News Is communism still a big taboo in america? if so why?

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Only that in Capitalism it's often the case that people fail themselves rather than the monetary system failing you. In Communism, you don't even get the chance to fail yourself, the system does it for you right off the bat.
Possibly - but it's an argument that all too many would find attractive to blame the disadvantaged for their circumstances - a nasty trait among us humans.

In capitalism you have the system whereby wealth, and hence unearned and unmerited advantage, is transferrable. All too often we're encouraged by the undeserving rich to swallow the myth that 'successful' people are purely self-made.
 

Pythagorean

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Greg, how do you quantify who's fault it is that somebody is failing in different systems, or do you just mean that that was the ideal? It seems that practices in the US has (twice now) caused lots of failures globally with risky monetary practices, the latest fad being risky derivative markets practiced by "too big to fail" financial institutions.

Many economists think the financial institutions should be broken up (or regulated) so all the eggs aren't in one basket because it gives them too much control over global economy, but many economists doubt that politicians will ever actually see that through.
 
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Possibly - but it's an argument that all too many would find attractive to blame the disadvantaged for their circumstances - a nasty trait among us humans.
I would never blame the handicapped for their circumstances. :wink:

In capitalism you have the system whereby wealth, and hence unearned and unmerited advantage, is transferrable. All too often we're encouraged by the undeserving rich to swallow the myth that 'successful' people are purely self-made.
Yes there are problems with Capitalism. It is a system of winners and losers. A lot like life in general. If you have a better idea then please share. Communism has failed. My grandfather was truly dirt poor. He had to steal coal from a train car just to keep warm in winter. Then he ended up orphaned for several years. Long story short, he joined the navy, got educated, built an electronics business and now lives a very comfortable middle class retirement.
 
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Greg, how do you quantify who's fault it is that somebody is failing in different systems, or do you just mean that that was the ideal? It seems that practices in the US has (twice now) caused lots of failures globally with risky monetary practices, the latest fad being risky derivative markets practiced by "too big to fail" financial institutions.
As an ideal yes. Capitalism is far from perfect, as is democracy. But they've gotten us further than any other known system could have. Just look at history. I agree there should be serious reforms.

Many economists think the financial institutions should be broken up (or regulated) so all the eggs aren't in one basket because it gives them too much control over global economy, but many economists doubt that politicians will ever actually see that through.
Everything seems to be fixable, but there is a severe lack of leadership and "will" to do what is right. I'm reading a booked called "Republic Lost" and it explains how even congressmen with the best of intentions are "unconsciously" influenced by money on a systematic level.
 

russ_watters

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In capitalism you have the system whereby wealth, and hence unearned and unmerited advantage, is transferrable.
Someone at some point had to earn it. Regardless, this is inheritance you're talking about. Though I hear the sentiment a lot, I really don't understand why people would be so against the idea that parents can provide for their children by giving their possessions to them when they die. That's not a bad thing, it is a good thing!
All too often we're encouraged by the undeserving rich to swallow the myth that 'successful' people are purely self-made.
Some are self-made and some aren't. So what? Why does any of this matter?
 
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why people would be so against the idea that parents can provide for their children by giving their possessions to them when they die. That's not a bad thing, it is a good thing!
It can be a very bad thing. Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian. If anything these two fine ladies have helped destroy an entire generation :D
 
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Possibly - but it's an argument that all too many would find attractive to blame the disadvantaged for their circumstances - a nasty trait among us humans.

In capitalism you have the system whereby wealth, and hence unearned and unmerited advantage, is transferrable. All too often we're encouraged by the undeserving rich to swallow the myth that 'successful' people are purely self-made.
The principles of liberal democracy are perfectly comfortable with the fact that some people are wealthier than others. It is not about blaming the poor for their circumstances or crediting the rich with theirs. Those principles only require that the opportunity to improve your own circumstance is available to all. The actual reality falls well short of that ideal, but any liberal democracy worthy of the name strives towards a utopia where that opportunity is universally available, not to a utopia where all wealth is evenly distributed.
 
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Regardless, this is inheritance you're talking about. Though I hear the sentiment a lot, I really don't understand why people would be so against the idea that parents can provide for their children by giving their possessions to them when they die.
The reasons given for the inheritance tax are well known. Do you mean to say that you haven't heard them, or that you heard them but didn't understand them?
 
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It is not about blaming the poor for their circumstances or crediting the rich with theirs. Those principles only require that the opportunity to improve your own circumstance is available to all.
This is very well said. I need to remember it!
 
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The reasons given for the inheritance tax are well known. Do you mean to say that you haven't heard them, or that you heard them but didn't understand them?
I don't believe Russ said anything about a tax. Furthermore, are you claiming that the estate tax is working in preventing the perpetuation of wealth? Old money has dried up?
 

Pythagorean

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As an ideal yes. Capitalism is far from perfect, as is democracy. But they've gotten us further than any other known system could have. Just look at history. I agree there should be serious reforms.
There's no doubt capitalism is the most successful system so far, it's allowed us to achieve many great things. I just wanted to point out that it still allows plenty of power abuse, it just distributes the power abuse to rich citizens and powerful corporations.

Everything seems to be fixable, but there is a severe lack of leadership and "will" to do what is right. I'm reading a booked called "Republic Lost" and it explains how even congressmen with the best of intentions are "unconsciously" influenced by money on a systematic level.
Yeah; on the one hand, financial institutions give government lots of power to do what the officials perceive as "right". On the other, it creates unspoken expectations.
 

russ_watters

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The reasons given for the inheritance tax are well known. Do you mean to say that you haven't heard them, or that you heard them but didn't understand them?
I didn't mention the inheritance tax.
 

russ_watters

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I just wanted to point out that it still allows plenty of power abuse, it just distributes the power abuse to rich citizens and powerful corporations.
Due to the much larger numbers on the lower end, there is also "power abuse" on that end as well.
 

russ_watters

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It can be a very bad thing. Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian. If anything these two fine ladies have helped destroy an entire generation :D
True, and some rich kids fail out of their fancy prep schools too. But I think you know what I mean: I was (or rather: I think Goodison Lad was) talking about the rightness or wrongness of allowing parents to give money (or the results of it) to their kids in general.
 

CAC1001

There is no perfect system, and never will be, because of human nature. Capitalism, when combined with liberal democracy and a free-market, is the system that functions the least badly out of the alternatives. Socialism/communism fails due to the system itself. Even if the people running said socialist system had hearts of gold (which they won't), the system would still fail. Market capitalism, on the other hand, when it fails, is more due to human nature, usually greed and fear. If all humans had hearts of gold in a market capitalist system, the system would probably function nearly flawlessly. No one would try to rip anyone else off, and no one would have to worry about any companies producing unsafe products or anything.

There's no doubt capitalism is the most successful system so far, it's allowed us to achieve many great things. I just wanted to point out that it still allows plenty of power abuse, it just distributes the power abuse to rich citizens and powerful corporations.
Communism distributes all the power to a rich elite as well. But power abuse can be done by workers as well, via unions for example.
 
True, and some rich kids fail out of their fancy prep schools too. But I think you know what I mean: I was (or rather: I think Goodison Lad was) talking about the rightness or wrongness of allowing parents to give money (or the results of it) to their kids in general.
Not quite, actually. I can't imagine any parent not wanting to give their children every possible advantage.

I'm really trying to say that capitalism often gets an uncritical round of applause, especially when mentioned in the same sentence as communism. As has been pointed out in this thread, linked to the concept of capitalism in many people's minds is the notion of meritocracy - anyone can do it if they try hard enough. My point about the heritability of wealth and power is that this is a huge divergence from that assumed ideal. On paper, there are no concrete, mile-high barriers written in law preventing a very poor kid from becoming President of the USA or Prime Minister of the UK. But the statistics say it is unlikley. Less so if you're rich.

Now I just happen to believe it is wrong to imply that everybody has an equal chance when they patently don't. I also find it annoying when the lucky in life's lottery claim merit rather than chance as the reason for being a winner. To acknowledge the role of luck is to recognise the myth that pure hard work and 'merit' are all that count.

Some say 'so what'? I just happen to hold dear the idea of fairness. Some don't. It's true that capitalism has delivered high GDP, innovation etc. But it has also delivered colossal inequalities. A not uncommon characteristic of the winners is to ascribe negative characteristics to the losers (lazy, feckless etc.). This elevates the blamer.

And contrary to the belief of some, capitalism itself has often failed. The list of its failures is long. Just look at some of the Eurozone now.
 

russ_watters

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Not quite, actually. I can't imagine any parent not wanting to give their children every possible advantage.
Ok...
I'm really trying to say that capitalism often gets an uncritical round of applause, especially when mentioned in the same sentence as communism.
Generally, a single sentence is too short for full treatment of an idea, so only the short short version is stated: capitalism has been shown to work, communism hasn't. Don't make the mistake of assuming someone who says that believes capitalism to be flawless -- quite obviously it isn't, since there is no pure capitalist system out there.
As has been pointed out in this thread, linked to the concept of capitalism in many people's minds is the notion of meritocracy - anyone can do it if they try hard enough. My point about the heritability of wealth and power is that this is a huge divergence from that assumed ideal. On paper, there are no concrete, mile-high barriers written in law preventing a very poor kid from becoming President of the USA or Prime Minister of the UK. But the statistics say it is unlikley. Less so if you're rich.
You're making a classic mistake here. The fact that a rich kid who's parents all but grant success exists does not prevent a poor kid from achieving it on his own. The existence of the rich kid is not a barrier to the success of the poor kid.
Now I just happen to believe it is wrong to imply that everybody has an equal chance when they patently don't.
I've never seen anyone say that everyone has equal chance to succeed, but I've seen plenty of people react as if they'd heard it. Don't read into things people don't say.

The problem with you attacking an argument no one has forwarded is the attitude that comes with it. Young people make decisions that are like bets on their future. Betting on success doesn't guarantee success and betting on failure doesn't guarantee failure, but just placing the bet alters the odds of the game. Someone who bets on (attempts to achieve) success is much more likely to achieve it than one who doesn't. And someone who bets on failure is highly likely to achieve that.

Bringing up that the odds aren't equal when no one suggested they were implies a defeatist attitude that is self-destructive.
And contrary to the belief of some, capitalism itself has often failed. The list of its failures is long. Just look at some of the Eurozone now.
The Eurozone countries are pretty mixed and it seems clear to me that it is their socialistic policies, not their capitalistic ones that are causing the failures.

In any case, none of this addresses my question: You said:
In capitalism you have the system whereby wealth, and hence unearned and unmerited advantage, is transferrable.
So what? Are you saying it should not be? Saying it and implying it is a bad thing appears to be suggesting it should not be allowed. And no, that first quote does not address the question. You acknowledge that parents would want to transfer their wealth, but do not address if they should be allowed to.
 
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russ_watters

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Even if the people running said socialist system had hearts of gold (which they won't), the system would still fail.
I've actually never heard that before: can you explain why? I had always thought that if all people had hearts of gold, they would fit into the roles the communist system defined for them and not rebel against the lack of reward for merit, allowing communism to be stable/functional...
Market capitalism, on the other hand, when it fails, is more due to human nature, usually greed and fear. If all humans had hearts of gold in a market capitalist system, the system would probably function nearly flawlessly. No one would try to rip anyone else off, and no one would have to worry about any companies producing unsafe products or anything.
...and on the flip side, I think capitalism harnesses human nature of greed. I think almost any system can be stable if people buy-in to it and cooperate, almost by definition. What sets capitalism apart is that a little greed/competitiveness/individualism doesn't tend to lead to destruction of the system like in so many other systems. Indeed, my criticism of your description is exactly the same as Goodson Lad's characterization: too much cooperation will lead to people accepting lower roles than they need to, resulting in lower achievement than could otherwise be possible. This wouldn't necessarily cause society to be unstable, but it would cause society to fail to achieve as much as it could. And that is the risk I see with the current path of Western politics, even if we set aside the possibility of financial collapse that appears to exist because of underfunded promises.
 
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...and on the flip side, I think capitalism harnesses human nature of greed. I think almost any system can be stable if people buy-in to it and cooperate, almost by definition. What sets capitalism apart is that a little greed/competitiveness/individualism doesn't tend to lead to destruction of the system like in so many other systems. Indeed, my criticism of your description is exactly the same as Goodson Lad's characterization: too much cooperation will lead to people accepting lower roles than they need to, resulting in lower achievement than could otherwise be possible. This wouldn't necessarily cause society to be unstable, but it would cause society to fail to achieve as much as it could. And that is the risk I see with the current path of Western politics, even if we set aside the possibility of financial collapse that appears to exist because of underfunded promises.
You may have hit the nail on the head here. I've always felt that those who espouse capitalism take a more pragmatic approach to economic systems since human nature tends towards greed. Those who espouse socialism (assuming they aren't in it for thir own power grab, which many are) seem more idealistic, intent on seeing the world as it ought to be rather than as it is. In a perfect world, where you won't starve, you'll have all the nice things you want, and no one desires power over another, you can pursue the future you want. If you want to write Vogon poetry and that's how you define success, you can. The problem is, there can never be a perect world since there will always be some who want that economic competition - this is how they define success. Hence, capitalism is more pragmatic.

Oh, and I really wish people would stop confusing communism with socialism or lumping them together - they are two different beasts (no, I'm not accusing you Russ).
 

CAC1001

Some say 'so what'? I just happen to hold dear the idea of fairness.
How do you define "fairness?"

Some don't. It's true that capitalism has delivered high GDP, innovation etc. But it has also delivered colossal inequalities.
Market capitalism is the system that has delivered colossal equalities, not inequalities. In market capitalist systems, people are unequally rich. In socialism/communism, they are equally poor.
 
How do you define "fairness?"


Market capitalism is the system that has delivered colossal equalities, not inequalities. In market capitalist systems, people are unequally rich. In socialism/communism, they are equally poor.
Everybody would have their own idea. How do you define it? In a general way, I'd like to think kids born to poorer families had exactly the same chance as the rich kids to get a top job, live in a great house, live beyond the age of 70 etc. But the fact is that they don't have the same chance. They might do it, but the odds are heavily in favour of the rich. They can buy the private tutor, send their child to an exclusive school, pay for all the enrichment activities, school trips etc.

Now I might well be told either that this isn't true or that it is true, but unavoidable in the real world. The former is simple nonesense and doesn't stand up to even the most cursory scrutiny; the latter might be true. But I don't think it is.

I wouldn't have thought that living on the breadline in an inner city feels 'unequally rich'. That idea would get hollow laughs if put to the poorest 10% in the US or UK.

Poverty has a relative and an absolute form. I suppose the absolute level could be taken as the threshold whereby you have enough to feed and house yourself (though again no two people will agree). Relative poverty (which has a very strong correlation with, among other things, inequalities in life expectancy) is real and important. Excessive inequalities have a corrosive effect on the poor - at least as great, if not greater than, actual GDP per capita.
 
The fact that a rich kid who's parents all but grant success exists does not prevent a poor kid from achieving it on his own. The existence of the rich kid is not a barrier to the success of the poor kid.
If the prizes on offer were unlimited, this might conceivably be possible. But they’re not. For example, top universities are limited in the number of places they offer – therefore if rich kids have elbowed their way in then this clearly presents a barrier to poor kids.
I've never seen anyone say that everyone has equal chance to succeed, but I've seen plenty of people react as if they'd heard it.
Are you seriously suggesting that the illusion of meritocracy isn’t cultivated by the powerful?
Don't read into things people don't say. The problem with you attacking an argument no one has forwarded is the attitude that comes with it.
Well, the context of the OP is around how communism is viewed in the US. I’m hardly the first person to pick up on the communism vs capitalism debate. It strikes me that communism’s relationship to capitalism is entirely pertinent to how communism might be viewed in the US. And it is a commonly expressed view that capitalism is held to have won because communism failed. Therefore capitalism is seen to have won and is seen as working. I’m merely picking up on this comment.
And so I decided to explore an area where I think capitalism, also, patently doesn’t work. And in thinking about the area where ‘successful’ capitalism fails the citizens, it is entirely reasonable to discuss an example e.g. how wealth confers unearned advantage. Any perception of communism will almost invariably invite comparisons with capitalism. So I made one. Surely I don’t have to sit here waiting for somebody else to bring it up first, or ask permission to do so?
I have simply expressed my views. That they are perceived and breezily portrayed by you as representing an ‘attitude’ is regrettable.
Young people make decisions that are like bets on their future. Betting on success doesn't guarantee success and betting on failure doesn't guarantee failure, but just placing the bet alters the odds of the game. Someone who bets on (attempts to achieve) success is much more likely to achieve it than one who doesn't. And someone who bets on failure is highly likely to achieve that.
You can place as many bets as you like, but only once you’re allowed into the casino. And to torture the metaphor a bit more, some are playing with loaded dice.
Bringing up that the odds aren't equal when no one suggested they were implies a defeatist attitude that is self-destructive.
Lest you read into something I haven’t said, I consider myself neither defeatist nor to have a self-destructive streak. Perhaps I misread this part.
The Eurozone countries are pretty mixed and it seems clear to me that it is their socialistic policies, not their capitalistic ones that are causing the failures.
I’m not too sure what you mean by ‘socialistic’ policies are – I suspect they’ll be diluted versions of the same ones operated perfectly well in Scandinavian Europe, which enjoys GDP per capita on a par, or even greater than, the US and UK, and with welfare and educations systems that are considered to be much superior.
The world financial crisis has been brought about by the egregious misbehaviour of some of the West’s financial institutions, leaving many governments at the mercy of the bond markets. A purely capitalist catastrophe. The UK came perilously close to disaster, with only direct central government intervention preventing financial meltdown at a cost of many hundreds of billions of pounds to the taxpayer. Likewise, the US government is pouring staggering sums of money into the economy in an attempt to get it going. Whether either government is doing the right thing is beside the point – what we have is a private sector mess being cleared up by public sector governments.
If governments have anything to be blamed for (and they do) it’s for allowing financial institutions the free hand they’ve had for the last 30 years.
The rich aren’t getting the fallout – it’s the poor. As usual. Now communism, as exemplified by the Soviet Union etc., may well have failed in many ways (although many have argued that those systems were far from communist). But while thinking about how communism is viewed, the track record of capitalism in some areas merits consideration alongside it.
In any case, none of this addresses my question: You said: So what? Are you saying it should not be? Saying it and implying it is a bad thing appears to be suggesting it should not be allowed. And no, that first quote does not address the question. You acknowledge that parents would want to transfer their wealth, but do not address if they should be allowed to.
This issue goes to the heart of many problems. Individuals will want to behave, quite naturally, in ways that maximise benefit both to themselves and their families. However, there can be little doubt that, if there is to be a free and equal society, the distorting effects of generational advantage have to be somehow moderated. Inheritance tax, for example.
Interventions by the state that override individual wishes are commonplace – governments generally don’t give people the free choice whether or not to pay taxes, obey the speed limit and so on. The thinking is that there can be a greater good than individual freedom.
Otherwise you simply can’t have a free and equal society. Not that everybody wants one.
 

CAC1001

I've actually never heard that before: can you explain why? I had always thought that if all people had hearts of gold, they would fit into the roles the communist system defined for them and not rebel against the lack of reward for merit, allowing communism to be stable/functional...
The reason a communist/socialist system would fail is because it is still a centrally-planned economic system. You have a central authority trying to decide how to ration scarce resources throughout the economy and determine what to produce. But this works badly for a few reasons:

1) Such a system assumes that everything has a set, fixed value, or price. But they don't. Prices are always fluctuating. And there are millions and millions of them, and they all are interconnected. In a free-market system, if the price of steel fluctuates, millions of other prices fluctuate automatically in response to this price fluctuation of steel. However, whenever every single one of those millions of other prices fluctuates in response to steel, millions of other prices respond to each of those millions of price changes. To a group of central planners, this thus makes it impossible to be able to ration the resources throughout the economy. They'd have to be able to centrally calculate millions of prices and then the millions of price changes for each of those price changes, and so on.

2) No ability to gauge demand. Without a market, there would be no way for the central planners to figure out how much of each material to ration, or how much of what to produce. For example, how many sneakers for the national sneaker supply? And what types of sneakers? What sizes for each sneaker? What colors and designs? With a market, whenever people buy a product, they are casting a vote for it. But with a Soviet-style socialist system, the government is just supposed to produce the stuff and issue it.

Another reason communism/socialism will fail is that a form of capitalist system will spring up within it. Let's assume that such a system is able to actually produce all the things it promises, and people actually get issued all sorts of stuff each month. Fruits, vegetables, meats, cheeses, clothing, toothpaste, soap, toys, etc...everything is produced plentifully by the government, and each person or family gets a ration each month. The problem is that people being people, even if they have hearts of gold, will still engage in trade. Maybe one person wants more oranges and another person wants another pair of shoes, so they decide to trade. This trade would lead to a miniature market capitalist system forming under the noses of the communist system.

One other thing, but people having hearts of gold I don't know if that means people will just accept the job issued them by the government. By heart of gold, I just meant such people will do nothing to directly harm anyone else. It doesn't mean however that they will be motivated to do their job and work very hard, and that they won't resent having a job they don't like.

...and on the flip side, I think capitalism harnesses human nature of greed. I think almost any system can be stable if people buy-in to it and cooperate, almost by definition. What sets capitalism apart is that a little greed/competitiveness/individualism doesn't tend to lead to destruction of the system like in so many other systems. Indeed, my criticism of your description is exactly the same as Goodson Lad's characterization: too much cooperation will lead to people accepting lower roles than they need to, resulting in lower achievement than could otherwise be possible. This wouldn't necessarily cause society to be unstable, but it would cause society to fail to achieve as much as it could. And that is the risk I see with the current path of Western politics, even if we set aside the possibility of financial collapse that appears to exist because of underfunded promises.
No doubt that market capitalism works to the degree that it does while socialism/communism fails due to human nature as well. Market capitalism sets up the incentives where greed and self-interest of people lead to the overall benefit of everyone, whereas with the other systems it does the precise opposite.

However, I think that people can very much have hearts of gold and still be competitive, it's just it would be a friendly competition. Self-interest is not the same as ruthless selfishness and greed. You wouldn't find such companies suing other companies for frivolous reasons solely to try and run them out of business, you wouldn't have to worry about businesses lobbying the government for corrupt purposes, there would be no concern about businesses polluting the environment if they don't have to or creating unsafe products, or of mistreating workers with unsafe working conditions or excessive work hours. Such a system could even lead to society achieving more if the people were devoted to working hard and producing and building great things, as opposed to just raw making money.
 

russ_watters

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Missed this before:
Goodison Lad said:
It's true that capitalism has delivered high GDP, innovation etc. But it has also delivered colossal inequalities.
While this is factually accurate as stated, the implication that it is a bad thing implies something that is factually inaccurate (or at best a misleading matter of perspective): that inequality is bad for those on the lower end. But that's a matter of a poorly chosen reference frame. Sure, the poor in the US/West are worse off than the rich, but if the question is whether capitalism has failed them, you must compare the poor in the US/West to the poor in countries that don't have capitalism. And in that comparison it is easy enough to see that the "colossal inequalities" also exist between the Western poor and those of the rest of the world. Western poor live in a state of luxury that is simply unfathomable to most of the rest of the world. And I do mean that literally. A former boss of mine took in a couple of Vietnamese orphans a couple of decades ago and they may as well have been dropped in from another planet, how little they could comprehend of the lifestyle they fell into. My boss told me that when they first arrived, the refrigerator was such a spectacular thing that they just stood in front of it opening and closing it for several minutes straight. Not only was it unfathomable to have this big machine that kept food cold, it was also unfathomable just to have a big box full of food! Naturally, the supermarket caused somewhat of a sensory overload the first time they went to one.

The point is, while it is true that western capitalism has caused large inequities internally, it has also created such vast quantities of wealth that even the "have nots" live vastly better in the West than is average for the rest of the world. Given a vote by choice of which condition they would prefer living in, I rather suspect almost everyone would vote that inequality is better than equality.
 

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