E 4.
12. Twenge p. 5.
13. Kasser, T. The high price of materialism.
Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. 2002
14. Ibid.. p 38.
15. Ibid. p 91.
16. Amato, P. R. and Rogers, S.J. (1997) A longitudinal study of
marital problems and
subsequent divorce. Journal of marriage and the family
1997, 59, 612-624.
17. Kasser, p. 88.
18. Lane, R. E. The
loss of happiness in market democracies.
New Haven, CT: Yale
University Press, 2000.
19. Malthus, (1798) An
essay on the principle of population London:
20. Ibid p. 209
21. Bonar, J. Malthus and his work
London: MacMillan, 1885. Reprinted: Whitefish, MT:
Kessinger Publishing 2004. pp. 355-398
contain a summary of arguments against Malthus
by his contemporaries.
22. Malthus p. 12.
23 Darwin, C. (1859). The origin of
species. Reprinted: NY: Gramercy Books. 1979.
24. George, H. Progress and poverty
(l879/1937) N.Y: Robert Schalkenbach Foundation.
25. Ibid. p. 347
26. Ibid. p 389.
27. Rosenblatt, S.
(2006) “More youngsters in L.A. County living in poverty.” Los Angeles
19 October 2006,
28. Haddad, A. (2006) “A home market that’s tight: rentals.”
Los Angeles Times, 19 October
2006, p. C1.
29. Housing and poverty report from the Weingart Center, Los
30. Rand, A. Capitalism: the unknown ideal. New York: Signet
31. Rand, A. The virtue of selfishness. New York: Signet
32. Rand, A. The fountainhead. New York: Signet Books,
33. Rand, A. Atlas shrugged. New York: Signet Books, l996.
34. Walker, J. The Ayn Rand cult. Chicago, IL: Open court
35 Ibid. p. 235
36. Virtue of selfishness. p 32.
37. Walker p. 230
38. Walker p. 288
39. Walker p. 102
40. Ryan, S. Objectivism and the
corruption of rationality. New York: Writer Club Press.
41. King, J. C. Life and the theory of
value: the Randian argument reconsidered. In The
philosophic thought of Ayn Rand (D.J.
Den Uyl and D.B.Rasmussen, Eds.) Urbana,
IL: University of Illinois Press. p.
42. Sapolsky, R. Sick of poverty.
Scientific American 2005, 293, 92-99.
43. Ibid. p. 99
44. Myers, D.G. Social psychology.
New York: McGraw Hill, 2005. pp.528-530.
45. Frank, R.H. (1999) Luxury fever.
NY: The Free Press.
46. Ibid. p. 271
47. Ibid. p. 232
48. Frank, R. H. and Cook, P. J. (1996)
The winner-take-all-society. New York: Penguin
49. Schor, J. B. (1998) The overspent
American. NY: Harper Collins.
50. Ibid p. 103
51. Ibid p. 97.
52. Alexander R.D. (2005) The biology of
moral systems. N.J. New Brunswick: Aldine
Transaction. p. 79.
53. Ibid. p. 228.
54. Dawkins, R. (1976) The Selfish Gene.
Oxford: Oxford University Press.
G., “Waste is good.” Prospect. February 1999. p 18-23.
56. Alexander p .71
57. V. C. Wynne-Edwards was an orginal
genius and his work is widely rejected, largely by
people who have never read it. His
theme is quite readable in this short article: V.C.
Wynne-Edwards, (1965) Self-regulating
systems in populations of animals. Science 147:
1543-1548 and expanded in V.C.
Wynne-Edwards (1962) Animal dispersion in relation
New York: Hafner, also Evolution though
Scientific Publications (1986).
Jenkins, C.D., Tuthill, R.W.,
Tannenbaum, S.I. and Kirby, C.R. (1977) Zones of excess
Massachusetts. New England Journal of Medicine, 296, 1354-6.
McCord, C. and Freeman, H.P.
(1990) Excess mortality in Harlem. New England
Journal of Medicine,
Gini coefficient of
inequality is summarized in:
A correlation between inequality and
political violence appears when the inequality
is chronic (extends at least 10
violence was defined as armed attacks,
domestic violence, and internal war. K. H. Park (1986) Reexamination of
the linkage between
income inequality and political violence, Journal of Political and
Atkinson, A.B. and Micklewright, J. Economic transformation in eastern
and the distribution of income.
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992.
B.P., I. Kawachi, and D. Prothrow-Stith, "Income distribution and mortality:
cross-sectional ecological study of the
Robin Hood Index in the United States." British
1996, 312, 1004-1007.
64. Kaplan, G.A., E.R. Pamuck, J.W. Lynch,
R.D. Cohen and J.L. Balfour, "Inequality in
income and mortality in the United
States: analysis of mortality and potential pathways."
British Medical Journal 1996,
65. Lynch, J.W., G.A. Kaplan, E.R. Pamuk,
R.D. Cohen, K.E. Heck, J.L. Balfour, and
I.H. Yen, "Income inequality and mortality
in metropolitan areas of the United States."
Journal of Public Health
1998, 88, 1074-1080.
66. Sapolsy, R. (2005). Sick of poverty.
Scientific American, 293, 92-99.
68. Marmot, M. (2004). The
status syndrome. New York: Henry Holt and Company.
70. Kawachi, I., Kennedy, B.P. and
Glass, R. Social capital and self rated health. In
Kawachi, I., B.P. Kennedy and
R.C.Wilkinson, (Eds.) The society and population
health reader. New York: The
New Press, 1999. Ch. 23.
71. Wilkinson, R.G. The Impact of
inequality. New York: The New Press, 2005.
72. Kawachi, I., B.P. Kennedy and
R.C.Wilkinson, (Eds.) The society and population
NewYork: The New Press, 1999. Ch. 23.
73. Calabresi, G. and Bobbitt, P. Tragic
choices. 1978. New York: Norton & Co.
74. New York Times Almanac 2004. NY: Peguin
Reference, 2003. Section: US Agriculture.
75. Bartholemew, D. “Hungry in the Valley:
10% of area’s population at risk of not
getting enough to eat.” Los Angeles Daily News, 7 June 2005, p. 1.
reports on the Center for Health Policy Research study conducted by
in 2005, and other sources.
76. Nord, M., Andrtews, M., Carlson, S.
Household Food Security in the United States,
2004. United States Department of Agriculture report ERS-ERR-11,
77. Havemann, J., and Alonso-Valdevar, R.
“US poverty rate rises again in 2004.”
Los Angeles Times 31 August 2005 p. A 13.
This article reports some recent US Census
Bureau statistics, and other sources.
78. For more commentary on the ironies of
American hunger see:
E. (1976) To have or to be? New York: Continuum International
Group. 2004. p. 6.
80. Park, Kang H. (1996) Income inequality
and economic progress: and empirical test of the
intuitionalist approach. American
Journal of Economics and Sociology, 55, 87-97.
81. Bair, L. (1974) The essential
Rousseau. New York: New American Library.
82. Boehm, C. (1993) Egalitarian behavior
and reverse dominance hierarchy. Current
1993, 34, 227-240.
83. Sachs, J.D. “Can extreme poverty be
eliminated?” Scientific American, 2005, 293,
56-65. (Special issue, September).
84. Woolf, S. H. Johnson, R.E. Geiger,
H.J. (2006) The rising prevalence of severe poverty
in America, a growing threat to public
health. American Journal of Preventive
Medicine, 31,(4) 332-341.
85. Blakely E.J.and M.G. Snyder (1999)
Fortress America. Washington D C : Brookings
Institution Press. p. 2.
86. Ibid. p. 7.
87. Barker, E. (Trans).(1946) The
politics of Aristotle. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
88. Blakely and Snyder. p. 175.
89. Strum, P. (1995) Brandeis on
democracy. Lawrence, KS: University of Kansas Press.
90. Savage, D. G. (2007) “Antitrust law
losing its teeth” Los Angeles Times (Valley Edition)
19 March 2007, p. A.1.
91. Ibid. p. A.11.